Camille Reyes

Archive for August, 2010|Monthly archive page

Mainstream?

In Advertising, media on August 21, 2010 at 11:23 am

I’m a bit poll happy lately, but before you get an itchy clicky finger, some background:

I recently re-tweeted this with my skeptic’s comment upfront:

To which social media consultant Shel Israel responded*:

Here’s where I’m going to depend on your honor to answer the poll question NOW, before reading to the end of this post.

Quit your whimpering about my lack of criteria or context. What is your first reaction?

At NYU, I get scolded with some regularity by my profs for not “defining my terms.” For example, I’ll throw around the word “propaganda” like pepper on my scrambled eggs. Surely we all know what propaganda is? Okay, so when I put it this way, it seems pretty stupid. Of course you need to explain what you mean by such loaded, history laden words. I blame my impatience to get to the center of the Tootsie Roll Pop. I digress.

To be fair, defining terms using only 140 characters on Twitter is tough. Yet, mainstream media (MSM) is, as we love to say in academia, “problematic.” I had not thought about this until Shel’s reply. My gut reaction to National Geographic is a long row of yellow bindings on my grandparents’ bookshelf, not the stuff of the masses and breaking news. I’d say National Geographic has a branding problem, at least with the Gen Xers. My baby sister, a 20-year-old Gen Y, likely agrees with me, although I should know better than to assume this. (Cate?)

Resisting the urge to devise a snarky twoosh (I’m a product of my generation. I snark, therefore I am.), I decided to a. poll my friends, then b. look up some online circulations to help me define MSM a little better. You’d think, working in marketing all these years, I’d have a ballpark number in mind, but most flacks and Humanities grad students are afraid of numbers.  Oh, to be a quant jock.

My first stop: National Geographic. I quickly found their online stats, but not so for the print. No matter, online was my main concern. According to the site, they have 14.32 M unique global visitors. Whoa. Looks like Shel might be right. How does that compare to say, The Washington Post? Foul! Wait, you say, that’s an international daily newspaper, and not a fair comparison. Calm down, I just wanted to compare NG to something I thought was indisputably mainstream.

Plus, words like daily, weekly, monthly seem so dated in a real-time news world.


The Washington Post has 16.7 M unique visitors in a three-month average!  I’m still in disbelief.  How can NG’s monthly be that close to WaPo’s three-month average?  With some trouble and registration, I found a case study at Omniture, the company providing the NG analytics.  No real detail there.  We’ll have to take their word for it.

Intrigued, I looked up my favorite business magazine. Perhaps a niche pub would compare nicely with what in my mind was still a niche “science” pub. My trip to Fast Company yielded nada on the online front–only print numbers. Same for my favorite brain food, The New Yorker. What are these companies thinking by not including online stats on their online media kit in an easily accessible place? I digress. Stymied, I clicked to Newsweek.com. Here was the real test, the ultimate mainstream magazine. Guess what? Newsweek clocks in at 5.1 unique visitors per month (?-tough to tell the time frame), well BELOW that of National Geographic. I officially stand corrected. Thanks, Shel.

(I realize there are many other criteria for shaping a definition of MSM, but in my mind, raw numbers of people, i.e. “the masses” pops up as the first question.)

*I’m still such a kid when it comes to social media. Whenever a Jeff Jarvis or Shel Israel Internet celebrity type responds to me, I freak out. Don’t they know I’m a nobody? I hope I never lose my sense of wonder at the power of the Internet to connect people and ideas in such a populist manner. Yes, yes, computers will be the end of us. I’ve watched BSG. But still, after working with rock stars at a venue for years, I became a bit jaded. Thus far, I’m still screaming over technology. Here’s to the interface, your router and great software.

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The End of Inception

In Culture on August 13, 2010 at 12:34 am

*Again, if you haven’t seen the movie Inception, don’t bother reading this. Go see it; you’ll get a kick.*
Lunchtime poll:

I’ve gone back and forth on the conclusion to the film myself. I’m usually quite the Romantic, but in this case, I’m convinced he’s still dreaming. I’m not exactly sure which dream he is in though. I have two main reasons to support my opinion:

1. The kids are wearing the same clothes in the final scene as they are in the majority of images we see of them throughout the film, the images based on his memories and the images that are projections invading the other dreams. Maybe grandma was really bad at doing laundry, but I’m taking this as a clue. Same for the hair length, same height, etc. He was supposedly gone a long time.

2. When Cobb is on the phone with his kids, the girl sounds older than she appears to be in the final scene. She’s busting his chops on the phone, “Grandma says you’re never coming home.” The little girl at the end neither looks nor sounds like the chop buster.

