Tag Archives: technology

Dissecting more techno cheerleaders in the media. Case study: the iPad in classrooms

For writers, bloggers  and so-called journalists working in the media today, playing to the prejudices of their readers is part of their job. This is especially true for journalists and columnists who write about technology. When your readership consists of people who own a smartphone (or two), a tablet, and a laptop, reminding them that they are ‘cool,’  and ‘cutting edge’ will earn you a loyal following.

Let’s examine a recent article from the same glossy magazine which we looked at in my previous article. The author is a grade 2 homeroom teacher at a well-known international school in Ho Chi Minh City. The article is only six paragraphs long. The editors could have made it longer but chose to use one third of the page to post a color photo of a seven-year-old girl with a huge smile on her face holding an Ipad. We haven’t even gotten to the first sentence and already we know what direction the article is going to take. The upper right hand corner of the page has a professional photo of the author, an attractive woman in her 20s with perfect teeth who is smiling broadly. We, the readers, have been set up nicely to drink the  kool-aid which is being served.

The title of the article is “Techie Students- How tablets have enhanced learning.” The author wastes no time establishing her thesis which she posits clearly in the first sentence, stating…”using iPads in the classroom has been ideal for promoting new ways of learning.” Hmm,’promoting new ways of learning.’ That’s a big statement. She claims that the iPad is not just a tool which can be used in addition to books, but that it helps us learn in new ways.  If she means that all the lessons can now be given on the computer with bright flashing graphics, cartoon characters, and games, than I guess that qualifies.

The following sentence reads like an advertisement from Apple: “The iPad is a perfect digital tool for our young learners because it’s small, portable, visual, and hands-on..” Hey, this woman could be a sales rep. The author goes on to say that she avoids using it as a form of entertainment but rather as a way to empower her students to channel their interests and for ‘discovery, creation and collaborative learning.’ That’s wonderful, but can’t all of those things be done just as well without iPads or computers? Can’t you ‘discover’ things in books? Do you need a computer to create something beautiful and meaningful? All you need to create is a pencil and piece of paper. Or a canvas and paintbrushes. Or an instrument.

It gets worse. The author claims that ‘the tablets are excellent for developing research skills.’ No, they aren’t. Tablets do not develop research skills. I also work with ‘young learners’ and I can tell you that their research skills are generally very deficient, in spite of the fact that they spend hours per day on computers. Punching in a search term on google does not qualify as ‘research skills.’ Here’s how most students today do ‘research’ : They enter a term on google. They quickly choose either the first or second entry that appears on the screen, rarely even scrolling to the bottom of the page and practically never going beyond page one of search results. They don’t know how to distinguish between different sources and none of them understand that wikipedia is  fallible and biased.

Checking their Facebook in lecture hall:

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I’m only on the third paragraph but the writer’s insipid line of reasoning and her ‘rah-rah’ cheerleading for the the techno-school has left me somewhere between complete boredom and frustration. Check out this line: “Less cumbersome and more effective than dictionaries, we often use google translate or google images when coming across unknown words or concepts.” Is she kidding? A dictionary is ‘cumbersome?’ Actually, looking up words in dictionaries utilizes ancillary skills and often will lead students to other unfamiliar words as they are flipping through the pages. Punching in a word on google requires you to use far less of your brain  than looking it up in a dictionary, but this clueless teacher is so caught up in her flashing lights of her screens that she can’t see that. And Google Translate? If this teacher has really  used it, then she must know that the translations between languages are often horribly wrong. She’s teaching her students that google is God. She claims that she is ’empowering’ them, when what she is really doing is making them into little robotic consumers of digital garbage.

The author claims her grade 2 students are becoming ‘independent in their learning.’ Wow. I’ve read somewhere that Mozart was independent in his learning when he was seven years old, but that’s the only example I can think of. What does this woman think her students are going to do when teacher is not around? Do research on the causes of the French Revolution? No. They will play computer games or go into Facebook. Surely she knows that and we the readers know that, but she thinks her audience is so stupid that she can throw out this drivel and nobody will call her on it.

Who needs books?

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Techno teacher then tells us that she has her students make movies during class time using iMovie. The students even made a zombie movie! Yippee! After hyping iMovie, she then goes on to hype another app, this one called ‘Comic Life.’ You can guess where this is all leading.

This article is about as one-sided as you can get. It, and so many similar articles in the media, pitch the argument that ‘technology is great.’ Also, ‘technology enhances learning.’ And most of all, ‘technology empowers people.’

Since most parents today buy their young children smart phones and tablets by the time they are able to walk, the author is simply cozying up to them and telling them that they are doing the right thing. Furthermore, the school is staying at the cutting edge by ‘utilizing the latest technology in the classroom.’  Digital content and techno learning has not made us any smarter and never will. I suggest the author obtain a copy of “The Dumbest Generation” by  Mark Bauerlein and carefully read it before she writes any more articles.

