Archive for April, 2012

Responsibility

Posted on April 29, 2012. Filed under: Constitution, Journalism, Piss Ants | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

As in accountability and blame for.

That good ol’ First Amendment gives to all of us the right to broadcast our views and news, either wirelessly or via that old-fashioned Gutenberg press (Version 1442.2012)  Print it, text it, blather it.  Used to be, only those with expensive and difficult-to-use printing devices or broadcasting equipment could get the goods out there, but, now anyone with a computer and web access has the same avenue as the big boys.  Just write, text, or talk whatever comes to mind, punch a button, and, WOW! everyone in the world can instantly share.

This constitutional freedom of (ex)press(ion) does not specify that the grantees (that be us) exercise due care to not hurt the feelings of other persons.  In fact, libeling other persons, inciting public unrest or sedition, and endangering national security are just about the only restraints on the expression of opinions while telling stories about all them other people and events.  So, emphasizing the sensational, salacious, and sleazy ain’t aginst th’ law…   maybe in poor taste, even malicious…   but, not illegal.  So, if not Big Brother, then, who does arbitrate the good, the bad and the ugly of our social literary mores?

Drum roll, please…

Cue the trumpets…

READY?  …We the People! (with a big “P” just like “The Press”)  Ain’t freedom grand?  Every time we pay attention to some item (broadcast, i-net site) or lay our money down for a book or other publication, we “vote”, as a society, on what we want to know and how we are told about it.

Information is packaged just like hard goods.  How to books, biographies, fashion trends (okay, my list is about 200 pages long, so I’ll just say…) …you get the picture.  The packaging itself is a marketing tool.  Hard goods (say that cordless hair-dryer you’ve always wanted) with attractive pictures and clean wording describing the product;  books and magazines with glossy, imaginative cover designs; celebrity and current trending periodicals with surprising pictures and tantalizing headlines;  tabloids and news outlets winging it every issue.  Getting the attention of the audience is paramount, and, the marketing that The People pay attention to is the marketing that proliferates.  Tired of seeing all those lurid tabloids at the check-out station?  Sorry, but, The People have spoken — at least enough of them to make the genre profitable.

Now that we have that settled, I’ve been wanting to talk to the rest of you about your choices of what is “good.”  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to tell you how to think, but, c’mon…   really?  The Simpsons and that  whole genre for all these years?

I… apologize… for that.  Entertainment choices are a whole different field.  Escapism can take many forms, and, we might lose ourselves in anything (action, satire, comedy, romance, nature…) while seeking relief from the daily reality.  Anything to restore balance to our manias.

But, really…   The Simpsons?   …lest you think I am intolerant, I did tune it in once and saw that  w-h-o-l-e  episode.  I’ve been doing avoidance therapy ever since.

Dense populations (numbers, not a surfeit of bone heads) means big markets for everything.  (Oh!  Just received a quick-note from the Marketing Management Association.  Says, “Don’t be so quick to rule out bone heads as viable and lucrative market targets.“)  O-kay…   moving right along, we got your internet, lots of restaurants, clubs, smart phones, computer games, land-a-date-if-youre-lucky, identity thieves, the evening and local news, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, e-Bay, tons of bail bondsmen, and bunches more of marketers.  All after our money.  None wanting to wait in line.  Each eager to touch us first.  That advertising scene is one frantic jungle.

Next up:  “The public has a right to know”

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Veracity

Posted on April 23, 2012. Filed under: Humor, Journalism, language, Piss Ants | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Olfactory, optical, auditory, tactile…   (Awright!  Smell, sight, hearing, touch!  Happy now?)…   all are senses used to communicate information.  All organisms — fungi, plants, microbes, animals — use one or more of these tools to send and receive information vital to its species’ survival.  Every transmittal is a signal to another that it should respond in kind, do nothing, or initiate an  appropriate complementary action.  All of these signals and responses are, in essence, words, sentences, and paragraphs in that great big story called LIFE.  Consider these basic abilities as hardware essential to each living entity. 

And the CPU?  Easy enough to describe in anything with a recognizable nervous system, but, in anything below that, speculation becomes the sport of the day.  In my mind, since everything we call living must follow the “acquire or avoid” protocol, then everything must have some kind of information processor to determine the appropriate course to follow.  The extent to which this is applied to any one organism is up to the biases of individual observers.

Application of the garnered information may be information specific (a given input always resulting in the same output or action) or situation specific (a given input is weighed against several possible actions, each with a different outcome, before one is decided on).  In essence, through memory and manipulation of available and remembered data, the entity is considering “What if?”

With apparently little in the way of reasoning abilities, plants have been lying to insects for…   well…   a very long time.  Pitcher plants scream out to little bugs, “Hey, I’m just a nice piece of delicious carrion,” and the little bugs jump right into the plants’ stomachs, and we all know how that ends.  Male bees, eager to jump the bones exoskeletons of very receptive female bees, excitedly land on the petals of devious, cross-dressing plants, and, instead of contributing to their own species’ future, wind up artificially inseminating the plants relatives.  Insects, fish, snapping turtles and a host of others practice this prevarication.  A little misinformation can go a  long way toward furthering the liar’s goal.

All life-forms predate humanity, and, story telling is integral to that history.  Deception, based on understanding another’s probable response to received information, rivals it for longevity.  It should be no surprise that humans also are capable of taking an elemental trait and retooling it for self-benefit. 

Knowing our own innate predilection for manipulating data for personal gain, it is easy to attribute such behavior to others of our kind.  Thus, it becomes essential that we get pretty good at ferreting out deceptive intents.

Veracity of content is an elusive shape-shifting phantom, being defined only by the view points of both the story teller and the reader (recipient).  If news is being reported, it can be related straight up as a blow-by-blow account, or, a colorized version can be presented in several ways, such as the use of words that impart opinions, like:   Mr. Wilson questioned the Mayor, who responded with “Absolutely!” vs. Mr. Wilson impatiently questioned the Mayor, whose reply, “Absolutely!”  belied his 4-year track record in office.  A little extra here, some more over there, and, before you know it, a news item becomes a political commentary.   What more can you expect?  Brian the Anchor’s motto echoes through the industry:   “We have to interpret it for the stupid masses (that be us, their audiences) so they can understand it the way we want.”  (Brian didn’t actually say that directly.  I just processed what he did say through my own personal antipathy toward his ilk — and the track record of that ilk.)  And, I really hope that I am talking to people who didn’t believe that tabloid account — with photograph — of the ET presenting a bouquet of flowers to President Clinton.

Next up:  “Freedom of” does not mean “responsibility to…”

 

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Come to Papa, razzi

Posted on April 21, 2012. Filed under: History, Humor, Journalism, Piss Ants | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Cave men understood the value of the story.  In fact, they invented the concept of the wall as seen on today’s social sites.  The excitement of the hunt, if not the sheer necessity of it, got those cave journalists in the mood to go to press paint.  (Say what you will about stone painting as a medium, but it has sure outlasted last century’s newspaper.)  Look!  There’s the stampeding herd, the flight of spears in the air, jubilant hunters all around…   and a hand print?  Researchers have discussed the significance of that, but, maybe, it was just a count of the take on that hunt.  You know…   5.

They even had moving pictures of sorts.  Those caves were dark, except for the light of dying torches and hearths, and the cave walls rough and uneven.  Together, the light and wall texture composed a lively show as the flickering flames sent shadows dancing across the paintings, imparting an almost supernatural feeling of motion right before all those sleepy eyes.  Every night, in the quiet time before sleep, the hunt — in motion and living color — was played out once again.  And, the narrator emphasizing, “We bagged five!”

We don’t do cave walls anymore.  We learned during the Renaissance how to do it right.  We want wall art, we just build a big, stone cathedral, light it with flickering torches and/or oil lamps, hire a da Vinci or Michelangelo, and watch those guys laboriously pound, grind, and mix select ingredients into just the right colors and textures, then turn ’em loose on those walls and ceilings.  WAIT!  THIS JUST IN:  a couple of cases of spray paint, a half-dozen taggers, a city-full of walls and overhead structures just waiting for proper treatment…   and someone in authority saying, “Don’t you dare!”  Actually, with that last example, there isn’t much story line, just lurid, flashy colors,, maybe even some drawings, but, basically, just meaningless stuff that shouts, “Hey, looky here!”  Which brings us to paparazzi and tabloids.

Paparazzo (singular of paparazzi, which is plural of paparazzo) is a character in a movie (La Dolce Vida – 1959) who was an obnoxious celebrity-chaser with a camera and a nose for scandalous and prurient news items.  “Obnoxious” in the sense that he got into people’s faces with that flash bulb and saw/reported only a salacious perspective in every activity in which the stalked celebrity engaged.  Subsequently, that name came to be applied to an entire class of…   can we say photo journalists?…   who regularly stalk and ambush celebrities as they go about their daily activities.  Privacy invasion (with those super telephoto lenses) is no biggie with them.  Nor is a shot in the mouth from a pissed-off celebrity who does not want the individual and his camera getting into the cab with him/her, or preventing her/him from exiting the cab.

Tabloids seem to be the place where all those paparazzi shots are displayed (including the one in the mouth).  Whether the photo journalist submits a story with the hard-won pictures or a tabloid “reporter” reviews the pix, then makes up a story from sketchy information provided by the submitter is a mystery rivaling “Sasquatch” and the “yeti.”  Or, maybe no one is consulted; a photo is submitted and a random story from file…   or somewhere…   is tacked onto it.  Like the old dime novels from the 1800’s that glorified famous and infamous celebrities of the time, an ongoing drama surrounding the big name is fabricated and published as a “developing” story.  Really, how many more times can I believe that Angie and Brad are splitting up?

Next up:  Veracity and responsibility

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The Story is Everything

Posted on April 16, 2012. Filed under: Journalism, Piss Ants | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

It is a crowded world we inhabit.  Well, crowded with humans, anyway.  Clawing our way to the top of that food chain left us with very few natural predators (most notable among those remnants today are microbes and other humans).  Instead of “clawing our way…” I could have said “conquering our environment,” but, the jury is still out on whether the Natural Order of Things is pleased with our meddling in so many of nature’s balances.  If not, an inevitable “adjustment” to our achievement may balance the ledger long before a killer asteroid can do the job.  Until either occurrence, our low attrition rate reinforces our pre-eminence at the top.  Them babies just keep coming.

More people means a larger consumer base for everything from basic survival needs to an increased demand for, and variety of, information.  This is where the media comes in, and the PAU obligingly keeps turning out hordes of journalists eager to find an audience ripe for their pronouncements…   and, even more ripe for being parted from their money.  (No carping, here.  Somebody has to pay for all that advertising.)

The Story is eternal.  From time immemorial, from that first ancestor’s telling of  a wondrous chunk of rotten meat (or, if you prefer, a nice berry patch) just over the hill, our kind has depended on The Story for survival.  Every instance of information sharing is a story, including technical manuals and associated schematics, if you understand that language.  Social information transmits the story of who is at the top of the power pole, who is in the middle, who is at the bottom.  The pecking order in a flock of chickens is information-sharing relative to the power hierarchy.  Tribal history and knowledge, before writing, was passed on verbally; this lore was vital to locations of tribal resources, enemy territory, who got to eat first and who got to eat last, who was welcome in the group, who was outcast.  The Story has been life to humankind.  Just because we have reduced the number of entities who want to include us in their dinner plans does not mean our need for The Story has been excised.  The Story is the embodiment of information technology, and that is mankind’s first great invention — not fire and not the wheel.  The IT department predates it all.

The world is over-run with humans.  Humans seem over-run with media looking for a place — any place — in social awareness.  We need The Story like a strung-out addict needs a fix.  No matter who you are, or what your preferences, there is a surfeit of suppliers:  news stands with a boggling amount of printed material, on-line sites with e-offerings equally intimidating, and libraries containing centuries worth of out-of-print material.  For amusement, you can even tune in your favorite teleprompter-reader (a.k.a., news anchor) and watch him/her dazzle you with flashy form devoid of solid substance.  Instant gratification at its finest.

Today, profit is the motive and The Story is the game.  If you have something to tell, you have to get an audience’s attention to get them to buy the publication and buy into the story, and, you have to do it regularly.  Out-hustling the competition to meet publishing deadlines plays its part in mediocre offerings leaning more to the lurid than the pertinent.  But, hey!  It’s freedom of the press.  You gotta love it!

Next up:  Come to Papa, razzi

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All The World’s A Stage

Posted on April 6, 2012. Filed under: Humor, Journalism, language | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

DEFINITIONS FROM THE WINDOWS XP DICTIONARY (because I don’t feel like walking across the room to the real dictionary, picking it up, and then have to turn all those pages by hand)

Journalist:  a writer or editor for a magazine or newspaper, or t.v. or radio

Columnist:  a journalist who writes a regular column for a newspaper or magazine;  a gossip columnist.

Reporter:  someone who finds out facts and reports them for a newspaper, magazine, or t.v., and uses the print or broadcast media to tell others of it.

Correspondent:  someone providing special reports from a particular place or about a specific subject.

Anchor (person):  announcer on a news program providing links between studio and reporters on site (Like, “Now from our correspondent in Bay Root!”

Thespian:  someone who acts on the stage.

Emote:  Display  exaggerated emotions, as in playing a dramatic part.

DEFINITION FROM COLUMNIST MICHELLE MALKIN (just because that sweet baby rocks)

Anchor person:  A teleprompter reader.  (See also thespian and emote above)

Ouch!  That has to hurt an over-inflated journalist’s ego.  I mean, c’mon, Michelle.  Are you implying that those guys and gals (or gals and guys, whichever is politically correct) are nothing more than actors acting like they really know what they are reading talking about?  That, when Brian Williams says he has to find out all that stuff that is happening and then interpret it for all the rest of us, he really means that reporters and clerks assemble their information with their conclusions, print it out on the teleprompter (probably in giant letters so the suave anchor doesn’t have to squint or wear bifocals), and then, keeping a straight face, he reads it out while emoting like a method actor?  Oh, Brian, say it isn’t true!

Literally everything that has a federally licensed frequency and broadcasts (what it says is) news employs the journalist ilk.  Any printed media taps into that same labor pool, all graduating from some college or technical school that touts the electronic marvels of the industry or the more vain celebrity of it.  Anyway, it’s a paying job, and in our overpopulated societies, those gigs are in big demand.  And, the schools pump out those cub reporters like ants from a disturbed mound.

These junior Jimmy Olsens make the piss ant list every time they show up at a neighborhood tragedy, home in on a shocked, grieving relative, shove that microphone in her/his face and ask such relevant questions as “how do you feel right now?”  They do a real good job, too, at polluting potential jury pools by airing off-hand, unsubstantiated impressions of an accused neighbor’s character.  Just adding color to the story, eh, Jimmy?  And, those local anchor persons just read that drivel blithely while grinning idiotically, then laugh at some poor citizen’s misfortune, and, in the span of a changed camera angle, become somber and reverent about “the untimely death of…”  Whether journalistic Anchor or circus Ringmaster, there is one truth:  neither has his own act, so they shill the glory of the real performers.

Next up:  Reporting is optional, but a story is required

 

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The Merger

Posted on April 1, 2012. Filed under: History, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The rise of the experts (specialists in a given field) was important in the progress of human social evolutions.  This focus on specific areas allowed improvements (fine tuning) to innovations in every field, including medicine, engineering, navigation, transportation…   and even blog comment spamming.

Traveling circuses and carnivals of yore used an advance man to stir public interest ahead of their arrival at the next stop on their tour.  Experts, climbing higher and higher in their ivory towers, and, their views experiencing unfamiliar competition from an expanding Smart Dude membership base, found that staying on top wasn’t easy.  Protecting the purity of their intellectual turf required frequent and wide distribution of their assertions.  What they needed was a Gatling gun approach to information dissemination, and, that Gutenberg innovation, attended by a retinue of neophytes, should be compliant enough to fulfill that need for publicity.   …Maybe I should say “public authentication.”

The printing business was meandering along, searching for its identity, and the needs of the Great Learned provided a focus for their efforts.  So, between the story of a bar fight over in Shadyville and the fashion highlights of the attendees at the Grand Opera (strictly an upper-class affair), they could now slip in Sir Isaac Newton’s great revelation that things over you head could fall on your head, given the right circumstances.  It is incredible that mankind had mucked along for thousands of millenia unaware of such a thing.  But, like Al Gore’s invention of the internet, Newton’s invention of gravity opened brave new worlds everywhere.  Chalk 2 up for the Great Learned Experts.

As a union, this merger was not destined to last.  On one side, the individuals comprising the Great Learned camp had turf issues (“My idea is better than you idea any day of the week and twice on Sunday.  Besides, you don’t even know what you are talking about.”  That kind of professional objectiveness.)  On the other side, veracity seemed to be an issue; actually, a non-issue with some segments who felt a story ought to be just a story, not necessarily an accurate account of anything;  it’s all about sales.  In street jargon, many of these inkers were just sluts for a scoop.  And, never, never forget they had the big P.  Since, for ink fodder, anything with letters or illustrations could be printed, and business was booming through the industrial revolution, the experts needed the grown-up printing industry more than printers needed the experts.  The apprentice became the master.  Information disseminators were now the experts.

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