Monthly Archives: December 2011
The title of this blog entry is taken from the RUSH song of the same name. I find it ironic that a Canadian rock band, deftly puts it’s finger on the beauty of the First Amendment rights we enjoy in the USA, although I am sure RUSH was celebrating the beauty of the medium of radio providing free music (almost free), and not just as an outlet for political news and information. I celebrated the 4th of July last summer with some Cuban expatriates (naturalized U.S. citizens), who are more grateful to be in the U.S. than most die-hard Tea Party people I come into contact with (another irony). In light of my uplifting experiences on the 4th, and in light of my concern for the US given the current Congress and President, and the upcoming elections, I have been thinking about the way words move us politically. The editorial bent of the medium we get our political news and information from, in large part determines the kind of news we get, how it will be presented, and what insight we actually gain from said news.
For my part, I get about half of my political news and political opinion from AM talk radio, so that immediately tells you something about my ideology. AM radio is my favorite means of broad communication to the public, in large part because it doesn’t have to rely on beautiful people to deliver the message, like TV does, for example. In removing the visual element, the mind may be less easily distracted, and less likely to miss subtle nuances in meaning and editorial intention. I also prefer local, AM radio, for its campy, local color aspects. In Sacramento, California, a politically liberal city and state, I listen to Armstrong & Getty (http://armstrongandgettyradio.com/) in the morning while I brush my teeth or drive to work. The A&G show accurately reflects the kinds of things I listen to, and again, that tells you something about my ideology, and my sense of humor. AM radio affords me a sense of connectedness in my local community that I would probably otherwise miss, but I also enjoy AM radio because it is less socially inter-connected than Facebook.com, for example, even though people of all stripes call in with better or worse commentary on the issues of the day. AM radio allows me to ‘drop in”, at my convenience, and weigh my own opinions about the issues of the day versus the opinions and rants of hosts and other listeners who happen to call in. I think radio is less sticky than the web, which seemingly demands interactivity at its core. On the web, one can be considered a “lurker” for having a social site account and not posting often, or rarely engaging in debate. I am just that sort of “lurker” on FB, where I am surprised to find people’s most dearly held political beliefs often bubbling up, and inciting more or less debate on their thread. (I do enjoy the fact that FB, YouTube, etc., allows everyone a chance to broadcast themselves and their opinions…very democratic!)
I love AM radio for the fact that it is paid for by hard-working business people in my local community who are advertising. The commercials are surely a pain in the ass, but they coincide with my personal, moral/political code, which is loosely, “pull your own damn weight!” The aforementioned commercials are an indication that someone, somewhere, is doing something to make a living. I love that! Radio experiments with more politically liberal-leaning editorial bent haven’t fared well in the free market economy of radio, most notably, Air America (http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/crime/air-america-radio-files-bankruptcy). Just in case you are tempted to rub my nose in NPR (which I often tune in to), they are funded, in part, with tax money taken from the US citizenry. I have a sneaking suspicion that liberally bent AM radio doesn’t play well in the market, as the demographic target that may be drawn to the content of liberal radio, probably isn’t waking early to brush teeth, or hurry off to grind out their daily bread. I imagine that those who are inclined towards broader government and more entitlement programs (even the entitlement programs the AARP might endorse), are sitting at home on their political posteriors, watching Brian Williams from the comfort of a couch! Ouch! (Or if you prefer insert your favorite, left-leaning, network news organization here) (Not too long ago, I gave a withering critique of network news programming while assisting a friend on a post-graduate thesis paper, that critique is reproduced as the first comment under this post for the curious.)
Newspapers, which are generally held to have a more liberal editorial angle, have lost their market to the web, television, and AM radio. Newspapers are mostly dead or dying, and even though I hold words dear, I could care less. The liberal intelligentsia that ran the papers into the ground are effectively pointing out by accident one of the fundamental flaws in liberalism, which is, in my humble opinion, this; “If you can’t sell it, it doesn’t exist!”
The true spirit of AM radio goes something like this, “Welcome to the USA, enjoy our free radio, and our First Amendment while you brush your teeth…then get your ass to work!”
The Bible states a similar truth more elegantly, in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
P.S. My sons and I saw RUSH in concert 3X in the last 18 months, which was most definitely not free! Rush opened each show with, “The Spirit of Radio”, and gave us our full $$ worth each time! 😉
Please click on the following link and watch the video if you have 15 minutes. I think you will enjoy this immensely, and after you watch, I’d like a word or two. 🙂
The means of communication we employ, in part, determines the way we relate to one another socially, especially in regards to the intimacy of what we disclose about ourselves to one another. For example, when we write a letter long-hand, we compose rather slowly. The process allows us to stop and think about our next sentence. We can think about what we intend to convey, what the reader may interpret it to mean. In writing, we have the luxury of editing ourselves, removing potentially embarrassing slips of etiquette, etc. In short, writing a letter is a very formal means of communication and we maintain a boundary of privacy. Conversely, the web, often delivered via handled device, require us to maintain an “on alert status”. Each of us may have several public accounts which we monitor actively (social media sites, email addresses, cell phone numbers, countless subscriptions, etc.). When we are approached with an inbound message, it gets directly to our screen or phone, seemingly demanding a prompt reply. Due to the sense of immediacy and urgency of the contact, we reply more quickly than we might otherwise, so our dialogues often become more candid than we intend them to be. Also, especially in the case of texts, tone and context are often hard to determine, which can sometimes lead to hard feelings until an explanation is delivered. On facebook, many of my friends and acquaintances post a pictorial view of practically anything in their lives. How far has the line between the public life and the private life blurred?
What does Eric Witacre’s virtual choir illustrate about the future of social connectedness? First, we are almost entirely free of the constraints of geography to fulfill our social needs, or at least some of them. We can be on 2 different continents, and still be having a face to face conversation via extant technologies like Skype. Second, we can become part of a large social group, while sitting in the “privacy” of our own room or office, maybe in pajamas (as I am while I write this post 😉 )We are not usually communicating with one another from our pajamas…pajama-paradigm shift! Will this further blur the line between our public and private lives? Third, I have noticed a light case of FOMO within myself, and in others. Fomo is an acronym for “fear of missing out”, and it’s akin to that feeling you had if you weren’t picked first for kickball or if you weren’t sure you were hanging around with the “right people” at a party. It’s not just me, it has infected the broader culture as well. I am facebook friends with at least 6 people who are over 60! What the hell are they doing on facebook? I guess, appropriately, they are viewing pictures of the cutest grandchild in the world, but it begs the question why did they choose to view them in the public square? Dont even get me started about twitter!(follow me please http://twitter.com/#!/scribblerjeff ) 😉
I was inspired by Witacre’s well conceived of virtual choir. It makes me think there are indeed wonderful things about connectivity on the web to look forward to. The web is a powerful medium that lends some of its energy down the wire to those who walk in its tangle. I am also filled with a certain dread as I see my future self login to one more site, and connect with one more person, whilst posting one more picture. The web is a sticky place, that demands every bit of you, that you take from it. It’s a form of digital karma. I am trying to take care of my soul on the web. I want a bit of that give and take the mix of this medium offers, I just don’t want to lose the very core of my self out here. There is no doubt that technology is changing the way we communicate again, in the same way tv changed us, and the way the Guttenberg Press changed us before that.
If the medium truly is the massage, as McLuhan said, then surely we are both roughed up by, and made better by, our social interactions on the web… if we stay above the fray. You can’t avoid the massage if you want to be part of “the human network.” For example, if you wanted to reach me tonight, you’d have to be online.
I love words and language, perhaps as much as I love anything. I am not sure if this is because I enjoy a particular brain structure, background, or touch from God, but words and language resonate with me the same way a Yo-Yo Ma, cello concerto might resonate with a classical music lover. Often, reading or hearing a certain word or group of words can induce in me a neural firing that is a physically discernible sensation. In the presence of a particularly powerful use of language, I can actually feel those dendrites and synapses waving around with acclaim and acknowledgement! Alas, words are so much more than an itch in the mind, or a pull of the emotional bow across the heart strings, they are truly the medium in which we live, move, and have our being.
Symbolic language is one of the most distinctive traits in the divide between Homo sapiens and the rest of creation. Words allow humans to transcend the limitations of a seemingly deterministic, physical reality and create! Since the Garden of Eden, when Adam named the animals God brought before him, mankind has been categorizing and cataloguing everything we interact with in this world by means of words, whether written, spoken, sung, or signed. We reflect on the world we encounter, ourselves, and the nature of existence itself through the clarifying and classifying lens of language. Indeed, words allow us the freedom to think beyond natural categories and enter into the world of philosophical abstractions, such as, justice, truth, or love.
The Koine Greek for ‘word’ is ‘λóγος’, (lä-ˌgäs), which can be rendered as ‘study or discourse concerning’. In English, we often use λóγος as a suffix for academic subjects. For example, biology is the study or discourse concerning living things, just as anthropology is the study of humans and human culture. Given this definition, wordswurdswirds aspires to be a study or discourse concerning words, language, how we use them, and how they move us from my perspective. Since I believe it is self-evident that language is culture, there are an infinite number of subjects this blog may attempt to address in future posts. Hopefully, this exercise in writing will yield some light that might otherwise not have been seen. I also hope it generates a little heat!
You can’t blog without log.