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Belmont Club

Friend of a Friend

June 19th, 2013 - 5:52 pm

Facebook told me two things today. The first is that I am a friend of a friend (FOAF) of Julia Gillard, the Australian Prime Minister. The second and more important tiding is a link to the New York Daily News

James Gandolfini, the New Jersey-bred actor who delighted audiences as mob boss Tony Soprano in “The Sopranos” has died following a massive heart attack in Italy, a source told the Daily News.

Tony Soprano has bought the farm.

Of course Gandolfini only played Tony Soprano. He was never Soprano himself. And while I never had the opportunity to meet him even in passing neither have I met Gillard, and possibly neither has my Internet friend who is her “friend”. The question that inevitably posed itself was, who was I closer to between these two people: Gillard or Gandolfini?

In 2007 Tim Berners-Lee proposed the notion of a Giant Global Graph to represent the relationship between human beings, especially over the Internet. The nodes are people and they are tied by properties such as “likes”, “comments” and shares. “The Giant Global Graph concept seems to have been a significant input in Facebook’s concept and name for their ‘Open Graph’ project and protocol.”

And it may turn out that in terms of that metric, I am probably closer to Tony Soprano than to either James Gandolfini or Julia Gillard. As someone once observed “celebrities are who we have in common”. And we know more about the characters they play than the celebrities themselves.

Goodbye Tony Soprano.

You might well ask how one can be better friends with a fictional character than with a live person? But no one sees the slightest absurdity in being Facebook friends with someone they never met at all. The distinction between who’s real and unreal isn’t always so clear on the Internet. After all, Superman is on Facebook.

Some years ago a poll taken in Britain showed that “A fifth of British teenagers believe Sir Winston Churchill was a fictional character, while many think Sherlock Holmes, King Arthur and Eleanor Rigby were real.” One wonders what it is now.

It is increasingly the case that more people know us through our online presence than we will ever meet in person. Our primary reputations will be online reputations. This was foreseen from the beginning when Peter Steiner observed that “on the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

You could be something else, but it won’t matter. Except perhaps to an older generation that drew silly lines between the virtual and the real. But maybe to the coming generation there will be no difference between the representation and the represented. It that case except for all but a vanishingly brief instant near the dawn of history, the word ‘friend’ will mean— ‘social network friend.’


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Top Rated Comments   
To be alive is power,

Existing in itself,

Without a further function,

Omnipotence enough.

I have been having an affair with Emily Dickinson, and she was dead before I was born.

This brew in which we live today should not be confused with our culture, which was created by many who live within us but never saw an electric light. Six degrees of separation from a Kardashian or Chris Matthews? How about another world?
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was just watching the movie "Lifeboat." Math still rules. The Gods of the Copybook Headings will win. Arthur C. Clarke was wrong. After the "all but a vanishingly brief instant near the dawn of history" a ship will still be a craft where a few individuals travel and survive together in a hostile sea. A flesh and blood friend will still matter. A lover or spouse will still mean more than words on a box. Men will still fight and die for their unit or to,
"from thraldom save
Your country, save your wives, your children save,
The temples of your gods, the sacred tomb
Where rest your honour'd ancestors,"
but not for a friend of a friend.

Richard I admire you and value the minds I have connected with here. It is my hope that we break bread together. Until we do or or I have direct contact with someone who knows you then the category of friendship is not the same as with those I know directly.

It is possible to accept trust by association. When an old fashioned gentleman took another gentleman's word as sufficient to place trust in a third party binding commitments could be made. In theory an officer's word should still be good enough and in a crisis relied upon for action, but during routine matters you would still expect the paperwork to be done.

Totalitarians atomize individuals. They break the connections between people and substitute attachments to the Leader and generalities like a virtual community.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (26)
All Comments   (26)
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Regarding LinkedIn, I think it's fairly useful for making professional connections. Especially if you're in a somewhat unusual line of business like the one I used to be in - health supplements and herbals.

Even LinkedIn has to be used with care, though. I am very careful about what I say on social networks; unfortunately, common sense about some subjects (Islamofascism being the most obvious) is quite likely to make it difficult to find employment.

To the extent that I have any opinion about American politics (limited, as I'm a Brit) I somewhat doubt that it will ever make any difference to anyone over here. Many Brits are somewhat disapproving of the USA, whether someone objective would agree with their reasons or not.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
Regarding Facebook, the spectacular news of the day, for me, is the goings on of one Noah Kennedy, daughter of Max Kennedy son of RFK. Max posted pics on Facebook of Noah heartily engaged in the act of shooting baby seals with a rifle. They were performing sanctioned culling, simply doing their duty in wildlife management. So it's all a noble endeavor. Noble! A matter of Duty!

Shooting baby seals! With a rifle! She had a scope, it was assault looking! Noah's 14 years old!

Nary a peep from the MSM, because the MSM will do anything, anything to be a FOAF of a Kennedy. Imagine if a Palin girl posted her baby seal killing exploits on Facebook. It would lead the news, bleeding. Bleeding!

The caper reminded me instantly of that Cheech and Chong anthem, "Save the Whales, But Kill the Seals". That's the sad fate of comedy. It's grimly prophetic. What was a farce in yesteryear becomes even hallowed ground today.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
In the movie "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" the quote goes:
Maxwell Scott: "No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." Good legends have much to teach us. There is a saying that fiction is truer than non-fiction. I know Tony Soprano. Now we know he dies, and what fade to black means. Even tho this was not clear when the episode was broadcast, the legend will grow.

I too have wished to meet in real life some of other members of this strange club. Perhaps as Richard travels the world to places where members of the club live, like San Jose, we could turn a local pub into a transient vision of his infinite club where all who welcome wisdom are invited to join. Perhaps admission would require wearing a cat mask.

The valuable thing that Belmont Club had, but is now fading with the "improved" comment system, was the combination of both wonderful inspired essays from a blessed writer, and intelligent comments. The amazing thing about the club is the high level of signal to noise found here. Many comment blogs seem only of the insult variety, here truth is honored. This may mean that all we have done is add our names to the list of those requiring special treatment, but we are already likely on the list for other reasons, so what me worry?

Thank you again Richard for inviting us into your club, and the tasty treats you feed us. May you live long and joyful, and avoid the devil and his minions.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Friendship" is a complicated concept, especially in the Internet age, I have at least a few good friends who I have never met and whose true names I do not know. I avoid social media because it constantly chips away at your privacy, but search engines and relational databases far outstrip your ability to keep your identity secure, It's a strange world out there!
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
The problem with social media networking is that it follows every tendril of your online networks ignoring any level if compartmentalization. Fir those that have multiple e mm ail addresses will know that facebbok or linked in will try to bridge those nerworks and mush them together. I have old emsil, social email, business email and others. Keeping them from spilling over is hard enoughwithout social media.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
I HAVE A DREAM!

One day soon, some Republican will ask Eric Holder, "Mr. Attorney General, can you explain to the American People why they should NOT think you are a prime example of the Peter Principal, someone who has been promoted to their level of incompetence?"
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
I would suggest another word that ends in 'ence' -malevolence.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
"on the internet nobody knows you're a dog."

I beg to differ!
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
I guess one should leave their facebook password in their will. Then your executor and heirs can continue your estate's existence and maintain your web reputation. My niece's dog is on FB so why not?
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
I am not a member of LinkedIn but have been invited to join by people I know - and also by those I have never heard of. One unknown is a man in a city about 50 miles away; another is a mining engineer in Montana. I have no idea how those people got my name and e-mail address or why they want to LinkedIn with me.

I have 3 published print articles, about 20 articles on a space-related website, and I'm in Who's Who, but none of that gives them access to my e-mail address. And I have no idea why they are interested. I think the guy 50 miles away is probably a salesman - based purely on his appearance in the photo - so he may well contact hundreds of people as part of marketing. As for the mining engineer I have no idea; maybe he is a space enthusiast.

On one hand, I hate to reject friendship. On the other, I have no interest in LinkedIn, especially given its Obama-backing, or in Facebook or Myspace or whatever else is out there.

I did join a service that coordinates schedules and advises you of birthdays and anniversaries, because I received a request to join from my aunt. And after she passed away I continued to receive messages from her account. I told them to stop and they replied that they were sorry for my loss but they would have to receive a cancellation order directly from her.

I have considered creating a social networking site for people who are drunk, for when they are drunk. I would call it "Faceplant." I don't drink myself, but maybe it would be a way to make money off of people who do; they are probably pretty easy marks.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Another real person from English history is Big Brother. We should remember that most people did, in fact, love Big Brother. Oh, there were a few complaining square pegs that required a bit of sharpening to fit in the round holes but we should ignore the carping and remember that most people did, in fact, love Big Brother. The basic "low information" Ingsoc voter was, at a minimum, content. That was also the allowed maximum.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
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