Thursday, December 24, 2009

tiny irritations

I love Google Reader, because it encourages me to absorb content. Instead of having an overwhelming list of blogs that I frequently or infrequently check, many of which are ignored for months b/c I found them late at night and can't remember what they are, I can quickly browse through the list of new stuff and see what's worth looking at today. I like that it helps me prioritize, and it keeps from forgetting about bloggers like elzr, who post infrequently but say fascinating things.

I don't like that it strips out a blog's design, as many of the blogs I read have fantastic design work behind them and google's interface is a bit spartan. I don't like that certain blogs, like this modern world, don't have any kind of syndicated feed, forcing me to maintain a "no rss" folder in my browser (although this solves the problem of what to read on my lunch at work).

Mostly, though, I don't like how rapidly google reader becomes overwhelming. For most of the last nine months, as I've struggled through my first two terms back at school after nine years, the "unread item" counter has simply read 1000+. I just spent three hours combing through my subscriptions, cutting feeds that I'm no longer interested in, catching up on some old favorites, essentially trimming the fat; the counter is still at about 450 items. This is simply too much for me to process when, really, the point of google reader is to aggregate stuff for when I feel like sitting down to read. It makes reading (something I love) into a chore.

What's really frustrating, though, is that it seems to weight quantity over quality. Warren Ellis, for example, posts a LOT stuff, and if I'm just pointing my browser to his blog now and then, I don't particularly mind if I miss something; in the same way that I will miss episodes of a favorite tv show over the course of a season but not be too bothered by it.

A paradigm shift seems in order, but I'm honestly not sure where to look. My issue with bookmarks is that it ties me down to a specific folder in a specific browser on a specific computer. Delicious could make for an alternative, but it's a bit limited with items-per-page. I could go for the old blogroll on the side of the tumblr, but I don't want to have to update my custom skin every time I find a new cool blog.

It is a frustration.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

es endet für dich

We are approaching the end of the year. As I like to say, we are on the downhill slope now. It is time for folks to start making with the best of 2009 posts.

2009 is almost over! It’s the first year of my life that really flew by in an instant. My memory hasn’t been what it ought to be since my chemically extravagant teenage years, so I especially enjoy end-of-the-year summary posts. Also, putting everything in perspective is an excellent way to plot for the future. This year we’re going to start slow, since I’m just now getting on the mend after what turned into a nearly month-long sickness.

- Zoetica Ebb

I think Zo is the first, but she'll hardly be the last. My feelings on an end-of-year retrospective remain conflicted from last year, when I believe I railed against them. But perhaps Zo has a point.

As it is, I'm in the midst of the annual purge of my bookmarks; I hate clutter, and un-clicked bookmarks drive me crazy as they fill up drop menus and make it harder to find the link I'm looking for RIGHT NOW. I'm starting to flip through things and transport the ones worth saving over to delicious, where they can actually be found when needed. So while nobody will see anything from me labelled "best of 2009", the assortment of links and pictures I usually tumble will, for the next few weeks, be comprised largely of stuff I liked in 2009.

It will be a kind of secret best-of list, which is an idea I like. Perhaps in 2010 I will plan better.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

the follow-up

So I never did write that post. I was out looking at laptops (I can't afford to buy) with Sean, and was trying to articulate the shape of the post to him. I got partway through the set-up, which is that it was being fashioned in part as a response to some writing by Ross Douthat that struck me as "wrong" while reading, and how I--as an admittedly-privileged young white liberal male--was sick and tired of hearing folks from "the Right" telling me and everyone else how we "should" behave.

Which is the crux of it all. I'm tired of being told how I should behave. I'm tired of watching other folks be told how they should behave. There's a lot of contentious issues in modern politics, and a healthy debate on them would be a positive thing. We can probably reach some kind of acceptable compromise on abortion, on the death penalty, on affirmative action, on the military-industrial-complex, or any of a host of other issues I read about in grade school, and am still flabbergasted to discover haven't been fucking solved yet.

But "the Right" loves to tell people how they should live, who they can love, and that we all need to trust the Invisible Hand of the Market to somehow set the world's economy straight (wholesale ignoring the astonishing number of people who will willingly lie to get your money away from you, thereby poking a fatal hole in free-market ideas).

Meanwhile, "the Left" loves to tell people how they should feel about abortion, what we must do to save the environment, and that we should trust the Government to take care of us properly (wholesale ignoring the astonishing number of people who will lie their way to keep power when they have zero interest in helping anyone but themselves).

And from both sides, there's a constant battle to accept this religion or that religion and that we should trust religious leaders for their moral authority (wholesale ignoring the astonishing number of priests who rape little boys).

Do I have opinions on all of the above? Yes.
Do I tend to agree with "the Left" most often? Yes.
Do I presume that I have the absolute correct answer to any of these questions? No.

So the only thing I'm going to tell anyone they should do is to not assume themselves to know better. Perhaps you've studied more (I never finished college). Perhaps you have more experience (I've never spent more than four years doing any one thing except being a Dad, and I'm far from the best Dad around). Perhaps you're older and have a better base of history to remember first-hand (I'm twenty-seven, so probably).

But seriously. When everything is a binary issue, we don't solve anything. The losing side will simply wait until they can get in power again, and push their agenda as hard as they can while they can, until the pendulum swings back again.

So Ross? If you're reading? I don't want to hear what I should do as an atheist. I don't want to hear what I should do as a Democrat. I don't want to hear what I should do as a supporter of open access to abortion. I don't want to hear what I should do as a man who's never made more than $30,000 a year (and usually makes far less).

I find it fascinating that you're assuming Obama will fail. I find your views on the potential renaissance of the Republican party fascinating (I'm even reading your book).

But if you keep writing like you're inherently more correct than anyone who disagrees with you, I'm going to stop listening to you at all.

Monday, February 9, 2009


I'm working on a piece right now. It's a response to this article by Ross Douthat that I had a strong, but inarticulate reaction to. The reaction, and the argument I wanted to make, has been slowly taking shape, and was reinforced by this article a few days ago. Today, while trolling through my rss reader, I hit upon a couple quotes that crystallized what I'm trying to say, perhaps better than I can hope to say it.

Nonetheless, I'm doing what I always do, which is that there's something nagging at my brain, and I'm processing it as a piece of writing, because the writing process allows me to come to terms with it fully, and make a far more coherent point than simply linking to a few things and then a few other things and letting you draw your own conclusions. But then ... that's kind of what I'm dancing around in my head.

The real point right now is that as I try to make sense of what I want to be doing, and how I want to use this medium, and how my brain works as a writer, I'm considering a regular piece, on a regular schedule, on loosely related topics. A column of sorts.

Some would argue that, as a nonprofessional writer, writing a regular column and expecting to garner a readership is cocky. I say to them, fuck off, it's the internet and I can do whatever the hell I want. I was hoping to finish the (first) piece tonight and start a schedule for a sunday-evening thing, since Sunday evenings are the time in my week most conducive to reflection and coherent writing. But it's just not quite there yet, and I'd rather give it an extra day to percolate.

The benefits of self-imposed deadlines. I can break them and only have myself to answer to.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

movie sign - the darjeeling limited

From an e-mail I wrote on 10/30/07:
I did like it. I liked the brothers a great deal, and Wes Anderson's sense of humor is fantastic. The thing I'm having trouble with is deciding if the film had any point. As an exercise in character, cinematography, music, and tone, it was phenomenally successful. But as an actual story, it fell a little flat. I might even go so far as to say that it was indulgent. Partially because it quickly becomes very hard for me to sympathize with a character who casually drops that he's spent $6000 on a belt--when the story isn't about them having trouble in the real world because they're rich. Part of it is because it's hard for me to care about their relationship troubles when the three of them were such dicks for most of the movie. I guess if I had to sum it up, I'd say that the movie looked, acted and was directed--and consequently felt like--it was an extended sidebar from a more focused and relevant film. But at so many moments in the story, it seemed like the writers were trying to force this pleasant little diversion into the shoes of that relevant film. And it just didn't gel for me.

Monday, January 26, 2009

reading too much politics late at night

01-26-09 | 4:53a

some random thoughts

Took the weekend off. Didn't really plan to (had a to-do list in my pocket from Friday that included "make a to-do list for the weekend"), but ended up fucking off to my brother's house to spend two days playing video games and watching funny videos on the intertubes. Time wasted, but I feel magnificent.

This is the microcosmic corrollary to the past two months. In early November, Barack Obama won the election. A week later, I lost my job. Since then, I've been rather aimless; nothing to do, no real income, received unemployment but then got kicked off and will likely have to pay that back, gained ten pounds, have a totally crap sleep schedule ... you get the picture.

Yet I feel rested, focused, and all in all I feel I accomplished my single resolution from last year, which was to get my proverbial shit together. Even if it only happened on a psychological level. For instance, it was only when I lost my job after a mere eight months--and thus abandoned all hopes of pursuing that as a career--that I was able to admit how much I hated it. I was in over my head trying to learn a new skill set on the fly, and it just wasn't working. Also, it was pulling me away from the solving-people's-problems aspect of administration, and that is the shit that gets my eyes lit up.

