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Saturday, June 30, 2007

the KNX1070 Sunday morning interviews

We're coming up on the first anniversary of my Sunday morning interviews about media issues on KNX1070 all-news Southern California radio - 7:20am Pacific time/10:20am Eastern time - live-streaming everywhere at www.knx1070.com ... so I thought I'd post all of the interview topics here (yeah, I talk about lots of things) ... and keep this current...   Thanks to Jerry Edling, producer.

Larry Van Nuys interviewing me:
July 9, 2006: humans in space
July 16: social impact of cellphones
July 23: respect the First Amendment (part 1)
July 30: respect the First Amendment (part 2)
August 6: only idiots don't watch tv
August 13: terrorism in a media age
August 20: media coverage of sensational news stories
August 27: the Emmys!
September 3: Fall television season
September 10: media aftermath, 5 years after September 11
September 17: are the media too aggressive?
September 24: outer space tourism
October 1: Clinton vs. Wallace on Fox News Sunday
October 8: Bob Woodward's books on Bush and the war
October 15: the benefits of strong opinions on cable news
October 22: YouTube's impact on politics
October 29: 'tis the season for political ads
November 5: Bluetooth technology: the intelligent earring
November 12: viral marketing
November 19: swarming cellphones
November 26: the new James Bond
December 3: another look at Fall tv
December 10: John Lennon's continuing influence
December 17: Golden Globes!
December 24: Time's Person of the Year is You, the YouTube producer

Todd Leitz interviewing me:
December 31: intelligent advertising: you determine the ads
January 7, 2007: Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth"
January 14: how we watch Presidential speeches
January 21: Keith Olbermann and 24
January 28: Foxing Obama
February 4: Super Bowl ads
February 11: Blockbuster, Netflix, Web: Future of Watching Movies
February 18: The FCC - at it again
February 25: Oscars!
March 4: the RIAA and fair use
March 11: Free Josh Wolf: We need a Federal Shield Law
March 18: blogger journalism
March 25: media drop the ball on reporting John Edwards news
April 1: media coverage of British-Iranian hostage story
April 8: the ethics of hostages selling their stories
April 15: don't let Imus off the hook by blaming the culture
April 22: how the media handled the Virginia Tech tragedy
April 29: demonstrating violence in the classroom
May 6: the first Presidential debates and the LA police riot
May 13: mistreatment of online Ron Paul support
*May 20: Fox's spin on after-debate poll reporting
May 27: Star Wars celebration!
June 3: Ward Churchill and sockpuppetry
June 10: The media and Paris Hilton
June 17: The Sopranos finale
June 24: Hillary Soprano and Obama-girl videos

Bob Brill interviewing me
July 1: Elizabeth and John Edwards v. Ann Coulter on Hardball
July 8: I Predicted the iPhone in 1979!
July 15: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
July 22: YouTube/CNN Presidential debate
July 29: Chinese censorship of the Internet
August 5: Teens are getting their news from Digg not The New York Times
August 12: The lack of media coverage of Ron Paul
August 19: Big Brother satellites in the sky
August 26: In praise of George Lotz, the kid who cracked the iPhone
September 2: NBC and iTunes split
September 9: Celebrity endorsements of political candidates
September 16: The Emmys!
September 23: OJ Media coverage; Moveon.org Gen "Betray us" ad
September 30: Sputnik's 50th anniversary
October 7: FCC Auctions New Bandwidth
October 28: Fake FEMA Press Conference
November 4: Writers Guild of America Strike
November 11: WGA Strike Continues
November 18: Obama: Better at Speeches Than Debating?
November 25: Impact of WGA Strike
December 2: How Important Are Polls in Elections?
December 9: How Important Are Celebrity Endorsements in Politics?

Mark Austin Thomas interviewing me

December 16: Newspaper Endorsements of Clinton and Obama
December 23: FCC Relaxes Concentration Rules: Good!
December 30: Dirty Tricks in Politics

January 6, 2008: Iowa, New Hampshire Primaries and the Media
January 13: The Dangers of a National ID Card

All interviews at 7:20 AM West Coast time... repeated throughout the day and week... live streaming at www.knx1070.com... Jerry Edling producing

My weekly KNX interviews concluded on January 13, 2008. But I've been interviewed on KNX about the following subjects and news events since then:

June 16, 2009:  New New Media vs. the Mullahs in Iran

September 20-21, 2009:  New New Media

November 30, 2009: Tiger Woods and the media

July 11, 2010:  Google vs. China

April 10, 2011: the Arab Spring

October 30, 2011: Occupy Wall Street and direct democracy

November 6, 2011:  Andy Rooney

March 3, 2012:  Rush Limbaugh's calling Sandra Fluke a "slut' and a "prostitute"

June 10,  2012:  Ray Badbury's legacy

July 22, 2012:  the Aurora killings: media and guns

August 26, 2012:  Neil Armstrong

September 9, 2012:  Democratic National Convention

October 7, 2012:  Presidential Debates

October 21, 2012: Second Obama-Romney Debate

Talking Edwards v. Coulter on KNX1070 Radio Sunday monring

A quick note - I'll be on KNX1070 all-news radio out of Southern California tomorrow morning, in my usual 7:20am (Pacific) Sunday spot, interviewed by Todd Leitz about Elizabeth and John Edwards v. Ann Coulter on MSNBC's Hardball.

Links to blog posts with my views are below - I think Coulter got what she deserved...

The interview will be live-streamed everywhere at www.knx1070.com ... 7:20am Pacific, 10:20am Eastern, you can do the math for all the other time zones...

My blog posts on the Edwards v. Coulter:

Real Hardball: Elizabeth Edwards v. Ann Coulter

Hardball II: John Edwards about Ann Coulter

Friday, June 29, 2007

iPhone Arrives... (I Predicted It In 1979)

Brief post to mark, with pleasure, the arrival of the iPhone...

The cornucopia of the Internet - what I call the "medium of media" - songs, YouTube, e-mail, the works - on your cell phone.

I wrote, in my doctoral dissertation way back in 1979 - "Human Replay: A Theory of the Evolution of Media" - p. 275, that "the wireless, portable evolution of media should continue to the point of providing any individual with access to all the information of the planet, from any place on the planet, indoors and outdoors, and of course even beyond the planet itself as communication extends into the solar system and cosmos beyond." And I added, on p. 276, that this "'systemless' system ... will eventually give the individual the same unrestrained access to information on the global basis that the individual has always enjoyed to information in the immediate physical environment."

I expected that to happen in my lifetime, but maybe not this soon.

After all, 1979 was the very very dawn of our personal computer age.

Cellphone by Levinson
My 2004 book, Cellphone: The Story of the World's Most Mobile Medium, and How It Has Transformed Everything, is essentially about what the iPhone, and other devices like it, are doing...

And here's a clip of me on the Discovery Channel, this past December, talking about the import of cell phones in our lives...

A fine day ... but, I'll probably wait a little until the price of the iPhone and its service comes down. I'm not only a happy futurist, but a cheapskate...

See also Hats off to George Hotz ... iPhone Boosts Literacy and History Lesson: iPhone Sales Will Exceed Expectations and iPhone: Not Better iPod But New Species of Media and New York Times' David Pogue Sings "I Want An iPhone" to "My Way" ... Mouth-Watering iPhone Commercial and the Real World ... Nano iPhone and the Dymaxion Principle ... Harry Potter and iPhone ...

and ... I'll be talkin' iPhone on my weekly KNX1070 Sunday interview, 7:20am Pacific time, July 8

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Democrats Debate on PBS: Eloquent But Not Much Debate

The best moment of tonight's Democratic Presidential Debate on PBS came at the very beginning, as all candidates were eloguent in their outrage over the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision today permitting racial segregation in college residential housing. A half-century after the High Court, under Republican Earl Warren, ended segregation in the schools, today's Supreme Court Republican majority is working hard to undo it. I've been saying since 2000, when the Supreme Court stopped the recount on Florida, that the long range results of that benighted court decision would be to continue the benighted majority on the Court.

It was very fitting, then, that the debate took place at Howard University, the historic African-American university in Washington, DC.

Otherwise, the debate was so collegial as to be boring. Important issues such as the high rates of AIDS in African-American women were also raised, but just about every candidate agreed wholeheartedly with every other candidate's replies. Edwards, Hillary, and Obama were especially powerful on the health issues, but this kind of party unity made for dull television. Well, there are more important things in this world than riveting debates on TV.

Even humor was a little scarce tonight. The highlights in that domain were Obama clarifying Biden's remark that the two were tested for AIDS - Obama explaining that he had been tested with his wife, Michelle, not with Biden - and a jab at poor Paris Hilton and her media exposure by debate moderator Tavis Smiley, picked up by Hillary.

Lots more debating on television. In the end, of course, the real debate will be not between Democrats or between Republicans, but from Democrats versus the party that brought us this retrograde Supreme Court decision today.

Defending Television - This Time Against Critiques That It's Too Good!

I wrote a piece "On the Benefits of Watching Television" way back in 1980, well before I even had a computer. In those days, I needed to defend TV against claims that watching it made us stupid, or worse. I pointed out that we all needed a little down time, when we weren't intellectually or emotionally engaged at our highest level, and TV provided this. And, even back then, some of it - such as Star Trek - was indeed a feast for the mind.

As recently as last year, I published an op-ed about Television's New Golden Age in Newsday, arguing against the same near-sighted, mostly academic, attacks on TV.

But lately I've noticed a different kind of criticism of television, with just the opposite grievance: television may be too sophisticated nowadays, too complex in some of its storylines for its own good - in other words, too good! (See, for example, this Too sophisticated for most discussion of NBC's Studio 60, shortly before it was cancelled.)

I've also seen grumblings that television deliberately gives us overly complex storylines as a bait for DVD sales. Mourned are the good old days, of simpler, unconnected episodes on television, when buying a DVD of a series, if it existed, would be laughable.

Television, it seems, can never win. There's something about that screen that always seems to attract ire from somewhere, about something it does or doesn't do.

But this critique of TV, though it seems to be media savvy, is even less astute than the older attack on TV as an idiot box. Sure, someone might want to get a DVD of Battlestar Galactica, The Sopranos, or Lost - but those shows could just as easily be TiVo'ed, seen in one way or another on the Web, etc. and of course have been. The world of narrative delivery has changed. Whether book or movie or TV series, buying a copy of it on a discrete piece of material is yesterday's news.

And it seems that those who are critical of television's new storytelling sophistication may not have much to worry about anyway. Rome and The Sopranos have ended on HBO. Season 4 of Battlestar Galactica will be its last, and so may be the next season of The Wire. 24, Lost, Heroes, and Big Love are continuing, and Showtime has been taking up some of this slack with The Tudors, Meadowlands, Brotherhood, and Dexter. But new golden ages don't last forever, and we may be seeing the beginning of the end of this one.

I hope not. But I'm sure whatever television next becomes, it will have no shortage of sage, caustic, savvy critics.

And maybe that's good for television. The worst thing that can happen to any medium is to be taken for granted.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Hardball II: John Edwards about Ann Coulter

A day after Ann Coulter wondered why Elizabeth Edwards, not John Edwards, was calling her out about her personal attacks, Hardball made the good move of bringing John Edwards on to give his views on this important matter.

Firs, to reiterate what I said earlier - Elizabeth Edwards had every right to confront Ann Coulter about the personal attacks, since they were, indeed, personal attacks directed not just against John Edwards but his family. Elizabeth would have had every right to take Coulter on, politically, too, but the personal nature of Coulter's attacks made Elizabeth's responses especially appropriate.

John Edwards made the important points in his Hardball appearance a few minutes ago: people, candidates included, have to speak out against the kind of vicious attacks that Coulter and others regularly dish out. The attacks have not been limited to Edwards. As he pointed on Hardball, Hillary's appearance and Barack Obama's name have been Coulter targets.

These kinds of attacks are not the end of the world, but there is no reason that people have to keep silent about them. If we want political campaigns to be more focused on issues, we should join the Edwards in speaking out against Ann Coulter.

And why shouldn't Edwards use this issue to raise money for his campaign? Campaigns against vicious commentators like Ann Coulter cost money...

Next, it would nice to see a little less of her on television. Will the 24/7 all-news cable stations have the courage to rise to that challenge? As things stand now, they're enablers of Ann Coulter's invective.

See also: Real Hardball: Elizabeth Edwards v. Ann Coulter ... John Edwards' Favorite Book


Real Hardball: Elizabeth Edwards v. Ann Coulter

I was half-glancing at the early edition of MSNBC's Hardball yesterday, and Chris Matthews' somewhat fawning interview of Ann Coulter. Matthews was asking her some tough-ish questions, but these were interspersed with big smiles and camaraderie, and the tone was positively cocktail-party in comparison to what Matthews did to Michelle Malkin a few years ago.

Then a call came in from Elizabeth Edwards. John Edwards' wife was calling Ann Coulter to account for her persistent personal attacks on John, ranging, as per Coulter's style, from stupid to vicious. (You've no doubt all heard about the "faggot" comment. Now Coulter has switched to rhetorically wishing John had been "killed in a terrorist assassination plot.")

Predictably, Ann Coulter didn't give an inch, and jumped on her high horse about not being about to stop writing books, or change what she writes, because a Presidential candidate's wife asked her.

But Coulter also made another point, which highlights the value of Elizabeth Edwards' call. Coulter chided Elizabeth for calling, instead of her husband, the Presidential candidate, John Edwards making the call.

Coulter's point would have been better taken if the call had been about a political attack she had levied. But Elizabeth was calling about personal attacks, which have no place in political campaigns, and every moral ground for family members to call out and answer.

So kudos to Elizabeth Edwards for standing up for her husband and decency in dialogue and making this call. Let people like Ann Coulter know, if you attack candidates personally, expect their families to come after you.

As for Chris Matthews and Hardball, good that the show put through Elizabeth Edwards' call. But, next time, show a little more outrage when you're interviewing Ann Coulter. Humor and good spirits have their role on 24/7 all-news stations, but Ann Coulter is far more than a laughing matter.

Here's a videoclip of the call, from YouTube:

See also Hardball II: John Edwards about Ann Coulter and John Edwards' Favorite Book


White Tea and Infinite Regress

Hey, this is a post about television - not about what I'm watching on television, but what I'm drinking when I'm watching television. And, maybe more important, what I'm drinking when I'm writing about what I'm watching on television. Come to think of it, what I'm drinking right now - when I'm writing about what I'm drinking when I'm writing about what I'm watching on television.

Infinite regress....

Whatever I may be doing and watching, I usually drink it at the end of long, tiring days - actually, even long days that are not tiring. It has enough caffeine to keep me sharp, without keeping me awake, unless I want to be.

A long time ago, I used to drink coffee. But it had the strange effect of turning me into a real grouch the next day. Some people said this was a complete reversal for me.

I can't recall exactly when I switched to tea.

It's a touchy thing. It's not that hot in northern New Jersey, and I'd guess that's because of the water. It's almost always good in London, probably the same reason. In New York City, and close by, it's usually good. A lot depends upon the tea, too, and how you prepare it.

First, white tea is a kind of green tea, best prepared not by boiling but steaming water. Best of all is water that just starts to steam. But if you forget about this and the water starts to boil, wait until it cools down just a bit.

I have seen white tea in bags, but do yourself a favor and get some sort of tea maker. You can use a tea-ball and chain, and they sell contraptions for $15 or so which make excellent tea from loose leaves.

I sometimes put white tea leaves in a cup, add water, and let the tea brew in the cup. Most of the leaves settle to the bottom, and they're fun to suck on.

White tea comes from the tips of green tea leaves. Which means they are the most tender part of the leaf. Unlike black tea leaves, green and white leaves are not aged.

White tea is said to have powerful anti-oxidizing qualities. That's good, but I'd drink it anyway, because I like it what it tastes like, and how it makes me feel.

It comes in lots of varieties. I'd recommend Mutan - it's sweet and smooth. If you want a white tea with a little more tingle, try Silver Needle.

The age of the tea leaves - how long they have been stored - is extremely important. We're not talking wine here. The fresher the tea the better. I bought some white tea in an old Chinese shop in London a few years ago. I had the idea that maybe I was getting a taste from some secret, delicious, ancient stash.

The tea itself was very old, that was certain. It tasted like it came from the Manchu dynasty - which means, it tasted awful. Old tea tastes like some kind of wood shavings, which, although I've never tasted, can't taste too good.

White tea has become one of my favorite off-beat beverages. It also seems to be attracting a lot of public interest - I have more listens on my White Tea episode than any other piece on my Ask Lev podcast. If you'd like to hear it - it's about 3-minutes long - just scroll down on the right-hand column of this blog.

All right - you saw this coming. I've got some water on the boil that's starting to steam ...

I'd send a cup to you right through the Web, if I could, but java script can't process tea - not even java - just information, like this...

The tea merchants below are quite good. The tea maker on the right works like a charm - we use it instead of more traditional tea-strainers...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Big Love 2 Episode 3: Sons and Mothers

Another excellent episode of Big Love on HBO last night.

As usual, there were taut tensions and dangers around every corner in Bill's dealings with Roman, but the best part of the episode featured Bill's son Ben, and his relationship with Bill's youngest wife, Margene.

Indeed, the best part of Big Love has always been the way it explores the playing out of all too human issues in the context of a sincere polygamous family.

In this case, nothing romantic or flirtatous is even happening with Margene and Ben. Margene is the furthest thing from a frustrated wife, looking for a fling. She loves every aspect of her marriage to Bill (and Nikki and Barb). And Ben's doing just fine, sexually, with a hot girlfriend.

Now, Barb knows all of this as well as we, the viewers, do. But she can't help being concerned with the physical proximity of Margene and Ben - including Margene measuring Ben's waist for a pair of pants. And, so, Barb confronts Margene...

Which is very instructive because it says that, although Barb of course knows that Margene is a sort of mother to Ben, and doesn't really think that she would have an affair with him, a part of Barb is still looking at Marg as if she was just a really attractive woman, not much older than her son, who would be irresistible to him.

Margene, in an excellent scene, indicates that she actually sees and understands her relationship with Ben better than does Barb. Margene is shocked that Barb would even think about Margene and Ben in that way, and further points out that she can provide a kind of friend/mothering to Ben that Barb might not be able to provide.

Beyond the specific issue of Ben, perhaps Margene does have a deeper understanding of the polygamous household than does Barb, because Barb's relationship with Bill and their childten, after all, began as monogamous.

Tip-top acting by Ginnifer Goodwin as Margene and Douglas Smith as Ben.

I'm looking forward to more next week.

See also reviews of other episodes: 1. Big Love Resumes ... 2. Oh Happy Days ... 4. Help Me, Rhonda ... 5. The Waitress and More... 6. Just Lust ... 7. Margene's Mama ... 8. Polygamy and Misgivings ... 9. Swing Vote Margene ... 10. Polygamy as the Ultimate Cool/Bad ... 11. Family in Crisis ... 12. Polygamy and Great Performances Confirmed

Freedom of Speech Takes Another Hit from the US Supreme Court

In a 5-4 decision yesterday, the U. S. Supreme Court backed a high school principal's right to censor a student's speech - or, more precisely, to hold up a banner than read "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" at a school event in Juneau, Alaska.

Technically, the Supreme Court was probably right that the high school principal's action did not violate the First Amendment. A school, after all, is not Congress, which is prohibited under the First Amendment from abridging freedom of press and speech - as when Congress passes laws which fine broadcasters for "indecent" language. A school is not even a state or local government, which, under the Fourteenth Amendment, is not allowed to violate any amendments to the U. S. Constitution.

No, a school is not the government.

A school is a place where students are supposed to learn about the government - and about what it means to be an American - what it means to live and work in a society that tolerates differences of opinion and expression.

And this high school principal failed miserably in that job. By suspending Joseph Frederick from school for unfurling that banner, this guardian of education proclaimed to the world the devotion of that school to totalitarian values. To the traditions of Hitler and Stalin, not Jefferson and Madison.

So congratulations, Supreme Court, you've struck another blow not for but against fundamental American values.

Fortunately, we have an upcoming Presidential election. Of all the candidates, however, only one, Republican-Libertarian Ron Paul, has taken a no-compromise position throughout his political career of opposing government trampling of the First Amendment, such as Congress attempting to regulate media.

The Democrats, of course, have been critical of the current Supreme Court on many issues. But the Democratic candidates need to go further, and start speaking out every time the First Amendment is violated by government, and every time the principle of freedom is stifled by a small-minded principal.

I hope, in the next round of Presidential debates, all the candidates are asked how they feel about this Supreme Court decision. I'd like to see them unfurl a banner that says, BONG HITS FOR FREEDOM...


Monday, June 25, 2007

Meadowlands: Episode 2

Meadowlands is clearly a dangerous place - everyone who is there, unless they're there with a family member who is there, is there for a reason. In case anyone doubted that, we see it played in scalding violence in Episode 2...

Jack the handyman is attracted to Zoe, who enjoys and invites his attention. Jack's played by Tom Hardy. To give you an idea of the mix of sensitivity and brutality he projects, think of Mickey Rourke with Harry Connick, Jr and even a little young Humphrey Bogart thrown in. (I know, that might seem like a stretch, but it's there.) So Jack comes over to the Brogan's house to see Zoe, but finds her brother Mark instead, dressed as Zoe ... Jack soon realizes this, but is excited by the situation nonetheless - he feeds on fright - and tries to rape Mark-

At which point Danny comes home, pulls Jack off Mark, punches Jack and- Jack is dead.

And to make matters worse, if that's possible - but making things worse may be the intriguing hallmark of Meadowlands - a mysterious man with a blue cap, whom we've glimpsed before, stands in the doorway and thanks Danny for taking care of his job for him...

Meadowlands is place teeming with danger. But at least Mark is talking now...

Excellent acting and set design and production all around. In addition to Hardy, especially fine performances by Harry Treadaway (Mark) and David Morrissey (Danny) in that crucial scene.

Showtime's MeadowlandsBut I think my favorite scene is the opening of every episode, with the four Brogans, backs to the camera, walking to their new home. Kudos, especially, to Mrs. Brogan - Evelyn, played by Lucy Cohu - who walks best, with a shiny stud on each cheek of her black jeans, and the music keeping beat...

Useful links:

Intriguingly Miasmic Meadowlands: A Preview

reviews of other episodes: Meadowlands Opens ... with Tongues and Grooves ... Episode 3 ... Episode 4 ... Episode 5 ... Episode 6 ... Episode 7 ... Episode 8

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

John from Cincinnati: Episode Three ... boning

Well, I saw the third episode of HBO's John from Cincinnati last night - technically, Day Two, Continued - and I'm beginning to grasp a few things about this series ...

Word of the Episode: Each episode seems to have a word that John - and someone else, Butchie, Kai, whoever - say over and over again. Last week, it was "dump" (also "dump out"). Last night, it was "bone". John wants to "bone" Kai - or tells her he wants to - and she responds by trying make sure that that's what he really wants to do. She finds him attractive, but doesn't want to take advantage of a mentally "slow hot guy". John does make her "see God," but this is pretty much just briefly passing out and seeing some strangeness. As with "dump" the previous week, it's pretty clear that nothing really happens, boning wise. John is just repeating a word that he heard.

Lesson of the Episode: In the first episode, it was Mitch's realization at the end that he wasn't hallucinating due to a brain tumor - he was really levitating. Last night, the doctor makes clear to everyone who might have been dozing off or "seeing God" in the first two episodes that John - or someone - really has magically recuperative powers. Shaunie really was clinically dead. And someone, presumably John, brought him back to full health. This power also brought the ex-cop's bird back from the dead, is allowing Butchie to kick drugs without too much pain, made Kai "see God" (not really a recuperative power, but, unlike the other effects, we do see John making that happen), and who knows what else ...

I'm sure there are other transcending threads in this show, but, once again, I'm finding the thing I'm enjoying most is not seeing the show, but writing about it ...

So I'll be back here next week with some further gems...

See also reviews of other episodes ... Episode One ... Episode Two ... Episode 4 ... Episode 5 ... Episode 6 ... Episode 7 ... Episode 8 ... Episode 9 ... Episode 10

See also John from Cincinnati: The Meaning in a Sentence or Two

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Conversation with Robert J. Sawyer

Check out the brand new episode of my Light On Light Through podcast...

A conversation with award-winning science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer ... my good friend for more than a decade ... my predecessor as President of the Science Fiction Writers of America (and I served as his Vice President) ... Rob is winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel, the Nebula Award for Best Novel, and more awards, almost as numerous as stars in the universe ... he's Canada's premier science fiction writer ... We talk not only about Rob's novels -
including his latest, rollback - but about the true value of science fiction to humanity, a trip to Mars that almost happened in the 1960s, the Pope's Astronomer, and much more ... a no-holds-barred, unedited 20-minute connversation...

Short History of Ludicrous Claims about Violence in the Media

I first got a clue about the history of misinformed people blaming the media for everything from violence to sex in real life at an auction about 50 miles north of New York City, a few decades ago. I bid a buck for a box of old magazines, sight unseen.

At the bottom, I found an August 1910 issue of Good Housekeeping, which contained an article entitled, "Motion Pictures: A Primary School for Criminals", by some professor - a William McKeever - in the Midwest. McKeever wrote,

What is going to be done with the motion picture shows ... grinding out their reels of excitement and enchantment before the eyes of the motley throng of men and women, boys and girls? ... These moving pictures are even more degrading than the dime novel, because they represent real flesh-and-blood forms, and impart their lessons directly through the senses.

McKeever is justly lost to history - I don't know any one who cites him, other than me, as a choice example of pseudo-scholarly detachment from reality. He had no evidence for his claims, just his own Puritanical imagination. Times haven't changed much, have they...

In the 1950s, television and comic books both took a beating from the world of academe. Watching tv was said to make us stupid, reading comics was said to engender violence. Except, once again, there was no real evidence. Just wrong, learned opinions.

In fact, evidence contradicted all the negative claims about television, and there were plenty. Jerry Mander, in his Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television (1979), claimed watching it not only made you illiterate, but could give you cancer!

On the more plausible victim of television - literary - Mander apparently missed Gene Maeroff's "Reading Achievement of Children in Indiana Found as Good as in '44" in the April 15, 1978 New York Times. Because, sure enough, that study showed that precisely during the early reign of television, there had been no decline in literacy at all.

Facts, pesky facts. These always seem to get in the way of the William McKeevers, Jerry Manders, and Jack Thompsons of the world. To them, it seems so obvious that movies, tv, and now videogames are to blame, that evidence is an afterthought. You take it where you can get it. If you find an organization like the American Psychological Association which says there is causation between playing violent videogames and having violent attitudes - even though it's correlation not causation - well, hey, that's good enough, you can use it to go on a rampage that falsely claims that playing videogames causes not attitudes but real life violence, including killing.

New, cutting edge media always seem to attract this kind of attention. I have no doubt that when humans first started speaking, some non-speaking close cousins of our ancestors were not too happy about that. Had they been able to think, they might have even realized that new modes of communication propel our evolution as a species, and that speaking signaled the end of their non-speaking days. They might have done all they could to make speaking illegal or whatever passed for that back then.

Fortunately for us, they failed.

As will the current denouncers of video games.

See also I Went Face-to-Screen with Jack Thompson

Following comments entered on original PaulLevinson.net post of 23 April 2007. Feel free to comment further right here.


I see you have included a short list of people who like to specialize in the nonfalsifiable hypothesis. Much of what they say is not just wrong it is actually meaningless. I'll admit I don't expect much change when it comes to confusing opinions for facts. I suspect some of it is childhood conditioning, but that is just a guess. grins
Posted by: George at April 24, 2007 09:28 PM

Great article, it's always nice to hear the voice of sanity rise above the clamor of the self-serving alarmists.
Posted by: Alex at April 30, 2007 12:43 PM

Thanks, George and Alex. The claims would be laughable, if they didn't do so much damage - encouraging censorship, and distracting us from the real causes of these problems.
Posted by: Paul Levinson at April 30, 2007 04:22 PM

I believe that novels where also scoffed at by poets when they first came around. It is a fascinating cycle, that I think every person in the academic realm needs to learn about. That way, when there getting the itch to criticize a new medium they can let it go, rather then acting as a cog in the wheel.
A few days ago Salman Rushdie was on the Colbert Report to bemoan the dwindling number of book reviewers in the newspapers. He was claiming that the public at large would lose a necessary service that brought the best books to light. The internet has more then stepped up to replace this function, and I couldn't believe the genuine concern that Rushdie had.
Posted by: tobydog at May 13, 2007 06:08 AM

Good points, Tobydog. Rusdie is an example of someone who has so internalized the media of his day - in his case, the printed novel - that he can't recognize an equivalent development if it's not on paper...
I talk about this syndrome, as well as the more general point that new media are almost always distrusted, underestimated, misunderstood, thoughout The Soft Edge: A Natural History and the Future of the Information Revolution
Posted by: Paul Levinson at May 13, 2007 10:55 AM

Harry Potter and Spoilers: An Occasion for Basking

The huge world of Harry Potter fans has been understandably ruffled by the likely fraudulent claims of "Gabriel" to have hacked the final novel...

I agree completely with the denunciations of this attention-seeking loser - see, for example, Dan Flanagan's fine piece in blogcritics.org - but I also see this as a left-handed compliment to the extraordinary impact of Harry Potter in our culture.

Not that J. K. Rowling needs any further validation - hundreds of millions of books sold, worldwide, soundly refuting the notion that movies and television have sapped us our our literacy, our taste for captivating reading - but I do find it significant, and even a good thing, that spoilers are afflicting novels in this day and age.

The spectre of spoilers, after all, has haunted television and movies for quite some time. Hit series such as 24 have even been rumored to change their story lines to defeat the deflating impact of spoilers.

It's oddly nice to see spoilers yapping at the heels of novels now, too.

It's no doubt way too late for Rowling to change anything in the final Harry novel, so I propose (a) continuing to keep the goods as secret as possible, (b) vigorously checking out any claims to spoilers that may appear (as has been done with Gabriel), and (c) - most of all - basking in the sunlight that being targeted for spoilers bestows upon the magnificent series...

Useful links:

Harry Potter and the Refutation of Illiteracy

Harry Potter and iPhone

Harry Potter and the 3-D Phoenix movie review

Did Spoilers for 24 Lead Producers to Change the Finale?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Sopranos podcasts!

released in 2014: The Sopranos: The Complete SeriesFor your listening pleasure ... Sopranos podcasts ... reviews of each of the final nine episodes ... plus, additional podcasts about some of the hot issues we've been discussing in this blog ... The Sopranos, or The Tiger ... The Closure Junkies ... The Sopranos and Hamlet ... and more ...

Most of the reviews were recorded just a few minutes after the end of the episode ... the podcasts about the meaning and reception of the finale were recorded in the last few days, and I'll continue to record and post new podcasts in this Sopranos series in the weeks ahead ...

The following is a 53-minute compilation of each of the nine original podcasts (each about 3-5 minutes long), plus the three additional podcasts with my thoughts on the finale.

All free ... enjoy...

see also  The Sopranos as a Nuts-and-Bolts Triumph of Non-Network TV my 2002 article

written reviews of the first eight episodes this final season: The Sopranos: First of Nine, Second of Nine, Third of Nine, Fourth of Nine, Fifth of Nine, Sixth of Nine, Seventh of Nine, Eighth of Nine, Ninth of Nine and  The Sopranos and Hamlet ...  The Sopranos and the Closure-Junkies ... The Sopranos, or the Tiger?

plus ... see the Hillary-Sopranos and Obama Girl videos - which do you like better?

And my 90-minute interview with Dominic Chianese

And coming in Summer 2011: The Essential Sopranos Reader  (University of Kentucky Press) ... papers and essays from the May 2008 Sopranos Symposium at Fordham University

Friday, June 22, 2007

Precarious Atlantis Returns to Earth

The Space Shuttle Atlantis is back home on Earth, safe and sound in California, gliding in like a single, fragile feather from beyond. The space program, and the hopes for humanity as a space-faring, cosmic species, get to live another day.

Few predicted, even in the 1950s, that we'd be walking on the Moon in 1969. Even fewer predicted after that walk on the small world beyond our planet that we would have progressed so little, so slowly, since then.

Richard Nixon saw the space program as JFK's dream, and therefore not worth much support. But he was joined by Democrats such as Walter Mondale, and together the Republicans and the Democrats all but throttled the space program. Like the trampling of the First Amendment, the near-scrapping of the space program has long enjoyed bipartisan support.

The Challenger and Columbia tragedies of course hurt the cause, but even without those disasters, the space program was limping along. The cosmic has had its moments - the images from the Hubble, dots that could be planets around distant suns, some perhaps with life - discovery of conditions for possible life much closer to Earth, on Mars, and elsewhere in our solar system, on the moons of the outer planets - all of those discoveries have been extraordinary.

But in the crucial process of getting people off of this planet, we've barely moved. The age of the shuttle and its modest objectives is coming to an end. That's good. But if it fails before we reach that end, and move on to the next stage, we may never move on at all.

Realspace - by Paul Levinson

Why is it so important that we get out into space? Not just, I would say, for science, although that is certainly of value. But the most important reasons are almost spiritual - if we don't get off of this planet, we may never learn much more about the meaning of life and intelligence, and what we are doing here on this planet in this galaxy in this universe. We can never learn about our true home and place in the cosmos from this small speck in whatever corner of the universe.

I've been looking up at the stars and wondering what is out there ever since I was a little kid. Let this be the beginning, at last, of an epoch that takes us out there and never looks back.


Useful link: Sylvia Engdahl's space site

Fallacies of Connections between Violent Videogames and Violence in Real Life

Jack Thompson continues to insert himself in the news with his claims that playing violent videogames engenders violence in the real world. I went up against Thompson last June on CNBC's Squawkbox about this issue, and was repeatedly interrupted not only by Thompson but the clueless host Becky Quick.

There is a lot misinformation floating around about the connection between violent videogames and violence in real life, and scientific studies that allegedly demonstrate this. In what follows, I'll just briefly highlight the two main kinds of studies, and why they fail to demonstrate a connection, despite what Thompson and many other people say.

1. Experiment: Two groups of kids, randomly selected so both groups are equivalent. One group plays violent videogames, the other group plays nonviolent videogames. The group that plays violent videogames is deemed to have become more violent, as indicated by a variety of factors measured in the experiment. For example, both groups are given violence profile exams, which ask, among other questions, what you would do if someone bumped into you. The group that played the violent games is more likely to say they would haul off and punch the person, etc.

Does that show that playing violent video games increases your propensity for violence in the real world?

No, it does not. It shows only that playing violent videogames makes you score higher on various laboratory measures of potential for violence. Whether these subjects then go on to actually commit or get involved in violent acts in the real world is outside the scope of such kinds of experiments - as, indeed, it must be, since once the subject leaves the lab or premises of the experiment, he or she is open to all kinds of other influences.

2. Survey: The number of real-life violent episodes, defined by whatever criteria (hitting, pulling hair, etc) are tallied for individuals in a survey, in which the playing of videogames is also tallied. Conclusion: there is a statistically significant correlation between playing violent videogames, and getting involved in violent episodes in the real world.

Does that show that playing violent video games increases your propensity for violence in the real world?

No, it does not. Correlation is not the same as causation. Correlation means A and B happen at the same time. Causation means A causes B to happen. How could A and B be correlated, and not also exist in a cause-and-effect relationship? Well, maybe B causes A (in this case, kids who are already more violent enjoy violent video games because it ratifies their behavior - in contrast to nonviolent kids, who enjoy videogames for other reasons). Or maybe a third factor, C (for example, problems in family life), causes both A and B to happen.

The above is not meant to be an exhaustive assessment of every single study ever conducted about violent videogames. But next time you see or hear a study authoritatively cited, ask whether it has avoided the above fallacies and pitfalls.

Listen to 10-minute podcast on this issue: Ask Lev

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Following comments were made in response to original PaulLevinson.net post of 20 April 2007. Please feel free to your current comments here.


I agree with you on this one. My memory of "middle school" (jr high school back then) was that violent encounters were not infrequent. Sort of how status was determined on the primate tree when it came to males. Needless to say video games didn't exist in the very early 50's and the hero shot the gun out of the hand of the villain in the movies. One can come to suspect that these tendencies are "hard wired" into our reptile brain.....hmmmmm
Posted by: George at April 20, 2007 04:10 PM

I'm sure glad there are people like you, Paul, who understand science. Keep it up!
Posted by: Rat Fink at April 20, 2007 11:42 PM

Thanks, George and Rat Fink. One good thing about Jack Thompson is that he brings most rational people into complete agreement - on the absurdity of his claims.
Posted by: Paul Levinson at April 21, 2007 02:50 AM

Thanks for being the voice of reason. After watching your squawkbox showdown, I could not believe how rude both Thompson and the host were. Keep up the good work!
Posted by: Anonymous at April 23, 2007 08:59 PM
You are The Best!!!
Posted by: Terabanitoss at May 7, 2007 04:18 AM

Welcome PaulLevinson.net readers...

A welcome to all of my PaulLevinson.net readers, and to anyone who clicked on a link that said PaulLevinson.net etc but brought you here, to InfiniteRegress.tv ...

