Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Behind the Wall

The brouhaha has kinda died down now, well, for the "regular" Facebook users.  I'm thinking, for the developers that showed up at Facebook's f8 conference on September 22?  Not so much. Much has been written about the during and after - and I'm not even going to pretend to be a techie.  But, what I am interested in are two issues.

Something about this sentence (from the same site referenced above) disturbs me: "He said that he wanted people to “fill in the gaps” so that all users’ personal information was on their Facebook profile."  I believe that was largely in reference to the soon-to-be-released "Timeline" feature.  I'd tweeted about it that day - or the day after.  Stteo: "It's not your online life; it's your life online!"  Now, I'm for slowly - and guardedly - adapting to advances in communication technology.  I'm just not comfortable with putting my life, for each moment to be tracked, online.  Yes, yes.  Manage your privacy settings, you might say.  Even then, why would I want another human being - any other human being - to be able to be all up in my stuff?  And that's just for those to whom permission is given.  There are those, behind the scenes, with access to servers on which ALL that information is stored.  I like my life offline, TYVM.  And, for the parts of it that I allow to be online? Well, they'; parts that don't offer too much personal information.  (Having said that, though, I will be taking a third look at my online presence.)  It will be interesting to see the road down which this new development leads; the advantage enjoyed by those who use it.

And, speaking of behind the scenes, this next issue has little to with the latest FB developments.  It has more to do with the tendency of folks, who, because of the luxury of anonymity behind the wall of ones and zeroes, tend to unleash their awful selves.  Who knew that there was so much venom and vitriol in some folks?  I'm talking about comment boards, social networking sites, t.o.night newspaper (Toronto).  From friends of friends to total strangers, if you should happen to offend one of these persons, they go behind that wall and let loose!

To be honest, that's not something that I've experienced.  (Well, not counting that one occasion on which a 'friend of a friend' made a comment after mine on FB - kind of questioning and disagreeing with mine - and ended her's with "kmt" (kiss mi teet).  For the uninitiated, that's a Jamaican gesture (not about to teach the 'how to') that meant, in that context, "You're talking foolishness and I'm dismissing you!"  As I recounted that to my sis, she (a more regular user of FB than I) was quick to point out that some of these people can be "dangerous" with their comments.)  I have been, for a while, simply just looking on in amazement.

I read a comment on the Gleaner's Letter of the Day on its website a few days ago, that, I think, captures much of this sentiment. It was made by "Ibumpg".  Writing from behind the wall?  Yes.  And how:

"Most people globally, like to comment or criticize.  This is best done from the sidelines.  We 'preen our feathers' and 'flap our wings' and announce how knowledgeable and experienced we are but will not enter the field of play.  You see, analyzing decisions made by others is always easier that making them, especially under scrutiny.  We are all great in hindsight.

Many of us would never present ourselves as political representatives, not because we consider ourselves incompetent, but because we are not prepared to be treated the way we do them."

This isn't something that's going away any time soon.  As long as there's the provision for anonymity, there will be a spewing of venom and vitriol by total strangers.  In some cases,even by those whom we know.  A little change of name here; a little moniker or handle there, and they enjoy the freedom to lash out.  I imagine that some folks need some form of outlet.  It may be therapeutic for them.  I just think that when it's carried out in this way, it simply reeks of incivility.

What of the art of (civil) conversation?


Sunday, 18 September 2011


I'm not a fan of things.  Y'know?  Things that are acquired for reasons like, "It'd make a great conversation-starter!"  No.  For me, there have to be more creative, less expensive ways to start a conversation.  I imagine that many of those conversation-starters have been picked up at many a garage sale.  I used to enjoy going to garage sales.  Not only for the off-chance that I might discover the multi-million dollar painting behind the painting, but, because I liked looking at certain kinds of old things.

But, I've stopped.  Well, I've cut waaay down.  I've convinced myself that, for the most part, other people's discards are making their way into my home.  More than likely, in the not-too-distant future, I might want to get rid of them, too.

Before moving into my new space, I kinda made a deal with myself.  I would be very careful about the "things" I acquire.  They should have utility value built right in!  Now, anyone can see how I would be able to rationalize my way into getting that 3-piece work of art. (That wall needed something to cheer it up. It's blue!")  But, I think so far, for the other purchases, I've held up.  My prayer is that I'll be wise in my spending.  And, of course, I'm mindful of St. Luke 12:15: "A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things he possesseth."
One of the motivations for that deal was the fact that I already have too many things I treasure; items of high sentimental, nostalgic and my-sweat-and-blood-is-in-this value.  I think I might have mentioned this in an earlier post, or a tweet or something, but, there came a time recently when I had to declutter.  Create space.  That'd be space to dance, to stretch. Even space with which to do nothing but to connect one part of the house to another.  Not every space needs to be filled!

So now, I try to acquire and keep the things that, as I said, have some built-in utility value. Bonus if it looks nice and promises more durability.  (It's true.  You get what you pay for!)  The other motivation was from a piece that was read several months ago by my Pastor - Pastor Robbie Symons of Harvest Bible Chapel, Oakville.  I asked for, and was emailed, a copy from his office.  My plan is to have it framed and hung.  A bit of a reminder, y'know?  "Just in cases." (Love Actually.)

Mr. and Mrs. Thing
 Mr. and Mrs. Thing are a very pleasant and successful couple.  At least that’s the verdict of most people who tend to measure success with a thingometer.  When the thingometer is put to work in the life of Mr. and Mrs. Thing, the result is startling.  There he is, sitting down on a very luxurious and expensive thing, almost hidden by a large number of other things.  Things to sit on, things to sit at, things to cook on, things to eat from.  All shiny and new.  Things, things, things.  Things to clean with, things to wash with, things to clean and things to wash.  Things to amuse, things to give pleasure, things to watch, and things to play.  Things for the long, hot summer and things for the short, cold winter.  Things for the big thing in which they live, and things for the garden, and things for the lounge, and things for the kitchen, and things for the bedroom.  And things on four wheels, things on two wheels, and things to put on top of the things on four wheels, and things to pull behind the four wheels, and things to add to the interior of the thing on four wheels.  Things, things, things .  And there in the middle are Mr. and Mrs. Thing, smiling, pleased as pink with their things, thinking of more things to add to their things, secure in their castle of things.
Well, I just want you to know that your things can’t last.  They’re going to pass.  There’s going to be an end to them.  Maybe an error in judgment, maybe a temporary loss of concentration, or maybe you’ll just pass them off to the second-hand thing dealer.  Or maybe they’ll wind up a mass of mangled metal being towed off to the thing yard.  And what about all the things in your house? Well, it’s time for bed.  Put out the cat.  Make sure your lock the door to make sure some thing-taker doesn’t come and take your things.  And that’s the way life goes, doesn’t it? And someday when you die, they only put one thing in the box. 


Thursday, 8 September 2011

Invaluable Collection or Intrusion ?

On returning from lunch with sis the other day, I got to a traffic light about half-a-block from my workplace.  As I got to the intersection to wait on the walk sign, I heard 'Oooh!"  Not in an "Ooh and ahh" way, but in that guttural tone that makes you know, instantly, that something has gone terribly wrong.

I looked at the bus/coach that had just stopped in the intersection while making a left and, almost instinctively, looked beneath it.  There they were, his two legs.  No, they hadn't been severed.  They were still attached to his body.  But, that was all I could make out from his lying right next to the left front wheel.

At the next signal, I crossed and got to a better vantage point.  It was an elderly man - maybe late seventies/early eighties, white, gray-headed. There he lay.  Still.  Just as it had happened, one woman literally took off!  She dashed across the road (from where I had been waiting at the light).  By the time I got to the other side, getting a better look, she was kneeling beside him, her phone to her ear.

Of course, a few dozens of us - on both sides of the street -  had, by now, stopped to look.  I had seen the driver make a mad dash from the bus, leaving the door open (of course!), round the front and, again, by the time I got to the other location, he was also already kneeling by the man's side.  So, there were about four people - the woman on her cell; a bulky looking guy picking up the man's bag of grocery; the driver and a police officer who had been on the beat at that intersection (or pretty close by), leaning his shoulder in as he spoke on his device.

There were a few things that struck me as I stood there.  One, I got there after the accident occured. (Somehow I think I need to make that clear in writing.)  I saw some of what had happened just after.  He lay there, seemingly unable to move, while the four people did what they were doing as they/we waited for an ambulance to arrive.  I wondered how many people had actually seen it happen.  Y'know?  In real time.  Next, it somehow made sense (and I'm not trying to justify my non-involvement), that the folks who were close to him on the scene, were not being encumbered by anyone else.  It took about five minutes for an ambulance to arrive.  It was at about this point I noticed something I hadn't even thought of before.  A man stopped close to me, held up his smartphone, and started some form of recording - not sure whether they were still or moving shots.  Now, I'm pretty sure that there were quite a few of us within that gathering with smartphones.  Yet, he was the only one I noticed.  Whether he was the only one doing it, is not really my point.  My thoughts are going to the why.  Why did some of us decide that this was a moment not to be captured in picture or video?  Even after I saw him do this, I still did not have the "urge" to record.  I dunno.  Wasn't it like a sort of intrusion on the poor gentleman's demise?  And, what the heck would I be doing with that shot anyway?  What place would it have in my collection?

I'm not sure at what point he stopped recording.  All he'd got from me was that glance.  It could have been after one of the paramedics stooped by the old man with a flat board-looking contraption.  Maybe it was after they gently turned him  - he had been lying on his belly with one side of his face to the ground - revealing the other bloodied side.  I grimaced.  Maybe it was after the paramedic, after assisting with that manoeuvre, rethought his choice, went back to the ambulance and returned with the gurney.  At whatever point it was, I imagine that the man and his phone had got their fill and he'd moved on.

When the gurney came out, that was when I moved on.  I told myself that he was in very capable hands; prayed for his speedy recovery and left the scene.  I really hope that he fares well.

My question lingered...lingers, however.  Who thinks to record an accident like that?  I mean, it's something that happens all the time.  Unfortunately.  And some people are going to record - hence the terms, iReporter and Citizen Journalists, etc.  But, in the heat of the moment, why does the thought not even occur to some of us who are social media users with our smartphones at the ready?  Why do some of us not even think to capture such a moment for posterity or sharing or sending to a media house or whatever?  Opting, instead, to behold it through no other lens than our own?  I understand that this has been an on-going debate for journalists - especially photo-journalists.  If you just happen to be there when something goes horribly wrong, do you rush to help?  Or, do you grab your camera, start recording and hope beyond hope that "someone else" will assist, while you capture a key piece for your story later on? 

I imagine that others would ask, why write about it in a blog - even days after; even as I ask my own provocative questions?

Could the answer be as simple as, "To each her own"?