Sitting back stage on a bleak day in November, listening to a harp being tuned: must be the first concert in the MYS season.

It’s been fun so far; audience is receptive, and I’m having fun at the microphone. Pretty much threw away the script, which can always lead to disaster, but we’ll see. Looks like this:



In between appearances now, so I've time for a good ol' fashioned fisking.

Reading this piece in the paper: Our Digital Dystopia - a Diary.. The author laments a huge, mortifying mistake in the Men’s Journal index: all the page numbers are TK, the publishing term for “to come,” something you write when you’re going to fill it in later.

Today everyone can publish, appear on video or print a CD, but few can make a living doing it. Not looking for sympathy here, other than to note that it’s not at all clear this is a sustainable way to structure an information economy. Yet we’ve only seen the start of it.

On Twitter, one of the winners in the digital swindle and the publishing firm where our crude and semiliterate leader spends his vampire hours diminishing America with his settling of scores, sowing of mistrust and harassment of victims of tragedy, one editorial hand saw a pic of all those TKs last month and called it “absolutely soul-crushing.”

Now, as you know, I am no Trump fan, but this is the sort of aside intended fluff the proper plumage and get the approval of people whose brimming pot of outrage boils over unless there’s some Trump castingtion, no matter whether it’s relevant. In this instance, it is not.

The lament clearly had less to do with a magazine error and more to do with the times. In the digital dystopia now upon us, a new trade is wiped from the landscape each week. I can write only about what it’s done to mine, but the same story could be written about law, manufacturing, restaurant work, health care — pick any business besides those employing the waves of ascendant technocrats busily scoring condos in walkable urban locales. The people who do not read for fun were able to wire us all up to transponders, and, surprise-surprise, the future has become paved with opioids, reality TV, unpaid journalism and people sending each other pictures of their food.

The shift to "digital" is not responsible for people taking pain killers. Reality TV preceded "digital," however you define that; unpaid journalism is not a problem at the WaPo, NYT, The Hill, or where I work. Yes, there are many interns cranking out copy for “exposure” and little else, but the number of writing opportunities today exceed by a factor of 10 the opportunities I had when I left college.

There were two newspapers, a glossy mag, a few suburban papers, two weeklies that paid pittance.

That was it.

Today you can start up something without the cost of an office or a printing press and get your work out there, and if you don’t make a living at it, perhaps you’re not good enough to make a living at it. Doesn’t mean you’re not good enough to deserve an audience, but union jobs are rare and a lot of smaller shops don't have the scratch. They didn't have the scratch back then, either, and there were fewer of them.

Then he quotes the Unabomber - hey, the guy was on to something!

Though it’s sound and reasonable, that warning was a line from the 1995 Unabomber manifesto. It was the prescient assessment of a killer now rightfully sitting in prison and yet clearly a savvy futurist who would have been deemed too mad to stand trial had he only dared to predict what would transpire in 2016.

His manifesto could not have predicted last November and the way in which a misanthropic foreign kleptocracy would so easily game Americans and the digital press into trading enough noise to swing a presidential election.

Did it change your vote? Know anyone whose vote was swayed? No, but we're pretty sure those idiots over there fell for it.

The recent spectacle of the technocracy legal team — lawyers for Facebook, Twitter and Google — all dodging accountability like tobacco lawyers, suggests that the digital billions extracted from us all have hardly gone to the best and the brightest.

How were these "digital" billions extracted, exactly? Most of the money has gone to Apple and Amazon, in terms of purchases; Google and Facebook make money from advertising, so the only extraction is built in to whatever we buy from the advertisers, if we buy anything at all.

Ted Kaczynski’s crimes came in the wake of some pretty strange behavior-modification experimentation, mind games played upon the math whiz while he was a teenager at Harvard in the late 1950s. I read that story the other day in the Atlantic, a once-towering intellectual magazine that now pays its bills via pop-up video that starts playing without your consent, among other digital indignities.

BTW, I hate these as well, but I'm not seeing them on the Atlantic's site. At all. But if they're there, that's horrible! In the old days TV news never had any commercials in-between the important stories, and magazines didn’t pay their way with ads.

On this particular day it was one touting a popular brand of shredded cheddar, one “made for cheese lovers, by cheese lovers,”and it had a funny scene with a dog, a wife and a sloppily-dressed husband eating nachos in a house that few if any Americans can afford. It sure took my mind off the way in which I agreed with the Unabomber.

Again, remember the old days of TV, when a stupid commercial came on - and they were mostly stupid - and you could just wave your hands in the air and it went away? Damn that digital. Digital! Digitaldigitaldigital

A separate pop-up offered helpful information on “The Rise of the Connected Family.” The sponsored content within this mandatory intrusion into text had been paid for by the Palo Alto-based Nest Labs, a Silicon Valley “home automation” company. The copy touted “a new wave of home technologies” to repair our familial stress points. It promised a digital cure for our “traditional bonding moments” — for “the anxiety folks can feel about the safety of their spouses and kids when they can’t be home.”

Why is “Home Automation” in quotes? Because there’s not really any such thing? Surely he knows that Nest makes thermostats (the horror) and security cameras. They’re owned by Google now, which would seem to be specific to his point about overarching CONTROL and so forth, but perhaps he's unaware of what Nest does.

It was an ad for home robots.

Something called Ohmni, the technology was a kind of tablet device set to face-time and then more or less mounted on top of a pole attached to a Segway of sorts. Thanks to this Ohmni, “a traveling parent can employ the machine as a kind of surrogate, as he or she calls in to participate in dinner-table conversation or bedtime routines.” And why not?

The Ohmni is a bit creepy - I get a bulemic Number Five vibe from it, or an elderly "Sorceror's Apprentice" broomstick. But I understand who’d want it. The ads seem to be pushing it as a way to check in on elderly parents, who otherwise don’t use tablets for communication. The kids buy them one - it's easy, just touch the screen, we can talk! But it runs out of juice, and they can't find it, and hell the phone is easier. It goes to Dad and Mom, and backs into a charging cradle when done. . It’s a bit like the Amazon Echo Show, the oft-promised future of video telephones come to life.

If you're angry about that, you're angry about the telegraph.

I find no evidence that Nest is involved with Ohmni. I may be wrong.

Anyway: without transition, he goes into this:

The last 10 years have taken away recorded music, cabs, hotels and shared cultural experiences, not to mention agreed-upon facts and of course unleashed your occasional storm of errant TKs.

Hmm. About those "agreed-upon facts."

1. Did the last 10 years take away recorded music? Thirty years ago your music was limited to the following: what you could buy from the store, what you could hear on the radio, and what you could check out from the library. In all instances, choices had been made for you. I have a device in my ear right now that will play nearly everything available, and it’ll play it if I tap the device twice and tell it what I want. If it doesn’t find it in the great library in the sky, it will play it from my own collection of obscurities.

There’s more access to recorded music than ever before.

New music is still be recorded, and thanks to (hate to say the cursed word) digital, there are more opportunities to be heard. To be paid? Well, it depends, but in the old days the ones who sold the most records still managed to get a pittance, thanks to crafty managers. 2.

2. Cabs. So . . . cabs have been taken away? Cabs are still around, but they’ve been supplanted by something that’s easier, usually cleaner, usually less expensive, and far more convenient. What’s been taken away is a monopoly.

3. Hotels? Three opened in downtown Minneapolis in the last few years. There’s a huge hotel under construction at the airport. What’s been added is the opportunity to rent a room from a private individual, and get a different type of experience. If ever I go back to Paris I’ll try to stay at the same room, because it’s not a cell in a big block but a space that felt quite personal and unique.

4. Shared cultural experiences? It depends what you’re talking about. In the old days the shared cultural experience consisted of certain TV shows everyone watched because the options were few. There’s less of that now, because the amount of good TV is exponentially greater, but when it comes to certain event series, there’s a shared cultural experience within the groups that watch that type of TV.

Granted, the entire nation does not sit down to watch the end of M*A*S*H*, but if that’s the glue that binds a culture together, it’s rather banal.

Then he talks about interning at the Village Voice in the 1990s.

The famous writers at the Voice never talked very much to the interns, or seemingly to one another. But being around them as they stared into early-model desktops while talking into landlines was inspiring. For someone hoping to break into journalism, it was an eminently more hopeful time to be alive, in fact, than this sad, impossible moment at the all-you-can-eat buffet for user video, a moment that has given us President Donald Trump.

Couldn’t resist! It had been at least ten paragraphs since he reminded us that it is very important to know he doesn’t like the POTUS. I was in journalism at the same time, although a bit older, and compared to my days at the college paper, there were few things less inspiring than looking at people staring into early-model desktops. Computers changed newsrooms. They made them quiet.

A paper was being created. It went into boxes positioned on the street and in the subways all over town. The arrival each week of those papers put everyone in proximity with the same event. There was no swiping of your thumb to move on to something better.

I’ll agree with the penultimate sentence; it’s what I like about newspapers to this day. It is a static thing, an object, a summation, an offering. But as for the swiping of your thumb to move on to something better . . . that’s literally what you do with newspapers if the article doesn’t interest you. Sometimes you wet it first to get better purchase.

Then there’s a big complaint that the venerable Rolling Stone might have its brand purchased by the pro-Trump guy who runs the Enquirer.

This is the new power player in journalism, one that hopes to wrestle control of “Rolling Stone.” So we are talking about a transformational change in pop culture and written word, one clearly for the worse, as if that’s possible.



  No, don’t think it is.

Moving on:

Digital is here. It is viewed in long, stoop-shouldered binges interrupted by digital personal communications, the viewing of digital video, digital dating, digital health monitoring, online shopping in digital storefronts and of course, the playing of digital games.

Let me recast that:

Reading is here. It is viewed in long, stoop-shouldered sessions interrupted by phone calls, going to the movies, answering personals from the back of the weekly, going to the doctor once a year, sending away for the Heath Kit parts or Spidel or Sears catalog, and, of course, playing solitaire with cards on the kitchen table.

I sense he’s mad because you can do all of these things on one device, instead of spending a lot of time and effort to go hither and yon. I have a hard time taking advice from a writer whose sentence says, more or less, “digital is viewed in binges interrupted by the viewing of digital,” but I get the point. But. If everyone walking around looking at their phones was looking at a book, we view this as the golden age of literacy, even if they were reading Jacqueline Susann or Mickey Spillane.

Because of “digital,” whatever that is, I can read this piece in the morning paper, call it up on my computer, write a response and post exactly what I think without the editor of the opinion section turning down the response for whatever reasons he may have - which could include “lack of space,” a limitation inherent in the medium. I can say what I wish here.

That's the problem.

It is an age in which conscientious people feel obliged to say strange things. When asked recently what he thought of the universal ability to publish content, an executive in charge of news for Facebook felt obliged to clarify the question.

“In the end,” he said. “I don’t think we as a human race will regret the internet.”

Full quote and context: Someone asked Adam Mosseri, the Facebook VP in charge of News Feed, if he thought humanity would come to regret giving everyone the ability to publish content.

Think about that for a second. The alternative is limiting the ability of everyone to publish content. To deem expression a privilege, and restrict the franchise. You know, by opening the libel laws and taking way licenses, as President Trump has said? Is that what the author wants?

No, of course not. Not for him, but maybe if there was a way to keep those other people from peeing in the pool, perhaps. Here’s the full quote:

"It's super important to acknowledge that connecting everyone and giving everyone the ability to share is not necessarily always a good thing," Mosseri said during a conversation at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. "I believe it will create more good than bad overall." 

Mosseri added: "In the end, I don't think we as a human race will regret the internet. But I do believe there will be costs of connecting the world."

So he was responding to a question; he didn’t come up with the formulation on his own.

The only way I could get the full quote and context was by using - quel horreur - DIGITAL! Otherwise I'd have had to accept the author's depiction of the quote.

No no of course not it's not perfect. Yes yes fake news hate tweets etc. But here's the thing. The network of connected computational / information devices is the most complex Swiss Army Knife ever devised, and every day we find something new it can do. Now and then it draws blood. Now and then it’s used as a weapon. Now and then it’s used to open a box sealed for a hundred years.

BTW: If Hillary Clinton had won the presidency and announced a new initiative to wire communities with public broadband for grass-roots democracy and learning and skills and arts, you know what would be the greatest thing in the world?



What's the magazine? I'll tell you at the end of the week. The answer may surprise you! But probably not. We're all beyond shock these days.



Mabel Hite was born in Ashland, Kentucky on May 30, 1883, the daughter of Lewis and Elsie Hite. Her family relocated to Pocatello, Idaho in the late 1880s and then Kansas City, Missouri in the mid-1890s, where her father found employment at the Owl Drug Store. Lewis Hite, a native of Michigan, later became the first vice-president of the newly formed Kansas City local of the National Association of Drug Clerks. Elsie Hite, originally from Illinois, would accompany her daughter throughout her early career which began at about age eleven in amateur theater.

Dead four years after this picture, at the age of 29. As for the review "The Merry-Go-Round," IBDB says it called itself A Musical Comedy in Two Balmy Breaths from Bohemia.

Ooh, Bohemia! Ladies show their knees there.






I wonder what this one's about:


Actually, it's about a personal test. Early on I realized I'd see this one before, and did a B&W on the flick . . . on November 11, 2013. So here's the question: do I notice anything different, or the same things?

At the start. no: I didn't think about where the credits shot. Back then I wrote:

See the overlang and the curved roof at 11 o'clock of the word "In"? Sure.

The street today:


Anyway. The movie has that Raw Honesty that followed in the wake of Dragnet; even though people think Dragnet was all hokey just-the-facts-ma'am patter and stiff dialogue, it was a breakthrough for realistic police shows. Now you had to show grit and tech.

The Command Center is shown at the start. so we know that technology has been arrayed to deal with man's fallen nature:



And here's the fallen man.



The bad guy is one of the most unnerving actors of the day, Hamilton Burger. Okay, William Talman, but he'll always be Hamilton Burger. Interesting to note how he went over to the right side of the law in "Perry Mason" - but still played the heavy.



He oozes freon, this guy.

A hard movie needs a brassy blonde what pals around with the boys:


Some fan at imdb gave this actress - Adele Jergens - the overwriten bio she deserved.

Fewer dames were tougher on the 40s and 50s screen than leggy (5'9") "B" star Adele Jergens, the tough-talking, plump-cheeked peroxide blonde who gave her fair share of tawdry trouble in backstage dramas, film noir, crime potboilers, and adventure yarns. She was just as headstrong at trying to bust out of the chorus lines and cheesecake parts to become a topnotch "A" actress draw. She failed in the latter but nevertheless left a respectable Hollywood legacy for the host of hard-as-nails babes that did leave an impression.

Nice framing:


Every now and then, you see someone in a bit part, and wonder: who was she? What was her life like?



Linda Leighton, 1917 - 2005. She played several roles on . . . Perry Mason.

More tunbledown LA: this is probably built up with condos and restaurants today - with a well still chugging in the back yard, perhaps.



Anyway. It's a standard crime number - not a lavish production, but it doesn't feel cheap. A lot of the shots use the Noir Composition techniques to their advantage - deep focus, characters looming in the foreground.


Foreground, seated man in the middle ground, window & wall in the backgroun, the city waaay in the background. Unnecessary. Makes all the difference in the world.

Or just two planes: conflict in the front, implacable LAW in the back.



When I did the movie before, I captured a few different shots, but ended with the same one:



A shot like that is enough to sell the movie. What's he seeing?

What happens next?

Oh, right: the director. Richard Fleischer, the son of the famous animator. This was his third feature. He worked his way up fast. The man who directed this semi-stylish post-war Noir would go on to other, bigger films.

Tora! Tora! Tora! and Conan and Fantastic Voyage and . . . Soylent Green, a movie that seems to be from a different civilization entirely.

That'll do; see you around.


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