The Gospel of Consumption


“Rather than realizing the enriched social life that Kellogg’s vision offered us, we have impoverished our human communities with a form of materialism that leaves us in relative isolation from family, friends, and neighbors. We simply don’t have time for them. Unlike our great-grandparents who passed the time, we spend it. An outside observer might conclude that we are in the grip of some strange curse, like a modern-day King Midas whose touch turns everything into a product built around a microchip.

Of course not everybody has been able to take part in the buying spree on equal terms. Millions of Americans work long hours at poverty wages while many others can find no work at all. However, as advertisers well know, poverty does not render one immune to the gospel of consumption.”

Source: Orion Magazine | The Gospel of Consumption

A good read from 2008. We’re in even worse shape with our mobile devices forming our core communication identities.

Sometimes, I don’t know how / why I try to work in marketing.

An honest thief

Fascinating read…

“The conclusion is inescapable: we must live our lives to promote the most overall good. And that would seem to mean helping those most in want—the world’s poorest people.

Our rule demands one do everything they can to help the poorest—not just spending one’s wealth and selling one’s possessions, but breaking the law if that will help. I have friends who, to save money, break into buildings on the MIT campus to steal food and drink and naps and showers. They use the money they save to promote the public good. It seems like these criminals, not the average workaday law-abiding citizen, should be our moral exemplars.”

Source: An honest thief

Facebook is going to put ads in Messenger

“The document, obtained by TechCrunch but kept private to protect its verified source, says businesses will be able to send ads as messages to people who previously initiated a chat thread with that company. To prepare, the document recommends that businesses get consumers to start message threads with them now so they’ll be able to send them ads when the feature launches.”

Source: Facebook Plans To Put Ads In Messenger | TechCrunch


Messaging is the future of social networking. No doubt.

“People who previously initiated a chat” for Facebook is about as nuanced as people who consume oxygen in their lungs (based on their current model). Expect to see a WHOLE LOT of “if you want to know more, MESSAGE US ON FACEBOOK!” posts / ads in your near future.

Dumb mistakes like this will cost Facebook its rather substantial lead in the messaging space here in the U.S.

Harrelson Marketing will be testing out other ways to do authentic marketing that doesn’t involve this type of cheap real estate move.

The Pope Didn’t Say Donald Trump Is Not a Christian

From Dr. Thomas J. Whitley…

“The “only” is a key word in Pope Francis’ response, as is his admission that he is rather uninformed regarding Donald Trump’s immigration policy proposals. The Pope did not say “Donald Trump is not Christian.” Rather, he claimed that if a person only ever thought about building walls and not also about building bridges, that person would not be Christian. Yes, the implication is that Trump is that person and that Trump only thinks about building walls and not bridges, but that is not precisely what Francis said.”

Source: MRBlog | Donald Trump, Pope Francis, and the Death of Nuance – The Marginalia Review of Books and

“The site wasn’t hacked and the Bush campaign didn’t forget to register a domain. Bush campaign spokesman Tim Miller said that the campaign website is and that has been the case since the beginning of the campaign. The campaign has never used, and Mr. Miller says that searches for “Jeb Bush” bring up the correct website.”

Source: For, a Mystery Wrapped Inside a Domain Name – Washington Wire – WSJ

It’s always shocking to me that political candidates at any level don’t own the .com, .org, and .net domains of their respective names… same with church leaders, business leaders, and any sort of public personalities.

You should also have a blog at your namespace and stop relying on Facebook (especially if you have a public persona).

Young People, Old People, and the Monkeysphere



“Today, however, the newest data increasingly support the idea that young people are actually transitioning out of using what we might term broadcast social media – like Facebook and Twitter – and switching instead to using narrowcast tools – like Messenger or Snapchat. Instead of posting generic and sanitized updates for all to see, they are sharing their transient goofy selfies and blow-by-blow descriptions of class with only their closest friends.”

Source: So long social media: the kids are opting out of the online public square

I completely agree with the author’s post that young people are rapidly moving from broadcast to narrowcast social media (at least for their most important or personal communications with friend groups etc).

However, the post concludes with a note that young people might not be as aware or open to ideas outside of their close friends group if they’re not engaging in “social media” such as Facebook or Twitter.

“The great promise of social media was that they would create a powerful and open public sphere, in which ideas could spread and networks of political action could form.”

That wasn’t the great promise of social media. Social media, like Twitter, will always have an inherent imbalance. Couple that with the widespread amount of abuse and harassment, particularly of female and transgender users on Twitter, and it’s no wonder why young people would shy away from using these platforms for more meaningful engagement.

Messaging, in small groups, overcomes this. Besides, networks of political action figured out long ago that governments of political action are closely watching broadcast social media and have already turned to encrypted channels such as Telegram.

Narrowcasting isn’t just more meaningful, it has the potential to be more actionable than the hashtag laden culture that we’ve created with public tweets.

Long ago in a conversation (well, more like me pleading with him to shed some light on why he was so enamored with Second Life), my pal Wayne Porter turned me on to the idea of Dunbar’s Number. It took me over a decade to decipher Wayne (as is normally the case), but he was right. The “Monkeysphere” is very real. And it’s going to kill Facebook. It’s already killing Twitter.

I’ve written before (back in 2011) about narrowcasting and responsible marketing… looks like we’re finally getting there.

With the evolution of blogging early in the ’00s and the advent of Technorati, Delicious, Flickr, Friendster, and eventually MySpace we 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, and 80 something year olds were sold a bag of goods with a label of “social media.” It was a glorious time to be on the web. Everything from logos to AJAX to revenue models felt new as we wiped the crust of AOL from our eyes to see the wider world. Everything from grocery delivery to advertising would be revolutionized. We didn’t realize we were the intermediate step.

We were Ham The Chimp to this generation’s Mercury program. We’ve still got a long collective way to go to the Moon, though.

From churches to political campaigns to social media flame wars to real life gang fights… our brains describe so much of our weird actions. Why don’t we care about the people (well, probably robots now) collecting and sorting our trash when we throw glass bottles into a bin (recycling or no)? Why do we so easily eat and wrap our furniture with other tasty mammals who we now know have feelings, intelligence, and memories? Why do we so easily dismiss the conservatives or gays or whites or women or alcoholics or welfare moms? Because they aren’t in our Monkeyspheres.

Not to be devotional, but Lent is a time for me as a person of christian faith to reflect on that and what it means to my own impact on this connected, but ever fragmented, world.

Don’t bemoan the loss of Twitter or Facebook as avenues of advertising and marketing. Let’s shoot for the moon and make revenue models that appeal to the angels of our better selves rather than our lizard brains.

Choosing Clinton is Like Pascal’s Wager

“For a progressive, how you reconcile conflicting truths about Clinton depends, to some extent, on how much you empathize with her. Supporting Clinton means justifying the thousands of concessions she’s made to the world as it is, rather than as we want it to be. Doing this is easier, I think, when you are older, and have made more concessions yourself. Indeed, sometimes it feels like to defend Clinton is to defend middle age itself, with all its attenuated expectations and reminders of the uselessness of hindsight.”

Source: Why one feminist woman is voting for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders

I’ve read so many Facebook posts from progressive friends who are backing Clinton despite their professed reservations.

It reads very much like someone taking Pascal up on his own wager in the PenséesFor sure, a game is being played and you must make a wager (though in this case, it’s not for the existence of an omnipotent deity but the future of the Democratic Party and our country).

  1. God is, or God is not. Reason cannot decide between the two alternatives.
  2. A Game is being played… where heads or tails will turn up.
  3. You must wager (it is not optional).
  4. Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.
  5. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. (…) There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.
  6. But some cannot believe. They should then ‘at least learn your inability to believe…’ and ‘Endeavour then to convince’ themselves.

Sanders’ backers tend to the more “idealistic” or “swept up in an idealistic political movement” as the author of the article linked above writes when noting her sadness over young voters that aren’t backing Hillary. I feel caught in between these two, because my gray hair betrays my youthful idealism but I’m not ready to call myself “middle aged” just yet (I’ll wait until I’m 40 for that serious business).

However, age has made me more aware of the necessity of trading one’s ideals for practicalities of getting things done. How far we move up or down that scale determines everything from our politics to our (a)theologies to our choices (or not) in automobiles.

But I’m not ready to take the plunge and wage that Clinton is the more electable candidate and therefore I should vote for her, because if Sanders is nominated he will be “eviscerated in the general election” (again, using the words of the author linked above).

I’m not ready to trade off my own convictions about the need to disrupt the establishment that has led us to this point of polarization and play our citizens like punches in a card:

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

I’d rather not compute that wager.

The Golden Age of Apps are Over – Messengers Will Rule


“The golden era of mobile apps is already over. Americans have been downloading zero of them per month on average. Most of us have all the apps we need and have narrowed our use down to a few messaging and social networking services. So, instead of wasting thousands of dollars pushing an app on an unwilling public, businesses like Bauer Kitchen are taking their business to services such as Kik, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp that their customers are already using to text.

Source: Kik Battles Facebook With Bots In The New Messaging Wars – Forbes

2016 is the year that messaging apps mature into commerce environments that companies will build on top of, rather than building their own apps.

You’ll be ordering food, hailing cabs, buying tickets, and checking the weather all within the same app you message your friends very soon.

What Churches Can Learn from Sanders’ Campaign

** ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND DEC. 7-10 ** Susan Valadez, left, and her husband, Michael, use one of the "giving kiosks" in the atrium at the Stevens Creek Community Church in Augusta, Ga., Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2006. The kiosks allow parishioners to give money using their credit or debit card. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

Don’t get me started on “giving kiosks” in churches.

Merianna made an interesting connection between Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and the need for churches to also be aware of the the zeitgeist in the air (particularly among younger Americans):

“Bernie’s average donation is just $27. He hasn’t concentrated his efforts and energies in the megadonor, but has touted the power of every person explaining that every gift and every donation makes a difference. His message against Wall Street and giving power to the average person has made him popular among college-aged people as well as young professionals struggling to make ends meet.

Bernie’s financial message and his young followers is something churches need to pay attention to. For years churches have touted and even catered to the megadonors in their congregations who have formed the foundation of the church’s budget, but megadonors are a dying people group, and unfortunately they are leading churches to death’s door.”

Source: Why Churches Should Pay Attention to Bernie’s Win in NH – Merianna Neely Harrelson

Compare that to the way forward for Hillary’s campaign outlined in a memo today. I work with numerous churches, and I hear this sort of speak quite often (especially when it comes to fundraising and adding more donors to the rolls):

The way to win the nomination is to maximize the number of delegates we secure from each primary and caucus. Thus, the campaign is building the type of modern, data-driven operation that it will take to turn voters out and win the most possible delegates. That strategy includes:

(1) An analytics-based approach to determine which geographic portion within March states are likely to yield the highest number of net delegates for the campaign. Each congressional district will have its own data-driven plan.

(2) Paid organizers on the ground in all of the March states, running large-scale voter contact operations in areas where GOTV efforts will be most impactful towards increasing delegate margins.

(3) Targeted use of the right campaign surrogates in key communities in March states.

(4) An advertising campaign that will use a range of optimization tools to ensure that messages are reaching the right voters in the key media markets in the most cost-efficient way to the campaign.

Source: Hillary Clinton’s no-need-to-panic-everything-is-going-to-be-just-fine campaign memo, annotated – Washington Post

Of course, such marketing speak is not a bad thing in itself (it’s how I pay the bills!). It does feel cold and calculating though, doesn’t it? Perhaps that’s the reason I’m “turned off” by the approach outlined in Clinton’s memo despite it’s practicality.

But Sam, campaigns should be run like businesses. But Sam, churches should be run like businesses. Maybe. I just can’t buy into them if that’s the leading strategy.

I’m not alone in that regard. Churches too often turn their backs on young people who may not be able to write checks with multiple 0’s in favor of one or two mega-donors in areas of leadership, discipleship, and even messaging (sermons on Matthew 19:16-21 are often allegorized as a result of the Pastor recognizing the beauty of having a job).

It’s not a clear equivocation, but Merianna gave me something to think about.

First Political Attack Tweet? (Revisited)

From January 2008:

“Other candidates that have been using Twitter have been posting info about events for local followers or either links to YouTube video of rally’s, etc. It would be a shame if the candidates follow McCain lead and bring the negativity so associated with TV political messages into the Twitter medium.”

Source: First Political Attack Tweet? – Sam Harrelson

Dear 8 Year Younger Sam: Ha. It gets worse. It gets much worse. Enjoy it while you can.

62 people own the same as half the world, reveals Oxfam Davos report 

“The Oxfam report An Economy for the 1%, shows that the wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population has fallen by a trillion dollars since 2010, a drop of 38 percent. This has occurred despite the global population increasing by around 400 million people during that period. Meanwhile, the wealth of the richest 62 has increased by more than half a trillion dollars to $1.76tr. The report also shows how women are disproportionately affected by inequality – of the current ‘62’, 53 are men and just nine are women. Globally, it is estimated that a total of $7.6tr of individuals’ wealth sits offshore. If tax were paid on the income that this wealth generates, an extra $190 billion would be available to governments every year.”

Source: 62 people own the same as half the world, reveals Oxfam Davos report | Oxfam International


Our next president will be a Republican…


“If any of those three is the nominee then — so long as the Democrats keep Hillary in the race — the Republican will win the presidency. Clinton’s flaws are simply too heavy a lift for a majority of the American people to carry.”

Source: Judd Gregg: The finish line | TheHill

A few months ago, I would have laughed at that thought. “Haha, Sam… of course a Democrat will win in 2016. Trump? Pssh. Cruz? No thanks, Jesus. Rubio who? Jeb! is a flop.”

As much fun as Democrats (and I) have had with the “crazy” Republican debates and shouting matches and outrages-of-the-week, I’m beginning to realize the Republicans have something that the Democrats don’t have in this process… choices and diversity.

For Democrats, it’s over. There was no choice. We got what we deserved by playing the game that was always rigged.

Hillary will win the nomination. No doubt. But that’s great, right? She’s female and it’s about time we had a female nominee and a female president! Sure. Let’s send up Elizabeth Warren or any of the millions of talented female leaders we have in the United States who could be ready to lead our country into the third decade of the 21st Century tomorrow.

And that’s my problem with this year’s Democratic Party candidates (RIP O’Malley Campaign). We are supposed to choose between a non-Democrat socialist long time senator from Vermont (God bless you folks, Stowe and Burlington are cool) and … Clinton.

“But she has the experience to lead, Sam!” Sure. I agree with that in some aspects (definitely not all of her record, but this is politics). But 50.1% of the voting American public won’t, and Clinton will not win in a contest with Rubio or Bush (or Kasich, but … yeah). And nor should she.

It’s time for a change in the Democratic Party. Our bench is weak and the down ballot votes in favor of increasingly conservative Republican local and state candidates will harm our country for decades and do real danger to everything from our public education system (see North Carolina) to our water supply (see Michigan) to our infrastructure (see South Carolina) to our very real issue of food insecurity and poverty we continue to ignore.

Bill, the email scandal, Benghazi, her handling of Libya’s collapse, her flippant regard for the press, her demeaning candor towards new technologies that are transforming our cultures and will continue to do so into the 2020’s (Virtual / Augmented Reality is going to arrive quickly and shake things up), her paid speeches and perceptions that she’s wrapped around Wall St’s finger… $21 million in paid speeches to corporations representing interests she’s now suddenly campaigning against… all of these things and more from her past and present will cost Democrats the White House and the very real Supreme Court nominations that will impact / haunt our Republic for decades (along with the down ballot votes).

I’m not a #BernieBro (anymore than I was an Obama Boy in 2008). I very much welcome female leadership and opportunities to provide decision making whether it’s in our home, in our church, in our family budgets, or my posts on social media. So let’s stop with this repeated rhetoric from 2008 regarding why “my” demographic is uneasy with Clinton:

“That does not mean that all privileged white male Democrats are sexist, anymore than it would be true to suggest that all working-class white Democrats (the segment of the party that is breaking for Clinton) are racist. But a lightly disguised uneasiness with female power, as well as the “we love women, just not that woman” rhetoric will be familiar to anyone who has paid attention to the reception of the feminist movement. It’s the movement of which Clinton has become emblematic -– not because it was her bailiwick, but because she has been exactly the kind of woman that feminism made room for: ambitious, ball-busting, high-earning, untrained in the finer arts of hair care, and unwilling to play dumber (or nicer) than she is.”

I am fortunate enough to be a partner to a female leader. She would make a great President if she weren’t led by a different calling that I am lucky to glimpse. The same is true for millions of females who are fantastic leaders in commerce, business, politics, law etc.

To pretend that Clinton should be upheld as a paragon of female leadership because she “worked her way to the top” sells short the very hard work that my wife and other women have done and continue to do (on a minute-by-minute basis) to help us recover from our national sin of protestant white male heterosexual homogeneous leadership across our churches, government, businesses, and homes. Am I to tell my daughters that if they really want to be strong females like Rey, they need to marry wisely and lie / cheat / steal their way to the top? No, I’ll point them to Merianna. Or Lisa. Or Cassandra. Or Nikki. Or Anna. Or, again, any of the millions of American women who “could make this country great again” if the system wasn’t rigged to favor the elite oligarchy that tries to sell us carefully packaged notions of femininity, female leadership, and feminism so that they can make more money.

The great JJ Abrams style plot twist is that a vote for Clinton isn’t just a vote for “the establishment.” It’s a vote for the privileged white male establishment.

We deserve a Republican President if we think Clinton represents the best and brightest that female leadership can offer our country. If we don’t think that’s the case… why are we in this situation?

Clinton will win the nomination easily. Rubio (or Bush) will win the Republican nomination. This time next year, we’ll have President Rubio in the White House.

unless the Democratic Party elites decide that Clinton is too much of a liability over her law breaking activity and jettisons her just before Super Tuesday in favor of VP Biden who will promise to serve one term and then hand off to his VP Elizabeth Warren or Deval Patrick or Nina Turner.



Facebook Is Throttling Nonprofits and Activists

“Facebook urgently needs to address the impact that its algorithm changes are having on nonprofits, NGOs, civil society, and political activists—especially those in developing countries, who are never going to be able to “pay to play” and for whom Facebook is one of the few really effective ways to get a message out to a wide audience without government control or censorship.”

Source: Facebook Is Throttling Nonprofits and Activists

I’d urge nonprofits (like our own Hunger Initiative) and activists to seek out means of distributing and organizing online communications that aren’t reliant on social networking silos.

Of course, it’s easy to point to Facebook with its 2 billion users or Twitter with its ~400 million users and say that’s where people are in 2016. However, nothing is to stop groups from developing their own sites / forums / online presences (even on limited funds in places of civil unrest or poor network connections) and piping content into the silos that are at the behest of corporate interests (as in the case of Twitter’s apparent decision to pursue algorithmic feeds).

Indie is the way to go, especially if you want to authentically share your own gospels:

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So long and thanks for all the fish, Twitter.

“Say hello to a brand new Twitter. The company is planning to introduce an algorithmic timeline as soon as next week, BuzzFeed News has learned. The timeline will reorder tweets based on what Twitter’s algorithm thinks people most want to see, a departure from the current feed’s reverse chronological order.”

Source: Twitter To Introduce Algorithmic Timeline As Soon As Next Week – BuzzFeed News

Welp, there goes Twitter.




Evidently, there’s talk of an opt-out, but we’ll see.

Wizarding School Locations from Harry Potter (or Love Letters to My Kids)

“The map above shows the locations of the 8 Wizarding schools that have been revealed so far, that exist in the Harry Potter universe.”

Source: Wizarding School Locations from Harry Potter – Brilliant Maps

I’ve always loved maps and map-making. As a kid, I filled notebooks with imaginary island countries or continents (and their cities) on alien planets. My favorite cartoon was Tailspin because of that fantastic rock formation that ringed their island. Many of the framed pictures in my office (and our home) are maps or geography related now.

My favorite class in high school was my 9th Grade Geography class. I rocked that class and I’d quit my job today and go get a degree in Geography or Cartography if I had any real guts (follow your passions, kids). Maps are time machines. They take accumulated knowledge and transport ideas into the future. They are magical and products of our best hopes (or deepest sins).

Brilliant Maps is one of my favorite sites on the web, and I highly recommend / warn you view it (serious rat hole timesuck if you’re being “productive”).

I try hard to let my daughters and my son develop their own interests and not over-influence their choices in life (well, besides Star Wars but that’s a given). I see my 8 year old constantly observing me and picking up my copies of X-Men trade paperbacks that I “casually” leave on our coffee table after reading, and my 5 year old asking what show I want to watch on Netflix. I see my newborn son tracking me with his eyes and watching my hands fly across my clickety clackety keyboard (as MH calls it) while he fights a nap as he lays on his playmat and I sneak in some work at my desk. It’s inevitable we heavily influence our kids’ choices, of course. I just don’t want to ever be that parent reliving my glory days on the baseball or golf team through them. I want them to discover agency and identity in a positive way that feels so hard to create in our over-protective-surveillance-bubble-wrapped-life that we’ve created with our mobile phones and low attention spans. Don’t get me started on GPS devices.

One of the things I secretly hope all three of them really come to discover, value, and have a life-long obsession over are maps and geography.

So, if you’re reading this MH, LC or Jr in some future time (I wonder what device my kids could possibly be reading this text on in, say, 50 years… I bet it’s some sort of a neural network link where you can dip into the stream of history and experience any recent time / place / event virtually as if you were there… possibly even talk to a person who is “dead” but very much alive in the digital universe… weird… and yes, I have a “digital death plan” in place to have this site and many other things I manage keep going in the unfortunate (?) event I kick the bucket unexpectedly) after I’ve recycled my atoms back to the universe, I hope you like maps as much as I do. You’ll find some of my favorite books on the “maps” shelf on one of our bookcases and there are some hidden surprises in there for y’all.

Otherwise, if you read this and I’m still a breathing entity…stay away from my books and go get your own from the library.


“I keep remembering that, between Google Reader and its limits (items must have titles), and Twitter with its limits (only 140 chars, no titles, one link, no styling), same with Facebook (no links or styling) that my online writing has diminished dramatically, conforming to the contradictory limits of each of these systems.

I keep working on this, still am. Every day.”

Source: Blogging like it’s 1999 | Dave Winer

“I’m a blackstar, not a rock star.”

“Music is the binding agent of our mundane lives. It cements the moments in which we wash the dishes, type the resumes, go to the funerals, have the babies. The stronger the agent, the tougher the memory, and Bowie was NASA-grade epoxy to a sprawling span of freaked-out kids over three generations. He bonded us to our weird selves. We can be us. He said. Just for one day.”

Source: Strung Out In Heaven: A Bowie String Quartet Tribute, by Jherek Bischoff and Amanda Palmer

David Bowie’s track Blackstar off of his same-titled album is my favorite song (AND VIDEO… yowzers) at the moment.

I’ve followed Amanda Palmer for years and have been to a few of her shows. She’s not my favorite marketer, but her cover of Blackstar is goosebump raising. As is her work on Space Oddity, Ashes to Ashes, Heroes etc…

Great work from an artist who “gets it” and isn’t afraid to be herself, which is something we could all learn from her.

Thanks to Elisabeth for turning me on to this.

Cortical Origami

“It turns out that the huge explosion in the number of brain cells in the brain’s outer layer, called the cortex, forces that layer to swell and then collapse in on itself to form those characteristic creases. This cortical origami—which has also evolved in a handful of other brainy species, such as dolphins and some primates—may be nature’s way of solving the tight packing problem.”

Source: Human Brain’s Bizarre Folding Pattern Re-Created in a Vat – Scientific American