Unfriend Me

How to be a Social Medea and give “friends” the axe

Credit must go to Facebook for turning “friend” into a verb, as in “Friend me on Facebook,” or perhaps “Go friend yourself,” should one choose to decline the invitation. When it became appended with the antonymic prefix “un-,” the new verb took its place in the New Oxford American Dictionary last November as the lexicographer’s choice of “word of the year.”

“It has both currency and potential longevity,” senior lexicographer Christine Lindberg of Oxford’s U.S. dictionary program told CNN at the time. “In the online social networking context, its meaning is understood, so its adoption as a modern verb form makes this an interesting choice for word of the year.”

Of course, new entries into the lexicon can’t be truly integrated into the language until some daft, first-year journalism student attempts to use it in a dreaded “dictionary lead” ? la “The New Oxford American Dictionary defines ‘unfriend’ as ‘To remove someone as a friend on a social networking site.'” Likewise, “retweet” is also a pitch-perfect neologism: if to “tweet” is to post something on Twitter, then to retweet, one can easily intuit, is to repost (not to be confused with “riposte,” a fencing term used to describe an arch reply dipped in wit?which often accompany retweets) that tweet. Of course, “retweet” sounds like what Elmer Fudd would say at Waterloo, but in cyberspace no one can hear you scream, so what does it matter?

Long a verb in its own right, Google is said to be cooking up its own Facebook-killer, “Google Me,” which apparently makes one’s self-absorption sharable online with the masses you might eventually unfriend. To “Ungoogle Me” would likely be the result of an online restraining order. The fine folks at the Oxford American Dictionary will likely leave that one, well, undefined.

From the get-go, public relations professionals have hitched their wagons to Facebook lest they be made irrelevant by the bumper crop of social-media marketing professionals (and otherwise) once everyone realized the platform combined the worst aspects of open-mic night and a social disease. Everyone has a shot at infecting their friends with the message; now advertisers, corporate and individual brands and causes are considered so-last-century if they’re not represented on what was quaintly called “the” Facebook until its fateful name change in 2005.

Among those trying to refract a little of the site’s limelight is Know Me Social Media Marketing, which is simultaneously based in San Diego, Calif., and Nashville, Tenn. The company, whose “head geek” Don Lowe could pass as a stand-in for Dan Aykroyd circa My Stepmother Is an Alien, is promoting its Facebook-inspired-brainchild “Worldwide 1st Annual Delete a Friend Week on Facebook.” Represented by a fan page on the site entitled “Delete a Friend Week,” the campaign, as of this writing, boasts 2,266 fans.

“This fall, fall out of touch with seven of your most annoying friends. Starting Sept. 1st, join us in deleting seven Facebook friends who drive you nuts,” reads the fan page. “Maybe it’s that they never comment or maybe it’s because they write posts that are 19 paragraphs. Let us know what made you decide to delete them as well.”

The fact that joining a Facebook page while unfriending friends is akin to taking seven steps forward and one step back in terms of managing one’s online relationships hasn’t seemed to bother the “movement’s” adherents. The call to post one’s reasons for dropping people is the campaign’s secret weapon: it provides a forum to justify what others might construe as an antisocial act. One can cut a cretin with a clear conscious by posting that one has tired of “those people who post about their ‘awesome’ mac & cheese” as one woman wrote. Participants aren’t so much cutting friends, however, as redirecting their energies to another corner of Facebook’s walled garden while bolstering a marketing company’s portfolio.

That the gauge of Know Me Social Media Marketing’s success lies within a body count of ended online relationships is not as peculiar as the fact that it has been so embraced prior to its official launch next week. It’s a queasy catharsis, for sure, but “digital dharma” has yet to enter the dictionary.

Alas, “frenemy” already has.

Unfriend me here.

Green Springs Eternal

Despite the plummet in the value of its residential real estate (thanks Sonoma County Assessor’s Office!), the Springs seems in the midst of an economic renaissance.

At least that’s what my bank statement tells me as it seems there are plenty of new places to alleviate oneself of those crinkled, sage-hued papers cluttering one’s pocketbook.

Among the new businesses are a smoking paraphernalia shop and a barbeque joint within spitting distance of each other, named Pipe Pirates and Hot Box respectively. Hmm. If Mary’s Pizza Shack changed its name to Mary-Jane’s, the “greening” of the Springs would be well under way. Area homeowners such as myself knew our mortgages were underwater, we just didn’t know it was bong-water. And all along I thought that bubbling sound was the gurgling of the natural geothermal springs. Or the meth labs. I’m kidding – mostly.

I’m both old and young enough to have used the word “green” as slang for money, marijuana and notions of ecological consciousness. Throughout the decades I’ve been writing columns, I’ve made cheap references to the Kermit the Frog tune, “It’s Not Easy Being Green” for at least the latter two “greens” more times than I can remember (insert “short-term memory loss” gag here). Apparently, it’s getting easier being green in Wine Country – however one defines it – and I bet that the weed and vine will eventually intertwine once some glassy-eyed sharpshooter, Johnny Appleseed-type gets a yen for biodiversity and sews the seeds of change in somebody’s vineyard. It happens in public parks all the time …

Of course, weed and wine aren’t the only naturally occurring substances along our stretch of Sonoma Highway. The newly-launched Olde Sonoma Public House continues the so-called “Beer Flag Revolt” that’s been brewing close to town vis-à-vis LoKal, the Sonoma Springs Brewery, Mondo and the coming Hopmonk Tavern. Perhaps, with the pending legalization of marijuana, our local pot-farmers and vintners should unite and take on the beeristas with a cannabis sauvignon or sativa sauterne.

Be aware that this hybrid would likely leave one neither drunk nor stoned but rather a combination of the two – “droned.”

What good is getting people droned? We could tax the crap out of it and use the funds to fuel the drive to incorporate the Springs into its own city. Personally, I quite like living in unincorporated Sonoma County but I must admit I also enjoy watching drunken dinner party guests debate what the new Springs-borne city might be called.

Various names are thrown against the wall like, “Sonoma Valley.” Duh. Sure, why not make it all the more confusing? As it is, my clients at the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau complain they frequently have to explain the Russian doll-like relationship between the county, city and Valley that all share “Sonoma” in their name). A cheeky nomination from the gay camp: “Where the Boyes Are.” “Sonoma-Lite,” Sonoma Plus” and “Sonoma Xtreme” all sound more like the snack aisle at a grocery store than a Wine Country village. For that matter, “Wine Country Village” sounds like an outlet mall – good for Dockers, bad for everything else.

The other part of the Drone Tax Springs Secession conversation is, “Who gets to be mayor?” This lasts about a minute before everyone decides that they should be mayor. Inevitably, the loudest person wins this mayoral race and proceeds to dole out consolatory cabinet positions like the one I always get – “Minister of Propaganda.” Like hell I’m going to write about such tripe, I explain to little avail. But they just glare at me with their glassy eyes and the next thing you know I’m on deadline and, well … It’s not easy being Springs.

Sonoma County Lifestyle Ambassador

Name: Daedalus Howell
Title: Lifestyle Ambassador
Mission: Enlighten those outside Sonoma as to what?s Inside Sonoma, America?s premiere Wine, Spa and Coastal Destination. And occasionally wear a sash.

Presented by the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau, media personality and wine country bon vivant Daedaluls Howell deconstructs the traditional travelogue as he tours viewers through his native county.

Highway 116: The Long and Winding Road meets Lost Highway

Long ago, I accepted that the construction on Highway 116 might never end. Its perennial delays and eternal dust have simply become a fact of life (and occasionally death) for Sonomans. It’s as if some decree from on high declared, “Ye shall not enjoy ease of passage to and from Petaluma, for Sonoma must remain an inland island, severed from the world by a moat of wine that runneth so deep as to quench the fires of Hell.” Or some such nonsense.

Moreover, Highway 116 is a bit of a shape-shifter (literally, given that its currently in the midst of being straightened) and boasts nearly as many names as Tolkien’s Gandalf, who took up different handles with whomever he was consorting, be they elves or dwarves or Caltrans employees.

Coming from the Russian River, part of Highway 116 is known as “River Road,” which, hands down, wins the prize for “total lack of creative vision in naming a highway.” Through the westerly hills of Sonoma County, the highway is known variously as the Willard F. Libby Memorial Highway (for the Sebastopol native, nuclear scientist and member of the Atomic Energy Commission, who received the 1960 Nobel Prize in chemistry for developing carbon-dating) and Gravenstein Highway, so-named for the apple of the same name (though vineyards have supplanted much of what were once apple orchards). There’s even a stretch known among Caltrans employees as the Cotati Grade, which sounds more like slang for inferior pot than a couple miles of scenic highway.

From Petaluma, Highway 116 is essentially schizophrenic, taking on names and hairpin turns in near equal measure. Lakeville Highway, Stage Gulch Road and Arnold Drive are all formal monikers for various parts of the 11-mile artery to Sonoma. The final leg, prior to its terminus at Highway 121, is named for erstwhile Sonoma-retiree Gen. Hap Arnold, who was likewise mixed up with atomic pursuits. The five-star general was key to getting the B-29 bomber off the ground and bore the highly classified foreknowledge that it would eventually be used to drop the A-bomb on Japan, 65 years ago last week.

I’ve alternately heard our piece of the highway called the Wino Death Trap and Glutton’s Run, though the body count is as often run up from the nature of the road’s design itself, or apparent lack thereof, than mere DUIs gone DOA. Hence, since at least 2003, the highway has been on Caltrans’ do-over docket. We’re grateful, surely, but we’re also nonplussed by the stymied flow of traffic into the Valley, which, very often, is mandated by a middle-aged woman in a panama hat, who bears her “Slow” sign like some sort of a traffic scepter. I’ve come to think of her as the Crossing Guard of Karma.

Instead of merely brandishing her sign, she undulates her hands, wrists and elbows in a manner that suggests a leisurely, rolling wave – like Tai Chi by way of traffic school. The movement, however strange, is actually effective in coaxing one’s foot off the pedal. I’m not sure if she’s practicing roadside hypnosis or casting a spell as if she were Glynda the Good Witch on a day-job. Is Caltrans dabbling in witchcraft? Who knows but it’s working. At least it works on me. Every time I cruise by, perhaps at an ill-advised speed, the woman does her traffic voodoo and suddenly my foot levitates off the accelerator and I’m suddenly quite calm.

This Shaman of the Gravel Shoulder has a way turning MPH into TLC, which is no mean feat in this workaday world of get-up-and-go-go-go. Perhaps, her ritual gestures are some kind of interpretative dance, an ancient sign language that defies translation. Or maybe it’s something as obvious as “Slow down; life’s not a commute; take the scenic route and take your time – we all get where we’re going soon enough.” Or, as translated into the language of bumperstickers: “Better to be on the road to the end than at the end of the road.”

How Napa Ninjas Eat Sonoma’s Lunch

Until recently, I’d never been to St. Helena’s Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant. Were it not for a fortuitous luncheon with a client this week, I might never have learned that the Napa County institution is serving up more than my petite hanger steak with glazed yellow wax beans, toybox cherry tomatoes, pancetta, crumbled gorgonzola and cabernet jus. It’s got a cauldron of doom simmering on the backburner, ready to serve to Sonoma.

Tucked into the northerly wing of the Culinary Institute of America, tomorrow’s chefs are gaining their gustatory gravitas alongside the best of the Napa Valley and beyond. Let one’s mind wonder for a moment, however, and it’s not hard to imagine Greystone as the Hogwarts of haute cuisine, where dark culinary arts are transferred from one generation to the next. Even the building’s name is suggestive of the sort of staid structure one might find in Langley, Va., crossed with the X-Men’s school for Mutant Teenagers. And a spice rack.

The fact that Greystone is part of the Culinary Institute of America, or more precisely – CIA – only adds to the impression that, to them, the difference between saucier and super-spy is academic. Literally. Greystone is a school for secret agents camouflaged in a toque. The evidence is obvious. The on-campus restaurant is a mere typo away from having the word “spectre” in its name. Need I remind you that SPECTRE stands for “SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion,” the very agency that’s been trying to kill James Bond all these years?

Consider this: Uber-chef Julia Child’s supposition that one’s first lesson in the kitchen should be “how to use a knife” takes on new meaning when one considers she was a member of the Office of Strategic Services, a forerunner to the Central Intelligence Agency (one can imagine the CIA uses such instruments for more than deveining shrimp). Need I say more?

Prior to meeting my wife, my kitchen drawers consisted of little more than a Swiss Army knife. My culinary weaponry has since grown into a full-blown arsenal, but I’ve had little occasion to purchase any throwing-stars or blow-darts – standard equipment in Napa, I suspect. I wouldn’t be able to find such tools of death in Sonoma anyway. If you want to raise eyebrows at the Sign of the Bear Kitchenware, go ahead and ask for throwing-stars. A search online at our namesake corporate kitchen store, Williams-Sonoma, yielded only “star anise” and “Star Wars Pancake Molds,” which could be considered lethal, at least to one’s love life – if you’re male, single and own some.

That said, I suspect one might find all manner of stainless steel pokies from any kitchen store in Napa. They’re that serious. Why else would they stock “Food and Wine” and “Soldier of Fortune” magazines side by side in those places? “The Art of French Cooking” sharing a shelf with “Cooking to Kill: The Poison Cookbook” by Ebenezer Murgatroyd? Puh-lease.

And this, methinks, is the primary difference between Napa and Sonoma on the dual fronts of wine and epicurea. Sonomans are satisfied with wine country living as is. Napa won’t be satisfied until it achieves world domination (and the perfect soufflé). Thus, we must be vigilant, Sonoma. We must discipline our minds, bodies and palates so that we too are lean, mean, gourmet machines.

To wit, our local culinary school, Ramekins, might consider including a hand-to-hand combat course with its “chewy gooey, crispy crunchy cookie” class. Chewy gooey can only get you so far, but an organic, herbal pepper-spray class – now that’s cooking with gas. I mean, what are going to do when the ninjas come? You know what Napa does? They go to Sonoma because they ARE the ninjas. They’re coming. We’ll be ready. Napa can eat our lunch but we’ll take it to breakfast.