Monthly Archives: March 2018

Hostage Families

Cherubs

Outside of the Ice Bucket Challenge, I cannot think of anything that Facebook has been involved in that ultimately resulted in good. Right now, it’s my main platform for keeping in touch with my family over the Internet, but we could definitely switch over to other ways of communicating if only someone would teach my father how to use WhatsApp (which ironically is another company which Facebook bought).

I haven’t updated my Facebook for years now. A couple of times, hacked accounts have even posted pornographic ads on my wall, and it stayed there for days without me even noticing. I guess like many people, I have outgrown the platform and are now more into other platforms like Twitter or Instagram (again, another company which Facebook bought). It really doesn’t benefit me to distant relatives and acquaintances’ baby pictures or vacation photos. And it really doesn’t do me any good to debate people I sorta know about political issues we both believe we are experts on. That’s what Twitter is for. I get to post a comment and leave it at that. Let some stranger deal with it. I could engage with responses if I want to. It’s different on Facebook when an uncle is telling me on my wall that I’m a communist.

The biggest turn off recently is that what people have long suspected about Facebook has finally been confirmed. Cambridge Analytica was using Facebook data to manipulate elections by feeding people propaganda. This is only one company that was revealed to be using this. Who knows which other companies are using Facebook data and to what end? And Facebook is caught in a true damned if they did, damned if they didn’t situation. Either they were complicit to Cambridge Analytica using Facebook information, or they were asleep at the wheel and let their users be subject to political propaganda. They’re either evil or stupid. And the thing is, the main tool they used to reach their goals is narcissism. It’s a perfect ball of evil. It’s often narcissism that compels someone to maintain and keep up a social network page. It’s narcissism that compels someone to seek out news that reinforces their own beliefs. It’s narcissism that pushes people to share the news with like-minded people. People never do it to inform or change minds; they do it to show how well-versed they are with a subject. And it’s narcissism and boredom that compels people to take those inane quizzes and surveys that Facebook frequently posts, the main tool which people used to collect data.

And to what end? What has Facebook done? Well, at the most innocuous, they sell our data to marketers who in turn sell us more things we don’t need. At its most insidious, they allow companies data to manipulate people’s views and shift elections and policies. Or simply they sell data to companies who will in turn use it to monitor people. Just recently, news broke out that Facebook lets ICE agent track undocumented immigrants and deport them, breaking families apart. Good thing those families have Facebook. Children could use it once mommy and daddy are forced to live in another country.

The most major event I could think of that Facebook was widely credited for allowing to happen was the Arab spring. And even that event is mixed. Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube were great platforms to share what was happening out in the streets in Africa and organizing protests. But that was 2010 Facebook and fake news was not as prevalent then as it is now. Also, it is notable that Mark Zuckerberg seems more open to courting Russian and Chinese authorities to the platform as opposed to doing damage control and making sure the platform is an open and welcoming space for people living in the west, where free speech is assumed to be a priority for a company like Facebook. But going back to the Arab Spring, I don’t really think it resulted in progressive change. If anything, it set many people back in Africa. There’s more instability now. Shiite and Sunnis are fighting now more than ever. Col. Gaddafi had grand visions for Africa and kept his country together.

Anything historical or progressive Facebook pushes now I’ll always see with a cynical view. To what end are they pushing this? And if I’m getting this news or political push, surely another person is getting the exact same news but given a diametrically opposite slant.

In any case, I’m depressed enough as it is and don’t need Facebook in my life. I’m already wasting enough of my time doing other useless things. I really don’t need to scroll through people’s Facebook posts wasting more time. Well, I want to sometimes. We all want to see how wretched our past acquaintances are compared to us. We are all small, petty human beings. But I wouldn’t want a giant company to use my evil desires to enrich themselves and further their own evil agendas.

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Stormy Daniels, Slut Shaming, and the Diminishing Returns of Writing about Trump

Twitter dilemma

It’s very unsatisfying to write about US politics, especially in relation to Trump because whatever outrages me at the moment will soon be overshadowed by another scandal that is bound to come. That, plus with the myriad of controversies surrounding the administration, focusing on one scandal would seem to be doing a disservice to the other scandals/crises which are of equal importance. Just off the top of my head, on March 22, 2018, there is the Russian collusion and Trump’s piety towards Putin where he appears to be bullied/extorted right in front of the world (Putin: Say you congratulated me on my election victory. Trump: Yes, sir.), there is the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal which makes me really want to delete my long-abandoned Facebook account, there is the continuing gun crisis as well as violence against black people, there is the scandal of firing Andrew McCabe 26 hours prior to his retirement, the list goes on and on.

