Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Death In The Family

No one died.    I need to make that clear right up front.  But removing one's profile from a social networking site is a kind of death,  a social suicide of sorts that can be quite disconcerting to other participants.

It definitely was not the classic "Goodbye Cruel World", histrionic sort of exit.   There _was_ a  heated discussion, largely on the topic of Ayn Rand. (Which is not one of my favorite things to talk about;  honestly I found Atlas Shrugged more or less unreadable and usually parrot some bit of popular opinion when Ms. Rand and her writings come up-- although my friend Holly is expanding my perspective a bit where Rand is concerned.)  Except for once asking a clarifying question (which was completely ignored)  I didn't say anything,  just sat back and watched the two participants have at it.   It did seem to me that the man made a few comments that certainly could be construed as misogynistic and condescending.    The woman did an admirable job, it seemed to me,  of not rising to the bait.   A moderator did step in and asked both participants to cool it.   The moderator was at first ignored,  though the discussion did die down a short time later.   The man announced other obligations,  thanked the woman and then left.    Fifteen minutes later he was history.

I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one standing there feeling a bit shocked.   On social networking sites it is So easy to get to know a whole bunch of people;  so easy to fall into routines and come to count on people to be there, day after day.   So easy to miss the fragility and fleetingness of the connection,  which really can be irrevocably ended just by pressing a button marked  'Delete My Profile'.   Today,  as the #SocialEmpire group continues along, seemly without a blip,  I find myself thinking about other friends I've made and lost online over all these years.  Thinking how important and impactful so  many of those relationships have been.  How amazingly enduring at times, and how utterly fleeting.   Easy come.  Easy go.

Friday, April 8, 2011


I'm thinking this morning about the many different folders we tend to tuck people we meet into.   Over on Empire Avenue for instance,  most everyone has some set of criteria for whom they put into their "Newbie Folder".   And I doubt there are many human beings on earth who don't, at least to some degree keep an "Assholes Folder".     Categorization is useful certainly, and just as certainly necessary--  the thousands of books in your local library would be of very little use to you, if not for the librarians who carefully classify and categorize Everything and the scores of library pages who spend their days putting books back on the shelf and making sure everything is in order.

But most of us do not have master's degrees in library science and are at times ill-equipped to quickly categorize and classify the dozens or hundreds we meet over the course of a day, a month, a lifetime.    A book that deals extensively with seven different subjects, dozens of sub-topics, multiple authors and such can easily take a professional librarian hours of work to accurately classify and create a good bibliographic record.   Most people, in my experience are at least as complicated as the most complex book I have ever handled.   Yet more often than not,  we usually just stick people into one particular folder.   And the folder that we decide to stick someone in,  usually fairly soon after first meeting them,  will to a fairly large extent color and even direct all of our subsequent interactions with them.  

People who fit into a folder that is easily labeled (deaf, blind, gay, blue-eyed, big-breasted, well endowed, tall, short, fat, skinny, shy, assertive, crippled, amputated, injured, ill, smart, funny, etc. etc) often find it Very difficult to get folks to see them as anything But the folder they got filed in.   It doesn't really matter than in many cases the file highlights something the filer considers quite good.   It is not much easier to move beyond being listed in everyone's braniac file than in everyone's crippled file.    Somehow I doubt I will persuade the bulk of the people out there to rush out and sign up for Library school.   But I do ask that today you make a special effort to file anyone you meet into at least three different folders.  

That's my thought for the day.  Here's wishing you a fantastic Friday!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wednesday in the Empire

OR  Egg On My Face

Wednesday was a great day,  although a couple of times I ended up with egg all over my face.   I spent hours hanging out in the #SocialEmpire group on Facebook.   So many bright and interesting people to get to know.   @ryanjz is the leader of the pack.  He reminds me of a manager I worked for at Sprynet-- a brilliant mile a minute kind of guy who every now and then disagrees with me and challenges me a bit.  Ryan calls me on stuff sometimes and that's  good thing.   Every writer needs an editor who can see right through their bullshit.

In the afternoon I got to meet and spend some time chatting with Honor MacDonald (e)HMD.  A bit later I got to meet and chat with @starry_girl  and got to spend some time getting to know Fee Cooper (e)BOOTCOOT,    And belive me,  Fee is a hoot.    And what was so nice is that all of the participants are good at conversation and are also good sports.   At one point Paul Bowyer threw out some pretty provocative comments and there was a real and lively debate between actual liberals and actual conservatives.    I have previously written about my fear that people who disagree with each almost never associate with each other any more.   They get their hard core news from Red State or Daily Kos,  they watch Keith and Rachel or go for Glenn and the Fox crew.   They sometimes shoot flames at each other over the heads or other participants who sometimes try in vain to actually discuss the issues,  only to get ignored and drowned out in vitriol and rhetoric.   It was an amazing discussion and while there was sharp disagreement, there was never any hostility or rancor.  And as so often seems to be the case when human beings talk calmly with each other,   there were actually a few areas of agreement between the two sides.   Honestly it was  the highlight of my day. 

My otherwise great day was marred only by two incidences in which I was compelled to post with egg all over My face.    A bunch of us were just hanging out, shooting the breeze and I made an observation-- that while creating content on blogs is the primary value of the Empire Avenue game  (the activity which rewards the Most points), it sure doesn't seem to drive a lot of traffic to blogs.   Being the arrogant SOB I can be when I get real relaxed and start phoning it in,  I naturally expected an amen chorus.   But I distinctly noticed a slight chilling in the room when 2 two people rather stiffly told me that they had indeed visited this site.   I didn't exactly get reprimanded,  but it was kind of like the entire room was glaring at me-- ("are you really whining about your traffic as we try to discuss much more important things").     Ooops.   I had to sit down and stfu for awhile.

I also really enjoyed meeting and chatting privately with Holly Jahangiri-- who it turns out is a wonderfully gifted poet, with a wicked sense of humor.    You must go read her poem  How Can a Writer Not READ?  Holly is a fantastic writer and a wonderful down-to-earth lady  (Holly is definitely a lady) who is one of the nicest and most charming me people I've ever met.    After you've read her poem,  do buy a few shares in (e)HGJ.   You'll shoot yourself for missing out on the opportunity to invest in Holly at 60 when she is on the bestseller lists  and celebrating her membership in the 300 club.

And finally,  my second egg all over My face moment--  I got as little bit confused about all of these really great women I met today and tweeted about Holly's poems  with @starry_girl credited as the author.  Mea Culpa.   My straight men friends might look askance at my excuse that I just met so many lovely ladies today. But it's honestly the truth.   And the admonishment about not whining about traffic is well taken.    I long ago learned that the most  sure-fire way to draw in a whole bunch of people and get most of them to comment, is to write a post that talks first person about a whole bunch of people and then link to every last one of 'em.  Which brings me to.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my little memoir today.   And I hope that you are enjoying your time on The Ave as much as I have been enjoying mine.   Happy Thursday everybody!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Living In AET

The little clock at the lower right corner of my computer screen says it's 1am  (Pacific Daylight Savings Time).  But I find lately that regardless of what the clock says I am living these days  in Alan Erratic Time.    I've always been a night owl.  And since getting very caught up in Empire Avenue,  my hours are more irregular than ever.

I've been very fortunate to stumble into a great small community within EA (#SocialEmpire).  Honestly, for me it is a bit reminiscent  of my early days on Entrecard,  which initially attracted a very bright and engaging group.    Once again I am making a bunch of new friends and spending a lot of time online engaged in  good discussion with smart people.   It's really one of my favorite things to do, but it is actually fairly rare in my experience.    I am also of course recalling how @GrahamLangdon  drove Entrecard right over a cliff.   The cool kids decamped to CMF Ads-- which is great btw, but of course it was never the same.   What's funny is,  that even while I am greatly enjoying my participation and am certainly doing all I can to contribute to community creation,  a part of me is kind of waiting to see just whom it will turn out to play the Langdon role this time.  

The one thing I've learned about online communities that I believe is Always true is that the Only constant is Change.   They all have an incubation period,  hopefully followed by a start-phase,  then if successful to be followed by a prime phase, and then eventually a decline and inevitably irrelevance, relegated to the archives at the WayBack Machine.    I've seen it happen to Compu$erve,  and later to AOL,  as a customer and employee of the former and as former employee of the latter.    Today, look at Yahoo-- except for their fairly successful (though not wildly money-making) Flickr site it has clearly seen its day come and go.    Which is why I am pretty sure that after some (perhaps great and long) run Twitter, Facebook and even beloved Empire Avenue will fade away as all of the people worth interacting with there now have drifted to other sites and other people.    Some friendships and acquaintances will continue on, on other sites.  (I still try to keep up with my friends Ron and Bev from way back on Compu$erve in the late 1990's.)    And like a blogger who one day stops updating their site,  and you find you don't have an e-mail for them,  and they never post again, and one day a spammer takes over their URL and you wonder whatever happened to a person you had really considered a friend, even though you never met them face to face,  that disconnect will one day affect most of the new relationships I am so ardently cultivating today.

Such is life.   It is a bit sad, I suppose, but in my experience discovering great new sites and falling into great online communities is something that happens to me over and over again.   I was tweeting with some new friends about the nature of the universe about 1am last night.   Whether it was physics or philosophy,  I am not wise enough to say.   But it was fun.      I was going to link some of the company names above to the WayBack machine to give everyone a giggle,  but it's down now at the moment.   Sorry.   To all my new friends,  welcome to My world.   To all my old friends,  thanks for standing by me,  after all these years.   Hope it's a happy Wednesday for you.


