50 pictomat essays: facebook and the dumbing down of american discourse
October 5, 2010, 11:22 am
Filed under: 50 pictomat essays

mark “zuck” zuckerberg, 26 year old computer programer & billionaire, born: white plains, n.y. (1984)

yes, it is true that pictomat does have a facebook (f/b) account. we swear to the gods that the original reason we opened this account was to get “friends” over to this fabulous blog. we had and have a lot of issues with f/b that we are trying to sort out. here are some of the reasons we are afraid of facebook:

1. f/b owns all of your content. that means that they can use, say, any of your photos in their ads. but thinking logically, with one out of fourteen people in the world having a f/b account, the odds are better at winning megabucks than f/b using anything you post. but, still …

2. those damn farm games … what the fuck are they all about. f/b is going to start up their own version of paypal “to make it easy for f/b members to buy goods and services they see on the site”. they are going to make it possible for you to buy a virtual carrot for your virtual farm. hmm … do you really want to do that with your real money? any of you who play this game, please explain, if it is humanly possible, the logic going on here? call us vicious. we are not trying to be. we are however very curious, we honestly are vveerrryy curious.

3. after reading a longish biographical piece in the new yorker about the inventor and owner of f/b mark “zuck” zuckerman and watching david fincher’s masterful biopic about f/b “the social network” (which takes some dramatic liberty with the real story, but generally stays close enough to the facts), we don’t trust the guy. it is not because he might possibly have stolen the idea from people he was working with, or that he screwed his only real “friend” out of stock options. it is because we wouldn’t put it past mr. zuckerman to readily hand over, or even have a contract with the c.i.a. or one of the many private companies our government now employes to do dirty work the government used to do themselves. yes, we mean that we believe that f/b is, most probably quite illegally,pouring over, reading, looking at every link you post, and some pictures you put in your photo album, especially if you are a person of color, a muslim, or other than heterosexual .

remember f/b owns your page. that means the government and its minions can circumnavigate the judicial system and tap you on the shoulder with their strong arm any time they want. ever notice that photos in press that involving people of interest, or arrested for a crime, are now more than ever credited to f/b? in this supposed land of justice and liberty for all, you used to need a warrant for such things. we don’t trust our government and we don’t trust f/b. and because once is not enough, we will repeat: one out of every fourteen people on the planet has a f/b account.

4. we really are not surprised by items 1-3. here is what is really bothering us. f/b is either so poorly designed or very intelligently designed. that all depends on what your definition of human discourse is, because we find that f/b is built to dumb down discourse, not only this country, but worldwide. you can only “like” things, you can’t dislike anything, because that would be just too “unfriendly” in the f/b world. in certain “comment” sections you only have a limited amount of characters to say your piece (granted the smart and loquacious, as one of our dear readers and a f/b member is, figure ways around these tight constrictions and taught us -thank you “l”), but it is purposefully built to make talk short. it only allows you to be male or female. what if you are in the process of changing from one to another? there is only one line each to put your religious and polical views into your “info” section. we need at least a page! just try typing more in those two fields. you can’t do it. guess religion and politics are just too messy to talk about. god (or not) forbid, that you get into a  chat or spat on f/b over religion or politics, only the two most controlling subjects that govern our lives.

oh sorry, we did forget “amour”. and that is how f/b started back at harvard. it was a dating service for the university elite. zuck’s dating service morphed into f/b, and dating and sex are the two easy things “the social network” manages to do adequately. “amour”, you know the kind, where you actually can talk to your mate once you have hooked up on f/b? well, that is probably going to be difficult, especially when you have been encouraged to write in baby talk. without engaging in meaningful conversation on f/b, odds tell us that if you are honing your social skills by writing those one sentence, cute and friendly little chirpy bits, and punching the “like button”, it ain’t gonna teach you how to make that hook up last too long.

… and what the hell is a friggin’ “poke”? give us a break, f/b! sounds just too nasty, so if you “poke”, explain that one to us too. we are terrified to poke the “poke” button, tell us what is does. we figure only one person has to answer that question because the “farm” question and what a “poke” is or does can probably be answered by the same person.

our friend from the big apple has this to say, “i have a bad feeling about facebook. the subprime mortgage disaster of the internet waiting to happen.” but then another dear friend and frequent commenter here “whatsup girl” tells us she has found out things about people and met up with friends she would never found without “zuck’s creation, and encourages us to lighten up and think of f/b more  “like walking around at a party with small chit chat”. we will admit there is certainly room in this world for chit chat. so we see and agree with both our new york city friend and “whatsup girl”. what a dilemma! we have been reacquainted with old friends too, enjoyed a bit of “chit chat”, and checked out very interesting links our “friends” have sent us that we might otherwise not known about.

time to wrap this up. so why are we on f/b when we have just spent an entire post dissing it, and what have we done to make it work for us?

1. get rid of “friends” that we haven’t written to or never write to us. it was our fall clean up project last week. f/b, we checked, does not inform people that they have been (well, there is no official f/b name for it) “unfriended” or perhaps “defriended”. chances are they have wanted to do the same thing to us, but just felt we would be offended. the truth is they will never notice, because they are not a part of our real “social network”. if they somehow come back into our life, we will just ask them again to be our “friend” again. we hope we are right about them never even noticing, because then we can click that “friend” button once again, without fear of rejection. but then a true “friend” would always forgive us, right?

2. we try and encourage more of a conversation. a little push and shove. more chit less chat. it doesn’t necessarily have to be lengthy, but one can always be pithy. real “friends” like pithy, and will probably realize it is just fine to say what they really think back at you, because you are doing it. we ask our “friends” specific questions, and that invites specific answers. if they hit that old “like” button with making a comment, we ask them what and why they “like” something (if we are truly curious, and we usually are!)

if you follow these simple rules you will not be skimming through tons of silly and useless nonsense. you will be finding out thing you didn’t know, not only about your “friends”, but about their world, and the great big old world too. we say, in closing, subvert the f/b system. make it work despite itself. you know, “zuke” didn’t have friends when he first started f/b, and he is still a social introvert. we think he wants us all to feel like he does, lonely and misunderstood. don’t let him do it to you. fight the power!


50 grand designs: the griffith park observatory, 50 pictomat essays
August 28, 2010, 10:17 am
Filed under: 50 grand designs, 50 pictomat essays

the griffith park observatory, built 1935. archects: john c. austin and russell w. porter

not a trip is made to this city without a ritualistic and almost sacred walk to the griffith park observatory. it sits majestic, simple and sublime atop the hollywood hills, and keeps a watchful eye over this city of fallen angeles. built in 1935, it is celebrating 75 years of showing the heavens to the stars and lesser mortals. remodeled, but somehow keeping its quaintness behind a facade that is some crazy mixture that a hollywood set director could have created. neoclassic, and deco-moderne, its colorful marble floors and w.p.a. style murals still intact, it remains one of only a few buildings not subject to los angeles' continual reinvention of itself. its alcoves, like alters in a gothic cathedral, are dedicated to the earth's moon, its sun, its elemental building blocks. the same tesla coil machine that thrilled us as a child still emits its lightning bolts of electricity to the steel cage that it is encased.

once, many years ago, we got to push the button to release that clatter of white heat, now it is done on a schedule. tesla is dead, this rare relic, old and prone to shorting out, and the people with the knowledge to keep this chancy machine jolting like something from james whale's classic "the bride of frankenstein" are a rare lot. we feel little tingles of energy on the hairs on ours arms, every time a thunder of lightning is loosed, just as we did 40 years ago. what a blessed relic, this little lighthouse to the heavens. we exit precisely at dusk, where we still hear lucinda williams sing about her "red suns" and watch tonight's red sun sink into the hills above the ocean covered in haze at malibu.

we walk down the mountains, the Hollywood sign above us, the front doors of the observatory behind us, where sal minio was gunned down by the cops while james dean and natalie wood stand helplessly at the end of "rebel without a cause". further down the hill we pass all the elderly california girls, who are hopelessly tan, and sluttishly dressed. they still "just wanna have fun" and are filing into the once famous outdoor venue in griffith park, the greek theater, that now feels more like an indian gambling casino. the distinctive voice of the new yorker, cyndi lauper, though muffled in its little canyon, urges those california girls to do what they have always done, but to "keep having fun" seems redundant. it has been decades since brian wilson and his brothers started writing songs about those girl and their cars. oh, l.a. you city of too tanned bodies and too many cars.

we remembered, as we hopped up the stairs, almost back to our l.a. home, a father talking to his son at a display in the observatory, as the son alternately hit buttons that lit up elements that were present in humans and then stars. "see" his dad said, "you are made up of carbon, just like a star." we finished up the last few steps as joni mitchell filled our head again ... "you are stardust, you are golden, you are million year old carbon, you are caught in the devil's bargain, and you've got to get yourself back to the garden." it seems as if it was some ancient poem now. pop songs are no longer written like prayers today.

[our pictomat font is malfunctioning on non-apple products. excuse our inconsistency.]

50 pictomat essays: fear and loathing in l.a.
August 28, 2010, 9:46 am
Filed under: 50 pictomat essays

the ennis-brown house interior in ridley scott’s dystopic view of a future los angeles

there is a surreal disconnect in Los angeles between the city as is portrayed on television, which is, we believe is its most trusted version of itself, and the city that one can physically walk through. that is, of course, if anybody besides us actually walks. it is a city seen through t.v.s and cars and therein lies its skittish vision of itself. yesterday it was all weather, all the time. the 10:00, 11:00, … news had us continually anticipating a morbid heat wave, dangerously high surf at malibu, and flooding in the surrounding mountains. there is no relief from this deluge of impending doom. the result? nothing more than a slightly warmish night. today it was murder central. a man’s wife who hasn’t, it turns out today, been seen for three months, is suddenly missing, her husband is missing, too, but only since yesterday, when the police named him “a person of interest.”

living on the fault line does not bring out the most optimistic sentiments in a city that is in a perpetual state of sliding into the red sunset of the pacific ocean. that an ocean with such a southing sound should lap against such an angst ridden population is a sad thing to a oft returning visitor, such as ourself.

we walk. we look at the cozy bungalows. one on this block was built when walt disney’s “snow white” was first released. it has seven apartments, a thatched roof, and scattered round windows, the type little dwarves would stare out of, it they weren’t watching the 10:00a.m. news and making sure their security doors are double locked. we walk on by the lush plantings of tropical and colorful vegetation.

if we lived here, and we feel as if we very well could,we would turn off the news forever and an eternity and read rather judiciously. that means staying clear of raymond chandler’s pulp fiction of the 1940’s, because even then, when los angeles was at the very end of manifest destiny’s long march across the continent, the women in his novels like “the long goodbye” would get uneasy on hot summer nights when the warm santa anna’s swooped down the canyons. those wives would start fingering petite pearl handled guns they kept in their purses, and begin looking at their sleeping husband’s temples. perhaps there is nothing that can change the edgy temperament of this city.

it has been in a state of dystopia for quite some time.

[our pictomat font is malfunctioning on non-apple products. excuse our inconsistencies.]