Anecdotes From A Pseudo-Luddite

Who I have loved, since you:

The Bank Teller.

The Coffee Maker.

Manic

 In the end, he got the fish.

I had found the fish at a small local shop uptown, tucked behind the streets that overlooked the mountains. It was dark and reeked of jumping crickets and hamster wood shavings.

“The betas are in the back,” the owner said, holding a baby while a pig-tailed toddler tugged on her jean pocket.

I walked slowly, eyeing the rabbits and hermit crabs, hearing the parrots mocking a song. I often avoided pet shops; I can’t stand to see drooping puppy dog eyes begging me to house them.

A fish, this time, would have to suffice.

They were all beautiful; dressed in colors seen only through the imaginations of painters. Twelve different betas swam in cups, unaware of my gazes. I eyed each one carefully, fixating on their movements.

And there it was. Top left, back row, honest shade of blue that matched our bedroom. It was perfect. The fish was calm, moving at its own sluggish pace. It saw me through the glass, but carried on its way. “I don’t need you,” it mumbled. Intrigued, it only seemed right. I felt it was fitting for it to sit on our desk, facing the window to catch the sunlight.

“I’ll take this one,” I called to no one really. I pulled the fish away from the others, grabbing a larger fishbowl, tropical rocks, and a packet of food on my way to the register. The owner, busy on the telephone, rang me out and sent me on my way.

In the car, the fish floated in a plastic bag on my passenger seat, still calm and unaffected by the transition. Yet as soon as the Subaru was in gear, it started to panic. Back and forth, up and down, it searched for any possible escape. I pulled out of the plaza and its frantic quest continued, perpetuating into such strange swimming I thought it would rip a hole straight through the plastic. I felt terrible – responsible – from dragging it away from its seat in the shop’s back shelf.

“Our home will be safe,” I tried to relax the fish as it swam in circles. “We’ll take care of you.” It ignored me and carried on, swimming manically to nowhere.

“Stop being so manic! Take a breath,” I said. “Manny, stop!”

And there it was. “Manic.” Manny. He was named and he was ours and I took him home to be loved.

The following month, he sat on our desk, swimming back and forth, up and down, in his new bowl. The rocks reflected against his glistening scales in every shade of light. He was calm again, secure, and happy. Tame with an unwavering quietness.

For a short time, all was just right. The fishbowl stayed clean and the weather was warm and Manny guarded our room like a haven.

He didn’t need me, but I loved him anyway.

This is about to make a COMEBACK. 

Checking Out of “Check-In”

Do you ever walk into a store and think about how many times you’ve been there, and how many people you’ve been there with? I recently went to Cheesecake Factory with a friend and as we were waiting to be seated, I thought of all of the different people I had been there with. I tried to make a list in my head, but then started branching out to other Cheescakes, wondering if different locations counted. It’s just too bad there isn’t a way to track the places I’ve been, and with who, online. That way whenever I thought about a list like this, instead of trying to create it in my head,  it’d be there waiting for me. Oh, wait…it does exist. It’s called “Check-In.”

And it is the creepiest thing I have ever heard of.

I won’t lie; I tend to be purposely behind on trends, mainly when they have to do with technology-related things. If I don’t have to know about it, if I don’t have to be a part of it (like for work), well then I’d rather just not know it exists. Like I’ve said numerous times before, it’s hard enough for me to succumb to this digital world and accept that there really aren’t too many ways out of it. But as it continues to substantially grow, it’s impossible to keep up with everything.

So I choose to stick to the minimum.

I had not heard of “Check-In” until semi-recently. I’m pretty sure I was at some family event in Florida and my cousin turns to me and said, “Don’t worry. I’ve already checked us in.” Checked us into what? I wasn’t staying at a hotel. This is pre-iHome days for me, so I had no way of knowing that every person I know on Facebook knew I was sitting at a dinner table with my family until hours later when I happened to look on the computer. Most of my friends knew I was in Florida at the time, but I didn’t really care to tell them where I was exactly, including whether or not I was sitting at a dinner table, going to a mall, what have you.

I love my cousins, but they love to “Check-In.” I don’t love this. One of my close friends loves it, too. I’m making it sound like it’s an addiction (maybe it is?). When my friend and I sat down at Cheesecake the other day, one of the first things I said was, “You didn’t check us in, right?” He said he didn’t, but I’m pretty sure it’s because he went to Cheesecake with a friend only a few days ago, and didn’t want everyone to know he was double dipping.

Here’s the thing. I’m a very open person, but I’m also almost a perfect balance of being a private person. I don’t, I repeat, want people to know where I am at all/or really, any time. If I’m friends with you on Facebook, there’s a 90 percent chance I trust you, but there’s still something very Big Brothery about my own little tracking device. And believe me, I know that Google can probably find me and now that I have the iHome5 I could be traced even easier, but still.

I just can’t wrap my head around why people would want everyone to know where they are at any given time.

The worst part about it is that I do not “Check-In,” but if I have been “Checked-In” by someone else, a little map shows up on my Facebook wall and pinpoints the places I have been. I have tried numerous times to take this off, but cannot. Either it’s an easy button I’m missing … or it’s not possible. I honestly believe it’s the latter.

I know our ability for privacy is decreasing in general, but this seems too obvious. Did you ever think about the fact that if you “Check-In” to a place, some asshole you might have pissed off on Facebook is going to go to your house and rob you? Just a silly thought.

I don’t think this is me being over-paranoid, either. This is a world where we are forfeiting privacy, and gladly doing so.

If you can give me five reasons why “Check-In” is a good idea, I may rethink my disapproval.

But probably not.

The History of Pseudo

My life has become a complicated list of lies.

Maybe lies is too strong of a word. Hypocrisy might fit better.

See, the thing is, I live in a particular world in my head, but reality is far from that naïve fantasy. I’m pretty sure my mind thinks I’m living in the time of the late 19th century up until about ten years ago. It doesn’t help that I was born twenty-two years ago, but that’s beside the point.

It’s not that I can’t embrace the world I live in today. I do, everyday, professionally and even socially. I follow some of the trends and marinate my habits in the ever-so daunting technological world. Yet, as a pseudo-Luddite, a part of me still feels terribly uncomfortable that I really don’t have a choice but to give in. Then again, Thoreau’s Walden is still one of my favorite books and from time-to-time I think about parking my good ole’ Subaru at the beginning of some forest and heading in alone. (Yet, even HE couldn’t fully commit. His natural world was only two miles from town.)

Regardless.

I tend to use the word “pseudo” often, whether writing, speaking or thinking. Maybe it seems to be the most appropriate word for me as I still continue my never-ending quest to self-discovery. Someone recently told me I’m always trying to figure out who I am. Though he said he was joking, I could not agree more.

Maybe I should change this blog title to “Rants from a Pseudo Luddite.”

Anyway.

The joke is (always) on me.

Although I’ve been reading the word “pseudo” for a long time, I never actually spoke the word in a sentence, out loud. Maybe it should have stayed that way.

But of course, words are meant to be spoken.

So here’s the origin of Zan’s first-time speaking the word “pseudo.”

When I was a sophomore in college, I took an English Literature class, which dove into classics like Beowulf and Chaucer (oddly enough, it’s exactly what I studied when I was sophomore in high school).  For one particular assignment, we had to give a creative presentation on something from the syllabus. My partner and close friend Pete and I decided to do some wacky presentation on an epic poem. In the poem, some mythical creature creates doubles of characters, like doppelgangers. Since we had to explain the story in a non-confusing matter, Pete thought it’d be best if we called the characters (for example): John and Pseudo-John, Mary and Pseudo-Mary. I’m pretty sure this was all in an e-mail conversation, and when we finally got together to discuss our plan, I was the first to speak the word “pseudo.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t know pseudo is pronounced “sue-doh.” So I kept saying “sway-doh.” Luckily, this was prior to the presentation, so Pete, laughingly, told me I was an idiot and how to correctly say the word. Since he didn’t trust me to not make a fool of the both of us during the presentation, he said the word each time it came up.

To this day, Pete will still make a point to say a sentence using “sway-doh.”

To dissect a fairly embarrassing situation, I’ve realized so much of my life has been “sway-doh-y.” I’ve spent so much time trying to figure out who I am. All of a sudden I’m a songwriter. I’ve somehow landed a job as a reporter. People are actually starting to think I know what I’m talking about.

I think what I’m trying to get at here is that I no longer want to be so pseudo after all. I’ve always had some issues here and there with decision making. I think it’s finally time to really put my foot down, stop trying to figure who I am and just be me. It seems dumb, simple even, but maybe a pseudo-lifestyle isn’t that much fun anymore. 

Yeah, I think I’ll try to start filtering out the pseudo in my life.

Oh, did I mention I’m a pseudo-vegetarian?

Why Global Festival 2012 was the Biggest Joke of the Year

Last week, a few friends and I took a train down to the city to join 60,000 other people at Central Park in this location’s first-ever Global Festival. On the train ride down, we discussed the concept of the festival: a free concert with some well-known musicians playing to support global issues. Which global issues? Well, after the concert ended, the only one I can name is polio. But I’ll get to that later.

Central Park was a mad house. I don’t often go to the city, but when I do I usually like to find my way to the park. Granted, it’s always busy, but I’ve never seen it this chaotic in my life. 

In typical festival manner, friends wanted to meet up with other friends so the group I had originally traveled down with split up. With just one friend next to me, we heard from her sister (who was already in the festival) that the audience was split up into sections called “pens” and if we didn’t get there soon, her pen was going to be filled. Once a pen was filled with about 1,000 little piggies, you couldn’t get in or out without leaving the event altogether. So, we rushed to find the right pen, scurrying through mobs of people.

When we got to the entrance’s security checkpoint, a sign listed all of the items you couldn’t bring inside. These included no food or drink. I’m sorry…what? We’re about to enter a day-to-evening-long festival and we can’t bring any food or drinks inside? The police officers had us dump out our waters, allowing us to hold onto our bottles, reassuring us that free water-filling stations would be inside each pen.

Yet when we got inside our pen, we learned that the water-filling stations were actually outside of the pens, and if we stepped out to fill our water, we couldn’t get back into the pen…or the festival. 

And believe me, I don’t write “pen” here lightly. To say it in the friendliest terms, each pen seemed like a mini concentration camp. The worst part about it was that each pen was separated by a gate and a small walkway in between, so although you could clearly see the other people in other pens, you couldn’t get to them. At one point, I saw a girl begging a police officer to let her into my pen because her fiance was there and she was by herself. He wouldn’t let her. I didn’t even bother to try to find the friends we had originally come down with.

The musicians were great, don’t get me wrong. Although I wouldn’t normally pay to see most of them alone (Band of Horses, The Black Keys, Foo Fighters — I would pay to see Neil Young with Crazy Horse), when it came to the “global” part of the festival, all of the acts couldn’t help but say how “amazing” the event was. I wish I had tallied how many times the word “amazing” was used. Yet, none of the musicians could explain why they thought the festival was so amazing. I think they were referring to the cause of the festival — but none of them had the decency to let me know what the festival’s purpose was. I still don’t know.

In between each act, a speaker came on stage to talk about some global issue. This included famous people, including Selena Gomez and a supermodel. Yet, unlike when the performers played, none of the speakers were projected over the many screens throughout the park. You couldn’t hear a single thing they were saying…or a single global issue. I had to read an article after the festival to learn that Jonas Salk’s son, Peter, came onstage and won some type of award. Jonas Freaking Salk’s son. That would have been a nice speech to hear.

The only global issue at hand that I am now currently aware of is that a couple of countries still have polio. Neil Young apparently had polio. He also has epilepsy, which made me nervous considering the fact that the lights on stage were flashing like a rave.

When the concert ended, everyone was (to my observance), grumpy, tired, hungry, and stoked they saw a free concert. Traveling through a tunnel in Central Park, I was surrounded by hundreds of my now-informed youths and elders chanting “USA! USA!” Wait…what? I thought everyone was supposed to be caring about the world, not chanting for America. I’m still confused about that.

Here’s my biggest complaint about the entire festival (haven’t you heard enough already?):

It was free. 

The thing is, so many people had iPhones, even iPads at the festival, taking photos of screens of the musicians. (That was weird, by the way. People taking photos of repeated images of people…talk about Fredric Jameson). If you can afford those things, I’m sure you can afford a ticket for a festival. Don’t get me wrong. I love free festivals. But, to me, it seemed odd for something like this.

Here’s what I’m getting at: What I believe I heard at the festival is that we need to stop poverty or help people or just pretty much save the world.

That sort of thing takes money.

How much money was spent to make 60,000 non-paying people globally informed? If the all-day long festival was $10, that’s $600,000 going to whatever freaking global cause they want. Or $1. If everyone paid $1 for the event, that’s still a whopping $60,000 to help whoever needs help.

I don’t care if they have large companies or sponsors who have enough money to save these people. The best way to help these issues is to yes, become informed, but more so, do something about them. Knowledge, with something like this, just isn’t enough. Either go to whatever third-world/developing country they were trying to talk about and try to physically help, or donate $1 of your allowance. 

I don’t know. The whole thing was just so strange to me.

But who am I to say anything. I’m just your average, globally-uninformed citizen.

NOTE: Numerous newspaper articles tell me the concert raised $1.3 billion through organizations. That is some impressive amount of money. Regardless, I stand by what I said and still think these newly informed citizens could have helped out, too. 

Why I Still Hate, But Chose To Love, Facebook

There are many reasons to hate Facebook. I could name them all, but I’d need all the gigabites in the Internet to do so. Does that make sense?

One of the main reasons I hate Facebook is that, like much of the new technological world has allowed, people now completely lack face-to-face social skills. Well, not all people, but many. Especially those that never grew up going outside to play after school. I’m pretty sure my generation was the last to do so. Anyway, people have begun to gain personalities via the Internet, but once they see eye to eye with another human being, they freeze. They completely lack any interpersonal skills. This bothers me. I would much rather have a conversation looking into your beautiful eyes than read your 30-character status.

No more ranting, that’s not what this first post was about. I’m looking at the positives here.

One summer, one of my good friends and I decided, “to hell with it!” and deleted our Facebooks. I was extremely excited, especially to have a friend go along with it. It’s like when people need a gym-buddy. I needed a Facebook-deleting-buddy. 

I didn’t have a Facebook for the remainder of the summer. I knew less about what my friends were doing (like what they had for lunch), but I spent a significantly less amount of time on the computer. It was great.

I found out a few months later that dear friend of mine got his Facebook the following morning after we deleted it. 

I was so mad at him, but still proud of myself. I wanted to keep it deleted but needed it for college, especially to keep in contact as a journalist (oh, don’t you worry, there will be posts soon enough about that).

The following summer, that good friend of mine died tragically.

It’s still one of the weirdest and hardest things I’ve ever had to go through, and I still don’t actually “deal” with it, whatever that means. 

Oddly enough, I found out about his death through Facebook. A friend’s sister told me someone had written “Rest in Peace” on a status. For a long time I was upset that I found out about his death through a status. I was one of his closest friends — I felt that I deserved a little more than finding out through a friend’s sister’s friend. 

None of that really matters, though.

It took me months until I could gather any sort of courage to look at his Facebook page. I couldn’t have been happier that he had only deleted it for that one night. Scrolling through photos, videos, even Facebook statuses he had written only days before his death still seems so strange to me. It somehow makes him alive again, in so many ways.

I hate Facebook…but somehow, it helps me mourn a good friend. Sure, I have physical photos of him, and a few items in my room that remind me only of him…but that immediacy of seeing his face gives me a couple more minutes with him when I need them.

At the end of any breakdowns, Facebook somehow brings me back to life.