Friday, November 06, 2009

Are we nearing the end of moviegoing as a shared social experience and does it matter?

The End Is NearI took this photo this afternoon in front of Blockbusters store on West Washington. It's just one location, but the fact is, everything is gonna move to the internets. I'm no great fan of Blockbuster, but I'll miss video rental stores when they're gone. Movies will increasingly be delivered online (Blockbuster is scrambling to catch up with NetFlix in the emerging online market). One more step toward our withdrawing from even the minimal social contact found in theaters, and even to some extent, video stores. Instead, we'll retreat even further into our own homes, our individual cocoons, wrapped up ever more snugly in our own solipsism. Or so it seems sometimes. What's really bad is when you start to think, "So?"

It's all about the framing

It's All in the Framing
Poster in the window of Rainbow Bookstore. Nice commentary about a major issue in an age of corporate visual media. Communication, especially if it's primarily visual, is in large part about framing. It's always a good question to ask as a consumer of news. What's in the frame? What's outside? Why?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The good news is that the parking lot is almost always jammed with cars in every available space

The Good News Is the Parking Lot Is Almost Always Full
It means that the Sequoya Branch of the Madison Public Library has been a big hit since it reopened about a year ago in its new quarters in Sequoya Commons. There's more space, more computers for people to use, and a lot more traffic than at their cramped older quarters. (Presumably there will be more parking space when Phase II of the Sequoya Commons development is finished.)

The bad news is the parking lot is almost always full, and cars have to circle and wait for someone else to leave the busy parking lot -- making it an interesting laboratory for studying human nature and how it affects parking behavior. The question is, how much parking hassle will people put up with in order to park slightly closer to the library -- that is, how much will they sacrifice in the hopes of saving a few steps?

Quite a bit, it seems. Most of the traffic coming into and out of the parking lot come in through the Caromar Dr. entrance, often passing a vacant space or two on the street. You can pull into one of those, walk across and be in the library before most of the people in cars ever get parked. But you usually have to parallel park and walk a few extra steps (basically, across the street) to get there.

Lured by the dream of saving a bit of effort and a few footsteps, most drive right by the on-street parking and pull into the parking lot, only to join the lines of cars circling to try to find a space. The feeling seems to be, hey, I might get lucky and find a space right away, right next to the front door. It's a fascinating example of the human tendency to give up that perfectly good bird in the hand and go after the two in the bush. And to rely on that automotive dream that our car will give us a door-to-door ride to wherever we want to go, even if it usually doesn't.

I go to Sequoya a lot. So where do I park? I can't help myself -- I do what everyone else is doing, pull into the parking lot, often passing up a perfectly good space on the street. The parking lot just seems to be the place to be, filled with bibliophiles looking for a place to park.

Note: Although the sign on the door says "Closed Sunday," that's not true in fall and winter -- the branch is open Sundays, 1:00-5:00, until spring.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Why can't the richest country on earth afford healthcare? Well, actually, it can.

There was a great Op-Ed in yesterday's LA Times about the California deficit crisis by Rebecca Solnit, subtitled The state has plenty of money and resources. What we've been lacking is a real-world discussion about how we distribute them, and she's not just talking about California, although that's her starting point.
Americans usually have fantastic visions of where our resources come from and go. A lot of Americans seem to believe that the federal government spends tons of money, rather than a small percentage of the federal budget, on the arts and foreign aid; but in fact, about half of discretionary spending goes to the military -- the largest and most expensive military the world has ever seen, one that costs nearly as much as all the other militaries put together.

In discussing the national financial crisis, the military was never really on the chopping block, even though its budget could, with a little paring, provide healthcare, education, environmental restoration, some cool climate-change adaptation and all the other pieces of a good society and a great nation. Do we really need several hundred military bases in more than 125 countries? And all those expensive toys? And the research programs to do things like weaponize insects? Do we need them more than we need to keep children healthy?
Thanks to Jim Johnson, who has a post about Solnit in his blog (Notes on) Politics, Theory & Photography.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

4 is for 40 and still having fun after all these years

4 Is for 40 and Still Having Fun After All These Years
And for four TD passes. Brett Favre tied Dan Marino's record of 21 games with four or more TD passes on his return to Lambeau Field, throwing for 244 yards on 17 of 28 passing and no interceptions, helping the Vikings improve to 7-1 on the season. Not bad for a senior citizen in football years.