Monthly Archives: April 2016

Hugo Awards 2016: Geez, not this shit again

Welp, it happened again: The Rabid Puppies, the folks who want to destroy the Hugo Awards, nearly swept the nominations again this year. Not that anyone expected their defeat last year to discourage them. They seem to revel in the whole “If we can’t have what we want, at least we can ruin it for everyone else” thing, so of course they’re back for another go.

At least they avoided being completely tedious and changed their tactics a little this year. Instead of attacking the politicization of the Hugo Awards by nominate tepid right-wing polemics, they mixed things up and nominated some worthy works as well. I’m sure this is some devious mind game or clever stratagem, but it’s not really worth the effort to untangle it.

The Puppies are upset that their preferred flavor of sci-fi seldom wins Hugos. The reason they don’t win is obvious: In a popularity contest, the most popular work is going to win and the stuff the Puppies like is not the most popular. If 60% of the voters prefer one type of book, while 40% prefer another, will the less popular type win 40% of the awards? No, it will win none of the awards because  60% > 40% every time. Obvious, right? That sucks for the fans of the less popular style, but that’s the tyranny of math.

Last year, they gamed the nomination process to sweep the several categories, and the Hugo voters gamed the awards process to ensure that every Rabid Puppy nominee finished below “No Award.” This strikes me as just and the only possible way to preserve the integrity of the awards. The downside is that giving out “No Award” year after year isn’t a lot of fun.

I’ve read suggestions that this year’s troll-fest was a direct response to the Hugo voters’ failure to reward the Puppies to force the voters to give them trophies even if the voters didn’t actually believe they were deserved. No, really, that’s the argument (although it was phrased slightly differently.) The desire, then, is to receive an award, regardless of merit. The sort of thing that Puppy authors might call “affirmative action.”

Fortunately, I have a solution which I think every reasonable person will agree is wise and just: If what the Puppies really want is recognition, then simply reward every Puppy candidate with a “participant” award. You know, the kind they give to grade school children when you don’t want anyone to feel bad. This way, the Chuck Tingles and John C. Wrights of the world can have their recognition without having to try to abuse the nomination process. Then, simply discard any nominations which match the slate proposed by the Rabid Puppies. Problem solved…for a little while at least…maybe.

 

 

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ESPN’s coddling of Curt Schilling ends badly

Parker Molloy wrote a much better recap of the events surrounding Curt Schilling’s dismissal from ESPN than I ever could, so if you want the long version, I strongly suggest you read the whole thing here. She breaks it down in great detail, but I’ll sum up here for those of you who didn’t follow my advice. Curt Schilling, who’s been warned multiple times for posting inflammatory and offensive things on Twitter was let go for failing to heed those warnings and retweeting a genuinely stupid meme*.

ESPN’s reason for firing Schilling is both transparent and obvious. In Molloy’s words:

“As for ESPN, someone in Bristol must have calculated that the benefits of Schilling’s baseball knowledge no longer exceeded the financial and public relations costs that would be incurred by keeping him on the air. There are clearly many other announcers just as (if not more) capable than he is, so it will be little skin off ESPN’s back.”

ESPN is a business. I’m sure they’ll stick up for all manner of asshole so long as said asshole doesn’t cost them money. Principles are great and all, but this was a business decision and as such it’s not hard to understand.

It’s too bad, because he was a great pitcher and a very solid addition to the ESPN team. This wasn’t an on-air performance issue; Schilling had been warned not to keep making an ass of himself on Twitter. He ignored the warnings, so they did the obvious thing and booted him.

The frustrating thing is that Schilling doesn’t seem to get it. He’s playing the victim because that’s his default pose. He started his post concerning his firing with this little gem:

“Let’s make one thing clear right up front. If you get offended by ANYTHING in this post, that’s your fault, all yours.”

Right. That’s code for “I’m about to be a total dick and I’m going to try to preemptively prevent you from holding me responsible for it.” We’re off to a really bad starts. He doubles down in the very next sentence:

“And for you people too dense to understand this one very important thing. My opinion, 100% mine, and only mine. I don’t represent anyone here, on facebook, on twitter, anywhere.”

This is a man who has no business working in any field where he faces the public. If he cannot understand that, as a public face of ESPN, he has to manage his public persona better than he has, then he’s going to struggle. It’s going to feel to him like the world is against him because he can’t understand the requirements of his job.

Of course, there are people, perpetual victims all, who are determined to twist this event to fit their narrative. They want this to be about political correctness bringing down a man whose only crime was to be too honest. They want this to be about trying to squelch free speech, or social justice warriors run amok, or some other bullshit.

It’s worth noting, too, that ESPN suspended Keith Law from Twitter for defending the theory of evolution. He was doing so in response to one of Schilling’s characteristically bizarre tweets. They suspend their employees for making statements that they feel might damage their business. Pushing the narrative that ESPN has succumbed to political correctness is dishonest.

Curt Schilling, as an on-air ESPN employee, couldn’t understand that his public statements reflected on his employer. ESPN gave him plenty of chances, probably too many, and he couldn’t change his behavior. This was a business decision, this was justified, and Curt Schilling brought this on himself. Trying to make this a fairy tale of political correctness is either dumb or dishonest.

Probably both.

EDIT: Of course Ted Cruz would come out on Schilling’s side. He even cited “unchecked political correctness” because that phrase plays well with his handful of supporters and honesty has never been a Cruz hallmark. Glenn Beck, demonstrating his keen grasp of his own imagination, said that, if bathroom bills “save one little girl from being molested by a heterosexual pervert, we should do it.”

I’m not sure which of these three is most soiled by association with the other two.

 

* No, I’m not going to link directly to it. It’s in Molloy’s piece. Go read it.

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The derp in here has gone up a couple of degrees

So, some scientists and pro-science types have decided to start using a hashtag, #StandWithScience for their crowd funding campaign. This being the internet, you can probably guess what happened. It took about 10 seconds for the perpetual adolescent crowd to start using it for their own purposes. Nothing new in that.

What is fun, though, is that these dipshits are so incredibly bad at it. Client change science isn’t particularly controversial among scientists, so watching The Usual Suspects, the folks with the credibility and intellectual horsepower of an unusually dense 8 year old, try to mock the idea is really, really funny, albeit not for the reasons they probably meant. It’s like watching someone spray paint “Your dumb! Hur hur hur!” on a statue of Einstein.

They’ve somehow managed to bring racism, sexism, and Milo into it, so you know the kind of people we’re dealing with here. It’s probably not something I should be proud of, but it’s a hoot to watch them fail…again.

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Vox’s Jason Blum Gets It All Kinds of Wrong

Vox published an odd piece by Jason Blum in which he makes the case that piracy is the primary reason why Hollywood isn’t making art house films, ergo piracy must be stopped in order for Hollywood to continue to make good films. He makes the case, but he doesn’t make it particularly well or at all convincingly.

Let’s start with one thing he got right:

“Every year, millions of piracy “transactions” take place, accounting for incalculable lost revenue to those who actually paid to make and distribute those films.”

That is technically correct, in the sense that the lost revenue cannot be calculated. The music industry keeps trying to make this argument, but the numbers don’t work. They have yet to make a convincing case for a demonstrable amount of lost revenue. You can’t just say that a pirated video is the same thing as a lost admission to a theater. If that person wasn’t going to go in the first place, you’ve lost literally no revenue. If seeing a pirated version gets them to go see the legitimate version, or buy merchandise, or see the sequel, then you’ve gained revenue. Yes, there is evidence that piracy may actually increase revenue.

I’m not going to make that argument, though. I don’t think the numbers are anywhere near solid enough to say, without reservation, that piracy increases revenue. It does, however, suggest that the argument that piracy is killing the industry is not very solid.

Another problem with Blum’s piece is that he suggests that piracy will selectively kill off the more prestigious films (the good ones) while leaving the blockbusters (the bad ones) untouched. This is an odd argument to make. The assumption behind it is that the art films are just a gift that the studios give us, a gift that will likely lose money, and they won’t be able to give us nice things anymore if piracy continues.

If anyone believes that studios make art house films out of the goodness of their hearts and not with the intent of making bags of money or winning loads of awards, please raise your hands. Didn’t think I’d see any. In fairness, Blum does address this issue, but never addresses the problem that these films would be uniquely vulnerable to the loss of revenue due to piracy.

None of this addresses the real problem: You can’t stop piracy.

I’m not saying that piracy is moral, or legal, or anything remotely positive. I’m saying that, from a strictly technical standpoint, there’s fuck-all you can do about it and all the shouting in the world isn’t going to make any difference. As long as there are computers, there will be piracy. That is the fact of the matter.

Any system which can play a file can copy what is being played back. That is true of all digital media. If you can watch a movie on it, you can pirate a movie on it. Same technology.

Here’s my advice to the industry: Stop focusing on the things you cannot change. I understand that it is frustrating to see people rip off your work. It’s wrong of them to do it, but you literally cannot stop them from doing it*. Focus on the things you can control. Live presentation, tie-ins with talent, merchandise, and commercial use of the property and things still within control of the rights-holders. Use the thing you can’t control, the digital media, as an advertisement for the things you can.

The current model won’t stand up over the long term. Even if the overall revenue keeps growing, and it likely will, there will be people who benefit from the changes in the way commerce works, and there will be those who can’t adapt. I feel from the folks who can’t make the changes, because it feels like something’s been taken from them. That, for better or worse, is the nature of change, and trying to act as though you can stop change isn’t going to end well for anyone.

* I can hear the complaint already: “That’s like saying ‘lie back and enjoy it’ to rape victims!’ No, no it isn’t like that. Now, if you want to compare it to trying to stop someone from taking your picture when you’re out in public? That’s a reasonable analogy. It’s nothing like violent crime.

 

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Apparently, NASA has something in common with the Wu Tang Clan

1

You’re just trolling along, spouting truth-free nonsense about about climate change on Bill Nye’s Facebook, not a care in the world, when suddenly…

smackdown

NASA shows up to kick the ever-lovin’ shit out of your positions.

I can’t stand Facebook, but this has to be one of the most beautiful moments in the history of the site. Sure, it’s just one man, but it’s one man whose story will serve as a cautionary tale for “the uninformed and conspiracy theorists.”

Is this a good use of NASA’s time and resources? Yes. Yes it is.

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Encryption on WordPress?

About damn time.

Good things are starting to happen on the encryption front. This is important. The problem with expensive and/or difficult encryption is that it won’t be universally adopted. At the extreme in of the spectrum, that means that anyone using encryption is instantly flagged as a Person of Interest. That kind of defeats the purpose, ya know? In the slightly less bad version, it restricts secure certs to those who can afford them. Neither situation is optimal.

What the internet wants and needs, obviously, is for everyone to use encryption. That means that  no one stands out from the crowd and it’s accessible to everyone. This should be about as controversial as saying “everyone should have locks on their front door.”

I get so negative because, well, it’s easy to be negative. There’s so much that’s bad that it’s easy to default to point my fingers and yelling “Hey, look at this asshole, he’s an asshole.” It’s nice to get to write about something good.

 

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False Dichotomy

The BBC link reads:

Racist troll’ – or conservative free speech crusader?

If you read the post, and it’s worth reading as it’s contributed by the excellent Olivia Crellin, you’ll likely come to the same conclusion as I: “Both.”

I mean, Andie Pauly isn’t even trying to be anything but a troll. She’s making statements that are long on provocation and short on reason, truth, or honesty. She’s trying to get a reaction, not to make any particular point.

As someone with a passing familiarity with people who play characters online (hint: WTF Pancakes might not be my real name!), her bio reads like…well, let’s just say she blocks “beta males.” This isn’t someone trying to be taken seriously.

She’s racist. She’s sexist. She’s aggressively stupid. She is the perfect poster child for both racist trolls and conservative free speech crusaders.

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A Links List I Can Get Behind

There’s a good list of people to follow and interact at an unlikely site: sjwlist.com

I don’t know all of the names on the list, but the ones I do know are good ones: Laurie Penny, John Scalzi, Chris Kluwe, Alison Bechdel, Randi Lee Harper, Anita Sarkeesian, and Wil Wheaton. They’re all good, decent people who have interesting things to say about the world. The others may not be cut of the same cloth, but if the names I recognize are any indication, they’re likely to be good folks.

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