Some Thoughts On Modern Cinema

Prey (2022), the prequel to Predator (1987).

The Safdie Brothers are quietly rejuvenating, re-imagining, and I would even say completely re-inventing the thriller genre, which is no small feat.  At the current pace, that will most likely be how their recent films are described in future.

2. Mosul (2019; the one directed by Matthew Carnahan) is definitely underrated at its current 7.1 rating on IMDb.  It looks at one part of the Iraq War, and also one that doesn’t directly involve Americans, and for that alone it’s already a different type of film.

3. I recently found out a prequel to Predator (1987) will be released this year, and it’s titled Prey.  The plot involves the Predator hunting a Comanche tribe roughly 300 years ago.

I’m a fan of the original film, but I don’t think I’ve been excited for another iteration of this franchise in quite a while!  I think the producers picked a great idea to run with, and I hope they pull it off.

I’m very interested to see where they go with this.

Just my two cents on what I would do with it, or what I’d like to see them put together, I would have the Comanche tribe slowly lose a war of attrition to the Predator, and when the tribe has completely lost hope, the elder chief (who’s perhaps on his death bed) pulls out on old relic that had been passed down to him (and that he had until now not understood), and the old relic is actually the severed hand of an even older Predator with the tactical nuclear device still attached.  This leads to an abrupt but memorable ending where, somehow, the female warrior divines what it’s for, rides off into a suicide mission against the Predator somewhere perhaps in an open field (with the tactical nuclear weapon counting down in the alien script), and, with a final display of bravado, takes out the Predator, saving the remainder of the tribe.

Then, another prequel is released where we find out how that Predator hand came to be severed.  The sequel would be much further back in time – perhaps as far back as the “cave man times”.  I really like this idea because we tend to figure the cave men were idiots, but it would be interesting to see how a group of cave men might be especially wily and somehow overcome a single Predator.

That’s how I would run with the franchise.

But no matter what, the female protagonist in Prey absolutely needs to bring back the line, “If it bleeds, we can kill it.”  I’m going to be very disappointed if they didn’t think to do that.

I actually liked the last iteration of the franchise – Predators (2010).  I’ll give my take on it also, which involves a few spoilers.

I would have shaved maybe 20 seconds off the end of the film.  The entire film was pretty bleak, and I don’t see why they can’t just be stranded on the alien planet at that point – without any hope of further human contact.

But what I would have really liked to do is completely change the surprise mole character.

I would have liked to see a twist on the “don’t judge a book by its cover” proverb.  I would have liked the group to identify the Japanese warrior as a Yakuza member by the volume and nature of his tattoos, but I think it would have been a great twist if they didn’t look closely enough.  In my opinion, the Yakuza member should have had one additional tattoo unrelated to organized crime – one for Aum Shinrikyo, the infamous Japanese death/doomsday cult mostly remembered for their sarin gas terrorist attacks in Japan.

So the idea is that his organized crime involvement, while congruent with his radical views, is maybe just like a day job for him, and what makes him the most notable is his involvement in that infamous cult.

The idea would be that the Predator clan handpicked him to be the mole in the human group due to his obsession with doomsday and human death, and so, ultimately, he’s essentially working with the Predators against the humans – most likely eagerly so, as he possibly perceives this whole thing as a sort of grand religious consummation.

Perhaps after this is finally revealed, we also see something like a telepathic link between the Predators and the death cult member, which would be a memorable first in the franchise.

Most of all, maybe the Yakuza member was handpicked by the Predator clan as a particularly twisted or poetic element in their competition – an element that would also be a rare demonstration of the Predators’ higher sentience and intelligence.  The idea would be that this was a distinct challenge for the other humans – would any of these clever criminals, intelligence agents, and elite soldiers be astute enough to see past the “noise” of the Yakuza tattoos?


Three Security Observations

1.)  In the technology world, the strength of security is often quoted quantitatively in terms of combinatorial complexity (e.g. an 8-character password with all normal keys available has a combinatorial complexity of 94^8), and qualitatively as if there is only one attack vector and the context for that attack vector is full access over the technology in question, with no significant time constraints, by a malicious actor.

That attack vector is more or less equivalent to scientists in a laboratory trying to attack some piece of technology you have.

Scientists in a lab doing something with a computer. Photo courtesy of Washington State University.

That’s pretty much the worst case scenario, and so it makes sense to judge security by this standard prominently.  But the world isn’t perfect – not even for malicious actors.  There are many other attack scenarios that don’t resemble this full-control-with-no-time-constraints setup.

What seems to be missing in security analysis are metrics that are relevant to many other imperfect attack vectors that are liable to exist.

One metric, for example, might be coined time-pressure-complexity, and it would measure how long it would take an intruder to attack some piece of technology if the intruder also wanted to not remove the technology from its current setting.

And imagining a similar setup, another metric might be how much dexterity-complexity an intruder would face when attacking a piece of technology.  This metric is not specific to passwords, but just as a simple example, let’s say one created a very long password that was easy for the owner to remember and type, but that would just naturally take longer for an intruder to enter.  We can take that further and imagine the password not utilizing common typing patterns (e.g. languages) the intruder is used to.  Even if the intruder knew the password letter for letter, he might fail to enter it correctly when under time pressure, which could lead to panic and a further degradation in that entire attack vector.

In a panic situation you tend to lose your fine motor skills, and a high dexterity-complexity would attempt to attack that weakness.

Although these are secondary metrics to consider, they’re still extremely relevant to the real world, and so it would make sense to have a proper accounting of them in many types of security analysis.

2.)   Security analysis for multi-factor authentication often describes three separate notions: something you knowsomething you have, and something you are.

MFA diagram courtesy of Litzia.
MFA diagram courtesy of Litzia.

But I believe there’s actually slightly more to this security space than what the current model is describing.

I believe there’s another distinct notion: something you inherently own

Perhaps it would be a subset of something you have.

The difference is that if a malicious actor takes your metal key (something you have), it is now something that the malicious actor has.

But, for example, if a malicious actor steals a phone with a SIM card tied to your phone number (perhaps utilized for 2FA), you will, generally speaking, have the ability to get that SIM card invalidated by the carrier and have your phone number re-associated with a new SIM card.

To a significant degree, you inherently own that phone number – it’s not just something you happen to have.

Although that was an overly simple example, it demonstrates an additional security notion and a meaningful difference between it and its closest relative.

3.)   Major mainstream technology providers (e.g. email providers) offer a sizable amount of security options, ranging from rustic passwords to biometric technology.  But I believe the not-so-state-of-the-art communication space therein is serious cause for concern.

Currently, the consumer/user is not provided clear guidance on what’s going on with their security options.

There are generally three different times an email provider will bring those extra security options (e.g. phone text message, biometric) into play:

  • MFA login
  • account recovery (can’t log in to your account)
  • trying to change security settings for the account

The technology providers allow the user to define their additional security options, but they do not provide any guidance at all regarding what will happen in each of those three different scenarios, and if I’m not mistaken, there are differences.

What will specifically happen in each scenario should be communicated clearly to the user, but currently the system is unclear, ambiguous, confusing, and opaque; you set up your security options and then find out later exactly how they’re employed in each individual scenario.

In my opinion, three visual diagrams should be shown to the user – side-by-side if possible – depicting what will occur.

Knowing how those options are actually employed in those three different scenarios can definitely affect the user’s decision making, and it’s just generally a good practice.  But unfortunately the providers are not living up to their affirmed security and corporate responsibility principles when it comes to this.

As a final quiz, imagine a user who has set up a mainstream email account (of your choosing) with a password and a garden-variety authenticator app.  The user forgets the password, and also, his phone is completely destroyed.  (In this example, it sure is especially clear the authenticator app is something he had, not something he inherently owned.)  How do those three security scenarios play out?  Don’t know, do you?  But shouldn’t you?  Additionally, if a phone number was also required to set up the account, perhaps to save the user in this situation, would that or would that not contradict the theory that authenticator apps are superior to text messages for account security?  Whatever your answer is, it should serve to further articulate the distinction between something you have and something you inherently own.

Great Design

Three Simple Hacks That Have Always Worked For Me

#3:   Keep an extra supply of new, unused SIM cards.  Over the years, extra SIM cards have saved me countless time, effort, and headaches.


#2:  When watching something, and when they’re available, always turn on subtitles for a language you’re learning (or willing to learn).


#1:   I use an unorthodox financial transaction scheme that helps me stay on top of everything more easily.

Whenever I have to manually pay a bill online, and it requires me typing in a certain amount by hand that is not copy-and-pasteable, I don’t type in the exact amount.  I type in the next dollar up, plus a penny.

The reason for the rounding is it removes almost all possibility of human error.  I helps me think less, and the overpayment is meaningless and gets accounted for in the next bill.

But there is actually another reason for the scheme beyond even that.  I custom code the following types of financial transfers by the trailing cents:

*.01   bill

*.02   bank transfer

*.03   ??? (haven’t used in a long time)

*.04   ??? (also haven’t used in a long time)

At one point I had up to four coded transaction types.  I can’t remember what the last two were, but the first two I still use.  When I check my bank account balances, I can see and verify what’s going on, at a glance, with a high degree of confidence.

Sure, there’s a 1 in 100 chance that a different type of transaction might end in the same number of cents, but this has happened to me maybe once in all the years I’ve done this.  Plus, the odds drop even further once you systematically adjust other transaction types as part of the same scheme.


My Contribution To The Mnemonics State Of The Art?

In my previous post, I talked about some products designed to improve mental speed and memory.  As an absolute beginner, I don’t anticipate too many novel insights on my part, but I did discover a few things that didn’t seem to be covered, and might be worth sharing.

(If you aren’t familiar with the subjects in that previous post, the following won’t be very useful to you.)

1.  Kevin Trudeau’s Mega Memory teaches the listener how to organize memories so they are easily accessible later.  With the methods that are shared, one tends to end up with a lot of different ordered lists.  (Ordered lists are a strong motif in the course, but it’s not the only memory application taught.)

For example, one might memorize all the U.S. presidents in order, the periodic table of elements, the human bones, and so on.  For a task like that, at least two memory systems were taught.  Using the primary system, each element of each list goes onto a “peg”.

You develop various “peg lists”.  The peg lists are ordered.  Some peg lists might be 10 pegs long.  Others might go up to 100, or even more.  The pegs are where you place the individual items to remember.

You pick the peg list you feel is best for the ordered list of data to memorize, and then, using specific criteria, go element by element and associate the ordered elements with the ordered pegs, pairwise.

But with even just a few ordered lists, it seemed to me like sometimes one of the challenges is remembering which peg list you used.  And furthermore, it seems to me that when you do remember the peg list that you used, and then remember the first peg/item memory that you created, the rest of the list, at that point, gets recalled relatively easily.

Therefore, if the first peg/item association has greater significance, greater effort should go into creating it.

Taking the example of U.S. presidents in order, George Washington will be the first item.  As far as the peg list to use, the listener can pick from various peg lists that were taught in Kevin Trudeau’s Mega Memory: the “tree list”, the “body list”, the “house list”, and also a custom list based on the major system.

The best list to use virtually gives itself away in this case.  The “tree list” begins: tree, light switch, stool, …  (Although that list only has 20 pegs to begin with, the listener is challenged to add more, and in this case will need to create 26 more.)

The “body list” begins: toes, knees, muscle

(My) “house list” begins: chest, dresser, map…

The major-system list begins: tie, Noah, mow

The list to use really is a dead giveaway.  The “tree list” is absolutely what should be used.  George Washington and the cherry tree he felled are part of the national consciousness.  There’s even a little bit of scandal and drama, and that makes it even better.  His act of chopping it down will be the memory, that, in this case, doesn’t even need to be dreamed up; all the hard work has already been done for us.

Several years later, when you want to randomly recall the list of U.S. Presidents, and you have also memorized hundreds of other lists, I believe it will be very important to remember the peg list that was used, and the first peg/item association.  And since a natural and intuitive first peg/item association has been created (more like adopted in this case), that will not be a problem.

Diving a little deeper into cognitive psychology, the instructor talks about how once you mentally get a handle on something related to what you want to remember, it’s like grabbing ahold of a chain that you can start pulling on.  So the idea here would be like we are trying to make that first chain link big and easy to find.

If I were daring enough to create terminology for this concept, I would label this first peg/item association the door association” and/or the window association”.

In my opinion, it’s tangibly more important than the rest of the associations to come, and so additional care should be given to it.

