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facebook is dead.  Yep, you heard it here first.  facebook is so uncool.  It’s your grandma’s social network.  facebook is trading recipes and gifs of Grumpy Cat.  How cool is that?  Cool as a Harley, right?  You have to get out of your walker or wheelchair to get on one and then ride to a KISS concert.  Maybe your live-in nurse can get you on it.  facebook is the conversion van of social networks, complete with handicapped plates.

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The Essence of Cool

I’m not sure where all the cool people went.  It wasn’t back to MySpace.  SoundCloud seems pretty upscale.  Maybe Pinterest.  Probably tumblr.

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twitter seems to have hung in there.  I think all the cool people went over there.  So if you want to be cool get on over to twitter where the 4 billion cool people are.  Be on the cutting edge and tweet your every fart.  You know that hash-tag thing we used to call a pound sign.  That’s where it’s at.  This year’s model, anyway.

 

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Life

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I know a lot of you have been waiting with baited breath for my next post, but I’ve been busy; unlike you I’ve been busy with this thing called Life.  Oh sure, I’m still putting in 110% for you but now I have to put in 210% just to keep up with life too.  And unlike you I don’t have a lot of “free time” on my hands jerking at work on your computer while you should be working on that spreadsheet and graph to make your boss look better.  I also don’t want to waste your time with posts that are about nothing at all, although I happen to know you have a lot of time and something else on your hands.  Unlike other bloggers my posts are always full of useful and important content, not just me blabbing about how I was constipated yesterday but now I’m okay.  Who wants to read something like that?  Other bloggers think you want to know whenever they pick their nose.  Nobody wants that.  Even somebody as important as the President of the United States, you wouldn’t want to know when he picks his nose, now would you?  So I don’t waste your already worthless life with things that are not relevant to it and are all about me.

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Be patient, as it says in Ecclesiastes:  there is a time for everything, or something like that.

That International Feel post wasn’t that great.  I’m a big man, in more ways than one, so I’m big enough to admit it was a D minus effort, but that’s water under the bridge, as they say.  Unlike most of you I don’t make the same mistake twice so you don’t have to wait for another opportunity to poke your finger in my eye.  Ain’t gonna happen.  Get over it.

 

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NSA Liberty

Hey, I bought this NSA t-shirt from Woot.com.  The folks over there know about real patriotism.  It says “NSA” but if you look really close it has all these little quotes from The Constitution,  Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine, and their ilk, about freedom that makes up the NSA letters.  I don’t expect many of you to know much about this or these guys but they are the true patriots of history and said way back then (18th century) that the NSA was bad and was going to spy on American citizens if somebody wasn’t vigilant and rat out the “Organization.”  Back then the NSA just peeped in your window and opened your mail, but now it’s way more sophisticated as I’ve pointed out in previous posts.  Pretty cool, huh?  I suppose if I wear it in Washington “somebody” will just stick a microscopic poison pellets in my leg and that’ll be it.  One of those cardboard box campers will end up wearing my shirt.  The price of freedom.

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Well I just wanted you to know I wasn’t dead but I’m also not one of those bloggers to put up a long post about nothing at all just so I can see my name in print.  So until the muse calls again, I’ll be silent.

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The International Feel

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No, I’m not talking about groping foreigners so all you NSA peepers can leave now.

What I want to talk about is the increase and predominance of non-US hits this blog is getting.  Either I’ve managed to thoroughly piss off the OUS community or people outside the United States are starting to now do what you in the US have only been able to do up ’til now:  apply my life-changing formulas to your lives.  I know which one I’m voting for.

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Unlike people in the US, Europeans have long embraced my concept of a D-minus effort. Europeans enjoy months of vacation annually along with a holiday practically every-other week.  In addition, work weeks are often legislated to be less than 40 hours and nobody has to worry about health insurance, so I’m surprised any Europeans or Canadians work at all since this lack is what primarily entices many Americans into the workforce in the first place. On top of this, scandalous unemployment has made, by comparison, the US look like the land of milk and honey it most certainly isn’t.

It is also clear that most foreigners embrace the concept of always making sure somebody else is that last guy.

Hey, now that I think of it, maybe I’m just preaching to the choir here.  Perhaps most OUS hits are just losers affirming their lifestyle.  Sometimes people just like to be reassured of things they already knew deep down inside.

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What Foreigners Do for Fun

The worst thing about traveling internationally is television.  Except for imported US programs, the fare produced and broadcast overseas is distinctly inferior.  Britain is particularly bad with endless parlor dramas and talking heads all produced by the government.  The fact that some of these shows are actually imported to America is beyond me.  Most of them end up on public television, in other words US socialist TV.  Hardly anyone except a few really old people watch public TV in the US so these imports hardly make a dent in the A+ prime US television offerings.  The programs are mostly old so you get elderly US tourists to the UK going on about episodes of Eastenders from decades ago.  East Germany had the worst TV I ever saw.  France was the best with triple-X programs on the cable late at night that made Skinemax look like Mr. Rogers.  In Japan the only thing going was the seemingly endless pop music programs.

I digress…

Finally I urge all my international fans to embrace the concept of always expecting the worst. This will leave you never disappointed.  I especially recommend this for people in the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and any countries afflicted in the “Arab Spring.” Countries like Greece, Spain, Ireland, and Portugal should take heed also.

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Anyway, I just wanted to thank all the international readers that support my jingoistic American rants, er, essential essays.

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Vive la France!

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I’ve been reading a bit of history (get over it, I’m smarter than you are.) recently and I began to wonder why the US has considered the United Kingdom to be their closest ally seemingly forever.  After all we (the US, I mean) fought two wars against Britain (and kicked their ass both times even though Britain was supposedly unbeatable at the time).  Britain is also the only country that ever attacked the continental US (we beat their ass that time as well).  At the same time the French were allies against Britain even sending their army and navy over to help us beat the British asses, and probably saved us in the Revolutionary War (that’s the Colonial War in North America for the limeys here).  France is a republic, and has been for a long time now, while the UK is still a detestable hereditary monarchy.  Other than a mostly common language, why is Britain considered our big buddy?

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General Lafayette

I really think France should be celebrated as the United States’ closest and best ever ally, not the UK.  I’m liking that.  France gave us the Statue of Liberty too.  What did Britain ever give us except onerous taxes, no representation, killing a bunch of us, and burning down the White House too.  Well, there is Dr. Who.  So I still say screw the UK and Vive la France!

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As a side note, I live near a place where the Battle of Great Cane Brake was in 1775.  There were no British soldiers just loyalists-Tories and Americans (he, he).  It wasn’t a big battle but it is in most books.  The Americans were sick of having all their crops and livestock impressed for the British.  They ambushed the loyalists and ran ’em off.  Good riddance to bad rubbish I say.  They celebrate it every year with a re-enactment.  I like seeing all the loyalists laying on the ground at the end.  Oh, and I don’t live too far from Kings Mountain and Cowpens and we roughed up the cowardly Bloody Tarleton and his loyalist rabble there too.  So when somebody says that the British are our best ally, I think:  when did some French guy ever try to kill an American on American soil?  The French and Indian wars don’t count because they were fighting the wretched British back then.  We colonists weren’t smart enough then to know which side our bread would soon be buttered on.  We still thought that loopy King liked us “subjects.”

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Digression #2.  My heritage is Scottish/Irish and a bit of Dane mixed in.  I have to think some wise-ass limey hereditary Dook or Lord was responsible for making my ancestors’ lives so unbearable that they felt they had to make a treacherous journey to some far flung wilderness in the New World just to survive.  This thought kind of bums me out as well.  I’ll get my bit of petty revenge though when the Scots vote to bail out of the whole wretched mess of hereditary monarchy soon.  I’m sure the rest of the Irish and the Welsh won’t be too far behind.  Then the British Isles will make the Balkans look like a collection of big countries.

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On your marks, get set, (fill in the blank)

I joined GoodReads a couple of years ago and toyed with some other runner and fitness social networks and the whole thing got me started on thinking about the entire topic of ego-driven social networks and the strange range of behaviors they elicit from various people. I should have known from my experience in amateur radio that ego-driven social networks were going to let me down.

In 1994 I became a licensed amateur radio operator. I had always had an interest in listening to exotic broadcasts via shortwave or am radio (most of this is gone with the internet now), but I thought it might be fun to be able to actually talk on the radio, so to make a long story short I did all the things necessary and was issued an amateur radio license by the FCC in the good ol’ USA. Now I could get On The Air as they say. I wanted to talk to people all over the world about all sorts of interesting things. I was soon disabused of this fancy. All amateur radio operators wanted to talk about was their radio, or setup as it were, and how many different places they had briefly contacted. That was it. Most people just wanted to “log” me as a contact after a brief howdy-do and move on. Nobody wanted to talk about the historical aspects of Russian literature or even what the country they were in was like. Nothing. Nada. Dead boring. In my whole time when I was “active,” and this spanned years, I only had two interesting conversations and these were with missionaries in South America. Dudes that were way out in the real jungle. Joseph Conrad stuff. Cool. Needless to say I lost interest although I do renew my license every decade and could still rig up a set with a car battery and an antenna in an emergency.

So a few years later here comes the internet. Social networks. Cool places where people from all over the world could talk about stuff and really have a global society and a global conversation. Scratch that. All people wanted to talk about was recipes or how their dog just did something funny or they just got porked by their boyfriend. No Russian Literature, no sharing of the music of my country. Grandkids! Nothing interesting or mind expanding. Nada. Zilch.

Needless to say I “lost interest.” I still like seeing my nieces and nephews and how cute your cat is and how religious fanatics in Claptrap, Texas are persecuting United Way volunteers, really, but that only goes so far, and not very.

Now here comes ego-driven social networks, first mostly around fitness and running and other destructive compulsive behaviors like that. But a few start cropping up around music and video games and wow, books! Now finally I have found it, what I’m looking for, somebody who wants to converse globally about the historical development of Russian literature, and so forth: GoodReads. I put my modest reading accomplishments into the system in a flurry. I have up till now mostly kept track of this to avoid reading something twice (life is too short). I never cared about how many pages I read or how many books in a year. Sometimes I like to live more than I do read. I joined Groups I was interested in, got Friends with similar interests (from looking at their books), read the books my “Groups” were reading. Tried to start some conversations about say “the transcendent in Stephen King.” Guess what. Nada. Zilch. Almost nothing. So what did I find? The same thing I saw on Facebook: recipes, games, jokes, lists, nonsense, everything except a serious conversation about what was in a book. Even in Groups that were supposed to have topics I was exposed to things like “The Family Feud” game. Don’t you have anything better to do, like maybe read?

After a few months I figured out what the primary driver of these networks was: how many damn x’s you could do in y. In GR’s case essentially how fast you read. In my case, how much of my dreary life I devoted to reading. 85% of the population on GR only lists and rates their books. That’s it. Something you could accomplish on a spreadsheet. Few ever review anything. Fewer ever give input to any meaningful book discussion. This didn’t make reading more fun or interesting, now it seemed like a task. For the first six months I did learn a lot because I had fallen out of keeping up with my favorite genres and subjects, but after this time I had most of the primary sources locked into my search that I rarely used GR to find anything. I never read reviews before reading a book I know I want to read. I rarely look at one after I read a book. Think about it, why would you? Occasionally you can find someone who is seriously interested in a book but most of the in-depth reviewers are more interested in garnering their own shabby little accolades and not conveying any useful information. I do look at ratings sometimes but ratings are so manipulated and my tastes run so counter to the mainstream that I don’t trust the average GR rater especially if they don’t write a review.

In the end the ego-driven social network like GoodReads appeals to the compulsive introvert. Geeks you might say. People who think it is meaningful or something to be proud of when they simply finish a book. Compulsive list makers who measure their accomplishments in how long the list is or how many things they can tick off of it. This leads to the underlying problem: introverts are not going to open up with their feelings or ideas because they take any disagreement as a personal attack; even on a social network where you don’t have to look ’em in the eye. Hence, few reviews. Introverts lack the self-confidence to engage in conflict, even intellectual ones, and stating an opinion is opening a door to vulnerability.

So I only look at GR once a day maybe or more if I’m stuck in a queue. I do try to write reviews which as you can tell from this blog aren’t the most well written or insightful but I figure if I take the time to log a book I at least can dash off a 5-minute review.