hornutopia

hornutopia (noun): cornucopia + utopia + horn of plenty = hornutopia

I enjoy seeing successful models of shared experience that promote some sense of connectedness in this world. I like to think we are all sustainers of hornutopia, a judgment free zone where we can all be ourselves and foster a community of interconnectedness, where our freedom enables others to be free.

It reminds me of the TV show Community, where Troy and Jeff find a secret trampoline at the school. Joshua the groundskeeper explains what happens when you jump:

At the apex of each bounce, there is a moment outside of time, outside of words, outside of everything. A perfect moment, silent moment. I call it the world’s whisper.

I feel this way because I think that on the inside we all know that we’re monsters. We have all reconciled this idea at night, alone, wondering why we did something so evil or acted out of some dark intention. Everyone has flaws but I believe we are all better than our last act. We are not the worst part of ourselves, but we build contact points into a way of living that promotes hope, leaves no one out, and builds on something that was not there.

The theories of scarcity often make people feel alone, isolated, and destitute, but a lot of times when I have felt this way I realize I have whipped myself into a spinning vortex. The quicker I realize it the sooner I can make a different choice. Reaching outside the vortex means I make a conscious decision to ask for help where I need answers, listen to someone’s voice when I feel alone, or get outside my house and take a walk downtown.

the leash

I recently read an article about the idea of a dog being pulled on a leash:

https://wordpress.com/read/post/id/89696631/283

… and it made me think about freedom and what we’re allowed to think we’re in charge of. It reminds me of the Bright Eyes song Landlocked Blues, with a line,

…our freedom’s a joke, we’re just taking a piss.

Which begs the question, are we granted a freedom as a function of the fact that we use it or that we are mis-appropriating freedom to mean something entirely different than its original intended meaning? I think about Canadians and how they seem more civilly engaged than Americans. Sometimes it’s relative on the spectrum of possible outcomes, but it’s something I love contemplating.

The Green Place

Sometimes during the summer I like to go swimming. Oh who am I fooling? I always want to be immersed in some new body of water; it’s like braving a dangerous element in exchange for a feeling I cannot quite express. I cannot breathe underwater, but I can hear something down there that gives me a kind of strange comfort in a world that I cannot fully see but feel and understand with different senses. I will lay belly up with my ears underwater for hours just to look up and wonder at the sky.

Walden pond in Concord, MA, is a bell-shaped freshwater pond, and I’ll head there early in the mornings on some Sundays in August. Around the perimeter, there are these little private beaches, rock steps leading into the water. The place is welcoming and is a bit of a mirage, but it is very much there. I go there so seldom now it often slips from my memory, but it is not my imagination. The water has a magical feeling to it, and gets so warm in summer that it sustains life in different ways. A few summers ago, news outlets reported a strain of jellyfish was living in the water.  What did people make of it, a typically salt-water organism living in fresh water?

“Gwen Acton thought the dime-sized translucent pods she saw … were strange, beautiful seeds that had drifted down to the water surface from some flowering plant” (Daley, 2010).

Melissa Webster said, “We saw them on most of our swims during September, and on our last swim Oct. 1. Definitely cool” (Associated Press, 2010)!

Gsinger said, “I have been swimming in Walden for 30 years and had never previously seen them.  Has something changed” (Associated Press, 2010)?

Chris said, “This is a very scary event. They are a great danger to the native animals in the lakes and to the water. [T]his is a event that should be looked into with great con[c]ern is a sign of the danger nature is in” (Associated Press, 2010)

Although they pose no threat to humans, there was a variety of perceptions. Some were in awe, some were happy to see them, some were frightened, and others feared the apocalypse. The extent to which anything can tell us about being human is our perceptions. Anything we encounter can yield a feeling or impulse which people attach meaning to. It could be a jellyfish or something else.

Years before today our ancestors looked up at the sky and saw the sun and moon and told each other stories about what each one did. There were gods possessing great virtue that ruled the stars. There were heroes and villains entangled in legends of a shared narrative that people thought up which crafted some understanding as to what was going on in the world.

Today we know the sun and moon are planets that orbit our solar system. We have the answers to what we think are the big questions. We think we have it all figured out, and to a large extent, we do. A lot of what we place meaning on will propel us into the next age. Sometimes a jellyfish is bad, other times he is a fascination. What we do with these meanings will be reflected in our behavior.

This week I have been reflecting on how people think about things, namely bad things. Oops, there I’ve gone and placed meaning to something without thinking. This week I have been thinking a bit about computer security vulnerabilities and how they are perceived. What I found reminds me of the problems I have faced in my own life, and how those problems were thought of in that time. In retrospect, with what I know now about it, I consider these initial impressions to have fallen away or changed somewhat in my thinking.

The research I have done has changed my view of computer vulnerabilities as not something to fear for loss of one’s data, but rather an industry unto itself in a larger narrative that does not involve me directly, but rather my data and personal information. I am part of the bigger war, but I feel less a participant in it, less in control of my own personal information, and oddly more at peace with computer vulnerabilities than I thought I would.

I have often thought about it for a moment and forgotten it, a shell picked up on the shore and thrown back into the sea. I have stored up moments that I would like to feel have given me a sense of something, but then I remember how things in the past exist only in your mind. How you cannot take it out and measure it, but you can place a meaning onto something and that can be everything that it is now, so that all that is left is your impression of what used to be.

Sometimes your own conscious thought dissolves into the layers of waves how an ocean does, in the sense that your cognitive awareness doesn’t even have surface tension, so the points of arrival and departure are always changing, always different and new, reflective. This is how one person can have a thought about a thought. This sense, this wondering is an unfolding of constantly redeemed perks or chits that have no expiration date and whose value is changing in relation to meaning. These things may be only in the mind, but they are without a doubt changing and evolving as a direct function of one’s thinking and reflexive mind.

