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Wildly Exaggerated: November 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"You're Never Alone With a Phone"

Thus spake Mark Corrigan on an episode of Peep Show.  Nine times out of ten, I agree with Mark's pithy little phrases, but this time, he's way way WAY off. In my experience, he would've been better off saying something like "only the phone-ly" or "all by my cell-f". (Give me a break, it's late.)

I remember when text messaging first caught on. I bought myself an adorable little Sony Ericsson phone. It was pricey (compared to my previous phones, all of which had been free), but I didn't care because it was an investment. This wasn't just a phone! This was THE phone! The phone that would someday ring with the call that would change my life! My soulmate would call me on this phone! A major record label would call to offer me a contract on this phone! It had to be good, because it was going to be the conduit for SO MUCH amazing, life-changing, wonderful information! And when you factor in text messages, it would also be the hub of my incredibly active social life, with friends always calling and texting, wanting to hang out with me.

Yessir. I had high hopes for that phone.

In reality, of course, the only guy who called me on that phone turned out to be a douche. Not a single record label, major or otherwise, rang me up. I had so few friends that eventually I signed up for AT&T's daily horoscope service just to see what it was like to receive a text. Times were hard. The funny thing is that my life wasn't any different than it had been before; it sucked exactly as much as - but no more than - it had previously sucked. I had the same friends, did the same things. But somehow my previously satisfactory life had become an empty shell of an existence, and I had become a boring, useless pile of crap.

Madison Avenue bears some of the blame for this, of course. I mean, cell phone commercials are ridiculous, and they always have been. Invariably there's some model-handsome guy, standing in the middle of some HUGELY trendy city (usually Tokyo), at night, under a bunch of crazy neon lights. The gorgeous woman he's with moves a few feet away to pose so he can take a picture of her with friendly siberian tiger that has just finished crossing the street. Then the three of them decide they could really go for some sushi, so he looks up restaurant ratings and directions on his phone, but while he's doing that five people call and two leave voicemails and he gets twenty-five text messages from movie stars and one of the voicemails is from his boss so he has to pause for five seconds to design an entire Keynote presentation on his phone which he then sends back to the office in New York just in time for the alarm which tells him it's time for him and his girlfriend to board their private Concorde where he sits and listens to music that he downloaded to the phone while setting a new high score for Angry Birds.


It's hard to see a commercial where a phone does all of that only to buy one for yourself and watch it sit, silent and motionless, on your bedside table for four years. Every second that phone does not spend ringing and vibrating and bursting with incoming messages is a moment it sits in silent dismay, judging you and your entire social life to be tremendously inadequate. There are times when you could swear you hear it doing a big exaggerated sigh. I wish I could've made the Real Life Sony Ericsson phone ad. It would've consisted of me (then an unemployed 20-something in her parents' basement), sitting in bed next to an open bag of Cheetos watching Adult Swim all night long, occasionally picking up the phone, looking at it, then putting it back down. Cue single, lonely tear.

I hated those feelings of inadequacy, but today I'm grateful for them. If I hadn't spent so many lonely nights trying to wipe my salty orange thumbprints off that phone's keyboard, I would never have survived the endless parade of horrors that the iPhone has brought into my life.

I got my iPhone in February of 2010. I had been dumped almost exactly a month before, so naturally I was in a hyper-optimistic phase, meaning I shelled out for the best model they had at the time. Why? Because this was the phone that would someday ring with the call that would change my life! My soulmate would call me on this phone! A major record label would call to offer me a contract on this phone! It had to be good, because it was going to be the conduit for SO MUCH amazing, life-changing, wonderful information!

Granted, I have my own place now. And I have far more friends than I had back in the day. But just as I have managed to carve out something like a life for myself, the advances in phone technology have stayed one step ahead of my feeble attempts at personhood, and managed to leave me once again wishing the stupid thing had never been invented. The phone still doesn't ring, except when I owe the Red Cross a pint of blood. I do get the occasional text, but I'm not exactly struggling to keep pace with all the correspondence. And now I am not only being judged as boring and inadequate by every call and text I DON'T receive, but I'm also being pointedly ignored by four email accounts, the whole of Facebook, most of Twitter, the better part of G+, and, apparently, Bump. The iPhone sits at my side, day in, day out, staring me down and saying, "There is no one - IN THE WORLD - who wants to speak to you. No one has seen something funny that made them think of you. No one wants to tell you something. No one wants to declare their undying love. No one even wants to send you a spam email."

As if this weren't bad enough, I finally got talked into subjecting myself to The Final Insult tonight: I got the Find My Friends app, or as I like to call it, "DELETE THIS APP IMMEDIATELY". Here's how it works:
1. You request to follow your friend.
2. Assuming your friend grants your request, they may also request to follow you.
3. This is not like "following" on Facebook or Twitter; whoever you allow into your little circle of friends will have access to your phone's exact GPS location at all times, unless you disable the feature.
4. When you look up your friend's location, Find My Friends shows you a little Google Map with a dot indicating his or her position. It also offers you the option to message the friend in question or get directions to where they are. Curiously, it does not provide a one-click connection to a suicide hotline. That's a pretty massive oversight, if you ask me.

My initial concern was that this was a little too invasive, but you can stop the phone from transmitting pretty easily, so I figured what the heck! I hadn't counted on the real evil here, and it's not stalking. Stalking is the least of your problems with this app. The problem is that now my phone is not only capable of judging me in its silence, but it can also actively tell me what a total reject I am. See, once I installed the app and hooked up with a few friends, I played around with checking their locations to see how specific the thing could be (answer: VERY SPECIFIC). But then I said the most fateful words I've said in weeks: "Hm. I wonder what [name] is doing at [place]. Weird." I say these words were fateful because they piqued my curiosity and led me to check in again about thirty minutes later, only to find that [name] had subsequently gone to another [place], this one even more fun and exciting than the last! I should point out that by this time (10:30) I was already snuggled up in bed with so much anti-aging cream on my face I'm surprised all the wine in my stomach didn't transform back into grapes. As [name] continued his or her tireless fluttering from one awesome destination to another, I became increasingly depressed at my depressingly depressing existence. Even if it had occurred to me to go somewhere fun at 10:30 on a Monday night, I wouldn't have been able to because I have work in the morning! And even if I hadn't had work in the morning, who would've gone with me? Probably one of the many people who are always blowing up my phone to hang out. OH WAIT.

And as the sheer magnitude of my patheticism settled on my shoulders with a great big WHUMP, I was further alarmed to realize that someday - mark my words - I am going to open that damn app to find that a BUNCH of my friends are all out doing something fun together...without me. Sigh.

I yearn for the days when I could've sat blissfully in bed at 10:30 on a Monday night feeling smug about how incredibly youthful my Blood of Virgins Anti-Aging Cream would make me look, enjoying my soft, warm mattress, feeling perfectly OK with myself and my life. I wish I could go back to a time when I could be the most boring person in my entire circle of friends without having to be constantly reminded of that fact. But no. I'm stuck in the 21st century, stuck with my iPhone, and stuck with a 24-hour news stream that simply says "NO ONE WANTS TO TALK TO YOU". At least until they invent an iPhone my cat can use.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

CRUSHED: A Practical Guide

I have a confession to make: I'm a real person. I have feelings and relationships, I do Yoga...I know, it shatters your whole vision of me. I'll give you a minute. Ready to continue? OK.

As a person with feelings, I have, on occasion, burdened other people with my feelings and/or had the feelings of others foisted upon me. It happens to the best of us. So yeah, I DID click on the link to a spiritual self-help article about dealing with unrequited love. You wanna make it into a whole thing?

This is a serious subject, of course - nobody likes having their heart broken - so it should be treated with respect and dignity. I get that. On the other hand, though, sometimes the best advice isn't necessarily the most practical advice. I mean, people have been telling me to "love myself" for years. It's easier said than done, and when you're sitting on your couch in a pile of discarded Kleenex, you need something a little stronger. So while I certainly don't have anything against that kind of advice, and think it's a wonderful long-term plan, I'd like to offer you more immediate relief. Think of it as the difference between getting physical therapy for an injury (long-term), or taking a Vicodin (HELL YEAH!). And so, without further ado, here are 10 steps you can take to turn your heart-splitting anguish into a mind-numbing stupor from which you can safely emerge at such time as the danger has passed.

1. Go to Disney World. Trust me on this. You will see people a billion times uglier, meaner, ruder, more selfish, smellier, fatter, more acne-ridden, and just generally more revolting that you will ever, ever be. That in itself probably won't make you feel better, but what WILL make you feel better is the fact that all of these people are loved. Virtually all of them will be partnered up in some way, and many of them will also have children who love them dearly. No matter how crappy you feel about yourself in this moment, the message of the hordes of Disney World attendees is that you CAN find someone to love you. As my mother says, "There's a lid for every pot". As I like to say, "If you wait long enough, you'll eventually find someone as desperately lonely as you!"

2. Get really drunk and call the object of your affections to declare (or reiterate) your love. This is an excellent idea because when you sober up, you can know with ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that nothing can EVER happen between the two of you because you will be far too busy trying to convince the federal government to let you into the Witness Protection Program. I speak from experience on this one. When they ask what murder you witnessed, you can't just say "The murder OF MY DIGNITY!!!!" No dice.

3. Write embarrassingly gut-wrenching poems about your situation and post them as your Facebook status. Here's an example to get you started:
How can you say you don't know me?
I gave you my heart
My soul
And you ripped them both out
And gnashed them between your incisors
You stupid jerk
I hope you get gangrene of the rectum
Yikes. You might think this serves no positive purpose, but once again, appearances prove to be deceiving! I myself have never taken the "horrifically wince-inducing Facebook poetry" approach, but I've seen other people do it ad infinitum and frankly, it's hilarious. If you're gonna sit around and mope, you could at least try to bring some joy to someone else's life; that's all I'm saying. Oh - and should you post that poem and have someone mistake it for song lyrics or an excerpt from a more famous poet, simply re-post it, adding your name and the date at the bottom. I mean, c'mon - who WOULDN'T want credit for that work of genius?

4. Attack the source. Your heart is killing you, right? I mean, the pain is so terrible - it physically hurts to be so unloved. Solution? Deep fry everything, eat salt by the spoonful, and adopt the motto: "It isn't dinner without a dozen Krispy Kremes!" This will definitely show your heart who's boss, and that you can stop it in its slimy little tracks whenever you so choose! See? Empowering.

5. Find someone new. This is the oldest trick in the book, I know, but you can't argue with results! The best way to get over someone is to find someone new to love! I mean, sure, your heart won't really be in it, and you'll spend all your time comparing the new person to your old flame. The new guy will be great on paper, but how could he hope to match the way your beloved used to smile? Or the nervous laughter you could elicit in the early days of your flirtation with no more than a knowing glance? But if you just give someone else a chance, you'll see that NO ONE ON EARTH CAN HOPE TO MEASURE UP TO THE LOVE YOU'VE LOST OH GOD WHY WON'T YOU LOVE ME I GAVE YOU EVERYTHIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNGGGGG!
Abort! Abort! This one's a bad idea! What's #6? QUICKLY QUICKLY!

6. Remember what I said earlier about Vicodin? There's nothing wrong with literal interpretations. I'm just sayin'.

7. Watch Wicked Attraction. It's on Netflix Watch Instantly right now. I've been watching this for weeks, and I can't recommend it highly enough. It's just your typical true-story-of-ghastly-crime series, but what makes it different is that it's always about two or more people working together to torture/rape/kill innocent victims. Usually these two or more people are involved romantically, and usually there's a point where the forensic psychiatrist says "There were no prior indications that Person A would end up being a violent killer - no previous convictions, no terrible childhood, no mental problems. It's just that s/he loved Person B SO MUCH and wanted to please them..." The takeaway here is that if you love someone, you might end up accidentally becoming a serial killer! I KNOW, RIGHT?!?! Being single has its perks, y'all. My bed might be cold. My back might be itchy. I might be a cold, lonely, bitter spinster. But I'm no murderer.

8. Participate in NaNoWriMo. I am! It's one of the reasons I've been so conspicuously absent lately, actually. The other reason being a hypothetical boy issue that may or may not have distracted me up until it inspired me to write this post. But that's as may be. My point is that NaNoWriMo is a wonderful outlet - like a journal, but more awesome. In my case, the second I felt an infatuation coming on, I wrote this alleged boy into my story as THE Good Guy of the tale. Once I realized he didn't care if I lived or died, I blew his character up in a massive explosion that left his limbs strewn around a cesspool! See? Empowering.

9. Answer calls from telemarketers. Ordinarily I would advise against this - who wants to talk to those losers? But let's face it: the broken-hearted need someone to talk to, and your friends are only going to listen to the same crap a few hundred times before they change their numbers, move away, and/or get a restraining order. If other people are going to call you, why not make good use of that?

10. Win the lottery, lose 40 pounds, and become a Victoria's Secret model. I haven't tried this one myself yet, but I'm pretty sure it'd work.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I Refuse to Not Be Apprehensive About the As-Yet Unmade Changes to Facebook

I know what you're thinking: "Another social media post?!?!" Well, YES, in fact. It is another social media post. Thanks for asking!

Part the First: I am Allowed to be Displeased

When f8 happened in late September, all the super hip in-the-knowsters popped up on Facebook, Twitter, G+...everywhere saying the same thing: "Uh-oh! They're making changes to Facebook! All the whiny ignoramii are going to complain! It's a FREE service! You don't get to complain about a FREE service!"

Pardon my French, but you're talking out your organic gluten-free naturally-sweetened with agave bean sprout cookie hole, you accursed hipster! Put on your argument-parsing skinnyjeans, cuz this just got real.

Point #1: Facebook makes changes/people complain.
Well, quite. People don't like change. It's just a fact. How would you feel if Bon Iver announced they were taking Britney Spears on as lead singer and going in a "new direction"? Pret-ty unhappy, I should guess. Still, congratulations on making a massively unoriginal observation about one of the most basic aspects of human nature.

Point #2: You can't complain about a free service.
Really? Because WELCOME TO AMERICA. I can complain about whatever the I want, and you can't stop me! Since when can we not complain about anything we didn't pay for? Have you ever heard of PBS? The selection of books at the local library? Or "the weather"? We're professional complainers and we're not about to stop now. More to the point, though, we do pay for Facebook with our personal data. And that is why we are allowed to raise holy hell about "real-time apps".

Part the Second: Go Ahead, Tell Me EVERYTHING.

Since I started blogging, I've come to realize that my personal interest in maintaining a modicum of privacy makes me unusual, at least among bloggers. I try to write things that are funny and true (insofar as my opinion is true-ly my opinion), but I'm never going to use this space to tell you allllllll about my job, or my personal relationships, or my bodily functions. And yet I have found that other (often more successful) bloggers make regular post-fodder of the sordid details of their sex lives, the minute-by-minute report of their run on a treadmill(!), or the "inside story" of what went on at the widget factory today. But even those people could easily be lying through their teeth. The woman who blogs anonymously about her filthy dirty sex with a string of rich, gorgeous men may very well be a fat man in his mother's basement. That treadmill run may never have taken place! And NOBODY KNOWS WHAT A WIDGET IS*!

*As it happens, this statement is not true after all

But that's the beauty of the internet - you can control your own brand! Put forth the image you want to portray! As long as you aren't doing so in a private chatroom with an underage correspondent, no harm no foul. But Facebook is about to DESTROY IT.

Let's say your Facebook profile currently looks like this:

Billy Bob McLaughlin
Interested in:
Music, Movies, Reading, Rock Climbing, Gaming, Car Repair
Favorite Books:
The Bible, Anything by Stephen King, Catch-22, Watership Down, Bridges of Madison County
Favorite Movies:
The Help, Forrest Gump, Das Boot, Rudy, Die Hard, Transformers
Favorite Music:
Radiohead, Bon Iver, The Shins, Coldplay, Kings of Convenience, James Taylor
Inspired By:
Jesus, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama

C'mon, that's a pretty well-tailored profile. It's undersood that this is not a comprehensive list of EVERY little bit of entertainment you've ever consumed and/or enjoyed, but you've been allowed to curate it so that it reflects a certain image of you. And there's nothing wrong with that! This profile doesn't tell me everything there is to know about you, but it tells me that you're culturally literate, have a variety of interests, and are basically a normal person.

But with the new breed of "real-time apps", these days are gone. Now you won't just tell us what you want us to think you like; we're going to be privy to EXACTLY what you choose to do with your time, all the time. Like so:

Billy Bob McLaughlin
Interested in:
Netflix, 1:15pm:
Billy Bob just watched 5 minutes of "Ho-Down in Hooter Hollow"

Kindle, 1:20pm:
Billy Bob is reading Vehicle Maintenance for Dummies

Kindle, 1:25pm:
Billy Bob just highlighted the following passage in Vehicle Maintenance for Dummies: "You have to manually retract the caliper piston" and added the following notation: "?!?!?!?"

Spotify, 2:00pm:
Billy Bob is listening to "You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman)"

Amazon, 2:05pm:
Billy Bob has just purchased 2 tubes of NARS lipstick and a blonde wig

Netflix, 2:30pm:
Billy Bob just watched the same 5 minutes of "Ho-Down in Hooter Hollow"

Kindle, 2:35pm:
Billy Bob just downloaded a sample chapter of "How to Tell if You're Addicted to Porn"

Netflix, 2:37pm:
Billy Bob just watched 5 minutes of "Ho-Down in Hooter Hollow"

Foursquare, 3:15pm:
Billy Bob arrived for his 3:30pm appointment at North Fulton Hemorrhoid Specialists and unlocked a $5 coupon for his next Egregious Hemorrhoid Treatment!

Wells Fargo, 3:57pm:
Billy Bob has just overdrawn his checking account while attempting to pay a $450 charge at North Fulton Hemorrhoid Specialists :(, 4:06pm:
Billy Bob used Amazon's new medical subscription service to arrange monthly delivery of a case of Preparation-H direct to his door!

Netflix, 4:15pm:
Billy Bob just watched 5 minutes of "Ho-Down in Hooter Hollow". AGAIN.

You take my point. There's nothing wrong with sharing as long as it's optional; linking other sites/apps to Facebook (by doing something as seemingly innocuous as clicking "Use Facebook to log in!") and letting them automatically broadcast my life from that moment forward is...not OK.

And lastly, a note to everyone who will inevitably say that Billy Bob should simply stop doing things he doesn't want other people to know about, I say this: If the choice is "stop watching porn" or "stop using Facebook", which option do you think will be most popular? Exactly.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Salty Tale of Redbeard The Drunk Irish Pirate

Last Friday, I popped into my friendly local liquor store to acquire more Kopparberg (side note: EVERYBODY IN ATLANTA PLEASE GO BUY LOTS AND LOTS OF KOPPARBERG IMMEDIATELY SO MORE PLACES WILL STOCK MORE OF IT). I bought every bottle they had (4). But since it was Friday, and since I had nowhere to be, and since it was a rainy evening, I decided to dilly dally a bit and wander the aisles marvelling at the incredible variety of revolting crap people are willing to put in their faces. As I did so, a group of men in their 20s came into the store. These men definitely did NOT need any more alcohol than they'd already had, a fact that first became apparent when they went straight to the [non-alcoholic] mixers section and proceeded to get very confused that there didn't seem to be any alcohol in the bottles in their immediate vicinity.
Oh dear.
Then the argument started.
Drunk Guy A chose this random moment to loudly declare his Irish lineage. Drunk Guy B cleverly wrong-footed him with a witty retort ("You're not Irish, asshole"). Naturally, Drunk Guy A was infuriated by this assault on both his integrity and his heritage, but as these are sadly not duelling times (if only!), he did the only thing he could do: he demonstrated his Irishness to everyone in the liquor store...
"I am so! This jerk doesn't believe I'm Irish! I am Irish! [pause] YARRRR!!!"
I guess it just goes to show my own cultural ignorance that I think of pirates as having an English accent, and can't actually name any Irish pirates off the top of my head. For shame! According to Wikipedia, there were at least four Irish pirates! Meanwhile, this guy, who has proven his Irishness beyond any shadow of a doubt by way of his eerily accurate Irish accent (just adding "YARRR!" at the end of every other sentence), possesses a depth of understanding of Irish culture and history to which most of us non-Irish people can only aspire. He probably speaks fluent Gaeilge too!
I learned something that night. Thanks, Incontrovertibly of Irish Descent Guy.

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