Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Internet Survival According to Mike (Repost)

I wrote this for some facebook friends. 
A followup to my Internet Security- not Lifelock post 
Best defense is still a good, currently paid for antivirus/internet security software package/subscription like 
Norton $39 a year, Avast, AVG, others. 
my last choice is always McAfee as it usually scores at the bottom 
or get a Mac. 
PCGamer or CNet will invariably publish a best Antivirus/Internet Security review. 
or get a Mac. 
I use Norton and have for almost 20 years. I have avoided most of the major and minor threats on the net over the years because of this decision. 
Buy the software on Amazon. It's cheaper than from the company directly. 
or get a Mac. 

Some useful third party programs that can prevent, rescue, stop other infections/hacks. 
1. MalwareBytes (free but worth its weight in gold) I use this in addition to Norton on my PC 
2. CCleaner, I use this one as well on my PC as well. This one will clean your system as gently or as aggressively as anything. 
3. AdBlock, Stands adblocker (for browsers) these extensions will block page ads, clean up Facebook feeds, other social media pest, even youtube ads (if you hate them enough- I turned mine off since I understand now how much youtube creators need them). More importantly, the ad blockers will save from web page redirects (which is one way to get hit with ransomware). 

Most importantly. 
There are 4 principle ways to get hit by ransomware. 
1. Email. I call this lazy hacking. 
you get an email that appears to be from a friend (usually means they have been compromised) alway verify email addresses. The email contains some text and a mini-url link 
will look something like this (this a youtube shortened url link) 
there are ways to determine a shortened url source but most of us don't have time to figure out the pattern. Generally speaking shortened URLs or Mini-URLs are created by a third party app/website for redirects.  
The short answer is NEVER NEVER NEVER click on them. 
unless your friend tells you in articulate or at least his colloquial English that he saw this and thought it was funny. 
still don't click it, though.  
if you are savvy, find get him to tell you the name of the video /website and Google it. 
many of these pages address will drop you into the ransomware directly and unless you have a very up to date internet security software guard in place (and sometimes even if you do) you're toast. 
also, never, NEVER, NEVERNEVERNEVERNEVER! open attachments that are not picture files and even then be careful anyway. there are internet security apps for your phone but even Norton's one is mostly crap. this used to be the number one infection method for viruses. So many email attachments were corrupted or just infected. I could write a book on the variety of ways this kind of disaster takes place, but I am not going to spend any more time on it. 

2. embedded (hidden) links in a seemingly or innocent website. I once almost killed the church's video pc while searching an opera page for Ave Maria media and ended up clicking on a bogus link buried in their page's code. The Ad blocker stopped it 
These are rare on Click Bait pages. 
What is a Click Bait page? 
we've all seen them. They are very common. They are the Internet Tourist Trap. 
On Twitter/Facebook they will usually be something about  
Diet/Beauty/Celeb Reveals/ Cats/ Dogs/etc. stories that someone will post with next to no comments.  
Like a Carnie vendor luring you into his crooked water gun stall, they will have just enough info to pull you to the page (outside of twitter/facebook) 
When you get there, the dead giveaway is the tons of ads 
I hate click bait sites. 
They farm your clicks for ad revenue. 
well, this is like a pond full of mosquitos and one very hungry piranha waiting for you to panic. 
in short, skip click-bait websites, they are bad news no matter how enticing the promised reveal is- they are bad news and the reveal is almost always not worth it. 

3. text messages. If you don't have a smartphone, you are safe by being a dinosaur (mostly) your extinct even if you still believe those artifacts still work. 
(kidding...well only half kidding) 
with today's SMS (text messages) being interactive and capable of storing data packages you can load the Ransomware without ever knowing is have it. This includes Macs and PCs that have SMS interfaces.  
if you don't believe this the average ransomware is 12 kilobytes in size, while the average picture is 10 megabytes. 
the short answer, never click on an sms with a link on your phone. or answer one that you don't know who it is from. 

4. lastly this is a collection of methods mostly out of use. 
a. someone gives you a flashdrive with it on it. 
b. someone gives you a dvdr/cdr with it on it. 
c. you download it from the net (always be sure you know what you are downloading) 
d. When streaming video, avoid unknown websites. Safe video streaming sites are youtube (there are some bogus streamers in youtube as well), vimeo, flickster, disneymovies, netflix, amazon, ultraviolet, there's another that does high rez movies. 
e. video streaming apps that promise cheap movies. 
f. free apps that promise free stuff 
g. my brother (he's despicable) 
h. porn sites (pornhub and xhamster are safe if you need to know) 
i. be choosy on accepting cookies (the website kind- sorry cookie monster, a website cookee tracks you- ad blockers put a stop to this) 
j. chat apps/programs - software can be pushed to you through them 
k. torrents (if you know what this is, get a vpn, if not just don't do it.) 
l. free phones. they exist. 
m. free games. we've all played them. just remember that most free games make money.... 
n. facebook games- the scourge of my existence. 
o. dating websites.... also very disappointing on other levels. 
p. Pizza places other than Harby's (everything else just pales by comparison) also ordering food online- all kinds of info exchanges 
q. when doing money transactions online always start with a fresh tab/window and when done close it. less chance of leaving a digital trail 
r. dump your cookies and cache. then burn it (delete it). Remember Empire Strikes Back. Vader could have avoided a lot of trouble if they had deleted theirs before jumping to hyperspace. 
s. did I mention having Internet Security Software? 
t. Inflammatory statements in social media. It can attract hackers. (reference Madonna if in doubt) 
u. Facebook quizzes. 9 out of 10 want access to your Facebook profile 
v. anything on Facebook that wants access to your profile 
w. anything that wants permission to post on Facebook for you. 
x. decaf's a crime against nature. 
y. powdered cremora, it's a crime against coffee. 
z. don't own a computer or a cellphone and live in a dead zone. or just nuke it all from orbit. 
it's the only way to be sure. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

My bank is closed

I am tired.
I am tired of joining causes that I want to support and believe in only to have the cause come back to me with their hand out as if the only thing I am good for is another donation.
I have given, and often, and now I have grown sick of it.
But I am not rich or well paid or even reasonably okay where money is concerned.
I have a patreon, I get about $60 a month for it. It's mostly from my family and friends that believe in me or at least wish to support me.
I support other patreons, in turn, as well. I believe in supporting them. None of them come at me with their hands out though. They're filled with gratitude for the little help I can give them and they are constantly giving back.
I want to save the wolves, stop the end of net neutrality, keep freedom of the press and free speech, save the bees, and the wild places, help consumer reports keep reporting, get some reasonable people in power and remove the unreasonable people. I want to stop hate crime, promote love, equality, protect women and the innocent, stop child abuse, defeat cancer, and the myriad of other causes.
I just don't want to have to do it in dollar amounts.
I have had to learn to ask for help and even now, knowing that I am going to have to ask for more, to ask people I personally support, to sell myself and my art to a new audience-
I am tired of every Tom, Jane and Larry showing up with a cause and then without so much as a la te dah holding out their hand for my money as if that is all I have to offer that they are interested in.

This is the sum of much of my emails. Someone wants my money.
In fact, it often seems like anyone or everyone.
It's crazy.
I am so tired, I am unsubscribing where I can, dumping the rest into spam and rejecting unknown callers. 
So, in conclusion, if you want my help.
Don't start off with asking for money.
You won't get it.
The bank is closed.
and that, as I am prone to state- is life according to Mike.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Now I am 48, still out of date....

Now I am 48.

People (they know who they are) ask me how it feels to be 48.
I tell them I haven't felt like I was 60 in a long time.
I get a nervous laugh, a chuckle and they shake their heads.
I don't get along with my brother.
I never did.
Even when I thought I was getting along with him, I wasn't.
Why bring this up now?
On your birthday, for Pete sakes!
It's obvious to me.
48 is a number like 50. I don't give it much credence. 
I am 48, I don't get along with my brother, I have a weird relationship with my father, I take care of my mother (more than I ever thought I would) and my best friend is also my niece.... also my other best friend is wonderful and doesn't get much credit as to how much I truly love her.
Okay, I admit it.
That's not my point.
I don't get along with my brother because despite all my intentions to be someone else where the world is concerned I don't get along with my brother, we are alike and utterly un-alike and it makes no sense to anyone...especially me. Sometimes I say:
"This explains everything!"
Then I am forced to admit it didn't explain anything but what I wanted it to explain.
I don't know my brother.
I have tried and quit and inevitably will most likely try again, except I am getting to old for this:

So, I am 48 and too old for- well you get the point of that, now.
Moving on.
Actually, I am doing swell.
Except that I am still alone.
Working out, eating healthy stuff, living in a perpetual daydream that is so self-congratulatory and self-pleasing- the ego massaging kind that I now call it my happy place.
Hi, I am Michael Wilder. 
I have three wives.
(I warned you)

I will stop there save to say I am on new meds.
I feel good most of the time.
I don't need Bob's tits anymore.
 If I need to explain this, you probably just wandered into my life and miss most of my movie references.
(fight club, bob (meatloaf) Deadpool, movie references) or just forget it.
pretend I am cooking and this is the food network.

So, I digress.
I am 48.
A poet, future tango dancer, hopeful romancer.
Likeliest to die alone in an empty cafe in Vienna full of figurative bullet-holes.
Now, you can be lost and give me that look.
and you won't be alone. Most of my family just shrug, make a nervous laugh and check their collective cell phones while silently wishing that the "old mike" would come back and then we could talk about that time I got kicked in the teeth.
Look, I tinker, I fix stuff, all that convenient lock picking, console hacking, raider shooting stuff 
just ain't for me....
and that is the first day of 48 according to Mike.

Friday, December 2, 2016

On Rats....

The bane of my modern life. They are smarter than mice, more determined and persistent. 
I have been at war with two of them which invaded my mother's house about a year ago. They are too big to get caught in the mouse traps I set, outsmarted the glue traps I put down, and even eaten the bait off a few of the traps just to spite me.
I can hear them scuffling in the walls at night.
Then they got bold enough to dart through the kitchen at night... this was how I met the first rat.
Let's call him, Vince.
(apologies if your name is Vince...your parents should have called you Norbert instead...unless you like rats then it's all good).
Anyway Vince is a large
Norwegian Rat- or brown rat, or wolf rat, as some of the locals refer to him as. The picture isn't of Vince but just for reference.
My mother was the first to see Vince when he dashed across the kitchen one night, and she screamed and decided to hide in the bathroom while I looked for him. I admit that I thought my mother has seen a mouse and panicked. The second time, I didn't chuckle as hard as I did the first.
I tried a variety of mousetraps, poisons, bait stations, and nada- Vince ignored them all. Of course, he had a steady food supply from all the loose bird seed on the back feeds the birds, squirrels, raccoons and two skunks and as it turns out the rat.
Of course, out of all these rodents...yes squirrels are very cute barky rodents and birds are rodents with wings.... my opinion as they are messy and contribute to the rat population.
I did find what I thought was a mouse dead -crammed in a cabinet on afternoon near the mop soap. Now I suspect that the "mouse" was a baby rat who ate the rat poison and choose to die in that spot, so considerate of him.
Anyway, I pursued Vince and his ilk with every bait that I could come up by word of mouth, co-op store advice and even google. None of it worked. Honey- nope, cheese- nope, bread? Meat? chocolate- hell no, bird seed? Nope, nope, nope and furthermore nope.
Finally, I conceded defeat and turned to the professionals. I looked for the pest company with the best rating and ended up with Cooke's Pest Control.
They were friendly and helpful and completely misleading of what they would actually do while totally ripping me off with contracts that delivered nothing new that I hadn't already tried.
Here's the rundown.
Me: I have a rat problem.
Them: Sure, we can come treat your house and get rid of the rats.
Me: Rats?
Them: Sure, if you have one rat, then you have at least 25 rats.
Me: Great.
Them: No worries, we guarantee we will get them all. 
Me: when can you come?
Them: How's Thursday?
Me: What will they do?
Them: Treat the house for the rats, then come back every two months for a year to make sure we get them all.
Me: That sounds great.
Them: We will see you Thursday.
later (not Thursday)
Them: Hi, we were in the neighborhood and would like to stop by and do an advance inspection for the technician who is coming tomorrow.
Mom: Okay, no one told us about that.
Me: Okay, what did they say?
Mom: That they will be here in an hour.
Me: Define close by?
Mom shrugs.
Them: Hi, this is Lou and I am Max, we're from Cooke's Pest Control. (the names are changed because I cannot remember they're actual ones)
Me: Let me show you where I saw the rats.
Them: we need to inspect the entire house, inside and out- if you don't mind.
Me, they came to inspect the house with micro flashlights.
Them: Well we found where your rats are holding out.
Me: Really?
Them: Yes, it's in this storage room under the house, there are definitely signs that is where their nest is. Plus there is definitely dead bodies in there.
Me: Really?
Them: I have 12 years of experience, I know the smell of a dead rat.
Me: Well actually- I mean are you sure it's not insecticide- see I sprayed down there a few years ago Them: No, we know the difference between insecticide and dead bodies and that's definitely dead body smell. We'll show you.
NOTE: they found no sign of the rats inside the house despite me showing the guy where I had seen the rats
We go to the storage room. They show me some insulation that is suspiciously hanging down from the rafters. They point at it.
Me: That's it?
Them: Yup, there's a dead rat up there.
Me: Uh-huh. I smell insecticide.
Them: No, it's a dead rat. I'd definitely stake my rep on it.

Me: Okay.
Them: Well, there is something more that you should know.
Me: Oh? What is that? 
Them: You have termites.
Me: Of course, I do.
Them: This is serious.
Me: Please tell me how much more that will cost.
Them (rubbing their paws together): We will cut you a discount.

Rat removal: $631. $133 for initial treatment, and then $83 for each return visit.
Termite removal: $2355 AND they offer financing.
What a bargain!
notes: they continued to be vague about how the technician would "treat" the house for the rats, but were extremely specific about how they would rid the house of termites.
note: they showed me proof of the termites....all the damage was over 10 years old and I had used a base insecticide to kill the termites...also none of the damage was to the actual house.

I call Cooke's after they left.
Me: I need to know how this treatment is being charged.
Them: repeats what they told me earlier.
Me: When do I pay that?
Them: The tech will bring the contract out.
Me: Wait, did you say contract?
Them: Yes, you sign a contract which will be billed by the month or visit.
Me: What about that money back guarantee?
Them: Well, that's determined on an individual case by case basis.
Me: Riiiiiiigggght.
Them: Is that sarcasm?
Me: Let me speak to your supervisor.
Them: Why?
Me: Because Hell hath no fury like me getting conned (this wasn't what I actually said).
Them: Please hold.

I will now summarize the conversation with the supervisor.
1. contracts are non-negotiatable 
2. They hade no knowledge of the two yutzes that showed up an hour ago with the whole termite bit. They actually acted surprised when I told them that the whole termite thing blew their con for me.
3. The technician that was coming the next day for the "treatment" would boil down to him spraying the perimeter of the house with a garden variety insecticide and putting down about 4-6 bait stations -with locks that only Cooke's would have keys for (not me- so I could never know if they actually caught anything like the truth).
4. and that was it.

I checked BBB and consumer complaints and found Cooke's to have the worst rating by the BBB and consumers. But the best rating by referral sites.
Anyway, Vince had a good laugh. 
I gave up, then went back to google.
I found out a ton of basically useless info that both confirmed that Cooke's used google as well for their info and that we were basically screwed.
I then turned to our local co-op and were shown their selection of rat removal products.
Wait for it.
Bait and old fashioned rat- traps- think spring loaded mouse trap but much, much bigger. Big enough to catch chiwawas.
I went to the local hardware store bought some rat poison and threw that in the places I had seen the rats.
Apparently Vince and Shirley (sorry to all the Shirleys out there if your name is Shirley or don't like rats being arbitrarily named Shirley) had gone on vacation as I stopped hearing them.
Then I heard them again, I mean I actually heard her but thought it was Vince. 
One day, while shopping for toilet paper I decided to grab some glue boards and try them.
A couple of nights later, I heard some scratching scuffling somewhere in the kitchen, it sounds like someone shuffling through our stash of used food city bags. I checked then found nothing there. The next day I heard it again, but this time it was coming from the utility closet in our former classroom (from my mother's old school), it's now like a second living room, but we still call it the classroom. Anyway, I popped open the door, and this dark gray tail disappears into the corner of the closet where my mother had stored the old rags and some storage bags. I immediately shut the door, trapping the rat in there. I then set the glue boards and cracked the door.
One trapped rat.
Now what? I thought. I will stomp him!
I am wearing house shoes (slippers) Okay, scratch that plan.
I will put him in something and drown him!
Right, because drowning rats is a common form of execution.
I then tried to pick the rat up with a picker upper
That would have worked, except that the blasted rat flipped the glue board and it stuck to the hardwood floor and the cabinet next to him. I tried and failed to extract the glue board and rat with the picker upper.
I tried the next longest and biggest tool I could find.
Bolt cutters.
This totally failed.
I finally grabbed a pair of channel locks and pried the board with rat loose and transferred the squealer to the picker upper.
Then I knew I wasn't killing the blasted thing.
So I dropped him in a sealed albeit not air tight trash can.
The next morning I checked on the little bastard and he had freed himself from the board and was scrambling around at the bottom of the trash can seeking escape. 
Now what?
I loaded up the trash and took him and the trash to the dump. 
Haven't seen him....err, I mean her since.
You see, once I got home I realized that the rat wasn't Vince who is brown but Shirley who is dark I don't know the actual sex of the rat, but I had my suspicions.
I admit it, I relaxed, Rat Gone.
Nope. Vince decided to pop out one afternoon and run over my foot.
So more glue boards went down and two days later, I caught Vince. 
He collected a glue board outside of a hole he had been using between the bottom of my dishwasher and the kitchen cabinets.
He was mighty upset. 
And then as I searched for the picker-upper he flipped the glue board and stuck it to the linoleum floor.
I tried many things to extract him from the floor. Finally, I scraped him off the floor with a broom and dustpan (mostly the dust pan)
Vince joined Shirley in the dumpster at the dump.
and then a day later I smelled another rat.
A very Dead rat as it turned out.
I finally located the smell pungent under the dishwasher.
so I had to go get a drill extract the stabilizing screws and pull it out.
Major rat nest of paper towel scraps, dish towel bits. toliet paper, suet wrappers and lots of other unidentifiable stuff....also noe very dead and smelly rat.
I should have taken a picture.
I bagged it all, checked around the house and found a similar nest under the couch in the classroom- not as bad but still it was there.
I placed it in the trash and took it all to the dump the next day.
The smell stuck around despite bleaching the floor.
SO, the next time the guy at the Co-Op says rat poison doesn't leave an odor, tell him, that it does and it smells worse the BS he just told you.
To top it off, I decided to use the rest of the rat posion.
I looked under the kitchen sink where I kept it and this is what I found.

In case you missed it, the bag is empty, some rat (the smelly one) chewed his way in and ate the whole bag!
This after weeks of putting down rat poison everywhere, the blasted rat went to the source which might mean it took a hell of a lot of poison to kill it.
and then silence, a whole new day...actaully weeks.
I get a handy man to seal the rat holes and hope for the best
and then... I find a loaf of bread that's mysteriously off with a suspicious hole in the back.
Tonight, I caught another one and it's waiting it's doom in the same trash can and the trip to the dump.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Our Father, (and by that please feel free to insert a name or reference that makes you feel thankful and secure if you are atheist, this means it can be anyone except Uncle Jack)

Where was I?
Oh, right, sorry.

We are thankful on this day, this thanksgiving day, for many things.
(I would like to stop and observe that Thanksgiving Day is probably a mythical event that was invented more than it was actually observed and that no one invites the Native Americans... First Peoples? Some tribal Americans who were kind enough or foolish enough to help out some very poorly prepared or equipped settlers/exiles/volunteers/pilgrims? with some food after they nearly starved to death or were about to starve to death....
Actually, I might have forgotten how the story went and am relying heavily on the official Charlie Brown Canon at this point....

Sorry, I beg your pardon?
Oh right, the prayer
(clears throat)

I am thankful for having family and friends, which for me is the same things as most of my friends are like family to me... except for Uncle Jack. Those of us who can come together and celebrate life and love with food that has been lovingly and thankfully not burnt, with wine and water (for the kids). We can pause in our lives, taking a moment to recognize that we all need each other, try to remember those of us who cannot be with us, raise a glass to their absence of memory, loving them with this gesture, thanking our mothers and fathers for the sacrifices they made so that we can gather together at this blessed table.
I am thankful to have known peace in my life, without war, without regret, to sit back and recognize that my life has been blessed with all the love of those who have gathered here together today, those who wanted to come but could not, those who have cats and thereby had a built in excuse to not come (because we all know they burnt the casserole again and are just mortified beyond belief). I love you all and thank you for being here.
I am thankful for knowing such good and great people who shaped their lives to that my life could be shaped as well. For their constant sacrifices and tireless efforts to make my life better - even if they did not know that their example would inspire me to be a better person. I am grateful for great art and art done greatly. I am filled with such thanks that someone else carried the torch for me so that I can see my path before me, that they would leave the same torch for me to carry for others... of course, it would have nice if they had told me where they put the matches.
I would like to thank Grammarly for making appear to be a competent writer (not commercially endorse).
I am thankful for good music, great musicians, and long play albums. Times spent sitting the record machine dreaming of my chevy and my old blue- sorry that's a song, but you get the point (just tell Uncle Elton, okay?).
I am thankful for this life I have. It's not perfect or as wonderful as I would like but it isn't as bad as it once was. I don't have to live alone with the sounds of my neighbors having fights and makeup sex coming through the all too thin walls, eating microwave dinners, watching romantic movies while binge eating ice cream and loneliness.
I am thankful to family and not having to relive the election, American Idol and Twitter wars for an hour or two where there is a collective truce between the warring factions and everyone grins or shakes their heads at my attempts to alleviate the situation by alluding to old movies and famous quotes while my cousins sharpen their knives under the table.
I am thankful for my aunts who still believe enough in me to forbid violence at the dinner table and thrown icecubes and forks no longer poise any immediate threat to the casual joking or me reminding them of that time when they almost choked on a chicken bone or when Uncle Jack's wife told everyone that he loved their car more than her and that if he was hoping for nookie tonight, he better take it up with the Mustang becuase she was going to her sisters and we all studiously ignored them while cringing at each jab she made with her fork into Grandma's antique table.

Sorry, Uncle Jack, but someone had to say that.
I would like to take this moment to observe the sacrifices of the few million turkeys who have given their lives so that we can gather together in love of good food and family.......
and that was when I found myself outside with the freshly roasted turkey while everyone else enjoyed the pumpkin pie and ice cream.
Some things never change.
Love to all.

and that's Thanksgiving according to Mike.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

And!.....wait for it...... life goes on.

America is in shock and disbelief.
They Won.
We Won.
Given the general distrust of the media and government and the small truth that many people believe to be true but don't talk about, is that life goes on. America as a whole doesn't care.
Some people will huff and puff and then go find a wolf to blame for it, but America doesn't care.
There will be victory speeches and back patting and bed wetting but,
America doesn't care.
I suspect many people (especially those who don't and didn't vote) will go Meh, that was the election. What is really important is will it rain soon?
Will the (insert football team) go to the Super Bowl?
Will gas prices go up?
Social Media will declare that America hates women or Blacks or Gays or Liberals or Bill Maher,
but America doesn't care.
What is really important will be the next episode of The Walking Dead.
Who will die next on Game of Thrones?
Will the next (insert actor's name) suck, should I risk the money.
Is snap chat working today?
Did I remember to turn off the stove before I went to work?
Will I win the lottery?
Can I win the lottery?
Should I ask Jill to marry me? Will she say yes?
What if she says no? She won't say no, will she?
Life goes on.
Our pets will still want to be petted and fed and played with (unless they are cats...they are so finicky). The birds will sing and the sun will set and dawn will come again.
I made myself sick with stress and worry last night to the point I could sleep and I saw a lot of my bathroom as my body reacted. Irony.
The irony you might ask?
I knew who was going to win.
I hoped and might have even wanted to pray that I was wrong.
But God, the God I believe in doesn't work like that.
God had nothing to do with it or everything to do with it, who am I to ask for such things?
I am just some guy trying to make his way in the universe.
I will pray for important things like other people, not my own needs.
So there you have it.
This is the most political blog you will get here.
If that disappoints you I am sorry because I will no feed that kind of madness.
I will pray for you, and the next president and the former one, the winners and the losers.
We are all on this planet together. I may not like you and I may not be like you but it doesn't change the nature of hope.
I choose hope.
Hope for better days.
Hope that one of you will win the lottery.
Hope that Jill will want to marry Jack.
Hope that you will come back here to see what I write about in the won't be about politics though (yep that was some circular logic).
and that is Wednesday according to Mike.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Piracy is NOT killing Modern Movies, so getoveritalready

Fair warning. I will be rambling. a whole bunch.
Some Person (somewhat identified later on) stated in a youtube video that Piracy was killing the modern movie industry (i.e. making movies produced bland/bad).

