2013: The Year in Review – Part 1: Culture

After my poor showing on the cultural front in 2012 I set myself some rather modest targets for this year; every month get two new records, read two new books, and see two new films. How hard could that be? Harder than I thought evidently.

I didn’t do too badly with music, managing to acquire 30 albums, mostly new stuff, and getting along a few live shows too.

Here’s this year’s mix tape (and here it is on Spotify, with a couple of substitutions for tracks that aren’t available):

Untitled 28 – The Twilight Sad (Killed My Parents and Hit the Road)
Nil - The Twilight Sad (No One Can Ever Know)
Holy – Frightened Rabbit (Pedestrian Verse)
Xcommunication – My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult (I See Good Spirits And I See Bad Spirits)
Girls Are The New Boys – Saloon ((This Is) What We Call Progress)
Partners in Crime – The Strokes (Comedown Machine)
Subway – Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Mosquito)
S.O.S. In Bel Air – Phoenix (Bankrupt!)
Husbands – Savages (Silence Yourself)
Magic Bullet – Wire (Change Becomes Us)
W/ Glass In Foot – Guided By Voices (English Little League)
Turn Each Other Inside Out – Primal Scream (More Light)
I Sat By The Ocean – Queens of the Stone Age (Like Clockwork)
Bad For My Body – Deap Vally (Sistrionix)
Bagboy – Pixies (Bagboy)
Tomorrow Tomorrow – Eleanor Friedberger (Personal Record)
Athsma Attack – The Fiery Furnaces (Gallowsbird’s Barkl)
Navy Nurse – The Fiery Furnaces (Widow City)
Canary Island – Houndstooth (Ride Out The Dark)
Morningstar – Grant Hart (The Argument)
Low F – Superchunk (I Hate Music)
Pandora’s Box – Throwing Muses (Throwing Muses)
Hitch – Speedy Ortiz (Major Arcana)
State Of Mine – Sebadoh (Defend Yourself)
Joan Of Arc – Arcade Fire (Reflektor)
Opiates – Throwing Muses (Purgatory/Paradise)
No Shelter – Blouse (Imperium)
Turning Violent – The Flaming Lips (The Terror)
I Need My Girl – The National (Trouble Will Find Me)
Only Tomorrow – My Bloody Valentine (mbv)

I’d have to admit that my musical tastes haven’t changed much in the last 20 years, hence the somewhat retro look of the above selection. My favourite album of the year – Major Arcana by Speedy Ortiz – is a new band’s debut, but the sound is distinctly 90s. Similarly the concerts I attended – Pixies, The Breeders – had a definite nostalgic edge.

It’s downhill from here I’m afraid. I only managed eight full-length novels, though in my defence I would say that I was on a bit of a modernist binge, and books like Gravity’s Rainbow, To the Lighthouse and Umbrella take a while to get through. Rewarding though, and in particular I found Will Self’s tale of psychiatric exploration and wartime loss both structurally intriguing and professionally fascinating, which made it my favourite read this year. In lieu of serious literature I did consume a lot of shorter pieces; reviews, essays, medical and political articles, and rather too many blog posts and other bits of online trivia. I like to think that this is a reflection of the fragmented nature of contemporary cultural discourse, but it probably has more to do with my ageing brain’s declining attention span.

My cinematic experience was similarly underwhelming; I just about managed one film a month. Behind the Candelabra was probably the best of these, and I also liked Before Midnight, though it wasn’t quite as enjoyable as the previous instalments in the series.

So, pass marks for music, but could do better for books and movies. Will things improve over the next twelve months? I’m not sure that I’ll see more films, since I seem to have lost my old cinema habit, but I have bought a few volumes that were on the critics’ “Best of 2013″ lists, so I might catch up on current literary trends, albeit a year behind. We’ll see.

Viva la Revolución Bolivariana!

I woke to sad news today; Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, had lost his final battle against illness. It seems like only yesterday we were celebrating his reelection; now we mourn his passing.

Hugo Chavez will undoubtedly be remembered as a great figure in left politics; his legacy not just the vast improvement in living standards he brought to the people of Venezuela, but also the movement he built that will carry on his work, and the inspiration he gave to others fighting poverty and injustice in neighbouring countries and around the world.

