FFS, Internet!

I write these little letters to the Internet, albeit they are few and far-between, mostly as humour. Unfortunately, I'm not in a very humorous mood regarding the Internet lately. Maybe it's my age. Maybe it's how long I've haunted the hallow halls of social media. I don't really believe that people are any more or less judgemental now than they ever were before. What I do know is that now it's all out there for everyone to see. Worse, because of social media, it involves participation.

What if every error in judgement you ever made was called in to question, publicly? What if it was more than just your parents' disappointment you had to field? Parents, loved-ones and most real friends are very forgiving. Strangers on the Internet? Not so much.

Let me start by saying I have not tried Peeple. The reason I haven't given it the benefit of the doubt and tried before forming an opinion is because it is DANGEROUS. The very moment I login via my Facebook login (my Facebook profile is largely private) and confirm with my mobile number (also kept mostly private), I have opened myself up to 'reviews'. 

'But Trasie, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about.'

Everybody has something to hide. Everybody SHOULD. I know things about people that they wouldn't want public. People have done things to me that I may still be angry about. Is it right to humiliate them publicly? Absolutely not.

And that's just the thing. I've often said to people, 'don't put anything on social media you wouldn't want your mother to read'. I say this because regardless of privacy settings on any social media property, you run the risk of it leaking. That's just how it is. These are social networks. They are, by nature and title, SOCIAL. Don't use them if you don't want to be social.

But let's face it, you have a modicum of control over your own profiles on social media. It is up to you what you post and when you post it. The risk is yours to take.

So, no, I haven't tried Peeple. The content that would be created about me would not be created BY me. Worse, I would have no control over it. It's easy to tell a business on Yelp that you will get good reviews, you will get bad reviews and that, unless you've been entirely unreasonable, the bad reviews will only serve to reinforce the good reviews by making you appear more realistic. After all, no business is liked by everyone.

But that's business. That's not how you behaved at a party or how you perform in bed. You aren't likely to post on Facebook that you gave someone five orgasms. Why would you let someone else post it for you somewhere? Why would you let them post anything personal about you? 

They can't review you in Peeple if you don't create a profile. That's the good news. And if you do, and they DO, you can hide those reviews and, I'm given to understand, possibly delete them - though you all must be aware by now that the Internet holds no secrets. What was once out there probably always will be. The problem is that once the new feature, 'Truth License', kicks in, all anybody has to do is pay $1/month to see ALL reviews - even the negative ones.

What is $1/month, really? It's 1/5 of a Starbuck's coffee, 1/2 of a student's TTC ticket (and high school students are going to lap this app up - you think online bullying is bad now?), a simple speck that is hardly noticeable by a company considering hiring you. $1 is NOTHING. And you can't stop it from happening, if the reports are true.

It's one thing that we've all become terribly judgemental and taken to an awful lot of name-calling and bullying online. It's another thing entirely that there are tools well beyond our control that aid in that. 

It is better to be safe than sorry. If you download it, you can't preview it until you login. Once you login, you have lost all control. If you have secrets, and of course you do (YOU SHOULD), this is not what you want to have happen to you. Just don't.

Finally, maybe there's half a chance we can stop this. I've signed a petition at change.org. I don't know if it will help, but it certainly can't hurt. You can also NOT download the app. You can also share with your friends and family and make sure they stay safe.

**UPDATE - MARCH 8, 2016**

The TOS for Peeple states you must be 21 to download the app and have a Facebook account and mobile phone to join. I am not confident this is enough. There are many, many Facebook users who are lying about their age, particularly kids. It's very easy to do this. It's also not hard to misstate your age on your Apple account and, though I don't have an Android, I image it's not hard to lie about your age in Google Play.

To assume that being 21 makes a person responsible is also a stretch. I also don't see how it will be effectively policed. We know that things only need to be posted for a moment for someone to grab it and spread it around. Once the 'Truth License' is in place, what is the process for having abusive comments removed? It will, no doubt, take longer to deal with than it takes for someone to post it on Reddit or anywhere else. 

The Privacy Policy attempts to alleviate these fears, but it's really not feasible, once you join, to remain completely in control.

Internet, we need to talk

Photo by: Luke Wroblewski under the
Don't worry, I'm not breaking up with you... at least not yet. Since I'm classically not proficient at relationships in general, that would be a long, drawn out process that may take more energy than I have.

Then again, talking this out might be exhausting as well.

It's not your fault. You're just doing your job - a job that we gave you. Wasn't it so much easier when all you had to was show us the information we programmed you to provide? Wouldn't you love it if we just backed up, remained mute and let you do what you were designed to do?

Then we had to interfere. We had to have a voice and we needed to use you as a tool to connect. Also, we needed our information/data/connection to be instant. So we built you to be stronger, faster and bigger. And we needed to be able to take you anywhere so we built devices to help us ensure you'd never be far away.

But you're machinery and networking. You don't have feelings or consciousness (at least not yet). WE do. So as a result, you are whatever we make of you; all of our nefarious schemes and plots are driven through you.

Sure, the positive possibilities are endless: my son doesn't need a shelf full of Encyclopedia Britannicas. The vast expanse of study aids available to the kiddo is unbelievable and I envy him the knowledge he has access to. Equally, however, is the vast expanse of nonsense. Thankfully, he's not interested in the nonsense, but that's because I got lucky. Or maybe it's in his nature to strictly avoid all things in which I am interested, including my passion for you, Internet. Oh sure, he uses you. He's memorized imdb.com and his love for Wikipedia is large. His entertainment is often gleaned from YouTube and I'm alright with that.

I have some major areas of concern:

The death of face-to-face or at least voice-to-voice communication.

I text, I email, I spend a lot of time on Facebook. I read my news online. I rarely go to gatherings, parties or bars and the only person I ever really talk to on the phone is my mother. This opens the door wide for misunderstandings. No matter how long you've been communicating digitally and no matter how well you think you can 'read between the lines', there will always been those times that a combination of the way you write and the perceptions of the recipient does not work. A lesson that I learned painfully is that sarcasm doesn't translate well.

Despite the transparency currently required to 'rent' social media property, it's still anonymous enough that many feel quite comfortable saying whatever crosses their minds. Sometimes, this is very good, but many times, it's not; it's negative, hurtful and damaging to themselves and to others.

Cyberbullying: it's not just for kids. Why is it that so many people forget that whatever you put out there digitally is there forever? It's simple: don't post or email anything you wouldn't want your mother to read or see. It's a great rule and it works.

What happens if the world loses power?

How long can we sustain on the power of the sun? I watch TV so I know someone really smart will figure out a way to harness energy for at least a short period of time, but with all of my money, memories and communication wrapped up in you via my various devices, I suspect I'd suffer, at a bare minimum, an intense boredom and I don't rule out the possibility of starvation, sleep deprivation or even insanity. Do we all even remember how to carry on a regular conversation?

What happens if you take over? I saw the movies, how impossible is it, really?

One word: Skynet. Eek!

I'm not advocating a digital-free life. Change is good and I love technology, but I can see how too much can be... well... too much. Like our attention spans, our propensity for moderation is sadly waning.

All that taken into account, Internet, I do not feel as if I need to sever ties (can you imagine how difficult that would be for someone who walks around with two different iPhones and carries a laptop everywhere?). But I think it may be prudent to spend less time together. For my part, I plan to see other entities, starting with a good book or two. I'm confident, though, that you won't even notice I'm gone.

The One with the Unlucky Boy

In the sleepy town of Appleton, a young loner follows a stray cat onto the road and is struck by a car. A leg is shattered, a summer is ruined, and the troubled life of Billy Brahm goes from bad... to cursed.

“When things are good, it is because we remember a time when they were not. When there was pain. But now the pain is gone, so things are ‘good’. When we hurt, it is because we recall a time when we did not. When there was no pain. But now we suffer, so things are ‘bad’. The tiger sipped from the cup, peering at the boy over the rim. Stars swirled in its eyes. “Good. Bad. The cup holds both.”

Double standards and our celebrities

As humans, we seem to have a tendency to, sometimes in our minds and sometimes overtly, reject things that are different than ourselves. To that end, I should admit that I avoided Duck Dynasty for what must surely be that reason. I watched an episode very recently and I have to admit I laughed. A lot. It was fun. That family is different than any I have encountered and there are aspects to their lives I definitely do not agree with. I mean, those beards must be SO hot and itchy! Also, I'm not religious and not a fan of guns. Let me make this clear: these are my opinions and I'm entitled to them.

Switching gears, I am not a fan of Justin Bieber. It may be because I'm 44 years old or it may be because his music just irritates me. His antics do as well. But he's 19 and he's famous and he has a ton of money and bad judgement. Seems like his lifestyle had a better than good chance of occurring the way it has. So what?

Back to Duck Dynasty: Phil Robertson made some less than acceptable conjectures in an interview. One might consider them ignorant, especially if you consider there's a vague possibility he's misinterpreted the bible, and one might also consider them unacceptable. Personally, for my life, I find them both ignorant and unacceptable. Thankfully, I didn't make them. Also, this man is not in my life or the lives of my family and friends so I don't have to worry so much about him affecting me directly. I do not believe that by watching his show, I'm going to turn into an ignorant homophobe. I'm probably also not likely to watch his show all that much, either. That decision is based on what I choose to entertain me.

This brings me to what I really wanted to say regarding Phil Robertson and Justin Bieber and countless others like them in the spotlight. I have a diverse group of friends on social media and they are from all walks of life. There are varying opinions about music, fashion and lifestyle and I respect that. They might not see me expressing my opinion that often out there in social media because I tend to remain quiet about my views. But the following is what I believe:

It is okay to be outraged by what a public figure says and does and when they choose to do it. It was ill-advised for Mr. Robertson to say what he did in an interview and he should fully expect repercussions. One of my friends pointed out that while what he said did not break the law, it does not mean he should be held unaccountable. At the time, he was representing his franchise so, in short, 'working hours'. If any of us said something offensive on the job, we might be held accountable by our employers as well. Whether or not he was truly offensive or hateful is really up to he and his employers to work out.

Here is what bothers me: Phil Robertson, Justin Bieber or anyone else that may say or do offensive things still do not deserve hatred spewed back at them. I mean true hatred - name calling, belittling, etc. Doing that just makes us as bad as we feel they are. A celebrity makes a remark against our LGBT society or says something that is inferred as discriminatory such as 'Anne Frank would have loved me' (to paraphrase) or even inferring that a reporter is a pedophile (thanks Rob Ford) and we take these things as offensive, but to turn around and call them long-bearded, ignorant hicks or little idiot or, and this one really gets me, 'fat fuck', really only illustrates that we are just as capable as them of being pretty darn stupid, inappropriate and judgemental.

I am not saying take such a high road that we don't hold EVERYONE accountable for their mistakes when those mistakes are hate-filled, offensive and really, really bad examples to set for our young. I'm just saying, why would you want to repeat their behaviour? To me, it's like teaching a child to hit by hitting them. Why not just say 'I find this remark/behaviour/example deplorable and as a result I dislike this person and will no longer read/watch/listen to them.' And there's the rub, you have a choice to not pay attention to them. You also have a choice to lead by example. That's how lessons are taught and learned.

By Joe Bielawa  Uploaded by MyCanon (Justin Bieber) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Internet, I can't live without you

I write to you today, Internet, with apologies that the majority of this world forgets that they should use title case for your name. You see, I feel like you deserve so much better for everything you have given me.

Thank you, Internet, for teaching me patience and how to be a better listener through Social Media. Were it not for all the drama and constant complaining on Facebook, I might never have learned that anyone can be a social worker - even me. I can also be a chef, a photographer and a doctor without having to even go to school. Thank you for Google.

Thank you for the friends from my childhood with whom I'd long since lost touch. I'm so glad that most of them are back in my life. As for the others, thank you for the ability to block and ban.

Thanks so much for giving Justine Bateman a new home. In the 80s, I wanted to BE her. Now that she's back (and batshit crazy), I think I want to be her even more.

I really appreciate having a place where I can mindlessly correct every spelling or grammar mistake from a safe distance. While these people can leave the digital party every bit as easily as they could leave a real life party they are attending with me, they won't. They never will. Thank you for the captive audience.

When you went mobile, the world rejoiced. Oh! Internet on the go! I will never get lost again as long as I use Google Maps on my iPhone and not the alternative. I will know where my child is at all hours of every single day until he figures it out and leaves his phone at home or turns it off.

Remember that day when you tricked me into believing I'd reached the end of the Internet? We laughed until we cried, didn't we?

You make people do crazy things, Internet. Sometimes they do illegal things. To your credit, you're a darn good detective and you sure do help track these miscreants down. Credit goes to them for often being stupid, but to you for allowing them to showcase their stupidity and get caught.

I don't know where you come from, Internet. I don't know how you got here. I just know that you changed everything and when you can do that, change the world to the point where it simply can't go back, that's something.

"Justine bateman 9-20-1987" by Alan Light - Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Parade - the musical

Don't think of this as a review because, as I've pointed out, I'm not really a reviewer. Think of it as the words of a person who went to a show and wants to tell you how she enjoyed it in case you are looking for something to do over the next week or so.

There's something you should know before I tell you how I feel about Parade - the musical. I am really not the biggest fan of musicals. I tell you this so you'll understand how insanely picky I am about what I choose to watch. I like only a handful: Les Misérables, Cats, Into the Woods, Girls in the Gang. Sound of Music? NO. West Side Story? Blah. Phantom of the Opera? Please no more! And even though, like Les Misérables, Parade goes against my rules and portrays real-life people breaking into song and dance for no really good reason, somehow it worked.

Here's why: 

The score: 

It's a little reminiscent of Les Misérables, though that may be reflective of the subject matter. Perhaps it was my proximity to the performers - George Ignatieff theatre is a small venue - but when these performers sang, it was apparent to me that they felt every single note, every single word, each and every drum beat. The band, by the way, was tremendous. Not once did I feel as if the band simply played and the performers were 'laying a vocal track' over the score. The band engaged each performer. To that end, the performers were listening to the band. All too often in shows, you can tell the performers are only listening to themselves. That was not the case in this show. 

I was most impressed with Scott Labonte (Leo Frank). This is a lead character, but a character that could easily have been lost if not for Labonte's keen sense of timing not only in his acting, but also his singing. Of note is a scene in the court room where Leo, as a memory, demonstrates the testimony of the local girls who work in his factory. Labonte switches from stuffy Jewish New Yorker, to slimy playboy factory superintendent with incredible ease.

Other notable performances include Luke Witt (Frankie Epps). He is unbelievably passionate, but demonstrated great control and mastery over songs that had him running the gamut of emotions.

When Lauren Lazar (Lucille Frank) sang, her voice is so sweet, but so incredibly strong and she is invested in this role. She is invested in Leo. I never doubted it for a moment.

When Andy Ingram (Britt Craig) takes to the stage to sing about just how he's going to profit from what's happened to Leo Frank, it's like watching the inn keepers in Les Misérables or like a showman introducing a burlesque act. Wickedly good.

It's one thing to have a good story to work with, but it's quite another to turn that story into an intriguing stage production. I love a good true crime story and this one was no exception. The true story of Leo Frank and the murder of Mary Phagan is somewhat epic. How do you squeeze that into a two act musical drama? Pick up a ticket, you'll see.

The couple sitting next to me stood at the end and on the way out of the theatre, the wife remarked that she had to find out the whole story. I remember thinking exactly the same thing and wishing that my phone wasn't so close to dead so I could Google the story on my way home. This is a good thing - always make them think.

I think it's also important to mention some acting performances that impressed me. Kelly Lovatt Hawkins (Sally Slaton) portrayed the Governor's wife with subtlety and strength. Luke Slade (Luther Rosser) managed to make the defense attorney even more 'slimy' than the prosecutor, Will van der Zyl's Hugh Dorsey. Both played their equally corrupt characters without ever taking it too far. Dorsey enraged me as much as Leo Frank's ineffective defender who was completely bereft of humility.

My one difficulty with this production was the character of Mary Phagan. I felt like the whole package - costume, makeup, casting (Avra Fainer) may have been a little bit over the top. Luke Witt (Frankie Epps), stole the first act number, The Picture Show, though there was definitely good chemistry between the two characters. I remained, however,  unable to accept Mary Phagan as a 13-year-old factory girl who became a victim. Rather, I pictured this spunky little creature fighting, biting and kicking until an inevitable escape. But, by the second act, her character is played as a memory and is more acceptably subtle.

This show is a great reminder that there's some phenomenal theatrical talent in Toronto. The set was simple and exquisite. The costuming was quite elegant (when Leo asks Lucille if she is wearing and new outfit and tells her that it's very becoming - it really is!)

Parade - the musical runs until August 18th and the George Ignatieff Theatre at the University of Toronto. It's a mere $25 to see and quite worth the price.

Virtual Identity Crisis

It's funny how blogging is something I very much want to do and yet, I have the hardest time just churning out something interesting for people to read. I feel very disconnected from my blog. I have attempted reviews. I have attempted covering minor news stories. I have even attempted to work within the confines of 'content farms'. I think I may have decided it's just not personal enough.

Now, I don't know how personal is too personal, but what I do know is that my blogging probably needs to be a reflection of the things I like to talk about the most. I'm not sure if every blogger takes this approach or if they would even agree with me that your blogging voice should be somewhat interchangeable with your IRL conversation voice, but when I read what I've blogged so far, I can't even imagine having a conversation that sounds anything like any of those posts.

Anybody who knows me IRL knows what I love to talk about the most (sometimes to their chagrin) is my son. Beyond that, I love technology, I love TV, I love movies. I have some insights, though hardly expert, into relationships.

So maybe what I need to do is finally open up and lay to digital paper what I generally use to dominate conversations. Maybe give my real life friends and colleagues a break? ;-)

That's me in the photo, by the way. I'd like to talk about my large head, but I'll save it for another post.

You wanted it, he had it...

In the late 80s, I finished high school and got myself a couple of summer jobs. One was with a kids arts camp and the other in a record store. I would get up in the morning, grab the camp bus at the mall nearby. When I returned at the end of the day, I’d rush like crazy to get the transit all the way from the north west end of Mississauga to Kipling station in Toronto. For those in the know, that’s a hefty trip.

I worked for Music World. But I didn’t want to work for Music World. I wanted to work for Sam the Record Man.

By the fall, I transferred to the Music World store in Square One, Mississauga. It was just across the hall and down the escalator from Sam’s. I was happy as long as I was around music, but I still (not so) secretly wanted to work for Sam’s. And so I set about visiting the store frequently and pestering the manager until he finally agreed to employ me.

It was a better store. It had a better selection. Its flagship store in downtown Toronto was THE store to go to. After all, musicians flocked there. Sam Sniderman was a mentor of sorts to these musicians and, I daresay, many would not have wound up where they are without him.

If you were looking for pretty much ANY music, he had it.

Over the years, I worked at many stores: A&A, Sunrise, Discus, Music World and other Sam’s locations. Eventually, finishing up post-secondary, I was forced to move on to working within the area I had studied and had to leave behind retail record store days. I will never forget:

  • Hand writing orders on carbon paper order forms

  • Manual inventory

  • Writing up record bags with sharpies

  • Spending almost my entire wages on records I kept in the back room in a milk crate awaiting next pay day

  • Those crazy wax pencils we used to price the product because it wiped off so easily

  • The wonderful characters I worked with and the variety of musical tastes - this is where I learned the most about music

  • Amazingly creative displays created by store staff

There are so many other things and it’s impossible to list them all, but I will always, always be grateful that I worked in an industry that fostered creativity and a love for music. It was the ‘cool’ place to work. It’s unfortunate that we lost the stores before we lost the man.

Photo Credit: By Ian Muttoo (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Read about Sam Sniderman!

Personal Responsibility

Is it lost on our kids? Today I read a meme on Facebook. It was a cartoon showing Wile E. Coyote strapping himself to a rocket and lighting a wick to blast himself off, undoubtedly in pursuit of the Road Runner.

The insinuation is bad enough even without the comments that followed which included parents now owning up to educating or being responsible for their children and that we have had a whole generation of kids that just don’t have a clue. I don’t think I’ll bother to glaze over my response:

Oh please with the sweeping generalizations and mass pigeon-holing. A lot of kids get bad marks because someone thought they’d go to teacher’s college for lack of anything else to do and didn’t even really WANT to be a teacher. A lot get bad marks because of difficulties at home. A lot get bad marks because they have a learning disability which has yet to be identified. We do not have a whole generation of kids who don’t have a clue because we have no way of measuring A WHOLE GENERATION. And guess what? Our parents were saying the same thing about our generation. They were just saying it face to face, not on the Internet where it reaches millions. We’re so separated from what this allegedly ‘clueless’ generation is up to, it could be argued WE are a bit clueless.

Do we have a problem with the education system today? Yes. Did we when we were growing up? Most certainly. I do believe our parents, the parents of those who are likely the ones teaching today, DID say the very same things about us just as their parents did about them.

As a mother, I’m offended. And if I thought my son was a problem, I doubt I’d be complaining about him on Facebook. I’m quite certain I would be working WITH his educators to solve the problem. Part of that work would be trying to identify if, in fact, the teachers tasked with educating him are up to snuff. It’s naive to imagine that the mere title of ‘teacher’ puts you above responsibility. There are bad teachers out there. Deal with it.

There are also very good teachers out there. It requires cooperation and communication between home and school. We can’t just shuffle our kids out the door each day and expect that they are learning all they need to know at school. We also can’t claim that ALL parents are doing this and that an entire generation of children are clueless.

Guess what? I was completely clueless. I did things my mother did not approve of and probably still doesn’t. I had friends who did worse. I had friends who did almost nothing wrong. If we are trying to teach them to think for themselves and take responsibility for their lives - revel in their unique qualities, then how in the world does a sweeping generalization and pigeon-holing teach them that?

Are we going to tell an entire generation that this is what we think of them? ‘Forget it, kid. Your generation is lost. Don’t bother trying.’

Remember, parents, when you make a statement like that, YOUR kids are part of this so-called clueless generation. Also try to remember that they very well might be reading what you’re writing. While you’re complaining that the parents of this generation aren’t taking responsibility for their kids, what is it you’re doing with yours?