Fools At My Fingertips

I used to have to go out to get my folly. The pub, the club, the workplace. It involved putting on clean clothes and making sure I had a handkerchief. This routine meant I was presentable, but the daily run of life involved a lot of travelling – it was hard on the car.

Now that I’m retired I need not spend petrol or patience in the rush hours and I can keep the same gooey handkerchief until it cannot be refolded…but the disadvantage is that I do not see people. So I miss out on my share of the follies of mankind.

Thank goodness for the internet fake news, and Facebook. ( Oops, I may have stuttered there, listing Facebook and fake news as separate items. In all conscience, I do believe them to be the same thing. ) By subscribing to the Zukerberg Broadcasting Corporation’s view of the world I can have a screen full of nonsense any time of the day or night. Much of it implicates my friends, and all of it is food for very little thought. It is the sort of entertainment that suggests the need for an S-bend in the internet router.

Oddly enough, the other sites I visit on the internet are not like this – I patronise cartoonists, photography sites, car forums, and YouTube videos that have to do with scale model building. Some of this material is crudely done, but none of it is untrue. Very little of it is bigoted or puerile. And I am not required to befriend anyone to benefit from it – or risk their wrath if I turn away.

I have made a little list for myself of people on my Facebook friends list for whom I would mourn if they were run down by a Swiss Post bus in the mountains. It is not all the people on my friends page by any means and every so often another name is pencilled out. I am not de-friending any more, but I have paid $ 869 to install an ALTP* filter in the incoming line. It seems value for money.

*  Avoid Like The Plague

 

 

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I Think Of You As A Good Person

But I’ve been wrong about these things before…

I try. I really do try. Every day I attempt to have a good opinion of the people I meet. Some days are successful days and some days are just…well…days. But the good news is I am prepared to reset the mechanism at midnight and re-consider your character in the morning.

This means that in many cases you will have a chance to do better – to appear kinder and more intelligent and more honest than on previous occasions. And each time you do, it will raise you in my estimation. You may reach a plateau – like a level in a video game – that means each thing you do is going to earn you extra psychic points. This is wonderful, and eventually you may get to the point where you turn into a princess or a prince and the golden moneybags start to appear on the screen.

Conversely, every time you foist something on me via Facebook that has been supplied by the latest fake news source, you drop down a notch. Please be aware: there are only so many notches before we reach rock bottom.

In case this sounds really arrogant…well it is. It’s part of the mechanism that I employ to navigate through the world. So far I have hit remarkably few rocks and shoals and I’m willing to attribute this to the personal cynicism about which you are reading. As long as I keep it inside, it is not going to do you any more harm than you deserve. If you behave as a lady or a gentleman should, you will be treated as such.

And we will have a successful day.

Note: Unfortunately this sort of philosophy requires me to be a good person as well. It is annoying, but there you are. You can’t make omelettes without breaking expensive kitchen utensils.

 

Throwing Up On Facebook

I have friends who throw up on Facebook. It is possible that they also throw up on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram – users of social media often have multiple receptacles available to them. This is a great convenience – they might not be at home or near a work computer when something overcomes them.

Of course, no one has ever solved the age-old mystery of where the tomatoes and sweet corn come from ( I didn’t eat either of those – I only had 14 pints of ale…) but that is rarely a problem on social media. The really peculiar thing is where people get the stuff they do ” share “…

Oh, wait. I may have given you the wrong impression. I wasn’t talking about emesis. I was talking about the racist, nationalist, sexist, and political material that is posted daily. The half thought half-thought-through that nevertheless  appears repeatedly. Talk about things coming up again…

I’d normally just step round the stuff if it was on the footpath in front of the kebab shop. As it is I can make it go away with two clicks of the computer mouse…and I am starting to realise that I can do that a lot these days. Suggested posts that are thinly veilled information fishing exercises are one thing that go out immediately. I know nothing and tell less.

Then the Trump posts. None of the people I know  who throw up anti-Trump memes have any connection to the United States, to the Presidency, or to Mr. Trump. Their shared memes and snarky comments are irrelevant. Gone.

Then the vagaries. I am bad at guessing games and worse when the games are psychological. I cannot imagine what some of the posters are on about – the only clear message that comes through is that there is no clear message. I can get that by turning the radio dial a quarter inch to the left off-station.

I do pause at cats and dogs. They can stay, as can hot rod cars and panda bears. I do also study semi-official posts that ask me to look out for a missing person – though I do wish that when a person is found that someone will also notify us of that.

And I am a sucker for domino races or improbable collections of mechanical operations that eventually turn on a popcorn maker. The engineering students with nothing to do for three days are always good for a laugh.

The Experiments – Part Four – Final

The heading image placed on this last experimental page is a conventional representation of a one of the flags of the Confederate States of America in the 1860’s. Recently it has become the centrepiece in a storm of controversy in the United States and has been used in a number of deplorable political and criminal acts, as well as for theatrical presentations.

It was also an extremely small part of an image on a weblog column dealing with die-cast toy cars – fuzzy and pixellated though it was, I suspect it triggered a mechanism in Facebook that blanked the image. I determined to see how that mechanism operated. The previous three posts on this column ( go back and read them ) detail the experimental means I employed to see if the thing could be set off again.

If we don’t see an image up there on Facebook today – or if it’s a generalized image of my studio card – we’ll know the trigger mechanism is the entire, coloured, detailed pattern. Every other combination has been ignored. If you do see the flag pattern, then the whole episode was just a flash in the social media pan.

The flag pattern won’t be shown again – not for political or moral reasons – but because it is just not relevant to life and thought here in Australia. And that may be a hard thing for anyone in North America to accept…that this is another part of the world with people who lead other lives. The distresses that the North Americans encounter or engender within their own borders are theirs to deal with amongst themselves. To put it succinctly – it’s none of my business.

Readers can be as proud or as ashamed – as busy or as idle – as high or as low as they wish. No need to howl at me with either rage or approval – my opinion on North American matters is not relevant. The only thing you might care to do is to share some thoughts:

If you can’t see an 1860’s flag on the top of a Facebook post…what other things are you not permitted to see? What price constitutional amendments or bills of rights ? Who decides the let and hindrance of your life?

 

The Experiments – Part Three

The second week saw the reposting of the initial experiments in graphics repeated but with the Photoshop inversion turned off – the colours of the experimental panel are the red, white, and blue of the original flag image.

This may, or may not be the actual colours of the Confederate flag – I’ve never seen an original relic. Logic tells me that cloth dyes of that time would have a lot less purity and the intervening years – plus Yankee shot and shell will have dimmed the things. Even a few years’ flying for a modern flag will show considerable wear on it, and maritime flags worst of all.

Note that there are many modern flags – including Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Russia, France, Norway, the Netherlands, and the United States of America to list a few –  that use red, white, and blue in their flags. The reason I mention this is that if the censor is electronic and dependent upon pure colour recognition, last week would have gotten a pass-through. This week would start the circuits.

A.SIze, aspect ratio, colour all correct. No response.

B.

There’s the cross again but in pure white. Is this St. Patrick’s cross? Like on the Union Jack? I think it might be. No response.

C.An addition of the blue bars to the cross. No response. Is it too close to the Norwegian flag to get an alarm buzzer? Or is there a real person looking at the experiment – possibly with finger poised?

The last part – the entire flag placed prominently on Facebook with a post underneath disclaiming any political or racial bias – will prove the pudding.

The reaction of Facebook could be several things:

a. No reaction. It was all a gas bubble. I can go back to playing Candy Crush and looking for pictures of cats.

b. Enormous reaction. Immediate removal of all Facebook accounts. Howls of rage from civic groups and all the consequent social furore that can be sustained. I should be sad to lose the facility that Facebook provides, but then I have the example of several friends who deliberately avoid it – they live full intellectual lives nonetheless.

c. A polite wigging from the administrators done by automatic posting a scolding communication. Inviting an equally polite rebuttal, of course. Written by hand…

d. Virtuous unfriending or blocking by Facebook friends who have not read and will not read the actual articles. The one-line judges and the keyboard warriors are the most likely for this. I shall be sad to lose them, but the world is full of consolation.

The Experiments – Part Two

Remember I said I tried out a number of graphic components to see the point at which the Facebook robot censor or real person triggered? I secured an image of the Confederate flag and cleaned it up. Then I deconstructed it and changed the colour in Photoshop. Each day I popped one image on the screen:

A.

Reverse of red. No reaction. But a nice colour for a GM car of the 1950’s. This has the proportions of the flag.

B. 

Addition of the PS-inversed blue field of the flag. Rather similar to St. Andrew’s cross on the Scottish flag, though they have a better blue and a clear white. That central colour is the inverse of a deep blue. No reaction

C.

Well, there you go – the PS inverse of the Stars And Bars straight out. If the circuit was going to be triggered by the size, shape and pattern, this should do it. But no reaction.

Note that at no point did I use the comments section of Facebook to mention politics, flags, Confederates, or censorship. I just threw out the images to see what would occur. And I tried to keep myself from coming to premature conclusions about what was happening. Some of my Facebook friends knew what the pattern looked like but at this stage of the  experiment they also drew no final conclusions.

After one week, I switched the colours…

The Experiments – Part One

My friends on Facebook have seen a little graphic experimentation conducted on that social media site over the last couple of weeks. It’s time to explain what they saw and why it was there.

It started here on WordPress a few weeks ago when I posted a column about a collection of toys at a model car club. They were tiny replicas of the Dodge that featured in the ” Dukes Of Hazard ” television show. It’s the orange one with the Confederate flag on the top and ” General Lee ” on the side. The column was headed by this image:

Pretty small and awfully fuzzy – I forgot to focus – but sharp enough to trigger some sort of response in the Facebook machinery*. When the column was automatically shared to Facebook the image was replaced with a generic picture of my studio card.

I was pretty sure it was the blobs of pixels representing that flag, as it is so controversial in America. But I was amazed that such a small and innocent picture could get banned. And it raised the question of whether someone sits in an office somewhere tut-tutting and blue penciling everything that comes by  – or if there is a computer program that searches pixel by pixel.

And further – if there is a magic eye censor peering all the time, what exactly is it peering at? Colour? Shape? Pattern? Position? Is it looking at all the faces on Facebook and censoring out the ones it doesn’t like? I determined to experiment by posting a patch of colour or a pattern each day on their main site to see when and if it would be removed. And I didn’t just use the colours of the flag – I used colours that had been chromatically reversed in the Photoshop palette as well.

Note for the virtuous: I do not condone the use of the Confederate flag for nastiness in North America at all – I think it is abhorrent. Outside of that continent it is irrelevant – and I note that nearly everywhere has some graphic design that might be historic but is liable to be used for politics and social behaviour. We’ve got one that’s been seized upon down here:

That’s a Wikipedia image of the Eureka flag first flown in Ballarat during a 19th century gold-digger’s rebellion. It was a small flag and a small rebellion, but recently it has been used for a lot of union politics and pressure groups. It’s not a myth – you can actually go see the real thing in the museum there.

*  Note: If this panel of this WordPress posting is blank on Facebook, we’ll know the graphic censorship extends into the body of the essays as well as the header.