Oh hey, I’m mentioned in the New York Times.
The writer found this old blog post and then contacted me for a quote.
It’s cool that it was in print too. My dad even texted me (“Is this you???”).
Before 2016 I had several chances to vote for one of the Clintons — including Hillary’s first senate run in New York — and did not. My reasons for never voting for a Clinton amounted to:
You see: reasons.
Now that I am older, I still think Bill is a scumbag and I’m glad I never voted for him.
But I voted for Hillary in the Texas primary and will vote — several times if I can get away with it! — for her in the general election in November.
I came to this decision after a bit of soul-searching and also because I want to avoid the apocalyptic hellscape of a Trump presidency.
“But what about Bernie?” no one has actually asked me.
Nowadays in my soft, middle years I have the bleedingest of bleeding hearts and my politics align pretty well with Bernie’s. (Except on guns, which I believe should be dropped into a volcano along with the Second Amendment.)
So…Bernie’s fine. I still voted for Hillary.
Yes, it was a pragmatic choice and not one I would have made when I was younger. Younger me would totally be on the Bernie train. Younger me hadn’t had his heart broken a half-dozen times by other can’t-win candidates. Younger me was also more of a misogynist. (Imagine if a rumpled old lady came onto the scene shouting exactly what Bernie shouts. We’d hold our noses at her old-person smell and she’d slouch off to eat cat food from the can.)
If I were a single-issue voter, climate change would be that issue. Climate change is the largest threat to our species and we are failing to do anything about it. It’s so much worse than most of us think. None of the candidates are talking about it enough; all of them will compromise with the oil industry if given the chance. We will continue digging up dinosaur fossils and lighting them on fire until it is too late.
But I would rather have Hillary in office making half-measures on climate change than see Trump reverse the scant progress that has been made. Worse: There is a non-trivial chance Trump would spark a nuclear war, rendering climate change moot. In other words, I’d rather our civilization die slowly than quickly. I want my kids have long lives with breathable air. (God help them if they breed.)
Why am I posting this? No one reads my blog or cares about my political opinion. There are pundits and essayists who are much more passionate and articulate about all of these issues.
I’m writing this because liberals like me tend to sit on the sidelines and assume everything will be okay; that in the end Americans aren’t suicidal enough to elect Trump. But history is full of characters like Trump who were called buffoons and whose rise to power caught people off-guard. I’m done sitting on the sidelines. If we Americans elect this fascist, at least I’m on record denouncing him.
Now… go vote for Hillary.
They used a lot of weird time signatures but no one noticed because the songs were pretty.
What if, instead of feeding free content to corporations like Twitter, we started blogging again?
I’ve been thinking of using this platform for microblogging–posting “tweets” here instead of on Twitter.
It’s difficult to shake the idea that blog posts are permanent and tweets ephemeral.
And admittedly I am hosting this on WordPress, not on my own host, and ads are part of the package.
This is my first post using the WordPress app on my phone. The tiny keyboard promotes brevity.
There is also the concern that on Twitter there is a chance of an audience. Here? Not so much.
Auto-posting from WordPress to Twitter is tacky, imo.
Uaing “imo” in a blog post felt wrong.
I still say blog “post” instead of just “blog.”
This concludes my twog of the day. I tried and failed to keep it under 140 characters.
Recently, thanks to a retweet from the Bloggess, one of my tweets went viral:
The tweet gained further steam when Buzzfeed embedded it in an article.
First, the story behind the tweet:
It was 1999 and I’d just moved to New York City to try to be a writer-musician-something-or-other. I didn’t have a job yet, so I visited a staffing agency that specialized in editorial work. They had me fill out a job application and one of the questions was “where are you willing to work?” Easy question, right? I wrote that I was willing to travel to all five New York boroughs.
EXCEPT. I had never actually written the word “borough” before and did not know how to spell it. So my answer came out like this:
“Any of the five boros boroughs bouroughs.”
Remember, I was seeking an editorial job — something writer-y that would require basic spelling skills. The nice lady interviewing me took one glance at my application and I knew I was toast. We went through the motions of a “job interview” and then she stood up to shake my hand and say goodbye. (In my tweet I might have embellished the number of people I shook hands with; it’s hard to remember exactly.)
