Featured

Welcome to Semantic Spaces

Smartphones, dumbphones, and everything in between.

Advertisements

I’m pleased you found my corner of the massively crowded blogosphere.

What might you expect here?

By and large, I’m an offspring of Generation X who has lived during the pre-Internet and post-Internet epochs. I’ve witnessed the dot.com explosion that has introduced countless convenient technological gadgets and methods in which to buy/sell/research things without leaving the comfort of your home.

While that could be classified as “good,” I’m also keenly aware of the bad and ugly that has accompanied the shifting tides of how we communicate with each other.

Most of my posts and quick hits will loosely fit in this category.  However, on occasion I’ll riff on whatever topical event or entertainment is happening at the moment, perhaps still fitting in a grumpy, crotchety “back in my day” angle.

So, sit back, enjoy, and perhaps reminisce about days that weren’t populated with a saturation of social media, such as blogs like this one.

– Alan Morley

When #MeToo Expands Its Boundaries

A good idea, or not?

I should preface this by saying that I am delighted to see the #MeToo (and subsequent #TimesUp) movement take hold.  As someone who’s treated female friends and colleagues with respect my whole life, and would expect my two sons to grow into adults doing the same, I experienced some schadenfreude toward various Hollywood celebs and politicians getting ‘outed.’  While wrong in any case, power and fame doesn’t give you a right to whip your junk out and force yourself on anyone, because you think you “earned” it.

Fast forward to this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Similar to a lot of conventions, models are hired to provide assistance to those wanting to learn more about the sleek automobile they pose beside.  But mainly, we all understand the old adage of “sex sells,” whereas so-called eye candy will get more spectators to the cool new car on display.

autoshowmodels

The opener of The Detroit Free Press article entitled, Time’s up in 2018 for those old, objectifying stereotypes of Detroit auto show models:

If you look closely at this year’s models at the North American International Auto Show, the human variety, the message of 2018 is clear.

This isn’t a time for wearing rose-colored glasses. It’s the age of the #metoo movement, of publicly revealing sexual misconduct by influential men, and of seeing the Golden Globes dominated by the Time’s Up anti-harassment campaign.

Sunday marks the first anniversary of the culture-quaking Women’s March. But the mood of change can be felt everywhere, including inside the massive interior of Cobo Center during the public days of the Detroit auto show.

[…]

The reality, however, has been evolving and improving for decades. Women — and the men who’ve joined them as auto show models — now play a completely different role. And don’t call them models. They are product specialists trained in the particulars of the vehicles they represent.

The column continues on about how “product specialists” aren’t just eye candy anymore, opting for more casual business attire in lieu of more-revealing cocktail dresses.  A more expert-like approach as opposed to just being a (quoting the column) “booth babe.”

I have mixed feelings about this article. 

Overall, indeed I support the idea of ‘models’ being more informed of the product they are selling – more on knowledge, less emphasis on pure gratuitous looks. And let’s be honest, this goes far beyond just auto shows. Runway model attractiveness goes a long way if you’re applying for a job as a news anchor, TV weather broadcaster, sporting event “sideline reporter”, and so on.

But where I wish the article hadn’t gone was conflating auto show models with the main impetus of the #MeToo movement.  No matter what you think about corporate models getting dolled-up to exude sex appeal at what is essentially an advertising event, it is light years’ different from quid-pro-quo sexual demands, grab n’ feels during photo opps, and physical sexual abuse/aggression from the likes of Harvey Weinstein. 

Indeed, perhaps the movement itself was meant to morph and expand beyond its original, more serious, boundaries into a catch-all for female empowerment and tackling all gender issues. But you’ve got to be careful here. What this #MeToo movement doesn’t need is a backlash or some perception of McCarthyism.  I’d prefer that where #MeToo and #TimesUp messaging is employed, target the Bill O’Reillys and Kevin Spaceys and Al Frankens of the world, and let them know their superfluous sexual demands and uninvited hands aren’t welcome on your body (whether female or male), rather than watering it down by connecting it to hired professional models – a.k.a. “booth babes” – at corporate events.

Alan Morley

Allegiance to the Dumbphone

From a college kid, no less.

Recently the Detroit News ran a column titled, “Life’s good with a ‘dumb’ phone”, with the writer extolling the virtues of holding onto a phone with only phone calls and texting as functions.  Or, in other words, the 00’s flip phone.  What’s interesting is that the writer is not the stereotype of a Baby Boomer stuck in his/her own ways, but a Millennial college senior.

Certainly to anyone who’s read my entries, I can get nostalgic for the pre-Internet, pre-social media, pre-smartphone era, and I get concerned of how these “advances” in technology have impacted normal day-to-day, and face-to-face, human interaction.

However, I do find myself in a mix of agreement and disagreement with the columnist:

I remain an outsider in the world of instant information. I use Mapquest like a septuagenarian. In cars, waiting rooms, trains or airplanes, I don’t have the temptation to sink all of my attention into a screen. I can have a conversation with strangers or enjoy a moment of quiet contemplation.

I’ll agree to some extent that taking in your surroundings can be more fulfilling than staring into a screen. However, there’s only so much “people-watching” you can do at an airport terminal for an hour before it gets a bit old.  There’s also not much going on in doctor’s office waiting rooms aside from exchanging glances with other patients and watching the office assistant type away behind the glass separation.

And there are more than a few introverts out there (raises hand) who are reluctant to striking up conversations with other waiting room attendees.

So I do enjoy the option of checking weather updates, forums, or the latest news, or sending a quick text to so-and-so.

Beyond that, there are certainly social media/smartphone addictions out there, where there appears to be an obsessive behavior on checking the little black device, non-stop. By far the worst offenders, in my opinion:  A parent with their child at a restaurant, and the mother or father playing on their phone (more than just a quick glance or text) while the child sits across from them, eating and glancing around, eager for some sort of communication from mom/dad.  Upon seeing these sad displays, I vowed never to get engrossed in my phone as my son sits across from me.  Again, unless it’s something I need to attend to for a minute, tops.

I’m not including the texters/browsers-while-driving folks here, which would obviously top the list of not only self-indulgent but dangerous activity.

Unlike many millennials, I have not been tempted by a constant internet connection to enter a separate reality where status updates, emails and Snapchat comprise a significant portion of my social interactions.

Agreed. And my agreement here is predicated on the word “significant” in his quote.

Social media, in itself, is not a bad thing. But only because questionable when abused and ultimately alters your mood (i.e., life comparisons with others, angry political exchanges, etc.).  Like too much love of money, or too much consumption of alcohol.

It makes me wonder where the smartphone itself is headed. If we are indeed headed to some version of this

This week, we got our first look at Neuralink, a new company cofounded by Musk with a goal of building computers into our brains by way of “neural lace,” a very early-stage technology that lays on your brain and bridges it to a computer.

…then I may want off the communication technology train and hunt around for a vintage flip phone at an antiques mall.

Alan Morley

The LOLs and LMAOs of MST3K

“In the not-too-distant future…”

It was a ritual of sorts.

For several consecutive years during the 1990s, Comedy Central graced us with a Mystery Science Theater 3000 (a.k.a. MST3K) marathon on Thanksgiving, featuring up to a dozen consecutive episodes that you could catch between the parade talking heads and the Detroit Lions losing playing football.

Oh sure, in recent years you can catch similar Turkey Day marathons on your streaming-service-du-jour.  But there was nothing like settling in and watching the initial episodes.

For the uninitiated, the series centered around sleepy-eyed Joel Hodgson (and later Mike Nelson) and his two sidekick robots – Crow and Tom Servo – who are launched into space to watch bad movies, a plot hatched by mad scientists Dr. Clayton Forrester and TV’s Frank.  Joel/Mike and the aforementioned robots would riff and mock the parade of cheesy B-movies, primarily from the 1950s and 1960s, as well as public service announcements and ‘shorts’ from that era.  Movies such as Manos: Hands of Fate and Gamera and Teenagers from Outer Space got exposed to a new generation.

The riffing was pure wit as it spanned a wide range of pop culture references, a sort of live-action Onion mixed with deadpan Seinfeld sensibilities.  If you didn’t “get” the sarcastic joke, just wait about ten seconds and you’ll certainly get the next one.

mst3k

I’m not sure it would’ve worked as well today.  With social media and YouTube creating a million mini-comedians at any time voicing their own riffs on clips, a televised venture poking one-liners at ridiculous movies might’ve not seemed so novel and fresh amongst all the clutter.

But this oft-underrated talent helped define sardonic comedy in the 90s. So I raise a toast to the MST3K team. Thank you for taking me aboard your spacecraft and all the laughs.  Another brilliant product of the 1990s.

Alan Morley

The Curious Power of Persuasion

Someone thought torturing their kids was a good idea… and the spouse agrees?

Ever since becoming a father nearly 5 years ago, I’ve been more sensitive to news stories involving abuse or violence toward children. Adult-on-adult crime is bad enough, but even the more shocking stories fade over time. The ones against defenseless kids stick to me for a while.

And here we come to the case of David and Louise Turpin, who  “are accused of holding their children captive in their Perris, California, home in filthy conditions, some of them shackled to beds with chains and padlocks.”

I can go on and on about how disgusted I am with these so-called parents, fantasize about a scenario where they get the same treatment in prison, and so on.

But here’s one of my primary questions when I see parents (plural) do something like this: Who thought of this, and how did their partner agree to it?  Look, I highly doubt this ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ had the same idea to shackle and starve their kids, at the same exact time. No, someone had to have proposed the idea. And the other one eventually thought it sounded great.

And that’s what baffles me.

This is not slyly convincing your spouse to do a lawbreaking act like a dine-and-dash or cut corners on tax returns.  This is offering the idea of, “hey, when we start having babies, let’s force onto them a life of squalor and torture… what do ya say?”  How does the one being proposed this idea agree?

How did they meet? If it was on, say, Match.com, I’m guessing neither one indicated that “child captivity and starvation” was one of their listed interests, tucked between long walks on the beach and getaway weekends. Nor do I think it really came up during the dating. So at what point was this “plan” revealed and discussed?  And they both happened to be up for it, together, without one of them freaking out? Is it sheer coincidence that two individuals with the same propensity to commit a gruesome child-abuse act that would sicken almost everyone… somehow managed to meet each other?

I thought the same after the Columbine High School massacre.  I could understand one very troubled kid going off the deep end and put an idea of mass murder into action. Yet, there were two.  Someone else in that small sample size agreed and said, ‘sure, I’ll slaughter a bunch of classmates and turn the gun on myself, too.’

The power of persuasion is a scary thing. Peer pressure, mob mentality, brainwashing, it all boils down to someone succumbing and agreeing to some of the worst acts imaginable.  This was a micro-example. But it certainly applies to war, riots, terrorism, and the like.

Two heavy topics in a row on the ol’ blog.  (sigh)  I need to get back to fun stuff.

Nostalgic ode to MST3K on the horizon.  Yes.

Alan Morley

 

Social Media Shock ‘N Awe

Are the streets scarier today, or is it based on perception?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Ginger Effect’s “Changing Childhood” post today.  Not only does this loosely fit my main purpose of blogging – that is, wax nostalgia about the past from a Generation X point of view while simultaneously giving assessments of modern technology, events, entertainment, etc. But it also resonates for me, as a father of two pre-school boys, and the anxiety about the current and future world they will inherit.

It’s difficult not to be wary of what feels like never-ending conflict and threats, both in physical and now in ‘cyber’ form. When the day comes where I release my boys and their bikes into the wilderness of suburban streets and playgrounds, it’ll be challenging not to face mental images of predators lurking in shadows, kidnappers in big white vans, drunk or texting drivers, and so on.

Like Erica, I recall the 80s when kids seemed to have freer roam of the streets and woods, and share those similar concerns about the ‘nowadays’ environment.

When I was a kid, the second I got home from school, I was gone until dark, or I heard my mom call my name. I grew up with a fantastic group of neighbor kids. We spent every opportunity going on imaginary adventures in the woods, building questionably stable forts, riding our bikes to the store, and climbing every tree we could find. All under the supervision of each other.

[…]

Any and all of this now would have every mom-shamming group egging your house for being such an irresponsible parent. Our kids will never get to experience the freedom of childhood like we did, it’s just not safe anymore and that’s heartbreaking. Those years are where I always go to when someone asks me about one of my happiest memories.

But then I consider the smartphone and the little Facebook ‘F’ logo and that Twitter birdie icon.  I think about 24/7 cable news television and their loud talking heads, and the fact that so many restaurants and waiting rooms now have these televisions nestled up on ceiling corners towering over us.  I ponder the Internet as a whole, with each media source – from the major players down to the po-dunk opinion sites – begging for our clicks with in-yer-face blaring headlines.

{Shoot, we’ve always had “polar vortexes” and “bombogenesis cyclones.”  Those are meteorological terms that have existed for decades. But they sound cool and scary, so why not throw them into headlines and get a few more clicks? But I digress}

So then I wonder: Are neighborhoods really more creepy and dangerous today than 2-3 decades ago?  Or, rather, are we bombarded with so much constant bad (and sensationalized) news in the palms of our hand, that we are slowly becoming conditioned that crime is up and we are one step away from being a click-bait headline of our own?  Perhaps reality is that the ol’ neighborhood is no more dangerous than 1987, it’s just that ignorance was bliss back then.  We only had the daily newspaper and 11 o’clock news delivering the seedy stories.

I’m not entirely sure.

I do believe social media’s semi anonymous insta-communication has a dark side that has contributed to an overall angrier society.  If you enjoy healthy discussion and respectful debate, you must feel slightly nauseous sifting through a newspaper comments section or, god forbid, a YouTube comment thread.

But has this resulted in an increase in criminal behavior that would put a scare in any parent who, in the past, would grant their children far more roam-in-nature privileges?   And think about it… in those days, if your kid needed urgent help, they’d have to find a pay phone or bang on a random neighbor’s door.  No cell phones in their pockets with a direct line to mom and dad.

In summary, I’ve found myself feeling more unease about the world around us, how people communicate with each other, and the seemingly growing lack of decorum and common courtesy, from the White House down to the road ragin’ driver in the Ram pickup. But aside from the aforementioned drivers who now have little entertainment systems to check when hauling down a street, I’m not entirely sure the sheer numbers of predators, kidnappers, and the like, have increased in tandem.

But I can’t help it.  I’ll still be some bundle of nerves.

Alan Morley

 

 

Today’s Earworm: Sally Dige

“Holding On”

If you are looking for a hauntingly catchy goth-tinged electropop tune to take you back a few decades, one of my favorite songs of 2017 was Danish-Canadian singer Sally Dige’s “Holding On.”  Dige’s music could be described as if Siouxsie Sioux had a child with 1980s-era Depeche Mode and Clan of Xymox.

(I should note the final minute of the video could be slightly disturbing to some)

Alan Morley