Tuesday, October 29, 2013

10-29-13: Beware the Matrix

We were in the house for all of five minutes. His backpack might not have even completely landed on the floor yet, his cheeks still pink from the chill in the air outside. And that's when I heard it:

Mom! Can I go online?!

Seriously? Take a breath, kid. Give yourself a few minutes in our house before you escape to another world, wouldja?

"No. Please find something else to do because that's all you ever want to do." Well, I said something like that. For sure, my mind was spinning at warp speed with all the thoughts I was thinking.
Seriously!? Please spend time doing something else besides being online!
Remember when you used to LOVE to read!?
Remember all of those LEGO kits we bought you?
All those Pokemon cards in boxes in your room?
The electronic circuit kit you got for Christmas last year?
The five thousand board games we have?
Paper and markers for shit's sake!?
You have a science project due in a week, right? You could work on that. Or clean your room. Or fold your clothes. Or make your bed. Or clean up your damn bathroom--that I clean but I don't even use!
Who needs two when you
can have one!?
Of course, it's nobody's fault but mine. It was my idea to buy him the damn Kindle Fire. But he can read books on it! He loves to read! Guess who stopped reading so much after getting it? I remember when I was his age (Shut up. It's not going to turn into your mother's when I was your age story.), the things that I valued and liked to play with--my bike, my art supplies, my radio--a transistor radio with a trendy white earbud. Yup, a single earbud. That was my electronics. Oh, I also had a portable tape recorder, the kind with the giant black buttons and the handle that slid out and was always the first thing to break. Why? Because this was what we used to make our mix tapes, of course. I had cars and army men and dolls and LEGOs. Books and comic books. I had the outside, the back yard, the dirt, the trees, the run of the neighborhood.

My kids hear what I played with as a kid, and they feel bad for me. They think of all the things I didn't have. No electronic games. No cartoons on TV 24/7. No cellphones (or cordless, for that matter), and they cannot imagine the hardship.

So my boy had to find new and exciting things to occupy himself, sans electronics. We have books and board games and paper and pencils and markers and crayons all over the house, so there's really no shortage of entertainment (and no surprise that he did not choose to do homework or chores, right?) and he was poking around in the games, finding things he had forgotten about. He went outside to ride his bike.

Of course, There is nary a moment in the day when I don't have my face in my laptop. Or smart phone. Or tablet. So, you know, not exactly role model material over here. And it's not just my kids' dependence on their electronics that's made me see this.

I downloaded a new book because the book I really really wanted to read wasn't out yet. It sounded intriguing:
What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

The book is David Eggers' The Circle, and it's a little bit 1984, a little bit of Facebook and a whole lot of scary. The Circle is the company that controls the data. And it's growing to control more and more, making life more and more transparent. And as main character Meg's position at the company grows and her privacy shrinks and she's ever more compelled to be plugged in, it really made me question my own online habits.

I've not read Eggers before, but the book captured my attention because of the subject matter--our examined lives. It's a scary, smart read and it builds in a gradual, realistic manner in the way that all good books of unbelievable circumstances made believable do. It might frustrate you (I was not happy the way some character arcs were just left so completely unresolved), it will entertain you and it may just make you rethink about what you share online.

To celebrate a simpler time and ROCKtober? Enjoy this 1984 best of playlist.



  1. Okay, so I've seen six of these artists live in concert. The only glaring omission (to my ears) is "Dance Hall Days", which would raise the previously-mentioned number to seven.

    Reading about your son reminds me of a conversation I recently had with my GF. We were lamenting the fact that to be a kid nowadays, you just have to have so much *stuff* just to fit in and get by. Not to go all Grumpy Old Man, but I feel lucky to have grown up (to the extent that I did) in a time when all I needed for a fun-filled, fantastic weekend or summer vacation were a bicycle, a baseball glove and maybe a Frisbee. And that was all I had. And yet the only limitation to doing everything I wanted to do was the fact that there just weren't enough hours in the day. On weekend days, I'd load up on knockoff-branded sugary cereal, hook my glove over the end of my handlebars and take off hours before my mom awoke. And I could always find a pickup game, go exploring, go anywhere I wanted as long as I was home by 6:00 that night. If I'd had WiFi, an iPhone and an XBox, I'd have probably just hung around the house and missed out on so much.

    Hey, where are the Billys (Idol & Squier)?

    1. So who didn't you see? Rockwell? That would be my guess. Are you referring to Wang Chung? I culled this from the Billboard top list for the year and just cherry picked my favorite songs from the lot of them.

      Oh I know what you mean--my daughter skinned her knee this summer & it's the worst owie she's ever had. For Pete's sake, she's 9!! That's crazy, she should have like a million of them under her belt by now. I know I did! There was never a spare moment that I wasn't out running wild in the streets as a youngster. And yes, fine, as an older kid, too.