"Tivo-ifies the web" Paul Kedrosky

Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock, presented by Orson Welles

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

This is an absolute gem and an almost forgotten one – a documentary version of Alvin Toffler’s classic 70s book, Future Shock presented by Orson Welles.

The premise of Future Shock was that the pace of human progress had achieved a level which would create a pathological reaction, a metaphorical motion sickness caused by the fact that nothing seemed permanent.

Unlike most past views of tomorrow, which look hopelessly obsolete (‘nothing dates like the future’), the premise of Future Shock can only get stronger since not only progress itself, but the derivative of it, its increasing rate of change, exacerbates the core phenomenon.

Stylistically, however, Future Shock is a definitively dated period piece, an early 70s, Jumbo Fonted, psychedelic trip full of deliciously obsolete technology that conjures up wistful nostalgia where it is intended to do exactly the opposite. Even the poor quality of this video with its wavering audio track and bleached imagery actually adds to the effect.

Future Shock is both a perfect piece of vintage cultural nostalgia and still relevant scientific prophesy. It’s Everything retro-futurism should be.

1 comment nostalgia, smashing telly top 10 documentaries, society, the smashing list

Jon Stewart’s Defining Moment.

Sometimes truth is no stranger to fiction. America’s only serious news comes from a comedy channel.

US network and cable news are an embarrassment, a children’s view of the world based upon geographical and historical ignorance delivered by people who look like Long Island realtors and whose opinions should be deemed equally suspect.

In print form, U.S. newspapers make up for relatively poor coverage of world news with advanced level business news – this is capital C Capital-ism after all. However, the same sophistication does not apply to cable business news, and this is best exemplified by CNBC.

CNBC covers the industry that makes money, the industry that has recently lost 30% of the notional moolah created from everything humans have made, planet-wide, since Tutankhamun. It is watched by Wall street professionals from large screens which hang over trading floors, and during the collapse of Lehman, the employees were looking at CNBC to see what was happening in their own building. In other words, it is not just a consumer product but one used by the billionaire pros who can afford anything. Yet it looks and feels like a cheap toy.

The fact that this financial channel of record looks like a low-rent hybrid of a shopping channel and pro-wrestling match, with ads for gold coin collections and get rich quick books and set designs comprised of embossed metallic, swooshing titles and plasticky red white and blue, certainly does not spell money. And yet I am gripped by it.

For three years I have been going to the gym across the street from the stock exchange and pumped or, more accurately, schlepped iron in front of CNBC. I have nothing to do with manipulating money for a living, I have little of it and don’t understand how it works, but am overwhelmed by a morbid obsession with cable financial news while working out. It fires me up with primeval anger and makes my veins bulge like a steroid addled bodybuilder.

Sadly, I was in London, when the most egregious CNBC moment took place and the one that Jon Stewart takes CNBC to task over: Rick Santelli’s Mercantile Exchange uprising – at the least that was how it was pumped up on Drudge.

The Rick Santelli uprising comprised a televised football coach style rant. Santelli complained that home owners were being bailed out, and this was yelled from the floor of the Chicago Mecantile New York Stock Exchange, where his fellow libertarians, presumably working for financial institutions bailed out by tax payers, rallied round, failing to see the pitiful hypocrisy of it all.

London was a strange place to watch this, because there the libertarianism of ‘don’t let the government bail out the people’ would have been crushed, despite the fact that Britain’s endemic culture of home equity greed outstripped the worst avarice of the financiers. In the UK, the prevailing mood on TV was unanimously, ‘hang the bankers, don’t screw the home owners’.

I put this difference down to culture, but Jon Stewart has proven me wrong by bookending a relentless series of clips of CNBC editorial failure with the Rick Santelli uprising and an interview with the world’s second best conman, the sweaty, pie-faced, cricket playing Texan, Allen Stanford. It is a withering attack on CNBC but possibly more than that.

In fairness to CNBC, three of the clips concern reporting of other people’s mistakes, for example one shows Merril Lynch saying they were adequately capitalized not CNBC, and one shouldn’t shoot the messenger. But in the grand scheme of things both the originator and the messenger were at fault and there is evidence to prove it.

The degree of this financial implosion makes the once epic ambitions of Bonfire of the Vanities seem inadequate, yet to my mind the scale of the tragedy has ironically been best captured, to date, by a ten minute comedy piece.

Watch it in its entirety and see what Stewart has to say about Allen Stanford at the end. A must see.


14 comments business, comedy, the smashing list

Frontline: Inside the Meltdown

Frontline is the only documentary series on American television where the information density doesn’t leave you feeling you are watching something in slow motion. They don’t disappoint with this solid but uninspired piece on last October’s crash. It would be unfair to ask for more, however, so soon after the event, and this is a subject that will eventually require something truly epic in scope to capture. Even Bonfire of the Vanities seems tame in comparison with the magnitude of current events.

Nice to see that highbrow thinkers such as John Cassidy and Paul Krugman were core interviewees. Its also refreshing to see an officially endorsed embed, and one that works across countries, unlike the BBC iPlayer or Hulu. I’m putting this in the Smashing List.

Comments Off business, the smashing list

The Ascent of Money

One of the surprising things about money is that the people who directly manage it are often tedious, but the subject itself is fascinating. In book form, J.K. Galbraith’s (no relation), ‘Money’ is my favorite, and this documentary comes close to what a film version of that might have looked like.

Obviously, current events make this series particularly important. For the embed, I have picked my favorite part: episode 5, which is about property. For those in denial about what happens with a property crash and zero interest rates, a Tokyo realtor shows us around a Tokyo apt. which was worth 3 times what it is now…a decade ago. The parallel between the UK/US property bubble and Japan is something which I was banging on about on my blog, in mean spirited fashion, before the crash.

Episode 5 of 6: Running Time 48 mins.

All of Niall Ferguson’s excellent 6 part series, the Ascent of Money, can now be viewed on Google.

The Ascent of Money makes it into the Smashing List

Episode 1.
Episode 2.
Episode 3.
Episode 4.
Episode 5.
Episode 6.

Thanks to Karl Hafer

6 comments business, the smashing list

Robert Hughes, American Visions

Robert Hughes’, epic journey through American Art. A must see.
American Visions makes it onto the ‘Smashing List‘.

Running time, approx. 7 hours (in 42 parts).

Playlist URL

3 comments art, the smashing list

John Berger, Ways of Seeing

It has been 20 years since I read the John Berger book: “Ways of Seeing”, which was based on the classic, BAFTA award winning, series of the same name, made in 1972. Until now I hadn’t seen the original, which is a must see for TV connoisseurs. Here is episode 1.

The series deconstructed traditional paintings by reverse engineering the known methods used by advertisers to create their own compelling imagery. Of further interest is how this is a worthy example of an intellectual process that became subsumed within politically driven academia with prior agendas.

Thank you to James who recommended this classic piece of television.

Part 2 of 4 of Episode 1
Part 3 of 4 of Episode 1
Part 4 of 4 of Episode 1

Total running time, episode 1: 30 mins.

(I have added a tag called “the smashing list”, where I’ll be adding my picks of the all time greatest TV programs – Ways of Seeing makes the list)

6 comments art, smashing telly top 10 documentaries, the smashing list