Test the Nation: the holding pen

Jan 21/08 9:28am addendum:
Photos by Allan.
Read his full report.


  1. Allan
    Posted January 25, 2008 at 8:17 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    And now who’s judging a book by it’s cover?

    I’m just kidding, Allyson, you made me smile, amidst all the STRESS!!!

  2. Wandering Coyote
    Posted January 25, 2008 at 5:26 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Hi Allan! Thanks for the lovely comment…I did not dislike you before we got into the studio, though I was a little irked that you were so negative about The Shock Doctrine even though you’ve NEVER READ THE BOOK! What ever happened to ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover????’ You cannot successfully make or defend an argument about the thesis and content of a book without having read the book to begin with.

    I’m just saying…

    Anyway, I was very glad to have met you and I had an absolutely smashing time! And, yes, there are hip young broadcasters out there, but George will always be #1 in my books!

  3. Saskboy
    Posted January 25, 2008 at 8:54 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Allan, thanks for your kind praise.

    Your HTML is breaking constantly though, you should know.

  4. Allan
    Posted January 25, 2008 at 6:29 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Your weekend reading starts here (because I know you all only work a four-day week just like George!)

    Leave it to Saskboy to fill in the blanks. So few of the 36 team members actually wrote at length about their experiences, which I find unusual for a bunch of mouthy bloggers. Perhaps they’re just trying to put the pieces of a normal life back together after such a heady experience (thought of a title for the event – Bonfire of the Vanities – wadda ya mean it’s been used?).
    Ouimet pointed out earlier the remarks made by Gay Person of Colour at his blog. I didn’t miss seeing him wearing a T-shirt with the name of his blog (which is something we all should have done – I’m not interested in your real name, you’re a blog to me) and sitting next to Jesse in the photo. Gay Person and I had earlier smiled at one another and that pretty much was all I needed to know we’d have a great relationship. Good vibes.
    Personally, I was moved by a remark posted just the night before the event, over at Wandering Coyote. And yes, you have to read link right now) that she felt kind of foolish dressing like that and being the only one to do so.
    Unfortunately her comments are closed, otherwise it seems that Hugh Mcguire and I both want to tell her how proud we were of her for getting into the spirit of it all and really putting the fun in fun. It’s the rest of us who should be embarrassed for not having the nerve to do the same (I too compromised – I usually wear a tie when blogging).
    I was a bit taken aback by how much of her blog was devoted to American politics, this from a Canadian living in the hinterland. But of course that stuff is a goldmine for satire, and duh, Samantha Bee’s bread & butter at this point.
    And if you think Jules is pretty sharp, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
    Check out this incredible story from her “About” (often the most interesting part of someone’s blog):

    Canadian Author and Humorist, Jules Carlysle lives and works from the remote regions of Northwestern Ontario Canada, where she shares one room, with one dog and one kid.

    In January 2004, as President of Learn-IT, one of the world’™s fastest growing technology training companies, Jules, after a long career as a ’śkamikaze entrepreneur’ť, was at the pinnacle of her success.

    Well known for her casual demeanor and unique approach to pretty much everything, Jules had become famous for her ability to see problems and solutions in a completely new way. She had been called upon by the Federal Government to consult on issues related to ’śtech transfer’ť (the process of commercializing new innovations in science) and regional economic development. Despite her lack of formal education, (she dropped out of school after tenth grade), Jules was highly regarded for her unique brand of ingenuity.

    Unfortunately in 2004, Jules suffered a serious head injury, when she slipped on some ice outside her office and hit her head on a brick wall. After ’śleaking IQ points’ť into a snow bank for three hours, Carlysle would find her life suddenly and dramatically changed.

    A year after the accident, after the money had run out and Learn-IT was nothing more than a distant memory, Carlysle, her teenage son and their cocker spaniel moved to a small single room in an old commercial building, in the worst part of town.
    Still having difficulty with reading and her memory, Carlysle was considered unemployable. She was offered no opportunity for rehabilitative therapy, simply instructed to learn to live with her new limitations. Surrendering in the face of a challenge was not something Carlysle was prepared to do.

    Bored and virtually housebound, Jules became engrossed in the emerging spectacle of American politics. Galled that she was considered too dumb to return to the workforce, yet still significantly smarter than the President of the United States, Carlysle concentrated her efforts and frustrations into researching her book DUMBASS, a tome of flabbergasting volume that serves up the irresponsibility, incompetence and stupidity of America’™s Frat Boy in Chief and His Merry Band of Miscreants in humorously chewy bite-sized morsels.

    After 10 months of nearly obsessive research and writing, Carlysle found herself unexpectedly rehabilitated. Ironically, the very process of mocking President Bush’s intellectual prowess had restored her own.

    Perhaps, more surprising are the conditions under which she managed to live, raise a teenage magician and publish her books. Carlysle lives in what she calls a state of “functional homelessness”. She explains the term like this, ’śAs a functionally illiterate person manages to move amongst us undetected while lacking the very basic skills of reading and writing, we live without the basics normally associated with “home”, such as running water, a bathroom or a kitchen.’ť

    Carlysle claims this domestic purgatory is much more common than one might realize as it remains a hidden, uncounted demographic. Over the years, she claims to have known a dozen other families who have lived similarly.

    Carlysle, in her typical style, takes it all in stride. “The bottom line is that the bottom line doesn’t matter. Our worst is better than other families best”, she argues. “We laugh far more than we cry at our house. I’ve always said that if I wake up tomorrow with nothing left but my pulse and a sense of humour, I’ll happily start all over again. — of course, when I said that I didn’t know I would actually have to do it one day…”.

    I chose to not put their stuff in italics. And I chose to submit it to you in full rather than just link to it, because I wanted you lazy geeks to have every chance to read this.
    It’s not at all about the CBC. But this is who should be on The Hour (!!!!)
    It’s just some of the best stuff I’ve read on all these blogs. And I’ve read at least three of the 20,000,000 so far.

    But back to


    P.S. Also thanks for the photos.

  5. Kempton
    Posted January 22, 2008 at 12:39 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Thanks allan and jesse for sharing your experiences in detail here. I am so glad that I check out the site here to read your comments.

  6. Anonymous
    Posted January 21, 2008 at 9:31 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    wow who knew a fun lil quiz show could cause jesse and the bloggers such angst ?
    it’s a game dude

  7. Allan
    Posted January 21, 2008 at 11:30 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    A great behind-the-scenes


    Nice job, blogcrew. And you didn’t even have to wear jumpsuits, chef’s whites, or Borat costumes…

  8. Anonymous
    Posted January 21, 2008 at 10:04 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Click on his name, dumbass.

  9. Anonymous
    Posted January 21, 2008 at 9:04 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Allan – don’t you have to have your own blog to be a blogger?

  10. Jesse Hirsh
    Posted January 21, 2008 at 9:00 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Hey Allan, nice summary. I totally agree with your observation that there was a disconnect between those of us in the bleachers, and the people on the floor. I learned a lot watching how the event was pulled off, mostly because I strongly disliked how we were treated/herded.

    I really enjoyed hanging out with you Allan, and chatting about the subjects we did. However I don’t think it’s fair to say I was slumming. I was really cranky, which was due to health reasons. I have chron’s disease, and being locked up for 6 hours with limited access to water/beverages and similar limited acccess to toilet facilities makes it really hard on my body. My blood sugar was low, I was in moderate pain, so naturally this makes for a sour puss. This is part of why I disliked how the event was run, but again, I think the disconnect is the larger issue.

    At the end of the night I kind of wondered if the contest as a whole was rigged. We were able to see the questions before the show began when the entire show’s script was previewed on the teleprompter. While I assume all teams were able to see this info (if they looked) I still felt there was an intrinsic bias towards our team. For example, how many technology related questions were there compared to food, travel, or other areas central to the other teams. I find it ironic just how scripted reality television or factual entertainment is, and with that in mind why not have the bloggers win, given how likely they would be to further promote the show via their blogs.

    There seemed to be zero spontaneity in the entire production. Our team, the bloggers, was by far the rowdiest, and most prone to start chanting crazy shit. Yet I got the sense that was unwelcome, and in some way lived up to the cliche that bloggers instill fear into the hearts of tv people. No spontaneity, no chance to connect.

    Now that I think about it the best metaphor of the disconnect was watching the six team captains get water as we in the bleachers pleaded for just a sip…

  11. Allan
    Posted January 21, 2008 at 7:03 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I’m in wow mode.
    Where to begin.
    To get that much information and insight about the blogworld, cyberspace et al in just a few days is overload for me.
    In one way none of it means anything and it’s all just like a radio talkshow with callers who know nothing, but in another way it’s revolution taking place before our eyes.
    But where to begin.
    Test The Nation.
    They wanted us in through the Wellington entrance by three o’clock. It’s freezing out.
    We sign in and fill out a release if we haven’t done so online already. And wait.
    Everyone gathers in the lobby. There’s the Kiss guys, incredibly real. This is starting to look exciting. Then Mick Jagger arrives, a little too short but the sense of Jagger was inescapable. Some dolled-up babes arrive, more celebrity look-alikes. There’s Paris Hilton, and a buxom Pamela Anderson. These people are the stars of the show. The rest of us seem drab and invisible in the same space. Cab drivers, backpackers all look like normal people as if why are they’re here with no place else to go..
    We’re tagged and ushered upstairs into a large empty studio with twenty round tables as if we’re going to play card games or bingo. There’s no music, no host. Hang up our coats ourselves. And who would steal anything here anyways, this is the CBC and we’re all patriotic Canadians.
    There are board showing the exact seating of each person, Tables are also labeled, so bloggers gather together.
    But of course I feel totally alienated from this group. Most have never heard of me and some have, and well, there may possible just could be some resentment there. And I don’t blame them. I question myself what would warrant my being here, and have to keep remembering that this was a kind of random choice happenstance kind of thing that was really just a sampling from each segment represented. But too, bloggers have their star performers, the voices that do count for something. And some of them are here.
    Rannie and his photographs. He’s already busy taking pictures.
    But I immediately recognize Jesse Hirsh who I had been looking forward to meet.
    Turns out Jesse is slumming. He doesn’t really want to be here and gives the impression he may just leave rather than wait the three hours before they put us in the studio.
    And he immediately becomes the most accessible and genuine person in the room. And, it turns out, an outlaw. With opinions and views as entertaining as anything by Rick Mercer.
    I asked Jesse about internet privacy and his career and his TV appearances and Facebook. And I remarked that it occurred to me that this would have made a great documentary – the preparation for the show, but with a focus on the Bloggers, listening to them interact. Their dialogue would be such a neat slice of cyberlife, opinions that speak volumes about the time we live in and what pre-occupies a generation. (this was where you needed to produce, Don Young!)
    Even Amber MacArthur is hard to spot when she’s no longer a blonde, but the quiet strength and calmness was unmistakable. I told her “you’re my new hero”.
    All the bloggers had one thing in common. They were 20 years younger than me.
    A three hour wait.
    At 4, Jesse and I are the first in line for the food.
    At 5:30 I send my camera out to a friend waiting in the lobby to wing it’s way to Ouimet.
    At 6 we are led into the studio, still an hour before air.
    We take our seats and finally get a good look at the other groups. Chefs are in full white uniform. Backpackers look healthy, cab drivers like everyone’s dad, flight crews all in their uniforms looking more responsible than the rest of us combined, and the celebrity look-alikes – well, forget everything and just look at this group. Wow. There’s Ali G and Borat and Bono and Shakira and … a fascinating group of people … and the great Celine Dion.
    At 6:30 the real celebrities are marched in and take their seats near Wendy and B. Tricia in very long heels and very short skirt. Carlo Roti fit and ready, and Samantha Bee. They wave to their respective groups but pretty much stay in their seats. I felt like yelling out “hey Samantha, come and bond with us!”
    Finally, the show starts.
    There are about 8 cameras. Lights are swirling and there are smoke generators behind the bleachers making it surreal and sometimes hard to see. There are no monitors. We are working blind as to what’s being broadcast. Four men are suspended from the ceiling in each corner manning spotlights.
    Bloggers are the rowdiest and make their presence known starting immediately with a chant “we will, we will … blog you!” with accompanying foot stomping. A fun and boisterous bunch.
    The test starts.
    The questions are both easy and hard.
    Within the first hour the early winners are announced – the cab drivers are in the lead, and you realize that this is anybody’s game and no group can be underestimated.
    The chefs are not doing so well. Someone in our group yells out “it’s not too late to start blogging!”. That was my favorite line of the night, next to the team captain from Corner Gas who, when asked if he was confident of his group, answered “oh yeah, if I’m not sure I just press C-A-B”. Clever.
    After the first hour there are no surprises left. Wendy is chipper and perfect as ever. Bambridge is a genial host and mixes it up with the audience. But there’s a real disconnect in the room between the show people and the rest of us, 200 people. I had envisioned something with more camaraderie. But there’s so many people in the room and stuff going on maybe it’s just as well we concentrated on just getting through this.
    It’s actually one long quite incredible moment.
    There’s so much going on with each and every person here that we could probably keep broadcasting all week non-stop and still not have exhausted the talent and uniqueness of what is in this room.
    A documentary would have been fascinating. A pleasant CBC guy had been wandering around earlier in the holding area doing brief interviews on camera with various people. Jesse and I had done our part, and the videographer said he would try and have it up on YouTube by Friday. Friday??? Well, he is working for the CBC.
    We’re in commercial awaiting the final score. A monitor quickly flashes the tally. It’s Bloggers with an average score of 50 at the top of the list. Was that for real?
    The announcement comes and … Yes! Bloggers take the trophy!.
    What a thrill. And yet I feel sheepishly guilty being part of such an arrogant bunch of full-of-themselves egomaniacs. Who can be a lot of fun when they want to be. Looking at the other groups would make one wonder if this game wasn’t rigged. There had been a palatable sense in our group that the outcome was a foregone conclusion, for no reason that I could think of.
    Chris, the top scorer, is honoured, and Samantha makes her way up to congratulate him. She slips by me and for a split second I get to make out with Samantha Bee. Regardless of the fact that I had earlier observed that the seated Samantha had a noticeable bulge at her tummy area that did not look like it came from festive over-eating. Clearly, her husband had knocked her up. What a phrase, knocked up. She’s preggers!
    Samantha is going to be a mommy.
    She’s always been instantly adorable, and clever and funny.

    It’s over.
    Let me out here. I need a smoke.

    PS cbcfrank … you said it all

  12. cbcfrank
    Posted January 21, 2008 at 6:12 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    As a lifelong broadcasting production whore, I’m delighted to see people had a fun time. For all the kooky event it may have been, we involved the nation. The more of this the better.

  13. Allan
    Posted January 20, 2008 at 9:56 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    What a trip!
    A technician actually flashed the results on a screen before the announcement, so we knew it was in the bag. Brainiac was sitting two seats away from me. 57 out of 60? Amazing score.
    It was a very tame experience, while at the same time it felt like being in the audience of Let’s Make A Deal. Everyone a bit tired by the time tape rolled.
    More to come before you’re all sick of hearing about it.

  14. raymi lauren
    Posted January 20, 2008 at 9:23 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    bono shoulda stayed in character, no accent? what the hell!

  15. Anonymous
    Posted January 20, 2008 at 9:20 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    what a freak show

  16. Kevin
    Posted January 20, 2008 at 5:46 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Should have gotten seconds – I’m already hungry again.

    Also, Bono’s really let himself go, hasn’t he?

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