Archive for the ‘ Media & Internet ’ Category

University of Phoenix Will Teach You “Relevant Skills,” Like Backflips or Something

Paid Facebook ads of the centralized, show-up-in-your-stream variety are rapidly going the way of Groupon: a sign that a product is failing, simply by virtue of being included.

I mean, seriously, when was the last time you saw a “Sponsored” post for anything you actually wanted? When was the last time you clicked on one (except accidentally)?

So maybe it’s fitting that the University of Phoenix, a scammy for-profit school that can’t tank fast enough, is verging on the absurdist with their latest round of Facebook ads:



Say what now? Who looks at a girl doing gymnastics and thinks “relevant skills”? That is like as far as you get from relevant for the 99.9999lots% of us that are not planning a career in professional gymnastics. Backflips are not a relevant skill. Unless you are a gymnast, or a ninja.

Maybe if you asked whoever came up with the ad, he or she would tell you that it’s about coaching or athletic education jobs or something like that. In which case maybe the coach should be the one dramatically silhouetted against a heavenly bath of golden radiance, just saying?

“Come to Phoenix University. We can’t teach you to design an ad that makes any goddamn sense, but maybe you’ll learn to do a backflip. And then go bankrupt.”

Wooly Mammoth “Created on the Sixth Day” To Be SC’s Official State Fossil

For the most part, bills designating official state this-and-thats are harmless, or at the very most entertainingly stereotyping of their states’ cultures (as in the case of the Alabama legislature overriding their governor’s veto to insist on naming a famous style of moonshine the “official state spirit” of Alabama).

But there is no law that can’t have Jesus shoehorned into it somehow if you try hard enough.


Enter the South Carolina State Senate, which took one look at a harmless fluff bill naming the Columbian mammoth the state’s official fossil (at the request of an absolutely adorable third-grader, who we can safely assume is learning more than she ever wanted to about the legislative process) and decided it needed an amendment clarifying that God made the mammoth, with his God-stuff, on the Sixth Day of creation, and damn ye heathens to hell forever if you believe otherwise.

Here is the final text of the bill (emphasis mine) as it was passed by the South Carolina legislature.

Whereas, giant mammoths used to roam South Carolina; and

Whereas, scientists have identified the fossils of about six hundred and fifty species of vertebrates in South Carolina to date; and

Whereas, it has been recognized that fossilized mammoth teeth were discovered in a swamp in South Carolina in 1725; and

Whereas, this discovery has been credited as the first scientific identification of a North American vertebrate fossil. Now, therefore,

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:

SECTION    1.    Article 9, Chapter 1, Title 1 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:

“Section 1-1-712A.    The Columbian Mammoth, which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field, is designated as the official State Fossil of South Carolina and must be officially referred to as the ‘Columbian Mammoth’, which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field.”

SECTION    2.    Subsequent to this act’s effective date there is a moratorium on the enactment of legislation establishing official state symbols and emblems until such time as the General Assembly directly by legislative enactment removes this moratorium.

SECTION    3.    This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor.

So yeah, that’s a Biblical story written into a piece of state legislation as if it were fact. Any chance of a veto, Governor Haley?

“Public” Pressure Didn’t Oust Mozilla’s Anti-Gay CEO — A Privately Held Company Did

mozilla-foundation-logoTake it easy on the champagne popping, will ya guys?

Yes, Mozilla’s recently-appointed CEO Brendan Eich is gone, following an uproar over his $1000 donation in support of California’s anti-SSM Proposition 8.

And while there will inevitably be hand-wringing about the PC thought police and liberals are the real hate-crimers and blah-de-blah, the reality is that this is how it’s supposed to work if you’re a free-market-fixes-all-ills zealot. The guy wasn’t charged with anything, he wasn’t accused of any crimes; he faced no government censorship. Enough consumers made it clear that they weren’t comfortable with the company’s leadership that internal voices convinced him to resign, and that was that.

A win for capitalism! Hoorah, or something!

Here’s the thing, though: despite the best efforts of individual people, many of them from within Mozilla, to get the word out about Eich’s donation, it was the popular website OKCupid’s decision to publicize the issue that made headlines. Until they threw their massive web presence behind it, there was nowhere near enough threat to Mozilla’s operations for them to care who or what Eich had donated to.

So if you’re glad to see a company being held accountable for its CEO’s bigotry, thank a major private corporation today! (OKCupid is owned by InterActive Corp, which also owns, and which promptly removed all of OKC’s prior writings criticizing fee-charging dating sites like from the OKC website after the acquisition, giving you a pretty good idea of how dedicated to transparency that corporate culture is.)

I’m not sorry to see Eich go, but I’m not sure it’s much of a victory for civil rights when everything is so dependent on a wealthy, influential corporation’s willingness to lend their might to progressive causes.

Ah well. I suppose in this case it’s the only way it was going to go down. What were all us end-users gonna do, boycott the browser we weren’t paying to use anyway?

If Your Caption Contradicts Your Headline, You’re Not Even Trying to Fact-Check

Friends, you know how I’m always telling you not to rely on free internet “news” sites for your news? And you know how it sounds really snobby and old-fashioned, which I admittedly am?

This kind of shit is what I’m talking about. With no particular intent to pick on (Booth Newspapers’s generic-template online news site) – if your headline talks about a “6-foot python,” the photo caption directly below it should not reference a “7-foot boa constrictor.”


Which, whatever. It’s a heartwarming local interest story so who cares, right?

But at the point where that’s the standard, I’m going to have to fact-check everything I read from your site by Googling around for other, confirming sources anyway, so why would I even bother reading?

(Short answer: I don’t, unless someone posts a Facebook link, which I guess is how these sites are planning on driving traffic anyway.)

I feel old, grumpy, and a little stuck-up about this, but I’m not wrong. If you’re referring to the same snake as a “6-foot python” and a “7-foot boa constrictor” before I’ve even started the article, you’re not even trying. Not a little, tiny bit.

Ah well. I’m sure they’re not paying the skeleton staff of enough to care. Subscribe to a real newspaper, guys, seriously.

The “Blue Dragon” Glaucus Atlanticus, While Beautiful, Is Not a Good Fursonality

You may have seen one of these floating around Facebook recently (or around the oceans of the world, if you live a much cooler life than I do): the Glaucus atlanticus sea slug.


Gorgeous, isn’t it?

That’s a real critter, with some very weird biology: it drifts around the ocean, nibbles off the top of other soft-and-drifty sea life, and in the case of the poisonous ones (like the Portugese man o’war, which it loves to eat) stores the larger creature’s toxin-bearing nematocysts in specialized sacs at the tips of those beautiful blue feathery “fingers” you see in the picture above.

That means pictures like this one are incredibly stupid, since the beautiful, alien-looking slug in question might or might not be able to deliver a powerful jolt of venom when picked up, depending on what it’s been noshing lately:


But at any rate, it’s rare and beautiful and has “dragon” in one of its common names, and this is the internet, so of course people have made furries out of them.


(As usual, I’ve left the most explicit examples out. Feel free to Google around if you want to see similar drawings with humanish naughty bits exposed.)

Which really begs the question: if you are into anthropomorphized animals in a sexy way, and part of that thrill is giving characters the identifying characteristics/attributes of their “template” species, what the fuck do you do with a G. atlanticus?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not seeing the fact that, like most slugs, G. atlanticus is hermaphroditic as a turn-off for the target market here. I know the internet better than that. I’m just curious how you make “functionally brainless, floats wherever the current takes it; often attacks much larger and deadlier creatures” into a compelling human personality. A drunken hobo that picks fights with biker gangs, maybe?

Let this one go, boys and girls. The “blue dragon” is beautiful, and has a very nerdy name, but it is not your go-to “fursonality.” Trust me on this one.

Phishers of Men

phishingThe identity-phishing scams that make it through my filters these days are getting more and more plausible. I have conflicted feelings about this.

On the one hand, identity theft bad, boo, no. Wouldn’t wish it on anyone, hate to think of people falling for these, etc.

On the other hand, some of the black hats have clearly started hiring writers, and I’m always happy when my fellow freelancers get chances to put their English degrees to use. I swear a consulting company must have done a Best Practices Review for some of these scam artists, and told them that their chief corporate vulnerability was the inability to write a bogus e-mail in plausible-sounding English.

Lately the spelling and grammar has improved a lot, and (I suspect not coincidentally) lately a lot more have been making it through to my inbox/comments page, too.

The stories are still absurd, however (wealthy heirs seeking someone in the US to wire transfer their riches to, etc.), which makes a pretty compelling case for literary education to me: if you don’t read fiction, how are you going to recognize it when it lands in your inbox?

Read a book – spite a scammer! There are library posters waiting to be made.

Some Friendly Advice for Angry, Unhappy Billionaires

Is anyone else noticing a theme lately?

From Politico this morning:

“I hope it’s not working,” Ken Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot and major GOP donor, said of populist political appeals. “Because if you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany. You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.”

home-depot-logoThis is getting depressingly consistent.

I assume the idiocy of comparing calls for a minimum wage increase or higher taxes on the top income brackets with Nazi aggression is self-evident enough that we don’t have to unpack it in any detail here (for what it’s worth, wealthy business owners tended to do pretty well under the Nazis unless they were, you know, Jewish), but I would like to offer some advice for Mr. Langone and anyone else who owns billions of dollars and still feels angry, unhappy, and threatened:

Do something else with your life.

Seriously. If you have that much money and you spend most of your time feeling fearful or oppressed, you are doing something wrong. Whatever you’re doing is not working, and you need to change it.

It should not be possible to be that unhappy with that much money. You have to be actively seeking out misery in a way that is mindboggling to me. Get the fuck over yourself, take a trip to Majorca, and blow a couple million bucks on booze and whores. Or donate it all to God of one stripe or another and become a monk. Or do fucking anything except what you’re doing, because Jesus Christ, how can you have the freedom to do absolutely anything you want and choose to spend your time bitching about how the fascists are coming for you?

You don’t have to keep being a plutocrat. You can quit that shit any time. Stop obsessing about next year’s profits or your political capital or whatever and go waste your ill-gotten gains in total self-indulgence for the rest of your goddamn life. Maybe it will be a useful reminder that your life is fucking great, and if it isn’t, maybe the money that you’re so terrified of losing isn’t doing you any fucking good.

You idiots.

Hope it helps.

I Do Not Get #FF

Twitter, ugh.

Using it sometimes feels like playing Mao, you know? Like it’s this completely arbitrary game where in theory you figure out the rules as you go along, but really it only exists so that the people who already know the rules (who are nerds) can enjoy the dirty thrill of hazing without any of the physical strength and/or social skills necessary to actually intimidate, and therefore haze, another human being.

Mao is such bullshit. Anyway, where was I? Oh, Twitter. Right.


I use Twitter in a bunch of different incarnations. Some are more professional than others. Some get more use than others (my personal @GeoffreyCubbage account, for example, has languished for years now).

But in every incarnation, I’ve received at least one “#FF” tweet.

What is #FF, you may ask yourself, if you’re not one of those obnoxious people who live on Twitter and already know this kind of shit?

I have no fucking clue. Or rather, I know what it means. It’s “Follow Friday,” for the untutored among you, and in theory the author of a #FF tweet is basically saying “here, look at all these other Twitter feeds; I follow them and think they are cool so maybe you would like to follow them too.” It looks like a hashtag followed by a blob of usernames:


In the world of Twitter, this seems to be a nice thing. So people are occasionally doing a nice thing for me: sharing my Twitter handle and encouraging other users to follow it.


Only, what do you do with that? Reply and say “thanks”? Retweet it yourself? Go look at the other names in the #FF tweet?

I don’t know, and so I let them quietly wash by me, because I am too afraid of committing some grievous social sin to act. It’s nice to know some social anxieties lurk beneath this aggressively competent facade I’ve constructed online. Still a nerd at heart!

But never a nerd who made people play Mao. God.

That Forest Moon: Admiral Ackbar’s Ambiguity

star-wars-forest-moon-of-endorIt’s no secret that I love Star Wars, and therefore no surprise that Star Wars has given me my favorite example of what ambiguous prose can do to a story.

You may recall, if you’re a total fucking nerd, that in Return of the Jedi Admiral Ackbar describes the Death Star as “orbiting the forest moon of Endor.” (Grainy bootleg clip here if you’re interested.)

That’s an ambiguous description. It could mean “the forest moon belonging to Endor,” in which case Endor is presumably the planet that the moon orbits (although it could also be a government, a corporation, or even a person). It could also mean that “Endor” is the name of the moon itself, as in “the land of Oz” or “the kingdom of France.”

If Ackbar had said “the planet Endor’s forest moon,” or “the forest moon known as Endor,” we’d know for sure. But all we get is “the forest moon of Endor,” and since that’s the only time anyone mentions the moon by name, that’s what we’re stuck with.

No big deal —  until Star Wars became a massive media enterprise with literally hundreds of contributing authors, and thousands of obsessive fans. The subsequent attempts to fix Return of the Jedi‘s ambiguity, as laid out on Wookiepedia, are frankly hilarious:

The planet Endor was never visible in any scenes in Return of the Jedi set on the forest moon, a fact which the novelization explains by asserting that it was destroyed some time earlier, and that the moon now orbits its star in a planetary orbit of its own. It should also be noted that in two of the space battle scenes, a pinkish planet can be seen in the background, in the vicinity of the forest moon. Another shot showing TIE fighters flying towards the Death Star (and camera) with several Star Destroyers in the background shows the pinkish planet. This, coupled with the fact that a moon without a planet should itself be defined as a planet in its own right, has caused some fans to speculate that this pinkish planet is in fact Endor, and the novel is wrong. In addition, a large body, probably the planet Endor, can be seen in the sky during some scenes in the two Ewok telefilms (Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor), though this does not closely resemble the planet seen in Return of the Jedi. Star Wars: Battlefront IIshows the planet Endor as a large blue planet, possibly a gas giant, when in Galactic Conquest mode.

Apparently there’s also stuff in other Expanded Universe novels about how the planet Endor (not the moon Endor) was destroyed, leaving the moon to orbit its star on its own, but later that turned out to be an elaborate hoax? Something like that, anyway. The point is, a lot of people have tried very hard to turn “the forest moon of Endor” into something that makes sense and stays consistent throughout a massive and badly-organized canon.

It’s almost like Admiral Ackbar was laying a massive…linguistic…wait a minute…

Sex Ed Website Scarleteen Goes On Strike – and We’re the Management

When the self-employed aren’t making enough to sustain their business (or their family), what do they do?

“Get a real job” has always been the traditional answer. On Monday, the popular sex-ed website announced a rather different approach:

Come May Day - May 1st – unless something radically changes, Scarleteen will begin a strike.

Striking is something we can try to stay afloat and get what we need in order keep doing all we do, not a skeleton of what we do. Striking is what we do, as teachers, as workers, when all other attempts at getting a living wage and reasonable working conditions fail. We’ve tried many approaches in seeking support over the years, and have worked hard doing so, but despite our best efforts, we’ve never had the level of response we needed.

This is, as far as I’m aware, a novel approach for a donor-supported business, though it echoes the Kickstarter mentality of “if there aren’t enough donations to do the project in full, none of the project happens.” The difference there is that Kickstarter projects are proposals, whereas is an existing business that provides several popular services.


There are also echoes of the SOPA/PIPA protest blackouts from 2012, when many websites self-censored their pages as a way of drawing attention to the potential effects of the bills. Scarleteen has proposed a similar awareness-highlighting “strike blog,” combined with a drastic reduction in their usual content and services, that would continue until their funding needs were met:

With only $3,000 each month to work with, that means shutting down all our direct services…and halting the creation and release of any new content…Our social media, save that pertaining to the strike, will also go dark.

We don’t have a picket line to stand on, so if we strike, we will publish a strike blog to keep these issues and our need visible each day to try and end the strike as quickly as possible. That will be the only new content we create while we strike.

It’s a fascinating approach. Most strikes are targeting owners or managers with a threat to their profits; here we instead have a direct action against the end-users of the product. I’d feel better about it if a lot of those end-users weren’t teenagers who may have no way to make donations — but it’ll still be interesting to see how it all plays out.

Of course, if Scarleteen can generate enough interest and donations with their announcement, they won’t have to experiment with striking at all, which would be the best-case scenario for everyone.

So please, even if it’s only $10, think about giving Scarleteen something today to help sustain the web’s best free sex-ed resource before they make labor history!


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