Saturday, May 27, 2023

Hindu Nazis, Black Trumpers, and Hispanic White Suprmacists - What in the Ever-Loving Name of Christ is Going On?

When the white supremacists take charge, brown people will be some of their first victims.  Remember that.

Recently, a series of unfortunate events have taken place that has me scratching my head in disbelief.

1.  A young Hispanic man who professes to be a "white supremacist" and racist, shoots up a shopping mall, killing and wounding several people.

2.  A young Hindu Man of Indian descent rents a U-haul truck and tries to ram it into the White House, carrying a Nazi flag with him.

3.  A young black man wearing a MAGA hat marches around his neighborhood with a loaded AR-15, hanging out at the school bus stop and terrorizing parents and children alike.  And yes, he lives with his parents.

4.  The leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, (who tries to go by "Henry"), is a "Afro-Cuban" which in white supremacy circles is two strikes against you right there - black and Hispanic.  Yet he leads a white supremacy group.

5.  Nick Fuentes - now that's a proper Anglo-Saxon name! - is a speaker at various white supremacy gatherings and an "influencer" of sorts.  Again, he seems to fail to realize that real white supremacists would "send him back where he came from" on the first boat - regardless of where he actually came from.

The list goes on and on.  Others have noted this trend, particularly among Hispanics.  I noted before that many Hispanic people consider themselves to be of pure Spanish heritage and are insulted if you imply they might have some indigenous or African blood in their background.  My Costa Rican friend, whose skin was a light tan and whose face looked like that of a Mayan God, nearly punched me in the face, when I gave him what I thought was a compliment.  My Cuban friend insists he is 100% Spanish blood, and for all I know he is.  But when his family came to this country after Castro took power, they had to take menial jobs and were taunted and called "Wetbacks" and "Lazy Mexicans" by white people.

Why would Hispanics want to join that group?  The white people group, that is.  

Let me say, as a bona fide white guy, with documented roots in Scotland, Ireland, and Switzerland (among other places) and a good old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon name, that the white folks aren't about to let you into the country club or the prep school, or the prestigious university without a fight.  We are not your friends.

I say this as a 100% WASP - White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant. When "White Supremacists" are talking about the "Master Race" they are talking about people like me.  Sorry, but no Catholics, Jews, or even people with a Southern Mediterranean background (Italy, Spain).  Even Irish are suspect as Papists.  You may think you belong to the Country Club, but you are only getting in through the servant's entrance - if that.

So, pander all you want to.  Suck up to the great white man.  He may pretend to like you, "Diamond and Silk" but make no mistake, you are only let into the club as a guest, on permanent probation.  Clarence Thomas, take note. Rich guys wouldn't let  you near their yachts, if you were not on the Supreme Court.  Behind your back, they are calling you an Uncle Tom.

Of course, even I am not allowed into the club, either.  They don't like the gays much these days, although they will let us cater their weddings, arrange their flowers, and do their wives' bouffant hairdos, before they usher us into the gas chamber.  It is all part of the plan.

But of course, that is the problem with white supremacy - once you filter out all the non-white groups, and then go after the "near white" and non-Protestant groups, the remaining field gets smaller and smaller.  It is like Stalin's purges - eventually everyone ends up on the lists.

So why do these minority people profess an admiration for white supremacy?  The fellow who shot up the outlet mall even admitted he wasn't "white" but took us to task for not asserting our supremacy enough.  What makes people think this way?

Well, in a way, it is collateral damage from the relentless campaign being waged online and in the media, trying to make white supremacy seem a legitimate political view, or even endorsing or espousing it.  Foreign powers are at work, as they know "divide and conquer" will destroy us from within without them having to fire a shot (the latter of which they are not very good at, apparently).  So long as we think our neighbors are the real enemy - and not Russia or China - then we are doomed.

Sadly, this propaganda was so effective it had an overshoot effect.  People not in the target audience were radicalized online, which isn't hard to do.  Whether it is Qanon, anti-vaxxerism, flat-earth nonsense, Bride-of-ISIS, Al Qaeda, Scientology, Antifa, or an MLM scheme, it isn't hard to convince the vast majority of Americans of utter nonsense.  You tell people that a pizza shop is running a pedophile ring and before long, a wind-up soldier shows up and starts shooting - fortunately in that instance, no one was hurt.

So mental illness factors into the mix.  Young men (and it is mostly men) with no direction, usually under-educated, unemployed, and unemcumbered by family and career obligations, have a lot of time on their hands and spend countless hours on 4chan or 8chan or whatever odious site that spews hate, such as Fox News or Twitter.

Parents, are, of course, largely to blame, as they tend to sweep their son's mental illness under the rug, as if it were shameful or something.  They don't push their kids to leave the nest, or even charge them rent.  They allow the child (still a child at 25!) to acquire weapons - AR-15s, Japanese Kantanas, and of course, various home-made explosives.  The parents are usually the first victims when their deranged son goes on a killing spree.  But by the time the child has acquired their first weapon, it is too late.  The parents are already living in fear of a violent outburst from their own child, so they ignore the problem for another day and hope it goes away.

In other cases, the parent actually encourages aberrant behavior.  "I know what will cheer him up!  A trip to the shooting range and that new AR-15 he's always wanted!"  It is akin to signing your own death warrant.  Yet parents do this, unable to figure out how to push their 20-something mentally-ill son out of the nest.

I read online a story (whether it is true or not, I don't know) of parents so afraid of their own kid, they set him up with an apartment, paid the rent for the first year, got him a checking account and credit card and then sold their house and moved - leaving no forwarding address.  No doubt the kid was homeless after a year - or many he saw this as a wake-up call and got a job and started taking care of himself.

Nah. That rarely happens.  Once you have that pod living in your basement,  you are screwed.

But getting back to non-white white supremacy, is self-loathing a part and parcel of the deal as well?  Perhaps.  There has been some speculation that some of these mass-shooters have issues over their own race or background.  And it goes without saying that a closeted homosexual raised in a strict religious upbringing is a bomb waiting to go off.

This fellow, who was half-Filipino was said to have such issues, convinced he was "ugly" and thus unable to attract a mate.  It was all in his head, I'm afraid.  But having a foot in two camps can be difficult.  The black teenager raised in a white suburb may find they are not really accepted by their white peers at the all-white high school - and neither are they accepted by inner-city blacks.  My Korean friend, raised in America since age 8, tells me he is treated poorly when he travels to Korea on business - people think he is retarded, as he speaks with the vocabulary of an 8-year-old.  My adopted Chinese friend faces the backlash caused by the anti-Asian posturing of the GOP, while at the same time, mocked by Chinese foreign exchange students for not understanding Mandarin or Chinese culture.

You have a foot in both camps, but again, are welcome by none.  That could mess with your head.  Then again, millions of people have gone through this sort of thing and not shot up a school or became Nazis.  So that seems to me more of a cop-out than a motivation.

No, no, I think plain old vanilla mental illness is at work.  That and the allure of jumping on a bandwagon, even if it is set to run over your whole family.  People like to join causes - to be part of something bigger than themselves, to be a part of history.  To be famous - or if not, infamous.  And the latter is one reason why the media is shying away from mentioning the name of or profiling, mass-shooters.

As for the Hispanic and Black Nazis, well, I think they are also mentally ill, but are "useful idiots" and in fact quite useful idiots to the party that recently tried to overthrow the government.  They are perfect windup soldiers, and the fact they are of the wrong race only helps fuel "false flag" conspiracy theories and whatnot.  A black Nazi provides the GOP with "plausible deniability" if something should go wrong. "Hey, he isn't one of us!  We're racists, remember?"  Sometimes being odious comes in handy, don't it?

But I think the real reason is just overshoot.  They are targeting this "white supremacy" nonsense at young white men, and as collateral damage, are picking up a few mixed-race individuals who think somehow "white supremacy" might include them.  They are in for an education in short order.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Supply and Demand and Inflation

Prices will come down when people stop buying.

I noted before that while we were re-habbing the condo, we saw a Dunkin Donuts delivery person (or DoorDash or whatever) deliver a two donuts to someone at our condo development.  Now, our condo isn't quite a ghetto, but it is a working-class kind of place.  Simple garden-style apartments and outside parking.  This isn't a place for rich people, or even upper-middle-class.  It is mostly young people starting out, a few old people living on social security, and yes, some section-8 housing.

It was weird, but a few minutes after the donut delivery, the person living in that apartment left for work.  Now, the Dunkin Donuts is about 1/8 mile away - across the street, really, and you could have gone there on the way to the Metro or in your car if you were driving to work.  Why pay a delivery fee on such an inexpensive item?  It boggles the mind.

Yet, I read online all the time, people complaining about missed deliveries, cold food, wrong orders, and steep delivery fees.  It isn't like the old days where you would have friends over and buy $50 of Chinese food and have it delivered by the restaurant owner's son.  No, today, people are having a Big Mac and fries and a Coke delivered - the Big Mac arriving cold and mushy, the fries ice cold and congealed with hardened grease, and Coke watered-down by the melted ice, and warm.   What's the point of paying a delivery fee for that?  Deep-fried food - if it is to be consumed at all - should be consumed piping hot.

But people are in a state of denial.  They rage against companies for making "record profits" during an inflationary period.  Of course, this attitude is negated by two simple observations.  First, as I have noted before, everything in the world is always "the most this" and "the most expensive" that.  Populations are always at "record highs" and prices are always at an "all-time-high" because population always increases, goods always become scarcer and prices, over time, always go up.

