Spy Merchants

Here’s a troubling yet, fascinating documentary on illegal sales of surveillance equipment that can surveil all cell phones in an area or that can track all the internet information in an entire country.

Yes, you read that correctly.

It’s chilling to say the least. I had no idea.

Robots are Coming

On Sunday I happened upon a radio show about robots and how they’ll revolutionize industry. The program mentioned how construction is far more labor intensive compared to other fields and how there are now robots that do these jobs much more quickly and without needing bathroom breaks, vacations, lunch time, etc. Robots do need maintenance but they don’t get tired as people do. They don’t need insurance or a pension. They won’t strike. You get the idea.

The video at the top shows a robot that lays bricks. Masons are still needed, but not as many. The robot can lay bricks an estimated 3 to 5 times faster than a mason.

Here we see a robot that can do demolition work.

In the radio show, the presenters asserted that a house could be build much faster and far cheaper. A small brick house could be built for $5000. Amazing. That would really do something to the housing market as a whole.

Of course the big question is how will this impact labor and economics. People do need jobs. The Second Industrial Revolution featured great turmoil as the people who worked as craftsmen were put out of work. Can we learn from those mistakes? Can we plan so that thousands of people aren’t thrust into poverty?

We also have the advent of driverless cars. I’m not a fan. I realize that these cars can prevent accidents, but I like driving and accidents seem rare. This change will do away with truck drivers, cab drivers, bus drivers, etc do when their jobs are eliminated. One reason I prefer to take the bus if I’m in the city at night is that there’s a person who can take action if there’s a crime on the bus, while the subway lacks personnel. In the early days there are sure to be more accidents with the driverless cars malfunctioning.

Interactive Television

Back in the 1990s, when I worked at DDB Needham, Kevin, my boss and friend, knew that I was interested in screenwriting and he suggested I create a show for Viacom, which had three networks: MTV, VH1 and at least one other channel at the time. This show would emulate an interactive book where at different stages a choice would be posed to the viewers and they’d have to decide what the character should do. Then they’d be directed to change the channel to see the consequences of that decision. I designed some stories. Kevin knew someone at MTV and soon we were in contact.

The executive was a bit curious, but didn’t understand what technology was needed. The answer was simple: their remote. People would just change the channel to see the consequences of their decision.

Well, fast forward to today. HBO and Steven Soderbergh have come up with Mosaic, an interactive story which uses people’s phones and an app to view this show. Soderbergh’s got a reputation for good story telling so it should be well written and more than just a gimmick. Computer games have been around long enough so people expect quality. However, I’m not a big fan of HBO’s cursing and dark view of life so I’m not sure I’ll watch. Well, maybe if friends say it’s worthwhile.

Bravo, Time

Time magazine made a good choice, I think, in naming the Silence Breakers, i.e. the people who’ve come forward to expose sexual harassment. We certainly need to clean up our society. After reading about Harry Weinstein, Louie C.K., Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Al Franken and more it’s clear that the entertainment and government need to do a clean sweep. This is an issue that’s time has come. Before sexual harassment could just be stuck in a “He said/She said” cycle.

Now since anyone can have a recorder in their pocket and fools will send unseemly messages or have photos taken, getting evidence, hard cold evidence is possible. And when it’s shared, justice occurs.

I’ve been shocked by the revelations and with each on hoped that it wasn’t true. (Well, not with Harvey Weinstein because he was nothing to me. I didn’t get the news from him or think of him at all.)

I would expect that this is an issue all sensible people can agree on. Yet, I was

Continue reading

Not Garrison

Boy, the accusations are piling up. That doesn’t surprise me. I worked in Hollywood in the 1980s. But I was surprised to wake up to hearing about Matt Lauer getting fired. I’m not sure what happened. I suppose that will come to light. It seems true, whatever the story.

Now I just heard that Garrison Keillor, writer and creator of The Prairie Home Companion has been fired because a woman has come forward with a story of sexual harassment. It’s sad. I hope it’s not true, but I hoped that Bill Cosby was innocent and he wasn’t.

I hope we create better work environments and a return to civility where this isn’t rampant. I guess we all do. I hope we know enough about what happened so we can figure out what as a society needs to be done.

Jeremy Piven was accused and took a polygraph test. The results showed that he wasn’t lying when he said the allegations were false. You can’t be proven innocent, but I think this is as good as you can get unless you go through the legal system, which isn’t perfect either.

I’d like Garrison to take a polygraph test.

Without knowing the particulars, I’m surprised that people are getting fired without due process, which can be a hearing and not necessarily a court case. I don’t want to defend a sexual predator, but it seems these people should be put on leave and have their due process and then if they’re in the wrong, then fire them.

What times we live in!

 

Alert

Right now China is having a huge government meeting which happens every five years. You may have heard on the news that Pres. Xi wants to raise himself up to the level of Mao or Deng Xiao Peng. He may not appoint a successor for 2022, which is the norm.

I just saw this alert on a listserv.

China just sent a warning to foreign students:

“To all international students – The 18th Congress will be held next week. Over these few weeks the immigration bureau will be strict when dealing with foreigners. The police will conduct checks in major cities, including Nanjing Take your ID (Passport and Student ID) at all times. Foreigners are prohibited from traveling to Beijing and Shanghai during this period. International students must obtain permission from their school and respective immigration bureau before traveling to these destinations. Foreigners are not allowed to organize or gather in large numbers during this period, and this applies to religious and social settings. Students who are working illegally should be extra cautious during this period. The immigration bureau will be conducting checks in each district. Any violation during this sensitive but important period for China will result in automatic deportation. The school will not be able to help.”

I think this is overkill and shows paranoia.

Mr Weinstein, et al

Ahh! Harvey Weinstein has been in the news so much. His behavior towards women appalls me, but I’m not surprised. It’s amazing that it took so long for his misdeeds to come to light, but it was the same with Bill Cosby.

What the news hasn’t said though and I suppose they can’t without proof, is that this is common in the entertainment business, and has been for years. Some famous cases involve Fatty Arbuckle, whose victim died, Errol Flynn, Louis Meyer who lusted after and groped Judy Garland in her teens, studio heads who lusted after Shirley Temple, and countless others whose victims probably never became famous and were too afraid to speak out.

As distasteful as this news story is, it’s good that it’s come to light again. From working in Hollywood, though never directly experiencing sexual harassment, I did routinely hear of horrid behavior. Most television writers’ rooms are despicable, i.e. very much like what was presented on The Comeback. Churlish writers will spew all kinds of disgusting talk like jokes about how many abortions they think a particular performer has had. Some secretaries, who had to work amidst profanity and vicious talk, sued Friends because it was a hostile work environment, but lost because the judge figured that kind of talk was necessary for creativity. (I disagree.)

I remember being asked in an interview for an assistant position if I would mind if the producers swore a lot or swore at me. Why would they have to? Note – the producers were women. I remember temping at a studio and hearing violent threats and horrible profanity spewing from more than one executive. When I was working in the human resources office, I remember a secretary calling in fear. She had run out of her office when her boss started throwing staplers and ash trays at her. He frequently used cocaine at work.

I’ve been told that secretaries in some offices are expected to schedule prostitutes for their bosses.

This problem goes way beyond one man. It’s the work culture and civil behavior is the exception.

I hope more people come forward and the business cleans up its act. This behavior should not be tolerated. Is it any wonder how much swearing, violence and salacious sexual relationships feature so much in today’s films and shows? I realize this dates back to the 1920s, when films were innocent by comparison, but do we need brutes deciding what films are made and what aren’t?

I think Harvey won’t be back in the States till whatever statute of limitations passes. His seeking help seems insincere and I hope he’s extradited if charges are made.

I do hope this emboldens women to speak up. I understand how hard that is, but if a man knows what he does will become public, perhaps he’ll act more civilly. Let’s stop this harassment.