Police employees in Beverly Hills, California, have gotten the clever idea that they can effectively jam a live streaming broadcast of their activities by playing copyrighted music from their phones, thereby causing the automated filters of a platform such as Instagram to shut the video down for copyright infringement. The filters have been around for several years, and they can be either too aggressive or too timid unless monitored by a human being, presumably one with common sense.
The RKO Radio Pictures transmitter logo that signaled the beginning of a motion picture from that studio from 1929 to 1957. This image is now in the public domain.
But monitoring and moderating by a human being comes after the fact; to shut down a video in real time, the filters have to be automated and act independently. The police employees have figured this out and are now counting on the filters being set too aggressively so that they can exploit the feature for the purpose of frustrating citizens’ rights to film them as they go about their public duties at the behest and expense of the public. This tangled mess will surely end up in the courts.
Meanwhile, at this time like no other before, technology bestows benefits on those who enjoy listening to radio programs from around the world, whether that involves copyrighted music or not. Internet streaming of radio broadcasts has been around for decades, but never has access been as easy for casual listeners or the choices as broad as they are now. Radio Garden is a Dutch non-profit project that makes picking out a radio station anywhere in the world to listen to as easy as spinning the globe and then jabbing a finger at a green dot somewhere on it. Let police employees everywhere know that they are in the public’s domain, and that copyright – as easy as access to copyrighted works may be – is not theirs to wield as a baton.
The first clip here is from the 1963 Blake Edwards film, The Pink Panther. The second clip is from the 1964 film, A Shot in the Dark, also directed by Mr. Edwards. Both films starred Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau.
Tongues are wagging and fingers are busy typing all around the country about the Instagram influencer topic of “perineum sunning”. Or did the topic gain traction on Instagram from a post by a micro-influencer? Or even less popular than that? Wherever she was a week or two ago in the Instagram influencer pecking order, surely by now she is on her way to becoming a mega-influencer, if there is such a ranking.
The perineum is the part of the human body between the genitals and the anus, and according to Metaphysical Meagan, the influencer everyone is now talking and writing about, it feels good and is good for her – and possibly for you, too – to expose that area to direct sunlight for as little as less than a minute each day. Judging from pictures posted online by M. Meagan and others, the preferred method of achieving the proper exposure is lying naked on one’s back and splaying one’s legs in the air. The pictures of people baring their nether parts to the sun are hilarious.
A Miami Beach, Florida postcard from February 1967, in the Postcard Collection of the State Library and Archives of Florida.
As stupid trends go, this is relatively harmless, like mood rings or pet rocks. A few people will get rich off it, some others will buy into it and wonder why they did years later, and most will shake their heads and chuckle about it. In any event, the trend will pass soon, knocked off the radar by the next supposed big thing. The adherents of perineum sunning promote it’s dubious health benefits, and it is doubtful their claim will lead to great harm for Instagram devotees who follow prescribed practice and expose their perinea to the sun for less than a minute a day. Why talk or write about it then, and give this silliness more free publicity? Because of what this kind of ultimate silliness says about us and how we arrived at this moment.
First of all, the relatively recent phenomenon of the fascination with a suntanned physique as a sign of health and wealth is an attribute of white people generally, and of some white people with too much time and money on their hands particularly. Until the 1920s, a suntan was the mark of working class people who toiled outdoors all day for little pay, and the upper classes therefore scorned suntans and suntanned people. That flipped in the 1920s and ’30s, in some cases for worthwhile health reasons, such as the recognition that rickets was caused by a lack of vitamin D, a vitamin the skin produces upon exposure to sunlight. Other reasons had to do with displaying one’s wealth and the leisure time to be able to travel to far off, exotic locales and lie around in luxurious idleness soaking up the sun’s rays. Suddenly having a healthy glow from a tan was the in thing among the upper crust, and being pasty white was for the lower orders or the sick.
Now white folks with too much time and too much money are doffing all their clothes, lying back and flinging their legs in the air to get a warm, toasty feeling down where the sun don’t normally shine, and some of them are taking pictures of their frivolity and writing about it and distributing the goings-on to followers who eagerly soak it all in like the rays of the sun, for good or ill. Well, more power to them. It beats working for a living.
Instagram influencers are multiplying like flies, and their presence is merely annoying to most reasonable people who are not unduly affected by their activities, that is until the influencers started sitting in Joshua trees and trampling fields of California poppies. The young woman who posed for pictures while sitting in a Joshua tree often exhibits outlandish behavior to slake her thirst for attention and to cynically exploit her fans for money, and both outcomes have until now been a sideshow within the larger culture. Plants and animals don’t share any interest in Instagram idiocy, though, and when they are drawn into it and abused, then it’s up to people with common sense and a sense of decency to defend them.
A Joshua tree silhouetted by a summer sunset in the California high desert. Photo by Jessie Eastland. ThisYucca brevifolia looks quite noble in its own right, and would not be improved by the addition of some attention-seeking nitwit hanging out in its branches.
There appears to be no National Park Service ruleexplicitly forbidding visitors to Joshua Tree National Park from climbing on and sitting in the fragile trees. Maybe the Park Service assumed people had more sense and more decency than to do those things. Most people do; but rules, like locks, are not made for most people – they are made for the few without any sense or decency. The Park Service does have a rule requiring a permit for commercial photography, which Instagram photos of celebrities surely are, and if the Joshua tree sitter did bother to get a permit, the Park Service must have asked her plans, or should have. If Park Service employees granted her permission anyway, then the rules need to change, even if Joshua trees are not yet on the Endangered Species List.
The fields of wildflowers currently blooming in California are largely under the jurisdiction of California’s park system. California State Parks have rules protecting the wildflowers from being trampled by the thousands of visitors that come to see them. The main rule Instagram influencers appear to violate states that visitors should stay on the trails and not traipse off into the fields. One person going off a trail may not cause much damage, but thousands and tens of thousands doing it causes damage that can take years for nature to repair, if it ever does. Like the National Park Service, California State Parks also have a rule requiring a permit for commercial photography. The Instagram influencers and their photography crews are probably violating rules both by straying off the trails and by not getting a permit, because again, if they sought a permit they might have to be honest about their plans.
As the recent government shutdown demonstrated, the nation’s parks are staffed lightly – a Thin Gray and Green Line, if you will – and it doesn’t take much reduction in staffing to incur a breakdown in order and civility caused by a destructive minority of visitors who sneer at the idea of conservation and whose idea of enjoying nature involves only callous, swaggering domination over it. Park employees, whether at National or State Parks, have always had their hands full keeping that crowd under control so that they don’t destroy the environment along with the peaceful enjoyment of it by other visitors. Now they also have to cope with Instagram influencers, swooping in like flies, and following after them the swarms they have influenced, all bent on twisting nature to their own perverse, fairy tale vision of it. These are the self-absorbed people accidentally plunging to their deaths off cliffs in the Grand Canyon and in Yosemite while foolishly trying to take unsafe selfies.
Presumably no poppies were harmed in overlaying Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky”, from their 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon, on this scene from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. The original editions of both survive intact and can be enjoyed by themselves. It is possible to create without trampling and destroying in a pathetic attempt to call attention to oneself.
If people want to behave foolishly and others want to watch them do it, that’s their own business. Most of it is relatively harmless, even when influencers have taken to extorting hotel and restaurant owners for free lodging and food and drinks. They’re not doing anything journalists haven’t always done. It’s just that since it is easier to declare oneself an Instagram or YouTube influencer than it is to gain employment with an organization churning out reputable journalism, there are now hordes of them, descending like ravenous flies on resorts worldwide. Even the shallow influencer whose parents bought her way into a university she was supremely unqualified to enter, even she is harmless in most ways other than as any kind of role model, because in addition to her other selfish behavior, she has displayed a dearth of moral character by throwing her parents under the bus soon after the scandal made news. It is when these influencers trespass on nature that reasonable people have to object and draw a line, warning them they have gone too far and disturbed what really matters in the world. As for that fickle portion of the public, the easily influenced, they might consider how altering the title of this post applies to them, as in “Look at this, Idiot!”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his new bride, “actress” Louise Linton are the very latest models of a Washington power couple. The two gaga lovers tied the knot in June in a ceremony attended by Washington, Wall Street, and Hollywood elite. You were not invited. Mr. Mnuchin, fresh off his stint foreclosing on old ladies for his company, OneWest bank, was sworn in to his new gig as Treasury Secretary in February in an exclusive Oval Office ceremony attended by only a select few. Ms. Linton was there, because even though she and Steve hadn’t gotten hitched yet, she was still his very significant other.
Steve Mnuchin swearing in, with P. and V.P. in attendance, and the fabulous Louise Linton looking on soulfully. Now that’s acting! Wish you could’ve been there – not!
The two lovebirds have been caught up in controversy lately – oh, that liberal media! – which really amounts to nothing to people who know what’s really important, like shopping! First, the Mnuchster had to fend off a plea from his Yale (only the best schools) classmates asking him to consider resigning from his post in the administration due to some unfortunate remarks made by his boss – again, it’s the liberal media stirring up trouble! No way, he replied, I’m in this for the long haul and there’s plenty of draconian fiscal measures I have yet to implement with the boss’s blessing. Besides, all that brouhaha was stirred up by the liberal media mischaracterizing the words which spilled out of El Supremo’s mouth. The words (only the best words) would seem to indicate he is a white supremacist and a neo-Nazi sympathizer, but that’s only if you slant things by listening to the words in the order he said them.
Lionel Barrymore as the greedy, unscrupulous Mr. Potter tempts James Stewart’s George Bailey in the 1946 Frank Capra film It’s a Wonderful Life.
Shortly after that kerfuffle, the newly minted Mrs. Mnuchin, “actress” Louise Linton wrote some things on Instagram that the plebeians expressed indignation about, and Louise had to set them straight. To paraphrase, she told them to eat Little Debbie snack cakes, or whatever horrid stuff you working class dullards stuff in your mouths with your pudgy fingers. Louise and her figure are too fabulous to touch that kind of ick! Anyway, it all started with a plane trip to Fort Knox in Kentucky that Louise and hubby made – coincidentally! – on Monday, the day of the solar eclipse, in a place where the eclipse was near total. Fabulous! but a total coincidence, mind you! So there was a government plane involved, the shopping and eclipse viewing were fantastic! Eat your Little Debbie fudge fingers, or whatever they’re called, and shut up!
The talented and charming Eva Gabor sings the praises of luxury while Eddie Albert sings of integrity and honest toil. It’s not so much that they were giants in those days of the late 1960s, as that we have sunk to the bottom of the barrel since then.
That’s the news from the upper crust,your fabulous betters. You may return to your hog slopping or whatever it is you do, you pathetic prole. And pay up on that mortgage, slacker! Now go away.
“Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” ― Barry Switzer, U.S. football coach.
In 1976, the movie Network satirized the television business of the day and projected then current trends into the future, to extremes that at the time seemed preposterous. A reality show about terrorists? A planned assassination filmed live on television? Too much! Satire turned into fantasy! Looking back from over forty years later, we realize maybe it wasn’t too much. Maybe it was prophetic.
George Fenneman and Groucho Marx on “You Bet Your Life” in 1951, a quiz show where the financial stakes weren’t as important as entertaining conversation.
Thirteen years before Network appeared in theaters, the psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment at Yale University that tested how far subjects would go in administering electric shocks to other people they thought were also subjects of the experiment, but who in fact were actors. It turned out that when directed by authority figures (also actors), two thirds of the subjects giving shocks escalated the punishment to 460 volts, which is severe to the point of being dangerously debilitating. In 2010, a game show aired in France which re-enacted the parameters of the Milgram experiment in the name of televised entertainment. The producers later revealed that the show was in fact a fictitious re-enactment, with no one harmed, but most of the participants did not know that while the show was in production, nor did the studio audience. In the French game show, 80% of the subjects delivering shocks escalated them to 460 volts.
A 2012 experiment designed by the psychologist Paul Piff at the University of California-Berkeley had subjects play the board game “Monopoly,” with the rules changed to allow one subject to enjoy advantages throughout the game. The methodology and results of the experiment appear to indicate we do not so much learn the haughtiness of economic privilege as have the capacity already within us, waiting only for the switches of power and money to activate it. Economic inequality in the United States has burgeoned since the 1970s when the fictitious mad TV news anchor, Howard Beale, ranted about the inequities in American society, and the divergence between the haves and have nots has only increased since then.
The point where the 2010 French game show and the 2012 “Monopoly” experiment intersect is in describing what has become acceptable behavior for people seeking fame and fortune. Forty or fifty years ago, before YouTube and Instagram and Twitter and Facebook, fame and fortune were as like as not obtainable only after a long slog of work for most, and certainly it was rare to become an overnight sensation. Now we see that most people have sloughed off the diffidence and decorum they had when appearing in public in the age before instantaneous media saturation. Now it seems many people feel little restraint in satisfying their thirst for fame and fortune, no matter how ignominiously won, and will cast off all restraint when egged on by peers or authority figures. Now conscientiousness and civility have become quaint afterthoughts.