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Archive for April 12th, 2009

When I sit down to make sense of the world I often start with this question:

If beings from another galaxy were to show up on our planet on an anthropological mission, what would they think about all of this? What would they conclude?  How is it all connected? What patterns would they find?

All of This right now refers to these very diverse situations on my mind:

Modern Day Pirates

It’s amazing we don’t have more modern day pirates.  It appears relatively easy to take a non military ship.  And, as far as I can tell, we have no well-crafted strategies for recovering ships and crew.  Certainly our lack of strategies is a result of the fact that the US has basically commanded the seas for most of the last century.  We haven’t been tested and lack the response behavior.  Beyond the lack of strategies on our side, it’s very unclear what the pirates have to gain that they couldn’t gain from less risky efforts.  A very strange situation.

False Populism

Are the people really sufficiently suffering to not just demand change via signage create it?  I propose we’ve mostly lost the behaviors over the last 2 generations to implement change.  While the 60s generation marched, sat in, yelled, voted, engaged… later generations built chat rooms, IM, blogs and Twitter.  We rant online.  We don’t look each other in the eye as much.  And when we do, we talk politely…. and then fire up our iPhones to twitter our outrage.  Our online behaviors are very disconnected from meaningful real world context.  The conversations we have online rarely have direct consequences – in stark contrast to having a face to face debate, or showing up to the local public hearing, or meeting in our communities.  Yes, the last national election was a nice break from the norm – people actually used online conversation to get out into the world – but for the most part that was a short lived activity.

Perhaps it’s just a result of the news cycle.  We move on to the next news story before we’ve fully grokked the last set of events.  I don’t buy that the news cycle prevents us from focusing.  I really think that we are living more and more disconnected lives in the world while we think we’re more connected than ever online.  In a world full of status updates, text messages, dropped cell phone calls, bad web ex meetings, as a generation we’ve lost the ability to hold a long, thoughtful conversation.  We don’t read – we scan.  We don’t debate – we tweet.  We don’t listen – we mult task.

Is this “bad” or “good”?  That’s the wrong question.  Does it get us what we want in the world? Does it help us lead the lives we want? If not, what will?  Perhaps marching on our leaders and community organization and old town councils aren’t the mechanisms to drive change anymore.  What is? what comes next?

Newspapers and Journalism in Crisis

So is journalism really in trouble? is it just the papers? is it the print medium? is it the news business model? is it advertising?

Is finding someone to blame going to change what’s going on?

For me, the biggest question that probably will illuminate various reasons for chaos for the news business is: For organizations and businesses where recognizing and analyzing what’s going on in the world is their business, why were they so slow in recognizing their own crisis and coming up with course corrections?  Ironic, to say the least.

I don’t think the print medium is going away.  The existing business models are already gone, it’s just on fumes right now.

Golf as a One Man Brand

TV ratings for golf are 20-50% controlled by Tiger Woods.  I imagine other business numbers like new players, club sales, tee times, Nike clothing sales are equally affected.  This is truly an amazing thing.  What’s more amazing is how in 12 years, PGA and golf in general has not found a way to diversify.  Though it’s ok for now, in 10-15 years if golf hasn’t found a new format or a new set of interesting golfers, it’s going be in serious trouble.

What does it need to do?  Really simple – start getting people from the real world.  Most of the “golf brand” is not at all what the average person is.  Watch the coverage of the Masters.  As beautiful as it all is – it isn’t aspirational at all to most people.  It’s actually off putting, especially now.  Rich, mostly white, people at a country club all making millions.  None of it looks attainable.  It’s an argument golf has faced before… but they don’t seem to listen.

Boxing in modern times

It’s just plane strange if not downright boring.  The modern sport just doesn’t really fit in the mainstream culture like it used to.  The sport has few exciting athletes – in terms of personality and wider cultural presence.  The media surrounding boxing is dreadfully boring with the same old same old announcers and approaches to coverage.  A few years ago when The Contender started as a reality show, I thought there was some promise in reaching a new audience with a more raw, more down to earth viewing experience.

That didn’t last and the sport didn’t really commit to it.

Beyond the media, the sport itself doesn’t really work with a modern audience.  Refs stop fights too early to get the big prize knock outs and most managers keep their great boxers out of big matches.  So why bother to watch?  2 guys punching each other without the purpose of knocking the other one out really undermines the sport.  I’m not saying boxing is good or bad or making any moral judgment.  The idea of fighting is to beat someone up.  When that’s no longer the objective, what’s the big payoff?  When does the audience getting its money worth?  A tactical boxing match is highly boring for non-expert viewers.

UFC and IFC and other mixed martial arts have filled this gap and they are running away with the audience, and many times the athletes.

Also, the idea of overly priced tickets and PPV events doesn’t work in a recession.  Last night’s match card didn’t draw much of a live audience.  I say if boxing returned to smaller gyms and more intimate coverage of lesser known, but more charming athletes they’d have a shot to be relevant.

Celebrity, Method Acting and the Paparazzi

One day soon this celebrity obsession thing is going to fall to pieces in the media.  I know, I know, I certainly buy enough US Weekly’s and have run many entertainment portals and sites – who am I to say something like this?  For a long time I’ve thought this whole “let’s watch everything celebrities do” would get terribly boring.  Celebrities generally lead unremarkable lives, certainly not lives anyone would actually want.

Ok, so occasionally there’s an interesting story or some really bizarre behavior.  I’m pretty certain the behavior of celebrities is conditioned by us and the media and is not a distinct feature of the celebrity. So, if it’s the bizarro behavior we like, you really can just annoy anyone in your neighborhood enough and they too will punch you in the face.  You can now put it on YouTube and get famous.

Point is… methinks TMZ and US Weekly probably won’t have a market on this forever. At least that’s my hope.  Move on.

Stock Market Index Tells You Nothing

The current  behavior of the stock market indices provides no insight into what’s happening in the world.  News outlets and investors wish it did.  In fact, I challenge you to figure out what most economists and “leading thinkers” actually think by reading news articles and economic reports that talk about the DJI or SP500.

Probability of Life in The Universe

I just read an article in the May issue of Discovery Magazine about how the universe has a higher probability of life formation than we thought.  Why can’t we let go of this desire to prove our existence is inevitable (either as something so rare it must be divine, or something so probable of course we’re here)?  Folks, let it go.  There’s simply know way to know how likely life was or is in the universe.  Even if we find life elsewhere… 2 out of infinity is still undefined.

Bigger question: why do we care whether it’s likely or not?

Alright, enough, time for some Rockband or something.

Aliens from another planet – if you are reading this and can understand – please do tell us what you figure out, because we certainly can’t make sense out of all this.

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