Friday, June 26, 2009

Jackson's passing should not be compared to Lennon, Hendrix, et al.

Double Fantasy album coverImage via Wikipedia

Unlike many of my fellow children of the '80's, Jacko was not the soundtrack of my youth. I was more of the U2 / R.E.M. / Bruce Springsteen type. Granted, he was a huge pop star, but the emphasis should be on WAS. People should not be comparing his death to John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix.

All these artists passed at or near the height of their powers. You could argue that Lennon was a bit past his prime, but his posthumous release Double Fantasy was a big success, and you could argue that he was experiencing an artistic rebirth.

Sure, Michael Jackson was the biggest selling artist of all time, but he hadn't had a hit (however those are determined now) in more than a decade. His shows were selling out, but it was no more than a greatest hits tour.

The Essential Michael Jackson album coverImage via Wikipedia

If anything, Jackson's passing should be compared to passing of his musical namesake: Elvis Presley. Both the King and the King of Pop had been reduced to Vegas show status. Both were the biggest stars of their time, but music had definitely passed them by.
His legal and moral issues aside, Jackson was a significant superstar. For 15 years, he ruled the charts. That was, however, 15 years ago. Don't confuse him with those artists who died still at the top of their game.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Thoughts on "Paul Blart, Mall Cop"

I enjoyed the scene where he rocks out to "Detroit Rock City" on Rock Band. Other than that...

It cost us $1 to rent this at a Red Box. Probably twice as much as it was worth.

Watching Paul Blart, Mall Cop. Do security gua...Image by BenLucier via Flickr

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Am I a twit for not Twittering?

I've just recently descended into the circle of hell that is facebook and have enough trouble keeping up with that. I've taken IQ quizzes (genius, of course), listed my five favorite everythings, found out that I drive women wild (thank you, Captain Obvious) and reconnected with people who never really interested me in the first place. Now you want me to update my "followers" on my every move? I've got news for you, I'm not that interesting. Twitter is for people who don't have the attention span for facebook.

I actually don't mind facebook because it has forced me to write more, and it gives me an audience for my blog (yeah, that means you). I've avoided Mafia Wars and Scrabulous, but there are still plenty of things on facebook to waste time with. But at least you are still doing something. It seems like with Twitter - admittedly I've not explored the site fully yet - all you do is follow what others are doing. Suddenly, it's on the cover of Time magazine.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase

Now I'm as curious as the next guy, but I don't need to know what people had for breakfast or what song they are listening to at the moment (well, maybe I do). I don't need to know that you just got out of class or crossed the street or picked your nose or took a deep breath. And, I don't feel like telling you those things either. I mean, I don't know about you, but I try to hide it when I pick my nose.

Do I want to know when my niece wins a ribbon at a track meet? Sure. Do I want to know that you just got engaged/married/separated/divorced/remarried? O.K. That's what we have facebook for. And don't give me any nonsense about how the Gen X'ers have taken over facebook and the youngsters need something of their own. Hey, if you don't want to know what your parents are up to, don't friend (is that now a verb?) them. I'm a big fan of the "ignore" button on facebook.

If you spend all your time on Twitter, when do you actually do anything? On facebook, there are games, trivia quizzes, videos, etc. But it seems that all Twitter has to offer is the mundane ramblings of people who think they are important. I understand the whole marketing aspect of the thing, but do I really need another way for people to sell me stuff? Maybe Twitter needs something which functions like a DVR/TiVo - something to edit out the commercials.

As a high school teacher, the social networking boom has captured my attention as I try to better connect with my students. I blog and facebook (another new verb) and post photos on Picasa. These kinds of sites require you to think, plan and react. Which photos do I post? Which trivia quiz do I publish? What thoughts should I put into words for the world to see? But Twitter is different.

With Twitter, we're sinking further into the quagmire of passivity which is plaguing the early part of the century. We've become so enraptured with what others think or do, that we don't do anything ourselves. Facebook is enough of a time vacuum; we can do without Twitter. According to their "Twitter in Plain English" video on their website, "real life is what happens between e-mails and blog posts." Glad to know there's a "real life" in there somewhere, but what happens when you're so caught up with following, you have no "real life" to "tweet"? Later on in the video, it says that what's happening on Twitter is the "real world".

Um, not quite. The real world does not happen 140 characters at a time. It happens with a thought toward what's truly important. It happens in private, without public broadcast. It happens to people who are TOO BUSY TO POST TO TWITTER!

A true twitterer will constantly update followers (sounds like a cult, doesn't it?) on his/her mundane thoughts and activities. It's like fast food for the mind. Oooh, look, Aston Kutcher just stopped at the Circle K! Oprah just fed the dog! My apologies to all you "Twitterers" out there, but I beg you, instead of becoming addicted to this electronic dross, get out and do something yourself. And for god's sake, don't broadcast it to everyone. You're just not that important.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thoughts on "Prague"

Cover of "Prague: A Novel"Cover of Prague: A Novel

Pat Conroy bills Arthur Phillips's novel Prague as "one of those books that help define and identify a whole generation, in the same way that Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises introduced his own lost generation.” While the novel held my interest after a slow start, I don't think it's quite in the same ballpark as The Sun Also Rises.

My main problem with the novel is the multiple points of view. The only real character I cared about was John Price, a journalist who comes to Budapest to reconnect with his estranged brother (Oh yeah, even though the novel is entitled Prague, it takes place in Budapest.
Don't ask.). While the novel is told mostly though his eyes, it frequently wanders to some of the minor characters. The novel drags in those places.

Price arrives in Budapest a self-acknowledged virgin, but leaves MUCH more experienced. I don't know if that was meant to enhance the "anything goes" mentality of the newly opened Soviet Bloc countries in the late 80's, but Price certainly got his money's worth.

He spends much of his time in the novel doing promotional work for his friend Charles, a Hungarian-American businessman looking for financial opportunity in his reluctantly adopted homeland. That thread bordered on allegorical as Charles attempts to revive and cash in on an old Hungarian publishing company.

Price and his friends wander through the city experiencing much that is has to offer, but they never really connect with each other. Price has a crush on Emily, and Mark has a crush on Price, but nothing ever gets resolved. Love stinks, yeah, yeah.

The friends play this game where they tell the group five statements and everyone has to guess which one is true. The characters can't even admit the truth about themselves, but they enjoy trying to discern truth in others.

Less Than ZeroImage via Wikipedia

The writing style and characters reminded me of Less than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis (which I enjoyed): a bunch of morally and sexually ambiguous characters stumbling around in search of the next score or the next party. Instead of cocaine, the drug of choice in Prague is alcohol.

Once the novel settled on John Price as its main focus, things began to pick up, but I found some of the threads of the plot distracting and pointless. I may give Phillips another try, but I won't give him as much rope next time.

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