Who Needs Facebook And Google?
Posted on 03.10.18 by Danny Glover @ 9:27 am

The founder of The Babylon Bee, a popular religious satire site that was in the news last week for being wrongly flagged as a purveyor of “false” news, has launched a new project designed to aggregate real news from a religious perspective.

A simple website styled like the Drudge Report, it’s called the Christian Daily Reporter. I’ll be interested to see whether the site gains any traction in light of founder Adam Ford’s philosophical decision to eschew all social media, as these excerpts from the site’s manifesto explain:

  • “The majority of people get their news from social networks. We rely on Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram, YouTube, etc., to such a degree that we allow them to decide what content we consume, what issues we consider important, what news is news, what is and is not allowed to be said, what’s true and what’s not. These companies shape the way our brains think by controlling what our eyes see every day.”
  • “For a few companies to have the power to control the way billions of people think is terrifying and dangerous. It is unacceptable. … These companies are increasingly hostile toward Christian content and information. This will only get worse as time goes by. It will not get better.”
  • “The Christian Daily Reporter is a source for the most important news and content from a Christian perspective — and it lives outside the tech-giant information choke hold. We are not on any social media network. We refuse to be beholden to the Internet content gatekeepers. CDR is intentionally not optimized for Facebook or Google. We don’t want social media or search referrals. We are 100 percent independent.”

As someone who has studied and reported on every content revolution in the information age, from blogs to social media, I am intrigued by this plan to get back to the basics. The great promise of the Internet has always been its ability to take power from media gatekeepers and give it to news and information consumers. The idea is to give them EVERYTHING and let them filter it as they see fit.

Somewhere along the way, huge technology monopolies figured out how to take that control back from us, with our consent but without us truly understanding what was happening or how they were shaping our mind. If we can reclaim some or all of that power, that’ll be a good thing.

I wonder if the Christian Daily Reporter could use an assist from an enlightened redneck with more than two decades of journalism experience and a passion for the Bible.


Filed under: Culture and Media and News & Politics and Religion and Social Media and Technology
Comments: None

The W.Va. Teachers’ Strike On Wikipedia
Posted on 03.05.18 by Danny Glover @ 9:44 pm

The teachers’ strike dominating headlines in West Virginia for the past week has been a relatively peaceful affair by historical standards in the Mountain State. Teachers and their allies are making a lot of noise inside and around the state Capitol, and so far they haven’t faced any crackdowns for it. The clashes have been verbal in nature rather than physical, and the rhetoric has been pointed without getting ugly.

It was a different story on Wikipedia over the weekend. Anyone can edit content at the online encyclopedia, and a few mischievous users decided to abuse that editing privilege by vandalizing the entries of at least two key West Virginia senators. Wikipedia restricted access to those pages because of the troublemakers.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael, who also holds the title of lieutenant governor, was the primary target. His Wikipedia page was altered repeatedly on Saturday.

Several of the edits were so childishly ornery that you had to chuckle at them. The editors accused Blair of hating pepperoni rolls, the official state food, and being either a “closet” or “verified” fan of Pitt, the much-maligned rival of West Virginia University. He also was dubbed the “Son of Voldemort,” a reference to the evil villain in the “Harry Potter” books and movies.

But other revisions to Blair’s Wikipedia page, such as changing the office he holds to “Smug Ignoramus” and his college degree to “Bachelor of Being a Big Ahole” and “Bachelor of Being a Jerk,” were downright nasty. Here are some of the other edits that were quickly stricken:

  • “He is known to hate all teachers and public employees.”
  • “He can only laugh when children cry.”
  • “Hobbies include kicking puppies and making babies cry.”
  • “His life goal is to stop all celebrations of holidays.”
  • “He is perhaps best known for his theme song, ‘Move Mitch, Get Out Da Way,’” an allusion to a vulgar song by the rapper Ludacris.

The ad hominem vandalism aimed at Sen. Ryan Ferns, on both his Wikipedia page and Carmichael’s page, was even worse. The edits mocked Ferns as being a “favorite puppet” and “in a relationship with” Carmichael and the rest of the Republican-controlled Senate.

Other changes called out Ferns for his drunken-driving arrest in 2012 and his party switch from Democrat to Republican in 2013. Here are two of the more extensive changes that were deleted:

  • “After realizing he made a horrible mistake, both by driving drunk and being elected as a Democrat, he quickly decided to mend his ways and become an ego-maniacal yes man to Mitch Carmichael. Little did he know his biggest accomplishment would be to hold the entire state of WV hostage while stroking his bosses ‘ego’ and breaking every rule of parliamentary law that WV has to offer because of a dumb bunny mistake they made.”
  • “Ryan Ferns not only looks like Sam Hunt but also has a ‘Body like a Back Road.’ He enjoys doing Cross Fit at his gym (that his rich family bought him). Ryan also is the first senator in the history of West Virginia to have two DUIs!” (I couldn’t find any news of a second DUI.)

The editing history of both pages shows that a more responsible editor protected them in reaction to “persistent disruptive editing.” If this is a sign of labor strikes to come, Wikipedia may become the picket line of the digital age.


Filed under: Education and Government and Media and Music and News & Politics and People and West Virginia
Comments: None

West Virginia’s Staple Food Rolls Into D.C.
Posted on 03.01.18 by Danny Glover @ 8:16 pm

This is the kind of news that could get me excited about D.C. again!

If you catch yourself in conversation with a West Virginian on the topic of food, there’s no doubt you’ll hear about the pepperoni roll. The handheld snack is as inherent to the Mountain State’s culinary identity as bagels are to New York and as deep dish is to Chicago.

… Now, the West Virginia staple is available in the nation’s capital at Pepperoni Chic, the city’s first restaurant concept dedicated to the regional roll.

When I hear “11 different kinds of pepperoni rolls,” though, I get a little wary. I hope this new shop isn’t pushing another perversion of a classic hillbilly snack like Katie Lee did on the Today Show a couple of years ago.


Filed under: Food and West Virginia
Comments: None

When Customers Are Wrong, We All Pay
Posted on 02.09.18 by Danny Glover @ 7:49 pm

There was a time when American consumers practiced honesty as the best policy and businesses rewarded them with generous guarantees and a “customer is always right” attitude. They could afford to do so because people didn’t abuse the situation.

That time is not now, as this policy change from L.L. Bean indicates:

Increasingly, a small, but growing number of customers has been interpreting our guarantee well beyond its original intent. Some view it as a lifetime product replacement program, expecting refunds for heavily worn products used over many years. Others seek refunds for products that have been purchased through third parties, such as at yard sales.

Something similar happened at Costco when a woman returned a dead Christmas tree after using it all through the holidays. “Bizarrely, the woman apparently managed to get her money back in full despite taking the battered fir back a full 10 days after Dec. 25,” The New York Post reported.

This, as the cliche goes, is why we can’t have nice things. When customers are wrong, we all pay for their bad behavior, either with higher prices to cover the costs of their theft or with policy changes that punish ethical consumers for the sins of the crooks.


Filed under: Business and Culture and News & Politics
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A Honey Of A Tale About Bees And The FAA
Posted on 01.25.18 by Danny Glover @ 9:17 pm

A “Designated Survivor” episode that aired in December included a Federal Aviation Administration character and a story line about honeybees and aircraft surveillance radar. I told my wife as we watched that I should write a story about it. I did.

I never imagined that as a writer for the FAA, I’d be interviewing actors. But this is now the third story idea I’ve found via Hollywood. One of those pieces focused on the air traffic controller portrayed in the Tom Hanks movie “Sully.”

For the feature about bees, I just wish I’d had a reason to interview Beth Littleford about her role as the beekeeper’s wife on “Designated Survivor.” I loved her as the mom on “Dog With A Blog”! Here’s an excerpt of the story:

Forget that fantastical story line on ABC’s “Designated Survivor.” Bee buffs and aviation radar experts agree — electromagnetic waves can’t kill entire colonies of honeybees.

Hollywood’s creative minds wrote that theory into the Dec. 6 episode of the conspiratorial, Washington-based drama. The show’s writers debunked the idea by the end of the episode, but considering the lighthearted plot featured an FAA character, FocusFAA decided to make a few calls — to a radar specialist, a bee scientist and two actors in the episode, among others.

They all chuckled at the idea of aircraft surveillance radar disorienting honeybees to the point of starvation. “Unless [the hives] are by some gigantic radar facility sitting across the fence, I wouldn’t worry about it,” said Jerry Bromenshenk, a research scientist who heads the Online Beekeeping Certificate Program at the University of Montana.

Read the rest of it at Medium.


Filed under: Aviation and Culture and Government and Movies and People and Wildlife
Comments: None

Barbecue Brilliance
Posted on 01.19.18 by Danny Glover @ 6:32 pm

This enlightened redneck and I have a lot in common. We’re both from West Virginia; we’re both West Virginia University grads (he for English, me for journalism); and we both live in the other Virginia now.

One thing we don’t have in common: He’s a barbecue champion with Old Virginia Smoke who’s making news for his culinary skills.

I spend most weekends cooking and though it’s hard work, we have a lot of fun out there. It’s me, my wife (whom he calls the “Lil’ General”) and our friend Leigh Anne. We do about 30 competitions a year all over the country. Meeting people and making friends has been the best part. And winning isn’t bad, either.

The main thing is not to overpower the meat. Let the meat speak for itself. It should be kissed with spice, salt, sweet and smoke. Not too much of one thing. But just enough of everything.

Now how do I finagle an invitation to one of his backyard meat fests just down the road from us?!


Filed under: Food and People and West Virginia
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The Two-edged Online Tongue
Posted on 08.04.17 by Danny Glover @ 9:19 pm

The story about the couple who ruined a wedding photographer’s reputation is troubling for many reasons, but one that jumped out in The Washington Post’s coverage is a subtle quote that speaks volumes about the Internet’s ability to empower malicious arrogance: “She’s a blogger. Make sure everything looks perfect.”

The photographer said that about her new client before she ever worked for the woman because she understood all too well the influence of a blogger scorned. Her words are the digital upgrade (or should I say downgrade?) to the adage about never arguing with a man who buys ink by the barrel.

The difference is that in the bygone era when newspapers mattered, most journalists who worked at papers still had editorial checks that prevented egregious abuses. Bloggers have no such restraints. Neither do YouTube or Instagram celebrities. Even average Joes and Janes with a twisted talent for riling the masses into a bout of public shaming can do great damage to an undeserving person’s reputation.

And the scarlet letter is now a scarlet alphabet. From A to Z, any whiff of imagined wrongdoing along the spectrum of “sin” is justification for humiliation — especially if exposing it online might bring a cruel blogger fame or fortune.

I am the guy who once penned what a colleague called an opus to the awesome power of blogs and who co-authored essential guides to Pinterest and Twitter. Teaching people how to use social media for good was my job, so the irony of now decrying the equally destructive power of blogs is not lost on me.

But such is the nature of the two-edged online tongue.


Filed under: Blogging and Media and News & Politics and People and Social Media and Technology
Comments: None

A Fad For Fidgety Folks
Posted on 05.05.17 by Danny Glover @ 8:26 pm

Soon after one fad fades, another quickly arises to take its place. And as sure as the whipper-snappers of the day embrace it, the old fogys ridicule it and lament it as the demise of civilization. Fidget spinners are the latest fad to inflame this generational divide:

I don’t know who planted these devices in our country, but it was clearly a malicious act intended to distract us from more important issues, like the latest versions of smartphones and foreign countries itching to invade America.

Many fidget spinners are manufactured in China — I know this because my extremely focused son recently bought a pack of 10 spinners from a Chinese distributor. (I wish I was making that up.) So I suspect China is behind this so-called fad.

At the rate things are going, the Chinese military could overrun the West Coast and our children would be too distracted with their fidget spinners to notice anything, and we adults would be too distracted by our annoyance with fidget spinners to care. There have been times lately, amid the incessant whir of spinners and the occasional yelp of a sleeping dog struck by a dropped spinner, when a Chinese invasion would have been downright refreshing.

A fidget spinner is now on its way to our house from China via Amazon.com, so I guess we’re about to learn what all the fuss is about. What I want to see is a youngster playing with a fidget spinner while scooting through town on Heelys to hunt digital monsters on Pokemon Go.


Filed under: Culture and Family and Technology
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The Myth Of The Impala Mama
Posted on 02.18.17 by Danny Glover @ 1:50 pm

Finnish photographer Alison Buttigieg loves cats. The Internet loves cats. But these days Buttigieg hates the Internet because it’s lying about one of her cat photos.

It all started Feb. 11. Someone who knows her work as a wildlife photographer recognized a cheetah picture of hers online. That wasn’t necessarily a surprise  —  Buttigieg published the “remarkable” photo on her blog, Facebook and Instagram last November after it won an international award. But the flood of messages that started pouring in from strangers that day stunned her.

An intellectual property thief had stolen her photo, invented a feel-good back-story for it, and engineered a viral sensation  —  one that wasn’t exactly flattering to Buttigieg. The tall tale portrayed the three cheetahs in the photo as heartless killers, their impala prey as a self-sacrificial mother and Buttigieg as a fragile soul who sank into depression after documenting a feline feast.

“In the beginning I thought it was absolutely hilarious, even the trolling,” she told me in an email interview six days after the hoax spread. “But then it was suddenly really overwhelming when I realized there wasn’t much I could do.”

Buttigieg is an information technology consultant whose passion for animals and for wild places inspired a foray into photography. She has carried a camera on wildlife journeys around the world for 13 years and started taking the photographic aspect of her observations more seriously about four years ago.

“I see my photos as a means to spread awareness about wildlife and the need to protect them and their habitat,” she said.

Buttigieg has shot pictures on three continents  —  Africa, Asia and South America. Her favorite places include Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in Botswana and South Africa, and the Massai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya. In September 2013, she was near the latter location, at the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, when she saw a family of cheetahs trap a lone impala.

Cats of all kinds fascinate Buttigieg because of their beauty and expressive faces. Cheetahs stand out in the felidae species for their speed, quirks and sounds. The guides at the conservancy knew she loved cheetahs, and a mother and two adolescents were near the camp during her visit.

Read the rest of the story at Medium.


Filed under: Blogging and Human Interest and People and Photography and Social Media and Technology and Travel and Wildlife
Comments: 1 Comment

‘Hillbilly Heroin’ On ‘Law & Order’
Posted on 02.04.17 by Danny Glover @ 1:28 pm

I often start my Saturdays by watching a few episodes of “Law & Order,” and right now I’m watching one from 2002 that I must not have seen before. I would have remembered it if only for the “hillbilly” slam against West Virginia.

The episode, titled “Oxymoron,” is about a murder related to a drug dealer who specializes in the highly addictive narcotic oxycodone. About 15 minutes into the show, the main police characters in the show — Lennie Briscoe, Ed Green and Lt. Anita Van Buren — have a conversation about the drug in question. Here’s an excerpt from the transcript:

Van Buren: Oxycodone?
Green: Yup, they call it “Hillbilly Heroin.” Some genius in West Virginia figured it was easier to get than moonshine.
Briscoe: Yeah. Yuppies and housewives who don’t want to see themselves as users get it from their doctors.
Van Buren: And the insurance companies foot the bill?
Green: Mm-hmm. Until they stop paying. Then they got to go to the guy on the corner.
Briscoe: Pills go for about a dollar a milligram on the street. Eighty-milligram pills, 100 pills to a bottle– that’s 8,000 bucks a bottle.
Van Buren: That’s not a bad profit margin.

I get that opioids are a huge problem in West Virginia, even more now than when “Oxymoron” aired 15 years ago. The epidemic of abuse is so well-known that it appears to have motivated drug manufacturers to flood the state with hundreds of millions of pills, amounting to 433 pain pills for every state resident, regardless of age.

“Hillbilly heroin” also is an actual slang term for describing this scourge in rural America, where people looking to get high can’t afford the drugs of choice for the rich and famous like cocaine. So I have no problem with the writers of “Law & Order” incorporating it into the script.

But the wisecrack suggest that West Virginia is the home of rednecks who either drink moonshine or get their fix from oxycodon was a predictable typecast straight out of Hollywood. Odds are good that whoever wrote that line has never been to the great Mountain State.


Filed under: Culture and Entertainment and Health and News & Politics and Rednecks and West Virginia
Comments: None

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