Archive for the Media Category

This Is News: Expensive Disaster in Space

Posted in Internet, Media, Really, This Is News? with tags , , , , , , on January 29, 2014 by JE Cornett

Can you file bankruptcy in space?

While you were lying awake in bed late Sunday night worried about the plight of the homeless during this bitterly cold Arctic Freeze, James Carl’s empire was crumbling.

Turns out his space fleet was under siege. The surge began when a member of Carl’s coalition failed to make a payment to protect a key staging ground in the ongoing war between Carl’s Pandemic and N3 coalition and CFC and Russian forces.

The bill should have been settled via auto-pay, but something went wrong, resulting in tragic consequences.

“Everything just escalated out of control from there,” says Carl, via Associated Press. “The dust is still settling on that issue. Everyone is just focused right now on fighting to try to regain control of the system.”

Carl’s coalition faces steep odds to retake lost ground. Mineral rights and disruption of valuable trade notwithstanding, more than 100 of the $3000 vessels were destroyed in the attack before Carl was notified by alliance members in the early hours of Monday morning via phone that system B-R5RB was under fire. He spent the remainder of Monday marshaling his troops, and says that dozens of alliance members, volunteers all, took leave from their jobs to help put an end to the takeover.

Right now, Carl’s hope is that with the help of other alliance members, total destruction of B-R5RB can be prevented. While it appears the CFC currently has the upper hand, there is still time for U.S. alliance members to retake the advantage, says Carl.

Regardless, Carl is not giving up.

“It’s a universe full of grudges and constantly changing politics. If we were to lose, we’ll rebuild. Then, we’ll go back and start another war.”

The cost of this war, however, may make rebuilding difficult. Though the war is being waged in the ether, as part of the online game EVE, the real world value of the losses Carl’s coalition has weathered tallies $500,000. Whether Carl and others can afford to re-outfit this completely fictional alliance remains to be seen.

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All Thinking Is Relevant, Says Thought Catalog

Posted in Internet, Media, No, Where You Find It with tags , , on January 28, 2014 by JE Cornett

Card Catalog in O'Shaughnessy Library, later to become part of the O'Shaughnessy-Frey Library Center, University of St. Thomas [1960]

No, not that kind of catalog, unfortunately.

The whole wide world’s all up in somebody named Amy Glass’s face for having the nerve to write something titled “I Look Down On Young Women With Husbands And Kids And I’m Not Sorry” over at a place called the Thought Catalog.

Yes, it’s just about what you’d expect with that title, and ends on this cheery note:

Women will be equal with men when we stop demanding that it be considered equally important to do housework and real work. They are not equal. Doing laundry will never be as important as being a doctor or an engineer or building a business. This word play is holding us back. 

This is hardly Amy’s first cataloged thought, either. My personal favorite is the one called “Here’s How to Cheat Proof Your Relationship: Stay Attractive.” Read on:

Honestly, why wouldn’t you cheat when your marriage devolves into living in a house with someone and raising kids with them, primarily, and a love relationships secondarily. Hell, not even secondarily, just like the status quo…

I feel like [cheating is] the consequence these women deserve. They didn’t want a love relationship, they wanted a wedding and a status symbol. If they wanted a love relationship they’d be putting work into it, thereby removing any reason a man had to cheat and they wouldn’t cheat. It’s simple.

She also cataloged “Is the Point of Having Kids Just Not to Be Lonely?” and “When It Comes to Women There’s No Equality Gap, Just an Ambition Gap,” but I didn’t bother reading those. By that point I had concluded that this was all farce. All of it. From these half-cocked ideas to the high school essay-quality writing to the liberal sprinkling of “blow-jobs.” I was convinced that none of this was real, because if it were real, Amy Glass would have developed some of these intriguing thoughts past the reductive, sophomorish (I crack me up) rants-stage.

Then I made the mistake of exploring this Thought Catalog further. Here are a few of the gems I found:

If Your College Relationship Isn’t Working, Don’t Feel Guilty:

Many people lack to recognize the importance of timing in relationships when really, timing should be attributed to at least fifty percent of every relationship. Think about it, there are two separate human beings, wandering around in this world, and somehow they meet, at a specific place, in a specific time in their lives. From that moment forward, those two people will have to put scheduled time aside for that person to be apart of their life.

I’m in college now, and frankly, I struggle to find time to even shower. College is full of late nights, early mornings, afternoon naps, overscheduled classes, short lived study time, an overload of cramming to finish homework time, and an unhealthy amount of Netflix. The combination of the lazy and stressful schedule leaves us all with limited one-on-one human interaction.

Personally, I lack to recognize how, if you’ve got time to watch Netflix, you haven’t got time to shower. If you’ve got time to nap, you’ve got time to shower.

22 Important Differences Between Southerners and Rednecks:

  • Southern: Food with a lot of butter
  • Redneck: Food with a lot of mayonnaise
  • Southern: Common family nicknames include “Junior” and “Sissy”
  • Redneck: Common family nicknames include “Bubba” and “Buzz”
  • Southern: Cracker Barrel
  • Redneck: Golden Corral
  • Southern: Elvis, Johnny Cash, The Allman Brothers, Lynard Skynard
  • Redneck: David Allan Coe, Toby Keith, Trace Adkins
  • Southern: Having pecan pie crumbs on your mouth
  • Redneck: Missing teeth from your mouth

As a Kentuckian, I could by rights go either way, but I can’t parse this. Love butter, also love mayonnaise. Have the nickname “Sissy” but prefer David Allan Coe to Lynard Skynard (sic). So confusing.

Believe the Lies You Tell Yourself to Fall Asleep at Night:”

Be kind to yourself. Believe it’s all going to work out the way you wildly and shamelessly entertain in the crevices of your imagination. She could learn to forgive you and become your friend again. One day, you could make that team, get your dream job. He could come back to you.

Stranger things have happened. Life is unpredictable. Hope is never lost.

That’s sweet.

By the time I’d finished with that Thought, I’d come to the conclusion that the entire Thought Catalog was farce, or something like the bathroom wall of the Internet.

So I went to the “About” page to find out how such a thing worked. Here’s what the “About” page says about this Thought Catalog:

  1. Thought Catalog content should be fun, smart, and creative, i.e., entertaining, journalistic, and literary.
  2. The site should be beautiful and clutter-free.
  3. We believe all thinking is relevant and strive for a value-neutral editorial policy governed by openness. The more worldviews and rhetorical styles on the site, the better. We want to tell all sides of the story.
  4. We’re about today. But our mission is also archival. We want to catalog the times for tomorrow.
  5. We want to help shape culture by empowering you to share your ideas and stories with the world.

What a beautiful, if not exactly clutter-free, concept. Not just an Internet bathroom wall, but a repository, where anyone who comes up with “25 Hoarding Photos That Will Make You Feel Better About Your Life” can leave those photos for future generations. No matter how fleeting my thought, no matter how unformed or ill-informed or deformed my thought, it can come here to live.

I felt empowered until I followed that link (dead here) to a Submissions page. This is an excerpt:

If you’d like your writing featured on Thought Catalog, fill out the form below and we’ll review it. While we strive to read all submissions, our resources are limited, and we can’t guarantee a response. If you don’t hear back after two weeks, assume it wasn’t possible for us to publish your article and feel free to submit again.

Shocking. I had assumed that the inclusion of something like “22 Important Differences Between David Allan Coe and Lynard Skynard” was proof that there is indeed a value-neutral editorial policy here. I thought that meant that all thinking is relevant, but now I learn that someone, somewhere is only striving to read all the submissions, and that it may not be possible for my thoughts to appear in the Thought Catalog.

Thank God.

 

No, Really: “Killer Joe” Is an Adult Film

Posted in Media, Really with tags , , on July 27, 2012 by JE Cornett

Your baby does not need to see “Killer Joe,” okay?

Today in omg-r-u-srs, this from the Associated Press’ Sandy Cohen:

The MPAA says on its website that an NC-17-rated film “is one that, in the view of the Rating Board, most parents would consider patently too adult for their children 17 and under.”

That’s certainly true of “Killer Joe,” which opens in New York on Friday and other major cities next week. The MPAA says it contains “graphic disturbing content involving violence and sexuality, and a scene of brutality.”

Adapted from the stage by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tracy Letts, it’s a story about a small-time drug dealer (Emile Hirsch) who hires a cop moonlighting as a hit-man (Matthew McConaughey) to kill his mother for her life-insurance benefits, and offers his virgin sister as collateral. It’s adult material.

Shew. I’m glad I saw that before I took someone else’s baby to see Killer Joe.
And yes, that’s my emphasis on my favorite new phrase, “it’s adult material.”

Where You Find It: The Best Cease-and-Desist Letter Ever

Posted in Book News, Media, Where You Find It with tags , , , on July 25, 2012 by JE Cornett

Who says the art of letter writing is dead? This cease-and-desist letter from Jack Daniel’s’ rep Christy Susman, asking writer Patrick Wensink to stop using a Jack Daniel’s label-style image on the front of his book Broken Piano For President, is a thing of beauty and a joy forever (click on the letter, then click again for a larger, readable version):

Via: The Atlantic Monthly

Fractured Fairy Tales

Posted in Book News, E-books, Media with tags , , , on July 17, 2012 by JE Cornett

According to a recent post on Smart Money‘s blog, nearly 50% of U.K. parents say they now read books to their kids on e-readers or tablets.

Andi Sporkin of the Association of American Publishers tells Smart Money that sales in the juvenile e-book category (books for children 18 and under), grew  233% to $64 million in the first quarter of 2012, and called children’s e-books “the fastest growing category in trade.”

For teens and preteens, who live increasingly digital lives, this news is heartening, as it gives a McLuhanite hope that books and reading will be embraced by the reluctant readers who’d never pick up a dead-tree book by choice. But for younger children, this news is troubling.

Anything that brings children and their parents or caregivers together over a book cannot be all bad, of course, but e-books, for all their positive qualities, may deny young children one of the most wondrous experiences of childhood: discovery.

When I think of my own childhood reading habits, I think automatically of libraries. Of public libraries and school libraries, and browsing in shelves and stacks, looking at books, discarding books, choosing books to take home with me. My parents/caregivers were only tangentially involved in the process of my book selections; for the most part, what I self-selected. Moreover, the books were mine to read when I wanted, where I wanted, once I checked them out.

For the youngest readers and pre-readers, the roadblocks e-books pose to this kind of self-directed reading and browsing are obvious. The transactions required to access e-books are too complex, even with child-centric devices that limit functionality and direct browsing. The number of steps between the child and the book are too many, and selection lies in the hands of parents and caregivers. So too, is the access to the books, once chosen; while many parents may give young children free reign with tablets and other devices, barriers will nevertheless exist to spontaneous reading.

But it is the element of choice, perhaps, that is most disheartening when children’s reading is restricted, even with the best of intentions. Librarians, educators and parents who’ve experienced the Accelerated Reader phenomenon decry the effect on motivation and enjoyment of reading in school-aged children when prescribed reading lists remove choice from the equation. For younger still children, whose choices may be further restricted by well-meaning or time-crunched parents and caregivers, the risk is even higher. No matter what age the reader, when the experience of browse through shelves, be they physical or digital, is removed, the worlds that reading have to offer shrink.

The ways children experience books on devices brings another troubling aspect to the ascendancy of e-books. As the Smart Money article points out, “experts say younger children like the graphics and color of e-readers, as well as the option to hear the book read aloud even when a parent is unavailable.”

Reading with a child creates a vastly different experience for the child than giving the child a device which reads the story to the child. A tablet, no matter how bright, shiny or audio-equipped, cannot automatically pause to allow a concept time to marinate in a child’s mind, nor can it sense when a child needs more or additional information to make sense of a story.

And, unless e-books are used as a way to engage children, rather than occupy them, they may be doing more harm than good to reading skills.  The Guardian recently reported on a study that found that reading enhanced e-books was actually detrimental to children’s reading comprehension:

Children reading enhanced ebooks also “recalled significantly fewer narrative details than children who read the print version of the same story”, said the researchers, speculating that the extra features may be distracting. But while “print books were more advantageous for literacy building co-reading”, ebooks, and particularly enhanced ebooks, were better “for engaging children and prompting physical interaction”.

