TV Goes Downhill

Picture taken at Georgia Aquarium, pictured is...
Picture taken at Georgia Aquarium, pictured is one of the two resident male whale sharks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

TV Goes Downhill

The lowest common denominator. That apparently is the demographic television programming is looking for if these reinventions are to make any sense. Of course, maybe doing real programming is hard. After all, how much brains does it take to do “Shark Week?”

I have some old VHS tapes with programming from the Discovery Channel and the History Channel, powerful learned television shows with meaning. Now, my college students complain about the low quality of the programming and how little science or history is being covered.

Is there a business ethics issue here? Well, there is something wrong about advertising yourself as dealing with serious scientific, cultural or historical matters, and then producing junk designed for the inquisitive mind of, “Well, nobody.” Inquisitive minds aren’t wanted there.

And there is the lost opportunity of appealing to what is best in humanity, thrown away endlessly seeking higher ratings or a younger demographic. Whether that is a business ethics problem depends on your interpretation.

I don’t watch those programs anymore. I don’t think anybody should.

James Pilant

TV’s 10 most bizarre reinventions –

All across the dial, cable networks have shed their identities in order to become things far stranger — and, often, a bit less highbrow — than they’d been initially. The network formerly known as History Channel (now it’s just History) has defined the academic subject as including ancient aliens and truckers; TV Land’s reruns have gone from old-school classics to stuff from 10 years ago; just about every fine-arts channel broadcasts reality TV now.

It makes sense — in a crowded market, no one’s going to subsidize a network that does something unpopular. All these networks once did slightly different things, but now many have shifted toward the same model: broadcasting unscripted shows depicting a particular corner of the American experience (trucking, pawnbroking, being a pampered wife of one variety or another). Still, there’s something a bit wistful about imagining each of these cable networks’ original iterations frozen in amber — rather than a dial full of similar-looking broadcasts, we could have a gleefully out-of-step Bravo and A&E doing British costume drama, and medical oddities all over TLC. Oh well–there’s always reading!

via TV’s 10 most bizarre reinventions –

From around the web.

From the web site, Blogs, Discover Magazine.

While there may be a debate about what “sightings” may be, there is one thing that scientists are sure of: Megalodon is extinct.

Part of me is furious with you, Discovery, for doing this. But mostly, I’m just deeply saddened. It’s inexplicably depressing that you’ve gone from “the world’s #1 nonfiction media company” to peddling lies and faking stories for ratings. You’ve compromised your integrity so completely with this special, and that breaks my heart. I loved you, Discovery, ever since I was a child. I grew up watching you. It was partly because of you that I became transfixed by the natural world and pursued a career in science. I once dreamed of having my own Discovery Channel special, following in the footsteps of people like Jeff Corwin. Not anymore. This is inexcusable. You have an obligation to your viewers to hold to your non-fiction claims. You used to expose the beautiful, magical, wonderful sides of the world around us. Now, you just make shit up for profit. It’s depressing. It’s disgusting. It’s wrong.

I won’t be watching the rest of Shark Week. I simply can’t.

From the web site, From New York to San Francisco.

I’m not even going to bother sliding into my regular shtick about how far the network has fallen, or how I would take the 24/7 Hitler and Nazi Germany program broadcasting of the 90′s any day over this garbage, because it is a fruitless effort. Apparently, I am in the minority when it comes to opinion on programming. I guess I should feel silly for wanting the History Channel to stop putting on shows where toothless red-necks blast alligator brains out with shotguns and then jump up and down in their little boats hootin’ n’ hollerin’ with unintelligible grunts like they just won the lottery. I am amazed, after seeing shows like that, at how surprised people from the Deep South are when they are looked at as being backwards hicks. Do not blame northern ignorance, my friends, blame the media and popular culture that has turned your society into a hole of filth and slime. At least Chasing Tail is going to do something to repair the damage done: it will show that northerners can be hicks too!

I do not know what is even left anymore. H2 used to always be the safe haven when the History Channel started going to hell, but even that is being corrupted with asinine, pseudo-historical shows like America Unearthed, where the host, Scott Wolter, can make an entire episode centered around a microscopic carving on a rock and lead the viewer on a baseless quest around the country to misrepresent far-reaching theories as fact, and then find absolutely no concrete evidence to back anything up. This show, in format and principle, is identical to Ancient Aliens. The latter attempts to say that everything the ancients built on earth was really built by aliens, while the former attempts to say that everything ancient Americans built on this continent was really built by foreigners. Is there a difference? I acknowledge that the history books are wrong and there is more than meets the eye, but without actual evidence, the shows are absolutely useless. Maybe if I carved a cross onto the tree in my backyard I could get the crew to come down to try to prove that the Knights Templar hid the Holy Grail in Hazlet, New Jersey. Maybe if I find a really big squirrel climbing that same tree I can get Monsterquest to come out of retirement and have a double whammy!


Big Business and Government

Big Business and Government

Global Ethics Forum: Power, Inc.: The Epic Rivalry Between Big Business & Government – YouTube

David Rothkopf
David Rothkopf

Garten Rothkopf CEO David Rothkopf talks about the conflict between big business and government.

“He explains that we are in a crisis. There has been a net loss of jobs in this country over the last ten years. Social mobility is declining. Inequality is increasing. Our democratic system is under threat by massive corporate power because of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizen’s United that perverts the right of free speech to include money.

What gives the average citizen a voice? that would be the government. Government is a leveler.

Historically the battle between church and state was the last big battle on the same scale as this one. It was not really a battle over religion. It was an economic battle – who had the authority to tax.

The one country that has done the most to empower corporations is the United States. This country is born of the industrial era.

Even early on corporations had an outsize influence. In the Dartmouth college case, the Supreme Court decided that states could not revoke charters once granted essentially giving corporations immortality.

Later we saw the courts use the 14th amendement for its first fifty years arguing the corporations should have the same rights as people.  Yet people are not immortal. People do not possess legions of lawyers to get laws passed.

Today, most of the value bearing instruments are created by the private sector mainly derivatives. Only about five major powers are able to have currencies on their own.

Nations unable to compete with corporations in terms of power should be considered semi-states.

Markets don’t promote competition (read Adam Smith) efficiency is achieved by scale.

The current size of corporations is larger than could have been imagined in the past. Fundamental shifts in power are occurring.

More than half people on the ground in our last two wars were private contractors

In America – the political process is corrupted by money and Internationally – no institutions capable of dealing with this issue exist.

We need to ask ourselves – What produces the kind of society we aspire to?

As the economic center of gravity moves so does the intellectual center. Right now that center is moving to Asia.

Government is the only way the average person has a seat at the table. ”

(Forgive my poor summary – I wrote notes as it went along.)

James Pilant




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An Insight on Happiness from the Book, 59 Seconds.

59 Seconds, Think a Little, Change a Lot by Richard Wiseman is a book I have enjoyed. Below is a quotation from the book. I think you should consider buying it. I was going to put up an image of the cover but Amazon has a giant copyright notice on the thing and I learned from a miserable experience with CBS news that positive comments and a recommendation don’t matter a damn.

Dunn and her colleagues have conducted several studies on the relationship between income, spending, and happiness. In one national survey , participants were asked to rate their happiness, state their income, and provide a detailed break-down of the amount spent on gifts for themselves, gifts for others, and donations to charity. In another study Dunn measured the happiness and spending patterns of employees before and after they each received a profit-sharing bonus of between $3,000 and $8,000. Time and again, the same pattern emerged. Those who spent a higher percentage of their income on others were far happier than those who spent it on themselves.

This is a fascinating passage. Apparently Greed is not the only important human value. It would seem that contrary to Ayn Rand, altruism is not evil but a useful tool in the full and happy life. It’s amazing what you can learn from research.

James Pilant

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PBS is a Worthy Investment

paula kerger

Image by kthread via Flickr

Paula Kerger, PBS Chief, Calls For Views To Oppose Mitt Romney’s Stance Towards TV Funding

PBS chief Paula Kerger said Wednesday that she recognizes the United States has to make tough budget decisions but defended PBS as an effective public-private partnership.

Paula Kerger, PBS Chief, Calls For Views To Oppose Mitt Romney’s Stance Towards TV Funding

Watching regular television is a depressing experience. A constant barrage of ads designed to magnify every insecurity to sell products. I tend to believe modern television viewing exacerbates psychological problems.

But we in the United States have an alternative. We can watch public broadcasting. We can be enlightened. Our children can watch television without a constant barrage of sugar cereal ads and pleas to buy the latest toys.

I use some of their shows like Frontline for my classes. They deal with subjects with a great deal of documentary skill. I enjoy the History Channel and the like but sometimes their work is more a hash of history cliches than well assembled stories.

Some of the best viewing experiences of my life have been PBS programs. That’s where I learned about Kurosawa and Goddard. I absorbed a lot of history and learned to think outside the intellectual limits of rural Oklahoma.

There are those that believe that the free market produces the best possible outcome. They haven’t watched “Two and a Half Men,” a weekly half hour about a libertine whose impulses are out of control, a neurotic brother with a son so dumb, you wish the father has satisfied his fatherly urges by getting a pet. The show features discussion of unusual sex acts, fart jokes and a parade of easy women. Thus, the free market in action; a show aimed at a horny 14 year old.

Once this is published, someone is going to write me about the poor souls who do not watch public television and argue that they shouldn’t bear a burden of taxation for what interests me.

Yes, let’s excuse people from paying property taxes for schools because they don’t have any children. or pay for roads, police, firemen, soldiers they don’t use unless there’s war, etc.

Having a country in which there is a certain degree of belief in scientific beliefs, some investigative reporting and knowledge of common cultural and historical heritage is also a worthy goal.

That there are many people who have a philosophy of “if I can’t figure out how much money it’s worth, it’s a pointless activity,” is a sign of a declining civilization gradually descending into a third world status of ignorance.

While there is art, culture and literature, there is still some hope that the experiences of Americans will be respected, the we might be able to live lives of significance, and there might be a common cultural heritage of something more than fart jokes and quotations of corporate quarterly profits.

James Pilant

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Volume 60: Wait A Minute… (via Sill-E Thoughts)

Our author writes in his conclusion that –

I think the sensationalism fed to us on a 24-hour news cycle is starting to make us delusional. That’s the unintended side-effect of higher ratings. Good news turns of televisions. Good news doesn’t get discussed at the bars and water coolers across America. Good news doesn’t make us feel better because we don’t get to say, “At least my life is better than theirs.” There is a cliché regarding every person getting fifteen minutes of fame. I’d like to think that if we waited a minute, the remain fourteen could serve as a sane example for others to imitate.

I like it. I have said similar things. I call for critical thinking and less television watching. I tell my students that there are better things to do with their time and almost all maintain their mass media habits in spite of my earnest protests.

I wish the author well and hope to see more of his work. Please read the whole thing.

James Pilant

Volume 60: Wait A Minute... I need a favor from those of you that have been following my blog since it began (like my girl Cool V). I need for you to explain to my growing list of new readers that, from time to time, I cut through the introspective niceties, get real, and go off. THIS is one of those times. Honestly, I didn’t know I was going to write this blog until I was talking with my wife last night. I was telling her a couple of incredible stories about people who too … Read More

via Sill-E Thoughts

TIL You have to pay for your “right” to a trial by jury (via Intellectual Conversation – a lifelong memetic transfusion)

I was not aware of this particular fee but I am not surprised. As municipalities and states lose revenue, they have to resort more and more to fees. This essentially makes everything from state parks to justice too expensive for many Americans. This trend is getting worse not better.

James Pilant

TIL You have to pay for your "right" to a trial by jury The entire judicial system in the USA is so skewed against the poor it is sickening. Falsely accused and want a trial by jury of twelve of your peers? That will be $250 in my local district court and that sickens me. Imagine asking a subsistence farmer to pay that kind of money vs a billionaire. It isn’t right to ask a poor person to forfeit several months worth of disposable income. Heck in India that is one tenth of your annual income – and I’m … Read More

via Intellectual Conversation – a lifelong memetic transfusion