Friday, September 29, 2006

Music is good news breaking through the pavement.

an incredible article on music, truth, the word, and change.
follow closely or you'll miss it.


article from Oxford American

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What exactly are we hoping for when we download an iTune? What sense of expectation do we bring to the table when we pay money to watch somebody belt out a chorus in a darkened room?

There's something so commonplace about our taking in of music that we tend to forget about the remarkable degree of faith, hope, and love involved. What I think we're looking for is a good word to take the edge off. We're daring to believe that reality might unfurl before us by way of other human voices. We might even believe a soothsayer or shaman is about to show up among people like us. We're experimenting with an Amen.

In a rather revelatory chapter of Chronicles: Volume One, Bob Dylan tells, as a young man, of finding one Thelonious Monk sitting alone at the Blue Note with a large, half-consumed sandwich on top of his piano ("in his own dynamic universe even when he dawdled around," according to Dylan). When the young singer mentions that he plays folk music up the street, Monk responds as if commenting on the weather: "We all play folk music."

Folk. Now there's a good word. It manages to lift a burden somehow. Folk is just folks trying to tell other folks what's happening in their heads as they try to remember or forget stories or feelings; folk is trying to tell truthfully what happened by telling it a little slant. What isn't folk?

A folk song, after all, is not an edict from on high, but often a disruptively truthful word about the way things are. It expands the sphere of sanity little by little, and it breaks into monopolies on truth. It opens the doors of perception. Will we settle for anything less than that? Do we want to be changed? Do we want release?

I like to tell my students that anything they find in their literature textbooks should be viewed as no more or less highfalutin' than a trucker writing words of love or loss on a napkin at a Waffle House. There are no complete strangers. Everyone's invited. Everyone's allowed.

As a form of testimony, folk music speaks from outside the flow of power. It will always have a certain democratic heft in its appeal to observable reality, and it is insistently by, of, and for the people. It's this very rock & roll presumptuousness concerning people passing information and illumination to other people that brings us toward a term gospel: truthful (and therefore good) news that demands disclosure; human expressions worth sharing.

You can call it a jazz sensibility as well (or blues or spiritual), and perhaps labels such as these will always be with us as a kind of cataloguing to help us find what we're looking for. But "gospel" of some sort is probably always the point. We're on the prowl for inspiration. We don't journey toward live performances or buy box-sets in an entirely disinterested or detached state. We want a shot of something "bloodier than blood" (in Wilco's memorable phrase), something extra-authentic, something to prick our nerves and rattle our brains.

In an effort to ascribe a solidarity between the Presbyterian Ishmael and the cannibalistic Queequeg of Moby Dick, Melville described humanity as a "multiple pilgrim species." Nothing is doctrinaire or religious (in the worst sense) in Melville's characterization of our journey, but, on the other hand, nobody gets to be viewed (or views himself) as unsacred or merely secular. We're all involved in worship of one kind or another; we're all on a pilgrimage. A revelatory word can come from any quarter, believer and unbeliever alike. No hierarchy here. No official word. Only testimonies.

And to borrow a little from Chuck D of Public Enemy, folk music (in the broad, Thelonious Monk sense) is the people's CNN. In the predominantly oral societies of ancient times (Roman-occupied, first-century Palestine, for instance), it was often believed that words were infused with mystical powers. But speaking truthfully, prophetically, or in an inspired fashion wasn't something just anyone could do; only priests, prophets on the payroll, cronies, and other professional religious figures were permitted to make sure the right speech got spoken.

To get a better hold of the sociological significance of gospel, we might echo the befuddled and frustrated testimony of Flannery O'Connor's philosophizing serial killer, the Misfit, in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find": "Jesus thrown everything off balance." The Misfit winces at the mention of a savior who single handedly brought up the net value of human beings for every culture that takes him seriously, and he sees how rumors of the Nazarene's notions mess with what passes as normal and, in the Misfit's view, disturb a man's confidence. He figures that if Jesus were the real deal, there's nothing to do but drop everything and follow him. And if he weren't? No pleasure but meanness.

To the Misfit, Jesus' gospel isn't just another peaceful easy feeling or just a decent sentiment; the good news is a question mark against whatever we erect as an absolute. Like a chain reaction (or a slow train coming), gospel is a different sort of social imagination moving through history, breaking the pavement of the status quo of countless cultures beyond the Middle East, even searing the conscience of a slave-holding culture that believed itself to have the definitive word on how to read that thick, black, leather-bound book.

So gospel is multi-partisan. Properly understood, gospel makes equal-opportunity pilgrims of males, females, Jews, Greeks, slaves, and the legally free. Nobody owns the copyright on the good, truthful Word. No label can contain the reach of the people's good news. In this sense, gospel is a wider ranging broadcast than we tend to imagine. Perhaps inevitably, the term would eventually be used for advertising purposes (or to categorize music that contains the right number of obvious Biblical references and clichés), but that doesn't mean we have to define it so rigidly. The Biblical witness is a little muddier than the "spirituality" market allows. When we think of the Bible as "religion" or "spirituality," we're letting ourselves be misled if we think primarily of consistently "uplifting" verses or devotional thoughts inscribed on greeting cards or written in tracts. And gospel, in the deepest sense, can't exactly stay out of politics, as the saying goes, because news bears witness. Gospel speaks truth to power brokers and commodifiers.

With the power of Herod, Pilate, Jim Crow, and Pharaoh somehow relativized, a "democratic dignity" (Melville's phrase) is now attributed to every human voice (peasants, outcasts, cast-offs, the least of these), and every kind of redemption song can break through and multiply. These songs can mark a day of judgment for every death-dealing abstraction, con-game, or unjust ruler on the scene. Folk music is an entering into a communal awareness, a partaking of the mother wit that resists the despair of having nothing to say. Folk is born beneath the radar where most executives and profiteers who wouldn't think to pay any mind. But for anyone looking hard, the avenues of communication (of fear, worry, hope, and forecasts) are expanded into a great wide open.

At this point, we might invoke the figure of Johnny Cash who purposefully sought to channel, in his words, "voices that were ignored or even suppressed in the entertainment media, not to mention the political and educational establishments." That's a vocation, for sure, but we wouldn't think to reduce the witness of Cash to the merely "spiritual" any more than we'd characterize William Blake's vision as either religious or political. The dichotomies don't fly when we're dealing with a human heart in conflict with itself. (That would be every human heart, by the way.) Dylan once recalled that experiencing "I Walk the Line" for the first time was like hearing a voice calling out, "What are you doing there, boy?" The authoritative dissent and the truth-telling power of those about to rock & roll will know no convenient divisions, and the powers that be are put on high alert. A change is going to come.

Admittedly, the connotations contained within the category of "religion" are perhaps inevitably held in contempt by honest people. There's an understandable aversion to allowing our love of good music to get contaminated by anything that approaches such talk. The illness that informs the boastfully "religious" is well-epitomized in Sinclair Lewis's Elmer Gantry who, we're told, "got everything from the church and Sunday School, except, perhaps, any longing whatever for decency and kindness and reason." There's a lot of that going around these days. And to say the least, the distinguishing feature of the self-described religious doesn't appear to be integrity. This gospel seems to have as much to do with Jesus' first-century gospel as a Dodge Dakota does with the Crow Creek Dakota tribe.

But are we clearing up matters with a term like secular? Do Cash and Al Green and Martin Luther King and John Brown self-consciously add a little spirituality to their otherwise secular careers? The labels won't testify. They don't describe what's going on, and gospel won't suffer proprietorship.

In the music most affiliated with the term gospel, "some of these days" is the operative phrase because the words witness to an earthbound hope that is neither "pie in the sky" or merely "life after death." You can hear it in Sam Cooke and throughout the Goodbye, Babylon box-set. Packaged in a wooden box and framed in cotton, Goodbye, Babylon includes everything from Sister Terrell to Hank Williams to the Reverend J.M. Gates's "Death Might Be Your Santa Claus." With one hundred thirty-five songs (1902-1960) and twenty-five sermons (1926-1941), the collection calls into question whatever we mean by "secular" and deconstructs our cataloguing impulse. There is a train and a river and a light coming down. "Some of these days" characterizes an age to come that will further sanctify an already sacramental present. The tension between what is and what ought to be drives the growls against hypocrisy and the satirization of the self-satisfied and uptight. If there's a justice that will still all lying tongues and days when the dead and the rubbed out will return to tell a story or two, all speech is up for grabs. Folk makes louder and livelier expression permissible and appropriate, a way of staring down madness with mirth. There is no terrain outside folk's jurisdiction, no subject that's inappropriate or irrelevant to the stories and sayings and lamentations.

