Fast Media, Media Fast

While researching media fasts online, I came across a pretty interesting blog from a contributor to Connecticut’s WNPR and Your Public Media. Heather Brandon went on a selective fast from media for four days last summer after interviewing Thomas W. Cooper, author of Fast Media Media Fast: How to Clear Your Mind and Invigorate Your Life in an Age of Media Overload. (I’m also happy to find that this book exists and will skim through it in the next week to see what it can add to my piece.)


As Brandon prepared for her fast, she noted:

“I’ll be doing a practical and slightly customized fast: no Facebook, Twitter, iPad/iPod/video games, TV, or online browsing (unless work-related). Allowed: texting for informational purposes, newspapers, and radio. Dr. Cooper suggests that electronic mass media fasting can reasonably leave intact one-on-one connections like email and phone calls. The goal is to eliminate media that ‘could potentially homogenize thought,’ he wrote in an email.’

“Dr. Cooper predicts several beneficial effects from this. I will find more hours in my day for reflection, creativity, sleep, play, family, community, art, and spirituality. I’ll also sharpen my perceptive ability and memory, and think more for myself rather than in slogans and jingles. I’ll create more of my own media, rather than consume it. Enslaving habits and mindsets will be behind me. I’ll become more selective about life choices, relationships, career, and my own relationship with mass consumption of information. I’ll be more of service, and I may rediscover nature and a balanced life, developing talents I have neglected. (Cooper, 50-51) In other words: I will transcend! Or something.”

Interestingly enough, she does seem to transcend. Or something.

Her fast was very short, but she makes a lot of observations during her time away from Twitter. She describes connecting with people on a more intimate level, especially her kids. And, she ends her fast by asking, “How do I incorporate this approach to daily life in a moderate way, so that I can maintain connections but also maintain sanity?”

Her blog doesn’t follow her re-immersion into digital life, but it left me thinking about my return to media.

PBS suggests, in one of their additional resources for the Frontline special “Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier,” that a media fast encourages “introspection,” and that after a fast you should “use media and digital technologies more thoughtfully,” instead of “launching right back into your old media habits.”

That’s definitely what it was like for me. I didn’t even have the mental capacity to “launch right back into” old habits. My brother was eager to introduce me to some of the movies I missed while on my mission, and put in “The Other Guys” my first week home. I couldn’t even watch the opening scene—it was too overwhelming visually.

I’m okay watching action movies now. But, my readjustment to media will never be a return to what it was before. Like Heather Brandon, I discovered I really did enjoy interacting in-person with the people in my life, immersing myself in something other than a screen.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Understanding the Stigma

I realized that before I could really comment on the media’s coverage of PTSD and mental trauma among military men and women, I needed to know more about PTSD and also understand the stigma surrounding it.

To that end, the following were extremely helpful:

Veteran’s at the Breaking Point –

The Army Denies Combat Stress Causes Homicide

Coming Home: The Army’s Fatal Neglect

As was the investigation of homicides at Fort Carson, Colorado from November 2008 – May 2009, which was published by the US Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine.

In February 2009 Salon, a news site that has extensively covered issues in the military, ran an in-depth investigative series in February 2009,  “Coming Home: The Army’s Fatal Neglect.” The series highlighted “25 suicides, prescription overdoses and murders among soldiers at Colorado’s Fort Carson since 2004,” and behind the failures in treating and diagnosing mental health issues is “an Army culture that punishes problematic soldiers instead of aiding them.”

The investigation found:

The soldiers seemed to be suffering classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder: explosions of anger, suicidal and homicidal ideation, flashbacks, nightmares and insomnia. The Army was responding, for the most part, with disciplinary action rather than treatment, evincing little concern for possible underlying problems.

Finally, I interviewed Jim MacMillan, a journalist and photojournalist who has spent the last several years focusing and seriously studying trauma.

MacMillan on the stigma of mental health in the military: “There are two stigmas associated with the military and mental health,” said MacMillan, who started looking at trauma critically in 2006. “The first is the stigma within the military that if you have PTSD or trauma then you’re weak and not capable of performing.”  The other stigma is that people with PTSD or other mental health issues are unstable – they “might go postal and kill everybody.”

MacMillan pointed me to a major problem about the misrepresentation and misunderstandings of PTSD: While “diagnosing and acknowledging [PTSD] helps clarify things, it also makes it difficult because there are differences among cases – a person can have only one or two of the following manifestations and be diagnosed with PTSD,” said MacMillan. Those manifestations are intrusion (dreams, flashbacks etc…), avoidance and arousal (elevated startle response).

MacMillan’s reaction to the coverage of Sgt. Bales: “It’s shallow, simplistic reporting,” says MacMillan, and “at a glance, I think it’s been disastrous.”  Because “the number of soldiers with PTSD who become violent is a very small percentage and the percentage that are violent in such a public way is even smaller – usually the violence is limited to themselves and those closest to them, which is devastating in its own way.” One of MacMillan’s biggest critiques of the coverage of the Bales case was that “in all the coverage, I never head about the context of how rare it is to go ‘postal.’ Before we had an under-abundance of reporting on PTSD, now we have a misunderstanding of PTSD.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Skinny Water

Skinny Water

By this point we know that nothing is sacred in the art of marketing, not even the purest substance in the world – water. Just when you think water couldn’t get any healthier, marketers go and try to convince you that it can. Skinny Water’s tagline reads: “O calories, 0 sugar, 0 sodium, 0 guilt.” A necessary differentiation – because there is so much guilt involved in drinking regular water, a hydrating nutrient necessary to make our bodies function. But the real difference is the crave control element in Skinny Water. But these drinks also contain high levels of Splenda, the artificial sweetener that is calorie-free but is not exactly healthy. So Skinny Water is flavored, sweetened, and colored with dye…is it still water? Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition of New York University doesn’t think so. “If it’s sweetened, it might as well be soda, nutritionally speaking,” she said to The New York Times.

Critics have also bashed the water brand because of its advertisements, which focus on promoting its product by distorting the body image of its consumers. In October 2011, Skinny Water’s ad featured a woman facing a crowd of paparazzi with the headline, “Skinny Always Gets the Attention.” The brand’s effort to market itself as healthy is in conflict with its negative cultural message – that women can only get attention by being skinny.

Leave a comment

by | April 23, 2012 · 1:03 pm

What’s Next for Daisey?


It is up in the air whether Daisey’s work has made any lasting impact: positive or otherwise. Will China ever really adjust abusive labor practices, specifically at FoxConn?  ABC News reported thatFoxconn has promised to lower overtime hours without lowering pay, a move that could raise the cost not just of Apple products but all electronics. “

Are people like Mike Daisey hurting the cause rather than helping it? Bill Maher said to Daisey in an interview before the scandal in early February, “I bet it’s going to start to change now, and you are part of the solution.”

On his list of upcoming appearances, he has two new shows in development. Will people come see these shows? And if they do, do they genuinely want to hear what Daisey has created now? Or do they just want to see the guy who lied about Apple?

In addition, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs will be presented in four different venues before August. Honestly, when I first saw that the list of upcoming appearances on Daisey’s website still included Steve Jobs (notably with a run at the acclaimed Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington, D.C.), I was shocked, but it speaks to his reputation that people still want to see him perform.

The Woolly Mammoth Theater Company in Washington, D.C. is presenting The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs July 17 thru August 5th, despite the controversy. I’m personally curious about whether the show will still attract a crowd, especially considering the following: “Woolly Mammoth will be offering refunds to patrons who purchased tickets to this run of The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs prior to March 21, 2012.”

On March 27th, he wrote on his blog :

“When THE AGONY AND ECSTASY OF STEVE JOBS is performed again in just a few days, it will have changed. It will have none of the material called into question on This American Life, and nothing in the piece will break the rules I have developed over years with my audiences.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Clay Shirky Talks JOBS Act and the New Business Ecosystem

© Image: Eric Blattberg / (photo:

Clay Shirky is an American writer, consultant and teacher on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies — at least, according to Wikipedia, the crowdsourced encyclopedia for which he serves as an advisor. Shirky is also the author of Here Comes Everybody (2008) and Cognitive Surplus (2010), two books examining the results, ramifications and potential of aggregated individual action.

I recently spoke with web guru Clay Shirky about the JOBS Act, which President Obama signed into law on April 5. In the transcript below, Shirky explains why he “would love to be able to offer essentially wholehearted support of the crowdfunding law,” but has several reservations about the regulatory relief embedded in the bill. (Spoiler: Much comes down to the SEC’s interpretation of the law, which is ostensibly scheduled to conclude in the first few days of 2013.) Shirky also discusses Kickstarter’s present dominance in the crowdfunding space, the vagaries of pre-JOBS Act law in relation to crowdfunding, and the effect of the JOBS Act on the current startup ecosystem and traditional venture capital.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Waiting Game

Well, it’s been a slow week for sources, with people not getting back to me or bouncing me around. But, while I’m waiting for them I’m also digging deeper and watching more media coverage of mental illness in the military. While searching I came across the following 2010 article in USA Today: Mental Illness Costing Military Soldiers. According to the article, “the number of soldiers forced to leave the Army solely because of a mental disorder has increased by 64% from 2005 to 2009 and accounts for one in nine medical discharges.” And Joe Davis, a spokesman for Veterans of Foreign Wars, said, “the military is excellent at treating visible wounds. The military and entire medical community at large still have a long way to go to effectively and reliably screen and treat wounds to the head and mind. Before discharging troops for behavioral reasons, it is absolutely imperative that commanders first ask ‘What caused this?'”

First thing Monday, I’ll be touching base with my sources and getting in touch with Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Dart Center and USO, which is where the video of MSGT Mike Martinez came from. In it, he shares how traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post traumatic stress (PTS) have affected his life. (A big thanks to my professor who stumbled upon the video and sent it my way).

Also, here’s a video of Rachel Maddow highlighting the problems that veterans are facing. She interviews Paul Rieckhoff, the founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, who talks about suicide in the military among other veteran issues. He said: “In January [2009], we lost approximately 24 soldiers in the Army to suicide. That’s more folks than we lost in combat. We lost more soldiers to suicide in January 2009 than to al Qaeda.”

Playing catch-up. That seems to be the problem with the military and mental health not just on the front of providing services, but also in the media. It seems that the problem with mental health, the military and the media is that coverage of the issue seems to appear after a major incident or a major study comes out and perhaps this is where the problem lies – the lack of pre-emptive coverage and care.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Korean Wave and Plastic Surgery

(Song Hye Gyo and Kim Tae Hee are considered the most beautiful Korean actresses in Asia)

(Average cost to look like Korean top stars: $5000.00)

The Korean wave, also known as Hallyu, is the permeation of South Korean culture around the world, and is considered a phenomenon throughout East Asia. The term was originally coined by Chinese journalists who were shocked by the rapidly growing popularity of Korean celebrities and culture throughout Asia. But now the trend has transcended its broad cultural quality and a new term has been coined – “Medical Hallyu”—to refer to the phenomenon in which Asian tourists fly to South Korea for cosmetic purposes, usually surgery. According to, Asians are willing to pay three times more to receive surgery in Korea than in any other country, in an attempt to craft a more “natural” look.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized