DCMontreal: Blowing the Whistle on Society

Eclectic social commentary with a chuckle and maybe a sting in the tail

Tattoos? Not Me, I’m Commitment-Challenged

Vid_Store

I’m not commitment-phobic, that would imply I’m afraid of making a commitment, and I’m not. I make commitments all the time; in fact I’m committed to working on my commitment-making process.  I just like to carry out what I consider to be an appropriate amount of due diligence first. I prefer the phrase commitment-challenged. Mind you there are plenty of folks who would have you believe I should just plain be committed.

… when it seemed there were video rental stores on every other corner … it would take me an inordinately long time to settle on a film – i.e. commit. That’s for a video I’m renting for a day at a cost of about two bucks.

Not so long ago, when it seemed there were video rental stores on every other corner, packed originally with BETA and VHS cassette, followed by DVD and finally Blu-Ray versions of new releases and golden oldies alike, it would take me an inordinately long time to settle on a film – i.e. commit. That’s for a video I would be renting for a day at a cost of about two bucks. Yet I’d think, what if I’ve seen this before, what if it’s crappy, I’ve come all this way, if the film is lousy, what a waste of time. I put so much pressure on myself, which naturally led to more research, and so on. Certainly there was to be no double-parking while I ran into the store to pick up a film.

A library doesn’t pose the same challenge because you can sit down, relax and have a good read of a prospective loan, getting a much better idea of the likelihood of the book being a rotter or not. Or, after reading a few pages you may realize that you have read the book before. The video store was the quintessential judging of a film by its cover – a bit of a pig at a poke.

Tat_SailorAnd speaking of pokes, this brings me to tattoos. With my propensity to over-think things, decisions and commitments, I often wonder how a person can decide to have something permanently engraved on their skin – assuming, of course, a state of sobriety. I understand tattoos can be removed, sort of, or covered-up, but it is a slow, expensive and, I’m told, painful procedure. So I’m going to take for granted that people get tattoos with the intention of keeping them.

There was a time when men with tattoos got them either in the military, precisely etched coats of arms or insignia, or in prison, applied, with or without the recipient’s permission, using a jar of ink and a bent safety-pin. Women just didn’t have tattoos, unless they were part of the circus, as the late great Irish blues-man Rory Gallagher points out in his tale of Carny life “Tattoo’d Lady“.

Tattoo’d lady, bearded baby, they’re my family.

                                                      – Rory Gallagher

Now obviously tattoos have become part of mainstream culture. There are probably more people with ink than without. While I can certainly understand some tattoos; an Olympian with a medal or Olympic rings on their leg, an Ironman triathlon finisher with a logo proudly displayed. I’ve got to believe that if I had ever been a member of a Stanley Cup winning team, that I would have had the cup tattooed somewhere. I can also understand tattoos commemorating personal memories and life events. For instance, those children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors who replicate on their own arm, as a tribute and promise never to forget, the hideous number tattoo that was crudely needled onto their family member’s arm.

WoodPBut some of the things I see tattooed make me wonder. I think people should apply the “would I hang that on my wall FOREVER?” litmus test before deciding on a tattoo. For instance, take that mean-looking Woody Woodpecker with the cigar in his mouth, what in the name of Jesus would make an adult, allegedly, have that drilled into their skin? Unless you are Walter Lantz and his colleagues who created the famous ‘Pecker, I can’t see the point.

And what is with the skulls and crossbones? Do we live in a society populated with a large number of latent pirates? Would these people hang over the fireplace in their living-room a picture of a snake consuming Mickey Mouse dressed as a nun? Then why in the name of Christ would they have it applied, indelibly, to their skin?

I think I’m going to stay with the lick ‘n’ stick decal tattoos that were once included in gum packs. Or maybe, just maybe, give a henna image a shot! No … scratch the henna … then again … no … maybe … naw… could be … nope.

Me DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Hot Enough For Ya? Try The Fan-Tastic® App

During the summer, there are those times when a good old fan is called for.  Air conditioning does the majority of the cooling, but sometimes you need a simple, convenient hand fan. Whether in church, or a private home, when the temperature rises, and you need to cool off fast, reach for your smart phone and engage Fan-Tastic®. Silent and instantly cooling, Fan-Tastic® does the trick. Best of all, it’s free!

