the circular runner

Posts Tagged ‘technology’

the problem…my problem, your problem, and that guy next to you in the cafe, his problem, too…

In media, observations, Uncategorized, writers & books, writing on May 19, 2012 at 8:06 am

OK, here you go.  A way into the problem, my problem for sure, but it might be yours, too.  I’m writing this post as I listen to A Tribe Called Quest in a poorly lit cafe.  I’m surrounded by other Apple users who are working on God knows what, but I’m sure whatever IT is, IT is something that makes it possible for them to own three thousand dollar computers and not have to work in an office during a weekday.  Many of them are pasty and wearing anorexic jeans, but they are happy.  I imagine this is because they have avoided the bullet of office work. Then again, they might not know any better.  But I digress, which I probably wouldn’t be doing if I weren’t listening to Tribe and checking my email at random moments because of the amazing new app I downloaded yesterday that allows me to see who is emailing, Facebooking and Twittering me without opening a window.  Little text boxes are opening in the corner as I write these words.

On a recent post, I know I mentioned I was changing, my brain, actually, was doing the changing.  Specifically, I’m concerned with the part of my brain that comes up with stories.  I am wondering if this need for apps and the obsession I spoke about in the last post with websites themes is connected to the fact that my taste in imaginative narrative as a producer and as a consumer is changing.  Let me start this by saying that digital culture is a more visual one, by its nature.  And, as I’m going to explain in a second, I think that this connection between the digital and the visual has some deep implications for people because it has deep implications for how we tell our stories.

So here’s the problem because I kind of always believe there has to be one.

I increasingly tell stories in visual media, which is fine.  Fine except I wonder if that means that I’m giving up on staying with characters, lingering with them, finding out what they are about in the slower, more internal way that the page allows and the screen does not.  This is writerly insecurity, I’ll admit. But it’s deeper, I suspect than just a matter of aesthetics.  Different media stress different things about stories.  Or, maybe it’s better to say, different media have different weaknesses.  Some might argue with me, but generally speaking, a visual medium like film or television or even a graphic novel though to a lesser degree, cannot get you in the mind and heart of a character.  Internal conflicts have to be simplified in film because unless you have a ton of voice overs or lame-o exposition through dialogue, you have to express emotion through what one can see.  And no matter how good the script or the actor, you can’t get at the crazy twists of the human mind.  You can always use visual metaphors to help get at that craziness, but even those are up for interpretation, which mean, you might lose the viewer or confuse him.  The page is just better suited to the mazes of internal conflict.  I say this, but for the life of me, I am struggling telling stories like that.  In fact, I will admit this, I get bored with a lot of so-called literary fiction.  (By the way, I realize as I write this that I am equating literary fiction with fiction on the page, which is not cool, but let that one go for now.  I don’t know enough “genre” fiction to speak to it.)

I guess, put simply, I’m wondering if visual culture is a less human one?  Less human in the sense that its stories do not deal with what makes us most human: intention, the stuff that cannot be seen.  The stuff that one has to slow down to understand, slow down in a way that I and my apps and my compatriots here at Cafe Hipster might not have patience for.  Is that a bad thing?  Is narrative changing? I love books, but I have to say it, I’m reading a lot less fiction than ever.  As a consumer and as a producer of imaginative narrative, I’m going more and more with visual media.  And I don’t think I’m alone.

I’d be curious to have some writers/lovers of fiction discuss here.  Maybe I need some absolution for a guilty conscience over my lapsed New Yorker subscription and my new MacWorld one.  I don’t know.  Is there an absolution app?  I think someone needs to invent that. Quick.


there’s this dude on NPR who bugs me…help!

In humor, life, media, observations, writing on February 7, 2012 at 8:43 am


I like NPR. On road trips, even without hearing a word, I know I’ve come across an NPR station by the sound of its silence. If the station were a film, I’d say it’s the room noise that clues me in, but I don’t know what that transmission sound is called on radio. I’ll just call it The Silence.  Even the conversations are filled with It.  The silly SNL skit aside, people do speak less words per second than they do on most other talk radio. And I appreciate it.  I appreciate The Silence so much in fact that much to the chagrin of my young niece (you know who you are) I run, not with music, but with podcasts from previous shows. I think that proves my fan-status.

So this weekend, just about the time I was getting my butt served to me on a silver platter by a surly student, (see this for more details), I was listening along to On Point.  I like the host, Tom Ashbrook because he seems fair and because he has a sense of humor, which he needs. Like a lot of other fair people (by which I mean people who don’t reflexively take one side of an argument over another) he gets it from both sides. Conservative listeners (yes, NPR has those) accuse him and NPR of being biased, but then, the very next caller turns out to be some activist on the Left, and he lets Mr. Ashbrook have it because he is not skewering his Republican guest.  OK, fine. That’s the job. Mr. Ashbrook is from Illinois, farm grown. You get the feeling he grew up surrounded by people on both sides of the political divide and he knows how to diffuse situations with humor and firmness.  Have I sold the show?  I hope so.

Last week, he had a segment called Google, Facebook, and Your Privacy. It’s about the new changes that Google is going to put into effect on March 1 that affect privacy.  If you’re like me, you have seen these announcements whenever you log into GMail, and you’re probably ignored them just as I have.  Maybe the changes aren’t that important. Maybe they are. Like other On Point episodes, Mr. Ashbrook tries to put the information out there. And not unlike other episodes of On Point, the guests were passionate in their positions. Good. Fine. But then halfway through, I hear Mr. Ashbrook announce that Jeff Jarvis is going to come on to defend the changes that Google is planning, and I know I’m going to lose my NPR-powered bliss.

I detest Jeff Jarvis, which makes me kind of odd and a bit nerdy.  People usually reserve their ire for celebrities, famous athletes, people of note. Not me. In my little put-put driving around the Bay Area, spreading the Gospel of education to kids who don’t need me, I plug into NPR and get angry about a professor that no one knows–no one except for the avid NPR listener. Because if you are my brethren in this regard, you will know who this Jeff Jarvis is, and you will know why I find him objectionable.

you see the evil, don't you?


Here are some facts for the uninitiated and uninterestesd: he’s a prof at City College of New York–my wife’s ex-employer. He is a booster for new media. He has a blog called BuzzMachine.  He is also a bully. I’d be ok with this except for the fact that he doesn’t just bully other guests–experts in the field–he also bullies old people who call in to question his positions, which are questionable.  Prof. Jarvis takes the position that technology is always correct, that any concerns over privacy are old-fashioned and stem from ignorance. Whenever any of NPR’s shows take on discussions of media, the web particlarly, and/or how new media is replacing old, Prof. Jarvis comes in as the star witness to dismiss any and all objections.

I’m not against his positions. He probably has a point about our not needing to fear Facebook and Google and the rest of them.  It’s just that the guy is so damn emphatic even when he admits he can’t really defend his positions.  On the show last week, he likened Google’s privacy changes to Gutenberg’s press. But then Mr. Ashbrook challenged him and asked if that meant that along with the technology, we’d also get the kind of tumult that the press caused.  The good professor who just spoke about how only good things could arise from what Google is planning, who two minutes before got impatient with a caller who said she didn’t like the idea that Google is putting ads for diabetes medicine on her screen because she Googled information on that disease, had to admit the obvious: that he doesn’t know what exactly will come out of the changes Google is planning.

Really, Professor Jarvis? Is there something you don’t know about technology? No f*&^ing s*%t!!!!!  (I’m trying to keep the rage G-Rated.)

BREATH. OM! OK, I’m in touch with my inner Guru. Keeping it together.

I totally understand if you don’t get the anger–G-Rated or nor. This professor going off about technology–who cares? Right?  Don’t trip, as my kids would say. Well, I’m tripping. I trip a lot.  And the only way I can squelch this anger (beside ranting here) is to go download an older episde of On Point where Ted Koppel, who can sometimes be a bit of a pompous jerk himself, takes the good professor to task about his complete blindness to positions not his own.  You go, Ted. Use that pompous smugness to fight a greater evil–an evil who spells his name, J-A-R-V-I-S.


Writing: A Good Dose of Slowness on a Sick Day

In life, media, observations, teaching & education, writers & books, writing on December 8, 2011 at 10:12 pm


It’s sad, but the only time I sit around and read for joy or watch a movie guilt-free are sick-days. The reason I don’t read so much or watch movies might not be guilt no that I think of it.  Or, if it is guilt, the guilt is a by-product of something else.  Maybe it’s better to say that sick-days are days when I’m not conscious of time. I’ve mentioned this before, but as I get older, I feel more and more like I’m accelerating. I am less patient. I want to do more and do everything as fast and efficiently as I can. I don’t know where I’m going to go once I finish, and it doesn’t matter. It’s all about speed. I’ve noticed the same thing in many of my students. They want to get done with their lessons; they want to get on with IT, even though they have no idea why or what IT is exactly. So, maybe it’s not an age thing. Is it technology? The Internet and the IPhones? The Cult of Multi-Tasking?

No idea. What I do know is that today, when I was watching a movie, I had to stop myself from fast-forwarding a section of the film that seemed predictable. Granted, it was a Samurai movie and there was an endless–what seemed endless–battle scene early on. Though I still like martial arts movies, there’s only so long I can watch the same five guys chopping through an army of other soldiers who politely wait their turn to be eviscerated. Still, even if the film wasn’t amazing and the choreography was not very distinct from one scene to another, the fact that even on a sick-day, I was compelled to skip forward is telling that something is happening here. I needed to be stimulated. I needed to move on, be done with IT.  If it wasn’t for the fact that I was sick, I probably would’ve multi-tasked: checked emails as the second 100 evil soldiers got their due.

I know, to a point, I am writing tonight because I need my fix of slowness. That’s what writing does for me. It slows me down, forces me to accept that things take as long as they will. You can’t multi-task while you write. You can’t fast-forward. You have to work your way across the page, one word at a time. It’s the only way.

Right now, after a day stuck in bed, I’m bouncing off the walls and at the same time, exhausted. I want to be done with this sickness and with this blog post. So I’ll stop writing and try to sleep some. It won’t be easy to get to sleep, but I know it will be possible because I took a few minutes out to write these words.


functional illiteracy (via Just Sayin’)

In Uncategorized on July 3, 2011 at 3:21 pm

This was forwarded to me today, and considering that one of the circles I run around has to do with education, I thought I’d share.

Happy reading this very sad post!

functional illiteracy A recent email exchange with a (college) student: im emailing u because i need a grade from you on my progress report tomorrow or else i cant play sat if you could do that i would gladly appreciate it….also while i was looking at my grades on blackboard i saw a E for the folk and religious music quiz…i was wondering did i miss that day or did i just not get any points on the quiz Your current grade is a D+. Your grade for the quiz was 13 out … Read More

via Just Sayin'

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