May 4, 2010

Honestly, I think I’ll go with the Hamster…

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 3:32 pm

As I recently alluded to, I dumped tv a while back.  Yes, yes, I still cheat and watch Lost and Flash Forward online…. but other than that and the occasional NCAA game I’m done with tv.

One of my biggest problems with tv is that it has become more about the noise and less about the cause of the noise.

We hear all about people protesting this and that; we even hear their (more often than not) incoherent and unthought out reasons for protesting.  However, we seldom here good objective debate on the thing being protested itself.  Debate by professionals or experts in the field, exchanging ideas and solutions rather than barbs and rhetoric.

To be fair, while a growing segment of the entertainment on television has become a hedonistic glimpse in to the most base “cultural” values of our society, there is still quality entertainment tv available.  I just have a hard time justifying spending that much time in that medium.  I’d rather be doing something (but that’s a personal choice, I recognize that).

In the face of a dwindling amount of what I considered viable entertainment, and a near abyss of news and discussion, several years ago, I turned to the internet as my primary source of information.  However, more and more I am finding the Internet falling prey to the same trends.  Where once I found insightful in depth reporting, I now find an increasing number of video sound bites.  Between thirty seconds and two minutes of some “expert” telling me what they think about a situation; a glorified letter to the editor.

The reason for this, I suspect, is no different than what has happened to television.  It is becoming limited because of a mandate to entertain.  The audience and advertisers demand entertainment and refuse to be bored; the networks (including the Internet) have no alternative but to deliver.

For sports news, I used to follow ESPN on the web.  Now I almost never do, because of the percentage of their articles that are not actually stories but rather sound bites by someone famous (or who used to be marginally famous) and therefore presumably worth listening to.

During the NCAA tournament I read (listened to) all the predictions by all of the experts, and scanned their brackets in an attempt to gain some insight.  But, there really wasn’t much substance there.  Once again, just a series of opinions based on feelings and gut reactions.

Still these are *expert* gut reactions… right?

Well… a guinea pig won the college pick ‘em this year… so… how clever are these folks… really?  Not one of them beat the guinea pig.  I didn’t either, of course, but, I wasn’t giving advice, I was seeking it.

Perhaps my mistake, not unlike those who go to The Daily Show or Fox for news, was trying to find enlightenment from within a vehicle of entertainment.

I’m making up my mid-term election “bracket” as we speak, now all I need, is a hamster…

December 18, 2009

Uphill… in the snow… both ways…

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , — sbj @ 6:00 pm

When I was a child, if I wanted to watch cartoons, I got up Saturday morning; if I wanted to watch a lot of cartoons, I woke up early Saturday morning.  I remember – gasp!!!- going to bed early on Friday nights just so I could get up in time to catch the super friends at 6:00am.

When someone in my children’s generation wants to watch cartoons, they turn on the television.  If they want to watch a lot of cartoons, they turn on the television.  Not only are there networks that are (virtually) nothing but cartoons; but you don’t even have to turn it on when they broadcast them anymore.  Set up your Tivo properly and you can watch any cartoon anytime you want.

There are children who have never known what it is like to sit down and not have (at least one) episode of The Family Guy, or The Simpsons, or Sponge Bob, etc. ready and waiting for them. (To be fair… this is not much different than me with, say, The Daily Show until I ditched TV altogether a while back).

When I was 5, fast food was a $6 billion industry, in 2000 (when my son turned 5) that number had ballooned to over $110 billion.  In case you are wondering about inflation… the adjusted US GDP went up 4x over that period, the fast food industry 16x… so we’re not talking about inflation here (Source of US GDP number: US Department of Commerce).

Take a look at the cost increase by type of food, over the 15 years leading up to the year 2000 and its $110 billion fast food extravaganza.

The same report that reveals this trend points out that over the same time period consumption of fruits, veggie’s and dairy has dropped significantly while starch, sugars, and fats have remained steady or even increased (the cost of a can of soda has gone up a mere 20%, fats and oils 35%, while the cost of fresh fruits and veggies have shot up 118%. Coincidence? One does have to wonder*).

When I was a boy, I was outside playing something everyday… sports, cowboys and indians (not the best choice in retrospect… but I didn’t know better at the time), hide and seek, or just plain “playing.”  Most kids I know today spend most of their “play” time online or on a gaming consol.

Yes, I am getting to a point here…

I am afraid that our lives have become to much a function of convenience.  Quick, relatively inexpensive food, addictive while inactive entertainment and the like are serving as enablers to the generally acknowledged national problems of sedentary life styles and obesity.

As the year – and indeed the decade – come to an end the time honored tradition of establishing resolutions once again begins anew.  I’ve never really been a big fan of new years resolutions, defiantly stating that I make my resolutions as they are needed, a constant and consistent year ‘round undertaking.

However, this year, because it is the end of the year, or because its just a coincidence that my “process” is dealing with these issues right now, I have made a short list of focus items going forward (based on what I was writing about above).

1. Improve my families dietary habits. Drastically reduce fats, starches, soda etc. and increase consumption of fruits and veggies.
2. Become more active in our activities. Fewer hours in front of a video game or computer, more hours outside playing, walking, exploring, etc.
3. Make more of our own fun. Embracing creativity, instead of enjoying as much pre-packaged fun.

That’s it, that’s all.  Those are the new additions to the Jacobsen family goals.  What do you have brewing, either as a resolution… or in general.  I’d love to hear! (And quite probably be inspired!)

*I am not implying some sort of conspiracy here, simply refering to the fact that anything that is getting the bulk of production and the associated benefits (efficiencies of scale etc.) is going to have better cost controls, etc.

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