Happy Trees with Deadpool?

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Fans of Deadpool have been waiting for teasers and trailers from the upcoming sequel, but they probably weren’t expecting this:

So, millions of people will never think of Bob Ross the same way again!

Does this mean that the sequel is going to be over-the-top? Maybe…

Of course, some people are interested in the words about the upcoming film. (Yes, some people actually are reading the plot synopsis!)

Then there are the rumors, because we must have those – especially about potential character introductions.

And then the talk about how some characters might be changing…

But, let’s be honest. While this teaser is great, it’s still just that – a tease! We want more, right?

Let’s just take a deep breath, commune with those happy trees, and whack off while we wait, shall we?

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Happy Trees with Deadpool?

Media and Participation Trophies

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Over the past few days, there has been a pile of righteously indignant (and ridiculing) posts on social media about the fact that GQ decided to make Colin Kaepernick their “Citizen of the Year.” While the general sentiments of people are probably understandable, one thing doesn’t seem to be coming up often:

What exactly is the GQ Citizen of the Year Award?

A quick search on Google for “GQ Citizen of the Year 2016” yields the following:

No, you’re not missing something, and no Google isn’t simply flooded with this year’s recipient. There wasn’t a “Citizen of the Year” named by GQ last year. It’s a new invention this year, and only time will tell whether or not it will be repeated.

So, for anyone who was thinking that this was some kind of important honor, it’s most likely that the editors of GQ were looking for a way to elevate Kaepernick in the eyes of the public by calling him “Citizen of the Year” – basically, a magazine version of a participation trophy. It’s possible that they will name someone next year, and the year after that, but no matter what it’s going to take years for this “honor” to hold any real value – if it ever does.

Frankly, these things are becoming a marketing tool for print magazines that are trying to occasionally boost their hard copy sales throughout the year. Time magazine has been devaluing the honor of being named “Person of the Year” by repeatedly choosing either groups of people or highly controversial individuals. It is becoming obvious that the only real reasons the magazine editors are giving out awards are about selling magazines. It’s certainly not about any real accomplishments of the winners. In the case of Kaepernick, it’s probably best to say that he’s becoming the political activism version of the Kardashians. If people are brutally honest with themselves, they can’t truthfully point out where the noble cause really is for him, since his activism is swimming neck deep in self-interest. Kaepernick would just be yet another pro-athlete who ceased to be valuable to pro-teams because of under-performing on the field. No one would be talking about him if he hadn’t turned what probably was a session of sulking on the sideline into a political statement. That’s even a stretch, since the “movement” he started still hasn’t clearly stated what it is protesting or more importantly, what concrete changes it wants to see in society. It is an amorphous feeling that attaches itself to various headlines along the way, pushing indignation and disrespect without a substantial purpose that could promote real change.

As for GQ, we have about a year to wait and see if this was just a one-off stunt for sales, or if they’re really going to try to offer a quasi-real award for citizenship each year. No matter what, don’t expect much. These awards still aren’t about anything except the bottom line for media companies that are desperately trying to sell more glossy print.

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Media and Participation Trophies

Trump, Clumsy Handshakes, and Media Illiteracy

Thanks to a less than graceful handshake during the Association Southeast Asian Nations summit in Manila, the media decided to lose their collective minds over Trump. Of course, this has played out predictably – ostensibly left-wing media calling the president an oaf, and right-wing social media getting upset – or something. First, let’s take a look at the video that started it all:

While it is true that Trump really did have trouble with the social situation, it could have been worse. He could have just stood there like Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev did, without even attempting to do the handshake properly. If nothing else, maybe Trump will have a chat with his tailors about making suits a bit more generous in the shoulders for any future contortionist-inspired diplomatic activities. (Yes, pulling his suit tight probably was the cause of the much-maligned grimace he made – undoubtedly hoping not to hear a ripping sound.)

All in all, this situation should have been barely a blip on the media radar, and thanks to the general rush of headlines on a typical Monday, that is mostly how this went. However, there are people out there with “hurt feelings” over the media poking fun at Trump. Perhaps they have a short memory, and don’t recall the eight years of ridiculing “mom jeans”, demanding birth certificates, and primate references about the First Lady.

Cries against the “mainstream media” aren’t as meaningful as they once were. While the “big three” networks still enjoy a fair amount of popularity, when it comes to news coverage there really is no effective way to determine how many viewers are really engaged in their news content. Remember, local news is delivered by their affiliates, and their national news shows are either right after them or actually mingled with local content. Also, the number of people who say that they get their news primarily from the major networks have been dwindling for years, so many of the programs are swaying into the realm of “infotainment” more than ever.

When it comes to political news, viewers are generally divided on political lines, just like in everything else. The whining about the mainstream media treatment of Trump follows that line, too. This all would theoretically settle itself in the political “wash”, with the public seeking out preferred content, but we have one little problem that is making the media wars a little more heated.

Trump has an exceedingly thin skin for a president.

The media knows this.

It has almost become a sport at this point. Trump loves to throw tantrums over the media – calling some outlets fake because they disagree with him, and threatening to shut down others for “reasons.”

And his base is just encouraging the battle.

So, every time Trump does something awkward or flat out stupid in front of a camera, they capitalize on it.

Wash, rinse, repeat…

The end result is that the president gets to use his own “outrage” to monopolize headlines, and keep the media from examining what he doesn’t want on the spotlight – because they are too busy poking fun at him.

If anyone should be upset with how this is going, Trump’s detractors should be furious that the media is focusing on the trivial minutiae of every social faux pas the president does, instead of staying focused on the business of state.

The bottom line is that the media is an active participant in lowering the bar for American leadership by engaging in this game. Once upon a time, we were worried about Americans suffering from media illiteracy because they are living on a steady diet of “news-light” via social media blurbs. Now, we need to start worrying about the media itself being illiterate.

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Trump, Clumsy Handshakes, and Media Illiteracy

How Much Do You Love iPhone?

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If you’re not measuring that in hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars, maybe you need to think twice about grabbing that iPhone X.

Several weeks ago when I forced myself to watch the product reveal from Apple, I was pretty impressed as I watched the facial recognition and other improvements – in the iPhone 8.

Then they brought out the iPhone X…

Sure, it was neat to think about such a sleek machine, but the two-sided glass design stopped me from thinking very seriously about ever acquiring this phone. The price tag made more than a few people cringe, but that didn’t bother me very much. Google’s latest Pixel is in the same range, and the financing options are far more limited for it than any iPhone.

No, the initial investment in an iPhone X isn’t a deal-breaker, but the $550 average cost for most repairs definitely is especially when anyone sees this:

While I haven’t personally broken an iPhone screen, I’ve paid for replacing them – I have kids. Now that there’s video evidence of just how fragile this phone actually is, I’m afraid to see what will happen to the device insurance rates. Just guessing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up exceeding the 36-month finance payment rate offered on AT&T’s NEXT program for the phone itself.

Sure, I get it that Apple really needed to do something big, but maybe they went a little too far?

Let’s be brutally honest with ourselves here. That beautiful sleek design and all that glass is going to be a challenge for the design engineers at OtterBox, and the really rare thing will be to actually see that phone anywhere without a protective cocoon of plastic and rubber. I’ll wager that the end result may be people going around with phones that are thicker than an iPhone 4 housed in an OtterBox case, because it’s probably going to take much more than just a thin plastic housing to keep the iPhone X even relatively safe from harm.

Time will tell, of course. However, I suspect that we will see at least a little buyer’s remorse on iPhone X in the coming months. That will be coming from other people, of course. I’m taking a pass on this one. How about you?

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How Much Do You Love iPhone?

No, This Isn’t an ‘Off Year’ for Elections

It’s election day here in the US, and it’s likely that voter turnout will be very low. Odd numbered years are usually ignored by many voters for many reasons – all of which are generally misguided.

People tend to get excited about going to the polls in presidential election years, of course. Turnout numbers are highest then. Even numbered years in general enjoy higher turnout rates, because there are lawmakers on the ballot.

But, with the exception of some special elections, odd numbered years tend to only have municipal and judicial seats on the ballot. Also, lawmakers often schedule otherwise contentious referendums for these elections, counting on low turnout and voter laziness to keep the numbers where they would like to see them.

Here are a few of the misguided notions voters have about why this year’s election doesn’t really matter:

There are no “important” offices up for election – Just because winning today doesn’t earn a trip to Washington or a state capital for a candidate doesn’t make the office unimportant. Typical offices on the ballot today include local executive, legislative, and judicial seats – yes, that system is at work even in your home town. Local executives are mayors, managers, county executives, etc., and they do essentially the same job as the president for your local area. Council people, commissioners, board members, etc. are the equivalent of Congress in your town or school district. Magistrates and judges are your local judicial branch. The reason why these people are arguably even more important than the people who end up in Washington is because the decisions they make will have an immediate effect on your daily life. The taxes they levy will be felt by you first, and unlike taxes from the Federal government, there are very loopholes (if any) for you to avoid them. If you end up with a pushover for your local executive, that means your local legislators will have a much easier time passing higher taxes, or cutting services your community really needs. You can think that it doesn’t matter who your local magistrates and judges are, but you will care about that when you end up getting hit with an expensive traffic citation or fine for not cutting your grass.

My vote doesn’t count anyway – Ironically enough, that argument might be slightly more accurate in a presidential election than it ever will be in a local one. Many of the offices up for grabs today will be decided by margins of under 100 votes. Yes, it is quite possible that a single vote could trigger recounts in some races today. When races have such a small number of people eligible to vote for a given office, every vote counts. These are also the elections where a write-in candidate could very easily win the election.

I don’t even know what half the offices on the ballot do anyway – While some of the offices up for election today are obvious (like coroner or tax collector), there may be some that are utterly unfamiliar. Ones like prothonotary (chief court clerk) are a little nebulous for many voters. Before the age of Google, questions about those offices could be posed to poll or election bureau workers. You can still ask them, but let your fingers do the walking! Learn about the offices, and what those people do. In the case of the prothonotary, that person is in charge of overseeing court documents, and that person’s office is where you would go in a courthouse to see case files that haven’t been sealed from public view. Given all the trouble that we see daily about information being withheld by the government (or leaked by people who shouldn’t have that information), maybe the gatekeeper of your own local court files really is an important office after all?

What’s a referendum? Why should I care? – Referendums are usually issues that legislators put on the ballot so that they can get a popular vote on something that they don’t want to decide on their own, or that they must put on the ballot because of rules built into a state’s constitution. The former are usually hot button issues, and the latter are usually state constitutional amendments. Unfortunately, the rules usually don’t require that these issues be placed on the ballot during a particular year, so they end up on the odd numbered years – legislators are relying on you skipping the polls today. Another trick of their trade is to word these measures in a confusing way, even to the point where people will think that they are voting for one thing but in reality they are choosing the opposite. This is where the poll workers can help you out a little. While they can’t tell people what position to take, usually they can let you know which choice to make when you tell them where you actually stand on the issue. If they honestly can’t, you can still contact your county election bureau by phone or online, depending on how “plugged in” your county is. Otherwise, watch the “no’s and not’s” in the wording. One typical trick used in referendums is double and triple negatives. Remember, double negatives usually do add up to a positive. Also, check the status quo on the issue. Pennsylvania tried to pull a fast one on this with mandatory retirement ages for judges, by not mentioning in the referendum that the existing retirement age was actually lower than the one proposed. The way it was worded, it appeared that the people were voting on creating a mandatory retirement age for the first time, not extending an existing one. Why it mattered was that it would cost taxpayers more money when the judges finally would retire, because their pensions were based on their highest pay and they receive raises yearly. Also, increasing retirement ages could leave the people with judges who honestly shouldn’t have been on the bench due to mental deficits from old age – senile judges are cute on TV, but not in actual courtrooms. The bottom line is this: Do you really want to sit at home and let some politicians pull a fast one on you with a questionable referendum?

Today, you have the opportunity to elect the people who will have the most influence on your daily life when they take office. There is no “trickle down government” effect here, like we see with most changes in federal government. The decisions these people make in your home town will effect every person in your community immediately. Thankfully, these leaders are also going to have to deal with the voters directly on a daily basis. But, do you really want to skip deciding who collects your local taxes, determines the fines for your grass being too tall, sets the cost of parking in your business district, when and if your local roads get repaired, what your kids learn in the classroom, etc.? This is where the rubber hits the road in government. Are you in the driver’s seat, or just along for the ride?

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No, This Isn’t an ‘Off Year’ for Elections

Prude Patrol Hitting Libraries?

NEWSFLASH: Libraries across the country are suffering. People just don’t go to them very often anymore. Google and smartphones are crushing the desire for people to use library cards to take out actual paper books. Even libraries with computers aren’t faring much better, because computers are much more affordable today (if you are willing to put up with ones that can’t play the latest games.) So, to keep from becoming completely irrelevant and having to close their doors, many libraries are offering programming that may seem off the wall or over the top to some people. That means they’re going to offer programming that will make anyone with a Victorian attitude toward life faint – or want to scream.

Now that we understand this, it’s time to address a minor problem.

If you don’t like the programming that your local library is offering, the appropriate response does not include trying to disrupt it.

Some folks in Maryland didn’t like the fact that their library was offering sex-ed for kids – with parental permission. They made a website to complain about it. Good so far.

Unfortunately, on that website is information about how these people tried to stop the programming by breaking the rules set by the library for the safety of the kids who were enrolled in the program.

Not good.

Also, there doesn’t seem to be any mention of this group trying to offer “acceptable” programming choices to the library. Remember, the library is trying to get people into the building, so theoretically they would be open to hearing suggestions from everyone.

Another option would have been to look into elected positions that have to do with library management. Is there a community member board position? A political office that has a permanent seat on the board? Although a little extreme, at least pushing for a member of your group to be in a position of power in the library is far better than forcing the police to stand guard outside the library like this group did.

I get it. Really, I do. Conservatives don’t like people talking about sex, especially not to kids (even if the parents are fine with the idea.) Sure, there are people who think that parents should sit in on sex talks with kids, because they believe that kids really want to talk about that stuff in front of their parents. (Not sure where these kids are, but who am I to question someone else’s logic?)

But, conservatives are also supposed to be big on law and order. They’re supposed to be upset with people who break laws, right?

So, why were they breaking laws against trespassing at the library? Libraries are community property, but when they put up clear restrictions on use of their facilities, failing to abide by those restrictions is trespassing (or a similar offense, depending on the local laws.) The library clearly stated that adults were not welcome to attend this program. Only kids could be there, and the kids had to have written permission from their parents to attend.

The argument that the library was doing something objectionable and should be forced to stop because it is a public facility doesn’t work here. Go back to the beginning on this. Libraries are trying to stay alive, and that means programming. It also means that a sex-ed class is probably going to hit the events calendar before a quilting bee. Getting kids into the library is a hard task, and it’s fair to guess that this conservative group isn’t going to come up with a single thing that will help to do that.

But, don’t worry. When the library has to close because of lack of interest, these folks will probably blame anyone but themselves.

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Prude Patrol Hitting Libraries?

Farewell Fats Domino

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Fats Domino is no longer with us, since he died today at age 89 of natural causes. One thing is certain, though. His music will undoubtedly continue to live on, just as it has for all the years since he originally recorded the songs.

Ron Howard used to sing one of Fats Domino’s hits on Happy Days:

Fats himself performed it on The Ed Sullivan Show back in 1956, which in itself was a relatively ground-breaking feat, since at that time, there were still some “issues” with black performers being on stage and TV.

Then there are several Fats Domino songs that have been used in media for years, from commercials to the big screen. Remember this one selling paper towels and cleaning products?

Or how about this one?

Because of the contribution Fats Domino made to the music scene in the Big Easy, you can’t skip this one:

Speaking of New Orleans and Fats Domino’s influence on musicians from the Crescent City, there’s this…

… that was also recorded by New Orleans native Harry Connick, Jr.

Farewell, Fats…. You won’t be forgotten, or at least your music won’t be.

Image: By Hugo van Gelderen / Anefo (Nationaal Archief) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Farewell Fats Domino

Bruce Springsteen, Bryan Adams and Aging Rock Stars

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Earlier this month, Bryan Adams and Bruce Springsteen took to the stage in Toronto during the Invictus Games. A video of them performing together showed up on YouTube:

Many people would say that this was an unlikely duo, but they did manage to offer performances of Adams’ “Cuts Like a Knife”, and Springsteen’s “Badlands.” I tried to be objective while listening to both songs, but it was very difficult. I really wanted to like Springsteen’s performance on both songs, but that simply wasn’t possible. While it’s impossible to know for sure, I strongly suspected that Adams moved to sing with Springsteen on Springsteen’s mic because it seemed like whoever was manning the sound booth was turning down the Boss. Honestly, if I’d been there, I probably would have done the same.

Like it or not, Adams – particularly his singing voice – aged well in comparison. While his tone has changed some, he’s still capable of hitting the notes accurately. Springsteen is not faring as well. He definitely can still make his way through his own music, but he was definitely not up to the task of singing “Cuts Like a Knife.” Adams was able to shift from lead to background singer easily on “Badlands,” though.

Since I started out in the world of rock and pop music by being a DJ in a family business that specialized in music from the 50’s and 60’s, I’m accustomed to listening for changes in tone and quality of voices over time. I would regularly shift from playing original records by artists, and hearing them perform live up to over thirty years later, like this performance. I would love to say that the Boss still has it, but I can’t. That said, it would be wise to see him soon, because, assuming that people around him are honest, he may seriously consider not performing. It’s worth noting that Adams was the one who shared this video, not Springsteen.

No matter what, Springsteen will remain the Boss. Hopefully he won’t try to go beyond his own repertoire again, though.

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Bruce Springsteen, Bryan Adams and Aging Rock Stars

Disaster Relief – Do We Need Government?

In the wake of hurricanes and wildfires, many Americans are facing the fact that they either need to rebuild where they were, or move on. This is also causing a fair amount of debates in Washington, as politicians and the public alike are taking the Trump administration to task for not leaping quick enough to meet the needs of people and communities that have suffered the greatest losses.

As John Stossel explains, this is a relatively new mentality – assuming that the federal government should “fix” things.

The public generally believes that the government is inefficient, and in spite of this, still calls for the government to deal with rebuilding after a disaster. In spite of evidence on the ground, in the form of non-profits and businesses stepping up to help people in need, the people still call for the government to help?

This attitude that the federal government can cure all ills has been around for a very long time, but it became far more popular after 9/11. People quickly learned to expect the government to step in, and “fix” things. That also means that the people stopped thinking that they could do a great deal on their own, without governmental assistance. There was no material change in private assets, and there was actually a significant growth in number of private charities, particularly in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. But still, this attitude of “needing government” has prevailed, and is leaving us with debates in Congress over how much deeper in debt our country needs to go in order to have the federal government inefficiently rebuild wide swaths of our nation.

Have the American people really become that helpless?

Oddly enough, our culture has simultaneously been pushing various dystopian narratives in film and on television, all of which center on societies that have become utterly dependent on government. This attitude that we “need” the government to cure all ills is just a step toward a future like we’re seeing on the screens. Why are we catering to that path?

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Disaster Relief – Do We Need Government?

Sexual Assault, Harassment, and ‘Me Too’

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Alyssa Milano opened the proverbial can of worms by posting on Twitter:

This lead to an avalanche of “Me too” posts on social media in general, not just Twitter. Many women started describing what they have endured in their lives – sexual harassment and assaults – and many people started getting upset about the two being placed together. While it is true that the definitions of both sexual harassment and sexual assault have been more than a little muddied in recent years, the fact remains that both behaviors are rooted in a lack of respect for women.

We probably do need to have discussions about whether or not certain behaviors and situations really are sexual harassment or sexual assault, but we also have to agree on the concept that any behavior that is rooted in patent disrespect for women in general is unacceptable. Note “in general” in that statement. Disrespecting a specific person because that person has behaved badly is not verboten, nor should it be. Disrespecting women simply because they are female is unacceptable.

Most of the complaints out there about the “Me too” posts are centered on politics or annoyance with women who claim to feel that they have been victims of harassment or assault, but when they tell their stories, it doesn’t seem all that terrible. On the political end, there shouldn’t be “left” or “right” on the issue. There is, but for the purposes here, there is no point to wasting time or words on the political arguments.

The women who are calling actions sexual harassment or sexual assault, but have some people who disagree with them? There lies a problem that needs addressing. It is a Frankenstein monster created by helicopter parents, radical feminists, ministers, and many others. It is a symptom of our society, and how we view women and sex. Because it is a societal problem, one would think that it would be wise to consult a sociologist or social psychologist on this matter, but one response I saw that summed up the problem succinctly came from a lawyer on Facebook:

First of all, the number of women I follow Twitter and Facebook who have shared their stories of sexual assault or harassment, in some cases apparently for the first time, has been alarming and eye-opening. Since graduating law school, I’ve worked alongside women who were subordinates, opposing counsel and other fellow attorneys, bosses, Judges, and in a wide variety of other roles. I also have many female friends on social media and in the real world who I’m able to get along with quite well without acting like a jerk who didn’t grow out of being a frat boy in college. I was always aware that behavior like what has been described in many of these posts occurred, but I’ve never witnessed it (as far as I know) nor did I realize how widespread it is. I’m betting many other men didn’t either.

Second, it’s always seemed very simple to me. Sexual assault of any kind is always wrong, and excuses for harassing behavior like “I was drunk,” “She was drunk,” or “No means yes” are never acceptable. As far as sexual harassment goes, no means no, and there is no justification for someone to make those kinds of advances in a professional setting, especially when one is in a position of power over another person such as in the employment situation. There’s also no excuse for such unwanted behavior outside the office.

Finally, I’ve seen several men commenting or posting in response in dismissive tones regarding these disclosures, and that is just as disturbing as the reports themselves. “Boys will be boys” is not an excuse for acting like a boorish jerk, and the fact that a woman isn’t interested in you isn’t a reason to treat her like crap. Additionally, dismissing the reports that are being posted as some kind of social media fad is, well, kind of pathetic, as is the excuse that the campaign is somehow an attack on all men, which it clearly isn’t. Stop acting like jerks, guys. It’s as simple as that.

That was written by Doug Mataconis from Outside the Beltway. He stripped the issue down to its bare bones, and that is the start point for finding a solution. Our biggest problem in dealing with sexual assault and sexual harassment is that we have allowed the “powers that be” to over complicate the matter. The problem really is the fact that we are failing at educating our children about respect, and sex. Creating a web of taboos out of what should be clear and concise lessons about intimate relationships isn’t working. Suggesting that anything is free game when it comes to sex and sexuality isn’t helping either. While all the supposed adults in the room are arguing about what the kids should or shouldn’t learn about all that “icky” sex stuff, the kids aren’t learning the most basic lessons about survival as human beings. They aren’t being taught how to interact with each other in respectful ways, particularly in intimate relationships. That is the real root of the problem.

So, do we continue arguing about what is (or isn’t) sexual assault and sexual harassment based on the reports of the women who used the “Me too” statement on social media, or is it time for us to start teaching kids how to respect themselves and each other? Sure, that won’t help current and past victims, but it definitely will help to reduce the number of victims in the next generations.

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Sexual Assault, Harassment, and ‘Me Too’