Thursday, March 12, 2009

Odds & Ends

A chimpanzee living in a zoo in Sweden has demonstrated the ability to plan ahead. In a calm and deliberate manner he collects small rocks to throw at human visitors later.

Scientists are amazed at this behavior and want to study it more. I think they’re missing the bigger point of the story. The message from one species to ours seems pretty clear-fuck off and let me out!

Makes you wonder what those singing whales are saying about us.

To prove I am an equal opportunity pointer outer of all things silly and or ironic, check this story out. Hillary Clinton visited Russia as the new Secretary of State recently. She brought with her a fake red button with the word “reset” written in Russian on it. The idea was to restart the diplomatic relationship between Russia and us. Not a bad idea. One little problem though, the word written on the button wasn’t reset.

It was overload.


Should have just gone with the easy button from those Staples commercials.

Besides, do we really want to give any country with nuclear missiles still in the silo’s any incentive to go near red buttons?

Cable news, left or right, is pretty much all spin and all commentary all the time. What they all have in common though is the crawl. You know, that space at the bottom of the screen where the real news seems to show up. I have seen professional newscasters explaining the latest melt down of a pop start while just bellow their big smiling heads are stories that seem much more important.

Million-dollar idea: All TV shows should have a news crawl at the bottom. The more important the news the more trivial the show we’ll put it on!

New Disease Found in Africa!

Put it on American Idol.

Russia Tries to Stop Accidental Nuclear Launch but Hits Incorrectly Marked Button!

Put it on The Real House Wife’s of Orange County.

Natalie Portman and Scarlet Johansen Move In Together as Lovers!

That will be on CNN like usual.

I think this can also be a way for the dying industry of newspapers to stay in the game. They can partner up with Hallmark cards. Most of the card can be whatever message there is and then at the bottom of the page could be a headline from the day’s events. Maybe even something related to the event.

A Mother and Father give their son a card upon graduating from high school. Congratulations on your achievement! We’re proud of you! Then, at the bottom could be the headline. Study Concludes Fewer Kids Getting Into College.

You get the idea.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Libel in the Digital Age

It’s a not so brave world out there on the Internet. With digital anonymity people feel free to say anything. Web sites can become little more than junior high playgrounds with innuendo and half-truths passing for fact. What protections, if any do you have? None, as it turns out.

There are a few things any of us are truly good at in life. I have no illusions about my abilities. I am only good at one thing in life: Stand-Up Comedy. Turns out I am also pretty good at teaching certain aspects about this art. Every other month I hold a class in Riffing. Riffing is when the comic talks to the crowd or makes stuff up as they perform. It might seem like a difficult thing to break down into easy to teach tools, but so far I have been able to successfully pass along some of my experience in these classes.

Recently, after one such class a friend e-mailed me a negative review of the class. Hey, the cost of doing business these days is suffering the slings and arrows out there in the ether. But this one caught my eye for a number of reasons. The most obvious, no one with the name they posted the negative review under was in my class. They also got details completely wrong. So wrong that it became pretty apparent this person wasn’t there at all. The got the order of things wrong. The number of people in the class was wrong. They invented a situation that never took place in class too. When I looked at the persons profile I could see that the profile had been set up the same day as my class. It had no other reviews or friends and lacked a photo. All right, it seemed pretty obvious to me that someone had gone out of his or her way to post an incorrect and malicious review. Why? Who knows? People have all kinds of reasons to say shit about other people. What makes it frustrating though is Yelp’s lack of concern. You see, they operate a website that has no way to confirm the I.D. of the person posting the reviews. Because of this it lends itself well to those among us who feel they must strike out under the cover of fake screen names. I thought I would just e-mail Yelp. Surely after reviewing the situation they will remove the fake review. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The first E-mail reply started by telling me they take the removal of any review very seriously. Hey, me too! However, after investigating they have decided to leave the review intact. What investigation? They didn’t contact the venue where I held the class. If they did they could easily confirm that no one under such a name was present and the details they posted varied wildly from other posts about the class. They did suggest I contact the person via Yelp and offer a refund. Thanks for that advice Yelp. Your right. I should pay off some low level blackmailer with money I didn’t accept from them because-They weren’t there!

I replied to the second and the third and finally the last e-mail from their legal department with all the above facts. What did they do? They sent me a quote of the law where they have been granted immunity from libel. In other words, they can legally run a site that effects people’s ability to make money and has the potential to harm reputations with the knowledge that some people will abuse the site and they don’t have to lift a finger when it can be easily proven.

From now on I am going on stage with a T-shirt that simply reads, Yelp can suck my left nut.

I’m not that angry at whatever small dick idiot thought it necessary to give my rep a black eye. I am angry at Yelp for refusing to do anything. They aren’t going to change the site to verify I.D. and they won’t make a simple phone call to check my story. Instead, they are content to offer useless advice (I sent e-mails to the person and yet to get a reply) and passive aggressive corporate speak to cover their lazy asses.

So what did I do?

I posted a bad review of Yelp and their business practices on Yelp. I plan to post more under various names. Hey, its OK to do so. I know nothing will happen to me. I also want to recommend that you do the same thing. Tell them what a bunch of disreputable arrogant people they are. Keep posting. Post under other peoples names with fake profiles if you want. Like I said, the law will apparently protect you but not them.