Changes To Media Consumption, By Generation

May 13, 2020

From Visual Capitalist comes this fascinating dissection of how each generation is changing its cultural habits during the covid-19 crisis:

Select image for a much larger, clearer view.

The article also includes this breakdown of “Internet Activities” which shows some definite trends, by generation, that should keep social scientists busy for a while:

The full article has a lot more detail on trust, and media subscriptions. I recommend the read.

The First Kiss

May 10, 2020

In April 1896, Thomas Edison released a 21-second film that became an instant sensation. In the movie, May Irwin and John Rice recreated a scene from a popular New York musical comedy show called The Widow Jones.


As an article in JSTOR Daily notes:

“It was the first time anyone had filmed a kiss, let alone shown it to the public, and moviegoers couldn’t get enough. Audiences crowded vaudeville theaters and music halls to see the two actors embrace on film “in a way that [brought] down the house every time,” according to a Thomas Edison, Inc. catalog …

The Kiss immediately became “the most popular of the many shorts being shown” when it debuted. Audiences found it fresh and funny, and the media breathlessly fed into the hype…

The public fascination was so intense that fans soon started demanding live reenactments. When Rice took the stage with his actress wife Sally Cohen that summer, fans yelled from the gallery, “Where’s the ‘Widow Jones’ kiss?” Cohen declined to participate in an imitation, but a young lady ran down the aisle offering to take her place …

Sweet, sensational, and slightly scandalous, The Kiss was a cinematic milestone that left audiences clamoring for more. Early filmmakers met the demand with a wave of similarly-themed shorts like The Kiss in the Tunnel and Something Good—Negro Kiss, which both premiered before the turn of the century.”

Ahh, such sweet innocence.  How we have changed.

Press Freedom Around The World

May 2, 2020

In advance of World Press Freedom Day on Sunday, Visual Capitalist has this interesting map indicating the level of press freedom around the globe.

Select image for a detailed look.

One doesn’t have to accept the figures given as gospel. It does however allow a good general indication.

Death In Paradise — Why?

April 24, 2020

For those not aware, Death In Paradise is a British TV crime series. From what I understand it is one of the top three shows, by audience, on British TV and has managed to last for nine seasons, now being broadcast in most countries of the world.

Set on a fictional island, a British possession in the Caribbean, each episode of the series sets up a murder mystery — often a variation of the locked room genre — that needs to be solved by the police led by a visiting British detective inspector. It is often comedic in a lighthearted way, and highly formulaic.  The setting is beautiful (filmed on Guadeloupe) and, for what it is, the acting is fine.  Nearly every episode has one or more guest stars who are well-known personalities on British TV.

It is, however, racist to the core and a paean to colonialism.

It is racist because, although most of the local — black — police characters are shown to be both interesting and good at their jobs, in no case is the murder ever solved by anyone other than the white detective. In the formula used to close every episode, he — always a he — gathers all the potential suspects together and explains in detail how he has brilliantly worked out the mystery.  Applause all around while the British detective takes his bows.

As for the colonialism, there is no attempt to have a local officer work their way up to the inspector level. The inspector is always seconded from London. And always white. It is as if black British actors such as Idris Elba, David Ajala, or Lenny Henry don’t exist.

I am probably making too much of this; after all, I am sure the production gives lots of work to local actors and crew. But it does piss me off.

Remembering Radio Caroline, Again

April 22, 2020

About a year ago I wrote about my memories of Radio Caroline, the first of the UK’s “pirate” radio stations from the 1960s.  I just heard that Ronan O’Rahilly — the original pirate — has died.  In his honour and memory, I am re-running my article.


*  *  *  *  *

It is 55 years ago today since Radio Caroline, the first of the British pirate radio stations began broadcasting.  It was an event and a summer I remember well.

In the previous 18 months, the British music scene had exploded, first based on the incredible success of the Beatles but then quickly followed by dozens of groups from all over the country. Unfortunately, the staid old BBC held a monopoly of British radio and so many of us listened to this new music on Radio Luxemburg which broadcast in the evenings. However, the playlists of Radio Luxemburg and BBC TV’s weekly Top of the Pops were more or less controlled by the major record labels and didn’t cover the full spectrum of pop music then available.

Ronan O’Rahilly, an Irish entrepreneur, decided to broaden the choice. He purchased an old ship, refitted it with high powered radio equipment, and parked it just outside British territorial waters. On 28th March 1964, Radio Caroline began broadcasting with a Rolling Stones song, and pirate radio — pirates because they were unlicensed — almost immediately changed the entire British cultural scene.

For the next few years, everyone I knew listened to the pirates (a number of other radio ships had joined in the fun) and no matter the laws the government tried to impose, their popularity continued to increase. By 1967, even the BBC had been completely revamped, with BBC Radio One becoming simply a copy of the pirates.

That was, indeed, the Summer of Love.

Supporting Local Stores Goes So Much Further

April 4, 2020

As anyone who reads my history pieces, and especially anyone who has read, The Drive, will understand how important I believe local newspapers are — both for us today and for the historians of the future.  It is with the utmost regret, therefore, that I note the passing of the Vancouver Courier.

The Courier is having to close because of the lack of local advertising that supports its work:

“The small, independent businesses in our community that are under economic pressure to shut their doors or reduce services are the same ones that have supported our coverage and made it possible to deliver free, local news to you. Their significant drop in advertising revenue for our publication and lack of quick, available government funding means that we have been forced to make the difficult decision to cease both print and online coverage.”

Our loyal support of local merchants is one of the reasons our neighbourhood is usually so vibrant and alive.  The current retail shutdown is not of our making. However, as we can now plainly see, lack of that support (for whatever reason) has even wider ramifications than deserted sidewalks and empty stores.

My fingers are crossed that the Courier‘s closure will be just temporary, but I will sorely miss their journalism in the weeks ahead..


Escaping Isolation via Web Cam #2

March 31, 2020




See previous Escaping Isolation posts.

Escaping Isolation via Web Cam #1

March 27, 2020

If you just need to stare at a screen and bliss out for a bit, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has some live web cams on YouTube of jellyfish, penguins, sharks, and birds. This is my current favourite:

These guys know nothing about physical distancing: they bump into, across, and though each other.  I am amazed their plumages don’t get tangled up.

Movie Backdrops

February 17, 2020

For most of my young personhood — that would be in the 1950s and 1960s — my father worked in the British film industry and I was fortunate enough to visit a lot of film sets and studios. I also worked in the business from the late 1960s and got an even closer look.  One of the most fascinating aspects of the business to me was the ability of set designers and artists to create whole worlds on a sound stage. And this was well before CGI.

CBS Sunday Morning recently had a piece on painted backdrops that revived that interest in me.  This 7 minute item is a grand reminder.

Our Media Bubbles

January 25, 2020

The latest Pew Research reports include a detailed look at US Media Polarization. The divide in the trustworthiness of various media sources between those tending to the Republican side and those tending to the Democratic side is extraordinarily wide.

Select image for a better view.

As this survey looks only at mainstream media (newspapers, TV, radio), I would imagine that the functional divide is even greater once one factors in the noise from social media.

This is a worthwhile reminder to us all — as we all tend to be guilty of siloing — that the media bubble we choose to exist in is NOT the only one out there.

The Hollowing Out of Press Freedom

December 20, 2019

A new report from Reporters Without Borders shows that, globally, we are losing the battle for free speech in the media.

Most Successful Media Franchises

November 23, 2019

The always interesting Visual Capitalist has produced a list of the most successful media franchises of all time.  It is a list that includes some obvious properties and some, quite frankly, that I have never heard of:


The infographic on their site gives a lot more detail on how these figures are arrived at.  The biggest surprise for me is that Winnie the Pooh makes #3 on the list, ahead of Star Wars and Mickey Mouse!


November 20, 2019

I don’t watch a lot of TV, but there is usually one or two series running that I am keen to watch each week.  Over the last couple of years, these have included The Good Fight, Vikings, NCIS, and Endeavour.  These days, I am most attracted to Stumptown which is on tonight.

Set in Portland, Oregon, Stumptown is about a troubled PI and her bar-owning buddy. We are used to seeing hard-bitten and difficult men with a lifetime of regret playing the lead in this kind of set up. But here, the PI is a bi-sexual woman suffering from PTSD from her service in Afghanistan, who drinks too much and is not altogether clear on her personal relationships. The scripts are good, with enough humour, low-key action, and sexual tension to keep one interested for 47 minutes, and looking forward to the next episode.  I enjoy the ensemble cast and I most especially enjoy Cobey Smulders.

Having really fallen down on my knowledge of local talent, I was not aware until today that Smulders is from Vancouver.  Interestingly, one of my favourite shows from last year — New Zealand’s Brokenwood Mysteries — also starred an actress called Fern Sutherland who now lives in Vancouver.


When “Fuck” Actually Meant Something

November 13, 2019

It is hard to imagine that hearing the word “fuck” used in a casual conversation would shock many people these days. We hear it so much — on TV, in films, on the bus, in the playground — that is has become little more than an annoyance of constant repetition.   However there was a time, in my remembrance, when the word carried real freight.

Fifty-four years ago today, on 13 November 1965, I was part of the audience for a BBC late-night satirical show called BBC-3. On the show was the renowned theatre critic and public intellectual Kenneth Tynan. In an answer to a question about sex in plays, he said: “I doubt if there are any rational people to whom the word ‘fuck’ would be particularly diabolical, revolting or totally forbidden.”

This was quickly recognized as the first deliberate use of the word on the BBC and the event became a weekend sensation for the more lurid media.  In 1988, Paul Johnson called the moment, Tynans’s “masterpiece of calculated self-publicity.”

Times have changed.

Happy Birthday Sesame Street!

November 10, 2019

Today is the 50th anniversary of the first episode of Sesame Street – a program that changed an entire genre of entertainment. It came along too late for me (although getting really stoned and watching the colourful characters bounce around had its moments) but my kids sure loved it and were taught by it.

One of the reasons it worked so well was also a source of controversy.  The show was originally banned for screening on the PBS station in Mississippi because of its “highly [racially] integrated cast of children” which “the [local] commission members felt … Mississippi was not yet ready for.”

It is a wonder these days that a TV show so acutely focused on the good and happy side of life could survive fifty years in the marketplace.

CNN has a good gallery of early Sesame Street photographs.


Garth Mullins: Best In Vancouver

October 4, 2019

The Drive’s own Garth Mullins and his team’s podcast Crackdown has been named the “best radio to come out of the trenches of the DTES” in Georgia Strait‘s Best of Vancouver issue.

They cover the drug crisis in our City:

“For us it’s a war. And it needs to be covered like a war—by war correspondents. That’s us,”

They won a silver award at the prestigious New York Festivals Radio Awards but “we couldn’t go collect it in person at the awards gala because some of us can’t cross the border,” Mullins noted. That situation, too, is part of the war.

Well done to Garth and his folks!

Mass Killings In the US

August 5, 2019

After the two latest mass killings in the States this weekend, President Trump declared that a primary cause of these killings was that kids play too many violent video games.

“We must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace,” Trump said in the Diplomatic Room of the White House. “It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence. We must stop or substantially reduce this and it has to begin immediately.”

One simple chart proves him wrong, as usual:

Of course, this Administration never likes to have facts get in the way of a good campaign speech.

Thanks to Vox for this.

R.I.P. Barrington Pheloung

August 3, 2019

Barrington Pheloung, one of the most innovative and interesting music composers on TV, has died.

Famous for his theme to the Morse TV series, he also contributed the incidental music for the series, including in his work complex clues to the drama being shown.

“The classical-inspired melancholy score earned the musician global acclaim and a Bafta Award nomination for best original music. Pheloung said the success was down to the show’s unconventional two-hour time slot, which allowed him to write more intricate musical cues.”

He also composed the main themes for both the sequel (Lewis) and prequel (Endeavour) series.


A Screen By Any Other Name …

June 11, 2019

We are, apparently, at the very cusp  of history where the use of mobile screens by US adults exceeds the use of TV screens.

“We’ve expected that mobile would overtake TV for a while, but seeing it happen is still surprising,” said Yoram Wurmser, eMarketer principal analyst. “As recently as 2014, the average US adult watched nearly 2 hours more TV than they spent on their phones.”  What are people spending time on their devices doing? They’re consistently spending the bulk of their time using apps over web browsers, with the average person spending 2:57 in apps vs. 0:26 on a mobile browser. Within apps, people spent the most time listening to digital audio, followed by social network activity. “Digital audio apps continue to add minutes because people are streaming more music on their phones, and podcasts have taken off in popularity in the past few years,” Wurmser said.

The movies begat television, and television begat YouTube, Fortnite and music streaming on smart phones.  What happens next?

R.I.P. Doris Day

May 13, 2019

Doris Day, one of the last survivors of Hollywood’s Golden Age, has died aged 97.


When stars were stars, she shined.