Girls

Me, Myself, and this blog,Philosophy — Sean Bonner @ 12:59 am

This is a post about television. I spent a huge number of years of my life watching little to no television so if you hate television I completely respect that. And I’d agree that most of it is bullshit. On occasion though a series, when you let it, can really steal you away. It goes from being just TV to being cinematic. Of course the best way to view something like this is all at once, a full season at a time. Anyone who ever watched The Wire or Deadwood in a single sitting can testify to that. These shows have the ability to steal you away. To forcefully pull you into their universe. It’s not terribly different that what you want from a good film, and that’s what good TV is all about.

And you can’t have good shows without good characters. The ones you can relate to, or the ones you wish you could. The fantasy of living in the shoes of a good character can be addictive.

One of my earliest TV memories ever took place when I was 3 or 4 years old, I would watch Welcome Back Kotter and felt a strong connection to the Sweathogs. Even at that early age I was drawn to the outsiders. I used to have a pair of jeans that, while I don’t remember a thing about them, must have somehow been similar to the clothes the guys on the show wore because I had to wear them anytime I was watching it. I was too young to understand that there was really no chance of the actors on my TV screen looking back out into the world of eyes glued on them, spotting me, and being so impressed by my jeans that they’d pull me into the program and I could hang out with them. Part of it was that I didn’t fully understand the technology behind these moving pictures being beamed into my house, but part of it was that I felt comfortable in the universe the writers had created and could see myself being friends with the characters. In a way I’ve judged much of the entertainment I’ve been exposed to sense through a similar lens – could I see myself as a part of this.

Movies, music, everything – the things that I have the strongest connections and attachements too are the ones that I can relate to.

That’s one of the reasons I love Girls so hard. I read a comment about it early on in the first seasons, written by someone I’ve forgotten but have immense respect for because they completely nailed it. They noted that the thing about Girls that will freak people out the most is that the main characters aren’t the pretty people. They aren’t the perfect ones or the ones that have it all figured out. Quite the oposite, they are flawed and ugly and fat and scared and lost. But most importantly – they are comfortable with that. They like themselves. Any other show that had characters like any of the people on Girls would put them in the jester roll, jokes would be made at their expense and there would be some storyline floating around about how these people wanted to “change” and be like everyone else. Lena Dunham has done the world an amazing service with this series by creating these characters who don’t give a fuck about any of that. I feel like these characters are in my circle of friends.

I wish I had role models like this when I was growing up. It would have been so awesome to know that it’s OK to not have all the answers, and it’s OK to make mistakes while trying to figure them out.

Punk rock gave me a great set of tools for not giving a shit what other people thought about me, but it took a long time for me to be OK with the person I actually was. Figuring that shit out and accepting it is no small task. It would have been awesome to know other people had made it through to the other side and survived. (more…)

Fighting your way to the middle

Me, Myself, and this blog,Philosophy — Sean Bonner @ 2:30 pm

My friend Scott Fisher asked to give a last minute talk to his class at USC the other day. The topic request was vague – Safecast, Hackerspaces, whatever else comes up. I really like discussions that are more open ended like this and was excited to see which things I had to say sparked the students attention. The first hour was a lot of straight forward presentation with the second hour (d)evolving into more question and answer about life and philosophy rather than any particular topic.

Things took a twist when one student suggested that all my projects seem to be very successful, and I had to correct him and note that I don’t get asked to come talk about the failures. At which point we started talking about all the trials and errors you go through before those “successes.” I pointed out – hopefully clearly enough that everyone got what I was getting at – that the failures aren’t actually a bad thing, aren’t actually failures. They are lessons. They are steps. You have to take those steps if you want to go anywhere, if you want to pull anything off. Refusing to take those chances ensures you won’t have any successes. It demands risk. That’s either a chance you want to take or not. Some people can’t stomach the risk, some people can’t live without it.

One student asked me what the biggest mistake I ever made was. How the hell do you answer a question like that? I answered that I didn’t know what the biggest mistake was, but talked about a decision that I’d made a few years back – I walked away from a company shortly before it sold for many, many, many millions of dollars. Some of which would have ended up in my pocket. Had I chosen the other option – my life would be very, very different right now. But maybe not for the better – just different. Scott noted, excellently I might add, that had I chosen that other route many of the cool things I was there to talk about may never have happened. Or at least, I might not have been involved with them.

I’ve been thinking about that conversation a lot since then, and I think I might have given the students the wrong idea. I don’t think that decision was a mistake. I may have suggested that I did, or may have given that impression. I’m very happy with the direction I’ve chosen for my life. I don’t regret that choice at all. I probably should have made that more clear – my point was more that sometimes small decisions can have huge impacts and that specific situation just happened to be on my mind that day.

I think what I would have liked to express a bit clearer to those students before they graduate and head out to the world is that a lot of people spend endless effort fighting to get to the middle. The spend their whole lives trying to do the same thing everyone else does. To me, there’s nothing appealing about that at all. In fact, the more people doing something the less attractive it is to me. Or rather, it’s less interesting. And the rewards for doing it are less satisfying.

Horray! You did the same thing as everyone else! Way to go!

Yuk.

I’d so much rather spend my time and efforts on something new. On something different. Maybe that is the road paved with endless failures lessons, but it’s also the road that can lead to massive success. And it certainly leads to massive satisfaction. If you spend all your time doing the same thing as everyone else, the absolute best thing you can hope for is mediocrity. If you spend your time on things you think are awesome, the worst thing that can happen is you look back to see you spent your short time here on this planet doing things you think are awesome. Not a single person fighting for the middle can say that. This route isn’t paved with fame or fortune, but I can’t fathom choosing any other way.

I want those kids to know that.

It’s not about failures vs successes, it’s about choosing to do the things you love.

Blood & Guts

Me, Myself, and this blog — Sean Bonner @ 10:17 pm

Woman in Paris

Did you see how easy that was? Miss writing one day and the next day is that much easier. The third day is a piece of cake and you don’t even realize the 4th day has passed. Next thing you know… months.

Hemingway said “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed”

I’ve been haunted by this quote for as long as I can remember putting fingers to keyboard. For a very long time I waved it around as justification what whatever I’d write. And I wrote everything. The good, bad and ugly. Except there wasn’t much good, quite a lot of it was bad and all of it was ugly. Anyone with copies of my old ‘zine ‘chicksdigrockstars’ can attest to that. I was angry. I was lonely. I blamed everyone. I thought I deserved it. And I wrote all of that down and put it out into the world. It made me feel better.

I think it made some other people feel worse.

Unintended casualties.

I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone, I was just trying to make sense of what I was feeling. Or in many cases just trying to feel something. I’ve spent a lot of hours talking to therapists in my life for a variety of different reasons – divorces, suicide attempts – you know, the usual. One thing every single one of them has noted is that I’m incredibly good at building walls. It’s a defense mechanism that I likely mastered sometime in childhood. I compartmentalize.I build up walls and don’t let anything from one get to the other. That way if one thing crashes and burns nothing else is impacted. My life could be falling apart and I can still enjoy a cup of coffee at the corner cafe and have a pleasant conversation with a friend I might run into there. I can recall horrific shit that has happened to me without upping my hear rate.

I have always taken that as a complement, though I’m not sure it was ever intended that way. It is what it is.

That’s not to say things don’t get to me, they most certainly fucking do. I just good at packing them up and storing them away for some other rainy day when apparently they will all come bursting out uncontrollably. That will be fun.

But anyway, the writing has always been my own brand of therapy. It’s helped me clear the air, put things out there and then leave them in the past. The stuff I’ve written about I’m done with. It doesn’t haunt me anymore. By laying it all out there, I guess I face up to it publicly. Then it’s not a secret. There’s no potential “gotcha” lying in wait, because I’ve already disclosed everything. I used to pride myself on that actually – that the worst things in the world that could be said about me, were in fact said by me, so anything anyone else could come up with was inconsequential.

But then I realized that things I’d written had hurt other people and I was faced with a decision that I’ve still never made a clear call on. Do I write something and make myself feel better and potentially hurt someone or do I keep it locked up to save other people’s feelings? Who is more important to save?

I don’t even know how many pieces I’ve written and then deleted because I was worried how people might take them. It’s a lot for sure. I wish I’d saved them but I didn’t. And I probably won’t in the future either. But writing them doesn’t help. Publishing is what makes all the difference. As Hemingway said, you have to bleed. But if no one else ever reads it then it doesn’t really count.

Maybe that’s how people write fiction. So they have deniability. That gut wrenching piece about being abused as a child by adults you were supposed to be able to trust and who were supposed to be the ones protecting you? Just imagination. All those stories about stealing credit cards, selling drugs and generally running afoul of the law? Artistic license. All those disgusting sexual fantasies? Just fantasy. If it’s all made up, suddenly everything is OK to write about. That story about an ex-girlfriend isn’t “actually” about anyone in particular, just a bunch of made up shit thrown together. There’s nothing actionable in that story about breaking into cars and stealing stereos because it only happened in my head. Feelings can’t get hurt because it’s all fake. Even if it’s not.

Writing fiction has never made any sense to me, until now. Suddenly it makes all the sense in the world and I don’t know why I’ve ever written anything else.

Bouncing

Me, Myself, and this blog,Philosophy — Sean Bonner @ 10:30 am

One of the amusing tidbits in past was the year I spent working as a bouncer at a rave club in Gainesville, FL. Or rather, the rave club. In the whole south east. The place was legendary and people would travel from all corners of the world for special events there. The head of security had realized at one point that the biggest problem was that his staff would often abandon their duties to dance and get loaded during the headliners. To combat this he fired all of them and hired a team of people who he knew would have no interest in who was DJing, and no loyalties among the clientele – Straight Edge kids and Skinheads.

Turns out that a gang of teetotalers with no aversion to violence make really good security at a place like that.

The money was great even if the hours really sucked. Fridays and Saturdays often resulted in working until and hour or two after the sun came up. But we got paid in cash at the end of the night, and immediate financial gratification made 10 hours of untz untz untz almost tolerable.

I’ve got plenty of amazing stories to share about what when on during those long nights, past the long lines – and I will likely fill a chapter in a book with nothing but that at some point. But the most interesting, and frightening thing that happened wasn’t so much behind closed doors, but inside of ourselves. Well, I don’t want to speak for anyone else – inside of myself. (more…)

Banging

Networks, Theory, and the Web — Sean Bonner @ 11:52 pm

Man on step, Shibuya

I’ve been incredibly fascinated with a string of recently launched apps/services that are designed to make hooking up with people (specifically people you already know) much easier. Bang With Friends & Bang With Professionals which hook up to your existing networks – Facebook or LinkedIn respectively – and lets you choose people you want to have sex with. Would Love 2 does the same thing but with a focus on a relationship rather than just sex. In fact WL2′s tagline is “taking the rejection out of dating.” The details of the people you’ve OK’d is kept private but your friends are asked to make their own lists. When a match is detected, both people are notified and left to their own devices presumably to work out the bits and pieces since both sides have already expressed interest. By all accounts these services are taking off like crazy.

I’ve been talking about these on Twitter and Google+ a bit but haven’t blogged about them because I haven’t really figured out exactly what I think just yet, and in fact keep having further conversations with myself about them. I thought I should just go ahead and throw some of this out there rather than continue amassing all these ideas with no real direction.

One reaction to this is simply “Duh! Why didn’t I think of that!” – We all joke (though not really joking) about how much of online activity and profiles and networking is done with the not so obvious motive of hooking up. So on that level this isn’t surprising at all, and in fact makes tons of sense. A no brainer if ever their was one – just streamline the process and remove as much friction as you can. Well, remove the friction beforehand anyway, friction later is… well you know what I mean.

But there’s another thing to think about here, and that is why is this so attractive? Or rather, what are all the different aspects of this that make it attractive? The removal of rejection is the most straight forward. No one likes rejection and being able to start a relationship without risking any rejection is almost too good to be true. I’m jaded and suspicious so I’d assume that people added me to their list just to laugh in my face if I added them to mine, but I know that’s just my own neurosis. (Also, worth noting: I’m happily married so I don’t have a list and I’m not using the apps, I just find them super intriguing and I remember dating and it’s interesting to think how the existence of something like this would have changed the dynamic in high school or whatever)

But there are so many questions here – why are we (as a society) so afraid of rejection? Isn’t learning how to deal with rejection part of being human? Last year The Guardian wrote about the end of monogamy and I can’t help but think that piece almost foreshadowed these launches. Are we so lonely, even when we’re with people, that this seems like the most viable option? As I said I’m not really sure where my head is at with all of this but being a professional people watcher, I think there’s some rather interesting conclusions to be drawn here. I welcome any thoughts on this to help try to mold a hypothesis.

Acquisition

Philosophy — Sean Bonner @ 9:16 pm

If nothing else the last few years of trying to reduce what I own has caused me to think long and hard before I buy anything. Impulse takes over from time to time of course, but for the most part I try to really consider a few things to decide if something is worth buying or not. I have a few questions I ask about an item – a yes across the board is a very good sign. A “no” to any of them isn’t a deal breaker in and of itself, but it helps put that purchase in perspective. So this is what I ask:

1. Was this designed/made by someone who gave a shit about it?
This is a relatively newer concern, thought in hindsight I’ve always appreciated things that fell into this category without really being conscious of why I liked them. You can just feel when something was created by someone who actually cared about it. The difference between something that was created for the purpose of creating something and something that was created because someone was passionate about it obvious. As I look around at the stuff I end up with, the things that would get a ‘yes’ here are the ones I have a strong connection to, and the things I want to keep.

2. Assuming I don’t lose this, will I still be able to use this in 10 years?
Is it durable or is it a piece of crap. That’s what this boils down to, and it applies to everything from clothing to electronics. I’m totally over single use products and want something to stand the test of time. I’ll happily pay more for something that is quality and will last a very long time. I have a jacket that I’ve owned for 12 years that I still wear. I have a pair of fingernail scissors that I’ve had for over 20 years and they are just as functional as the first time I used them. A few years ago I lost a pocket knife that I’d carried almost every day for over 10 years. I have a multitool on my keychain that is nearing it’s 10 year mark. Those were all solid purchases.

3. Is this thing compatible with other things I already have?
This applies to technology as well as fashion. I’m not going to buy some proprietary POS that requires me to get a whole bunch of stuff just to work with it. I’m not going to buy some item that won’t go with anything else in my closet. Things need to be as modular as possible. That’s one of my travel tricks – everything works with everything else, so I can pack fewer things because everything can be used in a variety of ways over several days.

4. Do I already have something that does the same thing this thing does? If so, does this do it better?
I’m not opposed to upgrading, in fact I might even have a problem with it. But this is something I try to ask and try to wrestle with the answers. If something works just as well as something I already have, then the motivation for buying it is pretty suspect.

5. If I decide this thing isn’t for me, can I resell it for the same price I paid for it? Or more?
This is actually my longest running question, I asked this long before I knew I was asking it. Reason being I’ve never had a wealth of expendable income. I don’t care much about money which means I don’t tend to have a lot laying around. When I need it for something I’m pretty good at getting it, but I don’t collect money. If that makes sense. So, back to the point here – when I decide I want to buy something it’s always been important to me that I not be losing that money – rather I’m converting it into goods that are of equal value. And ideally they will retain that value. If I’m convinced that I can easily get the money back that I spend on it sometime down the line, the decision to buy something is pretty simple. If I know it’s going to depreciate in value the minute I walk out of the store, that also makes the decision pretty simple.

As I said, these aren’t “all or nothing” rules, but they are questions that give me pause and help me consider if something is a smart buy or not. As I progress through this world, I want the things around me to be very specifically chosen, and I want less throw away random stuff taking up space.

Completion

Me, Myself, and this blog — Sean Bonner @ 6:30 pm

Today I listened to the digital files of an album that has been 22 years in the making, and read the release version hard copy of book that was initially conceived a little over 6 months ago. This has caused me to think a bit about actually finishing and delivering on a project. I’ve written before about my strengths and weaknesses here so I won’t rehash all of that but suffice to say that I’m not as good at the actual final parts as I’d like to be and the list of started but not finished projects I have is longer than I’d like it to be.

But these two things, these two pieces of media, these two finished products – someone had the idea, worked on them, decided they were finished and shipped them. The time scale from A to B is just a bit different.

There was a time in my life that I would have had a lot of respect for A. The commitment to getting it exactly the way you wanted and not releasing it a second before then. But a lot has happened for me and for the world in the last 22 years, not the least of which is Steve Jobs noting that “Real Artists Ship” which gets to an uncomfortable truth here that no matter how great the thing you are working on is, it’s nothing until you deliver it to people. And this album – the band released the previous one in 1991 and immediately began working on this one. A week ago fans had spent 22 years waiting and not getting anything. Today I have the record and I’m trying to rectify 22 years of anticipation with what I actually have. Does it seem like a record that has been perfected over 22 years? Does it seem like something that is completely flawless because so much time has been spent thinking and rethinking every single note? I don’t know that it does. And because of that some people who have harsh things to say about it. Which isn’t really deserving, because it is a good record. It’s a great record in fact. But it would have been just as great of a record had it been released in 1994 or 1995. Maybe better because people would only be listening to it and thinking about the songs, rather than how long they had been waiting for them.

This book is a completely different approach. Idea and execution were almost simultaneous, and that includes a major change of direction and rewrites halfway through. The goal wasn’t to produce the most perfect book ever, the goal was to produce something. Which hopefully is the first step towards something else. It’s a building block. But most importantly it’s a finished building block. I know a lot of people, myself included, who have thought of writing books. Many people, myself included who have started writing those books but stopped halfway for one reason or another. Those books aren’t finished. This one is, and that’s awesome and inspiring.

I’m going to be thinking a lot about this over the coming week as I look at this list of uncompleted projects. Which ones need to be perfect and which ones need to be finished.

I’m thinking that no matter how good something is – or how good I want it to be, if it’s not done it’s not done and the expectation of how good it should be gets built up more and more the longer it goes unfinished. My expectation. The longer it goes unfinished the higher the bar is raised, which makes it easier for me to convince myself that I can’t reach that bar, so it stays unfinished.

I think it will be much more personally rewarding if I forget that bar and throw out those expectations and deliver something.

Long Term Storage

Parenting — Sean Bonner @ 10:49 pm

Ripley Scooting

Ripley’s first day of pre-school is tomorrow. I think this is a big milestone as far as growing up goes.

My oldest memories date back to being in pre-school. My oldest real memories anyway, of actually doing things. I have flashes of images or of someone saying something, or being somewhere that might be older than that, but I actually remember doing things when I was in preschool. I remember an art class making bowls and self portrait figures out of clay. Apparently there was some kurfuffle because I sculpted myself naked and hadn’t skimped on the twig and berries. I think my mom actually still has those things in a box some where. Speaking of twigs, I remember playing outside of a classroom in a tent/igloo thing that someone had fashioned out of sticks and leaves. I remember climbing through these damp leaves in what I probably thought was a magnificent fort but was probably just a pile of yard scraps filled with worms and begging my father to come join me inside and him standing outside of it wanting nothing to do with it. He might have even been annoyed as he was probably there to pick me up and I was having too much fun playing to consent to leaving.

I remember the smell of the kiln in that art studio, I remember the main hall/theater where we’d go for music classes and the piano there that our teacher would play and sing songs to us. I remember the slope of the hillside behind the building and how much of an adventure it seemed to me at the time to go down the side of the building that didn’t have the nice path way. I remember being really happy there.

I remember even more from the following year – I went to the same school for pre-k and kindergarten but the classes were on opposite sides of the campus. Ha. Campus. It was a collection of converted bars with a little courtyard in the middle. Opposite sides of the property. That makes more sense. Very little kids on one side, slightly older kids on the other with lots of play time in the middle with everyone. I wrote about an experience I had with one of the even older kids a while ago and I’m realizing now that Ripley is only a year or so away from being the same age as I was when that was all happening.

I say that because until now I’ve had no idea what if anything he’ll remember. I figured it’s all kind of a blur. Will he remember living in Singapore or Paris? Probably not. Will he remember last December in Vienna? Maybe? But I know that over the next year some of the stuff is going to seriously stick – in detail – and he’ll take it with him the rest of his life. I think about that and I think about what I can do to make sure that he is as happy as I remember being and that he only has awesome memories burned into that permanent storage.

I don’t want him to remember me ever being annoyed with him.

I’ll never refuse to play in the leaves with him.

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