Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I don't care what Barbara Streisand says! People don't need Peeple

As I observe the goings on in the world thousands of ideas, opinions and prejudices swirl around in my head at any given moment.  Golden rule aside, in a flash my opinion of you can literally swing from love to hatred even if we've never spoken a word to each other. 

For instance, you may truly feel a deep, soul burning, hatred for the moron who cut across 3 lanes of rush hour traffic for seemingly no other reason than to further complicate your commute.  But as much as we may revel in those dark thoughts while caught up in the moment, a mile down the road most of us barely summon up the will to be apathetic.

Now imagine if you could form a complete profile of that person based on just that moment in time.

Which brings me to what I can only surmise is a product of the failure of the American public school system to teach anything worthwhile. 


I'm no great fan of social media.  It's just too subjective and frivolous a medium to be taken seriously.  That doesn't seem to stop misguided idealism from taking it to new heights of the ridiculous, however. 

Peeple is best described as an app that elevates the digital equivalent of a popularity contest to a pseudo-science self-worth metric.  Users can evaluate anyone they want so long as they have a relationship with the other person no matter how fleeting.

But that's not the real issue. 

Unlike or Facebook, you don't get the choice to sign up for the abuse.  Instead anyone with a Smartphone and a Facebook account can snap an image and start evaluating you based on nothing more than personal opinion. 

The creators, Nicole McCullogh and Julia Cordray attempt to console us with the app's "integrity features" which among others includes being 21 years old, having an established Facebook account and affirming you actually know the person.  

Verification apparently comes from knowing the person's cell phone number.  A piece of data frequently found on social media and career sites without restriction. 

If you don't sign up for the service you can still end up being evaluated by it but only positive reviews will be allowed.  

Which seems fair if we're playing Devil's advocate but that would seem to invalidate the whole ratings system.  Why not limit ANY ratings to those that choose to BE rated by signing up?

I'm sure that part was for the lawyers.  The real intent is revealed in the discovery that Cordray originally wanted to just scrape names from Facebook but the Facebook API doesn't allow for that.  In other words, in her mind anyone with a Facebook account was fair game for the app.

We live in a very public world, that's a given.  What's disturbing is how many unreliable metrics can affect you in that world, especially online.  That an errant post on social media can cost someone a career or relationship would seem ridiculous were it not so frequently the case.

Even choosing not to participate in social media carries a stigma of its own.  As though being unwilling to participate in such juvenile antics is the mark of deviance and dangerous intent.  People have actually been dismissed from consideration for a job because of a lack of a social media presence. 

It's madness!

Who are we to judge anyway?  What happened to all that lofty idealism of valuing others based on the content of their character instead of the superficial. 

Should I be content to be evaluated like some unwitting head of cattle in an auction?  Is it OK to destroy someone in public simply because they weren't as nice as you'd have liked them to be or elevate them to a pedestal based on nothing more than a passing interest?

Peeple is described as Yelp for People.

To that I say this...

Rate your hotel room....fine
Rate your favorite restaurant ....fine
Rate your Uber driver....fine

Rate people...You've crossed the line!

Monday, September 21, 2015

South Park Sellout?

I'm of the opinion that South Park is a guilty pleasure for most people.  It's almost a badge of honor to be lampooned by the show that takes no prisoners in its satire and truth be told its targets rarely complain.

That is so long as you don't draw a cartoon of Mohammed.

The Internet, racism, video games, hybrid cars, politics and celebrities are all fair game.  If it's in the news chances are it'll show up in an episode of South Park.

Interestingly enough, it seems those kids from South Park with now familiar names like Cartman, Kyle and Butters never seem to progress past the fourth grade but still manage to remain relevant after almost 20 years.  It's a strange time warp that fans just seem to accept as the series that began in the Clinton Administration continues well into the latter half of the tenure of the first black President. 

The world's changed quite a bit since 1997 and the series has kept tabs on it.  Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have somehow managed to chronicle nearly 2 decades of popular culture while keeping the show fresh.

Over the years, the best barbs have been reserved for those who took themselves a little too seriously.  Tea party conservatives, tree-huggers, religious fanatics and the excesses of political correctness have all been frequent targets.

It's that last one, political correctness, that was the focus of the premiere episode of Season 19 last week. 

In it we find that the rest of the world has had it with South Park's politically incorrect behavior and have sent in a new principal of the school in the form of one Principal PC to correct the transgressions. 

Of course Principal PC is a ridiculous caricature best described as a mash-up between an overgrown frat boy and every politically correct tweet that's ever been feverishly beaten into a Smartphone.

For the most part the episode was a hilarious take on what is often an overheated politically correct culture that dismisses independent thought.

Except something happened at the end of the episode.

At the risk of spoilers I'll try to be somewhat vague in case you haven't seen it yet. 

The episode ended... Wrong....

Instead of staying with the theme of the ridiculous and driving the point home, everyone just kind of gave in.

I don't know if the show is starting to wear on Parker and Stone but this particular episode has me worried.

In the past, I've found myself, thrilled, bent over with laughter as well as grossed out and even offended but never was I lacking for closure when watching an episode of South Park.

I was on board with this one up until the last 3 minutes.  If ever there was a good excuse for an alternate ending this episode is it.

I'm just hoping all is put right with the world of South Park in episode 2 this season or I may be done with the likes of Cartman and Kyle.

My rating, 9/10 for the first 20 minutes, 0/10 for the ending.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Colbert's "Troubled Waters"

This will be short.  

Because it doesn't have to be long...

Stephen Colbert wrapped up his first week with an interesting musical act, "Troubled Waters" a Paul Simon "tribute" band.

Here's the thing, it was a gag...

A wonderfully, brilliant and played to perfection...gag.

"Troubled Waters" certainly paid tribute but that wasn't hard considering their lead singer was indeed Paul Simon.

As of this writing, the rest of the Internet still hasn't picked up on the gag. 

So much for binge viewing, sometimes there's merit to appointment TV..

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Stephen Colbert's Late show a force to be reckoned with...

Balance has been restored to the force...err...late night.

Stephen Colbert premiered his own brand of late night variety show last night to a crowd chanting "Stephen, Stephen, Stephen" ( just as they did on his last show)

Unlike the lackluster premiere of CBS' other late night entry with its ever forgettable host, James Corden, Colbert's show lived up to the hype.

The inaugural episode of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert included guests George Clooney, Presidential candidate Jeb Bush and introduced Jon Batiste and Stay Human (Colbert's house band.)  There were also special appearances in a rousing musical number at the end of the show by: Aloe Blacc, Ben Folds, Buddy Guy, Brittany Howard, Kyle Resnick, Mavis Staples and Derek Trucks.

With a dash of "Colbert Report" wit, Craig Ferguson's interview technique and the class of David Letterman it was a welcome reprieve from the normal late night fare.

Colbert is comfortable in his own skin and entertaining to watch whether he's interviewing an A-list celebrity like George Clooney or lampooning Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

This isn't "The Colbert Report" but it borrows heavily from it.  At one point Colbert even quipped self-deprecatingly that, " I used to play a conservative narcissist, now I'm just a narcissist."

The humor familiar, the wit sharp and the pace steady.  Where other's have adopted the well worn talk show formula of: Monologue, skit, guest interview, musical performance, Colbert has shaken it up a bit.

Gone is the boring 5 minute monologue delivered by someone who looks like they'd rather be anywhere else.  Instead we found a quick review of the nights guests and a satirical rundown of current events styled similarly to "The Colbert Report."  Then, after a "Colbert Report" inspired skit we get to the requisite guest interviews and finally a musical guest where Colbert can often be found joining in.

Yeah, the guy can sing...

He never misses a beat even when interviewing a guest with obvious opposing political views like Jeb Bush.  He may not agree with you but he'll try to find common ground...and make a joke about it if he can.  Best exemplified on last night's show by responding to Bush's comments about President Obama with the "non-zero chance of voting for you" line that was nothing less than classic Colbert.

Which is the primary difference between him and his competition.  He's more satirist than stand-up meaning he's not going for cheap laughs at a machine gun pace.  His content is more thoughtful and far more likely to be the topic of water cooler conversation the next day.

If I were to make a prediction about the show's future at this point,  I'd say it's poised to crush its competition.  It's hip, topical and funny without trying too hard at any of them. 

There's no need for a week long obligation to confirm my opinion like I did for Corden.  Colbert exceeded expectations and I look forward to reacquainting myself with 10:35PM weeknights.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Gays, God and Wedding cakes

I'm getting really tired of it...

Tired of fiction being held up as reality.  Tired of the assertion that the Almighty gives a crap about whose flag is flying overhead and most of all tired of bigotry hiding behind a facade of religion.  

Remember that Colorado baker last year who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple?  In the end the state's supreme court brought reason to the ridiculous by ruling that his actions were not an expression of free speech or religious freedom but rather an act of outright discrimination.

In short, he may not have to stick a rainbow flag in front of his shop and march in the parade but if he wants to conduct commerce he's got to sell to everybody.

This is where cold secular reason must prevail against theology if we wish to continue as a civilized society.  

Thoughtful consideration must weigh all points of view without the undue influence of any one belief system.  This is the very core of the separation of church and state. 

Whether you realize it or not, most of what we call civilization vanishes without secular commerce.  It provides the foundation for all those rights and privileges we've come to expect extending even to the expression of religious beliefs. 

Progressive idealists may chafe at the thought of commerce being so central to everyone getting along but until the world trades only on ideas instead of goods it's the best we can do. 

Face it, no matter what your political leanings, without commerce nothing happens.  It goes further than the stone canyons of Wall Street extending to halls of congress.  

I can tell you from experience just how much DOESN'T happen without commerce...

That means the primary function of government is really to protect the mechanisms of commerce above all else.  Don't let the speeches on C-Span fool you.  Everyone in those hallowed chambers is seeking to tilt the scales in their favor. 

So if you decide that your religious ideals should somehow impede the natural flow expect the state to get involved. Without exception, regulation of commerce falls under the secular and exclusive purview of the state.

How you choose to exercise your faith, however, does not so long as you stay off its turf.  Contrary to what you may have heard, the state has no interest in the value of your eternal soul. 

It's a reciprocal relationship by the way.   The state stays out of your religion and you keep your religion out of the state's business.

There's even support in the Bible if that's your ultimate authority.  In it we find examples where commerce and religion make no bedfellows  such as the well known tale of Jesus kicking the moneychangers off of the temple's steps.

Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade. 

That pretty much sums it up right there I think... 

The money in your pocket may say, "In God we trust" but rather than some admonition of piety for the nation, a little research finds that phrase came about during the civil war as little more than propaganda device for the Union.  Just as a championship football team may proclaim that "god was on their side" apparently the same went for the Union cause. 

Really now, who wouldn't want god on their side if there was at all the possibility?

The Founding Fathers knew all too well the dangers of concentrating too much power in any one entity, especially god, conspicuously avoiding anything that would even suggest the mix of church and state. 

That the country was founded as the very antithesis of monarchical or theocratic rule bears that out.  Pious or not European monarchy frequently claimed divine lineage to justify the affluence and the atrocities of a station provided by nothing more than a fortunate birth. 

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, just to name a few, would have none of it...

" The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

 John Adams

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State"

Thomas Jefferson

The founding fathers and apparently even god seem to understand the need to separate religion and state (commerce) but somehow people who want to justify discrimination and intolerance don't.

Let's get real here.  God doesn't have 32000 convenient ATM's or free checking so why involve him in the business of

What these zealots fail to see is that elevating religious belief to public policy invites the same jeopardy as printing, "In the President we Trust" on a greenback.

Take the more recent case of the court clerk in Kentucky, Kim Davis, who as of this writing still refuses to issue marriage licenses if she has to issue them to same-sex couples.  She bases her position on religious grounds even after the Supreme Court has already decided that it lacks any legal foundation.

" One couple, David Ermold and David Moore, tried to engage the county clerk, Kim Davis, in a debate before the cameras, but as she had before, she turned them away, saying repeatedly that she would not issue licenses to any couples, gay or straight.

“Under whose authority?” Mr. Ermold asked.

“Under God’s authority,” Ms. Davis replied." *

It's unlikely that God gives much thought to the Rowan County, Kentucky court house.  By extension, I'm fairly certain that should Davis relent it's doubtful the place will be descended upon by plagues of Locust or vengeful lightning bolts.

What God may notice, however, is the denial of 50 years of civil rights law.  If its not clear to you just substitute the word "black" for "same-sex."

No one is challenging Kim Davis' right to her beliefs even if obsolete or prejudiced.  However, when those beliefs interfere with her job as a clerk in a public court house there is only one solution.  She needs to go...

For one simple reason.  She obviously doesn't understand the context of the job she's doing.  A Marriage License is nothing more than a statement of intention to co-mingle assets and the power of attorney.  That's it.  That's all.  No proclamations from the divine or admonitions from scripture.  About as exciting as renewing your license plates.  If ol' Kim wants to execute her interpretation of scripture she's free to do so.  Where it

Faith in your chosen deity should have no bearing on your public policy views.   Save perhaps for those tenets that eschew discrimination, intolerance and ignorance.  

Even an Atheist can get behind that!

To do any less does a disservice to your faith and an injustice to your fellow man.