Blogging and the human mind

This one’s making the rounds (kottke and elsewhere):

“Blogging makes us more oriented toward …”

Claim-by-claim …

1. “more oriented toward an intellectual bottom line”

Is this a good thing? If it means bloggers have finely tuned bullshit detectors, that’s a good thing. But “bottom line” also means “cheap” or “nothing lower.”

2. “more interested in the directly empirical”

Maybe so, but again, not necessarily a good thing. A little abstraction here and there isn’t so bad.

I’ll need to warn you now …

… the next one …

… may make you …

… spit your drink …

… consider yourself warned …

3. “more tolerant of human differences”

I can only guess that the writer is from another country or reads only those blogs written within a commune.

Here’s something a little closer to the reality I’ve seen on blogs (after all, we want something empirical, right?): Brendan Nyhan, one of the three bright young guys who ran the bullshit-detecting blog Spinsanity, was hired to blog at The American Prospect. The left-leaning but scrupulously fair blogger dared to suggest that maybe the left wing shouldn’t join the right in resorting to “Nazi” accusations so easily.

Check the results.

Then check Nyhan’s explanation
of why he no longer writes for the Prospect.

(Yes, Lex, I did see your comment on Brendan’s post — you were one of the cooler heads by far.)

Now he’s telling people not to follow Ann Coulter in reaching for the “treason” tag. Can I use the word “quixotic” here? Bless his heart, trying to get pundits to behave. He should just follow my lead — don’t read political blogs or books.

I find that’s the only way I can “tolerate” them.

4. “more analytical in the course of daily life”

Another one of those things that’s good in some respects (“Hmmm, traffic would move more smoothly if each lane alternates in merging to get past this road hazard”) and not in others (“I don’t see why anyone should listen to Guster when Yngwie Malmsteen plays more notes per second than all those guys” or perhaps “Happy Valentine’s Day. I have this spreadsheet of our personal qualities indicating that we would have successful offspring; therefore, we should mate.”).

5. “more interested in people who are interesting”

I’m tempted to make a snarky comment here asking when people were ever interested in boring people. But I have to confess — I’m boring. And that’s a severe handicap in this day and age. My strength is in logical evaluation, and who the hell wants to read that?

6. “less patient with Continental philosophy”

Yeah … take THAT, Foucault!!

I’m no Continental philosophy expert — I majored in philosophy, but (A) my grades stunk, (B) that was 15 years ago and (C) I read very little after Hume and Mill. Most philosophy after Hume and Mill stinks, anyway. (Follow this link for funny, semi-relevant link tied to the Zidane head-butt World Cup incident.)

But I know (or at least looked up) that Continental philosophy includes postmodernism. And the only thing you’ll see more postmodern than blogging is a bunch of English professors dressed as circus clowns while deconstructing a Family Guy episode. The whole point is to subvert the dominant paradigm of top-down elitist publishing. Sure, it was never that elitist, but that’s not relevant, is it?

Some great responses back at the original post:

“The IT industry has an unusually high proportion of emontionally immature libertarians, and blogging (as a recent fruit of IT) seems to provide a strong outlet for self-indulgent reveling in one’s own thoughts and self-congratulations on one’s rational approach to life. Plus there are plenty of other libertarian bloggers out there to make the libertarian feel a solidarity in his or her selfishness.”

“Blogging allows me to clarify my thoughts and put them into cogent arguments well before I am called on to use them in another context. It exercises analytical writing skills by putting you through the paces of analysis on a regular basis. As a law student, I have found that is a very valuable excercise. And, yes, it does provide for a better process of self-reflection than thought alone…. by putting my thoughts down and facing them over the passage of time, I am able to more correctly identify themes in my discourse.”

(Good for him, but it’s had the opposite effect on me. My writing has gone steadily downhill.)

I’ve found it makes me even more obnoxious and snarky.”

Add something about being unable to use apostrophes correctly, and that says it all, don’t it?

P.S. Friday Night Lights just keeps getting better. Great, great, great, great episode tonight. If I could still write worth crap, I’d come up with a better adjective.

Starving on Food Network

Making the rounds on the Internets — a bit of snark on Food Network.

A quick person-by-person:

– Alton Brown: The guy doesn’t mention Good Eats. Strange.

– Emeril: I see his point. Even if you don’t watch Emeril, it’s reassuring to know Food Network has an actual chef as an anchor.

