On the Outside of the Internet Age, Looking In

Growing up on the cusp of the internet age, I didn’t know I’d find myself wrapped up in the moment of the greatest age of human experimentation.

My girlfriend and I had a rousing conversation tonight.  We were trying to process, in our minds, the rash of deviancy in our world today.  Specifically on college campuses.  We discussed the horrifying growth in sexual abuse, specifically male against female.  We discussed the Rolling Stone article in which the problem was addressed, but was later redacted for, as you probably know, factual inconsistencies and the like.

We wondered if that was the real issue anyone should have had with the article, or whether that was a diversionary tactic incited to draw us from the real problem we face.  Instead of trying to come up with a reason, a cause to investigate why this problem was so rampant and terrifying, we found ourselves fact-checking a story that has unfolded in essentially the same way, thousands of times, across hundreds of campuses in this country.

Why are these young people acting so recklessly, with no regard to consequence or conscience to their fellow person?  Is it a result of our own access?  Are we just privy to this information these days more easily?  Is it due to the internet’s ability to let us find any story, at any time, in any area of the world?  Why do these kids not treat their equals as if they are equal?  Why do they treat them like they are some kind of third-person internet character they can create or destroy as they see fit?

There are of course administration issues as well.  Colleges are not learning institutions anymore, they’re credit card companies.  Have a young person build debt they will be forced to pay the rest of their lives.  If a company suffers public embarrassment through hundreds of sexual assault cases, they might not survive the PR blowback.

But that isn’t the real concern here.  Why are kids acting this way?  Why do they feel so entitled to act this way?  Do they not know there are consequences for their actions?  How can they treat another person that way so casually?

Entitled.  That’s when it started to hit me.  I know I have heard this point made in other places before, but this was the first time this idea really started to sink in for me, as I tried to understand why kids only five or ten years younger than me acted so completely different than me (I’m 28.)

I was born right before the Internet really came into being, before it was worldwide.  I had AOL when I was twelve, maybe thirteen.  Dial-up connection.  When I was fourteen, fifteen, going into high school, Napster allowed me to download any song I wanted.  It only took me two hours to download It Wasn’t Me by Shaggy.

When I was eighteen, I got my first cell phone.  I thought text messaging was the stupidest idea in the world.  I have this phone I can call anyone I wanted to at any time, I can just call them and tell them to meet me here, or I’ll be there.  I didn’t need to waste time typing out a message.  By the end of my freshman year in college, I recognized the value of sending a message to someone without having to have a conversation.  Without having to hear their voice, without having to deal with rhythms or inflections.  Without being awkward.

My sophomore year in college, a girl asked me if I had a Facebook account.  I didn’t know what she was talking about.  I had to ask my friend.  He told me it was a place where you could put your name and stuff on the internet.  Talk about yourself, share stuff with other students.  I thought it was dumb.  We thought it would be a hilarious idea to use my e-mail address to make up a fake person instead.  We weren’t allowed to use the first name “Dr.,” so we came up with the best worst first name we could think of.  Thus, “Biff Supersweet” was born.  In the years since he has reverted back to me, of my own name.

I understand Twitter, but I don’t use it much.  I still don’t get much valuable information from it.  I have never been on Reddit.  I don’t read comments on YouTube.

I couldn’t for the life of me understand why these kids, these kids who know even less than I do about the world, felt so entitled to share their opinions (and EMOTIONS!) about people, places and things they interact with on the internet, and in such inflammatory ways.

I used to think entitled.  Now, after tonight, I know that isn’t the correct word at all.

Parents in the world today, in this country, are so laughably, embarrassingly behind the times.  It’s flat insulting.  I see a commercial on TV every night from a local hospital.  In it, the typical questions every parent has about their child are asked.  Things like, “Why is my child acting this way,” “Is puberty really this bad?”.  I saw an article on the internet today listing “dangerous” acronyms for parents to be looking out for on their kids’ phones.  Mainly, exclusively, it had to do with sex.  How the kids were going to meet for sex.  When they were going to meet for sex.  You know, the real problems.

Apparently parents these days were born as fully formed 30 or 40-somethings who never were children.  So they must address the issues that they would have otherwise faced had they been children, but alas, they did not.  It is because children go through puberty perhaps at perhaps a younger age now, or they have access to sex things on the internet that turns them into reckless deviants who assault their contemporaries.  These are not simple, biological urges that children go through, and it is the internet’s fault.

Parents are insultingly far behind.

What did I come away from our conversation believing in?  What did I believe I learned from it, or what finally really started to sink in to my mind?

The idea that I was born, and grew right before the Internet came to be.  One of, if not the greatest innovation in human history.  The kids before me, just before me, were the first to grow with the Internet.

I grew alongside the Internet.  They grew within the Internet.

This is a point I have heard before, but one that explains so much about what children are like today.  We see the internet as the greatest and most disastrous invention we could conceive.  It is a place where we can receive all the information we know about the world at the touch of a button.  It is also the same place where we can reach any depths of human depravity we wish to reach with the same touch of a button.  We, the ones who grew outside of the internet, reach in occasionally to examine.  We like to dabble in its potential, but we have never drowned fully in it.  It is a terrifying thought to us to be so deep in the internet’s grasp we can’t see light anymore.  We can’t breathe, we could drown.

The kids who are five to ten years younger than me have the gills.  They were born in the Internet.

No, it’s the other way around.  The kids just behind me, they were the first to walk on land.  We are still in the water, but the shallowest of the shallow.

Because of this, not only do we not know what they are going to encounter, fearing the air and the land and what it may do to us, but they are going it alone.  They don’t have any guidance, and they don’t know how to navigate if we don’t know which way to point them.  They won’t survive, they won’t find food, unless we poke our heads out, rest it on the land, almost dry up, and tell them to eat that plant.

Instead we’re still worried about why they even want to fuck in the first place.

That metaphor got a little out of hand, but my point was made I believe.  So much of what problems we face with “kids today” stems from them being the first generation to grow with the Internet.  I couldn’t, until tonight, understand why every kid felt as though they had a viable opinion on everything, much less felt it was necessary to tell everyone.

That isn’t true.  They grew up in a world where everything they came in contact with had a comment box.  And it is now as common to them to comment on them as it was for us to use a telephone.

What was it like for the first generation after the first people who discovered how to turn wheat into bread?  I mean, if that thought hadn’t existed before, how did someone discover it…

…I digress.

When I was in the sixth grade, if I wanted a girl to see my dick, I had to ask her.  I never asked a girl, of course, but it didn’t change the fact I wanted every girl to see it.  It was the first step to sex, right?  I can’t even imagine the amount of shame I would feel, as my twelve year old chubby little self, to walk up to a girl I liked, and ask her if she wanted to see my dick.  But that’s how sex worked, and I really wanted sex.   Now, no parent can understand how deviant a little boy can be sending a text pic of his dick to their little girls’ phone.  Sure, you might get in trouble, but that shame is not the same.  My face wouldn’t be two feet away from the girl of my dreams, asking her to look in my pants.

I can write nigger on the internet.  Here, now, anywhere.  I could never, never say it in public.  Maybe it’s because I don’t have the balls, or maybe I know it’s not the right thing to do.  I don’t know.  Because now, I can play a game online, on my Xbox One, where players don’t see each others’ faces.  In one particular game just two nights ago, I heard one boy ask another, in a particularly threatening tone, “Why are you such a nigger?”  I don’t know who the boy was he was talking to, and and I don’t know who the boy was who was talking.  They will never know me, and they will never know each other.

You know liars right?  You know the type of liar who makes up a story, and, in the course of retelling a false story over and over again, starts to believe the story is true?

Actions beget consequences.  In the world I grew up in, that is what I knew.  Immediate consequences.  Personal consequences.  This was true because actions were action.

These children did not grow in that society.  Their actions rarely suffer the consequences the generations before them faced, because their actions are pseudoactions taking course over a metaworld they grew up in, a world we still don’t understand.

I was a terribly shy kid.  I was terribly shy person into my twenties.  I am still a little bit like that, I don’t seek company of strangers.  But I have learned, through many failures, struggles and successes, how to live in a social world.  I may not have been fully socially active when I was 18, but I was socially aware.  I understood how to live in a world with other 18 year olds.

It is believable to me to think the children who are eighteen now are socially handicapped.  They are 18, but have the awareness of me as a 12 year old.  The actions they take, assaulting each other, hating each other, destroying each other, is a result of the world they grew up in and it’s own infancy, sure.  But their actions are equally, if not more a result of the failure of generations before them to adapt.  To plunge headlong into the Internet, understand the principles of its modernity, and to guide their children through its trappings.

Parents must understand first what it is to grow within the Internet as its steward.  Then and only then can we all start learning how to live in the new, greater world we have potentially created.

We are really standing on its edge now, on its precipice.  We now have to finish our work to make the Internet, and by extension mankind, what it should be.

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Then Madison Bumgarner Happened…and Never Again

Holy cow Madison Bumgarner.

I haven’t written anything on here in a bit, but you forced me to.

