Lessons for the Information Age

Two decidedly opposite opinions on The Internet’s effects emerged in it’s early days, and persist even now.  These criticisms and praises of the net are only becoming more relevant each day.  Folks from futurists, to anarchists cherish the web’s ability to make information available worldwide.  Conversely, many people are concerned about the spread of disinformation at everyone’s fingertips.

Facebook rose to popularity in the early 2000s, and has since seen younger users drift away from their site.  Facebook, as a business, has an interest in keeping a large user-base.  Secret algorithms used by Facebook, and perhaps every social media platform, control what content users are shown.  These algorithms exploit Confirmation Bias, among other biases, to keep users coming back to their site.   Products of Facebook, Twitter, and Google present you with what you want to see.  One reason, is so that users aren’t discomforted  by cognitive dissonance and other “negative” emotional responses to their site.  This isn’t any one user’s fault.  These algorithms promote content that is similar to things you’ve liked, viewed, or searched for previously.  This is a systemic problem that happens behind-the-scenes of your favorite websites, and is mostly beyond your control.

That being said, The Internet is a powerful tool, which can be used for good.  It’s easier than ever to expose corruption by putting information online where everyone can see it.  When a website is cited, you can easily click to check any claims without even getting out of your seat.  Additionally, you can use search engines to instantly find facts and trustworthy sources.

“For true democracy to work, people need easy access to independent, diverse sources of news and information.” —democracynow.org/about

With claims from both sides that the media is unfairly for/against Trump or Hillary, these key ideas are incredibly relevant.  While we are all vulnerable to the virus of misinformation, advertisement, and propaganda, there are also ways to protect ourselves:

  1. Seek out a wide variety of content:  This is something I strive for every time I am reading the news or researching something.  If you normally get all your news from John Oliver, try watching videos made by people who have different views and backgrounds than you.  This is important for seeing both sides of every argument, and then coming up with your own balanced views.  Also, it sort-of messes with some website’s algorithms, because then you’ll get recommended content that isn’t just an echo of what you want to hear, but a broad collection of ideas.
  2. Check it: see an allegation without any sources to back it up?  Look for more info on that topic.  Just because a rich/high profile person said-so, doesn’t make it true.  Honestly, I don’t even trust so-called fact-checkers and fact-checking websites–I’d rather find out on my own than being assured something is true with little explanation.
  3. Follow the money:  Newspapers, tv programs, websites, even documentaries all get funding somehow, from somewhere.  Newspapers are almost always owned by a larger company, and they have a bottom line.  Always consider how money could be influencing the content these sources, which citizens rely on to be well-informed, put out there.  One site I like for getting my news is Democracy Now, although I do get information from elsewhere(see no.1), because they are a non-profit organization.

The wild internet is a tricky place.  Citizens of the internet need to protect themselves(and everyone else) from, and for, information.

The Harvest 3.5/5 STARS

Yes, yes, I’ve got a movie review for you!  I’m a sucker for dark movies, but I thought this one–The Harvest–was worth recommending.  As someone who has trouble sitting through long movies, I found The Harvest(1hr 44min) very watchable.  From start to finish, the pacing was perfect.  I’d like to add that this movie deals with the death of one’s child, among other sensitive topics, so keep that in mind if you’re sensitive to that.  Even I was on edge, mouth twisted in disgust when things really started to get creepy.

A sickly boy(Charlie Tahan) is isolated from the outside and other children, “to keep his strength.”  His abusive mother(Samantha Morton) is a doctor, and mild father(Michael Shannon) a nurse.  When mounting evidence shows that the mother doesn’t truly care about the boy’s longevity, only the neighbor girl(Natasha Calis) can shine light on this dark family.  All of the characters in The Harvest are believable, with familiar dynamics that hearken to real life.  For example: the mother puts the father down by reminding him he’s just a nurse, and she an MD.  The father, conversely, resents her status as a doctor.

The movie opens with a pleasant scene: kids are playing baseball, parents yelling encouragements from the bleachers.  One kid, Bobby, is hit with the ball and flops to the ground, unresponsive.  Adults crowd around him, but you can hear a woman calling: “Please, let me through… I’m his mom. Let me through.”  Bobby is taken to hospital and saved.  His mother, relieved, thanks the doctor with a hug.  This seemingly inconsequential scene will not make sense until the very end of the movie.  Actually, I went back and watched the opening again because I had nearly forgotten it as it seemed totally unrelated.  Folks, I was wrong.  Go back and watch the beginning again if you need to: it really frames the message of the movie.


Sidenote: The Harvest is available on Canadian Netflix.

 

The Great Canadian Potato (Am I a Food Genius?)

I just took a baked potato out of the fridge, split it and half, and poured maple syrup on it.  Starchy and sweet, it’s a delicious oddity.  I call it: The Great Canadian Potato.

The Great Canadian Potato

Ingredients:

  • 1 Potato
  • Some maple syrup
  • Bacon bits(?)

Instructions:

  Take a baked potato and cut it in half.  You can either serve it warm or serve it chilled.  Pour maple syrup on top. Add any other condiments on top, I think some bacon bits would be great.  And there you have it: The Great Canadian Potato!

Peering Through a Canadian Perspective

The Gravedigger’s Art:  https://books.google.ca/books/about/The_Gravedigger_s_Art.html?id=qd8ymAEACAAJ&redir_esc=y

Front Cover

This is a really great book of poems by a Canadian, Owen Hughes.  I picked it up out of curiosity and enjoyed it very much.  If you know the author, please let me know, I can’t find this guy anywhere online and would like to know if he has written anything else and where his career has gone.  Seriously, Owen Hughes, let’s get in touch!

The Mask You Live In 4/5 STARS

When men complain about the pressure to be tall and muscular, they’re right.  They’re absolutely right that they’re expected to be physically imposing.  At it’s worst, they’re expected to assert their power through violence.  And, underneath the posturing, they are forced to hide their feelings.

The Mask You Live In, available on Canadian Netflix, lays all of the ways we set boys up for failure out in the open.  Most of us are desensitized to the messages beaten into us, that we become blind.  Not just physically, but psychologically, by the way we talk, what we watch, and who we idolize.

A few criticisms I’d make is that it’s alluded that boys watching “bondage porn” are somehow more toxically masculine.  While porn is a problem in the ways it portrays sex, I don’t really agree with the insinuated evil of kink/BDSM.  I’d like to add that different ways of having sex are fine as long as they are consensual.  I wish they had had a sex educator in the documentary explain this point…

Overall, I agreed with the film’s main ideas.  It covered the causes and effects of Toxic Masculinity and the Demonization of Femininity.  The Mask You Live In made me very emotional in spots: I teared up, and I’m not one to cry during movies.  Most of the time, I was just nodding my head.

“Water Damage Restoration” Was Not What I Was Looking For

Did you know: ottawagoth.ca is a website for a company that cleans up wet homes.  It is not a website about goths.  I’m super disappointed.  Additionally, did you know there’s a Goth Avenue in Ottawa?  Spooky!  And I found this dead blog of a young man recounting his experiences of being goth in the 90s, in Ottawa.

“I hate the 95. The bus drivers are always so rude, the people are always the weirdest you can find, and this bus, more than any other in Ottawa had people who don’t understand bus etiquette.
But for $1.75 at the time, we could go to the market.”

goth-ottawa.blogspot.ca

Feel free to contact me if I’ve mentioned your website!

Interesting Experiences in The City

A stranger at the bus stop yesterday politely came up to me and said I had, “really cool makeup, man.”  This really brightened my afternoon when I just wanted to go home and sleep.  This is in contrast to being catcalled a week or so ago.  Some faith in my fellow metropolitans has been restored.

(That was the first and only time I’ve been catcIMG_1723alled, I now reconsider wearing skirts when I’m going out as they seem to make some straight men see me in a whole different light.  Now I just dress like a like a spooky androgyne–not your sex object now, huh?)

Innes Road Injustice

Mutiur Rehman believes he’s Jesus, and that he is Tupac‘s prodigy.  Yes, that Tupac, the deceased rapper we’re all familiar with.  Before you laugh, consider this: how long can you be alone, before you start to hallucinate?

According to accounts from Rehman’s family members, it took him about a year to start hearing things.  In total, he spent 18 months in solitude against his will.

This all happened at the infamous Innes Road jail in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  This jail has been under scrutiny for its inhumane treatment of inmates; including locking them in shower rooms, overcrowding, and its use of solitary confinement.

Now, Mutiur Rehman has received a diagnosis of schizophrenia, an illness that can be exacerbated by stress.  His mother and father believe the stress and loneliness of being in prison for two years caused him to hear voices.

It’s irrelevant why Rehman was in the Innes Road jail, and what he did or didn’t do.  Inmates aren’t monsters or demons deserving of punishment: they are human beings.  Fundamentally,  people do not deserve abuse.

 

To help you understand Schizophrenia a bit better, I have added some videos to this post: