Tag Archives: culture

Would You Like a Foil Hat to Match?

I once wrote a dystopian story in which the human race, as a result of constant cell phone use, had mutated into two forms.  One form was adapted to texting while the other was built for talking on the phone.  Of course, being humans, each group hated the other for being different.

Well, I’m happy to say that it looks like that story may not come true!

There is a concern that the emanations from cell phones and computers may be dangerous to our health.  In the case of men, who often hold or carry phones at belt height or use laptops, which as the name suggests are often sited close to the lap, there is evidence that emanations can impair the motility of sperm and even cause genetic alterations.  In fact, there are medical practitioners who are raising red flags about the effects of long term exposure to wi-fi and other forms of radiation.

But it turns out we have a White Knight!  Entrepreneur reports a crowdfunding exercise started by a British physics teacher to produce something called “Wireless Armour” boxer briefs.

I’m not making this up.

Wireless Armour knickers are cotton with some sort of silver mesh woven in that blocks 99.99% of harmful radiation.

As you might guess, protection isn’t cheap.  The introductory offer (which also includes a personal call from the physics teacher) is something called “The Weekly Armour Set.”  It costs about NZ$300 and includes 8 pairs of nickers.  As the promotion says, one for each day and one for emergency.  I guess you never know when an exciting new app might make someone mess their Armour.

It will be interesting to see if the Wireless Armour idea catches on.  It’s scary to think that someone might Tweet that they are wearing their Wireless Armour or how they feel.  Or worse, post a selfie.

The best we can hope for is that the radiation issue gets some serious study and the products are designed and built to protect the user so the user doesn’t have to resort to silver lined underwear.

I Wish My Daddy Had Worn Wireless Armour!

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All I Don’t Want For Christmas

A few days ago, Solid Gold Creativity had a very moving post about The Big Issue.  I hadn’t heard of the magazine before, but it is published by a not for profit organisation that supports the homeless and marginalised.  It is sold by homeless and disabled people who earn income from the sales.

A recent issue in Australia included Christmas wishes to readers from some of the people who are selling the magazine on the streets.  The messages are simple and beautiful—full of thanks and good will and completely devoid of selfishness.

Hearing these kinds of sentiments from some of the poorest people in society was both inspiring and disturbing.  What made it disturbing was that I had just returned from the US where the twelve days of Christmas seem to last about twelve weeks.  Any altruistic sentiments were totally lost in the retail extravaganza of Black Friday and the non-stop playing of tacky Christmas carols on radio, TV and in any public venue.

On the plane on the way home, in a suitably festive mood as you can imagine, I started to flip through the complimentary magazines and found out some of the exciting things on offer in the gift and technology department this year.  I usually never look at those magazines because I get nervous when I think that the kind of people they seem to be intended for might actually exist.

This time was no exception.  The gifts and technology wow factors on offer were truly scary.  It was a little confusing because interspersed among real things you can buy are effusive descriptions of new technologies that are on offer to make our lives better.  The question is not whether you would want some of these things.  The question is why anyone would want them.

I kept the magazine to show people when I got home and had another look at it after reading the post about The Big Issue.  Talk about a sobering thought.  The gap between the world of the people selling The Big Issue and the intended market for the products in the magazine is, for lack of a better word, obscene.

1. Backyard Television.

For those who consider a television in every room too pedestrian, you can now have an entertainment system installed in your back yard.  The centrepiece is a 201 inch (that’s almost 17 feet!) screen that “stores itself underground.”  Also included is a library of over 300 movies and concerts.

The price tag for the system is from $1.5 to $2.6 million, presumably depending on how hard it is to hide the TV when it’s in the ground.  I guess if you can afford to lay out that kind of money on a TV in the back yard, you can also afford to live in a place where the neighbours aren’t going to be bothered by a 17 foot TV screen in the back yard.  But then again, if you have that kind of money, wouldn’t you and your friends have better things to do than sit in the back yard and watch TV?

2. Pillow speakers.

Yes.  A pillow with built-in speakers.  As the blurb says, “It’s perfect for you if you hate tangled wires in bed.”  Think about that.  Non-stop sensory stimulation has become so normalised that someone has come up with a solution to tangled wires in bed.  The blurb also says, “If you’re [sic] teen loves to hear music, it’s a fine gift this Christmas.”  Better parenting through technology—always a winner

3.  Carriage Bed

A company called Posh Tots offers a bed that looks like a Cinderella carriage.  For a mere $47,000.  The blurb says it all:  “Treat the little princess in your life like just that [sic].  This carriage-inspired bed is the perfect sleep and play station for making dreams come true.”

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I don’t know where to start so I’ll just mention the use of the words “sleep and play station.”  Something for the kid to enjoy until they grow up and spend time at their work station?

4. Zero Gravity Wedding

For $18,000 you can go up in a plane that dives and simulates weightlessness and get married at the same time.

5.  Hover Bike

Now this one is pretty good, but impractical.  It is a James Bond type helicopter/bicycle.  You can’t buy one because they are still testing the prototype but you can put your name on the list to buy one for $46,000.   It has several good, practical applications but because it can fly at 170 miles per hour a few feet above the ground they are probably not going to be widely available to the average commuter.

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6.  Last, but not least, the iPad Baby Seat.

Called the “Apptivity Seat,” this infant rocker includes an iPad holder.  And don’t forget the ‘iPotty’ which is a toilet training seat with an iPad holder.  The idea is get the kid to sit there long enough.  How has the human race survived?

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I don’t know about you, but I think that before we run out and book a zero gravity wedding we should think about the lady in Australia who thanked the people who tipped her when she sold them a magazine because “I get my hair done and buy new clothes.”

It’s Official—I’m a Visionary

Regular readers will find the above assertion no surprise, but it’s always nice to bask in the reflection that one is able to discern trends and stuff ahead of the curve.  This was brought home recently when I saw a report that the Global Language Monitor (GLM) had compiled a list of the most overused business words of 2013.

Five out of the fifteen words, a whopping 33%, had been identified by me in previous posts, some as old as 2010, as overused and/or irritating.  Which is basically the same thing.

The problem with the GLM list was that it only listed the words without explaining their meaning.  For the most part, this isn’t a problem because, let’s face it, the fundamental meaning of overused words isn’t that important.  But I think it’s important to know what we’re talking about so I’m including the GLM list below with my commentary.

Content.  Historically, this word had two meanings.  As an adjective it means happy or satisfied.  As a noun, usually with an ‘s’ on the end, it means the stuff inside.  So the contents of a gallon of milk are the milk.  The contents of your closet are your clothes.  Which you may or may not be content with.  But ‘content’ in the current sense is a marketing term that refers to information about a product that might make you want to buy it.

The best example I can think of is car commercials.  To me they are fairly content free because they usually don’t tell you much about the car.  But from the marketing perspective they are content rich because they inform you that if you buy the car you will look prosperous, your family (including the dog) will be happy and you will be an object of admiration.

Social Media.  Facebook and Twitter.  Overused?  Yes.

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Sustainability.  I called this word overused in September 2010.  The word is appearing to be more sustainable than some of the things that were being described as sustainable back then.

Transparency.  The word may be overused, but true examples of business or government transparency remain highly elusive.

Literally.  In March 2011 I suggested that this word be “given a rest.”  You literally can’t have a conversation without someone literally overusing this word.  Literally!

Guru.  I was surprised to see this on the list because as far as I’m concerned, it was overused in the 80s and 90s when personal computers were becoming mainstream.  Before we called them IT geeks, people who knew how to format disks and things like that were called ‘computer gurus.’

Utilize. Not sure why this word made the list.  It is a nice, utilitarian word that I utilize when it has utility.

Robust.  You heard it here first in March 2011!  But its persistence has proven amazingly robust.

