lovehate: The Week of Lists

For many years, growing up, the week between Xmas and New Year's was simply a week to exhaust every minute of playing time with every new toy I'd received and do my best to avoid wearing any of the new clothes until they were incorporated into my wardrobe when school restarted.

As I got older, the week became an opportunity to hang out with friends, maybe indulge in a few beverages, and count down the days until the real world would descend upon us once again. This also became the time that I developed an affectation for college bowl games where I had no history, no idea, or no stake in the teams, but I simply appreciated the fact there was a game that seemed to mean something on every night. I have since learned that games like the "San Diego County Credit Union Bowl" probably don't mean anything at all except to the teams, their fans, and the execs of the San Diego County Credit Union. This is also the time I learned to appreciate a uniquely Canadian pastime of watching the early round games World Junior Hockey Championships in what was usually some remote Finnish city spelled with six Ks, 14 Ms, and the occasional I or E thrown in for good measure.

As I moved into the phase of my life where pop culture and media became omnipresent in all non-working moments, I came to a new understanding of what this week meant for media outlets: "The Top Ten Best of Worst of Most Interesting Fill in the Blanks of the Year"

So as we move into the Week of Lists, I turn to my new favorite medium, the web, to provide me with further validation for dubbing this week with such a moniker.

The venerable Time magazine has deemed GasBuddy as a best "Advice and Facts" website of the year. While some may think the address leads to a fetish site for flatulence, the page actually allows you to track where the cheapest gasoline prices are across the United States. I can already tell, by using the site, that the next time I fill up, I should drive to Texas. What I really want to know is how "groundbreaking" are they considering themselves with their 10 Essential Websites: Wikipedia, Yahoo Finance, Craigslist, ESPN, Yelp, Facebook, Digg, Google, TMZ and Flickr? Do we really need a list like this? The only site on this list that may even remotely be a stretch of knowledge to people living outside a large urban area is Yelp, and, in many cases, even if they went there, they might not find much local information anyway.

Time's Top Gadget is the Peek Email Browser that's only $99, but has a $20/month fee to do nothing but email. Here's an idea. Take the $240 you'll spend on the Peek subscription next year and buy an iPod Touch that'll let you do email anywhere there's Wi-Fi.

Amazon's Book of the Year is The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher. Other than sounding like a Robert Ludlum title gone wrong, I can't say I know anything about this book, and, as it possibly may be the next American classic, maybe I should find out... hmmm... "The Northern Clemency begins at the perimeter of a late-summer party, amidst a din of neighbors gossiping one moment and navigating awkward silences the next. But once you encounter the Glover family--in particular, their languidly handsome teenage son Daniel--there's no turning back." Hell, if there's no turning back, I'd better not begin. I'm not too keen on reading about the "languidly handsome". Apparently neither is the Library Journal who's list contained a couple of dozen books with Hensher's nowhere to be found.

Lifehacker has taken the "Best of" list to its deconstructionist next step with The Most Popular Top Ten Lists of 2008 that have to do with all things Life2.0. Of course, for some reason, they chose 20 Top Ten Lists... and that just doesn't jive with my Top Ten sensibilities. I do, however, heartily recommend the Top Ten Conversation Hacks from August. It is rich with ways to feign interest and blow people off. has declared MGMT as their artist of the year based on user "scrobbles" and their number one album is Coldplay's Viva La Vida. NME names MGMT's Oracular Spectacular as the best CD. Amazon's 2008 album is Only by the Night from Kings of Leon. Blender and New York Magazine pimp L'il Wayne's Tha Carter Ill. The LA Times, the NY Times, The Onion and Rolling Stone pump Dear Science by TV On The Radio. And Fleet Foxes self-titled release takes number one from Mojo, Pitchfork and Under the Rader.

But my 2008 number one for useless lists goes to People magazine. And so, put on your helmets for some of the most useless, subjective choices of irrelevant celebrity topics (because celebrities really are people too):

  • Most Talked About Star: Britney Spears
  • Most Intriguing Hookup: John Mayer and Jennifer Aniston
  • Couple Most Likely to make it to 2018: Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner
  • Best Baby Style: Kingston Rossdale (for those who care, Gavin Rossdale and Gwen Stefani's kid ((for those who really care, Gavin Rossdale used to be popular as an emo singer in the band Bush)))
  • Best Body After Baby: Halle Barry
  • Best Boyfriend: Jake Gyllenhaal
  • Best Chest: Mario Lopez
  • Best Bikini Body: Jessica Alba
  • Best Celeb Smackdown: Charlie (Sheen) v. Denise (Richards)
  • Best Baby Name: Harlow Winter Kate Madden (Nicole Ritchie's kid)
  • Funniest Celeb on the Web: Sarah Silverman and Matt Damon

I feel dirty.

But shouldn't one feel at least a bit wrong in summing up people's lives, work, artistic endeavors, and business into incomprehensible selections that often defy logic and scream for validation. Shouldn't there be a nagging, twitching fear that in reading these lists I'm giving credence to an exercise that can serve no purpose but to perplex and infuriate? Can there possibly be a reason to sustain the media-frenzy madness that is "Best of" week? I suppose I could go back to watching bowl games or playing with toys. Instead, I will chum the shark-infested waters of list making with some choices of my own.
  • Best Movie: WALL-E
  • Best CD: Bend Sinister - Stories of Brothers, Tales of Lovers
  • Best Concert I Attended: Martin Tielli (Casbah, Hamilton ON)
  • Best Internet Radio - CBC Radio 3
  • Best Sci-fi TV: Doctor Who (BBC)
  • Best Variety TV: The Daily Show
  • Best Drama TV: Dexter
  • Best Comedy TV: Big Bang Theory
  • Best BitTorrent Search Engine: isoHunt
  • Best Twitter App: Tweetdeck
  • Best New Blogging Site:
  • Best New Microblogging Tool:
  • Best Free App Download: Chrome
  • Best Daily Podcast (Tech):
  • Best Weekly Podcast (Tech): This Week in Tech
  • Best Weekly Video Podcast (Pop Culture): Totally Rad Show
  • Best Decision I Made: Starting to Blog and Podcast at
Happy Week of Lists all! Hopefully we can all share in each other's pain as we endure the memories and suppositions of pop culture pundits for the next week until life begins anew in 2009. Until then, go rent WALL-E and catch up on Dexter and Doctor Who. You won't be sorry.


lovehate: The Church of Baudhism

The WEB is my shepherd; I shall not doubt.
It maketh me to dive into vast communities: it leadeth me to confide my thoughts.
It restoreth my soul: it leadeth me in the paths of hypertext for the clean code.
Yea, though I surf through the torrents and flashes with spyware, I will fear no evil: your apps are with me; the scan and the quarantine comfort me.
Thou preparest a browser before me to learn of the faceless: thou anointest my mind with wiki; my apprehension becomes understanding; 
Surely CPUs and broadband will follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell with the Web and the Network for ever.

- The Word of Baud

While some of you may be railing in sacriligious overtones of blasphemy and heresy, surely many of you must realize that the Web has become the one of the largest churches in the world. Hundreds of millions of us attend every day to read the good words of the preachers and prophets and skeptics and soothsayers all contributing to the word of Baud.

Baudhism's followers as of June 2008 total 1.46 billion people. While still behind the 1.9 billion Christians in the world, this easily overtakes all other major religions. I understand that most you are thinking that there is no way the Web could be considered a religion. I ask you to consider the following definition of religion from

"A religion is a of way of life based on tenets (or a belief system) about the ultimate power. It is generally expressed through conducts such as prayers, rituals, or other practices, often centered upon specific supernatural and moral claims about reality (the cosmos, and human nature) which may yield a set of religious laws. Religion also encompasses ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as personal faith and religious experience."

The Web is a way of life for many people. It helps to define their existence. It facilitates communication. It sets the boundaries for what's considered sacred and profane within its own parameters. It provides, challenges, and allows for diverse beliefs all in one system. It accepts differences while galvanizing them all in two common frameworks: Web - the word, and Web2.0 - beyond the word. Such frameworks are subservient to the ultimate power: Network - which is, beyond the servers and the cable, the minds which make it up.

The beliefs are expressed through rituals and practices that gather up flocks by interest or history or geography. We script, we blog, we message, we update, we tweet, we read the good word of other people, we interpret and we believe. It seeks to explain the unexplainable. It seeks to define good and evil. It encourages creativity. It has zealots to be sure, but is fully accepting of those who just visit from time to time to make their contributions.

The Web defines us by defining our times and by seeking to redefine history. The winners may have written the history books, but the losers now have a voice of their own and a worldwide audience.

Lastly, people have faith in the web. That Wikipedia is taken as gospel and social networks have usurped traditional places of worship happened in no small part due to people believing in the general good of the Network.

It is said of religion that one only gets out of it what they're willing to put in. Such is the same with the Web. Our most passioned advocates are those acolytes who devote their lives to serving the Network to make the Web better. For them there is no greater reward than the work itself. I'm sure that less than a century ago, people would have considered it god-like for one person's thoughts to reach almost everyone in the world within seconds. And the Web makes this possible.

Baudhism does not disavow anyone for adhering to another belief system based on traditional mysticism. Baudhism embraces diversity, tolerance, individuality, creativity and participation. The Network shall allow access and allow inclusion, but not ensure popularity or status. As any religion, the Web can be used as a tool for such things, but these are not the ends of the Web in itself.

Embrace Baudhism. Identify yourself as a Baudhist on your next census. Celebrate holidays of any denomination because they allow people to stay home and spend more time with Web. Send greetings, send mail, chat, upload, download, interact. Become part of the trinity:

You belong to the Web.
The Web belongs to the Network. 
The Network belongs to you.

The Web

lovehate: how we hide

When Aaron Sorkin's oft-imitated Colonel Jessop storms "You can't handle the truth!", most of us sit in eager anticipation for Tom Cruise to work his manipulative magic and rip the truth from the smug colonel's countenance.

Some of the most common themes in literature arise around the tug of war topic between appearance and reality. Fiction, however, does not hold eminent domain over such a struggle. Most people spend their waking hours delving into all aspects of trying to hide reality from others and themselves while, at the same time, demanding transparency from everyone around them.

Whether it's the "flattering" clothes we choose, or the cosmetic alterations, or the airs of grandeur we adopt, we do our very best to conceal and hide what we consider a flawed reality from everyone else. We work to fulfill expectations that aren't our own by wearing certain styles. While most people admit a fondness for being able to lounge around in a t-shirt and sweats on a weekend, we are quite willing to adorn ourselves according to expectations. We will don the business suit and tie and carry the cow hide portfolio. We will gather around the water cooler or surreptitiously open chat windows to compare notes on the previous night's reality television escapades or try to derive gossip from who's spending too long in each other's office. We would be horrified to find ourselves on the speculative end of rumor, but are quite willing to exercise, with reckless abandon, character dissections of others based on the most miniscule tidbits of information. It's a small wonder we take such pains to hide in public.

We decorate our houses in the acceptable fashions, buying furniture endorsed by television homemakers if over 35 and Swedish box store consortia if under. We hang posters and prints and pictures and paintings to microcast the inner-workings of our sensitive minds to those that walk by and ponder. We allow clutter to happily gather around us for a week and will relish basking in its fort-like structures until an hour before company comes and it all must vanish in an effort to convince friends and acquaintances that we foster pristine, perfect living spaces. We have collections of place settings that remain in cloistered velvet-lined boxes or on display in glass-doored cabinets that we only use with a special brand of event or assembly. We spend hours, days and sometimes weeks on crafting our yards into elaborate Home and Garden pictorials in an effort to send a message. If the medium is the message, and our front lawns are the medium, we need to learn new languages.

We create online personas that seek to enhance our best qualities and obliterate our worst. We try to impart wisdom in 140 characters or less. We post links to oddly-interesting websites that we think other people will also like, but, more importantly, will create a perception of cutting-edge cool in whichever milieu we choose to categorize ourselves. We social network with people we met one night at a bar and will never see again. We've seen pictures of their family and friends in our feeds and, for the time being, seem to know more about them than some of our own family members. We reduce our 3D reality down to 2D profiles. We use Facebook as a verb. We twitter, plurk, friendfeed, ping, and google each other to derive snippets of information that will further feed our eternal quest to think we "know" about someone better that they think we do.

We speak less than honestly, but rarely completely dishonest. We know how to spin a message yet get infuriated upon discovering the media has. We want to divulge enough to stay relevant but not enough to make us obsolete. We obfuscate better than any press secretary. We politic better than any politician. We can manipulate as well as any cult leader, though sometimes our guilt gets in the way. We find ways to avoid conversations when the topic seems too tedious. We find ways to push conversations when our comfort zones allow for insight. We can cut to the quick to make a statement, to make a point, to make an enemy, to make an ally. We throw up shields. We duck and cover. We block emails, unlist our numbers, disassociate and move to new streets, cities and countries all in the effort to avoid truth.

Colonel Jessop was right. We can't handle the truth. Because while it sits out there like the Grail, the Fountain of Youth, or the Pot of Gold, the quest is always more important than the prize itself. What do you do when you find the Holy Grail? Have a pint?

lovehate: Twitter Play-By-Play

Really? No, I'm seriously sitting in awe here.

I get that people are pumped up for this US election, and while I swore I wouldn't do another lovehate rant on elections, this is not so much on the elections as what people are doing while the election is happening: twittering... REALLY?

Are we so starved for social intercourse that we are willing to snippet snipe about red state/blue state maps and exit polls? Sure there's reason for commentary about several things to do with an election. Discuss the results and potential impact of how the country has once again been split down the middle and wax electoral about policy shifts and the economy. Engage in dialectic and diatribe about how pundits and media have sullied the political process. Deride Wolf Blitzer, Sean Hannity and Keith Olbermann. Criticize the networks for declaring winners based on exit polls before everyone has even voted. Type insight. Type observation. Be bold and above all, complete your thoughts, because while I encourage all bloggers to express themselves, I wish they would do so with well-developed ideas that went on for longer than 140 characters.

While I obviously have an affection for Twitter, and appreciate the role microblogging has occupied in the social networking community, I can honestly not think of one of the many great people I follow that would prompt me to spend the night in front of a browser window watching pithy comments like "Wow, how about that Ohio map!" I'm more interested in hearing about what Ramen noodle seasoning people are using while channel surfing.

All respect to the power bloggers and Web 2.0 gurus who's followers will hang on every word of their Twitter,, Plurk, or Pownce election coverage. If you've got followers that want to know what you think on a minute by minute basis, you've done a hell of a job in consolidating a loyal following who will hang on your every word. and, for bloggers, followers are currency. You've established a community that hears your opinions on tech or media or gadgets and integrates your subjectivity into their own. Kudos for that. I would have it no other way. I don't have time to keep up on every new media advancement and I heartily appreciate the podcasters and bloggers that parse down daily and weekly events in tech for me in compartmentalized segments.

Am I really missing the boat on the online ocean that makes it hip to engage in blurb ineractions about something that, by sitting in front of your computer, you're doing less to participate in than a person standing in line with their registration card? I honestly don't begrudge someone who gets a kick out of spending their election night (or any night for that matter) lost in a sea of millions of tweets if they honestly get a kick out of such things. Really, you could be doing far worse things like... oh, I don't know... watching network coverage of the election with pundits in formation like a line up of gargoyles sitting behind a desk that looks like it came off of page 63 of the Ikea catalogue.

If you really look forward to being part of tweet ocean during a big event. Have at it. Curse my idiocy and create yourself a special avatar for the night. But, if you're like me, who generally respects the input of the people whose tweets you follow, ignore the flood of shock and blah that accompanies the event. Take two shots of NyQuil, pop on a live version of Mandrake Root by Deep Purple, and wake up in the morning where the results of what happened the night before will not have changed... actually, just go to and watch it for ten minutes - you'll achieve the same effect as the drugs and the music.


lovehate: avatars - the identity benders

avatar machine

For years of online gaming the avatar has become a player's online manifestation that outstretched the simple handle. And although I'm not downplaying the rationale for such a creation within a gaming community, there now has become a growing affection for stylized avatars within social networking communities. Whether it was through people disguising their true image on MySpace or not wanting to get "tagged" in Facebook or simply thinking their Twitter icon looks cool as a zombie or anime character, avatars have taken on meme of the month status.

Within a Massively Multiplayer game experience, I can appreciate a need to be distinguished from the hundreds or thousands of other players who are all trying to decide which player to frag or cast a spell on. In fact, being someone who's absolutely useless with names, I can appreciate a unique avatar. When playing online poker, I rarely remember someone by their screen name, but I have a far easier time remembering someone who sucked out a river inside straight draw by their crop circle pic of Futrama's Bender... I hate you ironically-named MadSkillz69.

There is also a certain need for privacy with some people who want to use social networking sites and want to avoid a photorealistic representation for one reason or another. I find it hard to justify a constant shuffling of personal avatars on a weekly or daily basis. After all, isn't the purpose of an avatar for someone to be able to identify you when a real picture is unavailable?

While I'm not a player/user of Second Life, I would imagine that radically changing one's appearance on a regular basis would not only be counter productive to maintaining intergame relationships, but frustrating to any other players who would not want to persist in figuring out each person every time they logged on.

I'm not one of those Twitter users with thousands of people on my list, but even within the short list of people that I do follow, it seems there is constant change. Whether it's a manga, hobbit, alien, superhero or South Park character that you choose to represent you, I crave consistency for at least a short period of time.

And, just for the edification of those of you who participate in every avatar meme, allow me to let you in on the "down low" about a couple things. First, your dog, baby, or garden gnome is not you. As much as I appreciate you actually using a real photo as a representation, I'm not buying the miny sorcerer's hat and the rake. Also, yes your baby looks cute in the same way that all babies look cute when you have someone making face and bubbling out gibberish while popping two dozen pics on your Kodak C340, but I'm not social networking with your baby... unless of course they can type, "LOL, I can't believe how drunk we were!" after every picture that you post. At that point, they'll at least be on par with 75% of the rest of Facebook.

Next, appreciate the size of your avatar on most social network pages. To place family portrait in the space instead of a simple headshot pretty much just screams "Hey, I'm going to justify the time I spend online with friends as extended family networking time because it's not MY profile, it's a FAMILY profile. If you're going to have a picture that includes you as your avatar, how about JUST you. Also, for all you college guys who use a picture of a bikini model or your favorite emo singer as a pic that represents you, congratulations, you have now become a less than one-dimensional facade of a human being on a platform that only allows a single dimension.

I'm all for individualized expression on a medium that has moved from text to images to audio to video. I know that many of you like to express your inner values by changing your pic from laughing you to serious you to Macauley-Culkin-Shockface-in-Home-Alone you, but I beg you, please, stop.

I will cop to the fact that my avatars are always photoshopped to remove photorealistic aspects, but, anyone who knows me will always recognize my face and not that of a stuffed animal or a car. Also, I rarely, I repeat RARELY change any of my social network representations. I'm quite ready to admit that, from day to day, my macrolife doesn't change that much and, even though I could create some crazy avatar to pretend that my life is somehow more interesting or exciting than it is, I'm prepared to allow the static, consistent avatar choices I've made to be an indication of someone comfortable with who they are and not seeking trying to keep up with the meme of the month club.

thinglets: the internet is about to die

According to Mary Richert (I really don't know who she is, but she probably doesn't know who I am either) of, social networking sites are more popular than porn sites. In the article she asserts some criticisms about social networks that I agree with. Most importantly, she states that, in comparing social networks to the antisocial aspects of porn, "there's something similarly antisocial about social networking sites."

My immediate concern is that internet technology has been driven by porn since its inception. Broadband was developed simply as a way to get porn faster delivery times. Porn drove peer to peer applications for almost a decade... let's face it, while many people on Kazaa were downloading Britney Spears songs, other were looking for Britney Spears lookalikes in compromising positions. Bandwidth demands spiked for Pam Anderson and Tommy Lee and, a few years later, for A Night in Paris.

While, from a purely moral and sociological perspective I can appreciate the fall of porn from this pinnacle position, I fear the future without the omnipresent push of porn. I don't expect holographic technology is going to be demanded for people to talk to in-laws overseas, but 3-D porn? The movement that is going to bring the tactile/kinesthetic cyber interfaces of the future may be left in the cold if lonely education has to prompt change instead of porn.

We have reached a precipice my friends. As Trekkie Monster of Avenue Q sang: "Why you think the 'net was born? Porn. Porn. Porn."