For now, let me focus on Stormy Daniels. There are countless of articles and videos explaining what she’s doing and why she’s doing them. Perhaps she’s doing this for money, exposure, whatever, I’m not really interested in that. She can do whatever she wants, and I really don’t hold it against her for sleeping with Trump back then (he was a goofy character on television). I don’t want to put Ms. Stephanie Clifford in too high a pedestal, but I really do admire how she handles Trump’s defenders and sycophants. Most of them attack her based on her profession and her “lack of morals,” and that’s it. That’s the tired well they keep coming back to. And since she doesn’t really get fazed by people’s slut-shaming, it’s like she’s bulletproof. She just swats their insults off like ugly background noise. And ultimately, isn’t that the nightmare of the conservative male? A strong woman (many of them want to sleep with) who has full control of her sexuality and is unfazed by their slut-shaming?

If Internet statistics are to be believed, the biggest consumers of online pornography in the United States are those living in the Bible Belt. So the same men slut-shaming women who are fighting for their rights, be it the right to use contraception or the right to use their body any way they please, are the same men who probably have had Stormy Daniels cross their screens once or twice when their wives are not at home. It’s a really perverse twisting of self-hate and guilt, and I know self-hate and guilt. I’m a depressed Catholic.

Anyway, it is amazing how so many of Trump’s supporters are willing to ignore his sins while casting stones at Ms. Clifford. I feel like someone should remind them that they’re not married to Donald Trump. They don’t have to live in denial about their partner’s sins. I read one Twitter supporter proclaim that all of Stormy Daniels’ fans are disgusting. This ignores the fact that prior to all of this, Trump was actually a fan of Stormy Daniels, probably one of her biggest fans, enough to send her $130,000. Most men have admired women in pornography before. Many have been obsessed with porn stars. But not many could say they spent $130,000 on one.

In any case, should the whole Stephanie Clifford saga simply just be about her making a name for herself or selling a book or whatever, she’s still coming out of this whole thing not only ethically from a higher ground, but she’s also using a much smarter strategy and employing a savvier lawyer/promoter. She’s never professed to be a good Christian and was never forgiven by evangelical leaders, unlike Donald Trump who has been nothing but a hypocrite throughout this whole thing. If she’s doing this for monetary gain to the detriment of Trump’s marriage, have you ever known Trump to respect other people’s marriages and spouses? Nope. He insulted Ted Cruz’s wife and also McCabe’s. Trump didn’t even respect his own marriages. And really, we can’t really fault her for doing this for monetary gain. Trump has hurt so many people for monetary gain or even just through his public actions (Central Park Five, anyone?). When was the last time Ms. Clifford’s work hurt anyone?

And yeah, Ms. Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, could teach Trump’s legal team a thing or two about looking sane on television while shamelessly plugging his own agenda. I also doubt if Mr. Avenatti would be paying for his clients sexual dalliances through a home equity loan. Seriously, where did Trump’s lawyers get their JDs?

Well, before this gets too long, here’s to Ms. Clifford or Stormy Daniels. May you get whatever you want out of all of this! I really hope the 60 Minutes special does not disappoint. It’s very telling when the only two people Trump does not attack on Twitter are Putin and Ms. Clifford. Please, live up to the hype. And keep on making Trump supporters hate themselves for wanting to be with you while slowly destroying their orange father figure.

*Update: As I post this, Karen McDougal, a former Playboy playmate who had an affair with Trump, is now on television talking to Anderson Cooper about their affair. Also, Trump just tapped one of the chief architects and cheerleaders of the Iraq War, John Bolton, as National Security Adviser. Congratulations, people who voted for Trump because Hilary Clinton was a hawk. As I look back on the entry, it just seems so old now. But then again, I’m sure we’ll be back to talking about Ms. Clifford come Sunday.

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Space Death

Woman

Jumping from a building to your death is probably the most basic ways people can kill themselves. With enough height, forget the cracking of bones, the exploding of skulls, and the damage done to tissue upon impact. Forget all of that. Those are minor things compared to the grandeur at play. It is the collision of a human body with planetary forces. This is a person being killed by physics. Just as we are all ultimately born from the remnants of ancient dead stars, this is a planet ultimately killing a person. Just as a little bit of sunlight doesn’t usually hurt people but it will kill a person if they manage to fly out into space and come close enough to the sun, so too would the Earth’s gravity kill a person should they decide to embrace it freely from a distance of over ten floors. It is space death without the spaceship. Imagine floating in space and colliding with a wayward asteroid. But with jumping off a building, you are colliding with a planet populated by people you couldn’t care less about anymore. Your horizon is now shifted by 90 degrees, and it is the weight of the Earth slamming on you, with all its continents, mountains, forests and seas. All of the Earth’s trees, creatures, and secrets crush you as the planet’s gravitational pull over you infinitely overwhelm your own gravitational pull towards the planet. It’s like a heroic death envisioned by Ray Bradbury. When people get hit by vehicles, people would describe it as such. Greg got hit by a bus. Susan was crushed by a train. But with jumping off buildings, “Joe slammed into the planet Earth.” It just sounds more epic. Should I jump to my death, I think it would only be fitting to wear a spacesuit. Maybe wear a blindfold to emulate the darkness of space, drink tons of alcohol to get courage and emulate space sickness, and wear earphones to listen to some music and drown out the outside noise. Astronauts listen to music, don’t they?

The only thing I could think of that would be more primordial would be breathing in helium, one of the early gases in the universe. The problem with this however is that setting up a helium bubble takes a lot of human aspect and design to make it happen. It’s not very primordial, is it? Also, most helium distributors now sell canisters with enough oxygen in them to make sure they cannot be used for probably one of the most comfortable ways to commit suicide. I’d call these companies killjoys, but that term doesn’t really make much sense in this scenario.

Despite the rather grim entries these past few days though, I am not seriously thinking of killing myself. I feel like that is something that has to be said. It is weird how talking about suicide always has to be prefaced by saying, “I’m not thinking of killing myself, but…” And even if you mentioned that, regardless of how explicit your warning is or how happy you appear to be, people will always be thinking that you’re suicidal or depressed to some degree. It’s like saying, “I’m not racist, but…” You will always sound racist no matter what you say to finish that sentence. Some bigoted commentary and suicidal musings cannot be uttered without being thought of as being a bigot or suicidal. Anyway, I’m not suicidal, but I’ve been thinking a lot about jumping off tall buildings lately, that and dying in space.

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Forgetting Me

Rabbit Headlights

After the last couple of days, I now believe that the animated movie ‘Coco’ was teaching a bad lesson. It had great things to say about family, but the part about remembering dead relatives is a tad misguided.  The lesson needed tempering. Sure, it is only natural to remember our loved ones long before they’re gone, maybe even learn some lessons about their lives especially if they’ve made a significant impact to their families or the larger community while they were alive. But outside of that, I’m not sure if it really benefits the dead in the most pragmatic sense.

It has been a very rough recently around me. People have been dealing with health issues, with some having the possibility of passing in a few days or so. With this rather depressing mood, I’ve been thinking how things truly are for the dead once they have passed. Life does not stop. And I believe we sometimes overvalue our impact in other people’s lives, which is part of the reason why we fear death. What about my wife? What about my family?

They will all eventually move on.

If there’s one valuable thing that Facebook has taught people is that people do eventually get over you. People move one after a person’s metaphorical “death” in their lives. Our old classmates, co-workers, and exes have fulfilling lives without us. They move on and we become strangers to them, as much as they probably become strangers to us. “Boy, he’s gained weight since I last saw him.” “Oh wow, she’s got kids now.” Life does not stop. We might not have died, but we might as well have because they wouldn’t really know at this point if we did. And I’m not really sure if it benefits me if any of these people from an earlier part of my life, as wonderful as they are, remembers me. A part of me thinks wanting people to remember you is a tad arrogant.

If my church teachings are to be believed, the secrets of the universe will be unveiled to you right after you die. Your plate is full right after you die. You’ve got the whole world and beyond to know and experience. Do you really want others to suffer long after you’re gone? Do their remembrances and broken hearts make the secrets of the universe that more appealing? Wouldn’t time at that point be meaningless and we’ll eventually see all of our living relatives in what is equivalent to a millisecond?

One of the reasons why I don’t have children is that I don’t want to burden others with my death. It’s one of my regrets with marriage. Should something happen to me, I don’t want my wife suffering long after I’m gone. It would be far better for me to die single in a lightly attended funeral than to leave behind a widow who will struggle her life back together after I’m gone. But then again, maybe that’s the “remember me” arrogance talking. I married a strong woman. I’m sure she’ll move on just fine without me.

So yeah, I think there’s comfort remembering our loved ones. Memories of my mother still warm my heart, followed by bouts of longing and depression. I can’t help it. But yeah, in my case, it’s arrogant to ask people to remember me after I’m gone. Perhaps the kinder and better message would be “Forget me. Live a good life without me.”

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