Behind the unseens

Earlier this year, we brought up the concept of Invisible Girlfriend, a phone app that pretends to be dating you for whatever reason that leads you to believe you require pretense. (Invisible Boyfriend is also available, should you prefer.) One thing we didn’t get into was that either this was some seriously upgraded artificial intelligence, or some poor soul has to sit there and write all those texts to you.

We have now heard from one of those poor souls:

With each job, I would see the person’s first name, last initial and hometown; “how we met”; and my own assigned name, age, and which of six personality types they’d given their Invisible. Now I’m adventurous and fun. Now I’m cheerful and outgoing.

There were 3 major rules:

  • I was always supposed to be upbeat in my messages.
  • I’m not supposed to break character.
  • No sexting. (Photos are blocked on the service.)

I’d get the story of how we met and the last 10 messages we’d exchanged. This setup is designed to create the illusion of continuity; ideally, an Invisible Boyfriend would seem like a steady, stable presence in a user’s life, instead of what it really is: a rotating cast of men and women. And it is both: a woman who works for the service previously told me she prefers playing the role of boyfriend because she knows what a woman wants to hear.

And what price love? Surprisingly little:

If I spent an hour answering texts, and took the full five minutes to write each one, I’d be making 60 cents an hour, far below the minimum wage. This is legal because all the workers on the platform are classified as independent contractors rather than employees. “Contributors have a tremendous amount of control over their decisions — for example, when to perform a task, when to complete it, and even if they want to complete it at all,” said Jeffrey H. Newhouse, an employment lawyer at Hirschler Fleischer, by email. “That means the contributor isn’t an employee and, as a result, employee protections like the minimum wage don’t apply.”

Okay, maybe not so surprising.

(Via Hit Coffee.)

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Your Web form blows goats

Rather a lot of Web forms blow goats, and not necessarily healthy goats either, but this one seems particularly likely to abuse your kid:

This morning I logged into my account to “set my Privacy Choices.” I thought they were already set, but they sent me a letter saying their site is changing in new and exciting ways to make my life EASIER. So I logged in to check on my PRIVACY CHOICES.

First mistake right off the bat. No commercial Web site has ever changed in new and exciting ways to make anyone’s life easier. It’s always (1) change our back end for the sheer hell of it or (2) find more efficient ways to monetize our customers’ personal data or (3) both 1 and 2.

Still, she waded through the quagmire, and finally left this advice for the morassholes:

Your PRIVACY CHOICES pages — all of them, in the entire form — are chock full o’ FAIL. I’d attach screen caps but you don’t allow it. So I’ll try to explain in the 400 characters you allow here.

The helpful “error” message I got when I tried to enter my email address in the form? WTF? It’s the same email address I use to log into the “secure” area of the site and I bet you knew that. It’s the same email the bank uses to send me “Your Statement is Available Now” emails. So this is a huge coincidence, I’m sure, that the Privacy Choices page threw red errors on my email address, but then suddenly ignored them as I continued filling in the form. Testing me, were you? Most people give up at the red messages but I’m an asshole. Shit, it says I only have a few more characters left to tell you what’s wrong with the Privacy Choices pages on the site. I am feeling the stress now. I will just note that your “open a new account” page and your “make a payment” page are working fine as always. Just not the “Privacy Choices” section. Nothing there works. Such a strange coincidence. Like, what are the odds?

A reminder from Consumerist, as though you needed it:

[M]ost privacy policies are terrible. They do not guarantee you privacy; they just outline and detail the ways in which you do not have any.

Which might explain why they don’t give a damn whether you can respond to them or not.

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Strange search-engine queries (499)

People look for stuff. This has been true of the World Wide Web ever since it went, um, World Wide back in the 1990s. I figure, the very least I can do is try to find what they’re looking for, and this is what the logs are for.

how to get rid of texting sound on galaxy prevolt:  Maybe if you don’t actually text.

using your knowledge of the language of the political subculture:  Describe a method of destroying said subculture once and for all.

i hope they serve beer in hell:  They do. However, the British provided the refrigeration system.

we first knew them as the cute:  “Who are the major consumers of cosmetic surgery?”

too large penis:  Yeah, tell me another one, Stubby.

teenagers spend billions of dollars on stereo equipment and compact discs. they have the ability:  To deafen you at great distances.

world tour fishing couldn’t connect to gate server:  Insufficient bait.

how to hump a stuffed animal if your a girl:  Actual girls would never, ever have to ask this.

extreme jailbait:  You’re thinking of zygotes.

four winds revolving restaurant half price:  Must have been the day they could muster up only two winds.

spoony’s brother killed a man:  Doo-dah, doo-dah.

she’s got bite marks on her tongue:  All the doo-dah day.

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Ain’t that a blitzkrieg

In 1988, when Dave Marsh decided to come up with a list of the 1001 greatest singles, he started, for whatever reason, with Marvin Gaye. Specifically, it was Gaye’s version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” a song recorded by many others, not one of whom ever came close to the majesty — and the sheer paranoia — of Marvin’s reading. (I’d put the Creedence Clearwater Revival version second if it weren’t eleven fricking minutes long.)

But from the vantage point of Much Later, it’s a little easier to see Marvin Gaye’s importance to the whole rock-and-soul universe: if he isn’t at the very center of it — think Entertainment Weekly’s “Bullseye” feature — he’s never, ever far away. Heck, he’s been verbed. So it doesn’t surprise me so much that the Ramones (yes!) fit into the same groove of that universe:

(Via Dangerous Minds.)

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Forced, one presumes

Sith happens, and sometimes Sith happens a lot:

[S]ome American parents are apparently making their allegiances known by naming their sons after the most notorious, most evil overlord in sci-fi history: Darth Vader.

According to the official Social Security Administration list of the most popular baby names in America in 2014, a couple hundred Star Wars nerds have opted for the name Anakin as their choice baby name, ranking it No. 957 of 1,000. Naturally, Darth would have been too on the nose.

The nerds knew what they were doing: “Darth” is not a name, but a title.

And “Anakin” is apparently on the upswing: it ranked 1,234th in 2013. Meanwhile, “Leia” is 509th among girls; let’s hope no poor child has been saddled with the name “Jar Jar,” or even just “Jar.”

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Call her whenever

E-MO-TION by Carly Rae JepsenIt was absolutely inevitable that I’d buy this album: the very first single, the hyperenergetic “I Really Like You,” would have knocked my socks off, had I had socks on at the time, and the second, the evocative “Run Away With Me,” was enough to get me to pony up for the iTunes Store preorder. Besides, Carly has a certain, um, visual appeal. (Who gave her legs like that? Said she could keep them?) Even if E-MO-TION were more of the same writ five times over, I knew I had to have it, preferably in Apple’s proffered Deluxe Edition with three bonus tracks.

It’s not more of the same, except in the broadest of senses: the worldview here is consistently that of a young woman with stars in her eyes and hearts and flowers on her mind. (By no coincidence, this is very much my own mindset: my inner nine-year-old girl could easily grow up to be someone like this.) It doesn’t at all hurt that Jepsen sounds about ten years younger than the 29 she is. And while there are no fewer than twenty-two producers listed here, normally a sure ticket to Disasterville, somehow E-MO-TION sounds like it was recorded in a couple of marathon sessions over a weekend or two, instead of in dozens of places over a year and a half. As Taylor Swift did with 1989, Jepsen has adopted a 1980s pop sensibility for the duration; while Swift is the sharper lyricist, Jepsen crafts better melodies, perhaps more important to that Eighties vibe. And even the two songs into which Jepsen presumably had the least input — “Making the Most of the Night,” a collaboration with Sia, and “LA Hallucinations,” written with Jepsen’s Vancouver neighbor Zachary Gray of the Zolas, still sound like pure Carly Rae. (“Boy Problems” — and isn’t that the purest girl-group title you ever heard? — brings in both Sia and her producer Greg Kurstin, neither of whom overwhelm the proceedings.)

And I must give some space here to Billboard’s Jason Lipshutz, who notices a phenomenon in the musical press:

E-MO-TION, led by the singles “I Really Like You” and “Run Away With Me,” is so good that many are already deeming it the Pop Album of the Year, and because none of its tracks have remotely taken off at Top 40 radio (which would lead one to believe that the album is not going to be a massive seller upon its release), those same people are anointing CRJ the Underrated Pop Artist of The Moment.

Top 40 radio, of course, lacks video. “Run Away With Me,” which did even not register on Billboard’s Hot 100, has over five million YouTube views. Remember what I said about visual appeal? And while I’m not in a position to judge whether Carly Rae Jepsen is indeed underrated, I’ll happily deem this the Pop Album of the Year, at least for the first two-thirds of the year.


That’s not a sword

“Now this is a sword.” Peace through superior firepower, they always say:

It happened this past Friday night [14 August] at the Perry Market in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Two unknown juveniles ran into the store, one of whom was brandishing a sword or very large knife.

The unknown man holding the sword ran behind the counter to demand cash, and that’s when the store clerk reached for a blade of his own: a full-length scimitar.

And just like that, battle was joined in the aisles of a Pittsburgh corner store — for a few seconds, anyways.

Security-camera video, intermixed with TV coverage, at the link. The perp, once he saw that blade coming for him, fled.

(Via R. Francis Smith.)

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Son of Random Rants

If you suspect that this has been done before, well, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that it’s been done again.

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A girl who once had a dream

Yukiko Okada — call her “Yukko” — always wanted to sing. She’d appear at any audition for anything, hoping to get a break; at sixteen, she finally broke through on one of those TV talent shows and was signed to Japan’s Sun Music Productions.

It didn’t hurt that she had That Look:

Yukiko Okada stretches out

Yukiko Okada in a swimsuit

Her first single, “First Date,” came out early in 1984; her third, “Dreaming Girl,” was enough to win her Best New Artist in the annual Japan Record Awards. It’s — well, listen for yourself:

Why, yes, it is vaguely reminiscent of Tracey Ullman’s cover of Kirsty MacColl’s “They Don’t Know.”

Sponsorship and television deals followed, and Yukko was on her way. But something, somewhere, went terribly wrong:

Okada was found with a slashed wrist in her gas-filled Tokyo apartment, crouching in a closet and crying.

And then two hours later:

[S]he committed suicide on April 8th by jumping off from the roof of the Sun Music building. She was only 18 at the time. Her suicide made headlines and sent shockwaves across Japan. To top it off, several fans of hers followed suite. It caused such a commotion that the term “Yukko Syndrome” came into being to connote follow-on [copycat] suicides. That year (1986), the suicide rate in Japan jumped to an all-time high.

In 2002, the song “Believe In You” was rescued from the vaults and given an orchestral overlay, becoming Yukko’s last single. If only she’d believed a little more in herself.

She would have been forty-eight today.

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Drop and give me $75

I was unloading groceries at the checkout stand this afternoon when something in my left thigh decided it wanted my attention and promptly knocked me to the ground, or at least several inches closer to it. If you’ve ever had anything that hurt like a son of a bitch, this is the son of a bitch it hurt like. For a moment I regretted not having bought a fresh bottle of Advil.

It can’t have been too severe: I was somehow able to walk, albeit haltingly, and I didn’t notice anything unusual-looking when I got home. Still, walking it off did not make it go away, and I may have to dip into my secret stash of Lortab if it doesn’t lighten up in the next couple of hours.

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Hideosity afoot

We may or may not have had this discussion before:

“Peep toes are a bit of an issue to get just right. Open it too much & make it too shallow and it looks odd. Make the gap too small and it, well, looks like this.”

Open-toe pump by Narciso Rodriguez Fall 2015So says Cristina of ShoeTease in her roundup of “The Ugliest Shoes from the Fall 2015 Runways,” referring to this particular Narciso Rodriguez number as the “one eyed shoe monster.” The gap here is apparently suited only to women with an enormous big toe, wide enough to fit that particular hole, and the others basically too insignificant to notice: think Rihanna or Taylor Swift or Zooey Deschanel. Not that I can imagine any of them actually wearing this. (Well, maybe Rihanna: she’s kind of experimental these days.) Someone with a distinctly longer second toe — I’m looking at you, Reese Witherspoon — shouldn’t even be in the same room as this shoe.

That said, this wasn’t even close to the worst shoe in the list, so you really should Read The Whole Thing. (And the picture she snagged does justice to the “monster” description.)


Speaking of loops

This supermarket chain stands firmly against the vigorous circular motion:

One probably should not assume that J. Random Customer actually realizes this.

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Here we go loop-de-loop

Ouroboros to the white courtesy phone, please:

Europe”s “Right to be forgotten” laws have come to an apex of dumb: The UK’s Information Commissioner’s office has ordered [pdf] Google to remove links to stories about Google removing links to stories. My brain hurts.

If it’s an endless loop, does it truly have an apex?

And apparently “endless” is the operative word:

“The commission does not dispute that journalistic content relating to decisions to delist search results may be newsworthy and in the public interest,” Deputy Information Commissioner David Smith wrote in a statement, acknowledging that the IC was asking that Google block access to legitimate journalism. Smith continued: “However, that interest can be adequately and properly met without a search made on the basis of the complainant’s name providing links to articles which reveal information about the complainant’s spent conviction.”

Smith fails to mention how the IC will handle purging news stories about the news stories about purging the news stories about purging news stories, or how it will handle purging news stories about purging news stories about the news stories about purging the news stories.

Barbra Streisand was not available for comment.

(Via Greg McVerry.)

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Innocent guilty pleasures

The contradiction here derives from the very title of this Guardian piece: Readers recommend: songs so bad, they’re good — results. One of the songs singled out for kindly abuse is a favorite:

Moving on to lyrical flaws, we find the Floaters with the deeply idiotic “Float On.” Musically it is a perfectly serviceable soul tune, but the more you listen to the lyrics, the less sense they make.

Then again, a good slow jam doesn’t depend on words, and “Float On” is a good one:

Of course, if you listen to the entire twelve-minute LP track … but never mind. Don’t go there, unless you really want to.

Cheech and Chong, who never saw a “there” they wouldn’t go to, lampooned this unmercifully:

Disclosure: It was this or “Wishmaster” by Nightwish.

(Via Fark.)

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The noncorporeal girl of my dreams

Something I said four years ago:

Given Siri’s lack of physical form — all those apps look alike to me — I’ll almost certainly impute wholly-unwarranted characteristics to her, such as a sense of humor.

And maybe, it seems, a trace of actual wisdom:

Bless you, autocorrect.


We get results, slowly

From a mid-January day, thirteen years ago:

The wind is up, but otherwise it’s an absolutely gorgeous day, the sort that the gods throw in once in a while to obscure the fact that it’s the middle of winter and we should be freezing our keisters off. It never occurs to them to toss a mid-January day into the sweatbox of late August, but you know how gods are.

Low temperature yesterday in Oklahoma City: 50° F. The coolest it’s ever been in August, if “ever” = “since 1891”: 49° F.

I’ll take that with a smile.

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