Ping.  This used to mainly mean fancy golf clubs.  Then after The Hunt for Red October, we got used to calling radar beeps pings.  Then network geeks started using it to describe test signals and things like that. But now, among the cognoscenti, (a fancy word for the people who make words be overused), this means any kind of communication, presumably because most of their communications are electronic.  So if a friend asks you if you want to have dinner you might say, “I’ll check my schedule and ping you.”

Big Data.  I mentioned this one in January 2013.  One wonders why we haven’t started talking about “Huge Data,” because by now that big data can only have gotten a lot bigger.

Seamless.  This is a word whose primary purpose is to make you feel stupid.  Like when your phone company changes its system “to serve you better,” and tells you that there will be a seamless transition.  When it doesn’t work, they make you think it’s your fault.

Moving Forward.  Nothing wrong with it—we should be moving forward, but this phrase sure is used a lot.  In the news headlines today I saw it used describe everything from a starlet who just got divorced, a person who lost out on The X Factor, a company in bankruptcy, South Africa post Nelson Mandela and the Philippine typhoon survivors.

The Cloud.  This one is going to be hanging over our heads for a long, long time.

Offline.  The eighties called and they want their buzzword back!  So overused, it’s gotten where bar room brawlers are asked to “Hey, take it offline.”

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I would be remiss if I didn’t provide a couple of buzzwords to watch for 2014.  Here are a couple that seem to be sustainable.  They’ve gotten on my radar screen and I think we will be hearing more of them moving forward.  I promise to ping you next year for an update.

Target persona.  This is one of the terms made possible by Big Data.  It used to be that companies pitched products at target markets, 18-25 year olds for example.  This was called marketing to a demographic.  But now instead of demographics we have the wonderful concept of psychographics, which is how people in a particular demographic think and act.  So a product might no longer be pitched at all 18-25 year olds, but rather to 18-25 year old geeks, or jocks, or whatever.  And those people are the target persona.  Scary, isn’t it?

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Authenticity.  The idea behind this word is that we have become suspicious of terms such as “New,” “Improved,” and “To Serve You Better.”  So if you see “Authentic,” appended to any claim, you may assume that it is totally true and not hype.  At least that’s the idea.

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Community Culture.  No, not your neighbourhood.  Believe it or not, this term refers to how and by whom a product is discussed on social media sites.  If you want to be really scared, go to the Coke, Starbucks or Apple Facebook pages.   These are communities of people who are united around their adulation of the brand.  The Apple FB page for example has over 10 million likes.  Who says corporations aren’t people? Which reminds me, don’t get me started on Hashtags.

Keep an eye out and prepare to cringe when you see these words next year!

Lifeboat Earth?

I’ve been working on a new novel, which is one of the reasons I’ve been so quiet lately.  When people ask me what the book is about, I tell them that one of the things I’m trying to do is reconcile the conflict between my wanting to view people and humanity as fundamentally good and deserving the best, and the reality of how people and humanity generally behave.

It’s the old question of if little kids are so sweet and innocent, why are sandboxes often the site of bullying, fights and generally feral behaviour.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the topic and totally by accident came across a book that helps put things in perspective.  The book, by Australians Eleanor Learmonth and Jenny Tabakoff, is ominously entitled No Mercy:  True Stories of Disaster, Survival and Brutality (Text Publishing, 2013).

I had no intention of reading that book.  It sounded too much like the lurid stuff I used to read in junior high school, but it hooked me from the first page.  The book is a compilation of disasters, primarily shipwrecks, and the authors analyze the behaviour of the survivors to see if there are patterns of human behaviour and group dynamics that emerge in times of stress.

Most of the cases are shipwrecks from the days of sailing ships because back then it was easy for survivors to be marooned in isolated parts of the world for long periods of time.  It turns out that these situations are perfect laboratories for observing how groups behave and for spotting behaviour patterns.

One of the things that makes the book so readable is that is it not simply a litany of disasters with each chapter being a gruesome account of a different disaster.  Rather, the chapters are organized around the types of things that become issues in these situations–for example, leadership, personal relationships, care of the sick and wounded, and dealing with things like hunger, thirst, conflicts in the group and adverse environmental conditions.  Different groups’ handling of these things are compared and contrasted.

The bad news is that in a survey of 23 disasters spanning from 134 BC to 2010, in only one case did the group of survivors manage not to end up spiralling out of control into acts of inhumanity.  You can imagine what I mean by “acts of inhumanity.”

Yes, it’s grim reading but one of the things that makes it all worthwhile is the stirring story of the Grafton, which was wrecked in the Southern Ocean in January 1864.  The crew was stranded for 20 months in impossible conditions but actually managed to survive and save themselves with no loss of life.  It is an amazing story of human ingenuity and endurance.  Interestingly, 4 months after the Grafton was lost, another ship, the Invercauld, ran aground only 15 kilometres away.  The two groups were unaware of each other and the Invercauld crew suffered from appallingly bad leadership and group friction.  Eighty-four per cent of the crew died before they were rescued even though they were stranded for a shorter time.

You might wonder what centuries-old shipwrecks have to do with us today.  In the last chapter, the authors summarize their findings and conclude that there are nine factors related to the social decay that lead to failed survivor groups.  Although each case is different, as groups fall apart they fail at each of these steps and move to increasing levels of violence and savagery.  And what invariably starts a group down the track of inhumanity is a failure of leadership.

If you think of Planet Earth as a lifeboat or desert island and the human race as survivors, it might be interesting to map our performance against that of failed groups.  How many of these nine characteristics of social decay do you think we are experiencing in our lifeboat today:

1.  Neglect of the sick and weak.

2.  A rapid descent into bickering over resources and labor.

3.  The corrosive, emotional effect of hunger, paranoia and fear.

4.  The collapse of leadership.

5.  Fragmentation into hostile factions.

6.  The emergence of personal hatred.

7.  An absolute loss of compassion and altruism.

8.  Casual acceptance of death.

9.  Violent fights that escalate into murder and, finally, the emergence of killing for entertainment.

The authors demonstrate that each of the failed groups progressed through these stages as a result of breakdowns in leadership and problems with the interactions between the leader and the group.

Some of the stories are funny, even though they led to tragedy.  In a shipwreck, the captain, if he survives, is generally by default in charge once the survivors are on land.  A surprisingly large number of captains choose not to go down with the ship but rather delegate that duty to other crew or passengers.  This doesn’t get things off on a good footing.

Also, once on land, a captain can create problems by not being sensitive to changed conditions. A group stranded near the North Pole started to disintegrate when the captain insisted that the crew continue to do his laundry, as had been their duty on shipboard.  Inflexibility, stupidity, inability to listen, arrogance and inability to cope with change were all characteristics of leaders who ended up leading their groups to disaster. And the people who let themselves be led into disaster are complicit.

It might be a bit of a reach to compare global society to a lifeboat, but I think it’s important to reflect on these nine characteristics of social decay as metaphors for what might be happening in our world.  Many workplaces and communities are marked by neglect of the sick and weak, bickering over resources, paranoia and fear and breakdown into hostile factions.  We can see many examples of loss of compassion and altruism both by governments and corporations.  And the news has given us a casual acceptance of death (as long as it’s far away).

The authors indicate that no matter how far down the track of inhumanity groups have progressed, when they are rescued, they quickly re-adapt to normal societal conventions.  The question is, who is going to rescue us?

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A Kiwi Encounter

I have lived in New Zealand for a little over ten years and last Sunday I was privileged to participate in a ceremony that few people experience.  Our neighbours at CUE Haven released endangered native kiwi birds onto their property.  This is the first time in 50 years there are kiwi on private land in the Kaipara Harbour area and the kiwis released on Sunday are now the closest wild kiwi to Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city.

Most New Zealanders would agree that the kiwi bird is our national symbol.  We call ourselves ‘kiwis” and the image of the kiwi bird appears on everything from our money, our soldiers’ uniforms, postage stamps and, in various caricatures, as a symbol of everything from rental cars to quality builders.

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Unfortunately, the kiwi is seriously endangered.  Before humans came to New Zealand, there was only one indigenous mammal, a small bat, and no snakes or carnivorous reptiles.  As a result, many indigenous New Zealand birds, including the kiwi, have no wings.  Even birds that fly often spend a lot of time on the ground and nest on the ground.

When humans introduced dogs, cats, rats and weasels, the indigenous bird population was in serious trouble.  Today all species of kiwi are endangered.  Of the small percentage of wild kiwi eggs that hatch, only 5% of the chicks survive to adulthood.  Almost 95% of those killed are killed by dogs.

As a result, most New Zealanders have never seen a kiwi or heard their amazing calls in the wild.  There are a number of kiwi refuges on predator free islands or in reserves where predators are controlled, but a kiwi population cannot be sustained without protection from predators.

Our friends and neighbours, Gill and Kevin Adshead have set aside 400 ha (990 acres) of native bush and salt marsh on their 1300 ha (3200 acres) farm, Mataia, http://www.mataia.co.nz/  on the Kaipara Harbour as a native New Zealand forest reserve. They have long dreamt of bringing kiwi back to the Kaipara and that dream became a reality on Sunday 25 May, 2013.

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Kiwi are national treasures and highly protected.  The Maori, New Zealand’s indigenous people, consider kiwi to be taonga, which means “treasure,” and under the Treaty of Waitangi between the British Crown and the Maori tribes, Maori have kaitiakitanga (guardianship) of their taonga.  Also, the Department of Conservation which manages kiwi reserves will only release kiwi in environments that they are satisfied to be suitable and safe.

Since 2006, Gill and Kevin have undertaken an intensive pest and predator control program to eradicate possums, stoats, ferrets, weasels, cats and rats on the Mataia property.  They also fenced their entire property and covered it with shade cloth that will keep the kiwi in and defeat most predators including dogs. Only working farm dogs that have undergone kiwi aversion training are now allowed on to the property.  Once all safeguards were in place, it was decided to release fourteen kiwi onto the property.

A specially trained team from the Department of Conservation and Auckland Zoo and two family members spent Friday night on Maturangi Island, a kiwi reserve, to trap fourteen Northland Brown kiwis.  Kiwi are nocturnal and only come out at night. It was a full moon so unfortunately not many kiwi came out of their burrows and so despite the team walking around the island several times from 8 pm to past 5 am they were only able to catch five kiwis. These were brought to Mataia on Saturday morning.  The team will go back in a few days to catch the remaining nine kiwi.

Because the kiwis were being transferred from one Maori tribal area to another, it was necessary for the gifting iwi (tribe) to introduce the kiwis to their new home and for the iwi that would be receiving the kiwis to formally accept them.  On Saturday morning Maori representatives from the iwis were at Mataia to do the Pôwhiri (formal welcoming ceremonies) and the event was attended by almost 500 guests.

It was a fascinating morning.  Three schools in the area and the local community had helped support the kiwi release project and several students, teachers and parents along with neighbours, friends and local government representatives came for the day. There was also a lot of media coverage as it was over 50 years ago that the last kiwi was seen in the Auckland region.

It was first necessary for there to be a formal welcome of manuhiri (visitors) to the Mataia property by the local iwi, Ngati Whatua o Kaipara, and Gill & Kevin’s families.   My wife and I were honoured to be considered part of Gill and Kevin’s family.2The manuhiri assembled at the entrance to the Mataia Homestead and were welcomed by the Kuia (female elder) from the local iwi with a karanga (call) and invited to take seats across from where tangata whenua (local people) sat.???????????????????????????????The local iwi kaumatua (elder) then welcomed everyone and gave a speech explaining whakapapa (the genealogy) of the local tribe and the local area. The speech was in Maori followed by an English translation.4The Department of Conservation representative then gave a speech in response on behalf of the kiwi sanctuary. This speech was followed by a speech from the representative of the manuhiri explaining who they were and their background.5The purpose of these speeches was to help establish the identity of the various groups and demonstrate that they are present for a peaceful purpose.

