Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Looking At Macedonia On Canadian Soil

I have another photo post today here in the embassy series, Ottawa Welcomes The World, happening here through the year at the Horticulture Building in Lansdowne Park. I will have one more in the series, and then shift others into the photoblog in September (it's been an exceptionally busy summer). 

One recent occasion celebrated the Republic of Macedonia, a place with a rich history going back thousands of years. This of course is the former part of Yugoslavia, and for part of my life, a place hidden away behind the Iron Curtain. There was a lot going on here, including art, music, crafts, food, and traditional clothing.

When I came in later in the day, there was a bagpiper on stage. The Macedonian bagpipe is bigger and sounds different from the Scottish bagpipe we're so used to.

There was also a line of dancers making their way through the crowd, many of them in traditional Macedonian clothing.

The flag of the country being profiled hangs outside the building during the event. Macedonia's flag hung along several lights at the front of the building. Visiting this event was enjoyable- I certainly learned a good deal about the country while attending, and it left me wanting to pay a visit myself. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Breaking Out Of Facebook Prison Again

A rant is in order today. Before we go any further, another word of warning- avast ye maties, there be swearing ahead! So in case your morals run to the Victorian code where colourful language is concerned, you may as well consider yourself warned in advance.

So it turns out I was back in Facebook jail again.

Again- emphasis on the again.

This has happened before.

And as before, it was a wrongful suspension.

Not that Facebook ever admits it was wrong.

It started back in July with logging in one morning to find out that I was blocked, under suspension for thirty days. The reason? One remark. One that didn’t come anywhere near to violating their community standards, but hey... as has happened before, their community standards are two faced and hypocritical.

All I did was heckle a misogynistic woman hater. A guy who frankly deserved to get heckled. One of those drooling half-wits with a mad-on for the entire world in general and the female half of the species in particular.

And for that, I was turfed. 

When this happens (and it’s becoming old hat for me now), there is absolutely no appeal. You can’t like a thing, you can’t post a thing, you can’t even post a complaint in the Help Community. The Help Community is pretty much worthless- nobody who actually works for Facebook goes there. Facebook refuses to get back to you. You can complain all you want to those automatic boxes- the ones that tell you you’re still under suspension and if you think this is wrong, click here and tell us why, thank you very much- but there’s never a reply back. Facebook is stone silent, no contact information, no customer service, nothing. Zilch. Nada. Bupkis. Niente. 

So I was stuck for a month. There’s only so much you can do- such as trotting out your shadowy secondary name to at least post links at your page. That gets tedious, what with Facebook making you write out  captchas each time (on a side note, I hate captchas). I was told I’d be able to post a message in the Help Community as of August. Never happened. I tried it once, and was promptly told I was not allowed to do so as I was under suspension. Let’s just say wasting twenty minutes writing out a formal complaint and then not having it take is, well... kind of fucking irritating. So instead I marked the time by adding a prison movie picture with snarky commentary most days during that lost month. As it turns out, even now when the suspension is over, I am now blocked from initiating any question in the Help Community. It seems Facebook doesn’t like being held to account, or criticized, or taking formal complaints in any form.

I’ve noted in previous post-suspension rants about how hypocritical those community standards are. Any time I’ve been suspended, those comments never did cross that line. And yet 99% of the time when I report a comment.... it comes back as “this does not violate our community standards.”

Bull fucking shit.

I report a comment when it does cross that line.

I report remarks that are from hate mongering bigots. Anti-Semitic scum. Homophobic zealots. White supremacists. Things that stomp all over the line of civility, decency, and reason.

Ninety nine times out of a hundred, comments that would by all rights classify as hate speech just get a free pass. That’s Facebook, saying that hate speech is perfectly acceptable to them.

Some weeks back, I reported a comment on a news story about a sexual assault case. Of anything in this world, surely that comment would justify being deleted, and the user expelled permanently from the site. The “man” in question wrote the following: “well who wouldn’t rape her?”

Read that again. We’ll wait.

How does that comment not cross the line?

Not according to Facebook, which found it perfectly acceptable. “This does not violate our community standards.”

So your “community standards” sees nothing wrong with rape. Wow.

Another recent story brought out a pretty malevolent sort of guy, who made threatening remarks to several people over the course of the thread. I reported comments he was making to one of the other individuals: “I think I’ll take a vacation up to Ontario..... and stab your whole family.”

That’s a threat. That’s intent. Granted, the fucking asshole doesn’t have the knowledge to find said person, and deep down he's a gutless coward anyway, but this is the sort of person who’s going to end up on the news someday after butchering seven strangers, and whose neighbours will say, “but he always seemed like a nice normal guy to us.”

Facebook’s response? The same old “this does not violate our community standards.”

Come on. Really?

Wake up.

Your fucking community standards are a damned disgrace. A joke. A pile of hypocrisy. You throw someone out for not violating them, with no bloody appeal, and then you turn right around and give a free pass to hate mongering garbage to spew their toxic waste.

Which leads to one conclusion- your community standards slap us around while giving bigots free rein because deep down, you agree with the goddamned bigots. You see nothing wrong with hate mongering and death threats and rape.

If you refuse to deal with people who have legitimate concerns, if you continue to treat people in such a blatantly two faced way, if you refuse to develop a real network of service to the public for your site like every other form of social media has... you’re going to end up destroying yourselves in the long run.

Mark Zuckerberg will never read this, granted. If I had a chance to speak to him, what would I say?

“Why is it acceptable to you to suspend people wrongfully while letting bigots routinely get away with everything? No pauses, Mark, no awkward ums, sideway glances, and equivocations. Just answer the fucking question.”

But there’s never going to be an answer. Because no one’s ever made him or his circle of co-founders answer the question.

Bloody fucking hypocrite.

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Hidden Treasure Of South America

I have another photoblog post today in the Ottawa Welcomes The World series. This event is ongoing through to the beginning of December here as part of Ottawa's celebrations of Canada 150. The city has been hosting embassies in showcasing their countries in the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne Park. On one such occasion, it was the nation of Uruguay's turn. To be honest, I had very little knowledge about the country beforehand- looking around online though indicated the country has a very good reputation for political stability and freedom, a high standard of education, and a welcome economic status. Nestled between Argentina and Brazil, the nation has a moderate climate, and much of the country is close to the Atlantic Ocean. One of the people here made note of the fact that the country has over three million people (a good part of them in the capital)... and 19 million cows. Obviously cattle are big business in Uruguay.

There was a lot going on that day, as I came back several times. Photographs of Uruguayan landscapes mounted on the wall caught my eye. Particularly a rather unusual bridge.

Items such as those used in the cattle business or crafts were on display. Travel information was readily available too.

So too were food items. Uruguay's climate, moderated by proximity to the ocean, makes for good conditions for vineyards and olive groves particularly, and there were samples for tasting of each, as well as cheeses. 

There were also a couple of cakes for the occasion. I thought it best to photograph them before there was any cutting of the cake- a very sensible precaution, because by the time I got back, they were being sliced into. 

And outside, meat was being grilled for lunch. Later in the evening they had plates of Uruguayan food for dinner, which isn't spicy in the way you expect of Latin America, but mild and delicious.

At one point tango lessons were being offered. Dancers from a local tango group, Siempre Tango, were on hand. Two of them were instructors for a session I photographed here during Doors Open, an event I'll be showing in detail in the photoblog for a theme day in the fall.

There was something else here in the evening. Carnival is big throughout Uruguay, and particularly the tradition of candombe, which is centered in Uruguay and has been recognized by UNESCO as part of humanity's culture. It is a combination of drums and dance. It started with a documentary about a woman who had been involved in the tradition as a dancer for many years (she's in the third shot below), and brought in the dancers and drummers into the building from outdoors. The sound and energy of the candombe just electrified the atmosphere of the evening.

Afterwards, there were musicians on stage. It was a thoroughly enjoyable occasion, one that made me definitely want to visit the country.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Curse Of The Endless Sharknado

Fifth Sharknado Film Infests The World, Drives People With Taste Up The Wall

Los Angeles (AP) Anthony Ferrante and David Michael Latt, the self described brain trust behind the Sharknado direct to TV series of awful films, are basking in the attention of the fifth film in the franchise, Sharknado 5: Global Swarming. The film series, which mangles basic physics and biology while providing jobs for Z-list actors, has seen actors Ian Ziering and Tara Reid play a husband and wife pair of nitwits improbably confronting sharks swept up out of the ocean and into places around the world, terrorizing everyone in their path.

Now the latest chapter of the franchise has made it to television screens on the Syfy Channel in the United States and has been making it to other cheese-fest cable stations around the world, bringing a story of a global sharknado epidemic, with the aforementioned nitwits being somehow the only people who can save the day. The latest chapter of the film continues the tradition of Z-list celebrity cameos, including Geraldo Rivera, Fabio, Al Roker, Kathie Lee Gifford, and Charo. Absent for this chapter was David Hasselhoff, who starred in a couple of the earlier films but who is the subject of a mutual restraining order after fights have broken out with Ziering. Neither one is permitted within five hundred feet of each other at all times.

Ferrante, Latt, Ziering, and Reid met reporters at the studios for the film company The Asylum recently to discuss the franchise. A clarification- real reporters, namely those with a working brain, and entertainment reporters, none of whom have a working brain. The latter slavishly drool and fawn over anything remotely famous, such as Z-list actors like Reid and Ziering. The actors looked thoroughly pleased with themselves as they joined the director and producer on stage.

“What can I say about Sharknado?” Ziering said. “It’s saved my career. Saved my life too. I mean, I’ve said it before, the loan sharks were going to break my legs before I got the role in the first film, and it’s kept me famous and on the right side of the financial ledger ever since. Pretty good for a guy who got famous for playing Steve Sanders on 90210. Hey, if Luke Perry’s out there watching right now? Screw you, buddy! Who’s on top now, you James Dean wannabe?”

As a side note, Perry himself, who’s been in the Archie-reboot series Riverdale for awhile, shrugged when told about Ziering’s taunt. “Honestly? I’m just glad to be working. In a role I don’t have to be ashamed of when I look in the mirror once or twice a day. How a guy goes through life being proud of playing opposite bad CGI sharks in really lousy movies is beyond me.”

Back to the matter at hand. Reid was prattling on while the entertainment reporters were gushing. “....and it’s meant so much to me to have this role, to be working again, to be recognized in the streets. The last thing I ever wanted to become was the sort of actor who stops working and the next thing you hear of them, it’s thirty years after their last role and they died in a county fair stage disaster mounting their forty seventh comeback. That’s not going to happen to me, no! Because there’s no stopping the Sharknado franchise!”

Ferrante nodded. “That’s right. We’re going to keep this series going. Make it a bigger annual tradition in America than Thanksgiving! Who needs turkey when you can have Fin and April carving up flying sharks with a chainsaw, right?”

“That’s right!” Ziering said. “People love us. They love Sharknado! They want more! Because we’ve touched a cultural nerve. This, ladies and gentlemen, is better than the Renaissance or the Enlightenment or any of that crap. This... is the Age of Sharknado! By the way, I’m copyrighting that term. Anyone using the phrase Age of Sharknado from this moment on has to pay me twenty thousand dollars.”

One of the entertainment reporters spoke up. “Did you miss working with David Hasselhoff this time out?”

Ferrante and Latt looked alarmed, as if wondering if the reporter had somehow blanked out the whole mutual restraining order between Hasselhoff and Ziering. Ziering looked incensed. “That old man? Who wants him in anything? Biggest egomaniacal ham I’ve ever seen in any project,  and don’t forget, I’ve worked with Shannen Doherty.”

There was a loud racket at the entrance to the hall, and a bellow. “Take that back!”

Everyone turned. There, standing there fuming, was one of the more obnoxious of the world’s Z-list celebrities. David Hasselhoff, self described as “The Hoff”, a talentless hack and punchline to a bad joke, wasn’t in on the film, after all, and there was that aforementioned bad blood he had with Ziering.

Ferrante rose up. “David, now we don’t want any trouble...”

Hasselhoff started coming down the aisle. “If you didn’t want any trouble, you should have just automatically written that bleached blond punk Ziering out of the film and made me the star! Because I am the star! Everybody loves the Hoff!”

“Not everybody, old man,” Ziering shot back, standing up, glaring at his rival.

Shut up! Don’t interrupt the Hoff when the Hoff is talking!” Hasselhoff ordered.

“Don’t tell me to shut up!” Ziering hollered. “You shut up!”

“I told you to shut up first!” Hasselhoff countered. “You’re an embarrassment to the profession!”

Ziering came up around the table where the others were positioned. “Oh, I’m an embarrassment? You’re the guy who ate cheeseburgers off the floor during one of your drinking binges, old man!”

Latt looked around. “Could someone call security?”

Hasselhoff looked even angrier. “They’re not drinking binges! I drink to relax! To calm my nerves! To make myself feel better! I drink because the bottle’s the only thing that understands the Hoff! That doesn’t make me a... wait, what were we talking about? Oh, yeah! You’re an idiot, Ziering, and you’re stealing my thunder! Go back to 90210 already, Sanders!”

Ziering lunged, screaming, “It’s go time!”

What followed was another fight, two grown men kicking and punching at each other, clawing eyes, pulling at hair, delivering shots in each other’s direction. Security guards intervened to pull them apart, but Ziering got in one last punch, hitting Hasselhoff squarely in the nose.

Hasselhoff screamed in agony. “My nose! He broke my nose again!”

The two actors were dragged in different directions, yelling at each other the whole time. Reid looked puzzled. Ferrante shrugged, and Latt said, “What you just saw? That’s progress. They were far worse on set.  Anyway, folks, thanks for coming, and don’t forget... Sharknado 6 can’t be too far away, can it?”