I'm surprised and pleased that Facebook upheld Trump's ban. Yes, it's just for six more months and then they'll have to address it again. But maybe they'll continue it, given his ongoing Big Lie rants -- but even if not, six more months is a lifetime in politics as the pandemic hopefully fades, business grows, and President Biden solidify his position..
When the Facebook decision was announced, Trump raged that it was an attack on free speech, which was taken away from him - except that, of course, he's not only free to talk all he wants, but he has more outlets to talk than most anyone in the country, if not the world.
Actually, to be fully accurate, he wrote that, "Free Speech has been taken away from the President of the United States." Except that Joe Biden is the President of the United States. And no speech was taken away from him. Trump has apparently forgotten that he is a former president.
What he also said was that "the Country won't stand for it" -- except the Country has stood for it just fine since the initial ban. There are some on the far right who are upset that he was banned, but there are no outraged protests and not lawsuits. Life has gone on.
And to be clear, Trump was banned because he broke the Facebook rules that he had agreed to, and broke them many times.
To be clear, as well, lest anyone try to make this a First Amendment issue -- it's not. The First Amendment is only about government not being allowed to make a law abridging speech. This is a business setting its own rules and standards, and that's perfectly legal. Oddly, if anyone is truly concerned with the First Amendment and government making laws that block speech, they might want to look at the new law passed by the Florida legislature that Gov. DeSantis has said he'll said that fines any social media outlet which bans a public official. That seems about as blatant an actual First Amendment issue as any. And it's hard to imagine it would withstand a Supreme Court challenge.
But back to Facebook's decision, as much as I like that they continued the ban for some, I think some of their reasoning about readdressing the issue in six months is very misguided.
It's not that a president, or politicians, or public officials should have more protections than the rules the general public has to follow, but at the very least exactly the same. The reality is that the gravity of a president, politician or public official breaking an outlet's rules and spreading misinformation and a Big Lie is far more massive than someone in the general public. And so the responsibility for a president, politician or public official is overwhelmingly greater. And a permanent ban for such people is far more important when considering how they should be treated in the end.
On this past Sunday, the Doonesbury strip didn't have a story like usual, but was just a collection of drawings of supposed "tweets" from the cartoon's longtime reporter, Roland B. Hedley Jr. They were very funny, like the one which read, "Can confirm that POTUS 'barely knew' John Bolton. Official list of people he knows well is down to three of his five children."
Each tweet said it was sent from "@realRBHJr." And a thought eventually occurred to me -- I wondered if Garry Trudeau had registered that name as a Twitter handle and was using the Sunday strip as a way to promote it. So, I decided to check it out and --
Sure enough, there is a very real Twitter page for the very fictitious "Roland B. Hedley, Jr."!!
As you can see above, the account has been active for a while. But this is a prominent way to bring attention to it. At first glance, it's certainly a bit but. But then, since Trudeau only does a new Doonesbury cartoon once a week on Sunday, this clearly is a way that lets him comment on the news of the day immediately, and also in as easy a way as possible. You can Follow it here.
I've read through a bunch of "Roland B. Hedley Jr.'s" tweets,, and they're very funny, such as one that dealt with professional football players taking a knee during the National Anthem. In his tweet, Hedley reported that an emergency meeting of NFL officials to address the crisis from Trump's "Idiot Second Son" saying that football was dead to him -- "won't be happening anytime soon."
And this is Roland's pinned tweet at the top of the page.
Much as there's SO much political news to deal with, I nonetheless thought I'd go with something different this morning instead. A tech warning.
I did something very stupid yesterday. Fortunately, it didn't go any farther than that, and there was no problem. I could have done something disastrous. But happily had the presence of mind to double-check before it was too late, and all's well. But that's why the warning. And a warning with an added asterisk that I've been writing a tech column for over 20 years and should be fooled like like, making it all the more stupid, but also making it all the more clear how vigilant one has to be.
Yesterday, I got a pop-up message that my Flash software might be out-of-date, and would I like it to download the update. (Flash software is what allows graphics to be animated, among other things, mostly for games but also some online applications.) Now, the notice seemed a bit odd, since I didn't recall ever getting a pop-warning notice before, but I have had to update my Flash software, though usually manually. And I didn't exactly remember what prompted me to update it -- just a random, periodic manual check, perhaps? Or a graphic animation wasn't working, maybe. Or a notice that it was out-of-date when a Flash animation came on screen? Or...a pop-up like this, possibly.
I didn't recall. I did know, though, that I have auto-updates set on much of my software, and I also have software that checks for when updates are available. (I manually run one of those checkers every Sunday, in fact, and had done so that very morning.) So, I was surprised, but though it reasonable enough to download the update which looked absolutely real with the Flash logo and everything.
That said, I'll admit to further being surprised that it automatically downloaded the Flash update before I even had a chance to click "Download." And that did make me wary -- but not as wary as I should have been, since I figured it was just related to my various auto-check programs about updates.
What also struck me was weird was that I thought I'd read that Flash was going to be discontinued, though I figured I might have been confusing it with another similar type of software known as Java. In fact, Java was discontinued.in 2018, I believe. So, I thought that that was probably what I was thinking of.
Important note: When you have a lot of yellow caution warning lights, they're there for a reason. So, stop. And I usually do stop at that point, since I was wary about a lot of things. But there were enough answers to my wariness that I movie forward foolishly.
Foolishly, yes, but for all this above, I still hadn't taken a direct action that was actually stupid. All this I've just described was automatic on its own. What was stupid is that I went to the downloaded file and double-clicked on it to run. What on earth I was thinking, I don't know. I could have opened the door to disaster.
Fortunately, like all software, another pop-up box then appeared telling me about the file and asking me to confirm the download. And that's when I fortunately looked closer and took a step back.
It actually all looked fine. But there was one line that looked off. It showed the location where the server was located that would be installing the file. Fortunately. It was something like "Netvork Tekhnolodzhiz - Tov." Now, of course, lot of techies have senses of humor of come up with funny names for their servers. Just that morning, I've updated one of my pieces of software using the popular Major Geeks. (Another reason I was in the "updating software" frame of mind, probably...) And I do know that some servers are overseas. And I could have just missed the spelling if I wasn't at least (happily) wary enough to look. And that didn't look right. At all. So -- fortunately and joyously -- I held up clicking on the "Install" button and went back to my web browser and did a search for "Netvork Tekhnolodzhiz - Tov."
I still don't know what it is. But that's because there were a lot of listings, some for that, some for other things different, with lots of various explanations -- but one word that showed up in the first few listings was..."Ukraine."
I didn't look any further. I didn't care if it was legitimate. If my Flash player was going to be out-of-date, so be it. I could always check into it later on. And if worse comes to worse, ask my tech guru Ed Bott, who would probably say, "Are you nuts???!!!" -- and who is probably shaking his head in agony while laughing at the same time (since I did say I was safe...) while he's reading this.
I mean, seriously -- "Ukraine"!! Why not put a skull-and-crossbones on it with "666" superimposed underneath and have ominous organ music blast out of my speakers? Ukraine. Thank goodness it wasn't something even slightly less blatant, like...oh, Moldova. Perhaps the only time I was actually thrilled to see "Ukraine" appear during this election cycle.
So, after seeing "Ukraine" -- and I mean instantly after -- I immediately went back to the pop-up screen, immediately clicked "Cancel" and not only immediately deleted the file, but permanently deleted it, immediately. And immediately closed all the pop-up screens where it was asking me about the file. (Which I hadn't seen before, but is another dead giveaway that someone is trying to get you to do something you shouldn't.)
And by the way, I later did a search and it turns out I was right -- Flash is being discontinued in December, 2020 -- only four months away.
So, other than feeling like a total idiot for not stopping immediately when I had all those "yellow caution warning lights" in my gut -- and mind -- and then actually clicking on the file, all is well. No problem was caused, because I did finally hold off and looked into what finally was enough to seem wrong.
How did I get that download? I'm not sure, but I think it came as a result of a search I was doing for a question I had. I was clicking on sites that seemed like they might have an answer -- all of which were ones that I either recognized or appeared reasonably legitimate -- except for one that had an odd name. But it was an odd question, and it was only information I was looking forward, I wasn't planning on clicking on anything. But I'm sure it was that website, and when I simply accessed, it sent that download. Which I idiotically clicked on. And then stopped, fortunately researched it and then happily canceled out.
So, that's the warning.
You probably know it. And probably follow it. But it's still good to be reminded of things being especially clever and catching you off-guard even when you're fairly wary. I mean, as I said at the beginning I've been writing a tech column for over 20 years, and I just did something incredibly stupid and naive (though "naive" is too kind a word. It' was mind-numblingly idiotic.) But if there are just enough reasons to move forward, that's what sometimes gets done. Which is a good reason to repeat the "Important note" yet again --
When you have a lot of yellow caution warning lights, they're there for a reason. So, stop.
It's sort of the way I feel about people who foolishly are thinking of voting for Trump and anyone in the Republican Party.
Ah, great! I knew I'd be able to get around to some political opinion this morning. Phew!!!
MEDIA ALERT #1
There is something new from the Broadway’s Best Shows YouTube Channel that they're calling "Spotlight on Plays.". They’ve gotten casts together to read plays that will be streamed live one time, and one-time only, on Thursdays – and today is the first one. They stream live in New York at 8 PM and in Los Angeles at 5 PM. (That time is not ideal on the West Coast, but there are far-worse things “not ideal” in the world at the moment. The play today is a notable one -- David Mamet’s political satire November with John Malkovitch, Patti LupPne and Dylan Baker. The play opened on Broadway in 2007 and is about a fictional U.S. president in the days leading up to his second election. When the live-stream ends, the show will not be repeated or be available.
Here’s more about the series which benefits the Actors Fund --
Next up in the series will be Joshua Harmon’s Significant Other on May 14, directed by Trip Cullman and reuniting the play's Broadway original cast of Gideon Glick, John Behlman, Sas Goldberg, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Lindsay Mendez, Luke Smith and Barbara Barrie.
And then A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters, directed by Jerry Zaks, with Bryan Cranston and Sally Field on May 21. The play follows the 50-year correspondence between of two soul mates.
Additional productions will be announced shortly.
MEDIA ALERT #2
And the other Media Alert for today is a reminder that the new National Theatre Live production begins today and will stream for a week. The play today is It’s Shakespeare’s Antony & Cleopatra with Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo. This is the online link, though as I said, it can be watched on a Smart TV via the YouTube app or browswer app.
By the way, so that you can plan ahead, related to this the National Theatre Live productions were only scheduled through today. But they just announced it will continue with four more, for the time being -- all premiering on a Thursday and streaming for a week.. Not all are Must Sees for me, though they all look interesting –
I've been mentioning that the wonderful National Theatre Live has been streaming productions from their archives for free every Thursday that will stay active for a week.
I thought it worth mentioning the new one that is streaming now, as of 2 PM ET. I've actually written about this in the past. It's their adaptation of Frankenstein that stars good friends Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller (who like Cumberbatch also played 'Sherlock Holmes' in the CBS series Elementary). And it's directed by Danny Boyle who directed Slumdog Millionaire, Yesterday, and Trainspotting, among others. But what stood out most about this production is that every other night Cumberbatch and Miller switched playing the roles of the Doctor and the Creature.
What they will be doing for this streaming is that the version with Cumberbatch as the Creature (and Miller as the Doctor) begins streaming today for a week -- and the version that features Miller as the Creature (and Cumberbatch as the Doctor) will start streaming tomorrow (Friday) for a week, so you can see both, if you're so inclined.
I saw the production with Jonny Lee Miller as the Creature and Cumberbatch as the Doctor. It's wonderfully done, vibrant and very interesting. But -- the adaptation takes a few liberties with the original story I didn't care for.
Anyway, here's the link to the NT Live streaming page, where you can find both versions. Know that while you can watch this online, if you have a Smart TV you can watch the production that way through a YouTube app or via the NT Live YouTube page in a browser.
And this is the trailer for the original production itself. You'll notice that it edits both actors back-and-forth in the two roles.
On his YouTube channel, "The Shows Must Go On," Andrew Lloyd Webber is streaming a new one of his shows every Friday, available for 48 hours. They seem to be major, but lesser-known alternative productions than the best-known ones.
Jesus Christ Superstar is on now (certainly appropriate for this weekend). I’m about five minutes in -- it’s sort of barebones staging but interestingly done, modern dress, and the opening was vibrant. I'm not a big enough of fan of his work to see everything, but I’ll check things out.
(By the way, the guy who plays Judas – Tim Minchin – is the fellow who wrote the score to the Broadway hit musical, Matilda.)
You can see them all here.
For the past few years, I've written here about the wonderful National Theatre Live. The short version is that it's a program that streams live productions of the National Theatre in England to movie houses around the world. (They're live in certain areas, but for the most part, because of time differences, the shows are time -- and often, date -- delayed.)
Well, because theaters are closed down these days, the National Theatre Live series announced that they will be streaming "family friendly" productions from their archives online for free every Thursday for the next month at least. (It may continue.) Shows will begin at 7 PM UK time, though they don't have to be streamed at home that particular Thursday, but each will be available from its starting date.
You can get access to it all and with more information here.
Better still, as readers of these pages know, one of the shows they did is something I've repeatedly raved about and admonished people to go see when National Theatre Live has repeated -- One Man, Two Guvnors. It's absolutely wonderful, a hilarious farce, and when it subsequently played on Broadway, the star James Corden won the Tony Award as Best Actor. Well...here's the good news: One Man, Two Guvnors is going to be the first production they stream for free, starting this coming Thursday.
If one doesn’t like farces, it’s not for you, but otherwise it’s a joy The story centers on a total dimwit who gets hired to work for a thug – he then gets an even better offer to work for the thug’s rival. He takes both jobs, but can’t tell either one of them. And from there, the story spins out of total control.
Here's a one-minute clip from the show --
Here's how TimeOut in London describes the program. It's largely the same information as I noted above, though with a bit more detail --
"As numerous theatrical institutions across the world have opened up their archives in response to increasing lockdown restrictions, all eyes have remained on one organisation: the National Theatre in London, which has the greatest archive of cinema-quality recordings of stage plays of any theatre on the planet, thanks to its formidable NT Live programme. It’s designed to beam productions from the NT into cinemas across the country, but there are of course no cinemas in operation at present. So the NT is switching to its YouTube channel. From April 2, under the banner of National Theatre at Home, every Thursday (7pm GMT/2pm EST) will see a new National Theatre play released – free to watch for one week – along with bonus content including cast and creative Q&As and post-stream talks.
"There’s a definite emphasis on family-friendly good cheer for the line-up so far, which kicks off with a big hitter: Richard Bean’s beloved farce ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’, starring a pre-chat-show-days James Corden. Over the next few weeks you can expect a string of family-friendly titles, though naturally there will be those hoping for some of the real NT Live blockbusters, notably ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Frankenstein’ starring Benedict Cumberbatch and ‘Coriolanus’ starring Tom Hiddleston."
Even if you don't like auto racing, this is brilliant -- and bizarre. A full 35 major NASCAR drivers are starting a "virtual" iRacing series, broadcast on Fox Sports 1 with their regular announcers calling the iRace. Keep in mind that most drivers began with video games. And many likely already had iRace set-ups in their home, complete with a wheel and drivers seat to "drive" the virtual car and monitor.
The first race is on now as I type this (2:45 pm EDT), and it actually looks semi-real, including sound-effects, stats, in-race interviews with the drivers (skyping in videos from home), replays, and visual effects, like smoke from the cars and the weather changing. A funny moment came when one of the drivers tweeted that he had to go to the bathroom, and so to hold down the fort he attached a photo of his dogs in his chair and at the wheel..
And when I said that these were major NASCAR drivers taking part, I meant it. Among the drivers participating are the defending Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin, defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, the 2018 champion Joey Logano, 2012 champion Brad Keselowski, seven-time champ Jimmie Johnson, and 2016 rookie of the year Chase Elliott. What's more, even legendary Dale Earnhardt Jr. came out of "retirement" to join in.
The thought was that if this got a good response, they'd make a full series out of it. Given that this is apparently trending #2 on Twitter, it certainly appears to have gotten the reaction they were hoping for.
Ed Solomon is a terrific writer. His best-known screenplays are Men in Black and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (and its sequels), but he also wrote such films as Now You See Me (and its sequel), Charlie's Angels (the original, not the dismal sequel or upcoming, new version), Leaving Normal and more, including the inventive, limited-series Mosaic for HBO, done with director Steve Soderbergh and the TV series, It's Garry Shandling's Show. I did an "Email Interview" with him several years back when I wrote that column for the WGA website, and he was open, thoughtful and enjoyable.
I came across this piece he wrote six months ago for the New Yorker, and it's an absolute hoot. It was probably a reasonably easy thing to write, though, because mostly it's the transcript of an exchange he had on social media. As he explains in the piece, a friend of his had his account hacked, and the hacker contacted Ed in hopes of scamming him for money. But Ed caught on early that this wasn't his friend. And rather than just shutting things down, being a high-end comedy writer he decided to go all in -- and continued the discussion as if he bought the whole thing.
It's wonderful. You can read it all here.
If you missed it, here is John Oliver's main story for Sunday. It's a good, entertaining one on Public Shaming, mainly as an Internet phenomenon, but in general with all its nooks and crannies, even admirably taking a look at how his own show handles it. That then leads into a long interview with someone who famously went through it on a high level -- and I'll just say I have mixed feelings about the interview from a wide scope of perspectives, and ranging from absolutely wonderful to quite a bit less-so,
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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