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Problem with laboring at the Scut Factory is that I don’t wanna labor at the Scut Factory.

I’m really pissed at my great-great-grandfather for not being an industrialist at the forefront of the expansion of the American steel industry, or the American tugboat industry, or the American department store so that I could inherit great wads of cash and spend my time creating great art! Or, as is more likely, Googling Real Housewives of New York backstories.

I’m restless.

That translates as discontent.

I want more money.

I want a Best Friend who lives next door and with whom I can have long, intense, caffeine-fueled conversations about Derrida and Alfred the Great and the importance of serial commas. I wanna walk the suspension bridge that separates Buda from Pest. I want lots of attention so that I can fling my forearm across my forehead and declaim dramatically: Please! Stop paying attention to me!

Most of all, I want to be possessed by the spirit of a literary wraith – maybe Dead Scott Fitzgerald who sees where he went wrong compiling architecturally perfect sentence upon architecturally perfect sentence and is open to plushing things out a little so that readers can relax mid-paragraph – and I want that wraith to finish the damn novels!

Oh, and one more thing: I want to be razor sharp at all times. I don’t want my first reaction upon coming back from hiking or running to be, Hmmm… This would be a great time for a nap.


Else? Yesterday was pretty much a wash. Like I say, I’m not big on Easter.

I’m thinking that the last of the Great Technological Sea Changes in my lifetime was actually the invention of streaming video. (Maria was far more visionary 20 years ago than I gave her credit for being at the time.) Who doesn’t love watching movies or long-format episodic TV? It stimulates exactly the same neural centers in the brain that dreaming does. Consequently, all you need to dream your life away is a Netflix subscription. And who’s to say that wouldn’t be a life well-spent?

In 2015, Netflix subscribers on average spent 1.5 hours every day binge-watching TV shows and bad 90s movies. In 2015, there were 75 million Netflix subscribers; by the end of 2016, there were 93 million subscribers.

Watching a film or a TV show is a far more immersive experience for most people than reading a book. Even for me in most instances – and I’m a reader. It’s the hermeneutics of written text that captivate me, primarily. That and the knowledge that an entire, complex, imagined world can emerge from the brain of just one single person. No collaboration required.

That’s why I’ve never had the slightest interest in filmmaking. That’s why all I’ve ever wanted to do is write stories. When push comes to shove, I don't work and play well with others.
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Sunday night is a biiiiiig TV night. Thus, I was up until the wee hours of the morning. Watching Reza use Liquid Ass on the gang! Catching up with the adventures of Jon Snow, Cersai, and Tyrion. Wondering whether Eli will ever snag another political consulting job since he’s failed so miserably in keeping Peter from being indicted.

After that, it seemed very important that I watch Ghost World for the 40th time.

It dawned on me that video on demand is actually the fourth major technological revolution of my lifetime.


The first three major technological revolutions of my lifetime were (in chronological order) computers, the Internet, and smart phones.


Rik was the first person I knew with a computer. He won it at an Apple trade show. When would this have been? I have no idea, actually: My memories aren’t anchored to a timeline.

But by 1987, I would have owned one, too. I would have needed it for grad school.

Computers, in those days, weren’t for communicating. They were strictly word processors or data compilers. They were very clunky and slow. And there was a Holy War going on between Microsoft (the Catholic Church) and Apple (the Gnostics.) I came down on the side of the Gnostics. It had nothing to do with design and usability – two concepts, which to this very day, more-or-less sail right over my head. It would have had to do with the fact that Rik had an Apple.


In graduate school, I amused myself by doing things like inventing the Marginal Futility Function, counterpoint to the Marginal Utility Function, which is the utility a consumer gains or loses by increasing or decreasing the consumption of a good or service. The basic unit of microeconomics. Economics is an exceedingly dry subject.

Somewhere toward my third year, pounding away on my Mac Plus keyboard at a paper on water regulation, I thought to myself: I’m sick of talking to my computer! I want my computer to talk back.

