March 2009 Archives
Read the whole article here.
Is Facebook real? Yes, I know it's real in the sense that the online social networking site exists, that millions of people create pages for themselves, and swap personal details and give each other quizzes and virtual foot massages and such.
But what is that, exactly? Is it entertainment, a vast soap opera starring people you kinda know? Is it communication, a jazzed-up version of the post office? Is it a virtual, boozeless cocktail party? A summer camp in cyberspace?
"It's like having friends" is the line I prefer, quoting Luna Lovegood, the loopy Harry Potter character, a wistful sentiment since she does not have actual friends.
Facebook friends are not real friends, either, in that they won't lend you $20 or help you move into a new apartment in return for pizza. But they aren't complete strangers either -- they tell you about their lives, you care about them, in a way.
Maybe asking if it's real is the wrong question -- Narnia isn't real, and no one minds. Maybe the key is not to take it seriously -- it's just fun.
But if the idea is to have fun, I'm not sure how well Facebook works. I used to frequently update my status, until I realized I wasn't exactly enjoying the Greek chorus of snarky comments I'd get. Maybe Facebook -- like so much in life -- is a lot more fun if you're 18 and not 48.
Acting out a pantomime of friendship with a thousand strangers gets old. I find myself wishing I could swap my 1,000 Facebook friends for one true friend. But there's no button on Facebook that lets you do that.
Sex is not a big deal in Norway. Nudity is not a big deal there, either.
Or so I am told by my Norwegian Facebook pal Gry Haukland, who just phoned a few minutes ago.
She suggested calling -- I had stopped posting updates, and she wanted to know how I was. It immediately struck me as risky, maybe even wrong, the crossing of some kind of Rubicon. Phoning violates the Facebook etiquette; it breaks the third wall, as they say in theater.
But refusing to give her the number -- that seemed rude, too. I give business cards to any stranger I meet, and Gry is my most avid friend on Facebook, a constant source of comments, questions and flattering remarks.
So I sent the number, glancing at the phone, not quite convinced it would actually ring, worried more than anything about the female aspect. I could see my wife looking up from the newspaper, an expression of cold contempt flitting over her lovely features. "So let me get this straight..." she begins, in her best cross-examination voice. "Now, you're chatting on the phone with strange Norwegian women?"
"Yes, dear," I'd squeak. "You see, she asked for the number, and ..."
The phone rang. Her English was quite good -- far better than my Norwegian. She lives just south of Stavanger, "in the wilderness." Used to be a nurse. (What is it with nurses? Every forward woman I've ever met turns out to be a nurse. It must be their proximity to death; makes them more alive).
We talked for a few minutes, until I said I'd better be going, that this was the time I need to write my column, and If I spent it talking to her, then she'd have to be the subject.
She said she'd like that very much.
"America is so prude-ent," she said. "If you talk to a woman, if you have a mistress on the side ..."
She said that in Norway, while politicians are ruined over financial scandals, they are forgiven their amorous adventures.
"People who have never been to America ask me, how come they are so against nudity when they are so for shooting people?" she said. "They cannot understand that."
When she said that, I decided to risk slipping this questionable episode into print. Foreigners give us a perspective that we overlook on our own, and Americans need to realize that not only do we seem like inexplicable prudes to the rest of the world, but inexplicable prudes with a gun fetish.
The good thing about Facebook is that we don't have to figure it out -- like all technology, it will figure us out, and then we'll adapt to it. Technology races ahead -- we don't even bother imagining the future any more because next year's line of new Apple gizmos outstrips what the science-fiction writers were dreaming up last year.
Our technology races ahead, and we lope after it, trying to adapt, animals that until recently were chasing down mammoths.
Anyway Gry, it was nice talking to you, though I don't think we
should make a habit out of it. Married men, you know, we need to keep
our eyes on our shoes as we shuffle through the well-worn path we have
cut through life. Otherwise, a guy is asking for trouble. I'm sure it's
the same in Norway.
I have been an avid Scrabble fan for years, owning several copies of the board game over the years, and now playing it online through Facebook.
As an American professor teaching at a university in South Korea, I am forced to use the Scrabble Worldwide (excluding US and Canada) application. This is, in my opinion, insane and unnecessary. Yes, I understand that two different companies own the rights to distribute the game, and both companies want to maximize their exposure. As I see it though, and from what friends have said when discussing the matter, it makes Hasbro and Mattel look petty and stupid. I'm not a lawyer, but I am 100% positive that it would be possible to forge an agreement to share the application with users from both regions and simply denote which company owns the rights in which region.
Come on, people. There is no way this exclusionary usage is good for your company's PR.
:: AIRKOREA :: Real-time Ambient Air Quality Dissemination System
The US military's warning system
Facts about Asian dust
(thanks to Alex for 2nd and 3rd links)
Google Maps Korea
From Slate's Explainer:
"A mythical beast known as the "grass-mud horse" has become an
Internet phenomenon in China. The New York Times reported Thursday
that the alpacalike creature's Mandarin name just happens to be a very,
very dirty pun. Times style rules prevent the paper from clarifying the joke,
but other, less-dignified outlets explain that the phrase Cao ni ma is a
homonym for "fuck your mother" in Chinese. Is some variant of motherfucker
used all over the world?"
A collection of YouTube videos to further your research in this delicate matter.
Iceland is home to 13 or more kinds of huldufólk , like elves, dwarves and so forth. Want to build a factory? You have to hire a clairvoyant to make sure no local elves will be harmed or peeved by the work. Your highway project is having mechanical problems? You've pissed off an elfin community.
Read more about it in this great Explainer at Slate.
Oh and for all of you that came over because of my headline on Facebook, Gtalk, or MSN, what can I say? I guess that is why you are my friends. YOU SICKOS!!
"Then, the Pentagon records in the admirably restrained language of international diplomacy, "the Chinese crew members disrobed to their underwear and continued closing to within 25 feet."
In the annals of great naval battles, the contretemps may not rank alongside Trafalgar or Jutland. But it must be a contender for this year's award for naked aggression."
(h/t to angry asian man for the video)
The hyperbole is ridiculous. It's worse than ridiculous.