“You Will Become an Army for Your Child”

via The Mighty: https://www.facebook.com/Themightysite/videos/604998539647897/

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Where I Stand

In case you are wondering where I stand today… yes you, you know who you are…

Your obstacles feed my tenacity. You have strengthened my resolve in ways you can’t even imagine.

No, I am not done. You haven’t even tired me a little.

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… not today, not tomorrow… NEVER.

Is this clear enough for you?

Better yet… do you think I’m kidding?

 

Answer

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Any questions?

Perspective – A Poem by Shivangi Shankar

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Every girl that ever lived
Was told that essential tale
Of girls being Goddesses
Despite their looks so frail.

Every girl that ever grew
Was fed, nurtured, taught
Lessons in cooking, sewing, too
To behave as she ought.

Every girl that ever read
Was feared, envied, eyed
With misapprehensions, unease
For she was no longer tied.

Every girl that ever won
Was told that girls were better
Motivated every other day
To be the trend setter.

Every girl that ever worked
Was compelled to manage all-
Work and family and herself
Gave her best, stood tall.

Every girl that ever lived
Was unable to sustain
All that she had dreamt for herself
Seemed to be in vain.

Every girl that ever lived
Was proper, dignified
She would fall short sometimes, though
Yet she always tried.

Every girl that ever lived
Would realise one fine day
That she wasn’t born with ten hands
Whatever the world may say.

Every girl that ever lived
Would have an epiphany bright
That she didn’t want to be a Goddess at all
To err, be human, her right.

© Copyright 2015 Shivangi Shankar. All rights reserved.

Call Me a Snob, but Amazon’s Idiotic Reviews are Useless via Rhymer Rigby

None of this is going to stop me from using Amazon, but it does make me wonder if, rather than suing the shills, Amazon’s time and money might be better spent funding professional critics. As it is, all the current system does is provide an answer to the question, “Is it better to ask the opinion of one person who reads 100 books a year or 100 people who read one book a year?”

Last weekend, Amazon announced it was taking legal action against 1,114 people who it claims have posted fake product reviews on its site. This comes on top of lawsuits against wholesale fake review providers. The point, the e-commerce giant says, is that such reviews, “significantly undermine the trust that consumers and the vast majority of sellers and manufacturers place in Amazon.”

Oh really? As a consumer I trust Amazon to be extremely convenient and keenly priced. But its reviews are not worth the pixels they’re displayed on and haven’t been for years. Relying on Amazon reviews is like walking into your local Chicken Cottage and asking half a dozen punters “What’s the best restaurant round here?”

The classic Amazon review is a 4* review. This could mean literally anything. The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber gets four stars (an average of 139 reviews) and enjoyed widespread critical acclaim. Meanwhile, Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian also gets four stars (an average of 5,500 reviews). Most professional reviewers said it sucked. This, lest we forget is a book featuring the immortal line: “My cock concurs.”

Surely 4100 reviewers can’t be wrong? Well, actually they can be. And what’s more, they can be significantly more wrong than 140 reviewers.

Back in the 00s, there was a fashionable notion called “The Wisdom of Crowds” – the idea being that, if you solicited enough people’s answers to a given question, you’d get an accurate answer. But with book or film reviews, this is demonstrably not true. Rather than wisdom, you get the tyranny of the majority – a mob that knows what it likes and likes what it knows. Any informed opinion is drowned out. Which is why on Rotten Tomatoes (which aggregates critical opinion), Transformers: Age of the Fallen gets a 19pc rating while on Amazon it gets a nice fat four stars.

OK, you might say, but you’re being a snob. Maybe my not liking EL James or Transformers films doesn’t mean they’re bad. It just means they don’t appeal to my hoity-toity elitist tastes. As The Dude says in The Big Lebowski, “That’s just your opinion man.”

But there’s a problem with this argument. Once you start conflating popular with good, you inevitably embark upon a road to all sorts of fun conclusions like McDonald’s being finest restaurant in the world, Dan Brown being one of our great authors and Benidorm being the very best holiday destination there is.

In fact, I have a feeling that Amazon reviews have actually got worse over the years. The reason? Back in the Amazon’s salad days, its reviewers were likely to be early adopters who were better-read than average. Now, they’re more like a cross-section of society and the crowd isn’t so wise anymore. I know, know: you’re not supposed to say these things. But then you look at the thousands of five star ratings that Jeffrey Archer gets – and what else is there to say?

Dan Brown's Inferno features Robert Langdon in drag

Dan Brown’s Inferno features Robert Langdon in drag

But even if you are a Dan Brown fan, you may still get a raw deal from the ratings system. The recommendations system based on your own and others’ browsing is unlikely to serve you up the mid 80s Hungarian literary classic Sátántangó (“Not a plot driven piece. It moves at the pace of a stone hedgehog.”) on the basis of having bought The Da Vinci Code (3.5*), but it might give you something like Norwegian by Night (4*) or The Laughing Monsters (3.5*). Both of these are classed as thrillers, but they are of the thoughtful, demanding kind. Which is why you end up with Amazon reviews such as “The more I read the more confused I got” (Laughing Monstors) and “So much E – L -O – N – G – A – T – E – D detail, EXTREMELY BORING” (Norwegian by Night)

Still, I dare say both are fair reviews if you’ve picked your 3.5-4* thrillerexpecting zingers like, “My French stinks, Langdon thought, but my zodiac iconography is pretty good.”

“Once you start conflating popular with good, you inevitably embark upon a road to all sorts of fun conclusions like McDonald’s being finest restaurant in the world”
Rhymer Rigby

There’s more to it though. The system itself seems designed to bunch reviews around the four star mark. You can’t award a product zero stars. The minimum is one. But the fact is most people give good ratings. A helpful 2014 analysis of new electronics products showed that over half the people rating the products gave five stars. The next biggest was four. The average is 3.9.

It’s not just Amazon either: FiveThirtyEight says that film review sitesthat rely on the public suffer from the same highly positive bunching.

Back on Amazon, and this means that most products get a rating between 3.5 and 5, so you effectively have four different ratings (Amazon rounds to the nearest half star). In the abstract, you may understand this, but in practice, your brain tells you that there’s very little between a 3.5 star product and a 4.5 star product. Except, when you’re using this compressed scale, the former effectively is 25pc and the latter 75pc.

Scarlett Johansson in Under The Skin

Scarlett Johanssen reacts to a series of poorly written Amazon reviews

This wouldn’t matter if the raw material for the ratings wasn’t so dodgy, but it is. Let’s take a film – Under the Skin. It gets a mere three stars out of five on Amazon – and the largest single rating is a single star – which, pretty much puts it down in “It sucks” territory. Yet quite a few professional critics rated it one of the best films of 2014.

I suspect Under The Skin suffers from having a big name (Scarlett Johanssen) and a well-known director (Jonathan Glazer). Like Norwegian by Night and The Laughing Monsters, this put it in crossover territory where, despite being a difficult, arty film, it gets a fair number of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen fans. They watch it and, perhaps, unsurprisingly, think it sucks. So the superb Under The Skin gets three stars while Transformers, which really does suck, gets four.

None of this is going to stop me from using Amazon, but it does make me wonder if, rather than suing the shills, Amazon’s time and money might be better spent funding professional critics. As it is, all the current system does is provide an answer to the question, “Is it better to ask the opinion of one person who reads 100 books a year or 100 people who read one book a year?”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/11945985/Call-me-a-snob-but-Amazons-idiotic-reviews-are-useless.html

Snowflakes and Lace – Who said coloring books are just for kids?

Of everything I have ever written, which is not much, can a colouring book be the one I’m most proud of? (yes, I ended with a preposition *gasp*).

The silly and simple answer is ‘yes.’ Maybe because I enjoyed creating it; maybe because every design I created revealed something different and unique every time; or maybe because it was a done on a simple whim.

Maybe I’m just biased – is it wrong to enjoy coloring your own book? 🙂

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