From now on - actually, as of yesterday - all of my writings about politics, television, and whatever made you jump for joy or shake your fists in fury over at PaulLevinson.net will be here.

I'm in the process of bringing them all over to InfiniteRegress.tv - for example, I brought my infamous "How I Went Face-to-Screen with Jack Thompson" over here yesterday - and this process may take a few weeks. The best way to find a post that you may be looking for is to check the Labels section, in the right-hand column, under the InfiniteRegress.tv logo. You'll see the entry on Jack Thompsom, for example, there right now.

For those of you may have put links to specific posts of mine on PaulLevinson.net - if you don't see the post already here, just let me know (either in a comment to this post, or by e-mail to me), and I'll put that post up here right away, and send you the URL.

For those of you new to InfiniteRegress.tv - it's been primarily about television, with reviews of shows often minutes after they've aired, with the occasional political piece, usually about a televised Presidential debate. This will continue, with a bit more politics, as per what I was doing on PaulLevinson.net. But the truth is my primary perspective on politics is as a media theorist, anyway, so television usually plays a role about I have to say about this or that candidate or issue.

For those of you who are already readers of InfiniteRegress.tv - thank you! - you'll find a little more political content here, including First Amendment and FCC issues. But those will usually be about television, too.

Many of the links you saw on PaulLevinson.net - my books, my podcasts - are already here.

Great to have all of you here!

Endless Vistas

You could say the television screen is an endless vista, and that would be true, but before the television and the movie screen, there were skies, seas, and sandy beaches...

Which is where I went walking today ... sun and cool breeze in my face ... rivulets of water on my toes ... my brain on vacation, but thinking of a scene from the novel I'm writing, a time travel story, with maybe a castle from some bygone age ...

Looked something like this ...

How did I take this picture of the contents of my mind?

Easy ... I logged on to Sandcastles - a great online site, where you can create your ideal sandcastle, download it as wallpaper, and/or e-mail as a postcard to your friends...

The tools are so easy, a little child could use them. Our kids are a lot older than little children, but I'm still a kid at heart, and I found this free virtual-castle-building tool a breeze to use ... You choose your castle type, you pick the color, can add turrets and flags ... You have a selection of starfish, shells, and crabs for the beach (I was in a clean-slate mood, so I left the sand critters off camera). You can throw in a ball - as I did, because I like motion - or a pail and shovel.

But speaking of motion, I think I like the birds the best ... they looked just like the seagulls and magical rays of light I saw flying off into the sunset today...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Sopranos and Hamlet

"And the rest is silence" - the famous, many-sided ambiguous last line of Hamlet.

The "rest" could mean respite, sleep, or remainder. The "silence" could mean quiet or death. Is the remainder - what comes after the story of Hamlet - just a time-out, or a death of everything we have seen? When Horatio says this about the bodies he finds on the floor - which we presumably know are dead - what is he telling us about what happens after?

As I was reading Dick Cavett's excellent piece written before The Sopranos' finale, I realized that, in addition to The Lady, or the Tiger echoes, The Sopranos also partakes of Hamlet.

I'm sure I'm not the first person to make that connection - just as I was not the only person to call forth The Lady, or The Tiger - but I thought it useful to record it here.

"And the rest is silence" has been praised by I. A. Richards and other literary critics as the ideal ambiguous ending. Like The Lady or the Tiger, it is a triumph of written language.

In the case of The Sopranos, the "rest" was not just silent, but sudden black. And it was shocking - in a way that the last words of Hamlet were not - because it spoke in image rather than words, and defied our expectations of how a television show, let alone a series, should end.

I'm more sure - less ambiguous - than ever that The Sopranos as a whole and its ending in particular will take its place next to Shakespeare.

listen to free podcast of this review, and reviews of all the other final nine episodes
Further reading:

The Sopranos and the Closure-Junkies

The Sopranos, or the Tiger?

The Sopranos Ninth of Nine: The Anti-Ending Ending

The Sopranos as a Nuts-and-Bolts Triumph of Non-Network TV my 2002 article

I. A. Richards' Practical Criticism

also -
Sopranos Symposium at Fordham University, May 22-25, 2008: Final Program

The Sopranos Podcasts - listen to reviews and analyses to your heart's content

And ...  A Conversation with Dominic Chianese  ... complete video and transcript

And ... reviews of the first eight episodes this final season: The SopranosFirst of NineSecond of NineThird of Nine,Fourth of NineFifth of NineSixth of NineSeventh of NineEighth of Nine

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Enjoy listening to audio books? Get a free audio book copy of The Plot to Save Socrates - or any one of 85,000 other titles - with a 14-day trial membership at Audible.com ...

How I Went Face-to-Screen with Jack Thompson

I first heard the name Jack Thompson just last June. I was driving from New York to Camp Hill, PA, for a signing of The Plot to Save Socrates at a Barnes and Noble, when my cell phone rang. It was CNBC.

I didn't have Bluetooth then, and my cheap handless gadget wasn't working, so I pulled over to the side of the road to talk.

CNBC: Would you be interested in being on CNBC's Squawkbox the next morning to talk about videogames?

Me: Sure. [I'm always interested in being on television.]

CNBC: And you think there's no connection between violence in videogames and violence in the real world? [I talk about the lack of connection between violence in every medium and violence in the real world in most of my books - such as my 1997 The Soft Edge: A Natural History and Future of the Information Revolution.]

Me: Right. No causal connection at all - studies that say they show that violent videogames cause violence in the real world are confusing correlation and causation [I know, a mouthful from the side of the road in Pennsylvania, but it's gotta be said].

CNBC: Excellent. So we'll have a car for you right outside your door at 5:30am tomorrow. Jack Thompson will also be on the show.


At that time, I was far more unhappy about the 5:30am than I was about Jack Thompson.

But a sleek car's whisking me over the George Washington Bridge to CNBC's studios in Ft. Lee, New Jersey early the next morning.

I'm kept waiting longer than usual - though, truthfully, there is no "usual" for this - and I'm finally ushered into the studio, miked, and smiled at by the host of Squawkbox, Becky Quick.

I won't rehash the actual interview for you - you can see it here for yourself. Suffice to say I was repeatedly interrupted by Thompson, whose style is to talk a blue streak, then break in a few seconds after the other guest starts talking, continue to do that, and then complain that you were hogging the conversation when he gets his chance to talk again.

I've run into people like that before. What was in some ways even more irritating was Becky Quick's moderation style - which consisted of letting Thompson talk first, not doing anything to stop Thompson when he was interrupting, and then giving him the last word.

But here's what bothers me most, and what I understand least: why does Thompson with his nonsense keep getting so much air time? True, the American Psychological Association doesn't help, by sometimes speaking loosely of correlation as causation - confusing A (playing violent videogames) happening at the same time as B (violent episodes in real life) with A causing B, when B could have caused A, etc. And yet, Thompson all too often appears unopposed on television, or in a conversation in which he is given the upper hand by the host.

After Thompson appeared on Chris Matthews' Hardball last week - where Matthews did ask him some tough questions - MSNBC published an editorial that called Thompson out. Joystick is talking about the "Jacklash" - the media are finally waking up about Thompson.

But a lot of this could have been avoided, if the media had not been so worried about offending Thompson in the first place. Next time, either don't have him on your air at all, or try the tried-and-true procedure of giving equal time to opposing opinions.

See also Fallacies of Connections Between Violent Videogames and Violence in Real Life

Above reposted from PaulLevinson.net - originally posted there 23 April 2007. Comments from original posting follow. Feel free to post more comments here, anytime you like.

After watching the injustice you received in that interview I was shocked not only at the rudeness of Thompson but also the ignorance of the American public to believe most of his nonsense. In a basic statistics course in high school it was pounded into our curriculum that "correlation does not imply causation". I hope the your medium for providing controversial and thought provoking ideas can overpower terrible television personalities like Thompson.
Posted by: Mike at April 23, 2007 04:44 PM

im going to go to books a million and buy all of your books now.... on general principle
Posted by: Burn at April 23, 2007 08:27 PM

i spoke on Fox News a while back about the Ward Churchill debate on the University of Colorado campus. Same deal: FNC had an agenda they wanted to push, so they lead off with the representative from the campus republicans, and allowed him to interrupt me, and then misinterpreted my answers. Fair and balanced, right?
Posted by: Will at April 23, 2007 08:36 PM

Outstanding Blog and Amazing Success with flessing out Jacks obsession, major kudos Mr. Levinson. ( I like how they played games during Jacks turn lol)
Posted by: Mike at April 23, 2007 08:44 PM

I applaud you sir, if not simply for being the bigger man in that debate. You had every right to get frustrated with Thompson. What I don't understand is how he can be so offended when you call studies that "show clear causation" ignorant, yet he can go on tangents calling the IGDA leaders idiots and jackasses.
You definitely deserved more time than you were given in that debate, but frankly our media doesn't want to submit enough time to give a fair in clear debate about something that isn't presidentially connected.
Posted by: Jinno at April 23, 2007 10:01 PM

I've had email correspondence with Thompson before, and he is just the same. He won't answer your questions, and, in print, he uses horrible punctuation and capitalization. Anyhow, he and I exchanged email a couple of years ago during the "Hot Coffee" over exaggeration, and even though I tried to be as cordial as I could when emailing him, he didn't even try to return the favor. I guess when he's not on television he doesn't even try, which he hardly does when he is on TV. Hopefully soon someone at these media places will read up on him a little bit before thinking it's a good idea to put him on the air.
But I digress. Great job taking him on. I just wish the TV stations could spend more than five minutes of their precious time to cover this subject. It's not really enough time to get anything accomplished.
Posted by: Garret at April 23, 2007 10:35 PM

Thompson again showed a total lack of understanding of the difference between correlation and causation when he aparently emailed the FBI accusing him of a "website" of targeting him, when in fact it was a comment in the comment section on the website, from someone unafiliated with the website.
Thompson's 15 minutes of FUD should have been up 14 minutes ago.
Posted by: Graham Fair at April 23, 2007 11:25 PM

Mr. Levinson, I applaud you for how you handled yourself during the show. While Thompson tried to interrupt you, you stayed steadfast and got some of your points across. I've seen Thompson on other TV shows and he does the same thing every time. His mannerisms and words seem to be more violent than most people who play video games and this is because he HATES video games and all people who like to play them.
Posted by: Mike To at April 24, 2007 01:23 AM

You are a hero Mr. Levinson, finally someone who can see trough the never ending BS which is spouted from the mouth of Mr. Thompson. It's nice to know that we have intelligent people who actually look at fact, and not live in their own little world.
Sir, I applaud you!
Posted by: Anonymous at April 24, 2007 02:50 AM

On the interview Mr. Thompson says that a minor could walk into a store and buy a violent video game. He says that there are restrictions put in place for movies (a minor cannot get into an R rated film) and other media, but a minor could walk into a store and buy that same R rated movie on DVD with absolutely no difficulty. The same goes for music with explicit content. If this mature content is, indeed, damaging today's youth, then why are video games getting all the blame? The explicit content in music seems to be much more pervasive in popular culture than that in video games.
I personally love video games. They're great. Most games that have violence in them do not promote killing for the pleasure of killing. Rather, teamwork (especially in multiplayer games) and strategy are stressed. I have talked to other gamers and they agree with me, but I won't assume this as fact; it is simply my subjective experiences.
I need not describe the difference in virtual killing and killing in real life. Shooting a man made of pixels is much easier and completely detached from emotion than hurting in real life. Me, I feel bad when I accidentally step on my dog's tail.
I know that my subjective experiences cannot be made into generalizations for the larger populations. It seems more likely, however, that a school shooting would be caused by other factors, including mental illness/personal problems plaguing the shooter or even a complete breakdown in the system. I heard (but I'm not certain of its accuracy) that the English Dept. at VTech had noticed that the shooter Cho was possibly disturbed and some actions were taken to help him. Is it not possible that he was not taken as seriously as he should have been? When he bought the gun, did the seller notice that his address was on the VTech campus? Could the reason this tragedy happened was because multiple systems failed?
On a lighter note, I plan to pick up your latest book some time next week. This whole thing has me intrigued.
Posted by: Brandon at April 24, 2007 02:54 AM

"[I'm always interested in being on television.]"
This cracked me up. =)
Posted by: doctornine at April 24, 2007 02:55 AM

Wow, I just saw the interview. I want to be a smart-ass and say, "Exactly which part of the brain causes copycat behavior, Mr. Thompson?" but not even knowing which apparently amazing breakthrough was made in medicine first makes it hard to know for sure if he's wrong or right. That's the problem with Jack Thompson, every outright lie is coupled to some half-truth he can fall back on. Too many people seem willing to passively collude with this man's crusade, as you pointed out. I can't figure out why they do it, either. He's very obviously a "snake-oil salesman" personality (with all respect to the snake-oil sellers of the world), so why do people suffer his presence, knowing nothing he says is reliable? They know that his words are as much - if not more so - sculpted for effect as they are factual content.
I wonder if maybe it's because the majority of folks actually want what he's selling (laws to restrict M-rated games from children); they're just not willing to admit it, out loud. Or maybe they just know he's good TV.
Posted by: Snipehunter at April 24, 2007 03:14 AM
Why did they have Thompson on the show and then give him all the time? Because, contrary to what CNBC tells you, they are in the business of making money(read: entertainment), NOT delivering the truth. Expecting them to be fair and balanced is unreasonable, seeing as they are part of a huge FOR-PROFIT corporation.
Posted by: Anonymous at April 24, 2007 08:43 AM

Very Nice. I (as well as many other gamers I know) have had enough of Mr.Thompson getting all this attention. Constantly, getting owned at all his attempts.
Blaming Microsoft for the V-tech shooting, Taking on Take2 and failing, calling for an FBI investigation on Kotaku. When will he learn?
Posted by: Nori at April 24, 2007 04:23 PM

Hey, many thanks for the comments, everyone - keep 'em coming!
Just two brief responses -
Will - I think I remember your appearance on Fox. Actually, though Fox is no angel when it comes to this, I've done better on O'Reilly, John Gibson, and Cavuto in getting my points across than on CNBC. In fact, I get to say more on Fox than on MSNBC's Scarborough Country - check out the video clips on my Paul in the Media link in the right-hand column above.
What's distressing is that no tv show, with the exception of the PBS News Hour, lets you get more than a few words in. But the Squawkbox Thompson bit was a new low, at least for me.
Snipehunter: Thanks for picking up on the "part of the brain" gibberish that Thompson said at the end. Had I been given a chance to respond, I would have said that of all the things Thompson said, that was the most absurd of all - what part of the brain would that be, Jack?
Posted by: Paul Levinson at April 24, 2007 04:30 PM

Wow. What an asshole. Does his facial expression change at any point during the entire interview?
Posted by: Soren at April 24, 2007 06:02 PM

So she said she was going to ask both of you back, and that was almost a year ago!
Good follow-up by Beck and her producers.
Paul, in light of the mental midget's recent rantings, have you thought about making a call to CNBC to initiate another "discussion"?
Posted by: BunnySlope at April 24, 2007 07:23 PM

People like Jack are infuriating, but what bothers me more are the people who are confused by his lies and misquotes and then try to act on this misinformation.
For example my mother who pulled me aside to let me know about the dangers of letting my kids play videogames.
She has never played a video game, knows nothing about the games, but wanted to make sure I (a gamer of 20+ years) was aware of the perils i am apparently putting my children under if I allow them to be "changed forever" by these games and their images...
Posted by: SomeLlama at April 24, 2007 07:24 PM

Bunny - you're right, I should call CNBC and hold them to Becky Quick's word at the end of the show.
Problem is it usually doesn't work that way - tv producers are very resistant to being pitched by previous guests.
On the other hand, it certainly wouldn't hurt for me to try.
I'll keep everyone posted.
Posted by: Paul Levinson at April 24, 2007 07:31 PM

the "moderator" was bias... the whole thing was bias. take them down! I admire you for being the bigger person there. Mr. Jack Thompson is ignorant and lacks the understanding of his own statistics.
Good luck to you
Posted by: Roar3D at April 25, 2007 04:24 AM

good job, we need more people to take on the Jack Thompsons of the world.
however going back on CNBC to take on Thompson again is not really a great way to get your point across.
the impact CNBC wants to have on an audience is one that makes them want to watch more. (money) your position on that show seemed to be to provide a que for Thompson to rant on, he was the Squawkbox. no matter what my opinion of the issue is i'd have to say that Thompson was more fired up and calling for drastic action, you're at a disadvantage here as there's no drastic action for you to call for.
now if you were to return and get really fired up and start accuse Thompson of blind prejudice, lies and trying to take away from peoples freedoms. then the news network could possibly do one of two things...give you more air time or throw you out of the station. (i'd be betting on the first one as i think it would make for better TV in their eyes) otherwise your at a disadvantange no matter what the evidence suggests.[/rant]
anywho good job.
Posted by: avid_gamer at April 25, 2007 05:40 AM

Someone touched on this briefly before, but I thought I'd try to clarify. When a movie theater prevents a minor, it is because they choose to. The movie ratings are completely voluntary (if I'm correct. And so, the movie system that Jack Thompson talks about is the same system that stores (can) use when you talk about selling violent games (or movies for that matter)
Anyways, I'm glad to see people calling out anyone who uses studies and statistics to further their cause instead of as a starting point. Good job
Posted by: not the Will from before at April 26, 2007 11:54 PM

Wow, never really heard of this guy before.
I'm going to go play Halo to piss him off :D
I applaud you trying to get your points across anyways, though.
Posted by: Blastedt at April 30, 2007 05:35 PM

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Britain Launches New Site for Unsigned Bands

this is a sponsored post

I'm in favor of any development that allows creative people - authors, rock bands, film makers - to get their work right to the people, their potential fans, rather than having to go through publishers, record companies, and film moguls.

The Beatles, after all, were turned down by 25 different record companies before they landed their first contract. Think about what the world was almost deprived of...

That's why I was pleased to learn that tourdates.Co.UK, Britain's fastest growing new music website, has launched a chart for unsigned bands.

Their press release explains how their
unsigned chart with free music downloads works...

tourdates.Co.UK, Britain's fastest growing new music website, has launched a chart for unsigned bands.

The site allows new bands to upload promotional tracks, announce gig dates and create profiles to promote themselves alongside major artists such as the Artic Monkeys and The Twang.

Tourdates' Jarrod Robinson says, there are some fantastic unsigned bands in the UK and we wanted them to know how much our community likes their music, an unsigned chart seemed the perfect answer.

Chart results are announced on the site at 19:00 every Sunday, the same time as the No1 single of the week is announced on BBC's radio 1.

Hey, maybe we'll hear the next Beatles there ...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Battle of Videos: Hillary Clinton and The Sopranos! v. Obama Girl

We're moving into a new political realm - the battle of the YouTube videos. Last week everyone was talking about Obama Girl. Now it's Hillary and The Sopranos. In the 50-year history of political ads on television - beginning with the "I Like Ike" cartoon commercials in the 1952 election, which helped Ike win by a landslide - these new parody videos are an important leap forward in humanizing the candidates.

Hillary's hilarious video is from Hillary Clinton's campaign - Hillary and Bill doing Tony and Carmela in that last-scene diner - replete with guy and boyscouts at table, happy teenage couple, two African-American dudes ... and ... that insidious guy at the counter, who gets up, walks by Hillary and Bill's table, and gives them a dirty look - played by Johnny Sack (aka Vincent Curatola)!

Hey, this video is so funny, Hillary deserves some votes just for doing it! All in the great tradition of Vaughn Meader's The First Family parody album of the Kennedy family from the 1960s.

And it also replaced Obama Girl as the most talked-about political video on tv tonight.

Even Bill O'Reilly had to grudgingly admit, on his show, that he liked it....

And here's "I Got A Crush ... On Obama" ... by Obama Girl - made by the same people who did "My Box in a Box," the funny answer-video to the fall-down laughing "My Dick In A Box" from Saturday Night Live.

You gotta love this, too... Great lyric, great body...

So, Al Gore has a movie, Obama and Hillary have videos... I can't wait to see what's next...

Here's what next (added 17 July 2007): New Video: Obama Girl vs. Giuliani Girl!

Sopranos May 2008 Conference: Formal Call for Papers

Added 13 May 2008: Final Sopranos Conference program just posted.


And here's our formal call for papers ... to everyone...

David Lavery, convener, Paul Levinson and Douglas L. Howard co-conveners, solicit your proposals for an academic conference on The Sopranos to be held at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center Campus in New York, May 23-25, 2008. (Note: this is a change from the earlier announced date of May 8-10, 2008.) Sponsored by Film and Television and the School of Arts at Brunel University in London in partnership with the Department of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University in New York, this first, major scholarly gathering devoted to the HBO drama The Sopranos aspires to provide a definitive assessment of one of what may well be the best television series ever made. Proposals on any aspect of The Sopranos are invited. The best papers from the conference will be published as a book.

We welcome proposals of 200-300 words (or an abstract of a completed paper) on any aspect of The Sopranos. We invite presentations from the perspective of any discipline: literature, history, communication, film and television studies, women’s studies, philosophy, religion, linguistics, music, cultural studies, and others. Discussions of the text, the social context, the audience, the producers, the production, and more are all appropriate. For a comprehensive but not exhaustive list of possible topics, look here. All proposals/abstracts should demonstrate familiarity with the substantial already-published scholarship on The Sopranos.

Papers are limited to a maximum reading time of 20 minutes. Since all rooms at the conference site are fully equipped, presenters can anticipate using DVDs, Power Point, the Internet, and visual presenters in their talks. Please fill out this form. Submissions by undergraduates and graduate students are welcome; however, undergraduate students should provide the name, email, and phone number of a faculty member willing to consult with them (the faculty member need not attend). Submissions from non-academics - writers, critics, unofficial "students" of The Sopranos - are also very welcome.

Proposals for prearranged, complete sessions of multiple presenters (no more than three) are welcome. Fill out the session form.

Proposals must be submitted by September 1, 2007.

Please write us with questions via the e-mail link in the column to the right of this blog post.

Feel free to distribute this call for papers everywhere in the known and unknown universe...

More on the conference:

Preliminary Announcement and Background

Further details from David Lavery

Further reading:

The Sopranos and the Closure-Junkies

The Sopranos, or the Tiger?

The Sopranos Ninth of Nine: The Anti-Ending Ending

This Thing of Ours: Investigating the Sopranos David Lavery's 2002 anthology, with essays by Lavery, Paul Levinson, Douglas Howard, and others.