Gauging TechCrunch’s Moral Fiber In One Sentence

15 07 2009

The study of microexpressions has long been fascinating to me.  If you’re really paying attention, you can learn a great deal about a person in fleeting, unguarded moments.  I think this is true about language as well.  In written and spoken conversation, passing remarks – let’s call them “microprose” – can often give a far more realistic depiction of what’s really going on than what is presented as the main course.  This is, of course, because they are less thought out – and thus less guarded – than the rest of it.

When Arrington posted his rant back in December about how TechCrunch was no longer going to honor embargoes, I stayed out of that fray.  I did that for many reasons: mostly because I think they have every right to refuse to honor embargoes, partially because I didn’t really care enough, and also because the issue was already getting a lot more treatment than it deserved.  But at the time, one little piece of it stood out to me:

“We’ll happily agree to whatever you ask of us, and then we’ll just do whatever we feel like right after that.”

I remember being troubled by that.  It’s one thing to say you won’t honor embargoes and NDAs.  It’s quite another to say you will agree to them and then break them.  The former describes someone doing what they feel is best for their business in an increasingly competitive space; the latter describes someone running a serious ethical deficit.

Last night the news broke that Arrington is in receipt of several hundred confidential Twitter documents forwarded to him by a hacker who broke into some of the company’s email accounts.  I won’t get into it all here; it’s being covered ad nauseam by the usual suspects.  Last night, Arrington publicly feigned moral contemplation about an “ethical line” he didn’t want to cross, then closed the same article with “more posts coming soon.”  Bring me the vomit bag.

I would conservatively estimate that the feedback loop of mutual-Web2.0-masturbation that goes on with Arrington and the toadys immediately around him might evacuate 40% of the oxygen from the social media ecosphere.  And that’s fine; jerk each other off all you want – it’s America.  But when you decide to participate on the buy side of a market for the fruits of criminal labor, I object – and I hope your readers do, too.



The Blackberry Killer?

18 04 2009

Most of you have already heard about this so-called “Craigslist Killer.”  This labeling is the worst type of media laziness and it perpetuates the fear of information technology that our society still can’t seem to shake.  Fear of new things is, itself, nothing new.  But our ability to rapidly disseminate and amplify that fear certainly is.  A couple of years ago – when this same kind of panic had reached new heights with Chris Hansen’s MySpace hysteria – I told Tom Zeller at the New York Times basically the same thing I’m going to say now.  At around the same time, Andrew Kantor at USA Today smartly called out our fear of everything tech – cameras, Lite-Brites, and things with “batteries and wires.”

So, I find myself (not) wondering:

If he drove a Toyota, would we be calling him “The Toyota Killer”?
If he wore Nike sneakers, would we be calling him “The Nike Killer?”

The shooting incident happened at the Marriott – why isn’t he “The Marriott Killer?”

And I’m sorry to belabor this, but I noticed the suspect appears to use a Blackberry cell phone – so why aren’t we calling him “The Blackberry Killer?”

Because we’re much more comfortable with cars, sneakers, hotels, and even cell phones (however fancy they may be.)

But online communities still scare us; we don’t get them.  They’re still weird, new, foreign, or somehow sinister to most people.  So we draw an association that does not exist.  And in doing so, we irresponsibly do damage to a brand.



Who Didn’t Know?

11 03 2009

parker-palmer“I don’t think we should ever doubt our capacity to deny reality. Until you get to be my age, you really believe you’re not gonna die – that fundamental fact of human life. That’s part of our problem. I could make the same argument about the current economic collapse. Who didn’t know this was coming? Who didn’t know that a system that encouraged us to live beyond our means – and provided all kinds of devious and ethically doubtful ways for us to do so – was going to fall apart someday? Who didn’t know that housing was overvalued and stocks were overpriced? Who didn’t know a system that makes the rich richer while the poor get poorer would someday face a curtain call? We all knew it at some level, just like we all know we’re going to die. And yet our capacity to deny reality is huge and I think that we don’t want to know what we really know because if we did then we’d have to change our lives.” – Parker Palmer [on Bill Moyers’ Journal]



Michael Phelps Should Not Be Sorry

6 02 2009

This Product Contains Cannabis [by me]

ZOMG, this product contains cannabis!


Michael Phelps has nothing to apologize for.  I understand the reality he faces, however, and why he has to say what he said.  But let’s go beyond the breathless theatrics and think about the core issue.  “He broke the law,” the pundits are saying, as if that is necessarily the end of the conversation.  Sorry, but Phelps was not wrong; our marijuana laws are wrong.  Really wrong.

Does anybody alive even remember why it was outlawed?  No, of course you don’t – but you’ll do yourself well to look over the historical – and hysterical – record.

Let’s take a few choice quotes from the era of marijuana criminalization, shall we?

“Marihuana influences Negroes to look at white people in the eye, step on white men’s shadows and look at a white woman twice.”
[1934 newspaper editorial in favor of criminalization]

“All Mexicans are crazy, and this stuff is what makes them crazy.”
[Texas legislator arguing for criminalization]

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Be The Change – Don’t Be The Ass

25 01 2009

I found this new video very disturbing:

Britney Spears was [rightly] excoriated for saying “I think we should just support our President in everything he does.” I expect to hear at least as much criticism of this stupidity – which brings Oval Office hero-worshiping to a new and nauseous level.

