30 December 2006

The Two Marks Federman

Today is my daughter's birthday (Happy Birthday, sweetie!) and we decided to make a quick trip to New York City last week as a pre-birthday present. She wanted the opportunity to explore Chinatown, SoHo and other parts of lower Manhattan (and in particular, the bargains!) so we thought that some shopping and a show over a couple of days would make for a nice getaway. While we were there, we took her through the Lower East Side, once the centre of Jewish immigrants to New York, and pretty much the only place to find a bargain. Thirty years ago, we made the pilgrimage to the Lower East Side for linens, kitchen appliances (models that were then only available to the trade could be had on Grand Street), electronics and photography equipment - not to mention fashions, leather goods, hats, shoes... you name it! Alas, the Lower East Side of yesteryear is no longer. Chinatown has expanded northward and eastward from Canal Street up to Delancey, and only remnants of Jewish landmarks and artefacts remain - what was once most likely Epstein's Deli is now Epstein's Bar on Allen Street.

Russ and Daughters AppetizersThe other reason we wanted to take the walk from our hotel in Chinatown up to East Houston between Allen and Orchard was to visit a particular deli that specializes in various types of smoked fishes, herrings and the like, and is renowned for its caviars. I'm speaking of Russ and Daughters Appetizers, the proprietor of which is a fellow named Mark Federman. That's right. Whenever I do a Google search on my own name I have inevitably shared the first page of hits with "the other" Mark Federman who is the third generation of the Russ family (Russ on his mother's side) who has run what has become an institution on the Lower East Side since 1914.

The two Marks FedermanWe entered the store and first met Mark's daughter Niki who, with her cousin Joshua, is now taking over the day-to-day business. Apparently, my namesake now keeps "banker's hours." When we finally met her father later in the day, he greeted me with, "so YOU'RE the strategic thinker!" It seems that Google-searching one's name works both ways. Is there a physical likeness? Neither of us knows whether we are actually related. One thing for sure, though - his bord is alterer than mine!
[Technorati tags: | | ]

20 December 2006

Voting Reform in Ontario

The following email from Fair Vote Canada is reprinted in its entirety:
An Open Letter to Fellow Ontarians:

Is the idea of fundamental democratic reform so frightening that Ontario’s major media are afraid to cover the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform? Your guess is as good as ours, but the headline above summarizes their apparent attitude. The unfortunate result is that most Ontarians remain unaware of an unprecedented and historic opportunity to dramatically reform Ontario’s political system.

What’s the Big Deal With the Citizens’ Assembly?
The Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform, composed of 103 randomly chosen voters, has been empowered by the Government of Ontario to study and recommend a new provincial voting system. Their recommendation will be put to Ontarians in a referendum to be held next fall.

What’s At Stake?
Political power. The future direction of our province. Legislation on issues like health care, education, the environment. The voting system matters. It matters a lot, because the voting system allocates political power, creates parliaments and determines who forms governments. That in turn determines who calls the shots on issues that affect our families, our communities, our society and the environment.

How Bad is the Current System?
It’s intolerable. Ontarians (and all Canadians) suffer the effects of using the world’s worst electoral system – first-past-the post. Typically, a party gets about 40 percent of the votes, wins 60 percent or more of the seats and then wields 100 percent of the power, as though it had a majority mandate. Meanwhile opposition voices are diminished and other minority voice are completely shut out of the political process. In each election, millions of Ontarians cast wasted votes that elect no one. Results are so distorted the last time we elected a legitimate majority government – one actually put in place by a majority of votes cast – was in 1937.

Are There Better Ways to Vote?

Yes. Almost all major Western democracies scrapped first-past-the-post voting last century, and adopted voting systems designed to treat all voters equally and give fair and proportional election results. More than 80 democracies now use these fair voting systems. Each has developed a version to fit its own distinctive political culture and geography. Ontario can do likewise.

What Are the Key Dates for Our Democracy Revolution?
The Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform will issue its final report by May 15. If the Assembly recommends a new voting system, Ontario will have a referendum on that recommendation on October 4 in conjunction with the next provincial election. The Citizens’ Assembly members have invited Ontarians to tell them what electoral values and principles matter most to you and/or what type of voting system you would like to have. Between now and January 31, citizens can make their views known through online submissions or by attending and speaking at one of the Assembly’s public consultation meetings.

What Can You Do To Make It Happen?
Fair Vote Canada, through our Fair Vote Ontario campaign, is leading the fight to encourage the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly to recommend a fair voting system based on proportional representation. When the Assembly does, we will then lead the Yes campaign for the October 4, 2007 referendum.

Here is what you can do between now and January 31:
  • Most important: forward this email to friends and other email lists!
  • Check the Ontario Citizens' Assembly website. Review their public consultation guide.
  • If the Assembly is holding a public meeting in your community, plan to attend, take your friends, and speak up.
  • If you cannot attend a meeting, submit your comments on the Assembly’s web site, encouraging Assembly members to scrap first-past-the-post and recommend a new, fair voting system.
  • Visit the Fair Vote Canada and Fair Vote Ontario websites. Learn more about the issues and our campaign.
  • Volunteer to help the Fair Vote Ontario campaign and help win the October 4 referendum.

Democratic reform is a do-it-yourself project for citizens. We cannot depend on the media or those in positions of power to lead the democracy revolution. It’s up to us! Let’s do it!

Yours for a strong democracy,
Larry Gordon
Executive Director
Fair Vote Canada
26 Maryland Blvd.
Toronto, ON M4C 5C9
Voice: 416-410-4034
Fax: 416-686-4929

[Technorati tags: | | ]

19 December 2006

After Security Theatre...

... comes the AccuTerror Forecast, courtesy of Bill Maher. [Technorati tags: | | ]

Pervasive News Proximity

McLuhan called it the global village; I refer to our times as being characterized by UCaPP - Ubiquitous Connectivity and Pervasive Proximity. In contrast to Gertrude Stein's famous "there is no there there," the UCaPP concept suggests that there is no there at all, since everywhere is here, that is, what happens there affects me in a real, complex - albeit indirect - way here. In my work, I speak of a Theory of Effects that necessitates stepping out of an ego-centric standpoint to (begin to) understand the totality of effects that we each enable and bring about around us. Think of it as a digiSelf out-of-body experience, during which we step out of ourselves into a cognitive anti-environment that allows us to observe all of - or at least more or - what we contribute to our complex world.

The same thought processes and principles should apply to the newsmedia, as well. Although most of us are surrounded by more news and information than we can possibly assimilate in a conscious fashion (think of all the newspaper boxes with their screaming headlines, public space news screens, news tickers, not to mention news and political blogs that invade our consciousnesses each day), much of it is essentially linear. Each story follows the previous one, usually ordered by some editor or producer somewhere, that silently suggests causal connection (the latter being an artefact of literate linearity - the way we with Western cultural conditioning have learned to construct narrative). Newspapers (in their day) were a prime exception to this rule; McLuhan observed, "People don’t actually read newspapers. They step into them every morning like a hot bath."

Today, what is needed might be a gestalt of the news - something that scans the various news sources and presents the news of the moment in a way that can be instantly grokked - not necessarily the content, mind you, but the relationships and effects. Two that have been around for a while - one of which just recently came to my attention - are Newsmap and 10x10.
Newsmap is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator. A treemap visualization algorithm helps display the enormous amount of information gathered by the aggregator. Treemaps are traditionally space-constrained visualizations of information. Newsmap's objective takes that goal a step further and provides a tool to divide information into quickly recognizable bands which, when presented together, reveal underlying patterns in news reporting across cultures and within news segments in constant change around the globe.
Newsmap does not pretend to replace the googlenews aggregator. Its objective is to simply demonstrate visually the relationships between data and the unseen patterns in news media. It is not thought to display an unbiased view of the news; on the contrary, it is thought to ironically accentuate the bias of it.

Every hour, 10x10 scans the RSS feeds of several leading international news sources, and performs an elaborate process of weighted linguistic analysis on the text contained in their top news stories. After this process, conclusions are automatically drawn about the hour's most important words. The top 100 words are chosen, along with 100 corresponding images, culled from the source news stories. At the end of each day, month, and year, 10x10 looks back through its archives to conclude the top 100 words for the given time period. In this way, a constantly evolving record of our world is formed, based on prominent world events, without any human input.
But, of course, prominent world events - and their complex, interlocking relationships - are all about human input.

[Technorati tags: | | | | ]

14 December 2006

A Path to Middle East Peace

Last evening, I had the opportunity to view a remarkable video called Knowledge is the Beginning. It tells the story of a youth orchestra organized by Maestro Daniel Barenboim, an Israeli, and Edward Said, a Palestinian intellectual, philosopher, author and professor. The two men brought youth from throughout the Middle East together to make music, yes, but more important, to create a venue in which each can understand the other, and thereby, eliminate "the other" - that is, the ignorance, fear, myths and ideologies that create "otherness," fear, and hatred.

Both men are lauded by some for the incredible courage it takes to defy their respective establishments, and decried by others. In one shameful scene in which Barenboim is accepting the prestigious Wolf Prize for the Arts in Israel's Knesset, he is criticized by the Minister of Education for "attacking Israel" merely by reminding the assembled audience of the principles enshrined in Israel's own declaration of independence; a member of the audience holds up a crude, hand-drawn sign saying, "Music Macht Frei," a reference to the gates of the Auschwitz extermination camp. And that scene - with the reciprocal attitudes among many Palestinians and leaders of other Arab countries, sums up the attitudes that create the never-ending impediments to peace.

But Barenboim says (in this clip from the movie) that the orchestra is not an orchestra for peace, but rather for understanding. And that, I think, is the key: individuals from all sides must first understand one another and appreciate the circumstances that has created "the other." Through understanding comes an appreciation, from appreciation comes valuing the relationship, from relationship comes engagement, and finally, from active engagement in a valued relationship comes peace.

I believe that peace will never come from the current generation of leaders - especially those that are directly or indirectly responsible for indoctrinating fear and hatred. The seeds of knowledge will be sewn by individuals like Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said who do what they can in their relatively small spheres of influence, to create conditions in the next and subsequent generations of leaders that may ultimately lead to sustained peace and prosperity for all. Halavai!

[Technorati tags: | | | | | | | ]

12 December 2006

The Why of My Research

My friend, Leigh, blithers (her word, not mine) about business morality in a networked world. She ponders,
It seems to me that ‘networked morality’, like many things on the Web, occurs at a much more dramatic pace than we have been traditionally used to. The network effect with word of mouth and now user created content, can create a new social norm within months, weeks or even days. Something that might have been ok in the past, gets rejected in no uncertain terms as the network discloses, discusses, debates and determines what the new norm will be.

How will business change to adapt to this or even can they?
Her pondering struck a resonant chord for me and prompted me to post this response:
Nothing new here, Leigh. Marshall McLuhan was writing about these effects in 1964. The rest of us have woken up at varying times between then and now - now, of course, the effects of a UCaPP society are obvious and all around us.

For me, the question is not how will they adapt, or can they adapt. I think the issue is far more profound than adapting, since adaptation suggests keeping fundamental assumptions about the (prior) world while being assimilated by the new. For me the key question is, when will businesses (meaning managers and professors of business) truly realize that the changes of the past 50 (and I would argue, 162) years represent such a profound change to an industrial age mentality that the foundational assumptions, vocabulary, and premises of business must be carefully reconsidered, reframed, and reoriented? For me, it is only incidentally a question of morality if you're into value judgements.

We experience far more than we can understand; our reach (influence) always far exceeds our grasp (understanding). It is long past time that we collectively start to think of the totality of effects as the primary focus of business, rather than results.
That is (one of the reasons) why I'm doing what I'm doing. In my view, we - business-folk, politicians, many activists, and capitalists, socialists and anarchists alike - collectively have been far too "results oriented," with results being defined in a very narrow context. The world has always been interconnected and complex, with the events in one place effecting changes elsewhere. For most of human history, the speed with which those effects traverse the face of the planet and the realm of humankind has been almost undetectably slow. We are now living at a time in which the complex interactions of this finite, closed system that we jointly inhabit are observable, often in real time, and most certainly well within an individual lifetime. As McLuhan spoke about a global village in which what happens there affects me here, because there is no longer a there, everywhere is here - it is long past time that we collectively question the fundamental assumptions of the prior era, the mechanical, industrial era. It is time for our grasp to at least approach our reach.

[Technorati tags: | | | | ]

Non-talking Head

This video of the fabulous magician/mime Jerome Murat is making the viral video rounds. A masterful performance, delightful humour, and a surprise ending!

[Technorati tags: | | ]

10 December 2006

Wikis, Usenet, and Conversations

This morning, my son made an offhand comment that wikis have replaced Usenet (and similarly structured threaded forums) for fandom. Ten years ago, fans of a particular television series would head to a Usenet forum right after the broadcast to talk about the plot, the characters, the romances and the intrigues. I used to follow X Files myself, and happily joined in the rehashing of the episodes.

Today, the threaded forum has been surpassed by the wiki, with free, open source wiki software available for download and installation, and free hosted sites providing the technical underpinnings. If you're a fan of Battlestar Galactica, the Stargate series (I happen to like Atlantis), Lost, or the now-defunct but fabulous Firefly, there's a wiki and a community for you.

My son's comment struck me not so much for its connection with fandom, but for its connection with pedagogy. By far and away, the overwhelming majority of cyber-education around the world is delivered via threaded forum software, such as Blackboard, WebCT (now owned by Blackboard), WebKF (a home-spun favourite at OISE), and similar programs. Even if a particular "learning management system" has the capability to offer a wiki environment, it is usually set aside in favour of the more familiar threaded forum.

Why have the fans taken to wikis? Perhaps it's because wikis are more effective at enabling group conversations, discovery and emergence of knowledge than are threaded forums. Coincidentally, I've just finished a paper that examines the effects of threaded-forum pedagogy, and its problematics for adult learners. In the paper, I observe:
Rather than participating in anything that resembles true discussion and collaborative knowledge creation, students effectively state their own opinion for the benefit of the instructor (not to mention the benefit of their marks that are assigned by the instructor), without drawing from the collective knowledge and views of their cyber-classmates, as would happen in face-to-face engagement in a physical classroom. Thomas (2002) sums up these observations by stating:
There was little on-going development and exchange of ideas in any of the discussion themes. Rather, the disjointed and fragmented individual contributions were abstracted in space and time from other students’ contributions. … This incoherent structure of the discussion threads is not compatible with a truly conversational mode of learning. From this analysis it is evident that the virtual learning space of the online discussion forum does not promote the interactive dialogue of conversation, but rather leads students towards poorly interrelated monologues. (Thomas, 2002, p. 360-361; emphasis added)

As Klemm observes, this is a situation circumscribed by the technology itself:
Threaded-topic design typically requires the cumbersome process of opening and closing many messages. There is no way for students to create in-context links from within a given message or to insert text or multimedia into any jointly prepared document, because there are no jointly prepared documents. … Indeed, "discussion" is probably the wrong word to use for this activity, because posted messages are more like monologues. (Klemm, 2002)
Instead, I advocate for a move away from the dominance of a threaded-forum style cyber-education to a form that would be an instantiation of pedagogical praxis that might inform the selection of technology and specific implementation design for a cyber-education environment that is consistent with adult education principles. Thomas observes:
The challenge is for interface design which promotes a more coherent structure and true many-to–many interaction in the virtual learning space. … The online discussion forum has become a ubiquitous element of Internet-supported flexible delivery of education, it is apparent that it might not be the best technology to support the interactive and collaborative processes essential to a conversational model of learning. These new developments must involve the redesign of both the technological support tools and curriculum structures to support collaborative learning processes. Accordingly, such innovation would emphasise the implementation of learning tasks that promote collaborative engagement towards knowledge development and problem solving. It is perhaps this route that may prove to be the most productive means of realising truly conversational modes of learning, given the inherent problems involved in traditional online discussion. (Thomas, 2002, p. 364)
Over the next semester, I'll be analyzing the postings for the cyber-education course we ran in the fall on the History and Theory of Organization Development. The course was architected in a wiki environment and necessitated a very different mindset for the participants - some of whom were able to adapt, and some, apparently, were not. In addition, I'll have the opportunity to help out in configuring the technological environment for another cyber-education course (an action learning practium course) involving both wikis and blogs during the winter semester. Watch for the full paper late in the spring.


[Technorati tags: | | | | | | | ]

The Best (and Worst) of Ideas, 2006

Each year, the New York Times Magazine selects the "peaks and valleys of ingenuity — the human cognitive faculty deployed with intentions good and bad, purposes serious and silly, consequences momentous and morbid." The result ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous, but almost unanimously fascinating. From proposals for renewed, not to mention redecorated, democracy, to new ways to travel, from changes to our basic assumptions about the economy, to tracking money (and its implication for tracking pandemics), even in virtual economies and online auctions; there's the new pitcher, and the new catcher. A little something for everyone.

[Technorati tags: | | ]

01 December 2006

More Good from Zune

The other day I thanked Microsoft for the Zune (okay, so it was a bit of a backhanded compliment). Well, today I was visiting the Best Ads on TV site (which is a great resource if you are doing media theory or media literacy, or simply love the better TV ads for their story-telling), and came across this weird entry, called "Eyes." My sardonic thought was, "and he'll only be able to see for three days." But the judge for the week's best ad pointed to a delightful site called Zune Arts. Apparently, the agency handling the Zune launch, 72andSunny, "enlisted artists to create experimental short films inspired by Zune. The campaign gives the digital media player a much more interesting personality than iPod." I particularly like "Bitter:Sweet." It's the one with the big Transformers-style robot made out of scrap junk standing beside the little girl wearing the Viking helmet.

72andsunny also handled the Xbox launch, including the absolutely brilliant "Standoff" ad.

[Technorati tags: | | | ]

30 November 2006


So how's your PhD coming along?

Please allow me the indulgence to share my progress so far: I'm now a year and a half into the program, and as this semester draws to a close I've completed all of my coursework requirements, and have had my comprehensive requirement accepted. I have a mindmap of my thesis foundation posted on my office wall, and have a not-bad, hour-long presentation that takes people through the theory, research agenda, and methodology (I can also do it in about 90 seconds, give or take, for those that like things really brief; in case you've forgotten, I'm seeking to develop a new philosophy and theory of organization that is consistent with contemporary times). My official thesis proposal just needs to be sewn together from its various component parts, and I am just about to write up my ethical review protocol, which I'm targeting to submit early in January. While that cooks (takes about 3 months or so to wend its way through the U of T ethical review board bureaucracy, even for an expedited review), I'm going to be considering who might be an appropriate third member for my committee, working on analyzing the cyber-education environment data from our wiki-based course this semester, and co-chairing the annual Dean's Graduate Student Research Conference here at OISE (March 23-24, 2007 - presenters are OISE grad researchers; the conference is open to the public to attend and participate if you're in Toronto and interested in pedagogical research). I have a pretty good indication that my SSHRC application is among those that will likely make the final round (actually winning one is another story), and we've been able to facilitate great student involvement in the department this year, thanks in large part to the energy and vitality brought by our new department chair.

All in all, it's been a pretty good year.

[Technorati tags: | | | | ]

27 November 2006

The Rhetoric of PowerPoint

An excellent essay and lecture from Jens E. Kjeldsen, an associate professor at the University of Bergen, Norway. In it he uses an analogue to media literacy, namely media rhetoracy, to think critically about the effects of PowerPoint, and how to construct effective communication that engages thought, rather than diminishing it:
The presentation program PowerPoint is probably the most used tool in the schools, high schools and universities of today. The use of this program, however, comes at a cost, because it is not just a different and neutral way of teaching. Like the use of any technology, PowerPoint affects not only the way we present and teach, but also the way we think, learn and understand. The program carries an inherent tendency to crate fragmentation of thought and cognitive overload. In order to avoid this we should stop thinking in terms of technology and begin to think rhetorically. What we need is media rhetoracy: the ability to communicate persuasively and appropriately.
This is an academic presentation, so it deals with, among other things, PowerPoint in pedagogy, but the lessons are quite transferable to other contexts as well - including the business world for which PowerPoint was originally designed. One of my favourite lines from the essay is this one:
“If you’ve got nothing to say”, starts a maxim from the advertising world, “then sing it”. Perhaps we could say much the same about PowerPoint: “If you’ve nothing to say, PowerPoint can help you say it loudly and clearly”.
Also quoted, of course, is Edward Tufte, whose critique of PowerPoint set off a firestorm of controversy. Tufte maintains that PowerPoint slides
“make audiences ignorant and passive, and also to diminish the credibility of the presenter. Thin visual content prompts suspicions: ”What are they leaving out? Is that all they know? Does the speaker think we’re stupid?” ”What are they hiding?”
Of course, Tufte's critique might well be the reason for the program's popularity, even among teachers.
Via Jill

[Technorati tags: | | | ]

26 November 2006

Image Chef for Custom Graphic Messages

Image Chef has a cute free service that allows you to add custom text to stock images. Very cool for a quick and dirty illustration, comme ça.

Yes, I'm in a bit of a weird space, trying to finish up a paper on cyber-education as Gramscian hegemony. Now where did I put the notes from that article?...

[Technorati tags: ]

Thank Microsoft for the Zune

Everyone who cares about the future of culture, and loves music, should be thanking Microsoft for the design choices it made in the Zune. The Zune provides a tremendous object lesson for the music industry of what happens if you let the industry design a music player, rather than the market and users. The Chicago Sun-Times runs a review of the Zune that reads like one of the captions in the Museum of Failed Products:
Yes, Microsoft's new Zune digital music player is just plain dreadful. I've spent a week setting this thing up and using it, and the overall experience is about as pleasant as having an airbag deploy in your face. "Avoid," is my general message. The Zune is a square wheel, a product that's so absurd and so obviously immune to success that it evokes something akin to a sense of pity...

The Zune is a complete, humiliating failure. ... Throw in the Zune's tail-wagging relationship with music publishers, and it almost becomes important that you encourage people not to buy one. ... Microsoft's colossal blunder was to knock the user out of that question [of what users want and Apple doesn't provide in the iPod] and put the music industry in its place. Result: The Zune will be dead and gone within six months. Good riddance.
It seems to me that Microsoft can't really be that clueless. They have always known their market pretty well. So my guess is that the impetus for the Zune came from the music industry themselves, whose attitude is pretty well summed up by Doug Morris, the head of Universal Music:
"These devices are just repositories for stolen music, and they all know it," said Doug Morris, CEO of Universal Music Group. "So it's time to get paid for it." Well, Morris is just a big, clueless idiot, of course. Do you honestly want morons like him to have power over your music player?
Of course not. And neither does Microsoft, who implements just what the industry ordered, simply to shut them up. Why else would a company make a music player that is incompatible with their own existing (Windows Media) Player? Why else would Microsoft make a player that cannot play music that had previously been bought from them, forcing you to repurchase all the music that you already own (or, as they might put it, force you to relicense all the music that you already have rented)? Why else would they design a marketplace that doesn't even take real money?

Killing the content industry's overwhelming influence in the market for devices and distribution is the only sane and logical explanation. And Microsoft always acts in a sane and logical manner, right Steve Ballmer?

Of course, if I'm wrong, and the Zune isn't merely an elaborate hoax or object lesson to the content industry, can you imagine this attitude being carried over to your computer desktop and file system via Windows Vista? Shudder!
(Thanks David)

[Technorati tags: | | | ]

21 November 2006

A Short Trip from Abu Ghraib to UCLA

Not that anyone is physically making that trip, mind you. But psychologically, the growning acceptability of extreme, but non-lethal, force has enabled the mental leap from one place to the other. With the presidential precendent set via the recently signed Military Commissions Act for making it up as you go along, police seem to be using increasingly out-of-proportion measures to ensure "compliance." Witness the recent incident in which a UCLA student was brutally tasered for failing to produce student ID in a library. And when I say "witness," I mean witness: the incident was captured on video by a fellow student using his mobile device and posted to YouTube [Warning: The video itself is disturbing. In particular you may want to turn down your speakers, as his screams of agony will stay with you for a very long time.] Towards the end of the video, police can be seen and heard threatening innocent bystanders with equal treatment if they don't "get back."

The police may view the taser as a better solution to ensure compliance than lethal force, but I doubt very much that the facts of this case - student who is sitting, minding his own business and doing his research without ID in the library - would have justified an arms-drawn response. Rather than a replacement for the handgun, it seems that at least the UCLA police are considering the taser as an acceptable alternative to handcuffs, or even conversation. As for UCLA's administration, the acting chancellor defends the action, because anyone in the library after 11 p.m. without student ID could be a terrorist, dontcha know.

What a shameful state of affairs.

[Technorati tags: | | ]

19 November 2006

Scholarly Online Media Journal

When I was at the McLuhan Program, we had talked about creating a scholarly journal that both provided a venue for in-depth exploration of topics interesting to the endeavours of the Program, and explored alternative ways and means of engaging the scholarly community in that exploration. For a variety of reasons, it never quite got off the ground - so far, all that has been produced is a cover page via Open Journaling System of a bunch of presentations from the 2005 McLuhan Lectures. When the content is posted, I'm sure it make for interesting reading (although without a venue for discussion and engagement, which was sort of the point at the time), simply because the participants that Twyla Gibson was able to attract to that outstanding series were interesting people.

But the journal itself as medium? Boring.

Here's a group that seems to have more than a clue about the making of a contemporary journal - especially one whose subject matter is media:
MediaCommons, a project-in-development with support from the Institute for the Future of the Book (part of the Annenberg Center for Communication at USC) and the MacArthur Foundation, will be a network in which scholars, students, and other interested members of the public can help to shift the focus of scholarship back to the circulation of discourse. This network will be community-driven, responding flexibly to the needs and desires of its users. It will also be multi-nodal, providing access to a wide range of intellectual writing and media production, including forms such as blogs, wikis, and journals, as well as digitally networked scholarly monographs. Larger-scale publishing projects will be developed with an editorial board that will also function as stewards of the larger network.
The "about" page is certainly worthwhile reading for anyone contemplating a new journal, and in particular, those who are thinking about media tropes.
(Via academhack)

[Technorati tags: | | | | ]

16 November 2006

YoogleTube and the Approach of Evil

I, like countless millions of others, am a great fan of YouTube. The idea that people can post video clips of all sorts, from the sublime to the truly ridiculous, that are subsequently streamed in a common, browser-accessible format, is a clear example of the consumer-becomes-producer reversal that characterizes culture production in a UCaPP [ubiquitously connected and pervasively proximate] age. But now that YouTube has been bought by the "do no evil" company, Google, there are a number of actions that cause one to lift an eyebrow.

The latest is a cease-and-desist letter, received by TechCrunch, to take down a little utility that allows you to save a YouTube stream to your own computer. And, when it is pointed out to YouTube's lawyers that there is nothing in the YouTube terms of use that would preclude saving video to your harddisk, they say, in effect, "Right-o! We'll get on that and update the terms of use!" Such chutzpah, especially since they, like the big music industry, are pissing off the very people that both made them successful, and who supply the content that feeds their value.

As for me, I happen to like the VideoDownloader Firefox extension, combined with the Democracy Video Player.

[Technorati tags: | | | ]

A Cloudy Vista for Users

Microsoft is kicking off a chain of product introductions that give the users the privilege of getting less value for increasingly more money. The limitations of the Microsoft Zune media player have been well documented, including the fact that if you had bought and paid for music from a Microsoft Plays4Sure music store, it won't play on the Zune - and that's for sure. You pay more, and get less.

Now, we are beginning to see the vista of a new Windows operating system that takes the philosophy of "your computer belongs to the content providers" to new lows. Thanks to the technological protection measures built in to each and every Windows Vista system, you can be guaranteed that something that you legitimately own will be prevented from working on your shiny new system, either now or in the future. We have seen glimpses of this in the past with the multimedia capabilities in PowerPoint (which is why I still use PPT 2000), the ripping of some CDs in iTunes (which is one reason I use Media Monkey), and the disappearance of some programs recorded on TiVo. But listen to the patronizing justifications offered by Microsoft officials for giving users the ability to do less with what they own, and to pay more for the privilege:
Microsoft's official position is that Vista's DRM capabilities serve users by providing access to high-quality content that rights holders would otherwise serve only at degraded quality levels, if they chose to serve them at all. "In order to achieve that content flow, appropriate content-protection measures must be in place that create incentives for content owners while providing consumers the experiences they want and have grown to expect," said Jonathan Usher, a director in the Consumer Media Technology Group within Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices division. "We expect that the improvements in Windows Vista will attract new content to the PC, which is exactly what consumers want."
Yes, but. It is obvious that consumers want access to new content - they always have, all the way back to piano rolls. But just as each new innovation that was thought (by the content industry) to kill their business models has, in fact, created new markets, each an order of magnitude greater than the last, consumers overwhelmingly do not want third parties to tell them what they can, and cannot, do with their equipment. This is especially true when an unrelated party (say the RIAA, MPAA, or CRIA) mandates a limitation on content that is in no way related to them. Further, no consumer wants what is their legitimate and legal consumer right arbitrarily restricted by a technology company that is, in effect, defying the law through technological restrictions.

What does Microsoft have to say about this?
"It remains up to the market to determine the equilibrium that drives any free-enterprise system. Consumers are the final arbiters because they can vote with their wallets," Usher added. "This is as it should be in any well-functioning market, and we believe the improvements in Windows Vista play to this strength."
Again, yes, but. If there was a truly open, free and competitive market, this would be true. However, for the overwhelming majority of consumers who acquire their operating systems without choice, bundled with the computer they pick up at the local electronics store, there is no practical way to vote with their wallet. Few are able to install and configure an alternative operating system. Microsoft's smug appeal to market dynamics is buoyed by their de facto monopoly over the computer desktop. Here's a little gedankenexperiment for Microsoft: If you offered Windows Vista both with and without the TPM that gives remote third parties the ability to turn off content that the user has acquired legally, that also gives Microsoft the ability to turn off YOUR access to YOUR documents (that's right folks, documents you create are now at risk under Vista TPM architecture), how many would buy the TPMed version? Do you really think that Hollywood would not release its latest blockbuster movie for the vast market that would - if it could - tell Microsoft to deep six its TPM?

The sad fact is that the average consumer isn't aware, and doesn't care - yet.

[Technorati tags: | | | ]

14 November 2006

Corporate Blogging

In the interest of my research, a friend who shall remain anonymous passed along an email that had been passed to my friend, from a company CEO to all his managers, asking if anyone was aware of any "blogs" (sic) written by their employees. If so, the quote blog unquote should be brought to the head honcho's attention immediately. One wag from the company in question made the observation that in order to appropriately burn witches, one first needed a source thereof.

Not only does this show tremendous distrust of employees (as opposed to, say, reminding people about the sensitivity of proprietary information), it also goes a long way to promoting distrust of management among employees, as well as fostering cynicism, resistance, and feelings of disempowerment (yeah, yeah, I'm reading from the various empowerment literature at the moment). Does the CEO want engaged, motivated, creative and innovative workers? Apparently not, since such an action runs counter to creating an environment that would foster the best in competitive creativity and innovation. (And if you don't believe me, you can check out Chris Argyris's article from 1998 [HBR 76(3)], Empowerment: The emperor's new clothes?)

[Technorati tags: | | | ]

The Communist Manifestoon

Imagine Marx and Engels's Communist Manifesto brought to life by classic cartoons. Now, give your imagination a rest, and have a look-see courtesy of YouTube:

This is a brilliant treatment of the classic work that has the added bonus of nostalgia - I grew up with these wonderful 'toons, many (most) of which I recognized immediately. The other aspect of this work that I find completely fascinating is how it subverts and reverses the North American cultural socialization (no pun intended) that was the subtext of many - if not all - of television's early cartoons. We were tacitly taught to value capital accumulation and industrialization, and to emulate the gender, race, class, and sexuality stereotypes of the day. Taking those works that would be completely inappropriate to today's (more) enlightened sensibilities and using them to illustrate the great-granddaddy of contemporary political economy and emancipation discourse is sheer subversive genius, I think.

And, for those who would like to hear the opposing view, circa 1936, YouTube offers this for your viewing pleasure (also a classic piece, characteristic of the times).

[Technorati tags: | | | | ]

10 November 2006

What is a Consultant?

Consultant: Someone who, when you ask him/her the time, asks to borrow your watch, then tells you the time, and keeps the watch as her/his fee.

Consultant: Someone who obtains his/her advanced education from his clients' most knowledgeable employees, and then bills the client for the privilege of teaching her/him.

Or, as Joel Spolsky explains, someone who writes really, really poorly, for people who read and think even more poorly.

At least when I do consulting, there is good and interesting entertainment value!

[Technorati tags: | ]

Writer's Withdrawal

David Weinberger's got it bad!
[Technorati tags: | | ]

05 November 2006

So He's Been Found Guilty

Big surprise. Just as surprising as the timing of the verdict, just two days before the American mid-term elections, which, of course, was merely a coincidence of the calendar, you understand. The Bush administration did absolutely nothing - nothing at all - to influence the date upon which to bring down the verdict, even though the defence had yet to deliver their closing arguments in the case. You wanted closing arguments? You should have kept a better eye on the political calendar. Coincidenza?

If it's actual justice that we're seeking in this world (pardon me for being a tad cynical), a relatively more appropriate court would have needed to be found, coincidentally, a form of court that the American administration does not seem to support.

Saddam Hussein was an evil despot, of that there is little doubt. He was enabled and supported in much of his evil doing by other evil despots, who, because they are Western, will never be called to account for the damage they have wrought.

[Technorati tags: | | ]

30 October 2006

As Usual, the University is the Last to Learn

From Denham Grey, via jill/txt: "The movement towards collaborative learning is strong, some would argue irreversible, helped by web2.0 and social software. The personal learning environment has moved from a walled LMS container to an evolving mix of flickr, youtube, secondlife, myspace, 43things."

This comment, of course, is completely consistent with the conclusion of Why Johnny and Janey Can't Read and Why Mr. and Ms. Smith Can't Teach. So my question is, why has the University of Toronto just made a massive investment in Blackboard, a "walled LMS container" system (that, according to many, is produced by a very problematic company)?

[Technorati tags: | | ]

27 October 2006

Hej HLK!

I'm just finishing my annual week of lectures and playshops at Högskolan för lärande och kommunikation (the School of Education and Communication) at Jönköping University in Sweden. Again this year, I spent time with the first year class in media and communication, as well as conducting a graduate seminar for faculty and some PhD students in the intersection of media theory and critical theory. As always, a fine time was had by all, including me.

For the first year students, here are some links to the examples we used in the playshop, for your enjoyment, and possibly further analysis:
Britelite Candles
Orange Blackout
Honda Civic Choir
Johnny Walker Android
Sony Bravia Paint
Xbox Standoff (done by McCann Erickson, who also does Mastercard Priceless)
Nintendo Who Are You
Dove Evolution
Remington Hobble

Thanks for playing, and thanks for a great time!

[Technorati tags: | ]

Gramsci (inadvertently) on America

Actually, he was writing while imprisoned by the Italian Fascists in the 1930s. But his comments ring so true today with regard to how public opinion is manufactured by those in power, so that people living in an apparently democratic society can be easily (self-)controlled:
An organic crisis is manifested as a crisis of hegemony, in which the people cease to believe the words of the national leaders, and begin to abandon the traditional parties. The precipitating factor in such a crisis is frequently the failure of the ruling class in some large undertaking, such as war, for which it demanded the consent and sacrifices of the people. The crisis may last a long time, for, as Gramsci wrily observed, "no social form is ever willing to confess that it has been superseded." In combatting the crisis, the intellectuals of the ruling class may resort to all sorts of mystification, blaming the failure of the state on an opposition party or on ethnic and racial minorities, and conducting nationalist campaigns based on irrational appeals to patriotic sentiment. This is a very dangerous moment in civic life, for if the efforts of the mandarins fail, and if the progressive forces still fail to impose their own solution, the old ruling class may seek salvation in a "divine leader." This "Caesar" may give the old order a "breathing spell" by exterminating the opposing elite and terrorizing its mass support. Or the contending forces may destroy each other, leaving a foreign power to preside over the "peace of the graveyard." (from Bates, T. R. (1975). Gramsci and the Theory of Hegemony. Journal of the History of Ideas, 36(2), 351-366.)

[Technorati tags: | | | | ]

21 October 2006

Reflections of an Adult Educator - Part 5

One of my final courses is a doctoral-level seminar on the Political Economy of Adult Education. We were asked to answer a series of questions that were the subject of a conversation between Ian Baptiste and Tom Heaney (1996). As people are sometimes interested in my philosophy of education, I thought I'd post my reflections on the five Baptiste and Heaney questions, one post per day. Prior installments: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

It can be reasonably argued that the enterprise you described above will continue, whether or not the label “adult education” remains. Provide a rationale for continued use of the label or propose a more desirable alternative.
I consider the “adult” qualifier in “adult education” as referring not to the targets or objects of the education – those adults who would be educated – but rather to the educator her or himself. The educator as subject can be either an adult or a child, reflecting a spectrum of relative maturity concerning the enterprise of education. The child educator is one who believes exclusively or primarily in instrumentality, that is, the supremacy of content. For the child educator, lifelong learning is predominantly about so-called reskilling or training, creating the image of educator as circus trainer in which the objects of that education – the learners – are taught to sit up and beg on command for the morsels of individual renewal that emanate from the lips of the trainer. Child educators reinforce the hegemony of the particular process that establishes a corporate power hierarchy, that in turn, necessitates credentials and mandates credentialism. But with all of its trappings of superiority, this educator has not matured beyond the level of the perpetually insecure child, continually seeking external validation, both of those beneath themselves in the learning hierarchy, and those who create the system of validation itself.

On the other hand, the adult educator realizes that it is not the content of the learning, but the sustained effects of the learning that matter. Further, I am not referring to the effects on the would-be learner, although those effects are obviously implicated in the larger concern of which I speak. I refer instead specifically to the effects on the total societal environment that the learner can subsequently enable after assimilating the true transformative lessons of the education. In this, both adult educator and adult educatee are jointly and unrepealably educated, changing both the immediate environment in which the education occurs, and the larger social environment to which each contributes, and in which each lives.

  • Baptiste, I., & Heaney, T. (1996). The political construction of adult education. Paper presented at the Midwest Research-to-Practice Conference in Adult, Continuing, and Community Education, October 17-19, 1996, Lincoln, NE.

[Technorati tags: | | | | | | ]

20 October 2006

Calling All Responsible Americans

Midterm elections in your country are but a few weeks away. Please take a few minutes to watch this special report from Keith Olberman, and then remember to vote appropriately, and encourage those around you to vote appropriately.

[Technorati tags: | | | | ]

Reflections of an Adult Educator - Part 4

One of my final courses is a doctoral-level seminar on the Political Economy of Adult Education. We were asked to answer a series of questions that were the subject of a conversation between Ian Baptiste and Tom Heaney (1996). As people are sometimes interested in my philosophy of education, I thought I'd post my reflections on the five Baptiste and Heaney questions, one post per day. Prior installments: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Increasingly “adult learning” is being substituted for “adult education.” What do you make of this substitution?
I have always maintained that education is what remains after you have forgotten everything that you have been taught. Adult learning, when considered relative to this context, shifts the focus from what remains to what is taught. The substitution of “learning” for “education” – and a nuanced and critical understanding of education at that – is a dangerous course for society, because a society is formed of “what remains” – the social values, the moral and ethical sensibilities, and the ability to effect transformation in the face of systemic injustice. I agree with Baptiste and Heaney’s (1996) assessment that learning connotes a political, ethical and moral neutrality that ironically encourages ignore-ance – literally the learned ability to ignore much that is problematic in favour of that which is instrumental, efficient and economic. With a new emphasis on learning as opposed to education, especially in the context of economic outcomes, maintaining the status quo and the positions of those vested in it is all but assured. Adult learners, that is, those to whom such learning opportunities are made available and who have the means and ability to avail themselves of them, become implicated in supporting the existing hegemonic structure even as they, themselves, become vested in it. Instrumental and functional learning is important as skills and specific capabilities create a foundation for any civilization or culture. However, all learning must be contextualized by the broader notion of education; eliminating the latter from the discourse negates any potential societal benefits of the former.

