Confessions of a Plagiarist

As you may or may not have heard, Shia LaBeouf is a serial plagiarist, and an unapologetic one at that. Seriously, the media went apeshit over this whole affair, and honestly, I cannot think of a more deserving target. I hated Transformers 3 that much, and allowing him to be in an Indiana Jones movie was the final insult from fucking Lucas and Spielberg. Thus, when LaBeouf was caught stealing the work of another artist and claiming it to be his own, I felt a moment of schadenfreude (how did we get along without this word in our vocabulary for so long?) at the idea of this rich, terrible actor stealing someone else’s work.

The reason I bring it up isn’t to kick a man when he’s down (although I cannot think of a better time to do so), it’s to share a little secret with you. Okay, it’s not a secret, it’s the title of this essay. You see, I am a plagiarist.

 

 

Not a deliberate one, mind you, although don’t they all say that?!   In this case it is true, however, and if nothing else it gives me a cute little story to share.

Last year I took a course from EdX on Globalization, as taught by Dr. John Hoberman. To make sure I understood everything we covered, I copied his lectures into text documents for future reference. Unfortunately they came out in this crazy format and I had to edit them into something readable. When I was done, they looked like actual essays.

Good idea, right?  Well, the problem was that I didn’t bother to type “by Prof. John Hoberman” on any of the documents, I just named them according to the chapter we were covering. What could possibly go wrong?

 

*sigh*

 

Fast-forward to last February when I get a writing gig for a strange new web venture that pays in cryptocurrency. You might want to check it out, but it’s in the embryonic phase right now and kinda dumpy looking. Anyway, I got a gig writing there with the conditions that they only wanted original work (cue Jaws theme) and they would accept fiction or nonfiction with very few other restrictions.

So I decided to finally do some episode recaps for some of my favorite TV shows. I would get to do what I love, write, and I would finally get paid for it. Such a deal!  So, the first thing I did, I decided I would set up a framework for the shows, and I would start with Adam Reed’s oeuvre:  Sealab 2021, Frisky Dingo, and Archer.  (cue Jaws theme again)

Well, the problem was I copy-pasted the Wikipedia articles on these, then edited them to something more of my style.

Didn’t see that coming.

 

Hang on, hear me out, people. If you’ve ever checked the Wikipedia entries for these shows, it’s basically a character list with a personality sketch included. The plan was to completely rewrite those character sketches since most of them suck out loud. Then, once the laymen knew who all of the characters and their quirks were, they would be able to understand my recaps without me having to explain things in detail.

I just never got around to doing it. The reason I got sidetracked was that I had the brilliant notion that I could also publish some of my old college papers that I had!  All I had to do was rewrite them a bit to make them more readable for a general audience!

So I go into my notes from EdX and I find all of these essays on globalization and as I read them I’m thinking “The fuck was I thinking when I wrote these?  This shit doesn’t sound like me.” With that in mind, I proceeded to make some changes, but left the bulk of it intact, then posted it.

I’ll just leave this here.

So, a few weeks go by and I don’t hear anything from the site about payment. Curious, I try and do a search on my word-count and don’t find anything.  I wasn’t 100% sure what was going on, so I started asking for some assistance. Soon enough a Good Samaritan happened along and offered his assistance if I was sure I didn’t want to be publicly embarrassed.

Confident in my writing ability, I accepted the offer secure in the knowledge that my work was solid. First things first, I listed my work and made sure to remark that my Adam Reed stuff was unfinished. I know how easy it is to catch a plagiarist in the 21st Century!  Help me find the source of my problem Kind Citizen!

 

Surprise asshole!

As it turns out my new friend had already done some plagiarism checking on my behalf, but rather than send me a private message telling me “Hey, guess what?  I found out you had plagiarized a bunch of shit!  Here’s the proof, now get your shit cleaned up!” he opts to try and play Colombo and bait me into a clever trap!

And boy did it work like a charm!  When he showed the evidence I immediately said “Oh, shit, I done fucked up here.”  You know, a true plagiarist always admits their misdeeds when caught out. They always say “Oh fuck me, did I really just do that?” as opposed to denying it somehow.

The best part of it, for me anyway, was when he posted statistics showing how my original content was continuously increasing as I worked on the Adam Reed stuff. Almost as if I was rewriting the Wikipedia stuff into something interesting.  The first entry was less than 20% original, the second was about 45% original, and final entry was 80% original, which kind of indicates that I was working from a template. Someone wrote an article that covered the main points, but did it in a shitty way. I was just fixing it, and by the time I was finished, there would have been about 3% of the original content remaining. That is to say, the names of the damn characters.

So, anyway, excuses and rationales aside, I am now a plagiarist. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest, however, since I have very good company.

 

 

No, not this guy. Fuck this guy.

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing Lasts Forever

This is a sad truism of Existence: eventually everything falls apart. And when i say “everything” then I really mean that in the “encompasses all things in existence” sense of the word. Stars will die, buildings will crumble, civilizations will vanish.

This also applies to human creativity, loathe as many creative people are to admit it. Eventually you will run out of new ideas, eventually you will run out of GOOD ideas. And since all organizations have the exact same pathologies, it’s really only a matter of “when” and not “if.”

In the entertainment industry it’s called “Jumping the Shark” a reference to the seminal 80s sitcom “Happy Days” and an episode where Fonzi was going to ramp over a shark…kept in an underwater cage. You need to see this, in case you never have.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=t4ZGKI8vpcg#t=1s

Pretty awful, wasn’t it? Unfortunately, instead of serving as a stern warning to TV writers (and writers in general) it has instead become an example of stupid bullshit you can get away with because your audience just doesn’t fucking care. It was a lesson learned well by our good friends at the 24 hour news networks.

The trouble with 24 hour news coverage is an incredibly BASIC one: in order to do your job properly, you need to focus on one or two stories. If you are flooding your viewers with the several hundred news stories that occur every day, you are going to drown them in information and they will leave. So, instead, you limit it to a couple items and explore them in depth.

And look how well that has worked out for us. Looking at the situation in a completely objective way, both Fox and CNN do nothing to inform their audiences, and instead spend 90% of their time trying desperately to create drama to keep their audiences glued to the screen. And since stupid people outnumber intelligent people 4 to 1, it is a strategy that is working admirably.

And now we are seeing it happen to the Internet. Comedy megasite Cracked.com has been my favorite internet destination for about 5 years running. I go there for the articles, great videos, and quality research o various topics. David Wong runs a tight ship, and it is fucking great.

At least, it was.

Here’s a link to the Cracked video page. Ignore the videos that were NOT done in-house (this one) and you are left with 16 videos. Only two of which, are actually funny. And one is only funny because it is a Seinfeldian-Pointless-Yet-Funny sort of thing.

This is a seriously talented crew, look at some of their older stuff for proof of this. One of my personal favorites was from the “Those Aren’t Muskets” troupe.  And here’s another, riffing on the classic zombie thing. They are so good that it makes the current stuff look so much shittier, it’s like they aren’t trying any more. Cracked’s video team is now looking like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky III. A fat, lazy version of it’s youthful self, bloated on it’s own success and capitalizing on the fact that people love routine and so they will continue to go to Cracked on a daily basis because it is part of the ritual.

They recently added their first non-white columnist since Christina H stopped posting a few months back, and he was the first minority featured prominently in a Cracked video EVER, which is unfortunate for him because it was this one. The reason I bring it up is because I, personally, was tired of seeing articles about racism and sexism being written by an all-white, all-male editorial staff.

I am aware that Christi Harrison and Christina H are editors there, and Harrison is consistently funny. Christina H, on the other hand, rapidly wore out her welcome by saying stupid shit like telling people to make their own coffee to save money is stupid, because they might be too lazy to make their own. (I”m not making that up, by the way.) And, since it was Cracked she was contractually obligated to do a racism article, she complained about Asians being stereotyped as being intelligent and hard working.

This must be a living hell for her, because by her own admission, she is quite intelligent and unmistakably Asian. It must be a nightmare for her to be a living stereotype, especially since that stereotype virtually insures that Asians are never unemployed in the US.

I hope that this is only a rough patch on the road and not a sign that Cracked has gone the route of TV because, due to the rigorous citation standards needed to get published by Cracked, they are aware that there are sound scientific reasons for why TV is an intellectually vapid wasteland. A wasteland where outposts of idiocy are intensely popular, far more so than the oasis of intelligence that pop up here and there.

 

 

 

My Own Little Crisis

It’s been a while since I posted anything here, but in my defense I’ve been a little busy. I gave my house back to the bank and relocated to sunny California a few months ago. It’s taken until yesterday for me to get this computer up and running. It’s been a long time (ten years to be exact) since I had to live by anyone else’s rules, and the change has been interesting.

moving

Just need to get this in place…

While I finalized the paperwork with the bank I did some couch surfing with a good friend in Tacoma, Washington for a couple weeks. The couch was a decrepit hide-a-bed with a wafer thin plastic mattress and worn-out cushions. Given a choice, opted for the cushions and somehow managed to sleep a few hours each night. I credit that ability to my military training which taught me to sleep whenever and wherever the opportunity presented itself.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This would have been more comfortable, I think.

My first stop upon arriving here in California was with my lady’s cousin up in the mountains. She has a cabin that she has renovated over the years that she’s owned it, a nice little work in progress that she is always adding to. There is even a massive two-car shed/garage that she had erected on-site to house the various and sundry things that she has collected over the years. With a little work my lady and I were able to carve out some space in this garage for me to have a workstation so I could write and work on video and photo editing. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as planned and we had to leave there sooner than we planned. The worst part was that we had to leave our two cats behind. The cats love it up there in the mountains, and her cousin enjoys them as well, so it could have been a lot worse.

mountain-lion-wallpaper-big-cats-animals_00429126

Finally able to stretch my legs…

Our next stop was with my lady’s sister in the SF Bay area. What was originally intended as a brief stop-over has morphed (due to circumstances beyond our control) into an extended stay. In theory this would only be a minor inconvenience since the house is fairly large with 3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, a large garage, and a spare room that could serve as a study. Theory and Reality often have a tense relationship, however, and this is one of those times.

theory-vs-reality

Sort of like this, only more frustrating somehow.

Like many American homes, this one is packed with a lot of Stuff. Closets have Things in them that even the owner isn’t 100% sure about. The garage is barely navigable due to the accumulation of boxes books, bags of clothes, and other bric-a-brac collected over the years. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the difficulty of finding an open power outlet as every room seems to overflow with extension cords linked to phones, TVs, PCs, DVRs, and other acronyms.

kitting

Pictured: Science Fiction Living

In short, there is no place for me. My Lady is Family, so she enjoys a certain degree of security, and that is fine. That is the way it should be. I, however, am the Interloper whose presence is tolerated so long as I don’t disrupt the equilibrium of the household.

Guess how well that is working out.

the-thing-that-wouldnt-leave-john-belushi-house-guest-snl

My hostess WISHES she had it this good.

I don’t have a problem living by other people’s rules, I was fairly successful in the military. It’s not that I have a huge amount of stuff, I could live comfortably in a 10×10 storage locker provided it had electricity.

Storage-Units-Indianapolis

Not much of a view, but at the price you really can’t complain much.

And it’s not that I’m unreasonable, loud, or disruptive…the problem is a 40 year old man-child who has been living here for years and refusing to act like an adult. Two roosters in one hen-house, and only one can be cock of the walk.

man_with_a_very_big_cock

I only wore the leash for the photo, I swear.

Again, I cannot stress enough that I am VERY respectful of other people’s home, rules, property, and desire to be left undisturbed. If I had lived my life a bit differently over the past decade, I wouldn’t be in this position, no denying it. However, all of the blame for my current situation cannot be put on me. There were numerous extenuating circumstances that have led me here and I am doing my best to resolve all of this. The trouble is that I cannot discuss this problem directly with the people involved…I need to broadcast it to the entire fucking planet via the Internet.

Conflict resolution 21st Century style!

Conflict resolution 21st Century style!

 

The Legend of Spiderbro

If you are on the Internet then you must have accidentally heard about Anonymous, the hacktivist collective.  If you have heard of 4chan, you likely have an opinion one way or another about them, and I am not going to try and change it.  They have loyal supporters, bitter enemies, and detached observers such as myself who simply watch as they evolve.  I watch them because  4Chan is one of the great innovators of the Internet, for good and ill.

There is a lot going on out there on the Web, and there are sites that are household names because they are used on the TV (social networking sites, usually) but most of what is really happening out on the web happens in places like NewGrounds, FunnyOrDie, and SomethingAwful, then disseminates from there.  A lot of what happens on 4Chan is hidden by the name “Anonymous” so you never really know who posted what.  And right now that is kinda sad, because I’m going to share an image with you that I think exemplifies the kind of creativity that 4Chan is capable of.

Spiderbro

Ignore the bad grammar, it’s clear that the person who wrote this wasn’t trying to get an “A” from their English teacher, they were trying to tell a story in a place not known for a great attention span.   Whether you like Anonymous or not, read the post, it’s not too long and (going by Internet standards) not badly written.

Anyone can take a picture of a kitten or a puppy and add badly spelled one-liners to make the viewer subconsciously think of children.  Puppies and kittens are cute by design, you have to be a soulless monster to not acknowledge that.  Now make them “talk” like human babies and BAM! you got us right where Evolution has us hardwired to say “awwww, that’s cute!”

It takes brilliance to create a meme like Spiderbro:  a naturally creepy, scary as fuck monster like a spider and then turn the situation on it’s ear by making this scary creature your friend.  Sort of like Stan Lee did back in the day…

Now, where can a gal spin a web around here?

Isn’t that a life lesson we can all learn?  Not to judge others based on prejudices, but by the content of their character?  Not all spiders are harmful pests.  In fact, spiders are often called “the farmers best friend.”  (And yes, while I know the source cited says “African” please believe me when I tell you that I first heard the phrase in a book I read as a kid here in America.  And yes, the book was written in English.  And no, the story wasn’t set in Africa.  Can we get back to Spiderbro now?  Okay, thank you.)  Is that knowledge going to stop you from throwing a shoe at something that looks like the little lady pictured below?

Hey, stud!

Maybe one day we will be able to overcome our fears, triumph over our insecurities, and extend the hand of friendship to others not because they look like us, but in spite of that.

Spiderbro.  NEVER FORGET.