Me DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Montreal Police Don Camouflage Pants: Protest Meets Comfort

Pierre Obendrauf, The Gazette

Photo: Pierre Obendrauf, The Gazette

The government of the Province of Quebec has introduced legislation, Bill 3, that will change the way public employee pension funds are financed. The government wants to make it an equitable system with 50% of the funds coming from the employees themselves, in the form of pay cheque deductions, and 50% from taxpayers. Currently the Montreal police (SPVM) pension is funded 76% by taxpayers. Needless to say the men and women in blue, actually black, are not at all amused by this increased deduction.

I can recall overhearing a tourist couple remarking on the denim without knowing it was a protest: “This place is so cool,” said the woman. “The cops wear jeans here.”

But what can they do to show their dissatisfaction with the proposed change? As an ‘essential service’ the police cannot go on strike. In 2007, disgruntled with another government proposal, and unable to strike, the police took to wearing jeans instead of uniform issued pants. The only problem was that the protest went on so long, people almost forgot that the Levi’s were not part of the uniform. I can recall overhearing a tourist couple remarking on the denim without knowing it was a protest: “This place is so cool,” said the woman. “The cops wear jeans here.”

Undaunted, the next time there was a disagreement, they switched the uniform slacks not for jeans, but for military-style camouflage pants and they donned bright red baseball caps emblazoned with the union logo. The City challenged this at the Essential Services Commission, but lost when the panel ruled that as long as the cops were doing their job, it was fine to be out of uniform.

I think people function best when comfortable, regardless of whether they are police officers or city hall paper-pushers.

So now once again the city of Montreal has a police force that is clad in camouflage pants and red caps. But they are still serving and protecting. Fine by me. There was a time in New York City when the police were involved in a similar dispute with the City. During the negotiations, one very hot and humid day, as only Manhattan can get hot and humid, the police officers chose not to wear their ties, even if they were clip on (for safety reasons). The City, not pleased with the progress of the negotiations, pushed back and demanded the wearing of the full uniform, including ties. The police said OK, if that’s the way you want to be, and wore the ties as ordered, but clipped to the epaulettes of their shirts, with collars left open!

I think people function best when comfortable, regardless of whether they are police officers or city hall paper-pushers. During our recent high heat and humidity, a number of officers have improvised and instead of wearing camouflage pants, they are wearing thin white slacks. Still not a problem for me. If the police refused to do their job in such a way that the safety of the public was left in jeopardy, I would be the first to complain. But sartorial statements get the point across without putting the public in danger.

 

Me DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Montreal: A Hot Stroll Through Sainte-Cunégonde

Yesterday, being perhaps the hottest day of the summer thus far, with high heat and humidity warnings in place, I foolishly decided to take a stroll. The parts of Montreal I passed through included St. Henri, Little Burgundy (I can’t get used to La Petite-Bourgogne … ), and Point St. Charles, known as The Point to locals.

Much of this area was once the Parish of Sainte-Cunégonde, according to the  Grand répertoire du patrimoine bâti de Montréal, July 4, 2011. It was originally part of the parish of Saint-Henri-des-Tanneries, it was set up as the village of Delisle in 1864, becoming Sainte-Cunégonde in 1876, and a town in 1884. The name derived from St. Cunigunde of Luxembourg, wife of St. Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor, a reference to the neighbouring parish.

Today the area is well gentrified with many condos built-up on streets once lined with working-class housing.

 

What was once the parish church of St. Cunegonde

What was once the parish church of Sainte-Cunégonde

Evidence of the district's musical heritage.

Evidence of the district’s musical heritage.

The railway was once the main employer of St. Cunegonde residents.

The railway was once the main employer of  residents of Sainte-Cunégonde

Parc St. Cunegonde

Parc Sainte-Cunégonde

Parc St. Cunegonde

Parc Sainte-Cunégonde

The neighbourhood is now a safe place to raise a family, yet in April of 1906 Sainte-Cunégonde was the scene of the horrific murder of five year old Edith May Ahern. The lengthy, and sensational, newspaper reports of the incident and trial from the Montreal Star newspaper can be found here. Interestingly the first report states ” Nothing so horrible in the nature of child murder has occurred in this vicinity since some four years ago when a Swede named Hansen killed a little boy near the railway track in Westmount for the sake of a few pennies”. I wrote about this tragic event last year – Local history: Childhood memories and murder.