I totally agree with the “be the change” concept – nothing new (although still very rare).

But Ashton Kutcher (not the world’s brightest sociopolitical bulb) and Demi Moore pledge to be “servants” to President Obama. What the fuck are they talking about? Kutcher is the same moron who recently referred to President Bush as our “commander”.  Is he channeling jungsturm or something?

Who are these people?

And how many of them do you think could actually sit down and engage in a substantive, nuanced conversation about the important issues they’re pledging about?  Two, three, maybe?

This new Harpo Productions video feels right out of a 1930s propaganda machine. I truly sympathize with President Obama – a human facing inhuman expectations. He will have a very hard time living up to the high-style, breathless absurdity of fluff like this.

Hey idiots: pledge loyalty to ideals, or goals, or foundational principles that stir your heart and soul. Respect others, hope for the best for them, empower them, agree and disagree with them, but don’t worship them.  Pledging to be a “servant” to a single person is called a cult.

Hollywood needs political cluefulness, not a new branch of Scientology.

Here’s my pledge: I pledge to fight against blind, unquestioning loyalty of any kind. It’s what got us into the mess we’re in – and it’s certainly not going to get us out.



A Moment of Truth With The National Association of Realtors

9 01 2009
Kevin Is Back, by Anthony Citrano
Kevin Is Back, by me.

For the are-you-fucking-kidding-me files, we have an article from this month’s issue of Realtor – the official magazine of the National Association of Realtors. In the article “Overcoming Buyer Reluctance“, various ways to trick people into trying to catch a falling knife are discussed.  While the piece is primarily excerpted from Gary Keller’s new book, “Shift”, it’s presented as a how-to for realtors who are struggling to find buyers in this market.  (They find it odd that people finally seemed to have smartened up, I guess.)

Here is the first tip they offer:

“A simple technique to prove to potential buyers, or even sellers, that they can’t perfectly time the market is to do this easy demonstration: Take out a blank sheet of paper and pen. Now, starting at the top of the paper, draw a line going down and at the same time ask the buyers to stop you when the market has bottomed out.  As long as your line keeps going straight down they won’t be able to. The moment you start back up, they’ll say ‘there!’ but of course they missed the bottom. Now, keep drawing your line up while asking them to tell you when the market has peaked. Again, they won’t be able to tell you until you’ve rounded the top and started back down. Then they’ll say ‘there!’ and once again they’ll be behind the peak.  This should be a moment of truth for them.”

Yeah, it should.



Do Warm Climates Really Thin Your Blood?

6 12 2008
portland maine storm sky 2

photo by me

This is my third winter away from New England and my second one here in lovely Venice, California.  I’m proud to say I’ve braved dozens of brutally cold New England winters.  I’ve never considered myself a “cold baby.”

After spending almost two years here, though, I am officially a “cold baby.”  When it drops into the low 50s here at night, I notice it.  I feel cold.  I don’t like it.  I whine like an old lady.  I want to bring a jacket or turn on the heat a little bit in the car.  I never would have done this just a couple years ago.  As a Maine schoolkid, I would have laughed at the notion that I’d ever feel cold at such temps.  I recently reminisced with a friend about the miles we would walk as kids in brutally cold weather (because we had no other option.)  It really had to be arctic for us to feel uncomfortably cold.

A few people have responded to my recent whining with remarks such as, “living in warmer climates thins your blood.”

So I got to thinking – is climate acclimation a psychological process or is there a physiological component to it as well?  Is the “blood thinning” thing an old wives’ tale, or is there really something to it? (I’m not knocking old wives’ tales here – some certainly turn out to be true, such as my grandma’s eat your colors rule)

And here’s what I learned: no, it doesn’t thin your blood.  Recently, Doctor Ashok Kumar told Mary Ann Roser at the Austin Statesman that: “the blood viscosity, the technical term for the thickness, doesn’t change” and goes on to suggest that the myth might have started because high altitude can thicken your blood.

I don’t think this necessarily obviates that there may be other physiological changes, but it sounds like the simple answer is: you just get used to it (or unused to it.)  I certainly have acclimated.  It happens fast, I guess.



Turkey Torture

19 11 2008

How about for Thanksgiving, we give thanks that we’re not being tortured to death?



Vote or be Ugly and Uncool

3 11 2008
vote for better tape

image by tom.arthur via Flickr

Everyone – please, for the love of all that is holy, get out and vote tomorrow.  If you can vote early (at this point I guess that’s just today), do. Those of you who can’t vote early, please be sure you know where your polling place is, and that you bring anything you may need to bring (some states require ID for first-time voters.)

RockTheVote has a great resource center that helps you figure out where to go and what you need to bring.  Use it.  Now.  And DO IT.

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Cleese Election Weekend Analysis

1 11 2008

Funny Cleese interview on Olbermann’s show tonight: