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We live in the age of social media.

Social media isn’t actually a recent thing, at least as we count time online.  Back in the digital Pleistocene, when i first got on the net1, social media was called Usenet.  Usenet was made of of a  hierarchy of “newsgroups”, each devoted to a specific topic.  if you were interested in science fiction books, you could hang out in rec.arts.sf.written.  If you were a perl programmer, you could hang out in comp.lang.perl.  If you wanted to  make snarky comments about other peoples .sig files, you went to alt.fan.warlord.2  There was a nearly inexhaustible number of alt.sex.* groups where you could get your specific freak on. Pretty much whatever you wanted to talk about, there was a group devoted to talking about it, and if there wasn’t, you could make one with a small amount of effort.

Usenet was a decentralised service, spread across thousands of machines on the Internet.  Messages posted to one news server would propogate to all the others, usually in pretty quick time.  Since the messages were stored on the server, it didn’t clutter up your email box the way a mailing list was.  (And back in those magical days, that was pretty much all that cluttered up your e-mail box, since spam hadn’t yet really become a thing.)  Over time, the more active newsgroups developed their own cultures and social norms, and became communities in their own right.3

In the early 1990s, with the advent of the World Wide Web, new forums began to pop up.  Websites with their own comments threads began to proliferate, and both single and multi-topic web forums began to pop up here and there.  Usenet had a lot of people still using it, though, and many preferred to continue having their conversations there.  Most web forums didn’t have a strong sense of community, partly by virtue of being newer and not yet having developed the sort of cultural inertia that eventually coalesces into social bonds, but also partly because most web forums were a poor place for the kind of person-to-person interactivity that dominated the better parts of Usenet.  Sooner or later, someone would figure out the right set of tools, and create a semblance of that on the web.

That person turned out to be Brad Fitzpatrick, who started a site called LiveJournal.

LiveJournal wasn’t the first blogging platform, but it was the first to really put all the pieces together to create a real, broad online community.  Unlike Usenet, where groups were defined by interest, blogs were inherently personal.   You could write about whatever was important to you at the time, and not worry if it was on topic.  This was your space.  If you had friends who were also blogging on LiveJournal, you could follow them,4  and LJ would construct an easy to read digest of all the posts your friends had made.  Comments left by one person following your blog might elicit an answer from someone else following it.  Someone might decide to ‘friend” you simply because you had a friend in common and they liked the sort of comments you left.   Topical communities began to form, kitting together groups of people with common interests.

For the folks on the more social areas of Usenet, like alt.polyamory or rec.arts.sf.fandom, this was a little annoying.  More and more, people were writing in their own spaces and not engaging the group.  Expressing surprise at a bit of missed news was likely to elicit a response of “Oh, I wrote about that in my LJ.”   Even in real life, in several of my social circles if you weren’t on LiveJournal, you weren’t really plugged in to the conversation.  I remember telling a fellow Atlanta filker about some bit of news involving some other filkers, and he expressed surprise because he hadn’t heard about it.  I told him I had read about it on LJ, and he said “But I don’t do LJ!” and I said “And that’s why you hadn’t heard about it.”5

As LiveJournal participation grew over the course of the early 2000s, Usenet participation waned.  At the time, i was still active on both, and the growing quiet on newsgroups was both noticeable and often commented upon by those of us who were still there.  Reluctantly, many hardcore holdouts started LiveJournal accounts of their own, if only to follow what was going on with their friends who increasingly put their time and energy into posting there.  Some communities shifted entirely to the web, succumbing to the overwhelming gravity the new central social hub was exerting on the conversation.

While this was the status quo for a number of years, new attempts at creating the next social hub came and went constantly. Most of them are footnotes6 and barely remembered7, or looked promising8 but were pushed out by more popular rivals9.  With the exception of MySpace, most of them failed the “what’s it for?” test.  They weren’t necessarily awful, but they didn’t appear to solve any problems presented by the current dominant platform.10

But since 2008, several new platforms have taken center stage.  Facebook, Twitter,  and Tumblr have developed huge communities, and Google+ and Pinterest certainly have their partisans. LiveJournal of late feels a lot like Usenet did ten years ago.   But unlike the Usenet to Livejournal migration, the new landscape is more fractured, with each new community containing a subset of the old. While some people manage to maintain an active presence on more than one platform, the vast majority of even those people have one service that is their primary hangout and others that they dip in and out of as the mood strikes them.

