In a charming new spot introducing the Nexus 7 tablet, Google shows what’s right—and wrong—with search as we know it. The commercial features a tween confronted with a public speaking assignment and a bad case of “glossophobia” who turns to his tablet for instruction and inspiration. He finds “The King’s Speech” and Colin Firth, FDR’s “best speeches ever” (“The only thing we have to fear…”), essays on building confidence and influencing people. We see him download music, check his schedule, archive and curate content. He even gets a supportive email from mom. Finally, we see (but do not hear) him speak and, serendipitously, win the girl. (Next question: how do I ask a girl out?)
It’s adorable and a great demonstration of the tablet’s many functions and seemingly intuitive interface. But one thing worries me and that’s what is not said or shown—the potential invasion of his privacy. We can be sure that for weeks after this event, he’ll be seeing email ads and other digital communications related to public speaking and his name may be appended to sponsored content (i.e. ads) without his prior knowledge or consent, let alone compensation. (On the other hand, he might be smart or self-aware enough to opt-out.)
This is where the brand image lovingly communicated by the commercial smacks up against the brand reality. Google’s tracking does not live up to their promise of “don’t be evil.” And as we all know Google’s not alone in this. If Edward Snowden’s revelations have showed us anything, our data, our selves, are under constant surveillance and everything we have said or searched may be held against us. That’s a fear-inducing effect that no spot, however heartwarming, can overcome.
“Fear of private searching.” Google, what’s the word for that?
The most notable thing about Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity” is what the film is not. It is not a romance (despite a “til death do us part” moment). It is a space-age adventure, but there are no distracting scenes of Mission Control. (Houston is not only “in the blind,” but also deaf and mostly mute.) Three frenemies–Russia, China, US–are linked in disaster (though no one is really to blame). It is a stunning visual experience (with some technical inaccuracies, as Neil deGrasse Tyson pointed out) but it is an epic as old as “The Odyssey,” a plot that for all its out-of-this-world setting is as familiar as the existential crises we all face every day.
“Who will miss me?” Sandra Bullock’s character asks at one point. “Who will mourn for me? Who will pray for me?” Isn’t that our biggest fear? To be forgotten? We may be the stars of our own daily show, pulled under by the weight of our own (and legitimate) concerns, but in the dark night of the soul, or space, we’re scared to admit that our lives might not matter much. And all the “likes,” “follows” and frantic action are merely “full of sound and fury/Signifying nothing.”
In an op-ed in yesterday’s Washington Post, David Ignatius likened the chaos and caprice of life in October 2013 to the heroine’s tumbling through space. We are all tumbling, he said, helpless in the face of implacable forces we don’t understand and can’t work around. It is the lack of gravity—and gravitas—that leaves us unmoored, disconnected and lost.
“Gravity” is not a movie. It is a beautiful, terrifying and haunting stand-in for life on earth.
Jacqui Crocetta, “Untitled”
Along with putting the people’s business on hold and the nation’s credit rating at risk, the government shutdown has closed the door on some of this town’s other, more appealing monuments—the museums and galleries that offer free entrée to the world’s greatest art.
So how can the poor, tired and furloughed escape the bickering, name-calling and dystopia? Where can we go for our creativity fix?
Outside the Beltway, of course. At BlackRock Center for the Arts (Germantown, MD), arts-deprived citizens can find solace in “Mother Nurture,” an exhibition featuring the works of three women artists who express their passions through oil, sculpture and mixed media. My favorite was Jacqui Crocetta whose intriguing 3D sculpture and installations “explore and question the natural world and human experience.” In her series, “Protect. Nurture. Release.,” she focuses on the mother-child dynamic, the “letting go that is necessary to realize human potential and the feelings of both loss and joy that are an integral part of transitions.”
It’s an exquisite tension that plays out in all her pieces, most especially in “Undercurrent,” a large installation created specifically for the gallery space. A meditation on a near-death-by-drowning experience and the “precarious nature of life,” it came about after Crocetta pursued Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), a novel technique that uses eye movements to reprogram memories and give them a happier or, at least, a more positive interpretation.
EMDR is often recommended for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Considering what this latest GOP insurrection has put us through, we should all put the nearest practitioner on speed dial.
The show runs until November 2. Fingers crossed that the government is back to work by then.