Tagged: Commentary

Xmas postscript

Image source: Apoplectic Press
What follows will surely put me on Bill O’Reilly‘s Most Wanted list (that is if I hit his radar at all, which is totally unlikely), but I came to the conclusion today that the number one cause of global warming has to be…. Christmas. Consider the following:

  • The power consumed for all the Christmas lights;
  • The carbon emissions caused by holiday travel;
  • The net reduction of trees from Christmas tree harvesting;
  • The waste of paper (and hence trees) caused by wrapping;
  • The resources consumed and pollution caused by the production of Christmas gifts;
  • The amount of resources needed to clean-up the environmental impact of Christmas (such as garbage collection);
  • The impact of food production for the holidays on soil, atmosphere and water supply;
  • The environmental resources consumed to make Christmas advertising.

I think if Jesus could peer into the future and see what his birthdate would do to the planet he would surely have called for a moratorium on such celebrations.

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Something wicked comes this way

I am now facing my first fatherhood crisis. No it’s not the fact that I haven’t slept more than four hours in a night in the past seven months, nor the daily grind of spit and poop. No, it came in the form of a three foot mouse named Mickey, an uninvited guest who landed in the dark night of Xmas.

Receiving a monstrous Mickey Mouse doll should be a family decision. This is not something you casually buy someone with no warning. It’s an invasion, the D-Day of consumer capitalism. A well-meaning relative believed he was doing the right think by giving our daughter this play thing, yet it’s one of a dimension that can only be deemed, uhm, American. To a seven-month-old this is not a toy, a mouse or a Disney character, but a large plush blob conglomerating abstract shapes that through training takes the form of something more recognizable in the future. I have no doubt that Mickey will now join the family and give her hours of joy. That’s why I feel guilty re-naming him Beelzebub.

Upon rolling my eyes when He arrived, my Italian partner reminded me that I already have a Ronald McDonald doll in the apartment. But he’s wearing a Mexican wrestler’s mask and a button that says “McShit.” I also pointed out that I have two Zapatista dolls as well. She wondered why I object to the innocent looking creature that takes up half our couch. I responded that he is the smiley face of Empire, a gateway drug to consumerism. Once our daughter becomes acclimated to Mickey’s likeness, then the door opens up to a host of other nefarious consumer goods, none of which I can afford, nor do I want to. But can I break her little heart by arguing that Mickey was probalby made by Chinese prison labor, or that the fire retardant material it’s made out of is comprised of neurotoxins? But alas I remember my grandmother telling me that I should finish my food because other kids in the world were starving. I always hated it when she said that. I don’t think I will impose globalization upon my daughter. Yet.
Now, I don’t intend to censor my daughter’s reality. If she wants Disney, she will have Disney, with restraint, of course. We’ll do Santa, too. I don’t intend to be an anti-capitalst scrooge, 1) because I won’t deny her the magical aspects that brought me happiness as a child, and 2) because it will make her a social outcast. I know too many hippie kids who ended up becoming stock brokers and real estate agents because their parents nursed them on wheat grass and made them toys out of roof shingles. Still, something has to be done. Ultimately I have learned that it’s better to ask questions and let the child decide what is right and wrong. This is how my grandfather approached things, even when he denied me coloring books because they controlled my creativity. I honestly don’t know how I will respond when the society will parent my child again. But rest assured, I’m making it my project to design the best mousetrap possible.
BTW, Happy Holidaze!

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Out-slacking the slackers: right on!

What happens when this young man rules the world?

Stay Free! Daily:

A Wall Street Journal columnist blames twentysomething narcissism on Mr. Rogers (unfair!), Boomer-style permissive parenting (getting warmer), and the gospel of self-esteem (warmer still). What the press reports seem to miss, however, is the fact that this is the first generation of children raised in an environment of unabashed marketing. In 1980, corporate lobbying managed to get Congress to abolish the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to regulate advertising to kids. With no watchdog in sight, an entire industry developed to market directly to kids. Full-length commercials began masquerading as TV cartoons. Channel One launched its in-school advertising “news” network. And junk food marketing skyrocketed. The most common message of marketing to tweens and teens is this: your parents are idiots, your teachers are dull, you’re so much cooler than everyone else. But we understand you and know what you want. Product!

What may be bad news for the pampered white kids featured in the segment, though, should be good news for America’s immigrants. Based on this segment, I’d say immigrants who’ve brought over a strong work ethic will have a great shot at out-achieving the coddled elites, once employers stop instinctively hiring rich whites. Let’s hear it for class war!

Carrie McLaren from Stay Free! discusses in the above post the recent whining in the media about what crappy workers the next batch of post-grads have become. The so-called “millennials” are even out-slacking the slackers (that would be my generation: “X”– sorry folks, the name is taken). Like Carrie I’ve been irritated by a lot of the complainers who are attacking liberal media or parenting techniques by the so-called “helicopter” parents. Who are these dreaded parents destroying the world with all their love and affection? Last time I checked (and as a former teacher I can tell you that I checked a lot), most families I dealt with were completely broken: divorced, working ten jobs, alcoholic, impoverished, I could go on. This mythic creature of the suburban parent and the overly protective family is some kind of demographic fantasy, or… I may just live on the wrong planet. Both might be true.

I think Carrie nails a few points. One is that advertising does demonize authority, teachers and parents. If you don’t believe me, randomly select any Budweiser ad and tell me I’m wrong. The common concern of the articles she sites is that immigrants still have a strong work ethic and , boo-hoo, the white race will slack off and die. The problem for marketers and the businesses that depend on them is that their realities are imploding. The whole history of sucking the emotion out of workers is the source of “cool” and the current trend of the ironic disposition. No one is allowed to care anymore, because if you do, you might actually unionize (see my previous post on the writer’s strike). Besides, why should we care? Most corporations of yore (the kind that our parents and grandparents grew up working for) at least offered you job security for selling your soul to the company store. Not anymore. They want your undying attention and will farm your pension to some bankrupt Enron of the future so that every dime of your retirement ends up in the golden parachute of the next defrocked CEO of international finance. Geez, with so much hypocrisy looping around our economic system, it’s hard to find a reason why anyone should care about whether or not a 20 year old has enough focus to read a spreadsheet before switching to Tetras. Slack on!

Oh, and add to that the need for a volunteer military who cares enough and will willingly die for abstract concepts like freedom and democracy in the world’s shitholes that happen to be of interest because of their proximity to composted dinosaurs. LOL.

I’d like to add the following theory. Part of the reason our culture (the affluent one that is supposed to perform the knowledge work of our society) is imploding is because they are the last generation to play out the final act of the alphabetized, and hence right-brained, mind. Immigrants, many of whom come from countries that are not dominated by the history of print literacy, have spacial minds that contain broader realities, including the multidimensional, multilayered, pattern-like world that is emerging. Perhaps that is is why they will some day (soon) rule the world. I’m crying crocodile tears.

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Media and identity loss

The loss of identity is a Western problem. One argument concerning the multitude is that the growing immigrant and migratory class– including refugees– will have what it takes to survive the global mindfrak, since they are the ones adept at transitioning states of being. Only those attached to a “stable” reality are screwed. While it is true the multinational pop-media-military-fear complex is in the business of producing subjectivities, they are now highly dependent on the user for content. A cynic might argue that the “prosumer” is just a deeper step into the control of our time, because we “work” at all hours producing their content and by giving them our attention. I still feel strongly that deep inside even the most scared and mechanically destroyed consciousness is a sense of authenticity, truth, love, and all that we deem as “good.” The problem for corporations is that their hyper commercialism threatens to cancel their messages out. There is so much brand noise, there isn’t much to be distinguished anymore (except the subjectivity itself which is imploding under the weight of post-irony). I don’t agree with most media critics who believe that we are being brainwashed. That is only true if we continue to believe in the reality bubble of the West that assumes that we inhabit a false reality. Furthermore, we should not fear the media. If we do, they win. But “they” is suspicious. In the end, we are the media.

