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Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

10 Articles Tagged with “culture”

  1. On police cameras, Ferguson, and justice

    Chatter about police wearing cameras while on duty has been picking up over the past year. The recent shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson has only amplified such calls. Really, as more and more ordinary citizens undertake lifelogging seriously, police wearing cameras will be inevitable. For an example from some recent and near-future fiction, look no further than Halting State, by Charles Stross. But it’s a mistake to think that police wearing cameras is a magic bullet that will prevent further tragedies like Ferguson.

    In theory, police cameras are supposed to make officers more accountable. Cameras tantalize us with the promise of a mythical objectivity of evidence untainted by the unreliability of eyewitness accounts. They would dispel any ambiguity over what, precisely, happened when Darren Wilson confronted Michael Brown. At the moment, all we can do is try to piece things together from the autopsy reports. (Hint: Wilson shot Brown, who didn’t have a gun, at least six times. In what crazy universe does that seem justified?) Ah, but if Wilson had been wearing a camera, then the story would be different. Supposedly we would know (and therefore, our fallacious logic follows, understand) what happened between…

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  2. Educating the “innocent”: This classroom is not yet rated

    A few weeks ago I discussed gender stereotypes in ads with my Grade 8 class. I knew I would have no trouble finding examples to bring in to demonstrate what I meant. Indeed, I found this awesome website, the Gender Ads Project, with thousands of scanned magazine ads categorized by the stereotypes they portray. What I didn’t anticipate was how difficult it would be to find ads that both clearly demonstrate a stereotype and are safe for a Grade 8 classroom. I knew ads were hypersexualized, but it has never been more apparent than the hour or so I spent discarding various ads for being too racy for the classroom.

    This annoyed me, but the source of that annoyance was not the advertisers themselves. Oh, I’m plenty miffed by advertisers for all those gender stereotypes they perpetuate in their attempts to sell, sell, sell. But in this case, I was annoyed by how, as a teacher, my hands are often tied in a way that prevents me from truly addressing important issues in an authentic way. It’s silly to think that kids aren’t being exposed to hypersexualized ads outside of the classroom: these ads pervade every medium, from television…

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  3. My doomed love affair with the Kindle

    Some big news in the Canadian tech industry this week was the advent of the Amazon Kindle in Canada. I've mentioned my mad love for the Kindle previously as well as my discomfort with Amazon's approach to tethered appliances. So, now that the Kindle is finally available here, will I be getting one?

    The short answer is no, not right now. Technologically, I think the Kindle is an amazing device that uses some pretty interesting physics to make reading easy and comfortable. It boggles my mind that we have the ability to store so many books in such a small, slim shell and take it anywhere with us! However, I still have reservations about whether an e-reader is necessary, and I'm still set against tethered appliances. So here's the long answer.

    One More Piece of Luggage

    When you leave the house, what do you check to make sure you've got with you? Keys, mobile phone, ID, maybe money? What about your Kindle?

    I've got this bizarre notion that, if I one day get a smartphone, I could use that device as my e-reader as well. It makes sense to combine them; we've already rolled music players and cameras…

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  4. Back off! Get your own franchise!

    I've given it a great deal of thought, for it's a complicated subject. However, I now believe that rebooting Star Trek is not a good idea.

    The new Star Trek film, premiering this Friday, is a "prequel" in the sense that it takes place prior to the original series, but not a prequel in the sense that it actually results in an alternate timeline.((Yes, time travel--prepare for headaches.)) This allows J.J. Abrams to effectively shed the burden of forty-three years of Star Trek continuity and boldly go where Star Trek has never, never gone before.((Namely, Spock and Uhura. Yeah, that's right.)) Well, for the record, I think J.J. Abrams is wrong.

    Yes, yes, I'm well aware that for many people, J.J. Abrams is God, and oh-em-gee-how-could-you-say-such-a-thing?!

    I'm not against rebooting Star Trek's continuity per se. After all, Ronald D. Moore reimagined Battlestar Galactica, and that turned out rather well. Star Trek arguably has a more developed universe than Battlestar Galactica, however, which requires far more careful handling than simply overwriting the timeline. In that respect, Star Trek is more similar to Dune.((Seriously, who are you trying to fool, Brian Herbert?)) It's not the reboot that worries…

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  5. Goodbye, Battlestar Galactica

    Well here we are, the end of an era. Battlestar Galactica is over, which has made a lot of people very angry for various reasons.

    Spoilers ahead.

    I'm too young to have seen the original Battlestar Galactica when it was on television, and I never watched the reruns. I'm not into it. The "reimagined" series ignited my interest, however, and I've watched the show since its miniseries became the backdoor pilot for a new television series.

    To this day, my favourite episode remains "Kobol's Last Gleaming", the first season finale. It represents the best aspects of Battlestar Galactica's storytelling techniques: the high stakes conflict, the spiritual and ethical themes interwoven into the story, and of course, the effortless use of the episode's score to enhance the most emotional moments of the episode. Tonight's finale was cast in a very similar vein to the first season finale, which is probably why I enjoyed it so much.

    The show has received massive amounts of criticism in the last half of this season. To be fair, the Writer's Strike caused the last season to be split in half, placing much more tension on the mid-season premiere than the writers had originally intended.…

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  6. Universal warming

    As I've said previously, I'm tired of the repetitive fearmongering being done in the name of our "global warming" crusade. It's another example of herd mentality exacerbating a crisis that it is supposed to be solving. Last century it was nuclear weapons, this century it's global warming.

    Well wake up people, and stop being so selfish! After all, we are not the only planet in this universe. There are many other planets out there that are heating up. In fact, I've "discovered" a dangerous new phenomenon that must be stopped! Universal warming.

    Here's how it goes. We constantly produce information. Information is useless without transmission; it only becomes usable when conveyed from one state to another (i.e., from person to person). Transmitting information requires energy. As energy is used, entropy in the system increases. To demonstrate, take talking for example. If you talk about something, you are transmitting information. This means you are increasing the net entropy of the universe. Everything you do increases entropy, unfortunately.

    Why is entropy bad? Because entropy is the tendency of a system toward increasing disorder. As entropy increases, the amount of usable energy declines. Eventually we'll suffer the heat-death of the universe and the…

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  7. iGoogle?

    Anyone else noticed this new iGoogle thing that Google has going for it?

    What's with the name? You would think that a company as creative as Google would be able to come up with a better name than something that--well, frankly, that sounds like a bad Apple rip-off. And this isn't just Google's problem. iWhatever has become the new "Whatever X" of our generation. I feel sorry for the poor letter--it's not even uppercase! And it's being attached willy-nilly to products and services just because it sounds cool.

    In fact, if the current trend continues, we'll run out of i's to use in every day conversation! Soon conversaton wll look lke ths, because we wn't have enough eyes to go around. :( T wll be the end of cvlzaton as we know t.

    But I digress. Anyone else tried iGoogle? It looks interesting. I use regular Google as my homepage because it is quick to load, but I think I will try out iGoogle for a week or two to see if I like having all this information at my finger tips better.

  8. The death of culture

    Often you'll read one critic or intellectual or another say something along the lines of how Hollywood is destroying the movie industry, creating cheap flicks at the expense of "art" and "culture". And as much as I am sometimes tempted to agree with this cynical evaluation of our entertainment industry, I can't bring myself to jump on that bandwagon. I just can't.

    I have observed that more movies are "packaged" these days. What are "packaged" movies? Well, these are the hits that look and feel like the director simply sent in a form from a mail-order catalogue--he or she filled out the title and main characters, and the company sent back a pre-packaged movie: special effects, music, etc. Movies like Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, and--especially with its third installment--Spider-Man are packaged blockbusters.

    Are packaged movies inherently evil? Does it make a movie bad? Of course not. I like each of those three movie series above--although none of them are particularly spectacular--but they aren't moving and they aren't cathartic. And sometimes you need that. Sometimes you don't need a purging; you just need some action, some humour, and some explosions. The only reservation I carry is…

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  9. I surrender. Now stop sending me emails.

    Great Bird of the Galaxy, forgive me.

    It was just a matter of time, of course. My willpower is far from legendary or anything, and I knew that I was going to "cave", as Cortney so eloquently puts it, sometime or another--I fully intended to, since once I'm done high school I'd like to preserve my connections with my friends through whatever means available. And, as much as I hate to admit it, social networking sites help.

    So I joined Facebook.

    That's right. I'm tired of those snarky little "I've added you as a friend on Facebook..." emails finding their way into my inbox, begging me to get an account. -_- Fine. I surrender. Now stop sending me emails. (I have a feeling I'm going to continue getting them anyway, since that's the nature of the beast).

    However, an interestingly paranoid Orwellian thought occurred to me. As our technology increases, the government institutes increasingly complex methods of keeping track of us. The day is not far off when some sort of "national ID" system will be implemented. We already have several numbers associated with us--driver's licence, SIN, health card, etc. Naturally people start to get paranoid about the…

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  10. Missing Media

    As I continue to expand my boundaries of knowledge by reading and watching more books and movies, it occurs to me that there are some books/movies that are regarded as "classics" by culture, but that I've never had a chance to actually experience the whole way through. An example of this is It's A Wonderful Life--classic Christmas movie, but I guess because it's been played over and over on TV so much, I never really sit down to watch it, so I've never seen the whole thing.

    What are some books and movies that constantly pervade your life, but that you've never actually taken the time to read or watch in their entirety?