Friday, September 18, 2020

Customer service fail: Blogger edition

So Blogger has come up with a "new interface" that everyone seems to hate but they have decided to force on users. This is my first post under the new version and like many other users, I hate it. I'm a big fan of if it ain't broke, don't fix it. And it wasn't broke. So for some reason they decided to not just break it, but fuck it up.

Another thing I noticed, as I searched "Help" is that they have locked and disabled commenting on almost EVERY SINGLE THREAD that criticizes the new version. REALLY???

Here are just a few examples:

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. And even what I'm seeing on the screen typing this is clunky as fuck. God knows what it will look like when I post it.

For years I've been hearing about how WordPress is the go-to platform for blogs. I tried it out at one point and did not find it anywhere as user friendly as Blogger. I don't want to switch. But if Blogger doesn't get its shit together and actually listen to its users, I may have to become part of an exodus. I don't want to, but this new version just sucks. I am literally looking at the images on my screen and can't read them. 

Whoever came up with this "upgrade" should never again be allowed anywhere near a job that even remotely involves computers, blogging, and/or web design. And locking damn near every conversation in Help that complains about how awful the new version is...well let's just say we've reached a new level of customer service fail. Not a good look, Blogger.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The return of South Park

Recently I've been thinking about South Park and how - when it eventually returned - they would handle this year's events. Specifically, I wondered how they would parody a world that has become beyond parody.

Turns out they're already back in production and return on September 30. And they're coming back in style - with a 1-hour season premiere. From South Park's Instagram:

There's even a preview clip!

Please note that this episode airs at 8pm, not their usual 10pm, although according to the press release they're going to show it three consecutive times so you have no excuse to miss it.

I hadn't even heard about the show returning, and suddenly all this! Sweet!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

He's not wrong

Bonkers. We've gone beyond The Twilight Zone. I'm not sure even Rod Serling would know what to make of this crazy world today.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

No joke, this exists: You can get married at a Taco Bell

And yes, of course, it's in Las Vegas.

For $600 you get:

Includes, among other things, a sauce packet garter and bow-tie,
sauce packet bouquet (which is a loaner, in case you need something
borrowed), t-shirts, a 12-pack of tacos, and a Cinnabon cake.

Taco Bell Chihuahua not included.
Look, I love their greasy food as much as the next person. I'm not even going to try and be a food snob about this - there's something in their meat sauce and mild sauce that is like crack to me. But I don't think even I could get drunk enough to get married in a Taco Bell, even if it's legit. Not to mention for $600 I'm going to want a lot more than 12 measly tacos, and I'll be taking that sauce packet bouquet home with me, thank you very much.

This almost makes getting hitched by an Elvis impersonator look like a legit decision made by sober adults serious about the sanctity of marriage.

And don't think I won't use this in a story someday, because I totally will.

However, to each his own, live and let live, yadda yadda yadda. So if you would actually like to get married in a Taco Bell (which no one will ever judge you for) you can check out the deets at Taco Bell Wedding.

Friday, September 11, 2020

19 years...

Hard to believe it was so long ago. I'm not sure we've learned from it.

As always, this ad featuring the Budweiser Clydesdales brings it all back. The ad was aired only once, as Budweiser did not want to give impression of exploiting the 9/11 attacks for advertising purposes. It lives forever on the internet.


Sunday, September 6, 2020

Well, this sucks

What I want:

What I've got:

What I feel like doing:

Monday, August 31, 2020

August Words of Wisdom

Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Don't wish it were easier; wish you were better. --Jim Rohn

Discontent, blaming, complaining, self-pity cannot serve as a foundation for a good future, no matter how much effort you make. --Eckhart Tolle

If it is not right, do not do it. If it is not true, do not say it. --Marcus Aurelius

Any person capable of angering you becomes your master. --Epictetus

We are all equal in the eyes of the stove. --Jacques Pepin

A mistake repeated more than once is a decision. --Paulo Coelho

The deeds you do may be the only sermon some people will hear today.
--St. Francis of Assisi

You must not abandon the ship in a storm because you cannot control the winds...What you cannot turn to good, you must at least make as little bad as you can. --St. Thomas More

To live a life of virtue, you have to become consistent, even when it isn't convenient, comfortable, or easy. --Epictetus

If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old. --Peter Drucker

Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.
--Marcus Aurelius

Her soul belongs to summertime;
Graceful footsteps on warm sands.
A heart that leaps in ocean waves;
Sea salt memory in her hands.
--Angie Weiland-Crosby

Some Americans will never appreciate America, until after they have helped destroy it, and have then begun to suffer the consequences. --Thomas Sowell

Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy. Its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery. --Winston Churchill

The little things? The little moments? They aren't little. --John Zabat-Zinn

Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people that you are, you aren't. --Margaret Thatcher

Pay attention to your insecurities. They are not there to taunt you but to show you where to heal. --Unknown

In a world full of trends, I want to be a classic. --Iman

It's your obligation to speak the truth, and everyone can either take it or leave it. But truth must be in us. We live in such a poverty of truth today. --Mother Angelica

The fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists. --Sir Winston Churchill

Feel what you need to feel and then let it go. Do not let it consume you.

We don't need to look like men or talk like men to be powerful. We can be powerful in our own way, our own feminine way. --Zooey Deschanel

Just that you do the right thing. --Marcus Aurelius

Capitalism was the only system in history where wealth was not acquired by looting, but by production, not be force, but by trade, the only system that stood for man's right to his own mind, to his work, to his life, to his happiness, to himself. --Ayn Rand

Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide. --D.W. Winnicott

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Recent reading: "High Concept: Don Simpson and the Hollywood Culture of Excess"

by Charles Fleming

Don Simpson was one of the most successful movie producers of the 1980's and 1990's. Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, his producing partner, were responsible for wildly popular films including Flashdance, Beverly Hills Cop, Top Gun, Bad Boys, Crimson Tide and The Rock, scoring with what became known as "high concept" films. Despised by most critics but loved by paying audiences, this approach propelled Simpson to the highest level of Hollywood. But his success also allowed him to indulge in behavior that was incredibly self-destructive and that would kill him at the age of fifty-two.

Simpson's demons are all the more sad because of his immense talent. He was a scholar of the golden era of Hollywood. He had a gift for analyzing scripts, an instinct for what audiences wanted to both see and feel, and a keen grasp of pop culture. For Flashdance, he utilized the then-fledgling MTV to help promote the film, which spawned two hits songs. It was a win-win - MTV needed the content and every time a Flashdance video aired on the channel it was a free ad for the movie.

Despite his hit-making gifts, Simpson also embodied the worst cliches of Hollywood power players. He once greeted a reporter by asking him what time it was, then following that with, "Four o'clock. You know what I like to do at four o'clock? I like to pour myself a big drink, lay out a few lines and abuse a screenwriter. Have a seat."  The reporter sat and watched Simpson do just that. In that order.

Simpson's alcohol use almost derailed his career when he was only in his thirties. A successful Paramount executive at the time, his drinking became such an issue with his superiors that they fired him, offering the traditional producer deal in return for him leaving quietly. That's when he hooked up with Bruckheimer and the box-office bonanza commenced.

Simpson also developed an affinity for hookers. He forged relationships with Madame Alex and Heidi Fleiss, two of the most notorious madams in Los Angeles. His drug and alcohol use became legendary even by Hollywood standards. The list of prescriptions he held at the time of his death is staggering - roughly twenty different drugs. One post-mortem investigation found that his monthly expenditure for prescription drugs was over $60,000...and that's in mid-nineties dollars. It's almost as if his death at a relatively young age wasn't so much a tragedy, but a miracle that he survived that long.

On top of his substance intake, Simpson also struggled with internal demons and insecurities that manifested in weight issues and multiple, grotesque plastic surgeries. Among these was having fat injected into his penis to increase its size, and having time-release testosterone implants in his buttocks to increase his sex drive and energy level. That last one backfired on the Days of Thunder set when the time-release aspect failed, "flooding his system with very high doses of the aggression-inducing hormone." Simpson flew into a rage while arguing with Bruckheimer, reportedly ripping a door off a production vehicle.

Fleming does a fantastic job of recreating the Hollywood of the eighties and nineties, with its big name movers and shakers, over-the-top lifestyles, the intertwined relationships, and the toll all of this took on those who lived it. And no one represented that lifestyle, era, or paid the price like Simpson.

One thing that I did find darkly humorous were statements made in the aftermath of the end of the Simpson/Bruckheimer partnership. No longer able to deal with the excesses and resulting craziness, and hoping some tough love would shock Simpson into dealing with his addictions, Bruckheimer ended their professional union in 1995. Almost everyone seemed convinced that Simpson could be successful on his own, but that Bruckheimer wouldn't. As it turned out Simpson would be dead within months, and as far as Bruckheimer is concerned...well, I think we all know how wrong the naysayers were about his post-Don Simpson accomplishments.

What Bruckheimer did not say, but what close friends and employees knew, was that he had simply had enough. Since the peak of their high-concept high in the mid-1980's, Simpson had been on an almost nonstop bender, a perpetual attempt to live his life at the very edge of every extreme. It had worn badly on his health and on his ability to function as a producer. It had also worn badly on Bruckheimer's patience.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

COVID-19 claims another victim

Last March when Left Coast Crime San Diego had to shut down on its first day, all eyes looked forward to next year's conference scheduled for April 2021 in Albuquerque. I know mine were.

Today came this news:

Hot off the press: Left Coast Crime 2021 Rescheduled to 2022

Due to the uncertainty of holding large gatherings in the spring of 2021, the Left Coast Crime 2021 convention has been rescheduled for April 7–10, 2022 – same place, same week in April, just a year later.

The Left Coast Crime national committee is making this decision now because we cannot count on having favorable government policies and the hotel's ability to provide necessary services by next spring, as well as the willingness of our Left Coast Crime community to travel with confidence. We’ve been in continual conversations with hotel personnel and sought assurances from the State of New Mexico, but no one can say when conventions can resume, even in 2021.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm sick of the new normal.

I do want to give props to the LCC organizers for the work they're doing. Hopefully by the time April 2022 rolls around we will all get to see their hard work finally reach fruition.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Stranger than fiction

Talk about life imitating art, and not in a good way: In 2019, British student Jessica Johnson wrote a short story that earned her an Orwell Youth Prize...only to have her dystopian tale come to life, and at her own expense no less. It's pretty crazy.

I don't know much about the British education system, so I'm not exactly sure what is meant by certain terms like A-level and Sixth Form, but here is the gist of the situation:

  • In 2019, Jessica won an Orwell Youth Prize for her story "A Band Apart". Set in 2029, it envisions a future in which merit and grades are only a part of student performance assessment - another factor is an algorithm that rewards or penalizes each student depending on their background. This combination results in them being assigned to one of three "bands". Band 1 is the most advantageous because it affords these students better education and more prestigious, lucrative careers like doctor or lawyer. Band 2 provides decent jobs like teacher or administration, while Band 3 dooms those students to menial, low-paying jobs. The result is a caste system that makes it difficult for lower-class individuals to rise above their current station in life, and often penalizes smart, hard-working students.
  • Jessica needed an A in her English Literature class to qualify for a scholarship and retain her university admission. She was on her way to doing just that when classes were shut down earlier this year due to COVID-19 and final exams were canceled. For some reason, the decision was made to to add a "formula" to grades given by teachers based on work up to the point of the shutdown.
  • According to this article (bold mine), "About 40% of A-level results - published on Thursday - were downgraded from teachers' assessments by exams regulator Ofqual, which used a formula based on schools' prior grades." Johnson was one of those affected - the "formula" dropped her grade from an A to a B, which would have cost her both the scholarship and her university admission. This is exactly what happened in "A Band Apart" - despite hard work, some students were hobbled by unrelated factors out of their control.

Luckily, according to this article, her A grade has been restored. Jessica reflected on the irony of her experience:

"I've fallen into my story. It's crazy," said Jessica Johnson, a student at Ashton Sixth Form College in Greater Manchester. "I based it on the educational inequality I already saw. I just exaggerated that inequality and added the algorithm. But I really didn't think it would come true as quick as it did!"

This whole story reminded me of a quote regarding George Orwell's novel 1984. I don't remember where I saw it and I couldn't discover who originally made the statement, but it really resonates: "1984 was supposed to be a warning, not an instruction manual." There's a great piece about the quote here.

You can read "A Band Apart" here. Gotta admit, I'm impressed with her as a writer. I hope she goes far.