Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Adrian Chen Is A Piece of Garbage….and So is Violentacruz

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you have no idea what I’m talking about (hi Mom). Let me set the scene from the point of view of an interested bystander.

There’s this online community that I’ve grown quite fond of called Reddit. They refer to themselves as the “front page of the internet” and essentially, Reddit is a place where people can post news articles, pictures of cats, naked photos, and funny videos and discuss them. To the media, it’s a breeding ground for pedophiles and racists. I’ll admit that the anonymity that the internet, and especially Reddit, provide can bring out the dark side of people. But Reddit is also the community where I participated in a “Just for the hell of it” Summer Secret Santa exchange where I sent an awesome Zombie Whiskey Decantur to someone I’ve never met in Texas and received some awesome books from a stranger in return. It’s a community that has a whole page dedicated to people who have fallen on hard times or maybe just having a shitty day saying “You know, I could really use a pizza.” and about 75% of the time, someone comes through and has a pizza sent to their house. As much as there is terrible stuff being posted in some of these “subreddits” as they are called, there’s some amazing things that happen on Reddit as well. It’s a community I’m proud to be a member of.

So there’s this guy, Violentacruz. He’s what’s called a troll. He makes posts and creates communities specifically to offend people. He’s most well known for /r/creepshots (where people can post pictures of attractive women’s bodies, which are taken in secret), /r/jailbait (self-explanatory), /r/hitler, and the list goes on and on and gets much grosser. He’s the epitome of the negative side of the internet.

Then there’s Adrian Chen, a blogger for the website Gawker. Adrian takes exception to the disgusting stuff that VA (the troll) is doing. Reddit, being a staunch supporter of people’s right to free speech, has a policy of allowing any content that is not illegal. Hell, there are even subreddits to discuss marijuana use and file sharing, which are illegal, but discussion of these topics are not. As the content being posted in these groups are not illegal, Reddit does not intervene, as they would have in the case of something like child pornography. So Chen decides to take matters into his own hands. He is writing an expose on VA. As a part of the expose, he contacts people who know VA, is able to learn his identity, where he works, his personal information, etc. (in the hacker community, this is called doxxing) and considers this to be pertinent information to his story about the internet’s biggest troll. He includes this man’s real name, picture, etc in his story. The result: VA, who in real life is a father with a disabled wife, loses his job.

I had to think really long and hard about my opinions on this. I’m a big fan of free speech. I think it’s the most important thing in the world and sometimes it’s a hard thing to advocate for. My prime example is the Westboro Baptist Church. These people are the worst. They are scum and they are media whores. But I would oppose any legislation that attempted to stop them from saying whatever they choose to in public or private. If I fight to take away their right to say such hateful things, then I’m also fighting against my right to oppose them publicly. But for dumb people, that’s where it gets sticky. That’s where people who have the intellectual level of say, a dead clam, would say “So you support the WBC?”

I ran into this same quagmire on this issue. I don’t support the subreddits that VA created and moderated and possibly even posted in. But the glory of Reddit is, I don’t have to subscribe to them. I don’t ever have to see them if I don’t want to. Beyond that, the reality is that only certain subreddits appear by default and anyone who wants to discuss how awesome Hitler was or look at blurry cellphone shots of some girl in yoga pants on the bus really has to seek the appropriate subreddit. What I do support is their right to exist, being properly monitored for any sort of illegal behavior (posting of child pornography, etc.).

What I can’t abide (without fighting someone’s right to free press) is a blogger who ruins someone’s life in order to drive traffic to their website (a website I might add, which has a section devoted to celebrity upskirt photos. Hypocrisy, thy name is Gawker). If Adrian Chen was the vigilante that I think he’s trying to portray himself as, why not go to the police if he thought something illegal was being done? How effective was ruining this guy’s life as a part of his story? The expose that he wrote would’ve brought the problem to light just as easily without ever giving out any of this guy’s personal information. But it probably wouldn’t have hit national news levels unless it was something extreme. To me, Chen is just as much a troll as VA. He used the internet to get a rise out of people and he wrecked a real human beings life as well.

The reason that I’m harder on Chen then I am VA is pretty simple. Chen claims to be better. VA is unapologetic for his gross ways. He’s like “Look, I like offending people. Deal with it.” He’s not out there pretending he’s some free speech advocate or that there’s a nobility to posting pictures of dead children. He knows who he is. Chen is pretending to be Batman. I find that insulting to Batman and anyone who knows me knows, you don’t…insult…Batman.

There’s also a bigger issue at play. Anyone who is advocating for what Chen did has to understand that, unless they are going to hypocrites, they’ll have to advocate for some other things that could occur as well. If some right wing Christian blogger decides to doxx a bunch of gay kids who are using their Reddit anonymity to find support as they work up the courage to come out of the closet and decides to post their names and addresses as a statement of moral opposition to their homosexual lifestyles, people who support Chen have to support that as well. I’m not going to be one of them and since I try not to be a hypocrite as often as possible, I won’t be lining up behind Chen.

Free speech is a beautiful thing and the internet is the most amazing invention that our generation has ever known. Obviously, people are going to take advantage of that for evil and that’s going to get press. I urge you to investigate further, to see Reddit for the community of charitable, hilarious, and creative people that they are and enjoy some cat pictures while you’re at it. There are dark and seedy sides to Reddit, but you don’t have to go there unless you want to. If you want to, more power to you. Just don’t do anything illegal and don’t support whores like Adrian Chen and trolls like Violentacruz.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Film Review: 7 Psychopaths

I’m taking the blog in a bit of a different direction. I’ve gotten tired of just writing about what’s going on in my life as there’s not much to write about most days. I’ll still be writing about whatever is on my mind, but I’ve decided to lean a little bit towards the pop culture world as that’s what I’m really passionate about. So interspersed with my ramblings about this weird thing and that, you’re going to start seeing film reviews,  probably a song of the week column, comic book news, and much, much more. I mean, who needs focus anyway?

And so, I present to you my first film review. Keep in mind, I know nothing about the technical aspects of film making (which is why I didn’t like the Master I suspect), I’m just a fan of movies of all kinds.
Now, I’m not going to bury the lead here. I loved this movie. I loved this movie before I ever sat down in the theatre. I saw a cardboard stand up ad while walking through my local Cineplex. Images of Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, and Colin Farrell went through my pupils, down my ocular nerve, and hit my brain and stimulated my pleasure center. Like a robot who had suddenly discovered the ability to love, I shouted “I want to see that movie so much!!!”

The wife and I went to a free screening last night put on by Vice magazine. We’re real movers and shakers, the wife and I. By which I mean, I sign up for contests for the free screenings put on by the marketing departments of movie studios in which people who read film and entertainment blogs can see this movie for free and take to the Twitterverse (or their blogs as the case may be) to rave about the movie if they like it and hopefully keep their mouths shut if they don’t.

So what’s this movie about? Well, there’s a ton of surprises that I don’t want to give away so here’s the base level plot. Colin Farrell is an alcoholic screenwriter. Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken are business partners. What business you ask? Well Mr. Nosey, it’s the dog kidnapping business if you must know. They take dogs from people when they aren’t looking and return them a few days later to collect a reward. Seems like a pretty good racket right?

Well one day, they steal the wrong dog. They steal the dog of a mafia crime boss played by Woody Harrelson. You know he’s a bad dude because he’s got a scorpion tattooed on the side of his neck. He has a soft side underneath his gruff and violent exterior. He loves his little Shitzu more than anything and he’ll stop at nothing to get her back. This kidnapping sets off a whole chain of events and things get way out of hand. You and me, we’re just along for the ride. 

So that’s the story, but what is this movie about? Truthfully, it’s about friendship. It’s about best friends who just want to see each other succeed and will push each other to the limit to get there. That’s really the long and short of it and it’s incredibly effective. We spend the whole movie thinking that Sam Rockwell’s character is a complete wackjob. We’re not wrong either. He’s definitely an eccentric to say the least. But through it all, he knows what he’s doing and his motivation is actually pretty pure for a con-man. He’s doing it all for Colin Farrell. 

This movie has whip smart dialogue and it never really drags. It takes twists and turns, some of which you could predict, but there’s still a ton of surprises. It’s a powerhouse cast and everyone turns in really great performances. Some might call Sam Rockwell a bit cartoonish, but it works for me and it ultimately works for the character. Christopher Walken is Christopher Walken and he’s never going to play any character in any other way. But who cares!? We love him anyway. Woody Harrelson and Colin Farell are great as always. The big surprise award goes to Tom Waits, who plays a small, but integral role that I don’t want to give away here and turns in a great performance as well. 

As we were leaving the theatre, some mustachioed hipster behind us said something to the effect of “I guess this guy never heard of Quentin Tarantino”. It’s true, this movie smacks of Tarantino in the dialogue and the style and the extreme violence, but it doesn’t feel stolen. It feels like an homage of the highest order. You know what they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. 

In summation, you could find a lot worse ways to spend 2 hours this weekend. You could be some sort of murderer or maybe you write “White Power” pamphlets. If I may be so bold, maybe you should take a break from such abhorrent behaviors and go see this movie instead.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Why I'm Voting For Obama

There are a lot of people who think that our country has not taken many steps forward since Obama took office. I disagree, but it's not hard to see why they feel that way, since we haven't taken many significant steps forward. None of this matters to me though. I'll be voting for Obama and I'll tell you why.

It's not because he said that he was in favor of medicinal marijuana but did not tell the DOJ to stop prosecuting dispensaries.

It's not because my gay friends can't get married whenever they want and wherever they want.

It's not because I'm less fearful everyday that I might lose my job and not get another one.

To be honest, I was not positive I was going to vote for Obama. For one thing, did you know his middle name is Hussein?! Like Sadam Hussein!?! But don't worry, something made my mind up for me.

That's right, Scott Stapp, lead singer of Creed, has decided that he will not be voting for Obama this year. Anything that I can do to distance myself from Scott Stapp, singer of Creed, is number one priority. It's a good thing he didn't let the world know he was planning to vote for Obama in 2008 because I don't know what would have happened.

 I just hope he never comes out against pizza.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Game Night

This weekend we got together with our good friends Paul and Whitney for our monthly (at least, attempting to be monthly) dinner and game night. I look forward to these nights so much.

Whitney is a dear friend from college and Paul is her husband. It’s so strange because on paper, Paul and I could not be more opposite. But we found a musical bond in going to punk shows and he’s someone I enjoy talking politics with because even though we have totally different views, I always learn so much from talking to him and so he’s become one of my favorite people. The wife loves these visits as well because as a bonus she gets to play with Paul and Whitney’s baby, Marianna. She’s pretty cool for something that can’t talk yet.

Paul grilled some delicious rib eye steaks and we drank wine. I decided that as long as someone else is cooking, there’s no risk for me to try some new foods so last night I tried Bok Choy and rice. I know what you’re saying. “RICE!? That's exotic?!" I know, I know. As far as I knew rice was a vegetable and those simply weren’t allowed in my mouth for the longest time. I’m now trying new foods when others are preparing them for me because I really have nothing to lose. I’ll know if I like it or not instead of just guessing and if I didn’t like it, it’s not like I’ve wasted money buying something I have to throw out. The final verdict was that if rice is prepared properly (this was sautéed in butter and them simmered in beef stock), it’s pretty delicious. Bok Choy I sadly did not care for. The bottoms were like celery, which I hate, and while the top was a new taste to me, I didn’t like it.

After dinner, we played a new game that I bought called Cards Against Humanity. Needless to say, this is not a game I’ll be bringing home to play at Thanksgiving. Basically, it’s a fucked up version of Apples to Apples where the one card will read “__________, high five bro!” and the object is to play the card that most hilariously fills in the blank, for example “The blood of Christ, high five bro.” I don’t think I’ve laughed so much in one evening in quite a long time.

The rest of the weekend was relatively relaxed. The wife ran 20 miles on Saturday, her longest run in all of marathon training. While she was out running, I went to the store and got the supplies to make a desert (Butterfinger Blondies) to take to Paul and Whitney’s as well as lasagna for Saturday night. I knew that after running 20 miles, the wife was going to need a good meal. I’d never made lasagna before, but it came out really well. I needed a win because I had been trying new recipes and failing spectacularly. I got my confidence back now which is good because we’re trying to save some money and one of our ways of reducing our grocery bill is going to be eating good foods for dinner and always making enough for leftovers.
My thinking is we’ll spend less money on canned items and frozen foods for lunches as well as eating tastier foods.

I love to cook so I’m totally fine with this plan, but it can be difficult since the train commute home after work can be pretty draining. I’m willing to put the effort in if it means improve our budget though. We’ll see how things go. I'm combing through Pinterest to get ideas for tasty and healthy (or at least, not unhealthy) meal ideas. I'd love your suggestions if you have any.