We have created a monster that is consuming us. And I don’t mean that “the Internet is bad” in that hypocritical and falsely ascetic way. I mean that we, along with the phones that travel with us, the texts we type in movie theaters, the instant messages we receive now even on some planes, the social media many of us are expected to participate in on behalf of our jobs, and the complexes and work ethics we have all inherited from our diverse array of guilt-generating forebears, have bubbled together into a frenzy of ceaseless professional engagement that is boiling us dry.[…] I don’t own an iPhone or a BlackBerry because I do not want to receive e-mail all day every day. Increasingly I understand this preference to be naive, impractical and really rather twee. On several occasions in the past year, days when I’ve run between appointments and not brought my laptop, I’ve had to call my boyfriend to ask him to log into my e-mail and tell me whether I’ve missed anything urgent. I should get a smart phone because I live in the real world. And in the real world, where I used to receive a few dozen e-mails a day, I now receive hundreds.[…] I don’t think the notion that we have to be constantly plugged in is just in our heads: I think it’s also in the heads of our superiors, our colleagues, our future employers and our prospective employees. There will be judgment, or at least a note made, perhaps by a boss who’s tried to reach you unsuccessfully, or an employee who has an urgent question that goes briefly unanswered.To not be reachable if called upon at any time, except perhaps the dead of night, feels sinful; unavailability betrays disconnectedness, and disconnectedness has come to stand for idleness and indolence. How many people have sent needless e-mails at 7 a.m. or perhaps 11 p.m., with the thought, if not the conscious intention, of communicating an intensity of professional commitment, demonstrating defensively or passive-aggressively or in the hopes of beating the next round of layoffs that they were beavering away at every odd hour of the day and night.America’s excesses are never far from sight: Our endless enthusiasms for boundless capitalism, materialism and hedonism persist. But these three have always had a complicated but close relationship with their uptight buddy, Puritanism, and I can’t help feeling these days like Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards have insinuated themselves into everyone’s friends and family network, preaching the gospel of a work world without end.
I’m not completely sure, but I’m getting a sneaking suspicion that this dude isn’t too enthused about online interaction:
And blooms of renewal, I suspect, will not be found online as well. The electronic sheen of social media sites is no substitute for communal fabric. There is no animal musk nor angelic apprehensions to en-soul the flesh and tease wisdom out of obdurate will …No matter how many restless shades want to friend you on FaceBook nor ghostly texts descend upon you in an unholy Pentecost of Tweets, online exchanges will continue to leave you restless, hollow, and yearning for the colors and cacophony of an authentic agora.The adolescent purgatory of FaceBook — with its castings into the Eternal Now of instant praise, acceptance, and rejection — reflects, magnifies, and acerbates the perpetual adolescence of the contemporary culture of the United States, intensifying its shallow longings and displaced panics, its narcissistic rage and obsession with the superficial.It devours libido, by providing a pixilated facsimile of the primal dance of human endeavor, leaving one’s heart churning in thwarted yearning, locked an evanescent embrace with electronic phantoms, as one, paradoxically, attempts to live out unfulfilled desires by means of hollow communion with the soul-negating source of his alienation.One can never get enough of what one doesn’t need. Ergo, the compulsions and panic of millions of hungry ghosts will hold an ongoing, hollow mass online, in a futile campaign to regain form, gain direction, and walk in meaning and beauty among the things of the world, but instead will remain imprisoned within the very system that condemned them to this fate.And this is the place, we, as a culture, will remain, for a time. This electronic inferno will be our vale and mountaintop, our sanctuary and leviathan. We will stare baffled into its vastness, stupefied and lost within its proliferate array of depersonalizing distractions and seductions.The more we try to lose ourselves in it, by surrendering to its shimmering surface attractions, the more tightly we will become bound in the bondage of self.Naturally, living in the grinding maw of such monsters of alienation will engulf one with ennui and angst. Moreover, the judgment of anyone claiming not to be afflicted should be regarded as suspect.
Try this: embrace the bracing pain of your alienation: make a home in being lost. Gaze with wonder upon the sacred scenery of your bewilderment … Wandering in the wilderness is a holy state.In other words, in times such as ours, when we embrace our alienation then we will be welcomed home … to share a common shelter with the multitudes who are also lost.
A few people have urged me at times to check out Joe Bageant’s writing. I’ve tried on a few different occasions to dip into it, but I always leave feeling positively underwhelmed, like I’ve just spent time listening to a more affable, less curmudgeonly James Howard Kunstler. It’s not that I even disagree with much of what he has to say, it’s just that I find myself spacing out in the middle of a paragraph, lulled into a daze by the sense that I’ve heard all this countless times before. To wit:
The uniformity on Planet Norte is striking. Each person is a unit, installed in life support boxes in the suburbs and cities; all are fed, clothed by the same closed-loop corporate industrial system. Everywhere you look, inhabitants are plugged in at the brainstem to screens downloading their state approved daily consciousness updates. iPods, Blackberries, notebook computers, monitors in cubicles, and the ubiquitous TV screens in lobbies, bars, waiting rooms, even in taxicabs, mentally knead the public brain and condition its reactions to non-Americaness. Which may be defined as anything that does not come from of Washington, DC, Microsoft or Wal-Mart.
Henry was no hermit. Hardly even a recluse. His celebrated cabin at Walden Pond – some of his neighbors called it a “shanty” – was two miles from Concord Common. A half-hour walk from pond to post office. Henry lived in it for only two years and two months. He had frequent human visitors, sometimes too many, he complained, and admitted that his daily rambles took him almost every day into Concord. When he tired of his own cooking and his own companionship he was always welcome at the Emersons’ for a free dinner.
Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.– Lewis CarrollRecently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.This bodes ill for a democracy, because most voters — the people making decisions about how the country runs — aren’t blank slates. They already have beliefs, and a set of facts lodged in their minds. The problem is that sometimes the things they think they know are objectively, provably false. And in the presence of the correct information, such people react very, very differently than the merely uninformed. Instead of changing their minds to reflect the correct information, they can entrench themselves even deeper.“The general idea is that it’s absolutely threatening to admit you’re wrong,” says political scientist Brendan Nyhan, the lead researcher on the Michigan study. The phenomenon — known as “backfire” — is “a natural defense mechanism to avoid that cognitive dissonance.”These findings open a long-running argument about the political ignorance of American citizens to broader questions about the interplay between the nature of human intelligence and our democratic ideals. Most of us like to believe that our opinions have been formed over time by careful, rational consideration of facts and ideas, and that the decisions based on those opinions, therefore, have the ring of soundness and intelligence. In reality, we often base our opinions on our beliefs, which can have an uneasy relationship with facts. And rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions. Worst of all, they can lead us to uncritically accept bad information just because it reinforces our beliefs. This reinforcement makes us more confident we’re right, and even less likely to listen to any new information. And then we vote.This effect is only heightened by the information glut, which offers — alongside an unprecedented amount of good information — endless rumors, misinformation, and questionable variations on the truth. In other words, it’s never been easier for people to be wrong, and at the same time feel more certain that they’re right.
So often, games that look like blockbusters on paper fail to live up to expectations, with one or both teams playing tentatively, and this was no exception, with the Netherlands especially resorting to overly physical play to disrupt Spain’s rhythm. The Germany/Spain semifinal was actually a much more enjoyable game to watch from a spectator’s perspective. But still, a World Cup final is exciting in any event, and Spain has clearly been the best team in the world for the past couple years, so I’m thrilled to see them as champions.
Before the World Cup started, people would ask me for my predictions. I always averred that trying to predict results that almost always end up hinging on intangibles is a waste of time, but that if wishes counted for anything, my dream final would be between my two favorite teams, Spain and the Netherlands. So it was written, so it will be done!
We follow the same rules in our family, and one of them is: Always stop to buy lemonade from kids who are entrepreneurial enough to open up a little business.My brother immediately pulled over to the side of the road and asked about the choices.The three young girls — under the watchful eye of a nanny, sitting on the grass with them — explained that they had regular lemonade, raspberry lemonade, and small chocolate candy bars.Then my brother asked how much each item cost.“Oh, no,” they replied in unison, “they’re all free!”I sat in the back seat in shock. Free? My brother questioned them again: “But you have to charge something? What should I pay for a lemonade? I’m really thirsty!”His fiancee smiled and commented, “Isn’t that cute. They have the spirit of giving.”That really set me off, as my regular readers can imagine.“No!” I exclaimed from the back seat. “That’s not the spirit of giving. You can only really give when you give something you own. They’re giving away their parents’ things — the lemonade, cups, candy. It’s not theirs to give.”I pushed the button to roll down the window and stuck my head out to set them straight.
Or maybe it’s the other way around: The kids are learning from the society around them. No one has ever taught them there’s no free lunch — and all they see is “free,” not the result of hard work, and saving, and scrimping.
Scientists are studying Ozzy to see how he’s managed to live through so much drug abuse.
I haven’t had time to watch any Daily Show episodes in the last month, so I haven’t seen Olivia Munn as a correspondent yet. Reading about the great sexism kerfuffle — brouhaha? fracas? ruckus? to-do? — I have to admit not being the slightest bit interested in trying to figure out the metrics of identity politics involved in determining what percentage of the show’s writers and correspondents need to be female, how frequently new ones need to be hired, how much of a rapport Jon Stewart needs to be perceived to have with them, etc. And assuming that the criticism of Munn is honestly motivated by a sense of her lacking comedic talent, rather than good old-fashioned catty jealousy, I can only ask: where, then, are all the protests over Wyatt Cenac’s presence on the show? How could she possibly be any worse than him? That motherfucker is so flat and expressionless, he makes Steven Wright look like Krusty the Klown.
Pace Chris Clarke, I don’t think the biggest problem with Twitter is that there’s no conceivable way it could ever be useful, nor that there’s nothing of value to be said in 140 characters (I had thought of the haiku angle myself). It’s that it’s just the latest manifestation of the mindless, zombie lurching toward speed and simplicity for their own sake. Frankly, I don’t want to live in a world where blogs and emails are considered too time-and-labor intensive for both the author and the reader.