Category Archives: Culture

The History of English Podcast

I’ve always been fascinated by languages in general and as a semi-competent English and an even less competent French speaker, I’ve always found the evolution of our mother tongue particularly interesting.

After reading Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf translation again over the Christmas holiday this year, I came across The History of English Podcast by Kevin Stroud.  It’s a wonderful examination not only of the history and linguistics involved, but also the cultural and political context.

I recommend it to anybody.

FDT

Aside from their political analysis, I really enjoy FiveThirtyEight’s other coverage.  Their roots are in statistical analysis of sports and they tend to cover a lot of obscure topics from a statistical perspective.  This article by Allison McCann is a great example of a side project, looking at the relationship between hip-hop and politics from a data perspective.

She includes some cool interactive graphics as well as a searchable database for political references in rap and hip-hop lyrics.  Plus the article showcases a pretty cool video which is easily my favourite political song of the 2016 campaign thus far.

Louis’ Scientology Movie

I just finished watching My Scientology Movie by Louis Theroux and BBC Films.  Unfortunately I was unable to get tickets when it was here at Hot Docs this year so I was really looking forward to seeing it.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Louis, I think he has a fascinating technique and he has made a number of films which I have found incredibly compelling.  But I also find some of his work a bit contrived and there are occasions where I’ve felt that he’s soft peddled a situation.  But I’m probably being unfair…

For whatever mistakes I may have felt he’s made in the past, he’s taken a very unconventional approach, and in doing so he manages to bait the “Church” into helping him make an even more damning film then he would ever have created if they had simply co-operated.

To quote Louis himself in the film:

They are behaving in a way that is so obviously pathological — you would think they would realize that other people would see that and think this is a religion of lunatics.

The film has some absurd moments, but it’s fairly unflinching in dealing with the subject matter and he does a much better job at holding Marty Rathburn, the film’s primary antagonist, accountable for his past as a leader of Scientology than some other recent accounts of Scientology have.  The film is definitely worth the price of admission and Theroux does a wonderful job.

Here’s an interesting interview, or perhaps it would be better described as a discussion, with Theroux and Rinke Verkerk (who herself reported undercover on Scientology) about why he made the film and some of the challenges he faced.

Where The Author Pleads With His American Cousins Not to Vote for the Demagogue

This morning I was unfortunate enough to come across the latest abomination Donald Trump has laid on us.

I’ve been thinking about what to say all day and I’m still not certain, but I think it’s important that everybody speaks out when people in positions of leadership act in intolerable ways.

I don’t agree with almost anything that Trump stands for other than perhaps his seemingly enlightened views on homosexuality, but it is my belief that there is a qualitative difference from many of his absurd views about the economy or the international order and publically documented sexually aggressive and misogynistic behaviour.

I even understand on some level his instinct to lash out and attack his victims, I don’t always hold some of his mealy mouthed answers against him either, there is some truth to the fact that when he talks he is not as polished as a professional communicator.  You can’t do a retake on live television or on a debate stage.  I can disagree strongly, but understand.

As a former teenage boy I even understand the concept “locker room banter”, but he crosses a line that can never be rationalized when he jokes about forcing himself sexually on women.

Donald John Trump must not be elected.

This might have been tolerable in 1966, I don’t know.  I wasn’t alive then and I’m fairly happy that I wasn’t if this was normal, but it doesn’t matter because this is 2016.  I’m glad to be part of a generation of men to whom this sort of behaviour is abhorrent.  It’s not acceptable for this sort of behavior to be normative.

If you don’t agree that he is disqualified from the leadership of the Land of Liberty after hearing this audio then you need to listen to it with your daughter or mother or sister or best friend.

Seth Meyers

As a follow-up to: The Atlantic’s Endorsement of Clinton, I thought I’d share the article that drew me to The Atlantic’s website in the first place about the remarkable rise of Seth Meyers to become the foremost progressive comic satirizing this year’s presidential election.

I’ve not been a huge fan of Meyers until now, he’s certainly a good performer but I’ve not been an avid SNL watcher for a long time so I missed most of his heydey.  But this year he has really done an incredibly job mocking Trump in his own unique style.

The Atlantic: Why Seth Meyers Can’t Get Enough of Trump — The Late Night host discusses the pleasures of satirizing the presumptive GOP nominee and the rise of topical humor on his show.


