Category - commentary

Acerbic observations on the state of the world, art, politics, and culture.

Photo Challenge #3
Put Down The Fucking Phone!

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Continuing with the Facebook Photo Challenge…

I’m really not sure what to say about this one.  It was taken several years ago at the Tennessee State Fair in Nashville.

The attraction is is the Super Slide (or whatever it’s called).  You get a pad of canvas and slide down about 100 feet of undulating fiberglass.  Wheeee…. what fun!

I’m just guessing that this is a brother and sister duo.  Judging from the look on the little boy’s face, the ride was a blast.  But not, apparently enough fun for his sister to put her phone down long and actually enjoy the experience.

Such is the world we live in today.

We live in an invisible ocean of information.  We can find out anything in an instant.

And still we wind up with somebody like Trump…

Now excuse me while I go see if I’ve got any fresh notifications on Facebook…

 

Civilization? Ha!

How many napkins does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

We live in the most technologically advanced culture in the history of human civilization – Google, Gigabits, WiFi everywhere, cars that go 200mph ad planes that fly around the world – but this is what we have to do to keep a table from wobbling.

 

#TMITM #6 : Dueling Elephants Foretell
The Demise of the Two-Party System

Republican-Infighting

#TMITM, for those of you who haven’t caught on yet, is the acronym for “The Medium Is The Message.”

One of my primary theses over the past several years has been that the advent of the Internet foretells the demise of the two-party duopoly.

For starters, remember: there is nothing constitutionally sacred about a two-party system. It is just the effluent of political convenience that has evolved and persisted since the emergence of the Federalist (for the Constitution) and the Anti-Federalists (for the Articles of Confederation) in the 1780s.

For different reasons, both print and electronic broadcasting reinforced the dominance of two political parties for 200+ years. But the Internet reverses all the primary forces of nature imposed by those media.  It is not your father’s media environment any more.  Nor your grandfather’s.  Nor his grandfather’s…

Print and broadcasting are organized around single points-of-origin and multiple points-of-reception; for every transmitter there are countless receivers. The Internet introduces parity between origin and reception. In the digital era every receiver is also a transmitter. This parity gives ultimately an engenders an infinite number channels through which previously “fringe” perspectives can gain considerable traction.

We have seen countless manifestations of this trend over the past 15 years.  We could argue that it first appeared with Howard Dean’s Internet-driven campaign in 2004 and rose  to a level of dominance with Obama’s digital organization in 2008.  Here in 2016, Bernie Sanders’ $27-a-pop campaign came within a few hundred pledged delegates of toppling the whole house of cards.

I contend that what we are now witnessing is the inevitable fracturing of political discourse that is empowered by an infinite number of communication channels. The Medium is The Message.

It comes as no surprise then to see Thomas Friedman – a major proponent of the mainstream media – advocating the formation of a new political party  to counter the unhinged lunacy of today’s Republican Party:

I know so many thoughtful conservatives who know it matters. One of them has got to start the N.R.P. — New Republican Party — a center-right party liberated from all the Trump birthers, the Sarah Palins, the Grover Norquists, the Sean Hannitys, the Rush Limbaughs, the gun lobby, the oil lobby and every other narrow-interest group, a party that redefines a principled conservatism. Raise your money for it on the internet. If Bernie Sanders can, you can.

Notice how the decentralized, distributed power of the Internet lies at the very heart of that argument.

In the  splintering of the Republican Party, I suspect we will unleash the even greater likelihood for a multi-party system of governance by fluid coalitions – all made possible by the myriad and largely unexplored functions of digital communications.

Be careful what you wish for, Tom Friedman.

 

Art Show Opening: “Signs Of The Times”

Endangered Species

File this under “Yesterday I couldn’t spell ‘artist’ and today I are one…”

Chromatics – Nashville’s high-end photo-print shop – was the first place that ever hung one of my photos in a gallery – back in, I dunno, 2008 or there abouts.  Fittingly, it was a print of a ruined abbey in Ireland.  I’ve had my work included in several shows at Chromatics in the years since.

Another show will be opening Thursday, May 26.  This one is called “Signs of the Times.”  The call for entries simply asked “What have you captured or created that portrays the current day and age in which we live?

I submitted three images, and, lo and behold all three were accepted and will be included in the show.

The opening reception will be tomorrow, Thursday May 26 at Chromatics, at 625 Fogg Street in  Nashville.  C’mon by – the serve great pupus.

The exhibit will be open until September 1, 2016.

Here are the three images and the statements that will accompany them:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Endangered Species”
Over the past few years, the area of Nashville known as “The Gulch” has been one of the city’s fastest growing and most gentrified urban neighborhoods.  Condo and office towers rise above upscale shops, restaurants and bars as a whole new generation of residents and workers flood into the area.  Amid the crush of development, one tiny, one-story stone building remains as a testament to a bygone era, standing in stalwart resistance to the commonly expressed sentiment that “when they come for the Station Inn… Nashville is over.”
– – – – – – –

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Cleaning Crew” 
At night, Nashville’s “Lower Broad” hosts a sea of humanity that swarms in and out of its many honky-tonks, restaurants and bars.  The strip hosts bachelor and bachelorette parties all year round and some visitors patronize the many “Pedal Taverns” that let revelers propel their own guided tour while imbibing an adult beverage or three.  By dawn, the crowds have dissipated, the cleaning crews have taken over and, and one worker enjoys a joke at the expense of the few remaining passers-by.
– – – – – – –
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“Skyward” 
Construction cranes are a familiar sight along any urban skyline these days.  It’s entirely common to see new high-rises going up against the existing towers of glass and steel.  What you don’t see much of in America, though, are construction cranes framed against medieval churches – in this case, Glasgow Cathedral in Scotland.  Built beginning in the 12th century, this imposing early-gothic edifice stands as a monument to construction techniques based almost entirely on human sinew, hammers and chisels.  As new construction rises nearby, aided by every modern convenience known to 21st century builders, only future generations will see which methods and materials will ultimately endure the ravages of time.

Addicted to #TheStupid

All this info... and yet we wind up with Trump?

The photo atop this post is not offered as one of my Great Works of Art.

It’s just a moment that struck me while Ann and I were wandering around downtown Portland, Oregon on Monday.

The “pose” you see here is hardly unique to Portland, so this is certainly no commentary on the common preoccupation on staring at tiny screens.  You see that in Portland, you see that in Nashville, you see it everywhere: people staring at tiny screens.

But in this particular moment, I was struck by this thought:  We live now in an era when we have all of the recorded knowledge of mankind literally at our eyeballs and finger tips.  There are no unanswered questions.   We live in an invisible digital ocean of information, and we spend a good deal of our lives retrieving that information.

So how come we wind up with somebody like Donald Trump within striking distance of the presidency?

Enquiring minds want to know.  I wonder if I can Google that…

Reporting in from the Pacific Northwest

Legislatures Building Rotunda May 3, 2016 @instagood

Dear Readers,

I’m a little behind the 8-ball this week.

Ann and I have been traveling for the past week… we’ve come up to Portland, Oregon to visit her sons and our granddaughter  who will turn one-year-old this coming weekend.  So there has not been a lot of time to write and comment despite all the weird and disturbing shit that’s been going on in the world in the past few days.

For the past few days, we’ve been on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, staying in a charming turreted rooftop AirBnB in the seaside “Victorian and Arts Community” of Port Townsend.

Yesterday we rode a ferry across a channel from Port Angeles, WA to Victoria, BC.  It seemed oddly appropriate to be exploring a foreign country on the night that Donald Trump seems to have secured the Republican nomination and will apparently spend the next 6 months a mere one bracket away from the Oval office.  Of that pending calamity I had this to say on Facebook last night:

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 6.57.14 AM

…and I will perhaps have more to say in the future but until then I encourage My Faithful to read this assessment of the current climate by Andrew Sullivan, who has finally emerged from a long period of solitude to finally shed some light:

And so, as I chitchatted over cocktails at a Washington office Christmas party in December, and saw, looming above our heads, the pulsating, angry televised face of Donald Trump on Fox News, I couldn’t help but feel a little nausea permeate my stomach.

What is most compelling (for me) about Andrew’s analysis is that he recognizes the profound role that our shifting media environment has had on a once-familiar political process:

What the 21st century added to this picture, it’s now blindingly obvious, was media democracy — in a truly revolutionary form. If late-stage political democracy has taken two centuries to ripen, the media equivalent took around two decades, swiftly erasing almost any elite moderation or control of our democratic discourse…

…as Facebook and Twitter took hold, everyone became a kind of blogger. In ways no 20th-century journalist would have believed, we all now have our own virtual newspapers on our Facebook newsfeeds and Twitter timelines — picking stories from countless sources and creating a peer-to-peer media almost completely free of editing or interference by elites. This was bound to make politics more fluid….

The web was also uniquely capable of absorbing other forms of media, conflating genres and categories in ways never seen before. The distinction between politics and entertainment became fuzzier; election coverage became even more modeled on sportscasting; your Pornhub jostled right next to your mother’s Facebook page….

In the end, all these categories were reduced to one thing: traffic, measured far more accurately than any other medium had ever done before.

And what mainly fuels this is precisely what the Founders feared about democratic culture: feeling, emotion, and narcissism, rather than reason, empiricism, and public-spiritedness.

