... to "CohesionArts.com" -- a new site where I've been posting mostly commentary about music and digital technology (along with the occasional social commentary and or snarky political observation). I pulled all the posts from another blog I started keeping last year, CelestialJukebox.org into that site as well. I may still post occasional acerbic comment here as well, but for the time being most of my interests and energy is going into the new site, where you can subscribe to the RSS feed via either e-mail or feed-reader.
A few timely observations from New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow once again remind us that the changes afoot in the world have more to do with the WAY that we communicate, than they do with WHAT we communicate:
...today’s information environment is broad and shallow, and we now communicate in headline phrases, acerbic humor and ad hominem attacks. Sad but true.
We subsist on Twitter twaddle — a never-ending stream of ideas and idiocy, where emotions are rendered in anagrams and thoughts are amputated at 140 characters.
"Twitter Twaddle"? Mr. Blow should call his attorney in the morning and grab the trademark on that one.
But he's essentially correct: the problems we're facing - fillibuster, health care, recession, deficits, debts, etc. etc. ad infinitum ad nauseam - they seem intractable not only because the issues themselves are complex and fractious, but because we're just learning whole news ways of thinking and talking about them. There are a lot more voices now, and it's harder than ever to get any signal above the noise.
It's not just that we're at cross purposes, we're at cross-media. Like when you dial a phone number, expecting a person to answer the call, and get the screech of a fax machine instead.
Because, yes, there are still people who send and receive faxes...
And speaking of new media: I read the op-ed piece cited below on my Kindle. In order to make this post to my blog, I had to switch to my MacBook. If I had an iPad, I could have done it all with a single device. THAT's why I want an iPad, even if it is an obviously flawed first iteration of an indispensable idea.
Everything they say about the new iPad is right, and everything they say about it is wrong. Mostly, I think they miss the point. The breakthrough with the iPad is not the gizmo itself, or the way it will deliver "iBooks." It's the way we will sit with it.
Until yesterday, there were three ways that people interface with a video device. The first was the original - television - sitting back on a chair or sofa with the screen in the distance. The second was the computer, sitting at desk, leaning forward with a keyboard, or in your lap. The third was with a smartphone - staring at your hand.
Now there is finally a way to access all the media of the web - text, audio, video, games - while seated comfortably in a sofa or chair, the way we sit with a book or a magazine, from a screen larger than a deck of cards.
The device itself is certainly not perfect, but it is a powerful first iteration of the way people are going to use digital devices in the future.
And only the future will reveal how content will evolve to suit the new technology. It always does.
We have now reached the "who is that guy?" precipice.
The New York Times Bob Herbert writes: "How can you look out for the interests of working people with Tim Geithner whispering in one ear and Larry Summers in the other?" The column also makes note of Obama's recent adoption of the populist bromide "fight," as in "I will fight for you..." That's boilerplate, ca. 2000/2004 Bob Shrum Democrat rhetoric. It didn't work for Gore, it didn't work for Kerry, and it won't work for Team Obama in the midterms. It's already time for a course correction for the course correction.
How can you look out for the interests of working people with Tim Geithner whispering in one ear and Larry Summers in the other?
Now with his poll numbers down and the Democrats’ filibuster-proof margin in the Senate about to vanish, Mr. Obama is trying again to position himself as a champion of the middle class. Suddenly, with the public appalled at the scandalous way the health care legislation was put together, and with Democrats facing a possible debacle in the fall, Mr. Obama is back in campaign mode. Every other utterance is about “fighting” for the middle class, “fighting” for jobs, “fighting” against the big banks.
So here we sit, two days from the Next Stage of our Digital Evolution...
On Wednesday, Steve Jobs will take the stage in California and, assuming the Wall Street Journal knows what it's talking about, the iSlate or the iPad or the iBook of the iWantOneNowWhateverthefuckitscalled will be unleashed on the world.
Seeing this picture in Mashable this morning compels me to write about my own need for this new gizmo:
Can't come soon enough for me.
Last year I got myself a Kindle 2, which I have found useful mostly for its ability to deliver the daily and Sunday New York Times out here in rural West Bumfuque, Tennessee -- something I've been unable to get for the ten years I've been living out here. Yes, I know, I can read newspapers like The Times on my laptop, or print the columns and articles I want and read them on paper that way, but just as often I'd find myself shlepping into the nearest urban outpost where I could buy the Sunday Times in an actual hard-copy edition.
Reading a lot of material -- like a whole Sunday paper -- on a laptop is just, well, let's say it's a "cross-wise media consumption experience." It's not natural. It's not like reading a paper, and it's not like working at a computer. It's an ill-fitted combination of content and device.
A couple years ago, I tried a Windows-based "tablet" PC. I would often make a big deal out of using it as an e-reader, pretending it fit comfortably in my lap - which it didn't. But it simulated the sort of experience I was looking for - and the sort of experience that the new iWhatever promises to deliver. But the sad fact of my tablet-PC experience was that most of the unique "tablet" capabilities I really had little use for. My tablet went on eBay when I started migrating into the Apple/Mac space with my first MacBook in the summer of 2007.
When I got the Kindle, I discovered that was also an only partially satisfying experience. Yes, I could finally get the Times "delivered," and also discontinued my subscription to the dead-tree edition of the Wall Street Journal (I like to know what both sides of the fence are thinking). I also figured out how to get the few remaining "news" items from my rapidly shrinking local daily paper (aka "The Thinnessean") delivered to the Kindle and discontinued that subscription as well. If nothing else, my daily consumption of newsprint has dropped dramatically.
But while I've been getting the "content" I desire, I'm still not getting the "experience" I've been anticipating. Reading a newspaper or a magazine on the Kindle is very confining. With a real newspaper or magazine, your eye can scan a page to find the unanticipated; with the Kindle, you see only what is displayed at any one time on its relatively small screen.
The Kindle has other limitations, too -- like it's isolation from the rest of the cybersphere. It's very hard to get blogs on the Kindle. The built in "browser" is hardly worthy of the name, and there is no way to e-mail stuff you're reading or post it to a blog or Facebook. In terms of the larger digital universe, the Kindle is inert, a planet alone in its own galaxy.
Enter the iPhone, and, specifically, the Google Reader for iPhone. I've had an iPhone since early 2008, but I am admittedly a late comer to the gReader experience. A few months ago I finally figured out how to use it, and now I find myself starting my days not with my Kindle and the daily Times, but with my iPhone, opening Google Reader and skimming through ALL my news and information sources aggregated into a single space -- on a tiny screen. When I see something I want to make note of, I can easily e-mail it to myself, to Evernote, to whoever else I think should read it.
So in my own mind, I've already migrated to the iWhatever that will be introduced on Wednesday, and the thought that I have to wait another two months to actually get one is frankly just pissing me off. I want it yesterday. I've already had a 'tablet' type experience, so I know that it is more graphically pleasing than the Kindle; and I'm now consuming my daily, morning media feed from a hand-held aggregator with a multi-touch screen and broadband internet access. I now want my gReader experience on something larger than a playing card.
If half of what we're reading about this new device proves true, then I expect to find one in my lap every morning, the ultimate realization of the tablet PC, Kindle, iPhone and gReader experiences. I wonder what will happen to my Kindle. Can you say "eBay"?
But the real excitement about the iWhatever has to be in its still unimagined potential. Almost all new technologies are introduced to serve a function associated with some old technology: you know, television was "radio with a picture." The iPod was initially introduced as just an MP3 music player, but it quickly generated a whole new universe of content, most notably the now ubiquitous "podcast" -- a form of content and distribution that simply did not exist before new technology made it possible. So it's fascinating to imagine what new forms of content and delivery will emerge from this new technology, what new forms of information and culture we will find ourselves enjoying in the years ahead and soon wondering how we ever lived without them.
So, please, Apple, put my name on the list, or do I just go down to the Apple store now and get on line? Can I get two? My wife is going to want one, too.
With a nod to my friend Mary Mancini for finding this clip, from an early episode of The West Wing, which remains one of my favorite television programs even if Aaron Sorkin doesn't like me much any more...
Another 35k troops to Afghanistan? Bob Herbert neatly sums up the disappointment of the millions who voted for "change." Each fresh soldier costs us $1-MM/yr. Can somebody please tell me how much is 30,000 millions?
It was also, for the president, the easier option.
It would have been much more difficult for Mr. Obama to look this troubled nation in the eye and explain why it is in our best interest to begin winding down the permanent state of warfare left to us by the Bush and Cheney regime. It would have taken real courage for the commander in chief to stop feeding our young troops into the relentless meat grinder of Afghanistan,