Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Liberal Media, Pt. I

Kurt Vonnegut at one point in one of his essays referenced the theories of a professor he studied with while in the anthropology department at the University of Chicago* was something called 'folk societies.'  The basic idea was that one of the reason that modern Americans (and given when Vonnegut was in school, 'modern' here probably means '1940') are so generally unhappy is that mankind evolved as a social creature, but one that is used to a small and manageable group.  Too many people in your tribe and suddenly you become disconnected and adrift.  Basically, modern society is a bummer and your'e always going to feel sad and alone.

Of course Vonnegut saw it in those terms.  He was wired to view things as pessimistically as possible and enjoyed being that way.  If nothing else, it was profitable.

But the real problem with a large society - 308 million of us here in America - is not the need you feel for yourself to be part of a group of sympathetic and friendly people (which is certainly a need I feel), but the need for others to find a group that they can easily file you away in and thereafter parse every action, reaction and emotion you display as being merely symptomatic of your 'type.'

Yes, I do this too.  Shorthand gets us through the day.  But it benefits no-one.  The internet, which is supposed to be the great uniter, allowing like-minded folk from Pascataway and Kalamazoo to spend all of their time socializing with each other and ignoring those real people around them who have nothing to offer save geographic proximity.

In the pre-Facebook days, forums and chat rooms filled the Folk Society bill.  Forums and chat rooms are generally set up around small and smaller slices of an already small demographic pie - that is, the pie of people who go on forums and chat rooms in the first place.  I've been a fully participating member (under my own name, no less) in three chorums over the years:

  • The John Byrne Forum (dedicated but not limited to discussions about mainstream comics and other geek culture);
  • The Comics Journal Forum (dedicated but not limited to discussions about why mainstream comics and other geek culture suck and also to flaming the living shit out of each other, now mercifully defunct);
  • The Walrus Comix Message Board (paradoxically dedicated to anything other than discussions about comics, mainstream or otherwise)

Of course, the logical hole in the middle of the forum/chat model is simply this: if everyone agreed with everyone else, there'd really be nothing to discuss, would there? "John was better than Paul."  "Oh, absolutely!" "..." "Great, well, nice meeting you."  So the smaller the demographic sample of the board, the larger the possibility that there will be people who participate merely to stir up shit.

On the Byrne board, which is policed pretty heavily, 'trolls' - lamest name ever, but there it is - are banned for violating any number of rules, sometimes on first offense.  On the TCJ forum, people were banned only very infrequently and after multiple violations/complaints.  On the WC board, no-one got banned, ever.  At least I don't think so.  Perhaps I will be corrected on this in the comments section?



*Please bear in mind that this is all straight from memory, so I'm sure that 95% of the facts are accurate, but I swear the gist is angled correctly.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dusty in Here

That title is two things - both the usual meta-commentary as I come back to the Rambler after increasingly long leaves of absence, and also Dusty Springfield's follow-up to her 60's hit disc 'Dusty in Memphis.'  'Dusty in Here' turned out to not be nearly as good or as iconic, seeing as how - although it was outtakes from the Memphis sessions - it consisted entirely of the British chanteuse doing warm-up exercises and doing inaccurate and increasingly drunken impressions of Hubert Humphrey.

Be that as it may, the expanded Archival Edition CD comes highly recommended!  Five out of five, oh, let's say 'stars' and be done with this.

So, what's new in Daveland?  Not a whole heckuvalot.  Most of my time over the last few months has been dedicated to work and school, to the point where sometimes I look at a week ahead of me and get kind of daunted by the sheer amount of scheduling voodoo that I'll have to perform if I even want to do laundry.  Still, this past week I've finally started on the much-promised-to-Yesenia master bedroom renovation.  In any other house, it would be a simple (!) matter of throwing up some paint and changing the window treatments, but with the delaminating plaster ceiling and seriously, seriously drafty winters, everything must go!

Even then, I would have probably just patched the ceiling and let it be, but given that not one, not two, but three ceilings have collapsed in this house since 2007, I figured it was tempting fate to leave the clearly aching-to-fall 95-year-old ceiling over our bed alone.  So we've moved the mattress in the other room and are living like college students while I hack at things.

Then comes the insulation.  Then the drywall.  Then the plaster.  Then the masking.  Then the primer.  Then the painting.  Then the weeping.  Well, there's probably going to be weeping all along.  I'm so lazy.