Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Covfefe, or Not Covfefe

I trust, if you’ve been on the local Internets at all today, that you’re up to date on the latest Twitter-generated current event … trending topic … meme …

Covfefe.

The tweet read:

Despite the constant negative press covfefe”

And I have to give the Internets credit: by the time the morning commute was over, the responses were just about as creative and snarky and pointed and marvelous as we’ve come to expect from the Internets.

Here’s the thing that we should really be focused on, though:

12:05 in the freakin’ morning, the Toddler-in-Chief is tweeting.

The subject, predictably, starts out as what we might call media criticism if we believed that the thought process were laced with more thoughtfulness than a lot of us suspect it is.

He’s aiming to type “negative press coverage” on his little phone keyboard. At least, I really believe this.

What he actually achieves is “negative press covfefe”.

Granted, the letters “fefe” are, on a keyboard, fairly close to “erage”. You must admit this.

At this point, I’m not sure what exactly went on.

It’s possible that the Toddler’s phone’s autocorrect didn’t kick in. (There are days when I would kill for this outcome.)

Or maybe Autocorrect didn’t have any more idea than we do, as to what “covfefe” was really supposed to be. Which makes me a little better at English, but this is actually to be hoped. Anyway …

Or maybe Autocorrect took something far more bizarre and non-English-based … and its only guess was “covfefe”.

In the normal, “matter” universe, that might be the scariest thing: not that technology with borderline artificial intelligence is coming to take over the world … but that it can be confounded by a toddler’s tweet-spelling.

In the abnormal, “antimatter” universe in which we live, though, here’s what I think is the scariest thing:

The Toddler-in-Chief hit send anyway.

(It’s possible that he looked at the burgeoning Tweet and thought, “yeah, okay; whatever.” I’m not sure what frame of mind one would have to be in, in order to look at “Despite the constant negative press covfefe” and think … “yeah. Greenlight that project.” There’s not a verb or a predicate in it. Come to think of it, that otherworldly non-word is the only thing that really comes close to a genuine, pure noun.)

Sorry. I misled you. That’s not the scariest thing.

This is:

It’s entirely possible that he couldn’t figure out how not to “covfefe”, and panicked. And hit send.

Consider:

At some point in one’s presidency, no matter who one is … as long as one is remotely human, one will encounter situations in which a remotely average human’s immediate gut reaction would be to panic.

What the hell else is this guy likely to hit, the next time he panics?

May 31, 2017 Posted by | current events, Famous Persons, humor, Internet, social media, technology, Twitter | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 31-Day Blog Challenge, Day Twenty-Four: Chilling Effect

Today’s writing prompt:

31 DAY BLOG CHALLENGE, DAY 24: “a difficult time in my life”.

 

Well, everybody’s got ’em.

I’m pleased to say that there are plenty of people whom I know personally, and lots and lots more whom I don’t, who have probably had more difficult Times In Their Lives than I’ve had in mine.

Still, they get your attention.

I don’t know that this is the space for the response to this question. Please accept my apologies, Dear Reader – especially if you are a regular and longtime Dear Reader, and have been around for a few of the difficult Times In My Life in online print. Especially if you watched me take on the Young Singing Sensation Fan Club trolls about five years ago.

Yes, I’ve had ’em, both personally and professionally. Some of those Times In My Life have been the kind that only a few folks know about, and it’s darn well going to stay that way (and those weren’t always of the personal variety). Need-to-know basis, and all that. Others have been a bit more widely understood, in part due to their public nature.

 

For the full story, go back (if you dare) to these two blog posts – one was highly caffeinated snark, and the other was an honest reappraisal of the first one. The second post was inspired by feedback about the first one … feedback which was at worst full of veiled threats of legal action, and at best full of mediocre spelling.

In our current political climate, the slightest online critique of a candidate can attract the ire of online commenters in such a way that the author of the critique starts to wish s/he had never hit “publish” [hey, wait just a damned minute, what the hell ever happened to freedom of speech and the First Amendment and all that great stuff that makes Murrica great? Ohhh, I see; freedom of speech as long as I agree with it. Got it].

Five years ago, I got my own dose of that. At the merest hint that I might not have totally utterly swooned over the vocal performance of this particular golden-tressed, 38-year-old-mezzo-soprano-voiced moppet … the trolls descended. The Singing Sensation Fan Club swept in, bearing their spears and magic helmets. How dare I. This young singer is a gift from God.

(Not making that up. There was talk of singer-as-angel-messenger-from-God. Good Lord.)

I thought I could probably handle online critique of my stuff; I knew I was publishing a blog that anyone with an Internet connection and a pulse could read; so pushback was always possible. But while politics draws fire regularly, surely musical subjects wouldn’t have as big a target on their backs, yes? … Um, I guess no.

Simple disagreement is one thing. A back-and-forth about what strikes you musically that doesn’t so much strike me? Let’s have that conversation. We might learn something, each of us.

This was something else.

In the comment section of that blog post, it got pretty heated.

 

Meantime, on the online fan forum devoted to the Young Singing Sensation, one commenter suggested that because I said such horrible things about this singing youngster, then logically that made me a Bad Person, and definitely a Bad Music Teacher. Who would want such a horrible person to be teaching music to delicate children? And this person suggested that it might be a good idea to send someone to investigate this Bad Music Teacher. To contact the school where he taught music, and perhaps to alert the administration therein to the presence of such a Bad Music Teacher.

In support of that, one other commenter posted this:

…if the downside became quite nasty, then who can be blamed for that outcome. Obviously the person who was nasty to begin with. If there were/are negative ramifications, then they fall on the person who needs to take responsibility for making it negative in the first place. I don’t worry for his job. He should. I’ll offer the same sort of mercy for his outcomes as he has for [the Singer’s].”

One of my blog commenters played the part of the mole in the organization and quietly pointed me toward that forum comment thread.

Bad enough that, upon reading this, I considered contacting a lawyer friend of mine and putting him on standby alert. Worse that I considered contacting my school’s principal and putting her on standby alert – because you never know what utter whack job might think that carrying out a Bad Music Teacher Investigation might require visiting a school while carrying a concealed weapon, or something. Principals really enjoy that spectre, lurking out there.

But go back a few paragraphs, to the other commenter who replied to the initial suggestion. Did you notice that I didn’t say he/she, or him/her? I said “she”.

Because the identity of the Other Commenter is very specific, is very important in this, and ought not be downplayed.

This Other Commenter was not anonymous. And therefore she was quite publicly making these accusations and insinuations and, whether she knew it or not, was quite publicly taking the chance of inciting some other person, some potential utter whack job (for all she knew) to go ahead and pull a “Guy Noir, Private Eye” routine on me.

This Other Commenter was no mere fan.

She was the Young Singing Sensation’s mother.

Let that rattle around in your head for a minute.

In that moment, I both did and did not know exactly what I was dealing with.

 

As it turned out, the firestorm subsided relatively quickly. If our current political circus wasn’t happening, I’d say something like “this is always the case. There’s a lot of shouting (real or virtual), and then the short attention span kicks in and it’s off to the next crisis, the current one entirely forgotten.”

But – partly because of that political circus which has turned the scary-invective-and-utter-whack-job volume control up to eleven – and partly because I’ve made it a habit not to “poke the bear” when I really don’t need to – which was not the lesson I wanted to learn, five years ago, but there it is anyway – I’ve consistently avoided naming this Young Singing Sensation.

Her fans made my life pretty crazy, there, for about two weeks in 2011.

The sad part of all that was: thanks to those two weeks of crazy, generated solely by her fans, she’s lost me as a potential admirer for good, no matter what happens. In my head, her name is a synonym for back away slowly so as not to startle.

Singers aren’t the only public figures whose supporters make them look bad, whose fans’ behavior causes other possible new fans to turn away from them. And it’s a pity.

So I’d love to tell her that I’m sorry about all that. Her schtick, through no fault of her own, only laid the groundwork for the creation of a difficult Time In My Life.

Her mother, though?

In the words of a great philosopher, that Other Commenter needed to go home and re-think her life.

May 24, 2016 Posted by | blogging, celebrity, Famous Persons, Internet, music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fifty-Seven Channels

This afternoon, I did something intensely un-American. (Certain websites just woke up and took notice, I’m sure.)

Gave up television.

Well, nearly. I cut my cable TV package down from nearly a hundred channels to about a dozen. Eighty bucks a month becomes twenty. Pow. And I’ll try that for a couple of months, and see if maybe it’s not a great idea to Throw The Baggage Out.

This would be easier for some than for others. I thought it was going to be difficult for me until I thought hard about just how much teevee I actually watch. For the last several months: far less than I thought.

(True, I’ve made a name for myself, for jumping onto the local social media engine and doing the ol’ live-blog thing during high-profile and much-watched events like the Olympics, the Tournament of Roses Parade, and the Super Bowl, which could only be achieved by turning on the telly. I’ll figure something out…)

Fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on,” sang Bruce Springsteen all those years ago; at the moment, the update might be “nine hundred fifty-seven channels,” but still, relatively speaking: he would still not be wrong.

In fact, on several Sunday evenings last fall, I would sit down to watch Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison visibly loathe each other, while commenting on the NFL game highlights of the day. And I would realize that the last time I’d put the TV on … was the previous Sunday when I had turned on NBC to watch them hate each other. No wonder I didn’t have to change the channel.

So I made an assessment of the TV programming that, without benefit of cable-TV service, I would not be able to watch, and would therefore kinda miss – and the programming that I thought I would miss but whose absence, as it turns out, might not make that much impact on me – and the programming that I could access elsewhere.

And I got a window into, among other things, how running-scared the television industry really might be nowadays.

News?

National broadcast network news operations are now mainly overseen by network entertainment divisions, which oughta give you an idea. With few exceptions, local network-affiliate news operations are at least as full of fluff pieces and corporate-media-approved content as they are full of actual substantive reporting on local current affairs. With very few exceptions, there aren’t many reporters on my local stations who are actually from around here, which might lend a little depth and perspective to their work.

I’ll pop over to the BBC News website and be perfectly happy, I think.

C-SPAN: worthwhile … but again, I rarely dive for the TV when a House Judiciary Committee hearing is on. Which might say more about me than the Committee. But in C-SPAN’s zeal to present events unedited, without commentary or analysis, an awful lot of politically-expedient but factually-deficient stuff is allowed to pass, unremarked-upon. Here’s a campaign speech, totally un-fact-checked! Fun! To paraphrase Winston Churchill, C-SPAN might be the worst idea for a TV channel except for all the others that have been tried.

Once, MSNBC was my default. The erstwhile “Countdown with Keith” was required viewing. Melissa Harris-Perry’s weekend roundtables are refreshingly full of the kinds of people you never see on the stodgy ol’ “Meet the Press” or “Face the Nation” news chats. I’ll miss the ham-handed Chris Matthews or Rev. Al Sharpton not at all. I will miss the hyperkinetic Chris Hayes and and the arched eyebrow of Lawrence O’Donnell some; but given the current efforts to gradually rein in MSNBC’s left-leaning programming, those gents may not last long either. I know where to download podcast versions of kindly Doc Maddow’s flagship program, and that’ll do.

I bailed on the Weather Channel when they started naming storms, when the actual National Weather Service asked them not to. I can run to the National Weather Service website for forecasts (don’t even have to wait till “weather on the 8s”); and if I need a human to present and interpret the weather, I’ll dial up the website of New England Cable News’ Matt Noyes, who may be the best teaching meteorologist on TV.

Education, and Culture?

PBS, and specifically WGBH, one of public television’s “Original Six” -grade local affiliates? Well, NOVA. And Great Performances, when they’re great. “Downton Abbey” hasn’t grabbed me, but that may not be its fault. Public broadcasting needs to survive, because it has a better chance of presenting material that commercial sponsors might not consider worth supporting. Opera at the Met, and little tiny creatures of the Barrier Reef! Cool! … But how many times in the last decade have I specifically aimed to watch an episode of NOVA? A handful, at best. PBS’ website is full of archived wonderfulness. It’ll get traffic.

The Discovery Channel, History Channel, Learning Channel? Lately they’ve become largely mis-named.

Food Network: pardon my jump-the-shark whining: a decade ago, I could spend an evening doing teacher prep accompanied by Alton Brown, Emeril Lagasse and Iron Chef (the original Japanese version, thank you): three hours during which I might actually learn something about food and cooking. Now, thanks to the (how to say this?) non-subtle Guy Fieri and the suits who run FN, it’s all Dives, Diners and Cupcake Contests, all the flippin’ time. Pass.

Entertainment?

At no time in the last decade have I subscribed to HBO, Showtime, or any of those premium pay-cable channels. I am content to watch them during my occasional visits to hotels. I won’t miss them … because I haven’t yet.

FX, USA Network, TNT, TBS? Packed solid with hour-long dramas that occasionally catch my interest, and with World Broadcast Premieres of a lot of movies that I didn’t spend 18 bucks on, at the theaters, to begin with. (Occasionally it’s nice, and faintly ironic, to sit for a complete three hours and confirm that I’m glad not to have spent money on any of the “Transformers” flicks.)

(I will confess that my current rather serious Marvel Cinematic Universe fixation was aided and abetted by my sudden ability to see Captain America and Iron Man and Thor upon my little teevee set. Not to mention “Agents of SHIELD” and “Agent Carter”, about which I’ll ramble in future posts. There is, however, this neat little invention called the public library, and the DVD section therein. Local, convenient, … free …)

Comedy Central: If I need to see a “Daily Show with or without Jon Stewart” segment, I can be sure that a link to the video will appear on my Facebook news feed. No worries. Syfy: now that the “Battlestar Galactica” reboot has ended (yeah, guy: several years ago!), all they’ve got are “Ghost Hunters” and complete weekends of rampaging giant alligator movies. No great loss. Game Show Network: if I need reruns of “Match Game”, or other brief glimpses of 1970s fashion disasters via “Password” or “Tic Tac Dough”, that also is what the YouTube is for.

The frantic, hyperactive Disney Channel? For me, just one thing: the new “Star Wars Rebels” animated prequel series, which is not nearly as cheeseball as it could have been … one of whose assets is the really intelligent use of adaptations of John Williams’ musical score from the original trilogy … and I can watch that online.

BBC America I kinda miss, since my cable provider inexplicably took it away from my TV set several years ago. I miss the “Doctor Who” reboot, and “Top Gear”. But again: the public library.

Sports!!…?

The local pro sports teams on TV … are also on the radio, wherein I can use my imagination. If I need video highlights, they’re often posted on YouTube almost immediately. Big game with playoff implications? That’s what sports bars are for.

The Golf Channel: … yeah, I might miss spending wintry Sunday afternoons watching folks shoot rounds of golf someplace that looks very warm and sunny. I’ll admit that.

Now, the elephant in the room:

As a kid, when I visited my grandparents in their new Florida home, I discovered the amazing invention of cable TV. No more adjusting rabbit-eared antennas: a perfect picture all the time. You kids, you have no idea that this is a big deal; but it is. Another big deal was this subset of the new invention: something called ESPN. All sports, or sports reporting, all the live-long day.

For a long time, even if ESPN had been nothing but Sportscenter all day long, I’d have watched. This was the equivalent of being a Star Trek fan and finding a channel that showed nothing but. This is gold, Jerry! Gold!

But at some point, something shifted. Might or might not have been precisely when the ABC/Disney corporate conglomerate bought it up; I’m not sure. But as soon as corporate America gets its hooks into you, your priorities are made to change; either that or you’re made to go away forcibly.

And so has it been with ESPN. Presenters? For a great long time it was Bob Ley, the late Tom Mees, Charley Steiner, Keith Olbermann, Dan Patrick, the late great Stuart Scott, and yes, the early version of Chris Berman. Somehow, ESPN’s idea of on-air talent became the smarmy Kenny Mayne, the bumbling Lou Holtz, the insufferable Stephen A. Smith, the positively nasty Skip Bayless, and a cast of Sportscenter anchors doing pale impersonations of their forebears.

The actual content? Well, since forever, commercial sponsors have been part and parcel of TV presentations, and radio before that (including “Texaco Star Theatre” and “Philco Radio Time” – and daytime TV dramas got the “soap opera” nickname from the soap companies that originally bankrolled them). Got that. But if I have to sit through another round of the “GEICO Halftime Report”, “Coors Light Cold Hard Facts”, “Bud Light Freeze Frame”, “GMC Keys to Victory”, “Budweiser Hot Seat”, or “Gatorade Cooler Talk”, I will in fact scream. At what point does it cease to be sports journalism and become commercial lip service?

In fact, so much of what passes for televised entertainment is decided upon by the suits in corporate America, bankrolled by the suits in corporate America, and sponsored by the suits in corporate America. Come to think of it, so is most of what passes for televised information – the news.

The theme emerges: beyond the Roku- or Hulu-esque services that I haven’t even investigated yet, I suspect that online resources will more than make up for the lack of pictures flying through the air in my living room. I happily pay for Internet access every month; as the FCC recently suggested, the Internet really is a genuine utility now. It truly pays for itself, by the time I’ve used it to communicate with people, research topics, track down information about local businesses, generate route maps for road trips … and track down information and entertainment over which television used to hold a monopoly. It’s possible that I’m the latest one to this party … but I made it in the door, finally.

The loss of one lone person’s cable TV payments will not affect the corporate suits or their bottom line a bit. It’ll affect mine, though; and that more than seven hundred bucks a year could come in handy somewhere else.

It’s something small I can do. Occupy My Living Room!

April 15, 2015 Posted by | television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment