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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18 November 2007

Sesame Street doesn’t broadcast in the UK but they have a Sesame Street Podcast, it seems. I am a little concerned that according to iTunes, “listeners also subscribed to Abigail’s X Rated Teen Diary” (fortunately that programme isn’t what it sounds like).

I have to say that the sample I saw didn’t really impress me with the Sesame Street magic but I figure there must be some reason why it is the ‘gold standard’ for educational television in US studies.

28 October 2007

I have been listening to a free audiobook version of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South and finding it curiously compelling – not for its plot or characters but because of the intriguing social attitudes revealed in the book (also available free to read online or download via Google). It starts as a conventional Austen-like romantic novel of manners. Then the heroine’s father, an Anglican clergyman, has a crisis of conscience (bizarrely, never explained in detail) and decides to leave the church and move from the (beautiful) South of England to the (smoky, ill-bred) industrial North (hence the title). To my surprise the daughter’s concern is not primarily over the loss of income or the change of location but over his leaving the faith – it’s hard to imagine now people teetering on the edge of modernity taking their Anglicanism so seriously.

When the action moves to the North, the mannered novel swerves Dickens-wards with a (rather generic) depiction of the suffering of mill workers but is much more directly politically-engaged than I remember Dickens being. It lays out three broad positions on the industrial revolution.

  • Nicholas Higgins, whose daughter died from work-related illness and whose union struck to get enough food for its workers to eat, exemplifies ‘labor’ – worthy of compassion but misguided in his attempts to change the immutable system and prone to drink and violence.
  • John Thornton, a mill-owner, represents capital. While he is seen as lacking compassion, there is evidently a strong if unwilling admiration by Gaskell of his (and capital’s) ruthless drive and enthusiasm and he is given some speeches which remind one of those uttered by Ayn Rand heroes to the effect that he only wants to leave his workers alone (to starve) and be left alone himself.
  • Gaskell’s heroine, Margaret Hale, and her family take a hand-wringing Christian liberal position which I think we are meant to share – it’s too bad that the market crushes the workers in the North but it’s unavoidable and they should take up Christianity to help them bear their troubles without disturbing the social order.

I haven’t reached the end yet but I have a nasty feeling that with the marriage of Ms Hale and Mr Thornton we will be offered a sentimental ending wherein Thornton, influenced by his new wife chooses to help out the deserving poor among his grateful workers without altering his or his fellow mill owners’ Darwinian struggle to keep their profits up. Then again the novel has already contained a few surprises for me…

6 August 2007

Some musings of Alan Watts, an English populariser of Eastern philosophy, on the temptation to concentrate on the destinations in life – must… finish… PhD! – rather than on the journey – entertainingly accompanied by animation produced by the creators of South Park. Five other such animated musings are also available online.

25 June 2007

As Fuhnie observes, the band Sprites have come up with what sounds to me like the ideal blogger anthem ‘I Started A Blog Which Nobody Read’, which starts:

“I started a blog, which nobody read
When I went to work I blogged there instead
I started a blog, which nobody viewed
It might be in cache, the topics include:

George Bush is an evil moron
What’s the story with revolving doors?
I’m in love with a girl who doesn’t know I exist
Nobody hates preppies anymore…”

It’s well worth a listen – you can hear the song while watching this (rather poor) fan-made video:

I am surprised there aren’t more songs about blogs or about social network software – or am I just not aware of them? Comment with any entertaining ones you have found…

29 May 2007
Filed under:Humour & Entertainment,Old media at6:02 pm

Surely with reality television hitting these new lows we are going straight to hell…

A reality TV contest planned over who should get a kidney, not telling an Australian Big Brother contestant that her father had died, and a reminder of several other more or less appalling reality TV concepts.

Update: At least the kidney show was a hoax.

13 March 2007
Filed under:Humour & Entertainment,Old media at7:22 pm

The advertising editorial divide in action!

Originally uploaded by D & D.

Photography – the lazy man’s blog entry 😉 This juxtaposition is so delicious it’s hard to believe it wasn’t a joke by someone in the paper…

27 February 2007

Yes it turns out Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, did some early promotion material (nearly 20 years ago!) selling Macs to students.

25 November 2006

At my local toy shop I noticed a new series of wooden toys – the BRIO Network Toys. They look cute but not exactly technically accurate… The website has flash animations and even some video clips but alas is Flash-based so no deep linking- you’ll have to explore it yourselves. Yes, the Internet really is everywhere these days!


18 October 2006

Long time readers of my weblog will know that I am a huge fan of the radio programme This American Life which puts out weekly programmes that mix documentary, fiction and humour. It used to be that they did streaming audio and for MP3 download you had to pay via Audible but this week they announced they are offering a podcast. Sign up now and have a listen – if you only subscribe to one podcast it should be this one…

13 September 2006

The Avengers

I just found out that The Avengers was called in France Chapeau melon et bottes de cuir – bowler hat and leather boots. Which if you think about it is probably a more descriptive name. I know at least one person who probably only ever watched it for the leather boots…

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