Clearer Now?

Trying to cope with WTF is going in Iraq and Syria?

I generally don’t do political commentaries here.  I kinda gave that up after waxing forth at great length in The Weekly Screed during the 2004 election cycle.  Bush was re-elected (or was he re-un-elected?) so it was pretty obvious nobody was paying attention to my brilliant dissertations, so I just went back to whatever else I was doing at the time (which was mostly writing an incomprehensible/unfinishable book).

But I just read Andrew Sullivan trying to come to grips with whatthefuck President Obama is doing in the MIddle East now, and that reminded me of this clear and simple explanation, which I found recently on another site:

Middle East Explained_0

Yeah, I understand now.  Nobody knows from nuthin, just drop some bombs somewhere.

I sympathize with Sullivan’s conclusion:

I feel, I have to confess, helpless in the face of this – and my job requires me to understand these issues as well as anyone. What of other Americans, going on with their lives, struggling to make ends meet much of the time, barely able to digest what’s left of the news? It’s a recipe for passivity and acceptance, as the CIA and the Pentagon and their myriad lobbyists and fear-mongers do what they want – with no accountability even for war crimes, let alone policy mistakes.

Unlike Andrew, “it’s not my job, señor…” to make sense of what strikes me as essentially senseless (of course, I’m not sure just what my ‘job’ is but that’s a topic for a different post altogether…)   I am struggling to understand how Obama has morphed into Bush Redux.  I wonder “do they know something that we don’t know” (and why aren’t they telling us?) and how does the Congress and the sheeple let him get away with starting yet another undeclared, and likely endless war in an area that is perfectly capable of tearing itself apart without US intervention?

And yet life goes on… and we all have really important things to do.  T

Like me, I’m waiting for the Comcast guy. He’s supposed to be here any minute now.. well sometime before 5 PM…

I guess that’s better than a beheading.  At least when he leaves I’ll be able to watch the videos.

Tales from Digital Rehab (3):
This Is Where Our Lives Go

Thursday, September 25, 10:21 AM

blog-digital-distractionsJeez,  is it already almost 10:30?  I was so sure I’d be at the keyboard by 10.  A few minutes before 10, I was almost done clearing my inbox of the detritus that I’d let accumulate by mostly ignoring it the day before.  And then one thing and another… and now it’s 10:21.  Another half hour I’ll never get back…

See, that’s the quandary.

Time slips by in tiny increments… one small distraction after another, and before you know it a quarter, a half, a whole hour has slipped by and there’s nothing to show for it except time spent with the RTG – The Random Trivia Generator.

The Random Trivia Generator is not just Facebook. It’s the whole Universe of digital distractions.  Here we see the downside in the interconnectedness of all things. Maybe it starts with an indispensable tool like e-mail, which by now is mostly littered with  e-newsletters of varying degrees of actual interest, each with their own links to something brighter and shinier beyond.  Once you’re in the browser, there are more links, most of them of the “link bait” variety that promise even deeper satisfaction if you just give into your curiosity and… click here.

I’d snuck into Facebook for a minute.  Just to clear an item I’d left in my inbox from yesterday, a link I needed to post to The 1861 Project’s Facebook page, which these days serves as the Project’s website. Since the actual website attracts so little traffic – and conversely the Facebook page gathers whatever interest there actually is in the project – we just redirected the domain to the Facebook page and we “engage” our “audience” there.

Tales of distraction: I’m suddenly tempted to drop the developing stream of consciousness that was forming here in order to follow up a phone call I made a few minutes ago with an text msg.  But when I open the phone I discover that an e-mail I thought I’d sent from my phone hadn’t actually been sent.  It was stuck in a digital limbo called “Outbox.” So I had to (?) drill down into my mailboxes to find the unsent message and attempt to “Send” again.

And now I’m tempted to check the device again to see if the message has sent. And that’s when I realize:

This is where our lives go. Continue reading

Tales from Digital Rehab (2)
Checking The Urge (to check…)

well, sorta. ok, not really...

well, sorta. ok, not really…

Somewhere I read about a study that revealed that the typical digially-addicted person can go about four minutes before they have to check their gizmo again.

I know the impuse… all to well.

I know what it feels like to slow down at a red light and immediately reach for the mobile device that’s mounted on my dashboard.

Or what it feels like to hit a lull in a conversation and cast a sideward glance at my gizmo…. hey, maybe I’ve got a new e-mail or a notification on Facebook!

And I know what it feels like to retrieve whatever is waiting for me out there in the digital firmament – only to to discover that all that’s waiting for me is near-spam, people and organizations clamoring for my attention even as I’m clamoring for something to be attentive to.

Only now I know what it feels like to feel the urge to check.  To feel the urge countless times a day but but be relieved of the temptation because there’s not a whole lot I can do about it.

I have deactivated my primary email account from both of my mobile gizmos (iPhone and iPad); I have also deleted Facebook from both devices.

So now when I feel the urge… it’s sorta like taking a long walk off a short digital pier: I feel the urge, just like I have for years, but as soon as it strikes the impulse part of the cortex (or limbic system?), some other part remembers: “There’s nothing there. Don’t bother.”

So now the temptation is a phantom – like the impulses and sensations an amputee feels from a missing limb. Like I’ve amputated my gizmos.

Again, the analogy to alcohol and drug recovery seems apt: If this concerted attempt at behavior modification – and focus/concentration recovery – is going to succeed, then it makes sense to treat this as the first 30 days of digital abstinence.  Or, at least, near abstinence.  Mobile, abstinence, at least.

And, again, in the parlance of ‘the program,’ I had a bit of a “slip” today.  I logged onto Facebook this morning just long enough to see if there was anything pressing in the form of a notification or message.

