Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Are We Good?

Well? … Are we?

I’ll back up.

Recently, I’ve had occasion to consider the state of a few friendships. No worries; this is not dire. It might be the opposite of dire. It might be right on the edge of complacency. Not all the way there, but within rock-throwing distance.

Earlier this week, I saw several posts right in a row from Facebook friends of mine (yes, we’ve gone to that social-media world) that suggested that Facebook’s mighty Algorithm For Predicting Your Online Viewing Wishes (Or Ours, Re-Packaged As Yours) had been causing all us Facebookers to only see posts from about two dozen of our online friends. So, if you only have that many, you’re in luck, I guess? But if you have ten times that, is it possible you’re missing posts from the rest of your community? LOTS of them? How many births, deaths, snow day announcements, jokes, political screeds, ESSENTIAL TRUTHS!! have you missed, just because the Evil Lords of Facebook are spoilsports?

Comment below,” said the posts, “so that we can thwart this Dire Turn of Events!”

So I did. What’s the harm? Keeping in social-media contact with somebody? No harm there, regardless of whether this Rumor turns out to be True.

And then I went to Snopes.com, and their fact-checkers pretty roundly pooh-pooh’d the rumor. Facebook’s doing a lot of weird things, they said, but this ain’t one of them.

Okay. Crisis averted. Stand down from red alert. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.

Meanwhile, though, concurrently with that little (extremely) minor day of frantic … I also noticed posts from Facebook friends of mine that – when their names floated in front of my eyes for the first time in a while – made me realize that indeed, I was seeing their names for the first time in a while. Was it an algorithmic thing? Or just that I hadn’t scrolled down very far (or very often) in my News Feed lately, so that it was pretty much an effect of my Real Life taking precedence over my Online Existence?

The latter, I suspect. I can only be a conspiracy theorist about so many things, after all.

But, I thought, “it’s good to see those names.” And to bask for a moment in a good memory or two that we got to take part in, long ago or within the last few months. And especially good to think that, in all probability, the people attached to those names are still my friends, even if we haven’t interacted much online, or In Real Life, for a while.

I am fortunate, I further mused, to have a pack of people in my life about whom I never have to wonder, “are we still friends? Do we still care like we did once?” I enjoy seeing their posts, and I’ve amassed enough Likes and Comments to suspect that they enjoy seeing mine.

A lot of those people, well, I don’t get to see them in person more than once or twice a year. And it doesn’t seem to damage the relationships.

When social media first got going, I wondered if it would take the fun out of meeting in person on those semi- or fully-annual occasions. Before Facebook, by whose good offices you can kinda peek into other people’s lives and see what’s going on (or at least what they want the world to see is going on) … and, curiously, during and after Facebook, my college homecoming weekends have still been full of “Hey! How are ya! What’s going on! What’s new!” conversations. When we gather to open up another Drum Major Academy summer clinic week, we fall right back into all the prior silliness.

It’s good, every so often, to check in on the people whose avatars I see more than I see their actual live selves. But even if for some reason we don’t, very much … I like the idea that there are people in my circle of relationships about whom I don’t have to worry, “have we forgotten each other? Do we still think as fondly of each other as we used to?”

Sounds complacent, I know.

It would be, yes … if I didn’t have a pretty good sense that the answer to those questions, in a great many cases, is still yes. Whether we’ve known each other for forty years … or forty months … or forty weeks.

It’s a nice sense to be able to have. Especially in a world which, at the moment, seems intent on providing only the worst outcomes, the most craven and cruel attitudes, the least humane or friendly expressions.

Are we good?

Yeah. Yeah, we are. And no mere algorithm can come between us. Cue the violins. Get me Irving Berlin on the line, stat.

Good not to take this for granted. Note to self: make a retroactive New Year’s resolution to actively Not Take This For Granted.

But yeah. We’re good.

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February 7, 2018 Posted by | Facebook, friends, social media | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Worthwhile

‘Twould be hypocritical of me to crack on someone who seemed to be writing about topics about which they weren’t exactly experts.

Exhibit A: … this Blogge, hello!

Talk about not staying in my lane.

So with that in mind, I shall tread carefully.

 

Seems like almost every year at this time, someone leaps onto social media to say some intemperate thing about that curious activity about which I swoon, namely, The Marching Band. Makes sense: if you watch TV on New Year’s Day, you may be subjected to more sights and sounds of the marching arts than on any other TV day, what with the Rose Parade and various college football bowl games and all.

So it makes sense that people who are apt to be critical or prone to mockery, regarding this activity, are going to be that way right around the New Year.

And so it was, yesterday, with a fellow called Bill James.

Honestly, if I wanted to save time … I could just direct you to a piece I posted here three years ago; you could read it and every time you read the words “Jim Rome” you could replace them mentally with “Bill James” and be just as far ahead. You would be forgiven if you did this. Or if you didn’t.

Mr. James leapt onto Twitter and, as you do, Tweeted:

Does the world really need marching bands? I know I am [in] trouble for even asking this question, but what do you think?”

And offered Twitter followers a poll, the results of which happened to end up 88 to 12 in favor of “Yes, we need bands”.

A futile poll, as it happened, but 7 to 1 in any sport constitutes a convincing win, I should think.

Myself? Rather than losing my ever-lovin’ mind – as a couple of my colleagues have done – trying to change Bill James’ ever-lovin’ mind – which is futile because anyone who posts an opinion online and is then pushed back against … digs in that much harder and We Shall, We Shall Not Be Moved – I merely sighed, “ah, he’ll never understand, and it’s his loss.”

True enough, at least to me – a fellow who understands that the marching arts can be dreadful if done poorly, BUT if they’re designed and done with a certain amount of skill and caring can be positively transcendent, even if the purveyors do wear feathers on their heads. So there’s that bias built-in.

 

My curiosity got the better of me, though; and so I peeked at the replies to Mr. James’ Tweet. The replies were predictably – how dare you, sir – but it turns out that Mr. James felt the need to engage with many of the aggrieved respondents. And in the process, he revealed a couple of interesting things about himself.

First, I guess maybe I should have known who Bill James even was.

Not that jazz composer who wrote the theme from “Taxi”.

Not that fellow who co-starred with Will Smith in that romantic comedy movie of a few years back.

He’s a baseball writer. Who invented “Sabermetrics”.

Sabermetrics is the empirical analysis of baseball, especially baseball statistics that measure in-game activity. … Sabermetricians collect and summarize the relevant data from this in-game activity to answer specific questions. The term is derived from the acronym SABR, which stands for the Society for American Baseball Research, founded in 1971. The term sabermetrics was coined by Bill James, who is one of its pioneers and is often considered its most prominent advocate and public face.”

Mm’-kay.

See, I knew I should have recognized that name right away. But I guess I didn’t.

And, more importantly and with less needless snark … something else that Mr. James revealed about himself was this: it turns out that he wasn’t, after all, violating the rule of “only write about what you know”.

One Twitter respondent noted, “That’s a funny question coming from the ultimate sports nerd. Let the music folks have their fun.” Mr. James shot back:

I was in the Marching Band in high school. I was on the field at the halftime of many football games. In retrospect, I’d like to have those 500 hours back.”

In retrospect, it was a shame that there wasn’t one of the Drum Major Academy drum majors in charge of that band, as that student leader might have been able to get to Mr. James before his attitude went all toxic and he either quit the band or destroyed it. (I know; that drum major would have needed a time machine, since Mr. James’ age is closer to seventy than seventeen; you get my point, I trust.)

Sorry! I’m sorry. That was not how I meant this to go. I really wasn’t going to be all snarky about this. I was going to let all it roll off my back. I was going to stay positive.

 

I know a good way to stay positive. It’s this angle:

When another Twitter respondent wished Mr. James would respect the amount of work that goes into being in a marching band, Mr. James shot back:

I respect their work. I just think I would respect if more if they worked on something more worthwhile.”

Mm’-kay.

Is it worthwhile to commit all that time and effort to marching in a band?

Is it worthwhile to commit all that time and effort to being a Sabermetrician?

Is it worthwhile to make solar panels?

Is it worthwhile to paint sunsets?

Is it worthwhile to learn how to play chess? To play autoharp?

Is it worthwhile to create computer graphics software that will allow more realistic renderings of video-game backgrounds?

Is it worthwhile to write a blog?

Is it worthwhile to commit ridiculous amounts of time and effort to activities that other people don’t understand, and can’t understand, and sometimes even mock?

Sure it is.

Because the alternative is having a population full of people who aren’t curious, aren’t creative, don’t know how to commit time and effort to something … but instead are just drones who only know enough to be “prepared for the 21st century workforce”. Or who would rather mock the people who are curious, creative, and willing to sweat a little – because throwing Internet snark is just easier. Far less risky. Much easier to get attention any which way one can. Look at me and my disdain for people whose activity I think isn’t worthwhile. I made you respond. I win.

Unless, apparently, you get under the skin of the band people, some of whom Tweet things at you like..

It appears the father of Sabermetrics has not found a new audience amongst band members.”

…or…

We used to be awfully quiet about you, because we had no idea who you were. Must suck to be insignificant, until the bandos come after you.”

 

Then it doesn’t make you come out looking like that much of a winner.

At which point it doesn’t seem as worthwhile, I guess.

January 2, 2018 Posted by | arts, band, baseball, DMA, Internet, marching band, music, social media, sports, Twitter | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Damn It, Al

He had a wickedly spot-on Johnny Carson impersonation, among others, and his acting skills might arguably be termed “towering”. One of my favorite YouTube videos has been the episode of “Inside the Actors Studio” in which he was charming and illuminating.

If you asked me, “do you admire Kevin Spacey?” I would say, “yeah, I guess I do.”

He has been accused by multiple people of sexual misconduct.

Damn it, Kevin.

He was probably the first actor whose skills I recognized as great acting, in the first non-animated movie that I ever saw end-to-end that didn’t have spaceships and zap guns in it – the movie “Tootsie”, which had a lot to say about how people are treated solely based on what they look like. A decade later, he had a large hand in making me interested in the Peter Pan story, as he tore into the role of Captain Hook. Far too late in my life, I got “All the President’s Men” out of the local library, watched it, and belatedly understood how much more important he was in that film than his acting partner, some guy named Redford or something.

If you asked me, “do you admire Dustin Hoffman?” I would say, “yeah, I do.”

He has been accused by a 1985-TV-movie-set intern of sexual misconduct.

Damn it, Dustin.

He became a United States Senator after having a respectable career as a comic performer and writer.  After having been seen exclusively as someone for whom the joke was the thing, he developed a reputation in the halls of government as someone who had a ferocious command of facts and knowledge as they applied to policy decisions and committee-hearing interrogation. For the first several years of his Senate career, he focused firmly on being a statesman and not an entertainer – on being serious and not making jokes.  Only recently has he begun to infuse his Senatorial activity with his remarkable sense of humor.

If you asked me, “do you admire Al Franken?” I would say, “yes, particularly in the last decade.”

He has been accused by a USO-tour entertainment colleague of sexual misconduct.

Damn it, Al.

He played a groundbreaking role – for all of that role’s in-the-background, supporting-cast qualities – as an Asian starship helmsman in a 1960s television series heralded for its forward-thinking philosophy about who people are and how they should be seen and treated (in a time when that philosophy was not, um, on full display in this country). He subsequently became an outspoken and effective advocate for the LGBT community, and his Twitter feed was regularly full of wise and witty commentary on current events.

If you asked me, “do you admire George Takei?” I would say, “HELL yeah, I do.”

He has been accused by a former actor and male model of sexual misconduct.

Damn it, George.

It’s easy for me to look over at people like Donald Trump, like former Judge Roy Moore, like Harvey Weinstein, who don’t represent the core beliefs and/or the basic standards of decent behavior that I like to think I uphold and that I like to think I espouse and demonstrate. It’s easy to hurl invective at people who seem to instead espouse a pattern, a history, of awful behavior.

That’s easy.

Especially when they claim in public that they are good, upright, morally and ethically sturdy people, and then allegations arise that challenge those claims.

Fish in a barrel.

It’s something else when people whom I have admired, or might even have liked had I known them personally (based upon nothing but their public persona and public statements, so who knows what you’re really getting, but they seemed like fine humans) … seem not to represent the core beliefs and/or the basic standards of decent behavior that I like to think I uphold and that I like to think I espouse and demonstrate.

That’s not as easy.

I freely admit: a portion of my otherwise evolved brain is desperate to give the benefit of the doubt to Kevin, and Dustin, and Al, and George … and John Edwards, and Anthony Weiner. Why? Because I had thought they were okay, and I would rather not know that they weren’t. Whether it was a pattern or just a singular moment of misbehavior in their lives.

I mean, nobody’s perfect.

But this whole sexual misconduct thing … especially when it occurs so obviously in the context of men exercising their power over others … even if it’s one single occurrence, that’s one occurrence too many to count as perfection. No – that’s one occurrence too many, period. They were young, they were foolish, they were this, that, the other, all the excuses in the world …

No. They did a horrible thing that any well-adjusted person – any PERSON – should understand is wrong.

My disappointment is not the most important result of all these allegations and revelations and such. At least not on a global scale. My disappointment will not make the front page of the New York Times. There will be no charities established for the support and treatment of my disappointment.

It is, however, an opportunity for me to check in with my ability to be fair.

Bill O’Reilly did what? What a miserable thing to do to another human being, which was done by a guy who also harbors political beliefs that I don’t agree with. He should pay the price, face the consequences, and if he loses his career and livelihood, well, good.

See? Easy.

Al Franken did what? Can’t be. What a great Senator he’s been for Minnesota, and what an entertaining performer he was on Saturday Night Live, and…

No…:

Al Franken did what? What a miserable thing to do to another human being, which was done by a guy who also harbors political beliefs that I do agree with. He should pay the price, face the consequences, and if he loses his career and livelihood, well, good.

Not easy.

Life is complicated.

I didn’t want to have to wrestle with yet another complication.

It’s probably good for me, in the long run, if I want to continue to claim I’m a fair-minded and principled person, to go ahead and wrestle with it.

Sexual misconduct is wrong. No matter who’s doing it.

Damn it, Al.

November 18, 2017 Posted by | celebrity, current events, Famous Persons, news | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment