Foursquare – Check

I just started using Foursquare. Normally I wouldn’t make an announcement about using a new social media site, especially because I embrace most of them unconditionally, but Foursquare is one of those that I found almost dangerous. Why in the world would you want people to know exactly where you are, at any given point in the day? Clearly it’s a bit stalker-ish. (And surely stalkers have taken note. Yet because we live in a culture where you don’t have to ask what other people are doing. Just see what they RSVP’d to on Facebook…)

But I signed up anyway, promising myself that I’d never use it. That is until I noticed that a friend of mine was the Mayor of my favorite local restaurant. He had checked in a staggering 10 times. I had been there at LEAST that many times in the past few months. That was enough to stoke my interest. I decided to treat myself, checking in at said restaurant for the very first time. And ZOOM — I had earned my very first Badge, the Newbie. Then I see that the Logo TV network has created a promotional Badge for RuPaul’s Drag Race, my favorite TV show. But the contest has curiously obscure contest rules. From what I gather, if you check in at fabulous, Logo-endorsed locations, you can win a trip to New York City to attend a special season finale Rupaul’s Drag Race viewing party. (NOTE — Not only is it absurd that I want to win a trip to a city that I already live in, but RuPaul may not even be at the party. But that’s OK because he retweeted me the other day. And that means we’re good friends now.)

I can’t say that I’m “hooked” as much as I can say that now I understand. Foursquare stokes two layers of competition — competition with others (Mayorship, wherein you’re master of your domain) and with one’s self (Badges, which are emblems of the modern social butterfly). Others may fee Foursquare’s incentives as being in the know, or being in the right place at the right time, with the right people.

Just like many other social networking sites before it, I’m sure I’ll stop using it at some point. Probably the point at which I unlock that Drag Race Badge. Until next season’s contest, that is.

A catchy song in 2011…

Is an offensive thing that insists on pounding, thumping, screaming in your head until you spew out URL Vomit and hit Share on your Facebook profile. This video has caused millions of people to experience such URL Vomit. Only it’s more horrible than I just made it sound. And it’s extremely catchy, with its narrator and her horribly nasal voice that makes the word Friday sound like Fried Egg (an equally horrendous thing). Enjoy, everyone!

Smoking Found Object

Taken from a series of Post-Its found in a book, written the day after I quit smoking, September 16, 2008. I had endeavored to write down each time I thought of smoking:

11:30A –> Post-coffee consumption

1:39P –> Accidentally typed “smoke” instead of “some.”

3:04P –> Post-lunch. Trying to get work done. Would normally rush through QA so as to smoke a cig soon.

4:39P –> After reading a lot about smoking cessation, sucking on a tea tree toothpick.

5:11P –> Thought about new job prospect, reaction was to want a cigarette (*Normally want after I get a good/interesting idea / *Walking and smoking pleasurable…Ultimately, I lack the attention span for genuinely interesting thoughts.)

5:47P –>Anxious to go home

5:47P –>cont. — Why must this be the thing that I look forward to? (**Find something else to look forward to: A. Seeing People. B. Record shopping! C. Walking (w/o smoking).

Note –> Did I ever look down on non-smokers?

Today, NYC banned smoking in public parks and beaches. I know that quitting is hard, but at $11/pack and a whole city warring against you, it might be harder to keep smoking. As friends who knew me back in the day can attest, I was one of the biggest fans of cigarettes. A friend of mine even nicknamed me Serge (as in Gainsbourg, pictured above). If I can do it, anyone can.

Frey Factory

Lately I’ve acquired the habit of reading before bed. Though in the back of my mind I worry that its sedative properties signify a lack of interest, I do it anyway. My book of the week is a big, bad Gothic horror novel, Uncle Silas. I must admit it is at times a bit dull. After all, my sensibilities are 21st century, not 19th century; a book can’t be wholly exciting all the way through. But then suddenly a ghost appears and I’m trilled all over again.

Last night I made the mistake of putting my novel down and reading this article right before I turned the lights out, which was a big mistake. It bothered me so much that I laid awake for hours. It’s an exposé written by a Columbia MFA student who, along with her fellow classmates, was propositioned by the disgraced writer James Frey to write the next big YA novel. I didn’t exactly know which fact disturbed me more, the very existence of the Full Fathom Five factory or the very fact that anyone in their right minds would give their ideas away to such an opportunistic man. In the article, you’ll find its disgraced subject possesses a rather pedestrian taste in literature, especially in what he finds to be “transgressive.” He comes across as a rather cocky human being with nothing but good things to say about himself.

Most of all, it’s a sad, depressing look into the reality that writers face these days. However, it was good to have stumbled upon an alternatively hopeful message.

21st Century Stoicism

Part 1: Twenty-First Century Stoic — From Zen to Zeno: How I Became a Stoic
Part 2: Twenty-First Century Stoic — Insult Pacifism
Part 3: Twenty-First Century Stoic — Stoic Transformation

I have, on more than one occasion been described as being stoic. Meaning, I am able to bounce back from emotional trauma with speed. Of course this isn’t always the case. When things burn, they burn deeply inside of me and never want to let go. But for the most part, I endure many aspects of life “without hardship.”

But the above series of blog posts tells the story of one man (whose book I have yet to read…That’s going on the Wishlist this year for sure) who endeavors to “endure without hardship” the philosophy of the Stoics. He writes about three main aspects of living Stoically:

1. Negative Visualization, in which he contemplates the loss of the things in front of him. In doing so, you tend to appreciate what you have and especially who you have around you. No writing sappy songs about how you never told your loved ones how much you love them. Or, more simply, appreciate that your coffee maker made it one more day without breaking — you couldn’t say as much for the last one that died 6 months into its life.

2. Insult Pacifism, in which you don’t re-act when someone insults you. The cast of the Jersey Shore would surely fail at this one. Yet the funny thing about insult pacifism is how well it works. Your detractors will be taken far, far aback when their insults are ignored.

3. Greeting Life’s Curveballs with Glee. This one has mostly to do with #3, but is a non-social phenomenon. If we don’t react, one horrible traffic jam at a time, we’ll be better equipped to deal with genuinely bad news. (“Your headache is something a little more menacing, sir. I’m afraid we’ll have to operate.” This one might be the biggest lesson of them all.

So is it possible to live Stoically in the 21st century? William B. Irvine seems to think so. But if you follow his instructions, you may find the reactions of those around you to be a bit funny. What do you mean he doesn’t hate his beat-up ’97 Honda? Surely the author doesn’t mind these whispers. The transformations going on inside are good enough to make up for it.

Halloween at Storm King

Enter if you dare!

You amateurs and your costumes. Don’t you know that we who possess morbid imaginations can find something frightening in almost anything in “real” life? Take for instance, Storm King Art Center, a sculpture park in the Hudson Valley, disturbingly far away from the city that we love and cherish. David and I spent this Halloween afternoon there. After the jump is our story, told in pictures. Continue reading “Halloween at Storm King”

Vengeance will be yours, 12-year-old Bradley, or, When I realized that it had gotten better

“I think people need it — trouble… I think people need trouble, fret, a little frustration, to sharpen the spirit or toughen it. Artists do; I don’t mean you have to live in a rathole or gutter, but they have to learn fortitude, endurance; only vegetables are happy.” – William Faulkner, 1950

With all of the publicity out there regarding teen bullying, I thought that I couldn’t let this moment pass without sharing how and why I discovered that it had in fact, gotten better.

Though my teenage years were mercifully bully-free, I did receive my fair share of taunts in or around the 6th and 7th grades. I went to a middle-upper class Catholic school comfortably situated on Peoria, Illinois’ north side. For the most part our school didn’t perform well athletically, but that didn’t stop kids from participating, soccer being the sport of choice. I made an attempt at joining them, really not out of desire to fit in or even out of any vague interest, but just because that was what you did. Being a rather “full” kid myself, I was always put in the position of fullback, making sure that the quicker, skinnier kids didn’t get past (what I had been brainwashed to be told to have been) my large shadow. Painfully shy about my body, I was, during one especially traumatic practice, forced to play on the “skins” team. It was that moment that I decided to give up sports for the rest of my childhood, promising myself that I’d never be forced into such a humiliating situation again.

Once the other boys started realizing what gender norms were all about, they must have started to notice that I didn’t talk, act and walk like them. Though I was adequately smart, I was not exceptionally so. Besides, being smart at my school wasn’t a strike against you. That I was rather “expressive” that must have caught them off guard. I liked playing with the girls much better, and while it provided me with a shield from bullying for a time (“Oh, Brad’s such a pimp!”), after awhile they started to catch on. But no one in my grade ever seemed to bother me; it was the older kids who would call me names.

“Faggot”, “Big Boy”, “Fag”, etc, were all the exceptionally creative names that they called me. And there was one bully in particular who seemed to have been the leader of the pack. Let’s call him Bob. Bob was the class clown. Everyone thought that Bob was just the funniest person on the planet, including, as I painfully observed, some of my best friends. One morning I arrived late to a school assembly after auditioning for the solo of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” in the spring musical. Without looking at where I was sitting in the full auditorium, I took a seat right in front. Much to my chagrin, I was sitting right in front of Bob and his cronies. Throughout the entire assembly, they flicked the side of my back, saying “Hey guys! It jiggles!” They talked to me in that effeminate voice that they always used when calling me by the name that they had given me — Big Boy. (It’s OK to laugh, I understand the dark comedy of it all.)

After that class had graduated, most of the bullying had stopped. Thankfully, Bob had gone to a different high school. High school was a remarkable place — no one seemed to care about anyone else. Though I do remember during the Freshman mixer, a future friend of mine (and, it turned out, a fellow astrology enthusiast) found himself to have been the object of a taunting version of “Y.M.C.A.” with the lyrics altered as they were at a Yankee’s game in 2006 — “Why are you gay?!” Upon reflection, I realize that many of the taunts are the kids “acting” as if they are gay, in a rather, well, gay fashion. Bob would act gay so as to tease me, but, seen psychoanalytically, I would say that he was in fact acting out a fantasy, one where he were the gay one.

So, as per zeitgeist, I would tell my bullied self that it does, in fact get better. Thankfully, I never wanted to kill myself as a kid, but if I were to tell my 12-year-old self anything I would share two future antidotes:

1. At the age of 19, you will meet one of Bob’s ex girlfriends (with Bob…this will make your blood boil) outside of a Death Cab for Cutie show in Chicago. You will then learn some news that will erase all the pain that he’s ever caused you: He never wanted to have sex with her. She concluded that he was “probably gay.”

2. At the age of 27, you will have signed up for this new invention called Facebook. In a rather masochistic moment, you will search for Bob to see if any of your friends are friends with him (mostly to see if he’s either gay or fat, if you have gotten your vengeance). You will then find that, out of profound self-realization, Bob decided to go as Hitler for Halloween last year.