August 30, 2010

Odious Comparisons VIII - Censorship

The discussion on the act of censorship is as old and as endless as civilization (I do not know if our civilization will end, but if so, will coincide with that of censorship). From those who practice it shamelessly, to those who fight it in all its forms, discussions take so many shades and hues as the nature of what is censored.

Many like to censor content that is not intended for them, just a few like that contents aimed at them is censored, and none, that I know, wants to be censored in front of the rest. It is clear that the issue has a significant degree of subjectivity. But should censorship be a universal principle, managed and directed without arbitrary discretion?

I do not want to get deeper into this, because then we start with moral digressions, which are worth more to a book than to a post. I will only say that it seems necessary to some extent a degree of censorship on information they receive, for example, children: it is more practical to get a child not touching the bleach at all, than ensuring that he understands the chemical properties of liquid and the harm they could cause if swallowed. It happens that on entering that crack, we step into a world of cases and exceptions of the type: “this category of people is not ready for this kind of information.”

Should a company allow the free flow of information that threatens its stability? I do not only refer to Chinese preventing Google crumbling remains of its Communist foundations, but also books or pamphlets with doctrines that promote controversial issues such as racism, holy war, mass murder or cannibalism. The question does not seem so clear, right? The simple answer is: yes, those issues "I" consider objectionable should be censored. It happens that the "I" are normally "others."

Personally, I do not like "others" decide what I can get to know or not. But, of course, "I" as an individual I have more discretion before I join the "we" of the social mass that I belong to. Then I become a little silly, a little less tolerant, and slightly more susceptible to propaganda. Perhaps what's best to "me" is not what is best for "us." Or for "you", when separately taken. Is it?

August 27, 2010

Transmeme XIX

Don't get caught in a tennager's contest for popularity!

August 25, 2010

Answered Questions VII - Goodbye, Tintin

When will Tintin disappear? Well, one could say that he perished when Hergé, his author, passed away as the franchise's character ended with this event and our young/old reporter will star no more adventures. Now the question is whether his memory will also disappear, and when. Could it be soon?

The reason for this question comes in the wake of the claim being made by various groups to withdraw from the shelves of bookstores and libraries all the volumes of Tintin. This claim is especially targeted to the adventure of Tintin in the Congo, because of its out of date, misleading and inaccurate portrait of that country, made through the prism of the colonial era, which becomes more obvious in light of the new century. I do not know how the issue will end, but as always, I can think of at least two points of view.

The first is that it would be a great shame that that happened. Tintin seems to me a delicious read, and I would not like to deprive other people to enjoy it. Furthermore, by creating such a precedent, we can be sure that when China is a bit more open and western comics enter the country, so will Tintin and the Blue Lotus, my favorite. If I think a little on the subject, this reminds me about the heretical books of the Middle Ages or the burning of Hebrew books during the Nazi era. Why do I feel so anxious when I hear of these censorship projects? Well, that's a deep subject, that of censorship, I mean, and I think that is part of another series of different questions.

Let's see. It is clear that Tintin is the result of his time, as was the Captain Thunderbolt, who was killing Muslims here and there, or the witch of Hansel and Gretel who had the children locked in her home to do weird things with them, ugs! It is also clear that they are all, to one degree or another, politically incorrect, and some of the values that can be distilled are out of sync with the sensibilities of our time, but are we still pretending to rewrite history? Should we remove from our shelves the novels of Jules Verne for not conforming to scientific progress? Do we burn the undemocratic books of Plato? “But the case is different”, some might say, because Tintin is aimed at children. There I do see prejudices of our time, to believe that a comic, as such, is aimed at children. But let us concede that this is the case. Can we fix it by putting on the cover "For Mature Readers"? Funny.

The second point of view is a reflection arisen from the same news that is disturbing, and is the initiatory role of stories told to children.

The stories often had an important bringing up role, showing children a series of values, archetypes and ideas that should teach them some things in their society. Under that approach, yes we should avoid frivolously showing them aspects that do not match reality. But by the same rule, should we eliminate sexism in the stories? Or eternally happy endings? Or the irrational fantasies? No doubt here a great debate could start, but it is not worth it. After all, those times when children are formed through the stories they were told are totally left behind. Now the stories do not come from the mouths of parents and grandparents but from television, comics, video games, Internet, mobile content, in spite of any parental controls. It is as inevitable as the Chinese end up hearing about what happens in "Tintin and the Blue Lotus."

August 23, 2010

Transmeme XVIII

Jogging in the night, along the river side and potatoes crops, pass by the cementery and the mirror-eyed cats...

August 20, 2010

Answered Questions VI - Attention! Customer service in action!

It could be a joke, but it is not, especially when most customer care call numbers are not for free (at least in Spain). My point is, why in customer service departments so little attention is paid to the customer? That is what it seems, given the difficulty to communicate, to be understood, and to get a solution to a problem. The systems that I have known up to now are of two types: the bad, and the worst.

When I have to talk to a service provider I anticipate the pain, aye, aye. If by email, I feel somewhat more comfortable, but I have to work to make sentences terse, clear and concise. Mostly because I fear that if my request is poorly understood, I can spend weeks trying to clarify. That is considering that I receive an email in return, which seldom happens. By the way, it is nice to receive personal responses, but in those cases in which my name is misspelled or my gender changed, they lose a bit of charm, right?

Image: Daniel St.Pierre /

But all that is nonsense. The serious game starts with phone calls. I would not want this to seem one of those humorous monologues of comedians, but some situations are so pathetic sometimes that I could cry and laugh at them. The first goal is to reach a human being, sometimes difficult, because I first face machines (Interactive-Voice-Response systems), which at best are guided by keypad, but the more daring, the worst, ask me... to talk to them! And then I begin to look like the fool, and back at school vocalizing "I-want-to-talk-to-someone" so that the gear will say "Repeat your question." I know that voice recognition technology and grammar is complex, so do me a favor: stick it into a drawer until within forty years!

Those which are less sophisticated, and have a booth in a distant country of the same native language and lower labor costs, often have another problem. "All our advisers are busy, please wait a few seconds" and then I waste a lot of minutes waiting. Some play meanwhile an unbearable loud music. The worst, the worst take the opportunity to communicate new services and products. On top of having to wait, I'm paying for swallowing their advertisement!

August 18, 2010

Transmeme XVII

Take some perspective: a bit of bone, a bit of flesh and a bit of noise.

August 16, 2010

The World Theater V - The Voyeur of Taste

It sounds a little perverted, I know. I do not know to what extent it will. The truth is that I discovered over time, I enjoyed watching others enjoy. And do not think of the carnal pleasures, I do not talk about sex, as understood in the classic voyeurism. If you like, you can jump now to another page or another subject.

You see, I've never been a person of great passions or hobbies. I enjoy things in moderation, and although I like most things, I can not say that I go crazy for any food, drink, entertainment, theme, activity, color, or day of the year. I guess that is neither good nor bad, but sometimes I would like to find a hobby or sport that concentrated all my effort and enthusiasm. Like those compulsive collectors, film buffs, marathon runners or football fans that can make their passion almost a reason for living. Well, maybe I exaggerate a bit, but you understand me, isn’t it?

The point is that perhaps this absence in the extreme pleasures, has led me to notice the pleasure that others find in these things. So, when a fellow is enjoying a good Scotch, or sucking a cigar with pleasure, or eating with great relish a good ham sandwich, when a friend is pleased to wear those elegant clothes that make her happy, when some parents drool with the trifles of their baby, when I accompany a friend on his favorite sport or hobby, I watch and enjoy.

Image: Mantas Ruzveltas /

Do not ask me why, I do not want psychoanalysis. And after all, this is better than those who feel good upsetting everyone around them. Call it empathy, I do not know, but the more you enjoy, the more I do.

August 13, 2010

Transmeme XVI

We are all born to be perfect. We end up being lead, copper, tin, according to the harshness of the air.

August 11, 2010

Odious comparisons VII - The Bank of all

This is how some financial institutions like to call themselves in their advertising. In order to reach more audiences, you know.

However, after the events of recent years, it seems that we should make it effective. Make them become the Bank of all indeed. Yeah, yeah, although it seems that I'm cursing, I'm talking about making public entities out of banks.

Let me give my reasons. It is proven that financial provide a basic service, a public service, because we all need it. The offer of this service may not be somewhat discretionary, it must be guaranteed. What is the advantage of a competitive free market when we can not afford that natural selection puts aside the worst players in the sector (i.e. government aid has to be given to banks, so they do not burst)? What efficiencies does it provide when the only possible outcome is generating profits or generating even greater profits?

If the most notorious results of this private sector are achievements such as: new product R&D (subprime mortgages, ninja, etc. valued at notional risk), cost efficiencies (stratospheric bonus for managers, shielded salaries with outrageous premiums) and contribution to society (when companies need credit at most, they refuse to give it), where's the advantage?

Oh, right, if you intervene and nationalize banks, all capital would flee the country, so soon. I was not bearing in mind that government administration inefficiencies are more scary than the irresponsibility of some private companies. I think the one and only paradigm shift we will see, when most transactions are online, is the creation of the Google Bank and Currency.

August 09, 2010

Transmeme XV

To the non-believers: the first act of faith is thinking you'll still be existing in 10 seconds.

August 06, 2010

Odious Comparisons VI - The virtue of the marginal ones

As regular comics reader (or graphic novels, however you want to call them), there is something I've alternately suffered and enjoyed for my life.

As consumer of a product that has lived mostly in the cultural marginalization (we can not say it's just mainstream culture, at least in this country) I have suffered, too often, the drawbacks of being part of a small market, unstable and fragile with little demand, namely: low quality published issues or high prices, poor choice of titles, long waits for publications, cancellations of collections, difficulty in finding them in stores, and inability to socialize with the subject (unless it was with the few fans like me, once recognized as such, are regarded with the esteem after having received misunderstanding and sidelong glances.)

Image: Francesco Marino /

Similarly, these drawbacks are motivated by the same reasons that make this hobby something infinitely enjoyable. The lack of interest that we raise as a group of readers, permeable minds, never made it too interesting for the shredder. The homogenizing marketing and institutional machines, as well as the censorship and interest groups (collective moral, governmental, corporate publishers) hardly affected us (at least not as they did with literature, cinema, and others).

For that reason, I had the pleasure of reading comics on topics that although they could be treated equally well in other media, would never have the chance. I have experienced personal authors; I sucked their creativity with less restriction, and enjoyed more experimental ways of telling things.

So, if I have to suffer that my preferences as a consumer are not part of the mainstream, I must admit they would have little interest for me if it were otherwise. I would like affectionately greet those who truly suffer/enjoy this still being a marginal world, those who try to live from it: authors, publishers, and booksellers. Courage, courage.

August 04, 2010

Transmeme XIV

The continuity of "me" is just an illusion.

August 02, 2010

The World Theatre IV – TV shop

Someone must have said: "Television defines how society is". I think you can learn more about how we are by looking at a whole week television broadcast than reading an essay on behavioral science. Besides, it is often more entertaining.

Some years ago when private channels mushroomed, I discovered the fabulous world of television shopping. The vacuum pump, the eternal blade knife, reamer-shaker, the artificial bait in garish colors, paint roller, pen scratch remover, insoles to seem taller and so many other revolutionary flagship products.

Products like this have some charm, especially when you know that you can not go to a store and buy them (in their original version). Moreover the form of submission deserves praise. Yes, the show. It is simply sublime.

Firstly that smiling audience, dedicated and devoted, as well as varied. Forget about talk shows in the early evening, with their audience made up mostly by kind senior members who have their nap after the initial appetizer. In television shopping find people like those we would like to be, the target of our beautiful product. All smiling excited, firing all the time 'oooohs' and 'aaaahs' after a new discovery about the features of frying oil-free device.

On top of that we have the masters of ceremonies. Normally a pair of perfect communicators, one is the expert, the other, the inquisitive and a priori 'skeptical' co-host, who by his sharp questions to the expert reveals step by step the myriad of advertised advantages and properties. But you must pay attention to how the expert handles the product, either a knife or a shaker, in seconds runs perfect and precise handling that makes the unit seem to run alone, effortless, with no need to be cleaned... How many training hours are invested for that smooth execution! They really are masters of their craft and I enjoy them. Did they make a lot of shots due? I guess that more than once, but, hey, do not tell anybody, the show is live.

Finally we reach climax. After having made us realize that our lives from now are almost unbearable if not enjoy the benefits of that product, is the best. Price. Amazingly it is a bargain, but that's not all, buying a unit you get a deal of free added accessories, warranties, brochures and manuals, and also amazingly, you can get another unit for free, and another and another... This is such a frenzy, that after the last applause I always have tickle at the tip of my fingers, asking me to dial in and place my order.

Seriously, I find these programs hypnotic and extremely relaxing, since I have to think about anything, just putting myself in the hands of the two friendly and chatty presenters. If you do not trust me, try at least once the following experiment: After a great evening, late at night when you are half drunk and a bit sleepy, switch the TV on, seek out our friends and let yourself go. You will go into a light trance, and the effect is strobe.

I must admit that although I have never bought anything, I have come to see one of these programs over a dozen times. My compliments to Chef Tony.

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