Tagged: TV

The dark side of Oz

How do you turn mat art into a viral video? Sci-Fi’s Tin Man series has this wormhole site that draws you into its various worlds— one after another. It’s a compelling visual fantasy; you have to give the creators credit for having cajones to tackle the Oz story and contemporize it with darker themes. I don’t know if they can top Gregory Maquire’s Wicked, which envisions Oz through the eyes of the Wicked Witch, but given the trend of recent remakes, I bet it’s a fairly bleak retelling.

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The fantasy of virtual control

I’ll admit that watching this short video made me cry. Not because I believe all of its arguments–that war and our opinions can be controlled virtually, or that journalism is the answer to our problem of war–but because our military technological mind is getting so out of whack that it increasingly is turning people into aliens who can abstract death and destruction. Still, I’m not afraid because hypocrisy is not sustainable. The control fantasy future of the military planners is founded on nothing substantial except destruction. Some day the only thing left to destroy will be destruction itself. But it’s depressing to see this process in action. To quote the opening of The Great Turning (a book about moving our culture from one of empire to earth community),

[This book is] George W. Bush, whose administration exposed to full view the imperial shadow side of U.S. democracy, stripped away the last of the illusions of my childhood innocence. and compelled me to write this book.

Televisual zoos?

An interesting commentary on new animal programs with their shifting narrative arcs designed to satisfy human agendas. I think wildlife programs are a double-edge sword. On the one hand it gives us a more intimate understanding of the animal world, on the other hand if further promotes a sense of separation, first by “othering” animals as something “out there,” second by making nature into an entertainment spectacle, and third excluding humans from a relationship of partnership.

AlterNet: Movie Mix: The Animal Kingdom Storms Reality TV and the Documentary Industry:

But for as much as Meerkat Manor sounds like Laguna Beach and Arctic Tale looks like Survivor, such word play might not be enough. Roger Scruton, a research professor at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences who writes widely on animal rights issues suggests we need a new framework for our animal-human relationships. He argues that “negotiation, compromise and agreement” are the foundation of all human communities and that rather than assigning animals rights based on a moral framework, we should give them rights based on how we use them: as pets, food or scientific study.

BTW, if the subject of nature and media are interesting to you, I highly recommend the following book,



TV is dead: cell phones to be rated by Nelson

This small news item may go down in history as a Rubicon moment. Nelson Company who compiles ratings of US television audiences now considers phones a serious programming outlet that deserves tracking. This confirms my suspicion that television is a transient fact, although I wouldn’t say that it will die. It will just mutate. Just like humans.

Your TV Is Ringing: Nielsen To Track Cellphone Videos – Media on The Huffington Post:

Cellphones are rapidly becoming ubiquitous and the Nielsen Company, the longtime monitor of television consumption, wants in.

Nielsen said yesterday that it had agreed to acquire Telephia, a private company based in San Francisco, for an undisclosed amount. Since its founding in 1998, Telephia has become one of the most respected sources of data about cellphone use — tracking consumers’ phone calling, mobile Web surfing, video viewing and just about everything else. Nielsen has been building mobile tracking products on its own, but Telephia will greatly advance its ability to track media consumption on every screen, Nielsen executives said.

Is it really only getting worse?


Truthdig – Interviews – Media Critic on Why It’s Only Getting Worse:

Once upon a time, TV news put journalists on camera. Today, cable news has on-air “talent”—who are “cast,” not just hired. A Walter Cronkite would have big trouble getting a job today in TV news. But an actor? No problem. CNN a few years ago cast a former actress from “NYPD Blue” as one of its “Headline News” anchors. At Fox News, where lip gloss and blond hair go further than a background in journalism, I could find no proof to the charge that executives reviewed audition tapes of potential female anchors with the sound turned off.

Jeff Cohen, a founder of FAIR, has been one of the best media watchdogs of the era. His new book, Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media, is out. It’s probably a good read (and funny too, I’m sure), but I wonder if it’s worth caring anymore about how bad cable news is. Do people really care what they say? Do these networks really have that much influence on people’s opnions? I’m thinking out loud here, but I’m guessing that we place more importance on this kind of programming than the actual impact. I wonder if these networks exist within a self-genereating reality and the Internet will bypass them as it has with newspapers. What do you think?

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News war


Watch it online.

FRONTLINE: news war: introduction | PBS:

Bergman traces the recent history of American journalism, from the Nixon administration’s attacks on the media and the post-Watergate popularity of the press to new obstacles presented by the war on terror and changing economics in the media business and the Internet. The topic has special resonance for Bergman, whose career as a journalist for FRONTLINE, The New York Times, ABC News and 60 Minutes has included reporting on the issues that are critical to the current controversies. “There has been a perfect storm brewing in the world of news,” says Bergman. “Not since the Nixon administration has there been this level of hostility leveled at news organizations. … [But] unlike the confrontations of 35 or more years ago, today’s news war sees the very economic foundations of the business shifting.”

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Watch out kids, here comes Joost


Yet another entrant into the on-line video stream. May they compost cable.

Advertising Age – Digital – Why Joost Isn’t Just Your Average ‘YouTube Killer’:

Here’s the catch: the video stream isn’t coming from Comcast or DirecTV, it’s coming from Joost, one of the latest entrants into the online video market — and a service for which the cliche “YouTube killer” has been commonly applied. But it’s more likely to become a cable-company killer. While YouTube has become a repository for Long Tail user-generated content, Joost is looking to distribute professionally created content.

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Life imitates TV torture


Yet another example of how the spectacularization of violence normalizes it:

Group: TV torture influencing real life – Yahoo! News:

Tell me where the bomb is, Bauer orders, or we’ll kill your family. Silence. The prisoner watches as a thug kicks down the chair his son is tied to and fires a gun at point-blank range. He screams but still doesn’t relent — until the gun is pointed at his second son. Having gotten what he needed, Bauer whispers that the execution was staged.

The scene from Fox’s “24” is haunting, but hardly unusual. The advocacy group Human Rights First says there’s been a startling increase in the number of torture scenes depicted on prime-time television in the post-2001 world.

Even more chilling, there are indications that real-life American interrogators in
Iraq are taking cues from what they see on television, said Jill Savitt, the group’s director of public programs.

Human Rights First recently brought a West Point commander and retired military interrogators to Hollywood for meetings with producers of “24” and ABC’s “Lost” to talk about their concerns about life imitating art.

But sometimes art imitates torture. Artist Coco Fusco is exploring the role of female interrogators in the war on terror. A few summers ago she and a group of female artists participated in a “torture camp,” which was lead by interrogation trainers. They were put into simulated POW camps, receiving the same kind of treatment that interrogators go through to understand the process of the kind of work they are embarking upon. The resulting experience became a performance piece, A Room of One’s Own: Women and Power in the New America.


Coco Fusco in A Room of One’s Own

PS: Also worth a read, Fox Show “24”: Torture on TV from Jan wiener of The Nation.

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Are ‘Baby Einsteins’ marching to war?

Marketplace: Iraq war justified? Maybe for Baby Einsteins:

By targeting babies, companies are marketing not just products but lifelong habits, hardwiring dependence on media before babies even have a chance to grow and develop the way they do it best, through hands-on creative play. And it’s through playing that children learn, among other things, skills essential to thriving in and protecting democratic society — critical thinking, initiative, problem solving and empathy.

That’s in contrast to what children learn from the more than 40 hours a week they spend with commercially-dominated media — unthinking brand loyalty, impulse buying and a belief that all the world’s a market. Corporate values embraced and pushed by the Bush administration.

During the build-up to the Iraq war, the President’s chief of staff was asked why Bush waited until September to promote the invasion. He replied, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”

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Off world in the home world pt. 2




It’s always interesting when reality catches up with reality TV. Apparently it might be difficult to tell who is shooting who in Fiji these days. While the CBS reality TV series Survivor points cameras at castaways, rogue soldiers are pointing their guns at the rulers of this remote region of the South Pacific.

E! News – Survivor Lives Through Fiji Coup – Jeff Probst:

“To be shooting Survivor while in the midst of a coup is a bit surreal for all of us here in Fiji,” Probst wrote Tuesday in an email to Entertainment Weekly. “We have set up our satellite TV in the catering area [for producers and crew members only], and during dinner the entire crew watches the local news to get updates on what is happening.

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TV dinning

They’re not just for trucks stops anymore…

Prime Rib, Minus the Prime-Time TV:

“[National Restaurant Association] surveys show that diners increasingly view restaurants as extensions of their own homes, and a large percent would like to see table-top TVs installed at their favorite eating joint.”



Last weekend I was at the ACME media activist conference giving a workshop on eco-media and had a chance to hang out with Mitch Altman, creator of the most awesome stocking stuffer, TV-B-Gone. This week he was also on WBAI’s “Off the Hook” (a hacktivist radio program) talking about his innovative product. Essentially, Mitch is a countercultural geek who designed a remote control that has only one function: turning off televisions. There are 150 codes programmed into it and it can pretty much turn off any TV except some of the newer, bigger flat screens. One story he tells concerns how CNN caught wind of his device and as a preventative measure encased all their airport TVs (they are the sole provider in US airports) with wood cases. Not to worry, you can point the TV-B-Gone right into the box and it will do its thing. Kudos to Mitch for forcing CNN into such countermeasures.

One can imagine that in the future it will be a crime to not watch TV, but for now it’s perfectly legal to turn them off, and people generally react positively to TVs getting zapped. I’m sure you’re like me in that it’s utterly baffling why TVs are on in public spaces when the point of being in public is to engage other human beings. The most annoying thing to happen while you are talking is having TVs catch your eye, even when you don’t want to watch them. The problem is that your brain processes the change in environment (such as scene edits which look like flashes), immediately drawing it to your attention. This is great for advertisers but has little benefit for the average person. Keeping in mind the advertising secret that once an image is put in your head you can’t take it out, you are doing a pubic service by randomly (and intentionally) turning off TVs. Continue reading

Researchers: Homes have more TVs than people

And you wonder why things in American are so strange:

CNN.com – Researchers: Homes have more TVs than people – Sep 22, 2006:

NEW YORK (AP) — The average American home now has more television sets than people.

That threshold was crossed within the past two years, according to Nielsen Media Research. There are 2.73 TV sets in the typical home and 2.55 people, the researchers said.

With televisions now on buses, elevators and in airport lobbies, that development may have as much to do with TV’s ubiquity as an appliance as it does conspicuous consumption. The popularity of flat-screen TVs now make it easy to put sets where they haven’t been before.

Existential “in”-action figures Lost in thought

CharlieIt has been said that if you think you are watching a show about a bunch of plane crash survivors, you are watching the wrong show. The show in question, of course, is Lost. The surprise breakout on ABC is most definitely not your average program, and the one thing that keeps me interested is my view that Lost’s island is a metaphor for the mediated reality we find ourselves in. The island’s environment, inhabited by ghosts and “the others,” is like a dream space in which objects produce their own space, similar to the acoustic-like, all encompassing ecology of media where we currently live. The plane is our civilization, crashed, destroyed, in pieces. The survivors must learn to cope with their new environment, just as we have to adjust to ours.

My thoughts on Lost is spurned by the announcement by McFarlane Toys that it will be creating action figures based on the series. As you you can see from the prototype of “Charlie,” these will most likely be the most boring action figures ever, “action” being the misnomer of the century. With Sharpie in hand, looks like Charlie is the 21 Century equivalent of Rodan’s “The Thinker.” Most funny about the press release is the promise that we can own a piece of the show’s “mythology,” as if an ennui could be molded in plastic.


McFarlane Toys’ Lost Series 1 captures six fan-favorite characters from the series’ first season. Each 6-inch Lost figure comes with a detailed base and photographic backdrop, capturing an episode-specific moment in the character’s story. In addition, each package includes a detailed prop reproduction central to the character’s story, enabling fans to “own” a piece of the show’s mythology.

“Lost – The Complete First Season” (Buena Vista Home Entertainment)

“Lost – The Complete Second Season” (Touchstone / Disney)

Ain’t no TV holiday in Cambodia

TV-WeekIt’s that time of year for the international holiday for freaks, TV Turnoff Week. Sponsored by Adbusters, this has become a calling card for school librarians (yes, they are feeing the pinch) and is a good time to reflect on our addiction to media. A few questions, though. What is a TV anymore? With TiVo, V-cast telephones and Web TV it seems like TVs are very old school as a thought process. It has always been my contention that TVs are structures, not objects. When I suggested to Jerry Mander (author of Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television) that environmentalists start using media literacy, he said: “It’s a good idea, except that it makes media more interesting, so I’m against it.”
tv-smashIn a past life when I was a student at Berkeley, we used to have a TV smash party on Sproul Plaza. It was quite dangerous, actually. Did you know that tube TVs hold enough of an electrical charge to kill a human? (This is so you can fire it up on demand!) But we put on our goggles and had cathartic fun anyway. What will you do for TV turnoff week? I’ll be recording all my favorite commercials, so I won’t miss a thing anyway.


Interesting NYT article on how TV distribution might be migrating to the Internet. Def. a trend to watch for, especially if you are an independent artist:

As Internet TV Aims at Niche Audiences, the Slivercast Is Born – New York Times:

“In the last six months, major media companies have received much attention for starting to move their own programming online, whether downloads for video iPods or streaming programs that can be watched over high-speed Internet connections.”

I’m lost


Poor Steven Johnson got smacked around by the so-called progressive left for claiming that media make us smarter. I haven’t read his latest tome, Everything Bad is Good for You, but I plan to because I thought his book Emergence was amazing (it examines “emergence” theory as it relates to cities, ants, brains and computers). I’ll reserve judgment until I finish the book, but already I think he says a lot more about systems than I’ve heard from any media literacy activists.

Anyhow, here is a column he wrote for the London Times on the great ABC series, Lost, one of the few shows I actually watch for fun. It’s a good introduction to many of his themes:

What’s going on? Don’t ask me, I’m lost… – Student – Times Online:

“The drama Lost has turned the conventional wisdom of American prime-time TV on its head: it’s smart, complex and many-layered. Our correspondent says it’s part of a new genre of “intelligent” television that seriously threatens cinema”