'Bullshit makes the flowers grow & that's beautiful'

“HERE FOLLOWS SOME PSYCHO-METAPHYSICS. If you are not hot for philosophy, best just skip it. Different philosophies use different grids. A culture is a group of people with rather similar grids… The Aneristic Principle is that of APPARENT ORDER; the Erisitic Principle is that of APPARENT DISORDER. Both order and disorder are man made CONCEPTS and are artificial divisions of PURE CHAOS, which is a level deeper than is the level of distinction making. With our concept making apparatus called “mind” we look at reality through the ideas-about-reality which our cultures give us. The ideas-about-reality are mistakenly labeled “reality” and unenlightened people are forever perplexed by the fact that other people, especially other cultures, see “reality” differently. It is only the ideas-about-reality which differ. Real (capital-T True) reality is a level deeper than is the level of concept. We look through the world through windows on which have been drawn grids (concepts). Different philosophies use different grids. A culture is a group of people with rather similar grids. Through a window we view chaos, and relate it to the points on our grid, and thereby understand it. The ORDER is in the GRID. That is the Aneristic Principle. Western philosophy is traditionally concerned with contrasting one grid with another grid, and amending grids in hopes of finding a perfect one that will account for all reality and will, hence, (say unenlightened westerners) be True. This is illusory; it is what we Erisians call the ANERISTIC ILLUSION. Some grids can be more useful than others, some more beautiful than others, some more pleasant than others, etc., but none can be more True than any other.DISORDER is simply unrelated information viewed through some particular grid. But, like “relation”, no-relation is a concept. Male, like female, is an idea about sex. To say that male-ness is “absence of female-ness”, or vice versa, is a matter of definition and metaphysically arbitrary. The artificial concept of no-relation is the ERISTIC PRINCIPLE.The belief that “order is true” and disorder is false or somehow wrong, is the Aneristic Illusion. To say the same of disorder, is the ERISTIC ILLUSION.The point is that (little-t) truth is a matter of definition relative to the grid one is using at the moment, and that (capital-T) Truth, metaphysical reality, is irrelevant to grids entirelyThe point is that (little-t) truth is a matter of definition relative to the grid one is using at the moment, and that (capital-T) Truth, metaphysical reality, is irrelevant to grids entirely. Pick a grid, and through it some chaos appears ordered and some appears disordered. Pick another grid, and the same chaos will appear differently ordered and disordered. Reality is the original Rorschach.” – Robert Anton Wilson
“Talk some shit so I can refute it!” Fact Wino
“There is no crime more infamous than the violation of truth. It is apparent that men can be social beings no longer than they believe each other. When speech is employed only as the vehicle of falsehood, every man must disunite himself from others, inhabit his own cave, and seek prey only for himself.” Dr. Johnson
“Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend.” Mao

For the better part of two months this, that, and the other have popped up right in front of my eyes making me wonder if I should blog or not. While I was held up by some things I had no control over (e.g. the flu) it was largely me being frustrated for not coming to terms with my own urgent need to loudly express my narcissism by failing to come up with some over-arching half-ass’d idea that would make sense of not just the present but the future as well.
For two months, and for the lack of a better term – that dog would not hunt.
What finally put things in motion was Bruce Sterling’s SXSW 2018 keynote. This year he said he wasn’t going to bring out some of the usual topics especially those topics which talked about where we’re all headed. As he succinctly said about five minutes into his talk – nobody in Silicon Valley is inventing the future – they’re all too busy trying to fix the future they came up with.
That got me to thinking that if you are to see what might happen in the future you do need to see some sense of order in the present. In finding that order then you might see a thread of related information that can lead to a conclusion, but right now peering into the future is difficult because the present looks like nothing less than a mud covered wind shield.
And we’re all out of wiper fluid.
Despite that those things that popped up in front of me did lead to one small thread about how most of us – of a certain age- are ill equipped to make sense of it all.
And what were those popped-up things?
– Last month I got an invite to a banquet celebrating the 50th anniversary of an event I used to be associated with many years ago. I was not there at the start 50 years ago, but my time more or less coincided with the event’s heyday. Time, work, and a mere 10-day notice of the event put it out of reach. Updates and photos of the banquet arrived in my inbox and provided me with great relief that once again the past had to the good taste to stay put in the past.
So, so many old guys trying so hard to act like they haven’t aged a day.
Put another way – imagine the old high school football team getting together. After a few drinks the general consensus states they could still play the game. Hell, they could even show these kids today a thing or two. That’s when Dave says he can still get down in his three-point stance so he takes off his jacket and huffs and grunts, and chugs and just at the very second he’s about to achieve a moment of middle-aged glory his blood pressure goes sideways and somebody has to call 911.
Kinda like that.
– Mom got her picture in the Sunday paper a few weeks ago. It was a good photo and there was a short blurb which she was pleased with because “At least they spelled my name right.” Since then many people have complimented her on making the paper – none of whom are under the age of 70.
– Speaking of the Sunday paper – Facebook took out full page ads in many of the Sunday papers in the larger cities to apologize for the Cambridge Analytica mess. I have no doubt that this lead to mad scramble by the readers of the Sunday paper (see above) to make sure Facebook is on the National Registry of do-not-call numbers.
Nobody wants some punk on the phone tryin’ to sell ’em a Facebook subscription.
No sir!
Oh the Hume-manity! or How did We get Here Part I

We’re not living through a crisis about what is true, we’re living through a crisis about how we know whether something is true. We’re not disagreeing about facts, we’re disagreeing about epistemology. The “establishment” version of epistemology is, “We use evidence to arrive at the truth, vetted by independent verification (but trust us when we tell you that it’s all been independently verified by people who were properly skeptical and not the bosom buddies of the people they were supposed to be fact-checking).” The “alternative facts” epistemological method goes like this: “The ‘independent’ experts who were supposed to be verifying the ‘evidence-based’ truth were actually in bed with the people they were supposed to be fact-checking. In the end, it’s all a matter of faith, then: you either have faith that ‘their’ experts are being truthful, or you have faith that we are. Ask your gut, what version feels more truthful?” Cory Doctorow

God knows there’s been no end of hand wringing over fake news. The usual conclusion among my ilk is to immediate deploy people who will teach media literacy. Most of them are put off by my response that you can’t teach media literacy – you can only inflict your bias on others. If you get some high school English teacher to do an exercise where he or she runs out A Story from His or Her Preferred Brand of News to compare against A Story from His or Her Least Liked Brand of News all you have in the end is an argument for Coke vs. Pepsi. What’s needed is to teach some sort of rudimentary form of epistemology to get the kids thinking about how a thought resides in the mind and how that thought and all the others form a larger patchwork of ideas that lets them navigate the world.
A couple of weeks ago at SXSW MFST’s Danah Boyd gave a fabulous speech on this very topic.
She said:

“It’s one thing to talk about interrogating assumptions when a person can keep emotional distance from the object of study. It’s an entirely different thing to talk about these issues when the very act of asking questions is what’s being weaponized. This isn’t historical propaganda distributed through mass media. Or an exercise in understanding state power. This is about making sense of an information landscape where the very tools that people use to make sense of the world around them have been strategically perverted by other people who believe themselves to be resisting the same powerful actors that we normally seek to critique.”

Video and a transcript of the speech can be found here. I don’t agree with the whole thing, but it is an excellent insight in how we should move forward with the simple fact path we can no longer trust all the printed words that appear before us.
“I used to be with ‘it’, but then they changed what ‘it’ was.”- Abe Simpson or How Did We Get Here Part II
A few weeks back I came across the term “savvy gap” which can trace its roots back to the term “generation gap” which disappeared at about the end of the last ice age. Simply put the kids know stuff and the oldsters don’t.
Many years ago pre-recorded music came on plastic coated aluminum discs. These discs were sold in something called a “record store.” (The word “record” was an accepted atavistic use for an earlier form of mechanically reproduced sound.) While looking around one of these “record” stores I heard an older man yelling at the clerk. A local band which went by the name, The Kidney Thieves would be performing at the store later in the day. It seems the clerk behind the counter explained the origin of the band’s name and gave a thumbnail description of the well know urban myth.
The old guy kept yelling, “Who would think of such a thing? Who would think of such a thing?”
Oh hell Gramps, if we knew that I wouldn’t be here typing right now, would I?
Keep that one in your back pockets because we’re getting close to our destination.
We’re screwed no matter how you look at it.
Boomers have passively ingested media for most of their lives. The newspaper arrived daily and it was busted up into sections. The big stuff was up front, then there was the part with the sports, and behind that lurked Ann Landers and Beetle Bailey. TV was no different – it too was pre-chewed food. Every night you got the same thing – big-ass story right off the top … stuff … stuff … weather .. stuff… sports …. oh look, some guy taught his duck to whistle … Johnny Carson.
As such everybody gobbled up what was put in front of them because that’s all there was. That’s either gone or on its last legs which means Boomers are in a similar situation to a 14 year-old dog turned loose in the woods.
Gotta go find your own Alpo now, Bowser.
Are we equipped?
There’s probably a few here and there, but mostly it’s another edition of ‘Who Moved My Cheese?”
The kids know what is and is not bullshit because they never consumed information in the same way as their parents, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they have an understanding of their own own epistemology – their own internal fact checking.
But that’s not the end of it.
As Ms. Boyd points out you cannot stand aside yourself, you will always bring your biases along even if you know that they are biases. Meanwhile there’s the age-old problem that any system which can be identified as flawed must use itself to prove that it it’s flawed. Given that humans are – very much in fact – flawed we cannot come to any conclusion about how we see the world without having to admit that our own human thinking is flawed.
What constitutes “fake news” is something that needs you to think about – not in relation to what any given article says – but how you own the thought process lead you to that article and how you use that same thought process to sift through the content.
And then understand that your conclusion could very well be bullshit. (QED)
Between now and then let’s all agree on one thing.
We all want those shoes.