I love that Nolan ended it with such ambiguity, and I’m having fun learning more about my friends and family as they defend their views. There’s one scene that’s been driving me bonkers though. When the main characters are at the chemist’s shop in the dream den downstairs, Cobb suppposedly wakes up after testing the sedative and attempts to spin the token in the bathroom. He is interrupted however by Saito, and we never get visual confirmation that he is back in reality. Indulge me for a moment here. What if, Saito has somehow managed to achieve inception on Cobb? I know there’s not enough evidence in the film to support this, but I’m having trouble explaining that scene. Cobb used the train speech to help convince Mal. What if Saito & co. used the “old man filled with regret/young men together” lines in the same vein? The first time he says these words to Cobb at the helicopter, Leo looks like he’s having a spot of deja vu. I know, I know, I’m stretching, but it’s fun to think about. If anyone has any other ideas for how to explain that bathroom scene, lay it on me like Coppertone 50!

Inception: To Be or Not to Be

In Culture on August 12, 2010 at 2:36 pm

This will be my first of two posts about Inception.  If you haven’t seen it, don’t bother reading either post.  I’m not reviewing it.  In fact, I can’t stop thinking about it.  No amount of puffery could pile higher praise for writer/director Christopher Nolan and his team than the way the film has inspired me.  I’m able to trace my inspiration making it not a case of true inception, and not surprisingly Nolan’s muse is also detectable.  Like most creative collaborations the influences behind Inception are myriad.  Also, the introduction of the audience pours infinitesimal waves on the reception of the work; the audience brings their own influences to bear. I see the influence of Shakespeare at play in Inception, specifically Hamlet and the famed “to be or not to be” soliloquy.

To be or not to be– that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
 And, by opposing, end them.

(Shakespeare and Nolan both consider what on the surface is a simple question for the sane: life or death?  Then, they both complicate this problem by uncovering the blurry nature of the line between two seemingly opposite states.  Is it better to suffer in the mind, the dream world? Or face the arrows in the physical world?  But can you really put an end to an entire sea?  Maybe if you just ceased being.  Maybe if you didn’t know the maze, you could get lost or buy time.)

To die, to sleep
 No more – and by a sleep to say we end
 The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to – ‘tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished.

(Death is not sleeping, not dreaming, not feeling even in a different reality the “natural shocks.”  That sounds like a load off to Willy and Hamlet here.  Cobb wishes to be with his wife, sporting the hit-you-over-the-head name Mal, and his children, but this requires a choice.  She chose death because she thought she was dreaming thanks to the sea of trouble he set upon her with inception.)

die, to sleep
To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub,
 For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,

(Cobb knows the limbo of unstructured subconscious, of limitless dream space, but what of death?  What dreams, if any, may come?  And at what cost?  For his children, the cost of their reality is too much for Cobb to handle.  He must get home.  He must wake up.)
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
 Must give us pause. There’s the respect (ah, but our bodies are really convincing.  let’s not be hasty with ending this life or building dreams within dreams within dreams)
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’ oppressor’s wrong (Cobb is both the oppressor-of Mal & the people he steals from or incepts (I’m making up that word), the proud man’s contumely (I’m reminded of the dying billionaire),
The pangs of disprized love (losing Mal), the law’s delay (Cobb’s charges and the will)

The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? (the man so burdened could find peace with a simple dagger)

Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
 The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveller returns (perhaps the place that Saito and Cobb find each other is the undiscovered country), puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have (we put up with all this pain because we’re terrified of the unknown, the other side of death. Cobb, fueled by the love for his children, faces this terror while those with agency choose to return to reality as soon as the job is done.  they meet their maximum risk threshold)
Than fly to others that we know not of? (because of fear of the unknown/not waking up)
 Thus conscience does make cowards of us all, (Inception is an exploration of the subconscious and in this vein that part of our minds that is fearful, not of death because this would generally cause waking, but of pain.  pain is in the mind, as Mal says before she injures Arthur.)

(When writer Nolan makes it so that death is possible in the dream state, he ups the stakes dramatically.  Brilliant.)
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
 And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
 And lose the name of action.(most people think inception can’t be done so they do not take action)—Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remembered.[

(Mal is similar to Ophelia.  She goes genuinely mad and kills herself.  Hamlet is somewhat to blame, as is Cobb.)

In my next post, I’ll have fun puzzling about the film’s conclusion.  I am avoiding reading theories on the Internet as of yet.  What influences did you see when you watched the movie?  There are no right or wrong answers here.  I’m just curious about your conception.