Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Children and Technology through the ages.

I think much of the FEAR parents have over children and technology is based on fear of the unknown, this era of smartphones, computers and video games is a blip on the history of modern civilization let alone all of human civilization.

Now there are some drawbacks to this but there are also some benefits, the internet, smartphones and video games are going to be making children more tech savvy, smarter with higher reasoning skills. It is so coincidence that the first generation that grew up under the internet is the LEAST religious generation ever.

Right now I am writing a Sci-Fi book about the possible changes this will bring. One GOOD thing this tech is doing is making kids SMARTER and more literate. It will also bring some major cultural changes as kids get smarter and more literate at younger and younger ages. We are seeing this will religion, it is no coincidence that the first generation raised in the internet age is the LEAST religious ever. Because they have access to more and more information, and they are coming to the conclusion that their parent's faith is not for them

If Jesus collapses, he will also take his friends Santa Claus, Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy with him. WHY? Because as we get more and more high tech as a society these folk characters will seem ridiculous. It will also get harder and harder for parents to keep up the charade and when kids are figuring it out at 5 years old the entire thing will collapse. Parents will just throw up their hand and say "screw it." (more about the future of Christmas coming soon.)

 For all your parents who whine over your kids being Call of Duty Junkies than caring about Soccer etc. It is only going to get worse. Much of this is over a selfish desire of parents wanting their kids to have THEIR childhood. Guess what? they are not.

Illusionist Penn Jillette said on his Sunday School Podcast from something Mike Nesmith said to him "Video Games are the new rock and roll" they are the thing that children get but the parents do not understand and freak out over. All those people who cry about video game violence, they are going to look as stupid as the same people who freaked out over Rock and Roll in the 1950's.

If Video games are the new "rock and roll", than little league and youth soccer are the new "Piano Lessons." If you are saying "WHAAAT?" Let me explain, remember seeing those old timey movies that took place between 1900-1930. there was a trope of a kid whining that who could not play stick ball in the street because He had to do his piano lessons, the kid always hated them because the teacher was one 80 year old shriveled up witch who hated her job.

Now in the 21st century it is kids complaining they cannot play Call of Duty TDM because they have soccer practice run by a coach who is an asshole.

It is all for the same reason, parents need their kids to ENTERTAIN them, back then every middle class family HAD TO HAVE a piano, Some kid needed to learn to play it to entertain mommy and her bridge club. Now parents need Johnny to play soccer to show off his trophies to her coworkers at the office. Piano Lessons collapsed, what happened, just like Moms whining about their son on the XBOX, technology happened, by the way of Edison and Marconi. Edison invented a way to record music, Marconi found a way to send it through the air. 1930 is a cut off for piano sales for a reason, that is when RADIOS finally hit saturation point. Piano Makers and music industry tried to stop this technology because it would destroy the industry. Radio and LPs did not destroy the industry it just CHANGED it. RADIO was the internet of the 1930s it was the first electronic media device that entered American homes, it paved the way for TV which led to computers and the internet.

Here is one positive about this, now the only children who take music lessons are the mostly the ones who WANT to take them.

Youth Sports are getting too HARD....Too HARD on this kids minds and bodies which are leading to 75% burning out by 12, overuse injuries that only professional used to get. Because a fun childhood activity has become BIG BUSINESS, that preys on parents fears that their son or daughter will be a hot topic shopping active shooter if they do not excel at soccer to some other sport. Then there is the whole deal of college scholarships.

(PRO TIP: Only 2% of all youth athletes get college scholarships, and those full rides, they do not exist.)

It is getting too HARD on the parents, to HARD to pay for, to HARD to drive their kids from one game after another that some are hundreds of miles away. Parents are paying $10,000 a year for soccer to chase a college scholarship because they cannot "afford" college.

This is not sustainable, those 75% burnouts are not coming back with their kids, in 25 years from now this industry maybe teetering on the edge of collapse and it will not be caused by the XBOX but rather by their own greedy hands, feeding the the parental fear that their children are somehow missing out by not having this experience they had as kids.

Main point of this is,  nothing really changes each generation just replace one nonsense for just a newer different from on nonsense. 1914 kids whined about having to take piano lessions, 2014 kids whined about soccer practice and  who knows maybe in 2114 kids will complain having to practice for some E-sports tournament.

Monday, November 10, 2014

NYT Football's political divide

This article from the NYT shows how any medium can go from mass market appeal to being pushed to the fringes of a niche audience. Football for sometime it has become the de facto sport of the GOP and the American Conservative movement. Which embraces violent hyper-masculinity, in the wake of the concussion crisis any attempt to make the sport safer has been met with cries "feminization" of such conservative commentators such as Rush Limbaugh. As the reports of CTE and adverse health effects are not an attack on the sport but their own manhood itself.

Concussions is causing this political divide as those on blue liberal states tend to be better educated, which leads to being more informed about the long term health risks, are opting their sons from playing or their own sons are also opting themselves out. Malcom Gladwell author of "The Tipping Point" speculated on the ghettoization of the sport like boxing it will become a sport that only the poorest and most desperate undertake to lift themselves out of poverty. Where football is king are the red states that tend to be the least educated and affluent states in America.

This political divide also draws another parallel of a possible demise, one brought upfront with Adrian Peterson, corporal punishment. Corporal Punishment used to be a mainstay in ever public school in the USA, then in 1962 the first studies came out showing that corporal punishment has adverse effects on children. In 1977 the District of Columbia was the first to pass a  ban against it in schools, before first ban local districts were already dropping it out of fear of lawsuits. Now it is only legal in 19 states mostly exclusively  used in evangelical christian private schools, while in public schools it is now in a diminished capacity as parents need to sign legal waivers giving schools the permission to use corporal punishment.

In High Schools football is still a cultural cornerstone of the American adolescent experience, like corporal punishment the concussion issue bring with it health risks and a potential legal liability. School sports have another liability paddling does not, a financial one, reality is that school sports programs are massive money losers for 90% of all schools, the billion dollar NFL money tree grows its roots in the youth level, Schools and youth leagues. If those dry up the NFL will be slowly strangled to death. A full on class action lawsuit assault on the NFL will not dent it, but in guerrilla warfare you never take on the colossus.. You go after what supports it and feeds it, that will take the form of class action lawsuits against HS programs. With them already losing money combined with  threat of a lawsuit schools schools find it easier to just shut it down.

Sign of this will be local legal firms having TV/internet ads for class action lawsuits against HS football teams over permanent brain damage. The same way we see for asbestos or silicone breast implants. Next will be thie begining of the end then inevitable Republican Politicians and conservative commentators start to cry about the "WAR ON FOOTBALL" as High Schools separate themselves of this timeless tradition. Irony is that they themselves caused it, they are the ones who are cutting budgets to education which will force schools in this changing high tech economy to make the hard choice between trade and career programs that guarantees jobs or a losing football team that might have a 1 player out of 500 get a college scholarship.

Then one generation will watch some old movie or tv show about the high school jocks running the place and wonder what the heck is that all about. Their grandparents will complain that today's kids are worthless because their school does not sponsor a character building ritual brain smashing activity.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Super Bowl Halftime Show, Pay to Play?

According to this latest FORBES story the NFL is considering making the Super Bowl Half Time show a pay to play deal, according to the article it will not work. So far the NFL has brought this deal to Coldplay, Rihanna and Katy Perry and they are not biting and you can't blame them. Currently the HF show is a free deal, artist usually take the gig because it gives them an album sales boost due to increased exposure. Bruno Mars saw a Unorthodox Jukebox shoot from No. 7 to No. 3 on the Billboard 200 as sales soared 92% to 81,000 in the week after last year’s Super Bowl performance. 

This move could be another set of cracks in the NFL Shield besides the concussion issue. While the other is caused by brain damage from playing the sport,  these fractures are caused be something unrelated to football; changes in the music industry. The ripples from these changes are now affecting other forms of entertainment as well. The internet and illegal downloading means that artists must now make their BANK solely on tours. A free show at the Super Bowl cuts into their tour schedule and their earnings. As a culture institution the Super Bowl HF show might be seeing the erosion of it's relevancy as a powerful marketing force for big name acts.This pay to play system could cause the entire show to slide into oblivion, as the only acts that are willing to basically pay 2 million (for what is basically a live commercial) are more lesser known up and coming acts who need the extra media exposure. Then again why do that when a twitter feed can do it for free and might reach even more people, because lesser acts who can use the extra awareness cannot afford to plop down 2 million for a show. This is why as of right now, we will never see Taylor Swift do the show, one she does not need the increased publicity nor does she want to do a show for free let alone pay for it, it will cost her money and in the end not help her.

But with more and more artists are not biting the BIG name acts that people want to see, The event that Michael Jackson made into a marquee attraction 1993 the HF show might go back to the dark days when all the NFL could get was the creepy cult like Up With People. Many viewers tune into the big game for the HF show and the commercials, if the NFL cannot get the A list talent, then they tune out and loss of advertising revenue follows with it.

Also an issue is what if an act does pay for the spot and they decide they can do what they want since they paid for it. Lets say in the 2016 Super Bowl Kayne West gets the bid and then decides He "owns" it either does an act of total lewdness that make nipplegate look tame, or uses it instead to entertain but to spout some crazy tirade about some cause or issue that has gotten under his skin. The negative media attention will be horrendous, for a league that is already being hammered over issues of player safety. The NFL hates negative attention and so far this plan is getting very negative reception, so hopefully the NFL will scrap this idea quickly.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Taylor Swift, live stream reveal and Shake it off After Action Review

1989 was Transitional year in history and is a transitional album for Taylor Swift.

It is official Taylor is going full on pop, personally I am not at all surprised. Looking back at the history of modern music many other artists and music acts have done this. They get to a point in their careers where they make “THAT” album, you know the one” THAT” is different from their previous work and leaves even their most hard core fans thinking “WTF”?
While her new video Shake it off is getting mixed reactions, some like it, some hate it, and others are crying racism. This leads me to worry that 1989 might also be “THAT” album for Taylor Swift, the one that makes the swifites think “WTF”? Why? Because we have past examples of other successful acts attempting the same thing. Taylor said she wanted her next album to sound nothing like her past ones, wanted to change things up and offer something new.” THAT” album is always the result of an artist wanting to do just that, always the result a creative crisis and the desire to be taken “seriously” as musicians. More often than not, this desire for something new results in the artist falling face first into the dirt, here are some examples of transitions what were total disasters.

Example #1 Case of Musicians who wanted to be taken seriously

Kiss “Music from the Elder Vol 1.”

The 1980’s began with KISS facing a crisis, they were in a transition from being the Knights In Satan’s Service that terrified their parents,  to their fans becoming parents and bringing their own children to concerts. So the band softened up their music as a result, and that resulted in softer album sales. Fans and industry people felt KISS went from being a hard core sex, drugs and rock band to a commercialized circus act. That resentment had a ring of truth to it as action figures, comic books, and an atrocious TV movie did not help build a reputation as serious musicians.

Speaking of MERCH, Big Machine Records, if in some slim chance you are reading this, any chance we can get Taylor Swift legos?Thought I'd Ask.

Paul Stanley wanted to go back to a harder sound, but Bob Ezrin decided to take a drastic departure and to make an epic symphonic album that was to be an epic heroes tale that would span several albums.  Final result was an EPIC disaster, the management team was confused by what they heard and so were the fans as Elder became worst selling album KISS ever made.  Sales were so poor that the band did not undertake a promotional tour instead did several TV performances.

Example #2  I want to change everything, even who I am

Garth Brooks becomes Chris Gaines

In 1999 Garth Brooks wanted to go Alternative, Pop, or rock, eat pop rocks or whatever. His strategy was to take on a new persona of Australian rock sensation Chris Gaines. Never hear of him?  Well he never existed, Chris Gaines was a fictional character who was supposed to be in a movie titled The Lamb by Paramount Pictures. Problem arose when He took on this persona and made music and a video before the film project was set in stone, the album was to be a “pre-soundtrack” to a film that was not even in pre-production yet. Just like The Elder it was a soundtrack for a story that did not exist, unlike Elder a film was in planning. The film deal went south and his loyal fans all thought He lost his mind.  Daily Show summed it up best “This shows that even Garth Brooks has gotten sick of Garth Brooks.”

Example #3 Double Threat, another soundtrack for things that do not exist and a switch to Pop

U2: Passengers Original Soundtracks 1 and POP

Bono not learning the lesson from KISS and Garth, decided to do the entire soundtrack to non-existent movies. Like all successful acts Bono and Brian Eno got bored and decided to form a new group called the Passengers and made Original Soundtracks 1, it was another concept album, the concept of soundtracks for a movie that does not exist.  (Except for Miss Sarajevo,  Ghost in the Shell and Beyond the Clouds) So far seems to be a popular choice for artists who want to experiment, (let’s hope Ms Swift does not get a brain fart about doing an album of songs for fairy tales that do not exist., Vol 1)  Just like Elder it was going to be first of many, and just like Elder it ended up being the only one. The project was such a flop that Drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. voiced his disapproval "There's a thin line between interesting music and self-indulgence. We crossed it on the Passengers record."
Except for the memorable Miss Sarajevo with legendary Luciano Pavarotti, the rest of album being was passed over by U2 fans and was the least selling in their discography second only to the next outing which this was a warm up for.
POP goes the record sales

Bono and the band were not done screwing up, after Passengers they wanted to go for a new musical style, a U2 album that you can dance to.  After Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr got a Grammy nomination for their electronica theme for the Mission: Impossible movie and they all thought, DANCE was the way to go. Like all disaster albums, there was trouble behind the scenes, Mullen was absent for most of the production do to recovering from back surgery, and producer Nelle Cooper left in May 1996 to work on the Romeo + Juliet film score.
Thus POP was born, and the tour was announced at the Lingerie department of the NYC Kmart. (I kid you not) All those problems came to the surface during the 1997 ABC one hour prime time special U2: A year in pop, much of the rehearsal time was taken up to make final tweaks on the album and it showed in the special as it was the lowest rated non-political documentary in the history of ABC.