Yes, prices do drop from time to time, but the overall trend - measured in decades, not months - is upward.  So companies are always - or mostly always - going to be posting "record profits" over time, as profits will go up with prices.

The other aspect is supply and demand.  When a commodity becomes scarce, people bid up prices, and as a result, suppliers profit more.  In turn, this profit incentive motivates them to procure or produce more product to meet demand (and make those tidy profits).  During the pandemic and accompanying "supply chain" shortages, well, prices shot way up.  And the poor bastard whose car lease expired during that period really got raked over the coals, as his options were limited to (a) buying the car at an inflated price, or (b) buying one of the three cars on the dealer lot at an inflated price.

But all of that is going to change, and very soon.  And again, the change is not permanent - over time, prices will continue to go up.  But we will see, in the short term (a few years) prices may decrease or at least stabilize.  And what will trigger this is anyone's guess.  In 2008 it was gas shooting up to $5  gallon (which would be about equal to $7 today).  This time around, it could be the Government defaulting on its obligations.  Who knows?  The herd can be stampeded by something as simple as a coyote howl.

A reader sends a link to an article opining that car prices are set to "plummet" shortly as automatkers, worldwide, have built 6% more cars than the market demands.  I am not sure where they get their numbers from, but like "unaffordable housing" there is no such thing as "unaffordable cars."  No, no, those Facebook ads you see crowing "unsold SUVs going for pennies on the dollar!" are just a come-on.  Cars, like houses, always sell - maybe not for the price the seller would like, but they do sell, sometimes even at a loss to the dealer or manufacturer.  But no, they aren't going to crush brand-new cars because they don't sell for list price - better to sell for 20% off than for nothing.

A good example is the Audi TT roadster.  Volkswagen overproduced these models, and after a famous rally car driver was killed in one that went airborne, they were all recalled to install a rear wing to keep them from experiencing high-speed lift.  But the damage was done, and the roadster craze of the 1990's (have to write about that sometime, if I already haven't) was winding down.  What to do with excess inventory?

Well, VW gave dealers a hefty credit and the cars were moved from the new car lot to the used car lot - some with less than a dozen miles on them - and sold at used-car prices.  This avoided having the new-car sale price being dinged (and yes, this information is tracked by a number of sources) and moved the cars off the lot, particularly as some were sitting there for a year or so.  Better to sell them used, and at least recoup costs, than to simply throw them away.

But speaking of old inventory, it is pathetic, but small-town dealers often have older inventory they try to sell as new.  I saw one dealer, locally, trying to sell a Nissan pickup truck for sticker price, even though it was two model years old.   I took a pass.

Funny thing, though, two years later, I got a call from the "big city" Nissan dealer who I had made inquires of 18 months prior.  It was October, and the 2013 models were aging on the lot and 2014's were arriving daily.  So they offered me a deal - a nicely loaded 4-door SV model for about what the local dealer wanted for a stripped 2009 model.  Needless to say, it wasn't a bad deal.

Fall is a good time to buy car. Some say Christmas as well, as other than idiots who are buying cars as gifts, the showrooms can be somewhat empty, and "last year's model" is something they want to get rid of.  Others argue that when buying at the end of the year, you take a larger depreciation hit.  For example, if you went to the dealer in October of 2023, you could buy a 2024 model and in 2025, it would only be one model year old and subject to a lot less depreciation than a 2023 model, which would be two model years old.  An interesting argument, I suppose, if you trade-in cars every three years (and like to set fire to piles of money as well).  On the other hand, if you are keeping the car for several years, it doesn't make as much a difference.

But I digress.

We have a pulse on the car market locally, as our little port is one of the largest roll-on, roll-off car carrier ports on the East Coast (some years, the largest).  They have huge lots where cars are parked after coming off the ships.  We also export cars - Mercedes, KIA, Hyundai, BMW, Suburbans - as well as construction equipment.   So there's that.

They recently added an expansion lot across the street to house more cars - just in time for the pandemic.  Also in time for the pandemic, Stellanis (Chrysler) built a staging lot for their ill-fated production model, where they were cranking out cars with no buyers, in anticipation of a UAW strike which never materialized.  A lot of people, including dealers, criticized this move, as it created a huge inventory of cars and "forced" dealers to take oddly-optioned vehicles they didn't want (e.g., a work truck with a sunroof and alloy rims).

Well, Chrysler had the last laugh, as during the pandemic, that lot, which had been full to bursting, was cleaned out.  It was almost abandoned, with nothing but a bunch of car carriers parked there.  Similarly, during the pandemic, the lots by the port went from acres of cars to empty.  The Ro-Ro ships stopped coming into port, and in fact, for a while, the only ship we saw was the Golden Ray, until they finished cutting it up.

So you can get an idea about car sales, just from the inventory on these lots.  Back in 2009, the lots were overflowing with cars, as the recession hit and people stopped buying cars.  VW had a surplus of cars (probably exacerbated by dieselgate) on the lots.  They hired people to drive them from the car port, across the causeway to our island, and then back again, presumably to charge the batteries and circulate the oil.  This went on for months until the economy recovered.  It was comical to see the Audis being driven with their shipping blankets in place, with the drivers looking out a little hole made over the windshield.

Today, the lots are pretty full and the Stellanis overproduction lot is also seeing an increase in cars - but not like the old days.  I think the guy who came up with that brilliant idea was fired.  But it isn't like the pandemic, when the lots were empty.  And dealer lots are filling up, even in small towns.  We drive by a Ford dealer on 301 in Florida, and they used to have literally 100 F150's lined up out front.  During the pandemic, they had six.  Today, it seems like they have 50 or more, brand-new.  Maybe not as many as before, but certainly a helluva lot more than a year ago.

So does this mean that car prices will be slashed?  That you will be able to buy a coveted (yuk) SUV for "pennies on the dollar" like those Facebook ads promise?    Well, not exactly.   They will offer deals and rebates and low-interest or no-interest financing to move cars off the lots.  And they will adjust production schedules - and already have, I am sure - to decrease production in view of recent sales and future projections.  They may lay off the third shift, or maybe even the second.  An extra plant may be closed or mothballed.  Supply will decrease to meet demand.   And prices will drop - not dramatically, but significantly.  Maybe even the Toyota dealer will drop the attitude that they are selling rare collectibles.

But all of this won't happen until people stop spending like drunken sailors.  You can't complain about high food delivery prices, period.  If money is that dear to you, get off  your fat ass and go pick it up yourself.  Or try meal-planning and buying groceries and learn how to cook - instead of wallowing in your own crapulence, for chrissakes.  But I digress, yet again.

It is human nature, this hysteresis in the economy.  When prices go up, people grouse about it but initially do nothing about it.  Spending goes up (I know mine has!) and credit card balances increase, as people try to continue to live as before without making sacrifices.  It is a lot easier to increase your spending habits than decrease them - which is the reason why I started this blog in the first place.

I saw a posting online of a sign at a grocery store explaining that Coca-Cola had raised its prices significantly and suggested to shoppers that they try Pepsi or store-brand soda instead, as it was far cheaper.  I have that beat entirely - we have largely given up soft drinks in favor of tap water, which is nearly free and a lot better for you than a bunch of high-fructose corn syrup.  Or as one friend put it, "I'm saving my caloric intake for more important things - like alcohol!"  The man has his priorities!

People will change habits, much as they did back in 2009 and back during earlier recessions.  I was only 18 in 1978 and living on my own for the first time, so it seemed "normal" to me that some things were in scarce supply and rather expensive.  But people were scrimping and things like Raman noodles became popular around that time.  Staples like peanut butter were also popular - to the point there were shortages and the price skyrocketed.  A staple became a luxury - it made no sense, but people rarely do.

Like I said, there will be some triggering event that will cause people to wake up and take notice.  Credit card debt is at an "all-time high" (remember what I said about that phrase?) and default rates are increasing.  People will start to cut back, particularly when the media starts running "recession" stories.

Remember all the stupid crap from 2008?  "Our family decided to stop spending money for a week!" one headline crowed.  But of course, they just spent twice as much the next week.  But it was a chance for people to re-examine their spending habits.  I realized that I was just paying "whatever" and not looking at prices - of food, insurance, utilities, you-name-it.  It took me a long time to start examining each expense in my life and cutting back.

And yes, over time, my spending has gone up, little by little.  I need to re-examine some recurring costs, particularly insurance, which seems to be jumping up quite a bit, for homeowner's and automobile.  But more on that, later.

Supply and Demand - it is a law that cannot be ignored.  You have too much supply, you have to drop prices to spur demand.  You have too much demand, you raise prices until it drops, or supply increases.  We see this on a day-by-day basis at the gas pump - prices vary from week-to-week depending on supply (refinery goes offline) or demand (holiday weekend).   And while you may think demand is steady and inflexible, the effects of the 2008 recession proved otherwise.  People will make changes in their lifestyle, when prices go high enough.

Maybe this time around, no one will be trading in their Dodge Ram for an Aries K-car or a Ford Fusion, as they did in 1981 and 2009, respectively, but perhaps people will slow down, drive less, and yes, maybe consider a compact truck at trade-in time.  This will mean pain for some folks, but again, being "poor" in America means driving a shitty car.  In Africa, it means you didn't get shot at today.  No one feels sorry for overfed, overpaid, and overweight Americans.

Nor should they!

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Has Television Created Perpetual Children?

In reality, Lisa and Bart Simpson would both be pushing 40 by now and Marge and Homer would be in their seventies.

"Kids today!" the oldsters grouse, "They aren't like when we were that age!  Hell, by age 25, I had a job, a house, and a family!  My kid?  He sits at home all day long playing video games in the basement!"

Or so goes the tale of woe.  Of course, if you have "bounce-back" kids or kids who never left home, the problem isn't necessarily them, but the family dynamics in general.  Kids don't end up living in your basement without your permission.   Here's a helpful hint:  If you have a captive "gamer" ensconced in your basement, just stop paying the Internet and Cable bills.  Eventually, they will have to come up for air.  Just a thought!

But this whole thing got me to thinking that, in addition to economic concerns, perhaps our culture has conditioned young people to remain perpetual children in the family dynamic.   The television cartoon, The Simpsons, has been on the air for an astonishing 33 seasons - about 26 beyond their best period.  At this point, it is largely unwatchable and just a money-making machine for Fox.

But something else is afoot.  You see, in 33 years, Lisa and Bart never left elementary school or even advanced to the next grade (not to mention, no graduation ceremony!).  In fact, they have not aged one bit. They have stayed perpetual children in the family dynamic - never growing up, going to college, getting a job, or getting married.   Sure, there were a couple of episodes set in "the future" - one where Lisa is President of the United States, in fact.  But for the most part, the family dynamic is static.  And dynamics, by definition, are not static.

Many television shows in the past followed a similar pattern.  However child actors do grow up and often that has to be incorporated into the script.  However, most shows go off the air long before 33 years elapses, so while there is an aging process, we just don't see the eventual outcome.  In a cartoon, people can remain static for decades.

There are exceptions, of course.  In The Waltons, John-Boy grows up to be John-Man, and goes to college, buys a car, and becomes a writer and newspaper reporter (as I recall) toward the end of the series, of course.   The family does age and Grandpa Walton passes on.  Other kids leave home and start their own lives. Unlike a lot of television, the family actually ages as in real life.  Of course, that show went off the air decades ago.

Sadly, that is the exception to the rule.  Most television shows only kill off a character when they ask for more money - and the producers want to send a message to the other actors.   But for the most part, there are little in the way of dynamics in the family dynamic on TeeVee.  There are no normative cues for young people about growing up and settling down.

Even "adult" shows like Seinfeld and Friends have their characters in static modes for years and years.  Seinfeld was famous for "no hugging, no learning" as the characters acted like overgrown children, indulging every possible whim and never moving on in life.  Friends was a sitcom about a bunch of 20-somethings that refuse to grow up, and instead act infantile and hang out in a coffee shop.  The show basically ended with two of the characters getting married, but then we never see the realities of married life after that - they just sort of disappear into the ether.  Message?  There is no life after marriage.   You stay a kid forever, or a parent forever - there is no transition, no dynamic.

And this is sad, too, as the transition from geeky zit-faced teenager to adult with a job, responsibilities, career, home, and spouse, is a difficult one, but at the same time, can be an exhilarating and rewarding experience.  Once one realizes they can do this and live independently on their own, well, life really begins.  That's why I say it is a tragedy when kids just "give up" on life and become homeless with pets, or stay in Mother's basement and live online.

UPDATE:  This raises three other issues.  First is Hollywood's fascination with High School - the subject of many a television series and movie franchises.  To hear Holllywood tell it, those are the best four years of your life (high school students may disagree).  Second, is the perception that settling down, getting married and having a career and family is "boring" or at least not telegenic. And I guess there is a nugget of truth to that.  Hard to make a show about someone commuting to a job for 30 years, unless it is a wacky comedy with mostly young people, like "The Office."  And I guess the third thing is sex - Hollywood caters to young people not only because they are a huge audience for movies and television, but because even oldsters reminisce about the glory days of first love and whatnot.  Or at least, maybe that is the perception.  But I digress.

And I wonder, maybe poor normative cues from society and television set low expectations in young people.  On television, being a kid is a role to play and not some brief transition in your lifetime, before you grow up and live a life of your own.  Being a perpetual child is possible in the fictional land of TeeVee.  You can be a kid forever, and today, there is no shame in being an unemployed "incel" "gamer" living with your parents.  Well, there is shame, but not among their own peer group.  They're just living the Bart Simpson lifestyle - don't have a cow, man!  A daily trip to the comic book store, maybe some skateboarding, or playing Bonestorm on your gaming console with Milhouse.  It's a lifestyle.

Or you can be like wacky Kramer and the crew on Seinfeld, never really growing up or having a serious relationship - just a string of dates, one-night-stands, and transitory girlfriends or boyfriends.  If one of them gets serious about getting married, maybe they will be poisoned by the glue on the wedding invitation envelopes and you can dodge a bullet.  You see the message - growing up and settling down are bad things that should be avoided at all costs, even if it means killing your future spouse.  Single forever!  Perpetual childhood!

Maybe I am taking away too much from this - maybe not.  Others have noted in the past, the tendency of television - even in the early days - to use the broken home as a model.  Andy Griffith was a single Dad.  Jed Clampett had no wife, only "Granny."   My Three Sons had no mother, just "Uncle Charlie" who was some sort of gay uncle.  The list goes on and on.  The only "normal" intact families were The Munsters and The Addams Family.

And the list of "never grow up" sitcoms abounds.  Mary Tyler Moore dumps her boyfriend to move to Minneapolis and gets a job as a television producer - but never dates, never marries.  If a "boyfriend" character is introduced, he is a guest for one episode, and dumped before the next - and forgettable as well.   Larry Hagman was a perpetual bachelor and astronaut in I Dream of Jeanie, and when they got married toward the end of the series, it pretty much ended the show.

Part and parcel of this is the tired old trope used in sitcoms where Person A and Person B are destined to be together, but hate each other.  As the series progresses, they flirt back and forth between affection and hatred, with the series culminating (and ending) with them getting married.  It is so tired and shopworn a plot device that when I see a new show with a man and a woman bantering like that, I already have written every episode for the entire series in my head, and I shut if off.  Been there, seen that, thank you very much.   It is the classic RomCom striver/slacker plotline, one of ten or so that Hollywood knows and never deviates from.

And it is a trap, for a writer.  You can't have the main couple actually get married as that would remove the underlying tension in the plot that keeps people "tuning in" (an archaic phrase, even in the early days of television) week after week.  Will Sam hook up with Diane this week?  Of course not, but they will tease you and the couple will engage in the usual banter and put-down humor.

Speaking of which, I noted before how you can tell a TeeVee addict from a mile away - they engage in this put-down humor and act mystified when people don't respond to their insults.  On television it is so funny and everyone laughs!   Why is this guy punching me in the face for calling his wife a fat pig?  It makes no sense.

Normative cues, again.  Poor normative cues.  So I wonder if the same effect is present on young people today, raised on a diet of television shows where even the grown-ups never grow up.

Maybe.  Nah - television has no affect on your brain, right?  Watching eight hours of Fox News a day won't turn you into a paranoid raving maniac with a gun collection.

Right?  Of course!

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

The Impermanence of the Internet

This video illustrates how various websites rise and fall in prominence.

I saw this video online a few months ago, and it drove home what I have said for some time now - that what we think of as "permanent" online is really an illusion.  And if you have been online since the days of dial-up 300 baud modems and BBS bulletin boards, you know what I mean.  We were always looking for "the next big thing!" even as the last-next-big-thing was still in diapers.

It seems like the Internet is static - that there are a few primary sites like Facebook, Twitter, and so on and so forth, that have been there since forever and will continue to grow and prosper and never go away.  But recent events seem to suggest otherwise.  Twitter, which never really made a profit, is shedding users and cockamamie plans to charge users for using it seem to be falling apart.  The latest gag is that Musk tried to charge the New York Mass Transit Authority the sum of $50,000 per month or over a half-million a year, just to be able to send alerts to customers.  Funny thing, though, the MTA has its own app and website that does just that.  And in an era of budget deficits, the MTA figured out how to quickly save $600,000 or more.

Every company that has a major online presence has to hire someone to manage that.  If your website becomes a cobwebsite, people think you went out of business. If your Facebook page looks stale, people lose interest in your company.  If your Twitter feed has no content, they assume you have nothing to say. So in addition to any advertising or user fees, you have to hire someone to maintain all these things, and that is a real cost - particularly for smaller businesses.   Some businesses decide to cut costs by shaving one or two of these outlets.

Unfortunately, this often means dumping or archiving their website.  I notice a lot of small businesses have decided not to maintain their websites or let them just remain static.  I logged onto a local citizen's group website and it said, "stay tuned for our new website!" which has been on there for months now. Meanwhile, the existing website is just a bunch of dead links to other groups and sites.  Their Facebook page is very active, however.  Sadly, it is sort of like that "Neighborhood" feature, where people spread rumors and fear, rather than provide any real information or data.

With a recession happening, Elon Musk has chosen the wrong time to start charging for Twitter.  $8 a month might not seem like a lot - for an individual user - but commercial users are being dinged for far more.  And with the rise of hate speech on the site, there is a dirty halo effect.  Companies insisted that Facebook and Twitter clamp down on odious content, as their advertisements were appearing next to Nazi and racist talk - which makes it seem like the company is endorsing that sort of thing.  That's one reason why Fox fired Carlson - advertisers were fleeing.  Toward the end of the reign of the odious Glenn Beck, his only advertisements were for penis enlargers and sketchy gold coins.

You can't make a living just advertising the MyPillow guy - you need Johnson&Johnson, Proctor&Gamble, General Motors, Ford, and the rest of the Fortune 500 or whatever.  Those are people who sell a lot of product and don't mind paying a lot to advertise.  Without mainstream advertisers, your internet site becomes the equivalent of an obscure cable channel that offers nothing but sponsored programming, such as ads for Ronco gadgets and Ginzu knives.  There is profit in that, of course, just a smaller profit.  Does Twitter want to be the next Home Shopping Channel?  Maybe Musk can model that set of Tanzanite earrings.  Order in the next ten minutes and they will throw in the matching necklace!

The reasons the various sites shown above screwed the pooch are many.  In some cases, they were forced out by competition.  A similar animated graphic illustrates the rise and fall of many web browsers.  Netscape was king for a while, until Microsoft bundled "Explorer" with Windows.  Today, Chrome is king, but if they squelch adbockers, something else may take over.  In a similar manner, newer sites cannibalize older ones.  Maybe "Tom" screwed the pooch with MySpace - making it a niche site for bands to advertise themselves, instead of a one-size-fits-all Social Media outlet.  But whatever the reason, Facebook took off where MySpace faltered.

And sometimes it is just style or fads that create and tear down various sites.  The kids log onto Facebook - indeed, "The Facebook" was a college creation.  But when they realize their parents - and grandparents - were on it, it got awkward.

The point is, I guess, that investing in this "technology" of websites is a tricky business.  All it takes is one mis-step for a site to go from hot to not.  What we think as permanent fixtures of the Internet is really just ether.

One day, maybe Blogger will disappear as well!

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

The Death of Cable News?

CNN's latest antics aren't the sign of some new trend, but the last dying gasps of an outdated and outmoded communication medium.

I noted before how over time, various media have become obsolete.  Just in the last few years, print media has all but disappeared  - replaced by the ubiquitous smart phone.  Some "newspapers" have transitioned to this new media, others - particularly small-town newspapers - have died off.  Even the storied Grey Lady and the WaPo are struggling to make ends meet in this new era - laying off reporters and staff and thus cheapening their product and making it even less attractive to readers.

FM radio has been replaced by streaming services - the only thing on FM are automated networks with bland "New Country" or the "[Same Old] Oldies" repeated again and again, in-between blaring commercials for raw deals on used cars. And AM?  Only religious nuts and the La Salsa channel, on that scratchy, buzzy medium.  Radio is dead, period.

Cable television of course, is still around, but its consumer demographic is aging out - dying in fact.  Young people are more likely to use cable as an internet portal - if they have it at all - and are streaming video through televisions sold at Walmart which advertise this feature.  Traditional Cable networks are scrambling to get onto this new streaming format and emulate Netflix - and they are all losing money at it, too.  Even Disney is hemorrhaging cash at this gig.

Funny thing, when people pay for channels à la carte, they choose not to pay for most of those channels.  Cable television costs so much money because if you subscribe, you are paying for the "right to carry" a plethora of channels you never watch.  Sure, things like the shopping network are free, but the cable companies have to pay Fox News and CNN and MSNBC for carrying rights - whether you watch these channels or not.  Fox, in fact, is demanding a huge increase in carrying fees from the cable companies as we speak - they have (or had) a lock on the only steady demographic left for cable - right-wing baby boomers.

It is ironic, as in the early days of cable, the cable companies paid nothing to rebroadcast off-the-air television stations.  And you would think that the broadcast networks would welcome having additional viewers, which would add to their Nielsen ratings and thus increase their ad rates and thus improve their bottom line.  It is a sick and twisted dance, they do, and both broadcast networks and cable companies are pretty odious organizations - something I realized after working in cable litigation many years ago.  Hard to feel sorry for anyone involved, even the viewers.

Our personal "viewing" habits are probably more typical of the younger generation.  We use our poverty WiFi (cellular) hotspot ($25 a month) to stream video from various online "channels" which are either free, or we subscribe to, one at a time, à la carte for one month at a time, maybe every third or fourth month.  So our television watching fees are very low - maybe $30 a year or so.  You can watch the entire season of The Mandalorian in one month and pay for only one month of service.  It's that easy.  And sadly, there isn't much worth watching on Netflix, since it went to an all-soap-opera format.  Actually, all the streaming channels are this way.

Quite frankly, we find ourselves watching less and less television anyway - Mark falls asleep about 15 minutes into a movie, so we never see a whole one.  We have busy lives actually doing things, instead of watching television.  I highly recommend it.

Others, less so.  I noted before that in many houses here on Old People Island, you can drive by in your golf cart and see that all the lights are off, except for the flickering blue glow of televisions at each end of the house.  He's watching Sports or Fox News and screaming at the television set.  She's watching a home show or MSNBC or something. Two people, married for nearly 50 years, living in the same house and yet living apart.   And this is rather common, too.

CNN "made news" the other day, which a news organization isn't supposed to do.  News organizations are supposed to report the news, not make it.  But the baby-faced new CEO of CNN (a registered Newhouse Fag, as we used to call them at SU) is trying to shake things up by giving our deranged ex-President a platform to spew hate speech, conspiracy theories, and outright insurrection.

(What is a "Licht" anyway?  I thought that was some kind of harpy or demon of some sort).

Funny, thing, it didn't work.   It didn't attract the MAGA crowd to CNN, who think the network is either the "Clinton News Network" or the "Communist News Network."  In fact, the few people who watched the "Town Hall" thought that it was Liberals in the audience hootin' and hollerin' for Trump, as if he had convinced even the far-Left of his legitimacy.  Meanwhile, this sort of thing has driven liberal viewers away toward MSNBC.  Younger viewers?  They simply don't exist.

In terms of ratings, CNN is now behind Newsmax, an ultra-right-wing conspiracy-theory channel.  This doesn't mean that America is embracing the far-right, only that television viewers, which are becoming a smaller and smaller demographic, tend to be right-wing nutjobs who hate change ("streaming video?  I don't need that newfangled technology when I've got good old reliable Cable Tee-Vee!  Bring back the carburetor, too!")

Ratings for all cable news channels are down - way downCNN has been the hardest hit, but even Fox News is shedding viewers.  News and Sports are the highest rated shows on cable, but News channels are losing viewers.  Where are they going?  No one watching cable anymore, except old people and the televisions left on in the bars.  It is a dead and dying medium - and a dying viewing demographic.  It is obsolete.  Rather than showing what you want to watch at a time when you want to watch it, Cable TeeVee plays continuously, and you have to adjust your schedule accordingly - unless you want to pay on demand video or dick around with a TiVo type device.

If cable television is a dying media, then what is the "next big thing!" anyway?  That's where it gets tricky.  With the Internet and streaming, anyone can be a "channel" and what ends up being the next big thing is a slippery slope.  It is like trying to shovel water or grab the ether - it is always just slipping out of your hands.  The broadcast model of the 1950's and 1960's locked people into three largely interchangeable networks.  Cable television promised 500 channels of variety, but ended up just giving us more of the same thing, plus shopping channels.   The Internet provides all sorts of weird stuff, sadly, and as a result, provided a megaphone for fringe thinking.  It's the year 2023 and we're now talking about whether the earth is flat and whether Nazism is a good thing or not.  This is regression.

(Prediction:  In the next ten years, one of the cable companies will throw in the towel and go to an all-streaming format.  The bandwidth "wasted" sending 500 channels to viewers who aren't watching any of them could be better used for internet streaming.  It will be a controversial move, but within a few months, every other Cable company - and sat-e-light tee-vee company - will follow suit.  Cable TeeVee as we know it will be dead.)

Cable is dying, and as part of its death throes, it is resulting to more and more extreme thinking, in order to attract these fringe audiences.  The CNN Trump Town Hall wasn't a harbinger of things to come for CNN, but the beginning of its epitaph.

Oddly enough - or not so oddly - I wasn't aware of this "Town Hall" before it aired as we don't have cable television - or even off-the-air television.  I only read about it online, after the fact.  I haven't watched CNN in ages, and even their articles online kind of suck.   CNN was dead to me long before this.

Years ago - maybe 30 years in fact - we got cable as part of an internet "bundle" - they priced the internet service such that it was cheaper to get it bundled with cable.  They were that desperate for viewers even back then.  Mark was excited to try out this new "CNN" thing - they would have 24-hour in-depth reporting!  More than just the 22 minutes of the "Nightly Nooze" that broadcast television provided.

Boy, was he disappointed!  Instead of more and better news, these "24 hour news networks" just barfed-up the same stories again and again, with all these graphics (with whooshing sounds) and scrolling text to make it seem more important than it was.  On Fox, everything was a "Fox News Alert!" - a term that should be limited to runaway freight trains carrying toxic chemicals or impending tornado destruction.

We had it for about a year, gained ten pounds, drained our bank account ordering take-out food, and became depressed.  500 channels and nothing on - and we would surf channels during the ads and end up watching snippets of programs before falling asleep - often to the blue glow of the television.  We were hooked on a drug called cable TV - a drug as bland and unappealing as cigarettes.  So, one day, I said to Mark, "Let's get rid of the television entirely!" and we gave to the TeeVee to a neighbor, who was mystified why we would give away such a valuable thing - and we never looked back.

Years later, we started subscribing to Netflix, when it was a DVD service, and once a week, we'd watch some great classic movie.  It was like a film school education back then - you could screen all the auteurs.  That went away in favor of online content, which thanks to the STARZ contract they signed, had a plethora of movies as well.  But the STARZ contract expired and Netflix reverted to "Netflix Original Content" which is just episodic television, and the whole thing sort of went downhill from there.

So, even streaming has its limitations.  Cable is dead - streaming is not far behind!

Lately, I find myself watching mostly old car videos on YouTube - if I watch at all.  Maybe we'll give away yet another television, again.

Maybe no television is the best option!