It Rained in South Carolina

For those of you who might give a crap – and I know most of you don’t, it rained here today.  Now most of you conscious folk who happen to live in the area will know that.  So why am I wasting your time with this?  Well, I’ll tell you.

You see, I checked the weather on the internet this morning, not two hours before it rained, and you want to know what the chance of rain was?  You want to know?

Zero!

The chance of me running out to my truck and getting soaked from the monsoon-like torrent that was coming down on top of my head was ZERO!  The chance of me having to roll that truck’s window up to keep the rain from soaking the driver’s seat was ZERO!

ZERO!

That’s what the weather service provided me.  That was the information that they bestowed upon my naïve trusting ass because they are the weather guys.  They know what they’re talking about, right?  It’s science, right?  And I’m all about giving people the benefit of the doubt except this isn’t the first time they’ve done this.  I guess it’s just not an exact science.  I mean what exactly are they doing that they can go from zero percent chance of rain to the sky opening up and drenching me?

And I checked the radar!  Nothing!  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky according to them.  I played it back to put that weather-in-motion thing that everybody has now and NOTHING!  It’s like nothing ever happened.  There was no rain, no clouds, NOTHING!  I guess all that getting wet while running around in the rain business was just my imagination, huh?  And I guarantee there was some ditz chirping about the great hot day on the Grand Strand while I’m taking a bath with my clothes on!  Do we really need the weather people telling us what’s going on with their green screen and their Doppler radar and stupid hand gestures and walking back and forth across the tv screen.  You can’t have a tornado everyday!

So how did they come up with this train wreck of a forecast?  I think they’re just making it up, playing Wheel of Fortune on this big wheel they’ve got in their secret weather bunker except instead of dollars, they’ve got weather forecasts, you know, temperatures and chances of something happening.  And then they give the big wheel a spin!  Hey, it’s going to be 99° and NO CHANCE OF RAIN!  And if they screw it up, they give you some kind of B.S. about “accuracy in our weather forecasts is important to us because it’s important to you.”  You know, no apology for ruining your upholstery or your new hairdo, just a bunch of B.S.  And we take it!

I mean, what if every job gave you the kind of leeway the weather people get?  I mean what if the garbage man didn’t pick up your garbage but he’ll “get it next time”?  Or if NASA loses a manned space flight: “I guess Mars wasn’t where we thought it would be – sorry!”  Or how about some nuclear missile technician?  “Geez, I was just turning this key and the thing went off like a rocket!  Did I just start World War III?”  Yes! Yes, you did!

I mean, yeah, everybody makes mistakes or has a bad day, but geez, these weather people have screwing up down to a fine art.  You just imagine, if a casino owner ran his casino the way these weather people forecast the weather, you’d have Donald Trump…

Advertisements

Accepting the System

I’ve played plenty of online games (as have most people who have computers).  I find it strange that we play games that offer different levels of “difficulty” and we don’t think twice about it.  Solitaire is the game that got me thinking about this.  Solitaire is Solitaire – 52 cards, win by stacking in numerical order by suit, everybody knows the game.  So how, exactly, does a computer game add difficulty levels to such a simple game?  Whether you play with a 3-card draw or a one-card draw, it’s 52 cards.  The answer is that the computer program alters the probability numbers – in other words, the games are rigged – and we seem just fine with that.  There is no such thing as a more difficult game of Solitaire than another without an overt change in the rules.  But that’s not what’s happening here; this is a deliberate alteration to make a game unfair and call that “difficult”.

This is what we’ve come to accept in today’s world as the norm.  How many of us actually understand what goes on in the computer world where we can say that our online transactions are safe?  More and more, we put our financial lives and our personal privacy at stake through online activity and we trust nameless and faceless entities to protect us, never knowing that they may be the first link in a long line of betrayal – and we wouldn’t know the difference.   It’s not so unlike the games: we don’t know what we don’t know and we don’t seem to want to be bothered with demanding better.  Have we become so collectively incurious that positing the questions concerning corruption or legal parlor tricks is asking more of ourselves than will ever happen?  After Assange and Snowden how do we know that anything has really changed… because somebody said it did?

How many other systems do we take for granted and just accept?  How many are rigged against us?  Is it too late to fix it?

Confessions

I took a hiatus from writing on this blog, not because I am tired of writing nonsense, but I am getting very tired of writing about nonsense; unfortunately, there is plenty of that to write about.  The stream of stupidity from the Republican “adults” seems endless and it just isn’t worth the effort to talk about while those who are getting paid to do it (Jon Stewart, et al) are doing a rather clever job with it.  But while we have a major reckoning with the Confederate flag (again), it’s time for a little truth-telling – about the flag and about myself.  I’ll tell on myself first.

There was a time, when I was in my early twenties, that I wore a Confederate flag on a jacket that I frequently wore.  I didn’t wear it because of any racial animosity or anything other than as a “Southern” thing from someone who grew up in Alabama.  There truly was no more thinking into it than that, that is to say, there was no real thinking going on about that flag at all.  I was finally forced into thinking about it one night as a black man I worked with, a Marine who went by the name of “Slash”, asked me about it.

“Montgomery, you’re a really good guy and I just can’t figure out why you wear that damn Confederate flag patch.”

“Well,” came the feeble reply, “I’m from Alabama, you know, I grew up in the South.”  Yes, it rings just as stupid and hollow in my ears today as it likely reads for you.

“Well, so am I! I’m from Alabama, too!”

If I had a reply to that, I don’t recall what it was.  What I do remember is Slash saying something along the lines of “think about it”.  I did.  That night, after coming to some conclusions about the flag, I took that patch off and refused to make any rationalizations about it since.

The rationalizations that surround the Confederate flag have to do with “heritage”.  Well, that’s all well and good if you’re a white Southerner who doesn’t think that holding slaves in a country that made the pretense to freedom and liberty is hypocritical.  If you happened to be a descendant of those who suffered under such a myopic society, your views of such a heritage might feel a bit differently.  Regardless, the flag has nothing to do with “heritage”, it is straight up bigotry.  The Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups didn’t adopt the Confederate battle flag by accident – they know what it means and what kind of a culture supported its cause.

Honoring one’s ancestors has a curious quality about it: those who are ostensibly being “honored” don’t know anyone is doing it; they’re dead.  Ultimately, the recognition is on display for the living to view.  What must be “honored” is the act of defending one’s home against the invaders.  Well, why were the invaders invading?  Could it be that the Confederacy declared war on the United States and fired the first shot of the war?  They did this in the name of secession, something the U.S. Constitution did not expressly give them the ability to do.  Then the defenders of flag and heritage will have to begin to lie so to perform the mental gymnastics inherent in defending the flag while disassociating it from the cause of the war.  They will tell you that the war was not about slavery, and maybe they are correct in a very technical sense – the war was for secession– but all paths lead to the driver of the economic engine of the agrarian South: slavery.  One only needs to look at the articles of secession issued by various states and the Confederate Constitution, where the rights of slaveholders were declared and protected, to see the lie.  There is no doubt that the South feared the loss of slavery and viewed secession as the remedy to maintain the institution.  There are no lies to tell, no diversions to employ, that can undo this truth.

Yet, there will be those who will continue to try to hide the truth.  I can only hope that a portion of those will have a similar experience as I did and stop and think about what that flag really means.  Maybe that portion aren’t really bigots, they’re just, as was true for me, unthinking.  I had the courage to admit my mistake and I changed.  Change is coming and it is good.

Heyba, Mamby, Who Be Raybbin?

You’re travelling through social media, a dimension of insinuation, of gossip, of unprovable nonsense; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of agendas and biases and a willingness to accept things at face value. At the allegations up ahead, you’ve entered The Prattling Zone.

Some random stand-up comic said something about Bill Cosby and the internet blew up.  Yep, Bill Cosby. The Coz. Fat Albert. The black-youth-need-to-get-off-their-asses man. Shall we add “Serial Rapist” to his resumé? With thirteen (and counting) women coming forward to tell similar sordid tales of roofies, and ‘ludes, and unwanted advances, The Court of Public Opinion™ is having a field day while the Department of Due Process and Innocent Until Proven Guilty™ is struggling under the weight of circumstantial evidence that will never be tried in real court. What is one, who cannot escape the inescapable news feeds, to do except see this for what it is? And what is it? Empty.

My wife thinks I’m victim-shaming or “-blaming” or some other type of “-aming”, but that’s not it at all. I fully realize that slipping a woman a mickey to get into her pants is not the thing to do and to downplay that is inexcusable; I mean, duh! But at what point are we allowed to demand that people take responsibility for their own actions? It’s not like Cosby was accused of slipping something into a drink in every instance, some of the women say that they were handed the pills and told to take them. Why did they? A bad decision is a bad decision, whether you are star-struck or not. And some of these women continued to associate with Cosby after the incidents they describe as “rape”. (If you want a blow-by-blow account of their accusations, this is not the venue for that.)  It’s not that I don’t believe their stories, it’s just that taking into account the entire relationship with some of these women makes their accusations harder to accept… and after more than thirty years. I’m sorry, I just like things to make better sense than what I see here.

For one woman, money was enough, as there was a civil case brought against Cosby which was settled out of court and, also, in which many of these same women were prepared to testify but never got the chance. If they were ready to testify, why didn’t they strike when the iron was hot? The rationale of “no one would have believed me” or “it was harder for women then” may have some merit, but at some point, those wear thin especially in light that Cosby had just settled a case and there was a potential line-up ready to hit him with suits again and again. Yet, only when one woman broke her silence more than thirty years later did they come forth. It didn’t have to be this way and that’s what frustrates me about the way they handled this violation of their persons.  All because some random stand-up comic said something and a video went viral.

Is this a catharsis for them? In most cases, very likely. I can’t say that I even have the mechanism to relate.  But what is the difference when many people today won’t believe them or suspect their motives from when it was “harder for women” at the time of the assaults? The very fact that they waited in silence for so many years hurts their case as much as anything Cosby could say in rebuttal – if he was saying much at all. He’s all lawyered up and this will all come to nothing. Perhaps that is the most aggravating thing of all.

I like justice. I like to know that when someone has been victimized, their offenders will be brought to justice and properly punished. That’s not going to happen here. Whether the stories of the women are true or not will never be tested; the statute of limitations has run out. What does that say about our system of justice? If this crime happened, isn’t it in the interest of society that the facts of this are examined rather than put them to an arbitrary timetable that an offender only has to wait out? Yet the crime of rape can be dismissed after a certain length of time even if the mental scars will survive a lifetime. Where is justice?

I suppose an argument can be made that there is no evidence, so any type of trial will have little more value than the decrees already handed down with impunity from the self-appointed and faceless arbiters of guilt and innocence who, of course, can see these things more clearly from their vantage point on the internet than those folk from the Department of Due Process. But there are more sins to go around than just the ones’ Mr. Cosby committed – allegedly (Gah, I hate that.) What other sins, you may ask? Why, the women who were violated didn’t speak up, so they allowed this predator to continue to do what he was doing and the only means for warning off potential victims was the comedy circuit grapevine. That worked really well, didn’t it? Some, doubtless, felt intimidated to say anything against a celebrity, but some were also thinking of their careers in their silence. Yes, maybe they were raped, but their inaction assured that others were in danger, as well. Courage thirty years after the fact doesn’t look much like courage to me.

I have no particular regard for Cosby; I didn’t watch his show and his comedy is definitely a take-it-or-leave-it proposition for me. The Fat Albert cartoon was pretty unwatchable and the Jell-O commercials were just a dirty joke waiting to happen. I am not defending him, but I am defending the idea that an accusation has to carry the burden of proof and a mob of voices speaking in concert is not proof. Because with every subsequent woman who comes out against Cosby is another who said nothing and did nothing when action would have meant a hell of a lot more. What can possibly happen as a result of all this? I want more than internet noise. I want proof and there is nothing. I want justice for victimized women and there is nothing. I want a justice system that says a crime is a crime and the passage of time does not change that. Short of a miracle or a crisis of conscience, all the angst will amount to little more than yet another empty media event… and some random stand-up comic got his 15 minutes of fame.

ATC-381

ATC-381, I saw what you did.  I couldn’t help it, I was stuck in traffic behind your crappy, maroon import, driving way below the speed limit, as I watched car after car pass, steaming in my frustration at your stupidity.

There you were, with your hair in some kind of “up-do”, chatting away to your girlfriend.  You were gesturing wildly as you drove oh so slowly; it was a wonder you remembered to press the accelerator.  It must have been so important, you were so engaged and so unaware of what you were doing.

We just kept slogging along.  The bauble you had hanging from your rear-view mirror marked the time of my boredom as it swung so slowly.  Everything about your car was slow – but not you!  No, ATC-381, you were frenetic with barely an eye on the road.  You were lucky that you didn’t have to stop for anyone in front of you, but, then, there wasn’t anyone in front of you.  Every car that passed made sure it was well ahead of you.  Maybe you planned it that way.  If my eyes could shoot lasers, your bobbling head would be on fire!

But I saw what you did, ATC-381, as we approached the intersection where my reprieve from your vacuous chit-chat was promised by the right turn lane I got into – finally, I was free of you!  The signal light would catch you, ATC-381, and you would pay for your slowness as it burned a bright yellow amidst the busy bustle of traffic.  I saw that you weren’t stopping and you weren’t speeding up; you just kept going, slowly, slowly.  You just kept going and talking and continuing on.  I saw it, ATC-381, the light was long red by this time – it wasn’t even close.  And then it happened…

You went right into that intersection ATC-381.  I saw it.  I saw that car that had waited patiently to make that left turn as the traffic passed in a long line of indifferent obstruction.  I saw it.  I saw the car.  I saw the light.  But not you.  You just kept going unaware… and that car started to turn…

How did you make that little swerve at the last second as that car slammed on its brakes?  You didn’t even touch your brakes, you just made that little cut of the wheel that delivered you from a reward you justly earned.  You just kept going as if you were in perpetual motion, not caring, as if the rules don’t apply to you.  You just kept going, you didn’t pause, probably didn’t even thank your lucky stars.  As I sat, waiting to make my turn, I saw you drive off in your insular bubble of self-importance.  Do you even know the danger you represented?  Do you care?  I saw what you did, ATC-381.  I saw it all.  I saw that someone saved you.  Will you be so lucky next time?  There will be a next time, won’t there?

April Fool’s Day – A Pictorial Puzzle

Call it associative cognizance or the sophomoric tittering of a post-adolescence adolescent, but on this Day of Great Occasion, I have a puzzle: what does one picture have to do with the other?  As much as I like Melissa Harris-Perry, I have a long-held contempt for the chryon monkeys at MSNBC.  I don’t know what’s worse: them or the closed caption people at FOX.

Nevertheless, see if you can make the connection between these two pictures and why someone at MSNBC needs to be stooge-slapped.

How To Be An Ally

How To Be An Ally

SC

Trebek, I’ll take How to be Anally for $400.

So remember kids, just because you can make words fit a compositional layout a certain way, doesn’t mean you should make them fit together that way!

Assumptions and the People Who Assume (A rant in 9/8)

You can assume this is a pipe… and you'd be wrong.  You may also assume that you are seeing letters and pictures and, again, you'd be wrong to characterize this little collection of pixels as anything more than 1's and 0's.

You can assume this is a pipe… and you’d be wrong. You’d also be wrong to characterize this little webpage as anything more than 1’s and 0’s.
© René Magritte Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

We’ve all heard it before:  “When you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME.”  Gosh, how darn clever.  I had to get that out of the way and I will let you assess the validity of that statement for yourself.  As far as I’m concerned, when you assume, you make an ass out of you if you assume incorrectly and you may involve me.

So why am I playing with Trite Aphorisms People Are Sick of Hearing?  Because I’ve had the extreme displeasure to see some tired old rationalizations pop up recently and I’m amazed people still spew these things:  “We had George W. Bush for president thanks to Ralph Nader” and “3-D movies are not a gimmick because of Technicolor.”  Yeah, one is somewhat more serious than the other, but my Illogic and False Equivalency (IFE) meter doesn’t care about that.

So, some people still choose to believe that Ralph Nader’s candidacy is responsible for Bush Beating Gore in 2000.  There are some studies floating around that refute that thinking, not only that a Nader-less election did not mean those votes cast for him would automatically go to Gore, but some may have gone to Bush! (http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/polisci/faculty/lewis/pdf/greenreform9.pdf — don’t get used to this, I don’t like statistical reading and this isn’t a thesis!)  Above all, Nader is the convenient whipping-boy for these folks because he was the best known and garnered the largest amount of votes.  Yet there were other third-party candidates who pulled enough votes in Florida to turn the election to Gore.  Why aren’t they being accused?  And do the people who didn’t even bother to vote at all get a free pass?

To assume a left-leaner or a right-leaner is an automatic vote for a Democrat or a Republican is exactly what the supporters of the two-party monopoly of power want the public to think – and it’s wrong.  To think that a third party is not viable is true only to the extent to which that party garners support.  Third parties, as they exist now, tend to represent more extreme views of either side of the partisan spectrum, but if you want different goals pursued in Washington, you want a third party candidate because, as we can see, Washington excels in little else but the status quo.  I get a sense that today’s Washington politicians are lousy poker players: it’s not all or nothing with every issue; you can’t go “all-in” with every hand because eventually you will lose and lose everything.  There has to be nuance to governance and what we are getting is agendas – even agendas that are unpopular (30-round magazines, anyone?).  Aside from all of that, though, remember, an anti-slavery party got its start in 1854 to battle the Democrats and Whigs.  Any guess as to what that party was called?

The more trivial of my irritants is this continued bleating about how great 3-D movies are.  I believe the forum I was in had shifted its focus to trashing Avatar and 3-D.  Naturally, some twit pipes up and says, paraphrasing, “3-D is no different than using Technicolor in a movie.”  Well, the IFE went to 11 when I read that.  Since I refuse to register myself with Disqus, I didn’t reply, but the absolute falseness of that statement is staggering.  The implication – insofar as it pertains to my topic – is that this person assumes their little brain fart is correct!

I have seen Toy Story 3 and the last installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise in 3-D.  To say that I was underwhelmed doesn’t even begin to touch the dissatisfaction I have for spending $60 so my wife and I could see both those movies.  It wasn’t worth it.  So let me take this time to clue in the clueless:  3-D is an expensive gimmick in an industry that is only seeking to extract more money out of your wallet.  Period.  I will explain:

I create media, whether it is illustrations, cartoons, comics, video, etc. – and 3-D.  I know a lot about the movie industry and how these things get made.  I also get to work with people who work on some interesting things.  My old buddy Dave, works at a place where they do 3-D printing.  They also have a 3-D visual system that creates images used for training.  Some of these images are in a space called a “Cave” and 3-D images are projected to enable a viewer to walk around the object!  But it takes multiple projectors to achieve this; you know why?  Because it’s not really 3-D and neither is that movie you’re watching at the theater!  The best – and I mean the absolute best – that can ever be achieved with our current technology is what I call the “Viewmaster Effect”.  Sure, it looks like there’s some depth to it, but it is a manufactured illusion.  Even in the Cave, all you will ever see are 2-D projections on flat surfaces – there is no depth, there is no volume, there is no 3-D.

Apparently even Ridley Scott is the newest disciple of the 3-D craze in Hollywood, but ask him if his newest technological gimmick kept Prometheus from being a movie that many people despised?  Did 3-D make Avatar anything beyond a pretty visual over an unoriginal script that borrowed heavily from Pocahontas?  (Notice how I didn’t use the idiotic word “reimagining” there?)  I saw Prometheus.  I thought it was a good opening for a longer story, but I’m also glad that I didn’t spend the extra money for the 3-D version that the ticket girl was trying to push.  I have the regular version of Avatar on DVD (a format that is on borrowed time and worth another rant by itself) and I have watched it repeatedly.  I like the movie, despite the whole “Pocahontas” thing and I have never missed not seeing the 3-D version.  It’s about the story and the storytelling – not the visual gimmicks.  That’s the way it will always be; otherwise, there would never be any 3-D movies that failed at the box office and we all know that’s not true!

So, back to our twit and his “Technicolor”.  The plain truth should be rather obvious to him: we see in color, not in black and white.  Technicolor is the result of chemicals in the film-making process.  Through exposure to light and development of the film with the proper chemicals, the color is achieved.  This isn’t “you think you are seeing red, but it isn’t really red.”  To compare a color development process to a fabrication such as 3-D is absurdist to the point of willful ignorance.  This unoriginal argument smacks of deliberately not  wanting to see the forest for the trees.

But, then again, I may be making an assumption.