Sunday, March 27, 2016

Computer as Extension of Self

It's confusing being in and of our tech-crazed society while also having watched it become so, as many of us have. While the obvious point to make is that we are all sucked into our "dream machines" all day long and that's weird and it's isolating us while simultaneously getting us too caught up in each other's minutiae, etc. But it's more than that. Back in the '70s computers were tools to help us with tasks we wanted to get done. They were impersonal like calculators.

Now computers are extensions of self. We may as well have our smartphones attached to our hands.

A smartphone is nothing without its partner in crime, the internet. Back in the mid-nineties when the internet was new, it was a safe haven for any nerd to find their tribe. It was a niche to squeeze yourself into while feeling the comfort of the tiny space you've hidden yourself in, like a cozy little warm cave blanket. Now everyone is there all of the time and it's saturated with all the yucky parts of humanity. Where are the cozy corners of the internet these days? Every time you find one (Instagram, Tumblr, etc) it gets expanded, invaded, and outfitted with fluorescent lighting.

In Felicia Day's memoir there's a chapter about #GamerGate which is a phenomenon I still don't totally understand, but it has something to do with boys being whiny about girls liking games, and by "whiny" I mean violent and abusive. Apparently when girls like something, it ruins it for boys. The kind of boys that think being a "man" means delineating yourself from women at all costs. Day brought up a really great point that anyone of my generation I think can understand: "What frightened me the most about my #GamerGate experience was the possibility that this could be the future of the internet. That the utopia I thought the online world created, where people don't have to be ashamed of what they love and could connect with each other regardless of what they looked like, was really a place where people could steep themselves in their own worldview until they become willfully blind to everyone else's."

Unfortunately, I think the internet as a whole HAS become a steeping, stewing, molding pot of brewing hatred-bile. It didn't used to be this way. There were always dangers specific to the internet, but the dangers of the budding baby internet were mostly relegated to meeting people in person you'd met first on the internet. Now the dangers lie in getting your address leaked to total strangers that have threatened to rape and kill you online because you expressed an opinion on Lana Del Rey that they don't share. The internet has evolved into a phenomenon that closely mirrors everyday life, except the internet is an everyday life that's a mean, and usually misogynist/racist/homophobic, drunk that has no filter.

There's something going on with our society. The ways in which it's been so fucked up for so long are surfacing. The dark and awful thoughts we used to mostly keep to ourselves are out on the internet which is now in our hands every waking moment. We don't give ourselves time to process our feelings and life events without posting them. We don't ask others how they are because we've seen their Facebook. We get angry if we have to tell others how we are that didn't see our Facebook. There's a weird and twisted new society being built online and we do NOT know the etiquette yet. We're all little baby barbarians that don't know how to behave.

Last night I watched a documentary on Steve Jobs that got real philosophical with the way this man changed our relationship to computers. I believe if he hadn't done it, someone else would have. Regardless, this relationship has evolved very quickly in our lifetimes and it's something we need to keep an eye on. We each have personal computers on us almost all the time. These items are tools that help us through the day. They compute. They are our cameras, notebooks, road maps, radios, sketchbooks, calculators, voice recorders, musical instruments, and links to the outside world.

Portable computing devices are marvels of modern technology that should be allowing us to create on a massive scale. We have the means to become the best versions of our creative selves with one device most of us own. But instead we're smearing each other online, scrolling through endless feeds of babies and pets, hunching over our "dream machines". The mirrors we are looking into all day every day are little slabs of glass and metal that have become hardware add-ons to our brains.

That could be fine if we used our mini computing devices to enhance our lives. Take pictures. Write novels. Draw things. Make music. Look up information. Read books. The marriage of internet and handheld computers is the best and worst thing to happen to technology in our lifetimes. It's changing humanity right now. We are in the process of becoming something else (the Borg? Oh God, are we the Borg?) because of how we live our lives attached to our "dream machines". We can become zombies with towels over our heads or we can choose to find a way through this love of devices back to seeing them as tools to make our lives easier and more creative.

Jobs was a man that wanted computers to be an extension of self, and we've benefitted from his vision, but it's important also to remember that that guy was an asshole. He couldn't connect to other humans. He named a computer after his daughter I think because he was trying to force himself to love his baby daughter as much as he already loved his computer.

Dude, I completely have this computer love. I've owned 6 smartphones in the last 6 years...the 6th one is on its way to me now and I have a tab on my computer open to track its journey to my hand. I've been seduced by the culture of computer-self to a heavy degree, but it's causing me a lot of cognitive dissonance these days. I'm old enough to remember the internet being new. I'm old enough to remember a childhood without cellphones. I'm old enough to remember a world before iPods. My life has occupied a space outside of the internet, but not computers. I don't remember a world before Jobs put the personal in front of the word computer. I don't remember not having a computer in my own home, though I never had one of my own until I got a laptop for school in 2006. I've only had my very own personal portal to the internet for the last 10 years. That's not so long in the scheme of a life. It's not too late for me to relearn how to use computing devices as tools to help me create. Tools to help me get tasks done. I've given these devices names and I would even say that I love them, but in the end they are metal and glass. Nothing can fill the space of true connection with nature, animals, and other humans. The internet can connect you to other humans, but remember to speak to them like humans...we are not just interacting with the machines we touch. They may feel like extensions of us but they reach all the way around the world. Remember that.

Hugs not thugs, children.

Friday, March 25, 2016


Sometimes I think that I don't like people enough to work for the public.*

Here's the thing: the kind of people I have a problem with are those that think you WANT to pay attention to them. People who walk in a room like they own it and like you give a shit what THEIR top three artists in the room are. "Write it down!" No thanks, random dude.

People that think your time is theirs are my biggest pet peeve. Guess who cares about your movie reviews? Your family and friends. Guess who doesn't care about your movie reviews? People in customer service. Sometimes cool conversations about art and life and all that other stuff evolve organically, and those can be the greatest conversations when they involve two consenting adults. But walking up to a person that is paid to be nice to you and taking advantage of that niceness with monologues is just. so. sleazy. Don't do it.

This random and probably in poor taste rant has been brought to you by...


Gee, I love my endocrine system.

*Other times I'm sooo happy I can help someone get through their day, so it's not all bad.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Pete-riarchy: Gaslighting Dogs

VENTING session in 3...2...1

So there's this neighbor we have with a redheaded fluff-monster that Luna (our husky/pitbull/heeler mix) and other dogs in the neighborhood have attacked several times. Here's WHY: the dog's owner SAUNTERS through alleyways and talks to dogs that are barking bloody murder at him and his beast. He stops and stares at dogs that obviously want to take his bitch out. He doesn't avoid dogs that have previously attacked his dog. Luna has attacked her three times now. Today the guy decided to call Animal Control on us. We now have a court date and other hoops to jump through.

Luna IS aggressive. She is also an escape artist. We will plead guilty. I have been confused by her aggressive behavior her entire life. You never see it coming. She has attacked every dog she's ever shared a house with and also this neighborhood dog. She does NOT like other dogs. I don't know exactly how to handle her.

...buuuuuut, why would you not avoid an alleyway next to a yard with a dog that has attacked your dog before? Nay, a yard that has housed a different dog that has also attacked your dog. If not avoid the alley, then walk past it briskly at the VERY least. Why stop and taunt? The guy was still sauntering about in our piece of alleyway as Animal Control was handing us the citation. That's how long he was out there. This guy. Seriously.

I was real mad at Luna at first. When Animal Control let us know who had lodged the complaint I ceased being mad. As a dog owner, I would never continue to place my dog in prolonged contact with dogs that wish her harm.

Friday, March 4, 2016

MixtressRae's Top 5 Writing Utensils

My art medium has pretty much always been pen and paper. Or glue and paper. Or typewriter and paper. I've loved pens since middle school, ever searching for the perfect glittery purple pen that flows, doesn't smudge, dries fast, and feels good in the hand.

Basically I'm a big pen nerd. I love Gelly Rolls and BiCs and Sharpies and Pilots. The most consistently reliable ballpoints are the BiCs you get for free at the bank or a hotel or doctor's office. You really never need to BUY a BiC. The pens you lose most often and ALWAYS NEED are Sharpies.

The best pens for journaling and letter writing can be Gelly Rolls with their smooth action (if you get the thicker points) and glitter galore, but they don't work well on all paper types and they don't survive tornado. But damn, they're fun to use...and they leave glitter all over your hands which is a deterrent for most peeps, but quite the opposite for me.

The best pen for zines and most all the art projects in the world is Sharpie all the way. Sharpies come in many different flavors and are made in the USA. That's a good, right?

Probably my favorite pen for everyday use is the Pilot G2. I prefer pink or purple.

I looked up types of pens and when they were invented today. You KNOW you need that information:

*Fountain pens were invented in 1880. I don't use them because they don't dry fast enough for my left-handed self. Plus they're all gloppy.
*Ballpoint pens were invented in 1940. They are smooth and thick and I like that. Sticky and sometimes smeary. I don't like that as much. They sort of smell like apples sometimes. I do like that. (BiC)
*Fiber/felt tip pens were invented in 1960. These are awesome because they dry super fast and you can get way extra-curricular with them in the form of art and colors and zines and all the things. (Sharpie)
*Roller ball pens were invented in 1980. They're like a modern more controlled fountain pen. (Gelly Roll)
*Gel ink pens were invented in 1995. I typically don't like gel ink because it can easily be done inconsistent. You have to have a good flow with these pens and they run out fast. You never just find them laying around. You have to buy them on purpose and keep track of them. That said, Pilot G2s are a damn fine pen. They are consistent, comfortable, and come in all colors and point sizes. (Pilot)

What are your favorite pens? Which pens have I overlooked on my top 5?