Friday, September 25, 2015

I was more fun before YouTube

Today, on Facebook, one of my friends posted this.

MUST SEE VIDEO. The Anderson News captured an incredibly emotional scene when the father of a second grade student at...
Posted by LEX 18 on Wednesday, April 29, 2015


It's a video of a little boy surprised by his father returning home from duty in Iraq. Like most people, my eyes teared up, and then the camera panned over the uncomfortable faces of his classmates and I thought, "Oh that poor kid."

Once he sobers up from the overwhelming joy at his dad's homecoming, that kid is probably going to say the same thing. "Oh my god, did I just bawl my eyes out in front of Amanda?" The next day the boys will start calling him "crybaby," and the name will be virtually branded on his forehead until high school.

In the olden days, (the 90's) this would all be forgotten in a week, but now, this kid's breakdown has been posted to Facebook so not only have his classmates witnessed it, almost 7 million other people have too. This video will also likely be re-passed around every Memorial Day, Veteran's Day and 4th of July. He will be thirty and this video will still be circulating. He'll be at his middle management job, and he'll run into Mary from accounting by the coffee pot, you know, cute Mary, the one he was going to ask to dinner until she says, "Hey, I just saw this video of you, sobbing in your father's arms. So sweet." Great, because ya know, that's exactly how you want your potential dates to see you, as a little boy sobbing in your dad's arms.

Things that used to be private moments are now plastered all over the internet for everyone to see, and we love it. We love getting a glimpse into other people's lives, crying at the tender moments, laughing at their mistakes. Some of the people in these videos love it too, purposely setting up moments to record so they can become You Tube "stars." We've created a culture that now rewards stupidity and embarrassment. But there's a cost, like for the kid in the video above, and for the moments on the other side of the screen.

Case in point. A Fourth of July party a few years ago, and after too many beers and hotdogs, I was moved to sing a rendition of the National Anthem with sparklers. As soon as I hit the first note, the phones came out. All of a sudden, I went from being just another ass in a folding chair to Angelina Jolie headed down the red carpet. Drunk me didn't care. The next day, Hungover Me panicked when I found the video posted online, comments already flowing in. I made my friend take it down.

It seems harmless, right? Video gone and forgotten....except, I haven't forgotten. The next party, my favorite song came on. I wanted to get up and dance, but my eyes immediately bounced across the camera phones in everyone's hands, like a thousand little eyes ready to stand up and stare, and not only stare, but capture the moment for eternity. I kept my ass in the chair this time and continued talking about politics, because politics are safe. Boring adult conversations don't get posted to YouTube and watched a million times. And the result is a boring party that no one really enjoyed and no one remembers.

Parties in the old days were always fun. Look at MadMen, those crazy sixties parties where people took off their clothes and wore lampshades as hats. You know why people did that? Because there were no cameras. Even in the early 2000's. Yes, we had cameras, but they were old cameras, with film. If someone took a picture of you doing something embarrassing, there was a good chance there was going to be a finger over the lens, or the film would get over-exposed. There was an even greater chance of that film never getting developed. That picture getting scanned and put online afterward was nearly impossible, because ya know, people are lazy. You also really had to want it, and I think, when people have a second to think about it, they're like, "Maybe I shouldn't post that photo of my son on the potty." Because really, if someone took a picture of me on the toilet, they would either be dead or in jail. It's a crime, folks.

But now, you don't have to think. You shoot, post, and then a million eyes are on it, and this my friends, is why we have selfies of girls in front of a poo-filled toilets circulating online. That would have been caught long before it made it online when I was younger.

Now, I'm not trying to take down YouTube, I just think people have forgotten or don't even know what life was like before. Not everything needs to be videotaped. Not everything needs to be posted online. I give everyone a solemn vow that before I record something, it will not go online. It will just be for us, to privately look at and enjoy when we're old and we can laugh about how silly we were. I also make it a rule at my parties. No paparazzi. It takes a few minutes for people to adjust to the idea, but once they do, and the vodka comes out, my parties are memorable. But, I don't have any proof of it. You'll just have to take my word for it.


Friday, September 11, 2015

The Cliffhanger

Defined by wikipediaA cliffhanger or cliffhanger ending is a plot device in fiction which features a main character in a precarious or difficult dilemma, or confronted with a shocking revelation at the end of an episode of serialized fiction. A cliffhanger is hoped to ensure the audience will return to see how the characters resolve the dilemma.

The phrase I focused on here is "hoped to ensure the audience will return." HOPED. Because I despise cliffhangers at the end of a book. At the end of a chapter? Sure. Then I can get some immediate resolution, but when you're reading the first of a series and you have to wait a year for the answer, it's torture. In fact, I usually feel duped, so I don't even bother getting the next in the series for fear it will try to trick me again. (Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.)

I expect that the conflict raised in the novel will be solved by the end of 500 pages. When it isn't; it's frustrating. Yes, I get that you're trying to sell more books, but what I prefer to do is to solve conflict A and introduce conflict B in my last few pages. That will ultimately be the focus of book two, but I want my readers to feel like the time they spent with me in book one wasn't just a build up to something else. (Although, I'll admit, I am a shameless user of the cliffhanger for my chapter endings.)

Q: So, where did this blasted device come from?
A: We can all thank Thomas Hardy. In “A Pair of Blue Eyes,” a novel that was published in fifteen installments in Tinsley’s Magazine in 1873, the main characters literally fall from a cliff at the end of one of these installments.*

And since then, characters have been hanging from cliffs, defusing volatile explosives, catching husbands in affairs, and tearing off weaves all for the sake of dramatic pause for the past 142 years.

But I want to take a poll.

How do you feel about cliffhangers?
 
pollcode.com free polls

*Source: "Tune in Next week" from the New Yorker.