Tag Archives: iPhones

The Audience Whispered in…

Star Wars

The audience whispered in. The orchestra was seated. The lights dimmed. Me? I too was intrigued. It was a first. For me too, given my new employer. Now on stage, the musician I’d come to review seemed oddly subdued. Anonymous. Mysterious. Everyone was transfixed, staring. What would the conductor say? Anything?

…I was a new critic, of both music and books, for a major newspaper. It was a virgin experience for me, my first attempt at gaining an audience for a column that wasn’t freelance…and about movies. How would I do? Would I be able to feed my dog, and maintain a condo downtown? Sure, it was a small condo. But my dog was big. “Big” was his name, too. “Big” the dog. Scary. Hopefully scary enough to keep muggers at bay, if not creditors. I needed a big story to afford that.

…I sat there, remembering my cushy WordPress column and Youtube channel, all about the latest movie stars. The gossip, glam, glitz. It paid well, got lots of hits. But I was bored, and lonely. There was no excitement anymore. Sure, I used my imagination to spice things up. Like the video “Spice Girls in Space.” I imagined a game show like AGT, a scifi casting call for actors who had dated one of them. Jabba the Hutt was one of the judges. Or the time I superimposed the faces of animals onto the torsos of stars being interviewed on late night shows, and changed the animals based on the questions being asked…and the responses. Someone at the newspaper saw how many hits and likes I was getting, and called me with a proposal to do a test column for them. It was exactly what I needed to hear. My excuse to uproot myself from Wichita and move to the big city. Or, rather, bigger city. The same city where the girl I loved lived. Would she finally notice me? With my new column, and everything? If she contacted me, what would I say?

….The soloist raised his violin. The concerto began. Music filled the chamber like a roaring hurricane. I thought about Sarah. Thought about what would happen if I couldn’t say anything, either. Just like the conductor. A wave of exhilaration washed over me, as I imagined saying things I never could before to her. Not even in a mirror, in practice. I closed my eyes and vividly saw her face near my own face. She was smiling. I was smiling. But when she lifted an iPhone to take a selfie, I opened my eyes and a feeling of dread invaded me, sweeping away that illusion. Had I made a mistake, moving here? What had I done? I’d given up a sure thing for this! A big gamble that needed bigger luck.

…I blinked at the stage. Was I still dreaming? No one was looking at the conductor. Nor at the soloist. We all stared–or rather I stared–at the man playing second fiddle. At Kanye. 

 …OMG, I thought. I must be dreaming. Had to be dreaming big dreams, too. Pipe dreams. 

      Like Walter Mitty

© 2018 by JL


What Facebook Won’t Show You


In December 2009, Google began customizing its search results for each user. Instead of giving you the most broadly popular result, Google now tries to predict what you are most likely to click on. According to MoveOn.org board president Eli Pariser, Google’s change in policy is symptomatic of the most significant shift to take place on the Web in recent years-the rise of personalization. In The Filter Bubble, Pariser uncovers how this growing trend threatens to control how we consume and share information as a society–and reveals what we can do about it. Personalized filters are sweeping the Web, creating individual universes of information for each of us. Facebook–the primary news source for an increasing number of Americans–prioritizes the links it believes will appeal to you so that if you are a liberal or conservative, you can expect to see different links. Even an old-media bastion like The Washington Post devotes the top of its home page to a news feed with the links your Facebook friends are sharing. Behind the scenes, a burgeoning industry of data companies is tracking your personal information to sell to advertisers, from your political leanings to the color you painted your living room to the hiking boots you just browsed on Zappos. In a personalized world, we will increasingly be typed and fed only news that is pleasant, familiar, and confirms our beliefs-and because these filters are invisible, we won’t know what is being hidden from us. Our past interests will determine what we are exposed to in the future, leaving less room for the unexpected encounters that spark creativity, innovation, and the democratic exchange of ideas. While we all worry that the Internet is eroding privacy or shrinking our attention spans, Pariser uncovers a more pernicious and far-reaching trend and shows how we can-and must-change course. With vivid detail and remarkable scope, The Filter Bubble reveals how personalization undermines the Internet’s original purpose as an open platform for the spread of ideas and could leave us all in an isolated, echoing world.