Friday, September 23, 2011

Upgrade, downgrade

I am aware that is all very "you damn kids, get off my lawn" but I have to say something. Why must there be constant "upgrades" to things like Facebook?

Facebook seems to have an almost pathological need to "upgrade" every few months or so. They change lay-out or notifications or list management or any sort  of nonsense that just seems to mess things up and almost always affects your privacy settings. "We have now listed your friends by middle initial! And we made it all public! If you would like to have your privacy back, please troll through these twenty menus and click a bunch of boxes!"

The funny thing about this post is that I started writing this a few days ago, before the big roll-out of the "new" Facebook. Now that there are even more changes, I suppose you can guess how thrilled I am. I probably will get used to them or figure out a way around them. But this doesn't mean I have to like the change. The new changes make me feel old and stupid. This is not what I want from something that is supposed to be a sort of entertainment.

Do you know about the subscribe button? They've started something with "subscribing" to people's updates. These are people I've already declared to be my friends, and now I have to subscribe to them? (Now it's quite possible that I don't fully understand the subscribe function, but isn't that another issue? Facebook shouldn't be hard to do.) If you don't subscribe to "all" updates, Facebook will decide what the "important" stories are (they have an algorithm!) Of course, what happened to me was that I missed the announcement of a friend's engagement (apparently, not important), although I did see that he went to the high school football game that week (Facebook says: important!)

I know I'm complaining about something that's free. I know that most of us will shake our fists and do nothing but complain about it for a few days. And that's what Zuckerberg is betting on. Maybe he's right, but what he's forgetting about is the group of people who will shift away, spend a little less time on Facebook, then realize they don't really miss it. They'll find some other way to stay in touch. They probably won't take the time to delete their account (I have an old MySpace account kicking around but that doesn't mean I use it.) Technically, they're still "on" Facebook, so Zuck can still claim his gazillion "users."

I'm sure I'll stay on Facebook. I'll be checking in, maybe doing the occasional status update or uploading some pictures. But I also know I'm going to be working a bit harder to figure out Google+.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten years ago

We're all thinking about where we were ten years ago. My life has changed so much. Sometimes I wonder if it's just because it's been ten years or did September 11th trigger these changes.

We were on vacation, the former Mr. Higgy-Piggie, his parents, and me. We were down in Ocean City, planning to come home that Wednesday. At the time I wasn't working. I had decided to stop teaching in June, and I was going to get cracking on the job hunt just as soon as we got back from this vacation. I wasn't actually sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I didn't want to be teaching.

I swear this is true: the night before I didn't sleep. I had this weird feeling of doom that kept me up that night. I occasionally get these waves of worry, but this was one of the worst. I couldn't sleep that entire night and there was no good reason why. I'm not saying that I predicted anything or somehow knew, but that feeling of doom was there.

Like everyone else, I remember that it was a beautiful day. Perfect blue sky. We were all up to take our morning walk. We watched The Weather Channel and turned off the television at about 9. We must have just missed the breaking news.

We took a walk separate from his parents. It was a long walk, about an hour and a half. Ocean City is pretty quiet that time of year; the season is over and the kids are back in school. We were almost back to the apartment when this woman came up to us. She was a bit crazed. She was just going on and on, "They're crashing planes into buildings and bombs are going off and there are explosions!" What do you even say to this? We just nodded and quietly walked away. I joked, "I wonder if the president was Harrison Ford in that movie she saw."

We were all back in the apartment by then. Normally the television is an absolute no-no, but something about that woman got to me. Maybe I was still on edge from my restless sleep, but I asked if we could just check the news. I know that his parents thought I was being spoiled and demanding, but we turned to CNN. At that point the towers had already crumbled and the Pentagon had a hole in it. There was rumor of a crash in Pennsylvania and they were trying to determine how many other planes were missing. I just watched and watched, trying to take it all in. How could the Towers collapse? It didn't even make sense. So much had happened and it was all hitting at once.

I remember watching the coverage for hours, being pulled into it. At one point I talked to my mom for a bit, told her I was alright. I went back to watching, having a weird sense of relief as time went on that there weren't any more plane crashes. We watched and watched, no one really saying anything. We were trapped in this sticky bucket of news. Finally, TFMHP's father pointed out that they had to go to the grocery store or we'd have nothing for dinner, so his parents left. They came back about five minutes later -- the car wouldn't start.

We spent the afternoon dealing with finding a mechanic, getting a new battery, all those things that take longer than they should. It was good that something pulled us away from the coverage and back into normal life. We packed up to be ready to leave the next day. It's funny. I have vivid memories of earlier in the day, but after the television came on, it just blends together. I don't remember anyone's reaction, I don't remember what, if anything, we did to comfort each other. I'm sure we drove home that next day but I don't remember anything about it. I'm sure I was relieved to be home, but the details are gone.

The days after, all I remember is watching way too much CNN coverage. I remember being obsessed by the number of people that were missing, hoping it would go down, crying over every one of the interviews with loved ones who had made fliers. At the time we lived in a suburb of Philadelphia, and I felt like the points of the attacks were surrounding me. Every time I heard planes overhead, I wondered. Sirens in the night woke me up, panicked. I wasn't working, so all I did was watch and cry. I wondered if I knew anyone who died in the attacks, but it didn't turn out to be the case. But I just kept watching; I was trapped in the hours of news.

I felt very alone those days. Not having a job or a routine had left me floating, and I realized I was floating nowhere. Maybe that was part of my crying: thinking about if had I died suddenly, what would I leave behind? Sometimes I wonder if that was the beginning of me changing. Or do we all change in ten years? There have been a lot of changes these ten years. I'm no longer with Mr. HP, and I've moved to a new city.

After I finally turned off the television, things did start to change. It wasn't overnight and maybe it just was time for me to move forward. I lost weight, went to the gym. I started a career that on most days, I really do love. I tried to seek out my life, not just let it come to me. This took months, so I'm not going to say that September 11th triggered drastic change in my life. But it was one more reason to pick the life I want, that I need. Because it could be over, just like that.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rachel Zoe can feed the baby, grease the car, and powder her face at the same time

Every now and again, I watch "The Rachel Zoe Project." I don't watch it for the fashion or her weird phrases; I watch it because I am oddly fascinated by her marriage.

For those who don't know her, Rachel Zoe is a Hollywood stylist. She certainly touches on a lot of stuff I hate about Hollywood: obsession with image, kind of crazy, sort of bitchy, self-centered. I'd never want to actually hang out with her, but she's interesting to watch. She has fabulous assistants and she's married to Rodger Berman, an investment banker. He's mostly background on the show. His primary contribution is to say how much he doesn't understand Rachel. His wife. Just sayin'. For more about the show, go here:

Disclaimer: a lot of what I say about them is based on what I have seen on the show. I'm no fool: I know that these shows are edited and that story lines are pulled out of hundreds of hours of footage, so I know that reality tv does not equal reality. But there are some things that do come through, no matter the editing.

The past season has been about "Should Rachel have a baby?" She is, after all, a lady of a certain age (which may or may not be the one she tells you), Rodger seems to want one, she can afford it. But here's the thing, as crazy and annoying as she might seem, she loves what she does for a living. She loves the shit out of it. This is a woman who's heart is singing when she starts dressing someone. She needs her client to be wearing that dress with that belt (no, not that one; that one!) and those earrings and, no, they can't wear those shoes, and who messed with that hemline!? She's nuts and she may not sleep for three days before an event, but then she watches the people she dressed on the red carpet and she purrs with joy. There is no doubt she is doing what she loves. So it stands to reason that she's a bit obessed with her work.

This season everyone is telling her she should have a baby. I get that some of the conflict is manufactured for the show, but there are way too many "Oh, Rachel, a baby will complete you" conversations. I would argue that someone like Rachel Zoe does not need a baby. She's basically complete. She may not be what you want her to be, but she's got a complete life. The conversation should not be "she might think she has an amazing life but she doesn't because she doesn't have a baby"; the conversation should be about how she loves her life and having a baby might add a new dimension of awesomeness.

This is not to say that she doesn't want a baby or that she won't be a good parent. I suspect that she does want a kid (I can't imagine her doing something she doesn't really want to do), but she's pretty open with her anxieties about the whole thing. And what doesn't help is someone implying that the center of your life is the wrong choice. Maybe that's the anxiety some parents might have: they've made certain choices in their lives and they are happy. Now that they're considering a big choice in their life, everyone is telling them that their past choices were insignificant. Don't discount the other choices in someone's life. It all comes together to make a complete person.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

"(I think I made you up inside my head.)"

The above quote is from Sylvia Plath. I am reading her journals, the ones edited by Ted Hughes. I am hardly an expert on Sylvia Plath and/or her complicated relationship with Ted Hughes (both before and after her death) but I do have opinions on journal writing.

Ted Hughes writes that this is her autobiography, to which I have to point out that a journal is not an autobiography. Certainly for me, I use my journal to let out emotion. It's intentionally unedited and without direction. It is written for me, with the idea the I will be the only person who reads it.

I've read a handful of famous journals and, while interesting, they tend to get boring and self-indulgent. This is not a swipe at the writer, because part of writing is editing. I'm not sure how much input (if at all) the journal writer had on the final product. One of the few journals that actually works is "The Diary of a Young Girl" by Anne Frank but that was famously edited by the author (and her father) for publication. While she was in hiding, she heard an exiled member of the Dutch government announcing that after the war, he hoped to gather eye-witness accounts of the suffering of the Dutch people. Anne started editing after she heard this.

I love the idea of reading a journal and the raw words. But I also know that the original intention was not necessarily for public consumption. I suppose if you keep a journal, you should probably trust who takes care of it in the end.