AN IDEA FOR CBC RADIO

One of the good aspects of CBC Radio this fall has been the introduction of two shows: Search Engine with Jesse Brown (who used to work at the Sunday Edition, my old haunt at the CBC) and Spark with Nora Young. They’re both pretty good shows and they focus on geeky content – a refreshing change for the CBC. There should be more youthful shows just like them.

Which leads into a point I have about this year’s Massey Lectures. For those of you not in the know, the Massey Lectures are an annual mini-series on CBC’s IDEAS every fall. Basically, an esteemed intellectual in Canadian society talks about a given topic of their choice and has it broadcast on Radio One over a period of five nights, along with a published book of the lectures. It’s wildly popular and has been one of the CBC’s highest rated shows for years.

Thing is, though, the Massey Lectures tend to run hot and cold any given year in terms of their impact and interest among the general public (as opposed to pseudo-intellectuals like me). The series enjoyed two hugely successful years in a row in 2004 and 2005 with Ronald Wright’s bestselling megahit book A Short History of Progress and the next year with Stephen Lewis.

This year’s edition – Alberto Manguel’s The City of Words – is, like every other edition of the Massey Lectures, fairly interesting and has a potentially incendiary topic: the challenges in the modern world with respect to ethnic diversity and communities interrelating. His solution? The use of stories to find common narratives for communities.

The problem with the lectures this year, however, is that even at the end of reading the book, I’m not sure exactly what kind of prescription Manguel is trying to offer society to remedy the growing divides between ethnic nationalist communities. This is very problematic, given that the Massey Lectures are supposed to be short, crisp and to the point in nature. As bad as this sounds, the lectures this year sound like post-graduate theses as opposed to populist, accessible dissections of big ideas. This is a bad direction for the Lectures to take. After all, wasn’t the point of the Lectures to begin with more to do with engaging the general CBC listener? It wasn’t created to exist in an echo chamber for academics and the elite of Canadian society that rarely have to confront head-on the real, sometimes violent consequences of a divided population based on ethnicity. As the Toronto Star pointed out today, this year’s Lectures feel like it is skimming the surface of an issue without getting dirty in the process. An inoffensive idea that doesn’t challenge anyone is doing the Massey Lectures a great disservice.

This leads to another point with the Massey Lectures: the choice of topics and lecturers. It’s becoming more apparent that the topics on the Massey Lectures as of late, while interesting, are lacking the connections to potentially younger listeners. Why hasn’t the Internet been tackled? Technological innovation? The disengagement of young voters in the electoral system? The future of democracy? More on the environment? The risk here is that the Massey Lectures may turn inward into a kind of re-affirming vacuum of non-threatening liberal orthodoxy; if there is no room at the public broadcaster for discussion of ideas beyond the safety of the Academy, what’s the point of having the lectures in the first place? Are ideas not there to be challenging and interesting?

I only say these things because I love the Massey Lectures and I only want them to get better. It’s only my opinion, but I think there’s room for improvement.

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FINDING THE WAY

2007 has not been a good year for me.

I won’t go into big details about it on a public blog, but needless to say I’m really looking forward to the end of this year. This has been a bad year.

It’s been harder than 2003 ever was, which is really saying something, unfortunately. Some aspects of this year have been my fault. Some aspects have been other peoples’ faults. Quite a bit of it has been extremely bad luck and, perhaps, bad karma at work. There’s no single reason why it has been hard. Too much stress, too much hard times, too much emotional upheaval.

That’s the long and short of it. It’s been full of some really hard times, far too much transition than one person should take. Perhaps it is merely life coming up and telling me the old ways of doing things are no longer working for me. I don’t know.

One example of how things are changing – Queen’s. Tomorrow’s Homecoming and my second one in a row I’ve been invited to and I’m not attending. I am ArtSci ’01 permanent vice-president and didn’t even attend Homecoming last year (I had commitments) and this year, I just don’t feel like going. It’s not because I’m better than anyone who is going, just that it would be very hard for me to be in full form and put on a happy face for people I see. I just don’t want to spread around any negativity.

I’m reminded, more often than not these days, that I’ve been through a lot in my life – a lot more than the average person knows. I’ll never tell anyone on here about it either unless you’re a friend first and you’ve got loads of patience. But that’s really what I’m asking of a lot of my friends and family here – patience. I’m asking people to understand that this won’t last forever. I have to remind myself of this fact a lot myself.

In truth, dealing with what life throws at you is a very big challenge when it feels like a tremendous amount of your life is going wrong.  Right now, that’s the case. But I’m a very strong person – I’ve seen and dealt with enough to know that pain really is temporary, but pride is forever.

I will keep going. I will carry on. I appreciate you all so much for your concern, support and friendships.

SOMETHING UPLIFTING

Here’s a great story from CNN about a gentleman named James Burgett who gives away (yes, for free – how often does one see that nowadays) computers to people who need them and can’t afford them. They come pre-installed with Ubuntu Linux OS on them and the hardware is previously used computer parts. Burgett’s a former drug addict and homeless person whom has turned his life around on his own.

Normally I can be pretty cynical, but this kind of story makes you believe in people’s generosity and ability to find redemption in the face of tragedy.
Also, good job CNN for covering a good news story.

FREE THE OFFICE

Adobe has made a big splash today with news that the company has acquired Buzzword to enable free online word processing.

Thing is, this isn’t all that special when you consider the myriad of alternatives out there in terms of writing and producing documents online. Google’s got a major leg-up in this department, but Zoho is pretty cool too.

There are just more and more reasons to avoid using Microsoft Office software everyday, isn’t there? Wonder how long it will take before Redmond finally decides to put the whole application suite online for free instead of that strange document-sharing strategy they’re offering in beta. News flash, Microsoft: we’ve been doing this for years now with wikis and you know, email? IM? Jump drives? Why would people want to abandon them if there’s no application suite involved? People want utility with their document sharing.