Friday, July 30, 2004

The Moore Debate

UPDATE: Since writing the below post, I read this: http://www.davekopel.org/Terror/Fiftysix-Deceits-in-Fahrenheit-911.htm. It puts a bit of perspective into Moore's journalistic accuracy.

_________ OK, since I finally saw F911 I thought I'd chime on the subject. First, I DO think Moore takes cheap shots. Example, asking senators to send their sons to Iraq. If I had been one of those senators I would have said, "My son is old enough to make his own decisions. You'll have to ask him." Another example, showing Brittney Spears saying we should just believe the president. There were tons of examples of cheap shots in the movie. Moore does this partly because he falls into the same trap that us bloggers fall into. We think wouldn't it be fun to just say ________?. This is a trap that I am learning to avoid. Cheap shots make ones argument less credible because they are "fighting words" and really don't lead to mature dialog. However, Moore also takes cheap shots because they are funny and he wants his documentary (a form of media that historically NEVER makes money) to sell. After all, people don’t usually pay to see documentaries. Still, Moore does condescend to his audience. He ALWAYS has. He thinks we won't see his huge leaps in logic but many of us do. I didn’t agree with Moore in “Roger & Me”. I didn’t agree with Moore in “Bowling for Columbine.” However, I agree with him 100% with “Farenheit 911.” I think Bush had an agenda to go into Iraq and was just itching for an excuse. I think the WTC bombing had as much to do with Iraq as fish have to do with bicycles. But can I prove this? No. Can we prove that Iraq didn’t have WMDs? No. You can’t prove a universal negative. All you can do is quote people who say they haven’t found a connection or haven’t found WMDs. Still, I see people attacking Moore using an ad hominem fallacy. They attack his character instead of his words. They say "He's un-American." Or, "He's a pig." Or "He's a "fat un-American pig." Those are easy attacks, and all it says is that you don’t like what he said. It’s harder to actually attack his arguments and back it up with facts that contradict. If some other news organization backs Moore up, people attack the character of the news organization. It's not a very good argument. For those people who say that criticizing an administration is equal to being un-American or unpatriotic, I ask this: if we had a president that you were vehemently opposed to, would you just grit your teeth and “Stand by the president”? I hope not. I hope that you would dissent. America was BORN because we are dissenters. We told the English to shove their unrepresented taxes and in a fit of drunken logic, dressed up like indians and threw tea into a harbor. To the people who call Michael Moore un-American I say he is the quintessential American because America is characterized by people who *won’t* just sit and take it if they don’t agree with their government. I don’t think peaceful dissent is only good when you agree with it. Peaceful dissent is either always good or always bad. Saddam Hussein wouldn’t have lasted 5 minutes as president of the United States. He would have been tossed out by pissed-off Americans. If the Iraqis were a little more like Americans they would have tossed him out their way--but peaceful dissent is not a part of their national character like it is ours. That’s really a shame, because peaceful dissent is good. (I added "peaceful" because I don't call insurgents "dissenters" I call them terrorists.) If we turn peaceful dissent into a bad thing in the U.S., then when someone like Saddam Hussein is President, you non-dissenters can all "stand by your president." Me? I'm going to dissent. We deserve the government we get if we don't dissent. In Michael Moore’s case, he’s dissenting against a president that a lot of people like! That takes guts. Furthermore, when the president’s supporters call Moore “un-American” or "a hater of America," or whatever other names, it has a chilling effect on those of us who agree with Moore. If we speak up in his defense, then we are putting ourselves in the “Un-American pig” box that he is in. Well screw that. While I don't agree with Moore's cheap shots, I do agree with his message and I'm not afraid to say it!

Monday, July 26, 2004

Wanted: Corporate Ninjas

Western society might be evolving itself into the stone ages. As new technologies and "services" have been grafted, one by one, onto the basis of our stable society, it seems to me that the resulting structure is becoming less and less stable. Doomsday? Hardly. Huge pain in the ass? Positively. Several leaps backward? Maybe .... I've had a growing awareness of this problem for some time now. Then I read Voltaire's Bastards. This book finally started zeroing in on this problem. I couldn't finish the book for an ironic reason. The book is about how the complexity of our society is rendering it ineffective, and demonstrates how ours is the first society where its citizens can't really understand it or interact with it. The book is written (in my humble opinion) very poorly because it is too complex and meandering. Was the author intending this? I think not. But back to my point.  Our society is getting so complex, so competitive, and so "service oriented", that its citizens are literally being victimized by it. Remember "Buttle" in "Brazil"? That would be who I feel like this week. A slight problem with my internet account did not fall into the "common list" of problems experienced by Verizon Online customers. I have called no less than ten times to technical support. Here is where the problem started. Jot this down and don't forget it: Knowledge bases tell underpaid customer service agents what to think, but it doesn't teach them how to think. And it certainly doesn't teach them to care. Because trust me, Verizon doesn't care. Corporate evil allows Verizon to say "We have 9,238,209 customers. If we pay our customer service agents minimum wage and show them how to solve 90% of the problems, we will lose 8,301 customers per year. The calculated savings is $290,010 per year. [all numbers have been verified by my anus that they came from it.] Verizon makes this decision (and it is their right to make it) because the corporate world is so freakin' complex that it's pretty much impractical to pay for customer support that can solve 99.9% of problems. So they settle on 90%. But here's the rub. Verizon is taking a happy customer and turning them into a bitter enemy. You take a dump on me, I take a picture of the dump and post it on my blog. Call it a "log blog". Whatever. We used to have the Public Utilities Commission to turn to for problems like this, but DSL service is not a utility and thus not regulated. DSL is also typically provided by companies that WERE watched by the PUC for every other service they ever sold. So now that they are not being watched, they don't have the maturity to really handle customer problems like they should. The problem is the complexity, and the high rate of change. The solution ... is ninjas. What I'm calling a "ninja" is someone who will be a highly-trained, talented, empowered communicator who will listen to a screaming customer  who falls into the 10% category. THe ninja will hear their problem once, then take his katana and cut through all the corporate silos *sideways* to solve the problem, and get the customer back on his feet. If Verizon had done this for me, I would be singing their praises. Instead I am slogging through a giant turd. Thanks Verizon.  Posted by Hello

Meet the Author

My name is Jim. I live in Southern California. For work I am an IT Mangement. For play, (not foreplay), I blog. I'm also working very very slowly on a huge novel. I also play computer games, but hardly ever. Really. The rest is secret.  Posted by Hello

Friday, July 23, 2004

The Best of the Bad

Since it's Friday, I'm going to post a list of the top 10 bad guys in movies. The bad guys are what make movies good, in my humble opinion. Here they are: 1. Roy Baty, played by Rutger Hauer in "Blade Runner". The best and most compassionate portrayal of a bad guy ever. 2. "Manny" Manheim, played by Jon Voigt in "Runaway Train" If you've seen it, you'll understand. This one is actually a close second to my venerated Blade Runner. 3. Colonel Kurtz, played by Marlon Brando in "Apocalypse Now" 4. Kaiser Soze, played by [name intentionally removed] in "The Usual Suspects". Just awesome. 5. Hans Gruber, played by Alan Rickman in "Die Hard" 6. Nurse Mildred Ratched, played by Louise Fletcher in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest" 7. John Doe, played by Kevin Spacey in "Se7en" 8. Agent Smith, played by Hugo Weaving in "The Matrix" 9. "Butch" Haynes, played by Kevin Costner in "A Perfect World" This one's a longshot, but I liked it. 10. HAL 9000, voice by Douglas Rain in "2001: A Space Odyssey" Interesting list. There's a little bit of me in all of them! In the interest of starting a "meme" ... Dread over at "The Ronkainen Project" has promised to post his list as well.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

What I really said on "Thesneeze.com"

  One thing I don't like about some of the comment engines that many blogs use is that it sometimes seems like the text below the author cited is what the author said, when in fact it's the text above. It's a common mistake I always make as well. In this case it put me in touch with Ranger Bob, whose blog is now linked to mine. But to set the record straight, what I said on thesneeze.com, on the topic of Starbucks bashing, was the following:   The only thing I don't like about Starbucks is that it is, like Jesus, Omnipresent. Only Jesus should be Omnipresent. [Therefore] Starbucks is obviously the anti-Christ.   [Bracketted text was added to clarify myself, which should be allowed.]   No animals were harmed during the posting of this blog.  

A little perspective ...

  Why I was irritated this morning:   1. My Air Conditioning is proving to be vastly inadequate. I left the house this morning at 7:45, shirt drenched in sweat.   2. While bending over to feed the cat, I placed to top of my head firmly into the sharp corner of my kitchen counter. The wound shows clearly through the top of my thinly haired head. I am now known as "Scabbers".  (Apologies to J.K. Rowling.)   3. My ISP (not to mention any names but it rhymes with "Horizon" and starts with a V") has proven to be the second-worst provider of customer support that I've ever experienced. (First place belongs to Southwest Bell Corporation, who I will never ever EVER do business with again.) I haven't had internet connectivity from home for two weeks now. I may resort to smoke signals.   But ... here is why I should just shut the hell up and stop complaining:   1. One of my customers just returned to her office today after being out for 6 months to battle--and beat--cancer.   Makes my problems seem just ... silly.   ^5 Diana!  

Friday, July 16, 2004

Two points for Zoo Tycoon

  My kids play a computer game called "Zoo Tycoon".  And since I've tried to raise them with a sense of fair play and ethics, they have scoured the information superhighway to find every possible "cheat" that exists for this game.   One of the features of the game is that you can name guests. If you name guests with secret names, some of these cheats come into play. If you name one guy a certain thing, you get all the various types of animal shelters at your disposal.   Then I noticed a guest named "George W.". I pointed to him and said "why did you name him that?"   My daughter said that she read that it is one of the cheat codes.   "Oh," I replied. "What happens when you name him that?"   "It's the weirdest thing," my daughter said. "I'm not sure why this is good, but now all the animals poop more."   No lie.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

A Happy Memory

It's happy now of course. At the time I was not exactly happy. It happened about 5 years ago. I am informed by my neighbor that my car had been on fire the night before. Right after I pulled in, I ran up to my apartment, he pulled in behind me and saw the fire. He took a rag and smacked the fire--which was around my oil pan--out. Being the smart guy that I am, I decided the next morning to go anon to the dealership, as the car was still under warranty. On the way, I was extremely nervous that I was driving a veritable time bomb. I looked out the side mirrors and saw smoke pouring out from the bottom of my car. I was literally 1.5 blocks from the dealership, so I made an illegal right hand turn on to Brand Boulevard in Glendale California. (Was I cognizant that it was an illegal right turn? I don't remember because my car was on fire. Stop asking stupid questions.) I know now that it was an illegal turn, mind you, because flashing lights appeared behind me. I am now a half block from the dealership. I pulled my car over and stopped. Smoke billowed forth from it like it might just be my car's funeral pyre. I rush back to the officer--a classic motorcycle cop--and let him know with no lack of urgency that my car was, as I spoke, in flames. The cop said one thing. "Are you aware that you made an illegal right turn back there?" "Officer, my car is on fire. I was trying to get it as quickly as possible to the dealership which is (pointing) right there." The officer said nothing. He opened his little metal book of tickets and began scrawling out my citation like it was his magnum opus. I actually remember laughing at him while I threw open my trunk looking for a crusty towel with which to put out the flame. The happy ending. The car's warranty was to expire in 30 days, so Toyota paid for a complete rebuild of my engine. And I went to traffic school to pay for the ticket. Salutations to that police officer for his unflinching sense of duty, and complete lack of compassion.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Why I love the Web

I had 10 minutes between conference calls, and I needed to clear my mental palate, so to speak. I went to David's site to see if he had posted anything new, and clicked on a button I didn't remember seeing before that said "Soul". Then I went here. Jesus Lord A'mighty. This guy Henk knows what he is doing and is probably one of the best "industrial" photographers (with smatterings of poetry and fiction) I've ever seen. Ten minutes elapsed in a moment. I was leading the call, offering half-hearted "Uh huh" and "yeahs" while perusing his photos. I'd make one my computer's background, then replace it with another I like better. Doing this while on a conference call was truly mixing the ridiculous with the sublime. This one was the winner. I think he used infra-red film. A true artist, Henk. You made my day.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Untied Nations

No, the heading is not a typo. Forbes has reported that the UN is "aiming to bring a "modern day epidemic" of junk e-mail under control within the next two years by standardizing of legislation around the world to make it easier to bring prosecutions ... " This article made me pause for several reasons. In 2000, the UN made it's Millenium Declaration, organizing its goals under seven categories: 1. peace, security and disarmament; 2. development and poverty eradication; 3. protecting our common environment; 4. human rights, democracy and good governance; 5. protecting the vulnerable; 6. meeting the special needs of Africa; and 7. strengthening the United Nations. Under which category would "decreasing e-mail spam" fall under? Arguably "protecting the vulnerable" but still this announcement by the UN makes me wonder if it isn't trying to reinvent itself. Did GWB's snubbing of the UN prior to our war with Iraq give the UN the desire to reinvent itself? Granted, a world-wide governing body designed to aid global standardization and legislation to protect the effectiveness of the internet is necessary. I applaud anyone who attempts such a titanic feat. But is this really a role for the UN? Not as I remember the UN from my history class. But recent history has most certainly changed the UN's role, whether any of us wanted it to or not.

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