Wow. Gillette sure hit the viral jackpot with their new We Believe: The Best Men Can Be, commercial (this is the same video link that is on the front page). And by viral, I don’t only mean “good” because there seems to be about twice as much pushback and rage than positivity. I mean, Piers Morgan really hated it (which, probably means it can't be all bad, right?)
That being said it’s generally drawing overwhelming critical praise from social media, lots of news sites and … well, critics. But that was day one. By day two, pushback began and now it appears to be drawing a lot of negative feedback from a- (I’m going to take a shot in the dark here and say … ) predominantly male crowd of internet folks.
You should take two minutes to watch the video.
So, what’s the big deal?
Well, for starters, Gillette’s short film, “We Believe...,” focuses heavily on three hot button topics - toxic masculinity, sexual harassment and the #metoo movement. Of course, they probably shouldn’t be hot button topics but, they are. More on that in a bit.
Anyway, like millions of other folks, I watched the video. And it’s fine. I don’t think it’s great, but it’s a fine commercial with a fine message about life. It’s a bit heavy handed. Okay, it’s a lot heavy handed as it shows overwhelmingly negative situations as men stand by ignoring or actively participating in - confronting bullying (or not), stepping in when women are harassed (or not), actively reinforcing sexist stereotypes and actually noticing that women are not objects.
These are all fair and fine points. In general.
I mean, the video basically has a "controversial" view that asks men to notice more and behave better-in some situations. I literally, can’t think of anything controversial about that.
BUT - before you rage clench and say, “This article is a Libtard Safe Zone Hit Piece against men, ain’t it? I am so OUT of here!”
Hold up! Slow down!
I am not saying the commercial is - genuine! Far from it! I am saying it’s a fine commercial that, in a slightly heavy handed way, does a nice job of communicating a message about life. And, perhaps, there are some men who could learn a thing or two within said message.
That being said.
Gillette is a company. A huge company. And it wants to make money. And, as someone who worked freelance film, TV and video, on and off, for twenty years, I can guarantee you that this is how said video was produced:
First. Gillette hired a marketing company. Then, said marketing company did test research on how best to market the Gillette brand and explored controversial and non-controversial topics.
Then: Multiple scripts were written. Some about gender equality. Some about ZZ Top using Gillette’s to shave their beards on TV. Some comedy. Some drama. Some with monkeys. Some with dogs. Etc, etc.
Then: Gillette narrowed the scripts down to a handful but “needed more research.” And so their marketing company took all the approved scripts and produced them, shot them, cut them together and ... showed them to test groups!
And test groups freaked out over the gender equality commercials - “Too political!” (They said).
And test groups loved the commercials with the dogs. And the monkeys! “Dogs and monkeys are cute!” (They said).
And test groups were indifferent to a whole bunch of other commercials. "Meh!" (They said).
Then: The marketing company went back to Gillette and said, “Look, people love the dogs and the monkeys (who doesn’t). BUT … controversy equals huge hits. And huge hits on the internet always, always, always turn into dollar signs. And the most controversial commercial we have for you is this, kind of, #metoo commercial about toxic masculinity.
Then: Gillette, decides to go with the “controversial” commercial. Not because they necessarily believe in the message (although, they might) but because it gives them the most chance to generate the most hits, the most viral awareness, the most likes and the most internet rage (which turns into more hits). Which is all an artificial way a marketing company can force a Trend Up and manipulate folks into watching a video therefore giving it a high percentage chance of going viral.
Which brings fist fulls of $$ to their client, in this case - Gillette.
And so far it’s worked.
Now, to be honest - what I’ve just described is nothing new. It’s, generally, the same principle of how ad men worked in the 50’s, the 60’s, the 70’s and so on and so forth. It’s advertising. As quoted in Fight Club:
“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off. ”
Except, too many people have not learned "that fact." Too many people believe that altruism begins at the top of the company and works its way down, thus producing the “We Believe…” short film for the common good of all humankind!
But it doesn’t work that way. It’s all about the $$.
Finally, as the general principle of the video goes, I agree with it all. Maybe you don’t. That’s fine. But I believe that many men should be more aware of a lot of things they are doing and saying. It doesn’t matter if you think “not all men need such a lesson!”
Yes, it’s obviously true that not all men need all lessons about all things in relation to gender equality & toxic masculinity. We all know that. Stop saying something as statistically obvious as #notallmen. You know why? Because too many of them - do need these very lessons.
So, despite the growing internet rage, Gillette's "We Believe…” commercial is a very effective, very poignant short film about (potentially) valuable life lessons.
And, sure, maybe it’s all a marketing scam, maybe we shouldn’t trust every single thing we agree with on the internet. Maybe, by the way, I’m wrong and maybe the top brass at Gillette is 100% behind this campaign for only socially aware and altruistic reasons.
Well … maybe.
But, I doubt it.
It’s the end of the college football season with Clemson taking a resounding victory over favored Alabama. The year also produced a financial bonanza for top tier football schools all over the country. ESPN has paid some 7 billion dollars for the rights to telecast just seven games a year over the next 12 years. Television revenue has doubled for major college football programs over last year. Stadiums are expanding and ticket sales are at an all-time high. So let’s ask this question-is it all about the money?
Initially, college football and other athletic programs were supposed to be extracurricular activities; a break from the rigors of taking classes and qualifying for a degree. No more. Just absorb the words of Cardale Jones, a recent quarterback for national championship powerhouse Ohio State. His message on Twitter complained: “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.”
Maybe Cardale has a point. For many colleges, it’s all about the dollars and winning football games. My old friend and University of North Carolina football coach Mack Brown summed it up this way: “When you hear college presidents and athletic directors talk about character and academics and integrity, none of that really matters. College football is growing closer and closer of being like the NFL.”
When it comes to priorities, my home state’s football powerhouse is a case in point. Louisiana colleges are in a financial free-fall, with new budget cuts being imposed yearly. LSU has seen its state-funding cut by over 40% in recent years. The endowment of the state’s flagship university is one of the lowest of any major colleges in the country. In the most recent edition of U.S. News and World Report’s college rankings, LSU weighed in at a lowly 129th in the nation.
But when it comes to football financial rankings, the Fighting Tigers are high on the list. In the recent Forbes rankings of the most valuable football teams, LSU comes in at number 4, with a current value of just under $100 million, and a football profit last year of $47 million. Coach Ed Orgeron is paid $3.5 million plus performance bonuses and endorsement fees. One of his assistants is paid $ 2.5 million. To compare athletics and academics, the University’s top remunerated professors receive an annual salary of $78,000.
Most Wall Street hedge funds would love to see blue chip stocks increase at the rate of college football revenue. Schools like LSU are paid over $12 million by companies like Nike, just to wear the company’s logo. But to make that kind of money, the football team has to be a winner. And to win, even the top academic schools often cut corners.
My alma mater, The University of North Carolina, consistently ranks as one of the top academic universities in the U.S. But the alums want a football winner. In recent months, press reports documented that for the past 18 years, thousands of athletes, primarily football players, have taken fake “paper classes’ with no attendance and no work performed.
And just what do these athletes receive? Only enough to cover the basic college expenses — room, food, tuition and books. No pocket money to go to the movies, no gas money, no extras whatsoever. So we have college athletic programs raking in millions on the backs of talented, disciplined, hardworking athletes, without sharing the revenue with those responsible for generating it. Such a system is ill-defined at best and hypocritical at worst.
Fifty-six years ago, I was lucky enough to attend the University of North Carolina on an athletic scholarship. I was given a housing and food allowance that exceeded my costs, as well as “laundry money” that allowed for weekend dates, gas, and a few frills above the basic scholarship outlays. What I received then was equivalent to some $300 in pocket money if the same were allowed today. But the NCAA tightened up the rules, and college athletes get less today than athletes like me received some years back.
The system in place brings in millions of dollars for those that run the football program, but allows our young college athletes to be exploited, and the exploitation is being committed by their adult mentors. What a deal-your body in exchange for a pittance of basic expenses.
Something is definitely wrong with the way college football is run. But with all the money coming in, don’t expect much to change. After all, we only care about winning.
Do you make New Year’s resolutions? I always do. A New Year always brings with it promise and uncertainty, but this coming year brings with it a greater foreboding than we have experienced in the past. The Chinese have a saying: “May you live in interesting times.” But their definition means dangerous or turbulent. We in Louisiana and throughout America certainly live in “interesting” times today.
One resolution I make each year is to maintain my curiosity. It doesn’t matter how limited your perspective or how narrow the scope of your surroundings, there is (or should be) something to whet your interest and strike your fancy. I discovered early on that there are two kinds of people — those who are curious about the world around them, and those whose shallow attentions are generally limited to those things that pertain to their own personal well-being. I just hope all those I care about fall into the former category.
Another resolution is to continue to hope. I hope for successful and fulfilling endeavors for my children, happiness and contentment for family and friends, and for the fortitude to handle both the highs and lows of daily living with dignity.
Each year, I ask my children to give me two gifts for Christmas. First, I ask them to make a donation to a charity that will help needy families in their community. And second, I ask them to re-read Night, the unforgettable holocaust novel by Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace laureate who survived the Nazi death camps. I have a Wiesel quote framed on my office desk:
“To defeat injustice and misfortune, if only for one instant, for a single victim, is to invent a new reason to hope.”
Like many of you, our family welcomes in the New Year with “Auld Lang Syne.” It’s an old Scotch tune, with words passed down orally, and recorded by my favorite historical poet, Robert Burns, back in the 1700s. (I’m Scottish, so there’s a bond here.) “Auld Lang Syne,” literally means “old long ago,” or simply, “the good old days.” Did you know this song is sung at the stroke of midnight in almost every English-speaking country in the world to bring in the New Year?
I can look back over many years of memorable New Year’s Eve celebrations. In recent years, my wife and I have joined a gathering of family and friends in New Orleans at a French Quarter restaurant. After dinner, we make a stop at St. Louis Cathedral for a blessing of the New Year. Then it’s off to join the masses for the New Year’s countdown to midnight in Jackson Square.
When my daughters were quite young, we spent a number of New Year holidays at a family camp on Davis Island, in the middle of the Mississippi River some 30 miles below Vicksburg. On several occasions, the only people there were my family and Bishop Charles P. Greco, who was the Catholic Bishop for central and north Louisiana. Bishop Greco had baptized all three of my daughters, and had been a family friend for years.
On many a cold and rainy morning, the handful of us at the camp would rise before dawn for the Bishop to conduct a New Year’s Mass. After the service, most of the family went back to bed. I would crank up my old jeep and take the Bishop out in the worst weather with hopes of putting him on a stand where a large buck would pass. No matter what the weather, he would stay all morning with his shotgun and thermos of coffee. He rarely got a deer, but oh how he loved to be there in the woods. Now, I’m not a Catholic, but he treated me as one of his own.
New Year’s Day means lots of football, but I also put on my chef’s apron. I’m well regarded in the kitchen around my household, if I say so myself, for cooking up black-eyed peas as well as cabbage and corn bread. And don’t bet I won’t find the dime in the peas. After all, I’m going to put it there.
I’ll be back next week with my customary views that are cantankerous, opinionated, inflammatory, slanted, and always full of vim and vigor. Sometimes, to a few, even a bit fun to read. In the meantime, Happy New Year to you, your friends and all of your family. See you next year.
Peace and Justice
Most of us have been swept up in the momentum of the holiday season. We have passed Thanksgiving, reached the Christmas milestone and are approaching New Year’s Day, the third in the trilogy of holidays.
Sure, there is a lot of our attention on holiday shopping, football, and social events. But it is also a time to reflect of what the three holidays can mean to all of us. A second chance, and maybe even a new beginning.
On Thanksgiving Day, we recognized and celebrated the new start of the Pilgrims who made the two-month journey from England to America back in 1620. They too wanted a second chance. They were searching for a better life with the freedom to live and worship in their own way, free from the intolerance they faced under King James I and the Church of England. Their leaders created the Mayflower Compact, which established a new set of laws so that they could be treated equally and fairly as part of their new way of life. A rebirth. A new beginning for all of them.
The second link in the trilogy, and to Christians the most important, is the Christmas season. The Bible teaches that Christ died on the cross to give believers a second chance.
There is one book that I try to read over the holidays every year — “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. In the early 1960s, I had a golden opportunity to study English Literature at Cambridge University in England, where the writings of Dickens were my focus.
Dickens was a major literary personality in his day, and newspapers serialized many of his stories. He initially published under the pen name of “Boz,” and he used this pseudonym for many of his early novels. He entertained his wide London audience with humor in books like, “The Pickwick Papers” and “The Life and Times of Nicholas Nickleby.” Dickens pulled at the heartstrings of his readers with the drama of “Oliver Twist” and “A Tale of Two Cities.” But as the Christmas season approached in 1843, Dickens began using his own name, and took on the role of a crusader with the publication of “A Christmas Carol.”
Most of us have seen this poignant Christmas story filled with an array of colorful characters like Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit, The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present, and The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. But the real lessons of the spirit that emanate from this special time of year come, not from miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, but from his dead partner, Jacob Marley. While alive, Marley failed to help others, and in death he is damned to the agony of recognizing the pain and suffering of others, and being unable to help in anyway, and this is his special hell.
My attorney friend, Eric Duplantis, who practices law and writes in the small town of Franklin, Louisiana, puts it this way: “In life, Marley’s worst sin was not his venality, but his indifference. After death he realizes this. But it’s too late. Death gave him compassion, but his sentence for a lifetime of indifference is an inability to act on the compassion he feels.”
Marley is given a single opportunity to do a good act, after which he must return to his Hell. The ghost gives Scrooge the greatest gift of all. Marley gives Scrooge the chance of redemption. The message here from Dickens is that even someone as lost as Ebenezer Scrooge can be saved if he seizes this one-time gift of a second chance.
Here’s hoping that the coming year brings you the opportunity of a second chance if you feel you need one. We all generally do. But whether you do or you don’t, may you and your family have a blessed and healthy holiday season and a very happy New Year. As Tiny Tim said in “The Christmas Carol,” God bless us every one.
Peace and Justice
Movie Pass, a subscription based movie theater service exploded early last year when they offered a “$10 per month to see one movie per day” deal. Many thought it was too good to be true. And many NON subscribers to Movie Pass got high and mighty and wrote smug article, after smug article about how Movie Pass was going to crash and burn.
Well, they were all wrong. Movie Pass has actually been around for several years and it’s still here. Will it be here in five years? I don’t know. But I’m here to tell you that it’s currently still a good deal. It’s certainly not the sweetheart deal it once was, but it’s still good. And now, starting in January 2019, it’s going to get better. Again, not the sweetheart deal it used to be, but much better than the current, “Decent but kind of a pain in the ass” deal it is right now.
Movie Pass, currently, offers a subscriber three 2D movies per month for a $10 monthly fee. Which is a fine deal; however, Movie Pass chooses which movies you are allowed to see each day. And each day they offer a completely different selection. Which means you have to dig through their calendar and find the movie that you want to see. Then you note, “Oh, the movie I want to see is only being offered through Movie Pass at 4:20pm on Wed at a theater that’s 30 minutes away from me. Well, I guess that’s when / where I’ll go see it then!”
So, you will (probably) still get to see the movie you want to see. But you have to put some legwork into it. This is a far cry from their initial “You can see one movie per day for $10 per month.” So, I can understand why customers were reasonably pissed off with terms of service change after change.
But most writers are clearly not subscribers to Movie Pass. So they’re smugly writing snotty hit pieces so if Movie Pass fails they can say, “I told you so! I knew it was going to fail! That’s why I never signed up!”
Um. Okay. You go ahead and do that then. I’ll be over here saving lots of $$$ by using my Movie Pass three times a month. Here are their new terms of service starting in January.
The Select Plan ($9.99 per month): Three movies a month but your choices are restricted to selections by Movie Pass that changes each day. This is exactly what Movie Pass has been offering since August.
The All Access Plan ($14.99 per month): Three movies a month and you can see any standard 2D screening of any movie in your area. This looks to be the best deal.
The Red Carpet Plan ($19.99 per month): Any three standard 2D movies per month plus one Imax or 3D screening per month. I don’t give a damn about 3-D movies. Perhaps you do and this is the plan for you but I’ll be sticking with the All Access. (Here’s how I feel about 3-D films).
This is exactly what they should have been doing since day one. Three plans. I don’t see why it took them so long to figure this out. Now, just as Movie Pass offered last year, the best deal out of a subscription will be if you pay for the entire year up front. For example: if you sign up for the one year All Access Plan you only pay $120.00. Which is a significant discount. But, obviously, that means you have to pay the full $120 up front. Which I’m fine with but some folks might not be. You won’t be able to sign up for the plan until January but Movie Pass has them displayed at their site here for you to check out.
Finally, does this mean Movie Pass will succeed brilliantly? I don’t know. But the bottom line is this - they are currently offering a really great deal (again). Even at $15 a month, as long as you see three movies per, you are saving a ton of cash. I paid about $120 for my yearly subscription to Movie Pass and I watched about 30 movies in 2018 with an average ticket price of $12 per. That’s about $360 worth of movies for $120.
So, if Movie Pass lost $240 on me alone, how does Movie Pass make money, or stay in business? Well - that’s not my problem. =)
But to give you a general example of how they (potentially can) make money: they are investing in feature films, they are looking into building theater chains, they are advertising specific movies to the customers, they are data marketing and mining. Here is a good piece about how they (potentially can) make money if you want to spend more time reading into it.
Again, I don’t claim to know how long Movie Pass will be around. But for now, Movie Pass is still a good deal. And the pain in the ass “we change what movies you can see every day” will go away if I upgrade my subscription for an extra $5 monthly fee.
Which I will totally do as soon as I am able.
Michael Cohen, President Trump’s previous attorney, has been sentenced to 3 years in prison after pleading guilty to multiple allegations stemming from Robert Mueller’s investigation. Mueller, as we all know by now, is special prosecutor looking into Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential election. President Trump isn’t too happy about the entire ordeal, claiming hundreds of times, that the investigation is a “witch hunt.”
Now, the term “witch hunt” amuses me. Especially, when applied to this particular investigation. The exact meaning of the phrase “witch hunt” comes from the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts between Feb 1692 and May 1693. Nineteen people, mostly women, were found guilty of “witchcraft” and executed by hanging. Obviously, none of them were witches - because witches don’t exist. But the religious lunatics in 1600 believed in them and hunted them, tortured them and murdered them. So in the 1600’s “witch hunt” we have to go hunt down some witches!
BUT NOW - hundreds of years later, we know that witches don’t exist. So the phrase “witch hunt” has evolved to mean that you are hunting for something that does not exist. So, when President Trump screams “witch hunt” all over Twitter, he is saying that there is no collusion evidence to be found, because he is innocent and that the entire Mueller investigation is hunting for something that does not exist. Hence, it’s a “witch hunt.”
Which would be a fine argument - if it was remotely true.
To date, because of Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russian meddling and the conspiracy to protect the Russians, here are the people that have already pled guilty to a huge variety of federal crimes relating to the conspiracy / lying to the FBI about the conspiracy / federal fraud about the and / or election financing charges in related to the conspiracy:
And that’s just the people that have pled guilty! We’re not even yet counting the dozens of people who have been charged but have not yet had their time in court and / or pled out (yet). We’re also not talking about the other hundred (or more) people that are still under investigation!
So, President Trump is factually inaccurate when he calls the Russian meddling conspiracy a “witch hunt” because there is clearly a huge amount of evidence to suggest conspiracy. Up to and including the folks that have already pled guilty to the conspiracy. AND - the investigation is not over (far from it)!
Remember, a “witch hunt” - hunts for something that does not exist. Robert Mueller’s investigation has already produced enormous amounts of evidence that the Russians meddled in the 2016 Presidential Election. So, the Mueller investigation is clearly NOT a witch hunt. In fact, his investigation is pretty much the opposite of a witch hunt.
Mueller’s investigation is more like, ummm, how can I say it? Oh, I know! It’s more like an investigation into the fact that a hostile foreign government illegally interfered in the 2016 Presidential Election handing the election to Donald Trump and that the Trump family, the Trump campaign, Trump top aides, Trump top advisors and several other individuals all willing and knowingly went along with it and now are all lying to the FBI and trying to cover it up.
Which, is the exact definition of conspiracy.
Finally, I wasn’t a huge fan of Hillary Clinton but I voted for her, against Trump. I will say that Donald Trump sure was right about this one thing: He warned the American people, countless times on the campaign trail that if the people voted for Hillary they would end up with a President who was under federal indictment from day one.
Turns out - he was right! I voted for Hillary Clinton and I ended up with a President under federal indictment from day one!
But something about her emails, though. Right? *sigh*
For the very first time in 19 years, I’ve been on hiatus for a while, with only occasional update to this site. I’ve also been going through a painful period of financial instability, which has certainly put a damper on my creative process.
At the same time, the rush of news from Apple hasn’t been nearly as frequent or interesting as it used to be, and repeating the old tropes about tech pundits attacking the company for the usual bogus reasons has become boring.
In this week’s main column, below, I also wonder for the first time about Apple at last becoming a “normal” company, in which its new products may not seem so exciting and innovative as they used to be. But I’ll get to that and its ramifications shortly.
In the meantime, I am working on lots of new articles, including a review of the Beats Studio 3 Wireless headset that debuted last month. I have always been a reluctant headphone user, even going back to the days when I worked in a traditional radio station studio. With its emphasis on style and comfort, I have high hopes for the new Beats gear, and I was able to get a review sample from the manufacturer.
Is the new Beats bass-heavy, as older models were supposed to be? Is it worth its $349 purchase price, the same range as the equivalent Bose Quiet Comfort? I’ll let you know soon.
That takes us to this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, in which we presented a special holiday season segment, featuring security guru Scott Nusbaum, senior incident response at TrustedSec (a white hat hacking firm). Its main focus was a frightening new risk to online shoppers called “formgrabbing.” Nusbaum also explained what this means when you place an order, and how online criminals can gather your personal information, such as your address and credit card numbers and use them to steal your money. Are there ways to protect yourself from this threat? Nusbaum covered the whole gamut of online shopping dangers and how to navigate through the troubled waters.
In a special encore segment, you also heard from commentator/podcaster Peter Cohen, who focused on “Right to Repair” and the upsides and downsides. Peter offered his personal experiences as the employee of an authorized Apple dealer and how it influenced his opinion about whether Apple and other companies need to allow more repair freedom. There was also a brief discussion about the concept of states’ rights and how it affects customers where such laws vary from state to state. The discussion also covered the HomePod and its possible value as a smart speaker. Both Gene and Peter explained, at length, why a HomePod is still not on their shopping lists, and whether Apple could sell more copies if it loosened its dependence on Apple’s ecosystem when it comes to being able to listen to your stuff.
On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Randall present long-time UFO researcher and author Jerome Clark, who will discuss the third edition of his multivolume magnum opus, “The UFO Encyclopedia.” You’ll learn about the new material, the conclusions that were altered as the result of new research, particularly the Roswell UFO crash and how the case stands after all these years. Indeed, is any reported UFO crash credible? Randall and Jerry also debate the “experience anomaly,” and its impact on certain cases, such as abductions. Are all UFOs physical craft, or are other forces at work here? Jerry is also a songwriter whose music has been recorded or performed by musicians such as Emmylou Harris, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Tom T. Hall.
Has Apple become an old, boring company?
Our image of Apple, Inc. has long been that of a maverick company that defies the conventional wisdom and goes its own way. Here’s to the “crazy ones” indeed!
In the old days, the most famous example was the Macintosh personal computer. Where computers in the early days used an arcane text-based interface, paying lip service to color displays, Apple provided a graphic user interface designed to make it warm and fuzzy even to people who couldn’t adapt to the traditional PC.
Steve Jobs always envisioned the Mac as a computing appliance, and the original model actually offered no way for you to do any upgrades to memory and other components. In passing, the Apple of 2018 has mostly reverted to this concept, and what you buy is as upgradeable as your toaster oven. Period!
But Apple really attained prominence with the original iPhone that, in a few years, became the company’s best-selling product. Indeed, its success gave the more critical pundits ammunition to claim that, if iPhone sales declined — and nothing is forever — the company would be in deep trouble.
Each year, the iPhone received upgrades. Even when the new model seemed little different from its predecessor, at least externally, there were plenty of changes inside. Consider the iPhone 5s, which for all practical purposes wasn’t distinguishable from the iPhone 5. But in addition to faster performance and a better camera, it provided the first iteration of Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor.
If you examine the spec sheets year-over-year, lots of innovative engineering is present. Unlike all other smartphone makers, save for Samsung, Apple designs its own CPUs and, since last year, its own graphics hardware. The proof is in the pudding, as the latest “X” series iPhones tout performance that is in the range of the more powerful notebook computers. The latest iPad Pro promises graphics performance at the Xbox level.
At the same time, the annual double-digit growth of the iPhone is long ago and far away. Except for the poorest third-world countries, most anyone who wants or needs a smartphone has one. So most units sold are replacements, and Apple builds reliable gear and supports it with OS upgrades for several years, which slows the upgrade cycle.
Shorn of the new features, an iPhone 6, running iOS 12, can deliver credible performance that should satisfy most people except for those who require instant response, a better camera, and superior displays. Some features, such as 3D Touch, essentially went nowhere and isn’t even present on the iPhone XR.
Knowing that sales have flattened, Apple has devised other ways to boost revenue, beginning with the $999 iPhone X last year. For 2018, the iPhone XS Max begins at $1,099, and the price goes up fast if you choose larger storage options.
Even though Apple was criticized for ignoring the Mac in recent years, the very newest models are more expensive even as PC makers continue to rush towards the bottom in pricing their hardware. The presence of the controversial Touch Bar meant an increase of several hundred dollars for recent MacBook Pros.
After four years, Apple introduced a new, more powerful Mac mini, but the base price increased from $499 to $799. If you click Customize on Apple’s ordering page, you can increase the price to $4,199, and that’s before you acquire a keyboard, input device and display.
The professional grade iMac Pro starts at $4,999 and maxes out at $13,348 before you get to a VESA mounting kit. Heaven knows what the promised Mac Pro replacement will cost when optioned to the hilt.
This is not to say these prices are too high. When you compare the prices of Apple gear to direct PC competition, it is usually quite competitive. Apple just doesn’t play in the low end of the market.
The new iPad Pros are also more expensive too and so is the Apple Watch Series 4.
What this means is that the average sale price has gone up. So despite the complaints, it’s clear that millions of customers are happy to pay a higher price for a premium product. At the same time, Apple is offering services, such as Apple Music and iCloud, for which you pay monthly fees. The fastest growing segment of Apple’s business is, in fact, services.
Apple realizes that it can earn a lot more money from every satisfied customer.
But has it reached the point where these products have become so sophisticated that most users will never, ever use the new features? As I watched Apple’s Keynote slide shows listing the features of its newest gear at the iPad/Mac event in October, it started to become a blur. Dozens of amazing features, state-of-the-art performance, but how much did it mean for all but a tiny percentage of professionals?
It had a same old same old feel. A slick production, enticing videos to demonstrate the new capabilities and the amazing engineering, and boasting about what you can do with these machines.
This isn’t to say that smartphones, smartwatches, tablets and personal computers are good enough and there’s no need to improve them. As I said, the price of admission is no doubt worth it. By charging more money, and boosting services, Apple earns more revenue. Unit sales don’t matter so much, which is why it joined other companies in no longer revealing them in the quarterly financial reports.
Slick, professional, but is the excitement gone? Has a middle-aged Apple become just another boring multinational corporation? It’s a tricky question no doubt, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about of late.
I remember when I first got into ministry, I was approached and asked to attend a youth group to give my testimony, and of course, I obliged.
I also remember after giving my testimony that week that I began to hear over and over again by the youth pastor as to what they were going to do in reaching the up and coming generation. Yet, week after week it was the same thing, just sensationalized preaching with little to no action outside of the church building (1 John 3:18).
It then dragged month after month, at which point, I had enough. Here am I preparing (Colossians 2:7-18) to bring about the answers (Isaiah 6:8) to this world (John 4:35) and this guy is talk, talk, talk, and even more talk. I am not built to sit around in a church building and pacify and deceive myself by merely talking about what needs to be done (Proverbs 6:9; James 2:14-26).
How was I to sit around and merely talk about what Christ commanded us to do (Luke 19:10). Just think of it this way, I would not have been at the church in the first place if there had not been someone who reached out to me (2 Corinthians 5:20).
As a side note, after every church service, I was in the church library studying the likes of Charles Spurgeon, John Knox, Martin Luther, Charles Finney, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, Smith Wigglesworth, John Alexander Dowie, William and Catherine Booth, etc. These were giants in the faith that obtained a good report and I wanted to know the God that they served (Hebrews 11:2). There is a definite difference between the church in America from the founding era to the present.
How was I going to spend the rest of my life reading about the history of the men that proved the God of Israel, and have been partakers of signs and wonders (Mark 16:20) and not do the same, especially knowing that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8)?
It was Jesus who said:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” -John 14:12
And if He is not a respecter of persons, then I have the same access into the Holy of Holies (Hebrews 10:19-22) to commune with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as our forefathers did (Acts 10:34).
Friends, I cannot sit in a circle and pretend (Matthew 23:3), I will not preach without His witness (Acts 5:32), I will not have any part of playing church without the practice of what I preach, for this is the widespread problem that we are having in this country today.
Furthermore, my spirit hungers (Matthew 5:6) and strives for connection with the God of David (Romans 8:14-16), through Jesus Christ, to see Him do for my generation that which He did for David’s. Scripture is clear, you do not find the Lord by just talking about His promises. You must act.
“O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come. Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high, who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto thee!” -Psalm 71:18-19
Friends, is it enough to talk about what needs to be done? Is it enough to talk about great men of the past that proved the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? No, it is not! Talking alone does not get the job done. Faith that worketh by love does (Galatians 5:6). Action speaks much louder than words.
“For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.” -1 Thessalonians 1:5
Bringing it closer to the present time from that of the biblical patriarchs is our founding fathers, who sacrificed themselves in order that their posterity might have freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17). I'm speaking namely of the Black Robed Regiment.
I recently watched an A+ documentary-movie on the history of the Black Robed Regiment. These were the apostolic and prophetic preachers of their day (1 Corinthian 12:28) and the forerunners (Micah 2:13) who had the courage to act on our behalf over 242 years ago. They did not just preach out against the sins of the tyrants, they fought against him and his armies by resisting and throwing off his ungodly rule.
“Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.” -President Thomas Jefferson
Roger Sherman, Architect and Signer of The Declaration of Independence said:
“Sad will be the day when the American people forget their traditions and their history, and no longer remember that the country they love, the institutions they cherish, and the freedom they hope to preserve, were born from the throes of armed resistance to tyranny, and nursed in the rugged arms of fearless men.”
How do Roger Sherman’s words line up with what you are seeing in America today? Today, we have nothing but a bunch of effeminate and godless hirelings who are afraid of their own shadows (Revelation 21:8), sitting in another one of their board meetings like a bunch of clowns in a circus trying to figure out how they can entertain and introduce the sheep-goats to the wolves (Matthew 25:31-46; 1 John 2:15-17).
"A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats!" –Charles H. Spurgeon
“But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.” -John 10:12
Think of this, a bunch of professors who claim to have the answers that the world needs and yet, they are unwilling to bring them answers in power so that they might be set free (John 8:36).
Again, Charles H. Spurgeon comes to my aid when he said,
"Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you're not saved yourself, be sure of that!"
After all, you cannot give what you do not have (Matthew 10:5-8; Jude 1:12)! But what of those who have brought the answers to this world?
Let’s light the candle and see how our forefathers led the way. Looking now to the example of the Black Robed Regiment and what was recorded on their behalf (Malachi 3:16), those who have gone before us in the faith (Hebrews 11), and see how they trusted in the living God (Proverbs 3:5), and how the Lord answered on their behalf.
“No class of men contributed more to carry forward the Revolution and to achieve our independence than did the ministers.” -B. F. Morris, historian, 1864
“The preachers of the Revolution did not hesitate to attack the great political and social evils of their day…” Frank Moore, historian, 1862
“To the pulpit we owe the moral force which was our independence. They prepared for the struggle, and went into battle, not as soldiers of fortune, but with The Word of God in their hearts and trusting in Him.”
“England sent her armies to compel submission and the colonists appealed to Heaven? -John Wingate Thorton, historian, 1860
“This righteous rebellion began in the churches before spilling out into the streets of Boston and the rural regions of the colonies. In 1776 mixing politics and religion was as common as drinking smuggled tea.”
“The colonial clergy created the religious climate that made it possible for the American Revolution to take place.” James L. Adams, author and journalist, 1989
“The poorly armed, ragtag American recruits set forth to do battle. …in the process they would turn the world upside down.” James Adams
“Since we are compelled to take up the sword, in the necessary defense of our liberties, let us gird on the harness with firm defiance and with fixed purpose, to part with our liberty only with our lives…” Moses Mather, pastor, 1775
“We are not fighting against the name of a king, but the tyranny; and if we sailor that tyranny under another name, we only change our master without getting rid of slavery.” William Gordon, 1777
“Expense is not to be regarded in a contest of such magnitude. What can possibly be a compensation for our liberties? It is better to be free among the dead, than slaves among the living.” Zabdiel Adams, pastor, 1782
“We know that our civil and religious rights are linked together in one indissoluble bond. Religion and liberty must flourish or fall together in America. We pray that both may be perpetual.” William Smith, pastor, 1775
Outside of the fact that this Black Robed Regiment documentary-movie was outstanding, what begs the question is where are the men in number to do the same things today? It is not God that has changed (Malachi 3:6)!
Below is a quote by D. H. Lawrence which serves as a warning to anyone that believes that inaction brings anything but slavery.
“Men fight for liberty and win it with hard knocks. Their children, brought up easy, let it slip away again, poor fools. And their grandchildren are once more slaves.”
The President has made illegal immigrants who have moved in to what are called “Sanctuary Cities” a major issue in recent months, even signing an executive order cutting off funds to municipalities that ignore federal law. The Crescent City is in the forefront of ignoring federal law and protecting those there illegally.
Can the City of New Orleans pick and choose which federal laws it will acknowledge and enforce? Most of us understand that if you violate a federal law, then there are consequences. You most likely will be prosecuted and punished. Federal laws on the books are supposed to apply to everyone. That is unless you are an illegal immigrant living in New Orleans.
Didn’t we fight a Civil War over the nullification of federal laws? A century and a half later, New Orleans has joined a host of other American cities in declaring that federal immigration laws are just right down bothersome. It is irrelevant to city leaders in the Crescent City that their actions in supporting widespread illegal immigration is a factor in causing crime rates to rise, and the cost of auto insurance for every Louisiana driver to go up.
No one seems to know how many illegal immigrants have gravitated to Louisiana. Guesstimates have varied from 75,000 to more than 150,000. But when an illegal is arrested for a crime committed in the state, federal law requires that local law enforcement authorities notify the U.S. Immigration and Customs office. New Orleans is not enforcing this requirement. As a New Orleans police department spokesman was quoted as saying: “In general, we’re not cooperating with the ICE.”
So immigrants who are in New Orleans illegally often create a false identity, use a fraudulent Social Security number, falsify federal forms, and, if arrested, are free to go once released by the New Orleans Police Department. We witnessed recently the tragic killing of a young woman in San Francisco, murdered by an illegal immigrant, who was a repeat felon and who had been deported five times.
Crime rates are on the upswing in New Orleans. A just released report by research firm 24/7 Wall Street concludes that New Orleans had the highest per capita firearm homicide rate in the nation—four times the national rate. No one knows how many illegal immigrants are committing crimes, because the city refuses to both monitor and release this information.
And just watch auto insurance rates, already the highest in the nation, go up even more as this policy from the New Orleans Police Department’s immigration manual is implemented. “Officers shall not enforce La. 14.100.13, which states that no alien students or non—resident alien shall operate a motor vehicle in the state without documentation that the person is lawfully present in the United States.” So ignore this state law, right New Orleans? You should just pick and choose what laws you like and the laws you don’t like. Is that what Louisiana has come to?
Traffic accident records show that illegal immigrants are a high risk of not carrying auto insurance. So a driver not at fault has to use their own insurance to pay the damage costs, and insurance rates continue to go up.
What happened that caused the deterioration of the laws on the books concerning illegal immigration? When you break into my home, you are committing a crime. But when you break into my country, it has become, to our leaders in Washington and New Orleans, merely an embarrassing inconvenience. Republicans are now throwing in the towel and giving up on seeing that current law is enforced. Has it become OK to set aside the law and ignore its violation for political purposes?
And what’s all this stuff about “undocumented workers?” The lead Republican in this effort to legalize those who have illegally entered the United States is Florida’s Senator Marco Rubio. He conveniently refers to these illegals as “individuals who are living in the United States without proper immigration documents.” That’s like saying that your local drug dealer is in possession of large amounts of cocaine, but just forgot to get a doctor’s prescription.
There should be major risks and consequences when laws are broken. But besides the President, both political parties are pandering to Hispanic voters who often are sympathetic to lax immigration enforcement. Will Donald Trump goad members of congress to take on Sanctuary cities like New Orleans, and lead a charge for strong enforcement of immigration laws? Let’s hope so.
“All the problems we face in the United States today can be traced to an unenlightened immigration policy on the part of the American Indian.”
Peace and Justice
"Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love and reverence toward Almighty God...What a Utopia, what a Paradise would this region be." -John Adams, February 22, 1756
My family and I live in a rural area in the state of Minnesota where every spring we have the opportunity of seeing the farmers plowing up the dirt in their fields so that they can plant their seeds. When Fall comes around, they bring in their seeded harvest.
Every Spring, I ask my children, what are those farmers doing out there? They tell me that they are plowing (Hosea 10:12). What do they do after they plow? They plant their seeds (Mark 4; Galatians 6:7). I then ask, what do they do after that? Dad, they harvest in the Fall the fruit of their seeds planted. I reply that they are right. The seed reproduces after their own kind.
America, I ask, is there any denying the type of seed that was planted in the Spring when harvest time comes around in America? No, the harvest bears fruit in reproduction of the seeds which were planted in the spring.
And so it is with our forefathers, who knew who they were in Christ (Romans 13:14).
Today, approximately three quarters of Americans profess to be Christians and 242 years later, we can see what type of seed that they planted by the harvest that has been brought forth in the present. Again, there is no denying the seed by looking at the harvest.
When we look to the first President of these United States, George Washington, we get a clear understanding as to by whom he was reproduced after.
“Oh, eternal and everlasting God, direct my thoughts, words and work. Wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the Lamb and purge my heart by Thy Holy Spirit. Daily, frame me more and more in the likeness of Thy son, Jesus Christ, that living in Thy fear, and dying in Thy favor, I may in thy appointed time obtain the resurrection of the justified unto eternal life. Bless, O Lord, the whole race of mankind and let the world be filled with the knowledge of Thee and Thy son, Jesus Christ.” -George Washington, Prayer
It is not my objective to prove the obvious fact that America is a Christian nation; it is my objective to show you what and who America has been since our inception. So, imagine with me, if you will.
Imagine a nation of people that walk in the fear of the Lord in departing from iniquity-lawlessness (Proverbs 16:6).
“The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogance, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.” Proverbs 8:13
Imagine a nation that holds to the laws that the Lord gave men that they might remain a free people in doing that which He commands (Exodus 20; John 8:36; Romans 3:31).
Imagine a nation where right is right and wrong is wrong (Deuteronomy 19:19).
Imagine a nation where both men and woman, both young and old, love the Lord with all of their heart, with all of their soul, and with all of their minds (Matthew 23:37-39), and their neighbors as themselves (Mark 12:30; Romans 13:8-10).
Imagine a nation free from vice and division (1 Corinthians 1:10), and unified under Christ (Matthew 23:37; Ephesians 4:5)
Imagine a nation, if you will, where Americans “execute justice for the fatherless and the widow, and love the resident alien, giving him food and clothing” (Deuteronomy 10:18).
Imagine where the pulpits in the churches of America thunder again out the Word of God in hating sin and loving righteousness (Hebrews 1:9), and setting the nations aflame (Psalm 104:4) to the glory of God.
Imagine with me, if you will, where representatives in American government that are just, and “ruling in the fear of God” by magnifying the U.S. Constitution and the laws which they swore to uphold (2 Samuel 23:3).
Imagine a land free of that which God forbids (Psalm 19:11) and where true freedom and liberty is defined!
Imagine a people free from idolatry (Exodus 20:3), in serving only one God (John 14:6), Jesus Christ.
Imagine a nation free from the sodomites (1 Kings 14:24, 15:12), pornography (Matthew 5:28), drunkenness (Proverbs 20:1), and immorality of every kind (1 Corinthians 6:9).
Imagine a nation free from gambling (covetousness; Exodus 20:17) while being content with what we have been given (Philippians 4:11), for it is certain that we can take nothing with us after death (1 Timothy 6:7).
This is real freedom, liberation from sin (Matthew 1:21; John 8:32; 1 John 3:4).
"Christian liberty is freedom from sin, not freedom to sin." –A.W. Tozer
This is, in fact, what America looked like when we adhered to the Word of God; understanding why we were and still are called the light of the world by other nations (John 1:1-5; Isaiah 51:4).
“Blessed is the nation whose God is Lord.” -Psalm 33:12
To those in my generation, the new "do what you want to do" isn’t working out for us (Proverbs 24:21). We all know what this country looks like without its loving adherence to the living God (Matthew 22:32). It is becoming a living Hell (Psalm 9:17).
As Charles Spurgeon rightly proclaimed: “Sin and Hell are married together unless repentance proclaims the divorce.” (Matthew 3:2; Acts 2:38, 20:21; 2 Corinthians 7:10).
So, imagine a reality that once was in this God Blessed Nation, which our forefathers planted, that we may again reap a nation which Heaven intended.
“Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” - Jeremiah 6:16