This YouTube Genre is a Godsend

In the online world of today "white man" has come to seem synonymous with "irredeemably evil piece of shit." I'm feeling the hate, and I don't like it. But it's not just my skin and my sex that marks me as evil incarnate, I'm also old. I'm not a Boomer, so I don't get THAT level of hatred, not in the abstract. For the most part, nobody who isn't a Gen Xer themselves has anything to say about Generation X, but when young people, particularly young women, see me IRL, their facial expressions and body language communicate to me that I affect them the way a pile of rotting fish guts might.  

These categories of race, gender, and age feel like yawning chasms between me and so many of the online communities that I observe but don't interact with.  But I've discovered a genre of YouTube videos that make me feel good: Young, black women (and sometimes young men) who do "reaction videos" to musical suggestions that their subscribers recommend to them. The songs are often from 1970s and 80s guitar-led rock bands, and because the suggestions are coming from their audience, often with a donation attached, the young YouTubers are highly motivated to give the songs a fair shake and find value in them.  

My favorite personality in this community is RogueRxyce, a young woman who sounds American to my ears. I think it's her bright smile and sparkling personality that endears her to me. She's unrelentingly positive, and I've savored a warm glow watching and listening to her develop a love of Pink Floyd and the guitar stylings of David Gilmore.  Pink Floyd was a favorite band of mine in my late high school and community college days, so the familiarity and the positive associations with their songs is inscribed deep in my psyche.  Rouge's first Pink Floyd reaction video was to a live performance of Comfortably Numb from 1994. Normally, I would cringe at the thought that someone's first exposure to Pink Floyd would be a post-Roger Waters performance, but Comfortably Numb has always been a David Gilmore song. David wrote it, and it features one of his more recognizable and emotional guitar solos, and this 1994 performance pulls out all the stops. Rouge responded to the song's lyrics, but it was David's guitar solo that literally brought her to tears.  


Probably my second favorite YouTube creator in this genre is Empress Joy-Jean. She's another young black woman, but her accent tells me she's from somewhere in Africa. I don't know African accents well enough to say what country she is from. She too has reacted to a number of Pink Floyd songs, but the video of hers that I enjoyed most was when she watched Stevie Ray Vaughn performing a live version of Texas Flood.  

I was familiar with the name Stevie Ray Vaughn before his death in1995, but I wasn't really a fan until I discovered his live performances on YouTube sometime in the last couple of years, so this isn't accessing the inner sanctum of my soul like a classic Pink Floyd song does, but Empress Joy-Jean's delight and amazement as Vaughn's passion and superhuman guitar technique touched me just the same. Here's another video in which a young black woman is reduced to tears by a white man playing a guitar.  


Out of sheer laziness, I won't list all of the YouTubers in this genre whose videos I have enjoyed over the last few days, but there are many. There are three young black male/female couples who make videos in this genre, and there's a duo consisting of a young black man and an older black man (who is still probably younger than me) who listen and react to old white-guy music. The elder of the two knows his way around the genre and he guides his young protégé into the land of, "Holy shit, these white guys made music with passion, talent and soul."  

There are also young white YouTubers who react to the same body of songs, but I never click on their videos. I want the experience of seeing young, black people discover and appreciate the music of my youth.  

One thing these YouTubers NEVER mention is the race of the performers. They never SAY, "Wow, these white men can really play." That's just the subtext. One video which many of the folks in this video genre watch and react to with wholly positive affect is a live performance of Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd. The video features the band in concert in front of an all white audience at the Oakland Coliseum in 1977, and they have a giant Confederate battle flag as a backdrop. Even with this unmissable symbol of white supremacy on screen, no black YouTuber I've seen yet has said anything about it. They focus on the music, the energy of the band, and the excitement of the crowd.  

To give the young men their due, here's Jojo reacting to the album version of Free Bird (in which Jojo does mention race but only to say that he didn't grow up listening to this kind of music):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjwubox38lE  

As ugly as race relations have gotten in this country in the last couple of decades, these (mostly) young YouTubers are helping to heal our societal wounds and close what have come to seem like unbridgeable gaps between us. Or that's what I imagine anyway as I sit here alone (except for my cat) in my apartment watching YouTube on my Roku TV during this interminable COVID isolation.


Another death

My mom called me tonight to tell me that they took Ungo to the vet today to have him put down. He was 15, which is a pretty good age for a dog his size. He hadn't really been "my dog" since mid 2008. Really, he was my brother's dog. Still, he always recognized me and was pleased as punch to see me when I would visit Arkansas, no matter how many years since he'd seen me last. And he was such a happy, good-natured soul.


I voted

I'm not the kind of person to not know who I'll be voting for as I roll into the polling station, but today, my pencil hovered over the Andrew Yang oval for an instant before I filled in the oval by Bernie Sanders' name.

I live in Vermont, so my vote doesn't matter (outside of the very local level). My state's primary contest couldn't conceivably come down to my vote. The decision of which oval to fill in amounts to a conversation I was having with myself.

Ultimately, I voted for Bernie because he is an active candidate and the Neoliberal power-brokers in the DNC are pulling out all the stops to undermine his campaign. If Andrew Yang had stayed in the race, I would have voted for him, but the contest now is between the Sanders revolution and the status quo, and I despise the status quo Democratic Party.


Corona Virus Panic continued

Yesterday, I posted a video to YouTube about how panicking in response to the news cycle obsession with the most recent infectious disease outbreak is maladaptive. In response, I got push-back from multiple people telling me why I'm wrong about THIS panic-inducing story. Here's the best written one that I've received so far, (for ease of viewing, I have inserted paragraph breaks not present in the original):


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Corona Virus Panic

The following is clipped from a private email correspondence. There's nothing particularly private in this bit other than my personal framing of the current hysteria propagated by the corporate news media and professional hucksters, catastrophists, and fear-mongers.


Personally, I don't think everything is falling apart. I think that this corona virus panic is just that, a panic with very little basis in objective reality. If the worst case scenario plays out, and a full 2% of the global population dies off in the next year, it will be a minor blip in the story of technological civilization. Complex adaptive systems typically benefit from minor perturbations. It would suck to lose a loved one to a communicable disease, but it's also a fixture of the human condition. A much greater challenge to our civilization takes the form of demographic unbalance. Old people linger for much longer after the end of the working lives than they used to, and younger people have forgotten how to make babies. Covid19 is like an unexpected expense that screws up your monthly budget. Our demographic malformation is like a crushing debt load that you carry for decades and which shapes the course of your life.

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That's it. No more print interviews.

Apparently, something about the way I put words together does not compute for the humans and algorithms that turn recordings of spoken sentences into text.

There's a chapter about my life and career in a book that will be released in less than a month. The author recorded our conversation, which at the time I thought would help the details of what I had to say make the transition from spoken conversation to the page, but in fact it had the opposite result.

For example, I voted for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate, in the 2016 presidential election. In explaining my outlook and relationship to the mainstream mentality, at one point in the conversation, I said, "I didn't vote for Trump." What appears in the book is, "I did vote for Trump."

When I informed the author, he apologized and explained, "I worked off a transcript of a recorded interview prepared via Print, the transcribing service… which is powered by algos, not humans."

If you search Amazon for KMO, you will find one book for which I am listed as the author. It is a collection of transcribed interviews, and I know from hard won experience that transcripts that you pay to have made are never accurate. NEVER. Some of the transcripts in my book were prepared by a volunteer, and those were excellent, but people who are doing it to make money are likely in a hurry, harried, money-stressed, and, God bless 'em, often not very smart. I turned my recorded interviews into print ready documents in 2010. The work was all done by humans, and it cost a pretty penny, and I still had to spend a lot of my own time and effort to correct the mistakes.

Since then, algorithmic transcription services have hit the scene, taking paying work away from humans. From time to time I've thought that I could have all of my interviews transcribed to post to my website now that algorithms have made the cost trivial. I discovered that the transcripts were always so riddled with errors that the time and effort that I would have to devote to straightening them out started to approach the time it would take me to simply create the transcript from scratch myself.

Most of those transcripts, inexpensive as they were, were a waste of money, as I didn't ever carve out the time needed to compare them to the original recording and correct the mistakes. Sometimes, the transcription algorithms produced such gibberish that I couldn't even describe their output as containing mistakes. To say that the machine made a transcription error implies that there was some evident correspondence between the recorded speech and the supposed transcript.

While algorithmic transcription services do the job faster and cheaper than the humans they displaced, where the human transcribers often didn't understand some of the ideas expressed in the words they were converting from sounds to strings of letters, the algorithms that now do that job understand nothing at all. Understanding is not their bag. It doesn't play any role in what they do.

I now recall reading somewhere, decades ago, that you should avoid using the word "not" when its omission would change the meaning of what you wanted to say.

Dangerous: Do not use the word "not."

Less dangerous: Avoid using the word "not."

But even safer, I now think, is to decline to be interviewed for print. In audio, I have better control over my message because I'm not relying on the interviewer to understand my meaning, remember it and relate it to the audience. I can talk past him or her and communicate directly with the listener. The person who made the recording can edit it to misrepresent my intentions, but that requires an act of deliberate malice. In print, my intended meaning can mutate into its antithesis even when the interviewer means well.

At present, withdrawing from my career as a very minor public figure is not an option. That's how I pay the rent, but I've learned a lesson here, and now I'm thinking that I might want to start looking for the exit and find a way to make money that does not involve being known to people whom I will never meet.



Yesterday, I heard that Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter accident. I knew that he was a basketball player, and that is all. I didn't know what team he played for or that he was retired. This morning, I called up his Wikipedia entry and looked at his picture. Not even a glimmer of recognition. He was nobody to me.

Yesterday, when I heard (or read) the news, I knew that millions of Americans (and probably as many Chinese basketball fans) would be emotionally devastated by it, and I resolved to post nothing about it. I understood that adopting the "I don't care about sports" pose in public at such a moment would be in poor taste.

As for the dangers of riding in helicopters, "Rich people problems," I thought. Again, best not to push that particular line at a time when people are mourning the death of a beloved rich dude.

I remember being in pain over the death of Prince and mentioning it to a young cashier at my local grocery store. I don't think he actually rolled his eyes, but his expression and body language were clear. "Old people problems." That made the hurt worse.

A handful of hours, at most, after learning of Bryant's death, I got a private message on Twitter informing me that a Scottish man named John had died. I'd never met John in person, but he was dear to me. John was one of my earliest podcasting peers. Under the sobriquet Queer Ninja, he was the creator of a podcast called The Sounds of World Wide Weed. It was a music podcast, and while Queer Ninja had excellent taste in music, it was his gentle personality that really made listening to his show such an enjoyable and uplifting experience.

"Easy, man," was his signature intro, and he often couldn't complete a sentence because his infectious, good-natured, stoned laughter got the better of him. For a time, I used a recording of his laughter as my cell phone ring tone.

While I've had a Twitter account for many years, I never really got into Twitter until just recently. I got kicked off of Facebook a year and a half ago, and no social media platform has risen to take it's place, which is probably for the best.

Only recently have I discovered Twitter's value as a procrastination prop. I made several posts yesterday that all seem trivial, snarky and unworthy to me now.

I didn't even know that Queer Ninja was on Twitter, though in hindsight, it's obvious that he would be. I didn't follow him, and he didn't follow me. I follow him now, though he'll never post again, nor will he ever know how his final Tweet affected me when I read it.

I didn't know that Queer Ninja struggled with addiction until I received word of his death. The person who contacted me told me that he died in his sleep and that he had been clean from heroin for 50 days.

When I looked at his Twitter feed, I saw a pinned Tweet dated 10 Dec, 2019:
That was 48 days ago.

When I learned that he was gone, I went to my Gmail inbox and searched for his email address. The last message I received from him was dated Wed, Jan 28, 2009, 9:41 AM. Eleven years ago tomorrow. I had no idea it had been that long.

In his final Tweet he gushed with enthusiasm about the premier of Star Trek: Picard. I so wish that I could talk with him about the show, or about anything at all.

In recent years, I have let my reclusive tendencies get the better of me. If I'm on a recorded call with someone, I can put on my KMO podcast personality and have an engaged, animated discussion on a variety of topics, but personal phone calls are awkward and uncomfortable for me. There are friends that I haven't spoken to in years, but actually calling them is a psychological hurdle I haven't managed to clear. Talking to my kids by phone is similarly beyond the threshold of my good intentions (though recently we have connected by Zoom while playing together in a shared Minecraft Realm). My mom calls often. My brother calls once in a blue moon. I'm friends with a client of mine, and sometimes work calls detour into extended, non-work-related tangents, but the only people I ever talk to by phone are people who call me. And few do. (This is not a plea for people to call me. I don't answer calls from unknown callers.)

Queer Ninja wasn't a celebrity, though he did touch the lives of many people he didn't know. I did know him, but not as well I wish I had. Had I known him better, today would be even more painful for me than it is. I wish those who knew and loved him as much emotional comfort as the day will allow. I'll say no more for now.


"You can get what you want and still not be happy." -Cerebus

Well, my designated loser of a next-door neighbor seems to be in jail. He had a parole hearing on Wednesday, and it seems like he failed to pass muster before the judge. I haven't seen him since.

The thing I was afraid would happen didn't. I thought my neighbor would get pinched but that his crew would continue to operate the business out of his apartment in his absence. That hasn't happened.

I could hear someone moving around in the apartment the night before last, but the usual traffic has ceased. I got what I wanted in that the constant stream of human detritus is no longer flowing in and out of my building all day, but my neighbor is not a violent person. He's never been rude to me, and he even seems to have a calming influence on the members of his crew who display rougher edges than he does. My world is a better place now that the drug dealing has moved elsewhere, but the world is no better for his being in jail. 


Amy Webb and the problem of too many white men in the AI development tribe

I just posted this to r/artificial. I joined the subreddit to make the post, so I have no established reputation or credibility with its regular members. I don't expect my post to elicit many responses.

Posted byu/Kayemmo
just now
According to Amy Webb, a major problem with AI is the over-representation of White Men in its development.
I'm re-listening to the audiobook version of The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity by Amy Webb. Throughout the book, she stresses that a major problem with AI is that it is being developed by white men. That means that many of the unquestioned assumptions that white men hold are given uncritical acceptance and get encoded in the AI systems that white men create. In the book, she asserts the following:

AI's tribes are inculcating a culture in which women and certain minorities, like black and Hispanic people, are excluded, plain and simple. In 2017, a Google engineer sent around a now-infamous memo arguing that women are biologically less capable at programming. Google's CEO, Sundar Pichai, eventually responded by firing the guy who wrote the memo, but he also said, "Much of what was in that memo is fair to debate."
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