Tag: Arguing on the Internet

My Friend Kazz

I knew a guy named Alex McDougall. But everyone just called him Kazz. Even when we met him in person.

If you knew Kazz too -- and, if you're reading this blog, there's a good chance you did -- then you know what this post is going to be about.

Kazz struggled with substance abuse and mental illness. And last weekend he took his own life.

I'm heartbroken. If you knew Kazz, I'm sure you are too.

So the first thing I'm going to do is talk about the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you have suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-273-8255 and get help. I don't know who you are out there reading this right now. I just know that Kazz was somebody special, that the world was a better place with him in it, and whoever you are, there are people who feel the same way about you. Hell, there are total strangers, people who have never even met you, who feel that way about you, and they're on the other end of that phone call.

Pass that along to anybody who you think needs to hear it.

And now I'm going to talk about Kazz.

I'd known Kazz since 2002, a time when people still used messageboards, and "Internet celebrity" meant guys like Scott Sharkey. Sharkey had a community built around him, in the #finalfight IRC channel; one of the admins there, who went by Terra in those days and goes by Maou in these ones, started a messageboard at boards.pyoko.org.

Kazz signed up in the early days. He posted a GIF called Man Gun. It was a bipedal horse, holding a gun that fired men instead of bullets. I believe the gun said "MAN GUN" on the side.

He started a thread called "Pretend It's a Restaurant" (subtitle: "Pretending is fun!").

We didn't know what to make of this guy at first. He wasn't always funny. But he was always weird. Off-kilter.

In time, he and I became friends. Though anyone who remembers those days will tell you that sometimes, we had a funny way of showing it.

Kazz and I fought, a lot, over trivial nonsense that I mostly don't even remember. We were a couple of opinionated, egotistical guys in our early twenties, and we pushed each other's buttons -- sometimes by accident, and sometimes on purpose. We weren't always friendly -- but we were always friends. When push came to shove, we had each other's backs. We gave each other plenty of shit, but if anyone else gave one of us shit, the other one would come to his defense.

We'd joke about it, too; about how we were always at loggerheads. Remember when The Colbert Report first started, and there was a recurring segment with the On-Notice Board? There was a fan site at the time that allowed you to make your own On-Notice Board. Here are a couple of iterations of mine:

  • Sega, You're On Notice
  • Cardboard, You're On Notice
    Erin knows what she did.

Anyway, we outgrew all that nonsense by our mid-twenties.

In fact, I'm pretty sure I remember our last fight. Not the fight itself; I have no idea what it was about. But how it ended.

It was 2007. I don't remember the particular details; we were mad at each other about some damn thing or another again. Arc, who was the guy in charge of the Pyoko boards at the time, said he'd had enough, and laid down the law: we were no longer allowed to speak to each other, or even mention each other, or he would ban us.

To this day I don't know if that was administrative overreach or a deft bit of psychology. But it wasn't long before Kazz was IMing me with, essentially, "Can you believe this shit? Who does Arc think he is?"

Arc united us -- against him. We never fought again.

Anyway, that rule went by the wayside when Sharkey quit the Pyoko boards and started a new messageboard (then called the Worst Forums Ever, now called Brontoforumus). He kicked it off with this banner:

Hail the Heroes of the Revolution!

That's Sharkey on the left, me in the middle, and Kazz on the right.

I'd like to say that Sharkey chose the two of us because we were such valued leaders in the community, but the truth is, as best I recall, he chose us because we'd posted recent photos that made good reference for the whole Communist propaganda poster motif he was going for: Kazz with his head raised, looking at something off in the distance, and me with facial hair of the sort every Communist propaganda poster needs. (Kazz and I did end up being pretty much the two guys running WFE for awhile after that, though.)

We all met once, the three of us, Sharkey and Kazz and me. It was in the summer of 2004; a bunch of the Pyoko gang gathered in San Diego.

The most memorable moment of that trip -- to me, anyway -- is that Kazz kicked a beer can into the back of my head.

I told the story on the Pyoko boards at the time, and maybe someday I'll be able to find that post on archive.org. In the meantime, here's how I remember it fourteen years later:

We'd been looking for a karaoke bar -- Terra's idea -- and had utterly failed to find one. We were walking through the parking lot of a non-karaoke bar, and I heard my friend Jon (not a member of the Pyoko boards, but a San Diego native we'd invited along) call out "Thad, look out!"

I didn't have time to turn my head before a half-empty can of Keystone collided with it.

I turned around and tried to read the riot act to whoever had done that -- my exact words were "What the fuck is wrong with you people?" -- but you can only have so much success chewing somebody out when you're trying not to laugh. It was funny, God damn it, and I knew it.

Kazz later explained that he'd seen the half-empty beer can on the ground and had the bright idea that he would kick it up into the air and it would get beer on everyone. He had not, of course, meant to kick it into the back of my head; there's no way he could have done that on purpose.

I referenced that event in the fifteenth (and, it's probably fair to say fourteen years later, final) installment of The Mighty Trinity, which ends with Kazz showing up to kick a beer can into a monster's head.

Kazz showing up to kick a beer can into a monster's head
Monster art shamelessly cribbed from Mike and Laura Allred's Madman.
I chose the monster in part because of its name, Thad Reno.

Kazz himself did not contribute anything to that particular story, except the stick figure body that I affixed his head to. It was part of a cartoon he drew called "Meat Man", after he ate chili that was too spicy for him.

I'm pretty sure I've got the full Meat Man drawing saved somewhere, but I haven't been able to find it yet. I think I'm going to need to do some excavation in some old hard drives. I want to save whatever I can of my friend's work.

I think that's a topic for next time. I think I've rambled enough for one post -- but I've still got more to say about Kazz.

I had always hoped that he would come out of all this okay, and someday we would see each other again and I would buy him a Coke and we would laugh about the old days -- the good times, the bad times, the what-the-hell-were-we-thinking times.

Sometimes, life deals you a soul-crushing disappointment. Knowing that Kazz will never get the chance to sit down and laugh about the old days, not with me and not with anyone else -- it's a hard, hard thing to take.

There's a line from Watership Down that's been bouncing through my head: "My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today."

I don't know if Kazz was a Watership Down fan. I do, however, know that he was a Flight of the Conchords fan, and so if he were with us today, he'd probably respond with, "Women love that sensitive nautical shit."

Goodbye, old friend.

Mr. Bubble

Aside from changing my photo at the top of the homepage, I've also changed the site's tagline.

The previous tagline, "Now works on phones!" was a double entendre (of the non-sexy kind): at the time I wrote it, I had not only just converted the site over to mobile-friendly design, but I was also (briefly) working a temp job where I was setting up a new phone system. Now works on phones, geddit?

The new tagline is Uncle Thad's Propaganda Bubble.

See, the other week, some guy in the Techdirt comments said this to me:

BTW: keep pushing your web-site because proves that you make your own propaganda bubble and only read what agree with

Now, I never would have seen the post at all, thanks to my Hide Techdirt Comments script. But another poster responded to that post and quoted it. So, quick side note: please don't quote the trolls; I've blocked them for a reason, and that reason is that I do not want to see what they are saying.

That aside, though, I kind of loved the "propaganda bubble" comment -- not least because, at the time the troll accused me of using my website as a propaganda bubble, I had written a total of four posts in all of 2018, and all four of them were lengthy, digressive posts about how much I like "Weird Al" Yankovic.

Mandatory Fun album cover
Does this look like propaganda to you?

Now, the troll actually did accidentally stumble onto something resembling a point: I am posting to this blog more these days, and, as I noted last week, that's specifically because I want to spend less time dealing with assholes.

Assholes being the keyword, of course. Not people who disagree with me. I've got no problem engaging with people who disagree with me; I do it all the time. But, much as trolls like to bleat "You're only calling me a troll because I disagree with you!", there is, of course, a difference.

Shit My Thad Says

James Gunn recently got fired from Guardians of the Galaxy 3 over some tasteless and offensive jokes he made on Twitter some years back.

That's not the subject of this post. You want to read someone's opinion about the James Gunn story, there are plenty of places to do that.

But it did get me thinking. You know who else has said some stupid shit on the Internet that's still up there where anybody can see it? Me.

I've had this blog since 1999. I was seventeen years old when I started it. Some of the content is even older -- KateStory started in 1994.

So, given that this website has a pretty steady stream of stuff I've written that stretches all the way back to when I was twelve? Yeah, let's just say I've had plenty of opportunities to say things that were really dumb. (At least unlike James Gunn, I have the "I was in my teens and twenties" excuse.)

I can think of specific examples, but I feel like pointing them out isn't going to help anybody. If I said something hurtful a long time ago, and I start talking about it again now, I feel like that's hurtful too, even if I'm doing it just to apologize.

So I won't. But you know the type of stuff. I used words I don't use anymore. I made jokes I don't make anymore. Transgression just for the sake of transgression -- say something offensive for a cheap laugh, then when somebody says "Hey, that's offensive," say it's their fault for being offended, and laugh at them.

So if you're going through this site, particularly through the really old stuff, and you find something that makes you say "Aw, come on, man" -- yeah, that's how I feel about it too, and I'm sorry.

Of course, all this raises another question: why keep it? Why keep all the old stuff, even the stuff that I'm embarrassed by or ashamed of? It's my blog, after all; I can delete anything I feel like.

I guess there are a few reasons.

I'm kind of a pack rat. I have trouble getting rid of stuff. I've still got my '90s Spider-Man and X-Men comics -- and I hate that stuff. It's just that actually going to the trouble of getting rid of it (seeing if any of it's worth anything, selling the stuff that is, donating the stuff that isn't) seems harder than just hanging on to it. And my blog doesn't take up nearly as much space as all those shortboxes.

I have a genuine affection for some of this stuff. The KateStory in particular. It's something my friends and I did together when we were kids. Sure, there's adolescent bickering, and dumbass "edgy" "humor", and there are plenty of places where it outright makes me cringe. But it's my friends and me, goofing around, saying whatever damn fool thing popped into our heads. To me, at least, the good outweighs the bad.

If I'm being honest... To a large extent, this blog shows me growing up -- transforming from a dumbass kid into a guy in his mid-30s who is hopefully at least a little bit less of a dumbass. If I cut out the stuff I said and did that was bad or wrong, I'd be cutting out the actual growing up part. And I feel like it would be a copout, like I'd be hiding my mistakes. I'd rather own them. I'm not proud of everything I've written, whether on this blog or elsewhere, but I acknowledge it. This, what I'm writing right now, represents who I am. The old stuff, the stuff I wrote ten or fifteen or twenty-four years ago, represents who I was then. I like to think there's some daylight between the man I am and the kid I was.

A lot of stuff is gone. Prodigy's gone. The Pyoko boards are gone. A lot of stuff I've posted online is gone. Honestly, in a lot of cases that's for the best. But I do sometimes wish I could go back and find something I wrote that isn't there anymore. This is as complete an archive of stuff I've written online as there is. I don't want to make it less complete.

It's not like that damn many people are reading this thing anyway. I mean, let's be honest. I'm not the director of Guardians of the Galaxy. I'm some guy who's been yammering on a blog for damn-near 20 years. If somebody is actually looking back through this blog at some dumb, offensive thing I wrote in my twenties, odds are pretty good that someone is me.

Somewhere Productive

Sometimes I think "Hey, I should blog more."

The reason I've been thinking that lately boils down largely to this post I wrote on Brontoforumus the other night:

...there is a guy in the Ars Technica comments section right now who is arguing that Joss Whedon's behavior isn't anti-feminist, because if he were gay he would treat men just as badly as he treats women.

I need to stop reading the Ars Technica comments section.

Fellow Bronto Büge pointedly responded by quoting my post back to me in modified form:

I need to stop reading the [...] comments section.

She's got a point.

It's not an original observation that comments sections, by and large, are terrible. Even on a site like Ars, where most commenters are insightful, knowledgeable people, the minority who are obnoxious trolls get to dominate the conversation.

Part of why that happens is, people feed the trolls. And I'm part of the problem.

I'm not as bad about that as some people are. I've learned to make regular use of Ars's Block button. Hell, I even wrote a script to add block functionality to Techdirt's comments section. And yet, I still find myself engaging with people who I really shouldn't.

Sometimes it's an honest mistake. Sometimes it's not clear that somebody is a troll when I first engage with them, and it takes a few posts before I realize I've been wasting my time trying to engage in a good-faith discussion with somebody who isn't interested in good faith.

But sometimes, trolls are obvious, and I feed them anyway.

Take the other day, f'rinstance. A guy in the comments for an article titled News of Trump passing cognitive test may make it harder to detect dementia said this:

So we should defend the country by forcefully elimating Trump?

Seriously. Elimating.

And I spent multiple posts responding to this guy. Explaining why democracy, despite its flaws, is preferable to a violent coup.

The conversation ended with me telling the gentleman in question to go fuck himself, and blocking him. Which was entirely foreseeable, from the get-go.

Why did I bother having a conversation with a person who was not only advocating the violent overthrow of the government, but couldn't even spell it correctly? Why didn't I save myself some time and just go straight to the Block button?

Certainly part of the answer is that my impulse control needs work.

Another part is, I really do enjoy writing stuff. I write stuff every day. The trouble is, these days most of what I write is in comments sections on sites like Ars and Techdirt. What I need to get better at is focusing my writing towards somewhere productive -- or, if not productive, at least somewhere that doesn't leave me thinking, "Christ, why did I waste all that time and energy on that?" when I'm done.

Maybe that can be the new tagline for the site.

corporate-sellout.com
It doesn't leave me thinking "Christ, Why did I waste all that time and energy on that?" when I'm done.

(Your mileage may vary.)

Net Neutrality Roundup #1

Ajit Pai has announced, expectedly, that he intends to vote to kill the FCC's Title II net neutrality regulations on December 14.

As I've discussed previously, this was a foregone conclusion, but the point was never to change Pai's mind; there are, after all, two whole branches of government besides the one he serves in.

Tim Wu (the man who coined the phrase "Network Neutrality") discusses one of those branches in a recent op/ed in the New York Times called Why the Courts Will Have to Save Net Neutrality.

The problem for Mr. Pai is that government agencies are not free to abruptly reverse longstanding rules on which many have relied without a good reason, such as a change in factual circumstances. A mere change in F.C.C. ideology isn’t enough. As the Supreme Court has said, a federal agency must “examine the relevant data and articulate a satisfactory explanation for its action.” Given that net neutrality rules have been a huge success by most measures, the justification for killing them would have to be very strong.

It isn’t. In fact, it’s very weak. From what we know so far, Mr. Pai’s rationale for eliminating the rules is that cable and phone companies, despite years of healthy profit, need to earn even more money than they already do — that is, that the current rates of return do not yield adequate investment incentives. More specifically, Mr. Pai claims that industry investments have gone down since 2015, the year the Obama administration last strengthened the net neutrality rules.

Setting aside whether industry investments should be the dominant measure of success in internet policy (what about improved access for students? or the emergence of innovations like streaming TV?), Mr. Pai is not examining the facts: Securities and Exchange Commission filings reveal an increase in internet investments since 2015, as the internet advocacy group Free Press has demonstrated.

A popular argument I've seen from anti-Title II trolls on sites like Ars Technica and Techdirt is "Well if we need these rules, how did the Internet do so well before 2015?" (This rhetorical question is usually coupled with sarcastic remarks about former president Barack Obama.)

That question is disingenuous, for a couple of reasons. First, as Wu notes, that's the opposite of how FCC rules get passed and repealed. We already asked and answered the question of why we needed Title II regulations during the public comment period in 2014. The question isn't "Why did we need these rules in 2015?" It's "Why do we no longer need them in 2018?" It's the oldest forum troll trick in the book: "I'm not going to provide supporting evidence for my argument, I'm going to demand that you provide supporting evidence for yours, even though the burden of proof is on me."

The other reason the "How did the Internet ever survive before 2015?" question is disingenuous horseshit is that Pai's not merely rolling back FCC rules to pre-2015 levels, he's rolling them back to pre-2005 levels. Wu's article continues:

But Mr. Pai faces a more serious legal problem. Because he is killing net neutrality outright, not merely weakening it, he will have to explain to a court not just the shift from 2015 but also his reasoning for destroying the basic bans on blocking and throttling, which have been in effect since 2005 and have been relied on extensively by the entire internet ecosystem.

This will be a difficult task. What has changed since 2004 that now makes the blocking or throttling of competitors not a problem? The evidence points strongly in the opposite direction: There is a long history of anticompetitive throttling and blocking — often concealed — that the F.C.C. has had to stop to preserve the health of the internet economy. Examples include AT&T’s efforts to keep Skype off iPhones and the blocking of Google Wallet by Verizon. Services like Skype and Netflix would have met an early death without basic net neutrality protections. Mr. Pai needs to explain why we no longer have to worry about this sort of threat — and “You can trust your cable company” will not suffice.

So let's, just for a moment, play the trolls' game and explain why we need Title II regulations to protect net neutrality.

There's a convenient list of net neutrality violations making the rounds; I don't know where it originated, but I've seen variations on it in a couple of different places: by a poster named JoeDetroit on Techdirt and a poster named Happysin on Ars Technica. Here are both those versions of the list combined and lightly edited:

2005 - Madison River Communications was blocking VOIP services. The FCC put a stop to it.

2005 - Comcast was denying access to P2P services without notifying customers.

2007-2009 - AT&T was having Skype and other VOIPs blocked because they didn't like that there was competition for their cellphones.

2011 - MetroPCS tried to block all streaming except YouTube. They actually sued the FCC over this.

2011-2013 - AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon were blocking access to Google Wallet because it competed with their own wallet apps. This one happened literally months after the trio were busted collaborating with Google to block apps from the Android marketplace.

2012 - Verizon was demanding Google block tethering apps on Android because it let owners avoid their $20 tethering fee. This was despite guaranteeing they wouldn't do that as part of a winning bid on an airwaves auction.

2012 - AT&T tried to block access to FaceTime unless customers paid more money.

2013 - Verizon literally stated that the only thing stopping them from favoring some content providers over other providers were the net neutrality rules in place.

2014 - Netflix & Comcast sign a deal where Netflix will pay Comcast to stop throttling the service. The very next day, streaming problems vanish.

That is, needless to say, not an exhaustive list.

Meanwhile, there's another kind of forum troll, making the rounds like clockwork on every article I've ever seen on this subject: the "What does it matter? Pai's just going to do it anyway; he doesn't care what we think!" troll.

I've already responded to that argument at length (and up at the top of this post -- "two whole branches of government"). Wu reinforces my point:

Moreover, the F.C.C. is acting contrary to public sentiment, which may embolden the judiciary to oppose Mr. Pai. Telecommunications policy does not always attract public attention, but net neutrality does, and polls indicate that 76 percent of Americans support it. The F.C.C., in short, is on the wrong side of the democratic majority.

That's why people left comments on the FCC website. It's why people are writing articles protesting it now, and planning in-person protests for December 7. Lawsuits are inevitable, and clear and constant reminders that Pai threw out the Title II classification against public opinion makes his weak case weaker.

And that's not the only thing. Come back tomorrow for more.

Shout-Out to Nathan Rabin

A few months back, I tried to start blogging regularly again.

It lasted five days and five posts, at which point I started experiencing some debilitating thumb pain (carpal tunnel?). The thumb pain's not gone but it's under better control, so maybe I'll take another crack at it.

As I noted at the time, there were a couple things that inspired me to give another shot at regular blogging. One was an angry Sonic the Hedgehog fan who was so incensed by a years-old series of blog posts about Ken Penders that he just had to tell me about it when he came across my name in an entirely unrelated conversation. (Since then I've actually toyed with the idea of reposting my old, 1997-era Sonic the Hedgehog comic reviews here, but unfortunately I haven't been able to find them. They were on the same hard drive as KateStory Book IX, which I went to all that trouble to recover nine years ago; I suspect the files are still somewhere in my giant stack of hard drives but I haven't been able to find them.)

But another big inspiration was a blog called Nathan Rabin's Happy Place.

I first became a fan of Nathan Rabin about a decade ago, when he was the head writer of The AV Club and writing a column then called My Year of Flops. Every week for a year, Rabin reviewed a movie that was a commercial failure and evaluated whether it was really as bad as its reputation suggests.

I love bad movies. I love good movies. I love movies that other people don't love. My Year of Flops was right smack-dab in my wheelhouse.

My Year of Flops was eventually completed and released as a book. But the column continued after that first year, under the title My World of Flops; it expanded beyond failed films to include failed books, albums, and recently even a failed presidential campaign.

The AV Club is no longer the kind of site that does features like My World of Flops. So Rabin has started his own, Patreon-supported blog, Nathan Rabin's Happy Place. He's still writing My World of Flops, and other, similar features where he examines lesser-loved media (like Cannon Films). He also talks about other stuff, from politics to brutally honest discussions of his life experiences, including financial hardships and struggles with depression.

But my favorite of his features right now is The Weird Accordion to Al. Rabin literally wrote the book on "Weird Al" Yankovic (it's called Weird Al: The Book), and now he's taking a song-by-song look at Al's entire discography. (As of this writing he's up to Talk Soup from Alapalooza.)

I love Weird Al. I've loved Weird Al for over 25 years. Hell, all this talk about Weird Al has me thinking maybe I'll write some posts about Weird Al. (They won't be as good as Rabin's. But they'll have the added benefit of being about me.)

If you're a "Weird Al" Yankovic fan, you owe it to yourself to read The Weird Accordion to Al. And hey, if you like what you see and can spare a little money for it, kick in on Nathan's Patreon.

It's not just that Nathan's work is enjoyable, insightful, and frequently funny. It's also that his enthusiasm for his blog is infectious. I read a post where he talked about how easy it's turned out to be to write blog posts every day, and I got to thinking, shit, I used to do that for free, I enjoyed it so much. And I thought, y'know, maybe I should start doing that again. I'm going to be writing about whatever the hell's on my mind anyway, whether it's here or on Brontoforumus or The Avocado or the Techdirt comments -- so what the hell, why not here?

So thanks, Nathan Rabin, for giving me the bug again. I don't think I'll manage the same pace I did back in '11-'13 (seven posts a week about Frank Zappa, five posts a week about other stuff), but I'm still going to try and post more often.

And I'm sure those Sonic the Hedgehog comic book reviews are around here somewhere.

Hide Techdirt Comments

Updated 2018-08-19: Hide comments that have already been hidden by user flagging (this is mostly useful if the hideReplies boolean is set true).


Updated 2018-08-15: Added hideLoggedOut. If set true, then the script will hide any user who isn't logged in, unless their name is in the whitelist array.

Added hideReplies. If set true, then when the script hides a comment it will also hide all the replies to the comment.

If you set both hideLoggedOut and hideReplies to true, then the Techdirt comments section gets much quieter.


Updated 2018-08-09: Some doofus has been impersonating me. Script will now automatically flag and hide posts by fake Thad.

In addition to hiding posts if their subject line is too long, the script will now also hide posts if the username is too long. Additionally, the script can automatically flag posts if the subject or username exceeds a specified length.

This thing's gotten complicated enough that I think it's probably subject to copyright now. I've added a license. I chose a 3-Clause BSD License.


Updated 2018-06-20: Ignore mixed-case and non-alpha characters.


Updated 2018-03-06: Fixed case where usernames inside links were not being blocked.


Updated 2018-03-04: Added function to hide long subject lines, because some trolls like to write manifesto-length gibberish in the Subject: line.

There is now a maxSubjectLength variable (default value: 50). Any subject line exceeding that length will be hidden. If you reply to a post with a subject line exceeding that length, your reply's subject line will default to "Re: tl;dr".


Updated 2017-07-12: Added @include.


In my previous post, I mentioned that I spend too much of my life responding to trolls on Techdirt.

With that realization, I whipped up a quick Greasemonkey/Tampermonkey script to block all posts from specified usernames.

// ==UserScript==
// @name          Hide Techdirt Comments
// @namespace     http://corporate-sellout.com
// @description	  Hide comments on Techdirt, based on user and comment length.
// @include       https://www.techdirt.com/articles/*
// @include       https://www.techdirt.com/blog/*
// @require       https://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/3.1.0/jquery.min.js
// ==/UserScript==

// Maximum length of Subject and Name before hiding/flagging contents
const subjectLengthToHide = 50,
  subjectLengthToFlag = 80,
  nameLengthToHide = 26,  // length of "Anonymous Anonymous Coward"
  nameLengthToFlag = 30,
      
// Boolean settings:
// if true, hide all posts from users who aren't logged in
  hideLoggedOut = true,
  
// if true, hide all replies to hidden posts
  hideReplies = true,

// After this date, anyone posting as "Thad" who is not logged in is an imposter
  fakeThadDate = new Date('2018-08-01');

// List of users whose comments you want to hide -- collect 'em all!
var blacklist = [
  'Anonymous Coward',
  'MyNameHere',
  'Richard Bennett',
  'John Smith',
  'ROGS',
  'JEDIDIAH'
];

// List of users whose comments you don't want to hide
const whitelist = [
  'Chip',
  'Thad'
];

const clearInput = function() {
  $('#replysubject').val('Re: tl;dr');
};

// Convert string to all-lowercase and remove non-alpha characters
function trimString(str) {
  str = str.toLowerCase();
  return str.replace(/[^a-z+]+/g, '');
}

// get div that contains username / login information from comment
function nameBlock(cmt) {
  return $('.commentname > div', cmt);
}

// Check whether user is logged-in
function isLoggedIn(cmt) {
  return $('> :nth-child(2)', nameBlock(cmt)).text() === 'profile';
}

// Check whether post has already been hidden by the community
function alreadyHidden(cmt) {
  return $('> .abusivecomment', cmt).length > 0;
}

// Flag a comment
function flag(cmt) {
  var flagBtn = $('.report-button', cmt);
  if(!flagBtn.hasClass('down')) {
    var clickEvent = document.createEvent('MouseEvents');
    clickEvent.initEvent ('click', true, true);
    flagBtn[0].dispatchEvent(clickEvent);
  }
}

// Hide replies to a comment (requires threaded view)
function hideRepliesToComment(cmt) {
  var next = cmt.next();
  if(next.hasClass('nest')) {
  // Comment has replies; remove them.
    next.remove();
  }
}

// Check if user is not logged in and name length exceeds nameLengthToHide
function longName(cmt, name, loggedIn) {
  if(!loggedIn && name.length > nameLengthToHide && !whitelist.includes(name)) {
    // If name exceeds nameLengthToFlag, flag post
    if(name.length > nameLengthToFlag) {
      flag(cmt);
    }
    return true;
  }
  return false;
}

// Determine whether poster is Fake Thad
function fakeThad(cmt, name, loggedIn) {
  if(loggedIn === true) {
    // logged-in; user is not fake Thad.
    return false;
  }
  
  if(name === 'thad') {
    // Poster is "Thad", but is not logged in.
    // If post is newer than fakeThadDate, poster is Fake Thad.
    var dateString = $('i', nameBlock(cmt)).text();
      
    dateString = dateString.split(' @ ')[0];

    var date = new Date(dateString);
    if(date > fakeThadDate) {
      flag(cmt);
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}

function checkName(cmt) {
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      cmt.remove();
    } else {
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    return true;
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  return false;
}

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License

Copyright 2017-2018 Thaddeus R R Boyd

Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

  1. Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.
  2. Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.
  3. Neither the name of the copyright holder nor the names of its contributors may be used to endorse or promote products derived from this software without specific prior written permission.

THIS SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED BY THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND CONTRIBUTORS "AS IS" AND ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE ARE DISCLAIMED. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE COPYRIGHT HOLDER OR CONTRIBUTORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES; LOSS OF USE, DATA, OR PROFITS; OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION) HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR TORT (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE USE OF THIS SOFTWARE, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.

Further Thoughts

(Note: The script was much smaller when I originally wrote this part of the post.)

This is a blunt instrument; it took about five minutes to write. It lacks subtlety and nuance.

Blocking all anonymous posters on Techdirt is not an ideal solution; most anons aren't trolls. (Most trolls, however, are anons.) I apologize to all the innocent anons blocked by this script.

I could make the script more precise. Techdirt's trolls are creatures of habit with certain noticeable verbal tics (more on that below); if I had a good parser, I think I could whip up a scoring system that could recognize troll posts with a high degree of accuracy.

The question is, how much time do I want to spend on that?

On the one hand, "five minutes in a text editor" is the appropriate amount of time for dealing with forum trolls. Anything else seems like more effort and attention than they deserve.

On the other hand, it's a potentially interesting project, I've always wanted to spend some time studying natural language processing, and any programming project is time well-spent if it teaches you a new skill.

So I haven't decided yet. Here's the script as it stands, in its initial, blunt-instrument-that-took-five-minutes form. If I update the script, I'll update this post.

Chip Tips

Lastly, as I can no longer see anonymous posts, this means I will likely have to give up my beloved sockpuppet, Chip, the man who hates all government regulations and loves to eat leaded paint chips. To anyone and everyone else who wants to keep the spirit of Chip alive, you have my blessing to post under his name.

A few tips on how to write as Chip:

  • Never use the backspace key.
  • Remember to add random Capital Letters and "quotation marks" to your posts, in Places where they "don't" make Sense!
  • Most sentences should end with Exclamation Points!
  • I told you So!
  • I have "lots" of Solutions! So many I can't Name a single "one"!
  • Sycophantic Idiots!
  • Every Nation eats the Paint chips it Deserves!

Boy, my regular readers are going to have no fucking idea what I'm talking about in this post.

Come back tomorrow; I plan on having a post about online privacy that should be a little less niche.

Fanmail from Some Flounder

I've been meaning to blog more.

I like blogging. I like writing about shit. People seem to enjoy reading it. My friends keep telling me I should start blogging again (hi Friday!).

And I've been reading Nathan Rabin's Happy Place and really enjoying what Rabin has to say, and his enthusiasm about just being able to write about whatever he feels like.

But the kicker? Oh man.

The other day, I was checking replies to my Disqus posts.

And -- in response to a post I had written in the AV Club comments section five months ago, concerning the Black Panther: World of Wakanda comic -- some nice young fellow had written this:

Your blog sucks. Go back to sucking Ken Penders' dick.

Sonic the Hedgehog fandom is weird, you guys.

So okay, dude's obviously a troll; a quick gander at his posting history shows basically everything else he's ever written on Disqus has been arguing with atheists.

But the Penders thing? That's not random. It's far too specific.

My most recent Penders post was in 2015. At the time of this writing, it is on page 4 of this blog. So this is not a guy who decided, at random, to troll me, clicked on my name, and picked one of the posts on my blog to talk shit about.

And neither is this a guy who just now saw my Penders posts -- saw a link to them, found them on Google, whatever --, got incensed by them, and decided to write me a nastygram. Even assuming the gentlemen in question failed to notice the "Contact" link at the top of the page and instead, inexplicably, decided to look up my Disqus profile, he would have replied to one of my recent Disqus posts, not one that was five months old.

No. This is a dude who saw my posts about Ken Penders at some earlier date. Maybe as far back as 2013. And remembered them. And remembered my name. And, when he was randomly reading the comments section of an AV Club article, saw my name and felt the need to tell me off because, four years ago, I wrote some blog posts explaining that Ken Penders had a valid legal case against Archie Comics and Sega (or, as it's known in Sonic Fanboy-ese, "sucked Ken Penders' dick").

You know what? That is weirdly fucking flattering. I made an impact on this guy. People read my blog, and it matters to them.

I mean, sure, this guy is a troll and, clearly, a Sonic the Hedgehog fanboy -- those dudes are intense. I am sure he is not a representative member of my audience.

But the thing about writing whatever the hell I feel like is, I never know what's going to resonate with people.

The most attention I've ever gotten was when the online comic book press picked up on my posts about the never-finished-or-published 1990s Final Fantasy comic -- which, at that point, were already more than two years old.

And, in that same vein, my Final Fantasy 7 retrospective series continues to be popular. (Or at least did the last time I looked at my site stats. I've removed Google Analytics from this site -- that's a subject for another post -- but I'd like to get a new stats tool set up, because I like seeing what people are reading, where they're coming from, and what search terms they're using to get here.)

But these creators' rights pieces seem to get a pretty good amount of attention, too. People used to link my post on Marvel v Kirby all the time. And I once got a very nice E-Mail from Marc Tyler Nobleman for my Not My Batman post and its recognition of Bill Finger. (By the way: Batman & Bill is good; you should watch it.)

And so I'd like to get on back to yammering on about just whatever the hell it is I feel like yammering on about at the moment. Because what the hell; if I don't yammer here, I'm just going to yammer somewhere else, and frankly I spend far more time responding to trolls in the Techdirt comments section than a healthy person should.

I don't know if I'll manage 5-day-a-week posting like I used to. Maybe I will, maybe I won't. (Today I am posting on a Saturday. Whee!)

Course, if I do start blogging regularly again now, there's probably something to psychoanalyze in my doing it in response to our good friend Mr. "Your blog sucks" up there. I think humans are wired to notice criticism more than praise, and I suppose I'm no exception.

But what the hell; like I said, I've been planning to get back to blogging for awhile now anyway. And as criticism goes, I'm pretty sure this is the most fun hate mail I've ever gotten. Even better than the last unsolicited hate mail I got from a disgruntled Sonic fan, which was over 20 years ago and, in keeping with the whole "casual homophobia" theme, contained the phrase "You hump Robotnik's ugly butt!"

Sonic the Hedgehog fandom is weird, you guys.

The Return of MST3K -- Part 2: New Cast

Before I say anything else, let's get the obvious out of the way: nobody is obligated to contribute to any Kickstarter, ever. If you don't like Jonah Ray, if you're disappointed that the old cast isn't onboard, if you're strapped for cash or saving for Christmas or more interested in that Maya Angelou documentary or just plain don't feel like it, that's your prerogative. It's your money, and it's up to you how you want to spend it. And it's your time, and it's up to you whether you want to commit to a show that runs over 90 minutes an episode. I would like to make it clear that, while I'm about to make some criticisms of online negativity and some fans' tendency to prejudge, I'm not for one moment saying that you're obligated to feel excited about the new series, let alone to contribute money to it sight unseen.

That said, if you do watch the new MST3K, you should pay for it. Pirating MST3K would be a dick move.

Jonah Ray

Joel's announcement that Jonah Ray would be the new host sounded downright defensive:

Since this is the internet, I guess some people will hear this news and rush to declare – for better and for worse – "what this means for the future of MST3K." (In fact, since a lot of people guessed that it was Jonah's voice in our first video, that's already happening!)

I can't really tell you what kind of host Jonah is going to be, but I hope you'll give him a chance to show you. And even if you're familiar with Jonah's career, remember: that doesn't mean he'll bring the same exact approach to MST3K. I think a lot of you may be surprised. Plus, like the previous members of our cast, I think Jonah has great instincts and a lot of range. He's funny, he's wicked smart, and like I said, his heart's in the right place. He loves MST3K, he seems to understand what makes it so special, and most important, I know he takes the role seriously.

And man, a lot of people seem angry about Jonah Ray. I mean, it's the Internet, and everybody's always angry about something, and the people who really really hate something are almost never a representative sample. The Kickstarter's raised another half-a-million or so since the announcement, so it sure doesn't look like most people are too bothered by it.

I don't know much about Jonah Ray. I don't listen to the Nerdist podcast and I haven't seen his standup. Maybe I'd like it and maybe I wouldn't.

But I think Joel's right here: neither of those things is likely to be a good indicator of what he'll be like as host. And while it's true that each host is different and does the show his own way, it's also true that it's still the same show under Mike that it was under Joel. (Well, I think so, anyway; there are folks who disagree.)

There is a general feeling that the Mike era was meaner than the Joel era, that under Mike there was more of a tendency to outright insult the films, where Joel's era felt more like good-natured ribbing. (And in the host segments, Joel was certainly more friendly and deferential to the Mads than Mike was -- "What do you think, Sirs?")

(I've even seen folks in the Info Club comments section complain that there was too much sexual innuendo in the Sci-Fi Channel era, and...well, Jesus, apparently MST3K fans are a sheltered bunch.)

And I think it's easy to see Jonah Ray take Mike's tack a bit more than Joel's.

But, y'know, he's still a fan.

Being a fan doesn't automatically mean he'll be good in the role. But I think it does mean he'll show deference to the original show.

I mentioned in the previous post that Joel's got to thread the needle and make a show that's fresh and new and still noticeably MST3K. That might be true even moreso for Jonah as the new host.

and Friends

We don't know who else is going to be on the show yet. I've seen several people refer to an alleged Entertainment Weekly article that calims Felicia Day is playing the new Mad and Baron Vaughn and Hampton Yount are playing Servo and Crow (not sure which is which, but since I don't know who Vaughn or Yount are that's kind of a moot point). I have never seen a link to the alleged EW article in question, nor been able to find it on ew.com, so I am skeptical.

For the record I think Day would be a great choice, not just because I've wanted to see her play a villain since Dr. Horrible but because there's simply nobody with more experience at making a cult TV show on the Internet without studio backing.

As for Servo and Crow, well. It's definitely going to take some adjustment. On Servo in particular.

I'm of two minds on this. On the one hand, it's actually a refreshing change of pace seeing an angry fandom express the importance of the creative folks. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you've seen posts where I've excoriated fanboys who think characters are more important than their creators. People who think Scourge is more important than Ken Penders, that Thanos is more important than Jim Starlin, that Iron Man is more important than Jack Kirby.

It is, at least, really refreshing to see fans who think that MST3K is more than just a couple of puppets named Tom Servo and Crow, and that it matters who's operating those puppets, dammit.

And it does! It definitely does!

But we've been through this before. There's a well-known story in the fandom that when Josh Weinstein left the show and Kevin Murphy took over as Tom Servo, a fan mailed him a six-foot-long banner saying "I hate Tom Servo's new voice."

Well, 25 years later, you'd be hard-pressed to find anybody who thinks Josh was a better Servo than Kevin. (Sorry, Josh.)

And while there are people who don't like Bill Corbett as Crow, I think he was great. I still have a "You know you want me, baby!" T-shirt around here somewhere.

I think the fans need to thread the needle too, in our own way: while it's totally commendable (and encouraged!) to acknowledge that just because a show's got Servo and Crow and a guy in a jumpsuit on the Satellite of Love riffing on cheesy movies doesn't mean it's going to be the same MST3K we know and love, that it's the people who made the show great.

But we should also acknowledge that just because there are new people in those roles doesn't mean it's going to be a bad show, either. Yes, it's going to be different. But different doesn't always mean bad. You don't have to be optimistic about the new show, but y'know, you don't have to be pessimistic about it either.

Of course, the show's not just about the people in front of the camera, either. And in my next post I plan on talking about the writers, the importance of the ensemble, and how continuity in the writers' room was one of the main reasons the old show stayed consistent even when the cast changed. That's one more challenge the new show's going to have.

The Return of MST3K -- Part 1: Our Story Thus Far

It's a great time to be a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan -- though there are those who disagree.

MST3K is coming back. Shout! Factory bought the rights to the series, and creator Joel Hodgson is running a Kickstarter to fund new episodes. He's passed his goal of $2 million, which will be enough to set up the infrastructure and shoot three episodes; he hopes to raise at least $5.5 million, make a full season of 12 episodes, and convince TV executives that there's enough of a fanbase to pick up the series.

Joel has announced that the new host will be Jonah Ray. I'm not familiar with Mr. Ray or his work, but a lot of people on the Internet seem very angry about this. Some people are angry about the selection of Jonah Ray in particular; some are more generally uneasy that it just won't be the same show.

And it won't. And that's tricky. Joel has to thread the needle here: the reason he's bringing back the MST3K name, brand, and characters is because there's nostalgia and goodwill attached to them (both on his part and the fans'), but, at the same time, this will by its nature be a different show. I'm looking forward to it (and I haven't pledged yet but I plan to), but it is an unknown quantity.

Joel notes, rightly, that every cast member on MST3K got swapped out at one time or another. Nervous fans note, rightly, that it never happened with the entire cast at once, let alone the entire staff. So far, only one person from the old show is involved with the new one, and that's Joel himself -- and he won't be hosting it. So we're not just looking at an entirely new cast, we're also looking at an almost-entirely-new writing team.

Will it feel more like the old MST3K than Cinematic Titanic did? More than Rifftrax does?

Well, obviously that question is something we won't know until we actually see the show. It's also entirely subjective.

Over the next couple of posts, I intend to go into my subjective opinions about those topics and others. Sodium, won't you?