Category Archives: Culture, Arts and Popcorn

A truly thorough takedown (and a little personal honesty)

It’s impossible not to compare John Oliver to Jon Stewart. My take on his guest-hosting The Daily Show stint was that he actually delivers a more cogent, sophisticated and nuanced rant than Jon Stewart, and that’s still the case now that he’s at HBO with Last Week Tonight. Witness this blistering (and funny) attack on FIFA. And I love that his conclusion acknowledges the ambivalence so many of us face, torn between our love of sport or culture, and our revulsion at the ethical sewer that often lies just underneath.

Correction: there is no “CSI: Sesame Street”

CSI: Sesame Street - Brought to you by the letters D O & AOwing to an inadvertent and unfortunate combination of prescription and over-the-counter medications, our TV columnist’s last “Best Picks for Kids This Week” column contained several errors. To clarify:

  • There are no television shows entitled “Real Housewives of Busytown” or “CSI: Sesame Street.”
  • The latest season of “Curious George” did not end on a cliffhanger episode in which George contracts rabies and barricades himself in the cottage with a terrified Allie, concluding with a grief-stricken Man in the Yellow Hat quietly telling Wint Quint to “take the shot.”
  • Martin Kratt did not lick a cane toad. Nor did he activate a creature power suit using Kodiak bear DNA, black out for half an hour, and then come to only to discover Chris missing and the Tortuga awash in gore.
  • The Super Readers are a group of friends and not an elite paramilitary strike team, and there is no impending coup d’état in Storybrook Village. We categorically disavow the opinion that “the power to help” is “a sop thrown to the sheeple to distract them from Whyatt’s naked New World Order ambitions.”
  • Poko‘s ability to create things out of thin air by drawing them with his finger may be viewed as either magic or the product of his vivid child-like imagination. It does not to the best of our knowledge denote affiliation with Satan.
  • There is no “hidden feature on every school bus” that will summon Ms. Frizzle and activate its Magic School Bus capabilities if the emergency exit is opened while the bus is moving at 45 MPH or faster.

We apologize for any inconvenience.

(For more accurate guidance on kids’ TV and other children’s media, may we recommend Common Sense Media?)

Cartoon-blogging Cory Doctorow and William Gibson

Here are my notes from Saturday’s event with Cory Doctorow in conversation with William Gibson. (I attended with Dave Eaves, which meant I got to experience two terrific conversations that afternoon.) The hour and a half ranged over everything from the First-World problems of book tours to American gun culture — and of course intellectual property and those who use it to stifle the exchange of ideas and creativity.

The full-size version is 1,600 glorious pixels wide. Just click this smaller one to see the whole thing:

Sketchnotes from Cory Doctorow and William Gibson in conversation at the Vancouver Writers Festival

Quick footnotes:

  1. Many thanks to the Vancouver Writers Fest, one of the great things about living in this city.
  2. Leading with big faces is a bold move for a man who can’t actually caricature. Any resemblance to the actual individuals is purely fortuitous.
  3. July 1982: I bought a copy of Omni Magazine and read “Burning Chrome,” and I don’t think I’ve really recovered from it, nor do I want to. Thirty years ago.
  4. Cory Doctorow’s latest book is Pirate Cinema, and it’s part of the amazing Humble Bundle of e-books. It’s a staggering good value. I’m off to buy it.

Rediscover your lost favourite songs in iTunes

Rob playing air guitarThe past decade has been a boon for music lovers (once you get past the whole most-digital-music-sucks thing). The iPod turns 10 years old this October; as you’ll no doubt recall from much of the commentary at the time, it was Apple’s biggest mistake and quickly vanished into obscurity.