 

 

Dissecting the techno cheerleaders in the media

Humanity is on an inexorable march towards transhumanism. Led by the likes of ‘futurist’ Ray Kurzweil, the transhumanist propaganda machine utilizes the media to its full potential  and employs a small army of writers, bloggers, and media personalities. A big part of this propaganda push is to continually hammer home a number of themes, such as technological progress is always positive (or at least that the benefits always outweigh the negative consequences). In close tandem with this notion is the idea that anyone who opposes the new is better paradigm is an old-fashioned, out-of-touch fuddy-duddy.

The relentlessly upbeat cheerleading that accompanies articles about technology, especially stories discussing the release of updated smartphones and related gadgets, can be seen in all mass market magazines and newspapers. There is no subtlety or nuance in most of these articles, no shades of grey.

Let’s examine a recent article in the mass media to see how this brainwashing works. The article is titled, oddly enough, “The Idiot Box,” and I found it in a glossy magazine marketed to wealthy expatriates in Southeast Asia. The author, some guy named Michael Arnold, opines that modern technological gadgets such as the Ipad are great for kids because they give them unlimited knowledge at their fingertips. Arnold tries, quite awkwardly and unconvincingly, to knit the history of  television into his argument and even manages to throw out the epithet ‘luddite’ to discredit people who question the transhumanist juggernaut.

The author begins by stating that he finds arguments against humanity’s overreliance on technology to be not ‘particularly compelling.’ He then goes on to say that arguments against the Ipad are the same arguments used against the personal computer, the world wide web and the television. The inference here is that since all those inventions have turned out so wonderfully for humanity, why worry about putting Ipads into the hands of five-year-olds?

According to Arnold, we humans have not become too reliant on machines and technology and in fact we need more!  Perhaps he missed the story last week of the guy who drove his car off a cliff because he was using his GPS instead of his eyes, a map, and common sense. Or maybe he missed the story of the three men who have died recently in Taiwan after gaming for  days in internet cafes without food, drink, or water. He hasn’t  noticed stories  of kids around the world who literally go into severe withdrawal when their digital toys are taken from them? Perhaps he hasn’t  seen, as I have, people who cannot sleep at night unless the television screen is playing in front of their bed. Did he not catch the recent story from China  which stated that the Chinese government has recognized internet addiction as one of the most serious crises facing the youth of China and has taken measures to combat it, including setting up treatment centers for hooked teenagers?

Arnold says that those of us who question the technological juggernaut have a ‘fear of change’ and since change is the defining characteristic of our age, we need to get over it. Indeed, change does define the 20th century, but this change didn’t just happen by accident. It was planned, and the results of that change have been the destruction of the family and the disintegration of society.

The next paragraph is where Mr. Arnold really outs himself. He writes that parents who ban television in the home are ‘extreme’ and that television was ‘the greatest medium of communication’ of our parents’ age. Television, according to Arnold, gave us ‘unprecedented exposure to human drama, stories with actual morals, and information about the outside world.’ What’s more, those silly cartoons taught him ‘how to have the strength to forgive.’ Now, I don’t know if  he really believes all this or if he is just reading from a template, but this is naive and absurd beyond belief. Does Mr. Arnold know who really invented television, and for what purposes? Does he know anything about Walt Disney and his shady background, including his links to Intelligence and occult societies?  Has he not read Aldous Huxley, Neil Postman, or Jerry Mander? Does he know who Edward Bernays was?

Arnold then blithely states that ‘rather less credence is given to the demonization of television nowadays.’ Oh, really? And from where did he pull that fact? Actually, the evidence demonstrating the destructive influence of television is far greater and more compelling than it was 50 years ago when intellectuals and concerned parents were complaining about it.

Now that his mask is off, Arnold cannot help himself and starts to really lay it on thick, gleefully stating that we (the television generation) are ‘eager for our kids to enjoy the kind of quality entertainment we remember having back then.’ Wow. Quality entertainment?? What is this guy talking about?

He doesn’t wish for his kids to spend their time reading the classics, or going to museums, or playing outside, or doing sports, or hiking in nature. Instead, he wants them inside watching reruns of ‘quality’ entertainment, such as Happy Days and Starsky and Hutch. 

 

No, they’re not doing math or reading biology. They’re playing games. Sorry, parents.

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I would love to send the author a copy of Mark Bauerlein’s 2009 book titled The Dumbest Generation, in which he thoroughly demolishes the argument put forward by techno enthusiasts that Ipads, computers, and smart phones make kids smarter and improve their academic performance.

Finally, Arnold relates the story of Steve Jobs not allowing his kids to play with the Ipad. To mention this story is a risky move , as it might blow a hole in his ‘tech gadgets are cool’ argument. He spins it my calling Jobs a ‘notorious hippie,’ and then, in a bizarre turn of logic, casts himself as risk taker by allowing his kids to use these devices. Come again? Let’s see if we can wrap our brains around that one. Arnold says that he is not following the example set by Jobs, and is therefore going his own way. He’s a conformist, but kind of a rebel at the same time. Get it?

In fact, this guy is doing what 99.99 percent of all parents are doing nowadays: letting their kids run loose with tech gadgets from  infancy onwards and hoping for the best. Arnold and people like him are the worst kind of spineless conformists, cloaking their naivete, ignorance  and cowardice in a thin veneer of pseudo-intellectualism.

 

The zombie mainstream media

Like many writers and bloggers who reside in the ‘new’ or ‘alternative’ media universe, I regularly glance at a variety of mainstream websites, sometimes just for laughs and sometimes to see what sort of pablum they are feeding the gullible masses. In the past few months, almost every mainstream media (MSM) site that I look at has undergone a design update.  Perhaps not coincidentally, all of them now look exactly the same. Actually, we know it’s not a coincidence, since all of the dinosaur media are owned by a small handful of corporations.

Websites such as business insider, the weather channel, CNN, sfgate, and many more have adopted a design template that can only be described as bizarre and schizophrenic.  Ever since the old news organizations, i.e. The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fox etc.   belatedly and grudgingly started websites and started putting energy and resources into their online presence, they have struggled to find an identity. The old newspaper design, with a front page, a business section, sports section, weather, and comics didn’t translate well onto a webpage. What to do?  The dinosaur newsrooms weren’t exactly bursting with creative types and savvy web designers, and they still aren’t. Basically, most of these organizations just tried to keep as much of the old format as possible. Instead of using this changeover to digital media as an opportunity to rethink the entire model, which in fact was long overdue, they simply made their websites to look as similar as possible to a newspaper.

 

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In recent months, word must have come down from high above to shake things up a bit. The dinosaur media are continually losing viewership and readers and they will try to do anything to be relevant. Sadly, this is yet another case of putting lipstick on a pig. These organizations are so woefully out of touch, so removed from relevance and even reality itself, that no design change is going to save them.

They are now all using a white background and attaching large, color  rectangular photos to most stories. As you scroll down the site, anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of the screen is taken up with photos. Stories are rarely introduced without an accompanying photo. Headline writing has undergone a dramatic change in the last two years. Whereas in the old days, headlines were used to give the reader a basic summary of the article’s contents, nowadays they are used as ‘teasers,’ and are often phrased not as statements, but as questions. Common headlines now begin with phrases such as “You won’t believe..” and “Can you guess…”

 

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Taking their cues from travel sites, the MSM throw around words like ‘amazing,’ ‘incredible,’ ‘stunning,’ and ‘awesome,’ with careless abandon. They are trying their best to debase these words completely, and in many respects already have.

Stories are juxtaposed without rhyme or reason. So-called hard news, soft news, trivia, sports, weather, gossip, advice, restaurant reviews, real estate tips and much , much more are assembled in a mishmash fashion. The reader can scroll endlessly through hundreds of stories before coming to the bottom of the page. The MSM is trying to be all things to all people by throwing putty against the wall and hoping that something sticks. Lots and lots of photos, catchy but inane headlines, a wide variety of stories written at a third grade level and and a hip facade are just some of their tactics.

Want to find out what’s happening in the business world and get some ‘insider’ tips? Well, don’t go to www.businessinsider.com. Here are the top stories today: ‘Solar eclipse 2015- the best photos from across Europe…’ The 30 most eligible men and women in San Francisco’….’48 tips on becoming more powerful’…and ‘The best pizza in every state.’  That’s just a sampling from the first page. What the hell does this site have to do with business? What a joke. It’s all fluff, inanity, and distraction, filled with lots of celebrity name-dropping. Nutrition-less mind candy. But hey, the site looks really cool!

The mainstream media, aka the dinosaur media, aka the zombie, living-dead media are an embarrassment. They have no shame, no scruples,  and no integrity. They continue to insist on their relevance, long after they have been thoroughly discredited.

 

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Marching toward transhumanism- talking ATMs and computers

Recently the ATM which I use most frequently has started talking to me. As each new direction appears on the screen, a disembodied, robotic voice vocalizes the words simultaneously. In this  particular ATM, the voice is feminine. “Please enter your PIN,” she firmly instructs me. “Please enter the desired amount,” she continues in her creepy monotone.

The voice startled me the first time I heard it. ‘What the hell?’ I thought. ‘The freakin’ machine is talking to me!’ I’m no longer startled,  though I’m not in any way comfortable with it yet. I don’t need or want the ATM talking to me. I can read just fine. And this new innovation begs the question: should I reply? When the cool, detached voice tells me ‘thank you,’ should I answer back, “Your welcome”?

