author: Ellen Ullman
average rating: 3.57
book published: 2003
read at: 2016/12/01
date added: 2016/12/03
shelves: novels, own-it, fun
Excellent read. Ullman really captures well both the technology and the mental lives of people in the software industry. The story also has a narrative arc that's relatively non-standard and unexpected - it's not one of those stories where I'm constantly thinking "oh I bet I know what will happen now."
(Also, parenthetically, the short tryst between programmer and system administrator is one of the most erotic sexual subplots I've read in a while.)
Really good, expertly written, and covers such a range of concerns: the social trends involving computers and human-computer interfaces, the personality types of programmers, the economics of startups, the "geek pride" that makes computer people go a little (or a lot) crazy, existential philosophy, alcoholism, sex, love, dashed hopes for life... the list goes on...
Today, still grieving. Still in the stages. Of course the fundamental stage to every modern human's existence these days is always denial.
And so this may be full of various instances of rationalization, cognitive dissonance, and the like.
Nevertheless I will try to make this one concise point about my take on things, which was not my first or second take, but it's inching toward some kind of truth, I think.
At first my thought was, fuck all those racist, misogynist, ignorant, stupid morons. Fuck them and I'm done with them.
But then, looking at the numbers, it's staggering. How can there be that many of those hateful fucks? Well, obviously there are a lot of different kinds of people out there and a lot of different reasons that millions of them voted for a sociopathic rapist to lead their nation. But from stuff I've been reading and seeing, it seems like the number one reason is: A big middle finger to how things have been, to the status quo. And people were so upset at "the establishment" that they were willing to throw minorities, women, refugees, the environment, etc, under the bus to raise that big middle finger, to "the establishment".
So for the most part, I have to believe, it wasn't a conscious referendum on bigotry and hate and intolerance. It's just that those things, when given a binary choice, those things took a lower priority. White people that don't know any Muslims, gays, refugees, polar bears, sagegrouse, or who've never seen a river that's not already full of toxic waste, they just don't care enough about those things when compared with the grievance they feel for how Washington has been working, or how the media has told them Washington has been working. How it has, in their view, made their lives worse.
What this has to mean is that people are suffering, and they're suffering enough that they can't bring themselves to be bothered much by other suffering. Everyone suffers, as Buddhism teaches us. The trick, for the enlightened, or even those who are slightly more wise, is to see that fact, accept it, and have compassion for others who are suffering, despite your own pain. But most of us, alas, are not that wise, or at least not very often.
When I get home from work with a splitting headache that makes me feel like a railroad spike has been driven through my head, from temple to temple, and my wife is cooking, cleaning, and taking care of a screaming toddler all by herself because i have decided it's impossible to do anything but pop some ibuprofen and lay down in a dark room for a while, I'm thinking in one part of my brain, "this is unfair. This is kinda sexist. I should be out there helping." But the rest of my brain wants to stick a pistol in my mouth and end it because I'm in so much pain.
Now, pain is relative. I'm pretty sure that when I have a headache like that, it's not the very worst thing that anyone in the world has ever felt. It's not worse than being raped. It's not worse than a drone blowing up your house. Or some ISIS fanatics beheading your family. Or a cop shooting you dead because your skin is the wrong color (I'm pretty sure, though, that it is worse than the government telling you that you can't graze your cows on land that's not yours, for free.)
And yet, in that moment, the pain I feel is real, and valid. Somehow, if I can, some days, I rise to the occasion, and get up and go help feed the kid and make dinner and do dishes, because I know that's the right thing to do. But often, that's really really hard. It's the fair thing, it's the compassionate thing. And I've been taught to be fair and compassionate.
But some people didn't get that teaching. Or they've forgotten it, or had it been drummed out of them. It's not that they explicitly all hate women and gays and polar bears. They just can't get past their own pain to see others' pain. They never learned that that was a virtue that mattered.
And that's why we have this problem now.
And somehow despite our pain that we have this problem, those of us who see a President Drumpf as a huge huge problem, we need to look past it and recognize the others' pain. We should have done it before. We were blind to it, blind to how many people felt that pain and what they were willing to do about it. Now there's maybe a little time left. Maybe. But the pistol just got put in Amerikkka's mouth.
On Halloween night, 10 years ago, I pulled into Tucson in a rented SUV packed full of as much of my belongings as I could get into it. The few possessions of mine that wouldn’t fit were in a friend’s basement in Portland, Oregon, where’d lived for the last 3 years and where I’d eventually, reluctantly realized I couldn’t stay. The rainy winters had gotten to be too much, and I decided the desert was where I needed to be instead.
It’s symbolic, or indicative, of how much my life has changed since then that I spent most of my anniversary day, October 31, at the hospital, taking care of my sick daughter (It's not serious, don't worry). Ten years ago I wouldn't have been able to imagine such a scenario, and in fact would have found it inconceivable that I would have a life in which I wouldn't have time to write a blog post on a Saturday about living in a town for 10 years. I wouldn't have even imagined being here that long. The longest I'd lived anywhere before, as an adult, was 6 years.
Do I have time to fully explain the profound changes to those who didn't know me then? Probably not. But in a nutshell, think about my first paragraph, above. Everything I was to live with, packed into a car I didn't own. My bike, the futon I slept on, my computer, some cameras and video tapes, that was pretty much it. I had no job waiting for me in Tucson. I had no assets and not even a savings account. Now I have a wife, a kid, a house, a car, two dogs, 3 chickens, 2 and a half bikes, power tools, and more.
I'll quickly just list some other differences between then and now:
- There were only 3 or 4 people I knew in Tucson. Now I know hundreds of people and have never felt more a part of a community that I do here.
- I was a war tax resister and as such I owed the IRS tens of thousands of dollars and had the aforementioned lack of assets and savings because of the fear that they would show up and take it at any time. I even was afraid of having a regular, non-freelance job. Now I pay my taxes and have permanent, salaried work.
- I was single and had been for the last 3 years and in fact for my entire life I was against the idea of ever being married. Now I'm permanently linked to someone I know I want to be with for the rest of my life.
- I had basically rejected art in favor of media activism (I sold or gave away all my guitars and other musical equipment before leaving Portland). I felt radicalized and unable to justify making art and not devoting myself, at least my free time, to social change in a direct way. Now I have returned quite a bit back to art and am trying to lead a more balanced existence between work, activism, (still socially aware) creative projects, family, and even other pasttimes like brewing beer and roasting coffee.
- For my whole life and including my first few years in Tucson, I was totally committed to not having children. I still believe in not producing my own offspring for social and environmental reasons, but I now am the father of an adopted little girl who I love and am devoted to, to an extent I could not have even fathomed 10 years ago.
- I enjoy gardening. I enjoy digging holes in my yard, and building things with wood and drills and saws. I live with and love 2 dogs. I see a therapist every week, run 3 miles every other day, and go to work 40 hours a week in an office. None of those things were true 10 years ago and in fact none of them I expected to ever do, some had never even occurred to me, and some of them I had been consciously opposed to.
You get the picture. And I'm happier, healthier, feel less afraid, more secure, more balanced - for the most part. Life is good.
I better wrap this up and get it put on my blog, before my familly wakes up.
A single-channel version of a piece designed to be a 2-screen performance work. Conceived of as a study or stepping stone in a larger project concerning urban redevelopment and gentrification.
This emergency meta rendition created for "Avant AZ", an evening of video art at Exploded View microcinema in Tucson, AZ, May 9, 2015.
(Produced in collaboration with Allison Leigh Holt; Contains video material generated by Holt using her Glass System videoscultpure, by projecting and re-filming through the sculptures time-lapse footage of my guest house being built. Holt also provided integral script and concept feedback. more info about the sculptures here: oillyoowen.com/work/the-glass-system/ )