October 30, 2003

People who liked Kill Bill are Heartless

Jess and I saw Lost in Translation last night. It was my second time to see that movie, and I liked it even better than the first, and I really liked it the first time. People who liked Kill Bill better than Lost in Translation are heartless and responsible for the degeneration of our culture.

Lost in Translation = all heart
Kill Bill = all homage

October 28, 2003

We need context

Here's some background:
On Iraq
On Iran, other Islamic countries, and women

Quote from the first: "And I shall add that any "peace movement" that even pretends to care for human rights will be very shaken by what will be uncovered when the Saddam Hussein regime falls. Prisons, mass graves..." What's so sad about the "peace movement", and makes it nearly impossible for me to listen to what they have to say, is the fact that these things did not shake them, and yet they were discovered. (Of course, no one should take this to mean that I think the Bush administration or US Government in general are above reproach).

This calls for a longer thing on Iraq and so forth, but I'm not responding.

October 22, 2003

Rose Parade


But not Ferdinand--he still liked to just sit quietly under the cork tree and smell the flowers.

October 15, 2003

We reproduce by loathing in groups

The New York Times hired David Brooks. Good choice. If I'd ever been to a baseball game that people were that crazy about, I might actually like the sport. But I haven't and I don't.

I wish I lived in Morocco.

So I have an early outline for my SIP ready...

It looks something like this:

I. Introduction: Information has become Banal
This is one of the most vital defining characteristics of American society as we begin the 21st century. Many of the problems our society faces grow out of this characteristic (banality). Information has acquired this characteristic because it has been redefined and reconstructed by the march of technique and the media technologies it spawns.

II. A brief history of technique
A. The modern ideology of technique applies the methods of the natural sciences to all of life. Somewhere around the beginning of the 20th century, the meaning of the processes involved in technologies was lost, and it has been replaced by the desire of technique to propagate itself and those characteristics which confirm it (efficiency, definition, clarity, and so on).
B. Qualification: technique is useful. It provides tools and methods. But it never provides real answers or reasons; its substitute is to mislabel tools and methods as answers and reasons, to promote itself as religion.

III. Technique specifically in the case of media technology
A. The Medium is the Message:
1. I will presume that media has the power to construct social reality, and thus also to affect reality as a sum (because I take it as given that there is more to reality than what is socially constructed). Furthermore, the kind of media limits the possibilities of and sometimes determines the content of the media. Postman: “Embedded in every tool is an ideological bias.”
a. Gutenberg as an example: “the message of print technology in the 16th century is not found in studying content, but by looking at how it organized man’s perception of reality by emphasizing casual relations and linear serial order, a desire to reduce things to units (specialization and compartmentalization)” Gladney, 96
b. I will note that this presumption should be qualified. That is, media technology never operates as the sole constituting factor in any social reality; rather, it always operates within a flow of various factors which alternately contribute to and detract from each other’s influences on the formation of the social reality in question.
2. This presumption is backed up by the work of McLuhan and Innis, in particular, though almost all later media critics have picked up on this (Baudrillard, Ellul, Postman, et al). Also see Berger and Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality.
B. Media technologies: A brief history of a particular set of techniques
1. Writing/Printing Press/Telegraph and Telephone/Photography/Broadcasting and Film/Computers
2. This draws primarily on Postman, with assists by Ong, Innis, and Ellul.

IV. Ellul’s image/word distinction and its application to media technology
A. elucidation
1. The image is the media representation of the visual, which is the realm of reality – things we touch, feel, see, and so forth.
2. The word is, contrastingly, the verbal, which belongs to the realm of truth – where the meaning behind reality lies. (Note: Ellul, in my opinion, goes too far in attempting to stress the unique value of the word and occasionally overstates his case).
3. Media technology now privileges the image over the word. This is concurrent with an ideological bias inherent in technique in favor of reality over truth.
B. confrontation/criticism

V. The real problems I see
A. The Problems
1. Loss of dialogue
a. This is the problem that most concerns Ellul; it touches on issues in Continental hermeneutics and epistemology, especially. Ellul’s approach to the issue of objectivity-subjectivity-and-the-meaning-of-the-word is something of a third approach, where the word is at once the communicator of objective meaning (in contrast to the approach of, say, Heidegger or Gadamer) and yet is still fundamentally mysterious and may not be circumscribed completely (this characteristic is somewhat drawn from Barth, I believe, who heavily influenced Ellul).
b. So, this is an extremely complicated issue, since I cannot even settle upon a definition of what it means to have dialogue. Nonetheless, it seems clear to me that Ellul’s criticism that modern media restricts the possibility of honest dialogue is a valid criticism, which we can consider without settling the issue of the nature of dialogue.
2. Lack of balance (i.e. over-emphases)
3. Loss of ends
a. Postman in particular touches on this.
b. This is the fundamental crisis created by the dominance of technique in modern society.
B. These problems are derived from the idolatrous desire for control
1. This idolatry’s roots and nature are elucidated by Ellul; I expand upon him. Essentially, the idolatry of control is the human desire to be the gods of our own worlds. It is fundamental to the modernist promise of science, because science promised to make it possible for us to become the gods of our own worlds. Though modernist tendencies may be less powerful in some areas, I think they are still quite strong in this area, even if they are tempered by a late-20th century realization that science may harm us as well as serve us.
It is not that this desire for control is new in people, but that our technologies permit us to layer the illusion thicker than ever before: death can be pushed further away, suffering exported to other corners of the globe, and our media can dissolve our sense of the reality of these realities by mixture of immediacy and distance. With information, the idolatry of control is to think that we understand, that we know things completely. Information technology has the twin effect of decreasing our actual control (understanding) of information while increasing the illusion of control – thus we think we are wiser than anyone who has come before us, because we have more information. This is the process that makes information banal. This is also connected to one of the central ideologies of our age, the ideology of progress, which is itself an idolatry.
2. Re-interpreting Ecstasy of Communication and Simulcra and Simulation: This idolatry’s effects are being illustrated by Baudrillard as he attempts to describe the effect of media technology in a society that has become immune to the possibility of transcendence.

VI. The Internet as a Specific Example of these Abstract Arguments
A. How it illustrates the specific problems
1. Loss of dialogue; Hubert Dreyfus’ On the Internet (2001) is a Heideggerian meditation on the effect of the internet on dialogue.
2. Lack of balance: people often become excessively involved in the internet, to the diminishment of their ability to participate in activities in the “real world”.
3. Loss of ends: Why did you open Internet Explorer? Did you really mean to check that website? What does it mean to “surf”?
Amount of information spirals out of control, while the comprehension of the whole diminishes.
B. How it exarcebates the idolatry of control
1. Creates an artificial world which we can achieve near total control of, causing us to become frustrated with our inability to control the real world in a similar manner.
C. How it is hopeful
1. emphasis on the written word is helpful
2. certainly more conducive to dialogue than television
VII. Conclusions

(I'm not sure what Movable Type was thinking when it moved my tab stops around, and I don't feel like redoing them.)

October 14, 2003

October 13, 2003

I'm afraid Science may have failed you guys

In honor of Neil Postman (previously mentioned) and Ryan, I have to mention this, a study which "discovered" a correlation between the kind of music played in a restaurant and the amount of money spent. Typical of social scientists. Tell us something that most normal humans already know via experience and common sense, and then claim to have "recently discovered" it. So restaurants that play Mozart tend to be fancier than restaurants that rotate Britney Aguilera? So we feel more upscale listening to Bach? This is amazing research. I sure hope American sociologists are working on stuff as important as those smart Brits over at the U of Leicester.

What was really amazing, though, was the girl that was reading the news update at Album 88, the 100,000 watt voice of Georgia State University on which I first heard this breakthrough announced. Her name was Nicole Douglas, but she sounded like she was translating all the news in real-time from some other language, which was rather hilarious, since the news stories were from Miami, South Africa, and England, at least two of which (South Africa and England) must have originally been in English.

October 10, 2003

More parts per million

Salon.com has a quick obituary for Neil Postman, who everyone should be interested in. Too bad that Covenant College's freshman technology class managed to convince me that Neil Postman was horrid and dry; nothing could be further from the truth (it was the class that was horrid and dry, not Neil).

I think Neil would have something interesting to say about this new 'version' of the 'Bible' -- Its definently something. Something silly that is. Yup, something's disconnected there. I could go on with some sort of unnecessary communications-studies/philosophy of media/pop-sociology type analysis... but I won't. Revolve speaks for itself. Frankly, I think that things like this call more for unintended laughs than for serious analysis.

Sidenote: for anyone who buys McLuhan, here's an interesting quote from one of the creators of Revolve:
"We've done nothing to change the message -- all we've done is change the packaging."

October 8, 2003

Don't interrupt me when I am at the machine

The man behind explodingdog is a genius. He really knows how to rock a camel down, in the words of Wesley Willis (another genius). This picture, Don't interrupt me when i am at the machine! sums up the technological society (which is exemplified by America and Japan, with Europe and parts of other countries hot on our heels) quite well, if you ask me. We can't be bothered to do anything that isn't efficient, particularly if we are engaged in the pursuit of the efficient at the time. "I spend quality time with my family, not quantity time." "I send my kids to daycare because I don't have time to look after them all day." "I go to school to develop my skill set." And so forth and so on. This will become more organized in the future (that is, I'll put something down that's more coherent and less rambling).

Good news: the Atlanta Braves were eliminated from the baseball playoffs. This is good news because I have a tendency to develop an intense dislike (just shy of hatred) for the major sports of any town I live in (a brief list: I dislike: the Atlanta Falcons, the Atlanta Braves, the Carolina Panthers, the ex-Charlotte Hornets, the Tennessee Vols and the Chattanooga Mocs; I can also feel an instense dislike for the Georgia Bulldogs developing, since I will be moving there sometime soon.) I wonder if this is somehow connected to the way that I like teams from places that I barely lived or am barely connected to (or even not at all): see Philadelphia Eagles and all the various soccer clubs I follow. But the soccer club-following from overseas thing is just wierd so perhaps that is unconnected. I suppose most of my dislike is rooted in the way that hometown sports teams tend to be covered: all that hubris and "we're going to really win it this year" analysis just doesn't cut it when you want the unending criticism that Philly fans subject their teams to.

October 2, 2003

Entry White

This sounds important... its an AP report that Kuwati officials have arrested smugglers attempting to remove $60 million worth of weapons of mass destruction from Iraq. I have grown exteremly skeptical over the past couple of months that we would ever find any hard evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, so I would feel a good bit more justified in not opposing the Iraq war if weapons of mass destruction did turn up. And I think that there might be more positive consequences to this than just me feeling better, if it pans out.