“The quote ‘We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.’ is often mistakenly attributed to Marshall McLuhan. It does NOT appear in ‘Understanding Media’, as Wilson Miner confidently asserts in the presentation below, indeed it does not appear in any published work by McLuhan at all. The quote was actually written by Father John Culkin, SJ, a Professor of Communication at Fordham University in New York and friend of McLuhan. But though the quote is Culkin’s, I would argue that the idea is McLuhan’s, as it comes up in an article by Culkin about McLuhan: Culkin, J.M. (1967, March 18). A schoolman’s guide to Marshall McLuhan. Saturday Review, pp. 51-53, 71-72. The idea presented in the quote is entirely consistent with McLuhan’s thinking on technology in general.” – akuskis
“Television has conditioned us to tolerate visually entertaining material measured out in spoonful’s of time, to the detriment of rational public discourse and reasoned public affairs”. Postman alerted us to what, in my view, is happening with the media in this election. There are “ready and present dangers and offers compelling suggestions as to how to withstand the media onslaught. … all techniques and technologies that permit people of a particular culture to exchange messages.” Neal Postman
“The TV critic Todd VanDerWerff once compared the Fox format to ABC’s ‘Lost’: you need to immerse yourself entirely to grok the breadth of its world-building paranoias and mythologies.” Emily Nussbaum
“That desire which every man feels of being remembered and lamented is often mortified when we remark how little concern is caused by the eternal departure even of those who have passed their lives with public honours, and been distinguished by extraordinary performances. It is not possible to be regarded with tenderness except by a few. That merit which gives greatness and renown diffuses its influence to a wide compass, but acts weakly on every single breast; it is placed at a distance from common spectators, and shines like one of the remote stars, of which the light reaches us, but not the heat. The wit, the hero, the philosopher, whom their tempers or their fortunes have hindered from intimate relations, die, without any other effect than that of adding a new topic to the conversation of the day. They impress none with any fresh conviction of the fragility of our nature, because none had any particular interest in their lives, or was united to them by a reciprocation of endearments.” Dr Johnson

I didn’t mean to yell at that kid from Spotify and I feel awful about it.
He’s some poor kid in Sweden trying to make it at his first real job. All those years of long hours doing summer menial labor, making sure every piece of Ikea furniture that went out was sure to be at least two fasteners and one allen wrench short, just to pay for the education that got him a marketing job.
And what happens?
Some mean old fart gets all bent out of shape over one measly question, “Do you practice mindfulness?”
In retrospect, saying something like, “Gotta go, my mother’s calling.” or “My ride’s here.” would have been better choice than anything that began, “LET ME SET YOU STRAIGHT ABOUT A LITTLE SOMETHING, BUSTER!”
It wasn’t his fault.
Wasn’t the election’s fault either.
Like the full moon’s pull on the tides, my mood over the past month has been pushed and yanked around over something that happened about three weeks ago. I went to a conference on new tech and the morning session gave me quite a shock. As with all such gatherings I tried to sit next to someone who either looks terminally sleepy or is so involved in work that small talk is out of the question. This time around I sat next to Mr. Busy. He had an open briefcase, a stack of manilla folders under one arm and he was talking a mile a minute into his phone. I didn’t ask if the seat next to him was taken – wouldn’t have mattered – he never noticed me.
Most of the keynote went well. Mr. Busy paid no attention to the speaker as he went full-metal fussbudget on his briefcase. Near the end the speaker said something about being on good terms with the people who email you and how it’s a good thing to reach out to the people who comment on your web site and create relationship that will lead to better comments.
Well that did it.
Mr. Busy got up and started yelling at the keynote speaker. Nobody was going to make him interact with a bunch of people who have nothing better to do than “sit around in their underpants and leave comments on some blog!” He admitted he had a web site, but it only existed at the request of his publisher and it wasn’t his idea. OH NO, because thousands and thousands of his books on fireplace and chimney repair had sold all over North America and had been translated into 12 languages. So if you think he’s going to talk to some beer-swilling freaks who stay up all night “banging on the Facebook” you’d better think again.
I was riveted and riveted to the point that I finally began to study his face. He looked to be no more than in his late 30s. The longer I looked the more upset I became. There was no question – I was the oldest person in the room and here’s some punk giving the speech I was supposed be giving.
The little creep was stealing my alleged thunder.
Not that I had any problem with what was being presented, it’s more the principle of the thing. There should have been some sort of … you know … some sort of unspoken age-before-beauty arrangement where he’d offer me first crack at going on and on about how nobody and nothin’s any good any more. Which is what it comes down to – he should have at least given me a look that said, “You want this or is it mine?” and then he could have ranted all he wanted and I would have been just fine with it.
You gotta wonder what he was expecting though. The invite included a cocktail reception thrown by those swell kids at Google’s Media Lab.
But enough about why I’m emotionally distraught. Maybe you should watch this while I get ready to changes gears.

