Thursday, 29 July 2010

Look At All These Modern Classics That I Have Yet To Read!


Animal Farm by George Orwell
1984 by George Orwell
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Heart of Darkness & The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas by Frederick Douglas
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Othello by William Shakespeare - seen the theatre version but have never read in full
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - seen many times, started many times, but not yet completed
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
A Midsummer's Night Dream by William Shakespeare - seen only the film versions, not yet completed
The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Authors I should have read: Tom Clancy, Patricia Cornwell, W.E.B. Griffin, Nora Roberts, William Gibson, Robin Cook, Brian Jacques, Catherine Coulter, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Ken Follett, Clive Cussler, Eric Jerome Dickey, John Sandford, Terry McMillan...

What the hell was the English Department at my school doing? Ah, I can't blame them. Everyone's education is in their own hands. I will simply educate myself as much as I can with the tools and resources that I have.

I still read a lot during primary school and high school, but it was a lot of novels and children's books (and ahem, Harry Potter) and other titles that I can no longer remember. Maybe that is why my spelling is pretty great but my grammar can be quite irregular at times?

Knowing all these smart and productive people online has given me one goal in life: always aim to be smarter. My previous goal was: aim to be less ignorant, but I think they both go hand in hand, and this sounds a lot more positive.

I will come back to this list and cross these titles off as I go. It'll feel great. Anyway, I have to get back to my school, The Netflix Conservatory.

Crack a Book,

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Stamp the Pants

I wish that underpants came with a stamped date of when you purchased them. If they did, we could learn a lot about each other by simply asking, "How old are your underpants?"

Imagine this, you are sitting with a friend whom you have known for some time. You have gone to parties together, to restaurants together, talked about each other's lives with care, but you've never asked the question, "How old are your underpants?" So you do and they tell you and the appropriate alternative actions follow:

1. Respond to this information with the date of your own underpants that you are currently wearing, but only do so if,

a) they responded to your questions positively, which means you are on the same level and perfectly within your rights to discuss each others underpants (this is also a great way to make conversation because the adventures of underpants can often be funny),
b) the date of their underpants does not freak you out.

If you are on a date, and they say their underpants were purchased today or recently, then they probably want to either,

a) sleep with you, or,
b) they have just had a major life crisis that resulted in a frenzied purchase of new underpants.

You may or may not want to be involved with this person because,

a) you do not think of them that way, or,
b) you need time to consider whether they are even stable and capable of functioning as a normal, well-balanced Human being.

Unless it was by complete coincidence, such a new purchase of underpants can only reveal them to either be,

a) dirty,
b) completely incapable of washing underpants,
c) the kind of person who loses underpants due to their general frenzied and flakey way of living or,
d) the kind of person who thinks that new underpants are alluring or fun, and that really isn't the kind of person a simple, well-balanced, registered voter, and civilized citizen like you wants to be involved with.

If you are uncomfortable with their new purchase, the best thing to do is to be honest. Society appreciates honesty and if you give them time to explain their underpants to you, you may find your friendship has grown closer than before, when you didn't know how old their underpants were.

Now, what if the date of the pants is too old? This can be a problem because it is hard to tell whether their wearing of old underpants is a compliment to you, an insult or means you need to run very fast in the opposite direction.

The best thing to do is quickly think of a few reasons why their pants could be so old. Here are some helpful thoughts; they either,

a) are wearing a lucky pair of underpants that makes them feel special and brave because they want to impress you,
b) want to insult you by wearing old underpants to show that they don't care about the time they spend with you,
c) they are not a well-balanced individual who sets aside time to purchase new underpants,
d) they have separation anxiety,
e) they are too sentimental and will be clingy in your relationship,
f) their residence is ill-kept or they have no residence,
g) they are meeting you after a one-night stand with someone much older and less attractive in the cold light of day. They had snuck out at five in the morning without checking what clothes they were wearing because they were so filled with regret, but then they realized they not only had on the wrong underpants but also had on the wrong pants and did not have their house keys, and have now locked themselves out of their one-night stands apartment. They didn't want to call their said "stand" so they just wandered the streets thinking about all the mistakes they had made until they remembered the date you had planned and now you know why they were there so early and why their hair looks like sex hair, or,
h) they are the type of person who kills people.

React appropriately. Be calm, civilized, help them or be honest and explain that you just don't need a person who does that in your life right now and/or call 911 or your areas Emergency code.

If the date of their underpants does not freak you out, (a simple, well-balanced, registered voter, and civilized citizen like yourself should have at least one new pair of underpants for each year and may own underpants for as long as five years, up to ten if they are very special and not worn frequently) then proceed to tell the story of your underpants.

Story Ideas: Where did you get them? Where have they been? Have they ever talked to you during an acid trip, etc? (Every simple, well-balanced, registered voter and civilized citizen is allowed to go a little hog wild every 15 years.)

And lastly, if they do not respond positively to your question then you should apologize sincerely and steer the conversation towards the Pasta Alfredo that you are eating, because that is what you eat if you are a simple, well-balanced, registered voter and civilized citizen - just don't forget the Caesar Salad on the side!

However, if you must know the date, I suggest a shoe-camera for up-skirting (take it back to your friendly neighborhood molester to get an approximate date or you should break into their place of residence and check... because all pants will be stamped with the date that you buy them from now on. Because of this blog. Because it is amazing.

Thank you for your time.

- A Civilized Citizen.

Facebook Still Reigns

The flare against Facebook has come and gone (at least until all is revealed to the general public in the upcoming film, The Social Network), and any new sites that tried to enter the "social network" space have not had a big enough impact and still, if you quickly wander through your friends of friends pages you'll see dozens and dozens, and hundreds, and thousands, if not millions of profiles still open to the public eye. Why? Why haven't they left along with all those Google employees? To start understanding this you'd have to think about the people who use Facebook.

Let's start at the top, The Retired/Elderly/Twilight Years.
If they are on Facebook they are most often there because they are excited about the booms in technology and want to be a part of it or they were already tech geeks before you had your first macbook or their children, grandchildren or savvy friends have set one up for them and taught them how to navigate around the site (unwisely).
Some rarely use the site, some enjoy it, perhaps a little too much (to the dismay of their loved ones, mostly) and some of them think it's stupid, which it kind of is.

Why are they still there? Chances are they don't read those blogs and chances are they wouldn't notice if their settings had changed anyway.

"But this is what Facebook is relying on!" Yes, well, this either gives these folk the final reason to get off the damned site OR they wouldn't quit their Facebook snooping for anybody, even if Facebook is now able to make that little ad nobody notices anyway suit their "Interests" even better. So everyone wins in this age bracket, really.

Then you have your middle-aged. The Dads, the Moms, the Career-Driven, the forever Slackers and Free Spirits.
Quite a lot of these people have blogs and some of these blogs like to continually dish up the "evil" things that Zuckerberg has done.

Why are they still there? These privacy changes haven't fazed many people because people are only getting savvier with their safety these days (and events like this only help them protect themselves further) or the people want so many friends they simply want it ALL out there, like their own Reality TV show.
Some are ONLY on Facebook because a friend has pushed them into it, and therefore they have little more than a single profile picture on their page. Remember, a lot of these people are of the generation where calling yourself Fallen_Angel74 was still popular, and the idea of putting information online was ALWAYS considered unsafe until some brave teenagers and entrepreneurs realized there was a lot of bored people out there.

Similar reasons can be argued for why the younger generation (let's group everyone under 30 together to keep it simple) are still around.

They are still here because they either already hated sites like MySpace and Facebook and only joined to appease their friends, and some think the whole idea of even being online is dangerous and are worried about giving out their full name, let alone "the private information that the changes in privacy could reveal" So, the changes do not affect them.

Then there are the "accumulators" - they just want to watch the numbers crunch over. More friends, more points in Mafia Wars, more Notifications, that's their own little thrill... or it's part of building their "Personal Brand", either way, they want people to know all about them, because they are so awesome and so their pictures and emails and locations are posted online and synced with other social networks likes Twitter and YouTube.
They see Facebook as a game, and are usually savvy enough to quickly alter any information that they only want to share with "friends." If they don't make these changes, well, our good friends at 4Chan are always around to harass them about it.

So, to reiterate, why are they still there? Because they don't care, don't log in long enough to notice or they "changed their settings as soon their friend tweeted about it... like, four months ago."

If they aren't there, the privacy issues were simply an easy rebuttal when their friends ask they why they can't find them, which means that they probably would have left eventually anyway or that Facebook had a number of equally annoying problems that caused many Facebook users to join the Group, "STOP CHANGING FACEBOOK!!!" Changing all our Interests into Fan Pages, is one good example for the many new members.

Then there is the fine line of balance. Safety, privacy and being social. It's a very hard line to walk. It is so much easier just to accept every friend request that comes your way instead of going to the profile first and checking or asking the "mutual friend" if they actually know the person or just accepted them (quite often they don't know them at all or they are simply an acquaintance.) This can get get overwhelming at times. So how does one find balance?

It is not everyone's favourite thing to do but EXPLORE THE SETTINGS on the site. You can group Strangers and block them from seeing personal notes, wall posts to friends or photos, but you can let them see your own wall posts or latest harvest on Farmville (because that's the cool thing, right?) And if you're tired of adding strangers, leave them up on your Friend Request wall until you've made your mind up about them. Don't worry about how long it takes you. Chances are they won't even say anything to you when you add them (which reminds me: when you DO add someone, post a comment on their wall, what's the point if you're not going to connect?)

One of the greatest things about MySpace was the Top 8, not only could you display your favourite friends (and cause drama along the way) but you could easily see whether they had changed their profile picture and that usually meant they had probably posted some blogs or comments, too. So, honor your old MySpace life and create a group for your Top 150 (the Dunbar's number of the maximum amount of stable social relationships a human can have.) Never again will you neglect your distant best friend because that person who knows that person you met a party once posts too many wall posts, which also leads me to my favourite and most magical, "Hide" button.

Instead of tearing out your hair whenever you see Obnoxious Friends updates about how they "Got a lot done at work today, yes!!! Making $$$." and are now "About to start packing for my trip to Barbados! I know you're jealous." Hide that stuff. You won't have to Remove them from your friends list and cause any drama or awkward stairs in the elevator, but you won't ever have to hear "Just downed a Venti Chai with real milk. Meant to get soy but forgot" ever again.


A lot of the shared rage some months ago was over Facebook interrupting their users activity and asking them (to put it simply), "Can we follow you around the Internet so brands/networks/periodicals can know what you are into and then we can continue building our Death Star?" You didn't have time to decide. You couldn't leave the page unless you clicked the X.

"It's now or never, folks," Facebook leered, counting its money in a dark corner somewhere. "Are you going to be a loser or are you finally going to admit that Mark was right and Privacy is dead?"

Well, what did I do? I selected, "Privacy is dead."

"BUT WHY? HOW COULD YOU. YOU'RE A SELL-OUT AT LIFE." Please. Like this makes any difference. Do I have to press the Like button on the article I just read? No. Does the site know I've been there? I'm going to go with yes. Are they using my information. I'm going to be honest and say, I don't know and most probably, yes. Do I care?

NO. Because I still have control. And those ads still need to exist so that they will stream the latest episodes of my favourite show on Hulu, on a nice high quality player with those fun dimmer buttons. I'm not quite ready to start purchasing these shows from iTunes or to start watching low-res versions of them on YouTube (something that won't be a problem for YouTube for long) and I still have my money in my pocket. I'm not about to go and buy an Old Spice stick (though I probably will when I'm older just to remember the glory days of Isaiah Mustafa) and I always aim to be an intelligent consumer (as intelligent as one could be in front of all those pretty, twinkly lightsss ooooh....what? What?) and so if ONE bloody thing could stay popular for longer than five years and not become the Former Embarrassment of my Early Internet Days, I'm staying on Facebook.

...but if someone could create something even better that'd be totally awesome.

YouTube Inbox Dos and Don'ts #1

[EDIT: The posting of this message has been delayed due to the events of VidCon, it was originally written on Monday, July 5th, 2010]

Before we begin:

1: Some people, due to their popularity or general lack of interest in their inboxes, let the messages in their YouTube inbox accumulate into the thousands, and eventually, they simply give up on ever reading these messages. Instead, they direct their viewers to message them at an independent account or to just comment because, "they read them all." Due to their popularity, this is all they can do without their heads exploding.

2: Some people feel completely nuts if their inbox reaches a high amount, and find great satisfaction in getting their inbox down to 0. Even if they don't read the whole message or reply, the simple act of deleting crap and storing the rest for an eventual reply is enough to not let one feel like they have no control over their life. Some people do this even if their heads do explode several times.

3: I was a Number 1 person (in a general lack of interest way), and I am now a Number 2 person. It is easier for me though, due to the fact that my YouTube account has purposefully cooled down over the years. So, my head does not explode, but my, my, does it sure bubble. With disappointment.

I really only have "Don'ts" to advise on, because I don't think one should suggest what nice or appropriate things (Dos) people should say to another. You can say what you want. However, I do enjoy a message that is written with spirit, and is short and honest.

[EDIT: and those this post becomes less of a "Don't" blog and more about my thoughts and feelings on a message I received, I do hope to revisit this in the future, hopefully with something more amusing]

I find myself not enjoying messages from the "I'm so random" people, since I use to-and to a certain extent, every now and then, still do-write messages in this excitable manner, and find it quite tedious for ones inner voice to work out. I always reprimand myself for writing and thinking this way afterwards and think it is a good habit to work yourself out of eventually.

However, this messaging behaviour is not a Don't, because being excitable over a person (something I find myself doing almost every hour of the day) is not necessarily a bad thing. It just shouldn't become a mush of oh-so-aware-of-what-I-think-is-my-own-hilarity-but-is-in-fact-well-documented-in-late-90s-early-2000-television-show rambles.

Ok, so here is my suggested Don't or, to be more correct, here are my thoughts on a message I was just sent that disappoints me and makes me angry:

For quite a while I have been messaging back and forth with a man who offered to help me close a few fake accounts that edited content of mine into what I and many others found to be offensive, and politically and morally incorrect. I thanked him for his kindess and effort, and asked him to not let it consume his time, as the remaining channels merely needed to be ignored and deleted by quiet yet consistent flagging. Starting any kind of discussion with this unknown person was pointless; I had already tried that route.

Since then, this man who helped me, would occasionally inform me of his various lawsuits against YouTube, and, I admit, I ignored most of these messages. [EDIT: I do not regret this decision. If his behaviour was more appropriate and he wasn't associated with so many petty online discussions beforehand, perhaps I would have taken his issues with YouTube more seriously.]
I replied his messages politely every now and then at first, because I wanted to show my thanks. However, I simply had no opinion or desire to rush to support anything I did not completely understand yet and to some extent did not agree with.
I'm all for people fighting for rights and taking matters into their own hands, but I simply did not want him to take my polite replies as validation of what he was suing against, and I expressed this to him on one message (as nicely as I possibly could).
He also seemed quite eccentric about his opinions and would message me without prompting on his advancements, and this made me uncomfortable; I was just trying to protect myself.

He was perfectly polite and understanding about me not wanting to be involved and the frequency of messages from him slowed down. I thought perhaps I was dealing with an impassioned yet reasonable and polite middle-aged man [EDIT: I never watched his videos, and do not intend to, so it is probably something to do if one is curious as to whether they should be speaking to someone or not. I will be doing this in the future with other people. One's writing voice and actual voice are often quite, and sometimes dramatically, different]

Recently he messaged me to ask if I was in Gambia; my YouTube channel somehow changed my location (probably during my frequent edits of my Movies list). After a moment of confusion, I messaged him back saying I had changed it and thanked him for letting me know about it.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I received a message from him, sent over the weekend, that asked me to make a video wearing something tight, and if in the video I would bend over, showing cleavage because "my subscribers would appreciate" that action.

It's strange. At first, I actually felt hurt, and also embarrassed. I also felt nervous. My immediate thought was to write about this, but would writing about this be over-dramatic? Would I look like I was whining or simply getting worked-up about something considered petty? I thought about not doing anything at all, but it isn't like I'm complaining about increasing violence in video games. This is about human-to-human behaviour and entirely more intimate.

I've been trying to be polite to all the people who took their time to write to me. Either by replying back (with sometimes more to say than they did) or saving their messages for future contact, and here was someone, whom I had already had several quick discussions with, now asking me, probably drunkenly, for a "favour."

I felt dirty. I felt embarrassed because I couldn't believe I had let myself talk to someone who would feel confident or deluded enough to ask this. Perhaps if it was a young teenager I could have ignored and deleted it, feeling pity for them that they were an asshole or going through their crass stages [still not right, but hopefully something they grow out of as I've seen my male friends grow out of], but from an older man, it is completely unacceptable.

I want it to be understood that I know much crueler and more disgusting actions have been suggested and are being suggested right now to many other men and women alike. I have experienced this, as have many of the people in my life, and understand this.
What disturbed and embarrassed me was his calm tone in his message, like he was merely asking me to pass him the salt at the dinner table. Like he thought that I was quite capable and ready for this action, which is completely insulting.
His message was not crass, it was well-written and coherent.
He also publicly posts videos of himself, so is not hidden behind a wacky username and a blank channel. The fact that his mind, whether intoxicated or not, let him send this as if it was a normal request is the most disturbing of all.

Reflecting on this personally...

I suppose it makes me mad, because I can not be considered a young, naive girl anymore, and I feel stupid for continually letting assholes, perverts, stalkers, blackmailers and abusive men into my life. Sure, masks can be easily worn on the Internet, but after nearly four years of this crap, I would have assumed that my radar would be blinking a little brighter. I am definitely not as nice as I once was and I am less patient, and more bold, but obviously not bold enough and not shrewd enough to deflect these people immediately.

I wouldn't mind if it was a complete stranger, messaging me out-of-the-blue with a sexist comment like this. I know these assholes are out there, crowned in their anonymity, and they don't hurt me. I wish they weren't there, but I just delete. I mind this occasion however, because I have thanked this asshole. He has helped me and yet, he was possibly thinking those thoughts the whole time.

I don't want my faulty radar and my history of mentally abusive, sexist, and cruel men, both offline and on, to stop be from letting in good people into my life, but when it so easy for people to switch gears and reveal these dark, decrepit sides of themselves, how can anyone possibly feel safe or open to others? It also makes it harder every day to not let the defensive shell of over-analyzing and misreading, and self-loathing to build up and spread the hate that I am trying to avoid.

I wish people did not use the Internet as a cloak for hurting others or for the expression of their every little dark thought, simply because they are not brave enough or stable enough to seek out help for their feelings and thoughts (it takes courage to seek help and all who do should have our thanks), or since the world isn't divided into nice people and mentally unstable people, they are ignorant enough to think that this almost-anonymous behaviour is somehow acceptable.
Instead they indulge on the instant-satisfaction that the Internet brings them. Their cruel interactions with strangers have become the way they feel better about themselves. Every little scratch they make, which if not dealt with can become a scar on the victim, only relieves them temporarily until they find the next person to sink their fangs into.

The world is ugly and scary enough without having to deal with these people in such an intimate yet completely inhumane and sterile way.

I hope that I have the courage to be reasonable with myself and forgive myself for letting these people into my life again and again. I hope I do not continue to take it personally, and I hope, if you have experienced a similar situation, you can find it within yourself to forgive and let go, and realize that it is truly never your fault for these peoples actions.

I believe that hoping for these men and women to collectively change their hurtful actions online is pointless. I don't believe it will ever happen because it is such a private and personal journey. I would like to, but I sadly do not and I admit that this lack of confidence in my fellow man and woman may be just as damaging as those biting comments they leave behind.

The quest to rise above it...

Humans have and probably always will hurt each other and we can only hope that we personally find the strength to not harm ourselves during our time here. Not just physically but mentally. It is so easy to think mean, terrible, sexist, racist, and dark thoughts. Thinking kind, terrific, good thoughts and always trying to consider the options and others opinions, and to always seek out new thoughts (or help) and information in the fight against ignorance is so much more difficult.

However, I hope it is your constant quest, as it is mine*

How I try to remove these people from my Internet life...

So, to get back to the Dos and Don'ts, if you have received a message similar to the one I did, I do suggest immediately removing this person from your "friends", immediately blocking and not taking any excuses for their behaviour, like, "someone hacked my channel" or "I don't even remember" or "I was just joking" into account.

The only time I would consider such excuses is if the person is around your age and posts videos, photos, tweets, etc. of themselves online. It does not mean that they are telling the truth, but you have more evidence of this person's behaviour for possible legal action, which is always an option even if they seem "anonymous" but I don't want to discuss that here. If it seems completely out of character, you then have previous writings, videos, etc., to help you decide whether they are telling the truth or not.

In my case, I have now have a basic understanding of the circle that the person I've talked about in this blog is in, and though a member of that circle could easily have hacked in and written this, I do not want to be associated, in any way, with "friends" who would do this to someone they don't know.

If they are simply a username with no public posts, do not even begin to question their intentions. If they are not communicating to you as one would in a public setting and if they are not putting themselves out there as publicly as you are (even in the tiniest way, like you have a profile picture and they don't), they do not deserve your time.

However, if you under the age of 21, I do advise talking to your parents, guardians, trusted friends before considering any of the above suggestions, and getting their opinions and advice, too.

If you recognize yourself as the "Don't" in this post...

It is not my intention to fill the people who behave this way with guilt or anger. I understand that there are many factors that can lead one to behave a certain way. I have often in the past made a hurtful comment online and may stumble in the future. Sometimes it is so hard to resist pushing out our strong opinions or feelings, and the idea of keeping thoughts like these to ourselves, seems so difficult when the Internet is so full of similar thoughts already. Why should we behave any different, right?

I can't begin to advise on how to change hateful or sexist thinking. I'm not qualified too, I don't understand it all, and it's quite a personal journey, but I do advise, that if you thought what you said was funny or you believe they mis-read you or if you didn't make the comment, that you try to understand why that person blocked you from their Internet life. Consider their hurt, anger, fear for their safety.

People have different levels of Online Safety, and the best thing you can do is try to apologize in some way and then move on with your life. We all make mistakes, but one of the many good things about the Internet is we have the chance to delete these "internet lives", though these painful memories may last for as long as you and your victims live, but you can learn from them.

Then again, you must never forget that though I have used the term Internet Life or Real Life every now and then, it is still Life, your life, whole and not without consequences. The Internet is not the film, Tron. You can't pass it off as if you're playing a character in a game. You should consider that the mean things you do or say in this life cannot easily be deleted, not even online, and they never will be**

*I hope in stating this "quest against ignorance" that I have not been too ignorant with my thoughts in this post, and will happily and gratefully take your criticism and opinions and try to broaden my own. However, it will help if these opinions are posted with as much patience as you can muster and with kindness.

**dun dun dunnn, but seriously, never.