Jon Cazares

Jon Cazares

Updated: This article has been significantly expanded after reading a few dissenting opinions this weekend. I still love the ad. A lot. But there are a few valid points in the dissension that I address as best as possible.

 

 

If you have not watched Heineken’s, “Worlds Apart Experiment”, you should take four minutes and do so. The experiment ad quickly went viral with most of the internet heaping high praise for its tasteful, simple approach in tackling important topics. I agree. It’s lovely and I adore it. I’ve watched it several times and I think it’s very well produced. It’s also completely staged. And that doesn’t matter.

 

Now, by “staged” I don’t mean “fake.” The video was produced by a UK based ad agency called Publicis London. They do an exceptionally fine job of realistic deception. For context, I ran casting sessions in NYC for several years, I’ve directed a thousand actors and I’ve spent about fifty thousand hours on set and in an editing booth. I can spot an actor ad libbing from ten paces away. I can spot non actors. I can also spot acting. No matter how good. I bring this up because the first minor backlash I noticed came from a feeling that the commercial is staged, that the participants are actors saying scripted lines, and the entire thing is fake and therefore not to be liked.  

 

Heineken responded on Twitter, saying there was no acting, and that the ad features "real stories.” Easy to say, right?  Well, based on my experience, I’m going to say, Heineken is probably being truthful -- the people in the video are not actors.

 

That being said, the participants in the experiment all recorded an introduction video and it’s that intro that I do sense a bit of “acting.” But that’s to be expected because, people, when they are in front of a camera -- they change. They posture, they don’t know what to do with their hands and they exaggerate and / or deflect in equal measure. Basically, they do everything they can to look and sound, “sincere.”  That, right there, generally leads to bad acting. Even though they’re not acting.

 

We live in an era where even phones have cameras. People are used to being recorded but that doesn’t mean everyone suddenly becomes Meryl Streep. In the ad intro video, I have no doubt those people are saying things they believe. But some of them try too hard to be sincere, or controversial, because that’s  the image they want to project. The climate change denier actually comes out and says he’s controversial, which is clearly his bag. He likes being the controversial one. Which does put some doubt into how sincere he is about his denial. But then again, maybe he’s just a bad actor.

 

Anyway, I think both sides are correct. The people in the video are non actors saying things they believe in and they sometimes come off stagey because it is a produced advert that probably forced them to tell their stories again (and maybe again, and again).

 

Then, you’ll note, multiple camera are used when the people run through the experiment. Either Publicis London used  a dozen cameras to shoot each experiment in one take, or they did multiple takes of each experiment. Either way it produces the “stagey” effect that put some people off.  

 

Again, this doesn’t mean the people in the video are actors following a script, it just means that, like reality television, nothing is one hundred percent authentic. It’s very possible these are non actors using anecdotes from their own lives and when confronted with multiple cameras and multiples takes and multiple costumes they come off as staged and over directed.

 

The second controversy I’ve read, explores the ethics and safety of the experiment. This controversy claims that the ad is dangerous because not all the participants are "ethically" equal, pitting folks with progressive views against those with regressive opinion. I see some merit in this argument.

 

For example:

 

Two white men, one a climate change denier, the other, a climate change believer. Since they are both white men they are on equal sociological footing, so to say. Even though there is overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is happening and this shouldn’t be an actual argument, these two men are still on equal footing. There is no implied threat to your safety between two white men having opposing views on climate change.

 

BUT if you take a black woman who is a self described feminist and white man who is a self described alt right believer suddenly you don’t have two equal viewpoints. One viewpoint is for equal rights the other is for open intolerance. The dissenting view is that it is uniformly unfair for her. Why should she have to defend herself or her views to that guy?

 

AND THEN you take a well built white man and put him with a thin transgender woman. The white male thinks transgenders are weird and gross, the transgender woman, obviously, feels transgender rights are important. Put them in an empty room.

 

This is a bit unsettling. Who would do this? Who would set people up like this? Who would send a transgender woman into a meat grinder forcing her to spend time with someone who believes she is less than human? Mirah Curzer over at Athena Talks writes in her dissenting opinion, “The transphobe who agrees to have a beer with the trans woman is sacrificing nothing … Worse, it’s heavily implied that the transgender woman, were she to walk away, would make her just as intolerant as the bigot who views her with disgust.”

 

That’s true. The ad implies just that. And it’s a fair point because, were the transgender woman to walk away, she would be doing so for a reason of safety and not because of intolerance.

 

But, it’s important to note, she doesn’t walk away. And neither does anyone else. Because the ad mainly  reinforces the truth that the war against intolerance is fought one person at a time. And more importantly -- she already knows she is safe.

 

This is reality television. This is a staged ad. The participants are not alone. Producers, camera operators and crew members are all over the place. Even if said crew are not in the exact same room as the participants they are nearby, watching.

 

The ad even has costume changes for God’s sake. Which, I strongly feel, is one of the missteps of the ad. The costumes are bit too on the nose. I mean, did they really have to costume the feminist in a “smash the patriarchy,” shirt? Anyway, all I’m saying is that you can pretty much be guaranteed all the participants knew there was no physical danger.

 

Emotional discomfort? Probably. Danger? No. And I am not trying to dismiss emotional pain or fear. It’s true that the experiment manufactured a potentially extremely uncomfortable situation between the young black woman / alt right male and the transphobe / transgender woman. I get it.

 

But I can also guarantee you that these people signed legal documents and had conversations with folks at the ad agency and had discussions with produces. Which means they were aware that something was going to happen. They all knew they were going to be in a controlled experiment and I’m sure they were all told that safety personnel would break the bloody door down and extract anyone who felt threatened.

 

Anyway. I love this ad. It produces emotion in the viewer and it does so by pointing the camera at people and asking them to talk to each other. It’s extremely effective because the human face and human emotion is far more powerful than CGI or over produced musical scores. It makes zero difference if the Worlds Apart video is scripted, acted and manipulated in editing or if it is entirely as realistic and truthful as the ad suggests. Either way, it genuinely says something about life.

 

It also tries to sell you beer. It is, after all, a beer ad.

 

I’m not trying to tell anyone how to feel. Folks can be as cynical as they want about the Worlds Apart ad and if it makes them angry then it makes them angry. But in this very divisive world of Brexit and President Trump the differences presented in the video are all too common. All the ad suggests is that maybe the best way to tackle extreme difference is to engage. One person at a time.

 

Does that sound way too assine and simple? Can a man who says, “Women should be at home making my babies,” and a woman wearing a, “smash the patriarchy” shirt ever find common ground? The condescending, smug, snotty side of my brain laughs at the very thought.

 

But I offer anecdotal proof in “Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America,” a documentary about an African American musician who has spent decades trying to befriend KKK members in order to change their mind about people of color. Davis found that the more he was willing to listen to their grievances, the more willing they were to listen to him. You should watch the documentary. Davis has been quite effective on his journey. His journey to fight intolerance by talking, and listening, and engaging.   

 

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If you like this you might like the radio talk shows, Bill Martinez Live, Freedom Feens, Free Talk Live.

UPDATED: A link to current Saints / Adrian Peterson coverage has been added. 

 

I am just like you. Like you, I have a favorite NFL team. Perhaps we share the same team, perhaps not. Like you, I’m no expert in football but again, like you, I’ve watched a lot of games. Every Sunday and Monday. And now sometimes on Thursday. And watching a lot of football has -- well, you know -- pretty much made me an expert. Just like you.

I love the Minnesota Vikings. I don’t know why. Season after season of disappointment, regret and shame. I blame "The Curse." Okay, to be fair, we all know that curses don’t actually exist. Except, obviously, for the one on the MN Viking!

Maybe there is no curse. Maybe all the other Super Bowl winners catch lucky breaks and the Vikings just happen to catch unlucky breaks. Repeat. Or maybe it’s Murphy’s Law. Or maybe it’s the coaching staff. Or the owner. Or the players. Or the fans. Or the curse.

Whatever it is, it certainly is exciting. I mean, the 1998 Vikings go 15-1 and still find a way for “Automatic Anderson” to miss a field goal and lose in the Championship game. I’m sure  eighties / early nineties Bills fans feel my seventies pain when I say, “Bloody hell! How can you lose four super bowls in one decade?” Or in 2009, how can you have Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin and still lose? Oh, right, because All Day fumbles the ball, like, sixteen times in the Championship game against the Saints! Good times, good times.

Maybe the Viking’s aren’t cursed, per say, but they sure do find creative ways to lose. So, why do I love the Vikings? Why am I still a fan? Loyalty? Marketing? Nostalgia? The fantasy? Is it the fantasy that we all crave? We watch a game and think to ourselves, “I could have done that. I could have caught that ball. Made that kick. Hit that hole. I could be rich and famous. I coulda been a contender.”

Maybe. But maybe it’s really, really simple. Maybe I just love the Vikings because it’s my home team. And, also, because American football is the greatest professional sport the world has ever known. Like, ever. Including all those super cool alien sports ball games that earthlings will compete in in the distant future. Don’t believe me?  Check out the competition:

The Competition, or, "A totally off topic rant against other sports that should probably be cut but won't be."

 

Baseball. America’s Pastime.

Yeah, um, sorry but no. Baseball is about as exciting as watching ice cream melt. Each score is worth the same amount of points. One. Holy F’ing boring! Ninety percent of your fielded athletes do nothing. Oh, look over there at that ridiculously high paid star athlete -- the way he stands there and does nothing over in left field -- it really is an inspiration to us all!  My favorite interview with a baseball star came about fifteen(ish) years ago, I don’t even remember the player’s name. A reporter asked him a question about being a “star athlete.” The players snorted and replied, “I’m not an athlete. I play baseball.”  Yes! More of that please!

Hockey. The sport of “The Great One.”

Hockey can’t be taken seriously for one significant reason: too many games end in ties! How the hell can you have a professional sport that ends in a bunch of ties?!!? Besides, we all know hockey is just "awkward padded boxing" on skates. Occasionally, the fighters break up the cage match and shoot the puck around the ice for a while. Oh, look, another exciting ass ice boxing match that ends in a 0-0 tie! Thankfully I only paid $125 for my ticket or I’d be really disappointed in this sport (note the sarcasm).

Basketball. The court of “Air Jordan.”

Basketball has too many points involved for it to be continuously engaging. But at least basketball has a range of points. Shots can be worth one, two or three. And the pace of the game is break neck. Something is always happening. Have you ever watched fans at a basketball game cheer their heads off when their team scores that first two point bucket? Notice how the enthusiasm is gone by mid game where their home team has scored its thirty third 2 point shot. Points become meaningless when they are handed out so frequently which is why you hear the oft said expression, “You only need to watch the last ten minutes of a basketball game.” I guess, to be honest, I don’t mind watching basketball (it’s not like it’s bloody baseball for Christ’s sake!) but it’s no American football.

Tennis. (I have nothing snotty to say about tennis).  

I kind of dig tennis. Unique point system. One-on-one or two-on-two competition. Steffi Graf. Pete Sampras. Good stuff. It’s just no NFL. We all know that.

Golf?

Please. It’s not a sport. It’s a skill. No competition.

Soccer. The world sport. Loved by billions.

Meh. Another game that ends in ties. And each score is worth one point. Not much in way of scoring strategy. Oh, you beg to differ? Quick, what’s your sports ball plan for your soccer team?  Oh. What was that? You plan to kick the ball into the goal. For a point. Yeah, that’s what I thought. I know the world loves soccer (football). Fair enough. You keep your soccer, I’ll keep my American football.

So what makes American Football so great? (If you really dislike football you might want to just skip this part and move on down to the open letter sections).

You’re either on my side or not. No need for a seven page discussion why football wins. It just does. The strategy. The symmetry of the formations. Substitutions. Play calling. Offensive strategy. Defensives strategy. The deceptions. Consider that every single play requires dozens of off field personnel to predict the opposing side, call the play, get substitutions in and out, communicate the play, line up in formation (which suggests a certain type of run or pass play but is usually disguised as something other than it looks), hard count to draw the defense offside (or not), focus (do not get a penalty), execute the play (all eleven people on the field have to do their jobs or the play goes to shit), out play your opponent.

So, for every play that happens in the NFL that’s the culmination of anywhere from twenty to twenty five people all coordinating their jobs every five minutes. Over and over and over again. Compare that level of detail, coordination, teamwork and the individual chance to rise up above another player or entire team to just “make a play," with, “Pitcher tries to throw ball past batter.” Yes, yes, I know baseball is slightly more complicated than I suggest. But only slightly. And it’s no football. And there is no comparison.   

Anyway. I’ve made my point. You’re now convinced (or not). American Football for the win. Allow me to get back to the matter at hand.

The Open Letter Section. Out with the old. In with the new and I'm really sorry about that curse, guys.

Dear Mr. Peterson.

We have never met. We probably never will. I just want to say to you, farewell. You’re a great athlete. I have enjoyed many an hour watching you turn defensive lines into Swiss cheese. I marvel at how you can get five or six yards when defenses stack eight men in the box. I love that, with one hand, you can shove an NFL player away from you, hardly breaking stride. You single handedly carried the MN Vikings into the playoffs in 2012 with your 2,097 rushing yards. You will go down as one of, if not the, greatest running back the NFL has ever seen. Well played, sir. Thank you for your hard work and fair game play.

And I’m soooo glad to see you gone! The Vikings have been ruined with you in the backfield. Several years of completely predictable and uninspiring offense designed to hand you the ball launched the Vikings into an orbit of mediocrity. Other teams pretty much knew you were getting the ball 25 times per game. And, for a long time you were still great. And then the injuries and the scandal and the drama struck. And suddenly you were no longer, Adrian Fucking Peterson!  You were just Adrian Peterson, a very expensive, pretty good runner.  And while other teams are passing for 5,000 yards, year after year the Vikings are at the bottom of the league in offense. It’s time for a new plan.

I am glad to have seen you play for the MN Vikings and I hope you continue to have a fine, injury free career on other teams. Perhaps you’ll get a super bowl ring behind Drew Brees. You deserve one. Of course, I’ll be honest with you here ... "The fucking Saints?!?!" How quickly you forget!  I mean, they were the team who paid their players extra money to injure opponents. And that’s exactly what they did in the 2009 Championship game against you and your team. (Grumble, grumble, grumble). Which is why the Vikings lost that game.

Oh, and another reason they lost is because you fumbled (and lost) the ball, like, sixteen times!

Maybe you're cursed? Anyway, try not to fumble so much in the future.

Unless you’re playing the Vikings.  

 

Update: How is Peterson doing as a Saint? Check out our coverage: Adrian Peterson and the Failed New Orleans Saints Experiment

 

 

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Dear Mr. Bridgewater.

You have a great name. I love it. By all accounts it seems you are a really, genuine, decent man.  Young, smart and talented -- you are guaranteed to have a great future in the NFL. Unless the curse of the MN Vikings will inflict a freak, horrible, non contact injury that could end your career. 

On the bright side, the NFL has an unlimited budget for medical care and you are young and strong. You’ll recover. But there’s, "recover," and there’s, "RECOVER"! It looks as if the Vikings will not pick up your option. Which means they, and the NFL doctors expect you to recover. But probably not RECOVER.

You might play again. I hope you do. Because of your injury the Vikings might be able to re-evaluate you next year. Perhaps you’ll recover enough and they’ll sign you as a back up. And you’ll probably be -- okay. It’s hard to evaluate your career as you were only the starter for a year and a half. But you do have an overall winning record totaling a W/L/T of 17-12-0 (See! No ties!).  In 2015, you led the Vikings to the top of the division with an 11-5 record where your numbers were:

GP    CMP    ATT    CMP%       YDS         AVR    TD     INT    LNG  QB-RAT

16       292     447     65.3%        3,231         7.23     14        9       62         88.7   

Aside from a flat line TD / INT ratio those numbers are -- well, they’re okay. You were sacked 44 times that season for a loss of 307 yards. About three times per game. Pretty impressive record for getting knocked around that much. It’s also interesting to note that Adrian Peterson was healthy in your 2015 season. Peterson played 16 games and rushed for league high 1,485 yards which probably took a lot of pressure off you. The previous year when you took over for injured Matt Cassel you went 6-6 but Peterson was inactive the entire year. Tough road for a rookie.  It also suggests you might need a great back in order to win.

Anyway, you know all this. But I, along with many other Vikings fans, had high hopes for your future with the Vikings. I’m sorry that the curse struck you down. You did not deserve it. I hope you are the physical freak of nature that Adrian Peterson proved he was when he came back from his horrible knee injury and rushed for more than two thousand yards. I hope you can come back from your injury and throw for five thousand yards!

I really do.  Good luck kid!

 

--

 

Dear Mr. Bradford.

Hey, dude. I like you. I really do. You quietly put up impressive numbers in 2016.

GP    CMP    ATT    CMP%       YDS         AVR    TD     INT    LNG  QB-RAT

15      395      552      71.6%       3,877         7.02      20        5        71        99.3   

Almost four thousand yards in fifteen games. Nice TD to INT ratio and an almost seventy two percent completion ratio! Which is insanely high! And an NFL record. It was certainly your best year as a pro. Excellent work!

Buuuut -- I gotta be honest with you.  It’s -- well -- your W/L numbers that concern me. You went 7-8 as a starter. The losses are not all on your shoulders. Far from it! AP had another injury and after that The MN Vikings had a dismal running game. They also had, arguably, the worst front line in the league. A frontline, I might add, that allowed multiple games with five or more sacks on you. That doesn't even include the amount of time you were hit (but not sacked). To be honest, I don’t expect my team to win when the O-line gives up five sacks per game and probably twice as many QB hits. All in all you were sacked 37 times for a loss of almost 300 yards. Which isn’t as much as I thought. Brdigewater went down more times in his full season start. But still, the O-line has to improve and when it does and you’re offered a bit more protection, I see that you can get the ball into receiver's hands.

Buuuut -- it’s still that pesky win / loss ratio that bothers me. You were drafted in 2011 for the St. Louis Rams and had largely mediocre and some not very good seasons. Also, you were injured in four of your seven years as a pro. Not promising. Finally, you have a mediocre season in Philadelphia and then get traded to the Vikings in 2016.  Your overall W/L/T record is a sad looking 32-45-1 (stupid tie!).

Thankfully, in 2016 you had  two rising superstar receivers in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielan.  Bridgewater was throwing to folks like Charles Johnson, Mike Wallace and Cordarrelle Patterson -- three players that always should have been better than they were. So, Sam, I’m glad you have that going for you.

But man. We could have had Teddy "GUMP" Bridgewater. (Great Under Major Pressure). And he coulda turned into a star. Probably.

But Sam, you're not bad, right? On one hand AP was down for the year, and you did what you could do.

On the other hand, Bridgewater went 11-5. With subpar receivers.  

On the other hand, he had a healthy AP to back him up.

On the other hand, Bradford, you had the worst offensive line in the NFL.

On the other hand, Bridgewater was sacked more than you were in that year by year comparison and he still won eleven games.  

On the other hand, the NFL has never seen a more accurate passer than your job in 2016, Mr. Bradford.

On the other hand, Sam, you didn’t really get a lot of yards per pass. And you lost more games than you won.

(I ran out of hands).

Well, Mr. Bradford. I’m not here to make you feel bad (which, you probably don’t). You seem like a stand up guy. I never heard you complain about losing or whine about the O line.  You took your hits, took your blame and moved on to the next game. I approve.

I pretty much have faith that you’re going to be A-Okay here as a Viking especially with those two superstar receivers aforementioned  I expect all your numbers to go up. And we have a new running back. Latavius Murray seems like a good egg.

Oh, and one final thing. Sam, if you hear anything about “a curse,” just totally ignore it. None of our quarterback are ever injured! I mean, except for like the last twenty of them. But aside from that our QB is never injured. We always make the clutch field goals. We always have a winning record. Our players have an insane amount of super bowl rings. Like, seriously, you would not believe how many super bowl rings the Vikings have! So, there is totally, no curse on the MN Vikings. Okay?

Besides, curses are not real. I mean, obviously, except for the one on the MN Vikings that we all know exists. But aside from that one, curses are not real. So don’t worry about it!

Just go play ball. Have fun. And let’s try and get that W/L ratio up a bit, shall we?  

Thanks for reading!

 --

If you like this, you might like our coverage of the Viking's Draft.

 

Update: This story has been updated to reflect the end of negotiations between the writers and studios.

 

On Monday, members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) overwhelmingly voted for their union to strike. This gives the union permission to strike but does not necessarily mean they will strike. The current WGA contract expires on May 1st and negotiation between the union and studios continue.

 

The last WGA strike was in 2007-8 and cost the state of CA approximately $2 billion dollars and about $250 million in lost wages for writers. In 2007 the strike was about the usual suspects - wage increase, &  health care  but mainly about streaming residuals. You see, if a writer writes something and it airs, the writer gets a “residual payment” when the program (or film) shows and / or when a DVD sells. Actors, directors, executive producers, producers all have similar deals depending on the media.

 

The problem was with said residuals for streaming service. How much, if anything, does a writer get when someone streams said content from the web. At the time this whole streaming thing was up and coming and the previous WGA contract had never considered “streaming” to be much of a thing so contracts focused on DVD sales and ancillary rights for cable service (HBO, Showtime, etc).

 

And you know what that means. If it’s not in the contract, you don’t get it. So writers were getting paid nothing for streaming services. Streaming services loved it! They raked in the cash and didn’t have to pay those uppity writers a dime!

 

Hence the strike. Which last for about 100 days. Keep in mind when the writers strike the entire production is shut down. Deals are canceled. Lots of people are laid off or fired. It’s not just the writers who are out of work. So are the camera operators, the craft service employees, the production assistants, and office personnel. Some restaurants & shops that were entirely dependent on the thousands of cast & crew walk ins had to permanently close without the film / TV traffic. The strike hit hard and in the end the WGA didn’t even really get a great deal. They got a mediocre deal because everyone was just weary from the strike and gave in.

 

Well, we still have shows on TV, Hollywood cranks out 150 movies per year and Netflix is bigger than ever. So despite their mediocre deal I guess the writers won. Right? Until the next time! Contracts seem to last about three years in Hollywood so it was inevitable there would be a “next time”.

 

Which is now. So what are those writers complaining about this time? They already make $250 thousand per year! Now what do they want?  

 

Wait, writers make how much? And now that I know that, why should I care they are demanding more money?  

 

I know. It’s hard to find a lot of empathy when the average TV writer makes approx. $250 thousand per year. The average screenwriter is paid slightly less. Those numbers are driven high by a couple of key things -- titles like “producer / writer” and showrunners on TV who are the “executive producer”  all demand much higher salaries than a typical writer, but are considered “writers” for the purpose of the WGA. So, mostly likely, a typical writer on TV probably makes about $180 thousand per year. Which, as they say, is better than a sharp stick in the eye.

 

The most important thing to remember though is -- that’s what the market says their job is worth. It’s not the writers fault that s/he makes that much. And if the market suggests writers should be making more than they do, then a contract renegotiation and / or strike is appropriate.

 

A few things to consider. First, TV writers get paid per episode. In the way back time of 2008, TV networks any given popular show produces twenty two episodes per year. That number has plummeted to anywhere from eight to twelve episodes per year for most scripted programing.

 

Second, writers usually have an exclusivity deal which means they are unable to work on multiple shows at once. So even though there are more scripted shows now than ever before, a writer can only work on one at a time. It doesn’t matter that the market pays a TV writer very well they now collect about half what they used to. No one should be happy with that deal.     

 

Of course, thankfully, there is a silver lining here. The WGA contract still offer writers residuals from DVD sales. You remember DVD’s, right? You used to buy a bunch of them. So even if a writer was out of work for a season or two, s/he could depend on residuals from DVD sales to help pay the mortgage.

 

Except, of course, for the fact that DVD sales peaked in the early 2000’s and bottomed out around 2006 (as more folks switched to online streaming and / or stole the movies on sites like bittorrent). In fact, DVD sales continue to plummet about 10 percent per year. Another line of revenue that has quickly faded for writers.

 

Which is why the negotiations between the WGA and the studios continue. But no one actually wants a strike. True, the WGA just voted to give the union heads the authority to strike if need be but, seriously, no one really wants to.  

 

John Eisendrath, WGA member and executive producer of the show, “The Blacklist,” has an excellent piece over at latimes.com called, “I voted for a Hollywood writer’s strike but I don’t want one” where he offers his views on the possible strike (and solutions). His insider opinion is much like the title of his piece but you should read it over anyway. I like his solutions.

 

The main hold up is, obviously, money. The studio’s don’t want to give up any more of their large share of the pie. To be honest, they are kind of struggling this year what with only having been able to scrape together a measly $51 billion dollars in profit in 2016.

 

What? Did you you just say $51 billion? As in the number “fifty one”, followed by “billion?” Profit?

 

Yes. I did. The studios are arguing against paying writers more because there isn’t enough of the $51 billion dollar pie to go around. No, seriously, that’s what is going on.

 

Writers, the folks that create every single character, every line of dialog, every plotline and every story you consume on media, those folks, ask for better health coverage and a raise. Unlike the 2007-08 strike, I expect that they’ll get their wish this time. Unlike the 07-08 strike the studios just don’t have a lot of leverage. Profits are too high. The Directors Guild of America just signed a new contract making much of the same adjustments the WGA is asking for. The holdup, I suspect, is simply a matter of how to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.

 

So, don’t panic. I doubt there will be a strike. Late night talk shows & SNL are posting record ratings and would go dark if the strike went through. Think of the lost ad revenue. Networks won’t like that at all. So, I think there will be a new contract before the deadline.  “Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones” will come out on time. Tentpole blockbusters and the Marvel Universe will get their features out and we’ll all be able to watch Star Wars Episode VIII at Christmas. Seriously, no one wants a strike to happen.

 

But, if the WGA does strike, they have every right to do so. I know writers already make a lot of money but Hollywood is drowning in profits. I think the writers deserve their fair share and should not be making less than what they did ten years ago.  

 

Finally, if you don’t think the writers should strike I offer this: a list of movies that were rushed into production with unfinished (or completely unwritten) scripts:  “Transformers 2”, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, “Terminator Salvation”, “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”, “Quantum of Solace,” “Land of the Lost,” “Dragonball Evolution.”

 

See any hidden gems there? Or just a big pile of steaming, poorly written crap? You’re probably thinking that “Quantum of Solace” wasn’t THAT bad or that none of those films would have been masterpieces, regardless.

 

I’ll give you that. You may have a point. But there are even stories that came from the JJ Abrams “Star Trek” that, because of the strike, his team was unable to make changes to the script once they started shooting. That film was well liked and received generally well. But could it have been even better? Maybe. You know, for example, just off the top of my head, it’s not like this has ever bothered me before, but do you think the Trek writers would have been able to come up with a better idea than, “Kirk is coincidentally marooned on the very same planet that future Spock crashed on and they are coincidentally not far away from each other allowing future Spock to save Kirk’s life from a giant snow monster?”

 

Aside from that, generally just kind of being a dumb idea, the odds against a scenario like it happening are astronomical. Suspension of disbelief is one thing, actively making audiences less intelligent is something else. For example, in “Star Trek into Nonsense,” the second of the poorly written Trek remakes, the Enterprise crew uses a “cold fusion” bomb to freeze a volcano.  Even though, you know, cold fusion is a hypothesized type of nuclear reaction which creates, well energy. And therefore heat. And bombs that produce heat probably wouldn't be able to -- well, you know -- freeze anything.

 

Sigh.

 

But that’s what the writer is there for! Sink or swim, your writer(s) are there to craft the characters, mold the plot and shape the story. And take a lot of blame when things go wrong.

 

And get virtually zero credit when things go right. Quick, name your favorite episode of any TV show you’ve ever watched? Now tell me who wrote it. Sure, you’ll probably remember all the Joss Whedon penned “Buffy” episodes, but that’s about it.

 

In Hollywood there is a saying: writers are a dime a dozen. That may be true. And now they’re asking for a raise. And I’m looking at you Mr. Studio Man when I say, you should give it to them.


Because no one wants a strike. Seriously, I can’t say it enough. Like, no one.

 

Which is precisely why, on Monday, May 1st, a full ninety minutes past the midnight deadline, the writers and the studios came to an agreement and signed a new contract. The contract is much  more friendly to the union than the 2007 deal and the WGA got much of what it was after. Not all, but much. Visit the L.A. times for a complete analysis of the deal: They avoided a strike, but negotiations between writers and studios were a true Hollywood thriller.  

 

 

 ----

 

If you like this you might like Americanuck Radio, Freedom Feens or Free Talk Live all live on GCN.   

Alex Jones says a lot of controversial things. Some people call him a fringe lunatic. Some people call him a prophetic patriot. When I see him plastered all over the internet I am not surprised because, well, he says a lot of controversial things.

 

He is currently receiving wall-to-wall internet coverage about his brand new controversial topic. I am skeptical. I mean, will it be as controversial as Jones claiming the Sandy Hook Massacre is fake? (It’s not). How about as controversial as his claim that the Orlando Nightclub shooting was a false flag attack? (It isn’t). I don’t know, but I hope it’s as controversial as Jones’s claim that Hillary Clinton operated a pedophile ring out of a Pizzeria in a conspiracy so dumb I won’t even bother linking! (Jones apologized and recanted).

 

No, my friend. It will be far more controversial than all of those combined. And I know this because it’s all over the media. With media coverage this broad, Mr. Jones must have some huge controversial issue brewing! So what is it? Why is the media all up in Alex Jones’s grill?

 

Because Alex Jones is in a custody battle.

 

With his ex wife.

 

Wait. What? But I don’t give a rat’s ass about his custody battle! I thought this was going to be legit!

 

I know! What am I supposed to do? I work at GCN. Alex Jones is on our network. I don’t want to write about Alex Jones’s custody battle because his custody battle is pretty much none of my GD business. The only people who should be worried about Jones's custody battle are:

  1. Alex Jones.

  2. Kelly Jones (ex wife).

  3. Their kids.

  4. Their lawyers.

  5. Their judge.

   

Maybe some family and friends but that’s it. That’s the complete list of people who should care. But here we are. And I have to waste my day writing about Alex Jones’s personal business because media vultures love to swoop in for the kill. Especially when “the kill” is mud-slinging non-news like a custody battle!

 

Hold on! But the coverage isn’t about his “custody battle.” The coverage is about Jones’s lawyer claiming, during the custody battle, in court, “Alex Jones is playing a character … he is a performance artist.”

 

Oh. That.

 

I see what you’re talking about now. Alex Jones does indeed oft claim mainstream media is all “fake news.”   I can see how that might stick in folk’s craw, what with that hypocrisy and all.  

 

Okay. Now I see why the coverage is twenty four seven. Alex Jones claims all other news is fake and then admits that his show over at Infowars.com (and here on GCN) is performance art -- which, I gather, is a clever way of saying “fake.” That’s newsworthy. If this is the first time Alex Jones has admitted to something like this. I can understand the coverage.

