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In Which I’m Not Sure If It’s Me Or YouTube

February 17th, 2009 No comments

The axiom goes that comedy is tragedy that happens to other people.  For the most part, it’s true but I’m wondering if I’ve become a little…stodgy lately since I haven’t found the last couple of YouTube hilarities all that hilarious.

The danger (if that’s the right word) in talking about this lies in whether or not to link to what you’re talking about.  In the case of the epic “A woman missed her flight at the boarding gate HKIA”, the Huffington Post linked to it and, in what I assume was supposed to be some attempt at journalism, updated the the post to inform readers that since posting the video the YouTube traffic had tripled.  Gosh!  How did THAT happen?  Are they honestly suggesting that having one of the more popular websites linking to a video has any effect on that amount of people that watch said video?  Well, DAY-AM.  Who knew?

The difficulty lies in whether or not to link to it and increase its popularity.  In this case, my low-traffic, sporadic piece of cyberspace would have little or no effect on its popularity so it’s not much of an issue but I’m not going to link anyway.

Briefly – it’s three minutes of a Chinese woman freaking out (in Chinese) about missing her plane.  Three minutes.  How is this hilarious?  If somehow you happened to be there when it happened, I doubt you’d be ROTFL.  In fact, no one’s laughing on the audio.  She’s just pissed off.  Not even the person with the camera is laug-

Wait.  Person with the camera?  At the risk of getting too deconstructionist, let’s walkthrough what had to happen to get this to YouTube.

1) Woman freaks out
2) People watch her
3) Someone starts filming
4) Someone take video and transfers it to a computer
5) Edits the video
6) Crunches the video
7) Uploads the video to YouTube
8) “Hilarity” ensues

Think about it – a probable stranger posted a video of someone’s bad day and three million people watched it.  Maybe it’s just me, but that’s fucked up.  Is distress in a foreign language funnier than distress in your own?  I’m not going to lie – Chinese is really easy to laugh at.  I’m not proud of saying that, but as a white, middle-class America I’m pretty much programmed for it…kinda like Miley Cyrus.

But even that doesn’t explain why a parent would post a video of their kid whacked out of anesthetics for the amusument of strangers.  Or why ten million people, rather than forming a lynch mob and tracking said parent down, chose to foward the video onto their friends and laugh at this poor kid.  What have you got to be thinking to do that?  “Wow!  My kid is SOOO fucked up right now!  I’m gonna have to get this on tape rather than comforting him.  Hey!  This is some funny shit!  Let’s put this on YouTube!”

Thirty years agao, Paddy Chayefsky wrote a movie called Network which envisioned a world where the concepts of news and entertainment ceased to be delineated.  It was all entertainment.  Violent, revloutionary terrorists were given their own prime-time TV show, filming themselves committing terrorist acts.  The nightly news broadcast included an astrology report.  Anchors did not present the news but rather presented their commentary on the news.  Not to spoil the ending if you haven’t seen it, but the closing narration of the movie informs us that Howard Beale was the first anchorman to be killed because of bad ratings.

Much of what Chayefsky predicted has come to pass.  But he could have never dreamed up the odd, cruel entertainments of YouTube.  He would have been laughed out of Hollywood.

In Which YouTube Puts You Down The Tube

January 22nd, 2009 1 comment

Take look at this title –

Canada – Evil Empire Or Third World Country

Notice anything odd about it.  Is Canada evil?  Is it part of the Third World?

If you have not spent the better part of a decade or four in a vat of lysergic acid you’ll probably answer “no” to both of these questions in which case you’re left with two viable options.

1) The person that came up with the title could well win the “Most Fucked Up Person On Earth” title

2) It’s a joke.

A piece of advice – when faced with that kind of choice – go for the joke.

When you watch a video criticizing Canada for having a corn and maple syup based economy and how there are corn fields 1/2 a mile outside of major metropolitan cities – it’s a joke.

When you read something along the lines of “Calling people a buncha names isn’t a substitute for a debate, you stupid retard loser,” it’s a joke.

When you…well, I could go on for days and days.  The moral of the story is that censorship is completely random.  I’ve been part of campaigns to get videos taken down from YouTube and NOTHING has been done despite so-called “community standards” rules.  I guess baseless accusations are only allowed on YouTube if you’re serious about them.  If you’re joking, they’ll get trashed.

How many complaints does it take to get a video removed?  Beast me.  They won’t say.  It could be one complaint, it could thousands.  What’s almost funny is what they tell you when, after fifteen minutes of digging, you find the complaint form.  This is it:

We are unable to provide specific detail regarding your account suspension or your video’s removal. For more information on our what we consider inappropriate content or conduct while using YouTube, please visit our Community Guidelines and Tips at http://www.youtube.com/t/community_guidelines and our Help Center article at http://help.youtube.com/support/youtube/bin/answer.py?answer=92486.

Translation – Why did we take it down?  You’ll have to guess because, frankly, we’ve got better things to do than bother with customers.

I’m both pissed and pleased, though.  Pissed because out of the 73 BBN videos on YouTube, one of the LEAST offensive got pulled.  And pleased because out of the 73 BBN videos on YouTube, one of the LEAST offensive got pulled.

I don’t get it, sometimes

Check out the original video on Facebook.

In Which This Is How We Lose

January 6th, 2009 No comments

Before the election, my friend Roy Zimmerman wrote a song called “How Can We Lose” with the lyrics – “Everybody’s asking/how can we lose?/No – I’m serious – how?”

As with the Red Sox, I was one of the doubters who felt certain that the Democrats would find some ingenious way to shoot themselves in the foot.  And they came pretty close a few times.  Somehow, though, they managed to scrape by.  Theoretically, it should have been an actual landslide, but, whatever.

Now that we’ve won, let the losing begin!  Really, party unity is TOTALLY over-rated and we’re just going to let the Republicans walk all over us anyway, right?  So, fellow Democrats, pick up your pitchfork and jump on the bandwagon and join in the Alternate Invocation!  Nevermind that Obama just picked an openly gay for director of the Office and Management and Budget.  THAT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

Again, I don’t like Rick Warren and I think Christianity is pretty silly in general but until such time as the non-religious form an actual voting block then we’re just going to have to cope with the fact that there are plenty of bible-thumpers out there and, sad to say, we should allow them to be under our big tent.

Democrats love talking about having dialogues.  I’m going to admit that I don’t always mean it.  Some people are just assholes.  Rick Warren is an asshole – there’s no doubt about it.  But ask yourself what the real significance of Warren giving the invocation.  Without googling it, who gave the last bush invocation?  Or the first one.  Did [name of preacher] who gave Clinton’s invocation stop him from getting a blow job?  Or instituting don’t-ask-don’t-tell?  bush didn’t really give a shit about the religious right.  Why would you believe that this means that Obama is a homophobe and he sold out his base?

Stop sniping.  Please.  Stop screaming about how YOUR cause has not gotten it’s perk because you didn’t vote for McCain.  There were plenty of other candidates you could have voted for.  It’s just plain passive-aggression.  Sorry.

We have the majority.  Let’s act like it and stop fracturing ourselves into infinite, almost indistinguishable sects…like the christians do.

In Which I Am A Last Minute Person, Too, But…

January 1st, 2009 No comments

Parent-wise, I now kind of get the “do as I say, not as I do” thing.  It’s not ideal, I admint.  We, as parents, should model the behavior we expect from our kids but there’s an element of nature/nuture in the calculus.  Thusly, I’d rather teach my kids things that I didn’t learn and give them good habits that left me behind.  Some of it’s simple stuff like flossing. Some of it’s community stuff like opening door for people and not parking like an asshole.

With one child, though, I’d like to teach her that if you wait until the last minute then you get what you get so don’t whine about it.  My parents both grew up in the mid-west so nature/nuture-wise I got the stoicism gene and nature/nuture-wise I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  While it didn’t help me NOT be a last minute person, I’d like to think that when I screw up because of it I take responsibility for it.

So I get a little cranky when I read about how it technology’s fault that some kids had trouble submitting their college applications an hour before the deadline.  And I get even crankier when their parents say shit like

“This is completely unacceptable,” said Stephen Dear, a North Carolina father whose son was unable to submit his applications for more than an hour. “You have these wonderful kids who’ve been working so hard on their applications and they’re completely at the mercy of the Common Application.”

Sir – Your “wonderful kids” had more than a year to work “so hard” on his/her application as did all the other “wonderful kids” who overloaded the system with their hard work.  It’s not technology’s fault.  It may not even be your fault.  It’s your child’s fault.  That doesn’t necessarily make that kid a “bad” kid but rather than bitch to the New York Times about the failures of a system not built for the load placed on it why not sit your child down and talk to them about the virtues of time-management and planning?

And while I’m being judgmental about the NYT and luxury problems – OMG!  You’re saying you can’t get divorced because there wouldn’t be enough assets to divvy up for you to both buy comfortable houses?!  You poor, poor people!  Holy shit!  Let me start a telethon to raise the missing $300,000 out of the $2m the housing crisis sucked out of your home!  OMFG!  You’d rather live with someone you despise than rent an affordable apartment in a less-desireable section of town and shop at Johnny Foodmaster rather than Whole Foods (nee Bread and Wallet)?

Wow.  Wonder how your kids will turn out?

In Which Some Letters Are Better Than Other

December 27th, 2008 2 comments

Ok.

Sorry about  this, but here goes – When you get to the point where you have to write it “LGBT/GLBT” then you need to move to a deserted island by your self where no one will EVER make you sad ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever again.

Seriously – when does it fucking stop?  When do you stop labeling?  When do you just flip a coin, stick with the decision and stop changing what you call some thing/one just because some little asshole got bent out of shape because S/HE calls them eyeWHISKERS instead of eyeLASHES because “lashes” implies a pro-slavery/pro-capital punishment imagery.  (AND THEN, of course, some BDSM lobby cries foul because they are, ONCE AGAIN, being oppressed and their lifestyle choice denigrated.)

From Negro to colored to black to African American back to black…where next?  Seriously – where next?

Yes, yes, I understand how, as a white man I’m not allowed to comment on race/creed/color stuff because I cannot possibly understand what oppression means…outside of the 6 years I spent being called faggot, homo, queer etc in pre-college.  I’m not approaching this as a white man’s burden kind of thing.  I’m approaching this as people relating to people.  I’m looking at this from a practical standpoint.

If you want to invite me to your non-straight/non-white dance – wonderful.  I’d love to go but, frankly, I’m not sure I want to because I’m afraid that I’m going to make some kind of slip-up like saying “African American” when I should say “black” or LGBT when I should say GLBT.  I’ve gotten screwed by this before.  “Even thought everybody else here says it, you’re not allowed to say ‘faggot’ or ‘nigger’ because your honorary membership is not valid in this specific clique”.

Oh.  Do please forgive me.  How about if I just call you a fucking asshole instead for 1) needing to label yourself as different from me so you can 2) despise me for being different from you.

I’m not saying I’m perfect.  Yes, there are times I slip back into the patterns and prejudices taught to me by my parents.  I’m doing my best to not pass those on to my children.  To (as I’m led to believe) teach them that we are all equal.

What I’m saying is to stop insisting on equality by inventing new labels.

LGBT/GLBT?  How about “Paul”?  Or “Jane”?  Or “Chet”? Or “Kiwmabechocula”?

How about we toss out the labels?  Or does that make an anti-labelist?

In Which I Ask The Democratic Party To Stop This Bullshit

March 26th, 2008 4 comments

I’m not sure if I ever wrote it down here, but I said it to many, many people from the moment the ’08 election start 71 months ago.  “How,” I asked people, “will the Democratic Party fuck this one up?”

Almost everyone laughed at the question and thought it was a pretty funny joke.  After all, Iraq sucked.  The economy sucked.  Gas prices sucked.  The housing market sucked.  bush’s ratings began to reach depths which looked like they would cause mathematicians to rethink the entire concept of whole numbers.  “Ha, ha,” they chuckled, “you so funny!  There’s no way that we can lose this election!  Even the most hardcore Republicans have written this one off.”  But all I could think of was, “Daddy!  I got cider in my eye!”

In Guys and Dolls, there’s a great scene between Nathan Detroit (Sinatra) and Sky Masterson.  To make a long plotline short, Detroit needs money so he’s trying to get Masterson to bet him on something, anything.  Masterson finally stops him to tell him a story.  “Nathan,” he says, “before my daddy ran off he gave me a piece of advice.  ‘Son,’ he said to me, ‘upon your travels in this world you may come upon a man who will take out a sealed deck of cards.  He will bet you that he can make the Queen of Spades jump out of the deck and spit cider in your eye.  But you will not take this bet, because as sure as the sun rises in the morning that is what will happen.  Son,’ he said, ‘there is no such thing as a sure bet.'”

Detroit, after this speech, finds an acceptable bet – that Masterson cannot (and here I’m updating) take a girl of Detroit’s choosing to Cuba and bang her.  Of this bet, Masterson takes.  Detroit picks the local Salvation Army babe.

Like Sky Masterson, the Democratic Party succumbed to its own hubris in thinking that no matter what happened a Democrat would live at 1600 Pennsylavnia Avenue.  It’s not as if it shouldn’t have been true.  On any given day, Sky could bang pretty much anyone he chose to.  The difference is that Masterson had a gambler’s sense of when to cut his losses and give it up.  He did get the Salvation Army babe down to Cuba but he didn’t bang her – he could have – he got her drunk enough – but he hadn’t played fair; he’d loaded the dice.  The Democrats don’t have this.  They’ll keep betting until they’re broke and broken.

I want to blame Hillary.  It would be very easy and possibly appropriate to do so.  Her actions over the past several months have been shameful.  I never liked her as a candidate to begin with.  For all of her carping and whining about Obama’s “talk not action” shit, I’ve found a similar level of empty rhetoric.  The whole notion that because her husband presided over prosperity in the 90’s that she’d turn the economy around by…um…saying “Bill Clinton” twenty-five times into a mirror and the economy would have no other choice but to recover is ludicrous and facile.  And she’s playing dirty against someone from her own party.  Olbermann is right – her lust for the nomination should not cause her to run against Obama as if she were a Republican.  As a Democrat, I feel demoralized with every new piece of the kitchen sink she throws.  What’s next?  That Obama has Mexican blood, too?  Will they find a way to deport him?  So, yes, Hillary makes a convenient villain.

I’m not an Obama fan boy.  I think that some of the concerns about experience are valid.  I hate the fact that he’s pro-nuclear energy.  And as Shelly points out, he not anti-war.  He might be anti-Iraq war but he’ll go into to Afghanistan if need be.  There’s also something to be said for having guessed right about the faulty intelligence on Iraq, although for many it seemed as if every day Karl Rove spun the Wheel of Fortune to find out what that days excuse was.

In some ways, you can’t blame the candidates themselves for this circular firing squad.  You’ve got to have an unbelievably overdeveloped sense of self-worth to want to run for this job and ambition that would put Bill Gates to shame.  Admit it.  If this were the general election and it was Hillary v. McCain we’d cheer every single dirty trick she pulled out of Bill’s playbook.  But it’s not the general election.  It’s the primary.  If she’s this brutal against her own kind, how can she claim that she can build consensus as president? 

Instead, though, let’s place the blame where it actually lies – with the DNC.  Obviously, they should not pick who gets the nomination.  That’s up to (or should be up to) the Democratic rank and file.  But what they can do and have failed to do is stop the damage this primary is wreaking upon itself.  They ruled that Florida and Michigan lost their delegates by moving up their primaries…and then, simply because Hillary complained, backpedalled.  Howard Dean could, if he wanted to, sit both Obama and Clinton down for a come-to-Jesus meeting.  He could, if he wanted to, explain that the face of the Democratic Party is not an updating of The Lion In Winter; that, brand-wise, Democrats prefer sensible, calm discussion as opposed to histrionics, innuendo and name calling.  He could, if he wanted to, stress that now more than ever it’s important to starkly draw the line between the divisiveness and mindless dogma of the past seven years of Republican rule and the openness, flexibility and light that a Democratic president offers.  He’s chosen not to do that.

As a result, I’m on verge to telling the Democratic party to go fuck itself.  I’m sick of it.  Nader didn’t lose us the 2000 election – Gore did.  He stood there politely letting bush tell outright lies.  Kerry lost the 2004 election in what should have been a slam dunk even with Republicans playing the anti-homo card.  Again – Kerry politely let bush tell lies.  Now, before we even get into the general election, the squabbling threatens to deliver us DOA before the polls open.  Republicans are pissing themselves with glee.  It doesn’t matter if McCain is low on funds – he won’t need consultants because the work’s already been done for him.

I’ve always held that those that threaten to move to Canada shouldn’t be in America in the first place.  If the Democrats lose in ’08, I’m not really sure I want to be here anymore.