Monthly Archives: December 2013

Pinterest: a love-hate relationship

Pinterest has lots of useful reference tools, instruments, infographics, etc., for a budding social worker.  Yay.

Pinterest has the best of past and current humor, which provides instant, round-the-clock, therapeutic yuks to stressed-out grad students.  Yay.

Pinterest has obscure, international, rare and hard to find images (yay) but I worry about infringement of rights and uncredited images (boo, uh-oh, eep).  It’s still wonderful (and more fruitful than Google Image Search) to find images of my hometown and ancestral villages at different points in history (and other rich stuff like that).

Pinterest has good-hearted folks with poorly documented assertions.  Sigh.

(I don’t want to go on Snopes patrol, but when folks with good intentions and sympathetic politics spout BS, it must be corrected or it makes the team look stupid.  But it’s easy to let go, since most of the problematic stuff is just trying to be heartwarming.  A named bullfighter “overcome with emotion who can no longer torment animals” is actually a completely different bullfighter who is engaging in a standard gesture of defiance and contempt for the bull, etc.)

Pinterest has evil-hearted folks with poorly documented assertions.  Bloody!  I don’t even know how they turn up in my feminist, left-wing feed, but the racist, sexist, religionist, every-other-awful-thing-ist junk abounds.  Strangely, those pages always seem to include lots of really misinformed health information (Cancer Cells Can’t Survive Without Sugar!) that are eerily reminiscent of the Weekly World News.  Sometimes these nutballs pick fights on my posts and it is both interesting and horrible to have political arguments with strangers.  Go get your own page!  Shoo!

But the thing Pinterest whips out that baffles me most is the strange bedfellows.  I posted a ludicrous snake-oil tract from the early 20th c. about Atomic Energy And Fasting (God’s Power for YOU!) strictly for its camp value.  I thought it was a scream.  Every single person who has repinned it put it on a sincere, very earnest board about the power of Christian fasting in intercessory prayer.  (Okaaaay…but…oh, well, never mind.)

The right wing nutjobs (the kind who blame Obama if it rains) are also often anti-cancer nutjobs (honey cures it, but sugar deprivation also cures it, whatever) who post at length about the evils of Monsanto.

The anti-gay folks who sneer at liberals for boycotting Chik-Fil-A but not OPEC (who operates under anti-gay Sharia law) also, themselves, hate Sharia law, hate OPEC, and drive cars just as much as liberals.  (Do not try to mention that driving is a work/life necessity and fast food is not.  Do not try to explain that while OPEC is the main source of petroleum for the US, domestic and Canadian fuel still make up a great deal of what we use.  Do not engage them at all.  It’s futile.)

But for all its freaks and fallacies and Photoshop, I love Pinterest.  It’s a treasure chest where people put things they find beautiful and meaningful and funny.  And when I find some stranger whose boards are a lot like my own, I feel connected and thrilled.  When someone on the bus is reading a book I love, I wonder if she’s being entertained or bored or offended or baffled.  On Pinterest, I know for sure, because she has pinned it to a board called “Fictional Worlds / True Love” and it’s right between Narnia and Earthsea.  The books on that board I haven’t read yet suddenly shoot to the top of my library list.  And there are other boards, for movies, TV, clothes, style, pets, humor, work, food, crafts, life hacks, travel, personal history, world history, pin up gals, art, war, animals, science, politics, tradeskills, and all the pursuits of humanity.

And if anyone sneers that I should get out more, it’s true.  But until I can travel to a 12th century battleground, 1970s Vegas, the British Museum, or that geothermal park in Iceland, I still want to look at pictures and get to know strangers who got to go themselves — or want to, just like me, and like me, and like me.

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I Aten’t Dead (an Intermission)

Okay, I *really* need to be working on the PowerPoint presentation for my research class, but I’m tired and cold and I have a horrid cough and I just chugged a Red Bull (1% vitamins, 10% caffeine, 89% antifreeze) and I am procrastinating. For a minute.

I do NOT get performance art.  How is it art?  I know I tend to be the prescriptive, pain-in-the-assy type who calls Rodin big-A Art and a child’s fingerpainting little-a art.  I also call the craft of artisans “craft” without shame, since the skilled artisans in my family view craftsmanship with pride.  The planning and design of useful things, as much as their execution, makes them beautiful and worthwhile.  But what is Art, or art?

Hard to say, specifically — but I can create a boundary by saying what it is *not*.  Art is NOT “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if I put a ball of yarn in my hoo-ha and knitted it out?”  That is something we may not have a word for.  We need a word for it.  Sometimes it’s interesting or significant or challenging.  Most often it’s just a trick, a prod, a visual joke, a sneering comment on mainstream society.  More than anything it seems like a desperate act on the part of someone who craves attention or understanding.  Exhibitionists and narcissists.  Like some angry stand-up comedy acts, it seems like cheap therapy or some other attempt to work out personal ya-yas in front of a crowd. 

And part of this might be a failure of understanding on my part, or even a gut reaction.  Whatever I may be now, I was brought up to be a reserved and prim Christian country girl.  The type who purses her lips and looks away from ostentatious display.  But I don’t think this is my problem.  If strippers and pole dancers delight me, the problem might not be some inner prude flaring her nostrils. 

Perhaps it’s related to my grumpiness about people who pull self-deprivation stunts to “raise awareness” for a cause.  This is moving from the banal to the meaningful, and comparing the two puts me on dangerous ground.  But I am infuriated by people who do this.

Let me distinguish between them and people who are willing to die for the cause.  If you care about something so much that you are willing to hold yourself hostage to it — to go down with the tree you are trying to keep from being cut, to starve to death to get a prisoner freed, to face the tanks in the knowledge that they might not stop — I applaud your conviction and am moved by it, even if I do not endorse your cause. That’s not what I’m discussing here.

If you erect a pup tent on campus with a sign that says you are sleeping out of doors for three days to raise awareness for homelessness, I will write in your guestbook, “THERE IS A GUY LIVING IN THE DOORWAY ON THE NEXT BLOCK WHO COULD BE SLEEPING IN THIS TENT RIGHT NOW”.  If you are on a weekend fast to raise awareness for food insecure children, I will copy and paste your comment from last week about how you would like to lose a few pounds before spring break. 

You people are trivializing your (nominal) causes and revealing your true purpose:  to raise awareness of how cool you think you are, or would like to be.  There is no one on campus or on Facebook who is NOT AWARE of homelessness or hunger (or breast cancer, or whatever.)  You are NOT saving any gay baby whales for Jesus.  You are simply making a banal, self-serving spectacle of yourself.  You are committing an act of performance art.