Friday, August 20, 2021

My Rantings About Tik Tok

I've been critical of several social media platforms in the past and I'm up for a new round today. Over the last year I've noticed a lot of trends with Tik Tok. I don't have the app but I am always flooded with Tik Toks that are being promoted on Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube. Today I'd like to share my analysis of this trending platform.

I first remember seeing a bunch of teenagers doing dance moves in unison and that was my first exposure to it. I then started seeing some funny comedy skits on Tik Tok. There are some DIY projects and occasional life hack tips. I have to admit there have been some funny and creative things, but it is usually cringe! Lately the trend seems to be a bunch of women trying to prove how confident and happy they are and how much better they are since they got divorced or started their new online business. "I think she doth protest too much."

This platform was made for people who want to dance around to music and point a finger as their short message appears while nodding their head in approval. There are like 10 songs that they always use over and over as they either do a short comedy skit, brag about how successful they are, or twerk and show off their body. I can't get that stupid "Oh no, oh no, oh no no no no no" song out of my head.

I'm going to make a parody video mocking these Tik Toks and will post it here later.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Getting Tired of Covid

 I am losing my patience in dealing with the Covid pandemic. Yesterday my wife and I went on some errands to replace a modem and buy some data, and I came home very frustrated.

We mask up when we go out in public as requested by Ghana's government and as required by the larger businesses in the area. When we arrived we did our usual hand washing routine outside the store before an employee pointed his thermometer gun at our heads to get our temperature, and then he squeezed two big pumps of sticky hand sanitizer on our recently cleaned hands. We then walked a few paces into the store and were met by another woman who informed me that I was not social distancing, since I was standing next to my wife. She had us separate and stand on some floor stickers further away from each other. She then said we had to sanitize our hands. We explained that we did so 15 seconds ago by another employee and pointed to her coworker standing near the door, but she insisted we add more sanitizer. My wife did so but, before I could, I was told only one of us could come in the store, so I sat in a waiting area outside the store. 

I know these precautions are an attempt  to slow the spread and protect people. I also respect private businesses to enforce whatever rules they decide. It is their business; "no shirt, no shoes, no service comes" to mind. Even though I see where they are coming from, I am getting sick of this. In that moment I had some empathy for the people I've seen on the Internet complaining about the loss of freedom and making a scene in public places. 

Here is my problem: If this disease had a high mortality rate and there were dead bodies stacked in the streets, I would be the first to wear a full hazmat suit, if I even dared to leave my home at all. Ghana has over 30 million people and over the last year there have been 565 deaths from Covid. In contrast, they experience about 2,000 deaths from traffic accidents a year. I am much more likely to die driving my car here than I am from Covid.

I understand the mortality rate changes significantly when comparing different countries, age groups, and those with existing health problems, but I just don't feel it is the threat that we are told it is. I think the way this pandemic has been handled has been more detrimental than the actual disease. Isolation, inactivity, uncertainty, loss of livelihoods, and damage to the economy has caused an increase of stress, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, domestic violence, and suicide for many people. We can't be blind to all the collateral damage that has occurred.

I'm also frustrated by the many conflicting messages from the "experts". At first we were told we don't need masks, then you were a grandma killer if you don't want to wear one. Within the last week, "experts" suggested we wear two masks! Whenever scientists, virologists, or doctors share opposing views and data, or question the efficacy of masking for this particular virus, they are often crucified by the mainstream media as being quacks or conspiracy theorists. 

I just wish there was more "science science" and less "political science" when it comes to Covid. For some reason, the disease is no longer a threat once you walk in a restaurant and sit down to eat. A group of maskless friends can sit next to each other for hours eating and laughing with no problem, but if I'm driving with my immediate family in my car with the windows up and come to a police check point on the road, they want to know why we are not wearing our masks. 

I have seen many arbitrary and illogical rules as well as a good share of hypocrisy and abuse of power from leaders and experts around the world when it comes to Covid precautions. That makes it all the harder to jump on board and do whatever we are told for the greater good. 

Luckily there is a vaccine available now. I am not an anti-vaxxer but I am not excited about injecting myself with an experimental vaccine that has been tested for less than a year, with no long term studies. I would actually jump at receiving it if it solved the problem and I could return to the normal life of pre-2020 but, after receiving the vaccination, I am told you still have to social distance, wear a mask, and you can still get Covid!

When I went to the mall last week I noticed the sign above. This has been up since last March when the Pandemic hit. This is what "science" is saying here. I guess I will stay away from our goats and will make sure to cook my eggs very well to protect me from the virus. 

I believe this virus is real and can be deadly to a certain segment of the population. We should all take common sense steps to protect ourselves and we should do more specifically for those high risk individuals who are the most vulnerable. Whatever we do, let's handle it with actual science and truth, not just fear or good intentions. We've experienced a year of contention, judging, name calling, fear mongering, and virtue signaling and I'm sick of it. Protecting lives doesn't have to be done at the exclusion of our livelihoods, standard of living, or freedom. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Conspiracy Theories

You may have noticed that over the past several years the concept of conspiracy theories has become more popular with some individuals while at the same time being immediately dismissed by others. Recently the label of conspiracy theorist is being used as an insult.

The definition of conspiracy is "a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful." A conspiracy theory is defined as "a theory that rejects the standard explanation for an event and instead credits a covert organization with carrying out a secret plot."

Since the world began there have been countless conspiracies and you would have to be a fool to think that they don't exist. Anytime people work together in an attempt to cover up a crime it is a conspiracy. The problem is when some people attribute almost everything they see on the news or in the government as a conspiracy. 

There are some really good movies address this topic. Films like Close Encounters, 3 Days of the Condor, The Manchurian Candidate, The X-Files, Capricorn One, The Divinci Code, Jack Reacher, and many others have all featured a person who had a hunch or inside information that something about an event was not right. They are immediately labeled as being paranoid or crazy. They then have an uphill battle with superiors and the public as they try to prove there was some kind of cover up by the higher powers. This concept makes for great movies but isn't usually applauded in real life.

There are some people who say conspiracy theories don't exist and refer to those who believe in them as tin foil hat wearing, delusional people. These are the people who quickly dismiss any theory and are quick to label those who disagree with them or question government as conspiracy theorists. They frequently say things like "the government is here to protect us, it would never do that" or "how could that many people be in on the secret together without someone finding out?"

On the other extreme there are some people who attribute almost everything that happens to conspiracies. Some people don't believe we landed on the moon. When there is a mass shooting they insist that it is a false flag and that the victims are government actors. These paranoid people don't trust anyone and are suspicious of everything and of all authority.

Neither of these two extremes give their cause much credibility. I find myself more in the middle. I don't consider myself a conspiracy theorist but I'm troubled by unanswered questions about 911. I believe in vaccines, but I 'm disturbed with certain aspects of the industry. I believe in government and law and order but I also have concerns about government overreach. I just don't care for the current trend of calling someone a conspiracy theorist as an attempt to silence them or make them look crazy.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is let's not be so fast to attribute every thing that happens to a behind the scenes secret organization that is out to enslave us. At the same time, let's not dismiss people's concerns they have about ulterior motives or consequences of things they see happening around us. If you wonder why people don't always trust their governments, just look at the history books and see what horrible things those in power have done to others through the ages.

Solving this issue once again comes back to being able to determine real truth, not just what most people or a biased media outlet may tell you. That is the ironic challenge of our day when there is more information available than ever before but we are not sure which sources to trust. 

On a lighter note, my boys have a Youtube channel where they do short comedy skits making fun of movie tropes. I wrote the following sketch for them about this subject.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

People I've Misjudged

As I look back over my life there have been times when I was quick to judge others. It really is easy to judge a book by it's cover. Often when we make judgement calls, we do so out of laziness or bias without sufficient information to make an informed decision. 

For this post I am not referring to anyone I really despised but rather just didn't care for, I made a quick decision that I was not a fan of them and it stuck for a while until I learned more about them. Here are some people I decided I didn't really like after an initial brief encounter but some time later realized I had made a mistake.

Fred Willard- I first remember seeing him as one of the hosts of a the TV show Real People back in the late 70's. He just didn't appeal to me and never came across as being very funny in the things I saw him in. That was until I saw his performances as a clueless dog show commentator in Best in Show or as a bumbling singing group manager in A Mighty Wind. His awkward, inappropriate style and hilarious improvisation skills are great.

Led Zeppelin- My initial experience with this famous band was not from listening to their music but just hearing people mention their name when they talked about hard rock/heavy metal bands like Deep Purple or Black Sabbath. I was not a fan of that kind of music and decided I wasn't into Led Zeppelin. It wasn't until I was in my 30's listening to a block party on the radio that I began to appreciate their music. With more exposure over time I was impressed with their talent and versatility and now understand why Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham are considered one of the greatest rock bands of all time. (I had a similar experience with Pink Floyd too.)

Norm McDonald- Norm was the news anchor on SNL during a time when I chose to watch little TV so that was about all I saw him aside from some small roles in Adam Sandler movies that didn't impress me much. It wasn't until I came across interviews with him that I realized how intelligent and funny he was. There are certain things that only he can do, like the clip below from a Bob Saget Roast. These programs are known for having the participants cut loose with foul language and savagely roast the participants, so when they gave him the go ahead and told him to not hold back, he told a bunch of lame jokes from a 40's joke book. The audience didn't know how to handle it and it was over their head, much like I didn't get his style when I first encountered him. It is one of the most awkward and funny things I've ever seen and is classic Norm.

Roy Clark- As a kid I always hated Saturdays and one reason was because of the lame TV shows that came on in the evening. First there was Hee Haw and that was followed by Lawrence Welk. I hated both of these music genres and used to make fun of Buck Owens and Roy Clark pickin' and grinnin' in their overalls. I'm still not a country music fan today but I can totally appreciate Roy Clark's talent. Here is a short clip from an episode from The Odd Couple where he made a guest appearance. Over time I googled his performances and I had no idea he played so many instruments and styles of music. With more exposure, my mind was blown by this talented performer and my opinion of him changed. 

These are just a few people who I did not care for after my first introduction to them. In some cases, it took me decades to change my opinion and finally appreciate their talent and contributions. Unfortunately 3 of them have passed away by now. One thing that helps me really appreciate people is learning more about them. When you know their backstory and where they came from it can make all the difference in helping you appreciate someone. Hopefully I can learn from these experiences and won't be so quick to judge or write people off in the future before I get to know more about them. 

Sunday, November 8, 2020

The Power of Perception

I find it fascinating when people witness an event, yet they come away with very different takes on the exact same thing they both saw. This has really stood out with politics and the recent elections. People can see the same video footage of something yet come away with completely different thoughts on the subject. Media bias and propaganda can plays a big role in this, but people are also stubborn and like to look for proof to back up their opinions. 

Here are some visual examples of how powerful perception is.

Obviously our environment, background, and upbringing impact how we view things.

The pictures above and below are both taken of the same events at the exact same time, but depending on your vantage point, they can create very different stories.

Sensationalism and controversy draws more viewers so it's common for the media to share inflammatory and provocative stories and narratives. This happens on both sides of the aisle. 

Not to bash media, but it is much more difficult to find unbiased news sources today. There is such an abundance of information online, yet ironically, many people don't trust the accuracy of that information or the motivation of the sources.

I like this last picture because it shows that things are often more complex than we imagine and sometimes in our quest for truth, we have to be willing to look at things from another perspective in order to be enlightened with the big picture. When we can see where someone else is coming from they don't seem quite so threatening and stubborn to the "truth" that is so obvious to us.

I really don't think the media, politicians, salespeople, etc. will ever stop manipulating the truth in order to promote their agenda, but I do hope that people will have more civility, patience, and willingness to examine issues more thoroughly in order to get all the facts. 

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Evolution of Society's Behavior

I appreciate the many advances in technology we've made over the years. Life is certainly more convenient than ever before. I'm glad we no longer have to deal with rotary phones, taking your film to Fotomat to get pictures developed, use dial up internet, card catalogs, or VHS tapes.

We get things much faster today and that includes the news which runs 24/7. We hear opinions on sports, news, politics, and everything else. A big segment of entertainment these days consists of critics who share their opinion, pontificate, mock, or question others.Not only do we have an abundance of actual news, but everyone has turned into a news commentator with social media. There are many different viewpoints and even the experts frequently contradict each other about any given subject.

As much as I appreciate the abundance of news at times, I have noticed a negative side effect from it. We have lost our ability to be patient and think before we react. We jump to conclusions too quickly. I've seen friends argue about articles they post online when they haven't even read them and just assume they know a person's position from a headline. There is so much sensationalism and frequently an agenda or bias behind the media we take in. I despise how everything turns political so fast. People regularly get offended and outraged when someone expresses a different point of view.

I was surprised how quickly the Covid-19 panndemic quickly turned political and divided people into different camps. If you thought the government over reacted in their response and did more harm than good, then you are an insensitive, selfish, conspiracy theorist, that doesn't care if people die. If you were concerned and wanted people to wear masks and social distance then you were in favor of  Totalitarian dictators, willing to give up your freedom for security, and just following with all the other scared sheeple.

The truth of the matter is most of us were feeling bi-polar about the whole thing. I kept going back and forth between these two extremes as did many others, but I think most people could relate to both sides. It is possible to be concerned about everyone's health while at the same time being concerned about your constitutional rights and quality of life. Lives and livelihood are both important.

Last week when I saw the footage of the cop kneeling on a incapacitated George Floyd's neck I was sickened and outraged. Over the last several days my anger has only grown as I watch people assault, rob, vandalize, and create chaos all around the country. Knee jerk reactions and people giving in to their anger has only escalated tension and amplified the problem.

Once again we are encountering people being painted into the two extreme sides of the issue. If you criticize people rioting and looting, then you are told you must agree with systemic racism. If you say most police officers are good people who serve their community, then you are a racist and part of the problem.

Again we are coming back to the us vs. them mentality. "You are either with us or against us." Maybe I'm with both of you and maybe I'm not with either of you! People are more complex than being divided into two groups or given a simple label when it comes to every issue.

They say hindsight is 20/20. When we look back on troubled issues of the past it is easier to make sense of why things happened and what would have been the best way to deal with them after we have gotten all the facts, but unfortunately that takes time. Nobody is willing to be patient and discuss things civilly when they are like powder kegs just waiting to explode. I've found myself guilty of this too recently. I felt my blood boiling this week after watching several different video clips of violence and injustices done to a variety of people as a result of all this anger.

We currently have the perfect storm that cultivates fear and anger. We live in such a polarizing and divisive society and the speed in which we get information and the poor quality of that information is a real problem.  Political narratives, speculative and biased news stories, partial truths, denial, conspiracy theories, ignorance, and prejudices all muddy the water and our ability to see clearly.

If someone has a different opinion or viewpoint than you, that does not mean that they hate you or are attacking you. I appreciate it when I see civil debates between adults who may disagree with each other but do so amicably and respectfully. That is so rare these days since most people go ballistic as soon as they realize you don't agree with them and resort to name calling and labeling others.

The only way to fix our problems is to take a step back, take some deep breaths and then change our energy. We have to lose the anger and cultivate more love and respect for each other. I only see things getting better when we can focus on and put more attention on all of our similarities as opposed to our differences. That goes for every group, not just black/white, Republican/Democrat, Christians/Muslims, and Ford/Chevy.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Cultural Appropriation

As hard as I try to keep my blog from offending anyone, there are times I have to take a stand and express my thoughts. It's amazing how easily people can get offended by the smallest things these days. I'm surprised being offended is not an Olympic sport yet.

When I watch movies from the past it is obvious that our society has changed. When I think back about comedies from the 70's and 80's certain words, attitudes, and references jump out at me that would just not fly today. Blazing Saddles, Sixteen Candles, Soul Man, Airplane, and The Jerk would all offend audiences today for a variety of reasons.

I agree that there are many offensive things in those movies, especially for those looking to be offended. We've made progress as a society when it comes to being more sensitive about certain subjects but, at the same time, we are also walking on egg shells and taking ourselves too seriously.

One of the ways some people are easily offended is "cultural appropriation." They are essentially saying you should not adopt parts of other cultures you are not a member of. People now get offended by Halloween costumes, prom dresses, hairstyles, and much more.

So does this mean eating Italian, Mexican, or Chinese food can be deemed cultural appropriation for me. I'm certain if I tried to use chopsticks that would definitely be appropriation, but luckily for me I like the food too much to waste my time playing with it. I am of English/Scottish descent so should I  be eating boiled meat, Haggis, and tea? I'm pretty sure that last comment was a rude, insensitive stereotype of my ancestors but odds are they wouldn't be offended.

I certainly understand someone being upset if somebody is mocking or diminishing aspects of other people's cultures or religious beliefs. I think the Haka war dance is a cool feature to Maori culture. The BYU football team usually has a high percentage of Polynesian players each year and in the past they would perform the Haka before a game. I'm actually glad they recently stopped that pre-game tradition. Something just didn't look right seeing some of the skinny Caucasian receivers trying to perform it with their Polynesian teammates.

I've seen people express their displeasure when white people wear dreadlocks or cornrows, but they don't seem to mind if Niki Minaj or Beyonce wear their hair blond and straighten it to look like they are Swedish. For the record, I think black women with blond hair look better than most white people with cornrows but that's not the point. It's the double standard.

We have lived in Ghana for the last three years. My wife's wardrobe has changed drastically since she loves African fabric, patterns, colors and styles of dress. We've never had any Africans express displeasure when we've worn traditional African clothes, in fact they are usually pleased to see us embracing their culture.

I frequently do yoga stretches but I'm not from India. Will it trigger someone if they see me doing Child's Pose or Pigeon Stretch after I go running?

I named my daughter Carmen because it's a beautiful name, but she is not Hispanic. Lo siento.

If you drink alcohol, can only Mexicans drink Tequila, Russians Vodka, and Japanese Saki?
Speaking of drinking, Cinco de Mayo, St. Patricks Day, and Oktoberfest may have specific origins but today they are celebrated by people of all cultures (especially those looking for an excuse to get plastered.)

If you are a woke person who is super sensitive to appropriation, then maybe Che Guavera shirts should only be worn by college students if they are from Argentina. By the way, did Che appropriate that cool beret look from Europeans?

At first I thought cultural appropriation just meant using elements from someone else's culture, but the actual definition is "the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society."

That "typically more dominant" qualifier is basically code for white people. So this practice apparently is only offensive when it is done by white people. America is a melting pot of people from all around the world and from a variety of cultures. While I believe it is important to respect other cultures, we should also relax a little bit and not be so hypersensitive and ready to take offense. It is natural to utilize and celebrate the best things we enjoy and appreciate from every culture around the world.