Are there known vulnerabilities in software that are rolled out without adequate testing? To answer this question, one need only think of one’s own individual computer experiences. Have you ever had a hard time using a computer? Yes. I have an impression of Microsoft that runs from a history of their long and confusing installation process, which makes it more challenging to add software to your computer. “On the Windows desktop, users have to open their browsers, search the web, download an application from a website, and install it manually” (“HTG Explains, 2015).

As a result, there are a number of things that can happen, including security breaches.

Many less-savvy users may end up downloading dangerous software or clicking a fake “Download” button that leads to disguised malware. Users may download and run potentially dangerous types of files, such as screensavers, without knowing that they contain executable code and can infect their system. People downloading pirated software from questionable websites may end up infected. (“HTG Explains,” 2015)

In comparison, Apple, whose built-in features make it simple to add programs, one can simply press a button and voila! The program is added without so much as pointing a finger and clicking. Apple users install applications and software “that come from a trusted, centralized repository. Users open their app store or package manager, search for the program, and install it” (“HTG Explains,” 2015). I have reflected on these two experiences, the Microsoft design and the Apple design, and balked.

Who would ever pay money on the experience of Microsoft? It creates a product in which outside services and repair are almost a requirement. There is a much higher risk of viruses as PC has been the target of the majority of worms.

Windows XP shipped without a firewall enabled and network services were exposed directly to the Internet, which made it an easy target for worms. At one point, the SANS Internet Storm Center estimated an unpatched Windows XP system would be infected within four minutes of connecting it directly to the Internet, due to worms like Blaster. (“HTG Explains,” 2015)

In addition, Windows XP’s autorun feature automatically ran applications on media devices connected to the computer. This allowed Sony to install a rootkit on Windows systems by adding it to their audio CDs, and savvy criminals began leaving infected USB drives lying around near companies they wanted to compromise. If an employee picked up the USB drive and plugged it into a company computer, it would infect the computer. And, because most users logged in as Administrator users, the malware would run with administrative privileges and have complete access to the computer. (“HTG Explains,” 2015)

Part of the problem is the intention of Windows’ original design. “Historically, Windows was not engineered for security. While Linux and Apple’s Mac OS X (based on Unix) were built from the ground-up to be multi-user operating systems that allowed users to log in with limited user accounts, the original versions of Windows never were” (“HTG Explains,” 2015).

DOS was a single-user operating system, and the initial versions of Windows were built on top of DOS. Windows 3.1, 95, 98, and Me may have looked like advanced operating systems at the time, but they were actually running on top of the single-user DOS. DOS didn’t have proper user accounts, file permissions, or other security restrictions. (“HTG Explains,” 2015)

Despite, or perhaps due largely in part to the existing vulnerabilities, there is an opportunity to profit on it. When one is looking at the framework of insecure computer systems as an object not of dread and avoidance, but rather a part of a larger economic system, things start to look different. The research I came across includes an article published in Time magazine from July 2014 titled “The Code War”.

The idea that a software bug can be worth actual dollars and cents is an odd one. Bugs are mistakes; people generally pay money to fix them. The fact that there’s a market for them is a consequence of the larger oddness of our present technological era, in which our entire world — our businesses, medical records, social lives, governments — is emigrating bit by bit out of physical reality and into the software-lined innards of computers in the form of data. A lot of people are interested in that data, for reasons both good and bad. Some of those people are spies. Some of them are criminals. Bugs are what they use to get at it. (Calabresi, Frizzel, & Grossman, 2014)

The Time article interviews Aaron Portnoy, co-founder of Austin-based Exodus (Calabresi et al., 2014). Portnoy’s career began as a high school student where he hacked into computer system at the Massachusetts Academy of Math & Science in Worcester (Calabresi et al., 2014). Where Aaron’s initial hacking career dovetails in with his current project is his love of hacking.

Portnoy, now 28, is the co-founder of a two-year-old company in Austin called Exodus Intelligence. Its mission statement reads, “Our goal is to provide clients with actionable information, capabilities, and context for our exclusive zero-day vulnerabilities.” Which means — translated from the quasi-paramilitary parlance that’s endemic to the software-security industry — that Exodus Intelligence finds and sells bugs, specifically the kind of bugs that could potentially give a third party access to a computer, the same way Portnoy got access to his high school’s network. They’re worth a lot of money. Vulnerabilities in popular applications and operating systems have been known to change hands for hundreds of thousands of dollars each. (Calabresi et al., 2014)

The industry of computer vulnerabilities is an enormous and international one. For example:

in May [2014] when the U.S. indicted five members of the Chinese army for stealing data from American companies, including Westinghouse and Alcoa. That wasn’t an anomaly; it’s the norm, and it’s getting more normal all the time. Retired Army general Keith Alexander, who formerly headed both the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, has called China’s ongoing electronic theft of American intellectual property “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.” Two weeks ago several security firms confirmed that a group believed to be backed by the Russian government has been systematically hacking the U.S.’s energy infrastructure since at least 2012. According to IBM’s security division, the average American company fielded a total of 16,856 attacks in 2013. (Calabresi et al., 2014)

The history of computer vulnerabilities goes back twenty years.

