Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Click Bait and The Decline of Empire - a Pinko Valentine

For Valentines Day, I gave Pinko my cold.  He's sleeping through his cold, but my cold turned into one of those lingering, loose coughs.  I blame the NYC Department of Education, since I had to trudge through the blowing snow and ice, over mounds of frozen sludge to climb onto the bus to get to school.  Our school stayed open because DOE was open.

I get it that the Department of Education has many issues to balance, but it seemed to me that DeBlasio was looking at schools as day care centers for low wage workers.   Priveliged workers can work from home, take a personal day, or figure something out because we typically have options and support structures in place.  Low wage workers can be at work or be replaced. 

Teachers across the region were fully pissed off on Thursday and used social media to vent.   New York Collective of Radical Educators posted a link to a news story featuring this photo/caption.

"School's in NYC are to remain open." - Bill de Blasio
I'd provide the title of the story, but it was one of those typical "click bait" titles that describe the contents of the article as hilarious, and in my considered opinion, the contents were mildly amusing at best.   The one with Godzilla made me chuckle because it's an accurate assessment of the situation - especially since I've been expecting Godzilla to rise up from the ocean again ever since Fukushima.

Pinko has been on a tear lately about "click bait," because so many people on Face Book share articles without even checking to see if they are remotely true, or even reading the article at all for that matter.  They share an item on the strength of the headline or the graphic alone.   For example, a while ago, there was a little video going around that showed a few moments of what was supposedly an accident with fireworks but it was really a daytime display of fireworks.  I think it was in France.  I didn't watch any of it because, frankly, I didn't care to spend four more minutes of my day on Bullshit, and that was before I'd been trudging through the sleet and slush to get to work for days and days.  But, people were having a good time sharing the video and making comments like, "oooops."
Pinko became an internet party popper by posting links to the truth in the these same comment threads.

He gets annoyed when stories are circulating about the bad behavior of an individual, and the citizens of Face Book are all pissed off, demanding retribution on the alleged perpetrator.  Generally, it's some stupidity on the part of someone who should have known better - like that ancient video of the woman who swiped a foul ball from some little kid at an Astros game:

Granted, the woman looks like a greedy asshole in the video.  She probably works for BP or another corporation filled with greedy assholes - but the incident itself occurred in April 2012 and stories were still appearing over a year later like this one in Opposing Views in September 2013 (

While this little vignette in Houston might provide some sort of contemporary morality play if anyone stopped a moment to find out a few facts and draw some conclusions - that's not what happens on Facebook.  People start spewing invective and dreaming up appropriate punishments for the douchebag on parade.  The same thing happened with that story about the sorry-assed Boy Scout leaders who fucked up some sacred rocks in Utah (Charges Filed Against Boy Scout Leaders Who Toppled Ancient Rock Formation, ABC News, Feb 1, 2014).   It was undoubtedly an example of exceedingly bad behavior, but what's worse - in my mind anyway - is that thousands of people were bitching to high hell about a couple of assholes in a state park, but we can frack the whole country to smithereens and the same people don't even know it's happening.

Like the other day, more news came out about the dramatic increase in Oklahoma earthquakes since Fracking was introduced in the state a couple of years ago - and there is little, if any, mention of bit of information in the mainstream news - much less circulating around Facebook like the viral videos of stupid shit., 2.14.14

It seems to me that somebody somewhere makes a concerted effort to distribute and publicize stories of individuals behaving badly.  These stories antagonize folks who are already cranky about life in general, like so many of us are these days.   By offering up some tiny little target for their anger, the stories distract the public from larger, more central issues such as big money in government, privately funded climate change denial - take your pick.  The point is that if everyone is busy complaining about the Outrage Du Jour, then people won't band together and take to the streets to protest the Endless War and Ecocide resulting from years of corporate control.

Gothamist recently addressed the Click Bait phenomenon in an article entitled Jerry Seinfeld is The Devil Who Hates Minorities & Women.  Evidently, there's a service known as Chartbeat that records the number of hits a website or blog receives.  Gothamist explains:
Chartbeat, to the uninitiated, is a giant, coal-and-kitten-blood-powered factory located somewhere in the middle of Death Valley that counts up every single precious little click on websites like Gawker in order to calculate each blogger's exact worth as an employee.
I can see how a writer would want to stoke the Outrage Machine to drive up hits to his/her work in order to keep a job, get a raise, or whatever.  But since media consolidation has given roughly 350 executives dominion over the print and electronic news programming in a country with roughly 320,000,000 million people - well, you can see how it pays to keep America focused on celebrities, sports and examples of individuals behaving badly.  While we're looking at some bogus flickering images, the rich guys can do whatever they want - the guys of the Wall Street Kappa Beta Phi chapter can tell you:

One-Percent Jokes and Plutocrats in Drag: What I Saw When I Crashed a Wall Street Secret Society, by Kevin Roose, 
You can also see how it would be useful to publish photoshopped pictures of giant squid and attribute Fukushima radiation, or of fictitious Grammy acceptance speeches.  The thing is that when passionate people impulsively but earnestly share information only to discover that they've been fooled or hoaxed - it can lead a citizen activist to doubt his/her own judgement.  Consequently, that person may hesitate to share real, important information about social and economic justice, the environment or peace.  These "satires" can be just as effective as hostile trolls when it comes to shutting up the Left.

These are the sort of topics Pinko and I discuss at the dinner table when we're not absorbed in a lovefest.  Mostly, we're absorbed in lovefests, but we originally became friends over political and cultural analysis and the original discussion continues with the addition of Burning Man.  Sometimes we both sit at our computers, me at my desk in the corner and him by the window across the room where he occasionally smokes one of his Rollie cigarettes, and we tell each other about what we're reading - like an old, married couple reading the newspaper sections at the breakfast table.

Since the whole world is clearly going to Hell in a hand basket and there's little chance of stopping the inevitable decline of The Empire, it's a comfort to be here at the edge of the Apocalypse with Pinko the Bear.

He's going to be on BearMan Radio this coming Sunday around noon, talking about the shit going down this week in Kiev.  Although it appears that the people are rising in protest against tyrants, like the Arab Spring, the reality may be that some fascist types, with the backing of spooks from the US, are stirring up the locals.   He was talking about the situation on his own blogtalk show last night - Up Late with Pinko the Bear: Kiev is on Fire.

Honestly, it's hard to believe that we never laid eyes on each other in real life until six months ago, when I jumped on a plane and went to Burning Man.  We're going again this summer, of course.  I've already got my ticket.  If the end of the world as we know it is on the horizon, I'm delighted and grateful that we're following our bliss in every day life, and celebrating the human spirit for vacation.  Must be Thing of Beauty #076-101 (Explore Beauty - a Challenge, from realia).

Here's the podcast from Bearman Radio.  Great discussion that shows exactly what I like about Pinko the Bear, and his new Bear friend

Monday, February 10, 2014

Developing a New Domesticity

Pinko is joining the NYC Light Brigade for this action tomorrow (
He was with the Light Brigade last fall for the Living Wage thing, and he enjoyed it so much he's stayed in touch to volunteer.  He'll probably be holding a sign again.

I'm proud of him.   It hasn't been three weeks since he moved in for good on January 22nd when we got back from Reno, and he's building connections every day.  He's more involved in the NY Burner community, and he's been regrouping to start up his blogtalk show again.   The Pinko the Bear show has been erratic, at best, since he got back to Reno from Burning Man last September - I suppose being in New York disrupted his pattern, too, not only with his show but also with his habits.  For example, this year he didn't watch the super bowl which he's watched for years and years and years even though he is always sure to reference Noam Chomsky's opinion on sports - which has something to do with millionaires entraining hundredaires and thousandaires for the profit of billionaires and killionaires as well as the whole Bread and Circuses thing.

We took a long walk up Broadway, pausing occasionally at the windows of bars or restaurants where the game was playing loudly.  It was romantic.  Last week, we went to the launch party for the International Socialist Review.  They've been publishing for a long time, but recently updated their format.  While we were there, Pinko bought a book called Leon Trotsky: An Illustrated Introduction.  It's a graphic novel/biography by Tariq Ali.  I suspect that when it comes to couples, we're about as Red as they come, although I confess that every time he reads to me from the Trotsky book, I fall asleep.

We've been having fun, and now it's time to start focusing on his job search.  Right after we got back from Reno, we went to a party at a night club where the DJ was enough of an amateur to convince Pinko, known as ABear when he's a DJ, that he should be able to find a DJ job easily enough.  There's a bar downtown where he'd like to work but there are so many youngsters DJing for free out there that he couldn't get on the schedule until April.  So he's going back to the idea of being a part-time night doorman.  Something should turn up soon, but as much as it would be nice to have the extra money, there's no reason to take some stupid job just for a few bucks.  To me, the most important thing right now is to get clear about the kind of job he'd like to have.  It's easy to run off half cocked and find yourself running around in circles getting nowhere.

Meanwhile, he's been making himself useful by taking out the trash, meeting me at the store and carrying home the groceries and sealing up the draft around the window unit in our bedroom.  He opened the apricot jam jar too.  This week, he needs to wait around on the building super to drain the radiators and let ConEd in to read the meter.   I love this enhancement to my lifestyle.  Whenever I have a domestic dilemma that I can't solve on my own, I can simply Leave it to Pinko.

Naturally, there have been small shifts in my routine as well, most notably my pattern of Early to Bed, Early to Rise.  Now, I'm staying up later and sleeping later although it looks like he may not be staying up all night as much as he used to. I imagine that will shift again once he gets a job, but for now, we're very cozy.  It's especially nice since he tucks me in at 10:30 or 11:00 to make sure I get enough sleep since I'm the one with the day job.

To tell the truth, my ass has been dragging a little.  It took a lot of energy to spend over a week in Texas, have surgery that turned out to be more major than anticipated the minute I got back from Texas, and then fly out to Reno ten days later to meet Pinko's parents and bring him back to New York.   I loved Reno, though.  I loved having dinner with his best friends and driving around town with him to see the taxi stand and other points of interest, like the Morris Hotel for Burners.  His family was delighted to see me, which was a lovely experience compared to how Vagina Dentata and I cordially detested each other the whole time I was married to Buzz Kill.

When Pinko's mom dropped us off at the airport on Wednesday, she clasped her hands together and said, "I finally have a daughter!"
I was touched and replied, "Oh good! Next time I'm here I'll start swiping your stuff," since, you know, swiping the good stuff is what daughters often do best.

I loved the big sweeping sky in Reno, too, with the mountains on the horizon.  Pinko's mom pointed out her favorite colors in the sunset - some lavenders that only last for a few minutes.  She's been outnumbered by rowdy boys her whole life, and I'm looking forward to getting to know her better.

For now, Pinko and I are getting to know each other better, too, in a pleasant, companionable, domestic sort of way.  In most ways, it feels like we've known each other forever - but I'm beginning to loosen up although I will always, always close the door when I'm in the bathroom.