Saturday, March 26, 2011

A thesis, part 2

When I was a younger man, I wrote a paper for graduate school about the confluence of an expanding litigiousness, a burgeoning "reality" TV market, and the production of the star/celebrity mythos in popular culture (especially as it related to and explained public reaction to Milli Vanilli). Now, all these years later, I have been suddenly hit with another culture related thought. Now, I'm not going to turn this into another thesis, but I have some random thoughts which I will try to lay out in order (well, some order) so I can see if I have an interesting argument.

there are more venues for the release of new music today than in the 60's
there is more chance for a piece of music to be heard and purchased by a world-wide audience than in the 60's
creating music by an individual, especially music with the sound akin to the production of "real" music is easier than in the 60's

therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that there is more chance that an "unknown" or non-establishment artist will dominate (or at least top) sales charts now than in the 60's.
it is also reasonable to assume that there will be in the current charts, a higher percentage of one-hit wonders than in the 70's when the "garage band" mentality of the 60's which allowed for the one hit wonders in an underpopulated industry gave way to centralized production and dissemination of music.

therefore, a prediction:
the established industry will have to co-opt the individual-based market in order to reestablish its predominance. Music distribution venues will collaborate with software developers so those who download and produce homegrown music will have distribution contracts with established companies (and the appropriate rights and royalties packages) included in the software purchase.

We will all be famous, but not for 15 minutes. there will only be time for 3:24, but if you have a video, you'll get recognized in the street by every other famous person.

Monday, March 21, 2011

My new diet

In my ever present quest to find the perfect diet, I have gone far afield and have looked at some of the more extreme diets. One that was popular was the caveman diet. According to it, man should eat natural, raw foods, and (I think) also has to live in a cave. The details are fuzzy. But I think about that diet and the lifestyle which it was part of and I am not convinced. Do I really want to wear an animal skin and have a pronounced forehead ridge? I think not. But, while ancient man was slaving over a hot sabre toothed tiger, there were other 'things' which existed and seemed to be having a gay old time (Flintstones reference, people. Pay attention).

Maybe, I think, perhaps, the goal shouldn't be to be the caveman, but to be an animal. But what kind of animal? At first, I thought I should try to be a lion. I mean, to be the king of the animals? And to have all that hair? Excellent, right? But I did some reading. First of all, lions live where it is really hot. I don't mind the heat, but I can't stand the mosquitoes so that won't work for me. And it's a pity because as food groups go, I'm a huge fan of zebra. Also, lions have to hunt occasionally and that requires running. Not my thing.

I thought about animals which don't have to hunt like the lion, but even if I turned vegetarian and slothful, I'd still end up the size of an elephant. And what kind of diet do I want that has me looking like an elephant? Roadrunner? Too much running. Aardvark? I don't like ants. So what animal's diet should I emulate, knowing that doing so will turn me into that animal?

I have decided on alligator. Before you ask, I'll tell you why not a crocodile. I like being American. U-S-A! U-S-A!

Think about an alligator - live in water, but sun on land. Nice. Eat meat. Nice. Sleek. Nice. Fast in the water (where I already weigh so much less...apparently is has to do with rho GH and MGH and some other letters and numbers) and quickly but apparently lazy on land.

So in pursuit of that, I will eat like an alligator. I just looked it up and I'm not the first to think of this ( so I'll just follow what it says to do there and I should be all set. Then I'll write a book and when people come to have me sign it, I'll eat them.


Video doesn't kill -- people with videos kill

I was in the middle of a conversation about esoteric religions and a song hit me. Pow, it went. And I thought to myself, wow, that's a great song. So, as my nephew walked by, I recommended the song to him. I had him repeat the artist and title and then sent him to a computer because, I figured

1) he has nothing better to do with his time right now
2) he is in a band, so he must appreciate music
3) any song is available on the internet

He came out of the den a few minutes later and said that he didn't much like the song. I asked why and he said "there were all those guys dancing around. I couldn't figure out what was going on."

It seems that the modern idea of a song is inextricably tied to that video presentation. It is almost as if one cannot simply listen to a song -- one must see it before one can try to access its quality. Video isn't killing the radio star because it is a more interesting presentation of the musical package, but because it is becoming the only acceptable or recognizable presentation of said package.

Now this is not unprecedented, nor is it necessarily a bad thing. A while ago, in a moment of both weakness and largesse, I agreed to go to the ballet with my wife. I asked only one favor. I asked to be able to close my eyes and simply listen to the music. I got a solid "no" answer. The visual dimension is apparently part and parcel of the performance and one cannot appreciate the music without it.

So in conclusion, your honor, I would suggest that Video is not guilty, because ballet killed the orchestra star.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cultural Literacy

I had an unexpected and refreshing discussion with a good friend today (via email, of one has face to face talks anymore...reminds me of that great movie "My Facebook with Andre"). His starting position was that cultural literacy was the only redeeming value of a variety of what is considered the liberal arts/literary canon. I made the statement that there are other uses for the material but cultural literacy was part of it. If that's the case, he answered, why not isolate those components which are necessary and simply present them as sine qua nons of cultural literacy. Why must the entire body of work be learned in order to cover a relatively small percentage.

My response ('s like you were there, right?) was that context and place are necessary components to the understanding of the references and allusions. He then wondered whether my position was that cultural literacy required awareness or deep study, and if the latter then most people are culturally illiterate. So of course, this got me thinking.

I think that, yes, most people are culturally illiterate in one way or another. I can talk about Shakespeare but can't about Basketball, and in my culture, a level of literacy regarding sports is necessary in many contexts. I can't talk politics and I can talk music so sometimes I am 'in' and sometimes not. Cultural literacy depends on the aspect of culture currently at play. No one can know everything about everything (except, according to my brother, my brother) and in some areas we are all bound to come up short, whether we want to admit it or not.

The problem is the word "literacy" -- I can't accept a claim to literacy which is really a claim to familiarity. Knowing that "To be or not to be" is by Shakespeare does nothing to let someone understand the psychological import which should be part of its citation in conversation (fortunately for that guy, the guy using it is probably similarly stunted and is using it in its most superficial way, simply as a shorthand for Shakespeare). Think about the scene from the Simpsons ("The Springfield Connection") where everyone is at a July 4 picnic and the band slips Twinkle Twinkle into its performance of Star Wars. Dr Hibbert's reaction? "Devilishiously satirical! I wonder if anyone else got that." Homer heard the reference but he didn't get the cultural value. One isn't literate because one can recognize a word. True reading and literacy mean comprehension of cues and clues and making inferences about importance and meaning. Sure, it isn't about full fledged expertise, but about a level of mastery which comes from something more than simple memorization.

So not to slam humanity, but most of us are culturally illiterate to a large degree. What we don't know, we don't know. And often, what we know, we only know; we don't understand. So when we see it in another context we recognize it as it triggers our factual knowledge, but it doesn't always trigger the deeper cultural significance. Only because it often isn't used with that significance in mind do we get away with not seeing anything deeper in it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The lng and the shooort of it

I do not tweet. I am not a twit. I do not believe that anything I do, which is of real enough significance that it needs to be shared with the rest of the world can be encapsulated in 140 or fewer characters.

Is this the result of an overly developed ego (an accusation heretofore unheard of in my life)? Do I have an overly inflated sense of self importance, convinced that my comings and goings, inherently important, require a minimum of expression which surpasses an SMS text?

I think that that's not it. I think that it might be that I am a product of a bygone era. I mean, who isn't. Almost all of us were born in the past, and those of you born in the future can hold your computerized prosthetic tongues. I write in long, discursive sentences, building ideas in a complex tapestry of phrase. When I write memos I write layered paragraphs, each one more important than the last (though by that logic, one would only need read the final paragraph). People have to read what I write to unlock the secrets. A subtle argument cannot be distilled into a single sentence, nor should it.

Sure, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet could become a twitter post (boy meets girl, families object, elope, double suicide, fin); the Gettysburg Address could be reduced to "87 years ago good guys died. Let's do good by them"; the Warren Commission report doesn't need much space at all (Lee Harvey? Maybe, Maybe not). But shouldn't we resist buying into the writing style which enables the MTV short-attention-span theater approach to pop culture? Shouldn't we cherish the time and energy it takes to engage the written word, unpack meaning, and consider ideas?

Why are we accepting that the brief summary is better than understanding the drawn out process by which a conclusion is reached? Sure, sometimes a bottom line, upshot driven approach is efficient and necessary, but often communication evolves and matures even over the course of a single conversation. Should we deemphasize reading and discernment skills?

I will continue to write too much (possibly to say too little). If you want some pithy sound bite which sums up a difficult idea in 7 words, look elsewhere.

On Time

This was the IT morning. The kids were up relatively early. They had chosen their clothes, packed their bags and even set up their lunches in advance. The house was strangely quiet -- mornings are usually characterized by a lot of yelling and rushing but not this morning. Nobody forgot anything and the transition to the car was flawless. And the commute...what a joy. I must have made every single light on the way. Though it rained, and the roads were somewhat flooded, both with water and poor drivers, both seemingly parted as I approached, leaving me a road unobstructed. I turned corners with authority and had nary a car in front of me to force me to slow down. This was the morning I have been waiting for. The kids left the car smoothly and there were no others crossing the school entrance-ways to delay me. In my own parking lot, I didn't have to wait for anyone to cross, or drop off their own children.

I backed into my spot with a contented smile until I realized that all that karma paying off, all those "cosmic tumblers falling into place" (thanks, Mr. Kinsella) did nothing but get me to work earlier. All that rushing and driving, just to get me to the place that I will spend the next 8 hours waiting to leave.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pure Dribble

Sometimes, even I get thirsty. When I do, I often turn to my good friend "water" to help me out. I was drinking some of the aforementioned water and I noticed a sign on it: "We're 100% sure it is 99.9% pure!"

At first glance I was touched. And then, as is my wont, I thought about it too much and got angry. Blast this temper, I say.

99.9 percent pure. Sure, that sounds good...but I drink a LOT of water. So I figure if there is .1% of impurity and I have ten cups of water, then I have drunk 1% impurity. And if I drink 1000 cups of water, then I have had 100% impurity!! Now, sure, you could say that each cup is actually only .1% impure, but in fact, it works out that 999 of the cups have no impurity and 1 cup has 100% impurity!! If I knew which of the 1000 cups was the one with the impurity in it, then all would be good. BUT I DON'T KNOW WHICH ONE IT IS. Inevitably, I'm going to drink it.

Why am I not getting water which is 100% pure? You know what -- I don't even care what it is pure. It could be pure monkey urine (prized for generations in the outer provinces of the far east) but at least it is pure. I mean, what is in that .1% that is impure? Is it a spiritual impurity? Is it a lack of chastity? How can I continue drinking water without knowing?

This is patently unacceptable.

Dear Diary

Gosh what a day i have been having. I mean, I have been just so busy! This morning, I made up a whole new hot cereal -- it is really yum and probs even good for me. I know, right? Like that can't happen but OMG, it did! But I'm still waiting for that boy to call. Why won't he call me -- I can cook also.

So anyway, remember how I was telling you about how busy I was? Dad had said that controlling Hollywood takes up a lot of time and I never really believed him. That whole Mel Gibson thing wasn't easy but I still had time to go to the dance and in that cherry dress! Awesome!

So I showed daddy! I got Charlie Sheen fired and it only took a couple fo days. I was even able to do my science homework and get some of the stuff right this time. But Charlie Sheen...sure, he used to be cute and he has that mysterious last name thing but Two and a Half Men? Really? Like, is there such a thing as half a man? So I got him all hopped up on those pills that my daddy has for his back and I reminded him that we control him and he just went totally bonkers. It was sooooooo cool.

So after lunch, yesterday, I had to make a couple of calls to ensure that i still controlled the banks. Then I continued to drive the worldwide markets into a tailspin but I had to watch out. If I raise interest rates too much, I tend to sweat and that's gross. Like gym. I hate gym! I mean, who looks good in those baggy sweat pants. You know what is more fun? Fomenting revolution in Arab countries. That has been like a class project recently. A bunch of us got together after the ZOG meeting and decided to mess around with the dictatorships of the middle east and it has been so much fun. Except for that witchy Rina! She called Moish and told him that I thought he was cute? He is so not cute. Why would she do that? I thought we were friends!

And now daddy says I have to buy Dior to thank them for getting rid of that designer guy who said all that stuff after we got him drunk. I swear I had nothing to do with that one. I think my "little" brother is finally taking some initiative. Soon, we'll have to teach him the secret handshake. But I'm not gonna touch him because he is so yucky.

Anyway, I hope to buy a pack of gum later with my allowance, and then I have to be home for dinner. mom is making mor food wit the blood of Christian children. I am sooooo going veggie. Tomorrow night ;) lolz

CU then!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

National Geographicalism

So with the help of two high school seniors, I have developed the definitive proof that the earth is round. Also, note, I did not capitalize the word "earth" because I think that the earth gets too much press as it is.

So here's the thing. You know how if you go all the way around a sphere, you end up back where you started, right?

I'll assume you said "right" because I'm just NOT WRONG on this one.

So if you are in New York, and you head south, you move into what we call "the South." See, captial S -- it DID rise again.

But if you keep going south, you end up in Florida. Now, while in the top of Florida you are in the south, being right by Alabama and sweat, if you keep going, the curvature of the earth kicks in. Suddenly, you find yourself in Miami Beach. And that's just a suburb of New York. So there you have it.

And from one of the same students (who wants a shout out to her blog only until I volunteer to give her one), comes the word "Orinthology" -- the study of OJ Simpson and his flight from justice.

[original version -- "Orinthology -- the study of the Fight or Flight response" does that work better? Vote now!]

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Divide and Conquer

I think that the world is made up of two kinds of people but I'm not going to be someone who splits us up into groups, labels us and creates the sense of otherhood which will drag us all down. I do think, though, that there are a variety of interesting ways that we approach each other when we relate. If we relate.

There is an age old adage...something akin to a golden rule even that says something to the effect of "treat others the way you would want to be treated." This is an interesting approach. If we want to be given a certain reaction in a given situation, we must give others that reaction. But this flies in the face of an equally valid and time-tested truism "opposites attract." If so, then the way we treat otehrs will have to be decidedly different from how they treat others or else we will have no reason to want to be around them. Darn them and their confounding riddles.

When we go to others for sympathy, do we want sympathy? If we give sympathy, then maybe we can't (don't, shouldn't) expect it from anyone else. If we judge others, do we do so specifically because we do or do not want others to judge us? Is "Judge not lest ye be judged" a warning or a promise?

Part of the tension in life comes from unmet expectations, but those unmet expectations are often unmet because they are not expressed, or are not able to be met because a situation has been established, predicated on the expectations' not being met. I only talk to you because you won't talk back. That's what makes it work. But when I want you to talk, you don't simply because you either don't know I want that or are only here because you don't talk. Confusing, right? Imagine how I feel.

No wait, don't. Or better, forget I asked.