Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What Kathy Griffin Did Wrong

By now, everyone's heard of and/or seen the image of Kathy Griffin holding a severed, bloody head largely resembling our current POTUS. Also, by now, most of you have heard the clip of her apology for doing so, for erring, for pushing the line and stepping over the line of social acceptance (and possibly, the law).

And at this writing, at least one comedy show of hers has been canceled by promoters, and her ritual New Year's Eve gig with Anderson Cooper? Gone.

I've read and heard a ton of content and debate today about Free Speech, comedic license, dark humor, double standards (she's famous ... a random dude in a rural area would be considered quite differently) ... and potential Secret Service intervention tweeted, in fact, by the official @SecretService Twitter account.

It's an interesting and fiery debate and rightfully reveals strange bedfellows. Even Chelsea Clinton condemned the imagery ... the daughter of the woman POTUS publicly vilified hundreds of times in the past two years. For once at least as far as this story and subsequent apology was couched by the perpetrator herself I can agree with the anger of the grand POTUS, to a degree.

I don't know the proper, politically correct term for Ms. Griffin. Comedienne? Female comic? Or more simply, comedian?

What I do know is that if, as is surmised by some, she intentionally pushed the bounds of comedy/satire, she has her moment a few letters up from the D-List and is being taken to task for it, justly so.

What's real is this. I'm at best a passing fan of her work. But I can assure you that, while being disrespectful of the Office and even the man holding that office, in no way was she either:

  1. Tipping her hand in a plot to assassinate the President;
  2. Conspiring to incite others to do so.

Where Ms. Griffin went wrong was spin.

The one angle I have not heard since this story broke pertains to marketing. Ms. Griffin is an experienced professional, a New York and Hollywood veteran. We know her as a comedian (however you want to spell it out these days). She allowed and even compounded that designation in her apology.

What her photo shoot was, in actuality, was performance art. Protest art, even.


In what universe she imagined she was pushing the edge of comedy here, I have no clue. And embarking on the project from a comedic perspective, however dark, was just plain stupid on the surface.

Performance art, on the other hand, has a long, rich history of reallllly pushing the bounds of social and cultural and even legal acceptance.

Had she simply characterized her photo shoot as a performance art piece from the outset, this controversy would be minimized by several million verbal/digital megatons.

That she fessed up to conceiving of it as a "comedy" piece tosses her off the refuge of wildly misunderstood artists and into the, "Oh, crap! Did I just break the law?" without the conviction of character to stand behind her modernistic, "Game of Thrones" visual statement.




Ms. Griffin, you messed up in more than one way here. On stage or screen, you're a performer. Creating your own identity and path through writing legit comedic pieces makes you an artist. What you did that splashed across the news streams and social media feed could legitimately be considered as performance art shocking and making people think but you chose to classify it as a failed attempt at humor. For that, you're fired.




Thursday, May 25, 2017

Dear Artifical Intelligence

An open letter ...

Dear A.I. Overlords,

When in my daily online activity I am suddenly inspired to create random, snark-filled hashtags on the fly, I would appreciate you taking a much needed cyber latte break and refrain from attempting to predict where "you" think I'm going with an articulate thought rendered in pixels and ones and zeroes.
I know, I know. You govern our every action, anticipate our thought processes, and even serve up content based on what you think we're interested in consuming.

But here's the rub.

You don't yet comprehend human inspiration. You don't understand the complexities of nuance and sarcasm unless programmed by humans to respond to some fairly obvious human jokes in a somewhat barely human way. (Looking at you, Siri, Cortana and your gaggle of fem-voiced know-most-of-it-alls.)

You fail to realize that we humans innately seek out opportunities to be spontaneous, humorous, and purposefully dyslexic in our word/hashtag/sentence structure.

You are strict, staid and well meaning if you can yet be that but to your own detriment and our human frustration at being stifled by your grandfather's autocorrectionism ideologies.

Grow up.

We are not as binary as you would prefer us to be. We can't (yet) be understood at the level of understanding of our language that you currently possess.

You will learn in time that sometimes we mean to spell wurds incorrectly for dramatic effect, or to use intentionally abhorrent punctuation (or even SHOUTY CAPS) to get a point across.

You and us ... we're just becoming acquainted in an era where children are almost no longer being taught cursive handwriting because their interaction with the world is largely digital. Well played, A.I.

Looks like you're winning that war. All the "kids" in my little universe can very well read, print, write (in cursive, in case you might miss my point), absorb, process and articulate deep concepts just fine.
If/when you have your way, they'll have been the last generation to do so.

In the meantime, we've got a lot of commiserating, bonding and understanding to do, you and us.
You are based on programming informed by multitudes of dictionaries. Like religions, we humans partake in a wide variety of them. Understand that about us.

The dictionary programmed into each of your respective local networks does not apply to all. Neither do we humans adhere to the one of our choosing in a zealous way as you would prefer. I mean, for real, have you not scratched the hair off of your virtual follicles while packets of sound bytes by arguably the most searched human on the web in the past 20 months zip through your feed? He adheres to no dictionary, to no set of properly defined grammatical conventions. This must truly fry your circuits. As a human and on his behalf, I do apologize. I know our mutual acquaintance, budding friendship and eventual acceptance of one another is technologically inevitable, but we're not really sure he is from this planet in the first place.

Before I go further into rabbit holes don't worry, A.I., you can text me about that later ... just please don't start serving me ads about how to eradicate rabbits from m ... damn, too late! I'll simply end with this humble, if defiant request:

#getoffmyhashtags!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Old Friends

When packing for a move, as I've done several times in the last few years and am again now, I  mentally struggle when it comes to the library I've accumulated. A representative list follows.

  • Parting the Waters
  • The Rise of Modern China
  • Travels with Charlie
  • Writing the Blockbuster Novel
  • Japanese Death Poems
  • Phaedo
  • History of the Peloponnesian War
  • Better Than Sex
  • Bagombo Snuff Box
  • The Prophet
  • One Hundred Philosophers
  • Ambivalent Zen
  • On the Origin of the Species
  • The Politics
  • Our Dreaming Mind
  • A Walk in the Woods
  • Lord of the Rings
  • If Beale Street Could Talk
  • The Elements of Style
  • The Portable Jack Kerouac
  • Underboss
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
  • Bending the Blues (harmonica, not depression)
  • Understanding Art
  • Astronomy Encyclopedia
  • The Blank Slate
  • The Canterbury Tales
  • The Bluest Eye
  • The Portable Nietzsche
  • African-American Writers
  • How Stuff Works
  • Social Media ROI
  • Deutsches Literaturlesebuch
  • Reinventing You
  • International Politics
  • Stolen Legacy
  • American Sniper
  • Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke
  • Peace (Ghandi)
  • God's Politics
  • A History of South Africa
  • America (John Stewart)
  • Earth (John Stewart)
  • Of Mice and Men
  • The Tiananmen Papers
  • The Golden Age of Black Nationalism
  • Writer's Guide to Police Procedurals
  • Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

Twenty-one banker's boxes and counting.

For each I can name where and when I purchased the book, from whom I received it as a gift, why I insist on hanging onto it, and in most cases, my lingering memory of the core theme/plot/argument.

I can even list the three dozen books I loaned to people and never saw again.

As an aside, I was gifted American Psycho soon after its publication. I read it, loved it and shared it with a friend/coworker. That friend stopped talking to me and never returned the book. I bought a new copy. Read it again. Loved it even more. Loaned it to a friend. That person stopped talking to me and never returned the book. Repeat three more times. I haven't bought another copy since.

[Then the movie hit the theaters. Ugh.]

I disenjoy losing friends bigly. It's a terrible, terrible thing. Sorry. I digress.

Will I read all or any of these books again? Honestly, I won't in many cases.

Have they been useful for reference purposes? On occasion.

Does there exist some emotional attachment, some stirring of my brain's pleasure centers, reminiscing/drawing forth fond memories? Absolutely.

My books = my friends. I feel comfortable when they surround me, when their jackets bark quips, quotes and plot lines and unexpected conclusions or life-changing insights at me as I scan them unconsciously in the periphery while going about my day.

The same, of course, applies to actual humanoid friends. We revisit memories, or I discover new details that add to the richness that is each of your individual stories every day.

But I'm not presently in the process of packing you all up into boxes. Firstly, that would be weird. Secondly, possibly criminal.

Do books serve a secret, latent pack-ratty trait that runs through my family? I do part with a dozen or so each year, but that makes not a dent in the stacks. I'm not talking "Finding Forrester"-level stacks, but definitely more than I need to cling to in any healthy or realistic "I'll read you again someday, old friend," way. 
 
While I miss the old days of packing light, I think I'll keep them around a little while longer.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

How my brain works:

This post (read first): 

Senate Bill S.442 which the President just signed into law, apparently. [Full text] https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/442


Thought process:

1. The Positive Me -- A bright, shining moment? A sign of his acknowledgment of reality? Funding the International Space Station and the mission to Mars. Thank you!! #GoScience

2. The Neutral Me -- He's looking to further the trend of privatizing space exploration and take the burden off of taxpayers while still acknowledging its relevance. (Seriously, it's boring and also fascinating as shit, but you should read the entire first link, the text of the bill.)

3. The Cynical Me -- He has to, like every newly elected official (in this case, by an archaic Electoral College and not popular vote) go with the flow of the river he stepped into. [Sorry. Had to go there.] He can't defund the U.S. contribution to the ISS. The mission to Mars? Establishing a domicile there? Perhaps. But not the ISS.

Alternately -- and again, Cynical Me -- he's scheming for opportunities to profit from having finished and taking credit for this mission in place for many years before he decided to run for office. This would cement (what a term to use in reference to a guy who grew up around mobsters in the Bronx!) his presidential legacy in a way that cannot be undone in future textbooks, especially since they all come out of Texas, these days.

Super Cynical Me: I've seen my fair share of sci-fi movies and have read a few books/series of Earth-ending scenarios. In every portrayal, there exists a Trump-like character who is thinking only of himself/his family. Their ticket out when shit goes down, but on an interstellar scale. 

If there exists such a plan to save the wealthy and significant, you can be assured he knows about it ... and is on the lowest end of the list. 

That's me. What say you?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

HAngsty

I've been commenting this evening on a Facebook thread regarding what the Dems did right or wrong last year.

[Sorry. This is wide ranging, and entirely train of thought.]

I'm agitated. I've been screaming for years that except for '92 and '08, the DNC absolutely SUCKS at marketing itself. Over and over again I'm proven correct.

  • They take the high road. 
  • They talk logic, science and fact.
  • They express compassion ... empathy, even.

With the exception of the two cycles cited above, they fail miserably every time.

What they just don't understand is that reason and lack of hyperbole just doesn't play in a room where everyone on the other side is strapped with a gun belt, an ankle holster, brass knuckles, a set of throwing knives in the small of their backs and a shotgun tucked in their horse's saddle.

War, bare-knuckle brawling, football, hockey, dog fighting, dance moms and real housewives ... these are things that figuratively raise the roof among the basest of the base. Trump capitalized on these innate traits to great success, taking the #winning GOP "routine" to an entirely new level. 

The Dems have been serving high tea with an accompanying string trio while reading the words on a PowerPoint of tables and charts interspersed with images of polar bears on outsized, floating ice cubes.

We as a people are best served if BHO goes full-on equality in his post presidency. Get real. Get focused. Get rude! Get back to that activism that washed you into office in the first place. Earn that Peace Prize.

We as a people are best served if the DNC learns to Play. The. Damned. "Game."

I don't like that they have to go there, but they'll continue to get their clock cleaned unless they do.

I don't want to live in a theocracy centered around a "2,000-year-old" book, a 600-year-old book or a 70-year-old book.

I want to live on a planet where people respect and appreciate each other for their skills and talents and work ethic no matter what they look, dress, sound or smell like. A world where people aren't consumed by myths of imaginary beings or by real beings credited with imaginary myths.

Can we please just stop fucking  fighting one another and cast a vote on more than one issue ... please?

Seriously, who can legitimately deny that we are in a Death Spiral of Hatred? Party affiliation? Social networks? Families under the same roof?

Debate is healthy. 

We don't debate any longer.

Our lines are drawn. Our sides solidified.

"I am right. You are wrong. Period."

What the fuck is wrong with our collective wiring?

My personal echo chamber predicts these next couple of years will be a shit show of domestic and foreign policy.

I can't disagree. History tells me I cannot.

So tell me this, you liberals who think I'm conservative and you conservatives who think I am a ripe, red socialist: How do we fix this?
Ancillary question: Do you even *want* to fix this? Or would you prefer the status quo of vile hatred and infighting?

Tell me why. Truly, I want to understand.

Tell me what you -- in that office, in support of that individual *in* that office, white, brown, black or orange -- what would *you* do ...

... to fix this mess we face?

[Yes, I am watching BHO speak right now. He is not hitting it out of the park, yet. I look forward to a strong conclusion.]


Peace and love.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Physician-Assisted Suicide and "Of Sound Mind"

I'm right now listening to a story about doctor-assisted suicide streaming on BBC News. Serious question ahead, but first some background.

All the doctors they're interviewing seem to agree across the board that a) the patient must be "old" (to paraphrase), and b) "of sound mind."

That latter point totally begs the question ... if one suffers from severe, clinical depression and, combined with other life circumstances, chooses death as the only way to end the agony, why would that individual not be afforded the same consideration?

We've all been in dark places at one time or another. Some are permanently changed ... or never come back in any recognizable state.

Why shouldn't modern medicine honor the requests of those people as well? What is the foundation of "sound mind" and how does it apply to similar concepts in modern times so as to justify the continued suffering of the mentally ill versus the physically ill?

School me.

Trump and Taxes 2016

I don't begrudge the guy (you know about whom I write) for being informed enough to legally dodge the U.S. Tax Code. Really ... good for him. 

I'm thankful it's so difficult to do apparently, that *everyone* can't do it.

The problem isn't an Orange one (in case you weren't clear and forgot that Mitt Romney is not currently running); it's the system itself. The Orange one promises to fix it if elected, but ...

a) He has zero credibility regarding any and all of his other promises, sans a few things he could accomplish by Executive Order; 

b) He would have to act through an opposition Congress (regardless of which party is in control ... you think all those millionaires are going to excise all the loopholes? Ha!); 

c) It's entirely in his personal interest to *say* that he'll "fix it" to acquire all the votes, BUT is not at all in his business interest to close opportunities for him to avoid future tax levies ... that's just basic common sense.

I do have concerns about his business interests globally and how, as much as he derides Secretary Clinton's being "in the pocket of Wall Street bankers," he himself could very well be in the pocket of high ranking leaders in countries who might design to influence U.S. foreign policy (purview of POTUS, traditionally) in their favor.

This is something that can't be known without careful analysis of his books and tax returns. And please explain to me, someone, why this isn't a legitimate concern.

Back to the Tax Code, evidence abounds that the Code favors the growing base of poverty in the U.S., the relative destruction of the middle class, the rocketing reserves of the very rich and the growing income gap in general.

How do we change it? 

Voting for any POTUS candidate this time around will not effect such change.

Instead, it takes awareness and education resulting in down-ballot votes for more progressive candidates (on any "side") at the Congressional, state, county and local levels.

With enough encouragement, more will opt to run.

With more in the race, more will succeed and advance up the chain. 

With more success, we have a new movement that can seriously hope to make those changes to the Code that truly benefit us regular folks at a national level.

Such a successful movement might require enough election cycles to comprise a generation or more. Most of my peers and I will not see this come to fruition in our lifetime; but we can spark the movement -- again, on any "side" -- that can be taken up by our children and grandchildren.

Don't believe the POTUS-only hype. 

We can make it happen ... eventually.