Smarmy Alligator

Politics, pop culture, and self-deprecation

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the internet recently. More precisely, I’ve been thinking about blogging, and putting your personal self out there in the world via public social-networking-type channels, like the Twitters. I’ve been wondering whether this is any good for me.

I’ve been putting my personal self out on the internet for a long time. I started my first website in 1998. It was basically a blog: an online journal (which I coded myself in terrible HTML), where I shared what I was learning and experiencing in college. I shared bad poetry. I shared some good essays. It wasn’t like a diary: This was all carefully crafted writing, and not every detail was put out there, but it was a good portion of Me. And in turn, there were a number of similar websites that I read regularly. There were women (almost entirely women) who were also writing about their scholarly and personal journeys, and although I never met any of them, I felt like I knew them a little bit.

In time, blogs were born and that made it way easier for more people to start putting their personal selves out there on the internet. And let’s not even get into sites like Live Journal. And then there was Friendster and MySpace and Facebook, and Twitter and Tumblr and it was all over. Our whole selves are on the internet. And that’s fine. It’s one thing to post a status update. What I’ve really been thinking about is the whole blogging endeavor.

People who blog are doing more than just tweeting the occasionally pithy thought. We are basically crafting a part of ourselves to share in very personal spaces, and inviting, practically begging, complete strangers to come on in. We are, in many ways, building communities, and I know that people have made lifelong friends over the internet and found important and meaningful connections. That makes me happy, because that’s one of the things that makes the internet rock the most.

But the thing about blogging is its not necessarily reciprocal. I am reading a lot of stuff about someone’s life, but that someone isn’t reading anything about mine. That person doesn’t know me at all. And now that commenting is involved, well, it feels even weirder. I say something to you, and we’re having a conversation in your space, and I know things about you. But you still don’t really know me. And blogging, too, can turn into a popularity contest. Here are the cool kids, and they have a club. And you can read about them, and know all about their lives, but you aren’t going to be invited to the party. They will never know all about you.

I’ve been blogging for so long (and yeah, not always here, as as been obvious over the last five years). I mean, Christ, I think I have seven blogs now. I don’t know that I want to stop blogging, or even if I could. But I’m wondering if it’s really good for my mental well-being. I think it just makes me feel like the perpetual outsider, but one who’s totally allowed to look in on the good stuff. I don’t know. It’s weird, and maybe I’m making a big ol’ thing out of nothing. Maybe I’m letting my own personal neuroses get the better of me. Maybe I should just keep writing, and damn the torpedos. That’s probably what I’ll do anyway. I’ve been doing it for almost 15 years.

It’s just weird, is all.

Written by laura k

June 7, 2012 at 6:55 pm

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Just a quick one

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Just a quick and meaningless note before I leave:

I came across this image on the interwebs today and was instantly thrown into paroxysms of nostalgia.

The dream of the 90s…

Written by laura k

April 1, 2011 at 1:53 pm

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Drinking with Babies

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If you live in a city with a lot of young, hip parents, or if you’re ever on the internet, you have probably heard snippets of the great war between the parents and the non-parents that seems to be going on a little bit everywhere these days. One of the main battles in this war is whether or not parents should be allowed to bring their small children into bars. My guess is that when you read that sentence your first thought was, “Oh my god, NO, parents should not be able to bring their children into bars, HELLO?!” And I’m going to tell you right up front that I agree with you. But as usual, I’m not unfamiliar with the grey areas that float around this particular debate.

When I lived in Boston, I frequented a neighborhood pub, in the best sense of the phrase. This place was down the street from my house and I knew all the regulars. We were involved in each others’ lives, and not only when we were inside those four wood-paneled walls. We were friends. And occasionally, these friends had babies. I loved it when someone would drop by with their babies, because babies are cute! This usually happened in the late afternoon, and the parents of said babies weren’t there to tie one on. They’d have one beer, if any, and head on their way, after we all got to fawn over the little person. This seemed totally normal to me.

Every now and then, someone would bring a child to the bar at a later hour, when there were drunk people around and the music was loud and very likely there were unsavory things going on in at least one dark corner. This never seemed normal to me. This, in fact, seemed very wrong. If there are drunk strangers around, your child probably shouldn’t be there, is all I’m saying.

I would like to be able to say that every parent should be able to make a judgement call, and at the end of the day, of course, that’s always what I’m going to say. Every parent has the right to decide for his or her own children which environments are acceptable. But some parents decide that very adult environments are ok for their very young children, and that is where this idea of personal choice breaks down for me. Some parents are always going to make terrible choices, and that doesn’t just suck for their children (although, you know, it sucks for their children the most). It’s also completely uncomfortable for the adults in that environment who chose not to bring their children (or have them at all). There are just some places that are for grown-ups only, and when I hear parents bitching about how they should be able to bring their kids wherever they want, I just feel befuddled.

The thing is, even though I loved it when my friends brought their cute babies to the bar, when I’m a parent, I will probably never do this. Because, no matter how friendly, a bar is for adults. If you really want to have a drink with your friends and your baby, find a nice restaurant that serves cocktails, and try to leave before the drunks show up. This is what parenting is, after all: It’s sacrificing the things you want to do for the little person you chose to give birth to.

I recognize this judgment call will likely piss off a lot of people (well, if anyone actually read this blog). Especially because I don’t have children. I mean, who am I do tell a parent what kinds of choices to make, right? I guess to that I say that I hope that parents can occasionally try to think of others outside their nuclear unit, and that they can recognize how uncomfortable it can be for a group of adults in a place designated for an adult activity to suddenly feel like they’re in a nursery. Perhaps the best way to get that feeling across would be for a group of childless adults to show up at Gymboree with a case of beer and start hanging out. It would probably feel a little wrong, huh? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Written by laura k

March 4, 2011 at 1:24 pm

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Food Deserts

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Columbia Journalism Review might complain about the use of the term “food apartheid,” but I’m more interested in the story itself: A councilwoman from South Central Los Angeles is trying to get fast food restaurants banned from the community, citing higher rates of obesity and health problems due to the absence of other dining options. This is the kind of stuff I like to see. While the term “food apartheid” might be a bit much, people who live in economically depressed neighborhoods have far fewer choices, and less healthy choices, when it comes to their diets.

I live across the street from a housing project, and every night I see young families buying their “dinners” at a crappy convenience store, dinners that generally consist of sugar-flavored water, potato chips, candy, and frozen, processed food. The market does sell some produce, but none of it looks that good. The closest grocery store is an overpriced food co-op that I often can’t even afford to shop in, and I’m not trying to feed small children on a super limited budget. The restaurants in the neighborhood are mostly pubs, sub shops, or high priced bistros. There is a very clear demarcation in my neighborhood between the people who have money and can afford to eat well, and those who don’t, and therefore, can’t.

I am all for using the power of the government to get better, healthier food into neighborhoods that need it. Frankly, when a company like McDonald’s claims its free speech rights are being violated when it’s pushed out of a neighborhood, I feel more nauseous than I would if I had eaten one of their crap burgers. We’ve let corporations have free reign far too long, and it’s been proven that they aren’t doing us any favors. I’m fully behind a community telling them to get the hell out, even if they do use overblown rhetoric to do so.

Written by laura k

August 1, 2008 at 1:56 pm

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Elections in the news

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Here we are, deep in the throes of another election season. And you know, politics still frustrates and sickens me. And at this point it is the media even more than the politicians throwing me into fits of apoplexy. I mean, sure, politicians say ridiculous, calculated, un-nuanced things and I get very upset with them. But journalists are supposed to uncover this ridiculousness, reveal the truth behind it. They are NOT supposed to simply report on the asinine things politicians say as though they are true.

Frankly, Columbia Journalism Review does a far better job than I uncovering the stupidity of the media. I would just end up saying the same things over and over: “You idiotic assholes!”

Sigh. Is there any hope that this will get better? Not as long as people like the fine citizens of Findlay, Ohio still believe every stupid ass rumor that gets spread around and not properly contradicted by journalists who are falling down on the job.

Double sigh.

Written by laura k

July 3, 2008 at 1:29 pm

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I just read this article on how people in Cuba use technology to get around the bans on internet connectivity put in place by the government (“Cyber-Rebels in Cuba Defy State’s Limits,” in NYTimes). While I do think the writer is a little bit leading (“cyber-rebels?”) in his language and whatnot, it’s an interesting glimpse at how information technologies evade containment, and at the ways people will use whatever they can to communicate and share information. It’s an open information world (or at least, it’s headed in that direction) which will force closed and controlling governments (including, in some ways, our own) to react, and hopefully change.

And oh, I thought this was pretty funny, in my anti-capitalist way: Some students forced a government official into an impromptu press conference, demanding to know the reasons for some of the restrictions placed on them. His answer regarding travel limitations set on Cuban citizens: He “suggested that if everyone who wished to were allowed to travel, there would not be enough airspace for the planes.” Heehee. Well, we take care of that here in the capitalist world by ensuring that not everyone who wishes to travel can afford it! Problem taken care of, plenty of airspace for the planes.

Written by laura k

March 7, 2008 at 12:14 pm

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New job new school new stuff

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I am now officially a student. I had my first class yesterday, Technology for Information Professionals. Thankfully, not as basic and mind-numbing as I was expecting. My second class, Reference, is this afternoon. I love being back on a college campus. I'm excited about everything. I'm a little surprised to see the the librarian stereotype is kind of true: I'm surrounded by some seriously dorky people. With social interaction issues. It'll be interesting to be one of the most put together, attractive people in the room for once. Hah.

I did, also, get that job at the Schlesinger library. I work there two days a week and so far I love it. Everyone is very nice and friendly. My boss is already showing an interest in my professional development, which is more than I can say for any boss I had in my last job. The library is beautiful and a very pleasant place to spend a few days a week. Everything is falling into place.

Of course, the fact that Crystal isn't just on vacation but has, in fact, moved is also starting to make itself real to me. Our new housemate hasn't moved in yet, but I"m sure that once she does the final bring in the Crystal's-really-gone wall will be cemented into place. I'm not sure how well that metaphor works, but whatever. She's doing well in Spain, although I'm sure a little bit overwhelmed.

I should head off to school now. Boy, I love saying that.

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Written by laura k

September 6, 2007 at 4:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized