Posted by: rhino7592 | April 28, 2010

Facebook ruins lives

Facebook ruins lives.

There.  I said it.  I know there are a lot of you out there thinking it, but I am really starting to reconsider my relationship with FB.  Recent events in my own friends list and a new South Park episode (not the Mohammed one) got me thinking about how FB is being criminally misused. (Not literally criminal, but it is a good adjective.)

First, as background, I started as a MySpace guy.  I had my site.  Cool wallpaper. Music selection. But it all became too much.  MySpace became more about the appearance than the content.  Which, if there was a ever a better metaphor for social life, I don’t know it.  It was definitely geared toward the high school demo, that  I have long left, though I have to admit that I enjoyed the Thug Life-style backgrounds that became prevalent in MySpace.

My best friend told me to try FB, because it was a much simpler presentation and not inundated with ads.  I set mine up and the train quickly left the station.  I have reconnected with friends from my past that I haven’t seen in years.  Now I am at 291 friends and counting.  I check the count every time I am on. (Admit it. So do you.)  Honestly, I am a little fuzzy on how I know a few on my list, but they have also connected with several of my friends, so clearly I must know them. Right? I am also quick to notice when my friend count goes down.  I am sure that I am like others who try to figure out who defriended them.  I give it five years before Webster recognizes defriend as a verb, but I am already throwing it around.

Speaking of defriending.  Whats the etiquette?  Do you defriend someone who you friended, but didn’t really know but didn’t want to be rude? How long do you wait before defriending them?  I have actually heard  my friends say that the quickness of the defriending is directly related to how many friends the person already has.  The higher the friend count, the quicker they get dropped.  I guess the rationale is that once you had so many friends its hard to tell who leaves your list.  That being said, I think it would be more upsetting if FB would update you when people defriended you, especially for those people who live in the FB world like the South Park episode suggested.  If you don’t get the reference, than you are one of those people.

Clearly exes should get defriended pretty quickly after the breakup.  If yours are prone to passive aggressive behavior, than FB is the ultimate tool.  And we all know how big a tool an ex can be, thats why they’re exes to begin with. I have actually seen examples of people using FB as spin control over the failure of their relationships.  I have also seen the ones that like to rub in their new life and that they have “moved on.”  If you have to rub in your  great new life, than maybe you haven’t moved on.  Bad breakups will also inevitably lead to you learning that the blocking feature that comes as a security measure on FB is really handy.  I have used it. Its like the other person never existed.

What about defriending friends of exes?  This tends to be a much thornier issue.  I say if they were friends of yours (in the Real World, not on FB) before the breakup, than they can stay.  If you are friends with them because of your ex, than they can be dropped. No harm. No foul. The reason for me is two-fold. First, they were the ex’s friend first so you don’t have as much vested in them.  Secondly, these tend to be the friends who will keep tabs on you after the break-up, so you can nip that in the bud.  That being said, be wary of the close friend of an ex that doesn’t defriend you soon after the breakup.   The real friends of your ex should choose for themselves and, as a sign of solidarity, they should have already dropped you.

While we’re on the topic of relationships.  FB is not the place to show your relationship discord.  Trust me, most of us don’t care, but it makes for some fabulous reading.  If your relationship is having problems, FB will only make them worse.  Most of your friends (in the Real World) already know your relationship is imploding.  They don’t need the obscure comment or inoccuous remark to make the point.  In a floudering relationship, FB will pray on your paranoia like nothing else will.  That old high school girlfriend I just friended with the two kids that lives in the next time zone? We are not running away with each other.  That comment on so and so’s page about the good time they had last night?  That was not about me.  If these two examples sound remotely like any conversation you have had in the last week, you have bigger things to work out.

On the flip side, we know you are really in love with the new guy/girl.  We don’t need to read every cute comment that you make to each other.  You don’t have to post every photo ever taken of the two of you together.  We use FB to feel better about ourselves.  Your happiness is really screwing with that goal.  So stop it.  Ok, I am done.

Next Topic.

Posted by: rhino7592 | March 14, 2010

Unsocial animals

2010 is well under way and as I have increasingly distanced myself from 2009, for better or for worse, I haven’t found the time or the topic that was worthy of putting fingers to keys. (pen to paper is so 1900s).  Truth be told, I am amazed that anyone is reading this drivel, but then again there are people out there who actually get paid for doing this very same thing.  A close friend, who indirectly put me on to blogging, said that I can’t get too caught up in who reads this, and that really shouldn’t be the point. Once again, for me, it’s the journey and not the destination.

My hometown got its first major snowfall in several years.  After a couple of false starts earlier this winter, we got some snow in earnest.  Now my Facebook page in inundated with pictures of snow-covered houses, and the obligatory snow men.  I know, I get it, the snow is neat, and if you have little kids, it’s a blast to see them experience it for the first time.  But the few people who have followed my blogs (I know there are some and I got the hit stats to prove it) know that I lived in the midwest for a few years of my childhood.  Snow is overrated.  It turns the average criminally deficient driver in SC to someone who should not be on the roads at all.  After the first five minutes of a snowball fight, your soaking wet and freezing.  And because this is South Carolina, you know it will probably be in the 60s three days from now…..but i digress.

The spark hit me full-on the other day.  I was driving home from work and texting my best friend to make some plans for the evening.  We go back and forth a few times.  Sending. Downloading. Sending. Downloading. And the shear stupidity of the exercise overwhelms me.  It has taking us five minutes to nail down plans that would have taken 30 seconds in a phone conversation, using the very thing I am HOLDING IN MY HAND.  It’s then when I realize, we are, by nature, a social animal, but when it comes down to it, we really don’t want to talk to each other.

Technology is pushing us down the unsocial path.  Cell phones are constantly getting more elaborate and a part of every day life.  I know several people who would drop dead of a stroke if they lost the ability to use their Crackberry.  They would just cease to function.  But the key thing about cell phones and there various capabilities, is that they allow us to control, and at times dictate, our relationships with others.

I worked in a profession where communication was vital to job success.  The advent of “push to talk” or direct connect (DC) really made things easier, and everybody had them.  When DC first came out, I thought: “Thats dumb, you just turned your phone into a walkie-talkie. I don’t want to do that”  ….but  then I used it.  I don’t know if it appealed to my man sensibility to get to the point, but  I fell in love with it.  You DC someone, say what you had to say, and you’re done.  Quick, easy.  No wasted banter, no awkward silences.  I spent years in Nextel land and most of my conversations where that way.

Looking back, I first thought that the appeal to most people who used DC was the minimalist and efficient nature of the conversation, but the more I think of it, I now believe it was just another way for anyone to dictate the terms of their own interaction with others.  When you DC someone, you just wanted your question answered and be done.  You don’t actually want to talk to the person.  Everyone has been next to someone who is having a DC conversation (on speaker, of course) and whoever they are talking to has breached the DC etiquette of “less is more” and gone off on some long-winded tangent.  What’s the guy next to you doing? He is holding the phone and shaking his head.  He might even tell you that he doesn’t give a fuck about what the other person is saying.  All he is waiting on is the other person to shut up, so he DC back and tell them he’ll talk to them later.   It’s all about control.

Years of DC affected the way I would talk on the phone.  In the past year, I changed phones and went to another provider.  The first phone conversation I had with someone, with who I would have normally communicated with via DC, was one of most awkward things ever.  It was like we didn’t know how to talk to each other on the phone.  This guy is one of my best friends and we can talk about anything at length when we are in the same room, but we couldn’t pull of a phone conversation.  It was sad, really.  Afterward, we both actually acknowledged how funny that conversation was.  I have since gotten back on Nextel and we are back to DC, so everything’s good.

Texting.  Is there anything that is more social yet antisocial all at the same time?  I am consistently fascinated by texting.  We have essentially taken the talking out of communication.  And, as my opening scenario suggested, I am just as guilty as anyone else.

I was slow to warm to texting much in the same way I was with DC.  It seemed like we are taking the key use of a cell phone (you know, actually talking to people) and making it obsolete.  At first I was the guy saying “I’ll never text, that’s just fucking dumb”  Now….I text  all the time and I don’t feel guilty about it.

When you think about it, texting is all about guilt free communication.  It is like the time you called someone at their house when you knew they wouldn’t be home and you left a message.  You didn’t actually want to talk to them, (hence the calling when you knew they wouldn’t be there) but you wanted to feel good about staying in contact. Wanting, but not wanting the contact all at the same time.  With texting, you are literally sending your message.  If the other party responds, great.  If not, well, you did your part.

As I have become a more active texter, I am more sensitive to its effects on our interactions with others.  I was out the other night with a handful of my close friends.  We were all sitting around talking and having a good time together, but we all had our phones out and were intermittently texting people who weren’t there.  This is not an isolated phenomenon.  The next time your are out in a bar or restaurant, look at the large groups around you.  There are going to be groups just like mine the other night.  Talking and texting. Texting and talking.

What does this say about us? That we enjoy our friends, but we would rather be with the person that we’re texting.  But, we don’t think enough of them to call them we would rather just send the text. (wouldn’t want to be rude to the people who were with right now)  I know, not everyone person you see texting in a large group is fighting that moral battle, but I would argue there are a lot that are.  Like I said before, I am not pointing any fingers, because I am just as guilty.

I won’t even get into the people who text people who are sitting at the SAME table. I will say this to all the ladies, talk your shit in the bathroom, like you used to do.

Next up I might tackle the self-important bastards and their blue tooth earpieces. Now I got to go, got some texting to do.

Posted by: rhino7592 | January 8, 2010

Random thoughts for the new year.

“If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, than gravity is her worst enemy.” Actually this was uttered in late December by a friend of mine but this  has got to be the most profound thing I have heard in a while. For those of you who need a diagram, we were talking about boobs.

I am currently dumbfounded by Kate Gosselin’s attempt to extend her 15 minutes. I know this is not an original thought, but if you go back and watch their show, you can see the gradual deterioration of their relationship.  It was especially obvious to me, once they moved into their new house, how much they disliked each other.  It was clear that Jon struggled with the new fame, while it appeared that Kate reveled in it.  Everyone has seen a couple with their dynamic, regardless of which sex is playing which role.  Hell, you have probably been out to dinner with a couple, left their company, got into your car, and turned to your partner and uttered:  “I don’t know how he/she puts up with him/her.” I have forgotten the number of times I have done that, and I have no doubt that the same has been said about me.

So how did they get here?

I don’t doubt they both enjoyed the lifestyle that their show provided them, (as no middle class family with eight kids could afford that new house and all their travel trips, which were probably comped anyway.)  As with most divorced couples, I am sure they held it together longer than they probably should have.  I could probably tolerate anyone for a certain amount of time if I could fly West to go snowboarding, or Hawaii, or the Outer Banks.  Not that I snowboard, but you get the point.  Money and luxury make it easier to overlook misery.

But watch the shows around the time they moved into the new house.  They are as distant as I have seen any two couples.  I think Jon wanted some semblance of a private life, while Kate was enjoying the fame and the ability to provide for her family. This brings me back to their dynamic and where I think they went wrong. 

Kate was clearly the one in charge.  I don’t have a problem with strong women who know what they want.  I understand that most couples have a dominant personality that tends to run the show.  As I said before, we all have seen couples where one person wears the pants, and we walk away thinking, “I would never let that happen to me.”      But we still do.

Let that settle for a moment before we move on…….

I saw where on of the Sea Shepherd’s boats was sunk by a Japanese whaler in the Antarctic. All I could think was that Animal Planet will tease that through the entire next season of Whale Wars, before showing it in the last five minutes of the last episode.  I am riveted by this show, where not a lot happens, but we get to see how far people will go to fight for something they believe in.

While on the topic of TV.  With the advent of digital cable and the newer smart boxes, don’t you think that your cable provider should be able to provide “a la carte” programming?  I think that you should be able pay a flat rate and select 20 channels from their lineup.  I currently get well over 200 channels, and I might watch 20 of them with any regularity.  And that number is probably inflated.

Speaking of Speaking of TV, how bout Kari’s temporary replacement, Jessie, on Mythbusters?  I am one of many guys I know who thinks that there is something irresistable about Kari.  Jessie walks in and I am like “Hello Jessie. Howu doin?”  She does have a star tattoo in her armpit thats make me think “oww” everytime I see it.

I told you they were random thoughts.

Mid-life Crisis 2.0.  Now listening to Elbow and Doves, two bands not one.  I know this is a shock but they are both UK bands.  Didn’t slit my wrist through either album.  

Thats a good thing?          Right?

Posted by: rhino7592 | January 1, 2010

This is not a mid-life crisis

I am a music snob.

Music has always played a big role in my life. I am one of those people who has used songs or artists to relate to certain stages of my life. I definitely subscribe to the fact that musical tastes are learned or cultivated.  (some people just don’t have any, but I don’t hold that against them) My biggest influences on my tastes were my dad and older sister.

When I was younger, my family moved to St. Louis from the South and we would make the 16 hour trip several times back to South Carolina. I have fond memories of riding in a GMC conversion van (which was really just a gussied-up passenger van) with my parents and my sister.  16 hours is a long time to be trapped in a van with the greatest hits of the late 70’s on 8 track. My dad would make his own 8 track mixes so I got a good deal of variety.

Willie Nelson, Seals and Crofts, The Doobie Brothers, Dan Fogelberg, Gordon Lightfoot were all part of the rotation. I still know most of their lyrics to this day.  “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” anyone?  My dad also influenced my fascination with film scores.  On many occasions we would be flipping through TV and come across a movie and the play the unspoken game of name that composer.  He was always partial to John Barry, who is probably most famous for “Out of Africa, or “Dances with Wolves,” (not to mention a handful of Bond movies)  I lean towards Hans Zimmer and James Horner.

As I grew older, my sister stepped in as the guiding beacon of my musical tastes.  She entered college as I was getting out of middle school.  As everyone knows, middle school is Dante’s version of pop music Hell.  If it was Top 40, I am sure I listened to it.  As I entered my freshman year in high school, I was ready for something else.  My sister stepped in and introduced me to some of the alternative greats: REM, U2, Janes Addiction, The Cult, The Cure.  She also turned me on to some metal bands that released some landmark albums during that time frame, notably Metallica’s “And Justice for All,” and Queensryche’s “Operation Mindcrime.” (“Mindcrime” was my first dive into concept albums.  It was my “Wall” before I realized there was one.)

As my references show, I was in high school during the peak of hair metal, as well as one of  the cyclical rises in country music.  By my senior year, Garth was king of the world.  Needless to say, I needed something else.

I was always fascinated with VH1’s Behind the Music.  I would watch everyone that came on, but the ones about the popular bands from the late 80’s and early 90’s all had one common theme, their popularity ended circa 1992.

As I have gotten older and thought about the musical influences in my life, I am always stricken by seismic changes that occurred during this time.  If the Beatles changed my parent’s generation forever, than my generation experienced the same thing in the form of some flannel and melodies. Of course I am referring to the release of “Nevermind” and “Ten.”

Both of these albums were  in heavy rotation in my CD player the spring of my senior year, and began what I think were some enlightened times in popular music.  I soon began listening to Soundgarden and Alice in Chains as well.  (Ah “Dirt,” the struggles of heroin addiction never sounded better) Now I know that as Nirvana and Pearl Jam became the flag bearers of grunge, there were many copycats that came along to cash in (Silverchair, anyone?) and grunge began to fade.  Some may even argue that it ended with a shotgun blast in Seattle. Who knows?

I know that there are some bands who first had success during this time, that I still listen to this day.  And though their first big hits were grunge tinged, they are both now something completely different.  They have had different levels of success and continue to release albums.  I am talking about Radiohead and Seven Mary Three.  I will get to them later.

As I mentioned earlier, I live in South Carolina, more specifically, Columbia.  This is where I get to the second  musical event of my adult life that changed the face of popular music.  Of course I am talking about Hootie’s “Cracked Rearview.”

During their peak, Hootie ruled the world.  The music, while, in hindsight, was not groundbreaking, was a shot in the arm and was strikingly different to the grunge scene.  As with grunge, Hootie ushered in a flurry of similar styled bands, which I still listen to today.

As with grunge, Hootie could not sustain their popularity and gradually faded into the background.  After I graduated from college, my musical tastes began to flow all over the place. I am sad to say I own not one, but several albums that I am not proud of.  Until around 2000, I counted on the local “alternative” radio station to feed me what they thought was popular.  The advent of the IPod was the last blow for Clearchannel, et al dictating what I would listen to.

For the last few years I have been on a UK kick.  Coldplay, Snow Patrol, David Gray, People in Planes, and Gomez have dominated my lineup.  I am still fiercely loyal to certain bands that have formed my musical tastes as an adult. I have also grown to think that I owe a great deal to my close friends, and the big sis, who had turned me on to some great bands along the way.

The following is a sample of albums that have influenced my tastes during my adult life.  I tried to keep it chronologically  ordered to show how my tastes changed.  It is not a complete, nor perfect list.  There will probably be some omissions or bands that are no doubt influential, but I stand by my list.  I welcome any counter arguments or suggestions.  Remember one man’s “Joshua Tree” is another man’s “Pop.”

Nirvana – “Nevermind” and Pearl Jam – “Ten” I group these together for the reasons I have already talked about.  I actually lean towards “Vs” as my favorite Pearl Jam album, which, as you will see will be one in a long line of sophomore releases that I think set the standard for the band which released them.

Counting Crows – “Recovering the Satellites” I almost regret that I never bought another studio album from Adam and Co., but i do feel like I would be disappointed.

Sarah Mclachlan – “Fumbling towards esctasy” Huh?  What can I say? I am a sucker for a voice.

Tori Amos – “Under the Pink” We’ll all admit that Tori has gone a little bat shit in recent albums. This is not one.

Seven Mary Three – “Rock Crown” Another sophmore effort. They enjoyed the radio airplay with “American Standard,” but I will fight you for this one.  7M3 is still one of my foremost favorite bands.  This opens with “Lucky,” and doesn’t let up.  They are still pumping out albums, but nothing compares to this one.

Radiohead – “The Bends” Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, ” OK Computer” is great and on everyone’s top ten list, but this one has “Fake Plastic Trees.”

Better than Ezra – “Friction Baby” Another band that keeps chugging along, BTE is the one band that I wish had a bigger following.

Then follows the years of musical funk.  When I was buying the albums I am not proud of.

Coldplay – “A Rush of Blood to the Head” One word: “Amsterdam”

David Gray – “Life in Slow Motion”  I was a little late to Mr. Gray, but I have since gone back and seen the light.

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova – “The Swell Season”  They has since renamed themselves after this album and have released a second superb studio album.  This one has some of the best songs I have heard in years.  “Leave” is the best FU song that anyone can identify with.

Posted by: rhino7592 | December 16, 2009

The scary voice on the other end.

I am part of a generation raised on video games. 

I realized this was evident when I was reading a gaming magazine (the subscription was free with my Gamestop card) that stated something to the effect that there are now policy makers who have played the same games I grew up with.  Two things hit me:  I am old, and how will my (and my peers) take on the video gaming world affect future generations.

But let’s start at the beginning…

My dad was big into AV technology.  He owned an 8 track for God’s Sake. I can remember our first VCR circa 1980 that was a top loader with push buttons similar to a cassette player.  I can remember a neighbor having a Laserdisc player around the same time.  It was basically a DVD player but the discs were the size of 33 1/3 lps.  (Needless to say ahead of its time, but VHS ruled the next 15 years. )

Somewhere during that same time the Atari 2600 was introduced. The simpler days of a joystick with one button, and an arrow to tell you which way was up.  That wasn’t good enough for my household.  We got the Intellivision system.  The graphics were better and you had a keypad with a directional disc.  The games even came with acrylic overlays that would slide onto the keypad to tell you which buttons did what.  Intellivision also came out with a module that would allow the games to talk, which I think would baffle today’s kids who own handheld games with infinitely more computing power that my beloved Intellivision.  (When Xbox can release a single game disc containing almost the entire first generation catalog of Intellivision games, you know you are not dealing with a sophisticated system.)  To my young eyes, it was the coolest thing ever and I have been hooked for life.

I have been there every step of the way as the technology has improved.  NES? Check.  Super NES? Check.  Sega? Check.  3DO? (don’t ask, but still guilty) PS1? Check.  PS2? Check.  Xbox? Check.

Now I am firmly planted in an Xbox 360.  I have seen the Red Ring of Death and lived to tell about it. My best friend is the Lord of the Red Rings, four and counting. At 36, I was still waiting with child-like anticipation for Modern Warfare 2, Assassin’s Creed 2 and Left 4 Dead 2 to be released and bought them the day they were. There are upcoming titles that I am salivating for as well.

Now I come to my issue.  As most of you familiar with gaming know, the gaming consoles’ bread and butter is online play, and a large majority of gaming titles are now built for the online experience.  Nowhere is this more evident than the current bestseller Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

Like Halo and Tom Clancy’s more popular titles of the past. MW2 is a first-person shooter in which players compete against other individual teams as soldiers in photo realistic environments.  Obviously, there is plenty of blood and carnage to go around, but I don’t have a problem with that.   By now parents should be aware what there children are playing and should monitor their gaming.  (Frankly I wish there was a way to filter out the players you can compete against based on age. There are few things more humbling than getting waxed by a 14-year-old and listen to him talk smack once the game is over)

Online play has expanded the possibilities of interaction between players on a global scale.  I have a group of online friends that live across the nation and are from many different backgrounds, colors and ethnicities.  I have been playing with this core of friends for several years now. I have listened to them grow up, get married, have kids, move from one time zone to another.  Until recently I did not know what most of them looked like until l we started linking up on Facebook.

Therein lies the problem.  The facelessness of online play has really opened my eyes to some of the vast differences in our society.  Most of the people I come into contact with during online gaming are just like me:  They want to play a game they enjoy against a human opponent and have some social  interaction along the way.  However, I have been in games with people who are racist, intolerant to people of a certain religious background, or just play the role of Ugly American.   The scariest part of all this is that the worst offenders tend to be younger players. 

I guess because they are just an anonymous voice from West Nowhere, they feel like they can say anything they want without consequence.  I guess I was raised differently, but I would never say some of the things I have heard in gaming rooms, whether I believed them or not.  To hear these things coming from someone clearly under the age of 20 is scary to say the least.

And the worst part of it is I think most of the offenders do it because they can and there is no recourse.  I know most of you are thinking, “if you don’t like it just change rooms or mute the player.”  It’s not that I don’t want to defend anyone’s right to free speech, after all I am blogging.  My point is what is becoming acceptable in the online world, which is, by definition, a public forum is not reality.  Most of the offending gamers would never utter the same vitriol while standing in the middle of  Times Square without fear of some kind of reprisal. 

The same analogy can be used for the rampant drug addled gamers who use their time online to talk about how high they are, getting, or plan to get.  Again, what they do in their private time is their business, whether the act of which is illegal or not.  I am just saying these same people would not be having these conversations in a public place.

So whats the big deal?  I touched on it before.  While I am a grown man who has made my place in the world, there are millions of impressionable gamers who have not.   They are being subjected to all of the same things that have piqued my interest.  Does this mean that there needs to be regulation of the gaming world? Absolutely not.  You can not truly regulate online gaming anymore than you could truly regulate internet content.  The only true regulation starts at home.