Neil Postman

Posted in Pop Culture on October 7th 2003 by Randy Reichardt

:: One of the interesting books I read this year is Amusing Ourselves To
Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
, by Neil Postman, a professor at the Department of Culture and Communication, Steinhardt School of Education, NYU, and a well known critic and analyst of media and pop culture and their effect and impact on society. Despite having been published in 1985, pre-Internet days, I found “Amusing” to be quite relevant in 2003. In the book, Postman discusses the impact of television on society, and believes that, as one reviewer put it, “TV teaches us to live a decontextualized life.” Postman is the author of 17 books, including Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, and The Disappearance of Childhood.

While driving home tonight, I was channel flipping on my car radio, and when I changed the station to the CBC program As It Happens, I realized I was listening to a segment of a speech Postman gave in Toronto a few years ago at a conference. I knew it was him because I recognized about what he was talking. When the segment ended, the announcer said that Postman passed away last week from lung cancer.

Here’s the weird part: despite my best efforts, I can’t find a single web site or news item on the Internet to verify this. Even Postman’s departmental web pages make no mention of his passing, although I noticed that the faculty page from his department removed the hotlink from his mini-bio. I searched CNN and NYTimes – nothing. Yet on the As It Happens web site for today, Oct 7, 2003, you can hear the complete segment, a short tribute to Postman, and an extract from his keynote address at a May 1998 conference sponsored by the North American National Broadcasters Association. (Note the entry at the bottom of the page: “FTR-NEIL POSTMAN (MU) Duration: 00:03:06.”) The program can be heard here, requiring Real Player (the file is a .ram file). The segment about Postman begins at 42:30 minutes, or so.

This is one of those mysteries of the Internet – for someone so well known in the media itself, that there would be no mention his passing anywhere on the web is, well, bizarre.

:: Ahnuld is the new governor of California. Happy Tuesday!

Michael Moore, Al Franken, and the NYTimes

Posted in In The News, Pop Culture on October 6th 2003 by Randy Reichardt

:: When Michael Moore‘s book, Stupid White Men, appeared in print after some post-Sept 11 delays, it shot to the top of the NYTimes Best Seller List, remained there for weeks, and was the best selling non-fiction book of 2002. Nonetheless, the NYTimes never published a review of the title (I’ve never found one on the web site, and a review never appeared in their book review section). Al Franken’s new book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, has been #1 on the list for five weeks, having been bumped to #2 this week by none other than Franken’s drinking buddy and book cover subject, Bill O’Reilly. A review of Franken’s book appeared recently, written by former NYT chief film critic, Janet Maslin. Oddly enough, Moore’s new book, Dude, Where’s My Country?, goes on sale tomorrow, and what do you find in the Times this morning? Well, hush my mouth – a review by Janet Maslin!

This fascinating observation suggests the NYTimes Best Seller list is revealing that, after perhaps a decade of domination by right wing authors, the playing field has been levelled by an equally successful number of writres from the left. I bought the Franken book on the weekend, it’s next on my list of must reads. I hope to buy the Moore book later this month.

Welcome Back, Opus, and Other Stuff

Posted in Pop Culture on September 25th 2003 by Randy Reichardt

:: Opus is returning. The penguin who anchored Bloom County returns to the weekend-only funny pages on November 23rd. It remains to be seen if the Edmonton Journal will carry the strip. I’m not holding my breath. But this is great news, one of those “I never thunk it would happen again” moments. Great work, Berkeley! (Derryl sent word of this to me. He’s changed his blog, Cold Ground, to a TypePad site, check it out, it looks great!)

This Slate article discusses which comic strips will be important in this decade. Leading the pack for me is Boondocks, which of course isn’t published in either newspaper here in Edmonton.

:: OCLC has released an official statement regarding its lawsuit with The Library Hotel.

:: If you thought a 19-inch monitor was the pièce de résistance, check out these megascreens from Liebermann. The Cinerama has a 45″, 51″ or 57″ screen size. Not big enough for you? The Grand Canyon comes in 76″, 81″ and 92″ screen sizes (resolution is 6400×1200 pixels). The 92″ is a bargain at $17,499.99US. (From: Roland Piquepaille).

:: My most excellent Winnipeg friends Steve, Mike and Tony like to hop on their bicycles and ride for long period of time, take pictures of themselves doing this, and then post them on the web. Bike With Mike is a document of their cycling adventures.

Mixed Bag Special

Posted in Miscellaneous, Mixed Bag Special, Pop Culture on September 17th 2003 by Randy Reichardt

:: I’m backed up answering e-mails, and checking out web sites and articles of possible interest.

:: This Scientific American article discusses the Six Degrees of Separation theory, suggested by sociologist Stanley Milgram in 1967. The project at Columbia U is called Small World, and you can participate if you like.

:: Michael Moore‘s new book, Dude, Where’s My Country?, is due out on October 3rd. Hot on the heels of Al Franken‘s Lies and The Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look At The Right, the book is sure to continue to tick off the right and get them dutifully steamed. Franken, of course, was sued by Fox for using the expression,”fair and balanced” in the subtitle of his book. Interesting that Moore’s book title is a play on the movie, Dude, Where’s My Car?, which happens to be a Fox production. Lawsuit, anyone? Franken’s publisher, Penguin, moved up the launch date of his book from mid-September to late August, in hopes that the publicity and fallout from the lawsuit might help sales. Duh. The book opened at #1 on the NYTimes Best-Seller List, and remains there to this day.

It’s an interesting time, where we are seeing more books from the left attacking the right. Also out there are Joe Conason’s Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth, and Eric Alterman’s What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News, among many other titles.

:: While it appears this site may no longer be updated, check out The Useless Pages.

Slow But Steady, Sho’ Good Eatin’!, Show Biz Kids…

Posted in Blogging, Music, Observations, Pop Culture on September 5th 2003 by Randy Reichardt

:: I took another baby step tonight, preparing for the move to another host. Yesterday I successfully loaded Moveable Type 2.64 onto the new server. Today, with a dose of patience, I was able to initialize the system so that I can reach the MT prompt on the new host. Patience was important: I encountered two errors while working, and was pleased that I was able to determine their source, and correct them. One was a typo (I had typed DBI:mysql instead of DBI::mysql – damn extra colon!), and the other was an incorrect URL I had loaded into the mt.cfg file. Whatever. Details, details.

This is too much detail, but forgive me the indulgence: this blog, the one you are reading, is running on as a Berkeley db (whatever that means). The new one will run as a MySQL db (whatever that means – Geoff, he knows what that means; so does Kenton.)

What’s next is that I have to create a weblog on the new site, and then try to import the entries from here to there. As well, I want to import my templates. I hope I can do it without much grinding and gnashing of teeth.

:: Perhaps the best nutrition site I’ve ever seen is this one: NutritionData. It features a db of 7,154 foods, and “generates nutrition facts labels and provides simplified nutritional analyses for all foods and recipes.” The only drawback: no foods found only in Canada are in the db (such as Vector or Optimum cereal).

:: This article on “geezer rock” is more annoying than anything else. It’s been interesting watching rock music age, from its beginnings in the 1950s, to present day. The musicians who create and play pop, rock and folk rock music, seem to be the only ones who get slagged because they get older. Musicians working in classical, bluegrass, country, blues, soul, rhythm and blues, opera, klezmer, whatever, are never bashed around because they get on in years. But in rock, journalists like to lambaste them, as Jim Derogatis does here, almost just for the exercise itself.

Derogatis’ thesis: that “the best rock ‘n’ roll is immediate, urgent and vital–it is music that celebrates living in the moment“, is a good one, but it doesn’t necessarily need to apply across the board. I mean, do the Artists That Matter need to rebel 24/7? I’m biased towards Steely Dan, but damn it if their new album doesn’t haul ass, and sound better than most of the shyte being fobbed on music fans by artists and acts half their age. Derogatis offers five geezer lists, from Geezers who still matter, to Geezers who never mattered and are now less relevant and more offensive than ever. In the end it’s all subjective. Who’s to say the music being made now by (some of the) artists who’ve been active in these genres for 25-40 years can or cannot stand on its own merit?

Check out these responses from the Hoffman forum, many with which I agree. My favorite comment: “Terrible article. I wish I could have written something so shallow and negative when I was 15 and get paid for it. Might as well tell us that Jazz is for dead people. Go fling yourself in front of a schoolbus.”

A Break In The Action, and Other Stuff

Posted in Pop Culture, Random Thoughts on August 26th 2003 by Randy Reichardt

:: I’m going to take Geoff’s lead, and take a few days off from blogging. That said, don’t be surprised if something turns up here within a day or two.

:: One of the great hot dog stands in NYC loves Al Franken. BTW, I like Al Franken, too.

:: Moose and Squirrel Go Digital! My favorite cartoons have always been those produced by Warner Bros, and I reported recently that a 4-DVD set of classic Looney Tunes will be released in October. Next to Bugs & Co., I loved the Jay Ward cartoons, led by Rocky and Bullwinkle, and including Mr Peabody and Sherman, Fractured Fairy Tales, George of the Jungle, Hoppity Hooper, and many other brilliant creations. I learned today that Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends: Season One is now available on DVD as well. Reviews I’ve found have been very favourable. Another item to add to the always lengthening wish list…

:: I forgot to mention that a highlight of the weekend in Calgary was visiting an old friend: dr T, aka Terry K, my first roommate in Edmonton. We met in residence in 1978, and shared an apartment from Dec 78, for about a year, until he moved on to bigger and better things. Terry and I played much gee-tar together “in those days”, and he still has the chops. I met his wonderful wife Bev (also a guitar player, of the classical variety), and their beautiful daughter, Nicole. I was amazed that he remembered the words to a song I wrote that year – dr T, I bow in your general direction!

The past two years have seen me re-establish contact with many important people from my past. I reconnected with my dear friend Cathy G last year in Winnipeg (hadn’t seen her since 1973 or so), and this past July, with dozens of old high school friends, most of whom I hadn’t seen since 1971. I hadn’t seen Terry since the early 80s. It’s nice to know that one can go home again, in the sense that true friendships last a lifetime.