Author Archives: mediainmind

About mediainmind

Education: BFA in Painting & Sculpture from California College of the Arts (Oakland); Executive MBA in Executive Management from the Peter F. Drucker & Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management at the Claremont Graduate University (Claremont); MA and PhD in Media Psychology from the Fielding Graduate University (Santa Barbara). Experience: Over 40 years experience in marketing, advertising, and public relations on the client and agency sides of the business; for-profit and nonprofit, as well as government. Special Expertise: The interface between human behavior and the media. It's all about "media in mind."

Video Games and Cognitive Ability

The Wall Street Journal has published an article by Julie Jargon that asserts, “Gaming has cognitive benefits when teenagers and young adults play in moderation, though gamers who take it to an extreme perform worse in some tasks.” Jargon’s reporting is based on a meta-analysis of a decade’s worth of gaming’s effects by Alho, Kimmo, Moisala, Mona, and Salmela-Aro, Katariina in the journal European Psychologist.

Jargon adds, “Some studies also found gamers to have a higher volume of gray matter, the outer layer of the brain that processes information,” but also notes that viewing the kinds of fast-paced, action-packed videos often found on TikTok and related platforms “have been linked to shortened attention spans, and toggling between devices and apps has been proven to cause bottlenecks in the brain.”

Clearly, moderation is the key. Like so many things in life, going overboard is not a good idea and, in this case, can lead to a lack of ideas altogether. You can access Jargon’s article here:

The Last Kingdom, a Lost Cause

What with all the shows about Vikings populating the airwaves these days, why not check out The Last Kingdom on Netflix? Loosely based on the struggles of the several Anglo-Saxon Christian regional kingdoms that existed prior to England’s unification in 927 and “the Danes,” as the pagan raiders from Scandinavia are called, the tale takes place starting in 866 and primarily focuses on Wessex in the south of England, where King Alfred, who would go down in history as Alfred the Great, rules.

BBC produced the first two seasons of the show, which aired in 2015 and 2017. Netflix then purchased the show and took over both distribution and production for seasons 3 through 5, with the show ending earlier this year. The program is based on a series of historical novels by English author Bernard Cornwell that rely in good part on the biography of Alfred written by ninth-century historian Asser in the 890s.

Alfred dreams of uniting all of England’s autonomous regions into a single nation-state. The principal obstacle to his dream: the Vikings. Decade after decade sees alternating periods of peace and war and the TV series settles on making this into an existential struggle between Christianity and the pagan pantheon of the gods of Aesir (Odin, Thor, and company).

The British Isles, ca. 866

The hero of the series, however, is not Alfred. Rather, it is a Saxon raised by Danes, Uhtred (nee Osbert), the rightful heir to the throne of Bebbanburg in Northumbria. Osbert’s evil uncle has disenfranchised him and usurped the throne. Captured by Viking invaders following a battle that kills his parents, Uhtred comes to be loved by his captor, Ragnar the Dane, and becomes an adopted son, growing up to be a doughty warrior who vows vengeance against his uncle and intends to reclaim his birthright to the throne of Bebbanburg.

But Uhtred’s quest will not be a simple one. Instead, he becomes involved in Alfred’s machinations and allies himself with the King, rising to head of Alfred’s palace guard and ultimately, commander of the army of Wessex. Most of the series presents numerous instances of Uhtred coming to Alfred and Wessex’s rescue as they are set upon by various Viking invaders. Yet, nonetheless, Uhtred refuses to accept Christianity, which sets him up for ongoing conflicts with Alfred and Alfred’s ultra-dogmatic queen. While the show received excellent ratings on Rotten Tomatoes overall, there were a few outliers, and I now find myself among them.

I fell out of love with the show and stopped watching during episode 2 of season 3. At that point, Uhtred had lost his third wife, who died in childbirth. It seemed to me that Uhtred was destined to lose one wife per season and frankly, I just could not see that as any kind of a plot device worth pursuing. Far more aggravating for me, were King Alfred’s constant condemnations of Uhtred’s sinful acts, such as killing the occasional cleric (in one case, on purpose, in another, quite by accident) or choosing to unearth his third wife who, although a pagan, was given a Christian burial while Uhtred was off fighting Danes and then giving her a proper Viking send-off with a funeral pyre.

History records Alfred as a learned, patient man, not a dogmatic and subservient ass-kisser of any Christian cleric. The constant yo-yo-ing of the relationship between these two protagonists, along with the “wife of the season” trope, finally just wore me out.

Great production values with epic battles, fine acting by all and sundry, to be sure. But in the end, a story arc that was just too tiringly repetitive. Farewell, Uhtred.

Miracle and Wonder

I need to confess that I am very late to the audiobook thing. My first purchase was Elmore Leonard’s Freaky Deaky. Elmore Leonard has been one of my favorite fiction authors for decades. I’ve enjoyed the movies and TV series based on his work, from books like Get Shorty and Out of Sight to the TV series and movie sequel Justified, which was based on his book, Fire in the Hole.

That said, however, FD is basically a book being read aloud. It’s the digital equivalent of Books on Tape. It’s okay and Leonard’s prose is Leonard’s prose. Wonderful.

Recently, however, someone recommended an audiobook to me authored by that peripatetic observer of so many aspects of culture and trends, Malcolm Gladwell. The title: Miracle and Woder. This is an audiobook of a completely different type, one that truly takes advantage of the medium to give us an absorbing, almost addictive experience. It’s Gladwell’s interview of Paul Simon, complete with excerpts from Simon’s greatest hits and flops. In a word, it’s fascinating.

I cannot recommend this creation highly enough, and if you are a fan of either of these creative geniuses, you simply must get and play this piece.

Instagram Failure to Help

I just found out that my Instagram account has been hacked.

Someone figured out my password (my bad for not making it hard enough) and now owns my Instagram account, with all emails from “my” account now going to that fraudster. And they are using Instagram as a sales portal, probably defrauding everyone that interacts with them.

I found out only because one of the people who was in the middle of a transaction felt things didn’t seem right and looked up my name and got my email address and sent me a message.

Unfortunately, THERE IS NO WAY FOR ME TO CORRECT THE PROBLEM. Instagram has no way for me to contact anyone and does not provide a workable solution on its “help” pages. Because the fraudster’s email now shows as owner, I cannot even log in to “my” account, delete it, or even create a second account.

Meta-Facebook-Instagram’s business model has no respect whatsoever for victims of fraudulent account hackers, and I think it should. I can only hope some legislation or regulatory procedure decides to take up the challenge of getting this totally disinterested company to task for its lack of helpfulness.

The Sycophant as Medium

It looks like Vlad the Invader is finding out how unreliable relying on sycophants as one’s medium of choice can be. Surrounded by billionaire oligarchs and civil indentured servants whose primary purpose in life is to tell Vlad how wonderful, how smart, how completely right he is, he has been making a number of poor choices the past few years, culminating now in his remarkable mistake: the invasion of Ukraine.

He has grossly underestimated the strength of the in-country Ukraine resistance. He has completely missed Joe Biden’s ability to rise to an occasion when a true crisis hits. He has failed to understand that the Russian people do not want a war and that even his presumed allies, former SSRs that border Russia and up to now have been quite supportive, feel that invading a sovereign country (which they each and every one have been since the fall of the Soviet empire) is a terrible idea that they can’t support.

Does he not see that the leaders of those now independent republics look at what he is doing to Ukraine and think to themselves: “If he can do it to Ukraine, he could do it to my country too. My country, one that I run, not him.” Many readers may recall the United States’ flawed “domino theory” that led to the Vietnam debacle. Now the dominos are Kazakhstan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, to say nothing of the breakaway republics that have turned to the West: Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Moldova.

Sweden and Finland, who up to now have carefully maintained their East-West neutrality, have now firmly aligned themselves with the West. Germany is showing legendary Teutonic strength of will and resolve, willing to undergo the pain of energy shortages to teach Putin a well-deserved lesson.

Even Vlad’s new best friend forever, Xi Jinping, is maintaining a very cautious and jaundiced eye on the whole proceeding. His commitment to Vlad’s cause seems to be limited to purchasing Russian oil, now that the EU is weaning itself from Russian supplies.

A medium is literally a go-between that connects a recipient of information to a source. Putin has chosen poor sources and he is learning how big a price he has yet to pay.

Seal Team Gets All Soapy

Seal Team started out as an action-packed series that took us from place to place around the world to fight the evil terrorist menace wherever it could be found. Given the prevailing and growing ethos surrounding an ever-evolving psycho-social milieu, the show made sure to give us strong, capable women and put them into positions of authority. All good.

But over the past couple of seasons it seems to me that the show is becoming more like a daytime soap opera, fraught with complicated relationships, both hetero- and gay. The studio execs seem to have tasked the show runner and writers’ room with making the program more female-friendly. I would imagine they are doing this in an effort to boost total ratings. After all, ratings drive advertising rates and revenue!

Season 5, episode 7, “What’s Past is Prologue,” opens with almost 17 straight minutes of relationship exploration before transitioning to a new terrorist threat. And even then, we see our protagonists talking about relationships as they fly to the scene of the upcoming confrontation. Our heroes conduct a successful rescue mission and fly on home, where for the last 10 minutes or so of the episode, we once again delve into the complications of family life. All in all, it seems to be a 50/50 blend of full-tilt action and soap stuff.

Speaking only for myself, I’d like to see less soap. What do you think?

How Apple mistreats front-line personnel

The first thing I need to say is that I have been a loyal Apple product user and fan since the Macintosh SE. I also know one of their mid-level executives who has never had any bad word to say about the company. But this article from “The Verge” has me furious and I can only hope that sufficient outrage is directed at Tim Cook for him to mandate some seriously needed changes in the company’s treatment of its front-line people.

Here’s the link:

Direct Mail is Still a Viable Medium

Adweek has published a nice little article about how Panda Express used direct mail to bring about a BIG increase in sales at outlets that lacked a drive-through window during the pandemic. Although Panda Express had not been using direct mail in its media mix for some time, it pivoted back to DM for this situation and it proved very successful, driving people to online ordering including home delivery with offer redemption rates as high as 33%!

Author Weiss reports, “Panda Express’s online business from the direct mail campaign was up 20% versus its national digital sales, which is about 10%.”

Here’s the link:

How Panda Express Reversed a Sales Slump With Direct Mail:

Rush to Judgment on Facebook?

The “exposé” on Facebook and supposed negative consequences for female teens who use it have certainly resulted in a firestorm of media coverage and now Congressional inquiry. The “studies” that are referenced by the Wall Street Journal in its series of articles seem quite damning and they have put Facebook into a seemingly indefensible position.

So, one thing to consider is the quality of those studies. And it turns out that not only is the quality quite poor but other observations suggest that they are in no way reproducible to any country outside the U.S.A. Regular readers of my blog know that I am no fan of Facebook’s business model.

Nonetheless, in the interest of the pursuit of facts, I would urge you to read this op ed from Dr. Chris Ferguson that appears in the Orlando Sentinel.

There needs to be a law!

I have had it. I am getting over a hundred spam emails every day claiming they can help me with my prostate, my blood pressure, tinnitus, weight problems, medicare, car warranty, cheaper gas, home insurance, auto insurance, windows, tech goodies…you name it, I’m getting it.

Over 90% of these end up in my “suspected spam” folder where I need to vet them all because sometimes legitimate email ends up there, too, thanks to AOL’s fairly crummy spam detection algorithm. Any spam that I detect as spam, I highlight the sender’s email address and select “block sender” and then delete. But spam from clearly-labeled blocked senders keeps showing up anyway. At least they are now highlighted in blue so I don’t need to vet, just delete.

What’s the use?

Plus, the blocked senders then also send more of the same, identical spam messages using a different email sender’s address.

Responsible email marketers always include a way to “unsubscribe.” Spammers never do.

We need a law that requires all email marketers to include an unsubscribe option and it needs to STICK. Violators should be subject to $500 per omission fines. The FCC should be empowered to prosecute repeat offenders, ban them from sending any email, and have the discretion to levy jail time.

ISPs should be required to develop screening algorithms that would automatically prevent any such spam from being delivered, period. And spam that slips through and is labeled “block sender” by the recipient should be flagged so it never ends up in anyone’s in box or spam folder again.

Legislators at ALL levels need to respond to this. If California can pass a privacy law, they can pass this law too. What do you think?

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