Sunday, August 31, 2008

Q: What’s more addictive than heroin?

A: Tragedy

We all know about addiction: You know something’s bad for you, the more you do it, the worse things will be. And yet when the object of obsession presents itself, you follow with undivided attention. The feeling is just too good to pass up.

So I was watching the Democratic Convention last week and I could not help but notice that sooooo much attention was being given to the episodes of tragedy that exist among the population: the mother with autistic children being denied insurance, the soldier on his third tour in Iraq, the couple that was told to declare bankruptcy or get a divorce for some reason or another. It seems as if we are a nation full of tragedy, that there are so many people down and out and so little time to save them.

I think that the reality is much different. Sure, 47 million people are not covered by health insurance and that sucks. But, most of the people in this country are getting over. There’s food on an awful lot of plates and two cars in too many garages. On the whole, between the job and easy credit, in the scheme of our time on the planet, most people in the good old USA are doing all right.

So, what gives?

Joshua Meyrowitz wrote a book back in 1986 titled, No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behavior. One of the points that he makes it that media is a megaphone by which perceptions are amplified. Take a 100 people, put them in a frame of video and have them shout some slogans. It seems as if hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets. The numbers might be small, but the perception of volume is huge. The whole world really is watching.

Probably the most telling example is the conflict in the West Bank and Gaza. The entire population of Israel is ~7.3 million people. In terms of rocks, guns, suicide bombings and armored personnel carriers, I suspect that the number of belligerents might be less than 20,000, if that. Yet is seems as if the entire population, Palestinian and Israeli, is in a state of siege, that millions and millions of people are going at it, every hour of every day.

As any ad exec will tell you, media works!

Which brings us to the Democratic Convention. Now don’t get me wrong, I am an ardent Obama supporter. I plan to vote for the man as many times as they’ll let me. He’s right; the stakes are much too high this time around. Looking back I can only imagine how different the world would be were Gore to have taken office in 2000.

But, I need to admit that political discourse that embraces the Queen for a Day, "no tragedy is too small for empathy" brand of attention getting is disheartening. The political prime directive seems to be: Get the feeling and the votes will follow. On the HD-TVs of America, looking tough is more valuable than being thoughtful.

Yet can we expect more? As Robert Hughes points out in his book, The Culture of Complaint, to paraphrase, when we can no longer report our thinking about a topic, all that is left to report is our feeling.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Q: How many words is a picture worth?

A: How many do you have?

A while ago I took the Coding Slave site offline and redirected it to here. I did this for a variety of reasons, mostly because the MySQL database that ran the site broke and I ran out of time keeping the site up in terms of content updates. Also, I was not very successful at talking some Big Ass Venture Capital Firm into giving me a few million dollars in order to hire a small staff and buy a time share in a GulfStream, things which are necessary to take the concept to the next level.

So the world gets the blog, which for now is probably the best to be had, and not a bad thing at that.

But, one of the items that went away was a bunch of postcard photos that I created. I think them to be humorous and thought provoking. It was a mistake to take them offline.

So, I am going to post them here. Take a look. Feel free to download them. Send them to family and friends. Hell, send a few to your boss.

If you make any money selling them off as your own, well..... karma is karma.

Coding Hell

How to determine a dysfunctional organization

How Jefferson justified slavery (in questionable UML)

Why people get dogs (in questionable UML, with reasonable VB)

The nature of things