This Week On Facebook

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What’s happening This Week On Facebook? Or, rather, what are MY friends posting about? Let’s take a look:

Phelps

Lots of people on a Fred Phelps Deathwatch. I’m not one of them. I have semi-personal reasons for not joyfully waiting for this man to die. In the last year-and-a-half, I’ve been getting to know a couple of ex-members. I have been surprised, and humbled, by their intelligence, humility, and wit. Say what you want about Westboro Baptist Church, the members that leave are invariably some of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet. And understand this – they leave knowing full well that they will probably never see, nor speak to, most of their family ever again. Fred Phelps may be a monster to most of us, but to these young people, he’s “Gramps,” and they are being prevented from going to see him, even though he himself has allegedly been excommunicated from his own church. I don’t know if a lot of us can comprehend this level of dysfunction, but it has to be incredibly confusing, and painful, for those who’ve left. What pleasure is there in rubbing it in?

I don’t cotton to fighting ugly with ugly. I have never encouraged anyone to go where WBC is picketing, to pick fights or threaten them, simply because in doing so, you are giving them exactly what they want. And given the WBC’s stance on funerals (they don’t hold them, believing as they do that it is “worshiping the dead,” rather than worshiping God), the fact is that if/when Fred passes, there will not be a funeral for anyone to protest. So those signs you want to make? Invest your time and energy into donating to LGBT, veterans, or Jewish causes.

I understand the anger that they inspire. I too believe that what they do is reprehensible, and I continue to be fascinated-yet-horrified at the sophomoric, scatological glee with which they go about their business. But I’m not going to “celebrate,” or take any pleasure in, what is happening to the Phelps family right now. The center cannot hold, and the WBC will disintegrate, sooner than anyone probably realizes. Let it do so, quietly.

clove

EVERYBODY STOP POSTING YOUR INANE THEORIES ON THE MALAYSIAN AIRLINES CRASH RIGHT NOW. Courtney Love has this all figured out, okay?

orgy

I….yeah. Look, I suppose if you live in Manhattan and need a little extra scratch, renting your apartment to TOTAL STRANGERS is a totally great idea, because – after all – they’re “verified users” of an internet site, and everybody knows that the internet is completely secure and shit.

I wouldn’t know; I don’t live in a desirable location. I mean – it’s a nice enough neighborhood and all, and it’s an easy commute to the airport, but I couldn’t post my 2 bed/1 bath home as a place to stay while taking in the sights, unless “the sights,” for you, include a movieplex with a huge parking lot that accommodates the World’s Skeeviest Carnival every spring. In which case, you probably WOULD want to rent it to host your BBW/stuffed animal/Purple Drank* orgy. Just don’t let me know about it.

juggalo

I saw an honest-to-god Juggalo once. Outside of the Walgreens on Centre Street in Malden. I wondered how he was able to survive so far away from any retail establishment that sold Faygo. Curiosity piqued, I went to Faygo’s website, only to learn that they require a great deal more personal information than I was willing to provide, simply to learn how Juggalos in the New England area get their Faygo fix, so to speak.**

I digress. I can’t hate on this. It’s love. Love, with extra helpings of face paint and (presumably) a Faygo Fountain. Bless their hearts.

* – In fairness, I haven’t located a single article on this in which Purple Drank is mentioned. I’m just, you know, assuming.

** – Apparently, you can get Faygo at K-Mart. ANY K-Mart.

This Week On Facebook

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I’m toying with making this a regular feature, if only to get me posting here more. Basically, I want to observe some of the things that my friends are talking about on Facebook, and go into a little more depth here. It’s a prompt of sorts. We’ll see.

At any rate, this week I’m seeing a lot of this:

richardson

If you’re not familiar with Terry Richardson, here’s the deal: he’s an “American fashion and portrait photographer.” His “snapshot aesthetic” utilizes a white backdrop, and lighting which gives his subjects a very blanched, beat look. He’s very trendy.

He’s also a completely repulsive human being.

It doesn’t take a lot of Google sleuthing to yield some very unsavory information about Terry Richardson. And yet celebrities flock to him, because – simply put – having Terry Richardson shoot you means that you’ve “arrived.” A Richardson portrait is the 21st Century equivalent of a Warhol silkscreen. And because of this, famous people are completely willing to overlook the nastiness, the abuse, and the degradation of NON-famous people in order to have those bleached-out, totally gross portraits of themselves. Status will always trump decency. So, you know, well played, famous people. If you stay good and drunk, you can continue to not think about how many women have been exploited and abused by this fucking creep, and that you’re basically enabling him to do it. May you treasure those pictures always.

giphy.com

On a more bittersweet note, loads of my music scene pals posted the link to this bit of news, about the impending demise of Central Square’s, um, “finest” pizza establishment: Hi-Fi:

hifi

What can I say about Hi-Fi? From around 1988 to 2002, it was the place I went to because I was too scuddered to walk down Massachusetts Avenue to Wendy’s. Unceremoniously jettisoned from TT’s or The Mid East for being a drunk ho? Get your shit together at Hi-Fi.

Once I got sober? Never set foot in the place again, even as I continued to see and play shows in the immediate vicinity. One – because I no longer needed that refuge in which to weep while attempting to “soak up” the alcohol braying through my bloodstream. Two – because sobriety afforded me the chance to get reacquainted with my taste buds.

Horrible pizza. Just terrible. A friend of mine has argued that it was at least “good enough” to keep them in business for 40 years, but I don’t buy that. The reason they stayed in business for 40 years? LOCATION. Within stumbling distance of two major clubs. I ask you, fellow denizens of The Scene: did you ever actually, specifically, go to Hi-Fi for pizza when NOT either at a show or playing a show? Like, did you go there to have dinner/lunch independent of a show? If this was a place you willingly went to because you loved that pizza SO MUCH, I would love to hear from you. Because you puzzle me.

And yet, I lament its closing. I truly do. It’ll be said over and over for the next few days, and I’ll say it, too, because it’s true: END OF AN ERA. My 23-year-old self would not recognize Central Square these days, and this is one more landmark that will be replaced by a Domino’s, or a bank, or some terrible place that sells those Vera Bradley quilted bags. Sadness.

dog

What Animated Dog Am I? Mr. Peabody. DUH.

complaint-weather-comparatively-less-annoying-seasonal-ecards-someecards

Finally, it’s March in New England, which means volatile weather to the max. Yesterday it was sunny and in the upper fifties. On Monday we woke up to snow. It’s going to snow tomorrow, too, probably. It will go back and forth like this until at least mid-April. We know this, and still we complain. And if we’re not complaining about the snow, we’re complaining about people who are complaining about snow. Because Facebook.

This is me making this about myself.

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I think I was in ninth grade when I first experienced the aftermath of a death of a classmate. She wasn’t anybody that I was particularly close to; in fact I don’t think she could even be called a passing acquaintance. But I remember the makeshift “counseling center” that was assembled in the school’s library, which was then closed off in terms of browsing, studying, or anything else not directly involved with grief. And I remember some of my classmates becoming absolutely hysterical, and other classmates’ whispered opinions over whether or not someone was in the library crying “for attention,” as opposed to genuine horror over the idea that death can sweep in and grab a 14-year-old who just yesterday asked you for a piece of gum.

That was my first exposure to this idea that there was a hierarchical “right” to mourn someone’s death, based on any number of factors, not the least of which was how well you knew the person that died. If you didn’t know the person in some substantive way, any display of grief or bewilderment simply meant you were doing it for show. That you were making it about you. That you were doing it “for attention.”

Fast-forward 29 years. Now we have the internet, for better or for worse. We question the appropriateness of mourning in such an “impersonal” way. And the death of a celebrity becomes the subject of countless blogs, status updates, and poems of questionable taste. These are invariably met with scorn. You don’t know that celebrity. Why grieve publicly about that celebrity’s death? And lord help you if that celebrity dies from a drug overdose, because then you’re paying more attention to some selfish, dirty junkie than to REAL problems and people who die much more noble deaths. I’ve written about this before.

