Blue Kid was getting ready to go out for the night on Saturday. He came downstairs and went through the routine he always goes through when he's getting ready to leave. Takes out his cell phone, flips it open, checks it, flips it closed and tucks it back in his pocket. Grabs his wallet from the kitchen counter and puts it in the back pocket of his jeans. Puts on his coat then stands there and asks me the question I know he's going to ask.
I go always go through the same routine as he's going through his. I watch him, thinking, Look how big and cute he is. And then I answer his question in the exact same way I always do.
"Mom, can my curfew be 2:00 now?"
"But, Mom! I'm going to be 18 in a few months and that means that I'm going to be an adult according to the state."
"Well, you don't live in the house of the state. You live here and I say no."
"Oh, I knew you'd say no."
"Well then, why did you ask me?"
I spared him the lecture my mom always gave me, which was, Nothing good is going on after midnight that you need to be any part of!
I yelled, "Be careful!" and then I heard the door close. I was laughing to myself thinking, I'm so tired, I'll be lucky to make it to midnight, when I heard the door open again.
Blue Kid came back into the kitchen.
"Can I have some money?"
I laughed and thought, You're lucky I think you're so cute. I gave him $20, he said thanks and I watched as he left again.
Related: Suzanne Maggio over at The Bottom of the Ninth watches too.
When I started a new job years ago, I arrived early on my first day, trying to impress my boss.
“What a go-getter!”
I stood out in the hallway, waiting, for 45 minutes, till after nine when the first person rolled in, yawning, and let me in. My boss didn’t show up till ten. It was a small ad agency filled with creative people. And while lots of creative people are known for their go-getterness, it’s usually a laid-back, yeah, whatever go-getterness and is hard to come by early in the morning.
That place became my second home and I made such good friends there that it’s hard for me to remember if and for how long I felt out of place in that new place. But, I’m sure I did. I don’t remember wanting to know where the coffee was, but I bet I wanted to. Along with the paper clips, the file folders, the note pads, the copy machine, the rest rooms. My office.
I started a new job yesterday after being on my own for twelve years. Everyone there is as laid back, yeah whatever as all the other ad agency people I’ve ever worked with. Although I didn’t have to wait for anyone to let me in. I was the second one there at nine. Everyone else rolled in a half hour later which gave me time to find the paper clips, file folders, printers, rest rooms. And my office.
While they made me feel as comfortable as they could, I still felt out of place most of the day. Out of the place I’ve been for years. Doing whatever I’ve wanted to do whenever I’ve wanted to do it. I’ve got a lot of new habits to form and lots of old habits to break.
Can’t write for my blog whenever I want to now. But, since I still want to, I think I’m going to have to start getting up really early to do it. Like I did this morning. I rolled out of bed at five, made coffee, sat down at the computer and stared at the screen for an hour, in a daze. I was in full laid-back, yeah whatever go-getter mode.
And now I’ve got to get ready to go to the office. And I have to hurry. I can’t be late!
Question: You argue the web isn’t living up to its initial promise. How has the internet transformed our lives for the worse?
Jaron Lanier: The problem is not inherent in the Internet or the Web. Deterioration only began around the turn of the century with the rise of so-called "Web 2.0" designs. These designs valued the information content of the web over individuals. It became fashionable to aggregate the expressions of people into dehumanized data. There are so many things wrong with this that it takes a whole book to summarize them. Here’s just one problem: It screws the middle class. Only the aggregator (like Google, for instance) gets rich, while the actual producers of content get poor. This is why newspapers are dying. It might sound like it is only a problem for creative people, like musicians or writers, but eventually it will be a problem for everyone. When robots can repair roads someday, will people have jobs programming those robots, or will the human programmers be so aggregated that they essentially work for free, like today’s recording musicians? Web 2.0 is a formula to kill the middle class and undo centuries of social progress.
Question: You say that we’ve devalued intellectual achievement. How?
Jaron Lanier: On one level, the Internet has become anti-intellectual because Web 2.0 collectivism has killed the individual voice. It is increasingly disheartening to write about any topic in depth these days, because people will only read what the first link from a search engine directs them to, and that will typically be the collective expression of the Wikipedia. Or, if the issue is contentious, people will congregate into partisan online bubbles in which their views are reinforced. I don’t think a collective voice can be effective for many topics, such as history--and neither can a partisan mob. Collectives have a power to distort history in a way that damages minority viewpoints and calcifies the art of interpretation. Only the quirkiness of considered individual expression can cut through the nonsense of mob--and that is the reason intellectual activity is important.
On another level, when someone does try to be expressive in a collective, Web 2.0 context, she must prioritize standing out from the crowd. To do anything else is to be invisible. Therefore, people become artificially caustic, flattering, or otherwise manipulative.
Web 2.0 adherents might respond to these objections by claiming that I have confused individual expression with intellectual achievement. This is where we find our greatest point of disagreement. I am amazed by the power of the collective to enthrall people to the point of blindness. Collectivists adore a computer operating system called LINUX, for instance, but it is really only one example of a descendant of a 1970s technology called UNIX. If it weren’t produced by a collective, there would be nothing remarkable about it at all.
Meanwhile, the truly remarkable designs that couldn’t have existed 30 years ago, like the iPhone, all come out of "closed" shops where individuals create something and polish it before it is released to the public. Collectivists confuse ideology with achievement.
It appears that I'm on an unplanned blog vacation. Why, oh why, must it stress me so?
Go read Bridget and The Sassy Curmudgeon. And go look at Claire's birds. They're not slackers like me. (I meant the bloggers. Not the birds. Although they're not slackers, either, I don't think. They pose for pictures, and fly around, and all kinds of stuff!)
The Skimmer won’t watch movies about the devil or serial killers. Won’t watch movies where kids are abducted. Won’t watch movies where people are being tortured. Marathon Man? Forget about it. The Exorcist? No way in hell. The Deer Hunter? Sophie’s Choice? Reservoir Dogs? He’d rather slice off his own ear.
But I can’t get enough of them.
Don’t look at me like that.
With that look of horror in your eyes, the way my sister-in-law looked at me the next time I saw her after I had raved about True Romance, telling her and her husband that they had to see it.
“You absolutely have to see this movie!”
All of its horribleness and wonderfulness from beginning to end? Oh, Baby, that’s a what I like!
And my sister-in-law, after watching it at my urging, looked at me like I was a complete psychopath.
In the olden days, as The Skimmer would be leaving to make a video store run, he’d say, “What kind of psycho movie do you want?”
“I don’t know. Just no Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, nothing with talking elves. No talking trees. No fake stuff! Just get something good. Really good. And deep. And heavy.”
Even though I knew better, every Sunday night this past fall as I turned the channel to Dexter and as The Skimmer made a beeline up the stairs, I’d yell, “I really wish you’d watch this show with me! It’s so great!”
“I don’t want those images stuck in my head!”
“But, Dexter’s the coolest serial killer ever! You’d love him!”
The only people I had to share Dexter with were a bunch of strangers on Twitter. After the final episode, I was like, OMG!
And they were like, HOLY S%*#!
It was truly horrible and terrible and absolutely, positively TEH AWESOME!
Last night I flipped over to the movie channel and clicked through the titles.
Night at the Museum? No. UP? No. All About Steve? No. A Woman in Berlin? Seen it. Battle for Terra? What? No. Collapse? Seen it. April’s Shower? Ugh. Wait. Antichrist. What’s this one all about?
WARNING: The following film contains extremely graphic violence and nudity. For mature audiences only.
I was thinking I was a little put off by the phrase extremely graphic violence, and not only because I wondered if it should have been extreme instead of extremely, when the phone rang. It was The Skimmer. I asked him, “Ever hear of the movie, Antichrist?”
“Um, no.” He said in a very flat tone.
“The preview says it contains extremely graphic violence and nudity.”
“And you thought, that’s so me!”
“Willem DaFoe’s in it. How bad can it be?!”
After we hung up, I watched the preview again. It doesn't show what the movie is really about, at least the one you can access on the Movie Channel doesn't. I almost didn’t watch it because it looked like there were fake, other-worldly trees in it.
*ATTENTION PSYCHOS: SPOILER ALERT!*
And there were other-worldly trees in it. But, it was shot so well that they didn’t look that fake. Even with all the dead hands coming up out of the roots. There were no talking elves, just a talking fox.
Cool phrase said by a fake animal. Could have turned it off at that point but I was too far in to stop watching. With my hands up over my face.
There was also a large, black raven. But, he wasn’t talking. Just squawking. As Willem DaFoe’s character smashed his head in with a rock over and over again, in the bottom of an old, other-worldly tree, to get him to stop squawking, so that his wife wouldn’t know where he was because he was hiding from her. And you couldn’t blame him for that because he loved her and had been trying to help her, but she thought he was distant and didn’t care about things the way he should -- the way she did. Although she cared about things the way she cared about things because she was evil, which really made her not care about anything at all! Except sex. She loved sex. Everywhere. Even at the bottom of an old, other-worldly tree right before she slammed Willem DaFoe in the groin with a log, drilled through his leg, and stabbed him in the back with a pair of scissors!
The only thing I cared about in the movie was the cinematography. It was gorgeous. The music was good, too. I also loved staring at the structure of Willem DaFoe’s face, along with the structure of Charlotte Gainsbourg’s face, and her wonderful acting. Even though her character was too psycho, even for me.
I’m not a horror movie fan. And while the movie tried to be more than that, the images that are now stuck in my head can only be described as horror-ible. Horror-ible scenes shot beautifully. The most beautifully shot horror-ible scene being the entire beginning sequence. It is drenched in gorgeousness and absolutely terrifying. And I’d love for The Skimmer to see it just to see how it was shot. But, I'd never ask him to. He’d rather drill through his own leg first. And I'm not that much of a psycho.
“When I know someone’s hurt you? I seriously want to kick that someone’s ass.”
My dearest and oldest friend said that to me a few years ago when I was going through a rough time. I remember realizing in that moment that we knew each other as much as two people can. Because we’ve shared a long and honest history, by living these lives of ours side by side, both together and apart, as both our good and ugly selves. And that she loves me enough, in spite of all she knows, to want to kick someone else’s ass instead of kicking mine, which I seem to always think is more what I deserve.
She stuck up for me again this morning. And I’ve spent the day feeling grateful to her. Grateful for her.
And grateful that no matter what, she is, and always will be, ready to kick someone’s ass in my defense.
Your best friend always sticking up for you
Even when I know you're wrong?
The problem with putting every single ornament you have on the tree is that it takes almost all day to take every single ornament down and put it away. Like the puppy dog ornament I got from my mother-in-law years ago. Not sure why she gave it to us. We’ve never had a dog. But, it went on the tree this year and it also came down. Just now. I wrapped it in tissue paper and tucked it inside the drawer of my organizer, between the ornament she bought us when we got married and the large glass ball I bought at a sale after Christmas at a department store that was going out of business year before last.
Took down the wooden skis and the golden reindeer. The golf ball and the purple glass grapes. The tiny red bird, the blue and white ceramic tea pot and the six royal blue sequenced stars that I bought as a set.
Took down the bright red hearts trimmed in gold, the snowman made of cloth and the fragile Snowbaby riding a swan, who is grasping a vanilla white bow.
Took down the shiny red and silver iron Jennifer sent me this year, a generous gift and a nod to this comment thread. Took down the white ornament we picked up at A Christmas Carol in 1996, and the red apple with a bite taken out of it to reveal a green worm sitting in a rocking chair covered with a blanket, reading a book, next to a blue and white polka dotted lamp on a tiny nightstand.
Took down each ornament in my Lenox collection. The large, egg shaped one, the small train trimmed in gold that my mother gave to me when Blue Kid was small. I wrapped those along with the angel and the mouse, who holds a paint brush and a watercolor set, placing them carefully into the drawer.
Took down each of my Santa Claus ornaments, the ones I collected before The Skimmer and I were married. Some have tightly curled, wild beards, their expressions jolly and happy. Some are trimmed with pearls and some with jingle bells. Some are wooden, some ceramic and some are glass. Some have serious expressions. Most are wearing gold wired glasses and muted velvet clothes. One of them holds a candle. And one of them looks downright mean.
Took down the small silver pillow with the bronze bow that has three tiny white pearls sewn into each corner. The pillow reads L’amour, l’amour fait tourner le monde!
It’s love, it’s love that makes the world go round!
Took down and tucked away the ornaments I’ve collected and also received as gifts over the years from friends and relatives who picked them up while traveling. I have a moose from Alaska, a dancing woman from the Bahamas, a gorgeous and heavy crystal ornament from Sweden, the Old North Church from Boston and a small cuckoo clock from Germany. My best friend sent me a beautiful ornament this year from The White House Historical Association, an old etching of the White House surrounded by silver snowflakes and dedicated to Grover Cleveland. The I Love NY ornament I bought in a tacky gift shop in Times Square when the three of us had made a trip to the city eleven years ago to see The Lion King usually hangs highest on the tree. Because of its weight, it needs to hang from the strongest branch.
Took down the Mickey Mouse ornaments, the Donald Duck ornaments and The Power Rangers ornament. The Thomas the Train ornaments. Thomas, Edward, Henry, Gordon. James, Percy, Toby. Took down the ornaments that were Blue Kid’s school projects over the years. The garland made from construction paper. The white paper plate with his red hand print. The small white sock he stuffed with tiny wrapped boxes and the ornaments he’s made out of clay, the star and tree. The photos of him on Santa’s lap in 1992. 1993. 1994. 1995. 1996. 1997. 1998. Took down each of his pictures I have put in tiny frames each year. His first, at nine months old, encased in a red and green wooden tree with Baby’s First Christmas written in gold beneath his toothless grin, through to the last one, at seventeen, his senior picture behind glass in a gorgeous miniature, maroon velvet frame. I took them all down, wrapped them in tissue and tucked them away, along with the last Christmas I had him at home as the child I’ve always known.
That’s the real problem of putting every ornament you have on the tree, it takes a lifetime to do it. And it’s all over much too fast.
The Skimmer and I went out for a drink last night. Not at our usual place but at a different place which was half empty and too bright. Not feeling comfortable in the fluorescent lighting, we decided to go to a different place where a fire crackled in the brick fireplace in the corner and where the lights were turned down nice and low. We drank our drinks and ate some hors d’oeuvres and decided to make it an early night. Driving home, I was scanning the radio for a good song. And I found one.
“Oh my God!” The Skimmer said, “Turn this!”
“No, listen to it. It’s such a great song. Aw.”
“Oh, it’s crushing me. Crushing me!”
“I know. It’s so sad. I love it.”
“I can’t take it!”
“Shhhhh!” I laughed. “Feel the misery.” And I began to sing...
“We tried to reach beyond the emptiness, but neither one knew how...”