CFA CFA General What’s the frequency, Kenneth? (or, The medium really IS the message)

What’s the frequency, Kenneth? (or, The medium really IS the message)

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    • Marc
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      I make a lot of time playing up the whole self-deprecating “I’m old” shtick, but I am truly an old man stuck in a 35 year-old body. I mean, when I was born, the White House was occupied by Jimmy Carter. Who? Exactly.*

      (This is the part where you say, “C’mon Marc, 35 ain’t that old. We still think you’re cool”… No? Nothing? I never liked you ingrates anyway…)

      How exactly am I an old crank?

      1) I am astounded that the following pitch was met with anything other than laughter (and preferably scorn and derision): “Hey, I’ve got an idea. It’s like an online bulletin board and anyone anywhere can put up whatever they want for the entire world to see, but here’s the kicker, whatever they write has to be 140 characters or less, and preferably include lots of @s and #s.”

      2) I firmly believe that there is NO excuse for abbreviating the word “at.” It is TWO letters – literally one more character than you are already writing. But oh no, you have to be all like “Ooooooo, look at me! I’m using a fun squiggly character. None of that bourgeois letter “t” for me, I’m an alternative-thinking rebel and I’m going to use @ even if the Regime don’t like it. I’m like the next Steve Jobs.” Really? You’re sending a text to your mate whilst watching “Countdown” in your parents’ basement. Call me crazy, but I’m not betting on you founding the next Apple.

      I’ve got a six-letter word that summarizes your prospects of becoming the next Steve Jobs.

      3) I like the radio. I grew up in Vancouver, which is not important except for the fact that it is on the Pacific Coast. Late at night, if the sky was clear and you were sufficiently dexterous, it was not impossible to tune in radio stations from as far away as San Francisco. It felt so exhilarating, almost illegal. It’s what it must have felt like to live in East Berlin in the 1960s and get your hands on some samizdat.** More recently, at the outbreak of the Iraq War, I found myself living in a boarding house, er flop house, er crack den, um, the important part is that I lacked access to a TV so I had to get my news from the radio, which, it turns out, was 1000 times more informative than the television coverage that never seemed to progress beyond “here is a shot of Baghdad at night” (and they never did get around to explaining why that city apparently glows green). So, yes, I am an audiophile. Guilty as charged.

      If there were no WMD, why is this entire city radioactive?

      Where was I? Right, I hate Twitter. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it? I’ve tried it. How can I describe that experience? Let’s try this: When I lived in London, my wife and I were strolling past “Speakers’ Corner” in Hyde Park one day when a lunatic kindly old lady was standing on a box and going on about how it is written in the Bible that you are not allowed to live outside of a 16 mile radius from the spot where you were born. I presume that this was some sort of argument against immigration, but I didn’t stick around to find out because my desire to enjoy an afternoon in the park with my wife outweighed my desire to endure crazed ramblings. Now imagine that it was impossible to enjoy your afternoon because all of Hyde Park was completely full of hundreds of thousands of these kindly old ladies, each one crazier than the last, waving placards and shouting incoherently. Are you starting to get the picture?

      This is going to get worse before it gets better.

      So yeah, I pretty much think that the existence of Twitter is humanity’s way of saying “I’ve stopped trying.” Remember when our society invented things like like the wheel and the printing press and elevators and things that are, you know, useful? But I must be going crazy because I can’t watch a newscast or read a newspaper without seeing #this and #that and quoting 140-character brain farts from the likes of @rollovergumby836 is considered an accurate gauge of public opinion. And people I respect are apparently oblivious to the fact that this is the stupidest waste of time in the history of the planet (et tu, The Economist?). In my defence, I am pretty good at seeing things that make absolutely no sense way before other people finally catch on. I had the same “Are you people INSANE?” foresight with the Tech Bubble, the Credit Bubble and the Bush Presidency. So give it some time.

      Have I made my feelings on this subject sufficiently well-understood?

      If you put a gun to my head to make me say one good thing about Twitter (and, believe me, that’s what you would have to do), it would be that, by creating a constraint (albeit one that is completely random and insane), it forces the “writer” to think about how they craft their “words”. Mark Twain was on to something when he wrote “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” And Marshall McLuhan (Canadian) was onto something when he wrote “The Medium is the Message.”

      We have now reached the point in my magnum opus where I address anything remotely related to the CFA, which is: Why don’t prep material providers care more about audio recordings? Am I the only candidate who spends a not insignificant amount of time commuting? Is this not the perfect opportunity to learn from an audio recording? And, of course, the answer to these questions is: Marc, stop being an idiot. This is a quantitative exam and Greek letters in formulas don’t translate well into audio format. And that is undeniably true, but only to the extent that it is actually almost completely untrue. CFA exams at all levels are overwhelmingly qualitative and over 80% of the curriculum can easily be expressed verbally. Think about it this way: If you could pay the world’s greatest CFA tutor (ie. me) to come impart my wisdom upon you, would you want me to talk to you, or spend your time watching me solve problems?

      Much like the television journalists covering the outbreak of the Iraq War who did nothing much beyond wait for bombs to start exploding, prep material providers are fixated on the visual of Baghdad at night, or, in this case, PowerPoint slides that walk candidates through formulas and calculations and other stuff that never actually gets tested on the exam (at least, not in that form). There are important topics behind these formulas, but this is pretty much the worst possible way to teach them. Creating audio content to teach the CFA curriculum is a lot like covering the outbreak of the Iraq War as a radio journalist. Is it challenging? Yes. Do you need to craft your message appropriately so that it communicates your point within the constraints imposed by your medium? Yes. Is it 1000 times more informative when done properly? Yes again.

      This is a massive failure of the prep material provider market. As candidates, we should demand better.

      Marc (circa 2013), Cranky old man listening to radio and rambling on about stuff.

      *Do those guys from Manchester who used to be on Radio 1 (and who I assume have by now been relegated to 5Live or Radio Free Lancashire) still do that bit where one guy says the name of some really famous person and the other guy says “Whoooooooooooooooooooooooooo?” That was pretty funny.

      **Samizdat is not porn.

    • Sarah
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      @marc your blog posts are always interesting. I’d read them even if there was no CFA reference.

      I also like using the whole self-depreciating humor of being old.
      I also don’t understand twitter and facebook is in the same ballpark just marginally better. At least there are full sentences but apparently facebook will be integrating with twitter.

      Actually what I find funny is that there are no spaces in hashtags (for obvious reasons) and it reminds me of how books were way back in the day. Can you believe it, that spaces and lowercase letters are innovations. BEFOREBOOKSWEREWRITTENLIKETHISANDIIMAGINEITWOULDBEHELLISHTOREADAWHOLEBOOKWRITTENLIKETHIS.
      (Before books were written like this and I imagine it would be hellish to read a whole book written like this.)

      I have a lot of problems with kids these days, they don’t teach them how to whole a pencil anymore or grammar actually the school system had whisked away more of the challenging grammatical points while I was in school and has picked away at what remains. I was luck and went to an British private school for a year and had grammar beaten into me and I still suffer from comma splicing.

      Since your title read, “The medium really is the message” I thought of the book Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman. I think you’d like him. I also recommend his other books they are delightful reads! The first thing I want to do after June 1 is sit down with some of Noam Chomsky’s books.

      I sound older than you…
      I can’t seem to not mention a book.

      George Orwell had it all wrong the future sees more like the Brave New World. Please give me some soma.

      As for your prep providers…I’ve been thinking of a solution for sub-par material provided by prep-providers. I can’t really think of a way to get them to change and the alternate would be to create our own material but that requires time and money we collectively don’t have to fund a project at that scale.

    • Zee Tan
      Keymaster
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      C’mon Marc, 35 ain’t that old. We still think you’re cool.

    • christine
      Participant
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      I do like the radio as well. But precisely why I like radio makes audio lectures a terrible tool – I can tune in and out as necessary.

      For the radio – it makes idle moments really great, because I can pay attention to the radio whenever I have a spare moment and have a pleasant experience. With audio lectures, if I zone out for a bit I’ve lost the plot and need to rewind (there’s a dated term,eh?) back to where my mind started to wander.

      I feel like I need to pay as much attention to an audio lecture as I do to a video lecture or a full study session.

    • Sophie Macon
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      It’s all about being young at heart. Age is just a number 🙂

    • Sarah
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      It’s all about being young at heart. Age is just a number 🙂

      Whenever people say “Age is just a number” I start humming this song

    • Marc
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      I just came across the following quote from Michael Stipe about writing “What’s the frequency, Kenneth? ”

      Caution: Salty language below.

      “I wrote that protagonist as a guy who’s desperately trying to understand what motivates the younger generation, who has gone to great lengths to try and figure them out, and at the end of the song it’s completely fucking bogus. He got nowhere.”

    • Sarah
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      @marc Eh you mean the song concluded nothing? (Did you expect different O.o)

      Well I been meaning to read Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man by McLuhan after reading Postman’s book. They tend to give you more to ponder on.

      He is Canadian so we should support him!

    • Zee Tan
      Keymaster
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      He is Canadian so we should support him!

      I just recently learnt that this guy is Canadian too.

    • Sophie Macon
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      There are a lot of awesome Canadians!

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