Monday, October 24, 2005

Vae, Celebrity

So Madonna is now upset about the world that she festered, errr... "fostered," and wants to shield her kids from it? This from a woman who makes claims to a religious cult that violently rejects her (kaballah, by definition, is male-only).

Her nickname was "The Material Girl." Her best selling book, "Sex," is soft-core pornography shots of her posing naked in various places, most of which were illegal. Her stage act included scenes of group sex, lesbian sex, self-sex, and S&M. The last time her career had any real visibility in the press was when she french kissed Britney Spears on live TV, although this past weekend she romped around for MTV wearing very little. I'm not sure how Kaballah feels about women french kissing other women or romping around in revealing outfits, but it doesn't seem to bother her.

It's EVERYONE ELSE doing the same thing that seems to bother her. Yes, she now bemoans the very situation that she created. Classic.

Hollywood is in a slump. The film industry is in a slump. Madonna is in a slump. Music sales are in a slump. Concrete is in a slump... ok, so it's not, but that's one of my favorite tests for concrete, the "slump test," and I thought it fit here.

Entertainment is not in a slump, but "Celebrity" certainly is. And it's not just a slump, it's a death-spiral. Not bottomless, but major.

Like so many other things, economics explains it oh-too-well.

You see, the supply of entertainment has shifted. A lot. Not a change in the quantity supplied, mind you (which is a shift of the demand curve, along a supply curve), but a complete shift in the supply curve. At any and all prices, in real dollars, the quantity of entertainment available has dramatically increased.

Want proof? What are you doing right now? You're reading this. Hopefully you are being entertained or, if you are liberal, frustrated. Either way, you are participating in a Leisure Activity that is a partial substitute for seeing a movie, watching TV, reading a magazine, etc.

And you are doing it for very little money. How little? For less than $20/month you get everything the internet has to offer. News, music videos, online "radio," etc. That is a textbook example of the substitution effect or, if you prefer, an actual shift in the supply curve (if you broaden the market to be "entertainment," which is a very broad term).

How is it that you pay less for entertainment, and yet get more of it? Easy: technology. Your PC runs your business, but the same PC will bring you the news, weather, and just about anything else you want. It will play your DVD's, in surround sound. Your iPod will take much of that same functionality and make it mobile. Your cellphone, ditto.

All around the world people are competing for your entertainment dollar, a competition only made possible via technology.

When the only place to see a movie was a theater, theater's boomed. Then came TV, etc., etc., etc...

And here's the really interesting thing to consider: Madonna and others like here are "marked men." Nobody in their right mind doubts that "virtual entertainers" are rapidly overtaking real flesh and blood.

How far will it go? Will "Madden 2020" offer online games that rival Monday Night Football? I'm not sure about that, and I believe sports and music are somewhat protected from being replaced by phosphors. But not actors. Oh, no, not actors.

The day is fast coming when virtual actors will rule the screen.

Vae, Celebrity, indeed...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Be Jealous. Be Very Jealous.

The Pacific Ocean in all its splendor sits before me as I type this. Palm trees, pounding surf, and perfectly landscaped gardens all around. The onshore breeze keeps things comfortable all year long, and the property values here are basically as high as anywhere in the world.

This is the land of the affluent, that's for sure.

And they can have it, for sure.

For as beautiful as it is here, it's missing the one thing that would light up the whole place: my bride.

My job takes me to many places. Some are cold and some are warm; some are lush and some are barren. Some resonate with centuries of history, while others are essentially pop-culture through and through. And the "front part of my brain" sees each for what it is. Sees the architecture and the landscaping and the industry and the restaurants and the things that make life good or bad in each place. I read the articles in the local papers from people bemoaning this town or praising this other one.

But you can have all of them, because it is the back part of my brain that knows the real truth. When she is there, no matter where "there" is, life is good. Life is complete. I'll take Lacrosse, Wisconsin, over LaJolla, California, any day... if she's in LaCrosse - even in January.

Her smile lights up a room, and her laughter is like rain after a drought.

My biggest gift from God this side of Salvation, that's for sure.