What do you do when a Facebook friend who you vaguely know dies suddenly? What's the most sanity-inducing route of dealing with the fact that you have weird online links to their internet presence? A childhood friend passed away this week at the age of 32. It was a surprise. I had not talked to her in about five years, after a fairly disastrous night at a bar that ended with her drinking too much and haranguing me for an hour. But we were childhood friends, and played sports together, and I played at her house, and I enjoyed talking to her when I knew her from ages 8 – 18, so hearing about her death inspires feelings, but I'm not particularly sure how to classify them. Is there new etiquette around death these days, considering the variety of spheres in which we have avatars? Is it rude to defriend her on Facebook, even though I've looked at her page probably about ten times in the past few days, and it's her life, frozen, forever? How do you grieve today?
I'm just thrown by this information. If you had anything to say about processing grief, I'd love to hear it.
FB Stands For Feeling Bad
Without a doubt, we are embarking on a strange new way of dealing with sickness, death and grieving. An old friend dies and you find out way too late, then end up reading backwards on Facebook, tracing the horrible path from early sickness to fundraising blogs to hopes of experimental treatments to a sudden death announcement by a spouse or friend. Or you do that with a friend of a friend, because you're morbid and you can't stop yourself. Thanks to the way the internet functions in our lives, sometimes it's tough to separate mourning from rubbernecking, supporting from procrastinating, mourning a loss from obsessing about our own eventual death.
I can understand why your old friend's death feels so disconcerting to you. You've been friends for years, lately you've been out of touch, and now she's gone. Maybe you need to track down a mutual friend and talk about it. But sometimes that's not possible, or it feels inappropriate, so you have to find a way to mourn on your own.
But processing these things on your own can also be seriously disconcerting. Two years ago, a close friend of mine was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. He and his wife (also a close friend) set up a Facebook page and shared regular updates on how his treatment was progressing. These two had an enormous group of friends, and posts to the page by that wide circle ranged from moving to hilarious to sweetly supportive to tone-deaf. There were a lot of thoughtful, smart people in the mix and they often made me cry. But there was so much updating and commenting that it often felt overwhelming. Even though I was in close touch with my friend's wife, she mostly disseminated info on the page because it was too exhausting to do otherwise, so I started to worry that I'd miss some crucial bit of news if I didn't check the page first thing in the morning and right before bed. READ MORE
"Country singer Slim Whitman, the high-pitched yodeler who sold millions of records through ever-present TV ads in the 1980s and 1990s and whose song saved the world in the film comedy 'Mars Attacks!,' died Wednesday at a Florida hospital. He was 90."
Los Angeles Times reporter Jasmine Elist interviewed the author known as "Marie Calloway." (That is a pen name; if you don't know her, you could start here.) The Times published the interview as a Q&A on Monday. Calloway's response? "I was misquoted a lot tbf." (Old people: "tbf" stands for "to be fair." I know, it's just so many letters, thank God.) "To be fair" is a weird construction there: to be fair to whom? I asked the reporter about it, baitingly.
@Choire :) No, I don't. But I do think she'll always have a bone to pick with the people who interview her
— Jasmine Elist (@JasmineElist) June 18, 2013
This week, tennis star Serena Williams did the same thing over an interview she didn't like, with zero compunction about trashing a reporter. A bit of her forthcoming Rolling Stone profile went online yesterday, in which Serena uttered the unfortunate phrase "I'm not blaming the girl, but…" about the teenaged Steubenville rape victim, and then went on about responsible teenaged drinking. (Serena Williams, of all people, is in no position to talk about normal teenagehood!) How was the response? READ MORE
When I began taking out student loans for university, I had a fool-proof five-year plan for paying them off. I was going to go to graduate school, become an elementary school teacher, work in a high-needs public school for five years, and have the rest of my federal debt forgiven. Simple. If I stuck with the plan, I didn’t need to worry about those loans at all.
Of course, life didn’t go as smoothly as I had envisioned as an 18-year-old. This became glaringly apparent 10 years later, when I received an email from the HR department at my company:
Attached is a copy of a Wage Garnishment Order filed by the U.S. Department of Education.
We are commanded to immediately remit 15% of your disposable pay to the U.S. Department of Education each pay period. Deductions will begin on your next paycheck. We cannot reduce, amend or discontinue the deduction without written authorization from the U.S. Department of Education.
Please contact our office should you have questions or require additional information.
I have a confession to make. I’ve defaulted on my student loans. I know I’m not alone in this. But here we are. We all have our reasons for being in this situation. It’s not a shameful or embarrassing position to be in. It just is. And, as I’ve recently learned, we have options if we aren’t afraid to pursue them. READ MORE
There are events to do in New York City. Lunchtime fun at the Bryant Park Reading Room with Jami Attenberg and Fiona Maazel; dinnertime fun with Susan Orlean and Randy Cohen at the 92Y. Plus Will Leitch's chatfest at Housing Works about Jeremy Lin and Neil Gaiman at Symphony Space. And another free Laurie Anderson show down in Rockefeller Park. And more.
Nick Drake would have been 65 today. This seems as good a way as any to start things off.
Koh Masaki was Japan's foremost gay porn star when he died one month ago today. "It must have taken him a lot of courage to decide to live in Japan. I've realized that recently," Masaki said, about his partner, Tenten, a model and Chinese expatriate that he met on a train home from a Lady Gaga concert. They were talking to the photographer Keiichi Nitta for a recent video series profiling gay couples for Vice Japan. In the video, Masaki, soft-spoken and with a close-cropped beard circling his angular face, never talks explicitly about his work in adult film, but his many fans would have had no trouble recognizing him.
"It's my duty to take care of him," Masaki said, glancing over at Tenten.
By the time he died from peritonitis after an appendix operation, at just 29, Masaki had established a celebrity persona in a business where such a thing hadn't existed before. Japanese censorship laws require blurring genitalia, but social stigma leads many performers (regardless of gender) to obscure their faces, too. Dark sunglasses, hats and blacked-out swimming goggles are common accessories in an industry whose overall value has been estimated at around $20 billion.
As the Internet and social media continue to transform gay life, particularly in Southeast Asia, Masaki's career hints at one of its biggest contradictions: greater connectedness isn't necessarily driving a push for social progress—at least not in all the ways familiar in the West. By forgoing anonymity, Masaki didn't set out to remake society. Still, his decision gave many gay men more than just a recognizable face in the porn they watched. He created a role model who not only enjoyed gay sex but openly identified with it. What's more, Masaki seemed to have thought it his duty to look out for them, too. READ MORE
★★★ A pneumatic hammer raised a yellow, choking cloud of dust in the thick morning air. The 1 train was stifling and had that lotion smell again. The dust or the lingering thought of the dust was itchy on the skin. This was summer lite, the worst of it still seemingly subject to mitigation, if you stayed out of the direct sun or away from construction. It could be outsmarted. Midafternoon brought a quick hot plopping rain. Smokers stood in it on the fire escape, undeterred by the raindrops or the soggy staleness between them. Then the storm had passed, and already the metal steps were drying off. Things had cleaned up after all, and summer light filled the evening. A red-orange glow fringed the toddler's head as he sat by the window, grabbing for extra storybooks, trying to prolong his already prolonged bedtime.
This post is sponsored by Kia.
The Megan Method — Overpay, Then Sell
My first car was a wonderful, amazing, dark green faux-wood-interior-paneled convertible. I bought it outright from a lady in the neighborhood, and I used all my savings—$5,000.
When that car broke down, I bought another car, this one from my "car guy." I traded my car in to him and financed the rest—$4,000.
I got a loan through the credit union, and overpaid each month so that I could pay it off early and avoid some interest. But now I need to replace my brakes and my air conditioner—to the tune of $2,200, which I will not be doing. I'll sell it as-is and pay off the remainder of the lease and start over. Not with a used European car. Never again with a used European car. READ MORE
"When scientific learning began to eclipse religion as the more reliable explainer of the mysteries of life, our view of the world flattened out—we went from looking to the sky for answers, to looking here on earth. In the absence of divine authority, our perspective, individual human perspective, became as important as anything else. Picasso was able to see this, with his crazy giant eyes, more clearly than other people. And so began to paint the world exactly as he saw it—as a collection of two-dimensional geometric shapes, like planes of broken glass, splintered and warped and shifting with the viewer’s relative position to the object in sight. The world, as Picasso painted it, didn’t look like anything people had seen before. But in a certain way, it was closer to the truth, as people had started to experience it, maybe without anyone even knowing it. He was showing people what was inside themselves, showing them the future.
That’s what it felt like to watch Kanye perform 'New Slaves' on Saturday Night Live last month."
—Dave Bry goes there.
So, let’s talk about your mom! What was her story growing up?
She was born in 1960 and she grew up in a Catholic family in New York, not super religious but culturally so. She told me that she thought maybe she was bisexual, and she also definitely wanted a family, and at that point the way to have a family was to get married to a man. So that’s what she did.
How did your parents get together?
She met my dad in college—he’s nine years older than she is—and they got married a few years after that. She was the one to propose, which is interesting to me. I was their only child together, and when I was about three, they got divorced and she came out.
I don’t remember her coming out to me. I’m sure she did, but I was so little, I surely didn’t know what she was talking about or care.
Had she dated girls before marrying your dad?
Not to my knowledge. She has some ex-boyfriends, a few of which have come out themselves! I’m guessing the answer to your question is either “no” or “something scandalous that she doesn’t want to tell me.”
Nathan Rabin is a staff writer at the forthcoming site The Dissolve, which was formed with Pitchfork from the mass exodus from The A.V. Club, where he was head writer. Back in 2010, Rabin set out to write a book about Phish and Insane Clown Posse, two bands who are as ignored by the mainstream music world as they are adored by their fans. He followed Phish on tour that summer and then went to the Gathering of the Juggalos, ICP’s annual 4-day festival, finding both experiences to be intriguing but less than affecting.
Then, as they say, everything went wrong. Rabin went broke, lost a year’s worth of writing, and started to wonder if he was going crazy. So he did it all again. The summer of 2011 found him back on the road with Phish and at the Gathering. Wouldn’t you know it, music saved his life. “I need more things in my life with completely intangible value," he wrote in his resulting book, You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me—and what he found that year were community, salvation, and joy.
You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me is both a perceptive and funny introduction to the communities that surround two bands, as well as being a candid and moving memoir. We talked about music, fandom, and escape over email.
Two words that come up repeatedly in your book are joy and vulnerability. In the journey that you chronicle in this book, your experiences of both seem to parallel each other. Can you talk about how they're connected?
Sure. The first year that I worked on the book I was crippled with self-consciousness. I am someone for whom writing comes naturally. But I could not get anything out of my experiences that I could use in the book and that's because there was a barrier between me and what I was writing about. I couldn't find an entryway into this world that I desperately wanted to explore, so that contributed to my self-consciousness and my sense of pessimism and doom that I'd never finish the book, which in turn further fueled my self-consciousness. It was a vicious cycle. READ MORE
Writers adapt all types of stories to the screen. Whether they be based on works of fiction, like novels, comics, or plays; myths, handed down from generation to generation; or even real stories that happened to real people. All of them, however, communicate the subtle and not-so-subtle moments of everyday life, explaining the human condition in ways that can be as effective as they are entertaining.
Adaptation can be a tricky $#@!er, though, especially when some of the most important aspects of our lives, whether they be love, art, and/or family, come from 140-character perspectives. As every Twitter draft folder shows, such a short slice of life requires some finessing. READ MORE