I don’t doubt that there are people in this world who unreservedly have to “make everything about them,” who post things precisely because they know they’ll get a virtual shitstorm of attention. I’ve given major side-eye to these kinds of antics, but in the end, I’d argue that anyone with a blog has decided to draw attention to themselves somehow, myself included. Here it is, less than 24 hours after Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his apartment, and I’m writing about what that MEANS to me, someone who didn’t know him, who passed him on the street once, who works almost daily with someone who did know him. These are the things I weigh as I write, and they’re all found wanting. I am telling on myself here: I am doing the thing I despise by staking my claim to someone else’s tragedy. I am a tragedy vulture. Pass the carrion.

When it comes down to it, I have no right to sit here and write about the fact that I burst into tears when I found out.

But I am going to write about it anyway: I burst into tears of pure terror.

Philip Seymour Hoffman had 23 years of sobriety. 23 years of continuous, daily reprieve from the compulsion to completely destroy himself. That compulsion is something I identify with. It is the most horrifying thing in the world to live with, when it’s actively raging in your brain to the point where the need is primal, cellular: every cell in your body screams for it. And it has fuck-all to do with pleasure. You know in your very soul that the “relief” you’re getting is artificial, and temporary. But it is your only option. You simply cannot see any other way out.

Except some of us do find a way out. And we can go for a long time without whatever it was that we needed so desperately. Philip Seymour Hoffman went 23 years. And then he started abusing prescription pills. I need to stress that: heroin is likely what killed him, but pills are what took him out. Pills. We all hiss in an almost superstitious way when we hear “heroin.” Heroin is for people on the very bottom rungs. Heroin doesn’t happen to people who have it all. We shake our fists and bewail heroin as the killer, nobody wanting to acknowledge the uncomfortable fact that very often, there are “normal,” “acceptable” substances that pave the way to chasing the dragon. That alcohol kills more people than heroin.

There’s an artist I occasionally follow on Twitter. The day before Philip Seymour Hoffman died, she was tweeting about how having a drink ended her writer’s block. And several of her fans chimed in along the lines of: “Yes! Write drunk! Have a shot before embarking on anything creative! Yay!” And I thought, “This is the mindset that kept me so unwell for so many years.” This is just one of the things that could conceivably end my 11+ years of sobriety, if I don’t remain vigilant. I don’t know if people understand how very fragile sobriety is. I certainly didn’t give it as much thought I should have, until yesterday, hearing that someone with 23 years caved, gave in, and got himself killed.

That is terrifying. So terrifying that I sat on my couch and sobbed.

And so this is me making this about myself. I am frightened. I am angry. I want people to stop being so goddamned cavalier and irresponsible when it comes to addiction, to alcohol, to passing judgment. Myself included.

Thank You For Shopping At ______

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Want to get yourself good and depressed?  Go to the Lowe’s Facebook page.
If you’re not aware of what’s going on, lots of people are upset with Lowe’s for pulling their advertising from All American Muslim, a show that debuted on TLC not too long ago.
Let’s get a few things out of the way first:
  • Yes, I’ve seen the show.  I generally don’t watch TLC programming, as they ceased being “The Learning Channel” right around the time they started airing stuff like “Let’s Watch Jon & Kate’s Marriage Dissolve Before Our Eyes While Their 8,000 Kids Go Ignored.”  Compared to this, and to the execrable and completely creepy Toddlers & Tiaras, All-American Muslim is fairly bland and inoffensive, and its attempts to educate folks on the lives of everyday Americans who happen to pray facing Mecca is closer in spirit to a “learning” channel than it’s been for years.
  • American Muslims have mixed feelings about the show.  The general consensus seems to be that it’s a good college try, but in showcasing families in the Dearborn Muslim community only, it’s not an accurate representation of the breadth of diverse practices, origins and experiences.  Certainly the Muslims on this show aren’t punching walls and having every other word out of their mouths bleeped for profanity (something that can’t be said for the vast majority of “reality” programming).
  • Yes, as a matter of fact, I know a lot of Muslims.  I have worked with them, studied with them, hung out with them, and my life is better for having them in my general orbit.  The same can be said for the Christians, Jews, Wiccans, Buddhists and atheists I see on a near-daily basis.  I have no problem with religion, or lack thereof.  What I have a problem with is obstinacy.  What I have a problem with is willful ignorance.
  • I am completely pro-capitalism.  I believe it’s a company’s right to advertise where they see fit, and I also believe that it’s my right to shop where I feel comfortable.
So now we come back to Lowe’s.  They offered one of those apologies-that-aren’t-really-apologies, and left their Facebook page wide open for folks of every stripe to leave their comments.  And, oh, what interesting comments they are.  I’d say that 1 in every 200 comments attempts to be reasonable, but it’s quickly buried in a landslide of vitriol from all sides of the issue.  There’s the woman who steadfastly believes that American Muslims shouldn’t be treated with respect because they are – in her words – “barbarians” with a long and documented history of atrocities (the same can be said for Christians, but nobody seems to want to acknowledge that).  Conversely, there are the people who are comparing a frigging hardware store to the Third Reich.  And there are the people who are trying to work in that “Happy Holidays ruins everything” angle that has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ISSUE AT HAND.  But my favorite came from the dude who says that Lowe’s shouldn’t worry about boycotters, because “90% of them are rejects who probably rent instead of owning their houses.”  Um, what?

If you’re looking for a picture-perfect example of the state of “discourse” in this country, look no further than the Lowe’s Facebook page.  No one is having conversations there.  They’re just screaming at each other.  If you shop at Lowe’s, you’re a redneck hick.  If you don’t shop at Lowe’s, you’re a terrorist.  Muslims are ruining America.  Christians are ruining America.  More and more, we’re like a divided dinner plate, where the salad can’t touch the beans can’t touch the meat.  STAY OUT OF MY COLESLAW YOU FREEDOM-HATING SPARERIB.

I’d like to believe that I can practice tolerance, or at least ask people to consider tolerance, without being accused of being a brainwashedgodlessliberalsocialist.  But lately I’ve been shown that I can’t.  That’s not to say that I won’t keep trying to be a small voice of reason in increasingly unreasonable times.

Random Thoughts

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Always dress as though you’re going to run into an ex, or someone who was mean to you in junior high.

Ranting and screaming and namecalling isn’t “political discourse,” it’s telling everyone you have a shitty diaper and are unwilling or unable to change it yourself.  And I’m not singling out one party here, either.

Belief:  that’s personal stuff.  By “personal” I mean this – let’s say I believe in magical jingle bell elves.  Believing in magical jingle bell elves gives me a degree of happiness, and comfort in difficult times, and provides a set of standards by which I live my life.  But as I am sitting here, jingling, I also understand that not everyone believes as I do.  As such, I don’t try to push my magical jingle bell elves on someone who – say – believes in glittery rainbow unicorns, or doesn’t believe in anything at all.  I don’t dare to presume that someone who doesn’t believe in magical jingle bell elves is less moral or ethical than I am.  More importantly, I don’t try to push legislation that requires everyone to at least PRETEND to believe in magical jingle bell elves.  My belief in magical jingle bell elves should not determine public policy.  Why?  Because it’s personal.  This has nothing to do with being a “liberal.” It’s simply common sense.

My mother is probably the best driver I know.  She’s the best driver I know because she, in her words, drives “as though everyone else on the road is drunk, stupid, or clinically insane.”  This works for walking, too.

I don’t get people on Facebook who “like” a page dedicated to something that they DON’T like, just so they can mouth off about why they don’t like it.  It’s like crashing a birthday party, jumping on the table, and announcing to everyone that the birthday girl has a zit.  This morning someone posted on the page of a television show (of which I am a fan) something to the effect of:  “I have an intense desire to see you fail.  The only thing non-transparent about you is your pilot episode.  The worse you get, the more people like you.  I knew people like you in high school.  They never went anywhere, either.”  To which I say:  I knew people like YOU in high school.  They were the ones who sneered at everyone’s good time, because they liked such-and-such before it was cool, and they want to make sure that everyone knows it.  You haven’t grasped the fact that NOBODY CARES that you had the seven-inch pressed on blue vinyl of which there are only 500 copies.  Furthermore, you’re whining about “transparency” on a show ABOUT ZOMBIES.  Honey, get out of your mother’s basement and go get some fresh air.

If someone compliments you on something you’re wearing, the correct response is:  “Thank you.”   That’s it.  No going on about how it was on sale, how you think maybe it’s too tight around your ass, or that it’s from two seasons ago.  “Thank you.”  Give it a try.

See that basket over there?  The one with the sign that says:  “TAKE ONE”?  You are not obligated to take any, unless you’re an alcoholic, in which case you take at least three, whether you need them or not.

Here’s the thing:  I can joke about being a recovering alcoholic.  But generally I’m not real into non-alcoholic people making jokes about alcoholics.  It’s like one of the last things it’s okay to make jokes about, because it’s still considered some kind of moral weakness on the part of the afflicted person, rather than what it actually is.  You don’t make jokes about cancer, do you?  Untreated alcoholism is every bit as deadly.  And to those who think it’s about weakness, here’s something to think about:  You have a mosquito bite.  Don’t scratch it.  No – don’t scratch it.  What’s that?  You scratched it?  Tsk….you’re so WEAK.

That said, I also believe that once someone has accepted that he or she is an addict, that person has an obligation to do something about it.  And then, that person can make jokes and….oohhh, look – free refrigerator magnets!

“Let me just say this about that…”

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One of my favorite writers, Marya Hornbacher, recently wrote a piece for CNN.com about being an atheist in a 12-Step program.  It was sensitive, well-thought-out, and interesting to read.  And yet there were 60+ pages of comments in response to the article, many of them taking offense at one thing or another (“AA is a cult! I know cuz Penn & Teller said so!”  “Miss Hornbacher I am praying for u because u can’t be sober without Jesus.”  “Religion is evil!”  “Atheists are immoral!”).

I mostly avoid commenting on internet articles for the same reason I avoid posting about politics on Facebook:  it invites a maelstrom of crap that I just don’t have the time or the mindset for anymore.  The internet, in general, is a giant pissing match where everyone’s incontinent.  Gullible?  Easily offended?  Inebriated and itching for a misspelled tirade?  Welcome to the World Wide Web, where surely you’ll find SOMETHING to set you off.

Commenters fall into several categories:
  • The Kneejerker:  this is the person who is going to be offended no matter what.  You could write a blog about glittery unicorns romping through a pastoral field of poppies under a lavender sky and this person would respond thus:  “So UR saying that its okay to be gay?  THATS WRONG.”  Or:  “Please be more sensitive to the many thousands of opiate addicts and refrain from casual use of the word ‘poppies.'”  And let’s not even get into the unicorns.
  • The Comeback Artist:  right on the heels of the Kneejerker, the Comeback Artist can and will engage the Kneejerker in a back-and-forth that will take up pages and pages of the comments section.  The “discussion” will mostly consist of puerile insults, culminating in vague threats which become less and less vague until one or both accounts are suspended.
  • The Soapboxer:  this person has an axe to grind, and will find an excuse to grind it even in a thread that has nothing to do with the axe in question.  For example:  “There wouldn’t be so many ‘unicorns’ if this administration would GET TOUGH ON ILLEGALS.”  Closely related to the Kneejerker, but typically operates independently of said.
  • The Peacekeeper:  always attempting to be the voice of reason, the Peacekeeper prefaces each post with “I see your point, but…”.  Nobody wants to hear from this person.
  • The Spammer:  “Hello! welcome to online shop.we can supply low price with high quality product.You can view our website for the details. Thanks for your reading ,,, pls email us if u have any questions about business . “
  • The Scholar:  responses are no fewer than three paragraphs in length and are rife with cryptic allusions and references to distinguished writers and/or philosophers.  They seem to make no point other than to let everyone know that they are very, very well-read.
  • The Hyena:  responds with acronyms indicating raucous laughter.
Am I missing someone?  Leave me a comment and let me know.

On Friendship and Forgetting

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There were two articles in the Boston Globe this morning that I read with interest. One was about the changing definition of “friendship” in the world of social networking. The other was about the ongoing Phoebe Prince case.

For the most part, I benefit from social networking, as much as I tend to grumble about it. There have been many people from my past that have reached out, and I have been more than happy to hear from them. I accept their offer of virtual “friendship” in most cases. But how many people on this list of “friends” really fit the pre-Facebook definition? How many of them could I call when I’m feeling down? How many of them are on my Christmas card list? How many of them know anything about me other than what I vomit up onto my wall?

Lately, I’ve been turning down requests. If someone can’t be bothered to include a few words about how he or she knows me, then I’m simply not inclined to accept the offer. My own list of “friends” numbers close to 600. Sometimes, I have to go through the list to see if I actually KNOW most of these people. Because of my Irish Catholic heritage, a good deal of them are related to me. Others I know from having played in a band for several years. And many more are people with whom I went to school: grad school, college, high school. Finally, there is a small handful of people from my elementary school.

I am very, very guarded when it comes to encountering people from that particular time of my life. I’ve certainly made it no secret here that I was bullied, pretty relentlessly, during the last two years of my time at that school. I have spent years hashing this over, wondering what I did to deserve it. I was a wise-ass and a loudmouth. I made my feelings known. Only fairly recently have I been able to really say: “No. No one deserves that. I did not deserve that.”

I was bullied because I was weird, fat, not rich. The barrage of mental and verbal cruelty did not cease outside of the school, either. I was prank-called at home, on weekends. When I transferred to another school, there were girls waiting to pick up where the others had left off, having been appraised of the situation (which was that I was a loser and deserving of absolutely no peace). The turmoil died down once I got into high school, at which point I’d found an outlet for my pain, and the friends who’ve remained my friends to this day.

Phoebe Prince didn’t have the chance that I got. Seeing no end to it, she did the only thing she believed would take away that pain. In today’s article, two of her accused tormenters faced Mrs. Prince and heard, from her own mouth, what it was like to hold her daughter’s cold body. They were put on probation, required to perform community service. But more importantly, they were shown that actions have consequences. They will always remember having to stand trial. They will not forget what happened.

While I struggle with the idea of legislating classroom behavior, the fact that these kids will not escape the memory of this ugliness, and what that ugliness wrought, is a good thing. Because I have certainly found that people – by and large – don’t remember having been truly, genuinely ugly to others. And you know what? I get it. The years go by, you put away “childish things,” you get married and divorced, you raise children of your own, you rotate through a series of jobs and offices. How can you be expected to remember what you did when you were 12?

The burden, the ramifications, of that behavior almost always is carried by the recipient.

Several months ago, I got a Facebook “friend” request from someone from that school. And she DID introduce herself, she did remind me how I knew her. And she excitedly informed me that there were many others from that school with Facebook profiles. She told me that I should definitely add them all. She didn’t mention that she had called me fat, that she had asked me – in front of everyone – when my pregnancy was going to come to term. Because I’m sure she didn’t remember this. She didn’t remember that I left that school in the middle of seventh grade. She didn’t remember harrassing my younger sister – still a student there – demanding the details of why I had left.

I declined her offer. I’m sure she’s a lovely woman. Pillar of her community and all that. I am, despite what you may be reading into all of this, at peace with what happened. I have, to the best of my ability, “gotten over it.” I try to be aware of the marks that bullying has made on me. With the help of others, I have come to understand my “role” in it. I have become aware that my responses to the world around me have been informed by my past experiences. I have learned much about my reactions to people and situations, and I have come to understand that when these reactions are inappropriate, I need to apologize for them. And to some extent, I have learned to forgive myself, as well as the people who bullied me.

But I don’t need their “friendship.” I’ve got plenty of friends.