Sunday, December 11, 2011

Now there are still a lot of places on the Internet that are free and provide a service with no ulterior motive. I run one such website, just as an example, for our local table tennis club including a history of T.T. in Alabama ( However, with the rise of "social networking" we'd all do well to remember that when involved in any transaction, if you are not the buyer or the seller then you are the product.

And that brings me to Facebook. FB is terrible as an institution and they have a rotten record as far as respecting our privacy -- and in my opinion they are simply a glorified version of America On Line; and so I have sympathy for AOL and their meteoric rise and colossal collapse, they were just too early -- of course Facebook may similarly disintegrate to irrelevance, it's early days yet for them. But I come not to bury Facebook, but to praise it.

Facebook is a genuinely enabling environment and is spawning creative works in new paradigms. My friend Ben (yes, he.s my "Facebook friend", but Ben has been my real life friend for 30 years, too, despite the hundreds of miles typically between us). So: My friend Ben recently recounted a multi-part story from his childhood on Facebook, actually he still is: as I write this, it's unfinished. And while his telling is riveting, real, and eloquent, nonetheless so because most, if not all of his audience knows the outcome -- indeed this may allow us to enjoy the story even more, as recent research has shown that people enjoy books more when they know the ending in advance, as counter-intuitive as that may be -- as I was saying: although his yarn spinning is superb, the context of Facebook adds a new dimension to the later reader, as we get to see comments from earlier readers. An example: the first part ended with seven year old Ben heading out on a hike with an older brother and his friends. Readers familiar with certain events to come chimed in with comments like "Ben! Stop! Don't go!" and "Is this that day you...?". As the parts unfold the readers become part of the story, or at least of its retelling, acting as both eager listeners around the camp fire and a time-dispersed Greek chorus. It's not interactive television, it's better.

And that reminds me of another recent Facebook meta-experience, this time FB came out from the computer and showed up at a local spoken-word open mike night called Monkey Speak. The "creative work" that one woman read was excerpts of an interaction she had on Facebook with author Anne Rice (The Vampire Chronicles, etc.): Our reader had written a rant that included, among other things, her complaining that Ms. Rice was preaching through her characters in one of her more recent books. (Apparently Rice had re-found religion in 1998) Anywhat, Rice failed to respond directly to our speaker's rant, but in 3 subsequent posts to Facebook used phrases like "if that's not too preachy". This excerption, read at MonkeySpeak, was reasonably well done and just as reasonably well received. Interesting times.

I had an interesting time when I accompanied Madelyn while she ran the Boston Marathon in April. She did well enough to qualify to run again next year if she so chooses. But it was standing on Boston Commons and in front of the Old North Church that sent chills up my back. As radical as the Occupy Wall Street movements seemed this year, nothing compared to the radicals that stood in these places almost 250 years ago.

Nathaniel, meanwhile, is building an understanding of the 99% and 1%, through Economics, his latest major at Auburn. I keep sending him links to interesting things that Paul Krugman says . not that I.m pressuring him to win a Nobel Prize. He plans to graduate next semester. Caralyn just finished try outs for her high school soccer team; she.ll be on at least J.V. in the spring. She.s 15 now and ready to go get her driving learners permit. I.m not sure her parents are ready for that, but we.ll step up to it.

I stepped up to that open mike the other night and read a piece, but a more conventional very short story that had just been published (December 1st) at ("Celebrating the Southern Written Word"). It's called "The Mantis". I've been trying to do more fiction writing this year, meeting with a writing group once a week. I find myself very hesitant to really dive in; excuse-ing that I'm too busy. Maybe next year. What are you stepping up to next year? No matter, next year can wait. Enjoy Christmas for now, and a little time off from whatever you may need time off from.

- Chip, Madelyn, Caralyn and Nathaniel, crpatton "at"