Friday, December 2, 2016

Support Kellogg's and Fight the Bully



Photo: Eleven, of Stranger Things, from yahoo.com/tv

If you're completely unfamiliar with the situation, first read this article by clicking here.

In a surprising move this week, Kellogg's pulled its advertising dollars from the website of Breitbart News. Many other companies have since followed suit. Breitbart is the ultra-right wing, conservative site that calls itself a "news organization." It's not. It publishes opinion, not fact, and it only publishes one type of opinion, rather than many. News organizations, of course, publish the news, which always involves facts. It also publishes all types of news, not just the type that pushes its own propaganda. The founder of Breitbart, Stephen Bannon, is essentially the man behind the strategy that won Trump the White House, and is destined to be someone of importance in Trump's machine. Think of Bannon as you will, but you can't deny that he has his own super-conservative right-wing agenda, which even Trump at times doesn't agree with.

Whatever.

The main idea of this post is to point out that, for whatever reason, Kellogg's pulled the plug on its advertising dollars on the website, which is more of a blog than a "news source." This is not unusual, as companies frequently pull its advertising from places that they feel don't (or won't) generate as much income, or reach a particular consumer group. Kellogg's insists that the withdrawal is not political, and I'm inclined to believe that. After all, one doesn't advertise on Breitbart to begin with unless one wants to reach white, super-conservative, right-wing readers. This was the case before Trump, and it's certainly the case now. If the withdrawal was political, the ads would never have been there in the first place. And since the site has generated more hits since election day, it makes sense that the company would've kept its ads there.

So what's the reason?

In an article you can read at this link, the point was raised that companies can reach Breitbart's type of readership more effectively via other avenues, such as any website of Glenn Beck's. But the main reason Kellogg's and other companies pulled the plug is because they may not have known that their ads were on the site to begin with. Apparently, ads that we see on the left and right of the screen online are not put there by those companies. They're placed by yet another company that gets paid to put ads on websites where they'll be seen. Since Breitbart's readership has grown, those companies put the ads of Kellogg's and other companies on that website. Some companies, like Kellogg's, and now like Vanguard, 3M and AARP, apparently didn't want to spend their ad dollars there, or they didn't want to reach the readers Breitbart's caters to, or, as Kellogg's said, because Breitbart's "didn't align with their values."

Fair enough. Happens all the time. From the linked article:

While Breitbart is billing Kellogg’s decision as “bigoted and anti-American,” it’s a well-established American business practice for corporations to shift their sponsorship to companies they believe will help bolster their brand. In the case of reaching conservative audiences, advertisers that exit Breitbart aren’t necessarily snubbing those consumers because other conservative-leaning outlets, such as Fox News or Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, have an overlap. 
“There are a lot of places advertisers can go to reach the same audience, and even maybe a bigger audience,” Wilkins said.
Hell, I've lost a few blog followers over the years because they may not have liked the thoughts I've espoused here. Whatever. To each his own. If I made money from this blog by putting ads on it (I've been offered many times, but I don't), that would hurt a bit because companies gauge a blog's hits and its numbers of followers when they decide what to advertise on. Blogger, in fact, may place some ads for companies that pay them to do so. If not, another company gets paid to do that, and they in turn probably give a cut to Blogger, since Blogger has an icon that I could insert into this blog which would run the ads that would generate money for me. After that, I get lost.

A Vanguard spokesperson maybe explains it better:

Vanguard said it removed its ads as soon as it became aware that they were running on Breitbart. “As a policy, Vanguard does not advertise on any overtly political websites, including the site in question,” a spokeswoman wrote in an email. She said the ads appeared as part of a “remarketing” program, which are ads that appear to clients and investors when they visit third-party websites because of their browsing history. 
“Our remarketing advertisements are limited to pre-approved sites (again, no political sites), however it was brought to our attention last week that this site was inadvertently included,” she said.
So the shocking thing here isn't that Kellogg's pulled its ads. The surprising thing is that Breitbart has pushed a boycott on Kellogg's for doing so. That's nuts! That's like me trolling the followers who have left the blog over the years. Won't do that. That's like a newspaper publishing an article against a company that decides not to put ads in that newspaper anymore. Wait--actually, it's not, because a newspaper actually is a news organization that publishes news and facts, and news and facts of different types, like local news, national news, world news, sports, money and finance, etc. Breitbart, which calls itself a "news organization," doesn't do that.

Instead, like Trump did, it declares war and attacks those people and businesses they feel have slighted or threatened it.

This is frightening for many reasons. As the linked article said:

Breitbart’s campaign against Kellogg’s is unusual on a number of fronts, not in the least because news organizations traditionally maintain a separation between their business operations and their editors and reporters so that journalists can operate independently from business interests... And whether the boycott will help Breitbart financially appears questionable, given that attacking a major advertiser isn’t likely to make the site more appealing to other brands. 


“Reporters don’t behave that way in the U.S., nor should they,” said Lee Wilkins, professor and chair of the department of communications at Wayne State University, who’s an expert in media ethics. “Most journalistic organizations have checks between the people who pay for your news work and the news work itself, so that you are as a journalist protected from those influences.”  She said she views Breitbart as a blog rather than a journalistic organization. “If you aren’t a journalism organization, then those safeguards are never in place.”
This is an important distinction. A "news source," which Breitbart isn't, cannot influence its news reporters about what news to print. It can't be seen as a bully to its own reporters, thereby creating a bias about what gets reported and what doesn't. But Breitbart can do that, as it is, solely because it's not a legit news source, but rather more of an opinionated blog. But a business of any kind can't declare war on another business because that company pulls its ads.
It's not personal. It's business. This is yet another example that shows that Breitbart, Bannon and Trump don't get that distinction. Politics and business are not personal. You can't bully and attack those who disagree with you or who don't support you. That's a tyrannical thing to do. In America, we don't bully or declare war on our political enemies, and we do not suppress the news, or only report one type of news story. That's not what a democracy does.
So, in the spirit of democracy, to fight back against the bullies, I suggest that next time you want some cereal, or some breakfast food, buy Kellogg's. Let's support the first company that in a democratic fashion pulled its ads from a very un-democratic site. Let's support the first one brave enough to take a stance.
My better half has Kellogg's Eggo's for breakfast a few times a week, and Eleven loves them. Good stuff.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Seeing the Light -- Midnight Sun by Jo Nesbo

I read this in just a few hours today, the day after Thanksgiving--fitting, given what the book's about. I'm happy to say that this book also is maybe the first of Jo Nesbo's books that I haven't been at least a little chagrined with. It's also in 1st person, but it doesn't cop-out like his latest non-Harry Hole, Blood on Snow. That one had a short chapter at the end that was in 3rd person, after the whole book previously had been in 1st person. This one doesn't cheat like that, and is told in 1st person the whole way.

Nesbo plays with his following here, as he knows he's known as a writer who writes about potentially bad men who try to be good, and it doesn't work out for them. (See: Blood on Snow.) This one almost has the same set-up, but the big difference here is that the fixer here never fixes anybody, even at the end, when he really needs to. Well, then he does, but that's okay. And this guy--who calls himself Ulf--had even stolen all that money to pay for a little girl's cancer treatments. Nesbo goes out of his way here--perhaps a bit too much--to show us that this guy is a good guy. He is that, perhaps a bit unrealistically.

Speaking of that, this is yet another book in which the main character falls head over heels for a younger woman with a young child and no husband. While this occasionally happens in real life, what doesn't normally happen (or, shouldn't) is that said woman puts herself and her child in danger by helping out said main male character. We've all heard of stories in which a parent sadly chooses bad man over her own child, but even in real life, it doesn't happen like this. Stephen King has had a mini-genre doing this--See: Bag of Bones--but it's beginning to get to me a little bit. The female character always says she can't be with the guy or help the guy because she has to think of her kid first, and then she does it anyway! Now if the said character were a bit scattered to begin with, this may be a bit easier to swallow, but most of these female characters--including the one here--is so straight-laced and responsible that it comes across as unrealistic. It does so here, for me, anyway. It doesn't detract from the reading, but it made me roll my eyes a bit. I mean, we all understand the pipe dream, and it seems to effect writers when they hit 45 or so, but, come on...These woman, of course, also profess their love for these shadowy guys. In this case, she literally throws herself at him. Hey, you take your ego trip, I'll take mine, I guess, but, jeez...

But I digress. Obviously this was a good read, as I began and finished it's almost-300 pages in a few hours. There's a bit of philosophical and religious pondering here, which has slipped into Nesbo's work lately, and the narrator again seems to know a little bit more about--in this case--William Blackstone (who founded Blackstone, Massachusetts, which is a lot closer to my neck of the woods than it is to Nesbo's Oslo), Kierkegaard, and other blokes that, I'm guessing, your typical Norwegian fixer wouldn't ordinarily know. This speaks more of Nesbo, I think, than it does his characters, and it may be time now for him to look at that. I've got a philosophy degree, so I certainly appreciate that he tries to go there, but, really, how many fixers who say they don't know anything about anything will actually know this stuff?

But I digress, again. Sorry. The fact is that this is pretty entertaining stuff, even if you wonder why the woman, in a town of about 50, lets herself be seen with this guy, alone in her house, driving with him...and, yeah, she runs into her sort-of brother-in-law after a 45-minute drive to Alta, a bigger city, which is sort of like me running into one of my exes when I go to Fenway. Not yet. And they run into a woman he'd just been with--on the same drive! But it works, somehow. There are a few oddly amusing passages where you'd least expect them--this happened in Blood on Snow, too--though here they seem more purposely out of left field, like we're given permission to know that it won't all end up like the previous, very similar novel and 1st person narrator.

It doesn't, and you'll probably be able to see how it's all going to come together before it does, which I suppose is part of the charm. This narrator isn't a bad guy, at all, after all, and so we feel he deserves to get away, though readers and writers shouldn't moralize. So if you were disappointed with the last one, which I was, although it deserved the otherwise good write-up I gave it, then you'll be very satisfied with this one, as it's almost a complete opposite of the same story, with the same set-up and almost the exact same situations. You'll probably roll your eyes, as I did, but you'll wish well for everyone, and it'll turn out the way you'll want it to.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016



Photo: From freepik.com

Things I'm Thankful for in 2016:

--I've got a better half who's great to me and for me. I haven't always been with someone who was both (or either), so this is a welcome change. Many people don't have someone special at all. Some who are married can't even say that. How many miserable unmarried people do you know? I know some happily married people--and I know some that make you wonder.

--Jackson the Greyhound is 14 and still living the high life. Which, for him, revolves around eating and sleeping, and going for strolls and rides.

--My good career and benefits. Lots of people don't have either of those, too.

--Purpose outside of my job. I have someone and something to come home to. Many come home to a TV or computer. I have those (and I have blogs), but I have more, thank God. I know too many couch potatoes and phone slaves. No thanks.

--Creative ability. Not all the writing sells, but that's okay. Keep on keeping on. Boredom is a death to me, so I really appreciate this. I'll throw hobbies into this, too, as I think they're a branch of creativity.

--Respectful neighbors.

--Not too many financial pitfalls, though I probably need brake work as I'm typing this.




What I Want to Say I'm Thankful for in 2017:

--Better time management skills. I should be writing more, and more consistently.

--That the USA hasn't come under chaos or martial law by this time next year. I hope I look back upon this next year and chastise myself for worrying too much. We'll see.

--That the better half and Jackson are as happy with me then as they are now. Or happier!


What're you thankful for?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Comic Con 2016 -- Christian Slater

Some pics from Comic Con this November in Providence, RI.

Me and Christian Slater:


This was Christian Slater's first-ever Con of any kind. He's eligible for Mr. Robot, his current show, which I haven't seen, and from his guest role in a Star Trek movie. (If you know which one, you're much more of a fan than I, though I've seen all of the original films, and all of the rebooted Kirk films.)

But the majority of the talk at the panel was about Heathers, of course. For example, in this pic, where it looks like I'm in the picture I'm taking, but it's not me:


Slater was an extremely friendly guy when I met him for his picture and autograph. Not just faking it, as many of them do, and not sounding like he's uncomfortable or disgusted. He's aged well, partly perhaps because he seems like a very nice, laid-back guy. My better half also says it's because he married someone outside the business, which is also a possible reason. He seemed to be having a good time. Only time will tell if he's the same way after his 100th Comic Con, but he was cool here.

He said he got the cameo in that Star Trek movie because his mother was casting for the film, and someone had just dropped out of the role, and they were ready to shoot. He'd been on the lot shooting a show and a movie, and his mother asked if he had a moment. He was a fan of the show, so he agreed to the spot start.

He also received a lot of questions about Pump Up the Volume, which I suppose was a little ahead of its time. Message-wise, not high school. But we could sure use Harry now! I got a chance to comment to him about Murder in the First, a very overlooked movie, and one which I wished I'd had more of a chance to speak to him about. I got in line at the panel, but they ran out of time, so me and three others had to sit back down. But I brought the movie up to him in person, said I liked it, and he said, "Yes! Of course!" which he said to a great many things. But it was his first Comic Con, so he'll have to work on his instant responses. But at least it wasn't fake. As usual, an honest guy, no BS.

Coming soon: Michael Cudlitz, recently departed of The Walking Dead, at Comic Con.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbo -- A Book Review

[::Long, deep sigh:: Let's get through the next four years together, Reader, you and I. Okay, moving on...]



Photo: from Bostonglobe.com, via this link

Very tight story, in 1st person except for the last short chapter--a bit of a writerly cheat, that--about a professional hitman, sort of like Leon, who is told to "fix" his boss's wife. He falls in love with her from a distance, of course, and instead wants to save her. Or does he? The story descends (not in a bad way, but you feel the story is a descent of some kind) from there, with a bit of self-deception. You might like the ending, or you might not, but there's no denying that it fits. He waits for a woman to take stock of her business before closing for the night, but he instead "takes stock" of himself. (GET IT?) And, like the rest of us, sometimes, especially in our darkest nights, he doesn't like what he sees.

It's noir, so each of his nights is our darkest night. That's the genre, take it or leave it. By the way, rumor has it that Leonardo DiCaprio has been attached to an adaptation of this book since 2014. IMDB says it's "in development," but it's been in that stage of purgatory for two years now.

The book reads a bit like Stephen King's Blaze, in the sense that it's taut and interesting, and it moves, though you've seen it all before, and probably will again. That's okay here; in fact, it's part of the allure, maybe. You know the wife will be up to no good--she's cheating on her husband, after all, which is why he wants her "fixed"--and wait until you see who she's cheating with. That's probably the new slant of this story. You probably haven't seen that before. I can't remember the last time I saw it. [Austrian accent.] What do you think about that, Dr. Freud?

It's American Noir taking place in Norway, which doesn't exactly make it Nordic Noir. Harry Hole, Jo Nesbo's main cash cow, is more Nordic Noir than this is, so this is a welcome relief if you've tired of Nesbo's series, as I have. (Couldn't stand it when he killed off Hole's female partner, without anyone shedding a tear, and even had her cut up in many little pieces. Worse, you could see that coming a mile away, as all the characters, including Hole, are just standing there with their thumbs in the air.) Anyway, this really could have taken place anywhere, though the ending needs a frozen night. But, hell, you can get that around my neck of the woods, and it's blizzards right now in the Midwest.

So this is a good, quick read, which I ate up in about four total hours over two days. As usual with a Nesbo book, I had a minor bad taste in my mouth at the end, this time about the writer cheat of telling the book in first person, except for the very short third person final chapter. (A recent read, from Frank Tallis, did the same thing, except Tallis steps around the cheat by giving us some medical reports that we were expecting, rather than a blatant break of the wall.) The ending made sense in a thematic way, though it may not end as you'd hope, though why it matters with someone who's killed scores of people is maybe a mystery, and a testament of a sort of Nesbo's ability to humanize the monstrous main character. Again, no denying Nesbo's writing ability, and maybe I'm the only one who walks away slightly disappointed with every Nesbo book. I feel that it is more me than him, which is why I'm rating it like I am.

But, still...

Coming soon: Movie reviews of Hacksaw Ridge and Arrival, plus this year's Comic Con in RI.