This is, ultimately, both good and bad.  The five major networks currently vying for social bandwidth deliver very different experiences to the one another.  If you think brevity is the soul of wit and like your conversations to come in rapid, short bursts, you can make Twitter your place and have a great time hanging with the other Twitterati.   if you’re more of a kinetic, visual magpie who primarily wants to see cool things and pass them around, you’ll probably tumble for Tumblr.  Pinterest is great for….whatever the heck Pinterest is for.11  And Facebook sits atop the mountain, the vast ruler of all it surveys largely by default.  Facebook has the most users almost entirely because it has the most users.  I know many people (myself not least)who say ‘I don’t like Facebook as a platform, but it’s where the people I want to interact with are, so that’s where I am.”

The bad part about the current landscape is that the conversation is fractured.  People on one platform don’t interact with people on the others.  The post you are reading will have been either posted or linked in several places.  People who see it on LiveJournal will likely comment there.  People who see it on Facebook will likely comment there.  Someone might respond to it on Twitter, and some might comment on the original blog itself.  And I’ll see all those comments and react to them in place, but — vitally – they won’t see each other.  Joey on Facebook will never see the comment that Rachel leaves on Livejournal, and neither of them will see the comment that Krista makes on Twitter.  No one has the amount of social bandwidth to monitor all of these places at once.   Most of us can’t handle more than one.

That’s not a tragedy.  But it is a missed opportunity.  We now have so many ways to connect that we sometimes miss the chance to connect.  And that makes me at least a little bit sad.

 


  1. late 1980′s 

  2. It’s a long story. 

  3. Parallel to all of this, services like Compuserve and Prodigy had their own walled gardens which fostered similar online communities. 

  4. “Friend” them, in the argot of the site.  A term which has continued to be problematic in social media ever since. 

  5. I think participating or not participating in a particular social forum is entirely one’s choice. I do think it’s a bit unreasonable to refuse on principle to join a particular social forum and then complain that you miss the things which are happening there. 

  6. Orkut 

  7. Buzz 

  8. MySpace 

  9. Friendster 

  10. And most of the really serious problems with LiveJournal were being solved by virtue of the LiveJournal codebase being open source, which meant anyone could start up an exact replica of it and compete. The most successful of these was Dreamwidth, but there were at least a half-dozen active LJ clones at one time. 

  11. I don’t mean to be snarky.  I really don’t know. 

Mirrored from Home of the Autographed Cat.

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In a community I spend a lot of time hanging out over on Facebook, someone posted the other day:

“So you people are cool and hip. right?? Why is Bitstrips a thing????”

For those of you who haven’t seen these, Bitstrips is an app that lets you create a cartoon avatar of yourself, and then caption various one-panel cartoons featuring you and your friends.  It’s basically a digital version of Colorforms 1 crossed with one of those mail order-storybooks you could get with your child’s name printed in them.

As memes go, this one is pretty innocuous2, and easy enough to flip past or even block if you’re not inclined to see them.  A couple of comments in the thread suggested they found them annoying, and one said the ones they had seen were a bit “creepy”, which may reflect their friends more than the app itself3. But one comment really threw me a bit.

I think some of the people that use them think they are funny and the rest are cartoonist wannabes thinking they are being creative and refusing to believe they are premade templates. I blocked them. I hope I am not sounding mean, that’s not my intention, I just think real cartoonists work hard enough as it is.

There’s an awful lot of odd assumptions being made in this comment, each of which is probably worth dissecting on its own, but the one I want to hone in on is the central animus behind it, which is:

There are people having fun in a manner I don’t understand!

This is a pretty common thing lately, and I hate it.  It’s an enormous world with an infinite variety of things to see and do, and not everything appeals to everyone, not least because not everything is FOR everyone.  There’s an element of sour grapes to the whole attitude:  ”I don’t like this, and I don’t see why anyone else should have a good time.

A manifestation of this that happens several times a year around big pop culture events that I like to call “Clamouring Indifference.”  You’ll see it on your social media every time the Super Bowl happens, or the Oscars are handed out, or the finale of a show like Breaking Bad is aired.  Amidst all the people excitingly talking about the event, there will be a handful of people who will feel compelled to post about how they don’t care about the event, how terrifically bored by the event they are, and how they wish everyone would stop talking about it.

The truth is, though, that these people do care about the event.  They care deeply and passionately about it.  It’s very important for you to know how much they don’t like it.  It doesn’t take 500 words to say ‘I don’t care.”  I doesn’t even take three.   The real message being communicated is the same as the comment above:  ”Hey, stop enjoying that thing I don’t enjoy.”

We live in an incredible age, where we can pick and choose whatever entertainment we want to consume, at any time, on demand.4  If you’re not interested in the college handegg tournament or the Tony Awards or American Idol, then go watch something else. or start up a different conversation in your space and see who comes to participate in it.   But don’t waste your time and everyone else’s by writing an essay about how  you don’t care about the thing everyone else is having a perfectly good time enjoying.

 


  1. They were these little boxed playsets that had a scene on them and little vinyl figures you could arrange on it. It was treated so that the vinyl figures would stick to the backboard, so you could arrange all sorts of little ersatz dioramas. I had a bunch of different ones, mostly comic-book related. 

  2. Who knows, maybe it’ll encourage someone to say “I’m really enjoying this, but the limitations of the form frustrate me” and they learn to draw and become the next great cartoonist. Or maybe they just use it to create a lot of corny jokes to amuse themselves and their friends. 

  3. And led me to wonder aloud whether they were suggesting that creepy stuff can’t be a “thing” 

  4. At least within certain levels of privilege, but I have a feeling the people who aren’t able to access on-demand entertainment are also not loudly professing their profound lack of interest in that entertainment on social media.  I could be wrong. 

Mirrored from Home of the Autographed Cat.

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Earlier today in the #frogpants chat room, Malynor (my 19th favourite Canadian), asked how I was doing on my first real day of unemployment, and commented that planned unemployment was probably less stressful.

I said "Well, planned unemployment is slightly less stressful in that it's, well, planned and I have resources set aside to deal with it. But it's still weird for much the same reason skydiving is.

Because of your careful preparations and precautions, you have a strong belief that everything is going to work out fine at the end of the fall, but you still can't quite shake the fear that you just stepped out of a perfectly good aeroplane."
autographedcat: (Dayna Larger)
I'm often amused to see what Twitter bots follow you based on what you post there. All manner of random commercial enterprises have suddenly followed me after a casual(and often completely devoid of context) reference to a product, place, or activity. Tourism sites, personal trainers, rap DJs...its like a bizarre form of bingo where no one ever wins anything.

This happens to a lesser degree on Livejournal, particularly if you haven't disabled anonymous comments. But it's fairly uncommon, at least enough so that I never really gave it a lot of thought, until this particular post began to attract the spambots. I've deleted at least five in the last couple of weeks.

I wonder what there is about my amusing but inconsequential exchange with a drugstore clerk has attracted so much interest from the sub-sentient crawlers of the blogosphere? Most of them seem to be trying to sell me knock-off designer clothing or boots, which makes me suspect it was the paragraph about looking for vests. But their persistence is puzzling.
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Sometimes, you realise something about yourself so fundamentally obvious in hindsight that you're not sure how it took you so long for it to occur to you.

I've been struggling a bit with my depression in recent weeks. Given the amount of slow-motion change in my life right now, that's hardly surprising, but today, while thinking about a comment thread yesterday in [livejournal.com profile] osewalrus's Facebook page, something clicked in my brain that clarified to me why I've felt so unsettled.

I have two strong behavioural methods for temporarily punching up my mood: eating and buying things.

Neither of which I can really do right now.

I'm trying hard to get back on my fitness plan, which means I have a careful budget with regards to what and how much I can eat in a given day.

I'm saving up money to move across country in 3 months and need to be prepared to weather out a period of unemployment, so I can't really shop for much of anything I don't actually require.

It could be argued that neither of this are strictly healthy ways of dealing with stress and depression, but I've been me for a long time, and I know they both work, at least in the short term. And right now, for a variety for reasons, I'm denied their outlet.

Not sure what to do with this information presently, but there you have it.
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What is the metric equivalent to the word "mileage"? Kilometreage sounds dreadful and kludgy, but I'm not entirely sure what the appropriate analogue would be.
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Over the last couple of years, the amount of updating I've done in this space has been limited both in quantity and in content.  There were some things I was going through that I really didn't want to talk about in public, and as a result, I ended up no talking about anything much at all.

This distresses me for a number of reasons.  I really value the community of friends I have here, and I feel I was drifting out of touch as a result of not being as "plugged in" here.  The trouble is that inertia is difficult to overcome.  Having been away so long, it somehow feels disingenuous to just pick up again without noting that I was away and it becomes easier and easier to just put it off.

I'm entering the second half of my fourtieth year.  I feel slightly restless.  I am not content with myself.  I crave change, growth, and transformation.  My soul is hungry for connections both old and new.

All of this to say...I intend to write more often here.  I cannot say about what.  Whatever interests me.  When I started this journal in 2001, I expected it to be an essay platform more than a personal journal.  Over the years, it has been both, but of late it has been neither.  So consider this a rededication.  Some of what I write here may be simply personal reflections and meditations, reports of my weekend, or other triviality, but it's better than just a random link every couple of days without any original content.

I also hope to recommit to my politics blog, which after a noble attempt to launch fell quickly silent, mostly due to my inability to keep up with the information inflow that allowed me to write at the level I wanted.  I'm hoping to begin writing there again as well, and I'm pondering my old ambitions to something in the field of journalism, though I'm not yet sure what form that will take.

Of all the things I've done in my life, writing and music have given me the most satisfaction.  Time to elevate those two pursuits back to the top of my priority list.  That way, I am convinced, lies happiness.
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Last night, [livejournal.com profile] thatcrazycajun made a post about his mixed feelings on the holiday season. I've been giving this some thought since I read it last night, because I've lately been of two minds about Christmas.

I love Christmas. I love the atmosphere it creates. I love winter. I love the lights, and the music, and the sheer joy that permeates every part of it. People are friendlier, and more giving, and more outwardly focused at Christmastime, and I love that.

I should note that I was raised agnostic. I've never had a deep, personal, spiritual relationship with the Christmas season, so my love for the holiday doesn't have to get tangled up with how I feel about the actual implications of Christological mythology.

At the same time, I feel a little empty at Christmas, because Christmas is so very much about family, and mine isn't here. It seems I never have the luxury of time to go and visit mine during the holidays, and even if I could, it's been over a decade since my grandfather, the axis around which my entire family world revolved when I was a child, passed away. My cousins all have children, and have begun to spin their own family worlds, and having been absent the last 20 years, I'm not really a part of it.

Some years ago, I went to pick [livejournal.com profile] khaosworks up from [livejournal.com profile] bedlamhouse and [livejournal.com profile] ladyat's home on Christmas Day. I arrived as the family gift exchange was in full swing, and so I stood and watched a while waiting for Terence to be done. And watching it made me feel...not bad, really...but somehow that while I was certainly welcome to be there, I wasn't really a part of what was going on. I was an observer, not a participant. And I realised at that moment what I deeply, truly, achingly missed from my own life -- that sense of total belonging. I'm not entirely sure I feel it anywhere, any more.

[livejournal.com profile] kitanzi and I have our own little Christmas traditions. We're low-key people, and we do low-key things. But there's a part of me that really misses the noisy, warm, chaotic love of Christmas morning with the whole family gathered for food and gifts and running around the yard.

That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
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I wrote these words eight years ago. They're still true today.

I don't have a problem with remembering the terrible human tragedy that occurred eight years ago today. I think it would do us all good to pause and reflect on how terrible events can bring us together, and to remember what we learned, as a nation, as a community, as a people, about the world.

But I also think we should spend more time looking forward, not looking back.

We should spend more time making grand plans and executing them, inviting our souls and being creative, and living life to the fullest.

We should spend more time doing small, special things for our friends, our family, our loved ones.

We should spend more time laughing, and making music, and increasing the joy in the people around us.

We should spend more time helping each other, and holding each other, and saying "I love you" to each other.

Because at the end of the day, each other is all we ever really have.
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That annual celebration of gladiatorial conquest and capitalist art known as the Superbowl was last night. During the hours-long telecast, I'm told, the New Orleans Saints defeated the much-favoured Indianapolis Colts, providing a sense of civic pride and joie de verve to a city that hasn't had much cause to celebrate in recent years. Well done, and congratulations to the winning team for their accomplishments.

But that's not really what I wanted to talk about.

Today, as I scroll through various blogs and journals, interspersed between the reactions to the game by fans of all stripes are the messages from the cynically aloof, who write paragraphs to inform us about how they did not watch That Game at all, nor did they check to see who won, because they, you see, could not care less about (spit) football.

I find this an interesting phenomenon which is not restricted to sport. If you look at any pursuit which inspires a passionate following, you'll find a group who defines their superiority to the hoi polloi in terms of The Sort Of Thing I Don't Care For.

I admit, I can be as prone to it as anyone. Yesterday, my friend Joey asked on Facebook: "Wasn't there some sort of big football game today?", and with a sly wink and straight face, I replied, "Yes, there was. Chelsea beat Arsenal, 2-0 :)"

There's a certain sort of tribe recognition at work there, a signal to one another that we're in that set of people who isn't invested in the Big Thing Everyone Else Is Doing. When I see articles about the Twilight craze, I wrinkle my nose a bit and shake my head, having a firm and considered distaste for a series of books and movies I have not actually read or seen, nor do I have any particular inclination to do so.

In some ways, this is a very natural thing for us to do. No matter how much we desperately wish it was otherwise, we are shaped inevitably by our culture, often in ways that we don't immediately comprehend or even notice. When we do see a shaping force we dislike, we take a forthrightly opposing position to it (and thus, are indirectly influenced by it, if only by creating our sense of opposition.)

But like most behaviours, some people take it too far. A sly wink and a quip insufficient to show they are not part of the maddening crowd, they write bitter essays about their studied indifference to the entire thing and how they never could see what anyone sees in it anyway. This both annoys and fascinates me. It fascinates me because what's strikingly obvious about these little screeds is not that the writer doesn't care about the subject in question, but rather it is very important to the writer that you know he doesn't care. Someone who honestly doesn't care about something would simply go on about their day, not caring.

It annoys me because while it's ok for one to be archly solipsistic in one's own blog; that is, after all, what blogs are for, it's positively obnoxious when it's done in actual conversation. If two people are having an excitable conversation about a topic of great interest to them, and you walk up and say, 'Oh, you're talking about $TOPIC. I never really understood what people see in that. It just doesn't interest me.", you have effectively a) derailed the original conversation, which was presumably being enjoyed by the original participants, and b) focused the conversation on yourself. The people you've now interrupted may feel the need to defend their love of $TOPIC, or they may feel they must change the topic, because someone has inserted themselves uninvited into their chat and declared the current subject not only uninteresting, but unworthy of the attention of anyone with more than a marginal level of sophistication.

There is a name for this sort of person: a killjoy. Killjoy is a great word, because it requires no explanation. A killjoy is someone who kills joy. It is someone who manages to make themselves feel better by holding themselves above whatever it is that anyone else enjoys, and makes wry and cutting remarks about the sort of people who like *that* sort of thing. (One manifestation of this particular personality is the Cool Hipster, whose primary criteria for declaring something art is whether or not anyone other than himself has ever heard of the artist. Many brilliant artists cease to be brilliant, in the Hipster's world, the moment they actually achieve recognition outside the small and insular circle of the Hipster and his friends.)

Now, one can certainly have any sort of opinion on any sort of topic that one wants. It is, as they say, a free country. But the next time you feel the need to insert yourself into a conversation just to express your alleged indifference to the topic at hand, ask yourself: "What am I trying to accomplish here?" If you are genuinely curious as to what someone else sees in it, perhaps you can have a useful conversation and walk away with some new understanding about the subject you didn't have before. If, only the other hand, all you're really wanting to do is demonstrate how insufferably superior you are to the unwashed masses, do everyone a favour and just walk away and wallow quietly in your smug grandiosity. No one wants to hear it, and there's little enough joy in this world already without someone coming along and draining it from the room.
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  • I've ranted about the 24-hour news cycle and how I think it's responsible for any number of ills, but today on my way back in from lunch I spotted the headline on CNN: "Deadly Flu: Nowhere is safe!"

    Now, this may well be actually true, but honestly, it would be nice if the news actually brought perspective and insight to its reporting rather than sensationalism. I remain a dreamer.

  • [livejournal.com profile] eloren says to me toward the end of a long and somewhat troublesome workday: "I can't even go home and crawl into bed and pretend today didn't happen, because I have to help Ryan [her son] build a bug. It's build a bug day."

    Immediately, I imagined a sort of Goreyesque spin-off of the Build-A-Bear workshop. I'm uncertain if it's unfortunate or just as well that I don't have the money and time to pursue these ideas I have.

  • Speaking of ideas, can anyone actually explain Japanese culture to me? I don't mean the shoguns and the samurai and the Bushido Code and all that. All of *that* I understand. I want to know where this stuff comes from.

  • Only a few people actually asked me questions in the "ask me anything" meme the other day. I'm still open for them if you want. A couple of them gave me good ideas for more involved posts, which I hope to be writing in the near future. So don't be shy -- I really do want to hear from you, if only to assuage my insecurity that anyone actually reads this journal any more. :)

  • While pulling out my little snapshot camera and checking its battery, I realised I never uploaded the few photos I managed to take at Gafilk. Look for those shortly.

  • Speaking of photos, I love that Flickr gives me touch-up tools right on the website. One of the reasons I never bothered fixing the red-eye on some of them is that Gallery made it reasonably difficult to replace photos after editing them. They aren't perfect tools, but it's better than nothing and means I'm much more likely to try and fix things than before.

  • I wish there was a better LJ client for linux. Logjam is ok, but it lacks a preview feature, and Drivel crashed on my Ubuntu system.
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Whenever you discuss issues of relevance to a minority community, eventually the notion of privilege comes up. There are certain status that, through accident of birth, simply make it easier for you to get by in our society. Two things I've observed about this in the past are that 1) telling someone they have some sort of privilege often makes them defensive, and 2) it's really hard to realize it when you have it.

I know that I'm extremely fortunate in many ways to have been dealt the cards I have. I'm a married white guy from a comfortably middle-class family with country squire roots. Double Income No Kids and good jobs means that I have a fair amount of disposable income at hand -- not enough to do whatever I want whenever I want, but enough to live comfortably in a nice neighborhood with two cars and a fair number of gadgets and toys -- not to mention traveling across the country just to see someone I love because I can. While there are certainly parts of my life that are well outside the mainstream, they're easy enough to hide if I was inclined to. (I'm not, but I've found -- and have sometimes been gently chided for - simply not mentioning things makes it pretty easy to avoid scrutiny.

Do I have privilege? I have privilege in spades. Good lord, I'm only short being rich and good-looking for a full hand of trumps. And it's not my fault, and I can say that none of the things should matter, but they do, and when you were born able to breathe the water, it rarely occurs to you that other people are drowning.

Part of the problem is that it's really hard to put yourself in another persons shoes. No matter how much you empathize, no matter how much you care, no matter how much you show solidarity, its hard to really grok what it means to be black, or poor, or gay, or a woman, because you just don't have the context. You don't have the invisible framework that exists around those things that lets you see the world the way they do. You can see the picture, but don't notice all the colours, or the little details that are just out of your frame, but the painter was quite aware of.

Every now and then, someone will come along and tear a jagged wound in their soul so that you can see inside, and while total understanding still eludes you, something strikes you deep in the heart, and you get it just a little more. Yesterday, [livejournal.com profile] shadesong pointed to just such an essay, a reaction to the Jena 6 incident that is continuing to play out in Louisiana and the continuing presence of racism in our society.

A few minutes later, I was helping my then terminally-ill father to the bathroom. He had been down south for a few weeks with my mom. Back “home” was where he wanted to die. I stayed there with him, as he stood at the urinal.

“You know” he said, “I came back here to let go, right son?”

“Yes sir.”

“I wanted it to happen here...where I was born. With Mama and Daddy, and everything I knew. I wanted to go...home.”

“Yes sir.”

“And I'll be”—he looked around to see if there was anyone there to hear him curse—“I'll be Goddamned, if the shit I ran away from in 1948 ain't still here.” He sighed heavily. “The same shit.”

He looked at me. His eyes wet with tears. “I swear to God son, I tried to make this a better world for ya'll. I tried. And look at it. Coming home to this shit...I know I'm not gonna be here much longer...but coming home to this shit...it just takes it outta me that much more. I feel like I could die today.”


Read the whole thing. Walk a mile in those shoes, and see the world through another's eyes. Understand where you are, how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go.
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Today's installment of the webcomic Todd & Penguin struck a chord with me:



Most people who know me socially remark on my generally sunny disposition. In fact, I remember [livejournal.com profile] jhayman asking me once "Are you always that cheerful?" My reply began: "No, but more often than not. I long ago came to the conclusion that you cannot always control what is going on around you, but you can always control how you react to what is going on around you. Positive attitude won't solve all your problems, but a negative attitude will make all your problems worse. So why not go with the better percentage?"

And it's true that this is how I try to live, and many times I succeed. But the flip side of my personality, which not everyone sees, is that I am always worrying about things. What have I missed? What am I not doing right now that I should be doing? What is going to go wrong? It's no wonder that my favourite of Murphy's General Laws is "If everything appears to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something."

I try not to obsess about these things to the point that they paralyze me, and I do make a conscious effort to put a positive spin on things, but the point is that it is a conscious effort. Worrying is my rest state. This is probably why I tend to be very shy of change, and why I always stress more at quarter end when work evaluations are due. Given nothing actually plausible to fret over, I'll invent something to worry about. Am I boring to my sweeties? Have I offended someone terribly and that's why I haven't heard from them lately? Is a piece of the International Space Station about to fall to earth and land on my car?

I don't expect to actually do anything about this, mind you. It's just something to ponder this morning, as I try to recapture my normally blithe spirit in the wake of the last couple of days.
autographedcat: (still flying)
I had intended not to post anything today, or if I did post anything today, I intended not to mention the Anniversary of the Big Event.

It's not that I have a problem with people remembering. It was something that affected each and every one of us, and my cynicism over how that event has been exploited for political and commercial gain doesn't change the fact that very real people are experiencing very real emotions today. I'm not immune. I won't ever forget that day. But I won't let it define my life. I can't. If we let this tragedy define us, then we've allowed the bad guys to accomplish something, and I guess I'm just too stubborn to give in to that.

On the other hand, a moment of honest reflection is worthwhile. So I offer you three things, in memory of all we lost, and all we gained.


  • Brooklyn humorist ZeFrank turned serious on The Show Thursday:
    So in the last week, President Bush has called on Americans to use the five-year anniversary of September 11th as a chance to recall the unity that we felt in its aftermath. It was a pretty amazing unity. We were certainly bonded together by fear but also by a kind of hopefulness. It was a hopefulness from the experience of the amazing strength that we have when we decide to help each other.

    That unity was not about the government. It was a shared determination among us to make things better. The President seems to think that "unity" implies supporting him and his policies. In my personal opinion, the President has no right to attach himself to that part of our experience. He already had his shot. While every other aspect of 9/11 is defiled this Monday, let us at least keep intact the memory of what that unity meant to us.

  • Seen several places on my friends list, [livejournal.com profile] 5tephe gives us a suggestion for what we can do today:
    I heard a lady on the radio this morning with the best Idea ever.

    Go out today and do something tangible, that makes the world better.

    Visit someone in hospital, give blood, make a $5 donation to a charity, bake a cake for a neighbour, fix up that hole in your mother-in-law's fence, write a letter of congratulation to a Nobel peace prise winner, hand in that umbrella to lost and found, pick up litter outside your work, drop off a bundle of tinned food to the local homeless refuge, scrub off some graffiti from a wall, change the light bulb in the hall of your block of flats, sweep off the sidewalk outside your house and clean out the gutter, help Mrs Johnson across the road to carry her groceries in.

    Just go out and do something. Make sure it is physical, tangible. Make the world a better place in some way. Help someone. Help each other. Make today not about the death, and destruction, and violence, and intolerance, but about the gift that you can make, yourself, right now.

    Change the world.

    Pass this idea around folks. Link to my little spiel, or copy it into your own journal. Then make a comment (and encourage others to, also) letting each other know what it was you did today.

  • John Ford's poem, 110 Stories, is still the best piece of creative art I've seen come out of these events.
    Some nights I still can see them, like a ghost.
    King Kong was right about the Empire State.
    I'd rather not hear what you'll miss the most.
    A taller building? Maybe. I can wait.
    I hugged the stranger sitting next to me.
    So this is what you call a second chance.
    One turn aside, into eternity.
    This is New York. We'll find a place to dance.


    In closing, while remembering the events of this day, remember also this: we were hurt, but we were not destroyed. We are still one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, if we want it to be. And when someone tells you that we must give those ideals up in order to be safe, remember this day well. And tell them no.
autographedcat: (Default)
Every morning, I receive, via e-mail, a digest of headlines from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, detailing for me the top stories of the morning with links to the stories should I care to pursue them. This morning, one of those headlines stood out, not least because it was singled out in the subject line of the e-mail:

Book says bin Laden had crush on Whitney Houston
In a juicy excerpt by former bin Laden concubine-turned-“Days of Our Lives” soap opera scribe Kola Boof, 37, she writes that the terrorist mastermind was obsessed with the Alpharetta pop star during her tenure with him.

In her memoir, “Diary of a Lost Girl,” Boof dishes that “He [bin Laden] told me Whitney Houston was the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. He had a paramount desire for [Houston] and although he claimed music was evil, he spoke someday of spending vast amounts of money to go to America and try and arrange a meeting. In his briefcase, I would come across the Star [magazine] as well as copies of Playboy. It would soon come to the point where I was sick of hearing Whitney Houston’s name.”

If you're anything like me, the following thoughts probably occur to you at this point, more or less in this order:

1) This is news we need to know?
2) Osama bin Laden has become part of the celebrity culture.
3) Poor bastard.

And then....like a beacon of light, it occurred to me. I know how we can find this guy, at long last. And because I am a patriotic American who loves his country, I offer this to the leaders of our military at no cost, without expectation of recognition or recompense.

The Army simply needs to form the 1st Armoured Paparazzi Division. We assemble a unit of the world's top celebrity photographers, air drop them onto the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, and within two weeks, we'll be getting shots of Osama going into his cave with a newspaper held up to block his face.

Go ahead. Say it's crazy, but it just might work!
autographedcat: (still flying)
I’ve been debating how much I want to talk about 2005. In many ways, it was a painful year. There were highlights, of course. [livejournal.com profile] kitanzi and I spent half of February honeymooning in England, I got to visit New York City for the first time, and we celebrated our first wedding anniversary and fourth couples anniversary. I developed a much closer romantic relationship with [livejournal.com profile] aiela, which brought me joy, and cultivated an intimate and satisfying friendship with [livejournal.com profile] klrmn.

On he downside, I spent much of the second half of the year fighting off depression, much of it wrapped up in a specific single issue that ultimately was not resolved satisfactorily. In the process, I learned a lot of useful things about myself, and a lot of things I wish I hadn’t about someone else, leaving me ultimately more disappointed than I was with the outcome of the issue.

Between myself and [livejournal.com profile] kitanzi, we had a lot of medical issues, the most major of course being her shoulder surgery in November. I’m still working to get a handle on my blood pressure. We started and then faltered on a fitness plan, partly due to various infirmity, but mostly on my part due to my depression.

My task for 2006 is to take the good stuff above with me, while leaving the bad behind. I will make my 2006 be a year of light and love and joy and hope and promise, for myself and all of those I care about. How’s that for a New Year’s resolution?

Forward.
autographedcat: (poly heart)
For a variety of reasons, I've been musing a lot on love and relationships lately. Thinking about why I love the people I do, and what I want from and what I get from the people who love me. Part of this has included re-reading old journal entries and e-mails, and in the process of doing that, I came across this entry from early 2004, which was written in response to a series of questions one of the people I love asked in her journal. Rereading it, I realized that in that post, I had very neatly summed up my ideals and convictions on the subject.

So, I'm reposting it here, but this time as a statement of intent. This is what I think about love, this is what I want from my partners, and these are the ideals that I shall endeavor to live up to in each of my relationships. This is a declaration of who I am and what you can expect from me.

What I believe about Love and Relationships. )

Reflection

Oct. 14th, 2005 03:16 pm
autographedcat: (Dayna larger)
Do we dare attempt to make the world we have the world as we would have it?
autographedcat: (Default)
First of all, happy birthday to the sublime [livejournal.com profile] catsittingstill on her natal anniversary. I'm still entirely convinced that Cat is not strictly human, but somehow a Tolkien elf who never passed into the West, but at any rate, we're damn glad to have her around.

--

I adore Mark Morford. Sometimes he goes a bit over the top, but i love the sensibility that anchors his work. I especially liked column today. I could have written the following about myself:

"I don't watch NASCAR or "WWE Raw" or "The Man Show." I don't read a lot of Maxim or ESPN Magazine or Sporting News nor frequent Gold's Gym with a cadre of thick muscled dudes named Rick or Tony who stand over me and spot my bench presses with a lot of c'mon dude you can do it pump one more rep yeah yeah yeah, just before we all high five and go out for pizza and beer and talk about SportsCenter and the crazy shopping habits/frustrating fellatio inhibitions of our wives.

I do not spend endless hours of every weekend out in the garage rebuilding my rusty old '67 'Stang. I do not grill giant slabs of beef ribs on the Weber every night. I do not reshingle the house or wear khaki Dockers or pound pitchers of Bud Light at O'Shaunessey's during the Final Four. Maybe I should. But I don't.

In fact, I engage in few stereotypical manly guy things largely because I live in the City and enjoy a wickedly urban and decidedly lubricious lifestyle, and tend to find many traditionally "guy" activities to be sort of unfulfilling and uninteresting and occasionally sort of dorky and faux macho and sadly devoid of divine sensuality and intellectual mystery and really good booze. But whatever. That's just me."

The truth is, I've never been entirely comfortable with "guy things". Most of my close personal friends are female. I enjoy "chick flicks". I cry over sentimental things. I find most of the concerns of the "average male" to be banal. I often wonder if there wasn't some sort of mixup in the Souls Routing department, and somewhere out there is a very tomboyish girl who enjoys auto repair and football who was supposed to end up in this body. Something to think over.

--

Dayna is definitely feeling much better this morning, and back to her old friendly self. And I got a voice mail from the vet on her blood work from last week, confirming that she's negative for FIV and feline leukemia. This doesn't remotely surprise me, since she's never been outside a day in her life, but it's still reassuring to know her health is in top shape.

--

Rejoined the Columbia House DVD club for another set of nearly free DVDs (seven for the price of two, essentially). Picked up Willy Wonka And the Chocolate Factory, Harold and Maude, Sense and Sensibility, The Englisman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down a Mountain, Schoolhouse Rock, Forrest Gump, and the amusing Mel Gibson/Helen Hunt film What Women Want. Also picked up the Matthew Broderick remake of The Music Man, because, let's face it, I'm curious. It takes a lot of guts to step into a part that is so firmly and universally associated with one actor, in this case the late, great Robert Preston. I admit that Harold Hill is a part I've always wanted to do on stage myself. And of course, I got Pirates of the Caribbean because it rocks and stuff.

We didn't actually watch any of these last night, opting for The Daily Show and the last part of the sex in the 20th century documentary that was stacked up on the TiVo. TiVo good. I like the TiVo.

--

Almost no one wants to ask me questions? The poll is still open!
autographedcat: (Default)
So tonight we moved our Usenet servers to our new data centre. All went pretty smoothly, aside from one stripped rackmount screw that we had to expend a good deal of effort dislodging.

Usenet was one of my first real online communities. I hung out on a few BBSes before I got on the Internet proper, and UMNews on BITNET was a sort of proto-usenet, but, really, it was on newsgroups that I first really became a PART of the online world. There was no world-wide web then. There was only e-mail, and glorious Usenet.

Which brings me to Russ Allbery's Usenet Rant. I once had a copy of this printed out and posted over my desk. It's a constant reminder of why I do what I do for a living, and why I do what I do in my spare time. It's why I've poured my heart into sustaining projects like JediMUD and FilkNet.

Go read it. Here, there be wisdom: http://www.usenet2.org/rant.txt

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