Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What is Facebook For?

Just this past weekend, Sam Biddle, a writer for the tech blog Gizmodo, posted his list of 11 things you should never, ever say on Facebook. Expecting it to be the regular commonsense things about getting drunk, how much you hate your current job, and having a dead body in the trunk of your car, I decided to see what made his list. Here it is:
  1. Birthday thank yous
  2. Deaths
  3. Personal messages to your significant other
  4. Hangovers
  5. College admissions
  6. Exercise
  7. Requests for money
  8. Romantic anniversaries
  9. New phone number
  10. Screeds bemoaning Facebook
  11. Engagements

My first reaction when I saw the first two things on his list was “You’ve got to be kidding!” But then as I read further, and saw the rationale for each of the things he said didn’t belong on Facebook, I said it again…along with “This guy is a shallow schmuck who doesn’t want to know about the lives of his friends…if he really has any!” Because let’s face it, these things are exactly what most of us use Facebook for. Let’s take a quick look at his issues with some of these items.

What’s wrong with birthday thank yous? He says that it’s less sincere than the “dozens of perfunctory congratulations from people you barely know anymore.” I say that he needs to remove the telephone pole from the darkness.

And deaths? In his own words, “Bummer city. A death has no place on Timeline, because Timeline is beautiful…” Get serious dude! There are many people whose deaths I wouldn’t have known about if it weren’t for someone posting it on Facebook. Apparently he believes that Facebook should only be used for posting videos of the stupid cat trick of the week, and not for anything that might reflect on your real life. Yes, deaths are awkward to deal with on Facebook…they’re bloody awkward to deal with in real life too. Would it kill him to post the same perfunctory “I’m so sorry” that he would’ve said in person?

Personal messages to your significant other? His response to this was “we’d prefer that each of you stop by our computers and gag us by hand.” Are you beginning to get a picture of how totally self-absorbed this guy must be?

College admissions. He says that nobody cares except your family and friends, most of whom can be reached directly online anyway, and that you should stop bragging. My response is that they’re on Facebook precisely to find out stuff like this. I personally enjoy finding out where the kids of my friends are going to college, and don’t consider it to be bragging. In addition, this is how my daughter and her friends let everyone know where they got in. What is wrong with this guy?

Romantic anniversaries? He says “There are two people who truly care about this, and you are one of them.” I like hearing about romantic anniversaries, but then again, I’m an incurable romantic. This whole article sounds like it was written by a guy who isn’t getting any, hasn’t gotten any in a long time, and won’t be getting any at all until he changes his pathetic attitude.

Finally, we have engagements. Why doesn’t he want to hear about your engagement? He says that you should simply change your relationship status, rather than screaming it out to the rest of us. I don’t know, I’m thinking that that may be just a little too subtle for most of us on the receiving end to notice. He also says that this is like broadcasting your upcoming wedding to hundreds of people who won’t be invited. Yeah? So what. Happens IRL too. I’ve known about the engagements of tons of coworkers and friends whose weddings I was never invited to. NBD.

Basically, he wants people to stop using Facebook for the very things we all use Facebook for. He doesn’t want you clogging up his newsfeed with your life. And if we don’t use it for things like this, then what’s the point of even being on Facebook to begin with?

I suspect that if he removes the telephone pole from it’s rather unfortunate placement, his heart might grow three sizes…if he has one.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Pre-Fab Forty

Davy Jones, the short, cute Monkee, died back in February. Yes, I know I’m coming a bit late to the party…or the funeral, I suppose…on this, but I’ve had a few other things to deal with in my life.

Getting back to the point, for those of you not old enough to remember, Davy Jones was a member of the popular 60s group The Monkees who were derisively referred to by many as “The Pre-Fab Four,” because this was a group built specifically created to cater to the market for “boy bands” among 1960s teenaged girls. It was a group where the members were not selected for their musicianship, but for their showmanship and acting ability (hmm…sounds a little like Big Time Rush, which my nine-year-old daughter watches on Nickelodeon).

But while they were derided by musical “purists,” in 1967 they sold more albums than the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined. That just made the sting even worse to people who enjoyed “real” musicians. What right did these upstarts, who supposedly didn’t even play their own instruments, have to outsell “legitimate artists” like the Beatles, the Stones, Bob Dylan, and the like?

And the same question has been asked about performers such as Brittney Spears, the Spice Girls, and the A*Teens (anyone remember them?). Don’t people understand that these people don’t write their own songs or play their own instruments, and therefore have no talent? Don’t they realize that they’re just a bunch of people who’ve been trained to look good and sound good while they’re singing someone else’s stuff?

Well, quite frankly, I resemble that statement…and so do about 70 or 80 of the people I hung out with when I was an undergrad. And so do hundreds of students at St Olaf College, and other schools that are famous for their choirs. You see, while I was an undergrad at Syracuse University, I was a member of the Hendricks Chapel Choir, and we not only sang for the regular Sunday morning chapel services, but we gave a concert each semester, and went on yearly concert tours. I will also tell you that we didn’t write our own material, we rarely played our own instruments, and we were most definitely trained by a succession of excellent choir directors to look and sound good while were singing someone else’s stuff.

I suppose you could call us the Pre-Fab Forty.

So I’d love to ask all the music snobs out there what the big difference is between being in the Hendricks Chapel Choir and being one of the Monkees, or one of the Spice Girls, or a member of any of the current groups that I’m too old and out of the loop to know anything about unless my daughter downloads one of their songs from iTunes and plays it incessantly. OK…so they make a whole lot more money than most of us will ever see. But are they only “legitimate performers” if they write their own stuff? Most opera singers, as well as most actors on the Broadway stage, would answer “no” to that.

For his part, Davy Jones was already a professional actor, having played the Artful Dodger in the Broadway production of the musical Oliver! before landing the gig of a lifetime with the Monkees. So was Mickey Dolenz, who those of us of a certain age remember as Corky on the TV show Circus Boy. He went into this thinking that he was simply playing the role a rock star, and ended up becoming one for real.

Were he and his three bandmates, as well as other “made for TV” or “made for the studio” groups “real performers?”

Well…I’m a believer.