That inspiration is captured in the documentary The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, which covers the abortive 2002 coup against Chavez, and the popular uprising that defeated it. It’s available in full on YouTube, and well worth watching.

The Griefing Games

Internet addicts in China have a mixed time; while government-run centres provide some of the most up-to-date treatment in the world, patients who check into the wrong clinic might find themselves getting electroshock therapy, or being beaten to death.

In a new twist, it was reported this week that a Mr Feng, exasperated by his son spending hours online in preference to getting a job, had hired assassins to kill his slacker offspring. OK, these were virtual hitmen, who repeatedly offed the boy as he tried to play World of Warcraft, but still, that’s tough love. (If you believe the story; there is some scepticism.)

I doubt that this approach would work with Second Life addiction (if one accepts that such a thing exists), since anyone who puts up with the frustration of SL long enough to develop a problem is unlikely to be deterred by a bit of low-level griefing. In fact I’m not sure that having a couple of hired killers tracking me, like I was in some sort of exciting spy story or something, wouldn’t make me more likely to log on, though I guess it might get a little irritating after a while.

There might be a business opportunity here – for a fee operatives could stalk a resident around the grid, befriending them and winning their trust, before unexpectedly delivering a virtual whacking, a bit like the CRS Corporation did to Michael Douglas in The Game.

I think there could be quite a bit of demand for such a service, playing as it does on the paranoia and narcissism that are such prominent features of the Second Life experience. On the other hand, the revenue model might be undercut somewhat by the fact that there are plenty people in SL who are willing to provide unsolicited harassment free of charge.

2012: The Year in Review – Part 1: Culture

Back in February I had the brilliant idea of starting up a Tumblr, upon which I intended to note every record I bought, every film I watched for the first time and every new book I read, so that come December I would have the raw material for a review of my year’s cultural highlights.

I have managed to keep this going (unlike the Pinterest project, but that’s another story), and it has revealed, disappointingly, that the cultural landscape of my life is more akin to an arid desert than the tropical rainforest I imagined it to be.

I did best on the recorded music front, with 24 albums purchased, a fraction of what I consumed back in the 90s, but perhaps not too bad for an old dog. Books read numbered an embarrassing 11, none of them published this year, while my movie intake was a mere dozen, with only two actual trips to the cinema (and one of those was to see The Muppets). I seem to have managed to completely avoid going to concerts and exhibitions.

Have I descended then into philistinism? Has the pernicious effect of the accursed internet completely rotted my brain? Not quite yet I hope. I spend rather more time than I should on idle web browsing, but I do try to keep up with the Arts sections of the papers, so I can join in conversations about contemporary culture, even if most of my opinions are gleaned from reviews rather than direct experience. I still listen to music pretty much all the time, though I stick more to stuff I know I’ll like than I used to. I do need to start watching more films again, starting with the stack of DVDs I accumulated this year that I never quite got round to viewing.

Anyway, on with the review. Music first; here’s my 2012 mix-tape, made up from my favourite track from each of the records I bought this year, mostly new releases, but some older stuff too:

Chocolate Boy – Guided By Voices (Let’s Go Eat the Factory)
Norgaard – The Vaccines (What Did You Expect from the Vaccines?)
On a Neck, On a Spit – Grizzly Bear (Yellow House)
Wasted Days – Cloud Nothings (Attack on Memory)
Boyfriend – Best Coast (Crazy For You)
Secrets – Headlights (Wildlife)
Love Interruption – Jack White (Blunderbuss)
Can We Really Party Today? – Jonathan Wilson (Gentle Spirit)
Better Girl – Best Coast (The Only Place)
Be Impeccable – Guided By Voices (Class Clown Spots a UFO)
No Cars Go – Arcade Fire (Arcade Fire)
Neighborhood 3 (Power Out) – Arcade Fire (Funeral)
Yet Again – Grizzly Bear (Shields)
June – Unrest (Imperial f.f.r.r.)
Harnessed in Slums – Archers of Loaf (Vee Vee)
Polyester Bride – Liz Phair (Whitechocolatespaceegg)
Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know – Dinosaur Jr. (I Bet on Sky)
Season in Hell – Dum Dum Girls (End of Daze)
Pinhole Cameras – …And You Will Know Us By the Trail Of Dead (Lost Songs)
He Gets Me High – Dum Dum Girls (He Gets Me High)
Waking Up The Stars – Guided By Voices (The Bears For Lunch)
Keep Believing – Bob Mould (Silver Age)
The House That Heaven Built – Japandroids (Celebration Rock)
The Anarchist – Rush (Clockwork Angels)

There are several contenders for my record of the year, including Attack on Memory, Silver Age, Celebration Rock and both the Dum Dum Girls’ EPs, but I’ll give the nod to the pleasingly complex Shields by Grizzly Bear.

