Tag Archives: Internet

Don’t Look Now

By Larry Day

Some years ago a stand-up comedian who was known for his self-deprecating humor, was arrested for fighting in a bar after his show. The comedian had smacked his opponent in the face. When the case got to court and the judge asked the comedian how the fight started.

“He laughed at me,” said the comedian.

There are nearly five billion websites in cyberspace. There are more than a billion unique You Tube users on the planet. There are six billion hours of video in 61 languages on the World Wide Web.

In this interconnected world, millions of people use Internet to invite total strangers into their lives. They invite everyone from elderly Mongolians in Ulan Bator, to Argentine teenagers in Mar del Plata, to connect to their websites and view intimate details of their lives. Then these website owners are stunned to find out that crooks, scam artists, identity thieves, Internet marketers, and digital sales representatives have honed in on their websites and have exploited the information they found there.

That comedian became rich and famous by inviting audiences to laugh at his fabricated foibles. But when a stranger in a bar laughed at one of his real foibles, the comedian doubled his fists and started swinging. Lots of folks are like that comedian. They spread their personal information all over the Internet. But they get mad as hell when they hear that authorities are analyzing Internet data flow patterns to see if they can find information that might thwart a terrorist attack. Whoa. Whoa! That’s a violation of people’s privacy.

Finding out what constitutes acceptable government surveillance and what is considered unacceptable prying, is a valuable process. Most of that process is serious, but sometimes it can be funny.

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Consider this story: Back in 2010 forty-year-old Ginger Pitchfork of Mound Tree, Texas, phoned the U.S. Census Bureau to lodge a complaint. She said a census worker had called and asked about her marital status and her vaccination history. Ginger said that Census call was an unwarranted government intrusion into her privacy. What was hilarious was that at the time Ginger was operating a website that chronicled intimate details of her love life.

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And how about this?: A herd of pigs broke out of their sty on a Midwest farm and ran down to a four lane highway. Kurk and Wadley, a couple of forty-something city dwellers, were driving along in a heavy duty pickup truck and saw the pigs. They decided to round up the pigs and put them in the truck and drive them to a nearby stockyard.

Kurk and Wadley figured that since they had found the pigs on the highway it was a “finders keepers,” and they offered to sell the herd to the stockyard manager for $200.

The stockyard manager declined their offer, and retrieved ownership data from tattoos on the pigs’ ears. He called the owner. The owner was looking for the pigs and was not far from the stockyards. When he arrived, the owner thanked Kurk and Wadley, and gave them each$40. Then he loaded up his pigs and drove back to the farm.

Wadley and Kurk were fascinated and amazed. They didn’t know how the pigs had been identified. They jumped the conclusion that there was a government surveillance system so powerful that it could even keep track of an obscure herd of pigs.

Kurk and Wadley organized a series of workshops to tell their story. They told those who attended: “If the government can spy on a herd of Midwest pigs, what do you think it’s finding out about you and your family?”

After that, Wadley and Kurk found what they considered evidence of government surveillance in virtually every aspect of U.S. life. So they set up a network of vigilance websites to warn people of an impending dictatorship that would take over the country as soon as the government had processed all its surveillance data. Kurk and Wadley shut the website down after it become a target for stand-up comedians and late night talk show humor.

 

Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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Die-Hard Technology

Many of the e-mails I get have an automatic message at the end:

“Sent by Mobile.com”

“Sent by I-Phone”

“Sent by Daedalus.com”

So when I reply I put a note at the bottom of my e-mail that says:

Sent by 1970 Royal portable typewriter.

 

Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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The Decibel Dilemma

Almost nobody from Letongaloosa makes a big splash on the national or international scene.  In fact most Legtongaloosans recoil at the thought of making  a big splash in public.  That’s why folks in town felt sorry for Ruby Jentlow.  Ruby didn’t seek the spotlight.  The spotlight found her after she decided to rein in her volatile temper and to modulate her voice.
Ruby grew up in a family of shouters.  Her parents and brothers and sisters shouted a lot.  Ruby’s mom and dad, Rufe and Gina Jentlow, met in Washington, D.C. back in 1971 at the height of a presidential campaign.  Rufe and Gina were young members of the Muglump Alliance, a small one-issue political movement.
Because Muglump leaders weren’t fluent in Politic-Speak, the Muglump Alliance was shut out of  mainstream political discourse. So they began to shout, and people began to listen.
As young political Muglump operatives, Rufe and Gina  became well trained shouters. Their children, including Ruby, grew up to be shouters.
When she wasn’t shouting, Ruby was friendly, kind, charming, woman who had no desire to make a national splash.
But one day she and Angus Rex, a good friend whom she admired for his soft spoken demeanor, were having a quiet conversation at a coffee shop. They disagreed about something that didn’t amount to a hill of beans, and before they knew it the conversation had turned into a shouting match.
It wasn’t much of a match.  The best Angus could muster was 65 decibels.  Ruby’s shouts averaged 82 decibels.  She hit 88 a couple of times, and once topped 90.   Ruby crushed poor Angus.   A couple of bystanders, who loved to hear Ruby get wound up, clapped.  Ruby felt terrible when Angus walked away crestfallen.
She resolved to change. She vowed to rein in her temper and pledged never to let her voice rise above 60 decibels.   When people found out about the pledge some of them began baiting Ruby, hoping to goad her into a high decibel outburst.  The more they persisted, the quieter Ruby’s voice became.
Amazingly, people around her, even those who came to goad her,  began to speak more quietly too.  And people began to actually listen to Ruby and to one another.
After word of Ruby’s transformation got around, a group offered a prize to anyone  who could make her yell. No one succeeded. Those who yelled at Ruby not only failed to make her yell, they often ended up speaking more quietly themselves.  Someone  recorded one such encounter on a cell phone and posted the video on the Internet.
A network reality TV show “How Weird Is That?” pulled the Ruby video off the Internet and broadcast it on national television.  There was a big public response. Some people said Ruby was a true citizen leading a much needed movement toward public civility.  Others said Ruby was part of a clandestine movement to subvert the Constitution.
Political talk show hosts jumped on the issue and harangued their audiences and each other at the top of their lungs.  National newspapers and broadcast news organizations transmitted the story around the world.  Some people suggested, quietly, that Ruby should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.  A few shouted that she should have her mouth washed out with soap.
That’s when folks in Letongaloosa started really feeling sorry for Ruby. Reporters and paparazzi camped out in front of her house, and trailed her everywhere she went.  They stuck  microphones in her face and beamed strobe lights through the windshield of her car.
Through it all Ruby raised her voice above 40 decibels only once. That was to ask a hard-of-hearing hardware clerk where she could find a light bulb for her refrigerator.
The story has a happy ending.  Most  news-cycle-driven issues have a very short life span after they disappear from the mass media. The public soon forgets about them. A few worthy issues move forward.
The  James Mapleton Emery Foundation offered  Ruby a half a million dollar grant to conduct research on low-decibel public discourse.  She accepted  the grant and went quietly to work.

 

Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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