A 21st century library


I’ve been reading Everything is Miscellaneous, which is a great primer on how all the crazy categorization schemes that we see as natural (alphabetic, numeric), are not only contrived, but are falling apart because of information technology. So I was interested to come across this interview with Prelinger Library librarian Nancy Pearl. Rick Prelinger’s collection is at the root of the Internet Archive, a great “resource of human knowledge,” i.e. copyright free images, movies, lectures, software and a bunch of other cool stuff.

Creating the 21st Century Library — In These Times:

How do you think the digitization of books should effect how libraries manage their print collections?

In the library and document preservation worlds, there exists a concern that the growth of the digital environment will result in the end of print, and that books and newspapers need to be rescued from the digital future. I don’t believe that. Books as artifacts will always have value apart from their digital counterparts.

Yes, the online environment obviously offers mass dispersal into the world and that’s not possible in a print library environment. But part of our library project is about collapsing the polarization between print and digital, and looking toward a third way where a library can be a hybrid analog-digital space. Books are both retained and valued, and where a digital collection exists, maybe it allows more freedom with what the analog collection can do, because you can always do a keyword search of the digital collection. Maybe the benefits of one liberate the other.

Random daily thought

Us Soldiers Take Pics

It’s ironic that the industrial military mindset backed by the most advanced technological image generating mechanism in world history finds itself bogged down in the Middle Eastern desert as its effort to control the information, power and military paradigm of the 20th century is literally being ripped apart one cell phone-powered IED at a time by an insurgent, decentralized, human powered cultural force that decries the representation of god in all forms of media. Just an observation.

Brain hemispheric politics

Brain Hem

Study finds left-wing brain, right-wing brain – Los Angeles Times:

“There is ample data from the history of science showing that social and political liberals indeed do tend to support major revolutions in science,” said Sulloway, who has written about the history of science and has studied behavioral differences between conservatives and liberals.

Lead author David Amodio, an assistant professor of psychology at New York University, cautioned that the study looked at a narrow range of human behavior and that it would be a mistake to conclude that one political orientation was better. The tendency of conservatives to block distracting information could be a good thing depending on the situation, he said.

I’m a few days behind on this story, but ironically it’s because I’m working on my book which deals a little with the left and right brain hemispheres as being instruments for processing different kinds of media. McLuhan and Powers in The Global Village break the different brain hemispheres down as follows:

Eye-Left Hemisphere

Logical, Mathematical
linear, Detailed
Reading, Writing, Naming
Sequential Ordering
Perception of Significant Order
Complex Motor Sequences

Ear-Right Hemisphere

Artistic, Symbolic
Intuitive, Creative
Minor, Quiet
Synthetic, Gestalt
Facial Recognition
Simultaneous Comprehension
Perception of Abstract Patterns
Recognition of Complex Figures

(McLuhan, Powers, p. 54)

Based on these differing functions I’d guess the left brain is probably the Republican side. (BTW, the left-brain controls the right side of the body, so you could say that it is the “right wing” of the body.)

Indigenous skateboard media

Indigenous Action Media, a Native American video production collective in the southwestern United States, believes the punk ethic of do-it-yourself (DIY) is more than rhetoric. Instigated by the sibling trio that forms the Diné rock band, Blackfire, Indigenous Action Media are designing and running their own video production workshops that are producing homegrown views on education, environment and social justice. Consequently, when school starts this Fall, these intrepid Indigenous youth will be taking their curriculum into their own hands.

By mixing DIY and skate culture, their set piece project, The Outta Your Backpack Media Collective, combines free workshops with a portable digital video editing system that compactly fits into a pack kids typically use for schoolbooks. Their project is meant “to create community ownership of media, recognizing the inherent creative energy of youth, and challenges corporate dominated media. We create fully equipped decentralized media centers in each backpack.” By utilizing cheap digital media tool, the program enables Native youth to explore difficult and forbidden issues ignored by mainstream media and the education system:

Every organization & community needs an Outta Your Backpack Media collective! Imagine if every community had the power to create its own media. What would it look like? We see youth displaying their films on projection and bed sheets in public spaces (or home) in every community. What would it sound like? We hear high school students making guerilla radio/Podcasts so all can hear. What would it read like? We read Outta Your Backpack newspapers incorporating art, comedy, current news, and events concerning community empowerment and resistance. And most importantly, how does it feel? It feels damn goooooood! To tell our own stories and create our own his/herstories.

As one of over a half a dozen clips featured on their Website, the above video, “Knowledge is Dangerous,” poignantly expresses the need to take local control of education. “Knowledge is Dangerous” envisions a dystopic future where children are forced to read certain books (hmm, sounds a bit like the present), i.e. the sanctioned knowledge of the dominant culture. But an underground of book lovers with their own rewritten curriculum of texts featuring the likes of Malcolm X and Dr. Seuss (!), uses a car trunk for its forbidden library. You’ll have to watch the video to see how the knowledge bandits prevail, but suffice to say, in the case of this particular group of young Native American mediamakers, their storytelling agenda bypasses stereotypes of how indigenous youth are engaging their education.

Also featured on Indigenous Action Media’s Website is this documentary, “Making a Stand at Desert Rock.” In their words:

On December 12th, 2006 community members in Burnham, New Mexico established a blockade to prevent preliminary work for the proposed Desert Rock coal-fired power plant. More info: www.desert-rock-blog.com.

If you click on the video’s YouTube logo, it will send you to the YouTube site where several other citizen produced videos about the conflict will appear in the “related” sidebar section. With an on-going struggle over the land between the local indigenous population and energy companies in the four-corners region of the US Southwest, it appears that new user-generated media on the subject are being uploaded on a consistent basis.

If you are a young indigenous filmmaker and feel like jumping into the mix, Indigenous Action Media’s latest project is the sponsorship of The 4th Annual Southwest Native American Film Festival Fall Showcase & Workshops to be held on their home turf in Flagstaff, Arizona (USA) in April ’08. On October 5-6, 2007 there will be a preview Fall showcase, so though the Website states the festival is in October, it appears they are still accepting submissions for the April event.

The fall of the powerholic


With the sound of the other shoe dropping, i.e. the subprime mortgage market collapse, we can now see that chances are very strong that the US Empire will be disintegrating very quickly. People seem to forget that they are spending something ridiculous like a billion dollars a day on Iraq, so we have to wonder, who is going to pay for it? You guessed it. Anyhow, the chorus of Rome and US comparisons is hitting a feverish pitch. Here is just one snip of many flying through cyberspace these days, this coming no less from the US Inspector General (Congress’s autonomous watch-dog organization):
FT.com / World – Learn from the fall of Rome, US warned:

The US government is on a ‘burning platform’ of unsustainable policies and practices with fiscal deficits, chronic healthcare underfunding, immigration and overseas military commitments threatening a crisis if action is not taken soon, the country’s top government inspector has warned.

Drawing parallels with the end of the Roman empire, Mr Walker warned there were “striking similarities” between America’s current situation and the factors that brought down Rome, including “declining moral values and political civility at home, an over-confident and over-extended military in foreign lands and fiscal irresponsibility by the central government”.

With the comparisons between the fall of Rome and the dire situation the US finds itself in, I think it would be wise to study history, indeed, but I would liken the situation closer to the fall of the Spanish Empire. There was a time when Spanish currency was the gold standard of the world, but the ruling elite became decadent (surprise!) and the Empire found itself importing more goods from France than they were producing at home. To this the French King said something like, “Let the Spanish spend their gold on our goods!” Perhaps the Chinese are saying the same thing.