This is not as silly or far-fetched as it may seem. Clearly, the global zionist oligarchy which is steering humanity in the direction of transhumanism wishes for us to get  used to the idea of interacting  and communicating with computers and robots. Soon enough, we will be expected to take orders from robots and eventually merge with the machines.

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Right around the time the local ATM started talking to me, the computers at my office started to say, ‘Welcome to your computer’ after booting up. I wonder who in the IT department thought it would be a good idea to add this little feature to all the computers? I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if in the near future, other phrases are added to that simple beginning. Perhaps I will start hearing ‘good morning,’ ‘have a nice day,’ and maybe even ‘you look well today!’

Ostensibly, the first talking ATMs were developed by banks to make it easier for blind  people to use the machines. Isn’t that so thoughtful of the ‘too big to fail’ banks? They’re always looking out for us.

 

 

Taiwanese man dies after 3 days of gaming

A  story appeared on mainstream news outlets last week regarding a young man in Taiwan who died of cardiac arrest at an internet cafe:

Hong Kong (CNN)A 32-year-old man was found dead in an Internet cafe in Taiwan after a marathon three-day gaming binge, the island’s second death of an online gamer this year.The man, surnamed Hsieh, entered the cafe in Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second largest city, on January 6, Jennifer Wu, a police spokesperson from the Hunei district precint told CNN.

An employee found him motionless and sprawled on a table at 10 a.m. on January 8 and he was rushed to hospital, where he was pronounced dead from cardiac failure, she added.”He has been unemployed for a long time, and internet cafes were the only place he could go to,” she said.”His family said he would disappear for two to three days on end.”

It is not known exactly how long the man lay dead in the Internet cafe but police said his corpse had begun to stiffen so he must have been dead for several hours before they arrived on the scene.Police said gamers in the café continued as if nothing happened even when the police and paramedics arrived.

According to the Taipei Times, the man was a “regular customer” who often played for consecutive days. “When tired, he would sleep face down on the table or doze off slumped in his chair,” the staff member was quoted as saying. “That is why we were not aware of his condition in the beginning. 

Taiwan is no stranger to deaths from marathon sessions of online gaming.Hsieh’s death came after 38-year-old man was found dead at an Internet cafe in Taipei on January 1 after playing video games for five days straight. And in 2012, the corpse of man who died playing online games went unnoticed for 10 hours by other gamers and staff.  CNN

Who was this man?  Unemployed, directionless, lonely, and single, he seemed to find his only happiness in life at the internet cafe, playing ultra-violent, and highly addictive online games. Did his family and friends not see any danger in his video gaming habits? Or did they nonchalantly brush any concerns aside and view it as a harmless activity? In  the bigger picture, what are these games doing to our boys and young men, not just in Taiwan, but all over the world? What are the effects of gaming on their bodies, minds, and spirits? These internet cafes filled with young men playing games can be found in cities all over Asia. Harried and stressed parents are usually relieved  to have the boys out of the house and busy doing something, and at least not getting in trouble. The cafe owners are happy to take their money. Nobody pays them any mind, and they spend countless hours of their life sitting in one position, tense, motionless, and oblivious to their surroundings. Neglecting to eat, drink, or go to the bathroom, they easily lose sense of time and of reality itself.

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It doesn’t surprise me to read that the owners of the cafe neglected to notice the dead man for many hours. Why would they? It’s not their job to check up on the patrons. ‘The guy’s slumped in his chair; I guess he’s taking a snooze.’  They couldn’t care less. Nor am I surprised that the other patrons of the cafe didn’t even bother looking up when the corpse was carried out and the paramedics and police arrived. Why let reality intrude upon their fantasy world? Nothing- and I mean NOTHING- can disturb a gamer’s concentration when he is in the midst of his game.

We are losing ourselves to the tyranny of the screen and seem not to  care. It’s easy to read a story like this and morbidly laugh, and think, ‘what a loser.’ What happened to this poor man is an extreme case and his tragic ending made news headlines. But the slower death afflicting the tens of millions of other boys in the cafes won’t make the headlines. The cafe where Mr. Hsieh died continued operating even during the police investigation, with the patrons going on as before. It will change nothing and carry on, as will all the other internet cafes in Taipei. What did they say in ‘The Godfather’?  “It’s just business.”

 

All cars now look alike- the move toward a generic style

What has happened to car design? Just a few years ago, one could easily and instantly recognize all the different car models on the road. Is there any mistaking a Porsche 911 zooming by? Everyone know the Honda Civic, for many years one of the best-selling cars around the world. The iconic shapes of the Cadillac coupe deville and the Lincoln Town car are a part of modern American culture.  Even BMW had a memorable silhouette, its somewhat boxy but still stylish outline a favorite of yuppies for many years. Mercedes, Audi  and Subaru had their unmistakable design features. The auto makers worked to give their models a distinctive shape and personality. 

