Sunday, November 30, 2008

And then

Pre-entitlement-crisis bliss

This year's third trip to New York was going swimmingly:
  • Redeye care of EliteRewards: easier than ever.
  • JFK meetup with my transportation concierge and travel buddy Christina: seamless.
  • "Check-in" to Caspian's Castle aka the Dorman Brownstone Residence: smooth as silk.
  • Spin at New York City Sports Club 3 blocks up Columbus: endorphin-rich.
  • Times Square Church and Redeemer Pres and meeting up with friends: all good.
  • Coffee in Greenwich Village: realllyyy good.
  • Observing uninhibited breakdancing in subway: really FUN.
  • Ellis Island: wow. Required viewing for any anti-immigration American.
  • Moby's "Teany" tea shop in Lower East Side: though failing to satiate, swank.
  • Real Turkish kebabs next to Teany's: satisfying.
  • Central Park on a calm just-before-Thanksgiving day: dreamy.
  • The Met: Big. The Met's Renaissance art exhibit on love: replete with timeless themes.
  • Culture and thinking: everywhere.
  • Patty's new digs: phat.
And then....
I'd like to think that the theft of my iPhone was so destabilizing and disruptive for more erudite reasons than feeling the instinctive sting of injustice as a victim of theft...both by the NYSC member as well as AT&T, which does not provide insurance and locks you into a new contract when your uninsurable device is stolen but ah I digress...sort of....

No, I'm jonesing to claim more sophisticated reasons for my indignation, far better articulated by the indescribably sage media visionary Marshall McLuhan, who wrote that, in fact, our media "shapes and controls the scale and form of human interaction." Yes, of course! I was in fact so poignantly paralyzed by this loss precisely because media technology (of which the iPhone proves incredibly illustrative) "alter(s) our sense ratios (and) patterns of perception"....and "configure(s) the awareness and experience of each one of us."

AppleStore: cathedral of current-day thing-worship

Fortunately my umbilical cord to the modern world was restored within hours, after a trip to the divinely salvific AppleStore on 5th & Park and the calm, steady hand of Jonathan Clem, Genius helper, and ever-solid travel and life companion Christina who did the final iTunes hookups later on and thoroughly ignored my impudent whining (who is how old again?).

AppleStore professional Jonathan Clem Brechtan-ly takes on the horror of my loathesome prolifigate spending so I can stay in my happy place and focus on the mileage credit....

So by 3pm I was back. Back to perceiving, attuning, intuiting, processing, communicating and connecting the way I've so quickly become accustomed to doing and feeling fully justified for my reaction to the whole debacle given McLuhan's advanced observations.

And then....
I read about the Wal-Mart employee trampled to death on aptly-named Black Friday - a tragic picture of the sickness of our consumer culture which has led us to our current economic condition. Perhaps the grimmest thing I read:
"When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, 'I've been in line since yesterday morning.'....They kept shopping."
At what point do we become so embroiled in our own existence that we lose all sense of right and wrong? Of the well-being of others?
I hope I will always be awake enough to avoid the gentle slopes and instead keenly identify where the signposts of my behavior are pointing to ensure ongoing, eternal course-correction.

NYSC: home to spin classes and iPhone thieves.

Re-connected and pacified at Rockefeller Center that evening.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bring on the new

Or maybe not so new.

Tony Campolo, for one, has been around forever. Yet I'm thrilled to report that his prophetic-while-pragmatic voice has remained consistent.* Campolo is mentioned in The Root's piece on faith implications of the New Administration...sample quote:
Where Bush has been a Christian imperialist, Obama will be a Christian pluralist.
Rather than "new", however, I'd prefer to think of this transition as a "correction": and not just back to the pre-Bush era, but a bit in, to about two THOUSAND years ago, when Christ ushered in an era where true change can and does only take place at the heart (and not at the political) level. 

Also not new is how much this approach disappoints zealots, and back then, too.

*and just learned Campolo's esteemed comrade Jim Wallis is a fellow Detroiter: hallelujah! We'll take what we can get! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Neural networks

I pride myself on the breadth of my network. There are, however, reassuring exceptions.

You and this LinkedIn user don’t know anyone in common.

You can only view the profiles of users within your network. However, as you add connections, you may discover people you know in common.

Am I reading too much into the color theme here?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It's that time

The signs are evident:
  • Wincing at the offended glare when I gently brushed someone's foot on MUNI.
  • Asking the gym member for clarification when her "sorry" was supposed to be heard as "can you please move over?" (this direct request was never verbalized).
  • Becoming enamored with New Journalism again.

Yep: it's time for my New York fix. They seem to be getting more frequent.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Geek adulation o' the day

Current prophetic flava: Marshall McLuhan.

While he is most known for the "medium is the message" tagline, I'm learning that this man indeed left us with a vast treasure-trove of advanced and prescient observations with respect to media.* Space and A.D.D. constraints prevent us from doing justice to this man's thinking, so for now, let's apply his sagacity to some media du jour -- namely:

Facebook...and yes, a Palinesque shout-out to the beloved Blogger you find yourself currently reading. These partially constitute "Web 2.0"..."social networking"...which is likely now just a part of our daily lives (even for us luddites), and are creating whole new ways of engaging and interacting.

Of course, this is not news. That is, until you realize just how significantly the protocols and nuances of our communication are changing because of these new media:
  1. The development of what some social scientists have termed “ambient awareness" which is "very much like being physically near someone and picking up on his mood through the little things he does — body language, sighs, stray comments — out of the corner of your eye"...only digitally so via "pokes", news feeds and posts.
  2. The realization that this sort of micro-broadcasting -- like other forms of free speech -- will create conflicts. Even the idealistically liberterian founders of Facebook were confronted with that this week.
And so what?

So when I post something on Facebook, it gets "fed" - or pushed - to many many people who may or may not be up for seeing what I have to share (see video clip at the bottom of this post for a comedic but accurate portrayal of just how special "Facebook friendships" are :-). But, on the other hand, if you choose to "come" to this blog, that is more of a "pull" than a "push" kind of thing. Subtle? Makes all the difference. This became all too clear this election season, when people posted news articles, clips, videos, etc. that took ambient awareness to all sorts of levels because they were prolifically fed on "friends'" feeds with just one click.

But enough of my bumbling: I'd rather defer to my new flava Marshall, who used 4 questions ("the tetrad") to evaluate in a more lucid and structured way what the implications are of such media innovations. They follow here; my suggestion would be to fill in the blanks as you see them with respect to our current "Web 2.0" platforms....with a particular emphasis on #4:
  1. "What does it (the medium or technology) extend?" In the case of a car it would be the foot, in the case a phone it would be the voice.
  2. "What does it make obsolete?" Again, one might answer that the car makes walking obsolete, and the phone makes smoke signals and carrier pigeons unnecessary.
  3. "What is retrieved?" The sense of adventure or quest is retrieved with the car, and the sense of community returns with the spread of telephone service. One might consider the rise of the cross-country vacation that accompanied the spread of automobile ownership.
  4. "What does the technology reverse into if it is over-extended?" An over-extended automobile culture longs for the pedestrian lifestyle, and the over-extension of phone culture engenders a need for solitude.
* McLuhan predicted over 40 yrs ago that the world would be "connected" as a "Global Village"; analogous prophetic discoveries of late include Roubini for Tocqueville for Democracy...Mike Judge to America....

And the promised video clip:

Friday, November 14, 2008


oops wrong soundbyte. I meant to say:



U.S. Representative Jeb Hensarling (who hails from the one other state besides Michigan that causes an inordinate amount of grief to our nation*), latched onto the "bailout" bandwagon when he told (more grief) Fox News: “You wonder where bailout-mania will end.”

Mr. Hensarling said American automakers should bear responsibility for their failed operations. “They are producing high-cost products that consumers don’t want to buy. And so now we have Washington on the verge of giving them a bailout simply because we have all heard of them and they have high-priced lobbyists.”

Ok sorry: this is where I must now intervene...and for reasons beyond a feral need to defend my beleaguered hometown. Because, not only is the above statement simply untrue (consumers DO want to buy gas guzzlers when gas is cheap), but there are several things that differentiate the Big 3 (an admittedly nostalgic descriptor these days) automakers from the financial services firms. Namely, the automakers have**:

  • high fixed costs for manufacturing
  • a heavily unionized workforce that adds a prohibitive cost element and restricts competitiveness globally
  • an extensive supply chain that impacts various elements of the economy (steel, textiles, electronics, manufacturing)
  • environmental implications which have only recently been uncovered and require regulation...nearly one century after the industry structured itself without these considerations
  • an aging labor demographic that, if abandoned by the existing pension commitments, stands to significantly...significantly drain the federal government's social services

None of the above conditions apply to the Wall Street firms. And, none of the above conditions are remotely likely to be re-created in another industry any time soon. And as such, the moral hazard moniker being used to avoid aiding the Big 3 simply doesn't stick here.

Oh, and isn't the proposal on the table for the automakers just for about $25B of the (as of today) $700B+ in assistance funds? So if moral hazard is irrelevant and just 1/28 of the $ set aside thus far is all we're talking about, what is the real story behind the lack of political will?

As much as I really wanted to get the hell out of Dodge (viva la double entendre) when I left the Great Lakes State, I sure don't want it to be a total black star.

*and provides yet even more grief in his role as chair of the paradoxically-named Republican Study Committee.

** credit for this list goes in part to Salon poster Elephantman who provided much insight into the unique history & economics of the auto industry

Monday, November 10, 2008

Geek Undoing

Thank you Nicholas Kristof for articulating so beautifully why the most intelligent people can still come up lacking for me:
An intellectual is a person interested in ideas and comfortable with complexity. Intellectuals ... appreciate ...that the world abounds in uncertainties and contradictions, and — President Bush, lend me your ears — that leaders self-destruct when they become too rigid and too intoxicated with the fumes of moral clarity.
Dingdingdingding: it's not raw intelligence, but rather it's that need to discover and pursue ideas that does me in. Partially because this belies a sense of humility in admitting to not commanding all the facts, and knowing that there is more that always lies beyond the grasp of the knower....

Talk To Me!!

And to my beloved interventionists concerned with my priorities: have no fear. I remain promiscuous in my infatuations! Latest exhibit: Nate Silver, who not only embodies all of the above (as do O and Rahmbo), but took it one step further:


And he also gets the bonus credit of rescuing my home state back from the clutches of obsolescence.

Go Tigers.

Flavah of the day: this fellow Michigander is geekdom, business and baseball all in one package! I'm undone.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

I am no respecter of persons...

....when the person legitimately commands my respect.

Barely 48 hours in and no prisoners are being taken.

In 1651, Thomas Hobbes outlined the dangers of unadulterated libertarianism, stating it leads to a life that is "nasty, brutish, and short".*

In 2008, the New Administration is ensuring this doesn't happen. Act 1: Rahmbo, whom the Chicago Tribune has rather described as "profane, ruthless and savvy."

Bring it on, O!

While I have always appreciated the Brits....

....I am really growing in my appreciation of Israelis. Lest anyone accuse me of being starry-eyed for just ONE man.

*this phrase actually became emblazened in my memory as The Red Herring magazine's unofficial legal counsel circa 1995.... attorneys out there, please take no offense despite intent

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Audacity of Hope

Hope that I will no longer be flabbergasted.
Hope that I will no longer be reduced to a fetal-positioned wet noodle.

Despite the merciless, incessant, unrelenting inanity, I will remain....audaciously hopeful.

Please stay here.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Some things bear repeating

For example.... perfection. To resume my rhetorical questioning (albeit this time in the most positive light):

How often can we truly bask in the presence of greatness? I'm going to savor it as long as I can....images below selected from The Boston Globe:


Grace. Dang: our PREZ?

Cooollllllll factor on steroids. I mean again...our PREZ?

Possibility. The future is ours to lose.

Today my friend Teresa accused me of becoming an Obama Girl. I plead guilty.... but of course, on a far less hoochie and far more enlightened level.

Baracked indeed!

Results on state props not yet in and lalalala because for now: We Dance!

Listening with mirth to acceptance speech at Yerba Buena

Christina & I jam to the bit of good music to be had at YB before heading out to where the real partying was taking place....

....which of course would be...MY 'hood....we released the Obam-uppet from the fridge to join the fray.

NOW it's a party: me, Christina and Obamuppet

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Avert the eyes

When something or someone tries to be what they aren't it's like roadkill.

In this case: an epic (multi-million dollar) demonstration that MSFT Really. Doesn't. Get it.
Microsoft Corp., engrossed in multi-million dollar marketing blitz to counter comical ads from rival Apple, Inc., is now using a portion of its budget to fuel guerilla retail tactics near the Mac maker's stores.

Did they have to drag Jerry into this?....

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Finance is the new sexy

Theoretical? Abstract? Removed?

It's been over 9 months since I emailed some friends a snarky-yet-frighteningly-incisive piece laying out the intricacies of the current sub-prime-and-the-kitchen-sink crisis. Fast-forward to today, where the NYT tells the exact same story, detailing the tragic implications that this human propensity for denial has had on school districts, municipal authorities and local governments (and of course, all of their attendant constituencies = us) around the globe.

A sad taste of the destructive ripple:
...the transportation authority has already announced it will raise subway and train fares next year because of various fiscal problems, and may be forced to shrink the work force and reduce some bus routes. Some analysts say fares will probably rise again in 2010.
People have always wanted to be the exception. To not, as someone recently said, "be average" but to be "above average." This means timing the markets. Escaping risks that, while explained to you, don't really apply to you. This is not new. But, what has changed is the scope and the degree of interdependence that results from this behavior.

Time for financial literacy to get sexy!