I knew what I was watching was singular, but I didn’t know what we were all getting into until they started flashing statistics on the screen about your performance during this World Series.

Statistics about how what you were doing hadn’t been done since 1914.

1914.

I was born in 1986.  The last time the Kansas City Royals went to the playoffs was in 1985.  So THAT was something I had never seen before.

What you did, Madison, was something no one had ever seen before.  And, according to those statistics, something none of us – none of us – will ever see again.

Ever see again in our lives.  That’s a phrase that, though we could use countless different ways in every day of our lives and still have it ring true, cannot ever ring true in such a universal fashion, or on such a grand scale.

What we all witnessed, and what you did these past few days, was something that will never happen again in our lives.  That is one of the most dramatic phrases something could ever be described as, yet gets used all too often like other canceled-out buzzwords:

“Impossible.” “Amazing.” “Awesome.”

This performance was the true definition of “Once-in-a-lifetime.”  And it will not be repeated for any of us to see.

I’m glad I watched most of this World Series, and was able to take some small part in it.  Your performance will be cheapened in the coming days and weeks.  Weeks and months.  Months and years.  Others, performances and people in the future will be cast under its shadow.  Even you will be.

Unfortunately, no matter how much we need to have our attentions captured, and thus must always search for another Madison Bumgarner 2014 World Series, there will not be one.

There are other things in our lives that we have to go out and find now that we can truly call “Once-in-a-lifetime,” and understand what we mean when we say that.

Thank you Madison, for re-establishing what that really means.

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My Memories of Robin.

To this day, it’s still a record for me. One that, I feel will never be broken. I remember the first time I went to see Aladdin in the theater. I went once with my dad, once with my mom. They were getting a divorce, and I was six. They took my sister and I each on their own. I went another time that I don’t remember at all. I know though, for certain, I went the the movies three times to see Aladdin. I have never gone to a movie in the theater more since.

I remember two things about that movie. I remember seeing the cave of wonders for the first time and being awestruck. I didn’t expect it. I did expect the second thing I remember. I remember Robin Williams making my sister and I squeal with laughter.

The sequel to Aladdin came out, but I had no interest. I had no interest because some other guy was voicing the genie. It wasn’t Robin Williams. Who was this impostor? I thought. I don’t remember that sequel at all. I do know they made a third movie, and Robin Williams reprised his role as genie. I don’t remember the movie, but that made me happy. Everything was in its rightful place.

For the past day, nothing has been in its rightful place. Robin Williams died, apparently by suicide. For the past day, it has felt like a part of my childhood, and a vital part of my life that used to bring me joy and make me smile had died. It felt like that because that was how important he was to the people who grew up in my generation. I don’t know how he was perceived by younger or older people, all I can attest to is what he did for us.

What he did for us, for me, was bring silly, essential joy. When we were kids he was our cartoons brought to life.  He was an adult that related to us. Made us laugh. Made us laugh in ways no other adult could. Our parents didn’t have that talent. We connected with him in that way, in a way we connect with people very rarely. He was the silly uncle to most of us, the kaleidoscope-voiced genie to all of us.

He taught us to laugh in Aladdin. He taught us to cherish and love everything we could in Jack. He taught us to value what we have in Jumanji. He taught us that, sometimes, love cannot save us always, but everything will still be OK in Mrs. Doubtfire. He, through his movies, taught so many of us as we grew up things we may have never learned on our own.

As we grew, that aspect of us grew as well. That funny shtick faded. We didn’t need that part of him anymore. What we got then was his earnestness. His heart, his center. There are so many times now, looking at his more recent performances, where I see a man who gives me subtlety, but honesty. Sincerity – it’s what we needed the most as we grew older, and he gave that to us.

One of the movies my family and I can sit together and watch, at any time, is The Birdcage. It is the one movie we can all agree upon. It is timeless to us, always makes us howl. It is sweet when it must be, raucous when it wants to be, and always fun. Robin Williams, I hear, tried out for the part Nathan Lane was cast for. I’m glad he played the part he did.

For us, for me, he was perfect when I needed him to be. When I needed him the most. I will miss him.

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LeBron Came Back; So Did Cadence Delicate

On the day when the world was wrapt in coverage of LeBron’s essay and return to Cleveland,

Cadence Delicate completed and released their second album.  

To considerably less acclaim.  

I appreciated LeBron’s essay.  If nothing else, it convinced me of his earnestness to return to Cleveland.  And his willingness to stay this time.  It’s a great story.

And Cadence Delicate’s second album, SUPERMACHINE, is only 7 dollars.  And I’m in the band, and I don’t think it’s so bad.

These two events are clearly related.  I don’t know how yet.  Thank you.

 

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Live Report and Review from the NFL Rookie Symposium in Aurora, OH

Full disclosure:  I live five minutes away from the hotel in which the NFL Rookie Symposium was being held this year.  I live here, and I don’t understand.  Anything about this.

I suppose Aurora put in a bid to host the symposium?  I don’t know.  All I know is I woke up in a fog on Monday before work, like I always do, turned on ESPN, like I unfortunately always do, and saw Aurora, OH.  I thought it was a dream.  Then I thought they were talking about me.  Because, of course they would be.

Then, as I do every day for work, I drove by the hotel it was in.  Only saw a sign that said “Closed for Private Function June BlahBlah – June BlahBlah”.  I guess this was true then.  Kept driving, past the abandoned transmission shop on the left, abandoned amusement park on the right, BMW MOTORCYCLE DEALERSHIP on the left, and blacked out the next 25 minutes until I got to work.

I thought, is the NFL having it here so they can scare the players straight?  As in, if they don’t take this opportunity seriously, they could end up in a place…just…like…THIS??? MWAH HAHAHAHA…

Maybe it was just the bid.  The rest of the week I saw banners for the NFL welcoming the rookies, and nothing else.  No cars dropping anybody off, picking anybody up.  No one outside except for one property security guard, one security guard car, and one guy with a lanyard at a table at the entrance, apparently to check the no people showing up.

But they were there.  And, sadly, I was unable to get an interview.  Yes, unfortunately, I was unable to obtain an interview…with a kid who is at least – at LEAST – five years younger than me, who is about to be a million – at LEAST – times richer than me, at a function I never attended.  

I didn’t get to talk to Johnny Football.  And I am very disheartened by that.

 

And this is, without question, one of the biggest events – if not THE biggest event – ever hosted in Aurora, Ohio history.  Well, unless you count that one time we payed an unthinkable amount of money to Jack Nicklaus to design the private golf course and provide those very rich who attend said golf course the privilege of his twenty minute appearance once every year.  

Yes, either a bunch of twentysomethings about to play professional football, permanently damaging themselves for our entertainment or the greatest golfer ever touching down on a flyby – Aurora, Ohio was the perfect place for the NFL Rookie Symposium.  I hope those kids were properly scared.

 

And I didn’t even get an autograph.

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“Bill Simmons Faces Karmaic Judgement”, or “Hope is Precious in Cleveland”

I was so excited to rub it in his face.  I couldn’t wait to tell him that God may “Hate Cleveland,” but the Sports God hates haters more.  God hates Cleveland, but God knows it’s the owners that are really terrible.  The fans’ hearts are in the right place.  Unlike Philly fans.

I wanted to thank him for his karmaic blessing right before the lottery, trashing the Cavs and their hopes for winning.  And whether or not they actually deserved the top pick.  I wanted to say yeah, the owner of the team is a dolt, and the previous regime was terrible at their jobs.  They don’t deserve any second, or third, or fourth chances to get their team right.  But the fans deserve it.

I would have referenced that old 2007 Sports Illustrated special magazine dedicated to Cleveland, and told him that if he wanted to bring us down again in as easy a fashion as possible, just throw the cover of that edition at us.  I understood where I was coming from, and what this hope I had about all our teams really meant.

But, as you can tell already, this e-mail was going to take too long.  And it was far too serious for sports.  So I didn’t send it to him.  

And he wouldn’t have read it anyway.  

But these are the things that pass as hope in Cleveland sports.  I know I have written before about what a fan cheers for, but it had very little to do with what we define as hope.  Hope to a Cleveland fan is drafting a football player who is popular, who is my size, and who “wants to be here.”  Hope to a Cleveland fan is getting the top pick in an NBA draft lottery that is supposed to be one of the better drafts of the last fifteen years, when we only had a 1.7% chance of getting the pick.

Hope to a Cleveland fan is sweeping a first place Detroit Tigers team to put us only 7.5 games behind them.  In May.

Hope is relative.  As you can see.

And hope comes in small slivers for Cleveland sports fans.  Did I feel like I won the Super Bowl when we drafted Johnny Manziel?  No.  I didn’t feel that the next morning either.  We didn’t win any games at all because of the draft.

But you all saw it.  Well, those of you who watched the NFL draft.  You saw the elation in Berea, where the Cleveland Browns draft party for the fans was happening.  Those people erupted like, I assume, New York Giants fans did when they won one of their two Super Bowls.  Or New England fans.  Or Pittsburgh fans.  None of these fan bases erupted during the draft.  They are beyond that, because they haven’t had to face fifty years of futility.  

We handle hope in small doses because we have those 2007 Sports Illustrateds checkered all over the past fifty years.  50 years.  Hope is dashed so quickly and harshly.  So this week has been a generous week to us.  Will Joel Embiid be the savior of the Cavs fans, or Andrew Wiggins?  Will we make a trade with the top pick so the already embarrassed, shamed fans can grovel in front of LeBron James and kiss his ass just so we can win?  Yikes.

The Indians swept the Detroit Tigers to get some much needed momentum going forward.  If the series ended up the other way?  If we were swept?  I would be as close as I ever had been to closing up shop on an Indians season this early.  

Johnny Manziel.  I don’t know about him, whether or not he will be the answer, but I know it looks like the team as a whole is moving in the right direction, and that is encouraging.  If Jimmy Haslam wasn’t the owner of the Cleveland Browns, we would all want his head.  It’s funny how little cheating millions of honest hardworking americans out of money matters when you want your sports team to win.  

But if he was convicted of whatever fraud he committed.  I don’t want to think about starting from scratch for the third time in five years.  

Yes, sports are trivial, and it was a hope filled week in Cleveland.  I don’t want to go any more in-depth on this because I not only am afraid of what would happen, but I am afraid I am taking this too seriously.

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In Open Defiance, I Ironically Talk About my Father’s Triple Bypass on the Internet

Last Thursday my dad went to the hospital to check on his heart.  He hadn’t been feeling well for the past few months and wanted to know what was going on.

The doctors found several(!) blockages in the arteries surrounding his heart.  They told him he had to stay in the hospital because one of his arteries – not the one that was huge and completely blocked – was so dangerous that he couldn’t leave as a precaution.  He stayed the weekend at the hospital, and is now having a triple bypass to fix the errors(!) of his ways.

I have been calm about this whole situation for its duration.  I have been consistently positive about the situation because I remind myself how much worse it could have been.  We are fortunate the problems he has were found this way, and not some other way(!)…

…and I haven’t really told anyone.  I haven’t really talked to anyone who wouldn’t directly care about the situation until right now.  Well, technically, I still haven’t, considering how many people read this blog.  Ha ha.  

 

And that’s the way I’d like to keep it.

 

From the moment he was admitted to the hospital, my stepmom and sister have been hard at work letting everyone who knows my dad know what is going on.  I suppose that is an important thing to do, and I know he has appreciated all the love and support, including all the people who have come to visit him at the hospital and wish him well.

I was entirely, justifiably, afraid of their potential to get carried away however.  I was afraid of – and fully prepared to become very angry about – my sister posting some very private information very publicly over the internet.  Private information that could be skeeewed – not so subtly – to allow sympathy for someone who doesn’t really deserve it.  Well wishes and prayers for the person who isn’t directly affected.

You know anyone like that?  I do.  And I…don’t like them for it.

So I spent from Thursday to basically Sunday not talking to anyone about it except for Ashley.  Well, Ashley and my sister(!) and stepmom.  I was directly opposed to that “sympathy call” I would be making, so I did the farthest thing from it I could.

I finally called my one friend (who entirely admires and loves my dad) on Sunday to tell him what was going on.  To say he was shocked would be to say I’m not rich.  Did that work?  I don’t know.

He was beyond shocked.  He was almost mortified.  I was fully surprised by this.  He said he wanted to come see my dad, and I told him I’d bring him after the surgery to see him.  He wished my dad well.

Was I wrong about how I felt about this whole thing?  I called another friend on Monday and just threw what was happening with my dad in the conversation.  

More mortification ensued.  He wished him well also.  

Had I been taking this too lightly?  I mean, I’m thankful he’s not dead, that they caught this problem before it was too late!  That’s all I have been is thankful.  I have not been a wreck like my sister, and even when I heard the news I felt less than shock.  I would venture to say I kind of expected it.

So am I thankful they found the problem and are fixing it before something terrible happened?  Yes.  The surgery itself is actually pretty low-risk as well – only about a one percent chance of some serious side effect taking place is possible, considering his youth (he’s sixty)(!).

It is splitting his chest open to work on his heart though.  That is scary.  I was in the shower last night and imagined the same thing happening to me.  Made me a little queasy I must say.

Regardless of the fear, the risk (be it low or high), the situation my dad finds himself in and the emotions swirling around it, I still find myself afraid and angry about someone(s) I know using the situation as a platform to gain personal sympathy.  That is where I am storing most of my anger, and where I am stationing my soapbox at this moment.

And of course my prayers are with my dad at this moment, but I know he’ll be fine.  He doesn’t need my prayers, he needs good doctors – and he’s got that.

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