Everything Is Stupid, Everything Is Exhausting

I have a confession to make: I almost joined Twitter again last week. Don’t tell anyone.

My reasons were practical but no less sad (Sad!). In this day and age when so many people you need to contact have given up their web sites and/or hidden their e-mails, social media is the only way to contact them. But I came to my senses and took my itchy finger off the “join” button.

When I say I came to my senses I mean I went on Twitter and surfed around a bit to see what I was missing, and just being on Twitter for an hour was enough to throw ice water on any ideas I had about rejoining. I was reminded of the arguments that infest the place, the quick, endless “hot takes,” the feeling of wanting to fit in by replying to someone, the rush you get when something you say is liked or retweeted, the snark, the same jokes being told by everyone. And let’s not forget the links to stories – oh, so many links to stories, which only make your “to read” list grow and grow to the point you’ll never read them all – that just infuriate you. In the short time I was there I learned women are tired of the men on Game of Thrones mansplaining everything, that doctors who say you’re overweight are “fat-shaming” you, that Taylor Swift holds the key to race relations in America, that Dunkirk is sexist and racist, that people want to get rid of Mount Rushmore, and I discovered that if you like Friends or Seinfeld you might be a terrible person.

I can’t roll my eyes anymore and if I keep slapping my forehead I’ll leave a permanent mark.

Whenever a big event or news story happens and everyone is tweeting about it, someone will always joke “_______ is the worst Twitter.” You know, “politics Twitter is the worst Twitter” or “Super Bowl Twitter is the worst Twitter.” At this point we just have to admit it: Twitter is the worst Twitter.

Joining Twitter in 2017 is like starting to smoke in 2017. We know what it’s like, we know what’s going to happen, all the data is in. Why would anyone do that?

And then you have cable news, where everything is BREAKING NEWS or DEVELOPING (one of the reasons I’d rather watch the nightly network news and read newspapers). You have CNN and their non-stop coverage on every show of whatever big story is currently going on, all their pundits and experts in their Brady Bunch-like boxes, talking over or screaming at each other. All that’s missing is Ann B. Davis in the middle. They should actually superimpose her box from the Brady Bunch opening and just leave it on there for entire segments. While everyone is talking over each other and trying to get in their spin and make their point, the smiling face of Ann B. Davis would be seen until they went to a commercial.

I guess what I’m saying is, I really miss Ann B. Davis.

The combination of Twitter and 24/7 cable news has ruined…well, just about everything: the web, the news, our mental health, common sense, time, space, reality. I don’t think our minds and souls are made to absorb this much information at this pace. We don’t think the same way anymore and we certainly don’t react to things that same way anymore. Our minds are being trained to think in terms of news alerts and video and tweets and texts.

Help! Jane! Stop this crazy thing!

On Twitter last week, WGBH’s Peter Kadzis said that, because he was overwhelmed by everything that’s happening, he thought it was a good night to skip cable news, get off Twitter, and read a book. Actually, every night is a good night to do that. So that’s just what I’m going to do right now.

And so should you.

A Conversation I’ve Had With The Guy At The Convenience Store Two Times Every Single Week For The Past Three Years

Me (putting items down on the counter): Hello.
Clerk: Do you have one of our super discount cards?
Me: I don’t, but that’s OK.
Clerk: You get one free drink every time you buy seven.
Me: No, but thank you.
Clerk: Are you sure?
Me: Yes, thank you.
Clerk: You’ll save 10 cents on every gallon of gas!
Me: I’d have to buy a car first.
Clerk: Ah.

Repeat forever.

Trick or Heat

There’s Halloween candy on the shelves at the supermarket. It’s July 28.

Seriously, there it is, right next to the plastic sand buckets and back-to-school supplies. This is the section of the store where the seasons overlap, where you have the summer things rubbing up against the fall things. It used to make its appearance in August, but here it is muggy July and they want us to think about a late October night when people are dressed like vampires. I’d love to start thinking about cold fall nights (and days), but it’s still summer, so it’s all just a big tease.

There’s an even funnier shelf in October, when you see Halloween candy, school supplies, and Christmas decorations all together. If you had just woken up from a coma in the aisle you wouldn’t know what month it is.

Doesn’t it seem like everything is sped up these days? I’ve been seeing back-to-school commercials since July 4. Sorry kids, summer’s over!  Put down those ice cream cones and get ready for math!

David Brooks and The Case of the Confusing Sandwich

Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.

– David Brooks, The New York Times, July 11, 2017

I don’t have a college degree, and I’ll never forget the time I went to a sandwich shop in my neighborhood and didn’t know any of the words and I completely freaked out. I started eating the mustard packets and punching people. Why did they give these meats and cheeses such confusing names?

I’ve always liked David Brooks. Even when I don’t agree with him I’ve found him to be a good writer and a smart and thoughtful person. And his latest column isn’t terrible – he makes some good points – but how can a thoughtful person write a paragraph like the one above?

If this friend exists – the paragraph has a whiff of “I was talking to a cab driver….” about it, but I’ll believe him – it’s a weird scenario. People – even mediocre ones that don’t have college degrees! – can usually figure out what cold cuts are, especially if they’re standing in a sandwich shop. And if they can’t, would they really ask Brooks to take them someplace else, like a Mexican place, which, apparently, is where people with “only” high school degrees eat (even though Spanish is probably used on the menu)?

(Also, what the hell is a “high school degree?”)

The line that sticks out to me is “Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop.” Insensitively? What an odd line, showing that Brooks’s default position seems to be elitist, where he separates his friends into people who can “handle” fancy sandwich places and friends he should only take to other types of places. And if this friend was so confused by sandwich meats (there’s no quote from her just confused head-nodding), why would Brooks get her out of there like she was being hounded by the paparazzi, rushing her off to safety (a Mexican restaurant)? Couldn’t Brooks have just explained to her what they are? Couldn’t she ask the person behind the counter?

Recently I took David Brooks to lunch. Insensitively, I led him into a Pizza Hut. Suddenly I saw his face freeze up and his glasses fog as he was confronted with pizzas named “Supreme” and words like “mozzarella” and “pepperoni.” I quickly asked him if he wanted to go some place else and he nodded yes so we went to Le Bernardin and ate some organic kale.

Here, now

On an airless July night:

A Honeywell fan two feet away. A MacBook and pen and paper on the coffee table, next to two boxes of tissues because allergies have attacked me this summer. A Boston magazine and a page ripped from The Boston Globe Magazine. A novel by Megan Abbott and a biography of E.B. White, the Film Noir Classic Collection Vol. 1 set (Murder, My Sweet in the DVD player), and an empty Popsicle wrapper. The sound of my neighbor coming up the front steps. Remembering that I have to send out thank you notes, jotting down a reminder to reschedule that doctor’s appointment, and the realization that sometimes, when I look up at the sky, I think of my childhood.

Bride Of Five Things About Media and Technology Right Now

(I don’t know why I started giving these posts classic sci-fi/monster movie titles, but here we are. Here’s Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8Part 9. and Part 10.)

1. I never like to hear about people in media being laid off, but it’s quite ironic that video killed MTV news staff.

2. Several journalists, tech people, and celebrities quitting social media lately. The latest is Bret Stephens at The New York Times, who has quit Twitter. But he says his assistant will tweet for him. Which is sort of like making a decision to stop driving your car because you don’t want to pollute the air but you have your chauffeur drive you around.

I’ll have you know that I was quitting social media long before it was hip.

3. I’m excited to see that Ron Howard is the new director of the Han Solo prequel movie, but I’ll be really disappointed if there isn’t a character named Opie-Wan-Kenobi.

4. I don’t know if this would make people trust the media more, but it couldn’t hurt: stop labeling everything “BREAKING NEWS.”

5. The Yahoo name will still be around in some form, but its days as an independent company are over. I still have fond memories of using the site 20 years ago and getting my first web e-mail address with them. And back when they had actual human beings doing search results and reviews, they said some nice things about Professor Barnhardt’s Journal.