Hot enough for ya, Monkey Boy?

In grand blogging tradition I shall now relentlessly bitch about an article in the New York Times that I could scarcely be bothered to read.

With all due respect to those of you who’ve had long standing political issues with The Newspaper of Record, I have long found that the more serious sin it visits upon us is the endless amount of emotional abuse it doles out each Sunday. One section alone of the week’s largest edition begins with endlessly prattling about how there’s nothing but heartache behind every closed door in America and end with a parade of wedding photos from ceremonies that were far, far more perfect than anything you were ever attached to. Today that section brought us the Triple Lutz of Gray Lady Dysfunctionalism. (1.) A major author, Jonathan Franzen, managed to (2.) poo-poo the Like button on Facebook which is in keeping with (3.) the Times ongoing seriously weird love/hate thing with the Internet(s).

Over the course of three or four paragraphs, which was pretty much all I could choke down, Franzen talks about loving his old Crackberry and trying to like his new one. He then shifts gears and points out that liking some one on Facebook falls far short of liking a real person.

Cripes.

All that over the ol’ like/love grammar mistake?

Where to begin?

Liking things on Facebook can be easily be mistaken for expressing yourself in Stalinist Russia, i.e. you can either like something or keep your mouth shut, there are no other options. But – while extremely valid – that point misses most of what Facebook liking is all about. It’s

It’s really just making small talk.

On Facebook you can like baked potatoes, large dogs, and Slurpees. You can like some one’s bad hair day and even like his or her cat too while you’re at it. Overall checking the little like button is just another way of saying, “That color looks good on you.” More importantly – as my old anthropology teacher used to say – it provides us with that small talk outlet that replaced lice picking as we are the most hairless of all primates. Stripped of our ability to fish for small parasites in the hot sun we have shifted our attention to saying things like, “Oh that’s nice, where did you get that? Really?!?!?”

Two major points:

1. Let’s not what a great friend Facebook is to teh_blog. Facebook managed to skim off all those bad-hair-day people. Facebook siphoned off all the people who started a blog and never got past two posts. Facebook managed to be so low effort that it left this medium to those of us who put our shoulders to the wheel at one time or another.

2. There is a symbiosis of sorts in that Facebook has benefitted so much from all the TypePad alumni out there. Each and every one of our Facebook pages is a treasure. People find you and say, “Oh your Facebook page is so interesting. I wish mine was as interesting!”Yet they never realize that we’re just recycling our interesting. We’ve been consistently entertaining for years. So it’s little wonder that we’ve taken our excess charm and dumped it somewhere else.

Seriously, now that the threat of the uninteresting taking up blogging is long past we can recreate the Versailles-like glory that was Web 1.5. We can be free once again to get all bent out of shape about three or maybe four sentences from the New York Times that may or may not have appeared consecutively.

Move along, nothing to see here

“The man (Thomas Pynchon) simply chooses not to be a public figure, an attitude that resonates on a frequency so out of phase with that of the prevailing culture that if Pynchon and Paris Hilton were ever to meet — the circumstances, I admit, are beyond imagining — the resulting matter/antimatter explosion would vaporize everything from here to Tau Ceti IV.” Arthur Salm

My intent was to discuss that quote at length, but I was sidetracked this week by having to explain competitive monopolies. Those of you who can think back to your Econ 101 class will remember that these are business that essentially sell the same goods and then are put in the position of having to sell their differences to attract cutovers.

Think of it this way.

You know what grocery stores sell?

Food.

Competitive monopolies are eager to sell their differences which why you can pose the question, “What can you tell me about this chicken?” at Whole Foods and not Safeway. The ultimate example is gasoline. Gas is the one commodity we all purchase that almost requires an act of faith. With any luck- we will never see, touch, nor taste gasoline, we will only experience the bright lit gas station signs, familiar logos, and come on’s for junk food.. Some will buy into the idea that Station A’s additives are better than Station B’s, the rest of us will go about picking something closer to the house or just choosing a station out of habit. An old econ professor once said that picking one station over another simply because you don’t like making left turns is in fact a buying decision.

Where this all came up was in discussion how the conventional media is little different from selling chickens and gasoline. (coq au mobil) The whole point of being acknowledged as the Best Guest Guesser during the football season or being the fifth caller in order to win a t-shirt is a matter of selling differences. I will even go so far as to say that talk radio has been successful as it has done a great job of hitting people’s hot buttons. All that outrage gives listeners an emotional release they cannot find anywhere else on the dial. Over time you can only give away so may bumper stickers and t-shirt, but there’s no end of how much catharsis you can provide at an extremely low cost.

But then what would I know?

Come back next week and maybe I’ll have a complete thought to share, k?

Diminishing Returns on Lowered Expectations

Lately Dr. Random has been caught up in the Stick Alien Controversy. He’s endlessly fascinated by the whole thing and we’ve been talking about how this might apply to Jungian archetypes.

But let’s back up a touch.

Let’s say these are aliens. So like, MTV finally reached far enough into the galaxy that they saw MC Hammer videos and seeing as he had pants like theirs they decided to make the trip?

And what happened to threatening aliens?

Aren’t we good enough to be menaced from afar anymore?

Look at these two. They look like some cheap Eurotrash marionettes that were seen sandwiched between Totie Fields and Sergio Franke on the old Ed Sullivan Show. If you look at them long enough you can hear Ed saying, “Now for the kidddoooohs all the way from Sarry-ay-vooohhhh…”

But the real blow is to our collective consciousness which Jung said create our archetypes. Here the classic Jungian Little Green Man is reduced to something that looks like a volleyball jammed onto the head of the compass I had in my elementary-school pencil box. Once upon a time our collective unconscious coughed up garishly colored demons complete with brimstone smoke and the eerie sounds of minor chords played on a smoldering violin.

So how did we get to this sorry state?

More importantly, how can we blame Facebook for this?

You work that out while I bust a move.

Natalie Portman? What would you like to know?

 “Most recently I wrote about my interactions with PR people who wanted to send me photos of Lou Diamond Phillips holding water, and of Selma Blair wearing a scarf.  (This is all true). I still get these emails daily and my plan is to get a picture of you collating paper so that when they offer me a picture of ‘Harry Connick Jr. standing next to yarn’ I can say ‘Thanks.  Here’s a picture of Wil Wheaton collating paper’ and then they’ll be like ‘Um…why would I want a picture of Wil Wheaton collating paper?’ and I can be like, ‘EXACTLY.’  It wouldn’t actually stop PR people from emailing me thousands of pictures of people-with-things but I’d at least feel better about it.” The Bloggess

At last weekend’s Emerald City ComicCon two young ladies who looked to more or less the same age as Dr. Random ran up to a guy standing in front of me. They were very excited, they’d just gotten Wil Wheaton’s autograph. “Dad! He was soooooo nice! Oh and Dad, he talked to us for like five minutes!” The upshot of the conversation is that the gals were over the moon as Mr. Wheaton made them feel like they were the only people in the whole wide world. (The irony of course was that this took place in the line to get into see William Shatner, who spent the better part of an hour making about 500 people feel like he was the only person in the world.) Also it should be noted that unlike his former co-stars, Data and Commander Riker, who were also guest speakers at ECCC, he did not charge for either his autograph or his time. Therefore it should come as no surprise that Mr.Wheaton was quick to send The Bloggess a photo of himself collating papers.

So let me say quickly that Wil Wheaton deserve a prize for being Wil Wheaton, a good guy, then we’re off to the races.

The collating papers thing hit home as it was something of a relief to find out we’re not the only ones inundated with bizarre p-r missives. For the better part of two years we have received – wholly unsolicited – amazingly detailed descriptions of Natalie Portman’s nightly whereabouts and what she was wearing. Had we bothered to save and compile all the emails involved we would currently posses a body of information that would embarrass even her most ardent stalkers.

So why is that?

Public relations folk are not unlike a man going door to door with a bucket of water. He knocks or rings the bell and asks, “Is your house on fire? I have a bucket of water!” Then when he’s told ‘No” he moves on up the street to the next house while ignoring more prudent approaches such as looking for smoke, flames, or fire trucks. The mystery is in how that approach evolved and why they are so enamored of it – was it trial and error, hard learned experience, or simply self hypnosis?

Who knows?

One-on-one meetings with them certainly don’t provide and answer. Most of the ones I encounter are always representing a restaurant. Invariably they set up a meeting or phone call after first learning my name and then using it like a cudgel against me. What follows is a sing songy recitation of the eatery’s many virtues leading up to the big talking point that this place’s swank won’t melt in your mouth. But that’s assuming I let it get that far. Most of the time I find these conversations can be brought to an abrupt halt with this simple phrase, “So are you in charge of the advertising budget too?”

This always is met with a very quick, “We’d like you and your wife to be our guests for dinner!”

And when I ask why they always say, “For all the good things you do!”

Excuse me, but I think you have me confused with Wil Wheaton.

Having never been a happy or well adjusted human being I have always looked this gift horse in the mouth.

What do they want out of that? If the cops busted the help for running a meth lab/being a satanic cult full of evil puppy kickers*/being an al-Qaeda cell do they expect me to take a minute and then say, “Yeah, but have you had the duck?” Or if the place accidentally burned down do they want me to cry out, “OH MAN! NOT THE DUCK!?”

Seeing no immediate answers in any it I go on refusing free food I wouldn’t have eaten on a bet in the first place because some has to set the standards for what noblesse oblige means in the 21st Century.

You’re welcome.

BTW – if you’re into social media you can follow Brook Alvarez here.

Me?

Well, you can just leave me the hell alone.

* “A satanic cult full of evil puppy kickers” (™ PEND Dr. Random)


Jethro Tull – Song for Jeffrey by piRjtull