October 29, 2006

Identity Theft and the Meta-You

For many years I have wrestled with the central conundrum of identity theft: how can you steal something that can’t be given away?

My attempt to limn an answer has brought me to advocate the legal construction of a new business entity. This entity would be established with the creation of a publicly-disclosed contract stipulating the details of a temporary transferal of identity from one person to another. (Prize for a name! Golem is taken.)

Think of the practical utility of, say, conferring your identity upon a tax expert with great bone structure and glowing skin to argue the merits of your defense to an IRS agent, appearing, not merely as your representative, but with the full legal and emotional impact of the actual you, as decreed by statute.

To put this idea into practice in advance of its widespread acceptance, I have resorted to a logical artifice that I call “James A. Friendly.” James A. Friendly shares every trait with me except one: James A. Friendly is not me. Ask him and he will assuredly agree, “I am most certainly NOT him!”, for this too is a trait we share.

Before James A. Friendly applies for a Discover card, I am issuing an open call to anyone with any special creative prowess in the areas of contract law or the establishment of offshore companies, in the interest of canonizing this most important tenet of the Information Age, won’t YOU step forward and BE the next James A. Friendly?

We both thank you.

October 28, 2006

Bodies In Motion

In another time, Micheal J. Fox is Terri Schiavo, Rush Limbaugh is Bill Frist, and Washington is where God does His work. So again we're shown the body politic. Only this time it's the left asking us to look at this body, interpret its movements, and take a position.

The media have long been a branch of government, and nothing heals better than television, but these phenomena make way for new versions, inversions, and perversions of politics, celebrity, religion, and medicine. The Great Mashup continues. Get ready for more celebrity victims, suffering sinners, pundit policy makers, and global baby snatching.

Electrons for Jesus

An old friend recently marshaled untold billions of electrons for the purpose of delivering this chain email:

[begin inane block-headed chain email]

Do you believe in God?

NBC this morning had a poll on this question. …
86% to keep the words, “In God We Trust” and “God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.
14% against.

That is a pretty 'commanding' public response. …

Therefore, I have a very hard time understanding why there is such
a mess about having "In God We Trust" on our money and having
God in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Why is the world catering to this 14%?

If you agree pass this on, if not, simply delete.

-In God We Trust

[end inane block-headed chain email]

I was shocked and dismayed. It used to be that, in America, there was the notion that God created all people equally. Even the people that don’t believe in Him. He’s God, He doesn’t need to have an ego trip about having everyone believe in Him. So here is a chain email that characterizes the belief that God endowed each of us with the unalienable right to believe in His non-existence as something they can’t condescend to.

“Cater to”? Oh please! The Constitution protects the rights of the minority because God gave the minority the same rights as the majority and it’s not for the majority to say what those rights are. It is up to God. If you trust God you simply must not force others to proclaim the same, because that is tantamount to trying to take away a right granted by the Creator.

OK, Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. IN GOD WE TRUST. Are you telling me you are a better judge of rights than God? I don’t think so.

This is the kind of thing that really gets my hackles up. Maybe the person who created it was being deliberately provocative and scored a point on my naïveté, but I know for certain that lots of people pollute their minds with these ideas, which amount to false maxims signifying intolerance and which cannot withstand even the most casual scrutiny.

Please see US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s moving explication of the tyranny of the minority at in an interview with CNN correspondent Jeffrey Toobin at this link:


October 25, 2006

Upload and Downsize

The recently announced layoff's at NBC Universal make it clear that TV content from now on, has got to come cheap. We've seen this coming for a while, but for people making television, we must stop talking about the future of media, and accept that the future has arrived.

By "doing away with scripted programming" in prime time (8-11 pm), NBC sends a message to all of those who produce that old media. If you are among those who write it, light it, act in it, or make any kind of money from it, your jig is up.

NBC will put 700 employes on the street, and they'll be joining 400 axed by Warner Bros.,150 by Paramount, 1100 by MGM, and 650 by Disney, all within the past year. Since Disney reported a 40% jump in quarterly profits after cutting personnel, its hard to argue this is merely a lean time bound to cycle back.

I'm all for studying film history in film schools, but looking backwards is only half the picture. After screening Citizen Kane, let's take a look at some webisodes, mobisodes, and then upload to YouTube.

October 10, 2006

Empowered Thumb for Suckers

They have interactive television in the UK. Audiences send text messages (SMS) to support contestants, request music videos, express an opinion, or test their quiz smarts. This audience participation also allows a show's presenters to collect money from viewers directly, as opposed to relying solely on commercials.

While multiple time zones make it harder for this trend to fly in the US, more than 500,000 txts, at 49 cents each, were sent to "Big Brother" in a two day period last summer. NBC's "Deal or No Deal" earned enough via SMS to cover the more than $1 million prize money it offers. While voting on the internet is often free of charge, txting via phone means a participant need not leave the couch.

The strangest part of this is that many of those who text message TV shows don't even believe their messages are being counted or read by anybody. There's no verification or regulation, and some I spoke to say the videos they request never come on. It's all just a thumb charade, another illusion of the digital utopia.

October 9, 2006

Melts in Your Mouth

The most exquisite part of the Mark Foley/Dennis Hastert Sex Scandal is the way it has held the front page like a serial drama. Because House Speaker Hastert reacted with as much courage and honor as can be expected of the Republican leadership — he lied, denied it, tried to cover it up — the truth is dissolving his party like so much cotton candy on a lustful tongue.

October 5, 2006

Poor Little Predator

It doesn't get more cynical then Mark Foley playing the victim role.

We've seen since 9/11 how victimhood has become extra special in our society. Before 9/11, the only similar status was that of those who exited Nazi death camps. But in the postmodern era, (not like when those "displaced persons" became "survivors") victim is a new sort of star. Whether you're voted off the cast of a realityTV show, or preying on those over whom you lord power, victimhood is far from your last gasp.

To PLAY the victim has little to do with actually BEING a victim, however. The sympathy that Foley hopes to elicit is nothing like that hoped for by an actual victim, like say a dead Iraqi's family, a nomadic New Orleanean, or a disfigured or dismembered, or brain-damaged soldier.

But there's something about this Republican ploy that just may work. If you've never been in a war zone, nor hurricane, nor paid for supper with food stamps, but you have had lust for someone a mere internet connection away, you may just find it in your heart to forgive someone like Mark Foley.