The loss of the job, and the loss of all income, has fairly completely closed the circle of failure that my life appears to have become. My marriage fell apart, but we've been dicking around doing other things for three years and haven't got the paperwork finalized yet. My last romantic relationship was two years ago and an unquestionable disaster. My daughter, often the only thing getting me out of bed in the morning, I only see on the weekend. I had to move back in with my parents to take care of a few debts that had built up and to fix some terrible habits with my finances. Now I'm totally dependent on them for food, internet, whatever. I had to borrow money to pay my phone bill, because no self-respecting job seeker can get by without a cell phone. And now I've been looking for work for two months. The only real lead so far is currently interviewing internal candidates, so I'm not really holding my breath.

I'm twenty-seven, I live with my parents, I'm broke, and I'm unemployed. I'm at the point where I'm sifting through my possessions to see what I can sell (although to be fair, this ties into my compulsive urges to tidy up by constantly purging possessions. I wouldn't object to being able to live out of a backpack if I could get around the need for lots of good shoes). By all objective standards, my life has been in the shitter for three years.

But here I am, and as I said above, I feel magnificent. I know who I am with a clarity that simply didn't exist two months ago. I know what I want, where I want to go, and what paths are decidedly not the right ones for me. I'm largely stress-free for the first time in years. I've practically stopped smoking (thus far, I've had two since Inauguration Day, which is as good an arbitrary quit date as any), my desire to eat healthy is up, my desire to exercise is way up, and although I feel lost and a bit helpless, I don't feel like it's inescapable. I know there's something good coming. I just can't see it yet.

Anywho. My morning alarm is ringing, so it's probably time to get some sleep.


Monday, January 5, 2009

2008 in retrospect

is really a big blur. I guess this is the time of year where everyone sits down and looks back on the year and says "This was great, this was alright, and this part here isn't invited back to 2009, or in fact any other year ever". And I'd kinda like to do one of those, because I have fairly particular tastes in music, movies, books, and other media that the kids like. And I like to think that I have a unique voice to offer the world; a way of seeing, a way of turning the phrases, that allows me to say something that other folks aren't saying already.

But I can't. There are two reasons.

One is that it all seems kind of pointless to me. Because you're either running on memory, in which case it's really an exercise in what you liked for the last three months, at which point I really wish you'd do this every three months so it's a seasonal thing (for example, I try to make a mixtape that defines my mood every few months. I inevitably grow tired of that tape as the weather changes, but then once the year comes full circle I'm all "OMG HOW DID I FORGET HOW AWESOME THIS TAPE IS" because when it's cold and grey and winter's coming, you just need to listen to a lot of Aphex Twin and wear huge black boots while you stomp around in the puddles). If you're not running on memory, then you're basically compiling a list of things you've already written about, and unless you're adding new details because you're approaching the Killers' new album from a fresh, post-2008 perspective, and face it. There aren't fresh perspectives on the Killers, you either love them or wish everyone would shut up already, and since you've already declared what side you stand on, please write something new. So in a way it's kind of pointless, and I wish folks would stop doing them because I always read them eagerly and then get disappointed because there's 50 new items in my google reader and they're all crap I already read.

But the other reason I don't do these posts myself, and perhaps the stronger reason, is that I really just can't remember anything except this Jesca Hoop CD that I've been listening to on repeat for days. This is not to say no other albums matter (and there have been some great albums this year) but just that they were all in the past, and I can't pick out the awesome albums from an arbitrary time period and separate them from other awesome albums that were from slightly before that time period. There's what I'm listening to NOW, and there's what I've already had, great or otherwise. And if it didn't spur me to write about it before, then it's not going to spur me to write about it now, because meh.

On the other hand, this gets into why I get along with Tumblr so well, and why I ultimately realized I hated Wordpress, which is that I am always like this, about everything. I read a really great book three weeks ago, but I never got around to writing about it, and now I might never because THAT WAS THREE WEEKS AGO. OMG. Tumblr is great because posting is nearly effortless. You're looking at something, or that song comes on that you get up and dance to every time even at work when people are watching, and you just click a few times and it's up there and you can show people exactly what's getting you excited at this moment. And I kinda forget about the stuff that's not on the front page, but that was ten posts ago and now I'm listening to this song and can't stop tapping my toes. So in a way Tumblr is a truer blogging experience for me, because it's more akin to what it's actually like in my brain.

But this is the part where it affects you, so listen up, internet: what I'm really getting at is that same kind of thing Warren Ellis has been hinting at for a while, which is that we need more content on the web, and less filler. Top-Ten lists are fun once in a while, but the reason I read your blog is because this one time you said something about that one album and how it made you feel, and I had a "me, too" moment, and I wish you would write more of that kind of stuff, because those moments are awesome.