Saturday, July 29, 2017

3 international news channels that live stream on YouTube

When I moved into my apartment in upstate New York a year ago, it was the first place I ever lived where I had the option to get cable. I guess the fact I decided not to doesn't quite make me a "Cable Cutter," since I didn't really have one to cut in the first place. Still, a big part of the decision was the fact that there are now just so many options: Between Netflix and Prime Video, I can stream as many TV series as (and in fact more than) I could possibly want, and unplugging the existing coaxial cable that runs across my house to the TV from the wall and into a $9 rabbit ears antenna gave me several local and regional news channels and more PBS and NOVA stations than I can keep track of—mostly in 1920x1080 HD, no less.

One noticeable hole though was continuous live national/international news. Certainly there are now streaming services like Sling TV that you can pay $20 or so a month for to get that. But when you add that on to what you're paying for Netflix and Amazon, it starts to get confoundingly close to what you'd be paying for cable. There are also lots of illegal streams of major cable news stations that pop up here and there during major news events. But they're extremely inconsistent, require some searching and are, well, illegal. 

The TV I bought when I moved in is a smart TV—one of a number of cultural and technological changes that happened while I was overseas in a less-than-developed country from 2014-2016—and it supports a YouTube app. So I was excited to discover another change: There are now a number of perfectly serviceable international media outlets that stream all of their programming live on YouTube, which I can now watch seamlessly on my TV. It may be you've already known about this for years, but just in case, I thought I'd share three of my favorites below.

1. Al-Jazeera English

Solid world news coverage, decent US coverage, and hands-down the best Middle East coverage on the planet (I'm allowed to make that judgement, so be quiet). Typically alternates between news updates every half hour with subtitled documentaries in between with longer news hours at set times. As long as Qatar doesn't cave to pressure from from the other Gulf states and give them the ax, I will be enjoying this one here:

2. Sky News 

So this is a British news channel (well, I think they have channels in other European countries, but the one that streams live and in English is from Britain). So naturally, some of the news is UK specific, but they have good Europe stuff, and even serviceable summaries of US news. And hey, if the news event is in the UK/EU, all the better. I happened to be watching it the morning that the the whole NHS ransomeware attack hit and new all about it a full five hours before it became headlines in the US. Check it out here:

3. Bloomberg

Kind of like CNBC, but with more of an international bend. Good business analysis. Lots of coverage from Abu Dhabi and Beijing and places like that, but with US market coverage too. One note on this one: Pretty much all of these play without adds, but whereas Sky and Al-Jazeera just switch to showing world weather reports during the ad segments, Bloomberg has these newsfeed updates that flash on screen, and the music loop they play in the background is so annoying I actually start to wish they'd play ads instead. Just a word of warning. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

A 2nd Pass: For Whom the Bell Tolls

I don't often reread books. And if I do, I wait at least three or four years in between.

I've always been a very slow reader, and maybe because of that, I tend to remember the things I read pretty vividly. So when I reread books, it's not to remember the story so much as to see how differently I interpret it based on where I am in life now versus where I was when I read it before.

It's not that I get to the end and realize, "Oh, I completely missed the point of that," (though that's happened at least once). It's more a matter of emphasis and how different parts of the story stand out to me, or maybe more accurately, how I relate to the way the characters experience the story.

I read For Whom the Bell Tolls for the first time one summer five years ago, and began my first rereading of it earlier this month. I had remembered it having a great effect on me the first time, and also spent the half decade since then going around telling people that it tied for first place as my favorite book ever. Thus, I was a little bit nervous that on rereading it I would find that I either a) completely missed the point of it the first time, or b) didn't really care for it all that much.

Thankfully, neither of those was the case: It still seemed to me to be about suffering as the unifying part of the whole human condition and the inevitability of our own fates, and I'd still say it's one of my favorite books ever. How I related to the story, though, was another matter.

The first time I read it, the things that affected me the most were the great sadness of all of the death that happens in it, and the passion of the relationship at its center. I'd recently lost a friend, so maybe that explains some of it. Not knowing what was going to happen the first time may have also played a part.

Beyond that, I remember being impressed with what a badass Robert Jordan was. With his flask of absinthe and his backpacks full of dynamite, sleeping with Maria just hours after meeting her and leading guerrilla attacks on a fascist army. He represented a lot of things that my 22 year old self wished I could be.

Reading it this second time, the things that really affected me were different. They were more subtle, but just as profound because I'd actually lived them.

Having to finish a job in spite of unforeseeable complications that arise. The tension of being an outsider and a foreigner working alongside people who will never really understand or trust your motives for being there. Being caught up in a fight to the death over an abstract political cause that you sometimes aren't sure you even believe in. The necessity of action even in the midst of deep contemplation.

I also found that this time I admired the old hunter Anselmo. It may just be I forgot, but I have no recollection of seeing him as more than a tertiary supporting character before. Something about his steadfastness—often mistaken as simplicity—and his own conflict between his love for the Republic and his old religious faith and hatred of violence struck me in a way I don't remember at all before.

I hope I haven't aged that much in the last five years that my favorite character is now the elderly man. But then, maybe I'm looking up to him with respect the way I looked at Robert Jordan the first time.

At any rate, it was good to revisit the book. I intend to do it with a number of others now, and will have to remember to circle back to this one in another five years or so. That is unless I've tragically died by then, in which case you will have to read it for both of us.