One of the original pimpmobiles: 

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No more. Something quite strange has happened. The origins of this strange phenomenon can be traced back to the mid 1990s with the explosion of SUVs. For reasons still not completely understood, an enormous block of American consumers had the overpowering urge to go out and buy gargantuan, gas-guzzling behemoths which appeared closer in style to military armored personnel carriers than traditional automobiles.

Classic BMW styling:

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For the first decade or so of SUV sales, the market was dominated by  a handful of Japanese and American car makers. Lincoln, Cadillac, Porsche, BMW and other auto makers kept their distance and maintained their individualistic design mottos. Finally, perhaps inevitably, ALL of the major car manufacturers jumped on the SUV bandwagon and produced their own models to grab a piece of the lucrative market. Imagine the reaction of the engineers and designers at BMW and Porsche when the owners came to them and said, “You guys need to design an SUV to sell to the fat Americans. And also, let’s jettison the design that’s worked so well for us for 50 years and start making our cars look generic.”

I don’t need to look closely at the company icon on the hood to know what this is:

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So, not only did all the companies start building SUVs, they also made their original models conform to the design aesthetics of SUVs. Now here we are in 2015, and most brands on the road are unrecognizable. Everything looks like a miniature tank. Every day I find myself looking at a car and wondering, “What is that?” I then peer closely at the front grill to see that its a Cadillac. Or perhaps a BMW. They bear no resemblance whatsoever to their forebears. Big, flat front grills with rectangular angled headlights swooping in from the side dominate the ‘fascia.’ The headlights all bear a striking and downright eerie resemblance to serpent eyes, so not only are the cars bulky and ugly, they also are sinister.

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Back ends are now higher off the ground, tires are fatter and windows have shrunk, again emphasizing the militaristic, excuse me ‘sporty’ look of modern cars. They all look quite ridiculous, but no matter. The consumeristic, wannabe middle class types will go out and buy them, as the concept of aesthetics is one that escapes them.

serpent eyes:

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Inventions we are better off without- the musings of a Neo-Luddite

There is no shortage of candidates in the competition for ‘worst invention ever.’ In the last half century especially, we have seen hundreds of inventions unleashed upon humanity, some of them useful, most unnecessary, and many downright absurd and truly obnoxious.

The Leaf Blower

Growing up in the tranquil suburbs of Washington D.C., I enjoyed plenty of quietness and serenity. That is, until the invention of the leaf blower. These detestable machines became commonplace in the neighborhoods around my house in the mid to late 1970s, and by the 1980s were ubiquitous. I recall many times sitting in my house reading a book or chatting with a family member when suddenly the ear-splitting  scream of a leaf blower would shatter the peacefulness.  I would peer out the window and inevitably saw a group of  (Hispanic) landscapers fanning out across the expansive lawns of my neighbors with the leaf blowers strapped to their sweaty backs, gas motors revved up and long nozzles blowing leaves around. The fumes from the cheap two-stroke engines polluted the air.

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This was a weekly ritual. Even when their wasn’t much leaf matter or debris to gather up, they still used the blowers as a matter of course. On and on and on the nerve- wracking noise went, until my peace of mind was gone. Given the decibel range of these diabolical machines, the morning serenity was disturbed even when the blowers were a kilometer away.

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What about the good old-fashioned rake and broom? In fact, the rake and broom are examples of appropriate technology: simple to produce, cheap, and effective. Additionally, the user of these tools gets the added benefit of some mild aerobic exercise. But if you want to keep up with the Jones’, you better hire a landscaping team with leaf blowers and demonstrate that you are with the times.

The Weed Whacker

Closely allied with the leaf blower is the ‘weed whacker’, sometimes called ‘weed eater’ or ‘string trimmer.’ Gaining widespread usage around the same time as the leaf blower, the weed whacker became a standard tool for all landscaping companies and for any respectable suburban dweller with a yard in the 1970s. My family bought one when they became widely available and affordable and I used it to ‘trim’ the lawn around my house. But I always hated it. For one thing, they can be quite dangerous. They can easily cut your foot or leg if you are not careful. They are noisy; they throw grass and debris in all directions, some of which can even fly into your face.  Most of all, they were, and are, unnecessary. They are simply an expensive, loud, and polluting machine designed and created to feed the vanity of America’s growing legions of suburbanites. Everybody with a lawn dreams of making their yard look like a golf course, just like on TV!! Therefore, the weed whacker is necessary to trim those edges and make everything look ‘perfect.’ In other words, the suburban yard should not look like anything remotely resembling nature.

The Paint Spray Gun

The paint spray gun is yet another loathsome invention, completely redundant and ridiculous. I recall a few years ago watching a group of painters performing a job on the apartment complex where I was living in the suburbs of Seattle. A man stood on a ladder with a spray gun in hand, moving it back in forth in rhythmic motion a couple of feet away from the building’s exterior. Standing below him , I immediately observed something: more than half of the paint from the gun was not hitting the wooden panels but was instead simply flying off into the air. I could literally see the paint droplets missing their target. The painter was unconcerned. Back and forth, up and down the spray gun went.  The worker was blithely indifferent to how much paint was being wasted. Of course, the wasted paint is only half of the problem. All of that toxic paint which goes into the air eventually falls to the ground or even gets inhaled by unsuspecting passers-by with the microscopic  droplets easily penetrating into the respiratory tract.  The workers used respirators, but did nothing to warm the neighbors about all the toxicity.

 

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Just last week, I drove by a painter who was using a spray gun to paint some furniture on the sidewalk. This was in the middle of a city.  He had no protection whatsoever. Waiting at the intersection, I watched as he clumsily waved the gun all over the furniture, with perhaps only 20 or 30 percent of the paint hitting its target. Even though I was 20 meters away, I immediately tasted the paint particles in the back of my throat. I can only imagine what the people around him were exposed to.

I have a radical idea. Let’s go back to paint brushes. Similar to the broom and rake, the paint brush is simple to produce, simple to use, and is extremely cheap and durable. It requires no moving parts, no machinery and wastage is kept to a minimum. But such notions place me squarely in the Neo-Luddite camp, a very lonely place indeed.

 

 

 

The smartphone is not a tool, it’s a drug

When it comes to smart phones, the question must be asked: who is the master and who is the slave?  Do you control your smart phone, or is it the other way around?

Although most owners of smart phones will laugh good-naturedly when queried about this and admit, “Yeah, I’m addicted to my iphone,” they are unwilling to look at the extent and ramifications of their addiction full in the face.

Most of my teenage students no longer bother to talk to one another before class, during breaks or after class. They file into the classroom one by one, take a seat as distant from the other students as possible, and then take out their gadgets and sullenly scroll thru the screen, thumbs working hard. Often, I will a half-dozen or more students in the room, and you can hear a pin drop, it is so silent. Nothing happening but eyes glued to screens.

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Less than 20 years ago when the first crude cell phones began appearing, there was at least some, but not much, discussion about when it was appropriate to interrupt a conversation to take a call. That brief discussion has ended and it is now taken for granted that it is permissible to answer the phone or a text message at any time, anywhere, for any reason.  It is acceptable to interrupt a deep and intense conversation between a mother/daughter, father/son, boss/employee, boyfriend/girlfriend, best friends, grandfather/grandson, husband/wife, and other relationship one can think of simply to answer a call. Sure, you can still ask, politely, for the person you are conversing with to put away their phone for the duration of the conversation, but be prepared for strange  and sometimes downright hostile looks from them.

Most of the phone carriers where I live in Southeast Asia do not provide voice messaging. There is nowhere for someone to leave a message if you do not answer the phone. But really, who needs such a service nowadays?  The phone is with you all the time, and when it rings you answer it. Period. If someone calls and you don’t pick up, they assume you have mysteriously disappeared or perhaps died. They don’t even follow up the missed call with a text message. The notion that someone might  purposely decline to answer a call is inconceivable to people now, especially the under-35 generation.

 

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It’s humorous to observe people when the phone is in their pocket or handbag and a call comes in. They  immediately spring into action, almost like they are in a fight-or-flight response. They appear to think that if the phone buzzes more than once or twice, it is an insult to the person who is calling.  There is nothing casual at all about the way they reach for their smartphone. Their master – the phone-  is calling, and they reach for it with the utmost sense of urgency.

The common scene now at restaurants, bars , and cafes is for hipsters and pseudo hipsters to have a whole arsenal of digital gadgets spread out on the table before them.  I recently sat across from a young twenty-something girl at a cafe who was so desperate to appear cool that she took no chances. She had not one, but two smartphones in front of her, plus a tablet. She hid her face behind oversized sunglasses and earphones. She chain smoked marlboro cigarettes and drank aspartame-laced Diet Coke. She had a notebook with some scribbles open on the table, but never once touched it. The Lost Generation on full display.

 

 

Transhumanism, wearable tech, and the Neo-Luddites

Walking through an airport last week, I caught a glimpse of the new issue of Time magazine. The eye-catching cover shows the bottom half of a man’s forearm and a clenched fist. Superimposed on the bare forearm is a multi-colored computer interface illuminating various graphs and charts showing pulse rate, calories consumed, time, temperature and other data. The title and subtitle of the article  reads: “Never offline- The Apple Watch is just the start. How wearable tech will change your life- like it or not.”

The editors and headline writers at Time have always had a penchant for headlines that subtly talk down to their readers, with phrases like ‘Here’s what you need to know’ and ‘why everything you thought you knew about (insert issue) is wrong’ and so on. This particular title is not even subtle about its message: transhumanism is here and resistance is futile. 

Wired magazine, the bible of tech zombies:

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The article itself discusses the launching last week of Apple’s newest trendy gadget, its wearable watch. I expected the author of the piece to be a gung-ho techie who was going to be breathlessly touting the wonders of the watch. So,  I was surprised that the author, to his credit, took a rather neutral,  even nervous,  tone regarding where this kind of gadget is taking us. The author claimed that ‘this is technology attempting to colonize our bodies.’

Overall, the article appears to neither wholly support nor condemn the watch; the writer simply accepts that this is the direction we are heading in and we will have to adapt.

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Apple’s introduction of its watch and the media campaign, with the likes of Time magazine, surrounding it, is yet another salvo in the transhumanism offensive to move us to ‘post-humanity’ , a term which the article’s author even mentions.

No doubt the young tech zombies will rush out to buy  whatever new product Apple introduces and the rest of the herd will soon follow. (The Iphone 6 was selling on the black market for 3x the retail price in China.) Will there be any resistance to the transhumanist agenda?  A year ago a small fracas erupted in a neighborhood in San Francisco as a number of bar patrons violently objected to a girl who was walking around the bar wearing google glass. The story  got airplay in the Bay Area press but wasn’t picked up by many other media outlets. At the time, I wondered whether a Neo-Luddite movement might be possible to finally give some push-back to the tech onslaught. (The Luddites were a group of English textile artisans who protested, sometimes violently, against the introduction of machines during the 19th century.)

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The chances of such a movement developing are slim to none, but I did read that article with great interest and a sense of hope. The ‘powers that be’ (TPTB) are in a rush to decimate most of humanity and microchip the survivors. Companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook, which after all are mostly owned by the same stockholders and work together,  are at the forefront of the agenda to modify us into something that is more machine than human. The iphone laid the groundwork and the watch is the next step. The implanted phone/computer has surely already been developed in a lab somewhere and will be foisted upon the public in another year or two. We can expect that the launching of the implanted computer will be accompanied by the same brand of media coverage as we have seen for the iphone and watch. That is, the writing will range for joyous acceptance to limp resignation.

Televisions and Wifi

A new restaurant opened last month in my neighborhood. I like what they have done  with the interior, especially the enormous wooden table which they placed in the center of the main room to use for shared dining. It has a nice, functional wraparound bar with recessed lighting and a selection of wines by the glass. The new manager was there last week when I stopped by and we chatted for a while. I thanked him for doing something different on Bui Vien Street and not filling the restaurant with televisions showing sports. However, a week later when I returned two enormous televisions were hanging from the ceiling. Disappointed,  I asked the manager, “How could you?” He lamely replied that ‘customers asked for it.’ I didn’t believe him, but nowadays all restaurant owners feel pressured to install televisions lest they lose customers to the loud bar next door. It’s all about catering to the herd  masses.

And god help you if you are a restaurant owner who hasn’t installed free wifi. Be prepared to be crucified on Yelp, tripadvisor, and other review sites. Recently I read a review of a restaurant on Yelp and a young man gave an otherwise good review to the restaurant in question, but was apoplectic that they didn’t offer Wifi. “How do they expect me to enjoy my meal if I can’t check my Facebook??? Waaaaaaahhhhhhh!”

To the few remaining restaurant owners out there who have not caved in and still offer a television- and wifi- free dining experience, GOD BLESS YOU. You are a dying breed.


 

 

Television man. TV as mass mind control.

I have no television in my room. Sure, there was a beautiful new Samsung flat screen sitting on the table when I moved in here, but I requested the landlord to take it out. At first, they were sure that they had somehow misunderstood me and asked me to repeat my request. As every other room in the house already had a television, they had to brainstorm to find a place for it, but of course one can never have too many televisions in a room and so now it is being put to good use down the hall.

In my previous rental  across town, I had also asked  the landlord to remove my television. However, the law of unintended consequences took effect when the next day I walked downstairs and found out that it had been mounted over the stairwell on the first floor. Whereas previously the first floor and kitchen area had been been blissfully free of television noise, now the residents were happily watching  the tube for ten hours a day, and the quiet kitchen was now nothing more than a memory.

Edward Abbey:

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I gave up tv watching 20 years ago and have never missed it. I find it is easier to simply remove it from the room than to cover it with a sheet and resist the temptation to turn it on.

Giving up the television is one of the best things you can do for mental health. You notice the effect on consciousness almost immediately. Your mind feels more clear and calm. You are mentally sharper and not as depressed. You find other useful things to do with your time. Most importantly, you remove yourself from the arena where the the Powers that Be (TPTB) can so easily brainwash and manipulate you. When you are not subjected to the constant, 24-hour-a-day barrage of propaganda spewing from the idiot box, you can actually research and think about the events of the world and maybe, just maybe, come up with some of your own conclusions and ideas.

What does this family worship? :

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When I occasionally go to gatherings of young adults, such as parties, and they are discussing this or that tv series or bantering about some tv trivia, I am invariably lost. I have no idea what they are talking about and don’t care to. At these times, I simply deflect the conversation with a polite, “Oh, I must have missed that episode. Was it funny?” To say that I don’t watch tv in such a setting would brand me as an outright eccentric. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I don’t have to go around waving a banner.

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Television has become so deeply embedded and intertwined into our culture, our daily lives, and even our education, that is rarely ever talked about. It is simply taken as a given. We are a full four generations into the world-with-television, and the results are as grim and ugly as were predicted fifty years ago. Marshall McLuhan discussed television in his ground breaking books and demonstrated that it was not the content, but the ‘medium’ of television which was destined to rewire human brains and cause radical changes to our society and culture. Jerry Mander penned the classic “Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television” in 1978, but few people have ever heard of the book, let alone read it. In an interview discussing the book, Mander had this to say,

“My own feeling is that that is true – that it’s very important to improve the program content – but that television has effects, very important effects, aside from the content, and they may be more important. They organize society in a certain way. They give power to a very small number of people to speak into the brains of everyone else in the system night after night after night with images that make people turn out in a certain kind of way. It affects the psychology of people who watch. It increases the passivity of people who watch. It changes family relationships. It changes understandings of nature. It flattens perception so that information, which you need a fair amount of complexity to understand it as you would get from reading, this information is flattened down to a very reduced form on television. And the medium has inherent qualities which cause it to be that way.”

Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television

In the mid-90s when I was teaching in the public schools in Texas, I was horrified to learn that all of the classrooms had televisions mounted on the walls and that students were forced to watch tv for 20 minutes a day. The station they watched was called ‘Channel One.’ If you are unfamiliar with it, Channel One is  a large media company, and it gives  away equipment to public schools all over the country in return for forcing students to watch the programming, which of course is embedded with advertising.

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The advent, marketing and subsequent flood  of flat screen, plasma, and HDTV models over the past 15 years filled me with a deep apprehension. It wasn’t just the fact that consumers were rushing to buy these overpriced tubes for thousands of dollars- even when their televisions at home were perfectly functional- but also something more sinister appeared to be at work. Soon thereafter, when I read that governments were going to be switching  broadcast signals and thereby forcing people, by default, to purchase the new technology, my fears were reaffirmed.

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A few years ago, ads for new apartments and houses started appearing in the sunday paper which pictured living rooms with the giant plasma tv already mounted on the living room wall. What’s more, the television was situated above the fireplace, taking the central spot in the room. You know, the spot that used to be occupied by the nicest piece of art the family owned , or perhaps a family heirloom. Or an altar. I suppose the designers of modern day apartments and condos know better than we do who our real gods are.

It’s now nearly impossible to escape the screen. Yesterday, I took a taxi home from the grocery store, and I was ‘entertained’ by a small television which flipped down from the roof behind the driver. He informed me that it was impossible for him to turn it off, as he did not have the actual controls or the authority to do so. When I take a long distance bus trip in South America or Asia, I am tortured with yet another showing of “Fast and Furious , Part 5”, at maximum volume of course.

Television, and fast food go together:

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Screens are now built into cars, especially SUVs, to keep the kids docile in the back seat. They are in waiting rooms of hospitals, dentist offices, and other health care practitioners. They are in hotel lobbies. Increasingly, they are in not just sports bars, but all bars. They are finding their way into fine dining establishments. They long ago found their way into schools.

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People now go to sport stadiums not to watch the team on the field, but to watch it on the giant plasma screen above the field. Huge screens are now built onto the sides of buildings in downtown parks. Want to go to a concert in a large venue and see your favorite performer, along with thousands of other rabid fans? You can be sure that anywhere from 2 to 10 giant screens will be mounted behind and above the stage for your viewing pleasure.

 

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There is a large grocery store chain in the city where I live that has now installed flat screens above each shopping aisle. Worried about keeping up with the latest development in the soap opera or novella while choosing a certain brand of ketchup? We’ve got you covered. Ever felt bored standing in front of the elevator and watching the indicator light slowly drop down each floor? Have no fear: televisions are now mounted between elevator doors to keep you distracted. Running on the treadmill at the gym with your ipod in your ear not stimulating enough? Need some ‘visuals’ to go along with your music? No problem: modern gyms have thoughtfully designed their spaces with racks of dozens of televisions, so that no matter where you are working out or what you are doing, there is always a screen in your face.

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Our current reality is just as George Orwell predicted in ‘1984’ with the ubiquitous screens. Big Brother, via the giant multi-national media conglomerates, is watching us, even as we are watching his ‘programming.’

We can’t even exercise without tv:

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