Journalism and Me

November 13, 2015 2:13am
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Occasionally I wonder why I never got into proper journalism, and even if it’d be too late for me to do so. I mean, I like the writing that I do and you certainly don’t have to sell me on the value of entertainment and humor in society, but there’s still a part of me that wonders if I could be doing more if I had chosen to pursue a role in the media, as it were…

I think a lot of this comes about because I see so many flaws around us today that are based on misinformation, even though I’m honestly not sure if I could do it any better or if I would even know how to do so. Kind of piggybacking off of my post earlier this evening about overcoming divides, it’s clear that a lot of people align themselves with either conservative media or liberal media … and I guess the tricky part is that the devil on my shoulder isn’t sure that even if people had a better choice down the middle for their information, if they’d really be interested in that in the world which we live in today.

When I used to watch the Aaron Sorkin show The Newsroom over the last couple of years, to me it was a great fictional depiction of what the news ought to be – professionals passionate about getting the story right and not just pursuing leads for sensationalism, standing up for integrity in the fourth estate and particularly pushing back when it came to politicians not giving actual answers and trying to pull the wool over on people’s eyes.

And of course, I’m sure it might be said that I enjoyed that show because I’m a liberal and the whole show was created to make conservative newscasters look stupid, though my simple rebuttal would be that conservative newscasters make themselves look stupid by the ways that they distort and sensationalize the things that they broadcast. The truth is really that both sides exhibit the same problem in different areas, yet in a society today where it’s so easy to pick the news source that makes you feel good by reinforcing the chanting already going on inside your own head, would anybody even pay attention to that alternative news option???

One that I think is actually doing a really good job at producing this type of non-partisan, honest news that I’m talking about right now is VICE. You kind of have to sift through their website to find the really good stories from the same kind of weird clickbait that you find on Salon and Buzzfeed and HuffPost, but their big stories via VICE News – and particularly the ones that go into their series on HBO – feature some pretty nice investigative reporting that exposes issues on a larger scale that are impacting real people all over the world.

For instance, last night I stayed up way too late watching a special feature they did about America’s prison system that included some interviews that President Obama did with inmates at a federal penitentiary. It particularly focused on The War on Drugs and the consequences that have resulted from putting so many people in prison for non-violent offenses – it definitely made you take a second look at a complicated problem in that thirty years ago the edict was simply “Drugs are bad – we can’t be hard enough on criminals!” to now we’re really seeing the effects of those programs decades later and people like Bill Clinton, who played a big role in cracking down on drug offenders, is now admitting that he was wrong and he helped to create an entirely new set of problems that we now have to solve instead.

That’s the kind of journalism that I like to see – not 30-45 second sound bites that grab your attention and flare up the political base, but hands on, gritty research that peels back the layers and gives people a different way of looking at a problem. I’d like to see that same kind of technique applied to other areas – I think the political sphere is ripe for fact-checking because politicians and BS go hand in hand … I just don’t know how it would be received.

Still, there’s a great quote from The Newsroom that rings a certain truth in this regard:

“People will want the news if you give it to them with integrity. Not everybody, not even a lot of people – 5%. And 5% more of anything is what makes the difference in this country…”

I can’t even…

August 27, 2015 2:52am
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I’ve watched a lot of disturbing stuff on the Internet, particularly involving two girls and one cup, but right now there’s one video floating around that I just can’t bring myself to watch.

I just read some tweets from staff members of the news channel in Virginia that saw a reporter and her cameraman murdered in cold blood on live TV yesterday morning – it sounds by now that it was by a disgruntled former employee – and not only was the reporter dating someone in the newsroom, but the cameraman was engaged to someone in the control room who watched the entire thing happen live.

I can’t even imagine watching someone unrelated’s death live on TV, so to see someone like that unfold for the person who you’re planning on marrying???

He was 27. She had just turned 24.

The guy even wore a camera and filmed his attack, posting it immediately online afterwards.

Shock is the only word I can use to describe what happened, and yet frankly it happens so often in America that asking the questions doesn’t even seem relevant anymore. Hearing about somebody getting gunned down out of nowhere in the streets isn’t just something that happens in other, less-civilized countries anymore. Here in the Land of the Free, it happens in our schools and on our streets in cities big and small … there’s been almost 250 mass shootings in the United States in 2015 alone … or more than one a day.

The only reason this one even managed to ride the news cycle all day is because it literally happened on the news.

They were just reporting the local news … just like those first-graders were just trying to learn…

Freedom vs. Religion … again

June 30, 2014 11:53am
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It would be inappropriate for a prospective employer to ask about your religious beliefs in a job interview, but after today’s ruling by the Supreme Court with regards to “religious freedom” trumping healthcare with regards to offering contraceptives, it’s almost a necessity for the interviewee to ask the same thing of his prospective employer…

Do you believe in a religion that has strong views with regards to medical care, be it contraception, abortion, in vitro fertilization, blood transfusions, vaccines, antibiotics, or even any medical treatment in general in favor of The Lord’s Will to heal his true believers?

How about the CEO and Board of Directors??? What are their current takes on these life-altering medical procedures? And which of them have the most weight in terms of dictating religious policy for the organization as a whole?

Are there any plans to sell the company or change ownership in the next 20 to 30 years to another party that might decide “the corporation’s religious beliefs” no longer align with any that will allow me the proper medical care that I require or may require 20-30 years on down the road in my career???

If there’s any positive thing at all to come out of today’s ruling, it’s why it’s time for America to catch up with the rest of the civilized world and leave employer-sponsored health insurance behind in favor of a single-payer model that doesn’t leave employees at the mercy of their employer to determine the quality of medical care that they deserve. Sure, you could just pay for it yourself, except no you can’t because the current system so vastly favors those with insurance that anyone seeking care without inanely pays multiple times the fees that insurance companies have mandated for their own costs … that’s why it’s pretty much vital to have insurance in America today.

A business being able to declare religious beliefs as a reason for denying certain kinds of isn’t religious freedom, it’s religious oppression. Businesses should not have the right to dictate what kinds of medical care one of their employees are allowed to receive – that decision should be between them and their doctors. Either provide health insurance or don’t, but this idea that they can pick and choose which specific line items in a person’s healthcare needs that they’ll cover is appalling.

If you need to prevent someone else from doing something in order to express your freedom, you’re an oppressor.

Freedom of Religion means that our government cannot establish a national religion that all US citizens are required to follow … it’s kind of why our ancestors came over here from England in the first place. Yet with today’s ruling, your employer now is allowed to establish a religion for his business, and by simply working there you’re expected to follow it because that religion will dictate the type of healthcare that you receive.

Last time I checked, freedom is supposed to cover everybody – freedom isn’t earned by taking it from someone else.

An Utterly Shameless Fox News Attacks The Lego Movie

February 10, 2014 4:45pm
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I just can’t even… How do they…

Fox News is a spoof of actual news programming – that’s the only explanation that makes any sense in the world anymore.

…because this is a kids movie that they’re targeting for being anti-business THAT WAS SOLELY CREATED FOR THE PURPOSE OF SELLING KIDS TOYS…

Seriously – the name of the product being sold is in the title of the movie.

*facepalm times infinity*

They did it two years ago with the Muppets, now they’ve done it again with Legos…

Fox News is dead to me.

So I started reading some of the links that people are posting about the open letter that Dylan Farrow wrote about being raped by her adoptive father, famed director Woody Allen, some 20 years ago. And I don’t know what I think about it, so I thought that I’d use some space here to elaborate on my thoughts…

I should say right off the bat that I’m not particularly a Woody Allen fan. I don’t dislike him – it’s just that after looking through the list, I honestly don’t think that I’ve ever seen a single one of his movies. Even Annie Hall, which I’m pretty sure makes me a terrible fan of movies in general.

When I look at the discussions taking place from the outside, I see two very distinct camps forming – those who still think that he should be burned at the stake, and those who think that she’s lying. And I read this article that talks about how the problem that with a case like this, they can’t both be innocent – one of them must be lying. The article kind of loses me as it goes on to talk about rape culture and suggests that when you’re famous, the burden of proof is always on the other person…

…which stings a little as it reminds me of the incidents last year that ended Kevin Clash’s career as the beloved Elmo, even though all of the accusations were eventually withdrawn or thrown out in court.

Because in the end, both situations are decidedly bad:

  • being sexually abused
  • being accused of sexual abuse that you didn’t actually commit

And let’s not kid ourselves that the second one doesn’t happen because it does, and I’m not even saying that to throw a weight of statistics around, but I think it’s important to acknowledge the fact that people do get falsely accused of things, even when it comes to rape, and history has proven that the public isn’t quick to forget serious accusations, even after a judicial verdict has been set and the accused has been deemed innocent.

It’s kind of one of those things that follows you – just ask OJ, or the late Michael Jackson, or even George Zimmerman … I’ll even throw a case in the mix that *I* thought was blatantly miscalled. Whether each of those people was truly guilty or not, there’s a portion of us – myself included, for Zimmerman – who will always look at them as disgusting individuals that got away with heinous crimes where our justice system failed their victims.

…which kind of branches into the question of what really is the purpose of our justice system here in America?

The general idea is that we both punish and rehabilitate those who commit crimes, with the understanding that each person is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. And we’ve certainly seen that fail in some cases where a murdered gets off on a technicality or there’s just that one piece of the puzzle that doesn’t quite fit, yet maintaining “beyond a reasonable doubt” is vital because we’ve also had some cases where our justice system failed the defendant and sentenced them to life in jail or death when in fact they were actually innocent.

That’s also very, very bad, and so we’re really stuck between a rock and a hard place with a situation like this because on one hand, you want to make it as easy as possible for a victim to actually come forward and speak out against their abuser after having experienced whatever personal hell they’ve been put through – in a way, it’s not right to just assume that she’s not telling the truth until the evidence proves otherwise, and yet what do you do in that handful of cases where the accusations were all fabricated and the accused’s life is ruined because the accuser had a personal vendetta and just wanted to ruin them???

I’m not saying that’s what happened between Dylan Farrow and Woody Allen, but it’s important to consider when we look at reopening this case in the public eye after 20 years ago a New York judge found the charges to be inconclusive. Clearly there’s a whole lot of drama in that family, and there’s been a lot of hurt, and in some cases it’s not really crazy to say that there’s been a lot of malice brewing from Mia Farrow, who some allege has been a mastermind at all of this latest circus coming to light in the middle of awards season after her ex-husband already received a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes.

But I don’t even want to argue motive or malicious intent. For whatever reason, she felt the need to get everything off of her chest in a very public manner at this point in time, and now even as he offers the most reserved response possible, lines are being drawn once again and people are taking sides and some larger discussions about rape culture are being thrown around that I’m not exactly sure deserve to be preserved in a vacuum. In theory, the idea of supporting and not shaming the victim makes all of the sense in the world … that is, as long as the victim is actually a victim. But that part of the culture doesn’t really take into consideration the idea that not every allegation will be trustworthy, and the problem is … I don’t really know where to go with that.

Do you always side with the victim and risk creating a society where crying rape is easy retaliation against one who’s hurt you? Not only is it a disservice to those who are actually victims of abuse, but it also creates a pretty terrifying landscape where one can be guilty until proven innocent specifically in one of the most heinous crimes of all.

Or do you always side with the accused and nurture the very rape culture that many talk about where victims are afraid to speak up? Just as equally bad, this puts even more power into the hands of legitimate abusers who stand a better chance of getting away with it if the process sides in their favor.

Another angle to consider is that you really have two processes to consider here when one of these cases surfaces – the judicial process that decides whether the accused spends the next 20 years in jail, on top of the public opinion that decides whether the accused will be treated like he belongs in jail even if the judicial process finds them not guilty in a court of law. Each process works very independent of one another, and as we’ve most definitely seen in the past, one might argue in the stance of celebrity that the public opinion swings even stronger than that of the courts.

Just ask anyone who still considers The King of Pop to be a child molester, even in death.

Or George Zimmerman, who myself included will consider a murderer until the day that his victim’s ghost pops by to cite that in fact, he did really start the whole thing after all.

It’s like this quote from The Daily Beast’s take on the situation

“The point is that accusations make headlines; retractions are buried on page twelve, and coerced accusations are as much a reality as coerced confessions.”

At this point Dylan Farrow could write a second blog post and recant, saying, “Mom forced me into saying the whole thing…” and still there’s a section of the public that will look at Woody Allen as a disgusting child molester who should be put to death. And maybe he’s far enough along in his career that the negative publicity doesn’t really matter anymore … though the whole awards jabs would kind of suggest otherwise … that’s still got to be a pretty crappy allegation to shoulder if it isn’t actually true.

Anyways, like I said at the very beginning – I don’t know where the middle ground is here. How do we create a society where victims feel safe to come forward and yet the falsely accused still maintain the innocence that they deserve??? How are we supposed to maintain both innocence and faith on both sides of the table? It’s no more right to denounce a victim than it is to crucify someone who was falsely accused, and as deeply emotional as each side is, it’s certainly not fair to write one off in favor of the other.

So where do we go from here???

one last thing about these Somali pirates…

February 2, 2014 2:37pm
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You see, even if it’s actually cited and true and everything, it’s comments like this on Wikipedia that make people  – for good reason – question its accuracy and reliability…

Somali Pirates – Self Defense
This list includes doing things like ringing the deck of the ship with razor wire, rigging fire-hoses to spray sea-water over the side of the ship (to hinder boardings), having a distinctive pirate alarm, hardening the bridge against gunfire and creating a “citadel” where the crew can retreat in the event pirates get on board. Other unofficial self-defense measures that can be found on merchant vessels include the setting up of mannequins posing as armed guards or firing flares at the pirates.[137] Also, the songs “…Baby One More Time” and “Oops!… I Did It Again” by Britney Spears blasted at high volume at the pirates, are reported to be effective.[138]

What?! 😆

movie thoughts … Captain Phillips

February 2, 2014 1:32am
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MV5BMTQzNzExMDg3Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODU1NzEzMDE@._V1_SX214_[1]Good movie, scary movie!

I had a feeling when we turned this on that it was going to creep me out a little. I mean, I barely remember when this stuff was in the news more regularly a few years back, but I don’t know … maybe after having been on a couple of big boats myself for cruises, the whole story just kind of hit a little too close to home for me because the second the pirates started climbing their ladder and it was clear that they were getting on that boat, I just couldn’t help but think, “Man, am I going to have some fucked up dreams tonight…”

Throughout the entire movie, all I could think was how much I wanted to see Tom Hanks rise up to be a bad ass and punch one of the hijackers right in the face … even as Home Alone-ish as it seemed, I kind of loved the retribution when the one dude cut his foot on the broken glass that they had left out for him, and I was very much rooting for one of the guys to club the lead pirate with a lead pipe or something when he was rooting around the engine room by himself!

The one thing that I was expecting that didn’t end up happening, though, was that I just assumed that eventually “the mothership” was going to come back and then there would be 20 pirates vs. the ship’s crew as opposed to only 4 … seriously, they couldn’t have figured out a way to overpower four of them, especially after they took one hostage and another had a busted up foot?!

I think what really blew my mind even more than the actual movie, though, was in reading Wikipedia just now and finding out how much actual piracy took place around Somalia during that 5-year span – in 2008, there were 111 attacks that led to 42 successful hijackings, and then the following year they were up to 79 attacks and 21 successful by mid-April! I had no idea that this wasn’t just some random thing – piracy is a big deal over off of the Horn of Africa and apparently there’s a ton of money to be made by ransoming ships and their crews for insurance money from the shipping companies. I mean, the list of pirate attacks is so big on Wikipedia that they have to divide it up by year to make it legible … it’s just crazy that we normally think of pirates as the Johnny Depp, ruthless but harmless motif that we enjoy from Pirates of the Caribbean, but these Pirates of the Indian Ocean apparently really mean business! 🙁

Although not for nothing, but reading through those lists and seeing the random entries where apparently pirates were dumb enough to fire upon naval warships and then finding that they pretty much got smoked out of the water is somewhat redeeming. To be honest, I was kind of hoping to see that happen in this movie, with the navy catching up to their rickety, old mothership and just blasting their pirate asses to kingdom come … but that never happened.

So anyways, I really liked this movie, even though it kept me on edge and I fear of images of Somali pirates now haunting my dreams. I thought that Tom Hanks gave yet another stellar performance, even up to his shock scene at the very end where I wanted the nurse to just give him a pillow and let him cry it out with a nice hug, even though the nurses on either side of me watching the movie were quick to cite that my suggestion was pretty much the worst possible way to treat a person in shock!

I guess that’s why I’m a writer, not a trained medical professional. And you definitely won’t catch me boating around Africa anytime soon, either … here I just thought that sharks were the worst thing to deal with in that part of the world, but Somali pirates definitely look like they would be much, much worse…  😯

I think I’m just going to start dropping the link to this vlogbrothers video whenever anyone wants to argue that climate change isn’t an actual thing anymore because … science.

Seriously.

Pollution bad = we should make less of it.

Fossil fuels depleting = we should use more alternatives.

Polar bear houses melting away = sad polar bears.

We need to do better. Science isn’t lying to you.

The Sinking of the Oceanos, 1991

September 15, 2013 4:11am
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I’ve been up most of the night learning about this kind of fascinating, but mostly terrifying account from 22 years ago of the cruise ship Oceanos sinking off the coast of South Africa.

Much like the recent Costa Concordia, the Captain abandoned his ship and left the passengers and most of the crew to fend for themselves, however unlike the more recent disaster, not a single one of the 571 passengers and crew on-board actually died from the incident.

Playing a key part in the evacuation of the ship’s passengers was Moss Hills, who worked on the Oceanos as the lead guitar player, and it’s just incredible to read his account of realizing that something didn’t seem right, then finding that many of the crew and officers were gathering personal belongings without a word to the passengers, then discovering that the ship was in fact taking on water, and finally working with Lorraine Betts, the cruise director, to coordinate an evacuation first into the remaining lifeboats … and then also via airlift by the South Africa Air Force once they discovered that because between some boats being unavailable and the crew abandoned ship only half-filling another, there wasn’t enough room on the rest for everyone who was left…

At one point he talks about having to lash himself to the railing in order to help people into the harness for the helicopters, and photos show pictures of the deck at a 45 degree angle … it truly is a wonder that nobody ended up falling into the sea that night.

Oh wait – one person did! And yet one of the rescuers was able to dive in and save him, too!

This 6-part series from NBC called Miracle on the Wild Coast tells the entire story and includes interviews with a number of the passengers, the guy who fell from the harness into the sea, and of course, the entertainment staff heroes who led the rescue effort in lieu of actual leadership.

The Captain was quoted later as saying, “When I order abandon ship, it doesn’t matter what time I leave. Abandon is for everybody. If some people like to stay, they can stay.”

It’s amazing how a story can make you both lose and gain faith in humanity at the same time.

George Zimmerman Acquitted

July 14, 2013 3:02am
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I don’t want to think about this case anymore.

It’s like despite all of the circus around choosing a jury, they still managed to handpick a jury of all women who somehow found themselves relating more to the assailant than the victim. Those women didn’t see Trayvon as their own son – they saw George Zimmerman as the son or close friend that just got caught up in a bad situation and needed their help.

One even plans to write A BOOK about the trial … just an “observational” book, though, so that should be fine!

W.T.F.???

This is the last thing that I can watch about this case – it’s an interview from a year ago where Zimmerman cites that he has no regrets about his actions that evening, and that it was “God’s plan” for the events that transpired that ultimately led to the death of 17 year-old kid in his hands.

Bullshit.

 

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