How every episode of a show not set in Los Angeles will, at some point, have an episode in Los Angeles where everything will be about how glamorous LA is, filled with overwhelmingly gorgeous assholes who will at first invite you to their magical world filled with pools and tanning and naked chicks only to then alienate you and disgust you with their shallow behavior.
It’s like they live here
Yes, I’m a glutton for punishment. I’m back to attempting to watch Mad Men. It’s hard, seeing as how the plotlines are about as deep as your average soap opera and 99% of the characters are fucking INSUFFERABLE. Speaking of, it’s list time!!!
Don Draper - whiny, weepy, slow
Betty Draper - stupid, petty, boring
Peter Campbell - pathetic, creepy, asshat
Trudy Campbell - obnoxious, weak, vomit-inducing
Roger Sterling - old, lascivious, whoremonger
Joan Holloway - gossipy, fucks ugly dudes, but boner inducing
Peggy Olson - boring, timid, only character one can even feasibly relate to
Bert Cooper - shoes off, gap toothed, sage, neat-o haircut
You’re the only character a girl can like, Bert.
It’s not like “girl” is pejorative, at all, but sometimes it feels like it is because of The World. I mean, we say “girl” and “girls” constantly and for everything but it’s not like we say “boy” outside of cutely sexualized contexts. (If a guy wrote this column it would be a) a bad idea and b) called The Man Report or something similarly painful.) I don’t care about the semantics of “girl,” anyway, because being allowed to say “fag” and “retard” is important to me as a person who knows words and can be a dick without being a dick, but there is, for suresies, a particular difference between what we mean by “girl,” even adult girls, and what we mean by “women.”
This presents a problem, I guess, that swirls quietly and low to the ground in the “girl community.” (That’s a joke about racism.) A while ago my friend wrote a thing about how she is a “failure as a woman” because she doesn’t know how to bake, and someone on Twitter said that Girl News makes her feel like she’s not good at being a woman. What!?
I thought we were clear on the idea that you’re not good or bad at being a woman or a man if you do or do not know how to do things or do or do not like things or do or do not… anything at all. I mean, statistically you’re probably a bad person, but there’s no checklist that makes a successful woman or a man or an inbetweenie. Right? But also, there is this change, a good one, that happens in between maxing out your twenties and being rude to people in the grocery store lineup. (“I am a woman! A wo-man!” Say it while gesturing with a skinny cigarette.) Before, I did a thing on what to do in your twenties; this is what to do after that. If you find lists (that diminish and undermine the human experience) to be a fun time, print this out and fold it up and put it in your wallet (which should be huge and made of soft leather).
You can still be a stinging cunt all the time, if that’s your game. But as a woman it’s like “I want to be a stinging cunt,” not “I’m a stinging cunt because I’m confused about who I am and also I have seppuku-level PMS that I don’t understand and I don’t respect other people.” It’s like, there’s this perfect line that lives forever in my mind-grapes even though I forget where it’s from, where one angry businessperson says to another: “If you’re going to be a cutthroat person, be a cutthroat person.” I love that! Be what/who/however you want, as long as you do it like you mean it.
RUNNING IN HIGH HEELS
Mean it. Not walking in heels (amateur), and not running in one-inch fake-out shoes: You need to know how to run in heels, like a spy. I don’t care if you think heels are dumb; they make your legs and ass look perfect. There are some laws that are higher than rationality and Converse. Heels only work right if you can operate them while you chase down a taxi or the guy who pulled his ugly dink out at you on the street corner. Let it be known that it’s easier to run wearing thin, ice-pick heels than a platform dealie.
ENJOY A BLOWJOB
Guuuuuuess what? There is a period between age 25 and whenever your marriage starts to crumble where obligation blow jobs don’t exist! I welcome you to this holy land of adulthood where every single sexual activity starts to become about the actual pleasure of it, not about having to do it or because you think you should do it or something like that. When you’re in this Green Zone and also have done more than a hundred you’ll understand why a scrappy junta (your wet mouth and little hands) can end up ruling a nation (a whole, giant man and all of his faculties).
Oh yeah also sometime after age 28 or so your orgasms are going to get way more… viscous. The experience, I mean, not your actual come-fluid. (Women don’t say or write “cum,” you feel me? Like, spelling.)
FIGURE YOUR SHIT OUT WITH YOUR PARENTS
If you’re not in therapy, here is what I have to say to you: “………..”. Which is nothing, because I don’t associate with psychopaths.
Grown-ass women don’t have mom or dad drama, so here are your options: Be totally obsessed with them because the sins of your youth and their parenting don’t matter when Death is somewhat visible; have a respectful but distant relationship; never see or speak to them outside of death-events. Being all “nuuuuuuwaaaaah” about your folks (calling them “folks,” which I picked up from my brother, is the best, too) is not for women, or even girls generally: it’s for teenagers (OH, DISSSSSS!)
I have a preetttttyyy complicated relationship with my mom, because she grew up in a small town, became a nurse, and is a doyenne of WASPy manners, and she mostly enjoys church, Aquafit and The Help, and I was/am a black-haired, blue-eyed hell-wolf-beast that emerged only to provide torture and distress for like 25 years. And yet! Now we are be-frys, because I’m a fucking adult. It’s very “Phew.”
You have to throw out those busted, worn-down flats with a hole and you have to throw out that fucking Jansport with the Gwen Stefani print and you have to get some functional, grown-ass life things and you have to just stop pretending that you’re above newness, cleanliness, the tropes of public womanhood. You’re not.
This is the most boring and the most true, so I’ve kind of hidden it in the middle here. Maybe the ultimate test of whether or not you’ve slid into lady home plate is when you stop caring about the infinitesimal actions and reactions of a guy you like—really: Stop. Caring. If you’re going “What does this meeeean?” about a communiqué or lack of communiqué from a dude then you’re still puffing around the bases. (I hate this metaphor so much.) The things that matter in your dealings with guys are what happens when you are physically together, not the uneven, unreal fraughtery of emails, texts, @s, posts, etc. If you don’t know this already… know it. OK, over.
A woman is not afraid to make a phone call and ask for something she needs. It’s not fair to want boys to be Men if you can’t get your fucking driver’s license renewed or make a reservation or whatever.
When you get old and confident it’s so great because you do whatever the shit you want, like rich old white men. Seriously? Let rich old white men be your Spirit Animals when it comes to pursuing only and all of what amuses you. Like, usually I defer completely to my big sister, but I’m 30 now, and last week while I was being driven to lunch in her military SUV, I downloaded and played “Just a Friend” on my iPhone even though she was like “Shut uuuuup” because I wanted to sing it to my little nephew in the backseat. Nothing is better than doing those tiny things that you want to do. Nothing. Fuck with the clearly stupid coffee guy for a little too long, make fun of your boss (he’ll love it), sexy-dance with feral eyes at your gay hair stylist. Nothing is embarrassing when you are a grown-up. Nothing!
DON’T DATE GUYS BECAUSE THEY DRESS COOL
Fantastic tattoos and the correct denim and a t-shirt fit that makes your pussy cry doesn’t mean he can or will do anything at all in the direction of supporting you. Sowwy!
DOING THINGS LITERALLY EVERY SECOND
I don’t know exactly when it happens, but there’s a switch between girldom and womanhood where your life takes on the qualities of a take-out coffee (overfull; too hot; expensive: BETTER METAPHOR, RIGHT? I JUST MADE IT UP!) and you will be busy or should be busy all of the time. What is, by necessity, not done—which will include friends not seen or even really thought about; work not pursued; entire swaths of music and art and literature that you wholeheartedly care about not experienced—will remain undone.
The up-slash-downside of this is that there’s no time to be all George-Michael-in-Arrested-Development-as-sad-Charlie Brown about anything. It feels really good to play with marshmallows in bed for six hours but eventually your nerves will be Jiffy-Popping to go do something productive.
Related to the above: There will be an era, once you’re grown-up, of wanting to reject the social world. Like, it’s definitely true that drunk people are annoying—on Halloween I started crying like a cartoon baby when I was in the middle of a thick crowd of people—and it’s definitely true that most of the time, the same conversations/jokes/outcomes happen on a three-hour loop, and it’s definitely, definitely true that you should be able to stay home by yourself and find it as entertaining and enriching as going out…. But.
Here’s why that’s dumb: The only good reasons to stay in are to watch TV and get a good sleep, both of which are agenda items I vote “yay” on. Howevs, there are diminishing returns with both, which means that you can’t watch TV and sleep endlessly and get comfier and relaxeder, and happier, at all. After two hours of watching TV and nine hours of sleep, you’re just a puffy, cranky zombie.
Sometimes I stay in so I can give myself a facial (ha, ha) and touch my hair a lot, but then it’ll be one o’clock in the morning and I’m like “Whoever I’m doing this for is out at a bar with other girls right now.” OOPSIES! Also, staying in as a personal culture is just a protective glass wall that anyone can see right through and knows is about late-onset fear and self-loathing and whatever. So maybe going into this era of in-ness and then coming out of it with better outfits and more to say has something to do with womanhood. ???
BASIC SURVIVAL SKILLS
“I don’t know how to cook!” is not cute. Every single grungy-butt punk kid grows up into a vegan master chef now. Fucking figure it out. I’m so deeply illogical and mentally abstract that I can barely play checkers but I can definitely make at least three different, medium-impressive meals that will keep me from crying on the kitchen floor and feeding myself individual chickpeas for dinner.
I don’t mean swagger like swag like what rugrats have been saying this year (for slang it’s not even good! Too literal!) but I mean like swagger like swagger like how you feel when you kind of know who you are and say “No” a lot and have so much to do that doing anything other than what you want to do is absurd and hilarious.
Talking to the Future Humans is a column in which we speak to the people who have shaped, are shaping, or are trying to shape the future—or at least ideas about the future. It is the mindchild of Kevin Holmes, Managing Editor for The Creators Project.
Amber Case is like the Socrates of digital natives. She calls herself a cyborg anthropologist, which in human talk means she studies the relationship between man and machine.
Most of us walk around with small computers in our pockets. We’re able to access emails, talk to friends, and make with the mega-lulz whenever we wish. Because of this, Case considers us low-tech cyborgs, emotionally tied to our technology and digital networks whether we like to think so or not.
Our modern lives take place interacting with the human and non-human, using one as an interface to connect with the other. We’re able to instantly access entertainment or friends via our smartphones and other devices. Just try spending a day not looking at Twitter or Facebook or going online. It’s bloody hard. Case calls this phenomenon the “technosocial womb.” Her work concerns understanding this relationship, it’s evolution, and how it defines us and our culture.
To help us understand all this complexity Case has a new book out called An Illustrated Dictionary of Cyborg Anthropolgy, so idiots like myself can look at the pretty pictures and try to grapple with the concepts she peers into the future and brings back for us to comprehend.
Here’s what she had to say about where we’re heading, augmented reality bullying, looking after your dead parents’ avatars, funerals for tape recorders, and her favorite fictional cyborg.
VICE: What would be the worst-case scenario if our digital tools consume our lives and we lose our ability to self-reflect—or, at least, sit in a room for 10 minutes without checking Facebook on our phones?
Amber Case: No matter what era of history we live in, there are always going to be people who don’t take time to self reflect or build things. Some people like to consume, and a very small percentage like to create. I think the worst-case scenario is when the people who are intent on creating, and are naturally prone to create, get addicted to endless consumption, because consumption has been made so much easier than creation. I find myself falling into this trap easily.
Most of my day is now consuming. I’m addicted to interfaces and no longer look at a computer as a tool, but a source of fulfilling addictions. Repeatedly clicking the email button to check mail. Repeatedly checking Hacker News and Reddit and Twitter to see if any replies have come in. And if new items have come in, not replying but just clicking again and again.
Yeah, the clicking thing is worrying.
The psychology of persistently checking email again and again is called “intermittent reinforcement.” It came out of Skinnerian experiments that found that rats that got irregular rewards from food-bar-pushing were far more driven to compulsively push the bar.
That’s BF Skinner who studied behavioral patterns in living things, right? And you’re right, the clicking thing is a bit like food-bar-pushing. We’re essentially human rats hungery for digital snacks.
If all our email arrived in your mailbox once a day, we’d revolve around checking for mail once a day. Instead, email can appear at anytime, day or night. This intermittent reinforcement causes an increase in information addiction as people check their mail and social network inboxes more frequently.
We’ve created a monster.
Games can also contain compulsion loops revolving around virtual characters with intermittent actions and effects. The structure and obligations of Farmville are very similar to those of the Tamagotchi. Many mechanics involve caring for needy animals, crops, and plots of land.
We’ve become slack with what we consume, happy to chow down on figurative Big Macs (Bit Macs?) only to be hungry moments later.
The promise of fast food is that it requires minimal effort and time to order, receive and consume. Instead of getting to grips with the info, we just take it. Humans have stomachs that tell them when they are full, but the human brain did not evolve with that feeling. One must be mindful of intake and the effect it has on one’s mental processes. We evolved to have stomachs that told us when we were full, but we don’t have a good way for our brains to warn us that we’ve overloaded on information.
It’s like Christmas, but every day, and with information. And now our electronic devices are larger on the inside than they are on the outside.
Like Mary Poppin’s bag. Digital artifacts do not take up any physical space. This allows one to add more and more information to a hard drive, server, or device without it getting heavier. It takes less time to capture a piece of information and store it than it does to take that piece of information out, whether by printing, exchanging, reviewing, etc. This makes digital hoarding an increasingly common phenomenon.
I came across the term “affective computing” in your new book (the online version), which featured an idea about storing hugs in pillows. Is this the future we’ve got to look forward to?
What we’re really seeing is that everything is a button away. We are mobile, and we need just-in-time information. In our mothers’ wombs, all things came to us without us having to go anywhere. It is the same with the smartphone. Even though we move around in time and space, we can increasingly access social and entertainment sentience via a single device.
Technology is smothering us with its ubiquity.
Our devices and surroundings have become a sort of technosocial womb. Facebook’s algorithm strives to keep information displayed relevant, and, if not relevant, interesting enough to browse through and click on. Twitter basically sets new users as default “socially opted out” until they gather content to follow. When they encounter something they don’t like, they’re free to drop them.
Do you think we can have emotional bonds with technology that rival, say, pets?
I know of people who are completely attached to their Roombas and treat them like their own pets. Professor Sherry Turkle put together a great collection of essays about this called the The Inner History of Devices. It talks about cell phones as representatives of long distance relationships.
How about your own bonds with technology?
When I was six my tape recorder broke, so I gave it a funeral in the backyard. I learned about the death of an electronic device before I understood that organic life forms die as well. I had gerbils and they died, but I was more upset about the tape recorder. I had that thing with me every day. It was my personal time machine to save memories from my past self to my future self. When it died, I didn’t have that superpower anymore. My time machine was broken. Part of myself was missing. I still have the tapes.
What about the idea of the extended self that you talk about: Our online profiles and how technology affects our physiology whether we actively think it does or not? If someone makes a cruel remark on this blog post, I will cry salt tears.
When one enters a vehicle, their perception and sense of self automatically extends to the edges of the vehicle. The vehicle’s edges are an extension of the self, and the vehicle itself is an extension of the foot.
In the same way that one’s ability to perceive the edges of a vehicle as the edges of one’s self, the online self extends one’s perception of the self. Commenting or “Liking” a post on someone’s Facebook wall likely stimulates the nerve endings for joy.
What are your thoughts on transhumanism and the idea that we’ll become completely digitized entities?
There’s a great podcast about this 40-year-old woman whose mom and dad move in with her and bug her all the time. It wouldn’t be so bad, normally, except her parents are divorced and dead, and they both downloaded their consciousness into an avatar bot that can move around. This bot does nothing except goes out at night and parties with all the other dead 80-year-olds.
But both her mom and dad can’t live in the avatar bot at the same time. They have a “timeshare” situation, where they struck a deal where the mother has the bot for 14 hours a day, and the father has the bot for 10 hours a day. In the middle of the day, they switch. So instead of their 40-year-old daughter living with parents that go to sleep at night, she has 24 hours of parents endlessly living, partying, and bickering about each other. It’s a great show.
Photo by Mark Colman
What are your thoughts on how augmented reality (the virtual extending into the physical) will mature over the next few years?
When you think of new technologies, it is always useful to think how it will be when you grow up with them. For instance, it will be interesting to see the new forms of bullying that come out of augmented reality. Imagine all the cruel jokes kids will play on each other through virtual “kick me” notes on each other’s back that only a certain group of friends can see?
I’d never really thought of it that way. AR bullying, that’s pretty grim.
Already there’s a lot of augmented reality bullying on Foursquare. A lot of teenage girls use it to leave mean notes as tips on venues they know their friends or enemies go to. When the target of their attack checks into the venue, they get the mean message. Instead of getting bullied only at school, the terror is able to float in context and invisibly attack the target, often without parents even understanding, having access, or knowing how it works.
Oh, the humanity.
As for augmented reality, I’m very interested in non-visual augmented reality, or the diminished reality. The augmented reality we see today is really a piece of shit. It’s tacky as hell and full of distracting colorful polygons that take forever to load. In some cases it may be interesting, like holding up a box of Legos to a webcam and seeing the model in 3D at a Lego store. Otherwise, most augmented reality interrupts and obscures reality instead of adding meaningful value to it. It gets in the way instead of informing. This pisses me off. And we’re going to have to get through this shitty augmented reality era before we can get to the good stuff. The invisible helpful information that can add interest and context to life.
Steve Mann’s EyePhone
It is kind of gimmicky.
30 years ago wearable computing pioneer Steve Mann started minimizing television screens so that he could attach them to glasses and augment reality with them.
Mann proved that you don’t need a 3D world to get contextual usefulness and useful information. If you’re going to build some augmented reality app, you’d do well to read Mann’s work. It’s not about building some shitty flavor of the month pop-up concert augmented reality ad campaign—it’s about a person wearing a heads-up display that recognized advertisements around him and cancelled them out.
It’s about him wearing that display for years on end and the design of those systems that it takes to make them a comfortable part of your everyday life. It’s not about a parlor trick made of cheap polygons and some round-table pressure cooker agency buying into some QR-code robot vomit because they read about it in the margin of some industry magazine.
What’s your favorite fictional cyborg?
The Borg collective from Star Trek. When you first see them on the screen, they’re so fucking epic! They’re probably the best cyborgs in fiction. There’s the Terminator, too, of course. And Robocop. But the Borg really take the cake. The funny thing is that the Borg all look very inspired by Steve Mann’s Borg Group at MIT’s Media Lab (it’s what they called students and the research group there). For all intents and purposes, Mann’s technology came before Star Trek, meaning the Borg aren’t really so fictional after all.
Where’s your ID? Why are you here? Who’d you come to see? Hurry up and get where you’re going. We always have to prove we belong or, in other instances, that we deserve to be where we are.” —Trayvon Martin, And When A Black Man Deserves To Die (via azspot)
St. Paddy’s will be forever be St. Patty’s to me.
Even if this awesome website tells me that means I eat dick.
got your skateboards?
listening to rock and roll music?
you guys are pretty good
you know I used to be pretty good too
in fact twelve years ago I was just like you
twelve years ago I WAS you
I think I even had that shirt
but now I can’t skate
cause I’m fat
and “successful” with a college degree
and a job with a good paycheck
and I don’t like getting hurt
and I’m cushy and comfy
a drugged earthworm swimming gooey in mud
so don’t ever stop skating kids
or you’ll end up just like me
and you don’t want that
Today is my father’s 59th birthday, an occasion I know he gives very little credence to. Or did, at least.
He’s back in the hospital again, because his kidneys are failing and he’s got hepatitis C and there’s all sorts of issues. He’s been in and out of the hospital for the last month or so with various ailments, and almost a decade ago we lost him to the land of cold linoleum floors and overworked nurses. Had my father taken the advice given to him then, after surviving certain near death, he probably wouldn’t be in the hospital today, on his birthday, in his 59th year. He is aware and acknowledges this.
My dad was an IV drug user for a good part of his life, during which he became incredibly professionally successful and also managed to run two businesses while also apprenticing for a job in special effects, which he obviously finished successfully as he worked as an F/X foreman and pyrotechnics expert for over 30 years. My dad detoxed from heroin and became a type 1 alcoholic, maintaining his career, his family, and his marriage for quite some time until his nonsense created irreversible chasms in his relationships that time might never heal. My mother is still dedicated and in love with my father, a testament to her own levels of loyalty and love which run deeper than still waters, and I personally have long “gotten over” the psychological scars he has inflicted on me from years past. I’m not sure about my siblings, but that is their journey to march. I realized long ago that people who lash out and hurt the ones they love do so out of an innate sense of worthlessness in their own lives, and a deep, painful void that they feel can never be filled. My father, so tough and strong and rebellious and successful is achingly vulnerable and often lonely, a common predicament for people who are surrounded my those that love them.
I’ve always been fascinated by people’s near obsessions with their fathers, especially women. I don’t know how many of you watch Intervention, but I’ve noted almost every addict is staunch on their stance of not going to rehab until their father speaks and expresses his love, or fear, or remorse. And they’ve typically expressed some kind of deep longing for their father’s approval or love prior to the moment of intervention, and then afterwards credit their sobriety to their father’s outpouring of emotion during the intervention. The mothers, those who fed their child and wept for them and kept watch for them, are typically emotionally tossed to the side in favor of the emotionally absent father figure for which all these people prostrate themselves for. It’s quite awakening.
I had many, many years of “friend therapy” regarding my father, which is essentially being blessed with friends good enough to listen and counsel you through your psychological ramblings when you’re drunk and in a jacuzzi at 3 a.m. It’s true that just talking through your feelings and past will help you through them. After many years of self-torture and confusion it dawned on me that all I was doing was crying for myself and what I lacked, instead of trying to see it from another perspective. I, after all, am an almost exact copy of my father: ruddy skin, auburn hair, venomous tongue, quivering tissue surrounded by a shell which breaks easily when poked. I started to realize forgiveness is the path to redemption, and I forgave my father. I forgave him for his flaws, his addictions, his mistreatments, his ego. I began to love him for who he is, whether or not I would ever really know that person. As such, I have become my father’s confidante, the person he trusts at a level akin to my mother, sometimes more. I never let on that I know he is sensitive to a fault and craves adoration more than water and wine. I simply acknowledge how he is feeling and try to identify. This level of listening, and lack of judgment, has created a relationship with my father I could have never had before, just peering out from my own wounded shell as I waited for his touch or approval. It is a gift unto itself, although like all gifts it comes with its own set of curses.
My father’s body is a testament to the body’s will to live. When he first started feeling ill, around November, we were all convinced his liver was failing. One does not drink at the level my father does without scarring the organ that processes detoxification, do they? They do. My father’s liver is in “great” condition say the doctors at Cedars Sinai, it’s his kidneys that are tired of working. His blood pressure is through the roof, probably due to his inability to go with the flow and relax at any given moment. As such, he’s been in and out of the hospital as doctors poke and prod him and try to remove scar tissue from his previous surgeries and prescribe him this and that while my mother lords over things like a hawk from a perch. I, on the sidelines, buy vitamins and iodine and research his health concerns, never really knowing if he’ll even bother to follow though with a health regimen anyway. He hasn’t had a drop of alcohol for over 60 days, and he has expressed pride and pleasure in this fact. I find it interesting, but wouldn’t say it’s the second coming.
I’ve been trying to come to grips with my father dying since November. Trying to prepare, I’d say. I can’t do it. I doubt anyone can. Your father is who is supposed to walk you down the aisle. Your father is supposed to be around for the naming of your firstborn. Your father is supposed to provide you with sage advice around marriage and children. My father, dead or alive, probably wouldn’t want to do any of those things, so in a way, it’s like he’s already dead. He’s my best friend, the ghost. The love of my life, the figment. I don’t want my father to die. I don’t want him to go.
Happy birthday, Dad. I love you.
There is something delightfully sumptuous in mornings spent drinking tea with cream and chatting with your favorite girlfriends.
I’m going to try to keep this feeling alive all day.