Wednesday, February 27, 2013

It's Really Deep...on the Surface

I have a confession to make. Are you ready?

I'm shallow on Facebook.

There! I said it! And I feel so much....better? Dang. I don't feel better. Because gosh, Facebook, I wasn't feeling badly about my shallow status updates to begin with. Because they're status updates and you're, well, you're Facebook. Even though, apparently, there is a discussion going on Out There about how people are not being honest about their eternally happy selves and their seemingly perfect children and locally grown and 100% organic lunches on Facebook.

Someone wrote an article about all of this, and I heard her interviewed on NPR. She sounded super-duper intelligent and I'm sure she's an excellent writer but I just didn't really care about (nor was I surprised by) the whole Facebook Shallowness topic.

The writer was concerned that people are giving false impressions of themselves and their lives on social media. Der...ya think? She felt that people would be sitting around at home thinking their lives were the only lives that weren't perfect. After all - what if you're depressed and unable to leave your house and you have to look at endless status updates and pictures of people hiking, biking, dining out, etc? What if your kids are juvenile delinquents and you're having to look at endless updates about how other people's kids are being inducted into the National Honor Society in between feeding the homeless and qualifying for the Olympic rowing team? What if you're doing good to stop by McDonald's and you have to look at endless pictures of That Girl You Didn't Like In High School's gourmet meals that she made from vegetables she grew in her own garden? I mean, don't you think people should be HONEST so you can feel better about yourself?

For me - the answer to that is a big old NO. Really - don't post a picture of your bunion on my account. I'd rather see a picture of that deer that comes by every morning and nibbles on your honeysuckle.

Let's consider my own Fake and Oh So Pleasant Facebook Life. This is my current profile picture.

I don't always look like this. I am not always smiling happily whilst clinging to my happy husband. I know - you're shocked, right? And this was a particularly decent hair day. My hair is sometimes excessively curly. And not in a pretty way. On curly days, Joel calls me Hagrid. As in this:

I'm guilty of posting a lot about my kids. Yesterday I posted how they'd cooked breakfast and lunch. Before that I'd posted a picture of a freaking perfect vegan espresso layered cake Camille baked ALL BY HERSELF SO THERE. I'm sorry if it upset anybody.

This might come as a huge surprise to you if you think that nothing happens in my home that I don't post on Facebook - but my kids are not perfect. Sometimes they argue, they make enormous messes and refuse to clean them up or they say they'll clean them up and then disappear for the appropriate amount of time they think it will take for me to either forget about it or clean it up myself. They're noisy. They are sometimes listless and don't seem to care about anything. They sleep a lot. They game a lot. They are hungry a lot. But I'm not going to get on Facebook and tell everyone everything they do that isn't made of awesomesauce. It would be massively disrespectful to the children, who are luckily, not using my failures and examples of lack of perfection as their status updates. In fact, I can't post anything at all about Camille without her permission - she feels rather strongly about that. So my lack of My Kids Are Horrible!! status updates doesn't indicate my children are perfect - nor is it an attempt on my part to convince you that they are - it is merely me respecting them and their privacy.

I tend to post when I'm happy. But I'm not always happy. But people are rarely taking pictures of me when I'm in the middle of a temper tantrum. I don't have a picture to post.

I also tend to post when something good has happened. But bad things happen to me, too. In fact, if you know me and this really seems to be the crux of the situationmost of my Facebook Friends do not really Know Me you know that some very bad things have happened to me. I have had family tragedies and financial distress. I've suffered loss and the pain of illness. Is it really necessary to discuss this on Facebook? (And for those of you who suffered my seemingly endless flu posts - okay - so sometimes I do a little public suffering.)

I just don't get the point of the article or the discussion that has ensued in its wake. And there is a discussion going on - I'm seeing it on Facebook. In the past week I've seen several people post about this article while saying something along the lines of, "I'm guilty of this, too." As if  they've done something to feel guilty about by not baring their souls to people they don't really know all that well on a social network.

So what are social networks for? What constitutes a friend if it isn't someone who follows you on Twitter or friends you on Facebook?

Social networks are for networking. They're for meeting people who might share common interests or goals. They're also avenues of expression and means of giving and receiving information and, often, advice. And let's not forget - they're where you can see images of Grumpy Cat at all hours of the day. As to what constitutes a friend - well, a friend is the person who reads your status updates and says, "That's bullshit."

I do think that social networking sites and blogs (!!) can be excellent places to make Real Friends - although obviously - you have to be careful. Have you seen the documentary, Catfish? If not, you should. But anyway, assuming that young female writer you just met isn't actually this guy

you can make some great Real Friends. Two of my very best friends are women I met right here on this little old blog. That's right! Leave me a comment and you, too, can have me and my neediness as your very own endless vacuum of angst all wrapped up with a bow! (It isn't easy being my friend - so be careful what you wish for.) I recently picked up a friend via Twitter. Remember that Twitter Pitch Contest I entered? I didn't win. I came in 2nd. Actually, I was named an alternate but I'm calling that 2nd because it kind of is. And actually there were 2 alternates so it's quite possible I came in 3rd but since nobody will ever know, I'll say I came in 2nd. I could say the other alternate came in 3rd but since she is my New Best Friend and will probably read this, I'll say we Share Second.

I'm pretty sure my New Best Friend is already regretting having met me, by the way. She's thinking She's not like she is on Twitter at all! She's a whiny mess! She never shuts up! She is quickly discouraged and easily downtrodden! If only she'd been more honest about herself on Twitter... I bet that stupid picture of her in the baseball cap is at least 4 years old.  **Not only is it old - it's photo-shopped. Shhhh!!

I don't think most people really want to know more about me than I share on Facebook. And I don't really want to know all that much more about them, either. And whenever I give in and post something political, I've noticed that whatever I post next - be it a picture of my new shoes or a recipe - will receive a ton of likes, as if everyone's encouraging me to behave myself.

Once I received an Un-Friending Threat following a political post - but c'mon people - it was about THIS GUY.

So is this really a thing - this Facebook Non-Reality? Are you concerned about it?

I'm not. I'm happy to hear what you had for breakfast, see a picture of your new car, hear about your kid getting accepted into college. I know this isn't all that goes on in your lives. I know that behind every perfect pie there are many that were total disasters. I know that your kids probably yell at you, that at times you worry you're a horrible mother and you've messed everything up. I know that sometimes you can't sleep at night because of bills, or illness, or marital issues. I think it's because of these things that the picture you posted of the butterfly outside your kitchen window makes me so happy. The butterfly isn't a lie - it's not a false representation of the person who took it - it's hope and optimism. And it's important.

Carry on with your fake self, Facebook. Carry on.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I Request a (Decent) Audience

I'll be watching the Grammys tonight and it has me thinking about performers and their audiences. Is it just me or has audience behavior gone down the tubes? The endless texting drives me nuts, but not nearly as much as when people use those same phones to film entire performances. At the Red Hot Chili Peppers concerts we went to last year (yes - I said concerts - we went to more than one) we stood behind people who experienced the Chili Peppers entirely through their phones. Watching anything on a phone is pretty much an exercise in frustration - so why would you want to watch a band on your phone when they're RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF YOU? Like Life-Size and stuff?

I'm a nervous concert-goer simply because of the audience experience. The concert is only going to be as good as the asshat in front of you or behind you. I always fixate beforehand, wondering what my fellow audience members will be like - or at least the ones in my general vicinity - because they have the power to make it or break it for me.

Depending on the band - I'll expect to either sit or stand. People get very worked up over this particular issue - you have Staunch Sitters who paid good money for their tickets by golly (Staunch Sitters, in my experience, tend to say things like "by golly") and you have those who want to stand and dance no matter what - even if you're in a quaint acoustical setting. I've suffered through both scenarios - having been told to sit down repeatedly and having asked others to do so repeatedly.

With the Red Hot Chili Peppers, you're going to stand and dance. If you don't, the funk will build up to dangerous levels and you'll explode.

I know this is an old photo with John Frusciante instead of Josh Klinghoffer, but I'm still not at a point in my recovery where I am able to actually post a pic of Josh Klinghoffer.

At one of the Chili Peppers concerts, we were lucky enough to be on the floor, fairly close to the stage. I watched nervously as my fellow concert-goers arrived to take their seats around us. The people 2 rows in front of us? A squeaky clean family with young kids. GULP. The guys directly in front of us? Had their phones at the ready to record. DOUBLE GULP and I was already irritated. But the absolute worst was the couple behind us. He had that eager, crazed look of the First Date gleaming in his eyes - and she was overly made up, dressed for a cocktail party, and looking around for somebody better than the guy she'd walked in with.

The show started and everyone jumped to their feet THANK GOD. Mom and Dad put their kids on the chairs so they could see better, and both kids immediately covered their ears with their hands. "What a waste of good seats!" I yelled to Jeff. He agreed. The guys directly in front of us predictably began watching through their phones. I was in awe of their ability to stand so still and hold their arms up like that for so long. Idiots.

The couple behind us immediately began their first date chit-chat, which had to be executed through screaming, so lucky for us, we got to hear all of it. For the record - I was right - she wasn't into him at all. They didn't even remotely pay attention to the band and I wanted to turn around and yell at them that this was THE FLOOR and no place for amateurs, but that didn't seem to be the case. We were in Amateur Central down there, with the families and the phone-filmers and the corporate types. The only person I had an ounce of respect for was the girl across the aisle - she was old-school and never once gave up in her attempts to rush the stage. A Mean Security Guard Man thwarted her every effort, but she never gave up and you have to respect that, you really do.

The best audiences are the ones who love the performers they've come to see - but it's rare to end up in a devoted crowd of followers these days, even in small venues. We went to see Matisyahu at a tiny little theatre - tickets were ridiculously expensive. It was just Matisyahu, a stool, and his guitarist - should have been perfect.

I'm still embarrassed to see him without his beard - it's like he's naked. OH GOD I'M BLUSHING.

But the crowd was so-so. It was a fundraiser so a lot of the people there weren't really fans. For example, when he asked what he should perform for his closing number, the woman behind us (who had talked loudly through the entire performance) screamed out, "King Without a Crown!" triumphantly, to let everyone know she Actually Knew of a Song. Unfortunately (and as Matisyahu, himself, informed her) that had been the song he'd opened with. She either a) hadn't heard it for all of her own talking or b) had no idea what the song sounded like. Add to that a drunk guy in the balcony who yelled at oddly quiet and inappropriate times - and yeah - it could have been better.

The Jane's Addiction crowd was probably the best audience we encountered last year. That concert was also at a small venue - and I could tell immediately that it was going to be a good night.

As the audience poured in, I nodded approvingly. They were all dressed like total freaks - I had high hopes. The guys who sat down next to us wanted to get cozy and immediately began asking us when we'd first heard Jane and what did we love about them and what was our favorite album - they were pumped and I loved them so so so much for being pumped. We had Joel and his friend with us - and I think they enjoyed the crowd as much as they did the band. One guy, who was out of his mind On Something, would turn to Joel and grab him by the shoulders and just scream in his face before turning around to resume body slamming everyone. Joel was only frightened the first time or two that it happened, after that, he was totally into it. His buddy, Austen, spent a good bit of time crawling around the floor because the woman behind us was dancing so hard that her trifocals flew off her head (so we were an OLD CROWD so what?) and Austen, being the nice young man that he is, tried to help her find them.

My seat was the best seat in the house because it gave me a direct line of sight to Dave Navarro. He was right smack in front of me - I had a perfect view - and it made me happy. Dave still rocks the leather pants. Now, there are some guys still trying to rock the leather pants who just leave you feeling sad and empty inside - but with Dave - well, it does other things, none of which are sad. Anyway, so at one point Joel's screaming neighbor moved directly in front of me. He was huge and out of control. But I was like one of those women who gain super-human strength and courage when their children are trapped in burning vehicles - I poked him in his beefy bicep and explained to him that he was coming between me and Dave and the leather pants. He was stunned, at first, but then he moved over. "Can you see now Mama?" he asked. I gave him a thumbs up and he grinned.

In my mind, the Jane's Addiction concert was the best concert of the year - but I think it had as much, if not more, to do with the audience as it did the band.

We also went to see k.d. lang - who I have loved since Absolute Torch and Twang - and we were stuck in the balcony with the losers. The woman in front of us was a texter - and a facebooker - and a tweeter. And she was doing all of those things WITH HER ENTIRE BODY. She didn't just text with her fingers - she flapped her elbows around and bopped her head while she held the phone Way Up High so as to illuminate the 5 rows behind her. She was front-row balcony - and that meant she propped her feet up on the railing - big pointy shoes that she crossed and uncrossed repeatedly. I could see her status updates: I'm at the Katie Lang concert! (That's right - she didn't know how to spell the performer's name), and her texts: I'm in the balcony, where are you?, and her tweets: Having a great time at the Katie Lang concert! SHE NEVER ONCE LOOKED AT THE STAGE. Also - she was wearing too much perfume and with all of the commotion and flurry of her activities - it was wafting up into our faces. Ellie and Camille were with me, and Ellie is scent-sensitive (she's also idiot-sensitive, which was probably the bigger issue) and so we moved to the very, very, very back of the balcony area.

Down below things were different. The devoted fans were down there - so it was just k.d. lang and several thousand lesbians and they all seemed to be having a significantly better time than we were. Even so - when there's a voice like velvet in the house - you can't be completely miserable, even with a Full-Body Texter in front of you.
Pure velvet.

I'd like to say that classical arts audiences are better behaved, but they're not. At piano recitals, people come in late, whisper back and forth, jingle their keys, etc. At The Nutcracker this year, we literally sat behind a family reunion where Grandma distributed Crunch 'n Munch out of a bag by scooping it into paper cups and passing it down the rows to family members who then began to (just like you'd expect) crunch and munch. And when the act with the angels was over - a mass exodus of grandparents began. It's like they said, "I sat here as long as I could - my grandkid is now done - I'm outta here." The problem was, as they painstakingly made their ways down the steps and aisles - none of the rest of us could see the stage.

During Copellia, I watched as people tried to extend intermission into the 3rd act by simply refusing to take their seats. When MY OWN FLESH AND BLOOD made her entrance onto the stage, I couldn't see her because the people in front of us were still standing and visiting, even though the lights had gone off and the music had started and the curtain had risen.

I long for the good old days when people showed up for performances with rotten tomatoes. I know just where I'd throw them..

So tell me - what was your latest audience experience like?

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Other F-Word

So that previous post - the one where I wrote some sort of horrible inspirational dribble about the flu's silver lining - it was total bullshit. Purge it from your consciousness. Because the flu totally bites - The End.

I think I might have believed that nonsense when I wrote it - but that was before we went to the pediatrician for the secondary infections and before he casually said, "I keep seeing people come in with one flu strain only to come back a week or so later with the second strain," and before I dismissively responded, "Wow, that would suck."


I went from type B to type A, which is the nastier of the two strains (I know because I am unfortunately an expert now).

At the moment, poor Camille has it. I'm hoping it stops with her but it probably won't because The Universe is apparently pooping flu on us. When it's all over I fear we'll have no choice but to burn our house down with all of our belongings inside.

I have been well (and I use that term loosely) for about a week. And I still can't hear out of my right ear and I sound like I smoke 3 packs a day. It took Jules less time to recover from brain surgery last summer.

Seriously, people, I do not think I am going to be able to end this post with any type of inspirational/upbeat commentary, whatsoever. It can't be done under the circumstances. Although, thinking of last summer, and the brain surgery and all that - oh dear, here it comes - there are worse things than a house full of otherwise healthy people coming down with the flu. There is a mother somewhere who, at this very moment, would gratefully trade places with me.

I have been that mother.

So listen to me you Stupid Dumb Stupid Flu - you're not as badass as you think you are.

Oh dear God - I think I just issued it a challenge.