Monthly Archives: August 2006

I have an idea for a great Survivor – lets divide teams by religion. Muslims, versus Jews, versus Christians, versus Atheists – sounds great don’t it?

Sounds ludicrous right? Not really. Because that’s where Survivor is going to need to go to top the concept behind this year’s series – dividing the tribes up by race. Yes you read that right. By blacks, whites, Asians, and Hispanics.

I’m a free speech absolutist. I don’t believe in the suppression of it whatsoever. And I’m as un-politically correct as they come. Sam Kinison and George Carlin are my favorite comedians. South Park is one of my favorite shows. So never would I advocate banning or fining this.

The FCC is no friend to free speech.

So why be concerned or upset? I’ve talked to people in my line of work who don’t feel the way I do. That this will be great TV. That generating any kind of discussion is good. And this last sentiment is one I always agree with.

But they don’t come from where *I* come from. They don’t know by what rationale my old neighbors will decide who to root for. And when “our” race’s members lose – it will be talk of conspiracy and bias.

And hey, Survivor’s Jeff Probst pretty much admits this in a recent interview. Watch it.

Survivor isn’t a comedy. It’s a competition in the hearts of its fans, and in the minds of some social scientists and economists. It’s producers call the show a social experiment. Check out the ongoing conversation about Game Theory and how it applies to Survivor. So is it really surprising that this season is already being thought of as “Survivor: Race War”? No. Not at all. It’s to be expected.

A dark part of me admires the marketing genius behind it. The degree to which the show’s producers will go to get ratings. Sure the season will sprinkle heart warming lessons in a few episodes. And they will move to integrate the tribes within two or three shows and those that integrate the best, supposedly, will do the best. But that does nothing to change this show’s exploitive starting point – segregated tribes – and it will be that, which sets the tone for the audience.

And bring in the viewers.

Are they holding a mirror to the reality of American society? Maybe.

But I can’t help but feel this story joins a growing number of race and racism related stories surfacing in the news. Stories that, when coupled with rising crime and poverty figures, set us back to the early nineties – at least.

This, at a time, when real bridges must be built, and re-built, between members of different races, different religions, different classes, and different sexes, and different political parties.

Ask yourself, does this Survivor season help or hurt fight the realities that Katrina exposed? The story of Katrina is one of race, class, and indifferent government and society.

Does it help? Or does it exploit?

There is a difference. Think about it.

From my point of view, there seem to be too many damn people are busy dividing us, to sell us something.

Too damn many.

Michael Armstrong: “I’m laughing the whole time; it’s all tongue-in-cheek,”

How we introduce our children to the culture that made us – us – is a complicated thing. It’s far harder then I thought it would be.

The Baby Boomers didn’t seem to fret that their culture, which glorified counter-culture, was the mainstream, while Gen-Xers were growing up. Reduced to a series of insidious marketing messages that taught us to spend our youthful energies consuming goods that made us look rebellious, and feel rebellious.

They hypocritically fretted over the lyrical content of Prince, W.A.S.P., and Metallica, when The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and Led Zeppelin, laid it all down twenty years before. And it was broadcasted to Gen-X wherever we went.

It’s always do as I say, not as I do. Isn’t it?

We live in the age of niche media now. Broadcast doesn’t have that kind of access to our children it once had. Chances are my neighbors kids listen to different music then the neighbors next to them.

So we have decisions to make.

Right now it’s what is appropriate music for a baby?

Tonight I plan to learn the guitar to “This Little Light of Mine” and sing it for Emma. Inspired by last night’s re-broadcast of “When the Levees Broke”. Just an unbeliebable song on so many levels. I remember singing it in elementary school choir.

She loves The Ramones. “I Wanna Be Sedated” gets her feet moving and her face lights up as she laughs. And she likes Bon Jovi. Especially “It’s My Life”. You start singing the pre-chorus and you can see the look in her face waiting for the hook to kicks in. She loves the Annie soundtrack, especially “Dumb Dog”, and The Sound of Music soundtrack, especially “Do-Re-Mi”. The bigger the score, the louder the chorus, the better.

Who am I to argue with a smile and a laugh like hers?

:)

Anyway, via dangerousmeta comes the following Washingtonpost.com story that kicked off this train of thought: “The Cradle Will Rock, to Metallica”:

Behold the dulcet tones of Metallica, my sweet little cherub-rockers!

Out are the roaring guitars, pummeling drums and howling lyrics such as “pounding out aggression / turns into obsession / cannot kill the battery / cannot kill the family.” In: glockenspiel, Mellotron, vibraphone and chimes.

If you listen closely enough, you might even hear the people behind the “Rockabye Baby” series laughing. They’re totally in on the joke, which they plan on repeating often: Albums of lullabyzed Radiohead and Coldplay songs are also out today — never mind that some of Coldplay’s originals are already soporific. And many more will follow — from Tool and Pink Floyd, both due next month, to Nirvana, the Pixies, Smashing Pumpkins and Queens of the Stone Age.

“I’m laughing the whole time; it’s all tongue-in-cheek,” says Michael Armstrong, who is producing and performing the albums — a process that involves extracting the lyrics and musical teeth from the songs.

It’s not a joke really. Is it? And no – I’m not buying this crap.

Liz Spikol: “She wanted to be well, like I did, but she didn’t know how.”

Liz Spikol shares some of her story, commenting on Christina Eilman:

…It was the beginning of hell. Everything fell apart, but I finally went home to be with my parents, who saved me. I cannot imagine the pain of being Christina, trying desperately to get home, knowing that was safety, and not being able to get there. The frenetic phone calls to friends and family; the desperation of a mind clouded by odd thoughts and noise. She wanted to be well, like I did, but she didn’t know how. She was on the cusp of help, though, until the Chicago police intervened. Mind you, this is a police force that has been specifically trained to deal with people who suffer from mental illness. Hard to believe.

People feel for the parents, as do I. I think of my mother’s face when she greeted me in my altered state. I think of the tears in my father’s eyes. But I think more about Christina, and the strange feeling you have when the mix of lucidity and madness takes hold. You think, “I know I’m off. I know I shouldn’t be saying these things. I’m a freak. Or am I? Someone help me.” It’s utter despair. It’s no wonder so many people with biploar disorder commit suicide.

The years that followed for me included more manic episodes with more painful moments than I can bear to recall. Sometimes one of those moments will pop into my head, and I think, “My God. How did I live through that?” So many people who loved me but couldn’t save me. So many humiliations and disappointments. Above all, so much fear.

What is the future of the newspaper industry? The music industry!

economist_newspaper.jpgThe same economic drivers that are disrupting the newspaper industry, indeed any industry built on the distribution and packaging of creative acts that can be transmitted digitally, on the Internet, are the same.

I don’t think it’s all that different whether you are talking about newspapers, music, radio, TV, or movies.
wired_music.jpg

Musicians have been the canary in the coal mine for some time now. These past few years they have been finding new ways to fund their art and reach fans and new audiences. God knows the previous arrangement’s math didn’t favor them anyway.

The important thing – from records, to 8-tracks, to cassettes, to CDs, and now to mp3s, it’s the music that survives.

And it is going to thrive. No matter what naysayers may believe. The industry, on the other hand, has been and continues to be transformed. The economics have irrevocably been changed.

This while the news paper industry is still flailing about. In some instances working to produce less of its core product, in pursuit of profit.

Then again, what is the product? Is it the package (CDs in the music industry, the morning paper in the newspaper industry), or what is contained within?

The web presents a true medium to re-invigorate democracy. It’s a participatory architecture, built for collaboration and communication above all else. Every person that is on the web expands its usefulness, and presenting new opportunities to connect, converse and share.

So if you consider the product of the papers news and opinion, you’ll see the monolithic fourth estate crumbling as either a sign for alarm or celebration. With us barbarians at the gates. Unlimited choice, simple to use tools to find and share information and opinion, being the unintentional weapons.

The primary difference between losing the music industry and losing the work of newspapers is that we still need systems to research, filter, and present the news in a way that is beneficial in our lives. For our livelihoods. There are dire consequences to democracy, if we continue down a path of more media, less news and not find systems for people to deal with the ever growing fire house of information we are hit with day in and day out. I think we are already feeling some of the effects.

There is hope. But the choice for the newspaper industry remains as stark as Kent Newsome laid out for the music industry – find new business models or hold on as tight as you can until the well dries up.

Some in the industry know this already and are facing the future with open eyes and open minds. The new, local ownership of Philadelphia’s largest dailies might result in nimbler, more responsive, more participatory media. And conversations are underway exploring new infrastructures to support acts of journalism.

Others? Well hopefully Nick Lemanns of the world learn to recognize that the best way to move reporters to the web is to embrace the web as the participatory media it is. That the web, while offering challenges, presents terrific needs that journalists can fulfill. But it requires building bridges. And fast.

In-depth journalism requires legal, financial and information infrastructure. No one has solved these issues in a way that leverages the participatory nature of the web and has solved the funding equation. That’s why efforts like NewAssignment.Net are so crucial. Its work to put together a path is one to watch, and one to take part in. Tools like Memeorandum and Bloglines, along with plumbing like RSS and Atom, along with participatory news filters like Slashdot, Digg, Newsvine, IndyMedia and Philly Future, early news magazine efforts like Salon, Slate and Suck, and early newspaper efforts, many of which are lost to the nineties dot com crash, provide us with additional lessons to learn from. Not to mention the millions of blogs, and social networking users, many who have participant loyalty, that for some, rivals the relationships newspapers have forged with their readers. And what about Wikipedia?. These early efforts will help lead the way, but that’s no reason to sit on your hands. In this environment, those that wait too long for others to lead, will die.

Other stories of note this weekend:

Washington Post: An Eye for Cool, and Cash: Social news sites paying people to write. Imagine that!

paidContent: Advertisers Will Follow Audiences

NYTimes: What-Ifs of a Media Eclipse: Knight Ridder was ahead of the Internet curve, back in 1996. It even beat a threat from Microsoft (Sidewalk) remember. What happened?