Cheer from Christmas Past, by Terry Gilliam

Thought you were going to escape the holidays unscathed? Think again! I’m actually in the holiday mood this year, and I’m not afraid to inflict it on others…. Muahaha…

This is an early animation by Terry Gilliam, from Christmas 1968. Laughing Squid posted it to Tumblr this morning.

Every since my brother introduced me to Monty Python when I was about eight, I’ve been enamored with highly visual absurdist humor. And I especially adore Terry Gilliam’s ability to upend our assumptions of space, time, place, scale, and intention.

This was also why I loved the original Pink Panther cartoons, Ren & Stimpy, and Ralph Bakshi’s Mighty Mouse. And, of course, my all-time favorite film, Brazil (by Terry Gilliam, of course).

We live in an unpredictable world, where meaning shifts drastically as context changes. We’re forever falling into a new picture frame, and parts of other pictures intrude rudely upon ours. Laughter is the best way to stay afloat amidst chaos. And there is always, always chaos.

And with that, happy holidays, all!

 

How NOT to do media relations: Fake-friendly pitches

Just because someone posts something personal online doesn’t mean it’s OK to use that to manufacture a faux-personal connection in order to persuade them to do you a favor.

Case in point: Yesterday a clueless media relations professional whom I do not know sent me an e-mail with the subject line: “I sent a poem to a wannabee crotchety old bitch.” He was alluding to my recent birthday post, in which I reflected on aging.

The comment this person attempted to append to that post — which I did not approve — was the poem When I am an old woman I shall wear purple. That was in itself a mistake, though not a fatal one. If ever there was an overused, reflexive cliche response to any woman who mentions aging in a positive light, that poem would be it.

So this PR guy e-mailed me to let me know he’d tried to post that comment. Here’s the start of his message, and where he really screwed up…

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FDA approves prescription Placebo (Onion Radio News)

A recurring theme in my thoughts and work lately is psychological resistance to demonstrable facts. (See: Why facts will never be enough to make people believe). Sometimes that’s due to cognitive dissonance, emotional reasoning, or herd reinforcement. But sometimes it’s due to a plain lack of understanding of what science is and how it functions.

So this recent episode from The Onion Radio News reduced me to helpless giggles. Enjoy!

UPDATE: On a related note, science journalist Christie Aschwanden alerted me to this 2008 NYT story: Experts Question Placebo Pill for Children. Thanks! Brilliant! You just can’t make this shit up!

Speaking of cognitive dissonance: How LeBron James Broke the Golden Rule of Sports

Following on my earlier post, Why facts will never be enough to make people believe, a friend showed my this amazingly witty and incisive video rant by Jay Smooth, founder of the New York hip-hop radio show, WBAI’s Underground Railroad.

It’s on a similar theme, with a twist: The collective, self-reinforcing cognitive dissonance and fervent but meaningless arguments that keeps sports fandom and the pro sports industry rolling — and why the people involved in pro sports probably shouldn’t draw attention to that fact. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, and all that.

I think you might be able to search-and-replace the sports references here with references to politics, religion, smartphone platforms, or news/media brands, and it would still work.

Brilliant.


via YouTube – How LeBron James Broke the Golden Rule of Sports.

Hat tip: George Kelly

Why facts will never be enough to make people believe; and why journalists should learn to roll with that

Right now I’m reading Seth Mnookin’s Panic Virus — a book about the bad science, bad science media coverage, and quirks of human psychology that fostered the anti-vaccine movement (by parents concerned that vaccines cause autism, despite the wealth of peer-reviewed science to the contrary).

I’m reading it because I’m fascinated and concerned why people (sometimes in large numbers) tend to cling to beliefs/positions fiercely long after they’ve been factually debunked/disproven, whether by science or by journalistic, legal, or other systematic investigation. (WMD, anyone?)

This kind of anti-fact, anti-science backlash tends to really confuse and frustrate journalists and scientists.

It sucks when you work really hard to do the fairest, most systematic investigation of a topic that deeply affects many people’s lives — but the very people who are suffering most from the topic of your research refuse to believe what you have to say, or accuse you of being part of some conspiracy to hoodwink them. And meanwhile, your less skilled or less ethical colleagues are producing their own research and reports designed to foster fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

That generates considerable friction, controversy, and conflict. And worse, it delays the discovery and implementation of real solutions.

Why does this happen — and what can journalists and scientists do about it?…

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Oppose internet censorship …and then what happens?

There’s a well-designed site informing people about the nature, extent and mechanisms of internet censorship called: So you still think the internet is free

Basically it’s a series of well-chosen infographics, which make their points well.

At the end, there’s this call to action:

Time For You To Take A Stance.

Do you want an internet with more openess and less censorship?

47,347 People

Have Said YES.

…I clicked on the “say yes” button. And…

Nothing happened.

Huh?

Perhaps the creators — whoever they are, they don’t say — are trying to make an ironic meta-point: “You can’t actually do anything about net censorship, so your opposition is futile.”

Or maybe they got so enamored with creating a perfect design experience that they forgot about the action part? Which would be a damn shame.

Or maybe something about the “Say Yes” button is broken?

Either way, it’s a great windup and pitch. But the connection is missing.



It’s 2010: Where are you writing and reading?

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed my personal patterns of writing and reading have changed significantly. Some of this has been in response to the changing technology of communication — the rise of social media, in particular. But some of it has also been about where I am in my life and my work.

Here’s a quick rundown of my own changes, and contributing reasons for them. I’d be curious to hear about other people’s personal media evolutions, too. Please share your own experiences in the comments below…

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Nokia’s Newer, Dumber Business Model: Sue Apple

More than a year ago, in June 2008, I wrote about how Nokia’s clueless approach to serving the US smartphone market basically handed that market to Apple on a silver platter by the time the 3G iPhone launched.

Last week, GigaOm reported that Nokia is now suing Apple, claiming technology patent infringement. And on Oct. 15 CNET reported on Nokia’s dire slide in the US smartphone market.

According to GigaOm:

“Nokia is looking to collect patent royalties of 1 or 2 percent for each iPhone sold, according to a note from Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster, which — given the roughly 34 million iPhone units already in the hands of users — would amount to $200 million-$400 million. That’s not a lot of money to either company, of course. But Nokia is clearly hoping it can be more successful in the courtroom than it’s been in the marketplace.”

Nokia: Really? Is this what you’ve sunk to?

There are far better ways. Here are some options… Continue reading

Managing tasks, managing emotions: Don’t panic!

Hierarchy of Digital Distractions: Top of a brilliant, too-accurate pyramid infographic by InformationIsBeautiful.net

Hierarchy of Digital Distractions: Top of a brilliant, too-accurate pyramid infographic by InformationIsBeautiful.net

Productivity and task management seem like strictly practical issues, but in fact they’re deeply emotional. That’s what David Allen describes at in the first chapter of Getting Things Done, when he talks about the sense of calmness instilled by having a mind like water.

It seems to me that tuning into and recognizing your own feelings (especially hope, shame, relief, and fear) is THE crucial first step for figuring out what to do, getting stuff done, and letting stuff go. That’s what I’ve been working on today. Here is a little background, and some thoughts and lessons on this theme…

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