An At-home Failure

That can’t be right.

She looks up from what she’s reading and looks around the studio for help. OK, I don’t know that: It’s a radio show. I’m inferring from her tone of voice.

The Elks haven’t won at home for 4 years?
That can’t be right.

But the help she wants–to restore meaning to the universe–is not forthcoming. Her incredulity, while understandable, is misplaced, as the sports guy on the phone makes clear.

The last time they won at home
was October 12, 2019.
It’s not *quite* 4 years.

Her issue isn’t so much with the specific month and day of the last-such blessed event, but the year. OK, I don’t know that: I’m inferring from the knowledge that any normal human would have roughly the same reaction to an extended inability to win at home.

That can’t be right.

Local fans of the renamed Edmonton Eskimos obviously have not roughly but exactly the same reaction. I do know that: I’m reading.

What’s changed in the world since the Edmonton Elks (sic) last won at home?

When this article was published, it had been 1,352 days since the last home-field win: There are several items on the list. Sports events predominate, of course, but a few speak more broadly to the gulf in time:

  • Don Cherry was still a colourful commentator on Hockey Night in Canada.
  • Megan (sic) and Harry were still much loved members of the Royal Family.
  • Andrew Scheer was Leader of the Conservative Party.
  • It was 100 days before the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Canada.
  • Justin Trudeau had yet to invoke the Emergencies Act for the first time in Canadian history.

I care not for football, but I feel for Edmonton.

Edmonton Elks’ home losing skid grows
to 19 games and counting

That “and counting” in the headline is a dead giveaway of the level of despair. (Perhaps it’s karma: They taunted the language gods by using a non-standard plural for elk. Pretty bold.)

Anyway, I care not for football, so why are we here? Because within 5 minutes of hearing this completely natural interjection–That can’t be right–I’m listening to a report of a failure of child-protective services in New Brunswick to, um, protect children from abuse and neglect. The reader sounds . . . sad, maybe, but completely matter-of-fact.

The “news” part of this is the sentencing hearing for a case from the summer of 2022, when police entered a home, found a 7-year-old in dire circumstances, removed her and her siblings, and charged the mother. Here’s the kicker (well, there are two):

  • When I Googled this story I had to add the year to distinguish it from a similar 2017 story.
  • The family (sic) was known to social services. There had been at least 7 complaints lodged against them.

That can’t be right.

Yes, they’re both right. Well, they’re both true.

Does the news reader stop in the middle of this story, overcome by disbelief? She does not. Does she stop to express her disbelief before going on to the next story? She does not.

Protecting children in their homes is harder than it looks: I get that. So is winning at home. But only the one failure generates blurted-out amazement.

That can’t be right.


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8 Responses to An At-home Failure

  1. Jim Taylor says:

    Ah yes, the dispassionate news reader syndrome. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a nuclear attack or yet-another greenwashing press release — everything gets handled the same way. It occurs to me that one of the great news stories of all time, the Hindenburg disaster, was memorable because the announcer lost his objectivity and became a human.

    Our church uses lay readers for the mandatory scripture reading and the United Church’s
    Minute for Mission. Every now and then, someone allows themselves to react. “This story cuts me to the heart…” or “I don’t like these verses….” And suddenly, people are actually paying attention to what’s being read, instead of just letting the tide of words wash over them.

    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – Interesting. I wonder why there isn’t more of it – reacting in the moment, I mean, in a wide variety of applications. I guess for news readers, anything they say by way of opinion could be construed as a corporate opinion/position, and that leads to liability. Sigh.

  2. Lorna says:

    Well said. We all need to care and to ask for our governments to do better.

  3. In response to your side-panel story about the drilling of AI through the “mountain of knowledge” I am moved several times to respond to Mario Gabriele, “That can’t be right!”

    The writing platform Medium, on which I had planned to display my work, is so full of articles in support of AI that I wonder how many are AI generated. Who will say, Stop? We need the human brain here because it can and always will perform in ways a machine cannot. Even if the machine is “trained” (an inappropriate term) on human hard copy. Then, I read an article explaining that computer language models built on human language models approach collapse after a few iterations. Is that comforting? If the machines are trying to eliminate humans, might some stage of that collapse produce an equally deadly form of insanity that leads to destruction? It may not merely implode. We are allowing a handful of greedy humans who already control most of the money to indulge some of their most mentally corrupt fellow “geniuses.” That can’t be right. And those people are not controlled by governments but, arguably, the reverse.

  4. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – recently there was an opinion piece in the newspaper that compared the media coverage to five lives lost in a submersible diving on the Titanic wreck and the 700+ lives lost when a migrant ship sank off the coast of Greece. As you know, that submersible got almost hour-to-hour coverage and is still getting coverage. The immigrant ship wreck, not so much, perhaps because it wasn’t that much out of the ordinary.

    Re: Laurna’s statement, “Then, I read an article explaining that computer language models built on human language models approach collapse after a few iterations.” In some ways that sounds like the progeny resulting from human incest. Maybe computers are more human than we would like to believe.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John – For sure the unusual gets more coverage: that defines maybe half the news (or more?). Things that feel closer get more of our attention, too. I guess it’s up to us to pay attention a little more intentionally. As for AI, I saw a report today that someone is suing the guy/company who developed ChatGPT for infringement of intellectual property: The claim is that he/they scraped the internet for text, without authors’ permission.

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