Twitter? Facebook? Put Down the Social Media and Pick Up the Telephone

Posted by on Mar 3, 2014 | 0 comments

I did not watch the Oscars last night. Which is something of a rarity. Rather, I spoke on the phone with an old friend who rang me up out of the blue. We talked through nearly the entire show.  And, I can say that I did not miss the award show one bit.

As most of my friends who call or speak with me on the phone know, I love to talk, at length, about anything and everything – from politics to personal life – and some conversations are marathons.

Alexander Graham BellBecause of that, I have a good number of old and new friends who seek me out for just that: long,  very specific, multiple-topic, gregarious, nostalgic, personal, emotional, intellectual, political, spiritual, goofy conversations, and / or just plain old chat-chat.

Our long conversations are a throwback to the days when we’d meet at the pub, sit down over a pint (or two or three) and eat some food and just talk about our lives, the world in general, politics, music, cinema.

Today, the 138 year-old phone allows us to have those conversations when we live variously in NY and Fort Collins, or in different boroughs of the city, or upstate and the city or NYC and Omaha. We do “talk” regularly via social media, but it’s just not the same. It is sorely lacking.

It occurred to me how under-appreciated the phone is these days. It really is superior to all the social media. As fun and great looking and immediate as social media is, it lacks something integral and very important. Conversations on the telephone function as a true dialectic. The written word of social media is inferior to speaking when creating a dialectic, because writing interferes with the back-and-forth, as emotional context, and intellectual context are removed with the use of the written word.

For example, how many times have you misread someone’s intent as being serious when they were being sarcastic? It happens repeatedly in a written discussion, especially one that is online. It is why so many of the discussions on the internet bounce around in a pointless loop. It’s why “trolling” – the act of deliberately inserting emotional wedge issues and diversion into a conversation – is so popular and works so well on the web. If you were in a bar, and tried to “troll” a face-to-face conversation, you would more than likely get punched in the face.

The use of anonymity on the web also fosters a certain level of hubris. Even when people aren’t anonymous, they feel empowered to say things online that they would not actually speak aloud in person. Physical presence and an actual dialectic have a strong role to play in our lives. The emotional and intellectual impact within a conversation remain intact in a face-to-face or a phone conversation. Hubris and sarcasm and all the rest come into play, but it’s more directly understood and dealt with as such immediately. It trumps social media in that regard.

In the end, engaging a dialectic properly (and often), means that a conversation will yield ideas, and solutions. A deeper emotional connection between two (or more) people will develop. Some discussions are actually meant to last a life time. If we practice them properly.

To the ancient Greek Sophists, the dialectic, the discussion, was an art form. It was the practice they taught to achieve higher truths. And, through those higher truths, lay peace, happiness and community. It’s something we’ve lost along the way, and should endeavor to re-establish and nurture.

The lesson for me is that, like my friends, I have remembered that simply picking up the phone to talk is important and valuable. The telephone is old technology, but it’s still the best if you want to have a conversation that breathes, and grows and adds to your life.

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The Epistemology of a Charlie Sheen World

Posted by on Mar 11, 2011 | 0 comments

Over the past 250 years, as the industrial revolution progressed and was then superseded by the modern technological age, an epistemological crisis began to fester and grow quietly in the shadows. Our ability to obtain, disseminate, and – most importantly – apply knowledge, has been severely hindered by our industrial and technological success and our response to that success. We have achieved great feats with little or no perceived negative ramifications, thus establishing a false sense of stability in ourselves, our place in the natural order, and the way in which we process and use knowledge. Our ability to shoot for the moon – literally – meant that we presumed we could do no wrong. A precarious place to be to be sure.

And, as the decades rolled on, each continual success served to confirm our superiority over all – even the truth was manipulated. Responsibility fell to the way side. And, if a negative ramification presented itself, we quickly waved it away with the simple justification that the world and everything within it was ours to do with as we wish, and profiting from it was a natural act. Our birthright. It never occurred to us that building an economy based primarily upon a single finite resource – oil – would some day place our entire civilization at great risk of collapse.

Adolfo Doring‘s excellent documentary Blind Spot, contains an interview with Jason Bradford, who explains this epistemological issue very succinctly and eloquently as it relates to our inability to see reality and deal with the responsibility of our massively consumptive society.

We have lost the ability to deal with the concept of responsibility in a proper manner both as individuals and as a society. It’s quite important because lack of responsibility, and its consequence of not confronting reality, leads to the inability to solve complex problems and establish consistent ethical boundaries. Both are the cornerstones of a successful society. A society that is unable to deal with important issues responsibly, and use that knowledge to its advantage in a way that is beneficial to a majority of its citizens is a society that will die. We see the results today in the current culture war. Everyone senses that something is wrong, we simply can’t agree on the truth. It’s as if we’re entrenched in a form of madness.

Which brings us to Charlie Sheen.

As the mass media exploits and the public gorges itself on the ever-unfolding tragic life of actor Charlie Sheen, it has become apparent that Sheen is a practitioner of this epistemological disconnect. So is the mass media. They are by no means alone in this endeavor. It’s widespread. We are all in some way or another, practitioners of the epistemological disconnect from responsibility.

We now face the challenge of rebuilding how we think, how we acquire knowledge and information, and how we apply that knowledge. It is, as Douglas Rushkoff has said, a new renaissance.


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Obama on The View: Playing by the New Media Rules

Posted by on Jul 27, 2010 | 0 comments

Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania has gone after President Obama for deciding to appear on the daytime talk show “The View”:

I think there’s got to be a little bit of dignity to the presidency. […] I think there are some shows. I wouldn’t put him on “Jerry Springer,” too, right? … I think the president of the United States has to go on serious shows. And “The View” is, you can make a case that it’s a serious show, but it also rocks and rolls a little bit. I’m not sure he has to go on “The View” to be open to questions.

Right-wing Extremists have picked this up and run with it of course. But, they and Rendell miss the Big Picture. They don’t get it.

Back in 1993, President Clinton was heavily criticized for deciding to appear on MTV. It too was seen as “unpresidential”. But, at the time, and in retrospect, it was a brilliant stroke of media genius. And, through an entirely unscripted moment of unexpected “intimacy”, a new media world was born. Love it, hate it, it’s here. And, it’s important to remember, Obama is working in that world. The Museum of Television has this to say about that past media moment for Clinton, snd how it changed politics and the Presidency:

April 20, 1993 — Bill Clinton’s MTV Appearance

Not a historic date, perhaps, but a suggestive one. It was on this date that Bill Clinton discussed his underwear with the American people (briefs, not boxers, as it turned out). Why would the leader of the free world unburden himself like this? Why not? In television’s increasingly postmodern world, all texts–serious and sophomoric–swirl together in the same discontinuous field of experience. To be sure, Mr. Clinton made his disclosure because he had been asked to do so by a member of the MTV generation, not because he felt a sudden need to purge himself. But in doing so Clinton exposed several rules connected to the new phenomenology of politics: (1) because of television’s celebrity system, presidents are losing their distinctiveness as social actors and hence are often judged by standards formerly used to assess rock singers and movie stars; (2) because of television’s sense of intimacy, the American people feel they know their presidents as persons and hence no longer feel the need for party guidance; (3) because of the medium’s archly cynical worldview, those who watch politics on television are increasingly turning away from the policy sphere, years of hyper-familiarity having finally bred contempt for politics itself. For good and ill, then, presidential television grew apace between 1952 and the present. It began as a little-used, somewhat feared, medium of exchange and transformed itself into a central aspect of American political culture. In doing so, television changed almost everything about life in the White House. It changed what presidents do and how they do it. (Emphasis added)

Rendell doesn’t get it. The View is the perfect venue for Obama to communicate and reach out to the audience.

The idea that a show isn’t “presidential” enough is a matter of how the president behaves on that show. And, while I’m not a fan of The View, it’s clearly not Jerry Springer. It’s a show for moms, young women and older women. And, it’s a casual venue. As the Clinton example shows, even something potentially unpresidential can become a historical moment of presidential restraint, humor and connectedness to the people. And, a casual venue is the way to go to bring Obama to the people, give him more humanity and appeal, which media exposure tends to eat away.

I’d expect that is what many Conservatives fear.

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u2 at the lincoln memorial

Posted by on Jan 19, 2009 | 0 comments

It was kind of cool to see the boys from Dublin up on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial playing “Pride (in the name of love)” and “City of Blinding Lights” at the pre-inauguration event, televised on HBO. Pretty amazing performance, considering how cold it was… The juxtaposition of a rock band in front of so many flags feels a little jingoistic, but it’s great television… and catch what Bono says about the dream towards the end…. classic.

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two go to the next

Posted by on May 30, 2008 | 0 comments

Having grown up watching the Carol Burnett Show, and the movies of Mel Brooks, Harvey Korman was a household name in my house. Watching Harvey trying not to laugh is one of the greatest laugh inducing things ever:

Also, director Sydney Pollack passed away. He made a lot of films, three of them are IMHO, classics:
Jeremiah Johnson, Three Days of the Condor, and The Sketches of Frank Gehry.

Here’s a clip from Three Days of the Condor, a film which pretty much predicted the middle east and world situation we are now deep into… If you haven’t seen it, you should.

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the social media unrevolution

Posted by on May 1, 2008 | 1 comment

Or How I Learned to Stop Listening and Love the Echo

he great promise of the internet was that it would level the information playing field by allowing equal access to all information, and facilitate the production of new information. The relationship between the two would, in theory, allow for a more democratic bottom up approach to solution based innovation. In a nutshell: we are stronger as a group, and the internet will allow us to function at a higher level to solve our problems.

Or so we thought.

The onslaught of investment during the dot com boom of the late 1990’s was rooted in the idea that the internet was a new form of television, and that if we apply those creative, financial and production processes directly, it’ll work. It didn’t, for lots of reasons but mostly because there was no monetary infrastructure for online content and web users didn’t want their MTV on the web, they wanted to connect with others via the web. So, the TV web went away and the social web rose up. And, revenue from ads began to pour in.

It’s important to remember that in 2001 everyone was still wondering how and if Amazon and then Google were going to be profitable. Ad revenue finally kicked in. But, unfortunately it was too late for the web TV movement. Sites such as and died from lack of revenue before web ads had become viable. It took a few years to figure out how to monetize it, figure out what worked and what didn’t, and for essential tech advances to come into play. (Front loading ads on video, bad idea. Clickable hot spots in video and embedding, good idea. Pop ups, bad idea. Banners and text ads, good idea. Ad sense, good. Subscription, bad.)

In the past four years the reintroduction of “social media” and “social networking” (which was the attraction of AOL back in the mid 90’s) applied in tandem with marketing and ad placement has become all the rage. And, the rush was on to create content to take advantage of this newest “revolution”.

Except, none of the best practices of producing video content that we know work in TV to attract an audience have been put into use. Some of this is due to the over reaction to user created content, and the assumption that low budget and thus low production value would translate into revenue. There was an assumption made by many involved in the web 2.0 movement that simply putting content out there would translate into financial gain if they could get the page hits. Not necessarily true it would appear. It’s a gamble given the rather nebulous manner in which most of the content distributors are handling revenue sharing; one person’s money train is another’s dripping faucet. A verifiable form of revenue sharing and accounting still needs to be set up and agreed upon in order for the big money to spend big money.

Among independent web content producer’s there has been a strong push to attract venture capital, with very little traction because of the lack of dealing with the reality that investors – whether in film, TV, or web – don’t merely want a return on their investment but also to see and understand that they are getting something tangible and valuable for their money. They want a simple value for value exchange. They want to see something great too. And, there seems to be a real lack of understanding of that basic rule by many content producers in the web 2.0 world. The governing rule is: just get it online, who cares what it looks like, people will watch. And, it’s not true.

The problem is so acute that Bill Cammack, an Emmy Award winning editor who knows of what he speaks, works in the web 2.0 area and realizes this is an issue, felt it necessary to video tape a how to shoot video 101 class and post it on his site.

I admire Bill’s patience, he does a nice job of laying out the basics, he has provided a real service, and it shines a light on the central issue that the web production community will have to aim higher in quality of production value and creative ideas if we are going to attract the big money and then begin to also nurture those relationships in the long term. I think that Bill understands this as well.

In the next few years the web landscape could change pretty dramatically. Social networking combined with video and mobile technology is going to create the next information movement. How we use it is the question. I agree with Deborah Schultz on this. We need to do more to make social media more viable, more useful, more informative and more entertaining. And, it begins with the community and the work. We need to be more innovative, more interesting and more professional.

At the moment, I’ve also become a bit disenfranchised with the web 2.0 community because on one hand it loves to play footsy with itself, it functions as a giant echo chamber looped onto itself. And, in some quarters, it’s turned nasty. It also feels way too much like the nascent independent film movement of the early 1990’s. Everyone was running around spending their own money on projects looking for an angel to come down and pave their way to creative and financial bliss. Now, I don’t have a problem with the work, or the dream, but in how it’s done. From two decades of experience what I do know is that the people who succeed are those that work on the craft and create compelling and professional content. It’s a real skill and an art. Forgetting that is deadly. If you endeavor to reach out, and communicate with others with skill, it works and people watch. And, when that occurs, the money follows. And, if you are lucky, a lot of money follows.

And, of course, since it involves money, which has its own pitfalls. By the late 90’s, the indie film industry was overtaken by the Hollywood “indie” studios. Even if you could raise your own money, make your film and get it into a major film festival, that didn’t guarantee that it would ever get into theaters. The studios had too many competing “indie” films of their own to release anyway. Many studios would buy up small film festival entrants and put them on the shelf to languish, just to ensure the film wouldn’t be released, its topic too close or too good to compete with something they’d already produced. Or even better, they’d manipulate the festival buzz on a given film to ensure that it did not find a buyer.

Today, the internet promises to provide a venue to equalize the distribution playing field a bit. But, it is important for web 2.0 producers and filmmakers looking to the web as a distribution model to realize that right now as I write, the big fish in Hollywood are planning to do the exact same thing in distribution online as they have done in theaters and TV. That is: control a good portion of it. And, access to the internet, with very few exceptions, is through corporations that are currently creating long term relationships with Hollywood studios and independent studios.

This is why the professional writers and producers are holding back in getting too deep into the web production world. The money isn’t in place, and the distribution is not in place. Thus, the atmosphere for many in the independent web production world is one of the wild west- no adults, free to do what you want, there’s always a seat at the bar and the drinks are all free. Thing is, you look around and it’s the same faces all looking for the same person: the one who has the wallet to pay for the drink.

There will be a user created world, a semi-professional world, and a professional world in the next web movement. Quality and money will be linked at the hip. A few in the first will make money, a few in the second will make money, and everyone in the third will make money. The big pay days will be there. The others will be seen as necessary to maintain viable communities online.

The interesting show to me would be one that combined those worlds to their greatest advantage. Democracy in action. At least for a little while until the next next web comes along.

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all the media madness you can stand

Posted by on May 1, 2008 | 0 comments

all kinds of media mayhem swirling around the dead corpse of reality:

  • Seems that child TV star Miley Cyrus, who is 15 years-old, has been used and abused by the adults around her, and everyone is blaming her for it, or each other, except for Jamie Lee Curtis, who knows a thing or two about this stuff. It pretty pathetic that people feign outrage that a 15 year-old girl showed some skin in an industry that literally thrives and survives on it. You can’t have it both ways people. Get a grip.

    Oh wait. I forgot where we were… And, of course, there’s just oodles of money to be made. Feh.

  • It appears that a Hillary Clinton supporter at the National Press Club may have helped facilitate the Jeremiah Wright appearance. And, considering that Hillary has secured the endorsement of Satan’s personal ball washer Richard Mellon Scaife and has actually sat down for an interview with America’s Own Adulterous and Sexual Harassment poster boy, the Falafel himself, the cretin of all media, Bill O’Rielly, I feel completely comfortable saying that it official: Hillary Clinton has gone to the dark side. The appearance on O’Rielly is a completely obvious attempt to keep the Wright issue afloat. And, of course, Fox is more than willing to assist, since they want her to be the nominee and go agasint McCain in the fall.

    Add to this the fact that Rush Limbaugh is supporting her candidacy and it leads yours truly to to surmise that the Clinton campaign is either colluding with three of the most fascistic elements in the right wing echo chamber, or she’s being used by them. Personally, I think it’s the latter. Conservatives are scared of Obama. They don’t know how to beat him. They’ve wanted Hillary as the nominee for years. They feel they can beat her hands down.

    So, the Clinton campaign: Gone to the dark side or dupes?

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    south park on the web 2.0 "revolution"

    Posted by on Apr 4, 2008 | 0 comments

    Via TilzyTV, see that Stone and Parker have spoofed the web 2.0 scene in a recent episode of South Park. Very funny. Yet, while Josh at Tilzy focused on the WGA and internet stars, I thought the episode brought an interesting situation to the fore which I’ll discuss after the clip:

    Josh at TilzyTV notes that in the ep, Kyle says the following, which rings true (one of the great things about South Park- instilling a bit of truth info in the satire):

    While the internet is new and exciting for creative people, it hasn’t matured as a distribution mechanism to the extent that one should trade real and immediate opportunities for income for the promise of future online revenue. It will be a few years before digital distribution of media on the internet can be monetized to an extent that necessitates content producers to forego their fair value in more traditional media.

    That last sentence is very interesting for two reasons.

    First, it’s a fact that professional writers and content creators are not getting involved with online content because there is no money in it yet and because most of the video content online is crap. While there are plenty of passionate content producers entirely willing to create content for the web for little or no money, it simply doesn’t gather an audience that can be sustained. It’s the result of there being no money to create good content (because quality requires time and yes, money) and the fact that so many online producers simply don’t understand or have the skill set that is required to create content of the quality and consistency that will lure big money, and thus the best creative minds and ultimately an audience.

    When you create a pilot for traditional media, often with very little money, you have to attain a certain level of quality and entertainment value. You have to make a dollar look like a million. Quality attracts investors and money. This is a reality put into practice by producers of traditional media every day for decades. It is something that is put to the test in theaters everywhere for centuries.

    But, it’s a reality that seems to be lost on producers of internet shows. It’s become acceptable to produce crap and use the fact that they had no money as a crutch and a bargaining chip, or as a “look”. Thing is, it never works when it is done in traditional media, so why would it work with online media when the money is coming from the same finite group of investors? It doesn’t. The fact that budgets on reality shows always spiral downward after the first season is one example of that particular money trap.

    Yes, there is no doubt that it’s a catch-22, you are expected to create a quality show with no money in order to attract the money to create a quality show that everyone can then make even more money from. That’s how the game is played.

    For those who are currently struggling to create content online with no money, this is the 800 pound gorilla in the room: the bar has to be as high as broadcast and cable in regard to production value, creative content, delivery and audience reaction even when you have no money. Just because it’s on the web doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be good. Because that is what the money people are waiting for- quality that they can justify spending money on online shows. And, they simply have not seen it yet from the independent sector.

    Which brings us to the second important point: road tested traditional media producers and writers are in the wings, waiting for the money to start flowing. And when and if it does start to flow they will pounce and the money people will gather around them. And, as occurs in the indie TV and film world, those with the current connections will benefit the most.

    Alas, the continual drum beat of it only being “a couple of years” until the money starts flowing for online content, I’ve been hearing that for almost ten years now.

    We shall see.

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    ciao tucker and other stuff for a monday

    Posted by on Mar 10, 2008 | 0 comments

  • Why it took MSNBC so long to cancel Tucker Carlson is a mystery. His ratings have been bottom barrel consistently since launch and Carlson managed by sheer force of arrogance, personality and intellectual flatulence to produce one of the most routinely mundane, prosaic and mendacious shows on the air. Not to mention that he openly supprted terror and proffered a general perspective towards the free press that can be best described as totalitarian. Jon Stewart was right.
  • Bill Maher notes that it would be impossible for George W. Bush to be in any way behind the 9/11 plot for the simple fact that Bush is a moron. But, of course, all good plots need a fool. Just sayin’.
  • Glenn Greenwald links to fellow former Jakeneck grad Julian Sanchez’s excellent analysis and “dissection” of the GOP talking points regarding the FISA issue. Really essential reading…
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    bloggers on the pundit circuit

    Posted by on Jan 21, 2008 | 0 comments

    Pam Spaulding of Pam’s House Blend made an appearance on CNN yesterday and it was stellar.

    Truth be told, yours truly has mixed feelings on bloggers appearing as pundits. To my mind, the TV format has real deficiencies compared to the blogging format. It may be live video compared to textual post and comments, but when you compare how information comes out and how it’s dealt with, blogging wins. I see the value of bloggers on TV, but also the pitfalls. TV is really an imperfect medium for the conveyance of real information and discussion. Well, actually, it’s become an imperfect medium for information. There was a time when it was a bit more balanced in presentation. But, hype, commercialism, and polarization has stepped in. Upon a time, one might see Gore Vidal on The Tonight Show one night and Barry Goldwater the next, and they talked about issues, not about their new tattoo.

    Obviously, the host on a TV show gets to dictate what is discussed and set the tone, and because commercials are inevitably more important than actually finishing a discussion, incorrect statements will go unresolved. (I’m assuming some basic liberal blog rules here: no moderation of comments for starters.) Read Pam’s post (and the comments) linked above for an example of that in progress.

    Blogging picks up where TV drops the ball, and TV is trying to adapt, but it’s still glaringly apparent how static and rigid the TV format is… yet, it’s still the dominant force in many ways. Alas…

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    media consolidation primer

    Posted by on Dec 4, 2007 | 0 comments

    Watch the featured video in the right hand corner. A nice primer on what has been going on with media consolidation since 1996.

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    something for nothing not science fiction for Harlan Ellison

    Posted by on Nov 20, 2007 | 0 comments

    From the Brian Leher Show’s Video Picks on WNYC, Harlan Ellison rants righteously on how so many of the big media corporations are perfectly willing to ask people for free access to all kinds of content – in this instance an interview with the famed writer to be put on a DVD – for zero compensation. Something for nothing.

    It’s a situation that stymies the production end as well, especially in the blossoming area of web content. There are a lot of people creating content for the web for little or no compensation, that content is uploaded to Google or YouTube and they utilize it without any real accounting done as to how much profit they make from specific videos they air. It’s a racket all around, which will hopefully get ironed out as more people become wise to the ruse. (There’s also some additional goodies in the video. Enjoy.)

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    Greg Palast on Go Left TV

    Posted by on Nov 11, 2007 | 0 comments

    A couple weeks ago, working with NeoVids, yours truly shot some video with Greg Palast for the Air America show Ring of Fire that is now playing on Go Left TV. The topic was the Attack on Dan Rather. Check it out.

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    Bill Moyers Journal – The Rove Legacy

    Posted by on Aug 19, 2007 | 0 comments

    Will comment on the Rove Presidency soon…

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    Tony Soprano got whacked…

    Posted by on Jun 14, 2007 | 1 comment

    Everyone has been weighing in on the Soproano’s. My take on the Soprano’s finale: Tony got whacked by the guy who walked into the bathroom. It was a bit of an homage to the Michael Corleone scene in The first Godfather movie. David Chase is a filmmaker, and as he said, everything is there if you look. All scenes mean something. There’s no reason to focus on a total unknown character entering, sitting down, looking around, and then going to the bathroom, unless it means something. Tony got whacked.

    But, at least he wasn’t alone.

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