Saturday, August 26, 2006

(Deborah Wipes the Virtual Sweat from Her iBook Screen)

Well, I'm definitely relieved to find out that the battery for my iBook is one of the ones that was made by a non-Sony manufacturer--which means no laptop fire anytime soon. While I believed the whole "struck by lightning" odds thing reported in USAToday, I'm rather glad I'm not even likely to have my computer spontaneously combust (though, come to think of it, such a situation is great grist for a story).

It all goes to show how dependent I've become on my little white computer. I could say that this Apple recall just came at the wrong time, what with the grad school year starting up again soon and becoming this year's managing editor of The Fieldstone Review and trying to pitch my novel and starting to work on a new novel idea. That would seem like a great excuse--many needs for my computer. But the truth is that there would be no particularly good time for even a small disruption of my iBook-related life. There's always something, and although I have access to other computers, I would be in withdrawal.

The interesting part is that I was never this attached to my computer when it was a desktop. Nor, for that matter, when I was working full-time before I became a grad student... Hm...

I do think part of it is that it is now my primary computer--and the portability definitely helps it to become even more primary than a desktop would be. In a way, I wonder if it's like the difference in concern you show over a place you rent and a place you own--when you work full-time, they maintain a computer you use most of the time for you, so you don't have to worry about it as much if your home computer goes on the fritz. It's like getting to rent a computer (without having to pay). But when your primary computer is your own, you really want that computer to work well all the time. And you know you'll have to worry more about the details if it's not working (sort of like when you own a house). I doubt if that's deep, but it seems true at the moment...

Friday, August 18, 2006

Article: TV as a Painkiller

TV found to be a painkiller for children: An interesting article from USAToday. I've certainly noticed the numbing power of TV when I'm going through a particularly stressful time, so I can certainly understand that this study would have turned out this way. Hm, I wonder if the painkilling power would rise or fall with children if they were watching something like "Snakes on a Plane" (which, incidentally, I don't recommend for children or those who are quite conservative) instead of cartoons...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Now That's Some Good Digital Marketing

So tomorrow night I'm going to the new Samuel L. Jackson film Snakes on a Plane. Seeing as how I haven't gone to the movie theatre to see a movie since Christmas and have only rented one movie in the last year, this is a very special occasion.

I wouldn't have agreed to go now, particularly to such a cheesy-looking movie, had not I gotten an email with a link to a personalized Flash message from Samuel L. Jackson himself seeking to persuade me to go to the movie. He admitted that the title of the movie sounded stupid, which, I thought, was very humble and honest of him. He seemed almost to be making fun of the movie, in fact--which really seemed the only possible way to sell a movie such as Snakes on a Plane, if you ask me. It is at least partly in honor of his having struck just the right tone that I'm going tomorrow night.

To be serious, I am partly going to honor the wonderful job the marketers of the movie have done in promoting the movie. It reminds me of the perfect union of two strategies: the fill-in-the-blanks personalization game reminiscent of the Madlibs game from some of our youths and the beat-it-home repetition marketing strategy used for promoting movies and books throughout Europe (which I'll explain more in a second). Plus it helps that the message is distributed via more than one communications technology: you could get not just an email from Samuel L. Jackson, but also a cell phone call.

The reason the ad campaign reminds me of the European posters for movies and books in subway stations--in which the exact same ad is repeated in exactly the same way all over, making the viewer eventually either want to scream or rush out to see the movie/read the book--isn't that the ad is repeated exactly the same way. (It wouldn't be, seeing as how the ads are personalized.) The reason it reminds me of this strategy of marketing is the repetition within the ad of the name of the movie over and over, until you either want to scream or rush out and see the movie.

In this case, I'm choosing the latter option. I tell myself, as I'm sure the marketers intend me to, that I'm doing it for the kitsch value of it. But really I'm doing it to honor an excellent job of persuasion. I took "Persuasion and Propaganda" in my undergraduate years--I know a good job when I see it. I know people like me were the target of this promotion, and they did a great job of hitting their target, so, although I feel a bit guilty about it, I'm leaving my nine free library movies sitting at home and am digging a bit into my grad school budget to go see Snakes on a Plane. (Plus, Samuel L. Jackson has an amazing voice. And, well, he threatened my life if I didn't go to the movie.)

P.S. (Aug. 18, '06, 1:31 a.m.) I just got back from having coffee after the movie, and I must report: I haven't laughed that hard in a long, long time. I'm still not sure if I was laughing at or with the movie and in what proportions, but I don't think it matters. I think it helps to have very low expectations when going into it, and I think it also helped to have a crowd that cheered frequently. All I can say is, "Snakes on a plane, folks. Snakes on a plane." (By the way, I also appreciate the assonance in the title. I think it helps the comic effect considerably.) Not to give away any key plot points or anything, but there certainly was a plane. And there were snakes on it. Many of them. Multiple colors and sizes and breeds. So yeah, I think that's all I have to say. Well played, marketers of "Snakes on a Plane." Well played.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Transportation Technology=Communications Technology? Part 2

So now that I've driven 95 hours and almost 6000 miles in less than a month, I can report more fully on the capabilities and limitations of the automobile as a communications device.

The car CAN communicate/facilitate:

  • hugs of family and friends, particularly nieces and nephews (wonderful and hard to get through other communications media)
  • mosquito bites and heat and humidity (also hard through other media, but some would prefer not having them communicated in any case--good to whine about, though)
  • the sight of Walden Pond and the feel of its water on the skin (lovely on a warm day, especially for one studying Thoreau, and hard to get properly through a photo, even in The Annotated Walden)
  • the smell of baking garbage on the streets of New York (ditto the comment from the mosquito bites et al.)
  • lots of in-person conversations, complete with the bobbing eyelids of friends who are getting sleepy as you talk late at night (lovely and easier to interpret than through the phone)

The car CAN'T communicate:

  • as quickly as other communications media (unless you're driving just down the street, in which case you might as well walk for the exercise)
  • as simultaneously as other communication media (no switching lines as with phones or cc'ing to more than the group of people than can be assembled in the vehicle and/or caravan)
  • as virtually as other communications media (it's shockingly real-world, which is often wonderful but can at times, as in the list above, be seen as a drawback if, for instance, you don't want the mosquito bites or the sweat rolling down your back)
  • as cheaply these days, what with the cost of gas and such

As with most other communications technology, the automobile is also prone to occasional "dropped calls" or "delivery delays," though oddly enough, this sort of thing, when a vehicle is involved, may actually increase the numbers of people you communicate with (which is roughly the case with the other media as well, in which a problem in communicating with someone may cause communication with one or more customer service representatives of the company facilitating the service).

To draw an illustration from out of the air (i.e., somewhere near the early part of this week), a flat tire--or even, say, two flat tires on subsequent days--is likely to delay the communications you wished to make with people at your destination, but may, in the case of the first flat tire, facilitate communications with a police officer stopping on the side of the road, an emergency roadside assister with a much better jack than your car came with, and/or other people in other vehicles, and in the case of the second (who carries two spare tires?), family and/or friends, insurance agents, tow truck guys, tire diagnosers, fixers, and salesmen, etc. Which is to say that in case one communications technology--such as an automobile--may fail, it's always good to keep one or more other communications devices--such as a cell phone--handy.

The corollary to this final point--that transportation technology facilitates communication with random people you may meet along the way--is, besides its communication of fully-rounded experiences (exercising all the senses at once), one of the best things about this form of communications technology. We've rather discouraged random sorts of these communications through many other media--in phones there's the do not call list, in email there's spam laws--and rightly so, considering the blatant exploitations of the technology that caused the discouragement. But using transportations technology (and, at times, our own feet), we may still meet new acquaintances and have conversations with them if we choose (and they agree). Those unexpected meetings enrich our lives, yet I fear we risk losing these sorts of serendipities in our society by limiting ourselves too wholly to other communications media... I hope we never lose them.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Connection Between Snail Mail and IM

In a face-to-face conversation brought to me by my lovely, if slightly glitchy communications technology of my automobile (which I'll blog about more later), my friend Angela and I were talking about the immediacy of cell phones and such in comparison to the older communications technology of snail mail. She was talking about how much we've become accustomed to the speed of such communications and was comparing that concept to the time when people would wait for letters to arrive elsewhere.

And that reminded me of the way people who wrote to each other frequently in the "olden days" would have letters cross in the mail, leading to lots and lots of conversation threads that may or may not have been tied up. Which led to a thought: IM definitely has something in common with that mode of frequent letter-writing.

In fact, some of my friends have complained about using IM simply because you often get several threads going on at once in an IM conversation. It's true that it does happen in IM, and that it's sometimes hard to get them all tied up, but is much easier than it was in letter writing, where there were often paper constraints to deal with. It's certainly interesting to think of the two media having some of the same phenomena in common...

I don't know if it's profound (after all, heat + humidity + camping with some mosquitoes and need to get up and on the road early recently hasn't produced much quality sleep), but there it is. Instant messaging might be faster and more informal, but it's sort of fun to think it's at least a bit like the older communications technologies that have been wandering around.