 

Except, of course, for the fact that Alex Jones has called himself a performance artist many, many times. Without any coverage. At all. Unless you count mine. That I wrote two weeks ago. In which I cite Alex Jones calling his very own work “performance art.”

 

To recap:

 

Alex Jones says, multiple times, on his show that he is a “performance artist.” Zero coverage.

 

Alex Jones’s lawyer says in court that Mr. Jones is a “performance artist” + custody battle = huge coverage.

 

Hrmmmm.

 

Well, I know you work with him and all, but you can’t defend everything he says. Can you?

 

I don’t work with him! Stop saying that! Alex Jones has a radio show on the network that I work for. I’ve never even met the guy! And I don’t have to “defend him.” He’s a radio personality. He says a lot of crazy things. As loud as possible. On purpose. For effect. He does it seven days a week. For twenty years. He is bound to get some things right. He is bound to get some things wrong. He is bound to say controversial things. Some of them will turn out to be silly and harmless. Some of them will turn out to be tragic and dangerous.

 

But I don’t have to defend him. The Constitution of the United States does a much better job of defending him then I ever could. I’ll even go so far as to tell you I disagree with about seventy-five percent of what I hear Alex Jones say. And I will still roll my eyes in your general direction if you claim I am defending him because I “work with him.” I’m not doing it. He doesn’t need it.  

 

But let's get back to the important custody battle!

 

Well, no. I’m not going to write about his custody battle. "Former married couple goes through bitter divorce and says horrible things about each other" is not news.

 

So then let me get back to his claim about performance art. I see the easy way out. Alex Jones will claim, “What I say is truthful but HOW I say it is performance art.”  Which gives him carte blanche to say whatever he wants and kind of, you know, avoid responsibility.

 

Okay. Fair enough. He’s not the first person to hide behind the Constitution. He won’t be the last. The Constitution does indeed give him the right to say just about whatever he wants. It doesn’t, however, protect one from consequences.  

 

Take Len Pozner. Len’s only son, Noah, was murdered in the Sandy Hook Massacre. Len has been dogged and harassed by “Truthers.” Truthers, as defined by the totally legit dictionary:

 

Truther [trooth-ER] noun.  Plural: morons.

  1. A soulless ghoul.

  2. A dimwitted slug.

  3. Weak willed sheep.

  4. Someone who believes mass shooting massacres, such as the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School, are staged events by the federal government in order to frighten the population into surrendering their weapons. The victims and their families, truthers believe, are “crisis actors,” people hired by the government to pretend to be bereaved.  

 

I hate that in the world we live in this exists.

 

Len Pozner has been harassed by truthers for years. In 2015 a woman went to jail for sending Mr. Pozner threatening messages. I’m sure other Sandy Hook family survivors have similar stories. And, yes, Alex Jones and similar fringe alt-right pundits are partially to blame.

 

And I will only say, “partially.” A person unstable enough to cross state lines and send death threats to someone they think is a “crisis actor,” also shares a hell of a lot of the responsibility. So while I honestly believe Mr. Jones has the Constitutional right to say Sandy Hook, in his opinion, was staged. It’s still a shitty thing to say.

 

And there have been consequences. And it looks like they happened to the wrong people. Len Pozner does not deserve to have idiots crawling through his lawn looking for proof of “his crisis acting involvement,”  or digging through his garbage hoping beyond hope to find the “smoking gun” that doesn’t exist. He certainly doesn’t deserve to be taunted or threatened.

 

He deserves to be left alone. His child was murdered. It wasn’t fake. There is no such thing as a crisis actor. And if you believe Sandy Hook was a hoax then you’re an asshole.   


And I still don’t care about Alex Jones’s custody battle.

--

If you like this you might like the GCNlive talk show: The Alex Jones Show.

 

%PM, %18 %739 %2017 %16:%Apr

The Taxman Cometh

Today -- April 18th, 2017 --  is the last day you can file your Federal Income Taxes. Uncle Sam has bills to pay and expects your check in a timely manner. I usually do my taxes at the last minute and this year was no different. I have oft wondered, “Is this the year where I don’t get my taxes done in time and have to file an extension?”

 

Thankfully, the answer is, “Nope. Not this year!” But what does one do if one has not yet filed their taxes? You can link jump to irs.gov and fill out: Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. It’s a pretty simple form.

 

Keep in mind if you file for an extension there may or may not be late fee penalties, accrued interest, nasty letters from the IRS, collection agents, tax levies and / or liens. Consequences all depend if you are filing late or not filing at all. There is a huge difference in the amount of consequences between filing late and not filing. All sorts of bad thing can happen to you up to and including jail time if you fail to file your taxes on time or at all. So don’t do it.

 

Even celebrities get in trouble for income tax evasion! And celebrities can get away with nearly anything. Here is a partial list of Celebrities Who Were Forgiven For Their Horrible Acts. I mean, look at that list! Matthew Broderick has killed people! And his grand punishment was that he had to fork over a colossal fee of -- $175. Not $1.75 million or $175 million.Nope. One hundred and seventy five dollars! For killing two people! Like I said, celebrities can get away with a lot of awful stuff. But not tax evasion. Just ask Martha Steward or Wesley Snipes or Willie Nelson or Nicolas Cage.  

 

Point being, the tax man gets his money. It doesn’t matter if it’s your $284 or Nicolas Cage’s $6 million. The tax man always wins. So file today  and you free, free, free from the tax man!


Well, until next year. Or until your extension expires. I guess I take that back. You will not be free. There is a reason, “Death and Taxes,” is a colloquialism. Nothing is inevitable except for … well, you know.

 

--

 

If you like this you might like the GCNlive talk shows: The CEO ShowKorelin Economics, Millionaire Roadshow, Wall Street Raw.    

%PM, %17 %853 %2017 %19:%Apr

May the Divorce Be With You

Hello friends! I just learned of a delightful “holiday” that passed us by all too quickly on Friday, April 14th -- National Ex-Spouse's Day! Now, for many of you, a holiday recognizing your Ex might seem like the unwanted proverbial Red Headed Stepchild. Well, I always liked the Red Headed Stepchild! But I understand your skepticism. Bear with me.

 

You see, the real reason I’m pushing National Ex-Spouse’s Day is for the other discovery I had this weekend. Apparently, there is cake. Divorce cake! And I mean some pretty hilarious divorce cakes. Suddenly I’m all for National Ex -Spouse’s Day! Because of the cake!

 

It’s true you don’t need to a holiday to try some fine divorce cake, but the holiday makes it all the more delightful. And whenever I write the words “divorce” and “delightful” in the same sentence, I immediately think of Louis CK and his volumes of material on the subject including,“divorce is always good news” and “marriage is a larval stage for true happiness.” Check them both out. Both bits are NSFW but are well worth your five minutes.

 

According to the folks at foodandwine.com divorce cakes are on the rise nationally, but sadly, have not yet caught on in my native MN. So let’s spread the word. National Ex-Spouse's Day and Divorce cake. Mark your calendar for next year! Make Louis CK proud!

It’s been widely reported the U.S. dropped the Mother of All Bombs (MOAB) on Afghanistan, demolishing a tunnel lair and killing thirty six Islamic State terrorists. Every news site currently has headlines discussing the tactical details, the ethics and the cost of the weapon. Like many of you I am a bit awestruck in the details of the destructive force of the explosion and the cost of the weapon. The MOAB costs approximately sixteen million dollars apiece so the price per dead terrorist is about $444,000.

 

I don’t want to launch into snarky arguments about where that money could have been better spent, that’s what Facebook and Twitter is for. But it all got me to think about the bomb itself. Where exactly did the “GBU-43/ B Massive Ordnance Air Blast,” come from?

 

Like much of modern warfare, the seeds of the MOAB were planted in WWII. Throughout the Second World War both the Axis and Allies used rotorcraft (mainly helicopters) for a variety of roles; usually for reconnaissance or rescue operations. In fact, during the “China-Burma-India-Theater,” if U.S. military gliders were unable to reach downed American bombers, the Air Force would send helicopters to extract the stranded flight crew.   

 

During the Korean War helicopters played a more integral role. Helicopters played a critical role in medical evacuations, flying wounded to “Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals” (MASH). A term made famous by the television series M*A*S*H, which depicted the fictional 4077 unit, based off the Robert Altman film, based off the book of the same name.  You can read more about the use of Helicopters in the Korean War at the History.net’s article, The Rise of the Helicopter During the Korean War.      

 

During the Vietnam War, the use of the helicopters expanded and the US Army relied on “choppers” as they never had before. The military plan was to use the heavily armed UH-1 “Huey” helicopters as cavalry. Huey’s would be able to offer air support, quickly resupply platoons or evacuate wounded. It was all part of the military strategy to heavily rely on the helicopter.

 

But there was a problem. The geography of Vietnam is a chaotic tangle of rugged mountain peaks, extended forest and flatlands. Sure, the Huey’s had no problem landing in the flatlands but there were no natural landing zones (LZ) in the peaks or the forests.

 

Something had to be done about that.

 

Enter the BLU-82B/C-130 weapon system, nicknamed “Daisy Cutter"   

 

No natural LZ? No worries! The 15,000lb conventional bomb known as the “Daisy Cutter” is the solution to all your  LZ problems! From the Wikipedia entry on the “Daisy Cutter:”

   

“...originally designed to clear helicopter landing zones and artillery emplacements in Vietnam ... but also powerful enough to strike against specific targets such as warehouses, vehicle parks, and enemy troop concentrations … It is detonated just above ground by a 38-inch fuse extender. This results in maximum destructions at ground level without digging a crater.”

 

A nice range of photos showing the flat destruction of a “daisy cutter” and the type of LZ it creates can be seen here at www.peteralanlloyd.com. Basically, the bomb pulverized the trees in a large radius but the ground remained relatively flat. All your LZ problems have been solved.

 

Later, the “Daisy Cutter” is used in Afghanistan, first in an attempt to clear minefields, and then ,due to its 300-600 yard blast radius, as an intimidation weapon as the bomb can be seen, heard and felt for ten(ish) miles.  

 

At the time it was one of the largest conventional weapons ever to be used.  The BLU-82 was retired in 2008 and replaced with the much more powerful, “Mother of all Bombs.”

 

Albert L. Weimorts, Bunker Busters and the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast

 

Enter Albert L. Weimorts (1938-2005). For his entire civil engineering career, Albert designed bombs for the Air Force and created some of the largest non nuclear bombs ever made. Sometime around 1990, Mr. Weimorts was turned on to a particular “bomb problem.” Apparently, Saddam Hussein's bunker was impenetrable. Well, obviously, the United States had issues with that and so turned to Albert to create a bomb that could penetrate the impenetrable.

 

From a Dec, 25th, 2005, NY Times article by Douglas Martin, “...need for this new bomb came after 2,000-pound bombs failed to break through a hardened bunker used by Iraqi leaders, possibly including Saddam Hussein himself. A book prepared by U.S. News & World Report, "Triumph Without Victory: The Unreported History of the Persian Gulf War" (Times Books, 1992), said "numerous officials" claimed the bomb was built explicitly to kill Mr. Hussein, although the first President Bush publicly said the Iraqi leader was not a target.”

 

The article quotes Mr. Weimorts from the book, "We understand quite well what it takes to penetrate targets -- what it takes in terms of fusing, survivability, explosives and all," Mr. Weimorts said in an interview with the authors. Ideally, such a bomb would have to be dropped from a high altitude, meaning the United States and its allies needed to establish total air superiority in order to use the weapon. "Just three days into the war, it looked to me like that was possible," Mr. Weimorts said. "So I sketched out something that we could carry high, and it would be heavy."

And so the world is introduced to the GBU-28s Bunker Buster, a bomb capable of piercing hardened concrete and exploding only when it had penetrated to a certain depth. The Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) was conceived, designed, created and falling on bunkers northeast of Baghdad, within five weeks.

Based on the success of that program the Air Force looked to Mr. Weimorts to upgrade the elderly “Daisy Cutter.” The Air Force wanted a “shock and awe” bomb for use as an anti-personnel weapon and for soft and medium surfaces and covering extended areas and targets in a contained environment such as a deep canyon or within a cave system.  On March 11th, 2003 the MOAB was first tested at Eglin Air Force Base in FL. Then again on Nov 21st, 2003.

The Pentagon ordered twenty MOAB’s built for a grand total of $314 million. And then, for the next fourteen years, there they sat, in a warehouse, or a hanger or a garage or something. Somewhere. No one ever used them.

 

Until now. On 13 April 2017, a MOAB was dropped on an ISIL cave complex in southern Afghanistan killing thirty six terrorists.  

 

I usually pepper my stories with pop culture wit and personal anecdotes but I think I’ll leave it to Facebook, Twitter and late night comedians to crack jokes about the "Mother of all Bombs". Depending on whom you believe MOAB it is either, “the right weapon at the right time,” or, “an unethical use of power.”

 

I don't know. Perhaps it’s both.

 

 

Much has been written about the man forcibly removed from the United Airlines Flight #3411 but for those that missed it, a quick recap:

 

Audra D. Bridges, a passenger on flight 3411, captured video of a man being forcibly ejected from the plane. Security violently yank him from his seat, smash his face into an arm bar and drag him off the plane. Bridges posted the video on Facebook with, “Please share this video. We are on this flight. United overbooked the flight. They randomly selected people to kick off, so their standby crew could have a seat. This man is a doctor and has to be at the hospital in the morning. He did not want to get off. We are all shaky and so disgusted. #unitedairwaves.” Overnight the video went viral.

 

It is a fact universally acknowledged, that Dr. David Dao, the man forcibly ejected, is not a criminal. He committed no crime on board the plane. He was not even doing anything particularly wrong. He wasn't even doing anything obnoxious; like reclining his chair too far back encroaching on the personal space of the passenger behind him! It had nothing to do with what he did.  No, it was what he didn’t do that was the problem. He didn’t acquiesce when asked to submit to, “The Volunteering!” He didn’t jump high enough. He didn’t jump fast enough. And if there is one thing the AUTHORITY hates, it’s when people don’t instantly, and blindly, obey.

 

When Dr. Dao didn’t comply with “The Volunteering!” the folks at United “had no choice” but to call the cops. Chicago PD was quick to the scene and with assistance from airport security officers, snatch dangerous Dr. Dao from his seat and give him what for!

 

United Airlines quickly throws gallons of gasoline on the fire when CEO Oscar Munoz Tweets a tone deaf response: “This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened. We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation.”

 

Late night comedians have a field day with the corporate goon phrase, “re-accommodate these customers.” The negative press coverage and social media hatestorm cause shares in United Continental Holdings Inc to fall approximately 2.5 percent (about a $500 million loss to its market cap).

 

Munoz, eventually, goes on TV and offers a more legitimate apology but his sympathy is clearly, a day late and a dollar short.  

 

Do you think there will be a lawsuit? Or a made for TV movie? And will you be able to slip in a Scooby Doo reference?

 

There already is a lawsuit. And United will settle for an obscene amount of money. Other repercussions trickle in:

 

At this point, if United had really wanted to make room for their crew, they could have offered every single passenger on board fifty thousand dollars and still come out far ahead of the deal than where they are at now.

 

Though, to be honest, things like this happen all the time. All airlines overbook flights and sometimes a carrier will have to shuffle crew around. Which, in turn, means that sometimes paying passengers will get bumped from flights. Obviously, how you deal with the scenario is the question.  

 

I was bumped from a flight once. About fifteen years ago I was flying out of JFK NY to MPLS and, while awaiting departure, the call came over the speaker asking for volunteers to take a next morning flight. I leapt out of my seat, “Me! Me! That’s me! This guy! Right here! I will! I’ll take that free extra night in NYC! Thank you very much Mr. AUTHORITY!” Wasn’t so bad, actually. Free hotel, free dinner, extra night in the Big Apple. But I’m a white guy who wanted to stay. I didn’t need privilege to help me out, I was all for it.    

 

Dr. Dao didn’t want to stay. He didn’t want to participate in the “The Volunteering!” He resisted. And I don’t mean he physically resisted, because he did not, I mean he resisted the order to comply with the AUTHORITY. And United Airlines severely punished him for his resistance. And then they thought they could get away with it. And they would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids with their pesky cell phone cameras and that social media thing!

 

As for a, “made for TV movie?” Only time will tell. But just in case a network executive is reading, I will totally write and direct that movie! But it has to be a feature. You already know the title, "The Volunteering!” Starring Samuel Jackson. Warning though -- I’d make it a horror film. Imagine the voice over for the trailer:     

 

“Flight 3411. Assault, blood and the screams of an innocent man. Unsuspecting passengers witness horror unlike that they have even known. “The Volunteering” begins, its wrath a terror to see -- and on the morrow -- it comes for thee! (At this point in the trailer Sam Jackson stands up from his seat and yells… wait-for-it...) ‘I've had it with this mother f**king volunteering on this mother f**king plane!’”


Would you watch that movie? I would totally watch that movie!

--

 

If you like this you might like the GCNlive talk shows: The Freedom Feens or Free Talk Live. Both shows often dealt with libertarian freedom and rights.  

%PM, %10 %930 %2017 %21:%Apr

Netflix is wrong. Again.

Remember way back in 2011 when Netflix bungled their streaming/DVD unveiling and announced a 60 percent price increase? Social outrage resulted in an almost 80 percent drop in Netflix’s share price in four months, and cost them over 800,000 subscribers.

Well, Netflix is back at the bungling with its March announcement for plans to drop its five star rating system in favor of a “thumbs up/thumbs down” approach. Netflix has an adorable short video explaining the change. The “ratings makeover” was widely reported online but had little impact on social media, and, in turn, the internet released a collective, “meh.” But now that Netflix has actually gone through with the change, subscribers are not happy.  

The fine folks over at the The Mary Sue covered the Reddit and Twitter hate with their “Backlash Against the New Netflix Rating System Shows That People Want and Miss Nuance.”  Polygon, Variety and even the New York Post jumped on the bandwagon with “Thumbs Down” editorials.  I found Indiewire’sNetflix’s New Rating System is a Terrible Idea” to be the best read.

But Todd Yellin, Netflix's VP of Product, sticks to his guns. “Five stars feels very yesterday now. The five-star rating system really projects what you think you want to tell the world. But we want to move to a system where it’s really clear, when members rate, that it’s for them, and to keep on making the Netflix experience better and better.”

It will make my Netflix experience better, huh? What kind of malarkey is this? It’s actually making me kind of angry. Don’t make me angry, Netflix. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

So, what IS wrong with new approach and is there any chance we can get a random superhero appearance (as often seems to happen in your stories)?

Ugh. And maybe (depends on how angry I get).

My first and foremost thought about the change is the lack of nuance. Netflix’s five star rating broke it down like this:

1 star: Hated it

2 stars: Didn’t like it

3 stars: Liked it

4 stars: Really liked it

5 stars: Loved it

There are problems already. Do you know how many films I want to rate 3.5 stars? Or 2.5 stars? Lots! That’s how many! Lots! Netflix doesn't allow that! One to five stars is already a tad limiting and now they expect me to vote yes or no?  Um, I don’t think so.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I will just not rate movies on Netflix. It’s not improving my Netflix experience, yet.

I decided to post a righteous, whiny rant on my Facebook page and complain about Netflix. I sought solace from my English-y lit friends, and Pat Harrigan, part time editor for M.I.T. Press and author of the novel “Lost Clusters,” does not disappoint, “Dammit! 1-5 is perfect; it maps intuitively onto an A-F grading system, and avoids having to distinguish Jesuitically between things like “9 or 10 stars .. Godfather 1 vs. Godfather 2? No one has the time for that; give them both 5 stars and move on. But thumbs up vs. down is a commercial distinction (“buy vs. don’t buy"). Siskel and Ebert both hated it, and you’re right to hate it too.”

Yes. That! You win!

Actually, though, to be fair, Gene Siskel, the late Chicago Tribune film critic and co-host of At the Movies and The Siskel and Ebert Show, eventually warmed to the thumbs up/down system. Siskel writes, "What's the first thing people ask you? Should I see this movie? They don't want a speech on the director's career. Thumbs up--yes. Thumbs down--no."

Roger Ebert, the late Chicago Sun Times film critic and co-host of said shows, had problems with all the limiting systems. Ebert responds to Siskel: “That makes sense, but in a written review thumbs up/down has the effect of nudging a lot of films from 2.5 (a negative review) to three stars (a positive one). There is never any doubt about giving four stars, or one star. The problem comes with the movies in the middle.” Ebert goes on to wonder if instead of worrying about  Yes/No or the amount of stars attached, perhaps one should just, “...consider actually reading the review?” Roger Ebert’s thoughts on star ratings for film reviews and on reviewing, in general: “You Give Out Too Many Stars.”

I tend to lean more towards Ebert’s thinking. Yes, a star rating has problems, especially with the muddy middle portions, but it’s still vastly superior to a thumbs up/down. Siskel’s, “Should I see this movie? Yes/No” could be answered,  “I can’t just say yes or no to that. Let’s talk about it. What other movies do you like? What do you not like? Do you like seeing movies with strong female leads? Does excessive swearing bother you?” So on and so forth. I can’t just answer that question yes or no. I need nuance and information. I need more and more nuance and information!

But, um, didn’t Netflix say they would keep the star rating in the “My Account” section? So why are you still complaining? And where’s the superhero cameo?

They do. I found it. Let’s see how well it works.  I watched a movie six years ago. I can’t remember if it was DVD or streaming, but I want to see what rating I gave it. I follow these steps:

  1. Go to “Your Account.”
  2. Scroll down to My Profile.
  3. Click “My Ratings”.
  4. My rated movies are now listed by date from most recent watched first. There is no other way to sort them. Begin scrolling.
  5. Scroll through pages and pages and pages of movies until I find the film in question. If Netflix no longer carries the movie or if the film moved from streaming to DVD or from DVD to streaming, you may or may not be in the correct location.  
  6. Check the “Viewing Activity”
  7. Scroll through pages and pages.  For the same reasons listed above it may or may not be there.
  8. Check “Reviews” section. It may or may not be there.

Ugh. Who doesn’t love scrolling through pages and pages of information? I sure do!

It hasn’t even been two full weeks and I find all sorts of dubious recommendations with Netflix’s new system. Based on all our previous ratings their algorithm now creates a “percent” for everything on Netflix. The percent should communicate to you “the percentage chance one will like this particular movie/TV show/documentary.”  So, if I see a movie with a 90 percent green marker there is a high chance I will like it. The opposite should be true as well. Seems easy enough. The more you thumb up/down, the more Netflix will be able to improve your experience!

Except, getting back to the “dubious recommendations,” I see many movies I rated two stars come back to me with a Netflix Approved 98 percent chance of “liking it.” I see many movies I rated four stars come back to me with a Netflix Approved 40 percent chance I will like it. Like I said, “dubious recommendations.” You know what? Maybe it’s time to jump ship for Amazon Prime.

Look, I know the deal. There are more important things going on, and besides, no one will get cancer from Netflix’s new system (at least not that Netflix would ever admit to!). All this does is affect my entertainment consumption. But as for something that affects my entertainment consumption, it’s an obnoxious, time-wasting change.

And obnoxious, time-wasting changes make me angry. And when I’m angry, I smash!   

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If you liked this you might also like the GCNlive talk radio programs Americanuck Radio or Free Talk Live.

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Alex Jones vs. Newsweek: Round 1

Alex Jones is under fire again. This time it’s Newsweek that attempts to draw first blood with their April 5th  Alex Jones’s Threat to Congressman May Be Felony article. This is not the first time Jones has drawn heat from mainstream media.  It will not be the last.

Talk radio host, Alex Jones, has fierce charisma and a "give zero fucks" attitude. The Alex Jones Show airs live three hours a day, five days a week and draws millions of listeners from around the globe. He is equally adored and despised on both sides of the political isle. Hours (and hours) of his thoughts are internationally syndicated to radio stations all over the country and via satellite all over the world, by the Genesis Communication Network (GCN).  

That would be us.

I’ve never met Alex Jones but for a time I worked on his Sunday show. I use the word “work” loosely. The Sunday A.J. show is a “feed show,” which means all the work is done at the Infowars studio in Texas then fed to us remotely. All we do is broadcast it over our satellites. My job was to make sure the feed wasn’t interrupted and/or make sure the building didn’t catch on fire. Occasionally, but not often, I pressed buttons.

Despite the fact I work at GCN, I do not work for Alex Jones nor have I ever met him in person. I spoke with him once when he called in, as a guest, on a separate show. He was very polite. To me, Alex Jones is one of the hosts on one of our 70+ weekly shows that we syndicate.        

It’s true, Alex Jones has a big show on the network. And he produces a lot of content — 17 hours per week for us at GCN. An additional 10 to 20ish hours of weekly video for his Infowars.com site is uploaded directly to YouTube. I don’t have the Bat-Alex-Jones-Hour-Counter on hand, but my fuzzy math skills tell me these add to, approximately, 30 or 40 hours of weekly content.

Every week after every week. Year after year. For decades. Point being, when you produce such a high volume of weekly content, inevitably, you’re bound to say something — no — a lot of controversial things. And that’s how you stay on the air for twenty years.   

Dude, that’s nice and all, but are you going to get around to this Newsweek/Alex Jones fight?

Yes.

On March 31st, Alex Jones uploaded a video titled, “WATCH LIVE NOW! Plan to Assassinate Trump Leaked” to YouTube. In it, he and guest Roger Stone — um — “discuss” Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). Schiff is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which is currently investigating possible collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia. Roger Stone has his own controversy with the Russians due to his contact with a hacker called Guccifer 2.0, who may (or may not) be Russian Intelligence. This has led Schiff to publicly call Roger Stone out as, you know, a Russian agent. Apparently, Schiff calls Jones a Russian spy as well, though, I was unable to find an actual quote about that. So that's what leads up to the "discussion" of Schiff, which isn't much of a discussion at all. Alex Jones goes off on Congressman Schiff. The video is more than two hours long but at the 33:00 mark Mr. Jones says:

“I’m not against gay people. OK. I love them, they’re great folks. But Schiff looks like the archetypal cocksucker with those little deer-in-the-headlight eyes and all his stuff. And there’s something about this fairy, hopping around, bossing everybody around, trying to intimidate people like me and you, I want to tell Congressman Schiff and all the rest of them, ‘Hey, listen, asshole, quit saying Roger and I’—and I’ve never used cussing in 22 years, but the gloves are off—‘listen, you son of a bitch, what the fuck’s your problem? You want to sit here and say that I’m a goddamn, fucking Russian. You get in my face with that, I’ll beat your goddamn ass, you son of a bitch. You piece of shit. You fucking goddamn fucker. Listen, fuckhead, you have fucking crossed a line. Get that through your goddamn fucking head. Stop pushing your shit. You’re the people that have fucked this country over and gang raped the shit out of it and lost an election. So stop shooting your mouth off claiming I’m the enemy. You got that you goddamn son of a bitch? Fill your hand.’ I’m sorry, but I’m done. You start calling me a foreign agent, those are fucking fighting words. Excuse me.”

Wow. Okay. That’s very, um, specific. BUT is it bombastic radio personality bluster or is it a legitimate threat? The hard working folks at Media Matters, a progressive media watchdog that monitors Jones’s shows, certainly thought it threat worthy and forwarded said diatribe to Newsweek.com. Newsweek, a tiny magazine that has been around for a year or two took it seriously. On Wednesday afternoon, April 5th, Newsweek.com publishes the “Alex Jones’s Threat to Congressman May Be Felony” article. Nina, for Newsweek, writes:  

“Law enforcement officials are not saying whether they will charge broadcaster Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist ally of President Donald Trump, for publicly threatening to “beat” Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and telling Schiff to “fill your hand”—a reference to taking up a pistol.”

Then, Nina quotes Amanda Berman, director of legal affairs with Lawfare Project as, “It seems to be a clear provocation … I think there is a legal basis for a conviction based on Jones’s threat, which as made ‘with intent to impede, intimidate or interfere’ with Congressman Schiff’s exercise of his duties…”

Fair enough. I’m no director of legal affairs with anyone, but I have a common sense thought about this. I suspect law enforcement officials are “not saying anything” because law enforcement officials -- well -- don’t plan to do anything. As in, nothing. No charges. Nada. Because that would be silly.

I seriously doubt anyone in law enforcement believes Alex Jones is a credible threat to Representative Schiff. In fairly typical talk show host fashion, Alex Jones postures and face-anger gesticulates his way through the entire rant. Alex Jones responds to the Newsweek article and says the speech in question was, “tongue in cheek and basically art performance ... all protected by the First Amendment.”

He’s right. It is. But we should all know by now the First Amendment doesn’t protect one from consequences. Alex Jones has the First Amendment right to “Infowars Rant As Performance Piece” and Newsweek has the First Amendment right to call him out for possible consequences. 

Speaking of consequences, Nina Burleigh writes, “It’s not clear whether the video was broadcast on the air before being posted to YouTube: If so, that would bring it under the purview of the Federal Communications Commission. Jones’s Infowars program is carried by Genesis Communications Network, which produces 75 shows aired on 830 radio stations ... The CEO and founder of Genesis Communications, Ted Anderson, also has not responded to messages.”

Whoops! Sorry, Nina. My fault! Someone at GCN absolutely, positively forwarded me your request for a comment, and I absolutely, positively ignored it. (Or, more accurately, with good intention to
“get to it,” I pretty much just forgot about it). Nina, since you ask and since I work here at GCN, it takes me all of three minutes to find out that the Alex Jones speech in question is not part of his weekly syndicated show on GCN and therefore did not go out over the airwaves. It was produced through Infowars.com and uploaded directly to YouTube. The FCC has no jurisdiction over YouTube so Alex Jones violated a total of zero FCC regulations.  

Nothing will come from this. No charges filed. No violence against the Congressman. Nothing. You know how I know? Because this kind of thing happens all the time. Madonna said, “I want to blow up the White House.” Nothing came of that. Robert De Niro said he wants to “punch President Trump in the face.” Nothing came of that. Ted Nugent threatens to kill President Obama multiple times! Nugent was interviewed by Secret Service for his comments and nothing came of it. Nothing will come of this, either. Hoping for legal action is, frankly, a little absurd. Perhaps there will be (and should be) social consequences due to the anti-gay language in the speech. Starting a speech with, "I'm not against gays, I love them..." then immediately using a gay, male stereotype as a negative is ridiculous. Homophobia is homophobia. It doesn't matter if the comment is intended to be harmless. So knock it off.     

Anyway, I’m surprised Newsweek even bothered. It’s pretty obvious the speech, like many of his speeches, is Alex Jones posturing for effect. He does have a reputation as a polarizing national radio personality to protect. He's controversial and has plenty of views that I don’t understand. And maybe you don’t either. Or maybe you think he’s a patriot and you love him. Or maybe you think he’s insane and you hate him. Whatever the case, Alex Jones has the right to express his views. Newsweek has the right to express theirs. And if there are consequences then there are consequences. But I really, seriously doubt Alex Jones poses a legitimate, credible threat to the Congressman. The March 31st Infowars YouTube video is, to snatch a phrase from Mr. Jones’s resident State of Texas, “All hat, no cattle.”

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