And this turned out to be well within the realm of possibility.

I’d read about this… thing… that let you talk to other people using your computer. Well. Write to other people, anyway. Kind of like typing a letter, putting it in a bottle, throwing the bottle into the ocean, and waiting a couple of hours for the bottle to wash back up with a letter inside it from someone else.

This thing was called the Well.

I joined the Well, and thus became what they now call An Early Internet Adopter.

The Well exerted a disproportionate amount of influence considering its tiny, tiny size. Chiefly because journalists then, like journalists now, greatly prefer sitting in their bedrooms, guzzling Diet Coke, eating Cheezits, and reading about stuff to actually going out and doing investigative legwork.

I became moderately famous on the Well due to my propensity for hilarious quips and blood feuds.

As I became moderately famous, I, too, began to exert a disproportionate amount of influence! I’m in books! Thankfully, they're out of print. But the best thing about being famous on the Well was that it attracted the interest of Time Inc., leading to a job at People Magazine. I became People’s Interactive Entertainment Editor, which meant I got to sit in my bedroom, guzzling Diet Coke, eating Cheezits, and interviewing Real Live Celebrities on the phone! Best job evah!


Twice a month I had to show up in New York, and more often than that, I had to be in Los Angeles where I had to interview Real Live Celebrities in person and go to functions like the Oscars. Believe it or not, this was actually boring and depressing. The Oscars are not the fun fest the television cameras would have you believe, and Real Live Celebrities quite often look and behave like ferrets.


Though I was an Early Internet Adopter, I came late to smartphones.

I can remember tromping around downtown San Francisco in the early oughts and wondering about the epidemic of schizophrenia that seemed to be hitting well-dressed young professionals in their mid-20s to mid-30s. They all seemed to be rushing around the city talking to themselves.

Took me a while to understand they were actually talking on tiny phones.

I had an enormous clunky portable phone that I hardly ever used.

I’d gotten it because I was away from home so much, and I needed it to keep communication lines open with the family in case something went wrong.

Eventually, I got portable phones for the kids, too.

One day, Max and RTT ambushed me. “We hate these phones! We want iPhones!”

I resisted. For a couple of hours.

I was shocked/shocked/shocked by how much I loved my iPhone! Chiefly for its camera and texting functions. Texting on an iPhone took me right back to my haydays on the Well when I would write screens and screens of the most brilliant, ephemeral elucidations!

It still shocks me, though, to walk down a street and see that no one is paying any attention at all to the world around them. They’re all scowling and focusing on that tiny, tiny screen in front of them. Like that wonderful scene in the movie Her when Theodore walks into a crowd of people, just emerging from a subway, each immersed in the phantom world their personalized operating system has crafted for them.

Though, of course, I’m one of those people who makes eye contact on the subway.


I’ve been torrenting for years – information wants to be fr-e-e-e-e-e! – but it was only a year ago that I signed up for Netflix and Hulu.


Nielsen says the average American consumes 3.5 hours of entertainment programming every day, but I’m quite sure the actual number is higher than that. Nielsen’s representative sampling includes cats, right? And dead people.

I have no idea how much entertainment programming I consume in the course of any given day, but the figure is quite high. I know more about Reza and the unresolved issues that drive him to use Liquid Ass than I do about just about any human being in my – ha, ha, ha! – real life. And Jon Snow’s journey reveals itself to me with the Technicolor clarity of Stations of the Cross.

I think I should feel bad about this.

But actually, I don’t.

If it makes me happy to be a voyeur spying on the intimate lives of imaginary people, who's to judge?

And who’s to say that Reza or Jon Snow aren’t more "real" than four-fifths of the “people” on my Facebook “friends” list?

Only George “1984” Orwell and Aldous “Brave New World” Huxley?

They got it wrong.

The real future is the future of E.M. Forster’s The Machine Stops.


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Every Day Above Ground

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