Archive for September, 2010

Why I am not on Facebook
September 27, 2010

I was going to incorporate this as part of a review of The Social Network, which comes out Friday, but realized that would be both unfair to the film and make for a singularly self-centered review. And as you’ll come to realize throughout this post, my hatred for self-centrism (particularly as it relates to Facebook) runs pretty damn deep. Plus, I get to use a title with a self-aggrandizing classical reference.

Anyway. I have never had a Facebook, and I will never have a Facebook.

I started college in the fall of 2005, which is when Facebook was just starting to take off. It had yet to be incorporated into all schools nationwide, let alone be opened up to the worldwide public at large. I was ambivalent about the whole thing. When people would bring it up to me, asking if I was on it, why not, etc, I would say, “What’s the point?” What I kept coming back to was that as far as I could tell it was just AOL Instant Messenger and MySpace thrown together into one.

Perception, it would seem, really is everything. When the iPad was announced, I looked at it and said, “So what? It’s just a giant iTouch.” And millions of others saw the exact same product and said, “Holy shit! It’s a giant iTouch!” So it was with Facebook – everyone I knew saw the same thing I did, and none of them saw things the way I did.

Me, 2005: “Fine. It’s a derivative, harmless little website where people can comment on the walls and pictures of their friends. Whatever. People’ll get bored of it.”

Me, 2008: “Fuck.”

Or thereabouts, anyway. I’d guesstimate that it was then when I realized that not only was the silly little website not going away, but that things were far worse than I’d ever imagined – communication and social interaction had been changed forever. And in a way that really fucking pissed me off.

Facebook is a doorway to the nether regions of the id, where self-obsession is implicitly expected, encouraged and exalted. It allows its users to create not just their own world, but their own solar system, where they are, quite literally, the star. They exist at the center of it all, orbited by other worlds/Friends that encircle them endlessly. Everything revolves around them.

The above sounds melodramatic, and it is, but it’s also not that far off from the impossibly self-centered personal reality that Facebook allows for. We now live in a world where every aspect of our lives is fodder for public consumption. Between status updates, comments and pictures, as well as the advent of the smartphone that let us ditch the wire restrictions, everyone, everywhere, all the time is up in everyone else’s business at their invitation. And don’t tell me that it isn’t everyone everywhere, “just my Friends”, because the whole point is that everyone you have even the smallest, most insignificant but recurring relationship is on that Friends list, and thus an orbiting satellite in your digital solar system, an audience member in your own little Globe Theatre, where it’s a 24/7 one-man show.

It’s narcissism on a scale unlike anything that has ever existed. It takes all the most base elements of egotism, voyeurism and attention-whoring and combines them into a never-ending state of… love.

You read that right: love. What Facebook symbolizes is nothing less than an entire generation falling in love with itself. We love showing off what we’ve done and seeing what others are doing. We love making our thoughts known and seeing the thoughts of others. We love our history and broadcast it through iPhone and Blackberry photos, and we peruse other people’s pictorial past and present at our leisure. We love to collect things, and we love seeing what others have collected, be it a new Friend, personal icon or Gift. And we love, love the idea that somewhere, some place, someone else has us on their mind.

I don’t love it. I won’t take part in it. And if that makes me sound like a pompous, noble dissenter-wannabe, then whatever, fine. Maybe there’s no nobility in it, but there has to be something to be said for getting the assurance that I matter from somewhere other than a giant fucking reach around.

Although, I gotta be fair – it is kinda cool. 😉

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Fun with graphs
September 23, 2010

From the GOP’s new (and typically batshit incoherent) “Pledge to America”:

Holy shit! Those socialists and their Nigger in Chief really can spend our money, can’t they? Why, they’re spending more than twice what Bush and the Republicans did!

Except they aren’t, and that graph is bullshit, because it starts at 17%. Have you ever seen a graph start at 17%? No, you haven’t. Graphs start at 0% – unless, of course, you’re looking to intentionally deceive the less-discerning people who’ll take a quick glance at your graph and see that one bar is a lot bigger than the others, and so it must be indicative of a much higher percentage.

A closer (and I mean about 5 seconds) look shows that despite the GIANT FUCKING BAR Obama and the Democratic Congress have spent less than 4% more of federal funds as a share of the economy than either of the last two presidents and their respective Congresses.

I mean, come on. Political spin is one thing, but this isn’t spin, it’s just a flat-out lie. Hell, if they were going to distort things so bad they might as well have used this graph instead:

Look! Obama’s spent like a bajillionfuckton dollars! Better run out and vote Republican quick, so they can magically legislate massive spending cuts despite not touching a dime of the money that goes to “seniors, veterans, and our troops”, which is kinda where almost all of the federal budget goes in the first place.

Random Excellent Item of the Day
September 22, 2010

“We joked about how popular it currently is to make dark ‘reboots’ of popular franchises, and started talking about shows we loved from our childhoods that would make interesting adaptations – Pokémon glazes over some horrific animal rights issues.”

– the people who made this hilarious (and way more genuinely awesome to me than I’d like to admit) parody trailer

Oh yeah, this is a *brilliant* idea
September 17, 2010

“I’m looking for Gale Brewer, citizen, to be able to say to the other citizen: ‘Excuse me, sir, but that’s illegal. You really can’t smoke here,’ ” said Ms. Brewer, the councilwoman who introduced the bill (banning smoking in public places such as beaches and parks) at the City Council meeting on Thursday.

Because, of course, the people whose own lives are so pathetically worthless that they feel the need to make someone with a physical addiction to nicotine feel like shit for it, what they definitely needed was more encouragement.

And the, “Your smoking affects my health!” line of defense for this assholic behavior is complete and utter crap. Yes, cigarettes are an amalgam of poisonous substances. They’re also incredibly ineffective at doing harm – cigarettes take years of constant direct use to ill-effect the body, much longer still to kill you, and even then you could very well never end up dying from a smoking-related illness. Now think about infrequent, indirect exposure to the byproduct of those substances… and you’re worried about your health? Are you shitting me?

That’s not a rhetorical question, either. If you’re one of the busybodies who’s taken it upon yourself to police the public at large, ask yourself why you’re doing it. Is it because you’ve sat down, gone over the relevant material and came away honestly convinced that the occasional whiff of smoke you inhale isn’t just a minor annoyance, but a health-threatening invasion of your rights by the Big Bad Smoker? Or can you admit that the whole “threat to my health” thing is just a bullshit canard you can use to allow yourself to feel good about putting other people down, to bask in the glow of your own moral righteousness as you highlight and confront the failings of others in the most embarrassing, condescending and nauseatingly sanctimonious way possible?

Ironic how at the same time we’re making progress on the marijuana front we’re going backwards with tobacco. Or maybe it’s not ironic – maybe it’s just sad, and I say that as someone who’s not a big user of either. Leave people the fuck alone – if they want to indulge in an unhealthy habit, that’s their prerogative. And don’t just leave them alone, but stop looking down your noses at them, you smug fucking toolbags, because you in all likelihood partake in a vice or two of your own, whether it’s alcohol or junk food or whatever.

To put it another way:

First they came for the potheads, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a pothead. Then they came for the smokers, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a smoker. Then they came for my Guinness, and I shot them in the face and raised a glass over their grave.

True story.

No, it’s not bad form
September 6, 2010

From the Washington Post:

In the punditry business, it’s considered bad form to question the essential wisdom of the American people. But at this point, it’s impossible to ignore the obvious.

It’s not bad form. It’s the truth.

The article is a well-summed up sigh of annoyance with a public that, election after election, demonstrates their appalling lack of collective “essential wisdom” by using the following thought process to determine their vote:

Step 1. I voted for (x) last time.

Step 2. How am I doing financially right now?

Step 3. If I’m doing fine, vote for (x) again. If not, skip to Step 4.

Step 4. Vote for other party.

And that’s it. After all the debates and punditry and dinner table arguments, that’s what it comes down to – how full is my wallet right now?

Back and forth, over and over, rinse and repeat, the same dumbfoundingly dumb reasoning and rationale from an unreasonable, irrational and flat out dumb American public. And it’s the refesual to call them dumb that this article speaks of that contributes to them being so dumb, because dumb people are too dumb to realize they’re dumb – they have to be told they’re dumb.

“The essential wisdom of the American people” is bullshit, and it’s always been bullshit. With few exceptions, the American people have been, at the time of implementation, behind the curve on nearly every single societal leap forward this nation has ever taken. It’s been the visionary progressive leaders of our time that dragged this nation ahead on contentious issues like slavery (Lincoln), Social Security (FDR), military integration (Truman) and Medicare, civil rights and education (LBJ) as the American people in their “essential wisdom” kicked and screamed in protest against such overhauls that today are so self-evident in their essential wisdom that to question them is rightly looked at as a sign of severe mental deficiency.

Where was I again? Oh yeah, the essential dumbfuckery of the American people, who in less than two months will go to the polls, consult their Four Step Plan, vote for whoever’s got an R next to their name and grind this country to a halt for at least the next two years.

Happy fucking Labor Day. Crappy days are here again.