Irwin Mainway would be proud. Even he would have a hard time topping this headline: “Toys R Us pulls meth-toting ‘Breaking Bad’ action figures from shelves after Florida mom’s protest.”
The dolls, based on the recently concluded AMC series, featured characters based on White, a meth-cooking high school science teacher, and his sidekick, Jesse Pinkman. Along with the action figures, the toys came with fake bags of meth, sacks of cash and gas masks.
For those of you not old enough to remember, Irwin Mainway was a sleazy toy salesman who was perennially grilled about his dangerous toys (such as “Bag of Glass”) by Jane Curtin on the “Consumer Probe” skit. The toys were over-the-top ridiculous. Continue reading →
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines “sock puppet” as “a false online identity used for deceptive purposes.” Wikipedia’s entry describes a sock puppet as “an online identity used for purposes of deception” including but not limited to using the extra identity to talk to/about the original, praising/defending/supporting people or organizations, and bypassing site bans.
As part of my investigation into the online practices of Solar Home Inc, I have read dozens of comments on blog posts, news articles, online solar tech articles, and investor notices written by Solar Home’s founder and CEO, Ray Boggs, and a Solar Home employee named Ron Winton. In only two cases did I find either acknowledging that they work together. This makes Winton a Solar Home sockpuppet himself. In one case, a mistake by Winton in Motley Fool comments revealed that at least one of the three usernames affiliated with Solar Home was a sockpuppet. And I found several additional usernames that are also supporting Solar Home’s resale business, but no indication that any of them acknowledge their connection to Solar Home. Continue reading →
In the case of a writer like Nicholas Sparks, perhaps it’s that he gives readers a familiar story arc time after time that explains his success…
A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks (image courtesy Goodreads)
After reading a couple of superb pieces of literary fiction by J.F. Powers and Shelby Foote, I detoured from the 2014 reading list to take a look at the work of a writer whose success I’ve wondered about for some time.
Yep. That’s right. Literary fiction snob and crusty old professor Jim read him some Nicholas Sparks.
It happened accidentally. Lea and I were doing some book rearranging a few days ago and, as we shifted books from one bookcase to another, we came across a copy of Nicholas Sparks’s third novel, A Walk to Remember, a book Lea received from an aunt several years ago that had languished on our shelves. She moved to toss it into our donation box for the local library, but I stopped her. My words were something to the effect of “I’ve abused this guy’s work without having read it. I am going to read this novel and write about it.”
In the process of investigating Solar Home Inc’s comment spamming, I came across dozens of websites that were all linked to Solar Home, either in the copyright notices on individual pages or on the About/Contact Us pages. Since most businesses don’t bother to maintain more than a handful of websites, the fact that Solar Home seemed to have dozens caught my attention. When I broadened my investigation into Solar Home’s websites, I found that Ron Winton (as “Ronwiserinvestor”), an acknowledged employee of Solar Home, admitted in a Motley Fool comment that Solar Home controlled “800 active websites” as of April 2014.
I also found that the 800 acknowledged websites actually represented a small fraction of the nearly 6,300 solar-related websites registered by Solar Home. Of those 6,300 websites I personally verified that over a hundred of them were explicitly tied to Solar Home and that, by offering several of those websites for sale, Solar Home is engaged in domain speculation. I also identified a few websites that contained the trademarks of other companies, including one that could be a Solar Home competitor, indicating that Solar Home also engages in cybersquatting. Continue reading →
Solar Home Inc controls over 6000 websites, cybersquats on other companies’ trademarks, posts hundreds of cut-and-paste comments on news, technology, and investing sites, and posts those comments using at least eight separate usernames.
On my first Renewable Journal post, a commenter by the name of Ray Boggs dropped a list of reasons not to go with a solar energy lease like the one I have with SolarCity. I briefly looked into his points and found that some were valid while others were not. In addition, I discovered that Boggs is the founder of Solar Home Inc, a Victorville California solar system reseller. This makes SolarCity and other solar lease providers Boggs’ competitors. So I responded in the comment thread, pointed out that Boggs was a biased commenter, and left it at that.
On July 16, National Public Radio (NPR) ran a story about solar leases and how they might not be all they’re cracked up to be, and when I glanced at the comments on NPR’s website, I noticed that the very same Ray Boggs had posted another comment attacking solar leases. But the fact that his comment at NPR was nearly identical to the comment he posted at S&R got me wondering if Boggs was more than just a businessman trying to undercut his competition. It got me wondering whether or not Boggs was essentially a spammer. So I did some digging.
What I discovered is that there are hundreds of nearly identical comments posted on solar articles and websites going back to September 2010. I discovered nine distinct usernames and/or individuals responsible for posting those comments, usually without acknowledging their connection to Solar Home. And I discovered a network of literally thousands of nearly identical websites controlled by Solar Home that serve the dual purpose of attacking solar leasing companies while also promoting Solar Home’s products. Continue reading →
Almost forgotten as a writer now, Ben Ames Williams’s novels and stories represent the most interesting of American literary legacies – market driven art….
The Strange Woman by Ben Ames Williams (image courtesy Goodreads)
This essay concerns one of the novels of Ben Ames Williams. If you’re asking yourself “Who?” be assured that you’re not alone. A very successful “popular fiction” writer of the first half of the 20th century, Williams is almost forgotten now. The novel we’ll be discussing shortly is called The Strange Woman and was published when Williams was at the height of his popularity. The novel itself is…okay. The writer who produced it is fascinating as an example of a writer who made his creative decisions with a watchful eye to the market and whose oeuvre, as a result reflects that watchfulness – and whose literary reputation also reflects that watchfulness.
A month ago most of you had probably never heard of Ello. By now a lot of you have. And at the pace the news has been getting around in the past few days, this time next week even hermits will know about it.
The short version is that Ello is the brainchild of a team of designers and developers who are committed to preserving user privacy. Sort of an anti-Facebook, if you will. As you can imagine, there’s going to be interest in something predicated on that kind of philosophy, and interest this past week got so intense that they had to throttle new user add/invites briefly to make sure the system could handle the load.
I was one of the early adopters – I heard about it and went to the site to request an invite months ago, and I was in the door quickly when they opened it up to beta last month.
Here are some observations, in no particular order.
It took me a while and a measure of forgetfulness, but the deed is done
Since my last post on the subject of Facebook (see Goodbye, Facebook below), I’ve paid next to no attention to it at all, reminded of its existence only by the slow feed of occasional email notifications, an onslaught that slowed to a trickle once I stopped feeding the best. Once in a while I’d click a guilty click to see a picture, perhaps of a friend’s newborn. Other times I was curious to see if the powers that be at Facebook ever bothered to get back to me on my request to cancel my Ars Skeptica page.
A quick bit about that, as an aside:
For whatever reason, of the handful of silly pages I created, Facebook’s magical data gremlins must have realized that Ars Skeptica was different. The others it let me delete without an issue. The Ars Skeptica page deletion provided a prompt that they would get back to me in two weeks time (many weeks ago now) to confirm that I do indeed mean to delete said page. Continue reading →
I know what you’re thinking – this is awesome! But before we all break out the kneepads and chapstick, let’s ask ourselves a question: why the fuck was a HEALTHCARE COMPANY selling GODDAMNED CIGARETTES in the first place?!
Here’s a fun question. How many people who bought cigarettes at CVS are now dead from cancer? Continue reading →
The companies, which also included Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill, were well aware – from their own frequent visits and independent studies – that they were selling the products of child slavery, but insisted on “finding the cheapest sources of cocoa,” said the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
Just in case you don’t have enough to worry about already, here’s just one more thing: debt collectors and the twisted games they play. Trust me, you’ll want to invest the few minutes it takes to read this article from The New York Times Magazine. Odds are good the plot twist will surprise you, maybe even leave you a bit more sleepless than you already are. And for good reason.
Sure, those of us who have mastered the art of living within our means *ahemcoughsplutter* will never know the joys of being contacted by debt collectors. More power to you. May you never have an unplanned misfortune that changes that state of affairs. For the rest of us, debt collectors are a reality. An ugly one.
Somebody needs to teach Facebook’s CEO how to wield wealth and influence.
This started out as a brief comment on Frank’s post about leaving Facebook. If you haven’t read it yet, go do so now. It’s an important piece of writing and gods would America be better off if we all followed his lead. Ello, you can’t arrive soon enough (and you better not suck when you do get here).
American literary fiction over the last 50 years has been, it seems, in a struggle to find an audience…
Literary Luxuries: American Writing at the End of the Millennium by Joe David Bellamy (image courtesy University of Missouri Press)
Another book from the 2014 reading list composed of essays. This one, Literary Luxuries: American Writing at the End of the Millenium, is a collection of essays by writer, writing teacher, and litfic cheerleader Joe David Bellamy. Since this is a book of essays that range over a number of issues confronting the literary community, it seems logical to look at Bellamy’s book in sections. So, as I’ve done with a book of scholarly essays on popular music as protest, I’ll be looking at this work over a number of weeks. This will allow me to share Bellamy’s wide ranging discussions of issues such as of support for the arts (particularly literature), writers’ conferences, creative writing programs, and styles of literary fiction.
Bellamy has a lot to say about each of these areas (and others) and his opinions are – interesting might be the best word. I agree with some of his assessment of the state of litfic, some of it I would say probably needs updating, and some of it smacks of his personal biases. That last is not necessarily a bad thing – except when he resorts to trying to make literature style an object of political analysis. Continue reading →
After all Facebook has done, there’s only so much a person can take.
And kittehs. Can’t forget about the kittehs.
By now, anyone who has been paying attention is well aware of Facebook’s general user-unfriendly shenanigans, with the possible exception of Facebook’s support for net neutrality, to say nothing of all the minor aggravations users put up with on a daily basis…continually refreshing advertisements, live video popping up in the news feed, a news feed that doesn’t show you everything you mean to see, a newsfeed that occasionally reverts to Top Stories in spite of your every wish and command. Oh, but hey, there’s kittehs!
What kind of user-unfriendly shenanigans, one might wonder?
There’s a fun one from Ethos3 up at SlideShare.net addressing the importance of nonverbal communication when making presentations. It’s generally pretty helpful, but it also provides us with a lesson in the value of not overreaching.
“Schwarzman acts as if “he’s beset by a meddlesome, tax-happy government and a whiny, envious populace.” He has suggested that “it might be good to raise income taxes on the poor so they had ‘skin in the game,’ and that proposals to repeal the carried-interest tax loophole – from which he personally benefits – were akin to the German invasion of Poland.” Other examples from Surowiecki: “the venture capitalist Tom Perkins and Kenneth Langone, the co-founder of Home Depot, both compared populist attacks on the wealthy to the Nazis’ attacks on the Jews.””
$400 billion down the hole on the F-35, and that’s just one tip of one iceberg
There’s been a horrible accident. One patient has a punctured lung. Another one has a grievous wound at the femoral artery and is bleeding out. Another has a serious spinal injury. Three others are milling about with, between them, a bruise, a splinter, and a hangnail. Quick, what do we do?
To listen to the chatter from a variety of news sources, and especially in comments sections all over the place, we should damned well be focusing on the bruise, the splinter, and the hangnail. That femoral artery guy? To hell with him.
Lee Camp, one of the most scathing and brilliant commentators of the day, has a new macro up on Facebook. It makes a compelling case. Sadly, even one of our own occasionally needs a touch of fact-checking.
On the one hand, this didn’t stand up to PolitiFact, coming in at only “mostly true.”
On the other hand, the lowest percentage they came up with was 73%. So if the macro is simply reframed as “The candidate who raises the most money wins at least 73% of the time,” it will withstand fact-checking and still indicate something is horribly, horribly wrong.
Image credit: Posted by Lee Camp on Facebook, attribution included in image. Included in this post on the assumption that sharing is expected and encouraged.