Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blogger of the Year

Update Below: A stunning visual to help you donate more

Update II below: We don't seem to have the hang of this donation thing.

Every year at about this time I feel an incredible need for self-actualization. The old year is over (thank the Gods) and the new year is begun. That's why this year, for the very first time, I have selected myself as Blogger of the Year. I have surveyed the various entries I have written over this past year and have determined that this blog, "A Model Media Ecologist," is absolutely the best blog I could have produced. The writing was sharp, the wit was acerbic, the opinions were always pithy. (Am I describing a blog or a mango?)

I accept this award, Blogger of the Year, with gratitude and humility. If I wasn't doing such a terrific job I wouldn't deserve it, so I must be doing a terrific job. However, this is not the time to rest on my laurels. In these challenging economic times I need to pursue bigger and better ways to monetize my writings:

  • Now that Time Warner Cable is losing Comedy Central I am offering my services to them. (With Bush and all of his cronies leaving office there is no longer any need for John Stewart or Stephen Colbert anyway.)
  • With Al Franken joining the Senate there will be an increased need for a humorist for speaking engagements, best-selling books (Judith Regan, call me!) and childrens' birthday parties.
  • Those of you who are still reading this self-congratulatory screed could take a second to click on the "Donate" button to your left and be generous. Go ahead. Make my day.
  • Or you could send me a check.
  • Or you could donate your car.

So thank you, one and all for this great honor. I will continue to serve as Blogger of the Year for the rest of 2009 and, depending on the take and the state of the economy, maybe 2010. Wait, Blogger of the Decade. Doesn't that have a nice metric ring to it?

Update: For some reason, pictures of rising thermometers encourage people to donate money. I've provided this one, cribbed from Buzzflash, for those who require visual aids. As you can now see, we have a long way to go to reach our goal of $250,000. In fact, we have $250,000 to go.

Please give generously!

Update II: Normally during a fundraising drive the thermometer is updated periodically to indicate progress. For example, I had already prepared the graphic for the first report:

However, checking the latest results, I find that the actual state of my finances would best be represented by the following:

So you see we're heading in a direction opposite from that desired. Its very simple really. I ask for money and you donate it. I've even drawn you a picture.

Let's try to pick up the pace a bit. Don't make me start selling "Model Media Ecologist" T-shirts and mugs!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Glenn Greenwald on the Rule of Law

As in many other blogs this weekend I would like to call attention to Glenn Greenwald's interview on Bill Moyer's Journal which aired this past Friday and is being rebroadcast tonight. It can be viewed on the PBS website here.

Greenwald, who writes a blog on Salon, is a constitutional scholar and tackles head-on the question of whether the Bush regime should be investigated and tried for crimes commited:
What you have is a two-tiered system of justice where ordinary Americans are subjected to the most merciless criminal justice system in the world. They break the law. The full weight of the criminal justice system comes crashing down upon them. But our political class, the same elites who have imposed that incredibly harsh framework on ordinary Americans, have essentially exempted themselves and the leaders of that political class from the law.

They have license to break the law. That’s what we’re deciding now as we say George Bush and his top advisors shouldn’t be investigated let alone prosecuted for the laws that we know that they’ve broken. And I can’t think of anything more damaging to our country because the rule of law is the lynchpin of everything we have.

While Greenwald addresses this issue from his vantage as a constitutional scholar, I will add a Media Ecological slant to his argument shortly

Saturday, December 6, 2008

In a message dated 12/04/08 18:46:39 Eastern Standard Time, Lance Strate writes:

"I'm not sure if you absolutely have to have a sense of humor to be a media ecologist, but it certainly is highly recommended. McLuhan was a notorious punster, Postman loved to people people on, and there is a trickster mentality that constitutes a significant strain in our intellectual tradition."

Lance is right. The tradition of humor in Media Ecology goes back over 16,000 years to the Lascaux cave paintings. Recent scholarship has suggested that the cave paintings were actually elaborate knock-knock jokes. The reason the humorous tradition was lost is that the creators of those cave paintings were in the habit of telling their knock-knock jokes with a stone club.

A careful reading of the Socratic dialogues reveals what a kidder Plato was. For example, consider this exchange between Socrates and Phaedrus.

(Phaedrus gives a long exposition on the relationship between lovers and then asks:)

"What do you think of the speech, Socrates? Isn't it extraordinarily fine, especially in point of language?"

Socrates: "Amazingly fine indeed, my friend. I was thrilled by it. And it was you, Phaedrus, that made me feel as I did. I watched your apparent delight in the words as you read. And as I'm sure that you understand such matters better than I do, I took my cue from you, and therefore joined in the ecstasy of my right worshipful companion."

Phaedrus: "Come come! Do you mean to make a joke of it?"

Socrates: "Do you think I'm joking, and don't mean it seriously?"

What a kidder that Socrates was! And a true Media Ecologist!

At nearly the same time, Moses was knocking them dead at the Red Sea with his own unique variation on the classic surfer dude/wipeout routine. That was after God had said to Moses, "Take two tablets and call me in the morning."

Fast forward 2000 years, and Johannes Gutenberg was killing the scions of the Catholic Church with his famous "You're not my type" tag line.

Our own electronic era owes a lot to the whimsey of Alexander Graham Bell who liked to play tricks on his assistant:
Bell: Come here Watson, I need you.
Watson: Who said that?
Bell: He he he.

There are countless other examples of the mirth and humor of the pillars of Media Ecology, but its late, and I'm not getting paid for this. However, I will include one of my favorites, which I've shared here before, the best McLuhan joke ever:

Several students of Media Ecology consult a famous psychic in order to contact Marshall McLuhan and finally get a clear explanation of his writings. The seer goes into a trance, but says nothing for several minutes.

Losing patience, one of the students cries out, "Dr. McLuhan, are you there? Why won't you speak to us?"

A deep voice replies, "The Medium is the Message!"

So the next time you are at a media conference, and someone tries to go all serious on you over the biases of communication, technological determinism or hot and cold media, remember that humor is an integral part of Media Ecology and look that person right in the eye and sing "Media Ecology almost is theology!" and walk away. If one person does that, they'll think he's crazy and try to ignore him. If two people do it, they'll think that Media Ecology is some sort of conspiracy and try to have them removed from the building. But if 50 people do it, imagine, 50 people singing "Media Ecology almost is theology!" and then walking out! They'll think its a movement, which it is.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Rating The Internet

Seven words that you can never say on TV but are OK on the internet

When I seek out entertainment, I depend on the various ratings organizations to help me avoid explicit portrayals of sex, gratuitous graphic violence, foul language or unacceptable vulgarity. I am familiar with the movie ratings systems which warn me of "R" or "NR" or "PG-13" content. When I turn on the TV, I check the rating box in the upper left-hand corner of the screen, and reach for my remote at the first sign of offensive material. When I purchase a video game, I make sure there is no "A", "M" or even "T" on the box.

While there is no comparable safeguard for web browsing, some simple common sense measures have heretofore stood me in good stead. I don't respond to email promises to increase the size of my penis or enhance my sexual experiences. I don't reply to requests from correspondents with names like "CandyPantsXXX" or "NaughtyGirlOXOX" who promise to be my friend or relieve my boredom. Most off-limits web sites reveal their intentions right away by bombarding you with racy music, presenting pre-pubescent nymphs who want you to "get to know them" and, finally, soliciting your credit card number in order to see more.

So imagine my surprise as I was browsing the web site of the Parents Television Council, "," which purports to survey and rate the content of television programming for the parents of impressionable children, so they don't have to. According to their "About Us" link, the Parents Television Council "is a non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment. It was founded in 1995 to ensure that children are not constantly assaulted by sex, violence and profanity on television and in other media." Attached to each program is a color code rating, green, yellow, red to serve as a parental guide. These codes are defined briefly as follows:

Red: "Show may include gratuitous sex, explicit dialogue, violent content, or obscene language, and is unsuitable for children"
Yellow: "The show contains adult-oriented themes and dialogue that may be inappropriate for youngsters."
Green: "Family-friendly show promoting responsible themes and traditional values.
Blue: "Not yet rated by the PTC."

Well naturally I wanted to know more about what actually goes into the various ratings categories, and so, ignoring the warning that the ratings details contain "graphic descriptions," I clicked on. I don't think I can adequately describe my horror at what I discovered.

To my chagrin, I learned that the "Red" designation refers to the following words (out of modesty, I have replaced letters with random characters): "Sh*t, d&ck, pr$ck, f@ck, !sshole, c^ck, G—damn, profaning Jesus Christ." These words in their unexpurgated form were accompanied by explicit details of the types of sex and violence, and their frequency, that would warrant red, yellow or green designations.

I also learned that the frequency of "veiled or mild innuendo" or "responsible discussion of sexual issues" may bump the rating from "green" to "yellow," where even one depiction or mention of "sexual innuendo, marital sex, sex implied, homosexuality, pre-coital and/or post-coital or responsible discussion of pornography or masturbation" would suffice. More than three occurrences of the former per half hour gets the bump from green to yellow. Three or more per half hour of the latter group gets the red. I think you get the idea.

Here via a link available to anyone, of any age, is web content that would offend everyone, of every age, from the youngest sprout to the oldest beanstalk. So the question springs to mind, who rates the raters? If we can't rely on our media censors to clean up their act, who can we trust? The Parents Television Council may be performing a noble function visavis television, film and literature, but I'm afraid that until they censor themselves, I cannot in good conscience recommend their website.

For that matter, their example suggests that any website, no matter how innocuous, may contain offensive material. Until an organization takes the burden of discovery off of me by publishing a comprehensive rating list of all internet web sites, I'll just have to console myself by listening to my new collection of George Carlin CDs.