– Bobby Flay: Interesting theory that Throwdown is Food Network’s way of publishing Flay. I doubt that, but it’s interesting. I do miss Flay’s actual cooking shows — Hot off the Grill and the terrific odd-coupling (Flay with his megagrills, older guy with a little circular charcoal 1970s model) of Grillin’ and Chillin’.

– Giada: Absolute agreement here. Though some say no one watches her show for the cooking, I’d venture to say her cooking show is more popular than her travelogues. Bottom line for Giada, Alton, Flay and others — I have no interest in watching you eat. None.

– Rachael Ray: I sympathize with the complaints of overexposure, and she’s the queen of the “watch me eat” shows. But I don’t buy into the griping about 30 Minute Meals. She’s sharing quick tips for people who have no time. That’s most of us.

I see the basic complaint. The personalities are pushing aside the chefs, and that’s a bad thing.

If I had anywhere to sell it, I’d write a piece about cable networks and their inevitable descents into cheap crap.

– A&E went from actual arts and entertainments to a dumping ground for reruns.

– Bravo sewed up the gay-friendly audience and then went all-reality, more or less.

– Discovery Channel isn’t quite as high-brow as it used to be, but I’ll give them credit for MythBusters. (Aside: Kari has joined the legion of women who have been made less attractive by their spread in Maxim. That’s a damn shame. Something similar happened to my generation’s Kari as well.)

– TLC. The “Learning” Channel. Yes, I’m majoring in What Not to Wear.

– C-SPAN was holding up pretty well until they did that reality show on Capitol Hill staffers. Can you believe Rachel stood up the majority whip to go out drinking with that guy from Homeland Security?

OK, I made up the last one. Just wanted to see if you were still reading.

At least History Channel still shows history, and Ovation has a fair amount of music. Quick word of warning on the latter, though — if you see them advertising an interview with your favorite singer or band, it might be a few years old. Say, 10. Or 15.

Guess you get what you pay for.

Give in to ‘Idol’ domination

Actually, I’m not — I know American Idol is on as I write this, but Mrs. MMM is watching something on the DVR. And I’m listening to a former Idol contestant. Mega-selling Chris Daughtry, pride of my former home of Greensboro? Nope. (I actually went to his Crown Honda service desk. Maybe our paths crossed. No idea.) Ruben? Nope. Fantasia? Nah. Kelly Clarkson? I like some of her songs, but this guy didn’t win. I don’t blame you if you don’t remember him.

He’s Jon Peter Lewis, the sleepy-eyed guy who won over the Idol judges in the audition rounds despite having the “personality of a pen salesman” (guess who said that?), then hung around as a survivor of the wild-card round. I tune out Idol by that point, so I don’t know if that means he had a 9-7 record and played on the road against the Colts or something like that, but his Wikipedia entry explains how he wound up in eighth place.

Now looking suspiciously like Grant Lee Phillips, the man know as JPL is blogging for TVSquad, which is a pretty good way to plug his singer-songwriter career.

And he’s not bad at any of it. The funny thing — he may be the first American Idol recording artist to be a better songwriter than a singer.

Blog impact

Milhouse: We gotta spread this stuff around. Let’s put it on the Internet!
Bart: No! We have to reach people whose opinions actually matter!

That was a few years ago. But is it still valid?

Bloggers take credit for ruining Dan Rather’s career, among other things. As a whole, the political blogosphere isn’t shy about self-congratulation.

But I find bloggers sometimes delude themselves into thinking they have more influence than they actually do. Read the blogs on the Duke lacrosse situation, and you’d think Duke was on the verge of collapsing into a black hole of political correctness. Read The Chronicle or talk to people, and you’ll find the same complaints about outspoken faculty, but they’re aired within a Duke that isn’t quite as dysfunctional as the blogs make it sound. (Granted, you could rewind to April and find The Chronicle providing a clearer picture of Duke than you were getting on cable TV, where Duke was being painted as some sort of Civil War relic. So it’s not just blogs that can develop tunnel vision.)

I won’t say much on that situation, but I have a better case study: The Noka chocolate controversy. The quick recap, in case the preceding link is a little too much: Blogger wonders why company’s chocolate costs so much, blogger does 10-part investigation, other blogs pick it up and say “wow!”

At long last, the story has hit the mainstream media. But they aren’t just piling on. The New York Times puts the blog furor in the broader context of luxury gift-giving. The Dallas Morning News considers the company’s PR possibilities.

The prevailing advice in the DMN story is to fight fire with fire, which is Starbucks’ philosophy. I’m not so sure. One blogger trots out the “no such thing as bad publicity” line, and I can’t think of a counterargument. Meanwhile, the Noka-sympathetic backlash is building, with one blogger cleverly casting the situation as David versus the blogger. (It doesn’t help that the blogger is anonymous and therefore unable to prove he doesn’t have an axe to grind. Still, I wish the blogs would tackle the questions raised in the original post.)

The bottom line: This doesn’t seem to be hurting Noka’s bottom line. And I’m sure that comes as a shock to the people who hopped on this story a few weeks ago and chortled that Noka’s days were surely numbered.

I’ll stick with what I said earlier:

I don’t see anything Noka’s doing here that differs from typical luxury branding. I’m sure someone could do the same investigation on Prada, finding that they use the same components as cheaper competitors. For better or for worse, creating status around a brand is a skill. The message behind Noka never really was “I care so much about you that I bought chocolate 10 times better than Godiva’s.” The message is, “I have money and will spend it on you.”

Besides, it’s chocolate. It’s subjective. Some people like Special Dark; some like Krackel.

I think Noka’s decision to sidestep the fray is paying off. They’re selling an aura. They’d lose it if they jumped in.

Besides, people who make enough money to buy this stuff probably aren’t hanging out, arguing on blogs. They’re either working in fulfilling careers or flying off to Monaco for the weekend. Or maybe they’re celebrities who don’t know how to operate computers.

So that’s my take on it. I’m sure the five people who read this post will be forever changed.

Friday night clearout

I’ve been off Thursday and Friday. The first day was spent dealing with a slightly sick kid (he’s fine). Today was very slightly productive. I made it to the store and Hair Cuttery. That’s about it.

I’ve been trying to untangle a few knots in my head. I’m still at a career crossroads, anxious to pick a path. But let’s just say my ride isn’t here yet.

So while I’m clearing out my head, here are a few things that fell out:

– In the early days of music videos, I didn’t just watch MTV’s weekday programming. I watched 120 Minutes, plus VH1’s New Age/fusion/folky New Visions and something that aired over a University of Georgia cable channel that probably existed for a couple of years at most. This was the height of my musical awakening in high school, and it exposed me to all sorts of songs.

It’s been a while since I’ve had anything similar, but I stumbled on it tonight. MHz — a local public TV station that’s going national — has a show called Strictly Global. Strictly speaking, it’s not all that global — it’s basically alt-pop with a few songs from Brazil and elsewhere mixed in. But the alt-pop is much broader than you hear on the radio. Yes, even on XM, where much of this music would fall in the gap between new-music XMU and the lifestyle channels such as The Loft or Hear Music.

And it’s damn good.

Highlights so far tonight include a new-ish Cardigans tune called Don’t Blame Your Daughter, a 2007 release from Bloc Party called I Still Remember, and a sweet video by Bob Sinclair in which a kid and his dog dream of building a rocket and saving Earth from an approaching meteor.

– The problem with running the show Dirt in the 10 p.m. slot is that there’s no time to shower after watching Courteney Cox (weakly) pretending to have an orgasm, Rick Fox getting his knees whacked, outdoor man-on-man or woman-on-man action (and they’re surprised someone got photos?), indoor woman-on-woman action, or Wayne Brady channeling Samuel L. Jackson while threatening to cut off a guy’s Mr. Happy and make him eat it.

You read that correctly. That’s Wayne Brady. That’s art imitating Chappelle’s Show. And you wouldn’t believe how well he pulled it off. Dude isn’t just an improv wizard — he’s got some chops.

– I’ve probably said it before, and I know I edited the relevant Wikipedia page, but Remember Me As a Time of Day is NOT the theme song for Friday Night Lights, no matter what the closed-captioning says. The FNL theme is in 3/4 time. Remember is in 4/4. Your Hand in Mine, another Explosions in the Sky tune, is in 3/4, but that’s also not the theme song.

– And a conversation with MMM Jr. …

ME: You’re being uncooperative.

MMMJ (laughing): No, I’m not.

ME: Yes, you’re being uncooperative.

MMMJ (laughing harder): No, YOU’RE coopratif!