How it feels: Accidentally deleting your inbox

My entire phone inbox got deleted tonight.

It was quite a jarring experience.

Especially because I didn’t do it on purpose.
I know that it’s worlds better than having your phone stolen, or even getting it lost.
But it felt so surreal.
Seeing your same phone – same body, same housing, screen and application.
But empty.
It was an empty black space with no threads of contacts and message excerpts whatsoever.

All memories you wanted to keep, and messages you wanted to save in case you ever needed written proof of anything, gone.  Digital memories – of things that were sweet, touched your heart, made you laugh or angered you – disappeared.

Again, just really jarring. It was so jarring i don’t think I believed it for the first minute after it happened.

I thought maybe the screen just had a glitch or the application stalled. I kept closing and reopening the app.

But nope, gone.

These moments are so interesting. See, it could be seen as “emotional”, except is also seems trivial (lost text messages probably won’t strike anyone as catastrophic), and it’s also so final that there’s no choice but to accept.

You just bury the regret in your brain.  Try to make sense of it. Make it seem philosophical — try to say that it might be some symbolism or lesson.

Of how my desire to hold onto and hoard everything kept me from easily finding what was valuable, in the din of everything I tried to save.

Or that it’s a foreshadowing of how my laziness about decluttering will ultimately bite me in the ass.
Anyway. Inbox gone. Weird sense of pain.

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Kitty Pryde: This makes sense.

This is Kitty Pryde.

You are going to want to, at least, know about her.

Why?

Because if you want to intellectualize about the state of music and the “blurring of boundaries”, she is a great example to name-drop.

Kitty Pryde has been talked about on ComplexVulture, Fader, Vice, HypeTrak, Idolator, PopDust and other culture blogs.

Even the New York Times has talked about her.

She is, as Fader describes, “the internet’s preeminent coy white girl rapper”, and her video “Okay Cupid” has been making the rounds.

Now, I’m sure her music will get A LOT of flack.

Because, damn it, when I was watching the first 20 seconds, all I was thinking was “whaaaaaaaaat.”

In fact, I’m impressed that the blogs picked this up pretty quickly.  Her main Okay Cupid youtube video only has 85, 475 views, which kind of suggests this topic is at its infancy.  Of the 1,429 people who actually cared to click a button on what they felt about this, 38% clicked the thumbs-down one.

And, she gets comments like:

“what the fuck is this shit”

“omg please stop singing”

and “She’s 17 writing the lyrics of a fucking 14 year old girl trying too hard.”

and, one of my favorites: “its like rebecca black all over again :/ with more.. words.. ”

along with: “i give up on life”

From HypeTrak, there’s also: “Really Hypetrak? so many trill nigggas doin they thing and this is what you post? smh….RIP HT”

So what’s there to like?

I actually don’t enjoy her Okay Cupid song as much as her Justin Bieber song.  Which is actually a response to his cult of fans and the baby-daddy incident.  Listen to it.

But, as usual, I love her in a “meta” way.

What do I mean?

I mean: I love what she represents.

For one, I love the whole “package”, the whole “non-marketing marketing*” approach.

(*Yes, like “no makeup makeup”).

I love that her EP is entitled “The Lizzie McGuire Experience”.

I love that her Bandcamp page has close-up, self-taken pictures of her face with black mascara trails streaming from her eyelashes and showing off her inner lip tattoo.

She is authentic.

Or, at the very least, feigns authenticity.  The kind of current “real-ness” that proper adults and “good values” see as icky.

But, she does precisely what teenagers on tumblr do.

This is the best example to support how one teenage girl (who I interviewed last year) explained her liking Miley Cyrus, as a personality, over Taylor Swift.

Because, she said, Taylor Swift is “less real”.

Her songs are all about love and liking the boy who doesn’t like you back; she beams heart-shapes into the world, which might be relatable for her 12-year old fangirls.

On the other hand, you have Miley Cyrus, who is out there making mistakes, trashing her own name, trying to break out of the mold her parents brought her up in.