But the iPod wasn’t the world’s first portable digital music player… and it wasn’t even Apple’s first foray into that space. That honour goes to iTunes, which turns 10 years old on Sunday.

iTunes has turned us all into our own personal DJs, with the ability to create and update playlists – either manually or automatically, using iTunes’ powerful Smart Playlist feature. You end up with separate playlists for the gym, for your morning commute, for your afternoon commute, for dinner parties, for keeping the kids happy during long drives, for getting the kids to fall asleep during long drives…

But one of the side effects of playlists is you start to forget the stuff that isn’t in them. Apple gives you a Smart Playlist called “My Top Rated”, but that can quickly become a self-fulfilling (and repetitive) prophecy if you aren’t diligent about rating your songs. You may find that you have thousands of songs on your iPod, iPhone or Mac, but you end up listening to the same handful over and over again because, well, they’re the ones that are in your playlists.

Now, if you’re the kind of person who relentlessly mines their music collection to freshen their playlists, then you don’t have this problem. But for a lot of us who don’t do that kind of spelunking very often, and who have songs that we’ve actually forgotten we own, a little automation can help unearth some lost gems.

So I’ve created two Smart Playlists to help me keep the hits coming.

The first is for routine listening. It uses several criteria:

  • Rating is greater than three stars.
  • Genre is not Podcast, Children, Voice Memo, Comedy or Spoken Word
  • Media Kind is Music

I limit the list to 100 songs, selected by least recently played.

The result is a playlist include songs I’ve liked in the past, but haven’t heard recently. (Depending on your listening behaviour, you’ll want to tweak the rating setting to populate the playlist with enough songs. You may also need to exclude a few more genres.)

The second is for discovery. I duplicated the first playlist, but changed the rating criteria to less than one star – that is, unrated. As I listen to that list, I find I do a lot of skipping… but I also rate the songs as I go. (And often I’ll just plow through a bunch of them in iTunes.) That helps to feed my routine listening list as well as all my other Smart Playlists that rely on ratings.

Thanks to this setup, right now I’m listening to “Somehow” by The Vapors, which I haven’t heard in years. Next up is “The Way It Goes” (iTunes) by Wild Strawberries. If you try something like this, and recover some long-lost treasure from the dusty corners of the iTunes vault, let me know what it is.

Update: Kate Trgovac has created what I now consider to be the good version of this post, including the key missing ingredient: a screen shot. And if you want to take a more rigorous (and quite possibly more satisfying) approach, check out this amazing system of playlists and scripts from Maximilian.

Join me at Twestival!

I’ll be performing a stand-up set at Vancouver Twestival, the Twitter-centric fundraising event taking place Saturday, Sept. 12 from 4:00 – 7:00 pm at Ceili’s Irish Pub and Restaurant. (Sorry to disappoint, but I’m not the gentleman featured in the photo that Google Maps displays.)

I love the spirit behind Twestival – 200 local Twestivals happened last time around in cities around the world – and Rebecca Bollwitt is a total mensch for organizing it again. This year, the funds raised through ticket sales and a silent auction will go to the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation – an added bonus, because I’ve been working closely with them on their Be a Superhero Facebook app and personalized video.

Better yet, you get to enjoy the company of chanteuse Rachael Chatoo and Erica Ehm… and a bunch of community-minded, thoroughly Twitterfied Vancouverites. It promises to be a blast.

Get tickets and more details here. I hope I’ll see you at Twestival!

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Lost: iPhone at Twilight Drive-In, Aldergrove – July 25

A more complete blog post will follow about the incident and its aftermath…

…but if you happen to have stumbled across an iPhone at the Twilight Drive-In after Get Smart (fun movie, somewhat true to the original, surprisingly fewer laughs than expected; all told, probably not worth the $299 cost of an iPhone), then I’d love to hear from you. There’s a cash reward involved for the phone’s safe return.

Thanks!

Catch Kris Krug’s photos at The Art of Giving: June 26, Vancouver

Mi amigo Kris Krug is one of the five artists featured in The Art of Giving, an exhibition and silent auction on the theme of charitable giving. 20 per cent of any purchases you make go to the charity of your choice, which means you get a) some lovely art, and b) some good karma.

It all goes down on Thursday, June 26th at 6:30 p.m. at the Orb gallery, 2028 West Fourth Avenue [map].

As if you didn’t already know, Kris’s photography is nothing short of astonishing – you’re sure to find something you like. Or even love.