Thursday, 12 June 2014


Hello Friends.

There's this woman I've been following on Twitter. At least, I assume she's a woman, her profile picture is some kind of Second Life fairy nymph (although you know she spells it 'faerie'). I won't reveal her screen name, but she's easy enough to find because she is occasionally retweeted by a news personality we'll call Debbie Couchfarm. Debbie Couchfarm retweets the tweets of this woman because every single tweet she sends is directed at Debbie Couchfarm. Every one, morning until night. She will say, "@DCouchfarm Believe in your dreams as I believe in you!" or "@DCouchfarm Do you still like dancing?". It's WEIRD! Weirder still, as I've said, is that Couchfarm seems to be, if not encouraging the parade of fawning tweets, not stopping it either.

For the Twitter illiterate, congratulations on not wasting your time, but the tool works like this: Someone has a Twitter account, from which they tell jokes or talk about their lunch. Twitter users send tweets out from their account, and people who Follow them can read those tweets. I follow Debbie Couchfarm, who is a popular news personality less famous than Diane Sawyer, but more famous than Linda Talisman, an NBC news correspondent I just made up right now. Anyway, the Faerie Nymph lady sends tweets to Debbie, and Debbie retweets them, meaning she publishes them on her own Twitter page, which is how I found this person. I'm sure Faerie Nymph is a harmless fan, but what if a response from Debbie Couchfarm leads her to suppose a friendship is developing when it's not? What if Faerie Nymph reads so far into these meaningless digital interactions that it affects her mental health, if it hasn't already? 

This is the point in the show where I'm awarded Lifetime Achievement in Hypocrisy because I am the WORST for tweeting at famous people. People like Josh Mankiewicz, Julie Klausner, and The Bean Institute receive replies from me to messages that were not intended for me. I'll do that obnoxious "top a joke" thing that lazy internet commenters do, where a famous person will tweet something funny, and I'll try to add to it in a way that's not funny at all. Some famous people have kindly responded something non-committal like :) or "Haha", but to my surprise, no one has ever said, "I must get to know this James better", followed my Twitter account, sent me emails, and become my dearest friend/offered me a job. Because famous people recognize blatant fawning for nothing more than blatant fawning. Behaviour like mine and Faerie Nymph shouldn't be encouraged because, in certain circumstances, we become obsessed.

Dream: Recognize and curb my obsessions.

Goal: Achievable. I'm throwing around the term "obsessed" pretty loosely here. I know true obsession is no blog fodder; that people are tortured by compulsive behaviour that makes day to day living unbearable. But I also think that popular usage dictates a distinctly millennial version of obsession, where unprecedented access to things we like has turned my contemporaries and I into voracious cultural consumers where we feel entitled to not just like something, but love it. We can't just embrace something new to the culture, we have to beat it until it is dead. To that end, here are some things I'm obsessed with, that I must let loose and fly free (like a little bird), lest I kill it (like a little bird).

Dateline. Yeah, here's Dateline again. But it's SO good. A few weeks ago, there was an episode where this man was on a hike with his wife and then she died. Either she fell onto some rocks, was swept away by a rushing current, and was found pinned underwater by an errant tree branch, or she was attacked by her husband, drowned, and pinned to the same errant branch in the creek. Holes were poked in both theories, aspersions were cast in all directions, three devastated children mourned their mother, which doesn't deserved to be minimized in my cavalier write-up. What was truly exceptional about this information, though, is how it was so gloriously unspooled. Over two hours, details were teased out and new information brought to light. A narrative structure is imposed on these stories that make them absolutely captivating. You forget you're watching a story where a woman died on some rocks and you instead feel like you're watching a really good mystery movie. Is this exploitative? Does it minimize the tragedy, or wrongly suggest a sinister pattern where none exists (although thankfully, Dateline has strayed from the "It's one of the most deadly substances in America and you're probably topping your dessert with it" stories)? These questions are not for me to answer. But I should stop reveling in the great storytelling every so often to remember that these are tragedies being recounted week after week, and the pain on the screen is real.

Orange is the New Black. This SHOW, you guys! It's ironic that the show so many of us gleefully binge-watch is so good that it should probably be spaced out a little bit. Since season two debuted, I've been trying to limit myself, but I'm already on episode 7 or something. The writing, the characters, and the acting are SO good, though, that I should probably stop and appreciate it more. There is so much that is dense and layered and clever, and I'm not reflecting on any of it. For instance, when's the last time you saw a diverse group of actresses on the same television show all wearing the same outfit?

Firm pillows. Jon bought me a firm pillow for my birthday (although not just that) and my reading in bed has QUADRUPELED! If firm pillows were a World Cup team, I'd watch.

Body shapes. I'm obsessed with body shapes beyond fat and skinny. Here's what I realized and it's about to turn the diet industry on its head: you can't change the basic shape of your body. Yes, I know there are some people that go from very small to very large, but otherwise, we're all fighting the same battle against a natural shape that can't be won. I know a woman, for instance, who is smaller than a hummingbird. She exercises and eats heartily, but will always be about the same size. By the same token, I know a broad woman who is big because she is broad. She is extremely health-conscious and athletic, but has wide hips and broad shoulders that will never suddenly change their shape. It's crummy to think that people judging her for the size of her jeans might think she is fat, when she's the farthest thing from it, but her bone structure is such that she's broad. That's a thing that happens! I got a free trial at a fancy gym and I've been using it to spy on people who prioritize their fitness. Even the ones huffing and puffing at the toughest equipment have bodies that aren't perfect, but that's because there are no perfect bodies. The point is, we're gonna look how we're gonna look, so we'd better chill out about it a little bit.

What I'm really obsessed with is leisure time, which is why I'm hurrying to finish this before making dinner and watching some more of Piper & the Cons. I know obsession is, by its very definition, unhealthy. But if you replace obsession with enthusiasm, and are more conscious about what earns that enthusiasm, then you're just an enthusiast! I think people stay young when they cultivate interests and explore them fully. In addition to firm pillows, I guess you could say I'm obsessed with novels about sexless lady detectives (Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency, Hetty Wainthrop Investigates, The Flavia de Luce Mysteries, what WHAT!), cooking with garlic, being a good guy, and sunscreen application. Those last two will serve me well throughout my life! So what's a little obsession, particularly if it gets you on your feet and off the couchfarm.

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