Which sounds much more like a 17-year old.

And, I think authenticity especially matters when making music.

In my opinion, successful music is authentic.

Meaning it represents something true about a culture, an image or an experience.
It’s why, for me, although many great songs have universal appeal, the way they sound and the way they’re made is culturally specific.
We tend to laugh at people who just mimic or copy musical styles. But, as it has often been said, good artists steal and we now have a culture where “everything is a remix“.
What gives away that something is just a copy is when it isn’t owned.  South Korea creates successful pop songs, because they embraced it.  They got Western ingredients and made it their own.  They practiced it from childhood and honed their pop sensibilities.

Try to listen to popular songs about the social condition from the 70’s, and from the present decade.

Popular music about society’s ills in the 60’s or 70’s were either folksy, rock or reggae. Sardonic, weary or lashing out.
Now, you have the addition of hip-hop.  Which, I think, also represents society’s ills, like poverty, and violence.
But it has swagger, a gritty machismo not present in the aggression of the 70’s.  A swagger that developed from the earlier years of blues, which was also a form of dealing with slavery and sorrow.
How does this relate to Kitty Pryde?

Because if Kitty Pryde made music any other way, it wouldn’t have made sense.

She can’t rap like Nicki Minaj because she doesn’t talk like Nicki Minaj or live like Nicki Minaj.
It was a lot more valid for Eminem to rap the way he did because he lived in the same kind of anger and survivalist aggression.
It’s probably like how it’s annoying to hear non-American musicians, who try to sound American when they rap, when you know they didn’t grow up talking that way.
It’s just fake.
Kitty Pryde’s songs are about her crush and social media culture, and she ‘raps’ the way she talks because that’s how it makes sense to express herself.
Not everyone’s a songstress, you know.
There have been weirder things — like Miranda July’s spoken-word songs, yet those are considered art.  More on music appreciation in a future post. (Seriously.  If you think Kitty Pryde was weird, you should listen to these.  I almost find them disturbing.)
[Watch video at your own risk.  I tend to get traumatized.]

I guess I’m just not a “hater” when it comes to people who write their own music. I may not always like the songs, but I respect the difficulty in creating them.

Lastly, I like that they actually can’t pigeonhole her.

I think that if they stopped calling her a rapper there’d be much less negativity surrounding her video.

What this means for culture is that her music can’t really be defined as…anything, which is going to be a good description for the media genres of tomorrow.  Hip-hop and rock have crossed over for a while, and I’m pretty sure I recently read an article on the alternative sound of today’s R&B. Or was it the other way around.

This kid sounds like a teenager talking on the phone crossed with a Garage Band track from someone’s basement crossed with frozen yogurt.

I don’t even know what genre you’re supposed to call that.  And that’s why I think she signifies the start of something interesting.  Because this’ll open up doors for girls who just want to sound like they’re talking on the phone, and want to express themselves, but feel pressured by Taylor Swift and Jessica Sanchez.

Link to her tumblr account: kittydothedishes

Random “Top Links” link from Complex: 15 Sexy GIFs of Celebrities Dancing

I believe in goodness. This isn’t sarcastic.

This day is a testament to the kindness of people.

It’s in the little things

– a foreign affairs employee being willing to wait for you because you forgot something, or a colleague you barely know ready to lend a hand (or, literally, money because you weren’t prepared).  Sorry, I had to fix some papers today, and I was in a rush, hence the encounters with human kindness.

This is why I have such a belief in the goodness in the world.

Yeah, I’m cynical as hell about love, pride, corruption and societal ills, but I’m always optimistic about individuals.

There’s always something beautiful and interesting in persons when you consider them on their own. In fact, I think it’s when we’re in groups that our goodness sometimes gets ruined.

People will reprimand me sometimes – saying I believe too much in the good in people, that I’m too kind or democratic, that this makes me easy prey.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving people the benefit of the doubt.

Yeah, I have my pet peeves; and there are many people that piss me off, that I actually don’t prefer to work with, or that I don’t really want to be friends with.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t try to understand where they’re coming from. Doesn’t mean I can’t use my own means of making them more human, more relatable in my eyes.

I may be an over-analytical elitist, but I also give it to people that we don’t consciously want to do bad things to or hurt others.

Yeah, that isn’t an excuse and, no, I’m not making excuses for crime and evil.  I just really think that if we gave each other more of a chance in this world, there’d just be more understanding, and hopefully, peace.

Of course, you could make the argument that tolerant peace isn’t worth much.  And it may be ruined by any step you take in the direction of “educating” or “improving lives”, because it will be somehow tainted by or seen as having some form of cultural hegemony.

But that’s why I wish we could work towards a wiser peace, one that’s multi-culturally enlightened.

I also hope that we’re actually getting there soon.  And, in the next post, I’ll talk about the ideas or “movements”, organizations and companies that, even if they still have to make money, at least do some form of authentic helping and understanding in this world.

[PG-13: Sensitive Content] “Slutwalks” and Kate Upton’s Cat Daddy: Hot and Bothersome

This video (of teen angelface sexpot Kate Upton dancing in a bikini) has been making the rounds (TMZ featured this Youtube video: 1.4M hits in two days.)

It makes many thoughts rush through my mind:
As adequately put by a colleague: “Dayummmmmmmmm, son.”
“Of course.   This is by Terry Richardson.  Such a sick freak. Who else would have thought of this sleaziness.” (At this point, I was still confusing him with Dov Chearney, American Apparel CEO. Yes, many moustached plaid-clad successful sick freaks in the world.)
“I can’t believe she’s… Well, I guess this is part of how she markets herself.”
“Wow, the thought that she’s doing this is making me wonder whether this is brilliant or sad.”
“Well, she’s the one putting herself in this position.”
Seriously, my thoughts are in a tizzy because of this hot dancing Lolita.
Because, see, I can just see and understand so many perspectives regarding this video.

The most umm…base and guttural perspective, which is: This. Video. Is. Hot.

I’m not going to deny it.  This girl has a smashing body.  Yes, I am going to get this…low and sleazy.
Objectively speaking, she has just…if I start describing it, it’ll sound like erotica, but I really don’t mean it to.  She’s well-endowed, slim, tall, smooth and has this youthfulMarilyn-Monroe-doe-eyes-and-full-lips-with-coy-mole face, and “blondes have more fun” hair.
And, she’s well… we all know what those dance moves look like.
And if we all thought that her video (featured in an earlier post) manufactured-ly casually dancing IN CLOTHES was hot —  this is her manufactured-ly raunchily dancing 98% NAKED.
Really.  Really?!? You really had to up the ante, Kate?  The first video wasn’t hot enough?

Second perspective: What kind of sick freak are you, Terry Richardson, to come up with this exploitative shit?

She’s only 19.

Ah, Terry Richardson, infamously sleazy photographer.
It, apparently, wasn’t enough to be served a sexual harassment complaint.  At least he’s…err…sharing the love.

Third response:  But, see, you can’t fully blame Richardson because, damn it, Upton, you signed up for this.

Then, it gets complicated.  Because the video is obviously consensual.  It’s not like she was drugged or unaware.
See!
This is quickly followed by:

My 4th response: Guilt.  Why am I being a part of the objectification of women?

I am fully aware myself, that by screencap-ping, blogging about this, sharing the video on facebook, the very act of ogling this woman is actually part of this whole cultural movement that sexualizes the female image.

But then, she puts herself out there.

No, this isn’t like when misguided people say women get raped because they wear short skirts, because they’re “asking for it”.
Rape is an act of power and violence, and isn’t related to whatever clothes a woman is actually wearing during the assault.
I am merely saying that this is a conscious decision to brand herself in a certain way.  Which can both be labelled as brilliant or sad.
Why?

My sissy way out: I blame culture.

I can’t turn my nose up or wag my finger at Kate Upton, and reprimand her for her objectification of her self.
Because, really, how different is this video from Spring Break and The Grind videos on MTV in the 90’s? (Yes, for some reason, these were the first things I compared the video to. I do not know why my brain made that connection.)
I can’t be mad that she’s 19, because many young girls in the media do this – Ke$ha is around the same age and sexualizes herself.
And why stop there?  From there you can look at the whole popularized-by-sex-videos set, like Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian and Pamela Anderson (or Tommy Lee).  You can look at the whole porn industry even.  The Victoria’s Secret angels.
It’s all part of the branding machine, all part of a desire for stardom.  Having a hot body doing hot things is a sure meal ticket to get you places.   Kate can’t be blamed for having a face that pretty and a…set…that nice.  She just…chooses to use it to the…best of its abilities.
And, me, I like assessing culture.
In the nature versus nurture debate, I tend to think that we can’t deny that we have needs, some not necessarily noble and quite selfish – a need to be wanted, to be validated, to feel pride.  And the way that you choose to fulfill these is largely affected by the environment you’re in.
And, well, current society says this thing, that Kate Upton’s doing, is okay.

Kate Upton was born in 1992.

She grew up in the era of 15-minute celebrity – of Big Brother, and the dawn of lonelygirl15 (link for those who may not have been around at this time).
It was never really wrong to be recognized for “who you are”.  That’s what we tell kids.  And that’s what she’s doing.  Getting attention for her God-given gifts.
So, world, I don’t even know.  Those are all my thoughts about this.

Postscript:  In related news, this tab has been open in my browser since late last year:

Will SlutWalks change the meaning of the word “slut”?

“Which leads us to an important point: Is there such a thing as a perfect movement? Is there a right way to protest? Even the angriest critics can’t deny the galvanizing effect the movement has had. Clearly SlutWalks have struck a chord. “

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2088234,00.html#ixzz1tMWNjd93 (Smart move by NYTimes.com – automating a “read more” link when copying text)

First, the facts.

The protest walk was first organized by Heather Jarvis and Sonya Barnett, as a response to Toronto constable Michael Sanguinetti’s comment (to students) that “women should stop dressing like sluts” so that they/we would not be victimized by rape.

All the opinions and controversy surrounding these walks make me love democracy, social media, freedom of speech and all the things that enable all of the differing views.

Because, like the Kate Upton video, it stirred up debate and emotion.

Some didn’t approve of the use of the word “slut”, feeling that it further contributed to the misinterpretation of women’s sexuality.  Others criticized those critics wondering whether you could actually criticize the “correctness” of a protest.

Layer upon layer.

Meta-reactions.

Welcome to the 21st century.

Irrational, But True: Why I’m Afraid of the iPhone (Part II)

Yesterday, I wrote about my misplaced personal issues with buying an Apple iPhone 4s.

Today, I explain further.

See, I don’t discount Apple’s brilliance.  In fact, I applaud them.  It’s just that sometimes, or most times, their products remind me of an inequality that I’m ashamed to be a part of.

But, first, to the more positive, progress-of-technology bit.

See, Apple’s very smart.

They really fought the system. And beat it, too.

Back in the day (say, less than a decade ago), buying mobile phones was about a more blatantly “physical” customization.  About offering a device for each kind of person – popularizing “market segmentation” studies.  People got to choose the actual hard “body” that you thought was best fit for you.

That’s how the game was before.

Now, here comes Apple, changing how “customization” is executed – giving people a single solid case, with innards that you could personalize with infinite permutations (that’s hyperbolic; I meant relative to early mobile phones).

You pick-and-choose, mix-and-match the insides of it — the content, not the look.  A blank slate that allowed for maximum internal customization.

Being excellent and expensive, Apple products grew a techie following.  But besides knowledgeable design geeks, the reality of “herd mentality” and Apple’s well-executed design strategy also pulled in droves of either really practical or really status-hungry rich people.

Apple’s popularity and design excellence deemed any sort of innovation from Nokia, Sony Ericsson et al. obsolete.

Now the game is just about the innards.  All of a sudden the number of colors you could offer didn’t matter (unlike the Nokia 5110).  The tech generation just didn’t care as much.

Nokia N9’s reviews can keep talking about how elegantly beautiful the phone looks, or how great it feels in your hand, or the solid color when you scratch the body, but since iOS and Android have more established, familiar systems with a better-planned ecosystem, the N9 still can’t compete.

I’m not saying that those device-buying “values” or priorities are permanent.  It’ll probably change in the next 5 years; it always does.

It’ll be great to see how it plays out, if the paradigm will change in the next five years.  I’ll be nearing 35 then, and technology’ll probably be in a very different place.  That’ll be exciting to see.  I just don’t know if I want to be part of it or watching it.

The shaky and scaredy-cat part of me would rather be watching it just because I don’t want to let go of who I am.  And it feels like Apple took away a bit of my freedom of choice.  (Just because, nowadays, even if I try to look for an objectively better, more equipped and hopefully cheaper mobile phone than the iPhone 4s, it always feels like “downgrading”.)

Now, the opportunity to actually “mull over” whether I want to buy the iPhone or not highlights something slightly sad that I tend to see in the iPhone.

Oh, before I continue, I think I should mention that what partly triggered all this iPhone-buying consideration is that my job now needs me to research the user experience of mobile interfaces.  Since I am part of an interaction design team.
I saw this ad last week, for a broadband Internet connection.  It revolved around two young adults, poshly dressed.  The girl was in this frilly dress, on some plush couch in a luxurious room that seemed like a hotel.  The boy was in a bachelor’s pad.  In the ad, he was going to propose to her through video chat or Skype.  I know, not the most realistic of situations to begin with.
It reminded me of how high-end the digital target market is, in a developing country.
It’s a tiny bit of what hurts me.

I don’t want to just serve the upper class – their needs are being served all too much.

I don’t even know what else we can do for them.  They don’t need people researching more of their needs.
Yes, the uppermost economic class is the most lucrative market.  But what about 94% of the country?

Yes, I know, I still work for a corporation.  It’s still a business.

And, maybe that was one of the reasons that I liked my job doing consumer research for television.  It clearly served the masses.  TV is a mass market service – in fact, it was almost too kitschy and downmarket to be cool.

But, “digital”, in my corporation’s mind, is geared towards the educated and the upper crust.

And what I love about start-ups, and Ideo and frog, is that they have the freedom to also serve the greater market.  Because, see, I believe “digital” is also mass market.

Youtube and 9gag are “mass-market”.  It’s not like they serve the American intelligentsia.  It’s just that the American mass market is still more “up-market” than here.

Now, I’m thinking I should mention that when I was in college, one of my favorite classes was Culture and Ideas: Power, Hegemony and Texts.  Taught by one of my favorite teachers, Ron Darvin.  It talked about how cultural realities implied nuances about an era or a people. I think that’s what the iPhone represents for me.

It’s something that’s difficult to afford.

As much as people would want it, it’s an expensive object – it’s like a diamond necklace that’s useful.

I like it, I’m not denying that.  It’s amazing, it is.  But you’d end up paying more than a month’s salary for a phone.  Really?  I think that’s intense.

Interesting, isn’t it?  I’ve touched on personal insecurity, pride, the economic divide and design strategy.

All to explain why I’m having trouble buying an iPhone.

That. is. quite. sad.

I am shutting up now, and just being more pragmatic about this.

Facts: Change is coming.  Change is here. I want to be a kick-ass interaction designer.  I love the iPhone 4s camera, and I miss having a camera phone.  I don’t want to shell two-months worth of pay for a phone.  Having an iPhone won’t change who I am.  Or, it will, but so will everything in my life.  I am not what I own.  I should always remember that.

So, final verdict?  I’m getting an iPod touch. There.  Compromise. Whew.  I don’t know how I feel about it, but I also know I should stop obsessing. Two blog posts is more than enough 🙂

Irrational, but True: Why I’m Afraid of the iPhone (Part I)



Because I’m afraid it’ll change me.

And it will.  Because, really, that’s what well-executed engaging technology does.

I imagine that this might be how it must have felt during the dawn of television.  You must have had this whole older generation saying “That infernal contraption in my living room! What is it teaching the young people?” or something like that.

TV’s changed life, then.  In the same way, cellular phones started changing life a decade ago; tablet devices are changing life now (for people who can afford it), and so on and so forth until time immemorial.

No way around it, is there?

Life will speed past you.

It’s where maturity’s supposed to kick in.  Where you’re supposed to take control, because change is inevitably going to happen.  “Change is a constant”.

It’s like in that “Who Moved My Cheese?” book.  You’re supposed to make change happen – “planned change” or something.

I don’t think other people understand how much of a paradigm shift that is.  Am I the only one who’s scared?

Owning a device that can replace a music player, video player, mobile phone, computer, game player, camera – really revolutionary – changes the way you do things — consequently, the way you look at things, the way you solve problems, your mental framework about what goes on in the world.

So why am I afraid?

First up. Personal prejudice.

At the end of the day, it’s largely about me and my perception of people who “get” iPhone and iPod Touch’s.

Maybe it’s part of my contrarianism.  Connected to my desire to seem non-conformist, fear of being too much or looking too much a part of the ruling herd.  It’s because of this urge, this guilt I have of not relating to people who don’t have much.  Not being able to relate to the 90% of the world who can’t afford an iPhone 4s and all its necessary phone cases and data plans.  I’ve always had that pretentious concern.  Probably isn’t healthy.  For one thing, it’s irrational.  I know it is, but I can’t help it.

Underneath the prejudice, it’s really an issue of  my pride and insecurity.

People might not understand this, but I think it’s a distant result of having an insecure self-image.  My issue with relinquishing control over myself.  Relinquishing control over my behavior, desires and people’s impression of me.

I don’t like the idea of this entity inflicting change… Ok, scratch that, I like marketing and advertising, I know.

But those are a blatant form of control, of pandering.  Less insiduous.   This is “baked in”, wrapped up in something I can’t understand.

Leading me to the third reason – ignorance.

This is also partly fear of what I can’t understand, because I don’t try to understand it.

That’s easily “solve”-able at least, I just have to learn about it and make myself more comfortable.

It’s weird that I have issues, you’d think it’d just be about buying it, cracking it open, swiping your finger across it.

That’s how it’s supposed to be, right?

That’s how simple it’s supposed to be.

But I have to make an effing mess out of it – talking about identity, self-image and whatnot.

I know it seems like a joke, and most people don’t get how stupidly fearful I am.  And I think that’s the funny part.  The funny part is that it isn’t a joke.  It isn’t a joke and I’m not exaggerating.

I wish it were some easily dismissable thought, but it isn’t.  If it were, I wouldn’t have to be writing about it just to rationalize these things to myself and make sense of the fear.

It’s not like I can hie myself off to a forest, and I don’t want to be part of some back country life.  I think technology moves too fast for me.  I know I’ve always wanted to go to Japan, and that’s highly technological place.  Maybe it’s a foreign country so it feels “better”, but these are changes in my own country, my own life, an internal shift.

But everything changes you ultimately.

Travel.  Movies.  Really good literature.  So maybe, that’s just that.  I just have to accept that everything changes you and you can’t be a victim to that.  We’ll see how this goes.

I know I have to move forward now.  I know that I don’t have to make it an issue, and I wish it were just that simple for me. But I think it’s also my refusal to relinquish control over shaping my life, and I feel like technology is wresting it from me a bit.  I feel alone in this, too.  Most people seem to be welcoming this with open arms.  Tomorrow, more about my culture-related personal issues with purchasing an iPhone 4s.