 

From Montreal's The Gazette. April 5, 1906

From Montreal’s The Gazette. April 5, 1906

 

Me DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Welcome To Montreal Casey Kasem!

Well, there is a rumour that his wife, Jean, misunderstood the concept of a ‘Bucket list’, figuring it meant things to do after kicking the bucket, not before.

The strange saga of radio personality Casey Kasem’s illness and subsequent death continues. You may recall that while the legendary host of American Top 40 was very ill, his family undertook an epic squabble over access to him. Then when he finally, one could say mercifully, succumbed to his malady, his body went missing.

Well I’m pleased to say he has turned up right here in Montreal. A funeral director has confirmed that Kasem’s remains are here. But why?

Casey Kasem

Casey Kasem in 2003 (AP/Eric Jamison, File)

Well, there is a rumour that his wife, Jean, misunderstood the concept of a ‘Bucket list’, figuring it meant things to do after kicking the bucket, not before. It seems Casey always wanted to visit Montreal and take in the Just for Laughs festival, currently underway here.

While this can’t be confirmed as the reason for the radio personality’s arrival here, some in other potential destinations are not taking any chances. The media reports that officials at Mount Everest; Uluru, Australia; Buckingham Palace, and various sky-diving and river-rafting companies around the world are preparing themselves for an unusual package delivery. There is also word that Disney has doubled security around the Mickey Mouse costumes in an effort to avoid the “Open Casket in Mouse Outfit” selfies.

Meanwhile Montreal radio executives are hoping that, even in his current condition, Kasem can inject some life into local radio.

Me DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Waitstaff: Suggestions From a Patron’s Viewpoint

TablesYou often come across articles about how to be a good restaurant, bar or cafe customer, usually written from the point of view of waitstaff – as waiters and waitresses are now referred to. Invariably one of the focal points will be the absolute need to tip and what constitutes an appropriate tip; the proper way to get your wait-staffer’s attention and so on.

Tipping used to be done on the QT, a little backhander, some palm grease, a bit of a cash bonus tactfully passed from customer to waiter, doorman or cabbie, all in an effort To Insure Promptness, hence Tip.

Let me start by stating unequivocally that I am an exceptionally polite person, and I have been told on numerous occasions that I am an above average tipper, even if I dislike the current system where I, the restaurant patron, have to directly pay, via tips, a significant portion of wait staff salaries because restaurant owners can employ them at below average minimum wage.

Tipping used to be done on the QT, a little backhander, some palm grease, a bit of a cash bonus tactfully passed from customer to waiter, doorman or cabbie, all in an effort To Insure Promptness – hence Tip. Now not only is it right out there, but it is expected, in fact in many establishments it is already calculated into your bill. While I don’t like the system, and would prefer one whereby restaurant owners paid waitstaff a decent wage to begin with, and tips were relegated to their old role as bonuses, I would never hold that against a waiter or waitress by withholding their tip. I understand they work very hard and rely on tips, and they didn’t create the system.

But enough about tipping, let’s take a look at things from the opposite end of the telescope. Now that we know how to be good patrons, here are some ideas, I won’t say tips, on how to be an even better waiter or waitress.

MenuPlease, there’s no need to introduce yourself.

“Hi! I’m Becky/Sam, and I’ll be your waiter/waitress tonight.” Becky/Sam, I don’t want to be mean, but we’re not going to be friends – and if we already are, I know your name. I’m going to politely order food, you’re going to professionally bring it, I’m going to enjoy it and pay. We can accomplish all of this without knowing each others name.

With all due respect, I don’t care what you like.

Please don’t say things such as “What I really like is the pork chop with basil stuffing”. That’s fine, why don’t you go have one. I’m not in the least interested in what you like or how you like it. In a similar vein, when I inform you of my selection, please don’t say “Good choice” as though I were a child having just mastered shoelace tying.

Did I mention I am polite?

As a polite person, during the course of our interaction I will, no doubt on several occasions, say ‘Thank you’. There are but a few proper replies, among them ‘you’re welcome’ and ‘my pleasure’. ‘Un-huh’, ‘Sure’, ‘Not a problem’,  and ‘okie dokie’ should be avoided!

How you choose to divvy up the tables and chores is entirely your business. As far as we are concerned, all wait staff should be attentive to all customers. It will all work out in the end.

Please don’t impose the inner workings of the restaurant on me

While the phrase “It’s not my section” has become a joke, there are still some waitstaff who don’t get it. When we customers enter a restaurant, we enter the entire monolithic establishment, not one or another section thereof. How you choose to divvy up the tables and chores is entirely your business. As far as we patrons are concerned, all wait staff should be attentive to all customers. It will work out in the end.

Please don’t impose the inner workings of the restaurant on me – part two

Every now and then I like to drop in for a beer or two on my way home from work. Sometimes the waiter or waitress will, mere moments after bringing me my beer, reappear with an unrequested bill and payment machine. Have I been thrown out, am I barred, cut off, did I take a nap on the bar?  They inform me that they have finished their shift and are leaving. So? Have a nice evening. Oh, I get it, you want me to pay and tip you for the beer(s) you brought me, then your replacement will start another tab. Why don’t you just let the bill run, I’ll pay your replacement when I leave, and you can get your portion of the tip from him or her next time you see them? But I guess it’s easier to download this bit of payroll administration to the customer.

As a polite person, during the course of our interaction I will, no doubt on several occasions, say ‘Thank you’. There are but a few proper replies, among them ‘you’re welcome’ and ‘my pleasure’. ‘Un-huh’, ‘Sure’, ‘Not a problem’,  and ‘okie dokie’ should be avoided!

Please don’t hover, but don’t disappear either

Once things have arrived, within a few moments the customary check to see if everything is fine is much appreciated. Assuming all is well, there’s no need for you to hover, but by the same token, please don’t disappear, as I will no doubt need your services again. Strike a balance between being available and leaving me alone.

Now that the meal is done

When it comes time to remove the plates from my table, if someone appears to still be eating, please don’t a) remove all the other plates and utensils, this just makes the remaining diner feel uncomfortable and rushed, when they should be enjoying their meal. And, b) should you not be certain if someone has finished their meal, never, ever, ask “Are you still working on this?”. I don’t know where this comes from, but I have heard it several times. We aren’t working, we are dining. If it entailed work to get through the meal, we wouldn’t be eating in your restaurant. I imagine a chef would not like to think his meals had to be worked on.

These few suggestions will make this restaurant patron happy, which will probably result in an above average tip.

Photo credits: ; hsojhsoj on Pixabay

 

Me DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Montreal Wall Art: Out With The Old

A year or so ago I was walking through downtown Montreal when I came upon artist Camnovak working on a mural. I didn’t disturb him while he was creating, but when I posted the photo, on the left below, to Instagram he replied with a  “thanks”. Now he has created a new piece where the old one was, more of a sketch than the burst of colors in the first work.

 

By coincidence my fellow blogger That Montreal Girl also came upon this new work. So to see a very good photo of it, taken by someone who really knows how to use camera, not a phone,  please drop by her blog!!

Me DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Ducks and Model Consent Forms

Ducks

Yet another visitor from the animal kingdom dropped by my place yesterday. This time as I looked out my window I was struck by the sight of a lovely duck on my windowsill. The pond in the park up the street from my building serves as the summer home to ducks most years. Repeatedly pecking at my window with its bill, this bird clearly wanted my attention.

I made my way over to the window and opening it my guest hastily introduced herself as Mallory.

“Mallory?” I said.

“And you’re probably surprised that I’m not idiotically squawking my words like Donald or lisping exaggeratedly like Daffy or only saying one word, Aflac, over and over again.

“Yes, Mallory Mallard to be precise.” I guess I should have seen that coming. But to be honest, I was more taken in by what was on Mallory’s back than by her name. It appeared to be a harness contraption on which were secured five miniature car child-seats. Buckled into each was a weeks-old duckling. Some nodding-off to sleep, others looking around curiously.

Noticing my rapt gaze, Mallory continued “And they are Malcolm Mallard, Malachy Mallard, the twins Malvin and Malvina Mallard, and Malina Mallard. Malik Mallard and Malka Mallard are with their father. Look, I don’t mean to be rude, but I need to make this quick so I can get these guys back in the water and continue teaching them the ways of duck life,” she said.

I must still have been looking quite gobsmacked by the sight as, sensing my preoccupation with both her and the little ones, Mallory said “Wait a minute, let me guess. This is the first time you’ve talked with a duck isn’t it?”

I nodded in agreement.

Daffy Duck

Daffy Duck

“And you’re probably surprised that I’m not idiotically squawking my words like Donald or lisping exaggeratedly like Daffy or only saying one word, Aflac, over and over again. Let me tell you, if you smack my bill to the left or right, it won’t go round and round my head, so don’t get any silly ideas.  Really, such stereotyping doesn’t become you.”

I had to agree that she had me with that one, so I pressed on and asked how I could help. She explained that since giving birth and starting the training process she and her brood have been photographed countless times by park visitors. “As we swan about the park pond there is a plethora of camera and smart phone wielding gawkers snapping away.”

“Excuse me,” I interrupted, “‘swan’ about?”

“I’m not the writer here,” she said. “Nor is English my first language, but would you prefer ‘duck’ about?”

She had me again.

“We’re not annoyed at all the paparazzi attention, but we would like to know what these photos are being used for, and whether we can come to an agreement on royalties and fees if they are being put to commercial use. It is also de rigueur to blur the faces of children in public photos. Is that being done?”

Even if it is named for a bird sound, we can’t Tweet, any more than we can use Facebook or for that matter any computer-based communication system. We have feathery wings and webbed feet, they haven’t yet made the keyboard upon which those appendages are functional.

I told Mallory that I was aware of the photos, in fact one of the finest examples I had seen was in a post on my neighbour and fellow blogger’s page. I tried to assure her that no harm would come to the little ones, and that I was pretty certain no money was being made when I could resist no longer and told her to relax and “just let it roll off her back”. She didn’t seem to be amused, I didn’t know ducks could glare with such intensity.

Giving in to my curiosity I asked Mallory “You’re clearly very bright, articulate and intelligent. Why is it you have come to me for help? Surely you could get the information you need without my help”

“That’s a fair question,” she said.”Let me explain. Even if it is named for a bird sound, we can’t Tweet, any more than we can use Facebook or for that matter any computer-based communication system, even if it is the World Wide Web. We have feathery wings and webbed feet, they haven’t yet made the keyboard upon which those appendages are functional. Other birds, some you may have met, are able to use these devices because they have beaks instead of bills, and can hunt and peck. As for ducks, no dice.”

Knowing Mallory wanted to get back to the pond, I said I would look into her problem and get back to her as soon as I had some information. “Maybe you could get a Model Consent Form for us to use” she suggested. I told her I’d drop by the pond if a had any news, and if she wasn’t there I’d leave a message, write it ‘down’ if you will, I joked. There was that glare again as Mallory, shaking her head,  took flight with the little ones.

Me DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Christmas in July

If you were a kid growing up in Montreal in the sixties and seventies you will no doubt remember a very popular radio announcer by the name of Paul Reid.  He did the evening show on radio station CJAD and had a very healthy following for many years.  Like many radio personalities of the day Reid had his signature sayings, closing every show with the phrase “And the night is ours”.

Perhaps the most memorable of Reid’s shows was his annual Christmas show that was a must-listen event to get into the seasonal spirit, as he recounted stories from his childhood and played carols. But it was more than that; during the hottest days of summer, at a time when air conditioning was not universally available, in an effort at mind-over-matter, CJAD would rebroadcast the Christmas Show.

In an attempt to recapture that cooling sensation of Christmas in July, I present for your viewing pleasure, our family tradition of  convincing some daft uncle (me) to eat rum-soaked flaming raisins after Christmas dinner. How will this refresh you during these hot days? Just be glad you weren’t the one hurling those blazing currants down your esophagus!

 

 

Me DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Net Neutrality, Search Neutrality and Payola

Sanders

I’m sure you’ve heard about it; Net Neutrality has become a very popular phrase lately. No, it doesn’t refer to your amount of neutrality after taxes (then we’d need a Gross Neutrality as well). In a nutshell it describes an Internet where all data is deemed equal – or neutral. Whether being pumped out by a huge multinational company, a  government, or originating with a lowly, humble blogger; data is data. The opposite of Net Neutrality would be an Internet where those who pay providers a fee have their data treated with special care, or fast-tracked.

Net Neutrality Logo

Net Neutrality Logo

In the United States the Federal Communications Commission has launched an investigation into a deal that would see big entertainment companies like Netflix agree to pay a fee to Internet service providers such as Comcast and Verizon for faster video delivery. If you have a small company providing a similar service, and can’t compete with the fees the big guys are paying, your site will not get the express treatment. It may load … eventually, but it’s not a priority.

Search Neutrality

At one time Google was playing a key role in the fight for Net Neutrality, but the company seems to have backed off a wee bit lately. Could that be due to the fact that ISPs are not the only ones looking to create different strata of service? Search Neutrality is the notion that search engines should have no editorial policies other than that their results be comprehensive, impartial and based solely on relevance, and not on how much they are paid by individual websites. Flying in the face of Search Neutrality is the emerging trend to give search result prominence to those who have paid, even if other results may be more appropriate.

(A site that is) not as close a match as your site, but faring better than you in the search results. Could they have been given priority because they paid the search engine? You better believe it! Want to rate better? Cough up!

Let’s say you have a website called Blue electric left-handed widget wrenches ‘Я’ us that specializes, not surprisingly, in information about blue electric left-handed widget wrenches. And someone enters the following search query: “blue+electric+left-handed+widget+wrenches”. Given the uncommon topic, and the precise search details, your site should show up pretty high in the results. Yet you might find that All Sorts Of Wrenches Inc. places above you. Not as close a match as your site, but faring better than you in the search results. Could they have been given priority because they paid the search engine? You better believe it! Want to rate better? Cough up!

Protection Fees

This reminded me of the underworld gimmick known as a ‘protection fee’ which evidently is no longer limited to shake-down artists. In the original version of this despicable activity a bar or restaurant proprietor is visited by a representative of a crime syndicate who strongly suggests that the owner subscribe to his security services. For a regular cash fee, his group will be pleased to see to it that no harm comes to the establishment. Should the owner refuse on the grounds that his or her place doesn’t need to be protected, amazingly within no time at all the windows might be broken and perhaps a small fire will mysteriously break out. The owner will subsequently be visited once again and asked to start paying the fee, as evidently he or she was mistaken and their bar is indeed a target. Obviously this is extortion, as the one offering the protection service is the one causing the damage. Pay up or look out, but all done under the guise of offering a valuable service.

I used to think of search engines as being somewhat like librarians … But imagine if librarians said to writers and publishers, we’re not going to give your book a prominent place unless you subscribe to our library fund.  Pay up or be overlooked.

There was a time when search engines scoured the World Wide Web for the best match to your query. The better they were at it, the more people would use their services and the more people looking at their site, the more advertising they could sell, and the higher their profit.

Not satisfied with mere billions in advertising revenue, search engines have started turning a profit from the actual search results. Not just from the pages that are clearly labeled as promoted, or paid, that pop up at the very top of your results page – there’s no problem with these –  but from a system of squeezing cash from sites to ensure they are included in the general search results. If you don’t pay the search engine to include your site, it may be buried on page 746 of the results. Even if your site fulfills all the search parameters entered by the net surfer, the search engine may pass over you unless you have subscribed to a payment plan.

Search Engines Like Librarians

I used to think of search engines as being somewhat like librarians. When you couldn’t find what you wanted on your own, the reference librarian would put his or her skills and training to use and deliver to you the best results possible. There was no cost to the user for this, and the librarian received their salary for doing their job. But imagine if librarians said to writers and publishers, we’re not going to give your book a prominent place unless you subscribe to our library fund.  Pay up or be overlooked.

Payola

NY Sunday News September 1960

NY Sunday News September 1960

Does the word payola come to mind? Back in the fifties and sixties when radio disc-jockeys actually jockeyed discs and had the last word on what they played, it didn’t take artists and promoters long to realize that the records DJs liked best were those that came with an envelope of cash. Priority was awarded based on kick-back, not merit.

The only difference was that payola started with the record company “buying” the DJ and was very hush-hush. The current threat to search neutrality originates with the search engines and is anything but secret.

Me DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

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