Twitter’s a Hot Date, Facebook is Lunch With Mom

Both are good, but one is better.

Since my friends and colleagues are no doubt sick of hearing me yap about the subject, I’ll try to get it out of my system with this post. Here are a few reasons I like Twitter better than Facebook:

Twitter updates are generally positive, meaningful, and substantive. Facebook status updates are often negative, shallow, and narcissistic.

Twitter puts my finger on the pulse of the internet. Facebook puts my finger on the pulse of a closed group.

Twitter encourages creative expression of thought. Facebook encourages expression by proxy (via quizzes, groups, pages, games, etc.).

Twitter is about reaching out. Facebook is about looking in.

Twitter provides real-time updates on any subject. Facebook provides real-time updates of my friends’ achievements in Farmville and Mafia Wars.

Twitter is flexible. Facebook is constrained.

Twitter’s web interface has a single, unobtrusive text ad. Facebook’s interface has multiple, distracting image ads.

Twitter’s settings are straightforward. Facebook’s settings are complicated.

Twitter doesn’t push groups and pages on me after I’ve dismissed them countless times.

Twitter’s interface is quick and simple. Facebook’s interface is sludgy and complex.

Facebook is buggy. Twitter is less buggy.

Twitter doesn’t ever suggest I become friends with a total stranger.

Twitter is a communication medium. Facebook doesn’t know what it is.

Just my opinion, of course. For a more intelligent discussion of the topic check out this article at TwiTip. The truth is I think both Twitter and Facebook are amazing platforms, and they serve very different functions. I will likely continue using both for the foreseeable future.

Jaiku‘s better than either of ’em anyway. 😉

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Twitter’s a Hot Date, Facebook is Lunch With Mom

Lol I Know Right Hahah Lol

Just a quick memo for anyone who isn’t up to speed. The following practices are no longer acceptable in online discussion forums. This decree applies to message board replies, Faceboook comments, and anywhere else on the internet where written conversation takes place. Thank you for your cooperation.

Beginning a Post with “Lol” or “Hahah”
This practice is rampant on the web and needs to stop. I confess I do it myself all the time (I’m working on it). It’s a way to quickly indicate agreement with the previous comment and placate the comment’s author. For example:

Netizen: The Joker is the greatest villain ever!
n00b: Lol totally!

Using “Lol” and “Hahah” in the Same Post
People do this to create filler because they can’t think of anything interesting to say. Alternatively, they do it to soften the blow of a dissenting opinion. These terms are the digital equivalent of a grunt. Come on people, nobody laughs this much:

Netizen: Heath Ledger is the best Joker ever!
n00b: Hahah he was ok but Nicholson pwns him lol

Using “Lol” Multiple Times in the Same Post
See above.

Beginning a Post with “Um[m/mm/mmm]” or “Uh[h/hh/hhh]”
Doing this makes you look like a jerk. It’s often used in a reply that disagrees with a previous comment. The respondent uses “um” to start his post as if to indicate he’s pausing (perhaps wincing in pain) as he struggles to comprehend your stupidity. Here’s an example:

Netizen: The Dark Knight is the best movie ever!
Asshole: Um, actually it isn’t.

To seem like an even bigger cocknose, the respondent will sometimes end his reply with a question mark, as such:

Netizen: The Dark Knight is the best movie ever!
Asshole: Uhh, actually it isn’t?

Or:

Netizen: The Dark Knight is the best movie ever!
Asshole: Um, no?

Using the Phrase “I Know Right[?/!]” Ever
I knew the girl who started this back in ’98, when it was a new and neat way to indicate agreement while opening the door for further discussion. Now it just makes you look dumb.

Netizen: Christian Bale was the best Batman ever!
n00b: I know right!

I hope this helps clear up any confusion. Oh, one final note: if you want to come off as the biggest dickhead of all, write a blog post about how stupid everybody acts on the internet.

Lol I Know Right Hahah Lol

Crazy Old Wizard

I posit that Obi-Wan Kenobi, hero of the Star Wars saga, went insane toward the end of his life, leading him away from the moral and ethical foundations of the Jedi Order.

We see evidence of Obi-Wan’s psychosis in Star Wars: A New Hope. There is a great deal of consternation and debate among fans over Obi-Wan’s comment that Darth Vader killed Luke’s father. Most accept his explanation in Return of the Jedi, that what he told Luke was correct from a “certain point of view”. However, I would like to suggest that the old Jedi may have been completely mad by the time he told Luke about Anakin’s fate. It’s possible that in the throes of dementia he actually believed what he was telling Luke, and then later, in spirit form, offered a flimsy justification, embarrassed to admit his former deficiencies.

It’s also not totally unreasonable to suggest that Obi-Wan may have orchestrated the murder of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru as a way to guarantee Luke would go with him to Alderaan. He could have led the Stormtroopers to the Lars’ home with an anonymous transmission, or perhaps used the Force to plant a suggestion in their minds. Even more plausible is that he enlisted mercenaries to do the deed, perhaps knowing of Stormtroopers’ incompetence and poor marksmanship. He even mentions that “only Imperial stormtroopers are so precise,” which of course we know isn’t true.

It is quite clear that Obi-Wan believed Luke was the galaxy’s only hope for toppling the Empire. He was old, desperate, and running out of time. Maybe he believed that sacrificing two lives to save the entire galaxy was a fair bargain, at least from a certain point of view.

If you require further proof of Obi-Wan’s mental state, witness his brutal dismemberment of Ponda Baba in the cantina. I view this act as a blatant example of excessive, unnecessary force. We’ve seen this man fight armies of droids, vicious cyborgs, ruthless alien bounty hunters, and deadly Sith Lords. We observed his use of mind control on Imperial troops and drug dealers. There’s absolutely no reason to believe he couldn’t have subdued a common thug by less violent means.

To get your head around this theory, think about the trauma Obi-Wan has experienced. Even putting aside the tragic events which gave rise to the Empire, he’s fought in many battles, witnessed death on a daily basis for years, experienced imprisonment and torture, and faced the most horrifying villains imaginable. And throughout all of it his mind is tapped into a powerful cosmic force that he can never truly control.

Add to this the fall of the Jedi Order, the slaying of his most trusted friend, and the Rise of an indomitable evil Empire, and you end up with one messed up old hermit.

Crazy Old Wizard

Election Bowl 2008

Congratulations to Barack Obama and his supporters for an historic triumph in the U.S. presidential election. Obama is a charismatic leader who ran an incredible campaign. He truly earned his victory and I’m confident he will make a fine president.

I did not want Obama to win. I consider myself conservative when it comes to economic issues, so I tend to recoil at concepts such as universal healthcare and increasing taxes on the wealthy. Though I was not particularly impressed with McCain’s campaign (this was not the McCain who ran against Bush in the Republican primary eight years ago), his economic philosophy more closely matches my own, and so he was “my guy” in this election.

However, as the campaign season dragged on and the election grew near, my support for McCain was replaced by something else altogether–bitterness toward outspoken, self-righteous “Obamaholics”. I wanted to see them cry like they did four years ago when they were so smugly certain that John Kerry would become our president.

In the end, my desire to see Obama defeated really had nothing to do with the man himself. Heck, I like Obama. I think he’ll make a great leader and I don’t even find his policies that objectionable. But his supporters, with their omnipresent anti-Bush, anti-Palin, anti-“Joe the Plumber” rants, along with their naive, unconditional faith that this one man can create some kind of American Utopia, drew my ire. Democrats could often be heard accusing McCain and Palin for making “divisive” comments, but there was nothing more divisive than the behavior of so many indignant Obama supporters.

They were (and I say “were”, not “are”, since I assume that Obama’s victory will temper their rage) like ravenous, angry fans of a local football team. McCain supporters may not have been any better, but they certainly didn’t make as much noise. You see, it’s not “cool” to support a Republican, and with such widespread disapproval of Bush (which took on a life of its own to such a degree that just about anyone felt socially secure railing against Bush, even if they were completely ignorant on the issues), supporters of McCain tended to keep quiet lest they be drawn into an irrational, angry political “discussion” with nearby liberals, who are never bashful about sharing their views.

The presidential race, as usual, became a sporting event, with people choosing their side and hurling venom at the opposing team. Civil discourse over the proper direction of the country was abandoned long ago by both sides. Do people even understand the issues at stake, or do they simply read some headlines, catch a few sound bites, and ride the wave of common sentiment around them? I suspect the latter.

For these reasons I will once again be tuning out the news for the foreseeable future. I’m tired of the arguments, the anger, the divisions. The ignorance disguised as knowledge. At least for the next four years I don’t have to listen to every other idiot complain about Bush.

Good luck, Obama. I’m sure you’ll do great. Maybe not. Either way, I’ll be blissfully unaware.

Election Bowl 2008

Star Wars Themes in Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails Star Wars coverThose with whom I communicate on a daily basis will no doubt groan when they see the title of this post. That’s because I have joked for years that Nine Inch Nails‘ music is secretly about Star Wars and its characters, specifically Anakin Skywalker. Nevertheless, I am proceeding with this entry as I have never consolidated my thoughts on the subject into a comprehensive summary.

I’d like to preface this article by stating that I do not, in fact, believe that Trent Reznor had Star Wars in mind (at least consciously) when writing his music. But this doesn’t change the fact that many of his lyrical themes allude to the tragic plight of Anakin Skywalker, chief protagonist and eventual antagonist of the Star Wars films. Indeed, certain lyrics appear to refer very specifically to details about Anakin’s experiences. I found very little information regarding Trent’s opinion of Star Wars, but it would seem that he attended the premier of Revenge of the Sith, which indicates at least some level of fandom.

Whether or not Reznor deliberately inserted Star Wars themes into his work is immaterial. Good art takes on a life of its own, independent of its creator’s motives. Beyond that, a good piece of art is one that evokes an emotional or intellectual reaction. Who is to say whether or not that reaction is proper or correct? So without further delay, let us look briefly at a couple NIN songs so that we may discover the Star Wars themes within.

The Day the World Went Away (TDTWWA)

The song, “The Day the World Went Away”, from NIN’s 1999 two-disc album, The Fragile, is lyrically very simple, thus lending itself to a broad range of interpretations:

I’d listen to the words he’d say
but in his voice I heard decay
the plastic face forced to portray
all the insides left cold and gray
there is a place that still remains
it eats the fear it eats the pain
the sweetest price he’ll have to pay
the day the whole world went away

It is not a tremendous leap to suggest that these words are spoken from the point of view of Luke Skywalker, Anakin’s son, who ultimately redeems his father and brings him back to the light side of the Force. “Decay” in the subject’s voice refers to Vader’s synthesized vocalizations, and the “plastic face” is of course the mask which Vader is doomed to wear for his own survival. Vader’s insides are “cold and gray” both literally and figuratively. After suffering devastating wounds in a duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin is forced to don prostheses and cybernetic enhancements in order to survive, rendering him “more machine than man”. His physical transformation is integrally linked with his psychological metamorphosis from hero to villain, from Jedi Knight to Dark Lord of the Sith.

Most importantly, the song even includes a reference to Vader’s redemption. “There is a place that still remains / It eats the fear it eats the pain” could very well be referring to the good that is still within Vader. Fear is a common motif in the story of Darth Vader–Yoda says to a young Anakin, “Much fear I sense in you,” foreshadowing the boy’s eventual fall from grace. The old master goes on to say that “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate”. Pain is also very much a component of Vader’s character–emotional pain from losing his beloved, and physical pain from his injuries and lifelong confinement to a “walking iron lung.” Toward the end of his life, Luke says to Vader, “I can feel the good inside you, let go of your hate!”. The final two lines refer to Vader’s death (“the sweetest price” is his life, and the “world [going] away” is his death.)

A secondary interpretation is that the lyrics are from the point of view of Vader himself, and the subject becomes Emperor Palpatine. The “decayed voice” and “plastic face” could refer to Palpatine’s cackle and frightening, deformed countenance. In this case, the song is not about Vader’s redemption but about his fall to evil. The dark side becomes the thing that “eats the fear”, “the sweetest price” would be the death of his wife, Padme Amidala, and the world going away would be the loss of everything Anakin holds dear.

Superficially, the song’s title and final line could refer to the destruction of Alderaan, a “world” which quite literally “went away” after being destroyed by the Empire.

The Becoming

Nine Inch Nails’ 1994 album, The Downward Spiral, addresses themes of self-destruction, powerlessness and loss of identity, all within the context of technology’s impact on humankind. One almost gets the impression that the album, with its synthesis of computerized noise and traditional instruments, could be telling the story of its own creation. Virtually every individual song on the album, as well as the album as a whole, could be a narrative of different aspects of Anakin Skywalker’s tragic downfall. However, for the purposes of this article I will discuss only one particular song, “The Becoming”:

I beat my machine it’s a part of me it’s inside of me
I’m stuck in this dream it’s changing me I am becoming
The me that you know had some second thoughts
He’s covered with scabs and he is broken and sore
The me that you know doesn’t come around much
That part of me isn’t here anymore
All pain disappears it’s the nature of my circuitry
Drowns out all I hear there’s no escape from this my new consciousness
That me that you know used to have feelings
But the blood has stopped pumping and he’s left to decay
The me that you know is now made up of wires
And even when I’m right with you I’m so far away
I can try to get away but Ive strapped myself in
I can try to scratch away the sound in my ears
I can see it killing away all my bad parts
I don’t want to listen but it’s all too clear
Hiding backwards inside of me I feel so unafraid
Annie, hold a little tighter I might just slip away
It won’t give up it wants me dead
Goddamn this noise inside my head

This song seems to be describing the point of view of Darth Vader shortly after completing his transition to the dark side. “I’m stuck in this dream” could be a reference to the nightmares which plague Anakin and which become a crucial element of his downfall. Dreams about the death of his mother and his wife have a profund impact on him, and some would argue that the dreams themselves are the sole cause of his fear of loss, leading to his journey down the dark path. Many even believe that the dreams were psychically planted by Palpatine in order to sway Anakin.

The song makes several references to “the me that you know”, indicating that the author has two selves–one “that you know”, and presumably the real one. We’re told “That part of me isn’t here anymore”–in other words, Anakin Skywalker no longer exists. In Return of the Jedi, when Luke makes reference to Vader’s former self, the Dark Lord says “That name no longer has any meaning for me.” Earlier in the film, Obi-Wan says to Luke of his father, “He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader.”

In addition, we have several images of Anakin’s physical transformation–“covered with scabs” and “broken and sore” exactly describe Anakin’s condition following the duel with Obi-Wan. “All pain disappears it’s the nature of my circuitry” could either be referring to Vader’s physical pain being relieved by cybernetics, or his emotional pain being suppressed by the dark side. The author tells us he “is now made of wires”, another precise description of Vader’s body.

Like TDTWWA, the song addresses the good that is still within Vader. From line 13 to the end of the song, we hear the anguished voice of Anakin’s spirit as he clings to goodness–“Hiding backwards inside of me I feel so unafraid”. Again fear is revealed as a primary motivator. “Goddamn this noise inside my head” no doubt refers to pull of the dark side–“I must obey my master”, Vader tells his son.

Curiously, the song’s author makes a desperate plea to “Annie” to “hold a little tighter”. Could this be a reference to Anakin Skywalker, nicknamed “Ani” by his friends as a young boy? Doubtful, since the album was released five years before The Phantom Menace hit theatres. Moreover, there is evidence that Reznor was referring to a specific, real-life person (thanks Voidious!). However, it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility that “Annie” could be “Ani”, considering that Anakin’s name has been known since the release of Empire Strikes Back in 1980. At the very least it’s an interesting coincidence.

Aside from the lyrical content itself, there is nothing whatsoever to support the idea that Trent Reznor’s music is based on Star Wars. As a fan of both Nine Inch Nails and Lucas’ epic saga, I enjoy finding parallels between two, which is possible because both Reznor and Lucas appeal to universal themes in their work. Many of these themes just happen to be similar.

Who knows, perhaps it’s the other way around, and The Downward Spiral inspired Lucas to write the prequels. 🙂

Star Wars Themes in Nine Inch Nails

If You Don’t Do It, Someone Else Will

In light of persistent problems lately with Twitter I decided to try out Jaiku, a similar SMS-compatible “micro-blogging” service. I love Twitter–it has allowed me to keep in touch with my doads in ways I never would have imagined–but lately the frequency of errors in their web interface has sent me looking for alternatives. Twitter’s service is free, true, but in this day and age if you can’t do something right, you better believe someone else is ready and waiting to take your place. In observance of this fundamental law of the universe, I will be investigating the competition, beginning with Jaiku and Pownce.

To be honest, the original purpose of this post was simply to to test out Jaiku’s embedded feeds feature, but you know me. Once I start spewing out seemingly-coherent-yet-meaningless bullshit I find it difficult to stop. So, I’d like to talk about another issue of some importance to me–the infamous “Bookmarks Toolbar” that is a standard feature on all modern web browsers.

I always disable my Bookmarks Toolbar. It’s a practice dating back to the era of 800×600 screen resolution, when I needed all the browser real estate I could get. Well, time went by and screens got bigger. but I’d already become accustomed to not having my browser cluttered with that ugly toolbar. My colleagues will often hail the virtues of the toolbar, and sometimes chastise me for shunning it. When I started using Firefox 3 a few days ago, I even thought I might give it another try, but I lasted all of 30 seconds before disabling it. It’s nice that FF allows you to do this, but what I really want is to eliminate the toolbar completely (it clutters up my bookmarks menu) but unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be possible.

Sometimes words are not adequate for conveying one’s feelings on a particular subject. Therefore, please allow me to demonstrate my opinion in a more visual manner:

If You Don’t Do It, Someone Else Will

America Works (Hard) III

From Reuters today:

While the French get 30 days of paid leave and most other Europeans receive at least 20, the country with the world’s biggest economy does not guarantee workers a single day, researchers said on Wednesday.

This is one of my favorite topics, due to pride in my country’s work ethic, and because it is a real life illustration of laissez-faire economics vs. quasi-socialist systems. Invariably these articles compare the US to European countries who force their employers to provide paid time off. It’s generally not mentioned that these countrys’ economic growth and employment rates suck.

According to economist John Schmitt (a part of the think tank who conducted this research?), “It’s a national embarrassment that 28 million Americans don’t get any paid vacation or paid holidays.”

Hey John, ever wonder why the US has the biggest economy in the world? Since when is getting paid to sit on your ass a right?

America Works (Hard) III