Monday, September 22, 2008

Pro High Fructose Corn Syrup Propaganda, Anyone?


One of the side effects of traveling is that you may find common foods still made with sugar and not High Fructose Corn Syrup, an unnatural suspicious industrial concoction which is in a huge proportion of processed foods available at American stores (and fast food restaurants) and eaten by the public at large. Some time in the 80s, American food manufacturers switched from cane sugar to this substance without telling us. Remember the New Coke vs. Old Coke fiasco in the early 80s? Prior to that, American Coke was made with sugar. After they brought back Coke Classic, it was made with High Fructose Corn Syrup. But in many places in the world, you can taste how much better sugar tastes by drinking a Coke.

Now it seems, the Corn Refiners group is on the offensive. Not happy with all the negative press against HFCS (including documentaries), it is launching commercials like this (which I saw this weekend) on Food Network and elsewhere.

The ludicrous conclusion of this ad: "Well, you can't explain why HFCS is bad for you, therefore everyone can eat it in moderation." Apart from the many reasons why it is unhealthy, there's almost no way to eat it in moderation because it's in almost EVERYTHING. Over time, your body won't care if you ate it in moderation or in excess.

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posted by Brian at 3:08 PM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, September 08, 2008

Republican Media Bias In Action: MSNBC Demotes Its Highest-Rated Anchors

Media analyst Glenn Greenwald wrote on his blog today about the recent demotion of MSNBC's highest rated anchor-people and how the only rationale for it is political pressures from the White House, McCain, and Republicans.
The single dumbest claim in our political culture is that the huge corporations which own our establishment media outlets promote a "liberal" ideology. Why would General Electric ever use NBC and its other media assets to promote political liberalism? They lavishly benefit from the whole panoply of right-wing policies -- from endlessly expanding defense spending to deregulation. Their multiple businesses depend upon maintaining good relations with the right-wing ideologues who run our Government. Even ignoring all of the above-documented empirical facts, the very idea that a corporation like GE -- or Viacom (CBS), Disney (ABC) and Time Warner (CNN) -- would actively promote a left-wing agenda in its news divisions and undermine the very Government power centers on which they rely has been the most self-evidently moronic premise one can imagine. As Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone confessed in 2004:
Senator Kerry is a good man. I've known him for many years. But it happens that I vote for Viacom. Viacom is my life, and I do believe that a Republican Administration is better for media companies than a Democratic one.
And yet the myth of the large-corporation-owned "Liberal Media" persists, and even intensifies.

This decision by MSNBC is as alarming as it is illustrative. They just implicitly chided and overtly demoted their most popular and valuable news personality because the White House, the McCain campaign and the Right demanded that they do so. It's fine for Brit Hume to host a "news program" and for hard-core right-wing ideologues to dominate cable news. The fact that Dick Cheney (understandably) viewed Tim Russert's Meet the Press as the ideal forum to allow the White House to "control the message" bothered nobody outside of a few online critics, and didn't remotely impede the perception of Russert as the Beacon of Tough and Objective Journalism. But MSNBC's ratings-based decision to feature Keith Olbermann is a grave threat to modern journalism and must be stopped. So decrees the White House and the McCain campaign, and so the GE-owned MSNBC complies.
Basically, the Right is cheating. Rather than let we the people decide who to vote for, what better way to win than to cry foul: "The Liberals have too much coverage!" Grab the media corporations by the balls, tell them "Remove your Liberal content or there will be consequences." Corruption at its finest and most blatant. Bye bye Journalism, informed Electorate. Hello government-controlled media.

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posted by Brian at 1:30 PM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, May 02, 2008

Will the Real Issues Please Show Themselves?

This is hardly the first time the network news outlets have focused on irrelevant nonsense instead of things the American people ought to be caring about. It is also not the first time that creating smoke screen non-issues has been used for political advantage (Swift Boating).

I'm referring to the whole non-issue about a former pastor that presidential nominee Barack Obama had some association with in the past. The alleged problem? This pastor allegedly made strong statements during speeches that some might interpret as negative, racial, and perhaps anti-American. (Never mind that in our country, statements like this are protected, free speech).

Obama calmly reacted to this, basically saying "I have nothing to do with these statements, whatever they might be." But the media has not let go of it, trying to fan the fire. Have any of them ever bothered to show or play these speeches in context, or even analyze what these soundbites might actually be saying? Of course not. (All except one radio station, where it was clear this pastor was unhappy to have his soundbites taken out of context.)

Then the ABC Debate fiasco. Instead of helping us elect a president who can get our country out of a recession and deal with our Wars, ABC chose to treat it as a game show with inane questions like "Would you wear an American flag pin?" and more about this irrelevant pastor.

Here's a great parody of how the Lincoln Douglas debates might have been like today.

Seriously hoping whoever gets elected can bring us back to being a mature, intelligent country again. Reality TV shows are making us all stupid.

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posted by Brian at 2:14 PM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, March 03, 2008

TED Talk: Purple Cows, and Being Remarkable To Those Who Care


Marketing expert and Author Seth Godin talks about the changing landscape of creative success. The old model was to spend millions on interrupting people with the message about your product, a product that is "safe" and appealing to the masses. The new model is to recognize that "the idea that spreads, wins" and that this idea must be remarkable ("easy to remark about"), different, not boring, and appealing to people who care ("otaku"). If you let these people work for you, you win.

(The R.I.A.A raises its hand.)

"But can't we sue them? I mean, come on. They're ruining our old business model, and this new one where we can bully them into paying up is pretty neat. And we save so much $$$ not paying artists--"

Seth Godin stands up, answering "Well you can, but you'll lose. People will either get their intangibles for free or they'll care enough to buy them, preferably from the source. And anyway, you're boring now."

"Aww man."

(R.I.A.A stands up, sulks, walks out as Lawrence Lessig, Cory Doctorow, and I escort him out, consolingly)

"There there, cartel. It'll be all right. Have you ever considered a new career? Prison management maybe? Or smoking ban enforcement? I hear that's big in Europe now."

(R.I.A.A smiles hopefully) Ohhh!

To be continued...

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posted by Brian at 10:22 PM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, December 07, 2007

Irritants of the Week

Two media snippets I overheard on the radio or read somewhere on the Net made me very agitated:
  • A woman being interviewed about who she's voting for in the coming election saying "I am tired of paying for someone else's children's school lunches."
  • A proposed bill is making the rounds that would allow copyright holders (i.e. media cartels) to break into computers they suspected of holding unlicensed media.
The first sounds like someone who is either Libertarian or a staunch Republican. So many things wrong with that statement. Selfish, in a "I haven't fully thought this through" way. An appropriate response would be something like "Well, I'm tired of paying to stop your house from burning down, should that ever happen." Or, "Did you go to public school? Didn't we all pay for your school lunches?"

The second is not far-fetched. Our administration has no qualms about running over the Constitution, and avoiding all public discussion about it. It also enjoys taking bribes from the industry. Our elected officials do not seem to comprehend technology law, and those with an agenda seem to be pushing through legislation as fast as possible to avoid scrutiny. Scrutiny that might have questioned the MPAA's claim that "piracy is costing the industry" how much? $6 billion in one claim. $30 billion in another. A Harvard study has already demonstrated the flaw in how they came up with this imaginary number. Yet, they keep getting sympathy to the point where they can get ridiculously powerful legislative help, NOT to stop piracy (which they acknowledge can't be done) but to enforce monopoly and shut out international competition.

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posted by Brian at 5:13 PM 1 comments links to this post

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ordeals In Upgrading Media

In 1994 I bought a Panasonic 4-Head VCR. In 1997 I bought a Hi-8 Camcorder. Now it's 2007 and I have amassed a relatively small but still space-taking collection of VHS & Hi-8 tapes, mostly recorded off of TV (when cable was still $12-40, had few commercials, and a diverse set of channels), some recorded events like my brother Colin's wedding, San Francisco Bay Area Puppetry Guild shindigs, and other random stuff.

Sadly, that very well-made VCR would cost a lot to repair (Note to self: Never pack a VCR in styrofoam peanuts!) though it is so much better built and (when it worked) records better than the crappy plastic JVC behemoth I had to buy in a pinch (2003). And in any case I don't watch Cable or Satellite TV anymore (a growing trend in Hollywood. Ironic, huh?) so having an analog playback device around constantly is no longer necessary. Soon the U.S. government will be forcing everyone to upgrade to digital TVs (2009) and shutting down analog TV signals altogether in 2012, so my eventual goal is to move entirely to computer-based playback.

Anyway, this desire to upgrade my media situation coincides with my recent post about wanting to put clips from "Lifeformz" online, the only copy I have of which is on VHS. I bought a Canopus ADVC-110 for this purpose, a cute little box that digitizes analog to DV quite nicely. Granted, DV is not the best format because it can cramp colorspaces but for my budget and purposes it should be fine.

Discovered that even DV footage takes up a TON of disk space! My poor Mac was running dry after just 2 tapes. So I bought a Lacie 1 TB drive with USB 2.0, Firewire 400 & 800 ports. There we go. 60 hrs!

Today I just took a look at the entirely open-source Neuros OSD multimedia device, which seems to have evolved a bit since I last checked. Might have bought that instead had i known I could watch Youtube with it and that it doesn't need a computer. Ah well.

Incidentally, you can actually recycle VHS tapes and other media through a company called Green Disk.

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posted by Brian at 3:59 PM 0 comments links to this post