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June 18, 2006

Blog takes a holiday

I am heading away this week on some extended leave, and am unlikely to update this blog until October. You can follow my family's travelling journeys at heardaboutaustralia, as we travel around the centre, north and west of Australia.

Posted by gary at 12:45 PM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2006

About to turn 50

Television is about to celebrate its 50th birthday in Australia: a good time to reflect on its contribution to Australian society in particular, and to the world in general. At its best, television has opened history and knowledge to us, empowered and educated. At its worst it has served as an anasthetic to reality, losing us in the midst of inane stories and chintzy advertisements purporting to deliver us into an illusory yet promised future.

Two movies come to mind challenging our notion of television's importance, power and potential. Good Night and Good Luck details thes battles of Ed Murrow against the extremes of McCarthyism in the US in the 1950s. His speech to the Radio and News Television Directors Guild in 1958 raised a challenge which resonates today. Murrow said:

It may be that the present system, with no modifications and no experiments, can survive. Perhaps the money-making machine has some kind of built-in perpetual motion, but I do not think so. To a very considerable extent the media of mass communications in a given country reflect the political, economic and social climate in which they flourish. That is the reason ours differ from the British and French, or the Russian and Chinese. We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent. We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late....

To those who say people wouldn't look; they wouldn't be interested; they're too complacent, indifferent and insulated, I can only reply: There is, in one reporter's opinion, considerable evidence against that contention. But even if they are right, what have they got to lose? Because if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost.

This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful.

Stonewall Jackson, who knew something about the use of weapons, is reported to have said, "When war comes, you must draw the sword and throw away the scabbard." The trouble with television is that it is rusting in the scabbard during a battle for survival.

A second movie, Network, in which Howard Beale castigates his audience:

You're beginning to believe the illusions we're spinning here, you're beginning to believe that the tube is reality and your own lives are unreal. You do. Why, whatever the tube tells you: you dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube, you even think like the tube. This is mass madness, you maniacs. In God's name, you people are the real thing, WE are the illusion.

...Right now, there is a whole, an entire generation that never knew anything that didn't come out of this tube. This tube is the gospel, the ultimate revelation; this tube can make or break presidents, popes, prime ministers; this tube is the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, and woe is us if it ever falls into the hands of the wrong people... when the 12th largest company in the world controls the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network?

At the age of 50, we find that the major celebrities of our time are news presenters. The death of Richard Carlton at Beaconsfield took the battle of the miners off the headlines... ironic that the one who reports the news becomes it. Politicians have realised this, and the best ones exploited it. "Reality shows" have become standard fare - we watch "Big Brother", but what are we ingesting?

Has the television been more of an asset or liability? Without a doubt, at its best, its value is beyond question. But these moments have been few and far between. We get little independent news, little bold critique of culture and politics, largely due to the need for the advertising dollar. Why bite the hand?

Where will television be in another 50 years? Will the decentralised media of the internet erode its power and centrality, or will the resources of the massive media corporations still dominate news flow? Many questions.

Can we rely on the TV to bring us the truth? How can we be sure, and where else do we look?

Posted by gary at 09:15 PM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2006

Church signs

Do you reckon they ought to licence people before they are allowed to produce these things?

Picture(45).jpg
I first saw this at the time of the Commonwealth Games, but it was still up when I went by last week.

And I received an email from a friend who told me about another one...
I was in Auckland a few weeks ago and saw a sign outside a church ... It was a big black, white and green billboard in the Apple i-pod formation that had a silhouette of a minister with the white dog collar and the word “i-God”.

Posted by gary at 10:57 PM | Comments (0)

June 12, 2006

Comments now working

I've had a few problems with the comments feature over recent days. This has now been fixed... (thanks Matt!) You need a typekey registration (or follow the links in the comments section to register). This has been an unfortunate but necessary switch because of spam levels. Thanks for your patience.

Posted by gary at 08:13 AM | Comments (0)

June 11, 2006

Perhaps we taught them too well...

democracy.jpg

Posted by gary at 10:43 PM | Comments (0)

June 10, 2006

Looking for inspiration

You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. - Jack London (1876-1916)

Posted by gary at 09:11 AM | Comments (0)

June 09, 2006

A Special Message

But you have to go here to see it.

Posted by gary at 10:49 PM | Comments (0)

June 08, 2006

Do you know me?

Wonder if you know the following people. It is more than likely that you do, but under another name:

Rosalie Qualley
Curtis Jackson
Ellas Bates
Caryn Elaine Johnson
William Claude Dukenfield

and there's more here.

Check out your answers here.

Rosalie Qualley (full name rosalie anderson-mcdowall qualley) = Andie McDowall
Curtis Jackson = 50 cent
Ellas Bates = Bo Diddly
Caryn Elaine Johnson = Whoopi Goldberg
William Claude Dukenfield = W.C.Fields

Posted by gary at 06:13 PM | Comments (0)

June 07, 2006

Condensed Movies

With the pace of life being as it is, here is the link sent from heaven (or the other place, depending on whether you view increasing the pace of life even further as a good thing!) Watch movies in a minute! Yes, that's right - why waste hours when you can gain the thrust of the movie in sixty seconds?! Includes such classics as "You've Got Mail", "Die Hard", and "When Harry Met Sally". And who could think of a better use of time than to reduce the whole Rocky movie series to a collection of one-minute vignettes? Check it out.

Posted by gary at 01:04 PM | Comments (0)

June 05, 2006

Heading off for a while

In about two weeks we (my family and I) will be heading off on some extended leave, taking in some of the sights of the most remote parts of Australia, as we travel up through the Red Centre of Australia to Darwin, then return through the Kimberleys and down the West Coast of Australia, then crossing the Nullarbor on the way home. If you would like to keep up with our reflections on the journey, head across to our travel blog, which is called "heardaboutaustralia".

With the temperatures hitting a wintry 4 degrees in the morning, Darwin's high 20s look especially alluring!

Posted by gary at 09:27 PM | Comments (0)

June 01, 2006

Exercise for those over 45

For those who are approaching their golden years... this might be helpful. Here is an exercise suggested for adults over 45 and seniors, to build muscle strength in the arms and shoulders. It seems so easy, so I thought I'd pass it on. Just don't over-do it.
Begin by standing on a comfortable surface, where you have plenty of room at each side. With a 5kg potato sack in each hand, extend your arms straight out from your sides, and hold them there as long as you can. Try to reach a full minute, then relax.
Each day, you'll find that you can hold this position for just a bit longer.
After a couple of weeks, move up to 10kg potato sacks, then 50kg potato sacks, and eventually try to get to where you can lift a 100kg potato sack in each hand and hold your arms straight for more than a full minute.
After you feel confident at that level, put a potato in each of the sacks.

Posted by gary at 06:58 PM | Comments (0)

Problems with the Da Vinci Code?

Many are concerned with debunking the fundamental tenets of Dan Brown's book, but howstuffworks tackles it at a different level - holes in the unfolding plot. Seems Mr Brown not only has trouble with history, he also has some technological troubles and problems with soap, amongst other things. Howstuff works takes a look at the technology, science, art and history of this best seller.

Posted by gary at 12:07 AM | Comments (0)

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