Thursday, October 25, 2012

You Are Here

You are here, shaking things up in the countries of your social media world. Just when you think you are done, there are new media topics that need more coverage.

This is your downtime. This is what you do to recharge.

This is your guilty pleasure.


Tip o' the hat to  and his list of 100 blog post topics.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Doorways: Content, Reading, Writing


Google's much-described Panda algorithm change last year and a recently confirmed update to it brought about a sea change among social media commenters. Panda's emphasis on content rather than on links gutted earlier SEO practices, yes, but the consequences of the change are still rippling through social media. People are required to develop and publish real, usable, interesting content.

This stuff is hard, isn't it? ;-)

You have to read.
You have to write.
You have to think.

If you want really good content, then you have to do it all over again.

Curation now begins at the pre-writing stage. Good ideas come from exposure to others' good ideas, so you have to pick your authors carefully. Bad ideas, bad authors are a waste of time.

You're running out of time.

Good writing comes from tracking your ideas as they occur to you as you read. Your brain isn't big enough to hold all your great ideas, so you have to find your tracking system. Losing your ideas is losing a piece of your future.

You're running out of time.

Good thinking--the kind of thinking that you, you, need to do in order to do good work--means doing pushups, pullups, situps. Your brain hurts. You're convinced you're insane because no one else has gone down the road you're on. You're never sure if you're right because what you're doing is so new.

What are you doing with your time?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Arise, Arise

Two prefaces: One, I am not here to discuss the political aspects of the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Two, I'm quoting song lyrics in German below with translations after; the source material is at The German is not difficult; I recommend backreading it through the translations as much as possible.

Auch auf den Wellen wird gefochten
Wo Fisch und Fleisch zur See geflochten
Der eine sticht die Lanz' im Heer
Der andere wirft sie in das Meer


Even on the waves there is fighting
Where fish and flesh are woven into sea
One stabs the lance while in the army
Another throws it into the ocean

I listen to this song, "Reise, Reise" by , whenever I am at the highest geographic point I can reach in a new vacation spot. I've listened to it all over the world and at various altitudes. My first time was on board a cruise ship in the Antarctic; it was then, as I stood in a t-shirt and track pants on the stern of the ship, just outside the gym and in the glorious Antarctic summer, that I felt the message in the song.

"Reise, Reise" is a musing on life and death, the human aspects of it explored through images of fishermen and soldiers. The spear is the hinge between the two: Both use spears, both kill, with the debate being over which one is in the service of life. 

My most recent time to listen to "Reise, Reise" was on a mountain overlook in Croatia, gazing down on towns with both life and rubble as reminders of the war.

Die Lanze muss im Fleisch ertrinken
Fisch und Mann zur Tiefe sinken
Wo die schwarze Seele wohnt
ist kein Licht am Horizont

The lance must be drowned in flesh
Fish and man sink to the depths
Where the black soul dwells
there is no light on the horizon

We'd stopped at the overlook during the first leg of a jeep safari. Thirteen other Mensans plus our two tour guides, in four Toyota Hiluxes (which are, incidentally, the finest machines made--just ask ), had driven up the zigzagging road to the top, making the 190-degree and more cutbacks with relative ease. The view from the top looked over the towns below and out into the Adriatic lapping serently at Croatia's rocky edge.

The towns we'd passed through, and the others we'd see after driving down the mountain, then across a flat vineyard plain, and up another mountain to an olive oil mill, were tiny communities abutting each other. Many houses were partly inhabited, unfinished floors with no interior partitions or windows gaping open above, and below, a painted, stuccoed story that was well kept.

Muslim here, Catholic there, Orthodox there. This was how it was. Over them all, Tito and Yugoslavia.
Reise, Reise Seemann Reise
Jeder tut's auf seine Weise
Der eine stößt den Speer zum Mann
Der andere zum Fische dann

Reise, Reise Seemann Reise
Und die Wellen weinen leise
In ihrem Blute steckt ein Speer
Bluten leise in das Meer

Arise, arise seaman arise 
Each does it in his own way
One thrusts the spear into a man
Another then into the fish

Arise, arise seaman arise 
And the waves cry softly
In their blood a spear is lodged
They bleed softly into the ocean

After we toured a small church in Čilipi, where Serbian and Montenegrin forces had beheaded figures of Jesus and Joseph and cut out Mary's eyes, our tour guide told us of the Serbian desire to bring about a third Yugoslavia, which was motivation on all sides for the war. Townspeople are still struggling with the emotional effect 17 years later.
I bought an embroidery sampler from a woman at the church, the pattern traditional to Croatia. Others put coins in the donation box.

I am not religious in any way, yet sometimes I call on the services of St. Anthony of Padua when I've lost something. Coincidentally, this church of St. Nicholas, who is the patron saint of, among other things, sailors, has had its restoration partially supported by the Fraternity of St. Anthony, who is the patron saint of that which is lost. "Reise, Reise" is about loss, yes, but also about timelessness and absorption. We are absorbed into a timeless, vast space, one that is not alien to us. The future that lies within that timelessness is the same present within which we act today.

Reise, Reise Seemann Reise
Und die Wellen weinen leise
In ihrem Herzen steckt ein Speer
Bluten sich am Ufer leer

Arise, arise seaman arise 
And the waves cry softly
In their heart a spear is lodged
They bleed themselves dry on the shore

What we lose is hope, peace, happiness. 

Death is not the tragedy here.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Remixing Halloween

Halloween costumes used to be generic: Hoboes, princesses, witches, clowns. But popular culture now has us remixing so that our costumes are referential. If you're a zombie, you're not referencing generic zombies or even voodoo--you're referencing The Walking Dead, Shaun of the Dead, or if you're a black-and-white zombie, Night of the Living Dead. You can't be a vampire without Twilight/True Blood/other references. Being generic is being out of touch.

So how has this remixing of the masked self affected perceptions of the  participants?

Traditionally, the masked self permits us to act as both our not-selves and ourselves. The mask is a lie: It claims we are not ourselves by presenting a false visage, even as the false visage permits us to misbehave and blame the self of the mask. The mask is a lie concealing yet another deception.

The self of the mask is a truth presented as a lie. The self behind the mask is a lie presented as the truth.

This is why the preferred mask of Anonymous is no longer valid: Guy Fawkes is meant to represent resistance and revolution, which is the lie. The self behind the Fawkes mask is a not-self, a lie enabled by a mask. The mask makes authenticity impossible.

In all this layering, where is Anonymous?

Monday, October 01, 2012

Anonymous, Halloween, and Remix Culture

Today is the first anniversary of #OccupyDC, a movement that brought less attention to itself than #OWS did by a long stretch, but which perhaps may end up being more persistent.

But why would OccupyDC be more persistent? Weren't the OWS protesters speaking truth to power, and doing so more directly?


The real power is in Washington, not New York.

Like many others, I have mixed feelings about the direction the Anonymous movement has taken. The world where the mask originated--England of 1605--no longer exists, and the ideas powering Alan Moore and David Lloyd's graphic novel V for Vendetta are radically different than those powering the Anonymous movements. 

I approve of protest over ideas; I disapprove of ill-informed, misdirected loathing.

Real, powerful cultural remixes come from a different source. I understand that the Occupy protesters learned their tactics from their aging hippie parents. I understand that their passion led them to believe in a kind of ideological purity.

Remixes are by definition impure.

More on this tomorrow.