Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

As if we weren’t already deluged with movies based on books, movies based on plays, movies based on comics, movies based on computer games, movies based on theme park rides, and movies based on (for heaven’s sake) toy ranges, it seems we now have to contend with movies based on social networking websites. Presumably iPhone Apps: The Beginning is also on the way. (Oops, I forgot – movies based on board games. Don’t laugh – Battleship: the Movie is currently filming, starring Rihanna.)

I refer, inevitably, to David Fincher’s The Social Network, charting the origins and rise of just such a popular site, which I understand is called ‘Facebook’. The easy capsule plot outline here is ‘how the dream turned sour’, though according to the movie Facebook’s ultimate origins were fairly bitter to begin with, inspired by brilliant but socially inept Mark Zuckerman (Jesse Eisenberg) getting chucked by his girlfriend and executing a spiteful, inspired on-line revenge.
The general direction things will take is signposted early on by the film’s being structured in the form of flashbacks to two separate lawsuits brought against Zuckerman, one by a trio of preppy types who claim he stole their idea, the other by his former best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), who believes himself wrongly forced out of the corporation Facebook ultimately became.

I’m the kind of person who’s quite happy to use a website, but who (a smattering of ancient HTML aside) has absolutely no idea how it works. Being sensible people, the film-makers (Fincher and scriptwriter Aaron Sorkin of West Wing fame) almost entirely avoid techie jargon and concentrate on the personalities involved. The exact issue of whose idea Facebook actually was is somewhat fudged (probably to avoid the film-makers’ starring in a lawsuit of their own), but the movie goes on to recount its spectacular success as it spreads from being limited to Harvard students, to universities across the USA, to the point where… well, my ‘People You May Know’ box is usually full of Kyrgyzstanis, Taiwanese, and other assorted foreign coves. Along the way Zuckerberg falls under the sway of dangerously glamorous internet entrepreneur Sean Parker (an accomplished turn from a shrewdly-cast Justin Timberlake), at which point the friendship of the two founders comes under increasing and ultimately fatal pressure.

This is a sharp and witty film (as you would expect with an Aaron Sorkin script, you can crack the dialogue like a whip), but not an especially warm one. Of the principal characters, only Saverin emerges as truly likeable. Eisenberg’s central performance is pitched superbly, keeping Zuckerberg just about sympathetic without omitting any of his (allegedly) less attractive qualities. But beyond this, the film casts a somewhat baleful eye across all of its characters and settings – the opening sequence intercuts deftly between Zuckerberg and his pals gleefully hacking into private information in order to set up a fairly misogynistic website from a cramped bedroom, and the privileged Harvard in-crowd pursuing their own, deeply hedonistic interests, and the film appears to find nothing appealing about either of them. And this comes across as simply the wider world in microcosm. The view of society I came away from this film with was of a rigidly hierarchical and ultimately rather unfair and unforgiving construct. (Though, you know, personal opinions may be creeping in there, and what are you going to do? It is, after all, the only game in town.)

'...and if the site really takes off, we may even be able to pay the electricity bill.'

The Social Network has apparently drawn some stick for various reasons, some of them factual – there are claims that the chronology is inaccurate and even (shock horror) that some of the technological details are wrong. I have to admit that as a moviegoer this sort of thing doesn’t particularly bother me, certainly not in comparison with things like story, performance and direction. The Social Network scores notable hits in all of these areas, and everyone involved seems to agree that the general thrust of the story is true. And it’s not like it’s being marketed as a documentary, or anything. (And if Mark Zuckerberg truly objected to the way he’s depicted here, surely he could have bought the film company and had the negatives burned, or deleted, or whatever.) It’s a compelling and entertaining account of something of at least passing interest to a massive number of people in the world today, with thoughtful things to say about the way we live. And if it isn’t the truth, as John Ford once said, go ahead and print the legend.

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Modern Hermitry

Currently getting exceptionally bad vibes on the job front – well, it seems that way to me, it’s difficult to be really objective about vibes, isn’t it? Should the worst happen – which, if we raise our eyes to consider the next few months until the new year, seems to me to be at least a fifty-fifty possibility – the question inevitably rises of What Next.

I could, I suppose, go back to flogging myself around the third world on short-term contracts for most of the year, in the hope that at some unspecified future point in time this will have prepared me for an ongoing career in the UK. But my taste for this kind of life – for unreliable electricity, rats in the bathroom, limited access to films and TV I can understand, reading almost unreadable books simply because they’re the only thing available in English, never being able to blend into the crowd – has been sated for the time being. Maybe in the future I will want to travel again. But not now.

I also really need to start thinking longer-term. I simply don’t want to spend the rest of my life living abroad, and I need to consider what I’m going to do when I do come back here absolutely permanently to live and work. Basically, if I can’t hold down this current job, there seems to be no guarantee that I’ll be able hold down any job in this field in the UK. (I may be overreacting, but once again it’s hard to know for sure.) Working here and working abroad are superficially similar, but very different in practice. Doing one can’t really prepare you for the other – if I can’t do it now, I may never be able to.

I suppose there is just a chance that I could find another job at a school round here, but I’m doubtful – as we head deeper into Autumn and Winter, places will be struggling more and more to find work for the people already under contract, not looking to take on new bodies – and there also seems to me to be a possibility that the current job will be the kind you can’t put on your CV due to the manner of its ending, and not really be an option for references for the same reason. You can’t have too many big CV gaps, and I have a few already. I don’t have it in me to bail out on a job I’m under contract for – not without enormous provocation, anyway

So I need to consider other options. Basically, being almost totally unqualified and unmotivated to do any other realistic job, it looks like temping will sing its siren song once more. I did promise myself that I would never work in an office again, but I’ve broken more important promises than that, as I’m sure my ex-wife would be happy to confirm. At least when you break a promise to yourself the injured party is likely to be understanding. Data will always need entering, post will need delivering, envelopes will need licking, and files will need… er… filing.

I think I was a good office zombie. I was punctual, and conscientious, and reliable. The fact that the whole experience left me feeling hollow and listless and desperately unfulfilled and bored very nearly to the point of despair is, in current circumstances, just one of those things I’m going to have to take a deep breath and suck in. There is of course the fact that I’m ten years older than the last time I did any temping, but I can’t imagine that will matter too much. The ongoing economic cataclysm may be more of an issue, but there’s not much I can do about that. Looking on the bright side, my current situation could be worse – my accommodation is very reasonably priced and fairly well situated in terms of getting into town, and the generosity of recently-deceased friends and family means that I will have work quite exceptionally hard on my stupidity if I want to get into debt.

But the fact remains that this isn’t the person I want to be, nor a person I could be proud of being – not with a social circle of PhDs and academic directors and professors and various bright young things, anyway. (I think ‘successful people’ covers it, at the risk of hitting the self-pity pedal too visibly and hard.) So I think that will have to go as well.

Modern life being as it is, establishing oneself as a modern hermit at least doesn’t require one to sit up a pillar in the desert living off locusts and roots. Simply deleting one’s facebook account should do the trick pretty well. I don’t have much of a social life currently as it is and so packing it up will really be a question of intent rather than a change of practice. I expect there will be a degree of ignoring emails and text messages required for a while – or at least some polite declining of requests to go out – but I forsee no real difficulties there should this whole situation come to pass.

I expect I will keep this site going though – ‘quacking into the void’, as Mr King described the situation of the unread writer. The fact remains that even through the darkest depths of my previous period of office zombiedom, sitting down and writing something once or twice a week was nearly always guaranteed to keep me on the level. I don’t want to make myself needlessly unhappy, after all, and I know myself much too well to ignore the fact that severe depression and obsessive behaviours of various unpleasant varieties tend to be the inevitable result if I’m left to my own devices with nothing better to do. I may be contemplating torching the only half-decent career I’ve ever had and turning my back on what approximates a social life, but I’ve got to stay sane, haven’t I?

And you never know – I may even cling onto this job after all.

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Kids these days don’t know how lucky they are. Even ten years ago my daily walk home after a hard day’s squabbling with a Welshman and a dipstick was fraught with tension, simply because it seemed like every bloody shop was blasting Walking in the Air, Last Christmas, or (worst of all) Merry Christmas Everyone out through doors in the apparent belief it would entice shoppers in or create a positive mood. Hmmm. Nowadays much has changed regarding Christmas music, of course. Having been preoccupied with other stuff for the past three or four festive seasons I had not in fact noticed that the single perpetrated  released by the X Factor winner has topped the charts every year since 2005.

Now, the British people will clearly only take so much! Forget all the various ongoing horrors and atrocities of the modern world, or the serious and ongoing problems resulting from our economic and social system’s inability to incorporate any kind of meaningful ethical or environmental agenda, or even the thorny issue of the Strictly Come Dancing voting system. If there’s one thing that will get the masses agitated and organised then it’s manufactured pop hogging the Xmas number one slot.

I’m not sure whether to feel more depressed about the immense popularity of X Factor – I can only assume 19.1 million people don’t actually mind being openly manipulated – or the crack-brainedness of the popular reaction against it. Members of this tendency state their problems pretty much thus: ‘We’re sick of being told what to buy and so we will demonstrate our non-conformism by doing something different. Yes, the same thing. Yes, all of us. Yes, it’s somebody else’s idea.‘ 

Are they aware that a lot of people might be buying the X-single because, hmm, they quite like it? You can say what you like about Simon Cowell but he knows how to put together a mainstream pop single. I suppose you can make the case that the 17-week saturation bombardment of Saturday night TV by Cowell and co. could be construed as giving Android McWinner the kind of publicity money simply can’t buy, but even so – what exactly are these people hoping to achieve? A return to the good old days when the Xmas no. 1 slot was usually taken by classic, credible artists like East 17 (Stay Another Day, 1994), the Spice Girls (three years in a row, though I quite like their ’96 release), and, of course, Cliff Richard (1988-90, 1999)? Wow, don’t set your sights too high, guys.

Cowell himself seems to be on the money (just for a change) when he interpreted the ‘let’s get Rage Against The Machine to no.1’ campaign as a personal attack, and a rather stupid one as he’s not going to make any less money off Android McWinner as a result – and Sony are going to make even more as they published both the singles in question.

Simon Cowell doesn’t decide, mould, or otherwise shape popular taste – more than any other senior person in the media, anyway – all he does is judge what the majority of the public will like better than most people. To complain about his success is to basically get upset that other people have different tastes to you (I think there’s a degree of jealousy involved too).

A lot of money has already been raised for a worthwhile charity, but the only thing that stopping Android McWinner from having the Xmas no. 1 will really prove is the internet’s power to let people organise and work together to achieve something (really pointless) in a manner impossible back when Noddy Holder ruled the December airwaves. And, to be honest, I think the current campaign is fuelled by the same motive responsible for vandalism and other kinds of pointless disruption of people’s lives. The fact the anti-Cowell mob have chosen as their favoured song not something appropriately seasonal, but a fashionably subversive piece of almost unlistenable rap metal where someone gargles ‘fuck’ 17 times while a concrete mixer turns over in the background, is to me significant. Here we are dealing with a juvenile instinct for mischief-making coupled to a nearly irrational dislike for one man and his trousers. Should they achieve their aim, no doubt some of those responsible will feel very good about themselves, but as the late Bill Hicks said about something entirely different – ‘If you really need to feel better about yourself – can I suggest  sit-ups?’

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