Rambling Thoughts from a Wandering Mind


Category: Media & Journalism

Utopia for Realists: a review

I recently finished reading Rutger Bregman’s book Utopia for Realists. It was quite good and a surprisingly compelling read, given that it’s full of charts and graphs.

Rather than attempting to write my own review, I’ll just send you to a review Neil Howard wrote for openDemocracy. It points out the highlights and covers many of my own criticisms of the book, and does so much succinctly than I’m able to.

Read the review. If it sounds interesting, read the book.

Logan’s Run, the novel

Did you know that the cult classic movie, Logan’s Run, was loosely based on a novel of the same name? I had no idea, until the book came up in the search results when I was trying to find the movie in my local library’s collection.

The book is quite different from the movie and, in many ways, a lot sillier. It doesn’t really rise above a pulp sci-fi adventure story, but it’s a very entertaining read. It’s quick and punchy, and at only 167 pages it’s a pretty quick read even for a slow reader like me.

Where the movie has a pretty straightforward plot, the book is wild. It’s still a linear plot, but it goes all over the place with a bunch of bizarre characters and subplots along the way. It’s got murderous children, a mentally unstable cyborg ice sculptor, and a giant maze of pneumatic tubes that rapidly take cars to all known parts of the inhabited world, including a mostly abandoned underwater city.

It’s hardly a masterpiece, but it’s very entertaining. If you like weird, sci-fi adventures, I recommend it.

One of the co-authors wrote a couple of sequels, likely to capitalize on the success of the film. Of the two sequels, the first sounds intriguing (though generally not as well-reviewed as the original) and the latter sounds like a an excuse to re-write the first novel.

Whining about Netflix

This article strikes me as very odd, claiming that Netflix is going to be terrible in 2019 because they’re removing some older shows from their catalogue and focusing more on original content.

Netflix wants to start streaming more original shows and movies and focussing less on acquiring programs they did not produce. That means they are taking away the very reason why most of us subscribed to Netflix in the first place and they’ll eventually become just a really expensive glorified TV channel.

Enjoy it while you can, because by the end of 2019, Netflix is going to be horrible. 

While I certainly don’t want to subscribe to multiple different streaming services to get all the shows I want to watch (at that point, I might as well just pay for cable again), I think competition is good and I think it’s a little odd to suggest that most Netflix users are subscribing to the service so they can watch old episodes of Gilmore Girls. I mean, it’s possible that they are — Netflix tends not to release viewership numbers — but most people I know are subscribed to Netflix at least as much for the Netflix Originals as they are for the other shows.

In my house, most of the shows we watch are produced by Netflix or through some sort of partnership agreement with a cable network (e.g., Riverdale, which is published weekly on Netflix after airing on the CW network). Most of the non-Netflix shows could disappear and I’d still be pretty happy with the service. In fact, for the few non-Netflix shows I watch regularly, it’d still be cheaper to keep my Netflix subscription and buy those shows on Google Play than to subscribe to cable.

The same can’t be said for movies, on the other hand. Most of the Netflix Original movies I’ve watched have been terrible and I would definitely be upset if they started dropping popular movie titles from the catalogue at a greater rate than they already do.

We don’t block ads because they’re ugly, we block them because they’re invasive

Not too long ago, Google banned the AdNauseum extension from the Chrome Store. The reason they cited appears to be bogus. They also seem unwilling to discuss the real reason people use ad blockers. It’s not (just) because most online ads are ugly; it’s because they pose a privacy risk.

Advocates insist that ads aren’t just ugly, annoying, and bandwidth-sucking: They pose a risk to privacy, as the networks of software behind ads—cookies, trackers, and malware—watch not only where you go on the web but, through your phone and your purchases, what you do in real life. This data, which helps data brokers better understand you, includes everything from your health to your shopping and financial habits to your political and religious views.

But privacy is largely missing from Google’s discussion of problematic ads, says Howe. By avoiding mentioning AdNauseum’s actual intent, Google’s explanation for banning it echoes the advertising industry’s discussion of web ads, which focuses on aesthetics rather than privacy.

This is why I use Privacy Badger. If a site uses non-tracking ads, Privacy Badger won’t disable the ads. And I’m fine with that. I know ads are a necessary evil. But I don’t want ads to track me around the Internet, so I use Privacy Badger to protect me.

Which national newspaper should I subscribe to?

A newspaper crossword with glasses and a pen.
The weekend newspaper.

In this so-called “post-truth” world, quality journalism is more important than ever. I want to support good journalism by paying for a newspaper subscription. I’ve been a weekend-only subscriber to the Globe and Mail for a while now, but I’m becoming more and more frustrated with the paper’s elitism and focus on the Upper Canada one per cent.

While the Globe has some solid journalism and very interesting feature-length pieces in the weekend paper, it’s becoming more and more apparent that I’m not their target demographic. While I’ll very likely continue reading the Globe and Mail online, I’m starting to question my paid subscription.

That said, I still want to get a physical paper delivered to my door on the weekends (and only the weekends; I simply don’t have time to read a newspaper during the week — I stick to mostly online news during the week and use the weekend to take my time with the longer, more in-depth pieces which don’t always make it online). And, while I should probably support local media, I’m not particularly interested in an Edmonton Journal/Sun subscription. I’d prefer to subscribe to a national paper.

That pretty much leaves me with one other choice, if I don’t want to pay for the Globe — the National Post[1].

Now, I know the Post leans far more to the right than the Globe and Mail, so I may find myself disagreeing with its columnists and editorial bent, but that’s OK. It’s good to read opinions that differ from my own. And if the quality of the news itself is on par (or better), it might be worth a switch. It’s also a fair bit less expensive, but I suspect the paper is smaller, so it’s not an apples to oranges comparison.

That said, I don’t know enough about the National Post to be able to accurately compare it to the Globe and Mail. Most likely, I’ll buy a copy from the newsstand for a week or two and read the two papers alongside one another to get a sense of which I prefer. But I thought I’d also put the question to my readers: which is Canada’s best national newspaper? Which should I subscribe to, keeping in mind that I’ll only be getting a weekend subscription?

Which is the better Canadian national newspaper?

This poll has been finished and no longer available to vote !

[1] Arguably, the National Post isn’t a national newspaper, since it’s no longer available in Atlantic Canada, but it’s the closest thing to a national competitor for the Globe and Mail.

Cheerios’ #howtodad campaign is pretty rad

I’m pleased with the recent trend of commercials that show good dads. The joke about the clueless and useless dad is played out, no longer funny, and as insulting to the women the ads were targeting as it is to the men it mocks (after all, why would intelligent women marry and procreate with such pathetic losers?)

This Cheerios ad is just one of many in the new trend of “good dad” ads. I like it.

How to create responsible social criticism

I’ve shared PBS Idea Channel videos a lot on this blog. It’s one of my favourite online media channels, so I tend to share it more than others.

The PBS Idea Channel Logo
Image source: Know Your Meme

I wanted to share another video today. For some reason, they’ve set their recent video on how to create responsible social criticism so that it can’t be embedded.

So, instead, here’s a link: http://youtu.be/bzqQgAJd6Xo

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Climate change, chemicals and the disappearing male

Between climate change and man-made chemicals, we’re having issues with male births and male sexual development—namely, fewer male births and lower sperm counts among those who are successfully carried to term.

The DNews clip above reminded me of the Doc Zone episode below. It’s a full 45 minutes and covers a slightly different (but closely related) topic; it’s worth a watch if you’ve got the time.

Media convergence: Postmedia buys Sun Media’s English-language newspapers

This is major news. We’ll be hearing a lot about it for the next few days: what it means for business, what it means for the state of journalism in Canada and what it means for consumers of news media.

I don’t have much to say about this right now, except that it’s troubling to think that nearly all major daily newspapers in the country will be owned by a single company—the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail being to two biggest exceptions. Here in Edmonton, this deal will mean that both the Journal and the Sun will be owned by the same people.

The only daily that will be independent is Metro which, despite doing some very good reporting in the past year or so, isn’t able to provide the same level of coverage and depth, simply due to it’s small size and limited column space.

It’s possible that the deal won’t be authorized, however:

The deal requires approval of the Competition Bureau, which may take several months, Godfrey noted in a memo sent to Postmedia staff.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.