That’s more than enough excerpting to demonstrate what I have contended all along, that this is a “McLuhanist” election cycle.  The medium IS the message, and we are seeing a process that has been transformed by the way that information is gathered and disseminated through the electorate.  Sullivan brilliantly demonstrates the opportunity this unique slice of time has presented for just the right kind of whackadoodle demagogue.

Anyway, I’m traveling and haven’t had a lot of actual keyboard time during the expedition.

The photo at the top of this post, which I made yesterday, is from the interior of this magnificent edifice, the British Columbia Parliament Building in Victoria:

It's called "The Legislatures Building" and it is where the British Columbia Parliament conducts its business.

It’s called “The Legislatures Building” and it is where the British Columbia Parliament conducts its business.

We were on the ground floor, looking up through three-stories at the inside of the rotunda and dome above. There was a display in the very center of the space below the rotunda, so I couldn’t get in the center and look up; I had to hold the camera in my outstretched hand and aim it up, and could only see what I was doing from the flipped-out LCD screen. Ordinarily I would have been tempted to shoot a perfectly symmetrical image, but I actually like the way this turned out better than that perspective probably would have.

Anyway, that’s the news from the Pacific Northwest.  Tomorrow we go back to Portland, this weekend we celebrate Juniper’s first birthday, and we’ll be back in Tennessee late Tuesday night.

Thanks for tuning in.

Have You Ever Felt Like This?

Cartoon By R. Cobb

I was just text-messaging with a friend about the music business.

He said “What the hell do I know?”

I replied, “What the hell do any of us know?”

I wish I could remember where I first-ever saw this cartoon.  I know nothing more about than it was drawn by a cartoonist named Ron Cobb.

But I think of it often, like when ever I think of a foreign landscape (like the “new” digital music business) and how we often try to get “plugged in” with obsolete ideas and technologies.   The metaphor seems apt.

If that doesn’t make the point, then there is always this reliable chestnut that is often attributed to Hunter S. Thompson:

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

Of course, that could probably be said about a lot of businesses…

The Single Best Line in All of “Star Wars”?

As seen at the Starbucks in Belle Meade

OK, that assertion may be overstating the case.  Maybe the best line was “These are not the droids you’re looking for.”  Or maybe it’s “Don’t get cocky, kid!”  At any rate, “Do or do not; there is no ‘try'” is definitely one of them.

But I just saw that a line that Yoda speaks in “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” on the back of a sweatshirt at my neighborhood Starbucks, and couldn’t resist the temptation to get a picture of it.  iPhone to the rescue!

Look closely and you’ll notice the quote is attributed to not just Yoda, but to “Yoda/Chukki.”  Chukki is the woman wearing the sweatshirt.  Turns out she’s a personal trainer and “Do or do not…” is a line that she has been using in her training since long before one of her clients told her that the line is in “Empire.”  When she told me that all I could say was “well, great minds do think alike…”

Here’s the original scene from Star Wars:

New Installment to “Time Capsule: 1969”
Port Huron Revisited

A picture of consistency over 6 decades...

The whole time I have been rummaging around in the “Time Capsule” that I sent myself from 1969, I have been thinking that part of the justification for the exercise is that we are seeing a resurgence of some of the rhetorical underpinnings of the period  in the candidacy of Bernie Sanders for President of these (somewhat) United States.

So it was inevitable that I would scour the web (“scour” being an overstatement since it wasn’t at all hard to find) to take a fresh look at what was arguably one of the seminal documents of the 1960s, the organizing manifesto for the Students for a Democratic Society, aka the SDS.

That is precisely what I have done in the latest installment,

Port Huron Revisited 

…which I have just published to Medium.com along with the other chapters I’ve published so far.

Incidentally,  have been writing and compiling all of this material with the aid of a tremendous but little known ‘word processor on steroids’ that is engineered for writers called Scrivener.

Scrivener tells me that I have so far posted about 25,000 of the 75,000 words I intend to write and publish (the equivalent of ~225 printed pages).  Assuming that’s the goal, I’m roughly 1/3rd of the way to completion.

Back to work then…

I Can’t Believe We Survived Our Childhood!

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 11.04.22 AM

Don’t bother clicking on the “play” button in the picture above.  It won’t do anything.

This damn video is embedded into Facebook, which does it’s level-best to make sure you never actually see anything that is not in Facebook.  A YouTube search failed to come up with the same thing.  But if you grew up in the 50s or 60s and haven’t seen this, it’s worth clicking through.  You’ll relate:

Childhood
If you were born in the 1950s, 60s or 70s, you have to watch this. It sums up childhood perfectly…

Posted by Omeleto on Thursday, March 10, 2016