And a PS to my buddy @scribdiva   I've been thinking about what you said.   I will e-mail you today.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The 80's are playing in my head

In my headphones, it is the 1980's all over again.   I remember a time when "radio" was something you heard more or less constantly,  where people in your town called DJ's  played what they thought you might like to hear. Boy has that changed.   There has been huge consolidation in broadcast radio,  and these days the "DJ's"  for your "local station" work from offices hundreds of miles away,  if they have not been replaced by computers.   Honestly,  I can't remember the last time I heard broadcast radio.

There are certainly a lot of options for listening to music in this world 2.0  era.   A zillion years ago I used to work for Rhapsody-- in a horrible outsource customer service job,  and I remember how promising  it seemed.   More recently I became a big fan of #Pandora radio.   I liked being able to create my own channels  (though I didn't much like that pushing the Thumbs up button on a song made that song likely to play in Any of my channels) and I listened to it enough and enjoyed it enough that I paid $35  for a one year subscription to premium-- no commercials and no limits on how much you can listen.   But since stumbling into and becoming very taken with @EmpireAvenue last week,  I find myself this morning back to listening to music on YouTube.

Before signing on for #Pandora I used to listen to music on You Tube often.   After awhile the ads got to me and I got tired of having to be my own DJ.    Who doesn't dream of that perfect DJ,  never seen but always heard who somehow always knows just what you need to hear right now.  However when I found that I could get points in EA for  "liking"  videos on YouTube,   I loaded it up and started making some playlists.   The suggested songs make it easy to create playlists (though I can't for the life of me figure out how one Plays one's playlists once they are made-- I would be embarrassed to tell you the kludge I went through to get listening this morning ;)   So how do you listen to your music?   Do you pay anything?   What do you like about it?   Do you recommend it to others?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

When I Was 21

When I was 21 years old I worked fulltime for a national chain bookstore in downtown New Orleans where the business district meets the French Quarter.     And after working for almost a year I had some vacation time accumulated,  and decided to take a trip and check out San Francisco.      Having heard an adage about reading fiction about the place one is traveling to,  I bought a copy of Armistead Maupin's very first Tales Of The City novel.   I read it on the plane to San Francisco.   I very thoroughly enjoyed The City.   Among many other things,  particularly hanging out in the gay parts of town and just marveling at the feelings of acceptance and belonging.

Needless to say,  I finished with the first book in the saga of Mark Anne Singleton's spur of the moment migration and visited  A Different Light bookstore in the Castro and purchased More Tales Of The City,  and continued reading about Mary Anne and Michael as I explored the city they called home.

It is with great sadness that I note that A Different Light bookstore is going out of business.    Most of us who care about books are well aware of the increasingly challenging environment that small independent bookstores have been facing for more than a decade now.  The news this year that e-books are increasingly making headway for both mainstream and indie book sellers  (authors like @JAKonrath who have abandoned mainstream publishers to exclusively self-publish in e-book format report vastly increased earnings and career satisfaction) along with the growing ubiquity of Kindles and Nooks,  as well as consumers now buying both new and used books online at prices local independents simply can not match.    Back when I was bookseller,  we constantly had dozens of customers each day come in to ask us to order a book for them.    That just doesn't happen any more.    Although I love bookstores and try to support them,  the fact is I think there will be very few small independent bookstores in the future.   Sadly,  they just are no longer economically viable.

And so today, I mourn not only A Different Light but all small, independent bookstores.    Like (author--codex) I believe that bound and printed books will continue to be published and used for most of my lifetime. But the days of being able to physically browse a large selection of eclectically chosen books are numbered.   And I, for one, will miss them.

This post includes information reported in this article
Iconic Castro Bookstore  Going Out Of Business

Coffee and Chicory

One of the thing's I've missed most since moving away from New Orleans is the food.   Louisiana cooking really is a huge gift and I can't count the times I've longed for an oyster po' boy,  a bowl of gubo or a big plate of crayfish etoufee.   One tiny element of the food I grew up with that I get to continue today is coffee and chicory.    Ron found that he can order the Community Coffee & Chicory from New Orleans via Amazon and we both love drinking it every day.   (We signed up for an  auto-order plan-- they send it automatically every three months-- and save 10%.    It's particularly nice on a Sunday morning to sit and drink a cup of real New Orleans coffee.

The chicory part is odd, I know.   On its own I don't care for chicory at all,  but during the war when they had to conserve coffee,  New Orleanians began blending chicory into the ground coffee to stretch it.   And in New Orleans the flavor caught on and New Orleanians drink their coffee with chicory  to this day.    It got me to thinking about relationships, oddly.     I have friends whom I love dearly that have a definite bitter-ish edge.   It doesn't make me love them any less.   But I sometimes don't know how to deal with it.    And that frustrates me, sometimes.   Sometimes people are implacable.   It often seems to bring out in me a need to placate them.    I suspect it is true we often create our own obstacles.