Another post about a Facebook post (about Google+) (repost)

“People you know are on Google+.” Every day, they tell me this. Are they, really? And if so, WHAT ARE THEY DOING!?!? This is like the only Google product so far that I just don’t get. Or is it just a big mystery/flop to everyone? Or, cqtm (chuckling quietly to myself), perhaps I’m asking the wrong buncha peeps?
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Reprazentin’ Hip Lingo Like a Boss in the Hizzie, Yo!

I had a first meeting with a new tutoring student today, after which I met with an ongoing student who happens to be best friends with my new student. My old student told me that after our meeting his friend said that I was “a boss.”

I almost showed all of my forty-eight years and then some by asking if being a boss was a good thing or a bad thing, but then I recalled that I’ve been hearing/reading about people doing this or that “like a boss” and that that, from what I recalled, it was definitely a good thing.

Then I thought, hey, I’ll write a wicked funny blog post about doing stuff literally “like a boss,” such as, say, writing meeting agendae, delegating tasks, signing paychecks, or looking a bit too fondly at the behinds of attractive underlings – but then, duh and alas, of course, Lonely Island already did it, like FOUR FRICKING YEARS AGO.

I’m so not like a boss, I’m just a boss, and not much of a boss at that, Boss, but I do ride a boss hog. Okay, no, I don’t.

My next cutting-edge post will be on people saying “What?!” in that new zany way they do that doesn’t exactly mean “what.” Yeah yeah, they’ve been doing that for decades, too, I’m like so sure.  Gag me with a spoon.

What’re the Chances? Paul Auster, my friend A, Jamie Berger, and Me


To state that I have had many stalled writing projects in my life would be to so grossly understate the case that it is barely worth stating at all. I have no idea why I am starting this post with that statement, it just came to me. 

About a month ago, a young friend of mine, A., asked me if I had read much Paul Auster. (To be clear, I am approaching fifty, A. is approaching thirty. I think he is very young. He thinks he is getting old.)

When A. asked me this question, I immediately answered yes, because yes I have read a lot of Paul Auster. But I almost wanted to speak in a very confusing but somehow accurate past-perfect (“had”) instead of the past continuous (“have”), and say that I had read a lot of Paul Auster because it’s been so many years since I’ve read Auster and my memory is so lousy as to almost be worthy of an essay by Oliver Sachs that it’s almost as if I remember some me-before-me having read Auster, some historical Jamie who later became me, who was indeed moved, even shaped by reading Auster but then several other Jamies have come and gone since then who haven’t read Paul Auster at all. Jamie Berger had read Paul Auster before he went on to live other lives, read other writers, start but not finish all those writing projects, move from New York to San Francisco, make performance art and dance and get married and divorced, move back east again . . .  (you get the idea) and now here I am, the Jamie of today, who vaguely recalls the Jamie who read Paul Auster and the some of the feelings, if not thoughts, that that Jamie had had while and after reading Paul Auster, but not so much the books themselves.

All of the Paul Auster novels I/he have/has/had read are over twenty years old: City of Glass, Ghosts, The Locked Room (The New York Trilogy), Leviathan, Moon Palace (I think – I may have just started that one), The Music of Chance, and I think the list goes on. Does that count as a lot? I guess you could say I/he read a lot of early Paul Auster.

As I sit writing this in a classroom of the prep school where I tutor (my last two evening students are ill and cancelled their appointments), I was just interrupted by my friend L. who walked by on her way out. We had a brief conversation about our hectic lives since the new year, ending with vague plans to get together for coffee, and now my train of thought has left the thought-train-station, so this is about to become another stalled/dead piece of writing for the archives. Maybe that’s why I wrote that first sentence, something in me knew this was fated to be unfinished. It has gotten dark outside, and snow is falling steadily outside the window. The roads will be getting slippery. The dogs and cats are waiting at home, hungry. I am hungry. My butt is getting numb from this hard student desk chair. Distractions push push push their way in.

A. asked me if I’d read much Paul Auster and then if I’d read The Art of Hunger, a collection of his Auster’s nonfiction. I had not. A. had just finished it, and was excited about it, and so he lent it to me, suggesting that I be sure to read the memoir that ends the book. “The Red Notebook” is a series of recollections of stories from Auster’s own life and the lives of his friends and others he’s been told about, stories fraught with coincidence, chance, fate, and the uncanny: unforeseen romantic reunions after decades; magically found objects and money and food at just that moment when they are desperately needed; people with eerily appropriate names.  

Here’s the end of one entry:

“To make the story even more perfect, it turned out that E. was independently wealthy. Her aunts had been rich, and after they died she had inherited all their money – which meant that not only had B. found true love, but the crushing money problems that had plagued him for so many years had suddenly vanished. All in one fell swoop.”

This morning I went back and looked at those nearly-forgotten Auster titles because last night I happened to get A’s copy of the Art of Hunger very wet, ruined (is no interesting story here, just a leaky water bottle on its side on the bed next to the book for an hour or so), so I went on line to order him a new copy. As I scrolled through those old titles, I remembered what I could remember about those books, or at least about how they made me feel, about the sense of fate and chance and postmodern (post-Beckett, is how I remember it feeling back then, so maybe post-post-modern?) mystery in Auster that that younger Jamie loved so much back then.

“The Red Notebook” is a pleasant enough read – being reunited with Auster’s familiar, intimate-yet-somehow-distant/cryptic first-person again felt like running into an old friend, but at some point, I found myself thinking, enough already, I get it, wacky stuff happens, I know all about it from those Police songs, (one of which, come to think of it, was stuck in my head for days last week!) It started to all feel too . . . easy.

Amazing coincidence has to happen – I’m shitty at math, but I’m pretty sure that as unlikely as it is that you’re going to win the lottery, SOMEONE has to, and not only that, but some people have to win lotteries multiple times – it’s fascinating to an extent, but, statistically speaking, anomalies have to happen – it’s not magic, and it got redundant.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed “The Red Notebook” after years of not reading Auster, and yet I was disappointed in his puppy-dog awe at it all. But at the same time, I felt nostalgic for the time when Auster’s awe at chance filled me with awe for his writing.

[If you’re interested in literary gossip and/or Paul Auster, a few years ago, New Yorker book critic James Wood lauded Auster’s ex-wife Lydia Davis’s work to the heavens and then the very next month ripped Auster’s work pretty much to shreds. Coincidence? And then there’s this, and this.]

It occurs to me that back when I was filled with Auster-awe (sorry), I wasn’t too much younger than A. is now, not that A. is in any way a callow youth in terms of his literary knowledge or critical faculties –I was undoubtedly much callow-er than he at 28. It also occurs to me that whenever I read something that’s by someone whose work I used to adore but no longer do, or when I read a novel that’s the latest, greatest thing and I’m unimpressed or less than awed, anyway, part of me feels inspired in that, if this is the cause of such delirium, or was the cause of such delirium in me back then, then maybe someday I can finish something pretty good too. (The converse is also true – when I read something mind-blowing, it makes me never want to write again, but I digress.)

It also (also) occurs to me that the stalled novel (there, I said it, NOVEL) I’m working on/not working on/working on, is rife with chance – a random meeting in the woods, a fateful poker tournament, a very unlikely connection between a community college adjunct named Jamie Begrer and several of his students.

In a year or so, perhaps I’ll write about how if I hadn’t run into A. that evening at the bar when he was feeling inspired by Paul Auster, and then given him a ride home, where he went inside and brought me the book, if I hadn’t then read “The Red Notebook” and spilled water on it and thus ended up poring over old Auster titles and then digging through those ultra-foggy memories, I’d never have gotten back to that millionth stalled piece of writing, and thus never have finished my first novel, the first 60 pages of which I plan go start editing right now.

What’re the chances?

Why Facebook is Good (post two)

(FYI: Here’s the first in this series, which I called “The Digest” but have since decided to go with the above instead)

Facebook allows, if only occasionally, for interesting conversations among a wide swath of people from various different worlds, conversations that would never take place in “real” life.

Here are some excerpts from a chat I started this past week that a bunch of people “liked” and several others chimed in, and I like to think we were all  better off for having had (except for one little shit I kind of know who posted some really stupid, hateful, anti-semitic stuff and whom I’ve since blocked). Stuff in brackets are (is?) my thoughts/clarifications about it now. I don’t think it needs much more intro than that:

Me: Hey “Friend One” & “Friend Two” [I tagged their names in the original post, which one of them didn’t take very well, my calling him out publicly. We talked that out in person, old school.]: That (leaving the name out because I don’t want to support it in any way – it’s a “humor” page on FB) page is nothing but racist, sexist, mysoginist, homophobic, half-assed crap, picking on developmentally disabled people, fat people, “ugly” people and “freaks,” making jokes about 9/11 . . . . Why dignify it by reposting? You can’t get me drunk enough to think that shit is funny. Maybe I’m just old and don’t have a sense of humor any more, but I really don’t think that’s it. Just my two cents.

Friend 3: i think the entire purpose of those pages are to incite a response out of people

Friend 1: I just thought it was funny, but I’m the type of person who thinks offensive shit is funny.

Friend 4: I’m pretty sure the whole concept of _________ is so bros and bullies can make their victims feel bad for feeling bad. worst. expression. ever.

Friend MyWifeAnja: I’m all for offensive humor, but not the kind that proves to everyone else what a neanderthal you are.

Me: Yeah, sorry Friends 3 & 1, that argument doesn’t fly with me either. It’s hateful shit and that’s what you’re supporting, which is your absolute right, but to deny you’re supporting hateful shit by doing so is just plain not the case. A few months ago someone sent me a web “petition” trying to get that “cancer-is-great-and-everyone-who-gets-it-deserves-it” page taken down (I forget its actual name) and I quickly responded that there’s no way I’d ever sign such a petition, because a. that’s exactly the response the kids (sorry, younger folk, but it is “kids” who put it up) who made the page are hoping for, and b. of course they have every right to put it up there. And there’s also c., at least that page was making a point, if a very nihilistic/bitter one, that the world sucks and we’re all going to die (at least as I remember recalling it) so fuck everything, including me and you, including kids with cancer. This page you led me to last night (that’s what you’re doing, leading people to it, and no, I’m not going to say its name because I don’t want it to get more hits) is for and by people who feel bad about themselves and want to feel better by hating on and/or belittling others. It’s by/for bullies (who are too scared to be bullies in public), for people who see themselves as losers in life and, similar to those who watch COPS or Jerry Springer or whatever the latest versions of those are, want to feel better about themselves by laughing at others who are, as they see it, bigger losers, like say, in this case, retards and fatties and fags and cripples. So I urge you to take another look at the site and others like it and think hard for a bit about whether you really want to support what they do. Saying “Dood, chill, it’s just a joke” or “I just like offensive stuff” doesn’t come close to working for me on this one. Daniel Tosh is offensive, and/but sometimes has a point to make, this is hateful with no other point to it.

Friend 6: I love offensive humor, like calling a performer that falls off a stage a dumb bitch. Calling someone that has a handicap or a disease a retard or a cripple is cruel and it’s purpose is solely to make YOU feel better about yourself. Or that you’re just so miserable in your life you want to make everyone as miserable or more than you are. It also shows that you lack even a modicum of human decency or compassion.

Friend 2: What the fuck did you just fucking say about me, you little bitch? I’ll have you know I graduated top of my class in the Navy Seals, and I’ve been involved in numerous secret raids on Al-Quaeda, and I have over 300 confirmed kills. I am trained in gorilla warfare and I’m the top sniper in the entire US armed forces. You are nothing to me but just another target. I will wipe you the fuck out with precision the likes of which has never been seen before on this Earth, mark my fucking words. You think you can get away with saying that shit to me over the Internet? Think again, fucker. As we speak I am contacting my secret network of spies across the USA and your IP is being traced right now so you better prepare for the storm, maggot. The storm that wipes out the pathetic little thing you call your life. You’re fucking dead, kid. I can be anywhere, anytime, and I can kill you in over seven hundred ways, and that’s just with my bare hands. Not only am I extensively trained in unarmed combat, but I have access to the entire arsenal of the United States Marine Corps and I will use it to its full extent to wipe your miserable ass off the face of the continent, you little shit. If only you could have known what unholy retribution your little “clever” comment was about to bring down upon you, maybe you would have held your fucking tongue. But you couldn’t, you didn’t, and now you’re paying the price, you goddamn idiot. I will shit fury all over you and you will drown in it. You’re fucking dead, kiddo.

Anja [who is also close friends with Friend 2]:
Oh, Friend Two.

Me: Last thoughts from this guy, after talking with someone who thought I acted inappropriately in tagging people’s names. I tagged them not to humiliate or otherwise trash them, but to start a conversation that I wanted them (you guys) to see. One of you One of you made the point that you didn’t actually post the most heinous stuff from that page, but something a little tamer. Fair enough, but you still led me to the page, and you still are lending your name and support, lending credibility to the page by doing so. If you don’t want to risk being called out on Facebook, well, you could unfriend me or get off Facebook. At this point in my life, FB is the main public forum I’ve got, and while I’ve never tagged people in a negative way like that before (that I can recall, anyway), and I’ll give it more thought before I do it again, I’m definitely not saying I won’t do it again if it feels like the right thing to do. But circling back around, R & S, the point wasn’t to dis you, but to have a conversation. And look, we did! [Friend 1 “liked” this]

Me: Okay, I with that “last thoughts” part. If there’s anyone still reading this here, one more little note. One friend of mine who read this saw me last night and was concerned for my feelings, if not my safety, based on one of the posts above. I laughed, and explained that no one in this conversation was ever a Navy Seal, that it was a quote (although I can’t remember what it’s a quote from), and meant to be humorous, which is, in fact, how I took it. In fact, as much as he wouldn’t want to admit it, the person who posted that not only wouldn’t hurt a fly, he’d probably gently capture a fly in his house and release it outside while calling out “Be free, little friend!”