Is anything really original? This week's Oscar's had the smallest viewership in more than 30 years. Javier Bardem won best supporting actor for his role as a really big bad guy and his character was an original reinvention. No gun-slinging shooter, black-hat wearing killer, he, this canister-toting boogey man.
While visiting Fort Worth, I always have to go have an original Tex Mex fix on Camp Bowie's brick-lined street at The Original Mexican food restaurant, consistently rated as one of Fort Worth's favorites. And yes, my meal there this trip was good - traditional original.
But when I saw Ad Age's article on the audience ratings for the Oscars, as they say in Texas, "I did me some thinkin' " on media matters. The ratings erosion for network tv is just part of a trend. Viewership is changing and fewer blockbusters are making it - at least in the U.S. - so it is the world-wide release that is impacting profits. Titanic (best picture 1998) mega-hits are just not happening much anymore. My son-in-law could have cared less about the Oscars and my daughter watched only because I wanted to. They watch movies on their home screens, not in theatres.
Writing yesterday about Tommy Lee Jones and Westerns as Classic Americana, led me to link up movies and new media trends as a lump topic since this is part of the new and old trends combining into our new (original?) formats. Bob Somerby, (Jones' roommate at Harvard), became editor of the media criticism site, The
Daily Howler and as that site, very original in its inception, approaches it's tenth anniversary, I realized in our warp speed changes now, ten years makes it nearly ancient.
The Daily Howler lists two main things (quoted directly) learned about the mainstream press this ten year span:
1) They hunt as a pack: The most remarkable thing about the mainstream press is the way they all insist on saying the very same things. This contradicts everything we’re told, in iconic texts, about the way a press corps functions in an open society. Meanwhile, it’s impossible for average citizens to observe this cultural trait of the so-called press corps. You can only observe this trait if you examine a wide array of news sources. Obviously, most people don’t.
2) We’re all with Stupid: Second counterintuitive fact: There’s nothing so stupid that pundits won’t say it, once it becomes a Standard Text. And uh-oh! We’ve come to feel, in recent years, that many people simply can’t process this basic fact about the press. We’re all accustomed to the idea that major journalists may be “biased.” For many people, though, it seems to be very hard to come to terms with the stupidity of these big players. And yet, you simply can’t describe our modern “press corps” without explaining how stupid they are.
Original thoughts on new and old... Chile willy cheers from Tejas.
Two top Oscar contenders this year are western in their core - There Will Be Blood (won) and my favorite, No Country for Old Men. Used to be that you could see cowboy hats in Dallas. I've yet to spot one on this trip to Texas... maybe as I head over to Fort Worth I'll see a few covered heads. Our western heritage is such a confluence of myths and realities. Has Bush's unpopularity helped diminish the hat?
Does Obama's mixed heritage take us to a new mythological chapter of our self-definition? Classic western, this stuff. U.S News and World Report's cover story this week is US news. Us, united in these states, rethinking who we are, who we will be.
Tommy Lee Jones is the quintessential Texan that you find in shadow form outside of the big cities of Houston and Dallas. Maybe I'm drawn to him because he reminds me, in speech an mannerisms, of my cousin from Borger, Texas who goes by the name of Cortez. My children would have been seventh generation Texans (Jones is eighth) had they been born south of the Red River. They are 3/4 Texan anyway. My father was born in Texas but his parents, who came west (oil, oil, oil) were Scots-Irish Mestizos. Aren't we all, though, mullato, gumbo of this and that? DNA doesn't tell Texans apart, race doesn't matter (Obama's campaign is raising this issue and I think we are ripe for rewriting ourselves). Is our national identity primed for revision? Americans have never quit trying to remake our image. The past is always gone with the wind, up for reinterpretation in context of the present.
We've always been becoming. We've always been fluid. We're all malleable; we're all mixticius, mixed up and we storify and glorify ourselves based on conglomerating our past, present and future. That is what I love about Westerns. They are American to the core. Myth, truth, character, setting, story, grit...
photo, top: Tommy Lee Jones makes his directorial debut with The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. Sony Picture Classics
Other new laptops besides the new ultra light $1,799 MacBook Air have come on the market, offering portals to the web and with web-based cloud computing, these might make sense. New moves in online news journalism are worth keeping an eye on as well. So... crunching on.
Apple's creative programs make me love my Mac laptop (PowerBook G4) so I'm not changing. Soon I'll install Office '08 for Mac, just out a few weeks ago and then I'll be done w/ my PC.
But portals to the web and the move to cloud computing? The iPhone seems like the handiest way to go, just for simple access and if I knew AT&T had as good or better coverage in Santa Fe than Sprint, I might just have to get one. Business leaders at Davos all had Blackberries (better email) so it will boil down to these two smart phones (Palm is closing stores and new versions, out next year, will come too late). I've been looking into these other lap top portals, though.
Cloudbooks (or SubNotebooks) are trend shifts: The race started last fall for small, cheap, light laptops and WaPo has a good article. Eee PC is one cheap (starting at $245) portable subNotebook I read about that seems to have just hit the market with a bang, starting last fall with a Linux-based system. They've just released in January a Windows based version. Other mass-market sub-$200 desktops have come on the market, tripling from one to three in less than three months. At the CES, PC maker Shuttle debuted it's $199 KPC, loaded with a Linux operating system. Mirus Linux PC, now for sale at Sears.com, is $299 but w/ included rebate is $199, comes w/ Freespire 2.0, an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution. Everex gPC appeared on Wal-Mart shelves for $198 (so popular Wal-Mart is having trouble keeping it in stock), with operating system of gOS, version of Ubuntu 7.10. Linux is getting easier to use: Two of world's largest PC manufacturers, Dell and Lenovo, offer Linux operating systems. You can find a $200 Linux PC -- pre-installed and the average user doesn't have to do updates like on Windows. and Linux getting easier to use.
New Media Developments...In the last five years, the New York Times has declined in value by an astonishing 70 percent, and The Newspaper Association of America reported the number of unique visitors to newspaper Web sites last year rose more than 6 percent to a monthly average of 60 million. Monthly visits climbed 9 percent in the fourth quarter from a year ago. During the fourth quarter, 39 percent of all active Web users visited newspaper Web sites, with visits averaging 44 minutes a month.
Thomas Jefferson said, "I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one in a month, and I feel myself the happier for it," but I bet he'd be following new developments with media tech changes.
Online news continues to shift and there are two things I'm keeping my eye on:
1) ProPublica will be something to watch develop. It is a nonprofit newsroom that plans to launch online this spring with an advisory board that includes five top newspaper editors and collaboration may happen with its original "deep dive" investigative stories appearing in major media sites. As major media sites cut back, hard tough stories will get the short shrift. This is one of the solutions to this problem. The board includes NYTimes Managing Editor Jill Abramson, Boston Globe Editor Martin Baron, Denver Post Editor Gregory Moore, Seattle Times Editor David Boardman, and Cynthia Tucker, editorial page editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Others include U.S. News & World Report editor at large David Gergen, former Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll, Fortune columnist Allan Sloan and historian Robert Caro. Much of its $10 million annual budget has been donated by Herbert and Marion Sandler,ProPublica will fill a void left by cutbacks in the newspaper business that have reduced investigative staffs.
2) CNN will very soon launch it's iReport journalism initiative - user generated reporting. This is a direct opposite move to #1 above and it will take both to work. The site will be iReport.com. Right now, hubs for "citizen journalism" on the Web include well-backed companies like Current Media, which recently filed for an IPO, as well as start-ups of varying size like NowPublic and GroundReport.
Magazines and improving online presence...These changes are needed but I think as things lighten up, deeper reading (intellectual magazines and books) will still be needed. Atlantic Monthly has made changes to online magazine, putting old content by Mark Twain up, having single advertisers pay to bring down firewall, more content up for online-only... Last week the editor announced that the online edition is free.
How to Train a Husband is a top 10 article on Newsweek reviewing a just-released book, What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love and Marriage
and I bet it becomes a top gift for brides-to-be! In 2006 Amy
Sutherland wrote an article for the NYTimes which became the most
e-mailed story of the year. I may go out w/ my newlywed daughter in Dallas to pick this up.
Feminism All Mixed Up? I ran a story on Fashion and High Heels that got a lot of traffic (high heels equate to Chinese foot binding, imo) at the same time that a study came out in Italy that high heels promoted good pelvic muscles (for women, it said) at the same time that Boing Boing highlighted an article about how high heels were not good. I read the comments on the articles and these ways that women are dressing for men at risk to their own (foot) health made me go over to check out Morton's Neuroma, one side effect of heels, from which I suffer from time-to-time. My NYC podiatrist, foot doctor to the big sports teams, had articles all over his walls quoting him regarding damage women in heels suffer from, foot-health wise. Then there is the trend to waifish, anorexic-looking androngynous male models. My husband and I have had discussions about these trends. Seems things are mixed up in ways that aren't good for women? Or men? I don't think a book would ever come out by a man on How To Train a Wife. That was so 50's, wasn't it? Matthew Kahn brings up lastest research about how love puts blinders on people. This truism is why we should work to keep romance alive. Being in love increases the ability to resist temptation. Romance. Right. Young kids don't date anymore.
Final thoughts: Republicans are happier than Democrats (link via Jill); "after 40, it's just patch, patch, patch," says Allison's mother; feeling lonely can make you sick by desensitizing glucocorticoid receptors, cutting off the immune control and anti-inflammatory effects of cortisol, a stress-related hormone that also helps regulate the conversion of carbohydrates to energy; and additives in food products really do make children hyperactive.
And, to conclude my long ramble, if I could go back and work harder to change some things as mom, I'd work for more recess and art, music and language studies in lower grades and later school beginnings (10:00 - 6:00) for high school students with mandatory sports and healthy food and media studies courses available. I wouldn't have had such conniption fits about the decline of cursive handwriting.
There. That is what I think is important to ramble about. Today. Texas, Here I Come. Yee Haw Cheers.
Bellazza linked me for a reading meme and as reading is essential to my life and very being, I'll play. My mother will tell you that as soon as I could walk I carried a book about. Becky's reading questions were more appealing so I've combined her list w/ Bellazza's. So... Tell me what you are reading, too. Or play along.
1). What non-fiction issues/topics interest you most? Media, brain science, science, art, culture, history, biography, ideas.... I have a very wide range of interests, business...
2). Would you like to review books concerning those? Sure and I would include information about the artists of the book covers which is always never included in any kind of book review but is essential to marketing the book. Chip Kidd is my favorite book cover artist and probably the most famous.
3). Would you like to be paid or do it as interest or hobby? Tell reasons for what ever you choose. I would do either but I mainly review for book clubs. I co-reviewed a book for my second meeting of the book club I joined in Santa Fe.
4). Would you recommend those to your friends and how? I always have a book with me. I'm always bringing up good books in conversation. Frequently I mention what I'm reading here. I give books as gifts.
5). If you have already done something like this, link it to your post.
6). Please don't forget to link back here or whoever tags you.
Becky's Reading Questions from her blog Deep Muck Big Rake:
* What are you reading? The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (National Book Critics Circle Award Nominee, announced Jan 12)
* What do you plan to read next? In Defense of Food, An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollen; and Seeds of Destruction - The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation by F. William Engdahl
* What’s your favorite book of all time? Rain of Gold by Victor Villasenor. The author chose a small publisher in Houston rather than a big one that wanted to have the title be Rio Bravo. It is a tale of the veracity of oral history.
* Was it made into a movie? If not, do you wish it were? Don't think so but yeah.
* What did you learn from it? Good stories are worth writing about and reading. The truth as fiction can be and often is real.
* What other book(s) would you recommend reading with it? Hmmmm. Bless Me Ultima. Two books of cultures entwined with US history.
OK, my fellow readers and bibliophiles. Play for the sake of reading!
Rambling is difficult without all-wheel drive in these mountains. They call it a La Niña winter here and last year was unusual, too, with higher than normal snowfall. So driving about in Northern New Mexico has some challenges. My ramble for ideas today slides all over the place today, just like my Mini does in snow and ice.
The American Southwest has been in a protracted drought for nearly a decade, with sinking water levels in lakes and rivers and decreasing snowpack in the mountains. Our area is an anomaly with snow this year but the timing of the snowmelt is crucial for water supplies. A scientist from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, says
that Lake Mead, which supplies water to 22 million people throughout
the region, could be bone dry in just 13 years, impacting 30 million
people, including everyone in Southern California. What happens when resources become scarce? In 2006 U.S. farmland devoted to bio-fuels crops increased by 48%. None of the land was replaced for food crop cultivation. Tax subsidies make ethanol fuel production profitable. I noticed this on my recent cross-country drives as we moved permanently from the East Coast to the Southwest. Since 2001 amount of maize to produce bio-ethanol in USA has risen 300%. I pay attention to the farm bill, the huge beef recall this week... Have we reached the end of the era of cheap food as food reserves are disappearing? On Global Warming and the media, a good article on how this is not well covered in the media and why "flaky skeptics" get so much coverage in the U.S. media was revealing. It is women who are more concerned about these environmental issues. Rhea wrote about climate change. Some write about eco-depression... the sadness of seeing a polluted world with sad future prospects and the helpless/hopelessness some feel about it. Perhaps this will be a new DMV diagnosis.
Have we reached the end of consumption? I've witnessed Santa Fe struggle with the downturn in the economy and consumer spending cut-back which has hit at the same time implementation of a higher minimum wage has gone into effect. Some people, though, are just opting out: "Our physical, intellectual and emotional and psychological space is filled up with consumption" and some are opting out completely, choosing to work less and consume less and retail vacancies are soaring. "Working 60 hours per week and chasing job promotion 'for the sake of buying the latest crap off the Sharper Image store shelf is no way to live,' says Adam Weissman, spokesman for Freegan.info. e-commerce is growing at 20% per year, and brick and mortar stores are suffering - supply is up and stores are cutting back outlets. An article on how consumption is a better guide to economic prosperity is interesting about how 80% of households have cellphones, most all have microwaves, tvs, washing machines, refrigerators, cars and airconditioners. In 2006, an astonishing 227 million prescriptions for antidepressants were dispensed in the United States -- up 30 million from 2002. Altogether the United States accounts for about two-thirds of the global market for antidepressants. Stuff, stuff, stuff. Now it is all about how to get rid of the stuff.
A depression-era saying comes to mind: use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. Hmmmm.
The sinews of war are infinite money, said Cicero. The United States of America is the largest manufacturer of cluster bombs. This weaponry maims and kills thousands of innocent human beings globally each year but reaps huge profits for the defense industry and, well... money influences. My daughter works on landmine issues, hence my awareness. Hillary voted against Amendment 4882 which would have banned the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas. Obama voted for the amendment. Russia, China and some other powers are also opposed to banning the weapon. The latest figure I saw was Bush seeking $70 billion more from Congress to fund wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2009 fiscal year. Administration requests for war spending could bring the total cost of Iraq's war above $611 billion. A new book, The Three Trillion Dollar War, by a Harvard professor and a Nobel Prize winner in economics claims the true cost of war couuld be as high as $3 trillion. War is good for the economy. Right? I'd like to see the candidates be financially transparent and so would others. Then this made me wonder: According to opensecrets.org, the top three contributors to Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul’s campaign are from the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force respectively. Additionally, Ron Paul’s military contributions are greater than those of all other current candidates – John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama –combined.
Starting with the eye as the definition of self, artistically and symbolically in Part I, Eyes Looking Out, I am now in Part II looking at the issue of technology and privacy and wondering how this will alter our very sense of self, our soul and our way of seeing our identities and our world.
For our children, things will be and are dramatically, radically different, far more different than they already are, tech wise. Profound changes are altering us in ways that are complex and scary and unfathomable. Like the kohl used for protection around eyes long ago and today (this kohl-lined eye at right is from an Egyptian sarcophagus in the Met), what firewalls or metaphorical kohl and protections will we have? What will we give up for convenience, for safety, for security and what are the long-term implications?
We Americans are encountering a major shift in literacy. This is a photo of an Obama campaign office in Houston. The Che image next to the American flag, next to the peace symbol. What are the cultural and artistic meanings of these logographic ideagrams?
We are now a nation that reads meaning into symbols like the Anasazi and Native Americans once read rock art signs.
My son bought a t-shirt with the Che Guevera image on it when he was studying in Mexico a few years back. If you were to ask him about the man, he'd tell you of the idea. Focusing on media and political communications, I've looked at the iteration of ideas in my The Che Factor post as well as how Political Art is a Powerful Tool in our age of icons. My son, 21, thinks McCain is just old and this will will be his opportunity to vote for a president. He would pay more attention to the political news of the likes of "comedian" Stephen Colbert than any talking news head on tv and he probably couldn't tell you who Walter Cronkite was.
David Ignatius writes in the Washington Post that he and others want to know the substance behind the Obama mystery and they are struggling to understand the symbolic appeal. Media theorist Marshall McLuhan, who I studied back in J-School and again recently, said, "At the speed of light, policies and political parties yield place to charismatic images."
What exactly is the Obamanon phenomenon? It is a cultural thing, happening in the political sphere. It is a deep social phenomeme, picking up the steam of ideas of a yearning for unity, a yearning for change, a yearning for something to call us together to work for something we as a people can be proud of. It is the symbolic iteration of ideas to a population that doesn't read anymore (statistics such as 40% of Americans under 44 didn't read a single book last year shed light on the ephemeral appeal and Steve Jobs knows this).
Maureen Dowd caught the Che link on the semantics of Obama's verbage: (Hillary) couldn’t wait to shoplift the words “yes” and “can” from Obama’s
trademark “Yes, we can!” — (which he appropriated from Cesar Chavez) —
even though she was cagey enough to put them in separate slogans, “Yes,
we will!” and “Americans still have that can-do spirit.” I just posted Hillary Changes Her Oratory but I think she's treading water, all focused on herself.
Just like rock art that can't be interpreted anymore because the meaning is lost, what we now read is full of meaning to us as iconic images. Signs and snippets are the cultural ways we share social meaning as our literacy shifts to digital.
Related Media/Political Culture Communication Posts:
Rhetoric, from Aristotle to Obama
The Obama Poster
Presidential Campaign Logos
Word Art: Talking Points
The Che Factor
Political Art: Powerful Tools in the Icon Age
Hillary Clinton: Leading By Visual Impact
Hillary is changing her oratory. But is it too late for the rhetorical flourish of unity work? This week it is "together" and "us" and "we" as she attacks her opponent, Obama, but she is still using a style of communication all about herself. Her use of "I/me" outnumbered "you/you're" 21 to 19 if you analyze her televised speech this week.
Here are a few semantic examples from her speech in Wisconsin this week:
"...when I think about what we're really comparing in this election, you know, we can't just have speeches. We've got to have solutions. And we need those solutions for America.
We've got to get America back in the solutions business, because while words matter, the best words in the world aren't enough unless you match them with action.
But this election is not about me or my opponent. It is about you. It's about your lives and your dreams and your future. And I can't do this without all of you here in Youngstown and across Ohio. It is going to take an effort from all of us.
Hillary started out winning with her iconic familiarity - and her ability to capture the media limelight. But she is losing the oratorical battle. She just can't get her mojo flowing against the power of Obama's charismatic use of language structure which captures the pathos of change and unity. As her words shift into attack mode, it debases the tone and paints her words in diametrical opposition to the charismatic uplifting themes of Obama's policital rhetoric. In the process, his stylistic verbal mojo will gain even more power.
Hillary's speech uses the term "People" then refers to people as "they" while Obama's linguistic formations put people as the subject with a "we" reference, signalling collaboration, not authority. This is a generational shift in our cultural approaches. Kids are being taught to do group projects and not work alone. The wisdom of crowds is an idea of the times.
I put a crown and ermine on Hillary a long time ago in that photo as it signaled to me her use of power which I thought was dated in a Queenly way for our times. She speaks out to the people. Obama pulls them in.
The "best words in the world" is what Hillary calls them. She ain't got that thing.
Related Media/Political Culture Communication Posts:
Rhetoric, from Aristotle to Obama
The Obama Poster
Presidential Campaign Logos
Word Art: Talking Points
The Che Factor
Political Art: Powerful Tools in the Icon Age
Phenomes in Literacy: Peace, Love & Obama-Che
Hillary Clinton: Leading by Visual Impact