Monday, July 11, 2016

Episode 58: Warring Assumptions

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In this Episode 58: Warring Assumptions, I look briefly into a topic I haven't covered in a bit lately: commercials and how to avoid them. Specifically I look at developments in commercial-nuking technology; the lawsuits and corporate decisions that kept the best tech from emerging when it was first developed; and the later realizations that allowed it to (in a limited way) finally become available to the viewing and listening public. In the end I manage to Godwin the whole thing, tying corporate decision making to an element that inadvertently hamstrung the fight against Adolf Hitler himself.

My sources for this episode include: Tim Wu's book, "The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires" (Random House, 2010, pp. 184-186); Richard Strauss' "Also Thus Spake Zarathustra;" Orson Welles introducing the 1939 Mercury Theater production of "War of the Worlds;" and Visciera's "Coming Back." I open with Dmitri Orlov backed by KMFDM's "Attack," and close with Mistle Thrush's "It's All Like Today."


  1. A piano roll uses punches in paper to store information, not piano wire. It's worth pointing out that the technology of the piano roll was also the source of a copyright panic that's still having impact over a century later. (Though I don't think piano roll recordings ever included embedded ads.)

    1. Hey, L33t,

      D'oh! I should have checked that. I assumed Wu was talking in his book about wire recorders, not piano playback technology via punched paper. I saw a wire recorder used for the first time in the Chinatown sequel, The Two Jakes. The wire was rolled, so I assumed.....

      Actually, I'm not sure Wu didn't mean wire recorders, since he was talking about answering a telephone. I am not quite sure how a caller would record his or her message on a player piano.

      The book had a few other seemingly obvious typos, leading me to suspect it could have used an astute proof-reader like yourself!

      I'll add that boo-boo to the correction edition ... which is getting full....

  2. You could just throw your TV away....

    1. Hey, Michael!

      You're assuming it's my decision to make. It's not. I'm married. ;-)

      Slightly more seriously, I do feel the telly entertaining and informative, if sometimes only as something that informs on how uninformative it is.

      And finally, no. Turning my back on a medium because it is bullying me with its ads and ad-fueled content is a concession of defeat, turning my back on a bully when I still have the gadget-induced where-withal to call the bully out on being a bully.

      Disconnecting would be similar to the unemployed who simply abandon the search for a job after the benefits have run dry: they aren't counted, and their absence is used as evidence that there are fewer unemployed. The propagandists use this to worsen the situation.

      DVRs send a message: your commercials are not wanted. And as I pointed out in the episode, some are getting the message. Turn off the tube and that message might never be received, giving clear signal that the bully may proceed at will.

      Thanks for your comment!

    2. Thanks for the response. It is well understood and all is fine. Still, if you're ever so inclined, I would highly recommend a book written about thirty years ago: Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander.

      All that aside, I just want to convey how much I appreciate your superlative and thoroughly wholesome wit. I would happily listen to you opine on any conceivable topic,...or no topic at all for that matter!

      Keep up the great work, Jim!

    3. Sounds like an interesting book. I'll add it to the ready pile. There are a few topics I think should be banned from the telly; maybe Mander can offer some more ammo to support my inclination.

      And, shucks, thanks for the kind words!