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Archive for the ‘media’ Category

I often think, “these are strange times.”  As if I know what other times were like and as if they would be any less strange than now.   The thought is completely baseless.  Nonetheless, most days I drift off with a parallax feeling – something is somehow amiss.

Socrates Death

Socrates Death

Three days ago a healthy fever kept me prisoner in bed.  I turned on the TV to distract my burning brain.   For several hours I fell in and out of hysterical sleep as the MSNBC and CNN shows droned on. Finally my hand managed to dump me into the local news.   I managed to catch snippets and sound bytes on various political actions in Arkansas and Indiana and the emergence of movement on Iran Nuclear deals and the various drought issues in California.   Of course that little bit of content was sandwiched between erectile dysfunction ads, more news show promotions, political ads, and a bunch of other nonsense that was so nonsensical it didn’t register at all.

My fever provided an interesting kaleidoscope to consume all this “media.”   I barely recall the specific words, but I vividly recall lots of reddish pink faces, stunted vocal inflections, disjointed rejoinders all trying attempting to rile me out of my feverish funk and to take action – against anything.   I awoke the next morning remembering an angry opera where all the singers sing over each other and nothing makes sense but there’s a frenzy and certainly the frenzy means something because well it’s a frenzy.

This experience and any resulting thoughts aren’t really that enlightening or difficult to analyze.   We live in a cacophony of cacophonies.   We create them for each other, we consume them, we sell them to each other, we seek them out.   Media exists only as a cacophony.   Without the cacophony so many institutions and systems collapse.    Our identities and sense of almost being folds in on itself.   Without mass frenzy who needs a search engine?   Or curation tools? Or talking heads? Or journalists?   Or critics? Or pundits? Or experts? Or “likes”? Or vacations? Or spas? Or meditation centers? Or insurance? Or assurance? Or reputation management? Or pr? ….

The silence would obliterate an industrial turned digital world.  Our senses are now ill suited for the silence or slowness of a world without this recursive self generating cacophony.   The very senses so essential to our survival in what was likely a very competitive environment thousands and thousands of years ago reached what seems to me some bizarre threshold of sensation.  These every more acute senses and brains and bodies needed more than what the fabricated industrial world could deliver.  We needed media to put us back on edge.  Always keep us on the edge.  Something is out there to get me.

This is not the only way to fulfill and engage the senses and the brain and the body.  But by gosh is it the most efficient.   Thinking and engagement are costly efforts that cut into the means of production.   Philosophizing is hard to monetize.  Art shifts perspectives away from commoditization.   Walking is slow.   The mass of humankind should not engage in these activities for they lead to more of these activities.   No, listen to the cacophony and like a slot machine keep pushing the buttons (the handle is too slow), let the whistle sounds and cherry sights keep us in attention without engagement – next time, next time! The human capacity for repetitive motion and thought is nearly boundless if injected with just enough stimulation (throw in a little variation to throw the probability center off).

But it isn’t as Huxley thought it would be – habituation through pleasure – it’s more effective for production to a have a slightly disembodied sense of dread.   Pure pleasure would not keep the right chemicals flowing like dread and fear does.   Our fear of death is stronger than our desire for pleasure.

I contest that the pursuit of truth and knowledge is more powerful and sustaining than fleeing death or enjoying pleasure – but it is a hard practiced reward.  It takes a good deal of effort to get to a point where it sustains and grows.    It requires an upfront investment of the mind, body, and senses.   It forces one to give up the relentless pursuit of capital.

The human creature seeks the real – it can be trained and sustained on the near-real though.   It can hang on the edge of the real for as long as you can keep the cells alive.   But deep down the entirety of a given human seeks the real – the real world, the full view of a tree, the scent of the crisp night, the touch of another human, the lick of a dog, the view without glasses….   Without the real, we will take convincing substitutes and become sufficiently addicted until the senses have weakened and are no longer able to seek the real.

These are strange times.   They are strange because we seem to notice less and less than what the historical documents of the past suggest we were noticing previously.  Though we were ignorant then, as we are now, we seemed to appreciate that ignorance in some enlightened circles.  Instead of hiding from it, some went to their death because of their pursuit.   Now even the enlightened often seek the near-real or the unreal – the media, the virtual reality, the video games, the re-tweets, the parody news, the cable news, the ads as content, the representation vs the actual, the press statements vs a conversation, a political party vs a candidate with a feet on the ground.   That Edward Snowden didn’t cause mass uproar is only one of the main signs of this parallax situation.

We can no longer see the real.  I’m not even sure I can or ever could.

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#BostonMarathon

Been thinking about this since I got off a plane from vacation today.   Tonight I came home after dinner to NBC News doing a special on what this recent bombing at the marathon means for public events in America.  How trite.

Are we all still asking these trivial questions like this in the global community?  We are the last country/culture to deal with all of this reality.

A couple of thoughts:

  • American communities have FAR TOO MANY anniversaries and “never forget” events.  We celebrate our victimhood and wonder why other people (in and out of this country) hate us to the point of wanting to kill us.
  • Executing mass violence in America is a trivial exercise.  Not because we lack security infrastructure but because our culture celebrates violence and thinks we should always exact justice always.  It’s so 1850s Cowboy bullshit. And hasn’t it always been this way in this country?
  • We focus on “event protection” as opposed to a THOUGHTFUL, REFLECTIVE CULTURE.   Our culture is about immediate reaction instead of reflection and consilience.  We glorify the act.  We spectate and consume the adrenalized moments.
  • We consume far more than we give.  This has consequences.  We haven’t learned this yet, not nearly enough.
  • We spend far more money on checking my shoes for bombs at the airport than on making sure everyone has access to the Internet and life changing literature.
  • Praying does nothing.  It’s self serving.  Try reducing violence through education, arms reduction and/or other real ways.  God doesn’t exist so lets stop pretending he/she/it does and wasting precious time and energy on God.
  • I have no idea who did this, why they did it. I almost don’t care.  This will keep happening until it doesn’t.  And I really don’t know how gun violence and bombing and wars are going to stop.  It’s probably more likely to happen once we stop trying to own every thing, every person, every idea and we stop lying to each other about how it all works.   Religion is crap and false.  Most things we push unto children and our cultures isn’t about truth or love but instead is about making sure certain people stay in power and amass riches.    Try really investigating and learning about animal / human behavior and the other bodies of knowledge that help us get closer to getting it and maybe we can all have a real dialog.  For now this is getting really fuckin old, all this killing people for ridiculous reasons and in cowardly ways here and abroad

I’m saying to myself tonight. Get involved.  Make this world better in non-violent ways.

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from Ron Williams…

In the October 29, 2010, edition of the Wall Street Journal (The Potential Pitfalls of the Winning Big) reporter Gerald F. Seib wrote, “In an interview with National Journal out this week, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was asked what his party’s main political job will be after next week’s election. He gave a surprisingly stark answer: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

At a time when the country is fighting a major war, facing a severe economic recession that rivals the Great Depression, and having the largest federal deficits in the country’s history, it is telling to see that the focus of the Republican Party is not to address any of the great problems facing this country.  Rather, their focus is on politics as usual.

And the fact that the American public is about to give them the same Party and laid the groundwork for most of these problems seems to me say that we are a country of amnesiacs.  When President Bill Clinton left office we had budget surpluses, we were not at war with anyone, and the economy had not collapsed.

Then we had eight years of Republican governance.

The Republicans had control of the Executive Branch and both houses of Congress.  What did that get us?  The answer is two foreign wars, the budget deficits, and the beginnings of the great recession.  All were precipitated on the policies of the Bush administration and a Republican Congress.  The Republican governance approach was underfunded budget cuts for the very wealthy and deregulation of just about every industry. Now, it seems that both they, and apparently a significant portion of the American populace, have forgotten what a disaster Republican governance games this country and are prepared to allow the return of those same disastrous policies.

I fear for this country. Example, the governor of New Jersey has just canceled the Tunnel Project, and has ended a project needed for the future transportation needs of the Northeast region.  During the Great Depression it was just the sort of New Deal Projects that helped jumpstart this country out of the Great Depression.  Republican politicians these days cancel these projects.  We see Republican and Tea Party candidates stand their time sending racist and sexist e-mails around the country with others focus on anti-masturbation campaigns and witchcraft issues.

We see a Republican Party which has as one of its favorites ex-governor Sarah Palin, a politician who has yet to complete the term for any office she has been elected.  I’m amazed to think that anyone would support a politician who resigns from office midterm to pursue other financial interests and then expect you to support their election to the next higher office.  It is one thing to leave an office to run for a higher office, it is something else to quit an office to be a commentator on Fox News.  And Tea Party members want this woman to be our next president?

I despair for this country.  Democrats have had control of the Executive Branch and both houses of Congress for the last two years.  President Obama was elected on a campaign promise of putting forward major social and economic changes.  Instead of using that control in both houses and the Executive Branch to make good on these promises, President Obama and the leaders in the House and the Senate spent two years dickering with Republican Senate and House members (who was declared goal was to block every single legislative program with the express purpose of capturing more seats in the midterm elections.) And that is exactly what has happened.  Democrats have not had the guts to push their own agenda.  I believe they deserve to lose.  If you don’t have the courage of your convictions, then perhaps you use should not lead.

I believe the 2008 and 2010 election cycles are based on the electorate crying out for leadership. I think most of us feel the country has been headed in the wrong direction for the last ten years and wanted a change. They asked for that with the election of President Obama.  He has failed to deliver.  For example, the health care bill did not go far enough.  He did not cause runaway health-care costs to be reduced for the average Of American.  He spent too much time dickering with the healthcare industry (the folks who are causing the cost run-up in the first place) and with Republicans (again those people whose only goal in life is to recapture the presidency).

It is the same thing with re-regulation and control of the financial industries. The regulations being put in place today are being written by the same group of Ivy League financiers that gave us the problem in the first place. The regulations do not go far enough in controlling this industry. The American public knows it and is angry.

Last year, there was an uproar when the same bankers who caused the financial meltdown were being awarded large bonuses. In answer to this outcry, the Ivy League financiers trotted out the argument that the bonuses had to be paid because of “contractual obligations”. The problem is that we all knew that the Ivy League financiers knew about these large contractual bonuses when they were negotiating the bailout of these major banks.

During this bailout, detailed contracts were being renegotiated and new terms set in place. These individual contracts, with their large salaries and their scheduled large bonuses, could have and should have been renegotiated at that time. If an individual refused to accept these renegotiated terms, then their employment could have and should have been terminated. With economy as tough as it was unsure that they would have accepted those terms.

Further, with all of the layoffs in the financial industry, it goes without saying that finding well-qualified individuals to fill the spots of those who quit would not be hard to come by. This is what happens to the steelworker, on a file clerk or even the PhD executive. In this economy, there’s always someone willing to take the job in a lower, more reasonable, salary and to forgo bonuses. If this wasn’t, so it seemed like politics as usual. And this is going to cost the Democrats in the election.

It is activity like this that is fueling the anger on the Right, and that the lack of enthusiasm on the Left.

I would not despair if the Republican Party had more to offer than tax cuts for the wealthy and the slashing of any program that supports the elderly, poor or the disabled and a return to the deregulation of any and all industry. These programs have proven to be disastrous and there’s no reason to believe that going back to them would do anything other than bring on more of the same.

I would not despair if the Democratic Party could find its way clear to have the courage of its beliefs and fight for their policies as hard as the Republicans fight for theirs.   But it seems as if the Democrats won’t, so I despair.

[Ron Williams is a frequent quest writer on this site.  He is a former attorney and a current Texan living in a free country with changing contingencies.]

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From contributor Ron Williams…

I have read in recent days that Rick Sanchez as been fired from his CNN anchor job for making what was claimed to be “anti-Semitic” comment regarding Jewish control of the television networks.  Recently Mr. Sanchez has started making the rounds of other television shows apologizing for his comments claiming that they were both “anti-Semitic” and wrong.

I watched with some amusement the ABC View program with the commentators bending over backwards to deny that his comments were true and to assert that even if they were not true that they were somehow anti-Semitic.  If Jews predominate the entertainment industry, so what?    I am somewhat at a loss to understand why Jews predominating the entertainment industry is anymore anti- semantic than saying that blacks predominate in basketball is racist today.  It seems that these commentators on the View and others protest too much.  And they do so without offering any proof that the statements are in fact anti-Semitic. They offer no explanation or support for the assertion that these comments, whether true or untrue are in of themselves “anti-Semitic.”

Furthermore, I do not believe that the comments were in fact an accurate, and therefore should not be considered “anti-Semitic”.  I worked several years in the entertainment industry as an entertainment attorney.  I noted empirically that a large number of Jewish persons were in control of the creative and decision-making positions in the entertainment industry, including music, motion pictures, publishing and television.  If in fact that is the case, then stating a truism cannot be “anti–” anything.

The concentration of Jewish people in the entertainment industry as historical underpinnings.  At the turn of the previous century, Jewish performers were highly concentrated in the Vaudeville circuit.  In addition, I believe you will find that a significant number of the vaudeville houses were also owned by Jewish proprietors.  Additionally, you will find that the majority of the songwriters and performers were Jewish.  Jewish entertainers from George P Cohan, Al Jolson to Fanny Brice dominated the vaudevillian circuits.  I understand that not every performer who was popular was Jewish, but there is no denial that Jews dominated the vaudeville circuit.  A similar situation existed in both music publishing and performance.

In the early days of the film industry, Jewish entrepreneurs also dominated the production and performance in motion pictures , and the financing for these motion pictures came from Jewish controlled banks in New York.  This pattern has continued through to today.  I challenge anyone to look at the rosters of the key executives who control of the creative aspects of all of the major networks, the motion picture industry, the music industry and publishing and show that the predominant group controlling these industries are not Jewish.

Having said this, I find no problem with these industries being predominated by Jews.  In the early days, entertainers were not held in high esteem.  This is an area that Jews could succeed.  That is often the case for groups that have suffered discrimination by the majority population.  One need only look at national athletics both historically and today to see this pattern repeats itself.  You can follow the progression of discrimination against various ethnic groups with their progression through the professional boxing ranks.

Today, no one can dispute the fact that national football and basketball are dominated by African Americans.  Also note the significant number of Spanish-surname ballplayers we are seeing now in professional baseball, players coming from countries such as the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico where sports is seen as a way out of poverty.  WHEN ANY GROUP IS DENIED the full range of professions in this society, it is only natural that they take the path of least resistance to achieve success.  African Americans for several generations now have seen athletics as one of the few viable path to economic success.  That is probably why you see more African Americans in football and basketball.  It is not because African Americans are carefully better football players or basketball. In turn of the previous century, entertainment was an available track for success.

This overreaction is even more dramatic when I see commentators like Glen Beck make all kinds of wild assertions about the President and other African Americans with impunity.  I also note that Glen Beck make their assertions on their programs while Rick Sanchez made his comments on another program w2hile being interviewed.  It seems as if his First Amendment rights have taken a back seat on this issue.  Again methinks they protest this too much.

So before we see Rick Sanchez do an endless round of apologies for his statement, people demanding his apologies should show that his statements are in fact incorrect.  But more importantly, whether they are correct or incorrect, his statement should not be a reason for his termination.  If the statements are not true then slapped him on the wrist for making an untrue statement.  But I believe that upon examination will be shown that his statements are in large part true. And whether true or not, I believe there is nothing wrong with a situation where Jews would be in control of the entertainment industry.  Just like there’s nothing wrong with African Americans being the predominant football and basketball players or that Hispanics are now coming dominate boxing. If Jews control the entertainment industry, so what.

[Ron Williams is a retired attorney living in The Woodlands, TX, and a welcome guest contributor to Social Mode]

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This video is a great example of how the talking heads stir up the problems they are trying to accuse everyone else of creating.

The question is… can the media do anything that keeps an audience that isn’t “a broad brush” or over generalization of complex issues?

I say no.  and as disappointing as that is… what can really be done about it?

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Pressler in his NYT article of May 18th 2010, takes a stab at explaining why Connecticut’s attorney general, Richard Blumenthal and other unnamed people in the lime-light say and perform in corrupt or dishonest ways to get ahead can be accounted for as “rooted in the dishonesty that surrounded the Vietnam-era draft.”

If only life was so simple and had a list of absolute causes and values as he posits.  His argument is flawed; No, not in the straw-man ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ sense.

Just because he lived in the midst of the Vietnam War changes doesn’t give him or his generation any special knowledge [as implied] of that period he calls the “The Technicality Generation”.

“… many in my generation knew they were using a broken (but legal) system to shirk their duty. They cloaked themselves in idealism but deep down had to know they were engaging in a charade. (I, too, was against the Vietnam war and felt that people should protest, but not dodge their draft responsibility.)

The above quote shows that what Pressler valued, others didn’t, be it the system, the War, the ‘duty’ to serve, and so on.  It also points out a more insidious case that (1) fear of consequences is a pervasive driver of behavior and (2) we [Homo sapiens] don’t have the slightest understanding of why we do what we do and don’t do what we don’t do.

The latter point (2) is the point of this response to his article.

Pressler has confused the causes with some effects — in his castigation of others in his article. It is not BECAUSE of the Vietnam War, but having an understanding of what you value was up for assessment in the 60’s.  Rules of life were changing.  More and more people were seeing patterns that didn’t make sense.  More and more people were questioning the basis of past rules in the context of their 28,500 days on earth.  They were questioning the basis of past antecedents linked to how they were supposed to behave as well as the expected consequences for that behavior.

The fact that “someone poorer or less educated, and usually African-American, had to serve” when others didn’t, is one of those consequences in life, not just for Vietnam, but for life in general.  As a Rhodes Scholar Pressler might want to review history, contingencies  management, and factors modulating individual behavior.

Besides finances and education, many of those who served were also culturally separate, had different histories, had different contexts and had different prospects for the immediate futures than those who didn’t.  Yes, there were a large number of African-Americans.  There was also an abundance of other minorities as well, just as it is today in a volunteer armed services world.  This ‘abundance’ has an abundance of causes.  None of those minorities had exactly the same set of values [learned rules in cultural – community] for enlisting, serving or NOT serving and avoiding Vietnam.

This Pressler logic implies that everyone who used the law, their circumstances, etc., and didn’t go to Vietnam had similar values and everyone that did go to Vietnam had a different set of values – like those aligned with Pressler himself which he contends were the correct values.  As if Pressler himself or his generation invented functional dualism, Pressler then castigates others for not doing what he did concerning his definition of “basic responsibilities.”

“Once my generation got in the habit of saying one thing and believing another, it couldn’t stop.”

Please!

If all that happened in the 60’s hadn’t happened as it did, things would be different today than they are.

His contention is that things would be better.  I maintain that he has a long way to go to show any such reason for that conclusion. If anything he has shown that ‘the system’ that he and others fought for, works…  including catching up to Mr. Blumenthal’s and having the consequences of his betrayal of constituents, state, friends and family come into play.  Maybe due to the thorough level of vetting of individuals Pressler’s article should more poignantly have been titled:  “FROM THE VETTING GENERATION: WELCOME!”

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The iPad, like the iPod, iPhone, and iMac isn’t a revolution in computer science, design interface, consumer packaging nor ui. It’s a revolution of the economics of those things. Now that there’s a device on the market now at 500 bucks and an unlimited data plan for 30 bucks a month it’s almost assured that the iPad type of computing and media platform will be popularized and maybe not even by apple. The hype of the technology will surely drown out the economic story for some time but in the long run the implications of the price of this technology will be the big story.

Sure we have sub 500 dollar computers and media devices. they have never been this functional or this easy. Apple has just shown what is possible so now the other competitors will have to follow suit. It really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme if it’s apple or htc or google or microsoft or Sony who wins the bragging wars each quarter – the cat is out of the bag – cost effective, easy to use, and fun computing for everyone is possible in a mass producible construction.

There are some interesting side effects coming out of this. If a business can’t make huge profits from the hardware or the connection or the applications where will the profit come from? (I’m not saying companies won’t mark good profits I just don’t think it will be sustainable – especially for companies used to big margins.)

Obviously the sales of content matters. Books, movies, games, music and so on. This computing interface makes it far more easy to buy content and get a sense that it was worth buying. If the primary access channel is through a browser I think people aren’t inclined to pay – we all are too used to just freely browsing. On a tablet the browser isn’t the primary content access channel.

The challenge for content providers is that quality of the content has to be great. This new interface requires great interactivity and hifi experiences. Cutting corners will be very obvious to users. There’s also not really some easy search engine to trick into sending users to a sub par experience. That only works when the primary channel is the browser.

If advertising is going to work well on this platform boy does there have to be a content and interaction shift in the industry. Banners and search ads will just kill an experience on this device. Perhaps more old school magazine style ads will work because once your in an app you can’t really do some end around or get distracted. Users might be willing to consume beautiful hifi ads. Perhaps the bigger problem is that sending people to a browser to take action on an ad will be quite weird.

Clicks can’t be the billable action anymore. Clicks aren’t the same on a tablet! (in fact, most Internet ads won’t work on the iPad. Literally. Flash and click based ads won’t function)

Perhaps the apps approach to making money will work. To date the numbers don’t add up. Unless users are willing to pay more for apps than they do on the iPhone only a handful of shops will be able to handle the economics of low margin, mass software. So for the iPad apps seem to be higher priced. More users coming in may change that though.

In a somewhat different vein…. Social computers will be a good source of cold and flu transmission. If we’re really all going to be leaving these lying about and passing them between each other, the germs will spread. Doesn’t bother me, but some people might consider that.

Will users still need to learn a mouse in the future?

Should we create new programming interfaces that are easier to manipulate with a touch screen. Labview products come to mind?

What of bedroom manners? The iPhone and blackberries are at least small…

And, of course, the porn industry. The iPhone wasn’t really viable as a platform. This touch based experience with big screens… Use your imagination and I’m sure you can think up some use cases…

I do think this way of interacting with computers is here to stay. It’s probably a good idea to think through how it changes approaches to making money and how we interact with each other. I’d rather shape our interactions than be pushed around unknowingly….

Happy Monday!

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