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Free at Last? September 26, 2006

Posted by earthlingconcerned in Richard Nixon.
8 comments

I haven’t written anything for a while, and for that, do apologize. I am working on something and it should hopefully see the light within the next day or two. But in the mean time, here’s a wee little breakdown about something I found humorous while reading The Fate of Africa: From the Hopes of Freedom to the Heart of Despair (Martin Meredith):

GhanaIn 1957, Ghana became the first black African country to gain independence from the shackles of colonialism. This was the beginning of the eventual independence of the entire continent which since then had gone through growing pains that are barely improving today. Not wanting to enter into the discussion about the mistakes that have transpired since those early days of independence, I will like to bring you back to the hope and joy that were present early on.

After Britain pronounced the country’s independence on 6 March 1957, messages of congratulation came in from leaders around the world. Delegations arrived from fifty-six countries exuding warmth and goodwill. Britain sent the Duchess of Kent; the Chinese sent a general in a turquoise blue uniform; the Russians, a junior minister, with a fistful of invitations to Moscow and South Africa sent a delegation (albeit, an all white one). The United States made one of the largest gestures of respect by sending then Vice President Richard Nixon as a representative.

It was said that his enthusiasm was shown through his consistent handshaking, hugging local chiefs, holding babies while posing for photographs and so and such. At some point during all of this commotion, he slapped one man on the shoulder and asked him how it felt to be free. To which he replied, “I wouldn’t know, sir, I’m from Alabama.

What a world it was, and still is.

6th Generation wiiPod announced! Sony PS3 Manufacturing plant explodes! (Video on Youtube) September 18, 2006

Posted by earthlingconcerned in wii.
2 comments

Fanboy: (n) Technocratic zealots; evangelicals of geekery. Characterized by irrational advocacy of a particular OS, console, company, or franchise. (urbandictionary.com)

I’ve been a Digg reader for well over a year and consider it one of, if not my favorite websites (along with Wikipedia). As of late, however, I’ve noticed a steady increase in fanboyism in some topics that should be quite obvious to anyone who reads Digg regularly. Diggers are obsessing over Nintendo’s Wii (and conversely, hating on Sony’s PS3), they’re suddenly in love with every single Apple rumor ever published and to a much lesser degree, making the site a Youtube portal. However, everything does happen for a reason. Not allowing Digg conspiracies to interfere with my point, if the majority of Diggers are hugely fanatic over certain topics, so be it, but I’m going to continue writing regardless.

Let’s start with PS3 and wii shall we? A quick 7 day search for all stories submitted on Wii will come up with 46 pages of results. The same search for front page stories comes up with 5 pages of results (meaning just under 11% of Wii stories make it to the front page). On the other hand, the same 7 day searches for “ps3” (searching for “playstation 3” has nearly identical results) for example, come up with 12 pages for total submitted, and a measly 1 for front page stories (just over 8% chance of making it to the front page). But if you take a look at what those front page articles are about, you’ll find that most of them are either bashing Sony, or are really just a pro-Wii story in disguise. The results are nowhere near what one might expect in coverage from the largest tech news site on the web. So what’s causing all the fanboy commotion? What are people writing about Wii?

In the last week alone, there have been 5 front page stories on the expected, and ultimately the confirmed release date of Wii. Four on the same day, saying the same thing, getting far more Diggs than your average front page article (three were in the 700 Digg range with one breaking the 2000 Digg mark). Then there are other front page stories that border on ridiculous. There’s the exclusive photos of the Wii retail kiosk that look like they were taken by the same guy who brought you those pictures of Nessie or Big Foot. A story with the title “Will Wii $150?!!! Vibe Magazine thinks so”, received 611 Diggs based some random scan of some random magazine. Finally, and most importantly of all, when the Wii packaging (aka. the box) was revealed, 1607 deemed it Diggworthy. The majority of the other Wii articles are based around screenshots or videos of upcoming games, how Nintendo stock is up and Sony stock is down and most constant reminder that Wii won’t ship with a DVD playback. All of this hype reminds me a little bit of myself when I was younger. Starring at the toys section of the Sears catalogue or dreaming about the day I would be able to feel the awesome power of 64bit when GamePro had a full-page spread of its Jaguar (thankfully, I never ended up getting the system). Younger indeed. According to a recent, highly scientific (cough) study, 50% of Digg users are between 17 and 24 years of age. That encompasses everyone from the youngin’ who is experiencing the online hype of an upcoming console for the first time (spunktacular!) to those who are becoming nostalgic during their quarter life crisis for the days of Nintendo yore.

