Friday, July 20, 2007

Hyperreality In Facebook

The following is an email exchange I had with a friend today. It started with my commentary regarding a mutual acquaintance, and expanded to a larger discussion of Facebook and the hyperreality it creates for some (most?) of its users. Identities have been removed to protect the (not so) innocent.

Me: While I anxiously await your next email-with-government-story (similar to how I anxiously await Prince's "Planet Earth" release on July 24th), I feel the need to comment on *Mutual Friend*, as she is possibly the most interesting (and loathsome) mutual acquaintance we posses. I say most interesting because when I first read your email I firmly doubted (and laughed as a result) that she would even know what Ayn Rand's philosophy is called (Objectivism) let alone its principles, despite the fact that The Fountainhead is one of her favorite books on Facebook. Anyway, this led me to realize that she probably knows next to nothing about anything in her Facebook profile, and further that her profile is simply the manifestation of post-modern popular culture (or at the very least a very specific subset thereof). An amateur deconstruction of her profile reveals that her Facebook personality is the farthest thing from individualistic (a further irony with her self-association with Ayn Rand), and that it is just a repeating crawl of things other people like and/or that culture in general (whether it is Miami culture or pop-culture at large) has deemed are "cool" or even better "niche cool" (with "niche cool" being defined as relatively unknown things that make a person cool just for knowing they exist) . The conclusion I have come to (and here is the fascinating part about her) is that I believe that an actual "Mutual Friend" is non-existent. Instead, the entity we call *Mutual Friend* is in fact a manifestation in human form of the environment in which she is placed (I believe we have discussed this before but I am finalizing this theory now). The "person" she is is the result of an obsessive way of maintaining relavence by acting, in any situation, the exact way popular culture (or her version/interpretation thereof) would dictate. So really, "she" does not exist, and she instead is very simply the manifestation of every person she comes in contact with. In other word's, she is Smith from the second Matrix (where he absorbs every Matrix person he comes in contact with). Your thoughts?

Bob: I whole-heartedly agree. But there aren't many people who aren't like that. I just fucking despise niche-coolness, especially in music. But then again I really despise most people, because I am an elitist.

Me: I agree that each of us has elements of projecting an image we think is cool to others (its a basic element of survival), but I would emphasize that for most of us that is an "element" of our personality, where for *Mutual Friend* that is all there is (and all she has become), which is why I find her so fascinating. She has no element of a unique, singular personality. While most people's personalities are molded by a myriad of factors (culture, values, experiences, environment), I believe her's is solely shaped by what she perceives to be "cool", and nothing else. She would [do anything] if enough people/magazines/popular personalities convinced her it was cool. She has no taboos, no restraint. There is nothing she won't do/say/post on her Facebook profile under the "right" cirumstances and/or influence. She is the definition of " I support anything trendy".

Bob: This is what I find interesting. Facebook allows for something completely new. It allows for a hyper-self. Someone more "you" than you. It aides in creating your own identity, apart from the one you currently possess. And in the process, everything is assigned a hidden yet meaningful connotation. For instance, Ayn Rand shows that, whereas you are a fucking idiot, most people would see The Fountainhead in a profile and automatically assume intelligence. Just as Hunter S. Thompson is assigned coolness and Catcher in the Rye has the connotation that one went to high school.The same can be applied to music. Where the niche coolness now has its own application with ilike and These are used soley to try to show that you have discarded the old "clear-channel corporate scene " for a music choice that has yet to sell out (make money and eat). Interests are the same, and groups to a greater extent. You have "cyber friends" with "cyber realities" and they interact with your cyber reality in the form of posting pictures and one liners. But, if you dont like a picture, erase it. Only the beautiful can stay. The amazing thing about Facebook is that there are very few ugly people or losers. Even the alternative have their own coolness. But none of it is real. I would love to spend a day as my facebook profile. And have everyone else do the same. Sadly in some cases this happens. *Mutual Friend* is drifting through life as her profile. As a pre-determined entity, with which she identifies herself. One can only hope the same fate doesn't apply to all of us.

Me: Your thoughts pose a further interesting question, and one I think can be used to separate the *Mutual Friend*s from the Bobbys of the Facebook world. If you ask someone what they want to accomplish with his/her profile I think you will get one of two answers. People like you and me would (I think) respond with something like, "to allow people to know more about me" or simpler put to "enhance knowledge", meaning that people who look at our profiles have a general knowledge of who we are and what we are about, but they can get added insight through looking at our profile. For example, I see my profile as a way for me to communicate things about myself that people wouldn't necessarily know just by interacting with me on a daily, or semi-daily, basis. Unless you are one of my closest friends, you might not know that I am obsessed with thug-shit rap (my "Favorite Music" section) or that I dislike aggressive people who are prone to picking fights (the "About Me" section). Putting this info on Facebook allows my profile's viewers to gain added insight as to who I am, and, armed with this information, think more or less of me as a person, and possibly engage in some of the similar interest I and said viewer have. To a person like *Mutual Friend*, I think the answer to the question would be something like "to allow people to know me" or simpler to "create knowledge". Whereas I associate with something (say the Wu-Tang Clan) and then put it on my profile, the other end of the spectrum puts something on their profile (Ayn Rand) and THEN associates with it. It's backwards! Person 1 (me) creates a profile while Person 2 (*Mutual Friend*) lets the profile create her. It's two separate realities or ways of defining the self. Its either you are yourself and that defines your profile, or you are your profile and it defines yourself.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Steroids In Golf is reporting that Gary Player knows of at least one golfer who has been on the juice. Player went on to estimate that 10 players from around the world are taking performance inhancing drugs (why just 10 Gary?). Quote of the day goes to Tiger Woods for this response to being asked if he would be surprised if a golfer tested positive for sterioids:

"If anything, probably out here it would be testing positive for maybe being hung over a little bit, but that's about it."

No sure if that comment was a slight at John "Booze Hound" Daly, although it is also unclear whether alcohol is considered a performance enhancing drug for golf (like it is for bowling). Phil Mickelson also down-played the likelihood of steriods in golf; however, Mickelson would be a prime suspect for the sauce, having gained a reported 200 pounds in recent years.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Thomas SLAMs Bogut

Etan Thomas wrote an open letter to Andrew Bogut for SLAMonline in response to Bogut's negative comments about the NBA and America in general. Thomas makes great points, including the irony of Bogut's admonishing of the NBA's "Bling-Bling" lifestyle, but then admiting to partake in aspects of it himself, as well as Bogut's choice to use third-person pronouns ("they") when refering to the NBA. It's surprising that this whole story hasn't garnered more media attention.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Bombs Over Baghdad, Golf Balls Over Dubai

Great article by Jim Caple of on the nation of Dubai, a desert oasis that is one of the United Arab Emeriates. This place seems to have it all: beautiful setting, no taxes, heavy corporate investment, and an emphasis on sports and sports culture (Dubai is a welcoming place for American tourists and expatriots alike). They're even building islands! All of this comes thanks to refreshing new way of thinking that shuns the fanatacism and fundamentalist (no fun) mindset that has casued much of the turmoil in the Middle East. With few oil reserves (oil production made up on 6% of Dubai's GNP last year), Dubai has prospered by embracing a free-trade, pro-western mindset, and the world is quickly taking notice. The aspirations of Dubai's rulers are lofty, but if your country is already building islands, what can't you do?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

What's Scott Got To Do With It?

Everything! Scott Van Pelt stole a new catch phrase, and simultaneously launched Flight of the Conchords (New Zealand's fourth most popular digi-folk paradists) into pop-culture relevance! In SportsCenter's "Not Top Ten", Van Pelt referenced the Conchords (not so) famous rap battle seen on HBO (and seen over and over again on HBO On Demand). During a clip of Phillip Wellman's minor league meltdown, Van Pelt quoted Jermaine/The Hiphopopotamus, saying "Be more constructive with your feedback', (Jermaine's response to colleagues who settle for leveling empty critiques on the his work). Despite their new-found fame, the Conchords stay committed to talking about the issue, but keeping it funky.

Cleveland Keeping Stars

The Plain Dealer is reporting the Indians have agreed to a contract extension with Travis Hafner that will keep Pronk in a Tribe uniform through 2012. The extension with net Hafner an additional $57 million. Mark Shapiro will now turn his attention to extending the contract of ace C.C. Sabathia, a free agent after the 2008 season. An All-Star this year, Sabathia should command more money than Hafner, and hopefully Shapiro (and the Dolans') will continue their commitment to keeping the teams nucleus in tact.

In more good news on the shores of Lake Erie, the Memphis Grizzlies have made a contract offer to unrestricted free agent Darko Milicic. The Grizzle, once the front runner in offering a contract to Anderson Varejao, will pay Milicic $7 in his first season. With Memphis out of the picture, it is increasingly likely Varejao will return to the Wine & Gold (and for less than originally thought!), as the only other team will substantial cap space (Milwaukee) is not in the market for a big man. A Varejao signing may finally put an end to my hopes of seeing Mo Williams in a Cavs uniform, unless Ferry can orchestrate a sign-and-trade with the Bucks. Would they take Eric Snow, Ira Newble, and $3 million dollars to help them get Earl Boykins or Steve Blake to run the point for Williams signed for $7-8 million? Maybe not, but the Cavs also have the power to keep a percentage of Newble's contract on their payroll, giving the Bucks even more cap room to make a run at the big name free agents that will be available in '08.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Mo Williams, No Problems

In the wake of the NBA Finals, it was clear the Cavs had two issues to address if they wanted another shot at Larry Obrien's trophy: (1) A legitimate scoring threat opposite LeBron and (2) An experienced point guard who could initiate Mike Brown's offense and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. In the first day teams can officially sign free agents, why haven't the Cavs been more active in recruiting such a player!? Danny Ferry says he's open to any transaction that will improve the team, and yet his main focus in free agency (at least according to the press) has been a (understandable) wait-and-see policy on restricted free agents Anderson Varejao and Sasha Pavlovic and talks with vetern non-impact players like Morris Peterson and Derek Fisher. Why hasn't Ferry made a stronger picth to Maurice Williams, who's only other suitors seem to be the Milwaukee Bucks (his former team) and the Miami Heat (who could only offer him the mid-level exception). With the NBA's salary cap figures released today, Williams is in line for a contract between $5-10 million a season, and will most likely sign for $7-8 million per. With the Memphis Grizzlies $8 million under the cap, the cost to keep Varejao or sign Williams are looking to be pretty comparable. If Ferry is serious about keeping both Varejao and Pavlovic, this means he could potentially have his choice of a Varejao/Pavlovic or Williams/Pavlovic combo for the SAME PRICE. Which option would put the Cavs in a better position to return to the Finals: Adding a young but experienced PG with start potential who averaged 17 pts and 5 assists last year, or keeping a fan-favorite, energizing big man who came off the bench to average 6 pts and 6 rebs for a team that's strength was rebounding AND who is never going to start as long as Drew Gooden (11 pts 8 rebs) is around? Gooden is an all around better player than Varejao and could certainly average a double-double if given more playing time. Look at the Cavs potential lineup scenarios with either Williams or Varejao:

With Varejao:
Starters: Larry Hughes, Pavlovic, James, Gooden, & Z
Bench: Varejao, Daniel Gibson, Shannon Brown, Donyell Marshall

With Williams:
Starters: Williams, Hughes, James, Gooden, Z
Bench: Pavlovic, Gibson, Brown, Marshall

Sure the Cavs would need to find another big man, but they could sign someone with comparable numbers for well below what Varejao is slated to make. Williams allows the Cavs to move Larry Hughes back to his natural position at SG (hopefully leaving the errant mid-range jumper behind him) and leaves them with an additional scoring threat off the bench (Pavlovic) to complement the developing Gibson (who is more SG than PG himself). Williams will chip in 15-20 pts a night, and all the Cavs lose is 6pts and 6rebs, some of which can be made up by Drew Gooden seeing more minutes. The addition of Williams would give the Cavs a dimension not yet seen in the LeBron era: A playmaking point guard to get James the ball, while at the same time taking a bit of the scoring load off his shoulders. What's even better about a potential Williams signing, is that he is the type of player who can push the tempo and get James the ball where he is his most unstoppable: in the open floor. Unless his market value somehow soars to $10 million per year, all the Cavs would lose in choosing Williams over Varejao is a back-up big man who at best is an offensive liability (Finals Game 3). Varejao was a great energy player for the Cavs last season, and one I have a personal investment in (I bought his navy blue away jersey for the '07 playoff run), but the fact remains that he is an offensively limited reserve who added to strengths the Cavs already possesed (defense, rebounding). Williams plays the Cavs weakest position (PG) and excels where the Cavs need the most help (offense). Mike Brown's system can turn any player into a good defender (Pavlovic shut down Vince Carter in the Nets series), but needs already strong offensive players to make something out of his Voodoo Offense (Brownanomics). Signing Williams, even at Varejao's expense, would launch the Cavs into the instant Eastern conference favorite again, and solidify the weaknesses exposed during the playoffs. Ferry needs to fend off the ghost of Jim Paxson that undoubtedly haunts his office, consult the VP of Common Sense, and make this move.