The local Kaumatua then invited the mahuhiri for the hariru (shaking hands) and hongi (touching noses together).  This is a symbol of love and peace because at creation, the breath of life was breathed into the nose.???????????????????????????????The tangata whenua and the manuhiri then got acquainted over morning tea.7

8Now that the people had all been introduced and welcomed, it was time to welcome the kiwis to their new home as honoured guests.

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The local tangata whenua welcomed the kiwi with a speech by the kaumatua and waiata (special welcoming songs) by the local school children.

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???????????????????????????????Gill’s family has owned Mataia since 1870 and her oldest brother also welcomed the kiwi and the visitors and gave a short history of the Gardner family and the Mataia Restoration Project.???????????????????????????????Then the representatives of the gifting iwi and the Department of Conservation gave speeches explaining the background of the kiwi and their lineage and formally presented the kiwi to Mataia.???????????????????????????????

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???????????????????????????????The kiwi were blessed by the local kaumatua and formally named and introduced to the community.16

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18While guests were having lunch the actual release of the kiwis took place deep in the bush and that was handled by the Department of Conservation experts accompanied by a few students and family members.

Previously, Gill and Kevin had put temporary wooden burrows out for the kiwis.  The birds were transferred to those boxes and at night the boxes would be opened for the kiwi to explore their new home.

Each kiwi is fitted with a transmitter so that their movements and health can be monitored.

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We were very happy and honoured to be part of the very special celebrations and ceremonies and welcome the return of kiwi to the Kaipara Harbour.  More kiwi will be released at Mataia in the following week.

CUE Haven is less than a kilometre from Mataia and we are hoping that in the not too distant future, CUE Haven too will be hosts to kiwis.

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The event was covered by the New Zealand media and you can see the news clips here and here.

 

Something to Tweet About?

A few months ago, the New York Times debated the question “Is Classical Music Dying.”  According to all measures, e.g., number of new classical recordings, orchestra attendance, number of classical radio stations, the answer is yes.

Some people think that the only thing classical music is good for is to prevent crowds of teenagers from gathering.  Apparently, shops and malls who don’t want kids hanging around just pipe in some Mozart and they run away like vampires from garlic.

There has been a lot of discussion about how to get the “youth” interested in classical music.  I think that will happen right about the time they all read War and Peace and proclaim it to be awesome.

In my opinion, this isn’t a youth problem, but rather a cultural problem.  The current orchestra model is for people to come home at night, then dress up and go out and sit still for a couple of hours listening to music that they may or may not know much about.  Plus there are a lot of snobby old white people in the audience.

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That model worked before the days of Facebook and American Idol but today it’s no contest, and if orchestras want to remain viable they do need to do something about their demographics.

One orchestra, the Mobile (Alabama) Symphony, came up with an idea that, I hate to tell you, probably isn’t going to do the job.

On the theory that people today have issues if they are not connected 24/7, they have designated the last row of the auditorium as the “Tweet Seats,” from where concert goers are allowed to use silent mobile devices.  So they can tweet, and text and surf and, probably, play Angry Birds.  They are, however, admonished not to crinkle candy or cough drop wrappers.

Those Neanderthals among you who still have the benighted view that one goes to a concert to listen and concentrate and engage in the music will probably have trouble with this concept.  I know I do.

So I did some research to try to understand what’s going on and the results are not comforting.  Four reasons are put forth as to why this is a Good Thing

1.  It is nice to have access to your mobile device if you are bored.

2.  My Facebook and Twitter followers want to know what I’m doing and expect me to update them regularly.

3.  What I have to say/think is important and I need to capture it.

4.  It is arrogant to think that you shouldn’t let people enjoy something in their own way.

My favorites are 1 and 4.

I read an article by a youthful reporter who experienced a Mobile Symphony concert from the Tweet Seats.  He claims that his experience was improved by being able to access his phone.  The article included some of the breathless tweets he sent out during the concert, so you can see how his experience was enhanced:

            Conductor Scott Speck . . . looks like Lord Voldemort. Wonder what his         patronus is?

            Struggling to find a metaphor to describe the difference between a live orchestra and a recording

I love his metaphysical response to his previous question:

            Listening to a recording of classical music is like seeing your shadow on a cave wall.    It’s you but it lacks vitality.

At least he didn’t say: “it’s nt ovr ’til d f@ ldy sngs.”

The whole idea behind Tweet Seats, etc. is the idea of audience engagement.  Apparently ‘engagement’ is a really hot topic these days.  Teachers must engage with students.  Businesses must engage with customers.  Writers must engage with readers.  And vice versa.

But does sending out random, impulsive reactions really represent “engagement?”  And in a live performance, isn’t it insulting to the performers that you aren’t at least looking like you are paying attention?  The guy who wrote the article about his experience in the Tweet Seats claimed that “The exercise helped transform me into more of an active listener, a true observer instead of merely an audience member.”  To which I would say, isn’t a mere audience member supposed to be an “active listener” and a “true observer?”

But the real issue is summed up by what he writes about the violin soloist:  “Given the power of her performance I regret somewhat that I spent a few precious seconds of it sending 140-character missives into the swirling void of the Twittersphere.”

I guess there are limits to multitasking.

A final point of confusion about the way Tweet Seats work.  The guy who wrote the article was at the concert by himself.  I’m not sure that the typical person who would go to a concert alone would be inclined to tweet much about it.  Which then raises the specter of couples or groups sitting in the tweet seats together.  And tweeting their “real” friends about it.

And what does that say about your “engagement” with the people around you?

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This Is Kind of Creepy

The other day on the radio, they were interviewing a psychologist who was talking about something called “porn creep.”  I’ll spare you the details but essentially it refers to a condition in which people who spend an inordinate amount of time looking at pornographic material lose the ability to experience the real thing.

They actually interviewed twenty-somethings who basically said they were unable to have a normal sex life because they’d spent so much time interfacing, if you will, with their computer.

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I took the risk of Googling the term to see if it was mainstream and, yes, it is.  Not only do you lose the ability to function in the real world, in extreme cases, you need increasingly graphic stuff to, shall we say, pique your interest.  The condition has been studied and there is even a cure for it, in case you are interested.

After that segment of the show was over, they had the news and then had extended commentary on a number of the news stories du jour.

As usually happens these days when I listen to the news or any analysis thereof, I shake my head and wonder what the hell is going on.  It was the same old thing.  Sanity and civility seem to have taken a permanent vacation; and people seem completely unable to listen, communicate and engage in civil discourse without recourse to name calling, or worse, lawyers.

I switched to the oldies music station.

But that night I figured out what the problem is.

We were out at an event where people didn’t know each other all that well.  As a result, no one talked about anything controversial.  The conversation stayed at the level of kids, pets and television.  I’m not too well equipped to talk about any of those, but what interested me was the discussion of TV.

All they talked about were reality TV shows.  Mostly cooking shows, but they also now have reality shows about house buying, house renovating, losing weight, cosmetic surgery, raising kids, driving trucks in bad weather and pre-pubescent beauty pageants.  There is even a show where people bid on the junk in unclaimed storage lockers and hope it’s worth more than they paid for it.

The common denominator in all of these shows is a general lack of civility.  Apparently what makes the shows so popular is that the contestants are constantly bad mouthing each other and generally being nasty.  Cooperation and teamwork are generally considered signs of weakness.  Winning is less about excelling and more about torpedoing the competition at all costs.

At some point that evening, all of those pieces sort of clicked together and I developed my new theory of why contemporary society is so uncivil—reality creep!

Just as the person who is over exposed to porn finds themself unable to function in the real world and requires ever greater stimuli, I’m thinking that people over exposed to “reality” via reality TV develop the same problem.

As reality TV becomes increasingly popular, the hyper individualistic, winning at all cost behaviour of the people appearing in reality TV shows becomes the norm. So every discourse or discussion has to have a winner.  Compromising is for losers.

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There’s supposed to be a cure for porn creep.  Let’s hope they can find one for reality creep!

Images from Freedigitalphotos.com