The best book I read this year was The Cambridge Modern History Volume IV – The Thirty Years War, a majestic tome published back in 1906, available on the Kindle for pennies, which covers not just the titular conflict but also the English Civil War and religious, philosophical and cultural developments of the period. The editors’ Victorian prejudices do show to some extent, but the raw material is so dramatic that it can’t miss being a gripping read.

My fiction reading this year mostly consisted of catching up with books I’m faintly embarrassed to admit I hadn’t read already, like The Trial, The Gambler, Crash, and, my favourite, The Golden Notebook, by Doris Lessing. I liked it for its depiction of life in the CPGB in the 50s, which is a little specialised I guess, but it’s also worth reading for the experimental structure and proto-feminist sensibility.

Film of the year? I hardly feel qualified to comment, but I thought On the Road was quite good. The Muppets was OK too I suppose.

So, that sums up my year of culture. Not my best ever, but not too shabby. Hopefully I’ll be inspired to try a bit harder in 2013…

We got five years, my brain hurts a lot

Today is the fifth anniversary of the very first post on this blog. To mark this auspicious occasion I had been thinking of collecting our best 100 pieces into an ebook, but then I realised that that might be just a little narcissistic, even for me, so I’ve settled for compiling a (slightly) shorter list of the posts I’ve been most pleased with over the years. They’re in chronological order, to show the development of our style, such as it is. Most are from 2009-2010, which was really our golden age, but every year has had some highlights.

Actually, what’s been my favourite part of writing this blog has been working in all the references to music I like; here’s another one.

2007

Virtual intimacy
This ain’t the Mudd Club
Attack of the Mutant Space Zombies
On the Game Grid
Working for the Linden Dollar
The thousand natural shocks
Elf actualisation

2008

Conduit (not) for sale
Diane …
Reptilia
A foreign country
Bunny worship
Uncertain principles

2009

Modern Romance
The best laid schemes
Nietzsche work if you can get it
Cargo cult consciousness
Greenies may have invaded some time ago, we hear
Et in Arcadia ego
Less than zero
Plunging Necklines
Live from East 3rd Street
Twilight of the Replicants
Ferrisburg, Vermont
Do boys make passes at avatars with glasses?
No man is an island
Flogging a dead zombie
Twixt and between
The killer awoke before dawn
Scenes from the Class Struggle in Second Life
Why we hate and fear the BBC
On being kind not cruel
Liberté, Egalité, Virtualité
Virtual Bakumatsu

2010

You say you want a revolution
Two Galleries
O Superman
The Kid With The Replaceable Head
The Linden Principle
Прощай Woodbury
Digital Death Day
That gum you like is going to come back in style
From Off the Streets of Cleveland
Bastille Day 1989
On the unreliability of memory
Virtual alchemy
Upon the dismal shore of Acheron
Anatomy of a scandal
The rest is silence
The Revolution Will Not Be Twitterised
Cut Away
Red Ties
Reoccurring Dreams
That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore

2011

The Social Network
The wrong move at the right time
The Great Gonzo
The Leopard
The Solution
Spaced Out
Do You Believe in Rapture?
The Physical Impossibility of Running an Art Gallery in Second Life
Subdivisions

2012

Planned obsolescence
I’d work very hard, but I’m lazy

Davy Jones R.I.P.

I’m too young to have experienced The Monkees first time around, but the show was a staple of after-school TV when I was growing up in the 70s, and their movie Head became one of our late-night favourites in my student days, so I was sad to hear that Davy Jones had passed away. Another sign that time is moving on I guess.

2011: The year in review

2011 was a year of two halves here at SLS; we were posting regularly up until about June, but never really got started again after the summer break. Embarrassingly, we only managed eight posts in the last quarter, and two of those were apologies for inactivity. Unsurprisingly our traffic has fallen off a cliff in the last few months, and is now sitting around half of what is was this time last year.

Anyway, here are our top ten posts by traffic for the last twelve months:

  1. The Social Network
  2. Second Life demographics – a brief review
  3. On Second Life and addiction
  4. What’s up
  5. Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
  6. Virtual alchemy
  7. 2010: The year in review
  8. Second Life, with graphics, on the iPhone?
  9. Zombie Epidemiology
  10. Plunging Necklines

Only one of these, The Social Network, is from this year, but at least it is the top post, and one of our better ones too. I’d love to think its high ranking was due to the quality of the writing, but actually it’s because Google kindly chose to link it with the search term “Sean Parker Facebook” for a while over the summer. The addiction and demographics posts from last year continue to do well, probably because no one else can be bothered to write anything on those topics. There is always a steady interest in Second Life zombies, and Olivia’s 2009 Nosferatu-themed post Plunging Necklines made a welcome return to the chart, possibly on the back of the Lab’s promotion of SL as a platform for vampire role-play.

Of the other posts we managed to crank out this year my favourites were, in chronological order:

If I had pick one post of the year it would be The Solution, which I think encapsulates everything we try to do here at SLS; spare prose, literary and political allusion, self-conscious pretension, and all in the service of an utterly inconsequential point.

But what of the world beyond this blog? What of the Arab Spring, the war in Libya, the tsunami in Japan, the News International phone-hacking scandal, the death of Bin Laden, the UK riots, the Eurozone crisis, and everything else that has been going on this year? We did manage to comment on most of these events, but brief blog posts aren’t really the best medium for considering weighty issues, so it was all rather superficial. We might try to follow a couple of topics in more depth next year – perhaps the economy, and the US elections.

Back in January I promised that we would publish more book, film and music reviews, but this hasn’t really worked out. Part of the problem is that I’ve been trying to spread my output over too many projects; I have been doing a bit of critical writing, but I’ve published it in other places. (I could re-post some of my pieces here I guess, but I’m a bit paranoid that someone might Google a passage and link this blog with my other online identities.) The main thing though is that I’ve not been terribly well engaged with contemporary culture; I’ve been on a diet of classic literature and films from the 70s, and the world isn’t necessarily crying out for my belated impressions of The Mill on the Floss or McCabe and Mrs. Miller. At least I kept up with the music scene enough to be all excited ahead of the release of what turned out to be my favourite album of the year, the eponymous debut by Wild Flag, and I also liked Civilian by Wye Oak, Angles by The Strokes and Only in Dreams by The Dum Dum Girls; the latter record’s melancholy tone mirroring the slightly depressing arc of my personal life recently. Overall though I will have to try a bit harder on the cultural front next year.

Finally, what about our core task, the mission to, in the words of our very first post, “wander around the likes of Second Life and report back on what I find, enlightening readers with erudite comments on the interaction that occurs there”? We have been rather remiss in this too. I know why; just about everything interesting there is to say about the psychology of Second Life we have already said in previous years, and I haven’t had the energy to try to put a new gloss on it. The promise that virtual worlds would open up a new understanding of the human psyche has, sadly, turned out to be hollow. There was for a while some interest in watching the dynamics of the conflict between the corporate goals of Linden Lab and the aspirations of the more committed residents, but even that has turned dull since the boringly efficient Rodvik Humble took over at the top. It seems unlikely that this will change in the immediate future, but I will keep an eye on the academic literature in case anyone has any novel ideas.

What does this mean for the year ahead? Perhaps I should accept that this project has run its course, and let it bow out gracefully, but we have been going for nearly five years, an epoch in blog terms, so it would seem a shame to give up now just because things have been a little quiet of late. Politics, culture, psychology; I should be able to make something interesting out of that if I apply myself a little more.

So I guess I’ll be seeing you next year…

The Great Gonzo

On this day back in 2005 the great Hunter S. Thompson signed off for the last time, with a gunshot to the head. He had his reasons for such a dramatic exit, but it seemed like a tremendous loss at the time, a feeling that has deepened in the intervening years as the authoritarian shift in US politics has cried out for the sort of biting social commentary that was Thompson’s speciality.

Thompson is best known for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, his 1971 account of a drug-fuelled trip to Nevada, but I think his finest work is Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, a collection of his reports on the 1972 US Presidential elections. …Vegas is a great book, but ultimately rather downbeat, charting as it does the defeat of 60’s counterculture at the hands of the Man. …Campaign Trail is much more optimistic, as Thompson gets caught in the tide of the McGovern campaign and starts to believe that progressive politics might just have a chance. It ends in disappointment of course, when Nixon wins with a landslide, but at least Thompson didn’t have to wait too long to see Tricky Dicky’s downfall. (Years later Thompson would write the definitive Nixon obituary, He Was a Crook.) …Campaign Trail‘s depiction of the youthful energy of McGovern’s supporters is still inspirational today, and should be required reading for community organisers and political activists everywhere.

To mark the anniversary of Thompson’s death The Quietus has a previously unpublished interview, along with a brief but useful biography. The BBC produced a fine documentary on Thompson’s life and work a couple of years ago, and Terry Gilliams’ film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, with Johnny Depp as Thompson, is worth seeing too.

The style of journalism that Thompson pioneered has become so commonplace now that it’s almost a cliche, but out of his many imitators none have come close to the man himself. I’m going to settle down tonight with my dog-eared copy of Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, and have a few drinks in his memory.

The wrong move at the right time

Regular readers will know that I have an interest in internet addiction, but I came to that via impulse control disorders in general, and pathological gambling in particular.

The BBC reported this week on the release of the British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2010, produced by the National Centre for Social Research for the Gambling Commission. It’s a fairly hefty document, and I’ve only managed to read the executive summary, but even that contains plenty of food for thought.

The headline figures are that 73% of the adult population gambled in the last year, up from 63% the last time the survey was done in 2007. Problem gambling, as measured by the DSM-IV criteria, was up from 0.6% to 0.9% in the same period, though it hadn’t risen significantly on the Problem Gambling Severity Index (0.5% in 2007 and 0.7% in 2010). These numbers are similar to the rest of Europe, but lower than the US and Australia.

One thing that surprised me was that the prevalence of online betting hadn’t increased much in the last three years. Excluding online purchase of lottery tickets, which they didn’t measure last time, the rate was 7%, up from 6% in 2007; 81% of gamblers place their wagers exclusively offline. Within this certain types of online betting are more popular though; 39% of casino gamers play on the internet.

The betting landscape has certainly changed a lot since I was a child. My grandfather liked to play the horses, which back then involved visiting the local bookie, a sinister establishment next to the pub, with blacked-out windows and a permanently smoky atmosphere, frequented by the shadiest-looking characters in the neighbourhood. He used to take home the little pens to give to me, which my mother would immediately confiscate, lest I take them to school and shame our family with the association of vice. I take after my grandfather in a lot of ways, but I must have internalised some of his daughter’s disapproval, because to this day I have never set foot inside a betting shop. I’m rather ashamed of this, as it feels like I’m betraying my working-class roots in favour of a notion of bourgeois respectability, but my mother’s scruples have probably saved me a lot of money over the years.

My grandfather’s other flutter of choice was the football pools; a sacred ritual in our family was gathering around the television at about ten to five on a Saturday to listen to the classified results. As eldest grandchild I had the responsibility of recording the scores as they were announced; the mention of lower-league English teams like Huddersfield or Gillingham still takes me back to cosy teatimes all those years ago. I was sad to see that the explosion of alternative gambling opportunities in recent times has all but killed off the pools; only 4% of the population put on a coupon now.

The change in social attitudes to gambling can be traced back to the introduction of the National Lottery in 1994; overnight gambling became a government-approved leisure activity rather than a disreputable habit looked down upon by polite society. The whole industry was deregulated, with bookies allowed to put signs in their windows advertising what went on inside, and to install seats to encourage their customers to linger; a far cry from the dens of ill-repute my grandfather used to frequent.

Card gaming, poker in particular, has had quite a makeover too. It used to be a game associated with cowboys and gangsters, or at best the idle super-rich in places like Monte Carlo. I do remember, in my youth, being quite taken by Steve McQueen’s character in The Cincinnati Kid, but “professional poker player” was never going to be among my career choices. The advent of internet and televised poker tournaments has changed all that, and now the game is played by a whole host of perfectly respectable, and decidedly unglamorous, doctors, lawyers, accountants and the like.

A year or so ago I was seeing a client who had a bit of an issue with internet poker, and, out of curiosity, I registered with one of the online casinos and tried playing for a while. I’d like to say that this plunged me into a House of Games-style maelstrom of underworld intrigue, but since a) I limited myself to a $10 roll and nickel-and-dime tables and b) I am a dreadful poker player and lost all my money in short order, nothing nearly so interesting happened.

Every so often, usually when I am bored at work and daydreaming about alternative income streams, I return to the virtual tables, generally with the same result. This last month was different though; despite playing my usual ham-fisted game I went on a pretty good run, boosting my $10 stake up to over $60, before enduring an equally persistent losing streak, which had, by yesterday, reduced my stack to $15.30.

This experience has given me a bit of insight into some of the psychological phenomena associated with gambling that I had previously only read about. Simple arithmetic tells me that my latest session has been much more successful than previous forays, since I have ended up 53% ahead rather than 100% behind, but that’s not how it feels, and the temptation to chase my “losses” by playing more, or moving to a higher-stakes table has been pretty strong. It’s also been interesting to note how my feeling for the game mechanics, particularly the balance between luck and skill, has changed as my fortunes have varied; when I was hot I was convinced that I was playing masterfully, but as the money ebbed away I found myself cursing the bad cards I had been dealt.

I guess I should be happy that I’ve received some valuable professional education, and been paid $5.30 into the bargain, but I can’t help thinking about the $45 that got away, and how, if I just kept playing a little longer, the law of averages would throw a few good hands my way again…

The Social Network

[Some spoilers ahead.]

The big winner at the Golden Globes this week (apart from Ricky Gervais), was Facebook biopic The Social Network, which picked up four awards, including best director and best picture. I caught the movie on a rare trip to the cinema back in October, and it got my vote for film of the year too.

What I liked about The Social Network was that it wasn’t really about the internet, or social media, or anything new-fangled like that, but instead was an examination of that timeless theme, the outsider’s quest to break down the barriers of class that stand in the way of his destiny.

This wasn’t exactly a subtext; the message was pretty clearly spelled out in the very first scene, where Mark Zuckerberg lists the advantages of belonging to one of Harvard’s elite final clubs to his unimpressed, soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend. This initial interchange establishes our hero’s less than charming character, but we gradually realise that he isn’t such a bad guy, as we are introduced to some of his even more unlikable associates.

Chief among these are the Winklevoss twins, scions of privilege with a sense of entitlement so broad that they literally cannot believe that Zuckerberg might breach the social code by presuming to rip them off. In one of their many comic scenes they use their connections to arrange a meeting with the President of Harvard, to whom they complain that Zuckerberg has behaved in an ungentlemanly fashion; their reaction on being told they should adjust themselves to the real world is an amusing mixture of bafflement and outrage.

(As an aside, I thought the filmmakers might have exaggerated the boorishness of Ivy League fraternities, until I read this. These are our future rulers.)

Zuckerberg subsequently falls under the mephistophelian influence of flawed Napster guru Sean Parker, and after a series of sharp business manoeuvres and steely confrontations in lawyers’ offices, finally gets the better of his adversaries.

But does it make him happy? The final scene shows Zuckerberg alone in an office, forlornly clicking on the Facebook profile of his lost girlfriend. All his billions are worth nothing, the film suggests, without the simple gift of friendship.

Which is nonsense of course, a fable we poor folks tell ourselves to temper our resentment at the good fortune of the rich. I’m sure that Zuckerberg (who in reality has been with his current partner since his pre-Facebook days) is perfectly content with his life, having learned what the likes of the Winklevosses have always known – money really can buy you happiness.

The overall moral of the film is more egalitarian though; the idea that the old structures of wealth and class can be undermined by a new technological paradigm, in much the way that Facebook itself morphed from an exclusive Harvard club into a tool for the masses. I’m not sure that I entirely buy that – the investors who stand to make the big money from Facebook were rich to start with, and the circles of real power are as closed to outsiders as ever – but the story is so engagingly told that one can’t help rooting for plucky underdog billionaire Zuckerberg as he strives to make the world a better place by letting us all be “friends”.

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