Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Farewell Google+

It was today at around 12:00 noon Central Daylight Saving Time that Google pulled the plug on Google+. It was a sad day for many Google+ users, particularly those of us who had been there from the beginning. Even at the end Google+ was busy, with more posts than some allegedly more active social media services. While it might surprise some to know this, many Google+ users are experiencing a profound sense of loss at the closure of the social media service, myself among them. For those of you interested in the history of G+, you can read my earlier post on the closure of the site here.

The beta version of Google+ was launched on June 28 2011. I joined Google+ only a few days later, on July 8 2011. It quickly became my favourite social media site of all time. Among other things, Google+ had the best tools for curating photos of any site or app ever. It also had such features as Hangouts, through which one could both chat and videochat. It also had the best organisational tool for people. Quite simply, one organised those he or she followed into circles. Each circle has its own stream, making it easy to keep track of posts.What is more, Google+ had an attractive, easy-to-use interface. It was far superior to nearly any other social media site, Facebook in particular.

Ultimately Classic Google+ was ideal for finding people with similar interests, as well as having meaningful discussions.  More so than other social media sites, Google+ was ideal for long conversations on a variety of topics. The ultimate effect is that many people formed strong, lasting friendships on Google+. I even have one friend who met her husband on Google+. For myself, many of my closest friends I first met on Google+. In fact, I think I made more friends on Google+ than on any other social media site except Twitter (and Twitter is probably only because of #TCMParty).  Fortunately given the closure of Google+, most all of the close friends I made on Google+ would connect in other ways (some even have my phone number).

Of course, all of this serves as evidence against Google+'s detractors who claimed it was a "ghost town." Google+ was never a ghost town. It was always much more active than LinkedIn (a ghost town if there ever was one) and, at least in my experience, more active than Facebook. People posted to Google+ the way that they post to Twitter, making multiple posts throughout the day. What is more, one could develop a following on Google+ in a way that one never could on Facebook. When Google+ closed earlier today, I still had 12,444 followers. That is more followers than I have on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn combined.

On November 18 2015 Google introduced a drastic redesign of Google+ called "New Google+". It was on January 24 2017 Google forced New Google+ on all its users. New Google+ lacked many of the features of Classic Google+, and as a result many users left Google+. Despite this, Google+ continued to be very active. At no point was it ever the "ghost town" its detractors claimed it to be. It would remain active until the very end. Last night, with the end looming, there were so many posts to Google+ it was hard to keep up with all of them.

My final Google+ post
This morning Google+ was still functional. I made my last post around 11:00 AM CDT. It was the song "All You Need is Love" by The Beatles and a message letting my fellow G+ users know how much I appreciated them. Sadly, it was about 12:00 noon CDT that Google+ turned out the lights on the web version of Google+. It was later this afternoon that the mobile app stopped functioning. Like many of my fellow Google+ users this makes me very sad. I enjoyed Google+ more than any other social media site and made many good friends there.

As it is, I think the closure of Google+ will ultimately hurt Google in the long run. It is not only because Google+ was an amazing resource for Google. It is because Google has discontinued so many products over the years that many people have probably lost faith in them. Indeed, there are still people who are angry over the closure of Google Reader six years ago. I know I am. I still haven't found another a RSS/Atom feed aggregator I like. In addition to Google+ and Google Reader, Google has shut down such products as Google Page Creator, Picasa, Google Video, and many others. The end result of all these closures, particularly the closures of highly successful products such as Google+ and Google Reader that still had many users when they were closed, is that many people simply no longer trust Google. After all, why start using a new Google product when Google is only going to discontinue it a few years later? Indeed, I have to wonder that I shouldn't find a new home for A Shroud of Thoughts should Google decide to close Blogger. I am glad I don't use Gmail as my primary email, as it occurs to me that Google might decide to close it too...

If one needs no further proof that closing Google+ could hurt Google, I even know a few people who have entirely deleted their Google Accounts because of the closure. I certainly won't go that far (it would mean the end of A Shroud of Thoughts, for one thing....), but there are some Google products I won't be using any longer. I deleted Google Photos from my phone because the only reason I had for using it was to post to, well, Google+. I am sure I am not the only person for whom this was true.

Yesterday, with the closure of Google+ growing near, Google+ users more or less held a wake for the social media service. My friend Mara hosted one last hangout, in which I took part. All of us posted our memories of Google+, our first posts, our favourite posts, and so on. We celebrated a social media site that brought all of us together and that we thoroughly enjoyed. It was earlier this week that one of my friends posted a cartoon (you can see it to the left--I wish I knew who created it, so I could credit them) that sums up the way many of us feel. Google+ wasn't simply a good social media site. It was the best.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Godspeed Julia Lockwood

Julia Lockwood Clark, the daughter of legendary British actress Margaret Lockwood and a star of film and television in her own right, died on March 24 2019 at age of 77.

Julia Lockwood was born Margaret Julia Leon on August 23 1941 in Bournemouth, Dorset. She was the daughter of Margaret Lockwood and Rupert Leon. Her parents divorced in 1949. Miss Lockwood followed her mother into acting while very young. She made her screen debut in an uncredited role as Fanny's daughter in her mother's film Hungry Hill in 1947. That same year she appeared in another one of her mother's films, The White Unicorn (1947), in her first credited role. She made her stage debut in Alice in Wonderland at the Kew Theatre in London in 1953. Miss Lockwood would have a considerable career on stage. She played Wendy opposite her mother as Peter in Peter Pan in 1957 and would later play the title role herself in 1959, 1960, 1963, and 1967.  She also appeared on stage in such plays as Every Other Evening, A Servant with Two Masters, The Jockey Club, Birds on a Wing, and Arsenic and Old Lace. Agatha Christie wrote a role for Miss Lockwood in her play Spider's Web, in which Margaret Lockwood starred. Unfortunately Julia Lockwood had prior commitments that would keep her from appearing in the play.

Julia Lockwood made her television debut in the BBC mini-series Heidi in October 1953. She also starred in the sequel Heidi Grows Up in 1954. She appeared opposite her mother, Margaret Lockwood, in the 1957-1958 TV series The Royalty. Miss Lockwood starred in the Associated-Rediffusion Television sitcom Don't Tell Father in 1959. During the Fifties Julia Lockwood also guest starred on the TV programmes The Invisible Man, Interpol Calling, and Saturday Playhouse. She appeared in the TV movies The Secret Way and Call It a Day. Miss Lockwood appeared in the films The Flying Eye (1955), The Solitary Child (1958), Please Turn Over (1959), and No Kidding (1960).

In the Sixties Julia Lockwood appeared on several series on British television. She starred in the series The Six Proud Walkers, Compact, and The Flying Swan (with her mother, Margaret Lockwood). She guest starred on the programmes Playdate, The Spies, and Out of the Unknown. In 1971 she starred on the series Birds on the Wing.

Julia Lockwood married actor Ernest Clark in 1972. She retired from acting in 1976.

Sadly, much of Julia Lockwood's work in television remains unavailable. In fact, some of it, like much of early British television, has been wiped. That having been said, enough of her television work, as well as the entirety of her work in film, remains to show that she was a very talented actress. In the Invisible Man episode "Odds Against Death", she played the teenage daughter of a British scientist, who is kidnapped by gangsters who want to use her as leverage with regards to her father. In her best known film role Please Turn Over, she played a seventeen year old hairdresser who writes a scandalous novel that the community takes to be a tell-all book about her family. In No Kidding she played a young woman with an overactive imagination. Miss Lockwood had a particular gift for comedy, making it all the more unfortunate that much of her work in television sitcoms remains unavailable. At the same time, she was equally talented in playing in dramas as well.

I never had the privilege of knowing Julia Lockwood, but I have friends who did and yet others who had met her. Mrs. Clark was a warm,woman with a love of plants and animals, as well as an interest in ghosts and a great sense of humour. She was a wonderful woman who was very much down-to-earth despite her mother literally being a legend and having been a film and TV star in her own right. Julia Lockwood Clark leaves behind not only a wonderful legacy on stage, in film, and on television, but one of wonderful memories for those who knew her.

(Special thanks to author Lyndsy Spence, who provided some of the information for this post.)

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Godspeed Composer Maury Laws

Maury Laws, best known as the composer and musical director on many Rankin/Bass television specials and feature films, died on March 28 2019 at the age of 95.

Maury Laws was born on December 6 1923 in Burlington, North Carolina. He entered the music business when he was only twelve. By the time he was sixteen he had taught himself to play guitar and performed at various local dance clubs and with various jazz groups. During World War II he served in the United States Army. Upon his return to the United States, he played in clubs around both the U.S. and Canada. He eventually moved to New York where he received a formal education in music. Among his teachers was Hungarian violinist and composer Tibor Serly.

He later toured with the Vaughn Monroe Orchestra. With various vocal groups he appeared on such television programmes as The Perry Como Show, Arthur Godfrey Time, and The Ed Sullivan Show. Starting in the Fifties he began writing arrangements for various recording artists. He also worked on commercials for such companies as General Electric, Eastman Kodak, American Motors, Firestone, and Revlon.

It was in 1964 that he was hired as musical director for Videocraft International, which would later become better known as Rankin/Bass. He served as musical director on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. He would go onto serve as a composer on the bulk of Rankin/Bass television specials afterwards, including Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, The Year Without a Santa Claus, The Hobbit, and The Wind in the Willows. He also served as a composer on feature films produced by Rankin/Bass, including The Daydreamer (1966), Mad Monster Party? (1967), and The Last Dinosaur (1977). He served as a composer on the Saturday morning cartoon King Kong, which was produced by Rankin/Bass in conjunction with Toei Animation.

Although many people might not recognise Maury Laws's name, I have to suspect that his compositions may well have been heard by more people than some better known composers. In most of the Rankin/Bass specials in the Sixties and Seventies, it was Maury Laws's music that one heard. And there is no doubt that he had an ear for catchy music. People can remember the theme song of King Kong even when they can remember little else from the animated cartoon. "The Snow Miser/Heat Miser Song" remains one of the best remembered songs from any television special. If the Rankin/Bass specials remain popular to this day, much of that credit must go to Maury Laws.