When the 1960s were still roaring along in full force, two sons of the old Empire and Dominion, Arthur C. Clarke and Marshall McLuhan spent no small amount of time looking at a popular notion of the time – Man as Toolmaker. (MaT) The concept’s popularity slowly declined over the ensuing decades, but while they were at it they managed to explore the topic in very intriguing ways. It was the central theme of Clark’s ‘2001’ and, as mentioned above, McLuahn was misquoted frequently as saying eventually tools shape man. Yet while both were far-sighted thinkers neither really put forth any idea of what happens when a given tool ceases to exist.
Which bring us to your tv set.
As tools go – it has done plenty to shape Boomer culture as we’ve always had one around the house. It created communal memory ( e.g. Kennedy assassination, moon landings.) It served as social lubricant (e.g. “Hey, did you see Hoss give Little Joe a piggyback ride last night?“) and created no end of metaphors or analogies. (e.g. “WOW! This is just like the time Hoss gave Little Joe a piggyback ride!) We’ve formed tribes around its offerings (Trekkies) and used it as a companion when we were sick or lonely.
Be that as it may – we’re reaching the point where in the next 10 years owning one would make as much sense as making a stone ax to have around the house. Audiences are declining, the networks and local stations are finding it increasingly harder to stay profitable while the cable companies are resigned their future as Internet providers. Increasing the medium and the device that delivers it are increasingly seen as something for the elderly.
Sure, there was a golden era of radio, but radio moved on and managed to survive the loss of Jack Benny or Fred Allen. Also radio was not as largely present for so long. TV overtook radio in the 1950s as the dominant domestic tool which leaves us with nothing to compare in living memory.
Here’s comes the part about the election.
A couple of posts back I took the blame for Trump, but that took some thought. Now I have to take the blame for how the media got it so wrong.
I can do it with my eyes closed, but then I couldn’t see to type, could I?
The point of all this MaT business comes down to how people are – very much – shaped by their tools. The people who currently run the large scale media are lost in their own past. Too many at the top are still executing what they learned in the 80s and some are still are still clutching to the 50 year-old paradigm of horserace coverage.
Put another way – the stone ax was the starting point for all the folks who bought into the MaT concept. But what happens when the stone ax can’t break iron?
Which is what just happened.
As each stone ax broke and the only solution was to bring another stone ax.
Sure, but only in the sense that it was merely cursing the stone ax for not doing its job.
More to the point – Alaska Wolf Joe likes to remind me that us Boomers are their own worst unconscious idealogical tyrants. His point is that in our own minds we are our own best Stalinists.
That probably needs some expansion, but we’ll save that for another time.
Meanwhile we all need to take a deep breath and wonder about that time ahead of us when we ask the nursing home attendants if they can help us remember something about two men named Hoss and Little Joe.

How's Every Little Thing?

(Jonah) Peretti’s article is an interpretation of Jameson’s “Postmodernism and Consumer Society” and Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, both of which use “schizophrenia” as a key part of their analysis.”Schizophrenia” here doesn’t have much of anything to do with the actual mental illness (as Jameson writes, “I’m not even sure that the view of schizophrenia I’m about to outline … is clinically accurate”), and in retrospect the use of an actual illness from which millions of people suffer as an abstract tool of cultural criticism is rather cringe-inducing. I use the term here since it’s the preferred jargon within cultural theory, but, for the record, it’s gross and they should have found another word.In context of the theory, both Jameson and Deleuze/Guattari use “schizophrenic” to refer to a person without a defined identity or ego. Jameson, for one, thinks “late” capitalism (which he said was beginning to emerge in the mid-1980s, as he was writing) causes that kind of schizophrenia. People usually build identities, after all, at least in part from cultural items (songs, movies, TV shows, advertisements, etc) they encounter. But Jameson thinks that if those items are presented in a scrambled, confusing way to people, they have a hard time forming identities, and run the risk of schizophrenia. That scrambling of cultural content was starting to happen in the mid-1980s, when Jameson was writing. Peretti’s favorite example of this phenomenon is MTV. Whereas variety shows and televised concerts in the 1960s and 70s provided context and structure to the music they presented, MTV instead gave viewers a rapid succession of wildly different sounds and visual accompaniments to those sounds, without any logic connecting one video to another. That, in Jameson’s framework, serves to confuse viewers, harm their ability to use culture to build identities, and increase the risk of people failing to build identities altogether — making them “schizophrenic” in his terminology. from Buzzfeed’s founder used to write Marxist theory and it explains Buzzfeed perfectly by Dylan Matthews
As many of you have asked,”S0OOOO where you been keeping yourself?”
The ancient Gnostics believed that we are all one small piece of information shy of total enlightenment. Stated another way, there might be something in the small print in the back of The Racing Form that might set anyone of us free or at least let us find out exactly what Yoda meant when he said, “Luminous beings are we.”
As some of you know I have long held this belief very close to my heart and I have endlessly sorted through volumes of information just to obtain that one small golden nugget that will take me up out of the primordial slime. What follows are a few data points and minutia I’ve found that proved to be dead ends. These are posted as public service to all of you who seek enlightenment.
Please stop making a spectacle of yourself, your hot tears of joy are thanks enough for the moment.
In no particular order:
– Speaking of Deleuze and Guattari I’m reading Piketty as if it were manga, i.e. back to front. French moderns seem to save it all up for the end. D&L can only be understaood by starting at the end. Therefore the last two chapters of these endavors are the meat and what comes before is an endless series compulsory exercises endemic to French culture. Currently there are some questions as to the math involved some of which is represented as graphs here. At this point I really can’t weigh in on either side of the argument, but I will say that it’s refreshing that it hasn’t turned into yet another tv hollering match because MATH!
– Oh yes, the current state and future of the media… I knew you’d ask, you always ask. Here comes the subset of my recent thoughts on the state of all things related to that.
– – For roughly five years there has been – supposedly – a conversation going on about the media.
This is not true.
Everyone has been talking all at once.
For five years everyone who has formed any kind of opinion on the subject hasn’t so much given voice to it so much as coughed it up without any regard. There have been panels and conferences on the subject where people speak in turn, as that is the social convention, but -all the same- they are all talking at once.
No one is listening.
– – In the previous entry I talked about living through an era of chaos as a traditional dialectic resolves itself. Having spent some time since that was written with MEN somewhat older than myself who hold high positions in the media I am now convinced they are all Cloud William. I’d engage them more, but I’d look awful in that piss yellow velour pullover.

– – WRT the ongoing issue of scale – we overlook the fact that there is a shock-and-awe component to scale. As Habermas points out – journalism began as the simple dissemination of discrete facts and then evolved into also offering opinion which he says was an attempt to gain influence over the public discussion. Granted, large scale media has lost the exlucsive rights to published opinion, but it is key to the discussion of scale. What goes unsaid is that if a media outlet does not grow large enough then it will not have any influence on the public discourse. Which assumes that the intent of any organization was to seek that influence. Never mind that any given organization can run out bare fact and little else due to the Internet’s ability to create a division of labor. The opinion people can do their thing and the infobots can do theirs.
BTW – and somewhat along those lines – anyone who uses the term ‘media ecosystem’ more than twice in 10 minutes should be taken out and shot.
– – Seeing as people will wet their pants on command for Facebook it then makes sense that the conversation about The Right to be Forgotten can only revolve around Google. Where it becomes problematic for the media is how Google responds and as some of you know Metafilter is already on the receiving end of this. Long term this could be the end of uniques and pv’s as an indicator of readership. Talking to a phd in th’ journalism on Friday night he said he and some colleagues were aware of this and were starting to think that more abstract notions of engagement might replace simple metrics in the long run.
Again – it’s all chaos and we should take a cue from how long it took the Romans to refine the Forum.
– – Also I prefer to think of the work as the creation of context instead of The Production of Meaning. If I were asked to be a keynote speaker to explain the meta that drives me I would simply introduce myself, show this eight minutes of video, thank the assembled for the opportunity, and sit down.

The only thing I really have to tell anybody in the business is that about once a week I want to sit down and have a good cry.
But they don’t want to hear that.
On a somewhat cheerier note – this page first appeared on the Interwebs 14 years ago this week. As most of you know it has gone through several incarnations and its upkeep has gone wanting for the past few years. (See also, have a good cry.) The platform is not dead and feels rather expansive when all you’ve used lately is social media. I only wish I didn’t have every thought knocked out my head by the demands of life these days as I would love to explore this space

The podcast is dead

“But what have we become? We are now a crowd in search of a riot. We go from cause celebre to listicle to emotion-tugging video because that’s what gets us through another day of work, school, whatever. We want to be jacked up by the hits. We live in fear we’ll be found out. One moment of foolishness on Twitter and the angry mob turns on us. One disgruntled person posts one thing about us on Facebook and we’re a meme. Fear turns to paranoia. Anything to avoid that scarlet A. I wish, in 2014, we would work to end this addiction to the quick hit. Before we grab the pitchfork and torch, ask some questions: Is it worth it? What do I get if I “win?” Does it better society for us to battle?
“What if it was me the angry mob came for?” – Dylan Wilbanks

The following is about some one moving your cheese.
A podcast was to appear in this space, but it, like cheese, got moved and got moved to a place where it cannot bother me anymore. After eight weeks of tinkering I could not rid the podcast of its cheese which was only relevant as the podcast was about the various people, myself included, who have are frustrated and upset as they found their cheese has been repeatedly moved.
And how does cheese get moved?
And what kind of chaos are we talking about?
Hang on – we’re talking the long way around the block.
Terrence McKenna, a native of Paonia, Colorado, spent the second half of the 20th Century frying his brain for a living. In a moment of lucidity c. 1985 he talked at length about why Marshall McLuahn remains almost impossible to understand. He began by explaining that McLuhan was educated in the Western canon as the canon existed prior to WWII. (Put in current context – when McLuhan graduated Sartre was a weatherman in the French Army and the postmodernists were all children.) The bulk of the works McLuhan eerily absorbed were the ones that those of us who came decades after the War only touched on here and there. McKenna said that not only did McLuhan have all that stored away in his head – he wrote in a way that assumed you too had all that stuff stashed in your head too. Therefore if McLuhan made some quick reference to Milton or Plutarch he never felt compelled to slow down and expand on what he just said. It was a given that you know that too in the same way that it’s a given that you know whether it’s day or night. But if we stick strictly to the pre-War canon and use it as a guide, there is something that explains where we are now.
We live in the chaos that comes when Hegelian thesis and antithesis collide.
Early on McLuhan talked about how a new medium irritates the existing media until the newcomer finds its place. A few years before he died he used the term “surrounded” which he used only in the past tense. Surrounded is what you had after media collided. His example was what happened to the film industry when television arrived. At first there was conflict, but over time the movie people made money off selling their old stock to tv and film, when shown again over and over on tv, went from being considered disposable to being an art form. Eventually the two found their own niches and prospered in their interactions. Implied in all that is a conventional Hegelian dialectic.
Currently we’re also living through such a conflict which is difficult for us to grasp because it is not longer academic. When Hegel talked of conflict he spoke of Romans and Greeks, he even touched on the Napoleonic wars that he had lived through as a young man. But those were all long ago and viewed from all that distance we wind up with only a general and very academic sense of what that must be like.
Well… until recently.
Chaos has crept into how the visual representation of the spoken word is distributed. (NOTE: I will not use the word ‘print’ here as it comes with too many connotations these days.) While the chaos crept in long, long ago it’s been five years since the chaos was noticed on a large scale. More specifically – we’re about two months away from marking the fifth anniversary of the death of the Rocky Mountain News, the print edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and at least a half dozen other papers. At this point I don’t see a clean ending point where we move to synthesis, but – even after all this time – I still find myself as the object of the anger that came from the seismic shift in the location of the cheese c. 2009.
Perhaps that’s a bit much. Perhaps it’s not anger, but people lashing out in frustration. The chaos has been hard for many to take and they lash out routinely, but not as stridently as Mr. Wilbank’s example of Kathy Sierra. Sometimes you can ignore it and other times it’s like a drippy faucet in the night. Then there’s the times when people you’ve never met claim that you’re little more than The Digital Manson Family.
And that’s just the old media people.
Never mind the annoyance that comes from the social media people who I believe will not be found some day to be the agent of calm, but merely a cul-de-sac in the resolution of this chaos. I say that as they moved my cheese when they discovered podcasting this year. Last summer – as I have to do now and then – I was asked to attend a function and feign interest. The function required me to sit on my hands and keep my mouth shut while about a dozen social media experts spoke. Those of you who have lived through this sort of buzzword Space Mountain know that very little of it is in any language any human speaks. That meeting only differed in that I heard the words “podcast” and “podcasting” fly past my head. I knew those words from long, long ago and after I left their use of those words irritated me. Long story short – their recent discovery of podcasting made this old silver crested ape want to fling his feces at the younger members of the pack.
It was most unbecoming.
And that’s why the podcast had to die. No matter how many times I played it back all you could hear was some old monkey flinging his poo.
So the podcast died because you deserve better than that.
Did any of that make sense?
Good! Then my work here is done.

Can't Get Any More YOLO Than This! #boatparty #wheretheladiezzat?

“He don’t know me very well, do he?” – B. Bunny c. 1940
“As a scholar trained to consider the lasting impacts of design, for some time now I’ve been attempting to come to terms, not with the obduracy of political artifacts—the sociology of the freeway system, the power grid, or the railroad. Rather, I’ve been looking for a sociology of the kludge: a language to capture the agency, intelligence, and politics behind fleeting, inelegant, and opportunistic solutions that—while they often evolve over time to become infrastructure—are deployed first and foremost with regard to their immediate consequences. Examples of this sort of ingenuity abound in the case of online television distribution, where large companies, start-ups, and users alike are, as we speak, hammering out evolving solutions to delivering and consuming content in new ways, in new places, and on new terms. Media distribution is an area that’s arguably understudied in general, and I’ve found online television distribution a wonderful corner of the media landscape through which to explore the sociology of the kludge.” – Josh Braun from Going Over the Top: Online Television Distribution as Socio-technological System
This was the week that lacked any redeeming charm. Between the awful weather and the incessant grief there was one moment of levity. Around the middle of the week some one sent a rather convoluted note which asked if I’d like to be a keynote speaker at a conference. From what I can gather the previous keynotes were not all that much different than what’s seen in this video.

Your convulsive laughter reveals your deep knowledge of where this one is going. Obviously some one, with the very best of intentions, brought up my name and then added, “What could possible go wrong?” Given what they mapped out – I’d have to talk about what’s been on my mind lately.
Or something like that.
To that end:
In the mid-1950s The Ford Foundation gave a bucket of money to Marshall McLuhan to come up with an outline of how media should be taught in the schools. What they got was a colossal manuscript which the directors of The Ford Foundation found completely incomprehensible. McLuhan kept the money and they told him he could do what he wanted with what he wrote. After several edits that white paper became Understanding Media, a book which states that the arrival of mass produced printing seriously altered people’s view of the world. McLuhan said that print created a solitary individual who was free of a world that relied on visual stimulus and rote story telling. (eg. legends and fables) That new man, like Descartes, could live in his own mind and create new views, or rather, new versions of reality. Therefore in that context it is possible to make the case that Johannes Gutenberg is to the 1400s what Albert Hofman was to the 1900s because mass produced textual material is a mind altering substance.
Far fetched?
Certainly, but I’m dealing with nothing but barking dogs these days and old barking dogs at that.
Because most of the people in media have yet to understand that we are living through an upheaval in how text, audio, and video is distributed. The uncertainty of all this has made some people very, very angry and lately – especially last week – some of them really lashed out while I just happened to be standing there.
My utility as a doorstop or a punching bag has not decreased even with the steady advance of years.
But there are those that say you are currently interacting with something that might well be mind altering that was invented by people who dabbled in mind altering things that were not text. Please enjoy this video and then we can ask the question once posed by Mr. Sharp’s friend Nenslo, “Balmy am I?”

Returning to Elysium

“As writing, communication, if one insists upon maintaining the word, is not the means of transport of sense, the exchange of intentions and meanings, the discourse and “communication of consciousnesses.” We are not witnessing an end of writing which, to follow McLuhan’s ideological representation, would restore a transparency or immediacy of social relations; but indeed a more and more powerful historical unfolding of a general writing of which the system of speech, consciousness, meaning, presence, truth, etc., would only be an effect, to be analyzed as such. It is this questioned effect that I have elsewhere called logocentrism.” Jacques Derrida
“The systemic crisis in right-of-center use of arithmetic runs far deeper than just polling.” Brad DeLong
“Derrida was unable to condemn his friend’s behaviour because he was less concerned about de Man’s war than his own. The attack on de Man struck him as the latest in a series of malicious attacks on deconstruction. He had reason to feel that he was fighting on all fronts: against the Nouveaux Philosophes; against Anglo-American analytic philosophers who considered him a charlatan; against Jürgen Habermas and his followers in Germany, who denounced deconstruction for what they saw as its Heideggerian irrationalism. Derrida, who had refused to join the communists and Maoists in Paris, was now leading a party of his own, and, publicly at least, he was as inflexible as any leader. He never expressed regret over his response to the de Man affair. But in his last two decades, he began to evolve into a different sort of thinker, a globally attuned ethicist, as if in response to the charges made by his adversaries. He spoke less of Heidegger than of Levinas and Walter Benjamin, whose radical Jewish messianism struck a chord with him. Deconstruction, he now claimed, had always been about justice, all the more so for having been silent about it. He continued to pun – deconstruction, in French, would be nothing without puns – but the Joycean mischief of works like Glas and The Post Card subsided, as new, more sombre themes emerged: responsibility to the other (a theme taken from Levinas), memory (‘the trace’), Islam and the West, democracy, globalisation and its discontents, and sovereignty. He began to write more explicitly about his Algerian-Jewish roots, as if he wanted the world to know who he was after years of hiding from view. In his autobiographical essay ‘Circumfession’, composed in 59 paragraphs, one for each year he had lived, Derrida remembered his own ritual circumcision and speculated that circumcision was ‘all I’ve ever talked about’. The roots of deconstruction lay in the ‘writing of the body’, in the writing that marked difference.” Adam Shatz

What’s another election post-mortem between fiends?
The Telegraph’s Tim Stanley writing about the coming Anglican insurrection touches on many pointed I wanted to make since the election. Our paths differ when he brings up this reminder:

Make no mistake: the transatlantic Right is still awash with money and has a vibrant media sector. But in all else it is largely disestablished and disenfranchised. Whether this is a good or bad thing – for either the movement itself or for the society it seeks to save – remains to be seen. But it does require a shift in journalistic analysis. Ideological conservatism can no longer be treated as shorthand for establishment self interest. On the contrary, uprooted from power it is now a free thinking, freewheeling movement of outsiders. Most of them are angry, some of them are crazy. But they aren’t the wealthy, powerful clichés of old. They are the new Bolsheviks.

I was going to take a different tack and compare our friends on the other side of the aisle to 60’s era Maoists. Somehow, and I forget now, I was going to tie that to Derrida’s scrapes with French Maoist factions during the last quarter of the 20th Century. Seeing as that’s out the window I still think that the most important thing we’ve gotten out of this election is the Right’s return to the comfort of the 60’s. Once again they can see themselves as surrounded, hounded, and constantly on guard to be vilified at any moment. Once again they can return to their preferred zeitgeist – being the hated outlier.
Think about it – that was the position of strength The Right moved forward from in the 60’s and it’s never been anything they’ve ever put away. Even during the George Bush years when were the majority party in all three branches the radio talk show hosts still came off as put upon and bowdlerized for as much as saying “Good morning!” While there was no basis for it then all the ideologies are in play to make it all fresh again. If there has ever been a time to be, as Derrida would point out, trapped by the language of your own making then this is it.
Some other time we’ll talk about how Michelle Bachman is the Republican version of Shirley McClain in her mumu at the 1972 Democratic Convention and Mitt Romney is the new Ted Kennedy. Until then take a minute and please enjoy this short film which was the prototype of Fox’s victory celebration had Romney won.

Getting What You Deserve!

Preceeding 2002 – Before Subsidization
2002 – Year of the Whopper
2003 – Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad
2004 – Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar
2005 – Year of the Perdue Wonderchicken
2006 – Year of the Whisper-Quiet Maytag Dishmaster
2007 – Year of the Yushityu 2007 Mimetic-Resolution-Cartridge-View-Motherboard-Easy-To-Install-Upgrade For Infernatron/InterLace TP Systems For Home, Office, Or Mobile (sic)
2008 – Year of the Dairy Products from the American Heartland
2009 – Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment
2010 – Year of Glad
from David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest”
How’s the wife? Is she at home enjoying capitalism? – Zippy

I’ll try to be brief as you’re busy considering how Martin Amis hydrates.
Yesterday’s family quality time consisted of Mom taking a nap with the cats while Alaska Wolf Joe and I watched Cat Woman and Dr. Sonambula’s ongoing attempts to bilk noodle magnate, J. Pauline Spaghetti out of $200 million. At one point they almost get away with it while Batman is detained by a rookie cop attempting to put a parking ticket on the Bat Mobile. The ticket is torn up in what can only be described as a relativistic application of the law. This lead Alaska Wolf Joe to sask, “Is there any kind of ciritical study of all this? Has anybody tried to dissect this crap?”
A cursory glance at what our former president called, “Th’ Google” show that it has, 14 Miles to Gotham City
As the blurb says:

From 1966-1968, on both ABC and in movie theatres, America embraced Batman as a campy cultural icon. The nation thrilled to deathtrap cliffhangers and phrases like “Atomic batteries to power!” and “Same bat-time, same bat-channel!” But in the ensuing decades, many vilified the show as an embarrassment that needed to be swept under the rug if Batman — and super-heroes — were to be taken seriously. Having won this battle for legitimacy, perhaps we can now return to Adam West’s Gotham, to the unapologetic fun of colorful, cackling villains hatching bizarre schemes, and deadpan heroes ridiculously climbing walls. And perhaps we may find it not only fun but rich with deeper cultural meanings.

This then lead me to ask, what are we to do with Phoenix Jones?
To borrow a phrase – for those of you just tuning in, Mr. Jones is a self-proclaimed costumed defender of the streets of Seattle. While he is able bodied and ready he is also easily repelled by a woman’s size-seven shoe. It’s all the more curious that a hero so easily done in would attract a super nemesis, Rex Velvet.

In my mind the only way to rectify all this is to stop thinking of Mr. Jones as a a crime prevention advocate and instead consider him to be one of the many concept artists living in Seattle. That way we can see Mr. Velvet not as an actual criminal but an act of reciprocal art.
Put another way – what you create artistically can come back to you as an artistic statement. For an example we need look no further than this week’s various recaps of the 24-hour long German production of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. As Aaron Weiner wrote said on Slate:

True to the novel, quite a few of the play’s scenes have gone on far too long. But length is half the point. This isn’t entertainment in the traditional sense. It’s Wallace-style capital-E Entertainment, whose primary purpose isn’t to bring enjoyment—though it can be enjoyable—but to captivate, to incapacitate, like the novel’s deadly eponymous film whose viewers are so thoroughly entertained that they cease to eat, drink, sleep and, eventually, live. There weren’t, as far as I could tell, any casualties the day I took this infinite theater tour, though a good number of my 150 fellow travelers dropped out before the sun came up. As with the novel, the play was very much a test of endurance.

Faithfulness to the material while putting in a form that it was never intended for is a type of artistic reciprocity. Therefore – size-seven shoes aside- Mr. Jones endeavors can be reduced to art given that the only real attention he attracts is from a man very obviously playing a role.
Which is not to say that my idea of artistic reciprocity is not without flaws.

Crack a Window

“For me everything starts with appreciating that we are in Schumpeterian Moment. A lot of things we know and love are going to be destroyed, but a lot of wonderful new things will be created. In a meaningful way, I believe the Schumpeterian moment offers a personality test that will tell young people if journalism and media are for them.. If a student looks at our current news ecosystem and sees promise, excitement and energizing challenge then the media world is for them. If they look at that same ecosystem and rue the loss of what we had and see only doom approaching, that person needs to exit the media world quickly.” T.J. McGuire
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Inigo Montoya
“A new medium is never an addition to an old one, nor does it leave the old one in peace. It never ceases to oppress the older media until it finds new shapes and positions for them.” Marshall McLuhan
Today we work forward from Professor McLuhan’s most famous quote, “I don’t necessarily agree with everything I say.”
Not so long ago there were no end of blogs. There were so many blogs that the posts about what people had for lunch, their cats, and what their cats had for lunch were enough to blacken the noonday sky. Back in those heady days a goodly many blogs lived and died running posts which revolved around an article which had either so inspired or outraged that a blogger had no choice but to sit down and write.
This came about after the following:
1. Reading the entire article.
2. Reading about half the article and becoming outraged or inspired.
3. Reading about one-third what some one else wrote about the article and becoming etc etc.
3a. Reading about one-quarter of what some one else wrote without bothering the check the source material and then becoming etc etc.
4. Some combination of the above.
Today we’ll be dabbling in all those as we consider Mr. McGuire’s attempt to reduce a dead Austrian economist to an adjective. (See the quote above.)
Well, or we’ll be focusing on the style in which it was written as I really don’t understand a word of what he said and while we’re at it let me throw in this disclaimer: long ago and far away I was no stranger to throwing up some half-ass’d tome about some Talk of the Town piece, but at least I knew where I was going … OK sort of. At least I tried to confine myself not so much to what was said but how it was said. In this case it’s the Schumpeterian hyperbole that’s a bit grating. Actual content aside – the overall tone here suggests nothing more than Isadora Duncan jamming dirty urchins into togas and pushing them into a field of daisies so they could romp to the Fourth Movement of the Ninth Symphony.
And there you go.
What’s disturbing in all this is that you’d think I’d be able to better address all this given that I was once roundly beaten over the head with The Austrian School. What was supposed to be a an easy three hours of comparative economics turned out to be a nightmare. The man who taught the class had a personality that suggested a lifelong diet of nothing more than hardtack and cheese. Had he taken his hairsplitting over the differences between socialism and communism to The First COMINTERN Zinoviev himself would have told him to take out into the hall. He managed to take what was supposed to be a thumbnail sketch of von Mises and stretch it on the rack. His attention to Schumpeter was no different. The whole thing left me so steeped in angst that I still have nightmares about that class. At least the Austrians would be pleased that McGuire’s not taking a statistical approach to the problem as they didn’t have much use for that sort of thing. The article does confine itself to the ideas and notions about the changing nature of media and the non-quantifiable ways people act upon information.
Wanna know something?
Worrying about how people will consume information in the very near future is so 2009. Back then people would come to us, cry on our shoulders, and loudly demand answers. They looked at me strangely when I said, “You got used to cable tv didn’t you? You managed to figure that there was life beyond four or five channels for yourself, right? What makes this any different?” Today those same people tell me how they take the iPad to bed. (Personally I prefer a heating pad, but oh well…) In short order they figured it out and they’re none too worried. OK that’s anecdotal which would make it non-statistical and therefore at least living up to the spirit of the Austrians and that means we’ve come full circle and must end.
As a side note: I have abandoned FB once and for all. Instead I shall attempt to blog some more as that’s where I’ve long felt the most comfortable. But please make no mistake – this doesn’t mean that I have left FB quietly and that I won’t be making trouble for those who remain. Why in the next planned post alone there’s Althusser, the Zapatistas, and Occupy Movement put in a neat little row just to scare the piss out of all those Farmville cows!
Join us then, won’t you?