If You Want To Shill On My Blog, Please Write Me A Check Before Taking Me From Behind

Tonight, I was reading a post on Bill Sledzik’s Tough Sledding about political operatives coming in under the “SpamKarma” radar (insert your own anti-spam defense). From the article in The Boston Globe:

With big corporations now hiring public relations firms to pay fake bloggers to plant favorable opinions of the businesses online, many political bloggers are concerned that candidates, too, will hire people to pretend to be grass-roots citizens expressing views.

“This is going to happen more and more, and blogs are going to have to be vigilant,” Erickson said in an interview. “I expect there will be commenters jumping in and trying to build negative campaigns to cause scandal for the other side. That’s my fear.”

The Internet has already become a prime target for such manipulation. Tom Rosenstiel , the director of Project for Excellence in Journalism , said the growing influence of political blogs, combined with the relative ease of posting negative information anonymously, make them “irresistible for dirty tricks and attack politics.”

It isn’t just political operatives being sneaky fuckers, either. Last October, I wrote a post titled “NBC’s Monday Night Lineup” about, among other things, my growing disastisfaction with “Live From Studio 60.” Now, mind you, I think any comment that appears on a post older than, say, a week, is at the very least, suspicious. Most spammers, after all, spam old posts, in the hopes that a negligent blog operator will allow their comments through (thank goodness for comment moderation and programs like SpamKarma). Yet, the flowering praise heaped upon NBC’s lineup by this random commenter today (who has never commented here before) damn near caused me to arch a brow and observe “fascinating.” After reading the above article, I’ve decided it is probably spam, but I’d like a second, third, fourth, and heck, fifth opinion on it:

Monday night’s on NBC is becoming a great line up. Deal or No Deal is getting a bit old but still fun to watch the reactions of the different contestents. Heroes is one of my new favorite shows its like a primetime drama incorporating all of my childhood memories of the x-men. The new addition to the line up is The Black Donnellys, the face paced TV show incorporates drama, with relationships all set to the backdrop of an irish mob family. It’s like The Boondock Saints but in a TV version..a must see!

The kicker for me? “A Must See!” Either he’s being deliberately ironic or he thinks I don’t know that NBC used to call their evening viewing blocks “must see tv.”

February

However you pronounce it, I really gotta say I’ve got mixed feelings about this month. On one hand, it’s so damn short by the time it’s over with, you’re sort of like, “How the fuck is it March? Weren’t we just in January?” The downside of that, of course, is that you’ve got the same amount of bills to pay in a very short time frame. Gets worse in the pizza delivery business, since the slow time of the year hits the day after the Superbowl (and of course, the last six months have been nothing to write home about with excitement).

February. You’re a cold life sucking bitch, and I’m glad that in seven hours I won’t have to contemplate you at all for another eleven wonderful months that are all, in some form or another, better than you.

Plus, y’know, hopefully this time next year I’ll be working in an office job and not doing anything involving any combination of “pizza” and “driving.”

the smokin ban is to health as hygiene is to washing thy hands

So I skipped my ItCM class yesterday to study for my HEL test. So there I am, sitting cross-legged on the hallway, index cards arranged about me, furiously trying to cram the mid-front-vowels into my brain, and two professors go strolling back, casually engaged in a conversation about Baltimore’s ban on smoking.

So the one guy — who shall remain nameless — is commenting on the health aspect, and meanwhile, my brain goes into overdrive and I associate “health” with “hygiene” and I reflect on who it was I saw in the bathroom last week who left without without washing his hands. Yep, Prof Health himself. I chuckled to myself, then resumed to cram back-high-vowels into my brain.

Towson University Weblogs

I’ve added a new catagory to my blogroll: Towson University Blogs. There are only two on there right now, and if you’re reading this, and you’re a student, staff or faculty member at the school and you’d like your blog added, e-mail me your blog’s URL with $20 and you’ll be right up. (Hah, just kidding about the cash, feel free to send, though).

What’s Up Today? is the product of a mass comm student named David Madon, who, apparently, is stalking me from school to school (although, until now we’ve never been at the same school at the same time).

More With Les is Les Potter’s blog. Lesis a doctoral candidate and professor in the mass comm department at Towson, and a pretty nice guy from the few e-mails we’ve exchanged.

Go check out their blogs. Leave witty comments. I’m spending all day schlepping pizzas through the county so I can’t do it.

Stranger Than Fiction

The odder thing, of course, is that the whole movie is fiction (it’s a movie about a fiction writer who is inadvertently killing real people off left and right in her novels, and one person who finds out and doesn’t want to be axed), hence, the title is actually an ironic twist. Hah!

So here’s the deal (this is a spoiler warning, don’t read if you haven’t seen it yet and don’t want to be surprised when you do). In Stranger Than Fiction, Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is an IRS agent who, one day, begins hearing a voice narrating his life. He thinks he’s going crazy, but his attempt to find answers eventually leads him to a literature professor who in turn gets him in touch with a writer played by Emma Thompson, who has apparently somehow inadvertently controlling the threads of fate.

Long story short: it’s a cute, funny movie and should be required viewing of any current or past English major, as well as any English professor. I have to admit one of the things I liked about the movie was the ugly concrete slab that served as Dustin Hoffman’s classroom building. It looked like Towson’s Enrollment Services building … but I digress.

I don’t know how good of an English professor Dustin Hoffman is. Apparently, he’s a professor of litererary theory. When he’s trying to help Crick determine what kind of story he’s in, he tells Crick the characteristics of a tragedy and a comedy. Something like, “in a tragedy, you die. In a comedy, you get married.”

Fair enough, but not a complete definition. In a tragedy, the choices made by the character lead to their downfall. Crick makes very few choices in the movie, and the big one — at the end — is actually made by Thompson. Of course, I guess you could argue that his decision to tell Thompson to go ahead with her ending is what makes this a tragedy. On the other hand, I’m still a little puzzled Hoffman never told Crick, “Well, this might be a tragedy, except you don’t seem to be making the choices leading to your downfall. Rather, Emma Thompson and her typewriter are doing that for you.”

Whatever. I liked it, and’ll watch it again.

Imad Moustapha’s visit to The Maryland State University of Towson

Last week, Syrian’s envoy to the United States participated in a discussion at Towson University which earned mention in the Towerlight in part because of students protesting Syrian policies. Turns out Imad Moustapha has a blog, and while I’ve only had time to briefly scan it (my first test of the semester is tomorrow and, yes, I’m worried about it and have a stack of index cards a mile deep and am skipping my first class to study), I chuckled at his reference to the school as “the Maryland State University of Towson.”

Sounds high-class, doesn’t it? I guess he didn’t get a good luck at the building he spoke in, because if there’s one thing Linthicum Hall isn’t, “high class” is it.

***

Also: related to my post last week on the upcoming new CLA building, Towson continues to expand. Clearly, I’m distracted because when I read the article and read “phase one”, I then followed up in my head with “preparation for assimilation..*” Hopefully, however, Klingons won’t actually be moving to Maryland (although, on the other hand, they might prove more willing to act on their “aggressive feelings” when dealing with Maryland drivers).

*(Phase One, preparation for assimilation…” is a line in STVI referring to the evacuation of the Klingon homeworld’s population to the Federation).

Life Comes At You Fast

Because I’m a snarky asshole, let me just ask: if you had to choose between life without a garage door opener or a television remote, which would you do away with? I’d do away with my garage remote, but never mind that I live in an apartment and don’t actually have a garage.

But neighbors of the Marine base here have been reduced to just that after a strong radio signal coming from the facility began neutralizing remote-control openers.

Residents have had to spend hundreds of dollars on new systems.

It’s like that commercial where the guy is flipping the light-switch in his garage and his wife is telling him she’s looking (but she isn’t), and three houses down, some old lady’s garage door keeps crashing down and going back up and crashing back down again on her car’s hood. Except, the people down in Quantico probably aren’t laughing too much. Seriously, though, isn’t this a residential risk of living in a town known not for its culture or delis or wine-tasting festivals, but rather as a place synonymous with “government black ops”? I think … yes.

Battlestar Goodness

I’ve really got to say that the last three episodes of “The Best Show on Televison”, Battlestar Galactica, have served as such a contrast to the previous season worth of episodes (from Pegasus through Taking A Break From All Your Worries, with the possible exception of Scar) that I realized how much I’ve really not been feeling the Battlestar vibe as I once had.