In 1995 Netscape announced a “Bugs Bounty” program that paid cash to anybody who could find flaws in its browser. The company … just wanted to fix holes in its software. In 2002 a security firm called iDefense started buying up vulnerabilities of all kinds; another company, TippingPoint, launched a similar program in 2005. Both programs were created as alternatives to the increasingly active and chaotic exchange of zero-days on the open market — essentially they acted as safe zero-day disposal facilities, a bit like radioactive-waste repositories. If you found a bug, instead of selling it to the highest bidder, who would do God knows what with it, you could sell it to iDefense or TippingPoint for a reliable price, and they would alert their clients to the problem and work with the software vendor to get the bug patched. iDefense and TippingPoint had something else in common too: they both, in successive years, 2005 and 2006, hired an intern named Aaron Portnoy. (Calabresi et al., 2014)

What Portnoy does now is not so different from his internship at TippingPoint. At Exodus, nine engineers sit at computers all day:

banging on software looking for ways in: browsers, email clients, instant-messaging clients, Flash, Java, industrial control systems, anything an attacker could use as an entry point. “One thing we try to maintain is a capability in every major backup software out there, because that’s one of the juiciest targets,” Portnoy says. “If you get on an enterprise network, what is an administrator going to want to protect? Their important information. What do they use to protect that? Backup software.” (Calabresi et al., 2014)

When a researcher at Exodus finds a vulnerability, he or she types it up in a professional-looking report along with technical documentation that explains what it does, where it lives, what it gets you, how to spot it, what versions of the software it works on, how one could mitigate it and so on. Most important, Exodus provides you with an exploit, which is the procedure you’d have to follow to actually trigger the bug and take advantage of it. “Every single vulnerability that we give our customers comes with a working exploit,” Portnoy says. “If we can’t exploit it, we don’t even bother telling anyone. It’s not worth it.” Voilà, one freshly minted zero-day vulnerability. (Calabresi et al., 2014)

Portnoy takes pride in the superior quality and effectiveness of Exodus’ exploits. “We try to make them as nasty and invasive as possible,” he explains. “We tout what we deliver as indicative of or surpassing the current technical capabilities of people who are actually actively attacking others.” When a company hires Exodus, it does so on a subscription basis: you get a certain number of bugs a year for such-and-such amount of money. Subscriptions start at around $200,000. (Calabresi et al., 2014)

The vulnerabilities business has a mixed reputation, based on the presumption that the bugs it provides are being used for criminal or unethical purposes. A Washington, D.C., company called Endgame that sold vulnerabilities to the government for years was dubbed “the Blackwater of hacking” by Forbes magazine. Last year, when Endgame announced that it was getting out of the game, it did so triumphantly, as if it were kicking a heroin habit: “The exploit business is a crummy business to be in,” its CEO said. (Calabresi et al., 2014)

The reality is more complex. Exodus’ clients come in two basic types, offensive and defensive. Playing for the defense are security firms and antivirus vendors who are looking for information they can integrate into their products, or who want to keep their clients up to speed on what threats are out there. On offense are penetration testers, consultants who use Exodus’ zero-days to play the “red team” in simulated attacks on their own or other people’s networks. “If they want to show what a real attack would look like from a determined adversary,” Portnoy says, “we give them the tools to do that.” (Calabresi et al., 2014)

As far as one confirmed fear will take you, there is comfort in the fact that many computer vulnerabilities, malicious bugs, and computer worms exist, as part of the general landscape always will, for a hefty profit. As the author Chuck Palahniuk writes, men will be “slaves to the IKEA nesting instinct” (Kopal, 2009). Women will believe they are less than gorgeous beasts until they consume millions of dollars in beauty products to make them whole again. Kids will buy all the music they want knowing that they are what they like, not who they are based on personality, values, or behavior, found and maintained through authentic human interaction or genuine relationships with other people.

One can sleep soundly by taking a sedative of life, by truly not worrying over the thought that your online life is being exploited by some personal vendetta or a deeper need to defame your character. Those fears are for the people who buy and sell the glitches that get our data. It puts to bed all the paranoid claims that lie awake with you at night, toiling, wondering as you look up at the ceiling. To get out of this half make believe world made mostly of wires, one must find a green place, free from the dry desert you once thought was the barren lands. You must stop searching out there in the mirage and come home. Know you are part of the wasteland, and be thankful it’s not just all about you.

Related articles:

https://ourtrickstime.wordpress.com/2015/09/16/the-top-five-hacking-tool-of-2015/

https://dguiney.wordpress.com/2015/09/15/hacking-team-computer-vulnerabilities-and-the-nsa/

  References

Associated Press. 2010, Sep. 10. Mysterious Jellyfish Invade Walden Pond. Retrieved from

http://www.wbur.org/2010/09/10/mysterious-jellyfish

Calabresi, M., Frizzel, S., & Grossman, L. Jul. 21, 2014. The Code War. Time. 184(3), 18-25.

http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=96981364&site=eds-

live

Daley, Beth. 2010, Sep. 10. Mystery Blooms on Walden Pond. Retrieved from

http://www.boston.com/news/science/articles/2010/09/10/mystery_blooms_on_walden_pond/

Kopal, Indira. 2009, Oct. 19. Tyler Durden’s anti-consumerism quotes. Retrieved from

http://indranikopal.blogspot.com/2009/10/tyler-durdens-anti-consumerism-quotes.html

HTG Explains: Why Windows has the Most Viruses. 2015. Retrieved from

http://www.howtogeek.com/141944/htg-explains-why-windows-has-the-most-viruses/

code page 437

I think about some things in my life that have fallen away or entirely changed, and technology is certainly one of them. When I was in middle school, it was nearly the dark ages. I wrote my first research paper on the effects of smokeless tobacco. To gather research I went to the Northeastern University library at the Burlington, MA, campus. My mom and I would go together after school. She would drive me to the library. I would photocopy all my sources, then we would pile in the car, and head back home.

The resources I used are the brilliance of the caveman’s first paintings, well preserved as a record in time. The renderings of our ancestors that our recent relatives hang in the Smithsonian museum are not unlike the relics of my youth, which can likely still be found in any present-day library procured by modern-day librarians: books, encyclopedias, and microfiche.

To write back then I used a family computer that ran on MSDOS, with a black screen monitor that displayed orange letters in a font called code page 437 (“Code”). I printed out my final draft on a dot matrix printer. I think about the resources I used then and how much things have changed.

What was once a multi-venue, multi-resource process has been condensed down into something much more simple. At home I have my laptop, computer, and printer. I don’t need to go outside of my home, or outside my one device to gather research. I can simply go online. I go to google or use ebscoHost to research my papers. This convenience has eliminated time and money and has liquidated the process of research into something effortless. I simply think of what I need, point and click, and I’ve got what I need. Writing and research is simply a whim at my fingertips.

When I think about Steve Jobs, initially I remember my first Apple technologies. The day was dawning. The first laptop I ever owned was an iMac laptop and iPod I got as Christmas presents. I used the iTunes application on my computer to upload songs to my iPod, which allowed me to listen to music in my car or on headphones while running. I think about Steve Jobs and I think about the technology, as I should. They weren’t necessarily interchangeable but in my mind they go hand in hand. Jobs was the keynote speaker for new Apple products. The procession congeals the Apple computer in a kind of sentience with Jobs that I think will remain in my heart for a long time, in his memory.

I do not know how these technologies would have formed in a different world. In a parallel universe these products may have originated on a different timeline or found their success from different makers. Had it been served on a plate with a glass of cold milk and chocolate chip cookies, I would have attributed its creation to Santa Claus, but it did not come about this way. Steve Jobs is credited with much of the commercial success of the Apple product line. His ability to speak and develop excitement has generated sales and success and as a result he has won countless awards.

Steve Jobs’ interest in typography directly contributed to the inclusion of type set design and writer’s applications, including MacWrite and MacPaint in some of the first Mac computers (Peterson).  His love of calligraphy and the study of the formation of letters in different fonts, with proper proportion and spacing, fascinated Jobs (The Apple History Channel). His inclusion of writing and research tools in his computer designs helped facilitate the revolution of the research and writing process.

After Steve Jobs was fired from Apple, he founded NeXT in 1985. NeXT introduced the first NeXT Computer in 1988, and the smaller NeXTstation in 1990. The NeXT computers experienced relatively limited sales, with estimates of about 50,000 units shipped in total. Nevertheless, its innovative object-oriented NeXTSTEP operating system and development environment were highly influential (“NeXT”).

The Next computer used the first graphical user interface and dynamic page generation design. The systems also came with a number of smaller built-in applications such as the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Oxford Quotations, the complete works of William Shakespeare, and the Digital Librarian search engine to access them. The NeXT computer was used to create the internet, where, in 1990, Tim Berners-Lee used Next to construct the first web browser and web server. (“NeXT”)

Jobs started Next and Pixar, which made the first computer animated film, Toy Story (“NeXT”). Pixar is the most successful computer animation studio ever (“NeXT”). Apple bought Next and they use their ideas for apple technology renaissance (“NeXT”).

Apple started focusing on integrated software for personal devices like cameras, camcorders, and PDAs. This was known as the Digital Hub Strategy; where, different devices and media link together sharing data and common functions. This worked really well for everything on the market except for digital music players. The devices were clunky and had pretty bad user interfaces, so to fix the problem Steve Jobs had the Apple engineers design a new music player, the iPod. The iPod came out in 2001 (“Apple Press”).

With its essential integrated software counterpart, iTunes, it was the product game changer that Apple needed to surpass its competition. The iPod once again showed Steve Jobs’ design values. It was clean, white, simple and elegant. It also introduced a mobile device user interface to the industry. This was the stepping stone to the next product that would again change the world of design. (Peterson)

Steve Jobs revolutionized the way that people use technology to access and learn about new music. What was once walkmen: cassette players and CD players tethered to the ears by headphones were static resources that could play one album at a time. IPods allowed a user interface to find new music. ITunes recommended new music with their predictive algorithms. With an iPod one could store an entire library of music with thousands of songs, as opposed to one album. On February 12, 2012, Jobs was posthumously awarded the Grammy Trustees Award, an award for those who have influenced the music industry in areas unrelated to performance (“Steve Jobs”).

In January 2007, the clean, sleek, simple, and elegant iPhone was introduced to the world. Not only did the iPhone (and 3 years later the iPad) jumpstart a whole new industry standard, Apple again, opened another new media platform for design professionals known as Mobile App Design (Peterson). Steve Jobs’ designs have inspired the way the media works. Most people can access news headlines from the likes of CNN, New York Times, BBC, with mobile applications. This has transformed news ratings systems from a TV platform to an individual window that anyone with an iPhone, smartphone, or other personal device can use.

Jobs was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Ronald Reagan in 1985, with Wozniak (among the first people to ever receive the honor), and a Jefferson Award for Public Service in the category “Greatest Public Service by an Individual 35 Years or Under” (also known as the Samuel S. Beard Award) in 1987. On November 27, 2007, Jobs was named the most powerful person in business by Fortune magazine. (“Steve Jobs”)

In August 2009, Jobs was selected as the most admired entrepreneur among teenagers in a survey by Junior Achievement, having previously been named Entrepreneur of the Decade 20 years earlier in 1989, by Inc. magazine. On November 5, 2009, Jobs was named the CEO of the decade by Fortune magazine (“Steve Jobs”).

In November 2010, Jobs was ranked No.17 on Forbes: The World’s Most Powerful People (“Steve Jobs”). In January 2012, when young adults (ages 16 – 25) were asked to identify the greatest innovator of all time, Steve Jobs placed second behind Thomas Edison (“Steve Jobs”).

In March 2012, global business magazine Fortune named Steve Jobs the “greatest entrepreneur of our time”, describing him as “brilliant, visionary, inspiring”, and “the quintessential entrepreneur of our generation” (“Steve Jobs”).

Two films, Disney’s John Carter and Pixar’s Brave, are dedicated to Jobs. Steve Jobs was posthumously inducted as a Disney Legend on August 10, 2013 (“Steve Jobs”).

There is no question these awards and accolades have only scratched the surface of the legacy of Steve Jobs. Jobs was a man, and stands as a testament to the obelisks that the primates have encircled and made entirely their own. It is the discovery of fire that our Cro-Magnon forefathers came upon perhaps by chance, inevitably to find warmth. Sometimes people don’t criticize what they can’t understand, such as the brilliant engineer Steve Jobs. Who could fault him? He was brilliant. But the salesman Steve Jobs has been accused of so many crimes.

There’s hardly a cliche in the leftist lexicon liberals couldn’t have applied to Jobs and his customers: commodity fetishism, false consciousness, objectification and alienation, manufactured wants, the marketing of desire, and, most obviously, planned obsolescence. This last is the hoary charge from mid-century that American businessmen designed a product so it would soon be superseded by a similar product, compelling consumers to buy, buy, buy (Ferguson).

There is something that aligns perfectly with a formula that is inherent in us all. I am still trying to extrapolate. The variables are comprised of the American dream, entrepreneurship, and the capturing of what people all wish they had: tons of money. There is no question in my mind that Steve Jobs is the world’s greatest capitalist, yet to be toppled by the next big thing. The remains of this insight help me to step from this dark precipice to determine what many hold as a symbol of greatness, when, in essence, we have been enculturated to know this greatness is inside us all. To understand the idea of Steve Jobs, or any cult of personality that we might think is great, is to understand our own flawed notions of greatness.

In season three of Community, the community college study group is fiercely recruited by Glee club director Mr. Rad, played by Taran Killam, who, after losing the original members to a collective mental breakdown, preys on the group. “Glee, it’s like a drug that you use that turns pain into shoes and your shoes into dance” (“Baby Boomer”). The hypnotic song master croons to an unsuspecting target. Abed, played by Dani Pudi, sings, “Glee is what’ll spread to my friends like a virus that sends them to a healthier place” (“Baby Boomer”).  The infected members of the study group infect others and double their efforts, eventually forming a complete glee club that will supposedly go on to perform at regionals.

After Abed infects his best friend Troy, played by Donald Glover, they turn Pierce Hawthorne, played by Chevy Chase. Pierce, an aging baby boomer, is particularly vulnerable due to his demographic’s “well-documented, historical vanity” (“Baby Boomer”).

“You, Pierce? Your generation invented music” (“Baby Boomer”). Pierce responds, “I don’t know about invented; perfected maybe” (“Baby Boomer”). The ensuing anthem heralds Santa, having been part of Pierce’s peer group, who “fought at Woodstock and Vietnam, smoked a ton of acid and burned his bra” (“Baby Boomer”). The song credits Santa with the advent of “Spielberg and microchips” (“Baby Boomer”). Santa “invented Coca Cola and aerobics” (“Baby Boomer”). “He made the iron curtain and the Gremlins, too, fake butter and AIDS, and Twin Peaks” (“Baby Boomer”).

Pierce cuts in, singing, “You’re welcome for everything in the world. I’m Baby Boomer Santa, I bring the gift of the world” (“Baby Boomer”).

The remaining uninfected of the study group back out of the study room together, shaking their heads, promising each other it will never happen to them. They all became infected in the coming days, all succumbing to Glee.

Glee in this analogy is the hype that surrounds anything, the social distortion that echoes around something huge, the sequel trilogy to the Star Wars movies. They weren’t that great. I still love IV, V, and VI the best. They all have this place in my heart that will not be tarnished by the ensuing onslaught of the prequels. The first of the post-quels, Star Wars VII, is something I am eagerly anticipating, coming December 2015. It’s supposed to be great: “more practical effects, less CGI; captured on film, not digitally; and it will feel more authentic” (Mentel). It will have to be better than the prequels, in my hope of hopes.

In addition to the hype of inevitably bad movies, I think of incumbency as another useful marketing tool. “The percentage of incumbents who win reelection after seeking it in the U.S. House of Representatives has been over 80% for more than 50 years, and is often over 90%” (“The Power”). If he’s been in office for one term, what would another term hurt? The devil we know is safer than the devil we don’t. And that devil continues on to a lack luster second term, occupying space instead of breaking records or blowing our minds. “True, things can definitely get out of control when frothy-mouthed marketers promise life-changing miracles to get all of us to take notice” (Stapleton).

Regardless of the bad movies, there have been some great ones. And of the presidents we hold up as the top five, there are always some that we have marked off that list. But there will always be something else, something more that we have not seen or cannot see, not without the hype that extends to the world hope in the form of something we wish upon that grants us more wishes until we have witnessed something grander than all our expectations. And the fact that we saw it happen means that we all were there and we were a part of it. And it will be held up in the annals of time as something historical, important beyond words can comprehend.

Related articles:

http://blog.paris.id.au/2015/05/22/the-reality-distortion-field-has-never-been-so-strong/

http://daringfireball.net/2015/04/the_apple_watch

References

“Apple Press Info.” Apple. Apple Inc., 2015. Web. 9 February 2015.

https://www.apple.com/pr/products/ipodhistory/.

“Baby Boomer Santa.” Wikia. Wikia, n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. http://community-

sitcom.wikia.com/wiki/Baby_Boomer_Santa.

“Code page 437.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 7 January 2015. Web. 9 February

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_page_437.

Ferguson, Andrew. “The Steve Jobs Snow Job.” Commentary 132.5 (2011): 80. Print.

Mentel, Thomas. “8 Reasons Why Star Wars VII is Destined to Please.” The Cheat Sheet. The

Cheat Sheet, 10 Nov. 2013. Web 22 Feb. 2015. http://wallstcheatsheet.com/stocks/8-reasons-why-star-wars-episode-vii-is-destined-to-please.html/?a=viewall.

“Next.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 23 January 2015. Web. 9 February 2015.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NeXT.

Peterson, Vicki. “How Steve Jobs Influenced the Modern World of Digital Design.” Symantec.

Symantec Corporation, 8 February 2013. Web. 9 February 2015.

http://www.symantec.com/connect/blogs/how-steve-jobs-influenced-modern-world-digital-design.

Stapleton, Dan. “Opinion: Hype Isn’t Always A Bad Thing – Hype Is Hope.” IGN. IGN Games

Newsletter, 30 Jan. 2015. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. http://www.ign.com/articles/2015/01/31/opinion-hype-isnt-always-a-bad-thing-hype-is-hope.

“Steve Jobs.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 9 February 2015. Web. 9 February 2015.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Jobs#Honors_and_public_recognition.

The Apple History Channel. “Steve Jobs Commencement Speech 2005.” Youtube. Youtube, 6

March 2006. Web. 9 February 2015.

“The Power of Incumbency.” Boundless Political Science. Boundless, 02 Jul. 2014. Web. 22

Feb. 2015. https://www.boundless.com/political-science/textbooks/boundless-political-science-textbook/congress-11/congressional-elections-81/the-power-of-incumbency-446-1638/.

my favorite batman

I always used to think Michael Keaton was my favorite, but now I think Abed from the TV show Community is first. It’s just the limitations of him that I love, he’ll not save you from much, except for the delusion that any of us could be batman, anyone at all.

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lawyerisms

When I think of lawyers, I remember I do not know any personally, but I have seen them played on TV. One of my favorite shows is Community. Jeff Winger, played by Joel McHale, is a lawyer. His motto: “I discovered at a very early age that if I talked long enough I could make anything wrong or right. So either I’m God, or truth is relative. In either case BOOYAH” (“Winger Speeches”)! In his first speech, Winger exhibits his skills to diplomatically end conflict among members of his study group.

“ALRIGHT EVERYBODY!!! I want to say something, sit down.”— Jeff

“You don’t have to yell, I don’t appreciate your tone.”— Shirley

“You know what makes humans different from other animals?”— Jeff

“Feet.”— Troy

“No, come on bears have feet”— Pierce

“We are the only species on Earth that observe “Shark Week”. Sharks don’t even observe “Shark Week” but we do. For the same reason I can pick up this pencil, tell you its name is Steve and go like this (breaks pencil), and part of you dies just a little bit on the inside, because people can connect with anything. We can sympathize with a pencil, we can forgive a shark, and we can give Ben Affleck an Academy Award for Screenwriting.”— Jeff

“Big mistake.”— Pierce (“Winger Speeches”)

               When I think of lawyers, I don’t think of anyone in particular, no one real, anyway, but rather an impression of one I have seen on TV, something that runs like a little loop on repeat, something that always plays itself out time and time again as a reminder of that universal truth that reveals something bigger than what a TV show could do. A lawyer’s talent is a professional manipulation of words to create meaningful outcomes for the purpose of winning court cases and earning money. According to Forbes magazine, the best way for a lawyer to do well is to earn money through four strategies:

  1. Become an industry thought leader. If you want to have a very substantial and profitable career as a lawyer you will probably need to create a meaningful pipeline of new engagements.
  2. Strategically network with key referral sources. As part of becoming an industry thought leader, you’re communicating your expertise to existing and potential referral sources.
  3. Proactively manage existing relationships. Because of the characteristics of legal services coupled with your desire to be paid (and paid well), it’s wise to make the effort to adroitly manage client relationships.
  4. Master Millionaire Intelligence. For example, by employing the negotiation strategies of Millionaire Intelligence, you can be referred to clients on a consistent basis from other types of professionals without having to send them clients.
  5. For most lawyers the way to earn substantial monies is by being a rainmaker. Bringing in business usually trumps everything else when it comes time to set salaries and collect bonuses. By skillfully applying these four approaches, you can indeed crate a steady stream of highly satisfied clients (and a great deal of money). (Russ and Prince)

The lawyer’s ethics code is in direct conflict with his main goal. Making money is not an ethical guideline. When it comes to a man’s livelihood, survival, success, and greed are lines that have blurred to mean the same thing. “You want to earn as much as possible while maintaining the highest ethical standards” reads more like: make it obvious to no one that you’re trying to make as much money as you possibly can; just pretend like you’re asleep (Russ and Prince). Moreover, the lawyer’s creed must fall in line with strict regulations imposed by the Supreme Court. How does one obey the law and still make money? The rules have been bared out in court as sidelined efforts of corruption. Historically, the high court has enforced guidelines after the fact as the real players make money any way they know how: with flagrant disregard of or while trying to rewrite the rules.

The purpose of legal advertising is to maintain profitability in the legal profession. The foundation of success in any business is having a steady stream of clients who will buy a product.  Same goes for lawyers, who need plaintiffs for whom they can make a case and defend in court. The Supreme Court’s ruling that commercial speech is protected under the First Amendment allows lawyers to publish TV ads for the purpose of attracting interest.

The consumption of lawyer ads is as simple as turning off the television, and yet there is no question television is a powerful medium.

In a decision upholding rules requiring television advertising for legal services to be predominantly informational, the Supreme Court of New Jersey stated, “As the record before us and the general literature abundantly prove, the emotional impact of television advertising, in its ability to persuade subliminally, through symbols, music, drama, authority figures — the entire host of emotive non-rational techniques — far exceeds that of the print media and radio.” (“Lawyer Advertising”)

Nevertheless, television advertising is still within the control of the consumer. In this respect, the Supreme Court analysis set out in the Shapero case which distinguishes direct, targeted mail from in-person solicitation, seems applicable to television. The threat of overreaching inherent in face-to-face solicitation is not present when the consumer may avoid the message by merely averting his or her attention. (“Lawyer Advertising”)

We may change the channel, try and look away, and yet life is funny.  There is a need for government intervention when legal ads are in direct conflict with current laws, including the protections of commercial speech by the First Amendment, except in cases where advertising does something other than solicit basic services. For example, government intervention has been helpful in cases of story-telling, inflated promises for large payouts, or downright ridiculousness.

For instance, one Syracuse, New York lawyer had to go to federal court to protect his constitutional right to be ridiculous. Greg Beck of Public Citizen said, “We represented a, a firm who had a variety of ads that were supposed to be funny and entertaining, including ads that sort of made the lawyers look like they were giants stomping around the city of Syracuse and, for example, advising space aliens on personal injury claims.”

Bob Garfield said, “Sounds like a Japanese movie from 1962.”

“They were kind of funny,” Beck said. “They were silly. The bar does not like silliness, though. And it made clear that silly kind of ads are, are the source of ads that the rule was supposed to prohibit.” (Garfield)

The Boston-based James Sokolove is a lawyer who began publishing ads through print media and later in television. His commercials initially drew disdain by peers, but eventually generated a billion dollar profit (Garfield). Sokolove serves as a successful business model that generates millions for large conglomerates (Garfield). Advertisers such as The Relion Group use an independent role of actors to represent lawyers in commercials and later sell the referrals to off-camera litigators (Garfield). The Relion Group, a subsidiary of Lead Generation Technologies, funded by the Carlyle Group, doesn’t itself employ any lawyers (Garfield). The risk of damaging a lawyer’s reputation by appearing in an ad is too great. It would make him seem greedy, opportunistic, and turn the upper lip of potential clients.

In 1977, the profession experienced a seismic change in the genesis of lawyer advertising. Just one year after the Supreme Court established that the First Amendment protected commercial speech, state regulation of attorney advertising received national scrutiny in the Court’s landmark decision in Bates v. State Bar of Arizona. In short, the Court held that the First Amendment protected truthful advertising for routine legal services. In ruling that advertising by attorneys was a form of commercial speech protected by the First Amendment, the Court issued a clear caveat: it did not hold that advertising may not be regulated in any manner. In fact, the court delineated some of the permissible limitations on advertising: advertising that is false, deceptive, or misleading is subject to prior restraint. (Hyland)

What Bates v. Arizona did not do was maintain regulation on other forms of lawyer solicitation. Shortly after Bates, an ABA Journal-sponsored law poll reported more lawyers were inclined to solicit cases than were likely to advertise. The issue, however, was decided the next year by companion cases In re Primus, 436 U.S. 412 (1978) and Ohralik v. Ohio State Bar Association, 436 U.S. 447 (1978). The Court held that in-person solicitation for pecuniary gain was subject to regulation as an important state interest. The “potential for overreaching is significantly greater when a lawyer, a professional trained in the art of persuasion, personally solicits an unsophisticated, injured or distressed person.” (“Lawyer Advertising”)

Legal solicitation can come from seemingly out of the blue, and it’s no surprise they often go unnoticed by disciplinary boards. “After the horrific crash of a Northwest airplane in Detroit, a man posing as a priest talked to the families of victims at the crash site. The “priest” also handed out the business card of a Florida attorney” (Hyland). Where some courts have determined this behavior to invade privacy and cause harm to victims, there are acts that slip past regulation.

McHenry, an attorney who sent letters to prospective personal injury victims, sued the Florida state bar for its decision that prohibited attorneys from soliciting personal injury and wrongful death clients “unless the accident or disaster occurred more than thirty days prior to the mailing of the communication” (Hyland).  The thirty-day ban on legal advertising directed at victims of recent accidents or injury protected victims of recent personal injury or death from invasion of privacy. The court found that the emotional state inhibits their ability to “evaluate direct-mail advertising from an attorney” (Hyland). “The Eleventh Circuit concluded, however, that neither interest was substantial enough to justify the ban” (Hyland).

Lawyers can mislead and use the system to their benefit, especially when using legal speak to mislead potential clients. In the case of Zauderer v. Disciplinary Counsel, lawyers were advertising that plaintiffs would be refunded all legal fees if there was no recovery (“Zauderer”). The Court stated that laymen would not be aware of the distinctions between “fees” and “costs” and could easily conclude that there would be no financial obligation (“Zauderer”). The Court concluded that the “assumption that substantial numbers of potential clients would be so misled is hardly a speculative one” (“Zauderer”).  Lawyers actively mislead potential clients by using legal jargon; their potential victims require protection by regulation.

Sometimes, if I think of laws as chains, there is a better case for it. In defiance of chains, some people keep trying to break free. In the case of lawyers, they can simply make money with inherent disregard of the chains. Abraham Lincoln, in his famous advice to the young man aspiring to the bar said that he should resolve to be an honest lawyer, and that if he could not do that, he should resolve to be honest and not to be a lawyer (Basler).  Perhaps criminal behavior is more universal than I first thought.

In an age where the law can prevent and enable lawyers from the success-money-greed paradigm, the lawyer must continue. He must figure out what he will do to survive. The law, as its edge turns, may hinder or help him. As he fights on, the cycle of the law is unending. This world curls like it would from the edge of a hamster wheel, the same as the edge of the Earth, only from it he can always see the edge of the horizon coming up quicker with each step. The decaying orbit of planets circles farther or closer away from the dream, the promise, the faint hope. The little guy keeps running on, not realizing that it’s never ending, a constant, daily struggle to be free.

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References

Basler, Roy P., et al. “Abraham Lincoln’s Notes for a Law Lecture.” Abraham Lincoln Online. Abraham Lincoln Online, 2015. Web. 8 February 2015. http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/lawlect.htm.

Garfield, Bob. “The Upside of Legal Advertising.” Onthemedia.org. WNYC, 16 September 2011. Web. 26 January 2015. http://www.onthemedia.org/story/159134-upside-legal-advertising/transcript/.

Hyland Jr., William G. “Attorney advertising and the decline of the legal Profession.” Journal of the Legal Profession. 35.1 (2011): 339-383. Print.

“Lawyer Advertising and Solicitation Chapter from Lawyer Advertising at the Crossroads.” American Bar. American Bar Association, 2015. Web. 8 February 2015. http://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/resources/professionalism/crossroads.html.

Neville, Alan. “Community Season 1.flv.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 16 March 2012. Web. 8 February 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kyG0hV6H7Y.

Prince, Russ Alan and Rogers, Bruce. “How Lawyers Can Dramatically Boost their Incomes.” Forbes.com. Forbes. Web, 14 September 2012. Web 8 February 2015. http://www.forbes.com/sites/russprince/2012/09/14/how-lawyers-can-dramatically-boost-their-incomes/.

“Winger Speeches.”  Wikia. WikiaTV, n.d. Web. 8 February 2015. http://community-sitcom.wikia.com/wiki/Winger_speeches.

“Zauderer v. Disciplinary Counsel.” Justia. Justia, 2015. Web. 8 February 2015.https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/471/626/.

I can’t get no.

Today’s topic on the Diane Rehm show is satisficing. The term is a mashup of two words: satisfy + suffice = satisfice. This is how people make decisions. People make a quick choice and stick with what works. The example they discuss is how when you need dry cleaning you don’t sample every option and test which place works best with wool, silk, or linen. The list of how to begin is not exhaustive, it’s simply the first one that you heard of or the one right down the street from where you live.

It reminds me of how when I’m looking for coffee I go to Starbucks. Not because it’s the most glamorous option, but rather in spite of the cost, I get a consistent cup of coffee every time. In my case it’s a pumpkin spice Frappucino. Granted I could have gone someplace else and not have paid six dollars for an exciting jolt of caffeine. I could have gone to a local store and picked up a drink and a pound of beans, as I’ve run out at home. Maybe I’ll do that the next time I satisfice.

Vorticism

Until I watched the movie Blazing Saddles as an adult I never realized that I enjoy the ending the best. It’s a spaghetti Western that pokes fun at gender, race, and politics. Oh yeah, it’s got fart jokes, too, which before I get too far in I also recall something about the banality of old film. Having watched it recently in mixed company, I realize this may very well be the best last film made for men. Our little watching group wondered who would star in the remake. Would Amy Schumer play Madeline Kahn’s part? Maybe Dave Chapelle could be beckoned back to play the sheriff. We lingered for a minute at best, declaring that no one would ever be caught dead doing a remake of Blazing Saddles because it just couldn’t be done today. Too much tension. Too many waves. All fart jokes aside, certain things don’t translate well into the parlance of our time.

Within the final twenty minutes of the film, the camera pans out past the Western sun to reveal the Hollywood studios in which the sets were built and scenes were filmed. One of the final cowboy fight scenes interrupts Dom Deluise directing dancers on a closed set, where tuxedoed men show down against dudes in bandanas and chaps. Then the mob blows through the actor’s cafeteria, where everyone ends up pie-faced. The meta feel was just right on. I had begun to get the feeling they were making an actual movie there. Boy was I wrong.

I forget so much of life is not just one thing. It’s the many things we cannot see now that must awaken in us hope, a less pointed movement to the disappearing headline. I love the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album. Recently thumbing through an online discography, I realized there are many repeated songs in slightly differently performed ways. Over half of their albums have mono and stereo versions of the same tune, or digitally remastered versions set to entirely new albums. I came across the Smile Sessions boxed set, where there are 24 different tracks of Good Vibrations and 38 songs titled Heroes and Villains in varying takes and remixes. In Holland remastered, California Song comes in three versions: Big Sur, the Beaks of Eagles, California. Pied Piper appears twice in different lengths, one at 2 minutes 20 twenty seconds, the other at 2 minutes 9 seconds. This is the land of new technology, at best offering version 2.0 of the same thing you bought last year. At worst it lets the nerds discuss, degree by degree, permutations of their specifically turning desires.

I like the repeated versions, the slightly similar embodiments of creativity drafted out into the finished product. It says more about the way people can attribute a mood or feeling to something so trivial as the presence of a triangle ding or the extra three measures at the end of a verse, or how through so much effort we see simply some different rendition of our own preferences.

It also speaks to a larger narrative of how our own internal rhythms are staged and performed over and over, throughout our lives, which makes me think about family movies on old-fashioned 8mm movie projectors. They are a nearly extinct medium played on a reel that burns a little bit of the end frames. The stopping is so hard against the light, if you simply set a frame of film down on the bulb within seconds it sets fire. I burn a bit in the process of finding my younger self. I forget it’s me out there, it’s me every time. I may be taking something for granted. Or maybe it’s not this, not what I can see from this perspective.

The convenience of today is not so much in the hardware, but the software. A ton of the data from websites and online businesses are plucked from a cloud. Floppy discs are obsolete. Items with no digital interface that cannot be shared or distributed over social media have less value until they are scanned and uploaded into the web. One’s cell phone provides the clearest view of a captured sense of something and its feeling therein. Many ways of looking at things, old photographs on 35 mm film, are oddly unappealing, and I say this because we are re-appropriating the way we see things. If other people do not see it, it doesn’t exist. It is giving more credence to the term if a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound? It does not until it creates an electrical impulse inside the human ear.

Things that are not witnessed by many people do not make an impact. They are not what you can most easily see with anymore, and by you, I mean the royal you. On the TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Borgs were part computer, part human. They assimilated everyone they came into contact with, except for Picard, as he kept some of his human memories inside of him, which helped hoist himself free from the ice block of the collective unconscious. I wouldn’t go so far to say that our Facebook accounts are us, but maybe it’s the closest thing to this sentiment that I can find right now.

I often forget to look up, up and away and distract myself from this. I often forget about the meaning of things, to look out and away from the face of something close up and just look away so that the things in the background are in focus. When I was in kindergarten I used to count the grades I had until I would be done with public school. I recall how impossible it seemed to get through twelve more years of suffering. I always try to think of life this way, a series of suffering years one must endure to get to the good times, and then I remember to look at things from far off, breathe, step out of the vortex.