It’s only Memorex

I’m not sure all of you remember it, but there was an ad campaign from my childhood that questioned or not whether or not something was real, or Memorex.  The whole idea was that cassette recordings were so accurately rendered that on Memorex tapes, you couldn’t tell the different between the actual or recorded voice.  Of course, no recording sounds exactly the same, but maybe Memorex was sophisticated enough to fool very early voice-recognition software.  Maybe.

However, in the modern world of email forwarding, YouTube, and Flickr, among other technologies, I’m starting to wonder if there’s an real content left out there.  Paramount is releasing movie clips as a means of expression on online sites, and MTV is soon going to release clips of its shows in a similar fashion.  Big news industries around the world such as CNN and the BBC are advocating for user comments and blogging in a bid to increase readership.  We’re all passing along the blog posts or articles we think others might enjoy, but are we giving our own response to it, or just starting with ‘thought you’d like this’?

For a short period of time I did some babysitting for an absolutely adorable boy with Downs Syndrome.  He loved the Wiggles and Bear in a Big Blue House, and used quotes from these shows whenever possibly relevant in a conversation (and sometimes when not relevant).  Because he loved these shows, he would watch them over and over again, as do many children with favorite shows, and certain phrases became ingrained in such a way that they became stock phrases for certain expression.  While in this case I think the quotes helped with self-expression, I don’t think movie or television quotes are really widening that range for most of us.  I would hate to see a time when we can only express ourselves with phrases preserved in media.  Language should grow, not collapse in upon itself and fall out of use.

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The Sound of the Sea, the Sound of the Wind.

In the late nineties (or, at least, I think it was then) there was a sudden upsurge in the popularity of a variety of New-Agey musical interludes.  There were sounds of the ocean set to wailing flutes, harmonic wind chimes mingled with the calls of sea birds and whales, the sounds of rushing waters and streams and even rainstorms mingling with quick-moving drums.  Exotic sunrises and mysterious forests were pictured on a  variety of CDs promising the ultimate relaxation and respite from a harsher, more urban world.

While such mood music is not bad for writing, and despite the fact that I probably enjoyed more of it than most, I’d still rather listen to a live band than any compilation of fantastical melodies.  These CDs were, after all, not very interactive.  However, when something like the Sea Organ comes along, I will stand up and take notice.  Not only is it a revitalization of the coastline in that area, it’s also an interactive, experiential play of the waves.  It allows for comfortable viewing and interaction with the ocean, as well as adding additional sound to the mix.  Of course, i like the sound of the waves on the shore too, but this adds a fuller dimension to that.  And I like the idea.  Let’s add more conscious awareness of touch, taste, and smell into our daily lives.  Let’s get some really interactive art/living stuff out there.  Let’s take the concept of really hearing our world further.

What if we could hear the rumblings of tectonic plates moving?  What if we could listen in on the static-ridden fire of the Sun?  What if the whirring of gnat’s wings was knowable, or the soft, slight movements of skin cells against each other and you stretched out your fingers?  What if the wilder inventions of OM (both the spiritual exhale and OddMusic gallery) were present in municipal installations around the world?  What if everyone thought like Zumthor, or if I could find multiple Swiss Pavillions here in Boston?  Just thinking about it gives me the shivers.

China and 1936 Summer Olympics

ABC (The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the public television network on that continent) headlined that this year’s Olympic Games will “Be Like Berlin Under Hitler” late last week, reporting on Dr Sev Ozdowski’s comments.  Issues of racial persecution in Tibet, possible organ harvesting, and repression and persecution throughout the country have become paramount in several countries as the games approach.  In London, protesters scuffled with torchbearers, but did not reach the widespread chaos that caused the torch to be extinguished twice in Paris.  The two questions on my mind are what it all means and if we’re going too far.

The Olympics are a source of pride for many countries, and a huge economic boon to the hosts.  But questions arise when the unity and pride the games are supposed to reflect and exhibit come into conflict with that very visible economic impact.  Suddenly, we wonder if the beliefs and morals of the opposing teams are those we can confidently accept.  But supporting the games and the correspondent influx of wealth, are we propping up governments that we might not otherwise support?  And should our standards of fairness and equality (however right or complex or contradictory or hypocritical they may be) be the measuring stick determining how much financial correspondence a country can and should have with our own?  In the case of a waking giant of productivity and markets such as China, do we really have any choice?

Furthermore, are protests of the torch really the answer?  Should we be shouting down a wheelchair athlete who has won the acheivement of competing in the Olympics and bearing the torch?  Or is the momentary rudeness towards someone else’s lifetime goals outweighed by unjust arrests and violence in Tibet?  Personally, I would say that violence done to one person does not give the right for that person to lash out in anger.  We’ve supposedly moved beyond Hammurabi.

Personally, I’d like to go back to the example of Jesse Owens.  I’d like to see a Tibetan come out to the games and really excel, and prove their greatness despite oppression, despite confines, despite a lack of political change.  It’s true that outwardly the Chinese government would fully support such an athlete, but I find more power in the individual proving that they are better than a government and better than their circumstances than in a great mob that seeks change by threatening the pride of others.