A State of Mind

A strange thing happened on my way to The Wulfshead today.

I was reminiscing this morning about A State of Mind, a 2004 documentary film, which casts an unsettling look into the lives of North Korean families, two in particular, and the lengths they go to so as to "please" Kim Jong-il during the Mass Games, and fulfill their "mission" to be good patriotic citizens.

I was thinking about how some of the people there have radios in their apartment that are always on. The radio can't be turned off, only turned down, and the lowest volume is still 25 decibels!

Imagine that: it would be very much like having FOX News on all the time, and not be able to do anything about it. "How dreadful," I was thinking to myself...

And then it hit me!

Every so often, I take MetroBus, like I was this morning on my way to The Wulfshead, and, well, most of those buses now have flat screens TV installed inside them. Passengers come and go aboard the buses and those TVs are always on, playing a variety of things (including ads) that apparently the MetroBus's sponsors seem to think the passengers should hear and see.

And those TVs can't be turned off either!!!

... And then I didn't wake up, and it didn't turn out to be all a dream.

Judging by the look of the people around me, I don't think anyone else had awaken either.

It is a Brave New World.


  1. Oh this is truly awful news. And it can't can't be blamed on President Obama. This must have something to do with State and local governments. Or are mass transits all privatized now? Is the news I have to watch on the train Faux News? If so, I am never leaving home again.

  2. No, of course not. Not everything has to do with Obama. (And not "everything" always had to do with Bush, either.) Nor does everything has to do with the power of the nation-states of the world---be it the U.S., or Western European nations, or Russia, or China, or India, or any nation on the surface of the globe. We live in a world in which Multinational corporations rule the world. And there is very little the so called "sovereign" nations of the world can do about it really, other than keeping up appearances, especially around election time. Who wants to tell anyone that "we the people" do not control very much anymore--or so very little. The "big government" scarecrow wielded by the GOP is but a red-herring.

    Most mass transits in the U.S. still depend on various systems of local governance whose members are selected by a combination of city councils, councils of governments, and county supervisors representing the area. Many members are local politicians. There would be a lot more to be said about that, but you got the point.

    The flat screen TV dates back to 2005 and 2006 depending on the areas---it took some time to develop and implement. It was put in place in partnership with Transit Television Network, LLC, to provide - I quote - "a broadcast passenger information and entertainment television system" on board some mass transits' buses. The TV system has been promoted as a "win-win" for public transportation agencies and their patrons on the ground that supposedly "not only did it enhance the bus riding experience for the patrons, but it cost the agency nothing to operate and actually generated advertising revenue." Some agencies even went out of their way to provide "studies" demonstrating how happy people were about the TTV system.

    Transit Television Network, LLC, a subsidiary of Torstar, an independently-owned Canadian broadly based media company, is headquartered in Orlando, Florida and is the largest out-of-home digital network providing information, entertainment and advertising to transit riders across North America.

    Torstar Corporation announced last month the closure of Transit Television Network. The company says that both Transit Television Network, LLC and Transit Television Network California, LLC have filed for bankruptcy in the U.S.

    Transit TV provided advertising on 8,500 television screens and was seen by an estimated 500 million riders a year on nearly 4,000 vehicles.

    Torstar says it expects to take a charge in the fourth quarter of approximately $1.5 million related to Transit Television Network.

  3. No FOX News in buses---not yet, so far.

    But FOX News has been moving very aggressively in other public (privately owned) spaces, like in hotel lobbies, bars, restaurants, gym clubs (very prominently in some YMCAs), and even in public spaces that are financed by money from taxpayers, like in Airports.

    If confronted about it and asked whether they would consider switching over to news broadcasting that is more politically neutral than Fox News, which tends to be “the right-wing Republican voice,” the standard response of the powers-in-charge is to conduct a "survey." (Just like mass transits agencies did for TTV.) The conclusion of said survey invariably is that he results have not given reason enough to make a change.

  4. Your response to my very naive question is devastating. I am fighting back tears and furious. I'm a recluse. I live in self-imposed exile from "people." I live in Utah, a state that is now the reddest in the nation, or so I've been told. All of this brainwashing of the public transit taking portion of the populous here in Utah is probably true since Utah is as reactionary and right wing as anyplace on earth. Utah's state government is run by Mormons. It just may be the most right wing fundamentalist of all the rich western religions. It owns the priciest of Salt Lake's downtown real estate. It is tax exempt yet owns for-profit businesses. It spent in excess of $500,000,000 to pass California's proposition 8. And it sends an army of 18 year old mostly men out into the world to proselytize, since the church grows fat on mandatory tithing of ten or fifteen percent of income for every member of a household. It's churches are called "Wards." It's larger neighborhood meeting houses are called "Stake Houses." Every neighborhood of a few blocks has a Ward House, and every ten or fifteen Wards have a Stake House. All men after their missions are "Elders." All Elders over thirty or so are eligible to be Bishops for a couple of years. And all the men, no matter how young are the bosses of the females in their households. There is no rape in Utah. Or so they say. No incest either. But the state is known as the "Scam Capital of the Nation." That may have changed since Bernie Maddoff got caught. I'm surprised he isn't a Mormon.

    All this to say, nothing would surprise me when it comes to Utah, its governance, and its cosy relationship to its business interests. But the hopelessness I feel now after reading what you've said
    is unbearable. Now I feel like an idiot, a dupe--that there is no reason to vote, let alone work to help elect... If I accept your statements as fact, and more than likely true, I might as well be dead, because I can't bear to believe that there is no hope for a progressive, liberal political agenda ever for this country or any other. And we are lost. And most of the world is a war ravaged smoking cinder and women are slaves everywhere unless they are very very wealthy and ruthless. Is that what you're telling me? Hope is for the very naive, the gullible, the rubes, the very stupid? Have you a suggestion other than suicide for this state of affairs?

  5. I need more than a drink. Hemlock perhaps?

  6. Hmm... Everything is simple or not.

    I don't know that Hemlock is due to perform at The Wulfhsead any time soon. I would hope not.

    For those who might not be in the know, Hemlock is a heavy metal band from Las Vegas, Nevada:

    A Hemlock concert staple is the wall of death. It requires the participants to be split into two separate "walls" that face each other from opposing sides of the concert floor (usually where the mosh pit is located). In Hemlock's version of the wall of death, the band starts playing music while the lead singer counts down from 10. After the singer reaches the number 1, he usually screams out a word such as "go". At this point, the two sides of the audience rush at each other in an often violent collision that may involve jumping in the air, swinging of fists, and throwing of elbows. A mosh pit usually forms following the wall of death.

    Not my cup of tea, really.

  7. Everything is simple or not.

    It has been an interesting day.

    First there was that bus experience.

    And then I just saw a documentary about China that I didn't find any less unsettling than the documentary film about North Korea that I had been referring to, earlier on---which is interesting considering the documentary was merely about a Chinese couple getting married and vacationing in China.

    Then there was, of course, that passionate and most informative comment about Utah by Utah Savage (Thank you for sharing.)

    And then there is Aminata Traoré who writes for Le Monde Diplomatique, which I read from time to time to try to keep up with the world: Missira, the area of Bamako where Aminata Traoré lives, has taught her a lot in two years about the limits of representative democracy "wherever the dollar is supreme and the rules are set by Washington, Paris, Brussels or Geneva." She believes that in the context of global struggle, resistance is a noble mission, which demands solid, creative action, especially in Africa where the population is disillusioned and exasperated.

    Some of the things she says for Africa, others have said it for the US or Europe:
    "We need to go further and faster at a local level and use the experience of social change to inform and educate people, to create a critical mass of economically and politically aware citizens."

    The fact is that "economically and politically aware citizens" already exist. One of them is Barack Obama. There are some good men and women out there. And not all politicians are corrupt. The problem is that even those "informed" citizens, some of which are in position of power, are not sure how to go about reforming our global economy. They are very very nervous about upsetting it. They don't know what to do. There are political philosophers like Immanuel Wallerstein who proclaim the demise of neoliberal globalization. But reports of neoliberalism's death are greatly exaggerated. And what do political philosophers really understand to the world anyway. There is such a thing as philosophical myopia and neoliberalism is only part of the problem. And then, there is of course the rest of the population of the globe which is too busy making a living, that is, those who are not starving, or exploited in mines or sweatshops, or in the middle of one war or another.

    This doesn't mean that one should give up hope.

  8. Come to think of it, the bus example is a perfect metaphor for what is wrong with the invisible hand of the market. The Marie-Antoinettes of "laissez-faire" would argue that people are free and that if TTVs annoy or offend them, no one is forcing them to take those buses.

    Right! "Let them drive cars!"

  9. Oh dear, a "serious" post. Well ladies, you can't say I haven't tried to stay apolitical at The Wulfshead...although there's no sign on the wall that bans talk about social problems. Actually Nausicaa, it probably is Bush's fault...what with Homeland Security and all. Where the hell did they come up with "homeland?" Don't they know that's European talk? And what you don't know is those TVs you have to watch...are watching you.

    Please amble over to Rolling Stone---if you don't already subscribe (and if not, why not!)--and read Naomi Klein's expose of the Chinese spy system. Developed here in the good ol' USA...and improved on with the eyeball tracing in that homeland. You think I'm kidding?

  10. Great article. I am sure that the ladies and gents of the Wulfshead do know that you're not kidding, Richard. I suspect that none of this is really coming as a shock to anyone, as none of it is particularly new: The All Seeing Eye.

    The issue revives an interesting question as to whether Technology will be the silver bullet that helps free individuals and bring about a self-sustaining decentralized society (like the optimists hope), or whether it will prove to be the mean by which a political oligarchy in power, or a corporate cartel, or a combination of both (which, essentially, is the definition of fascism), will enforce their bondage over the masses, as imagined in the dire kind dystopia conjured up by George Orwell in "1984."

    Ahem! Bartender, keep that hemlock away from Lady Savage, will you?

  11. No need for hemlock now, I"m too depressed to get out of bed. Do you deliver?