A compendium of selfie reflections (for my students)

20 Oct
Rembrandt selfie by LoopyDave

Rembrandt selfie by LoopyDave

The modern-day selfie is beyond its cultural oversaturation point.  It’s ubiquitous.  It’s been folded into markers of the elite as the OED’s word of the year for 2013; it’s been turned into a mainstream network sit com that looks like a candidate for quick cancellation this fall; and it’s been spun into a pop music confection that offers a giggle and then disappears like a mouthful of cotton candy:

This ubiquity has resulted in repeated charges that selfie takers (particularly the young) are narcissists who are so self-involved that even when they encounter celebrities they’d rather snap a selfie than have a chat and make a personal connection with the likes of, say, Kirsten Dunst.

Outside the U.S., Muslims taking selfies during the hajj earlier this month were condemned by some as acting in ways that were disrespectful and inappropriate.  Here at home there have been heartfelt warnings, such as this one from rapper Prince Ea, to stop regarding ourselves so much and to start regarding each other.

Yet we keep taking selfies, and keep scolding ourselves for taking selfies.

Megan Garber of The Atlantic argues that we’re in a “Plateau of Productivity” now:  the hype cycle of the selfie is at its end.  We’re getting sick of them even as we continue to snap them, she notes, and this is just the point at which they become interesting to study.  I think she’s right.  (And so does the university where I work.)

The selfie isn’t new; the technology with which we create them is.  As others have noted, Rembrandt painted selfies, as did many other painters, well-known and not, and as have lots of other artists up to the modern day.

(There are also artists, it should be noted, who eschew the practice of self-portraiture.)

The pre-smartphone selfie, then, has a long history, through the ages of painting and the dawn of photography on down to our era of the camera that can be turned on oneself at whim.  We’re further encouraged these days by trying to emulate the positive attention that celebrities get for their own selfies.

So have we always been narcissists at base, just waiting for the right technology to draw it out of us en masse?

The selfie is of a piece with our natural human impulse to declare ourselves, to make our presence known in the world (“Kilroy was here!”), to figure out and express who we are, and as I’ve written elsewhere in this essay from 2007 about the use of “I” in writing, it is in knowing ourselves that we might come to better understand and regard others.

And lest we think this is a uniquely Western phenomenon, we should consider the revelation published in Science earlier this month of the earliest known human selfies to date:  a set of hands stenciled onto a cave wall in Indonesia that are believed to be at least forty thousand years old.

At least some of what’s going on here in America with reactions to selfies is probably a reflection of what de Tocqueville noticed about us during his visits to the U.S. in the 1830s:  the tension that was evident between the populism that gave birth to our democracy and the elitism that we’d supposedly rejected in splitting from aristocratic England.

Alexis de Tocqueville Source:  en.wikipedia.org

Alexis de Tocqueville (Source: en.wikipedia.org)

We still have the elitist’s desire to distinguish ourselves from the rest (“Look at me.  Aren’t I good looking?”) while also condemning anyone who thinks they’re better than the rest (“Enough with the selfies, you narcissist!”)  And in the critiques, it runs the other way as well:  the self-restraining elitist condemns the masses who take selfies, and the masses keep taking them (while also frowning upon others who do so).

Context matters, of course, including the frequency with which one is inclined to take selfies.  Kim Kardashian endlessly photographing herself is not the same as people wanting to take a selfie with the guy who caught Travis Ishikawa’s pennant-winning home run is not the same as prehistoric human beings blowing paint over their hands, leaving stenciled traces for their descendants to find 40 millennia later.

We quickly read each selfie and judge for ourselves whether we’ve got a narcissist, a braggart, an artist, or a human being making their mark, maybe having some fun.  Maybe all of those at the same time.  We have to take each selfie as it comes, including some delightful new plays on the word, such as shelfie.

So let me conclude by looking at one of mine.  This is one I took on Father’s Day this year and then shared with friends on Facebook.  I called it a “chestie.” 


What have we got here?  A series of messages that my friends might have read into the picture:

Check out this cool t-shirt my daughter gave me.

Aren’t I clever calling this photo a “chestie”?

A shout out to my fellow A’s fans.

Much love to Oakland.

How modest I am to not include my face.

Aren’t I a great and lucky dad to have received this present?  And aren’t you jealous of my good fortune?

I was here on this day, at this time, doing this.

Did I think of all these at the time I took and posted the photo?  No.  Very happy with the gift, I put on the t-shirt, soon after saw people posting Father’s Day photos–some of them selfies–and decided to join in.  I was conscious of the decision to call it a “chestie” and to celebrate the A’s (who were doing so so SO much better at the time), but that was about it.  Snapped the selfie, posted it, and forgot it.  Up until now.

What does my selfie mean?  You be the judge.

And now I will finish this compendium by burying the lede:

I wrote this post partly for myself, out of a desire to personally bookmark some of the public discussions of the selfie that have been taking place of late, and partly for you, in case you’re interested, but mostly I wrote this for my current students, who will be embarking on writing some digital, multimodal essays about online identity in the coming month.  

I offer this brief essay as an example to them, and I’m hoping to encourage them to let me share some of their work publicly here.  Given their facility with technology, I’m sure they can do much more interesting things with digital tools than I’ve managed to do in this blog post.  (Oh, look at that textual selfie he just took–so humble!)



How do we dance? After Ferguson for the privileged vacationer

24 Aug

Early on the morning of Saturday, August 9, the sun was high, the sky was clear, and my family and I were at last ready for our long-anticipated summer vacation when my wife made one last stop for a hot tea in Berkeley before we set off.  When she returned to the car, she told me about a brief encounter she’d had in the coffee shop that would prove more striking in light of what would come to pass later that day in Missouri.

After getting her tea, she went to the nearby counter to doctor it with milk and honey.  There was a very large man there who was in the way in the cramped space.  He moved to one side to make room for her just as she moved in the same direction.  Neither could get around.  Then they both moved simultaneously in the opposite direction to make way.  My wife smiled and said, “It looks like we’re dancing.”  It was at this point that the man, who had seemed stiff and uncomfortable, a neutral expression on his face, laughed and broke into a wide grin, and his whole body relaxed.  His smile, she said, was winning and beautiful.

My wife is a petite woman who looks to the outsider, perhaps, vaguely Jewish—dark hair, pale skin.  Most would call her white.  (She’s half-English, half-Mexican, all American.)  The man with whom she was dancing at the coffee bar was tall, heavyset, and black.  When the man smiled at her and laughed, my wife said it was like she could see the man’s armor come down, the armor he probably has to carry in spaces like these—filled mostly with white people—offering a glimpse of the human being beneath.

“Looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day,” he said, as they each sugared their drinks.

“It does, doesn’t it?” she replied, and then wished him a great Saturday.

For a little while in the car afterward we talked about the carapace that so many people of color have to wear in situations like this, and that so many black men in particular, and especially large black men, have to wear.  We talked about the ways in which most white folks (ourselves included) really don’t have a clue about the de-humanizing psychological effects this must have on a person.  We talked about why it was so hard for most white folks to acknowledge the kinds of microaggressions that people of color are subjected to constantly, the microagressions that lead one to develop that requisite armor.  We agreed that this was a tragedy, and that acknowledging the humanity of others—offering a simple smile or a dance—was so important, and a place to begin.

Then a couple of hours later, in the wake of the most macro and final of aggressions, Michael Brown was left dead on the street for four hours, and Ferguson, Missouri exploded.

* * *

We continued on our long car drive to the Pacific Northwest, completely oblivious.  The places we were staying had no televisions or newspapers, and we turned off all the notifications on our smart phones.  We wanted to unplug for a while and enjoy ourselves.  We were totally clueless about what was happening in the outside world.

About a week into our trip, I finally peeked at my news feeds, and began seeing #Ferguson Ferguson FERGUSON!! everywhere.  Something about a black man being killed by a (probably white) police officer.  The same awful, too familiar story, except that this one was obviously different.  News reports coming fast and furious.  Friends posting their outrage—at the police, at the media—friends calling for understanding, friends saying look at this, look at this, look at this!!

It was too much to take in.  This was supposed to be a much-needed vacation.  A vacation unplugged.  I felt vaguely ill, and I had to work hard to forget it for a few more days.  The pretty scenery helped:



Fern CoveClearwox Lake

This is what we Americans are often good at:  forgetting.  And when it’s white (“white”?) Americans thinking about race, and especially white people thinking about black people, we are very good at forgetting.  We—the privileged we—take vacations of the mind all the time.

* * *

When we returned home after almost two weeks away, it was still too much, but I tried to sort through the broad outlines and the specifics, trying to make sense not only of the sequence of events, but also of how to put it all in context, and, finally, of what to do about it.

There have been many incisive things written and said about the matter, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of them, but among those things, I’ll offer five here.  This is as much, or more, a marker for me as it is for you, the reader, who has probably seen these already. 

But if not, these five are more than worth your while, each of them offering concrete steps we can take–as parents, as citizens, and as a government–to avoid tragedies like those that befell Michael Brown, and to help redress such tragedies that, sadly, are sure to happen again:

First, this post, “A Mother’s White Privilege,” by Elizabeth Broadbent.  What mothers of white children do, and don’t, have to worry about.

Next, “Dear White Moms,” an impassioned plea from Keesha Beckford that all people, and white folks especially, should heed.

Then there is this much-shared piece by Air Force veteran Michael Bell, in which he describes what he discovered about what happens when police investigate a shooting by one of their officers.  (The answer is what you’d expect:  pretty much nothing.)  The first paragraph runs as follows:

“After police in Kenosha, Wis., shot my 21-year-old son to death outside his house ten years ago — and then immediately cleared themselves of all wrongdoing — an African-American man approached me and said:  ‘If they can shoot a white boy like a dog, imagine what we’ve been going through.'”


And then this commentary from John Oliver, who is fast establishing himself as a go-to man for putting complex political situations into an accessible, and often hilarious, context:


Finally, though I hope you look at all of the above links, if you read only one of them, make it this one:  “Reparations for Ferguson, a commentary by Ta-Nehisi Coates, correspondent from The Atlantic and another go-to man for cultural and political commentary.

His earlier May 2014 article, “The Case for Reparations,” was so well done and thought provoking that I went out and bought a print copy of the magazine so I could digest his writing more fully.  Upon closer inspection, the article proved to be even more impressive, such that I immediately subscribed to The Atlantic in print for three years.

In “Reparations for Ferguson,” Coates extends and further specifies the arguments of his original piece in a way that is all the more powerful in the wake of Ferguson.  His article serves as a reminder (for those of us who need the reminding) that many more Fergusons are in our future if we don’t take steps—individually and as a country—to address them.  Now.


So much depends…

15 Jul


an inserted

scribbled in black

amidst the white

 The Kindly Rejection


Though in light of the TriQuarterly submissions controversy last week, and T.A. Noonan’s cogent responses to same (both anonymous and by-lined), the cynic says, “Oh, I bet you say that to everyone.”


Postscript:  The story referenced in the above note has since been accepted elsewhere.


Life imitates art–a little “whoa” moment

11 Jun

I’ve written before about the way my writing has sometimes anticipated, in odd ways, people or events in my life.  Yesterday, I had another of those moments.

Earlier this year, as I was finishing up a class discussion of James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” in a creative writing class I co-teach at UC Berkeley, one of my students suddenly went into a massive seizure.

The student has suffered these seizures repeatedly since he was a young child, and he is confined to a wheelchair so he won’t hurt himself if he seizes and falls down.  His lovely mother–a shoo-in candidate for mother of the year–is his constant companion, shuttling him from class to class and everywhere else her son needs to go.

I had known beforehand that his seizing was a possibility.  However, it was still a shock when, as I began to prompt the class to begin a writing exercise, my student began convulsing in his chair.  I rushed over, and with his mother’s help and guidance, eased him out of his chair and onto the floor, supporting his head and neck as his seizure continued.  Several of my other students, reacting quickly, called 911.  The student’s body eventually calmed and he fell into a kind of sleep.  The Berkeley Fire Department arrived with impressive speed, and the student was taken to the hospital, where he recovered quickly.

An upsetting event for all concerned–my student’s mother especially–but I was proud of my other students for their take charge and compassionate responses.  They warmly welcomed their classmate back to class the next week, and he continued to the end of the semester with impressive perseverance and his customary good cheer.

And then yesterday, I was working over a long manuscript of fiction–cutting and cutting and cutting–when I came across a short passage I’d forgotten.  I’d first written the scene 5 or 6 years ago, before I’d begun teaching creative writing at Cal, and not having witnessed a grand mal seizure since middle school when a classmate of mine suffered one.

In the scene, a fiction writer is out to dinner with colleagues when one of their party suddenly collapses.  The other people leap into action, attending to the person who has passed out and fallen to the floor.  Meanwhile, the fiction writer sits paralyzed, doing nothing but watching the others.  After describing that initial action, I wrote this:

He was reminded of his shame when a few years earlier a student had gone into an epileptic seizure in one of his creative writing classes and how he’d stood in place the entire time, saying not a word as a series of future take-charge types in the guise of hooded freshmen who couldn’t write had kept the poor boy from biting off his tongue and thereby exposed their instructor as a man not to be counted on in a crisis.  He’d barely been able to return their gazes for the rest of the semester; everyone in the class had gotten an A.

I’m glad that my actual self responded better than the fictional character did (probably thanks to my student’s mother).  And my actual students were much better writers than the fictional ones, although, sadly, not everyone earned an A.

Still, it was a mini “Whoa” moment.  And I think I’ll keep that scene in the manuscript.

(Source:  hansol, Flickr)

(Source: hansol, Flickr)




13 Ways of Looking at a “Like”

30 May


13 Ways of Looking at a Like

1)      I like this


2)      OMG, I freaking LOVE this!


3)      I love this so much that I am totally going to share this while wishing I’d found or thought of it first, damn it!


4)      I am completely in alignment with you politically and/or culturally.  Isn’t it great/awful, this thing we agree upon?  I am so glad you expressed it thusly so that I can “like” it and do nothing else about it.


5)      Yes, I hereby acknowledge reading this thing that you wrote.


6)      This thing you are posting, it is complicated and I don’t much feel like getting into it right now.


7)      I feel bad for you.  Hugs!


8)      How about you not being so goddamned self-centered and making a comment on other people’s walls once in a while?


9)      As Gore Vidal once said, this thing you are sharing about your life’s excellence is causing me to die a little.


10)  I something other than like this, precisely, but the attenuated range of expression available to me here forces me to fucking like this.  (Do you have to swear so much?  There are children on Facebook!  The children!)


11)  Well, crap, I liked this person’s thing and that person’s thing, even if it wasn’t really liking exactly (I mean, these things are complicated), so now I have to like your stuff too or you’ll be angry with me.


12)  I’m just clicking at this point.  It makes me feel alive.


13)  This contribution to my social graph is commodifying me into a few pennies that will be added to Mark Zuckerberg’s riches, and so once again I manage to do an injustice to the memory of Lloyd Dobler:


“I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.”



50 Years of Free Speech…

28 Apr

…more or less.

Every summer, we ask UC Berkeley faculty, staff, and students for recommendations of readings to share with the incoming freshmen.  This year’s theme is “Free Speech,” in keeping with the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement here on campus, when Mario Savio and others threw themselves on the gears of the machine at Sproul Plaza.

Some good recommendations on here, not all of them limited to people and events at Berkeley.  Check it:  http://reading.berkeley.edu/srl_2014.html

UCB Summer Reading 2014

Into the Unknown

7 Mar

On not knowing, and failing, as a path to wisdom and success…

Divine Light Coaching

Into the Unknown Into the Unknown

When I sat down to write this blog today, I had several ideas swirling in my head, and so I decided to pull an Oracle card from Colette Baron-Reid’s deck “The Enchanted Map.”  The card I got is pictured above Into the Unknown, and the upshot is that trust and willingness to admit I don’t know this new territory are needed as I move forward.  Bingo – every day right now feels like this for me, a perfect thing to write about!

When I got into coaching, many pieces of it felt “known” to me.  I had trained as a therapist, and had lots and lots of experience working with people, listening to them, identifying their strengths, zeroing in on problems.  I had hired my own coach, who helped me change my life and I modeled a lot of how I practiced in the beginning on…

View original post 1,012 more words

“Novelists are chancers”–A few favorite moments from AWP ’14

3 Mar

A few favorite moments from this year’s AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) conference in Seattle:

*Rachel Kushner saying she tries to make sure that when she writes, she has “not yet performed any acts of speech that day.”  (Or was it that she tries not to have “committed any acts of speech”?  Either way, she’s a #silentgenius.)

*Hearing writers from Killing the Buddha talking about the complex ways in which they write about faith, paying attention to the stories that believers tell rather than the “facts” of God’s (or gods’ or goddesses’) existence or non-existence.

*Jess Walter’s very funny introductions of Gish Jen and Tobias Wolff, including his commentary on how he, a writer unaffiliated with any college, felt about attending his first AWP:

Walter joked that he’d worried about whether he’d fit in at AWP, about whether he’d be expected to use words like “pedagogy,” or if he even was pronouncing the word correctly.  He mentioned that when he first arrived at the conference, he saw a writer friend coming out of a convenience store, and the writer said, “Dude, what the hell?! They legalize pot here and then they don’t even sell it in the stores?!”

To which Walter replied:  “That’s pedagogy for you.”

*Seeing my former Pitt colleagues Catherine Gammon and Jeffrey Condran both doing so well.

*That attentive and somewhat beleagured look on other writers’ faces as they watched each other streaming up and down the endless Escher painting escalators of the Washington State Convention center.  Reassuring because I knew it was the look on my face as well.

*Spending time with my friends and talented fellow Berkeley writers, Kaya OakesRyan Sloan, and John Levine. Always a pleasure.

*Sarah Einstein, the managing editor of Brevity, talking about what kinds of stories the magazine doesn’t accept, and doing so by giving a breakdown of the worst submission she’s ever seen, the one she keeps posted on the wall next to her desk as a reminder, and she pointing out to the audience, in great specificity, the flaws in that submission’s title and theme and craft, and I’m thinking, “Jeez, that’s awfully mean of her to go on like that,” until the ending that I didn’t see coming (and which I’m sure you do see coming) when she revealed that the submission was hers.

*Hearing novelist Thaddeus Rutkowski talk about how hard it is to market his books on a shoestring budget, and how difficult it is to know how effective his use of online tools for marketing is, so in the spirit of online sharing, here’s a link to his website, and here’s a video clip of him performing “White and Wong,” part of the documentary Aurora:

*And finally…Colm Toibin making the statement that “Novelists are chancers.”   Toibin took such impish delight in being a chancer that I knew, then and there, that I wanted to be one.

Colm Toibin

Art Inspiration

12 Feb

Art (and a blog) to inspire!

Divine Light Coaching

A couple of weeks ago, I had a day of complete inspiration.  It was the uplifting, heart opening, I-can-see-all-the-possibilities-in-the-world feeling that makes me want to sing or dance or do whatever I can to express the joy of feeling alive.  I felt completely jolted out of the winter and post-holiday doldrums I had been in.  I owe this feeling, this lightness of heart and spirit to David Hockney.

David Hockney “Bigger Trees Near Warter, Winter 2007”

And to the de Young Museum in San Francisco.

David Hockney at the deYoung Museum

David Hockney exhibit at the de Young Museum

And “Bigger” this exhibit was!  This man is amazing! The depth and breadth of what he does, just blew my mind.  Sure, he is a painter as in the first image (one of my favorites, it was HUGE).  The size of the paintings were such that some took up whole walls…

View original post 629 more words

So What? A few final CW R4B thoughts

6 Dec

A few words on the last day of College Writing R4B, Fall 2013 

For Mimi, Nick, Nathan, Brent, Jeevan, Kristine, Jasmine, Noosha, Grant, Kevin, Kevyn, Alan, Michelle, Richard, Nicole, Estefania, and Lulu…
[Note:  If you’re reading on a computer, the hyperlinks in the text should come through fine. For those of you reading this on a mobile device, some of the hyperlinks don’t seem to be activating, so I’ve listed a few raw URLs at the end of the post. ]

We live in heady times.  Every day there is something new.

Talk of Amazon delivering packages by drone and Google doing so via robot, and of hyper-connected, love sick couples in Seoul, along with ongoing discussions of whether the Long Tail is a good thing–for consumers, for artists, for businesses, for the culture.

Remember the Long Tail?  Jaron Lanier talked a little bit about it:  most of us are in the long tail, while a few Amazonians, among others, are in the slender tippy top of the curve.

Speaking of Lanier, here’s what he had to say in the New York Times a couple of days ago about that Amazon drone delivery idea:


“I can easily picture a scenario where drones deliver things to upscale tech-savvy customers,” he said. “But note the implication, whether intended or not, that working-class truck drivers will no longer transgress geographic class lines. It’s also hard to imagine delivery drones flying unmolested in restive working-class or poor areas. They’d become skeet or be ‘occupied,’ depending on the nature of the neighborhood.”

A prospect both funny and sad because it all seems so likely.

An End to the Introductory Digression…

What is it that I want to say to you?

I’m not sure, but I’ve given myself an hour to do it.  (Or 50 minutes, really, since that’s how much time we have together each day.)  This is in keeping with the ethos of the speed of technology.

I suppose I want to say this:  The sentence is human.

The sentence is human?

Human, the sentence is.

(Yoda version.)



Is it human, though?

It is.

Is it?

(Apparently, I’m talking to myself; that’s what writers do sometimes.)

Only humans can write sentences, really.  Machines can’t write them.

No? Well…

Jewel Darling, you are my covetous infatuation. My lovely infatuation. You are my precious sympathy. My precious desire impatiently adores your fancy. You are my avid fancy.

What the…?

Jewel moppet. You are my loving rapture. My heart breathlessly adores your desire. You are my beautiful adoration. My precious charm. My sympathy impatiently tempts your yearning.

These are love letters written by a computer program. The program itself was first written over 60 years ago(!)

And then there’s this:

“WISCONSIN appears to be in the driver’s seat en route to a win, as it leads 51-10 after the third quarter. Wisconsin added to its lead when Russell Wilson found Jacob Pedersen for an eight-yard touchdown to make the score 44-3 … . ”

This is a news story from just a couple years ago, generated by a program designed by the company Narrative Science, one of whose founders said at the time:

“In five years,a computer program will win a Pulitzer Prize — and I’ll be damned if it’s not our technology.”

Program + input of data = news story.

But can such a program write this?

Quoyle experienced moments in all colors, uttered brilliancies, paid attention to the rich sound of waves counting stones, he laughed and wept, noticed sunsets, heard music in rain, said I do. A row of shining hubcaps on sticks appeared in the front yard of Burkes’ house. A wedding present from the bride’s father.

For if Jack Buggit could escape in a pickle jar, if a bird with a broken neck could fly away, what else might be possible? Water may be older than light, diamonds crack in hot goat’s blood, mountaintops give off cold fire, forests appear in mid-ocean, it may happen that a crab is caught with the shadow of a hand on its back, that the wind be imprisoned in a bit of knotted string.  And it may be that love sometimes occurs without pain or misery.

A machine can’t write that. Not yet.

(It’s from the last two paragraphs of The Shipping News, the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Annie Proulx.)

The Shipping News

So:  what’s my point?  What’s the So What?

Still not sure, other than showing my biases.

I think it’s partly this, though:

We read on machines.


We write on them.


We do research on them.


And we use them to cite so incredibly easily. (Though my citation here, particularly of the images, is quite poor. Most of the images come from Creative Commons.  I’ll take the time to cite them later.  This post, like so much that is online, is a draft.)

(An aside on “citation” and provision of evidence:  Don’t you love it when articles give you a hyperlink trail so they don’t have to give you all sorts of tedious explanatory context?   And sometimes you can find little gems.  For instance, they can just go:  “For something quite silly, go here or here.”)

Machines might serve as excellent tools to do a certain degree of our writing and reading for us.  

But in this context, there are certain things a machine can’t do–that a machine shouldn’t do.  Sharp writing and careful critical reading become even more important as automation makes aspects of it undeniably easier.

So who’s going to do it?

You are.

(You knew I’d say that, didn’t you?)

Mimi and Estefania will show us how cyberbullying and sex trafficking online, respectively, might be stopped by, in part, expanding our Circle of Empathy.

Noosha will make us more aware of what Facebook might be doing to women’s body images, and maybe Nicole will provide us solutions to that problem by showing us some non-stereotyped female gamers who will kick some misogynistic butt.

Or maybe we’ll all just chill out, go to Disneyland, and wear RFID wristbands with Kristine, except Kevin will say, “No No! Don’t you know what they’re going to do with your information?! Doesn’t anyone care about their privacy anymore?”

Nathan will tell us to calm down, he knows just what to do, let’s all go on Twitter and pass along information about this crisis as it happens, and if we decide we don’t want our RFID bands anymore, then Michelle will tell us how to dispose of them properly.

Or else she’ll totally freak us out by showing us something like this: 


Maybe one way to deal with all that e-waste is to generate less of it by pirating more things and torrenting them, though Kevyn will actually give us other ways in which we ought not to worry so much (and worry a little? yes?) about piracy.

And what happens if the Great Firewall of China comes down? Less piracy?  More growth?  Richard will show us–and the Chinese economy–how to make a booming economy boomier.  In the meantime, Lulu will give us the tools to become as famous (and rich!!) as social media make-up maven Michelle Phan.

Speaking of make-up, let’s watch some baseball being umpired entirely by technology, and then take a moment to stare at Grant’s newly peroxided Game of Thrones hair.

[Self conscious, real-time, staring-at-Grant break]

Is he remaking his in-person image for an online presence?  Brent will tell us what he thinks about that, and Alan will tell us whether that’s why teens find Facebook so appealing, even as Jasmine tells young people that people, people, Facebook isn’t reality and there are better ways to achieve true happiness and among them is…Jeevan!  Jeevan!  Stop looking at your own profile picture!!

Not to worry though, all will be well, because once he leverages his Obama-esque knowledge of social media campaigning, Nick will solve all our problems as our future Senator from California.  You can all say you knew him back in his humble beginnings in 263 Dwinelle.

(BTW, what a crappy room, eh?)

So, the machines have started, and E.M. Forster (may he Rest in Peace) might well be dismayed if he were still with us (and he is still with us–his writing!).  But the humans haven’t stopped yet. I have faith in you.

In the meantime, it’s best to laugh in the face of our imminent demise.  That is, until machines get a sense of humor too. So I turn now–as I often do at this time of the semester–to the Kiwis:

Cheers and Adieu.


Raw URL Links (in case the embedded ones above didn’t work):

On Amazon delivery drones:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/03/technology/amazon-delivers-some-pie-in-the-sky.html

On Google delivery robots:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/04/technology/google-puts-money-on-robots-using-the-man-behind-android.html?_r=0

On “The Love App” in Seoul:  http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/11/25/131125fa_fact_collins

About the Long Tail and blockbusters:  http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2013/12/02/131202crbo_books_sanneh

Narrative Science:  http://narrativescience.com/artificial-intelligence-data-engine/#section2

Computer generated articles:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/11/business/computer-generated-articles-are-gaining-traction.html?pagewanted=all

Creative Commons:  http://search.creativecommons.org/

Something silly #1:

Jimmy Fallon, Rashida Jones, & Carrie Underwood: A Holiday Mashup

Something silly #2 (a book trailer for the novel Super Sad True Love Story, by Gary Shteyngart):