Ethnic Studies

I took ethnic studies in college. Even for me, there were some hard pills to swallow. But I came away from it with a better understanding of the feelings I had toward certain women and resentment I felt towards “model minorities”. The class completely obliterated that resentment. As for the women… let’s just say, “Karen” behavior never surprises me and I’m amused at how their tacit alliance with the police is breaking down.

Does that kind of class need to taught before college? I think it’s a history add-on that doesn’t really have impact until you’ve learned enough history and experienced enough life. I think high school seniors could get something out of ethnic studies. People objecting to this don’t like having their privilege exposed for fear of having that “specialness” taken away. It’s that simple. If someone comes away from ethnic studies hating themselves and the US, then they’ve missed the point and were “unprepared” to take ethnic studies in the first place. The idea is to come away with historical perspective on how your lot in life came to be, and to give students the impetus to make society more equitable. That’s all. It’s part of the be a better human curriculum


Rant about star wars youtubers

People have no idea what they are talking about when they say they want story people to run the corporate side of a film studio. It’s the same as having bean counters run the story. There are interfaces and so far what I’ve seen of current Star Wars, the problem is an interface problem. But that’s just me looking from the outside.

I’ve been on the engineering side of programs where the bean counters have set up a schedule of theoretical products that will bring in a theoretical amount of money at a theoretical date — a vintage chart. We see this laid out in the Marvel Phase diagrams. This is both a story frame as well as a corporate management forecast frame. Corporate expects money at x-date and creatives must come up with story to meet those expectations. It seems to me with Star Wars, the corporate side of the vintage chart was set without having the story part in place.

The narrative presented to the public was that corporate had faith that the creative side would deliver good products, so they let the creatives loose. Hence all the director churn when it became apparent that there wasn’t creative coherence. Who’s fault is that? When the interface fails, it’s on both the corporate side and the creative leadership. Yet, on Star Wars Youtube we hear nothing about the creative leadership failure with respect to the movies. I feel like we’re only getting half of the story and it kinda sucks that Disney won’t present a fuller story. Though, at the same time I think, do we need a fuller behind the scenes story?

If there wasn’t Youtube or social media, what would I think? I think I would blame the story people and the directors for the movie issues. Taken from this perspective, I think Disney is making the appropriate moves by quietly working on improving the story team and their process. Ultimately, I think Star Wars will need a corporate/creative interface like Kevin Feige to make sure there is story to fit the corporate vintage chart. Who that could be, I don’t know. But I do know that I don’t want Disney to pull the lead TV creatives from their jobs. I would like them to continue driving story. I look forward to what comes next for Star Wars.

Thoughts on online authenticity

As I hunt for a job, I think more and more about my online activities. Given the recent firing of Gina Carano from Lucasfilms, I wondered briefly about whether that was fair, but then I came away from it thinking she Tweeted under her real name and representing the Mandalorian and Disney under that same account. Of course, Disney/Lucasfilm has the right to fire her for any reason including posting public Tweets they don’t like, so that’s that. Then I think, what if she had kept her named, verified account professional and Tweeted only about her entertainment projects and supported her cast members and instead tweeted authentically under an alias? Why was it so important to her to tweet authentically under her real name? Thinking back to myself blogging internally when I worked, it was important to me to be authentic because I believed I was right, and I believed I had to tell people my truth and to get people to think. Looking back, it was narcissism and folly on my part. Fortunately, I had the good sense not to bring politics into work (or so I thought. I can’t really say now since that was about the time that everything was becoming polarizing and political.)

Now, thinking about having aliased online personas for authentic posts and discussions and named accounts with sanitized posts, I feel conflicted. Part of me says if an employer doesn’t think my authentic self fits into their culture, then why am I employed there? I should be able to be myself when at the workplace, right? Then I think about how I would feel knowing that a co-worker feels that black lives don’t matter or if that co-worker writes that people who go against their religious beliefs are evil and it’s okay to discriminate against them. On the flip side, how would it make someone feel to know I think black lives matter and that I support trans rights. It would make the workplace uncomfortable and I think people would have a hard time working together. I imagine we have all worked with someone like that, but didn’t know because they kept it outside of work.

When I worked, Facebook and Twitter were in the infant stage, so there would have been no way to surface those writings then. But what about now? Personally, I’m not curious enough about other people to look them up online. In my mind, unless it’s an internal blog or chat, it’s a private life matter and it’s none of my business. However, there are nosy people and nosy companies. Should it matter what I write online outside of work? Should employers seek out what employees are writing about online outside of work? I will always err on the side of privacy and preserving the boundary between work life and private life. So long as the employee is not using work equipment, work time, or engaging online at the worksite, I don’t care what that person writes. This means that the employee has to respect the work life/ private life boundary too, meaning no blogging explicitly about the company you work for unless you are the company’s representative and authorized to do so, and not linking yourself to a company in your non-work online identities. It seems that most companies respect this boundary, because if they didn’t, most people wouldn’t have a job.

So, where does this put me with respect to online authenticity? Well, regardless, be prepared for anyone to sleuth out your online identities and punish you for whatever reason. Words have consequences in general and each time we post, we take the risk of offending someone. Practically speaking, it can be fun and therapeutic to engage authentically with people online and it would be awful to be judged and punished by people who aren’t engaged with you and your online communities. My advice is to have aliased accounts or private accounts for authenticity and a sanitized public named account for nosy employers and busybodies to scrutinize. Be aware though that persistent busybodies will sleuth you out, so ask yourself before you post whether your family, friends, co-workers, and boss would be comfortable with what you are posting, and, conversely, would you be comfortable with them knowing what you are about to post.

The Disappointing 2010s… Because Ads

I’ve spent the past few days considering what changed from 2010 and now. Of course, there are the obvious things like better cameras in mobile phones leading to an explosion of user content.  In my life specifically this has led to more YouTube content and the ability for me to even create and post my own YouTube content. And now I primarily watch YouTube content. This of course is aided by cord cutting, which we did in 2012. We cut event TV, evening news, and cable news out of our life and we’ve been better for it. Apart from that, nothing much has changed. We’re still driving the same cars, using the same printer, we only upgraded our computers once, and we still don’t have any kind of personal assistant or Internet of Things device in our house.

The Internet of Things is the most disappointing thing of all. I was excited all the way back in 2005 when we went to CES and learned about Zigbee standards. We dreamed of having a fully networked house that would adapt to our needs. Our lights would come on when they needed to, my fridge would generate a basic grocery list, my fridge would give me meal suggestions based upon what’s in my fridge, music devices would know what I wanted to hear and suggest new music to me based on my habits, and I’d basically have a second brain to offload mundane tasks  to. My data was supposed to be for me and stored within the confines of my personal network. But instead, what should be mine was sold and shared with all manner of unknown entities to sell to advertisers and to be used by state actors to influence my political leanings. Instead of a recommendation engine that deepened my gardening knowledge, YouTube led me to end-of-the-world gun-nut preppers. Instead of advertisements for cheese and ice cream, Twitter puts random content on my feed that is not relevant to me like the duration on iPhone batteries and eggs (which I’m allergic to). I’m afraid to get a connected TV and appliances because they will all be spying on me, and I don’t dare go near a Facebook associated website or service because Facebook is in essence malware.

Unfortunately, a lot of this is our fault because as consumers we want everything free, so companies leapt at selling ads space on devices to provide revenues. But then something happened, and the consumers and content creators shifted from being the customers to being the products. And since then, energy has been spent creating algorithms to mine consumer data and to sell advertising space rather than making a better customer experience. And now multi-billion dollar, too-big-to-fail companies are completely dependent on serving ads and selling our data to anyone who will pay for it.

What is the right balance of privacy and community? I’m not opposed to providing anonymized data for recommendation engines or to help companies improve products and experiences.  I am also not opposed to providing personal information to get personalized recommendations. My problem is why does my personal identifying information need to leave the confines of my house and why do I receive advertisements I haven’t “pulled”. For instance, when I’m doing research to decide which mobile phone to buy is the proper time to show me an iPhone battery advertisement. Apple doesn’t have to know this specific information about me or my search, but I feel comfortable letting Apple know that someone, not me specifically, clicked to find out more information.

