Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Web Secret #329: the Golden Age of Television

Growing up I was told over and over that there had been a Golden Age of Television. This always pissed me off because The Golden Age of Television began sometime in the late 1940s and extended to the late 1950s/early 60s, and I was just young enough that I missed it.

Thanks to YouTube, cable and Netflix, I can experience many of the programs from that golden age:

The Twilight Zone - the iconic sci fi series

Playhouse 90 - a weekly series of live hour-and-a-half dramas. Think "Requiem for a Heavyweight", "The Miracle Worker," and "Judgement at Nuremberg."

The Bell Telephone Hour - a long-run concert series which showcased the best in classical and Broadway music.

But to experience the essence of that era, all you need to do is watch "What's my line?." What’s My Line? was a guessing game in which four panelists attempted to determine the line (occupation), or in the case of a famous "mystery guest," the identity, of the contestant. It ran from 1950 to 1967.

They don't make'em like that anymore. The host, the panelist and the guests were beautifully attired. Men wore jackets and ties. The women were elegantly dressed, coiffed and bejeweled. The host John Daly was an American journalist, who had been the vice president of ABC during the 1950s. Panelists included various members of the intelligentsia, people like Louis Untermeyer, a poet and Poet Laureate, Bennett Cerf, one of the founders of the Random House publishing firm, and Fred Allen, a comedian who was famous for his absurdist, topically pointed radio show.

The guest list was not confined to movie stars like Groucho Marx, Elizabeth Taylor and Sammy Davis Jr, but other major cultural and artistic figures. See:
The shows expected a great deal from its viewers. It expected them to appreciate smartly crafted, witty and literate questions from the panel. It expected them to know or want to learn about the major artists of the times.

When the Golden Age came to a close, we endured decades of increasingly inane television with some occasional breaths of fresh air.

Finally, with the 21st century came a second streaming golden age of television.  Welcome:
  • House of Cards
  • Orange Is the New Black
  • Mad Men
  • Game of Thrones
These shows also expect a great deal from their viewers. They expect them to love a show in which the protagonists may be old, African-American, bisexual or transgendered. They expect them to see a bald, dying, female, Hispanic convict as a hero in the mold of Cool Hand Luke. They expect them to follow complicated plot threads. They expect them to tolerate stories with unhappy endings.

Both the first and the second golden age of television expect viewers to be intelligent.

Now that's subversive.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Web Secret #328: Binge Watching

When I was a kid during the Sixties, my parents told me that TV was going to rot my brain.

Here's the thing, though: I watched way more TV this past summer than I ever did during the summers of my youth.

I binge watched:

Mad Men (6 seasons)

Dr. Who (7 seasons)

Orange is the New Black (2 seasons)

Torchwood (3 seasons)

Sherlock (3 seasons)

and House of Cards (2 seasons.)

The other thing is - I didn't watch any of these TV shows on my TV.

I streamed them on my ipad.

You can look at this two ways.

First, the good news: we are experiencing a Golden Age of television. NEVER has there been such intelligent, high quality, knock your socks off programs.


Now the maybe not so good news: I have virtually stopped going to the movie theater. Why should I pay $15 to sit in a crowded theater with a bunch of badly behaved teenagers, on broken theater seats, eating unhealthy calorie laden candy and soda, watching a mediocre movie, when I can lounge on my leather Chesterfield sofa, sipping my favorite Sauvignon Blanc and eating sushi, while enjoying amazing, personally curated, commercial free TV shows?

I have also virtually stopped watching TV. With the exception of key World Cup soccer matches and Wimbledon, I did not watch any TV on my TV.

And while I have been a voracious reader my entire life, I did not read a single book this entire summer.

And though I pride myself on being very cutting edge in all of my activities, I know that I am not alone.

It bodes ill for the future of the movie theater. It bodes ill for conventional network TV. It bodes ill for the overall literacy of mankind.

And it is yet another rapidly evolving phenomenon which is changing the world around us.

So fast.

That we don't understand the implications.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Web Secret #327:

How would you like to unsubscribe from all the junk emails that accumulate in your inbox in a matter of minutes?

For free.


This is what you do:

1. Go to the web site and click on "get started".
2. Enter the email address and password for your e-mail account.
3. Wait a maximum of 2 minutes.
4. Get a list of all of the newsletters and junk you signed up for (or forgot that you signed up for) - in my case there were well over 80 such subscriptions.
5. Unsubscribe - with a single click of your mouse - from each of the ones you don't want to get anymore. (I can't even tell you how great and powerful that made me feel...)
6. You have the option to receive your remaining subscriptions in a single e-mail, once a day.

That's it.

They will ask you to publicize that you used the service on Facebook or some other social media channel. I did not have a problem with this because a. this app is amazing and b. all my friends wanted to use it as well.

Simple to use and effective.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Web Secret #326 - CrashCourse

Prepping to be a contestant on Jeopardy?

Trying to bolster your knowledge of US history so you can help your team win Trivial Pursuit?

Just looking to be entertained?

There is a CrashCourse for you.

CrashCourse is an educational YouTube channel launched on December 2, 2011. As of April 6, 2014, the CrashCourse YouTube channel had earned over 1.5 million subscribers and over 90 million video views.

The typical CrashCourse is a ten minute or so profiterole of knowledge, delivered in a visually cutting edge online video. A full course on US History, Psychology, or Literature may be made up of dozens of these intellectual concoctions.

Below, a tasting menu:

Before I Got My Eye Put Out - The Poetry of Emily Dickinson: Crash Course English Lit #8

The French Revolution: Crash Course World History #29

That's Why Carbon Is A Tramp: Crash Course Biology #1

Monkeys and Morality: Crash Course Psychology #19

Wait - did I mention that all of this is FREE?!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Web Secret #325: Bespoke

I am going to share something very personal with you.

I have big hands. I wear size 9 gloves.

Since women's gloves are only available in, (at most,) a size 8 and a half, for years I was relegated to buying men's gloves. Men's gloves are clunky, boring and only come in black, brown and tan. I was unhappy.

Sometimes I forget that the Internet exists. And then I remember, "Wait a minute, I can do a search to find a company that makes bespoke leather gloves for women."

Hello signature leather!

They make custom gloves in my size, in any color combination I can dream up. Winter gloves, driving gloves, walking-the-dog gloves. For under $200. And if I am not delighted with the fit or the color - I just send them back - until they get it right. The customer service is top-notch.

Made to measure gloves! I feel like Queen Victoria. (Somewhat appropriate since the company is British.)

The Internet is an empire of bespoke opportunities at every price point, and in every retail category.

Case in point: I am a huge pen nerd - I went to a French Lycée where I learned how to write with a fountain pen on Séyès ruled notebooks.

I couldn't find them in the U.S., so that was that. Decades went by. Until a few months ago when I entered "seyes ruled notebook" in a Google search window and BAM! up came the Goulet Pen Company, a Mom and Pop online shop headquartered in a small town in Virginia.

They pretty much sell only three things: notebooks, fountain pens, and inks. And the Clairefontaine Séyès notebooks of my childhood!

In addition, for years, I had been looking for that elusive animal, an inexpensive pen that writes like a $300 Pelikan with a 14k gold nib. The Goulet folks sell the Jinhao x750, a Chinese fountain pen that has the heft of a serious writing instrument and costs under $10! They make their own steel nibs in a variety of types and sizes for $15 each. At my request, they installed one of their custom nibs on a Jinhao body and voila! my dream pen - it writes smooth as silk.

This little company pays supreme attention to detail. Even an $8.00 notebook is carefully wrapped so that it arrives in pristine condition. Every package includes a note, a book mark and a Tootsie Pop Miniature. Everytime they send me something, it's Christmas in July!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Web Secret #324: Better Technology = Better Communication?

My 20 year old daughter spent two months in France this summer. She left armed with an iPhone, a laptop and an app that would allow us to text and send voice mail and videos for free. "This is going to be fantastic," I thought.

I thought wrong. Communication occurred only, when out of desperation, we used our land line to call her at 1am her time - when we were guaranteed she would be home.

Geoffrey Tumlin, the author of the July 2014 Employee Assistance Report (EAR) article "Does better Technology = Better Communication?", would not be surprised. He argues that we have five unrealistic expectations for how our digital devices boost communication.

Here is my abridged version of what he wrote:

We are feeling unsatisfied and largely unfulfilled by our interactions — despite having the most powerful connection and transmission devices in human history in the palms of our hands.

Unrealistic expectation #1: Our new devices have made communication easier. Communication is fundamentally imperfect, and no matter how fancy our devices may become, they’ll never be able to eliminate the misunderstandings, the confusion, and the errors that occur when people talk.

Unrealistic expectation #2: We successfully communicate each time we hit the “Send” button. Our devices have greatly simplified the sending and receiving of messages, but there’s more to communication than that.

Unrealistic expectation #3: Better communication technologies mean better communication. Better communication technology doesn’t lead to better communication, especially when the new tools encourage speed and convenience over thoughtfulness and deliberation, and when they fragment our communication, scatter our attention, and constantly distract us from the issues at hand.

Unrealistic expectation #4: What I want to say is the most important part of communication. Meaningful and effective communication is possible only when we consistently place our conversational goals ahead of our conversational impulses.

Unrealistic expectation #5: Communicating to an audience doesn’t require any special consideration. One of the greatest deceptions of the digital age is that sending a message to dozens of people is just as easy as sending a message to one person. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Geoffrey Tumlin is the author of "Stop Talking, Start Communicating: Counterintuitive Secrets to Success in Business and in Life." He is the founder and CEO of Mouthpeace Consulting LLC, a communication consulting company; president of On-Demand Leadership, a leadership development company; and founder and board chair of Critical Skills Nonprofit, a 501(c)(3) public charity dedicated to providing communication and leadership skills training to chronically underserved populations. You can learn more about Geoffrey Tumlin at, or reach him by email at

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Web Secret#323: Keeping Your Marbles in the Game

I recently came across a fresh and fantastic article about the impact of tech on counseling, and I got permission to share.

So here is my abridged version of "Keeping Your Marbles in the Game," by Michelle Stone. (I encourage everyone to read the entire article.) It was originally published in Counseling Today before it was reprinted in the Employee Assistance Report. This is the third reprint, a sign that attention must be paid:

Michelle writes: "Recently, I was part of a lively discussion regarding the use of technology in the field of counseling...I was saddened to hear the closing statement of one practicing counselor. Walking away from the discussion and shaking her head, she stated that if the field was moving toward the use of technology in the counseling relationship through means such as email, video and virtual worlds, then she would leave the profession and move on to find another career.

...I thought it tragic that a ...counselor ... would possibly remove herself from the field and effectively silence her voice in the technology debate...We need everyone to be informed and stay in the game...

Technology will not go away...We must strive to become digital explorers, willing to set out in new territory, while equipping ourselves with sound information along the way. We must share insight with each other and be willing to retrace our steps and move along a different path when professional discernment tells us it is prudent to do so. We must be willing to step into the weeds of the faintly trodden road to cultivate and nurture the possibilities of technology that appropriately fit the profession, its responsibilities and its clients...

The legal and ethical issues facing counselors integrating new methods of digital communications and therapies into their practice are vast, and they must be addressed. To effectively do so requires a tapestry of opinions and perspectives. Technology is not an all-or-nothing proposition. We must strike a balance in terms of what is appropriate, empirically proven to be beneficial and ethically sound...

Walking away from the table because we don’t agree with what we sense to be the trend only negates our ability to influence the future path of our field. Our profession needs the voice of each and every one of us. Don’t be the kid who picks up his marbles and races home because he doesn’t like where the game is going...

There is a chair at the table for everyone. Allow me to be the first to offer one to you."

Well thought out, well written, well done.

With over 15 years of experience in the helping professions, Michelle Stone has worked with a variety of populations and organizations, providing both direct services as well as consultation. She holds a degree in psychology and intends to research computer-mediated human interaction while pursuing a graduate degree. She may be reached at Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on CT Online, the website of “Counseling Today,” which is published by the American Counseling Association ( and is reprinted with permission.