POP MINUTIA


Greetings,

More miscellany on this Friday (probably because I’m seriously tired and I’m lacking the energy to put in a super-focused post).

ANIMATED DOCTOR WHO: The BBC is reporting that Doctor Who and Martha Jones will be animated in a 13-part adventure called The Infinite Quest. David Tennant and Freema Agyeman will lend their voices to this story.

Interesting how the BBC seems to be building around the Doctor Who brand to secure its television future. Aside from Season Three of Doctor Who which starts in a few months (which looks amazing – the Black Dalek from the end of Season Two shows up in 1930’s Manhattan), Torchwood has done really well and the Sarah Jane Adventures, a kids’ show with the new K-9 and ex-Doctor companion Sarah Jane Smith from Season Two, is starting. Now Animated Doctor Who – pretty cool stuff.

Also, in a rumour that sounds just plain insane, there’s a possibility that Jason Statham (yes, that Jason Statham from The Transporter and Crank) could be the next Doctor after David Tennant eventually leaves. That sounds…interesting. That’s really all I can say. Don’t know how they’d work in Statham’s black-belt in karate or his general propensity for asskicking his way through sketchy situations. Although it would probably make for some truly hilarious and surreal battles with the Daleks and the Cybermen.

Dalek: “Exter-min-nate!”

Doctor: “Bloody hell – *muffled, gravelly swearing and grumbling* – let’s dance, mates.”

*Doctor punches the crap out of the lead Dalek, swings around and dropkicks other Dalek in the face…*

This line alone makes me wonder if it’s not B.S.:

“It will be Doctor Who meets gangland. He will do a lot more thinking with his fists and will be a sure-fire winner with the ladies.”

Because yeah, that’s totally the reason people tune in to the show now in the millions…to watch David Tennant use his fists. So…

MY OLD DIGS: Did a search today and uncovered my old publication’s Wikipedia page. If this doesn’t make one surge with pride, I don’t know what does.

ANOTHER OLD DIGS: Apparently King’s now has vlogs of the television show The ‘Fax. Which is actually pretty awesome. Good on them.

PIRATE NATION: Hurrah! Canada dominates in another morally questionable and legally murky category! We’re a nation of sweet, sweet pirates of movies.

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FROM 2-D TO 3-D

– Map of the Internet, which is actually quite neat to look at.

Greetings,

The social network is dead. Long live the social network.

That’s the long and short of a story in the new Wired (sorry, no direct article link yet) about Virtual Laguna Beach, the avatar-based network that’s exploding in popularity (even beating out Second Life’s growth curve).

While the piece is also a cautionary tale about the lagging fortunes of MTV – one of the world’s most powerful brands that seems caught between its old media foundations and new media rat-race, unable to figure out what clear-cut strategy is required – the article describes how powerful avatar-based networks could become (read: not yet) and deliver knockout punches to, um, MySpace and Facebook.

While MySpace and, to a lesser extent, Facebook, remain popular, I’m convinced both sites probably will be just programming forums for TV shows, selling stuff, et al., in terms of their influence by the end of this decade and far, far less about individual ranting about stuff or posting drunken camera phone .jpegs from the other night at Inside nightclub. Unless you really have low expectations of your online experience and really love the badly-designed CSS on MySpace, you’re going to abandon ship really quick when you get a load of Second Life, There.com and Virtual Laguna Beach if you haven’t discovered them already.

Also, Mark Zuckerberg, dude who runs Facebook? If you’re going to sell, you better do it soon. No really, soon.

PHOTOJOURNALISM, R.I.P.?

– Frances McDormand photo by Annie Leibovitz.

Greetings,

My big b-day gift this year was Annie Leibovitz’s new coffee table book on her life in photography. Being that Annie’s photography, a pop culture cornucopia of black-and-whites on celebrities of all stripes and fashionable observations of American Life, is great to look at, it begs the question: where have all the really great photojournalists gone? I’m talking not just exhalted photojournalists, but full-on transcendent, visual sorcerer-type photographers, like Leibovitz, Herb Ritts, Sebastião Salgado, Edward Burtynsky, James Nachtwey, Ansel Adams and the Godfather of modern photojournalism, Henri Cartier-Bresson (you really should check his work out if you can, he’s a true genius in every respect).

– Bresson photo.

You’d think the Internet’s rise would generate some truly great photographers out of the traditions of photojournalism, but no. Instead, we’re getting a whole lot more annoying collections of .jpeg photos of some guy in Harrisburg with his dog or drunken frat house parties on CollegeHumor.com or Flickr. We’re flush with photos now in full public view, but we’re becoming overstuffed with unadulterated crap photos (or, if you’re a celebrity, something else you may or may not be up for seeing).

Obviously, people have for as long as photographic equipment has been readily available been taking terrible pictures. The difference between, say, pre-digital and our current era, however, is the public display of shutterbugs today is putting out there what was once a very private affair; in the pre-digital era, only photographers with the visual acuity to really get the moment in ways words cannot managed to accomplish this vital public function. Today, not so much. There are some exceptions, of course: Jeff Topham’s work is very much worth seeing, as is Toronto Star photojournalist (and King’s graduate) Jim Rankin’s work and the myriad of other professional photojournalists out there producing fabulous photos.

But, unfortunately, these voices are getting lost a lot more in the digital shuffle. I’m saddened to admit it, but did digital kill, like so many other stationary mediums like books or art, the idea of greatness through meritocracy? Or, more to the point, did digital also kill public appreciation of these mediums as a shared experience?

Take Life Magazine. I loved Life Magazine. It was the medium of choice for photojournalism in America – some of the greatest photos of the 20th century were published in Life. Now, one resurrection and multiple re-launches later, it’s now marketed as “America’s Weekend Magazine” and looks an awful lot like People Magazine. I know that magazines in general are struggling to meet changing public tastes and the pressures of digital culture (boy, that’s irony for you), but have people’s desires for uncensored photos in a journalistic function really fallen that much out of favour? Or are we just becoming overwhelmed with the sea of digital photos that make us either tune out of the good stuff?

Here’s one of Life’s greatest and most reproduced photos ever – the flag-raising at Iwo Jima. Will we see work like this again?

MISCELLANY MADNESS

Greetings,

Couple of items today on a Friday.

HURRICANE: Want proof that global warming climate crisis is here for real? Aside from the strange weather hitting eastern Canada and the U.S. Northeast this winter (and even now, with snow and ice on the ground, it’s still not really super cold), this is just freaky. Any wonder why the environment is now the number one issue among Canadians? It’s about time. Maybe this guy can do something – anything – to make Canada an environmentally-sustainable nation.

Idea, though – if the Green Party wins seats in the next federal election (and it looks more and more likely they will this time) in a few months, would the Liberal Party, if the Grits were in yet another minority government position (no Canadians seem in a mood to give either Liberals or Conservatives a majority at this point, would you after the last three years?), invite the Greens into a coalition government in a bid to fend off the Conservatives? Might be worth considering as a Plan B option.

CELEBRITY BIG BROTHER U.K.: Not sure why this story is getting as much attention as it is (or the fact the show has near-zero interest in North America), but man, could it be any more obvious that Danielle Lloyd, Jo O’Meara and Jade Goody are just a wee bit jealous of Shilpa Shetty? Because I can’t think of a single good reason (other than being just plain Jane racists) why they’d do what they did. Here’s a small comparative chart between the four women’s star gravitas to demonstrate my point, bearing in mind I’m Canadian and I presume these people are “stars” in the U.K…

Danielle Lloyd – Once did Playboy. Not much else.

Jo O’Meara – Used to be in a teen pop band in the late 90’s. Now officially in has-been territory.

Jade Goody – Who?

Shilpa Shetty – International Bollywood megastar with Hollywood career on the horizon, loved by millions… oh, and here’s a photo.

Case made, thanks!

Next post should feature a list of some really good movies coming out this winter/spring. Here’s a brief sampler of the really big releases – Smokin’ Aces, Venus, 300, Blood and Chocolate, Ghost Rider, Black Snake Moan, Zodiac.

Also made the discovery a few days ago that 28 Weeks Later is coming out on May 11th – it’s the sequel to 28 Days Later from a few years back.

GOLDEN GLOBES: I know it’s a few days late, but just wanted to say, it’s great to see Ugly Betty (and America Ferreria) win. Right there with 24, Battlestar Galactica and The Office, it’s one of the best shows on television. Period.

Still, would it have hurt the awards organizers to have made the show more, you know, fun?

ARMED CONFLICT IN SECOND LIFE


Greetings,

News came down today that a major conflict has erupted in Second Life. An armed battle by protestors, complete with digital mini-guns, pig bombs (don’t ask) and holographic attacks by Thomas the Tank Engine (again, don’t ask) against Jen-Marie Le Pen’s Front National headquarters in Second Life (why the Front National are even in Second Life is kind of strange – not often a neo-fascist party decides to take up residence in the metaverse).

This is the first major cyber attack in-world in Second Life. The SL Left Unity and AntiFN stormed the FN’s island and opened fire, shooting the place up, blowing up structures and even buying land right beside the FN’s headquarters to protest the presence of the Front National in Second Life. In short, it was vicious.

I know it’s all “in-world” and therefore not especially interesting to most people reading this blog (although you should take Second Life seriously because if Reuters is covering it, that’s a pretty good sign one should take this forum as important) but really, there’s a surprising level of relevance this attack has to the avatars who coordinated the attack today.

As some people may know, there’s a major election happening soon in France that will feature the most radical makeover of French society since the days of Charles De Gaulle. Doug Saunders of The Globe wrote his usually-brilliant column Reckoning (I think Saunders is one of the best writers at the Globe, he’s always interesting and has original, insightful takes on the world – can’t wait to read his eventual book on whatever topic it may be) last weekend about the choices French voters must make soon over the destiny of the country. Nicolas Sarkozy, the heir apparent to Jacques Chirac (although Sarkozy is loathed by the establishment of his own right-wing party, Union for a Popular Movement) and Ségolène Royal, the candidate for the Socialist Party, are at odds over the future of the country. Sarkozy wants France to embrace a more American approach to French society, including a radical change in the country’s labour laws and reforming the welfare state, while Royal is a big fan of Tony Blair and the British Labour party’s approach to politics, including the so-called Third Way strategy.

Unfortunately, European politics does carry with it smacks of extremism that doesn’t always have rational reasons for existing (as a Second Lifer put it over the cyber attacks, “it’s [as if] the history of the 20th century has already been forgotten. It is time to say enough!”), the Front National has a significant base of support, unfortunately (try 18 per cent in the last election for Le Pen’s presidential bid).

Ideological war of words are constant themes in French politics; looks like politically-motivated violence, however “real” it may be (that honestly depends on whether you give a damn or not about Second Life), is front and centre again.

THE FLOWER OF YOUTH


Awww, aren’t they impeccably flawless? Must be nice.

Greetings (long post, be warned),

On reflection of my birthday the past few days, I’ve written some thoughts involving the growing trend of young people in the West not always being able to grow up and settle into a career or find adult direction in life.

Like a lot of things in this supremely transitory era of ours known as 2007, it feels like so many aspects of modern life, whether they be technological, cultural or social, are in such a rapid state of flux that no rules are in place to define what is “right” behaviour as opposed to what is merely tolerable. The flux we’ve created has made all sorts of ideas about structure, authority and clear, definable boundaries between childhood, adolescence and adulthood fluid, rendering almost all of them either dysfunctional or even irrelevant (God, can you tell my degree has sociology in it?).

Take two of the most difficult topics of youth social mores affecting us today: Peter Pan Syndrome for males and The Bradshaw Syndrome for females. Thing is, these conditions exist largely because we’ve built up a world for young people that has ridiculous, illusion-driven expectations of gender roles, relationships and love and the harsh, unflinching realities of What Is.

First off, the guys. Last year a movie called Last Kiss with Zach Braff (man, he’s one of these actors you like on TV but is surprisingly hard to like in movies), Jacinda Barrett and Rachel Bilson came out. Basically, the story’s about a twenty-nine-year-old guy scared shitless about turning 30 and facing up to reality. He’s got a fiancée (Barrett) that just became pregnant and he’s hooked up on the side with a college girl (Bilson). It’s not the best of movies by any means. Garden State was a better, more sensitive film than Last Kiss, which feels kind of like Beautiful Girls (remember that ode to masculine denial from 1994?) but with writing and dialogue akin to digispeak on MSN Messenger between immature college students at 2 a.m.

The point of this movie is obvious: there’s a lot of guys out there, like it or lump it, that delay facing up to reality for a lot of reasons. The first and most alarming one is the sad, sad state of the relationship between Jenna’s (Barrett) parents, Anna and Stephen (Tom Wilkinson and Blythe Danner).

They don’t so much love each other as much as tolerate each other. Anna’s got explosively unmet needs and Stephen, well, to call him boring would be polite. It’s not exactly a match made in suburban heaven. You know there had to be some passion there at some point, but for whatever reason they’ve fallen out of love and into habit.

Unfortunately, Western civilization has placed the whole notion of eternal, unblemished marriage and love together in the same sentence, a linguistic short-hand for passion first, co-dependency later if you’re not careful. I’ve seen so many peers’ parents in relationships well past their best before date, staying together simply out of routine, habit or because building a life together has meant so many of those silent anger moments that some people hope get pushed out by what drew you to them in the first place. Thing is, those things build up over time. Guilt trips, egotism, selfish behaviour, unmet needs, it all adds up when it comes to marriage sometimes. Ergo, Anna and Stephen’s fault lines in the marriage grow. Sometimes it happens earlier than others. Some couples can’t deal with the idea of one partner wanting something the other can’t (Hell, sometimes it involves sex, but that’s a little later on in this post). I’m not saying this happens to every couple, but it’s surprising how much of a gaping, gasping abyss between our theoretical, tidy, romantic ideals of marriage and how people (men and women) really are has become. For every show like The Bachelor (which presents scary, twisted, unrealistic ideas about gender roles for both men and women alike), there’s a thousand realities similar to Anna and Stephen, no rose at the end or fancy new million-dollar house.

Second comes to the very jerkish nature of men themselves. Men are selfish assholes sometimes. Men don’t listen well sometimes. Men don’t always expand their minds or experiences when it involves money sometimes. Men can be afraid of women sometimes. All of these factors speak to general immaturity though, and in a society that routinely makes the argument (mostly powered by some Boomers, an age group constantly celebrated as great and wonderful but has some members in it enjoying a denialist, hypocritical streak like no other) about staying young and delaying growing up for as long as possible can’t turn around and turn all tut-tut about not facing up to reality. People do grow up. Men do grow up. Women do grow up. But you can’t send mixed signals as a society and expect it all to conform to a 1960’s era of life in Canada. Again, another huge divide between ideals and reality that people can’t resolve.

Peter Pan Syndrome feels like an admission on some guys’ part, at least unconsciously, they’re not entirely ready to face up to adulthood because it feels like adulthood kind of sucks in comparison to the kidult realities of “barely-there” adulthood.

(Just to be clear, I’m not putting any value judgment here on these conditions good or bad, I’m just describing a particular idea)

These are brutal challenges to the young man (and woman) today. Men have no clue anymore. We’re stuck in a holding pattern, unable to figure out exactly what it means to be a guy in a time when every single social more, value or idea has been thrown into chaos. Can you blame a lot of men (not all, but a lot) for feeling confused about what even constitutes “adulthood” or “facing up to reality” when a lot of us have been given no guidance, no clue? I like being an adult with adult responsibilities, but does that also mean my generation’s perceptions of our parents’ age group (toxic marriages, unfair expectations on each other) are wrong?

On the flip side, let’s talk about women. If you want an even more unfair divide between our collective illusions and reality, here’s one example.

I have a good female friend (no names, sorry) who could be described as having it all. Almost, that is. She’s in a situation a lot of women in our age group seem to be facing more and more.

She’s what most guys would call a head-turner – she’s beautiful. She’s got a career in the marketing industry, a home she owns with her husband whom she married straight out of university and all that jazz.

Thing is, she’s not really happy. Aside from some stuff I won’t write about here on financial matters, she’s facing that terrible moral and ethical quandary that a lot of men (and some women) in unhappy marriages faced for a long time but is now becoming a more and more common occurrence among both genders. She’s bored. She’s questioning her relationship with her husband. She’s thinking about a torrid, purely sexual affair on the side with a theoretical man (she hasn’t done anything, but she’s had some thought about it) that excites her in ways her husband can’t do. She knows it is wrong without his knowledge or consent, but those thoughts can’t escape her so easily.

So why the Bradshaw Syndrome? Because, like so many of the illusions we’ve created and have now invaded our media ecology like a virus, Sex and the City has created the false notion that being a complete young woman can feature “have-it-all” ideas about life that simply can’t hold up extremely well in today’s world. A lot of women I know face the same dilemmas, only with terrible pressures to conform to the ubiquitous sexualization of the female form and all the other challenges of womanhood.

I now know six people from my days at Queen’s that have either split up with their former significant others from their university/post-graduate days, are in the midst of divorce proceedings, conducting trial separations or seriously considering such a move. This is a big change, isn’t it?

Do they delay kids to focus on career? How will a woman’s husband/partner react to the idea and make child-bearing and raising a true partnership (as guys always should)? How can I rightly have what guys have had for generations? How do I resolve all these actions in my head when one constantly receives mixed signals from society about what it means to be a woman (also, as one woman I know says, women may think about sex the exact same way as men, but it remains a deep hypocrisy with Canadian society that, unlike men, women can’t publicly discuss ideas about sex with other partners as readily)

Bradshaw Syndrome might just be the twin of Peter Pan Syndrome: recognition that part of becoming an adult means, rightly or wrongly, making compromises and choices you may not always want to make. Does this make my friend unwilling to compromise? No, but it does mean harder choices could come down the road.

The truth is I have no idea what this all means. I’m only some dude writing an opinion in the blogosphere that probably doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. But it does all speak to the idea that men and women are moving closer and closer to each other, not just in common social mores but also in our intrinsic desires and needs. What does it mean for the future of our age group? Are we becoming more honest with each other as an age group? Are we setting more realistic expectations of marriage, love and relationships? Are we growing up in a healthy media environment (short answer: no if you’re not careful)? Or are both men and women under 35 really not growing up? And by which standards are we not? Or are people, regardless of their genders, just becoming more selfish?

A CRAZY WHIRLWIND

Greetings,

I’m home now after a weekend away on a consulting gig. It went very well. It was super fun and met some very amazing people in the process.

My birthday was yesterday. My God – one more year and I’m officially out of my twenties. Normally I’d lament this period (I’ve heard 29 is much harder than 30) but I’m looking forward to this year. It’s already been a really good one.

Only a few more page views away from the big 10,000. Tomorrow, volleyball starts and Raptors game on Wednesday.