Mad as Hell: An Angry Prophet Denouncing the Hypocrisies of Our Times?

Last year, I wrote a piece on this site about teaching the same course, over and over and over. I argued that repetition can be a useful tool for developing one’s skill as a lecturer, allowing for polished ‘bits’ to emerge, similar to stand-up comedy.

Well, one of the downsides to all this repetition has to be that I end up watching the same media clips and documentaries over and over and over again too. I try to keep things somewhat lively by switching clips, but a few media texts have become canon in my teaching.

Whenever I get a course involving media history, and I have a week to talk about writing and the printing press… I show The Name of the Rose. It’s awesome, it features a painfully young Christian Slater, and it illustrates really nicely how books ‘make’ a new kind of human being.

Whenever I get a course involving contemporary media production and the way in which the internet has blurred the boundaries between consumers and producers… I show RIP! A Remix Manifesto. It’s a great mash-up of a documentary, introducing students to the tangled and insane history of copyright laws.

And whenever I get a course where I am free to talk about television, as an industry and as the set of audio-visual texts that continue to form the heart of our global media experience… I show Network. Read More

Seth MacFarlane, The Onion, and the fine art of Mansplaining.

Yes, yes… it’s been a veeery long time since I’ve posted anything here.

Well, instead of simply writing about WHY I haven’t posted (major health issues, holidays, and an insane teaching load this semester), I’ll just dive right into the post-Oscar media frenzy. Read More

2012: Just like the Mayans didn’t predict…

Jamie’s 2012 Media Resolutions: Read More

Woe Is Me: The Unending Suffering of a Guy Who Ate Pie for Breakfast at 11am

Earlier this week I found myself in my natural habitat – a Starbucks. Say what you will about their coffee (mediocre at best), they have free wi-fi and comfy chairs. I wrote much of my MA thesis at the North Burnaby Starbucks in Kensington Square, and I am on track to repeat with my doctoral dissertation.

I add a hint of variety to my weekly routine by working at hipster-infested indie coffee shops too, where the coffee is better, the music louder, and the chairs far less suited to prolonged sitting. It was in the pretentious little coffee shops in Toronto that I began to recognize a particular kind of behaviour (apologies to my good friend who helped crystallize these thoughts… you know who you are…). In certain types of coffee shops, I am now on the lookout for grad students performing the role of The Suffering Grad Student. It’s a brilliant bit of acting, and I encourage you to observe it when you can.

At my usual Starbucks this week, I sat next to two of the finest specimens of The Suffering Grad Student I have ever seen. Their performances were breathtaking. And infuriating. And deeply worrying.
… shit… do I REALLY look like that to other people?
… and if so… how have I NOT been punched in the throat by a complete stranger? Read More

Breaking Bad – My Painful Addiction

AMC’s Breaking Bad is the best show currently on TV. Period.
Now that we have that out of the way, some ideas to consider…

*** If you aren’t caught up with at least three full seasons, ‘Spoiler Alert’. Read More

TV is for Learning: Why Postman’s Future is so Unfriendly

Working in and around Media Literacy, as with any field, I run into a number of ideas that just refuse to go away. Bad theories and writers who practically haunt the field, continually finding new ways to make themselves relevant or hip.

Case in point: this cartoon, which pops up with a maddening frequency. I see this linked on Facebook or Twitter every few weeks, in an effort to remind the world that Neil Postman sure was a grumpy, elitist tool. Oh, wait… I mean, the cartoon is supposed to remind us that Postman was a prophet, and that our world is really quite a terrible place to be.
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Hey Vancouver – I’m Your Biggest Fan!

In the ongoing fallout from last week’s ‘event’ in Vancouver, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the highly contested term ‘Fan’ as it relates to this mess. As was expected, the good tax-paying Vancouverites have rallied their wagons, insisting that ‘professional rioters’ are to blame. (What in the hell does this even mean?)

REAL fans wouldn’t do that. REAL fans showed up the next morning to clean up the mess.

Watching the live footage unfold on Wednesday, I certainly started to fall into that trap myself, insofar as I believed that those directly responsible for burning and looting probably didn’t care very much about the actual hockey game. But really, who gets to decide what constitutes a ‘real’ fan, and why? Read More

iPhone Ghouls and Nostalgic Hooligans, Unite!

As with my post-election hangover (of sorts), I feel compelled this morning to write a few quick notes about the colossal media failure surrounding the ‘riots’ last night.

First and least importantly… that may have been the first good hockey game of the series. Few penalties, relatively exciting throughout three periods, and another stunning performance from Tim Thomas.
And I really do want to applaud the majority of fans in attendance. After a few beer bottles hit the ice (mostly in response to the NHL Commissioner, I think…) the crowd applauded their home team, they applauded the Cup itself, and they recognized a brilliant effort by the Bruins generally, and Thomas in particular.

Outside, however, things got nasty.

Local and national media struggled to use the term ‘fans’ last night, because as we all know ‘fans’ are noble, and can NEVER be idiots in their spare time. Read More

Zombie, Meth Lab, Ad Agency: Why I Still Pay for Cable.

I pay for cable. In fact, I pay a fair amount of money for cable.
I’m not one of those crackpots who subscribe to HBO just to watch a few episodes of sexy big-budget Fantasy, but I do send a Canadian telecom more money than I care to.
Which is strange, given that I also pay for Netflix. And I download TV shows from the web.

So why do I still pay for cable?
Because I’m an idiot. Because of AMC.

I started watching Mad Men last year (on Netflix). I watched two seasons of Breaking Bad (on DVD). Both are great shows, and I highly recommend them to you.
When AMC announced their third show, The Walking Dead, I was pretty excited. Zombies on television. It makes sense.
And yes, some critics went after the writing. And yes, the network has replaced all of the writers. It was still a brilliant show.

But for me, AMC sealed the deal three weeks ago with the launch of The Killing, adapted from a Danish mini-series. I’ve been glued to my TV each Sunday. It’s well-paced, well-acted, and genuinely riveting stuff.
And it’s got me thinking that Patton Oswalt was right.
Read More