Reality checks bounce from the strangest places

Back when I was a kid (and the printing press was killing the illuminated-folio business) Cracked was one of magazines we read instead of doing our homework.  Now it appears that writers at do their homework and everybody else’s too.

History vs. Hype – pretty thought-provoking read (although, be warned, there are cusswords).

8 Historic Symbols That Mean The Opposite of What You Think

I confess I don’t know enough about Tȟašúŋke Witkó (aka Crazy Horse) to guess whether he would really hate his memorial, as the author proposes.  But for some good background on cultural differences about how to treat significant mountains, try The Fallen Man, a Dineh (Navajo) mystery by a late, great author who might not want his name repeated now that he’s gone.


Social-Media Slimers: You Can’t Make Me ‘Like’ You

"See Rock City" Barn on U.S. Highway 441, in Sevier County, Tennessee.  By Scott Basford. GNU Attribution Non-commercial Share-Alike license.

An early example of non-celebrity endorsement advertising. Farmers got free Rock City passes, souvenirs, and as much as $3 for allowing their barns to be made into billboards.

“Been told 100K followers could get me a publisher. . . w/100k followers I could take over the WORLD!” -Radio storyteller Nora Maki (@hades-noramaki), Twitter, 12/22/2011

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If the Internet is going to make us all stars, we could probably use some celebrity rights to match.

Even if you don’t take a sufficiently spectacular pratfall to star in a viral video, your online social profile is (and arguably, by extension, YOU are) a form of currency sought after by those engaged in commerce.  And, since caches are forever and Big Data is always watching, you might want to be rather thoughtful and deliberate about whom you advertise.  An opposing counsel right now, your current or prospective boss later this afternoon, and your mom & dad tomorrow, will be able to dig it all out and may hold it against you.

Q. So you now claim Defendant is stalking you, yet according to your Facebook history YOU ‘LIKED’ HIM last year. Isn’t that correct?

A. I didn’t know him then, I just ran across his website and it had some useful –


Everybody wants friends, connections, followers, minions, droogs, or whatever a given network calls them, because it’s instant cred with strangers. 50 million avatars can’t be wrong even if 30 million of them are robots and the other 20 million are generated by the same 50 people.  So. . . how to get them?  How, how, how?

Here’s what I think:

  • A simple mention of a person or entity’s presence on a social network, leaving everything else up to the reader, is the most polite. It’s like the “At Home” cards genteel Victorians used to send out.
  • An overt demand for action such as “Follow me on Twitter” or “Like us on Facebook” is a little pushier on a first introduction, but goes down easier if it comes with a reward, such as a discount coupon code.
  • Forcing people to personally advertise for you in the course of some other process is Not O. K.   Examples:
    • Registering for an event requires you to indicate your attendance on a social-network event page.  This immediately tells everyone who subscribes to your updates, and potentially everybody else in the world, that you are attending.  You might want to think about whether your attendance hints at some characteristic you might want to keep at least partially under the radar.
      • Harvard class reunion? Why not?
      • Harvard Class of 1965 reunion? Hmm. . . maybe not if you’re trying to network your way into NextHotAppCo. (You know they make you sit on little rocking horsies instead of office chairs, right?)
      • “New Miracle Cure for Leprosy”? Only if you’re a medical professional.
      • “PhytosexualCon – Way, Way Beyond Tree-Hugging“?  Maybe if you’re a behavioral specialist.  Maybe.
      • Anything “Anonymous”?  What part of “anonymous” didn’t they understand?
    • Placing an order, requesting information, or commenting/chatting/listening requires (or seems to require) that you first“like” or otherwise actively “recommend” the site or product on your social network.
      • This is especially obnoxious when it’s a social network you’re not already on so you spend an extra half-hour joining, waiting for a confirmation message, clicking back in from the confirmation message, filling out a bunch of other stuff, getting distracted by whatever the network’s welcome page waves in front of your face and then — wait, what swamp were you originally trying to drain again?  Oh yeah, ordering that thing.  Well, now the checkout page has timed out so you have to start all over.
      • Letting you complete your process, then making it easy for you to tell all your friends you did it if you want to is a different, benign critter.

Maybe the bigger social networks could help by adding a “Say Uncle” * button meaning “I’m linking my reputation to this entity, but only under duress.”


For an explanation of how “Say Uncle” came to mean “surrender without dignity, see this learned article in World Wide Words.

Your 15MB of Fame: Schlemiels, Schlimazels, and Schadenfreude

R Stevens’ “LOL Rights Reserved” T-shirtThis T-shirt means “If you take an amusingly embarrassing picture or video of me, don’t put it on the Web without my permission.” With or without Photoshop embellishments. With or without grammatically incorrect captions. The shirt is a creation of R Stevens, the brain and funnybone behind the underground fave Diesel Sweeties web comic, among so many other things that one wonders if he’s really just one person.

What this shirt is suggesting, to the legal eagle eye, is celebrity rights for the rest of us. The shirt has no legislative or judicial backing – yet. But, just maybe, this idea’s time has come:
Continue reading

A Clash of Symbols: Commodification of Cultural and Religious Images

Appropriation of minority religious or other cultural images by outsiders – often, though not always, as a status symbol or fashion statement – is a sharpening point of controversy in some parts of the world. People from the originating cultures are upset for any or all of a number of reasons:

  1. Some images are traditionally classified “eyes only” for certain individuals or subgroups under certain circumstances.
  2. The right to display some images traditionally had to be earned rather than bought.
  3. Outsiders displaying the images often do not know or care about their meanings or the traditional rules for how they are to be displayed.
  4. Some images are traditionally not intended for fixation in some types of media, or for any type of permanent fixation at all.
  5. Even if none of the above objections apply and the image may be embodied in a commodity and sold, people who believe they should be entitled to a share of the proceeds aren’t getting any.

Continue reading