Archive for the 'Truth in Fiction' Category

>Changing the Purpose of Commercials

>It’s been quite a while since my last post, but never fear! During my hiatus, I have been exploring ways to travel from where we are to where we need to be—as a culture, as a country, etc. The biggest problem that is weighing on everyone’s mind is the problem of the economy. Some of us propose drastic measures, and some of us have simply given up. Unfortunately, most of us don’t see any path the individual can take that will make a difference. We hope the experts and government officials will come up with something.

This country had long been supported by the work of individuals in small businesses. Then the industrial age brought us the factory, and many people bought into the idea of a weekly paycheck—trading time for dollars. Of course, things changed again. Now there isn’t much growth in time-for-dollar jobs, and there is stiff competition from other countries whose economic situations have them in a desperate enough situation that they can underbid almost all American labor.

With soaring unemployment, more and more people are sitting at home, vegging out on TV. Technology makes it easy for us to entertain our brains so we don’t have to think about the mess we’re in. However, these financially-strapped, debt-laden couch potatoes aren’t the ideal demographic for TV commercials. Those that don’t ignore the ads altogether can’t afford to buy anything anyway, and they can’t afford any more debt either. The consequence of this is that the value of the TV market block is falling. As it falls the revenue for creating shows also falls, and the quality of said shows suffers.

What I have discovered (and I apologize for what sounds like a shameless sales-pitch) is a website called Varolo (learn more and join our “village” here). This site is founded on the very same principles that I have been discussing over the past year on this blog. In essence, it is the embodiment of the first phase of FITmedia’s vision of a media shift. It has the potential to sever the connection between TV commercials and TV shows.

Varolo is a completely free service that allows anyone aged 13 and above to earn a portion of the money its advertisers pay, simply by watching an average of 10 minutes of commercials a day and inviting others to do the same. This is similar to network marketing, except you watch ads instead of buying products. When you watch the introduction video, you will begin to see how this service could attract a lot of advertising money away from traditional ad-driven television.

Initially, this will hurt the old-school networks, and they will be forced to adopt pay-per-view and subscription-based services to stay afloat. The upside is that with ad dollars being returned to individuals—according to Varolo’s moderately lucrative plan—there will be more money for people to spend on entertainment. AND people will likely only spend money on shows or channels that they actually care about, which will increase the quality of the shows the networks choose to air.

It is therefore possible for a well-organized tribe of media geeks to use money earned from Varolo (and other companies that will likely follow suit) to generate capital that they can use to develop high-quality media to fill this need. In other words, überfans of a given TV show (or TV show idea) have a chance to become the mediators between advertising interests and the artistic expression of content creators.

The TV Revolution is beginning…

>Emergency Leadership

>As with anything, the topic of leadership can be split and subdivided any any number of ways, but if we look at the multitude of environments which catalyze leaders, there are basically two types of leadership. The first, is emergency leadership, and the second is—drum roll please!—non-emergency leadership.

Emergency leadership is whenever a person stands up in the face of disaster and says, “Let’s do this.” I use the word “disaster” loosely here because the most obvious examples—in news media and fiction, say—are disasters. Whenever there is an earthquake, a flood, a fire, a plane crash, a train crash, a terrorist bomb, etc, certain people stand up and say, “Let’s roll!” However, less public examples include late bills, traffic jams, broken copy machines, and marital spats.

Emergency leadership so often takes center stage in media because, for one, leadership of any kind is rare, and two, fixing a disaster looks so heroic. Tales of heroism have long been an important mainstay to the storytelling tradition. Stories of disaster and the brave men and women who led the people out of the darkness are as easy to relate for the teller as they are to envision by the listener. And they pass along portable lessons which are inspirational and valuable in less obvious crises. trouble with focusing solely on emergencies, as mainstream media tends to do, is that it teaches to—and therefore re-enforces—a reactionary paradigm. Many, if not most, emergencies are the result of too little proactive leadership—or non-emergency leadership. As Stephen Covey says in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” most people focus on tasks that are “urgent”—whether or not they are important.

Proactive leadership is preventative maintenance. Many of the tasks performed are not heroic or glamorous, even though they are important.

In their quest for success, many ambitious people fall short of their potential because they seek the recognition that comes with heroically putting out fires. While putting out fires is certainly important, fires (even figurative ones) cause permanent damage which stunts growth long-term. Fires also take more time and energy to put out than sparks, and so reactionary leaders tend to waste valuable resources needed to prevent fires in the first place.

Despite popular opinion, the problem is not caused solely by “greedy hotrods.” Many people simply lack the mental ability to recognize tasks that are important, but not urgent. It’s not that they are stupid, just unlearned. Abstract concepts start with concrete examples, which is why stories of emergency leadership is so pervasive. It is important to grab a hold of an example, such as Jack Shepherd, from my favorite TV show, LOST.

Being a doctor, he reacted to the plane crash with the use of his expertise, and gained the position of leader, even though he didn’t want it. However, his reactionary style continued long after the crash, when the survivors had settled into a sort of lifestyle—or “normalcy.” Jack goes on to orchestrate acts of defiance against the other people on the Island who presented themselves as a threat. he eventually learns to bide his time, he never really learns to be proactive. Interestingly, it is Sawyer, the “bad boy” of the survivors’ camp who goes on to learn about being proactive. In a memorable scene, he tells Jack about Winston Churchill, who he says “read a book every night, even during the Blitz.” His point is not far from Covey’s 7th Habit, “Sharpening the Saw.” Or in other words, preparing for the unknown.

Once you understand the principles behind the first type of leadership, it is important to dig deeper in order to get better at preventing the disasters that are within your area of influence. Once the disaster is over, the war brought to peace, and the fires put out, it is imperative to understand what went wrong so we can change our habits before they lead to another disaster. In so doing, we save a lot of time, energy, and even lives.

>The Truth About TRUTH

>When speaking about the concept of truth, it is important for an audience to understand what that word refers to. In my mind, there are two distinct concepts embedded in that word.

The first is somewhat adequately defined as “facts.” The truth (lowercase “t”) is a collection of general information about something real and quantifiable. Science seeks the “truth” about or universe through objective, empirical study. It collects and chronicles present and past instances of real events in support of a general theory of the parts’ connection to each other.

The Truth (capital “T”), however, is not to be confused with his general theory, which is—after all—only a theory. The Truth is maddening to logicians and intellectuals because, by its nature, it can never be completely known or captured at any instance. It appears fluid because it has a broad application. In reality, it exists as unshakeably as the laws of physics.

Of course, religions claim exclusive ownership of Truth. Also, in many cases, nations or peoples claim this ownership. Even organizations (from legitimate to criminal) claim this ownership before their constituents. Indeed (and ironically), much blood has been and continues to be shed over the ownership of Truth. Yet Truth is bigger than religion, government, and the marketplace, the first informing the others. No man gets to decide what “Truth” is, only what “truth” is.

Throughout human civilization, those in power have sought to do a number of things using the Truth as a means to an end. Some seek to enlighten by attempting to expose the Truth, but the masses habitually remain focused only on what they can see. Others seek to control the masses by propagating a singular view of the Truth. No matter how monstrous or angelic the plan, the goal is nearly always to make the world a better place. The question is, better for whom?

There are two poles to the use of Truth as a catalyst for a better world. The first entails Truth being taught through a broad discussion, as with the Liberal Arts. People study the greatest ideas from all of human history in order to seek for themselves the best understanding of Truth. The other entails a scholar or “expert” building his own understanding (faulty or true) into a singular edifice for the masses.

The result is that only those willing to dive into the Liberal Arts ever acquire true perspective. Everyone else is encouraged to take the expert’s word for it. However, the expert is not you, does not share your problems or passions, and ultimately cannot help you like you can when you have perspective. And so, people make do, and fail. Instead of making the difficult dive into the Arts, they latch onto a truth—that is, a prepackaged way of being—that most resembles their current lifestyle.

It’s not that people don’t believe in Truth, it’s that they don’t want to believe. Truth is obvious when it is simply laid out, but it may suggest the need for a change in lifestyle for many people. Since this can be painful, and since suffering is not in keeping with a better world, those with the means tend to deliver “solutions” to ease the suffering.

As with physical training, there are ways to work up to the heavy material. However, no fitness coach would be worth his salt if he helped you avoid “the burn”! And no FITness coach would be either if he let get by on half-baked ideas!

>Only the Good Die Young

>I've recently been watching (and studying) several cancelled television shows. For the purpose of this post, I don't need to go into which ones, but suffice it to say that they carry strong ratings in online forums and databases. The question is: why do these highly regarded first and second seasons not warrant further development?

I think they do. Now, I know that I lack a full understanding of what happened in each case, and it is the purpose of this post to discuss the general reasons that these shows (or any worthy ventures) fail. In fact, to say they "fail" might be a misnomer—in some cases, they're killed.

Like a lot of mainstream media, broadcast and basic cable are largely funded by ads. Whenever ratings take a dip, someone loses money. I don't know if there is a standard for whose responsibility it is to lose said money, but there really are only two choices. Either, the network loses money if the advertisers pay for results (less eyeballs = less advertising), or the advertisers lose money if they pay for time (less eyeballs = less value per dollar).

Either way, a show with falling ratings represents a liability, rather than an asset. Therefore, the same rules that govern any investment govern television production as well. Network executives, whose job it is to grow the bottom line, are in a hurry to cut liabilities—often at the first sign of difficulty.

However, in any business venture, this behavior is short-sighted and destructive. Long-term assets create stability for an enterprise, however, they are not easily identified by short-term market response. Often, assets of long-term value either start out with little success or enjoy a good reception but then suffer a dip when the bubble created by marketing hype bursts.

This is because stories—those of unique people, products, and services or those of an artistic nature—are about more than easily quantifiable facts. Facts are easy to put together, but what makes a story compelling is how and why a certain combination of facts is important. No one becomes loyal to a list of bullet-points.

The only way to identify long-term assets is to consider the potential of a project, not just what currently exists. If the fan base (or customer base) is small for the first two years, that's not a sign that it's a failure, but a sign that more explanation is required. By that, of course, I don't mean more bullet points, but more depth.

It seems to me that any story which acquires even a small loyal fan base, has the potential to be valuable. In fact, this should be the clue to executives that the project needs to be promoted, rather than cancelled. It may not be a short term moneymaker, but building on existing loyalty with existing projects would save the company "startup" costs.

Traditional ratings don't measure (or don't care about) loyalty, just overall numbers. It may be that the number of overall viewers tends to indicate loyalty, but this sort of numbers view is too remote to accurately measure loyalty in all cases. For this reason, this system is hostile to art, which is unpredictable.

Because art is about breaking new ground, it is in art that value created. This is important not just for a media company's stability, but also to society as a whole. Unfortunately, art cannot be rushed, and too many people are afraid of losing their jobs over a bad call on risky artistic programming.

It's just too bad they don't realize that slow growth is never risky.

Jamie Klueck

>Portable Lessons

>I’ve used this phrase before when describing the importance of Truth in Fiction. However, by its very nature, a portable lesson is something that can be learned anywhere. When I first started studying success principles, I was like most people. I didn’t understand how one thing related to another. I laughed at the concept that business principles had anything to do with raising a family.

It is true that many businesses are run by tyrants whom we would never want to have as patriarch of a family, but it is also true that many families are run by tyrants whom you would never want as a boss. On the flip side, it is a reality that there are both families and organizations run by people of integrity. In both cases, the lessons of one are easily transferrable to the other. The lessons a father learns from raising his children apply to leading a team of people, and vice versa.

The reason this is true is that all people respond the same to basic principles, regardless of gimmicks, that’s why they are basic principles. Helping people identify these and pattern a life-habits after them is the very essence of the Liberal Arts, and why the study and discussion of them is such an important lost practice. Today’s management/positional leadership culture is all about the gimmicks and strategies of getting people to do what you want, how you want it, when you want it. However, people want respect, they want to feel appreciated for their contributions, they want the freedom to pursue things they feel are important, and they need the time and space to do it in.

This runs perfectly counter to the dictatorship paradigm most management schools teach, and so media creators developed “solutions” in the form of endless gimmicks, tricks, bribes, and work-arounds. Endless patches to the human psyche by way of propaganda have brought us to the place in time where we believe that tyranny is the path to success in business, while avoiding relationships at home, is the path to success. We actually believe that one organization is different from another. The adage “people are like snowflakes” is true enough, but organizations are all the same. If you can’t treat your son or daughter the way you treat your employees without repercussions, chances are you aren’t really escaping those problems at work either.

Hence, portable lessons. Because of our complex culture, many of us work in organizations where it is difficult to perceive the total impact of our actions. Short of restructuring the organization tomorrow to allow more interaction between levels in a massive hierarchy, the solution to this problem is to simply look to areas where the impact of human relations is more apparent, then port those lessons to the workplace to give you a better handle on developing your influence and likability. Short of having a solid relationship, turn to the classic books.

These portable lessons are few and timeless. There is something to be said for the techniques of your industry or organization (even if its a family), but without a deep understanding of connecting principles which lead to integrity, you’re doomed to make the same mistake in every single relationship you have in life—and that’s a waste.

>"Scott Pilgrim vs. The World"

>DISCLAIMER: This post contains references to events in both the movie and the books. I recommend reading and watching Scott Pilgrim before reading this post. All links are affiliate links. You have been warned.

I recently both read the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels and watched the movie. The similarities are stunning, but the differences seem pointlessly disappointing. Whenever someone tries to adapt a given medium into a movie, the tendency is to start off strong and a lot like the original, but then to take artistic license and totally change it at the end of the movie. I know part of this is shortening the story in order to fit in the new format, but filmmakers tend to use adaptation as a platform for creation. question is, is this a good thing or bad thing? On one hand, you’re creating a new medium for the fans of the original, but on the other hand, it’s a new medium for new fans. To what extent is it fair change the original story to fit a new medium for the sake of gaining new fans? Is it just that the old medium didn’t appeal to people who are now becoming fans of the new medium? Some people are just turned off by the concept of graphic novels (i.e.: comic books). Others dislike the time investment of any sort of novel, and are much more inclined to watch a movie which is easier and shorter. Even a graphic novel runs long (Scott Pilgrim in particular fills six books) compared to a movie which generally fits into two hours of screen time.

There are exceptions, of course. This is not to say that Scott Pilgrim is a classic in the same way, but if Peter Jackson had taken that much license with Lord of the Rings, fans of the original would’ve been appalled. What Tolkien fans were looking for was a visualized version of the amazing world that he created with words. The goal then was to fit Tolkien’s vision into a watchable screen format without losing its original spirit. Of course, the books had existed long enough to have enough fans to support a budget that gave the filmmakers enough screen time—4 to 5 hours per film—in order to make this a reality. Pilgrim, of course, doesn’t have nearly the fan base and so the question remains: why change the second half of the story so much from the original? The remarkable thing about this movie is that it so perfectly matches the graphic novel for about the first hour. After that point it starts making respectable cuts of scenes that arguably might have been unnecessary even in the novel. After some creative shuffling of the important plot points in the main body of the movie, the filmmakers made some choices that, I believe, diverged from the original story.

The most tragic thing about the movie is that the filmmakers and entirely missed the point of Nega-Scott. This concept isn’t even fully developed in the novels, but even though it was subtle, it seems to me that the author was trying to say how Scott forgot his mistakes because he ran away from his dark side. In either killing or fleeing from his dark side, Scott also avoided absorbing the lessons from the experience. In the novels, Scott’s training session with Kim leads him to eventually meld with Nega-Scott to become a whole person, capable of defeating Gideon and fixing his relationship with Ramona. In the movie, however, they seem to make a kind of flippant joke of the character.

All of this is not to say that the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, is not thoroughly enjoyable on its own merit. It just simply does not contain the same depth as the graphic novels.

Is it impossible to maintain the depth while condensing the story into 120 minutes, or is it just REALLY HARD to do? I don’t think it’s impossible, and if I’m right, then this hard work is where the value is created. Interestingly, this means that it is actually harder (and therefore more artistic) to do a great job of condensing the exact story, than it is to create a new story out of the old one.

A movie with this kind of condensed depth kicks you in chest—and leaves you wanting to know more. If you’re truly a new fan, you’ll go to the original material for more. There is no point in using an original story to create a disconnected movie that is easier to swallow than the original. Condensed means potent. If you want to create art, never fear scaring away those that can’t handle it.

>Ignorance, Confusion, Enlightenment

>[Reposted from]

A story is a process, whether we’re talking about the story of our lives or the story of our characters’ lives. We begin with a simplistic view. We are ignorant of anything outside our perspective. As we accumulate knowledge and experiences, our eyes are opened to the complexity of the world. Complexity leads to confusion because we don’t yet possess the wisdom to understand the connections between the tangible elements of our story. As we gain wisdom, the complexity becomes simplified again and we become enlightened.

If you think about it, this arc applies to everything wherein learning is involved. Ignorance is not knowing. Not only do we not know the details of life, but we don’t always know there are details to be known. As the saying goes, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Our perspective on life is determined by our personal experiences, what’s called our “field of experience.” The less we learn about the rest of the world, the more we rely upon the assumption that the rest of the world is like us. What would cause us to think otherwise?

As we associate with other people and learn about them, our perspective widens to encompass the new information. The faster we learn knowledge, the more confused we can become. Our brains begin to fill with what appears to be separate, if not random pieces of information. This process is difficult, even painful, because it expands our mental capacity. This is why many choose to remain ignorant. As they say, “Ignorance is bliss.” But clearly, ignorance only limits our freedom. Without a adequate view of the elements of our story (again, be it life or fiction) we cannot hope to take command of our circumstances.

Like the water lily, these “pads” of information seem separate, but are actually connected. The process of deciphering the randomness of life gives us wisdom. As we begin to understand connections between separate areas of life, we find that our story once again becomes simplified. However, this time our perspective is one of truth and unity rather than self-centered autonomy. We understand that freedom must respect boundaries, and that we live in a world with other individuals.

Rather than blunder through life selfishly, we must think our way through life selfLESSly. In this way, we become enlightened enough to see the big picture, and understand the benefits of fitting ourselves into society on purpose.

Get Involved

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"For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction."

- Kahlil Gibran

"All television is educational television. The question is: what is it teaching?"
- Nicholas Johnson, author:
"We need the media to be presenting pictures of possibility not just continuing to be prophets of doom and gloom."
- Kevin Kelly, Wired

"How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it."

- Adam Smith
"And the science is overwhelming that for creative, conceptual tasks, those if-then rewards rarely work and often do harm."
- Daniel Pink, author: Drive

"I wish we had a Problem-Solver Party because we have very big problems that need solving. And I think a lot of our attention is addressed to the wrong problems."
- David McCullough, author: 1776
"The goal shouldn't be to have a lot of people to yell at, the goal probably should be to have a lot of people who choose to listen."
- Seth Godin, author: Tribes
"The role of the media is to disseminate information, highlight important current events, and to essentially stand as a witness, an observer of cultural, political, community, and educational events. A healthy media provides a check on the government and increases the political astuteness of republican citizens."
- Stephen Palmer, The Center for Social Leadership
"Advertisers and politicians rely on a half-educated public, on people who know little outside of their own specialty, because such people are easy to deceive with so-called experts, impressive technical or sociological jargon, and an effective set of logical and psychological tricks."
- Robert Harris
"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
- John Adams
"I know no safe repository of the ultimate power of society but people. And if we think them not enlightened enough, the remedy is not to take the power from them, but to inform them by education."
- Thomas Jefferson
"Fathers and mothers have lost the idea that the highest aspiration they might have for their children is for them to be wise--as priests, prophets or philosophers are wise. Specialized competence and success are all that they can imagine."
- Allan Bloom, author: The Closing of the American Mind
"He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed."
(Proverbs 13:20)
"If you are not a thinking man, to what purpose are you a man at all."

- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
"I learn a lot from TV. Everytime someone turns one on, I go in the other room and read a book."
- Groucho Marx, comedian: Duck Soup
"There are two freedoms - the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where he is free to do what he ought."
- Charles Kingsley