Category Archives: In Our Time

Does anybody still look at these security alerts?

CSID

Just got another of those monthly emails from that security service that the state offered us to help us keep our identities safe after the big Department of Revenue breach several years back.

About once a year, I try to log in, and I never remember my password, so I have to go through a bunch of rigmarole to get in, and when I do, all I find is a report on sex offenders in my area.

You?

I mean, does anybody still use this service?

Google has measured me and found me guilty

Google-favicon-2015And there is no appeal, since I have been offered no opportunity to interact with a person and make my case. Never mind facing my accuser, or even getting an explanation of the charges against me. (Ain’t the private sector wonderful? Such accountability!)

Here’s Google’s verdict on the matter I told you about yesterday. You have to hunt for the verdict; the lede is buried (it’s in the second bullet):

Dear Publisher,This Google Publisher Policy Report gives you an overview of recent activity related to violations found on specific pages of your websites. As enforcement statuses may change over time, please refer to the “Page-level enforcements” section of the AdSense Policy Center for the current list of active violations.

Please note this report doesn’t cover violations that may happen on an overall site or account level. You may be notified by a separate email if site or account level violations are found. Ads will continue to serve where no policy violations have been found, either at the page- or site-level.

In the last 24 hours:

  • 1 page-level review request was received. You’ll be notified when the review is completed.
  • 1 page was reviewed at your request and found to be non-compliant with our policies at the time of the review. Ad serving continues to be restricted or disabled on this page.

Further details on enforcements can be found in the AdSense Help Center. To learn more about our program policies, please view the AdSense Program Policies.

Kind regards,
Google Publisher Policy

And my punishment is… that no Google ads will appear on a seven-year-old post. Fine…

What’s the most deserted mall in South Carolina?

space

The other day I mentioned walking at Dutch Square mall, a place that would hardly be standing any more if not for the movie theater and Burlington Coat Factory.

I can remember when it was new, that one semester I was a student at USC, in the fall of 1971. I never actually visited it then — neither I nor any of my friends had a car (now try to imagine that, boys and girls), so what little shopping I did was limited to Five Points and the Main Street area — but I heard reports that it was really something. And when we moved home to South Carolina in 1987, it was still going strong.

Today, not so much. There’s the two businesses mentioned above, some athletic shoe stores, a fitness emporium, some clothing stores with such names as “Urban Fashion,” a nail salon and some places that deal in gold. And a lot of dead space between some of them.

But it’s hardly alone in that regard. A couple of nights later, we decided to take a walk around Richland Mall, after my wife exchanged something at Belk. Wow. First, some of the mall seems to be inaccessible, at least from the end where we were walking — the occupied part that includes Belk, Barnes & Noble, a LensCrafters and a barber shop. There didn’t seem to be a way to get to the part on the other side of Belk, at least from inside. After a couple of circuits around the part we could get to, we quit walking. It was depressing.

My wife raised a question that hadn’t occurred to me: How do they afford to keep the lights on, and climate control operating? I don’t know. That bill has to be huge, even with parts of the mall closed off.

But for sheer emptiness, I’m not sure even Richland can compete with Inlet Square Mall in Murrells Inlet. That was a fairly hopping place just a few years ago, and now it’s like something that’s begging to be used as a movie set. You ever see Logan’s Run, about an entirely underground society? They could have shot that in Inlet Square, probably with room to spare.

The tipping point for that mall was, near as I can tell, the closing of the K-Mart that anchored one end, followed by the disappearance of Steinmart. The amazing thing is that this mall still has a Belk, and yet seems much more deserted than Dutch Square.

This is our brave new world, with Amazon taking the place of all these public spaces. (I wonder — if I asked Alexa the way to a mall, would she know? Would she tell me?) Over the course of December I made a couple of trips to Columbiana. It’s still thriving — that is to say, it’s still active and busy. But I sense a certain fraying around the edges. Filling the former Sears with the men’s department of Belk was a master stroke of hiding the damage, but how long will it be before this place is largely deserted, too?

Yeah, I know one form of economic activity is being replaced by another that’s just brimming with vitality, but there is something about these deserted spaces that were once so filled with life that gives the impression of a dead or dying civilization. It’s like the Roman Forum after the Visigoths were done with it, or the Acropolis, or some Mayan city overtaken by the jungle. All that infrastructure, so recently vibrant and glittering, left to crumble.

Can anyone think of any other mall in South Carolina that is more deserted than the above, yet still standing and open to the public? If so, I might like to try walking there of a cold evening…

Duke Twitter flap: But was it ‘racial’?

blur

I’m musing over terminology after reading about the sportswriter who got himself into hot water at a Duke roundball game on Dec. 2.

Here’s what happened, as I understand it:

  • College Insider reporter John Stansberry made some cracks on Twitter about some students who were right behind him at the game.
  • One of the students took offense, I’m assuming because of his reference to her and her friends as “Asian chicks.” But the student’s explanation of her anger on Facebook wasn’t specific. It may have been the Cheap Trick thing.
  • Duke revoked his credentials for the rest of the season.
  • He became an Unperson. His Twitter account is gone, and apparently College Insider (or someone) has erased traces of his existence. (I base this on the fact that, if I Google “John Stansberry College Insider,” I get a bunch of links that say, “CollegeInsider.com: John Stansberry’s College Basketball Notebook.” But I get a “Not Found” error if I click on them. Down the memory hole, I guess. Like Garrison Keillor.)

All of which seems fairly straightforward in a day when we’re used to people being more or less disappeared for stepping over lines.

But I’m confused by news stories that refer to the incident as “racial” or “racist.”

“Racial” maybe, in the sense that a reference to race was made. But that doesn’t seem to be a primary concern of the young woman who complained. She made a passing reference to herself as a member of the set “Asian women,” but didn’t indicate that that was what bothered her about what the wiseguy did. She seemed mostly bothered about being discussed before the world when all she was doing was watching a basketball game.

But “racist?” I ask because the college paper mentioned this among several instances in a story headlined “‘We were just kind of shocked’: Asian American students report racist comments in recent weeks.”

Yeah, the “Cheap Trick” seems to be kind of snide, presumably a reference to this. But racist? And if this guy is actually part Asian, as the reference to “my Korean mother” would indicate, can it be racist? I don’t know.

I don’t know. The whole thing kind of hovers on the edge of a number of hot-button issues that are in vogue — privacy in a social media age, safe spaces in academia, sexism, racism(?), and so forth — that I thought I’d offer it for discussion.

I do know one thing: If he’d been doing his phony-baloney job and paying attention to the game, we wouldn’t have all of this. But that’s the editor in me….

And I didn’t mean to go on about it this long. But whenever I can come up with anything even vaguely sports-related for you, my dear readers, I try to oblige…

CheapTrick_Live_atBudokan

Finally looked at the Nancy Mace video. Wish I hadn’t…

Nancy Mace, in a photo from her campaign website.

Nancy Mace, in a photo from her campaign website.

Somebody brought this to my attention on Twitter last week. Seeing it was video, I didn’t click on it (I frequently check Twitter in places where that would be annoying to other people), and soon forgot about it.

That is, I forgot about it until Nancy Mace, as expected, won her runoff last night for the GOP nomination for Jim Merrill’s old House seat, District 99. Suddenly more people were mentioning the video.

So I went and found it.

First, for those who need reminding, Nancy is known for three things, mostly for the first:

  1. She was the first female cadet to graduate from The Citadel, back in 1999.
  2. She was Will Folks’ partner for a time in the FITSNews blog. Will handled the content, she dealt with the technical side. (At one point I met with her to ask how they worked that out, looking for ideas for turning this blog more into a business. I tried setting up something similar, but it didn’t work out.) Here’s Will’s coverage of her win last night.
  3. She was one of the crowd of folks who ran against Lindsey Graham in the primary last time around.

Now, conventional wisdom would have it that she’s positioned to cruise into the House. Because, you know, it’s a GOP seat, and they don’t draw them for Democrats to win.

There are only a couple of factors that might stand in the way of that. First, Democrats seem pretty enthusiastic about their candidate, Cindy Boatwright. Second, there’s that video, which has been mentioned quite a few times on social media since last night.

So I went back and looked at it. The first person you see is Nancy Mace:

Perhaps not wishing to share the part about “that’s not her husband… or a man,” a number of Democrats have Tweeted about it separately, especially in recent hours, now that they know whom they’re facing.

Here’s Cindy Boatwright’s statement:

I hope they can get to the point of discussing factors other than this between now and election day Jan. 16. But whether they do or not, this is likely to get interesting…

boatwright twitter

ETV needs to think really hard about its demographics

Bob_Hope,_Bing_Crosby_and_Dorothy_Lamour_in_Road_to_Bali

I’ve read that public broadcasting is in trouble because its audience is aging. (OK, what I read was about NPR, but can’t the same be said about PBS?)

But you’d think they’d want to do something about that, instead of rolling with it to this extent.

Tonight, ETV is offering a deal to donors: Give at a certain basic level, and you get a CD of a documentary about… wait for it… Bob Hope! (Here’s who that was, kids.)

Then, if you give a little more, you get… CDs of all the “Road” pictures with Bing Crosby!

And if you give more, you get more Bob Hope stuff!

How shall I put this? I’m 64 years old — well into my dotage, as the Beatles (I’ll explain later who they were) once reckoned it — and Bob Hope was popular way, way, WAY before my time. I mean, my mother was only 9 years old when the first “Road” picture came out, so I’m thinking it was aimed more at her parents.

When I was young, only Lawrence Welk was more identified with the blue-haired set.

So, what’s the deal here? Why is this the pitch? I’m genuinely puzzled…

I shot this during one of the promotions. I shot it off the old cathode-ray tube upstairs instead of the HD model, because it seemed appropriate.

I shot this during one of the promotions. I shot it off the old cathode-ray tube upstairs instead of the HD model, because it seemed appropriate. A narrator said Hope and Crosby sort of invented the “breaking the fourth wall” thing, so they were cutting-edge. In 1940…

Hey, look! A male model I can identify with…

model male

A lot of women have celebrated the arrival on the modern scene of plus-size models. But Madison Avenue has not bothered to come up with male models who look like normal, ruggedly handsome guys like me — until now.

I saw the above ad on the New York Times website this morning. Don’t you think the guy on the right is a dead ringer — either for me or David Letterman?

Of course, I don’t have the beard at the moment, but maybe it’s time it made a reappearance.

I feel so… validated….

bearded one

 

Tip O’Neill would not know this world we live in

Marsha Blackburn saying she's politically incorrect and PROUD OF IT. Yee-haw...

Marsha Blackburn saying she’s politically incorrect and PROUD OF IT. Yee-haw…

Almost from the moment Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local,” the statement has been less and less true.

Now, we can confidently say the opposite: No matter how local a race should be, it’s all about the national. Rather than deciding on local issues, such as who is more likely to get the potholes filled on Main Street, all we hear about is the idiotic talking points of left and right from within the Beltway.

A couple of months back, I got on a list. I’m not sure how, but I did. And I know I did because I started getting a new sort of email — appeals for funding to help poor Joe Arpaio, to elect Judge Roy Moore, to poke the GOP Establishment in the eye, to elect this or that person representing the Bizarro wing of the Republican Party, the atavistic fringe that gave us Trump.

It’s been like seeing a portal suddenly open to an alternative universe where the most unlikely of propositions are treated as truth, and everybody’s got a big chip on the shoulder about it.

I’m not sure who is the link between them all. Occasionally there’s a “personal” note from Ed Rollins, and maybe he’s somehow connected to the others; I don’t know. But there’s definitely a sameness to the messages and rhetoric.

Here’s a typical one that came in today:

Friend,

Have you heard? I announced that I’m running for the U.S. Senate and I’m asking for the support of strong conservatives like you.

The Senate is totally dysfunctional. And I’ve decided to do something about it. Too many Senate Republicans act like Democrats. Or worse. And that’s what needs to change. Will you chip in $25 to help send me to the Senate to make the Republican majority act like one?

I’m a hard core, card carrying Tennessee conservative. I’m politically incorrect, and proud of it.

Become a founding member of the conservative revolution, DONATE $25, $50, $100 or whatever you can afford TODAY!

The left is balking at my candidacy because they know I’m the strong ally President Trump needs in the Senate to pass a true, conservative agenda and deliver on our promises to the American people.

My campaign will be a conservative movement fueled by grassroots supporters like you. The Washington establishment is already mobilizing against me.

The next 48 hours will be critical.  We need a strong show of support from conservatives like you. Will you step up and donate today? Every bit helps and no donation is too small!

Help me stand for millions of honest Americans who work hard and play by the rules. Too much is at stake. America needs a conservative revolution. Send a fighter to shake up the Senate and finally repeal Obamacare!

Thanks for your support.
Marsha

Until I got to the third paragraph in the main text of the message, I had begun to despair of ever learning which state this Ms. Blackburn wished to represent in the Senate. And even that was just implication; she didn’t actually say she would be representing Tennessee. (By the way, when I covered Tennessee politics back in the ’70s and ’80s, Tennessee “conservatives” didn’t carry cards to indication their inclinations. Must be something new.)

Maybe she’s downplaying that because she isn’t planning to represent Tennessee other than technically. Obviously, she seeks to represent instead the adherents of an extremist national movement — an artificial, virtual community that could not have existed before the Web.

To someone thus oriented, geography is incidental. It’s about the… I almost hesitate to call it “ideology,” because that suggests there are ideas involved, which implies thought. This woman’s campaign video is rather a litany of gut impulses and anti-intellectual cliches.

This person isn’t sending me this email because once upon a time (more than 30 years ago) I lived in Tennessee. I’ve never lived in Alabama, and I’m still digging myself out from under Roy Moore emails. And it’s certainly not because of anything I’ve ever done, and absolutely not about anything I’ve ever thought. My concept of an ideal senator from Tennessee is Lamar Alexander, who lies at the absolute opposite end of the Republican spectrum.

No, I’m getting this email because, for some inexplicable reason, I got on a list.

And, the current ideology aside, this offends me as a federalist. As y’all know, I often assert that people who live in other states should elect whomever they want to Congress, and it’s none of my business. I’m been thinking this way since back when South Carolinians used to gripe about Ted Kennedy, and folks in his state griped about Strom Thurmond. My attitude was, if South Carolinians wanted to keep electing Strom until the Judgment Day, that was none of the business of people in Massachusetts. And it was none of our business if Massachusetts wanted to keep voting for Teddy.

(Mind you, I would have liked to have had a viable alternative to Strom — the last such opponent may have been my distant cousin Bradley Morrah, and he wasn’t all that viable — but that was our concern here in South Carolina, and outsiders could butt out.)

This, by the way, is one of reasons I oppose term limits. I think a lot of the support for term limits comes from people who are offended by some of folks other people elect. But other people have the right to vote for whomever they choose.

But I’m digressing now…

For most of the last few decades, this unhealthy interest folks have taken in whom other people elect has taken the form of conventional partisan obsessions. People who care passionately which party controls Congress therefore feel they have a stake in other peoples’ congressional races. Now, this same phenomenon has a new, more virulent, form — it’s become about extreme political subcultures, rather than big-tent parties.

And I’m telling you, folks, it’s not good for the republic…

‘Fake news’ proliferates (even — gasp! — here on this blog!)

Douglas

There’s “fake news,” and then there’s fake news. I’ve seen a number of widely different varieties in recent days.

First, a digression: I’ve always had mixed feelings about the value of competition.

Yeah, I suppose it keeps you on your toes, makes you try harder and reach new heights, etc. But in the news business, I’ve always worried about it, because the pressure to get it first can cause you to go with something too soon, and get it wrong.

I worried about that even back when there were only two news cycles in each day — a.m. and p.m. You had all those hours to work on something and get it right before you had to go to press, or, in case of broadcast, go on the air. But knowing that if you didn’t go with it today you had to wait another 24 hours created its own kind of pressure to go with what you had.

The best way to avoid letting that pressure get you into trouble was the old nostrum, “When in doubt, leave it out.” Better to leave a hole in a story, an unanswered question, than give an answer you weren’t completely sure about.

Now, with the Web and social media, there is no “cycle.” Deadline is always right now, and if you delay a minute, you take the risk of getting beat by 59 seconds.

And that produces screw-ups like CBS reporting that Tom Petty was dead early on Monday afternoon, when he didn’t actually die until 8:30 that evening — and it wasn’t officially released until midnight.

(This was particularly problematic for old media that still follow cycles. The State had a piece in Tuesday morning’s paper all about how CBS had messed up by reporting that Petty was dead when he wasn’t — and not a word about the fact that Petty actually was dead. That’s because his death was announced after press time, but hours before readers would have the chance to read the story. Very confusing.)

As “fake news” goes, that was of the honest-mistake variety. We saw an example of the more malevolent kind within that same 24-hour period. It’s the sort that arises from the modern phenomenon of everybody being a publisher — meaning that there are no rules, and no fussy editors saying “When in doubt, leave it out.” And everyone believes what they want to believe, however unlikely, according to their political prejudices.

I’m talking about the way right-wing trolls eagerly identified an innocent man as the Las Vegas shooter, simply because he was someone who fit a narrative that was appealing to them, and he had apparently been married to a woman with the same name as the actual shooter’s girlfriend:

Geary Danley was not the gunman in Las Vegas who killed at least 50 people late Sunday. But for hours on the far-right Internet, would-be sleuths scoured Danley’s Facebook likes, family photographs and marital history to try to “prove” that he was.

Danley, according to an archived version of a Facebook page bearing that name, might have been married to a Marilou Danley. Police were looking for a woman by that name in the hours after the shooting, but later saidthey did not think she was involved. To name someone as a mass murderer based on that evidence would be irresponsible and dangerous. But that’s exactly what a portion of the far-right Internet did overnight.

The briefest look at the viral threads and tweets falsely naming Geary Danley as the attacker makes it easy to guess why a bunch of right-wing trolls latched on to him: His Facebook profile indicated that he might be a liberal….

But even that, as filled with bad faith and malevolence as it was, seems less deliberate than another kind of shameless spreading of “fake news” that is all around us these days, feeding systematically on reader gullibility.

A couple of weeks back, I was watching TV and my wife was in the room looking at her iPad when she told me that The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, was killed doing a stunt on a movie set. (I’m thinking she saw this on a Facebook ad.) I said something like “Wow, I wonder why they let him do something so dangerous.” Then I made an observation about Vic Morrow and the way he died, and forgot about it.

Then, at some point the next day, it occurred to me that I’d seen nothing about the star’s death in any of the papers I had read on my iPad that morning. So I went looking, and saw that it was a hoax.

Then, this week, the same hoax started showing up in the Google Ads right here on my own blog. Click here for the screenshot.

Oh, and have you read about the passing of Michael Douglas? I have, many times. To make the weirdness even richer, when I looked up “Michael Douglas death hoax,” I found a site that fed me… you guessed it… an ad with the misspelled news of “The Rock’s” alleged death (see above).

By the way, you want to be careful Googling Michael Douglas — you might get true stories that tell you way more than you want to know.

Where does this leave us? In a situation in which we could use some old-school, skeptical editors standing between you and the lies. But that’s not going to happen. The technology exists, and it can’t be put back in the tube. Anybody can instantly publish anything for the whole planet to see, without any professional standards being involved whatsoever.

So what we need is more intelligent, skeptical readers. But let’s not hold our breath for that new species to evolve. As last year’s election showed us, and every day since confirms, there are a thousand suckers born every minute…

By the time I read this story in The State telling me reports of Petty's death were false, he was actually dead.

By the time I read this story in The State telling me the report of Petty’s death was erroneous, he was actually dead.

 

Random images I shot and sort of like…

I Tweeted this out with the words, "Warm light of the setting sun falls on the heart of downtown Columbia -- seen from @CapCityClubCola."

I Tweeted this out with the words, “Warm light of the setting sun falls on the heart of downtown Columbia — seen from @CapCityClubCola.”

First, I’m not claiming these images I shot yesterday are great. I did not set out to take great images. I did not set out to shoot any images. It’s just that, when you have an iPhone, you shoot things like these as you go along. I do, anyway.

I took this still life on the bar at the Cap City Club, a moment before the shot above.

I took this still life on the bar at the Cap City Club, a moment before the shot above.

I’d like them better if they were of higher resolution. I wish I could have shot them with a high-end SLR, a digital version of the Nikon 8008s that sits in a drawer in my bedroom, and has for years, because it uses film. But I don’t have one of those.

But that doesn’t bother me much, because you don’t get trivial, serendipitous photos if you wait until you’re lugging a camera around. A virtue of this (relatively) new world of photography is that you’re always ready to shoot, limited only by the length of time it takes to whip out your phone (not long for me, since I’m one of those geeks who keeps it in a holster on his belt).

Anyway, they’re not much, but I thought I’d share…

This was a disappointment. The sight of workers backed by the big, blue sky was way better IRL.

This was a disappointment. The sight of workers backed by the big, blue sky was way more striking IRL.

Pharma Bro’s going to jail, but we can’t lock them all up, can we?

Pharma Bro

What a weird world we are living in.

You probably saw this last night:

NEW YORK — A federal judge on Wednesday revoked the $5 million bail of Martin Shkreli, the infamous former hedge fund manager convicted of defrauding investors, after prosecutors complained that his out-of-court antics posed a danger to the community.

While awaiting sentencing, Shkreli has harassed women online, prosecutors argued, and even offered his Facebook followers $5,000 to grab a strand of Hillary Clinton’s hair during her book tour. Shkreli, who faces up to 20 years in prison for securities fraud, apologized in writing, saying that he did not expect anyone to take his online comments seriously, and his attorneys pleaded with the judge Wednesday to give him another chance.

“The fact that he continues to remain unaware of the inappropriateness of his actions or words demonstrates to me that he may be creating ongoing risk to the community,” said U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto, in revoking his bond.

“This is a solicitation of assault. That is not protected by the First Amendment.”…

And… I think the judge is right, as weird as it is to think of saying “pull Hillary Clinton’s hair” being on a par with yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. (If he’d just said, “I’d like to pull her hair,” that would be one thing. But offering to pay people to do it?)

But everything about this situation is weird. And weird in ways that are fairly unique to the times in which we live.

The strangeness starts with Shkreli himself. His own attorneys defended him with the argument that Hey, he’s a weird guy. He can’t help it. He’s always been this way.

But in the past, did people described as being as “strange” as “Rain Man” rise to make millions in business? Yeah, maybe they did — but their weirdness was easier to hide.

What has changed is the shape and consistency of the public sphere. In the past, a guy like Shkreli might spout nonsense like “Bring me a hair from Hillary Clinton’s head!” from a barstool — until the bartender cut him off — but no one would hear him past the end of the bar.

Now, there’s social media, and any idiot with the ability to create a username and password — not a high bar — can immediately have a reach that mass media outlets in the past would have envied, instantly sharing his ravings with the entire planet without having to pay a dime to do so. And this virtual social sphere, not having had thousands of years to develop customs and standards, is a verbal Wild West.

Outside this blog and other mediated spaces, there are no rules. Of course, some people — being civilized souls — will restrain themselves. Civilization is not entirely dead. But millions of others will not, and will revel in the lack of constraints.

And while Shkreli is an unusual, extreme case, this lack of constraint is particularly common among certain demographic subsets. Forgive me for stereotyping, but I’m mostly picturing disaffected young men, who care nothing for civility toward society as a whole but will go to any extremes to draw the attention — and possible approval, even admiration — of others like themselves.

Whether you’re talking Pharma Bros or Bernie Bros or Neofascist Bros or simply fraternity bros, we are unfortunate enough to live in a time when it’s harder to simply ignore them and wait for them to outgrow it. And of course, the “bro” period lasts much longer than it once did, far beyond the age when they would have done a hitch in the Army and/or gotten married and had kids of their own and otherwise taken on responsibility in the past.

And we can’t just throw them all in jail, can we?

Can I watch ‘Game of Thrones’ for free? (And should I?)

OK, I've heard that Winter has finally, FINALLY come. Beyond that, no spoilers, please.

OK, I’ve heard that Winter has finally, FINALLY come. Beyond that, no spoilers, please.

Stop pointing at me! That was my anguished cry when I saw this headline this morning:

Meet the sometime-streamer: TV watchers who sign up for one show — then cancel

Well… yeah. Why on Earth would I keep paying 15 bucks a month for HBO NOW once I’ve watched the latest season of “Game of Thrones?” What else of value does it offer? “WestWorld?” Gimme a break. If I see one of those “hosts” run through the same loop one more time, I’m going to have a serious programming malfunction.

The only other thing HBO NOW is good for is watching excellent past series, such as “The Sopranos,” “Band of Brothers,” “Boardwalk Empire” and such. And I get all of those at no additional cost for subscribing to Amazon Prime.

I’ve waited for the “GoT” season to end — which it just did — so I can sign up for a month, zip through the new episodes during my morning workouts on the elliptical, and cancel. And why would I do anything else?

The only question is whether HBO will extend to me the first-month-free introductory offer, since I’m a past subscriber. Well, not the only question. There’s also the ethical one of whether it would be OK to watch the latest “GoT” season for free, then cancel (if they even let me do that). I’m thinking I wouldn’t feel too terrible about it, since I’m very mindful of the two years or so that I paid $15 a month in exchange for practically nothing, before it hit me that I should cancel when not watching “Game of Thrones.”

On the whole, I feel like I’ve been bled fairly dry over the years by television and on the overall scales of justice, they kind of owe me. Of course,  that’s mostly the doing of the cable companies, not HBO. And, well, I think the HBO NOW model is a vast improvement over the old bundling ripoff. So maybe, in the name of rewarding something of which I approve, I should at least pay out $14.99 to watch a season of a show I want to see.

Yeah. Probably.

I’d be interested in your thoughts on this. And your practices. What are your habits in the age of streaming, and what are you willing to pay to support them?

If I want to rewatch "The Sopranos," I've got Amazon Prime.

If I want to rewatch “The Sopranos,” I’ve got Amazon Prime.

In The Atlantic: ‘Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?’

dive into phone

Yeah, I know. That sounds like something you’d hear from Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man: “In my day our phones were dumber’n a stump, and we liked it!”

And since I love my iPhone and its big brother my iPad, I was prepared to be dismissive when Ross Douthat recommended the piece on Twitter: I would reject it, and then I would hide it from my wife, who makes a stubborn virtue of only carrying a flip phone.

But it’s actually pretty interesting. And a bit scary.

It’s by a psychologist who has been studying generational differences for 25 years, and who is a bit freaked out by the latest group she’s been investigating: “iGen,” the group born between 1995 and 2012, is more radically different from its elders than anything she’s seen before:

Typically, the characteristics that come to define a generation appear gradually, and along a continuum. Beliefs and behaviors that were already rising simply continue to do so. Millennials, for instance, are a highly individualistic generation, but individualism had been increasing since the Baby Boomers turned on, tuned in, and dropped out. I had grown accustomed to line graphs of trends that looked like modest hills and valleys. Then I began studying Athena’s generation.

Around 2012, I noticed abrupt shifts in teen behaviors and emotional states. The gentle slopes of the line graphs became steep mountains and sheer cliffs, and many of the distinctive characteristics of the Millennial generation began to disappear. In all my analyses of generational data—some reaching back to the 1930s—I had never seen anything like it.

At first I presumed these might be blips, but the trends persisted, across several years and a series of national surveys. The changes weren’t just in degree, but in kind. The biggest difference between the Millennials and their predecessors was in how they viewed the world; teens today differ from the Millennials not just in their views but in how they spend their time. The experiences they have every day are radically different from those of the generation that came of age just a few years before them….

So what was it that caused this shift in 2012? Well, that was the year “when the proportion of Americans who owned a smartphone surpassed 50 percent.”

How are these kids different? Well, they don’t date or hang out with friends. They don’t drive, and are happy to be taken places — if they go anywhere — by their parents. They don’t drink. They don’t have sex.

So, in some ways, they’re a helicopter parents’ dream. Until you think hard about what they are doing: Lying around in their bedrooms staring at their phones. “I’ve been on my phone more than I’ve been with actual people,” one kid says. “My bed has, like, an imprint of my body.”

Another excerpt:

Some generational changes are positive, some are negative, and many are both. More comfortable in their bedrooms than in a car or at a party, today’s teens are physically safer than teens have ever been. They’re markedly less likely to get into a car accident and, having less of a taste for alcohol than their predecessors, are less susceptible to drinking’s attendant ills.

Psychologically, however, they are more vulnerable than Millennials were: Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.

Even when a seismic event—a war, a technological leap, a free concert in the mud—plays an outsize role in shaping a group of young people, no single factor ever defines a generation. Parenting styles continue to change, as do school curricula and culture, and these things matter. But the twin rise of the smartphone and social media has caused an earthquake of a magnitude we’ve not seen in a very long time, if ever. There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives—and making them seriously unhappy….

Anyway, it’s a long piece, but I recommend you read it.

When I was young, we imagined that future technology — flying cars, starships — would help us dominate the physical universe around us. We didn’t think about it changing our brains, and causing us to turn inward, away from that physical universe.

I see how my own brain has been altered by these devices. I don’t have to remember anything anymore. I don’t have to wonder about anything any more. As quickly as I can say, “I wonder…,” I’m already looking it up. I’ve come to take for granted the fact that I can reach out to anyone and everyone on the planet and express my thoughts, instantaneously. That’s perhaps even more remarkable to me, as someone who did that for a living with older forms, than it is to you. And of course it plays to the kinds of activity that my mind gets off on.

But I’ve known other modes of being. And I shudder a bit to think what it must be like to know no other reality…

Today, all celebrities are more than 50 years old

AARP 1

Harry Harris brought up AARP, which reminded me of something I noticed on the way out the door this morning.

All of a sudden, all truly famous celebrities, all the big names, are over 50.

That hit me when I noticed the latest AARP magazine on our kitchen table, with Steve Martin on the cover. Of course, we all knew Steve Martin was old — he was white-headed when all the world was young.

But the more I’m exposed to this magazine — I never pick it up, but I do notice the covers — the more I’m convinced that everyone famous is now older than 50.

Look at the recent covers above and below.

  • Dustin Hoffman — We boomers think of him as the ultimate exemplar of youthful angst. If he made a move on someone Mrs. Robinson’s age now, she wouldn’t give him a second glance.
  • Bruce Springsteen — OK, I get it: Everyone called “boss” is a white guy over 50, right? Except in this case, he’s more than 60.
  • Michael J. Fox — Yep. This time Marty McFly has traveled way, WAY into the future.
  • Diane Keaton — OK, we saw this happening over the years. What can be said about it? That’s life. La-dee-dah, la-dee-dah
  • Kevin Spacey — Again, not surprising.
  • Dennis Quaid — I remember when “The Big Easy” came out, and a review called him something like “our best breezy young actor.” I’ll always picture him with that crewcut, playing the brash young Gordon Cooper in “The Right Stuff.”
  • Brad Pitt — OK, I’m not sure this was actually a cover. I think this was something AARP does when they’re calling out a celebrity for crossing the line. Anyway, I read something recently about him and other big-name actors not getting the great roles any more, as Hollywood turns away from big names and relies on interchangeable young actors named “Chris.” I’d link to the story, but I can’t find it now.
  • Kevin Costner — Remember the goofy, gawky gunslinger in “Silverado?” Now he might have to turn to playing the crotchety, grizzled prospector, à la Gabby Hayes.
  • Ron Howard — Opie! I see Opie on those reruns now and I think of my grandson — not someone old enough to be a grandfather himself.
  • Denzel Washington — We’ve watched him get gray, but did you know he’s 62?
  • Cyndi Lauper — Now you know why she keeps dyeing her hair those crazy colors. It’s not just to have fun.
  • Sharon Stone — Which, of course, is why you don’t hear about her any more.

Sure, there are some recognizable celebrities who are under 50. There’s um, Taylor Swift! And that little Bruno Mars guy. And maybe one or two others. Dave Matthews? Nope — he’s 50. All those superhero actors named “Chris” don’t count, by the way. A celebrity needs to stand out distinctively.

When I was young, not even the OLD stars my parents liked were over 50. Take 1965, which I have written about in the past as the most fevered time American popular culture (it was for me because I had just returned from years in South America without TV, and soaking up pop culture was like overdosing on a powerful drug — but I don’t think it was just me).

Dean Martin was 48. Frank Sinatra didn’t turn 50 until the end of that year, and he seemed ancient! Kirk Douglas, father of the now 72-year-old Michael, was only 49. James Garner, who was born looking like somebody’s dad, was 37. Nat King Cole, who died that year and whose daughter now graces the cover of AARP, was only 45.

While all the celebs we kids were interested in were in their 20s, if not teens.

Anyway, that’s the way I remember it. Your mileage may, you know…

AARP 2

About that question: Can words kill people?

girl

I generally stay away from “people being beastly on the internet” stories because I’m just too busy with politics, policy and pop culture.

But this past week there were two horror stories that totally boggled what little mind I allowed to get distracted by them. Ironically, we had just had a discussion about cruel and unusual punishment when a prime candidate for such treatment was in the news: The monster who dangled his baby out a 15th-story window in a bid for Facebook “likes.” (Note that my link is to the Daily Mail, which seems the perfect setting for such a story.) You know how FB recently added those alternatives to “like”? For this guy, they need to add an “If I ever meet you in person, I’m breaking both of your arms so you can’t do that again” button.

Then there was the case Kathleen Parker wrote about under the headline, “Can words kill people?” It’s about “Michelle Carter’s conviction last week on involuntary-manslaughter charges in the 2014 suicide of her 18-year-old boyfriend, Conrad Roy III.” Excerpt:

At the time of the suicide, Carter was a 17-year-old whose boyfriend spoke frequently of taking his own life. He finally did by filling his parked truck with carbon monoxide. Mind you, Carter was nowhere near. She had no physical hand in the death, although she did text and call Roy, urging him to go ahead and do it. When he had second thoughts and got out of his vehicle, she instructed him to get back in.

Manslaughter? Evil? Or just dumb?

If Carter’s words were Roy’s death sentence, then his death was hers, if not literally, then, indeed, virtually. For her clearly tangential role, which one could as easily interpret as drama-queen excess, Carter faces up to 20 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 3.

It is easy to feel outrage at what transpired. Prosecutors introduced hundreds of text messages between Roy and Carter in which she encouraged him to end his life and sometimes taunted him for his lack of courage. In one, she wrote: “You’re ready and prepared. All you have to do is turn the generator on and you will be free and happy. No more pushing it off. No more waiting.”

This alone is enough to make one dislike or even despise Carter. But is it enough to blame Carter for Roy’s death?…

Kathleen concluded that no, it isn’t. I was unsatisfied with that conclusion.

The columnist asks, “Manslaughter? Evil? Or just dumb?” The best of the three would seem to be evil. You read the words she wrote to this boy on the edge, and your blood runs cold. Mine does, anyway.

In terms of how to approach such a thing in the criminal justice system, manslaughter seems inaccurate. And I’m not sure how the law works on aiding and abetting. What should be the charge for being a cheerleader at a boy’s death?

There is evidently something essential missing in this girl, and at the very least it seems she should be confined somewhere until experts can figure out what it is, and whether it’s possible to fill that void.

Because anyone who will do what she did — repeatedly, insistently, matter-of-factly — is dangerous….

Raging hormones. Or something…

This kind of cracked me up, and I can’t say exactly why…

If you’re a blogger, you frequently get emails such as this one from folks promoting their own content:

Hi Brad,

My name is Zoey Miller, and I am the Editor-in-Chief at The Babble Out (http://www.thebabbleout.com/). We recently released a comprehensive blog post about testosterone. Since we published it on our site, we have received over 400 social shares on this article.
While browsing your site, I noticed that you linked to a piece from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testosterone on the same topic from this page: http://www.bradwarthen.com/category/transportation/ .I believe our piece is more practical and more comprehensible to ordinary people, and I think it would be an excellent addition to your page.

If you are willing to add our link to that page, I would be happy to share it with the tens of thousands of people who follow us via social media, in order to help you gain some visibility.Here is the link for your review:

https://www.thebabbleout.com/health/testosterone/

Please let me know what you think. Thank you for your consideration!

Cheers,

Zoey Miller

Cheers back atcha, Zoey.

These messages tend to assume that I’m way more interested than I am in the subject that I touched on one time a month, or a year, or 10 years ago. Nevertheless, I sometimes click on the link to see what’s being offered, and I did so this time.

And I couldn’t get past the photo used to illustrate the concept of “testosterone:”

testosterone

Oh, my! Protect me from the scary man, Mama!

Perhaps that’s how I’m supposed to react to this… what shall I call him… raging savage hipster? But it cracked me up. I couldn’t help thinking of the “If Millennials Were Lumberjacks” video I shared recently.

I think he’s going for what The Band was singing about in “Jemima Surrender:”

Jemima Surrender, I’m gonna give it to you,
Ain’t no pretender, gonna ride in my canoe
If I were a barker in a girly show,
Tell ya what I’d do, I’d lock the door, tear my shirt and let my river flow…

But it just doesn’t quite come across that way…

Too many microbrews are just TOO MUCH

beers-1283566_960_720

On the whole, I like the idea of microbrew beer. Anything that helps America break the hegemony of Bud Light seems to me a good thing in general.

But I have a complaint. Something crystallized for me last night. I was at an event at which several microbreweries were sharing their wares. And I started thinking a thought that had not fully formed for me before…

Whatever they call their specialized brews, and however they describe their qualities, these uberserious brewers tend to have one thing in common: The taste is just TOO MUCH. There’s a complete lack of nuance, subtlety or restraint.

They’re all so concerned with differentiating themselves from the popular American mass-produced beers, so worried about not being tasteless dishwater, that they go overboard with the flavoring. Too much hops. Too much maltiness. Too much everything. It’s as though a cook dumped every spice in his cabinet into a stew to keep it from being bland, and the result was disastrous.

The taste tends to stick with you the rest of the evening, whatever else you eat or drink.

I tasted a stout last night, grimaced and told the guy from the microbrewery that it tasted like an IPA. And by that I meant an American IPA, which is to say something overpowering. An India Pale Ale, properly understood, should be <em>refreshing</em>, like the Fuller’s Bengal Lancer IPA I had in England, inspired by the ales formulated in the 19th century specifically to refresh the troops in India. And it got the job done, going by my experience with it.

Last night, I tried a porter from the same brewery, and it tasted like the stout, which as I said tasted like an American IPA — a truckload of hops dumped in with other overbearing flavors. I put the small glass down as soon as I had walked out of sight.

Occasionally I really like something from a microbrewery, such as an ESB I had not long ago at Hunter-Gatherer. But too often they’re trying too hard to impress, and it’s just too much

Can anyone tell what Google’s problem with me is?

download

I got this email four days ago, but didn’t see it until today. The headline was, “Google AdSense: Action required to comply with AdSense program policies.”

OK, so I opened it, intending to deal with whatever the problem might be.

Trouble is, based on this, I have no idea what the problem is:

Hello,

This is a warning message to alert you that there is action required to bring your AdSense account into compliance with our AdSense program policies. We’ve provided additional details below, along with the actions to be taken on your part.

Affected website: bradwarthen.com

Example page where violation occurred: http://www.bradwarthen.com/category/sex/

Action required: Please make changes immediately to your site to follow AdSense program policies.

Current account status: Active

Violation explanation

As stated in our program policies, sites displaying Google ads should provide substantial and useful information to the user. Users should be able to easily navigate through the site to find what products, goods, or services are promised. Examples of misguided navigation include, but are not limited to:

  • False claims of downloadable or streaming content
  • Linking to content that does not exist
  • Redirecting users to irrelevant and/or misleading webpages
  • Text on a page unrelated to the topic and/or business model of the website.

For more information, please review Google’s Webmaster quality guidelines and the AdSense program policies.

How to resolve:

  • If you received a notification in regard to page content, we request that you immediately remove Google ads from the violating pages. If you are unable to, or unsure of how to remove the ads from these pages, or would like to continue monetizing the page with Google ads, please modify or remove the violating content to meet our AdSense policies.
  • If you received a notification in regards to the way ads are implemented on your site, please make the necessary changes to your implementation.

You do not need to contact us if you make changes. Please be aware that if additional violations are accrued, ad serving may be disabled to the website listed above. You should immediately take time to review your pages with Google ads to ensure that they comply with our policies.

Additionally, please be aware that the URL above is just an example and that the same violations may exist on other pages of this website or other sites that you own. To reduce the likelihood of future warnings from us, we suggest that you review all your sites for compliance. Here are some useful resources you might be interested in.

For more information regarding our policy warning notifications, visit our Help Center.

We thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Sincerely,

The Google AdSense Team

Of course, of course, of COURSE it’s from a “noreply” address, so I can’t ask questions.

And of course, when you click on the Help Center link, you get more words, and links to other words, none of which start out, “Our problem with your post is…”

They did allow me to vent a bit. When I clicked the “no” button at the bottom asking whether the article was helpful, I got a box to type in, under the invitation, “How can we improve it?” I wrote:

You can give me someone to talk to. The warning I received was completely unintelligible. I cannot begin to intuit what the problem is. If you have a problem with something on my blog, come out and tell me exactly what the problem is. From what you sent, I don’t have a clue….

But maybe I’m being obtuse. Can y’all see what it is, and tell me how to fix it?

The only thing I see on that post that might conceivably be troubling would be a copyright issue. But I’m pretty sure that my use of the photo from “Breaking Bad” and the Jimmy Carter one from Playboy, I’m in Fair Use territory. And I don’t think that’s what they’re talking about.

So what do you think it is?

If Millennials Were Lumberjacks (take THAT, Bruce Gibney)

Bruce_GibneyThere’s this obnoxious kid named Bruce Gibney — I haven’t found his age anywhere, but there’s a picture of him at right, so I think you’ll see my characterization is pretty much spot-on, especially the “obnoxious” part — who has written this book (and good for him! what a big-boy thing to do!) that just really rips into my generation.

It’s called A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America. He goes on and on about it apparently, else it would not be a book.

My wife says she heard him being interviewed on the radio, and was struck by how much he seems to really, really hate us.

Oh, yeah? Well, take a look at this, ya little punk. Here’s what we think of you…