Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Wasting Time (Or: In Defense of the Internet)



A lot of people lately are busy breaking their arms to pat themselves on the back for "detoxing from social media."

Delete your Facebook account! Pare your twitter feed down to like, three people! Turn off your telephone for six hours a day!

Yeah, well, I've got news for you: I LIVED FOR 28 YEARS WITHOUT THE INTERNET, 32 YEARS WITHOUT A MOBILE PHONE, AND 38 YEARS WITHOUT FACEBOOK!

And did that make me some kind of fucking awesome productive god?

Me and EVERY OTHER FUCKING HUMAN BEING ON THE PLANET?

No, not particularly.

You can waste your time any number of ways; the internet and websites are just extremely effective tools for wasting time.

A ROSE BY ANOTHER NAME

I remember back in the day, back when I was in college on a strict 90's KILL YOUR TV phase, when I was bored, I'd walk down to the bookshop or the library and just kind of mill around looking at random books and magazines for a few hours, reading an article here and a paragraph there.

What was that, if not primitive websurfing?

I didn't have a TV. But I saw all kinds of fucking stupid movies that I wouldn't bother with these days.

And, let's see, I wrote letters -- much in the same spirit of the blog entries I make now -- and sent them to one or two people, who also wrote me letters. Occasionally we included cartoons and pictures.

Primitive blogging and emailing and social networking. And I'd say that managed to take up even MORE time than I spend blogging, to less effect.

Were those somehow purer and more genuine forms of communication? Well, hell. Probably not.

I irritated everyone by refusing to answer my phone except during a period in the evening -- of course, that was a way to get away from telemarketers and automated messages as well of course as a way to be fucking cool.

As going on some kind of idiotic "media diet" of avoiding the news and whatever pop culture shit -- you'll be happily meditating in your room with no phone when the volcano eruption destroys the whole city -- that has already been evacuated -- except for you, keeping it real with your media diet and lack of telephone.

HATING ON THE HATERS

As for all the "flame war" arguing and "hating" that goes on -- yeah, that can consume a lot of your time. Tons of it.

But people do that in real life too, you know. Back in the day, how much time did I waste having dumb half-baked political arguments with people in real life? How many hours did I spent listening to people at college parties bitch in an ill-informed way about Central American Reagan era nonsense?

You'll be reading about my office mate Heinrich in the next memoir -- he was one of those guys who used to think he knew everything and was happy to argue with the other guys in the office about politics, race, religion, whatever.

In this case the internet was usually used to STOP his mouthing off. We could quickly look up facts and shut him down.

The internet is a tool, like a chainsaw -- you can use it to cut your legs off or you can build a house with it. Yes, if some activity you're doing makes you unhappy, than by all means stop it. But if like me you find the internet an incredibly useful tool for keeping in touch with people and accessing all sorts of useful and interesting and entertaining media and information, then don't be ashamed of that, either.

WASTING TIME MORE EFFICIENTLY 



I can remember back in the 90s getting bored once when I was hungover; didn't feel like writing or reading or going out. What did I do?

I would occasionally lay on the bed and bounce a tennis ball repeatedly off the wall.

A bit better in terms of physical activity than playing ANGRY BIRDS I guess, but equally pointless.

Once, I remember, I took the front cover off the box fan I had, turned it on high, and spent about thirty minutes throwing pencils at the front of it and watching them bounce across the room.

I put it to you -- if you're not wasting time on the internet, you'll probably just waste it some other way.

Of course, you might be better served by going out and say, taking a walk or something, rather than endlessly checking your Twitter feed or whatever, but now you can do like I do and listen to podcasts or online lectures while you walk.

Now, excuse me I'm going to get back to my free course on graphic design that I'm doing on Alison, then talk to some friends in Russia on Skype, and then watch an exploitation movie from the 70s on Youtube. G'night.










Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Cover Me (Covers for REQUIEM FOR A VAGABOND)

REQUIEM FOR A VAGABOND, my memoir about my five years in the Middle East and the Girlfriend Experience, will be available soon. (The original idea was to include a middle part about my backpacking and early years, prior to my first English teaching job, but that sort of didn't fit, so it will be my next, separate book.)

Any of these covers particularly appeal? (The elements may not be aligned and placed exactly, just looking at some general designs.)

#1 - Barbedwire

#2 - Skyline

#3 - Dark skyline

#4 - Negative barbedwire


# 5 - Yellow skyline

# 6 - Beach


Thursday, August 07, 2014

English Teachers, Tramps, and Thieves

Fans of tales about deranged expats and English teachers abroad will surely enjoy Colin Post's tales about The Mick, published over at Expat Chronicles:

http://www.expat-chronicles.com/tag/the-mick/

The Mick is an Irish gangster who went to Colombia in the 80s to smuggle cocaine; he did three years in prison for that and afterwards decided to stay in Bogota working as - what else? - an English teacher while debauching with the best of 'em.

Colin has launched a kick starter campaign to collect the funds necessary to publish a whole book about the Mick:

Kickstarter for "This Mick's Life" book project (only two days left!)

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/expatchronicles/this-micks-life

And here's a Reddit AMA interview with the Mick:

http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/2cicp4/iama_drug_mule_from_ireland_who_did_3_years_in/

So check it out. Let's keep the literary climate favorable to real life tales of international debauchery and mayhem.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Anarchy in the Ukraine: Interview with Eccentric Expat Part Three

Things, of course, have gone from bad to worse to fucking really really horrendous in the Ukraine; I contacted our reluctant war correspondent, Eccentric Expat, to see how he was weathering the storm .



Read interview Part One here (May)
Read interview Part Two here  (June)


So you've evacuated to Kiev?

Yeah, my employer sent me here until the situation improves in Donetsk, whenever that will be

They have a school there?

They have schools in many different cities here

What's the mood in Kiev right now? After that horrible fucking plane thing?

Hard to explain. One of my coworkers posted some pics of the American embassy here in Kiev. I think those will explain the mood better than I can. Its like the natives have made a shrine of the Embassy sign


What about the expats there, how are they feeling? People starting to jump ship, or they enjoying the chaos?

Most of the ones I know are quite anti-Russia.

Sure, the Russians are definitely ruining the sex-tourist party!

I don't know of too many people who have left, although apparently its hard for the school to find new teachers now.

My Russian friends all say that the plane was a "false flag" thing -- the Ukrainians or the Americans shot it down just to blame Russia and declare war. Have you hard any such conspiracy BS?

Yes I have, but I dont believe it. I think it was shot down due to incompetence.

What's the situation in Kiev in general, business as usual?
More cops or soldiers on the street?

Yeah mostly. Ive only been here a few days though, so I'm probably not the best judge

Often in such cases you see an increase in partying and nightlife and fucking around -- prewar Berlin, for example

Haven't seen many cops, but I got stared down hard by some Right Sector goons the other day

Any feeling that it's "eat and drink, for tomorrow we die?"

Not really, nothing like that.

The feeling was much worse in Donetsk before I left

Did the Right Sector guys say anything to you? Did they know you were a foreigner?

No, they just gave me the evil eye. One guy in the back of the formation wearing a balaclava turned around and eyeballed me hard, like he expected me to start something

What was it like in Donetsk before you left?

Very quiet. People were leaving the city in droves. The hotel I lived next to had been taken over by rebel soldiers. Everyone was expecting the war to flare up in the city at every moment

What about your girlfriend, is she with you?

No, she went back to Nikolaev

Are the sex tourists staying away from Kiev now, or too early to tell?

I have no idea, but from what I understand, there are far fewer Americans now in Ukraine

Have prices changed at all? I heard the exchange rate really flopped.

Yes, prices for food have gone up, but not as much as I thought they would

Is your salary pegged to the dollar or just in local money?

Local currency, of course

Always sucks when you get on the wrong side of a currency slump.

Yeah no kidding, although I haven't really felt it so far. Many of the locals try to turn their money into dollars or euros.

All right. Good luck. Watch your 6. 



* * *

Of course the other argument from Russians in this case is usually something like: Oh, well, the Americans shot down an Iranian plane accidentally once. (None of them seem to remember when Russia shot down that Korean jetliner.)

But that's just basically a "And You Are Lynching Negroes!" argument, anyway.

The demise of the 80's Cold War was apparently aided by the preponderance of terrifying films about nuclear war; in that spirit perhaps we should all watch: