“Fake News” is a propaganda term. Don’t buy into it!

Be careful in todays world when you use (and buy into) terms like “fake news” or “echo chamber” and “conspiracy theory”. While there is some truth to the meaning and usage these terms as they are defined, there is also a lot of harm. Because, remember that all of these terms serve to stifle people asking questions and coming up with alternative viewpoints and subverting the status quo.

It’s easy for me to be skeptical when I hear “beware of fake news”, because I immediately hear something different : “Only listen to the respected, mainstream news sources”. If we are being kept in line by the media, this is one very effective way to keep us hooked into the message the elite ruling class is trying to sell us. Personally I have always been skeptical of everything I’ve read and I’ve taken time to either second source things I take as fact or defer to others who I trust to do that diligence on my behalf. Just because someone is a blogger or just because an article doesn’t come from the New York Times doesn’t mean it’s not true.

Same with “echo chamber”. In many ways this feels to me like an attack on us sharing things that we feel are important or that we feel needs to be read by others. If we are fearful of sharing things because it will make us seem like lemmings then things don’t spread and it’s very possible that our public becomes less informed.

I strongly believe that while there is no overt conspiracy to control us as a people, there are subtle biases by our media that naturally conspire to sell us ‘the story’. I have often complained about how I feel the media has let us down and I still very much believe that. Because of that, I feel obligated to fight that erosion of the truth by posting (and reposting and sharing) things that I feel are relevant. If you choose to label me as a conspiracist or as an echo-chamberist or a fake news/propiganda passer onner, that’s your decision. But I’m a very smart and aware human being. I am not a sheep. So follow me knowing that or be led by the elites. Cause we know how well that’s been working out.

Silent Evidence

For a long while I’ve listened to a podcast called The Heart. It’s always been a fun and well produced podcast to listen to. Recently, however, they embarked on a long form story called “Silent Evidence” about a woman who was abused when she was 6. It was a change of pace for the podcast but I gave it a shot anyway. I’m now on the final episode and I have to say that it’s been a really worthwhile experience. Kind of like Serial was last year, this long form story has been frustrating and difficult and interesting and I am really glad I stumbled on to it.
It deserves to be listened to. You can stream it online and learn more here, or you can subscribe to the podcast here. Do it.

For The Win

ftw-US-cover-largeSo I’m currently reading “For The Win” by Corey Doctorow.

I got it on my kindle and started reading it the other day and one chapter was really awesome.

Because he is amazing and believes in freedom, Corey Doctorow releases all of his books under Creative Commons so you can download them, excerpt them, change them, do whatever with them. You can find his books and stuff at his website.

So, instead of telling you about the chapter I’m able to just let you read it yourself. So click the link below to get the excerpt and see if you agree with me. And if you do, don’t be a cheapskate and buy the book. I just ordered the Hardcopy to put in my library!


Some Media

I was giving out a lot of recommendations for media lately so I figured I’d compile it all here.

The first thing I want to highlight is a tv series called Black Mirror. Wow. This show is pretty awesome. It is 6 one hour episodes and it was made by Channel 4 in the UK. blackmirrorEach episode is stand alone but they all follow a theme in that they imagine some scenerio that explores our relationship with our internet connected smart devices. Right now it’s streaming on Netflix. So go see it while you can!

Next up is a cool movie I saw a little while back called Coherence. coherence-2014-review-rearrange-your-brainThis film reminded me a lot of Primer (which you should also see if you haven’t) even though it’s not really about time travel exactly. It’s more about parallel worlds. After I watched it I did some research and learned a lot of really cool things about how it was made and the process the creators used to get the really interesting performances from the actors. I urge you to do the same.

And then there is this cool little movie I saw recently called Locke. The reviews weren’t all together awesome but I liked this film a bunch. What makes it unique is that is staged in real time in a car. maxresdefaultThere are no other setups. It’s just a dude in his car talking on his cellphone. It has a unique tie in for me in that he is a cement foreman on a job site and I’ve been obsessively watching the building of our new Comcast building next door and coming up soon is a big cement pour for the foundation.

So in the 70s there was this director named Alejandro Jodorowsky. He was a very artistic genius filmmaker. In 1974 a couple of frenchmen optioned the book Dune and brought in Jodorowsky to make a movie of the book. This guy took it to 11.maxresdefault (1) He cast Salvatore Dali (for $100,000 an hour), Orson Wells, Mick Jagger to star and brought in Pink Floyd to do the soundtrack and HR. Geiger (of Alien fame) to do the art. The movie was going to be completely epic in scope and execution. But sadly, it was never made. Jodorowsky’s Dune is a movie about this experience. It was an incredible story and this film captures it spectacularly!

And now for something completely different. After 9/11, Chaney and Bush took it upon themselves to completely change the mission of the NSA to focus on surveillance inside the USA on US citizens. We all knew that. (who remembers the warrantless wiretapping scandals?).

frontline-the-united-states-of-secretsBut what we didn’t know was all the stuff going on in the government bureaucracy at the time. There were whistleblowers and leakers and there was a ton of very interesting intrigue going on while the White House was pushing through it’s agenda. In an absolutely incredible documentary that interviews many key players involved and that wouldn’t have been possible without the incredible bravery of Edward Snowden, Frontline produced “United States of Secrets“. I know this may sound boring to you but I assure you that it’s told in a very interesting and compelling way. It’s simply an incredible story and it’s told so thoroughly. Take 2 hours of your life to give this a watch!



The Newsroom : First Thoughts

I’ve been pretty excited to see this new show for a while now. Having just seen it I wanted to put a couple of thoughts down before I forgot them. I think I did the same for Studio 60. I will have to go back and see how accurate those thoughts were 🙂

Anyway. The theme of this show is seriously compelling. If you’ve ever read my blog you would know that for about 10 years now almost everything I’ve ever complained about was based on one central premise and that’s that the news media has failed us entirely. My belief is that if we were an informed public we wouldn’t be so complacent all the time when insane things happen in the world around us. But of course, the news is just entertainment now. It’s a profit center. Just watch the fabulous movie Network, which was made in the 70s! and see that the insane future they predicted has come true.

This show is about a news organization that has decided to say : Fuck the ratings, we’re going to report the news. We’re going to question people and have opinions. Wow wouldn’t that be amazing if it were real huh? I love that about this show. I love that I can at least enjoy a fictional representation of what I long for in America.

But is it good TV? Sorkin has proven only once that he can do successful TV when he made the West Wing. Sportsnight, Studio 60? Both wonderful TV shows, but did they last? Perhaps this show will succeed. I sure hope it does. The cast is fresh and all seem to be interesting and compelling, the writing doesn’t even need to be discussed..

I really like how this episode (and the entire series) is set back in time by 2 years. It’s like we’re in an alternate universe where the media gets it right. Real stories from our past are re imagined. Real names, real people.. I really am looking forward to seeing how this works out.

Overall, I like the show. It doesn’t grab me though. I’m worried about that but it’s too soon to tell so I will reserve judgement. I can say this : I can’t wait to see next weeks episode though

Some ideas for Netflix

I’ve been a Netflix subscriber since the beginning. I also have owned their stock for ages as well, but the story about that is for some other time. They do some things really well, but in some ways they do some really dumb things and also are missing some opportunities. Here’s some thoughts:

Movie Reviews
At one point, whenever I gave a star rating to a movie, a little box came up and asked for a short review. This review popped up on facebook along with my rating. This was good. It wasn’t great. But it was the start of taking all that movie review data and adding a social aspect to it. Interestingly, Netflix had (still has) a second review system in place where you can type a review and other Netflix subscribers can see it. Unlike the short review box, this one is moderated and is far from instant. Not good at all. And worse? They discontinued the FB integration and removed the short reviews entirely. Why? Who knows?

So what should happen here? First off, Netflix has to realize that they have a golden opportunity to become the ‘Yelp’ of movies and tv shows. Most Netflix users are compulsive about rating things (since it improves their recommendations) and they are reminded to do it after every movie return. Netflix should make it very easy to post movie reviews. They should bring back the FB integration and add Twitter and others as well. Make it the users option to publicly say ‘hey, I just watched this film, check it out on Netflix’. Netflix members also need to have some kind of public facing identity, a profile page with all the users reviews and recommendations, etc.

User Accounts

This is a no-brainer and I can’t figure out why this idea has been given so little love. Allow one household account to have separate users! Each user should get a queue and a login and a profile, etc.

Right now this is sort of allowed: I can add users to my account and they share in my 3 disks a month (1 goes to my girlfriends queue and 2 to mine) but there are many issues with it. First off, they don’t have the ability to set their passwords and thier accounts don’t work on their devices. (My girlfriend has an iPad but to use it she needs my logon info. Lame). Secondly, these ‘profiles’ can’t be removed, even with a phone call to Netflix. So my ex has a profile still listed in my account. Why?

The Queue

How stupid is this? I search for a movie and once I find it I have to decide which queue to put it in : watch now? or Send to me?. Why do I have to choose this? Why are there two queues? Why not one queue? When I add to my queue it should be set to send me a DVD but also show up on my devices as an instant view (if available). I can’t explain how stupid this looks to the average user. Also, make it easy to export from and import to the queue. I have a huge list, I want to maintain it myself or add stuff in bulk. Let me.

Super Add
I’m at the movie theater and I see some previews before my flick. There should be a way to easily add what I see here to my queue. Make an app (or add ot the netflix app) that will allow me to point my phone cam at the preview and have it figure out the movie and add it to my queue. How cool would that be? So when the movie comes out I can get it.

The state of TV in America

I love TV. I know that as an ‘intellectual’ I’m supposed to hate it, but I’m also a creative and I love the form immensely. Shows like ‘The Sopranos’, ‘The Wire’, ‘The Shield’ are truly wonderful works of serialized fiction. Some game shows like ‘Survivor’ are beautiful visually (have you seen Survivor lately?) and fun to watch from a strategy perspective. But today isn’t about TV reviews. It’s a short musing about what I feel is happening in the TV business.

Networks are clueless (as most big media houses are these days) about how to make their audience happy. First off, they seem to choose shows not based on quality but on thier ability to appeal to the largest audience. That means that most shows are dumb, and easy to follow. I find that most shows I tend to love these days are on networks that seem to care a bit about quality (AMC for example with the now cancelled ‘Rubicon’ and their so far non-cancelled ‘The Killing’, or FX with ‘Archer’ or ‘The League’). That’s problem one and I know that its expensive to put on TV shows and you can’t cater to long tail viewers. I get that.

What I also get but find to be a huge problem is cancellations. It seems to me that more and more, networks cancel shows before they allow them to get into a stride and capture an audience. Its a well known fact that ‘Seinfeld’, considered one of the most successful shows of the 90’s was almost canceled many times in it’s first couple of years until they placed it after ‘Cheers’ and tuned it up a bit. You can read in many places about shows that were cancelled before they should have been (‘Firefly’, ‘My so Called Life’, ‘Sports Night’, etc..).

So when a network has a new show what am I to do? 5-10 years ago I would have watched it and hoped for the best. Now? I tend to wait. In a time where everyone seems to watch on DVR or Netflix, there is almost no need to see a show in its timeslot because nobody is talking about it the next day (like we all used to). What you want to be sure of is that you are able to see all the episodes, in order. So I wait it out a bit and see if a show makes it to its second season before I decide to give it a shot. Then I rent the first season from Netflix (or if they don’t have it I *gasp* download the torrents) and I catch up. It’s much safer to watch tv that way.

Of course if everyone did it the way I did then everything would be cancelled. What’s the answer? I’m not sure but I think part of it is that we have to understand that moving to an on-demand world is a good first step. Maybe loosing the cost of having to maintain a huge broadcast network with affiliates, etc. and moving exclusively to digital distribution across the internet may help?

For music, we are seeing that a band can self produce and distribute and still maintain quality. We’re seeing that start to happen ion publishing as well. I wonder if TV can do the same thing? I know it’s way more expensive to make a TV show than a song so I fear that maybe we will loose out on production values if the networks stop funding big shows. That wouldn’t be good. But there is an answer somewhere out there and it doesn’t seem that anyone is looking for it.

Edit : Just came across this interestingly relevant post (and comments) on reddit.

You can do it

Is this where we are headed?
I am discouraged today. I’ve actually felt this way for a number of years now. It’s been so long I can’t even remember when it began, but that’s not really important. What is important if for you to know why I feel this way. It’s important to me that you read this and think about what I’ve said and do something, anything, as a result. Comment, pass this along, tell others in person… I don’t care, just do something. Because the lack of anyone doing anything is what has me so discouraged.

If you look back at this blog and other places where I post things (facebook, my news feed, twitter, etc.) you will see that the majority of things I post about are things that are wrong with the world (particularly America) politically and socially. I know ‘wrong’ here is biased towards my own beliefs but I really feel that my perspective is general enough that any reasonable person exposed to the things I post would feel similar to how I do. But in all this time I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve felt that anyone has responded in a serious way to anything I’ve posted.

And this is what discourages me. Every day I read or learn something new that makes me want to scream out in anger or frustration. Every day I have to take a moment and ask myself, what can I do to make the world a place where things like this don’t happen again? So I post, and I donate to causes and I participate in politics by voting, and I genuinely think about how things affect the greater good. But it doesn’t change anything. And that inertia tends to make me more depressed. So I start to just give up and say ‘fuck it, if people would rather care more about mindless shit, then they deserve to get what they get’. We deserve the America we live in right now. The one where our liberties have been eroded in the name of security. The one where we can’t afford to educate our children because of wars we’re fighting for possibly flimsy reasons. The one where we have floods and tornados and odd weather every day and yet we deny that global warming is real. And on and on.

But I can’t sit back and do that anymore. In the last 2 years myself and many of my close friends have had their first children. So now instead of just saying “I’m dead in 60 years, it can’t get that bad”, we’re all now forced to say “what kind of world will our children inherit? And what about their children?”. Now things matter even more, and yet, I can see no change at all.

So what do I want? What would a perfect world be like from my perspective? What would I want you to do? It’s simple really. I want two things. First I want many people (many of the people I know) to take 10-15 minutes a day to read things that I (and other trusted friends) post and talk about. I want this because I don’t post things that are time-wasters. In my perfect world you all would trust that. Second I want you all to be motivated by the things I post to actually do something on your own. Maybe write about what you read, or talk to friends and family, or vote for candidates that support views that coincide with positions you read about, or maybe even debate with me the merits of what I post. In short I want you to take some time to react to what I post.

I can see why you don’t. We are constantly barraged with stimulus. And most of it has the effect of making us feel ok. Why allow ourselves to willingly feel bad about our world when we can so easily feel good about it? We are wired to suppress bad feelings and our media, our very lifestyle enables us to follow that path so easily. So I know it’s hard. But it’s so important to fight that urge to take the ‘soma’ and take a look at the world without our rose colored glasses. You don’t need to do it all the time, just once and a while. Please, I am literally begging you. We as a society are already failing because of ambivalence. Don’t let us fail completely!

Why Try?

So I’m really depressed today after listening (and thinking about) the latest “Common Sense” podcast ( # 192 ). Dan talks about how the FBI surveilled MLK and how they found some stuff about him and used it to try to blackmail him into killing himself ( Yes, I know this sounds crazy, but it’s all true ). He makes the point that today all the govt. would have to do is plant something onto someone’s computer ( child porn, bomb making plans, etc. ) to discredit someone. It’s for this reason that we probably don’t have anyone who is able to rise far enough to actually lead us out of the place we’re in today. With the FBI survailing so many people already ( small protest groups, militias, etc. ) they are able to nip things in the bud way before they grow enough to ‘be a problem’.

The system is so in control in this way, there is almost no way for us to generate enough energy to stand up and make change. Even our ‘change’ candidates we elected have failed to do anything of any consequence. As if they were just fake from the start.

But I’m free right? I can do pretty much anything I want to do in the world. I can vote, I can write letters, I can blog, I can travel anywhere I want, etc. But freedom is more than individual isn’t it? We need to have the ability to rise up in groups and be heard. One would think the media would help here but the interests controlling the US have found ways to counter media as well.

Why try? Who listens anymore? Who cares enough to do anything? It’s just so easy to take our Soma and tune out until we go to work the next day.

I need a new Blog

I need a new kind of blog. It needs have some specific features. Many of them inspired and copied from Facebook. See, I like Facebook in some ways. In others, not so much. Let me back up a bit and tell you how and why I use the Face in the first place. I like to share. It’s as simple as that. But I like to share in a few different contexts. Some things, like photos, I like to share mostly with just my friends, some photos just my family. Same goes for videos and sounds (though FB does a poor job of making that easy). Some things, like my mini reviews of books and movies and links to important things in the news I like to share as well, but to a wider (maybe even public) audience. Of course I like to connect with others and see what they are up to (wall/status updates) as well so that’s another reason I use FB.

In fact, that was the original reason I started on FB and I would argue the only reason to really use it at all. The reason I share so much there is because of how easy it is. Every tool I use links to FB and every person I care about is available to comment on things. And I love that it’s not anonymous. I like knowing what my friends think (and knowing that others can see who said what).

But there are issues. Most of them related to three things: Privacy Levels, Content Exposure and Sharing. Let me explain what I’m talking about.

Privacy Levels: I’m not talking about advertisers mining my posted stuff for info, or people figuring out my email address, etc. These issues don’t concern me. I can write about 10 pages on that stuff but it’s not important to this conversation, so I won’t. What I’m talking about is having levels of privacy that would enable me to decide if a given post (or class of post) is available for viewing by different groups of people. And yes, don’t even start to say it, I know this exists in FB but the system they have is a) cumbersome, b) complex, and c) incomplete. I simply want to have a fully public space to share (right now I use Google reader sharing to solve this for RSS links) and the ability to mark some things with a privacy level so only certain groups can see. This is hard to do in FB. I would need to make my profile public and then have lists of users and then take extra steps to mark each non-public post. But doing this on FB would ruin my non-sharing (i.e. Social) experience.

Content Exposure:  I use this RSS plug-in on Chrome called Feedly. What this does is take my Reader account and revisualize it as sort of a magazine, exposing things that I would never have seen otherwise. Sometimes there is an old post that pops up on top, sometimes ones that have been marked as liked more than others will pop up in a prominent location, etc. I would like to see my FB posts displayed to the public in sort of the same way. The central problem here is that some things I post are more important than others. I want some control over what people see from my group of posts. As an example, say there is a post on my Wall pointing to this blog post. After a week, it will be gone from view on my wall. This content will never get exposed again. In addition, there’s also the chance that the post doesn’t even make it to main FB news feed at all. And who these days looks at peoples profiles directly anymore?

Sharing: The FB Friends news feed is cool, but there is a big problem with it. There are some people I really want to follow. I want to see every post they make. Others, not so much. And I also need to be in FB to see it. This problem was solved way before MZ entered college. It’s called RSS. Why can’t each persons wall be RSS exportable? Why can’t I just read all of these in Reader? Choosing who is more important along the way?

So, What I want is this. I want to stop sharing things on FB. I want to just make it a place where I post photos and status updates and connect with my close friends in a nice, safe walled garden that’s totally private. For sharing I want a blog where I can share links, photos, videos, reviews of movies and restaurants. But I want all my tools to connect into it. So when I post a review on Yelp, it shows up on my blog, or a video I like on youtube will show up on my blog. And I should be able to post to it from my phone, or the web or anywhere I find something interesting.

Yes, I could probably pull this off to some extent with current tools and technology, but then how do I build my readership? On FB I have this machine helping me expose myself (albeit to my friends). I wouldn’t have that if I left FB. I know that each of you checks FB every day like your email. How many of you would check my blog daily? This is why I stay. But the FB experience is pretty terrible for what I want it to be and I don’t think I’m alone. Someone needs to address this.