Dr Frank Weakly Reader for 6.07.2019
Yes, it’s another Dr Frank Weakly Reader, that thing where I make my own index to the Dr Frank internet week by week because the internet won’t do it for me. It’s the Lewis Chessmen edition because they recently found a new piece of the set (see below under DEATH CAME IN THE NEWS); and because I’ve just always loved the Lewis Chessmen. And that’s it.
In other late-breaking news, YouTube censorship, demonetization, and manipulation seems to have jumped yet another shark. How many do they get to jump before it’s all over?
Well, we’ll see how many sharks there are, but this stuff is bound to keep happening, because the “woke” consensus on propriety and “decency” under which Silcon Valley operates is not anything like a consensus out in the world, which, of course, includes a large proportion of the platform’s users and “creators.” Somehow, though, I have a sense that it’s a bit different this time around, in that fewer people seem to be buying the rhetoric (outside the activists pushing it and their culture war partisans, who, oddly, think they’ll always be in charge of who gets to say and hear what because their idea of propriety is destined to be permanent.) Seems that if YT were to apply its newly teased out standards with any consistency they’d have to take down pretty much the whole thing. What’s more, they seem to know it, and their rhetoric is accordingly rather incoherent and hedging and even vaguer than usual. Maybe this will be a tipping point and and an accomodation will be reached; probably not. We’re in a loop.
It’s easy to forget, but there was a time, ca. 2014, when YouTube policy and enforcement was stellar on free speech, routinely sticking to their guns on open platform decisions that cut against the orthodoxies of Silicon Valley culture, restrictive “European” ideas on civil liberties, etc. Those days are long gone, of course, and the “open platform” alluded to in their marketing boilerplate in this matter is the merest ceremonial gesture.
But what would a truly “open platform” be like? Speaking just for myself, I want to be able to view the world (the good, the bad, and the ugly, along with the complex and the ambiguous) unimpeded and unmanipulated, and to be in charge of my own “curation” of it. Should a “platform” even be required, it should do no more than to host and organize the information as best it can, in a spirit of strict neutrality, and devise a catalogue and delivery system that helps me find what I want as efficiently as possible, without going through a second process of deciding whether or not seeing it will be good for me. I want no virtuously-shrouded missing pieces, but rather the fullest, clearest picture possible, warts and all, and a sorting mechanism to help me manage it.
But I believe such a mass-scale corporate-hosted “open platform” is, sadly, not actually possible, given the vagaries of our contemporary society and the damage the culture wars have done to our existing tech infrastructure. Not to put too fine a point on it: they had a chance to build one and failed rather spectacularly.
So I think what will probably have to happen is, everyone will have to go back to hosting his own “content,” because leaving it up to someone else, government or corporate, leaving others in charge of what can be said and heard, is too much of a risk. So everyone has his own “platform” and is totally in charge of what is done on it and what is not done on it, within the boundaries of the law. You won’t be able to impose your own “terms of service” on anyone else because they’ll only apply to you. If you say a naughty word or express something improper or scandalous, people who don’t like it can close the window, or write a thoughtful essay criticizing your use of the naughty word; and if you don’t like the essay, you can close the window, or write a response of your own. But you can’t “take them down.” You’re not in charge of them. You’re only in charge of yourself. (The only way to ban the naughty word, then, would be to elect a legislature that would write a law making the naughty word illegal and an executive that would sign it and appoint at least five Supreme Court judges likely to decide that making the naughty word illegal does not violate the First Amendment. I know that’s basically impossible and I’m glad it is, obviously. Naughty words are here to stay, at least in this country.)
Maybe someone could, additionally, design an aggregator that would act as a “front end,” along the lines of the old RSS newsreaders. It would gather the links to items and publishers of interest to the user, and display them attractively and conveniently, but not actually have the power to delete or de-prioritize. It could look pretty much like the current YouTube dashboard, but would draw content from any number of servers, public and private, as well quasi-public ones like YouTube itself. The user would set the parameters. Any alogrithmic suggestions based on interests and past activity would be fully, transparently optional and easily switched off if desired. It could even be monetized through ads, though I wouldn’t recommend using advertising as the sole funding mechanism for the entire information infrastructure. (That didn’t work out so well the first time around.) You can’t trust the government, still less can you trust corporations who don’t even have to pay lip service to civil liberties and freedom of expression. Trust yourself only. It’s kind of a hassle but I can’t see any other way. (And yes, I’m arguing for re-creating the “blogosphere,” with greater accomodation for video. It had its drawbacks but it was approximately seventeen trillion times better than what we’ve got now, which is a gathering, farcical nightmare.)
THE CASE OF THE PURLOINED MTX
— The Sounds Rad Friday Feature teased some stuff to come.
This is, of course, a Song for Odin™ — there’s a kind of “program note” about this series below (“Good morning world….”)
This Song for Odin thing doesn’t get a heap of traffic these days, for a variety of reasons (algorithmic skullduggery, de-emphasis of un-monetized video in the YouTube stream, familiarity now that it’s no longer a new thing…) But I know there are people who are very interested in these songs and what I have to say about them. At this point we’ve got over a hundred songs and thousands of words. Maybe something could be done with this material at some point. A book with record or record with book, some sort of “balbum” in effect. It’d take some doing, but it might be worth it. What do you think?
— Yet another old shirt that came up in random rotation, the cover of the MTX / Goober Patrol split 7" ca. 1994. I’d forgotten there was a shirt, but Ed Boning of Punk as Duck records said he made a small number of them, plus ten hoodies. One guy said his had been confiscated by police in Philadelphia at the Trocadero in 96/97. A storied history, in other words.
— Still too zany for the mainstream: remembering Coney Island High. We played there many times, one which was a Lookout Records “showcase” with all the usual suspects, at which Joey Ramone was in attendance (though he spent most of his time upstairs at the bar. If I remember the story right, Joel went up and handed him a CD, to which he replied: “huh, that’s true: love is dead.”
— …and it’s your Friday morning “Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba,” from our friends the Queers at the 2008 Insub Fest, featuring former MTX bassist Joel. Seems like it was a good time.
THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT DR FRANK
— The New Left and Me, Part 3: in which I present reviews of Bill Ayers’ memoir Fugitive Days and Jeremy Varon’s Bringing the War Home.
— mc chris and me: someone on twitter asked me if I was aware of the mc chris song “Never Give Up,” which contains a sort of “shout out” to my band. (And I guess relates, sort of, to the “name check” examples adduced a couple of weeks ago — scroll down to “Name checking” if you’re interested.) In fact I am well aware of this song, as I outlined here a ways back.
It’s hard to explain, and maybe it doesn’t seem like much, but I was a big mc chris fan when the record came out, yet I hadn’t realized he had a connection to the pop punk world at the time; and I was at a rather difficult, demoralized time in my life to the extent that simply hearing that unexpected mention in my ear in conjunction with the “never give up” message was just kind of ridiculously moving in the moment. You probably had to be there, and, well, I was the only one there (at Cato’s) so you weren’t.
Anyway I love mc chris, and his response on the twitter made me smile:
I am, of course, no kind of obi wan, but that’s a great quote and I should use as a blurb or something sometime. Thanks, mc chris!
— We’re here, we’re queer, we’re Irish, get used to it.
— You’re dead, Portman: a kindergarten anecdote.
AND THE KILLER WORE OTHER PEOPLE’S MUSIC
— Good morning world: Maybe you’ve noticed that part of my internet routine has been to post what I think are fun or interesting songs as a sort of “good morning” to the world. I find it fun. The only practical (and legal) way to do that is via YouTube posts of videos featuring the songs. But, of course, Facebook is at war with YouTube and with its own users, and has gradually made it more and more fruitless to share such content. They’ve disabled the YouTube player, so posting a video on the Facebook timeline will display only a preview image, which you have to click on and leave the page in order to view/hear the song. Hardly anyone does this. Plus Facebook’s algorithm buries YouTube links anyway, so hardly anyone sees it. You might as well not bother.
Result: it’s just not fun anymore, and I’ve decided to skip Facebook when I say “good morning” to the world. If you’d like to see this stuff, I’m still doing it on my minds.com account and, when I remember to do it, on twitter, so that’s where to go. (You can lurk on minds, but if you want to sign up and participate here’s a referral link.)
Gradually, Facebook is shutting me out passive-aggressively by decreasing the utility of activity there.. which is fine I suppose, I just wish everyone would hurry up and abandon it already. I’m currently still posting Song for Odin there, but it suffers from the same suppression: YouTube links being buried and not being playable. You start to wonder if it’s worth doing at all. If I decide to skip FB on Song for Odin as well, same deal, minds and/or twitter. I suppose what they want you to do is upload to native Facebook video so they have a piece of it but for one thing, Facebook video is, like the rest of the site, a disorganized trash fire, and for another, there’s no possibility of monetization or copyright recompense. Now, YouTube doesn’t let me monetize my channel because it’s too small — which is a whole nother story — but they do have a system for distributing revenue to writers and publishers through digital distributors like the Orchard. Facebook doesn’t even bother with that. It just wants your stuff for free, to sell ads off it, to charge you for unmasking it, and to pocket 100% of the money. It’s not much money in my case I’m sure but with a billion users it adds up. And then they want to sell your data to nefarious third parties. And to destroy the social, moral, and political fabric of this nation. What a great bunch of guys.
PICTURE BOOK OF DANGER
— …and finally, Death Spins the Platter:
DEATH CAME IN THE NEWS
— Consequence of Sound: Synth repairman accidentally gets high after touching old LSD on a vintage ’60s synthesizer.
— The Daily Beast doxxed the guy who, they claim, made that slowed-down Nancy Pelosi video. A lot of push-back on this one out on the internets and the socials, since it’s a culture-war / partisan litmus test (you’re happy about it if you’re Team Blue, you’re displeased about it if you’re a Team Red, no exceptions, and most people I know are in the cultural reference group who see themselves as Blue, so it’s a good thing, thank God they’re finally going after this guy, that’ll teach him.) All I did was ask the question, and whether it is literally doxxing is difficult to determine as “doxxing” per se has no solid or specific legal definition, but people have certainly been deplatformed on that basis for revealing far less information. All I’ll say beyond that is that this was far more investigative firepower and word-count-age than was warranted by the fairly pedestrian video attributed to this innocuous, rather sad and pathetic individual (who denies he even did it.) It seems to me that those celebrating his exposure as win for their side cannot have fathomed the full extent to which this technique might be used against themselves, should it become standard journalistic practice. I see it as a bad thing in either case, make of that what you will.
— Another one of those crude litmus test situations: if you’re partisan Team Blue you probably responded to the news that Team Red guy Paul Manafort has been transferred to Rikers Island soliltary confinement by discovering a silver lining in mass incarceration, Rikers, and solitary confinement, thinking it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, Karma, etc. But in fact, as this tweet thread from a public defender elucidates, Rikers and solitary are horrible tortures that shouldn’t be visited upon anyone. Again, mindless pushback on the socials, no abatement in the jubilation.
When we support pain, punishment, torture, harshness, pre-trial detention, solitary, guilt until proven innocent for one — no matter how much we might despise them or think they “deserve it” — we further entrench an unjust system for all.
Amen. I can’t imagine anyone could read that thread and maintain their cavalier attitude, but, well two things: [a] all things being equal, people genuinely rejoice in human suffering for it’s own sake, which is an unfortunate, indelible part of human nature and a tale as old as time; and [b] in this world of ours, no one, but no one, ever bothers to read the thread. I’m just an old bleeding heart when it comes to such matters, and my views on this subject are not a mere pretext for advancing some partisan agenda (honestly) but I’m sure my heart does pick and choose where it bleeds to a considerable degree without my being aware of the bias per se, and that’s human nature too so I’m not about to throw stones. Read the thread though.
— Actual Innocence is a weak defense in our corrupt criminal justice system, but at least they released this guy, twenty-one years later.
— Schools provide chromebooks to students; students plug in their phones; a hidden feature downloads their pictures and videos and uploads them to a national database. What could go wrong?
— My favorite crackpot: here’s a blistering review of Naomi Wolf and the book so embarrassingly fact-checked on air on that UK radio broadcast (details are in the text here if you’re not familiar.)
— They found another piece of the Lewis chess set in a drawer, a “warder,” the equivalent of a rook. It’s a little hard to make out the details on the piece in its current state, but the previously-known warder at left inset is one of my favorites of them all.
— Leon Redbone died, so I posted a pic as one does.
— Roky Ericson died as well, so I posted a pic as one does as well.
— Dr John died, too, but I didn’t get around to posting a picture. You know what he looks like though, probably.