Dekita, 02

I went to Austria.

I was only in Austria for a few days broken up by a few more days. I spent nearly all of my winter break in 2006 wandering around Eastern Europe like a lost, confused puppy with no money and no direction. I’d never traveled alone before, not really. I’d been to England, where I had visited a boy and basically lived there for a few weeks, rather than visiting as a tourist. Austria was new.

The previous spring, I was going to go on a class trip. Socialism v. Capitalism, a class led by a Pitt professor, always went to the Czech Republic and Poland at the end of the Spring Term. I was going to go with. I hadn’t taken the class, and was going to skip out on the class related parts of the trip. I was just going to go to Eastern Europe with my best friends.

Last minute, it was decided I would need to take the class and pay the class fee (a few thousand for the credits). I canceled the trip and was left with a voucher to go on a plane ride.

So I went to Eastern Europe.

In the winter.

It was a lot warmer than Pittsburgh, it turns out. The trip itself was marked by a unique form of loneliness that, as a teenager, I had become familiar with: feeling alone when surrounded by people. Not only could I not really communicate, but I didn’t know what to do.

I did a lot of free things. I spent all day every day walking around cities. I’d find free tourist maps and go look at buildings. I watched the dancing horses. I went to mass upon mass that occurred during advent. I went to every advent market in the cities I visited. I bought a ball of yarn and some needles, making myself a hat that I would unravel and reknit every few days.

Austria is beautiful. I’m sure people say this all the time, but it really is. The mountains climb, the rivers wind through, and cities spring up with purposeful architecture. Art is in the streets and on the walls.

And Austrians are cool.

Before going, I decided I needed to get a cool, European haircut. I asked the people at the hostel in Wien where the cool kids got their hair done. They sent me to a place where a tattooed woman with uneven long and short, spiked and straightened, hair sat me down in a chair. She had tried to talk to me, but upon realizing I spoke no German, gave up. She pointed to my tattoo, gave me a thumbs up, and smiled. From there, she began to cut.

She snipped and preened, cautiously moving around me and modifying how I looked. After she finished cutting, she put product in my hair. She pulled at it and styled it, blow dried and tweaked until it sat just right.

“This is your hair now,” she said to me in curt, certain English. She didn’t know a lot, but she knew this. This was my hair now.

“I don’t know how to do -this-,” I moved my hands around my head while I said ‘this.’

She laughed.

“You will learn.”

She rinsed my hair out and showed me how to look cool.

The Social Network

I remember the first time Facebook changed its privacy policy. At the time, I felt sorry for Mark. I thought about him as Mark–a peer, a fellow student, this college nerd who made a website. I felt about him the same way I feel about bands who change once they sign on with a major label–like he’d been manipulated. Like he was a victim.

Over the years, Mark became Mark Zuckerberg or Zuckerberg. I’ve never taken that childish step and called him ‘Fuckerberg,” as I’m sure he’s been called once or twice, but I’ve definitely inserted–mentally at least–”F.” as his middle initial in the same vein of William F. Shatner, but less like he’s my crazy uncle who had a troubled childhood and is perhaps a little bit racist, and more like he’s offended me in some deep, personal way. Like Wil F. Wheaton.

As Facebook changed more, I felt less like Mark was being taken advantage of and more like Zuckerberg was taking advantage of me. The removal of the course selection aspect was the first drop. High school students was another line. With the addition of high school students, I realized that we as a college generation were losing the social network we had just been given and already felt entitled to.

Plus, they were kids. I mean, seriously now. High school kids on facebook was, to me, like high school kids at a college party: morally wrong, a little offensive, and the guys hitting on them skeeved me out.

In 2006, there were banners and I knew the end was coming. It was no longer cool. Later that year, when it became such that anyone with an internet connection could join facebook. It was no longer a facebook. It was another “social networking site.” I don’t want to say the exclusivity made it special, I want to say the function of connecting students to other students gave it a purpose. It made it a tool. It made it useful. It made it cool.

In 2007, Facebook launched Facebook ads. 2009 brought “like” and usernames. Somewhere along the way the “is” was dropped from status updates. The feed got crazy. Looking back, I can’t remember facebook before we began to refer to it as “stalkerbook.” I do remember going to a dance club my freshman year and yelling at a guy in a Nazi uniform. He friended me later. Back then, it was hard to find people at universities other than your own.

I’ve had a facebook–the “account” is implicit–for six years.

I went to see The Social Network, but that has little to do with my facebook use. I view my explaining my history as a form of disclosure. A psychoanalytical map.

I went to see The Social Network because it was written by Aaron Sorkin, directed by David Fincher, and starring Jesse Eisenberg–three men I think are pretty cool. When I first heard about the movie, I didn’t know who was going to be involved. I knew there was going to be a facebook movie and I -wanted- to hate it. I wanted to hate it so hard. When I heard about the people behind it, I knew that would be unlikely. When I saw the previews, I knew it would be near impossible, but I still hoped.

I went into the theater hoping the movie was going to be a bust.

A lot of reviews I’ve seen about the Social Network talk about what it wasn’t. People say it wasn’t a film with enough strong women in it–that they didn’t emphasize the work and contributions of women in Facebook enough. People say it wasn’t a piece of commentary talking about the amazing thing Mark Zuckerberg really did. People say it wasn’t a movie about intellectual property or copyright.

They’re right; it wasn’t any of those things.

The Social Network is a movie about the relationships between several individuals who play prominent roles in the origin story of Facebook. Specifically, the individuals who ended up suing Mark Zuckerberg. It is a movie about friendship. It is a movie that’s -good-.

I believe that the hardest stories to tell are the ones we all know. The Social Network tells the story of the founding of Facebook, the changes it went through, and how things fell apart between the people who founded it. If you follow tech news, news, Facebook, or wikipedia, you generally know these things. You have a vague idea that things have changed. With the movie coming out, these stories have been more in the spotlight. This means that the worth of the movie cannot be in the story itself, but rather how it’s told.

Rather than focusing on a lead character to drive the movie forward, the action is moved by events. The characters themselves are developed enough that they can be carried by what’s going on.

It’s obviously a work of fiction, but it’s a work of brilliant fiction. Aaron Sorkin–and everything he does I look at through “Sorkin colored glass”–wrote a brilliant script, marked by his particular flavor of humor. For those unfamiliar with it, Sorkin humor is best shown through quick deliveries of normal lines, repeating things, and assurances followed by negative comments.

For example (I made this one up):
– Don’t call Lisa.
+ I’m not going to call Lisa.
– Good. Just don’t call her.
+ I won’t.
* + gets up *
– What are you going to do?
+ I’m going to call Lisa.

From The West Wing:

Sam: About a week ago I accidentally slept with a prostitute.
Toby Really?
Sam: Yes.
Toby: You accidentally slept with a prostitute.
Sam: Call girl.
Toby: Accidentally.
Sam: Yes.
Toby: I don’t understand. Did you trip over something?

Sorkin creates a sort of escapist fantasy for smart people. Everyone is clever. The Social Network is the same, but instead it draws on fictional accounts of real people to create a strange world I enjoy as long as I don’t think about it too much.

Dekita, 01

I’ve been complaining to my parents about my life. They’re a good, non-judgmental sort. They’re supportive. However, my father often counters this by giving me assignments. “Write this,” he says. “Make this list.” “Watch this movie.” “Read this book.”

He asked me to make a list of everything I’ve actually done “so far in [my] life.” I’m not sure what “actually done” means–that is to say what he implied by it, but he made a list of examples. These examples were not from his life, but from mine.

1. I biked to New York City. Sort of.

To fully explain this, I’ll need a lot more space than I’m going to take up right now. But, I biked to New York City. Sort of. Due to bike and organization problems, we left a day late. Then we were held up by more bike problems. We took a train from Boston to Providence. We biked into Connecticut and down to Old Mystic where we camped. In the morning, we biked to New London and took the ferry to Long Island. After all the mess and disaster that the trip had held, Long Island was like the Pacific was for Magellan. It was a breath, a moment of calm with no storm to follow. It was sunny. It was beautiful. The air smelled like plants and the ocean. Near dark, we caught the last commuter train into the City. We were too far away to make it that night.

I think about this trip a lot, but try not to talk about it. There are triggers for thinking about this trip–when I was cold and tired, at the point of near exhaustion, occasionally hallucinating and shaking so badly I started to cry uncontrollably. I couldn’t feel my lower legs, but they hadn’t hurt all day. The warm flood of Long Island as the road stretched out from the ferry dock and turned to the left into the trees.My waterbottle, with it’s Sita sticker doesn’t trigger it, but people asking me about the sticker does. Hearing about Debian does nothing, but seeing Christine write about Debian does. You see, we’d biked to New York to go to DebConf, a conference for the Linux operating system Debian.

At the beginning of the summer, I’d been told that “we’re biking to NYC at the end of July. ‘We’ includes you.” I started to train. THe word ‘train’ seems to give it more credit than I think it deserves. I started to ride a bike, every day. On weekends I went on trips around the area. I did this out of a deep rooted fear of the impeding, impossible ride to New York City.

I’m not proud of the trip. I’m not proud of the failure it was to be an actual trip to New York City. I feel like I cheated and using the words “I biked to New York City” is an act of lying. I didn’t bike to New York City. I went to New York City and about half of the trip was on a bike.

But I did get there. I got there and I had a bike.