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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Etiquette in the Electronic Age: Time for A Guidebook?

Chris Brogan's blog today "The Anywhen Manifesto"   got me to thinking about etiquette in the electronic age.  We're being constantly pulled one way and another by the demands of the new electronic media.  As fast as the tech people can add features to our cell phones and laptops, televisions and Blackberries, some marketer somewhere finds a way to use that feature to pester and annoy us.  They pile our computer memory with little programs that track how we use the Internet and bombard us with ads their software thinks we want to see.

They even claim it's a service to us, as all the while our computers gradually run slower and slower, forcing us to go out and spend hard cash to buy other software that takes off the software spies that were placed on our computers without permission in the first place. The new electronic communications media piles images, messages and demands for action on us to the point that many of us feel overwhelmed by it all - buried in e-mail, voice mail and Twitters.

The Internet and the new electronic media is, undoubtedly a young and vibrant media.  Like anything young, it hasn't yet learned the value of being polite!  That's to be expected.  The question is, "Should the resultant crudity of the new media be tolerated by our society?"

Years ago, Emily Post wrote a thick book on etiquette that set the tone for social behavior for decades in our society.  Someone codified polite behavior and those who valued polite behavior adopted her guide and set the tone for others who, though they might never have read Miss Emily, were nevertheless impacted by her strategic guide for improving the quality of life in "polite society".

Perhaps it is time to write a 21st century etiquette to guide us in deploying the new media.  Can we use the strengths of the new media to overcome the nasty bits that keep cropping up as new and useful technological tools are developed?

E-mail is wonderfully useful as a tool for time-shifting.  You can put off till later, the reading of your e-mail and handle it when you have time.  Listserves were early and useful on-line communities that developed around this valuable characteristic of e-mail.  Unfortunately, the nasty bit that came with the listserve was spam. Then came spam filters which have helped some, if not perfectly.  Then came MySpace and Facebook and we soon had a kind of e-mail on steroids, but with that came the marketers and things began to be built into these tools that waste our time.

For instance, there is a little social game on Facebook called Farmville.  Lots of my friends and family play it and it's actually a lot of fun.  But the problem is, the marketers are busy with the game maximizing the amount of time you have to spend there to keep up your farm, thereby maximizing how long you look at the advertisements in the sidebars.  The idea is to achieve a delicate balance whereby players stick with the game because they get rewarded with special junk for their electronic farms in exchange for spending hours piddling with the game and looking at ads. They are probably making pots of advertising dollars.

Now these games are everywhere and I feel obligated to play because my loved ones keep sending me stuff, but I'm beginning to realize I can't do it anymore and keep up with my career and personal things I want and need to do. These kinds of games can be very impolite.  They could, I think, still achieve their purpose, though perhaps not as lucratively by incorporating some principles of politeness.

Chris Brogan posted his "Anywhen Manifesto" to address what he calls an "Assault on Anywhen".  Anywhen is Chris' word for that most valuable of characteristics of the new electronic media, the ability to time-shift work or communications to a more convenient time for the user.  This document is a nice start. It provides a strategic framework for pushing back against those who would take by force, the very things about the new communications technology that can potentially improve our lives.

Time-shifting is the big thing we stand to lose.  Do we want to go back to the days when a telephone HAD to be answered.  Twitter and text-messaging, to some extent is doing that to us, perhaps unintentionally, perhaps not. Are the creators of the new technology using human weaknesses like the need for acceptance or attention to enslave us to our PDA's.  It's sad, because PDA's, hi-tech cell phones and laptops have the potential to give us power over when we communicate and when we go to our kid's Little League game. Instead, some media purveyors seem intent on tying us down and cutting us off from the world around us.

Perhaps what we need is a 21st century Emily Post for the Internet Age - a guide to how to engage the basic principles of politeness as we deploy new electronic communications technology.  Can we create an electronic "etiquette" that recognizes that human beings have a basic need for privacy, for control of their own time and energies and for boundaries that are recognized and respected by polite people.

Just because a new electronic tool CAN do something, does that mean it should?  This should be explored. It's a great idea for a book.  I do believe I will suggest that to a publisher.

Just One Man's Opinion

Tom King

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Another Way to Say He's Tough

A fellow blogger, Nancy Coburn lamented today at the expression, "He (or she) has b.......s.".  This is a family blog, so I'll leave it to your imagination as to what anatomical part the expression refers to.  Leave it to say, the expression means that the person is tough.You could also, as accurately, say he or she has "testosterone" Testosterone is, after all associated with the first expression and testosterone is the hormone that makes you tough, tenacious and aggressive. That unfortunately common expression is generally use to describe that characteristic of male aggressiveness and determination.  Nancy wondered why there was no similar expression that draws from the other side of the gender divide, say "He or she has got hooters" for instance.  I'm just quoting here, so don't blame me. 

I suppose you could also say that he or she has "estrogen", but then that's got a lot of conflicting images associated with it, depending on what estrogen does to you or your wife.
He's got estrogen could mean he likes long walks on the beach, hot bubble baths and talking till dawn or it could mean that several days a month you want to hide any heavy or sharp cooking utensils lying about the house.

Either way, I don't think, as a guy, I'd appreciate being told I had "estrogen" (or hooters for that matter).  That's just not something most guys want to have.

I'm just sayin'


* I wish to formally thank Jean Claude Van Damme for the use of his pectorals.  If you're gonna have hooters they should at least be chiseled ones!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Artists Who Whine and Other Sacred Cows

I hear the Dixie Chicks are breaking up. It set up a lively discussion on the Banjo Hangout that, so far, the moderators haven’t shut down. The folks are keeping it civil thus far.  Edavidt (not his real name) finally made the “artist’s prerogative” argument.

I knew it was coming.

Edavidt said that it is “…unreasonable to expect someone who is an entertainer to keep their opinions…to themselves.”  He went on to say that he felt that some of us thought “..the Dixie Chicks exist for the personal gratification of their fans and nothing else.” He seems to think this is a bad thing.

The truth is, if you want to make money in show business, then you pretty much "exist for the gratification of your fans".  You see, since we are not living under a totalitarian regime where we were forced to attend concerts and applaud on cue, we are free to vote with our feet and our bucks.

No gratification, no fans.  More than one performer has learned this lesson the hard way.  Most performers stick to a style and go off-line with their personal forays into other formats or into extreme ideas their fans might not understand.This protects them from fan backlash. You learn this and exercise control to prevent it.

Dan Fogelberg confused some of his fans with his forays into light jazz and bluegrass. He also gained some fans, but there is a risk to doing something your fans don't expect.  Fogelberg's folk/rock career subsided after that, largely, I think because the Leader of the Band had confused the band and they didn't know where he was headed and weren't sure they wanted to go there with him any more. It was unfortunate.

You can say whatever you want to in this country and in most democratic Western nations. The United States in particular is still a free country last time I checked. But freedom comes with a price. If you are willing to pay the price for your right to say what you think, fine. If not, you should probably keep your commentary off the stage. I'm tired of performers who whine that people don't want to pay them money to perform just because they said something those folks did not like.

Too many performers mistake fan worship for evidence that they have the power to speak and have fans blithely accept every word they say as gospel.  Tain't so. 

I like a lot of songs that are performed by artists that I personally find reprehensible in their conduct.  I love to watch Tiger Woods hit a golf ball, but his recent behavior rather dimmed my interest in his opinion as a spokesperson. That's just how it is. My admiration for him as a person dimmed dramatically when I found out what he did to his wife and child.  I don't care how good a golfer he is.

If a performer goes too far with their songs, I lose interest in their music like my friend Mike's wife, Irene did with Barbara Mandrell.  Barbara sang a song "If Lovin' You is Wrong, I Don't Want to Be Right" that said I don't care about your wife and kids, I want you.  Irene knew too many put upon wives and children who had lost husbands to these sorts of predatory females.  Irene never listened to another Barbara Mandrell Song.

Now Barbara had every right to sing that song, but in choosing it, she listened more to her entourage than to the fans that made her popular. I kinda lost respect for Barbara over that song myself.  She had every right to sing it, sure, but I have every right not to like it. I've lost interest in wading through "message" or “shock” pieces looking for a song I like.  I'm too busy for that.

"Oh, but I only listen to the music, not the words."

Bah!  Anyone who tells you that can probably lip sync several hundred pop tunes off the top of their heads, so don't tell me the words don't matter. They matter. They get in your head and influence what you think or feel without you even knowing it.  Next time your 10 year old darling daughter starts ripping out rap lyrics about "ho's" and 'bustin' caps", ask yourself what her brain is learning about the meaning of life when there is all that garbage floating around in her cerebrum.

Artists have a long tradition of challenging the status quo, of making statements with their art. That is their right and privilege.  BUT, they also have a long tradition of starving for their art and not being recognized till long after they are dead. You really need to decide are you an artist or a performer (i.e. a 'star'). If you choose to be an artist, don’t be surprised if people don’t like you. That kind of goes with the whole artist thing.

Either way, neither artists nor stars are sacred cows that we have to allow to wander into our houses and poop on the kitchen floor. If they become obnoxious, we have this quaint ritual called the barbecue......

 Just one man's opinion,


* Emily Robison of the Dixie Chicks in Austin, TX. - Photo by Ron Baker. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Honesty, Thy Name is "Honey Bunch"

Someone once told me that if you want to know who's really in charge at your house, at bedtime tonight, when you get back up to go turn off the light, just before you flip the light switch, turn around really quick and look at the bed.  Whoever is in there - that's who's in charge!

I sang special music at church yesterday.  I was asked to.  I figured it I would do it just once, one of two things would happen.

1. It would kick off my musical career (unlikely).
2. They would never ask me to do that again (probable).

Don't know how it came out yet.  I got a couple of compliments I couldn't immediately identify as either serious or sarcastic, but that's all.  My daughter left church early for some previous engagement and wasn't around to give me the brutally honest opinion to which the women of my household feel I am entitled, but she said she'll watch the video next week and let me know.

I'm all a-quiver with anticipation.

I didn't really tell my Sweet Baboo I was performing. Her critiques of my rehearsals aren't terribly confidence building, so I practiced upstairs in the kitchen or out on the deck where the dog sat through it all, looking puzzled and vaguely dyspeptic.  She waited till I was through and then threw up on the deck.

When I got home from church yesterday, I casually mentioned that I had "done" special music for church that morning.  She asked what I sang.  I told her, "Sweet Hour of Prayer".

"I mostly played the instrumental part on the guitar and didn't sing but 2 verses," I assured her.

She shrugged, made a "Hmmmph" sound and went back to surfing her Facebook page on my laptop. She's recovering from a bout of pneumonia, so I didn't expect much of a reaction. In this I was not disappointed.

This is a totally different reception than the one my kids get when they play a special for church or some other public event.  Sheila will hunt them down and make them perform the piece in its entirety for her. I have to obtain any photos or video that is available for historical archiving.  She always tells them how beautiful their song was and what clever children they are to be able to perform so well.

They are 29 and 36 respectively, but their Mama never misses an opportunity to give them encouragement and emotional support.

I on the other hand am under sentence of brutal honesty in my household. All the females in my family understand this and support the execution of this judgment.  Even the dog, who generally likes me, refuses to lie to me for the sake of my ego. My ego, apparently needs no encouragement.

In many ways women stand in as the voice of almighty God in a man's world. A man may surround himself with sycophants, flatterers and toadies, but let him get himself a wife of any quality whatsoever and he soon finds himself in possession of a veritable mirror showing him his own character, talents and failings without mercy or shading of the truth.

In sea-faring times captains were god-like in their power aboard ship.  He could flog you, hang you or promote you at the slightest whim and no one would question his power to do so. But, sometimes captains put to sea with their wives on board.  Sailors called such ships "hen frigates" in reference to the alteration of the command structure onboard such vessels. It is a testament to the power of women that the mere presence of a wife could so undermine the authority of her captain husband who held what was undoubtedly the most omnipotent of military ranks while the ship was at sea operating independently.  It's why the practice was discontinued in naval vessels.  It's why James Kirk, Jean Luc Picard and Jonathan Archer were single throughout their Star Trek careers.

God gives a man a wife to prepare him for heaven. They are quite good at it. I suppose we should not be resentful.  Besides, if our egos need fluffing, we can always go visit our mothers.

(Our wives believe they spoil us most shamelessly.)

Just one man's opinion,

Tom King

Friday, February 19, 2010

Is That Anything Like Corbomite?

"Prepare to execute the corbomite maneuver."
                                                       - Cpt. James T. Kirk

I walked into the closet this morning and stood there looking at the shelves and hangers. Then I just walked out.

"What were you doing in there so long?" my wife asked.

"I dunno."

Yesterday I came upstairs to the kitchen, opened the fridge and just stood there with a blank look. When I came back down my wife asked, "What were you doing up there so long?"

"I dunno."

I was sitting by the TV last night cycling through the 156 channels. On my 4th pass, my wife asked, "What are you looking for?"

"My favorite show."

She looked curiously at me. "Which is what?" she asked.

"I dunno."

This morning, Glenn Beck said that if I buy Carbonite and then lose my memories, I'll get them back.

I need to get me some of that stuff. Does it come in a liquid or a tablet?


Friday, February 12, 2010

The Screwworm Letters: Part 2

"with apologies to C.S. Lewis"

Uncle Screwworm - Administrative Assistant
Office of Grand Marshall Goebbeleninstalin.
Bulgea 1313 Fifth Circle
Attila the Hun Memorial Administrative Complex, Hell

President Wormtongue
The Whitehouse
Nation Whose Name is not Spoken Among Us, Earth

My Dear Nephew Wormtongue,

I am disappointed to say the least in your performance.  I believe I warned you of the consequences of allowing unfettered discussion of your policies in the media by certain elements over which you have limited fiduciary and technical control.  Your failure to enact legislation to create a "fair" regulatory system for the news and entertainment media is, perhaps, the greatest failure of your already miserable career.

Did you really think that passing out a few tax rebate trinkets would distract the plebian class from the fact that there are 6 unemployed workers for every available job including the ones flipping burgers?  Did you really think that you could get away with continuing to blame your predecessor for everything that goes on for the rest of your administration without somebody catching on?

We gave you that one years ago and it served you well right up until it became obvious that you were the one in charge.  To hear you talk about how it's all his fault, you'd think HE was still the president instead of you!

And why, for Lucifer's sake, did you waste a bulletproof majority in the Senate? Did you not realize that even a Kennedy cannot hold a senate seat once he is dead? You have nearly lost the opportunity to collapse the economy. This is essential. If you do not do it before the next election cycle, all may be lost and you will become about as useful as an East Texas Democrat!

And did you actually say, in front of a live microphone, that you weren't aware of the Tea Party movement? Are you deliberately trying to look incompetent.  One slip like that and you can spin it with a centrifuge and it won't help. 

Ah, but enough coaching.  All is not lost. Let me suggest how you recover (short of "accidentally" blowing up a couple of dozen Republicans as that ham-fisted idiot you hired as your chief of staff suggested - you really need to do something about that situation, you really do).

(1) Shut up!  The more you say, the easier it is to quote you. Gone are the halcyon days when a politician could give speeches in 3 separate states and say 3 contradictory things and get away with it. Since the invention of the camera cell phone, digital recorders, pocket video taping and YouTube, people can compare your speeches side by side and pick out the exact points where you are obviously adapting the facts to suit the audience.  Sadly most of the cretins in your country cannot understand the need for nuance in public speaking.  Of course, the sycophantic amateur philosophers we have trained to use that extremely valuable word, "nuance" do understand that.  All the 'best schools' teach that you have to "adjust" facts for the consumption of the weak-minded masses. We have had great success promoting the idea that college trained minds are capable of nuanced thought. Our colleges of journalism and marketing are chocked with arrogant youth who believe absolutely the most useful idea that their ideology (which is actually our ideology) is correct and that it is the ideological ends that justify the means.  So while they believe that they cannot themselves be fooled by their own propaganda, the untutored masses certainly can be. When you speak doublespeak, they understand that you do so for the sake of the unwashed proletariat and that, since they are not fooled by the lie, they are privvy to the over-arching truth and therefore, above it all.

Unfortunately for you, you great booby, simple people, simply think you're lying!  If you are going to outright lie, for Our Father Below's sake, make sure the damned cameras are off! Security concerns and metal detectors are useful in this regard.  Did you not learn at Harvard that if you remain silent, people will assume you are wise.  You cannot be ridiculed for what you have not said.  You may believe your tongue is still golden, but just about no one else still does. Even those who worship you in the media have been hard pressed to continue that faltering ad campaign.

(2) Move faster.  Stop apologizing for your failings.  Remember, you have the power. You are the power. You are incapable of failure!  They must inevitably fall before you.  Remember to keep pushing that sense of inevitably.  Make it happen.  Nothing can stop you, even now. 

(3) Keep hammering the Republicans:   Remember, the Republicans want desperately to be liked. Stroke them when they are well behaved. As it is when you are training your dog, reward anything that is even close to the behavior you want from them. Reward them with praise and special backdoor rewards that their constituents back home know nothing about.  Punish them when they are naughty, but make it come from everywhere else. Then offer them treats if they will sit for you.

(4) Ignore the Tea Parties:  This technique worked well to isolate and eliminate dangerous conservatives from being nominated in the last election. Do not talk about them. Do not respond to them.  Pretend they do not exist and they will tire and go away.  If they do not, you always have the internment camps after the revolution. FEMA has all those nice tents and trailers and Guantanamo will be cleared out.

(5) When the great collapse and revolution comes, remember that, though you personally may not survive, you will have served the greater good.  And we will have a special spot for you where you can watch the action. Who knows, if you keep on the way you have been, you might get to "be" the action.


Uncle Screwworm.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

NASA Goes to the Stars Like We Used to Get Home from College

In essence, Daddy O. just took away NASA's wheels.  Beginning with the last space shuttle launch, NASA astronauts are going to be hitchhiking to space with Russians or private sector companies.  I know Burt Rutan is going to be happy about this, but what does that do for astronaut's careers you have to wonder - especially the pilots. Are NASA's finest going to be answering questions like "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" in a string of corporate human resource director's offices?

Seems a little sad to me.  There is, however, the slight chance that Obama has done the right thing with NASA- turning space exploration over to the private sector albeit for the wrong reasons.  What troubles me though, is this.  How long will it take him to realize that a heavily loaded rocket, properly pointed from space can cause a whole lot of hurt if someone decides to drop it on someone's town or house for that matter.

If he does let the private sector go to space, will space flight be one of those things rich people do and so be taxed to oblivion like the yachting industry has been?  It just seems that Obama and the private sector are  unlikely to be a successful partnership - as unlikely as GM & Obama or AIG & Obama or Bank of America & Obama or Health Care & Obama.

What do you think the chances are that Obama will actually resist the temptation to regulate the fledgling private sector space industry into oblivion?

Probably not very good!

Tom King

* In case you are wondering, the cartoon is Photoshopped from another cartoon by Dana Summers of the Orlando Sentinel.  I can't draw an astronaut worth a flip, so I borrowed his.  You can see the original editorial cartoon which is pretty funny all by itself at: