Thursday, May 27, 2010

Big Brother and the Social Media Company

A week or so back I got a call from The Cheetahman.

"Brian committed Facebook Suicide," he said solemnly.

I had already discussed that possibility with our mutual friend as we took down a pre-playoff game meal at the Gateway Food Court Taco Time a week previous, so his decision to cancel his Facebook account didn't take me by surprise.  But I was intrigued by The Cheetahman's new term for the act.  As prevalent as our online dependence has become in recent years, pulling the plug on a social media network has become tantamount to throwing yourself under a virtual bus.

Brian's not my first friend to say "no mas" to Facebook.  Several members of my virtual network have gone off the grid over the last year or two, some multiple times.  The reasons are varied.  Some just never use the sites and cancel their accounts as a matter of spring cleaning.  Others use them far too much, and cancel in an effort to reclaim a healthy lifestyle.  A few cite moral reasons, pointing to instances where hooking up with an old flame virtually led to a hookup in the real world, which would be fine if the parties involved didn't already have their own spouses and families.

I tend to see Facebook, and most technology, as an enabler.  It gives you a convenient way to follow through on an impulse you already have.  For me, Facebook is a way to stay connected, to maintain my real-world relationships, and even to promote some of my creative efforts like photography and this blog.  It's my online Rolodex.  But I think it enables my social anxieties, too.  Nowadays when I meet a girl at a party, I'm a lot more inclined to just add her on Facebook than to man up and get her phone number.  Like text messaging, social media is often just another virtual wall we use to avoid the fear of actual face-to-face human interaction.

While I'm still single, I'll probably stick with Facebook, at least until the next big thing makes it obsolete.  Because whether I like it or not, the only way to get invited to real-life parties is to stay connected to that virtual singles scene.  But I still wonder if I wouldn't be better off jumping into the Great Beyond without my digital parachute.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Billions and Billions Served

Last night I was talking to a buddy of mine about what ward he should attend.  Like me, he's a post-31 member of the Geriatric Cleansing crowd.  He's attended one singles ward faithfully for several months, but because of some strict gatekeepers, he hasn't been able to get his records in.  So he doesn't know whether to go to a home ward for a while, start the process over with another singles ward, or hold out hope that the gatekeepers lighten up a bit.  None of the options feel quite like they fit.

I told him that sometimes I wish wards were more like McDonald's franchises.  You scope out an area of opportunity, put in your application, make a marketing pitch, and carve out your own little niche of fast food heaven. 

Of course, that's probably how the Apostasy started.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Weary Witness

This morning I feel for the city of Cleveland.  LeBron James, not so much.

Not that I have anything against James.  On the contrary, aside from last summer's little Nike cover-up, I think Mr. We Are All Witnesses is one of the better guys in the league.  You know, because I'm so close with so many of them.

No, I feel for Cleveland because of personal ties.  My mom grew up in Cleveland, and I've been a witness to a lot of their disappointments over the years.  The closest thing I had to a hometown pro football team growing up was the Browns, and I had to live through The Drive, The Fumble, The Blowout (the less-remembered third time in four years the hated Broncos beat Cleveland in the AFC Championship before promptly pooping their pants in the Super Bowl).

I remember Art Modell moving the team in the mid-90's, then winning a Super Bowl with a guy who may-or-may-not have been involved in a double-homicide.  (For comparison, imagine if Larry Miller had moved the Jazz to Florida in 2005, only if the team had been here since 1947.  Oh yeah, then if they'd won a title last year as the Jacksonville Junebugs.)

I also had to hear all the jokes about "The Mistake By The Lake," even though I couldn't figure out why a city that was home to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Pro Football Hall of Fame (an hour south in Canton), three major pro franchises with passionate fan bases, and even a wealth of historic culture (Kirtland, Ohio and the Amish) could be seen as such a boring place.

With that in mind, the Cavs' collapse falls right in line with unfortunate tradition.  Sometimes I feel like Cleveland and Salt Lake are sister cities.  But I can take solace in the fact that the Jazz weren't supposed to beat the Lakers, that we were down two starters, and that we swept them first anyway (see: 1998).  The Cavs were supposed to win, though.  For years now, LeBron James' impending free agency and the national media have held Cleveland hostage like a head cheerleader dating a band geek. 

The band geek deserves better.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Glue

A few years ago, one of my former student ward bishops asked me to put together a ward reunion.  I was more than happy to oblige; those had been good times.  So I put together a crack squad of U32 veterans, gathered a few hundred e-mail addresses, and made it happen.

The night of the event, I found myself sitting on one of those trademark folding cultural hall chairs at one of those trademark folding cultural hall tables, catching up with one of several friends who had long ago left the singles ward scene to get married and start having kids.

At one point in the conversation, my good friend, in all seriousness, asked if I didn't just weep openly because I was still single after all these years.  I told him I didn't, and the conversation shifted to the fact that I had spearheaded the effort to coordinate the evening's event (an effort I was second-guessing at the time).  At that precise moment, my friend labeled me with one of the most adept nicknames I've ever been given, and probably the one I resent the most:

"Man," he said, "You're THE GLUE."

I'm sure he meant it as a compliment, and I tried to take it that way.  Over time, however, it hasn't been a label I have truly embraced.  One of the sad realities about marriage is that the people who pull it off don't put much of a high priority on staying in touch with old friends.  If you want to stay connected with certain people, most of the time you have to be the one to take the initiative.  You have to be The Glue.

Most of the time.

Not all the time, though.  Sometimes you have friends who make an effort to keep ties, and sometimes, those friends get married to wives who foster that effort.  Today, the day after Mother's Day, I'd like to thank those wives.

Sometimes being The Glue is a pain in The Gluteus Maximus.  It's nice to get some help from time to time.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Friday Morning

This morning as I lay sprawled in bed, trying to summon the strength to overcome last night's 3AM bedtime due to a rare midnight movie event (the premier of "Iron Man 2," AKA, "Ex-80's Heartthrob's Shoot CGI Lasers at Each Other Inside Illogically Lightweight Iron Suits"), my new wake-up radio station demonstrated our culture's increasingly conflicted understanding of what constitutes Classic Rock by airing the Def Leppard classic "Love Bites," which far and away held the record for the song most frequently cited in on the dedication page of the Charger Chapter by 8th Grade students of Centerville Junior High back in 1989 (in spite of the soft-rock juggernaut that was Richard "Right Here Waiting" Marx), and I was once again reminded of A. How old I am; B. How far we have come as a culture (IE, dedicating songs to each other in the school newspaper vs. text messaging pictures of our naughty bits); and C... well, I think C was supposed to be the crack about Def Leppard not being a Classic Rock band, but I already mentioned that, and I can't think of anything else to plug in here that will round out a suitable trio of options, let alone a traditional third-item zinger, because my mind is a tad loaded down from the final English 1010 papers I still need to grade, the wedding video I need to finish, the date/companion I still need to get for tomorrow's Jazz-Laker playoff game, the challenge of getting my surround system to Kaysville tonight for a birthday party in spite of the fact that I don't have a truck, the run to Guitar Center I need to make to buy some new tom-tom heads and maybe brushes before tomorrow morning's practice with my brand-new (and still unnamed) blues band (which will be preceded by me dropping off my Honda to get some brake work done so the wheel stops shaking whenever I decelerate from 80mph), and whatever else I've pushed back into my subconscious while I sit here trying to pump out a convoluted blog entry that has no real focus other than to keep up a consistent post rate and maybe offer the novelty of an entire post that consists of a single sentence.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Secret Weapon

A few years ago, I noticed a peculiar phenomenon during a season of church basketball. I'd usually arrive early for my own scheduled game, and would spend about a half hour scouting out the teams playing in front of me. One of those teams featured a player I can only describe as, well, a "secret weapon."

The Secret Weapon was a handicapped kid that was all of about five feet tall. I'm not sure what his exact ailment was, but whatever it was, it was enough to effectively put him in "do not guard" territory. Partially because everyone assumed the kid couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, but mostly because anyone who dared to take advantage of him would surely be viewed as the very Spawn of Hell. For the most part, The Secret Weapon was given carte blanche, and allowed to roam free.

I remember the first time I saw The Secret Weapon in action. He only handled the ball a couple of times, and it seemed like his heart was bounding out of his chest on each of them. Once, with his man giving him an obligatory ten-foot cushion, he decided to chuck up a long three-pointer. When it went in, you would have thought Rudy just got his sack for Notre Dame. Even my cold, competitive heart warmed a little bit, and I felt grateful that I was on hand to witness what was surely a very special moment.

Over the next few weeks, however, I realized that The Secret Weapon was having a "very special moment" two or three times a game. His shooting percentage wasn't all that great, but it was a lot better than you would expect, and he was good for 6-to-9 points a game that the other team couldn't defend. It was the perfect scam.

When my team played him, it was the same deal. We couldn't guard him honestly, because we didn't want to get beat up after the game. So we'd hang back, and he'd inevitably hit two or three long balls, and each time the crowd would celebrate like he'd been waiting his whole life to hit that shot.

But I knew better...and I couldn't do a thing about it.

I don't know what to take from this experience. I don't know what it means in the grander scheme of things.  The underdog in me loves it, and the competitor in me feels like I just can't win.  I don't know...maybe I'm just desperate to come up with something that will help the Jazz beat the Lakers.

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Birds and the Bugs

This past weekend I was pondering another of life's critical questions.  Namely, should flipping the bird only be reserved for people in respectable cars?

Allow me to explain...

Saturday afternoon I was making my way north along I-15 on the way to the baptism of my auxiliary niece Sophie.  As is usually the case, I was in the fast lane.  Somewhere between Farmington and Kaysville, I happened upon a bright yellow Volkswagen Bug.  I didn't honk, I didn't shine my brights, and I didn't tailgate either.  Yet within seven seconds, my presence was acknowledged by the silhouette of an arm, which shot up from the front seat, emphatically flipping me the bird.

A few seconds later, Miss VW pulled over into the middle lane, and as I passed her, she flipped me off again, this time with such gusto that she obviously imagined her forearm was some kind of military-grade artillery, fully capable of blowing me off the road with the sheer will of her passion.

There have been many occasions in life where I have let other drivers get under my skin.  Yet this woman couldn't do it.  The situation was too absurd.  Too comic.  Here she was, packed into this blobbish-looking bright yellow car, trying her best to assert her profane highway authority while driving something that looked like it should have been piloted by Spongebob Squarepants.

So again, I ask: should flipping the bird only be reserved for people in respectable cars?