This weeks begins for me a much anticipated break from the internet. My laptop is sitting at home in NJ, I am many miles away (soon to be many more miles), and we shall not rendezvous again until September.
When public computers are available, I may log on to check email and such, if I feel like it. But for much of the summer I will not have any access. So please do not expect replies to any electronic correspondence. Letters are most welcome. Privacy concerns prohibit my posting my contact info on this site. Check facebook or call my parents.
It’s not a trip back home without a visit to Maxwell’s. Tonight I took my sister to her first rock show (and my first in some time– its been far too long since I’ve seen “live” music that consisted of more than a dude in front of a laptop or a coop jam session). It did not disappoint. I first discovered Los Campesinos! because of their animated music videos, but it turns out that they are one attractive band (their other videos attest to this). So I got to introduce lil’ sis to my favorite Maxwell’s ritual: its cozy enough that even if the music is lame, you can always content yourself ogling the cute boys and girls with guitars. Luckily in this case, the performance was fantastic, and the crowd great. I love shows in Jersey cuz people aren’t afraid to be enthusiastic. There was much dancing and cheering, and in a unsuccessful but valiant effort for an encore, even something of a sing-along.
I’m seriously all crushed out. Campesinos! are adorable; they sound like what when I was 15 I had hoped college would feel like. Sort of obnoxiously indie but so sweet that you have to smile. Anyway, tonight was the beginning of Campesinos! US tour. They’ve got shows in most of the cities that I have friends in, so if you dig indie-pop (think Apples in Stereo), definitely check em out.
Los Campesinos! – The International Tweexcore Underground
Also, the opening band, The Orion Experience, was lots of fun.
The Orion Experience – Blood & Money
The Orion Experience – The Cult of Dionysus
The Orion Experience – Obsessed With You
Los Campesinos! – My Year in Lists
For proof that these bundled minor virtues don’t amount to freedom but are, instead, a formula for a period of mounting frenzy climaxing with a lapse into fatigue, consider that “Where do you want to go today?” was really manipulative advice, not an open question. “Go somewhere now,” it strongly recommended, then go somewhere else tomorrow, but always go, go, go—and with our help. But did any rebel reply, “Nowhere. I like it fine right here”? Did anyone boldly ask, “What business is it of yours?” Was anyone brave enough to say, “Frankly, I want to go back to bed”?
Maybe a few of us. Not enough of us. Everyone else was going places, it seemed, and either we started going places, too—especially to those places that weren’t places (another word they’d redefined) but were just pictures or documents or videos or boxes on screens where strangers conversed by typing—or else we’d be nowhere (a location once known as “here”) doing nothing (an activity formerly labeled “living”). What a waste this would be. What a waste of our new freedom.
It took me ~4 hours to read this article because I was simultaneously working, chatting, listening to & downloading music, sorting through 50+ firefox tabs, emailing, eating. I multitask compulsively, and I’ve been doing it since at least middle school, when my brain was particularly vulnerable. These days I have to remind myself to go to bed and to eat breakfast (not that I was ever particularly good at those things), as checking email (which of course leads to web surfage) is so much more natural for me.
The only good news is that last paragraph is that a) I finally recognize that as a human (as opposed to a brain in cyberspace) being I need sleep and food and b) at least one of those 4 hours this morning was spent getting brunch with friends, eating outside, delighting in real human contact.
How pathetic is it that I can get cheap thrills just by leaving the house without my cell phone, no credit card, just a couple dollars in my pocket. How daring, to slip my hand into my pocket and not be greeted by my trusty time piece and communication device! It actually feels like I’m doing something vaguely dangerous. What if someone tries rapes me and I can’t call the police? What if someone tries to mug me but I have no wallet so they decide to rape me instead? What if I get lost and can’t call a friend to google map it, or pay a cab to take me home? What if I engage in conversation with someone attractive but can’t check my text messages, thus proving I have friends, during the awkward pauses? What if if the trees and the clouds get boring?
But I could easily give up the phone, on an emotional if not practical level. I hate phones, their intrusion on the outdoors and public spaces, their closed networks and the big corporations who run them. I resisted the phone as long as possible, until more than halfway through high school, when my mind was a little more durable. I’m a social phone user, I do it so I can interact with my peers, I can stop when I want.
Its the Internet I abuse: Email, IM, Web. Such delicious freedom, the ultimate home for my nocturnal, curious, cowardly mind. She’s given me so much that I didn’t realize what I’ve been missing. My only hope is for my laptop to get destroyed, and to not have enough money to replace it.
Its not the computer’s fault though. Its the culture. Recently I’ve had these moments where I have some revelation about life that seems so fucking profound. Then a couple days later I’ll realize that to most anyone in the past my brilliant thought would have been so obvious as to not even warrant a mention. This phenomena is perfectly captured by a review of Michael Pollan’s new book:
Do we really need such elementary advice? Well, two-thirds of the way through his argument Pollan points out something irrefutable. “You would not have bought this book and read this far into it if your food culture was intact and healthy,” he says.
Its not just our food culture thats fucked beyond belief. We interact with each other through screens, even when we share a physical space, selecting from a menu of avatars and then dueling with each other in our living room. We are surrounded by lies, both factual– the US government– and emotional– the airbrushed images of pseudo-happy pseudo-people trying to sell us shit. We probably spend more time looking at pseudo-people than at actual people. Food is something with a cartoon character logo that you buy in the store and marriage is about being a princess for a day and smiles are for selling toothpaste.
So look, until all this is fixed, I’m gonna have a hard time abandoning the seedy but sincere streets of craigslist and youtube. It takes about 50 tabs (of firefox, silly), some music, a couple IM windows, and an email client to keep me my mind simultaneously stimulated enough to not be bored and distracted enough to not feel lonely, aimless, or anything else. Totally stimulated, totally numb.
Anyway, read that article about multitasking. Really well written, almost like turning on the webcam in your computer and just watching yourself, except ocassionally the cam slips into xray vision mode.
To all my family & friends,
I am so insanely lucky to have you in my life. A blog post feels massively inadequate for expressing my gratitude, appreciation, and love for all of you, but to not use this space to say something seems wrong. Because of you, I think it is fair to say that I have had the most exciting, educational, and life-affirming year of my life. I hope that your 2007 was wonderful too, but more importantly, that your 2008 is even better. May the new year bring you peace, health, love, growth, and happiness.
To Marjane Satrapi and Vikram Seth,
Thank you for making art. Marjane, thank you for reminding me how powerful and beautiful animation can be. Vikram, thank you for writing a novel about San Francisco in verse. To both of you, thank you for demonstrating the importance of not compromising as an artist, for giving me a reason to look forward to tomorrow’s cross-country flight with a 2 hour layover, and for helping me view life with some reverence (the good kind). May the new year bring you success and inspiration, and may your work influence our culture.
To the weather,
Thank you so much for snowing today in Cambridge. I really needed that. May the new year keep you safe from global warming.
A more serious reflection on being a middle-schooler & the awesomeness of my kid sis. I read this to my sister in front of a small collection of family members the night before her Bat Mitzvah. Gets a little corny at the end, but I’m entitled.
Congratulations on your Bat Mitzvah. Though I hold much ambivalence towards organized religion (and this coming-of-age ceremony in particular), I am so proud of you and so happy to return home to share this day with you. You have thus far maneuvered through puberty with a grace I find remarkable, especially in light of my own memories of that time, and I am confident that you will continue to mature with the same elegance. You are an intelligent, beautiful and loving young woman, not to mention much cooler than a 12 year old has any right to be.
But as much as I, along with the rest of your family and friends, want to celebrate you, the Amazing A. Relkin Rojer, princess of November 3rd, I’d like to pause first, amidst the festivities, and meditate a bit on this notion of “coming-of-age.” First, lets examine the ritual you are just about to complete, and call it out on what it is.
My little sister, showing me her friends on myspace:
This boy, he has a crush on me. But Becca, its so bad. His favorite band is Linkin Park.
She pauses, then scrolls down…