Thursday, August 11

trial by fire

I spent this morning at the unemployment office. I was there to get fingerprinted, now a mandatory requirement for anyone seeking assistance in New York State. In the waiting room both televisions were set to a low drone of CNN, and talks about the stock market. Many analysts are worried that the country might slide back into a recession. But I have a secret for you, the recession never ended.

The unemployment rate has been above 9% since May of 2009 except for a single two month dip to 8.8% in early 2011. Millions of people remain unemployed, many with little access to health care. The recovery did little to help except disguise the fact that this is a depression not a recession. When you have a population unemployed for this long they become demoralized. Elected officials and media pundits tell them they did something wrong, that they should tighten their belts, meanwhile corporate executives make record salaries, and the wealthiest Americans pay record low taxes.

Those who are able to find work, find it at places like McDonalds who recently sponsored the National Hiring Day; a publicity stunt to hire 50,000 new workers on a single day this spring. But even McDonalds was not prepared for the overwhelming response. Over 1 million people put in applications. This underscores the desperation out there for any work (full disclosure: I am former McDonalds employee, so I know how shitty of a place it can be to work). There have even been reports of companies post positions with the phrase “the unemployed need not apply”. Turns out that the only valuable workers these days are the ones who already have jobs. Sorry 9.1% of people out of work. Tough luck.

As some people begin to be rehired at a lower salary base, their ability to spend is reduced. They begin to cut back; they begin to spend less in the market place. And since we no longer have a manufacturing sector that supports our economy, weakening consumer spending means a slow down in the economy. Compounded by the fact that the richest among us feel they are entitled to live in their decadence while millions of children don’t have access to education, medicine or food. Over looking the fact that a modest tax hike from them could help offset our national debt, help fund incredibly important programs like Medicare and social security, and put people back to work. Instead they lament the suggestion that they tighten their belts and pay more taxes as an aggressive assault on freedom, one that can only be met with the dismantling of the US government.

Thus these last 3 years have been one very slow car wreck.

We all heard of the “recovery summer” where the government pumped money into projects meant to kick start the economy. Unfortunately it didn’t work, a) because it was mismanaged, and b) because the sum wasn’t large enough. But it did create a lot of “confidence “ in the stock market, giving the illusion of economic growth. It is only in the wake of the past few days that these overly optimistic projections have been called into question. The tax breaks and growth of the corporate state since the crisis has not been reinvested into the American economy. Instead it has gone to the coffers of greedy, extravagant men who have fooled us all into believing that their compensation is just. Those elected to watch out for our well-being are at best complacent and at worst complicit. We face a systematic failure of the government to protect the interests of the people through regulations and enforcement.

We have allowed those in the financial sector to high jack our tax money. The money that should have gone to building schools and fixing education, or to making sure everyone is cover by health insurance, or towards building a better, bigger, cleaner train network to move people and goods across this country. But instead of dreaming for the future and all that we can accomplish, we have let competing private interests distort our vision for a just society in the name of profit and personal gain

We must decide that somethings are more important than profits. That we should pay teachers well and give them benefits. That we should make sure that every man woman and child has access to the best medical science we have to offer. That we should reduce our pollution, research new energy sources, and explore the wonders of the cosmos. We should be doing all these things, but we can’t until we get out from under this spell of market fundamentals.

The US got off relatively light at the start of the collapse. Unlike the UK, who is now seeing riots and violence as a result of the economic downturn in that country, the US hasn’t faced the tax increases and austerity measures that were put in place there, expect that to change. This crisis isn’t over. We are headed toward a bigger crisis than the one we saw in 2008. It is just a matter of time.

These are systemic problems, and they need to be dealt with by serious men, and unfortunately we do not have any serious men in congress right now. The debt ceiling debate is proof of that. One side wants to burn the place to the ground the other wants to postpone any real action until after the next election cycle. These career politicians are more worried about supporting fundamentalist ideology or being elected for another term then they are with the difficult decisions that need to be made. These are selfish men and women, held up by process or arrogance. They are unable to act, only able to posture and point and take industry money to feed this constant state of gridlock.

So what can one do? Well first one can read this article by alternative media entitled “8 Reasons Young Americans Don't Fight Back: How the US Crushed Youth Resistance”. And second you can get involved with a little direct action. Those of you who are in and around New York City should come to Occupy Wall Street on September 17th for some good ol protesting and chanting. I would also like to take this opportunity to recommend a very good book called “The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot” by Naomi Wolf about how democracies transition to authoritarian regimes and what to look out for (super congress anybody?).

Til next time, keep fighting the good fight.

Saturday, July 9

altered states

I have been reading a lot of articles recently about the enhancement of video media. News reports, and TV shows being subtly altered to, in the words of network executives, “enhance” the experience for the viewer. Isn’t that so considerate, making our viewing experiences “better”. In most cases, “better” means whatever the producer thinks will make the show/clip/event more attractive (read lucrative) to an audience. For example take Fox who was recently busted for making the crowd at one of its dismal reality shows twice as large. Now first of all this is a surprisingly bad fake. I mean look at the obvious woman in the orange jacket repeated twice. I only have a semester of final cut experience and that is a mistake that I could have avoided, and I am certainly not making as much money as the video editors for Fox. Fox apologized for the fake, stating that it was a clear reproduction, but if it was so clear, how did it get by the editors, producers, and directors in the first place?

How about ads retroactively being placed in old reruns of your favorite show. I mean it would be convenient to watch old episodes but still be in the know for what current crap to buy next. recently highlighted this practice. Below are two shots from an episode of “How I Met Your Mother” The one on the top is from the original broadcast, the one on the bottom is the rerun. You can see that the lamp was replaced with a script? For the new film The Zookeeper.

But how did that get there? This episode is from 2007? Well thank goodness that corporate executives don’t have to worry about a little thing called continuity, I mean good writing and acting only get in the way of the commercial message. Lets not forget that the primary function of television is to sell you stuff, not to tell you stories.

But if you think this behavior is relegated to the relm of fictional narritive, than you are sadly mistaken. CBS recently aired a broadcast of the fireworks show in Boston. After a few people called in and questioning some of the impossible views of Boston’s most historic landmarks, CBS admitted to “digitally altering” some of the broadcast to “highlight great places in Boston, historical places with direct ties to the Fourth”. Unfortunately in some cases that meant removing other parts of Boston to get these impossible perspectives. In essence CBS took it upon themselves to reorganize the landscape of Boston to suit their interests, and as a consequence gave viewers an “unreal” representation of the city.

But what is real? Is it what really happens or is it what is reproduced and people experience through media? Does CBS have the right to air these altered footage without a disclaimer? Does it matter that Fox faked the crowd to look bigger? Can we call these things lies or they merely misrepresentations or are they neither? Are they just the vision of an artist who uses any means necessary to paint the kind of picture he or she wants you to see?

Theorist Jean Baudrillard talks about the hyperreal, the simulacra. It is the inability to distinguish reality from fantasy, and is a symptom of technologically advanced cultures. When we watch a broadcast, see a photo or view media with our own eyes and it appears to be “real” there is really no way for us to know if it has been altered or not, unless we are experts, and even then the experts miss things. When we live in a world that is saturated in “enhanced” images and media, how do we begin to perceive real life? Are the women we met in real life less attractive because if all the “unreal” women we are used to seeing? Do we care about the forests in our backyard as much as the forests on Pandora, even though they lack the richness of color and lushness of foliage? Do we join the protest against corrupt politicians and corporations when the crowd had been “enhanced” to half of its actual size? In a society that has come to rely so much on consuming media, we often don’t stop to ask ourselves, is this true? Is this correct? My eyes may not lie, but media, in all its varying forms, is almost predisposed to.

Wednesday, June 15

Nation of Tralier Addicts

This is one of my favorite shots from Super 8

I have been freaking out over the epicness of Super 8 ever since I saw it last week. I have been gushing to everyone, my mother, my coworkers, strangers on the street, but I have been getting a lukewarm response. People keep saying to me “yeah, I hear it’s GREAT, and it got amazing reviews, but I just don’t know”. What could their possibly be left to know? What's the problem? If everyone is telling you that the acting is great, the story is great and it brings you a warm feeling for a nostalgic past that we are sorely lacking in these modern times, what the hell else are you waiting for? Is it because unlike other summer movies, Super 8 didn’t pander to its audience with a marketing campaign that cums in your face with visual effects, sound bites, and the entire plot wrapped up in a 2 min package? Or because it wasn’t flashing on your phone, and your TV,and on the twitter and the facebook, and didn’t have a viral marketing campaign to sell you a set of eight plastic collectors cups (coincidentally poisoned with lead) that you forgot there were movie theaters playing movies in your town this weekend?

Hollywood seems to think so. There have been loads of stories over the last week speculating about the “success” of Super 8. Insiders have been worried that due to “soft tracking” the film would not have a big release. Fortunately the film had a better than expected release with a $38 million opening, but that didn’t stop the Hollywood doomsayers. The industry has been critical of the films approach to marketing. Particularly around keeping the main plot points and special effects tightly under wraps(something that is extremely difficult to do in the age of internet leaking, Abrams and Spielberg deserve an award on this front alone). The industry seems to think that if an audience isn’t already built in around a franchise, or isn’t given all the goodies in the trailer, they simply will not materialize at the theatre. I find this to be a lazy load of marketing BS.

