A Few Things I Love

Hi guys! Happy Valentine's Day! I hope everyone is enjoying something you love or spending time with someone you love. I'm not going to do a mushy post about how in love I am (I'm saving that for next Monday, my 2 year wedding anniversary!). Instead, here's a list of things I am loving at the moment, around the web and whatnot.

1.First, in case everyone thinks I hate the Internet because of last Friday's post about Facebook, I don't! I love the Internet! And so does this guy. Ze Frank is very, very cool. This is what "connection" over the web looks like and feels like.

2. I've just discovered this, via Chester Copperpot and her pretty much infallible taste in music. I'm pretty sure this is one of the most beautiful videos I've ever watched!

3. Anything and everything Garrison Keillor. I'm currently reading Lake Wobegon Summer 1956. I've never read anything by him before, but my grandmother used to play a Lake Wobegon tape series on the way to family reunions.  I remember loving to listen to him tell those stories and sing snippets of hymns. He introduced me to rhubarb pie. I might still have those tapes in my closet somewhere, but I wouldn't have anything to play them on. Instead, I listen to the weekly podcast of the Lake Wobegon bit of Prairie Home Companion. Seriously, if you don't love this guy, I'm not sure we can be friends. ;)

4. marc johns. I spent hours scrolling through his work the other day. It's simple, fun, and oftentimes hilarious.

Have a good week, lovelies! What are you loving, lately?


Wonju Weekend: Eat Your Heart Out Series

ZenKimchi Food Journal
I only have so many months left in Wonju, so I'm taking advantage of all the restaurants and cafes until we leave. Thought I would share the wealth with you guys. If you're not in Korea, you can just drool over all the pictures and videos. If you are in Korea, get in touch and we'll have a weekend of eating in Wonju if you want!

The first place I'm featuring is Maryjane, a local cafe with a delicious menu. You can go read the article, Cake in a Cup, and watch the video of me eating one of my favorite things over at ZenKimchi's Food Journal. Go check it out. And make sure you leave lots of comments!!!


To Facebook or Not To Facebook?

Is this even a question? For me, it is becoming one. Lately I’ve been thinking about how I connect with people. One day I looked up and wondered why I was even scrolling through the news feed. It had become a habit, something I did between teaching classes; when I was bored, it was something I did to delay the inevitable work in front of me. Lately though, it’s becoming clear that Facebook is not working for me. I’m not making or maintaining deep relationships there. I’m not meeting new interesting people there. I’m not hearing what people really have to say. And are we really saying anything important? I’ve been reading some interesting articles and posts about Facebook, about what it’s becoming and what we are becoming as we use it.

(This one is lengthy, folks. This post is not limited to 420 characters.)

Gwen Bell, one of the most respected social media guru’s on my radar recently wrote a post entitled Defanging Facebook. She and her friend Patrick talk about moderating or abstaining from the site altogether. For me, I don’t think I’ll ever completely give up Facebook, because it is a way to keep in touch with my mom and my sister, both of whom refuse to start using Twitter. Facebook mainly serves as a jumping off point for Skype conversations or longer in-depth email exchanges. And for that reason, I’ll keep it around, at least for now.

Another point of view to consider is Don Miller’s look at Digital Clutter. (Recently, Don has been rocking my world daily with his “Creator” posts, which are basically simple directives about who creators are and what they do.) But he got rid of his Facebook after asking himself some questions:

the question I ask myself with digital communication is different: Did I or anybody else benefit from this the past year? That’s a harder question to answer. Did anybody benefit from seeing my pictures from that retreat? Maybe. Did I benefit from knowing it was so and so’s birthday, or that so and so was in a relationship? Maybe, but probably not, to be honest. I’d rather find out that so and so was in a relationship when they came through town, stayed in the guest room and we caught up while listening to whatever music we discovered. So I decided Facebook should go.

Interesting questions, hey?

This article, written by Zadie Smith for the New York Times looks at The Social Network, the movie about Facebook, but the last half is really a reflection on how we are presenting ourselves, how we are being minimized by the site:

When a human being becomes a set of data on a website like Facebook, he or she is reduced. Everything shrinks. Individual character. Friendships. Language. Sensibility. In a way it’s a transcendent experience: we lose our bodies, our messy feelings, our desires, our fears. It reminds me that those of us who turn in disgust from what we consider an overinflated liberal-bourgeois sense of self should be careful what we wish for: our denuded networked selves don’t look more free, they just look more owned.

I agree that sometimes we leave out the “messy” parts. Who wants to project that they’re a miserable piece of garbage at the moment, feeling everyone is happier than they are? It seems that the Facebook “status” is causing serious anxiety for students, or anyone for that matter. Ask yourself how many times you’ve paused before hitting the Share button. How many times did you revise your status because it sounded too depressing, or even too happy? I’m not going to talk about how many times I’ve reworded something or gone back and praised God for the little x lurking in the corner. 

This college professor dares his students to take a media fast from all technological and traditional media for three months and asks them to journal about their experiences. Could you do it? How much would we really miss? Are important, authentic dialogues taking place that we would miss? Or would we connect more with the people around us, connect more with the people we live with, heck, would we connect more with ourselves as we sit and listen to our brains, instead of constantly hacking out a new status update?

We keep saying that Facebook is a way to “keep in touch” with people. Maybe so, because I keep in touch with my family across the world, but is it really making us more social? Slate has an interesting article that says it’s doing the opposite:

By showcasing the most witty, joyful, bullet-pointed versions of people's lives, and inviting constant comparisons in which we tend to see ourselves as the losers, Facebook appears to exploit an Achilles' heel of human nature. And women—an especially unhappy bunch of late—may be especially vulnerable to keeping up with what they imagine is the happiness of the Joneses.

and then there’s this:

Facebook is "like being in a play. You make a character," one teenager tells MIT professor Sherry Turkle in her new book on technology, Alone Together. Turkle writes about the exhaustion felt by teenagers as they constantly tweak their Facebook profiles for maximum cool. She calls this "presentation anxiety," and suggests that the site's element of constant performance makes people feel alienated from themselves. (The book's broader theory is that technology, despite its promises of social connectivity, actually makes us lonelier by preventing true intimacy.)

When I read that last line, “preventing true intimacy,” I thought about the relationships that are only played out on Facebook and if they really contain any true intimacy. Are your relationships through social media authentic? Or are you part of the play?

There’s this video about how to use Twitter and they mention that 150 connections is the maximum number of meaningful relationships you can have and still be getting something out of them. So when I saw that I had over 300 friends on Facebook, I went straight for the “defriend” button. My new criteria for friends are that they have to have written something on my wall, left a comment, or sent me a message within the last year. If you haven’t communicated with me in any way over the past year, it’s not likely you’re ever going to. And you can always look me up and write a message without being my friend.  ;)

I can’t completely knock Facebook, because at this point, I do use it and I’m not willing to give it up. Although, if I did, I’m sure I could still find ways to get in touch with family and friends to make Skype dates. But for now, I’m wary and cautious of what I’m projecting, how seriously I take what other people are projecting, and who I’m allowing Facebook to say I am. 

What about you? Are you your Facebook status?


Failure is the New Success

I am ready to erase regret from my life, my conversations, heck, from my vocabulary. The only time I want it to enter my consciousness at all is when I’m thinking “Holy crap! I have NO regrets at ALL.”

This resolve is a long time coming. It’s been building inside and was definitely sparked by our decision to quit our jobs in March and travel through Europe in April and May. (Details: blog / vlog) The fact is that most people wouldn’t do what we’re going to do. They wouldn’t take the risks financially, or even physically. The El Camino is no joke. But I liked to think that I never wanted to be “most people.”

But I had found myself looking at other people’s lives. I was reading about amazing women achieving their dreams, setting goals and meeting them, surpassing their own expectations. I was happy for them and rejoiced with them. But I was finding myself mopey and self-pitying at the same time because I wasn’t “most people.” I put myself in this situation by doing exactly nothing.

I was getting sucked into watching other’s lives unfold and reading other’s stories instead of creating my own. I also realized that I had begun perfecting that awful art of comparing myself to others —something I often despise when I see it in other people, but was fostering within myself. I felt my regrets piling up on top of me, making it impossible for me to move. I was regretting that I wasn’t living my life as myself. I was watching people I admire and wishing I were someone else.

So when Kenny and I were discussing skipping our trip because things might not be easy when we came back, I decided that I didn’t care about what other people would do or the decisions they would make for their lives. I’m not living anyone else’s life. I’m not responsible for anyone else’s time or achievements or adventures. I just knew I couldn’t add one more regret to the growing pile I’d stocked and hoarded.

One reason I had so many regrets was because I was ultimately afraid of failure. I’ve always had this insecurity that I wouldn’t make anything of myself, wouldn’t be who I wanted to be, would always have this empty feeling of loss when I glanced around at what I’d built out of my life. But that’s stupid. So I decided that instead of making success my goal, I would allow failure to become a viable option. When you fail, it means you have tried something, you have participated in your life, and you have attempted to change. And that makes all the difference.

The effort is worth something. And failure is worlds better than regret. So I am welcoming failure into my life and shoving regret out the door and using the deadbolt. Oh, and I’m not shunning success, either. ;)


A Major Reader


I’m currently reading through The Best American Essays 2010 at rapid rates. I am thrilled with each essay I’ve read so far, and I was particularly smitten with the foreword by series editor Robert Atwan. His foreword introduced me to the idea of “major readers” and “minor readers,” both terms suggested in Vladimir Nabokov’s introduction to his Lectures on Literature. Nabokov writes, “Curiously enough, one cannot read a book: one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader.”

And this idea makes sense, because as Nabokov points out, the first reading is merely the act of moving your eyes across the page from left to right and becoming acquainted with the “world” of the book. I agree with him. However. I have serious issues with being a major reader. I want to be a major reader, of course. It is one of the things that I take the most delight in and that adds so much depth and richness to my personal life. But I tend to read in circles, instead of rereading, and the list of books I’d like to read grows longer every day. So, for me being a major reader equals a major dilemma.
The only book I’ve ever reread is Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums. When we decided to hike in the Himalayas on our honeymoon, I decided I needed to read it again. Although it is not set in the Himalayas, it does in fact deal a lot with mountains, hiking, and more mountains. I thought it would be a good book to psyche myself up and get ready for our Annapurna circuit.

But, honestly? I have a fear of rereading. I am afraid that by rereading a book I’ve already read, I’m forfeiting time with another book I haven’t read. I know that sounds obsessive, but I am nothing if not obsessive about reading and books. (Not just books for what’s inside, but I am also seriously obsessed with books as objects, books as things.) There have been certain times in my life that I have read certain books and they have been completely of the moment for me. And there’s this idea in the back of my head that if I choose to reread a book, I’ll miss the “moment” I could have had if I had kept on reading new material.

It’s all quite melodramatic, isn’t it? I have a friend who rereads the same books over and over, and I don’t doubt that he finds something new and fresh in them each time. I do believe that great books will stand the test of a million rereads. "No book is worth anything which is not worth much; nor is it serviceable, until it has been read, and re-read, and loved, and loved again; and marked, so that you can refer to the passages you want in it, as a soldier can seize the weapon he needs in an armoury, or a housewife bring the spice she needs from her store." That’s John Ruskin from his lecture “Of Kings’ Treasuries” collected in “The Lamp of Memory,” which I read at the end of last year.

This is my dilemma. I’ve only so much time to commit to the act of reading (heck, to commit to anything before my time is up), and I can’t bring myself to spend that time rereading something. Can I ever be a Major Reader? And does it mean my reading is not worth as much if I’m not?

What books have you reread?


Everyone Likes Ice Cream, Especially Me

I found some footage of an ice cream run from my first year in Korea. I believe I posted it on this blog earlier, but it was an ugly piece of editing and uploaded through blogger, so basically it was crap. Welcome to the new and improved version of this video! (And if you haven't seen it before, feel free to leave a million and one comments about how you choose your ice cream!) Also, if you haven't already, go subscribe to my YouTube channel. Enjoy!

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