Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

28 June 2007

Castaway Delirium

16 hours and counting since I have been stuck at O'Hare. Dude. Thunderstorms? What?!

My last ad:tech Miami post:

For a Bonafide Web Two-dot-O Experience, Get Stranded


This entry can alternatively be called, "Why American Airlines Sucks."

Before leaving ad:tech I had a conversation with a blogger who lamented learning little of value at the conference. He wasn't the only one who complained; surface-skimming conversation with a few girls at last night's Batanga party betrayed a pattern.

I hate to file yet another complaint into the ether. But after some serious thought, it occurred to me that you can't really learn about how people are communicating - manipulating brands, and media, in the process - unless you're sharing their space, communicating right along with them. That's not the kind of thing you can really be taught at a seminar.

Which leads me to why American Airlines sucks.

If you've ever wondered why the American Airlines logo has a suspiciously shaft-shaped embellishment, it's because it subjects frequent flyers to inappropriate back-door molestation.

Recall the drama of my ad:tech arrival.

At present I'm sitting at O'Hare International. In all fairness I should be home by now. But American has canceled at least 9 of its flights this evening and, insult to injury, will not cover a hotel stay.

So I'm here until at least 7 AM tomorrow morning.

Considering ad:tech Miami didn't exist before this year, I think it was great for what it was. Latin media populators share the same struggles, concerns and insights the marketing and advertising community at large do, which is perhaps a better revelation than any myth of exotic difference.

Like some mega-church, maybe ad:tech is meant only to bring the like-minded together for inspiration, motivation and a spirit-lift, even as it reinforces - on a grand scale - what we as an industry already take for gospel.

In an increasingly smaller world, it goes without saying that industry pros, no matter where they're from, all march to the same beat. (The only difference is, in Miami, the beat's got hotter drummers.)

To get a real feel for what's happening out there media-wise, however, you need an education that can perhaps only be forced upon you by getting stranded at O'Hare.

I'm sitting at a computer hub, which is essentially a long table with some seats and a series of plugs across it. I'm video-chatting my roommate in Ithaca, who's offered to help me find a nearby hotel while I relate the tale of my suffering.

Bleary-eyed from writing, I look at the dude to my left. He's a few years younger than me, and his left hand is flipping lazily across the keyboard. The other hand holds a gigantic set of BOSE headphones over one ear. He's on a program called Fruity Loops, making a beat.

I look to my right. Here's a man in glasses, suffering from programmer's pallor, watching some kind of full-screen video of himself and another guy braving the ocean waves on a vessel. Onscreen, they are smiling and tanned.

The guy glares at me, and I set my eyes back onto my own computer.

Picture us three at this little hub in Chicago, stranded with our media. Just a couple of years ago, this scenario wasn't even possible.

The dude on my right is a recent implant. Before him I was sitting next to a man named Barry from Arkansas. His flight has long since left. The friendly Southerner was in town for a conference on transitioning from print publishing to digital.

Here's his gazette.

Before he departed, we shook hands and lauded the perpetuity of content across any platform, the ones we know and those that have yet to unveil themselves.

The meeting of traditional publisher and online content furnisher occurred like that of a war ship and a flying saucer in the night. Our languages are similar but different, but we both seek to convey messages that don't quite belong to us, to audiences broader than our own voices can reach.

In the end, we're two soldiers of the same struggle, aren't we?

06 June 2007

On Divine Delusion, or Revisiting the Pythia

A major benefit to creating your own hours is you get to read when the moment suits. I've just begun The Oracle by William J. Broad, which at heart seeks to understand why the Oracle's influence in ancient Greece was so significant she transcended centuries and, perhaps more surprisingly, the onslaught of rationalism, winning the deference of Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch and Socrates.

The Oracle, otherwise known as the Pythia, was a critical voice in Greek society. Her word was sought for matters of state, coming war, governmental development and everyday questions of love, marriage, sex and legal adoption.

The final word of the Oracle can be traced back to an early democratic government and even the military success of Sparta: It was she who discouraged the Spartans from pursuing love of luxury, so they moved in the opposite direction, foregoing the precious metals in favour of iron as currency, and developing that Spartan endurance for which they later became famous.

Contrary to depictions of the Pythia as young, comely and scantily-clad, early in the Oracle tradition it was decided the position be held by a seasoned woman in her 40s or 50s, who, far from virginal, had already put matters of flesh and family behind her.

This decision was made to protect her virtue, but an older woman's experience probably also contributed to her soundness of judgment, despite the state of intoxication she had to achieve for divination.

I'm only halfway through the book, so the question of why her word was so powerful hasn't yet been answered. But according to experts of the time, a major source of the Oracle's power was a mysterious sweet-smelling pneuma that rose out of a chasm at her feet (just beneath her tripod). This mist caused a kind of divine delirium, into which she had to succumb before ultimately taking her post.

The myth of the Apollonian pneuma and the chasm below the tripod were dismissed in the late 1800s by French archaeologists, which were the first to excavate the site after Delphi, long luster-lost, had been home to a small Christian village for centuries. (Christianity became the vogue religion shortly after the Pax Romana, which was blamed, among other things, for indirectly silencing the Oracle.)

In the late 1990s, however, the pneuma - and the chasm under the Oracle's feet - were validated by archaeologist Hale of Yale and geologist De Boer of Wesleyan.

The mysterious pneuma was ethylene, which stimulates the central nervous system. In the Pythia's time it rose by nature out of two seismic faults, one spanning N-S and the other spanning E-W, crossing beneath the temple site. It was the perfect condition for psychedelic euphoria - better still, ethylene emits a sweet smell, and its effects virtually vanish minutes after contact with the gas has ended.

Ethylene gas visited the site of the Pythia each year for the warmest nine months (she rested the rest of the year), long enough for the intoxicated priestess to develop a good thousand years or so of influence - then it vanished, also quite naturally, around the time of the Pax Romana, silencing her voice in deference to the notion of the One God.

Under the right conditions it's normal for gas to rise out of the earth, especially in places where violent tectonic impacts are still young, as in Greece. Ethylene in particular was a tough gas to pin to the site as it doesn't quite survive once it's gone - it vanishes into the air or sets the stage for other gases over time. Methane and ethane are two gases whose presence is easiest to marry to the site.

That's as far as I've gotten. And I've probably slaughtered all the research. In any case, this book is neat. And if nothing else, it's just another example of how far drugs can get you in life. Ask a surrealist (hallucinogens were pretty modish).

I, for one, am a huge fan of the transcendent effects of black coffee coupled with the complete absence of sleep in the Circadian rhythm. It's a lifestyle, baby.