Holding Facebook’s Beer

I was mildly amused when a Facebook game came by asking me to score points for admitting to foolish/sad/criminal behaviour in my past. And making it public to the entire planet. I mean, how could one resist the temptation to fill in the little chinks in the information brick wall. I’m just a little surprised they didn’t include a section that asked for sexual fantasies and credit card numbers…

Well, here at the Backstabbers Guild Of Australia we feel that this sort of blatant attempt at coercion is all very well, but should not be done on an amateur basis. If you are going to ask people to condemn themselves publicly, you need to give them more tempting chances. If they’re going down the sewer, make it a big one.

To this end, we have devised the following quiz for social media. There are no points scored, unless you count the knowing looks that people will give you at your next party.

Have you ever…

a. Shot a police cruiser in the grill work with a 17 pounder anti-tank gun from a camouflaged position?

b. Flayed an Albigensian heretic?

c. Written a song about your feelings and then played it to people at a party, accompanying yourself on guitar? All 15 verses?

d. Served week-old warm runny egg salad sandwiches from a service station cabinet to people at a church social?

e. Counterfeited a draft card to allow your underage classmates to buy beer at the local liquor store? Then phoned ahead to alert the local police?

f. Removed a ladder from an attic access hatch while someone was up there and then gone quietly home and had a good dinner?

g. Switched tops on the spray-paint cans in the local Bunnings store cabinet?

h. Put salt in the plaster mix of someone who is trying to invest a casting?

i. Invited a religious caller in to tell you their entire story by using an accent rich in unidentifiably foreign sounds, mixed with blatant grammatical error –  and then insisted that they sit down and drink toasts to your country? Used water tumblers full of hard liquor and cooking oil?

j. If they lasted the course, showed them the Albigensian skin…?



The Authentic Fake News Site Vs The False-Flag Rumour Forum List Meme

If we were asked to characterize the social media that we use – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. – in terms of food, what would we make it out to be?

a. Facebook: A crusty stew with appetizing aromas at the edges – aromas that never actually seem to be there when you search for them. The occasional bubble in the centre indicating heat. And a roiling mass of unsavoury ingredients just under the crust. Cat hair here and there. And unicorn glitter.

b. Twitter: A Pez dispenser. You poke the ornamental head at the top and a hard pellet of opinion is popped out of the screen. Some of the pellets taste like sugar and some of them taste like horse shit. None of them do you any good at all.

c. Instagram: Magnificently plated, superbly coloured, and unavailable to someone like you at this time. Just look and envy.

d. Pinterest: The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence and so is the food. The reason is mould. Subscribe now.

e. The personal blog: Someone’s home cooking. Not necessarily bad, but nevertheless someone else’s pots and pans. Taste at your peril. They may not be a good cook. You may not be a good eater.

If we had been presented with today’s social media news in the 1950’s or 1960’s we would likely have recognised it for what it is – propaganda and commercial promotion. The flimsiest of the flam. Those of us who saw the lies when they came on newsprint and left ink stains on the fingers…or who waded through innumerable cigarette advertisements in magazines…react entirely differently to those who have only ever seen a screen. We may not know how to turn that screen on and make it dance, but we know when to turn it off and do our own thinking.

Of course we can be wrong when we do that – original thought can be as bad as the store-bought stuff – but as we use simpler ingredients and have less access to processors, it is likely to be fresher and tastier. It may lack the salt and scandal that is added by unknown hackers but it nourishes us just the same.

Bit riskier when we send it to our friends and neighbours, though. As our own thoughts are unlikely to be covered by the legal indemnities enjoyed by professional liars, we are in danger of being detected and having our opinions challenged. Most of us have no biased reports or dodgy scientific studies to back us up and common sense has long been discredited as a way of living. The best we can do when some other madman challenges our own mania is throw out a smokescreen of kitten and Hitler memes and close the account.

Anyone who either agrees or disagrees with this will be instantly defriended with the prickly end of an emoji.

The Sniper Team

Recent events have made this a parlous sort of title for my weblog column but read on and you’ll see why I wrote it.

On my Facebook today a post prompted a series of exchanges – between people with whom I am familiar and people who are complete strangers. I hasten to add that I did not intrude into the exchange. The root cause of the fight, as it will be of many others, was the reports we received of the events of the recent hotel shootings in Las Vegas.

There was a great deal of anguish shown by the various people involved in the discussion and eventually it started to spill over into sexual politics, cross-accusation, and nastiness. The person who originated the thing then called an end to the discussion. One of the participants claimed a sort of victory. It’s an occurance that happens frequently on Facebook.

I could not help being drawn to compare it to some of the practices outlined in a book written by a Captain C. Shore about British army sniping in the world wars. Not the Las Vegas thing…that is yet to be seen for what it may well prove to be…but the use of the spotter, shooter, and decoy system in scoring victories on social media.

Why this should be seen as desirable, in what is supposed to be an on-line community, is sometimes not clear, but the thing that is evident is that there are frequent occasions where a person sets up a tempting post to invite comments and one of their friends sits waiting until a target reacts. Then there is a brief flurry of outraged and biased virtue-scoring posted to dominate the unwary target.

If the person caught in this barrage responds with a counterattack that seems to answer the question or puts the sniper in a bad light, the spotter – acting as originator of the whole sequence – shuts it down by declaring an end. In some cases they can weave back and edit out the target’s posts. The sniper team is left to publicly do the little dance of victory of whichever social army they fight for.

Happened on the computer today to someone else – happened to me some time ago with a different sniping team. The only remedy I could see at the time was to defriend the spotter – the sniper was not on my list.

I’m warier these days about what I say to whom. I rarely defriend anyone, but I do sometimes switch them to the unseen track. And when I meet them in person I am careful to restrict my speech to ” Yay Yay” and ” Nay Nay ” as per biblical instructions. Because all the rest is bound to be sin and sorrow.

” Break Not A Jest ” – Or – The Sturmovik In The Teacup

I think I have need to apologise to the shade of General George Washington – I’ve failed to follow his 64th rule for civility and decent behaviour – the one that prohibits ” breaking a jest where none take pleasure in mirth “. I may also have laughed out loud as I did so, which is further sin.

In my defence, it was a passing thing – an odd remark seen on the internet called forth an equally silly reply, and then a series of increasingly hyperbolic posts – culminating in  the heading picture of the Ilyushin Sturmovik and an account of a pilot who uses it to strafe the Oktoberfest grounds just for old-time’s sake. Please note that the picture is an Easy Model 1:72 scale model…$ 14.95 at good hobby shops all over town.

Well I probably would have got away with the joke if the person hosting the thing had not been worried about me interrupting her satirical Facebook page. The page itself is a hilarious send up describing arrogant and entitled people who live in the posh beachside suburbs of our city. Well worth a read – and apparently it has some 1200…or was it 12,000 readers in her data base? I can’t remember exactly how many she mentioned, but it was a lot, and I’ll bet that they all like that bit of good biting satire.

Apparently I also made a blunder when I described the old pilot of the Ilyushin as a Slav. Unbeknownst to me this word is racism, and needs to be apologised for, or so she says. Bit puzzling, that, as the Wikipedia article on the Slavic people lists a great deal of their history and seems to say that they are very nice. This is my opinion too, as nearly all the other people who I have met with some claim to the title seem to be energetic, intelligent, and cheerful.

I am going to have to be much more careful in the future – not about mentioning the various divisions of mankind ( or womankind…) – after all, everybody has to be from somewhere – whether that be from Pilsen or Posen – and no-one need be ashamed by any of it. I mean, I know about the Posen bit – that’s where my Grandmother Elizabeth came from. And the Pilsen was home base to a branch of the other side of the family.

No, what I’m going to have to do is make sure that the people I break a jest with take pleasure in mirth.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go pull through the prop on the Ilyushin. The front two cylinders tend to clog up with oil and Oktoberfest is just around the corner.

Taking Back Life – Part Two – The Write Stuff

How do I spend my time?

I am retired from surgery and shop work. Oh, I help out at the camera shows and write and illustrate my daily column for Camera Electronic here in Perth, but that is as much a pleasure and hobby as it is a serious job.

I am happy to say that I am discovering better how to balance what that column is and what it should be as time goes on. I initially thought I needed to tout everything that the shop had to sell, and that the various wholesalers were to be my constant companions. Nothing of the sort – I now treat the column as a daily essay in photography and find topics and interest in my own view of the art*. I do oblige if someone wants a particular product featured, but I really have to like it to make a great deal of it.

The two private columns – this one and my photographic one – are also pleasure in print. And I can be a little more acerbic if I feel the need…but there is a danger in getting older that one may lose sight of the fun of life and start to growl at everything.  I now have to monitor my posts for a couple of weeks before I launch them to prevent the level of spleen from being too high. I’m happy about this – I think it will serve me better in the future to be less critical of the world.

It has been suggested that I’m wasting time in writing these private columns. The person who said this pointed out that they might be going out to less that 1000 people in the world and that less than one percent of those would read them completely. I was delighted – ten people paying attention daily is a better audience than many borscht-belt comedians get. Ten people reacting to them is more notice than many schoolteachers get on a regular basis. Heck, I couldn’t get ten people in a group of relatives to even stop talking.

There was also the suggestion that I’m wasting my time by not earning money through this writing – that I am not commercializing it. I countered with the fact that I had plenty of money for small purposes – and as they are my own purposes, no-one need tell me to do more. Indeed, one of the ambitions of my life now is to live unbidden – free of unnecessary let or hindrance. To that end I have given up some activities – firearm shooting, dental practice, and other government-regulated affairs. I am chary of entering into other things that need rules, permission, and ritual.

I am greatly encouraged in this view by a friend who has, so far, avoided the clutches of the social media network on the internet. He maintains a good iMac computer, and derives as much benefit from it as any of us do looking for facts and entertainment…but no Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. He reads and watches television, and has so far managed to balance these sources of information admirably. An evening’s conversation with him is a pleasure, and he does not force memes or foolish ideas upon me unbidden.

And I’ll bet there are more like him out there.

*  Science? Craft? Sport? Trade? Racket?

Taking Back Life – Part One – How Many Friends?

Is your life shared with people on the internet? Do you have a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account on your computer, mobile phone, or tablet that keeps you in touch with people –  people you normally wouldn’t touch with a barge pole? Welcome to the modern world.

As a child, I had two parents, three grandparents, fifteen cousins, and about six friends in my home town. That’s 26 people with whom to interact – some on a regular basis, and some at intervals as long as 5 years. I managed to be happy and fulfilled with the amount of approval that they gave me and coped with any other treatment in the meantime.

Of course there were acquaintances and school companions, but they shifted and faded as the years went by. I can remember them via school yearbooks, but find evidence of only two of them in public records via Google. The relatives fare even worse…I had to do a thorough analysis of one picture before I could convince myself the person in it was a cousin. Heaven knows where the rest are…

Now, with FB and other accounts – as well as the WordPress connection – I seem to have gathered 1200 souls into the iMac. I know some of them personally, and some merely by screen. Some are a complete mystery, and some a complete pain, but I am too polite to wave them away in case they are offended by it.

The most frightening thing is finding a day in which all my intellectual contact and stimulation comes through that screen – and not through human conversation or serious reading. I’ve no-one to blame but myself for that isolation – though the distances we travel in this town to meet each other are sometimes excessive considering the short period that we are in each other’s company.

I really do have to consider whether I am getting the best out of my time by following these social sites so slavishly. It may be time to trim down the Facebook contact pool and ditch the Instagram. And go find real people in real time.



The Plates

I used to be scandalised by things on a regular basis. I’m talking about pre-social media days…when there was less scandal to cope with, and you could get right down to it on individual cases and do a thorough job of indignity. In the last 5 years this passion for outrage has dissipated. I can still spark up at people being bad mannered to no purpose, but I rarely react to inanimate objects.

Just as well – the special plate craze has flourished in Perth over the last 20 years and there can be some pretty extreme ones. But I’m happy to say that the examples I found at this year’s WA Hot Rod Show were charming, silly, or just plain fun. No more comment – just a few views of the name badges of the cars.