e premte Dhj 03, 2004

Marshall McLuhan in the New Millenium

There is just way too much to cover today.    My laptop croaked itself Sunday and I just got it back yesterday.    Makes it tough to be productive...those that live by the laptop fail when the laptop fails (to paraphrase the Gospels.)   First up is todays Op-Ed analysis of the Ron Artest dust up and its continuing fall out.   Danniel Henninger has this analysis on-line in the Opinion Journal of the Wall Street journal (proudly powered by Sun according to the ad on the page.)    A few salient extracts follow:

"... Marshall McLuhan was laughed at in 1967 with the publication of "The Medium Is the Massage," his aphoristic summary of what electronic media were going to do to us.   'All media works us over completely,' McLuhan said.   The book's subtitle was "An inventory of effects."   It's a good time for another inventory, because no one's laughing now.

Much of the "culture" we consume is graphic and electronic.   Most of us have watched more screens of entertainment--on TV, in movies, videogames and computers--than any other activity not required to sustain life.   A cable company like Time Warner now offers about 500 channels.   This is relatively new.   It must have an effect.   But what is 'it'?

It is mostly entertainment.   As with movies, TV from the first days was primarily a performance medium.   That means it is a medium of exaggeration.   It exists to go over the top.   Professionals will tell you that like any staged performance, TV requires exaggeration, or sharpened behavior, to succeed.   On a TV screen or the silver screen, normal "performance" doesn't "come across."   To compensate for the screen's odd, deadening effect, all actors ham it up.   Actors from Jackie Gleason to Telly Savalas to John Belushi have all painted their characters in broad, "unreal" strokes--to put them across.

Violence is also one of the medium's most basic tools.   Since the slapstick figures of Europe's old Commedia dell'Arte, violence has been a staple of exaggerated effects--the Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers and today "South Park."   But of course no one in the 17th century watched such stuff every night.

...McLuhan said media would change us.   He was right.   There are simple words to describe what we are seeing lots of now: vanity, anger, impatience, envy, egocentrism, arrogance.   Oh yes, vices are not crimes. But standing under a constant electronic shower of them will wash away what might be called the smaller, quieter virtues, such as humility, restraint, modesty, respect, tact, patience, generosity, prudence, piety--that stuff.

Does it matter?   Two years after "The Medium Is the Massage," Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black issued a famous dissent in the Tinker case, which elevated the speech rights of very young students and lowered the inclination of teachers to civilize their students.   Justice Black warned this would make the schools vulnerable "to the whims and caprices of their loudest-mouthed, but maybe not their brightest, students."   So what? They're all stars now. "

To which I can only raise my voice and say, "Amen, brother.    Preach it!"   Please read the entire article since I have only excerpted from it here.
Image courtesy of Sports Illustrated/CNN...click image for article on the whackiness of Ron Artest.

e martë Nën 30, 2004

Sarah McLachlan Redux

Back in October I mentioned that I liked World on Fire. As I mentioned before, I love this video because during it, Sarah says that a typical music video costs $150,000 but she made this one for $15. Then she she describes all the charity projects she sent the $150,000 to rather than pay LA studio costs. (One snide comment is that we may have to take up a collection for all LA production staff that did not get paid) Again I want to warn you before you watch the video at this link or at Itunes for a larger version, have a Kleenex ready. I still sniffle when I watch it.

I also added Blogoslovi to my Blog Roll because he gave the Afterglow album 4 stars. He is also concerned about cultural and spiritual issues.

e diel Nën 21, 2004

The Machinist...Descent into madness

This weekend's cinematic choice was Christian Bale and Jennifer Jason Leigh in "The Machinist," a haunting movie about an insomniac who is losing it. As a matter of fact, you name it and he is losing it. He is losing weight and is down to 121 pounds, losing sleep and tends to nod off frequently, losing friends because he is acting peculiarly and perhaps losing his mind. It is suspenseful, shot in sepia tones with very little color and has a nightmarish quality. I liked it but it is definitely not for everybody, especially those who are squeamish. In Dallas it is only at the art house theater. A summary of reviews is found at Rotten Tomatoes my favorite movie review site.

e enjte Nën 11, 2004

Ray Charles

Last weekend's cinematic expedition was to Ray which truly was an acting tour de force. Everyone turned in an amazing performance and there should be several Oscar nominations and statues won for this movie. I began listening to pop music in junior high school and Ray Charles was often on the charts. Ray was a troubled performer who struggled with his addiction to heroin. This behind the scenes film looks unflinchingly at some of the ugly parts of the music industry and Ray's own life. He and one of his bandmates successfully overcame their addictions. Highly recommended.

e shtunë Tet 30, 2004

Being Julia

This weekend's cinematic outing was "Being Julia," a pretty period piece about London theater in the 1930s based on a novella of W. Somerset Maugham. I love Annette Benning and Jeremy Irons. I also liked the background music and since they often go to nightclubs we get Cole Porter tunes sung live. The costumes and scenery are fantastic. However, several elements of the story strained credulity and ultimately made the movie less than satisfying. The final scene of Julia's revenge is quite good but the movie dragged in the middle.

e mërkurë Tet 27, 2004

I've been categorized!

This is just so cool.   And here, for all these years, I thought I was just a geek.   Of course, being a geek made high school hell. OK, I admit it, I was not on the football team.   But I was the first kid in my high school to get a teletype login to Darthmouth's computer in the 1960s.   I was the first kid to waste thousands of dollars playing Canadian road race on that teletype.   I learned Basic and Fortran on that computer.   I worked my way through university in the computer center operating and managing a Univac 1108.   I wrote my programs for that thing on punched cards.   (The link brings back so many memories.   Interesting insight into the economics of mainframes.   In 1968 you could pick up a 1.3 MHz CPU with half a megabyte of magnetic core memory and 100 megabyte hard drive for a mere US$1.6 million.  We had several FastRand II rotating drum memory which weighed about 2 tons, had 90MBs usable and rotated at 880 RPM with an average access time of 92 milliseconds.)   Its not actually me in this picture from 1973, but I did hang many of those old half inch reels of tape and several spewed all over the computer room.

But before you feel sorry for me, check it out!   Now in the new millenium I have been upgraded from just a dweeby geek to a technosexual!!!

I feel so much better about myself now!

You just never know what you will find out in the blogosphere.  

e shtunë Tet 23, 2004

Friday Night Lights

Friday night's cinematic outing was, appropriately enough, Friday Night Lights. I was drawn to the movie because we live in Texas and because, until I moved here 20 years ago, I had no concept of a high school football game selling out Texas Stadium, the Houston Astrodome or being broadcast on ESPN. I do enjoy football but this is a whole other dimension of genuine fanaticism. In the movie, the whole town is obsessed with the team and all the businesses close on Friday afternoon with signs 'Gone to the Game.' The boosters put pressure on the coach, brilliantly played by Billy Bob Thornton, to win the state championship. The adults in the town take pictures of their children with the high school players. Then the players have their own family situations and dysfunction to deal with. Probably the most telling dialogue in the movie occurs when one player says "Cmon, lighten up. We are only 17" and another responds, "I don't feel 17. Do you feel 17?"

Technically, as a movie, Friday Night Lights is great. However, as you see the level of pressure on these kids, it is horrific. High intensity football as it is played in large schools with brutal hitting and serious injuries that are not properly repaired is not a pretty picture. Fortunately this movie occurred in 1988 before rampant steroid use or I am sure that would have also happened. Its happening now in the large high schools in the Dallas area where we live. The following article discusses steriod use and denial in Plano, Texas.

My reaction to this display of over-the-top high school athletics is to think of the horrific practice condemned explicitly in the Old Testament called "passing your children through the fire to Molech" which is an idiom for sacrificing your children by burning them. However, the barbarity of child sacrifice, or even Roman gladiatorial combat, seems to be alive and well in high school athletics where winning is everything and no one counts the cost in physical, emotional, spiritual or psychological terms. Where is the line between excellence in athletics and abuse of high school students? This movie shows it is not hard to cross over that line.

e shtunë Tet 16, 2004

Today in History

What an interesting day October 16th is:

In 1793 Marie Antoinette was beheaded.

In 1859 Abolitionist John Brown led the raid on Harper's Ferry, an early warning of the American Civil War.

In 1962 the Cuban Missile Crisis began as President Kennedy was informed that Russia was setting up missile bases in Cuba.

In 1970 Anwat Sadat was elected president of Egypt. (Sadat is on the left, President Jimmy Carter in the center and Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel on the right.)

In 1978 Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was elected to become Pope John Paul II.

e hënë Tet 11, 2004

A Movie about Geeks for Geeks

This weekend's cinematic outing was Primer.   Cherryl Dawson and Leigh Ann Palone, The Movie Chicks, summed it up as, "The movie is hard to describe and even harder to fully grasp. It's not for everybody, but could be a cult hit amongst the pocket-protector crowd." I know they are talking about me and, if you are reading this, perhaps they are talking about you too. Four guys extend their extreme engineering work weeks in a garage and develop something amazing. The protagonists are engineers and dramatic and compelling. Shot on an amazingly low budget (note the picture of the device itself), this movie demonstrates it is not a multimillion dollar blockbuster in lots of ways, but it is creative in the way the movies Pi or Momento were.

e shtunë Tet 09, 2004

Sarah McLachlan

In the creative music video category, I nominate Sarah for this effort. She had the video on its own website but I guess the traffic was too heavy after bloggers started watching it. If you have Itunes installed, click this link One warning though...do not watch this at work. I hate the sight of grown men sniffling without a Kleenex. When I watch it, I am faklemp.

e mërkurë Tet 06, 2004


This weekend's cultural/cinematic outing with the family was Ladder 49.

Hated it!

Should have listened to Rotten Tomatoes

Excited that the first season of In Living Color was released on DVD.  The 'Men on Film' sketch is the origin of the 'hated it' expression above.




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