Thoughts, Uncategorized

When You’re Thirty-Four

According to my father, I haven’t written in a long while and, to be honest, it didn’t feel that long. My last post was on September 19th. A few days later I turned 34 years old. So, I figure today I should talk about my 34th year as a human.

If you know me personally, you would know that my thirties started off rather rough. Each year as been a bit better, but year 34 was something special. It started in September, off the heels of my first trip ever to Europe. I came back, rejuvenated – zen almost. I felt alive for the first time in a very, very long while. I began to write. I wrote some scripts, produced a few videos for myself – finally entered the Doritos Crash the Superbowl contest!

As 2012 turned into 2013, changes at work were beginning to take shape. I tried for years to prove my capabilities were compiled of much more than video production, but this year someone let me out of my cage. The first half of the year, I was put through the test and by July I would call myself Mr. Manager – Content Manger, to be precise.

Around this time I started to watch a TV show that I’ve wanted to write badly about since it ended last weekend – Breaking Bad. It had been a while since fictional TV grabbed my attention, but this show broke all of my expectations. When it began in 2008, I heard the premise and felt Hollywood had really ran out of ideas. If you haven’t heard of Breaking Bad, it’s about a high school chemistry teacher who after learning he will die of cancer, decides to use his chemistry expertise to make meth so he can leave money for his family when he dies. If you’re still not convinced, I don’t blame you but 5 season later I consider this to be the most perfect television show to have ever exist. It never let up and it ended in poetic fashion. It has set the bar and I don’t see being rivaled anytime soon. In the middle of finishing the final season of Breaking Bad, Reanna and I took an extended vacation to Yosemite.

The 10 days, 4 of them backpacking in the wilderness, was peaceful. It was calming and revitalizing. You can see my pictures from this trip here. I had recorded these bad ass video updates, but after vacation, my trend of working freelance continued and I’ve been busy ever since. Soon, I be starting a more personal freelance project, one that will keep me busy for a while. Since I’m going to be more in control of my deadlines, so I’ll be able to write again. I’ll also be able to fill my imagination with books and movies.

Speaking of movies, you should go see Gravity. See it in 3D. It’s rejuvenated my love for cinema. The story is pared down … there’s basically two characters/actors the whole film … but when the visuals, the sound, and the music all come together – it all fills the empty spaces. For the first time in a very long time, I cared about the characters. I was in the movie deeper than any other movie I’ve seen in ages. I could never recommend a movie as much as this one.

So what does all this mean? Well, I don’t know. That’d your job. Mine is to just jot all this down so it lives forever. So other than that, I hope to talk more often soon.

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Kurt Vonnegut on Writing

The day job and a relentless freelance schedule have kept me from writing lately. During these times, I usually end up reading about the craft of writing. When I do, it keeps aware of my craft and the style I’ve developed.

Well, today I came across this quote from the one and only – Kurt Vonnegut.

Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style. I am not urging you to write a novel, by the way — although I would not be sorry if you wrote one, provided you genuinely cared about something. A petition to the mayor about a pothole in front of your house or a love letter to the girl next door will do.

I’ve written pieces that felt flat to me but when I’ve written something that feels genuine, I can tell the difference. It starts as something simple, like a letter, and then begins to pour out of me. That’s exactly how Struggling with the Need to Belong after Hurricane Katrina started – a letter to the world from the heart of all the refugees of St. Bernard Parish.

With that said, I now disappear back into the daily grind. Maybe I’ll reappear with some words of wisdom on Saturday to celebrate thirty-four years of existence.

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Silent All These Years … or Months

I’m a huge Tori Amos fan. I’m not a fanatic, but I can tout that I’ve seen her live multiple times and have owned nearly all of her albums. Although, I don’t listen to her daily or have one of her lyrics creatively tattooed on my body.

What the hell does this post have to do with Tori? Part of this post’s title is from her song, Silent All These Years, but it’s more in line with the fact I haven’t posted in over a month. Usually, I make a post that lists all my excuses. Only problem is that I don’t really have any, at least none that are worth sharing. As with times in the past, work has been crazy. I was promoted at Intrax, which is noteworthy – but my job is in transition at the moment. I’m still the video guy for a little bit longer, but soon I’ll be the Content Manager.

Short Story Thursdays moved from the original Gmail email address to the more bulk email friendly service, SendGrid. The transition went smoothly and I learned that people still pay AOL. What for? Well it seems they pay to have their Short Story Thursday story sent on Saturday. Good on you if you use AOL and like things to arrive late.

I also worked on three video projects. I can share one of them, but not until the end of the month.

