culture

The view from space

Photo of Earth from thousands of miles away

This video struck me in a profound way.

OVERVIEW from Planetary Collective on Vimeo.

Only a few hundred people have been in space, but they share an experience that changed them, changed how they see the world. Maybe we need to send into space more people, from every culture, every nation, so they can bring home what they've seen, what they've experienced – not the technology, but the perspective. The overview effect.

[h/t Upworthy, via Patricia Tallman.]

"Binge viewing"? It's called "watching"

House of Cards promotional photo

When Netflix published the entire first season of the Americanized “House of Cards”, it was considered a radical act. Netflix has recognized how people recently have been “indulging” in “binge viewing” of old TV series, opiners said.

At the root of this phrase is a Puritanical attitude that television is supposed to be watched piecemeal, in dribs and drabs. You’re not supposed to watch an entire season at once, you heathen! You’re indulging! You’re binge viewing!

What nonsense.

Consider that Americans have watched on average 34 hours of television a week. In that context, how is spending a third of that watching a 13-part series “binging”?

Charles Dickens originally published his novels as serials. One chapter at a time was (written and) released. Only later were these assembled into novels. So if you spend the weekend reading A Tale of Two Cities, are you “binge reading”?

Let’s get over ourselves. Watching a lot of television is not new or extraordinary. For better or worse, it’s normal. What’s new is the ability to spend all that time on one series, instead of a dozen. Binging? Hardly. If there’s any binging happening, it’s Netflix’s bulk publishing of the entire series in one fell swoop. But I wouldn't call that binging either. I'd call it good business.

For the record, I think the new series is one of the best things on “television” – though it’s technically not television now, is it? (I also highly recommend the original UK miniseries, which is thoroughly entertaining, with that British flavor of perverse and devious darkness.)

Now please excuse me while I “binge” for several hours on my computer.

Regarding myself

Drawing: She says "Kiss myself" - He doesn't know what to make of that.

Okay, so I have to say something about silly things people say, like "myself".

Joe, Nancy and myself drove to the store.

Doesn't that just sound weird? Yet I year people say crap like this all the time. I think they do it because they're lost as to whether to say "I" or "me" in a sentence. Of course, it should be:

Joe, Nancy and I drove to the store.

It's just a longer version of:

I drove to the store.

Switch it around, though, and people get confused.

Joe drove Nancy and myself to the store.

Again, that's just weird! It should be:

Joe drove Nancy and me to the store.

Why? Because it's just a longer version of:

Joe drove me to the store.

You know, the rule is very simple: If it works for the singular, it works for the plural.

I drove to the store.

Joe, Nancy and I drove to the store.

Joe drove Nancy and me to the store.

Is there any time where you would use "myself" and not look like an idiot? Yes.

I drove myself to the store.

This differs from "I drove to the store" by making a distinction contrary to expectation. "I drove myself" in that no, Joe didn't drive me.

The Chicago Manual of Style Online puts it this way:

As for “myself,” see CMOS 5.48: “Compound personal pronouns . . . are used for two purposes: (1) for emphasis (they are then termed intensive pronouns) {I saw Queen Beatrice herself} {I’ll do it myself}; and (2) to refer to the subject of the verb (in which case they are termed reflexive pronouns) {he saved himself the trouble of asking} {we support ourselves}.”

Now that wasn't so hard, was it? Go ahead, read this all again. Take your time. You can thank myself later.

Communication by default

"Do you Twitter?"

Last week I asked my co-worker that, and he said with a groan, "I'm trying not to." Apparently I was not the first to ask. In fact, I don't think I know anyone who spends any significant amount of time online who hasn't been asked that question ... several times. I joined Twitter in March, tried using Jabber to connect (which works ... sometimes), downloaded Twitterific (which works ... mostly), and spent long, long hours trying to figure out how Twitter can in fact be relevant to my life. I found some bon mots, but despite the evangelizing wisdom I've seen out there, Twitter still strikes me much like its real-world analog: pleasant noise in moderate levels, but a cacophonous mass of Too Much in larger doses. (The Twitter server seems to agree.)

Lest you think I'm just a cat sullenly gazing up at the tree full of conversation, I have a theory....

Transportation 2.0

Way back when, travel was done only with a purpose. First you had a purpose, then you decided to travel. I recall reading Edvart Rolvaags frontier novel, Giants of the Earth, struck by the hardship of the day-to-day-life, living in a mudhut, working by hand on hard prairie soil. To go on a visit was an extraordinary effort, often taking days or weeks.

The transportation explosion changed things, and the habit that once had been the exclusive province of the aristocracy became the practice of regular folks: the social visit. First you decided to visit, then you figured out what to talk about, what to do.

Scribe 2.0

Before Gutenberg, written communication was just for the rich. But even as the printing press spread throughout the land, publishing was enough of an ordeal that you didn't undertake it without a purpose.

Then "desktop publishing" came along, and sending out a newsletter took only a ream of paper and a stamp (or intra-office mail).

Communication 2.0

Communications used to be a real hassle. The Napoleonic may have brought us War 2.0 in the form of artillery and total war, but communication dispatches had to be conveyed by ship or horse (or Horse 2.0) or semaphore. It might take months or years for a message to find its destination ... if it made it at all.

Then wireless came and changed everything, much to the displeasure of gentlemen businessmen accustomed to working three months out of the year and navy captains not wanting to hear from their admirals on a regular basis. Communication across great distances became easier, and while perhaps never totally casual, certainly much more common than before.

In the early days of the telephone, a similar thing happened for wire communications. Telegrams were expensive and involved a precious amount of work.

Fighting piracy one Scout at a time

When it comes to digital copying of copyrighted works, the old-media conglomerates' automatic reaction has been to clamp down -- make

One would think that, with the exploding cultural, communications and market-driven phenomenon of online media, these international corporations run by very-well-paid executives would be all over it, bringing their vast libraries of creative content to new markets, leveraging their dominance in the 20th century economy into great advantage going after 21st century opportunities.

Instead, it seems their energy has gone into what Freud would call anal-retentive behavior: adding more "security seals" and un-clickable FBI and Interpol warnings to DVDS, producing slick ads propagandizing the evils of what they consider illegal copying, and, of course, suing consumers to keep them -- us -- in line.

The obvious change that has to happen, though, is cultural. Now the major studios have recruited the Boy Scouts to frame the issue, as they see it, in terms of Scouting values:

The movie industry has developed the curriculum.

"Working with the Boy Scouts of Los Angeles, we have a real opportunity to educate a new generation about how movies are made, why they are valuable, and hopefully change attitudes about intellectual property theft," Dan Glickman, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, said in a statement Friday.

Scouts will be instructed in the basics of copyright law and learn how to identify five types of copyrighted works and three ways copyrighted materials may be stolen.

Scouts also must choose one activity from a list that includes visiting a movie studio to see how many people can be harmed by film piracy. They also can create public service announcements urging others not to steal movies or music.

I don't know. There seems to be something a little perverse about this. Do we really want commercial interests to start propagandizing our kids through Boy Scouts? Should Coke and Pepsi consider something like this in their cola wars? I'm imagining a Pepsi Challenge Merit Badge.

Scouts are an obvious target for commercial and political interests who want to influence a new generation of Americans to think their way, but maybe it would be better if they stuck to camping, team-building and selling mediocre cookies.

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