Then there’s Apple.

Going back to my very unimpressive search results statistics, there have been a whopping 74 pages worth of submissions with Apple in the title in the last 7 days, with 7 pages worth making it to the front page. That’s about 9.5% of all Apple submissions making some money for duggmirror. I understand that there have been some big announcements in the world of Apple in the last week, but just about 100 front page stories (1099 total submitted!) on a very similar topic is a bit much for such a short time span. As for what these stories are about, a similar trend can be seen to that which was mentioned above with the Wii stories. There are countless rumors ranging from the confirmation of 6th generation IPods, Touch-Screen IPods, Apple Phone and how Apple’s recent price readjustment has caught Microsoft by surprise (think of the Wii = Good/PS3 = Bad stories). A lot of these rumors are started by sites who’s only bit of credibility is having a registered domain name. Sadly, as I am using a lowly WordPress sub domain, nothing I have ever written should be taken seriously and is most definitely blog spam. It all feels like the National Inquirer section of Digg. Then there are photos of IPod Nano docking stations, what an IPod looks like from the inside, and similarly irrelevant (how dare he!) stories. Granted, there are several other quality stories out there, but even many of those (Re: all of the repetitive stories on glitches/memory issues with iTunes 7).

What’s left? Well, there’s Youtube of course. Of the 88 pages of youtube related submissions (most of them video links), 6 pages worth made it to the front page. That’s a mere 6.8% front page hit rate. It seems like Digg is simply acting as an unnecessary middle man when it comes to these videos because the search feature on youtube.com seems fairly accurate. Is this Pointcast 2.0? But hey, I’m a Youtube fanboy myself so I’ll leave it at that.

So what does this all mean? . There’s also the idea that the fanboy has ongoing illusions of grandeur. Wii might crash and burn when people remember that Playstation 2 was good not only for the graphics, but because the games were in fact fun to play. Remember, it’s possible to have your cake and eat it too. The recent Wii hype seems to suggest you can’t have it both ways. Similarly like what everyone who thought so much of the “Snakes on a Plane” hype only to see the movie bomb at the box office. I also have a feeling the trends mentioned in this article will increase in the coming months. Partially because release dates are nearing and so and such, but also because the community is growing. Just like the peoples of any given country have a similar culture, so too will future Diggers. You’ll find more Wii and Ipod talk on Digg then you ever would on Slashdot in its long and storied past. But if you really hate Microsoft and love Linux, Slashdot may be your cup of tea. So what am I doing on Digg in the first place? To be honest, I’m looking forward to Wii just as much as you are. Sometimes I just like writing. I hear that’s what makes people cool.

ipod dock wii retail kiosk Ipod Wii

The Fall from Nancy Grace (How to Produce a Suicide) September 13, 2006

Posted by earthlingconcerned in Suicide.
59 comments

The majority of you out there who get CNN Headline News and Court TV will know of Nancy Grace, self appointed avenger of the wrongs committed by the judicial system. Her pompous, arrogant and ultra aggressive attitude has always been part of her reckless persona in the past. The methods in dealings with the Elizabeth Smart, Michael Jackson and Scott Peterson cases (just to name a few) have all been shrouded with controversy. However, as of today, her approach may have been the catalyst to the suicide of Melinda Duckett, the mother of 2-year old Trenton who went missing a few weeks ago.

On September 7th, Melinda was interviewed on Grace’s CNN show and was hounded to be clear about whether she had taken a polygraph, and where she was shopping when her son before he went missing. During the interview, Nancy continuously pounded on her desk demanding, Where were you? Why aren’t you telling us where you were that day? It’s this kind of respectful tone and professionalism that has helped promote her to that of a royal bitch. The mother was never officially considered as of a suspect until after her death (although she was questioned by investigators as would be expected in any open kidnapping case) but Nancy sure made it appear that way. Melinda’s grandfather disputed that she had any involvement in the disappearance of her son (also to be expected) and seemed to place some blame on Nancy regarding the suicide by saying, “Nancy Grace and the others, they just bashed her to the end. She wasn’t one anyone ever would have thought of to do something like this. She and that baby just loved each other, couldn’t get away from each other. She wouldn’t hurt a bug.” Ultimately, she did worse to herself. So what does Nancy have to say about what happened? She’s guilt free of course! On Monday evening, she said that, “I do not feel our show is to blame for what happened to Melinda Duckett, Melinda committed suicide before that interview ever aired.”

