Social Media Sucks…Again

“Life’s too short to debate other people’s opinions.”
                           -Neil DeGrasse Tyson

I thought the "update" to the logo was unnecessary, so doing this was a pleasure!

I thought the “update” to the logo was unnecessary, so doing this was a pleasure!

Ah, the internet and especially the Twitterverse is up in arms again. After the NFL’s mishandling of the Ray Rice situation – that did nothing more than show NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as little more than the owners’ lapdog – we have a situation with Adrian Peterson, star running back of the Minnesota Vikings. Full disclosure here: if you’ve bothered at all to look into any of my previous miscarriages of writing, you will find that I am a life-long Vikings fan. As I have seen the photographs of Peterson’s son’s marked-up legs, my parental sensibilities are fighting with my inner Viking.  I gave up spanking my kids early in my parenting career, but I am not necessarily against corporal punishment.

Adrian Peterson, in “disciplining” his four-year-old son, took a switch to him and literally “tore that ass up”. If you are of a certain age and come from a certain culture – of which I am a part – a parent taking a switch to a child is nothing new, albeit a bit archaic. While I was never “switched”, I certainly felt the wrath of my father’s belt or my mother’s weapon of choice, the hairbrush. A switch on a bare leg is going to leave a mark, there is no getting around that, but does that actually constitute abuse? Peterson is not in the same category as those who leave their toddlers in hot cars, or break their bones, or keep them in closets.

He should be removed from the team, from the league! Really? As excessive as Peterson’s punishment of his child may have been, the reaction has enjoyed its own level of overreaction. But that’s part of the problem of social media: it enables the hyper-judgmentalism that has infected this society with little regard for logic or reason. It’s hard to find the carefully considered commentary through the backwash of the mob mentality of social media where some feel empowered to play judge, jury, and executioner. I suppose it was too much to hope that social media would ever amount to much more than dogs barking at each other.

If Peterson has to be examined, I would rather look at the most glaring defect in his public persona and that is the state of his “Christianity”. He is not unique, unfortunately, in being an athlete who invokes God’s name during interviews and, as one of the faith, I have an issue with this. Peterson is also not alone, as a professional athlete, in producing multiple offspring as he has six children, only one of whom by the woman he married earlier this year. The boy who is the center of this controversy is not that child. Yet, Peterson has fathered these children – even the one with his “deeply religious” wife – out of wedlock, or, more succinctly, through fornication. Now while I am of the mind to follow the “go and sin no more” aspect of Christian teaching, what Peterson has to show for himself is a heaping helping of “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”. For one who, without encouragement, publicly proclaims his “Christian” values, however vaguely, he seems more akin to “those who pray on street corners that they may be seen of men”. To add to the Biblical references, I would add the sage admonition from Judge Judy: “Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.” His invoking God for something as trivial as football accomplishments while practicing something that is in conflict with genuine Christian behavior cheapens and puts a superficiality on his proclamations. It is a tricky thing to comment on this without sounding judgmental or condescending, but this incident may give Peterson the opportunity to examine how he conducts himself in all aspects of his life.  But this is all beside the purpose of my piece, although this is the Terms of Digression, so you shouldn’t be surprised.

The final thing I want to touch on is the getting Peterson back out on the field and the hysteria over legalities. While the legal system has succeeded in large measure to parse out the differences between constitutional obligations versus those of a private sector nature, the disconnect I see in the mob in forum rantings is just another case of disconnect or lack of true appreciation of meaning in the phrase “innocent until proven guilty”. Just because you may think Peterson is guilty of something doesn’t mean a Texas jury will agree with you. For me, and because I do believe in the core of our legal system and that of due process, I am willing to wait for a court to decide. The Vikings organization agrees with this, naturally, to get him back on the field, and my inner Viking has no problem with this. Remember, Peterson was held out of the Patriots game; that amounts to a one game suspension… for what, because the über-parents out there don’t like the look of what a switch does to a bare leg; because some think he exceeded suitable punishment for whatever the kid did? If he is found not guilty, then what? What is suitable punishment for what he did if he is found guilty, further suspension for some arbitrary number of games or banning from the league? I am for justice, not only for the child, but for Peterson, as well; that’s justice, not vengeance. Nuance is not well-appreciated in social media.

Is this social media mob employing the double-standard that comes with being a public figure? How many of us could bear up under losing our jobs because of something similar? This hasn’t been proven to be habitual or even beyond a case where it appears Peterson employed the rod a bit much. But it’s okay because Peterson has already made more than enough money, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah, he gets his day in court. But if the court of public opinion says he’s gotta pay, well, he’s gotta pay, right? He sits on the pedestal of a higher standard on which we placed him, whether deserved or not, whether realistic or not. Because unless he acts exactly the way we want him to act, the mob won’t be satisfied until he is torn down. The only thing we love more than building up our idols is tearing them down, but even with the tearing down, it’s still idolatry. Professional sports is built on it.

Opinion polls are for politicians and television executives, not for legal matters. If the Vikings want to let the legal process work, that is their prerogative. Nike and Radisson pulled their sponsorship in a typically feckless corporate PR stunt and people are applauding even though they should know that once Peterson’s case is adjudicated, they will come scrambling back to suck some more money out of the wallets of the temporarily outraged. But this is the mob of bread and circuses and social media gives it its voice. If the mob actually had the intestinal fortitude to really speak to the NFL with its wallets, then they would withhold payment and demand that companies like Nike bring back their jobs to the U.S. and college athletes would really act like students rather than entitled minor leaguers waiting for a payday.

I won’t hold my breath.

UPDATE: And, of course, after I post this, the Vikings decide to ban Peterson from all team activities until his case is settled, whenever that will be. Their decision is theirs to make and I respect that; my view and my questions remain, regardless. While some may view this suspension as some sort of vindication, I believe it stems from the question of other players who were in similar situations, but sucked as players (A.J. Jefferson, I’m looking at you) and were treated differently by the team. Consistency is a demanding mistress…


A Trip to the ASMR Barber

As I have perused and abused YouTube for many years – I no longer maintain an account since Google+ took over – I came across the all-time greatest video which is Baba, the cosmic barber in Pushkar, India. If you haven’t seen it or even heard of him, wake up and check him out! Ironically, his videos led me to a niche genre of videos called ASMR, which are intended for relaxation and putting you back to sleep. 😛

So, what is ASMR? As any of the professorial-types will explain in their videos, ASMR is an acronym for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, which is characterized by the shiver you get down your spine or the tingle around your head or ears when you are getting something like a haircut or some other activity that typically involves personal attention. And “tingle” is a word that gets used over and over with those who make and comment on these videos.

What is an ASMR video like? Well, as I mentioned, a typical video involves some type of personal care activity where the “ASMRtist” is performing a comforting action for you. Many of the videos are done in low tones and some are merely relaxing sounds – those aren’t what I want to describe today; today I want to look at the difference between what I believe makes a watchable video and then those I wish were watchable – or, at least, not so flawed.

As I said, a haircut is one of the simulated activities that predominates the ASMR category and I rather prefer those since I do get that ASMR tingle effect from actual haircuts.

But these aren’t real haircuts – they’re play-acted, or “role-played” – which means there is going to be some bad acting which can lead to distraction, and distraction is a bad thing for ASMR.

Some of the amateurishness of these videos may not be from the acting itself but from lack of preparation on the part of the performer: not having the necessary items or implements on-hand and searching for them on-camera, or when someone performing as a “doctor” gets into some medical jargon and you can tell right off they haven’t got the slightest clue what they’re talking about, or even something as curiously evident as not having practiced the speaking part and doing a poor job of ad-libbing or improvising. I mean, no one twisted their arms to do these or that they had to be impromptu, how could they have not prepared what they were going to say? Not all of them are like this, but when they are, it’s obvious! Some other little points of duh would be giving a haircut without having a comb and blowing “hair clippings” or makeup from the viewer’s face – definitely a no-no in real life!

So, let’s get our haircut! I won’t mention any particular ones, but I do prefer the ladies, so let’s find one of those. Many of the female ASMRtists are attractive – some especially so – but that’s not really a prerequisite as it’s the voice that usually carries the day. What I have noticed about the haircut videos – and this is across-the-board typical with few exceptions – is how unrealistic they are! Let me explain:

Normally, the ASMR video will start out with the woman acting as a receptionist to confirm your appointment. Sometimes these conversations involve some chit-chat to set the tone but sometimes they go on and on – some lasting for up to five minutes! Sometimes the “barber” will do this part and can get into a painstaking explanation of every little detail from what implements will be used to the types of shampoos and conditioners employed. At this point, you will notice something that happens in every – and I mean every – ASMR video where something is being displayed for the viewer: the drumming of the fingers on the object – the “tapping”, as it’s called. Personally, I find this very annoying and unrealistic and certainly not “tingly”, but some people get off on that which brings me to another thing about ASMR videos: commenters will express their desires for certain things, like more tapping, that I find kind of gross and creepy. “I want more tapping… oh, yeah, that’s right, babe… OH, YEAH! That’s good… Oh, so many tingles! That’s so good… I’m melting…” Just the idea that there are some folks out there making these things into something akin to a foot fetish convention is unnerving. What I really appreciate in a good ASMR video is that it seeks to replicate the real-life experience, not cater to some weirdness. If my barber talked to me in a baby voice and told me she was going to cut my hair with scissors and then hold up a bottle and say she was going to wash my hair with shampoo while tapping it, I’d slap the thing out of her hands and scream, “Five minutes of this and you haven’t cut a single hair on my head? You just lost your tip!” Yeah, sounds like I need some relaxation, so back to the show…

From the viewer’s perspective, the barber will typically be centered in-frame and ask silly questions like, “is it okay if I get close to you?” Well. sure, unless you have freak arms and can cut my hair from across the room with your telescopic vision. 😛 So, they move in and will normally start cutting from this position:

Yep, there she is!  How could you not let someone this happy put a straight-razor across your throat? Drawing by James Montgomery.  ©2014 James Montgomery Studios

Yep, there she is! How could you not let someone this happy put a straight-razor across your throat?
Drawing by James Montgomery. ©2014 James Montgomery Studios

I think that it doesn’t dawn on people – and certainly not the performers – that no haircut in the world has ever been given like this unless the barber was sitting in the lap of the client!Haircut 3

You see, we have these things called “legs” and they get in the way of people standing directly in front of us if we are in a barber chair. Every haircut is administered from the side or, at least, a 3/4-view from the client’s perspective. Nevertheless, this is how the overwhelming majority of the haircut videos are done and many of the female ones look like this:Haircut 1

And occasionally this:Haircut 2

I can appreciate those scenes, all the while listening to scissors clipping wildly at my virtual hair in a way no barber ever cuts hair. Naturally, to combat the unwelcome exposure (and the comments that come with it), some women will make a point of holding their hand in a strategic point so that we are stimulated in the way intended and not because our hormones got interested.

Another aspect to all of this is the introduction of binaural microphones. Now the ASMRtist can direct their sounds to only one ear and get that kind of audio isolation one could only find on an old Led Zeppelin LP. As a result, the performer will often lean to one side, out of frame, and whisper something that is completely inappropriate for the “real-life” experience I alluded to earlier. If my barber did that, it would be met with a firm “knock it off, willya?”, but on the ASMR video it’s just warm fuzzy sonic nuzzliness.

Of course, this is the area where sounds, binaural or otherwise, start getting into areas that are inconceivably dumb to me. There are many, many videos incorrectly labeled as “inaudible” when what is intended is really “unintelligible”. These videos are typically someone saying gibberish at a very low volume, but it can be heard, so it is not “inaudible”! The widespread misuse of this term tells me that no one is taking the time to think about the words they are using and that pisses me off besides not liking these types of videos! These and the “whispering” videos are extremely annoying because they are frequently little more than “psst…psst…psst” and have all the tingle-inducing allure of a mosquito or house fly that just won’t leave you alone. Why people enjoy them is hard to fathom.

Another really bad sub-genre of ASMR is the “eating” or “mouth sounds” video. These videos sound alike, so I lumped them together, although the “mouth sounds” could be put into the “unintelligible” category. But these are what you think they are: smacking and crunching and slurping. These videos are just gross and, dare I say, stupid. Where I come from, this is called “bad manners”. It’s impolite to chew with your mouth open not only because nobody wants to see it, nobody wants to listen to it, either! Disgusting videos and they are presented as if they are some kind of treat! There is not a woman on the earth – not even Monica Bellucci – who could attract me by chewing her food so I could listen to it. There was that old line my fourth grade teacher used to say about people who chew gum looking like cows… Girls, there is nothing cute or soothing or ASMR-y about sounding like Jabba the Hut. For those who like it, damn…

Naturally, over the course of time, these ASMRtists had to keep finding new things to roleplay and the videos are ofttimes more about the roleplay and less about the ASMR. You have videos actually insisting there is something soothing about going to the dentist! Seriously? All I have to say about that is not in a million years will going to the dentist ever be anything that I will find comforting!

Check it out for yourself and see what you like and what crosses those boundaries of weird. ASMR is definitely a matter of “different strokes for different folks”. There’s make-up stylists, sci-fi adventures, tarot readings, and reiki affirmations, so you will probably find something you’ll enjoy in something you never knew existed until now!  As for me, I still get a thrill watching the All-Blacks rugby team do the haka!

Airheads with their…um…Airheads in the Cloud


The Cloud was a bad idea. Never liked it, still don’t.

Ah, yes, nekkid pictures, the lifeblood of the internet.  And thanks to the interest the internet has in nekkid pictures, we have a scandal of earth-shattering import: female celebrities’ iCloud accounts were hacked!

ME: Uh, if the investigation that Apple did is to be believed, no, the server wasn’t hacked, the security protection was breached (psst, they figured out your password, bunkie, hope it wasn’t “ABC123”).

THEM: But still, privacy was violated!

ME: Yeah, and your point is?

THEM: But… but… some of the photos were fake!

ME: Really?  Then they either weren’t part of some grand hacking scheme or those “fake” photos were uploaded to iCloud by you, little miss fake nekkid pictures!

Yep, all of that, in one form or another, was spouted off by poor little celebrities who feel violated because seeing them naked has some kind of cachet on the internet.  But you know who I feel bad for?  Ricky Gervais.  Yeah, old Ricky injected a little common sense into this entirely stupid collapse of responsibility by stating that if you want to upload your nekkid pictures, don’t live in that fantasy world where it stays protected from prying eyes and is safe forever and ever and ever!  And noses were promptly set out of joint as they are wont to do when victims are feeling flush in their victimhood.

Victim shaming?  Hardly, unless it’s a bad thing to get these “victims” to admit to themselves that uploading those kind of pictures was a stupid thing to do…  duh…

The simple truth is this:  if a security system is invented by Man, it can be broken by Man; that’s just the way the world works, sorry.  Nothing you upload is guaranteed impervious to theft, but everything you upload is out of your control, just ask Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who said that her photos had been deleted “long ago”.  If that’s the truth, why were they still accessible in any form or fashion?  That is a question I would like answered!

The “Cloud”, or as I call it, “Bill Gates’ wet-dream with an assist from Steve Jobs”, is not safe for confidential information and never will be.  You don’t know who has access to it and you never will know that.  How could it be safe?

I despise social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) with a passion and this is part of the reason why.  People are going to do and say stupid things and be victimized by other people doing stupid things and then we all get to “enjoy” the drama because people won’t admit that what they were doing was stupid!

Between a government that acts like children in a slapfight with the media egging them on and people who won’t take responsibility for their own actions and acknowledge that maybe those duck-faced nekkid selfies weren’t all that important after all, I have to ask, Are their any adults in the room?

Hello?  Hello?