Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

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9 October 2008

I found a way around the problem I complained of earlier – having no way to publish my list of subscribed podcasts from iTunes. Check out the list I just added at the right about two thirds of the way down and enjoy a great selection of largely speech-based podcast goodness. And just above that check out the list of posts I have read on others’ blogs and elected to share via Google Reader because I found them interesting.

24 August 2008
Filed under:Academia,Arts Reviews at8:18 pm

I’ve been watching my way through The Wire, which has had lots of good press from critics and academics and I am trying hard to like it, but after seeing up to series 2 episode 3 I have to say I’m a little disappointed. It has revealed something about multi-stranded TV stories that has been at the back of my mind for a while now. They can enable more depth, but they can also be a lazy scriptwriter’s shortcut. How? Because if you have five or six storylines and a dozen characters working in each episode, each individual one can be sketchily outlined and as long as you keep getting distracted by the next strand the viewer may be kept too busy to notice.

For all The Wire’s air of worldly cynicism and its ‘tackling the big issues’ the characters are often cardboard, the situations cliched and its treatment of the issues superficial. Its framing of the war on drugs in the Baltimore projects for example suggests that it is a battle between good cops, drug peddlers who are mostly amoral or evil and a corrupt system wedded to drug money that fails to support the cops. There is in what I have seen so far little discussion of the folly of tackling the drug supply problem without in some way dealing with the demand for drugs and the environment which fosters it. Season 2 seems to be even more one-dimensional in its treatment of people smuggling/trafficking.

Then again, I find it difficult to point to any television series outside of The Sopranos and the first season or two of Lost which I have found truly satisfying lately so maybe I am just expecting too much…

11 August 2008

Britain From Above seems to be more than usually focused on cross-platform consumption, divided into two minute chunks with pictures and extras online as well as being available on HDTV. Alas two minutes isn’t enough to really dig into any one item but some are interesting – I was intrigued by this glimpse of Lord Abercrombie’s well-meaning but disastrously ill-conceived vision for post-war London:

10 July 2008
Filed under:About this blog,Arts Reviews at7:40 pm

Please let me know if anything is broken.

I wish there was an easy way for me to share and automatically update my list of podcasts and my recently watched movies (though I haven’t seen much recently that I liked except The Hustler which I thought was fantastic). I’m off to see Wanted shortly which I imagine is pretty rubbish but I’m not expecting much…

30 May 2008

Compare and contrast this revelation from the archives of British government in the 50s:

Health minister: We should “constantly inform the public of the facts” of the link between smoking and lung cancer.

Macmillan: “Expectation of life 73 for smoker and 74 for non-smoker. Treasury think revenue interest outweighs this. Negligible compared with risk of crossing a street”

With this from Yes Prime Minister:

Jim Hacker: “Humphrey, we are talking about 100,000 deaths a year.”
Sir Humphrey: “Yes, but cigarette taxes pay for a third of the cost of the National Health Service. We are saving many more lives than we otherwise could because of those smokers who voluntary lay down their lives for their friends. Smokers are national benefactors.”

23 May 2008

This artwork/prank/pr stunt is fascinating. We take the fantastically complex technology involved in webcam chat for granted, but connect two points by fibre optic cable (I’m assuming that’s how this works!) and then let people look down the “telectroscope” using the naked eye and suddenly the experience becomes magical again…

Update: I just found that CNN has de-mystified the device – it’s actually a ‘conventional’ pair of very high definition webcams.

4 April 2008

I’m in the Crouch End Festival Chorus and our upcoming concert – on a Saturday in the evening and repeated on a Sunday at 15:00 in the afternoon – promises to be particularly good. It’s a series of a cappella pieces including the rather tricky Spem in Alium by Tallis which involves splitting the chorus into eight choirs dotted around the church we are performing in.

If you want to hear the kind of singing we are capable of there are several clips of recent performances on the chorus’ MySpace page.
Hope you can make it!

8 December 2007

All over the Christian world on street corners, in homes and in churches, choirs are starting to sing carols – usually for free (I’ll be doing it myself on the 15th at Crouch End). So why is it so hard to find traditional christmas carols in the public domain? Most of the creative commons databases had just modern music, the public domain classical music archive I found didn’t have much and the Creative Commons Christmas Songs list on a blog didn’t have much in the way of traditional stuff sung traditionally, and had several broken links. Can anyone suggest a good source?

1 December 2007
Filed under:Arts Reviews,Humour & Entertainment at4:21 pm

John Patterson in a reviews Southland Tales – the latest in a series of ambitious, clever movies which he compares to Heroes and Lost. He hits the nail on the head when he points out:

It seems that the process of making a movie or TV show ever more fiendishly clever and logic-proof eventually falls subject to the law of diminishing returns. The cleverer they get, the more likely it is that things will eventually turn really stupid. Are they really exercising our minds or just dumbing things up?

This is what I have found frustrating with some of my favourite series – Lost and Heroes among them. It’s fairly easy to hook the viewer by offering what appears at first to be a sophisticated, interlocking plot only to end up revealing that the writers really don’t have any idea where it is all going (and perhaps never did). He goes on:

this is the way many pop narratives seem to be going today. Everything goes in, no matter the impact on coherence or credibility. The ideal viewer is a kid with a laptop, an iPod, a full complement of cable/satellite TV options, a NetFlix subscription, a TiVo hard drive packed with recorded shows, a taste for online gaming within ridiculously detailed game-universes and open-ended game narratives, a demon for channel-surfing and an encyclopedic knowledge of pop-culture.

Now that both academics and marketers love the once-neglected fans, is television (or at least the kind of US drama I tend to watch) going to get clevered to death?

11 November 2007
Filed under:Arts Reviews,London,Personal at10:56 am

as my ‘Facebook friends’ will know already, I am going to be singing in a revival of John Foulds’ A War Requiem at the Royal Albert Hall, 81 years after its last performance there. Lots more about the composer and his music is available from the links below. Personally I wouldn’t say it is a masterpiece and there are some odd touches in its 90 minute length but I think it would be worth a listen, particularly live so you would get the full impact of the five (!) choruses plus orchestra.

It is probably not too late to get tickets if you are so inclined but if you can’t or won’t make it, it will be on BBC Radio 3 from 18:30 to 20:00 (local time) and streamed live on the Internet. Chandos is also releasing a two CD concert recording (in SACD format in fact if you have a very fancy CD player).

More links than you probably need or want about Foulds follow:

BBC Radio 3 (to hear the concert live)

Telegraph Foulds profile inc. interview with Patrick Foulds (the composer’s son):

Profile of Foulds and his work in the Independent – it’s more colourful and plays up Foulds’ eccentricities.

The head of Radio 3 on Foulds

Simon Heffer (a Telegraph columnist) on Foulds

BBC news short video item about Foulds inc interview with conductor and a very brief clip of the assembled choruses singing.

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