For me, the interesting thing about the show isn’t the Cylon threat. It’s the characters who have survived the near complete genocide of their race, the ordinary men and women crammed into these tin cans and running across the stars for their safe-haven while, all around them, supplies run low, ships break, and they’ve as much to fear from each other as they do a Cylon basestar. I love Battlestar Galactica because, while it is indeed a very in-your-face science-fiction show, at heart, it is a character study with a very basic question: “In an extreme situation, with everything to lose, how much value is placed on the social norms and legal values of a civilization nuked into oblivion and whose survivors are rapidly crumbling away?”

The last few episodes have focused entirely on life within the fleet.

Last night’s episode found Deckchief Tyrol leading a strike against unfair labour practices within the fleet, where survivors from respected worlds were sheltered from dangerous work; while those survivors from worlds known for their low-class were pressed into unsafe work, and where qualified individuals from these worlds were prevented from rising above the station assigned to them by the accident of the world of their birth. Adama, clearly, has all but abandoned his values: to end the strike, he orders Callie (Tyrol’s wife) placed up against a bulkhead and shot. For me, it was amazing to see Baltar’s revelation that he come from a colony known more for its manure than its culture: amazing also to hear his British replaced by one much coarser, and to gain the insight of a man who has spent his whole life reinventing himself.

Two weeks before that, it was Lt. Agathon’s unlucky role to bear witness to the mistreatment of colonists from Saggitaron sheltering Galactica. Particularly disliked among the colonies, a group of religious fundamentalists whose practices (particularly with the regard of refusing medical treatment, and a clear allegory to certain religious groups within the US today) threaten the well-being of every member of the fleet, are victimized by a murderous and sly medical practitioner. Agathon’s warnings go unheeded; he’s threatened by his commanders to zip his lips and keep to himself, his colleagues think he’s nuts for protecting “those people.” But Agathon, clearly, hasn’t lost those values instilled in him — perhaps he is young enough to still be idealistic — which makes his eventual victory in the matter such a triumph.

I guess the point that I’m trying to make here is that without its characters, and without this drama, the show would be nothing. I’m actually glad that the show only got renewed for a thirteen-episode fourth season: hopefully, the quality will improve over the last twenty-some episodes.

BOR

Okay, so I wound up turning the Oscars on for a little while after Battlestar Galactica. Two things: first, I’m glad Jimmy Doohan got recognition in the Academy’s salute to deceased filmmakers (mayhaps my imagination, but I think the audience cheered loudest for him); and second, Forrest Whitaker won?! Rock it!

The Departed won best picture. I’m a little disappointed by this, and, of course, I’ll tell you why. The Departed is a good movie — but it is, essentially, a shoot ‘em up. And I kind of feel like the win wasn’t because the movie was the best of the nominees, but because people feel guilty that Martin Scorsese hasn’t won an Oscar before. Anyway, I feel that a movie that wins Best Picture should say something about who we are as a people — and interpret that however you like: who we are as Americans, or Europeans, or humans, or whothefuckever — or where it is we want to go; it should comment, in some way, on the human condition.

And, um, The Departed doesn’t.

Driving Like An Ass Gets You Humped on Cranbrook Road

Saturday night, I joked with the closing manager at the Indy – Robin – that I was probably going to have the day off today. This after we watched a preview for the 11:00 News which featured heavily the news of the impending “weather event” scheduled for today.

Supposedly, it was going to start around dawn. No such luck, and I showered and went in to work as scheduled. It had by this point begun to snow, but the roads were, when I went in, damp but fine.

Too bad they didn’t stay that way.

I was only scheduled until four, and a little after noon, I called in an insider to come in early so I could leave, and Chewbacca, the opening manager and closing driver, could go on the road. That insider came in about 1:30 and I departed. Leaving wasn’t easy — the snow had been coming down for some time, and the roads were largely unplowed, unclear, and made driving slightly difficult.

(I know I’m going to get shit from Greg for leaving early. Bah.)

I got home okay — I took my time, I didn’t rush. As I drove east on Cranbrook Road, up that steep hill past where the Coliseum used to be located, I noticed that some moron decided not to take it slow and easy. A small red car was jammed up on the sidewalk, with the engine revving, and a woman standing outside the open door shaking her head at the invidiual in the driver’s seat. I imagine she was thinking, “Moron.” It looks like he was coming west down the hill too fast, tried to brake or change lanes, lost control, did a hundred-and-eighty degree spin and bounced up on the curb. I’ve got no idea how he’s planning on getting that car off the curb, but I sure hope the next time it snows and he decided to drive like a fuckwad, maybe he’ll think, “Gosh, I’d really rather not get my car humped on the curb again.” I doubt it, though.

Anyway, so I spent most of today writing a response for my ItCM class — Patroklos’ downfall — and making up flash-cards to study at work tomorrow for Tuesday’s HEL test. Good stuff.

My Thoughts on the Oscars

I mean, y’know, besides the standard fare: Hollywood back-slapping popularity contest.

The truth is, I don’t know a lot about most of the films up for awards this year, so I don’t feel like I can really offer a critical evaluation of what films and actors should or shouldn’t win. I don’t think Babel deserves any nominations; while I enjoyed the Departed, I don’t know why it is up for any awards (it’s a glorified bloods-and-bullets flick, and if Scorsese wins, I think it’ll be more for previous films and less for this). I’d be very surprised if Pan’s Labyrinth wins any major awards (I think “Foreign Language Film” is an obvious win, but I doubt it’ll take anything more prestigious*)

Here’s one thing to look for, something I read several months ago from a respected political blog. When the nominees for Best Documentary Feature are announced, look to see if Al Gore is around. If An Inconvenient Truth wins, and Al Gore isn’t on the stage, it’s a good bet he’s making a run for the White House.

*Didn’t Pan’s Labyrinth come out in 2007? And don’t get me wrong: I think Pan’s Labyrinth probably deserves to do better than I’m betting it will, but I think the Academy has some biases against non-English speaking movies.

Paranoid and Cynical

You are George Orwell

Paranoid and Cynical. You are able to understand society and the human psyche quickly and easily. You are depressed a lot of the time, because you are clever enough to see what is really going on in the world.

Take this quiz at QuizGalaxy.com

I don’t know that I see this in myself. Then again, I’m sure Georgie got rich off all those book deals, so hopefully the same’ll happen for me. Woo!

Quitters, Inc.

With the admonishment “be glad you’re not in China”, Geisha sent me this link from MSNBC:

Alarmed by a survey that found that nearly 14 percent of teens in China are vulnerable to becoming addicted to the Internet, the Chinese government has launched a nationwide campaign to stamp out what the Communist Youth League calls “a grave social problem” that threatens the nation.

But no country has gone quite as far as China in embracing the theory and mounting a public crusade against Internet addiction. To skeptics, the campaign dovetails a bit too nicely with China’s broader effort to control what its citizens can see on the Internet. The Communist government runs a massive program that limits Web access, censors sites and seeks to control online political dissent. Internet companies like Google have come under heavy criticism abroad for going along with China’s demands.

Among the milder cases are those of Yu Bo, 21, from Inner Mongolia, and Li Yanjiang, 15, from Hebei province. Both said that they used to spend four to five hours a week online and their daily lives weren’t affected but that their parents wanted them to cut their computer usage to zero so they could study. Yu said he agreed to come because he wanted to train himself. Li said it was because he just wanted to “get away from my parents.”

No one is comfortable talking about the third floor of the clinic, where serious cases — usually two or three at a time — are housed. Most have been addicted to the Internet for five or more years, Tao said, are severely depressed and refuse counseling. One sliced his wrists but survived. These teens are under 24-hour supervision.

Still, for all the high-tech treatments available to Sun at the clinic, the one that he says helped him most was talking. He looks forward to returning to school and getting on with his life.

The first task on his agenda when he gets home: get online. He needs to tell his worried Internet friends where he was these past few weeks.

Five hours a week? I would be in trouble! And while, sure, China’s success in breaking people’s addictions to drugs and alcohol is something to be commended, I don’t know if their methods in doing this — which they seem to be shifting over towards internet addicts (read the whole article) — are. This reminds me of the Stephen King short story where a man signs up for a program to quit smoking only to find out the deterents to smoking include violent assaults on his family.

Gah, China, bad!