Category Archives: The Web

The din of noisy nonsense

I saw it in my Facebook newsfeed, courtesy of Gizmodo.

“Facebook changes its mind again: It’s now re-banning decapitation videos”

The story, accompanied by a deeply distressing though not gory still of the beginning of one the videos, talked about a re-reversal of Facebook’s policy on allowing graphic videos of vigilante/terrorist executions/murders. The still image illustrating the story was of a woman who was about to be murdered by members of a Mexican drug cartel. Some commenters were defending their posting as a form of raising awareness and condemning these atrocities. Others worried for children who might see the images. Still others took the stance that responsible parents would keep their children shielded from sites like Facebook in the first place. I wondered if any of the latter had children, or had ever even taught children.

I did note at least one “LOL” in response to the whole debate. Just seeing the still was enough to turn my stomach. I worked in a daily newspaper editorial department for five years and had grown used to some darker humor. But such a callous comment was hard for even me to swallow.

I remember when videos of the beheadings of journalist Daniel Pearl and businessman Nick Berg were posted from Iraq for the entire world to access. I knew people who couldn’t wait to go and see – online rubberneckers and gawkers, their morbid curiosity aroused in the most base of ways.

I avoided those videos. I couldn’t bring myself to watch something so awful. I was afraid for what it might do to me.

There’s an abundance of truly awful, soul-killing content on the Internet. I don’t think we all have to believe the same things to agree on that.

But I’m not sure if that’s the big enemy for us in the online world. Because the truly awful, soul-killing content is far outweighed by the constant hum of benign time-sucking garbage that shows up everywhere you turn.

I just wonder if the din of noisy nonsense is worth the occasional gem I turn up on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. And the problem is not that I hate the nonsense.

The digital noise, however harmeless, that we allow to constantly buzz in our consciousness can dull our ability to focus on subjects that have a deeper significance.

The digital noise, however harmless, that we allow to constantly buzz in our consciousness can dull our ability to focus on subjects that have a deeper significance.

The problem is how much I enjoy it, and how easy it is getting sucked into the black hole of it all.

Start with asking the question of whether or not any of this really enhances your life – feel free to exempt the stuff you need for work, or the blog where you post updates on the kids for your extended family, or even one or two or three activities you really enjoy that require some online time. But ask yourself about the hours on Facebook, pouring over the personal minutiae of someone you haven’t known since high school. Or, if you’re like me, the hours you spend on Facebook crafting silly little jokes to amuse a small group of friends.

Question the compulsion to check your Twitter feed every five minutes. Or Instagram. Or any number of pet websites or blogs, or the feeling of needing to read and watch and comment on the latest thing that everybody else reads or watches or comments on. I think we might all be a bit like the grandmother in the Flannery O’Connor story, “A Good Man Is Hard To Find.” The snotty daughter claims the grandmother is crashing their family vacation just because she’s afraid of missing something. Spoiler alert: They all get murdered.

For me, it used to be hours spent surfing one Wikipedia page to the next. I’d suck down the information like a garbage disposal – and I’m still able to call upon my knowledge of Zamfir as the unquestioned master of the Pan flute, but that info has never served a purpose in my life outside of one magic moment in a bar trivia contest. I wasn’t doing it because I was hungry for knowledge. I was just restless and bored. And that’s where I turned. On the surface, it’s a harmless choice considering some of the other options those moments present.

But the small things bring about the same result as the big.

A multitude of termites can leave a home just as destroyed as a hurricane. Destruction is destruction no matter what speed it happens. Break a man’s legs or shatter his confidence. Cut off his hands or dull his senses and dampen his drive until he stumbles through life useless and irrelevant.

Your Facebook fixations or my Wikipedia binges might not twist us up inside like some brief lurid piece of video. But they do suck away our time, and they sap energy to do anything with the time that remains. Doing the easy things does not make it easy to do the hard things.

The grains are falling through the hourglass and they only move in one direction. In my better moments, I’m haunted by the words that John Piper said have hung in his family’s home for at least two generations. “Only one life, twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ shall last.”

Advertisements

Rangers fans are passionate, but…

they suck at Photoshop. Yes, there’s an entire gallery of equally fine graphic design available for viewing at the Dallas Morning News website. And yes, I realize most of these probably weren’t done on “Photoshop” per se, but these Ranger fans are still terrible on MS Paint or whatever they can get their hands on.

But at least this awful piece of sports fandom reinforces the idea that money can’t buy “everthing.” Yes. “EVERTHING.” Rangers fans apparently suck at spell check too.

And I’m saying this as a Ranger fan who watched every pitch of a masterful performance by Cliff Lee – perhaps one of the greatest post-season pitching efforts ever.

I can understand being inspired by this team, antlers, claws and all. I can’t understand why the Dallas Morning News chose to publish this big batch of terrible to begin with. Do you think they actually rejected some submissions? Those are the ones I really want to see. What would a fan poster that didn’t meet the high quality standards of Big Red (above) look like?

I used to work for the sports department of a small daily newspaper in Arkansas. When Dale Earnhardt died in 2001, we received several letters and e-mails featuring poetic tributes to the Intimidator from members of the community, who expected us to publish their verse in our newspaper pages. I’m not even sure the poetry devoted to #3 was all that bad, but still, we declined to publish it. Because we were the sports section of a daily newspaper, not a literary magazine.

Just saying.

Tagged ,

If you can’t stand the Heat…

"Arise my young apprentice..."

So apparently, in the greater Cleveland area, “Despicable Me” opened a few hours early.

Ah, but seriously folks, this LeBron thing is so completely ridiculous, it’s blogworthy.

I really didn’t have a dog in this fight. As a Mavs fan, I was hoping to land a big free agent and dump the contract of Eric “The Big Stiff One” Dampier. Maybe that can still happen, but for the time being the spotlight belongs to Miami.

And they deserve it to a degree. And I wouldn’t begrudge them so much if this all wasn’t the most disgustingly manipulated scenario I’ve seen in a while. Chris Bosh, who is a “superstar” much in the same way the Jersey Shore kids are “celebrities,” hired his own documentary film crew to record the free agent signing period, for Pistol Pete’s sake. Who does that?

The bottom line of this whole fiasco is that LeBron is in Miami for one reason, and one reason only. He couldn’t get the job done in Cle. Even though he ruled that team with an iron fist and was as much a GM as a star player, the Cavs resume speaks for itself – a pile of regular season wins but an equal amount playoff disappointments with just one trip to the finals in 2007, and then just to be swept by the Spurs.

And now it’s off to Florida with Dwayne Wade and Bosh to be a part of a would-be dream team. But as ESPN’s Bill Simmons noted in today’s column, it takes more than three good players and pile of minimum salary spares to win a title.

“Let’s say LeBron signs with Miami. Can you even make the Finals with LeBron, Bosh, Wade and nine minimum-salary guys? Because that might be next year’s team … and if that’s what happens, the answer is “no effing way.” You don’t win titles just because of your top three. That belittles the meaning of guys like Derek Fisher, Robert Horry, Steve Kerr, John Paxson, Brian Shaw … you could go on for hours naming role players who swung a title. The 2008 Celts lucked out by getting James Posey, Eddie House and P.J. Brown for practically nothing; Miami wouldn’t have that luxury this summer, not with so many role players jockeying for contracts one year before the possible lockout. Nobody is taking less money to showcase themselves for a summer that might not happen. Even if Miami could spin Michael Beasley for a fourth guy (say, Trevor Ariza), that’s still not enough. They’d need one more rebounder, point guard, a 3-point shooter and a center. Good luck.”   – Bill Simmons

My far-from-expert opinion is that the Heat will win in the upper-40s in the regular season and get bounced in the second round, possibly the conference finals. But hey, maybe they’ll win 70 and make it all the way to the NBA Finals before succumbing to the Laker Dynasty. Great season right? Wrong.

There is no way the Heat doesn’t get flattened by the weight of expectations now that this mega-deal has gone down. For a lot of teams and their fans – Boston, LA, San Antonio – anything short of a championship is a disappointment. That’s a tough cross to bear, but it comes with the territory of being a proven winner.

But for the Heat, anything short of an NBA title makes them the laughingstock of the league. Seriously. I understand players who enjoy a little pressure, but why overdo it?

But this blog is an optimistic place. There is a silver lining to this whole ridiculous circus of a free agency period.

I’m talking about all the fun the LeBron critics have been having with this on Twitter and Facebook.

A few of my favorites…

From the great Sports Pickle (who’s been on fire all night)

“JJ Redick could go to the Heat??? So it’s possible that people could dislike the Heat even more. Huh.”

“Lebron: Cleveland fans will have ‘mixed emotions.’ Good point. 50-percent murder. 50-percent more murder.”

“Full disclosure: I hate myself for watching this. Lebron’s ego > my self-control.”

“Involuntary Manslaughter is trending ahead of Lebron James. I guess we know Cleveland’s plans.”

“Hey, America: Let’s go on public access TV at 8:59 and announce our own Decision: ‘We have decided we don’t like Lebron.'”

From Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt), Bob Sturm (@bobanddan) and others

“Feel like BP arranged this whole LeBron thing”

“LeBron’s obliviousness to how hated he is now must astound even Jay Leno”

“If I’m a kid in Cleveland, this is like Dad calling a press conference to divorce Mom. Classy LeBron. Classy.”

“I hear Byron Scott just went to the gym to start shooting jumpers. #Cavsplayercoach”

“In hindsight, someone from Akron, Ohio being a Yankees and Cowboys fan probably should have been a pretty big tipoff.”

“I’m guessing you could get LeBron’s house in Akron for a little below market value. If you don’t mind the flames.”

“Breaking News: Art Modell no longer the most hated man in Ohio.”

“How dare LeBron try to upstage Brenden Haywood’s big day.”

“Can you imagine how the front running sect will rush to find Miami Heat gear in the morning? The Lakers may lose a lot of fans!”

OK, that’s enough knee-jerk reaction out of me. I’ll hop off the soapbox now. I’m sure if anything it will make for an interesting NBA season next year. I just hope Mr. James remembers one thing.

When you’re in the presence of a Real King, it’s customary to kiss the Ring.

My bucket list will pail in comparison…

Texas Monthly - March 2010

I haven’t seen the movie, but it seems like “bucket lists” are becoming more common all the time.

In March I got the new Texas Monthly featuring “63 things all Texans should do before they die.” I’m encouraging my newspaper staff to put together a  similar list of things around the area that all of our students should do before they graduate.

Then Donald Miller retweeted a link to this blog from Lindsey Tipple, a graphic designer in Ohio. Lindsey created a list especially for this summer, before the season kicks the bucket (included: canoeing, riding a hot air balloon, cooking a feast for her grandparents, and my fave – do a cannon ball).

She has two rules: 1. Don’t include anything you already had planned (my book list is out). And 2. If you cross an item off the list, you have to document it.

I’m on board and my list will be posted soon, most likely after school finally dismisses on Thursday.

In the meantime, what do you think I should add to my list? What would you put on yours?

It’d be a lot funnier if it wasn’t so true

"Blogging" from http://despair.com

 There are an awful lot of poorly designed, spelled and punctuated “demotivation posters” floating around the Internet, but I prefer the original from Despair Dot Com.

A real post should be on it’s way this weekend or earlier.

In the meantime:

What’s in a name?

When I created this blog, I think I named it “Say Cheese?” because I really couldn’t think of anything better at the time and my idea was that I would blog more about photography than most other subjects.

But I really haven’t done much of that and while I still enjoy photography, I don’t expect it to become the dominant topic for my blogging any time soon. And in addition to that, the name just seems really lame right now.

So I’m considering a change. If anybody wants to weigh in on whether a name change is needed or has any suggestions what to call this thing, leave me a message and let me know. I’m drawing a blank…

Teach me to read

I have a stack of books at my apartment.

A big stack.

Enormous, even.

They run the gamut, content-wise. There’s historical fiction. Biography. Memoir. Poetry. Theology. Books connected to my trade. Books which have just tickled my fancy. Books I have to read. Books I want to read. Books I probably don’t have time for, but bought anyway.

I want to read all of them. I’ve started ALL OF THEM. I haven’t finished any of them.

What’s that – procrastination? I’ve got that book too!

I’ll get around to it eventually. And don’t even get me started on the magazines.

I’m not immune to the obvious. I don’t have to read all this stuff.  I might be creating stress for myself with unrealistic expectations. I might even be delving into some sort of psychological weirdness where I create a self-fulfilling prophecy in which I feel I don’t read enough, so I purposely buy more books and magazines than I could possibly read to reinforce my own negative self-image when it comes to productive literacy! Ugh!

But I really don’t think I’m doing that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not above a little insane behavior. I’m working on another post right now that illustrates that pretty well. But I really do think I can be a more productive reader. I think I should be one. I just need a little help.

I’ve identified some easy steps to take. I’m going to step back a bit from Twitter and Facebook, as they tend to soak up a lot of time that could be spent reading. I want to do the same with television. I might just have to grab a book or two and just take them out of the house for a little while.

Who knows? I might even pick up a book on how to read a book? Assuming they make those.

But what I’d most like to do right now is just appeal to you, humble blog audience.

I can emulate my literary-consumption super heroes from the past (like Theodore Roosevelt who was a speed reader with almost total recall) or the present (like Southern Seminary president Al Mohler and Dr. John Piper at Bethlehem Baptist in Minnesota, both of whom share a passion for reading that may be second only to their passion for Christ).

But I know that many of you who will read this post, both family and friends and perhaps even strangers, are stalwart readers yourselves. So I ask you, how do you do it? How many books do you read simultaneously? How do you keep everything straight? When do you choose to chuck a book rather than finish it? Do you use a reading list, plan or schedule? How do you retain what you read – notes, outlining, journaling, conversation? When do you struggle and how do you overcome?

Please feel free to leave a comment below and join what will hopefully become a dialog of sorts on the subject. Wicked-fast word wizards share your expertise. Limp and lacking loafers of letters vent your frustrations and seek inspiration. All are welcome.

Bloggers Unite!

Just caught wind of this via lifehacker

We all blog and read blogs for a variety of reasons. Keep up with news, keep up with trends, keep up with family, just filling idle time. The variety has created an vast community of informal journalists, pundits, experts and documentarians. But what if all of us, for one day, found one piece of common ground to grab and bring to the table for all our readers to see.

So on October 15, 2007, more than 20,000 bloggers of all shapes and sizes got together to use their voices for a singular purpose – to focus a light on issues affecting the future of our planet’s environment.

An audience of more than 14.6 million read those posts.

In less than two months, the plan is to do it again. This time the goal will be to direct as much attention as possible on the issue of poverty. One day, one issue, thousands of voices. Maybe it won’t change much. Maybe it won’t change a thing. But it seems to be a worthy project and better than just doing nothing.

You don’t have to do a bunch of research. You don’t have to type some lofty essay. In the sphere of whatever you normally blog about – technology, sports, news, entertainment, God, family – find a way to incorporate this issue somehow.

I’m planning on taking part. Hopefully all my fellow bloggers out there will do the same. Just go up and click on the link to hear more.

With my freeze ray, I will stop…

I’ve been a fan of the work of Joss Whedon for sometime now. The guy has a pretty good knack for mixing the strange, the funny, the action-packed, the quirky, the poignant and even the musical in a pretty good package. I enjoyed most of the “Buffy, The Vampire Slayer series.” And I loved every second of “Firefly.” I didn’t even know this until I did a little research, but Joss even helped write the screenplay for “Toy Story.” Who didn’t dig that?

So naturally when I heard that during the writer’s strike Joss created a supervillain web-musical with Nathan Fillion (Captain Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly), I was interested. The musical aired in three serial acts a few weeks ago and now the whole thing is available to view online in it’s entirety for free.

I watched “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog” for the first time last night. And as soon as the 47-minute production was over, I watched it again. It’s a professional, albeit low-budget production (think something akin to what you’d see on a Saturday SciFi channel original – only with great writing and acting), but it is tightly paced and the music is FANTASTIC. And despite Nathan Fillion doing a nice turn as the film’s “hero” Captain Hammer, Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser) as the eponymous villain Dr. Horrible is easily the most captivating character (and he should be, it’s his video blog we’re watching afterall).

Without a doubt, it’s not for everybody. Heck, it’s probably not for most people. But for me it was worth watching. Twice.

So if you’re daring, stream it for free with limited commericial interruption at hulu.com (where you can also find tons of other free movies and TV shows as well – including Firefly).

NOTE: I found that I can actually embed the clip into my blog from hulu… but wordpress shut me down on actually embedding it. Ugh. So here’s a low-res clip from youtube, since that’s about all wordpress will allow.

The Googlization of Me…

I like to see myself as some maverick trend-bucker. Some guy who recognizes the general foolishness of whatever the Hoi Polloi is captivated by at the time and then reviles said fascination for all of it’s flavor-of-the-monthitude.

But the truth is… I’m not that guy. At least not most of the time. I have managed to avoid various line-dancing crazes through the years, but I think the truth behind that lies in the fact that I’m not a good dancer and am terribly self-conscious of that fact.

And this brings me to the Google. I’ve taken great steps to avoid the Google (and all its incarnations, gmail included) in favor of the Yahoo! or other Web alternatives for sometime now… I could give many reasons for this, including the fact that I claim to be firmly against hijacking nouns and turning them into verbs (it doesn’t sound right to say that I Yahooed! something on the web, and it doesn’t sound wholesome to say I googled myself). But it all boils down to my desire to be identified as the maverick trend-bucker of whom I am not.

With that said, I’m officially googlized.

I have a Gmail account. It’s fantastic. I use the Google Notifier pop-up application so I don’t have to check my mailbox 20 times a day.

After watching “Attack Of The Show” (thanks Graham), I created a Google Reader account. I can now go to one place to aggregate all of the various blogs and news feeds I keep up with each day (like G&L, essahfae, gangrey and more), plus a few new ones like ffffound, lifehacker, cool tools and make which I’m slowly coming to love. I’ve even started sharing items to my own Google Reader Shared page (which I hope some people will take a look at after this blog is finished). I’ve even added an RSS feed of that page to the sidebar on the right of this blog.

I’m even finding myself more likely to use Google as my primary search engine than the old faithful Yahoo!. Editor’s query: Do you need a period following the “!” in Yahoo! if it ends a sentence?

For the record, I’ve also started eating the occasional corn-on-the-cob after years of avoiding corn in almost any kernalic form (even going so far as to lie and say I was allergic to it from time to time).

I just wonder what things I’ve formerly despised that I will come around on and embrace next? Pop country music? The ridiculously over-the-top action films of Jerry Bruckheimer? Pecans?

I guess anything’s possible. Maybe not pecans though.