I will say that the mothers actions were quite suspicious. It’s possible that she is guilty of something much more horrible than her own suicide. Finding out those truths, however, should be left to the investigators. During the September 13th episode, the two major ”breaking developments” that were discussed about the case was that Melinda and her 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse were seen near a construction site and also that she had attempted to sell the child seat from her car days before his disappearance. Suspicious indeed. My favorite moment in investigative reporting came when a caller suggested that, “since she was trying to sell the car seat, was it possible that she was trying to sell Trenton?” Nancy replied that she had thought of this on a number of occasions and quickly asked the waiting, former FBI agent, Mike Brooks, “What can you tell us about the idea that this child was actually sold?” Thanks to all the hard evidence which included the apparent sale of an infant car seat, a random caller, and a few supposed previous thoughts by Nancy, Mr. Brooks replied, “The possibility of him being sold, that’s something that should be looked into if it’s not already.” Case Closed! Actually, the world already has one James Frey. Furthermore, Joshua Duckett, the estranged husband, came to Nancy’s defense by claiming that no one made her appear on the show in the first place.

And now for a brief history lesson on Nancy Grace and the realities of television.

As mentioned earlier in this post. Nancy has been surrounded by controversy before. She fabricated many of the details of her fiancé’s 1979 murder. She continuously proclaimed that Richard Ricci (a suspect in the Elizabeth Smart case who later died in prison) was guilty, regardless of how little evidence was available against him. If you want an example of her in your face approach, please take a look at the following video:

This cheap, insincere approach at getting a good story regardless of the consequences defines Nancy Grace perfectly. Furthermore, during an interview on the Larry King Live, she continued to blast Scott Peterson’s father for coming to his defense long before he was found guilty of the crime. She also repeatedly made light of the Michael Jackson by showcasing the book, The Boy: A Photographic Essay, that was found in Michael Jackson’s bedroom during his most recent molestation trial. Regardless of whether or not her comments that he was found not guilty by reason of celebrity were humorous, she continues to step over the line. Not that I am a member of the Nancy Grace goon squad, but to suggest that no one made Melinda appear on the show seems a bit ridiculous to me.

In Chapter four of Laura Grindstaff’s, The Money Shot: Trash, Class, and the Making of TV Talk Shows, she discusses the efforts television producers go through to make great television. Dealing primarily with daytime television shows such as The Jerry Springer Show, Diana, and Maury Povich, the chapter discusses how the producers spend time with the upcoming guests, treat them like royalty, hint at what is expected and ultimately discard them as old news after taping wraps up. Supposedly there is a well known industry saying that goes, “Bring’em in by limo, send ‘em home by cab.” To suggest that Melinda Duckett woke up one morning and said to herself, “I’m going to give Nancy Grace a call, she’ll rid me of all my worries” is simply preposterous. The producers of the show surely wrangled her on with promises and reassurances that it was the right thing to do. In Laura Grindstaff’s book, she tells her readers that talk show guests are treated like Gods prior to tapings. Private dressing rooms or trailers (complete with name tags) are set up so that the aura of television is truly felt. The truth is always sought after but the exaggeration thereof is what producers are paid for. Considering we’re all brought up around television, and Melinda is no exception, when her telephone interview was conducted, she must have felt the pressure. With what is known about television production (it is after all a studied profession), what she was told to expect and what Nancy Grace dropped onto her are presumably completely different. Similarly with the video above, it seems obvious from Elizabeth Smarts reactions, that if she had known she would have been drilled about the kidnappings, she would not have come onto the show in the first place. So the interview ends, then what?

Then the producer finds the next story, Nancy Grace prepares her make-up and Melinda Duckett hangs up the phone in an even frailer state. Raw human emotions cannot be shut off at the end of a taping or the click of the phone. After the taping of a segment about gang violence on Maury Povich, a mother whose son was killed by a gang member remained so agitated by an argument with an audience member that she picked a fight with her friend who accompanied her to the taping. People are not props. Other times, guests will stay in the studio long after the taping, chatting away with the audience and signing autographs. I’m not saying producers are all heartless. Laura Grindstaff quotes one of the producers of the failed television show Diana with the following:

“I found producing too gut-wrenching, I just didn’t have the thick skin or whatever it is other producers seem to have. I’ll never forget this one show — this lady’s child was abducted right out of the home. Her pain was so great that it tore me up into pieces and I had to walk out of the studio halfway through the show because I was so emotional.” – The Money Shot: Trash, Class, and the Making of TV Talk Shows (Laura Grindstaff)

How relevant is that? But the fact remains, everything about the television you watch is rigorously being produced behind the scenes. Sometimes the reality of humanity is forgotten. Regardless of the innocence or guilt of the mother, for Nancy to suggest that her interview had nothing to do with the suicide is complete and utter garbage. One thing remains crystal clear in this story, that is that Melinda Duckett was alive every day during her 21 plus years on this planet, and that one day after the interview, she was not.

Pope, Please Stay out of Canadian Politics September 12, 2006

Posted by earthlingconcerned in Uncategorized.
3 comments

Ontario Bishops were lectured by Catholic Pope Benedict XVI during a routine meeting that takes place every five years. Among other things, the pope suggested that Canada has gone too far by legalizing abortion and gay marriages throughout the country. Suggesting that, “In the name of tolerance, your country has had to endure the folly of the redefinition of spouse and, in the name of ‘freedom of choice,’ it is confronted with the daily destruction of unborn children.” All is well and good, I suppose, the Vatican’s stance on these issues is nothing new. But he went on to suggest that the Catholic members of parliament should be aware of this by saying, “Catholic involvement in political life cannot compromise on this principle.” What I take from his comments is that he suggests that catholic members of parliament use their power to change things back to the way he thinks things should be. Considering nearly 44% of Canadians claim to be Roman Catholic, I predict there are a lot of members of parliament to whom the message is directed at. Yet, considering the population of Canada is generally a moderate one, I doubt these papal demands will launch any new debate regarding abortion and gay marriage within parliament. Note will be taken, and life will surely go on as usual.

Regardless of this, it frustrates me that the pope wishes to use his dwindling influence in the political sphere. Canada doesn’t have a state religion, the pope’s influence should be absent in the house of commons. The Separate School Board of Ontario (Ie. Catholic) is already publicly funded thanks to section twenty-nine of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Similar to what has been seen so many times throughout history, equal rights for all generally comes with special rights for some. As the country’s most popular religions, Roman Catholics and Protestants are granted these special rights in terms of government funding in their schools schools. Considering this exclusive funding, I find it humorous that the Pope suggested earlier this year that Canada was, “suffering from the pervasive effects of secularism”. It’s not as if the government isn’t trying, considering the separate school system remains (regardless of UN suggestions that the selective rights system was unfair). Just like the tobacco companies have always known, it’s better to get them while they’re young.

From my experience, as someone who was in the separate school board until high school, the Pope truly has a huge advantage as far as recruitment goes. I was a believer and followed through with all the rituals and customs that went along with the faith. I believed in the body and blood of Jesus Christ just as I would have believed in Xenu, the alien ruler of the Galactic Confederacy, had Scientology been the dominant religion. I suppose that the Pope is merely doing his job, to spread his faith to the people. Right after saying that Canadians were suffering the pervasive effects of secularism as mentioned above, he suggested that, “the plummeting birth rate” was proof of it. What more proof could one need. The direct correlation between not believing in the Catholic God and birth rate has always been known. China and India, and most of Africa (after colonialism) for example, are all countries which have some of the largest catholic populations in the world and therefore have huge populations. Mind you, none of that is true. Population control is something Catholicism discusses, but so has every other culture throughout history. This has become a mess of an entry. In regards to the Pope’s suggestion that Canadians have been allowed too many rights (gay marriage) and that Catholic MPs should do something about it, Gilles Marchildon pointed out, that to his surprise, “the pope doesn’t realize that gate can swing both ways.” Indeed, one of these days, the government may have enough of the Vatican’s attempted influence and restrict the special rights given to the Catholics in the country.