But my biggest problem with the book-on-a-device idea, when it comes to children, must be seen to be appreciated. Click on the image twice (it should expand to fill your whole screen), as it just can’t be done justice otherwise:

It’s two pages from one of Richard Scarry’s books (What People Do All Day, to be exact). Scarry’s books, almost always oversized and thick, explode with details and information that simply cannot be captured on a screen, including the one you are reading this on. They beg to be looked at again and again and again; a copy of Busy Busy TownCars and Trucks and Things That Go, and Best Word Book Ever is soon smudged and dog-eared, favorite pages blurred with fingerprints where a child just can’t help but point out and touch the things she loves over and over again. That’s an experience no device can replace.

E-Books Won’t Disappear — But The Way We Read Will

Posted in Book News, E-books, Internet, Literature, Media, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2012 by JE Cornett

Don’t worry – they’re not coming for your e-books. Not yet, anyway.

The blogosphere/libraryland/readers everywhere are in a dither over Hugh McGuire’s TEDx talk about the disappearance of e-books within five years or so. There’s much weeping, wailing and wringing of hands, most of it due to a blog post  by Porter Anderson that seems to vaguely extrapolate from this TEDx talk that e-books are going to disappear into the “ego noise” of the Internet.

It’s much ado about nothing. In fact, McGuire’s presentation says no such thing, something he’s quick to point out in the blog post’s comments.  “I never said books (or ebooks) will disappear; I said that “the distinction between books and the internet will disappear”” says McGuire in the comments, and the other commenters, some of which beat McGuire to the punch, wholeheartedly agree.

Whether this TEDx talk/blog post’s viral nature speaks to lovers of print books’ need to disparage e-books, or just a complete misunderstanding of the source material is but one interesting aspect of this story. The more intriguing thing is how McGuire and Anderson both miss the whole point. The difference between e-books and the Internet is already so fine as to be, in many cases, non-existent, as anyone with a Kindle or an iPad knows well. The better question, however, is how reading an e-book, whether on the Internet, a Kindle, an iPad or even a smartphone, changes the way we read.

When you pick up an actual book, your mind may wander, but the information remains the same. Without laying that book aside and seeking out more and different information, there is no way to add value to the information as it is (unless someone has made margin notes, which is a conversation for another day). All you have is what’s before you; the viewpoint of the author is static, as is the information presented, until you manually seek out additional information. There is time, then, to absorb the information without extra-contextualization.

Reading e-books on an Internet-ready device changes the experience completely. Want to know what other readers think of the book? Go straight to the linked reviews. Come across a name you don’t recognize? Google it. Want to know more about the author? Google it. Want to highlight a section? See if anyone else has highlighted it, as well.

The larger question is, how does reading a book that is basically a living thing differ from reading what many laughingly call a “dead tree” book? It’s a question that’s already been asked and answered of the e-book’s next of kin, the Internet.  Way back in 2008, The Atlantic‘s Nicholas Carr began to worry that the Internet was affecting his ability to read and digest text in an article titled “Is Google Making Us Stupid“. While 2008 does not seem to be eons ago, it pre-dates the e-book frenzy that began around 2010-2011, so much so that Carr does not even mention e-books to any degree in the essay. Yet the conclusion he draws from his online reading habits mirrors almost exactly what McGuire forecasts in his TED talk:

When the [Internet]* absorbs a medium, that medium is re-created in the [Internet’s] image. It injects the medium’s content with hyperlinks, blinking ads, and other digital gewgaws, and it surrounds the content with the content of all the other media it has absorbed.

This recreation of the e-book in the Internet’s image is what McGuire is extolling as the e-book as Internet’s biggest virtue, and what, as Carr has already discovered, is the biggest difference in the way we read even ten years ago and the way we read now.

But is it indeed a virtue? The examples that McGuire and Anderson use are hardly relevant to most e-book reading; while the majority of Amazon’s e-book sales are fiction and creative non-fiction, McGuire and Anderson cite a YouTube interactive Bible and an online version of  the 1912 journal of Robert Scott’s expedition to the South Pole that’s linked to Google Maps. The best thing about the Google Maps-enabled Scott journal, according to McGuire? It’s “a beautiful web experience.”

Is a beautiful web experience what we want, when we reach for a book? Do we want the same type of added-value, extra-context information that we get from a web page? Is that even good for us?

Carr references developmental pyschologist Maryanne Wolf’s  Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain extensively in making his argument that Google and the Internet are (or already have) changing the way we read:

… the style of reading promoted by the [Internet], a style that puts “efficiency” and “immediacy” above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace. When we read online, [Wolf] says, we tend to become “mere decoders of information.” Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.

The idea that the Internet was changing the way we think so disturbed Carr that he expanded his article into a full-length book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. In the book, Carr states something that is intriguing, if the line between books and the Internet is indeed blurred:

Dozens of studies by psychologists, neurobiologists, and educators point to the same conclusion: When we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. Even as the Internet grants us easy access to vast amounts of information, it is turning us into shallower thinkers, literally changing the structure of our brain.

If you’re ready to dismiss Carr and Wolf as hysterical doomsayers, don’t do so just yet.  As a reader, can I learn to recognize symbolism if it’s highlighted and pointed out to me? Can I derive understanding from a chunk of text when it’s diluted by links to ever more information? Or will I, as Carr noted that he already had, simply skim the text, jumping from hyperlink to hyperlink, never actually absorbing what the author is saying?

As someone who’s already noticed the same changes in reading habits as Carr has, I’m not sure I want to read books the way I read the Internet. I want a literal disconnect, when I read. I want to be absorbed by the text, not continually distracted. This is coming from someone who loves to read annotated non-fiction, the original hyper-textualized text; when I read non-fiction, I expect additional information. When I read creative non-fiction or fiction, I find it intrusive.

McGuire’s vision of a world where e-books are the Internet is frightening to me. We’ve already reached a stage where simply choosing to read the print book instead of the hyperlinked, added-value version may be threatened. E-book sales on Amazon have already surpassed the sales of printed books, and Amazon is quickly gobbling up print and e-book publishers, including one that caters to libraries. Many books are being published in e-book format only, leaving a reader no other choice but to read the e-book.

As e-books overtake printed books, and e-books become Internet, our reading becomes Internet reading, as well. Do we want the old way of reading to disappear? And can stop it?

*In each instance where you see [Internet], I’ve substituted for Carr’s quaint use of “the Net,” out of fear that you, reader, are already a victim of the type of reading he and Wolf are concerned about. “The Net” functions as hypertextualization that will have you laughing aloud as you fondly recall the days when the Internet was known as the “World Wide Web” and “Information Superhighway.”

This Is News: Paris Jackson Is 14, Has Her Hair Cut

Posted in Internet, Media, This Is News?, Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 26, 2012 by JE Cornett

If you want to see a picture of Paris’ new haircut, go elsewhere. Photo: mailonline.co.uk

No less than three media outlets have used no more than 500 words to report on the earth-shattering news that Paris Jackson, daughter of the late Michael Jackson, has done what any other normal 14-year-old girl does on a regular basis. She’s had a haircut.

Here’s what People.com has to say about the dramatic event:

Paris, debuted a freshly trimmed hairdo this weekend while out in Los Angeles. The fringe adds a youthful vibe to the 14-year-old’s pretty long brown tresses.

Yes, babies. A youthful vibe. Which means she’s going for the 12-year-old look, because at the ripe old age of 14, she obviously needs to look younger.

Over at Yahoo, where this is somehow landing-page, headline worthy, there’s this:

The new hairstyle–currently very hot among starlets of all ages, and spotted on Paris over the weekend in Los Angeles–is flattering on the 14-year-old, framing her famously vivid eyes.

Because it’s of utmost importance that a 14-year-old frame her famous eyes. Maybe my mind’s in the gutter, but that whole sentence just makes my skin crawl.

Meanwhile, in Madison, Wisconsin of all places, WKOW joins the fray to say:

Just in time for the start of summer, Michael Jackson’s daughter Paris debuted a new look over the weekend… After being kept out of the public eye by her late father for most of her childhood, Paris has recently started to embrace her celebrity.

Somehow, the TV station in Wisconsin reporting on Paris Jackson’s hair bothers me most of all. People is in business just for this sort of thing, and Yahoo regularly stoops to report on the minutiae of celebritots’ lives, but a TV station in Madison, Wisconsin? Why, WKOW, are you reporting on a teen girl’s hair? Didn’t you just have a recall vote, Wisconsin? Don’t you have state fairs and 4th of July celebrations and economic concerns and murders and car accidents or ANYTHING else to worry about, WKOW?