Finally, perhaps there is also a generalization of this idea, or at least an application for any level of granularity.  Going down the presidents list, I realized I could recall the other presidents easily, but for some reason 27 was difficult.

27 letters in the Spanish alphabet.


My 27th peg in the tree list is morion, and there was no trouble remembering that.  In the presidents list, William H. Taft needed to be associated with it.  My visualization was an NFL player in the NFL draft (“Taft”) being selected at the podium in a celebration, and then he kicks a morion into a TV and it goes into the TV programming, which is showing an old-style H-shaped field goal (“H.”), and it bounces around the goal posts and then through the goal posts, and then the morion finally hits another visual representation I have for “William”.  The reason 27 was taking longer to recall is because the morion was not immediately active.

Having to wait for the NFL player to hold up a jersey at the podium (to signify this was the NFL draft) was delaying the introduction of the morion, which was the mental peg.  When I got to 27, my mind was searching for action involving a morion, but my visualization started with action not involving a morion, and also made it so that the morion’s action was not obviously the most significant action – the draft selection could be viewed as equally significant or even more significant which just creates more “noise” that distracts the mind.  (And to make matters even worse, there was almost no memorable connection between the draft selection and the player then kicking a morion into a TV.)

Just a split-second delay, and just an ounce of ambiguity can stall the memory recall, or prevent it altogether.  Therefore, applying the “door/window association” principle at this level of granularity would mean etching the mental peg first and foremost within the visualization, and also striving to elevate its significance as much as possible.


2.  In general, and certainly in specific situations, spend extra time creating multiple mental linkages.

The custom major-system list taught in Kevin Trudeau’s Mega Memory goes up to 100.  Pegs 60-69, as taught, are below:

  • cheese
  • cheetah
  • chain
  • gym
  • shower
  • shell
  • judge
  • sheikh
  • shave
  • Jeep

I don’t think that list is very good, and I’ll elaborate more on this shortly.   Furthermore, 60-69 is especially difficult because the words can begin, phonetically, with three different consonant sounds (ch, sh, j).  That alone makes this series of 10 pegs more difficult to remember than the other 90 pegs.

It’s worth the effort to improve the list.

The image of a horse jockey is clear, crisp, loud, and unambiguous in the mind's eye: garish clothing, huge helmet, short stature, and a short whip. Photo courtesy of Benoit Photo.
The image of a horse jockey is clear, crisp, loud, and unambiguous in the mind’s eye: garish clothing, huge helmet, short stature, and a short whip. Photo courtesy of Benoit Photo.

Here’s my customized 60-69:

  • cheese
  • cheetah
  • china
  • shim
  • shore
  • shell
  • judge
  • jockey
  • shave
  • Jeep

(For me, “china” as in “fine china” is what works best, but for someone else, it could just as easily be uppercase “China”. )

Here’s why I prefer the customized list that I created:


•  Much better verbal flow.

“cheetah” verbally flows/rolls to “china” much more naturally/fluidly than “chain”.  “cheetah china…” just rolls off the tongue much more naturally than “cheetah chain”, and most people will quickly realize that when trying to memorize about 100 other pegs.

Good verbal flow from “shim” to “shore”.

And so on.


•  Much better semantic flow.

The semantic link from “shore” to “shell” is very good.

The semantic link from “shell” to “judge” is vaguely kind of good once you consider the idea of a fraudulent shell corporation.

And so on.


•  Also, just better individual pegs.

For example, the mental image of a “sheikh” was bound to look like an abstract Arab, and this would later present a problem when trying to remember why in the world you have a mental picture of an “Arab” in a memorized list you’re going through.  On the other hand, a (horse) jockey is a much cleaner, crisper, louder, unambiguous image, unlikely to be confused with anything else.

But on the other hand, “shore” will definitely be confused with “beach” later on, unless you devise a way to disambiguate it.  My method for that was to visualize “shore” as very rocky, without sand, without people, and overcast – basically the opposite of a beach postcard teeming with humanity.



Sub-item #1 (better verbal flow) and #2 (better semantic flow) constitute the additional mental linkages that make the updated list superior, in my opinion.

You’ve added more ways to remember a list.

Great Design

Things Worth Remembering

This Christmas, get yourself a gift that promises not only to reward you, but to keep on rewarding you indefinitely.

I was intrigued a while back by several products on the market.  One was a relatively new DVD titled The Secrets of Mental Math.  It’s exactly what it sounds like.  The instructor is clearly a student and an expert in mental math techniques, and he goes over the best methods and techniques that would be accessible to the average person.  This is not a hard DVD to watch, but many will probably get more out of it with multiple viewings.

The other product, fittingly, was from the era of audio cassette tapes: Kevin Trudeau’s Mega Memory (“As Seen On TV!”).  The analog nature of the tapes sort of romanticizes what the product reveals.  And that is that the human mind was an analog picture recorder, analog emotion archiver, and analog pattern matcher from the very beginning.  We go through school and learn digital ideas and digital techniques (e.g. 2+2=4), but it’s never anything that the mind stores in its “native file format”, which is analog.  As someone who had never heard of the techniques presented, it really, really impressed me!

These products will yield different rewards to different people.  It’s something that you can take and use as much or as little as you like.  I believe at the very least – and the Mega Memory tapes touch on this – these products work to un-calcify the mind.

Finally, in my opinion, it’s a crime that these subjects are not mandatorily taught in high school.

So if you received any gift cards this year, and you aren’t familiar with the above subjects, reward yourself richly and check those products out.  I doubt you’ll regret it.

Vintage Quotes

Author’s fanedit version of “the phone call” scene from Valkyrie (2008). Original clip available courtesy of “Movieclips” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7k9bFzgXeXE.

Brevity is the soul of wit.

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Remarkably, few film sub-genres are such reliable earners across time, across demographics, and perhaps most telling of all, across film production teams like the Internal Nazi Fratricide sub-genre is.  (I’ve actually thought for some time that some type of sociological research study could be done, and that it might shed some light into why that is.)

Valkyrie (2008) is undoubtedly one of the highest quality films in this sub-genre.  Yet, another “fanedit” seems to be in order, and I believe this one, as well, wades into the objective-improvement zone.

If you haven’t seen it, Valkyrie depicts a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, and ultimately there is mass confusion as to whether the assassination succeeded or failed.  This causes alliances to whipsaw, intrigues and suspicions to pile up, wholesale misinformation, and all of this leads up to “the phone call” scene.

Above you have my (objective?)-improvement fanedit.  Assuming I understand that scene right, the idea is kind of like the Devil has come back from the dead – and that naturally portends to upend everything.  (Hitler’s voice on the other end of line is the first time the viewer and the film’s relevant characters learns of his survival.  He was presumed dead and his loyalists were being jailed, with executions or worse likely looming.)

And yet the original release (right down below for comparison) includes a whole lot of perfunctory, pedestrian details that bog the scene down with unnecessary information, and distract viewers from its intended purpose and true value.

Original clip courtesy of “Movieclips” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7k9bFzgXeXE.

1. Do we really need multiple “hello” greetings from one side of the phone line?

2. Did we really need multiple reiterations of how prisoners are to be captured, in this particular scene?  (Which, again, steals attention away from the true value of the scene.)

3. Perhaps most ludicrous of all is seeing exactly how a Nazi soldier would exit from a standard room – first opening the door, and then closing it behind him.

On a side note, to make this simple fanedit I tried out the freeware version of Lightworks – a video editing application that many people recommend.  My impression of Lightworks is that the paid version must be incredibly better than the free version – otherwise I don’t understand the level of acclaim.

To spice up the phone call audio (trying to harken back to the age of lower-quality audio), I used Audacity and the “Walkie Talkie” distortion effect.  However, instead of applying that built-in effect once, I lowered the effect level, and then reapplied it several times in succession.

In closing, I’ve seen this type of issue in lots of different media content, and also outside of media.  For something that’s run-of-the-mill, it doesn’t typically matter if the details are somewhat formulaic.  However, for something that’s supposed to be supercharged with a distinct, higher level of interest, there really ought to be an acute attention to what details are present, how those details are presented, and what the overall effect is.



Dumb Hacks: Help!! My dinosaur Windows computer doesn’t keep time anymore, but I’m too lazy/afraid/cheap to change the CMOS battery!  

CMOS event for dinosaur tech.

Deep inside old Windows desktop computers is a CMOS battery that helps Windows keep the correct time after the computer has been turned off or put to sleep.

When that battery eventually dies, Windows will not have the correct time when the computer comes back from sleep or from being turned off.

There are actually plenty of reasons one might not want to bother changing that battery out.  I figured out how to make the computer sync with internet time when it powers up or when it comes back from sleep.  In doing so, time synchronization is done completely through the Windows OS, and it only requires internet access.  For a simple use case like mine, that was the superior solution.

What actually didn’t make sense was how scattered around the solution for this seemed to be.  Everyone seemed to have this same problem with their old desktop computers, and 99.999% of the time it’s a dead CMOS battery – yet there didn’t seem to be one comprehensive solution posted anywhere.  I had to pick up the different parts of the solution from different web articles buffet-style.

Below is a solution for Windows 10 that works for me.  I’m not an expert in most of what’s going on, and I can’t guarantee there won’t be rare edge cases that come up and cause problems.  What I can say is it solves the problem for me.

  1. Copy the following block of text and paste it into an XML file somewhere on your computer.  (Alternatively, you can just download it as the following text file [Wordpress doesn’t allow standard XML file downloads].  Then, change the file extension from .txt to .xml, or alternatively, leave the file extension alone and in step #5 broaden the search filter from ‘XML files’ to ‘All files’ and simply navigate to the text file.)
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-16"?>
<Task version="1.4" xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/windows/2004/02/mit/task">
    <Description>Syncs time upon power up or wake from sleep.</Description>
    <URI>\Microsoft\Windows\Time Synchronization\SyncTimeOnPowerOrWake</URI>
      <Subscription>&lt;QueryList&gt;&lt;Query Id="0" Path="System"&gt;&lt;Select Path="System"&gt;*[System[Provider[@Name='Microsoft-Windows-Kernel-Power'] and EventID=107]]&lt;/Select&gt;&lt;/Query&gt;&lt;/QueryList&gt;</Subscription>
    <Principal id="Author">
  <Actions Context="Author">
      <Arguments>start w32time task_started</Arguments>

2. Open the Windows Task Scheduler.  Typing “Task Scheduler” in the Windows search bar should bring it up.

3. If you want to keep this task organized, expand down to: Task Scheduler Library | Microsoft | Windows | Time Synchronization.

4. Right click on the Time Synchronization folder and select ‘Import Task…’

5. Navigate to that XML file you saved on your computer and open that file.

6. You will get a dialog with multiple tabs.  You can review and edit all the properties of the new task.  If you want to proceed with it, then click ‘OK’.  Clicking ‘Cancel’ will abort the entire process.

Once you add the task, it will run whenever the computer powers up or when it wakes up from sleep.  This should sync your local Windows OS time with internet time, reliably, and irrespective of your dead CMOS battery.

Finally, you can always right click on this new task and simply click ‘Delete’ if you want to get rid of it.

Poor Design

Cinema Fan Edit: A Blockbuster Of A Miss

Desolation in a future dystopia. Bridge scene from Blade Runner 2049.
Desolation in a future dystopia. Bridge scene from Blade Runner 2049.

This post is only going to be useful for those who have seen both Blade Runner films.

I’m not a Blade Runner franchise fanatic by any stretch of the imagination.  (In fact, I mistakenly thought the character Deckard was “Dreckard”.)  That said, in my opinion, the two released films have been very high caliber.

I recently saw Blade Runner 2049, and I feel one hole in the soundtrack is so large, I had to categorize this under “Poor Design”.  I feel like this improvement should have been almost instinctively apparent to the creators.

The existing score is extremely high quality.  But as I viewed the film, I couldn’t believe (and still can’t believe) they didn’t fade in the original Vangelis Love Theme from the original Blade Runner during K’s soul-crushing breakdown on the bridge in Blade Runner 2049.

This would have knocked the scene completely out of the park, cemented the scene’s status as classic cinema, and even moved the needle as it pertains to the entire film’s critical rating.

If you have access to both materials (video is NSFW), you can easily see what the fan edit would be.

Poor Processes

Critical Media Studies II: It’s The Government, Stupid

Following up on my previous post, there’s certainly no shortage of curious COVID-19 mainstream media coverage deserving of an actual examination.

Below is a recent headline from the Los Angeles Times:

First and foremost, the article is an op-ed.  This concept alone may deserve a separate discussion.  In principle op-eds are a useful feature for a newspaper to have.  In reality, it allows a newspaper to renounce all editorial responsibility for printed content.

In this particular case, a Los-Angeles-area doctor is describing how her patience is at an end, and as more COVID-19 patients are rolled through the door, she has rapidly diminishing compassion for each new individual that she treats.  The doctor goes on to illustrate this dying compassion for one such patient as she describes her interactions with that patient and the treatment provided.

The Los Angeles Times is essentially rubber stamping a point of view that it’s OK for doctors to not have normal compassion for an individual patient, based on the previous 1,000 patients that were rolled through the door.

Was this patient a revolving-door patient that got admitted to this hospital a dozen times?  No, of course not.  As far as the reader can tell, that was his first visit to the hospital.

In the article, the doctor made a great case for why she is angry and for why she is frustrated with the situation as it pertains to the aggregate.

The problem is that she is misapplying that blame to a single individual.  The individual is responsible for what they have done as an individual.  They’re not responsible (as far as we know) for the previous 1,000 patients that were admitted.

Furthermore, that doctor’s completely incorrect state of mind is easily demonstrated by asking the following question: Would this doctor have low compassion for that individual patient if that patient had been the only COVID-19 patient at that hospital?  Of course not.  You can bet the doctor wouldn’t even remember the patient, much less condemn him.  In both cases, the individual patient is exactly the same.  The frustration the doctor is having is purely with the aggregate.

The entity that typically deals with problems as they pertain to the aggregate is the government – in this case the federal government.  The government handles public policy.

As it happens, the CDC (up until recently) has exercised virtually unprecedented executive authority, stating people did not have to pay their landlords due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This type of declaration had every veritable hallmark of a “We’re All Gonna Die” emergency.  The thing is that, if that were true, such extraordinary measures aren’t really that different than just mandating people take the vaccine.  The point is that, as it pertains to COVID-19, there’s no question the federal government clearly understands the concept of extraordinary measures.  In fact they have already taken them – just not the ones many doctors want.

If a medical professional is angry about the aggregate situation, there is an entity that’s responsible for addressing those concerns, and that entity is the government, and the more dire they believe the situation is, the more of a government responsibility it is.

The aggregate problem is not the responsibility of an individual patient – no matter what they did or did not do wrong.

The doctor in the op-ed articulated a significant complaint, but she did not direct it to the proper channel.  She did not direct her anger and frustration to the proper channel.

Newspapers should never rubber stamp a point of view that endorses doctors assigning the wrong level and the wrong dimension of blame to a single patient.


Poor Processes

A Million Shades of Gray & Critical Media Studies

There is an old maxim: Newspapers are meant to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comforted.

Looking back to the 1st Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, extraordinary protections were provided to the press.  We can presume the authors of that document had slightly loftier goals in mind – things that go beyond “the affliction model”.  Perhaps things like general edification of the public.

If life has a million shades of gray, then the affliction model of news reporting is like trying to take a photograph of life with a camera that can only print colors as either full black or full white.

Take the following headline that has made its way around the different news outlets recently:

The headline and story are tinged with a notion that so-called “anti-vaxxers” have no integrity.  Specifically, that their actions and statements, on their deathbed, are incongruent with their stated philosophy.  However, there is a difference between being desperate, and having no integrity.

Some people who are against the death penalty suddenly become curious about it when a family member is massacred.  However, that doesn’t mean they were “wrong” in the first place, or never had any integrity.  What it actually means is they are having a very strong emotional reaction to something.  Strong emotional reactions lead to irrational thinking.

In my opinion, anti-vaxxers are wrong in their calculations when it comes to COVID-19.  But desperate requests on one’s deathbed doesn’t automatically make the original point of view incoherent, disingenuous, correct, incorrect, or anything else.  It just means that someone is having a strong emotional reaction to being on death’s doorstep.

The counter-example is some people who are dying of cancer (or some other terminal illness) will resort to paying con artists who offer miracle cures.  We can’t deduce from their desperation that they were wrong their whole lives, if for example, they had previously said these same scam artists should be shut down by authorities.