Wednesday, January 03, 2007

James Brown, Gerald Ford, and Saddam Hussein Walk Into a Bar . . .

I do have to say something about last week's media-induced psychosis, for those of us who were watching the memorialization of three very different public figures -- James Brown, Gerald Ford, and Saddam Hussein -- who died last week. Just watching the close captioning on news feeds from CNN drifting over the screen above various convention center hallways, airport terminals, and bars fostered a weird synaesthesia. (Perhaps my favorite close-captioning moment was when the "Coalition of the Willing" was mistranslated as the "Coalition of the Ruling.") This Ford/Brown mash-up by a church organist deploying that classic multimedia machine for a remix of "Hail to the Chief" and "I Feel Good" may say it all.

Of course, I've seen both Gerald Ford and James Brown performing live. The first presidential speech that I ever listened to in its entirety was when I was a kid in the audience listening to Ford talk at Pepperdine University. There is an official website for the state funeral that covers Ford lying in state at the Capitol and for being interred at his presidential library and museum. I hate to sound disrespectful, but Ford probably has the worst website for any presidential center with no interesting virtual exhibits on display. To think, the Federal Design Program was still in existence during the Ford administration. You would think he would know that good web design is important. Of course, I think the digital files of Ford taking issue with the decision to invade Iraq are particularly important examples of the electronic ephemera associated with the 38th president.

When I saw Brown at the Wiltern Theater after one of his drug-related arrests, I certainly felt like I got my money's worth for three hours of the time of the hardest working man in rock 'n' roll. In addition to singing about "Living in America," James Brown had other impacts on civic life beyond the Apollo Theater, especially now the Augusta Civic Center has been renamed as the James Brown Arena in his honor.

It's difficult the find official websites dealing with the death of Saddam Hussein, now that the website for the Iraqi Special Tribunal goes to dead links. Of course, the macabre footage shot from a cell phone and posted on the Internet has now led to the arrest of one of his guards, according to today's New York Times, which provides yet more evidence of how citizen video can undermine state rhetoric. As the Times points out, two of the fourteen Iraqi officials and court observers were also openly filming the execution with cell phone cameras. Post-execution coverage of events in the Middle East from MOSAIC news feeds from Qatar, Lebanon, Iran, the Emirates, Algeria, and other regional states shows how the Internet potentially gives Americans access to global news very different from CNN or Fox. (You can also see a more selectively dark side of such coverage at the more ideologically right wing MEMRI.)

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Blogger Clia Toris said...

I didn't get the organ tune - here was my take on it -

5:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting to know.

3:26 AM  

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