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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

A Hand-Cranked Computer for The Least of These

Friday, January 27, 2006



I've seen a couple of magazine blurbs about this plan, and today the AP is running a story about the UN"s participation. Basically, a guy named Negroponte from the MIT Media Lab has a plan to distribute a ton of these $100 laptop computers to school-age children in developing countries. The computers are to have wireless internet capability and a hand-crank for power. The initiative is being called One Laptop Per Child.

I'm interested in what people think about this. My first thought is Technopoly. That's the important book by media critic Neil Postman that sets forth the thesis that technologies carry an agenda. A new technology, be it a printing press or a microchip, has an inherent agenda to accomplish a certain kind of change in the way the people who use it think and relate to the world.

So this is what I'm working through in my head about this initiative: are these $100 laptops as much a way to spur development in the "under-developed" world as they are a (perhaps un-intentional) way of spreading a certain western and technological way of thinking and relating to the world in children across the globe?

Does that make sense?
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:24 AM | link | 9 comments |

The Past Tense of Wing is Wung

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

It's official: The West Wing is going off the air after this, its seventh, season. After the death of John Spencer, NPH readers were treated to my opinion as to what the show should do next. Some even disagreed. Fair enough. But it seems that the producers of the show saw the writing on the wall, especially after the show was moved to Sunday nights amidst slowly declining ratings. In my view, it's better to bow out gracefully in a way that people will remember than to try to carry on in dogged determination, only to end up a laughable wreck. This is the right move.

Now, I haven't seen any of the recent episodes, and I'm more or less out of touch with the state of the present plot. All I know is that the show will end with the election of a new President, and that the decision for who that President should be has been a matter of considerable controversey amongst the shows writers. As for me, I'm still in the fifth season, the latest one to be released on DVD. I came to the show late (about a year ago), and have traversed the first five seasons in less than 12 months; then I'll probably have to wait until next December to get the sixth season.

Real fans of the show will tell you that the fifth season is when the show started to unravel a bit. Sorkin quit writing, and suddenly something was missing, some kind of spark or flair in the dialogue. But my friend who works in the industry tells me that Sorkin's a notoriously difficult person to work with, owing to a certain drug problem (that's probably a well-known fact, but I like to mention my friend in the industry, the one who's working on producing an independent feature film with the Capital One guy).

Anyway, is there anyone out there who thinks The West Wing could have done something to press on to future seasons? I just couldn't see it; neither could NBC.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 6:17 AM | link | 1 comments |

What's in That Box?

Friday, January 20, 2006

NPH is not cool. Any coolness that happens to accumulate around his life is a direct result of very cool people that he has the unexplainable and almost always accidental good fortune of running in to.

Pandora.com: heard of it? Neither had I, until one of the aforementioned very cool people told me about it. Here's how it works: you enter a song or musical artist that you like, and Pandora builds for you a radio station full of music that exemplifies the qualities of the artist or song you entered. And it's no dummy stuff, either. For examply, my "Patty Griffin" radio station went and found music that "focused on quality studio production" and that had "deep rock roots." That's pretty sweet.

I'm only about 30 minutes into this discovery, so there's more to learn, for sure. Teach Not Prince Hamlet all that you know.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 6:39 AM | link | 5 comments |

Two Telling Stories

Thursday, January 19, 2006

It's been awhile since Not Prince Hamlet did anything with marketing. But two news stories from the last few weeks have caught my attention.

First, this story about an urban stealth marketing campaign employed by Sony to market its ' Playstation game consoles before Christmas. The campaign relied upon graffiti murals on the sides of urban buildings featuring wide-eyed kids riding the Playstation like a skateboard and cranking it like a jack-in-the-box. But there's no actual mention of Sony, and the product name is never once employed. So basically it's an ad disguised as a mural. Here's a quote from the story:


"Critics and supporters agree the campaign is designed to crack through the clutter of marketing that pervades daily life."

Clutter: marketing's worst enemy. With so many advertising messages out there, how does a marketer "crack through" all of it to get their advertising message heard? Simple: disguise the advertising message as something else, in this case a piece of hip urban art. It's no different than the full page ads you see in newpapers in magazines that are unrecognizeable as ads, unless you not the tiny "special advertising section" at the top or bottom of the page.

So take note: we are swimming in a sea of advertising messages that are created for the sole purpose of sneaking up on us, hoping that we don't recognize them as ads.

Next, a story out today says that advocacy groups are suing Nickelodeon and Kellogg (and their parent company Viacom--which also owns MTV and CBS) for their practices of marketing to kids. The suit points to the findings of a recent study showing that (surprise!) television advertisements play a large role in what children eat. And what gets advertised more than anything else on Saturday mornings and all the time on Nickelodeon, the kid-specific network? High sugar, high fat foods. And the childhood obesity rate in this country is skyrocketing.

NPH is not sure how he feels about this. I always like to see the huge media monoliths get whacked with a lawsuit, but the defense of this one seems pretty easy. I mean, more than marketing influence, isn't the parents' influence on what kids eat greater? I saw all those commercials when I was a kid; I wanted all the sugar cereals and the fatty snacks. It doesn't mean I got them. In fact, I never got them. And it's to that that I owe my lean physique today (ahem).

But kid advertising is different today. Now what parents are dealing with is a multi-million dollar industry that is ever developing psychologically sophisticated messages to aim at children. In those messages, parents are chumps and the only way to be cool and accepted by all the other kids your age is to have this stuff. It puts a bigger burden than ever on parents not only to regulate the amount of marketing messages their children are exposed to, but also (and more importantly) to subvert those messages with positive affirmations of children's worth, acceptance, and love-ability apart from possession and products.

Vive La Resistance!

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:10 AM | link | 1 comments |

Retreat

Monday, January 09, 2006

I begin a three-day retreat at the Heartland Presbyterian Center this afternoon (Monday). The retreat is organized by the Synod of Mid-America, and it's aimed specifically at people who are in their first five years of ordained ministry. The thinking is that the burnout rate of ministers in their first three to five years is disproportianately high, so a retreat like this might do something to counteract all of the forces aligning to chase us from the church.

From the pre-retreat material I've gathered that we'll spend a good deal of time talking talking about and working through issues of pastoral identity. Whatever.

The irony is that the timing of this retreat couldn't be worse. Meredith's in the midst of her most difficult rotation to date (and I've already left her alone for one four-day stretch this month), we're leaving for Africa in about a month, there's a church officers retreat to plan, a family crisis, an annual congregational meeting to put together and reports to write, people to visit, and so on and so on. So in the middle of all this, I'm going to "retreat" to a camp for three days.

They tell you when they release you from seminary that, in full-time church ministry, you have to be intentional about taking time to care for yourself. Most of us don't do that very well; days off get filled with very un-off-day-like things, vacations get interrupted (that hasn't happened to me yet), and a whole host of other things make it so that it's more rewarding to work than it is to rest. Thankfully, the organizers of this retreat put at the center of it a covenant; they forced the participants as well as the sessions of their churches to sign on to a covenant stating that they would take this time, that they would release one another for this time.

Without that covenant I probably would have bailed on this thing already.

Thank God for covenants.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:43 AM | link | 3 comments |

As Promised

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Here's a link to a new blog I've started to chronicle Meredith's and my trip to Africa in February. My hope is that it will allow us to update y'all on what we're doing in real time (we've been told there's internet access at the hospital where Meredith will be working). We'll see how it goes.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:16 AM | link | 3 comments |

Not Prince Hamlet Hates It When . . .

Monday, January 02, 2006

. . . people post pictures of their pets on their blogs.

But, c'mon. Could you resist pictures like this?

The Not Prince Hamlet pad gets a little bit warmish in the winter, owing to it's heated by circa 1940 radiators and all. Pixie knows how to keep cool, though, and she defies you to give her one reason why she shouldn't be sitting in the bathroom sink.


Pixie didn't think so.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:28 PM | link | 1 comments |

Home Security

I'm back from Denver. Spending four days with the family at this time was helpful for me. It makes one feel a little bit more useful in time of crisis if one can simply be present in the midst of the crisis. Much of my life, I've discerned, has involved distancing myself from crises, especially the family variety, taking the mantle of neither the victim nor the helper, neither the man-on-the-road nor the Samaritan.

That's a possible tack in this situation. Since there is so little one can do in hospital waiting rooms and cafeterias, it seems reasonable that it makes no difference if one is actually present or not. But you all know that's not the case. If only for your own sake, you need to be there. You need to take the lumps of grief and anger and confusion along with everyone else--if only for your own sake; you hope your presence is beneficial to others as well.

I was blessed to see some good friends in Denver, friends like Marc and Perrin, Jay and Ryno and Sarah, friends who knew what questions to ask, but who also knew when to stop asking questions--friends, alas, who helped by having a beer with me and ringing in the New Year in as celebratory fashion as possible. Much love.

And family? What can one say? They are the dearest of the dear, the ones absorbing most of the impact, the ones doing the hard work both of hoping and of conceding, the ones loving and supporting and praying. It was nourishing to be among you and to remember from whence I come.

On a lighter note, pictured above is the arrangement I found atop our bedside table when I got home last night: alarm clock, picture, candle holder, and mallet--er, wait: mallet? Yep. This is my wife's sleeping companion when I am gone. Intruder beware: tread here and you will be thoroughly mashed.

It's good to be home.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 6:56 PM | link | 1 comments |