After developing somewhere north of Puerto Rico this Monday, the hurricane has rapidly been moving northwestward and threatens to hit New York City sometime Friday (a Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for New Haven, too). The possibility for natural disaster would certainly put a damper on the Electric Zoo.
Electronic music festivals are quite hard to come by on this side of the Atlantic and, in its second year running, Electric Zoo is New York’s biggest. At last year’s festival launch, attendance reached 26,000. This year’s lineup features many personal favorites: Major Lazer, A-Trak, Steve Aoki and Boys Noize (note to self: Germans do it better, electronica-lly speaking). While my individual leanings tend toward house, minimal and pop-influenced electronica, there is plenty to offer for the more trance/techno-minded listeners. Some of the larger names include Armin van Buren, ATB, Benny Benassi and Dirty South. Running from 11 a.m. Saturday until 11 p.m. Sunday, the event promises to be a musical success, cancellation or collapsing tents excepted.
Earl seems particularly inopportune, considering that Greater New York has been hurricane-free since 1985, when Gloria deigned to grace the area with her presence.
Alas, we despair as chances of a windy city continue to increase (one in four, maybe more) and the chances of our phenomenal weekend precipitously decrease.
Festival organizers have not yet given comment on the hurricane, since they are all busily preparing, but fellow reporter Jordan Schneider ’12 put a positive spin on things to come: “It has the potential to be the most epic day ever if it is not too awful.” He noted that 50 mph winds might be “just scary,” but that we would not need to worry about freezing in this warm weather.
Other visitors share their advice and concern in the form of comments to Electric Zoo’s Facebook page. These comments include, “Time to rock out the Northface hiking ‘fanny pack’ from 1995, the classic gear never goes out of style or function.” Although, truth be told, this is in response to a list of prohibited items.
A more concerned commenter asks, “Alright all joking aside, [what] is up with refunds? Cause 1010 [WINS] is starting to sound pretty convincing.”
A more confident attendee attempted to calm the worriers. “Read the weather report [expletive]. The storm is gonna be in [expletive] Canada by Saturday,” he remarked.
A patriotic supporter chimed in, “Yeah, [expletive] Canada!”
After careful reflection, I’ve concluded that my fellow Electric Zoo enthusiasts would benefit from lessons in charm and eloquence when discussing our neighbors to the north.
The National Hurricane Center offers a more authoritative position on the matter of Hurricane Earl. It informs me in geographical coordinates that New York City, 40° 47’ N by 73° 58’ W, is located somewhere between a tropical storm warning and tropical storm watch.
Regardless of Earl’s whereabouts, I will be at Union Station with my neon blue rain boots promptly at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning.
Freshmen love to reconnect to their high school teachers and friends over winter break.
“Oh hey, yeah, college is pretty sick. I totally have not paid for alcohol like all year. We don’t even have RAs!”
But instead of busting a nut all over yourself, why not spread the love by chatting it up with some senior girls — in high school? They all want to get into college and will want to ask you all sorts of questions about essays and applications and standardized tests — all stuff scene’s sure you think about on a daily basis.
The non-denominational G-d only knows the girl/guy you crushed hard on in high school still will not dig you anyway.
What’s more sexy than a ride on a toboggan? A ride on a toboggan with a lady/man.
scene’s uncle rarely lets loose. His careers as an insurance agent and PTA board member keep him so busy that he can fit only one hour of leisure into his schedule each night, which is normally spent watching Paula Dean on TiVo or helping his wife put the kids to bed. But at your annual holiday dinner, he gets trashed. He’s a big guy too, real stocky, probably played rugby in high school. But he’s high-powered and not related to you. As he starts to stumble, slip him a whiskey sour spiked with a Cialis. When he passes out and his wife peaces, tell your family, “Hey, I’m in college. I know how to take care of drunk people.”
He may fall asleep real fast, but his body will be telling you, “Yes. I want this pseudo-incest.”
Sit at a table with your sexy friends and/or distant cousins. Whip out a dreidel from your pocket. Take turns spinning it. Depending on which side is facing up when it stops spinning, somebody strips.
a) If “nun” is facing up, the player does nothing.
b) If “gimmel” is facing up, the player gets everyone to take off a garment.
c) If “hey” is facing up, the player gets to TOTES make out with the person facing the tip of the dreidel. This can be manipulated so that the spinner will not have to suck face with some busted player.
d) If “shin” (or “peh”) is facing up, the player has to remove a garment.
Some Yalies live in “warm climates.” They return to these “warm climates” over “holiday recess.” Occasionally they spend time on the “beach,” where fit people “tan” and wade in warm water wearing nothing more than waterproof underwear. This sounds pretty sexy, and could perhaps be a great place to find your winter break love.
Mistletoe that ho
During the Holiday season, scene lubes up its lips every 30 minutes with Blistex and Aquaphor — one for sun resistance, one for sheen. scene hangs winter shrubbery on a hockey stick with some string and/or wire, and places it over any attractive person(ality) on its suburban streets. Sexual harassment or holiday festivities? With smooth, shiny lips, no one will question you.
When you’re ejected out of the back-end of winter finals week, still jittery from caffeine, sugar and mind-blitzingly few hours of sleep, your parents and family usually worry. And no, the worry isn’t that you’ve just written the equivalent of two doctoral theses, or that your gums are still bleeding from not drinking enough water while out of your mind in Connecticut Hall, nor is it that you’ve somehow managed to lose an obscene amount of weight or that your skin is gray. It’s really something worse: You obviously haven’t been Christmas shopping. Your bags are fully of greasy clothes, not shiny new gifts crafted by nifty elves.
“It’s the 23rd of December, for christsakes,” they say.
“150 pages … poststructuralist … orgo … four-hour final,” you mumble, clenching your hands to get the circulation back to the fingertips after 65 hours of solid typing.
“I don’t care if you’ve been at a post-structuralist orgy, your sister has bought you a present and your brother has bought you a present and your grandpa has bought you a present, not to mention us,” they reply.
So, on your behalf and in the interest of Yalies’ sleep post-finals, scene scoured the Internet for good gift ideas and found a few — to say the least. But don’t just take it from us: We’ve included happy shoppers’ online responses.
Top pick: Argos Value Juice Extractor, £6.00 from
A small, cheap and functional juicer — perfect for the overwrought mom who’s just discovered the juicing craze.
Alan from Essex, who would recommend this product to a friend wrote: “The price is good, used it three times but it does leak out of the bottom, not much.
It is easy to clean, it does the job that I want it to do and as I said the price right why pay more?” [sic]
Top pick: MANGROOMER Essential Nose and Ear Hair Trimmer, $12.95
Does dad’s Confucius-length nostril hair embarrass you in front of friends and significant others? Then this gift is perfect for him. More expensive versions of this neat toy, lit in different and exciting ways, often adorn the cover of “The Sharper Image” catalog and are at the top of the Web site, which begs the question: How much nostril hair is there in the world?
J.Silvia from Denver, CO recommends it: “Overall I’m pleased with this purchase. As men age we grow hair in places where we don’t need it. I say trim that hair away.”
FOR OLDER SIBLINGS
Top pick: “Snow Blow” legal cocaine alternative, $13.18 a gram from elegalhighs.com
This white powder may not be exactly what John or Jane was looking for, but users have, on the whole, been pleased.
Joshua wrote: “it definatly [sic] keeps you up! good work! i got this product as a freebee and will certinly [sic] be a returning customer”
FOR YOUNGER SIBLINGS
Top pick: BAKUGAN BakuSOLAR B3 Blue Atmos Falcon w/ largest wings, $19.99 from Ebay.com
The young’uns will LOVE this faddish Asian toy. Not sure what it is, but the tagline speaks for itself: “Unreleased!!! It has the largest wings of any Bakugan!!” Also, the seller claims it is incredibly rare, has never been played with (hence no customer reviews) and that he ensures “100 percent customer satisfaction.”
Top pick: Kindle: $259.00, amazon.com
Okay, it’s more than a little pricier than the rest of the gifts on this list, but when have your grandparents ever given you a present that has sucked? Never — grandparents always give magical presents that are freakishly useful/books that are wondrously good/totems that may or may not have an evil demon working on your behalf hidden within them. So splash out on the Kindle and give your grandparents the magic of reading, combined with the magic of technology and the magic of the written word bundled into a sleek gray casing.
Says Jeison: “it is what it is and it does what it says it will do. what else do you need to know?”
Worst pick: Bromo-dragonFLY, gray area psychedelic, $80.00 a half gram from your local dealer
When reviews of a drug on trip report site erowid.org start with the words “Given the fact that I am still alive today, I feel it my responsibility to report on the hell that has been the past few days,” (‘Joan Miro,’ Oct. 12, 2009), and continuing with “For the next hour I was in a nearly catatonic state, unable and not wanting to move,” you’d better leave it alone.
Turn on the tube these days, and you’ll get nothing but holiday flicks. But beware, despite all that tinsel and snow, not all Christmas movies are made alike. Before you fall prey to titles such as, “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” (though that does sound kind of amazing) and “Christmas with the Kranks,” check out these classics that are guaranteed to give you the holiday fuzzies.
‘It’s a Wonderful Life’
Feeling worthless? Upset that your little brother has more presents under the tree yet again? Don’t despair. Maybe your guardian angel will show up too. At least one did for George Bailey, an all-around selfless guy who falls into some terrible luck. In probably one of the most heartwarming stories around, Jimmy Stewart never fails to make us cry, laugh and even swoon.
‘Miracle on 34th Street’
The new one is crap — even if Mara Wilson is kinda cute in that annoying way. But trust us, nine-year-old Natalie Wood in the 1947 original is just as precocious, but sans the whiney voice. Where the remake was pure fluff, targeting our vulnerable heart-strings during such a cheery time, the original is far more intelligent, and there’s actually some character development. Who doesn’t wish the biggest court case around was regarding a man who claims he’s Santa Claus? We’d believe him.
Macauley Culkin before he disappeared off the face of the earth. Never has being left home alone looked so terrifying — or merry.
‘The Family Stone’
OK, it borders on cheesy. Man (Dermot Mulroney) meets woman (Sarah Jessica Parker) who isn’t right for him and brings her home for the holidays. Family hates and tortures her. (Especially man’s sister, played by Rachel McAdams in her first bitchy role since “Mean Girls,” but this time as a brunette.) Parker calls her kid sister in for reinforcement, but alas, Mulroney falls for her. What to do? Despite a contrived plot, “The Family Stone” carries a lot of heart, and this family’s many personalities come together for the holidays in a way that might just remind you of your own.
Buddy: “I passed through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel.” Same way scene gets to New York City.
‘The Santa Clause’
It’s such a shame they had to make three sequels, because the original isn’t half bad. (OK, it kind of is.) Tim Allen accidentally kills Santa Claus, grows a beard and grows rather rotund. Guess who he’s become? As “The Santa Clause” transformation progresses, Allen becomes a better father and ex-husband. It’s feel-good family fodder that will make your annoying little cousin shut up for a couple hours.
By far one the best recent holiday love stories. It does the same things Jimmy Stewart does to us — cry, laugh and swoon.
‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’
Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang never go out of style. They play this one at least a couple of times a week up until the big day, so don’t miss out on Brown’s discovery of the “true” meaning of Christmas. In case you didn’t put two and two together, this is where the term “Charlie Brown Christmas tree” actually came from.
‘A Christmas Story’
scene never wanted a Red Ryder BB gun, but we still want one of those leg lamps. It must be, in the words of Ralphie, “the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window.” Just in case you haven’t seen this one, per usual, it’ll be on TBS for a whole 24 hours starting Dec. 24. scene triple dog dares you to watch it again and again and again.
‘Nightmare Before Christmas’
No, this one isn’t as big on the holiday cheer. But really, come Dec. 26, we’re all a little tired of the holiday hubbub. Who doesn’t get a little rush from the thought of Jack Skellington kidnapping Santa.
‘The Godfather’ (a wildcard)
OK, so it has nothing to do with the holidays. But, this is a family season. And who better to make you appreciate your own family than the Corleones?
It’s 1995 and seven-year-old Julian Kantor ’11 has a great idea. He writes a letter to the executives of a company responsible for the video game Pit Fighter, suggesting they introduce a character wearing a chicken suit. Nothing happens.
Fourteen years later, having swapped his Sega Genesis for an Xbox, Julian has arrived in a decade more receptive to amateur innovation. After spending the summer of 2008 learning to program, he created a game called “Groov,” and posted it on the Xbox Live Indiegames Marketplace, downloadable for a dollar. Ten months later, Groov has climbed to rank seven out of six hundred, Julian’s cut of the profits summing more than $8,000. That’s four times what he earned last summer clocking 40-hour weeks at Border’s.
I visit Julian’s suite to check Groov out. Sitting on his couch, waiting for the TV to flick on, I’m worried I’m not savvy enough to understand the action, but Groov isn’t very complicated. There is a box. Outside the box is outer space. Inside the box is triangular you and a lot of swimming enemy shapes that need to be — three guesses here — shot at.
The groovy part of Groov is that shooting the bad guys (geometric forms Julian says are inspired by Gothic architecture, of all things) generates music. Different enemy shapes correspond to different instrumental sounds — guitar, drums, bass, trumpet — that play against a synth backdrop. Best is the rapper, who when hit, says “yeah, yo, what, yo, uh,” but most audibly, “CA’MON” (I’m told the inclusion of the “a” is crucial). His voice is Julian’s.
Each level ups the tempo toward Groov’s promise of a full-on “intergalactic jazz fusion orchestra,” until the enemies thin to a last cluster of trumpets — a natural outro.
Next week, Julian will fly cross-country to attend the Inside Gaming Awards in Santa Monica, Calif., where Groov has been nominated for “Best Indie Game.” The awards, in their first year, will be hosted in the Red Bull Headquarters and streamed online for tens of thousands on the “Inside Gaming” channel. Groov faces formidable competition from “I MAED A GAM3 W1TH ZOMBIES INIT!!!1,” and Julian’s user votes (anyone with a computer can influence the Gamer’s Choice category) are falling behind.
“Groov is more abstract,” he concedes. “And people are obsessed with zombies.”
But Groov’s fans are vocal on the X-Box discussion boards. Curious Sofa writes, “The music is just … entrancing” [ellipsis his]. ThreeCardMonte counts on Groov for “a good cathartic release after a long day of lectures.” You’d expect slang and type-slop from guys like WastedNRG415, but most everyone on the userboards is polite, thorough, and surprisingly grammatical. Some ask for help; some give it. “Sometimes I want to turn around quickly because an enemy spawns in front of me, but I can’t,” Pandapadawan confesses. PrintMatic to the rescue: “To the guy having issues with spawns … Make the game more about finding a route to survive instead of finding ways to kill everything.”
From iPhone application profits to YouTube stardom, this decade has offered up new populist platforms for self-promotion and entrepreneurship. And perhaps the people in the subcultures — fangirls, conspiracy theorists, gamers — have put the blogs and the tweets and the user forums to the best use of them all. Julian plans to do a little networking in Santa Monica — he’s pursuing a Computing and the Arts major at Yale and wants to make music or video games after graduation — but his future might not depend on it. He’s already created something popular without having to pen a second letter to executives.
Under Julian’s tutelage, I give the game a go. I try to push a button that can’t be pushed; I forget what geometric shape I am; I make monotonic music punctuated by brief successful blurts. Quicker than you can say “CA’MON”— in truth, before I even encounter the intergalactic abstraction of a rap artist that would grant this opportunity — I am outspawned. Julian compliments me on my attempt and kindly takes the controller from my hands.
Sports. Now before you go complaining about how sports don’t matter and why anyone would pay attention to simple games that have no importance in the real world, I want you to think about three profound, transformational sporting events of the past decade:
2001 World Series. New York City is recovering from the terrible attack on 9/11, mourning the loss of thousands dead and wondering about the future of the Big Apple, if terrorism would become a mainstay. The Yankees have been demolished in the first two games of the Championship and are not looking good. Yet, as the Yankees returned to Yankee Stadium, louder cheers were never heard in New York than on those nights as the Yankees won three straight one-run games to take the lead in the World Series. Never before have World Series wins been such a boost to a city’s psyche. Those wins symbolized a city’s rise from the ashes.
Speaking of depression, Boston before 2004 was a depressed city. Certainly not as bad as New York after 9/11, but any Bostonian would tell you that there was just a feeling of hopelessness. The Celtics hadn’t won in forever, and the Red Sox were in the midst of an 86-year drought of a World Series Championship. Elderly Bostonians were worried they’d die before they see the Red Sox win again. Even worse, in the 2004 ALCS, the Yankees had stomped the Red Sox to take a 3–0 lead and put the Red Sox on the brink of elimination. Yet, the Red Sox came back in dramatic fashion; they won the next eight games in a row, sending a bewildered Yankees team packing and winning the World Series for the first time in 86 years. Boston has never partied so hard. Riots, tears, wild celebrations like never seen before. And the rejuvenating effects can even be seen today — Boston is just one of those places where the people are happy. Telling Boston fans that there sports don’t matter is asking for a beating.
And this phenomenon is not peculiar to the U.S. In fact, sports probably have greater meaning outside the U.S. of A than we realize. In the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, an entire nation joined together to support their team’s effort. Germany, a country with a troubling and divisive history, had a tough road into the 21st century. Yet as the nation hosted the World Cup in 2006, Germans truly felt a resurgent pride in their country as the German national team rode excellent play to the semifinals. The entire German nation was on pins and needles watching its team, and the world saw German unity in its most positive light since perhaps the time of Otto von Bismarck.
For those of you who don’t think sports matter, try telling the Germans at the World Cup, or New Yorkers after 9/11, or Boston fans after the 2004 World Series that sports don’t matter. They do matter. They are the dramatic portrayal of athletes committed to excellence, and it is their commitment, resolve, determination and hard work that gives the rest of us inspiration. If nothing else, sports can give us something to feel good about, especially after our darkest moments of pain and disunity. The 2000s reaffirmed the importance of sports as more than just a pleasant distraction from politics and suffering, but an antidote to our agonies and divisions.
And sports became more important in the past decade as more and more people could watch them, and watch them better. From plasma screen TVs to live sports updates on cell phones, palm pilots, and iPhones, the technological revolution has changed the way we watch sports, which are more accessible than ever. Technology has even altered the way sports are played, as instant replay and challenges are becoming more common in ensuring plays are called correctly.
The 2000s held dramatic athletes, like any decade in sports’ long history, but something about this crew was special. Michael Phelps’s barrage of gold medals might mark him the greatest Olympian ever. Ronaldinho of Brazil and Ronaldo of Portugal wowed millions with their control of the soccer ball. Basketball and tennis witnessed a golden age, as the three dominant youth of b-ball (Lebron, D-Wade, Carmelo) demonstrate remarkable play while the many Federer-Nadal matchups have invigorated audiences like never before. The Manning brothers won Super Bowls and Usain Bolt became the fastest man ever.
But our decade in sports had a dark side, perhaps the darkest side in any decade of sports. Scandals rocked baseball and basketball. We had A-Rod, Barry Bonds, Ron Artest, Roger Clemens, Tim Donaghy, Marion Jones, Kobe Bryant and now even Tiger Woods. The integrity of our players and officials have been called into question. Fans don’t know if they can trust their athletes anymore, if they believe them, if they can consider them heroes. Perhaps the lack of integrity and honesty are more representative of our society as a whole than just sports.
Yet the decade fittingly comes to an end with LEBRON, or King James as many like to call him. Lebron is leading a do-or-die season in Cleveland, yet what happens off the court in the 2010 “Summer of Lebron” could prove to be more important. Lebron is, unquestionably, the greatest overall athlete in the world. No human being who has ever watched him can possibly contemplate how he does the things he does. And no human being in the world could possibly run faster, jump higher, and muscle through to the basket as Lebron does on the basketball court. Lebron is an athlete that will define a generation, and his decision in 2010 of where to play could alter the course of basketball and sports history.
The new decade also brings the 2010 World Cup. As the United States rises in the ranks of soccer greats, having defeated Spain in last year’s Confederations Cup, Americans will see in South Africa this summer just how important soccer is to the rest of the world. While American sports loyalties are divided among several sports, many other nations have nothing but soccer to rely on, and national pride and national mood are dependent on their team’s performance at the World Cup. Expect soccer to become more important for the U.S. in 2010.
As the decade comes to a close, it is now more evident than ever that sports are an essential part of our existence, an inspiration capable of bringing hope and optimism to the common person caught in political fracas. Since the days of 776 B.C., when the ancient Greeks held the first Olympics, athletic contests have served as a key element of human life, an opportunity to admire and reward excellence. Sports do matter, and they always will.
That won’t surprise you, my little cyberknight; my darling digital warrior. You are a practiced and gleeful member of the brethren of the Net. Even if you tend Luddite, the following terms are likely still familiar to you: e-mail, IM, Google, YouTube, Facebook, Wikipedia.
Scoffing? I remember seeing my first YouTube video during my senior year of high school. That was three years ago. Today, YouTube is the definitive site for an enormous part of our cultural exchange — viral videos, music videos, news clips. It immortalizes verbal gaffes, bad singing, stupid pranks, the cuteness of babies and fluffy animals. Certain videos even reach internet immortality, at least for a few weeks. But for those few weeks, unless you’re friendless or friends only with technophobes, the video of the moment is basically guaranteed to pass through your inbox. People will e-mail it to your panlist (a Yale term – in the real world it’s a listserv), G-chat about it, tweet it, Facebook it. Then they’ll refer to it during human-to-human interactions, so blithely that if you’re not clued in, you’ll miss it entirely. What makes a good viral video? Mainly, the humiliation of others. But running a close second are adorable babies/animals, crazy people ranting and occasionally, a scripted sketch. There are already countless essays that attempt a diagnosis of our zeitgeist through these videos.
What interests me here is not the content of the videos themselves, but the nature of their availability, and eventually, their pervasiveness. The 2000s were not the beginning of the usable Internet. That was the ’90s. As with the beginning of any new regime, the ’90s were a dark age for the Internet, culminating in the dot-com crash of 1998-2000. The past ten years have hardly perfected the Internet, but with much of the initial framework set down, the aughts have been an incredibly fertile time for Web innovation. Wikipedia arrived in 2001. Facebook in 2004. YouTube in 2005. Google, the old man in the room, was launched in 1996, but it wasn’t until 2003 that the company left Silicon Valley to occupy the GooglePlex in Mountain View, CA. And many of the Google features that are indispensable today were started post-2000. G-mail launched in 2004, but was invitation only until 2007. As of July, it has 146 million users each month.
The complete and accurate definition of the Internet is not what you’d immediately expect. At the most basic level, the Internet describes a ‘network of networks.’ One computer communicating with another is a network. The Internet is that small network exploded exponentially. When you diagram the Internet as it exists today, the image resembles a neuron gone wild: branches of connections so numerous that zooming into the original picture to finally reach a local and comprehensible segment would take a very long time. What we typically interact with is actually the World Wide Web, or, as Wikipedia says, “a series of interlinked hypertext documents,” first “invented” around 1989. This is the Internet you know and love, the clickable digital landscape of text and image, sight and sound. Yet despite the fact that we live immersed in the Internet, few people have a full understanding of what exactly it is they’re mucking about in.
This hardly matters. While computer science know-how might affect the way you perceive the inner workings of the Internet, it has little to do with how most people use the web on a day to day basis.
If you remember the first time you started using the internet (late elementary school, early middle school), you remember a clunky behemoth of such obsoleteness it seems hilarious to imagine. Remember AOL? Besides my dad, does anyone still use it? Remember dial-up? Remember Hamster Dance (what Wikipedia tells me is “one of the earliest examples of an internet meme” — that was 1998)? Today, if a Web site doesn’t load in a few seconds, we begin to fidget and wonder what’s wrong. There wasn’t a lot to do on the early Internet — most of the things we do online today had more competent counterparts outside of the Web.
Mainly, this refers to information. We turn to the Internet for news, weather, directions, movie times, unknown words. We don’t really read the paper newspaper anymore, or watch the Weather channel, or call Moviefone or reach for the dictionary. Instead, we go to nytimes.com, weather.com, moviefone.com (unavoidably ironic), dictionary.com. When we want to know more about something, we don’t go to the library to find the most relevant book. We Google.
Google, along with it’s compatriot Wikipedia, has fundamentally changed the way we think of information. Much as in spousal relationships where years of cohabitation result in the compartmentalization of information (as in, Herbert doesn’t ever know where his keys are because Gertrude always remembers), the Internet is simultaneously crutch and resource. With smartphones, the Internet is literally in your hands, almost all of the time. Even considering that not everyone has a smartphone, the spread of wireless Internet and laptops make the Internet widely accessible. In the same way a village without any telephones would have been considered very remote and very behind 10 years ago, we are approaching a time when a location without Internet access is unthinkable, or if not unthinkable, extremely inconvenient.
More than anything else, the Internet is ubiquitous. It is an omnipresent specter that sticks its nosy fingers into everything we do. E-mail, instant message, Skype, Twitter, Facebook and the other forms of social media and communication mean that we can be reached at any time, and more than that, that we are expected to be vigilant. Whereas 10 years ago you could get away with letting a day go before answering an e-mail, today that time is probably more like a few hours and even then, especially for those with smartphones, you’d probably need an excuse for your negligence.
Aside from how perpetually reachable we’ve become, we are awash in a culture of knowledge that assumes all information is instantly searchable. Don’t know something? Wikipedia it and you’ll be at least halfway prepared. On the one hand, this means that the scholarly dedication to memorization that characterizes the great minds of yesterday will be less common, if not less impressive. Why memorize something that is so easily found online? While some lament this transition, consider the leaps we are taking for research. Once all books are uploaded and searchable, it will be infinitely simpler to siphon the relevant details from millions of texts for a paper. And though others bemoan our shrinking attention spans, our multitasking mania, still others relish our progress towards broad, common, democratic knowledge. The Internet makes the most obscure information in the most obscure field accessible to the casually curious outsider. It bridges the gap between expert and enthusiast. Books may disappear, but reading won’t.
Other alarmists are more frightened of the dehumanization that the internet seems to represent. Instead of spending real human time with real human people, they argue, we interface over the cold microchips of the WWWasteland. How can Facebook wall posts compare to live conversation? But it’s not so much that one form of contact replaces another, than it is that we have found new ways to supplement interpersonal relations. The pleasure we get out of digital exchange is distinct from the pleasure we get out of “real” exchange, but it’s still pleasure. And it’s hysterical to suggest that these alternatives will eradicate traditional modes of relating. As we begin to process and accept new methods of human connection, we will also begin to accept that social media isn’t a worse means of communication, merely a d
I may be rash in saying the internet is the most important technological invention for the distribution of information since the printing press, but there — I’ve said it. And since this is online, it means I can never really take it back. As we know, deletion is never final on the Internet. For a short while after the initial deletion, Google’s cache function ably digs up the dead. After that, the piece disappears into the annals of the web. But if you have the skills, you can find it. And certain percentage of the internet is actually dedicated to storing the history of the internet.
But to go back to the printing press comparison, in a time where the vast majority of the world is literate, we forget that it took a very, very long time for literacy to go from elite skill to common practice. In the same way, internet literacy is one of the major ways we can currently distinguish between generations. Our parents and grandparents are more often than not less capable of navigating and seizing on the benefits and intricacies of the Web. In the same way, our younger brothers and sisters have been weaned on digital milk. They probably know more about certain parts of the Internet than you do. We are still in the beginning stages of the internet; in the beginning of a new way of thinking about reading, knowing and communicating. So much of the Internet is still unlegislated, a sure sign that the shape it takes today will not be the shape it takes in the future.
So where is the Internet going? I don’t know. But wherever it’s going, it’s not going away.
Generation X at Yale may have been the luckiest yet. We’ve grown up riding bikes, playing board games, frolicking outside, reading a few books here and there, maybe some N64—but without the limitless access to the Web or computers that kids have today, which can reduce time spent with people live.
But as those now in their late teens/early twenties entered their double digits at the turn of the century, they started devoting more time to chatting on AIM, writing on Xangas, or stalking—I mean finding new music—on MySpace. This article traces my journey through the social networking sites and our increase in social capital, the resources one accumulates through forming relationships of the decade.
In middle school, if one really wanted to know what their friends were thinking, they would read their Xangas, or customizable blogs.
It wasn’t for the eProps—currency readers awarded other xangans for good posts—the comments, or the ability to do your own html. It was the writing.
My good friend still writes: “coming home from college is a weird time. i don’t know if i’m taking a break from college, or if college is the break from here. it works both ways i guess.”
Really. How insightful could a 13-year-old or 16-year-old be?
Maybe Xanga is the anti- Facebook—you aren’t attempting to grow your circle of friends or reduce interaction to mere pokes and likes, but rather deepening the bonds through constant readership. This is a community of bloggers that combines elements of Facebook (stalking), MySpace (personalization) and more sophisticated blogging sites such as WordPress.
Xanga’s frills are hurting it since users increasingly prefer the clean-cut style and simplicity Facebook flaunts. My friend rants: “i don’t like all the things i can do with this entry. change its font size, bullets, bold…i just want to write, for me, for you.”
When Facebook was still the Facebook and only for college students, there was Sconex, the high school version of Facebook. Urbandictionary describes: “a site where high school students can get to meet new friends…also a place to post ‘Happy Birthday.’” On Sconex, a portmanteau of “school nexus,” students could secretly “crush” on someone, and if the crushes matched, you would be notified. You could list your schedule so friends could find you. You could upload photos, write about what you liked and more. But Sconex never really grew—you saw these high school friends on a daily basis, making social networking online superfluous. When Facebook opened its site to high school students in September 2005, Sconex for my NYC public high school died.
Originally a medium for sharing music, MySpace now allows its users to personalize everything—a symptom of the “my” before the “space”—leading to chaos. Facebook superseded MySpace in unique monthly visitors a few years ago.
With Facebook as an alternative, users do not want to check out “$!!!!KARIN%%%##@”’s profile lest their browsers crash. MySpace also popularized the ‘MySpace’ photo, depicting self-shot portraits at those awkward angles. (You know you have one.)
But MySpace has recently added Facebook-like features such as a homepage with news feeds, friend suggestions and birthday alerts to keep up.
Created in 2004 for college students, Facebook has grown to over 350 million users—larger than the population of the United States! And ever since non-students could join in 2006, business has been booming. Because it has grown with sophisticated privacy settings and greater awareness of who’s seeing what, Facebook is a smart way to social network. Users can keep in touch with ‘friends’ in a variety of ways (from the noncommittal like to a public wall post to a private message), far after you have moved on. From high school. From college. From that first job. From that internship. You will always call up your closest friends when you return home to hang out, but what to do about Pearl or John?
Facebook, unlike the others, arose out of exclusivity. You could only join an institutional network if you had an institutional e-mail address. Initially, users were connecting to people they already knew. Only when Facebook expanded membership did it truly become a social networking site; people now move from online to offline, as Nicole Ellison, et. al. point out in “The Benefits of Facebook ‘Friends.’” But Facebook can fail to reflect offline relationships, especially if users don’t think to ‘friend’ people who are already our acquaintances in real life. Facebook has increased our social capital, a phenomenon that can enhance workplace ambience, improve public health, lower crime rates, and make financial markets more efficient. Texas University researchers recently found that one’s Facebook personality is more often genuine than not.
But at college, Facebook serves another purpose: posterboard. Students promote events they are hosting or attending and can stay in the loop with on-campus activities. How often have you checked YaleStation recently?
Get off the floor, Paris Hilton.
Started in 2006, tweeting is the latest and least understood fad for not only Hollywood and A-list partiers, but also for businesses and the plebs. Twitter gives users 140 characters to post their tweets. Readers can then comment by re-tweeting. It’s helped someone get out of jail while vacationing. This is micro-blogging at its finest.
An October 9, 2009 Businessweek article shows Twitter is helping businesses reach and resolve problems for consumers and establish credibility. It’s fast, it’s short, it’s easy, it’s cheap—the latter especially important as the United States just emerges from its recession. You can even shorten links in tweets with http://bit.ly. This is no mere Facebook status.
So why are some so afraid to tweet? Social networking sites grow without manuals. There isn’t enough critical mass for established Twitter protocol. But we do know people don’t really care if you just bought some shoes. But if Anna Wintour tweets, you really do care. It makes more sense to get twitter accounts for events or clubs or news services with multiple updates throughout the day.
It’s also helpful to actually think of Twitter as a micro-blog—what do you as a blogger want to consistently tweet about? What will ensure that your followers stay?
Twitter harps about it’s simplicity. Tweets can be sent via mobile texting, IM, or online. You only see the tweets of people you follow. Tweet tweet.
Many college students are starting LinkedIn accounts to connect with those in the workforce as well as potential employers. LinkedIn showcases your work experience, extracurricular activities, education—in sum, a cyber resume. Users can even connect Twitters to LinkedIn so tweets appear on your LinkedIn page.
I remember being in the dining hall at Astrocamp, a space camp in Idyllwild, Calif., where my elementary school was on a class trip, and wondering why the radios were all turned to New York stations.
I remember sitting in front of one of Astrocamp’s buildings wearing a wetsuit hysterically crying because I had been told that planes had hit the World Trade Center. I remember thinking, was my maternal aunt, whose office was in the first tower, safe? Could my grandmother have been in the neighborhood?
I remember coming back to school, getting in the car with my mother and her telling me that her sister, my aunt, was okay, but my uncle on the other side of the family, Uncle Alan, was missing.
I remember waiting in my kitchen for a call from my father’s sister, Nancy. I remember crying while getting breakfast at school and another schoolmate, who I always thought hated me, say he heard and was sorry.
I remember sitting in a family friend’s apartment in Los Angeles during a party, crammed with my father and some others in a tiny room, watching the Yankees win a baseball game and springing up in joy.
A lot has been made about the impact baseball had on the country and most specifically New York after the attacks on September 11 — how the Yankees brought the city out of the gloomy haze that had permeated it as the dust settled around Ground Zero. For my mother, my father and me the game was what kept us sane and happy. We set out trailing the Yankees. We drove from our home in California to a playoff game in Oakland and even went to the first game of the World Series in Arizona.
At that first game something magical happened. A moment almost out of “Field of Dreams.” We had just arrived at our seats and batting practice was still underway. The Yankees were out in the field and I ran to the front of our section to get a better look. I was an 11-year-old Yankee fan, decked out in full regalia, in a sea of purple. The Diamondbacks fans did not mock me. Instead they let me slide my way into the front of the throng of people, my tiny glove outstretched. People were calling for the players to hand them old balls that had been hit by some slugger into the outfield. Someone pointed to me and said “just give it to her.” A newbie pitcher, Randy Choate, caught a ball and put it in his pocket. Just as the Yankees were leaving the field he ran over to me and placed it in my glove.
Until recently, I had not thought there was much significance to this moment other than that it was simply one of those great baseball stories, like my father having been at Don Larsen’s perfect game. But reflecting back on that confusing period, the months that would get our country into wars and forever change the landscape of our world, it seems prophetic, emblematic. A young player, not even from New York, picking out a young fan to give a dirty baseball to in solidarity for a city forever changed.
The Yankees would lose the game and eventually the series, but not before they gave hope to a city and a girl in desperate need of some.