Everyone on Earth is Bored

Everyone on Earth is Bored

There’s an app out there that is basically like Vine, but in real time. You can look at a map, pick random people to watch, chat with them, follow them, etc. It’s called Periscope, and I found out about it because some woman was live streaming video of herself drunk driving and fellow Periscope users called the cops on her.

I was intrigued.

I remember chatroulette. I never used it much because I didn’t have a good enough connection at the time, but from what I hear, it devolved pretty quickly into nothing but naked people or people who wanted to see naked people. The two demographics didn’t mesh as well as you’d think.

Here’s what I found on Periscope.

Video 1, Tennessee:
Two dudes in a truck asking people to talk about what types of trucks they like.

Video 2, Scotland:
Tween age boy hosting his own random talk show-type stream.

Video 3, England:
Tween age girl talking about her day at school and then going on to look around the bathroom to find things with which to draw pictures. She was delightful and I added her to my follow list after her brief question/answer period about whether or not she should get “a spot of tea.”

Video 4, Germany
Guy who appears to be drunk, stoned, tired, or all three mumbling some stuff in German.

Video 5, Switzerland
Two teenage girls who clearly usually speak French take a moment to figure out how to answer when someone messages “wie gehts?” (how’s it going”) in German. They then answer him…in German.

Video 6, Boston
Guy who appears to be drunk, stoned, tired, or all three listening to the radio. Some guy keeps making comments about the broadcaster being gay and the guy just ignores him. The comment-maker eventually leaves.

Video 7, England
Two girls eating the British version of Funyuns ask where we’re from. When I answer that I’m from Nashville, one says “oooh, Nashville! Have you ever been to a rodeo?” She’s wearing a Friends shirt and asks us all who our favorite character is. I answer with Smelly Cat, which prompts one of the two girls to sing the Smelly Cat song. These girls were delightful. (At one point during this, some guy keeps messaging things like “vagina” and “seks.” The two girls just ignore him. I respond with “Emir’s keeping it classy.” The girls laugh. Emir sends me some message that I can’t figure out how to read before it fades off-screen and he leaves the room. I’m guessing his message was some sort of middle finger emoji. Also, when did adults start using emojis? Is this a thing now?)

Video 8, Scotland
Some guy playing questionable electronic music in his living room.

Video 9, England
Two girls lying in bed, at least one appears to be nursing a head cold. She blows her nose on camera and they flip the phone around to show us all that they’re watching The Big Bang Theory.

But what about Iran? Egypt? I tried, but with the exception of Turkey and some parts of Bahrain and Dubai, everything was blank. Zero videos. Same thing for China, Japan, and all of southeast Asia. (Maybe they’re all just asleep right now?) So, what’s going on in Dubai? The same thing going on everywhere else: people watching tv, people sitting around, and dudes with guitars. Dhaka, Bangladesh? Some guy singing “Love Me Like You Do.” To summarize, there’s a guy in BANGLADESH singing the love theme from 50 Shades of Grey.

Maybe this IS just another opportunity for people to attention whore themselves online, but I can’t help but thinking what a big deal it would be for any actor trying to learn a dialect or any foreign language student. Also, let’s give some applause for the lack of nudity and creepiness; people are just there being THERE. Blowing noses. Singing Smelly Cat. It’s not all PhotoShop, humblebrags, and marketing ploys. At least not yet.

Dudes with guitars.

Life Goals: Grace and Frankie

I watched Grace and Frankie on Netflix partly because I was hard-up for something to watch and partly because I had heard such good things about it. There was also a part of me that wanted to support a show with two female leads in their 60s. As you may have suspected, the show is very, very good; how could a show led by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin NOT be good, you guys?

I didn't know it was going to give me fashion goals.

Lily Tomlin's character, Frankie, has a career doing art therapy with ex-convicts. She also does meditation, owns at least one Ramones t-shirt, and could probably teach you a thing or two about vision quests involving peyote. I am a goth chick easing her way toward 40. What is a goth chick to do once she has to retire the schoolgirl skirts? While there are plenty of roads that could be taken (industrial ass-kicker, historical costume fan who favors Victorian clothes), I find myself favoring “old hippy goth,” aka “dress like an old art teacher.” It's comfy, it allows for a healthy use of patterns, and it justifies my taste for patchouli and large, chunky rings.

But what does that LOOK like? And how do you do it without looking like you just came back from a Phish show? How do you do it without looking like you'd almost assuredly smell like armpits?

Like this:

Or like this:

Or this:

And yes….there are also caftans:

And could we maybe all agree that her hair looks AMAZING here?

Secret Creativity

Secret Creativity

Every now and then, I have to play the introvert card and have a veg out day. So, what did I do with my veg out day?

Played two hours of video games. Cooked almond crusted cod and a pasta casserole. Went to Nashville City Cemetery to take some pictures. Watched Cake (the movie with Jennifer Aniston), which was a really good movie but also really heavy, so save it for when you don't mind sitting around crying for a while.

I have a long, long, long way to go with that camera. Today was my first time using the zoom lens in any real way, and I still can't help but feel like the pictures always come out being not quite contrasty enough. I don't know if that's because my whole experience with black & white photography has been on an old 70s camera, or if there's just something about the Rebel’s default settings that just don't have enough oomph for me. In school, they taught us that the darks should get down to a true black, but not so dark that you lose all detail in the shadows. See this:

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I would expect the dark spots in the flower shadows to be a bit darker. Maybe this is because I have yet to use this camera in really strong sunlight? All of the examples I have are from indoors or cloudy days, so who knows. It's just kind of frustrating because you don't really know what you've got til you get home and a picture that might have been decent kind of goes "wah wah" and flops down limp. Yes, there's PhotoShop, but if you're just going to Photoshop everything for an hour to make it look decent, what's the point? I don't recall having the "I wish I could PhotoShop this" impulse in art school, but maybe my bar was lower then. Maybe I was happy with anything decent because there weren't 5 million people on the internet doing epic shit with their phones.

I didn't get much good stuff today, but that's ok. The city cemetery isn't nearly as fancy as some others in the area, and that was the idea. I wanted to force myself to try to find good stuff where there initially appeared to be a bunch of nothing. How'd it go? OK, I guess. If nothing else, I got re-familiarized and learned my way around my camera bag a little better. I'm just trying to do whatever I can do so I'm not completely fresh once school starts.

It will be interesting to see how that goes. Like, I don't really take "pretty" pictures. We had an Earth Day photo contest at work where people could submit stuff in a given category (Earth, Air Water) and people kept asking if I was going to submit anything. I mean, people submitted some amazing stuff: underwater pictures of coral, panoramic shots of glaciers, close up pictures of flowers…but, fun as that stuff is to look at, I don't see myself doing it at all. Any time I take a nature picture, it's never as cool in the picture as it was in real life. I like doing portraits or weird stuff and I wish I could do that super-slick looking old school fashion photography stuff, like Richard Avedon or Cecil Beaton. It's like, when I did this stuff before, it was just homework for a required class. If we got ANYTHING usable, we were stoked. Now, it's like you have the entire internet in your head going "this is nowhere near as cool as X." The only way to fight it is to be like "yeah, but this is mine, and I'm not trying to be X…I'm trying to be me." Right now, I'm just like "look, just go do it. If you don't get one interesting picture, that's ok. You only fail if you don't try."

That said, I had a good time out there, freezing my paws off and crawling around on the ground to get the right angle on things. There was nobody else out there and there was room to think. Here are my three favorites from today. 

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Our Fishers, Ourselves

Our Fishers, Ourselves

I guess it was probably 2005 or 2006. I was working at Vanderbilt and Tower Records was across the street, just within walking distance to stop and get a movie on the way home. I flew through all five seasons of Six Feet Under without even knowing how many seasons there were. When the last episode of season five came, Claire got in the car to drive across the country, and a montage started to play that showed how all of the main characters would eventually die. I felt sad, cheated, and blindsided. The show was over, these characters were gone, and I had seen none of it coming. I felt suddenly orphaned. By a tv show.

It’s roughly ten years later, I knew this was coming, and I feel exactly the same way. Like there’s this little part of me crossing its arms like an angry toddler and refusing to believe that any of it is happening. The only difference now is that I knew this episode was coming and I had the sense to queue up Bridesmaids to act as a palate cleanser.

I can’t remember what exactly I got out of the show ten years ago; I just remember a first impression of the show not being nearly as funeral-tastic as I expected it to be. I was disappointed, but I watched episode two just because I’d already paid for the rental for disc one. I eventually got attached, wondering what would happen next and developing a crush on Freddy Rodriguez.

This time, I was hit in the face with how well-written and how true to life the first episode was. Tehre were moments of hilarity that are only funny when you’re in your thirties and similar things have happened to you. You can see things in a show, but they don’t really hit home until you’ve lived them already. Any other way, and the writing is entirely too obvious, or the writing is subtle and you don’t really get what’s happening. David comes home from a tough day at work and Keith tells him to suck it up and everybody in the audience knows that David just wanted Keith to be on his side because we’ve all been there. Claire goes to art school and says things like “it’s not blue hair, it’s more like a comment on blue hair,” right before finding out that what kills you about art school isn’t thinking of projects; it’s trying your hardest and sometimes failing anyway. It’s competing for internships against your friends in a system built more on ass-kissing that work quality. It’s constantly wondering if you’re good enough. It’s taking some bullshit office job and wearing pantyhose and wanting to shoot yourself in the face every day while you secretly pray that no one from school finds out that you’ve sold out because you have bills to pay and no new ideas.

There was little part of me just dancing when Keith finally understands that David just wants a hug. When Claire finally meets a nice guy (even if he is a “republican frat boy who voted for Bush”). When Ruth walks though the woods imaging her self taking a shotgun to every man who has expected her to worry all about his needs and never about her own. Stella and her groove, with a shotgun in the woods.

I watched that show in 2005 as though it were a fun little soap opera to distract me from my life. I watched it in 2015 because each character was living out some part of my life, probably of everybody’s life. Ruth is the woman in us that wants to have her own life, but has no idea what to do with herself if there’s no one to take care of. Claire is our free spirit, the part of us that never quite feels like an adult and never quite knows what to do. Nate is the part of us that means so well, but sometimes screws up so badly. David is the part of us that has to keep it together, to suck it up, even on days when we just want to go home and find someone there handing out hugs. So often, the show hits the gross little parts of human nature that we all pretend don’t exist. We pretend so hard that those parts don’t exist that maybe we start to wonder if we’re the only person to have them. To notice them. It’s all done with such skill. When Ruth eats dinner alone, we don;t have to have her say “I feel lonely today,” (which would be ENTIRELY too self-aware and direct for the Fisher family). Instead, we get a wide shot of Ruth alone at the table, sadly cutting up a piece of asparagus, sitting solo at a table for four. Everything about the Fisher house seems sad, dreary, constrained, and passive-aggressive. The Fishers are the family that we all want to grab by the shoulders and shake while yelling “WHY don’t you just SAY how you FEEL?”

It’s like the show spends most of its five seasons making us watch these people be unhappy. Part of us KNOWS why they’re unhappy because we see the characters doing things that we do. Maybe that’s why we want to shake them and yell at them. We’re frustrated with them because they are reminding us of ourselves. But all hell breaks loose in season five: Ruth finally gets sick of everybody’s crap, David stops sucking it up, Claire finds a path, and Nate? Nate can’t seem to stop screwing up…so he dies, his death being the catalyst of change for everybody else, the “Ned Stark’s rolling head” that sets everything else in motion. Eventually, even the house changes. Even the house gets happier.

So, have I spoiled this entire show for you by telling you (sort of) what happens? I don’t think so. I came into this viewing knowing exactly what was going to happen, and it didn’t change the value of the experience one bit. If you’ve never watched this show, you might want to check it out now. Hell, it’s on Amazon Prime.

Learning to See

Learning to See

Pretending I Play PoolIt’s been about 10 years since I took Black & White Photography at Watkins. I feel like I was fairly decent at it, or at least got more and more decent as the weeks went on. We had to take 2 rolls’ worth of shots each week, focusing on a given mission (low light shots, motion shots, etc.), and then we had to do the whole dark room / contact sheet / hand-print while standing over a bin of water thing in the lab. It was probably one of my favorite classes at Watkins, since it basically consisted of running around taking pictures and standing around in a mad scientist apron chatting with classmates. I had an eye for unsettling ways of cropping a picture, and I tended to go more for photography projects that mainly served to document bits of performance art, like dancing in odd places. (I also love performance art, and you should not start telling me how silly and pretentious that is unless you want to hear me try to convince you otherwise for an hour and then try to loan you some books.) My photography teacher briefly tried to get me to switch majors, but she and I both knew that I was not cut out for a life of photographing weddings and children and it’s terribly hard to pay for a house with oddly-cropped pictures of people staging their own deaths.

Not that the graphic design thing worked out much better, but the web development thing certainly did, and the market wouldn’t have had a chance to tell me I needed to build web sites instead of designing them if I hadn’t tried to design them and found out I wasn’t as good at it as my classmates. Graphic design sits in this weird space where there are SO MANY rules and yet you’re still expected to creatively solve a problem. It’s like…stealth rules. I would rather my rules be obvious. When I break the rules, I want Visual Studio to yell at me in the form of a squiggley red line or start throwing exceptions.

But so much development makes one’s brain so rulesy. Eventually, you start wanting to break rules. Do crazy shit. Take oddly-cropped pictures staging your own death. Take pictures that a lot of people would think are weird and shitty but that others find weird and interesting. Or maybe just some pictures that only YOU find interesting. Who cares. The ability to pay for my house does not depend on me taking pretty pictures, so I’m freed up to take strange, creepy, sometimes sucky ones. But I want them to be intentionally weird, not just a weird as a side effect of not actually knowing what I’m doing, so some review and learning is going to have to happen as I’ve forgotten almost everything.

Like my mom used to say, you have to crawl before you can walk, and you have to walk before you can stage your own death. OK, maybe she only said part of that, but you get the idea. That’s why I’m using my Martin Luther King Day holiday (we get this day off! work is awesome!) to review concepts like f-stop and ISO setting. To start memorizing which shutter speeds give which effects. To read the manual for my new camera and learn how to really use it.

If you want a job done weirdly, you have to do it yourself, and you should never trust anyone to stage your death for you.

The Sharknado of Wineries

There’s a reason why most wineries do their tastings after the tour. The usual tack is to take the group around, explain all of the stuff about growing seasons, aging barrels and spotlessly clean tanks and THEN get people silly on wine. You know, get them silly…sell them wine.

However, the winery that Chris and I visited took a different strategy on Saturday, possibly because the winery was also playing host to a wedding and two receptions which were keeping the staff plenty busy. We did our tasting first, and our bartender gave me a couple tastes more than I should have been given; if I’d been offered another ounce, I’d have had to refuse it out of fear of being “that girl” on the tour. The one who won’t shut up, touches things she’s not supposed to touch, and actually answers the guide’s rhetorical questions. Little did we know.

By the time the wedding parties cleared out and the tour started, almost everyone on the tour was pretty far gone. In fact, I was the only female on the tour who hadn’t become “that girl,” and I wasn’t doing too much better. I just kept smiling at Chris in that way that says “I have SO many things to say about this, but I am so drunk that I can’t telling if I’m whispering, so let’s wait til we get in the car.”

One woman interrupted so much that her husband asked her if she worked there right before the tour guide asked her (very nicely and jokingly) if she wanted to guide the tour. Another man just kept patting his wife on the shoulder as if to say “maybe you shouldn’t have almost put your mouth on the tank tap as if to drink out of it.”

As the comedy ended and we settled up our tasting and tour bill, Chris and I stepped out of the double doors that led to the parking lot to hear a man in an Affliction shirt yell “let me drive, fag! I’m not even drunk!”

No word on whether he was with one of the wedding parties, with the bridal shower on the back porch, or just there because the winery is in an otherwise dry county.

“This is the Sharknado of wineries. Like, it’s not so bad that you can’t handle it, but it’s bad enough to be funny.”

The Power of Habit, or “Target Knows You’re Pregnant.”

The Power of Habit

Target is stalking you.

This is probably not a revelation for any one of us, since it’s a well-documented fact that women LOVE Target, though none of us can put a finger on exactly why. I think we all just assume that Target has gotten a PhD from Retail Manipulation School. The same school that tells Kroger to put the produce up front (if you buy veggies first, you’re more likely to buy ice cream and pizza later) and to the right (no one knows why, but people tend to turn right upon entering a store) is probably telling Target a thing or two as well. Something about lighting, color, shelf height, and signage. If anyone’s put any of that in a book, please let me know, as I find all of that terribly interesting. But wait…didn’t I say Target was stalking you?

 

If you’ve ever paid for anything at Target and used a credit card, Target knows you. Not just what you’ve purchased or where you live; they know if you’ve gotten divorced recently, what you do for a living, and possibly what you look like. There are business that find information about you online and then sell it to companies like Target, which is creepy, but a little unstoppable unless you want to spend your life obsessing about paying for everything with cash and never, ever using Facebook. Target knows if you’re pregnant, even if you haven’t told anyone or signed up for a baby registry. The fascinating, creepy, brilliant details of this are all laid out in Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit.

In one story, an angry father shows up at Target waving some ads that had been sent to his daughter that contained coupons for baby care items and nursery furniture. “What are you trying to say to my TEENAGE daughter?!” he asks. The Target manager apologizes profusely, but when Target calls the man a couple weeks later to check in and re-apologize, the angry father apologizes first. His daughter was due in August, she just hadn’t told anyone.

OK, so maybe that’s creepy and wrong and teenage girls shouldn’t be getting outed by coupons. But it’s also fascinating, no?

Usually, when I read nerdy psychology books like this (which I do…a lot), I leave you all out of it. My sister commented at Christmas that my GoodReads queue would make her want to shoot herself, and I don’t blame her. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea to be on the elliptical machine, reading about neuroplasticity and synapses while sweat drips down the side of your face. However, I wanted to point you all in the direction of The Power of Habit because I found it to be a really easy read while also being really fascinating on a “not too sciency, but also not too flippant” level. Duhigg is a slightly more well-researched version of Malcolm Gladwell, who can be a little too anecdotal for me. You can’t just put a theory in a book and present it as truth without actually testing it, and Gladwell tends to come a little too close to that.

Other topics presented in The Power of Habit include the story of how Febreze almost didn’t become a thing, why the Montgomery bus boycott worked, why making your bed might make you more productive at work, and how to form new habits or break old ones. It has case studies backed up with research, and a bit of advice on how to implement the ideas in your own life. And also the stuff about Target…though he still doesn’t explain why you go there for laundry detergent and end up spending $100. Where’s THAT book? I would totally read that book.