It’s been an awfully long time since the last episode of Ceej: A Mental Breakdown. You may have go to back to the beginning to catch up. I know I did.
Part XXII: Drug To The Limit…
They could do this to me all they wanted. I was used to it. I had been taking it from all sides for a while. What was a little more? But, to Alex? To my best friend?
“No!” I insisted, “They aren’t going to do this to you!”
“Dude,” he didn’t seem concerned, “aren’t you on meds?”
“Not anymore. We’re going to get off together. But, you can’t just stop taking them.”
Why not? That’s a question asked by people who are new to psychotropics, or have never been on them. That’s the way they’re designed. If you get off them too fast, you start to get the worst side effects. Side effects you can’t stand. Literally, you can’t stand. You lose your balance and fall over. It’s like there’s no blood in your brain.
With no medical degree, or help from anyone who had one, I had to come up with not only a plan for how I was going to get off these drugs, but also one for Alex. Obviously, I couldn’t trust a psychiatrist with the information I needed, and the internet was of little help. The plan was mine, and mine alone.
Surprisingly, the plan was rather accurate for a layman, and required no adjustment on my part and very little on Alex’s. The first thing we both noticed is that we weren’t sleeping as much, but we were more rested. We also both noticed a marked improvement in clarity, intelligence, and willpower. I noticed a supercharged surge of creativity, and pounded out both Neko and Singing In The Shower in a matter of months.
But there was a problem… Every pill we weren’t taking was a pill that would otherwise stay in the bottle. I didn’t know about Alex, but I was surrounded by people that adamantly believed I needed them, or I needed to be committed. If I was no longer taking the meds, wouldn’t they know?
The scam was simple. I would take the skills I had learned in the hospitals, and I would apply them here. I would pop the pills, and then immediately tongue the ones I wasn’t taking. After I swallowed, I would dispose of them. Even five months later, when I was completely off of them, I continued to fill the prescriptions, and dispose of the drugs a dose at a time. No one was any the wiser.
On the contrary, they believed I was on my meds now more than they did when I really was on them. Could it be, now, that I was really home free? Could this finally be the end of all the pain? After all these years? After all this suffering? Well, it wasn’t paradise or anything, but at least it was better than it was before. But, after a couple years, things started to get a little weird…
Continue to Part XXIII.
If you’ve ever done business in North America, you’ve probably heard of the Better Business Bureau. However, unless you’ve actually dealt with them, or done extensive research on them, you probably think they’re a business watch dog who mediates complaints between businesses and consumers. And that’s what they want you to think… The dark underbelly of the BBB is a sea of evil inspired by Al Capone, and much of it is actually as illegal as Capone’s activities.
The BBB wants you to think that the ratings they assign businesses are based on their practices, the ratio of complaint quantity to clients, and the speed and efficiency at which they handle complaints. This is a malicious lie. Believing it (and even wanting to believe it) will set you up for nothing but disappointment and frustration. So, how are the ratings really determined? Well, there are two main factors:
A business can elect to pay protection money to the BBB which will drastically improve their grade and make it easier to maintain. Of course, they call this protection money, “membership dues,” and they publish what businesses pay this money, calling them “Accredited.” The semantics are the only thing that makes this protection racket legal. Much the same way, you can legally buy a bong only if the seller calls it a water pipe. By any other wording, this would be illegal.
This part is secret because it is illegal the way they do it. Businesses can elect to bribe the BBB to have a complaint closed in their favour.
So, basically they’re extorting money from the businesses, promising them a good reputation if they pay and a bad reputation if they fail to pay. Nobody wins in this scenario. Businesses’ reputations are boosted based on how well they bribe (which are usually the evil businesses). As bad as it is for the businesses, it’s worse for us because we’re offered no option to bribe the BBB to turn the results in our favour. We’re also stuck with scams with high ratings. This leaves us with worse than no way of distinguishing the good guys from the bad guys. It incentivises the bad guys and decentivises the good guys.
That’s right. We would have less bad businesses screwing us over if it weren’t for the Better Business Bureau… You see why that name is somewhat of a misnomer now?
And, if you’re wondering why you’ve never heard this before, that’s a good question to ask. It’s been reported over and over again, usually by the little guy, but on as big a medium as television’s 20/20. It’s not exactly a secret.
And, well… Who do you report the BBB to for this sort of thing? Who watches the watch dog. I mean, it’s not as if you can go to the FTC. They’re a protection racket themselves.
The first step is to acknowledge what the BBB is and treat them accordingly. Only then will the real watchdogs acquire enough clout to truly watch businesses (and each other if we don’t want to repeat this mistake).
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to report the Better Business Bureau to the Better Business Bureau. That should be fun. In the meantime, here’s a collection of all the sources I found ( I didn’t have enough space to put them all in the body of the article).
This is another article I wrote for Crash To Desktop. You can read it here.
This news is probably going to blow you right away. Well, maybe not right away. It’ll probably take you out for dinner first.
Most of you already know that “Weird Al” Yankovic owns autographed copies of two The Ceej CD’s. What you probably don’t know is that Mr. Yankovic has been trying to buy my The Ceej persona for many years now. I’ve always turned him down. I couldn’t sell him the right to use my name. What would I have left?
But, on Friday, he hit my price. The money is good, but the money isn’t what’s important. He gets my name, but the awesome part is, I get his. The artist formerly known as Weird Al will, from now on, be known as The Ceej. And I… This is exciting… I will be known as “Weird Al” Yankovic.
You may have noticed the headers on the websites have been changing to reflect this. It may take a week or two, but my webmaster and I will have to comb through all the websites and update every use of my name. We’ll also have to have the old CD’s reprinted, and the website URL’s updated. It’ll be a lot of work. But, it’s good work. Because, from now on, I’m “Weird Al” Yankovic! And, isn’t that exciting?
EDIT: In case you couldn’t tell the first time, due to the absurdity of it all,
Thanks, for all of you who either fell for it or played along…
This is the time of year when many charities become more active and, in turn, so do fake charities. Celebrate holidays or not, you probably have a heart and you’re probably likely to give to people less fortunate than yourself.
It’s sad that we have to go through this every year, but I care too much about those less fortunate than myself not to take a break from the comedy and photo work to remind my audience of this.
Just remember that the easiest charities to give to probably aren’t charities. And, if they do the most good, they probably don’t need a slogan to tell you that. Yes, I’m specifically referring to the Salvation Army. This is the part of the article where I was going to embed videos from someone more articulate and more knowledgeable on the subject, but was unable to clear permission in time. Instead, I’ll provide links to her videos:
Before You Give To The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army: Doing “The Most Good”?
Common Objections To Boycotting The Salvation Army
And then there’s yesterday’s Don’t Give To The Anti-Gay Salvation Army
For more from Zinnia Jones, check out her YouTube channel.
I don’t single out the Salvation Army for being the worst fake charity. They’re not. But, they’re the most ubiquitous, and they’re pretty damn bad. The real point of this public service announcement is to remind you to research the charities you give to. Know what your money is going to, and exactly how it’s going to help the cause you support. The less fortunate wouldn’t have it any other way.
EDIT: Zinnia Jones has just gotten back to me with permission to embed her videos. Perhaps I’ll later edit this article so her videos are embedded rather than linked to, but I’m incredibly busy right now.
They call them “scare quotes.”
Excuse me. I just had to pause at the irony of putting “scare quotes” in “scare quotes.” Except that’s not really ironic. I’m sorry. Spoiler alert.
So, they call them “scare quotes.” Who are “they”? I don’t know. Probably the “people” that come up with all the sayings that begin with, “You know what they say.” And why do they call them that? Who knows? I spent a good several hours on the internet last night trying to find a source that answered that question. I found thousands of sources that asked it, but none that answered it.
When I conceived of this article, I was going to propose “we” come up with a new “name” for them. Something like “cynical quotes” or “sceptical quotes.” But, then I realised that they aren’t really any different from “real” quotes. There’s no criteria to distinguish these quotes from others.
“You” might say that “real” quotes are a quote from a specific person. But, then would that make, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still” a “scare” quote. I mean, “obviously” someone said that “first.” But “we” don’t know who did. We’re quoting a “lot” of people there.
Just like when I talk about the customer “service” department. I’m quoting the department that falsely named itself to give the illusion of the service that it goes out of its way to avoid providing. I’m not even necessarily quoting a specific company, but I’m quoting “someone,” or I wouldn’t have put it in quotes.
If I talk about “smart phones,” I’m quoting the “telecommunications” industry when they try to sell underpowered computers that might as well be called “the Swiss army knife of electronics.” Okay, that last one was my quote. But, you know what “they” say about “smart phones” and Swiss army knives. “They” say, “A jack of all trades is a master of none.” Is that a “scare quote”? Why wouldn’t it be when “smart phone” would be?
One might say that it’s a “scare” quote when the author is distancing himself from the words rather than attributing them to another source. Whatever the motivation for attributing the words to another source, you’re still attributing the words to another source. A “suicide” bomber’s intention is not to die, but that doesn’t change the fact that he still dies by his own actions. It’s not my intention to credit the “military” for their use of the word, “defence,” but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s what I’m doing when I put “defence” in quotes, “scare” or otherwise.
Sure, I can always just use my own words for these things. I can say, “customer enforcement,” “dumb computer,” and “murder,” and I’d be accurately representing the word by calling things by their proper names, but I’d also raise confusion among people who are so used to hearing the colloquial lies that they’ve never heard something called by its “proper” name.
So, in quoting a group of people or society at large, I may be using their words to avoid confusion while distancing myself from said words, but I’m still quoting them. It’s not an independent form of punctuation. And, while you may be “annoyed” when I put words or phrases in quotes, you’re certainly not “scared” by them.
Considering no one knows why they’re called “scare quotes,” we need to stop calling them that. Would you jump off a cliff without knowing why? Then why would you use a phrase and not know why?
If the title confuses you, you’re my target audience. Those who understand the title already know the message. Once you finish reading this, the title will become as clear as a glass of Crystal Pepsi. What? You don’t remember that? Well, grab your bottle of Josta, and get ready for more archaic pop culture references.
Back in the day (which was a Tuesday, by the way), the best way to store recorded sound was in a series of phonic grooves which were pressed into a vinyl disc. We called them “records,” which was the noun form of the verb, “record,” and a homonym (but not a homophone). You may recognise these records as the devices that sit on DJs’ turntables today. The biggest difference, however, is you didn’t want to scratch Billy Joel’s Glass Houses.
As technology progressed, we got a too tremendous total of types of tapes to take our tracks on our travels. That is until the laser disc became small enough, and players became buffered enough, to take those in our cars. And, from an economical perspective, we’ve been frozen here for twenty years, even though technology has actually progressed. And why is that?
In the 1990’s, Sony developed the next format, the mini-disc, an magneto-optical disc that made recording and rerecording easier than that of compact discs, while being smaller and of higher quality and capacity. Why didn’t this obviously superior format succeed? Because Sony made it and Sony has historically never made a successful format, no matter how good it was… Until the Blu-ray, that is. The market used to be prejudiced against them. But, worry not, they repackaged it as the format for their PSP games.
Let’s also be fair here. The stagnation of format progression is pretty much exclusive to music. Videos and video games are resisting progression, but not defying it.
Then came the invention of MP3 when people started ripping their CD’s to their computers. Now we could make digital back-ups of all our music, and even use software to make and play playlists. The digital market was expanding.
Aside from the fact we were sending copies to our friends, family, acquaintances, and complete strangers, which we probably shouldn’t have been doing, this was a great thing. The market for digital music improved when there were portable players, allowing us to carry thousands of songs on a tiny device, making the disc wallet nearly obsolete. Practically speaking, digital music is our current medium of choice. Films and video games aren’t there yet, but that’s mostly due to file sizes and issues with experiencing surround sound on the go.
So, all that said, the market for digital media will never win. Never. Period. I’ll eat my hat if it does, and I’ll do it on a live video broadcast.
And, why is that? First of all, when you buy a CD, you always get a free digital copy with it. Always. No exceptions. Period. End of argument. I’ve already made my point and proven my case, but there’s more to be said anyway.
Aside from getting a free digital copy, you also get album artwork and liner notes. If you buy the digital copy, you have to pay extra for a hard copy and that still doesn’t come with album artwork and liner notes and, more often than not, you’re going to be paying more and getting less.
DRM. Nuff said.
Digital media direct sales is something wanted by the industry so they can control what we listen to and steal our music from us on a whim. The people don’t want it. They’ll never accept it. Of course, the people did finally accept touch screens and tablet computers as if they wanted them after 30 years of having it shoved down their throat by greedy companies, so maybe I will end up eating my hat for all to see.
In a world where society is breaking down without much explanation, there is apparently a profession called, “Looper,” wherein one murders people from the future and disposes of their bodies. Because those in the future want no association with these Loopers, eventually, they will have to also kill their older selves.
Okay… The idea has potential. I’ll admit, the idea intrigued me. I saw the film after all. And, to be fair, most of the artists in this project did their jobs amazingly well. The acting was great, the cinematography astounding, the special effects believable, and the musical score beautiful. The direction was fair, but nothing special. Aside from one minor detail, this had all the making of a great film.
What was that detail? The script. I’m sure amateur screenwriter, Rian Johnson, had a message he was trying to get across with his film, but he didn’t express it articulately enough for me to know what that message was. I’ve published better-written short films to YouTube.
What exactly was my problem with his writing? Aside from the fact that his ideas were all over the place with no clear direction of narrative, which made it confusing as hell at some points, he tried to write a time travel story with no previous understanding of time travel.
With great difficulty, I suspended disbelief throughout the film, in spite of the fact that changes in the past affected the present, but not the time in between. Imagine, I cut off my younger self’s hand, so MY hand disappears now. I had it from the time I lost it to now, but I don’t have it now, and I didn’t have it then. It’s just so clearly and unmistakably wrong. How a major studio greenlighted a film with such glaring mistakes in continuity is beyond me.
But, here’s the kicker. They topped the whole thing off by, at the very end, rendering all of my effort to believe this story moot. A blatant grandfather paradox threw what little redeeming value was left in this story right out the window.
It’s no wonder this film is highly acclaimed by critics, professional and amateur alike. One has to hand it to the cast and the crew for taking their work seriously in spite of the horrible script they had to work with, which is more than you can say for the cast and crew of Batman & Robin, whose script was almost as bad, but whose cast and crew didn’t even try.
Johnson’s script wasn’t even warranting of a rewrite. It would have been put to better use as kindling in the fireplace during the cold winter months to come. The rest of the talented cast and crew would have had no trouble finding work elsewhere. They must have had a huge heart to give Rian Johnson a job in screenwriting, but let’s face it. He should be in a field more suited to his talents. You know? Like making my sandwich at Subway.
The critic who wrote the local paper’s review gave it three stars, and I think that was rather generous. I’d give the film as a whole two stars, but that’s only because the rest of the cast and crew shifts the average that made me give the script no stars. If you like eye candy, by all means, go see it. But, if you watch films for a coherent story, you probably want to skip this one.
You’re running down a tunnel. There’s a boulder like from one of those Indiana Jones films rolling behind you. You ‘re able to outrun it, except that you hit a dead end.
Not exactly a dead end, though. There is a door in this wall, and it’s wide enough for you. The boulder is too wide, though. But, there’s a problem. The door won’t open without the password. There’s a panel in front of you with ten digits, and a clue as to the password. You think you solved the clue, and you type in the password, but the door doesn’t open. Maybe you panicked. You try it again slower. Still nothing.
At that point, you realise a speaker on the wall. The people you call your friends are on the other side of the door. They can talk to you through the speaker. They can help you out with that password because, as it turns out, the password is printed on the other side of the door. You tell them what password you were using, and they assure you that it’s the correct password. You keep trying it, however, but the door doesn’t open. You ask, “Are you sure I’m not typing in the wrong password?” to which they reply, “No, no. You’re doing it right. There’s no problem with you. Just keep doing it the way you’re doing it.”
Before you’re able to figure out whether you were typing it in wrong or your friends were just deliberately barring the door shut from the other side, you’re crushed by the boulder. One of your friends indignantly says to the others, “I’d have told him the real password, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings,” to which another says, “Yeah. You can’t win with him. Why couldn’t he take a hint? (or she if you’re female)”
So, after you’re crushed by this metaphorical boulder, and left friendless because they all lied to you, some contacts you barely talk to might ask you if you’re sure you didn’t type in the password wrong. But, you know what? It doesn’t matter whether you typed in the password wrong. Because your “friends” could have told you the right password. Could have saved your life before you were crushed by the Social Boulder, yet chose not to. Even worse, they could have been holding the door shut. You can’t find out because you’re dead or, the social equivalent, out of their lives without any way of contacting them again.
They tell themselves that they’re noble for not telling you how to escape the boulder. They tell themselves they did the right thing. That they couldn’t tell you the truth because you’d be hurt. But, being crushed by the Social Boulder? Perfectly comfortable. They’re lying to themselves because, to save your life, they’d have to admit they’ve murdered before. They’re putting appeasing their own fragile conscience above doing the right thing, thus continuing to repeat their past crimes in perpetuity. And you, my friend, are nothing more than collateral damage caused by their own selfish ends.
I used to do that too. I used to lie to people I called friends and justified it by fallaciously appealing to their feelings, but it was never about their feelings. It was about my feelings. On the one hand, I didn’t want the discomfort of having to explain unpleasant news to someone. On the other, I didn’t want to acknowledge that my actions had destroyed people socially. However, I had to come to terms with the evil of my ways and correct my future actions to become a decent person. I also try to do the right thing by informing people that lying to people you call friends is social murder.
A decent person will tell you the password to the door and help you open it to escape the boulder, yet I have never met a single person, other than myself, who would do that. Everyone I’ve ever met would either lie about the password or hold the door shut, and then justify it by citing my “feelings.” The irony is, if they really cared about my feelings, they’d have told me the truth to begin with.
I can’t be the only decent person in the world. There have to be others who would tell the person on the other side the password and help them get the door open. My existence suggests there must be more like me. I can’t be a single anomaly. I can’t believe everyone’s that evil that they’d put their own social comfort above the lives of those they call friends. And, even if that were somehow proven to me to be the case, my heart couldn’t live with it. There have to be other decent people somewhere out there.
For a while after YouTube started, the only way for a copyright owner to protest his material being used without his permission was with a formal DMCA takedown notice. While a DMCA takedown notice is the most efficient third party method leaving the least room for abuse, it doesn’t really work unless you know that your work is being infringed upon. This is why Google developed YouTube’s Content ID system.
Originally, the Content ID system was flawed, but better than it is now. The way it worked was copyright holders would submit their work to YouTube’s system, and it would scan uploaded videos, as well as crawl the existing videos from time to time, for the work submitted. Exactly what criteria it uses and how exactly all this works is kept secret by Google. They say it’s to protect company secret and copyright holders’ work, but I fail to see how keeping this a secret accomplishes that end.
If it found something, what happened next depended on the copyright holder. While a takedown notice was possible, more likely is that the copyright holder wanted to monetise your video for himself, either by including a link to purchase the material you’re using or putting advertisements on your video. Now, because Content ID is prone to make mistakes (and the company secrets prevent us, the users, from pinpointing exactly why these mistakes are made), a user could dispute the Content ID match, and YouTube would rule in the user’s favour by default. If the alleged copyright holder still wanted to claim the rights, they would have to file a formal DMCA takedown notice and take all the legal responsibility that came with it. The uploader could also proactively file a DMCA counter-notice to force the claimant to put up or shut up. But, that was then. This is now.
Now, if a user disputes a Content ID match, a notice is sent to the copyright holder, informing them of your dispute. Their Content ID match remains on your video until they release their claim or until 30 days have passed, whichever comes first. I don’t know what happens if they don’t release their claim. I’ve never had that happen. I know what should happen. They should have to file a formal DMCA takedown notice and take all the legal responsibility that comes with it.
So, I have a scammer called Myuap that’s been sitting on a dispute on my Content ID match for three weeks now. They don’t plan to respond to my dispute. They can’t legally claim the video as theirs, so they won’t. If they release their claim, they’ll stop earning advertising revenue off the public domain. So, they just plan to milk it for 30 days and move onto some other sap and repeat the process.
Google knows about scammers that abuse the flaws in the Content ID system. If I were more cynical and not contractually forbidden from saying bad things about Google, I might suggest that the changes to the Content ID system were to accommodate Content ID fraud from “companies” like The Orchard Music.
So, how does this Content ID fraud work? Well, the scammer submits a bunch of public domain pieces to the Content ID system and, when there’s a match, they steal from the public domain by collecting advertising revenue on someone else’s video. On rare occasions, they’ll use the uploader’s own copyrighted material, stealing from the uploader. They also steal from the uploader if the uploader planned to monetise the video in question and can’t because of a Content ID match.
I said before that Google knows about these scammers and refuses to get involved. They refuse to enforce their own policy here, citing, “We don’t mediate Content ID disputes.” That’s a red herring, of course. If I were more cynical and if I weren’t contractually forbidden to say bad things about Google, I might suggest that Google keeps them around because they make plenty of money enabling these scammers’ theft from the public domain.
Obviously, the Content ID system is a good concept. As a copyright holder, I’d like to know about infringements on my work as soon as I possibly can. It’s just horribly implemented. I have some ideas to improve it.
- Take the Content ID system down for a couple weeks to purge all illegal material from it. Send in spiders to find public domain work, purge all public domain work from the Content ID system, and ban all users who submitted public domain work (with the exception of those who owned it when they submitted it and subsequently released it, unless it’s a recurring problem with those people). If they’re going to use the Content ID system to defraud, then they’ll just have to file formal DMCA takedown notices if they have a legitimate copyright claim.
- Shift the burden of proof to the accuser. If the Content ID system matches content, and the uploader disputes it, immediately restore it to its previous condition, but send a notification to the alleged copyright holder that includes a link to the matched video and the entire context of the dispute. That way, if there is a legitimate match, the copyright owner is well equipped, but we’re not convicting without evidence.
- The dispute process should have a way of marking whether the uploader believes this match is fraud. Any disputes marked as fraud will be investigated by Google staff, especially several disputes against the same claimant. If fraud is determined to be the case, the claimant may lose the privilege to use the Content ID system. If a particular uploader has been known to knowingly falsely claim fraud on too many occasions for it to be an accident or mistake, he might also be subject to losing his account. This feature is to maintain the purge of public domain material, as well as to purge copyrighted material attributed to a person or organisation other than the legitimate copyright holder.
- Allow the uploader to file a formal DMCA counter-notice and take all legal responsibilities that come with it at any point after the Content ID match was initiated. This ballsy move says, “I know I’m right and I’m prepared to go to court over it. If you are, then file your formal DMCA takedown notice now. If you aren’t, then drop it.” In clear cases of abuse of the system or fair use, this will expedite the process. In cases where the uploader is wrong, then he wouldn’t want to do this and, if he does anyway, he brought the problems on himself.
- Give the alleged copyright owner more options. As a copyright holder myself, these are the options I (and dare I say most copyright holders) would like to be given: First of all, the option to drop it is probably going to be the most used, which would require no further action on anybody’s part. It’s the default position. Second, I would really like the option to negotiate with the uploader. In my experience, negotiating with your infringer is far more effective than getting a legal system involved. If they select this option, then Google opens up a mediated form for both parties to communicate. The only purpose for Google’s mediation is to confirm the agreement of this negotiation so lying is impossible, though I do say they should be able to get involved if they want to, but should be under no obligation. If this method proves ineffective, then the claimant could move onto one of the other two options. The third option is filing a formal DMCA takedown notice and taking all legal responsibilities that come with it. Reinstating the effects brought on by the Content ID match will not be an option unless agreed upon in negotiation.
- Once a formal DMCA takedown notice is filed, I have no issues with how Google handles it from there, but then I only know the policy. I don’t know if that’s the way it works in practice. I’ve never had to be on either end of such a notice. I’ve always gotten the infringer to take down the offending material by a simple request.
I believe Google already knows everything I said in this article. I just don’t think they care. I’ll send them a link, just in case they care, but don’t hold your breath that they’ll be interested in making YouTube a better place.