Monthly Archives: October 2011

On Repeat and Shuffle

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Feist’s new record Metals came out earlier this month and I’ve been listening to it non-stop since.  I just saw her live at the London Palladium, and once again, she absolutely MESMERIZED.  This was the third time I’ve seen her, with each performance so different and sonically richer from the one before.  Feist is also one of the few artists whose vocals are stronger live than on record.  Though I read in a few articles that she nearly lost her voice, so maybe she purposely saves it for live performances. And her guitar playing is far more accomplished than she is probably given credit for.  But I won’t get all pedantic and bore you with a review of her record or performance, other than to say, just trust me.  Feist is a fantastically nuanced, deceptively soothing, always interesting artist.  Forget “1234″, good song that is, and get familiar with the rest of her stuff.  Infinitesimally brilliant, she is.

Singer-songwriter Leslie Feist performing at T...

Leslie Feist

Wants v. Needs

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Medvedev and Steve Jobs

Image via Wikipedia

It’s amazing how much the world has turned since my last post.  A dead dictator, occupation of the world’s financial centers, and the death of a technology (marketing?) genius.  Oh yes, and lest I forget, an African-American is the week’s GOP frontrunner in the race to become Obama’s rival in 2012.  Say it ain’t so.

In particular, though, the death of Steve Jobs really affected me (and about a billion of my dearest friends).  It was emotional at first (a tear very nearly came to my eye thinking about playing the Oregon Trail on the old Apple IIs in my school’s computer lab), but now there’s a creeping sense of shame that maybe I and the rest of the world have been bamboozled by the greatest of bamboozlers.  Jobs managed to pretty much take over the world.  His reach was greater than probably any multi-national in history (ok, I might be making that up, but you get the picture).  And all because we wanted to be cool!

In my last post, I told of my fear of and distaste for the long arm of the internet.  I also pointed out that online behemoths like facebook were hell-bent on creating solutions for problems which didn’t exist:  Namely, our apparent desire to share our online habits with the world and its grandmother.  Well, Steve Jobs was a master at this (as many commentators have pointed out since his death).  He made us want things we didn’t need, which ran contrary to how most companies have been run since, well, that Roman real estate agency try to sell houses in Pompeii after Vesuvius erupted (ok, I did make that up).  All of this has made me start to think about when wants become needs.  If a desire is strong enough that it cripples you, is it then necessary to obtain it?  Wanting the new iPhone 4S may not fall into that crippling category, but it could be the start.  Think about those long lines outside every Apple stores each time a new product is released.  Do that many people even go out to vote?

I’m still thinking about this issue and will come back to it.  All I can say for now is:  Thank god Steve Jobs wasn’t in the drugs business or we’d all be smoking crack.

To share or not to share

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To share or not to share

Unlike a lot of people in these interconnected times, I like to keep my life compartmentalized.  I have boxes for each facet of my life, and I go in and out of them daily, monthly, annually, or whatever.  Some would think I am highly organized (which I am definitely not), others (probably most) might think I’m schizophrenic (nothing’s impossible).  I even work off of 2 different calendars, as it hardly ever occurs to me to merge them.  Or it could be that I’m too lazy.  Whatever the case, the system works for me.  So, being that parts of my own life are so disjointed, why would I ever want to connect with all the parts of someone else’s life?  Talk about overwhelming.

I am a reluctant, but sometimes prolific user of facebook.  When I’m prolific, it’s usually around a political or social cause which I’m passionate about (I’ll soon be posting a lot in the run up to the 2012 election), but never anything personal.  You will never see a post from me about the state of my health, my life, my job, or my family/friends.  It’s nobody’s business, and to be quite honest, I tend to block from my news feed people who do.  Every once in a while is allowed, but everyday and I think you need a therapist, not the online community.  This goes for good and bad personal updates, by the way.

But I’m on a tangent, back to the point.  Recently, facebook announced a lot of changes around online interconnectedness called frictionless sharing.  This, to me, is a scary thing.  Now, not only do you have to be careful about what facebook posts you like and comment on, but you also have to be careful about what you do OFF facebook as that could show up on your “friends”‘s news feeds.  I’ve already seen a few posts which showed what some of the people on my friends list have been reading in the Guardian newspaper, as well as what they’re listening to on the online music service Spotify.  Some people don’t mind this and may have purposely provided this information, but I’m not sure this is true for all cases.  I know there are people on my friends list who wouldn’t know where the facebook privacy settings are if you took them directly to the page and pointed (though to be fair, the settings aren’t so straightforward even if you can find where they are).  I understand that you can’t even sign up for Spotify now unless you link the account with facebook.  Wow.  Then there are all of these applications (“apps”) and like buttons floating around websites which can automatically flag what you’re doing to other people.

My solution:  Stay away.  I don’t do apps and I only hit the like button on friends’ facebook posts.  I never like anything offline (i.e. off facebook).  I’m so paranoid now I make sure I log out of facebook after each session (though I read that doesn’t necessarily help).

All this is part of a larger issue for me (partly due to my compartmentalizing) which explains why, although I am big fan of Apple, I don’t have an iPhone and happily carry around – separately – an iPod, blackberry and Mac laptop.  Most people who use iPhones are in it for the apps.  Like I said, I don’t do apps.  I’m sure there are some amazing ones which could possibly add value or mild enjoyment to my life.  However, I can’t miss what I don’t have.  It reminds me of a BBC series which aired a  year or two ago which was like The Apprentice for artsy types called Design for Life with Philippe Starck as the Donald Trump/Lord Sugar mentor/impresario.  He tasked the contestants with designing some project to remedy an ecological problem.  His criticism of one of the designs was so on point.  The criticism was that the contestant had created a solution for a problem which did not exist.  To me, that’s what most apps do: create solutions for problems that don’t exist.  Same with all this online sharing.  Whose problem are they creating a solution for?  Theirs or ours.

Don’t get me wrong, I love connecting with people (hence this blog), but I just like to be in control of what and when I share.  And as people are starting to note, all of this “sharing” is actually leading to increased isolation.  But that is for another post.

In the meantime, I happily remain a progressive luddite.

Why The Haints?

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Why The Haints?

My people come from Western North Carolina.  When I say my people, I mean my mother’s family.  And when I say from, I mean as far back as I can document.  I usually refer to my mother’s family because they’re so mysterious.  A very insular lot growing up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in a small town called Morganton, North Carolina.  I’ve never been there, but feel a strange pull towards the place on most days.  I think the force is so strong because my mother hated it so much.  So it goes.  I looked up Morganton in Wikipedia (the fount of all debatable wisdom) and saw that it was profiled in 50 Best Small Southern Towns, and, most surprisingly, it features in a Jules Verne novel – The Master of the World. Apparently, he went there in the 19th century and loved it.  Whoda thunk?  Neither point would have impressed my mother, however.  Once you’re over a place, you are over it.

So anyway, back to The Haints.  My mother’s family is full of words I have never heard anywhere else.  Some of the more interesting ones are not printable (the only Rated G example I can think of is bone-tum for butt), but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered some of them have an Appalachian lineage.  For instance, a toboggan wasn’t a sled in my house, it was a winter hat.  I once looked ridiculous on a school band trip when I tried to argue, unsuccessfully, that a sled could also be a hat.  My mother also used words like dreen, which means “a little bit” (e.g. “There’s only a dreen of orange juice left.”).  I haven’t been able to find any information on this word other than the being the Chinese word for drink.  Or more likely, it could just have been a case of onomatopoeia (a word that sounds like what it means).  I often wish I could recollect more words from my family, but the longer I’m away from the nucleus, the more I forget.  I called my middle sister to see if she could remember some words, but we were both unsure if we grew up with the word, heard it in a movie or read it in a book.  That’s kind of sad.  Memory is like a muscle requiring a lot of exercise.  One of the words I do remember though is the haints.  Now, we had a very particular way of using this word which I think may be even different from the good folks of Appalachia.  When you were tired and needed a nap (or to get dropsy as my sisters and I like to say), you had to get the haints off you.  Haints in Appalachian speak comes from haunts or ghosts.  So I guess being tired meant you had to shake the spirits off.  I think about this phrase when I am writing, hence the name of this blog.  If you don’t get the words on the page, it’s like the ghosts stay in you and the words become all misty and elusive.  So when I write I know I’m getting the haints off me.