The Atlantic’s Endorsement of Clinton

The Atlantic: Against Donald Trump — For the third time since The Atlantic’s founding, the editors endorse a candidate for president. The case for Hillary Clinton.


The Atlantic is a progressive magazine/website, however the editorial board have only ever endorsed two candidates for US President since its founding in 1857: one Republican and one Democrat.

Founded explicitly as an abolitionist magazine in Boston, it’s probably not surprising that they endorsed Lincoln in the 1860 election. A decade before my birth they would also endorse LBJ in his contest against Barry Goldwater. Goldwater for the uninitiated-non-Americans was an arch-conservative and United States Senator who had a deeply troubling platform and record on civil rights for black Americans, so far as to gain the support of the Ku Klux Klan.

But I won’t steal their thunder, it’s a damning indictment of Trump and it places him in the correct historical context. This is something the media has struggled and failed to accomplish until now.

Clinton is an immensely qualified candidate and would likely be a very effective president, she is also deeply troubling in her own ways and for me at least I find that she has a complex relationship with candour.

Hillary Rodham Clinton has more than earned, through her service to the country as first lady, as a senator from New York, and as secretary of state, the right to be taken seriously as a White House contender. She has flaws (some legitimately troubling, some exaggerated by her opponents), but she is among the most prepared candidates ever to seek the presidency.

Donald J. Trump is catastrophically unqualified regardless of what you might think of his profound moral failings, his countless social views which have no place in the 21st century, or personal financial success.

He is spectacularly unfit for office, and voters—the statesmen and thinkers of the ballot box—should act in defense of American democracy and elect his opponent.

I encourage everybody to read it, regardless of their personal views on this election.

 

Frontline: Policing the Police

I just finished watching this excellent Frontline doc by Jelani Cobb called Policing the Police. I think it’s one of the most interesting and even handed overview of race and policing in the United States that I’ve ever seen.  It’s got a very strong thesis, but I think it provides a very evenhanded view of the situation from all sides.

Cobb goes on the streets in Newark with the police and with activists and you get to see through the camera what the situation looks like for many parties.

It’s one of the best episodes of Frontline I’ve seen in a while and definitely worth watching.  Best of all it’s not geofenced in Canada!

The End of the Arctic

It’s a somewhat breathless title, but I understand why the producers chose it since we are all unwitting witnesses to the end of a lot of cultural practices and the quite sudden destruction of an ecosystem that humans have been living on for thousands of years.

I’m not going to opine on the particulars since this is a set of issues that I’m just learning more about myself.  I think it would be a good thing if a lot more Canadians in the South watched this video.  It’s put together by the guys who run the AsapSCIENCE channel, though they’ve chosen to keep this video separate from their primary content which is a general science education channel and doesn’t usually delve into political issues.

It’s essentially about climate change and how it’s already beginning to seriously impact Inuit people, which most Canadians should already be aware are one of the most marginalized and most poorly served communities in the entire country.  It has been produced in collaboration with Greenpeace, but don’t let that scare you off, if they did have a say in the production it was a very light touch and regardless of the conclusions or the call to action, the video itself helps to build more knowledge on the topic.

The short documentary is a deep background to a video featuring Bill Nye on as part of their normal science topics discussing Arctic ice melting as it relates to climate change and changes in the Arctic Ocean basin.  It’s also a good watch.

If you’re interested in signing the petition mentioned in the documentary it can be found on the Greenpeace website here.

Sometimes I Love My Job

It can be tedious working for a crown corp and the CBC certainly has its moments, just like any other job, but then there are things like this that you just don’t get to see anywhere else.

It’s pretty strange to be at a point in your life where pop heroes from your childhood are now being retread as kids entertainers of your middle age.  But it was still pretty neat to see the parents almost as excited as the kids!

Sorry for the bad quality, I didn’t expect to see Maestro, let alone be taking video of Let Your Backbone Slide so I wasn’t exactly prepared.

Because it’s 2015

There are a lot of symbolic things that Trudeau and his new government have done today, especially when it comes to telegraphing that they will be serious about issues which have faced aboriginal Canadians.  But the best soundbite of this morning’s ceremonies was his answer to the question of why the cabinet should be comprised of 50% women and 50% men.

“Because it’s 2015.”

I’m fairly realistic, I don’t expect this new government to be that dramatically different from other Liberal governments in the past, but it is pleasant to see them bowing to reality and facts for a change.  The fact that women are underrepresented in leadership positions is something that was within their power to address at the top level so it is refreshing to see some action.