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For immediate release
November, 2004

For review copies of Hello, I'm Special: How Individuality Became the New Conformity or to get more information, contact Karen McMullin, Penguin Canada, (416) 928 2408,

Penguin Group (Canada) and Hal Niedzviecki present…

Most SPECIAL Canadian Ever Contest
CBC's Greatest Canadian Contest

In Hal Niedzviecki's new book Hello, I'm Special: How Individuality Became the New Conformity, he argues that a pop culture obsession with celebrity and individual greatness is undermining and devaluing everyday "ordinary" life. According to Niedzviecki, The CBC's Greatest Canadian Contest (winner to be announced Nov. 29th) is just another example of the kind of entertainment programming that champions celebrity and personality over meaning, substance, and community.

Niedzviecki is now challenging Canadians to enter a real contest  a no-holds barred contest to prove YOU are the most SPECIAL Canadian ever!
From now till end of December, everyone is invited to put in their entry at
The winner gets to have lunch with Hal Niedzviecki and a senior editor at Penguin Canada. This will be an opportunity to pitch their book idea (c'mon, you know you have one…) and convince Penguin to unlock the gates to the promised land of fame!

Most Special Ever Contest
Greatest Canadian Contest

Greatest Canadian
: Buys into and perpetuates the celebrity hype! "Celebrity advocates" argue for "greatest Canadians" a.k.a. greatest Canuck celebrities. Top ten list includes 2 hockey personalities, a television show host, and the country's best known politicians.
Special Canadian: Completely and totally celebrity free! Exposes the confusions and insecurities that non-celeb Canadians are feeling due to this endless barrage of celebrities in the media. Can we still be special if we aren't celebrities endorsed by television networks? What makes someone unique and individual in the age of the pop star?

"If there is a single constant in the emergence of individuality as the new conformity, it is the ubiquitous presence of celebrity."  Niedzviecki from Hello, I'm Special.

Greatest Canadian: Canned presentations by retired politicians, random celebrities,  and CBC hosts dominate this exercise in pretend democracy. We can't wait for actor Paul Gross, wrestler Bret Hart, and musician Melissa Auf Der Maur to tell Canada what to think! Top ten list is dominated by politicians and people whose little-guy-makes-good stories are told over and over again in a society that loves the myth of the regular Joe who becomes uber-famous. Thanks, CBC, for introducing Canadians to such little known success stories as Wayne Gretzky, Don Cherry, David Suzuki, Pierre Trudeau, Terry Fox and Sir John A. Macdonald.
Special Canadian: Non-stop personality! Here are real Canadians finally getting a chance to talk to their peers and communities. With wit and charm, everyday Canadians expose the insecurities of a society dominated by the desire to get noticed and be ordained as special, famous and great. Here are what some of the real people who have entered the contest have to say: Doc from Barrie, ON: "I am special because I realize that my desire to be special is destructive to the human species." Tracy, Oakville, ON: "Why am I special? I am a single mother who works full-time for a corporation that sucks the life out of me." Joey, Halifax, NS: "The accident gave me superhuman powers:  the power to consistently make poor life choices, an accelerated propensity for the coining of t-shirt slogans, and a nervous laugh." Emma, Toronto, ON: "Once when I was six I bit a guy through his jeans and he bled." Brenda, Victoria, BC: "Stop and talk to that person in the wheelchair in the store trying to reach an item on the top shelf. The little things make us special." Kelly, Edmonton, AB: "I am a newly single mother of 3 girls. I've had a brain tumor and a divorce. Why am I special? Because I'm me." And so many more! Visit the contest and see for yourself!

Greatest Canadian: Tried and true reality TV techniques featuring pretend accessibility and pseudo-interactivity. Watchers get the exciting thrill of "voting" by calling a number or clicking on a website icon. We can then sit back and let celebrity pundits tell us what decision to choose from a handful of pre-arranged options.
Special Canadian: You set the agenda! Anyone can enter and say whatever they want. Viewers can enter the contest, read the entries, and comment at length. They can also vote for their favourite. This is real interactivity and creativity  a contest that eliminates the pre-packaged celebrity advocates and media middlemen! What does it all mean? You decide.

"With its array of celeb busboys, brides, and plastic-surgery supplicants, reality TV further spreads the ideology of conforming to individuality and special. Losers are those who are content to stick with the crowd. Winners are those who reinvent themselves to stand out. The message is clear: with a little tweaking, you, too, can be a more and better you."  Niedzviecki from Hello, I'm Special.

"Hello, I'm Special asks why we all seem to do the same damn thing in the name of individuality. It's about time somebody did."  Kim Hughes, The Toronto Star
Hal Niedzviecki
visit Hal's website


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