Samara O'Shea

Archive for May, 2009

Attention Please

Friday, May 29th, 2009

The May 25 issue of New York magazine has a great article about the attention crisis—our inability to focus as a result of some many types of technical stimulation. I couldn’t find the article online to link to—I’ll keep looking. Their Web site is involved. In the meantime, here are some of my favorite bits that I’ve encountered so far:

~ We keep an average of eight windows open on our computer screens at one time and skip between them every twenty seconds. When we read online, we hardly even read at all—our eyes run down in an F pattern scanning for keywords. When you add up all the leaks from these constant little switches, soon you’re hemorrhaging a dangerous amount of mental power. People who frequently check their e-mail have tested as less intelligent then people who are actually high on marijuana.

~ The jackhammers are everywhere—iPhones, e-mail, cancer—Western culture’s attention crisis is mainly a widespread failure to ignore them.

~ “Once you understand how attention works and how you can make the most productive use of it,” she says, “if you continue to just jump in the air every time your phone rings or pounce on those buttons every time you get an instant message, that’s not the machine’s fault. That’s your fault.”

Lost Lincoln Letter Revealed

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Full disclosure: I copied this from the Daily Beast Cheat Sheet. It’s a fun fact! Original content to come this afternoon.

Only months after President Obama called for transparency in the White House, one of Abraham Lincoln’s lost letters is being returned to the public. A note the president drafted four days before the Gettysburg address has been donated to the National Archive by a private collector. In it, Lincoln takes a minute away from thinking about the Civil War to address a minor annoyance: Robert Stevens, superintendent of the San Francisco Mint and the son of his good friend, had been investigated for corruption and removed from his position. In his letter to Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln kept it short and sweet: “Mr. Stevens, late Superintendent of the Mint at San Francisco, asks to have a copy, or be permitted to examine, and take extracts, of the evidence upon which he was removed. Please oblige him in one way or another. Yours truly, A. Lincoln.”

More details and an image of the letter at The Washington Post.

Success Knows No Age

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Yesterday it was announced that 77-year-old Alice Munro was the recipient of the 2009 Man Booker International Prize. I’m sure many of us think that by the age of 77 successes stop coming. I thought that way for a while—or I at least thought if I didn’t have certain things done by a certain age then I wouldn’t be able to achieve them. Then I came across an article called Confessions of a Late Bloomer in (you guessed it) Psychology Today about how it is a big bad farce that we have to have certain achievements by a certain age. Grandma Moses started painting in her seventies! And we all know the story of Susan Boyle. These are wonderful reminders that you never have to shrug your shoulders and say My time has come and gone. It most certainly has not.

Alice Munro was awarded for her body of work, which began long before she turned 77. But it still reinforces the message that you can never sit still. As long as you’re on planet earth then you have to keep trying. Trying what is up to you.

There’s More . . .

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

It’s the ongoing topic! More about Twitter and Facebook over at the NY Times. This is a discussion with a few contributors rather than an article by one person. Here’s my favorite point:

One of the truths of social media that is hard to face is that microinformation can be both embarrassing and boring, leading to a terminal case of twittering too hard and to the need to get over yourself. Wondering if you’ve crossed the line? If you have to ask, you probably have.

Short and Sweet

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Anne Lamott writes in one of her books (Traveling Mercies I think it is) that there are only two prayers we need to know:

1. Please Please Please


2. Thank You Thank You Thank You

Today, I thought of a third:

3. Take It Take It Take It

I supposed this could fall under “Please Please Please” if it had to, but to me this prayer is what you say when it (as in anxiety, hurt, fear, shame, confusion, whatever is plaguing you) has become too difficult to bear. With this prayer you hand IT over to the Universe, the Creator, God, Zeus, whatever you call the being that breathes life and hope into all things. You acknowledge that, as a human, you are far too weak to carry several sandbags at once and it’s better to let the master do it. Feels good. Try it. I just said it in the elevator and weighed less when I got to the top.

Any other one (or two) word prayers you can think of that would work well if repeated three times in a row ?


Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

The New York Times reports on how text messaging may be taking a toll on teenagers. And Gawker makes fun of them for saying so.

In other news, I saw the June (I think) cover of Vogue in passing today. Prettiest Vogue cover I’ve seen in a very long time—Cameron Diaz is the enigmatic cover girl. There’s a coverline that says Poisoned Pen: Letter that Destroyed a Marriage. I shall get my hands on that issue and report back here when I am able.

Oh yes, and Sasha Cagen wrote an endearing blog about her own inner battle with joining Twitter. I am proud to say that I follow her every tweet. Well, maybe not every one. . .

Save the Date

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

A boyfriend of mine once told me that if you want to make something official, or at least have indisputable proof that you wrote it on a certain date, then mail it to yourself. The USPO is a government institution and when it stamps the date on a parcel, it is proof positive of that very moment in time.

The boyfriend who told me this did not stay my boyfriend. He became my friend. We have been a part of each other’s lives for 10 years this October (we dated for two of those years in the beginning). Our friendship has certainly had its naysayers claiming that we can’t really just be friends and surely we’ll end up together. I try not to waste energy fighting those people because they’ve already made up their minds’ and are happy to inflict a Hollywood ending on my story. I know better. We’re friends, and all of my very close friends know and accept this. I’ve stood by and watched him date both casually and seriously. He’s been my sounding board for boys, and I’ve been his for girls. Never at any point has either one of us suggested to the other that we give romance another go. At some point over the last decade we became brother and sister. Much to my dismay, this is about to change.

He is now seriously involved with a woman who does not approve of our friendship. I didn’t realize how serious her distaste for me was until the end of last year when he confessed to having told me many lies because he wanted me to like her. He was lying to me to protect me, which I can appreciate, but it hurts no matter what when your best friend lies. He continues assuring me that they’ve worked it all out and our friendship will be fine. Except it’s not. We are hardly in touch. He’ll tell me he’ll call me so we can catch up and then he doesn’t (normally that’s not something that would bother me too much, but under these circumstances I am looking for evidence that everything will be fine.) When I try to tell him that his lack of communication hurts me, he says, “I don’t need this. I don’t need this.” (All I can hear is “I don’t need you. I don’t need you.”) He’s saying he doesn’t need to fight about the situation with his girlfriend and then turn around and fight with me about it. I don’t want to fight either, but I need to be able to tell him that he’s hurting me and have him care. If a friend doesn’t care that you’re hurt can they be called a friend any more? He would care if my heart were broken or if my father were in the hospital, but when he’s the source of the pain he doesn’t want to deal with it.

I suggested to him that he take six months away from me and reassess whether I mean anything to him or not. He got very angry at me saying if I walk away then he looks like a fool (and I subsequently look like a fool) for defending our friendship to such an extreme degree to his girlfriend. Unfortunately, he’s right. This reminds me of an Edgar Allan Poe story called “The Oval Portrait.” It’s about a man who is painting a portrait of a woman. He becomes so obsessed with the painting itself that he stops paying attention to the woman he’s painting (she is in extreme discomfort). When he’s finished, the painting is beautiful, and the woman is dead. He’s working so hard to defend our friendship that he’s not taking any time to actually be my friend. This hurts. It also pretty much ensures that the situation becomes a self-fulling prophecy. I know things have to change when your friends are involved in a relationship. I can accommodate change. I can’t be ignored.

I can’t explain this to him (as he’ll get annoyed and angry with me), and I can’t walk away. All I can do is stand here and wait for the inevitable to happen. In the meantime, however, I’m going to take his advice. I’m going to write him a letter and delineate my hurt over what’s going on, my gratefulness for ten years of knowing him, and my understanding that the end is now in sight. I will mail this letter to myself. Someday I will give it to him (stamped with the current date), so he knows that my denial ended long before his.

Oh yes, and he doesn’t read my blog. This much I know is true.