Pogue vs. Cell Industry, pt. 2: “Take Back the Beep” Campaign (and some thoughts on Capitalism)

photo by user Kyle !!!11!!one!! on Flickr

photo by user Kyle !!!11!!one!! on Flickr

On Tuesday I wrote up an article on an exchange between New York Time’s Tech columnist David Pogue and Lowell McAdam, CEO of Verizon.  An article which Pogue himself commented on, by the way (I’m still waiting for McAdam to take notice of little ol’ me, even though I am a Verizon customer.  Hmm…)

Well, as is mentioned in Pogue’s comment on that article, he has started a new campaign on his blog to make our cell phone lives slightly easier (at least for three hours out of the year).

What is the object upon which he has called his followers to descend?  Those annoying 15-second long instructions at the beginning of either leaving or checking a voicemail on your phone.  Apparently, Pogue has been told point-blank by various phone company reps that these instructions really are to make us use our minutes.  And it works.  According to Pogue’s calculations, we spend three hours a year listening to those messages and the cell companies rake in about $670 million a year (and that’s just Verizon! By the way, those calculations are based on leaving and checking voicemails twice a day, every weekday, for a year).

To accomplish this, Pogue has contacted the cell companies and has received from them info on where we, their customers, can complain about this.  Pogue writes:

“Let’s push back, and hard. We want those time-wasting, money-leaking messages eliminated, or at least made optional. . . We’re going to descend, en masse, on our carriers. Send them a complaint, politely but firmly. Together, we’ll send them a LOT of complaints.  If enough of us make our unhappiness known, I’ll bet they’ll change.”

Of course, the companies just gave their general web complaint areas (though the AT&T guy gave his own email address.  Impressive.), and of course they’re probably a pain to navigate.  For example, I tried to do it on the Verizon site, but being on a family plan with my parents, I don’t have all the very specific information they demand of you from your monthly statement before you can even leave a comment.

I don’t know about the other sites, but I hope this actually works.  Honestly, not so much because this specific complaint ruins my life so much.  Rather (if I may wax philosophical for a moment), I think Western Capitalism is coming of an age where power players have emerged such that they have become disconnected from the consumers that strengthen them.  I have just recently become hyper-aware of the fact that we as Americans have lost control of the very institutions we are supposedly responsible for.  CEO’s are supposed to rely on the customers.  Food companies are supposed to be dependent upon their consumers.  Politicians are technically our employees and should be terrified of not producing the results we want.

But no, we sheep of the “American dream” have relinquished the control of these institutions preferring ignorance, entertainment, and comfort as our opiates.  I would love this campaign to work so I might still have hope that people, policies, and institutions can really change- that the status quo is not fixed.  I pray that the steep terrain of the proverbial slippery slope might tip.

So won’t you help us show CEO’s that they are finite- dependent upon us, the customers, for all that they enjoy in their posts of power and influence?  Might we find some bright light still left in a somewhat Capitalistic managed economy?

Or maybe we should all just become Distributists and all our problems will be solved.

Here’s the contact info provided by Pogue in his blog post today:

I’ve told each of the four major carriers that they’ll be hearing from us. They’ve told us where to send the messages:

* Verizon: Post a complaint here: http://bit.ly/FJncH.

* AT&T: Send e-mail to Mark Siegel, executive director of media relations: MS8460@att.com.

* Sprint: Post a complaint here: http://bit.ly/9CmrZ

* T-Mobile: Post a complaint here: http://bit.ly/2rKy0u

P.S. – as is mentioned in Pogue’s post, apparently Apple made AT&T take these messages off of the iPhone.  One more reason why Apple is what it is and has accomplished what it has.  I feel like they (and Starbucks.  Yeah, I said it.  What?) are the only large companies out there that get it.  They care and put people before profit.  And that’s profitable.  If only cell companies felt the same way.

“WTFWJD? | (on Christian cursing)”-Reform & Revive

"Andrew Murray" by Amy Roberts

"Andrew Murray" by Amy Roberts

Just wanted to drop a quick plug for a new article I posted yesterday in the online magazine I run, Reform & Revive.  The article is on the topic of Christians that curse and explores the issues that surround it.  It’s received some really good, really helpful feedback and comments, so I wanted to post something here as well letting people know about it so they can join in on the conversation.

Remember to leave comments and retweet.

Here’s the link:


Also, if you want to write for Reform & Revive, you can either get in touch with me here or use this form.  We are always looking for more content and new ideas for the site.

You can find more art from Amy Roberts here.

NYT’s David Pogue Takes on Cell Industry

Pogue_hiUPDATE: more cell phone company d-baggage.  Apparently with the advent of the potentially-amazing-but-not-quite-yet Google Voice, most major cell providers have banned the various Google Voice apps that allow it to integrate into your phone’s operating system.  Ugh…

I really hope everyone out there knows who David Pogue is by now (his personal site can be found here). He is the main New York Times Tech Columnist, and he is great. His main job at the NYT is to make technology make sense to the everyday consumer, and he is really good at it. He’s so knowledgeable and yet is so funny and comes across as such an Everyman, you have a hard time believing he’s not your next door neighbor or at least your new best friend.

I follow him on Twitter and it is definitely one of my favorite feeds. He recently finished writing a book over Twitter where every night he would have some sort of game that his followers would play along with and the best responses ended up in the book. It was great. He has a very loyal Twitter fan base. He regularly crashes websites by posting links to interesting videos or articles, just to have most of his 700,000+ followers go to these sites all at once and crashing the servers.

Anyway, Pogue has recently drawn some attention for a recent article he wrote about his “Everyman” frustrations with the cell phone industry. After a brief defense of the industry over phone exclusivity contracts (ala AT&T and the iPhone) where he explains why this is an unreasonable frustration to have with them, he outlines six legitimate frustrations to have with the cell industry. The gripes are as follows (but I still really encourage you to actually read the article. He’s a great writer.):

  1. Unreasonable text-messaging fees
  2. Double-billing (where you get billed for sending and receiving a call)
  3. Unfair Phone Subsidies Practices (you spend the first half of your contract paying off your phone, but still keep paying the same price even after your phone’s paid off)
  4. Crazy International Phone Call Rates
  5. Way Too-Long Voicemail Instructions Just To Waste Your Minutes
  6. Miscellaneous (dead spots, data caps, customer service, etc.)

(You’ll see why I wrote that outline out here soon) That was last Wednesday, July 22nd. Apparently that article put into words the frustrations of many, many Americans, awakening a small public relations disaster for cell phone companies. I know I felt really good after reading it.

So how did the industry respond? Did they rush together to serve the interests of their customers? Did they begin more research to see if in fact a huge percentage of their clients felt similarly? No. Instead, two days later, on July 24th, Lowell C. McAdam, CEO of Verizon, sent an open letter to the publisher of the New York Times (I have no idea why he didn’t just send it to Pogue) accusing the New York Times of publishing “myths” and “highly misleading charges at wireless companies”. He then goes on to carefully rebut these “myths” and “charges” leveled against his industry by Pogue’s article. Now, I would love everyone to look back up and reacquaint yourselves with Pogue’s outline of complaints.

Done? Good. Now here are McAdam’s counterpoints to Pogue, presented in Myth/Fact fashion:

  • Myth 1: American’s pay less than Europeans; Truth: they pay an average of ten cents per minute less (as long as you don’t factor in international calls, text messages, data rates, and overage charges).
  • Myth 2: The cell phone industry isn’t competitive; Fact: Al Gore at some point said they were very competitive (seriously, that’s what the letter says)
  • Myth 3: Bad customer service; Fact: 84% of customers are satisfied (really? I’m “satisfied” with a lot of things, but I’d much rather be “pleased”. We kind of have to be satisfied with what we got anyway)
  • Myth 4: Wireless companies don’t look out for the rural guy; Fact: Verizon looks out for them.

Wow. Eat it, Pogue. McAdam really took you to task. How did Pogue respond to such an “onslaught” (are you catching the sarcasm yet)? With this tweet and this brief article. Personally, I think it’s pretty bad when someone attacks you, you attack back, and that person proceeds to promote your attack as amusement for his supporters. Shortly afterward, Pogue continued to tweeting about other things, but several hours later decided he was going to start a campaign to get rid of the long voicemail instructions, so he asked his followers for potential “war-cry” slogans.

I really hope this causes some real discourse and perhaps even change in how cell companies treat their customers, but I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime, though, I’ll enjoy playing along with Pogue as he milks this exchange for all of the entertainment it’s worth. Good for him.

So, read his stuff, buy his book, follow his Twitter, watch his song and lecture below from December on 2009 cell phone trends, and enjoy the ride.

From the iMonk: Mary Consoles Eve

I found this at the site of Michael Spencer (a.k.a. The Internet Monk).  This guy is having an increasing amount of influence and inspiration on my thinking as a Christian in this world.  You find him at The Internet Monk. Anyway, I love this piece of art and the poem.

Crayon & pencil drawing by Sr. Grace Remington, OCSO. Copyright 2005, Sisters of the Mississippi Abbey


O Eve!

My mother, my daughter, life-giving Eve,

Do not be ashamed, do not grieve.

The former things have passed away,

Our God has brought us to a New Day.

See, I am with Child,

Through whom all will be reconciled.

O Eve! My sister, my friend,

We will rejoice together


Life without end.

Sr. Columba Guare copyright© 2005 Sisters of the Mississippi Abbey


This was found by Michael Spencer at Inside Catholic.

Speak your mind: What is Beauty? (A Survey)

Sargent - Madame Errazuriz-small

For those that might run across this post in the future, the message mentioned in this post was written, given, and walked through part-by-part on this blog.  You can see all these posts by clicking here.

So . . . I’m giving a talk in a few weeks on the topic of Beauty.  The first section of the talk will be a discussion attempting to answer the question “What is Beauty?”  To aid me in this I’d like to extend this question to the world at large.  So, I’m asking all of you out there: what do you think beauty is?

Feel free to take your time or just give me the first thing that pops into your head, or even give me more than one idea if you want. This is totally open.  Leave a comment.  Email me.  Facebook me.  Whatever you want.

Or, leave a joke if you want – but only if it’s a good one.  Here’s the dictionary definition for “Beauty” to get you started thinking:

the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest).

So, that’s what Dictionary.com thinks.  What do you think Beauty is?

(art: “Madame Errazuriz” by John Singer Sargent)

“For your life – Flee!” by Sean Brendan Stewart – Reform & Revive | a Plugfest

sorry, no y-axis this time

sorry, no y-axis this time

[Thank you to spectacular photographer and friend David Schrott for inspiring this post]

Okay, due to a few recent articles I’ve written, the number of people visiting my blog has increased by over 4000% in the past week.  It’s pretty nuts.  That’s why everything has seemed to be about Derek Webb and his new album, Stockholm Syndrome.  So, I just wanted to take this chance to put in a few plugs for some of my other projects.

I have web magazine called Reform & Revive.  It looks at the intersection between faith and culture, politics, art, the church, and just life in general.  These Derek Webb posts would perhaps have been more appropriate on that site, but the readership here jumped up so fast (I’m actually on the first page of most Google searches having to do with the album).

Anyway, friend, brother, and fellow impassioned writer, Sean Brendan Stewart, just put up a special article that seems to have a similar message as the new Webb album.  It’s some commentary from him, then a very brief manuscript of some audio from a Carter Conlon message.  After that, feel free to look at our more regular full articles from our Contributors.

Lastly, I have my own personal site, Prodigal Paul, that acts as a hub for organizing other blogs, Bible studies, sermons, and such that I have produced over the years.

That is all.

Derek Webb’s “Stockholm Syndrome”| a preliminary album review

[NOTE: this is not a review of the whole album, just an impression from the songs released so far]

He has said it is his most important album to date.  But no matter what, Derek Webb’s Stockholm Syndrome will not be just an album. Regardless of the music, production, or vocals, this album will first and foremost be a manifesto, an indictment, a message. The lyrics will define this album. This album – this artist, even – has become a voice for an entire group of disgruntled twenty-something Christians that have surveyed the rolling hills of American evangelicalism and have found it lacking. They have called out for a prophet to say the words and use the language that will draw the line in the sand and separate the “Biblical” sheep from the “fundamentalist” goats. A man to come out in sackcloth and ashes and save real grace-driven Christianity from the clutches of the legalistic drones that would rob us of our freedom in Christ.

So, the question I have struggled with ever since the first songs on this album came out is: is this the right message spoken in the right way to the right people at the right time?

I hate saying it, but (from what we’ve seen so far) I don’t think so. There is a time and a place for the message this album seems to carry, don’t get me wrong. I don’t write off a song done by a Christian just because it has a curse word or says things sharply. The Old Testament prophets spoke just as harshly (if not more so) to the “church” at that time. They would call women cows (Amos 4:1), say that the people “lusted” after other gods like some dream of fornicating with others with penises the size of donkeys and ejaculations like that of horses (Ezekiel 23:20), and declare that the best things we ever did were nothing more than rags dipped in a woman’s menstruation tossed before the face of God (Isaiah 64:6).

I fancy Derek Webb sees himself as such a prophet, just as I know many of his fans do. Now, I think this harsh tone is absolutely appropriate and the balance is struck with all of Webb’s previous albums. But the vehemence of the songs released so far from Stockholm is off-putting and seems a bit out of place. It’s not just a declaration that the church is off on a few points and how they’ve gone about some things – all the songs are a mockery and sarcastic rant against her. As a friend well put it: this album probably will not accomplish the goal for which Derek set off writing this record. Rather than shock the church into reform, this album is far more likely to galvanize the opposition force against the church and those that think the Church has become so out of touch and impotent it has become unimportant all together.

I know that’s not Webb’s heart. Anyone that’s heard the album 2003’s She Must and Shall Go Free knows this. The songs from Stockholm Syndrome seem to form an epistle from a wounded lover. A man who loves the Bride of Christ so much he hates how she has gone a stray and has been personally affected and hurt by it. But I wish he would take a page out of Hosea and try to play a part in wooing the church back rather than trying to beat her back.

I just want to say it again: this criticism is not about language or tone. I am really not bothered by the “bad words” used or the forceful tone. Perhaps my favorite song ever recorded by any artist, “Wedding Dress“, has both of these elements, and yet it is geared more towards Webb’s own depravity rather than the Church’s flaws. Look, I have the same criticisms as him. Raised as a Dallas, Texas Southern Baptist, my family has been destroyed by the effects of fundamentalism and “easy believism”. But Jesus said He is building His church, so we must try and find the balance between working with Christ in building it or mocking what He’s done so far, and thereby working against the work Christ would have us do. I fear this album is the latter.

Much has changed on the landscape of American Christianity since Webb’s 2007 album The Ringing Bell. The Church has effectively lost its grip on pop culture, politics, and the prevailing worldview of the nation. This being the case, these songs from Stockholm Syndrome come on the scene too late and kick the church while she’s down, as it were.

But, at some point today, Derek is supposed to begin pre-orders for the album accompanied by immediate digital downloads. So when that happens, I’ll be sure to put up a more comprehensive review as soon as possible.

I pray he surprises us.  Thoughts, anyone?

It is done: Derek Webb’s “Stockholm Syndrome” album release + new free song


[WARNING: there’s a “bad” word mentioned a few times in this post]

[Also, for those reading this on Facebook, click here to read this on my actual blog, so you can watch the videos, stream the music, and download the audio more easily.]

Well, it’s done.  After all the drama, Derek Webb’s new album “Stockholm Syndrome” is set for release this Tuesday.  Apparently, if you pre-order the album off his website on Tuesday, you will be able to get a free download of the entire album immediately.

But –

this revelation did not come before another song – the song of the album perhaps – was released.  Anyone who has been following this situation knows that Derek has been releasing “stems” (or pieces of the song) for a while.  This is the song with the cursing that started this whole thing.  It is a song that has been titled “What Matters More” and it has to do with the Church’s treatment of homosexuals.  So without further ado, here are all the songs that have been released off of Derek Webb’s newest album “Stockholm Syndrome”.  Enjoy and be sure to download them all on Tuesday.

Thanks again to Shane for the update.  The name above each streaming song is a link to the actual file for you to download.  Right-click or whatever you do to download these things.

“What Matters More?”

“Freddie, Please”


“The Spirit vs. the Kick-Drum”

It sounds like the new song is what inspired (or vice versa) Webb’s recent purchase of the domain GiveAShit.org, which he plans on using as a fundraising site.  The site’s had no content on it for a while, but just now as I saw that it has a black screen on it, apparently holding the spot for new content coming soon (Tuesday, perhaps?).  We’ll see.

Lastly, I heard from musical artist and friend Joel Rakes (so if it’s not true, blame him – or the people he follows on Twitter) that there was also a documentary done about this whole thing, so keep an eye out for that.  And check out Joel’s stuff while you’re at it.

Here are other sites concerning Webb and the album. Please visit these as well to support the artist and his craft.

For those that don’t even know about Derek Webb and his music, here are a few of my favorite songs by him. Yeah, he’s pretty stinking good. [Once again, if you’re on facebook, these videos may not show up, so click here to watch them]

“Wedding Dress” off of “She Must and Shall Go Free”
Vodpod videos no longer available.

“Medication” off of “I See things Upside Down”
Vodpod videos no longer available.

“My Enemies Are Men Like Me” off of “Mockingbird”
Vodpod videos no longer available.

“Independence Day?” by B.Rayshawn Graves – Reform & Revive

B.Rayshawn Graves, a Guest Contributor his way to becoming a regular on Reform & Revive just posted a new article.  He originally called it “Decision Day” but I renamed it “Independence Day?” for obvious American calendrical reasons.

The article contains a quote and some of Graves’ thoughts on the balance between God’s Sovereignty and our free will.  Here’s the article:


“Realizing Seminary’s Not For You” – GoingToSeminary.com


UPDATE: I am now back in seminary. I’ve written the reasons why here.

After a long hiatus from writing for the site (for obvious reasons), I have written a new article on the site GoingToSeminary.com.  I’m really proud of this one and it has generated a LOT of conversation so far.  Some supportive, some . . . otherwise.

Join the conversation here:

Realizing Seminary’s Not For You

Check out the rest of my Going To Seminary posts.

A Twitter Gospel: the contest

Scott Thomas, director of Acts29 Church Planing Network, held a contest on the Acts29 Twitter account for the best statement of the Gospel in 140 characters or less.  The winner gets a free copy of Mark Driscoll’s new book “Religion Saves”.

If you go to this site, you can find all 95 entries.  Mine is number 54 on the list:

a holy God w/ holy demands you don’t meet has both fulfilled these demands & taken the wrath due you. repent & believe he’s done it

My other favorite was this one (number 37):

we suck, Jesus doesn’t & never did, was slaughtered, defeated death & desires to exchange your crap for His perfection

They are asking that you vote for your top 3 favorite tweets by commenting on the bottom of the blog with the entries, messaging Scott on his facebook, or by going to the Acts29 Twitter page and “tweeting the numbers in order of preference followed by hashtag #gospeltweet. For instance: ‘@acts29 101, 98, 107 #gospeltweet'”

So go vote, and if you like mine, remember it’s number 37.

You can follow the votes  so far here.

Have some fun with it.