Shitty things happening in Virginia and other internet broadcasts

Internet Hate/Love

The Village Voice foresees social media platforms that won’t invade user privacy:

But as the business press and slavering investors look on eagerly at Zuckerberg’s coronation, many believe that the seeds of Facebook’s downfall have already been sown. The company might have brought people together like never before, but exploitation is woven inextricably into its DNA. Facebook makes its money by commercializing personal information, watching its users, analyzing their behavior, and selling what it learns.

. . .

“I like to compare Facebook to communication in preschool,” [Sam] Boyer says. “The Facebook wall is an incredibly unsophisticated social space. People just spew stuff out. In adult social situations, we read cues, we create norms, we create rules that are there for the purpose of creating conversations that move us forward. That’s what we want to build.”

Omnivore urges us to “Think of the Internet,” especially its corrosive effect on our sex lives:

In offering her rules [for how to manage a romantic relationship], “Rose” was introducing a theme that would emerge time and time again as I spoke to other students who also told me that using Facebook could lead to a break-up. Several students said that they had deactivated their Facebook accounts either to preserve their romantic relationships or to make future relationships possible. . . . [T]hey believed that Facebook transformed them into anxious, jealous, and monitoring selves that they did not want to be. After disconnecting from Facebook, they felt they shed these unwanted selves. Facebook was constantly providing information about their identity and others’ identity that they believed should be a basis for relationships, and yet was too vague to determine the actions which should accompany this information.

The New York Times encourages my solitary confinement. You are always welcome in my apartment, just not in a physical sense. I am not accepting corporeal visitors (nor cats) at this time.

New communications technologies make living alone a social experience, so being home alone does not feel involuntary or like solitary confinement. The person alone at home can digitally navigate through a world of people, information and ideas. Internet use does not seem to cut people off from real friendships and connections.

Speaking of hermitic caves, this is probably my next career move:

. . . I invented a simple scientific protocol. I put a team at the entrance of the cave. I decided I would call them when I woke up, when I ate, and just before I went to sleep. My team didn’t have the right to call me, so that I wouldn’t have any idea what time it was on the outside. Without knowing it, I had created the field of human chronobiology.

Non-scandals and Society

W magazine covers Swedish nannies and America’s most expensive mansion in “Revenge of the Billion Dollar Divorcee”:

“I’m the most insecure person you could ever run into in your entire life,” [Suzanne Saperstein] says, taking a sip of white wine. “When I’m watching a football game and the players get into a huddle, I think they’re talking about me. They’re saying, ‘Oh, God. Did you see that dress? That hair?’”

Gawker tries and fails to make a scandal, unless the scandal is how frumpy we William & Mary girls can be on school days. From the comments section:

A few years back Sam Kashner wrote an article about his exploits with half the W&M student body. His book was such hilarious bullshit and the details didn’t make sense to anyone who’s ever even been there. He claimed that there were scantily dressed young coeds hanging around campus trying to seduce him everywhere he went; most W&M students wear leggings/skinny jeans, baggy sweatshirts, and fake Uggs during winter and shorts, baggy t-shirts, and flip-flops in the summer. For some bizarre reason they all have Middleton hair or attempt Middleton hair but otherwise you’d never see a group of people who gave less of a fuck about appearences.

Books and Authors

Amazon’s new imprint is the bete noire of the publishing world:

Established authors, for the most part, do fine selling through online bookstores. It’s new authors who lose out if browsing in bookstores becomes a thing of the past. Advances for unproven and non-bestselling authors have already plummeted, by all accounts. Literary diversity is at risk.

Six creative writing teachers defend their calling:

In law school, students analyze past cases, construct arguments, and write opinions, so that eventually they can do these things well enough to practice law. Could they do this outside of law school? Yes, but law school facilitates the process, and the law professor offers guiding thoughts along the way. Writing instruction is no different. The goal is to offer the occasional guiding thought or idea, the craft lesson, a few instructive models, and the occasional critical nudge, while all the time encouraging the student to practice writing, practice revising, and practice, practice, practice as a means to improvement. It works.

Simone de Beauvoir gets naked.

Ben Marcus gets interviewed:

Up until this book, I wrote in a very, very laborious way. Maybe 100, 200 words a day, not that I ever counted. I was interested in the sentence as a work of art, as a piece of sculpture, as something that was a kind of technology to open up huge feelings in people. I still love and believe in that as a pursuit. Some of my favorite writers do that.

But I think maybe I felt disgusted with all of my own limitations and wanted to try to outsmart them, or sneak around the kinds of things I had been doing to exhaustion and to boredom. So, one of the big things I could change without changing anything — meaning an adjustment I could make that would not necessarily impact my actual aesthetic in anyway — was to write quickly and not necessarily give a shit if I wrote really functional, almost deliberately bland, language. Like, “Denny got up out of his chair and left the room,” or, “He got a cup out of the cupboard.” These were the kinds of things that in the past I would just fucking agonize over.

Shitty Things Happening in Virginia

Our legislature has some notably alarming ideas about women’s health. After a thorough reading of the Virginia Code, Waldo Jaquith points out that under the new personhood law, “Fetuses may be put to work on the family farm, perform domestic work, or volunteer for the rescue squad.” (§ 40.1-79.01) If only to keep these fetuses from stealing our jobs, you can sign a petition here.

Lastly, the trial of former University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely is about to enter its third week. A few blocks uphill from my apartment, stricken families gather together in a courthouse while impersonal satellites beam updates to the rest of the nation. My mother learned how to use Twitter so she could follow the daily courtroom feeds. I also find that it’s difficult not to be voyeuristic during this trial, especially since my little sister and two of my brothers played lacrosse in college. But of course all this outside interest accomplishes nothing. No matter what the jury’s verdict, the ultimate case remains: this afternoon an adored young woman is to be found not at home with her family or hanging out with her new boyfriend or goofing off on the playing field, but rather on a Wikipedia page entitled ‘”Murder of Yeardley Love.” And George Huguely, whose name will always be associated with his dead lover’s, will have to live with that. And both sets of parents will continue to bear the weight of the tragedy.

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You may or may not know me from the JumboTron

Tonight my face was featured on the JumboTron. Why I was in the vicinity of a JumboTron is incidental; for the purposes of this story, just imagine that I have one in my bedroom.

Seeing my image up there was exhilarating in a way that terrifies me now. To my knowledge, my face has never before been 10 feet wide, but I think this is the scale I’ve been trying to effect on Facebook lately. As I’ve plundered the site this past month, looking for ways to appease my loneliness, I’ve slowly gathered that it’s not other people I’m so desperately seeking, but a proper presentation of myself. I’m longing for what? A self who makes sense in the context of all these other selves doing busywork outside my apartment. If I could only get it right here, in these well-trafficked places, then I could sit solidly in my chair and be someone calm and important. Tonight, as I primped in the bathroom mirror, I told my mom, “I finally figured out how to make my hair do. It didn’t do before, but now it does.” I feel that my internet persona strikes the same shallow register as my enhanced body of hair. At this point I’m just fluffing random parts and spraying product in all directions, hoping for some degree of positive attention.

Darren Hoyt recently wrote a blog post about anxiety and the internet, inspired by an N+1 piece published last November. As I grapple in Virginia with my book’s many empty pages, I think about bullshit websites and my presence on them. When you dance from place to place, you’re not forced to uncover meaning in your surroundings. When you tangle with identity only here and there, you can’t authentically untangle yourself (I know, First World Problems, fuck it). I realize that I’ll never write a good novel with one foot still in Facebook, but I rationalize that the constant distraction of web browsing is productive insofar as it makes me hate myself better, which I am told is good fodder for fiction. Ha ha, totally kidding.

I’m going to try to bring this all together now. Wine is not my friend this evening and Pandora has confused me with one of his other lovers, a pretentious electronica DJ.

Hours after my face darkened the JumboTron, I expected to be recognized by strangers in the street. “It’s really me! The one with the giant head!” But peoples’ reactions were surprisingly muted. Therefore I came home to Facebook, which I knew contained my biography in a comforting, manageable, place-holding format, where my life will stay put until I’m brave enough to venture off screens both small and jumbo, and put something right and real on paper.

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Links: In sickness and in health

“Now That Books Mean Nothing”: 31-year-old author Nell Boeschenstein reflects on literature and her double mastectomy

NPR interview with Louis C.K.: “You find yourself in front of a room of wounded veterans, and they just want to have fun. They want to see you go crazy. So every time I did these shows, I would start polite, and then I would maybe test the waters with one something dirty, and they would go crazy. And I’m looking at a bunch of guys who want relief, who want to laugh.”

Cannibalistic polar bear

Paris Review interview with Gary Lutz

Lizard playing video games

“How I Became a Best-Selling Author”

Christopher Hitchens on suffering: “So far, I have decided to take whatever my disease can throw at me, and to stay combative even while taking the measure of my inevitable decline. I repeat, this is no more than what a healthy person has to do in slower motion. It is our common fate.”

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Hey birds, come feast on this block of food

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So far the birds in the backyard have not started flocking to the block of food I provided for them. I don’t know what their problem is. I happen to love blocks of food, especially in wintertime. This bird meal cost me $7, and it’s basically a family-style lasagna. If any birds are reading my blog, I urge them to give this food a chance.

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Babysitting rider

Because I will never be a rock star, I am developing a rider for babysitting gigs.

(1) gallon red Gatorade
(1) reduced fat string cheese
(1) bottle red wine, uncorked and three quarters full, so no one will notice a glass missing
(8) Hello Kitty Band-Aids
(1) bottle hand sanitizer. In lieu of hand sanitizer, will accept rubber gloves or body armor.
(3) juicy magazines. Interpret juicy as you wish. I am not a dictator. Some catalogs acceptable.
(1+) safety helmet
(1+) life jacket
(1) leftover stash of Halloween candy
(5) novel/short story ideas that I can steal from the children, ideally something related to elves and/or fairies
(1) container bath salts, in the event of a late night
(1+) children. It’s weird when I’m just hanging out at your house. Oh, wait. This is an adult dinner party. Can I still sing Raffi songs? Do I still get paid?

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Loving “The Logo”

You all know me here as a basketball legend. I’m rarely caught expressing myself outside of a game of hoops. Like Jerry West before me, I am both a depressive and a fierce competitor. I compete with other people who are depressed. Come to think of it, I don’t typically play basketball so much as cry in front of extinguished TV sets on which watching basketball is an option. I am winning at that. But I have great respect for athletes. My family members like to run around and throw things. My siblings routinely crush me in paddle ball matches on the beach, when I am handicapped by my grip on Pinot Grigio bottles. My dad was an athlete, or at least he liked to take his shirt off in the driveway when he sensed something physical happening in the vicinity. My mother, on the other hand, is sports challenged. Throw a ball at her when she is not looking and it will likely hit her.

But Jerry West knows how to play basketball. His last-minute heroics on the Lakers team earned him the nickname “Mr. Clutch” (which sounds a lot like Wistar Clutch, for those of you still shopping for a term of endearment). And West recently collaborated on a memoir with author Jonathan Coleman, a book that features me in the acknowledgements because I had the honor of transcribing audio interviews with Jerry West and his long-limbed cohorts, an honor that true basketball fans will forever resent me for because I had to look up the spelling of venerable names such as “Elgin Baylor” and “the Lakers.” And because I feel so privileged to have gotten to know Jerry West in this raw form before the book was published, through his interviews and once or twice on the phone, I was outraged to read Dwight Garner’s mean-spirited review of West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life, in the New York Times last month.

I’ve met Jerry West in person since the book came out, and I couldn’t have hoped for a better experience. The man has beans. He’s forever curious about other people. He’s weird and kind and conflicted and wonderful. If he hadn’t been so tall, I would’ve determined that he played a different sport, perhaps something having to do with chess. Garner’s description of Jerry as “a boor and, worse, a bore” is so outlandish as to belong in the Outlandish Descriptions Hall of Fame, which I have often visited because I keep my medals there.

I treasure my experience with Jerry West. His complexity and thoughtfulness far exceed his on-court exploits, which is saying a lot because I hear the man has done some things. As a girl I never had a sports hero, and I didn’t expect to acquire one as a struggling, slouchy writer of 31, but now the Jerry West posters have joined the Nabokov posters on my wall, and the Jerry West trading cards have replaced the Sartre trading cards in my lockbox–and keep in mind that I’m just being writerly and I actually own none of these things–and even though I’ve still only watched a handful of basketball games in my life, I now rank myself up there with Jerry’s many other number one fans.

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Trying to love puppies a little less

Last night I was downtown with some time to kill before a dinner reservation, and I needed a bit of a pick-me-up, so I walked to Christopher Street to perv on some puppies. For whatever reason (no, for a solitary reason: rich Village people) Christopher Street is the nucleus of the Manhattan designer puppy trade. These puppy boutiques have every kind of genetically engineered, possibly inbred critter you can imagine: yorkies, pomeranians, shih tzus, teacup teacups, dollhouse chihuahuas, disappearing poodles, and dogs whose heads were shrunk by voodoo priests and then grafted onto tumbleweeds. In short, these boutiques are where men take their girlfriends when they want to get laid, and they are where puppies go when they want to sit by themselves in tiny, pee-fragrant cages and look at everybody with sad eyes, and they are where I go when I’m feeling down and want to have a sad-eye staring contest with some lonely puppies.

I understand that the whole miniature puppy breeding business is ethically suspect, and I understand that maybe I shouldn’t frequent these shops, but if it’s wrong to be emotionally manipulated into loving tiny adorable creatures who lick the glass separating your two faces until their tongues are raw, and who make you feel that you’re not fate’s only miserable prisoner, then I don’t want to be right. “Aren’t those places depressing?” asked my friend at dinner. “Of course,” I said. “But they’re sad, and I’m sad, so it’s a good fit.” Then I got drunk and wanted to launch a midnight puppy raid before it occurred to me that I’ve basically become Cruella De Vil.

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Mrs. DeLillo Spends 12 Hours Inside a Super Walmart

(Start of a pastiche of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and Don DeLillo’s White Noise)

It was a few minutes before 7am, and Mrs. DeLillo was fingering the Floral Satin V-Kini underpants that comprised a three-pack in the Intimate Apparel department of her local Super Walmart. The cardboard packaging denoted the underpants as panties, a word that Mr. and Mrs. DeLillo had always avoided on principle in their erotic situations. Mrs. DeLillo had to decide between this floral array and a four-pack of Fruit of the Loom Women’s Stretch Cotton Hipster Panties styled in “Rmnce Boqt,” also predominantly floral, also rolledback, pricewise. She placed the cotton underpants in her metal shopping trolley. Value bundle, she thought. Even though the four garments resembled boyfriend panties more than hipster panties, Mrs. DeLillo felt certain that Don would appreciate them. Tonight they were inaugurating their newly renovated basement fallout shelter with a cocktail party, and Don would be horny afterward, as he always was after shaking hands with a fallout shelterful of random friends and acquaintances.

Mrs. DeLillo had been shopping at the Super Walmart since before dawn and she had already eaten her way through half a cinema-sized bag of Twizzlers, which she had every intention of paying for. The overhead intercom personality came to life again, as it had at regular intervals since Mrs. DeLillo began her shopping expedition:

Attention Walmart shoppers. The current Value of the Hour is Wonder Bread Bite-Size Sandwich Slices in White and Brown. Everyone needs a pile of miniature sandwiches in their naked and vulnerable hands. Spend your day at Walmart, where we save people money so they can live better lives. Stay tuned for the next Value of the Hour.

Mrs. DeLillo couldn’t remember where she had originally entered the store from outside. There were no windows to orient her in space-time. The exits could be anywhere. In the Sporting Goods department she rested her spine on an oversized exercise ball. In Beauty/Hair Care Mrs. DeLillo selected a dozen new hair elastics and a banana clip, then turned all her attention toward growing a tumor in her left breast.

Mrs. DeLillo’s friend Maria would be meeting her soon. Mrs. DeLillo watched for her near the smiley face sticker greeter, who always seemed to have the saddest life in the world. If Mrs. DeLillo followed that smiley face sticker greeter home and shadowed his domestic life for 24 hours, she was convinced she’d die instantaneously of depression. Spontaneous death from sadness and dread was a thing Don thought about a lot.

Mrs. DeLillo watched one of her hairs fall out of her scalp and float away on invisible molecules of McDonald’s French fry grease, finally settling under a bottom shelf of cereal, the generic kind. How long would her single hair reside there? What would become of this organic matter in the midst of so much synthetic packaging? The grayish strand looked dirty and out of place on the linoleum. Suddenly all of Mrs. DeLillo’s living cells felt estranged from this environment. She was not even alive. She was dead matter suffocating twice-over inside a plastic bag. This sensation happened at home as well, especially in the bedroom when she felt herself asphyxiating on Don’s swollen member.

Maria saw her friend Mrs. DeLillo before she herself was seen. Mrs. DeLillo was leaning over her shopping cart, pinching the boyleg holes of a pair of floral underpants. Tonight Maria would attend the grand opening of the DeLillo fallout shelter. She was bringing Lay’s Ruffled Potato Chips even though Mrs. DeLillo had insisted the party was casual and that she should bring nothing but herself. Maria vaguely hoped that everyone would commit suicide at the party, that it wouldn’t be a dry run for disaster after all…

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Literary brainstorming in Charlottesville, Virginia

I returned to my beloved hometown primarily to see my older brother graduate from med school and get married, but my secondary concern was generating ideas for my masters thesis, an original novel that’s due in two months. This means that I’ve spent the majority of my southern vacation poaching plots from every local I encounter. People I would never expect to have book ideas have written me outlines and sketched out character motivations. This town is a hotbed of unrealized literary genius.

For example!

My 21-year-old brother and his buddy run a handyman business in town mowing lawns, chainsawing everything in their path, “removing stinkbugs,” “babysitting,” and performing other oddjobs. When I jokingly asked them if they did novels, it took them less than a day to turn over a notebook overflowing with rich material, including fully developed protagonists (serial killers in love), back stories (sex abuse, murder, childhood trauma), themes (municipal corruption) and some thoughts on a prequel. But my little brother had a vague impression that my typical work is more emo, so he was sure to pencil in “(*feelings*)” where he thought my skills could really shine, e.g., “Mom addicted to painkillers, protag always starved for her affection <<-----(*feelings*)." The boys said they'd write the sex and violence scenes, and I could be in charge of all the emotional truths.

My friend's four-year-old son is obsessed with traffic cones. Last week we all went to Lowe's and while his mom shopped, he spent 45 minutes in the plumbing aisle lining up orange cones in different formations, then routing the Lowe's employees around them as though the men were cars or airplanes. My friend says, try as she might, she cannot find any children's books devoted to the wonders of traffic and safety cones. She thought I might write something for her son and other kids like him. I have never written a childrens' book, but I think I could manage a literary novel about an extended family of traffic cones. Something like The Corrections, but set in a parking lot.

Stumpy and Big Mac, the two men who make the compost deliveries from my uncle’s compost farm, were especially excited when they found out I was trying to write a novel. They told me I could do a ride-along with them in the compost trucks for a week and I’d have more than enough material for my book, tentatively entitled The Adventures of Stumpy and Big Mac. At first I thought they were just teasing me for being a dork, but now every time I go over there they gush about a new plotline worthy of Tom Clancy. Without giving too much away before this thing is published, Big Mac’s latest brainstorm involves a jihadist at UVA’s graduation ceremony. We agreed that the more local landmarks I insert, the better my chances would be of getting my book stocked in New Dominion. Or in the Barracks Road Barnes & Noble. Or in Random Row Books. Or in Daedalus. Is anybody listening?

Also my grandfather gave me a 2011 World Almanac, saying that it was full of ideas.

Also I need all the help I can get, because I have no ideas.

No, I have one idea. Wishter, a 30-year-old woman with few career prospects, laments the fact that she chose writing school over medical school. In a fit of jealousy, she steals her big brother’s med school diploma, and his beautiful new wife for good measure, and opens a private psychiatry clinic in the Cayman Islands, where she makes tons of money by hypnotizing her patients into giving her tons of money as well as revealing their darkest secrets <<—–(*feelings*), emotional truths which will eventually make their way into Wishter’s bestselling memoir.

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I got peed on, but not in a good way

I got peed on, but not in a good way. The baby’s urine ran down my thigh from the changing table, and I remembered every rejection I’d ever experienced. Not really. That would have been too easy. It took days of wearing those same jeans for the piss to sink in on an existential level. A writer must have a thick skin, but my skin is sticky with pee. A nice girl must have a thick skin, but I went out afterward in my pee jeans, thinking, “Why am I all about town tonight? I was just peed upon.” The baby didn’t mean it maliciously. He was just a boy baby doing what boy babies do. He was just marking his territory. He was, frankly, just being an asshole. But that’s a different story.

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