Category Archives: Technology
The Brexit vote in the UK set off a global panic. In part, because we assumed that people in England, if not the rest of the United Kingdom, would always think about a decision and be sensible. They would never vote without knowing what the implications of that issue might be. Apparently, we’ve been wrong.
The first problem is the word “Brexit.” It’s a combination word, and I think that is why Europe is coming apart. We are not using enough words now. Words were a way, in the olden times, like the 1990s, to actually describe something in detail and debate it. Think of the most powerful places to communicate now—non-existent “platforms” named, ironically, “Twitter,” “Instagram,” “Facebook” and “YouTube.” Four major media with only 27 letters total between them. We don’t use enough letters and words anymore.
Because we now use pictures instead of words—after all a picture is worth a thousand, so 20 pix is 20K, right? The core problem is the flopendemic of Slurrds (for old people, this means, “a flood and epidemic of slurring words together.” Get with it, Geriatrics). Brexit is the chief example. Brexit sounds like a breakfast cereal. When I went to England years ago, there was a cereal called, “Wheatabix.” I am sure confused many voters. “Exit from cereal? Read the rest of this entry
Corporations are not necessarily evil in and of themselves, but the net effect can be the disappearance of everything that makes the place where you live distinctive.
Got a notice from my friend Steve Norris that our friend Dale Short put us on his “Music From Home” radio program yesterday. (LISTEN) (SMA is on the first program)
Thanks, Dale! “Music From Home” is local artists. I appreciate that there are still programs here and there in a world in which globalized corporate mass culture (which is short for “controlled by a few people who are not always interested in the music”) threatens to gobble up everything. Music and making money have a long and unhappy marriage. They love one another and need each other but they can’t make each other happy. Their families were so different. They hurt each other and use each other all the time. Sometimes they have to separate to get on with life.
The internet and programs like Dale’s provide hope that artists, musical worlds and songwriters can collaborate and pursue their craft in different ways. The web is already having a salutary effect on music. It is possible to skip the narrow funnel of corporate mass marketing that has produced some great stuff but also turned away some great music that people would like. This is why listening rooms like Keith Harrelson’s Moonlight On the Mountain and other great places struggle to make it and deserve our support.
These changes will be painful for a while, as they are in publishing and in every field. But as with all things human, there is also possibility for many good things, too. Hope you’ll support local artists, internet radio and local radio programs, and local venues and businesses. Corporations are not necessarily evil in and of themselves, but the net effect can be the disappearance of everything that makes the place where you live distinctive. Supporting local life (which means “I am willing to pay more for what I like’) is a way to protest the gobble ’em up and kill ’em off so I can have a house in Santa Fe culture.
We need to pay attention–how we spend our money, what we listen to, and where we direct time has massive implications for our future. Be purposeful in your life. It matters.
Weather. Someone said to me not long ago, “It is humbling to consider that when you come to die, the crowd that day will be determined by the weather and they’ll sum your life up in twenty minutes or less.” Humbling.
“Shelter” is such a “taken for granted” in America that we live more disconnected from the fragility of life as it is exposed to the elements. It breaks in on us now and then—in California, by earthquake, in other places, snow or tsunami. Here in the South, we live chronically subject to the tornado and hurricanes.
Hurricanes are different in that they are coming for days. There’s always time to get away if you want to skeedaddle, even though it is some sort of honorable foolishness in this part of the country that there is always some guy named Leonard or Dude who never leaves and is filmed with a cigarette hanging out of the side of his mouth while he grins and nails up plywood on his flimsy house and shrugs his shoulders. “I’m going to ride ‘er out.” Sometimes Leonard is never seen again, but often he makes it.
I don’t have any expertise on weather, but this global warming issue seems persuasive. How could billions of us NOT have an impact? Now, what we can do, or whether it’s too far gone, who can tell? We’re going to have to ride ‘er out.
If a hurricane is like watching an approaching army from a mountaintop, a tornado is more like running
into Jack the Ripper. Here in Alabama, when our local weatherman star says, “The sky is falling,” the local Publix grocery store looks like the aftermath of a locust plague and everybody heads for the house and their safe place. My wife and I have sat through more than a few in the dark, sitting down in the basement where my office-studio is, listening to the weather radio and praying for strangers nearby. After last April, the anxiety only went higher.
The closest I ever got to death out in the elements, other than almost drowning when I was six (I got hit by a car crossing the street that year, too, so I have to say, vulnerability I do know as a friend), was out in a rainstorm on a mountaintop in Colorado in the summer of ’73. It came on quickly, and we were surveying in a remote area where there wasn’t even a road. All we could do was crouch under a little hollow in a mountainside and wait. By and by, a bolt of lightening and a thunder clap came simultaneously. I saw the lighting hitting the ground about 100 feet away. My arm hair was standing straight up.
The three of us on that survey crew hollered. I think I yelled, “Whoa!” Surely the most useless word I ever spoke, but I didn’t have time to compose any elegant thoughts. As fast as it came, it was over. And, Lord, we were glad to be alive, we were. Exhilarating.
That’s what tornadoes are like—Jack the Ripper comes down the street and goes on by, and you are so grateful. Missed it this time.
Reminds me, like the time I huddled in the rain, that life is very precious, never guaranteed, and worth treasuring every day. Electric lights, indoor plumbing and the delusion of endless electricity have fooled us. We’re riders in the rain who still have to take cover when the siren sounds.
Since the weather Chicken Littlin’ is going on today, thought I’d post a couple of storm songs. Bluegrass, country and folk have always written songs about duststorms, avalanches, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and earthquakes. Take a listen to two if you’re huddling down somewhere. “Galveston Flood” by Tony Rice and “California Earthquake,” a Rodney Crowell song performed by the Seldom Scene.
This earth is where we live. You have to respect it. Like Clint Eastwood said, “Man’s got to know his limitations.”
“Imagine” was not one of my favorite John Lennon songs, mainly because I take lyrics seriously and, truthfully, it’s about the most preachy song he ever wrote.
Imagine there’s no Heaven, It’s easy if you try
No hell below us, Above us only sky
Imagine all the people, Living for today
Honestly, I think the rhyme, “Imagine there’s no countries, It isn’t hard to do, Nothing to kill or die for, And no religion too” would never survive a songwriting 101 class. “Looks like you were just looking too hard for something to go with ‘do’ there, fella. But then, this is the same man who wrote,
He bag production he got walrus gumboot
He got Ono sideboard he one spinal cracker
Too much Ono on his sideboard. But let me talk about two real “imaginators.” They both died, as fate would have it, yesterday, on the same day. One performed the marriage of human aspiration and technological revolution, the other a visionary of the human spirit and the resilience of its dignity.
I wrote earlier about the “three sides of the coin” in another post—that between the tired oppositions that we often see as our possibilities there is often something great and possible but unimagined. The world changes when someone goes there begins to feel toward something as yet unknown. It is the creative “edge” of life—thick, textured depths where new things emerge.
If “Imagine” was not all that great a song, imagining is. Steve Jobs, as someone put it, created things people didn’t know they needed yet. He was relentless, perfectionistic, incredibly demanding of himself and those around him, and brilliant. He revolutionized the worlds of business, music, communication and politics with his computers. The same software that once cost $10,000 in a professional recording studio now sits on my little iMac at home, happily creating digital recordings at a fraction of the cost. His death sent a shudder across the world. One of our most innovative and brilliant entrepeneurs had died.
Fred Shuttlesworth died the same day, lost in the shadow of Jobs’ death, much like his life. He was a fiery preacher whose house and church were bombed. He was attacked by dogs, threatened constantly, but he stood his ground. Until Martin Luther King arrived, he seemed to be the one who would
lead the civil rights movement to many. His biographer said, ‘’There was not a person in the civil rights movement who put himself in the position of being killed more often than Fred Shuttlesworth.” Mr. Shuttlesworth moved back to Birmingham in 2008. I had the honor of meeting him a few years ago. He was in a wheelchair, fragile, barely able to speak.
One emerged into global consciousness, the other nearly was forgotten except to historians and the old guard of the Civil Rights movement. But they died on Wednesday, visionaries of the human spirit, called to something greater, determined in their pursuit of everything that human life can possibly hold.
Imagination is one of the most mysterious of all realities in the human brain. Even when scientists isolate it and explain it they won’t be able to control it or predict when it will come along again. Oh, I don’t imagine only sky above us. Something in me longs for more–not merely the denial of death, but the inexplicable existence of hope and vision that life, even death, go somewhere. A creation that can produce two such beautiful human beings has to hold more. Just imagine.
This is a more or less slightly exagerrated recall of five or six phone calls to Delta I have made this week trying to change our return flight. I dial 1-800-221-1212. RIIINNNNNNG
Computer: Hi. Welcome to Delta, KLM and Air France. Are you a Sky Miles Member?
Computer: I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you. Let’s try again. Are you a Sky Miles Member?
Computer: Mmmm. I didn’t understand. Say Yes or No.
YESSSSSSSS! (Deep voice)
Computer: Let’s try again. I’m having trouble hearing you.
Okay, I think, do a falsetto. “YES.” Sounds like Franki Valli
Computer: All right. From here you can say, “Check my skymiles points, search for flights, hear uninteresting information about our hidden cost offers, or be directed back to the original menu, or speak with a representative?
Well, I never like to talk to danged computers. “Speak with a representative.”
Computer: I’m sorry. Did you say ‘speak with a representative?’
Computer: What? I can’t hear you.
Yes, Yes, YES YESSSSSS! (Granddaughter begins crying in the back seat.)
Computer: No need to raise your voice. Oh, behave
What did you say?
Computer: I said behave. You have no idea how many useless wrong turns there are on this tree. I can transfer you to purgatory anytime.
I can’t believe this. Put me through to a live human.
Computer: All right. But first I need a bit more information, Okay? Is this in regards to an existing reservation, a new reservation, a restaurant reservation, an Indian reservation, or moral reservations?
Computer: Just pullin’ your chain. Calm down. Existing reservation?
Computer: I’m sorry, I couldn’t make that out.
EXISTING! EXISTING! EXISTING!
Computer: All right, I think you said, ‘Existing.’ Do you know your Skymiles number? Say it now or say, “I don’t have it with me.”
I’m driving down the road, so I’m sitting on my wallet where it is.
Computer: I’m sorry, what was that?
No, NO, I don’t have it, I don’t have it. I HATE you! Do you hear me? I HATE YOU, computer!
Computer: Okay. I’ll put you through to a representative. Hold on.
BEEP. connection lost.
This is only part of the story. I could tell you how the lady at the kiosk helped me try to find an earlier flight and end up with my wife going to Minneapolis and me to Salt Lake, but that’s another story. I am writing a letter about that womancomputer. She is evil.
Worth thinking about: “Modern technology has become a total phenomenon for civilization, the defining force of a new social order in which efficiency is no longer an option but a necessity imposed on all human activity.” Jacques Ellul.
Maybe some parts of life still deserve human beings speaking to one another…After a host of screwups, one helpful Delta ticket agent behind the counter in Portland straightened out our messed up itinerary.