Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Creative Cat

There are two kinds of people in the world: producers and consumers. A consumer is the end of the productive chain, a producer is any other link in that chain—one which passes on more value to the next link, rather than less or none. It is not the purpose of this post to define these any further, for more on this subject refer to "The Producer's Mind."

There are also two kinds of producers: creators and performers.  Creators originate and innovate goods, services, and even business models. Performers make this happen, and get it into the hands of the end consumers. Creators develop and manufacture, while performers market and distribute.In the past, I've also referred to these as "developers" and "promoters," respectively. I think that the use of the words "creator" and "performer" are more general and all-inclusive.

That being said, I acknowledge that there are exceptions to any general rule. In a previous post on the subject, I discussed performers in a more technical role, and I fear, a less dignified role. I do very much respect those who perform, we need them. Without them we would have nothing, but as I also said, their art is dependent upon the creators' art.

The general form of a performer is anyone who actively does...anything. To the extent that they qualify as producers, people who work for a company are performers of that company's business system. An actor is a performer who does a performance which was prewritten by a creator. Those who work as independent marketers or distributors, perform the duty of spreading the ideas and products of the creators. The one thing they lack is a significant, original idea.

It is the defining purpose of a creator to create...something. Most of the time, a novice creator must serve as his own performer. An amateur filmmaker, would likely perform the duties of director and cameraman as well. Musicians are most revered when they create what they perform. "Pop" stars who perform songs that were written for them are scorned by more "serious" musicians and music appreciators, while those who created the songs go largely unknown—to the general populace, anyway. Though, strangely, "cover" songs, jazz performances, and orchestras performing classical music are not scorned in this way.

Let me sum this up with an analogy borrowed from a world-class performer in the field of network marketing. He said chasing one's dreams is like a dog chasing a squirrel—minus the squirrel. He's crazily zigging and zagging, to and fro. He doesn't really have a plan, just a goal and the will to make it up as he goes along.

I submit that being a creator is like a cat, who is watching the dog chase the squirrel—minus the squirrel. He's smart enough to know that the dog is chasing something, but reserved enough to know that he doesn't want to do what the dog is doing. So he watches, and waits, and plans. Then, when the timing is right, he pounces. He may more may not have success. The risk is that the cat cannot course correct as much as the dog can, it's not a bad system, just a different approach.
FEATURED MEDIA: Adaptation - A brilliant work by Charlie Kaufman, this is the story of Charlie Kaufman who is assigned the task of adapting a book, The Orchid Thief, into a screenplay. Not entirely interested in the subject matter, Charlie performs the job his boss gave him, but his creative spirit takes over as he writes himself into the story.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Break the Machine

"Government reinforces the class system by the way it runs public education, and big business supports it through the investment legal code." - Oliver DeMille
I recommend that anyone interested in making a difference check out the blog at It is packed with great nuggets (like the above quote) and phenomenally well-thought out essays about America's current social problems and how to solve them! Oliver DeMille is the founder of George Wythe College, author of several books, and a proponent of teaching through classics—what he calls a "Thomas Jefferson Education."

Some time ago, I posted a mid-read review of DeMille's book of the same title (featured on the left). I stand by my opinion having read it fully now and several other things he has written. It is very important that we bring back the spirit of independence that made this country great. Too many of us are dependent on the large system of big government and big business (collectively: "the machine") to solve problems that are really ours to solve.

When I was in school, I was part of an organization that fostered creative thinking through a creative competition. It's the only thing of its kind I've ever seen. Most public schools are proud of their football and baseball teams, and many have formidable band competitions and debate clubs, but no public school in itself fosters creation outside of menial "art" classes (which are mostly feel-good skater classes, in my experience).

What I propose is that we host a similar competition. Small groups of self-motivated and creative people would collaborate on the creation of short films (and possibly other media) through which they would share their views on truth. Several social "problems" would be issued to these groups, which would be guided by a coach to bring out their most innovative thoughts with respect to solving the problem within realistic constraints.

The top award winners would progress through several levels, at the top of which the best of the best would be partnered with phenomenal business and philanthropic organizations who are seeking an innovative market base. Our organizational center would then be only concerned with holding the line on freedom, integrity, and truth—quickly disassociation with those organizations that seek to do harm.

Individuals have limitless potential, but often fail to see it because they are afraid of (or fail to see the importance of) other people in the quest for significance. Voluntary teamwork is imperative to breaking the machine. Individuals must choose to work together for ourselves if we are to loosen the grip of insitutions that demand we work together for them.
FEATURED MEDIA: A Thomas Jefferson Education - A liberating book about self-education.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"LOST: Ab Aeterno"

DISCLAIMER: In a previous post, I discussed the importance of ABC's "LOST." Therefore, I am beginning a series which briefly explores thoughts on the show with respect to FITmedia and Truth in Fiction. Being as the posts are philosophical in nature, I will try to keep story spoilers to a minimum. However, because many of the philosophical pillars are tied to critical events, it is impossible to discuss without some spoilers. For those of you not following the show, I hope that these posts will be worthwhile on their own merit, and should they inspire you to watch the show, that they will not have ruined the plot for you. You have been warned.

"Ab Aeterno"

Bravo! This is without a doubt the most important episode of LOST so far, which in my book, makes it the most important hour of television ever. If there were any doubts as to the philosophical or literary value of this series, there are no longer. This one episode encapsulated the show's entire core mythology into a microcosm—not only of the show's central struggle—but also of the deepest struggle of man.

In the universe of the show, the Island is a real place (despite Richard's frustrated assertion that they are all dead and in Hell), but it symbolically represents a sort of Purgatory in its function. The people who are brought to the Island are not there to be punished, but to be tested. Jacob insists that the people who he brings there get a clean slate, a chance to start over. This is not an intervention like an absolution, which forgives sin, but a chance to turn from one's wicked ways without the influence of social pressures keeping him in sin.

Jacob believes that people have free will, and should not be forced to do what is right. In this case, "free will" means the freedom to choose to sin or not to sin. To work as Jacob believes it will, this freedom demands first the desire to do good, then the ability to know the difference between good and evil. By contrast, the Man in Black believes it is in the very nature of man to sin, and that to allow him free will is to hasten his corruption. He therefore seeks to destroy the people that come to Island, with the notable exception of those who he can manipulate into killing Jacob.

The interesting thing about this dichotomy, as Richard points out, is that if Jacob refuses to intervene then the Man in Black will. Jacob's absence on the playing field means that the Man in Black is free to cloud the distinction between good and evil (no pun intended), which he does to Richard when he says that Jacob as the devil. He uses Jacob's own philosophy of free will to paint him as a monster who brings people to their death, when the reality is that the Man in Black is largely responsible for their deaths.

As for the desire to do good: traditionally, doing good (or at least being good) is connected with going to Heaven (and hence not going to Hell). Going to Heaven is full of rewards, such as the reunion with loved ones, and is therefore the motivation to do whatever one's belief system requires (in short, doing good). Richard's challenge was that, while he had no malice in his heart, he accidentally killed a man while trying to save his dying wife. His religion (apparently Catholicism) gave him no options to go to Heaven, because he could not be absolved of murder. Therefore, even though he was not evil, he lacked the motivation to do good, and was susceptible to evil's influence.

Jacob promised him the only escape from Hell that was available to him when he made Richard immortal. After Jacob's death, Richard struggled with understanding his purpose. In this episode, he decides to seek out the Man in Black, and take the offer he had given so many years ago. The Man in Black had given Richard the hope that his wife was taken by the devil (Jacob). Whatever Richard had believed about Jacob seemed to vanish with his death, and he ran back to the very place where the Man in Black made his promise. It was there, that the ghost of his wife (communicating through Hurley), gave him a new purpose.

So it is ultimately his true love which is his proverbial "north star." Symbolically, this is genius! Amid all the fiction that puts the pursuit of the "golden haired woman" as the purpose of a man's life, LOST defies convention with truth. A man's wife is his soulmate, his helper, his guide—she is not his purpose, but his partner in fulfilling it. This episode is the answer for all the ambiguity between good and evil throughout this series. All the power and magic comes from the characters' respective purposes and true loves. After all, these are the things that are eternal.
FEATURED MEDIA: Preorder the Final Season!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Education, Law, and People

[Reposted from]

Law is only necessary to the degree that education is ineffective. The goal of a civil society is to equip people to govern themselves; self-control is more effective than state-control. But don't get me wrong, I would never advocate the immediate abolition of the legal system. Simply and humbly put, written laws are the awkward mitten-hands that point out the borders between right and wrong. Because human interaction is so complicated and full of nuance, we do not possess effective enough language to define the boundaries for every action that borders on criminal infraction. Definite laws are necessarily only a guide, though hopefully they err on the side of freedom. Like any rigid machine, laws need human intelligence to manage the minute details and produce a quality result.

Human intelligence is developed through education. For our purposes, let us consider education in its two most general forms: science and art. Classically speaking, "science" is any technical knowledge (like facts and figures), while "art" involves a more general understanding of application, especially with regard to people. Law is a science, while self-control is an art.

I think it is fair to say that education involves a transfer of information from a given source to a student's mind. If it is, then I believe it is also fair to think of all informational sources as potential education sources. Many of us think of education as simply the textbooks and lectures of formal schooling. And while that media effectively teaches science, it is by its very nature too rigid to teach art. However, I submit that all media transfers some information, and therefore, also some form of education.

Therein lies an important sub-point: certain media (especially image-based media) passively informs its audience. The goal of advertising media, for example, is to instill a want in the viewer. This is accomplished by "educating" the viewer about a set of circumstances which may not represent the truth. I encourage you to consider the passive education you may be receiving.

The real question here is whether or not our culture is learning (from whatever source) the information necessary for each individual to make effective moral and ethical choices with respect to his or her role in the larger picture. A balance between science and art is necessary for total perspective. The degree to which we are over-educated in science is the degree to which we become culturally inflexible, and the degree to which we are overeducated in art is the degree to which we lack an understanding of absolutes. The rigid use of laws, either to define what we all should accept or to reign in those ideas that are outside what we ought to accept, necessarily limits the freedom of the individual.

To return to the thesis of this article, the ability of the individual to control his own ethics (to find his fit) determines his ability to live in accordance with natural laws of human civilization. The degree to which each person is able to this, is the degree to which law would be rendered unnecessary. It is information about the bigger picture that determines a person's fit, and therefore, his reason to want to live in accordance with natural laws.

It is classic literature that studies these nuances; this information. The philosophers, entrepreneurs, and statesmen that wrote these works, wrote them from the trenches of cultural warfare, not from the comfortable halls of idealistic scholarship. These works represent first-hand experience with the subject matter: people. People--those wonderful, emotional creatures that purposefully defy convention and definition. People--the characters that fill the stages and silver screens of real life. People--the constant flaw in any plan, the exception to every rule, and the enduring force of change and balance on Earth.

For information to flow out of the Consortium and represent first-hand experience, we have to work with people. The process of building the Consortium and inspiring our people to read, discuss, write, and apply will serve as the very process of liberally educating each member of our community. A rising tide raises all ships, and this education process will constantly improve our media output to the point that our momentum will be unstoppable.

What makes a classic is it's level of truth and wisdom. Truth and wisdom govern the individual who understands them. A society of individuals who govern themselves do not need a cumbersome, expensive central bureaucracy. This society will be free.
FEATURED MEDIA: A Thomas Jefferson Education - A phenomenal book outlining the need for an increase in classic liberal arts education. This sort of education, which teaches the student the deeper connections of life, is the sort of education that made the Founding Fathers of America. Our education system today is broken, and it is up the independent individual to set things right.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fine Wine

"If you're too big to follow, you're too small to lead." - Orrin Woodward
Many people are turned off by the very thought of "following" anyone. Even so, we follow people on Twitter, we follow the news, we follow the favorite sports team, etc. To follow does not mean to do so blindly. The question is not whether you follow, you do. The question is, do you follow with eyes open? If you follow blindly, you'll never gain the wisdom needed to lead when your time comes. On the other hand, if you ignore what everyone else is doing, you might as well be blindly following the blind.
"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle
Education is like a fine wine. Most people think of drinking anything as a one-step process, but in to a wine aficionado, it is at least a three-step process—outside of pouring it! I will admit, I am not personally an expert on wines, thought I understand the concept. Upon receiving a glass of wine, the natural motion is to circle the liquid in the glass and smell its bouquet. That's the first step. Secondly, the taster would draw the wine into his mouth, and purposefully taste its flavor. Then, and only then, does the taster move to the next step of either swallowing it (accepting it) or spitting it out.

In wine, this last step is generally predetermined by the purpose of the tasting. Is the taster experiencing a single glass of wine for personal satisfaction, or sampling a variety of different wines in order to make a selection. A liberally educated person drinks deep of great books and other exceptional media for the benefit of his mind. In doing so, he must be vigilant in his decision to accept or reject what is coming into his mind. Only with time are his mental "tastes" sophisticated enough that he can inspire others to follow him.

So if you never taste the fine wines of life, you can never lead others to their secrets.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Think Different

Do you remember Apple Computer? Likely, the answer is, of course! My first Mac was a beige box with a rainbow apple logo, a clunky CRT monitor, and a 1.2 GB hard drive. It was a great machine for page design, web design, and word processing; but not much else. Apple was suffering greatly at that time, and the question was whether or not it would even be around in a few short years. Looking back, I don't understand what I saw in that computer. But I DID see something, because I've been loyal ever since.

The company had a campaign with a simple message: "Think Different." The print ads featured great people, free-thinkers, and world changers of history. Eventually, the apparently excommunicated founder, Steve Jobs, returned to his seat as CEO of the company which was the catalyst for the realization of this long-running motto. Grammatical correctness aside, it was a profoundly simple statement that may well have shaped my thinking life, but certainly motivated me to work harder to do so.

More than a catchy marketing slogan, the company obviously took the philosophy to heart. It has been an almost non-stop, ahead-of-the-curve innovation machine since the release of the original iMac. They feature a whole line of now-trite but catchy "i" products. I'm told it stands for "internet," but it could easily stand for "innovation." One simple letter defined an entire technophile culture—reinventing digital communication from music and movies to business and social networking. From the iPod to the iPhone, and now the iPad, Apple has even changed the way we use technology. Not only have they innovated products, but they innovated culture.

The point of all this is to ask: what did I see in the future of a struggling company, whose product was almost as beige as their competitors'? Simply, I saw something different. Inside that beige box was a heart of gold (which, incidentally, is still ticking 15+ years later). It was just easy to use, without trying to smother me with user-friendliness, and yet it was extremely reliable—with never any viruses or fatal system errors that required technical support. In short, it isn't pretty now, but it still works.

The seeds of that simple greatness have compounded for Apple to form the authority on innovation that they now are: both technology and culture leaders. How not, with a statement like this:
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
How's that for Thinking Different?
FEATURED MEDIA: The Magic of Thinking Big - A tried and true manual to help you expand your thinking. Whatever you can envision is possible, it merely depends on the size of your thinking.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Third Side Philosophy

There are three sides to every coin.

Think about it. If you are confused, that's okay. That is why so many problems arise in society today. It is very easy to get drawn into either/or debates when nothing is ever that black and white. Give up? The third side of the coin is the edge of the coin. It may not enter your mind because it is seemingly insignificant, but it is an alternative to heads or tails.

Third side philosophy is not any one specific philosophy, as far as I'm concerned, but an open-minded attitude toward all political and philosophical thought. The lack of such open-mindedness is most evident (but by no means exclusive to or 100% defining of) partisan politics and well-established big business. Both of these represent big institutions with strong central powers which have been doing what they are doing for far longer than current innovations have been around. That is to say, the game is changing but the players are not.

The reason is because a coin mostly lands on heads or tails. So often, in fact, that any other occurrence is likely man made and not a matter of chance. This is a telling analogy of current societal issues. First, most people leave these large matters up to chance (or at least feel they have little control over them). Second, nearly all change is man made. Major societal and technological shifts are the product of a few people working hard to stand that coin on its edge. Naturally, that requires balance. It also requires a different approach than a standard flip.

For as often as corporation mavens are cited as saying "think outside the box," their ability to actually do so is very limited. Inherently, big institutions are the box. Anything outside that box is actually a threat to the comfortable bureaucrats at the top and the security-minded employees in the middle and toward the bottom. The only way to fix the problems with society is ask (and genuinely seek to answer) dangerous questions.

Media, of course, is a linchpin in this problem. It can either agree with the status quo (the populists' approach), or take a risk in asking the dangerous questions (the truthful approach). If these questions are asked consistently, there will most certainly be a measure of creative destruction, which will wain with time as the truthful form of media is revealed. However, once media creators find their fit, the reinvention of business and political structure will gain an exponential pace.

So it is up to free-thinking individuals to develop media that breaks the stranglehold of reactionary thought and chance-based thought. Those who are proactive, must encourage others to be proactive as well, and equip them with the tools necessary to do so.

Make no mistake: Standing the coin on its edge is a game changer.
FEATURED MEDIA: Leadership and Self-Deception - An excellent book about changing the way people think. A must read for anyone who wants to think different or help other to do so.

Friday, March 19, 2010

"LOST: Recon"

DISCLAIMER: In a previous post, I discussed the importance of ABC's "LOST." Therefore, I am beginning a series which briefly explores thoughts on the show with respect to FITmedia and Truth in Fiction. Being as the posts are philosophical in nature, I will try to keep story spoilers to a minimum. However, because many of the philosophical pillars are tied to critical events, it is impossible to discuss without some spoilers. For those of you not following the show, I hope that these posts will be worthwhile on their own merit, and should they inspire you to watch the show, that they will not have ruined the plot for you. You have been warned.


Executive producer Damon Lindelof suggested in this week's Official LOST Podcast that the title of this episode might have a double meaning. Specifically, he suggested "to con again" in addition to my first thought of "reconnaissance." Reconnaissance is, of course, scouting to gain information, which is what a confidence man like James Ford would need to do prior to an effective con. However, James is revealed to be a detective in the flash-sideways, whose undercover work includes using grifter techniques (like the "pigeon drop") to catch other con artists, hence the word "re-con."

The repeated theme of this episode is "trust." Most notably manifested in his partnership with Miles in the flash-sideways, and the deals he made with Charles Widmore and the Man in Black on the Island. This is a question inherent to James' nature, though it now seems that he has the choice to use the asset of trust for good or evil. He can gain a person's trust to catch a criminal, or to pit two foes against each other and rescue his friends.

In what has become traditional flash-sideways fashion, the trust issues between him and Miles are resolved by the end of the episode when James tells him the story about "Sawyer" and the death of his parents. Unlike on-Island James, he also reveals his hope that Miles will talk him out of killing the man who is responsible for the death of his parents. Because of this moral character in Det. James Ford, it is interesting to note that in the Island timeline it was Jacob's pen that allowed young James to write the letter to "Sawyer" ("The Incident"), which he eventually reads to Anthony Cooper before killing him ("The Brig"). It seems that Jacob caused James to go down the dark path, which seems inconsistent with a character who is supposedly good.

On the Island, James goes to Hydra Island at the request of the Man in Black to gain information about Widmore's people. James tells Widmore that he will march "Locke" to him, unaware, so that Widmore can kill him. James then tells the "Locke" what he told Widmore, and that he'll be surprised when they change their plans. What is interesting to me about this, given the "re-con" title, is that we do not know for certain that Widmore wants to kill the Man in Black. If Widmore is as evil as Ben Linus claims, then James is the one who was conned.
FEATURED MEDIA: Preorder the final season!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


When it comes to entertainment media, there are several levels of interest. Regardless of its presence in the mainstream or the number of people in its own unique culture, all media inevitability rests its influence on three basic groups. First, the largest group worldwide is made up of those who know nothing about a given project, but may nonetheless be indirectly influenced by its effects. Second, those who consider themselves to be fans. Third, those who go beyond a simple appreciation to become überfans.

From the German word for "super," "über-" means "denoting an outstanding or supreme example of a particular kind of person or thing." As I see it, there are also two kinds of überfans: enthusiastic and crazy! While regular fans enjoy the value intrinsic to the media they choose, they are unreliable consumers. They may purchase a copy of a movie, album, or book that they particularly liked, but they may well not shell out the money for a TV series on DVD, and they likely would not own the entire discography of any one band—accept one they might be überfans of. Regular fans pick and choose, and are valuable in indicating weak spots, which they forgo.

Überfans, on the other hand are characterized by their thoroughness. They pride themselves in owning the entire discography, including imports, B-sides, and rarities. Today's staggered release of digital media means they may end up purchasing TV shows and movies for iPod before their formal DVD releases, then again for the hard copy and additional special features. They are likely to collect action figures of movies and TV series, as well as being part of available fan clubs. The advantage to these fans is their loyalty, even though "crazier" fans might go overboard.

Speaking of fan clubs, many überfans have the desire to be part of the "cause"—an element which in itself might create überfans. They want to be involved in any way they can be, because they see some value in a given work or artist that others do not. It is debatable what exactly motivates überfans, but one thing is certain: they want others to feel the same way. Aside from the financial stability they create through their support, they are invaluable for two other reasons. First, they are the most enthusiastic promoters of whatever they support, and do top-notch promoting without compensation. Second, their enthusiasm is contagious, because they know like-minded people and speak their language. So they are the most well-equipped to find new überfans.

There are three ways I see to create überfans. The first is basically: "if you build it, they will come." In other words, any project worth two hoots will naturally speak to a hand full of fans who are just in the looking zone. This is a bonus, and should not be counted upon. The second is through superficial hype. Make the piece noticeable, glitzy, fun, and unavoidable. Make it the "cool thing," and sell a lot of related merchandise to help with viral marketing. This is standard practice for mainstream entertainment media, but it does not develop sincere überfans and its market block therefore collapses whenever something better comes along. The third method is depth of story. If the story speaks to the greatest number of people in a meaningful and even life-changing way—it is "moving" in some way—then it will spawn überfans by the busload. This is the ideal, but most difficult method. This is art.
"Firing the customers you can't possibly please gives you the bandwidth and resources to coddle the ones that truly deserve your attention and repay you with referrals, applause and loyalty." -Seth Godin, author Linchpin
Art may be a challenge, but it is a worthy one. Creating depth may, at first, seem expensive, but it pays off exponentially. The creators of media need to understand these fans, and have a relationship with them. That is what they want, and they are far more valuable than fair-weather fans. If what you create has enough value to attract a community of überfans, then their collective voice will keep you on track and improve your art—if you're listening. My suggestion to creators of collaborative media is to find new and innovative ways to involve these fans in the creation of new projects. Many of us are aspiring artists ourselves.

Are you listening?
Flight of the Conchords: The Complete First Season - New Zealand's fourth most popular folk parody duo! Season one is a hilarious, truthful portrayal of two naïve "kiwis" trying to succeed as a band in New York City. Their random gigs are in an assortment of odd venues, though every one is attended by their crazy überfan, Mel—their only fan.
Mallrats - A hilarious commentary on mall culture, "the 90s youth market," and reality TV gone horribly wrong. Two slackers: T.S., who just got dumped by the love of his life, and Brodie, who is a Marvel comics überfan, crash a reality dating-show in support of T.S.'s love life.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Wilds

It is difficult to see the supernatural from the heart of civilization. The more wild, the more is possible. The wild is an essential part of literature, as it is connected to and revealing of the heart of man, which is the force that moves a civilization forward. The very thing that compelling art seeks to capture in media, I believe, is the truth of the human heart (or soul). However, this is not something that stories can reveal as long as the fictional characters are ensconced in the routines of civilization.

The wilds are the untamed areas of the universe. They can be literal wilds like the Australian Outback, where there is little or no human civilization. They can be post-civilized type areas, which through any number of disasters from earthquakes to political collapse, have lost their former structure and security. They can also be areas of the mind and soul, such as the exploration of organized crime. Wilds merely need to be without definite boundaries or rules, and this can be achieved as easily through finding a frontier as in creating or re-creating a new frontier.

Truth be told, a story isn't even a story unless it uses some "wild" elements. Routine is not a story, but a deviation from routine is—pretty much by definition. After we are introduced to the characters in a story (ie: their routines), we are given the conflict, which drives the rest of the story. So I think it is also fair to say that all stories are mysteries, at least to the degree that you want to know how it ends. That being said, the greater the deviation and the more levels on which it deviates, the more compelling the story.

If something physical happens to a character (like an earthquake or an illness), he can still be ensconced in the routine of both mental and spiritual life. However, if the deviation is great enough to warrant the Great Question, why? then it has impacted the character on the spiritual level. It has called into question his belief system by challenging it. This is the reason that the wilds are important. Most people expect a certain behavior from the physical and political world, which is reenforced when catered to by media. Introducing the wilds is the act of opening these primary assumptions to questioning.

Without the wilds, no perspective can be gained by modern man on his spiritual and mental beliefs. He is merely trapped within his understanding of the physical world, which is limited to his proximity, and therefore a biased and limited perspective. I urge writers of fiction to take the hard road and shake spiritual foundations. I also urge you to do it with respect and fairness. Just go the extra mile and cover all the bases. You'll be glad you did.
Lost: The Complete Sixth And Final Season - This groundbreaking, epic TV series is based largely on philosophy and classic literature, but is told in a mysterious and thrilling style which is very contemporary. Its use of the wilds comes literally and figuratively. Not only do the characters crash on a mostly uninhabited island, but the island has mysterious powers. In my opinion, the most important thing ever aired on television.
FlashForward: Season One Pt.1 - This fledgeling show has many of the earmarkings that went on to make LOST great. Everyone in the world sees the future at the same time, the wild element is whether the visions will come true.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Creators and Performers

More often than not, media today is promoted by the performers who play the role of creators. In reality, the fundamental creators are rarely seen or known by fans while the performers (typically the actors), make their rounds on a promotional circuit as puppets of the far-removed financial backers. The consequences of this is a spirit of superficiality. If the media (a movie for instance) has some value in depth, it is largely lost through this system and is therefore of little value to it. Therefore, the next time the backers fund a film, they look to invest in something the actors (who are not necessarily invested in the deep story) can sell.

Artists are part of a broadly diverse group, whose specific media varies as much as their specific role in creating it. Some artists specialize, while some are renaissance men. Others are technicians, while still others are conceivers. The difference between those who hands-on make a film and those who do the thinking work behind the labor is the principle difference between "creators" and "performers" in this context. For example, the main creators of LOST are JJ Abrams, Damon Lindelof, and Carlton Cuse; while the performers include writers like Adam Horowitz, directors like Jack Bender, and actors like Matthew Fox and Evangeline Lily. Both categories include both art and science, but a performer's art is dependent upon the creator's art.

Performers are responsible largely for the form of the finished product, while creators are responsible for the function. The physical actions that are done to produce the appearance and sheen of the product are important, but not as important as the core principles which drove the creative conception of the product. If a work of collaborative art is to stand out from from the pack, then it needs to be distinctive—by definition. However, to whatever degree the performance is unusual, the principles and story arcs upon which the performance is based must be timeless. The reason is that unusual stories are too challenging to the average viewer, and need time to find the audience, which in turn, explains the deeper significance to those who missed it.

Three things are needed to solve this problem:
1. Performers need to be creators or work closely with the creators.
2. Creators need to be involved in the promotional process more than performers.
3. Media productions need to mini-factories, each independent of third-party interests.
If performers are involved in the creative process from early on, at least with respect to their individual roles, then they will have the opportunity to be informed enough about the purpose of the project in order to better promote it when the time comes. Better informed performers will better inform the mainstream audience. Überfans are those fans who are inclined to be fanatics about the project, and they are already interested more in what the creators have to say. Should creators be more involved in promotional appearances, these fans would more tenaciously and accurately promote the project to mainstream viewers. Both of these are only achievable to the degree that all the major interests in the project form a cohesive brain-trust, which can only happen with a relatively small group.

The more unity, the more depth. The more division, the more shallow.
Lost: The Complete Sixth And Final Season - This groundbreaking, epic TV series is based largely on philosophy and classic literature, but is told in a mysterious and thrilling style which is very contemporary. In my opinion, the most important thing ever aired on television.
The Coming Aristocracy - A rapid read, yet a meaty book, which puts into black and white the problem with tyranny and elitist thinking—and actually provides a solution through independent "mini-factories."

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"LOST: Dr. Linus"

DISCLAIMER: In a previous post, I discussed the importance of ABC's "LOST." Therefore, I am beginning a series which briefly explores thoughts on the show with respect to FITmedia and Truth in Fiction. Being as the posts are philosophical in nature, I will try to keep story spoilers to a minimum. However, because many of the philosophical pillars are tied to critical events, it is impossible to discuss without some spoilers. For those of you not following the show, I hope that these posts will be worthwhile on their own merit, and should they inspire you to watch the show, that they will not have ruined the plot for you. You have been warned.

"Dr. Linus"

As one might expect from the title, the seventh episode of this season centers on Ben Linus. We are introduced to the main theme right away as Dr. Linus teaches his European History students about the island of Elba, where Napoleon faced the test of his lost of power. Ben has, from the very beginning, been a power broker. Even in his most difficult positions, he always had a plan. The numerous times he played the role of prisoner, he was really in control of the situation.

This was especially true in the hands of John Locke, from whom he elicited much frustration. Trapped in the Swan Station (Season 2), Ben spurred on a growing friction between Locke and Jack. He manipulated Locke's need to be special, and Jack's need to be right to eventually drive them both away from the station in order to escape. In Season 4, Locke is holding Ben prisoner at a house in the barracks, but in a matter of a few episodes, Ben is living among them as a free man again.

It is interesting to see the role that "Locke" now plays in Ben's life—both as the disguised Man in Black on the Island and as the substitute teacher in the flash-sideways. It is now clear that Ben's struggle was to balance the desire to protect Alex and a desire for power. In the flash-sideways, the well-meaning John Locke encourages him to pursue the job of school principal (a position of power) when he expresses a concern for his History Club (of which Alex is a member). On the Island, Locke tempts him with the job of leading the Island now that Jacob is gone (a position of power), which he sees as his only purpose now that Alex is dead.

In both timelines, Ben's desire for power leads him to do something unethical. As a teacher, he enlists the help of a colleague to find evidence of an "inappropriate relationship" between the school nurse and the current principal in order to blackmail him into retiring. On the Island, he accepts the help of a "man" who should be his enemy if he were truly a follower of Jacob. In both timelines, he faces the choice of sacrificing that which is more dear to him than power—his relationship with Alex.

In the flash-sideways, Ben's attempted power-grab reveals a choice (at the hand of the principal) of becoming the "leader" of the school or letting Alex "live." This is a parallel of the events in the main timeline, where Ben kidnaps baby Alex, but is told by Charles Widmore that the Island wants her dead. Later Ben becomes the leader when he exiles Widmore because of an "inappropriate relationship" with a woman off the Island. Widmore "changes the rules," which causes Alex to be killed. Despite the dark path he takes on the Island, Ben decides to sacrifice his own chance for advancement to give Alex that chance instead. He appears to feel a sense of liberation at this, even offering to give his parking space away. This is a petty thing, but symbolically very unlike the Ben we know from the Island.

When Locke helps him escape from his shackles in this episode, it is his pain over the loss of Alex that stops him from killing Ilana. We see a more human side of him for probably the first time, as he sympathizes with her loss of Jacob. She ultimately gives him the chance at redemption, forgiving him rather than letting him go to Locke. Interestingly, in the seventh episode of Season 1 ("The Moth"), it is John Locke who gives Charlie the chance at redemption from his drug addiction.

This event seems to conclude Ben's story in the same way that "The Substitute" concluded Locke's story, as discussed in an earlier post. They both continue to live, but the life seems to have gone out of them. Basically, they have accepted their fate or embraced their destiny. This episode seems to reveal that Jack has done so as well, but unlike the now-powerless Ben, Jack seems to have found new power in the confidence of his purpose. Only time will tell how this plays out.
FEATURED MEDIA: Preorder the final season!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Creative Control

Media, money, and marketing: the three M's of any artistic/creative endeavor, which have a naturally close relationship and therefore require the close attention of the key creator(s) or artists. Media is the thing itself; the "souvenir" or the channel through which the content is transfered to the consumer. For most artists, the chosen medium is important to the specific content (i.e.: a cookie is the ideal medium for a fortune). Whatever medium is chosen, some amount of money will be needed to give it life, and once alive, marketing is needed to recoup funds at a profit—if for no other reason than to personally fund another project.

Money is the lifeblood of a project, and is necessary to even begin the process. It can be in the form of cash, as from an investment by financial backers or from the profits of a previous success. It can also be physical assets (like props or equipment), which might be given or loaned to the artist by friends or interested third-parties, or might be given or loaned to the specific project by the artist from his private resources.

Marketing is a subset of information, ideally related in character (if not in form) to the artistic content of the media. The act of including information about a product or service that is already saleable, and which is valuable to the media consumer can provide faster revenue for the artist, which ought to be of interest to financial backers. The earlier such marketing can be effectively implemented by the artist or close associate, the less the artist's media will be dependent upon third-party financial concerns and the biases they might bring to the form of the art.

The more directly an artist controls these three parts, the more freedom the artist has. The more removed the artist is from the money and the marketing, the more he is controlled by those who provide them. If it is true to say that money (cash or assets) is the lifeblood of a creative media project, then it is true to say that a media artist cannot complete his project without it. If marketing is the act of transferring information to those who find it valuable, then it presents an opportunity for a media artist to build revenue. Therefore, the degree to which the artist controls and operates the marketing which is paired with his media, is the degree to which he both maintains the integrity of his art and promotes third-party products and services which possess the same integrity.

To maintain creative control, the artist must have a hand in supplying his own funding and marketing his own product. There is a relational buffer area (as I see it) between these three parts of a total media business. Any one of these three can be in the leadership role. The determining factor is not the control of the other two, but the control of the rites of passage, as it were. The artist is creating something of value, that is a priority. He is offering a sound investment opportunity to prospective backers, and a high-class market block to prospective sponsors.

If the artist is to lead and maintain creative control, he has to lead and maintain creative control. That wasn't a misprint, but a call to action. The artist must know and trust those he is in business with, and the closer they are in friendship, the more cohesive their individual roles will be. Essentially, artist must decide—and commit to the decision—to accept only that help from others which is in tune with his personal ethics, and to hold the line on those ethics—independent of the loss of partners due to ethical differences.

You're only selling out, if you're losing creative control.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Control or Communicate?

I recently read a short article in the February issue of Wired Magazine, entitled "Brain Candy." The article is about a fledgling company called MindSign Neuromarketing, who wants to use fMRI technology to map movie viewers' brains in order to fine-tune the editing to achieve a certain [emotional] response. Writing with a general spirit of disgust, the author sarcastically promotes the idea. While the potentials for abuse are enormous, the information produced could be of great value if (and only if) it is used moderately.

My first question is how universal are fMRI results? Can a general mapping of stimulus response be a sufficient example of every human's response? As with any mass approach to information, there is the question of the bell curve. People, as we all know, are different. For every generalization, there is a portion of the population that falls as outliers. These outliers—both above and below the standard—represent those that are unreachable by a mass message tailored to the generalization. The degree to which the fMRI tests vary by the individual, is the degree to which any generalization would produce a murky result. If, on the other hand, the results of the fMRI tests are a spot-on standard for all humans, then there would be no outliers.

The less outliers there are, the less resistance there would be against sales campaigns that border on mind-control. That being said, those who are susceptible to the emotional message of a Hollywood movie, a TV commercial, etc. still have the free choice to run contrary to their emotions in the favor of logical conclusions. The need for rational mentors and role models would become more important than ever. Like any drug to which the body can become acclimatized, the mind can develop similar modes of defense with help. This would have the effect of promoting logic—the opposite of what MindSign seeks to exploit.

Mind control aside, this technology represents the possibility of building a mountain of data for use by media creators to more effectively communicate the truth of their message. Part of the problem with any medium is its inherently static nature. It is what it is, and generally cannot be custom-fit to the individual. Even if the content is founded on universal truths, the expression of those truths might get lost in translation for some people. A universal language of expression would work wonders to tear down these barriers.

All in all, new technology comes with both strengths and weaknesses, and therefore only constitutes progress to the degree that the sum-total of its effects is positive. If "neuromarketing" has a chance to replace all other forms of marketing, we must make certain that it is because it is more effective in communicating truth, and not just because it is easier to make people comply with commercial ideology. The value of a skilled marketer is in his ability to tailor the message to the individual or small group. What do you think would happen if technology replaced this?
FEATURED MEDIA: The Matrix - (I'm being a little tongue-in-cheek with this one.) A computer programmer who believes it is 1999, finds out he is actually plugged into a computer matrix and only dreaming his life. Every aspect of his "life" is controlled by a computer program, designed by robots so they can use people for their bio-energy.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

"LOST: Sundown"

DISCLAIMER: In a previous post, I discussed the importance of ABC's "LOST." Therefore, I am beginning a series which briefly explores thoughts on the show with respect to FITmedia and Truth in Fiction. Being as the posts are philosophical in nature, I will try to keep story spoilers to a minimum. However, because many of the philosophical pillars are tied to critical events, it is impossible to discuss without some spoilers. For those of you not following the show, I hope that these posts will be worthwhile on their own merit, and should they inspire you to watch the show, that they will not have ruined the plot for you. You have been warned.


At last, evil is revealed! That is, if we are to believe Dogen, who calls the Man in Black "evil incarnate." Also, Sayid is revealed to be more evil than good, despite any progress he might have made in earlier seasons. The sides are fairly clear, as are their natures. What remains uncertain seems to be only their individual fates.

This episode marks the first flash-sideways to end on a down-note. Despite Sayid's insistence that he has changed, he kills in cold blood. This is a shift in Sayid's character which started in Season 4 flashforwards with Ben's plot to assassinate Widmore's associates, and which was officially introduced in "He's Our You." I feel that this represents a break in the integrity of the character. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that a "torturer" is not the same thing as a "killer."

What is interesting to note—and why I bring it up now—is the fact that it took some evolving of the character to bring him to the point of being a killer in the normal timeline, which is fair. However, it "jumped the shark" to portray him as a killer from childhood (and also made the presumption that killing a chicken is the same as killing a person). The flash-sideways exacerbates my sense of disbelief, because it expects us to accept that Sayid was a killer by nature at the time when he would have landed on the Island.

Another thing this episode gives us to ponder about the nature of good and evil in the LOST universe, is the fact that the Man in Black seems to be able "resurrect" the dead—at least in some unknown manner—and Jacob seems to be able to preserve life. This is strange, at least from a traditional view of good and evil, because evil usually represents death—especially from a Judeo-Christian view. This may support the theory that the two sides are more like chess pieces in that they are merely distinct from one another and not necessarily good or bad.

It is likely that we still have yet to see the true faces of good and evil, and equally likely that we never will. If ultimately Jacob and the Man in Black are merely the "kings" of the chess board, then the real players may be only implied, but never revealed. Like God and Satan.
FEATURED MEDIA: Preorder the final season!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Natural Result

[Reposted from]

Where does Hollywood's incentive lie? Butts in seats. That's all. If they can get you to buy a ticket, the quality of the movie does not matter. And so the quality of movies suffers. Now granted, there are artists in Hollywood who do care about the quality of the film and most studio executives know enough about business to know that the studio's name is on the line if the audience doesn't have a good time, but what long term value is there in just having a good time?

What I'm talking about is a short-sighted perspective. Many people, companies, and industries are to blame, but sources of fiction propagate this negative trend by portraying it as reality. While what's in front of you might be the truth, it may not be the whole truth.

Our culture today has some significant problems. We are an unhealthy people, facing heart disease, obesity, and cancer. We are in an economic crisis; many of us are unable to get out of debt, much less accumulate wealth. Our relationships are in peril: divorce rates are high, family members aren't speaking, and everyone shifts blame.

Health is the natural result of our bodies functioning properly. Key distinction: you may be HEALTHY right now, but if your body isn't functioning PROPERLY, you won't be for long. Our bodies function properly when they are properly maintained. Like a car, we need the proper intake of certain chemicals to keep our parts working smoothly. Is it fair to say that we don't eat properly? Is it fair to say that few, if any, of us follow the FDA's scientifically backed food pyramid? Many believe that health food is a lot of expensive hype, that as long as they're full, it doesn't matter what they consume. Many would rather watch TV than go for a jog because it's easier. The truth is there are things you need to do now to prevent health problems in the future.

Wealth is the natural result of living within our means. You see, wealth is not about how much you make, despite popular opinion. It is about how much you keep. Not budgeting your money is like trying to build a house without a blueprint. And red-lining your income (or spending every cent you make), is like driving on a narrow bridge with no guard rails. Many think it's just too hard to budget, or that they need to spend money to make money. The truth is the vast majority of millionaires in America are very frugal, and the people that look like a million bucks are broke.

Solid relationships are the natural result of putting other people first. People who feel respected are more likely to respect you. Could it be that sometimes the other person needs more from you than you can get from them? What would happen if you chose to invest in people? Many have a "take care of number one" or a "look out for me and mine" mentality. They figure other people's problems are none of their business and they are happy that is the case. The truth is, it's not. People need people. Relationships both build and crumble by small acts compounding over time.

Is Hollywood causing this? No. The only one I can blame is me. You and I are the community of people who consume these movies, what we buy is what we support. As a society, we are in love with the idea that we are victims of our environment. Hollywood, TV, and other mass media simply caters to this want. The natural result of enabling victim-thinking is the death of progress.

What if we formed a different kind of community? One where there is incentive in the teaching of truth? Stories (true or fictitious), have historically been used to teach lessons about life. Many are still with us in some form today. I believe that classic films are those that hold the most truth, because truth lasts. The films that continue to be watched hold the greatest long-term value and create the greatest residual incomes for their creators (the studios included.)

What if we learn the truth about these three areas? What if we teach the truth by bringing people into an association of like-minded people? What if we banded together to create truthful media that we could proudly promote? What if we inspired people to found organizations of their own, and create truthful media from their unique perspective? What if the process perpetuated?

Let's solve problems, build a community, and put Truth in Fiction!
The Millionaire Next Door - An astonishingly detailed book about the real millionaires in America. Authors Stanley and Danko have done an exhaustive study of millionaires, and found that many act and look like their middle-class counterparts and are first-generation wealthy.
Love & Respect - An eye-opening book about the difference between what husbands and wives expect from each other emotionally.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Feb '10: The Month in Posts

In an effort to bring some cohesion to this blog and weed out a lot of random thoughts, I have decided to begin posting an end-of-the-month overview of the best posts from that month. Hopefully, this will help new readers catch up on some of the main ideas we discuss, while providing clarity for those who (I'm sorry) might have been confused by the clutter. Since this is the first post of this nature, I will also be including posts from January '10 and from December '09.

So How Do We Discover Truth? - Dec 21, 2009
At this point in human history, the playing field as been leveled like never before. Not only has the advancement of technology brought powerful tools into the hands of the people (not the least of which is digital media solutions for video and audio), but it has brought us a limitless marketplace in which to share our ideas. Such unfettered access to informational exchange should make us the wisest of all human generations... (read more)

The Story of FITmedia - Jan 9, 2010
FITmedia is an organizational philosophy based upon three components of sustainability: freedom, integrity, and truth. Simply stated, how well the pieces fit, is how fit the pieces are. Imagine a jigsaw puzzle that has been left out in the rain. If the pieces are water-logged, then it is very difficult for them to work together in harmony, each piece's "baggage" needing more space that the adjacent piece can give. (read more)
Media and Mealtime - Jan 30, 2010
To continue the mealtime metaphor, media can be constructed for the purpose of snacktime or dinnertime. It is not the volume or density of a given work that ultimately determines its literary significance, but its ability to fit the role for which it was intended. As with food for the body, media provides a full range of nutritional options for the mind. So it follows, in our contemporary fast-food age, that it is also more convenient and cheaper to feed the mind junk than health (same flaw, different industry). (read more)
The Manifesto of Truth in Fiction - Feb 3, 2010
Truth in Fiction is not referring to the truth of events, but the truth of existence. Fiction allows the author to orchestrate the events and characters in a universe of his or her own design. Because it is not bound by the truth of events, fiction authors can forget that it must be bound by the truth of existence. To forget this is to produce works which are at best, unrelatible to the audience, and at worst, poisonous to the unsophisticated mind. (read more)
Media and Marketing - Feb 7, 2010
Permit me to save a lengthy discussion of the etymology of the word "media," and just say, for our purposes that media is referring primarily to entertainment mass media such as television, movies, novels, and their digital kin. The content of such media is a creative (if not artistic) endeavor, which by its nature attracts a crowd. The easier such media content is for people to access, the bigger the following will be. Therefore, it is only natural that such media would ideally be free and widely accessible. (read more)
The Producer's Mind - Feb 16, 2010
A successful producer must be able to manage input and output. He must know where he is in the chain of production, what his immediate customer wants, and what the end consumer wants. He must then understand the "raw" material which he is buying, its cost and value. He must be aware of the business politics of his vendors, and to what degree they can be trusted. Basically, to be a success, he must be a gatekeeper of value. (read more)
Emotional Attachment - Feb 22, 2010
Unscrupulous advertisers seek to tap your emotional weak spots in order to push on you a product which you really don't need. Emotional attachment of this kind is unhealthy and ought to be exercised from a free thinking person's mind. This isn't to say that emotions are not valid, but a good rule of thumb would be that emotions are for people, not things. FITmedia seeks to create writers, producers, and distributors who understand that the only products that should sponsor true art are truly artful products. (read more)
Monetize the Starving Artist - Feb 23, 2010
I've found, through personal experience, that it is considerably difficult to balance the need to express one's art with the need to sustain oneself financially. Because one's art is entangled with one's sense of purpose, the artist can fall into the trap of self-satisfaction and the sacrifice of all else. In other words, it is easier to relegate one's art to the realm of the hobby and spend only a minimal amount of time bringing in a salary. This is, of course, the old concept of the "starving artist." (read more)
The FITmedia Difference - Feb 28, 2010
The consortium of independents created through this process would have an interest in the continued trade of their resources as a part of this community. Loyalty would only be sustained to the degree that the whole consortium (or at least units of a certain size) continue to operate with a spirit of freedom, integrity, and truth. (read more)