Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985) by Neil Postman

Categories: 1985.

Amusing Ourselves to Death is a frustrating and maddening book that might be better called Old Man Yells at New Technology and About How Things Were Better Before He Was Born. It’s considered a classic examination of the problems of new technology, which I find odd given how shoddily the argument is made. If this is an argument for books over TV, maybe write a better book… Read More

Informing the News (2013) by Thomas E. Patterson

Categories: 2013, Books, Journalism, Non-Fiction, and Society.

This book was written to make the case for “knowledge-based” journalism. It was sponsored by an initiative that is trying to establish that kind of journalism. The author believes strongly in the cause ans has been a crucial part of the initiative that sponsored his work here. But despite the fact that this is very much a work of advocacy, it is a compelling and informative read, touching on the history of American journalism (print, radio, TV and internet) as it explores the issues that have arisen with the rise of “Infotainment” and “Citizen journalism.” Though I question the methodologies Read More

The Witness (2016, James D. Solomon)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

We’ve all heard the story of the woman who was murdered in New York City in sight of thirty eight people who did nothing, a story that told us all of the moral degradation of modern urban society. Well, this movie is about her brother, his quest to find out what really happened, and to finally come to terms with the death of his sister. SPOILERS Read More

Big Bays Gone Bananas (2011, Fredrick Gertten)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

Regardless of what you think of Fredrick Gertten’s Bananas!* (a film I was skeptical of in part because of the film itself and, likely, in part, because of Dole’s campaign of defamation against Mr. Gertten), I doubt you believe that it should be censored (especially if you’ve never seen it). I have seen lots of terrible documentaries, and seen lots of nonsense on the internet but never have I demanded that the content be suppressed. Read More

Merchants of Doubt (2014, Robert Kenner)

Categories: 2014 and Movies.

This is a compelling film about how corporations and lobby groups use pundits to undermine scientific consensuses that would otherwise hurt their profits. The examines the bag of tricks both the tobacco industry and the oil industry have used to fool the American public about both the short and long term health risks of the use of their products, including making the conversation about economics, not science, and outright lying about scientific studies and consensus. Read More

Hotel Dallas (2016, Sherng-Lee Huang, Livia Ungur)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

This is a thought-provoking, at times very amusing, but very artsy examination of the affect of the TV show Dallas on Romania during the communist era, with ruminations on memory, change, media representations of reality, and other things. Yes, there’s a lot going on here. Perhaps too much. But for the most part the movie – really several different smaller ideas, including a musical, rapped up into one thing- lives up to its philosophical posturing. And it is the rare pretentious art film that is funny – I’ve seen a lot, trust me, I know. Though it is not consistently Read More

Best of Enemies (Robert Gordon, Morgan Neville)

Categories: 1968, 2015, and Movies.

When I was younger, I used to long for the days when US news shows were just the news, and when talk shows had actual intellectuals on, on occasion, to debate. I remember once seeing a clip many years ago where Gore Vidal (whom I have a love/hate relationship with) and Norman Mailer (who I don’t know beyond one novel) had a debate…on Dick Cavett. The tone of the debate, and the substance (despite a few insults), was so different than now. But this fantastic film shows the downside of what I idealized. I had never seen the famous Buckley-Vidal Read More

Nightcrawler (2014, Dan Gilroy)

Categories: 2014 and Movies.

Is this Gyllenhaal’s best performance? I don’t know any sociopaths but I feel like this has to be one of the best portrayals – or more accurate, I should say – that I have seen, at least in terms of believability. Certainly this is much more believable than a serial killer. It’s also a pretty riveting portrait of those aspects of humanity that would enable sociopathy/psychopathy. This could have been told with all sorts of modern narrative tricks, but instead Gyllenhaal’s character’s insanity, though always somewhat visible, is revealed slowly. 9/10 Read More

Ace in the Hole (1951, Billy Wilder)

Categories: 1951 and Movies.

This is mostly a devastating examination of media sensationalism and the US (or Western) obsession with certain types of stories that appears only more relevant today. However, it suffers from a number of typical Hollywood film problems, though, surprisingly, Kirk Douglas isn’t really one them. (He is relatively good for Kirk Douglas.) The most obvious problem is that Kirk Douglas speaks his feelings to other people, because, I guess, screenwriters didn’t have faith in their actors to convey such feelings without words and / or in their audiences ability to receive those feelings. I know, this was rife at the Read More

Please, everyone, just calm down

Categories: Politics and Society.

Please, everyone, let’s just calm down a little. Let’s try to have a sense of perspective. Let’s try to think about the big picture. I know that’s very difficult when someone you never met dies, but let’s try to be bigger than knee-jerk reactions this one time. Read More

Treason is what you make it

Categories: Politics and Society.

I am a regular viewer of the Amazing Race, the only “reality” show I can handle which isn’t cooking-related. I am aware that the show is not exactly what it seems, as I am aware that it is edited and that the crew manipulate the results. I don’t care. I enjoy the “race” aspect of it, much like I once enjoyed It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World, and I enjoy seeing different parts of the world from my couch, as we can’t really afford to travel to most of these places. My girlfriend and I watched last Read More

Journalism and Democracy

Categories: Journalism and Politics.

This post originated as a review of the second edition of The Elements of Journalism, on my old blog last year. I feel like it is worth sharing here as it now forms elements of my political philosophy.   We are at a time when journalism – or at least the potential to perform journalism – has become democratized in ways previously never thought possible. There are more “journalists” and outlets supposedly performing “journalism” than ever existed in history before. There are more people and outlets posing as journalistic. There is more coverage of “news” than ever previously thought possible. Read More

The Pope Resigns

Categories: 2012 and Philosophy.

The pope is apparently resigning. So what? I am not sure we would hear if it were someone else. Okay, so maybe we would hear if it were the Dalai Lama, for some reason. But would we hear about it if the Somdet Phra resigned? Or, to bring it closer to home, any of the Bishops of the “old” Catholic Churches? Do we even know there are such things? I never hear anything in the news about the Primus inter pales. And I rarely hear anything about any of the numerous protestant leaders. What about the imam for that matter? Read More

"The Fiscal Cliff": Another triumph of rhetoric over policy

Categories: 2012, Economics, and Politics.

I am not economist and perhaps that’s why I have trouble understanding the panic and the political stubbornness around the non-crisis of the so-called “fiscal cliff. (On the other hand, it is perhaps because of the fact that I am a not an economist that I have perspective, something that seems to be sadly lackly in most “mainstream” American economics.) The Republicans, were they the fiscal conservatives so many of them claim to be, should welcome the fiscal cliff. Fiscal conservatives should be happy that, without acting in the present moment, the debt will be reduced automatically. This is normally the goal Read More

Should I stop reading Exclaim!?

Categories: Journalism and Music.

In the December 2012 issue of Exclaim! there is an interview with an extremely famous, near-ubiquitous pop-star. She’s not Madonna-famous, but she’s probably the next level down. On another page, a featurette compares the artist behind the “most popular song of 2012” with another, more-established artist (who, I must say, has been featured in the magazine many times). I have been a regular reader of the print edition of this magazine for most of the last decade (and I was an occasional reader of it since not long after its inception). Sometime around a year ago – I believe – Read More

Jason Kenney Asshole

Categories: Politics and Society.

I would just like to express my dissatisfaction with the grandstanding politicians and the national media outlets (who, of course, reinforce each other and perpetuate each other’s nonsense) over the “asshole” email from Jason Kenney. I don’t like Kenney – though I do think he is sincere in his desire to reform – and I generally think he comes off as a buffoon. But what he did was an honest mistake that every one of us has made at some point in our emailing lives. And it is a ridiculous waste of time, money and energy to elicit an apology because Read More

Dick Clark is Dead

Categories: Music and RIP.

Dick Clark died the other day. I woke up to a CTV news feature which included a CTV employee saying that Clark had “real talent” and was very nice… unlike all those other “middling talents” who weren’t so nice. If Clark had real talent, I wonder what all those musicians he showcased had? Extra-real talent? Hundreds of thousands of people die each day. So why do we celebrate someone who was a television presenter and nothing more? Is it because he was famous, as my friend tells me (and, to give him some credit, at least he was famous for Read More

Accuracy in the media

Categories: 2012, Journalism, and Society.

During the hullabaloo about the SOPA boycott various members of the US Congress and Senate were quoted saying utterly ridiculous things about how wikipedia – a free site – was punishing its consumers (and other such idiotic things: apparently Congressmen and Senators only approve of grandstanding when they do it themselves). But the worst comments I saw came from a former US Senator who is now the head of the MPAA.  Because he is a former US Senator, the articles I read inclusively treated him as if he were a spokesperson for the government. But the MPAA is not a Read More

Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarist of All Time

Categories: Music.

Eight years after the fact, I stumbled upon this list and I am shocked at how terrible it is. It’s not just that it is biased to Americans (is it ever biased towards Americans) – and specifically to blues-based guitar players – but it makes no sense. There are one or two jazz guitarists on it but it is clearly not a list of jazz guitarists (as there would have to be more). Maybe it’s a list of those who had something to do with rock. But then it would certainly have to include Charlie Christian. But it’s not just Read More

Media Bias

Categories: 2011, Basketball, Journalism, Playoffs, and Sports.

So maybe I’m just a homer, and I can’t be objective about my second favourite basketball team (I certainly couldn’t be in 2006), but it seemed like everything was “Miami is doing this well” / “Miami isn’t doing this well” and very little was about Dallas. Worse, it seemed like Jackson had already decided Miami was winning, very early on. I kept thinking Van Gundy was the same, only then he would surprise me with some kind of pro-Dallas comment (or at least a very anti-Miami comment). One of the worst moments for me was when Jackson said “Right now Read More

May 21st

Categories: 2011, Religion, and Society.

The fact that people are even paying attention to this cult is bizarre. Despite their big budget ad campaign, we should just ignore them. They will go away once they are shown to be dead wrong. The world will not end on a specific day, in a specific week or month, or even during a specific year. The best guess is that it will be a very gradual thing. Human beings may indeed mostly disappear in one fell swoop but that is only likely if ‘we do it ourselves, we do’ (nukes) or we are hit by one fucking gigantic Read More

Scoring Trends

Categories: 2011, Hockey, and Sports.

After two games, the insane sports media, which has abandoned all faith in any kind of long-term thinking, decided this was the lowest scoring playoffs in who knows how many years. Yet already we’re seeing some very high scoring games (not always even games, sometimes periods). So what happened to the panic about scoring? Have the media made retractions? Of course not. Read More

The Campaign to Fire Brian Burke: Media Complicity in Maintaining Fan Delusions

Categories: 2011, Hockey, Sports, and The Campaign to Fire Brian Burke.

On Blue and White Tonight this evening Gord Stellick said something to the effect of “We can’t figure out how many games the Leafs have to win, they just have to win games. Whether it’s 11-2, or 9-4, or whatever, they have to win a lot of games.” This may indeed be true for a player. It’s hard to see how being realistic in a situation like this could help a player’s confidence, but how is this reasonable for fans? We can actually figure out how many games the Leafs need to win, it’s quite easy. And there is a Read More

Halladay

Categories: 2010, Baseball, and Sports.

Halladay has been with the Jays for 11 years. Ricciardi has been with the Jays for 8 years. Every other GM who has had his job as long as Ricciardi has made the playoffs. I will be very sad to see Halladay leave in free agency, however Ricciardi has had a dog’s age to assemble a winning team around him. This is not Halladay’s fault, this is Ricciardi’s. It doesn’t help that the Centre of the Bad Sports Writing Universe has done its utmost in recent months to encourage Halladay to take this course. Just don’t blame him. This is Read More

The Campaign to Fire Brian Burke: 2010 Off-season Trade Rumours

Categories: 2010, Hockey, Sports, and The Campaign to Fire Brian Burke.

So today there is a column in the Star today suggesting that Leafs are trying to trade for three players: Dan Hamhuis Patrick Sharp Nathan Horton I think, this is interesting; maybe there’s truth to it even though Damien Cox wrote it and I really should ignore him. Hamhuis, of course, was traded this afternoon to Philly. So he was wrong about that one. That’s a big surprise. Patrick Sharp would be a nice complimentary piece, but complimentary to what? What core would he support? No idea. Nathan Horton: Aside from why Damien Cox thinks the Leafs would get Nathan Read More