Yesterday, I saw the Lego Movie with the entire family. I enjoyed it. Sure, it was a gigantic product placement for Lego – but that was kind of a given from the start, right? The story moved on at a good pace, and both the visual style and the storyline was a bit surprising.
Trust Me, I’m Lying – Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday is a brilliant book about the online media landscape, and how it is driving public discourse in a very bad direction. Ryan has a very interesting background, having worked in marketing and being part of the problem he describes. In his work, he has exploited the weaknesses of the new media landscape to get stories into blogs, press, and often national television. Stories about his clients, to get them attention and ultimately business. In this book, he describes what he did, how he did it, and why we as a society have a big problem. It has changed the way I read online media, and made me a lot more critical of things I previously did not take notice of.
I just finished reading Society without God, by American sociologist Phil Zuckerman. The book came out back in 2008, but I heard about it recently on a skeptic podcast and I felt I just had to buy it. Phil Zuckerman spent a year in Denmark in 2006, and also visited Sweden during that time to perform interviews with a wide sample of what seems to me to be typical Swedes and Danes, trying to understand their attitude towards god and religion. His conclusion is that the Nordic countries today are a special little area of deep secularism in a world that is mostly religious and apparently growing more religious recently. Even in fairly secularized Western Europe, the Nordic countries stand out (or at least Denmark and Sweden does, in his research). So what? For a Swede like myself this is pretty obvious… but when you combine this with the fact that the standard of living and overall feeling of security and quality of life in Denmark and Sweden is very high, Zuckerman finds a great argument against a certain argument brought forth by Christian conservatives in the US…
The Swedish qualification contest for the ESC (the Eurovision Song Contest, not the ESC that is about some kind of variant of computing) just finished tonight. With one of the most amazing votes I have seen.
Since I am a Swede I have to comment on the announcement yesterday that the Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden has announced her engagement and intent to marry next summer. The government has formally approved (which is their privilege according to the constitution).
I just saw in UNT that an old colleague of mine, Olle Gällmo, (his personal website is at olle.gallmo.se) professor in Computer Science, has been appointed “Riksspelman”. Which is a very high accolade for a folk musician. I know that Olle has been working on his bagpiping (if that is the word to use) for a long time, taking it seriously indeed. But still, that is really very impressive work! Congratulations, Olle! I guess I have to pick up the record he just got published as well.
I often listen to Leo Laporte’s “This Week in Tech” podcast. It is not particularly focused, but thanks to the quality of the participants it always enjoyable and I tend to end up learning something about general IT and general desktop computing that I did not know before. However, there are a few annoying themes that tend to pop up. One of these is the idea that traditional paper journalism and journalism in general is dead, to be replaced by smart news search engines finding “just what I need” based on my preferences. I think that idea is utterly broken. There is immense value to reading a collection of news and articles put together by someone skilled in the craft, and not just a search bot looking for stuff like what I already know and like.
Here is nice example of what such a bleak world would be missing…
Just last week I found the group “Universal Poplab“. A Swedish trio making nice pop music in a style that is quite reminiscent of classic 1980’s Synthpop. Which I happen to like. How I found it? Pure serendipity of the kind that will never happen in a world of agent-based targeted search and information. I was moving the car to the garage, and just tuned in to P3 on the radio. Where they happened to interviewing the group and played some short bits from their hits from recent years (hits that had completely gone me by, as I tend to be quite out of touch with cultural developments since we had a child a few years ago). “This is brilliant” I thought and logged into iTunes and bought a record immediately.
Without that purely random act, I probably would never have found out about them. There is so much good stuff out there hidden in enormous mass of indifferent stuff that the only really good way to get a handle on it is to let someone better informed tell you. Not some search bot. I guess this qualifies for “Rant” status.