There wasn’t.  Just the usual random trivia.  But I sat there scrolling through it for five or ten minutes.  Just like sidling up to a bar and saying “I’ll just have a sip…”

So I guess that 30 days starts again tomorrow…

Cedar Key Sunrise

Sunrise… sunset… rinse and repeat…

@VisitCedarKey @CedarKeyFlorida @CedarKeyBeacon
Cedar Key Sunrise – September, 201429°8′44″N 83°2′30″W

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©2014 aka @driver49

Cedar Key Sunset

Ann and I took a few days to drive down to the Gulf Coast, a marshy little island called Cedar Key, Florida.  We got there just in time to drop our bags at our AirBnB and catch this sunset…

@VisitCedarKey @CedarKeyFlorida @CedarKeyBeacon
Cedar Key Sunset – September, 201429°8′44″N 83°2′30″W

#instatravel #travelgram #photooftheday #thebest_capture #ig_masterpiece #nuriss_tag #awe_inspiringshots #pro_ig #global_highlights #igworldclub #ig_select #editoftheday #capture_today #waycoolshots #featuremeinstagood #igcapturesclub #ig_masterpiece #ig_great_pics #tweegram #picoftheday #instadaily #bestoftheday #sunrise #sky #florida #gulfcoast

©2014 aka @driver49

Tales from Digital Rehab:
Kayaking is Not Multi-tasking

“We live in a media culture where we are buried in information,
but we know nothing.

Ken Burns

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve just returned from five days on a marshy island called Cedar Key in the “big bend” corner of the Gulf of Mexico – where the Florida panhandle meets the peninsula.

Before I left I started disconnecting.

First I Googled the phrase “off the grid” and found images to use for my cover and profile photos on Facebook.   I have not looked at Facebook since.

Then I posted an auto response to my email that said I was gonna be “off the grid” for a few days – “off the grid” being defined these days as “no signal” on my mobile devices.  There was still plenty of electricity at our destination – and WiFi in a lot of locations – but I made a conscious and deliberate decision to be “unplugged” for a few days.

As we were driving down to the island – about 11-1/2 hours with stops along the way – I went a step further in my digital rehab:  I removed the Facebook apps from my iPhone and iPad.

Wednesday night, once Ann and I had settled into our accommodations (provided by AirBnB, naturally…), I opened my e-mail one more time, cleared the inbox as well as I could and closed the application.  I haven’t checked e-mail since.   I think this is the longest I’ve gone without looking at email in about 10 years. Probably longer.

Nor have I been on Facebook.  Or Twitter (which I don’t use nearly as much as Facebook anyway). Or LinkedIn or Pinterest.  And I can’t really say now that I miss any of it.

I don’t miss the deluge of digital narcissism – including my own – or the constant comparison of my virtual existence to that of my friends and colleagues.

In the absence of these distractions, what I have discovered is a measure of continuity in my own thought processes that is both strange and exhilarating.  I am now in the midst of a giant leap in the recovery of my own space and time.

And I might owe it all to kayaking…

* * *

Continue reading

We Are All Vassals
and Peasants Now (2)

Another dispatch from the Feudal Future

Look familiar?

Look familiar?

Late last spring, as I was reveling in the final episodes of Season 4 of Game of Thrones (and re-watching seasons 1 thru 3 in between), I found myself pondering just why such a show, with it’s rather graphic and brutal portrayals of a medieva realm – with its feudal social, political, and economic structures – would find such a large audience in this day and age.

It seemed particularly perplexing since “this day and age” is defined largely by the emerging digital economy of the internet, mobile devices, and apps.

When the Internet first surfaced in the late 90s, it seemed to hold this great promise of a technologically induced egalitarian culture.  Now it’s all about the “sharing economy” – in which we all share our resources with one another, and the ultimate wealth creation flows upwards.

Rather than an egalitarian culture of fairly distributed wealth and influence, the new reality seems much closer to the feudal constructs of the middle ages; Instead of a digitally induced restoration of egalitarian democracy, it seems the new reality works much more like a feudal oligarchy.

As much as I’d like the notion to be a bit of a stretch, others seem to be picking up on the idea, as in this piece that appeared recently in The Guardian:

…with the examples above, everyone profits from your work, except you. If you’ve contributed for years to Wikipedia you must now accept a new political economy: you have permanent lower-caste status, and have simply been working hard for other people to get rich…

…In short, you’ve been a mug.

And this seems to be the common thread. Strip away the language of “sharing” and “community” and you’ve got an economy that requires an endless supply of mug punters.

The author of this piece, Andrew Orlowski, echoes the sentiments expressed by Jaron Lanier:

Getting an “internet economy” that benefits the people who do the work, take the risk, or provide the resources – and gives us a modicum of self-respect – should be a start. Our media, MPs and policy wonks are still off dreaming of Unicorns, though. Maybe we need a new lot entirely.

Given the political realities of the day, I’m not holding my breath waiting for anything of that magnitude to happen. In the meantime, at least we have a plausible explanation for our fascination with “Game of Thrones.” #GOT

It Ran When I Parked It!

One of the better samples from a long running series I keep swearing I’m going to create called “It Ran When I Parked It.”

We saw this abandoned late-40s GMC truck in a field near Taos, New Mexico in August of 2006.  There’s a good story about why we were in Taos that summer.  It has something to do with the unfinished biography of T. Townsend Brown… an important meeting that turned into an ambush / gangbang / fiasco.  I probably should have taken the hint and walked away from the project then but… nooooo…..

At least I got a cool photo out of the experience.  The color treatment was devised as part of a print-making class at Nashville State Community.   Need to make more like this…

It Ran When I Parked It!

Near Taos, NM Coordinates: 36°23′38″N 105°34′36″W

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