My Facebook Status Update

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I have been very torn about idea of social networking Facebook (FB) style since it truly caught the world by storm – an event which I think took place within the past year. I have been torn because FB is the first social networking site (sorry Friendster and MySpace) to truly break out, and by that I mean it is the first place that my family, friends, friends of friends, fraternity brothers, former classmates, co-workers and ex co-workers, along with old friends who’ve I’ve lost touch with over the past 5 – 20 years, all mingle together.
The site is structured so that this disparate group can see (and comment on) the details of my life that I put out there, however inconsequential they may be, and tonight I pruned my ever growing list, removing people I’m not friends with but for whatever reason added to my friends list and moving people I’m friends with but not that close to onto a limited profile list so that certain details of my life which I deem “intimate” will remain hidden from them. My email address and web site address? Fine. My birthday? Fine. My work history? Public knowledge due to the fact that I’ve posted my resume to my web site. A video of my daughter laughing and playing with my dog? Sorry – that’s for me and only a select “few” but wait, the video in question was posted to my wife’s profile and she does not care nearly as much as I do about FB privacy, plus she has about four times the amount of friends that I have so I guess the video in question is in fact out there. Man, this whole networking thing get complicated.
This scenario has made me remember how I know of someone who was outed as a gay man through FB. His profile gave no clues as to his sexual preference, one way or the other, and he never linked to his partner’s profile but he did link to the profile of a friend of his partner’s and sure enough, that friend was linked to his partner and sure enough, the partner in question had written extensively about their relationship and even had posted pictures of the two of them in various romantic poses. So, in the span of three mouse clicks, about thirty years of life in the closet was undone, all thanks to FB.
My primary critique of the entire idea of FB can be expressed by delving into one particular sentence that I wrote above in the second paragraph: “The site is structured so that this disparate group can see (and comment on) the details of my life that I put out there.” What fascinates me is not the amount of friends that anyone has but the information that they choose to share. Unless you have heavily filtered your profile, your entire network will see and receive announcements about most if not all of what you post. I just learned that my 18 year old cousin, who is a freshman in college and who chose his college in large part to be close to his high school girlfriend is now single and feel incredibly weirded out to know this fact via FB. If you dear reader is on FB, let me ask you, do you post pictures of your kids? Do you post super mundane status updates, like “waiting in line at Duane Reade and frustrated, again?” Does anyone care? Unbelievably, a lot of people do care and that caring is the true reason why FB is so successful: it takes advantage of the inherent narcissism in the human character. We all have become media companies of one who have a permanent 15 minutes of fame. Posting on FB screams “I am important! Pay attention to me!” The fact that I just got a bagel and a cup of coffee matters! No longer is our collective obsession about these type of details limited to the rich and famous – we all are now our own paparazzi: we doggedly post photos, videos and stories, all in the manner of an US Weekly “Just like us!” column. I can just picture someone reading my current FB status and thinking, “Jeff is frakkin addicted to Battlestar Galactica – just like me!
My secondary critique of the entire idea of FB is about how it is just one outrageously enormous time suck. One can lose themselves for hours or days or weeks just looking at photos or comment threads or status updates of friends, friends of friends or people they have not seen or thought of in decades. For those that have given into this form of voyeurism, I ask how many great novels could have been read or great movies could have been watched in that time span? That being said, there are so many different forms of time sucks available that it is unfair to single out just one. Blogging as a form of journalism could be considered a time suck right? I’m not reading Anathem even though I’ve had it for over three months. Rather, I’m writing 1500 words on what I think about FB. Hmmm.
This secondary critique is not all together fair because if FB was truly a waste of time it would not be nearly as popular as it is – this voyeurism is not truly evil because it directly feeds into the site’s shining virtue which to sort of quote the FB homepage is to “help you connect and share with the people in your life.” As life continues to speed up, staying “connected” to those you care about has become more and more challenging. These quotes around “connected” are used because I still have not come to terms with what I feel connected truly means in this instance. Does connected mean “I know what so-and-so is up to”? Does the fact that I know that my cousin is single matter when I do not know who ended the relationship or why it ended in the first place, or that I don’t really know anything about their relationship except frankly what I wrote above?
Regardless, not only does FB allow you to stay “connected,” it allows you to reconnect with long lost friends and family, like for instance the people you went to camp with when you were 12. These are the people who you thought you would be friends with for the rest of your life but then separate schools and schedules pulled you apart. Now FB is helping to repair these severed connections. I blogged about this type of reconnection experience a few years back and while it was brought about without FB, it happened because of email. Considering that the Internet played a primary role in this reconnection process, I would make a serious case that FB is just the killer app for reconnecting and that it made this process as easy as pie. Who doesn’t love pie?
Now of course, one cannot mention the FB phenomenon without griping at some point about the “why are you contacting me?” person. We all have encountered this person more times than we ever would like. He or she is the one who, way back in 7th grade, we were never even friends with to begin with so why this person needs to send us a friend invitation now is beyond all comprehension. To me, these requests are more than a little odd – they are a delusional attempt at revisionist history. So, to those that keep sending me friend invites who were never really my friends, please know that I do check my queue and that I do not want to connect to you as we have less than zero to offer each other. In fact, my act of adding you as a friend only would feed your psychosis and of that I want no part. I am a nice person and cannot bring myself to block you, even though I have hit the “ignore” button more than ten times. Going back to the FB mission statement, you may think that you are simply reconnecting with the people in your life but you should re-read the statement for it actually reads “connecting and sharing” and considering we never shared anything back then, I have no interest in sharing anything now, period.
The last part of the entire FB experience that is challenging is managing that ever growing friends list. Mine after tonight’s pruning exercise is about 180 strong and of those, only about two thirds can only see my full profile. The NYT has a great article this week called Friends, Until I Delete You. It goes into detail about the etiquette of friending and defriending (or unfriending – I prefer the de but it seems the un is more popular) and is what made me in the end post these thoughts.
You may have heard me voice some or all of these ideas in private conversations over the past few months but the Gray Lady finally inspired me to finally put them down, all 1,500 words of them, in zeros and ones. So, there you have it – my view on FB. I think that my status updates will be solely reserved for only Battlestar Galactica related comments for the foreseeable future. The fact that I am in love with this show is something that I don’t care if everyone knows…


Our New President

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The Guardian has a photoset of 11 pictures of America’s new President on its website which are flat out amazing.
As a father who has a little girl, I just love the one of Malia Obama taking a picture of her father in his dinner suit as her sister Sasha looks on:

Feel free to click through and check out the rest of their photos – you will not be disappointed. For instance, the tenth picture just makes you say “awwww.” I just love the love that exists between Michelle and Barack – it’s exactly what this country needs right now – something to rally around and feel good about.
Via Jessie


The Mutant Chronicles

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When you have a movie whose premise is an all out battle between humanity and a mutant horde that stars Thomas Jane, Ron Perlman and John Malkovich, you know you best be watching out because it’s going to be sick. This is what life is going to be like if Wall Street does not recover…
After watching the trailer, I have high high hopes for the The Mutant Chronicles which is scheduled to hit theatres in limited release on April 24th. Living in NYC means limited release is not a problem. I just hope that I can find the time to actually get out and see it. Someone – please drag me away come the end of April…

Via Chris


Praise Song for the Day

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I was very impressed by the poem “Praise Song for the Day” that was written and read by Elizabeth Alexander at the Inauguration, though I was surprised that the current Poet Laureate Kay Ryan did not perform this job.
The poem was straight forward and profound at the same time, something that is often difficult to achieve in poetry, and I looked all day for the text of this beautifully simple poem. I liked how it described the every day and especially the stanza which reads, “We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.” That is what I do with this blog – meet you with my words, sometimes taken from others, sometimes written by myself. We lurch along this life, moving from one moment to the next, never realizing except in extreme circumstances what is routine and what is exceptional.
Thanks to the Grey Lady and CQ transcriptions, below is a transcript of the inaugural poem. If you missed it the first time or couldn’t wait to read it again, enjoy.
“Praise Song for the Day”
Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others’ eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.
Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.
A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, “Take out your pencils. Begin.”
We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.
We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, “I need to see what’s on the other side; I know there’s something better down the road.”
We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.
Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.
Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.
Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”
Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.
What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.
In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp — praise song for walking forward in that light.


Change Has Come

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Welcome Mr. 44, and by that I mean President Obama and not Reggie Jackson. There is a new face on Whitehouse.gov and our entire nation, and really the entire world, is hopeful that a brighter tomorrow is just around the corner. The real truth though is that this brighter world will built not just from the top down but from the bottom up.
(my view of the inauguration – I watched with co-workers in a conference room in my office)
Yesterday was dubbed a National Day of Service and while some painted school classrooms, some gave blood and some simply served their families by shoveling snow and installing outdoor light timer switches (that would be what I did – okay, that isn’t true community service but it was stilll helpful), others probably just sat at home and did nothing which to me means that they were part of the problem and not part of the solution. If you did not know by now, this country is facing some serious problems and it will take serious effort to resolve them.
As Martin Luther King Jr said, “Everyone can be great because anyone can serve.” President Obama is trying to help usher in a new era in service and we can be what Obama and others are dubbing the Service Generation. This is what the Bush Administration talked about post 9/11 but never truly did anything about. I strongly feel that this call to service is a call we need to embrace. The fabric of our nation is torn but not unmendable. Giving ourselves to the greater good is one such way to make this repair.
To that end, Be The Change Inc is just one organization that is helping to keep this “Change” momentum that started during Obama’s campaign going. Check out their site and maybe you’ll sign their community service pledge or find an organization to which you will donate your time and/or money. The saying goes “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and our nation’s problems haven’t gone away just because Obama is now the President – no matter how hopeful you are this evening. We all need to pitch in to do what we can to leave behind a world that is better from the one we inherited. That is both our burden and our challenge and its a realistic, not an impossible, goal. Obama’s inaugural speech was a call to arms, a call I plan to heed. I urge for you to do the same.
Now, after all of that seriousness, some humor.
First off, for those who thought at first like me that Obama screwed up his oath, it seems that Chief Justice Roberts was the one who messed up the oath of office but that was because Obama sort of jumped the gun.
Second, Rev. Joseph Lowery’s closing benediction kicked the crap out of Rick Warrens weird opening benediction (Why did he say the Shema in English? Why did he enunciate Sasha and Malia the way he did? Why did he use 4 different names for Jesus?). Below is the closing part – I for one was enthusiastically saying “Amen!” at the end along with the millions present on the Mall:

We go now to walk together, children, pledging that we won’t get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone, with your hands of power and your heart of love.
Help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.
Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around — (laughter) — when yellow will be mellow — (laughter) — when the red man can get ahead, man — (laughter) — and when white will embrace what is right.
Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.
REV. LOWERY: Say amen —
REV. LOWERY: — and amen.
AUDIENCE: Amen! (Cheers, applause.)

Good luck POTUS. You’ve made me hopeful for my future, my family’s future and most importantly my daughter’s future. Please do not squander this trust.


21st Century War aka War 2.0

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I would like to refrain from commenting on what is happening in Gaza right now except for pointing out how new ground is being broken on a number of fronts in terms of how wars are / will be fought in the 21st century.
First off, the Israeli military used Twitter to hold a news conference of all things, SMS short hand and all and Al Jazeera is using Twitter to update the public as to when it has a new report on the web because so many countries in the “West” do not carry the network. Could this be the first Web 2.0 war?
Second, to continue cribbing from the Gray Lady, the NYT has a very interesting article about how both Hamas and Israel are using all sorts of “traps and trickery” (their words) to fight each other. I truly believe that this is a sign of things to come. Here are just a few examples that were reported:

  • Hamas militants are fighting in civilian clothes and even the police have been ordered to take off their uniforms. The militants emerge from tunnels to shoot automatic weapons or antitank missiles, then disappear back inside, hoping to lure the Israeli soldiers with their fire.
  • To avoid booby traps Israelis enter buildings by breaking through side walls, rather than going in the front. Once inside, they move from room to room, battering holes in interior walls to avoid exposure to snipers and suicide bombers dressed as civilians, with explosive belts hidden beneath winter coats.
  • Israeli intelligence officers are telephoning Gazans and, in good Arabic, pretending to be sympathetic Egyptians, Saudis, Jordanians or Libyans. After expressing horror at the Israeli war and asking about the family, the callers ask about local conditions, whether the family supports Hamas and if there are fighters in the building or the neighborhood

No one will deny war is hell. It seems that hell just, to quote Emeril, just kicked it up a notch.


Yes, We Might Have No Bananas

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Can you imagine a world with no bananas in it? No? Well, unless something drastic happens, you are going to have to not only imagine that scenario but be prepared to live it. Its a fact that is well under the radar considering all of the dismal news that keeps getting bandied about but bananas are dying from a fungus called Panama Disease which turns bananas brick-red and inedible.
The scary part is that there is no cure and that all bananas die as it spreads, and it spreads quickly. Soon – in five, 10 or 30 years bananas as we know them will not exist.
Via Neu


The Year in Strange Baseball style

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Happy new year! To start off my 2008 recapping (I know, I’m later than the MSM as they do this type of stuff in Dec but I don’t care), ESPN has a great Strange Year in Review article about all of the flat out wacky shite that happened in the 2008 season. My favorite is from the Suspended Animation Department:

Thanks to the miracle of the literal-minded suspended-game rule, this Orioles-White Sox game was played in two installments, four months apart, and produced all sorts of semi-impossible developments for us Strange But True devotees: Orioles rookie Luis Montanez got credit for the first hit of his career on April 28 — even though he didn’t make it to the big leagues until Aug. 5. And the box score says he got that hit in Chicago, even though he’s never played there. Orioles pitcher Alberto Castillo won his first big-league game on April 28, even though he didn’t arrive in the majors until July 8. Baltimore reliever Rocky Cherry collected his first save 3½ months before he became an Oriole. And when Junior Griffey walked for the White Sox, it technically enabled him to reach base for two teams in the same day. (He also singled for the Reds on April 28. And look at the mess that dumped in the hands of our ESPN.com day-by-day compilers, who had to convince our computers he got traded to the White Sox for the afternoon.) Sheez, is there a more fun rule in the whole rule book than that suspended-game fine print?

You can’t even invent that kind of stuff. Love it!