Posts Tagged ‘media’

These days, everyone is trying to tell us something, and as a result, we have trained ourselves to filter out the things that don’t interest us (click onto another website, fast forward through the adverts, change the channel).  Dave Gorman casts his witty eye over the dross and nonsense that comes to us via the internet and certain news media, and asks what’s really going on?  And why do we accept so much junk as just a normal part of life?

As ever, Gorman is entertaining and amusing, and this is a really easy book to read (I read it in one day, on a long flight).  But as well as all the humour – and yes, I laughed out loud several times – he does make some serious points. There are 40 chapters, so far too many to describe, but he talks about why a particular newspaper (it’s the Daily Mail, surprise surprise) doesn’t seem to know what ‘matching’ means in it’s numerous articles about couples, or parents and children wearing matching outfits; why television hosts always ask the same questions; why does the internet think Julia Roberts is Jesus? and so on.  He also looks at some of the seedier parts of the internet, such as mass spamming on Twitter, people being paid to advertise on Twitter (but surreptitiously, so that others are not supposed to realise that they’re advertising) etc.

Most of the chapters are a few pages long – a few are just one page – so it’s an easy, quick read, which will not only have you laughing, but also nodding along in agreement.  Definitely recommended.

(Dave Gorman’s website can be found here.)


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This film was adapted from the novel Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics, which was originally published anonymously, but was later revealed to have been written by journalist Joe Klein.

Young idealistic Henry Burton (Adrian Lester) is given a job on the campaign of Governor Jack Stanton (John Travolta), who is hoping to get the Democratic presidential nomination.  Burton is impressed by Stanton’s politics, but less pleased with his womanising ways.  Also working on the campaign are Stanton’s loyal and intelligent wife Susan (Emma Thompson), and his team of advisors, Richard Daisy and Howard (respectively, Billy Bob Thornton, Maura Tierney and Paul Guilfoyle).  Kathy Bates is in fine form as Libby, a longtime friend of the Stanton’s, who has previously received treatment for mental illness, who is also brought on board to assist.  As the campaign gathers steam, scandals about Stanton’s affairs and his previous arrest record threaten to destroy everything the team are fighting for.

Jack and Susan Stanton are VERY obviously based on Bill and Hillary Clinton, both in the book and the film – Travolta and Thompson even look like the Clintons.  It is hugely entertaining, whether or not you are interested in politics, with some genuinely funny moments, and a couple of big shocks.  Henry is ultimately divided between supporting Stanton the politician, and disagreeing with Stanton the womanising charmer.

Everyone in the cast did a great job, but I personally thought that Billy Bob Thornton stole most of his scenes.  Travolta did a good job of the sleazy but intelligent Governor, and Thompson was great as the long-suffering Susan, who is nonetheless vital to Stanton’s campaign.  Kathy Bates was unsurprisingly great as Libby.

I enjoyed the machinations of a political machine, the internal arguments (such as the question of whether to launch a negative campaign against his opponent; an idea which Stanton initially baulks at).

Overall, well worth a watch.  As mentioned earlier, an interest in politics is certainly not necessary to enjoy the film, but I think it would help.

Year of release: 1998

Director: Mike Nichols

Producers: Jonathan D Crane, Neil A Machlis, Mike Nichols, Michael Haley, Michele Imperato

Writers: Joe Klein (novel ‘Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics’), Elaine May

Main cast: John Travolta, Emma Thompson, Adrian Lester, Kathy Bates, Billy Bob Thornton, Paul Guilfoyle, Maura Tierney

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Isabel Duncan is a scientist working with the Bonobo apes at the Great Ape Language Lab in Kansas.  When the lab is blown up in a deliberate explosion, Isabel is injured and the apes are ‘liberated’….right into the hands of a ruthless programme maker who is determined that the apes shall be the stars of a new reality tv show.  Reporter John Thigpen was originally supposed to be writing a piece about the work at the lab, but after the explosion the story turns into something else entirely…

I read Sara Gruen’s debut novel, Water for Elephants, almost three years ago, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  So much so in fact that I thought her follow-up was almost certainly going to be a let-down, but I am happy to say that I was wrong.  I was hooked on this book from page one.  The main characters – Isabel, her friend and co-worker Celia, John, and his wife Amanda were all skilfully drawn and well developed, and I felt as though I really knew these people.  More than that, the apes themselves were such distinctive characters too.

The writing flowed well, and moved the story along.  I was eager throughout to find out what was going to happen next.  I cannot comment on the accuracy of the description of the Bonobos and their ability to communicate with humans and each other; however Gruen has clearly done her homework in this regard (indeed, most of the conversations with the apes in this story are based on the real conversations of Bonobos.

Overall, this was a lovely book – part satire, part love story to the beauty of great apes, with plenty of comedic moments, and lots of drama.  Highly recommended.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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In 1994, Michael Moore (subsequently best known for Fahrenheit 911, Bowling for Columbine, and being a general pain in the butt to the Republican Party) produced, with others, a television show called TV Nation.  The idea behind the show was to raise awareness of injustice and corruption in America, and to do so in a humorous style.  Less than 20 episodes were made (although Moore went on to do another similar show called The Awful Truth), but durng its short run, it was highly acclaimed.

This books covers just some of the pieces which the show did –  including Crackers the Corporate Crime Fighting Chicken, the CEO challenge (can the highly paid CEO’s of various companies, actually do the lesser paid jobs which their employees do?),  and finding work for former KGB operatives (to name just a few).

The book, like the TV show, is all done in Moore’s familiar irreverent style, and does set out to achieve it’s aim, in that it provides laughs, but also deals with serious subjects.  It also shows the compromises that had to be made in order to get certain segments on air, and the sometimes dangerous situations that Moore and his crew found themselves in.  (There were actually some segments that never made it to air, or were severely edited before they were shown.)

I do tend to agree with Michael Moore on many issues, but don’t always agree with the way he reports them, as his reporting can be heavily biased and edited to make things look the way he wants them to watch.  Nevertheless, he highlights the hypocrisy of the media and the people that run it, as well as certain politicians, and he manages to make serious issues watchable and interesting to read about.

Overall, this is an easy and enjoyable read, and I would recommend it.  It’s also worth mentioning that you do not need to have seen any episodes of TV Nation – or indeed any other of Moore’s work – to fully enjoy this book.

(Michael Moore’s website can be found here.)

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Gina Davies, aka ‘The Doll’ is a pole dancer from Sydney, who yearns for a better life for herself.  To The Doll, all that matters is the pursuit of money and all the pleasures that it can being (such as designer clothes, accessories etc.).  One night, The Doll has a one night stand with a stranger named Tariq, who has disappeared by morning.  At around the same time, three unexploded bombs are discovered, and Gina discovers that Tariq is a suspected terrorist…and as someone who has been seen with him, she finds herself a suspected terrorist (the ‘unknown terrorist’ of the title).

The Doll goes on the run, while around her the media whips Sydney into a state of panic about the threat of terrorism.  An unsavoury journalist jumps on the bandwagon in an attempt to rescue his own flagging career, and soon the situation becomes a major news story, with Gina as public enemy number one.

This book can be enjoyed as a straightforward thriller, but there is a a subtext, showing how the media manipulate people’s fears, and how such fears give society justification for vilifying people, with nothing concrete to base their feelings on. Scariest of all was the fact that it is easy to see how such a situation could happen in today’s culture of fear.

It’s a fast moving story (despite taking place over only a few days); the first half however was more enjoyable for me than the second half, which seemed to get a bit bogged down by some overwrought prose.  It also felt a little preachy towards the end, but overall this did not detract from the story.

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