(final installment tomorrow)

  • Baptiste, I., & Heaney, T. (1996). The political construction of adult education. Paper presented at the Midwest Research-to-Practice Conference in Adult, Continuing, and Community Education, October 17-19, 1996, Lincoln, NE.

[Technorati tags: | | | | | | ]

19 October 2006

Reflections of an Adult Educator - Part 3

One of my final courses is a doctoral-level seminar on the Political Economy of Adult Education. We were asked to answer a series of questions that were the subject of a conversation between Ian Baptiste and Tom Heaney (1996). As people are sometimes interested in my philosophy of education, I thought I'd post my reflections on the four Baptiste and Heaney questions, one post per day. Prior installments: Part 1, Part 2.

Give examples of counterfeits of adult education practice.
The most significant and problematic counterfeiting agency of adult education practice is the discourse of lifelong learning. Among the OECD countries, a mandate for Lifelong Learning For All (OECD, 1996) was adopted and endorsed as “an integral part of employment and social policy” (McKenzie & Wurzburg, 1997). This particular orientation not only corrupts the espoused principles of adult education as an endeavour of enlightenment and emancipation – “social education for purposes of social change” (Lindeman in Baptiste and Heaney, p. 3). It also subverts adult educators’ ability to probe and critique societal hegemonic structures, and to instill an ethos of virtuous resistance among those who would be educated. Lifelong learning creates an imperative for instrumentality. But more than that, it introduces a tacit paranoia – fear for one’s livelihood and the ability to even participate in society – that precludes the option of non-compliance.

Even more problematic, yet devilishly subtle, is the language used to describe the endeavour of lifelong learning, and the emphasis on training that it suggests. Trainers speak of transferring skills and knowledge from themselves to the targets of their teaching, suggesting a rivalrous, or competitive, conveyance of material from one to the other. The connotation of transference is that what was once possessed by the giver becomes the exclusive property of the receiver, and that the value of knowledge somehow inheres exclusively in she who possesses it. Of course, such language is completely consistent with the myth of an ever more competitive world, and the idea that knowledge is power, not to mention fame and fortune. The discourse of lifelong learning is thus wrapped up in an imperative to remain competitive and employable by acquiring resources that are not in fact rivalrous, but serve the dominant discourse to be considered as such.

(more tomorrow)

  • Baptiste, I., & Heaney, T. (1996). The political construction of adult education. Paper presented at the Midwest Research-to-Practice Conference in Adult, Continuing, and Community Education, October 17-19, 1996, Lincoln, NE.
  • McKenzie, P. & Wurzburg, G. (1997). Lifelong learning and employability. The OECD Observer, 209, 13-17.
    Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (1996). Lifelong learning for all. Paris: OECD Publications.

[Technorati tags: | | | | | | ]

18 October 2006

Reflections of an Adult Educator - Part 2

One of my final courses is a doctoral-level seminar on the Political Economy of Adult Education. We were asked to answer a series of questions that were the subject of a conversation between Ian Baptiste and Tom Heaney (1996). As people are sometimes interested in my philosophy of education, I thought I'd post my reflections on the four Baptiste and Heaney questions, one post per day. Yesterday's installment is here.

What are the distinctive practices, institutions, organizations, purposes and predecessors of the enterprise you call adult education?

Rather than identifying the practices, institutions and purposes of adult education, I would cast my gaze towards those that are characteristically not adult education. In many important respects, vast swaths of this university – and the institution of university itself – are not involved in the enterprise of adult education. Equally, corporate education, and especially those activities identified as training, are not. These instances, when viewed through a critical lens, almost seem to recall the form of education, or “re-education,” of Mao Tse-Tung’s cultural revolution in China. In these re-education camps, as in our own education campuses, what is primarily emphasized is an enforced compliance with dominant normative behaviours, attitudes, thinking, philosophy, and the construction and valuation of specific knowledge and ways of knowing, irrespective of the particular politics of the institution, faculty, department or program. For example, a way of empirically discovering a breadth of perceptions from the grounds of multiple standpoints is qualitative investigation. However, this institute (OISE/UT) is one of only two areas in this entire university that values knowledge produced by qualitative methods. Moreover, the vast majority of what exists in this institute resides in the Adult Education and Community Development program.

It is little surprise, then, that some of the basic tenets of this program inform my opinion on the fundamental precursors of adult education. They are two-fold. First, a constructivist standpoint is needed – the idea that we each, individually and collectively, create meaning in a world that is subjective, contingent, complex and contextualized by an ever-changing ground. Second, all those involved in the enterprise of adult education must not only understand, but more importantly value, the notion that there are multiple ways of perceiving, transforming through emotion, and responding to environments, circumstances, subjects and objects. These processes, that can be said to collectively comprise cognition, do not represent “an independently existing world, but rather a continual bringing forth of a world through the process of living” (Capra, p. 267; emphasis in original).

(more tomorrow)

  • Baptiste, I., & Heaney, T. (1996). The political construction of adult education. Paper presented at the Midwest Research-to-Practice Conference in Adult, Continuing, and Community Education, October 17-19, 1996, Lincoln, NE.
  • Capra, F. (1996). The web of life. New York: Anchor Books.

[Technorati tags: | | | | | | ]

17 October 2006

Reflections of an Adult Educator - Part 1

One of my final courses is a doctoral-level seminar on the Political Economy of Adult Education. We were asked to answer a series of questions that were the subject of a conversation between Ian Baptiste and Tom Heaney (1996). As people are sometimes interested in my philosophy of education, I thought I'd post my reflections on the four Baptiste and Heaney questions, one post per day.

Do I refer to myself as an "adult educator?"
I consider myself an adult educator, but it wasn’t always so. As I have reflected on my life, I realize that I have always been a teacher irrespective of the various roles I have played and jobs I have had over a 20-plus-year corporate career, and for the decade thereafter. My practice has become one of creating specific environments for participants in the enterprise of education in which they acquire some of the necessary tools to achieve new awareness and insight into the world and the meaning they make of it. The key differences between the before and the after may be several, but I will emphasize the one that I consider most informative to my practice.

I had always assumed that education necessarily carried with it a certain instrumentality and emphasis on content. However, inspired by the work – but more importantly, the method – of Marshall McLuhan, I have come to realize that, in his words, “the ‘content’ … is like the juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind” (McLuhan, 1964, p. 18). This inspiration suggests that what I do in performing the role of adult educator has little to do with the subject matter of what I may be teaching, or the specific instrumental use to which the so-called learner may make of it. Rather, the only “training” aspect of my enacting of this role is training “the watchdog of the mind” to create the ability to perceive that which is deliberately or systemically ignored, and to “think things that no one else can think about those things that everyone else already sees” (Schoepenhauer).

(more tomorrow)

  • Baptiste, I., & Heaney, T. (1996). The political construction of adult education. Paper presented at the Midwest Research-to-Practice Conference in Adult, Continuing, and Community Education, October 17-19, 1996, Lincoln, NE.
  • McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding Media: The extensions of man. Toronto: McGraw-Hill.

[Technorati tags: | | | | | | ]

16 October 2006

Distortion of Beauty.

This is a fascinating video from Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty. A tetrad on the medium of beauty would make for an interesting conversation, with this video as the ground.

Update: It's now on YouTube:

[Technorati tags: | | | ]

14 October 2006

For the Italian McLuhan Fellows

I dedicate this find to Gianluca, Leo, (several) Francesco(s), Vincenzo, Serena, Lucilla, Antonio, another Gianluca, and a bunch of others who I've probably forgotten! ('scuza).

And for the rest, you can find the English version here.

[Technorati tags: | | ]

Fast Film: Animation from Old Movies

Fast Film by Virgil Widrich is one of those rare, truly wonderful, and awe-inspiring bits of animated storytelling that reminds us all of how creativity builds on creativity.
The visuals were achieved by printing out thousands of film frames (over 65,000 to be exact) and folding them into three-dimensional shapes. The paper-objects were then photographed and composited in After Effects. I can't even imagine the effort it took to mash-up hundreds of live-action films, often times with three to four films in each scene, and make it all work in a narrative context. It's an incredible creative achievement.
The narrative makes some sort of sense in a surreal way, and is most certainly worth the thirteen-and-a-half minutes. Much more information is available on the official website.

[Technorati tags: | | | | ]

12 October 2006

Tragic Arrogance and Stupidity

David Weinberger has two posts today that, juxtaposed in my RSS reader, struck me dumb. And not dumb in the sense of "... and Dumber" (that would characterize the characters that ultimately resulted in the posts), but dumb as in mute because of the stark shocking nature of what has been wrought. Here are the essential elements of the two:
A WSJ article reports that a John Hopkins study says that 600,000 Iraqis have died violently since the war started. That's 2,5% of the population that would have been alive if there were no conflict. Granted, they would have been living under the control of a homicidal dictator who Human Rights Watch estimates killed up to 290,000 people in twenty years. ...


So, now we see how well the Bush policy on North Korea has worked out. The world is a step-function more insecure, not only because North Korea is a nuclear-tipped loonocracy, but because it well may decide to arm stateless groups that cannot be deterred from nuking us.

Nice going, George.

This is the price you pay for being a stubborn jackass, um, I mean, standing by principles. The principle of not negotiating with bad guys has a pragmatic justification: Negotiating encourages others to adopt bad guy tactics. But, that means the no-negotiating principle is really dependent on the practicalities. Instead, Bush has been overpowered by its macho sound. When it comes to near-nuclear powers who have been begging for direct talks, standing by the principle as if it were an 11th Commandment, and refusing to recognize differences in different cases—"I don't do nuance"—results in criminally stupid policies.
Summing up, the U.S. under its so-called Commander-in-Chief has directly or indirectly killed nearly three times the number of Iraqis than did the dictator it deposed, in only a fraction of the time. So much for morality and ethicality. Further, it has made the world a significantly more dangerous place by fertilizing the spawning conditions for trans-national terrorism and encouraging the nuclear ambitions of one of the relatively few remaining madmen that still run countries. (I'm sure that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is rubbing his hands with glee). And Hard Workin' George is still smirking, sending two distinct and diametrically opposite messages: that America is safer because they invaded Iraq, and that America is under increased threat because of the ever-present Terr'ists.

And the American mass newsmedia? Are they reporting on this tragic situation? How about the scandalously hackable voting machines that may yet win the day for Republicans, despite all the polls to the contrary? (After all, the only poll that counts is the one we can rig.) Nope. They're obsessed with the Foley Follies.

[Technorati tags: | | | | | ]

04 October 2006

Although I Wouldn't Necessarily Include Them in My Research

I always knew that organizations like Hell's Angels were hierarchical, but now we learn that they are bureaucratic and administratively controlled, too:
Rebels and outlaws looking to join the Hells Angels had better be prepared to fill out an application form and attach a current photo. It seems even society's quintessential outsiders can't escape the drudgery of paperwork. One such application, or "personal information sheet," submitted by a prospective Hells Angel was entered into evidence at a sentencing hearing in Winnipeg this week. It includes basic questions such as name, age, date of birth, telephone number and social insurance number. But the two-page form also asks whether the applicant owns a Harley-Davidson motorcycle or has a criminal record.

Hells Angels paperwork isn't much different from the straight-laced corporate world.
But can you imagine the job interview?

[Technorati tags: | | ]

03 October 2006

The Most Effective Weapon Against Corruption is a Bright Light

Or perhaps even better, a video/audio-tape. This exclusive clip from CTV news apparently shows IRB judge (and former Toronto city councillor) Steve Ellis, improperly propositioning a refugee claimant, allegedly offering her approval of her claim if she sleeps with him.
"I had no choice. When he asked me for the coffee, I had to meet him. I was afraid he would say no, deny my case," [refugee claimant] Kim told CTV News. ... In the video, Ellis tells Kim she's as beautiful as a model and offers to find her work: "We have to work hard to get you another job at a hotel or something." ... In the audio recording, Ellis suggests he can approve her application if she has an affair with him, but warned Kim not to tell her boyfriend. "He might try to make trouble and say, `Oh yeah, this guy she fucked was a judge. She fucked him and that's why she is fucking him and that's why he said yes'," Ellis said."If we do this and it's shown I did this for improper purposes, then you are screwed too. We are both screwed. I'm in big trouble and your status is gone," he tells Kim.

Ellis, appointed to the board in 2000, would only tell CTV News: "I don't have anything to say right now. Thank you." Kim sent the video to the chairman of the Immigration Appeal Board last week. He immediately suspended Ellis. The matter has been referred to the RCMP.
Ellis is indeed in big trouble. Let's hope Kim's status is secure. People who are willing to take a stand against corruption - especially when they are most vulnerable - are the type of courageous new immigrants this country should welcome.

[Technorati tags: | | | ]

30 September 2006

And You Certainly Wouldn't Want Dancing in the Aisles!

Why does American Airlines ban kissing? Because it could lead to dancing.
Shortly after takeoff, Varnier nodded off, leaning his head on Tsikhiseli. A stewardess came over to their row. “The purser wants you to stop that,” she said.

“I opened my eyes and was, like, ‘Stop what?’ ” Varnier recalled the other day.

“The touching and the kissing,” the stewardess said, before walking away.

Tsikhiseli and Varnier were taken aback. “He would rest his head on my shoulder or the other way around. We’d kiss—not kiss kiss, just mwah,” Tsikhiseli recalled, making a smacking sound.

[Technorati tags: | | ]