There is music out there, selling by the truckload, and it has the same effect on the human heart as undersized shoes had on women's feet in ancient China. When music is untruthful, the songs are largely void of investigative power, only desensitizing, never urging us to look a little harder at other people's faces or our own. Such sounds don't invite real listening. And then there's folk, a more reliable witness to what's going on than most journalism, demanding to be inherited, committed to memory, sung around a fire, whenever we hear the music. Folk isn't so arrogant as to view itself as a No Spin Zone, because folk music understands that to spin is human. And those who think they're without spin are only too quick to cast the first stone. Folk music is a little more modest in its goals, but folk will try to tell truth as well as it can, even among the slow to believe.

Folk invites our consent. And if we're willing, the music will become a part of the way we see, chastening and invigorating our way of looking at the world. The music is good news. Folk is people talking.

David Dark lives in Nashville and is the author of The Gospel According to America: A Meditation on a God-Blessed, Christ-Haunted Idea and Everyday Apocalypse. Favorite lyric: "You try to love her, but you're so contrary / Like a chainsaw running through a dictionary." -Elvis Costello

In David's article, among other things coming across bloodier than blood, I hear the same voice speaking as the Czech revolutionary, Vaclav Havel, did when he said,
"We had our parallel society. And in that parallel society, we wrote our plays and sang our songs and read our poems, until we knew the truth so well that we could go out into the streets... and say, "We don't believe your lies anymore!" And [the whole thing] had to fall."
Let it come.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

If you read my blog...

...and my last post, there is a charge now:

We have a chance to bring our voices to a conversation about the next steps in ending the genocide in Darfur. Everyone (I mean it) should write a short letter saying that you care about the people of Darfur, and want the U.S. to be a part of the initiative to end the violence taking place in the Sudan. This is our time to weigh in, and show them we care. Tell President Bush, he can't campaign saying, "Not on my watch," and then do nothing. Tell him to keep his promise. Sudan's not an OPEC nation, but supposedly the man is supposed to have some ounce of conviction in him somewhere. Let's see if we can't find it, shall we? Time is running out.

mail to:

or make a phone call to President Bush: 202 456-1111

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Friday, September 15, 2006

"Not on my watch"??

Clooney & Wiesel: U.N. choice in Darfur is troops or death

POSTED: 5:01 a.m. EDT, September 15, 2006
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Actor George Clooney on Thursday told the U.N.'s most powerful body that if it did not send peacekeepers to Sudan's Darfur region millions of people would die in what he called the first genocide of the 21st century.

"After September 30 you won't need the U.N. You will simply need men with shovels and bleached white linen and headstones," the actor warned.

The mandate of African Union peacekeepers in the region expires at the end of the month and the Sudanese government has refused to approve their replacement by a U.N. force. (Watch Clooney plead the case for Darfur -- 1:26)

The Oscar-winner said if U.N. forces were not sent to replace them, all aid workers would leave and the 2.5 million refugees who depend on them would die.

"The United States has called it genocide," Clooney told council members. "For you it's called ethnic cleansing. But make no mistake -- it is the first genocide of the 21st century. And if it continues unchecked it will not be the last."

Clooney was addressing Security Council members at an informal briefing organized by the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, which recently set up a Darfur Commission of Nobel Laureates.

Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner, also appealed to council members: "You are the last political recourse of Darfur victims and you can stop it."

He urged them to send peacekeepers.

"Remember Rwanda," Wiesel said. "I do. Six hundred thousand to 800,000 human beings were murdered. We know then as we know now they could have been saved and they were not."

He said it was terrible that the U.N. let the 1994 killings in Rwanda happen and urged the U.N. to "restore its honor" by taking action in Darfur.

Earlier Thursday, Wiesel told The Associated Press: "If the Security Council does not act it will be blamed for history."

Clooney and his journalist father, Nick Clooney, spent five days in Darfur in April, gathering personal stories of the death and suffering that has ravaged the African region. Both Clooneys have continued working since their return to publicize the plight of refugees.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million have fled their homes since 2003, when ethnic African tribes revolted against the Arab-led Khartoum government.

A May peace agreement signed by the government and one of the major rebel groups was supposed to help end the conflict in Darfur. Instead, it has sparked months of fighting between rival rebel factions that has added to the toll of the dead and displaced.

Sudan is resisting attempts by the U.N. to take over a 7,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force that has been unable to stop the violence in the western Darfur region.

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has said the change in peacekeepers would violate the country's sovereignty and has warned that his army would fight any U.N. forces sent to Darfur.

"The fact is Bashir is a war criminal... I think he should be warned that if he does not stop he will be accused of crimes against humanity," Wiesel said.

The Save Darfur Coalition, an alliance of more than 170 faith-based, humanitarian and human rights organizations, has organized a rally in New York's Central Park on Sunday. There will also be dozens of other events across the United States and around the world.

The African Union's Peace and Security Council will meet on Monday in New York, just before this year's U.N. General Assembly speeches, to discuss breaking the deadlock in Darfur.

Wiesel, who survived the Nazi death camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald during World War II, has worked for human rights in many parts of the world and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

"Because we went through that period of suffering and humiliation we must do something so that other people should not go through any suffering and humiliation," he said.
Take Action by sending an email through the above address.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

I Spoke Too Soon

Open Facebook

Rachel Rosmarin, 09.11.06, 5:30 PM ET

They'll let anyone in to Facebook these days.

Once the exclusive online stomping grounds of college students, social networking site is throwing open the doors to rest of the world. The site is slated to announce in coming weeks that anyone can gain access to the site, simply by affiliating themselves with a particular city or region.

The company had planned to announce and launch this expanded registration Tuesday but has delayed the expansion as it sorts through the backlash from changes it made to the site Sept. 5.

"Last week, we learned we need to do a better job communicating on launches," says company spokeswoman Melanie Deitch. "We are going to think through how to better inform users, and we don't want to risk expanded registration being a big issue on the heels of last week's changes." Deitch said the company might communicate with users in coming weeks about the site's growth pace via blog postings and comments in user groups.

The growth move is fraught with risk for the company, whose more than 9.3 million registered users are intensely attached to the site because it lets them connect to a select group of peers. But the nature of social networking sites makes it easy for dissatisfied users to migrate. Facebook executives must try to expand the site's reach without diluting its appeal. If they fail, the company risks being viewed as a second-rate version of MySpace, the famously open social network that now receives more than 46 million visitors per month.

"Facebook could be hurt when users start drawing comparisons to MySpace," says Fred Stutzman, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Information and Library Science, who studies Facebook's use among that university's students. "There's a backlash with every change at Facebook--but this is now the point of no return."

Last week, the company created a furor when it tweaked its model to show users updates to their "friends" activities as soon as they logged on. Facebook fans squawked, citing privacy concerns, and hundreds of thousands joined online petitions threatening to boycott the site.

"The Facebook users feel like they have ownership in the company," says Stutzman. "When they realize that they're not the ones in control, it's a real slap in the face."

Facebook executives initially dismissed users' worries, but within days the company backtracked somewhat, allowing users more control over who sees what. On Friday, founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg posted a public apology to his users on the company blog, outlining where he went wrong and what he has done to make amends.

Zuckerberg helped create the company in 2004, when the Harvard undergraduate wanted to find a way to let fellow classmates connect. The company later broadened its user base to include all Ivy League schools, then all universities, then high schools and eventually corporations. Would-be members had to demonstrate affiliation with one of these institutions, via a valid e-mail address. But as soon as the new look kicks in, users will be able to register with a generic e-mail account and join a group associated with one of 500 cities and towns, whether or not they live there.

Though group members can customize their security settings to include or exclude specific people from seeing certain personal details--such as photos, contact information and comments left on friends' profiles--default settings allow anyone within a network (such as a school, or now a city) see everyone else's profile details. The wealth of personal data available to large groups of strangers on Facebook has never been richer.

Comparisons to the much larger and more open MySpace--purchased by News Corp. (nyse: NWS - news - people ) in July 2005 for $580 million--are inevitable. But if Facebook truly wanted to emulate MySpace's success, it would have opened up its registration policy a long time ago. But until now, the site's restrictions restrained growth.

Now it seems ready to expand. The company has collected $38 million in venture funding collected since 2004; in August, it secured an advertising deal with Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ). The site's non-student population already appears to be growing. Between May 2005 and May 2006, the percentage of Facebook users older than 34 grew to 37.3% from 32.4%, according to eMarketer and ComScore Media Metrix.

Yet Facebook still has less than half the users MySpace had when News Corp. bought the company last year, and revenues are still small--an estimated $30 million a year compared with MySpace’s roughly $180 million--says eMarketer senior analyst Debra Williamson.

And perhaps because of the limited advertising real estate at Facebook, limits ads to sponsored profiles, banners on the side of the page and above a user's profile. "Facebook doesn't have that sexy glow as an advertising environment, as compared with MySpace's advertising buzz," says Williamson. "That could be a negative for Facebook unless they redesign their pages."

This year, U.S. advertisers will spend only $280 million on ads through social networks, according to eMarketer, but that will increase to $1.9 billion by 2010. Worldwide, that figure will reach $2.5 billion. Those numbers, coupled with the continued success of MySpace after News Corp.'s acquisition last year, have fueled rumors that Facebook is a likely acquisition target.

At the time of the company's last round of funding, the Silicon Valley rumor mill pegged the company's value at around $600 million. But the "why not?" logic of the latest tech boom has fueled reports placing even higher price tags on the company--someone purportedly attached to the company even managed to attach a $2 billion price tag/trial balloon last spring.

"We have to correct that. The $2 billion price tag reported in the media is so far out there," Zuckerberg said during an Aug. 17 interview. Zuckerberg, who admitted on a company blog that Facebook "really messed up" the launch of news feeds, wouldn't take interview requests about the delays in expanding registration. "We're not holding out for a price because we're busy building and growing the site." But Zuckerberg must tread carefully: Growth that scares his core could wind up hurting his young company's value.

article from

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Friday, September 08, 2006

Facebook Kisses and Makes Up

If only politics worked this way...

We really messed this one up. When we launched News Feed and Mini-Feed we were trying to provide you with a stream of information about your social world. Instead, we did a bad job of explaining what the new features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them. I'd like to try to correct those errors now.

When I made Facebook two years ago my goal was to help people understand what was going on in their world a little better. I wanted to create an environment where people could share whatever information they wanted, but also have control over whom they shared that information with. I think a lot of the success we've seen is because of these basic principles.

We made the site so that all of our members are a part of smaller networks like schools, companies or regions, so you can only see the profiles of people who are in your networks and your friends. We did this to make sure you could share information with the people you care about. This is the same reason we have built extensive privacy settings — to give you even more control over who you share your information with.

Somehow we missed this point with Feed and we didn’t build in the proper privacy controls right away. This was a big mistake on our part, and I’m sorry for it. But apologizing isn’t enough. I wanted to make sure we did something about it, and quickly. So we have been coding nonstop for two days to get you better privacy controls. This new privacy page will allow you to choose which types of stories go into your Mini-Feed and your friends’ News Feeds, and it also lists the type of actions Facebook will never let any other person know about. If you have more comments, please send them over.

This may sound silly, but I want to thank all of you who have written in and created groups and protested. Even though I wish I hadn’t made so many of you angry, I am glad we got to hear you. And I am also glad that News Feed highlighted all these groups so people could find them and share their opinions with each other as well.

About a week ago I created a group called Free Flow of Information on the Internet, because that’s what I believe in – helping people share information with the people they want to share it with. I’d encourage you to check it out to learn more about what guides those of us who make Facebook. Tomorrow at 4pm est, I will be in that group with a bunch of people from Facebook, and we would love to discuss all of this with you. It would be great to see you there.

Thanks for taking the time to read this,


But seriously...
Could you imagine the kind of world we
'd live in if Washington worked this way; (the way it's supposed to) listening to the people instead of the "sponsors", recognizing mistakes and realizing that's a good thing, acting with humility instead of arrogance, working from conviction instead of self-protection? Hell, the world might even change. I'm impressed, facebook. Well done.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Facebook Backlash

Inside the Backlash Against Facebook
Time/CNN Reports:
Users of the popular site are angry about a new feature and are organizing their protest—on Facebook

Posted Wednesday, Sep. 06, 2006

Generation Facebook is taking action — against Facebook. On Tuesday morning the popular social networking site unrolled a new feature dubbed the "News Feed" that allows users to track their friends' Facebook movements by the minute. For many of Facebook's 8-million plus student users, it was too much. Within 24 hours, hundreds of thousands of students nationwide organized themselves to protest the new feature. Ironically, they're using Facebook to do it.

The feature in question appears on the user's home page and looks like a glitzy laundry list. It chronicles every action a user's friends have recently taken on Facebook. These include the mundane: Sally befriended Joan, the boring: Tim now likes The Daily Show, and the juicy: John and Beth broke up. And in case it matters, each action is time-stamped to the minute.

By its nature, News Feed is intrusive and that's what upsets students. It's one thing to casually check out a friend's updated profile between classes. It's another to be unwillingly inundated with each friend's latest Facebook antics. The News Feed does not have an off switch, although users can block or limit non-friends from seeing their profiles, which feed directly into the News Feed. At the very least, the aggrieved students want the option of a News Feed off-switch. Some want Facebook to do away with it completely.

Since Tuesday, a handful of anti-News Feed groups have sprung up on Facebook. The largest has 284,000 members and is called "Students Against Facebook News Feed (Official Petition to Facebook)." The group was created yesterday morning by Ben Parr, a junior at Northwestern University, who was disgusted to find the News Feed when he logged into Facebook. With a meeting to get to, Parr quickly created a group, told a few friends about it and left his computer. When he came back a few hours later, the membership was at 13,000 and the numbers climbed steadily throughout the day, reaching 100,000 at 2:00 a.m — at which point Parr called it a night.

He isn't certain why his is the most successful anti-News Feed groups. "It's might be that mine was one of the first groups," said Parr, 21. "That, and my group acts as a petition directly to Facebook." Included on Parr's group is a link to Facebook's customer support page where users can email Facebook administrators directly. Parr also linked to a formal online petition which asks Facebook to either remove or modify the News Feed. It currently has more than 28,000 signatures.

Several college newspapers also picked up the story this morning. Headlines include "Facebook is watching you," "Furious with Facebook" and "Facebook fumbles with changes."

Despite what may be Gen Y's first official revolution, Facebook is holding firm. Yesterday afternoon, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted an entry to Facebook's blog titled "Calm Down. Breathe. We Hear You." Zuckerberg acknowledged that many users are not "immediate fans and have found them overwhelming and cluttered. Other people are concerned that non-friends can see too much about them." He did not announce any changes to the News Feed, but rather reiterated Facebook's privacy features and promoted the News Feed as a cool way to "know what's going on in your friends' lives."

Like it or not, Facebook's face may be changing for good. The social networking site, which was originally an exclusive web site for college students, has expanded to include high school students and corporations. Sponsors now spend thousands to advertise on the site and politicians are also tapping into Facebook. For Zuckerberg, the News Feed allows Facebook users to better keep up with each other. "All the most interesting stuff that's going on is presented to you," Zuckerberg told TIME recently. "The analogy would be instead of an encyclopedia, it's now news. We're emphasizing what's going on now."

That level of intimacy may be too intense for even today's college students, many of whom have infamously posted pictures on Facebook of underage drinking and drug use. Or it could be something much simpler than an alleged invasion of privacy. "Every action I take on Facebook is now time stamped," says Erik Ornitz, 18, a Brown student who formed his own anti-News Feed group. "It's a little strange because everyone will now know that at 10 o'clock I updated my Facebook profile and that I wasn't in class." Regardless of its intentions, one thing is for sure. Gen Y has unexpectedly found a way to organize.

link to article

A Day Without Facebook
A call for Facebook users to boycott Facebook on September 12, 2006

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Saturday, September 02, 2006

I can't be the only one who'd like to see a community garden and dog run around here, can I?

When I moved into this neighborhood, I fell in love right away. Not with the actual neighborhood, but with its potential: It's affordable, there are nice row houses all around just waiting to be filled up by my friends, there's lot of open space to be exploited, and plenty of parking. Plus, this area has got a great authentic feel and, with a little work, it could be even more authentic. Perfect, right?

So why am I the only one doing anything about it?

I am always telling my other struggling artist, freelance graphic designer, and independent T-shirt-maker friends that this is the neighborhood to take it to. It's the next big thing. Sure, it's an hour from my day job and right next to a stinky canal and a power station, but that's the whole charm—it keeps the yuppies out.

It's frustrating, though. My friends insist they're happy where they are. But if they only saw the idealized neighborhood I see, where that rundown old health clinic is turned into a tattoo parlor, and that Last Supper mural is replaced with one featuring Radiohead or a stylized corporate octopus, they'd come around.

The problem is that the property owners here are clueless. They fill their yards with pavement and statues of the Virgin Mary, when all they have to do is clear that brush and we'd have a great beer garden or bocce court. They're spending all this money to renovate the old church, when it'd be put to better use split it up into condos. My landlord has no idea this apartment—hell, every apartment in this building—is undervalued. He could quadruple his profits by cutting my place in half. So I give him an extra 20 bucks a month hoping he gets the hint, but he just takes it out of the next month's rent.

Do any of these people appreciate what the neighborhood they're living in could be?

I'm trying to convince the owners of that taqueria on the corner to change their décor to incorporate some more of that funky Day Of The Dead motif I really like. But they insist on bland white walls. Ugh! I can barely pronounce the name, let alone enjoy its delicious, reasonably priced meals. Plus, you could take all the cool stuff from the five thrift stores and make one really great vintage shop. They'd make a fortune! And, you know, we would all have a fantastic view of downtown if only they'd tear down that dilapidated garage by the waterfront. Or, better yet, they could turn it into a restaurant with a roof deck. Can you say "brunch on the harbor"?

I can't be the only one who'd like to see a community garden and dog run around here, can I?

It sure would help attract people like me if there was a record store, too, and not the one with the giant Shakira cutout in the window. I mean a decent one. I went in to see if they had the new Fiery Furnaces, and they had never heard of it. They said they'd see if they could order it for me, but I declined. I mean, what's the point of supporting a local business if it's not cool?

It feels like I'm the only one trying to do any good around here.

When I first moved in, I loved the 50-cent coffees—it was like living in the '80s—but I wish they'd listen to me and start making lattes. I know I'd pay the extra three bucks, and I'm sure everyone else around here would, too.

I've tried being proactive. But none of the locals I've talked to about bringing in a co-op health-food grocery store have seemed excited at all. Nor have I gotten any of them to take part in my community open-house idea for hip young people to come see what this neighborhood is capable of. What did they do instead? They had a barbecue. With very loud music.

I mean, I don't want the people here to leave. I just want them to stay inside more. Especially if they're not going to do anything to bring this community to life. But they're always out on their stoops, just playing dominoes or talking. I like talking, but I do it inside, where it was meant to be done. It makes me uncomfortable to have people watching me all the time. Not that I think they'd do anything, but I just like to be a little more private.

Also, their dogs stay outside and bark all day. I like dogs just fine, but why can't their dogs be smaller and more nervous?

It's getting to the point where I feel like I'm tilting at windmills. But I can't give up—I know this neighborhood would benefit from the diversity of more people like me moving in. If you need a good place to live, come check out my 'hood. It's quirky, but it could use a few more creative types to get it jumping. But no developers—those guys just ruin it for the rest of us.

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jesus christ: the musical

he's got moves, yo.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Copy that...

Interview with Thom Yorke from

some favorite exerpts:

You have a reputation as far back as the mid-90s...

TY: Of being a pain in the ass!

Pitchfork: No, of thinking everything else is a pain in the ass, maybe. The dread, the foreboding, and the pre-millennial tension-- did you expect things to turn out as badly as they did? The new century has gone about as poorly as possible.

TY: Yeah. I think I'm doing pretty well so far. [Laughs]

Pitchfork: You seem happier the past few years. The music seems a little more direct; your lyrics are a little more direct; your vocals aren't as obscured.

TY: I think it's always been the same. Loads of the music on OK Computer is extremely uplifting. It's only when you read the words that you'd think otherwise. That's just kind of the way it is. The whole point of creating music for me is to give voice to things that aren't normally given voice to, and a lot of those things are extremely negative. Personally speaking, I have to remain positive otherwise I'd go fucking crazy.

Kid A was obviously a huge success but it's not the type of thing the label wanted to try and sell-- was there any fear that if the first one didn't work out in their eyes, they'd make demands on Amnesiac?

TY: At the time, it felt like it was a good idea to split them up. It was such an elongated period but it wasn't like, "They might not like that one, so we may need to come up with something a little bit easier" or any of that shit. It was all way beyond that. And we knew how tolerant they were. No, it's never been like that ever. Maybe on "High and Dry". I had my arm twisted on "High and Dry".

Pitchfork: To release it as a single?

TY: To put it anywhere. [Laughs]

It's not bad, you know. It's not's very bad. [Laughs]

Pitchfork: And of course most of the bands that've taken cues from you have done so from things like "High and Dry". Was it ever disappointing that when your peers looked to you guys they ignored Kid A and Amnesiac and took the simpler, more well-traveled road?

TY: But that's the majors all over. "Oh, uh, shit, we need to find something else that looks like it." They spent loads of money and crap and they were right, so I can't argue with them I guess. It's business.

But it upset me a lot, yes. I was really, really upset about it, and I tried my absolute best not to be, but yeah, it was kind of like-- that sort of thing of missing the point completely. When we put Kid A out, I specifically remember saying, "Copy that, you fucking..."

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