lovehate: The Death of Journalism

I want to start this lovehate in reverse. I love journalism. I love the sense that a media outlet, be it print, television, film, radio, website or blog has the ability to maintain an objective integrity that allows for informative and enticing stories about the world around me. I do, however, have an ability to distinguish the ever-increasing blurring of the objective and the subjective in mainstream journalistic delivery.

Quite plainly, the human interest story is now 99% of journalism and human interest is governed by the least objective body in existence: humanity. Let me also admit that while this is often a tired subject that's been around for years, it's the look forward that concerns me. Its basis has been batted around by satirists from Mark Twain and Umberto Eco to Peter Cook and the tagteam of Stewart & Colbert. People gave the knowing wink when Colbert exalted the term truthiness, but we're getting dangerously closer to that threshold. Not to be misanthropic about some sort of dystopian future, but I have to wonder if facts will even matter in 100, 50 or 10 years from now.

Commentary has become the new story; on the web front, isn't Digg really about the importance of opinion and commentary over the actual links themselves? In teaching even high school students the basics of writing a newspaper article, there is the tried and true W5H model of Who, What, When, Where, Why, How to deliver all of the facts pertinent to a situation. Facts are checked and double-checked, sources are required, and above all, there can be no sense of bias on the part of the writer.

We have been devolving down a sliding scale toward a point where the Who, What, When, Where, and How of a story has been reduced to a soundbite. "News" has given way to entertainment and entertainment has glorified the 5th W - Why. The why allows for commentary, expert opinions, punditry, and no-so-expert opinions not just on the story, but, more importantly to broadcasters, every tertiary aspect of the story that market research says will get more viewers.

In reporting on the events in Georgia over the past couple of weeks (not the home of the Braves), I'm sure more time has been spent on McCain's and Obama's opinions on the matter and less on educating the general populace about the fact our Americentric view should allow for a Georgia that doesn't have peach farms. Check that! We're not even hearing about what people who are political forces think about a political situation, we're hearing from the pundits and none of them are adding facts. Journalism has become a culture of who can yell the loudest and who is most entertaining. And even the most idiotic blowhard can be entertaining in the right setting.

Television news has been reduced to 5-6 hard news stories a day. I hope the defense for such a concentration is that not enough interesting things are happening. On the day I write this Paraguay has a new leader, Zimbabwe continues its collapse, Polan gets rocked by a tornado, Peru has thousands march in protest, 14 million people in Africa are on the brink of starvation due to food costs, India is concerned about a cement industry cartel, people in Haiti are eating mud, Taiwan's former president is laundering 31 million dollars off-shore, the tropical storm heading to Florida has killed people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, trees are being genetically enhanced to swallow up double the carbon, and Argentinian authorities are investigating the deaths of 14 children in clinical trials. And that's the news, back to the blowhards... wait, incredibly we've taken all the time reporting REAL news.

I would certainly rather know some of these world events are happening rather than listening to O'Reilly, Hannity, Matthews or Olbermann wax redundantly about the world on NEWS stations. When personality becomes the news, it says more about what broadcasters think of us as consumers of information.

I started by saying that I love journalism, but I love opinion as well. There is a place for both. No one will ever accuse me of being a journalist, and I don't want to be - it's far too much work. I enjoy a well-crafted rant. I like listening to a good rave. Hell, I even enjoy hearing someone else fly off the handle letting invectives fly. None of this, however, is news, and the more we buy it, the more they'll serve it up with a side of slick computer-generated overlays.

pundits

lovehate: Tech Prefixes

The English language, as bastardized a creation as it is, heavily relies on decscriptors that are drawn from endless languages, local dialects, colloquialisms and sometimes pure invention. Going through language as children, we are beseiged by the basic prefix "list": anti, de, dis, ex, in, mis, pre, re, and un. As we move to secondary and post-secondary education we are ultra-mega-inundated with superlative prefixes like... ultra and mega, contra, hemi, hyper, infra, inter, peri, semi, syn, trans. When we slide our minds into the realms of "intelligensia" we enjoy dropping pseudo and quasi before every idea so that we don't actually have to cop to anything concrete. In most cases our prefixes meshed well with the root words we were using, and, in some instances, to the point where the prefixed word became more common to regular use than the root word itself.

Then technology, as it usually does, took things in strange direction.  At first the invasion was subtle, yet foreshadowed insidious fallout. Our reality became "virtual" and so did, apparently, everything around us. Not officially a prefix, yet pretty much used as one, the descriptor was often used, not to elucidate meaning, but to sound cool. So in a virtual reality we gathered in our virtual teams and vitually communicated in our virtual world operating our virtual machines. It wasn't enough that, years earlier, dish detergent had made our dishes "virtually spotless". Now "virtually spotless" indicated a tech-savvy dog catcher.

Virtually months later, or let's call it the 1980s, William Gibson took a prefix that was only regularly used on one word, and started a trend that would force "virtual" to give way to "cyber". And much like the language meme that strangled us previously our cyberspace filled with cyberhomes occupied by cyberpunks having cybersex and cyberhating each other the next morning. And things were going swimmingly, at least cyberswimmingly, until we decided that virtual's three syllables was WAY too much and cyber's two syllables was STILL too much. Something had to be done.

No one thought much about it when CompuServe first used "Email" from 1981 to 1984. Those in the know probably thought, "Yeah. Okay. Mail. Electronically. I get it." We all would soon get it as we sent out billions of e-mails with e-cards so we could be e-tailing and e-marketing our new Ebay e-business and be part of the e-commerce revolution... sorry e-volution. As a prefix I got the distinction between mail (soon to become snail mail) and e-mail. At least in this instance the "e" indicated a new face that people needed to know if they were going to communicate. Basically, e-mail wasn't the same as mail and the lazy prefix worked just fine. As for the rest, couldn't we just have said marketing, business, and commerce and understand it included everything our companies did? And e-tailing was just plain wrong. My e-health was suffering.

On October 23, 2001, Steve Jobs became the new William Gibson of prefixes when Apple released the iPod. Not only had we reduced the prefix down to a single syllable, now, unlike the tenuous grasp "e" had to electronic, "i" pretty much meant nothing other an even more innocuous reference to a personal pronoun that added nothing to attached noun... nothing except being cool! Apple would iSell the iPod, iMac, and iBook in an iStore or iTunes until everyone was iTouching themselves. We now iPlay and iEarn in our iVillages and are iSafe with iTools because we have to go watch our favorite iStar in an iFilm which we find out with iNewswire on iGoogle.

I'm guessing the only logical conclusion is to move onto to other vowels with even less meaning than "e" or "i"". Of course "a" doesn't work too well because it is already a prefix that means without; e-marketers wouldn't like that. "U" has already been scooped because of its personal pronoun association... marketers really love personal pronouns; what's next something stupid like the "we"? Wait a second.... I suppose we could just move on to consonants. Maybe we can cash in on nostalgic ties to Q-bert, X and Y Generations. I'm putting my money on the "B". Think about it. In a society where everyone wants to be told what's cool, we could have bMusic, bVideo, bGames, bCommerce, bPCs, bWorlds and bSex... maybe that's why all the bees are disappearing - they know something we don't.

I think, in 25 years, techonology will enable us to prefix things with a shrug or a caustic eyebrow twitch and, until that day, iHate tech prefixes.

 

tech letters

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thinglets: lifeview beta release

Andreas Escobar sat under a yew tree
eating a plum from Hubble's market.
With brim pushed up and shirt undone,
nectar ran over his unshaven chin
and broke into a dozen tributaries
as it made its way down his chest.

The leaves ruffled under the weight of the wind
pushed up the hill and through the limbs.
A solitary song from a lonely wing
overhead found its existence by
one pair of ears opened to the
possibilities of constant flux.

An ant hill at the outer extent
of the shade curtain flourished in activity.
The urban collective in a maze of industry
stretched down and down and out
towards the subterranean suburbia
eschewing interminable monotony.

An infrequent nucleus burned hot
and long as unconcerned parties tracked time.
A practice undenied and uninhibited
courses onward to a non-conclusion
that is unavoidable but pre-negotiated
at some celestial wine and cheese.

lovehate: Video Game Nostalgia

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by joysticks, twitching drooling elated, dragging themselves past the neon signs at dawn digging for their last two-bits, angelhanded gamers tapping for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of lights.

Ever since I was a young boy, I played the silver ball, but, to be honest, I spent most of my formative years playing video games. I regularly haunted arcades in and around my neighborhood, and often neighborhoods far afield, just in order to get some quality pixel exposure.

I remember tapping a fire button twenty times for every shot on Taito's Space Invaders because there could only be one shot in the air at once. Similarly being engrossed in the camp lodge arcade near Bancroft, Ontario with Space Zap's quad-directional firing pattern until my eyeballs dried over and someone played Queen of Spades by Styx on the jukebox in the background. Hours spent at Queenston Mall playing Galaxian until the Food City got Galaga. Then over to Pepsi Pinball when aliens turned to insects in Centipede and Millipede.

I remember finally being able to master the the thrust, spin, fire buttons of Asteroids at Queen's Bowling as vector graphics spilled across the screen, but really having my mind blown with Tempest's spinning geometry and the ability to paint the playfield with fire.

I remember the advent of the trackball and consumption by the Xs and Os of Atari Football at Eastgate Square, soon to be brought to apotheosis by Missile Command's patriotic defense of the cities as bombardments of pixellated gravity-drawn destruction rained down from overhead.

I remember sneaking to the downtown Casino arcade for the side-scrolling savior status scooping civilians in Defender, eggs in Joust, Scramble's labyrinth of fuel tanks and rockets filling me with Flash Gordon moments of space warrior invincibility, and Zaxxon's faux 3-D angles of doom.

I remember several doors down, at the Palace, strafing, guns blazing from room to room blasting robots in Berserk and Robotron while exercising a finesse with bow and arrow in Venture.

I remember Gorf.

I remember fearing for my life at the Blue Lagoon Lounge all to stand in line for a yellow circle that didn't fire anything, but ate dots and was pursued by ghosts that looked like the McDonald's Fry Goblins prompting an onslaught of maze progeny that followed with Ms., Baby and Super Pacman, Mousterap, Ladybug, Dig Dug, and Mr. Do.

I jumped through carpal tunnels in Frogger.

I achieved transcendental states leaping barrels with Mario before he became the brand.

I travelled through the ages of Time Pilot.

I threw down the Gauntlet and it threw back.

I lived with Tron for half a year at 7-11.

I rented and stood in roller skates for hours on end, not because I enjoyed roller skating, but because Roller World had one of the best game selections in the city.

You can keep your Halo, Diablo, and Grand Theft Auto. Stop waxing emphatic about Wii Fit, Guitar Hero, and Call of Duty. I don't care if I ever hear another word about God of War, Final Fantasy, The Sims, or World of Warcraft.

Give me a quarter, a joystick, a fire button to mash, and a place to enter A J M when I get high score.

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Tron