Thursday, May 24, 2012

Verisimilitude & TV Ads

Perhaps I’m watching too much TV, but I’m really annoyed by the lack of verisimilitude in current advertisements.

The worst, at the moment, is the Kayak ad featuring a husband who’s had his pupils dilated in order to see more and not miss anything as he shops for travel bargains. He also sees hair on his wife’s lip and crows’ feet round her eyes.

Ok, everybody knows that dilating your pupils does not give you greater visual acuity, right. It makes your vision worse, not better. It’s why you can’t drive home from the optometrist right after getting your pupils dilated.

So why do the advertisers do this? They want to be funny, but instead they’re just lame and unbelievable. I don’t get it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Corporate Internet

I’m watching CBS this morning, a discussion on Facebook going public.

In essence, Facebook looks to make money by becoming like television. We’re going to be the sheep led to the shearing by Quiznos, Walmart, Ford, GM, and the like. You like, they get your data.

Of course there are lots of those annoying little ads in the right hand column.

Yep your internet experience will not be brought to you by America’s corporations. And will they now begin to dictate how the site looks and how we’re supposed to use it? Will they manipulate with half truths, untruths and just general bull. You bet. I’m afraid it is as inevitable as the arrival of advertising on radio.

When radio first appeared and radically changed the way Americans got news and entertainment, there was resistance to putting advertisement on radio. It would cheapen the experience, potential advertisers thought, and therefore cheapen their business. That deference didn’t last long.

I never expected the Internet to behave like early radio and find advertisers hesitant about putting their brand on my favorite web sites. But the discussion of how companies are using and are planning on using Facebook was pretty scary.

So here’s what I’m not going to do. I’m not going to click on any commercial enterprises. I won’t like Quiznos. I won’t like Walmart. I won’t like even Gibson guitars (which I do like).

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Bullying and Memory

When asked about his bullying of a closeted gay student, Mitt Romney “doesn’t remember” the incident, but he’s sure he never thought about the guy being a homosexual. When quizzed over his “divide and conquer” comments, Governor Walker doesn’t remember the details of the conversation, but is sure the context makes it innocent. Uh-huh. Sure. I’m a normal late middle aged adult and I do have parts of my life that I have totally forgotten. That’s why I have a wife with the memory of an elephant. But the stuff I’ve forgotten is stuff that made very small impact on my psyche. Meeting people once and once only. A side trip out of Salina to someplace. Don’t you remember that, she asks. And I don’t. But I do not forget, cannot forget those moments in my life that were truly regrettable. The time when I was in seventh grade when my racist upbringing led me to so fear the first black kid at Budlong that I pulled a knife on him to make him go away. I got a talking to. He got thrown out of school. Later, he confronted me on the street and I was fearful and wanting to run away. He was forgiving. I can’t forget those moments from my twelve year old life. When I was sixteen I behaved obnoxiously in the hallway at Lane Tech High School. I cussed at another student (it was supposed to be a joke). I was loud. I was caught by my homeroom teacher. Sent to the vice-principal’s office I sat that afternoon until after dismissal. Every hour Mr. Mazarakous called me into his office and quizzed me. Did I cuss? No sir, not me. Go back and sit outside. Day two. Did you curse? No sir, not me. Sit outside. Day three. Did you curse? Finally, with some tears in my heart I confessed. I had said “Fuck You” very loudly. I got five days detention after school, scraping old varnish off desktops and sanding off the scribbled in graffiti. Same high school. Jimmy was in swim class. It was an all boys high school and we swam in the nude. Jimmy was embarrassed by his nakedness. He was a little effeminate and all the boys teased him and called him queer. No we didn’t think of him as a homosexual. We didn’t think of him as gay. We thought of him as queer, faggot. He overcame the teasing, went on to become clergy and married. I met him many years later. I did not apologize for me behavior, but I certainly didn’t forget. You don’t forget. If Mitt Romney has really forgotten these incidents of bullying he may be suffering from some sort of dementia. He’s old enough that he might be. Otherwise, he’s lying. Or he was such a bully that his bullying was so common, so daily, that it wasn’t even worthy of remembering. I’m not willing to “give him the benefit of the doubt.” I don’t think that our memory of these sorts of incidents is as fleeting as Romney would have us believe. I agree that they didn’t think about it as homosexuality, but I’d bet a dollar to a donut that Romney and his cohort called the boy a queer, a faggot, a fairy. Just because it isn't pleasant doesn't mean you've forgotten. Just because you got caught telling the truth doesn't mean that you can spin and bully us all into believing you. This isn't the 1960's anymore.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Judging Clemens

Did Clemens lie about high and steroids? Did he lie about it? I certainly can’t tell from watching the video and listening to the reports on this morning’s CBS reports. I can tell that there is an assumption of guilt on the part of Charlie Rose and his guests. They have followed the story better than I have, so they might be right. What I don’t get is the apparent need on the part of news programs, despite having been caught in embarrassing judgments previously, the judgments continue. It’s casual editorializing, not like Fox where the editorial content is rarely based on fact. There are clear facts here, but long before a jury pronounces the news reporters and talking heads are already announcing why perpetrator is guilty. I think it is partly a result of the 24 hour news cycle. There’s always a push to pronounce judgment, and judgment is more interesting than dispassion. At the same time we’ve been lied to so often by government and business that we automatically assume we’re being lied to now. And we’ve come to distrust the courts. All of us saw the police just wailin’ away on Rodney King twenty years ago. None of the people were held accountable for that beat down. So why not just go ahead and make our own minds up about the s-o-by’s who have been offending us, breaking the law, whatever? Why not. Everybody else does, except the people we feel are supposed to do it. I don’t think that this is what journalists are actually thinking, but what they’re actually doing. The rest of us, we’re eager to join in the judgments.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

On not having a Bible Crisis

I've never had a crisis of “biblical faith.” Let me put that in some context – but not all the context that this goes into. I've been reading a number of blog posts from ex-evangelicals. They describe how at some point in their lives, having been pushed into “it's all or nothing,” decided it was nothing. No god, no God, no divinities, merely earth, sky and mortals. No bible. Certainly no bible. I understand that mentality, sort of, because I was confronted by it many times while I served the church in South Carolina. I had one Navy wife very upset with me because I didn't espouse some sort of biblicism. I had a secretary in Georgetown, SC, who had once been an Episcopalian and when I knew her was a born again wave your hands in the air and speak in tongues and swallow the holy spirit feathers and all. She prayed for me, in my presence, that I might have my eyes opened to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth of the bible. I have never had a crisis in which I felt I had to renounce the bible, mostly, I think, because I never understood the bible as a book whose every word was “true.” It started when I was just a kid. I remember an incident during my teen years. One of the girls my sister's age turned down a request that she teach Sunday School because she couldn't teach all that mythology and those old stories that weren't true – I remember her lumping Noah in those old stories she couldn't teach children. I think I was thirteen, and I think I had a feeling that my sister's friend was wrong. I don't think that, even then, I had a sense that these were “infallible” words, magic words I had to somehow “obey.” I do think that even then I had a sense that they were the stories we told that gave us a sense of who we are and where we're going and what we're supposed to be about and that we won't be alone on the journey. I remember my first New Testament class, at dear old Augie. I was liberated by the study of the synoptic problem. I was fascinated by the study of textual variations and how we knew which was closer to the original text. I was deeply encouraged by the search for the historical Jesus and the unwillingness to accept the Jesus of mid-twentieth century piety as identical with Jesus the Jew in Palestine in the first century. The whole modernist controversy, beginning with the 1850's rethinking of the gospel texts, thru the theologies of the Niebuhrs, Tillich, Nygren, and the like did not undermine my faith but increased my wonder. Historical criticism, form criticism, source criticism, those techniques of scholarship didn't undermine my faith because my faith was not and is not based upon a biblicism that I don't believe, have never believed, can't find reason to believe now. I got to thinking about this tonight while sitting at the bells concert. What a great time I had there! But as I tried to keep my digestion under control, I let my mind wander. I thought about the atheist movement; and as I mentioned above, the movement of ex-evangelicals; I listened to Pia Jesu, the only Andrew Lloyd Weber piece I think will survive. I was deeply moved. I had been moved by Fred Beuchner's Lion Country, by his description of a glorious moment when Jesus, looking like John Barrymore, Jr. came striding in from hell. (We read that story as part of the Messiah Theatre festival.) I am deeply moved by the story of Noah as well. Particularly by the verse: “And God remembered Noah.” I mean, it's ridiculous. If you take the story literally Noah and his family are all the human beings that are left. How could god forget? I get the same feeling from the story of the two thieves hung with Jesus. One turns to Jesus and says “Remember me.” In all your poor oppressed lonely nakedness, remember me, Jesus. I find that moving, just as I find Pia Jesu moving. Just as I find Beuchner moving. To me, that's the point. Not laws and rules and magic words, but a sense that we're not walking thru this world alone; a sense we are surrounded by both a great cloud of witnesses and a power we cannot understand, but that understands us.