I deactivated my facebook account again. I am very interested to see what happens. I am trying to implement a new heavily curated internet experience. I have identified the things of the internet that impart meaning to my life rather than simply sucking time from it:
- my blog
- old school message board where I hang out with my friends
- texting
- downloading podcasts
- carefully chosen instagram feed
- email
- and obviously stuff for my actual job/scholarship (journal articles, research, (ahem, wikipedia, fuck it))

If I stuck just to this what would my life be like? Here is what I want:

I want to read again, for hours and hours, uninterrupted. I want to read without interrupting myself to look at Twitter or check my email or, worst case scenario, get sucked into Facebook.

I want to learn about what is happening in the world via longer-form articles and editorials. If that means I learn about fewer things, I think that is a reasonable trade-off for learning about those things in greater depth. I am so exhausted by the barrage of 140-character accounts of atrocities. I am well aware of the value of Twitter and such to revolutions, but I am not currently in a revolution and I want to acknowledge that I mostly use Twitter to read comedians’ jokes. Which is great, I love jokes, but again, I think I would just rather live a more curated life where I have more agency in determining which other people’s thoughts I consume and when. I am tired of stressing out about curating my various feeds. Oh, should I block someone who’s constantly posting pro-Israel nonsense, or should I force myself to encounter that world view because it is a real world view and I shouldn’t insulate myself? What I am starting to think is that I want to encounter stuff outside, face to face or the new-world equivalent of that. I don’t like what the internet can do to a certain kind of personality–the personality of the troll, sure, but even a personality like mine, that is a bit fiery and impetuous and judgmental. I have posted things on Facebook that were rude; things I wouldn’t have said to someone’s face. That soapboxing mentality. The fast scroll past all our opinions, none of them really making a dent in anyone else’s, so far as I can see. I want to think about this. I think amazing things can happen via social media–and I have enjoyed the particular type of humor that I and others have cultivated in those places–but thus far I have not partaken in such things as revolutions or been instrumental in making those things happen, so maybe it is okay if I bow out.

I have a fear about losing my slim hold on understanding anything going on in the world of technology. I am already so behind my friends, so confused about stuff other people take for granted. I still don’t understand what an RSS feed even is. I don’t know how to download things illegally. I can barely use dropbox. Syncing everything with the cloud makes me sweat; I don’t get it. I get so stressed out when I have to update my phone. I think part of why I signed up for Twitter was I didn’t want to get left totally behind. But maybe I need to accept that I am going to get left behind no matter what–almost everyone is–so who cares if it happens a bit earlier than it might have otherwise?

I think so many people fantasize about living in a cabin with no internet; or surviving an apocalypse and having to garden again and maintain a sourdough starter and get big callouses on your hands…an ever-increasing amount of fiction is based on this concept, which always is the first way to diagnose a cultural trend in my opinion. I think it is pretty obvious that there is a modern tendency to feel alienated and isolated by the technology our lives are sustained by, even. So much technology that makes our lives possible! Electricity. Internal combustion. Refrigeration. So if even that is alienating on a certain level (as we increasingly realize that all those things are literally destroying the earth’s ability to sustain life), what in the world are we feeling, collectively, about Twitter? We need electricity to live, and electricity is bad enough, but what the fuck is 4chan or whatever? To think that these sites, where we idle away the hours of our life almost never to any purpose, are also one of the major contributors to climate change…well, I don’t know. But that makes me feel pretty empty and sad.

Then again, this could all be generational. Do 18 year olds feel this way? I will try to find out.

Email: I love email. Already this marks me as old fashioned. Long emails, intimate correspondences sustained over years and years. I feel lucky to have this in my life. Email was the first thing I ever heard about, with regard to the internet, and it seemed magical and impossible to me, and it still retains a bit of that shine. I know increasingly people are starting to hate email; I definitely have friends who won’t email with me and that is fine. And I too understand the oppressive weight of the full inbox–my work email stresses me out so much, that feeling of “needing” to check it on a Saturday night when 20 years ago the idea of doing anything work-related would never have crossed one’s mind. I get it. But those people who will write long emails with me, I think we feel it is our weird new way of continuing a super old tradition of letter writing. Like when a 19th century lady of leisure would spend every morning tending to her correspondence at a special writing desk. I love that shit. When I am old there won’t be email anymore and imagine that, telling kids about email, not even snail mail. Or maybe by then we will be back to snail mail. It all depends on peak oil.

But I want to read again in the immersive way of the Time Before Internet. I miss that so much. I miss it more than I miss my young strong body or those Mead notebooks you can’t get anymore. Reading for hours in the same position without another thought entering my head. I can’t remember the last time I read like that, when once it was the foundation of my entire mental life. My friend Burke was recently reminiscing about how much time one used to spend just THINKING. In one’s childhood bedroom, with no phone or computer. Just lying on the bed staring at the ceiling and thinking. I miss that. I don’t even know if that can come back into my life, now that I am a grownup with responsibilities and heavy tasks I have to complete, but one thing I know for sure is that Facebook and its ilk are major road blocks.

The time just gets sucked away, for me, by all the different tendrils of internet within which I am ensnared. There are so many things I want and need to learn, for my job and life, that would take hours and hours of focused and devoted reading, and yet I am instead spending those hours, or at least a lot of them, on Facebook. The great scholars and pedants of yore, how did they write 50 amazing books in a lifetime? They spent all their free time doing it! They weren’t looking at boots on zappos (I’m not made of stone)

The internet is amazing. I get it. It’s magic. I am about to buy a goddamn vintage dutch oven on ebay for $25 if I’m lucky; the pot lives in Illinois yet soon (if I’m lucky) it will be in my hot little hands. That is awesome. I’m not a fool. Being in close instant contact with people I love from all over the country is real. Learning about things instantly is real, and good, and good for the world, I think. Being able to video police brutality and instantly broadcast it is real. The way the internet has thus far so often been too tricksy a beast for despots to completely control is real. Live tweeting the Arab Spring for everyone in the world to learn about is real. Feeling intimacy with people you haven’t spoken to IRL in years is real, and wonderful.

I guess I just want it to be one tool of many in my life’s toolbox. And I don’t want it to ever be a thing I do out of boredom. I want to completely cut out that part of my internet life where if I’m feeling even the tiniest bit bored for even one second I start staring at my phone. The space between productivity and idleness used to be a fruitful one. You used to write a section of a book chapter, get exhausted and bored, and stare out a window, during which time ideas and thoughts would percolate and have time to sift together and coalesce into other cooler ideas and thoughts. Now when you reach that place in your work day you pour your consciousness into Facebook and lose the train of thought you were working on; you lose everything, you forget what you were doing, you scroll down and down and down and you forget what post you just read one second earlier that made you mad or made you laugh. You insert yourself into a timeless present with no history and no future. I want my old attention span back. I just read about a guy who spent 7 years baking 300 loaves of bread a day and doing nothing else and how it became a meditative practice and I almost started crying.

I know this is all highly personal. Everyone is different. There are people who live constantly online and on their phones and they love it and it is a way they feel happy and connected and alive. That’s fine with me. But this is how I’ve been experiencing modern life lately and I think I have been too passive about it; complaining about it without accepting that, like most things, it is almost entirely in my own hands. I am the one who chooses when and how and how often to do these things. I need to take control.

It’s become a cliché of our times, to post on the internet about your exhaustion with the internet, and I apologize for contributing to that!! Not even sure why I did; I should’ve perhaps just kept it to myself. Then again, who cares.

I think I wanted to write about it to draw myself more mindfully into it. Now that I have uttered all this aloud it may be easier for me to live and choose thoughtfully instead of passively. You have to name something to release its hold over you. The internet has become to me like the Devil in the tarot deck. Obsessions, addictions, heavy chains around the necks of people who want to be other than what they are. But the lesson of the Devil is that these chains are freely worn–you can take them off whenever you want.

In other news, I got my bread book in the mail and read the first chapter while eating pancakes. I am reaching ever closer to my goal of making sourdough bread at home. i need a few more accoutrements and then I will be ready to begin. I will fail many times, I think, but that is like life, you keep trying until you get it right, then you die, or not.

Soon I will buy a piano. This is another thing. If you took my facebook-and-equivalent hours and put them into practicing the piano or studying French, everything would be different for me. I want to put the piano in my mind’s eye as a goal. Whenever I would normally idly scroll through Twitter I will go practice scales or sight-reading and, for me personally, that gives me a greater sense of contentment and pleasure. There are so many things I should’ve been able to do by now, and yet I can’t, because of my own laziness. I am a lazy person in a lot of ways, and I think that means I need to have fewer things in my life that I put energy into.

Aren’t you glad you just read my personal note to self! What a world

I have a cold sore
I have a ton of shit to do but I have a bad attitude because I’m not sleeping well
I will go to the Y and sweat later
Wish me luck on this dutch oven
see you


Posted in Opinion | Leave a comment

Oh yeah

Oh you know what has been cool though is that two different groups of my favorite dorks have come through here on tour already! This was something that happened all the time when we lived in Santa Cruz, but I had assumed no one would ever drive through this random little wide spot in the road and that to see loved ones I would have to fly on several airplanes much as our ancestors the Ingalls family had to just wait to die and fly up to heaven in order to see their near and dear again. But thus far at least, such has not been the case!

First, Phil came through on tour with his young friend Carson, both of them just as handsome and flannel-clad and full of exciting John McPhee style fishing stories as could be. We stayed up late watching Jaws, which is actually called “Josh,” because that is the shark’s name. Carson had never seen the movie before, which was why we watched it. “Josh is coming,” we would say to him, “you can tell because Josh’s theme is playing.” I ruined the movie for Phil by drawing his attention for the first time to how badly the score sucks beginning at the point when the Orca leaves for the open sea and ending never. It’s like John Williams was paying attention for Acts I and II and then for Act III he sort of just keeled over and whatever music his face made on the piano he was like that’ll do ‘er. I mean, it’s not even that good, because at least that would be abstract and avant-garde. It’s more like he must’ve had a vision of his future score for Goonies and then accidentally put that rompin’ fun-lovin’ kiddie movie music onto what is supposed to literally be a contemporary evocation of the Moby Dick archetype, complete with blood shooting out of people’s mouths, and other people facing their biggest fear, and still other people confronting the gulf between scientific knowledge and good old fashioned American fish-gumption. It is truly stomach-churning.

Next came Steve, Jona, Robbie, and Claire (Jeffy staying home to go to synagogue with his parents and flying to meet the rest of the fellas later, much like the Ingalls flying to heaven, again). They were only here for lunch but lord did it do my soul good to see them. Plus they bought me lunch. It is just a profound delight to laugh with old friends with whom you are on the same page and don’t have to explain things. Plus they are all looking very handsome as they near middle age and I do love to surround myself with good looking gentlemen and top-shelf dames.

I graded all morning and am maybe about halfway through. I very wisely planned to have every single one of my three classes hand in a paper or a quiz on the same day, so that is working out very well.* My kids did better on their quiz than I was expecting, which is a good thing. I asked them to make up a band name for a song I played and two different people wrote “Joe and the Boys.” What does it mean? It was not a cheating situation, but a god’s honest coincidence.

Currently in VERY deep with 20 open browser tabs, coterminously researching vintage enamelware, how to make your own bread form, and bidding on various dutch ovens. I am going to successfully bake sourdough bread or I am literally going to die while still trying; I will not give up. Phil, revealing yet another effortless skill he possesses that I wish I possessed (building your own sauna; running a vintage printing press; playing the guitar; being able to swim; and drawing being just a few others), told me he’s been baking sourdough on a weekly basis and that it’s easy and great. Since unlike him I am not made of money I have forgone ordering the brand new Le Creuset and am stuck reading extremely long articles about the history of the less-prominent but–according to many lengthy cast iron afficionado message board posts–in many ways superior Belgium Descoware in an effort to find out if the 1960s dutch ovens they made give you cadmium poisoning or not, e.g. He also gave me some tips on my starter, told me which bread book to swear by, gave me some kneading tips, and has now stopped responding to my thrice-daily texts asking for more pieces of advice. It’s all coming together!

I have not slept a full night through since last Tuesday. Maybe I will go insane and die!

Now I am going to buy a bag of flour, and go to the gym.

*By “wisely” I mean “stupidly”

Posted in Opinion | Leave a comment

Things that aren’t about my job

I’m trying to challenge myself to blog about something not job-related and all I can come up with is how much I despise Anthony Lane, which is not only not that interesting but which I have already blogged about so many times.

All I can think about these days is:
- my job
- my career
- Anthony Lane
- Israel

I would not say it is enjoyable inside my mind right now but also maybe this is just a phase everyone has to go through. Being very focused on their job and on the state of Israel and its many sins. I know those who live in glass houses etc. etc. but GOOD LORD.

What else though?

The other night when I took snoop out to use his bathroom before bed a small bunny hippity-hopped across our backyard. Also we think a small bear or passel of raccoons got into our compost. What’s even in there that they would want? Rotten corn cobs? Surely the animals of the pioneer valley are not so strapped for nutrients? I hope not.

Autumn is about to pop off to the max. There are dramatic streaks of red on everything, like the whole natural world has been holding its breath as long as it can and is just about to let it all out in a huge gust of oranges and reds and yellows. There’s a chill in the air and local apples in the co-op.

Non job-related things I would like to try to do in the coming weeks:
- go apple picking
- find out if our landlord will let us use our fireplace
- find a le creuset dutch oven at Goodwill for $5
- go camping

I joined the YMCA. It is maybe the coolest thing I have ever done. It costs the same as a gym membership but it’s a lot better than my previous gym. First of all, it is a 2 minute walk from my house (which, to be fair, was true of my previous gym as well). Second, though, it has a whole separate locker room JUST FOR GROWNUPS. People with kids have to use a different one that’s all grubby and tiled; the grownup one is all nice brown wood and clean and quiet AND it has a SWIMSUIT DRYING MACHINE. Finally, it has a sauna and a steam room. I have been going swimming at the Y a couple times a week. I am not much of a swimmer. I flounder and flail and am always worried the lifeguard is going to be like “ma’am! are you ok” and shame me. I have this idea that swimming is a good exercise for my hip dysplasia because it’s no-impact, but my hips still hurt when I’m done, maybe because I don’t really know how to swim. I get in the beginner’s lane and lie on a kickboard and kick back and forth for awhile, then I sit on the kickboard and just pull myself back and forth with my arms. Then it’s been 20 minutes and I feel like barfing. It is pretty fun.

The first time I went, a young girl was treading water in the deep end of one of the lanes. I asked if I could share her lane and she said yes. She wasn’t even breathing hard. I swam for 20 minutes, gasping and flailing, and she just stayed down there, treading water. When I left she was still there. Then when I came back three days later she was STILL THERE!!! Ha ha ha but that’s what it seemed like. Same girl, same lane. What is going on with this kid. I could tread water for about 45 seconds.

The lifeguards at the Y are about 10 years old and they play gentle contemporary pop hits on speakers while everyone swims.

You can also take all manner of classes at the Y, from Pilates to “Active Older Adult Water Aerobics,” although so far none of them line up with my schedule.

Also, for $4 a month you get a towel every time you go in and then when you’re done you just throw it in a bin. Hello!

If I do not go to the public library and get a library card and check out colson whitehead’s zombie apocalypse novel today then I am a fool a dozen times over

Posted in Opinion | 1 Comment