Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Spaghetti and Gumballs

Source: http://uncrate.com/stuff/giant-gumball-machine/

Guy: Hey! Hey, you!
Me: Hi.
Guy: Hey, I have a giant gumball machine filled with gumballs here that I think you need.
Me: I need a giant gumball machine?
Guy: Yes, you most certainly do. You need to buy this machine and these gumballs.
Me: Well, how much is it?
Guy: It's only $500 for the machine AND the gumballs. I'm giving you a deal, too.
Me: But I don't have $500.
Guy: It doesn't matter. You need this machine and these gumballs, and you're gonna buy 'em.
Me: But... I don't really need that much gum. I chew a piece every now and again, but I can usually get a piece for free from someone I know.
Guy: Well, the gum they're giving you isn't good for you. You shouldn't be eating that gum. These gumballs are better.
Me: Okay, well... what do I get for my $500?
Guy: This giant gumball machine and a whole ton of gumballs.
Me: ...that I'm not going to be eating.
Guy: That's right.
Me: Okay, here's $500. You can just put the machine right over there.
Guy: Splendid, splendid. So, if you ever feel like having a gumball, just put 50¢ in these little slots, turn the handle and VOILA! You can have a gumball!
Me: Wait... these are my gumballs. I just paid you $500 for them. Why do I have to pay another 50¢ to get a gumball from the machine?
Guy: Because that's the way the machine works. You make your initial payment and then each time you want to use the machine, you pay a little more.
Me: So I'm paying myself back for my own gumballs?
Guy: Oh, no-no! The money you put into the gumball machine does not come back to you. That's my money.
Me: Wait, so you get the money that I put into the machine if I want a gumball? But it's my machine.
Guy: Wellll... yes. You *did* pay for the machine, so technically it's yours, but the money you put into it is not yours. It's mine.
Me: Okay, well... what do you do with the money?
Guy: Oh, I give it to other people so that they can buy gumballs.
Me: So, you take my money that I put into the machine to buy a gumball and you give it to other people so that they can have gumballs too?
Guy: Yes, exactly.
Me: Can't they afford their own gumballs?
Guy: No, not really.
Me: But I can't afford the machine or the gumballs either and, again, I really don't chew gum that much. Like... hardly ever.
Guy: Well, that's irrelevant. You should be happy! Look, you have this lovely, giant gumball machine and all these gumballs now, and other people can now enjoy these gumballs too!
Me: Well, I guess I will be eating those gumballs after all since that $500 I gave you was to buy food for the next couple of months. Spaghetti and gumballs, anyone?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Comedians in Cars Making Sense

So, I've recently stumbled across this little web series by Jerry Seinfeld called "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee". A recent issue of EW (Entertainment Weekly) featured the series in an article, prompting me to pull up the site out of curiosity. The series features comedian and actor Jerry Seinfeld driving around in classic/vintage cars, picking up fellow comedians and taking them out to little caf├ęs/diners/bistros/coffeehouses and talking about nothing. The first season consists of ten webisodes, ranging from 8-17 minutes in length, and the second season is currently on it's fifth episode (available 07/11 at noon).

Personally, I've found the series to be more interesting than actually funny, as Jerry's selection of companions ranges widely (from the young and liberal Sarah Silverman to the aging comedy trailblazers Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks). Comedians, it would seem, can get pretty philosophical when they're not shooting off one-liners and ragging on the nuances of pop culture. Episode five of season one (watch it here) features Mystery Science Theater 3000 creator Joel Hodgson, who, during his chat with Jerry at a retro-themed diner, noted something that struck me as both darkly funny and true. Here is a transcript of that portion of their conversation:

Jerry: "But the other thing that's an object of fascination is that I've found that comedians of all kinds, and this goes back the Mad Men thing... the corporate environment. The idea of bosses and employees is just hilarious to us. Why is that so funny?"
Joel: "When we don't have to do it. Right?"
Jerry: *laughs* "It's such a typically human attempt to organize what is unorganizable. Life."
Joel: "You're right."
Jerry: "We just see the helplessness of trying to organize human endeavor into a building."
Joel: "We like to be in a system."
Jerry: *inserts* "That works."
Joel: "If you can agree with me that I'm you're boss and you do what I say, everything is gonna be fine."

Jerry Seinfeld and Joel Hodgson in S1E5 of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

I had to smile at what Joel noted at the end of this exchange because it's both ridiculous and true at the same time. In any workplace environment where there is a tiered structure of authority (bosses and employees), you're essentially taking a group of people who--outside of that building/workplace and under any other given circumstances--are equals or peers, and saying, "Hey, while we're in this building, we are all consenting to the fact that I have authority over you and you have to do whatever I tell you to do, no matter how pointless or senseless you may think it is." At the end of the day, I may be smarter than this individual, I may have a higher education, more experience, more common sense, a better handle on life, but... because of a few figures on a paycheck, when I walk into this building and put myself "on the clock", they receive this magical boost in power and authority. And if I want to continue to have a place to live and put food on my table, I must acknowledge this authority and comply with whatever mandates it sends my way. How non-sensical it is when you really think about it.

Maybe I'm just anti-authority, or maybe I just feel that authority is something that should be earned and not just given. It can be a little difficult to respect an authority that's assigned when some schmuck in an office decides that another schmuck in an office should get more money and a bigger office because they're more "qualified". Maybe this person truly is more qualified to do whatever it is they're doing, but if I'm at a restaurant eating dinner and some guy walks up to me and asks me to move over to another table, and to wait until after I leave to finish my dinner, I'm gonna look at him like he's crazy and tell him to bugger off. But if the same guy, who just happens to be my "boss", comes up to me at work and tells me I need to relocate to three cubicles over, and that all foods and beverages must now be consumed outside on a tiny patio, I have to comply because this person has authority over me while I'm in that building. In both cases, the reasoning behind the requests is likely to be equally pointless in the grand scheme of things, but because I signed a paper saying that I would adhere to this age-old structure of workplace authority, in one case, I am required to comply.

Perhaps it's the attitude of authority that I find ridiculous, moreso than the idea of a tiered "command" system within the workplace. Of course there have to be levels of authority within that kind of environment, or nothing would ever get done. The vast majority of what your average employee does at their workplace on a daily basis is not done because they see any real value in the work, or any point in doing it. It's done because they're made to do it by an authority figure who says, "Hey, you may think this is stupid (and it probably is), but you have to do it because I said so, and because you wanna keep getting paid." Granted, in some cases, the differing levels in experience, education, and work ethic between boss and employees does truly warrant an attitude of authority that must be forced upon workers in order for anything productive to occur. It's unfortunate, and cannot possibly promote a happier workplace environment, but sometimes it's necessary. In so many cases, though, this self-righteous attitude of, "I'm more successful, I'm more powerful, I have greater ambition, I make more money," only leads to a broken, ineffective system full of unhappy, oppressed employees who don't understand how this person without an ounce of sense or people skills has been able to gain so much authority over so many people.

In the end, as with all things, it's not the system itself that's broken, it's the people within it. Those that are able to accept their position of authority without adopting an attitude of authority will ultimately be more successful and more effective with more satisfied, productive employees. Those that can look at those employees they've been given authority over and say, "Hey, I may be your "boss", but we're ultimately just peers working towards the same goals, and we all have valuable knowledge and experience we can bring to the table. At the end of the day, I may be making the final decision, but I respect every single one of you as smart, hard-working individuals whose thoughts and input are just as important as mine."

Positions and paychecks are ultimately just indicators of responsibility and seniority, not authority. An attitude of unity and respect, and a willingness to both teach and learn from others creates its own authority, no promotion or fancy office required.

If you can agree with me that, at the end of the day, we're all just working Joes trying to earn a living, everything is gonna be fine.

Friday, March 8, 2013

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Closing My Account

So, I recently had to open an account with Stamps.com because eBay is retarded and made a shipping service (Parcel Select) that's only available for commercial shipments an option for sellers. Of course, I only discovered this once my auctions had ended and the buyers had paid the shipping rate for a service eBay/PayPal did not actually provide online labels for. My only option was to open an account with Stamps.com and use their services to print my shipping labels.

Stamps.com offers a free trial account for a month with a free $5 account credit, and they send you a free "starter kit" with S&H supplies. However, once the month is up, they start to charge you a monthly fee ($9.99 and up). While it had been easy enough to use their service and print my labels, and I appreciated having the option, I had no intention of keeping my account open, as I always use eBay/PayPal's shipping services for my auctions (when they actually provide them for the shipping options they make available for auctioned items).

Also, I'm poor.

Needless to say, while I knew I had to close my Stamps.com account prior to the end of my 30-day trial period in order to avoid fees for a service I was not going to be using, I dreaded having to call and listen to a needling account representative repeatedly try to press me into keeping my account open, or offering special bonuses or rates to keep me on as a valued customer. It's like when you call to close your credit card account and they transfer you to a "specialist" whose only job is to question your reasons for closing the account and use specially designed psychological tactics to pressure or guilt you into keeping your account open.

I'm not hating on these people, I truly feel sorry for them, and admire them in a strange way because I could never, in a million years, do what they do. I'm a very non-confrontational, go-with-the-flow kinda person. Naturally, if I worked as an account closure "specialist", my first call would be from a blustery middle-aged guy with a New York accent demanding that his account be closed "rightfrigginnow", and my immediate response would be, "Absolutely, sir. Say no more. Your account will be closed before you can say pickled Piccadilly pimpernel." And my superiors would review the call (because it would, of course, be recorded for quality and training purposes), and they'd furiously summon me into their office and demand to know why I didn't advance the customer's case to the "kittens will die a fiery death if you close your account" level. I'd be fired after less than a week, and that would be the end of my illustrious call center career.

Call Center

All this being said, I still knew I had to get my account closed, so tonight I slowly, reluctantly, dreadingly dialed the 1-888 number listed on the Stamps.com web site for account closures. I listened to the prompts and was surprised to hear that there was actually an option specifically for closing Stamps.com accounts. There's almost never a phone option to close your account, nor is there any mention of how to do so on the company's web site. It's like they think if they don't mention closing your account anywhere EVER, the notion to do so will never enter your mind, or you'll simply accept that closing your account is not, in fact, an option, nor will it be. EVER.

So, I press the number for the account closing option and waited to be redirected to a "specialist" who would proceed to wheel and deal and poke and plead while I squirmed on the other end of the line, trying to formulate the most firm and decisive response along the lines of NO that I could muster (since NO typically fails to work the first 27 times I say it).

Gulping down deep breaths, I cringe as a voice comes on the line, introducing themselves as Jessica, an automated assitan-whaaaaaaa-??? "Automated assistant"!?!? You mean... I don't have to sit through an agonizing fifteen minutes of pleading and "limited-time bonus offers" to ask you to do the same thing I asked you to do before you wasted fifteen minutes of my time and yours? Nope. All I had to do was hear two recorded 15-second extended trial offers, press 2 twice to say, "No thanks, I'd still like to close my account," and then listen to Jessica tell me she was sorry I was leaving, but she would close my account and send me a confirmation email within the next two days. Jessica ended the call with a friendly "goodbye" and, without further ado, hung up on me like the piddly, forty-nine-dollars-and-sixty-seven-cents-worth-of-business customer that I was.

I put my phone down, shocked, relieved, and actually quite impressed at the ease and efficiency with which I had just been able to close my unwanted account. I mean, granted, the easiest and most ideal method would have been to simply close it on online, the same way I'd created it, but if I had to make a phone call, by golly that was the easiest account-closingest phone call I'd ever had the pleasure of making. Kudos to you, Stamps.com, for being a step above all those other companies out there that threaten to kill cute baby animals unless you continue to do business with them. You turned what could have been a very awkward and cringe-worthy phone call into an easy breezy and, yes, even pleasant exchange. eBay/PayPal could stand to take a page from your book. Color me impressed.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

50 Years of Bond

So, I recently acquired (from Amazon) the Bond 50 Blu-ray Collection that compiles all 22 of the mainstream Bond films released between 1962 (Dr. No) and 2008 (Quantum of Solace).

James Bond 50 Year Blu-ray Collection

While the set was released prior to the 11.09.12 release date of the latest Bond film, Skyfall, in theaters, the designers of this lovely boxed compilation obviously had hard core collectors in mind because they included a "reserved" slot for the Skyfall Blu-ray disc.

Bond 50 Slot Reserved for Skyfall

I plan on keeping the disc in its original case once I pick up my own Blu-ray copy of Skyfall, but, as a collector, I have a lot of appreciation for the thought that went into the design of this set.

Tangents aside, I've been watching my way through the Bond series (in order of release) and have made my way up to Thunderball (1965).

Bond & Domino on the Beach - Thunderball (1965)

It can be difficult for me to choose favorites when it comes to films, especially older films, but of the four films I've seen so far, I probably enjoyed this one the most. And I use "enjoyed" somewhat liberally here. I'm sure I'm a little biased because I'm from a younger generation and am used to higher quality (on all fronts) in today's film industry, but it was difficult for me to take Thunderball very seriously because of the cheesy action and dialogue, gaping plot holes and Bond's tendency to just carelessly leave expensive clothing and equipment lying all over creation. And the underwater fight sequence at the end. I'm sure the underwater filming was a big deal back in the 60s, but when Bond and his allies had either killed or disabled over two dozen of the dozen men (wait, what?) that Largo had brought along on his nefarious mission, I was too busy scoffing at the lack of continuity to truly appreciate what was proably groundbreaking camera work. And I'm certain that true Bond fans (especially from the "Connery generation") would tear me a new one for dissing Thunderball, just as I'll probably light into punk kids 25 years from now when they scoff at the Daniel Craig era of Bond's film legacy. It would appear, however, that that legacy is making a return to its roots with Skyfall.

Prior to Skyfall's release in theaters, I read an article in Entertainment Weekly discussing how director Sam Mendes and Co. essentially wanted to create a Bond film that paid homage to the earlier films in the series. They wanted to bring back some of the elements that would be familiar to those from the Boomer generation who watched the original Bond on the big screen, perhaps trying to draw back in an older crowd that had begun to shy away from the darker, grittier tone of the more recent installments. A cameo for the classic, gray Aston Martin, the re-introduction of "Q Branch" and it's wacky technical gadgets, and the return of Bond's bantering office frenemy, Moneypenny, are all instantly recognizable nods that older fans will delight in.

When I finally went and saw Skyfall at the "cheap theater" (Cinemark 10 in Matthews), the film was still in its first week. I remember arriving early and sitting in the parking lot waiting for the rest of my party, agonizing that we weren't going to get good seats (that theater does get busy, believe it or not). As the showtime approached and I continued to wait, a slew of vehicles began pouring into the parking lot and I watched nervously as a crowd of folks began to emerge and make their way towards the theater. But they exited their vehicles slowly and carefully, and their progress towards the cinema doors was unhurried and shuffling. Nearly all of them sported heavy clothing, glasses and graying hair, and I realized that these were all Boomers come to see their favorite unstoppable British spy in action on the big screen once again.

Bond & the Aston Martin - Skyfall (2012)

Sure enough, when my ticket was purchased and I made my way into the darkened theater to find a seat, I counted nearly two dozen other viewers and not a head under 50. (Of course, they were all sitting quite a ways back, and so there still good seats to be had.) Throughout the movie, I couldn't help but grin at the cheering and clapping and hoots of laughter coming from the seats behind. Knowing how much those folks were enjoying the little flashes of familiarity streaming across the screen was almost as fun as the movie itself.

That being said, I truly appreciate that, in a series that has now spanned over a half a century, every generation will have their own memories of what they consider "their" Bond. My Bond will always be Daniel Craig, because Casino Royale (2006) was the first 007 film I had the pleasure of viewing in its entirety. I was aware of the previous installments and the various actors who had donned the 007 mantle over the years, but getting ahold of all of the installments of such an expansive series had always proved either too difficult or too expensive.

All in all, while the older Bond films may be a little cheesy and outdated at times, I am thrilled with the Bond 50 Collection and relish being able to finally watch the series in its entirety. While I'll always have my Bond, getting to know the 007s of generations past can only increase my appreciation for newer Bond installments, and for those yet to come.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Freedom of Silence

On December 15th, 1791, The United States Bill of Rights came into full effect as the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, serving to protect the rights and freedoms of people, and to limit the power of the federal government.

While all of the amendments contained within the U.S. Bill of Rights are equally important and remain relevant and applicable over 200 years after their ratification, it could be argued that one of them, the First Amendment, has garnered more awareness within American culture, and has been vociferated more often than all the others:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.1

If broken down and thoroughly examined, there are quite a number of rights being addressed within that single paragraph. However, it could easily be argued that the average American's knowledge of the First Amendment can be narrowed down to just three of the words contained within: freedom of speech.

When an individual feeling wronged, offended or simply trying to make a point (legitimate or not), vocalizes their thoughts and sentiments and receives a response implying even a hint of suppression, negation or suggestion that they remain silent on the issue, what is, quite often, the initial retaliatory counter-response? First Amendment Rights! Freedom of Speech! Most people, whether or not they fully grasp the entire concept of this small portion of the First Amendment or how it applies to their situation, are very quick to declare what they believe is the right to say whatever they want, however they want, whenever they want, wherever they want. And in the 21st century, the age of technology and faceless communication, the "wherever" is quite often on the internet.

While our First Amendment rights have had over 200 years to be dissected and examined and applied both successfully and unsuccessfully throughout various levels of our laws and society and daily lives, what many people do not realize is that how these rights apply to our online lives, in many cases, has yet to be determined. The law as it applies to "electronic communication" and the internet is still in its infancy. While guidelines and tentative regulations are being established via case law and other means every day around the country, the government faces a plodding, uncharted uphill battle as it struggles, often from sheer necessity, to take these centuries-old rights and apply them to our rapidly evolving, modern day electronic activities. (For a more recent example of how our laws are evolving regarding online activity, see: cyberharassment, an issue that has received attention on a national level.)

Needless to say, while many people may, indeed, be unaware of the rights (or lack thereof) that they are entitled to on the internet, this has in no way prevented them from exercising their "freedom of speech" entitlement (as they understand it) to its full extent. It would seem that many people have adopted the attitude of, "We've had freedom of speech for over 200 years and I'm included in that right, so I'm gonna say what I want, how I want, when I want and where I want, and there's nothing you can do about it. By golly." This attitude, upon spreading to the internet, has inevitably gained two key allies: anonymity and physical absence (or, as it's more commonly referred to, "hiding behind the keyboard").

Having a heated argument is much less of an unpleasant experience when you are not physically present for said argument, or, better yet, if your opponent is not privy to your identity. It's much easier to try and force a stubbornly fixed and uninformed opinion on "nickblows22511" than a 27 year old, 5'10", 215lb. caucasian male with brown hair and glasses, whose emotions are clearly visible via his expressions and body language. It's difficult to keep the steam in a petty, unresearched argument when you're in the physical presence of those you are arguing with. It's hard to pretend you know what you're talking about when your hesitation, uncertainty and lack of information are put on display through your own expressions and body language. But enter the keyboard and the LED screen and it's a completely different battle. We cannot be seen and we have no identity beyond what limited information we've chosen to make publicly available about ourselves. This gives us a sense of power, security and entitlement, enabling us to say whatever we want, however we want, whenever we want, wherever we want with no real consequence, simply because we can. But does the fact that was can mean that we should? Has the supposed right to freedom of speech overshadowed the oft-forgotten and much more powerful act of silence?

Pretend, for a moment, that it has just been announced that a series (book, television, game, take your pick) that you are an enormously rabid fan of has been greenlit for a big-budget movie adaptation helmed by one of your favorite directors. You are one of the first to hit all the major forums to proclaim (with pictures!) your opinion of which actors/actresses would be the best choices for each character in the film. You highlight every single tidbit of news and every blurry set photo on reddit and in your Twitter feed. As time goes on, the casting choices are announced (ZOMG Nathan Fillion got the part !!!!!! *squeeeeeee*) and you love nearly everyone who was chosen.

Finally, the release date is announced and you gleefully Fandango tickets for the midnight showing. The big night comes, you're waiting in line six hours before showtime, get fantastic seats and enjoy every rapturous moment of the most excellent adaptation of the most perfect series ever known to mankind. You come home from the theater and your excitement is immediately splashed all across your Twitter, your Facebook, your blog and all of the major forums. The next morning, you wake up and eagerly peruse all of the responses to your exuberant 3am babblings (26 likes, win). Everyone loved the movie, they had so much fun, they want to completely re-read/re-watch/re-play the series all over again now because it's so amazing, and... what's this? A linkback to your blog post by another prominent blogger (and outspoken fan of the series) whom you've favorited and often linkback to as well. They, too, went to the film's midnight showing and were prompted to compose a passionate, early-morning blog post. But unlike you, they absolutely hated the adaptation. They rant with much ado: the editing was haphazard, the actors completely reinvented the characters, the storyline was entirely out of continuum with an excessive amount of artistic liberty, the director was far too obsessed with CGI elements, the soundtrack was gaudy, the dialogue cheesy... on an on goes the post with nothing but harsh criticism and disappointment throughout. And for the cherry on the cake, this blogger used your post (your post!) to highlight all the reasons why they absolutely detested the film. Your "mindless fanboy enthusiasm" caused you to "view the film through rose-colored glasses, serving only to mask its glaring shortcomings".

Computer Guy

Why, the absolute nerve! How dare they use your post (that you poured your heart into!) to support their ridiculous, unfounded, unfair and entirely incorrect opinion! Without a moment's hesitation, you compose a scathing reply, typing furiously and without pause, pouring your shock, hurt and anger into what you feel is a justly deserved response from someone who has been criminally wronged. A brief, righteous grin quirks at the corner of your mouth as you hit "Submit", throwing your response (with a linkback to the offending post) up onto your blog for all to see. That will show them.

The next day, you eagerly login to view the inevitable linkback and counter-response to your passionate rebuke. A slight frown crosses your face as you see no linkbacks to your posts, nor any comments from the offending blogger. A page refresh confirms your findings, and a quick visit to the other blog shows absolutely neither a reference to nor acknowledgement of your heated response. Instead, there is a very run-of-the-mill contrast and comparison post between two recently released portable gaming systems.

Your initial reaction is confusion. You linked back to the blogger's post, they had to have seen your response. Your post had also been linked on your Facebook page, and while you weren't immediate friends with the blogger, you knew for a fact that you had at least a dozen mutual friends, several of which had commented on your Facebook link. Your confusion quickly shifts into indignation and perhaps mild disappointment. You'd said some very offensive things in your response. Things people don't just let go. Maybe the blogger was simply taking some time to craft a worthy counter-response. Surely one would be forthcoming.

But several more days go by with absolutely no mention of you or the film or your posts. Then a week. Just for kicks, you make a passing reference to the "incident" in a new post just to remind the offending blogger (whom you've unfavorited, by the way) that you haven't forgotten about his transgression. But a month goes by and there is no response to be had. And whenever you spot a mention of or reference to the blogger online, it rekindles your feelings of indignation and enmity. And whenever you rewatch the movie you so anticipated and adored, you can't help but think of the offending post and how that situation (in your mind) was never resolved.

Certainly, as time goes on, the whole incident will be (mostly) forgotten, lost to the infinite annals of petty internet squabbling, but it will always be noted that it was the lack of response, the silence, that weighed more heavily on your mind than any reply, no matter how offensive or unjust, ever could have. Had a response been immediately forthcoming, the external reaction may have been a seething, furiously pounded, emotionally charged comment for the ages, but inside you would have been gleefully rubbing your hands together, anticipating an all-out, no holds barred comment war of uncharted proportions. Because it was the response you craved. The reaction of an equally indignant internet guru. The acknowledgement of your feelings and your opinions and your words aiming to sting. What few people seem to realize or understand is that it is the lack of response, reaction or acknowledgement that burns the most. There is nothing we hate more than being ignored. Nothing more maddening than silence when a reaction is what we crave.

But we prize our freedom of speech. We relish in our ability, our right, to respond and react and vocalize our opinion by any means necessary. We have for so long been a culture that insisted upon our freedom of speech, crying out from the rooftops "First Amendment rights!" at the threat of suppression, that we have forgotten the power of silence. We so often use and abuse our seemingly inviolable right to open our mouths or sit at our keyboards and say whatever we want, however we want, whenever we want, wherever we want, that it rarely crosses our minds to simply say nothing. We have experienced being ignored and the power that it wields, and yet when a time comes when it would be most prudent and effective for us to remain silent, to simply smile and walk away, what do we immediately do? We respond, react and acknowledge because it feels good and right. But nothing is ever gained.

How many times have you read a short article online and proceeded to scroll down and read some of the comments? How many times have you shaken your head and thought, "What fools. What idiots. What ignoramuses. None of them has a clue what they're talking about." And how many times have you then proceeded to submit your own comment telling these faceless individuals just how foolish they are and how nothing they say online really matters? And when the next reader stumbles across the article and proceeds to peruse the comments, thinking your exact thoughts, will he then scroll down and single you out as the one commenter who has any sense in the bunch? Of course not. He will think, "What a bunch of idiots. Don't any of them realize that nothing they say on the internet really matters?" And he will proceed to post those very words. As will the next commenter and the next and the next. And they will all be labelled as ignoramuses, wasting their time, wasting their words. For it is a rare thing indeed that someone takes the time to say anything meaningful... that a comment is made that's insightful and informed and relevant. If what you have to say cannot be described as at least one of those things, then perhaps it would be better to withhold your opinion and remain silent.

Because though we've only had the right to freedom of speech for a few centuries, the power of silence has been ours since the beginning of time, no amendments required.