Alright, I am one of the 200k Napster users that were first blacklisted by Metallica when the whole piracy thing began. It's a claim to fame, I championed Pirate Bay not as a means of stealing content but more as a voice of challenging the price gouging that the music and film industry (RIAA and MPAA) were going about doing. I was there to see the extortion and remember how many of these anti-piracy groups were more interested in scare tactics and fine gathering then making sure the artists were getting their due. It became a little guy versus the big industry issues as the lies and misrepresentations abounded.
That being said, a lot was wrong, and Piracy was, ironically, less about stealing content as it is now. I know it sounds crazy but it was a proven fact that many of us leechers and seeders ended up paying for the DVDs and CDs and MPEGs when the industry finally changed their tune. But it did set a new wave of piracy in motion. I stopped my own piracy of music when music streaming finally became a thing. For me, possessing the music was less important than having access to the music on demand. I jumped on board with Pandora as soon as it hit the scene. Also,  my 500GB music hard drive died and along with it the thousands of songs I had acquired from piracy, legit purchases, and CD-rips. In the end, most of my music collection was legitimate as much of what I pirated was crap in the quality rating. Flac formats pushed me to find the original CDS to make the files up to snuff.
I have switched streamers several times. I own more legitimate music now than I ever did before. The same is almost true with movies - mostly because movie streaming has yet to catch up. They are making progress but it is very slow. Platform control is still a roadblock. If entertainment companies would realize that slaving their content to a broadcast platform is going to kill them, in the long run, they would at least follow HBO Go and the others.
I can remember talking to Dish Network and trying to convince them that true A La Carte programming was their only hope of true survival as a platform. They denied it then and still seem to not get it even now.
Entertainment (all forms) needs to be available on demand, regardless of platform or device. If you did this, most piracy users would drop the hassle of pirating material along with the need for VPNs and all the jailbreaking/hacking that goes with it. It won't eliminate it completely but it would go a long way.
Saying that "Hollywood" won't change their model may be realistic but it should point to that the Hollywood model is not the only game in town and there are ways to go about this differently. The same is true of saying that everyone is in this for the money so no one is going to take a chance on changing it.
It is true only until someone does.
It's happened before.
Last Week, I watched a video from a Youtuber I had liked. Their content was nice and I had gained much info from their videos. The video in question then went on, at length, to blame piracy as the primary reason why Hollywood plays it safe resulting movies that are bland, cliched, action models that lack creativity, edginess or dare to break out of the mold.
It's just wrong. Hollywood knows that even the worst movies make money. It's been true since the beginning. In fact, there is an entire industry of bad filmmakers in the world (i.e. people who excel at making bad movies). It is partly true that some filmmakers and the studios are not trying to be edgy or break from the mold may be true but to hold up piracy as the sole cause or even the main cause is just wrong. It could be attributed as a cause but I just don't buy it as the main cause, there are so many other factors. The main one Hollywood has always seemed to stick with is "hold to the tried and true" until someone braver does it differently and it works and then copy them.

What I have to say to the Youtube Channel that published this garbage is WOW.
I would have thought people knew about how Hollywood works.
I would have assumed anyone who reviews or even makes movies would have some film school background and have read books like

  • The Player by Michael Tolkin
  • The Big Picture: Who Killed Hollywood and Other Essays by William Goldman
  • Monster: Living Off the Big Screen by John Gregory Dunne
  • Fiasco by James Robert Parish, I haven't read it, but I am told it's very good.
Maybe I expect too much, I am a former film student (my University in their infinite wisdom closed the film school while I was still in it). Even so, I would expect anyone who would come out to say such a statement to be aware or, at very least, done some research. 
To say that Hollywood has suffered a loss of originality or edginess from the Piracy Phenomena is just wrong.
I ended my subscription to that youtube channel, it just colors everything that they have to say from there on. It's willful ignorance and smacks of the variety of rich musicians who complain regularly about being robbed of their content by pirates as if the recording industry doesn't exist or take advantage of them with binding contracts and other means of keeping them from being rich. 
I remember a musician I went to high school with who did make it fairly well, she is well known in many circles and is a really good musician. I like her work. What broke it for me was a rant over music piracy in which she basically called anyone who had ever leeched (technical term for sampling/downloading music) scum and not worth anything because they were robbing her of her just due. I took offense, at the time. When I pointed out my argument, I believe I got blocked and banned from whatever medium the comment was on.
No one wants to talk about how little the Recording Industry pays out to musicians for play time compared to how much they charge for it.
No one wants to stop and consider that if you make a recording from the radio- you have just pirated that music, or a live recording at a concert, or copied a cassette/CD from a friend, etc. But, if you download the music from anywhere but the approved sites, you are a villain of the first order.
But I digress.

I know it sounds harsh but theYouTuber(s) in question didn't say anything like the well established fact that Hollywood isn't known for creativy in film. It does happen but rarely. 
Making a movie involves a lot of factors.
Making a good movie involves similar factors and often more than just making one.
The problem with Hollywood and the film industry is very basic.
Hollywood and much of the film industry are out to make money. That's rule one. It's absolute and will ultimately dictate how a movie is made or even if it is made. 
There are books on this.
Lots of books....and ironically movies.
You can argue that Piracy is ruining movies if you want, it's your prerogative but Rule One supersedes your argument. It's true of the recording industry as well. If you don't believe me, consider B-sides or filler music that is on so many, many albums. I will use Jane Child as an example (one-hit wonders are common) She had one song. She had one album that I know of.
What I mean is that she had one song I liked, the pop charts liked it too, but that was it. I bought her album and hated it. The rest of her music was completely different and definitely for a non-pop crowd. I don't know if she had success, I hope she did, the world moved on although I see several others covered her one "top 40" song. What stands out for me was that I felt like the album was filled with filler music in order to sell that one song. (this is my opinion and I apologize to Ms. Childe and her rabid core of fans- assuming they are out there somewhere). I use her as an example of this phenomena. There are far more popular musicians and groups who have filler music on their albums. As a general rule of thumb (again for me) most of the albums from bands I like (not love) are filled with filler music. Daft Punk's Random Access Memories and Red Hot Chili Pepper's Blood Sugar Sex Magik are commonly held up for the amount of Filler Music that's on them.
Moreover, much of the industry that still produces albums use filler music to pad out an album that commonly contains 1-4 hit songs or at very best 4-6 songs I want to listen to. I found this to be true with Country Music (which is often written by someone other than the singers or bands).
I have very few musicians and bands where I pretty much love everything they ever recorded...right now I can't name one. Queen has albums where, in my opinion, every track is awesome.
So why go on with the music industry?
Because Hollywood makes movies with tons of filler content. It's when you are watching a movie and think- Hey! this movie really ended 10 minutes ago! Then the movie goes on for another 15-20 minutes while you sit there scratching your head. Well, that's part of the reason anyway (Tom Jones, I am not looking at you).
There really is so many reasons that modern movies lack that creative drive, the edginess that makes them stand out. I could go into a long bit about Janet Evanovich books here and why I love them even though they are formulaic as hell and repetitive but I will read every one of them. FYI, the movie adaptation sucked but it still made money. 

 One of the things that strike me as detrimental is how Hollywood presents trailers. Many trailers not only reveal too much about the movie they also are often from cut content and show how much a movie can be altered from the early trailers to the late release trailers. So many of them feature what ends up being the best parts of a movie and all too often the only good parts of the movie (an exaggeration but not an entirely untrue one).
Trailers now come is various forms:

  1. Teasers (which I prefer), release trailers which often show too much and extended trailers which might as well be movies on their own (2-6 minutes long). It's crazy. It annoys me so much that after the teasers come out I ignore/avoid trailers as much as possible on movies I intend to go to.
  2. "quick" trailers (I guess regular trailers), which are okay, but often show too much or show stuff that ends up being cut from the final movie, MIB I am not looking at you per say. These trailers are technically early release trailers, so early that sometimes the movies they are made for- get canned and don't come out. They are grabbed from the first available footage and pieced together by the promotion teams and seldom have much in the way of directorial control or influence, Fantastic Four (latest one, for instance).
  3. Extended Trailers (which I hate) which grab as much film as possible to hopefully draw people into seeing the movie but sometimes provide the whole plot thus ruining any surprises that the movie might have in store for us. It's personal but I like the idea of seeing the movie on the promise/premise that the film will be good. Rogue One, is an example of having too many trailers and thus getting a "final" extended trailer is basically unnecessary as pretty much everyone who likes Star Wars is going to see it anyway. Personally, I take a quick glance, these days at the Rotten Tomatoes ratings, check on my youtube reviewers and then make a decision to see the movie or not. I am seldom disappointed that way... I almost always do this save when a neice or great neice talks me into seeing a movie that I haven't checked out and usually it's a DUD.

Well, that's all I have.
I might even disagree with me if I have to reread this blog again.
I will still insist that Piracy has little to do with why Hollywood movies suck- er I mean aren't awesome...I like bad movies, myself- some of them. (Masters of the Universe).
And that is something like a long rant according to Mike.