This is the website of Abulsme Noibatno Itramne (also known as Sam Minter). Comments here or emails to me at abulsme@abulsme.com are encouraged... or follow me on Twitter as @abulsme.

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June 2009
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The Dish on Iran

Mentioned it before, but one of the best sources of up to date information on Iran is Andrew Sullivan. If you aren’t checking there periodically, and you care about this at all, you probably should be.

The above assumes you are not prepared to give yourself a seizure trying to follow all the Twitter action in real time on Twitterfall or the like.

It Doesn’t Help

By the way, I just have to say, having CNN on in the background right now as I get ready to take Amy to school and to go to work, it doesn’t help at all that with perhaps a handful of exceptions, the people “anchoring” on the various American TV News networks are dumb as rocks. Most of the ones with any actual depth of knowledge or insight or even just raw smarts left years ago. So even when they do decide to pay some attention, they still sound like idiots… even when they are talking to someone who DOES have good information and knowledge they act as a hinderance to getting the good information out of them instead of helping to facilitate it.

Oh, and as others have pointed out in comments, all of this is really about the American side of things, and there may well be good international alternatives… but I do not have easy access to see them streaming 24/7, I just see bits and pieces of them, so I can’t judge how they are in real time. Even BBC TV News, which I watch fairly regularly, I only get at a few times a day, and only on weekdays, and that just isn’t the same.

Yes, Partly, but…

One take on why the mainstream media completely fell down for most of the weekend on Iran…

The Missing Iran Coverage
(Megan McArdle, The Atlantic, 15 Jun 2009)

One of Andrew’s readers asks where the MSM is on Iran. The New York Times and numerous internet sites have wall-to-wall coverage, including Andrew’s sterling work. Other outlets practically ignored the biggest story currently going on in the world over the weekend.

But I think Andrew’s reader’s question is ultimately a business story. Why doesn’t the MSM have more coverage? Because they don’t have the manpower. The cable networks are hamstrung by the fact that they don’t have much footage of what’s going on in Iran.

The print media is hamstrung by the fact that they’ve slashed their foreign bureaus to the bone–and then amputated the bone. There are too few journalists in too few places to cover a big story like this.

Yes, the above is all true. The “assets” needed for reporters “owned” by the main stream media to report directly from the scene just are not there like they might have been decades ago, because both television and print have pulled back massively internationally because over the years the profit model for keeping those resources just didn’t hold up. (Although I will say, CNN *did* have assets on the ground and just was slow to deploy them and give priority to this story.)

HOWEVER…. if anything the events of the weekend have proven that you can get quite a lot of information without having ANY assets on the ground… by doing a good job of aggregating sources that ARE on the ground, and by finding and presenting true experts where they exist, and by acting as an intelligent filter on top of the masses of raw information available. A number of online sources, including Andrew Sullivan who was mentioned above, have been doing an incredible job of that. And this includes plenty of compelling pictures and video that could have been used on TV nicely.

There is a lot that the mainstream media COULD have done… all with no assets directly on the ground, just with a handful of smart people making use of the information that was available and digesting and presenting the best of it to the people watching.

This STARTED to happen by Sunday afternoon, but Saturday this was completely and totally absent. From not just CNN, but from pretty much every “traditional” news source.

It has been obvious for quite some time that such sources were no longer a “good” source of news relative to the newer alternative sources in many many cases. (Although some of the original reporting for print has still remained valuable.)

This weekend though television media in particular proved that it no longer had any value at all in the realm of important live breaking news, the one area where it was still relevant and potentially valuable. They have now ceded even that ground.

Sure, they might not have been able to do it the same way they did Tienanmen Square because of lack of their own resources on the ground. But there would have been ways they could have done it. But they don’t know how. They are done.

Now the only remaining place where the TV news networks are useful is when you need something droning on in the background while you do other things, but want to keep an ear out in case something important happens… and actually, radio (probably via the internet, not the airwaves) is better for that. Oops.

Bold Prediction of the moment: Unless they completely and totally transform into something unrecognizable, in 10 years there will not be any American “24 Hour News Network” any more. Not one. They will all be gone, because they have no remaining value. It will just take awhile for enough people to stop watching for them to actually get the message and go under.

Less Than Seven

Hey, I posted the podcast less than 7 hours after we finished recording it. I can’t even remember how long it has been since the last time that happened. More often recently it has been more like three or four days. So anyway, go me for timeliness.

Of course, now it is way past my bedtime.

Time to go to sleep.

On the other hand, the big rally in Iran is supposed to start in just about two hours, and I wouldn’t want to be asleep for that, would I?

Hmmm. Tough choices.

But I do have work in the morning, so I guess I should probably sleep.

Drat.

Note added a few minutes after the above: Yes, I know there have been some reports that the rally has been canceled or postponed. There are other reports saying that is not true at all. I suspect that regardless, there will be something happening anyway. When you have a movement like this, having anybody say “Oh, never mind” stops some people, but a lot will still continue anyway.

Curmudgeon’s Corner: Breaking News

Sam and Ivan talk about:

  • Sick Ivan
  • #CNNFail
  • Iranian Election Aftermath
  • Twitter
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  • Uighurs
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DVD: Dune

It was time for a Brandy DVD. The one that would have been next on her Netflix list was a later season of a TV show that neither I or Amy had been watching. Since that wouldn’t work for movie night, she pulled forward on her list this lovely gem of a movie. I very vaguely remember seeing it when it came out, or soon thereafter. The only thing I remembered was one scene involving the villian and his pus. I remember being disturbed by it.

Watching this for the first time in years, I did remember other bits as they came up, but it was mostly fresh. And, well… this isn’t a great movie. It tries to be all epic and such, but it also tries to cover the material from the long and complex book in just a single movie… a long movie, but still just a single movie. It might be possible to do this well, but this movie doesn’t do so. Things move from scene to scene with you never getting to care about any of the characters, and in a very disjointed way that always makes you feel like there are major things missing, that if only they were explained would make the whole thing make a bit more sense. But they are not there, so you just constantly feel like you are missing something.

Sure, you get to see people riding worms. You get to see Sting scowl and jump around some. And you get to see the creepy little girl at the end. But in exchange you have to see the disgusting Baron Harkonnen. And really bad special effects on the shields. And just generally be going “Huh?”

It seems what we watched was the Theatrical Version, but there is an “Extended Edition” that was produced later, that included a bunch of deleted scenes… but also removed some things and made a bunch of other edits. You would think that some more time and exposition might make this film a bit better, but from the reviews I’ve read, it actually makes things even worse… longer without adding much of value.

There was a TV Mini-Series also made out of this in 2000. It is longer. And it is better if I remember it properly. OK, admittedly, I probably watched it once when it was on TV, and don’t actually remember much about it… but it had to have been better, right?

Of course the best choice here is to forget the movie versions, and go read the book.

The book is a classic and worth reading. The movies… not so much.

Kindle Ratio for 15 Jun 2009 – 45%

The percentage of the last 20 books I have read that are available on Kindle holds steady at 45%. I’ve said I will officially want one after this percentage is more than 50%.

Book: Ender’s Game

Author: Orson Scott Card
Started: 9 May 2009
Finished: 30 May 2009
324 p / 22 d
15 p/d

For Christmas Brandy gave me the most recent book from the Ender universe, but it had been a long time since I had read any of the series, and I hadn’t read all of them, so I decided I needed to reread all of them before reading the new one. So here we go.

For the benefit of anybody who has NOT read Ender’s Game before, I will attempt to be spoiler free, because Ender’s Game is one of those books that has the most power the very first time you read it, if you read it cold with no prior knowledge. The quick summary is that it is about a young kid being trained to be a leader in a big war.

Even rereading it after having read it several times before, many parts of this book resonate with me. Some of the bits about Ender and his family. Some of the bits at the battle school. And then the last two chapters get me in the gut emotionally every time.

This is a classic. If you haven’t read it, you should.