art, controversies, modern problems, musings

“Legitimate artists” and the value of their work…

Welcome to Sunday, y’all. I’m going to try to keep today’s post short, simple, and non-controversial. Yesterday’s post was a rant, because I was really angry and emotional for a lot of reasons. I’m less so today, because when it comes down to it, some people just aren’t worth the energy. Or, at least to me they aren’t. Maybe they are worth the energy to others. I’m sure plenty of people wish I’d drop dead. Other people think I’m incredible. It’s kind of like art, right? What one person likes, another person hates. There’s no accounting for taste.

Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos about so-called constitutional “auditors”. These are people who get involved in police interactions as a means of testing their knowledge of the laws and finding out if they respect rights outlined in the Constitution. I see there are Brits who also do these videos. Personally, I don’t think I’d want to do that kind of stuff, even for YouTube, because I don’t enjoy unnecessary or unpleasant confrontations with people. However, I do think the videos are interesting and informative. They’re also very popular, as I’ve noticed a lot of people are making them. I’m sure that makes it harder to be a cop, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. Some police officers do get off on power trips and need to be brought back down to Earth.

Today’s post isn’t about those videos. Rather, I would like to address an attitude that I saw promoted by an officer in Richmond, Virginia. An auditor confronted him and said he was an “independent journalist”. And the cop basically made some snarky, dismissive comment about how the journalist was just going to put something up on YouTube.

The guy on the far right in the glasses basically dismissed the person who made this video. He doesn’t see the value in the auditor’s creations.

As a blogger and occasional music creator, I’ve often run into the dismissive attitude demonstrated by the cop. A lot of people don’t think what I do is “legitimate”. Former tenant, who was stalking my blogs for four plus years before she departed this life on her own terms, once made a very disrespectful private comment to me about what I do. It was not surprising that she had secretly harbored a disdainful opinion of me, as she was monitoring my activities and, apparently, reporting my activities to our former landlady, as she also insisted on her privacy being respected. However, I did find her discounting attitude disappointing, hypocritical, short-sighted, and depressingly typical.

Former tenant claimed that she didn’t see any value in what I do, yet she was apparently watching me obsessively. Obviously, there was some value in my activities, if only that she and ex landlady and ex landlady’s daughter could sit around, gossip, and laugh about it, right? At the very least, they got intel from it… or insight… or maybe even something to talk or laugh about that might have even made them feel better about themselves.

Former tenant had once claimed that she liked reading about our adventures and seeing photos, especially of the old neighborhood she and her husband had lived in before they abruptly moved mid tour. If that’s the truth, then there was value in my activities. If it wasn’t the truth, I guess she was lying to me, as she was sanctimoniously lecturing me about my occasionally “problematic” content. Or… she wasn’t lying, but just wanted to be mean to me because she thought it was her place to define what constitutes creative pursuits. She didn’t see the value in what I was doing, and didn’t have the integrity to just go away and leave me alone. It didn’t occur to her that maybe other people valued my “work”, and they get a vote, too.

This morning, I noticed that Janis Ian was on a tear about the author, Flannery O’Connor. She had recently used one of O’Connor’s quotes as her “quote of the day”. People in the comment section were up in arms about it, because Flannery O’Connor had some objectionable personal beliefs that many modern audiences would find distasteful or just plain wrong.

This quote apparently caused a bit of a shitstorm.

Janis Ian claims that she doesn’t support censorship, and she writes that we should separate artists’ personal lives with their works. This is what she posted on her Facebook page:

Re the discussion about Flannery O’Connor’s work, a note of clarification – I wouldn’t have intervened if the discussion had centered around her work. However, it quickly became involved in personalities (mostly hers), her letters, her journals. Those were not her work. Her work lies in the short stories and novels she left us.

As an artist, I will always stress that there is a marked difference between the life of an artist, and an artist’s work. Discounting or banning an artist, or refusing to engage with that artist’s work, because you disagree with their personal life, politics, or behavior, is something I find absurd.

Like every artist I know, I hope to live up to the best of my work – and know I never will. What do I want my art, and that of artists I admire, to do when someone experiences it? I want them to feel elevated. I want them to have cause to think, and reflect, and be moved, for good and for bad. Mostly, I want to make them FEEL something.

I believe most artists think this way, though it might not be conscious.

I won’t change the words of another artist to suit the times, or peoples’ perception of what is hurtful to them. I am resolutely against changing a single word or image or movement in any piece of art; instead, I expect people to take it in context, look at it historically, be educated by parents, teachers, and themselves (indeed, educating yourself is an obligation, IMHO, because most people don’t have the luxury of parents, teachers, society teaching them all they need to know).

If you are on this page, keep in mind that civility is expected. Snarky comments are removed and, after a certain point, that profile is blocked. Rudeness is not tolerated and yes, I define what is rude. And co-opting a quote to discuss an author’s personal beliefs because you disagree with them is not okay.

The QOTD (Quote of the Day) is for discussion. Not whether the author or their views are likeable.

In the spirit of the discussion, then, I found this interesting article on line. https://dspace.calstate.edu/…/121/completethesis.pdf…

A good and absorbing (though long) read for anyone interested in O’Connor and her work.

Additionally, as someone pointed out, there is a huge difference between “racism” and “prejudice”. For what it’s worth.

I have written about Janis Ian a few times on this blog. I want to make it clear that I highly respect her as an artist. She’s written and sung some beautiful songs. I think she’s smart and funny, and she deserves all of the accolades she gets. However, I also think that sometimes, she’s quite hypocritical. She writes in the above post that she doesn’t support changing artistic works to suit the tastes of modern audiences. But then, she also lays down very strict rules about what people can post as a response.

Janis Ian writes that she doesn’t see Flannery O’Connor’s letters or journals as artistic works. However, there are many artists and academics who would beg to disagree with her. Personally, I disagree, because I know there’s an element of creativity in blogging. There’s also creativity involved in writing letters. Maybe it’s not the same significance as writing a novel or composing music, but it’s still a work of art, in a sense.

I’m very proud of some of my blog posts. I wrote one a couple of years ago that I reread this morning. It was titled “The Red Scare”. It started off being about how, back in 1981, people were terrified of a Soviet invasion. By the end, I had segued into a discussion of puberty, with a dash of musical theater. It sounds like the parts wouldn’t connect, and yet they did. I thought it was a really creative and interesting post, although it’s definitely not one of my most popular. My most popular posts tend to be about true crime, which I find a lot less creatively challenging.

I’m sure someone like Janis Ian wouldn’t find what I do very significant, artistic, or creative. Hell, the troll on RfM yesterday took a big dump on my post about Arran. And yet, that incident inspired yesterday’s blog post. At this point, it has just one “like” and five hits, and yet I’m rather proud of it. I like the title, and letting my feelings out in a rant can be very liberating and even fun.

I was legitimately angry and upset when I wrote that post, and yet I don’t regret writing it. Maybe someone out there in Internetland can relate to it. Maybe it would even change someone’s life. I will never know. A few people did tell me that my video tribute for Arran made them cry. That accounts for something, doesn’t it? Isn’t the point of putting stuff out there to make someone think, or feel something, or maybe even change in some way? Isn’t that what art on all levels is about?

A person named Laurel left a comment for Janis that I found very interesting:

The Tennessee Williams Estate agrees with you. When we staged 2 of his one act plays, we asked about updating the word he used to refer to black people, and were told no, and that if any actor chose to replace that term with a more modern one, the production would be fined for any instance of a changed word. They felt the term was appropriate in the time the play was written, and carefully chosen for the overall “lyrical” flow of the various passages. And I personally did not disagree with their choice or their reasoning. 

Art is not necessarily meant to comfort; it is more often meant to disrupt thought patterns, open minds, and sometimes even disturb for effect. Creators often edit numerous times to find the perfect word to fit THEIR visions. If it disturbs you, well maybe that was the intent.

And yes, an artist and that artist’s art are 2 very different things. Most artists are imperfect. Their art may reflect that.

Apparently, Laurel then left a couple of follow up comments that Janis didn’t like. She wrote this:

“tone it down. I’m hiding both your responses.”

So… Janis Ian doesn’t see all writing as “artistic” or creative. But then another commenter wrote this, and Janis heartily approved:

“there is a huge difference between “racism” and “prejudice”. 50+ years ago in Dallas a friend of Mexican descent taught me the difference between: bigotry (racism), prejudice and discrimination. He spoke from experience. I’ve shared his wisdom many times since then. It has helped me put a lot of things in perspective. Mainly: we all have prejudices (in favor and against many things); we can legislate against discrimination (an action) but unfortunately not bigotry (a belief).

Janis wrote: “so stealing…”

The commenter misunderstood Janis and wrote, “sorry I missed the mark there. Your last comment in your post took me off on a nostalgia tour. Thanks for the memory – I’ll try to do better in the future.”

Janis clarified, “I’m not sure what you’re referring to? I’m stealing what you posted, to use later!”

And the commenter wrote, “lol. I get confused so easily any more. Feel free to “steal”.

From that exchange, I take that sometimes Facebook comments can be “works of art”. Or, at least they can be so good that Janis Ian wants to “steal” them to use later. But someone else writes something that she doesn’t like, or uses a “tone” that she alone finds objectionable, and then it has no value and “censorship” is okay.

The troll who left me the mean spirited comment on RfM yesterday really hurt my feelings and, I’m sure, meant to make me feel terrible. Or, at the very least, they didn’t care about my feelings, even though it was clear that I was mourning a huge loss and expressing myself on a “recovery site”. Make no mistake about it. I still think that person is a massive fuckwad and I’d happily fantasize about rendering them sterile with a well placed drop kick to the gonads.

But, at the same time, that person’s mean comments provided fuel for yesterday’s post… which some people may value on some level, even if it’s just to laugh at me for making the effort to write it. Also, it’s not lost on me that some people might have agreed with that person’s very mean comments. So maybe I shouldn’t have reported them. In fact, I could have probably turned that person’s post into a plea for sympathy and gotten even more views on Arran’s video… if that was my ultimate goal. It wasn’t my goal, by the way. I don’t share things just to get likes or views.

When it comes to published works, I agree with Janis Ian that it’s wrong to “edit”. In fact, I don’t like cancel culture at all. I think people should have the right to decide for themselves what is, or what is not objectionable to them and vote with their wallets. I also think that people should have the right to make their own rules in their own houses, so to speak. At the same time, there does seem to be a level of hypocrisy in the idea that some “offensive” writing is okay, and some isn’t. And so far as some people’s ideas of what is, and what is not “offensive”, is somehow better than other people’s ideas are… well I think that’s how we end up with extremist loudmouth assholes like Donald Trump in the White House. People don’t like to be told what they can or can’t say, think, or believe. They will vote for those whom they think will protect their right to be an asshole.

I do kind of like how Janis handled this person, though…

Vote with your feet… or your wallet. But you’re not always going to be able to do that, so getting all high and mighty about what people like or dislike is kind of futile… and hypocritical.

Meh… well, I guess I’m glad that most people don’t value what I do. I don’t think I’d want people to “expect more from me”, just because I made a living creating things. Everybody’s human, and everybody’s shit stinks. Whether it’s former tenant being rude and dismissive about my creative pursuits, while also obsessively stalking me… or Janis Ian telling people not to judge artists by their personal lives or support censoring them, as she censors and steals people’s posts… or commenters feeling that their decision not to buy things made in China as they also pay taxes to governments that have policies that harm people… Or a cop thinking an “independent journalist” isn’t a “real” journalist, and there’s no value in what they do… Some people would beg to disagree, right? And some people think that in order to be “legitimate” as an artist, one must be formally employed by someone else. Some of those independent journalists on YouTube are actually making enough money to live on, though.

People are always going to be offensive and inappropriate on some level. Sometimes, I’ll admit I get upset about stuff, but then it leads to a good rant that might make people think or feel… or even just laugh. I think as long as people learn and grow from their experiences, that should be our focus. I think we should all keep creating, whether or not someone else thinks it’s a valid pursuit, or the creator is a “decent person” whose views should be promoted.

But isn’t it nice that we can still disagree? For now, anyway. And isn’t it nice when people are doing something constructive with their time? It reminds me of the trash scavengers/dumpster divers in Texas who used to raid people’s trash for metal they could turn in for money. To them, that was a job that actually helped them keep the lights on, even if some of us didn’t appreciate them rifling through trash we were throwing out so they could make a living off our discards. Some people think certain art is “trash”. Other people think that same art is “brilliant”.

And no matter what you might think of what I do, I still think of myself as a writer and a singer. You gotta start somewhere, right? Lots of people like me didn’t become “legitimate” until they were already dead. Think about it. 😉

ETA: So much for keeping this post short and non-controversial. Oh well.

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communication, condescending twatbags, modern problems, social media, stupid people

Be careful, now. Nobody is “too fat” for a knuckle sandwich…

I am currently in dog crap hell. For once, Arran isn’t the culprit. About a half hour ago, Noyzi came to me and put his head in my lap, a sign that he wanted to go outside. I let him go out while I checked on the progress of the laundry in the dryer. When I came back, Noyzi was still outside, distracted from taking care of his business. I waited a few more minutes before finally shooing him inside. It’s really cold outside, and I saw a pile of crap in the yard. I figured Noyzi was done.

After a few minutes at my computer, I realized I needed to visit the loo myself. I was wearing slippers when I felt that awful sensation, and the aroma assaulted my olfactory bulb. Noyzi had left a large pile of crap right at the door to my office. And because he never has accidents in the house, I was not expecting it. I cleaned up what I thought was all of it, cringing as the smell wafted into my office. I got up again and my bare foot found the one turd I hadn’t seen. It was cold and squishy, and since I had smashed it, the smell got worse. I started yelling out swear words as Noyzi slunk away, guiltily.

He really is a good dog. We’ve had him since October 2020, and I can count on one hand the number of times he’s had an accident in the house. Arran, on the other hand, has never been 100 percent accurate about housetraining. Arran, however, has the experience and good sense to know to do it downstairs, where I won’t immediately discover it, and will smell it long before I step in it.

I think the smell of dog shit has finally dissipated. My slippers are getting a wash. Now I’m ready to write about an article I saw in The Irish Times yesterday. Actually, now that I think about it, the fact that I started this post with an anecdote about dog shit seems especially appropriate. To me, a lot of cheese smells like shit. I don’t like most cheeses. Most of the ones I will eat must be melted first. But a lot of people do love to eat cheese. Sometimes, they’ll eat it in lieu of dessert.

Irish Times writer Róisín Ingle published a piece yesterday about a horrifying incident she experienced at a restaurant. Ingle explains that she’s been “judged” for her weight all of her life. She’s developed admiration for the singer, Lizzo, a Black, zaftig, flute playing wonder, who has become an inspiration for many people, including those who struggle with obesity. One day, a Lizzo t-shirt showed up in the mail. Ingle wondered if maybe she’d ordered it late at night after drinking too much wine. Later, a friend clarified that she’d sent the t-shirt as a way of boosting Ingle’s spirits.

Ingle writes: I put my Lizzo T-shirt on to watch her win Record of the Year at the Grammys over the weekend. She sang her self-love anthem Special surrounded by a gospel choir. “Fame is pretty new but I’ve been used to people judging me/That’s why I move the way I move and why I’m so in love with me.”

Ingle continues…

Lizzo moves through the world in her body with no apologies. The classically trained flautist has been playing the same tune for years, telling fans they should love themselves, celebrate their talents and reject societal expectations. She started to become a sort of mentor to me when she talked about her fitness regime a few years ago around the time I had started to exercise regularly for the first time in my life. “It may come as a surprise to some of y’all, that I’m not working out to have your ideal body type. I’m working out to have my ideal body type. And you know what type that is? None of your f**king business.”

As someone who has also been harassed about my weight, I am highly inclined to agree. Fat shamers and concern trolls can just fuck right off. And that’s exactly how I felt as Ingle wrote about what happened to her when she was celebrating at a restaurant with her mother and, evidently, some other people who didn’t know or care about her.

Ingle writes: It was a jolly occasion, a gathering of fun, clever people. We were choosing what to order and I was musing aloud about whether to have dessert. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth so I asked the waiter whether I could have a bit of cheese instead. He was about to answer but a woman at the table intervened.

Uh oh… this doesn’t sound good at all! And it wasn’t. According to Ingle, the woman roared, “No, you mustn’t have cheese! You are too fat for cheese! No cheese for you!”

Ingle sat there and “took in” what had just transpired. The woman apparently realized that she’d shocked and offended her target, as Ingle writes that she’d “insisted she was coming from a ‘good’ place”. The fat shaming concern troll explained that she was “worried” about Ingle’s health as she aged. Evidently, the fat shamer had been overweight all her life, and felt she must warn the writer of the doom that awaited her if she ate cheese during a celebratory lunch with her mother.

Ingle handled the interaction better than I probably would have. She wrote that in the past, she might have left the table, gone to the toilets to cry, starved herself for a couple of days, or engaged in some combination of those actions. But this time, she simply responded calmly to the woman, saying “what she had said was unnecessary. I told her that she didn’t know what might be going on for the person she was cheese-shaming. I pointed out that the psychological stress caused by her comments could be far worse for a person than a few slices of Brie. I told her that ultimately, my body, other people’s bodies, were none of her fecking business.”

And then, to my surprise, Ingle wrote She said nothing for a few moments. “I’d never thought of it quite like that,” she said. She had done this kind of thing before, she told me. I don’t think she’ll do it again.

This response from Ingle, while very mature, is not very satisfying to me. I can’t stand concern trolls. I don’t believe for a minute that people who make rude comments about other people’s bodies care at all about them. They certainly don’t care about the psychological damage they do to people who are struggling with their body image. Telling someone they are “too fat for cheese”, especially in front of a crowd, will do nothing but ruin the person’s day and give them bad memories.

My title suggests that I might be inclined toward violence if someone did this to me. Rest assured, I probably would not have given the woman a knuckle sandwich. She wouldn’t have been worth going to jail over. But you can bet that I would make her think twice about ever making a comment like that to me again. That’s if I ever again allowed her to be in my presence after that incident.

I generally get a kick out of the comments from Irish readers. Sure enough, they didn’t disappoint. I even added one of my own.

I think I would tell the cheese shaming buttinski that her health is far more at risk by butting into other people’s business than it is to eat all the cheese she could ever want for the rest of her life. She might just be trading her cheese habit for a knuckle sandwich.

However, I couldn’t help but notice one guy, name of Mel O’Brien from Cork, who left some very rude comments. He left so many of them that I felt compelled to check out his Facebook profile. Mr. O’Brien has just fifteen friends, and has made a lot of his comments public. I guess his fat shaming didn’t go over well with some readers…

Mel wrote several comments like the ones above. At first, I just thought he was a fucking jerk. Now, I think he’s crazy. Behold…

I’ve been suspended from FACEBOOK, again, with no way of responding to this bullshit. So all I say to FB and the person or persons who complained about some comment I made, is FUCK OFF!

I kept scrolling and saw lots of pro Russia posts, along with conspiracy theories about the COVID vaccines. Obviously, Mel doesn’t play with a full deck. Yet some people still want to be friends with him. Here’s what he posted a couple of days ago.

Just to make things clear: I’m on FB to keep in touch with people who are already my friends. I’m not looking for new friends, and most of the friend requests I’ve received in the past couple of years have been men masquerading as women. I don’t want to be friends with anyone from the LGBT crowd, since I’m offended by this “pride” nonsense. What do they have to be proud about? So please don’t send me a friends request unless we know each other from the past. Thanks.

Below is a post from January 1, 2023…

I’m a bit pissed off today, January 1, because I post videos that I believe to be important, but last year virtually no one watched any of them. Too busy getting their jabs, I guess.

Another reason I’m annoyed is YouTube ending the suspension of my comments, due to some comment I made “may offend” community guidelines. They never told me which comment “may offend” someone. An evil bunch, probably members of the mentally-ill LGBT crowd. I’ve received several warnings, and a threat of removing my site in 2022. So much for freedom of expressing my beliefs

Facebook also doesn’t like my comments, and I’ve been suspended a couple of times last year. More evil people.

I was permanently banned from Twitter in 2019, but they had the gall to email me last year informing me that my ban had ended. Needless to say, I won’t be going back to their garbage.

THE ONLY TWO PEOPLE I KNOW WHO GOT JABS BOTH DIED LAST YEAR SUDDENLY OF HEART ATTACKS. COINCIDENCE, EH? SCAMDEMIC.

This planet is controlled by the forces of evil, which control is made easier by compliant sheeple who believe anything they’re told, forgetting the lesson of the WMD.

THINGS ARE GETTING WORSE, NOT BETTER.

It’s sad and scary that there are so many people in the world who feel so entitled to share their ugliness with everyone. And then when they get called out for it, they continue to be ugly. Not only is Mr. O’Brien a fat shamer; he’s also a homophobe.

I generally enjoy The Irish Times. I think the journalism is excellent and often very entertaining. I also enjoy reading comments from the Irish, who are often hilariously witty. On the other hand, I’ve noticed that quite a few of them admire Donald Trump, promote conspiracy theories and other stupid nonsense, and opine about things about which they apparently know little. It occurs to me that the last time I was in Ireland, I saw a Confederate Battle Flag. It was a sticker on the back of a taxi cab. And now that I think about it, quite a lot of American Trump supporters are people with ancestral backgrounds like mine. 😉

Anyway, good on Róisín Ingle for responding diplomatically to the fat shamer who tried to deprive her of Gouda. I used to care a lot more about what people thought of my body, too. I think I got over that when I realized how short life really is.

In 2021, a former Peace Corps colleague of mine celebrated his birthday with friends and family. Then, as he was walking home, he got hit by a car and was left for dead. Sadly, he did die of his injuries, and at just 58 years of age. He was a bright, vibrant person who touched many people over his lifetime. I don’t think he had a weight problem when he passed. In fact, I like to think that he was happy when he left this world… having just spent his last hours with people he loved, celebrating his birthday, rather than languishing from a chronic illness for months on end.

I think of my old friend, and realize that while it’s always a good and wise thing to take care of your health, it’s also a good and wise thing to enjoy your life. Because now, more than ever, you just never know when your life will end. So I say, eat the cheese if you want it. Tell the fat shamers like Mel O’Brien to fuck right off. Try not to give anyone a knuckle sandwich, though… unless they really, really deserve one. 😉 In the case of the fat shaming idiot Ingle encountered at her lunch celebration, I would not have faulted her…

Incidentally, as I was writing this, we got a delivery of Dutch cheeses. I don’t eat much cheese, so it’s mostly for Bill, who loves cheese. I’m sure he will be delighted to try them later…

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modern problems, technology, YouTube

Keeping it simple, stupid…

This week, I mentioned that I’ve been trying to make my home “smarter”. I’m not a particularly tech savvy person, so making my home smarter mostly entails doing very simple things. I replaced twelve light bulbs with smart bulbs. Now, I have twelve lights that can be controlled by an app on my phone. Not only can I turn them on with my phone or iPad, but I can program them to turn on or off, light up in different colors or intensities, or even set them to music. Cool, huh? Well… this new “upgrade” hasn’t come without glitches.

For the past two nights, one of the lamps in my bedroom has been inexplicably turning on at midnight. I don’t know why. I can’t see any evidence that I programmed the lamp to turn on at midnight. I don’t even use that lamp very often.

Bill has had trouble adding all of the lamps to his app. Yesterday, he called up to me and asked me to use my phone to turn on the light for him, because his phone wouldn’t load the bulb into his app, for some reason. Now… I have discovered that we can turn the lights on and off the old fashioned way, but that may cause them to go “offline”, which potentially means adding them to the app again. I don’t know… I’m still learning. At my age, learning this kind of stuff is a challenge.

I remember when I was a teenager, my parents bought their first VCR. For the longest time, I was the only one who could program it. Now I know how they felt.

I bought some smart power strips and outlets, too. From what I can tell, I can use these to shut off power when we aren’t using something without having to unplug the device. That can be an energy saver, which means lower electric bills. I can also program things to turn on and off by using my app. Like, if I wanted to, I could set up the coffee maker with ground coffee and water every night and program it to turn on at a certain time. I could come downstairs to fresh coffee every morning, rather than waiting for Bill to make it. Cool, huh?

It is kind of exciting to be able to direct appliances to work from my phone. But there’s also a beauty to watching Bill make coffee every morning. He does it so well. In fact, he takes great pride in making coffee. Automating the process wouldn’t necessarily change the process. He’d still have to grind the coffee and put the water in the tank. All the power strip would do is hit the switch remotely, so the coffee gets made while we’re doing our morning routines. It sounds convenient, but it could be more trouble than it’s worth.

Yesterday, I read a distressing article written by a professional copywriter. He says his job is now threatened by AI (artificial intelligence) technology– specifically ChatGPT. ChatGPT was able to create good copy in thirty seconds for free. The same copy would have taken the human being hours to create and he would have charged over $500. Henry Williams, the author of the piece wrote:

The developers admit that the software still has limitations. It tends towards the verbose and repetitive (“honing my craft and perfecting my ability to craft”), and minor changes to question phrasing can be the difference between an amazing response and no response at all. The more we use it, however, the better it will become. As ChatGPT told me, it can already “replicate the writing styles of different authors” and “even be trained to mimic the tone and voice of a particular brand or organization”.

I use YouTube daily, and it’s scary how many channels use AI to create robotic sounding content. Every day, it seems like fewer human beings are involved in the process of writing articles and making videos. Some of the AI generated content is downright horrible, but I have run across some videos that are almost indistinguishable from content made entirely by a living, breathing, human. It’s also been used for creating music “in the style of…” How creepy it is to think of a computer program creating music that sounds like that made by a real person?

This morning, Bill told me about how AI has now managed to pass state bar exams– the tests that actual lawyers often fail with ease. And just now, I found an article about how AI was almost used to fight parking tickets in court. Angry lawyers protested. Who could blame them? That technology could put their livelihoods in jeopardy! I’ve also read about how students can now use AI to write papers, which makes a teacher’s job more difficult. Isn’t it bad enough that teachers have to worry about being shot while they’re teaching? Do we have to add AI to the mix, too?

I have nothing against technology. There are some things robots do better than people. I’m sure, for instance, that robots might be better at certain surgeries than humans are. There’s less worry about human frailties or failures, like shaking hands, fatigue, or emotions getting in the way. But as intelligent as machines and computers can be made to be, they have to be mastered by humans. Otherwise, what good are we?

It used to be that people had to go places to go shopping. They had to interact with other people. There was a human being to ring up the sale and bag the item. Now, a lot of us shop online, and our interaction might come if we happen to see the delivery person… and no one steals our stuff from the porch. Automated cashiers have made it possible to go shopping for groceries and check yourself out. That might seem convenient enough, but it also means that one less person has a job. I don’t like using self checkout lanes, either, because I find that they often mess up the transaction and the process ends up taking longer

I’m sure my angst is for nothing. People have been lamenting “progress” forever. As a writer and musician, though, it does kind of disturb me that AI is getting “too good”. If AI can do in seconds what I do in hours, what’s the point of getting up every day? Are we living in The Jetsons age, now?

One more thing… My friend Thomas, who frequently comments on my posts, informed me that he’s not been able to like or comment on my most recent posts. I have been investigating the issue this morning. It seems I’m having trouble with a “nonce verification error”. I’ve tried disabling plugins, which is a real pain, because it messes up the settings I’m used to using. I tried changing the theme, but that also didn’t work. I did find that I could comment if I did it on my desktop or laptop computers, using Chrome. But I can’t do it on the desktop with Safari, or from my iPad. I tried commenting with Safari on my laptop and it worked.

This is very weird, and I don’t know how to fix the issue. So if you’ve wanted to comment and can’t, all I can tell you for now is to try using Chrome. Hopefully, this issue will be fixed at some point. I have emailed support. Maybe they can straighten this out for me.

I’ve read that Jetpack can cause “nonce” issues. I’ve tried to disable Jetpack, but WordPress won’t let me. Apparently, I pay for it with my subscription. Sigh…

Maybe it’s better to just keep it simple, stupid… The K.I.S.S. method has alway served me well in the past. But then, I think about my mom, who has steadfastly refused to learn how to use the Internet and now has to get one of her daughters to Google for her when she needs help. I don’t think I want to get to that point. I’ll try to keep learning the new methods. I just hope all of these new things we have for convenience don’t end up being too much of a good thing.

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bad TV, good tv, modern problems, nostalgia, politicians, politics, Russia, Trump, YouTube

TDY weeks are made for made for TV movies…

As I mentioned in today’s first post, my husband, Bill, is gone this week on a business trip in Bavaria. I don’t have any local buddies to hang out with, so that means I have a lot of empty time on my hands. When Bill was deployed to Iraq back in 2007, I spent a lot of time watching reality TV. At that time, we lived in the States on Fort Belvoir, and we had FiOS (fiber optic cable TV and Internet– which is just becoming a “thing” here in Germany). This was before Apple TV, so I couldn’t spend my time watching relics from my childhood, the way I do today. I’m glad for Apple TV and YouTube, because now I can watch stuff I missed back in the day.

Back in February 1987, I was fifteen years old, and very busy with school and taking care of my horse. I wasn’t at all interested in politics, religion, or current events. I was kind of “dumb” then, as we didn’t have all of the news and information sources we have now. In those days, the Soviet Union was still very much a thing. People worried about nuclear war to the extent that it was a topic on sitcoms, like The Golden Girls. There were a number of Soviet themed films that were released for the big screen. I remember the movie, Red Dawn, came out in 1984, when I was 12 years old. It was the very first PG-13 rated movie, mainly because it was, and still is, a very violent film about Soviets invading the United States. I remember being very “fired up” when I saw that movie the first time. I was young and impressionable, and thought the height of patriotism would be to join the military and fight for my country. Hell, when I was 12, I might have even made the military’s weight standards. 😉 Actually, I’m kidding. As a teenager, I thought I was fat, but I really wasn’t. Like I said… I was kind of dumb in those days… dumber than I am today. But today, I am fatter than I was in the 80s.

Since the Soviet Union was still so threatening, the American Broadcasting Company, otherwise known as ABC, made the mother of all miniseries. It was a seven night EVENT, which even in the era of network TV, was a big production for a miniseries. Most miniseries lasted two or three nights. I was interested in very few of them, because like I said, I was BUSY then… and not interested in politics, religion, or current events. But other people were interested, so ABC made this miniseries called Amerika. It was set in 1997, in a fictional midwestern town called Milford in Nebraska. It starred, Kris Kristofferson, Mariel Hemingway, Cindy Pickett (“Ferris Beuller’s mom”), Christine Lahti, Robert Ulrich, and a very young Lara Flynn Boyle, among other people who are now either dead, or more or less famous than they were in 1987.

The premise of Amerika was that the Soviet Union’s leaders had messed with our elections and that had led to a “bloodless” coup. The United States was no longer. Instead, it was broken up into smaller areas. The flag and national anthem were changed, and the idea of communism was introduced to our capitalistic society. The miniseries was about how the country changed. It wasn’t a pretty sight, and it was obviously based on the propaganda of the time. Remember, the Soviet Union ceased to exist in December 1991, so a lot of today’s adults weren’t around when it was still in existence. But some of us old farts remember it very well.

Well, I completely missed seeing Amerika when it originally aired. It only aired once, because it caused a lot of issues with leaders in the Soviet Union, who were outraged by it. It was also a really long television event that was probably expensive and disruptive to air. In the 80s, we had our “must see TV”, and these kinds of special shows would usurp our old favorites. And then, after just a few years, Amerika seemed over the top and ridiculous, as the Soviet Union literally fell apart, and formerly closed borders started opening. Hell, the movie was set in 1997, but I was actually finishing up my Peace Corps assignment in Armenia, a former Soviet country, in 1997. So, as you can see, it didn’t make a lot of sense to air the program again. It was later released on video, but it doesn’t look like a DVD set was ever released. However… someone did upload the entire series to YouTube. I watched the whole thing in several sittings, as the program is over fourteen hours in length. Even couch potatoes like me need to get up and move sometimes.

A trailer for Amerika.

I don’t want to get too much into the specific plot of this series, because frankly, it seems like an overwhelming task. As I mentioned up post, the series was set in a fictional town of Milford, which was named after the enterprising American family that helped build it. Some of them still lived in Milford, only to watch their town being overrun by Soviets and American politicians who figuratively “got in bed” with them in a bid to seize power. We watch as people with private businesses can no longer offer what they used to have. A woman who ran a cafe for over thirty years was forced to serve soy products instead of the comfort food she used to offer. Later, everyone is forced into a curfew and heavily armed Soviet soldiers bust the woman’s neon sign, which had been lit for decades. She cries as she’s forced into the back of a truck to be driven off to God knows where.

We see a talented young dancer (Boyle’s character, Jackie Bradford) being ignored when she auditions for a show because she’s too good and would ruin the uniformity of mediocrity of the others. By the way, while I can see where the writers were going with this point, years of watching Soviet athletes and listening to Soviet trained musicians tells me that the culture certainly embraced the talented. They were showcased! Just watch any 70s or 80s era Olympics or a Russian ballet! But the point is, communists didn’t give anyone an incentive to excel, since everyone was “treated equally”. Except they actually weren’t. There were certainly people in communist countries who had it better than others did, due to their stations in life.

We see dissidents being forced into “re-education” camps. Kristofferson’s character, a former politician and 1988 presidential candidate named Devin Milford, had been imprisoned in Texas for trying to fight against the regime and speaking out against corruption. At the beginning of the series, we see him being released and sent into exile in Milford, where he is to stay within 25 miles of his property or risk being jailed or shot. He watches as families lose their homes as Soviet squatters are not recognizing the former Americans’ rights to own land. Children in school are being propagandized with communist principles, which they spout off by rote.

Devin’s eldest son is sent to a psychiatric hospital to be “treated” for thought crimes. He and his fellow patients are shown propaganda while hooked up to electrodes, drugged, and kept in cells. His middle and youngest sons are kept from him. The middle child is bright enough to see through what is happening, but the youngest child becomes very indoctrinated, to the point at which he turns on his father, with a literal gun. Devin’s ex wife, Marion Andrews (Wendy Hughes), is becoming a government leader who wants her ex husband killed.

Fellow Milfordite, Peter Bradford (Robert Ulrich) becomes president, with his wife Amanda (Cindy Pickett) as his first lady. Amanda is very disturbed by all she sees, and tells Bradford that she can be his wife, but not his first lady. Sounds kind of like Melania Trump! Except Amanda is nowhere near as narcissistic and vacuous as Melania is. 😉

And then there’s Kimberly Ballard (Mariel Hemingway), who was very young and beautiful in 1987. She plays a musical theater actress whose work is affected because of censorship. She also gets involved with a Soviet military leader– well… she falls in love with him, and he falls in love with her. But their love can’t survive, because she’s an American through and through, and he’s a Soviet. And politics always take precedence over love.

Mariel Hemingway “sings” as Kimberly Ballard… or does she? This is disturbing.

Like I said, this is a very long series, and to be honest, it was a bit of a plod to get through it. It starts off rather slowly, but then gets more interesting. The musical score may be familiar to some people, too, as the composer of much of the music was Basil Poledouris, the same guy who did the music for the original Red Dawn. In some ways, this film reminded me a bit of Red Dawn, minus most of the violence… at least at first. As Americans start waking up to the reality of communism, a la a frog in slowly heated water, there’s more violent action. Some of it was kind of chilling to see, even by today’s bloodthirsty standards. There are a lot of “dead” people shown– eyes frozen open in shock and horror, as fake blood runs down their faces. In 1987, it was still uncommon for Americans to see mass shooting events.

In some ways, Amerika still seems far fetched and ridiculous. It’s now 2022, and 1997 was a long time ago– 25 years! But realizing that this movie was made in 1987, it’s kind of interesting to see what we had in 1997 that wasn’t yet conceived of in 1987. So, for 1997, Amerika seems pretty quaint and antiquated. However, I moved to Armenia in 1995, which was only about 3.5 years after the Soviet Union fell apart. Things were still very antiquated there in 1995, and things were still pretty much run like they were in the Soviet era. In fact, conditions were worse there at that time, because they were on their own. We had no electricity most of the time; some places had no running water; and almost no one had hot water from a tap. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Armenia in 1995, I took bucket baths with water heated on my kerosene heaters or propane stove. I read books at night by kerosene lamp light. Anything I wanted to buy was behind a counter. And I lived in a series of ugly Soviet era cookie cutter apartments.

But, in other ways, Amerika is scarily prescient. The miniseries was probably conceived of by right wing political conservatives, as it has a very anti-communism message. BUT… as we all know, in 2016, the Russians fucked with our presidential elections. We had a “Republican” leader in Donald Trump, who doesn’t really resemble an old style Republican at all and, in fact, isn’t one. Trump is a fascist, dictator wannabe, and he’s spawned a bunch of power hungry acolytes who would love to follow in his footsteps, even though he’s clearly against freedom and outwardly said the Constitution needs to be “suspended” so he can be put back in power.

This bitch needs to be voted out… but Georgians are too wedded to being “Republicans”. She says that if she and Steve Bannon had been “in charge” of January 6th, they would have “won”. What a fucking loser she is. How DARE she?!

Yesterday, there was news about how, on January 17, 2021, South Carolina Republican Ralph Norman sent a text message to Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, calling for Trump to institute “Marshall law”. He means “martial law”, of course. But he was actually calling for Trump to use military force to overturn the legal and fair 2020 presidential election, to prevent Joe Biden from taking his rightful place as the US President. Can you fucking believe it? These are Republicans! Aren’t they supposed to be about smaller government, the Constitution, and freedom for everyone (except women of childbearing age)?

How dare he? These MAGA motherfuckers need to be run out of power. Especially Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is among the worst of the lot.

I saw a lot of comments on the Amerika videos. Many people were trashing Biden, and saying that America is headed for the scary communist dystopian reality presented in Amerika. And yet, I lived in a former Soviet country, and I learned that the people living there weren’t bad people. They really weren’t that different than I was. They just came from a poorer country in need of assistance. In the 25 years since I left Armenia, I have been really heartened to see how far the country has come. It’s truly become a cool place to be, in terms of the incredible culture and the insane talents of its citizenry. Meanwhile, the United States is starting to look more like it could go the way of the old Soviet Union, as Trump and his minions try to take over and force us to accept his “leadership”. I’m actually not that afraid of Trump anymore, because he’s old and has been revealed for what he is. BUT… I am afraid of the younger, smarter, more polished, power hungry types in his wake who claim to be patriots and fans of the Constitution, but want to do away with fundamental American principles like separation of church and state, the right to privacy, and not having the military running the government so that the overall unpopular extremist, dictatorial types like Trump can stay in charge.

Peru and Germany DID something about their dictator wannabes. Let’s get with it, America, and put these dangerous people away, before they ruin the country.

This week, there was a coup stopped in Germany, which is where I live right now. The people involved in that are now in massive legal trouble. They have been arrested. In the United States, Donald Trump is still a free man, in spite of showing us who he is, and what he wants to do. For some reason, Republicans think their party is still what it was years ago, when it was about keeping government out of people’s private business and keeping taxes low. Do these folks really believe that Trump and his deplorable minions won’t be trying their best to take what’s yours? Trump just wants money and power. But there are people inspired by him who want more. They have shown us… and there are a lot of awful people in public office who care more about being re-elected than doing what is right for the citizens of the United States and running free and FAIR elections, without corruption.

One thing that I did learn, having lived in Armenia, is that abortion wasn’t really a big deal in the Soviet Union. I met many women who’d had them, mainly because birth control wasn’t freely available, and their men didn’t want to bother with condoms. And when you’re making the US equivalent of $10 a month, it’s hard to have enough money to raise children. But, it hasn’t escaped my attention that a lot of Republican business owners who don’t want to pay a living wage, nor do they want to offer birth control coverage on health insurance policies provided through work, are very much against allowing abortion. At least for now. 😉 Some of those folks might eventually realize that religion makes it harder for them to control the masses, as people have a power higher than the state. I think with time, religion and the so-called morals espoused because of “God” will become much less fashionable among Republicans, just as the Constitution apparently has.

Yeah… she’s all for church, until she realizes that people are giving money to churches that they could be giving to government officials, like her. What an un American idiot she is. And no, the church is NOT supposed to direct the US government.
It’s UNBELIEVABLE to me that people are so blind to WHO these MAGAts are!!!!

Anyway… just like I was in 1987, a lot of Americans are concerned about other things. And they aren’t paying attention, even though we have a lot more ways to pay attention now, than we ever had in the past. I hope some people wake up before we start seeing America turn into Amerika. I don’t even want to say that all Republicans are bad, per se. It’s just that the old school ones are being replaced like MAGAts… like cancer cells, they are taking over.

So, although Amerika was a “plod” to get through, I am glad I took the time to watch it. It made me think. If I had taken more time, I probably could have written a much better blog post about it. But if I manage to inspire someone to watch it and draw their own conclusions, maybe I will have done my good deed for the day. It was eye opening for me, but not in the way that other viewers saw it, apparently. This is the type of thing conservatives would tend to watch, because of that dirty word– communism– and Soviet Union style politics. They don’t see the similarities between Soviet Union style communism and Trump style fascism that I see, like the Trump style desire to suppress the media— something very much in the Soviet playbook. As someone who has experienced life over there, and has voted on either side of the spectrum, I see other, more frightening things. We, as a nation, need to collectively wake up and do something about these deranged, fascist, violent people before it’s too late.

WHEW… I meant for this to be about two movies. Guess I’ll be writing another post, which seems fair enough, since it’s snowing outside right now.

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communication, complaints, controversies, modern problems, social media, true crime

Sometimes it’s okay to complain…

Yesterday, I wrote a couple of posts that were kind of on the same theme. I wrote the first one for this blog. It was about how surprisingly hateful some people are about Brittney Griner being released from a Russian prison, while Paul Whelan stays in custody. Griner, who endured ten months of incarceration in Russia, was sent to San Antonio for medical treatment before she goes home to her wife in Phoenix, Arizona. Many, many people are apparently pissed off about this. They’d rather Brittney rot in a freezing cold Russian prison, where she’s too tall for a regular bed and her hands are too big for the usual labor of sewing. Most of these folks who are so salty toward Griner, and to Joe Biden for helping her, also claim to be Christians.

If you ask these people why they’re angry about Brittney Griner’s release, they’ll tell you it’s because she disrespected the flag by taking a knee during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner”. They think she hates her country, and for that reason, she should endure years of inhumane conditions in a prison behind the borders of our biggest enemy. I suspect they also don’t like Brittney because she’s not like they are. She’s 6’9″ tall. She’s Black and queer, and has a deep speaking voice. She uses marijuana. Deep down, people who espouse that much hatred are terrified by people who are different. They see Brittney as an immoral freak, and they want her banished for it. They also seem to think that she has no right to complain about racism. They tell her, “America– love it or leave it.” If something is wrong, you have no right to gripe. Because in their eyes, she’s less than they are.

Of course, Brittney has already shown us that she’s definitely NOT like the the people who want her to suffer. That’s a good thing. We need fewer people in our country who can’t embrace diversity. And we need fewer people who want to silence those who have legitimate concerns about the way things are going in the United States for anyone who isn’t a Christian, white, conservative male with a gun.

The other post I wrote yesterday was about how Bill and I complained about bad service we got at a wine shop in France. That entry was inspired by the reactions I got in a Facebook wine group I run. I posted about that experience because it was about wine shopping. The reactions I got initially blamed Bill and me for our bad experience. No one said it outright, but I got the sense that some people thought maybe I was being a “karen” (for lack of a better word). Somehow, ever since the term “karen” became popular, people seem to think that anytime someone complains, particularly if it’s a middle-aged, white woman of means, they’re acting like an entitled whiner.

In response to my post, I got some not so subtle chastising about my so-called lack of cultural sensitivity, lack of language skills (because I took Spanish instead of French when I was in school), and overall bad attitude. Another person assumed I had somehow “misunderstood” what had happened. They wanted to excuse the salesperson for serving straight up bad service, with generous side orders of disdain and disrespect. All we were trying to do was spend some money on local wines. For our efforts, we got the wrong wines, and egregiously rude treatment.

Then, when we complained, we got even more rude treatment, dismissing, discounting, and blame. I guess we shouldn’t have said anything? What really astonished me, though, was that the American people who were blaming ME for my bad experience were people who have never met me and don’t know the first thing about me. Why would they assume it was my fault that I had the misfortune of doing business with someone with a very obvious STANK attitude? All I did was go into a wine shop for a few minutes because I wanted to buy wine. Isn’t that what the wine shop is for?

I think it’s because in America, we’re quite fond of pushing toxic positivity. We discourage people from being negative, even if they have every right to complain. We like to blame the victim, even in situations that are egregiously unjust or horrific. Brittney Griner was arrested at the airport for having a small amount of hashish oil and vape cartridges in her luggage. Yes, it was against Russian law to have those items in her luggage, but it’s not like anyone was killed. I also highly doubt that the people who felt the nine years in prison was a just sentence would say the same thing if it was them or a loved one who got such a sentence, even in the United States. Mention harsh penalties, though, and you’re no doubt going to hear “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” Some people seem to think that if you do something wrong, no punishment is too harsh… especially if you’re different and dare to speak up about things.

This morning over breakfast, I was reading about the world’s most “welcoming” countries, in terms of which countries will allow visa free visitors from the most nations. Singapore was mentioned as a very “welcoming” country. I’m sure Singapore is a beautiful place with kind and interesting citizens. But when I think of Singapore, I can’t help but remember the 1994 case of Michael P. Fay, and how he wound up getting four strikes with a rattan cane for vandalizing cars and stealing road signs. When he committed his crimes, Michael Fay was 18 years old and had moved to Singapore to live with his mother and stepfather.

I remember, during Fay’s fifteen minutes of fame, a lot of people were saying that Fay had asked for the caning, which was originally set to six strokes. He also got four months in jail and had to pay about S$3500 (Singapore dollars). The United States government intervened in that case, too, and Fay wound up getting only four strikes of the cane, which caused bleeding and scarring on his buttocks. Then he was deported, and when he got home, he promptly got into more legal trouble.

I don’t think Brittney Griner is going to do what Michael P. Fay did, once she’s been released from the hospital. Moreover, I don’t think Brittney’s initial crime was of the same magnitude as Fay’s was. What Griner did ultimately didn’t harm anyone. Fay and his friends actually did significant harm to other people’s property, costing them money and inconveniencing them. Personally, I thought the caning was barbaric, and it obviously didn’t teach Fay anything. But Griner’s punishment was much worse, and not only did she endure inhumane conditions, but her own countrymen are hurling abuse at her. I wonder if they’d be this vicious if Brittney Griner was a straight, white woman with conservative proclivities.

Besides being male and Caucasian, Michael Fay had something going for him that Brittney didn’t. He committed his crimes at a time when social media didn’t exist, and the Internet was only just getting started. He also became infamous at a time when our country was less polarized and weird. Or maybe it just seemed that way to me. I do remember though, at the time of Michael P. Fay’s crime, some people were calling him a spoiled brat. But they weren’t gleeful about the prospect of his ass being literally shredded by the caustic strikes of a rattan cane. They weren’t calling for him to rot in a foreign hellhole. They weren’t telling him he had no right to complain.

Sometimes, things are just plain wrong. Sometimes, they’re flat out terrible. People should always have the right to point out the bad things, because that’s how things get better. Keeping silent when there’s been an injustice sends a message that everything’s okay. Sometimes a complaint might seem “silly”. I’m sure some people in my wine group thought I was posting about a first world problem. I’ll admit that getting the wrong wine isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things… although I mainly wrote that post because my wine group is pretty dead lately. Brittney Griner’s situation is, of course, much more serious. Before she went to Russia to play basketball, she had the gall to “take a knee” against racism. She had the nerve to speak up and be noticed, and point out that America isn’t all that great and needs improvement. For that, there are people who literally think she should be suffer for years. I’ll bet that a lot of those folks, fine upstanding Christians that they are, also secretly hope she dies. That’s how warm and tender these supposed “Christ loving” people are…

Anyway… I suppose I’ve gone on long enough. I feel inspired to do a little music today, so I think I’ll sign off and get to work on that. Have a great Saturday… and embrace your inner “karen” if you are so inclined and a situation merits it.

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