Hugh Reviews “Yes”

is-facebook-hiding-your-messages-video--3a4bf9d09dI held out for a long time, longer than pretty much everyone I know. But eventually I joined Facebook. In fact, I held out for so long that, by the time I joined, a bunch of my friends were already deep into the “how the fuck do I actually DELETE my account FOREVER?!” backlash.

One of the reasons people kept giving me for joining was that it was a really convenient way to organise social events, it being a social network and all. Meanwhile, I was convinced it was actually just a tool that allowed office-workers to waste as much of their day as possible.

So imagine my surprise (when I finally joined) to find that my friends and I were both wrong. Facebook is not a tool for wasting your employer’s money, neither is it a social networking tool, though it does a better-than-adequate impression of both. Facebook is an online tool for changing the meaning of words. And not just words, but the very concepts that are the foundations of said words.

“Facebook is an online tool for changing the meaning of words.”

Before Facebook, people liked some things and disliked other things. The word “like” had a pretty well defined meaning. It meant you… well, liked something. Now, people don’t like things, they ‘like’ things. You can even hear the inverted commas when they say it out loud. ‘Liking’ something is not the same as liking something. If you ‘like’ something, it doesn’t mean you like it, it means… well, that’s the problem: it could mean pretty much anything. Maybe it means, “I feel your pain/embarrassment/bereavement and want to reach out to you in this, your time of need but don’t know what to say and have anyhow forgotten how to use my phone and/or talk to people in RL”, maybe it means, “I make schadenfreude in your general direction”, and maybe it just means, “I read that thing you posted, and I want you to know that I read that thing you posted, just so there is no misunderstanding and you don’t accidentally think that I didn’t read that thing you posted. Because I did read that thing you posted”.

facebook-like-button-bigSo, fine, we’ve lost the word “like” (please note my intelligent and unambiguous use of single or double quotation marks to assist you, the reader, in understanding exactly what the hell I’m talking about, you’re welcome) from the English language, and the very idea of feeling positively about a particular topic has now crawled under the house and is making a pitiful whimpering noise while it bleeds out. Does Facebook pause, sit back, and admire its handiwork? No. That is not Facebook’s style, Facebook is a berserker with the taste of blood on its lips and a throbbing erection that will not quit until it has defiled every linguistic and conceptual construct that has previously given meaning to the crazy babbling of the sheep that offer themselves in sacrifice at its altar. “Like” was only the beginning, by the time Facebook has finished, it will be impossible to actually converse about any topic in English, ever again. And fear not; the lesser languages will be next.*

facebook-handsEngorged with its success, Facebook has raised the bar. So what concept has now fallen under its baleful stare? “Yes”. That’s right, “yes”, the simple act of agreement is already being ground up and twisted into a dark and hateful mockery of its former self, ala the Anakin to Vader transition, but with less horrific late-Lucas dialogue and Sir Alec Guinness wringing his hands about point-of-view. Having finally joined Facebook, I learned that my friends were right about one thing**: it’s very easy to organise social events. Or at least it would be, if people actually used the yes/no/maybe buttons to RSVP. This was pretty much the WHOLE FUCKING ARGUMENT FOR JOINING FACEBOOK IN THE FIRST PLACE, AND IT’S IRREPARABLY FUCKING BROKEN! When someone says ‘yes’ (see, again with the quotes) on Facebook, it might mean, “yes”, it might mean, “maybe”, or, “it depends how I’m feeling on the day”, or “I don’t want to say no in case you think I’m a douche, but I’ll probably either make a lame excuse later or just not show up”, or “I must slaughter a pigeon, read its entrails, and confirm whether that is an auspicious day to travel”, or, in all likely hood, “no”. “NO” IS THE PRECISE OPPOSITE MEANING TO “YES”! “Yes” means you will come, “no” means you will not. “Yes” does not mean that you won’t come; that’s what “no” means! People I know have said that they push ‘yes’ if they like the idea of the event, but won’t actually be attending, but the question was not, “do you like the idea of this event?”, the questions was, “will you be attending this event?” See that subtle difference? I’ve further heard it said by people that they don’t want to be rude by saying ‘no’. But is it rude to say that you won’t be attending an event that you won’t actually be attending? NO! THAT IS THE OPPOSITE OF RUDE. IT’S CALLED POLITE! That’s what people do when they RSVP: they inform you as to whether or not they’ll be coming. What’s rude is SAYING YOU’LL COME, AND THEN NOT ROCKING UP! And if I can’t appeal to basic manners, perhaps this appeal to self-interest will sway you: If you say ‘no’, you’re not coming, you’ll not receive the cascade of alerts telling you that so-and-so is going to ‘The Best Event Ever That You Said You’d Go To But You Know In Your Heart And So Do I That You’re A Filthy Liar!”, and all the associated plans that go along with that. Just sayin’.

Can_CantPeople, let’s reclaim language. It is, after all, what separates us from monkeys, horses, small children, and Republican Presidential Candidates. Let’s allow words to have meanings again, so that when we use them, we do so for a reason: to communicate with, rather than confound, each other.

*please, it’s a joke, I am not a hate-criminial. Backed-up with rage, yes, hate-criminal, no.

**no, I don’t mean it like that; my friends are right about other things. Sometimes.

Hugh Reviews the Otherworldly Terror of Warehouse Retail

The Face of FearI have seen the other side and it is immense. Everything about it is on a scale that just doesn’t work. Not big like city buildings, tickling the belly of the sky but big like a dream of a place that looks like it should be on a more human scale. I had a dream once in which what was obviously a plastic bag was a cave that could have contained Niagara Falls.

I’d like to say I lived there, briefly: the other side, but that would hardly be accurate. I did visit though, in a borrowed car, feet not being an appropriate mode of transport when travelling such soul-stretching distances. I drove for 7 minutes to get there. I felt I should have had to board a plane and be shot to edge of the atmosphere, a distance more congruent with the staggering translation of concept.

I left with a rake and a handful of other items that would survive the crossing back into my more familiar habitat. I sincerely hope I do not have to return for a long time, though within me lurks the feat that I might one day end up living there.

Hugh Reviews the Manly Art of Taking Things Apart to Fix Them, Only to Leave Them More Irretrievably FUBAR Than They Were to Start With

It began, as it always does, with a thing that did not work as intended, TM. In this case, said thing was an office chair that I had salvaged from the side of the road because:

  1. I didn’t have a chair.
  2. It was red.
  3. I was of that age when one tends to salvage things from the side of the road as a matter of course, and sort out the details later on.

The chair was broken. Obviously. I used it in its dilapidated state for about 5 years. Then I decided to take it apart and see if I could fix it. Then I used it in its dilapidated state for another year and a half.  Then I stopped using it and it sat in my room taking up floor space for a few months while I used a chair stolen from our dining room table that lacked wheels but possessed appropriately oriented back-support.

Today I gathered together about 80% of the tool collection I own, to whit: 1 hammer, 1 monkey-wrench, 1 Phillips-head screw-driver, and 1 set of Allen Keys, and set out on a mission to fix the chair, with the secondary (and, were I to be honest with myself, much more feasible) objective of breaking it into smaller parts that would be easier to dispose of when the sad inevitability that it would never again work as its makers intended became too glaringly apparent to ignore.

I failed in both the primary and secondary objectives, though, on the bright side, succeeded in accomplishing the tertiary objective of breaking the chair into a bunch of pieces that were each, individually, more cumbersome and difficult to dispose of than the chair would have been as a whole.

I guess it’s a good thing I’m a capable cook and not averse to doing dishes and laundry.

Hugh Reviews the 30 Day Song Challenge

Firstly, there is not one 30 day song challenge, but many, some offering slightly different categories, I am reviewing this one (30DSC), as it is the one in which I’m taking part. I scanned a few options on Facebook, but this one featured a page profile picture of 3 monkeys getting down to hot grooves, making it clearly superior to all other 30 Day Song Challenges not sporting such images.

I think this first popped up about a year ago, certainly the earliest dated reference I could find in my (admittedly halfhearted) search was March 2011. A friend of mine was posting his selections on Facebook mid last year, but he lost his train halfway through when Mousse T’s “Horny” got stuck in an associatively triggered loop in his head and drove him quickly and thoroughly mad. I narrowly avoided a similar fate when I scanned the page’s wall to see what other people were posting. It probably should have been obvious that that was never going to be a good idea, but we all have our moments.

Such obvious dangers aside there are a number of things to recommend this activity on a personal level.

It pushes you to think actively about the music you do (and don’t) listen to. I probably engage a bit more actively with music than most, but I found the process of slotting music into specific categories provoked a more considered reflection of what a song meant to me, why I liked it, or didn’t, and how a specific selection could be made from dozens of candidates, all seemingly equally qualified. (I eventually gave up on the last point, and just tried to represent a broad cross-section.)

It provides a really good impetus to go through your music collection, potentially reuniting you with some old favourites, or helping you to hear something in a new light. I even went through my CD collection for inspiration on some categories, which had the added benefit of letting me know it really was time to dust again. I extracted a few things to my iTunes library that had been sadly neglected for many years, and listened to a few more for the first time in what felt like a lifetime.

It makes you think about think about your past. A number of the categories address songs that remind you of a particular event, or time, or place, serving as a visceral reminder of how potent a trigger for such things music can be. This is something that’s easy to know intellectually, but actually feeling it in action is a different thing to being aware of it on a abstract level. A number of pretty pleasant memories were pulled up for me by my contemplation of some of my selections, and as a man not really that given to nostalgia, it was fresh and invigorating reflection.

Your friends might learn something about you (and you about them). A while back I tweeted about listening to Led Zeppelin, which is one of my all-time favourite bands, and a friend replied with surprise, apparently under the impression that I only listened to ‘fat beats’. Leaving aside for a minute that beats don’t come much fatter than those supplied by Bonzo and John Paul Jones, it intrigued me how narrow our view of our friends taste can be, simply because we only witness them listening to music in certain situations. I would have little idea what kind of music many of my friends listen to when they are home alone, for obvious reasons. A couple of categories in the 30 Day Song Challenge ask you to share some of the less obvious aspects of your taste, and I know I would probably find that eye opening, coming from a number of people who I think I know.

You might have a conversation on your wall about something non-trivial. This statement may possibly be construed as ‘starting something’ or ‘hating’, but lets be honest with ourselves; most of the conversation that appears on my feed, and yours unless you are exclusively friends with sociopolitical commentators, is banal, trivial, and about as deep as a milk-spill on a bench-top. So why not dive into some music-appreciation. And for those of you tempted to say that a discussion of music is trivial, go jump off something tall.

It provides the opportunity for meta-analysis, after all, what does ‘least favourite’ really mean? The categories in this activity are swarming with questionable classifications, and if nothing else, it provides the jumping-off point for a short exploration (read; rant) on the specificity of the English language. It spurred me also to a couple of moments of ill-advised grammar-pedantry, which is always entertaining, if for no-one else, then at least for me.

It’s not for everybody, as my poor drooling friend, and a wall-full of posts about the Backstreet Boys and Pink can attest, but there is definitely some scope here for some interesting interaction with your music collection, your preconceptions, and your friends.

(I’m about half way through the challenge at the moment (on Facebook) and will begin posting some more in-depth responses on this blog soon.)

Verdict: some of the categories are a bit whack, but I’ve already embarrassed myself with my “guilty pleasure” selections and alienated and offended my friends by dissing their favourite bands, so maybe you should too. 3 1/2 mildly embarrassing favourite songs out of 5.