Friday, September 29, 2006

The Joys of MySpace

A few months ago I opened a MySpace profile (see sidebar for link.) If you've spent anytime at all on MySpace you probably have an idea of what an odd, sometimes sad, little universe it can be. USA Today recently ran an article about some of the MySpace weirdness entitled "Meet My 5,000 New Best Pals." Here's a bit of it:

Brittnie Sarnes has 5,000 MySpace friends. Actually, make that 5,036. At last count, anyhow. About 10 people a day ask to "friend" her.

Usually she says yes.

She knows they're total strangers, but it doesn't matter. Each time she's asked, it feels "kinda cool — like 'Oh, this person thinks I'm cool enough to befriend me,' " says Brittnie, 17, of Columbus, Ohio...

Friendship always has been a tricky game, especially for teens. But in the past it was played out in school hallways, on playgrounds and in late-night phone calls.

These days it is happening in full color on the computer screen — often in front of the world. And it can be confusing, especially for teens trying to fit in.

How many friends should one have? What kind of friends should they be? Are online friends "real"?

Does it help boost self-esteem, or might it be harmful?

There are no rules...

Competition for friends can be so fierce that ad-supported websites are cropping up. They plug you into a system where you can start automatically generating friends — or where you can generate fake friends — to make lists look fat.

And last October, a 19-year-old calling himself "Samy" took credit for writing a computer worm that automatically generated friends on his MySpace page.

Some say overly long lists can smack of desperation.

When Georgia Bobley, 18, a student at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., sees a page with more than 500 friends, she thinks "it's a little creepy."

But having too few friends might mean you're not very popular. "When I go onto somebody's Facebook profile, and they have four friends, I'm like, 'Oh, my God. What? They only have four friends?' " She has 329.

Brittnie won't friend anyone with fewer than 150 friends; it means "nobody likes them."

But Valerie, who has 1,327 friends, says she will sometimes ignore list length for the right reasons. If she encounters someone with "only 12 or 20 friends, but they seem like a cool person, I'll start a conversation with them, and I will still treat them like someone who had a thousand friends or something. They could've just started their site, too."

Then there's the issue of the kinds of friends you keep. Make friends with too many losers, and you might find yourself on the other side of a virtual closed door.

If, for instance, a person friends bands (on MySpace you can friend actors, bands, movies and even commercial characters) that "suck," Brittnie says, "then that person probably does, too, and you probably don't want to add them."

She has other standards: "The other day I got a friend request, and it was a picture of like this dude's (genitals). I didn't add him."

But mostly, for Brittnie and a lot of others, friending is a kind of game. She'll ask to friend someone "like if you come by somebody's page, and you're like, 'They seem cool; I like their hair.' Or, 'Oh, he's hot,' then, you know, you just add them in hopes of maybe they'll talk to me, and we can become best friends. Or maybe they won't."

For others, though, especially younger teens, it's not a game.

"There are lots of kids who go there looking for friends because they don't have them elsewhere," Aftab says. "And they'll find different ways of getting them. The standards may not be so high."

At its root, competing for friends and fighting for status is hardly new behavior, Aftab says. Kids have always judged each other by the friends they keep.

"If you're snubbed by somebody walking down the hall at school, it's not as obvious as if no one wants to be your friend on your profile. If the other kids think one of your friends is lame, and they start commenting to your site, a lot of kids will drop friends because they're seen as not cool by other kids."

It isn't just kids who are learning the rules or making them up as they go along. Take the perilous issue of the Top 8, which seems to trip up everyone at some point.

That's the top eight friends displayed by default on a MySpace page. The rule is, you put your most important friends on your Top 8. Except if you don't know the rule.

That happened with Bob Christianson, 40, of Hudson, Fla. Christianson originally got on MySpace to keep tabs on his 14-year-old daughter and quickly got hooked on the site, which he uses to date and meet people.

But recently, he had to post an explanation of his Top 8.

"Just so I don't offend anybody," he wrote, "I don't rank my friends, so if you're not in my Top 8 it doesn't mean that you are any more or less of a friend to me."

That kind of explanation may calm adults. But the Top 8 issue constantly causes teen angst, says Amanda Peters. "Some people get really anal about it. They're like, 'I'm on your Top 8, but why am I the eighth person? Like how come I'm not No. 2?'

"I think it's just really stupid. I'm not the only friend people have, so why should I have any say on who they have in their top whatever?"

Nevertheless, she understands what happens when Top 8 status isn't reciprocated.

"You could think you're misjudging the relationship. Which sounds really funny because it's such a small trivial thing. You could feel kind of sad, like 'Oh, I thought we were hecka close.' "

Friday's Random Ten

  1. Jane, Rock Spectacle by Barenaked Ladies
  2. Baloney Again, Sailing to Philidelphia by Mark Knopfler
  3. Cleaning Windows, The Best Of Van Morrison by Van Morrison
  4. Nothing Like a Train, Audible Sigh by Vigilantes of Love
  5. Pray for Me, Tomorrow the Green Grass by the Jayhawks
  6. El Macho, Sailing to Philidelphia by Mark Knopfler
  7. 2 Become 1, Perfumed Letter by Bill Mallonee
  8. The World Has Turned and Left Me Here, Weezer (Blue Album) by Weezer
  9. Why Georgia, Room for Squares by John Mayer
  10. Innocence Again, Learning to Breathe by Switchfoot

Video pick of the week: Baloney Again by Knopfler. Haunting song off the album that made me love Knopfler.

The Small Groups Conference is Underway!

Blogging the Conference


This morning the conference began at Willow Creek Community Church. Its’ theme is the primary colors of small group ministry. As a guy with a degree in graphic design I immediately plugged into the context for the meeting. God, the ultimate designer CREATED us with an intrinsic need for relationships. There is in each of us two holes. One is filled only by God and the other by relationships. I get the whole “I need community thing” you know. What I miss sometimes is the context for what a real, biblical community looks like.

The pagittBlog. (Doug Pagitt hasn't actually blogged about the conference yet, but if someone could please get the man a power cord he might ;)

I have never done this before but I left on a trip and forgot my power cord for my Powerbook. If anyone has one I could use for the next two days and could meet me at Willow Creek or the Marriott hotel off I90 and route 59 please give me a call - 612-730-7337. It will work if it is for the Mac Powerbooks or Ibooks.
god-of-small-things (This one has nothing to do with the small groups conference but I thought the guy had a good point so I'm throwing the link in for ya.)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

NBC Slices and Dices "Veggie Tales"

Found this editorial today - contained some interesting news!

Sliced and diced 'Veggie Tales'
By L. Brent Bozell IIISeptember 13, 2006

Maybe you're familiar with the computer-animated cartoon "Veggie Tales," a video series targeted at children ages 2 to 8, and which features moral and religious tales hosted by Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber. Beginning in 1993, the series was distributed on VHS tapes, telling biblical stories like the Battle of Jericho, David and Goliath and the tale of the Good Samaritan. Each show ended with a Bible verse.

And it's been a marketing phenomenon. Without any broadcasting or syndication on television, "Veggie Tales" has sold more than 50 million "Veggie Tales" DVDs and videotapes -- primarily, but quietly, through big chain stores like Target, Wal-Mart and Family Christian Stores. As their popularity spread, so did "Veggie Tales" T-shirts, plush toys and other products.

...Eventually, someone in Tinseltown saw the commercial possibilities. Now, the news breaks that NBC (as well as NBC-owned Telemundo) will begin showing "Veggie Tales" cartoons on Saturday mornings for the new fall season.

But here is what should be news. The early word from producers is that NBC has grown increasingly fierce about editing something out of "Veggie Tales" -- those apparently unacceptable, insensitive references to God and the Bible. So NBC has taken the very essence of "Veggie Tales" -- and ripped it out. It's like "Gunsmoke" without the guns, or "Monday Night Football" without the football.

Think about this corporate mindset. NBC is the network that hired a squad of lawyers to argue that dropping the F-bomb on the Golden Globe Awards isn't indecent for children, but invoking God is wholly unacceptable. Or, as one e-mailing friend marveled: "So, saying [expletive] you' is protected First Amendment speech on NBC but not 'God bless you.' "

The cartoon's creator, Phil Vischer, posted on his personal Web log the news of NBC's increasing creative stranglehold. "At first we were told everything was 'OK' except the Bible verse at the end. Frankly, that news [never] really surprised me, because, heck, we're talking about NBC here. [Would they allow] God on Saturday morning? It didn't seem likely."

But it grew worse than that edict, Mr. Vischer reported: "Since we've started actually producing the episodes, though, NBC has gotten a little more restrictive." How so? He said, "We're having to do a little more editing." How much? So much so Mr. Vischer implied the God talk is landing on the cutting-room floor. Now, he's merely hoping people will "maybe wander into Wal-Mart and buy a video with all the God still in."

This is one of those moments where you understand networks like NBC are only talking an empty talk and walking an empty walk when it comes to the First Amendment, and "creative integrity," and so on. They have told parents concerned about their smutty programs like "Will and Grace" that if they're offended, they have a remote control as an option. The networks have spent millions insisting we have a V-chip in our TV sets. Change the channel. Block it out.

But when it comes to religious programming -- that doesn't even mention Jesus Christ -- just watch the hypocrisy. Instead of telling viewers to just change the channel if they don't like it, or put in a V-chip for Bible verses, they demand to producers that all that outdated old-time religion be shredded before broadcast.

It's truly sad this anti-religious hypocrisy would emerge. Today, no one in network TV fears what the children are watching -- unless it makes them think about God.

Sara Groves interviews Jonny Lang; "I hated Christianity."

Sara Groves recently interviewed Jonny Lang (the blues guitar prodigy) for Christianity Today and it is fascinating stuff.

I really recommend reading the entire interview at CT Online.

Here's an excerpt:

Lang: ...I hated Christianity. I couldn't stand to hear about Jesus. I just hated it.

Groves:So what happened? How'd you get from there to here?

Lang: When people used to try to persuade me with the message of Jesus, I would say, "I understand that you believe that, but I don't. He's going to have to basically show up and let me know who he is, or I'm not going to believe it." And that's what he did. He literally did that. (see link above.)

(This video is a little out of sync.)

Another excerpt:

Even before this, you've always seemed deeply spiritual. Was music your God?

Lang: Yes, because I mistook that spiritual feeling I would have when I would perform for being god. You think just because there is power that you are on the right track. I didn't know there was power on both sides. Now music has taken a major back seat to God. Music is something I definitely enjoy and am passionate about, and it's strange, but I don't have the same infatuation with it that I used to.

Green Day and U2 at the Superdome

There is about 9 minutes of music here, but you MUST listen to U2 and Green Day covering The Saints are Coming (by The Skids) in the middle. Really cool.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Stephy Tagged Me :)

1. If you could build a house anywhere, where would it be? Someplace with warm weather, people I love, and water nearby.

2. What's your favorite article of clothing? A heavy cardigan sweater!

3. Favorite physical feature of the opposite sex? That's tough, I'll say hands.

4. What's the last CD that you bought? I think it was David Crowder Band's Illuminate.

5. Where's your favorite place to be? Hmmmm, I think it's a tie between church and Ross's apartment.

6. Where is your least favorite place to be? Hospitals!!!!!

7. What's your favorite place to be massaged? My neck?

8. Strong in mind or strong in body? Stronger in mind than body, but that's not saying much ;)

9. What time do you wake up in the morning? Usually sometime between 8 and 9.

10. What is your favorite kitchen appliance? The dishwasher!!!! Wow, I love the dishwasher. Excuse me a moment while I go give it a hug.

11. What makes you really angry? On a normal day - abortion, reckless drivers, not having food at hand. When I have PMS - everything under the sun.

12. If you could play any instrument, what would it be? The piano.

13. Favorite color? I don't know. I use a lot of brown when I paint but red makes me happy.

14. Which do you prefer...Sports car or SUV? SUVs because they are taller and you get a better view from the driver's seat. Sweet.

15. Do you believe in an afterlife? Yup.

16. Favorite children's book? Horton Hears a Who was a favorite when I was a kid.

17. What is your favorite season? Summer.

18. What is your least favorite household chore? Cleaning the litter box!

19. If you could have one super power, what would it be? I often wish I were invisible!
20. If you have a tattoo, what is it? I don't have one. I used to want an eyebrow ring but I got over it :)

21. Can you juggle? No.

22. The one person from your past that you wish you could go back and talk to? Mrs. Musniki from fifth grade. She changed the way I felt about myself and I'd like to thank her.

23. What's your favorite day? Sunday.

24. What's in the trunk of your car? A donut tire, a jack, an ice scraper, a pair of socks, a garbage bag, some old cassette tapes, a folder from a conference, some baby toys, and some

25. Which do you prefer, sushi or hamburger? Hamburger.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Willow Creek Community Church in the News

Carrying on its tradition of globally relevant music, Delirious? returns Oct. 17 with the CD-DVD release, Delirious? Now Is the Time: Live at Willow Creek, on Sparrow Records. Known for its compelling live performance, Delirious? recorded the project in front of 5,000 fans this summer at the Chicago-area’s Willow Creek Community Church, the second largest church in America.

Not only was this my third date with the illustrious Mr. Ross-alosi, but it was also a pretty awesome concert! And my BIL was one of the cameramen, so even if you're not a Delirious? fan you should pick this up just to see some of Mark's moves!