Saturday, September 27, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
It certainly hasn't taken me long to become addicted to Facebook. Almost immediately after I joined, a few friends (people I would actually consider to be friends, not just "Friends") welcomed me, cheered me on, said it was about time, and so on. Two pointed out about getting addicted. They weren't kidding. What I'm discovering is that there are so many aspects to Facebook, from games and gadgets to the entire social networking component, that it becomes desirous to keep seeing who else is out there and what else they're doing.....right at that moment! So it's not just a large network of friends (and "Friends"), but it's also instantaneous gratification, knowing what others are doing at that moment. It's like a giant spy network in a way. And yet, isn't it all artificially crafted? Here are more of my observations (and I must give credit to my friend CC in England for her discussions with me on #s 1 and 2).
1. Facebook should be called Facade-book, because that's what it really is. The American Heritage Dictionary defines facade as (of course) the face of the building, but they also define it as "an artificial or deceptive front." People get to choose the face that they wish to reveal to people. Hence, when I can change my "is" statement (e.g., Roberto is... "drinking a cuppa tea" or "wondering what the hell people did before Facebook existed"), I'm revealing what I elect to say about myself. It stands to reason that everyone (probably) is telling the truth about themselves, but then again, why should they? If the environment invites you to reveal all or whatever you choose, then why bare your soul for the universe to see it? Why not jazz it up, or tone it down? Why not become an avatar with a new name like Anastasia Beaverhausen (oops, I think that one's taken)? And if a facade is an artificial or deceptive face, then is Facebook actually encouraging such a deception? Is online social networking really about false truths?
2. Facebook was made for voyeurs. Really. Think about it. What are you doing when you're on it? You check your own Wall for messages and update your own site. But admit it -- you're reading everyone else's personal information, the writings on other people's Walls, you're checking out what cities in the world they've visited and what books they've read and what fan clubs they belong to. But doing all this isn't what makes it voyeuristic; rather, it's the fact that people know you're reading this, and so they're whetting your appetite with a glimpse of their world. When you add something to your profile or write on someone's Wall, you've basically raised the window shade anywhere from a few inches to a foot and you're inviting people to peek at you...but not to see you completely au naturel.
3. Facebook invites your past to return, and to stick around. I started writing about this in my last posting about Facebook, but here I'll elaborate even more. Its origins were in alumni connecting, so the fact that I went to a particular high school and graduated in a particular year ties me to others who advertise this same fact. The thing is, since I haven't spoken to any of these people in so long, I really don't consider them to be part of my life anymore, let alone my friends. Then--slam!--along comes someone from the past who I hardly knew even way-back-when and now they're my "Friend." Don't misunderstand me. I think the whole thing is ingenious. But why do I find it so eerie at the same time? I suspect I can only answer this based on my personal experience. I'm not the same person I was twenty years ago. I've evolved. I continue to evolve. These parts of my past are just that, my past, not my present. And so for me this sudden unexpected reunion of sorts with these individuals both intrigues and startles me. All that said, I do wish at least one person I knew in high school (HC) would get in touch with me, because I think I found her in Facebook, and she's someone I've always wondered about...
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Julie Bosman has an article about Dame Agatha Christie (1890-1976) in the September 15th edition of The New York Times: "Tapes Offer New Clues to a Master of Mystery." The article was published to coincide with what would have been Christie's 118th birthday. The big news is that 27 reels of audio tape were recently discovered by her grandson. Dating from the 1960s, the reels record Christie's dictations for what eventually became her posthumously published autobiography. She recorded comments on her famous detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, thoughts about what went into the writing of some of her books, and other things.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
It appears these days that I'm giving in to the dominant paradigm of Internet-based communicating. Mind you, I've been an email junkie for years (I was one of the first who had a Prodigy email account!), and I do surf the Web on a regular basis. But I resist online networking and chatting. All that is apparently changing, however, as I joined Facebook yesterday. Needless to say, when I discovered how many people I knew were on Facebook, I felt like I had entered a party about two years late, and I'm still struggling just to get my bearings upon entering ("Uhm, where can I get a cocktail?"). Here are a few of my initial thoughts about Facebook:
1. I apparently know quite a few people. Seeing all of them listed as "friends," though, made me realize that I compartmentalize my family, friends, acquaintances, and colleagues into different pockets of my life. Seeing everyone suddenly clustered in one group is very strange. I guess one could say Facebook democratizes all of my relationships, but I find that alien to my sense of organization.
2. Searching for people from the past is frightening me. Well, actually, finding people from the past is what's frightening me. To see the names and pictures of people from my high school years flash before me if bizarre. It's my past coming back to haunt me. I don't mean this necessarily in a bad way, but I should explain that since I left NJ within a year after high school, I lost contact with almost everyone I had ever known. In my mind, they're the same people in my high school yearbook, not people twenty years older. (Ugh! Twenty years ago??)
3. Of course, #2 said, the other side is that there actually were a couple of people that I had always wondered what had happened to them, so I'll be curious to see if we connect again. But this brings me to another point. Does Facebook serve as a virtual social network and replace an "analog" (i.e., face-to-face) social network? I like email to establish contact with someone, but I prefer socializing in person, not online.
Ultimately, I imagine I have a lot to explore with this. I'm not discounting Facebook. On the contrary, I'm intrigued by it. I'm curious to see how it goes for me and whether I get into it or not. I certainly never expected to find blogging so satisfying, so who knows...I'm sure there will be a Part 2, Part 3, and so on, in my assessment of the Facebook Fenomenon.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Justin Davidson, architecture writer for New York magazine, has an interesting article this week called "The Glass Stampede," although admittedly it's the before & after shots of 54 buildings that really makes this article worth perusing. Davidson writes about the incredible rate of new construction and renovation work that has taken place in the City for the past 15 years. Over 76,000 new buildings have risen into the sky over that time. The sad part of it, of course, is that 44,000 other buildings were razed, and some were gems from a bygone era of New York's history. The picture here is of Avalon Bowery Place (11 and 22 E. 1st St.), where the building on the left was razed for the one on the right, which he describes as "pretty blah, but not without traces of urbanistic merit." Davidson is on the mark when he writes that "New York lives by a philosophy of creative destruction. The only thing permanent about real estate is a measured patch of earth and the column of air above it. The rest is disposable."
My tastes do not run toward the modern in architecture. While I can appreciate the minimalism of Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building, especially for its time, I really don't like it. Give me the Gothic traceries of Cass Gilbert's Woolworth Building any day. And like many New Yorkers I lament the 1960s destruction of the old McKim, Mead and White Pennsylvania Station. But as I've learned from a class I've taken on Gilded Age New York, and from watching episodes of the fantastic PBS documentary by Ric Burns on New York, this "philosophy of creative destruction" is innate to New York's history. Ever since the island of Manhattan was bought in 1626 by the Dutch for $24 from the local Natives Americans (a legend since corrected, but still worth citing), New York has had an ongoing history of tearing down and rebuilding, spreading throughout the island and into the boroughs, and moving upward into the skies to create some of the tallest skyscrapers in the world. Even Gilded Age families like the Astors and the Vanderbilts thought nothing of spending millions of dollars on chateau-like mansions, and then twenty years later tearing them down and rebuilding new homes twenty blocks further north (of course, they could afford to do that). Two branches of the Astors lived in brownstones on Fifth Avenue on the corners of 33rd and 34th Sts. Despite their rivalry, both branches had their houses torn down and built the monumental Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in the 1890s. By 1929, that hotel was long-gone (rebuilt further uptown) and construction had begun on the Empire State Building. This ongoing razing and rebuilding is all about progress and improvement, and no other city in the world does it better than New York.
So despite what it may seem regarding my personal architectural tastes, I will say that some of the newer construction in the City does impress me (even if I may not necessarily like it). I find the American Folk Art Museum an amazing, brutalist-like space. The Time-Warner Center at Columbus Circle is dazzling inside. And though Davidson critiques the Westin Hotel at 270 W. 43rd St., calling it an example of "jolie-laide, an ugly beauty," I think its bizarre colorful nature and warped visual towers work perfectly in the new Broadway/Times Square family-oriented environment dominated by oversized basketballs and M&M's, and a Madame Tussauds. That said, did I mention I absolutely hate going to Times Square?
Thursday, September 11, 2008
This morning while eating breakfast, every news station was reporting on the memorial services being held near Ground Zero. I was living near Boca Raton, FL when the tragedy took place. The events happened in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, but the tragedy was global and we were affected by the implications of it as well. Governor Jeb Bush declared a state of emergency and reflection, and everything was shut down for the day. Surprisingly, it came out afterwards that some of the highjackers had been living in a neighborhood about a 10-minute drive away from my own home.
It's amazing to think how many years ago all that was. Yet, somehow it still seems so real and new. That's the funny thing about time--it is immeasurable. Chronos can fool you into forgetting how long or how short the amount of time has passed. I visited NYC shortly after the incident, and I can attest to the eerie spiritual presence that could be felt in the area. The energy of the living and deceased penetrated the air all around. Sadly, that didn't stop hawkers from trying to sell picture books and postcards of the falling towers amidst the streams of makeshift memorials along the way.
Watching the grief on the faces of so many of the people on television this morning, I was struck by how many of them still need to visit the WTC site, to actually be in the place where their loved ones were killed. It's as if they still need to connect to that place, that moment in time, where and when their loved one died. For some people, visiting a cemetery might provide that solace. I go to the cemetery to visit my mother's grave everytime I'm back in Florida, but I do it for meditative purposes, not to "connect" with her. She resides in my mind, my memories and dreams being how I want to connect with her, not through a cemetery plot. Yet, for these people participating in the 9/11 memorial today, a cemetery can never be enough. The moment of death is more important to them, not the placement of the remains. For some, the remains of their loved ones were never recovered, and so this is their final resting place. No memorial site in suburban New Jersey or Connecticut can ever provide them with the solace they seek.
I've learned that grieving never ends, but it does get easier to live with as each day passes. It is my hope for the families and friends of the 9/11 victims that they are able to move beyond the shock of their own grief and eventually find solace in the lives of their loved ones, not in their deaths. For in the end, it is how we lived, not how we died, that matters most.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Sunday, September 7, 2008
To look at a Turner is exciting enough, but to hear Schama talk about him was like bringing Turner's paintings to life. It was nothing less than sheer brilliance. Schama teaches at Columbia University, but his reputation as an art historian is internationally renown. He knows so much about so many aspects of modern art and history that it rolls off his tongue like an encyclopedia. But he's never boring (he was supposed to speak for 45 minutes, went on for another 30 minutes, and I could have listened easily for an additional 30 minutes). He engaged the audience with his usual "Britty" attitude (my neologism, meaning British wit), simultaneously entertaining and educating that I wanted to keep hearing more. Even more importantly, he spoke to us as intelligent human beings, pointing out elements using language that made me want to know more. For instance, in one Turner picture of the ruins of a church, he described the lighting as "a poetic conduit between past and present." The focus of his talk was on the British element in Turner's work, demonstrating how even though his work transcends national sensibility, there is an innate quality to Turner's work that is essentially British. His work reveals what Schama called "visionary patriotism."
If you want to hear what Schama has to say about other artists, then you must check out his Power of Art series, now available on DVD (the episodes on Rembrandt, Turner, and van Gogh are my favorites). If you want to see more works by Turner and can't get to London, go to the Tate Britain's online Turner Collection to see images of the collection of his works that he bequeathed to the British people in his will.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Monday, September 1, 2008
If you Google "pets gustav" you'll quickly discover many news articles that talk about how local evacuation teams helped prepare pets so that they could travel with their owners who were forced to evacuate because of Hurricane Gustav. I cannot express how happy I was to hear this. During Hurricane Katrina, when I saw the news about the lack of preparation and consideration for pets and animals at that time, it absolutely broke my heart. Pets are family members too, and they must be taken care of as well. The thought that I would ever be forced to separate from my pet for an evacuation is something I never want to endure, so I cheer all the politicians who made this new mandate happen.
In the spirit of protecting those animal companions who make our lives complete, I thought I would share the ASPCA's Emergency Pet Preparedness website. They offer great tips and helpful advice not just for dogs and cats, but birds and other small animals as well. There's even a link for ordering the Free Pet Rescue Sticker below.