Tales from Digital Rehab (4)
As I Was Saying…

What's wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong with this picture?

A friend sent me this video yesterday – along with the ironic observation that a rap decrying our obsession with screens was delivered – how else? – by screen.  And that a screed lambasting Facebook would show up – where else? – on Facebook.


I have managed to more or less maintain my “social media” embargo for the better part of three weeks now.  I have ranted a few times via Twitter @Comcastcares (they don’t, really, it was a full week before anybody tweet-replied to the most recent distress signal.  Hence the ensuing hash tag #Comcastjustpretendstocare).

And I have made one or two ‘guerilla strikes’ each day into Facebook to see if there are any actual pressing matters that have been left for me there.  So far, no so much.

So I am learning that an Internet addict CAN manage their consumption of digits, just as an overeater can learn how to manage their consumption of calories.

More parallel ironies come to mind.  I have said on several occasions that over the past few months my engagement with the ‘social media’ firmament has been recalling my relationship with Johnny Walker and Stolichnaya in the months before I finally started going to AA meetings in the fall of 1987.   Some arithmetic is in order:

I started getting stoned, etc. in the spring of 1969, and closed the book on that chapter of my life in the fall of 1987.  That’s roughly 18-1/2 years.

I got on the Internet in earnest in 1995 (though I’ve been online since 300 baud in 1979) and put myself on this “Digital Rehab” program in 2014.  That’s, umm… roughly 19 years.  Close enough for the sake of ironic symmetry.

Obvious, I am still on the Internet even though I haven’t had a sip, a snif, or a puff in… it’ll be 27 years this coming Thanksgiving Day.

As I’ve said, that’s the difference between being an alcoholic and a digi-holic.  Being a digi-holic is more like being an overeater.  A recovering alcoholic can get along fine for the rest of his life without a drop of liquor ever passing over his lips.  An overeater is going to have to find away to eat.

And I will have to find a way to integrate all this nonsense back into my existence.

Starting with creating and maintaining effective filters on what constitutes “nonsense.”

Which starts by withdrawing completely from the ‘random trivia generator’ that a Facebook ‘news feed’ has become.

Oh, I still have access to several random trivia generators.

I use the Pulse RSS reader (now ‘LinkedIn Pulse’ since LinkedIn acquired the company, though it is still the only real use I’ve found for anything having to do with LinkedIn), several times a day.  But the information I’m accessing through that app is a tad better filtered than what I typically get on Facebook: I decide what the feeds are, have them categorized in pages, and can pretty much decide what I information I care to avail myself to at any time.  That’s where I keep Andrew Sullivan, Salon, Cult of Mac, This Modern World (the Tom Tomorrow comic) and a couple dozen photography sources.  It comes in very handy when I’m standing on a line somewhere – like when it takes 30 minutes to return a appliance to Comcast.

So still no Facebook on my mobile devices, and still no default email account.  That way there is nothing tugging at my attention on my phone.  On a conscious level I know there is nothing new – no new emails, no notifications from Facebook – so there is no reason to “check” my device(s).

Which leaves me to observe and ignore the subconscious impulse to “check” every couple of minutes.

And my “phone”?  It’s mostly an audio book player these days… I’m learning a lot about the first decades of English colonization in the New World…

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

The Medium Is The Message #5: HDTV

It’s no coincidence that a better picture renders better stories.

It's a wonder we ever get off the sofa

The future according to HDTV?

Ever since I got my first HDTV – would you believe it’s been more than 10 years? – I’ve been wondering what effect the higher resolution picture would have on the medium itself.  Because, let’s face it, more than a thousand lines of resolution is really a completely different experience from the NTSC standard, the 525-line picture that defined the television picture for its first fifty years.

So if HDTV is effectively a new medium, and the medium is the message, then… what new message is this new medium be delivering?

I think David Carr answered the question in the New York Times over this past weekend:

The vast wasteland of television has been replaced by an excess of excellence that is fundamentally altering my media diet and threatening to consume my waking life in the process. I am not alone. Even as alternatives proliferate and people cut the cord, they are continuing to spend ever more time in front of the TV without a trace of embarrassment.

In case you don’t get the reference, “the vast wasteland” harkens back to a speech that then-FCC commissioner Newton Minnow delivered to the National Association of Broadcasters way back in 1961:

“When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better.
But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your own television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.

That speech pretty much set the tone for how television was regarded for several decades.  It was always “the vast wasteland,” “the boob tube,” or “the idiot box.”  Nobody of any intellectual standing ever admitted to actually watching TeeVee.

In the past several years though, as Carr articulates, the television universe has become much more vast – but much less of a wasteland.  Oh, sure, we’ve still got the Kardashians (who?)  Nancy Grace and Court TV, American Idol, Survivor and all of their “reality” brethren (because nothing says ‘reality’ more than having being followed around by a camera crew…).  The lowest common denominator will always have a place in American culture, just like trailer parks and tent revivals.

But we’ve also got Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Justified, and more recently the just concluded first season of HBO’s anthology True Detective.

These shows and several others have expanded the narrative capacity of the medium – arguably (I would argue…) because the refined visual capacity of the higher resolution screen  has forced writers, producers, actors and directors them to raise their own game.

In other words, television shows are better today because the medium itself is better.

But it’s not just the screen (and the theatrical, surround-sound audio) that is changing the game. It’s the mode of delivery as well.

I’ve had a DVR (TiVo) for longer than I’ve had HDTV, and that device probably changed my viewing habits even more than HDTV did.  Before TiVo, I’d always time-shifted the series I wanted to watch with a VCR, but TiVo changed the whole experience, making it much easier to record, store, and play back entire seasons of multiple shows.  And fast-forward through the commercials…

Now, add to TiVo: Netflix, AppleTV, Hulu, HBO GO and an array of other services that are delivered mostly through the Internet; then add YouTube and Apple Airplay or Google Chromecast that give you the ability to flip just about any ‘content’ from any networked device onto you high-def flat panel display – and it’s a wonder we ever get off the sofa.


The “Napster Principle” Writ Large

20140211-134131.jpgMeanwhile, in other news… The Europeans are beginning to take a dim view of US control of the Interwebs…

WSJ: EU Body Seeks to Reduce U.S. Influence Over Internet’s Structure

The European Union’s executive body is raising pressure to reduce U.S. influence on the Internet’s infrastructure, after revelations of widespread U.S. surveillance activities have caused what it calls a “loss of confidence” in the global network’s current makeup.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, will propose the adoption of “concrete and actionable steps” to globalize essential Web functions–like the assignment of so-called top-level domain names–that are still contractually linked to the U.S. government, according to a draft policy paper seen by The Wall Street Journal.

I don’t know that I trust the EU’s Communications Command and Control structures any more than I like the U.S.’s… this is probably an internecine turf war: The EU doesn’t like the US/NSA monitoring our communications only because it presents a challenge to the EU’s ability to do precisely the same thing.

I am reminded (as I am often) of an observation that somebody made back in the heyday of Napster: “The labels don’t like Napster ripping off the artists because it interferes with the labels’ ability to rip off the artists…” Or something to that effect.

I think the same principal probably applies here.


Computer Desktop Photoart Installation Instructions

Thank you for subscribing to the CohesionArts Weekly Digest.  We hope you find it entertaining and amusing if not profoundly informative.

To download and install the files, please follow these steps: 

1. After you have completed your subscription form, a confirmation request will arrive in your inbox.  Click on the link in that message.  As soon as you confirm your subscription, a new window should open in your default browser with the link to the file download.

2. Click on download link in r browser; If you can, tell the browser which folder you want the filed to download into; if you can’t, it will wind up in your default “downloads” folder.

3.  Find the downloaded file and drag it into the folder where keep you desktops – typically something like /pictures/desktops/.

4.  Double click on the .zip file to open the archive; this will create a new sub-folder; your desktop photos will be in that folder.

Those steps should work for either MacOS or Windows (if you’re using something than those two common operating systems then you’re more advanced than we are – and you’re on your own).

It’s been almost 7 years now since we stopped using Windows/PCs, so we don’t recall precisely how desktop images are installed for Windows, but it must be something like this process on a Mac:

5. Go to the “System Preferences panel.

6. Select “Desktop & Screen Saver” and then highlight the ‘Desktop” tab.

7. Toward the bottom left corner of that panel you’ll see a “+ ” button.  Click that button and a “Finder (Windows=”Explorer”) window will open.  Navigate to the folder where you stashed the files in step 3 above.

8.  That folder will then show up in the list of desktop image folders, and should become the selected folder for your desktop images

9.  Select the image you want to serve as your desktop, then select among the other options like “Change picture” every xx minutes.

10.  If you use the “Spaces” feature of OSX (or the Windows equivalent, I have no idea what it would be called…), you’ll have to set a new desktop for each “Space” that have open.

Trust us, it sounds more difficult than it actually is.

The files that we offer for desktops changes from time to time, but these instructions should work regardless of what files you are downloading.  If you’re still having issues, please contact list man@cohesionarts.com and we’ll try to help you out.

Thanks again for subscribing to The Weekly Digest.

Labor Saving Devices

Or:  Why Our Modern Lives Are Crazy
(well, mine, anyway)

The Babbage Difference Engine - a mechanical precursor to today's electronic computers

The Babbage Difference Engine – a mechanical precursor to today’s electronic computers

I set aside an hour Monday morning
to address various “desk chores”
that have gone neglected
for the past week or so.

I know now
why I put these things off.
Bear with me here.
And tell me:
Does this sound like anything
that has ever happened to you?

The first thing I needed to do
was submit documentation
to my “Health Savings Account.”
They wanted me to account
for the $800
that I put on the account
for some dental work
I had done a couple of weeks ago. Continue reading

And You Think Photoshop Is Deceptive?

Check this out:


I can’t tell from the YouTube page what the software is, but it’s the most impressive portrait (and video?) retouching software I’ve seen yet.

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 2.28.27 PMWait a second… maybe I’m the one being deceived here.

In mean, I can’t even tell for sure if this is software… maybe it’s just a music video for a band called “Boggie” and this is their song “Parfum.”  Maybe the vocalist is singing to us (in a language I don’t recognize) about the evils of photo-retouching.

For once, Google wasn’t much help.

I know… I’ll go check The Onion…

If annybody else who knows the secret… post a comment, please.

- – - – - -

Update 140126: I know the answer now. Popular Photo has disclosed that the video is, indeed, a music video for a Hungarian pop singer named Boggie.  So me – and the friend who sent me the link in the first place, among the the fools.

You would think that if such software actually exists, I of all people would know about it by now.