This is why I can’t hear Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” without thinking about burritos.


October 11, 1984. Not my best work on the college newspaper. But I enjoyed the opportunity to vent.

Time to "Do Nothing" -- and rise up against the "attention economy"

Reading How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell and enjoying it immensely. (It was one of President Obama’s favorite books of 2019. I miss having a president who reads.)

How to Do Nothing is less a manifesto on laziness and more a call to re-evaluate the cult of productivity and what I would call the tyranny of distraction posed by corporate social media.

The point of doing nothing, as I define it, isn’t to return to work refreshed and ready to be more productive, but rather to question what we currently perceive as productive.

One thing Odell laments is the lack of context provided when people bark opinions and “facts” at one another in a state of constant distraction, not only benefiting corporate social media, but feeding the cult of “personal branding.”

… the villain here is not necessarily the Internet, or even the idea of social media; it is the invasive logic of commercial social media and its financial incentive to keep us in a profitable state of anxiety, envy, and distraction. It is furthermore the cult of individuality and personal branding that grow out of such platforms and affect the way we think about our offline selves and the places where we actually live. …

I see people caught up not just in notifications but in a mythology of productivity and progress, unable not only to rest but simply to see where they are. And during the summer that I wrote this, I saw a catastrophic wildfire without end. This place, just as much as the place where you are now, is calling out to be heard. I think we should listen. …

To resist in place is to make oneself into a shape that cannot so easily be appropriated by a capitalist value system. To do this means refusing the frame of reference: in this case, a frame of reference in which value is determined by productivity, the strength of one’s career, and individual entrepreneurship. It means embracing and trying to inhabit somewhat fuzzier or blobbier ideas: of maintenance as productivity, of the importance of nonverbal communication, and of the mere experience of life as the highest goal. It means recognizing and celebrating a form of the self that changes over time, exceeds algorithmic description, and whose identity doesn’t always stop at the boundary of the individual. …

The first half of “doing nothing” is about disengaging from the attention economy; the other half is about reengaging with something else. That “something else” is nothing less than time and space, a possibility only once we meet each other there on the level of attention. …

Ultimately, I argue for a view of the self and of identity that is the opposite of the personal brand: an unstable, shapeshifting thing determined by interactions with others and with different kinds of places.

Odell issues a lovely call for nuance, context, and attention away from the “attention economy” that encourages the toxic back-and-forth on Facebook and Twitter, which these companies regard as merely a “bounteous uptick in engagement.”

Just as a series of rooms are dissolved into one big “situation,” instantaneity flattens past, present, and future into a constant, amnesiac present. The order of events, so important for understanding anything, gets drowned out by a constant alarm bell. …

As the attention economy profits from keeping us trapped in a fearful present, we risk blindness to historical context at the same time that our attention is ripped from the physical reality of our surroundings.

It’s a cruel irony that the platforms on which we encounter and speak about these issues are simultaneously profiting from a collapse of context that keeps us from being able to think straight. This is where I think the idea of “doing nothing” can be of the most help. For me, doing nothing means disengaging from one framework (the attention economy) not only to give myself time to think, but to do something else in another framework.

There’s too much great food for thought here, and I’m still reading it. (I recommend you do the same, viewing these snippets in their proper context.) It helps me to jot down notes here (as is the function of a commonplace book, which is part of the point of this site) and think about it all.

There is a Bob Ross feed on Twitch. My holiday weekend is complete.

An evening fire and a couple of s’mores with family make up for a lot.

On Day 2 of a three-day holiday weekend. A hot, humid day. A Pokemon Go community day drive through downtown Elmhurst and the local college campus sufficed as our Sunday drive. Now trying to relax with a KBO rerun (Hanwha Eagles vs. NC Dinos) in an air-conditioned home office with the fan on. And a gulp of Tramadol.

Cramped up this morning. Had a tankard of turmeric tea in an effort to avoid taking Tramadol unless I absolutely have to, then took a dose of Miralax per the gastro nurse’s urging last week. Neither seems to be helping. Reaching for the Tramadol (despite the constipation side effect) shortly.

Looks like we have three new neighbors. Had to assure Mama Robin that I wasn’t going to steal them.

Chris found a bunch of old photos stuck together in the garage. Found this one from the late 1990s (maybe 1998?) with my friend Don Chareunsy at a journalism convention in Chicago. This had to be at least 60 pounds and two chins ago.

“Peale drew throngs of followers, but also sharp criticism from Christians who accused him of cherry-picking Bible verses and peddling simplistic solutions.

But the young Donald Trump was hooked.”

I can’t stomach Catholic social media right now. Too many people getting on the “open our churches immediately” bandwagon. Hey, I miss Mass and adoration chapels as much as the next observant Catholic, but the anger behind so much of the new clamor is disconcerting.

That anger: Is it driven by a desire for spiritual sustenance or rage over being inconvenienced by a pandemic you don’t necessarily care about or believe? All it does is drive people away from the God you say you worship.

On a videoconference this last e-learning day, F claimed loudly in a “two truths and a lie” session that she had logged 220 hours on Animal Crossing during the lockdown.

It was a lie, but I swear I heard the sound of authorities coming to seize our parenting licenses.

“None of us should spend a moment worrying about what these grown people do. There are better ways to expend our emotional energy than on people who eagerly follow Trump, even if he leads them to their grave.”

If you look closely, our new neighbors appear to have multiplied.

I love this ESPN story about the American “Santa Grandfather” who became one of the Lotte Giants’ biggest fans. Now I wish ESPN would broadcast an actual Lotte Giants game.

I wasn’t imagining it. All these COVID-19 ads are pretty much all the same.

Frannie found a robin nesting in our shrubbery.

I want to follow the Lotte Giants, but the broadcasting rights stars haven’t aligned with ESPN’s KBO broadcasting deal. I don’t want to pick a favorite team just because it’s on ESPN.

I love that now that I’m following a Korean YouTube feed for baseball, I’m getting a ton of Korean suggestions on my YouTube home page. (And no, I’m neither Korean nor understand Korean. But maybe I should learn the language. Ballgames seem more fun in Korean.)

A Muslim video game developer finds community during Ramadan in Animal Crossing: “For Ismail, the biggest benefit is that he’s not alone during inarguably trying times. This gets him a little closer to the real thing.”

The lilacs are blooming in the backyard. And they smell amazing.

Someday, I will get out of the house and take photos of other things besides my kid and her dog.

Had a tough time getting to sleep last night. Odd, since I usually sleep well during storms like the ones we had overnight. Of course, the older dog fidgeted a while before C. put him in his crate.

As for me, I spent several hours fidgeting with the wired earbuds I wear to mask C.’s snoring because they won’t work anymore with the lightning adapter on the iPhone. I’m just going to have to throw in the towel and invest in wireless earbuds – and NOT spend a mortgage payment on AirPod Pros.