PlayTV Canada (aka The Quiz Hour aka Money Wave aka Game Time aka Call TV aka Nameless TLN / CHCH Call-in Game Show aka L’Instant Gagnant) is a Scam

I see this “show” on sometimes when I flip on the TV before bed, and I can’t turn away. It’s the most boring thing you could think of: this guy stands there, with some sort of “puzzle” on the screen, and he says that time is running out for someone to call in, give the solution to the puzzle, and win $500. That’s it. He stands there, babbling, waiting for the phone to ring.

The thing is, it’s a blatant scam. These people use subtle and not-so-subtle psychological tricks to persuade people to dial a number that costs $2.00 to call. For example, there is constant time pressure. The guy will put a countdown on the screen until the end of the contest. When it runs out he’ll pretend he’s fighting the producers to extend the deadline. The whole time, his phone sits there, not ringing. So you feel like, wow, this seems fishy, but I gotta decide right now, nobody else is calling, and the puzzle is easy (see above), so I’m guaranteed $500!

Another variation on the scam is putting up a “puzzle” with the terms of the solution so vague that it’s pretty much guessing at random answers. Then, even if you get through, you’ll get it wrong. Last night they showed a picture, and the puzzle was “how many hearts are in the picture?” But there were hearts within hearts, partial hearts, hearts that were covered but could be inferred, hearts too small to see, etc. Depending on which assumptions you include or exclude, there is a very large number of reasonable answers. So you hear people getting through occasionally, but they’re all wrong.

The underlying scam is in fine text at the bottom: “calling in enters you into a random draw to give a guess on the air.” So they arbitrarily decide when to air someone’s guess. They no doubt time it for the maximum illusion that not many people are calling, so if you call, you will surely win. Meanwhile, thousands of people are calling in at $2.00 a call. At the end of the show, they finally allow someone to get through on the easy puzzle, give them $500, then these assholes walk away with a profit of tens of thousands of dollars.

Yet, even knowing it’s a scam, I can’t turn away. Hearing the poor (probably literally poor) confused people get on the air, falling for the greedy tricks, it’s like witnessing a crime. So bottom line: screw you, PlayTV Canada. And a bonus screw you to Global Television for allowing this morally bankrupt crap to air.


Update March 28 2011: Apparently the show is back on the air under the name “Game Time” (presumably so people can’t Google up all the bad press under the original name). Hopefully writing Game Time here will alleviate that a bit. Game Time. 🙂

Also, if you’re new to this blog, there are some other posts on the topic:

And be sure to check out the comments below. There is some good info about what people have been doing about this show.


Update April 24 2012: The show is still airing on TLN, but apparently now they have resorted to not even mentioning the name of the show, for maximum non-Googleability. If you needed proof that they are sketchy, there’s even more.

Also, Telemedia, the people behind this crap, took down the video in this post due to a “copyright violation.” It was likely legal for me to use it under fair use (it was only a minute, and provided as context for the commentary), but I really don’t feel like fighting it. I doubt they would’ve taken down a video with me saying nice things about them though. If you needed even more proof that they are sketchy, well, case closed.

FOR NOW.

Normal Activity

It’s Halloween time, so as one would expect, many ghostly happenings have been … happening.

A few nights ago I had a lovely date night with myself. I got some snacks and some wine, turned off all the lights except for a single candle, and sat down to watch a scary movie. I’d never seen The Changeling before, but it had a few rare moments of freaking the hell out of me with its simple but effective scares. It’s all the ghost story clichés done right.

Then today, at the Central Library, I went to see a talk by ghost researcher Cameron Bagg, who presented these same ghost clichés as fact. It was an interesting presentation; he told the story of how he first encountered ghosts (mysterious sounds, feeling a presence, teleporting objects, etc.), the tools he uses to hunt ghosts, some spooky anecdotes, all that. He showed some pictures of ghosts and spirit orbs. Ambiguous shadows and spheres of light.

At strange gatherings like this, I find the audience makeup and reactions as fascinating as the talk itself. This was a diverse group of people – old, young, crazy, not-crazy. Good old Roy McDonald was in attendance (he seems to be everywhere at once … like a ghost). And their reactions; well, I think this was the defining moment:

Bagg took out a television remote control. A regular remote, with an infrared transmitter on the end. He pointed it at the audience, clicked a button a few times, and said “does everyone see the flashing light?”

Many in the audience nodded. Murmurs of “ah, yes!” and “I see it!”

But there was no flashing light. His point was that cameras can see frequencies of light that are invisible to the naked eye (e.g., infrared; indeed, a flashing light could be seen when he pointed it through a camera). But there is a deeper point that inadvertently came out: when people are presented with a suggestion, they are likely to see things as consistent with that suggestion. When shown a static bulb and told it was flashing, many people in the audience, they literally thought they saw it flashing.

Similarly, when someone believes she is about to see ghost photographs, then you show her a shapeless shadow, she will see a human figure in it. Suggest that a dead woman lived in a house, and a picture of an empty room contains her face in a blob of reflected light. The noises at night aren’t the people in the next apartment bumping around, but ghostly rapping. An object appearing where it shouldn’t isn’t a lapse in memory, but a mischievous poltergeist.

I’m not saying ghosts aren’t real. Ghosts are an intense phenomenon genuinely experienced by a significant proportion of the population. These experiences can’t be explained by the speculations of armchair debunkers, and even though I wish he was more objective about it, I am glad that people like Cameron Bagg are out there actually trying to figure it out. But aside from any paranormal explanations, there is a lot of equally fascinating normal human psychology going on in the minds of those looking for ghosts.

Reaction to Accusations of Police Brutality at the University of Western Ontario

Yesterday, a crazy person rampaged through the Social Science Centre at the University of Western Ontario – the building I would have been working in had I not been home sick – and after barricading himself in an office and threatening people, had a run-in with police. His arrest was captured on video and posted to Youtube almost immediately.

Here’s the full story at the London Free Press, and the video is below (warning: a bit disturbing).

Opinions are divided on this one. Many people think it is an example of police brutality. Others think the officers used an acceptable level of force. Here are my thoughts.

When it comes to a violent act, people often consider whether or not the person “deserved it.” This guy deserved it. He had already punched an officer and caused grief on upper floors (though it’s unclear whether he caused physical harm to anyone else) before being taken down on the first floor.

However, we, as a civilized society, and especially our police officers, should need better reasons for violence than whether or not someone deserved it. Judging someone as worthy of punishment is an emotional decision, and not a rational one. In my humble opinion, violence should only be carried out when it is the only possible way to bring about a greater good (e.g., preventing further violence). “Deserving it” has nothing to do with whether or not the violent act would be effective in accomplishing the actor’s goal.

I prefer to avoid having strong opinions unless I am fully informed about a situation. With many issues, I think it is more useful to identify the questions that would need to be answered in order to have an informed opinion, rather than immediately forming one based on gut reactions to incomplete information.

In this case, the crucial question is this: after the six police officers had the man on the ground, could they have subdued him without kneeing him, punching him, and beating him with a baton? Or were these actions motivated purely by a sense of “he deserved it”?

I genuinely don’t know. It is quite possible that the only way to get handcuffs on a strong, struggling, possibly insane man is to weaken him with pain, and this is reflected in police training and proper procedure. It’s also possible that the actions were motivated purely by the darker side of human emotion.

And I understand that. It’s quite possible this dangerous man passed by my office yesterday; I feel that dark desire to see him harmed and locked up, for what he did and could have done to me and people I care about. He deserved to be hurt. But if we want the world to be a better, more humane place, we need to resist these gut reactions and look at violence purely with cool-head rationality.

Me, Elsewhere

Oh hi blog. You know you’ll always be my first love, but I’ve been writing stuff in other places too.

  • I have a guest post about horror movies over at The London Free Press’s Dan Brown’s Cool Blog Name to Come. It’s kinda deep. Tell me if you agree / disagree with my little assessment.
  • If you haven’t already listened to my very first musical horror story, Thinking About Polar Bears is here. Reviews are in, and it has been described as “eh,” “okay,” and “I could hardly STAND [it]” (though I think that last one was meant as a compliment). I might put a PDF of it up soon. We’ll see.

I Hope You and This Blog Post “CLICK”

There’s a sign in the bathroom at school that shows a woman holding her hands up, with the areas where bacteria and poop accumulate highlighted on them. Below this, it reads:

Infection prevention is “IN YOUR HANDS.”

I find it hilarious, because like, imagine someone saying this in real life. “Hey, wanna practice safe hand-washing techniques? Well, infection prevention is… look, air quotes… I’m about to make a joke… infection prevention is … IN YOUR HANDS!!!!!! [*holds up hands*] Hahahahahahaha get it? Like, in your hands, your responsibility, but also literally in your hands because it is your hands you are washing. Isn’t that clever?”

It combines the bad idea of using caps-lock for emphasis with the outright mistake of misusing quotation marks for emphasis, all in service of removing all the subtlety from a bad pun. This in a place of higher education.

It reminds me of of this:

It’s a bit more subtle in its punnage, but that tends to make people respond “well actually, blood is in me to keep my internal organs functioning.” So maybe you can’t win either way.

Then again, I’m the only one who thinks about grammar and punctuation this much, so to most people it’s probably all the same.

Algonquin Trip 2009

“I hope something terrible happens that changes our perspective on life forever.”

That’s the tongue in cheek text message I sent to Geoff, the organizer of the canoe trip, the day before we set off. It quickly became apparent that the universe failed to pick up on the sarcasm.

We set out in pouring rain and it hardly stopped during hours of canoeing to a camp site on Tom Thomson Lake in Algonquin Park (about here). The rain soaked through sleeping bags, it created a lake inside our tent, and worst of all, it messed with a medical device that one of us sorta needs to not die. That sent two of our group desperately canoeing away for help before dark fell, while the other two of us stayed to guard the camp and await rescue.

There are some perspective-changing things that go through your mind while lying awake on a cold, wet ground, unsure if your friends are okay and how you’ll get out of the middle of nowhere. Stuff like “I’ll never take for granted how comforting it is just to have telephones around”; “how could I have ever complained about stuff like doing laundry, when I should be happy just to have dry clothes”; “I should just tell people how much I care about them, because life is short.” You know, the usual stuff everyone knows but often doesn’t really feel.

All of us got home safe, a bit earlier than expected but the short time we spent there was an exciting adventure that I’ll never forget. And the thing is, now that I’m back home, maybe I do appreciate being able to crap without a horse-fly biting a chunk of flesh out of my ass, but that stinky damp camp laundry is still sitting there unclean. Which perhaps highlights a defining human trait: adaptability. We can think and do what we need to in order to survive even the most dire circumstances with our physical and mental health intact. But once we’re back in cushy modern life, we go back to taking it for granted and striving for more abstract – and often shallow – goals than mere survival.

Still, I like to think that I’ll appreciate life in civilization just a little bit more than I used to, sweat the small stuff less, and care about what matters more.

Joel Plaskett at Aeolian Hall, July 16th

Joel Plaskett played last week at Aeolian Hall. It was a fantastic show; the dude is ridiculously talented. For the majority of the concert, he played completely solo, just him singing and one of three different guitars.

Aeolian Hall is tiny, so everyone at the sold-out show got good seats. It felt very intimate, with Plaskett telling the stories behind his songs to the rapt audience. When people shouted out requests, he was happy to drop whatever plans he had to accommodate them. This sort of audience interaction, along with some improvisation and alternate versions of his songs, elevated the show way above a live rendition of his albums.

For me, music is all about emotion, and Plaskett really gives the impression that he is feeling what he’s singing.

He was joined by Peter Elkas for several portions of the show. I gotta admit, I’d never heard of him before last night (though he seemed vaguely familiar), but he was a great compliment to Plaskett’s music and humour.

The dudes even stayed around after the show to sign stuff and chat with fans. I shook Joel’s hand! OMG! But anyway, I highly recommend seeing Joel Plaskett live if given the chance. Best show I’ve seen in a long time.

Oh and I managed to win two tickets to another show at the Hall in August, because I am very skilled at winning random draws. Who wants to be my date?

London Ontario Zombie Walk 2008

I am of the firm opinion that the zombie walk phenomenon is the best thing to ever happen to the world. I’m so glad that London has one every year now. I managed to make it out yesterday, albeit as a puny human and not a zombie. Here are some pictures.







I love how every zombie had some twist or detail that made them unique. The girl above has a pencil sticking out of her neck, and that guy held the severed hand in his mouth the entire time.







The makeup on the one above was amazing. Every time I see a girl dressed as a zombie, part of me falls deeply in love.

I’m not a photographer and my pictures aren’t the best. Check the London zombie walk’s official site and the event’s Facebook page for better professional-type pictures.

I love this one that someone else took:

And here’s a closeup of that amazing makeup:

I so wanna participate next year.

The Wick Snuffed Out

One of London’s oldest bars, The Wick, was secretly smashed with a wrecking ball on Sunday. The whole situation is extremely sketchy. The demolition started just before a meeting planned to discuss the building’s future as a protected heritage site. It was so rushed that utilities weren’t even shut off, and there was still beer inside. It was left half-destroyed, with debris falling to the unprotected street below.

I’ve only been to the Wick a few times, but I’ve always had a great time there. It catered to a different crowd than the Richmond Row university types (e.g., not many places would feature Dennis Humble). I am sad to see The Wick die just as I was getting to know it.

I have no problem with the owner of the building tearing it down if that’s what they need/want to do. But it didn’t have to be done so sketchily. They could have at least waited until its status as a historical building was decided upon; if it was really just a useless old building, as many maintain, then fine, tear it down a few days later.

But dude, look at this:

I’m not sure when this map of London is from, but there’s the Wick with its own stables, nestled among mills and carriage factories. I don’t know if that sort of history is worth taxpayer dollars to preserve, but it does make its eradication all the more tragic.

People say the place was an eyesore. What? I took this picture yesterday, after someone painted “save me” on the side, but it just looks like any other old building in London.

Of course, now the backside isn’t looking so hot.

I’m sure the owner has their own reasons for tearing it down. I do find it troubling that many Londoners support the move, though. Perhaps it is some implicit bias against the non-clean-cut image that the Wick and its patrons project. But screw that. I’d rather see 50 more places like the Wick than another bar pretending it’s in a bigger city, or some squeaky clean clothing store that tries really hard to be cool, or whatever.

Oh well. All this sketchiness does make for an interesting story.

Mikey Likes It?

Growing up with the name Mike, and not being very picky about food, I often hear the phrases “give it to Mikey! He’ll eat anything!” and “Mikey likes it!”

The thing is, has anybody actually seen the Life Cereal commercial these phrases come from? Look:

Neither phrase is actually spoken in the commercial. Ok, people can be forgiven for saying “Mikey likes it” instead of “he likes it”, since the latter only makes sense in the context of the commercial. But as for “he will eat it, he likes everything”, it’s the complete opposite.

Listen carefully. The kid actually says “he won’t eat it. He hates everything.” In fact, that’s the whole damn point. If Mikey likes everything, then it’s no surprise that he likes Life Cereal too, so there’s no reason for the kids to go apeshit. But if he hates everything, yet likes Life, then it must be really good. Almost makes you want to go out and buy it, which is, you know, sorta the purpose of a commercial.

Since I really do like everything, it’s probably a good idea to feed this Mikey anything that you suspect is good, but want to make sure it’s not surprisingly nasty. Because then if I hate it, you can scream “he hates it! Hey Mikey!”, and avoid that product. Address available upon request for anyone who wants to send me free food. Get the original Mikey to eat some too, and you have a sort of double dissociation going on. Too bad he died from eating pop rocks and Coke *.

* [citation needed].

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See also: Luke, I am Your Father: 8 Memorable Movie Misquotes