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5 Reasons This Article Is Useless

tang
When did it start these articles solely comprised of numerical lists? Is it the natural evolution from magazine covers;”50 New Looks For Spring” “15 Ways To Make Him Swoon” “10 Tricks To Getting A Proposal”? At some point it was discovered that people respond to Arabic numerals. (You will never see a magazine cover emblazoned with “Twelve Ways To Spruce Up Your Pantry” or “IX Ways To Rock His World”.)

Numerical lists are really only compatible with the most practical of subjects. No one needs flowery exposition on stain removal. Just tell us which 10 items will work best on synthetics. Anything that involves shopping certainly warrants only lists and photos. The average person will slip into unconsciousness having to read anything about high-waisted pants beyond; ‘buy them now’. But articles about human relationships, education, politics, and culture do not lend themselves to bullet points. However numbered lists sell and therein lays the conundrum.

The writer who pens a fully fleshed out piece is pressured to insert numbers (in the title and the body). A writer seeking readership might resort to creating lists versus narrative. There is usually some measure of disappointment for the reader in discovering that the “10 Guys You Should Avoid At All Costs” is a list of 5 guys whose description is vague enough to cover every man who’s walked the earth and 5 guys who are such caricatures as to be more suited to science fiction.

Part of the appeal of these lists passing as content is our attention span as readers. We’re at the point at which we consider a 140 character Tweet to be ‘wordy’. If an email stretches beyond a paragraph (and it better be a tight paragraph) we’ve lost the reader. This love of condensed and concentrated delivery unfortunately extends to the theatre as well. Theatre producers regularly consider the length of a play before mounting a production. Some artistic directors even apologize for a full-length production. The good news is that the trend can’t continue forever. We are not going to devolve into communicating solely through grunts and emoticons. We will probably never revert back to four-hour movies (with intermissions). But some bounce back will occur. People will tire of Tang, they usually do. A new generation is bound to ‘discover’ meaningful and full-length content.

Now I did promise to list 5 Reasons This Article Is Useless. But I trust you dear reader to compile that list on your own.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2013 in Media/Marketing

 

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All aTwitter

comicbooks

There are two (polar opposite) views of modernity. There are the early adopters who froth and queue up for new and shiny gizmos and gewgaws and then there are the progress curmudgeons. These curmudgeons sit on their metaphorical porches and attribute the downfall of society to; ‘those dadgum moving picture shows.’ Most of us fall somewhere in the middle of these two opposing views. The early adopters aren’t a new concept (please don’t tell them that it would just kill them) people have been running to buy what’s being sold since the first wheel kiosk opened. It’s the progress curmudgeons that are far more fascinating. Nobody is born a progress curmudgeon. Every kid is intrigued by something newer, faster, and shinier. No, a curmudgeon must be created. They must find a time in history and stick with it. Any and all things that came after these glory days must not be trusted.

This is not an entirely irrational perspective; some things simply aren’t made as well as they once were. For instance clothes used to be made to last a lifetime, although who would want to wear the same clothes for their entire life alludes me. Cars were far less disposable, but they were also lethal (both for riders and for anyone in the car’s path.) Certainly items were easier to use once upon a time. Picking up the phone and asking the operator to connect you was easier than…pushing a speed dial button? Well a typewriter was certainly easier to use than a computer. You only need insert a ribbon (use lye to remove the ink from your fingers,) insert paper, reinsert paper after you realize the lye missed some spots and ink has leached onto the paper, insert paper again with carbon paper (use lye to remove carbon from fingers) commence typing, commence searching for white-out, miraculously finish letter, try and type address onto envelope, give up and handwrite envelope, find stamp, walk to mailbox, repeat. Fine, communication is easier but what about music. Don’t you miss records? You remember records don’t you? There were those paradoxically highly fragile yet extremely heavy items you had to lug around with you through life. They crackled and skipped and sounded nothing like the real thing.

I think we can all agree that progress is just that; progress. We don’t have to like it and we don’t have to adopt it, but we cannot argue with the fact that it is progress. No one wants to feel left behind or to have his/her rituals upended. But discounting progress, or worse imbuing progress with negative consequences is misguided. How many times have you heard people blaming modern movies and videos for increased violence (as if silent movies weren’t horrifically violent)? And what of this notion that social media is to blame for increased bullying. It’s not lax parenting, or the soul crushing experience of a Kindergarten graduation ceremony that leads to the self-esteem issue that is always at the root of bullying. Nope, it’s social media that is to blame. The same social media that allows for positive reinforcement that simply does not exist in any other domain of the real world with the exception of group therapy. Before the advent of (social media) Linkedin did anyone ever publicly endorse your skills? Whether it is a meaningful gesture or has any validity at all is beside the point. It is a public attaboy that simply did not exist in the past. Before we tweeted, did we publicly support other’s views or endeavors? Do we even remember a life before Facebook and the villages it’s created? When, beside a reunion (family or class) did we ever cheer accomplishments, offer sympathies and coo over baby pictures?

Expanding our sense of community is always a good thing. It reinforces our attachment and obligation to the larger world. Humans despite their many differences are at their core the same; they need to be connected to other people. It is not the gaming or chatting that encourages antisocial behavior; it’s the fact that people are using these outlets to avoid social behavior. In that sense the video game is no more detrimental than the comic book (which was also decried as the downfall of civilization.) The progress doesn’t create maladjusted people, it’s that maladjusted people still crave human interaction, simulated or not. Banning or demonizing the tangible is always more tempting than dealing with the elusive. The only way to reach troubled people is to reach out to troubled people. Blaming something we don’t care for or don’t understand is distracting and disingenuous. Social media, comic books, dime novels or pool do not create trouble. Troubled people are drawn to things that make them feel less alone.

 

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The Darkest Decade

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A museum when done right should teach, inspire and evoke an emotional response. There are some museums whose content and themes are so inherently powerful they must rely on the absence of stimuli to evoke a response. Often some section of the museum is devoid of audio or descriptive copy. There is a four-story glass sculpture of freedom, or a pile of suitcases or a melted police car. The power of these selected image(s) can be breathtaking and utterly unnerving.

The Newseum (in Washington D.C.) has not a single quiet space. It is like the topic itself, unrelenting, riveting and compelling. Headlines, newsprint, broadcasts, artifacts and photographs form a cacophony of meta and micro information. “Oh right, THAT event! And how was it covered?” No stone is left unturned in answering the question. (Did you know a journalist created the FBI 10 Most Wanted list? See that!) The Pulitzer Prize Photography gallery is an embarrassment of riches. There are 70 years worth of stunning imagery to be admired and absorbed. Factoring in that the prize was offered in two categories beginning in 1968, that’s a lot of photos. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and mentally mutter “Nice” “Well done” in a monotonous tone. But something unexpected happens by the time you reach the 1960s-1970s section. A theme, spanning over 10 years, begins to develop, and a lump in the throat and pit of the stomach forms.

We’ve seen (most of) these photos over the years individually. The image of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald (Robert H. Jackson) has become part of how we talk about Kennedy’s assassination. We’ve all seen, and perhaps turned our heads, from the image of a naked child running from napalm (Huyhn Cong Ut) and of the Saigon execution (Edward T. Adams). We may recall the university campus gun violence (Kent State and Cornell.) But it is the (1967) photo of James Meredith (the first African-American student to attend the segregated University of Mississippi,) shot on a Mississippi road displayed in proximity to a photo of Ted Landsmark being attacked with the United States flag a full ten years later that is horrifying. And that is the point of this startling decade of American history. There was simply so much, so very much violence. Even the uplifting photos are a reminder of violence and sorrow. The unadulterated joy on the faces of Col. Robert L. Stirm’s family upon his return is a reminder of the heartbreak of Viet Nam soldiers Missing In Action. The war, the assassinations, the racism, the plight of the migrant workers and the violence; it’s all there in obscene excess in those 10 years.

King

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2013 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing

 

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Springtime For Galliano

The Producers

The fashion industry isn’t exactly known for its high ideals. It is an industry that maintains its mystique with a finely orchestrated and rarified air of exclusivity. It is an intricate web of people and professions with a handful of uniquely talented people. At the very center of the web are the design houses. There is usually one person (perhaps with the same name as the label) at the core of the house and hundreds if not thousands surrounding him/her. The work is done by; designers, merchandisers, buyers, sewers, fitters, publicists, and so on and so on. The larger web of the fashion industry consists of media, models, hair & make-up technicians, event planners…and so on and so on. It is a vast industry that’s profitability is dependent upon the marketability of those few at the center of the web.

If the (buying) public doesn’t believe in the unique fabulousness of a designer or brand the brand fails. Nobody needs a designer garment. Unless you are a collector (of which there are very few) a high priced item is not an investment, in fact it is most likely a seasonal item. What the industry relies on is the profitability of its glamour. Consumers are not buying an expensive shirt they are buying a (insert designer name.) The result is an entire industry predicated on being cool. In every area of the fashion world people are vying to be the coolest kid in the class. And just like high school, the pursuit doesn’t bring out the best in people.

Models engage in some dark behavior, as do the people who hire them. Media can make or break careers and often do. This power can result in some unattractive goings on (young have been eaten.) The media are of course the most closely aligned with designers & labels. They’re the head cheerleader and the quarterback if you will. Together they are a beacon of popularity and power. Intricate and unseemly relationships are forged and maintained and all their minions profit from the alliance. And at times the alliance can be wholly unholy.

When those in a position (they have carefully cultivated) of power defend, support and protect a man convicted of anti-Semitic and racial remarks no one should be all that surprised. That so many people have had a hand in aiding and abetting Mr. Galliano is a bit of a surprise however. In 2011 when the news broke and a video was produced of Galliano’s vitriolic tirade, it was not surprising when Natalie Portman spoke out and dropped out of a Dior campaign. It was not surprising when Dior let Galliano then go. It wasn’t surprising when a stylist (aka professional shopper) known for her work in a Candace Bushnell franchise, rallied to Mr. Galliano’s defense comparing his actions to that of Mel Brooks. (The surprise would’ve been if she had said anything less outrageous.) In the two years since Galliano’s exposure Oscar de la Renta and Anna Wintour (and their followers) have been quietly and clandestinely grooming him for his comeback. It is reported that Ms. Wintour secured a mysterious position for Galliano with de la Renta. Together they have created a precise scenario designed to remind people of Galliano’s talent while keeping their hands technically clean. Galliano has no official title, but the (media created) buzz is that he was behind the Fall 2013 line.

People make mistakes and should not lose their entire lives because of a drunken outburst. But Mr. Galliano still denies just about everything and has yet to apologize publicly. It is unlikely that the tirade wasn’t a reflection of his true feelings. People rarely do anything drunk that they didn’t wish they could do sober. A person should be allowed to have their thoughts and feelings; as long as they’re kept private. If a camera had not captured the ugliness most people would never know, but there’s no unringing that bell. Instead what we have is an ousted and shamed designer who is having his popularity secretly rehabilitated by the head cheerleader and the quarterback.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2013 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing

 

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Stopping The Madness

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When real news occurs technology and 24-hour access is a blessing. By patching together information from responsible radio sources, social chatter, and television visuals, we are able to piece together a reliable narrative. Our data gathering is confirmed and/or tweaked by the next morning’s newspaper. But when there is no more news, when we know what there is to know, the coverage still continues. The cameras and the microphone-wielding reporters scramble to create news after the fact.

Mobs of coffee swilling, logo wearing news personnel pass the time texting and chatting, waiting for a passerby to descend upon. They are rewarded for their perseverance by the person who desires to be photographed/interviewed. We could spend hours working out why anyone would want to place flowers on the ground while a swarm of dozens of camera people hover over one’s head. Perhaps it’s a similar motivation to wanting to go on record with “I didn’t really know him, he seemed different.” It’s odd but it is human nature to want to be part of something bigger.

But do we gain anything from the vulgar intrusion into people’s lives and the manufacturing of ‘news?’ The real events are usually horrific enough. No one need look for more horror. Every ‘expert’ frantically grabbed for a soundbite can pontificate from the news desk. If there is still news to come out of local offices, a reporter can be there and file the report the information. On-site cameras are not needed to report medical examiner reports or investigative results. Beside the stomach-turning element to covering mourning and grief is the danger of anesthetizing the public. While we don’t want to live in a state of perpetual sorrow, we most certainly don’t want to find ourselves numb and/or nonchalant about such horrific events. What is almost unthinkable is how the non-stop coverage can actually lead to more tragedy.

We can’t begin to ever really know what goes on in someone else’s mind. But we can look for clues and make educated guesses and predictions. A person ill at ease in the world, unable to connect with other people can retreat into a very dark world. If someone feels that they will never be able to be an active participant in life can look for ways to make their mark in death. No, it is not a simple equation and it by no means suggests that all socially awkward people retreat into darkness. But people who feel part of the world and valued by others wouldn’t look for ways to enact revenge on their path to death.

While there is no way to overstate that the time is now to rid our nation of guns and take mental illness seriously, it is also time to stop the media circus. Right now there is some compromised person watching this coverage and thinking of a way to become even more famous. The fact that I’m saying it doesn’t make it true, the fact that you feel it too, does.

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2012 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing

 

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