Playground or Prison?

The impetus for this blog was a Facebook conversation, so it seems only fitting that  this space will provide an opportunity for some withdrawal from  Facebook.

I’ve always championed for social media, claiming sites like Facebook allowed me to “have the conversations that I wish I was having with the people I don’t get to see”. I’ve traveled a lot, as have many of my friends, and often our geographic locations don’t line up. Facebook allowed for maintenance of pre-existing interpersonal relationships. It might only be in the format of a brief wall post or tagged photo as simple reminder that they were on my mind, but I think that enriches relationships rather than deteriorates them.

But recently the dark side of social media reared its head (or did social media pull out the dark side of me?). A person whom I see about two-three times a year, usually in a bar, made a comment in what I perceived to be a “private space” ( yes, I realize Facebook is an antonym to “private” , but we all create some set of norms in our heads as to what belongs on there and what doesn’t) what evolved from it was a digital pissing contest.

I’m more than willing to share my life with Facebook, less thrilled about living in Facebook. So I’ve decided to take a vacation with the hopes of converting  the 10-20 minutes a day I spent on Facebook into micro/macro polemicals and other brain plasma , since that’s what I wanted to do with this in the first place.

It certainly will not  be daily but I’m going to try for a Tuesday/Thursday thing.

Things I’m digging right now:

Big Fan (the trailer makes it look more dramatic than it is)

This fall our hearts and minds were captivated by the  hoodwinks and drunken blunders of eight twenty-somethings spending their summer on the Jersey Shore. Over winter break my life was entirely consumed by it’s popularity; on a crowded Metro North train I met one of the shows producers, a friend served Pauly D. at a RI Chelos, which promted me to do some research on Facebook as to how far I was separated from the Johnston native (the answer is one). What’s interesting, and servely overlooked, is that 3/6 of the cast came from New York’s fifth burrough; Staten Island. Living in New York I’m fascinated by Staten Island, but refuse to spend more than an hour there. The fact that Mike “The Situation” emerged from Staten Island isn’t an entire surprise, but he’s not the only product of the milieu. Big Fan’s central figure is Paul, he is an equally  isolated but drastically less ambitious then his fellow islanders.  A New York Giants fan who lives at home,  works in a toll booth, and spends his days composing rebuttals to an on-air advisory;  Philadelphia Phil (played by Michale Rapperport). The self constructed force-field around Paul’s life is destroyed when he ventures into Manhattan to try and meet his favorite Giant’s player. The bulk of the movie Paul tried to forget/wish away the world outside of Staten Island . At times the film feels like it may descend into some dark territory, a Staten Island version of Taxi Driver, but there is a certain logic that governs both worlds of Paul and the Jersey Shore kids . It’s obnoxiously  juvenile, but it is not criminal.

I spent a lazy morning watching Big Fan, and upon finishing it I crossed my fingers that   True Life: I’m a Staten Island Girl rerun would be playing on MTV

Nixonland: by Rick Perlstein– forty-four men have held the title of “President of the United States” for the 226 years the position has existed. Of those men, only one has resigned. If i were to guess the number of psychobiographies on Richard M. Nixon is triple that of any other president. Nixon was an intelligent but troubled man, who fostered a political rhetoric based on (often exaggerated) moralistic outcry. But Nixonland isn’t really about the man as much as it is about “the voter who…pulled the lever for the Democrat for president because to do anything else…seemed to court civilizational chaos, and who, eight years later, pulled the lever for the Republican for exactly the same reason”.

I’m fascinated by Nixon. From a media studies stand point his presidency was created and destroyed using the new medium of TV. “Liberal eggheads” like  Newton Minlow considered TV a “vast wasteland”, but Nixon was using TV to invite a mass audience into his living room of middle-class sensibilities. Reading the constitution to his daughters, introducing America to his dog. If you ever take a Media Theory class undoubtedly someone will discuss how those exposed to Kennedy’s good looks on TV helped win him the elction, but Nixon is who shaped broadcast into the rhetoric spilling, partisan confirming, device that it is still used for today.

When Brute Force Fails: by Mark Kleinman– Interesting fact, on a global scale America has considerable less crime than other “civilized nations”, yet it has a homicide rate three times that of Australia, Canada, and the U.K. What gives?

Kleinman is a professor of Public Policy at UCLA who argues that the “brute force” of our current crime control policy has been a costly social and financial mistake. He argues  “zero tolerance” is non-sense: there is always more offenses then there is punishment capacity, but there is a way to create a “focused” form of zero tolerance. Kelinman’s command of narrative is a little more academic than someone like Malcolm Gladwell, but the architecture of the book is the same; use interesting and personal stories to engage an audience in research and analysis that is usually only interesting to experts and individauls working in the field.

I’ve been told by some friends in the criminal justice profession that this book “offer nothing new” but I know very little about the subject…. so it was new to me

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