Category Archives: entertainment

When we have new media, we have new powers. Just don’t ask for whom.

I grew up in a time where my grandpa had this sort of safe, a triangular wooden thing with a layer of fabric on top and this upward opening door that produced a particularly memorable high pitched noise. It was brown, maybe pastel, but some people would say it had shades of green; this piece of furniture went well with the beige wall, which is absolutely nothing special, but it was, has always been, will always be my grandparents’ home. The floor is what the architects, designers or whatever call “demolition floor”, consisting of tiles of brownish, reddish rectangles all stacking up and this natural aspect of random patterns of saturation, if you look at it from a more modern perspective. But the rest of the furniture doesn’t matter. The Cross at the wall, the sculpture of Virgin Mary, the big mirror that came later. The border ceiling styled cast. The fact that one day we had a cleaning lady, and decades later, everyone became too pissed off to do a single thing, ending up not doing anything at all. The floor stays dirty, the bathroom is a disgusting mess, with a toilet which used to be perfectly clean, now having these stains at the bottom that we took too long to take out and now look like this crusty dirt patch, but of course it’s not dirt; the objects near the kitchen window, where the washing tank is, next to the gas cylinder and the cleaning products. Ok, nobody needs to know. This isn’t The Sims and I’m pretty sure this home isn’t going to have a user of Oculus Rift. What I wanted to tell you about was that little pastel safe. The newspapers from the entire year were stored there. Grandpa John (his actual name being João, in Portuguese) didn’t buy newspapers every day, but he maybe my dad was the one buying. I honestly don’t remember. I do have some flashes of grandpa trying to hold onto the large pieces and them falling off, because he was not a very delicate man, thick hands worn out and wrinkled, and he was getting even older. He could peel some potatoes, slowly, patiently, singing a song, after going to buy them himself, all that nearing his 80th birthday. He used to work at the port. It was carrying stuff on his back, as we’ve seen on the historical pictures, but also stuff that we don’t really know about. Just that it was at the port. I don’t think anyone would understand that when you fast forward 20 years, or not even that, we have not just all the markets and live analysis of supply and demand, but all media vehicles in the world at the palm of our hand, along with pictures of other people’s homes from different angles, in all kinds of situations, except they’re the protagonists, the main elements in photographic framing. At some point, my dad would buy a subscription of a magazine, and I’d read it carefully. I was actually more interested in reading the gaming reviews, and they had specialized magazines for that. I got every issue. Every time we crossed the newsstand, it was worse than peanut candy at the bakery or popcorn at the movie theater. To be fair, we still share a love of peanuts until this day, and if you make a joke about that I’ll probably giggle and we’ll get along. But have you seen an 8 year old reading magazine reviews and interested in the journalism? Well, because that happened, maybe that’s where we are.

I’m not sure what the 8 year olds are doing. I guess gaming is a phenomenon that we have to approach more seriously, because as an industry it drives billions. I guess we have to talk about children’s shows. I guess we have to talk about the diets. The moderation in language. Someone could probably make up a meme with this or that politician speaking, a child watching them on a flat screen connected to the internet, big Dolby speakers on, and the kid is dressed as a monkey; then the concerned, vigilant mom gently puts the monkey hands over the kid’s ears, so they wouldn’t hear that kind of tone. A wrap up would be the monkey again, this time with emoji-likeness. This would incentivize the use of deaf monkey emojis. Maybe with some brainstorming, you could get the team to work on the mute monkey, this time a lonely boy or girl — and then the team would split in the creative room — sitting in the corner of a couch while a bunch of friends were having drinks, dancing, posing for pictures, talking about people in school. Lonely teen sitting at the corner of the couch. Deaf emoji. “This time we could have something provocative”, the marketing strategist would propose. “Maybe we should explore the positives on this one. We all have people we think are annoying. It’s not about the loneliness, it’s about the choice of being alone. Can you work on that? I’ll leave you to it then.” And so the team would be slightly confused, slightly pressured. The conversation at break would be about how to apply the concept of the monkey with his hands on his mouth to the concept of silencing, but the word was actually “muting”. The feature, soon to be rolled out by the app and website, would allow people to personalize their experience online while still looking as if they were giving each of their follows the same kind of attention. “But then, you’d need to unmute, right? I mean, it’s probably gonna be hard to measure, but if you’re on it; then you wanna focus on something for a while, maybe that could be an entire week. I’ll go newsless for an entire week, focus on my friends, you know? Then you got a tab showing who you’ve muted and you can just unmute when you wanna catch up, maybe show what you’ve missed”. But what about the emoji? This isn’t about the news. This is, indeed, about loneliness. And while some people smoke discussing the features that would be rolled out and how to please consumers and partners, the socially awkward guy is thinking about something else: duct tape, not emoji. If you put duct tape on your mouth, that’s a powerful symbolic concept. But can you imagine people associating it to other related uses? Suddenly, mouth gags, nipple clamps, cock rings. “No, it’s really about the monkey. You can show a kid throwing a banana at the monkey in the zoo, and then the monkey throwing the banana back, and hitting the kid’s eye. The kid starts crying, and the mom is like… it’s okay honey. It’s just a stupid monkey”. Wrapping this up as anecdotal and fictional, not much of a cautionary tale that people seem to think Mad Men was, or The Office was: not everyone is being heard in the media, the social media, and it’s definitely not the case that we’re still reading about what’s happening in the world whenever we read the newspaper. Grandpa wouldn’t be able to handle this; he’s gone, but he has a legacy.

Some people are more focused on visuals than others. Despite the fact, unknown the many, that reading can foster a creative mind that allows you to “see the world” when you’re reading a text, that spanning to decades before, and experiencing it through image, whether it’s an art installation or a painting (unless they’re splattered with tomato sauce, but I’m sure you could get a copy in the public domain), the consumption of video has made all of us expect something else from our internet experience. TV didn’t wanna die. And so it strived but it didn’t, but their influence is even bigger than you’d imagine. Think for a second: you want to go live on Instagram, but you realize you only have your microphone from the earbud set. When you went on Twitter, you had a highlighted trend which was the presidential debate being exhibited live. They weren’t doing it from their phones. They had professional cameras, audio quality and everything just as if they were on TV, but even better. A better signal, a better coverage, since their time wasn’t restricted to the schedule of the network, but the topic instead, which could in turn be explored in the conversations people were having about it as of right now; a better view on the themes for anyone who was interested. But then you look at independent journalism. They’ve learned to Zoom, and to broadcast showing diverse sets of media pieces, which in fact meant not a lot more than displaying different tabs on the screen. It seems very simple, until you realize maybe it’s not — and until you try to do it yourself, especially if you’re thinking, like me, that Substack will be your source of income. Will you keep doing it, after the bad reviews? This is one aspect, for every writer. Another is the undeniable appeal that certain hosts of images and videos have. Instagram is sexy, but nobody’s supposed to talk about it — and in fact, that came with time, and personally, I’m convinced that was a particularly tense atmosphere for the people who wanted to be viewed as ethical rocks, and who would always have the data to show that they’re the ones who invested the most in research, and that their research was the most relevant, given the userbase and what they knew about them. But that, in itself, is an ethical problem, and of course we’ve heard the nutrition whistle and we’re all still acting like the big dogs do. Putting this one platform aside, and taking a step back before approaching the new trend of algorithm-fed quick videos on demand from multiple people who you’re dying to meet and we’re going to introduce to you (an offer you can’t refuse), we have the word sexy. Nobody starts a conversation with “hey, sexy”. They should go to prison if they do. Well, of course not, but they might wanna know that’s pretty lame. I just think there’s a weird fluctuation, or rather, a volatile environment of digital trade, when it comes to the sexy categories. Because if you cut the “why”, you’re left with raw material. Some people have no idea what to do with it. You could tell someone that everything you need to know about any given subject is on Wikipedia; they might get lazy, and close their eyes on it. You might tell someone at school: “guess what, I found her OF”. The monkey emoji, closing his eyes, would slightly move its fingers to the sides in order to see, but pretend not to care — or in fact, to pretend that not to be looking. But we know that the “raw material” can be a lot different than what the emoji represents.

We’re not thinking about marketing for kids. Some “kids” are actually doing the thinking for us. Whenever a conversation ends too suddenly, we’re faced with the question: “what did I say?” — but that comes after a number of interactions, and you’re still trying to get it right. Practice makes perfect. But don’t you wanna focus on something else? And who said that this perfect model would be scaled up, and applied to everyone, involving masses of people in contact with your displays of emotion? In contact with your rawness, which includes a spectrum of things which you can’t label or categorize, describe, begin to talk about. But since practice makes perfect, they’re quick to say: “you look like an actor from Stranger Things”. And so we start to think: how big is streaming for younger audiences? But we’re suddenly stopped on our tracks, inevitably, out of someone else’s greed, out of someone else’s desire to know everything about anything, and win the argument at all times: “What do you mean with ‘younger audiences’? I’m old enough”. Labelling is interesting because it involves a lot of linguistic knowledge, when it’s done properly. For example, a fruit like a banana, before it’s ready to be consumed, is called “green”; when it’s already easy to peel, not yet smelling, which should mean you’re supposed to eat them before they rot, and just good to put in your mouth, you call it “mature”. Now consider the difference between “mature content” and “adult content”. For example, this blog contains mature content, but not adult content — despite some slight references to this world, which is not represented here at all, and that’s obvious to anyone who knows what adult content looks like, sounds like, and what it feels like to watch it one time, then lose count — and also lose touch with yourself, sometimes. Once, I was around 10 and I was playing a videogame where the narrative is some really fucked up dystopia or futuristic, while being mixed up with a tribal, origin of civilization period, and you have to save the world, basically. It’s called Turok. I didn’t play the first game, which is all about a Native-American hunting dinosaurs; I played the second one, which had this weird, kind of terrifying iguana’s red eye staring at you at the cover, with the tagline: “seeds of evil”. You’d get lost in some kind of narrative where these organized groups of other species were taking control of everything good, putting kids in cages and all. Dystopian narratives tend to get something right, but I could totally be talking about Star Fox and my comments would all be about how sexual the conversation between pilots are. “Incoming enemy from the rear. Drop altitude”: of course the horny rabbit is telling you to bend over cause there’s a machine behind you (and what do you know, people take it literally these days! “Your father helped me like that too”: like what? Did you guys, uh… But back to Turok, one of your final missions would be to “purify the river of souls”, all the while shooting plasma bullets at the center of some alien’s big belly, and it was particularly explicit — but there was, in their defense, an option to make the red blood look green. But there’s an interesting part of the story I don’t wanna miss. Back here, over 20 years ago, I was very entertained and actually thrilled to be figuring out what I had to do in the game all by myself, without the help of the magazine “walkthrough” — but it was time for lunch. My grandpa called me once, twice, and then I went to the living room, slightly pissed off, I suppose, and said I was playing a game and it was important, but they were bothering me with something less worthy of attention, absolutely meaningless. “I’m here trying to save the world from all these scary monsters and you want me to go eat spaghetti, are you out of your minds?” I’m not sure what words I said, and this was obviously not the actual conversation, but when I refused to obey and come to the lunch table at the time I was called, my grandpa reacted grabbing me by the neck, looking straight at me and I think he slightly pressed it even though I was just a 10 year old. My grandma told him to stop. I think I went back to the game, but cried about it.

Now, back to the real world of right now, always and forever: the metaverse is a billionaire investment. So is Twitter, though it’s a little less. Nobody will stop talking about Twitter, and I’m trying to figure out why, exactly. The new policy is “freedom of speech, not freedom of reach”. That means, as briefly explained by the buyer, that you can write what you want, but that will always go through moderation, and they’ll keep track of everything and rank your participation. That means to say we can totally start a conspiracy theory that the Japanese are all shamelessly horny, and another person will suggest they’re horny, yeah, but always filled with shame (I personally believe this profoundly, but in the one opportunity I had to say this to my American coworker who’s not here anymore, I kept my mouth shut). We can show an image and put a hashtag on it, but how much do you think people search for hashtags? You can try to make a new hashtag on your own. But do you even have a following? That won’t work. You can try to say what’s on your mind (see what Mastodon did?) and have people react to it, but will they, ever? You can build on and on, and it’ll be torn down. You don’t know the right words, you don’t have the right tone, you don’t even know what the fuck you’re talking about, and you’re ugly, and you’re lame, and you smell. Look at where you live. It’s a fucking demolition floor, filled with crusts of dirt in the living room. And I’ll never go into that bathroom, I’m pretty sure that’s where the pandemic started. You’ll have to do something about the drains, all that spit that somehow goes brown on the sink won’t be cleaning itself and you have to take out the hairs. I won’t touch it. Look at your ridiculous beige wall. At least if you had a black wall, you’d be cool. Then you could take pictures in front of the mirror, but not showing your hideous face. From the rear, babe. At least the bedroom’s fine. But you know we could cut the electricity any time, right? One neighbor monitors for the Church, another monitors trade, this guy monitors the power, this other one monitors the drugs. It’s a beautiful community effort. You see… that’s what’s up, and you’re all thinking “oh no, icons are disappearing from my favorite social media platform! It’s the end of the world!” Nobody talks about fireworks resembling gun shots. Nobody talks about sex workers being invisible to society, but the most sought for at a specific time of someone’s day — and man, there’s always someone. They can’t talk about work, and they can’t talk about sex — imagine sex work? Actually, Twitter and Meta became exactly that: places where you can’t talk about sex and you can’t talk about work. People are dead because of shit policy. Twitter wants you to believe your ideas are brilliant, while they exploit you in real time. Meta wants you to see everyone’s brilliance, while they all want to see you get abused, which is in their power to do and to organize for. Maybe it’s all the same. Maybe it’s not the sex. Maybe it’s not the emoji. Maybe we’re supposed to sleep: not to see, not to hear, not to speak. No freedom of reach, except for my big dick built by Space X. “Sorry, wrong name. You’re not supposed to talk about your dick on Spaces? Okay, my bad”. And we believe in the free market…

The evolution of media is hard to track. Video on demand? YouTube “pivoted”, but so did Netflix, and then Amazon, Disney, Apple, among cable and services like Hulu. Then, maybe after observing engagement with video consumption on Twitter and Tumblr, the latter more spicy then the former (which everyone thought was a problem, until they realized they pretty much broke the internet), TikTok came to be the equivalent of McDonalds for media, expect coming from China. The real story is we have Critical Literacy goals to be met in the Educational Common Core established across countries, and while these involve creation of relevant media themes, they’re failing to show how that’s really done, and so the arbiters live in one bubble while the creators, or aspiring creators, live in another. That last point alone could lead to intense debate: “why is that content getting attention while mine is not?” Money, silly. And now think about the policy again. The platform is definitely not a source for good; it’s a source for income through the exploration of your personal information, which you chose to disclose and, believe it or not, their legal argument is a tick box that you clicked on. So much for Semiotics. A click is not approval; it can mean many things. And now we’re facing a “depolarization effort”. This will ultimately result in user growth, but another round of public scrutiny that will most likely exhaust the already exhausted, who will in turn show scorn and bitterness, along with a complete (but carefully veiled) disregard for your social condition and your efforts, let alone empathy transformed in support that is concrete. we’ll hear the talk, but never see a path to be walked, only tall buildings where things are happening and cars going somewhere we’re fucking not. It’s not about video, and it’s not about Discourse Analysis: it’s about human relationships, Social Work and Psychology. Education plays a role, but the educator who doesn’t even talk to his or her students to learn what they’re dealing with is never going to even scratch the surface of their many layers of protection against invasion of privacy. But we shouldn’t be paranoid and assume they know everything — they do not. There needs to be guidance, and the role of the current media is absolutely bridging generational gaps; but when you’re getting an opinion from 70 year olds about how the world should work, maybe it’s time you realize you don’t like your grandpa’s opinions — let alone being grabbed in the throat because you wanted to enjoy yourself. Politicians need to stop playing with personal narratives immediately. They say they represent us, but they don’t even talk to us. They can’t possibly be the solution for media policy when they’re not choosing personal storytelling in order to reach those people who are desperate to see that these people running for office are maybe just like us, but they happen to have a plan to fix stuff. And if you choose to go along the way, you’ll meet the media industry: profiting from falsehoods, producing to preserve their reach and relevance, and seldom hinting at something good happening in the sphere of public debate, but never mentioning names except of those who are controlling the whole process. That needs to change. Musk is a fraction of so called internet debate. Zuckerberg is a lunatic — nobody can ever explain how investing in augmented reality with billions of dollars was the chosen path when you had a row of social initiatives to fund, about the real world and real struggles. Not even a feature. And the people who actually run things, the investors and venture capitalists, along with institutions and universities, will ask for better performance while stopping you at your tiniest attempt to think for yourself, then later making a sarcastic comment that they think you won’t be able to respond — and if you are, they’ll hunt you down and crush you with a story about something completely irrelevant that they’ll try to convince you is the new thing, without a fucking apology, let alone a payment for moral damage — while they retain the data now and in the future. It’s time to defund big tech. The knowledge is built with existing tools. If you want better wages, you’ll have to be content with working less hours while they hire more people, because that’s what diversification means. And when people think together about how to fund the creators, it’s gonna be too late: financial markets will dominate discussions, just because we inputted our information, again — this time, our banking, not our contact. And who says we even got a call in the first place?

Quer dizer que a sua música tem um tema censurado?

A paranoia é um estado diagnosticado de funcionamento do cérebro humano em que tudo leva às mesmas conclusões negativas, embora artificiais e projetadas, mas que se nutre de uma suspeita forte ou de um evento traumático. Os leitores de Orwell, já na década de 1940, sabiam que o Reino Unido vivia com a paranoia do potencial de guerra nuclear. Não é à toa que grandes nomes do heavy metal abordaram temas parecidos, desde o Black Sabbath em 1970 com Paranoid até o Iron Maiden em 2000 ou o Megadeth, em 2016, com Dystopia: “o que você não sabe, não pode te machucar, diz a lenda”. Mas as histórias hoje são mais complexas. O clipe de Afraid to Shoot Strangers, música do Fear of the Dark, último de Bruce Dickinson em 1993, chegou com Blaze Bailey lá pela época do X Factor, mas o Megadeth já falava de conflitos militares retratando claramente do que se tratava em Holy Wars The Punishment Due, em com mais propriedade que o Iron Maiden, que a quase dançante Run to the Hills; o Black Sabbath colocava no mesmo álbum Hand of Doom e Paranoid, e sabemos que o culto a Ozzy Osbourne envolveu muito uso de drogas. Não cabe aqui falar quem se antecipou, até porque Phantom of the Opera é uma música super atual e deveria ser mais pesada, se quiserem entender que sugere que uma mulher vai ser estuprada; mas não é, porque não se fazia música assim naquela época. Mustaine já dizia: “next thing I know, they’ll take my thoughts away”. Isso foi muito antes do “what’s on your mind?” do Facebook.

Hoje em dia, em 2022, os artistas anunciam suas músicas em miniaturas na tela de um smartphone, não em um estádio com amplificadores por todos os lados. Aliás, é lamentável que o metaleiro veja o Metallica como um símbolo do estilo de vida, e só preste atenção a Master of Puppets porque gosta de um refrão que fala “master” de forma sexualizada. Não é uma música que critica nada, é uma música que exalta o relacionamento tóxico e ainda sugere feminicídio. “Prove o meu sabor e você verá / que só quer chupar mais e o fará”, algo assim. Muito longe da Cardi B, mas nem tanto. Agora a Cardi B merece ser citada no original, porque a verdadeira obra de arte, que custou a reputação inteira de uma pessoa e de todas que se identificaram com ela, se trata com respeito:

“I wanna gag, I wanna choke
I want you to touch that lil’ dangly thing that swing in the back of my throat
My head game is fire, punani Dasani
It’s goin’ in dry and it’s comin’ out soggy
I ride on that thing like the cops is behind me
I spit on his mic and now he tryna sign me”

Ouça a original. Mas depois, veja o vice presidente dos Estados Unidos falando sobre uma nova norma no país, a “gag rule” (termo da época de escravidão). Lembra-se que “gag” como verbo tem o sentido de “interromper abruptamente”, mas vocês podem entender que não é por acaso que se usa o termo. No final de agosto de 2019, o Planned Parenthood postou sobre isso, mas o que se deu foi a decisão de revisar o julgamento do embate Roe v. Wade, e por fim proibir o aborto e qualquer menção à prática, o que foi aplicado pela empresa Meta, apesar de inúmeros protestos.

Veja, não é novidade que sexo é censurado. Mas isso foi uma medida tomada pelo chefe de Estado mais poderoso do mundo, enquanto a indústria musical lucrava com músicas que exaltavam a sexualidade e só poderiam ser ouvidas nos Estados Unidos, porque em outros países, isso gera problemas. Não precisamos lembrar do Irã, ou imaginar um iraniano praticando sexo oral com barba cabelo e bigode por fazer, enquanto o gay russo provavelmente seria raspadinho; mas o blog sabe que a mera menção ao tema é juramento de morte, e não tem medo das repercussões.

They don’t make children’s shows like before. But what are actual children doing?

Representation matters. That’s why the BBC made a TV show with main characters resembling babies: the parents weren’t there even to say hi to their children, so they had to project the sun into a screen, with a baby face in it, so they could learn that it was really fun to interact with their peers and stuff. Multi color, super progressive. Except if you fast forward to 2022, you’ll see the NYT reporting on tweens having 5 hours of screen time. And these are not “kids”. It seems, though, that for every hint of maturity that you may want to inject into a teenager’s mind and behavior, they either abandon the notion of living in society, often dispelling the morals they’ve learned on sped up edited videos on YouTube (try to talk to them and you’ll see they don’t have a lot to say), or they’ll come to you with the classic “I’m a minor”. The importance of music is not to be understated, because it might be good for your “child” to learn what major and minor notes and chords are. The ability to interpret art is counterposed by the ability is pretend you understand it, just because it rhymed (and I’m not conservative at all, just realistic, when needed). The teens? They listen to music, for sure, but overall spend 8 hours behind the screen (on average!) and that should be the conversation we’re having. But we’re not. And the adults are wondering what Meta is trying to do, suddenly very puzzled.

Maybe marketing will refocus. With these age groups in mind (particularly tweens) and the result of their products’ maturing process (I think the teenager who vapes and snaps doesn’t give a damn about the avatar emoji, but maybe it’s to remind them they’re still young and not on LinkedIn), we’re going to see not just more Disney Plus, but edutainment. My bets are here, and that’s part of what I try to do with this blog, breaking away from “traditional blog writing”: watching an informative video, while consuming YouTube specific formats (fast cuts, heavy editing, informal text read out loud to save time, bloopers and so on), may serve a bigger purpose, which is repurposing the media. That is not our job alone, but then we have to talk about what we’ve learned (including from TikTok, which is a work in progress); and if you can’t admit that a teenager spending 8 hours behind the screen instead of talking to you, as a parent, is a sign of the times, then either take the careful approach or the libertarian approach: watch over them or let them do what they want. It’s particularly hard to say this, but I personally believe you’ve got to have conversations about the internet more often that don’t involve what the parents want to show you (I’m 33 now, but I absolutely disdain my dad’s favorite YouTube channels), but what the “kids” want to show you; and if they have a new relationship and they feel like sharing with you is gonna help, congrats, you’re doing a good job. Otherwise, you’re probably not, and that’s the entire role of the person in the family who asks, during Sunday lunch, when someone younger is gonna get married, or the Brazilian uncle who says “what about those little girlfriends, huh?” — between siblings, there’s competition to see who’s doing a better job, and when that involves how you raise a child, you might finally learn why kids are called kids and adults are what they are: nosey, arrogant and self-righteous by nature. But babies? Babies wanna cuddle! Look at Teletubbies.

Let’s be real: what the hell is happening with internet security?

It seems nobody wants to talk about the ongoing disputes between Microsoft and Google. While the former never ventured on social networking and only decided to develop mobile applications very recently, thought we remember Lumia, the cloud is an interesting point to analyze: having your documents stored somewhere in the scope of the company is suddenly the best thing to do, but apparently, keeping your stuff to yourself is very inconveninent — in fact, if you want more than 5Gbs of storage with One Drive, there’s a fee. Google Drive, on the other hand, is an app used by many by choice, but not so much for Authenticator, a security essential that circumvents the problem of ISPs having developed autonomous regulating operations where the user keeps being monitored, but a systems failure makes the data inaccurate and you might have a different name, a different job or a different income. How do I know this? Of course, it happened to me.

As I changed my recovery email from the throwaway account I knew had been hacked, ransomware included but not paid, to the one I was using for nothing but banking, but still thought it sounded better than keeping clients from a decade ago with the company I worked at on my personal contact list, I noticed something, and I didn’t even tweet at Marissa Mayer, though I probably should have: it’s not the device prompt, or the SMS confirmation; it’s not Authenticator, which Microsoft apparently replicated, or the PIN; it’s not the screen pattern or the selfie verification. It’s all of these things together, and the fact that you have more than one account. And when you do, terms will make sure that the possibility of you being condemned by perpetrating ideological falsehood floats around your head, while you were simply trying to have fun — really, I was on Snap and Google Play Games, messing with a rated 10 MMORPG. I have to get back to it, cause Astre sounds very sad when she moans “don’t wake me up!” All the love to Singapore. It’s fun that a game creator (Lords Mobile Tower Defense, in this case) is in Southeast Asia, because today you can talk to anyone you want. Actually, you can be anywhere you want: just use a VPN. Internet speed will suck, but since you can’t pay for the premium, be happy with what you have. And next time you Google something, notice that your location is not accurate. Neither are your Facebook log ins. But Snapchat’s still got it! Funny, isn’t it? And let’s not even talk about Bluetooth.

They made instant payments possible for everyone via email or phone, and what’s more interesting, even social security, which you are now required to share on a random app. On the other hand, you have a 2017 story from Digital Trends citing comments from verification’s first massive implementation tests, and users saying: “if you don’t understand the basics of computer security, you shouldn’t be allowed to bank on the internet.” I wonder how people would replace this to fit today’s reality. “If you’re ugly, you shouldn’t go on cam”. How’s that for kindergarden classroom material? They’d love the debate. “Yeah, this one time I talked to a guy and he had like 3 chins. I was like ‘EW! GET AWAY FROM ME YOU PERV!’ I swear, you could stick a pencil in each fold of his neck.” And then you’d have to explain and tease, also: “but babe, have you thought about your own angles?” — of course, you’d be fired for saying ‘babe’. How do I know it? Cause it’s happened to me.

Image: Pexels

Practical verbs: 3/12

In a world where feelings towards people who participate in the media and things that are only meant to complement our lives are pushed to our daily routines like they’re supposed to be priority, it’s hard to tell if you’re really enjoying the time you spend with your own devices. We should add, more people participate in the media than ever before, which would be great, if more things to buy didn’t come in the same pack, within this sort of democratic space where everyone can introduce themselves and start a new, possibly lasting friendship. Maybe some of us ignore the fact that access to technology isn’t suddenly universal just because it’s the 21st century, but it does count when you approach the question with the mindset that newer generations have adapted to virtual possibilities (excuse the redundancy) and even newer ones can’t look at life without them; but the discussions we need to be having are probably around how we’d describe each of them: a gamer is not my new best friend, a serial liker isn’t my best chance at finding true love, a user with lots of random numbers isn’t even real, and so on. Because the platforms we use ask us to describe ourselves, they have a lot of information about us; but regardless of how they use it (of course, they sell ads, but they also might help us connect with people), we’re in control of how we present ourselves. Again, the problem is going further: we’re not interested in talking about what to say on the internet, we should be focusing on what to say to whom, as well as what we don’t wanna hear, read or see. Example that might be useful: Tinder asks what your college education is. Does that make an impact on my future romantic relationships? If I don’t want to disclose it, I can just skip. But that’s a choice I’m making based on a suggestion by the platform. Not everyone uses Tinder, by the way. On a different level, lots of young people write where they study on their profiles, and when they’re graduating. If that works for them, fine. But you also see more and more people promote themselves using one hashtag after another in search of an expanded network instead of their inner circle. The problem: it’s all about image, not things I want to talk about because I care about them. With that in mind, I’ll say a few words about 4 verbs in English that should be familiar to anyone speaking a different language, observing the nuances in how they’re used, not just grammatically speaking (when you like something so much you have to be excited in public, you’re using an adverb of intensity) but also ways we can use language to avoid a possible misunderstanding, sound more polite or careful about how we make our feelings explicit.

“I love watching TV!”

Before the internet, TV was definitely what you’d call mainstream. But it didn’t go anywhere: every channel has a diverse set of options to the general audience, and how they’ve developed is a side discussion. I can watch live sports broadcasts or a debate with the candidates for a government position; I can watch a movie that sold a lot of tickets or an interview with a movie director, then put on the news and learn about an issue based on what elected officials and specialists are saying. The examples are many, of course. How mainstream networks maintained their programs and schedules for decades is now in the subconscious of entire populations, as well as the people on camera every day and their roles, not to mention the ads. But something happened very recently, and we’re still dealing with the effects: the internet made those content consumers new content producers, massively altering how media was thought about and assimilated, as well as our relationship with it. Of course, linguistically speaking, nobody would say they love watching TV. But they’ll definitely tell you what they think about a show, or a sports team, an actor or actress. Unpopular opinion: I love the piano intro on Will and Grace, but I’m not the biggest fan of the show, to be honest. Mad About You? Another story. But that’s because I grew up with Sony on TV, here in Brazil. The references are completely different. And maybe that’s a good example: if it’s foreign but also from a different period, nobody can relate — except your inner circle, or “bubble”, as they say it. I could totally start a conversation with a musician friend who likes Led Zeppelin because of the slides: we’d have something in common, though I’m a bigger fan of grooves, and someone else could say it’s all about the powerful vocals, and maybe another friend would point out the bass lines are totally underrated or something. Outside the music bubble, you’re likely to find someone who enjoys slides and started to feel this way because of Breaking Bad. Or South Park. Do you see how these things are different? Today, it’s like relating to a story on Law and Order SVU and having someone comment: “oh yeah, from TikTok”. But not necessarily do we need to take things to extremes in terms of what we know and other people don’t. Which is why, when you’re expressing your feelings towards something, you should keep conversation going exploring the topic, not just say “get outta here” if they don’t feel the same way.

“I hate waking up early”

Better to bond with someone who shares a preference than to tear down someone else’s. Being up late at night is not something all of us can do, because we have responsibilities and things we need to start working on early in the day. When you get used to it, you feel better as you’re being productive and useful (I swear I’d love to quote from someone here), but not having to set the alarm and take your shower half conscious is a totally different life. You sleep as much as you want, and the day starts when it starts. People hate getting interrupted, denied a chance to do what they really enjoy or just not having much choice on what they wanna do; on the other hand, you’ll learn as you renounce to certain things so you can maintain the essential. Your kid says they hate cabbage? Maybe later on they’ll do some research and find out how good it can be for their health, and change their minds. But unfortunately, some of the feelings of hatred we see on the internet aren’t towards the taste of food. Things need to be fixed, and they say they’re working on it. The teenager who hates pervs is not the same as the Republican who hates immigrants, but if you’ll excuse me, there’s gray areas. When you don’t enjoy the experience you’re having online, you have tools you can use, some of them already available when you opt in on the platform’s terms. What we all expect is that the people who click to hide an ad or to block someone from interacting are going to be able to focus on what they really want, and develop a sense that ignoring issues is valid, but knowing what to say when they’re not happy with what they see is even more important, however exhausting at times.

“I agree that we need change”

When people can convince us that what they’re saying is important (whether it’s a tweet or a 2 hour presentation on YouTube), we show support by liking and subscribing or following. We also share and comment. That’s not, however, a magic formula for success, especially because we’re interested in the discussion, and while there’s a number of people who might be genuinely fishing for likes, as we say, someone might be daring to ask uncomfortable questions, and we tend to ignore those. Agreeing means you can follow up, but not necessarily. Next time you hear about an issue, maybe you’ll say this video or story explained how it really works, so you’ll recommend it. Not an easy thing to do when you think about the big picture, and certainly not common when you think about leadership.

“I respectfully disagree”

Respect is the basis of life in society. Agreeing is something else. I’ll always respect my family, but definitely not agree with them on every single issue. We tend to stay closer to the people we respect and agree with, but eventually we’ll learn to respect those who have divergent opinions. Some people have played with the notion that being authentic is saying whatever you want without care for the reception of your words. That lays the ground for the naturalization of disrespect, which is certainly a problem we need to tackle. No, we shouldn’t expect that in order to be respected you need to vote for the same person, listen to the same artists, eat the same food, read the same books or watch the same stuff as I do so we can successfully avoid confrontation; what we should bear in mind is that confrontation and debate are different concepts. Debating is discussing ideas; confronting is asking directly for an explanation about your actions. Some confrontation isn’t just words, and that’s precisely the issue. We all need to acknowledge that what we say and do has an effect on people, and society responds to these. The key is to find common ground and work on developing and improving, as opposed to highlighting our differences and working on intensifying them — unless we think something is always bad and cannot be reproduced.

Wrap up

There’s a lot of ways you can say you don’t like something. “What you did here was great, but I was thinking you could add more of this aspect because of this and that”: a good way to give feedback on a project. “I don’t mind it, but not everybody thinks like me”: a good way to point out an inconvenience. “It’s freaking perfect, I love it, you’re amazing”: a good way to emphasize how you feel about something and also make someone feel valued. In a time where conversation seems to be fading out, it’s important we understand how to reclaim it so we can build a future dialogue, instead of future disputes.

*

image: pexels

When entertainment fails, education suffers: TFL 2.0

As I grab myself another cup of coffee for a morning I’m not used to spending awake, news break that today marks another round of protests in defense of Education in Brazil and I’ll be at work, as a teacher, in a private school. It’s a place that treats me well, though I’m only there for the night shift, barely understanding the logics of how to run a business with profit and quality in delivering this service or commodity which we shouldn’t be associating with natural communication, but we always do in countries that don’t speak the target language. A service, because it’s understood that speaking English is a basic skill for the workplace, for interpreting changes, for analyzing contextual landscapes, for expanding knowledge, for achieving your best potential through the ordered process of refining a common core of abilities through which we can present to the external world, the globalized world, what we’re all about, but for a price to pay the workers who help us get to practice with it; a commodity, because regardless of any of the steps in learning and the quality of services which we were supposed to offer on a larger scale, once we get to a certain level, we become protectionists, navigating the line between bragging and exposing ourselves – and most of us don’t really make a clear judgement of where we are in terms of how linguistic bragging is, how social exposing can be.

We’re beyond the textbook! Real life will teach you, here’s an excerpt of an actual conversation! That’s what all of them say. But as I hear another closing statement on cable, I wonder how many will say I understod what it was about, and further, whether I could opine. Giving your view on a given topic in a foreign language only comes in a skill set that chooses your vocabulary for you, and all the basic students will think of a common verb in a simple sentence, but not many explore the context as it should be. And the context is: nobody watches a lot of TV anymore, but you gotta be careful when you say that, especially because we don’t really read anymore either, and describing a vulture isn’t gonna take you to a really inspiring workday. We’re all about innovation, we don’t really debate how we got here, with trends and hashtags, metadata and ads, throwaway accounts that may configure ideological falsehood, messages with strangers that may be highly inappropriate and more clicks on games than anywhere else, which may be an immense waste of time. And here I could go on, as the culture is what makes me want to go deeper in a study I hope to show people in a few years, but let me not get lost in the world of digital media without the label, representing more and more life in general, which is obviously digital, and let’s try to agree or argue that media doesn’t even mean anything, except if you cut my router connection. The context, for anyone who isn’t a speaker of English, is consumerism, given the undeniable fact that entertainment has a force in the United States, not exclusively, but mainly, and Brazil fought that with the novela format for decades; today, we consume a whole lot of things from the United States, and when it comes to producing, we lack content creators, or, what’s the word? Oh yeah, writers. Symptom of a culture in a country where the 1% was people who could read, a century ago. Yeah, sure, some people had slaves, some people had property, some people owned businesses, but we’re not here for a class on inequality today. The context of learning in Brazil is inequality, and arguably anywhere else; but English is about success. Notice the problem? And let me remind you: the overwhelming majority of people who actually speak English in Brazil is privileged, unless they’re teachers, because teachers are never privileged. Not to play the victim, but I owe 4K and on a quick projection I gotta work for 2 entire years if I want to pay it back.

So here’s the first problem, not with Education in general, but second language education: we consume more than we produce. Insert the financial analysis, someone. I’m a dummy. That might sound weird, because we’re not talking about potatoes or beer: it’s the ability to express thoughts in a different environment than the one you always did since you were a child. We take it all in, put nothing out, and think we’re totally not stealing when we share that stuff. But many don’t get to the sharing and stay on the vehicles where this was made possible; now, with Netflix, that’s not too much of an issue (just a fifteen buck issue: two packs of cigarettes or potatoes for the month). Still, we’re taking a slice of our time, not our parents, but us, the people who were supposed to take care of social media, and putting it on consumption – foreign consumption. Are we giving back? No, because we’re afraid.

So you and your friends are not gonna type a tweet saying “omg this season of stranger things”; they’re gonna share the pics of the actors and say something in Portuguese, at best. No interaction, but, again, at best, a regular “come to Brazil”. And the question is: for what? But we don’t know who’s asking.

Back to context, we know just how much Spanish is a toll for a good percentage of the American population, since they, the immigrants, can’t be themselves fully, in their identity, in their natural environment, in their needs, which include expression, but also food, water, and the basic things we’re not seeing in those facilities they’re showing on TV. Again, cable. How do we know Brazilians are not gonna get treated worse, since we have all these lousy, crappy, grossly incompetent, ultra radical, persecuting, ideology banning representatives who think taking working rights is a way to save aunt Maria, who owns a boat, another trip to Italy? Maybe let’s not talk about boats.

Brazil has a lot of culture. Language itself is shaped in a way that most people would never understand (sorry, Glenn). And if Portuguese can twist and stretch, divide and multiply, compress and universalize, what does it tell about the people? Artists, workers and thinkers. People like Chico Buarque and Criolo, people like the man who sells gas on the street for 30 years and the woman who makes pastel, people like Paulo Freire and Antonio Candido. Are we talking about these people? For some reason, we’re not, and that’s a problem. We’re also not mentioning renewable energy, meat free lifestyles, common sense LGBTQ discussions, legal drugs, technological solutions that are not spending the condominium budget on surveillance cameras, and back to the point, children’s education. The discussion about fossil fuels in Brazil starts in the first half of the last century, but we think we understand Telegram. Cause we’re so freaking smart! All vegans are annoying, all gays are immoral, all potheads finance gangs, all people caught in whatever act it was didn’t know they were being filmed. I understand that these are real spicy debates for an optimist, or even an idealist in Education, but they generate discomfort. And that’s one of the main aspects of learning environments.

Discomfort is the real problem. With tech, we’re about to ask “are we there yet?” for pretty much everything we can fit into applicable laws. We live by the river with no clean water, but can we talk about robots who go fishing? We sell fruit in the fair, but how much is the Uber stock? We listen to periphery rap, but have you seen the Oscars nominations? We just learned how to use Instagram, but have you heard about the rumors of a new Chinese operational system? And so we go on with the absurdity of tasks, simulations and tests. When we do it in English, we’re thinking how cool it sounds to say “what’s up”, but forgot that Scary Movie happened twenty years ago. We didn’t forget that “hello” actually sounds like “low”, nobody ever told us. We didn’t study connected speech or phonology, we just think Americans have a secret, and Harry Potter is Shakespeare.

One more step back. Education and Second Language Education. Both require a degree, but because it’s a living nightmare in public schools, practice doesn’t make perfect, it just makes bitter. And with second language, that takes a form worth studying with a magnifying glass, a microscope, or the most common technique which we call skepticism: we’re so proud of our English! We’re proud that we can say “how are you” with a soft diphtong, a markedly retroflex palatal and a prolongued vowel ending with a schwa, except only a thousand people in the country just laughed. We’re over 200 million.

If arts have an impact in our lives, how can we use it for change, as educators or as people? If recommending is not your thing, reviewing takes too much time and producing isn’t on the horizon, please note that Google Earth exists and your horizon can be expanded. But your language is a social skill. If society changes across nations, if culture and tradition can take different forms and some can’t be taken, learn from these contexts. We’re not Saudi Arabian, we’re not Mongolian, we’re Brazilian. That’s what people need to understand. We’re supposed to be closer to English than we think, but our production needs to look to what we have to offer and how to describe ourselves in our roots, in exchange for learning so much about the lives of people who produced content to entertain us and expected a little more than sales. They love Paulo Coelho, but have they heard about Machado de Assis? Curation. They heard about Rio and the Amazon, but do we know Rio and the Amazon? Information. They want a copy of our conversations, but can we see the terms of use? Analysis. If entertainment, interaction and study were part of a mechanism to make things more relevant, then we should remember the target language has all sorts of entertainment, the interactions are not part of our daily lives and the study is restricted. But when we mirror that mechanism and ask them to tell us about our reality, maybe we should be doing more to look good in the picture, and that fundamentally implies improving our entertainment and our educational system.

Picture: pexels.com