The album suffered the same fate, while it was initially a commercial success, the reviews were mixed and it now has the lowest lifetime sales of all U2 Albums.  Even U2 themselves distanced themselves from POP as their next album All That you Can’t Leave Behind had a more traditional stripped down approach and they played less and less of songs from POP in future tours. 

Lessons Learned

Of all these music disasters POP holds the best parallel to 1989. This is an album that is a stark departure the Taylor’s previous work, and if it fails, just like U2 expect to see a more stripped down  return to her more traditional music, such as an acoustic album and she will then may Shake off this experience by deleting 1989 from her future concert playlists.
While Taylor’s change does echo some of these historical disasters, Taylor might be able to pull this off. Why? Unlike these examples, Ms. Swift or her management team is smart and could be aware of these fumbles. She just did not JUMP into pop. She tested the waters first, RED has several pop songs, State of Grace, 22 and We are never getting back together. Her most POP song before Shake it off  was Sweeter than Fiction for the movie “One Chance”.  The song was a throwback to 80’s pop songs and a foreshadowing to Shake it off and the idea behind 1989. A country artist recording a pop song for movie was a smart move, a great way to try something new and minimize the risk. If the song failed, Taylor could always distance herself from the song and style saying to it was made to fit a movie and is not a part of her larger work. While this is a new musical change for Taylor her fans were not left in shock as many were already suspecting it , unlike KISS, GARTH and U2, Taylor groomed her fans for this change, that is the major difference here. Her change is not an abrupt one, it is pop but not under some self-indulgent concept that is going to fly over her fans.

Final Verdict

What got my attention of the live stream was her use of Polaroid photos and her mentioning of loving tangible photographs. We now live in an age of digital everything, music is now downloaded directly into digital players, and purchased or “obtained” online. This is also true for all media, DVD is giving way to live streaming and torrents, and Broadcast TV is giving way to downloading and binge watching. Even reading has changed as paper books are giving way to kindle. Even  video games are becoming direct digital downloads. Our entertainment is no longer physical, music is on ipads and people live virtual lives in online games and it seems as more and more of the real world is slipping away.

It is possible Taylor senses this and wants to hold on to what is real in this world. For her album name she chose 1989, because it is her birth year, but there is something more profound going on with the choice of 1989 that even she is not aware of.  Taylor said that “It was, apparently, a time of limitless potential. … The idea of endless possibility was kind of a theme in the last year of my life." If you look deeper there was a reason for this, Taylor said the album is reflection of the last transitional year in her life, and 1989 was a transitional year in world history. 

 A month before Taylor was born a major event shook the world. The Berlin Wall, a symbol of the cold war came down, the climax of events that punched holes in the Iron Curtain earlier that year. 1989 was also interesting in another aspect; she was born at a transition in our society one where the digital age we now live in was being born.  Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist on March 12, 1989, he wrote a proposal for what would eventually become the World Wide Web. Personal computers were starting to appear in people’s homes; in music cassette tapes were giving way to compact discs. Two years later High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991 was passed thus building the foundation for the World Wide Web.

1989 was just not the year Taylor was born but it was the last year of our world before everything started to become totally digitized. 1989 was a transitional year, the end of one decade and the start of another. But it was not an abrupt change as the old world faded and blended into the digital world from 1989 to 1994 with the founding of Yahoo. So far Taylor’s transition from country to pop is not the abrupt jump like many failed attempts before, but a slow blending from one style to another in a seamless transition. Will this be a successful change?  We will have to wait until the album comes out in October.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The real lesson football is teaching teens.

Something is happening in our high schools, something that has the adults troubled and perplexed. It's not drugs or twerking, It is apathy, they apathetic about football, the God of all high school sport, the cornerstone of school spirit. In my high school days, this would be as unthinkable as the current trend of teens being apathetic towards driving.
Everyone has something to blame, it's those evil video games or kids today are just lazy (because of those evil video games) and don't to want to put in the work. Or it is because boys today are too soft and are being "feminized". Then there is the concussion issue, which unlike all the others has real merit. It could be a bunch of these issues, but as I do more and more research I am seeing something different in this current generation of High Schoolers.

There is one stark difference, unlike my generation, these students have far more access to information then I ever did, I graduated HS in 1995 and did not get my first exposure to the internet until my freshman year in college in 1996. These students were born after I started college, and grew up with the world wide web and now have it in the palm of their hands. It is the reason why religiosity is in decline with Gen Y, because they are getting information, reviewing it and coming to the conclusion that religion is by and large a bunch of bull.

You think that these students not playing the sport are missing out on a great experience, learning values and important life lessons like team work, and perseverance etc. Well these teens have examined the issue and learned a new lesson, Get a return on your investment. They see that football requires a high level of effort, hard strenuous practices, year long strength training. For what in return? To get benched on most games, to play for a HS team that loses all the time. The conclusion is this, The workload is heavy, time and energy that needs to be spent is great for something where the rewards are few if any. What about college you can get a scholarship, here is the truth only 2% of youth athletes get college scholarships, most of those are partial ones as those vaunted full ride deals are practically non-existent.

Then there is the concussion issue, rewards are few but the consequences of those long hard hours are great. Lifelong health issues from injuries, from bad backs, torn ligaments and bum knees then the nightmare of Concussions and the disease of CTE. Which has caused the deaths of many NFL legends and other living retirees to say they will never let their sons follow the same path. When Brett Farve says it, that cuts deep into the psyche of teens and their parents. Unwillingness to play this sport is not out of laziness, but simple economics, it is understandable they want to get out more than what they invested in. Football just does not offer that, it is a bad investment of time and energy compounded with real risks.

Another reason, as a mentioned above with religion, today's teens getting more and more easily accessible information from the web. They are getting more informed, smarter and more literate than their parents and grandparents. Fact is, they just might be too smart for football. Football like MMA are violent sports that are visceral, physical and are tied into the hyper-masculine culture. This is a culture that appeals to men of a certain lower educational level, this culture of violence appeals to those in environments that lack quality educational institutions. These teens raised on computers, video games are more cerebral orientated thus have no appetite for real violence.

Case in point 2013, The Elite Lawrenceville Prep school in New Jersey announced that they will end their 100 year plus House Tackle Football will and be replaced by flag football. The alumni cried betrayal as they abandoned this hallowed tradition and Rush Limbaugh and Daily Caller cried this was a liberal plot to destroy football and all other institutions of manliness in the agenda of feminizing boys. Yet we did not hear a peep out of the current students, the drivers of this policy change. Just like High School teams, the Houses (dorms) were having trouble getting enough kids to field an 8 man team. These new teens are just not interested, it is not "wussification", "feminization" or kids getting soft. Boys are not  getting more feminized just more civilized. This is a change that should be celebrated as a societal triumph.

It is a  change that means we have a new generation of boys will will mature into men who will not become wife beaters and child abusers. But rather be parents who raise their children though intelligence not ignorant cruelty. The trend that is killing high school football could be also spelling doom for domestic violence and child abuse in the next 25 years, we could be winning the fight on what is one of our great societal cancers, football and MMA could be collateral damage. 

As we get smarter, we actually get less violent. We see this in society at large, communities that have a good educational system have lower violent crime rates, go to any crime ridden ghetto what do you see lack of good schools. Here is where we can blame video games...for making teens LESS violent, popular games like the Call of Duty series feeds those same visceral desires but in a safer and more convenient manner, thus eliminating the need for teens to strap on helmet and pads and slam into each other. I bet you the farm if the Houses in Lawrenceville had LAN parties for COD Advanced Warfare tournament this fall, the number of volunteers would be staggering.

We are seeing it in civilization at large, as the world becomes more and more scientifically advanced VIOLENCE decreases and so does our tolerance for it.  In this current conflict the USA is in,  it has lasted longer than Vietnam, but with a fraction of the KIA, yet people call it a blood bath. More US soldiers died taking Normandy on D-Day than the entire War on Terror. Today when 10 soldiers die in an IED attack we call for our troops to come home. 100 years ago thousands on young men were thrown into the meat grinder of WWI, in battles that were even more pointless.  Just like WWI, football tries to recruit young men into its ranks by the same methods. It is a great adventure that will build boys into better strong men, like that Great War we are starting to see the reality. The War did not take boys and build them up into men, it just broke them. Sent them back wounded and shell shocked, Football takes healthy boys and sends them back as men wounded and brains ravaged by dementia.