And that’s when I tried to make a hasty exit, only to open a door and be confronted by a closet full of coats. There was nothing to do but back up and close the door.
“I bet that happens all the time!” I said.
“No, you’re the first,” the nice lady said.
Thinking back, I am pretty sure that the coat closet was very clearly a coat closet. It was not a door that was adjacent and identical to the actual exit. It was more like a freestanding, wood-paneled wardrobe, and I walked right on in.
I did not get called back.
Now… the tweet. Previously, none of my nearly 8,000 tweets — since 2007! — had gained the attention of more than a few IRL friends and Twitter acquaintances. I’m (mostly) fine with this, although I have a big enough ego to secretly long for Twitter fame and feel like a failure for not having achieved it.
It was surreal when I started seeing my notifications go haywire. The first thing I did was turn off email notifications, because I’d seen what can happen to other suddenly-Twitter-famous, as I was sure I was destined to be.
Overnight, the retweets poured in. At work the next day, someone posted to our team Slack channel a link to the Buzzfeed article — and only afterward did anyone (myself included) notice that my tweet had been embedded there. That led to TONS more activity for about a week. (Side note: Twitter changed their stars into hearts right in the middle of this. It was weird.)
I’d always kind of hoped something like this would happen, but I was mostly detached and numb to the experience when it actually did. It was a throwaway tweet, composed while my son was talking my ear off about dinosaurs. (Bad daddy!)
I was more interested in the data behind a viral tweet. Do retweets attract new followers? Was I going to finally be Twitter-famous? (Not really, and hell no.)
We’ll start with the raw data, as of today:
Total engagements 2,260
Detail expands 913
Profile clicks 88
Link clicks 1
The “Follows” row means that someone followed me directly from the tweet. That’s uncommon; people are more likely to view your profile and then decide whether to follow. In reality I picked up approximately 35 new followers.
So, less than one tenth of one percent (0.06%) of people who saw the tweet followed me as a result. (0.01% followed directly from the tweet itself.)
3.89% of people who saw the tweet “engaged” with it in some way. This could be a fav/like, retweet, reply, mention, etc.
1.55% of people who saw the tweet favorited or liked it.
0.58% of people who saw the tweet retweeted it.
0.15% of people who saw the tweet viewed my profile.
The tweet is still getting several engagements per day, but the trajectory has slowed considerably.
AND. I. AM. SICK. OF. THIS. TWEET.
It was fun for awhile, but now I’m much more excited when a tweet other than this one gets any kind of activity. It’s taught me another lesson about the value of having a tight circle of friends compared to a mass of strangers.
However, the momentum may get another boost. Someone from Buzzfeed contacted me to ask permission to use it in a video. I have no idea what that means, but I said yes. I’ll update this post if anything happens. Also, thank you Bloggess!
I don’t often make New Year’s resolutions, at least not publicly, but this year I have a few. (Well, two.)
For me, for my experience, it’s better. I feel happier about the time I spend on Twitter, and it’s made me try to be more thoughtful, and more disciplined with other things I do in my time online.
I’m back to retweeting the occasional dude, but I’m much more mindful about the voices I amplify. In 2015 I will continue this mindfulness and expand it to include a broader range of diversity. I might have only 400 followers, but dammit, I care!
It’s 1993. You’re young. Kurt Cobain is still alive, but he’s in your periphery; you’re more into the Chicago scene — Jesus Lizard, that sort of thing. You make zines and mail them to friends around the country. One of those friends sends you a cassette of PJ Harvey’s “Rid of Me.”
You know nothing about PJ Harvey. There is no Google, no Wikipedia, no place you can turn to for information. The cassette from your pen pal is hand-labeled, so you don’t even have an album cover or liner notes. You can vaguely picture the poster at the local record store, but you’ve never examined it.
You play the cassette. The first track begins with a muted guitar riff that emphasizes rhythm over melody. She plays low, single-string notes that one could almost play on a drum; the beat is tribal. A woman’s voice sings over the riff, full of restrained anguish.
You are terrible at deciphering lyrics.* But this deficit makes you more attuned to the emotions behind the words; her vocals are just another musical instrument to you, but they carry as much emotional weight as Rachmaninoff’s piano. (In the absence of lyrical comprehension you also tend to project your feelings onto the singers you like.)
Then the drums kick in and all hell breaks loose.
The soft/loud dynamic is more startling than any Nirvana song. Yet it only lasts a few seconds before going back to the muted plucking. Hell breaks loose again during the outro and the song ends with PJ’s distorted soprano and these lyrics are clear enough for you to understand: “Lick my legs, I’m on fire / Lick my legs, of desire.”
WTF was that? “Lick my legs” was so unexpected that you forgive PJ Harvey for rhyming “fire” and “desire.” You play the cassette again. And again. For months. It’s perfect.
PJ Harvey remains a favorite through her 1998 album, “To Bring You My Love.” Now she’s doing the diva thing; she’s not the howling basement caterwauler you once imagined; but that’s okay: you’ve grown up a bit too. You see her once in concert at a large amphitheater as part of a bill with Veruca Salt (!) and she plays only six songs, this tiny figure in a red dress on a huge stage. After that you kind of forget about her.
Fast-forward 21 years and you see this tweet:
It’s PJ Harvey in 1993 on…Jay Leno? You must have missed that the first time around.
You watch, hoping to unravel some of the mysteries of 1993-era PJ Harvey. Somehow it feels as uncomfortable as watching yourself on video. The camera is too close. The vocals are too high in the mix, like on the karaoke of American Idol. The loud/soft dynamic is neutralized. When she sings “Lick my legs” in her throaty, higher register, it almost comes across as farce. Like she knows it’s a weird line sung in a weird voice. When you heard this on your hand-labeled cassette for the first time, that voice sounded otherworldly, not quite human. Now it’s clear that PJ Harvey was Polly Jean Harvey and all too human.
Moments after performing her psychodramatic masterpiece, PJ Harvey sits down with Jay Leno to make small talk about sheep castration. The other guests are comedienne Kathleen Madigan and actor Michael Richards (whom Jay Leno mistakenly calls Michael Kramer.) It’s surreal, as seeing your adolescence repackaged and commercialized always is. You worry that this was PJ Harvey’s first introduction to millions of people and they did not get it. (Today’s analog is St. Vincent’s performance on SNL.) This happened 21 years ago but it still bothers you. This is 100% your problem, not PJ Harvey’s. She moved on many years ago.
Today you accept that instant access to information is mostly a good thing. But you also miss not knowing things. When you had only partial information — a hand-labeled cassette, a scrambled image on a late-night cable channel — your mind filled in the blanks. It was possible that your favorite bands could be apocryphal — projections of your own psyche, not just a humans with guitars. Who could prove otherwise?
You wanted so badly to know everything, but the years of not-knowing may have been the most formative.
* One time you asked your dad what “correnulate” meant. He said he did not think that was a real word. The lyric you had misheard was “But it’s too late” from Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” (“I wish I could / But it’s too late”). You went years thinking it was “correnulate” and that you just didn’t know what that word meant.
I’ve known for awhile that Facebook is a net negative in my life. I like keeping up with people I care about, but the people I care most about are not usually the ones dominating my feed.
I still want to be on Facebook. A close high school friend just joined, and I would not have known about another friend’s death without Facebook. It’s also the best place to share photos with family. I just want to be on Facebook much less.
My current solution, since self-control wasn’t working, is to delete the Facebook app from my phone. This way Facebook becomes intentional behavior instead of default behavior: If I want to be on Facebook I have to be in front of a computer and go to the Facebook website.
It sounds really simple and obvious, but it’s worked: I’m now on Facebook about 90% less than I was previously. I log in a few times a day, usually for less than 30 seconds each time, and only on weekdays.
My default, mindless-phone-scrolling behavior now leans heavily toward Twitter, but so far that remains a net positive. And I’m blogging again!
My fellow web people will relate to this one.
Several times in my career, someone, usually a senior marketing executive, has asked me whether we can collect the email addresses of everyone who visits the company website. Not “can you set up a form where users submit their email address?” but “does the website do this automatically?”
They were not thinking through the implications of this question. They were not considering that if we could do this, so could every other website, and therefore their email address had already been collected thousands of times.
It’s not that they’re dumb; they just wanted to know if we could send email to our site visitors. And to them, as with most people, technology is a black hole. No one knows how it works.
So, at least on a subconscious level, many people, if not most people, assume that their personal data is being constantly collected.
Which, it turns out, it is.