Monday, December 29, 2008

Travelling through Heathrow Airport

I've always wondered why the gates at Heathrow Airport in London, for travelling to Ireland are so far out of the way and so under-serviced.

By the time I reached the gates recently I had experienced all the newly constructed areas of two terminals as I navigated my way to the "Irish Connections." "Surely," I thought to myself, "my wee part of the airport will be upgraded too." But no, the powers that be don't see the need to service this area of the airport beyond the availability of crisps (potato chips), muffins and Guinness.

So, after walking through the surreal experience of a modern Heathrow airport with minimal construction, I moved through the tunnel walkways that landed me at the "Weatherspoon Express," a humble eatery on what I will call the "Irish Connections suburb of Heathrow." While I enjoyed a big chocolate muffin, the only flavor left, and crisps with a cuppa tea, I couldn't help but blame the Queen for this injustice to the Irish connections area.

If I die before my time, can I blame her for not presenting the option of some healthy sushi, salad or fresh baked potato? Oh well, she did provide crisps even if they were loaded with grease. And I didn't really have to eat them.

She could have left me hungry for the want of a potato - but (this time) she didn't. Or maybe I'm just being too picky.

Now, I wonder who owns the "Weatherspoon Express?"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Anderson Cooper Disappoints Me.

On AC-360, Anderson Cooper mentioned the Saturday Night Live skit where they made fun of Governor David Patterson. Cooper then played a clip where Governor David Patterson brought attention to the potential negative impact the skit might have on the rights of people with a physical impairment.

Patterson suggested that making fun of him just because of his blindness might have the undesirable effect of communicating to the mass audience that it is allright to poke fun at people with a handicap. The way the skit presented a blind person was as an awkward and clumsy individual. Patterson made his statement clearly and without any sign of immaturity or "sour grapes."

I feel that his statement was honest and meaningful. He started by saying that he has a sense of humor himself and that he enjoys a joke. Then he went on to make his socially responsible comment on behalf of himself, but referring to all individuals with any physical impairment. I think his comment was a necessary accompaniment to the repeated playing of the SNL skit which made fun of his physical characteristics.

However, as dissappointing as it is for this viewer, Anderson Cooper stated that he would take no sides on this issue. Then he said that the comedian on SNL was very funny. This, of course, implies that he is taking sides with SNL and he is discounting the seriousness of Governor Patterson's statement. With all that Anderson Cooper has done, from "Planet in Peril" to his coverage of New Orleans, it is dissappointing that he would not support Patterson's concern for a minority group in our society.

It is at times like this that a reporter gets an opportunity to say something meaningful which may effect others and get them to be aware of others who are not as fortunate as themselves. Supporting Patterson would not discount Anderson Cooper's appreciation of the humor. But it would have possibly got many young adults to think twice about the humor in the SNL skit and to think twice before laughing at the less fortunate.

I am dissappointed in Anderson Cooper for the way he handled this story. He had a chance to say something meaningful and helpful in a subtle and effective way. Like many other media, AC-360 squandered an opportunity to say something nice, good, positive, educational and humane.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Who Owns What?

I wonder about the authenticity (or lack of) of a blog when it blatantly links to other blogs for content but it would be less genuine to reiterate what another has said so well. I was not aware of Robert W. Dechard until I read Alan Mutter's blog today.

The way that Alan talks about the issue surrounding Decherd is both entertaining and pertinent to media in general. As obvious as it may seem to some, this is hitting at the crux of media. Who owns it, who runs it, who takes the profits and who has to deal with the losses?

All of this becomes much more relevant in times when the economy is where it is now. But we should be looking at these issues even when the economy is roaring along.

Alan was interviewed on a show, of which I am a producer, Focal Point, recently and he wowed audiences with his experience and delivery.

Regardless of whether we agree with his interpretation of Dechard he raises questions and issues which we should all be taking seriously.

These issues are well worth considering in relation to the newspapers he mentions but also in relation to TV, radio, music and of course, the internet.

These questions are also relevant with regard to the auto manufacturers who are now asking for financial help. When they were not asking for help and making profit who was benefitting? Where have the profits been going in the good years? When did they start losing money? How were they let go to this?

Questions should be asked continuously even when the good times roll or we may end up back here again in the not-too-distant future.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Graduation: Broadcast Electronic Communication Arts

It kinda reminds me of the days when I was on stage a lot. I'd rehearse and work hard for months and then perform for a few weeks and then it was all over. I imagined back then that it must've been something akin to the rush that people on drugs experienced, and also the let-down when it was all over.

I have enjoyed so much the last two and half years of studying for an M.A. that as it draws to a close I am deflating. I'm not sad that it is over, indeed I am begining to feel a real sense of accomplishment but I know that I will miss the pressure, the joys, the difficulties, the cooperation and coordination of my life related to my studies.

At this time I think of some people with whom I would love to share this but they have moved on from this life and it awakens in me a real sense of gratitude to those who have helped me in this endeavor.

Teachers, classmates and, of late, students who accepted me as their instructor, have all contributed to this accomplishment. My family have been understanding when the dining-room table was literally covered in books, and days and nights were used for study rather than relaxation and chat. Work associates were understanding when I was not readily available. All of this effort on my extended family's behalf and the effort of my own now results in my receiving a post-graduate degree. I feel a sense of accomplishment as I have said and also a sense of gratitude.

But the greatest learning of all is cemented in me through my real experience of people associated with this work that I took on. People are understanding, generous, forgiving, interested, positive, unique and real. We are all unique but so many have given to me in this quest that I have a real sense of the goodness of human beings.

For that I am grateful. I hope this appreciation will come through me as I move on to...whatever...

Monday, December 8, 2008

#2 - Lawrence Lessig: Remix, Copyright by the laws of humanity

Lessig, L. (2008). Remix: Making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy. New York: The Penguin Press.

He continues:

Comparing to the Pokeman characters in Japanese media culture he shows how a different society to the US encourages identity with numerous characters and "created" characters rather than one omni-potent character or one RO ("Read-only") character(p.78)

Instead of the focus being, "Here's something, do something with it," the focus in the US is instead, "Here's something, buy it" (p.80)

Remix and sampling is just the same as what we've been doing throughout history with citing sources in our written documents (p.82). And this is exactly what I am doing here. I assume L. Lessig would approve.

He remembers with glee the day his own kid challenged the plot of a "monster man" story in favor of his own made up plot shift. The creative mind he asserts is not RO but is more inclined towards RW (Read-write) culture (p.87).

Creativity in media and remixing will generate more revenue for media companies because of the need for the production tools (p.88).

The complexity of media content will determine its value or its ability to be appreciated in and of itself. With RW and RO culture together we will generate more interesting content and the competition will be greater for better content.

The law is inclined towards protecting RO culture to the detriment of RW culture. Lessig says they can and must co-habit.

We may have to pay for electronic access to an e-book every time we access it. Unlike the book in my hands right now which I can read, reread, loan, or give to someone to read, an e-book may have a cost attached every time it is viewed. This is a fundamental shift in the way we share information and are charged for it(p.100).

This access to RO information was challenged by the tape recorder and the VCR and they did not kill the RO culture. The economy survived.

The law is reaching to the amateur for the first time to regulate how we recreate. Used to be, we could cite and recreate. Now we are in danger of being compelled to pay through the nose to "cite" media sources.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2004 said that every sample used in a remix triggered copyright law, regardless of the size of the sample (p.104)

Why would the system stop this creativity by economic strangulation? "no good reason, save inertia and the forces that like the world frozen as it is" (Lessig, 2008, p.105). Lawyers continue to reap the benefits of strong business.

The law is making our creative youth criminals for doing what is second nature to humans. This second nature is to write/create new work by citing your sources.

"We need to decriminalize creativity before we further criminalize a generation of our kids" (Lessig, 2008, p.114)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Lawrence Lessig: Remix, Copyright by the laws of humanity

Lessig, L. (2008). Remix: Making art and commerce thrive in the hydrid economy. New York: The Penguin Press.

May I suggest that if the first sixty pages are anything to go by every educator and parent should have their students, children and themselves read this book. At this time in history, this is an important read for our youth and beyond.

The beauty of this book is that it is easy to read and easy to understand while Lessig takes on all the relevant and complex issues. Some of the simplest things in life are also some of the most complex and Lessig plays this out beautifully.

His writing style is straight forward and lacks any iota of pretentiousness or legal jargon. He entices us into the most complex issues of copyright laws of the internet and beyond by giving real examples. Real people and their stories are employed to subtly explain to us in terms of living why copyright and creative commons are important.

And this isn't the only reason all our youth should be reading this book. Lessig talks about the law in terms of humanity. He asks for more "humility in regulation." He talks about respect: "If you want to respect Yo-Yo Ma, try playing a cello." This idea in itself is reason enough for wanting our youth to read this book. The idea that you can have more respect for others by attempting to fill their shoes is indicative of a true learning experience.

What parent wouldn't be happy to have their offspring reading about copyright in the twent-first century through the lens of humility and respect?

If you are not aware of L. Lessig here is a look into the man. If you cannot watch all 18 minutes of this video please watch the last minute.

[A great holiday gift idea and - no I don't know him nor do I get anything from the sales of his book]

Friday, December 5, 2008

Ethnic Diversity on TV and the White House

The SF Chronicle on Dec. 3rd published an article about the representation of Black people in TV series.

In these modern times when we may at times congratulate our society for the advances in ethnic equalities, it is important to remember that it is 2008 and not 1968 or indeed 1798! That it took us until 2008 to elect a non-white person to the white house is something to be amazed at and also appreciative of. And what of gender?

BTW, why is the white house called the "white house"?

In the local newspaper, The Mayo News, where I grew up in the West of Ireland the editorial cartoon in the edition after the election was interesting. It showed Barack Obama on the White House lawn removing the sign that read "White House" and the caption was something to the effect of "now for the first change."
Does anyone have more input on why we might not change the name of the white house to the American House, the US House, the House of Equality or the Colorless House?

In the Chronicle article, Greg Braxton says that black people are not represented on ABC, NBC, CBS or FOX on an equal level with white people. Any black people in Network shows are in supporting or minor roles, he says. He goes on to say that ratings are to blame for the lack of minority casts/characters according to "CBS' chief of diversity."

Interesting throw-back in these times of feel-good about Obama. The reality may be that this is not a throw-back, rather it is the present. Progress happens and it happens slowly.

Let's keep ourselves aware that our media is not making everyone equal yet. Let's be aware that there is much more to do. Let's be aware when watching and listening to entertainment and news of how our society is shown/not shown on the TV/Internet etc.

Let us be skeptical.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Secret Millionaire

Secret Millionaire was launched on Fox on Dec 3rd, 2008. The concept seems simple enough (started in England). Wealthy people appear poor so that they can discover people who are worthy of their philanthropy. And they do.

There are things about this show that may seem offensive and there may also be the potential for good derived from the exercise. In our mediated spectacle of modern times we must see through this reality television to the reality.

Money is given to people who need it.
A financially struggling construction worker is given 25k to help her get back on her feet after a medical emergency got her into financial difficulty.

The sums of money given are a minuscule fraction of the wealth of the giver.
Should we care as long as the giving is done? But 100k from the funds of a multi-millionaire? It is an inexpensive lesson.

The wealthy one is always going back to his or her status quo.
At the close of episode 1 the millionaire says that, "This experience has changed my life forever," as he captains his expensive boat back home.

While one may appreciate the giving of 50k to a woman who takes in homeless people, one may wonder if there could be more done by the wealth of this philanthropist.
While 25k is a nice start towards getting a humble, giving, construction worker out of her financial difficulty, is it enough?
And is the health/treatment of a child suffering from cancer worthy of more than the 25k that was given to her parents?

I don't wish to take away from the generosity of the giver but the viewer must be aware of these questions:
Can money really fix everything?
Will the millionaires really change?
Is this show perpetuating the ideology that money is power as the millionaires decide who to help out financially?
What exactly can money buy?
Why did the producers have the millionaire NOT enter the receivers' homes when he had exposed the truth about himself?

In reference to the production itself, the dialogue seemed forced and at times scripted. In short the flow of the show was not easy/smooth.

Many commercials focused on Christmas shopping and on upcoming shows. American Idol was featured in the commercials. Here, the ideology of success,happiness, fame and fortune is supposedly available through FOX reality TV once more.

And maybe it is, and maybe it is not. For now we have three grateful recipients of the generosity of a millionaire who is gone home. And they probably understand his desire to return home.