The End of an Era

With a heavy heart, we bid farewell to the Mr. Potato Head brandname, although Hasbro will retain its Mr. and Mrs. designations for its cis-gender spud characters, even after gender-neutralization of the brandname.

I think they’re missing a great opportunity to win more wokepoints. Competitor Mattel has been making Barbies and Kens for decades, although they are offering Barbies in a wide variety now in an aim to be inclusive. 

Why doesn’t Hasbro take it to a new woke level, by introducing the Trans Potato Head. The back story should be obvious. The TPH was planted and harvested as a cucumber but knew from early on “who it was,” a potato in a cucumber’s body and proud of it too. Most people don’t yet accept TPHs, and that is precisely why Hasbro should take this bold step toward vegetable diversity.

And while they’re at it, since Mattel produces Barbies with disabilities, hair loss, and vitiligo, the least Hasbro can do is to produce spuds that sprout eyes and perhaps have worms. Think outside the potato sack, guys!

https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2021/02/25/business/mr-potato-head-hasbro-gender-neutral/index.html

A Rare Appearance by Corona Conspiracy Theorists in Japan

As I was entering the Toritsu Daigaku station this afternoon, I couldn’t help but notice three people, one wielding a bullhorn and shouting that the corona virus is a hoax and that people should not be forced to be vaccinated. Most sane people will realize that corona is not a hoax, and if these people were just a bit more observant, they would have noticed that nobody in Japan has even hinted that getting vaccinated will be made mandatory. Still, they were out there, shouting their message at around 3pm and still going at it three hours later.

The signs variously read:

Corona is a lie, Corona is a farce, Refuse to be vaccinated (on placards hung over the railing and not visible in this photo, but visible to people leaving the station), and Remove your mask! (on the back of one of the signs you see in this photo.

I am happy to say that this is the first (and perhaps the last) time I will see this kind of nonsense in Japan. The average Japanese believes in science to a much greater degree than many Americans, especially Bible-thumping evangelicals and those who have turned flouting commonsense guidelines and recommendations into a show of patriotism and support for their savior. And I’m not talking about the one written about in the New Testament; he was a person of color who advocated many laudable behavior patterns that the unmasked conspiracy theorist cretins in the US find hard to follow in their daily lives.

Anyway, we don’t have this problem in Japan, and the scene on the street in front of our local station is clearly an aberration in a very sensible society.

Get Faxed

On February 15, the Tokyo announced that it had under-reported the number of new corona cases by over 800 in the period from November 18 last year until the end of January. The reason? They explained that the local health centers failed to report these cases, citing failure to fax the reports as one cause. Faxing, mind you, is still a communication method of choice for numerous government offices in Japan.

People familiar with the late (compared to anglophone countries) introduction of email in Japan and the difficulty of transcribing sending Japanese texts should understand why the use of faxing has persisted so long in Japan. I think that the time has come to lay that old technology to rest and replace it with more reliable means that a leave paper (or at least a digital) trail of what has and has not been communicated.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20210215/k10012868741000.html

As of this writing, I have not been able to find an English report from NHK about this problem. Perhaps even NHK is embarrassed about the persistence of faxing in this day.

A Lesson from NPR in Effective Listener Alienation

[diversity]  [global warming]  [indigenous]  [sustainability]  [disproportionately affected/impacted]  [XYZs of color]  [under-representation of XYZs of color]  [Latinx]  [undocumented immigrants]  [change/join/have the conversation]  [community of XYZs]  [celebrate]  [global warming] [enslavement] [enslaved person]

Randomly select a number of items from the above woke vocabulary, and you have the makings of a lead to a typical NPR agenda-driven story. Stated differently, it is a rare NPR news story that does not promote an agenda related to or that does not use the above now-overworked words in the lead.

I agree with many of the things that NPR pushes as their agenda. But their methodology, which consists of incessant harping on things everyone realizes using overworked woke buzzwords, is truly repulsive to me. And worse yet is NPR’s turning the groups they support (just about any group not populated by white, cisgender males) into tribal victims and sometimes double tribal victims in all sorts of stories.

A good example is a story they did recently in which they bemoan working woman being thrown out of work by the corona pandemic and naturally suffering disproportionately from the pandemic, and the fact that women (who they and I both think should be able to work) were set up to be victimized by encouraging them to work and then not providing services such as childcare.

If you listen to NPR for a while, you will hear a few stories each hour about how one of their supported groups are disproportionately impacted by the corona pandemic, the resultant downturn in business, and the difficulty in getting vaccinated. Living in Japan, where nobody has yet been vaccinated, and where the general population under 65 will probably not start to be vaccinated until at least June, I find that last concern difficult to relate to.

National differences aside, NPR’s horrendously heavy-handed agenda-pushing takes away from the good things they do to bring listeners solid news coverage. It places an undue (shall I call it a disproportionate?) burden on the general listener that should not have to be suffered, particularly by people who mostly agree with the NPR agenda.

African-American and Latinx Boys and Young Men?

NPR, bless their agenda-driven hearts, has done it again, by demonstrating that their agenda and SJW-approved language rule supreme over common sense and logic.

They have a story discussing the disturbing rise of carjackings in Chicago, in which they refer to the program director of a group that they say mentors African-American and Latinx boys. In their zeal to use Latinx, NPR seems to have forgotten why people advocate its use in the first place. Doesn’t NPR realize that if you are explicitly referring to males, there is no need for the -x. Call them Latino; nobody should mind.

https://one.npr.org/?sharedMediaId=966199594:966199595

But perhaps NPR is only to be faulted for repeating and not correcting what the group, C.H.A.M.P.S., says about itself.

C.H.A.M.P.S. Male Mentoring Program is a ​​Mentor Illinois Gold Star Award Program based in Chicago, IL.  We offer a culturally relevant approach to developing the mindsets of African-American and Latinx young men ages 12 and up. C.H.A.M.P.S. stand for Culturally Helping And Making Positive Success.  We focus on the 3E’s; Education, Empowerment, and Exposure. 

https://www.champsmentoring.com/

I also noticed that the same website refers to Latino boys and men on another page.

The group’s inconsistency aside, NPR could have fixed this strange expression in their story, which sort of implies that there are Latino guys who like to be called or should be called Latinx. I have heard and read from several places that the term has more popularity among well-meaning non-Latinx agenda-pushers than it does among actual Latinos and Latinas. In fact, I cannot ever recall hearing a Latino saying that they are Latinx, although NPR did interview a fellow recently who said that Latinx was not popular among the group burdened with this SJW-inspired characterization. Incidentally, the program director referred to in the story, Christian Terry, is apparently very non-Latino, at least judging from an online video in which he discusses the work the group does.

I don’t have any complaints about the article or the group, of course. In fact, I applaud them, shouting out a Bravx! to them for their efforts.

Openly Curmudgeon

I identify as a curmudgeon and have been openly curmudgeon for as long as I can remember. I have never been a closet curmudgeon, so coming out was not part of my curmudgeon experience. I’m a proud member of the curmudgeon community, not because I came out, but because it was not a choice, but an inevitable consequence of who I am; I was born a curmudgeon. And I was aware of my curmudgeon identity from a very young age and am grateful that my parents still loved me and encouraged me to not be ashamed of who I am. I am even more grateful that they didn’t attempt to have me reprogrammed to be more pleasant.

However, there are people in the curmudgeon community who bravely choose to come out after reaching adulthood, and many people around them celebrate their courage to be a curmudgeon, essentially, their courage to be who they are, albeit with a bit of pressure from their peers. Some curmudgeons can be seen marching in Curmudgeon Pride Day parades. They wear rather drab clothing, but sport very fashionable sneers, these days somewhat hidden by drab masks.

There are some phenomena in the world of curmudgeons that trouble me. One is that of people are actually quite pleasant and agreeable but only pretend to be curmudgeons for the publicity. Some appear in the media here in Japan as commentators on diverse topics that are not at all related to curmudgeon community and the issues we face.

An even more disturbing phenomenon I have noticed recently is that of trans curmudgeons. One day they suddenly declare that they identify as curmudgeon. I wonder if they realize that, while many around them pretend to celebrate them, few are convinced of their curmudgeon identity. They can be seen through for what they are, maladjusted opportunists not worth the time of day. They make a bad name for–and cheapen the cause of–true curmudgeons, who need to continue to fight a continuing battle for truth, justice, and the grumpy way.

And speaking of grumpy, our grumpiness is quite justified. Have you watched a movie featuring a grumpy character recently? How many times do we need to put up with pleasant and agreeable actors pretending that they are grumpy characters? How in the world can they know what we feel from our real curmudgeon experience? What do they think they are, actors?

Sedition

On January 6th, as the count of the electoral college votes proceeded, the Capitol Building in Washington DC was attacked by an armed insurrection of right-wing thug Trump supporters, seeking to block the certification of Joe Biden’s election win over Trump and overturn the election result. The outnumbered DC police appear to have moved back and allowed the insurrectionists to enter the Capitol building, whereupon the insurrectionists ran amok. They also attacked people from the media, destroying their equipment.

There have been a number of arrests, but this is a demonstration of the sedition committed by Trump, who continuously and repeatedly has refused to admit defeat to Biden because of his baseless election fraud claims and, immediately before the insurrection, repeated those baseless claim and urged the insurrectionists to March on the Capitol Building.

This was an act of domestic terrorism. Trump must be punished along with the insurrectionists. Yes, he is leaving office, but impeachment or application of the 25th Amendment is called for before that. The saner and more patriotic elements in the government must step up and do what is necessary.

Japan’s Corona Dilemma

With PM Suga talking about the state of emergency he will declare (probably tomorrow, January 7 Japan time), today saw 1591 new Covid-19 cases in Tokyo, a new daily record and a large jump from yesterday.

The state of emergency being discussed will not give the government any power to enforce what they are simply requesting people and businesses to do to prevent Japan from getting into even worse trouble as the corona pandemic progresses.

It has been clearly demonstrated that simply asking people not to go out and not to gather for eating and drinking has had very little effect. People simply do not comply with the requests. And businesses are the same. A walk down a street near a station area in Japan will reveal numerous restaurants and bars with crowded counters and tables. Tokyo governor Koike mentioned the other day that the compliance of businesses with the early closing time requests was reported to her as being about 20%. That is simply not going to succeed in stopping the pandemic.

The PM is talking about a carrot and stick approach, with rewards for “cooperation” and fines for non-cooperation. Unless the fines are made very large, however, bars and restaurants will just consider them to be necessary business expenses and keep on, business as usual.

What is needed is special legislation with enforcement powers given to the government and meaningful punishments or other sanctions that can be applied to noncomplying people and businesses. That is not possible with the current legal structure and is going to be painful and embarrassing for the politicians who value money and have donors with financial interests in holding the Olympics, because it’s going to be difficult to continue to insist on holding the Olympics if the authorities are fining people for not behaving as the special legislation that is needed will have to call for them to behave. But it is a bitter pill that must be swallowed.

That said, I don’t for a moment think that the current tribe running things has nearly the courage to take the necessary steps.

BMI/BMD Crisis

BMI is a problem faced by many, not body mass index, but behavior manipulation ignorance. But even more serious a problem is BMD (behavior manipulation denial) on the part of people who look the other way or rationalize to avoid facing or to minimize the consequences of their engagement on social media and contracts with social media companies.

Behavior manipulation denial arguments are diverse:

  • I know what they’re doing and I’m smart enough to avoid being manipulated. And, anyway, I just ignore the junk.

Most people who say this don’t really know or aren’t smart enough. They need to think harder. All the huge number of people who, in Novermber 2015, superimposed the French flag over their profile photos on Facebook were being manipulated when they accepted a Facebook-promoted suggestion to do so. It was for a very understandable and defensible sentiment, of course, and I agreed with that sentiment.

But manipulation happens on all sorts of levels, including at the behest of people you don’t know and are not allowed to know. Again, people need to think harder.

Another thing to be aware of is that you are being manipulated by a customized universe of information that is purposefully curated as being the most likely to manipulate specifically your behavior. WYSINWOPG: What you see is not what other people get.

  • Social media advertising is just like advertising on TV.

Wrong again. TV stations don’t monitor your behavior, nor do they make as a condition of viewing your agreement to provide them huge amounts of information (or any information, actually) along with the right for them to use and sell that information as they see fit. And broadcast media don’t actively participate in targeting specifically you with specific ads. Perhaps more significantly, broadcast media does not collect your content and information and sell it to other entities in ways you have no way of knowing.

  • The information I create and provide is not worth anything anyway. They can have it for free; I don’t care.

Seriously wrong. The information you and other users create and provide to social media companies is worth billions of dollars to them and creates that wealth for a handful of billionaires. Doesn’t that mean that your information is very valuable to them? You might undervalue your information, including content you have created, your personal information, and information about your behavior, but there is a group of people to whom that information of yours is essential to the creation of fabulous wealth. Why give it away?

In the above, if you take advertising, as it should be taken, to include behavior modification in the broader sense, it should be clear what could happen and is actually happening.

  • Social media platforms provide me a convenient way to keep in touch with my friends.

That is a valid statement. But unless you buy into the false proposition that the wealth of information you provide to a social media company isn’t worth anything anyway, it is a very lopsided deal.

I know a few people who do not use (are not used by) social media companies, for various reasons. All of them appear to be leading fulfilling lives, although they successfully resist the songs of the “siren servers,” as Jaron Lanier refers to the servers operating at the top nodes of big data networks.

In Who Owns the Future? Lanier makes some good points about the value created by people on the Internet and the asymmetry of the contracts that people make to use various ostensibly free services, these contracts usually requiring broad-ranging permissions to collect and use your information. He even argues that people should be paid micropayments or nanopayments any time information they create is used by someone else, which would require the preservation of the provenance of all information. At present, the provenance of information on the Internet is in an overwhelming number of cases unknown, unknowable, or purposefully hidden.

Lanier’s approach is very idealistic and arguably difficult to implement, but it has made me more reluctant to share things in places where siren servers are listening, and that of course includes even private groups on the social media (surveillance/manipulation) platform run by the company Facebook. Instead, I will opt for media that I control and opt for the real world. See you there sometime.

Japan’s Covid Paralysis

Yesterday we had 539 new Covid-19 cases in Tokyo, a new high for Tokyo (the second in three days), and a new high nationwide. Japan appears to be doing much better than many other advanced nations, and certainly is not seeing the chaos that is happening in the US.

I think Japan’s success is due in a large part not to the government leadership, but rather to cultural factors. In addition to most Japanese not having aversion to mask-wearing, most Japanese have a sense of community and commonality of purpose with other Japanese. There is nothing of the us-and-them attitude that is so prevalent in the US. In reality, there are few of “them” to other. Japan is a highly other-challenged country.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the politicians sent effective messages to indicate how serious this was and how important it is for people to follow guidelines of behavior. After the first month or so, however, things have gone awry. The messaging has been more along the lines of “as long as you follow guidelines, you can do whatever you want wherever you want to do it.” That, I believe, has resulted in the recent record high levels of infections here in Japan. The government is essentially saying that it’s ok to do anything, as long as you are careful. They even instituted partial subsidies for domestic tourism, a business that has been seriously hit by the pandemic. What this does is replace tourists from overseas (mostly China) with Japanese tourists. The dangers remain, but are suffered by the locals.

And with all this going on, Japan is still planning on holding the once-delayed Olympics. I think they are seriously hallucinating or in serious denial. Although Japan is doing fairly well (still), many thousands of athletes and support personnel (not to mention spectators) coming to Japan from countries not doing well is certainly not a smart thing to do. Japan needs to cut bait; there are no Olympic fish available this time. I realize that huge amounts of money, including bribes, have been paid to make the Olympics happen, but shit also happens, and it has happened in a major way. It is time to get out of the way of the shit on its way to the fan.

Japan has essentially been paralyzed, unable to make embarrassing decisions to correct wrong decisions. I hope this condition can be fixed before it causes any more damage.