Cosmic Quote #13

“The main reason Santa is jolly is he knows where all the bad girls live.”–George Carlin

Hmmm.I Wonder what he's looking for...(, click for link)

Hmmm.I Wonder what he’s looking for…(, click for link)

I knew there was a reason I was jealous of the guy.  I also now know what he is doing the other 364 days while the elves are making all the toys.  At any rate, this non-theistic, almost-atheist existentialist wishes you a Merry Christmas, Season’s Greetings, happy pagan winter solstice, or whatever it is you celebrate.


Equations of Everyday Life#3–Media Attention Span (Part Two: The Big Bust Theory)

According to my calculations [the universe] didn’t start with a “Big Bang” at all—it was more of “Phhbwt.”–Dilbert (Scott Adams)

This kind of bust? Well...maybe....

This kind of bust? Well…maybe….

In the stirring first episode of this equation, we saw how the attention paid by the media to inane celebrity stories erodes naturally over time through a process I dubbed The Media-illogical Constant.   But like many scientific theories, it is more complicated than it appears on paper.     It seems that this equation works well in a comparative media vacuum, free from the interference of new, bigger and even more outrageous celebrity stories. And though a story may also, in the absence of said later distraction,  sustain itself through the generation of new angles, it can still disappear in an instant.  When a  bigger celebrity story comes along and wipes clean the public attention-span slate, the previous prime meme is sucked into a media black hole.  It succumbs to The Big Bust Theory. I may not be able to quantify this occurrence; but I can certainly give a primordial example.

It  was 1994 and  two key dates in that year represent the ground zero points for the archetypal media big bust.

The Tonya Harding Fiasco

On January 6, 1994 a man named Shane Stant swung a lead pipe at figure skater Nancy Kerrigan’s knee, causing sufficient injury to Kerrigan that she was forced to withdraw from the US championships.  In and of itself, this would have kept the cable news and sports channels going for weeks on end, but it was only the beginning.   Within a few days, the dastardly deed was traced back to associates of one Tonya Harding, who just happened to be Kerrigan’s main rival at the competition.  The frenzy was on. All throughout the spring and summer the story took more twists and turns than a Dickens novel.  (You can read the entire timeline here).  The name Tonya Harding was on every front page and every evening news lead.  On and on into the the spring and early summer, it reached the point that many–yours truly included–wished she and her story would just go away.

Be careful what you wish for.

The Big Bust: June 17 1994

oj-simpson-mshot-700217Just when you thought there would be no end to the Harding nonsense–no “return to normalcy” to quote another famous American named Harding–the story imploded.  On  June 17, 1994 cable news channels broadcast, live and in living color,  an event so momentous that it interrupted the broadcast of the NBA finals.  It was the pursuit by the LAPD of O.J. Simpson. (Case timeline here.)

Poof. The Tonya Harding story was gone from the front pages and evening news leads, never to return to such prominence again.

As for trying to create and algorithm that describes this phenomenon, it has so far escaped me.  In the same manner that the laws of physics seem to break down in the singularity at the center of a black hole, all measures of media (and public) vacuity in the face of these kinds of events defy calculation.  The equations yield infinities.  If you have any ideas, feel free to post them here.  But have no fear, this scenario has given me yet another idea.  It’s clear that two of the biggest media attractors going are inane celebrity antics and sensational crimes.  When the two combine, as they did in both the OJ Simpson and Tonya Harding cases, the effect just screams for its own equation…and this might ultimately yield the mathematical solution to The Big Bust Theory.


Time Out: End of the World Post(poned)

“In the beginning, the universe was created.  This made a lot of people very angry and was widely regarded as a bad move.”–Douglas Adams

end of the worldI’m kinda hoping this Mayan calendar thing is right as I haven’t paid my cable bill yet this month.  And I’d endure almost anything to make sure the Cowboys miss the playoffs.   On the other hand, I hate to think of all those unused frequent flyer miles I’d lose.  Either way, I’m holding off writing my next post until Saturday–just in case.



Cosmic Quote #12

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”–Arthur C. Clarke

No, not that Magic!

No, not that Magic!

To say that Arthur C. Clarke was a visionary is to put it lightly.  In 1947 he published an article advocating a global satellite communication network.  That was ten years before Sputnik, when many serious scientists were still calling space travel impossible.  Yet even he didn’t always get it right.  In the 1960’s he foresaw humanity’s 2001 future in outer space, but little progress was made in the following decades.  It turned out the human future in the new millennium was in cyber space.  My future, then and now, continues to be spaced out.  I’ll see you in my dreams…


Time Out: Remembering Dave Brubek

“I like to play  dangerously… where you’re going to take a chance on making mistakes in order to create something you haven’t created before.”–Dave Brubek

(Note:  The title of this post provides an apt, if inadvertent double entendre.  I have used the title preface “Time Out” for posts that don’t readily fit into my existing threads.  “Time Out” also just happens to be the title of The Dave Brubek Quartet’s signature album.  It was issued in 1959 and became the first million selling jazz album ever.  It is one of the greatest classics of the genre).

Brubek on the cover of Time, November 1954.  NO! I do not remember it, I was four years old.

Brubek on the cover of Time, November, 1954.

I never met the man, yet somehow I knew him.     In one of the choral groups I sang with in high school we performed a Brubek composition (yes he wrote choral music, too).   Our director actually tried to get Brubek, who lived in a neighboring town,  to make a guest appearance to conduct the piece at our concert.  He was unavailable.  I never gave it much thought then, though Brubek’s Greatest Hits was the first jazz album I owned–and in fact the only jazz in my collection until I was in my forties.  I did not see him perform live until I was in my 50’s and he in his 80’s.

Below are two videos, courtesy of the Litchfield Jazz Festival, where I saw Dave Brubek perform twice.  The first video is a promotional piece that begins with Brubek performing in the 2005 festival.   In the shot of the audience applause that follows the visual of Brubek you’ll see two audience members stand up near the back.  I’m pretty sure the partially obscured one farthest back is me.  In the second video, taped at the 2008 festival, NPR interviews Brubek and Paquito D’Rivera.  There was no seating in this tent.  I was standing in the front row, about fifteen feet from Brubek during the entire interview.  I witnessed history that day.

Dave Brubek was an icon, a living legend.  He was not just a great artist, he was one of the great ambassadors for the arts.  He died yesterday, one day short of his 92nd birthday, in the same hospital where my wife was born.  So near, and yet so far away.

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