But more importantly is the manner in which Spain digressed into its own Dark Age with the Inquisition and purge of its business and intellectual class through the expulsion of the Sephardim jews. Here is where the parallel is dangerously close. The recent anti-immigration fervor is nothing but coded racism, and with little else to latch onto, I predict the Republicans and the desperate Right are going to go all out with semiotic race war. And it won’t just target Latin Americans, but anyone who no longer fits the 1950s fantasy of white American society. The brain drain is on as technical jobs, and even CEOs are being farmed out of the States. The US is in grave danger of a racist purge, so please keep your eyes on the ball folks and make sure this doesn’t happen, because there are desperate people clinging to an outmoded reality, and that usually is a bad recipe for social harmony.

There is an upside to this, but this certainly is one that comes along down the line. As someone who lives in a formerly ruined empire, the nice thing you learn from being in Rome is that life goes on, even after 2, 500 years of a rise and fall of human fortunes (Mexico CIty has a similar fate). You have no idea what a relief it is to live in a place that is NOT an empire. It’s like having a dark gray energy bubble cleansed and released. The burden of Iraq, the stress of war, the faltering economy, the rise of the national security apparatus with the legal blessings of Congress, and the paranoid delusion and paranoia of the “others” is wearing people down. It’s a sad time, but also a moment to completely reevaluate the priorities and decisions of our society. I truly hope that this becomes a sobering moment, as in when the alcoholic finally bottoms out. It’s time to acknowledge that the “powerholic” has finally hit the floor, the face going splat. I just wish there was AA for people addicted to war.

Gibson Spooked

Well kidz, once again we are in for a treat. There is a new William Gibson book, Spook Country, on the horizon and I can’t wait. Pattern Recognition was such a prescient look at media, I’m always curious to see what Gibson’s imagination conjures from the global pop ethers. For his new book, Gibson posted segments on his blog for feedback. Whereas Neuromancer was made on a typewriter, he is actually is now getting caught up with current technology and incorporating it into his process. (BTW, his initial inspiration for “cyberspace” was simple arcade video games of the early ’80s variety.)
digital digs: William Gibson’s Spook Country:

The promise of Spook Country as a kind of continutation of Pattern Recognition makes me happy as I thought his last novel was one of his best. It was a decided departure from the more speculative/futuristic content of his earlier work in that it is set in the present and, as Gibson says in the interview, explores the cultural changes in the U.S. since 9/11.

That said, it shares a common theme in exploring the intersection of technology and politics. As Gibson notes, technology is very rarely legislated into existence. That obviously shouldn’t be taken to mean technology emerges in apolitical spaces. However it does mean that technological development can disrupt political order, a very Marxian observation, I would think.

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From Bavaria to Oklahoma: a tale of two continents

Earth At Night

Some media thinkers have remarked that with the advent of satellite imagery that we inhabitants of Earth would become more continentally conscious because we would cease to see the political boundaries of maps and begin to see ourselves living on islands. The creation of regional markets and trade zones buttresses this observation. I certainly had a shift in awareness when I first used Google maps and tilted my view from looking straight down on Earth to one that showed the horizon and the planet’s curve. It was a revelation, not on the scale of a religious ah-ha, but there was something strangely profound as I shifted and altered my perspective of the composited desert landscape with my mouse. It was as if I had full control of the planet. It felt like my computer had become a spaceship’s portal.

For the past few weeks I’ve been traversing continents (hence the dearth of posts) and I’m getting a better sense of the difference between those who are harnessing the island mentality to expand consciousness with those who are increasingly imprisoned by it. In particular two locales represent extreme spectrums: Bavaria and Oklahoma.

Traveling through Europe is an eye-opener. If you want to collect passport stamps as souvenirs, forget it. Flying between countries is as seamless as going between states. Somehow the countries of Europe are managing to harmonize their differences to facilitate business and cultural exchange. This is not to gloss over the very real differences and conflicts within the European Union, but one gets a sense of a wariness of war and empire building so pervasive in the US. There it is an archaic artifact of the industrial world. So it’s strangely ironic that in the US, which has always prided itself as being the “new” world, it is now embalming itself as it engages a nihilistic path of self-destruction.

Certainly there are things about Europe that are not desirable, especially the lack of professional and academic freedom enjoyed in the US, but it is impressive how the Germans are taking recycling and energy consumption incredibly seriously. In one building I walked through, the lights only went on when I passed sensors. At the Munich airport the escalator only runs when people are on it. On Lufthansa Airlines they recycle every bit of waste, including bottle caps. My brother’s Munich apartment has four different bins for recycling. It is strange, though, that Germans remain staunch holdouts on the smoking ban. It’s hard to grok seeing such heightened environmental consciousness while smoking is still permitted in restaurants and bars.

I realize it is not fair to hold up Bavaria as foil for examining US consumption patterns, especially given its reputation that it is so sanitary that it is “licked clean,” but we have to take seriously the fact that what was once the center of one the most heinous regimes in world history is now a curious example of civic responsibility and forward thinking about ecology. In a contrast (and clash) of cultures, I happened to be at the US Consulate in Munich for its Independence Day celebration and found myself in a weirdly surreal environment in which McDonalds catored food (along with Holiday Inn and other corporate sponsors). It was the first time in my life that I ate a McDonalds cheeseburger and downed a pint of German beer simultaneously. It didn’t make the burger taste any better, and furthered my theory that the problem with the US business and government culture is a lack of aesthetics. But then again, aesthetics didn’t serve the Germans too well in the past.

Having been gone from the US for over five months (the longest spell away from my homeland), I was treated to major culture shock as I reentered the country. From being harassed by homeland security and being treated like a criminal by my own government to the chill of air conditioning, I’m finding it difficult to have faith in the future of our land. There is a strangely ironic twist to the refrigerated state that Americans so enjoy, as if a symbolic transfer of artic cold is being made in the form of electrically powered environmental conditioners whose energetic output is warming the glaciers and polar caps. You can see all that evaporated moisture in Oklahoma where it has been raining nonstop for a month and the state has been flooded endlessly from torrential downpours. I wonder if the ranch of Sen. Jim Inhofe, the man whose mission it has been to declare global warming a hoax and to serve as Al Gore’s nemesis, has been affected by all this rain.

With the amount of preservatives, sugar and grease people are eating, one gets the sense that when combined with such frigid air there is an unconscious process of embalming that people are going through as if to deny that the world is changing. For these obese humans—and believe me it is SHOCKING how fat Americans are becoming—fat serves as barrier against the world. I want to qualify this statement to say that I know some people are genetically predisposed to obesity and that I am not judging large people, but there is clearly a problem with our food and eating habits when you see heaviness so pervasively in contrast to other countries. When you eat at restaurants across the middle US you are constantly served not one, but two plates of food. At one point I had to ask a waitress when I ordered dinner how many plates the food would be coming on, and when she delivered the predicted response I asked if it was strange that people were stuffing themselves to death. The teen waitress responded with a question: “Didn’t you see Super Size Me?” Ah, there is hope after all. Still, it is no wonder the US can’t win wars any more. There is little able-bodied cannon fodder left.

I was working at a lake resort running a youth media program for the Creek Nation. During the week’s storms the lake swelled to the point that the children’s playground was half underwater and trees were drowning fifty feet out into the lake. I kept thinking about all the little short films I saw during Live Earth and the one common image of rising waters and floods. Meanwhile, inside the icebox cold resort, soda was served instead of water and cans were tossed into the garbage instead of recycling bins. Pounds upon pounds of greasy meat and dead vegetables were courses for the day. Down the road at a “nature” center animals and plants are caged and domesticated. I strained to see Al Gore’s vision applied here, and felt as far away from Bavarian ecological activism as one could feel in a planet that should be shrinking with cross-fertilization. Instead, in heartland America I get the sense of increasing isolation and a lashing out against the world because of fear of change. This is especially evidenced by the pervasiveness of evangelical TV channels permeating the broadcast spectrum. In America, we threaten to imprison ourselves in our own outmoded, dying paradigm of power, symbolized the by the growing girth of our bodies. It’s hard to imagine a more depressing image of a continent.


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Growing brain cells


If you are migrating here from my old MediaMidnfulness blog, welcome! This is what’s happening in our world today:
So the baby book says: an infant needs to sleep so that she can grow new brain cells. And what about papa? Well, I’m getting by, joyfully, but with little time to focus on work, thus my long absence from the blog. The good news is that my daughter was born healthy and strong. There is no real bad news, except that my normal time management strategy has been completely destroyed.

As for life in Rome… well you probably heard the news that the air quality here, depending on your disposition, is something special. With traces of cocaine, marijuana and caffeine, makes me wonder if Darth Vader found his recent tour of the city intoxicating in more ways than one. No doubt when he left there was tear gas added to the mix. As for the Lord Emperor’s whirling death flotilla, we are more than relieved to have our quiet neighborhood back and our nights filled with the baby’s cries rather than the drone of the aerial death bubble.

Before coming back I decided that I wanted to rework the blog. For a while there were several changes I wanted to make but the time between my initial coding and the latest software versions was too long and it was too difficult to simply over right the old template. Moreover, as I have been working on my book, my ideas are getting clearer; I’ve wanted to create more of a distinct identity for the blog with a unique URL and domain. Please keep in mind that everything is a work in progress, so I’ll be making tweaks here and there, and I’m a new parent, so time is precious!

The main reason for the switch from MediaMindfulness to Mediacology is a change in emphasis and pedagogy. Mindfulness is a technique I learned from my meditation practice, which is about observing and being fully conscious and aware of what is happening in any moment. As I have been working on my book of the same name I came to realize that what I was really probing was not just mindful engagement of media, but to advocate for a deeper kind of understanding that delves into the very operating system of our cultural consciousness.

Most media literacy that I am aware of just focuses on the analysis of media. For me that is not enough. Our technological world is running on faulty thinking that goes to the core of economics, communications, education and ecology. Therefore, what Deep Ecology is to environmentalism, Mediacology is to media literacy. It’s an effort to move from a dualistic paradigm I call GridThink, to one that is holistic, which I am calling HoloGrok. More on these terms later. I will be testing some of the ideas of my book at the new blog, and also post about interesting things that cross my browser.

And now for some other mundane things. There was a period of a few weeks with no Internet, and to be truthful, it felt great. I got a lot of writing done and a sense of anxiety that pervades a lot of my probing and searching on the Web was abated. I was a little gloomy, to be honest, when the service was turned back on, and even sadder when the TV arrived. Yet I do miss writing and connecting in the blogosphere and sharing with all of you as you have so bravely ventured into my little world. So I plan to continue posting as much as I find interesting and relevant, but not with so much urgency. I want this to be fun again. I hope it is for you too. See you at my new studio!

Media evolution

The New Science of Human Evolution – Newsweek Technology – MSNBC.com:

New research also shows that “progress” and “human evolution” are only occasional partners. More than once in human prehistory, evolution created a modern trait such as a face without jutting, apelike brows and jaws, only to let it go extinct, before trying again a few million years later. Our species’ travels through time proceeded in fits and starts, with long periods when “nothing much happened,” punctuated by bursts of dizzying change, says paleontologist Ian Tattersall, co-curator of the American Museum’s new hall.

What does evolution have to do with media? There is an internalized belief in the advanced information economies that technology is an inevitable byproduct of the most successful and necessary cultural products of human culture. Part of our culturally biased thinking relates to an institutional attitude that our communication systems are rational, evolutionary progressions of civilization, something that has been thoroughly debunked by anthropology.

The point is that very few people believe what anthropology teaches: that indigenous, small-scale traditional societies are not earlier (or degenerate) versions of our own. They are rather differing solutions to historical circumstances and environmental particulars that testify to the breadth of human intellectual creativity and its capacity for symbolization.

(Eric Michaels, Bad Aboriginal Art: Tradition, Media and Technological Horizons, p. 82)

The Newsweek article quoted above shows that “progress” and “evolution” do not necessarily come together. My desire is for us to consciously choose how we use our tools, and not let them control us (this is the essential anxiety of most sci-fi films). I think this is the lesson we can take away from these evolving concepts of human development. I’m not anti-technology, but I am about perspective, and for positive communication and community building. If our tools are in service of these goals, then I’m all for them.

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Sureal Estate: Dubai is the sci-fi capital of the world

Forget Vegas, forget Disney. Meet Dubai. Nice beach-front property, just a stone’s throw from Iran and WWIII. God willing for oil economy investors, may the Straits of Hormuz remain open and sea levels even.

If the above promotional video isn’t convincing enough (yes, it’s real), read a sample of Mike Davis‘ remarkable piece on Dubai, sci-fi capital of the world:

New Left Review – Mike Davis: Fear and Money in Dubai:

Welcome to a strange paradise. But where are you? Is this a new Margaret Atwood novel, Philip K. Dick’s unpublished sequel to Blade Runner or Donald Trump on acid? No. It is the Persian Gulf city-state of Dubai in 2010. After Shanghai (current population 15 million), Dubai (current population 1.5 million) is the planet’s biggest building site: an emerging dreamworld of conspicuous consumption and what the locals boast as ‘supreme lifestyles’. Despite its blast-furnace climate (on typical 120° summer days, the swankier hotels refrigerate their swimming pools) and edge-of-the-war-zone location, Dubai confidently predicts that its enchanted forest of 600 skyscrapers and malls will attract 15 million overseas visitors a year by 2010, three times as many as New York City. Emirates Airlines has placed a staggering $37-billion order for new Boeings and Airbuses to fly these tourists in and out of Dubai’s new global air hub, the vast Jebel Ali airport. [1] Indeed, thanks to a dying planet’s terminal addiction to Arabian oil, this former fishing village and smugglers’ cove proposes to become one of the world capitals of the 21st century. Favouring diamonds over rhinestones, Dubai has already surpassed that other desert arcade of capitalist desire, Las Vegas, both in sheer scale of spectacle and the profligate consumption of water and power.

And now for some video to flesh out the story:

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U.S. Media Overlooked Major Humanitarian Stories in 2006

Study: U.S. Media Overlooked Major Humanitarian Stories in 2006:

Last year millions of people in many countries lost their lives as a result of wars, violence, disease, and hunger, yet the major television networks in the United States did not tell their stories to the U.S. public, a new study on media coverage notes.

The staggering human toll taken by tuberculosis (TB) and malnutrition as well as the devastation caused by wars in the Central African Republic, Sri Lanka, and the Democratic Republic of Congo were almost completely ignored by the leading television networks, according to a well-respected medical aid group that monitors media coverage on humanitarian issues at the end of each year.

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Thinking postitive

Happy New Year! To get things going, here’s some positive attitude about media, something you don’t hear so much these days.

TheStar.com – sciencetech – The year in Ideas:

Massaged by the medium

Metta Spencer is a peace activist and emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Toronto who argues that TV and film have already helped make the world a better place, and could make it better still. Not all TV and movies, of course, but shows with humanity, idealism and a sense of social justice. In a May interview with the Star’s Olivia Ward, Spencer – whose latest book, Two Aspirins and a Comedy: How Television Can Enhance Health and Society, had recently been published – recounted how she watched the Alaska-based series Northern Exposure while recovering from hip-replacement surgery, and “my pain would diminish for hours.”

But in her book, and the interview, Spencer went beyond the biochemical impact of laughter and positive emotions to look at how popular entertainments can spur social change. “Birth rates in the developing world are dropping ahead of schedule – TV viewers see small, happy families and emulate them,” she told Ward. “Intelligence levels are increasing by three points per decade, largely because of exposure to complicated plots in TV shows.

“In 1983, the film Gandhi brought non-violent methods to a wide audience, and activists studied that film closely and implemented those techniques in 1989, toppling Communism almost without bloodshed. It’s astounding.”

Ultimately, Spencer believes that TV and film could literally save the planet. “Motivation simply doesn’t come from information,” she said. “It comes from feelings – sentiments, affects. It comes from caring. It comes from emotional human relationships. Even fictional relationships can have emotional power.”