Are you in?


The generations since World War II have been separated into marketing niches of Greatest and Boomer, then X,Y, and Z, but I suspect that no set of people since Homo erectus figured out fire, speech, and monogamy, have faced as much rapid technological and cultural change as have the people born since 1950. This unmooring of cultural institutions, socioeconomic niches, and family structures is remarkable and deeply unsettling to many.
Modernity has atomized the family, but we are still the Pleistocene mammal subject to possessiveness, territoriality, and stranger anxiety. We are just a handful of base pairs removed from our mutual ancestor with the chimpanzee who kill and eat intruders. And so we naturally flock with our kind in our hominid fashion, and wish to destroy the other if they get in the way. What stops us?

Strong ideas keep us from burning witches. Ideas of justice, equality of human worth, and an appreciation of value of freedom and liberty bind us together in a common identity. These ideas are shared across borders instantaneously, usually in English, on the internet via smart phones and social media. These are rather old American ideals and should not be new to those wary of change. Instead, it is the broadening of the definition of *American* that jars people. It is an America that people are still looking towards as they overturn dictatorships and established tyrannies. We see it in the Arab Spring, in the continue march of the huddled masses to the gates, and in gay Americans fighting to achieve equal status. We witness it as a force that China is trying to subvert with overt fascism, with likely failure in the long term.

This neo-Americanism is the lingua franca of business and diplomacy. It is the common operating system that everyone demands. At home, to succeed in this new America, you have to learn how to pass for a new kind of American. It is a fact that if you make yourself smile, your brain will register positive in its happiness centers, and you will transition to happiness (try it!). If you carry a smart phone, participate in social media, and read at above elementary school level, the centers of the brain that are stimulated will drive change. Corporate HR policies, public school codes of conduct, and public social mores are aligning around and driving this change, even for older Americans who one would assume would be all for not changing. It used to be said that you are basically set in your ways by the time you are forty, but I think even that generalization is done because I increasingly see retired people with smartphones and tablets watching the latest Youtube videos and family photos on Facebook. This at least informs them about the tectonic shifts in society, and at best changes deep seated notions.

Public perceptions of gun ownership, healthcare, education, equal rights, and our relationship to the world are being debated because the minds of the people are changing. And contrary to what even the history books say, it was not the federal government and federal troops that desegregated the schools, it was We the People. The shibboleth of these times, our times, are the smart phone, social media accounts, and the networks connected by these. Are you in?

Social Animal Network


We’re inherently social. It is imprinted in our nature to bond, communicated, and organize as packs. This trait, the instinct to gather, seek out each other’s company, to seek approval, to argue, I would argue, is as much a distinguishing species characteristic as spots on a Dalmatian, and is one of the reasons for the explosive growth of Facebook. We, each of us, need to be part of a tribe, and when the tribes were destroyed by the onset of modernity, they awaited a mechanism to be reunited. Think about it –up to the 2000’s, people had to rely on the usual methods of connecting with their old tribe –telephone, email, actual contact which relied on deliberately remembering to keep in touch which none of us were really good at. The casual intimacy of living in a village with a commons, of having a favorite popular coffee shop, a dorm common room, when you move on the people you said hello to moved on as well. Now they follow you forever in Facebook.

It may or may not be a good thing, because if you have a village, even a virtual one, there will be a village idiot or two (I may be the village idiot). I have become reintroduced to my best friend from kindergarten and there are eerily similar things that we are passionate for –coffee, scatological extraversion, and Apple worship, that brings daily a smile. The shy quiet girl who sat in the back corner of high school English class turns out to be a world class smarty pants –a nicely maturing red wine with a kick in the middle and a lingering finish. I’ve even made new dear friends among friends of friends. They occupy my particular village, some I speak to every day, some every once in a while. It’s the tribe I’ve accumulated over the decades.

It also has implications beyond the sharing of holiday pictures and links to funny cat videos. It returns us to a kind of social organization that was only possible when people physically lived in villages and neighborhoods. The outside world is invited in by the denizens of these villages, but the human tendency is to be insular within the family, the tribe, the village. It may not seem like a big deal to us living in a constitutional republic, but when Facebook is available to those living in places less free, their time amongst their friends must be as important as air and water. Facebook has created a virtual planet for us to inhabit, a brave new world.

I F$#@ing Hate the Social Network, That’s Why You Have to Watch It

I fucking hate The Social Network. Not because it’s a bad movie -it’s very good and you should see it. The reason I hate it is it’s too good. During the entire first half hour, I felt like I was in one of my recurring stress dreams where I’m back at Harvard. In this dream, I am walking into Memorial Hall and sitting down with a stack of empty blue books, and I have three hours to answer questions that I know nothing about in a language that I cannot understand. < shudder >

Most of the first act was shot at Harvard, and the House dorms looked about the same as they did over twenty years ago.  What was more ingenious was the portrayal of undergraduate life there which was spot on. With those pictures rushed back the anxiety over social status, ethnicity, money, and the general envy and dismay towards all the Winklevosses who were there and above all of us. Hooray for Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin. They have changed the world.

Everyone who agrees, just poke me.

The 25 Things About Me


This is a chain letter circulating around Facebook -this is my contribution. My soul has been bared. 

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.)

25 things about me

1.Imagination -my imagination tends to run amok. Ally MacBeal was a bit jarring to watch because on some levels, my brain works in a similar fashion.
2.Navel gazing -I am a chronic self examiner. Combined with number 3, blogging and Facebook suits me like swamp water does for a frog.
3.Exhibitionism -Yes. I am a bit of an exhibitionist,. Not in the trenchcoat with no pants way, but more in the need for getting everyone’s attention. But I have a purpose!
4.Food -Food, good food, obsesses me to the point that I have to force myself to view food as a bodily function and not the center of my day. Spam is the pearl of American food, by the way. I can be seduced with food. I prefer savory over sweet. 
5.Bloody mindedness -I have a masochistic streak. My personal motto was set at four, when I declared to my whiny cousin Eugene, “Namja neun ch’ah muh ya deh.” which loosely translates to “a man must persevere.” Stoicism appeals to me, even though I may unstoically complain of its absence. Once, out of boredom, I pulled out 5 of my remaining baby teeth at age 10.
6.I can’t talk about number 6. It involves the Plaza Hotel, the Harvard Club of Boston, Locke-Ober, The University Club, the Four Seasons of New York…There I said too much. They might be reading this.
7.Doing things from scratch -I enjoy creating things from elemental items. For a cucumber and tomato salad, I grew these items along with the chives and then became flustered over not being able to make the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and coarse pickling salt. I then contemplated making the bowl out of the clay from the deeper soil of the garden. The longer the process and the shorter the reward, the greater the appeal. I like to fish with flies that I’ve tied myself, and dream of catching fish in Central Park with just the items from a sewing kit from one of the hotels. 
8.Narcissism -I tend to personalize everything. You are me, and he is me, and we are me, and we are all together -isn’t how that song goes?
9.Golf -I play golf in my mind when I’m not thinking about myself or what I’m going to eat next. I’m a big baby.
10.Rules -I like structure insofar as it draws lines for me to cross, if I can.
11.Impatient -I am not terribly patient.
12.Grand Gestures -I am a bit of a primitive or a throwback in my love and appreciation of grand gestures. Think Taj Mahal or the Defenestration of Prague -actually scratch that last one. 
13.Mongols -Yes, I love anything Mongolian. I would love to live in a yurt with forty horses and my clan in tow going from pasture to pasture. 
14.Chimpanzees -I can sit and watch them all day for weeks on end if given the opportunity. Their inner workings are so mysterious.
15.Women -I can sit and watch them all day for weeks on end if given the opportunity. Their inner workings are so mysterious. 
16.Minorities -The Yakuts, the Kipchaks, the Tai Dam, the Hmong, the Hottentots, Parsis, everyone Stalin moved around, the Piraha, remnant hunter gatherers of the world, Central Asian Jews, the Celts, the list goes on and on. Fascinating stuff. 
17.The Encyclopaedia Brittanica -I used to read it obsessively.
18.Scouting -I was an avid cub scout, but made the mistake of not going beyond Webelos. The ethos of scouting has always been a part of my worldview. 
19.Fishing -I can usually catch fish. A good skill to have. 
20.The Next Thing -My To-Do list is a branchy, multiply bifurcating clade of the next shiny, neat thing to figure out or do. I enjoy constantly remaking my environment.
21.School -If I hit Powerball, I’m going back to school forever. 
22.Anchovies -I really enjoy the salty, super fishy flavor of anchovies on the side with a freshly made Caesar’s salad.
23.Writing -If I had to do it all over, I would have put more effort into writing and storytelling. 
24.Love -I am a believer in true, romantic love. The kind that gives you strength, perspective, and a clear vision.
25.Purgatory -If the Old Testament, hellfire Christians are correct, then the best I can expect is to be in a line with quadrillions of people ahead of me, a line that includes Gandhi, Socrates, the Buddha, the entire pre-Columbian Aztec nation, most everyone who has ever lived in Marin County, aborted fetuses (each wearing an original sin pin on a simple gray smock), spilled semen (reconstituted as hopping demi-beings with whiplike tails, wearing half a black tee shirt with Onan in globby white letters), and a couple of my high school teachers. We’re all waiting to get processed and sent down a large hole in the clouds. We entertain each other with stories about our lives. I’m surrounded by a couple of billion demi-people who claim some relationship to me…