I don't know how Halloween survived, but it did. Somehow, by absorbing the qualities of every prominent culture practicing it, it managed to survive. These days, people shake their heads when they think about Halloween -- "how could a kid’s dress-up holiday have become so grossly sexualized?" they ask with some horror.
The truth is that Halloween was not always a holiday for kids. That shift is a very recent thing in its epic history, and I think the emergence of more and more sexualized costumes is both a reflection of our culture's attitudes toward sex and our attempt to give ourselves license to enjoy.
Adults don’t play enough. We need play. We need fun as much as children do. We are more mobile than we have ever been, we have more opportunities available to us than we have ever had -- but all this is happening at the expense of local social ties. Granted, the internet has bridged geographic boundaries and enabled us to cluster with people who share our views and feed our souls, but those geographic boundaries remain. We’re isolated as our networks grow. We work, we toil, we sleep.
Is it so surprising that many of us grab hold of any reason to leave the house and be with people? Most networking events in Los Angeles are little more than parties to which you pay to gain entrance. At conferences, panels take a back seat to wild adventures and drunken shenanigans. Is it shocking that Hangouts are used as frequently if not more so for fun with friends as they are for brainstorming with colleagues? Has Burning Man ever been so big as it was this year? We need to play. We don’t play nearly enough -- and by that, I mean play together.
We're social animals. We need play with other members of our species.
Another factor I see thrown into high relief by trends in Halloween is society's unhealthy attitude toward sex. In a post- Sex and the City world, we’re constantly bombarded by messages about how great sex is, but we’re shamed or censured if we ever individually express our sexuality. Sex has sold most every product we can think of, but we will never see a nipple or a penis in a TV commercial in the United States. Ours is a bizarre time full of conflicting messages. Is it such a wonder that to be sexy we feel we must also somehow disguise ourselves? What better fit, then, than a day that calls for costumes?
+Christina Aguilera said it best in Not Myself Tonight: "I'm out of character, I'm in rare form -- if you really knew me, you'd know it's not the norm 'cause I'm doing things that I normally won't do..."
Halloween has become our license. Our license to be sexy, our license to approach people in a way we no longer often do -- that is, physically -- and our license to play with them, to be chaotic connoisseurs of fun for just one night.
I think that until we feel that we can safely express our sexuality, until we create space in our daily life for fun, our needs will continue to hijack every opportunity that presents itself to us. So I hope you had fun tonight. But I hope that you have fun tomorrow, too. And the day after. And the day after that. And the one after that. And so on. As often and as freely as possible.
Steve Bowler (https://twitter.com/gameism) couldn't believe his eyes when his eight-year-old daughter showed him an assignment she'd failed to complete properly. He wasn't sure what the worksheet was for -- all he saw were the fifteen toys listed at the top and the grid immediately below it asking students to categorize the toys based on whether they were for boys, for girls, or for both.
Bowler's daughter had sorted a few of the toys, but most of them she'd squeezed into the "both" column by splitting the available cells in the grid so they'd fit. At the bottom, the teacher had disapprovingly written: "We talked about how each square needs to be filled."
Bowler took the matter to a parent-teacher conference where he discovered this was part of an assignment to go along with reading Allie's Basketball Dream, a book about a little girl who dreams of becoming a professional basketball player despite the mockery of boys who consider basketball to be a "boy's" game.
While none of the materials (http://www.leeandlow.com/images/pdfs/allie.pdf) suggest teachers should ask students to gender toys, the teacher in question had seen this as an opportunity to approach gender bias via a sorting exercise. Unfortunately, by telling Bowler's daughter she had to fill in every line, the teacher essentially penalized her for refusing to accept that some toys are considered to be for boys and some for girls -- and likely signaled the same to the rest of the class.
"I'm proud my eight-year-old girl failed this worksheet," Bowler tweeted. "Wish she had failed it even worse."
How would you react if your child came home with such an assignment? Do you remember the first instance of being told that something you liked was "for" the other gender? Read post in Google+
LIES, TRUTHS, AND APPROXIMATIONS
If you're honest in a relationship, is it easier to get over being manipulated by your partner than if you lie?
Someone posed this question today and I thought I might share my response outside the original post's limited audience:
While I believe that honestly stating what you want up front is important in a relationship, I don't ascribe to the belief that a lover must always be your best friend and primary confidant. This can happen, but to expect it is to impose conditions on a beautiful thing that only serve to tarnish it. Absolute honesty is not absolutely required in order to be safe with someone.
Sometimes we ask questions we should not ask, questions we have no business asking, questions that have answers we don't need to know. We are not taught that we have a right to say, "you know, that question is not going to lead us anywhere good." We are taught to believe all information about a person we love belongs to us. It doesn't. When I make such a misstep, I'm glad for liars, though I would love to create a relationship where the other person feels free not to answer and allows me to keep my silence without feeling as though this is a threat to the relationship. Because it needn't be a threat. So long as you know the other person will let you know when they want to renegotiate the terms or end things, you don't need to discover and catalog all your truths.
Now if you are thinking of lying to avoid manipulation, I would strongly recommend you reconsider who you're getting into bed with. Relationships require trust, and you can't build trust if you suspect you're with someone who might at any moment lead you into a trap.
Manipulation at the hands of another is not in your control. Such a betrayal will hurt whether you're honest or not. Love, in fact, will hurt no matter what. It's gravity, baby. Everything that soars must come down. Accept it. Now look at the person beside you -- are they there to fight you, plot and inveigle you? Or are they there to have your back and fight by your side?
If the latter, accept love as the life and death experience it is, go in to suck its glorious and treacherous dew. Stop looking for a parachute and grasping for a forever that doesn't pertain to our finite lifespans and biologies and take their hand. Ready, set, jump. May the fall be worth the impact.
Only one thing is certain here: to love, your fear cannot be greater than your faith. Read post in Google+
If you think your random late-night Wikipedia browsing is out of control, you're not on arxiv.org nearly close to often enough. Now, if you really want to have some fun, you ought to check out arxiv vs. snarxiv, a game which offers you the titles of two physics papers for you to guess which one is real and which one is fake. Consoles what? I could do this for hours.
Let's play a game. Ever heard of Breakfast Combo? I have picked a person, place or thing. You have to guess what it is. There is a rhyme and reason to this, of course -- when you guess, you must ask "is it [noun]?" People don't have to guess in order, but do allow me to answer your first guess and let another person make a guess before you try guessing again. The rules are hashed out at length in this link, but you'll get a good idea just watching other people play if you have never done it before: http://dpdx.net/breakfast-combo.html
This is my first time hosting a game -- I can't guarantee I'll be gentle. But that, perhaps, is why you are still reading me. Are you ready? Read post in Google+
I don't know who screamed. I don't think it was me, but I can't be sure. When the police were questioning me I told them I didn't know anything. I never lost consciousness, but I never registered anything about being hit by that cab.
I only remember that the light was flashing the WALK signal, we were on the crosswalk and then there was a scream. I saw black and white and then the voices around me grew like a chorus. My senses registered everything -- the pain, the sound, the events, but my mind held on to none of the data. Everything passed through me like a river.
Parker was there, I remember that. "WE HAD THE LIGHT!" he screamed. Parker had me in his arms, limp like a tangled leggy rag doll with a shoe missing. The only thing I could feel at that moment was my camera lodged under my sternum where it’d been hanging just moments before. But I was conscious.
Moments, I thought suddenly. Life is made of moments. Life begins with a moment and life can end with a moment.
I knew a man once, Dan Hughes. He owned a restaurant in the Marianas called Coffee Care, a brilliant little place that provided a speck of dust in the middle of the Pacific with delicious coffee, fine dining, excellent wine, and intellectual discussion. Coffee Care was where I went on dates, where I went alone to decompress, where I went to do school papers, where I celebrated birthdays, where I went to have business meetings, where I celebrated anniversaries -- 90 percent of the significant events in my life, between 12 and 23, if they happened in the Marianas, happened there.
Dan Hughes used to always ask me to help him do the displays in the aquariums. He did that -- he tried to get people involved in the coffee shop. He showcased local artists, he hosted Scrabble matches long into the night and held fun tournaments out in the sun. If Coffee Care was ever the place to be, it was because of this man's vision.
After a successful run, Hughes sold the business and moved to Thailand to have the life he always wanted. It was in Thailand that he died, still young and seemingly full of many more wonderful moments, killed by a motorist while waiting on his bike at a stoplight.
Moments. We come and we go, I thought hazily, the pain returning as sounds crashed through my memories. Someone was screaming, "are you okay? Is she okay?" Parker would later tell me it was the cab driver. The screams were obnoxious, relentless, like a phone in a dark house that rings and rings but you cannot find it or manage to disconnect it. "Are you okay? Are you okay?” It pounded into my head, over and over. “Are you okay? Are you okay?"
I shot back into my body, my heart beating like a drum stuck in my throat.
"SHOULDN'T WE JUST ASSUME SHE IS NOT OKAY GIVEN THAT YOU JUST, YOU KNOW, HIT HER WITH A CAR?" Parker screamed.
He sat me on the sidewalk, and I sort of collapsed in on myself there, partly comatose. The driver had stopped right where he'd hit me and was inching along in his car.
"Is there anything more I can do?" he asked, like he had somewhere to go.
"YOU!" screamed Parker, red in the face, waving my missing shoe in the air, which he'd picked up from the middle of the road. "YOU NEED TO PULL OVER RIGHT NOW AND GET OUT OF THE CAR. RIGHT NOW!"
A beautiful man appeared at my side. He pushed me back on the filthy sidewalk.
"Stay with me," the man said. "Breathe."
"I'm shaking," I whispered. "I don't know if I’m cold or scared."
"It's OK to be scared."
Parker had returned. He and the driver stood over me as well. I could see Parker trying to dial 911 on his phone, but his hands were shaking too hard.
"Don't worry," someone else said. "We've called the ambulance and police."
"Take a deep breath," a woman said, walking into view. She was under a street light, so I could only see her outline and a bright halo around her head. "Open your mouth and breathe. In through your nose, out through your mouth."
I started breathing deliberately; it made me think of the days I used to scuba dive and the grotto of my childhood, with the million steps descending to it, so hard to journey down with a tank strapped to my back. Hawksbill turtles, flying between currents.
"Stay with us!" someone screamed.
I'm not going anywhere! I thought, panicked. Turtles! They’re just turtles. From before. Remember?
"The ambulance! Thank God!"
Two guys in orange vests appeared over me.
"Hello!" one said cheerfully. "Anything hurt?" He began by squeezing my bones and head.
"Is she OK?" someone else yelled from across the street. "I know CPR!"
"Dude, the paramedics are right there," someone yelled back from behind me.
"I'm certified, I can help," the CPR guy slurred drunkenly.
"Nice job, guy!" mocked a paramedic, "Ready to save the world, right here! If we need any help, we know who to ask."
"You pass out?" asked the other paramedic. "You wanna go to the hospital?"
I blinked. Did they want me to answer that? Is this some kind of procedure? What if I'm not conscious? Do they just take me? Why do they ask? Does my insurance maybe not cover getting hit by a cab while crossing the street legally? Do I have my insurance information on me?
"Hello! You got hit by a car!" the paramedic sitting over me interjected. "This is your life we talking about!"
"You sure?" he asked me, like it was a game show. Like, "for five million dollars, is this your final answer?" Jesis, just take me to the hospital and leave me alone! I’m cold and scared and lying on a filthy sidewalk where people piss and vomit on a regular basis and I just got hit by a car and things are starting to hurt so can we go now?
They put a neck brace on me, then lifted me onto a gurney and secured me down. The gurney forced me into perfect posture, which reminded me of my mother and had a bizarrely calming effect. They secured me some more with straps and tape.
I know being a paramedic is about saving lives and they have no time to notice little things, but, uh, taping down a the eyebrows of a person that you're trying to keep conscious is not cool. You’re lying there after an incident and you just know that on top of everything else, they’re gonna eventually rip your eyebrows off. It's wrong.
A policeman, who’d been hovering around asking people questions, came over to me and asked me what happened.
"I have no idea," I said, hardly able to speak with the brace and tape all over my face. "That man over there," I said pointing to Parker. "He's the one who can tell you everything. He saw everything. The cab ran a light. It was too fast. Parker saw everything."
They started to take me away.
"PARKER!" I screamed, and suddenly everything hurt but I didn't care. "PARKER DON’T LEAVE ME!"
"I won't, darling!" Parker replied, rushing to me, the policeman in tow. "I'm coming with you. I'm riding in the front, okay?"
They put me in the ambulance. The paramedics introduced themselves, one had a very British name and the other had a very Hawaiian name, and they were both decidedly kama`aina.
"Bra, that cop, man, it's all protocol," one of them whined as he checked my temperature. "He has no mana, no compassion. You need that in this job."
"Ey, you pass me da kine?" the other paramedic asked.
Da kine, for those who didn’t grow up in the islands or watch Dog The Bounty Hunter, means, literally, "the kind" and is generally used as a placeholder name for anything, in the style of "thingy" or "thingamajigger."
While culturally acceptable and even quaint for the memoirs, you always want the guy who's tending to your mangled body to know what to call the usual tools.
"I have shitty veins!" I screamed before he caused all of them to explode with da kine.
"Exactly what I wanted to hear," the paramedic replied with a wink.
"No, really! Please do it in my hand or neck instead," I said.
"My goodness," he responded. "How'll you get up and move about?"
"I'm not kidding, if there is an IV, it will end up going in there. You might as well save some time."
"Gimme try," he said.
"Sure, go ahead, I mean, I just got hit by a cab, who cares if I look like a heroin addict, right?" I replied. I mean, seriously, right? Some people go to Hawaii to relax. I go and get hit by a cab. Did I ever get hit those years that I lived in Honolulu and wandered around positively sloshed? No! But come back sober, years later, follow all the laws of transit and what happens? I get hit by a cab.
"Hohhh-ly! You have some rolly veins!" the paramedic exclaimed, poking me with a needle again. "Nice and clear 'cause you have nice fair skin, but they don’t stay put!"
I could almost feel my veins rolling away every time he stuck the needle in me like petulant little kids. Eventually, he gave it up. In his defense, I've had people make a bigger mess of my arms.
You know those shots in movies where the camera just registers the hospital ceiling and all you hear is the mess of voices from nurses gossiping, patients screaming, the PA calling some doctor to the OR -- it’s just like that. I've been in plenty of hospitals and for worse things, but it was never as dramatic as this. I don't know why. There was just tension this time. Serious tension, like a season finale episode of Grey's Anatomy. Soon, some doctor and resident were going to have a screaming break-up right next to my gurney. I could just feel it.
The paramedics parked me next to a monitor and a nurse came over, took my data and stuck plastic body stat monitoring devices on me. I felt like a science experiment. Instead of having awesome break-ups, doctors kept running by and asking me questions, often the same questions. They also all seemed to think I was 15. When the last one had gone, I called over a nurse to verify what was going on with my age. She told me the age had been input wrong but they'd fixed it.
"So how is being a sideshow helping me right now?" I asked the woman, eager to talk even though my neck was starting to hurt like hell.
"Sorry," she said, "Friday nights are really busy, especially first Fridays."
"I’ll have to jot myself a note in my planner not to have any more accidents on Fridays. Is it true hospitals are busiest on Valentine's Day?"
"Oh, yes," she said smiling. "And Christmas, too."
"Self-inflicted or --" I didn't finish asking. The policeman who'd been at the scene showed up with more questions. He wanted to know where I was staying.
"I don't know my address -- can I call my sister and ask her where she lives?"
"Yes," he replied, picking up his pen, ready to write.
"No, not now, later. I can't talk to her like this. I can't just say, 'hey, I got hit by a cab, what’s your address?' You know?"
"Oh, yeah. I'm going to go back to talk to your friend, maybe when I come back you'll have it. Is there anything you want me to say to him?"
"No, it's okay, I can just call him, thank you."
I hate people who say, "don't freak out, but" and then drop a bomb on you. Those four simple words carry with them the power to bring about more panic than any other words I know (except maybe "we need to talk" when uttered by a lover). As my sister's phone rang, I promised myself I would not use them.
"Hey! I'm going into an elevator," my sister said as means of introduction.
"Wait! Sugar, I got hit by a cab," I blurted out.
"What?!" I could almost picture her sticking her strappy sandaled-foot out and stopping the elevator doors with no regard for the other 18 people in the lift.
"I'm okay, I'm at the hospital being looked at right now and everything is fine but I need --"
"Oh my God, where are you?"
"I'm at Queen --"
"I'll be right there."
I sat, staring at the ceiling. By now, they'd removed the neck brace. Being strapped down on the gurney hurt more than being hit by the car, but they didn't want to move me yet.
I wished, in passing, that they'd not taken my camera. Imagine a picture of me all bound like this. That's one for the memoirs, right? It's bad enough I was too out of it at the scene to have Parker snap a picture of me being taken away in the ambulance. What kind of a chronicler of my life am I?
I attempted to take pictures with my phone. Life in the time of blogs is full of purpose. I mean, what else is there to do? You can worry, you can think of worst case scenarios, you can call people in other time zones and freak them out, or you can overshare to strangers who don't know you well enough to feel they ought to interrupt their day with panic and anxiety on your behalf. It's kind of a no-brainer.
The cop came back and he gave me a card with the police report number.
"I'm glad you’re here," I said to him. "There is nothing good on the internet and I'm feeling totally needy right now."
"I'm here for you," he said.
"Who's that in the picture?" I asked looking at a large portrait of a woman on the wall over me.
"I don't know," the cop replied.
"There's a plaque, please read it to me. When I'm in pain or freaked out, information calms me down."
"Um, okay," the officer said, I could hear him smiling at the crazy haole. "Uh, that's Queen Emma Kala -- uh, Kalani-ka-u-ma-ka-a-ma-no Ka-lele-o-na-lani Naea Rooke."
"You're not Hawaiian?"
"No, can you tell?" he chuckled. "That's why I have so much trouble with the name."
"Are you Japanese, then? I can tell by your last name on the police report information card. I'm a fourth Japanese."
"Through my grandfather. But what about Queen Emma? Please tell me what else it says!"
The Queen’s Medical Center is named for Queen Emma. It was founded the Queen’s Hospital in 1859 by Queen Emma and King Kamehameha IV, who had made health care their main cause, due primarily to the continued threat of diseases brought to the islands by foreigners. It’s said that the royal pair went door-to-door to collect funds to open the hospital and exceeded their goal in a little over four weeks. Behold the power of ohana.
Not included in the plaque is the amusing fact that our president (who was then just a presidential hopeful) was born at said hospital on August 4, 1961.
Time is strange in a hospital. It either flies or it seeps slower than molasses. Finally, a doctor came to check me out. A more beautiful man never existed, despite the various stains. I tried to imagine how a doctor would end up streaked in Nickelodeon's green slime like that and decided it was best not to go there.
"You are very lucky," Dr. Gorgeous said. "Possibly made of pipe cleaners and rubber bands."
If that was a joke, it didn't sound like it. Dr. Gorgeous had a serious expression on his face. Most annoyingly, he wasn't looking at a woman, he was looking at a victim of a vehicular collision. Lame.
"There is no evidence of serious injury at this time," he said, coolly, completely unimpressed by my hit-by-cab chic. "You have a contusion of the knee and ankle and abrasion of your hip and leg as well as a sprained back and neck, but nothing too serious. Take the pills prescribed as needed for pain and follow up with your personal care physician on the mainland. Come back if you develop severe pain in your head, neck, chest, abdomen, or extremities, if you have difficulty breathing, problems walking, dizziness, passing out, or nausea between now and your scheduled return home."
Contusion and abrasion. I love that -- why can't they ever just say bruise and scratch? "Contusion and abrasion" sounds horrible, like you’re on the brink of death. When they say "you have a contusion and abrasion" and then add that there seems to be no serious injury, what do they expect from most people? Just a nod? Oh, okay! Just a contusion and abrasion!
Thus the hot doctor packed me full of unbelievable prescriptions (considering I just had a contusion and abrasion) and sent me home.
In the waiting room, my sister ran to me, followed by Parker.
"Oh, darling!" Laura cried when she saw me. "I should have been with you! I'm sorry I wasn't with you!" She pulled away and looked at my hips, starting to cry. "I wish he'd hit me. You're so tiny!"
"Don't be silly."
"You could have been seriously hurt!" she berated me. "You could have died."
"It wasn't my time," I responded.
Had I known that as I sailed through the air? Are we always right when we feel that? What about the people who die suddenly, like Dan Hughes? Do they even have time to think? What if I'd died that night on North King, just a block from the ghost of Studio 1 where I had spent so many nights as an undergrad?
Like Orpheus, I went to Oahu looking for the Eurydice of my past. Like Orpheus, I couldn't help looking back. It almost took me with it. Moments. Life is just a series of moments. We don't know which will be the last. Doesn't matter if we always look both ways. We don't know when we'll go.
So live like you're dying. Because, in a sense, you are. The question isn't really when. The question is whether you're living, right now. Read post in Google+
My dream last night occurred in the form of a book. I read the entire dream. The story was about a writer, a man without a name. He was in love with a woman named Olga. He had an air of Humbert Humbert about him and he was convinced that Googling people let them know that they were being sought.
Every day, after reading and writing and playing his violin, our protagonist would contemplate finding Olga and disclose to the reader some event from their past together. The events were not in order -- some were sad and some were happy -- and it was difficult to understand why he didn't want her to know that he was looking for her.
Finally he decided to Google a fictional character, since there was no way the character would ever find out she was being searched. In doing this, our protagonist began to understand how Google worked and he finally decided to search for Olga. He found her on a social network for musicians. Elated, he updated all her sheet music anonymously and went away, giving the reader the impression that all he wanted was to give her something, with no thought of her doing anything in return, even acknowledging him.
(I really ought to turn this into some kind of contest so the person with the most accurate or most interesting analysis gets something for taking the time to leave their comment. But what? Some kind of surprise?) Read post in Google+
Do you judge your exes' new partners?
"Why Do Men Always Downgrade From The Wives They Had?" That was the subject of the e-mail from First Wives World, a community I joined four years ago when I was going through my divorce and desperately looking for other women living a similar experience, who weren't going to try to convince me that I was somehow failing by not staying and trying to make it work.
Strangely, the support I was looking for didn't come from other women who formed part of this community, but from people of all walks, in all relationships, who had come to know me via Twitter. This e-mail served to remind me of the reasons the community didn't work out for me -- divorce brings with it a lot of anger, and while I believe it's important to encourage people going through it to express their emotions, I think it's equally important to help them find a way to use that anger to get to know themselves and what they want from a partnership.
Anger is useful in determining where our emotional boundaries are. Being angry means a line that we may or may not have known about has been crossed somewhere and the partnership feels, at least for the moment, inequitable. Even if on the way out we have no way to address our grievances, it's possible to explore our own emotional output to determine what we wish to avoid in the future. I don't have a rosy-colored view of my marriage, but I'll readily concede that some of the most important things I know about myself are things I learned during that particular catastrophe and the divorce that followed.
But to learn these things, we need to avoid misdirecting our emotions. The question that e-mail asked doesn't lead readers to examine themselves -- it places all emotional baggage, unexamined, at the door of someone else. Perhaps I should have known: "First Wives World," the name of the community itself, is the epitome of an artificial feel-good hierarchy. I was a "first" wife, but what difference does that make? Loneliness, isolation, lack of connection, anger and disappointment aren't any different when you're married to someone who was married previously.
I don't see how comparing myself to an ex's new partner makes my current state any better. I was glad when my ex-husband told me he was seeing someone who understood him. I don't think he and I will ever be friends, but I'm nevertheless glad that he's moved on. By the sounds of it, he learned about what he wanted in a partner from our relationship as well. That's a good thing.
I'm not going to pretend I never think unkind things about the partners of my exes. Even when one isn't co-parenting, social media has made it so we can't always avoid these new partners and my God, am I a harsh critic when I see women typing like they're twelve years old in the comment sections of an ex's posts -- I've even had the unsisterly reaction of "oh my God, his spelling and grammar have gone to hell since he met her..."
I fight these thoughts, reminding myself that we will never see inside any relationships other than those of which we form a part. If someone has chosen to be with someone, the only thing I can assume is that the parties involved are getting something out of it. My only hope, ultimately, is that this something is wonderful, enriching and unforgettable.
Other than this one, what other social networks do you use with any regularity? Do you mostly cross-post content from one to the other or do you have specific purposes for each network? If you have abandoned some networks, what were the main factors for you decision? Read post in Google+
Like when you buy yourself an obscenely large engagement ring to celebrate the fact that -- unless you join a cult -- you'll surely die alone, but then have to spend thirty minutes on the phone with customer service because you accidentally had it shipped to your ex-husband. Read post in Google+
All this change has made a mess of my to-read list and with all the traveling, I can't depend on my shelves to keep any semblance of order for me so -- any of you on +Goodreads? I just got an account: goodreads.com/avflox Come be my friend in intellectual judgment and mockery!
Do you read or write book reviews here or elsewhere? Why? Is that the advantage of sites like these or is it about the community for you? Do you get good ideas for new books to check out by browsing or still prefer going to a bookstore to look around? Do you ever judge others by what they read and how they rate those books? Do you ever judge books by their covers? Read post in Google+
PURE AS THE DRIVEN SLUSH
Over the weekend, a bunch of us got together on a Google Hangout for a Purity Test party. It was a great deal of fun, though the test is completely obsolete -- I mean, no sexting? No cybering? No Hangout sex? Don't worry, I'm working on revamping it. What kinds of questions or topics should I include?
In the event you want to look it over to give me suggestions, or take it yourself to share your score, the original 500 point test is here: http://goo.gl/Jep3D
In December, Facebook made headlines when it announced that it was going to start charging for users to contact strangers . Part of the reason for this is rooted in the company's inability to find a functional solution for spam messages, which they had hoped would be solved when they introduced the "Other" folder, a secondary inbox where "less relevant messages" go .
Unfortunately, it seems the network has been unable to properly prioritize incoming mail, condemning legitimate messages into this "Other" box, a folder few people bother to check on a regular basis, and which appears to be completely inaccessible on Facebook's mobile app.
In an awkward move to "help" people ensure their messages are visible to their intended recipients, Facebook announced last month that it would begin using "economic signals to determine relevance"  -- that is, they would start charging people to send messages to strangers. In its post regarding this and other changes, Facebook did not mention a dollar value for their "test," but shortly after, media sources began reporting $1.00 as the set fee.
And then Mashable tried to reach Mark Zuckerberg and discovered that the network is charging users $100.00 to reach out to its founder . CNN later reported that other Facebook executives had a similar access barrier on their inboxes, including COO Sheryl Sandburg and CFO David Ebersman . Looking beyond Facebook, CNN tried Digg founder Kevin Rose and found that he, too, had a hefty price tag on his inbox.
When they contacted Facebook, CNN Money was told: "We are testing some extreme price points to see what works to filter spam." I can see people with high profiles supporting a setup that creates a higher barrier-to-entry on social media. I have my settings on Google+ turned so only people as far out as Extended Circles can contact me, for example. My Google+ profile provides a link to my site's contact form for people who need to reach me, and Gmail's superbly intuitive Priority Inbox takes care of the rest when I start to lose my grip on e-mail traffic.
But this is a set-up I have chosen for myself. So far, it seems that Facebook's so-called spam-reducing "test" isn't opt-in. North Carolina journalist +Michelle Li recently discovered by chance that Facebook was charging users to pay $100.00 to ensure their messages made it into her inbox.
"Journalists are supposed to give a voice to the voiceless." she writes in a blog post . "I don't see how this helps our cause. How are people who don't know me supposed to send me story ideas? I'm sure viewers will only take this out on me... and I surely am not going to get a cut of this $100. And, even if I could, I wouldn't want it."
Li never opted in to put an economic barrier on her inbox. Venture Beat has suggested that the fee amount may be generated based on recipient's importance . Li has over 9,000 followers, a number that may have triggered the network to charge a fee of that size. The criteria for the implementation of this fee isn't entirely clear.
Facebook has not made any statement suggesting that people who see this fee imposed on their inboxes will receive any money , so Li's integrity isn't at stake. But she's right to feel uncomfortable -- how many users who have attempted to contact her before this know that the $100.00 is going to Facebook and not Li?
Of course, there are users who think it's inappropriate for Facebook to sell others access to them as a means of generating revenue for itself. Facebook hasn't admitted that this "test" is a way to make money, but as we learned with "Promoted Content," the company has become more active in terms of finding ways to monetize its users.
(It's worth noting that users are still able to leave messages in strangers' Facebook inboxes if they follow them first. This is a lot of work, though, and Facebook hasn't been particularly forthcoming with this information. So much for bringing people together?)
It doesn't change, you know, no matter where you go. It’s always a sexy, dimly-lit, smoky penthouse full of people you barely know. Everyone is making a statement or publishing a book or exhibiting their work, but more than anything, they’re name-dropping like the best reporter at the National Enquirer.
"'I am a galley slave to pen and ink,' as Balzac put it. Absolutely," a man asserts beside me.
"Ah, but it’s all shit," comes the reply from a gentleman on my right, "to quote Flaubert: writing history is like imbibing an entire ocean and pissing a cupful."
"What is it about you writers that you always need to cite someone else?" Juan asks, leaning in from behind me.
Juan's the artist in the group. He also owns the It bar of the moment and can't stand it. He can't stand a lot of things, including the majority of his friends. "Everybody talks like they're something interesting," he'd said to me earlier, "but they’re not really that interesting."
But it's always interesting somehow. You fall into it like Alice into the rabbit hole: down, down, down.
"Ah," says Carlo when he sees me, "here you are -- did you just come from a wedding?"
"No," I reply curtsying in the ball gown. "I dressed up for you, darling! It’s your birthday! Happy birthday!"
"That is the best gift, truly sensational, you've made my night. I'm still mad at you, however," he takes a long sip of his wine. "You never sent me anything of yours. You told me so much about your work, wonderful, wonderful and then nothing. Nothing!" He pulls me to him, "no matter." He spins me toward a group of men nearby, introducing me "this is Danika's cousin. She writes sex dictionaries."
I don't correct him.
"Is sex your theme or prerogative?" one of them asks me. He looks like a musketeer.
"I didn't know these were mutually exclusive."
He laughs, "I'm Gianni."
Now Ken, a well-known poet, comes buzzing by on his fifteenth whiskey of the evening. Or is it wine now? It doesn't matter to him, so it shan't matter to us. Anyway, here he is, and he’s flinging his new book disgustedly at everything, "this is shit. I am shit. You take it," he says to me. I open it randomly and read beautiful things.
"You are Danika's cousin," he slurs, "the Hawaiian. Why are you wearing a dress?"
"I'm a princess."
"Well, princess, I have no heart, I am a lemon meringue pie and you, you are a strawberry cheesecake. But you know, as Nietzsche said... oh, I don't know. But no, I'm mistaken: I have a heart and my heart, my dear Filipina, my heart is a great pastry shop." He sticks a feather in my hair and walks off.
"That," says Juan walking up, "is the best poet I have ever met."
"Pastries are so deep."
"No, not now. Now he's drunk, don't mind him. He's a great poet."
"He is a great man," says a tall blonde who suddenly materializes next to me.
It's Camille, the publisher of these poets and mad hatters, the owner of the apartment, the orchestrator of 100-proof tea party. I don't know Camille and this makes her the most interesting person at that party. I notice she has a plate full of food-things. She holds one out to me and I eat. It's something bland, maybe tofu, but it's wonderful because someone takes a picture and when I see it, I look like a fairy princess eating out of a crane's talon.
"I really do not understand your personality," Camille says to me in her curly French accent. It makes me want to squeeze her words.
"All you have to do is read the directions and directly you will be directed in the right direction."
She looks at me with wide eyes. It’s not wonder in them, it's a sort of examination, "this dress is some sensation, why are you wearing it?"
"Because it’s pretty."
"You are pretty," says Gianni coming up. "You have beautiful cheeks."
"What an odd compliment -- I'll take it and go get myself a drink."
The kitchen is small in comparison to the rest of the apartment. In the window against the skyline, is a sign that reads, Maid Needed. On the fridge are numerous pictures of Camille against backgrounds of the man-made and natural wonders of various other countries.
"I love the pictures on this wall," a man immediately outside the kitchen says of other works as I pass. "Tristan Tzara -- he's grand."
"Mr. Antipyrine!" I nearly scream, stopping immediately, feeling more playful. "We are circus ringmasters and we can be found whistling among the winds of playgrounds, convents, brothels, theaters, realities, feelings, restaurants, ho ho ho bang bang bang!"
"I beg your pardon?" he looks lost between bored and frightened.
Ken has joined us, he's looking at me strangely, "what in the world are you babbling about, you strange little Fijian?" He starts laughing like a child,losing his breath, and takes my hands, "I know you! Come, come, come. Let's try some shit."
We follow some people upstairs.
Upstairs, Danika, Juan, Carlo and Gianni stand around Camille. She’s on her laptop, and they're all looking at something intently. I lean over to see the screen -- it's a picture of Salvador Dali, his mustache manipulated into the figure eight.
"This photo is genius," Carlo says. "Infinity. He did it with honey." He takes a bump from a generous mound of coke on the desk. He offers me some.
"You don't drink, you don't snort, how do you alter yourself artificially?"
"I'm naturally quite altered."
"When you write about the places to have sex in this city," Danika interjects, "you have to include this -- have you seen Camille’s bedroom?"
I follow her in without hesitation and go straight to the bed. Danika turns on the light and I see the wooden ceiling through the translucent canopy. She sits next me, "it's darling, isn't it?"
"The bed's the perfect size for Camille’s acrobatics," Gianni says coming in.
"And you know personally?" Danika asks.
"Not extremely well, but yes," he replies, and I don't know what’s more impertinent, the question or the answer.
"Can I have a cigarette?" he asks.
"Brilliant idea. I left them in the coat room, I'll…" I start, but he's headed there, already out of the room and at the stairs.
As I pass, Camille grabs my arm, "he's dangerous," she whispers to me. For some reason, I think she’s more dangerous.
The room where the coats are is small. There is a mattress on the floor and a hammock hanging over it. Next to it are an empty table and a chair. I pull the purse off the mattress and pick out the pack. Gianni suddenly comes close as if to kiss me. I see his lips pucker and draw up my hands and step back.
"But I desire you," he says.
"So that’s all there is to it, you want and you have?"
"Is it wrong?"
"Are you mad? Have I given you any indication that I want this?"
He shrugs. Then, "is it because of your mental alteration?"
"Upstairs when you said you were always altered..."
"Is that the only thing you can think of that would keep a woman from flinging herself at you?"
"Are you with somebody?"
"Surely those two things aren’t the only reasons a woman might decline."
"If you’re taken, I'll respect you."
"You'd not respect me otherwise?"
He starts explaining himself in a manner we all know, half whining, half demanding.
"Wah, wah, wah," I mock him. "Look at me. I think what you did is incredibly self-absorbed and disrespectful. It adds offense that your explanations are so manipulative. A simple apology will suffice."
I wait a moment; he offers no apology, so I offer him no cigarette.
The looking glass has cracked, and I see a million different little things at once. It seems strange to me that poetry, the very lyric of emotion, is crafted by beasts that stumble around, too drunk to walk, much less to feel; that chase women and men and throw themselves on them only to look down on their beds, days later, in the company of others and say they know them -- but only a little, just barely. There is no poetry in that. It's meaningless.
No, we need to be fucked senseless by living lyric, lyric that sears the soul.
So the fairy princess runs, over the hardwood floored halls toward the elevator. Someone tries to pull me away from the elevator by the hand, I think, but no, he or she only stuffs a piece of paper into my palm. The doors open, I don't wait for anyone who wants to join me.
As I walk out to the quiet street, I read the note: The Cinderella in the fairy tale gown rose from those pages and she doesn't stop, she takes with her that little slipper, what a beauty to behold but never know, to want to know but know one cannot for lack of words. I'm no prince, just another child who likes to play with facts and fictions.
I stop in the middle of street and turn to look up at the building. There are moving shadows on the porch, they look like they are dancing around a table in the dim light. A car honks softly, slowing until it stops in front of me. It’s a cab. I jump in all satin layers and layers and we're off. Read post in Google+
I am afraid of a reasonable number of things, but my greatest fear is perhaps best summarized by F. Scott Fitzgerald: "She had become too settled in her ways, too placid, too content, too anemic in her excitements, and too sober in her taste. As a bride, it had been she who 'dragged' Benjamin to dances and dinners -- now conditions were reversed. She went out socially with him, but without enthusiasm, devoured entirely by that eternal inertia which comes to live with each of us one day and stays with us to the end." Read post in Google+