Monday, December 16, 2013

A bad view.

I have just been relocated in my office, moving to yet another former-sweatshop space on one of New York's grungiest blocks. My view is of an active sweatshop, including a belching pipe that on these cold days is filling the narrow alleyway with steam.
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Not long ago, the building I'm now in upgraded their elevators. That is, primarily, they put small video screens in them so you can be assaulted with more empty ads and more useless factoids. Today, for instance, I learned that 28% of people use their smart phones to plan their vacations from work. I also learned that one hockey team I've never heard of beat another hockey team I've never heard of, 4-3. It must have been quite a game.

It seems to me that the video screens in my building's elevators are like so much today. A constant stream of noxious nonsense. There is no place, I suppose, we can go to escape the crap. It's free and everywhere. Once, early in the morning, I was waiting in an airport waiting area. A huge flatscreen near me blared what passes for the news. Banalities, sophistry, gossip and laughter. I went over to the monitor--which cannot be shut off and, at least, tried to turn down the volume. You would have thought I turned into some sort of terrorist.

"The noise is bothering me," I said to the airline official who stopped me.

"You're not allowed to lower the volume."

"But the noise is bothering me."

"You're not allowed to lower the volume."

I realized this could go around as often as the rickety carousel designed to lose my luggage and walked instead to an Auntie Annie's to get a 2,000 calorie bacon-filled pretzel.

My point is about assault. It's all over. The onslaught of dumbness packaged like a beautiful cupcake. It looks frosty and tasty. But one bite and you realize your teeth will rot.

This is the great content machine that we are feeding. The social strategists, whatever they are, whatever their qualifications, learnings, feedback and data analysis say, have chapter and verse reasons why asking people on Facebook if they'd rather have a margarita or a massage is good for brands.

I just don't believe it.

I suppose in Theodore Roosevelt's or John Muir's original vision for parkland, they thought it would be beneficial to have some territory, some preserve, some reservation against the encroachments of modernity. Now, National Parks, of course, allow snow-mobiles, guns, drilling for oil, chopping for trees.

I think we need National Parks for our heads. Small backwaters that don't allow the Insipid States of America in. We need to resist the dumbness.

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