It’s the stuff of dystopian science fiction — a device strapped to your body, remotely controlled, and ready to deliver an electric shock at the first hint of disobedience. I could hardly wait to try it.
Developed in Boston, the wriststrap is called Pavlok, in honor of Ivan Pavlov, the Russian scientist who used electric shocks to train the brains of dogs. And it’s the most radical device yet to come out of the wearable computing movement.
Unlike all those much-hyped smart watches, Pavlok won’t track your heart rate, display your appointment calendar or even tell you what time it is. Instead, it delivers a tiny, nasty electric shock that tells you it’s time to hit the gym, work on that novel, get out of bed. With Pavlok, you’ll stop goofing off—or else.
“I have a hundred devices that track what I do,” said Pavlok co-founder Maneesh Sethi, a Stanford psychology graduate and author of four books on computer software and website design. “But this is the first device that changes what I do.”
The Pavlok prototype I tested is built like a wristwatch. But the finished product will be a rectangular module that you can snap into a wristband or glue to any part of your body. It contains a Bluetooth radio that links to a smartphone app.
The device can issue a variety of alerts, some friendly, some not. For instance, if the phone’s location service shows that you’re not in the gym at 6 a.m, Pavlok can beep to remind you. If you still don’t move, it can gently vibrate. A few minutes later, the vibration gets sharper and more aggressive. And if all this hasn’t worked, you hear an ominous series of beeps, followed by a crisp electric shock.
The rechargeable battery delivers up to 300 volts, compared to the 12 volts of a standard car battery. But the amount of current is far too little to do real harm or cause real pain. And yet, it felt like pain--a cruel little snap that sent a spasm through my fingers. Hit me with a few of these during the day, and I’d start to put my house in order, quick.
Pavlok only helps with habits that can be digitally detected: it has an app you install on your computer, tablet or smartphone that monitors your web-surfing habits; it uses your phone’s GPS system to tell, for example, if you get to the office on time. Sethi hopes software developers will create more apps to help Pavlok to kick us around.
The Pavlok could be some twisted hacker’s ultimate prize, but Sethi said the interface will have tight security to keep total strangers from zapping you.
There will, however, be an option to outsource the punishment. Pavlok will also have a feature in which users can let trusted friends administer the shock therapy. Forget you’re meeting a pal at 8, and he can use a phone app to remind you, the hard way.
Sethi has an odd relationship with pain. You can find a video of him on YouTube, persuading total strangers to slap him, just for the heck of it (It was part of pilot for a travel show he was pitching at the time). Then he began to fret that he was wasting too much time on Facebook. So in October 2012, Sethi paid a young woman $8 a hour to hang out with him in San Francisco, and slap him whenever he logged on to the social media site. The experiment worked; Sethi’s productivity soared. But the young lady joined the Peace Corps and moved to Cameroon, and Sethi began thinking about a cheaper, more practical alternative.
A couple of weeks later, Sethi asked an engineer friend, “wouldn’t it be funny if we took a dog’s shock collar and made it shock me every time I used Facebook?” The friend immediately suggested a trip to the nearest Radio Shack.
After assembling a crude prototype, Sethi got $50,000 in seed funding and free office space from Bolt, a high-tech business incubator on Boston’s Chauncy Street, near South Station. He also hooked up with Jim Lynch, lead engineer on iRobot Corp.’s Roomba floor-cleaning robot.
When the Pavlok team sought to raise an additional $50,000 on the popular crowdfunding website Indiegogo, the company received over $136,000 from more than 820 investors. If nothing else, it proves there are a lot of people out there with a surplus of cash and a shortage of self-discipline.
Will Pavlok work?
“The question is, are we dogs?” asks Todd Farchione, an assistant professor at Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders. “Will it modify our behavior in the same way as it does for animals?”
Farchione thinks the answer is yes, but only to a point. There’s research showing that people avoid behaviors they associate with a bad feeling. But the research also shows that when the bad feeling goes away, most people revert to their old habits.
“You have to continue it indefinitely,” said Farchione, “or once you stop it, you’ll see it will come back.”
Or you could just reinforce the shock by rewarding good behavior, Farchione added.
Sethi has thought of this. He plans to offer a service that will reward Pavlok users with small amounts of money or other benefits for good activities, such as working out regularly.
Still, while Farchione suspects that Pavlok might help break some relatively mild habits, like driving too fast, it might not work as well on stronger habits, like spending three hours a day on Facebook.
Besides, while Pavlov’s dogs had paws, exasperated Pavlok users will have hands. “You could just take it off,” Farchione said.
But anyone willing to pay $199 for a Pavlok when it goes on sale next year might use it long enough to benefit from the experience. Maybe I should get one. I’ve got plenty of bad habits, and 300 volts of willpower could be just what I need.
Hiawatha Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@GlobeTechLab.
A renowned technology hub that is home to some of the country's top universities, Boston is emerging as an unlikely battleground for web-based businesses like Airbnb and Uber, with some saying more regulations are needed to prevent the upstarts from disrupting communities and more established industries.
Boston, prompted by the arrival of the mobile app Haystack, recently banned services that allow people to offer their public parking spaces for sale. Now the City Council is considering restrictions on ride-sharing services like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar and lodging websites like Airbnb, HomeAway and FlipKey, which allow users to book short-term stays in private residences. Across the river in Cambridge, home to Harvard and MIT, officials have been trying for years to restrict rideshares.
From New York to San Francisco, cities have been wrestling with the same questions and developing solutions ranging from outright bans to minimum safety requirements. At the heart, officials say, the issue is about balancing public safety and governmental oversight with the services' growing popularity.
But technology companies point out that the push for regulation is ironic in many technology-heavy cities that have built their reputations, in large part, on being on the leading edge.
"For a city known for its innovation and progressiveness, it is shocking that Cambridge would cling so blindly to the past," Uber wrote on its website in June as it called on supporters to speak out against proposed regulations.
Andrea Jackson, the chair of Cambridge's Licensing Commission, said Uber was oversimplifying the challenges emerging business strategies pose to cities.
"We know that these things are likely here to stay," she said. "My only concern is that they are safe. I want to make sure the drivers have background checks. I want to make sure they have adequate insurance."
Safety mandates have been imposed in other cities. Chicago, for example, assesses licensing fees and requires rideshare companies to submit to background checks, vehicle inspections, driver tests and random drug screens of their employees. The companies are also required to obtain $1 million in commercial auto liability coverage.
Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett said the company understands the need for thoughtful regulations but will fight attempts to protect the local taxi industry.
Cab owners complain rideshares offer lower prices because they avoid licensing fees and other costly mandates imposed on their highly-regulated industry. Boston-area cab drivers staged a noisy, rolling protest around Uber's downtown Boston office in May.
"Simply reacting to taxi or creating regulations or ordinances to protect taxi is protectionism, and that only serves one entrenched industry when consumers are clamoring for more and better options to get around town," Bennett said.
Bennett said Uber is focused on securing specific, statewide authority from legislators to operate in Massachusetts, as they have in Colorado and other states.
For short-term lodging services, cities have focused their energies on imposing local hotel taxes, establishing basic registration programs, and making sure property owners meet minimum housing standards.
Austin, Texas has set up a licensing system with an annual fee and limits on the number of units in a building - or houses in a residential neighborhood - that can be rented at a given time. Portland, Oregon allows single-family homeowners - but not apartment and condo owners - to offer short-term rentals, as long as they complete a safety inspection and neighbor notification process.
In Boston, City Councilor Salvatore LaMattina, who has requested public hearings on Airbnb-type services, says short-term lodging operators should, at minimum, be required to register with the city, so officials at least know where they are, for safety reasons.
He's also concerned the services could eventually end up pricing out families and full-time residents. Landlords, increasingly, are turning their apartments and condos into full-time lodging operations rather than renting them to longer-term tenants, he says. "They're taking away the affordable housing stock," LaMattina said. "I'm working to keep my neighborhoods stable, with families that know each other."
Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas disputed that notion, citing a company-commissioned study that suggests offering rooms for short-term rentals provides extra income to families living in high-cost metropolitan areas.
"We've heard countless stories from people who have been able to stay in their home and the neighborhood they love thanks to Airbnb," he said.
Papas says the San Francisco company has already had "productive conversations" with Boston leaders and looks forward to working on "clear, progressive and fair" rules for home sharing. But he declined to elaborate on what proposals the company would support and which it would strongly oppose.
"We believe people should be able to share the home in which they live," Papas said.
Brooks Rainwater, of the National League of Cities, which is helping cities develop strategies to address these new services, says it's not surprising that the most pitched battles are playing out in tech-friendly cities like Boston and Cambridge.
The college students and young professionals that comprise a large part of their populations are usually the early adopters. And historical urban centers are also the ones that tend to have outdated and oftentimes byzantine local codes.
"It's really a reflection of cultural shifts that are happening in cities globally. As society is speeding up, people are expecting services are their beck and call," Rainwater said. "The landscape is constantly shifting. ... Cities are actually working fairly swiftly to address these issues."
Authored by PHILIP MARCELO ap.org.
You come home from a long day of work. You start to move past your mailbox thinking if you open it, there’s probably just a short stack of bills, coupons for pizza delivery, or some weird religious book sent to ‘Current Resident,’ but you still decide to check what’s inside. Sitting there amongst the book-like IKEA mailer, is a Mystery Envelope. The potentional for what is inside is infinite; what would you want to find inside if you received a Mystery Envelope?
“A signed poster of David Hasslehoff,” says Ben Lewis, seasoned graphic designer and co-owner of the newest in off-beat, but seriously intriguing start-up companies, Mystery Envelope. “It’s all about providing something new and exciting to our subscribers every month. There’s no shortage of great companies with products we can share! Right now all envelopes have the same theme but they have different items. In our Vegas envelope there were different sets of poker chips. For our America theme it was varying vintage comics.”
Still don’t get the gist?
Go online, choose how many months you would like to subscribe at $4.99/month, then on some unsuspecting mid-month day, Mystery Envelope will be delivered to your door and expose you to some random, amazing things.
“We try to have multiple items that have different variations; color, issue, etcetera,” explains Lewis of product curation. “This makes it unlikely that two people will get exactly the same envelope.”
The brain trust behind the inventive concept is a trio of experienced entrepreneurs and social media hounds whose startup savvy business credentials have driven Mystery Envelope towards collaboration and partnerships solely with small startups and designers.
“We all have a great foundation in innovation and creative projects,” says Lewis. “Joe has startup experience with community building and content creation companies. Jed was employee #1 at a Google-backed venture company, and I’ve launched my own design company and have designed my own games.”
It’s the spirit of innovation and dedication that small, boutique businesses and designers represent that has made careful curation and selective partnerships an underlying precedent in the evolution and growing success of Mystery Envelope. Since owners, Joe Breed, Ben Lewis, and Jed Breed, came up with the concept in February of this year, launched the venture in April and began shipping out envelopes in May, they have had hundreds of intrigued subscribers.
“New startup businesses have so many great ideas and are not afraid to push boundaries and make things happen,” says Lewis. “Mystery Envelope is working closely with partners far and wide to find the best items, opportunities and experiences to bring to our subscribers’ doors.”
Who are the Mystery Envelope folks in the midst of working with this month? They’ve got some interesting plans with Taza Chocolate, Democratech – a design collaborative that made plantable pencils – and Leaf Cutter Designs – an eco-friendly creative studio that specializes in itty bitty, handmade, curious paper gifts.
“Curating the envelopes is the most fun part of running Mystery Envelope,” says Joe Breed. “We think we’re exposing our subscribers to things they wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise. Getting a Mystery Envelope is a small reprieve from the daily grind and we find it very rewarding to be providing that break.”
To subscribe and read more about Mystery Envelope head to their website or check their Twitter for up to the minute updates.
Authored by Alex Khatchadourian via boston.com.
Brian Janezic, 27, was in the equipment room of one of the two Auto Wash Express self-service locations he owns in Tucson, going through his cleaning supplies and vending machine items to determine what to reorder, when it hit him. “We have machines that automatically size and wash a car, mix chemicals, activate pumps, turn on lights — and here I am still counting inventory by hand.”
An online search introduced him to FileMaker Pro, a software product well suited to small businesses and tailored to the iPads that Mr. Janezic envisioned for himself and his three remote employees — not to mention the employees serving the six Arizona Auto Wash Express locations owned by his parents. “Now we can pull up any of our sites and see what’s on hand,” he said, adding that the FileMaker software “creates a PDF of a purchase order for us to send to one of our local suppliers or an online supplier.”
That was only part of the savings. Before Mr. Janezic installed sensors linked to FileMaker on each location’s eight drums of carwash chemicals — windshield bug removal solutions, pre-wash chemicals for tires, waxes, glass cleaners — monitoring use meant taking a yardstick to each drum, noting liquid levels and measuring again a week later. Gallons consumed divided by the number of cars washed told him how much of each solution was consumed per wash.
Mr. Janezic uses software to monitor fluid levels in the drums of carwash chemicals. Credit Chris Richards for The New York Times
“Now we’re able to monitor those levels continuously,” he said. “So instead of having two data points in the span of a week, we’ll have 500 data points. And we can do that across our entire company. We might want to see how much pre-soak we’re using, because we have a standard we want to keep within.” So the new system improves quality control, and it can send a text message or email alert should, say, a valve stick open, potentially draining a $250 drum of soap.
A wealth of information that some call big data is becoming increasingly available to small businesses. Such information was once available only to big corporations with vast computing power and deep information technology departments — and more recently to online start-up companies with data-mining capabilities.
In 2010, just 1.7 percent of small businesses were using business intelligence software, according to a survey of companies with fewer than 100 employees conducted by IDC, whose analysts provide information technology advice to businesses small and large. By last year, 9.2 percent had adopted such tools, reported Ray Boggs, a small-business market analyst at IDC, citing easier-to-use products and lower prices as prime drivers of the increase.
“You don’t need a degree. You don’t need a manual,” said Ramon Ray, co-creator and host of the annual Small Business Summit, where entrepreneurs meet with technology and marketing experts. “You can drag and drop spreadsheets, upload a file — even from your phone. If you have fleets of vehicles, you run those vehicles better; you can staff better, because you know where your employees should be, and when. The new tools provide better customer insights, so you know better what to sell them or what not to sell them; you can see which of your products has the best profit margin. You don’t have to do things on gut check anymore.”
With price plans starting at $3 a user a month, one such software tool, Desk.com, helps small businesses address customer feedback — not just by pooling and parsing emails to customer service reps but also by monitoring Facebook feeds, Twitter comments and Yelp posts to help quell brush fires promptly.
“Say you’re a mom-and-pop dry cleaner and somebody says on Twitter, ‘My dry cleaner is terrible. They broke all my buttons,' ” said Leyla Seka, senior vice president and general manager of Desk.com. “That would show up in Desk. And then you could respond: ‘Sorry, please bring your shirts back and we’ll fix them immediately. And here’s a 20-percent-off coupon.’ ”
Chris Mittelstaedt, founder of the FruitGuys, based in South San Francisco, Calif., said the software had helped his 90-employee company respond to and better interpret the 1,000 to 1,300 emails fielded weekly by customer service representatives. The FruitGuys sell fresh fruit to workplaces across the country. Until a year ago, before the company agreed to pay about $40 a month to Desk.com, its four customer service representatives tended to work in isolation. Now, a shared email inbox helps them to spot information and trends. It also speeds response time.
“Embarrassing as it is to admit, there’s some basic data that we didn’t have before, things like how many emails per week and our response time,” Mr. Mittelstaedt said. “It often took us over 24 hours to get back to people, which was not acceptable. Now, we’re getting back to customers and solving complicated issues within two hours.”
The company also gets helpful business intelligence, according to Nicole Wagner, who is the chief of customer service. “We’ll see trends,” she said, including late deliveries and multiple emails like, “ ‘Hey, we really loved the avocados this week’ — information we can pass on to our buyers.”
“We’ve always been able to get waitstaff check averages,” said Andy Husbands, who is chef and owner at Tremont 647, a 100-seat restaurant in Boston. “But now we’re able to bore down deeper.” On a new performance page for a star waiter named David, up popped a $5 brunch item, specialty pop tarts. Mr. Husbands realized David got virtually every Sunday morning table he served to order at least one. It was no surprise, then, that Mr. Husbands promptly invited David to share his pop-tart-selling prowess at a premeal staff meeting.
Mr. Husbands and his managers use such performance pages and other business metrics, many pertaining to customers, through a cloud-based tool called Swipely. Angus Davis, the founder and chief executive of Swipely, calls it “an affordable on-ramp to big data.” By replacing so-called payment processing companies that exist between merchants and the banks that issue consumer credit cards, Swipely gains access to a wealth of data, which it analyzes and presents on easy-to-understand dashboards, “more than half the time at little or no cost,” according to Mr. Davis.
“The crux of Swipely is using the data behind transactions to help businesses make smarter decisions — bringing the same tools and technologies that online companies have been using for years to the 95 percent of retail that happens off line,” Mr. Davis said. “We’ve built specialized tools for retailers and restaurants that answer the types of questions those small businesses have, like which item on their menu is most likely to turn a first-time customer into a repeat customer. But answering that question requires us to look at a tremendous amount of data.”
Examining his own data, in fact, prompted Mr. Janezic to look beyond his family’s Auto Wash Express locations. After enhancing his FileMaker Pro inventory management system on a different platform, he created a spinoff enterprise called WashStat, which he now sells to other carwash owners. That, too, is business intelligence.
Authored by JOHN GROSSMANN via nytimes.com.
NEW YORK — If an iced coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts is part of your afternoon routine, expect a nudge to buy a cookie or doughnut you didn’t plan on.
Dunkin’ Brands Group chief executive Nigel Travis said in a phone interview Thursday that the Canton, Mass., company is pushing to get its cashiers to ‘‘upsell’’ to afternoon customers. It’s part of an effort to increase sales after stores have emptied out after the morning rush. In the afternoon, customers who do come in are mostly just searching for a drink.
Upselling of this kind is common. Who hasn’t been asked ‘‘Would you like fries with that?’’ But isn’t a strategy Dunkin’ has aggressively pushed in the past, because most the chain’s business is in the morning when customers are in a rush and speed is the top priority. ‘‘People tend to be in a slightly different mode in the afternoon,’’ Travis said. ‘‘In the afternoon, they tend to be more relaxed.’’
For Dunkin’, that means cashiers can take the extra few seconds to ask customers if they want a doughnut, a cookie, or even a sandwich along with that coffee. Travis said the need to upsell would be emphasized in an upcoming talk with US franchisees.
As an extra temptation, the company has also been rolling out small cases in some stores to display items like cookies and Danishes more prominently at the counter.
It’s a tried-and-true strategy. The head of the US division for McDonald’s Corp., Jeff Stratton, has said in a past interview with the AP that keeping the chain’s apple pie dispensers visible to customers right behind the cashier helps drive sales.
Attracting more customers in the afternoons — and getting them to buy more when they visit — is critical for Dunkin’ Donuts, with convenience stores, fast-food chains, and packaged food companies all pushing into the breakfast business. Dunkin’ cited that competition Thursday as one of the reasons for its underwhelming sales increase of 1.8 percent at established US locations in the latest quarter.
Authored by Associated Press via bostonglobe.com.
Despite a Superior Court ruling last year that voided a license to convert a Long Wharf pavilion on Boston’s waterfront into a 220-seat restaurant, the Boston Redevelopment Authority has filed suit in federal court to overturn the decision.
In a filing at U.S. District Court on Monday, the BRA is suing the National Park Service, alleging that the federal agency arbitrarily expanded the boundaries of protected park space on Long Wharf and prevented construction of a restaurant on the city-owned waterfront parcel.
The dispute commenced in 2006 when the BRA awarded the license to build "Doc's Long Wharf," a $1 million restaurant on Long Wharf to Michael Conlon, owner of Eat Drink Laugh Restaurant Group, which operates the Paramount on Charles Street and the 21st Amendment on Beacon Hill. Under the terms of the deal, Conlon’s 10-year lease, with an option for an extension, would cost $142,500 annually, minus a $60,000 credit for the first five years to offset construction costs. The proposed 4,655 square-foot restaurant with an outdoor cafe would contain 220 seats and replace the pavilion located beyond theMarriott Hotel and Chart House restaurant.
But a group of North End neighbors, dubbed the “North End Ten,” filed suit in Superior Court, alleging the eatery would violate open space protection, and eliminate views of Boston Harbor. While the group initially lost the court fight in 2007, Sanjoy Mahajan, one of the neighborhood plaintiffs, later uncovered a 1980s state-city agreement and an accompanying map that revealed the BRA had promised to forever preserve the Long Wharf space for outdoor recreation.
As a result of the new information introduced in court, last year Suffolk Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Fahey voided a permit issued by the Department of Environmental Protection to operate the restaurant on the BRA-owned land.
The BRA lawsuit contends that the space reserved for the restaurant is not restricted open space, alleging the protected land is on the adjacent plaza.
“The BRA simply wants to crush any opposition,” said Mahajan. “We have tried to have the case mediated, but the BRA has not shown any interest.”
Michael Conlon did not return a call seeking comment.
A spokesman for the National Park Service and the Boston Redevelopment Authority said they do not comment on pending litigation.
In the past, the BRA has argued that a waterfront restaurant would activate that section of Boston Harbor.
Authored by Thomas Grillo via bizjournals.com.
If you're feeling stressed these days, the news media may be partly to blame.
At least that's the suggestion of a national survey conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.
The survey of more than 2,500 Americans found that about 1 in 4 said they had experienced a "great deal" of stress in the previous month. And these stressed-out people said one of the biggest contributors to their day-to-day stress was watching, reading or listening to the news.
The result comes as no surprise to Mary McNaughton-Cassill, a psychologist at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She's been studying stress and the news media since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. In that incident, a rental truck filled with explosives killed 168 people, including children in a day care center.
McNaughton-Cassill was hundreds of miles away. Even so, "I had small kids in day care and got kind of stressed," she says. And she realized that "certain kinds of news can push your own buttons and make you very anxious."
Since then, McNaughton-Cassill and other researchers have done many studies showing that certain types of news coverage can produce emotional responses associated with stress. The biggest effect comes from traumatic events covered in a sensational way — something that's hard to avoid these days, McNaughton-Cassill says. "There is so much more news available, and so many different channels that are competing, that they're trying harder to be sensational," she says.
Another factor is the growing prevalence of disturbing images delivered in something close to real time, McNaughton-Cassill says. During the Civil War, media outlets relied on line drawings that could take days or weeks to reach an audience. By the Vietnam War, nightly video was available. "And now, of course, we've got the reporter there waiting to see where the bomb hits," she says.
To see how that kind of coverage is affecting the public, a team of researchers questioned more than 4,500 people across the country about their reaction to last year's Boston Marathon bombing. The study found that "people who exposed themselves to six or more hours of media daily actually reported more acute stress symptoms than did people who were directly exposed — meaning they were at the site of the bombings," says professor Alison Holman of the University of California, Irvine.
One reason for this extreme reaction may be that news outlets frequently "take a clip of images and they repeat that same clip over and over and over as they're talking about what happened," Holman says. The result can be symptoms like those of post-traumatic stress disorder, she says.
But consumers and the news media can take steps to minimize news-related stress, researchers say. News outlets can help by warning their audience before presenting something that's particularly disturbing. And consumers can avoid bingeing on news, especially after an event like Sept. 11 or the Boston Marathon bombing. "Just don't overdo it," Holman says.
That can be hard to do, though. There's evidence that our brains have evolved to pay close attention to potential threats, McNaughton-Cassill says. So we have to remind ourselves that absorbing every detail about a bombing doesn't help us survive. It just stresses us out.
This article was authored by Jon Hamilton from NPR.
Michael Sam came out publicly in a New York Times interview last Sunday. If selected by one of the 32 teams in the upcoming NFL Draft, Sam would be the first openly gay professional American football player. There’s a good chance of that according to Fred Toucher’s comments today on Boston’s Sports Hub, 98.5.
Not surprisingly, the blip on the social media radar regarding Sam to this point has been relatively quiet. The great Shirley Temple, Bob Costas’ pinkeye dilemma he is dealing with in Sochi, and Dumb Starbucks occupy the top search queries on Google. Gary Tanguay filled in for Rich Shertenlieb on yesterday’s Toucher & Rich show. His claim is that the media does not do a good job reporting what people actually want to learn about. Hard to argue against his point.
For some reason, an uproar has ensued in limited media circles about Sam playing in NFL locker rooms. Jonathan Vilma of the New Orleans Saints is a ten year veteran of the league. In an interview with Anderson Cooper Vilma claims that NFL locker rooms are not ready to include an openly gay man among their ranks. He has since retracted his original comments in an NFL.com interview.
Honestly, all who participated in anti-gay comments surrounding Sam’s ascension to the NFL should be a little ashamed. Furthermore, Vilma and players echoing his original sentiments need to get over themselves. The players in the NFL still do not seem to realize once their brief career is over 99% of them will never be heard from again.
Any talk of how “sacred” an NFL locker room is utter nonsense. On one hand, NFL players want to be considered professionals. On the other, they are engaging in mind-reading activities while worrying about who is looking at them naked after a shower, plotting a murder, or taking performance enhancing drugs. Egomaniacal behavior is all too common in the sub cultures within America’s favorite sport. But the time has come for fans to step away and resolve our sycophantic tendencies to understand the NFL is consistently embarrassing themselves by way of human rights violations.
Pulitzer Prize winning author, Frank Luther Mott describes yellow journalism as having “dramatic sympathy with the underdog against the system”. Rolling Stone has clearly engaged in some sort of scandal mongering by putting Scumbag # 2 on their cover. The accompanying text related to the article bends toward shining a victim’s light on Scumbag #2. Not enough information exists about sociopaths to indict them as being turned into monsters or that they are inherently that way. Putting this on their cover just over three months after the Marathon Bombing Tragedy is a brazen and insensitive grab for attention. Wounds are still raw and unhealed. It’s still too soon.
I have to disclose that at the time of this writing I have not read the article. Perhaps, it is a comprehensive study of how an impressionable person can go down a dark path without the proper guidance? Author Janet Reitman was not served well by her editor Tina Brown if that, in fact, was the case. Putting a picture on the cover which could have been mistaken for a disenchanted rock star from another decade was a mistake. It conjures up vitriol from those affected by the devastation. Brown should have known this and acted accordingly. At the time of this writing I have requested an interview with her in an attempt to discover their motive. This request has gone unanswered up to this point.
Robin Thicke and Jay-Z have articles in the upcoming issue. Thicke is listed as having the number one song according to Billboard.com. Jay-Z has just released one of the most anticipated albums in recent memory. Either one of these artists could have graced the August cover and generated enough buzz to deem the current state of affairs as unnecessary.
Presumably, their intent is to drive up revenue. Delving anymore into any sort of mind-reading in an attempt to figure out their motive was is irresponsible and unproductive. Social media has been the catalyst for the outpouring of outrage that has transcended all media. The groundswell took off with a Facebook page entitled, “Boycott Rolling Stone Magazine for their latest cover”. In seventeen hours the page has garnered nearly 51,000 “Likes”. Local businesses Tedeschi Food Shops and CVS Pharmacies reportedly will not sell the issue when it comes out Friday.
For this author who is thrilled to have 80 page views in one day, 51,000 is almost incomprehensible. The point is, whether the content is credible or not, Rolling Stone did it wrong. A friend of mine who has always ended up on the freedom of expression side of the fence summed it up perfectly in a posting on his Facebook page, “A big F U goes out to Rolling Stone!!! I am a huge believer in freedom of speech and a free press. But a bigger believer in class. Clearly, Rolling Stone has none.”
Growing up watching Chet & Nat reporting daily events before dinner was my primary media intake. Not so in today's tech-driven world. It seems Boston is truly the Hub of the world today. All four sports teams are involved in stories which would appear at the top of the prime time news-hour or front page on daily papers any other day. The "Trial of the Century" is happening on the South Boston waterfront. Preparations are underway for the next one as officials prepare to prosecute the perpetrators involved in the Boston Marathon bombings. The state is in the middle of a Senatorial election which is growing more contemptuous every day.
As I write this, Aaron Hernandez of the New Endland Patriots is being pursued by local news-copters. Watching an alarmingly similar event unfold mirroring the lead up to the last "Trial of the Century", I began to wonder if information overload is occurring. Never before do I remember so many events happening in my home state while the world watched. Are the events worthy of all this attention? At the risk of offending neo-Luddites, my conclusion is a resounding "Yes".
As a huge Patriots fan and fantasy football dreamer I have watched with delight as Aaron Hernandez has become one of the best players at his position. However, listening to Gresh & Zo attempt to filter the reports coming in about the situation almost minute-by-minute something occurred to me. They're professionals who steer away from speculation in serious matters beyond the scope of sports. Their day-to-day tasks require delving into the minds of sports figures attempting to predict the future or explain motives. However, Gresh & Zo understand their role as reporters in such matters and have risen to meet the challenge. Using the same technology platforms to gather and report information which everyone has access to reveals to me their adherence to professionalism and responsibility. In spite of the fact that the situation does not "look good" for Hernandez, no one knows for sure how it will all play out. Trumpeting unverified or gratuitous leads is irresponsible. Kudos to Gresh & Zo for wading though troves of data and providing us with the most accurate information possible.