Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Have you ever noticed how, when two guys on motorcycles pass each other on the road, they almost always seem to exchange this two-fingered wave? When I first noticed it I assumed they knew each other, but soon I started seeing it so often I realized there was no way all these guys could know each other. I was surprised and jealous.

There's so much in life to keep people apart. Strangers passing might have more in common than a married couple or lifelong friends, but they'll probably never even say hello because of some unspoken human crankiness that says strangers don't say hello. But these motorcycle guys (and women, presumably) have gotten past that. They've got some kind of instant bond, formed out of nothing more than the fact that both rode vehicles with two wheels instead of four.

Well that's kind of what I feel when I walk past another guy with a beard. There exists (at least in my own mind) a kinship between myself and every other guy who is capable of growing hair on his face and does so.

Except guys with goatees.

Monday, October 19, 2009

In which Devin rambles about kids these days and searches in vain for his dentures all across the internet

My brain is not wired for the way the world has become. I think that, at the age of 27, I can relate more to my parents' generation than my own. Consider the following:

• The success of Twitter baffles me.
• I feel I could benefit from having fewer friends on Facebook.
• I have more interest in scripted comedy or drama than "reality" TV.
• I didn't know who Lady Gaga was until about two weeks ago, and now that I do, I feel I've died a little.

Everything is linked, and the effect is that everything is completely disjointed. A quick glance online to check for rain tomorrow becomes a half-hour junket through videos and sexy photos and ads promising to enlarge some body parts and shrink others. I go to a news site to check the latest on the Balloon Boy fuss and I'm confronted by bright red links, mid-text, telling me to click to "check out the top 10 literary hoaxes!" or to "read about America's favorite types of balloons!" I start to follow the thread of reader responses to a news article, and after the fifth declaration that "your a idiot" I shudder and twitch.

When I finally pull myself away I feel mentally worn, unable to focus. And often I still don't know whether it'll rain tomorrow, or I've forgotten. All the connections have disconnected something in my brain.

Some people thrive on it. But I find myself wondering why someone wants his phone to tell him every time he gets an e-mail alerting him that a guy he kind of knew in high school commented on a photo of him on Facebook. I find myself closing my eyes during movie previews because they won't show the same image for more than a quarter of a second, and it's making me dizzy and cranky.

It's not that I hate or fear technology or the internet. I recognize that a world of value and utility exists among the dross. However, I worry that humanity's collective attention span has been shortened. I worry that my own attention span is suffering. A constant onslaught of novelty starts to feel like it's just an onslaught, and I worry that I'm spending my mental energy on drivel, leaving me unable to take in the wealth of genuine beauty and art and wonder that exists in the real world I live in.

So what's to be done? A complete withdrawal from the digital world? A return to the woods and commitment to write only in cuneiform on dried animal skins? Sounds fun, but I think the best solutions to this modern problem for me are old-fashioned ones: moderation and discretion.

I need to ask myself: Do I really need to watch the video of the sneaky cat again? Do I really need to take that quiz to find out which Ninja Turtle I am? Is this a better use of my time than going and playing outside in hopes of staving off a mental breakdown and adult-onset ADHD?

Sometimes the answer will be yes (equal parts Raphael and Donatello). Usually the answer will be no.

(I recognize of course that the rant against The-Way-Things-Have-Become became a cliché about the time Martin Luther finished hammering on the church door. You could Google "I hate Twitter" and I'm sure you'd get thousands of results. Self-important young would-be revolutionaries and am-being whiners have long written their screeds against whatever prevailing cultural trend or threat to their way of thought has threatened at the moment. I join their ranks, accepting with frustration that there is nothing new under the sun. And yes, I recognize the irony in saying all this internet-critical rambling on a blog.)