Sunday, November 25, 2012

Living in the Echo Chamber (and loving it)

In the past month, I've blocked approximately four people from my Facebook.  That is to say, I defriended them by blocking them so they could no longer find me and refriend me.  This became a problem (I use that word in the mildest possible first-world way) when I realized that some people I had defriended, after seeing them post some horribly racist or vicious attack on the president, would later request my friendship again and I, having forgotten who they were, would accept only to discover from looking at their page that, "oh yeah, this is that birther idiot I defriended last year."    So began the tradition of blocking instead of just defriending so they could not find me again and request a friendship that was clearly not meant to be.

Now, those are the extreme cases and it used to be that those were the only cases.  Lately, however, it has become a simple case of "this person bothers me and it's not enough to defriend them, I really don't want any contact with them again."  Why?  Because Facebook and Twitter (I've blocked people there, too, although it doesn't work in quite the same way) are my echo chambers and I don't give a good goddamn what anyone says about that and I have no desire for them to be anything more.

People all too often decry the echo chamber of Facebook and Twitter as a bad thing (in fact, yours truly held out against Facebook and Twitter for a couple of years because my knee-jerking exceeded my reason).  You know how it goes:  You've got a set of a few hundred people that think like you do and put up all the links to the same things you read and you all agree (to a point) politically and artistically so, horrors, you're not seeing the whole picture.  But that's bullshit and here's why.

Politically speaking, I read all the basic news outlets (MSNBC, CNN, New York Times, etc), political blogs from Andrew Sullivan and David Frum to Mother Jones and Politico.  I also check out the more extreme sites, like AlterNet or The Drudge Report, Addicting Info or Red State.  And at least once every couple of weeks, I even check out the news feed on Conservapedia because, brother, you don't know what a true alternate reality is until you've done that.   So while I know where I stand politically, I like to read all the points of view simply because I find it informative to see what the other side thinks and how they got there.  But as far as my belief system goes, it doesn't rely on Facebook links for daily growth.

Facebook, to me and for me, is merely a social extension of my likes.  As such, I don't want to hang out with people on Facebook who don't share those likes.  That would be like having a dinner party and inviting people you couldn't stand.  Why go to all that trouble unless you're going to invite actual friends?

So, yes, Facebook is my own personal echo chamber and I'm just fine with that.  I go there to relax after working on something and need a break.   I go there after I've watched a movie and want to mention it since almost all of my friends are cinephiles, critics and movie bloggers.   I go there to put up pictures and make jokes and have fun.  And if someone else goes there because they constantly want to decry my belief system or rail against the world I love, fine for them, but I don't want to see it.  I see it all the time in the news and I keep up with current events daily.  Facebook is where I take it easy and joke around.  If the place you slip off your shoes and relax is an echo chamber, I don't see anything wrong with that. Right? Right.

Hear that? I just agreed with myself.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Kids These Days, Part CMLXXVIII

Roger Ebert shares this correspondence he had with the eminent David Bordwell:

"In an email the other day, Prof. David Bordwell of the University of Wisconsin responded to a piece I wrote about American education: 'Actually, based on what my colleagues tell me, it's worse than we thought at the college level. Students WILL NOT, and absolutely refuse, to [sic] read anything. Give the assignment, and they just ignore it, even if there's a quiz on the reading.'"

Ebert then replies, "I have no doubt of this."

Wow, I sure do. I love these outright panic attacks based on nothing more than hearsay. I have four children. Two are currently in college. All of the children, down to the youngest at 11, are voracious readers. They love reading for pleasure but also will read what they're assigned. I offer this up not as counter evidence, as all I'm doing is introducing my own personal, unscientifically tested story about what kids read or don't read, but simply to provide another perspective. Then, when Ebert later writes this - "Today the tuition is unimaginably higher, I am informed by Epstein. You want bangs for your buck. Incoming students are pragmatic and ambitions [sic]" - it feels like a contradiction. In other words, students are majoring in what can make them money with a good career. To those ends, they need to do well. To that end, they need good grades. Don't read what you're assigned, no good grades. Not very pragmatic.

Ebert makes several good points in the piece and I agree that the liberal arts ain't what they used to be but let's not sell college students completely down the river as arrogant jerks who refuse assignments like spoiled little princes just because we don't deem them to be as cool as we were in college. All that does is make you look like a giant asshole.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Valli at Rest



Alida Valli knits during a break from filming on the set of Piccolo Mondo Antico, directed by Mario Soldati. This film made Valli a star and yet I've never seen it nor any other work by Soldati. I'm older now and don't mind admitting the sheer volume of cinema with which I remain completely unfamiliar. Saints be praised.