full coverage

23 February 2010

I’m still in the Olympic spirit, I guess, or at least just thinking about the Olympics. I’ll be back to more academic concerns soon, but my sister and her husband and their daughter are visiting and we managed to find tickets because my sister had the crazy idea of walking into the ticket office and asking what they have. Turns out that if you’re not picky, there’s still some seats available. So now I’ve seen curling live and in person and I enjoyed it.

Anyway, I was going to write something about NBC’s coverage – discussed here and here and elsewhere – but instead I’ll just say that CTV, who has the Canadian rights, has put up the following on their website: full video (the so-called “world feed”) of every single event, in HD if your connection can handle it, live if it’s still going on, archived if you missed it, and if it’s still going on you can go back and watch the earlier parts without having to wait for the event to end.

The “world feed”, if I understand correctly, consists of the raw video broadcasters are able to choose from in putting together their coverage. Broadcasters combine that video with their own commentary and interviews and whatever technology they use to enhance their coverage (like replays that use superimposed images of multiple competitors). Sometimes broadcasters use their own cameras to get additional angles if they think it’s worth it to their audience to have the extra coverage.

The CTV world feed videos don’t have any of the supplemental stuff, but considering what you’re getting, it’s more than worth it. There are some video ads, but they’re shorter and less frequent than television ads. You can also get highlights online of some completed events taken from the televised broadcasts that include commentary, and possibly you can get the entire televised broadcasts online as well. I generally haven’t been near a tv during the live event coverage, so I don’t know what the broadcasts are like. I don’t feel like I’ve missed anything I wanted to see.

Compared to that, discussions of NBC’s coverage, focusing on television, are like a throwback to an earlier era. It’s no longer possible to think of this kind of event coverage solely in terms of television, and for all that NBC has done with their Olympic website (which I haven’t visited since 2008, admittedly, but which I hear delays video just like tv), it seems like they still think it’s still 1994 or so.

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set in stone

19 February 2010

The Olympics have made spring break come early this year and last twice as long, and I decided to take the opportunity to leave town and visit my family. (I might look into the Olympic non-ticket events around town after I get back this weekend.) That means I’ve been watching the Olympics on tv, which is not something I’ve done since 1998. I usually ignore the winter games completely.

One sport I’ve enjoyed making fun of, in an uninformed non-serious non-specific way is curling, but now that I’ve gotten a chance to see full matches for the first time, I can say that I haven’t sat through a whole match. But I have watched the ends of each end for a few of them and I do like the sport. It looks like a fun puzzle game; I bet there’s a flash version.

I can’t say I understand the rules, though, and it looks like I better read up on them soon, before the source of the stones disappears from the earth.


wait, Americans value history now?

7 February 2010

At the end of his review of Richard J. Evans’ new book on British historians, Mark Mazower writes:

Thus Evans’ book is not only a lament for a certain postwar moment in historical scholarship; it is also, perhaps, a paean to a time when history’s public role could be taken for granted. This is no longer true, at least in Britain. And perhaps this is another, sadder, reason why so many British historians find their warmest reception abroad, not least in the United States, where history still seems to matter.

I don’t know what it’s like to do historical scholarship in Britain, but considering how often I’ve heard people say that Americans just don’t care much about history, this surprises me. Are the teledons extinct?

At the same time, as I read the review, I kept wondering where the Americans fit into the story. Evans’ book is about British historians studying the history of continental Europe, and how they differ from their counterparts in the rest of Europe:

The problem is an interesting one: how to explain the divergence between Britain (and the United States), where a large proportion of historians concern themselves with the history of other countries, and its EU partners, where professional scholarship is much more nationally focused? Evans offers some rough and ready statistics to support his account of this difference, but one has no reason to doubt his basic thesis. British universities may offer expertise in Baltic, Balkan, or Iberian history, and no decent department lacks a goodly array of non-British subjects; but the poor Czech, Polish, or French student who is interested in digesting something other than the glories of his national story will find a much thinner menu.

According to Mazower, Evans offers a number of reasons for this, which he addresses in the review, and which I’ll leave you to read if you follow the link, as I’m more interested in a reason that does not come up. (Whether the omission is Mazower’s or Evans’ I don’t know – I’d have to see the book.) And this is the fact that the British speak English.

The two blockquotes above are the only two mentions of the U.S. in the review: a comment about how history apparently still matters there, and a parenthetical aside noting that just like in Britain, many professional historians in the U.S. study other parts of the world. But despite the aside, Evans’ book (as summarized by Mazower) gives only British and European reasons for British and European divergence. But how do the Americans fit in? (If they do.)

Does the fact that another large historical community, using more or less the same language, studies a similar range of areas have anything to do with the British divergence from the rest of Europe? And if so, does the influence go both ways?

I don’t know, but the impression I got from the people I knew in grad school who specialized in non-U.S. topics – especially Europe, Africa, and the Middle East* – was that they needed to have a grasp of all the English-language scholarship, regardless of country of origin. I assume those trained in Britain would have to meet similar expectations.  So it seems plausible that the American historical community would have some influence on British practice (and vice versa), at least in the relevant fields. It’s too bad it sounds like Evans doesn’t take this up, even if only to dismiss it as an additional explanation.

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*And then there’s the question of whether Britain, though similar to the U.S. with respect to continental Europe when it comes to studying continental Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania (to use some traditional geographical terms), is actually more like continental Europe compared to the U.S. when it comes to studying the Americas.

There are certainly a lot of departments in the U.S. with British specialists (though recent trends suggest they may be in the process of becoming Europeanists) – how many British academic historians study the U.S.? How many study Latin America? Are the numbers comparable?

I really don’t know the answer to that, though I guess I wouldn’t be surprised if more British than American historians study Canada.


ahead of the Times Krugman

5 February 2010

I am glad to see someone of Paul Krugman’s stature picking up the same kind of analogy I’ve made a couple of times in throwaway comments at The Edge of the American West. I’m sure this means I will win a Nobel some day, although I guess I’d settle for a newspaper column (if it came with a blog).