Category Archives: In Our Time

The long-awaited collapse of the ‘bundle’

Sopranos

This is me in the past, wondering why I couldn’t just pay for the channels, or specific shows, that I actually wanted to see.

Back when I was editorial page editor, Bud Tibshrany used to ask me out to lunch about once a year. That’s because he was doing PR for Time Warner Cable, and his job required that he check in with me periodically, and going to lunch with him was less of an interruption to operations that a full editorial board meeting. I had to eat anyway.

Each year, he’d ask me if I had any questions about Time-Warner or the industry. And I always had just one question: When will I be able to buy channels a la carte instead of having to pay for scores of channels I didn’t want just to get AMC? It was really all I wanted to know.

I knew I was being a pain, but he asked.

The answer was always the same: Not in the foreseeable future. The cable providers’ hands were tied by the contractual demands of the content providers, and so forth. Which was true.

True then, that is. Times are a-changin’:

Web streaming is upending the neat arrangement long enjoyed between TV channels and cable providers such as Verizon and Comcast. Verizon pays ESPN and other channels a certain amount to carry their programming, a cost that gets factored into customers’ monthly bills. But with consumers complaining about paying for too many channels and switching to online streaming alternatives such as Netflix, cable firms are feeling the pressure to cut costs — and even drop channels, especially those with plummeting ratings.

The swift decline in cable has been particularly harmful for Viacom, which typically presses cable distributors to run all of its channels — including MTV, VH1, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon — or none of them. The company announced this week that it will cancel some shows and lay off staff as part of a broad restructuring plan….

Talk about creative destruction.

Just last night, in response to an invitation via my Apple TV, I signed up for a free one-month trial of HBO NOW, which markets itself with the pithy tagline, “Now, all you need is the Internet.”

Well, that and $14.99 a month, which I probably will not spring for when the free month is up.

But in the meantime, it’s pretty awesome. We watched “Jersey Boys” last night, and enjoyed it. I see that I can catch up completely on “Game of Thrones” if I care to binge, starting with the first season. Or watch “The Sopranos” again all the way through, or any other series that has ever been on HBO. And I can send back that DVD from Netflix with the first episodes of “True Detective” on it. The whole series lies before me now.

Anyway, whatever I do going forward, I appreciate this brave new world…

Is anyone watching television anymore?

The New York Post reports that televisions ratings “see double digit declines for fifth straight month“.

Commercial ratings — the viewing “currency” that determines what advertisers pay for TV time — cratered across broadcast and cable networks, marking the fifth straight month of double-digit declines for the industry.

“It’s clear the downward spiral in TV ratings continues with no end in sight,” media analyst Michael Nathanson wrote in a research note on Friday.

Overall prime-time broadcast network ratings were off 12 percent last month compared to a year ago, while cable networks dropped 11 percent, according to his report.

Other than live sports, I really don’t watch television anymore. I have a few shows that the wife and I watch together after the children are all settled, but we don’t watch them live. 99% of the time the program is usually something streaming from either Netflix or Amazon. For movies, it’s the same thing. In fact, if it wasn’t for sports, I’d probably wouldn’t have a subscription to regular television.

Also, ever since the new year, I’ve been trying to cut down on the television watching. For me, watching television is like eating junk food – it’s fun while you’re doing it, but you feel guilty afterwards. Most of the time, I feel like I’ve wasted my time just watching tv. I mean, honestly, almost anything you do is more worthy that sitting in front of the Idiot Tube and being hypnotized by the beams of light coming out of it. I kind of think the television has something to do with the shape of this country. Watching (most) television makes you dumb, disconnected, and lazy.

It also makes it easy to just waste your entire night, and by extension all your nights. Television makes it so easy to simply do nothing. And we shouldn’t do nothing. We only have a little time on this earth, and watching television isn’t the way to spend it.

Some of the best nights I have are reading books, playing with my children and actually talking to people. Unless we’re talking about having the television on in the background when you’re doing mindless work with no one around, watching television is always an inferior choice to doing anything.

Accordingly, I’m glad that cable television is going down the tubes. Unfortunately, it’s probably due to all the other ways that we now have to distract ourselves.

All y’all already know this, but I’m encouraging everyone to try and make better choices with how we spend our time. Television is never usually the right choice.

Petition to have GOP Senators jailed now has over 241,000 signatures

As of now, over 241,000 people have signed a petition on the White House website to have 47 GOP Senators put in jail. Here’s the entire petition.

On March 9th, 2015, forty-seven United States Senators committed a treasonous offense when they decided to violate the Logan Act, a 1799 law which forbids unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments. Violation of the Logan Act is a felony, punishable under federal law with imprisonment of up to three years.

At a time when the United States government is attempting to reach a potential nuclear agreement with the Iranian government, 47 Senators saw fit to instead issue a condescending letter to the Iranian government stating that any agreement brokered by our President would not be upheld once the president leaves office.

This is a clear violation of federal law. In attempting to undermine our own nation, these 47 senators have committed treason.

So, it’s come to this. I’m so old, I remember when it was absolutely shocking and beyond the pale to say that President didn’t love his country. Now, we’re cool with saying that 47 Senators have committed treason?

Gotcha. Interesting times we live in.

Don’t open that email! I’ve been hacked…

I just went out to pick up some lunch, and on the way there and back, I heard from two people via text and two by phone that they had received an email from me that said something about a Google Doc.

Well, I did not send ANY such message. Apparently, my ADCO account has been hacked.

DON’T open it!

I apologize for any inconvenience…

These crazy kids today: They prefer to read dead trees

I spoke to the newsroom staff of The Daily Gamecock on Friday, and learned a surprising thing: While older folks (alumni and parents) tend to read the online version, most actual students don’t. They prefer to read it on paper.

In a couple of ways that makes sense — the students can pick up the paper for free as they go into and come out of classes, so it’s just convenient to pick one up and peruse it. Meanwhile, alumni and parents don’t have such easy access to the print version.

But it still surprised me. I mean, I have easy access to The State and The Wall Street Journal, as I get both at home. But I almost never read them on paper. I prefer the iPad apps. It’s just easier to flip through the paper on a tablet while sitting at the breakfast table than to unfold the paper, turn the pages, try to fold it back into a convenient size and shape for continued reading, and so forth. And it always seems like the section you want has walked away somewhere. That doesn’t happen with a tablet.

And I never see the print version of The Washington Post, to which I also subscribe, at all.

So what’s with these wacky kids today?

I learned of this seeming anomaly from Sarah Scarborough, the advertising manager for Student Media. She told me about it before I met the news staff. Then it came up again while I was talking with the students, as they asked whether I had any ideas for making the online version more appealing to their fellow students.

But this is not just a USC phenomenon. One of the things I read on my Washington Post app this morning was this:

Why digital natives prefer reading in print. Yes, you read that right.

February 22 at 7:27 PM

Frank Schembari loves books — printed books. He loves how they smell. He loves scribbling in the margins, underlining interesting sentences, folding a page corner to mark his place.

Schembari is not a retiree who sips tea at Politics and Prose or some other bookstore. He is 20, a junior at American University, and paging through a thick history of Israel between classes, he is evidence of a peculiar irony of the Internet age: Digital natives prefer reading in print.

“I like the feeling of it,” Schembari said, reading under natural light in a campus atrium, his smartphone next to him. “I like holding it. It’s not going off. It’s not making sounds.”

Textbook makers, bookstore owners and college student surveys all say millennials still strongly prefer print for pleasure and learning, a bias that surprises reading experts given the same group’s proclivity to consume most other content digitally. A University of Washington pilot study of digital textbooks found that a quarter of students still bought print versions of e-textbooks that they were given for free.

“These are people who aren’t supposed to remember what it’s like to even smell books,” said Naomi S. Baron, an American University linguist who studies digital communication. “It’s quite astounding.”…

Anyone else find this surprising?

You’re worried about spoiling your skin with a ZIT? Really?

Zit

Last time I went to the mall, I ran across these pictures.

This time, what caught my eye was this instance of extreme irony.

Take a look at this guy, and look at what he’s advertising.

So let’s see — “every single day,” he uses this expensive product so that he doesn’t get acne. You know, zits — those things that are here today, gone tomorrow, and that in any case, you usually (but not always) outgrow around the time you become an adult and have other things to worry about.

And yet, he has deliberately and permanently defaced most of the visible skin on his body. I mean, if he had zits on his arms, who could even tell?

My daughter, who was with me in the mall, saw my sense of irony on this as being just another clueless old guy thing. She also told me who this model is. He’s someone famous, apparently. (And get this: He’s married to a Victoria’s Secret model, an unexpected tie to that previous post about posters in the mall. So I guess Proactive Plus really works.)

Look, even if I didn’t find all tattoos uniformly unappealing, I still wouldn’t get one. You know why? Mainly because they’re permanent. Because every day of my life, there’s something else I want to say. What I choose to say on Tuesday is not as pertinent, to me, as what I want to say on Wednesday. If I were to walk around with a sign hanging around my neck, I would keep changing, refreshing, refining and/or elaborating upon the message. With a computer screen, you start every day with a fresh canvas for self-expression. Or you can take yesterday’s and improve upon it. You only have one body. Cover it with tattoos, and you’re out of medium. Worse, you’ve got a bunch of stuff on you that you now regard as stupid, embarrassing, not quite the thing — something you’d like to at least edit, but you can’t.

You want to say something? Start a blog. Your medium is unlimited, and you can correct yourself, or even go back and delete stuff you’ve thought better of.

It is of course fitting that only (mostly) young people go in for this sort of thing. They haven’t learned that as they mature (assuming that they do), their notions of Ultimate Statements that they wish to make will evolve. (Personal disclosure: Most of my kids have tattoos. But they are all discreet, tasteful ones.)

There are only two scenarios in which I can remotely imagine having a tattoo — if I were a marine, or a sailor, and I was really drunk and bored one night (not a far-fetched prospect for that demographic) when I stumbled upon a tattoo parlor. If I were a marine, I’d get the letters “U.S.M.C.” on one deltoid, like the title character’s “S.P.Q.R” in “Gladiator” (and remember, the day came in which Maximus no longer wanted to make that statement). And if I were a sailor, a simple anchor. Because if you’re a marine or a sailor, that’s always a part of who you are.

Since neither of those scenarios is ever likely to occur at this point in my life, it’s a pretty safe bet that I’ll never get a tattoo…

Our new, entirely commercial, liturgical calendar, purged of all religion

A still from very shaky, low-res video I shot inside Macy's flagship store on 34th Street in New York on Black Friday, 2007.

A still from very shaky, low-res video I shot inside Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street in New York on Black Friday, 2007.

Once upon a time, we kept track of our days this way throughout what was termed Christendom:

  • Michaelmas — Sept. 29 — Not only a day to celebrate the archangels, and especially Michael, who defeated Lucifer in the original War on Terror. It was also the ending and beginning of the husbandman’s year, when the harvest was over and the bailiff of the manor would make out his accounts for the year. Big day, back when most of us were engaged with agriculture in one way or another.
  • All Saint’s Day — November 1 — Also known as All Hallows, making the night before… well, you get it, right?
  • First Sunday in Advent — fourth Sunday before Christmas, which this year was yesterday — The beginning, NOT of the Christmas season, but of the time of contemplative anticipation looking forward to the arrival of Jesus Christ into the world. Christmas begins, not ends, on Dec. 25, which if you go way back, was once Saturnalia. This occurred this past Sunday.
  • Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception — December 8 — No, this is not about the Virgin Birth, which is a whole separate concept. This was defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854, and he was infallible in setting out this dogma, because he spoke ex cathedra, and… well, it’s complicated. Elaborating might make Protestants’ heads hurt…
  • Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe — December 12 — This celebrates the appearance of the Virgin Mary to an American Indian named Juan Diego (who has his own feast day three days earlier). She spoke Nahuatl to him. Among us Catholics, she is the Patroness of the Americas.

Anyway, you get the idea. There wasn’t a day in the calendar that didn’t have its own, holy designation — if you belonged to a liturgical church. Although some feast days were more equal than others.

But as Bob Dylan would say, it used to go like that; now it goes like this:

  • The Day after Halloween — When you can start to see the Christmas displays in the stores.
  • Black Friday Eve — A day once given over to thanks to God is now increasingly the day when those who can’t wait a day to shop traipse to the stores.
  • Black Friday — Not to be confused with the one in 1688, when the Anglican bishops were imprisoned, or the one in 1929 when the market crashed, or any of a couple of dozen other dark days in history. No, this is a recurring day, the observance of which has crept up on us over the last few decades. It’s allegedly the biggest shopping day of the year, and the “black” has a couple of meanings — it’s a day without which merchants’ books might never get into the black, and it’s also a hellish day to go shopping.
  • Small Business Saturday — Just in case you only went to the chain stores on Friday.
  • Cyber Monday — The reason this falls on a Monday is that people like to do all their online stuff while they’re at work, something I discovered back when I started blogging and tracked my traffic by the day and hour. Anyway, this is the day when people buy the gifts that they looked at while showrooming on Friday.
  • Giving Tuesday — This is the only day in this new calendar that bears any relationship to the traditional reason for the season. I’ve gotten solicitations from several local nonprofits, wanting me to give today. This is the first time I remember being aware of this one.
  • The Day After Christmas — Once known as Boxing Day in some cultures, it’s now the second-biggest shopping orgy of the year, supposedly.

You’ll note that, with the exception of Giving Tuesday, this new liturgical calendar is about nothing holy or transcendent, but all about the gimme-gimme, pure commerce. For that matter, Giving Tuesday is about trying to adapt altruism to this new, entirely secular calendar of recognized (and much advertised) observances.

This formalization of the shopping calendar has pretty much taken place entirely within my lifetime.

What’s WRONG with these poor young women?

poster1

I mentioned earlier about going to the mall today.

While there, I puzzled over this poster in the Victoria’s Secret window: What’s wrong with this young woman? Is she ill? She looks peaked. Does her stomach hurt? Is she wasting away? Is this supposed to be a come-hither look? It seems rather off-putting instead. Has she been bitten by a “walker“? I want to offer her a blanket, and then step away in case it’s catching. It’s not exactly heroin chic, but it’s off in that direction. Are they trying to sell that bra? If so, this is no way to do it. It seems to be a burden to her, causing her shoulders to slump in defeat.

Poor thing…

But wow, she’s not nearly as strange as the one below, from a window a few yards away. What’s her thing? More like Devo chic, or wind-up doll chic?

Are these images supposed to be appealing? If so, to whom? Men? Women? Robots?

The popular aesthetic has taken a strange turn. Again.

poster2

Some things I will NOT look at on the Web

This news

Jennifer_LawrencecroppedGoogle has removed two links to a site hosting stolen nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence after requests by the actor’s lawyers.

The takedown requests were filed under the digital millennium copyright act (DMCA), with her lawyers Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp stating that the stolen photos impinged on Lawrence’s copyright….

… reminds me of this new category of Web content that I have gradually become aware of recently.

The Internet grants us access to almost anything that can be digitized. This is both a wonderful blessing and a terrible affliction. Once, I just had to avoid the dictionary to stay on task — if I looked up one word, I’d get sidetracked by fascination, as I’d inadvertently run into one interesting word that led to another that led to another.

Now, I never wonder about anything. No matter what I’m going at the time, if the thought begins to form, “I wonder…,” I stop and look it up — which in turn is likely to lead to link after link, because scratching that itch releases something in my brain, something related to what makes addicts act the way they do… hang on… dopamine. Dang, I could have sworn it was “endorphins,” but it turns out it’s dopamine. “Endorphins” would have given me an excuse to link to that clip in which Annette Bening says, in such a sexy way, that she digs “the endolphin rush.” Which, it turns out, is not that easy to find…

See what I mean?

But there are some things I won’t look at on the Web. There’s been a rash of them lately. They include:

  • The aforementioned nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence. I still agree with Ricky Gervais when he said celebrities should make it harder for hackers to get nude pics of them from their computers by not putting nude photos of themselves on their computers. But I have a responsibility in this, too, which is not to look when celebs fail to exercise that most basic form of good judgment.
  • The ISIL videos of the beheadings of Western journalists. I hear that they’re out there if you look, but I’m just not going to cooperate with the terrorists to the point of looking. I don’t need to get whipped up by viewing these atrocities; I’m fully committed to the “degrade and destroy ISIL” agenda without it.
  • The video of that football player beating up his girlfriend. Everybody has something that turns his stomach, and one that that does that to me is the very thought of a man hitting a woman. I have a very deeply conditioned response of revulsion at such a thing. I don’t ever want to see it. Just knowing it’s out there is bad enough.

What do you pointedly avoid online?

 

It’s so obvious that Ricky Gervais was right that it seems absurd to have to say so…

I mentioned this in a comment on a previous thread; I’ll give it its own post…

I see that Ricky Gervais has been castigated for Tweeting the following:

Screen-Shot-2014-09-01-at-3.12.17-PM

Now there‘s an assertion that should hold a permanent and honored place in the annals of “duh.” How could anyone question it, much less object?

And yet he’s being pilloried for… wait for it… “blaming the victim.” Which is possibly the most preposterous thing I’ve heard today…

Other causes envy the viral success of the ice-bucket challenge

Top staff at the Sisters of Charity Foundation, accepting the challenge last week.

Top staff at the Sisters of Charity Foundation, accepting the challenge last week.

On a previous thread, Silence expressed how tired he was of “everyone’s stupid ice bucket challenge videos.”

He’s not alone in that. Even this laudatory article (“The Perfect Viral Storm“) on an advertising industry site notes the meme’s “somewhat annoying ubiquity.”

That aside, there’s no denying that this is the best thing to happen in the fight against Lou Gehrig’s disease since, well, Lou Gehrig. (Even if, as Silence also pointed out, Gehrig may not have had ALS.)

Samuel Tenenbaum, head of Palmetto Health Foundation, made that very observation to me yesterday in a breakfast meeting in which he and I and Ashley Dusenbury were discussing the promotion of this year’s Walk for Life (watch for more coming on that very soon, teammates!). The Walk has been hugely successful, and they already have some mechanisms in place to make it even more successful this year, but Samuel stands ready to have ice dumped on him if it will make it more successful yet.

Then, over in the world of political advocacy, I received this yesterday from Conservation Voters of South Carolina:

Climate Challenge

Folks, here’s a challenge that doesn’t involve ice buckets.

When local officials, citizens and natural resource managers are meeting to prepare for sea level rise, wouldn’t you think it’s time for us to pay attention?  I challenge you to learn more about the public workshopsin Bluffton and St. Helena Island sponsored by the Beaufort County Planning Dept, Sea Grant Consortium and USC’s CISA.

When veterans talk about “climate security” and the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events to “critical infrastructure at home,” shouldn’t we take note? I challenge you to read Clay Middleton’s letter to the editor of The State.

When the Washington Post announces a series of climate editorials and observes that “despite ups and downs in the polling, a solid majority of Americans favors action to curb greenhouse emissions,” we are reminded of Governor Sanford’s warning in an op ed to that paper in February, 2007: “If conservatives cannot reframe, reclaim and respond to climate change with our principles intact, government will undoubtedly provide a solution, no matter how taxing it may be.”  I challenge you to ask Governor Haley to tell us where she stands on climate. Click here to send her a message

Yeah, she has a completely different point, but you can read in that lede a certain envy, a wish that her challenges might acquire the “somewhat annoying ubiquity” of the ALS phenomenon.

Success has that effect.

The new penitence: Using the ice bucket challenge to wash away one’s political sins

Editor’s note: This post has been corrected. The guy in the video is a candidate in Colorado, not Texas. Hence the picturesque mountains in the background.

Corey Hutchins brought this to my attention this morning via Twitter.

We have a self-described “right-wing Christian minister” running for the state House in Colorado who has accused a Democratic congressman of essentially being no better than the ISIS rebels who behead Christians (and others) in Iraq and Syria.

And above you see his video “apologizing” for his statement. Never mind that the “apology” is a passive-aggressive opportunity to repeat his points about the differences between himself and an “openly gay” Democrat. Never mind the problems with this passage:

I would never compare you to the ISIS rebels who behead Christians, right? Of course, you would never go in for something like that.

When a) he just did make that comparison, and b) the construction “you would never go in for something like that” bluntly reminds hearers just what the congressmen does go in for, nod, wink.

And forget the imputation that the only reason he has to “apologize” is that “some Democrats do not have a sense of humor”… about ISIS and beheadings of innocents.

What interests me about it is the way he uses the ice-bucket challenge as a sort of ecumenical-secular mode of baptism to wash away the political sins of which he apparently does not fully repent.

Wow. This meme is just insinuating itself into everything, isn’t it?

Note that he's baptizing HIMSELF, rather than having someone else administer it. Must be some fundamentalist Protestant thing...

Note that he’s baptizing HIMSELF, rather than having someone else administer it. Must be some fundamentalist Protestant thing…

I do not think Hemingway would do listicles, do you?

Hemingway

At first, I was pleased to see that Ernest Hemingway was following me on Twitter. It made me feel good, in the way that thing that are clean and true make a man feel when he is a man.

But then I perused the feed, and felt less good.

There were things that were true and right, such as:

But then there were the things that ruined it. You know the kind of things I mean. Things such as:

I do not believe the real Hemingway, the true Hemingway, would post such things. Do you?

A little ditty to help get you psyched for your next webinar, yo!

And now, from the genre of comedy that gave you “Dilbert” and “Office Space”…

If you’re all about lead generation (and who isn’t, homey?), you need to check this out, yo.

I found this in my inbox today:

Do you know DJ Dave, the dude who did the Whole Foods Parking Lot song? Well this guy from Workaholics and Dave teamed up on this video that I think your readers are going to go bananas over! B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

It’s one half marketing jargon and one half hip hop, one whole very funny video.

Check it out on the YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXRG0bJt7EA&feature=youtu.be

If you like it, it would be really awesome if you posted it or shared it.

As a bonus, I’ll throw in DJ Dave’s previous hit, “Whole Foods Parking Lot:”

Frankly, THIS looks kinda like spam to me…

I’m puzzled when I get automated replies like this, generally to having sent a “reply all” to a group:

I apologize for this automatic reply to your email.

To control spam, I now allow incoming messages only from senders I have approved beforehand.

If you would like to be added to my list of approved senders, please fill out the short request form (see link below). Once I approve you, I will receive your original message in my inbox. You do not need to resend your message. I apologize for this one-time inconvenience.

First, a message like that looks a lot like spam to me — it’s something I had to call up, thinking I have a reply to my message, only to find out I’m wasting my time looking at it.

Second — I find that spam filters work pretty well these days, compared to their lame antecedents 10 years or so ago. Avoiding spam just doesn’t sound to me like good reason to slam virtual doors in people’s faces. Does it to you?

I don’t hit “reply all” on anything unless I have something legitimate to share with the group. Once or twice a month is about it. It just doesn’t seem that I should encounter things like that in the year 2014.

But thanks for the apology, anyway…

OK, now THIS is impressive technology

This is very cool, and very impressive:

Your bag of potato chips can hear what you’re saying. Now, researchers from MIT are trying to figure out a way to make that bag of chips tell them everything that you said — and apparently they have a method that works. By pointing a video camera at the bag while audio is playing or someone is speaking, researchers can detect tiny vibrations in it that are caused by the sound. When later playing back that recording, MIT says that it has figured out a way to read those vibrations and translate them back into music, speech, or seemingly any other sound….

Alexei Efros, a University of California at Berkeley researcher, says in a statement…. “This is totally out of some Hollywood thriller. You know that the killer has admitted his guilt because there’s surveillance footage of his potato chip bag vibrating.” The research is being described in a paper that will be published at the computer graphics conference Siggraph.

Although it’s only marginally more amazing than what my iPhone can do — know me by my thumbprint, not by scanning it visually (which my laptop can do), but by touch. The sensor in the Home button is so sensitive that it reads the tiny ridges in my thumb — either thumb, from any angle — and recognizes the pattern. Which just floors me. This is that kind of analysis of the tiny, the subtle, taken to another level…

Explain to me how these are ‘public relations director’ jobs

 

PR 2

As I’ve mentioned before, back when I was job hunting after being laid off, I signed up for a bunch of services that were supposed to send me tips on jobs that were relevant to my skills and experience.

I’ve continued to get those emails, and they are often entertaining.

This one service, The Ladders, which specializes in placing executive-level job seekers, regularly sends me messages with the subject line, “Public relations director jobs for you.” I especially like that personal touch, the “for you” part, don’t you? Just for you; I didn’t compile public relations director jobs for anyone else but you…”

I’m not sure how The Ladders decided that that was the only type job I wanted, but it’s really fixated on it. I get an email like this from them every week or two, sometimes more often.

Here’s the thing, though — not once have they sent a tip on an actual “public relations director” job. At least, not since February, which is as far back as I’ve been saving them.

In addition to that “Commercial Escrow Officer” gem above — which in no way bears any relationship to anything on my resume — The Ladders has in recent months tipped me to the following “public relations director” opportunities:

  • Sr. Electronic Engineer / Support
  • Air Compressor Technician
  • Executive Assistant
  • Supervisor Meeting and Special Events
  • Executive Director
  • Military Analyst Lead
  • Veteran Arabic Levantine Linguist Analyst
  • Veteran Arabic Iraqi Linguist Analyst
  • Video Production Specialist
  • Army Mission Command Program Analyst Senior

What makes this worse is that The Ladders is really selective in what it sends me. Other services send me lists of 25 or 30 job openings at a time, many (but not all) of them just as irrelevant. But The Ladders picks one or two at a time especially for me!

And yeah, I see the thing that advises me, “To improve your matches, consider editing your job goals.” But I have no idea what username and password I set up for that service five years ago, and would it really be worth it? It obviously ignores the input from me it has now.

This would all just be a hoot if not for the fact that there are algorithms just as bad as this one screening resumes and rejecting them before they are ever viewed by a human. I’ve had plenty of experience with that. When your last job, the one you held for many years, is “vice president/editorial page editor,” if the prospective employer is anything other than a newspaper, their algorithm isn’t going to have a clue what to do with you. It takes a human to think, “Hmmm, here’s a guy who knows his community, knows the movers and shaker in both politics and business in the state, and has writing and other communications skills that could translate well to what I need…”

So forgive me if I don’t laugh uncontrollably at the fact that these programs are even worse at matching me to a job than Netflix is at figuring out what kinds of movies I like…

As Orkut fades, Facebook gets so full of itself that it starts using us as lab rats

473px-Logo_ORKUT.svg

Two stories today from the realm of social media.

First, the biggest social media platform that you never heard of is shutting down. That’s Google’s Orkut. Never heard of Orkut. That’s OK; it was sort of the Boxcar Willie of social media — it was huge overseas, if not here:

Google’s oldest social network, Orkut, is finally saying the long goodbye. On Monday the Orkut blog announced that Google will end support for the decade-old service on Sept. 30. If you’ve ever used Orkut, it’s time to trudge to Google Takeout—sometime before September 2016—and get your data out of there….

When Orkut gained Google Plus integration in 2012, it seemed like a sign that the end might be coming. But if you never used Orkut and aren’t feeling a wave of nostalgia, it’s because the service was never that big in the United States. In Brazil and India, on the other hand, it was a most-trafficked website for years. Now YouTube and, of course, Google Plus will be Google’s social focus. At least in death Orkut probably won’t be the butt of everyone’s mid-2000s jokes. Ahem, Myspace.

Orkut was actually started a month before Facebook. But what a different fate! Facebook has now become so big, so sure of itself, that it thought it could get away with conducting psychological experiments on its users without telling them. From The Guardian:

Facebook’s second most powerful executive, Sheryl Sandberg, has apologised for the conduct of secret psychological tests on nearly 700,000 users in 2012, which prompted outrage from users and experts alike.

The experiment, revealed by a scientific paper published in the March issue of Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, hid “a small percentage” of emotional words from peoples’ news feeds, without their knowledge, to test what effect that had on the statuses or “likes” that they then posted or reacted to.

“This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was; it was poorly communicated,” said Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer while in New Delhi. “And for that communication we apologise. We never meant to upset you.”

The statement by Sandberg, deputy to chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, is a marked climbdown from its insistence on Tuesday that the experiment was covered by its terms of service. The secret tests mean that the company faces an inquiry from the UK’s information commissioner, while the publishers of the paper have said they will investigate whether any ethics breach took place. Psychological tests on human subjects have to have “informed consent” from participants – but independent researchers and Facebook have disagreed on whether its terms of service implicitly cover such use…

In case you doubt whether Facebook is really, really sorry, check out this photo of Ms. Sandberg shrugging. Which may or may not reassure you…

Does ‘quality’ television really have to be so morally arid?

Does "quality" really have to be so dark, so morally arid?

Does “quality” really have to be so dark, so morally arid?

This is by way of following up on a brief exchange Kathryn and I had yesterday about the dearth of appealing characters in the TV shows that currently compel our attention.

Bryan sent me a link to this piece, headlined “The Moral Relativism Of Serial Television.” It’s actually several years behind the curve, with this observation:

The sweet spot for serial television drama right now exists on non-premium cable channels. After decades of dominance by the broadcast networks, followed by a period in which the premium cable channels broke the mold with hits that reached mainstream culture like OzThe Sopranos, and Dexter, non-premium channels like the Fox property FX, BBC America and AMC have rushed in to, at least temporarily, hold a lock on the highest volume of compelling drama on the small screen today.

That’s something I might have said two or three years ago (think “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead”). What I sense happening now, or about to happen now, is a shift beyond non-premium cable TV, and on to series made for streaming and bingeing, such as “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black.”

But the general observation of the piece is that there is a seemingly deliberate lack of characters to root for, or even care about, in the most compelling recent dramatic series.

It ends, as do so many episodes of these popular series, on a dark note:

It is at least marginally troublesome that as a society, our most compelling entertainment increasingly eschews the concept or even the ideal that good exists in the world and ultimately should prevail. An artistic criticism of this view can legitimately point out that life is rarely so neat as to allow for the inevitable victory of the white knight. However, the rejoinder to this point is that we are not considering real life but rather television, which exists because we would rather watch it than real life. The entire raison d’etre of the medium is to idealize real life interactions into conclusions that are satisfying on at least some visceral level. If our television tastes are any guide, America increasingly takes satisfaction from a muddled mess of emotional responses which are provoked by disorderly and sometimes directly contradictory stimuli. Perhaps, if a society can be judged by its entertainment, what we are witnessing is the leading edge of the end of America’s desire to collectively be the good guy, or even to support the good guy in his efforts to be good. Or perhaps we don’t need television to tell us this; perhaps we need look no further than the ballot box.

Do we really not want to find good in characters and root for it? I don’t think that’s the case, although there’s no doubt we are living in a more cynical world than the one I grew up in.

I think we are still human, and there is still good in us, and within us lives a desire to perceive good, and embrace it — however many times we’ve been disappointed. I think the dark, moral emptiness of these recent entertainments is a function of writers and directors who are trying to produce high-quality material, and who buy into the insidious notion that moral clarity is lowbrow and insufficiently “artistic.” So they steer clear of it.

But does “quality” really have to be so dark, so morally arid?

I think if someone would come along and produce similar series, but with the humanity-affirming characteristics that marked “The West Wing,” the world would joyfully cheer, and reward the effort with their loyal patronage.

Think of that — a new series with the cinematic quality of “Breaking Bad,” but with characters like Jed Bartlet and Leo McGarry and Josh Lyman — characters you want to see succeed. As I watch the series for the first time, each night as I work out, I simply don’t see any characters who are utterly lacking in appealing characteristics. Even the adversarial figures who try to thwart our heroes have understandable, sympathetic reasons for taking the positions they do. While there are occasional digressions from this approach (one of the weakest scenes I’ve encountered was the one in which Jed Bartlet humiliates a character based on Dr. Laura with what he seems to imagine is a clever manner, but which is painfully trite — by asking her whether she literally supports all of the strictures in the Old Testament), by and large there is an appealing understanding of everyone’s motives.

Which is the way we should all live our lives. We should take strong stands based on what our discernment has taught us to believe is right, but strive to appreciate the convictions of those with whom we disagree. It could serve as an antidote to the default mode of today’s partisans, which is to demonize opponents, and scoff at their motives.

Imagine that — television that not only gives us heroes to root for, but which shows us ways to be a better society.

Now that would be television worth watching.

D’oh! is right. What century do you think this is?

hulu

Seeing as how she and Warren have gotten into blogging lately, and grown more sophisticated in their use of social media and such, I was disappointed when I didn’t find an embedded video with the online version of Cindi’s column today.

After all, it started this way:

IN ONE OF MY favorite Saturday Night Live skits, a just-exonerated Bill Clinton walks to the podium in the Rose Garden for a news conference, gives a thumbs-up to his supporters, declares “I … am … bulletproof,” and walks away. After a moment, he turns, walks back to the podium and adds: “Next time, you best bring Kryptonite.”

Our legislators must feel the same way after Circuit Judge Casey Manning discovered that they have bulletproof armor that protects them from criminal prosecution….

You have to realize what a special thing it is for Cindi Scoppe to make a pop culture reference that way. She doesn’t do pop culture. She is the most all-work-and-no-play person I know, and her readers are the beneficiaries of that affliction. So I particularly appreciated this reference, and immediately went hunting for a video clip…bulletproof

which I could not find. At least, not right away. (I’d be happy for some of y’all to show me what I missed.)

Oh, I found one that may have been the right one. NBC had taken it down. And then added insult to injury by saying, “Don’t worry, though. We have plenty of other stuff to watch.” Like I’m here to be entertained. Like any other “stuff to watch” will compensate for the lack of the one clip I need, the one being quoted.

Join the 21st century, folks. Rather than hiding your content, leverage it by allowing other media — including blogs and even newspapers — to praise your creativity and urge other people (perhaps people who have the time and inclination to watch that “other stuff” you’re offering) to seek it out. You’ll be a winner in the long run.

Sheesh…