Clockwork

Bits and Pieces,Writing & Stories — Sean Bonner @ 4:36 pm

Clockwork Orange bar

“Kelly told Alice that she thinks you are cute”

Stereotypical high school grapevine courting. It happened all the time to everyone. Except it had never happened to me. I’d forever been in the role of passing on this kind of message but had never had it directed towards me. Of course I always dreamed about what would happen when my number finally rolled around. When one of the oh so many girls who I stared at for endless hours in school would finally notice me. One of them, which one I hoped it would be changed often enough that it really could have been any of them, but one of them would realize that right there in front of them was the guy that they were dreaming about when they at home singing smiths songs. I never liked the Smiths mind you, but they all did. It would be like turning on a light in a dark room filled with furniture, suddenly everything would make sense and we’d both know it. We’d instantly know everything about each other and understand every thought the other had. We’d do things that people who were dating did like hang out and go to the mall together. We’d hold hands absentmindedly while doing something else – just for the comfort of knowing the other person was there. We’d snuggle up on a couch and fall asleep next to each other while watching a movie. We’d probably kiss. Then we’d have mountains of sex. We’d live happily ever after. It was just a matter of time before all this came to pass, either that or I’d grow old and die alone. But one of those things was sure to happen. It was just a matter of time.

“Who’s Kelly?” I asked.

She wasn’t one of the girls I currently (or recently) had had my sights on, but no matter because she was one of the girls. This was happening slightly differently that I’d expected, but these were variations I could deal with. It turns out that Kelly was one of the girls who from time to time would sit at table during lunch which meant she was at least a friend of a friend. But let’s be honest here, we’re talking about Bradenton, Florida so anyone who was the least bit weird at some point ended up stuck with the rest of us. You didn’t want to be one of the weird ones in Bradenton. You were supposed to want to fit in, to play sports and have rich parents.

Her name wasn’t even Kelly. I’m not changing it to protect the innocent or anything like that, I just can’t remember it. If I really cared about creating some historically accurate document I suppose I could find a yearbook and look her up, but I don’t really care. That, and I threw out all my old year books a few years ago. So for this her name is Kelly, but really it doesn’t matter. This story isn’t about her name, it’s about her and me and it’s about the events of these few weeks.

The next time I saw her I went out of my way to say Hi and be friendly, without being obvious and without letting on that I’d heard the scandalous rumors that she thought I was cute. That would ruin everything. Besides, I wasn’t the one who thought she was cute so I didn’t have anything to worry about. But she was cute, in a weird kind of way. I’d just never noticed it before. Or maybe now that I had this insider information I looked at her differently. I noticed her anyway, which I hadn’t before, so there’s that. She was smallish, both in stature and weight. Her short bleach blond hair was plastered down to her head with some kind of plastering hair product or matted from unwashed grease, I couldn’t tell which. She touched it and looked away and smiled nervously. Her white T-shirt was at least 4 sizes too big and her arms looked toothpicks sticking out of the sleeves. She wore boys jeans with what was probably her fathers belt. Her super pale skin was harshly contrasted by the dark red lipstick she was wearing, or had worn many hours ago because it had turned black and caked up in the corners of her mouth and edges of her lips. I assumed it was lipstick anyway, it might as well have just been remnants from a lolipop or something. She was awkward on every level, and I thought it was fantastic. How had I not seen her before? (more…)

30 days

Me, Myself, and this blog — Sean Bonner @ 11:57 pm

I really like the idea of 30 day challenges. But then again I really like the idea of self challenges in general, which should be no surprise to anyone reading this. I try, fail, restructure, try again – things all the time, but putting a “30 day” cap on it turns anything into a great bite sized goal that suddenly becomes attainable. Do one new things for 30 days? Simple.

I sent out a link to my email list from a friend who spent January detaching from digital stuff when around family. The TL;DR is that he restricted when he would look at email, restricted how much time he’d spend on it, and completely cut out phone/laptop stuff at home around family (mornings and evenings). To very positive results.

I always have my iphone near by and wonder how that translates for Ripley. His parents are always staring at these little devices. So reading Javaun’s account was relevant to my interests and I may try something similar. His jaunt into the 30 day challenge was so successful that he spent February catching up with old friends/family – each day contacting someone new.

This is another great idea that I would love to try out because I’m really horrible at staying in touch with anyone. Truth – if we’re friends and you don’t see me on a regular basis and we talk at all frequently that is huge. More commonly when I stop seeing people in person regularly they just fall off my immediate radar, but when I do see them again I’m excellent about picking up exactly where we left off. Even if it’s been years, when I see old friends I feel like I saw them just yesterday. Not everyone is like that however which has led to a lot of people who I think of as important to me, and important to my life – being out of touch. Of course, the problem with talking about something like that is if I say “hey for the next month I’m going to make a real effort to call people that are important to me but I haven’t talked to in a while” and then some people who I know but haven’t talked to in a while read it and don’t get a call they will be all WTF OMG and shit. And rightly so. Or they could call me FFS. But whatever.

I like the idea of constantly improving yourself and just deciding that you are going to make a change can be scary. Saying you are going to make a change for a short amount of time is much less scary. A week is too short to see a difference, but a month is just long enough to get in the habit and see some results. At the end of 30 days if you like the results it’s probably easy to keep going, if you don’t it’s no big deal because it was just a 30 day experiment to begin with.

I’ve talked about trying to do things every day before as well, and I can tell you that making it open ended is much more intimidating, and comes with an unavoidable sense of failure because inevitably you will miss a day and then you broke the streak. But if the streak is never ment to be more than 30 days. That’s cake.

So tomorrow is the 1st day of March. A new month. A new 30 days. Well, 31 technically.

What should I try?

A year without Facebook

I quit Facebook – quite publicly – in April of last year. Here’s the article I wrote about it explaining my reasoning. It hasn’t been a full year yet, but this week Douglas Rushkoff announced he’s quitting Facebook and several people have pinged me for thoughts so I thought I’d just put them all here in one place. I’m not going to spend any time on reasoning as I think between the two posts I just linked that is more than covered. What I will talk about is what this decision has been like to live with.

The truth is, I’ve hardly noticed it. That’s not to say I haven’t missed anything, rather I havent missed anything I’ve missed.

I’ll tell you when it has been obvious to me – when I try to sign up for a service or website and the only option they offer is Facebook connect. I’m a self diagnosed web addict and terminal early adopter so I check out and sign up for a *lot* of stuff. And in a years time I can only think of 3, maybe 4 times this issue has come up. This was actually the thing I was most worried about and it’s clearly not the issue I thought it would be at all. And actually, all of those examples have been opportunities to tell the founders (though they haven’t always listened) that only offering one way to sign up for their service, and an unreliable 3rd party option at that, isn’t such a hot idea. One of those products that I couldn’t sign up for was just a few weeks ago, but all the others I’ve never heard about again. I’m not saying that only offering Facebook Connect as the way to sign up for their service was suicide for them, but feel free to make that assumption. I won’t name names out of respect for the dead.

It’s also been a little noticeable when using things like Kickstarter – which I use all the time – I can no longer see what my friends are backing. I miss that, not enough to regret quitting Facebook, just to realize I would like Kickstarter to develop their own way to do this in house.

There have been a handful of things where someone has said “Oh, ________ posted this to Facebook, I know you aren’t on it so I’m forwarding it to you.”

There have been a handful of things where someone has said “I posted it on Facebook” and I’ve said “I’m not on Facebook so I can’t see it” and they’ve said “Oh… I’ll post it somewhere else too, hold on..”

Have I kept in touch with all the people who I was connected to on Facebook? No. Have I missed them? Not really. In 2010 I wrote that Facebook made me feel like a shitty friend, in part because it was maintaining (or recreating) connections with people that under any other circumstance would have fallen out of my life. That kid I sat next to in one class in 10th grade. That girl I had a crush on for a few months in 9th grade. That guy that is friends with one of my cousins that I met one time at a wedding or something. Without Facebook normal people in these situations never would have stayed in touch, with Facebook it was nice to connect but we never really had anything to say to one another other than “oh so nice to reconnect” then just flooding each other with random status updates. 100% of those people that I had very weak ties to I lost touch with. But I also no longer feel bad about not caring about their updates, I don’t feel bad that I don’t have more to say to them, and I don’t feel bad that they aren’t a part of my life. So I’m not convinced those loses are really a bad thing.

I will say that leaving Instagram was tougher. I had a group of people that I really liked and it was a way to connect with them that worked. I’m still in touch with many of them on other services though it’s not the same intimacy or personal kind of connection that Instagram was. Maybe Vine will fill that gap to some extent, maybe not. But leaving Instagram was definitely harder, but I do feel like it was the right choice. It’s important to stand up for what you believe in. Someone had to.

But with Facebook specifically, have I felt the need to go back? Not at all.

Not even once.

Am I any less worried about people relying so much on it? Nope.

Do I wish more people would leave it in the dust? Yep.

Do I think people are starting to figure it out? Still up in the air.

[based on a true story]

Writing & Stories — Sean Bonner @ 9:26 pm

“Someday you will die. Play hard now”

My pretend career as a writer isn’t a new thing, I’ve been not finishing projects for years. I just found the scraps of one of those projects and was reminded of a more idealistic version of myself when I thought I could do anything, because prior to that point I had. At some point I stopped finishing things, I don’t know why and that’s probably a different story all together, but this was happening right during that transition from “ship everything” to “ship almost nothing.” I thought I’d share some of it with you.

So the back story here is that a fellow named Jon Resh, who was not only one of my favorite people in the entire world, but also my first roommate ever, had just self published a book called Amped : Notes from a Go-Nowhere Punk Band. It was the story of SPOKE, a band he’d been in that was now broken up. A band that sort of changed my life – though I’d never tell them that – and if I’m honest it wasn’t just the band, it was the people and the scene and the shows and everything. It was a fleeting moment that will always be magical, and helped shaped my life in so many ways I’ve since.

This was 2001-ish, just after I’d moved to Los Angeles and I thought I’d transition my writing career (which I’d recently morphed from my own zines to columns in magazines) into screen writer. Many years before when I wanted to be an active part of the punk scene, but upon realizing I couldn’t play an instrument and was too self conscious to be a vocalist, I started putting out records of my friends bands. I realized I liked that behind the scenes yet shaping things position. I’d always loved movies and now that I lived in the heart of the movie industry I thought similar logic would apply. My first idea – make a movie out of Amped. I talked to Jon about it and he didn’t seem horrified by the idea. I thought I’d use a bunch of his stuff from the book and add some of my own stories and flat out make some of it up for extra excitement value. I started writing. At some point I stopped. I don’t recall why or when, but the text docs I found today were last edited in early 2003. I read them and smiled, maybe it’s me being nostalgic or maybe there’s something more. After the jump you’ll find a very short summary/treatment idea for the whole movie and the intro that I thought up. There’s a lot more done but this is just a bit of it. These are copied directly from those 10 year old docs and entirely unedited.

Maybe you’ll enjoy them.
(more…)

Tomorrowland

Travel & Adventure,Writing & Stories — Sean Bonner @ 2:47 pm

Tomorrowland

The middle aged asian guy who just sat down at the table across from me has the most painful combover I’ve seen in my entire life. It’s depressing just looking at it. He keeps brushing it over with his hand which makes it that much more obvious. I can’t stop watching him and it’s making me sad. Everything about him makes me sad, the combover was just the first thing I noticed. His shorts don’t match his shirt. His jacket is ill fitting – probably purchased in the 90′s before he put on 50 pounds. His backpack is overstuffed, like he’s trying to anticipate any thing he might possibly need throughout the day but instead of being prepared he’s stuck lugging this heavy thing around all day.

Going to Disneyland is easy for me. I live 30 minutes away and have an annual pass. If I have a few free hours and the desire I can go jump on Space Mountain and then go back to my regular life without any real interruption. I imagine that’s not the case for him. When he’s not looking around self consciously he’s focused on a map of the park. And not just casually looking at it, I’m talking hunched over forehead veins throbbing sweaty brow focused. He’s got a pen and is making some notes on it – plans I imagine.

I start crafting this guys story in my head. He’s traveled from far away for this, maybe even been saving up for it for years. Or waiting to collect enough vacation days to allow him to make the journey. It’s a big deal to him regardless and he doesn’t want to miss anything. I imagine him being a lonely guy, distant from coworkers and neighbors. But he’s used to it. I can see that all over his face, he’s very comfortable being uncomfortable. He’s comfortable being alone because that’s all he’s ever known. He can’t relate to other people. He stopped trying a long time ago.

I think about what that would be like. I travel alone when business requires it and enjoy the peaceful time with just myself that provides, I like being alone with my thoughts to help sort through them, but I can’t imagine this. If I go to the movies by myself half of the motivation is to get away from everyone and escape to some other world, even if only for a few hours. This guys motivation isn’t to get away, it’s to go to Disneyland. Being alone isn’t the goal of his trip, it’s just business as usual. I wonder how long it’s been since his last non-transactional conversation he’s had with another person. I can picture years and years of slogging away to an office and never talking to anyone. The same as his trip here to Disneyland – he’s on his own with all of this activity around him that he’s not a part of.

And he’s hiding out in this corner of the park studying this map to make sure he doesn’t miss a thing.

I try to picture him on a ride. Does he enjoy it? Does he smile? Or is he just crossing things off a list. I want to think he enjoys it. I want it to make sense. I want this to be enjoyable for him. I feel his pain and isolation and I desperately want this trip to the happiest place on earth to have an impact on his life. I want to see him stop fucking with his hair and smile. I want to see him content, I want him to feel that this trip was worth it. That the years he planned and saved to be here weren’t for nothing. I don’t want him to go home, back to his depressing life thinking this dream trip was yet another disappointment. One more thing that didn’t live up to the hype.

And then, my whole story is shattered when his family joins him at the table with a tray of food. His wife, his kids. They speak english. He smiles. They smile. His wife kisses him without even thinking about it, like it’s just this second nature thing. It doesn’t even require a reaction because it’s so common place. He’s loved and he knows it. Nothing I thought about him is true. Visiting Disneyland is as second nature to him as it is to me. He can come here anytime he wants, and his family and friends are easily in tow.

I’m suddenly so happy for him, and at the same time horrified about what all this says about me.

Soundtracking

Me, Myself, and this blog — Sean Bonner @ 11:23 am

Monster

I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent in the last 2 months late at night sitting in my living room staring at a blank wordpress text entry field trying to remember even one of those brilliant blog topics I thought of throughout the day. Staring blankly and typing nothing, clicking over to twitter and tumblr hoping for a spark of inspiration and getting nothing, and going back to staring at the empty screen. And then eventually I give up and write nothing and then go to bed feeling all of the failures. I’ve noticed it because I’ve been paying attention to it, but I’ve wrestled with this same thing just playing out at different times and different places all of my life.

I’ve mentioned Steven King’s On Writing before – it’s the greatest book about writing I’ve ever read. In it he talks about his writing sanctuary, a private place he goes to every day to get lost in his work and spends the same X hours every day just writing there. He talks in depth about the requirements of this space and peace and quiet and ‘do not disturb’ are huge cornerstones of it for him. I’ve seen other writers – writers who actually write stuff mind you – talk about similar spaces. I’ve tried to recreate that, again and again to be honest and each one has been a disaster. I don’t really find sanctuary in sanctuary. But I keep trying because I have some twisted perception that it’s what I should be doing.

Which is stupid, and I know it’s stupid. Everyone has their own thing that works for them. What’s even more stupid is that it took me reading this column by Henry Rollins to realize and accept what works for me. I don’t know what I was in such denial, or why I needed someone else to say it was OK for me to be comfortable with it.

The work (and I’m talking about writing here) I’ve been most proud of has never been created in sanctuaries. It’s been spit out at coffee shops and cafes. I find a corner, put on headphones that block the rest of the world out of my ears and blast music that inspires. It’s important, I’ve found anyway, that it can’t be the absolute most favorite music because then I end up just singing along and not getting any work done. If I put on Gorilla Biscuits I’m not going to write shit. But if I put on My Bloody Valentine I turn into a fountain. Seeing the world fly around me, while being protected in my little music bubble is my happy place. It’s my briar patch.

But it really is the combination of the two. Just sitting at a coffee shop trying to write is no good. The sound of the world is too distracting. When I can actually hear what people are saying to each other I get nothing from it. When I block out that reality and put my own soundtrack on the world then I create my own stories to fill those gaps. Like how your brain fills in the blind spots in your field of vision, when I cut out part of the story it’s much easier to force manifestation of some replacement.

This is one of those posts that means more to me than to you, but thanks for sitting through it regardless.

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.

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