I’ve thought about a disruption to Facebook that offered similar features with privacy and then it occurred to me that I have that now with my family and friends via media rich text messaging and groups. As for a kitchen assistant, we use our iPad to display recipes, monitor cooking via Bluetooth thermometers and timers, and to stream music and videos to our stereo and TV. I keep a running shopping list on my mobile phone. As for the connected home, we have certain lights timers and movement sensors. We’ve programmed our heater/AC as well as our outdoor sprinkle system. Are these workarounds? Or is this how it should be done? Of course, I would like to have weather responsive outdoor sprinklers, but am I doing fine without them? I’d say yes. Did I expect to be doing things the same way I did in 2010 or before? No.

In the 2020’s I hope to see a radical shift towards companies providing truly personal experiences for customers. I’d like to have a personal assistant that isn’t sharing my data with the manufacturer’s partners or governments.  I don’t want to fear that my devices are spying on me or are being used as part of a botnet. Most importantly, I don’t want to be bombarded with advertisements. When I look back to the year 2020, I want to be doing some things differently. I want my house and garden to be semi-automated with statistics for me that I can either choose to share or keep to myself. I want to be able to track my life in the same manner. I want my private personal life assistant as was promised to me from sci-fi like Star Trek and those many aspirational corporate videos I sat through at meetings and conferences.

My Thoughts on “The Last Jedi”

I’m very worried about writing this post because so many people are angry at “The Last Jedi” and angry at anybody who criticizes “The Last Jedi”.  Hopefully I’m just relaying my thoughts to the few people who follow my Twitter and therefore I won’t receive any destructive comments.

Anyhow, here it goes. There were moments in “The Last Jedi” that I absolutely loved only to see the possibilities presented in those moments thrown away by the end of the movie. Just to get it out of the way, I loved the parts of the movie that did not include the space battles and the casino. I thought the casino was a great concept that should have been a separate side movie like “Rogue One”.

Here’s what I love:

  1. Cranky Luke training Rey while hearing the story of what happened with Kylo Ren.
  2. Rey and Kylo Ren secretly building a relationship through force chatting.
  3. Rey exploring both the dark and light side of herself with Luke as her guide and mentor.
  4. Rey and Kylo Ren coming together to take down Snoke and then Kylo suggesting that he and Rey team up to destroy the First Order and the Resistance.
  5. Finn and Rose finding out that arms dealers were supplying both the First Order and the Resistance for profit. (Just that understanding, but it didn’t need a 30 minute casino detour to get there.)

I wanted more of all of this. These parts of the story showed the possibility for a wonderful episode 8 leading into an episode 9 that wouldn’t have been about the First Order versus the Resistance, but instead a story that could have gotten to the root of why there’s a galactic war in the first place and an explanation for the demise of both the Jedi and the Sith.

Now to outline my hopes being crushed. When Kylo and Rey finally get together, I thought the story was going to go sword and sheathe when Kylo suggested, after doing glorious battle together, that they team up and destroy the past. Rey should have gone with Ben (since he would have dropped that Sith BS) to rein in Kylo’s power and shape his ambitions, and Finn should have come along to support Rey and temper her expectations for Kylo. (King, Queen, and the Queen’s Knight — I love that shit!) I was in love with the idea of throwing away the First Order and the Resistance, especially after Finn and Rose found out arms dealers were supplying both sides. I thought at that moment in the Red Room, episode 9 would be about the force-pair taking down the true evil behind the perpetual galactic war. This would have led to the real reason for the demise of the Jedi and Sith — technology. The Jedi and Sith were yen and yang (peace makers and enforcers) to keep order in the galaxy until some folks decided to pit them against each other and against non-force users for profit. Technology, which leveled the field for non-force users, arose to replace the force users as the galactic power and peace broker. The bones were there for that story and it would have tied in the prequels while leaving plenty of room for stories before episode 1 and after episode 9. But all of that was thrown away. That is why I have no interest in episode 9. I don’t know what Kylo Ren and Rey’s motivations are now. No one answered the call of the Resistance, so now what? The First Order won. Game over.

Ultimately, this leaves me on the side of the people who want this movie removed from canon. Yes, the good parts were good, but as a complete movie, it killed Star Wars. There’s no where left to go and nothing that happens before episode 8 matters, because it was all thrown away in episode 8.

About Nothing in Particular