Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cyber Self-Gratification

Everybody does it, they just don't talk about it. It's a natural occurrence that is done almost exclusively alone, but it's a dirty little secret people like to keep to themselves. Even those who claim no curiosity know in their quiet moments that the urge is there, and sooner or later, they succumb. People wait until their privacy is assured and they won't be interrupted, then they surrender to their yearnings and do it. They Google themselves.

I'm guilty, too. But ever since I began posting online, and The Memphis Flyer has been printing my articles in their weekly paper, I've gotten all Googled up and, like B.B. says, "The Thrill is Gone," or perhaps, just de-glossed. But the first time I Googled myself, my throat constricted and my face froze. After I had typed in my name and pressed "enter," the first headline that came up said "Dead in Memphis 6-19-70." For a moment, I thought I was living in an alternate universe until I read the article. It was from a 1995 Flyer story about The Grateful Dead coming to Memphis, and the reporter contacted me about attending a Dead concert in the Mid-South Coliseum in 1970, where they bombed. At this Vietnam era show, it looked like every sailor in Millington had come to see the Grateful Dead, and they all just sat there. I and several other hippies hung around afterward to offer our condolences to the band and apologise that our city wasn't more receptive. Phil Lesh told me that "Memphis is the most soul-less city we've ever played." Ah, the good old days.

After I had realized that it wasn't actually me who was dead, there were several other "hits" referencing my 1960s garage rock band with links and listings about Sun Records. I discovered that our 1965 Sun single was selling online for $65.00, which indirectly led to a full compilation by Ace Records. I was also amazed to learn from Google that I was a member of the Jackson, Tennessee based Rockabilly Hall of Fame. I suppose admittance is granted to anyone who ever released a record on the Sun label which, after the "Million Dollar Quartet," includes a long list of my fellow unknowns. Although the Radiants came along ten years after Rockabilly, a term that Sam Phillips hated, I was honored by the association. If they're still in the planning stages for our induction ceremony, however, they'd better hurry. Nobody's getting any younger.

My last name is uncommon, but Google introduced me to a slew of prospective relatives, from jocks to doctors, and even actors that play doctors. It turns out there are Haspels all over the place. I know for certain that some are unknown cousins, because someone has to be making those seersucker suits. I wonder if when they Google themselves, they wonder who in the hell I am. Seeing all that potential kin is interesting, but not enough for me to actually try and contact anyone. In this climate, they'd probably just hit me up for money and who needs that aggravation? I have other cousins who I actually like. Why ask for trouble?

It was likewise frightening the first time I typed in my name and clicked on Google "images." I expected to see an aging guy with a disheveled white beard, like my driver's license photo, but the first picture that came up was Osama bin Laden. Now my paranoia was confirmed. I had been scooped up in the Bush administration's dragnet and the NSA was monitoring my computer activity. I had used too many of the Echelon project "code words," and now they were lumping me in with Al Qaeda. I was hesitant to even click on the picture, thinking that a giant eye would appear on the screen and order me to the courthouse to receive my bar-code, but it turned out to be just a picture from the Flyer from an issue in which I had an article.

I enjoyed the Google re-affirming my identity for a time. Having online references about yourself is a little like a droplet of immortality, at least until the next technology comes along. But things have changed and Google is not as kind to me as it once was. It seems writing for The Flyer is a mixed blessing. I enjoy having my thoughts and opinions considered by a wider audience and the Flyer pays me for my work, but it also brought me out of my tiny, blog bubble and greater access has invited more criticism. As a songwriter in Nashville, I used to eat criticism on my cereal for breakfast and developed a weatherproofed, leathery hide. I've been disappointed more times than a Manson woman at a parole hearing, but when the criticism is printed, that goes up on the Google as well. Now, just after a music site that says my singing voice is interesting, there's a reader's comment that says I'm also ignorant. After such a blissful spell of happy Google searching, I have lost control over my cyber identity, and with each published article, the number of people who consider me an idiot has grown in tandem.

So, I had to give up Googling myself. It felt good for a while but I needed to stop. I was beginning to go blind and hair was growing on my keyboard. Every now and then I'll check to make sure I still exist, but my self-Googling verve has diminished with time. At first, it was a gentle ego massage to see my name on the World Wide Web, but it's not as thrilling when your name is followed by the word "fool." Googling is such a tough habit to break, it should have it's own 12 step program. "My name is Randy and I'm a Self-Googler." Although I haven't given it up completely, I'll stop cold turkey before I let that damn Google start talking back to me and calling me names. If I allowed that, it would then cease to be self-gratification and something more akin to masturbating with steel wool. It just feels so good when you stop.

17 comments:

Doctor Molecule said...

Raspule:

Call Kirkpatrick re: Bader, Doctor Molecule, and Madame Skeetro

Gregg said...

I don't know, but to me this particular piece of RJH that has collected itself and found voice after coursing down your fingers onto a keyboard has tones that resonate somewhere in my memory bank. Oh yes. Andy Rooney.

Read the cadence of the last couple of paragraphs. Rooneyesque, yes?


Stay healthy, old man.
Smooch to your girl.

Hi, Nancy Jean.

Anonymous said...

I did the google on my name, and nothing came up. Does this mean I don't exist? Interesting, and yet not very funny.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Sputnik! Just discovered my new vocation: I'll be a Google critic, historian and denier!

zephyrman

Anonymous said...

'Masturbating with steel wool'...the mental image of you sitting at your computer doing that made me laugh out loud. I am the guy who feels that you deserve one of those musical note thingies on Beale St. As a local musician you were enough of an influence on the Memphis music scene to deserve one. I hope that that is done before you are posthumous. I'll bet that you have more name recognition than many who are enshrined there. Googling youself is a natural impulse to see if your existence has mattered. I don't see it as vanity so much as a natural desire to see that you counted for something. I still say that you were one of the best disc jockey/musical lorist/commentators of all time in the Memphis area. And that includes the venerable and perhaps psychotic Dewey Phillips.

Anonymous said...

Off the topic at hand...I cheered when Obama put his finger in the face of the Wall St. capitalist pigs and scolded them for misusing the public bail-out money to line their own pockets. I only wish that he had ordered public floggings. The lowest welfare cheat is more honorable that these reprehensible creatures. I wish that I could beat them with my own fists. That being said, here is where I need some help. Why didn't Obama tell his party that every penny of the stimulus package is to be used to save the economy? Why didn't he tell them to forget about their pork programs and other bullshit items until later? There seems to be an inconsistency here. Someone help me to understand. I am trying not to slide back into the slough of cynicism. Randy, I asked you to help me understand your position on the use of miltary force and you graciously complied and I was very happy to see the I agree with you 100% on that issue. I guess that I am asking for tutoring from a liberal rather than Rush Limbaugh. Can you help me to understand what is going on here?

Susan said...

R.J. I actually found one of our New Orleans cousins, Susan Haspel, whom I had met as an adult. She and her husband reopened Haspel suits, and we had a great email exchange. Remember, politicians say that even if what the media says about you is uncomplimentary, at least they're talking about you. Love, Your Sister

SIREEN said...

Dear Mr. Haspel! I am sorry that the Memphis tribe didn't show up for the 1970 Dead concert...but you tell that Phil Lesh that some of us "souless" Memphians are still pissed with what they did to Bobby "Blue" Bland's TURN ON YOUR LOVE LIGHT! Talking about souless! That was just caucasoidal-suicide. Maybe you had to be mad with refruh! Not that Caucasian's shouldn't give it a shot... the song not the refruh...the Radiants turned it into a garage rock classic...but that's not what I want to talk about. I know that you are from the New Orlean's fashionable Haspels & that your dear wife Muddy is a Fashion consultant...I wonder what y'all thought of the ignaugural fashions!? I thought the Obamas were just beautiful...but how about Jill Biden sporten those smoken' skeletto boots by Boinkme'.
AND! Did you hear that the Smithsonian Institute has requested for Aretha Franklin's hat? I guess that Bow was so enormous that it did make her body seem just a wee bit smaller in comparison! NAHHH! I guess the Smithsonian like things Humongus!Though Snopes denies it... it has been claimed for years that ganstah John Dillenger's exeptionally large portion of his anatomy was removed post-mortem & was put on display, housed or left hangen' in one of the Smithonian museums. I guess in Washington D.C. they like ENORMOUS STIMULUS PACKAGES! TURN ON YOUR LOVE LIGHT! Yours Truly! SIREEN

Father Farken said...

Is any one coming to the Grateful Deads defence? They were influenced by Coltrane, Haggard, bluegrass, Elvis on Sun, early r&b, folk...roots as well as Alice in Wonderland. When they were singing LOVE LIGHT they were drawing on Kerouac as well Bobby Blue Bland. They took it ON THE ROAD! It kind of worked for them...don't you think?

Randy said...

Let's face it. Jerry Garcia aside, the Dead weren't that good.

Father Farken said...

You are correct sir! A band can not live on influence alone. How ever isn't it amazing that they were able to take it as far as they did? Jerry Garcia said on the old Letterman Show that they didn't want to end up like Elvis in Vegas! Though I know where he was coming from...they could only wish! Sireen! Randy has spoken! You are going to Hollywood!
On another note I was glad that no one made fun of Aretha's Ignaugaral singing as if she was little Miss Piggy & not one of the greatest singers that has ever lived known better as the Queen of Soul & ....did the Boss of the Super Bowl freeze his groin some where between 10th Ave. & Thunder Road? Damn! I sure wish I had his energy! Oh well! God loves you know matter what! Love your neighbor no matter what! The Peace of the Lord! FrFerghusFarken

Anonymous said...

Randy, you are the first person from our generation who has had the courage to publicly reveal the fact that 'The emperor has no clothes' in regard to the Grateful Dead. I have never heard an old hippie tell the truth about them. I thought that I was the only one in the world who thought this, but I never had the courage to admit it publicly...too much like blasphemy. Now I feel that I can. Thanks!

Wintermute said...

Good writing, this.

Anonymous said...

I meant to make an allusion to 'the emperor's new clothes, not 'the emperor has no clothes'. I was momentarily non compis mentis.

kimk said...

At that 1970 Dead concert the Coliseum folks just placed these thin panels over the ice for the hockey team so if one was on acid it seemed like Siberia.

And supposedly the police made them stick to the exact wording of their contract, they had the place for that day only so at exactly 12 midnight they had to shut down.

Thus at exactly 12 midnight all the house suddenly came while the band was mid-song and they just walked off with Lesh quickly saying, "Sorry folks, the law says we gotta go."

Anonymous said...

The cops walked on stage and unplugged Johnny Winter when he was playing at the Overton Park Shell in the summer of '69, because someone had complained of noise. He was the headline act and if I remember correctly he had only been playing a few minutes before that happened. It was a horrific bummer, because most people had paid to see him. Was anyone else there?

Father Farken said...

The truth about Obama is that he is a LEFTY! Hell! There have only been 6 left-handers in the White House...if you don't count James Garfield. He was BI...uh I mean ambidextrous. However The Big O is the 4th lefty to occupy the White House since 1981! Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush Sr., and Ronald Reagan were all lefties! By the way! Al Gore was a lefty. Still is. If Al had won that would have been 5 in a row! It was Karl, who said, "It is inevitable that the oppressed classes will rise up & throw off their chains." And Groucho, who said, "Outside a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside a dog? It's too dark to read!" Who was the real anarchist? The Peace of the Lord! '