Category Archives: Pop Culture

Netflix is Awesome….

In a proactive move against Apple, Netflix is allowing certain members to view unlimited amounts of movies, tv shows, etc., from their website. (Members who have the $4.99 a month deal are limited to only two hours a month. ) The Los Angeles Times cites that only 6000 titles are available out of the total 90,000 they have available through the mail. Further, the Times stated that Netflix does not have the best selection. 

However, to a Netflix subscriber like me, it is a golden deal. I received a free upgrade for absolutely nothing. It is not about whether or not I will buy the Apple TV or the “set top box” that will be offered by LG for Netflix. It is about choices. As much freedom to choose media I enjoy is what I am interested in.

I use Netflix and the iTunes store along with my iPod. Each has its own benefits and I will continue to use both. It’s not an either or issue, it is a matter of what do I feel like using today and who has what available. Although the Los Angeles Times stated that the selection is not that great, they have to realize that tastes differ. Sometimes people are at odd locations and wouldn’t mind having 6000 choices to choose from. Additionally, not everyone wants to pay 3.99 for a movie download that will ‘self-destruct’ in 30 days.

I applaud Netflix’s efforts and I will continue my subscription with them because their business model seems to be built on a fair exchange. Even if their motive was to protect their market niche, I am on the receiving end having to spend nothing in the  process.

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Cheapest Car in the World..

Twenty five hundred dollars is what it costs. According to Simon Robinson, of Time Magazine, it is a decent price for middle class families (lower middle) in India who earn around $200 a month. The car is called the Tata Nano and although small by North American standards, Robinson claims it is perfect for driving conditions in India, especially rural areas.

The developers of the car states that it meets emission standards of India and Europe; can reach speeds up to 60 miles per hour and gets 50 miles for each gallon of gas.

How will this affect India’s infrastructure, air pollution and other poorer developing nations with congested roadways? No one is sure. The most important question raised in this article is whether or not concerns of air pollution and traffic issues should keep poor individuals from owning a car?

Where do you Stand? “Mosaic’s USA Type Descriptions”

Are you “Affluent Surburbia or Upscale America, Small-town Contentment or Blue-collar Backbone, Aspiring Contemporary or Metro-Fringe, Urban Essence or Varying Lifestyle?”

Experian, which is a “information services company,” created “Mosaic” which uses demographic information from the U.S. census in order to categorize nearly 300,ooo,ooo million U.S. citizens into groups. This data can be used in a multitude of ways to help decision makers in business, government, non-governmental organizations, etc., make effective decisions.

For example here is a small description of Small-town Contentment –  “C03 Surburban Optimists: With it’s concentration of Asian, Hawaiian and White residents, Surburban Optimists presents a potrait of middle-class diversity….There’s an even distribution of residents who have graduated from high school or completed some college, resulting in a job market for blue-collar and white collar positions…They frequently watch cable TV networks such as MTV, VH1 and Spike TV….” 

You get the picture….

What type are you or is it too vague for you to be sure?

http://www.appliedgeographic.com/MosaicUSA_06_definitions.pdf

How an MP3 player changed my life, Pt. 1

How an MP3 player changed my life, Pt. 1

By Bakari Akil II

(Posted Sep. 2007) November 28, 2006

 

After all the hype and excitement over the last few years over mp3s and more specifically ipods, I finally did it. I purchased an mp3. I had vowed not to buy one because I simply could not see a use for it in my life. I’m not a humbug, I truly enjoy new technological gadgets, but I hadn’t seen any major use for it; until I purchased one.

 

After pricing mp3s at Wal-mart and deciding to pass on them because I had a lot of questions and discovered that no staff could help me other than opening the glass case and handing me the goods, I decided to check out my local Best Buy. I ended up buying a lightweight SAMSUNG P-U2J Digital Audio Player for $59.99. It was white, slim and about half the size of the first ipod shuffles. What I really liked about it was that you could plug it directly into your USB port to recharge or download music or recordings without having to use a cable. It even has a recorder on it, which allows me to record random thoughts, record a memorable quote or passage or record a conversation secretly (just joking).

 

The first thing I did was grab the latest two CDs that I had purchased and downloaded the tracks I liked to my computer so I could transfer them to the mp3. In the process, I had an epiphany. The two CDs I am referring to were CDs that I really looked forward to buying because of singles that had been played all over MTV, BET and XM’s 20 on 20. However, I was really disappointed with the remainder of the CDs because the rest of the albums did not match the singles. I suddenly realized that I could go online and purchase songs that I really liked and not waste money on CDs that often disappoint. In addition, I could just go to MTV.com which lets you preview entire albums to help you decide if you want to purchase them.

 

1.No more CDs

Next, I dragged out all of my favorite CDs or CDs that I had listened to only once but now suddenly had importance and began the tedious process of loading them onto my laptop, labeling them and transferring them to the mp3. (I wish that CDs could somehow pass the labeling info to the laptop. If this already exists, someone please let me know.)

 

Music suddenly became important to me again. In the next few days, I listened to more music willingly than I did in the last three months. The first night I went to bed early and listened to music into the wee hours of the night. It was like having your own private concert in your ears. The sound quality was great and couldn’t be heard by another soul, which for some reason gave me pleasure.

 

2. Listening to more music old and new.

3.Getting use out of music bought previously.

My next brilliant idea for my mp3 involved transferring some of my Spanish vocabulary CDs to my laptop and then downloading it onto the mp3. I always wanted to devote more time to listening to these CDs but didn’t like lugging around the 12 CD case from the house to the car and back again. I also decided that I would go ahead and look up some of the podcasts that are available online and look into downloading audio-books since I love to read. I have been thinking about audio-books for a while since I read so much and have been wanting to give my eyes a rest. Being able to listen to audio-books on a transportable mp3 makes me want to download the audio-books even more.

 

4. Increased chance for learning and relieving my eyes from reading so much.

My next foray into ownership of an mp3 was accessories. The first was an mp3 for my wife. After seeing me enjoying mine, she had to have one. So I purchased one for her. Next, I bought a device that allowed us to play the mp3s in the car. My wife followed that up by buying mp3 speakers for me. I also discovered that I could plug my extra set of computer speakers into them as well. I soon became aware of the numerous “must have’ products that have been created for mp3s and more specifically the ipods. When we first started to seriously consider mp3s, we were at a SAM’s and a guy came up to my wife and I and stated that when he bought an ipod for his daughter, he didn’t know that he would spend the next year spending hundreds of dollars for accessories; such as a protective case, a speaker system, etc. I now truly understand. 

5. Spending money on “must have” accessories.

Finally, a certain indirect health benefit has occurred. When I used to work out religiously, I used to carry my walkman to the gym or listen to the stereo while working out at home. So, I decided to carry my mp3 on one of my workouts. It reminded me of old times.  When I heard certain songs, I exercised harder, forgot that I was exercising and can honestly say I had a better exercise session.  I even worked out a few times more than usual in that week because the mp3 helps to reduce the monotony.

 

6. Increasing effort while exercising and exercising more.

Overall, the mp3 has enriched my already abundant media rich life. I truly feel that it has provided me many new options and has made me a little more technologically savvy. In my next installment, I will discuss how Apple’s video ipod revolutionized my life…

 

Until next time….

   

Book Review: “Everything Bad is Good for You”

Book Review: “Everything Bad is Good for You”

 

By Bakari Akil II, PhD

 

 

            Steven Johnson’s premise is simple. Our current pop culture disseminated through television shows, movies and video games have many redeeming features even though it contains high levels of violence, sexual material or as some put it, mindless entertainment. For the reader unfamiliar with Johnson’s work it is helpful to note that Johnson often uses a macro-level approach when analyzing this issue. This ‘big picture’ approach allows him to analyze the supposed broad effects of mass media; the pop culture it creates and how it affects its users.

 

Television and Movies

           

            Johnson argues that television programming has substantially changed over the last 50 years from shows with a few characters and easy to follow plot lines to television shows with multiple plots, multiple characters and never ending stories. In the past, sitcoms and dramas were predictable and could be wrapped up in 30 to 60 minutes. Not now! Shows such as Prison Break, Daybreak, 24, and the Sopranos keeps the audience guessing, don’t spell out everything, if anything, and often leaves the viewer in suspense, sometimes for an entire season.

 

            This, Johnson argues, forces the viewer to participate on many levels. The viewer can no longer sit and passively watch their favorite television shows, they must pay close attention. The creators of such shows sometimes start from the end or middle and work their way back to the beginning. New characters often enter the storyline with no introduction and the audience is forced to figure out that character’s purpose. Depending upon when the viewer starts to watch a show, they may have a hard time figuring out what the show is all about. New plot lines may emerge out of nowhere and the audience has to quickly figure out why. In addition, these shows such as ABC’s short-lived Daybreak, starring Taye Digs and Moon Bloodgood, often test their audience’s analytical skills and prods them to guess how the shows will end.

 

            These new types of shows force the audience to use their cognitive skills in ways older television shows have not done in the past. The use of logic, intuition and pure common sense on the part of the audience takes the term armchair quarterback to a new level.  Johnson also asserts that many of these shows exercise the social and emotional intelligence of their viewers as it forces them to look at situations and decide what they would do.       

This most often takes place with reality television shows. MTV’s Real World, Survivor, dating shows like Flavor of Love and the Bachelorette often shows people in vulnerable states and in intimate moments. The power of such shows, Johnson states, is that it catches people’s true emotions, if only for a split second. That attraction is what Johnson argues is behind the success of such shows and is also the reason why he asserts that it helps improve social and emotional intelligence. Viewers often empathize with the characters or at the least think about what they would do if they were faced with similar situations. Constant viewing of these shows provides the audiences with opportunities to broaden and enrich their social skills and explore their own emotional issues as a result. Yes, these shows can be about mindless activities, but many of these shows do explore issues pertaining to gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, violence, politics and everyday ordinary problems. Additionally, Johnson cites that these shows are not just watched and forgotten. Many people watch these shows with others, discuss them at school and work or discuss them in chat rooms or message boards on the Internet, which further increases their analytic skills and at the least provides them with something to talk about.

 

Video Games

 

            Video games may also provide benefits. On a social level, the players play their games with other players and develop bonds through shared experiences. It may not be the ideal experience that a parent may want their child to have, but it does occur. Gamers connect with other players on the Internet, in their living rooms and at tournaments. This allows the video players to bring a social aspect to their gaming experience.

 

Johnson also argues that video games increase the cognitive skills of its players due to the level of commitment and multitasking it requires to succeed. Gone are the days where players can often master a game in one day or a heavy week of playing. Some games are never mastered and require a number of skills of its players. Johnson discusses studies where video game players cite feelings of well being after playing, improved hand and eye coordination, the ability to assess visual patterns much quicker than non-gamers and improved problem solving abilities overall. Although car crashes, shoot outs and anarchy is not something most parents enjoy seeing their kids participating in as a video game, there is some evidence of video games helping to improve the intelligence of its players in certain ways. Besides, not all video games are of that fare.

 

            In the final analysis, the pop culture that is enjoyed by youths and many adults will always face criticism. In our modern era, sex, senseless violence and entertainment for entertainment sake will always turn certain people and groups off. Yet, the modes that it is being delivered by have allowed the audience to become more than a passive user and engages their cognitive, social and emotional intelligences. In some cases, it makes them think about what would be the best course of action or best way to react. In other cases, it may make them better problem solvers or provide them with opportunities to develop social skills. Either way it’s not mindless, in order to participate, they have to think and isn’t that what we want people to do, think for themselves.