Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Invisible Mirror

Digital cameras, webcams, and smartphones have changed the way we interact with each other. We now take instant photos of our food and post them for the world to see. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are must have apps which are used for daily recording of our lives. You can literally view someone's entire day from the time they wake up until the time they go to bed. Everything is on camera.

But hit the pause button for now and think about the implications. We've become so accustomed to putting ourselves on camera that we've become numb to when the camera is out of our control. What do I mean you ask? Well, if you've shopped in a store, bought coffee in a Starbucks, or pumped gas today then you were on camera. Parking lots have cameras. ATMs have cameras. Workplaces have cameras. Churches have cameras. Crowds are observed on camera at sporting events. In a growing number of cities streets and intersections have cameras that capture images of pedestrians and vehicles. And last but not least, Google has used satellites to film where you are currently sitting right now. If you use Google+ they are inside your home too.

 We have become conditioned to being observed, willingly or not. Webcams are being hacked and digital pirates can watch you whenever they want (so put that away) and you wouldn't even know. The apps I mentioned before require you to give up your rights to control your smartphone camera or tablet camera (read the permissions carefully the next time you download an app). While you never want to promote conspiracy theories or dwell in the land of paranoia, you should take a moment and become more aware of the little bites of privacy that you willingly give away.

One of the best Sci-Fi movies of all time (ok, I'm not a big Sci-Fi fan) is THX 1138, the classic by George Lucas from 1971. The movie shows the extreme boundaries of constant surveillance and was prescient in it's exploration of today's pharmaceutical drug culture. Visually stunning, it holds up today and you should check it out when you have time. And there is a really cool scene filmed in a BART tunnel that was under construction!

I'm not immune to the good aspects of instant video and I use my camera all the time. But its ok to be cautious and unplug the camera from time to time. Big Brother may not be focused on you yet, but the infrastructure is being built and the switch could be flipped soon.

Monday, September 2, 2013

President Obama's iPod!

President Obama has always displayed his love and appreciation of good music. From time to time you've seen stories in the media about his favorite tunes and the contents of his iPod. Let's hope that he has some Prince music in the shuffle...specifically "Partyup"

U're gonna have to fight ur own damn war!
'Cause we don't wanna fight no more!

Prince "Partyup"

"Partyup" is a potent anti-war bomb that's wrapped up in a chimera of dance-rock brilliance. The lyrics are clear, the intent is defined, and there is no mistake in the message. The song is just one of many in Prince's body of work that stands out aurally but also brings a positive social message with the softness of a brick upside the head. I would provide a link...but you know how Prince you're on your own if you want to listen to it.

For the past couple of weeks President Obama has been drumming on the tom-toms of war. I'm not sure if it's war against Syria...or war with Syria. The past couple of weeks have been humbling for O. Don't get me wrong...I'm still rollin' with the O til the wheels come off...but foreign policy was a strength, up until now. I'm glad he changed his mind and passed the ball to Congress. Serves them right. Secretary of State Kerry has been used as a political stunt dummy, so I hope he gets a copy of the real playbook soon.

Most Americans do not want another war. Period. We don't know, and probably don't care, about the diplomatic/economic/strategic implications of this decision. In fact, it may boil down to how much are we willing to pay for a gallon of gas?  That may be too crass, but not far from the truth. Access to oil and shipping lanes matter. The question is how high is the price to pay for that access? Most would argue, regardless of political affiliation, that its too high.

It may be time for the President to take a few minutes, lay back on the couch, dim the lights, and listen to "Partyup" on his iPod (or his smartphone, who uses an iPod these days?). The words may guide him towards finding peace instead of war.

Here is how deep it is...MSNBC aired a thoughtful and gut wrenching piece the other night on the plight of the million Syrian refugees pouring into Jordan. Hundreds of thousands are under age eleven. Its a full scale human rights saga worthy of the world's attention. Yet, the...very...first...commercial after the story was an ad for Northrup Grumman, one of the largest weapons suppliers in the world.

What was that!? It was a strange message that there are some very large forces out there urging us to go to war in Syria. Iraq it not as profitable as it used to be...and Afghanistan may not drive revenues at the end of the next five year plan. So they're looking for customers, and touting their ability to manufacture drones, the next frontier in military conflicts. They ain't just sellin' to our side...

That's too much to think about. Let me go back to where I started, so I can end this prattle. Prince's "Partyup" is the song that I hope President Obama has on his iPod. Go ahead Mr. President, take a listen, it will help make the decision an easier choice.