Well, I don’t usually pay too much attention to new trends, but my curiosity was piqued the other day when I heard about something called “de-influencing”. Apparently “influencers”, those people you see pimping products on TikTok and the like, are becoming passé.
De-influencing is becoming a thing, and as of a couple of weeks ago, there were 160 million videos with the hashtag #deinfluencing on Tik Tok alone.
It’s going crazy out there!
If you don’t know what an “influencer” is, your gen is showing. Generation, that is.
Where it used to be Anne Murray promoting the bank or Mickey Mantle pushing smokes (okay, now MY gen is showing), lately it’s been celebrity wannabes looking for fame by creating videos of themselves trying all kinds of things.
But let’s get real. “Influencer” is really just a fancy word for advertiser. Everybody knows that the successful ones get paid very, very well for promoting stuff: trips, make-up, clothes, power tools, you name it.
The difference is that lots of people don’t realize they are being advertised TO. They just think they’ve seen the latest, greatest thing, and they’ve got to have it.
It’s Slinky! It’s Slinky! Who remembers that?
And there are plenty of companies and businesses willing to pay the big bucks to have these influencers, well, influence. Money, money, money. And lately, that’s what’s changing the game.
Right now, a lot of people, especially the younger ones, don’t have much money. Inflation has become a nightmare.
So in come the de-influencers. They’ve started creating videos telling you what NOT to waste your money on, what NOT to do. I don’t know, this all sounds really familiar to me…
Wait a minute! Now that I think of it, I am the original de-influencer! I must have told my kids a thousand times what not to do. And I definitely said “No!” to all the things they wanted me to buy them. I can confirm that I have been de-influencing since the 80’s!
I’m honestly thinking this new de-influencing thing might just be a scam. Maybe the de-influencers just want you to start trusting them before they end up selling you stuff just like the influencers do. More like a “don’t buy THAT, buy THIS” sort of thing.
I’ve never had Tik Tok on any of my devices, but whoever still does is asking for trouble. There are national security concerns, ongoing investigations and bans everywhere. You never know who might be able to access your personal information, so I would suggest you just get rid of it.
There, did I de-influence you? Yep. See how good I am?
I was a Computer Operator back in 1982 when the Vancouver Public Library decided to automate their entire library system. Some library patrons were quite worried at the time about having their personal information stored somewhere where anybody could see it.
What a difference a few decades makes. Today, just having a Google account means you can literally be followed, and advertised to with “relevant” ads. And who-knows-who can get access to all kinds of information about you.
I don’t have anything against technology, obviously, having been witness to “Gutenberg Two”. That was what the computer was characterized as back then, in the book by David Godfrey. Gutenberg One was the printing press, invented by Johannes Gutenberg.
The printing press was a revolution in terms of information and the ability to access and spread it to whoever could read. The computer was another evolution in that sequence.
Artificial Intelligence, or AI, appears to be a revolution of another kind. And now it’s getting weird.
One of the latest apps, ChatGPT, is a chatbot that can “converse, create readable text on demand and create novel images and video”. It’s also stirring up trouble.
The creators of ChatGPT basically used material that was already out there to teach the bot how to create its own content.
Kids are have started using it to “write” essays in school. A new level of cheating. Those darn kids.
There’s a children’s book being marketed on Amazon that was created using ChatGPT. Even the illustrations are created by a text-to-image AI tool. It took the “creator” a weekend to put it together and start selling it.
Now my mind is racing. Maybe I won’t have to spend hours and hours on my writing ever again because ChatGPT can do it for me!
But what’s the point? When it comes to art, a text-to-image AI tool could never be a modern day Da Vinci. Or could it? And even worse, what if nobody cares?
Well, artists do.
In fact, there are two lawsuits against an AI company happening right now in the U.K. and in the U.S. Part of the argument in the U.K. suit initiated by Getty Images is that this AI company “illegally scraped” content from their website in order to train the tools to create images.
Lawyers for the artists in the suit say that this is breaking copyright and other laws, and they are suing for billions. They argue that “because the AI system only ingests images from others, nothing it creates can be original.”
Copying the great artists has been going on for centuries, but this takes it to a whole new level.
So, should writers be worried about chatbots?
Some writers may be concerned about the potential for chatbots to replace human writers in certain roles, such as news or content generation. However, it is also possible that chatbots could be used to enhance the work of human writers, by providing assistance with research, editing, or other tasks.
Well, that’s what ChatGPT told me anyway. Yes, that last paragraph was bot-generated after I posed the question on the ChatGPT website.
So I decided to ask the bot the age old question.
Was it “what is the meaning of life?” No.
Instead I asked “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”
There was a long pause. Did ChatGPT recognize a tongue-twister?
Then came the answer: “According to a study by wildlife biologist Richard Thomas, a woodchuck, also known as a groundhog, would chuck approximately 700 pounds of wood if a woodchuck could chuck wood. However, in reality, woodchucks do not chuck wood as they primarily burrow in soil and do not have the physical ability to chuck wood.”
Remember all of the fuss people made when bike lanes started showing up all over the city, taking over car lanes, or at least impeding upon them? I have to admit, I wasn’t all the pleased to see them myself. And my husband was especially unhappy.
Suddenly you had to pay attention to things like new cycle-only lights and rules about right turns. Not only that, but lots of regular parking spots disappeared. For those of us who’ve been behind the wheel for a long time, it was like driving in a foreign country.
Judging by the comments in local media and online, we were not alone. A lot of people were miffed. And, according to most angry types, including my husband, it was all Mayor Lisa Helps’ fault.
Imagine my surprise then, when my newly retired, anti-bike lane partner pulled out his dusty, rusty old bicycle one day and started pumping up the tires. And, even more surprising, he got right on it and started hobbling down the street. I thought he was nuts.
But he insisted that he wanted to see if he could still do it and I had to admit that I admired his tenacity. He decided he might even like to try an e-bike one day and wondered if I might like to try one too.
Me? On a bike? I wasn’t so sure.
And then something interesting happened. My good friends and I were planning a wine tasting tour in Oliver, and one of the tours was supposed to be on e-bikes. I’d never heard of that before.
So now I felt obligated to pull out my own steed of rusted steel to see if I could manage it.
I was pretty shaky at first. It felt familiar, but not familiar enough. Not only that but my once 18-speed bicycle now had only one working gear. Thank goodness the brakes still worked.
For my first ride, I went about 5 blocks and then came right back. The legs were definitely feeling it, and I knew I was going to have to get more comfortable with cycling again before our trip. And after a few short practice rides and only one near spill, I was feeling a little better. A little.
The e-bike was a whole different experience. For those of you who haven’t tried one, I won’t go into all of the technical details. The bikes we rode were German-made CUBEs, and had the usual mechanical gears and then 4 e-gears, going from “eco” to “turbo”.
You can also ride the bike without the e-support, but I’m pretty sure I had it on “eco” for most of our 27 kilometer tour. When the e-gear kicked in, it just felt lighter and smoother. On long stretches uphill, I’d use the “turbo” setting and that helped considerably.
And the wine helped too.
When we got back from our trip, my husband was excited to hear all about it. I have to admit that by then, I was also convinced to get an e-bike of my own.
As it turns out, we found two used ones of the same make, CUBE, on Facebook Marketplace. I guess it was meant to be.
Now it was my husband’s turn to get used to the e-bike, but it didn’t take long. Little by little we ventured further, warming up to the idea of cycling in the city instead of driving.
One day, we went from our house in the Oaklands area all the way to Willows Beach. And on another, we pointed ourselves south and made it through Beacon Hill Park to Dallas Road.
Suddenly we were very grateful for those cycle lanes and signal crosswalks, and the CRD cycle maps. It has become another very different way of experiencing and exploring beautiful Victoria.
We are e-sold. And we’re old enough that we should have learned the old “don’t knock it before you’ve tried it” adage by now.
I sat on the swing set with my best friend Shirley, staring out at the blue, blue sky on a summer day many years ago. We wondered about the stars and the sun and how certain words in our vocabulary came to be. That was the nature of our young friendship – pondering the mysteries of the universe.
Not long after, on July 20th, 1969, I was in Shirley’s living room watching the blurred black and white TV images of Neil Armstrong taking his first step on the moon. “One small step for man…” he began. It was wonderous.
We went outside and tried to find the moon in the day time sky, but couldn’t. Still, we somehow understood that we’d never look at it exactly the same way again, because now we knew human beings had been there. It was forever changed.
I thought about that the other day when I saw the first pictures coming in from the James Webb Telescope on the NASA website. Look how far we’ve come, I thought.
I don’t like saying the word “awesome” too much because it’s overused these days. But those pictures were definitely awesome.
That the James Webb Telescope was even able to blast off was, in itself, a huge feat. Over the years it was being built, there were many cost and scheduling issues. Lots of little things went wrong along the way, and it almost got cancelled completely.
And just imagine the pressure there was to make sure the telescope was as perfect as they could get it before it launched. Because once it was way out there in space, there was no going back.
When it finally left the earth on December 25th, 2021, more than $10 Billion had been spent. And a lot of people were pretty nervous.
Would it get to where it was supposed to go? Would it unfold properly? Would it work at all?
As we saw the other day, it exceeded expectations.
All of the pictures were spectacular and mesmerizing, but the one that struck me most was Stephan’s Quintet, seen above. First of all, I didn’t realize it, but Stephan’s Quintet is something I’ve seen many times before.
A couple of minutes into the 1946 film “It’s A Wonderful Life”, there is a scene where the angels are praying for George Bailey. The angels are represented by an animation of Stephan’s Quintet, having a conversation.
I never knew that that.
The Carina Nebula photo is also stunning, with sparkling, golden cloud dusts beneath millions of twinkling stars.
The most amazing, mind boggling thing to me is the fact that in those photos, we are looking far into the past. In some cases, we are looking back many millions of light years.
Light years. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that concept.
The telescope’s main mission will last 5 to 10 years, but its expected lifespan will be up to 20 years, similar to the Hubble telescope. Just imagine what scientists, and the rest of us, will learn from it by then.
Maybe we’ll discover all kinds of new things, including ways to help ourselves, and, especially, our tiny blue planet.
As Joni Mitchell sang:
We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to find our way back to the garden.
You might not know his name, but if you’ve watched CHEK Television at any time over the last 42 years, you’ve seen his work many times over.
January 2nd, 1980 was Michael Woloshen’s first day on the job at CHEK as a commercial writer/producer. He came to Vancouver Island from Richmond where he had lived with his family since 1969. Before that they lived in Boucherville Quebec, a suburb of Montreal where Michael was born.
His Dad, Andy Walsh, was a well known radio broadcaster both in Montreal and Vancouver.
Michael’s passion for television began back in the early 1960’s around the age of 7, when he got the chance to be in the audience for a local Montreal children’s television show called “The Johnny Jellybean Show”. It ran in the afternoon and was a big hit for CFCF-TV at a time when local television was mostly live.
Michael remembers being dazzled by the lights and the cameras in the huge studio. He also got to play a part in another children’s show later on, and, like a lot of kids from the 60’s, he recalls sitting at home with his many siblings surrounding their new black and white television.
From that time on, he was a TV guy. He was also a bit of a ham.
In school, he participated in music and in drama, getting parts in high school plays like Through The Looking Glass and Tom Jones. Even after graduating from high school, he joined a local community theatre for the production of Bye Bye Birdie.
When he had completed high school, he went to BCIT and signed up for their television broadcast communications program. On weekends, he spun a little dough at Shakey’s Pizza.
After graduating from BCIT, he landed a job at Delta Cable. And then Michael’s whole world changed when he saw an ad for a job at CHEK 6 in Victoria. It meant moving to another city all by himself, and starting a new life.
When he first started working in CHEK’s Commercial Production department, the station was located on Epson Drive, right beside the Cedar Hill Golf Course.
Michael began by writing and producing commercials for a number of local businesses. Then he got involved in writing for the children’s television series, “Foufouli” with Dale Read.
He also co-wrote and produced “Highband”, a comedy/variety show featuring music videos and sketches, and “Everyday Things” with children’s entertainer Pat Carfra.
Then there was “A La Carte”, a cooking show which he also co-hosted, the home fixup show “Home Check With Shell Busey”, and “Reel Guy”, where Michael went on camera in his hockey shirt and housecoat, introducing the movie of the week. You had to be there.
There were also the parades. Michael wrote the scripts for and produced the CHEK broadcasts of the Victoria Day Parade and, after a time, Santa’s Light Parade.
Of the countless commercials he has written and produced, the Dodd’s Furniture spots would probably be what many would remember most. Gordy Dodd was always gracious and good humoured, allowing Michael to dress him up as so many memorable and crazy movie and television characters over the years.
For all of his work, Michael collected his fair share of awards from B.C.A.B, the British Columbia Association of Broadcasters, and CanPro, the Canadian Television Program Festival. Life was good.
During this time, the station had gone through a move to its present location on Kings Road, and a couple of changes in ownership on top of that.
And then one day, it all came to a grinding halt.
Michael, along with the entire commercial production department, was laid off. It was a cost cutting measure as CHEK and a number of other stations across Canada were put on the market yet again. This was in early 2009, when the world experienced the domino effect of the 2008 stock market crash in the U.S.
For Michael and everyone in his department, it was devastating.
And yet, somehow over the next 9 months, he found a way to employ himself independently, working wherever he could to make ends meet. Even worse news came when CHEK itself was put on the chopping block and was going to shut down completely.
Then, just like in the movies, there came the happy ending. A group of investors stepped up, and along with CHEK’s employees, they put their money together and bought the station. Michael was the first person that was hired back.
On his first day of work, he had to scrounge around just to find a chair and a desk to use. But it was the beginning of completely rebuilding the commercial production department, literally from scratch.
As we sat around the kitchen table the other morning (it’s okay, we’re married), I asked Michael what he enjoyed most about his work.
“Putting all the pieces together,” he said. From coming up with the concept, to writing and shooting and editing all the bits, and finally seeing the end result, that’s what pleases him most. “I mean, there’s lots of aspects of it that are interesting.”
But when I asked him what he wanted to be remembered for, he said that it’s all about the people he has worked with over the years. As an example, he enjoys helping someone who had never been in front of a camera before, getting them to relax and bring out their best performance.
And it’s also about making clients happy. “You have a connection with clients and the goal is to help them with their business and create that message for them.”
But overall, building the production department back from nothing, employing people as a result, and creating so many local television series’, has given him the greatest satisfaction over the last few years.
I might be slightly biased, but I think he’s done a fabulous job.
On Friday, May 27th, Michael moves on to another chapter of his life; retiring after over 40 years of doing what he loves most. You can’t beat that.
So, as Michael has said so many times, “That’s a wrap!”