Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Attack of the Facebook!

Recently, some hackers stole the personal information of a few hundred students at my school through a university database. A few days ago, while I was eating lunch, a TV news crew came by and interviewed me about the theft. I told them I had a friend whose identity was stolen. After the interview (Yes, I was on TV that night. No, I'm not posting a link), I sent this friend a message on Facebook to give him a head's up. Apparently, the reporter also contacted him via Facebook. My friend wrote to me, "Don't you find it odd that reporters are now using facebook as a means to uncover their stories????" Weird, right?

Oh, Facebook. The staff writers at the Boston Globe love to write about Facebook, and how it's changing our lives.
"Facebook broke my heart" is the headline of this November 25, 2008 article about how Facebook affects relationships and cheating.
This article from November 30, 2008 is all about the 35+ crowd and Facebook as "a never-ending high school reunion."
That article is not to be confused with this one, from November 29th, 2008 (also found here with a slightly different headline, for some reason), about how Facebook will render high-school reunions obsolete.
There's this article from December 14, 2008 about how students and universities are using Facebook in the college admissions process.
And most recently, on January 11th, an article about how the police are increasingly using Facebook to track down suspects and witnesses.
There was also a recent one (more recent than this one) about Facebook and boss/employee relations.

It's not just the Globe that finds Facebook to be such fascinating news fodder - just do a Google news search and you'll find all sorts of fluff pieces about Facebook.

Facebook can be very useful for keeping in touch with friends, sharing information, and spreading awareness about events and such. But it can also be a black hole.

In other, completely unrelated, news, I've been listening to a lot of female-fronted '90s punk/rock/ska: Letters to Cleo, Save Ferris, and No Doubt, mostly. Good shit.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Who needs love when there's Law & Order?

Law & Order is my TV vice.
Yesterday I realized that it is also my brand of soap opera.
"Law & Order? A soap opera?" You ask incredulously.

I know, it seems like L&O doesn't have much in common with ubiquitous daytime TV fare such as The Bold & The Beautiful, Days of Our Lives, or All My Children. Yes, the structures and formulae are different. Soap operas are serialized - each episode picks up where the last left off. L&O is episodic - each episode is a self-contained story. (L&O does have serial strands from time to time, such as the storyline around Olivia's mother in SVU, but is by and large episodic.)

The most obvious difference, of course, seems to be one of genre. Soap operas deal in complicated romances and family secrets. Law & Order is a hybrid of crime and courtroom dramas. Both, however, are melodramas. In her essay "Melodrama Revisted," Linda Williams argues that melodrama is not a proper genre, but a trans-generic mode. The melodramatic mode, whether as it is manifest in a 1940s' Douglas Sirk pic or in Sylvester Stallone's Rambo, is largely about morality and righteous suffering. Law & Order has both of those themes in common with soap operas.

The settings of Law & Order and soap operas are also vastly different. Soap operas are set in the domestic sphere; L&O is set in the public sphere - whether the urban space of the streets of NYC or government buildings such as the police station and the courtroom. But in both instances the setting is very important. The details of the mise en scene form a shorthand for viewers. These shorthands work across series (in the case of the soap opera) and spinoffs (in the case of L&O). Props, and costumes give us familiar character types - the oily boyfriend and the scheming mother, the edgy cop and the virtuous ADA.

Formal and structural techniques are very similar between soap operas and Law & Order. Intense dialogue-driven scenes are shot with shot-reverse shot close-ups of expressive faces. Dramatic music comes in at crucial moments in both, driving up the tension.

Finally, the way the two are shown on TV are pretty similar: they're both always on.

To close, I leave you with this video of Amanda Palmer's "Leeds United," the source of this post's title: