Category: technology

The Comments Section of The Internet, As Told by a Brainwashed Moron

I don’t usually delve into political topics on the internet, and this is because of the Comments sections everywhere. I recently watched Ellen’s interview of President Obama, and the comments quickly turned into the following conversation:

BLAH BLAH BLAH ANGRY THINGS ABOUT HEALTHCARE

DAMN SOCIALIST AMERICANS ARE GOING TO KILL THE COUNTRY

SYRIA WHAT ABOUT SYRIA

THEY’RE TAKING OUR GUNSSSZZZZZZ

YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT ANYTHING

YOUR MOTHER IS FAT

NO U R

In an effort to have a comment on there about something other than who was responsible for the destruction of this country and how awful Obama was and why Americans are stupid (or why the Swiss are idiots), I stupidly commented on the fact that OBAMA WAS ON ELLEN, and how awesome the interview in the first place, and I commented on this because the novelty of it amused me. This is a world where the US President appears on a talk show . . . there are so many different things at play here that are phenomenal. We’re in an age where someone can record, digitally, in color, a conversation with one of America’s most popular television hosts and one of America’s most-hated/most-loved leaders, and where people can have a discussion about it.

And of course, someone posted in response, “wow . . . brainwashed morons are always like this.” Read more »

Editing Life

MyLifeAt a an author reading at Auntie Bookstore’s last year, Craig Johnson talked about how much he liked Robert Taylor’s audition for the role of Sheriff Walt Longmire in the A&E TV series based on Johnson’s novels (Viking). That is, he liked it until a breathy “Oh, my” escaped from his wife’s lips when she saw Taylor saunter across the screen. She quickly defended her reaction by describing Taylor as a taller and slightly better looking, “TV version” of her husband. (Nice save, Mrs. Johnson.)

This made me wonder what the TV/film version of me would be like. I pictured a polished, skinnier Asa, with better skin, thicker more lustrous hair, wearing expensive designer clothes and shoes. She would know how to walk in high heels, have an infectious tinkling laugh, and use a clever repertoire of insightful comments during conversations. And she would look good in hats.

Later that night, I uploaded some pictures from the author event to social media and realized the edited version of my life already exists: Facebook.

Here are some of the director choices I’ve made for the Facebook version of my life:

Major Milestones:
My husband and friend arrange an amazing 40th birthday party—show pictures of guests, especially cute children of friends playing with dog. 

Turning 40 means spending an alarming amount of time in front of a magnifying mirror tweezing coarse hairs that sprout on my chin—CUT!

Traveling:
Ziplining in Costa Rica—post photos of posting with hubby in matching helmets, include video of me whizzing down a very high line at fast speeds.

Spending hours on the toilet, purging from both ends due to Costa Rican amoeba entering gastrointestinal system—Are you crazy?! Nobody wants to see that. CUT! Read more »

Dave Eggers’s The Circle: A Mirror and a Crystal Ball

the-circleHave you ever read a book that left you feeling a little hollow, a little less safe, and yet it was a story that you felt completely in control of most of the time? That was my experience reading The Circle by Dave Eggers. The Circle is a story of a twenty-something woman named Mae (short for Maebelline, a sure nod to the makeup brand, leaving readers to wonder if Mae’s parents had actually named her after a beauty product in this dystopian society) who has just landed a job at a futuristic version of a Google/Facebook/Twitter-like company called The Circle, making her a “newbie” Circler.

In her first week or two there, she learns just how much this job will become an overbearing part of her life. She’s required to “smile” at all sorts of meaningless chatter online (The Circle’s equivalent to “Likes” on Facebook.) and every few days it seems that a new screen is being added to her desk, requiring her to pay attention to multiple social and business arenas at once.

At first, I was as enamored by The Circle as Mae was. What’s there not to like? The campus is beautifully manicured, all amenities are free to employees — even a stock of merchandise brought into the campus’s overnight apartments for employees who don’t want to drive home after a long day at work — and creativity seems to be bursting out of every room.

This, coupled by the fact that Mae is able to include her parents (her father suffers from MS) on her super amazing health insurance, makes The Circle seem like a dream job, which is the point.

Eggers sets us up to fall in love with the place, but all the time, we’re watching Mae being bombarded with more and more media, technology, and social obligation, and it all starts to feel like a burden not worth carrying. Mae is even chastised for not attending enough after-work festivities when she first arrives on campus. Like a good employee who wants to please her superiors, she acquiesces and starts to fill up her time with extra-curricular activities that keep her on The Circle campus overnight more often than not.

Read more »

Used, but Infinitely More Interesting

On their way to make s'mores.

On their way to make s’mores.

In the romantic comedy Serendipity, Kate Beckinsale’s character writes her phone number in a used book and tells John Cusack’s character that if faith wants them to meet again, the novel will find its way back to him. The movie isn’t very interesting after that, but that scene outside the bookstore made me think about the treasures I’ve found in used books.

In a copy of Drowning Ruth, by Christina Schwarz, a picture of two young women had been used as a bookmark by a previous owner. I bought the book because it was an Oprah’s Book Club pick, but never finished it. Maybe because the unknown people in the picture were more intriguing than the plot. They’re wearing summer dresses, smiling, and posing in front of a pine tree. I like to think they’re at a gathering of good friends in a back yard somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. After the picture was taken, they lit the outdoor fire pit we can’t see, and sat down to drink wine and make s’mores.

A friend of mine lent me her copy of The Magic Circle by Katherine Neville. My memory of the plot is hazy, I confuse it with The Eight by the same author, but I do remember how much I enjoyed the process of reading the book. My friend comments and underlines while she reads. I’d find “Who’s this guy again?” or “How much more must she endure?” in the margins. Plot twists were underlined and “Whaaaat?!” written above. Reading her book was like having our own private book discussion, or maybe more like a private peep-hole into my friend’s mind. Read more »

I’m Not So Special (and that’s okay)

Netflix shattered my sense of self a few weeks ago. It’s the nature of technological advances these days, and I should probably get used to everything I thought I once knew being undercut by the series of 0s and 1s that rule my life.

For many of us, it was Google that started this assault. We were bopping along through life, feeling all one-of-a-kind and uniquely us, and then a search engine came along and said it wasn’t so. I’m not the only Ericka Taylor in the world. I’m not the only black Ericka Taylor. I’m not even the only black Ericka Taylor with dreadlocks. Fortunately, that kind of realization is only briefly off-putting. After all, what’s in a name if you’re not a Capulet or Montague? The fact that an Ericka Denise Taylor who isn’t me resides in Florida doesn’t exactly bring on an existential crisis. Our names are, in the end, just identification markers, not things that define us. I’m betting that even someone whose name is truly exceptional, say Umberkrunktil, has at times been more annoyed by her name’s distinctiveness than she has reveled in it.

'Cause there's no one like you left.

Where you gonna go, where you gonna run, where you gonna hide? Nowhere.

That’s because, in the end, we all want to be special, but only to a degree. We’re a social species, and fitting in matters because it’s at the core of community. When you do a Google search for “hot tub, armpit” and the next term you were going to enter—“soreness”—pops up automatically, you feel better. Not only can you now avoid scheduling a doctor’s appointment, but you’ve gotten affirmation that it’s not just you.

For me, the scariest part of 1993’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is when Meg Tilly’s (snatched) character says, “Where you gonna go, where you gonna run, where you gonna hide? Nowhere. ‘Cause there’s no one like you left.” Those lines have stuck in my head for 20 years because the sense of being absolutely alone, of having no one who can relate to you in any meaningful way, is kind of a freaky concept. So, I’m at peace with the fact that Google’s predictive searching reaffirms that I am but one of many. Read more »

Just Say No to NEA Budget Cuts

We shouldn’t have to say that the arts are important; we shouldn’t have to defend them. Earlier today, I read an article about how the CIA funded Abstract Expressionists during the Cold War, because that artistic movement, level of creativity, intellectual freedom was something a rigid communist regime could never have. Just think of that: art is cultural power. Look at how Japan has maintained soft power through its cultural exports the past twenty years. Arts are a sphere of influence as powerful as natural resources and technology.

And yet:

“A bill approved by the House of Representative’s committee on appropriations would cut funding for a number of cultural organizations, including the National Endowment for the Arts, whose budget would be slashed to $75 million for the 2014 fiscal year, a 49% decrease from the agency’s funding for 2013 before the budget sequester.

The proposed NEA cuts are part of an across-the-board reduction in federal spending that was put forward this week by the committee, which is led by Republican Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky. The bill calls for an overall federal spending cut of 19%.” -David Ng, LA Times

The National Endowment for the Arts funds dance, design, folk & traditional arts, literature, local arts agencies, media arts, multidisciplinary, museums, music, musical theater, opera, presenting, theater, and visual arts. Give them more funding and we could be a powerhouse of culture. 

So take a minute and tell your congressperson to stand behind the arts. It’s easier than ever with this link.

Hey I just met you…and this is crazy

Just look at him, ain’t he the cutest?

Guys, let me be real with you for a moment. I’m in love. It’s still brand new and I still have that undercurrent of fear that it might be too good to be true, but I’m in love.

Last week I got a NEO2.

I find myself thinking of it during the day. I find myself rushing home from work just so I can spend time with it. And I look forward to taking it out into the world, maybe sitting in a park together. NEO2 is a word-processing product developed for the classroom, primarily for children with writing or learning difficulties.

I don’t own a laptop and I’ve often found myself envying friends who do. We’d meet up at coffee shops to work and I’d be surrounded by the clicking sound of keyboards while I’d stare at my notepad and pencil.
Don’t get me wrong, I love writing by hand. I write all my poetry by hand and will probably never change that. I like being able to see my process and being able to see the phrases I’ve scribbled out or rearranged. There are even studies that show the benefits of writing by hand. But when it comes to prose or blog posts (hey-o) I’ve always used my computer. It’s easier on my hands.
For some reason, ever since I learned to write, I grip writing utensils like I’m Leo in the Atlantic and the pen is a headboard floating nearby. My hand cramps almost immediately. I’ve never been able to relax my hand while writing. I like to think it’s due to my deep passion and my fervent need to communicate in writing, but I’m sure it’s just my day-to-day neurosis. Read more »

Art to Warm Your Hands By

I’ve been blogging compulsively Tuesday mornings Washington State Time for almost three years. I’m afraid I’m losing my bark.

I imagine from time to time I’ll get it back, but I seem to be recovering from compulsivity.

For now, I’m thinking about interactive and prankish art.

First is a slice of German mischief:

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Starring You as the Next Big _______ (Ten Years from Now)

Mark Zuckerberg inspires me. He said in an interview that he and Steve Jobs shared a desire to stay “maniacally focused.”

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In another interview he said when he was growing up he’d get home from school and think, “I have five whole hours to just sit and play on my computer and write software.” When it was time for the weekend, he’d think, “Okay now I have two whole days to sit and write software. This is amazing.” Read more »

Fiction’s Dirty Little Secret: Ep. 1 Forward Unto Dawn

Hey all, welcome to my inaugural post as a regular Bark contributor! I wanted to start things off ambitiously and begin with the first post in a series I like to call Fiction’s Dirty Little Secret. While I severely doubt I’ll be writing anything risqué (I might give you a pic of a hardcover without its slip if you’re good), titling things dirty and secretive are supposed to draw a crowd. There’s a dirty little secret about advertising for ya.

When I say Fiction’s Dirty Little Secret™, I’m talking about how writing appeals to our base desires. Sure, the brain gets off on watching K in Kafka’s The Castle talk his way through a never ending bureaucracy, but some of the most memorable pieces of writing are those that punch us right in the gut with a fist constructed of unicorn tears. Fiction’s dirty little secret is that no matter how you dress it up in social relevance or political statements, it’s got to tell a good story. Thus, this series will cover all the good stories that get told outside of the literary community

Forward Unto Dawn is a five-part science fiction miniseries created as promotional media for the first person shooter video game Halo 4, and while I’ve had a longstanding belief that the only good piece of cinematography that’s ever come from a video game is the live-action Super Mario Bros movie staring Bob Hoskins, I’m willing to make an exception for Forward Unto Dawn. Go ahead and take 15 minutes out of your day to watch Part 1. Nerdgasms commence after the jump and I’ll keep it as spoiler-free as possible.

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