Category: Odds & Ends

Why the Internet Is Threatening Free Speech

One of my favorite YouTube channels is from Anderton’s Music Store, this week they had to put up a short video that due to recent trolls in their comments section they would be deleting comments and blocking posters. I had to ask myself, What kind of shithead trolls a music site that has videos of various guitars and amps? Apparently a lot of them. The anonymity of the internet has provided a great hedge for despicable people to hide behind and lob eggs from. None of these people would last in a direct confrontation but thanks to technology they are emboldened to think their opinion matters. Truth be told no one’s opinion matters. Even as I’m writing this in my head I going, yeah that’s my opinion but it doesn’t matter because trolls will be trolls.

Expressing one’s self is the heart of what makes us human. The freedom to do so without fear of reprisal is what makes America so great. Some see that as carte blanche to attack and deride others. As a librarian I abhor the thought of censorship but when it means I don’t have to wade through a sea of garbage I’m backed into an uncomfortable corner. The only solution starts with each of us. That solution is as simple as treating everyone online not even as you would treat them in real life but as you would like to be treated. It’s not that difficult for the intelligent among us who probably have already figured that out. For the rest there is always the ban hammer. Sadly that only seems to encourage the trolls more so it really is a death spiral of sorts.

Taking Sides

I read today about Joe Scarborough’s intention to leave the Republican party. I have been mulling a post like this for some time and I figured now was as good as any. In the whole arena of discourse, certain topics have managed to find themselves on one side of a line or another. It is either a topic Democrats are for and Republicans are against or vice versa.  It is not even an ideological division as many of these things once were. People clearly agree with one side and disagree with the other. Yet even in the realm of sports you can have a favorite team but on an off year you are more likely to say, “yes these guys played like bums,” more likely than a Democrat would say, “you know what there could be a lot of reasons for the climate to be changing.”

This is not how you have a healthy debate. Hell this isn’t even how you learn. It is as though the saints in silk suits have pissed in peoples’ ears and no amount of evidence , rational talk, or information will sway them from the knowledge granted from a party affiliation. I am guilty of this too and it’s even cost me friends. What is the point?

We all are intelligent people capable of forming our own opinions. Even in this era of constant bombardment of information we should never turn that faculty off. But we do. I’m a Democrat. But I don’t think single payer is the answer to our crisis in health care. I don’t think gun control works by banning guns. I came to these opinions by listening to the other side and reexamining my own. I guess what frustrates me the most is when others are so locked into their party speak that all that comes from them is an endless stream of the same mumbo-jumbo. I think we can all be a little saner and safer if we read, think, evaluate, and then expound.

Meme of the Week

meme of the weekI’ve seen this a few times in my news feeds. The part that scares me is that there are people who actually believe that Globalization is some sort of agenda being forced on us and not a response to the technology that has brought thew world closer together than any time in history. These people would cling to the idea of our country, your country. An idea that has led to two world wars, but maybe I’m oversimplifying things. I’m not even going to call out the sowing of mistrust in the news media which is the chief tool in the despotic regime’s tool box. I know everyone is entitled to their own opinion but when I see an opinion that flies in the face of logic I am left to fear for this country of ours.

All Apologies Ms. Griffin

I know I’m a little behind with the blogging and this is probably old news by now but something that struck me. I understand that anyone in the public’s eye has a very unique position in that a few seconds coupled with a stupid decision can really alter their world. The problem is those decisions come so quickly, would anyone of us recognize one? I know I’ve made a flippant remark or two that I later regretted. The benefit of someone in my case is my circle is so small that remark disappears. Even should I post a picture, my level of celebrity is such that seconds later that picture is swallowed up and lost to the cacophony of the Internet. That may not always be true. I guess a part of me should hope to be so famous that my stupid decisions become news worthy and set off a flood of commentary. Oh the things I could say. In the end, though, stupidity shouldn’t be front page, or even third screen news. Wouldn’t that be a great word to live in? I know I’m a dreamer, but then again wasn’t the Internet created by a bunch of dreamers?

 

Insta-mess

I came across this article in my news feed the other day. I admit when it comes to making money off of social media, the whole advertiser, influence gig is a bit of a mystery to me. Personally I can’t imagine anyone being interested in what I am doing but apparently others are and there is money to be made. A lot of money, and when there is a lot of money at stake the game is on. However, once you let the monster out it is not easy to get it back in the cage. Instagram Created a Monster: A No B.S. Guide to What’s Really Going On.

As I said, some of this was familiar to me and and some I had no clue about. I know many make a living on social media and every time I think about it I get that Dire Straits song, Money for Nothing, stuck in my head. But I guess it’s not nothing, a lot of money is spent on getting the word out to people, no matter what the word is, or who the people are, or where it’s coming from. As an unknown writer, (an undiscovered talent I would add), I know I have to reach as many possible readers as I can. Social media is the vehicle to do that, engaging content is the way. But when you don’t have anything, and just abuse the system to make a buck it hurts everyone. When it looks like the system is designed to be abused, well, then everyone looks silly.

It’s Phoenix Comicon Time Again

The Phoenix Comicon 2016annual high time for nerds in the valley has arrived, and in a couple of days I will be with my better half at the Phoenix Convention Center for all the nerdy goodness on display. I always have mixed feelings about this. One the one hand I want to have fun and the freedom to go to all the panels and sessions I can squeeze in. On the other hand I feel like I’m passing up the best opportunity of the year to make contacts, fans, and sell some books. Conventions of any size can be a great opportunity, but they can also be an expensive one. For one the size of Phoenix Comicon you’re looking at a table costing around $500. That’s why many of my author friends chip in and combine their books to cut that cost down and take turns staffing the table.

Having a place to sell your books is only one part of the experience. Conventions are a great time to network with other authors. I’ve done this a bit at Phoenix, but overall it is not a very good venue for self-published authors. For one it’s hard to fight for visibility among all that bombards attendees. Another is the company that runs the convention does not offer any panels on self-publishing, nor are self-published authors asked to contribute as at other smaller conventions. On the other hand the excitement of the place always rekindles a spark of creativity that keeps me writing through the dog days of an Arizona summer. So if you’re in town maybe I’ll see you there.

Amazon Adds 3rd Parties to the Buy Button

So today while browsing the news feeds, I came across this article. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/73542-new-amazon-buy-button-program-draws-ire-of-publishers-authors.html

On the one hand Amazon makes money no mater who sells what, so I don’t see this being something they will lose any sleep over. Used content sales have been a bane of all publishers whether, music, movies, or books. The one thing that publishers don’t seem to get that maybe Amazon does is that my spending $5 on a used copy is no indication that I would ever spend $14 on a new copy of anything. It doesn’t work that way, all the time. Yes, most people, if given the option would go the cheapest route, but that is not always the case either.

Yet, I do see where the fear of confusion comes in. Go to Amazon now and do a search for Nintendo Switch and you’ll find a list of ones for sale all at prices well in excess of the SRP of $300. These are all third party sellers because Amazon doesn’t have  a unit to sell, (as I write this). These buyers all, bring their their own policies and track records apart from Amazon. The current expectation is that when you hit that buy button you are making the purchase from Amazon. Will that always be the case? Will buying on Amazon become more involved as you have to wade through a laundry list of buying options and prices, some with shipping, some with no shipping? It’ll be enough to make you go outside to go shopping. Only time will tell. Rest assured if it doesn’t make money for Amazon we won’t have to deal with it for too long.

Marvel’s Problem With Diversity

Marvel’s attempt to blame flagging sales of their comics on the move to diversify their characters met with some interesting responses across the Internet, but I think this one from Nerdist.com typifies it the best. I think Marvel finds itself in a very peculiar and unique position. The thing to remember about their comics is that they are what they were. By that I mean they were, for lack of better terms, the escapist pastime of many young white males, (and a few females). We cannot go back and time and change these characters. They are who they were 40, 50 years ago when they sprung forth from multi-colored panels. I grew up with a special connection to Marvel comics as my grandfather Vince Alascia was an artist at Marvel and worked on Captain America in the 40’s. As such I grew up with many of these characters and can honestly say I remember them as all white males. With one exception, The X-Men, who would become my favorite.

That is not to say that moving to a more diverse universe is a problem. It isn’t, as long as the stories are delivered in way that maintains the same quality of writing. A big component of that quality is a sense of authority. This is what the link above from Nerdist.com cites as Marvel’s real reason for flagging sales. I’m not as into Steve Rodgers as I am an intense super soldier with uncommon bravado and sense of right. As long as the writing conveys that I know I’m reading Captain America. However if instead I get a focus group designed cardboard cutout I’m not going to be happy, or reading for that matter. Yet you do not have to wade too deep into the Internet to find fans of the mindset that do not appreciate a female Iron Man or an African American Spiderman. The odd thing is if a superhero is an archetype as long as the writing is consistent and remains true to the character then gender, skin color, or country of origin are immaterial.

 

Where’d the Discourse Go

I’ve been doing some interesting reading this week that had me thinking. Music used to be a communal experience. Whether it was a guy with an acoustic guitar, or a boom box, music was a shared experience. Now it is pumped directly into listeners’ brain cavities through thin white wires that go into a pocket somewhere. Then there are the serious head hugging Princess Leia cans. You know you’re into your beats with a pair of those. People aren’t sharing their music any more, that got me thinking.

This post isn’t about music. Another story I read was about Facebook’s attempt to incorporate their messaging app’s bubble style into the comments part of posts. This is an attempt, on their part, to engage people to comment and reply more. This is really where I wanted to go and put two and two together. In the months leading up to the inauguration and even the election itself, Facebook posts filled with a back and forth that became heated at times and at other times managed to reach a general consensus. Recently I’ve noticed a definite lack of that. It is almost as if both sides have retreated to their corners, put their blinders on, and plugged their ears. They even have cute names for each other, fascists and snowflakes. There was a time when you could count on the common ground of facts to reign in the debate, but even that is no longer true. Our facts, like our music, are whatever we pump into our brain cavities. In the recent past we would stand in our corners and shout at each other. Now it appears the fog of war is so thick we don’t even see the opposite corner anymore. I am guilty of this too and it bothers me.

The scary part is, if debate is the foundation of an effective democracy, and we no longer have that, how much longer can we expect to have democracy.

Scalpers Suck

Nintendo SwitchTypically when you mention scalpers images of $500 Guns and Roses tickets come to mind. As much as that pains me there is also a new type of scalper that really sets me off. Last week Nintendo released their 7th home console in the US, The Nintendo Switch. Almost immediately, and as little surprise to anyone who hoped to get one of their Classic NES consoles this Christmas, the pre-orders disappeared as soon as they posted. When release day came, lists of Switches for sale filled eBay and even Amazon.com with one minor difference. They all ran at least $70 more than the suggested retail price. To the bystander, it looked as though every one of those pre-ordered systems was now being cashed in for a quick 100 bucks. Unlike with concert tickets, it is all free and legal.

On the one hand it makes sense for sites like eBay to welcome these sales as they get a commission on each one. The harder question is why a site like Amazon would allow it. Well, that isn’t to hard to figure out either because they also get a cut of the sale. So it makes sense for them. Hell they probably made 8 or 10% on the original sale so if that person turns around and puts it up they stand to make another 15% on that sale as well. As an adult it’s easy for me to say no thank you and wait for the item to return to stock at its original price. An adult with a kid will have to figure out how much their incessant whining is worth compared to the hit on their wallet. I urge you, resist. As long as people are willing to pay inflated prices for the convenience of being the first to own this practice will only continue, and dare I say worsen.