Category Archives: Internet

This happens. This is something that happens.

I am watching Magnolia. It is my favorite movie. This probably says a lot about me; mostly about the fact that I can relate, all-too-well, to broken people, to people with flaws that run deep and don’t ever let them go, not completely.

I’m watching Magnolia today because Philip Seymour Hoffman died, and I wanted to see him in one of my favorite roles of his, in my favorite movie. I wanted to just have a minute to say my goodbye to someone whose work I respect a great deal, and whose death I’m taking maybe a little too hard because that’s a thing I do. I am talking to someone I love about how much this movie means to both of us, how much it affected us back in the days when we weren’t yet part of each other’s lives, and I am crying over this movie, and I am crying over this particular magic, this thing that brings people together at just the right time, in just the right place.

Magnolia has the recurring theme of coincidence, and connection, and how we’re all intertwined; how the smallest action can turn into the one thing that your entire life hinges on. I like this. This is the magic I hold onto in life. This is what I hang around for; those little moments where you can almost see the greater plan peeking through the velvet curtains at the edge of things.

The movie starts with some stories of coincidence, each one harder to believe than the last: a man killed in Greenberry Hill in London by men named Joseph Green, Stanley Berry and Daniel Hill; a scuba diver killed by a firefighting airplane flown by a man he’d coincidentally run into a few days prior; and a teenager attempting suicide by jumping off the roof of his building, only to have his mother accidentally shoot him as he falls past her window – and land in a net put up to save window-washers, so he wouldn’t have died, after all, had he not been shot.

After each of these stories, the narrator tells us “and I would like to think this was only a matter of chance.” Until the last story.

And it is in the humble opinion of this narrator that this is not just “something that happened.” This cannot be “one of those things”… This, please, cannot be that. And for what I would like to say, I can’t. This was not just a matter of chance. Oh, these strange things happen all the time.

I’m going to tell you a story.

Once upon a time, I lived across the country. That iteration of Amy was not one I am proud of. I suppose you need to learn from your past, from your mistakes, to form the person you are today; if that’s the case, the mistakes I made, and troubles I dealt with, while living in the western part of the country, built a big old foundation upon which to position this life, the life I am proud of.

I worked at a theater there, for a while. I was one of the broken people, while there. I drifted. I was lost. I was doing what I could to survive. I was in and out of disastrous relationships and crushes on the least-likely candidates. I cried a lot. I was one of those thousand-yard-stare people you kind of see on the periphery.

I loved my time at the theater, though. It was brief – probably 8 months, all-told – but it seems longer, in my mind. I found family there. For someone as lost and alone as I was, this was huge. I had people, and I had a place to go, and I felt like I belonged. I was still broken, and I was still lost, but I had a tiny corner where things could be alright. (Theater’s saved me many times, and I have no doubt it will again – this is a good example of one of those times.)

But I screwed it up, as I did many things back then. Things got hard, and I got nervous, and I eventually shut myself off from everyone I loved there. I left and didn’t go back. I had reasons, which were varied (and kind of ridiculous, and even as screwed-up as I was, I knew they were ridiculous) but when the going gets tough, a lot of times, I just put up walls and make ‘em thick. No one gets in. I don’t go out. And I can pretend I made that choice! I don’t need anyone! But really what made the choice is the fact that I’m depressed and I’m freaking out and it’s easier to not have anyone in your life when that happens. People are just a complication, right?

I think I ended up saying goodbye to maybe two of the theater people when I left the state. I didn’t even think that might be hurtful. I just wanted out, and I wanted to get back to where I thought I could rebuild, and things might start to be ok.

And things were ok. More than ok, actually. I got my fresh start, both due to the change of scenery and a change in me. I didn’t want to be that person anymore. I wanted to be someone else – someone who didn’t hide, someone who had friends, someone who had more blue-sky days than black-cloud days. It’s amazing how far a change in attitude can take you. It wasn’t overnight – the person I was hung around longer than I care to admit – but eventually, I shed most of her off, I kept what worked, and I became the person I am now: flawed, sure, but happy. And happy begets happy. Happy draws IN happy. It’s something I never knew, and something I was so joyful to discover.

I compartmentalized who I used to be; I didn’t shut it off, because you can’t deny things that happened, but I didn’t let it color me, either. I’m friends with a few people from those days in the now; BFF is one of them, and Mer another. They’re my best takeaways from that time, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I’m peripherally friends with a few others on Facebook, but you know how Facebook is. You like a status here and there, but it’s what you put into it, and we’ve grown too far apart to mend those fences. I don’t know that we really care enough to, honestly.

Remember the dating site? Yeah, that’s going about as well as you might imagine, but that’s not the point of this story.

The dating site sends you a list of people it thinks are good matches for you. (Strangely, most of these people are what I would consider exactly the opposite of a “good match,” but that’s neither here nor there.) The other day, I was idly paging through them (an audio track of me doing this would be “no,” “ugh, OMG, no,” “where are your CLOTHES?”, and “Why does this site think I want to date a 62-old-man?”) and I saw a photo of someone that looked very familiar.

Now, I’d assumed at some point I’d run into someone I knew. It was kind of inevitable. It’s a big area, but not THAT big. I’m not going to DATE anyone I kn0w – if I wanted to date people I knew, would I be on the dating site to begin with? – but it wasn’t someone I knew from HERE.

It was someone I knew from the theater from all those years ago. J., who’d run the theater; who’d been the one who took me in to begin with, who gave me the family I was too closed off to accept as fully as I should have. I hadn’t seen J. in twelve years. We weren’t Facebook friends. We’d dropped off each other’s radar. Not out of spite or any sort of hard feelings; I liked J. I just lost touch with J., and then compartmentalizing that part of my life hadn’t led me to look up people from that time. Honestly? I didn’t know if they’d remember me. I’d been a bit of a ghost. At first, didn’t even believe it WAS J. – I did a Google seach first, to see if he really was in the area.

Because what are the odds, right? What are the odds that someone you were close to twelve years ago, all the way across the country, would show up in your list of people on a dating site you just joined?

But it was him. He was here, somehow. And after sending him what was probably the goofiest message ever (but, in my defense, he replied with an equally “ZOMG!” email) we met up for dinner the other night.

Dinner became over three hours of talking and catching up and laughing and utter amazement over the fact that it had been twelve years and here we were, and we both looked pretty much the same (few more gray hairs, maybe, but it wasn’t like we were unrecognizable to one another) and how was he here? And what had happened in the past twelve years? And we caught up over food and the time melted away and I remembered some of the good things from all that time ago; that everything wasn’t terrible, not all the time, and the good things I brought forward with me were the things that made my friendship with J. still work.

(And before you all get excited: no, this is not a love connection. I care about J. a great deal, but it’s never been THAT kind of relationship, and never will be. Solid friendship with nothing more behind it. Sorry to burst your bubble, all of you rooting for me to find love on the interwebz.)

I totally told J. "IT WOULD BE LIKE KISSING MY BROTHER" then I realized I probably had to say that was from a movie or it was just a really rude, or slightly incesty, thing to say.

I totally told J. “IT WOULD BE LIKE KISSING MY BROTHER” then I realized I probably had to say that was from a movie or it was just a really rude, or slightly incesty, thing to say.

J. is here working at one of the local colleges, rebooting their theater program. (Can’t think of anyone better to do it; he’s got this energy that just beams from him.) Things have been going well for him; he’s also had a good twelve years. He also realized he needed a fresh start and took his life in a different direction. And I have to admit, it was nice to tell him what I’d been up to; I didn’t have much to be proud of then, but now I can say things like “writing for the paper” and “traveling to Europe in the spring” and “published a book” and MEAN all of them.

And J. and I made plans to get together again, and soon; if the world hands you a coincidence like this, you don’t waste it. You grab that puppy with both damn hands. I can’t wait to introduce him to the theater scene; the first time we met, he took me in, and made the introductions, and I was just given the chance to return the favor.

And there is the account of the hanging of three men, and a scuba diver, and a suicide. There are stories of coincidence and chance, of intersections and strange things told, and which is which and who only knows? And we generally say, “Well, if that was in a movie, I wouldn’t believe it.” Someone’s so-and-so met someone else’s so-and-so and so on. And it is in the humble opinion of this narrator that strange things happen all the time. And so it goes, and so it goes. And the book says, “We may be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.”

If the past ain’t through with me, I’m cool with that. I take the magic of the world where it’s given. If the world wants to bring back an old friend when I’m finally at the point in my life when I can appreciate him? I’ll take that magic. With thanks. And tears. And wonder.

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Troubleshooting and chatting it up with Amy’s Dad

Dad’s in Florida. He’s in his condo by the ocean for two full months. He left at the beginning of January and has been there, therefore, for most of the month.

Dad is bored out of his skull.

His people don’t arrive until February (my aunt and uncle, his sister and brother-in-law, are arriving then, and his cousin is visiting then, and I think he’s going to visit another cousin then – yes, my entire family has become a flock of snowbirds) so Dad’s been hanging out at buffets and the American Legion (do NOT ask him if they’ve given him a fez; he’ll just yell “THEY DON’T WEAR FEZZES!”) and walking on the beach and getting scratchers at the 7-11 and – best of all – calling me up at all hours to tell me things. Or texting me. Or emailing me weird links, like “You should read this good site, do you know about this?” and it’s MSN.

Dad said he's not doing well on the scratchers this year, and therefore I will no longer have an inheritance. Oh, well, I wasn't betting on one, anyway.

Dad said he’s not doing well on the scratchers this year, and therefore I will no longer have an inheritance. Oh, well, I wasn’t betting on one, anyway.

So I thought you would enjoy a glimpse into the type of conversation Dad and I have been having lately. You like such things, right? Right.

Oh, a thing you need to know for this to make sense…

Dad bought a laptop so he could take advantage of the free wifi in the condo. Dad’s never had a laptop before. Or high-speed internet. It’s like Dad was released into a very big playground. Or the ocean. Without a lifevest. Or a map, to completely muddle this metaphor.

So, I had the day off today. I had car work to get done, which got done a lot sooner than planned (also, goodbye, savings! sniff), so I used the day to do all of my usual after-work errands like grocery shopping and laundry and such, so I don’t have to do them after work this week. I was PROACTIVE! And when I got home Dad sent me an email to call him RIGHT AWAY so I did. (Dad + boredom + high speed internet = lots of email, you guys.)

So of course I called him. It’s a day off. Lots of time to talk to Dad.

Me: Hey, old man. What’s up?
Dad: Stop calling me that.
Me: Fine. Howdy, young lady, what’s shakin’?
Dad: Not at all better.
Me: But funnier.
Dad: Not really. I have a computer question.
Me: I will answer that!
Dad: You broke my computer.
Me: That’s more an accusation than a question.
Dad: Remember you made me put that antivirus on here?
Me: Yes, so you didn’t get viruses and no one stole your identity.

Oh, Dad would HATE this.

Oh, Dad would HATE this.

Dad: It gave me a virus.
Me: The antivirus gave you a virus. No, I don’t think that’s how that works.
Dad: No! True story! Ever since I bought it, the computer keeps shutting down if I walk away for ten minutes.
Me: Huh. That’s weird. Did you change any settings?
Dad: What does that mean, settings. No. I put on this virusy virus thing.
Me: Well, go into the settings of Norton and see if one of them says “sleep settings” or “power saver” or something.
Dad: That is SMART. Where are Norton settings.
Me: I don’t know, I’ve never needed that. Click on Norton? It’s probably at the bottom of the screen or something.
Dad: It WAS! You’re good at this.
Me: Yeah, I’m totally an IT guru.
Dad: It says I need to sign into Norton.
Me: Sign into Norton, then.
Dad: It says I don’t know my password.
Me: Do you know your password?
Dad: No.
Me: Did you write down your password when you signed up?
Dad: I did but I wrote it down wrong.
Me: Well, that’s unhelpful.
Dad: There’s something to click if I forgot my password! Should I click that?
Me: Yep.
Dad: This is exciting.
Me: SO exciting.

Look at my excited face. LOOK AT IT!

Look at my excited face. LOOK AT IT!

Dad: I am resetting my password now.
Me: Maybe use the one you wrote down, then you already have it written down.
Dad: Man, you are really good.
Me: Yeah, I’ve got brains to spare.
Dad: SOMETHING IS WRONG! SOMETHING IS WRONG!
Me: Uh-oh. What’s wrong, jellybean.
Dad: It sent me a reset link and then I reset it and then it said it was wrong AGAIN.
Me: OK, well, there’s something wonky with Norton. Try again tomorrow.
Dad: That’s not a solution.
Me: Turn the computer on and off?
Dad: That is also not a solution.
Me: Oh, it surely is. Turning things on and off fixes more than you know.
Dad: I’m just going to give up now and go watch television and think about how terrible my life is.
Me: Do you want me to try to talk you through the computer settings and see if those somehow got screwed up?
Dad: No. I HAVE TO GO NOW.
Me: OK. Bye. Love you.
Dad: Grumble grumble grumble grump love you bye.

TWO MINUTES LATER!

THE PHONE RINGS!

Me: Yo, s’up, Pops.
Dad: I got into Norton.
Me: How’d you do that?
Dad: Don’t even know.
Me: Fair enough.
Dad: What do I do now?
Me: I don’t know. Let me ask the internet.
Dad: How does the internet know about my computer problems?
Me: Because the government’s watching you.
Dad: I KNEW IT!
Me: Foolish. Because other people often have the same problems you do, if you Google problems, they can help you.
Dad: But then the government knows you’re having a problem.
Me: *sigh* Yes, there’s always that. Oh, ok, here. Someone had the same problem. I’m going to talk you through how to fix this, ok?
Dad: STOP TALKING SO FAST.
Me: I wasn’t…ok. FIRST. CLICK. ON. NORTON.
Dad: Well, if you talk slow, I just feel stupid.

(Eventually I talked Dad through clicking some boxes and unclicking some other boxes and setting some things. This took a very, very long time. Pretend there’s a musical montage here, or something.)

Dad: Is this even going to work?
Me: I don’t know. I’m not there. Try going to your desktop and changing your power saver settings there, too.
Dad: What’s a desktop?
Me: Like, if you turn on the computer, before you open the internet. On my computer, it’s where I have that big picture of The Nephew scowling because I love his attitude.
Dad: I don’t have this on a desk, though, it’s on a table.
Me: NOT THAT KIND OF DESKTOP.
Dad: I found the control center. Is it there?
Me: I don’t know. Is it?
Dad: THIS IS SO HARD.
Me: It would be easier if you were HERE and I could SEE the computer, yes. Yes, it would.
Dad: Your brother just sent me gibberish email.
Me: What does that mean?
Dad: He sent me an email that said “IDK what a good price is.” What is IDK.
Me: I don’t know.
Dad: Should I look it up online? Did he make a mistake?
Me: Oh, this is like an old comedy routine. No. It MEANS I don’t know. IDK equals I don’t know.
Dad: Why didn’t he write I don’t know?
Me: It’s textspeak.
Dad: But it’s an email.
Me: Yeah. It’s a thing people do.
Dad: You should write a whole thing out and not confuse your father, is what I think.
Me: Write him back and say LOL.
Dad: I will not say LOL.
Me: Ooh, say YOLO.
Dad: I DO NOT SAY YOLO. Is my computer fixed?
Me: I guess you’ll see the next time you don’t use it for ten minutes in a row.
Dad: If Norton ruined my computer I’m going to call them up and yell at them.
Me: Oh, they’ll like that a lot, I think. You’ll be very popular.
Dad: Your governor hates me.
Me: What? Is this related to what we’ve been talking about at all? I think I have conversational whiplash.
Dad: No. Look up what your governor said now. He wants to kick me out of our state.
Me: Shush, I like our governor. He’s all gruff and cranky and passionate about things and I think if you make him mad he’d either punch you in an alley or shoot you in the face.

SO MAD!

SO MAD!

Dad: LOOK IT UP.
Me: Oh, so he said extreme conservatives don’t belong in New York State. Huh.
Dad: I’d like to have him come upstate and say that! WE WOULD TROMP HIM!
Me: I don’t know. He seems pretty badass. He might punch or shoot you. Or give you a really dirty look.
Dad: When he runs for president you’d vote for him.
Me: Is he the Democratic candicate in this scenario?
Dad: Well, duh.
Me: Then yes, I’ll vote for him.
Dad: Who are you. WHO ARE YOU. I am so disgusted.
Me: I am going to watch television now, and write a blog post. Are you good?
Dad: Yes. Don’t tell the internet where I live.
Me: I won’t.
Dad: Or put up photos of me.
Me: Nope. Won’t.
Dad: Or tell them what I like to say or do or wear.
Me: OK. Noted.
Dad: THAT IS HOW THEY GET YOU.
Me: Yes. I’m sure it is. Go play on the beach, bub.
Dad: I might call you later.
Me: OK. I might answer.
Dad: GOOD. You SHOULD answer! If I call you ALWAYS should!

Don’t worry, interwebs, Dad will have friends to play with soon. Only a few more days. I think he will manage to retain most of his mental stability with people to interact with. Hopefully, anyway. I mean…

Crap. Gotta go. Phone’s ringing.


Someone’s doing this wrong. It may well be me.

In an attempt to be a normal human, and to take 2014 by the horns (THE HORNS, people!) I decided to do something that might be a gigantic mistake.

NO, I didn’t dye my hair blonde. Don’t be absurd. I look terrible blonde. Tried it once, in grad school. I looked like I was wearing a terrible wig. I immediately went to a salon and had them fix it because it was too embarrassing to leave the house with. (Well, obviously I had to leave the house to go to the salon…I wore a hat.) Then I did it AGAIN years LATER but that time it was an accident. So I just dyed it back myself, because I was poor then. Anyway, in summation: I’m not a blonde, nor will I ever BE a blonde.

Yeah, I didn't even look this good. There might have been weeping, though.

Yeah, I didn’t even look this good. There might have been weeping, though.

Nope. What I DID do is sign up for online dating.

See, here’s the thing: you don’t meet a lot of people hanging around your house. You meet your cat, and sometimes the old guy who lives downstairs and coughs a lot and Dad talked to him once and said “he’s just waiting to die, his wife’s dead and he’s so depressed” and I said, “how did you find all that out from talking to him for, like, five SECONDS?” and Dad said, “Well, I might have guessed parts of that.” You sometimes meet package deliverymen and Chinese food deliverymen and maintenance men. None of these people are really dating potential. This isn’t a porn. No one’s showing up at my door asking “Did anyone call for a PLUMBER?” and then bow-chicka-wow-wow music’s going to start. Also, ew, that’s how you get the clap.

So even though the last time I tried this online dating situation I had…well, let’s just say the worst luck ever…I decided to give it another go. It would be nice to date someone. Or maybe a few someones. See what happens. It is a thing that people do, right? This dating thing? Yes. Yes, it is.

So with the support of my friends, who were all “that is a very good idea! You do that! You will meet someone awesome!” I filled out pages and pages of questions and silly blurbs and whether I liked dogs or cats (WHY MUST I CHOOSE?) and how very, very much I love long walks on the beach and getting caught in the rain and laughing like those people in the online dating commercials while eating pasta by candlelight. Online dating commercials about meeting the love of your life on the internet can’t lie, right? RIGHT?

However! I have learned some things from the online dating site that I think are important for people to bear in mind when attempting to online date. And I thought, should I share them with the internet?

Well, what the hell else am I going to do with them? The cat doesn’t care. He’s napping at the moment. As he does.

THINGS YOU LEARN FROM ONLINE DATING

(Note: I’m not telling you WHAT site I signed up for; I think they’re all pretty much the same, other than you pay for some, and you don’t for others, and there’s one that hates the gays and athiests. Or at least it used to. I think I remember reading it grudgingly decided the gays and athiests had money to spend, too, and therefore changed things up a little bit.)

Many people can’t spell and make no attempt to do so. It’s not going to surprise you that I actually have it written in my profile that I’m a grammar nerd and there are extra points given to people that contact me that write well. Actual emails I’ve received on the site: “YOUR PRETY,” “what r u doin,” and “its cold in winter.” Yes, I realize that sometimes, a very good heart beats within the body of a person who cannot express themselves in their native language, but it still makes me cringe. Also, if your entire profile paragraph is an all-caps “TWO HEATS BEET AS ONE I AM LOKING FOR MY SOLEMATE” and you “flirt” with me (don’t ask, these sites are kind of ridiculous) I’m not replying to you. I’m not a cobbler. You’re going to have to keep looking for your solemate, my friend. All my best to you.

People can be very aggressive and persistent. One guy “flirted” and then “favorited” me and then sent me a message (which was “ANY LUCK HERE?” and that’s not at all off-putting) and we were not even a little compatable so I sent him one of the pre-written “no-thanks” responses and then the next time I signed on he immediately popped up as wanting to chat with me so I clicked the “I’m busy” button and seriously, dude? I feel like maybe you’re chasing me down the sidewalk. Down, boy. DOWN. (Also, why so interested, when I don’t meet any of your criteria? You wrote those damn criteria. If you hadn’t written you were only interested in young, young women and “no fatties” I MIGHT have replied, but since you did, I was all, “nope” and wrote you off as a dick.)

The particular site I signed up for doesn’t seem to understand how “matching” works. You put in your criteria (like, age and such) and the site’s supposed to send you daily matches, only my matches aren’t within my criteria, so either I’ve broken the site, or they don’t care what I like. Or maybe they know better than me. Do you think the site knows better than me, and I’d really love dating a 60-year-old with kids the same age as I am? I guess we could hit up the Golden Corral for the Senior Buffet. Thrifty!

My new husband! Only a couple years younger than Dad, so they could be besties!

My new husband! Only a couple years younger than Dad, so they could be besties!

People are either very vague or very specific in what they’re looking for. Some people don’t fill anything out, so you don’t know if you’d fit their criteria at all, and some people are all “I want a woman who’s 5’7, athletic and toned, with red hair, green eyes, 20 years younger than I am, liberal, only has a high school education, and has a cat.” This seems extremely limiting to me. Who is this person? And does she exist? I think you might have better luck contacting Warren to build you a Buffybot.

There you go, boys, I found you your perfect match.

There you go, boys, I found you your perfect match.

Apparently quite a few people don’t bother to read the information you took time to post. I get contacted by people regularly (that sounds braggy…please note that it’s not. These people are not anyone I want to hang with) and then I look at their profiles and the person they’re looking for is my exact opposite. Did you read my profile? Or did you just notice I’m female and live in your area? I’m confused.

Having conversations with these people is like pulling teeth. OK, anyone who emails me knows exactly what kind of emails I write. They look very much like one of my blog posts. I don’t know how to reply to an email of “yup” or “going to get food now.” How do you even answer that? You could start some sort of new conversation, like “let’s talk about your favorite cheeses” or something, but I’ve found in the past you’re not allowed to be kooky until the person’s known you for a while, or they think you’re insane and run off screaming. So apparently I’m in for a lot of back-and-forth of “Hi”/”Hi”/”How are you”/”Good”/”Weather’s nice today”/”Yes”/”How was work”/”Busy”/”Here too” and SINCERELY, I’m climbing the walls with boredom at this point.

Sooooo booooooreddddd

Sooooo booooooreddddd

Stop asking for more pictures. OK, I have pictures up on this site? But not, like, ALL the pictures. I’m undecided about whether or not I’m going to stay there, and also I find it creepy to put a billion photos on a dating site and then a stranger could see me at the grocery store and be all, “OMG, YOU ARE LOOKIN’ FOR LOVE ONLINE I RECOGNIZE YOU YO” or something. So people email me and their opening gambit is, “do you have more photos?” and what’s funny is, THEY hardly have any photos so I’m not sure if they want tit-shots or what the point here is. One guy was displeased and was all “I’m quitting the SITE” when I told him nope and one guy was all “OK, cool” but I’m pretty sure our conversation about dinner, weather, and such has come to a natural conclusion so we’ve broken up and I’ve already gone through the five stages of grief and I’ve come out the other side a better person for it.

What have we learned?

I’m very bad at this. I have been informed by a friend who does this on the regular I need to be more open-minded in order for this to work, and also maybe it would help if I lowered my standards a little. The former, probably. That would be better in a lot of aspects in my life. The latter…I don’t know. How can you force yourself to be attracted to someone? I’ve only had my mind changed twice, romantically, about someone (I mean, from my first impression to falling for them) in my life, and I’m kind of old. Maybe some people can become attracted to someone after some time and getting to know someone, but I’m weird about such things. I like the click. Everyone who’s important in my life, who’s been long-term important in my life, either romantically or on a friendship level: there’s been that click, where it’s like meeting someone you’ve known all along but have been separated from for whatever reason, and then you found them again. Is that naïve, waiting for that? Yeah, maybe. Is it likely I’ll get over that? Probably not, but I suppose anything can happen.

If anyone wants to tell me a., how to do this correctly, b., if there’s a dating site for internet geeks who like books and where people can SPELL, dammit, where I would be in high demand, or c., that they have a brother/cousin/male BFF I’d be perfect for, I’m down for all the advice. Comment it up, yo.

Stay tuned, jellybeans. WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT. Will Amy go on an actual out-of-the-house date with one of these people? Will she give up and delete her whole profile because the whole thing gives her the willies? Will she be psychokilled by an internet murderer? ONLY TIME WILL TELL.


Goodreads; Badcensorship.

Some of you may know that as well as blogging about whatever the hell tickles my fancy over here, I also review books. Yes! It is true! To hell with you, all the kids that mocked me for reading too much in school; I’ve made a nice little lucrative (in a non-paying sense) career out of it on my beloved interwebs! I have two places that allow me to spew my book-related thoughts whenever I feel the need; Insatiable Booksluts and Snobbery. It’s the perfect gig for me; no deadlines, I get to read what I want, and I get to tell people about amazing (or, at times, NOT-amazing) books that I come across (and there’s nothing happier for a reader than when you recommend a book to the faceless masses and someone takes your recommendation, reads the book, and loves it as much as you do. It’s an amazing feeling.)

However, there are some books that I read that, for whatever reason, don’t make it to either site, Either I didn’t like them well enough to write a full review of them, or they just don’t fit either site. For those books, I write a quick review at Goodreads.

Goodreads is perfect for me; I can keep track of what I’m reading, I can socialize with other readers, and I can write quick reviews of books that don’t deserve the full-review treatment. This is as much for me as for everyone else. I read a lot, and I like to keep track of what I read. I used to have a spreadsheet, but I lost track of that when it got insanely long. I like the graphic aspect of Goodreads, as well – sometimes I don’t remember the title of a book, but I remember the cover. I can just scan through what I’ve read lately and pick it out of the list.

I’m not a rabble-rouser over there. I know there ARE rabble-rousers; trolls who do various things like bait authors into getting into fights, or bait other reviewers, or if – GASP! – you disagree with their evaluation of a book, call you names. NAMES! Can you even IMAGINE the HORROR!

I don’t get involved in the drama. I don’t care for that nonsense. I’m there to write reviews so people can make educated decisions of books before they purchase or read them, and for my own records. That’s all. That’s it.

Recently, Amazon purchased Goodreads. There was a LOT of uproar over this. Up until this point, Goodreads was an independent site for readers. How would the biggest online bookseller owning the site change things? People threatened to leave, and people left, and people moaned, and people groaned.

I’m a big Amazon fan (although I’m not blind to their issues; I just like their prices and convenience.) I decided to wait it out.

Well, Goodreads dropped the hammer last weekend. I assume only the first hammer. We are, I would guess, going to be nailed with so many hammers in the coming months that we’re going to want a platinum umbrella when we visit the site.

Right before leaving for the weekend, they put up the following announcement, but they didn’t make it obvious; they put it up in the forums, where as few people would see it as possible.

In case you don’t feel like clicking, here are some of the highlights:

“**Delete content focused on author behavior. We have had a policy of removing reviews that were created primarily to talk about author behavior from the community book page. Once removed, these reviews would remain on the member’s profile. Starting today, we will now delete these entirely from the site. We will also delete shelves and lists of books on Goodreads that are focused on author behavior. If you have questions about why a review was removed, send an email to support@goodreads.com. (And to answer the obvious question: of course, it’s appropriate to talk about an author within the context of a review as it relates to the book. If it’s an autobiography, then clearly you might end up talking about their lives. And often it’s relevant to understand an author’s background and how it influenced the story or the setting.)”

“To clarify, we haven’t deleted any book reviews in regard to this issue. The key word here is “book”. The reviews that have been deleted – and that we don’t think have a place on Goodreads – are reviews like “the author is an a**hole and you shouldn’t read this book because of that”. In other words, they are reviews of the author’s behavior and not relevant to the book. We believe books should stand on their own merit, and it seems to us that’s the best thing for readers.

“Someone used the word censorship to describe this. This is not censorship – this is setting an appropriate tone for a community site. We encourage members to review and shelve books in a way that makes sense for them, but reviews and shelves that focus primarily on author behavior do not belong on Goodreads. 

“Some people are perhaps interpreting this as you can’t discuss the author at all. This couldn’t be further from the case. The author is a part of the book and can certainly be discussed in relation to the book. But it has to be in a way that’s relevant to the book. Again, let’s judge books based on what’s inside them.

“Some people are concerned about their “not-interested” shelf or variants of that. We are not deleting those; you are free to keep cataloging books that way. We are deleting shelves like “author-is-a-jerk”, as they don’t fit our guiding principle that the book page be about the book.”

“Thank you for all the comments so far. One concern that has come up in this thread is that the content was deleted without those members first being told that our moderation policy had been revised. 

“In retrospect, we absolutely should have given users notice that our policies were changing before taking action on the items that were flagged. To the 21 members who were impacted: we’d like to sincerely apologize for jumping the gun on this. It was a mistake on our part, and it should not have happened.

“Anyone else with reviews or shelves created prior to September 21, 2013 that will be deleted under the revised policy will be sent a notification first and given time to decide what to do.”

OK, so let’s see what’s up here.

  • We’re no longer allowed to discuss authors when reviewing books. I know this SAYS it’s ok if it’s relevant to the book; we’ll discuss that in a minute.
  • Any reviews violating this rule will be deleted.
  • Any shelves labeled offensively toward the author? Also deleted.
  • Goodreads will be making these decisions. How? Arbitrarily, it seems.

Goodreads went around deleting things before even telling anyone they were doing it. They say it was only 21 people; more than 21 people are reporting it happened to them. Who’s to say who’s telling the truth, here? The big, bad company, now owned by Amazon, or people who aren’t getting paid and just love to read and write reviews?

Here’s my issue.

I understand if you review a memoir or an autobiography or sometimes even a collection of personal essays you’re probably going to have to touch on the author. Goodreads states very clearly here they won’t censor that (HA HA IT’S NOT CENSORSHIP! says Goodreads! We’re just telling you what you can and can’t say or do, and what to think! IT WAS A PLEASURE TO BURN!) but who knows what they’ll do. If they find it offensive, it’s gone.

It’s a nice thing, to say the author and his or her behavior and personal beliefs have nothing to do with a book; that it’s easy, just judge a book on the content, not the author. It’s an easy thing to say. It must be nice to live in such a black-and-white world.

However, I just read Ender’s Game.

And I can’t, in good conscience, review Ender’s Game on Goodreads.

Because I cannot, utterly cannot, divorce Ender’s Game from the beliefs of its author, Orson Scott Card. It would be a betrayal of my own beliefs, and a betrayal of a number of people I care about a great deal.

Would my review, among a veritable sea of reviews for the book (which was written in 1985) be a drop in the ocean? No. Not at all. But I don’t betray myself, not if I can help it.

So I’m going to review Ender’s Game here, because this is a safe place, and no one’s muzzling me on my own blog.

And as for Goodreads? I’ll continue using it, unless someone creates something comparable. There’s not another site out there that has the same functionality. But I think they need to stop fooling themselves: this is censorship, pure and simple. Not telling us what the rules are – or telling us, but not playing by them – and arbitrarily deleting our hard work because it doesn’t fit your rules, whatever they might be – this is censorship. Whether or not this was dictated by Amazon – my guess is yes, because it’s not good for a bookseller to have someone give bad reviews of books or authors, now, is it? – is irrelevant. We’re no longer welcome to share our real thoughts on things.

This scares the hell out of me, to be honest. To just do something like this, and think it’s ok? And to say no, no, this is not censorship?

Such a pleasure to burn.

I just finished Ender’s Game. Ender’s Game was a really wonderful book. I immediately got caught up in the story. I didn’t know what was going to happen; somehow, a book that’s almost thirty years old wasn’t spoiled for me, even though it’s a cult classic. There were two points at which I had actual tears.

Then what’s the problem, Amy? I can hear you asking. It was a good book! Yay! The world needs more of these!

The problem is that the author is a loathsome homophobe, and I can’t reconcile that with this book. It was bothering me the entire time I was reading.

Orson Scott Card doesn’t just disapprove of same-sex marriage and homosexuality. Orson Scott Card wants to BRING DOWN ANY GOVERNMENT THAT ALLOWS SUCH AN ABOMINATION. I wish I was kidding.

He also:

    • is a member of the board of directors of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), on whose agenda are things such as fighting against marriage equality, gay adoption, safe schools for LGBT students and the gay “lifestyle” as a whole;
    • has called same-sex attraction “reproductive dysfunction”
    • stated “Normalizing a dysfunction will only make ours into a society that corrodes any loyalty to it, as parents see that our laws and institutions now work against the reproductive success (not to mention happiness) of the next generation”
    • has equated homosexuality with pedophilia, and stated, “The dark secret of homosexual society — the one that dares not speak its name — is how many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse, and how many of them yearn to get out of the homosexual community and live normally”
    • wrote a lengthy essay titled “The Hypocrites of Homosexuality” in which he admonishes gay people as nothing more than people who are giving in to sin and states that anti-sodomy laws should remain on the books, making homosexuality illegal in the U.S.

In 1985, he wrote a beautiful book about, among other things, a child forced to grow up far too quickly, and the grownups around him who use him as a blunt weapon for their own ends. Ironically, he also loaded it with homosexual subtext. But hey, it’s much easier to be shouty about the HORROR! the HORROR! of teh EVIL GAYZ! than to deal with whatever he has going on in his own closet.

I can’t reconcile this book with this hate speech. This really is a beautiful book. It’s full of huge thoughts and themes. It’s kind of groundbreaking; I could name a ton of books that have taken the lead from what happened in this book. The characters were fully-fleshed and relatable. I loved Ender. Utterly adored him.

But the man that wrote it hates some of the people I love more than anyone in the world. And he’s loud about it. And the last thing we need in this day and age is someone who had a podium and had the nation’s ear (the movie of this book is coming out in a couple of months) shouting hate-speech.

The book was about how we ill-use our children; I’d argue that teaching them hate from a young age is ill-using them, Mr. Card.

I won’t be reading the rest of the series. This book ended perfectly. I don’t need any more of his books. I just can’t divorce the author from the work. It hurts to do so.

I’m glad I met Ender. And, for what it’s worth? He’d find his creator’s views repulsive. The character you created, sir, has more compassion and character than you do. And he’s fictional. Do you see the problem here?

(For more on the Goodreads controversy, please read sj’s take, This is Me. Getting involved., Emma Wolf’s take, Where capitalism and art intersect, and Charleen’s take, Goodbye to Goodreads?)

Sources:

Orson Scott Card’s Anti-Gay Views Prompt ‘Ender’s Game’ Movie Protest (Huffington Post)
Ender’s Game, Superman and Anti-Gay Bigotry (Huffington Post)


The person behind the words

I know, I’ve been inexplicably missing. WHAT HAVE I BEEN DOING WHERE HAVE I BEEN AM I OK?

Yep, I’m ok. Busy few days, yo.

There was the wedding of panic-attacks (I did end up leaving right after the ceremony; thank you all for your kind comments. The ceremony was beautiful. Utterly gorgeous. I’m so glad I made myself go to that part, at least. I was sobbing throughout – but it was only maybe 50% panic-attack crying. The other 50% was seeing two people I love so, so much marrying one another; making that leap into the forever with each other. I’ve known the bride for almost a decade now, the groom for three years, and I don’t know if I know two people who are more well-matched. The universe got it right when it put the two of them in the same place at the same time that day three years ago so they could meet. Sincerely.)

Then there was work on Saturday, which wasn’t INSANE, just BUSY (usually it’s so bad I want to collapse and weep after, so that was ok.) I then ran home and made ALL THE COOKIES.

Why, do you think, did I make all the cookies? I mean, it’s not like a single person could eat all these cookies alone, could they? So what, exactly, could have been my impetus for ALL THIS BAKING?

(Yes, they were as good as they looked, thank you very much. I’m an EXCELLENT baker. I kind of half-ass everything else, but I take my baking VERY seriously. Ghirardelli chocolate chips and EVERYTHING, you guys. I’m not screwing around with my cookies. That’s not a euphemism.)

Well! I made all these cookies for a VERY GOOD REASON:

SUNDAY WAS LAURA DAY!

Laura is one of my fellow Booksluts. We’ve known each other for a while, and I knew she lived in New York, but it was kind of just a thing I KNEW, not something I was all ABOUT. (I’m easily distracted, leave me alone.) Well, Laura is moving away soon, and we started talking about it, and I realized…well, shit. Laura lives two hours from me. When she moves, she’ll be STATES away from me. It’d be FOOLISH not to take a drive on a lovely summer day for a couple of hours to meet someone I very much wanted to meet and talk to face-to-face, right?

Let me talk to you a little about Laura. Laura is a brilliant writer. Not just her reviews, but her creative writing. Listen, you guys – she’s about to blow UP. Give it a year or two? You’re going to be like “Oh, Laura? From the Booksluts? The one who has an award-winning short-fiction collection out? Yeah, I knew her when.” I know that sounds really over-the-top (and I’m a total exaggerator) but in this case, I’m not exaggerating in the least. The woman can WRITE. She has these words and phrases in her that are so bright and so crisp and so fresh – I can’t even tell you. Here, read one for yourself. You’ll see. She has a head full of poetry and words and light and shadow and explosions of wonder.

She’s also funny as hell, quick-witted, kind, and so intelligent that it just makes you so, so happy to talk to her. She’s a total find.

So into the car with the cookies and some beverages for the drive! Off I went to the wild, wild west of New York (where I had never been, actually! Well, I’d been in the area, but not on my own, and not for years, and not from this direction, so it was all new!)

It was a very pretty drive. Very green. There was a river to watch for a lot of it with these weird bridgey things in it that I asked Dad about and he was like, “Those are parts of the old canal system, I think. Cool, right?” and he was so jazzed I’d noticed them. There were funny signs to notice like the signs for things at the rest stops, like the one that touted “FRESH FUDGE!” (as opposed to old, decrepit fudge? Who pulls off the highway for fudge? Good grief, fudge is like the easiest thing to make ever) and another one that said “HISTORY HAPPENED HERE!” (here…at the rest stop? What history could have happened at the rest stop, someone famous peed on the seat? I told Dad that, and he said, “History happened in the AREA, Amy. Not at the REST STOP. You’d be so wacky to go on a trip with. You’re way too literal.”)

(It was PROBABLY something like this, but my imagination likes to go in other directions.)

(It was PROBABLY something like this, but my imagination likes to go in other directions.)

I pulled off at a rest stop and nervous-peed (I wonder if, when I’m famous, I’ll get a “HISTORY HAPPENED HERE” sign?) and then I was in Laura’s area! Which is kind of gritty and cool and working-class and I totally want to go back and have an adventure there. (And there’s a ZOO there. You KNOW how I feel about zoos!) And then I was into Laura’s little town! AND THEN I WAS AT LAURA’S HOUSE!

Laura was sitting outside and she was ADORABLE! She was so excited to see me even though I almost butted right into someone’s car when I was parking because I’m awkward, yo. And (this is totally strange) usually, I’m petrified of meeting new people? Even knew people I adore? Like, I almost ran away before meeting Andreas, and we’d been emailing a billion times daily for MONTHS? But I was not the most nervous to meet Laura. I don’t know if it was because I’d used up all my panic from the wedding earlier in the week, or I’m calming down as a human (yeah, right) but I was only a LITTLE nervous. Which was nice. That seemed normal. Who’s not a little nervous when meeting a new person whose writing you admire so, so much and who seems so awesome?

Laura is this…she’s this force of nature. I don’t even know how else to describe her. She’s got this awesome retro look to her, all bobbed hair and red lipstick…but also this rockabilly look that doesn’t even dip a toe into hipster douchebaggery. It’s all Laura. It’s totally original and amazing and she’s so confident in her skin. I was just in utter awe of her. She shines like the sun, you guys. I can’t imagine people NOT wanting to be around her. I would think she would pull people to her like she was the center of the universe and they were all just orbiting her in amazement. You know how people say someone’s an original, and people are all “Yeah, yeah. WHATEVS?” Nope. Laura IS. She’s got this mind that just comes UP with things. And they are FILLED WITH AWESOME. Awesome that shoots off RAINBOW BEAMS. I can’t even describe.

And all of that…it sounds kind of scary, like “ZOMG I WOULD BE DAUNTED BY THIS PERSON!” but NO. Like, the OPPOSITE. She makes you feel immediately welcomed and loved and important and comfortable. The comfort level is IMMEDIATE.

In a sentence – Laura: I liked her very much.

Laura and I met up at about 11. We spent the day talking. We did eat at one point (in-between talking – she is an AMAZING cook, and the cookies were a hit!) but mostly? We talked. We talked until we got gravelly-voiced with it and then we talked more. We talked about books and writing and people we both know and people we didn’t know; we talked about both problems and things we were rejoicing in; we talked about huge things, and we talked about tiny things. We talked, which led to more talking, and that would lead to another thread of talking, and we’d be off on ANOTHER thread of talking. We’d talk until we were like “OMG I HAVE GOT TO PEE” and then run off to alternate bathrooms and pee and then meet back up for MORE talking.

I was planning on leaving around 3. Then 3 came and went, so I planned on 4. Then 4 came and went. At 4:45, I was like “ZOMG I HAVE TO GO!” because poor Laura had a party to throw AT HER HOUSE and I was taking up ALL HER TIME. But the talking. SO MUCH TALKING. Like, important talking. The kind where you have your heavy load, and the other person also has theirs? And you say, “Hey, I’ll help you carry yours, if you help me with mine, you cool with that?” and when you each shoulder the other person’s load, it’s like that load, it’s so, so light now. It’s like it’s almost not there anymore. That kind of talking…that kind of person…how often does that happen?

(Totally stole this from Laura. We didn't take enough photos. SO MUCH TALKING!)

(Totally stole this from Laura. We didn’t take enough photos. SO MUCH TALKING!)

(Also, Laura lives in an awesome old house that has the best energy ever, and people were in and out and there was so much love in that house and it was so safe and so warm. It was home. That was a home. I was just beaming the whole time. Oh, AND? I wore a skirt. ON PURPOSE. And you know what? I LIKED IT. I think more skirts and/or dresses will be worn by me in the future of my life.)

Leaving was very sad. Because – well, listen. A lot of you are internet people. How often do you click with other internet people? Or with ANY new people? As you get older, it’s harder to get that click. When we’re young, we make friends left and right…but when we grow up, we get shut off. Our hearts die, you know? The Breakfast Club got that part right. We don’t trust as readily. We see people as competition, not potential allies, or even friends.

Laura was a click. Laura was a TOTAL click. A big old click, and it was so sad to leave.

However, I will see her soon; she’s coming to see ME, for a whole WEEKEND, and we’re having a huge Albany adventure. Shopping and theater and all the food and I’m going to tour her around Albany until she either falls in love with it, or is all, “Amy. YOU ARE OBNOXIOUS. STOP.”

I then drove home and marvelled at the pretty drive again and then I was here and Laura wrote this very nice post about me HERE, which made me a little weepy, and Andreas’ comment made me even MORE weepy, and how do I know the best people ever? How is this even a thing? I don’t deserve this at all.

(At one point in our day of fantasticness, Laura was all serious-faced “Listen, and ABSORB this: YOU ARE KIND OF A BIG DEAL.” And that made me be all “Nah.” Then I was all “blush.” Then I was all “Nah” again. Because who can’t take a compliment? That’d be me. But my dearest Laura: I promise, even if it hasn’t sunk in yet, it is in my head. It is not forgotten.)

Also stolen from Laura. These are all the photos we took. Are we not lovely? I ADORE these photos.

Also stolen from Laura. These are all the photos we took. Are we not lovely? I ADORE these photos.

Counting the days til I see you again, Laura. You are magic and wonder and joy and fantasticness and light, and I am so, so happy I know the person behind the beautiful words now. Because the person behind the words? Is more beautiful than the words are. And those words are pretty damn beautiful, so how beautiful does that make that person? Thank you for an amazing day. Thank you so, so much.


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