Category Archives: Uncategorized

How social media made me hate everything I once loved

I’m a nerd. A big old nerdy nerd with a dash of geek and dork thrown in there, too. I like things that many people consider nerdy, like sci-fi, video games, British comedies, and comic books. I discovered most of these things long before the Internet was a part of daily life, and so for years, I felt like an oddball, a weirdo with bizarre interests.

Fast-forward fifteen years or so, to a time when I spend more time in front of my computer than away from it. I’m hooked into pretty much every form of social media out there, and as my network of “friends” keeps growing, I discover that I’m not a weirdo! (Well, mostly.) Other people like the same bizarre stuff I do! I can talk about my nerdy pursuits with all sorts of people who get it, who get me. Being able to share these interests and talk about the things I enjoy with so many people just causes me to get more in-depth. I get recommendations for books and TV shows and movies that I might not have discovered otherwise. This is great, right?

Sort of.

There comes a point when I reach complete saturation with some of these things, when the people I interact with don’t seem able to discuss anything else. By only focusing on one narrow subject per group of peers, there begins a self-perpetuating spiral of attention that brushes the line of obsession. One TV show, one movie universe, one game. And that’s all anyone talks about. It’s fun at first; people discover neat little things that relate to the fandom (I really hate that word, by the way) — drawings, crafts, hard-to-find props, funny T-shirts, that sort of thing. And then people start interacting with the universe in their own ways. They write stories related to the subject. They start “shipping” the characters (creating non-canon relationships). They create, and discuss, and, to someone on the outside looking in, it seems like obsession.

And slowly, I become so inundated with information and discussion related to that one interest that I begin to get annoyed with the discussion or community, and then I turn my annoyance to the TV show or book or movie or whatever it is that’s being obsessed over. Soon enough, I can’t even stand to hear the name of this thing that I once loved, and I start to resent the people who are discussing it.

That’s terrible, right? How dare these people make me hate what I once loved? Well, it’s not their fault. They have a passion for this thing, and once their passion surpasses the point of my own enthusiasm, I need to take responsibility for myself and step back to the point where I can still enjoy the TV show or comic books or movies that I once loved. So I manage my own damn Internet. I stop going places and reading things that make me roll my eyes with what I see as a single-minded focus. I use various tools to avoid mentions of these things so I don’t get burned out on them. And little by little, I regain my love for my nerdy little pursuits.

Having instant access to people all over the world is a wonderful thing. It’s easy to get carried away, though, and let an interest take over your online life until it reaches the point where you turn from loving it to hating it. The key is to find a balance; still enjoying the source material and participating in the community without the kind of overexposure that makes you cringe. Each person has a different level of tolerance, and it usually takes being pushed past your limit at least once to learn where that limit actually is. Until you find that point, tread carefully, and don’t let someone else’s passion diminish your own.

(This post also appeared at Persephone Magazine.)

Infinite monkeys on infinite typewriters: overrated crap disguised as “literature”

Classics:

1. Pride and Prejudice: The recent resurgence in nostalgia and love for all things Jane Austen just perplexes me. Her stuff bores me to tears. Her characters are one-dimensional, and worse than that, they’re fucking boring. Elizabeth Bennet isn’t interesting, she isn’t complex, and her interactions with everyone are stilted and unnatural.

2. A Tale of Two Cities: I have nothing against Dickens. I just don’t get why this is so often held up as his best work. Honestly, Bleak House or even Great Expectations are so much more interesting to read. A Tale of Two Cities is both simple and mediocre, something that Dickens at his best should never be.

3. Catcher in the Rye: Everyone else, ever, has already covered why this book sucks. The annoying anti-hero protagonist. The godawful fucking prose. The total lack of plot. Holden Caulfield is annoying, obnoxious, and whiny, and yet somehow, I don’t relate to him at all. Way to go, Salinger.

4. Jane Eyre: I don’t hate the Brontës on principle. It’s actually pretty fashionable to be anti-Brontë. Jane Eyre, in particular, bothers me because while I can put aside viewing “classic” literature through a modern feminist and classist view, I find that even in its proper historical context, it’s still obnoxiously simple and irritating. I don’t object to Victorian lit completely, but so much of it is just so tedious.

5. Moby Dick: OH MY GOD MELVILLE YOU ARE SO FUCKING BORING PLEASE JUST SHUT UP ALREADY. Too many words to describe a whole lot of nothing happening.

    Contemporary (or contemporary-ish)

    1. Atlas Shrugged: Listen up, Randians: feel free to be self-absorbed centers of your own fucking universes, but just be honest about it. Don’t pretty it up as “objectivism.” Just call it what it is: Mommy’s Special Little Snowflake Syndrome. No one matters but you. Fine. Great. Oh, but what’s that? You have this absurdly long, overblown piece of total shit novel, trying desperately to be “allegory” and falling somewhere around “cow vomit,” and you’ve declared it your bible? Awesome. Do me a favor and carry it around with you everywhere, so literate, intelligent people know to stay at least fifty feet from you at all times, or else risk losing IQ points and the ability to think critically just from standing too close to you.

    2. Eat, Pray, Love: Seriously, this self-congratulatory pile of shit is three hundred pages of the author getting off on what a fucking amazing person she is with her amazing journey and all the amazing things she brought to those funny foreign people. Here’s a clue: it’s easy to have an amazing trip around the world when you’re living off an advance for the very book you’re writing describing your amazing trip around the world. It’s like a circle jerk of authorial arrogance. Plus, Gilbert’s prose is so self-consciously “casual” and “spiritual” that it makes me want to jam a fucking fork in my eye.

    3. The DaVinci Code: It’s crap. I feel like I shouldn’t even have to waste any more words on this. It’s total and complete crap, and people actually take it seriously, which is both terrifying and unsurprising.

    4. The Secret: Speaking of people taking things seriously. I get that people want to believe in this. I understand the concept of the power of positive thinking, but this is just too far. It’s not a simple positive concept, it’s a marketing juggernaut that has millions of people believing that they can cure their cancer and make a million dollars just by “putting it out into the universe.” That’s kind of counterintuitive and frankly, a little dangerous. I should note that “self-help” is not “literature,” but I’ve been so inundated with fawning love for this book that I felt it necessary to include it.

    5. Twilight: I went back and forth on even including this. Mostly because no one but moronic tweens and their creepy horny-for-vampire moms would ever consider this steaming pile of complete excrement “literature.” The trouble is, this shit’s pervasive. It’s fucking everywhere. And leaving aside the thinly-veiled Mormon allegory, the rampant misogyny, the glorification of stalking and abuse, and every other disturbing fucking theme, besides all that, it’s just a crappy book. (I’m assuming they all are, but I wanted to slit my wrists after the first one, so that’s the only one I can definitively insult.) Stephenie Meyer needs a goddamned thesaurus. HOW ABOUT NEVER USING THE WORDS “ADONIS” OR “COLD” OR “STATUE” AGAIN, YOU FUCKING HACK? Her protagonist is a boring empty shell without a personality, just perfect for all those barely-literate little girls to project themselves onto. And, yes, I get that vampires aren’t real, but there’s a pretty well-established set of rules in common vampire lore. Most notably: THEY DON’T FUCKING SPARKLE IN SUNLIGHT. THEY BURST INTO FUCKING FLAMES.

      Fictional character dinner party

      “If you could invite any fictional character to a dinner party, who would it be?” I’ll do even better than that. Behold my list of dream dinner guests, taken entirely from movies and TV shows:

      • Charlie’s dad from So I Married an Axe Murderer. Every dinner party needs a few impassioned rants.
      • Tim and Mike from Spaced. Any dinner party where a slow-mo gunfight breaks out is sure to be a hit. (Note: any other Simon Pegg/Nick Frost duo is acceptable. Nicholas Angel and Danny Butterman from Hot Fuzz would be my second choice, but it’s a tough call.)
      • Veronica Mars. She’s quippy, she’s sarcastic, and she’s pretty badass.
      • Wash from Firefly. He tells great stories.
      • Dr. Mrs. The Monarch from The Venture Brothers. Pretty much just to see everyone else react when she talks.
      • Paris from Gilmore Girls. She’s well-educated, well-versed on current events, and neurotic and bitchy. I picture her and Charlie’s dad really getting into it.
      • The Swedish Chef. Someone has to cook for us, right?

      Why “feminist” is not a swear word

      I have a secret. Well, it’s not even remotely a secret, but it’s something I too often feel like I should keep to myself: I self-identify as a feminist.

      No, wait, come back here! I want to tell you what I mean.

      Feminism these days, at least my particular brand of it, is seriously misunderstood. As a matter of fact, if you’re not the sort who’s pretty well-versed in feminist theory, and may actually consider yourself anti-feminist, there’s probably one word that pops into your head when you hear “feminist.” And it’s not a very nice one. Not to mention, it’s really fucking unoriginal. So let’s just get it out of the way, first things first: I fucking hate the word “feminazi.” I hate it. It’s offensive on so many levels. If that word is in your regular vocabulary, take it out. Please. It’s awful. “Feminism” is not a swear word. That other one? Really fucking is.

      I’m getting off track. I do that; sorry. I’m thinking about all the women I know, all the people, who, when asked if they’re feminists, would say “no.” Probably with some sort of disgusted face. I’m thinking about all of the female actresses and singers and authors who get asked that question in interviews, and waffle on the answer. Why are we so afraid to say yes? What is it about that word that stirs up so many negative emotions? And why am I so determined to de-curse the idea, the name even, of feminism?

      Anti-feminists, or people who see feminism as a negative thing, often see it as a threat to traditional life. “Traditional” usually meaning religion, marriage, children, and a wife who stays at home while the husband pays the bills. What these people don’t see is that feminism has allowed a “traditional” life to be a choice. An option. Not a predetermined path. Not a life sentence. No one is saying that if you’re a feminist, you have to go out and get a full-time job and stay single and never have kids. It’s a matter of acknowledging that feminism has allowed women to make a wide variety of choices, including that of a “traditional” life.

      For people like me, who have never wanted many aspects of that kind of life, feminism allows me to make a different choice. It gives me the option of having a full-time job, of choosing not to have children, of being able to own things that belong to me because I earned them, I paid for them, I wanted them, and I could get them without any help if I didn’t want it. And it allows you to stay home and raise your kids while your husband earns the household income. And it allows young women to write and perform songs or act in TV shows or movies, make a shitload of money, start their own production companies, and then get married and have kids, if that’s what they want. It allows women to play sports, and make scientific breakthroughs, and to hold political office (of any party), and to write beautiful or terrible things. It allows me to decide what’s best for me, and it allows you to decide what’s best for you. Feminism gives us the choice to do what we want; whether that’s climbing a corporate ladder, running a cattle ranch, raising a houseful of kids, or running off with the circus. It doesn’t force behavior on anyone. Anti-feminism does that. It says we can’t be trusted to decide what path our lives will take. It says men know best. It says be quiet, and do what you’re told. Sorry, but if I’m going to do what I’m told, it’s because there’s something in it for me. Like a paycheck, or career advancement, or personal fulfillment of some kind. Not just because some dude said so.

      Lots of people are anti-feminist because they’re politically conservative. They think “conservative” and “feminist” are mutually exclusive concepts. You don’t have to be a raging liberal to be a feminist. As a matter of fact, if you’re a conservative woman who is politically active, you have feminism to thank for allowing you to even participate in the political process. If you’re the goddamned producer of Glenn Beck’s weekend show (and he has a female producer, really), you can thank feminism for even making it possible for you to hold a job where you support someone who does nothing but undermine and diminish your worth as a human being. But you have that option. Pre-feminism? Sorry, doll, but that’s no job for a woman.

      There’s no shame in admitting you’re a feminist. There’s no shame in being a guy who supports feminism. There’s no shame in coming out and saying that women are people, and we should be able to make money, and influence the political process, and make decisions, and hell, even make giant, horrible mistakes. Commit crimes. Be ruthless businesspeople. Do all the wonderful and awful things that men can and always have been able to do without question.

      You don’t have to be like me, or live like me, or think like me to be a feminist, too. You can disagree with almost everything I believe in, except for the fact that both men and women should have equal opportunites to be great or to fuck things up, to make money or to spend it foolishly, to create a family of their choosing, to do whatever it is that makes them feel fulfilled and important and complete. We can fight about everything else. As long as you’re OK with being beaten by a girl.

      Some amazing and thought-provoking things to read:

      Tomato Nation: Yes, You Are
      Fucking Dumb Blog: Men are people and women are women
      Feminism 101

      My life, through gin

      They say you can tell a lot about a person by what they drink. I’m a gin girl. I don’t know what you can tell about me from that fact, except that I have a weakness for juniper berries in booze form; but if given a choice, I’ll always choose the gin. As I’ve gotten older, my tastes in most things have changed and matured, and I think my gin evolution might be the most telling.

      Childhood: My dad has always been a martini drinker. I could order his drink from memory probably by age 8. Beefeater martini, straight up, bone dry, olives. At some point, maybe around when I was in high school, he switched garnish to a lemon wedge or a twist. It sort of messed with my world view for a while, but I got over it. I used to love when I got to eat an olive from the martini (although, in retrospect, I’m pretty sure that most of the time, the olive was straight from the jar and I was none the wiser). So my first gin, you could say, was Beefeater. Just the look of the bottle, the smell of the martini, these are things that evoke all sorts of sensory memory for me. I tried a martini my dad’s way a few years ago, as an adult, and Beefeater is a little too sharp for me.  But I’ll always have a place for it in my heart and my booze-filled memory.

      College: I wasn’t really a drinker in high school, to be honest, so the next stage of my love affair with gin was in college. And if gin and I were having any kind of relationship, when I was in college, it was definitely abusive. On both sides. Like most college students, I didn’t have much money, so there were a lot of well gin and tonics during those years. Lots of no-name gin, lots of post-sip full body shudders. The good thing about me and gin in college was that, honestly, what college kid drinks gin? Not many, so no one really ever stole my booze. That was the only redeeming quality found in a bottle of Gordon’s. (Seriously, I just typed “Gordon’s,” and I involuntarily twitched.)

      Post-college: My first real job! I have (some) money! That’s what I call the Tanqueray stage. Now, Tanqueray isn’t terrible. It’s actually quite palatable, especially in a mixed drink. Every bar carries it, even the really crappy ones, and “Tanqueray and tonic” just kind of rolls off the tongue in an easy, clearly enunciated way. The trouble with Tanqueray is that, for the money, you could be drinking a much better gin. So I evolved.

      I’m a grown-up!: I got a little more money, started going to somewhat fancier bars, surrounded by men in shiny Italian suits and forty year old women who dress like they’re twenty and wear absurdly gaudy jewelry like they’re sixty. And these people all ordered Bombay Sapphire in their drinks. So I gave it a shot. Hmm, these rich assholes were on to something.  Bombay is pretty smooth, but still has a little bit of a bite to it. You can taste it through tonic or soda, and it stands alone very well in a martini. (Like my dad, I cannot bear the evil of vermouth sullying my gin, so when I say “martini,” I mean “chilled gin in a martini glass.” With olives. Sorry, Dad. Old habits die hard.) Sapphire has a downside, though. Did I mention the shiny suits and gaudy jewelry? Frankly, I’m usually embarrassed to order it in a bar, because I feel like the bartender is going to think I’m an asshole. Which I am, but I tip well, and I try really hard not to be a dick to service people, and I feel like ordering Sapphire just lights up a neon “ASSHOLE” sign above my head. Sorry, Sapphire. It’s not you, it’s me.

      True adulthood: Now I’m older. I try not to throw money away on cheap booze. (Box wine aside. You can pry the box wine from my cold, drunk, drinking-from-the-plastic-spigot hands.) I can honestly say my life changed the first time I had Hendrick’s. I remember it. Early on a summer evening, at the outdoor bar down the street. The bartender was a friendly acquaintance. He would always have our drinks ready as we walked onto the deck. Until the day he told me I should try something. My first sip of Hendrick’s was in a plastic cup (oh, silly laws prohibiting glass outdoors). It was, quite frankly, perfect. I have since learned that it gets its flavor from rose petals and cucumbers and that makes it sound like it was handcrafted in some magical realm by elves, but really, it’s made in Scotland, like all good booze and people. I have a bottle of Hendrick’s in my house at all times, and sometimes I take it out and just gaze lovingly at it for a while. Even though the past 800 words or so would lead you to believe otherwise, I rarely drink. I drink way less than almost everyone I know. Because I want to love what I’m drinking, and I want it to be worth it. Take my word for it, people. It’s so worth it.

      This post brought to you by two strong Hendrick’s and tonics in my brand new Crate and Barrel rocks glasses. I have not been compensated in any way by any of the aforementioned brands. But seriously, Hendrick’s, call me. We can work something out.

      The life cycle of an idea

      • Identify a totally obvious hole in the needs of the universe, one that I am obviously completely qualified and motivated to fill.
      • Begin formulating an idea.
      • Come up with THE BEST IDEA EVER IN THE HISTORY OF FOREVER.
      • Start planning how this idea is going to make me rich and famous and happy and bring joy to everyone in the world.
      • Buy a pretty new notebook to make a list of all the things I need to do to start making the idea a reality.
      • Write down the first three steps of my plan in the pretty new notebook.
      • Get confused by one of those first three steps.
      • Spend two minutes looking online or texting a friend to try to find the answer.
      • Decide it’s too hard to figure out that confusing step.
      • Realize that this is THE WORST IDEA EVER.
      • Spiral into wondering how could I have been so stupid to think it would work and who the hell comes up with such stupid ideas and why is my life destined to be a failure because the only ideas I ever get are stupid ones with really hard steps?
      • Give up totally.
      • Eat a cookie.