Trailers these days are so shittly crafted, like eating all the chocolate chips out of a cookie, they will be delicious when you eat them, but when it comes time to eat the real cookie all the good stuff is gone. Take a look at the green lantern trailer, I don’t even have to see that movie to know what happens, its all special effects and dramatic music. And before you say “it’s a comic book movie, what do you expect” I’ll remind you that comic books have been around for 60+ years for combining art with GREAT STORYTELLING. To cast off the green lantern/Hal Jordan (yes I am a comic book nerd) as a one note character is to totally misinterpret the genre. Now contrast that with the Super 8 trailer. It from beginning to end it was structured in a way that drew you into the characters and the story, without giving too much away, the music was good, the cuts were good, just a glimpse of the film. I was drawn to it because of the care I saw in constructing the preview. I was interested not because I thought I was going to get some big CGI monster payoff (they always look fake to me anyway) but because there was this sense of the right kind of mystery. I knew enough about the film to know that I would be something I found enjoyable without spoiling the enjoyment of discovering the movie the first time I saw it.

Another interesting comparison is the trailer from ET and the one from Super 8, and my detractors will say that times and audiences have changed since then, but I still think that surprise is one of the best aspects of storytelling.

Audiences want to see a good story. They want to escape their gradually depressing lives, and forget for a few hours they live in a society that charges $15 to see a movie and another $25 for cardboard popcorn. The interesting thing to me in all of this is the success being wholly determinate on the box office weekend numbers. Summer movies are expected to have earth shattering record debuts, and those who don’t are seen as unsuccessful(?), shouldn’t the marker of success be that a) it got amazing reviews, b) for not a lot of money, c) the people who saw it generally liked it, and resonated with the film. These would be my guidelines for success, and while I acknowledge that money plays a factor, my point is that it shouldn’t be the ONLY factor. If marketers and Hollywood stopped “tracking” films for big box office blowouts and spent more times creating original ideas, tapping innovative filmmakers and treating its audiences like adults then we would have more movies that resonate with us and stand the test of time, instead of Michael Bay eye orgy pieces of crap.

So while you enjoy your summer of sequels, prequels and franchises, think about the movies that have really stuck with you. Explosions and effects are cool the first time you see them but fade as technology advances, but compelling personal stories grounded in empathy and solid acting performances, those are the ones that you go back to again and again.

PS go see Super 8 RIGHT NOW!

Watch the Trailer

Sunday, May 1

The Death of the 18th Century institution

I've been reading some Clay Shirky lately, here are some thoughts on the death of 18th century institutions

In the view of Shirky the term professional journalist has become problematic. This is because in the age of mechanical reproduction the line between the professional and amateur is blurred perhaps disappearing altogether. Does this democratize journalism, or reduce it? Or does it, as Shirky believes, transform our understanding of journalistic practice?

For me the democratization of information in ways that Wikipedia exemplifies challenges our assumption of management of information. This is to say, that individuals working together in a loosely defined community can produce works of great value with almost no need for old structures of management. Shriky points out that by its very structure, the company can not take this approach, inherent in the institution is a barrier to this kind of free collaboration. But Shirky is also right in stating that most companies are in the business of managing information. I think that in the future as information is viewed more and more as a public right, it places difficultly for businesses to keep proprietary information secret, and also more difficult for anybody anywhere to have any reasonable expectation of privacy.

I think this is an interesting way of thinking about the problem. Many people when talking about privacy make the mistake to place the blame on sites like facebook for eroding our private lives. I would argue that it is our democratization of information that challenges our implicit assumptions about privacy. Information is the key input in our lives and if we agree that everyone should have access to it and that it’s a good thing to recorded it all on the internet to further our human endeavors then we also agree to the “restructuring”, which is to say the elimination, of privacy as we know it.

Further more, I think that since more and more people are sharing information in a networked fashion, this presents a challenge to the structure of institutions in general. In an 18th century mindset, compulsory education at a centralized school made sense. The educational institution had access to the knowledge. This is the bottleneck that Shirky describes, but today this is not the case. Today most interesting learning happens outside the classroom. While every other part of life is interactive, from Internet to video games, education is not. We educate children to believe that education is not interactive and therefore not fun or stimulating. No wonder we have a dropout crisis. How have we not addressed this glaring problem? Why are we still clinging to an institution that no longer suits our needs or processes?

Additionally, our political institution is burdened by the same problems as nupeida. It too has a bottleneck, but I don’t think it understands why. Political leaders fancy themselves “experts” much in the same way the board of nupedia did. But, these “experts” are only self-defined, and in reality the declaration of such authority is meant to impose control. Wikipedia teaches us that a system of self-governing is possible without managers. This is not to say that there would not be errors or injustice if this idea was applied to government, but isn’t the point not to eliminate injustice but instead to quickly serve justice? And on this premise, I think we all can agree that our current institutions fail us.

As the world becomes more networked we cannot ignore that these institutions were created for a different time that had different needs and processes. If we are to further our society we must question the structure of an institutional system and its necessity in the modern age.

Wednesday, March 16

The fifteen minutes that never end

Its weird right? Trending topics and viral videos. How a person can go from complete obscurity to instant fame, or in some cases, infamy overnight. The internet opens up so many possibilities for communication. Advocates say its creating a more open society. One that is free to “express” itself in any way that it sees fit. And truth be told, the internet has allowed for great advancements. It’s been a pivotal part of the recent uprisings in the Mideast , and Googles people finder has allowed information sharing to be immensely helpful in situations like we are seeing in japan. In times of strife it appears that the interconnected masses on the web can be mobilized for great good. But unfortunately, most of the time there is no catalyst, particularly here in the west. Most of the time people, awash in their “freedom”, connected by a vast technological network, remain bored. And, as the saying goes said, idle hands are the devils plaything…

I think that it is interesting when you have situations like Rebecca Black’s “Friday” or UCLA student Alexandra Wallace’s racist rants which both represent the flip sides this idleness. Rebecca Blacks music video is the kind of piece you would expect form a freeloving, if somewhat naive, 13 year old. Yet, to say the criticism she received has been harsh, is an understatement. What makes people alright with directing vicious attacks over a mediocre video to a 13 year old girl? What about communication over the web frees people from a sense of empathetic responsibility? I’m guessing that most of these users wouldn’t hurl these insults in person, so why through the web? Is it merely because they cant be confronted? Does this imply that we only do the right thing because we are watched or observed by others?

On the flip side, Wallace’s video, unintentionally displays her deep seeded, unconscious racism, lack of empathy, and full understanding of the gravity of events happening around her. This is doubly troubling given she is a supposed political science major. Yet, within hours of her video being uploaded, she had been admonished by scores on online users. Like black’s video, the criticism of Wallace was as quick as it was harsh. And while I think that Wallace fully deserves the reprimand, I worry about it taking place on such a public scale.

When you share bad art, say something stupid or ignorant around friends, their criticism tends to be tampered by their knowledge of your personal history, and behavior, as well as a sensitivity to your feelings. These things are created by sustained personal contact that happens outside the digital realm. Remove those barriers, and a flood gate of criticisms can be directed at anyone online, garnering them unwanted international attention. Think for a moment what it would be like if millions of people saw you slip on the ice on your way to class, or could replay over and over that time you said something stupid in front of the girl you like. That fear, I believe will make people in the coming years more afraid to share themselves with people, both on line and off. The fear of international reprisal when everyone is watching, is a very good deterrent.

If it is our community that holds us accountable, this raises some interesting questions about anonymity online. There are basically two schools of thought on this situation. One is articulated by Mark Zuckerburg, founder of Facebook, who states that individuals should be able to carry their online “identity” with them wherever they go online; it helps maintain transparency, and allows individuals to bring their social contacts with them. This, Zuckerberg argues, allows people to be “authentic”, if others can see what you are doing you are more likely to do things you want your name attached to, making it easier every time you order a book, or leave a comment on a page. To some extent, this forces users to homogenize their identities, and don’t even get me started about the “tracking” practices of websites attached to this program. I call this the loss of visible control over privacy. Its important to note there are “privacy” measures in place, but I believe it is difficult to manage what you can’t see (mainly the type information and how it is shared).

The other school of thought is from 4Chan founder “moot” who takes the exact opposite view than Zuckerberg. He says “anonymity is authenticity”, it allows people to behave as if no one is watching, and allows the “real” user to emerge. When people don’t fear any kind of failure they are allowed to be themselves. To some extent I think this is true. Anonymity allows people to speak freer about situations without fearing looking stupid or radical. But also, with no accountability, some people move beyond authentic to sociopathic. Without accountability people don’t have to defend their position and can make comments like the ones we have seen in the videos above. It is the lack of accountability for statements that destroys dialogue which is what online networking is supposed to be all about.

I think both of these positions are too extreme. In real life there are places where we are held accountable for our actions. These occur mostly in institutional settings, ie school, work, family, church. In these situations we try to mimic the ideals/culture of the group to the extent of our perceived role within it. But in other places in our lives, we aren’t accountable, there are things we do privately, whether it stamp collecting, working out, or having casual sexual encounters. In these situations we do not have a defined role set by institutions. The roles we set is set by us. There are no outside influences, people, institutional structure, mores and cultural values. In these circumstances we are allow to set our own rules and behave in ways in which we might not with others watching or involved. With the pressures of society released, we are free to act in ways that might not be deemed rational or appropriate. In these situations we are free from justifications in the moment. Upon reflection we might feel bad or different about our behavior, but that’s only after we slide back into an “institutional” role.

The interesting line here lies between anonymity and individuality. Anonymity in some sense does represent the core elements of being a fully realized individual, the freedom to express ourselves and the freedom from judgment. Individuality, on the other hand, has a core element of “sharing” and “exhibition”. To be a fully realized individual you must have validation from others. They must recognize and embrace/tolerate your individualism, thus legitimizing your “authenticity” as an individual. How can you be an individual, if no one knows you exist? The adage is, “if it didn’t happen on facebook, it never happened.” This exhibitionist quality of hyper-individuality accounts for the popularity of social networking and video sites like Facebook and YouTube.

So are as individuals are we all exhibitionistic? Are we all searching for our 15 minutes? Is our individuality really tied to compulsive exhibition? Is that why people are so uninterested in privacy? Has privacy merely become a hindrance to sharing ourselves with the masses? I’ll leave you with this thought from Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaking at Cambridge University “it [the internet] is not a technology that favors freedom of speech, It is not a technology that favors human rights. Rather, it is a technology that can be used to set up a totalitarian spying regime, the likes of which we have never seen.” The powers that be have made sharing our private lives so cool, we have no idea of the ramifications.

Monday, February 28

with friends like these, who needs security?

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you’ve no doubt heard about the showdown in Wisconsin. All those overpaid free loading hippie teachers ruining the country. The battle over a union busting bill drudges up age old myths pitting private firms against public unions. Make no mistake, big business is watching Wisconsin very closely hoping that the last remaining vestige of collective public power vanishes from sight.

Perhaps that is why during all the recent turmoil, Wisconsin Govenor, Scott Walker took a phone call from who he thought was billionaire donor David Koch. Koch is one part of a conservative powerhouse Koch industries that has made no attempt to hide their union busting agenda. In this country we have pretty much gotten used to corruption at all levels of the government, so the meddling of the koch brothers isn't a big surprise. What does surprise me, is the comment made by Walker during his conversation with the imposture. He suggested “planting troublemakers” in the crowd in an attempt to discredit the pro-union protesters. Which, it now seems, is an alarming trend.

Take the recent news with anonymous.You remember anonymous? Right? That fringe group of radical hackers right out of a 90s film. Anarchists, terrorists, bent on bring down the man. Who in their right mind would provoke a decentralized group of guerilla nerds with the ability to dump the porn filled contents of your hard drive right into the hands of the public?

Enter this asshole.

That’s security services firm HBGary FederalCEO (I mean former CEO) Aaron Barr. In an recent article in the financial times, Mr Barr boasted his prowess by warning Anonymous that he had infiltrated their network, collected information on the core leaders, and threaten to turn it over to police. Dumb move. Within 48 hrs, HBGary’s website was shut down and Mr. Barrs email was hacked, spilling loads of delicious private company secrets into the hands of millions. oh and in case your wondering, Barr decided to step down.

The emails detail a plan by HBGary and 2 other tech firms attempts to win a $2 million contract to “assist” the chamber with their political opponents by planting fake documents, tying the organization to radical activists or creating "fake insider personas" on social media.


These two incidents revel the problem with american political discourse. Political players refuse engage in actual dialogue that enables participants to act more effectively to pursue shared objectives. Instead we have a game of political theatre, fueled by the "news" media, where posturing is more important than progress. Since agreement cannot, or will not be reached, the only alternative is to discredit your opponents as HB gary and Koch industries have tried to do. As if their millions of dollars of contributions weren't enough, now they've got to go around planting fake documents and profiles. This is a deplorable state of affairs, one that i fear will only get worse with time, especially if we allow the huge institutions, with access to unlimited resources operate without some kind of oversight.

Ironically enough, even with all their money and political clout, one of the most well respected security firms in the country clearly didn't have enough security to stop a bunch of nerds from airing their dirty laundry. hopefully this will serve as a warning:

Saturday, February 12


Just a quick post to tell you all to check out my new website. its still a work in progress, but I have writing as well as some never before seen images. Its time to clear out the clutter from the hard drive!

Sunday, February 6

The information superhoarder

The Internet is been around for a while now. its hard to imagine that when it was first developed programmers didn’t think that it had any commercial applications. Ironically, now there the entire market is rapidly becoming digitized. I saw a digital toaster the other day, don’t ask me how toast gets cooked “digitally”, but its an example of how digital is the new god. Its been making me think a lot about the differences between digital and analogue technologies. Is one inherently better than the other? Are we moving to a world where most things will be processed by machines? What does it mean to create when mechanization is involved? Is a machine a tool, or a crutch? And perhaps most troubling what happens when machines replace the skills that we once had to a point that they fade from cultural memory? The more I explore this program the more I feel like a Luddite, stubbornly clinging to the old vestiges of analog and hands one technology. But I understand the value and embrace some of the modern technologies full heartedly. I mean its great that I can go on facebook and talk to my friends in Russia or California and share media, whether it be pictures video or even songs with them. But I want to question the pervasiveness of digital technology only because it seems to be taken for granted in contemporary society. Perhaps this is because I grew up in during the transitional years and can still remember writing my book reports on our typewriter before they became a hipster commodity. But even deeper than that, is our first world nations seemingly unquestioning acceptance of digital proliferation, and a seemingly lack of understanding of all the intricacies required for it to function and in some cases kneeling at the alter of digital convenience even when it is counter intuitive and sometimes downright stupid.

Example: my roommate recently bought a swifer. Now aside from the fact that the one time use drymop, creates a significant amount of waste by trashing the heads after each use, this item also includes a spray function, supposedly intended to be a close facsimile to a mop. When I attempted to use this it to clean up a mess in our kitchen it wouldn’t “turn on”. When I related he humor of behind having to “power” the mop, especially when a plain mop is always powered to my roommate, he agreed but said that it was “hella convenient”. What is convenient about spending my hard earned money to put batteries in a fancy broom? Furthermore, it seems to me that its hella inconvenient given that you cant use it by yourself, without the help of external energy sources.

Has mopping become such a cumbersome chore that we require batteries, that is extra energy input, to get the job done? What does this say about the way that we perceive and use energy? What does it say about the way we perceive labor, or work? Is having a digital mop or toaster better than having a plain old regular one? What is the difference anyway, with the exception of higher energy inputs? This is almost seen as blasphemy in my current program, where the dominate ideology seems to be expansion, capture, and collection of information, without even a though to energy inputs. The idea that we must “save” everything online or digitally ad nauseam seems more like the storyline for an episode of Hoarders than a current cultural paradigm. But then it occurred to me that perhaps, when it comes to information, we all are a bunch of hoarders.

The lack of a sustainable energy conversation in this context gives me a moment for pause, as if the whole media studies discipline is missing a very huge elephant in the room, one that must be dealt with, and soon as with the explosion of data collection and saving information can only continue before we cover the earth in computers to digitize every piece of information in human existence and build nuclear plants to supply the energy for the our information hording behavior.

I will leave you with a recent example. The internet recently ran out of IP addresses. What does that mean? Well, ip address are like phone numbers for devices like pcs, smart phones, basically any device that wants to connect to the internet. Gosh its so easy to rip through four billion, two hundred and ninety-four million, nine hundred and sixty-seven thousand, two hundred and ninety-six addresses. But you know the first world, we LOVE to consume. Basically there are no more phone numbers for devices to connect, but all the computer nerds have already developed a solution called Ipv6 and you can read all about it here. What it means is that they are going to create a new system for giving out “addresses”.

340,282,366,920,938,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 of them to be exact.

Now Im not a computer whiz kid, but I know that there is no way there is enough energy out there to sustain that many addresses, and I know that they will be distributed over time, but seriously why is no one stopping and going hmmmmmm, how are we going to power this over the long haul? And I swear to god if somebody says clean coal I am going to have an aneurysm.

Thursday, January 27


This last weekend I finally saw the social network. I’m glad to be living back in a place that has movie theaters. It was atrocious I had to wait this long, after all, I did write my capstone paper about Facebook. I enjoyed the movie, quite a lot actually. Afterward, I realize that while I was researching the paper I learned about the structure and layout of Facebook, but virtually nothing about its creators. Sean Parker, former president of the company, spoke out against the film, saying it was inaccurate, and that he was misrepresented. Its understandable, the film didn’t really portray the creators in an appealing light, but I think Mark Zuckerberg’s response is much more interesting.
"We build products that 500 million people see... If 5 million people see a movie, it doesn't really matter that much." The implication here is that it doesn’t matter what people think, there will always be people dying to use Facebook.

Zuckerberg’s comment made me think about Facebook and its 500 million+ users, and the way that we perceive and use energy in the new world of social media. A report from the guardian in 2009 outlines the major challenges for Internet companies to provide billions of web pages and files on the Internet without consuming vast amounts of energy. The report points out how planet has finite resources; as such we cannot continue to grow the reach of the Internet to the point of eclipsing those constraints. Unfortunately, nobody really understands how much energy the Internet really uses, I mean how much energy does it take to send an email? How much does it take to upload a video to youtube? How much energy does it take to friend someone on Facebook?

The way that we have ingrained social media, and the internet at large into our lives doesn’t ask these questions. Part of the problem lies in the fact that, as a whole, modern society doesn’t really understand what energy is, where it comes from and how is moves. Technologically advanced societies have become increasingly cut off from conceptualizing energy and their individual role in its consumption. For most of us, its just a magical power that drifts into and out of our lives like snow. Most people don’t really have any idea how much energy they are using (save maybe some friends of mine in Vermont). Even more interestingly, companies, like Facebook, don’t allow consumers access to data on how much energy those companies consume. That’s likely because the figure is so grotesque that it would incite global outrage. But according to news sources, Facebook is on track to consume about 1,963bn kilowatt hours of electricity by 2020, which is more power than is used by France, Germany, Canada and Brazil combined.


Facebook, insists that it is working to shift from coal based power plants, to renewable sources of power, and I applaud that effort. We need more billion-dollar companies investing in renewable sources of energy. However, moving to sustainable energy consumption doesn’t seem to address the actual issue which is that it seems such a waste to burn fossil fuels just to keep a bunch of pictures from jimmys party online when they mostly just look like this:

Facebook users upload roughly about 2.5 Billion photos every month! But the real question is, does this contribute to the social dialogue? Does this help us gain deeper personal reflection or knowledge? I’m not saying that every photo or website has to inspire us to be better people, or change the world, but we are using so much of the earths resources, not to explore space, not to teach our children the value of life and the wonder of the universe, but to turn the whole world wide web into a global version people magazine, where everyone is a celebrity. Andy Warhol had it so right! We are all famous, but instead for 15 minutes its gonna be forever…

That’s right forever. Think of that when you untag yourself from that ugly photo of you in the tube top, just cause you aren’t tagged doesn’t mean that that photo disappears, it ends up on the world wide cacophony, and with new innovations in facial recognition software everyday, don’t expect those awful photos to remain hidden for long.

As if the horror of ancient pictures surfacing of you doing the time warp dressed from head to toe in Goth regalia from the 7th grade isn’t enough to keep you up at night, how about this: In august then CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, predicted that in the future children will change their names as a rite of passage, because they will want to distance themselves from their youthful personas and indiscretions, all of which will be available on the web. "I don't believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time... I mean we really have to think about these things as a society." When questioned about this dystopian preview of what’s to come, and pressed on the issue of individual privacy (a topic for another day) his response was this “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

Not the kind of response I want to hear from the head of a company that is “self regulated” to protect all of our privacy. More recently, Wired magazine writer Patton Oswalt comments on this new and growing concern of what he calls Etewaf, or (Everything That Ever Was Available Forever) in his recent article “Wake Up, Geek culture. Time to Die,”
he describes ETEWAF as phenomenon that dilutes the culture into a neverending trove of special features, and trivia that doesn’t actually add to the culture. The danger outlined by Oswalt is that, “Etewaf doesn’t produce a new generation of artists—just an army of sated consumers. Why create anything new when there’s a mountain of freshly excavated pop culture to recut, repurpose, and manipulate on your iMovie?”

I think we are headed towards if not already in the midst of ETEWAF. We are spending massive amounts of time and energy converting the actual world into a digital one. Indexing, cataloging, tagging, everything in our lives. I am just as caught up in this as anyone else. I post tons of pictures on Facebook and I love it! Heck this blog is using energy that I am not paying for. But the point is, SOMEONE is paying for it. And though the advertisers may tell us different, not everyone can have a 3g phone, our grid cant handle it, and more to the point, why should it.

Friday, January 21

Adventures in 3 dimensions

The other day I was speaking to a friend about the rise of recycled ideas making their way back into pop culture. TV shows like Hawaii five-O and movies like Batman, are making a comeback with a vengeance for an entirely new generation of viewers. But recycled ideas aren’t limited to plots and story lines; 3D technology has made a big comeback in the recent year. After the mind blowing effects and huge box-office success of Avatar, the media industry jumped into bed with 3D technology as a way to help increase revenue and provide audiences with something new and fresh. There is so much faith in the future of 3D technology that companies like AMC and Samsung have sunk hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading theaters and TVs to facilitate more 3D content. Sounds great right? Audiences get to be part of the action, no longer passively viewing, but actually being part of the movie itself. For studios and directors, this new technology offers a new way of conceiving the film and media experience. Everyone wins! Or maybe not…

As it turns out, audiences are going to the movies less but spending more. The average price of a 3D ticket is about $3 dollars more per seat, good news for the media industry, bad news for consumers, but the bad news doesn’t stop there. As of today there has been no large-scale studies done regarding how 3D technology affects human eyesight. There have been reports that people are experiencing headaches, nausea and in some extreme cases seizures and death. Sounds a bit dangerous just for a 90-minute visual orgy.

Clearly the industry thinks that 3D is the way of the future. Samsung predicts the sale of 6 million 3D TVs this year, up six fold from last year. Additionally, Nintendo, just released its new handheld device the 3DS, promising to let gamers experience 3D games without the help of special glasses and even has a camera allowing users to take 3D photos. But, interestingly, Nintendo did issue a warning saying that children under the age of 6 could experience stunted eye development and damage if using the 3D feature. Seizures, stunted eye development and damage, sounds like there needs to be more research, but as mentioned earlier, no large scale research has been done, except by the companies that created these devices and guess what, those findings aren’t public. What a surprise.

What a great idea, lets throw millions of dollars behind a rebooted technology without any understanding of how it affects human physiology. Why would companies be spending so much cash to push a technology that is untested and causes discomfort in its target audience? Perhaps its because they think they can get more money out of consumers for this “new and improved” technology regardless of the danger it poses. Or perhaps they are so impressed with themselves by reviving the corpse of this old, and quite frankly, cheesy technology that they don’t see the potential for harm. The quote from Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeff Katzenberg who calls 3D "the greatest innovation that's happened for the movie theaters and for moviegoers since color,” would definitely support the latter.

Not surprisingly, Nintendo later retracted its warning, under pressure from a New York Times article speculating that they did not have the creditability to issue such a warning because they are not scientists, and that playing 3D games and watching 3D TV probably isn’t all that bad for you. Though doctors all agree that limited time in front of these devices, no longer than an hour at a time, is the best way to avoid damage or discomfort. Ironically this comes on the heals of another study indicating that teens between the ages of 8 – 18 are consuming media at a rate of 10 hours and 45 minutes a day. More than a 1/2 of their waking hours in front of some kind of electronic device. So much for moderation. Check out the study here.

So, next time you spend 15 dollars to see the latest two and a half hour 3D smorgasbord of visual delights remember the Taiwanese man who suffered a brain aneurism and died last year from overstimulation after seeing James Camerons “Avatar”, it might you think twice about what an extra dimension is worth to you.

Tuesday, January 11


The blog is on hiatus this week whilest I move to New York City! Wahooo!

But in the meantime please check out this new blog I ve been listening to, Doug Loves Movies. Love doug benson, hilarious comedian extraordinaire, know for such groundbreaking shows as the benson interruption and think piece movies like super high me. Well it turns out doug isn't just a stand up stoner, he also shares a passion with me, movies. good movies. Doug brings on guests the discuss film and play the Leonard Maltin game, what more could you want.

Saturday, January 1


So it’s a new year. With new promises of adventure and abandon. I’ve been neglecting this blog as of late. I’ve been struggling with what to put in here, and what kind of outlet it could be. In this New Year I am trying to commit to weekly posts, but as you may know, that’s how this whole endeavor started.

I’ve decided to expand the scope of this blog a little beyond my own work. For those who know me personally, you are aware of my rapidly approaching departure for the east coast to attend the New School to get my masters degree in media theory. The thought of grad school both excites and terrifies me. But I am eager to be back in an academic setting. With these thoughts in mind I wish to use this blog to not only explore my work and the work of others but also as a forum to discus the rapidly changing landscape of media content and creation.

A lot of people have asked me what “media theory” is. The truth is the concept is just emerging and means different things to different people. To me, this are discussions around the way media, especially, digital media has woven its way into the very fabric of a contemporary American, and increasingly, global experience. This explores the way mass media is used to inform, control and/or shape opinion, and how grass roots artists simultaneously are pushing the boundaries of media experience through art, and performance art. But also, where the lines of these two, seemingly opposing doctrines of content creation, blur.

I’m also expressly interested in the way that the mass media of American capitalism has formed the current cultural paradigm of “branding”. I speak of branding as a paradigm because it is wholly culturally understood and accepted, but also because it is taken for granted, as if brands and branding have always been around.

They have not.

Branding works on multiple levels. Corporations create brand identity to easily facilitate communication about the values and status of products to consumers. Branding also affects the individual, who is sold the ultimate capitalist/American truth/myth of the self reliant man. Hyper-individuality fed by conspicuous consumption creates a “brand identity” for you. With the rise of social networking, we are encouraged to create profiles with tag words indicating our likes and dislikes. And much like a corporate brand identity, your individual brand is disseminated through the world wide web as a means to efficiently communicate information about the “type” of individual you are.

I would argue that these escapist identities are a form of delusion. For the consumer knows that the milk comes from mistreated cows, or the clothes come from china. These realizations stand in stark contradiction to brand identity, and with now way to reconcile them, they are ignored. And if individually we have already begun to take cues from corporate practices of branding, what happens when we are faced with our own internal contradiction?

We aren’t brands, we are people. Our knowledge experience and potential are vastly indescribable, certainly not enough for a facebook page. What does it say about a culture who truncates their experiences and uniqueness to sound bites and keywords? In this age we have to recognize that commercialized information delivery systems cannot be the fundamental organizing principle of a vibrant culture.

All these ideas rest upon the premise of a 21st century enlightenment, or a “digital revolution”. We are seeing the way our culture creates and understands media rapidly change, we are seeing the technology rapidly change, and interestingly enough, after spending thousands of years as a primarily analogue civilization, the leap forward into the digital future has been greatly underestimated, particularly to the way it is shaping the citizenry of cultural attitudes and expectations of the up and coming generation. I will leave you with a short video about some of the concepts that lay the philosophical foundation of some of the ideas I will be exploring in the coming weeks. The video is by RSA Animate who does great animated lectures, if you are a visual person like me, these videos take complex issues and help to break them down visually, hopefully providing more comprehension. This lecture features radical social theorist David Harvey, check it out here.