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

A Live-Blogging Adventure -or- Dispassionate Journalism is Overrated

Four years ago this evening, there was a little tiny competition in Indianapolis. It involved about a dozen groups of musicians who tooted and drummed and flagged and danced. Their whole summer had been full of this activity, and as they say, it all came down to this.

As it happened, I knew personally a few of the folks involved with one particular performing group from North Carolina; and was therefore kinda pullin’ for ’em.

Thanks to the magic of the Internet and technology and such, those of us who were not in Indianapolis still got to experience the evening’s festivities, from group #1 to group #12 and then the announcements of who scored how many points.

My own particular version of the Internet, not being the fastest in the world, didn’t allow me to actually see or hear it. Video streaming was just not happening. But I had a devious method or two up my sleeve. So, wishing to put my erstwhile journalism training to work (well… sorta), I set about becoming the “pool reporter” for this event, on behalf of a number of my friends who didn’t have the fastest version of the Internet either.

The plan was to pass along the scores as they were announced. Y’know, dispassionate chronicler of events.

When I was done, I realized I’d actually broken a sweat. I was pulling for that one group pretty hard; and the intensity of the “big reveal” of Drum Corps International Finals scores at the end of the evening was a lot greater than I was expecting.

So, here’s the 21st-century equivalent, I guess, of tuning in to the radio drama and letting your imagination do the heavy lifting: behold … my Facebook post activity (and a few resultant FB Comments) from the evening of August 10, 2013.

 

The various corps presented their shows…

 

R: “So, I’ve got the official DCI Finals live blog scrolling along in one browser window and FB in another. I think this must be what it was like when all you could do was gather around the family radio.”

 

R: “DCI finals live blog commenter, re: [Santa Clara Vanguard]: ‘tempo seems to be up from the last two nights…’ • …up?!”

 

R: “From the DCI live blog, a royal announcement: ‘Live presentation of the scores will be offered FREE on the homepage DCI.org.’ At which time, the website will do its annual crash.”

 

R: “DCI live blog commenter, ‘tween corps: ‘Hearing the Cadets play Medea is so weird, since Star [of Indiana] used that in 1993, and the Cadets beat them that year. Then again, they also played Malaguena, which I am sure galled the Madison [Scouts] fans.’ … By this logic, Madison fans were angry with: every marching band in America. Hm.”

 

A friend of mine from the UMass Alumni Band days, whose niece was in a particular drum corps that night: “Getting so nervous for [Niece]!!!! Switching over to the tunnel. I just saw you, [Niece]!!!”

R: “In for 4 … out for 4 … in for 4 … out for 8 … in for 4 … out for 16 …”

 

R: “DCI live blog commenter, as [Blue Devils] finishes: ‘This is going to be a bloodbath!!!’ • DCI live blog moderator, as [Carolina] Crown enters: “The chant of ‘Let’s go Crown!’ has started in the crowd.’ • All together now: ‘This… place… is… e-…’”

 

R: “Every so often one of my non-drum-corps-watching friends posts here, … and it’s jarring!”

 

R: “[Carolina] Crown horns play, DCI live blog moderator writes: ‘Wow…that horn run back and forth and the impact of the section following it when they lay it all on the line. I can’t write the phrase I want to really use to explain my reaction to that, as I do like my job.’”

 

R: “DCI live blog moderator: ‘The crowd goes nuts! And for good reasons. Regardless of the outcome, THAT was a championship caliber performance.’ @dcihouseguyhedginghisbets”

 

R: “Hey, [Friend-With-A-Niece]… you OK over there? ;)”

FRIEND WITH A NIECE: “I’m breathing….barely.”

 

As the various corps assembled on the field for the awards retreat…

 

R: “Lemme just say this BEFORE any scores get called: I didn’t actually SEE any corps tonight. If everybody took it up a notch from Thursday night at the movies, –whoa. Good luck to everyone. Everyone’s a winner. It’s all about the audience. If you did your best, that’s all we can ask. … … Okay? Good. … … For the next twenty minutes, I am such a card-carrying member of the Sisterhood of the Purple Pants, it hurts. Get ’em Crown.”

 

FRIEND FROM THE BU BAND DAYS: “And the DCI page has crashed!!”

R: “They should have gotten the DoD tech guys involved.)”

BU BAND FRIEND: “I blame Snowden.”

R: “<*spit-take*>

 

R: “As the DCI website has apparently just crashed … *shocker* … I stand ready to reprise my role from last year as the guy with the tin can and string, posting scores from the live blog. My journalism degree, at work.”

DRUM MAJOR ACADEMY STAFF FRIEND: “I’m counting on you Dr. Rob!”

R: “I feel like I need to limber up. Arm circles!”

 

R: “No scores yet, but the Live Blog guys are taking a beating for the connectivity issues. (I know noth-ink!)”

FRIEND FROM THE UMASS ALUMNI BAND DAYS: “Ahhh! SO frustrating! I’m yelling at my computer right now… but it’s not helping!”

R: “My little fingers are hovering over the keys.”

BU BAND FRIEND: “At least the live blog is up.”

R: “I will defend that open browser window with my life.”

FRIEND FROM THE UMASS ALUMNI BAND DAYS #2: “You’re our link to the inside!”

 

Well, scoring these competitions is a complex business. Takes time. …

 

R: “If it makes anyone feel better, the Live Blog guys are blathering on inanely just the same as [DCI broadcast announcers] Rondinaro and DeLucia probably are. … ‘They’re clapping. They’re still clapping. Lots of clapping.’ … ‘Oh look, corps are marching on.’ ‘More clapping.’ … (I paraphrase.)”

 

R: “Stand by. Control-C, Control-V. Control-C, Control-V. Control-C, Control-V. Control-C, Control-V. …”

 

R: “In 13th place: ‘America the Beautiful.’ … Oh. Sorry.”

 

R: “Now [in the stadium] they’re showing a video, apparently. … … They do this on purpose, you know. #frakkers”

 

FRIEND FROM THE UMASS BAND DAYS #1: [re: what the DCI live bloggers are posting links about while the scores aren’t being announced yet] “aardvarks…. … and barn swallows.”

R: “OMG.”

 

And, at long last, here we go… blood pressure gently rising… as scores are announced approximately 30 seconds apart…

 

R: “11th, 86.40 Spirit of Atlanta”

 

R: “10th, 87.75 Blue Knights.”

 

R: “Caption awards: George Zingali Award for Best Color Guard to Blue Devils.”

 

R: “9th, 90.10 Madison Scouts”

 

R: “The top nine are 90+. Whoa.”

 

R: “John Brazale Best Visual Performance to Crown.”

 

R: “8th place, 90.40 Boston Crusaders. … Nearly caught the Cavs.”

 

DMA STAFF FRIEND #2: “Rob Hammerton is about 10 seconds ahead of [the DCI Finals “Entrance Tunnel” YouTube channel] … refresh refresh refresh” (8/10/2013)

 

R: “Jim Ott Award for Best Brass Performance to Carolina Crown. No … kidding.”

 

R: “7th place, 90.50 The Cavaliers.”

 

R: “Best Percussion Performance (Sanford Award) The Cadets”

 

R: “6th place, 93.25 Bluecoats”

 

R: “Don Angelica Best Overall GE Carolina Crown”

 

R: “5th place, 93.35 Bluecoats”

 

R: “4th place, 96.85 SCV … A 3 point spread.”

 

R: “3rd place, 96.95 The Cadets … My God, that only gets them 3rd place.”

FRIEND FROM UMASS ALUMNI BAND DAYS #3: “.1 over SCV? Scoring is crazazazy!”

 

R: “2nd place … … 98.05 Blue Devils”

R: “And Indy LOSES ITS MIND.”

R: “1st place, 98.30 Carolina Crown”

 

R: “Hey, [Friend-With-A-Niece], you can go to bed now.”

FRIEND FROM THE UMASS BAND DAYS #1: “She’s still screaming…”

 

R: “Yay performance. Yay instruction. Yay support. Not to forget, though: not for nothing are Messrs. Michael Klesch and Thom Hannum [Crown’s brass- and percussion-arrangers] in the Hall of Fame.”

 

R: “Okay, here’s a (not-) trivia question for DCI historians: Offhand, can you think of any other team of brass and percussion arrangers who have won world championships together … with two different corps? … in two different decades?”

 

R: “Hey, UMassers – this is what all the fuss was about.” [To this post, I attached My-Friend-With-A-Niece’s photo of Her Niece, who was a percussionist with Carolina Crown, along with a superimposed graphic of her corps’s final score, with a caption: “That’s my niece on the left, crying because she is a DCI WORLD CHAMPION!!!!!!!!!!”]

 

Granted, I didn’t put in the kind of physical and mental effort that any of the actual musicians did, that night … not remotely close … but I did sleep soundly.

August 10, 2017 Posted by | drum corps, Facebook, Internet, journalism, social media, technology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We’re Done Here

I try to think of myself as a pretty good listener.

Partly because my early college years were so full of me bending friends’ ears so often, as I tried to navigate this or that social or academic minefield, that I’ve since wanted to try and make it up to them, by paying it forward.

But also, it’s not a bad quality to aspire to, just to deal with people well.

My goal – maybe not overtly, or always in the forefront of my mind, but still, my goal – is to try to see things from the other fellow’s perspective. It can be hard to reach common ground if you only stare at your own feet.

It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth the effort. Even if you didn’t reach that common ground, well, Yoda was wrong: there is “try”.

I could say that the last month, or three, or eighteen, have been challenging from this perspective, upon my social media feed. But it’s actually not completely true, at least in this one regard: as it works out, the great majority of folks with whom I have Facebook Friendships happen to share a lot of my political views. Thanks to one thing and another, we seem to share the same attitudes about how you treat other people, even beyond the battle lines of modern politics. Politically, it is without question an echo chamber. But (and not every online outlet can lay claim to this) it’s also a place that I can visit which features a whole lot of sympathy and empathy, a whole lot of people showing support for each other. The concrete, actual world surely could use more of this.

I’m actually pleased to say that I have several friends (Facebook- as well as brick-and-mortar) who identify as Republicans – Eisenhower Republicans, to be sure, but it technically counts – with whom I regularly have constructive conversations and, just as importantly, I have a pretty good time hanging out with. Online or in person.

This is not about that.

This isn’t about party lines, and although you may have trouble believing it, it isn’t about the current occupant of the Oval Office either.

It took all of the most recent month, or three months, or really eighteen months. I was right on the verge, but several times I fought the urge. And tonight, I finally did it.

I unfriended somebody.

For a long time, I’d made a quite conscious effort – after reading one of this gentleman’s posts or observing whatever link was being proffered – to keep his contributions around. To not push him away, virtually speaking. After all, never a bad idea to see how the opposition is thinking, what their approach is – whether it’s politics or football or what. A new thought may occur to you … or at least you can use that “opposition research” to hone your argument.

And this gentleman’s posts and links had consisted of thoughts that I definitely didn’t agree with, but they were always fitting into one of two categories: earnest opinion about policy, or snarky remarks about folks on my side of the political aisle. The swings that he took were always metaphorical.

This little meme was different, though.

Not to fall into the “both sides are just as bad” trap – because I happen to believe that on a great many counts, in a great many ways, one side is in fact substantively worse than the other. But I do acknowledge that in the world of pointed snarky memes, one political side doesn’t have a total monopoly on the sort of meme humor that cuts pretty close to the bone.

I can appreciate clever a lot more than I can appreciate ham-handed. Although sometimes ham-handed has its place.

Again, the meme that finally caused me to pare down my list of Friends by one … was substantively different than the usual.

It was effectively a two-panel cartoon.  Panel #1 had a caption that read, “HOW PROTESTERS SEE THEMSELVES”, and the captioned image was a photograph of half a dozen people who clearly were part of some protest march or demonstration or other, protesting and demonstrating passionately.

Panel #2’s caption read, “HOW I SEE THEM”.

The image was of a series of speed bumps.

Whether or not you remember the recent terrorist attack in Nice, France, during which a man drove a truck straight through throngs of strolling tourists and killed many of them, doesn’t matter.

If you post that meme – if you attach your name to it, and thereby declare that you are standing behind the sentiment – then you are, very simply, advocating violence. Possibly lethal violence. You are saying that you think it’s okay to mow down other human beings with a motor vehicle. You are, further, making a joke out of it.

Aaaaaaand we’re done here.

I’m done with you.

Doesn’t matter whether you support Trump or Trudeau or a trumpet or a truffle. Doesn’t matter whether you’re a conservative or a conservationist or a concierge or a contra dancer.

I am done with you.

There are many more mature ways to express an opinion. There are many more humane ways to deal with other people. There are other people out there who are mature, or humane, or in many cases both, that I would prefer to deal with — whether I agree with them politically or not.

I won’t go to my unFriend’s house and throw things at it in order to let him know. In this case, he’ll only know that I’m done with him when it occurs to him that he hasn’t seen my posts in a while. (Given the capricious way that Facebook’s algorithms cycle people in and out of other people’s feeds, it may not strike him at all.) Social media allows me to excise his view of the world from my immediate daily awareness with a simple mouse click. No muss, no fuss.

I know; it’s a passive-aggressive way of dealing with this.

There are enough aggressive-aggressive behaviors in the world to contend with, which increasingly we need to address, though; and it’s not always crucial to fight fire with fire.

But I just don’t have it in me to try to engage with somebody who thinks people are speed bumps.

February 22, 2017 Posted by | current events, Facebook, friends, humor, Internet, news, social media | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment