Mama Barn and Her
Two Little Baby Barns

I made a “painting” today.

This original photo is from a road trip that Ann and I made around Lake Michigan in the spring of 2009.  We went up the Michigan side, stopped at Mackinac Island for a couple of nights, then crossed over the Upper Peninsula and went down the Wisconsin side.

This scene was somewhere on the Leelanau Peninsula.

All digital, of course.

But hey, at least I’ve got something too show for my day off…

Click to embiggen:

The old Day Farm in Sleeping Bear Dunes Park

Dispatches from the Outskirts
October 27 – #TMITM Edition

I encourage you to read Andrew Sullivan’s latest at NYMag.com:

The money quote:

It turns out that Mark Zuckerberg’s real achievement will be the collapse of a rational public dialogue and the empowerment of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Our sacred institutions are at risk not only because of the would-be tyrant who sits atop them, but because of the technologies  that put him there

Every time we post something, or comment on something, or reply to a comment,  we are complicit in sustaining an rogue ecosystem that undermines both our selves and our nation.

Facebook cannot go the way of MySpace fast enough.  How do you say that in Russian?

And no, the irony of putting that on Facebook – even “indirectly, i.e. by “lobbing it over the wall from my own website – is not lost on me.  I just really have no idea what else to do about it.

We are all hoist on our own petard.

Neener Neener

I got mine.  Did you get yours?

Of course, I had to stay up until 2AM to get it.

And the whole time I’m wondering, “is this really going to make my life better?”

I guess we’ll find out in a week…

But hey… it’s my job! (said the master of rationalizations…)

From “Halt and Catch Fire”
You Are Not Safe

The show is called Halt and Catch Fire.* It depicts the early days of what we now call “the tech industry,” first in Texas and then in Silicon Valley, in the early and-mid-1980s (when what we now call a “notebook” was known as a “luggable.”

I watched the first two seasons a couple of years ago.  I started to watch Season 3 last year, and have finally gone back and watched the entire season, and will soon start watching the fourth and final season which ended earlier this month.

One of the themes in the third season involves what can best be called “the pre-emergence” of the Internet. One of the characters has discovered ARPANET  and has contracted with a similar network hosted by the National Science Foundation.

[spoiler alert for H&CF S3 E8]

In the closing minutes of the 8th episode, one of the characters leaves a suicide note. He is in legal jeopardy for having released into the wild the source code for a valuable security software product. The Feds are closing in, and he has decided that going out a high window is better than prison. Before his departure, he leaves this warning on the dominant public BBS network of the day:

YOU ARE NOT SAFE

I, Ryan Ray, released the MacMillan Utility source code. I acted alone. No one helped me, and no one told me to do it. I did this because “security” is a myth. Contrary to what you might have heard, my friends, you are NOT safe.

Safety is a story. It’s something we teach our children, so they can sleep at night. But we know it’s not real.

Beware baffled humans. Beware of false prophets who will sell you a fake future – of bad teachers, corrupt leaders and dirty corporations. Beware of cops and robbers. The kind that rob your dreams. But most of all, beware of each other. Because everything’s about to change.

The world is going to crack wide open. There’s something on the horizon – a massive connectivity. The barriers between us will disappear. And we’re not ready.

We’ll hurt each other in new ways. We’ll sell and be sold. We’ll expose our most tender selves only to be mocked and destroyed. We’ll be so vulnerable and we’ll pay the price. We won’t be able to pretend that we can protect ourselves anymore. It’s a huge danger. A gigantic risk. But it’s worth it.

If only we can learn to take care of each other. Then this awesome, destructive new connection won’t isolate us. It won’t leave us in the end so… totally alone.

He says it will be worth it… and for the most part, it is.

But how much do we feel “connected” when in fact… we are alone?

And we are just beginning to get a sense what the Trojan Network has unleashed inside the city gates.

Ryan’s soliloquy sounds prophetic. It is “sent to us” from 1986 – but was probably written sometime last year.  The episode first aired on October 4, 2016 – before we had any real sense of what how the Russians had weaponized our “social media.”  So it actually seems even more prophetic, anticipating as it does the condition we find ourselves in just a year later – as we begin to learn of the vulnerabilities hidden in these networks.

The tech oligarchs who have brought us this “open and connected” environment have also unleashed the most pervasive surveillance system the world has ever seen, to which we willingly and gladly contribute.    Not even Orwell could have imagined…

And now begins “the tech backlash” – as leaders of all stripes try to get a rein on the beast.

The post and the  several that precede it are a part are probably part of that backlash.  Now I have to wonder if I’ve left one mob and joined another.

*

*The title “Halt and Catch Fire” refers to an early bit of code that could shut down a computer’s central processing unit.

 

Dispatches from the Outskirts of Facebookistan – October 23 Edition:
How To Self-Deport From Toxic Town

Facebook, meet MySpace.  Only… how do you say that in Russian? 

I’d like to be able to say I started something, or at least that I’m  an early un-adopter.

Then along comes this item from ReCode to tell me that maybe I’m just part of a growing trend:

How to quit Facebook (if the time suck, Russian ads or political noise has become too much)

There are many valid reasons you might want to quit Facebook. Maybe you spend too much time there. Maybe you’re tired of its cluttered app. Maybe you’re unnerved by all the Russia stuff.

I was an avid Facebook user for more than a decade. But due to a combination of the reasons above, I’ve almost completely quit Facebook over the past three weeks. No surprise, I have been much happier for it.

I haven’t actually taken any of the steps recommended above, but I have managed to reduce my visits to nearly nil.  I’m not really missing it.

I did stick my head through the portal this morning, and saw pretty much what I’ve been seeing for the past two or three years –  the same handful of people saying pretty much the same things.

And expecting different results?

And that’s definition of…. oh yeah… right.

I rest my case.

 

Dispatches from the Outskirts of Facebookistan – October 16 Edition

I have often referred to Facebook as the Internet’s “infinite random trivia generator” – a notion largely derived from the mind-numbing habit of staring at the display – laptop, desktop, or hand-held – and scrolling on, forever thinking that the next post will be something genuinely interesting or profound. OK, maybe the next one. Or the one after that. Or the one… you get the picture.

I have refrained from posting anything on Facebook (OK, maybe a comment here or there…) for the past week.

I suppose you could say that by trying to avoid Facebook I’m actually more fixated on Facebook than if I was just interacting with it normally. Maybe the problem is I just don’t know what ‘normally’ means anymore. But two weeks in to this self-imposed quarantine, I think I can safely say I’m not missing it all that much.

Anyway, here’s what you missed:

*

From Monday October 9:

There’s been a lot said both pro and con re: TN Senator – MY Senator – Bob Corker offering some choice observations about the Moron in Chief in the past few days. I tend to fall into “where was he when we needed him?” camp, for reasons that are alluded to in this delectable bit of diatribe from Wonkette– my go-to site for caustic and profane commentary on current affairs:

GOP Sen. Bob Corker Has Only Just Begun To Talk Shit About Donald Trump

The money quote:

It’s true that Corker has done a lot of fucked up things. The race-baiting ads he ran against Harold Ford Jr. in his first campaign come to mind! He is not a hero. But he is doing something important right at this moment. We feel like both of those things can be true at the same time, no?

*

OK, so Harvey Weinstein is fat and ugly. Couldn’t he at least shave? #UglyStubble

– – – – – –

Thursday, October 12:

Why do men still wear buns in their hair? You would think with all the ridicule and scorn that has been cast upon man buns that by now they would know better. #NoThatDoesNotLookHip

*

Now on to the really important stuff:

It’s discouraging to think that the Cleveland Indians could finish the regular season with the best record in baseball, and then lose three consecutive games to the New York Yankees and be knocked out of the playoffs.

The whole wildcard system sucks. The Yankees could’t even win their division, and yet they get to compete in the ALCS. Did I mention that the whole wildcard scheme sucks? That’s why.

Maybe I just feel that way because I grew up in a time when one team won each league and then went to the World Series. You won the season, you got to go the World Series.  There was no “Post Season.”  There was just the World Series.  Which was played in early October.  And during the day. That made a whole lot more sense than than this idea that a second-place team can be the “World Champions” – after playing all the games in the cold nights of late October.  Jeezus.

I still think of the Houston Astros as a National League team, so I don’t understand why they’re playing in the American League Championship Series, but at this point, at least they won their division, and they’ve never won a World Series. So I might start rooting for them.

The Astros were originally the Houston Colt 45s, and became the Astros when they started playing in that dreadful Houston Astrodome. For that alone they should be condemned to baseball purgatory, but I’m going to overlook that now that they’re playing in a modern new park – with a retractable roof so they can play outdoors when the weather and Houston humidity permit.

The Astros / Colt 45’s were among the first “expansion teams” in 1962 – the same year the Mets were formed – and the Mets won their first World Series a mere seven years later in 1969. So maybe it’s the Astros’ turn this time.

Anyway, I bought a Cleveland Indians hat and was gonna root for them in the playoffs this year.

Because I really don’t have a personal favorite team any more. I grew up with the Yankees, became a “closet Dodger fan” after I read a biography of Roy Campanella (nobody ever mentions the second black man to play in the Major Leagues…) in the fourth grade, and was a Braves fan for a long time after moving to Hawaii in the 80s (TBS was the only “live” national television station in the Islands for a long time).

But over the last decade or so, my interest in baseball has waned considerably – thanks to the interminable post-season games and the endlessly repeating commercials. Since I got TiVo in 2001, I just can’t sit through commercials anymore. So I don’t really have a favorite team any more and I have no idea who any of the players are.

So when it comes to the post-season and it’s time to try to care a little, I go by the theory of “root for the team that has gone the longest without” winning the World Series. Last year that was the Cubs. who hadn’t won a World Series since 1908 – even though they were playing the Indians, who haven’t won a World Series since 1948.

Now that the Cubs have won a World Series, I figured it’s the Indian’s turn. I bought a cap and was gonna root for ‘em. I got to wear the hat for exactly ONE game before the second-place-in-the regular-season (in other words losers!) Yankees knocked ‘em out of the stupid “Divison Series.”

I think I’m just going to keep wearing my Indians cap in mourning, but root for the Cubs in the National League and the Astros in the American League (that still sounds weird). But I’m not gonna buy another hat.

*

Famous questions from the Apple Store: “Do you have a thing that can get the boogers out?” (of an iPhone’s Lightning connector socket).

– – – – – –

Friday, October 13

I keep hearing about a news service called “Axios.” The references treat it likes it’s a credible news service that’s been around for a long time, but I swear I never heard of it until about a month ago. Whathefuck is “Axios” and why is its suddenly getting all this attention?

*

Here is my definition of an asshole: somebody who will stand in the middle of an audience, and not even look around to see if he’s standing in front of somebody. Hey, asshole… down in front!

– – – – – –

Saturday October 14:

More baseball: Is it really necessary to a emblazon all the uniforms and caps with a “Post Season” logo? I know it’s the post-season. I don’t have to keep being reminded every time I look at one of the players. #CrappyMarketing

– – – – – –

Sunday October 15:

This is “the Facebook effect” : In the one instant that I look at Fucking Facebook, I see something that somebody I know is photographing Jason is bell at the Ryman. I immediately feel terrible if that’s not me. Fuck you, Facebook.

*

I’m pretty tired of hearing people complain about the USB-C ports on the new MacBook Pros. It’s the port of the future. You need adapters to connect to the gizmos of the past. Get used to it and shut the fuck up.

*

Well, there ya go.  1200 words worth of witty and profound.

See ya next week.

 

#TMITM: Resistance is Futile
We Have All Been Assimilated

If you’re still using Facebook, here is your required reading for the day:

The many Facebook experiments add up. The company believes that it has unlocked social psychology and acquired a deeper understanding of its users than they possess of themselves. Facebook can predict users’ race, sexual orientation, relationship status and drug use on the basis of their “likes” alone. It’s Zuckerberg’s fantasy that this data might be analysed to uncover the mother of all revelations, “a fundamental mathematical law underlying human social relationships that governs the balance of who and what we all care about…”

Sounds like the “Unified Field Theory” of Human Behavior.  Einstein couldn’t find one for physics, so it’s doubtful that Zuckerberg will find one for humans (Humanity: it’d be a great idea if it wasn’t for all the fucking humans…) but he can sure fuck up a lot of stuff trying.  And we are all the hamsters in his cage…

And speaking to the point re: the Internet’s effect on our ability to sustain a coherent thought, this article appears in a section of The Guardian called “Long Reads.”  But if it’s too long for you, there’s a podcast edition.

 

Dispatches from the Outskirts of Facebookistan – Day 8

As a few friends and followers (fans?) have observed, for the past week I’ve been making a concerted effort to avoid Facebook.

This divergence from my usual routine (a word I use loosely) started last Monday, when I awoke to the news of the massacre in Las Vegas and immediately – impulsively – went to gauge the public reaction on Facebook. I pretty much knew what to expect once I got there: the same righteous indignation I found after the last such event – and the one before that and the one before that etc. etc. ad infinitum ad nauseaum.

But this time my reaction surprised me. This time, it wasn’t the triggering event that repulsed me so much as the boilerplate reactions that scrolled by on in my “news” feed. This time, something about the futility of the whole experience – not just the event but the predictable responses to it – resonated in a way that was vaguely unfamiliar. I’d seen it all before, but this time I really found myself wondering what was the point of seeing it all again?

That’s when I started “pushing in the stops.” I resolved to get some kind of handle on this digital beast, this virtual narcotic that I puff on like I used to smoke pot all day (from 1969 to 1987).

I started by removing the permanent “pin tab” for Facebook in my laptop browser, then I deleted the Facebook app from my phone.

Removing the pinned browser tab means that Facebook is not lurking in a tab at the top of my browser window when I am trying to do other things on my computer (which is pretty much where I do everything). Removing the permanently pinned tab means that an effort is now required to open Facebook on my laptop. Yes, it’s a minor effort, but it’s more of an effort than simply clicking a tab. Now I actually have to open a new tab and type. But – no surprise here – as soon as I type the letter “f”, the browser auto-fills with “facebook.com” and off I go into the oblivion of the Infinite Random Trivia Generator.

The bigger change was deleting the Facebook app altogether from my iPhone. I had come in recent weeks to be painfully aware of the extent that I would punch the blue “f” icon on my iPhone and then just vacantly scroll through whatever the display had to offer. The only way to stop that was to remove the app.

That was Monday. The following Friday was the first day I woke up and did not feel the impulse to start my day perusing Facebook.

*

One thing that these behavior patterns seem to be telling me is that I am at a vacant place in my life right now. I seem to be seeking some kind of solace and gratification from the other side of this digital mirror.

I know that these habits are not mine alone. As this recent item from Wired observes,

“It’s a dirty digital habit, and it doesn’t make me happy. Maybe you can relate. Studies have repeatedly found that while social media connects us to one another, it also makes us feel bad. And yet, we do it anyway. We do it because we can’t stop.”

Or, from another item in Wired: 

43% of smartphone users check their phone within five minutes of waking up.

That presumably includes a very high percentage of Facebook checkers.

Count me in that number.

I suspect the pattern is fairly common: I post something or comment on something somebody else has posted. Then it’s only a couple of minutes – maybe less! – before I return to see if anybody has noticed how witty and profound (or just profane) I have been.

That is a habit not unlike taking a hit of pot, or a swig of whisky – getting the buzz, and then needing another one within minutes. Where alcohol and drugs are concerned, habits like that have finally come to be recognized as symptomatic of a disease. How is it any different with a “virtual drug” like Facebook? Indeed, I have too-often compared the “Facebook Habit” to “the way I felt about Scotch and Vodka in the months before I finally quit drinking…”.

I hope last Monday was the day I finally put the pipe down.

*

As well as I can tell from inside my own damn head, I’m facing two issues: obsession and dissipation.

The obsession is with the medium itself.  I am referring here to that nagging impulse to scroll. To punch an icon and and scroll scroll scroll until… what?  Like there is some pot at the end of the rainbow or a rabbit at the bottom of the hole?  There is something primal going on here: the relentless need to fill some kind of vacuum, to fill an inner void, like rats in a digital cage poking for pellets. My life feels hollow, let me see if I can fill it up with… Facebook??

The notion is absurd on its face but nevertheless obsessively present. It grabs me all day long. Like when I’m driving, and I come to a stop light. I’ve got a minute, why don’t I punch the phone (which is mounted on my dashboard) and scroll Facebook? Look! Notifications! That will surely give me something that will fill this momentary pause in my info-continuum.

I listen to a lot of podcasts and books when I’m in the car. That might be the best-spent hour of every day (an hour to and from my job). But even with all that meaningful input, when the car comes to a stop, I am instantly possessed with the need to do something else, to find another form of input. To punch and scroll.

Perhaps more important than that finger-to-screen obsession, I think the constant posting and commenting and replying on Facebook has dissipated my creative energy.  Instead of thinking my way through to something substantive, I scatter my seed.  The Facebook Habit leads to the loss of concentration. The inability to focus. And I don’t think it’s just because my brain is in its seventh decade of continuous operation.

To the contrary, I think the Internet has destroyed my brain. I’ve been online since 1979, but almost constantly since wireless broadband was introduced at the start of this century. That’s 20 years of jumping from one thing to another all day long. As Nicholas Carr wrote in “The Shallows,” the medium has rewired my brain.

So instead of posting pithy links (#TMITM!) and snarky comments on Facebook, I’ve started using a new app called “Day One” – a journaling app suggested by friend Mike Lovett. Mike suggested “keep Day One open on one half of your screen, and when you see something on the web that you want to post on Facebook, or a post on Facebook that you want to comment on, put those links and comments in Day One. At the end of the day (or week), round up the most pertinent and worthy stuff and put it all in a post on your own website.”

Which is exactly what I’ve done here. Much of what I’ve just posted was gathered through the week. Some of it by dictating short snippets to Day One via the app on my Apple Watch – boy, that’s a real game changer!

Once I’ve assembled a post for CohesionArts.com (like this one), my WordPress installation automatically posts a link to my Facebook Profile and Page. Hence the notion of “lobbing it over the wall into Facebookistan.  

Otherwise, during uring the day, I have made a concerted effort to limit myself to the occasional “guerrilla strike” into the forbidden zone. Like this afternoon – while I was in a parking lot –  I got an email notifying me that my sister had mentioned me in a comment. So I opened Facebook on my iPad to see what the comment was. I clicked “like” on the comment. Then I went to the grocery store.

I don’t think that I can escape Facebookistan altogether, any more than I  expect that I will ever get my “old brain” back. But I do think that I have to make a concerted effort to figure out how this “new brain” works for me, and I’m not going to do that by impulsively, relentlessly, scrolling through the Infinite Random Trivia Generator.

In the meantime, old habits die hard.

Now then…. any notifications??

 

 

Notes from Quarantine – Day 5

Here’s all the stuff I didn’t post on Facebook today: 

I have been trying for some time now to surmise why just the fact of the Internet / Digital Media / Facebook is making us individually and collectively nutz.

We’re kinda like that scene in “A Clockwork Orange” – the one where Malcolm McDowell’s eyes are held open with calipers and he’s forced to watch something on a movie screen  that is supposed to “reeducate” him .

And so it seems we have become with Facebook: Our eyes are forced open, but we’re forcing them open ourselves. And we scroll and stare and stare and scroll, and then post and comment and reply – all under the delusion that millions, or thousands, or maybe even dozens, are seeing what we post. When it’s probably the same five or six or a dozen people…

*

Repeat after me: I am powerless over Facebook, and my life has become unmanageable.

At the very least, as I have been saying for some time now, I feel about Facebook the way I felt about scotch and vodka in the months before I finally quite drinking (late November, 1987).

The trouble with recovery from Facebook/Internet addiction is that is much more like an eating disorder than alcoholism. The antidote for alcoholism is (relatively speaking) pretty simple: you quit drinking. Once the “cure” kicks in, you don’t need alcohol or drugs to navigate through the vagaries of life. But you do need food. So while you don’t have to drink, you do need to eat.

One of the precepts of the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous (with which I an quite familiar, nearing 30 years of sobriety around Thanksgiving 2017) is that “half measures availed us nothing.” Meaning: If we’ve got the gene for addiction, then trying to manage our intake is going to be an exercise in futility. Sooner or later we’re going to lose the ability to “moderate” and drive when we really shouldn’t ought to.  Or wake up in a gutter.  Or just cut to the chase and not wake up at all.

An eating disorder is different, because that has to be managed in a way that alcoholism cannot be managed. You could starve yourself, I suppose, but that would just produce the same result as drinking yourself to death.

And so it appears to be with Facebook. And I don’t mean “websites like Facebook.” Facebook is it’s own unique, globe-encompassing, time-sucking phenomenon. You can try to avoid it, but at best you’re ultimately going to have to manage it. Otherwise, you may as well be… well… dead.

*

2,000 years of “civilization” and it’s still hard to find a pedestal table in a coffee shop that doesn’t wobble.

*

Now we learn that one of the most prominent and successful movie producers of all time turns out to be a lecherous old man. And we are surprised because…? Oh. That’s right. We’re not surprised.

*

There is quite possibly nothing uglier than a pretty girl smoking a cigarette. Or rolling her jaws around with chewing gum. A ring in the nose – the kind that hangs down between the nostrils – is a close second. Sorry, my millennial fans. I guess this is just coming from a lecherous old man.

*

Jason Isbell is headlining six hard-to-get-tickets-for nights at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville next week.

Fortunately, I’ve got tickets for Monday night. Unfortunately, they’re downstairs, under the ‘lid’ of “The Confederate Gallery” (I never get tired of saying that) but at least they’re “in the arena.” I much prefer the upper deck, but like I say, getting any tickets at all for these shows was a daunting task. And did I mention, “Fuck you, Ticketmaster. And the “verified fan” gimmick you rode in on.

Anyway, in anticipation of the six-night-stand, The Nashville scene has created an article “Considering Jason Isbell’s Best Songs: A critical look at 10 key tracks from the artist’s solo albums before his six-night Ryman run.”

Each of the listed tracks is accompanied by a YouTube video, which is nice, but I can never understand how somebody can go to all that effort and not bother to put together an actual playlist. So that, you know, you can hear all the tracks sequentially. One after the other. Without having to stop and click after every track.

So I went in and created a Spotify Playlist for y’all. Jason Isbell’s “10 best songs” plus one I also like a lot (“24 Frames”).

You’re welcome.

*

So, those are the random thoughts that I might have posted to Facebook if I hadn’t quarantined myself at the start of the week.

I rather like gathering my thoughts through the day and posting them here, all at once – rather than ‘scattering my seed’ all day long with posts and comments and replies – and then “lobbing them over the wall” via the plugin that sends my posts from here to Facebookistan.

That seems somehow consistent with the ‘can’t drink, but gotta eat’ theory.

If you actually followed the link, thanks for stopping by. If you care to add anything too the above, please use the comments here.  Let me know if you have any trouble with that.

Because, really, I’m trying to avoid Facebook.  Like I avoid scotch and vodka.

Have a swell weekend.

–PS