You know who else wrote editorials?

I read an editorial in my school’s newspaper today, written by my friend/editor.

Twitter: New social network acts as the Ultimate Stalker Tool.

Oh boy. Sounds like my friend could get a job at The Daily Mail.

So I wrote this email to her/the paper:

First off, nice sensationalist headline: “The ultimate stalker tool” indeed. I’m interested to see why you think this is the case, but we’ll get to that later.

You wrote that Facebook doesn’t text or email you every time someone updates their status, “but Twitter, bothering people with annoying messages from a barrage of people you don’t really care about … that is completely unnecessary.”

What in Barack Obama’s balls are you talking about?

First off, you select who you want to follow on Twitter. If you’re following a bunch of people on Twitter “you don’t really care about,” then you’re doing it wrong.

As far as Twitter alerting people on their cell phones or via “irritating e-mails,” again, I’m not sure what the heck you’re talking about. I’ve been using Twitter since March 2007, and I’ve never received a notification from Twitter—via email or text message, annoying or otherwise—alerting me to the fact that someone has updated their Twitter. Have you ever actually USED Twitter? There isn’t even an option to have these sorts of notifications sent to you! So as far as I know, the thing you’re complaining about does not exist.
NOTE: I have since been corrected on this. The setting for this was, strangely enough, not on the “notifications” page of Twitter’s settings.

You ask if there is a difference between Twitter and text messages, saying each can be “blasted to a certain number of recipients” (that’s true for Twitter, if you have a private profile, allowing you to select who can follow you).

“Each one can be sent to one receiver.”
Not true. When you update your Twitter, you update your Twitter, and anyone who is following you is going to see it. Twitter’s website does contain a direct messaging system, but that is separate and unrelated to your actual profile/tweets. You can use @reply’s, but again, those are visible to anyone and everyone who can view your profile.

“And yet, a text message doesn’t require you to go to another Web site.”
Neither does Twitter. I can update my profile directly from my phone, via text message. In fact, the majority of updates I text from my phone are going to Twitter as well as other people’s phones.

When you talk about Twitter’s privacy settings, you say to adjust the settings “so you can avoid at least some of the crazies.” Hold on a second. What crazies? You don’t even go on to explain what you mean.
You call it “the ultimate stalker tool” in your headline, but then never go on to say in your editorial why this is.
You say “But Twitter shouldn’t be used by every person on the planet,” but you don’t say why.

Were you actually planning on backing up your claims and opinions with examples or reasons, or did you just feel like typing out this blind screed for the heck of it? Is your entire editorial nothing more than an error-ridden straw man fallacy written by someone who has not once used the very service they’re deriding? Signs point to yes.

Sweet Jesus. Stick to writing things you know about.

This would be like me writing a column about how hockey sucks because field goals are a cheap way to score home runs, and how there are too many outfielders on the court; anyone who knows even a modicum of information about hockey would think I sound like an ignorant prick. But that wouldn’t be enough for me, I’d then go and title the column “Hockey: It Will Give Your Children Cancer, Rape Your Churches and Burn Your Women.”

And then we’d run it in the paper, apparently.

King Richard’s Faire

Growing up, I made several trips to open air museums such as Old Sturbridge Village and Plimoth Plantation. They made me feel like I had stepped into one of my textbooks or traveled in a time machine. The historical accuracy of the buildings and land as well as the acting and dedication of those who “lived” and “worked” in the villages made for an immersive experience, one that stuck with me through the years. So when my sister Helen asked me if I would be interested in attending King Richard’s Faire with her, I immediately said yes. As we drove to Carver, Massachusetts, I thought of what awaited me, trying to recall commercials I had seen for the fair in my childhood; knights, horses, jousting, swords, and turkey legs as big as your head. I had brought my camera with me to document all this and more. I was excited, to say the least.

I was also very, very mistaken.

King Richard’s Faire is not Sturbridge Village; it’s not a museum, it’s not educational, it’s not historically accurate, and it lacks any truly immersive quality whatsoever.

I’m apparently not to blame for thinking it would be, though; there’s apparently a large rift in the Renaissance fair community regarding how authentic a fair should be. Some feel it should be similar to an open air museum like Sturbridge, and others feel that entertainment should be the main focus. I hope to inform those like me who might come looking for the same thing I had and leave disappointed, or those who might enjoy a day at a themed carnival but avoid it, mistaking it for an educational experience in disguise rather than a carnival in the woods.

The first 50 feet of the fairgrounds were not at all dissimilar to a casino. Immediately following the entrance/exit was a wall of ATMs. Instead of a casino gift shop, there was a “Remembrance Shoppe,” which accepted “Lady Visa” and “Master Card.” Instead of exchanging money for gambling chips, there was a wooden stand that sold “food tickets,” the currency used at the fair in exchange for food. The tickets were only 50¢ each, but were only sold in nonrefundable sheets of 10 for $5.

In retrospect, the proximity of these to each other and to the entrance/exit should have served as an ill omen of things to come, but I missed the warning signs, being too busy taking in the sights around me (there are only so many period costumes and feathered hats one can take in before suffering sensory overload). Having outgrown the childhood impulse to buy things for the sake of buying things, and having no children of my own, I was immune to such capitalist tactics, but judging by all the children I saw walking around with plastic shields and wooden swords and other gift shop goodies, it was an effective strategy.

The fairgrounds had been set up in a wooded area that they had cleared out for the purpose, though many trees remained (perhaps in the hopes of lending an “authentic” atmosphere to the affair). Years of fair-goers’ feet had eroded the ground, kicking up dust and exposing roots that I and many others tripped on throughout the day.

As I walked along, I realized the quaint medieval buildings that I had seen from the entrance were little more than particleboard facades with chipping and faded paint, and they were all selling something. It was at this point that my hopes for what would be a delightful reenactment of historically accurate medieval festivities eroded more than the ground on which the fair was built, and I realized King Richard’s Faire is little more than a carnival and medieval-paraphernalia exposition with a thin caricatural veneer of Elizabethan England. This is not necessarily a bad thing, if that’s what you’re hoping to experience, but for me it was a shock. My first impulse was to leave, but the thought of wasting $25 and the fact that my sister had driven forced me to reconsider. I decided to stay and view it as an educational experience-not historical, but anthropological; I’d study those that attend and work at the fair.

The fair is first and foremost an exposition. Unlike other expos I’ve attended, those with wares to sell were set up in small themed “shops,” instead of merely having tables set up in a large expo center. The shops were of limited variety, and could be placed into five categories: weapons and weapon-like product; hand made pottery and crafts; leather and armor; corsets and clothing; and body art (typical of any carnival).

There were several “armories” selling swords, axes, and maces. Although one shop sold particularly high quality goods, the rest consisted of what I’d call “sword-like product.” The “swords” sold at these shops were the mechanically separated chicken of the weapon world; recycled scraps, combined and reshaped into something resembling a sword, in much the same way a Slim Jim resembles meat. A blunt, heavy, and warped sword, yes, but still a sword, and to many of the small children and even adults that crowded the shops, that’s all that mattered.

The people of the fair could also be categorized. When my sister and I first arrived at the fair parking lot, we were presented with a remarkable scene. On the left was a young couple in historically accurate period costumes. In the center, a normally-dressed husband and wife unloading their three little girls, dressed in Disney princess dresses, from their minivan. Walking by on the right were two burly men holding hands, one in leather chaps, the other a kilt, each wearing not much else besides. The man in the kilt had the most immense mohawk I have ever seen, and as if its incredible height were not enough, he had attached black cloth between the spikes of the mohawk and as an extension at the end, so that it resembled a massive Indian Chief’s headdress. The three little girls in pink dresses began crying as the men passed by.

This triptych perfectly captured the essence of the three categories of people who attended the fair: those in normal clothes, those in historical costume, and those in fantasy costume, the latter two categories almost always speaking in terrible English accents. Somewhere in the grey areas of this spectrum, however, are those who wear utilikilts (think of a mix between cargo shorts and kilts) and those that wear large brimmed hats with equally large feathers in them. Both feathered hats and kilts were as numerous as baseball hats and jerseys at a sporting event, and seem to be the standard uniform of renfaire enthusiasts.

As far as entertainment went, there were scheduled performances, an assortment of musicians stationed throughout the fair who played at seemingly random times, and a collection of costumed characters who traveled around interacting with customers. I have to say, the musicians were by far the strongest group. I enjoyed the bagpipers, though I might be biased, being of Irish heritage and having grown up attending Irish cultural festivals. The hammered dulcimer was very good, though not really my thing. Lastly, there was a group of professional singers who sang period songs and most likely made a killing in the Christmas caroling season.

The shows were terrible. While the actions were great-swallowing fire, juggling torches and swords, driving four inch nails into nasal cavities-the showmanship was awful; terrible accents abounded, jokes fell flat with nary a chuckle, and the performers spent most of their time criticizing the audience for not laughing or applauding the way they thought the audience should. As a result, the shows were awkward and uncomfortable, and I often left when they became too annoying to listen to. Alienating and criticizing your customers is never a good business strategy, and this is where King Richard’s Faire lost major points with me.

The costumed characters were mostly amusing, and almost made up for the faults of the scheduled entertainment. My favorite character was a displaced nobleman. Evidently not used to interacting with “peasants,” he wandered around the crowds and when he saw something he liked-a souveneir someone had purchased, or a sheet of food tickets someone was holding in line-he would command the person to hand it over as he reached for it, while other characters would try to explain to him that that wasn’t how things worked outside of his castle. He was funny, well acted, and not at all annoying, unlike a similar character of a displaced king, whose sole act seemed to be merely walking through crowds and lines for food while shouting at people to move out of his way.

Other characters were somewhat confusing, including a man who walked around with a skeleton ventriloquist dummy, but had a black mask over his face! I assume he never quite mastered the skill of not moving his lips when he spoke. Another man walked around with a beer tankard balanced on his shiny bald head, though he might have been tasked with keeping order over the more inebriated fairgoers. There was another man in a tall chefs hat and clothing, wearing a butchers apron, who had a bandolier of plastic sausages slung across his chest, and held a large plastic salami in his hand, whose existence and purpose could only be described as inexplicable.

The food was surprisingly delicious. I ordered turkey stew in a boule, expecting watered down, overly salty, and mostly meatless stew with a stale, thin bread bowl. I received an extremely tasty and perfectly seasoned stew with large pieces of turkey, and the bread was fresh and even delicious by itself. In the same way that you can’t go to Fenway and not get a hot dog, you can’t go to a Renaissance fair and not get a turkey leg. Though I had expected a jumbo version of a thanksgiving drumstick, the turkey legs at the fair were likely smoked, and tasted very similar to pork or ham. Overall, I was very impressed, and the meal really helped to bring up my spirits.

Speaking of spirits, vastly overpriced beer was served on tap, which may serve to markedly improve one’s experience at the fair. I had originally wanted to try mead, but unfortunately I was chosen as the designated driver for the day, and could not sample the wares of the preposterously-endowed barmaids, who seemed to be making a joke in the absurd ways they showcased their cleavage-one woman even went as far as to have eyes painted on her bosom.

I managed to have a good time at the fair, thanks in part to the constant jokes my sister and I made about it and the friendly conversations I had had with others in line for food and watching the awful shows. But I don’t think the fun I salvaged from the experience justifies the $45 total I spent just for entrance and food. If you’re in the market for some leather bracers, a new corset, a sword to hang on your wall, or just want an excuse to dress up as an elf and you’ve got some coin to spare, King Richard’s Faire would likely be a good investment. If you’re like me, and are looking for something a little more historically accurate and less oriented on buying things, I’d recommend attending an open air museum like Sturbridge Village or Plimoth Plantation. Overall, I give King Richard’s Faire 2 out of 5 turkey legs.

I wrote this for one of my journalism classes. I got an A-.

Internet slow, disconnecting, possibly mad at me?

Good morning, The Help Desk! How are you? I hope you slept well.

Anyway, this is the part where I start complaining about a problem I’m having, expecting some omnipotent being to descend upon my computer and fix it instantly, because god forbid I be without the internet for a night. I might even be forced to read a book or something.

So here it goes. I’m not sure what’s going on, or if it’s even related to the problems I’ve mentioned in previous emails, but the Internet is being incredibly slow tonight and is just all around reluctant to be nice to me. Websites don’t load or load after a dog’s age, my email application (thunderbird) cannot download or send mail without timing out several times, AOL Instant Messenger continues to lose connection every couple of minutes*, and a game I had been trying to download/preload (legally, I assure you, as I’ve mentioned before (but have since stopped due to the amount of problems I’ve been having with my connection tonight)) had been downloading at 2-18 KB/s. Seriously. 2 KB. I’m not even mad, that’s amazing.

*And now AIM has locked me out of signing on because I’ve been disconnecting and automatically signing off too much. That’s a nifty feature…

I don’t really expect you, whoever is unfortunate enough to get all my emails (I believe it was Bridgette last time. Don’t you work at The Cigar?), to be able to do anything about it, especially at this hour when I’m pretty sure you’re closed, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to let you know it was happening. Right? I bet you’re going to have to forward this to your network administrator again anyway, like my last emails. But can you at least clue me into why this has been happening, even if it can’t be fixed?
Is there maintenance going on or something? Or are all my roommates illegally downloading numerous massive torrents simultaneously? Is there any way for you to even find that out? Can you destroy their internet connections with extreme prejudice if that’s the case? Have I angered the Internet gods somehow? How can I atone for my sins?

I just want the Internet and I to be friends again.

Very truly yours,

Andrew Brennan

Block Island

About a week or so before my birthday, my dad and I went to Block Island. It was the first time I’d ever been there, and I spent roughly 10 straight hours in the sun, resulting in the worst sunburn I’ve had in my life thus far. But I’m really happy with how the pictures turned out, so I guess it was worth it.

Continue reading

Summertime

It’s something like 80º in the shade, people are mowing their lawns, and iced tea is the perfect beverage.

I think it’s finally Summer.

Flickr Video

Flickr does videos now.

This is awesome. Assuming wordpress will allow me to embed them at some point.* I’ve been wanting to do short clips of places. Moving photos really. I got the idea after seeing something on someones blog where they just post “soundscapes,” recordings of their surroundings.

This is the exactly what I wanted to do. Hooray.

*Update: Apparently there is already support for embedding Flickr Video and it is incredibly too simple to add them to your post. This is great.

April Fool’s

Derek: listen to this news
Me: I CALL BS IN ADVANCE
Derek: Andrew: 1 Derek: 0

I don’t take no nonsense on this day.