Intellectual Prisoners

When I was about eighteen, I built a TV set as a school project.
It happened in the innocent days when television programs were broadcast in black and white and were (as God intended) commercial-free.
Television was then a thrilling new form of entertainment and it was a big hit.
But little by little, commercial messages found their way into this new media and weakened its appeal by saturating broadcasts with loud and crass messages.
Nowadays, a viewer is literally gasping for oxygen when venturing in TV land.

But in the swamps of TV broadcasting there are still a few “organic” oasis offering interesting and educational material. You just need to dig to find them.

Personally I zigzag between commercial-free American and French programs. I also record presentations that I perceive to be interesting and delouse them later by editing out the commercial rubbish.
In spite of it all, some television offerings can sometimes be thought provoking and incite you to question some of your own beliefs.

I am particularly partial to a French program called “on n’est pas couché” which roughly translated means “we are not yet asleep”.
On this three hour talk show, the host invites four or five personalities, and asks two critics in residence to grill them about their latest achievements.
The exchanges between guests and critics can become heated and some personalities have stormed out of the set.

What makes this program interesting is the fact that it is not afraid to tackle controversial topics and that it allows enough time for guests and critics alike to dwell on a specific subject.
Politicians are regularly invited on this show to expose their views and defend their credos.
They are sometimes booed or applauded by the audience.

What struck me about these debates is the fact that many people have become prisoners of a rigid doctrines.
A Communist leader for instance cannot stray from party lines and is often in the position of defending ridiculous ideas even though he might harbor second thoughts about them.
Similarly a priest will defend the Church’s policy of celibacy while secretly longing for female companionship.

Even though you might be inclined to agree with ideas postulated by certain groups, you should not blindly defend all of their views.
If you are not vigilant, you could become prisoner of a cult and get infected with the virus of extremism.
You need to remain a freethinking individual and be willing to disagree with a group’s policies when it clashes with your own ideas or ethics.

When in August 1939 the Soviet Union signed a pact of non-aggression with Germany, Communists worldwide were non-plussed but didn’t protest.
They were prisoners of a doctrine and couldn’t allow themselves to disagree with their leaders.

But I will respect a Republican who will speak out in favor of gun control, and applaud a priest who demands the revocation of celibacy.
I will also applaud those who have the courage to speak against politically correct but often misguided ideas.

It doesn’t do anybody any good to have politicians entrenched in a political ghetto (hello congressmen) especially when the Barbarians are banging at the gates.



Anybody home?

You are surfing the Net and you land on a certain website; suddenly you need some information.
You start looking for a contact, a chat person.
You look under every available link and come out empty handed.
Nada, nichts, nothing, rien!
Yoo-hoo… anybody home?

Obviously somebody is home, but nobody wants to talk to you.
You came to this site and you can look at everything you want, but if you have any questions (or God forbids complaints), tough!
The gnomes pulling the strings of this website live in splendid isolation and don’t want to be bothered by any Tom, Dick or Harry.

Well my friends, this is a big mistake.
No matter how big you are you need to keep your ears close to the ground and stay in touch with your patrons.
You know these pesky little people who pay your salary, your extravagant bonuses, your Mercedes, your mistress’ upkeep.

Failing to listen has proved to be very detrimental to anybody’s financial health.
The arrogance of the powerful is often the seed to their downfall.
“Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” (let them eat cake)” supposedly said Marie-Antoinette.
A few years later her head rolled into a basket.

I am pretty sure that even Barak Obama (or some of his people) would acknowledge your letter if you wrote to him.
They might question you, but they will acknowledge you.

And that’s my point. You want to be heard.
Whether your goal is to praise or to complain, there ought to be an area on any blog or website where readers can communicate with the master of the castle.

Nothing infuriates an average Netizen more than a raised drawbridge.
If you cannot communicate with the people inside the fortress, you can lay a siege (not very practical) or take your business somewhere else.
Smart leaders keep abreast of changing trends and will modify their policies to accommodate malcontents.

The ground is littered with once mighty fortresses and lords who didn’t have the good sense to listen to their subjects.
Does anybody remember Kodak?
A good example of a complacent company that refused to listen to their customers and faded into oblivion.


PS: On this site, you can leave a comment by clicking on the blue link “Leave a reply” posted at the bottom of each article

Playing styles

The pétanque season just started and soon there will be a flurry of tournaments all over the Bay Area.

Pétanque is known to be a comradely game, but the competitive nature of some individuals can sometimes morph a debonair looking doctor Jekyll into a Mr. Hyde.

Unlike the easygoing doctor, Mr. Hyde is unwilling to concede a single point without a fight. He will insist on having each point assessed and authenticated, no matter how it looks.
It is his prerogative, but when this happens too often it can spoil the mood and the pace of the game.

Losing against friendly opponents never dampens anyone’s spirit and you are more than willing to shake their hands after a hard fought game.
The same cannot be said about contentious players.

Some individuals on the other hand, will always display a sunny disposition and allow for a friendly game.
This is my kind of people, because after all pétanque is only a game and the fate of the free world doesn’t depend on the outcome of a single game or a tournament.

I daresay that I am familiar with pétanque, and I am also acquainted with many players’ idiosyncrasies.

Some people need to carefully survey the field before committing to play.
They will scrutinize the ground, plug some holes and memorize every pebble. Does this elaborate preparation guaranty success? I doubt it!
So why strain everybody’s patience with unnecessary rituals?

Timid players don’t seem to be able to play without a lengthy consultation with their teammates. It reminds me of generals too fearful to launch an attack.
After watching these people, you feel like counterattacking with a bayonet charge.

Some puritan players will insist on absolute silence and a ban on walking when they officiate. I know that it is the polite thing to do, but are we in church or on a playground? Let’s remain cool about the whole shebang.

Rene Di MaioSome people will crouch and some will stand. Some will use a Zen-like concentration before shooting. Some will play long, some will play short and some will display an unintended Nazi salute after throwing their boules.

This is pétanque and it is fine and dandy, but winning is not everything.

What matters is the high that remains after the game is over.
And you cannot achieve this high without being surrounded by people who care more about the game than its outcome.

To paraphrase Woody Allen, winning is nice but “There are worse things in life than losing a game. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman?”