See what I mean? No good excuses. What I can say is that I’ve been itching to write and very soon, you’ll start seeing/reading more of me. Yes you will. Until then, here’s the weather in San Francisco for the next week.

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Thoughts

A Penny For Their Thoughts: Our Privacy and The New Illiterate

This was originally posted on Medium

“How’d you know my name?” – Everyone who’s forgotten about their name tag

Pretext

Visual literacy is the blanket term for the ability to understand all forms of communication, be it written, spoken, graphical, or even non-verbal. The ability to use any form of communication gives us access to a world of knowledge and information. The literate control the gateways to information, which in turn influence our perception and ideas about the world around us.

Today, gross misunderstanding surrounding the nature of media and the resignation of our private lives are creating chasms in our society and deepening new forms of illiteracies. To explain, let’s start with a field trip to the fifteenth century.

“Knowledge is Power” – Sir Francis Bacon

The Rise of Reading Literacy

Almost six hundred years ago, the world was turned upside down when one great idea disrupted the establishment. Before Gutenberg’s printing press, the feudal aristocracy used the religious doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church to retain their power. Bibles were for the wealthy and, like masses, were in Latin. Access to the wealth of knowledge contained in the Bible was subject to translation from a chosen few , namely the leaders of the Church and elite members of the European nobility who could read it. That was until Johannes’s invention sparked a printing revolution.

The mass production of the Bible contributed to a large-scale translation from Latin into common languages, which led to variants of interpretation. Followers of the Church were no longer slaves to information asymmetry and suddenly were aware that Jesus was a simple man who rejected wealth. Threatened by the tides of change, the Church did the most obvious thing – made the printing and possession of unauthorized prints a crime. It was too late. The printing revolution was under way and the mass production of the written word brought forth the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning the Renaissance. The Church was now waging a multi-front war against the democratization of its holy scripture and the ever-growing field of science and the divinity of Kings was being called into question.

“All men by nature desire to know.” – Aristotle

Save The Twinkie, Take My Privacy

As of 2011, eighty-four percent of adults in the world could read and write. The printed word transformed from pulp and ink to a cathode ray tube and then to light emanating diodes and e-ink. The act of reading also evolved, moving from the bounded book to newsprint, from glossy magazine pages to the phone in your pocket. In that time, the world got richer during the Golden Age of Capitalism. With money flowing from one corner of the globe and back, the advent of multimedia advertising began to inch a little closer into our private lives until one day … we decided to give them away. Without notice, our identities became a commodity to use in the marketplace. Fill out this form with your name, home address, and telephone number and you could win a fancy car or your dream home!

As information storage shifted from physical media to binary code in the postliterate world, signing away our identity was a click away. And we’re getting a bargain too! Companies no longer gave out coupons or promises of an all-expenses-paid vacation in exchange for viewing a timeshare property, now they let us use their products and services for free. All they need is our email address, name, date of birth, location, mother’s maiden name, list of friends, and our whereabouts by the hour.

I’ve met an overwhelming amount of people who believe their favorite social network, email service or blog is free. Even those aware of the transaction feel the price is fair. I mean, why not? Afterall, we get to keep in touch with friends, express our opinions in the comment field, and rally to bring the Twinkie back from death row – all on our mobile phone or tablet (while sitting on the loo). Yet, a lot of us are alarmingly unaware that every tweet, check-in, or photo of the hors d’oeuvres we’re devouring is another transaction exchanging privacy for #SundayFunday – each bit of shared life sent to a server farm to be laundered into cold hard cash. The inability to see this is digital illiteracy and if we can’t see the transaction, it’s almost certain we won’t be able to read the receipt. It might as well be in Greek … or Latin … or more likely, binary code.

Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it’s just the opposite.” – John Kenneth Galbraith

The New Illiteracies

It’s one thing to not understand we’ve been handing over our private lives to corporations, but the lack of awareness surrounding how this information is used to influence our perception and shape our ideas has led to a pandemic in media illiteracy.

Last year Google alone made a cool forty-three billion dollars, ninety percent of their revenue, from selling our information to advertisers and businesses in the form of demographic profiles. Do you know your demographic profile? Are you a Beltway Boomer or part of the Winner’s Circle in the Elite Suburbs? Maybe you’re a Young Digitari who lives in a trendy apartment and loves drinking microbrews. This is who we’ve become – an aggregate of our likes and retweets.

The first chapter of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War explains that the commander who considers all factors and calculates the chances of victory is likely to win. Or as Rage Against the Machine so eloquently put it, “Know your enemy.” The war for our attention has become lopsided.

We’ve empowered corporations and advertisers to craft an ungodly accurate message and find the most opportune time and place to say it. Our digital biometric … our digital fingerprint .. has also allowed industry conglomerates to craft the perfect product, meaning if you’re not into Budweiser they can trick you into thinking you support craft brews with Shock Top. Media conglomerates have added to our illusion of choice. Six companies control ninety percent of what we read, watch, or listen to. The media illiterate, whether they’re aware of this or not, see their overflowing choices in media as something that’s been awarded to them in the digital age. Indeed, mass media claims to satisfy individual needs but in order to sell highly-specialized ad space. Cha-ching! The case in point is how one media conglomerate operating thousands of media outlets around the world can shape our entertainment … and our news.

“WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.” – the Party, from George Orwell’s 1984

Inside The Corpocracy

In the capitalistic society, we mock the dwindling list of communist governments in the world and their state-run media networks; yet, the illusion of choice doesn’t free us from propaganda. Despite our instincts to seek knowledge in pursuit of truth, we hate being wrong.

We hate being wrong so much that we’ll blatantly ignore information that disputes our beliefs. Continuing to satisfy our individual needs and armed with our demographic profiles, twenty-four-hour news networks shifted their emphasis from basic news reporting to opinion-oriented programs that could analyze the clutter and confirm our bias. Depending on your segment, they know whether to remind us that guns are evil or that the president is going door-to-door, personally, to rip them from our hands. It didn’t help that these shows were indistinguishable from your run-of-the-mill news show, from the “breaking news” set to the luxurious and dapper news correspondents.

It bears repeating: The literate control the gateways to information, which in turn influence our perception and ideas about the world around us. Traditional literacy and the internet have permanently kept us out of the Middle Ages, but the busy pace of life in the twenty-first century causes us to rely on the media to make sense of our oversaturated, hyper-connected world. This transformation in our media consumption reveals itself to be all too familiar, resembling the days when the nobility and the Church were the middle men.

The new illiteracies have created a monster of the general public. Due to our tendency to seek the confirmation bias, we’ve become overconfident and polarized. I read it on the internet and it aligns with my beliefs, so it must be true. Void of healthy skepticism towards media and recognition that our personal data has been used to manipulate us it’s easy to understand how a politician can leave one thinking, “Wow, it was like he really knows what it’s like to be me.”

Despite all of this, I remain an optimist (for better or worse). People like Frank Baker and organizations like UNESCO are advocating and fostering media literacy in education. The digital natives, those who have grown up with the internet their whole lives, will be armed with their twenty-first century skills that could level the playing field of digital literacy the same way Johannes did so long ago.

What do you think?

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The Wooden Molding

The piece of molding that could

Today, my mother made me cry like a baby at work.

You may be asking yourself why a piece of molding in a shadow box would bring a grown man to tears at the workplace. Well, that’s because this is no ordinary piece of molding.

It once had a home, in the 3000 block of Jean Lafitte Pkwy, Chalmette, LA to be exact. Its purpose in life was to knock itself loose when someone, usually me, would lightly graze it. A desperate act for attention one could say, as I’d always be obliged to put it back each time.

Then on August 29th, 2005 this piece of wood would endure 20+ feet of flood waters that would occupy the house for weeks. It miraculously or stubbornly stayed put through the recession of Katrina‘s waters and the double whammy of Hurricane Rita‘s.

Many miles away, in Gonzales, LA, I reflected on all the things that would never happen again after Katrina took my home. One of those was the annoying molding that loved to roam free, even if just for a moment.

When we were finally able to go home, the only worthy task was to find whatever we could salvage. While climbing over rubble blocking the entrance to my bedroom, I lost my balance and knocked this piece of molding out from its place, something I thought I’d never be able to do again, one last time.

Naturally, I kept it and today it arrived, as seen in this photo, from my mom. The tears were happy ones. I can assure you of that.

I can only hope that I’m lucky enough to build/remodel a home one day and use this piece of molding, leaving it a little loose so it can refill its purpose to be knocked loose many more times.

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It’s called … Jump To Conclusions!

There’s a scene in Mike Judge’s film Office Space, when the recently laid-off Tom Smykowski, played by Richard Riehle, shows off the prototype of a game he invented called “Jump To Conclusions”. If you haven’t seen it, I can’t do the scene’s humor justice here but all that matters is that the scene sprung to mind when I read The Atlantic’s piece about Sean Parker’s wedding in Big Sur and the apologetic follow up. It reminded me of the dangers of jumping to conclusions and how in today’s fast-paced world – where an idea can spread easier than ever – this can be extremely dangerous.

Office Space - Jump To Conclusions

The Atlantic journalist and senior editor, Alexis C. Madrigal, took the California Coastal Commission’s report to heart in the initial article, detailing and commenting on the photographic exhibits and documented evidence provided by the CCC. I’ll admit that Madrigal’s poking fun at the faux ruins and other Hollywood-like sets that would set the tone of the Parker wedding tells a great story – I mean it’s fun entertainment when us 5-figure salary folks can have a laugh at the expense of the wealthy. Within the few days after the story was published, it garnered an estimated 5,200 Facebook likes, 516 Tweets, and 292 +1’s on Google+ (isn’t that everyone on G+?). Needless to say, Mr. Madrigal was jumping to conclusions and set off the viral spread of this one-sided story. Look, I’m not throwing stones in my glass house. I’m guilty of retweeting the story. Although, I did wonder why there wasn’t a boilerplate “so-and-so couldn’t be reached for comment at press time” in the article, but without a second thought I passed it along.

Fast-forward to today and Madrigal posts a correction titled, “Sean Parker Responds to Redwoods Wedding Criticism, and His Defense Is Actually Pretty Convincing”. The subheadline reads:

Read this letter. It may not change your mind about Sean Parker, but it adds some important details about the nature of the construction at the site.

Following the instructions, I read Sean Parker’s defense and the “slightly edited” version does provide more context about the allegations from the CCC – albeit from his point-of-view. While I still have feelings about his paying $2.5 million dollars for messing up nature, even if minor, the point of this post is the dangers of jumping to conclusions.

I feel like Alexis C. Madrigal’s mistake is forgivable – especially since the follow up article made sure to note that he attempted to reach the CCC about Parker’s letter but hasn’t heard back. One thing is for certain. The phenomenon of jumping to conclusions is ripe in media today and so bad that you can write a conspiracy theory about how politicians and pundits are using it to push a political agenda. For example, before and after President Obama won his reelection, those in opposition have been jumping from one bandwagon to another. Each form of drivel running with stories about Obama taking away our guns (when he wasn’t) or how he was going to kill your grandma (again he wasn’t). It’s not just politics either. Amateur sleuths on Reddit were eager to help out the FBI and Boston PD after the horrific Boston Marathon Bombing and when someone found a doppelgänger for one of the bombers, a group of Redditors jumped to conclusions like lemmings jump off of cliffs. Again, I’m not innocent. While I took the “evidence” with a grain of salt, I did post about it on Facebook to discuss with my friends and while it was framed with latent confusion, who’s to say someone in my network didn’t jump to conclusions with my post.

The point is that media literacy is a game of lost in translation. Even though I consider myself to pay due diligence to sources and feel like my media literacy abilities are high above the average, I’ve caught myself at fault at times. Like Mr. Madrigal, I’ll be quick to admit my mistake. Mainly because I allow new information to alter my reality. Some of us don’t have the patience or the time to evaluate things in that way. I mentioned my feelings about Sean Parker’s letter, but with the follow-up’s headline and subhead, it makes me wonder how many people will have read that and thought Mr. Parker was cleared of all wrong-doing. I mean it’s already been shared by 14 of 292 Google+ users. 😉

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Companionship and Compassion

At 33 years old, I don’t have too much to show for my time here on Earth. With that said, I am severely proud that one of the fews things I do have to show for these three decades is some really great friends. I was reminded of this last night when an old friend from high school happened to be in San Francisco and we were able to throw together some impromptu plans that equated to nothing more than walking around my neighborhood and taking a peek at Golden Gate park while catching up on the state of our lives.

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I’ve always known that I had a strong bond with the people I grew up with, but a few years ago it hit home when my dad made a comment about it. He observed that the group of friends I grew up with had been through thick and thin and yet we were still as strong as brothers and sisters. It was true. We’ve supported one another, no matter what. We’ve had friends who went off the deep end with partying, drugs, and more, only to come back to us with arms out stretched. We’ve also had friends of ours who followed a calling and thanks to the growth of social media we could all admire their bravery from afar. As was the case with Tony. He and I hadn’t seen each other for maybe a decade because he was stationed in Guam after college and I was a nomad after Katrina.

Last night proved my dad correct, as the short time we spent together moved by at a pace that seemed like forever. A good forever. We were filled with so much to talk about that we never struggled to find a topic. One of those topics was his father. His father passed away a little over a year ago and I had to make sure that Tony knew how great of a man he was in my eyes. Tony is a lot like his father, in that he cares deeply about the happiness of those around him. My father was like this as well, and a huge influence to my similar behavior. I was able to reconnect with that last night and it left me remembering a quote by the great Dalai Lama:

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

The bonds of my family and my tight-knit group of friends are due to our compassion for one another and is a well of happiness that I’m grateful to have been able to tap into last night. I can only hope that I’m lucky enough for this to happen more often.

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