Category Archives: I Object

We’re All Day-to-Day

simple-candle-800pxI asked this morning on Facebook and Twitter what, exactly,  people with a “wait-and-see” attitude toward the Short-Fingered-Vulgarian-in-Chief needed to see in order to quit waiting and speak up. Most of the answers were along the lines that “He hasn’t done anything yet.”  This, of course, the morning after he appointed the former publisher of Breitbart News (hell no I’m not linking to it) — a man who brags that he’s made White Supremacy mainstream again — to be his Chief Strategist and Senior Counsel. The other thing he’s done is appoint Reince Priebus, a man who can’t even take a principled stand on “i-before-e”, to be his Chief of Staff. You’ll recall that the whole purpose of this campaign, besides throwing out brown people who are here and killing selected ones who aren’t, was to “drain the swamp.” Guess what?  He just appointed the swamp to be Chief of Staff.  You know how this works, right? The Chief of Staff decides who sees the President and when. The Chief Strategist and Senior Counsel is the person the President goes to see when he feels like talking to someone. This after picking Mike “Pray the Gay Away” as his Vice-President and surrounding himself with failed-90s-politicians-also-on-their-third-marriages Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani as probable cabinet members. Ben Carson seems to be in the mix in there somewhere, but there’s always the chance with him he’s just confused about where he’s supposed to stand.

I ask again:  what in the HELL does this man have to do in order for you to say you’re a little nervous?

You actually don’t need to answer that question because I already know the answer.  There is nothing.  You’ve already made your choice.  You’re OK with all this. Not OK, exactly, but willing to let other people do the heavy lifting. Let someone else get their hands dirty. “Such and such will NEVER let him do so-and-so!” you say with confidence based on nothing other than the pressure on your sphincter from you praying you’re right. “I don’t have to say anything NOW because SOMEONE ELSE will stop them THEN!” Really?  Why would they? I’m some faceless bureaucrat in the bowels of the government and some order comes down that is going to hurt a lot of people.  Why does it fall on me to stop this?  Who will know? Who cares? I’ve made my entire career giving my bosses what they want. Why should I stop now? It’s not like anyone cares, right? Nobody but a few cranks are talking about this, and no one takes them seriously anyway!

“Banality of evil.” Look it up. No matter who said it first, the idea that the only thing needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing is sound.Why? I think of it as the “Save the Planet” problem.  Sounds good.  Everyone has to be in favor of that , right?  (I mean, except for the person we just elected President.  Not him). Here’s the deal:  The planet is going to be fine.  It’s big.  It has an atmosphere. Its been hit by big rocks and life came back.  Not the same life, but it’s the same planet. For some reason we talk about the planet as if somehow it’s natural we’re here.  It’s not. There was a time we weren’t here.  There could easily be a time we’re not here and the planet will never even notice.  It’ll be fine.  People?  That’s our choice.

So it is with institutions. The only reason institutions have power is because people give it to them. They don’t occur naturally.  They only exist through voluntary participation. In Darkness Visible William Styron made the point that the fundamental choice someone makes every day is whether or not to live or die. So it is with institutions. We have to decide what we’re willing to accept in order for the institution to survive. The Founders made a choice. We think they made the choice for us, but they didn’t. We have to make the choice every single day. Is this thing worth maintaining the institution for? There will be people on the other side of that decision.  There will be institutions. They just don’t have to be the same institutions we have now.

What’s the deal breaker for you? When do you start letting other people know that? Whose job is it to speak for you? When that bureaucrat has to make that call, what does she have to go on?

Years ago there was an ESPN promo where Keith Olbermann says about some ballplayer “He’s day-to-day.  We’re all day-to-day.” So is our country. So are the institutions that make it what it is.

You do what you want. I don’t know what else to do.  I’m speaking out for as long as I can.

Anti-social media

If there’s any lesson I’ve learned in life it’s that you’re welcome to hold any opinion you want as long as it’s well-known that it agrees with everyone else’s. I find being around people draining, which is why it’s so odd I’ve spent so much time on social media. I’m increasingly turning into the least social person I know. And I’m OK with that.

I’ve been uneasy with Facebook for a long time. I resisted getting on it in the first place. While I’ve been able to reconnect (and, in some cases, connect) with people I genuinely like, the cost has been high. I’m not going to go into any detail here, but this morning I expressed an opinion that proved to be wildly unpopular. I’ve never been good at saying what people want to hear.

Not my writing style.

Not my writing style.

Craig Ferguson has a bit he does that I think is dead on. He says that before he says anything he asks three questions:

  1. Does this need to be said?
  2. Does this need to be said by me?
  3. Does this need to be said by me right now?

I’m not sure which of these I did wrong this morning. Number 3, I think.  Maybe #2, but I’m leaning towards #3. The point here is that I got up on a beautiful (if a little sticky) Friday morning and immediately managed to piss people off and, in turn, get pissed off myself. I don’t need this shit.  No one does. I’ve got work to do.

I’ve deactivated my Facebook account. For my own sanity. If I feel like I have something I want to say I have a perfectly good place to say it right here. I don’t have to worry about accidently harshing the mellow of those with delicate mellows who might be exposed to a contrary opinion through the vaguaries of Mark Zuckerberg’s latest timeline algorithm. No one’s going to accidentally stumble on something here. You come here and you get what you pay for. Don’t like it? Don’t come here. The other side of it is that it’s not as quick to write things here as on Facebook. There are many more chances to heed Craig Ferguson’s wise counsel. I can have opinions and the world can easily ignore them. Which is how it should be. Everyone seems to be happier.

Like I said, I’ve got work to do.

Still supporting Bernie

I contributed to Bernie Sander’s campaign the day he announced. I’ve never regretted that, though there are no shortage of people who’d tell me I ought to. I do not care for Hillary Clinton. I don’t think she was all that great as Secretary of State. Libya?  Yeah, that worked out pretty well. And I’m not talking about Benghazi. It was an awful thing, but I never understood what she supposedly did that was so terrible. The answer is, of course  that she didn’t do anything terrible in that incident. My objection was to the whole policy of taking out Quadaffi. Removing someone from power without having a clear plan for who’s going to replace him.  When has that ever gone wrong? On a more mundane level it appears no laws were broken in the email server thing, but that appears to be more about luck than design. It was a bad idea. There were plenty of professionals who advised her that it was a bad idea, and she went and did it anyway. She wanted use her Blackberry for all her mail and her convenience trumped all. It’s not a criminal offense to do stupid things, But this is the judgement we’re all supposed to get all warm and fuzzy about? “Oh I know we’ve spent millions of dollars and had people devote their entire careers to thinking about how we ought to secure our sensitive communication systems. But I really like my Blackberry, so forget about all that.”

I think Trump will beat her. Should he?  Of course not, but close your eyes. Imagine being miles into space and and looking down on the North American continent. Now imagine the voice of James Earl Jones as Darth Vader flying his TIE fighter saying “The stupid is strong with this one.” And sorry Canadians. Maybe you should paint a line that can be seen from space so Darth doesn’t include you in with us. Anyway, a lot of people really hate her. A lot. They will definitely be motivated to show up and vote. You remember a couple of weeks ago when the Brits decided “Boaty McBoatface” was the way to go for naming an Arctic research ship? It’s going to be a lot like that. There will be no shortage of people voting for Trump. There will also be no shortage of people who are voting against Clinton.

I know no one wants to hear that. Sorry. I believe it to be true. Wishing isn’t going to make it go away. I would be gloriously happy to be wrong. Best. Crow. Ever. But people give a shit about the Kardashians. Reality TV is mistaken for reality. Pardon me if I’m not expecting a wave of rationality to wash across the country. No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American people. I think Trump beats Clinton.

I have friends who will vote for Clinton. I will not under any circumstances advise them to do otherwise. They’ve all shown me that courtesy, after all.  It’s your sacred duty to vote for the person you want to win. I’m pretty sure the women I know who are voting for her have a more nuanced view than “I have to vote for her because she’s a woman” but it wouldn’t even matter if they did. That still sounds like a better reason than the hypothetical “I’d like to have a beer with him” that people seemed to have no problem with back when it was Bush. There are no rules for how you get to “I want that person to win.” OK, bribery is illegal, but other than that …

For my part I’m planning to vote for Bernie Sanders in the Kentucky primary.  After that it doesn’t really matter.  I live in Kentucky.  Mitch “Don’t call me Yertle” McConnell is our sane Senator. Eastern KY voted en masse for the guy who’s fulfilling his promise to take their health insurance away. I have a better chance being elected Pope than a Democrat has to win the Kentucky electoral votes. There’s no money for education, but the boondoggle “Ark of the Ham” project gets an $18-million subsidy. Yeah, I could vote for Tinkerbell for all it’s going to matter around here.

So that’s where I am.

Those haikus are looking better all the time, aren’t they?

Discontinue if the Bern lasts for four or more hours.

Three reasons I dislike most video on the Internet.

lcd-test-pattern-pro-18a423-h900It’s sort of odd, but I’ve gotten to the point I really hate seeing video on the Internet. It’s funny because I love video. I’ve been shooting it since I was in middle school. I think my first gig was recording a training seminar for teachers. That would have been in either 1976 or 1977. In high school I had access to this weird-ass Akai VT-400 camera/ recorder combo that I used to record whatever I could talk anyone into letting me record. I spent a lot of time with the basketball team.  Up until five or six years ago my professional life revolved around making video in one way or the other. Back in 2008 Streaming Media Magazine named me a Streaming Media All-Star. As best I’ve been able to determine, my team at UC was the first ever to stream a high school graduation live on the Internet back in 2001. That’s a footnote-to-a-footnote kind of accomplishment, but it illustrates the point that I’ve been at this for a while. I still care about video a lot. I’m enjoying this writing thing, but I’d kill to direct a multi-camera shoot just one more time.1,2. But I do hate seeing video pop up on social media.

It’s not the production values (or lack thereof) that bother me. I can’t tell you how many “Intro to TV Production” courses I’ve taught. When you see some of the stuff students do intentionally for a grade when you warned them not to, you’re not terribly overwrought when you see people with no training fall into the same traps. It’s definitely not vertical video. I feel the same way about people who get all holier-than-thou about that issue as I do about people who turn up their noses at a well-made lager because, well, it’s a lager. The phrase “douche canoe comes up almost immediately.

After putting milliseconds of thought into it while making a Facebook comment on this topic, I came up with three reasons I dislike most video on the Internet:

  1. Environmental Demands. Few videos are silent. Most have sound. I’m not always in a place where it’s appropriate for sounds to be playing. I keep my phone muted a lot of the time. When I was in cubicle-land I had headphones, but a lot of time I wore them just to muffle outside sounds. Sounds are intrusive. The Internet may be a dark, seething morass of overdeveloped outrage and underdeveloped potty-training skills, but at least it’s usually quiet.
  2. Cognitive Throttling. I read fast. Like everyone, I read differently depending on the circumstance. If I’m trying to immerse myself in the piece I read every word and am happy to go back and re-read a passage again. If I’m in a hurry or looking for a specific thing I’ll scan until I locate what I’m looking for. Everyone does this to one degree or another. The brain is an amazing thing. The amount of information you can take in at a glance is quite remarkable if you think about it. Of course you don’t have to think about it. That’s kind of the point. Until it’s video. Now you’re getting locked into a single speed. Whatever’s in there you’re looking for, you get to wait for it with everyone else, damnit. It’s going to drip, drip, drip and you can’t do anything about it. That five-minute video is going to take five minutes to watch. Plus anywhere from 10 to 60 seconds extra because there’s probably going to be a pre-roll ad.
  3. Cognitive Hijacking. When you watch a video, you’re outsourcing your cognition to whomever made it. You’re only going to see what the person who made it wants you to see. You’re only going to hear what you’re given. The camera is never passive. It draws attention to itself in varying degrees depending on the technique being used, but you’re not the one who’s deciding what you’re looking at. That’s been done for you. Saying “I’m going to watch TV” or “I’m going to a movie” pretty much means you’re signing up for this voluntarily. I like how Steven Spielberg manipulates my cognition. Uwe Boll?  Not so much. But that’s just me. My main objection to most video on the Internet is that I’m usually doing something else and I can’t really afford to sign over my consciousness to this other person who might or might not share my cognitive goals right then. One of the hoary chestnuts of the Internet is that videos have to be short because no one will watch long videos. Bullshit. People will hang in exactly as long as they need in order to get out of it what they want. You just can’t shove 50 unrelated things into a long video and expect people to wade through all of them to find that one nugget they really want.3

If you have a video of your cat doing something adorable and you label it as such, I have all the information I need in order to decide whether or not to watch it.  And let’s be real. I probably will. Because cats. On the other hand, I have no interest in watching a recipe. Some of the best recipes in the world have been passed down through generations on 3×5 index cards. How is making a video supposed to improve on that? Some particular technique in some step? That’s fair, but then just show me that. You can just write out the rest and I’ll be very happy.

Video is good at showing complex spatial relationships among multiple objects. That could be anything from a baseball game to a gymnastics meet to a video on how to remove a car stereo from a car. Video is good at showing parasocial cues like smiling and body language. Video is good for demonstrating complex techniques. We’ve all seen the line drawings of how to tie a tie or assemble some piece of furniture. Most of the time there’s this one key step that video is perfect for. You look at the drawing on the instructions and you wonder if Screw 2B goes into hole 3C or whether you’re supposed to invade France by way of Belgium4. There are certain things video is good for. It’s not good for everything.

I always liked to tell my students that it’s nearly as hard to make a really crappy video as it is to make a good one. The amount of effort that goes into something has absolutely nothing to do with how good or appropriate it is. The flip side to that is that just because it’s easy to shoot a video and put it up, it doesn’t mean you ought to. I could go on for at least another thousand words about the crime against humanity that is the “video user guide” for most software. Just admit it. You were too lazy to write out the text for what each menu item does. That’s all I want to know. I don’t have to see you do it.

To get my point across do I need anything more than words?  No?  Then stop. Can a picture help show a two-dimensional relationship? Yes? Add that sucker in. Is there something we absolutely have to see in motion  and hear in order to understand? Yes? Then video is a good idea. Otherwise it’s not. It’s not that complicated.


1OK, maybe not kill. I’d be willing to kick you. Call me?
2I did order one of these things way back. It was supposed to ship this month but it’s been delayed to July. Not perfect, but it could be fun.
3As an aside, I think 360-degree video is a cool and interesting technology, but I’m betting people are really going to struggle to find a good use for it in a story-telling setting. How do you direct attention when you just opened up the world by a whole lot? I’m definitely not saying it can’t be done, but I sure don’t know what it looks like. Then again, that’s the fun part, right?
4I’d like to apologize again to the governments of Belgium and France for that misunderstanding when I was assembling my Weber grill.

You get the election you deserve

I saw a lot of Facebook posts from women last night saying how much it meant to them to be able to vote for a woman in a presidential race. It’s hard not to feel the history being made there. That’s partly why I hope Bernie Sanders keeps going until at least the Kentucky primary in May. Just once in my life I’d love to vote for a real Democrat, one that FDR and Truman would recognize as being a member of the same party they were in. While Sec. Clinton isn’t my first choice, I’ll not deny that it’d be cool to say someday I was able to vote  for both the first African-American and the first woman President. There are worse reasons to vote for someone. So let me vote for Bernie in May and then I can go back to settling.

It’s kind of funny that to get an actual  Democrat in the Democratic race he had to come in from outside the Party. I find it amusing that we constantly bleat about the wisdom of “The Greatest Generation.” They elected a guy who for all intents and purposes was a social democrat for President.  Four times. Three of them during a World War. Those poor naive people. How did they ever manage to pull it off?  FDR would never survive in the modern Democratic Party. Too much big government.

Meanwhile, the fashionable thing in some circles is to tut-tut over the candidates left in this election. All over America delicate flowers are on their fainting couches with a serious case of the vapors. “Whatsoever shall we do? All of these cretins are so beneath us. Why if that one candidate I especially despise should be elected, I do declare that I may have to leave the country and become an expatriate in a country not too dissimilar to this one because my delicate constitution simply cannot handle the inconvenience of things that are different from what I want.”

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We are not amused

I disagree with the supporters of all the Republican candidates, but I raise a glass to them because at least they believe in something. They’re voting for the evil they want in the world. There’s nothing wishy-washy about them.  I think they’re wrong to the point of toxicity, but at least there’s a there there. On an entirely not-evil level I feel similarly about supporters of Hillary Clinton. We disagree on things, but their support for her is every bit as deep and nuanced as mine is for Bernie Sanders. And she’s getting votes. There’s no denying it. My hat is off.

The people I’m having the most trouble with are the people who are just bitching about the choices they have now. These people aren’t who you want?  Did it ever occur to you to mention to anyone who you did want? Your voice doesn’t matter?  It does if you group your voice with others who think as you do. Oh, I know. You’d have actually have to pay attention to what’s going on in the world. And engage with it. You might even have missed an episode of The Bachelor. This election has been going on since roughly the day after the Earth cooled.  Sorry you were too busy doing whatever it is you fill your days with when your opinion could have made a difference, but it’s a little late now. Suck it up, buttercup.

But let’s play a little game. Who would you want? Who is this magical unicorn who has all the qualities you want? Heck, what qualities do you want? Here’s my guess: you don’t know.  You don’t know what you want. You know how you want to feel. You know you want things to be different. You just don’t understand why they have to change in the process. “Make Things Different! Don’t Change Anythng! Don’t Bother Me!”

It’s fashionable to say the system is broken. The system isn’t broken. It’s the same system it’s always been. It’s working just fine for the top 1%. They’ve put in the effort. You haven’t.  Why should you expect it to work for you? Do you even have any idea what you want?

I saw several people say last night that you aren’t allowed to bitch unless you vote. I think that’s bullshit. If you walk into the voting booth (metaphorically, at least) and wonder how it ever got to such a state, find the closest mirror and take a picture. Then instead of that little “I Voted” sticker replace it with “I’m the problem” sticker.

Democracy is a contact sport. Choose when it matters, or someone else will be happy to choose for you.

Living in a fable

We are living in a fable. There is a Trickster seeking power, but he cannot take it. It has to be willingly given. The Trickster believes in nothing but the Trickster. He knows how to say things people want to hear. He knows how to manipulate people’s fear. He knows how to make people do terrible things and deny any involvement. “Reasonable” and “moderate” people pooh-pooh the Trickster. “He won’t last” they say.  But he does. “This will all catch up with him.”  But it doesn’t. “He’s not really serious.”

But he is.

The Trickster does not make complicated judgements. There are people who help him and there are people who oppose him. There is no third group.  Silence is assent. Silence only aids. Silence is the fertilizer that feeds him in the dark and makes him stronger. The moderate and the reasonable are his allies. Their timidity allows him freedom to feed his lies and distortions to those who eagerly want to hear what he is saying.

The Trickster is not alone in his quest. There are other, less skilled, tricksters seeking the same prize. They covet the Trickster’s followers. They want them very much. They will not get them. They do not understand the Trickster’s appeal. The Trickster has given them the drug of What They Want to Hear. It cannot be unheard.

We choose the dreams we live in. We also choose our own nightmares.

Stopping the Trickster takes no violence. Violence feeds the Trickster every bit as well as silence. Better, even.  Chaos and Confusion are his boon companions. As with any fable there is a simple spell that makes it all go away.  A single word.

“No.”

When the Trickster makes an offer, “no” stops him. The Trickster cannot move beyond “no.”

There’s only one catch, though. It has to be spoken aloud.  So far that has proven to be a very difficult task for many.

“No.” That’s all it takes.

There is still time. But not much. He will tell you you’re wrong to say “no.” That “no” is unfair to him. It is not. It’s why the word exists.

The Trickster cannot take power. It can only be given.

Given by you.

Given by me.

There are people who help him. There are people who oppose him.

There is no other group.

Silence is assent.

Choose your side.

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