Succession season three is finally here. I watched the premiere a couple of nights ago, and I laughed from one end to the other. I love it so much. Two seasons and running of a show that is about 12 people who are constantly waffling on whether it’s still in their best interests to get kicked around by an asshole, and they could really do 20 more seasons on this same subject, and I would completely buy that they were all still on the fence about it. Who among us cannot relate? I’m a Greg today, but I’m aiming to be a Gerri by retirement.
This is a bit embarrassing to admit as I spend fully every waking hour of my life on some kind of screen, and my job is in software, but I don’t really know anything about computers or care about them at all.
I really started using a computer in college — we had a big desktop at home, but I only used it every so often for playing Maniac Mansion or Ski Free. In college, I used a PC desktop and then at some point, I got some sort of PC laptop. I think it was a Compaq. I used various laptops and netbooks until sometime in my late 20s when I bought a white MacBook and I used that until I was hired at my company. One of the first things that happens when you get hired is that you order your new work MacBook. But my white MacBook was still working just fine, so I kept using it until the first Grand Meetup of my company, when everyone reacted to it as if I had shown up with a typewriter from the 19th century.
After that, I got a new MacBook every few years, and I also got my first iPhone and have upgraded it periodically. I’ve used Pros and Airs and PCs and Macs. And…
They are all exactly the same to me. They all type words onto a screen and they all go onto the internet.
I remember at some point people complaining about the butterfly keyboards of MacBooks and then other people really liked the butterfly keyboards, and it was the first time that it had ever occurred to me to notice any differences in all the keyboards I typed on all day. When I was traveling, sometimes the keyboards in the internet cafes would be really disgusting, and I did notice that. If a key sticks, I notice it. But otherwise, I don’t know, I just start typing and then my hands…get used to it? I just don’t really care. I don’t care about a mouse or a trackpad or whatever; they all work fine. I don’t really notice differences in screen resolution; supposedly it’s gotten better with every new device I’ve gotten, but it all looks more or less the same to me. I don’t notice photos being sharper with a new iPhone camera — people hold up two next to each other and exclaim at the amazing improvement, and I can’t actually tell the difference.
Everyone is excited that the new MacBooks are out, and that they’ve made some excellent changes that are reversals of previous unpopular changes people didn’t like. But I don’t really even understand what changes are being discussed, and I didn’t notice the previous changes that everyone hated when those came out.
I gather that I had function keys for a couple years and then I didn’t have function keys for a couple years and then I did again? There are function keys on this computer now, and I guess I use them to turn the volume up or down. Otherwise, I guess I don’t use those much. I don’t really use keyboard shortcuts or snippets or macros; I do everything the long way and I’m super fast anyway. I don’t really need to go faster; people are always telling me to slow down as it is.
I do notice differences in software. I have only ever used like four apps in my whole life, and there are things that I dislike about them and would change.*
I guess it’s sort of like…hardware is merely a portal to a world of the mind. It’s like my body. I’m not a very corporeal person. I spend most of my time transporting my attention out of the physical world and into some narrative where I seek to become so fully absorbed that any awareness of the physical world falls away entirely. So from that perspective, it makes sense that I wouldn’t really notice the devices themselves.
What is an improvement that I would notice and appreciate? First, if my iPhone screen didn’t break as easily. I use a screen protector and case, but every phone I’ve ever had has splintered eventually. And secondly, if the screens and keyboards were self-cleaning. I do notice when they get crumby or greasy or smudged, and it’s annoying, but I always forget to clean them. So if they just stayed clean on their own, I would notice that and appreciate it. And finally, I do not like buying adapters; I would like to never buy another adapter again.
Otherwise, I’m genuinely good with whatever.
*At the same time, it’s always astonishing to me how much time people spend bitching about changes in software when there are very easy workarounds. Like for example, I use Tweetdeck; I have forever. So I have chronological timelines and whenever something changes on Twitter, it doesn’t affect me at all. But there are all these Twitter power users constantly complaining about the stuff Twitter does like they have absolutely no control over it. Just use TweetDeck!!!! Do people not know about TweetDeck? Is there some other reason power users don’t use it? Don’t tell me; I don’t actually care.
Throughout the Year of Quarantine (which sadly is still somewhat going on) and my pregnancy, I did a lot of online shopping to make myself feel better. Obviously, this is not something to celebrate or encourage in oneself, but don’t give me shit about it, ok?
Nothing I bought made me any happier, really, with one exception: this robe. Mine is that same print but in a deep green, which they don’t appear to have anymore, and I LOVE it. It’s cotton, so it works ok for most seasons here (it’s a bit too hot for the height of summer), and I got it in a luxuriously voluminous size so I swim in it. It feels great, the print makes me extremely happy, and I just feel better whenever I put it on or even just see it hanging out on a shelf in my closet. Also, the baby is obsessed with the print.
This is the sort of joy we hope all our purchases will provide — a low level infusion of peace, content, or happiness from daily use. You get one thing that makes you feel this way, and some part of you thinks, if I only had more things that did this for me, if every pen and dish and piece of furniture in my house made me excited to look at it, then I would be genuinely happy in my work and in my family and in my life! (I haven’t read her book or watched her show, but I suspect this is the angle Marie Kondo is working for her brand.)
But sadly, this is one of the many lies of capitalism. There’s a ceiling, and it’s lower than you think. A single robe can cheer you up in the morning, but a house full of cheering objects can’t fix any real problems or make you happy to be alive.
On my walk with Edith this morning, we passed a nearby street called Sequoia Drive. I went to elementary school at a place called Sequoyah Elementary for second through fifth grades. Before that, when I was in kindergarten in another city altogether, my mother painted a picture of Sequoyah for the State of Tennessee. I forget exactly why; it was to be used for some reason or other, and it was a big deal commission. Every day for weeks, a man came to our house and put on a modified bathrobe of my mother’s and sat on a little platform my father had built in the living room and my mother painted him. This is the painting, if you’re curious, and now that I’ve told you he was wearing a bathrobe, you probably will spot it right off. While she was doing research for this painting (or maybe later, I don’t remember exactly), I found myself at the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum a lot more often and for much, much longer than I cared to be there. I spent what seems in recollection like hours there bored as hell and waiting for my parents to finish whatever they were doing there. Back then, we didn’t have cell phones, so kids (or at least only children like me) were forced to spend hours on end in places like single room roadside museums, just staring at some clay pots in a glass case.
All of this is to say that the word “Sequoyah” has been omnipresent in my life and has many associations. But yet, when I see it, I do not think of any of these things.
The first summer camp I ever went to was called Camp Sequoyah. It had no relationship with Sequoyah Elementary at all, and in fact, was in a totally different state, and it’s weird, now that I think about it, that absolutely everything in my young life was named after Sequoyah, but at the time I took it for granted. I did not especially love this camp; I didn’t make any friends there and everyone was mean to me, and I was homesick, and through a postal mixup I received a large package of cotton underwear on my birthday which I proudly opened in front of a small crowd who had gathered to see my present, and I fell off my upper bunk directly onto my face.
Actually now that I’ve gotten into this story, I remember a certain incident which seems to me typical of the reason I had trouble making friends as a child. We were all at the pool and comparing blemishes (as girls do), and this girl in my cabin was showing us some curious skin tags on her upper thigh. She was pointing out how weird they were, and I said, “That’s so interesting. Did you ever try cutting one off with scissors?” Because to me, they just looked extremely cuttable; that would have been the first thing I would have tried. But there was a shocked silence, and she said, “No! Of course not.” And I saw this sort of appalled look on everyone’s faces. This kind of shit happened all the time when I was a kid — I was forever saying things like this that were just things you don’t say, real reputation killers. I’d finally be getting along with other girls, and then something like this would just fly out of my mouth and I’d see those expressions and know the jig was up.
But I digress. Anyway, we sang a bunch of repetitive songs at that camp and one of them is what I actually think of every time I see the word Sequoyah (whatever spelling):
And when I die, I’ll be Sequoyah dead!
We sang that. At summer camp. A bunch of little white children. That’s really weird, right? Like now that I think about it, it’s really fucking weird!
It’s also hilarious, don’t get me wrong. Whatever camp counselor came up with that and successfully got it into the official camp songbook (yes, there was one, on photocopied paper stapled together) was a subversive genius.
But weird! And yet, I was the weird one for suggesting that if one had a skin tag, one might try to snip it off.
Anyway, what do we think Sequoyah himself would have thought of all this?
The older I get, the more I am realizing that in cases where I doubt popular wisdom, I often do so not because I think popular wisdom is wrong, but rather because I feel like the advice given is too complex or troubling for me to follow and so I think, must not be so.
For example, everyone always says that buying a home is a good investment and that the way to make your money go further is to put it in real estate. For over 15 years of renting, I denied this common wisdom, not because I had any informed opinion about it but because buying a house seemed beyond me.
It was! It’s expensive and time consuming and complicated!
But also, I closed on my old house today and turns out, it’s like they say: buying and selling property is indeed how all these people are making money.
The other night as I was tiptoeing around so as not to wake the baby, I was reminded of something minor that I used to spend a lot of time being mad about and have not had to be mad about in some time, and then remembering it, I got mad all over again, and it’s this:
Doors are loud to open and shut, but mostly because the sticky-outy part of the latch makes a big loud noise if you don’t take care for it not to. But! It is very easy to take care for it not to, and if you do that, it’s very quiet to open and shut a door. If you turn the knob all the way before moving the door and then hold the knob while you open or shut the door, and then release the knob slowly in the opposite direction, the door doesn’t make any noise. So if someone is sleeping in the room you’re going into or out of, you should hold the doorknob. It’s just basic consideration.
No one ever taught me any of this; it just made sense to me intuitively, because I’m aware of when other people are sleeping and that they would prefer not to be woken up, and that a door latch chunking is definitely going to wake them up. I’m not even an especially considerate person! Some very patient friends of mine had to teach me how to be considerate in my early 20s, because I simply was not. But I always put this together about the doorknob.
The thing is, though: nobody else I have ever met has ever thought to hold the doorknob when someone is sleeping. I have lived with family and then with an endless variety of roommates of all walks. All these people thought of themselves as good, polite, thoughtful citizens, sometimes to an absolute fault. Most of them considered me as at best a work in progress; at worst, a bitch. But NONE OF THEM HAVE EVER HELD A DOORKNOB IN THEIR LIVES.
When I lived with people and was trying to sleep, I deeply resented this, although, as is the way of my people (Southern women), I never said anything about it or gave anyone a chance to correct it. Now that I no longer live with people (other than my mother who has to love me no matter what I do, even if I text her from the bedroom “would you QUIT slamming the DOORS” and she replies “I am at the grocery store”) I simply find it curious.
So there you go: if you share a room with someone who tends to sleep and this has never occurred to you, start holding the doorknob tonight. Your partner will thank you. Or rather, they won’t, because they won’t wake up and know it happened, which is exactly the point.
I was going to bitch about doorknob etiquette tonight, but then I got into a Twitter debate about whether or not Daniel Craig is handsome, and now I want to write about that instead.
There are a handful of different terms we use to describe beauty, and I maintain that each of these terms mean objectively different things: handsome, gorgeous, beautiful, pretty, cute, attractive, hot, sexy. When it comes to “handsome” specifically, it means a certain type of face that conforms to objective standards. The standards might vary slightly from culture to culture or era to era, but they’re typically pretty similar. Currently for men it’s symmetrical facial features, a rectangular face with a square jawline, defined cheekbones, evenly set eyes, an aristocratic nose, full lips, straight white teeth, a cleft chin, ears close to the head, clear smooth skin, thick shiny hair. A woman who has features that fit these criteria is described as a “handsome woman.”
That’s not this man. This man has a round face, a long upper lip, a protruding under lip, a furrow between his eyebrows, hooded eyes with bags, a bulb nose, jug ears, and a receding hairline. Now, look, I am not saying there’s anything wrong with that. Daniel Craig is attractive, and obviously many people are attracted to him. Many find him hot. But by objective standards, he isn’t handsome.
On the other hand, a previous Bond is pretty much the textbook definition of handsome — blandly so.
Other than that his eyes are a bit small, this checks most boxes. I do not know many women who actually find Brosnan attractive (I do not find him attractive) purely because he is so boringly textbook handsome.
All these other terms mean certain things, too — like take the handsome template but tweak it with cheek dimples, a snub nose, and sparkly eyes and you have “cute” (your James Marsdens, your Chris Pratts). Enhance the cheekbones and do a thinner, longer nose, and a curvier mouth, and you have “pretty” (Jared Leto, Tom Hiddleston).
None of this would matter, except that Daniel Craig plays James Bond, a character I do not care about at all, but that has a fanbase of men who lose their shit whenever any actor is cast in the role that does not perfectly fit their mental idea of him. And I don’t know if this is true to the novels, but the general cultural idea we have of Bond is that he is classically handsome.
But Craig isn’t handsome, and yet no one has ever expressed any surprise at this casting choice. I’m not arguing that people shouldn’t find him sexy or attractive or hot (although I don’t personally), and I’m not even saying he shouldn’t be playing Bond. It’s just weird that nobody ever says anything like, “he’s actually kind of ugly, but he still makes it work.” Rather, everyone acts as if he’s objectively classically handsome and he’s not and I find it a little bit weird, that’s all.
Andrew Farmer is one of my favorite people on Twitter, and every October, he does 31 days of “31 Aunts for Halloween.” I love them; I relate to every last one. I have no siblings, so I will never be an aunt, but I have given off strong aunt vibes since I was probably about five, and Farmer is the foremost expert in capturing exactly what makes aunts aunts.
This is my favorite so far of this year’s batch:
Watch them all!
Having waited tables, I’m always pretty attuned to the sociopolitical dynamics of restaurant staff. Today, Mom and Edith and I went to the farmer’s market in downtown Buda, which is adorable, and then we ate lunch on a restaurant patio nearby. It was a rare overcast day and extremely windy, so the umbrellas were all down.
After we’d been seated, I got up and put one near us up, because I have a baby so I behave like an entitled person now. Shortly after that, our server (a beleaguered woman who was clearly in the weeds all morning) put it down, explaining to me that her manager wouldn’t let them put them up because two had already broken in the wind that day and they cost $500. She said this as if I had challenged her on it; it was the voice of someone who had been explaining this all morning and getting a ton of pushback.
I didn’t much mind because it was so cloudy and cool and Edith had a shade over her car seat. But about twenty minutes later, the sun came out fully and it was suddenly intolerable. I put up the parasol I carry around everywhere, and my Mom always wears a hat with a brim the size of a snow saucer, but the family eating on the sectional sofa near us were not so prepared, and one of the women came over to put the umbrella up. I explained what had happened earlier when I’d tried it, and she rolled her eyes.
This family’s server was really working his tables. He was upselling and schmoozing and doing The Most, and so when he came back out and heard they were unhappy, he marshaled a bunch of other dude servers and they put up every umbrella in the place, and arranged them all around this family. Meanwhile, Mom and I moved ourselves over to a table under a tree.
Our server did not make another appearance for awhile, and when she finally did, she looked around with a “fucking of course” expression on her face, and immediately behind her, a sour-looking middle-aged guy in khakis bustled out and told her to put all the umbrellas down and then he vanished without helping. So she did, to furious looks from the family.
Meanwhile, all the fun dudes were inside and did not come out again until it was time to send their customers off with frozen rum drinks in takeaway Mason jars, because apparently that’s a thing that happens in Texas.
I do not miss those days at all. I left her a big tip.
One block over, there’s an open space with a little pond, and Edith and I went for a walk around it this morning. There were a few other parents with little kids out walking around. We passed a father with two little girls and one of the little girls wanted to give Edith a branch with some weedy flowers on it and then tell me a long story that I couldn’t fully understand, but it was something to do with her cousin and what Edith could expect the next time she came to this little girl’s house to visit.
Because I was an only child and every adult in my life paid attention to me when I talked, and I haven’t really been around small children since, I’ve never really gotten the knack of how you’re not expected to let them finish talking to you before you interrupt them to talk to an adult or simply walk off. The reason, of course, being that they do not ever stop talking.
But to me, it feels extraordinarily rude, so I treat children with the same courtesy I do adults. This causes a lot of problems because it weirds adults out, and is actually in itself both rude and kind of creepy. An example is that if a child is telling me an endless story and I am supposed to be socializing with its parent, if its parent expects me to follow them or respond to something they are saying, I feel like I have to conclude things with the child first. Which will at times involve my holding up a “just a moment” hand to the adult while I wait for the child to stop its endless babbling.
I don’t know, women expect me to pay attention to their husbands when they’re telling some endless random story, so I don’t know why I’m not also expected to politely pretend that their children are interesting.
Anyway, this little girl’s father was trying to walk away with both his children and I clearly wanted to leave, but I felt like I had to keep standing there paying attention to this child. Which ultimately resulted in the man looking at me like I was the strangest weirdo ever. His expression clearly read “why are you staring at my kid for so long?” Because she was talking to me! I couldn’t figure out a way to extricate myself from the situation without offending one or the other of them, so finally I just squawked, “you girls are very sweet, thank you!” as if I were a celebrity who’d been briefly waylaid by autograph hounds and then Edith and I beat it over the next hill.
On a semi-related topic, because my mother gets up in the afternoon, she takes her morning walk just after sunset every day, which I don’t love for safety reasons, and case in point last night she was tromping through a forested area at the end of the subdivision when she came abruptly into a meadow and also directly into the midst of a pack of wild boars. “They were about knee-high like medium dogs,” she told me. “But I could hear the bigger ones grunting further back in the forest.”
Remember this infamous tweet? We all had a lot of fun with it, but what if this guy just lived in my new neighborhood.