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March 12, 2013

Heads

Ten Reasons Why Facebook is the Soulless Bane of Modern Life

August 26, 2012

I’m well aware of the painful irony of castigating the world’s most popular social network on a blog, another form of social network. But I don’t have the money to put stamps on hundreds of handwritten letters, so here it goes:

1. Facebook is not social.

Saying hello to someone on the street is social. Having dinner or a drink (or getting falling down drunk…) with someone is social. Exchanging pleasantries or even bodily fluids is social (after all, it can possibly lead to a “social” disease). Arguing while waving your arms frantically at someone is social. Knitting while sitting on a couch together is social (sad, but social). Typing pithy comments about someone’s vacation pictures you vaguely know while hurtling along the Interstate at 80 MPH is not social. It’s just stupid. And dangerous.

2. Does that “net”-work for you?

Feeling trapped? Nothing is more representative of modern life than a forum for “self-expression” which requires you to fill out lame little standardized electronic boxes. Don’t color out of the lines! Touted as a multi-billion dollar computer platform, most of Facebook just boils down to a computerized version of those dorky name tags that say “My name is ____”.

Just think of that word — network. Nothing more than a bunch of virtual tendrils, designed to ensnare and entrap. The question you should be asking is who is the spider and when is he going to come along and suck out all of your vital juices? If you feel like a fly on the wall. Well…Buzz, buzz.

3. All those douchebags with marketing degrees are simultaneously yelling “gotcha”!

Marketers used to actually have to work to sell you stuff and get your attention. Now you come to them, by the millions, like so many lemmings careening off a cliff. And because you are an open (face)book, they know exactly what you want. In fact, some of the stuff they know you want you didn’t even know you wanted…

4. Individuality?

Heck, you can’t even change the bloody typeface on your page. (Note: See #2). And remember, if you post a picture you’d better not be doing anything too inappropriate. Some bot might come along and be offended. I, for one, welcome our Facebook bot overlords. All hail Zuckerberg!

5. All the world’s a stage.

Unfortunately, everyone in the audience is too busy working on their own acting career. Of course, you too can be the star in your very own movie (not sure what the working title is now, but they used to call it “Life”). Everything is a performance. Look, I got a new job! I have moved further up the rung and am mastering the cogs of capitalism. Please, “like” me. Why won’t you like me? Do I need to do something more extravagant? How is it that over half a billion bad actors clamoring for attention isn’t more people’s idea of hell? When did we all become such showoffs? Reality TV? TV is our reality! We’re always on camera, always observed and observing. Too bad none of us are just bloody living anymore. I don’t need to see the beautiful view you saw on your trip to Aruba or walk around the neighborhood. You saw it. It’s yours. That’s precious. Enjoy it.

6. Whatever you’re doing, someone else is doing something cooler.

Facebook is a constant reminder that no matter what you are doing, it is lamer than what a dozen of your “friends” are doing. Just booked a trip to the beach on Maui? Whatever. Your “friend” just bought an island in the south Pacific. Bought a new car? Your “friend” just bought a new yacht. New baby? Your “friend” had triplets! (Well, on second thought, maybe you are better off there…). A regression back to grade school is the order of the day on Facebook. It’s like one big game of “Oh yeah! Well…”.

7. In old sci-fi novels and movies, weren’t hive minds a bad thing?

I remember an old episode of Star Trek where this guy Harry Mudd had found a whole planet of androids. And there were groups of them — copies — such that you had Alan 216 or Mary 109. Facebook is kind of like that. It’s almost impossible to miss someone famous dying these days because fifty of your closest friends will comment about it. Sometimes they’ll even include some maudlin link to a relevant Youtube video. How touching. And some of these people who are venerated are pretty lame. No matter, its all fodder for Facebook.

I’m waiting for the day when some lunatic puts up a status update of “RIP Charles Manson” and the whole Goth world goes (lady) gaga about the passing of Marilyn. Give me a break! I guess the point, if there is one, is all the collective grief and, by extension, the sense of injustice is totally bogus when all it amounts to is clicking on “like” or “share”. Which brings me to…

8. How many cute puppies does it take to stop a dictator from wiping out a whole town?

Politics. Oh yeah. Remember when that word used to imply that the discussion or debate was about an actual place or space? You know, the polis? Now it’s random rants about how dumb some conservative is, or how bleeding heart some liberal is. Mostly it distills down to re-posting (i.e. “sharing”) some clever cartoon about how we are all totally fucked. Well, if things are so bad, do something! Those occupy people, as aimless and indigent and generally stoned as they were, were doing something. Until Facebook came along and turned it all into a bunch of idle slogans. Facebook has become the dumping ground for frustration and impotent rage. It’s as if it was a cleverly constructed release valve for dissent and criticism. Almost seems planned that way. Hmm…

Oh, yeah, and by the way, the answer to the question above is…none. You need a LOL cat.

9. Your friendships begin to resemble that show — Friends.

I hated that show. I really did. It reeked of a neutered middle-class complacency that makes me want to kick puppies (but not the really cute ones people always post on Facebook — just the ugly, faceless puppy in the crowd…). Everyone was always being clever and pithy and drinking coffee on a sofa on Friends. Kind of like what people do now when they are on Facebook.

I like the idea of friends. I used to have friends. I used to hang out with them and see them too. I don’t have to anymore. I live a completely alienated, isolated and lonely life as an academic (“Oh, he’s one of those!”) in a town and state I basically hate. But with Facebook, my plight is supposed to be somehow more bearable. Your experience may be somewhat similar. I sincerely hope not.

10. Like the real world, Facebook has class (but not the good kind!)

Well, no it doesn’t. But it has developed ghettos and upscale neighborhoods. Whether you muck around on Farmville or post stories by way of the New York Times, everything about Facebook is just part of that time honored human tradition of creating arbitrary distinctions.

The only distinction I think is important anymore is this — are you part of the Facebook herd or are you still vaguely trying to maintain some aspect of your humanity? We in the techno-utopias of the “west” may pity or even mock those poor souls for whom Facebook is only a computer program. But I, for one, envy them. If only they also had a bit of peace and food and clean water…

So, yeah, Facebook sucks. Modern life kind of sucks too. Am I bitter? You bet! Angry? Yup! What would make me happy? If dozens, even hundreds (dare I hope for thousands?) of people put a link to this blog post up on…You guessed it: Facebook! I won’t know about it though, since for now (and hopefully, if I’m strong, forever) my Facebook account is deactivated. But maybe, in some little way, I’m not.

Warm Up

January 26, 2012

Cinq-Cent Bornes

December 7, 2010

I fondly remember the classic French card game Mille Bornes. The premise was simple — you’re an automobile rally driver, trying to accumulate a thousand (mille) “milestones” (bornes). Interesting that word — milestone — literally a stone marking the miles on a road. There is wonderful solidity about this as an object. It seems a uniquely European affair, belonging on roads with history and permanence. We imbue the word with similar meaning in life too…

A milestone is more than an “event”, simply put. It’s an occurrence in life we see as significant and noteworthy. Apt descriptor, really. In a world overly inclined towards the impermanent, ephemeral, even simulated, we might be moved to mark our experience with this sort of deeper imprint — aiming for greater permanence and depth.

But that’s not our world; our world is change. So much of our “objective” world is envisioned as hurtling towards obsolescence. It’s either malleable or disposable. All very un-milestone, this. Which is fine, really. My desire to mark this milestone — my 500th post — through some act of greater permanency or solidity is thoroughly in keeping with my contrarian approach to, well, just about everything.

Alas, this is a virtual venue and there isn’t much to be done about making a concrete mark in such a transient medium. Or maybe there is…

So here’s the deal. I’m looking to make lasting links and connections through this ambient aether, and so if any of the last four hundred and ninety-nine posts have been interesting to you or struck you in some way then I have a modest proposal; If you haven’t made the effort to link to this blog yet then I’d ask you to do so. I’ll follow whatever links I run across, returning the favor.

And, well, I’ll keep marking the path, aiming for further milestones. Mille bornes, here I come…

Liveblogging From Amazing Randi

October 19, 2010

Well, not really, but close enough.

An unbelievably packed house in the Leacock Building this evening as people stood in the back of the large hall and even sat in the aisles for a chance to hear perhaps the world’s leading skeptic and pseudoscience investigator, James Randi. While Randi never defined pseudoscience, per se, he certainly brought to bear a number of examples of outright charlatanism he’s encountered in what’s been a long and star-studded career. The talk began with a media highlight reel of Randi’s more well-documented encounters with fraud. Interesting.

Like an old gnomish Charles Darwin, Randi came up to the lectern and started to talk into a hand-held microphone. He began with some discussion of fame and celebrity, sharing an anecdote about comparing the sizes of the asteroids that were named for him and Arthur C. Clarke (his is bigger). But he quickly switched the focus to his stock and trade — illusions and conjuring. He reminded us all how easy it was to deceive people, and perhaps more importantly, how easy it was to allow people to deceive themselves. He pulled the “microphone” down from his face and there was still the sound of his amplified voice — a trick! The microphone was actually a beard trimmer (which he could certainly have used…). His glasses? Just plain rims without lenses…

This was a perfect preamble to his main point. Magicians may deceive using a wide array of methods, but they’re always telling you when they are deceiving. Not so with pseudoscience. Like a zealous consumer advocate of the most critical sort, he discussed a wide range of products and ideas whose popularity was undeniable that were, for lack of a better term, so many bottles of snake oil. Perhaps most disturbing was the “bomb-dowser”, the ADE 561, that is currently being used in Iraq, at significant cost to various governments. The BBC had a piece earlier this year on how useless these devices actually are…

He followed this with an involved discussion of faith healers and other evangelical miracle workers, showing great footage from the old Tonight Show of a debunking attempt involving Reverend Peter Popoff. Randi showed how Popoff used techniques, like plying the audience for information before the show, that have been used in shady tent revivals forever, noting, sadly, that despite a wide audience for his revelations about Popoff and his ministry, the business is a greater success than ever…

One of his pet peeves is homeopathy. In going over the whole process of distillation involved in Hahnemann’s practice, one can’t help but agree with him (with the caveat that’s it’s not the process of homeopathy itself that’s interesting, but the theories around it and the belief people have in it…). Again, in making his final point about homeopathic remedies, now widespread in drugstores everywhere, Randi returned to the position of democratic skeptic — buyer beware. Ask questions and don’t be too easily led to believe anything. Be critical! He finished with another old spot from the Tonight Show where he performed “psychic surgery”, debunking elements of this practice, still quite popular in the Philippines. Here’s a similar video…Warning, it’s a bit bloody.

And there you have it! The Amazing Randy, fascinating man with a fascinating worldview. For those who would like to challenge it, Randi’s foundation has long offered a 1,000,000 dollar boon to anyone who can demonstrate proof of psychic phenomena or the validity of any psudoscientific idea. Whatever that means…

Huddersfield

September 12, 2010

“The Game”

March 26, 2010

Setting:
Earth, 2010; Huge megacorporations in cooperation with authoritarian governments control a docile, vain and hedonistic populace through overt power and subtle, insidious machinations. War is widespread and good for business, misunderstanding and hatred are universal, and environmental and social breakdown are proceeding apace.

Players:
Billionaires, industrialists, culture mavens, corrupt politicians, Fundamentalist radicals, devout atheists, corporate lawyers, Russian nethackers, pseudo-intellectuals, misguided idealists, occultists and New Agers, angry street people, vapid celebs, buffed millionaire athletes, environmentalists, disgruntled academics, Zionists, Scientologists, UFO cultists and YOU!

Object of the Game:
None

Rules:
None

Game Play:
Escapism, self-delusion and fun!

Turns:
It’s not yours yet…

Platforms Supported:
What ya got?

Price:
More costly than you can possibly imagine.

Girls, Girls, Girls

February 11, 2010

What’s the fucking deal? Moreover, how do you close the deal to fuck? Well, actually talking to a girl and being relaxed and charming might help. What’s wrong with the girl you have? Nothing, of course. The problem is you always have her. And you always want what you don’t have. What a fucking drag…

No wonder the Buddhists tried so hard to be desire-less. Then there’s this article in the Weekly Standard. About (post) modern dating. Focused on how the girls love the players, the Alphas, and how some of those dudes make picking-up an art (and a business).

It smacks of some sad and pathetic confirmation of Darwin and evolutionary psychology, like we’re all well-groomed monkeys fighting over the best banana hunters. Seems so visceral, so low…I guess this is what happens when science (i.e. social Darwinism) comes to eclipse silly things like language, feeling and love.

Perhaps this is just the frustrated cry of what the pick-up artists call the AFC (Average frustrated chump — or is it chimp?). But what artists are these? The article mentions the book, The Art Instinct by Arts & Letters maven Denis Dutton. This assumes that some dickhead with a perm, a fuzzy pimp hat and some well-worn pick up lines is the contemporary equivalent of Da Vinci. Besides, not to put a dagger through the heart of this theory, but Leonardo was probably gay.

So where are we? Largely nowhere…Somewhere within Huxley’s Brave New World, hedonistic slaves to our endorphins and unable to channel our desires towards anything smacking of real creativity or revolution. We are, for lack of a better term, right where our capitalist masters want us to be — completely and thoroughly fucked…

Article from Arts & Letters Daily.


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