« February 2019 | Main | June 2019 »

Google Plus demise, part two, with pictures of kittens, of course

I’ve put off the “what I’ll miss about Google Plus” post for a few reasons. One is, of course, that we like to pretend good things aren’t actually ending. Another is that it’s just difficult to pin down exactly what was so great about it. At least it is for me; over the past few weeks, friends have been talking about it and reposting fun memories from the previous eight years, while I’ve still just been thinking it all over. 

And life for me has taken what you might call a downward turn over those years, which is not enjoyable to reflect on.

However, I want to honor the experience in some small way if I can. 

At some point, it looked as thought 15,000 people were following me on Google Plus. How many of them were real? A startling number to me, though probably not to people who have large “audiences” on Instagram or YouTube or whatever, and certainly there were people there who had a much much higher number. But definitely there were thousands at some point. I felt a little beholden to that, but the way things were always changing, you could never be sure of any kind of consistency. So I just tried mostly to be good and friendly but also there was a lot of odd flirtation, some of which I enjoyed, and it taught me better than anything that some people are very good at that and some people do not know how to read a room.

And I did make friends, far too many to name here, and if I named many of them it would look even worse to leave some out, wouldn’t it? But there’s Terry, who’s like a brother, really like one of my own brothers I never see, with whom I enjoy talk of old music and old movies and old things in general. And Joyce, who is very like-minded in most ways, not in a couple of important ways, but that doesn’t matter, you know, with friendships. At least, if you don’t know it, you definitely should. Friendships are not calculated on balance sheets.

There’s Karen, such a dear and fascinating person. We have only a few things in common, but we share a mode of thinking. We get each other. I love that. Similarly with Jenn, and sweet darling Bruce Shark. He’s everybody’s darling friend, but as he is a great admirer of my widow’s peak, he’s more than just that fun friend to me, as is John. ❤️

It was great to talk with people who were in my own age group; I really need my closer friends to remember at least some of the 1970s. I made a new best friend there, too, someone I know I could be BFFs with if we lived in the same neighborhood. The “we’re just like this” kind of friend. 🤞

So that’s one good aspect of Google Plus. 

There were so many communities and so many people who counted for special to someone else. You weren’t there; you have no idea how huge it was, and every negative article you read was superficial drivel. (Consider how many major news outlets acted as though we knew what the entire Mueller report said moments after seeing Barr’s pre-written 4 page summary.) And yet we were all able to become intertwined at different times, like with the Secret Santa project, which allowed people to send gifts to others around the world; people in need and people they just wanted to do something nice for.

Some people shared selfies all the damned time, others never did at all. I wanted to see everyone so I could say, ooh, look, it’s you! But not everyone is comfortable sharing themselves that way. It was neat when people did often, though, because you could tell they were trying to see themselves, and to have you see them as well. Most of the time, that’s not vanity; it’s humanity. It’s a gift.


We found things we had in common! How great is it to just randomly mention some seriously odd bit of pop culture and have sixteen or sixty or six hundred people say OMG I KNOW?

Well, that’s why we love the internet, isn’t it? And that’s what Google Plus was; a huge yet intimate aggregate of the internet and of humanity at-large.


I could say why I truly think it never completely cemented itself and why they stopped marketing it and I bet I’m right, but I don’t want to appear negative toward anyone right now.

Anyway, “Social Media” has changed incredibly since 2011. It’s sort of amazing to realize how different everything is in such a short span of time. Mostly I do not think it’s better. It is certainly bigger. And without Google Plus, for some of us, it will be a little or a lot worse. I just hope we can take from it and apply it to other areas. What else can we do, after all?


Fallout shelters and this and that and a few old photos of me

I thought that scanned well.

I was doing a little research for a story I'm working on and came across this interesting article about a bomb shelter beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. I just knew there had to be something like this, and I'm so gratified to find it. Also, I've wandered over the Brooklyn Bridge and have spent some time hanging around those arches, always feeling like there was more to be seen. And there is! 

There's some interesting underneath bit at the Manhattan Bridge, too, but I can't remember it very well. I wish I still lived close enough to just go see.

Anyway. Fallout shelters are on my mind for this story I'm working on. I read also that New York began removing the signs for them in 2017 finally, which seems right, but also oddly disappointing. They were around my whole life even though no one paid any attention to them. I enjoyed discovering a new one now and then when I was a kid and we were in Kansas City for something. (I lived a half hour south of the city, which seemed a huge distance to me then.)

Where I've set my stories, the town is not built on limestone the way New York is, and I'm not so sure something this expansive could be built there, but I'm either going to find out just what would work, or pretend it's all just fine that way. It is an interesting area to consider because part of it was built up defensively in case New York was attacked by Germans during World War II. You can still see the remains of some of that if you head up to the tip of Sandy Hook, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area; alone worth a national park pass. Some of that area was damaged during Hurricane Sandy, but it's still a good place to visit. Sandy Hook, 2013
Oh, I miss it all right now, talking about it. The Highlands, the Twin Lights, Huber Woods, and the other woods I forget the name of right now, not looking it up, gotta alter my focus.
I guess my stories have become a personal love letter to the place I lived for only a few years that felt more like home than everywhere else I've been. 


let us have tea and speak of absurdities

It's been two weeks since I launched myself into "being a writer." 

This has included many hours of reading over most of the fiction I've written in the past thirteen years, trying to figure out a piece of software I downloaded five years ago and never quite got the hang of, scribblings on notepaper and a large whiteboard, a few pages printed out, a few segments lightly edited, two different outlines partly finished...

And very little new writing. Yet I feel I've made tremendous progress, and so that is just fine. 

Because it feels different now; much more purposeful and much more possible. I can't say quite why that is, but I don't think it really matters. I wish I had more energy to apply to it; I'd work far more hours of the day if I could. For now, I'm doing all I can to get moving forward and keep going, and when I can do even more, I will. I don't want to burn out, of course, but that's not too likely.

Today I'm ready to tackle the first of three segments of writing that will make the story I'm working on feel like a real book. There's an online forum to revisit in which one character is secretly wooing another with haiku, a rehearsal of a children's Thanksgiving pageant, and probably something to do with the dog Chucho, because he'll want his say in things. 

Then I will refresh my outline and prepare for fill-in segment two. I've got this. 

Right? And so.




dual vision

Two people I respect and care about and whose taste I appreciate, only partly because it is similar to my own, have again simultaneously expressed their belief that I should work at making the writing thing pay. And so I will honor their encouragement by making a full and earnest effort at that. 

Now I'm rereading things I've saved over the past 15 years or so, and I ran across this brief essay from 2008—no idea why I wrote it, but it seemed apt for these our times. 

There is nothing new under the sun. Solomon wrote that several thousand years ago, according to Bible traditionalists. Actually, the passage reads, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” And it might have been written only about 2300 years ago, well after Solomon’s lifetime, but the point is that people have been saying this throughout mankind’s journey. In one sense it has always been true, but not in every sense. 

Reality may always remain more or less the same, but our perceptions of it have always been in a state of change. And what we do with those perceptions does sometimes create newness. Monet was the first artist to become famous for painting just exactly what he saw, rather than filling in details with what he knew to be there. His paintings are best viewed from a distance of at least several feet, as closing in on them enhances the lack of detail and makes the subject unclear. His large landscapes allow us to see exactly what he saw, if we look at them from a proportional distance to his own distance from the actual view. As Monet aged, his eyesight deteriorated, yet he still painted only what he could see, which gives us a wonderful opportunity to appreciate his changing perspective. 

He’d have made a great eyewitness to a crime in that he would neither have added or subtracted information based on something other than sensory cues. Most people aren’t capable, it seems, of describing only what they saw and heard; no more and no less. Police investigators work hard to distill all the viewpoints they are offered into factual, objective evidence. 

Our ideas about how the world works changes as we become more scientifically advanced and adept. But what we do with those ideas is pretty much the same as what we’ve always done: we argue over them, start fights and even wars over them, or ignore them all together and continue on blithely in a state of general ambivalence. 

Computer technology has created rapid changes in the art and media industries, but the subjects most important to those industries are the same as always; what people desire, what they believe they need, what they believe is right or wrong with the world surrounding them and inside their own heads. Artists, marketing firms, and advertising agencies still attempt to influence these desires and beliefs in much the same way they always have; through our physical senses and our emotions. An artist’s motivation is said to be more pure because his or her work is not created in order to take advantage of those who view it, however, the line separating artistic integrity from marketing strategy has been the subject of concern since, well, probably since the days of Solomon. 

So sometimes our changing perceptions lead to newness in thought and idea. Sometimes the new ideas create chaos, other times they founder, still other times they lead to positive action. Sometimes they are received in a spirit of enlightenment, and at other times we view them with a jaded eye. This has always been true for mankind, and so, in that respect, “there is nothing new under the sun.” Our patterns remain in place, rotating through cycles the way the earth rotates through seasons. It’s all in how you look at the thing.

Bread Pudding and Circuses and the Demise of Google Plus (pt 1)

This one is a bit critical. You have been warned. The next one will have sugar added. But it is punctuated with frivolity to make things more bearable for the Reader with some of my favorite songs from the G+ era, and images from the Bussard Collector.

Screen Shot 2019-03-11 at 10.39.19 AM

Today while perusing international headlines I was reminded of the time I shared a photo and description of some bread pudding I made and was harangued by an English person because it wasn’t an example of early 1950s British post-war food rationing. BREAD PUDDING CANNOT HAVE ANYTHING FUN OR INTERESTING IN IT. I think there was an implication that if I was being “fancy” with it, I was insulting people who knew it only as desperation pudding. THERE IS A RIGHT AND WRONG WAY TO MAKE EVERY FOOD YOU GUYS. 


Whereas I was taught to take bread, milk, eggs, sugar, and build on that however I wished to do, not just as a last ditch effort at dessert, but maybe sometimes just that.

I’ve been even poorer than I am now, which is hard to reconcile, since things can’t be a whole lot worse and still hang together, but I do know about making a treat for the kids from Grape-Nuts and an old apple. Never, though, had I imagined being confronted with an admonition regarding The One True Bread Pudding. I mean, Google it? There are as many ways to make bread pudding as there are people willing to eat it.

Why am I sharing this? Well. Something important continually reinforced at Google Plus is that linear insular thought is by no means a “white American” phenomenon. My own insular view had been that there weren’t as many narrow thinkers as there really, really are. In every aspect of daily life, apparently. It grew exhausting, because it was one thing to realize people are politically naive or ignorant or lacking in context, but fully another to realize that no matter the topic, there were always going to be arguments about the One True Way of it all. Even by otherwise intelligent people.

Screen Shot 2017-12-07 at 10.13.05 PM
Some of the things people humorlessly and tediously argue over include: ketchup, daylight saving time, Marvel vs DC, and something I enjoy that you’d never try again because of that one time 20 years ago that you had a bad version of it so that’s all it could ever be, ew, the worst. 

And the lack of awareness about how other people live astounded me. The You Lot contingent drove me mad. What do you know about 325 million people hailing from every part of the world living across a vast geographically complex continent that you can blithely drill it all down to “You Lot Think XYZ?” 

Here on this vast expanse, we don’t even agree about what goes on a hamburger. And why should we? But this taught me that smaller countries that were previously very homogenous had a certain long time order to their lives that has really never existed here. And the remnants of that life still inform many of their views. 

Which is how some of you got the Brexit fiasco, and how we got to the point where 1/3 of people in our own space think their “way of life” is built on a zero sum mode of reality; if anyone else’s life improves, it is at the expense of their own, because they live according to a fairly narrow archaic train of thought; much like in some parts of India where people still live according to the caste their grandparents were born into. And so we have a president the rest of the world laughs at and despises, and no matter how awful he is on a daily basis, it never matters to his contingent, because they know that they know that they know how things ought to be.

But it isn’t only the people we think are on “the other side” who are like this. 

As much as the rest of us acknowledge the mutability of humanity, there’s a sizeable number of people who, liberal-minded or not, see things only according to their own light, through their own filters, and by their own train track logic. You might be one of them, though you are a busy bee online sharing the best activist memes and Thinking Well of People Who Are Different From You.

I realize this sounds mean, but I’ll distill it down to two things: 

1. Never assume the experience you’ve had or read about is the One. I bet, for example, if I visited Britain, I would not find that people eat only curry and chips and puddings made from cheap white sandwich loaf. Don’t be like Trump with his goddamn “Many People Have Told Me,” because it’s an invention of a narrow mind that needs to be The Correct Person At All Times. Yes, you. You were shown that the thing you posted about the other side was entirely fabricated, but because you can’t bear to be wrong, you made it about your “philosophies” instead of just admitting for once that you’d been had. I think you think you are in a competition 100% of the time, which, honestly, sounds completely exhausting, and not at all self-aware.

And if you, a person from Somewhere Else, visited Portland or Orlando or LA or New York, you have seen one city in the U.S during one season. That’s all. You are not an expert on any aspect of America because of that and a few exciting TV shows any more than I am an expert about The Correct Way to Make Pasties because I lived in Michigan for six years and also have watched Midsomer Murders. 

2. This matters so so so much right now, as the political atmosphere in many parts of the world is burgeoning with dangerous ideals, and most of us don’t realize at any time how much it matters because our daily lives have changed very little so far. Here we are on the internet talking about Umbrella Academy, right? “That’s how they get you.” It’s, nearly literally, bread and circuses. It is also, to mix metaphors, that we are frogs in water which is being heated to boiling point—nearly literally. 

So yes, I will miss Google Plus greatly. It was a good nearly eight years, and what doomed it was not the endless experimentation we were quietly put through, but the general attitudes people have about it and everything else: false perceptions, hasty judgments, impatience, and a sudden bandwagon rush to embrace Facebook that I bet a whole lot of those same people are now regretting. Hahahahahhhhaaaaaa.

Screen Shot 2017-12-07 at 10.31.53 PM
We could have had it all, and nearly did. 

But I won’t miss all of what we had; it was as riddled with the truth about humanity as anything could be: We have a whole lot of potential, but down here at the root level, we’re just well-dressed ants living beneath a decaying log. We don’t need to compete with each other to be the best at being poor or at being “open-minded” or anything else. We just need to keep from setting ourselves on fire.

PS: pretty soon, I promise, I'm going to write another one of these about how terrific G+ actually was, because it was, even though some of you who weren’t there having a good time with us enjoyed acting smugly like it was a random episode of Shields and Yarnell for you to make ignorant fun of, because: see everything I just wrote. 


The watching things kind of malaise, day one

Sometimes when I get the late winter malaise, reading doesn’t feel very good and so I watch things; either endless rewatches of Midsomer Murders or Inspector Morse or Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, or things I have overlooked that want some attention. Not usually foreign language things; at least not on day one, because I might shut my eyes for a bit and miss something.

Yesterday I started to catch up on Murdoch Mysteries, had two episodes of that, but it didn’t fit my mood. So I watched some movies. Clicking on the images takes you to a trailer.

First I watched Crooked House, from 2017, with an intriguing role played by Glenn Close. I have read the book several times; it was one of the first Agatha Christies I read, because I was a kid and liked the title. I wasn’t sure if they kept the original ending, but was willing to be either pleasantly surprised or mildly annoyed. Either way, the reviews and ratings for it were all over the place, and after watching it, I can see why. (Here's a review that liked it more than I did.) It was super stylish, and had a groovy atmosphere with some fun performances. But the P.I. office conceit was more air than there; a little more could easily have been made of it. And the rest was oddly edited. I felt like I was watching something that could have been really great. Instead it was…unbalanced. Well, the story is meant to set you off balance. Just probably not in the way that it did. I'm glad I watched it, though. 75/100

Next, I watched An Inspector Calls, from 2015. This is based on an old play I had not read or seen before. I had a rough idea of the story, but was not prepared for it at all, which is a good thing. I looked up a few reviews first; The Spectator haaated it, so I thought perhaps that was a promising sign. They didn’t even bother trying to understand the context J. B. Priestley was concerned with, at all, but that’s par for their course. And it was nicely eerie, well-paced, and David Thewlis was terrific in his role.

The movie is not perfect; the nature of styling a film like a play sometimes makes a viewer feel sort of remote, but stlll it was stylish, gripping and thought-provoking, and I’d recommend it to people who can enjoy a fairly static setting and mostly dialogue. 85/100

Finally, I turned my attention to exploring some Tom Hiddleston roles. Lately I’ve been fascinated by him. I didn’t really get the Loki love, though I do enjoy that character, but after I saw him in The Night Manager, I was intrigued. And he’s a very interesting person to explore on YouTube. (This is a smart 17 minute conversation about adapting that book.) I maybe have thoughts now, about someone far too young (video) to be having thoughts about (images.) But I realized I hadn’t seen him in anything (maybe?) besides that and Crimson Peak, so I chose three movies I knew little about, read up on them, and then began with Only Lovers Left Alive, from 2013.

I liked it a lot. I don’t know who else I know who would; if you ever describe things as “too arch,” definitely not you. I think three, possibly four of my six offspring would dig it. Tilda Swinton was terrific, but of course she was. The Detroit setting is perfect, and though I haven’t been there in 20 years, I recognized it, which is something I appreciate. There are some wide streets there with empty houses on them that are simultaneously tragic and beautiful, and make you feel like you are in the middle of absolutely nowhere instead of on the edge of a large city. I hear they’re working on that, guess I hope so. 

Only Lovers Left Alive is a slow-paced stylish dialogue about day to day existence, what matters in it: love, mostly what doesn’t: everything else. And that’s about all. But I found it rich viewing, and might watch it again after a two cocktail evening to reexperience the mood/trance music in an extra relaxed frame of mind. 90/100