Category Archives: BIG TIME

The more things change

I’ve been back in New York for a week now. Walking down Avenue A to the gastro pub where I was to meet Joey, down the familiar streets with not-so-familiar-anymore buildings, I rolled the old phrase along in my brain in a loop: “the more things change the more things stay the same the more things change…” It’s only been a year, but so much is different.

I was 15 minutes early—something else that has changed in the past year—so I took a seat at the bar and drank a water while I read my new copy of Vice Magazine. A few minutes later, a guy came in, exchanged familiarities with the bartender, and took a seat next to me. I continued to read an article about South Sudan. An order of fries came out and landed in front of the guy, who looked super stoked. He ate a few and turned to me:

“Hey, do you want to share these fries with me? I mean, I’m not going to finish them all…”

“Um, sure,” I said. After a year abroad, I couldn’t say no to American French fries, and I’ve never even really liked fries. I told him I hadn’t had them since I’d been back in the USA.

“What are you reading about, Africa?” he guessed, probably from the image on the page.

“Yeah, about South Sudan.”

“Is it good?”

“Well, I’m a couple thousand words in and the author still hasn’t really told us what the piece is about,” I said, flipping through the earlier pages of text to convey the word count. “But he’s a good story-teller.”

I ate some more of his fries. He asked me what magazine I was reading, if I liked Vice, and when I said I did, he asked if I worked for them. “Sometimes,” I said.

“Oh, so do you write on like a blog, or Medium, or a website, or a bunch of publications?”

“Yeah,” I said. “All of those.” I thought it was funny that he mentioned Medium, and then I realized that it was only funny because I was so far away for so long where people barely knew what Twitter was, let alone Medium, but here I was in New York where people were the most tapped into the media out of everywhere in the world. I told him I started a publication called LadyBits, and that it launched on Medium.

“So are you like a journalist, writer, blogger, media person, thousands of followers, tweeter?”

I laughed. “You pegged me. You’re pretty good at that you know?”

“Hey, this might be a really weird question…” he said, trailing off while he waited for my facial acknowledgement that it was ok to proceed, “but did you by any chance write an article about James Deen and Google Glass?”

I looked at him in disbelief. “As a matter of fact, I did.”

“I thought you looked familiar,” he said. “I was just reading it.”

“Ok, very funny. Did Joey put you up to this? Where is he, tell him he’s late,” I said looking at my watch.

“Who’s Joey? No, I swear I was just reading it on my phone, look:” he powered on his iPhone, opened his browser, and sure enough:

FrenchFriesJamesDeenIt was too weird. I felt like a celebrity.

“Well, hi, I’m Arikia,” I said, extending my hand. He shook it like he was shaking the hand of a celebrity. He asked me about my travels and we chatted for another minute until Joey finally came over and greeted me. He hadn’t recognized me when he came in and had walked right past me to a table. I said goodbye to my new friend, thanked him for the fries, and told him to contact me if he wanted to eat more fries someday and continue our conversation.

Yesterday, I was thinking to myself that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I was back in New York, starting to get a little stressed out, a little cynical, remembering all the struggle and the loneliness and why I left in the first place. I was starting to think that maybe I should have just stayed on my paradise island, threw my computer off the ocean cliff outside my $6-a-night bungalow, and started my life over there. I was wondering why I came back, and if I would ever find connections in New York like I did out there.

But here was this guy, this stranger, looking at me with this expression of awe, and I knew in that moment that things have indeed changed. The New York I came back to is not the same New York I left, because I am not the same Arikia as the one who lived here before. I have been renovated, upgraded if you will, just like computer hardware and the stores along Avenue A. I am a better version of me now. On some weird, metaphysical level, I felt like this bizarre coincidence was New York’s way of accepting me back and embracing me; like the city was saying to me “I want you here, and I’m happy you came back.”

Somebody once said that living in New York City was like being in an abusive relationship with the coolest guy in the world. I’m not so naive to think that I won’t get a black eye here and there, but damn, baby, when it’s good it’s really good.

 

 

 

Bees!

I’m almost ready to emerge from my writing prison! So close, I can taste it, and it tastes like the entire jar of raw honey I ate over the past week.

oprah-beesH/t Adrienne LaFrance for this GIF excellence.

In related news, I love my @LadyBits! Seriously, I’ve somehow managed to assemble the best group of writers ever. I’ve never been so all-in with a project before, and it’s awesome to see it grow.

Also related, I’m working on one of the craziest feature stories I’ve written to date. I won’t say what it’s about quite yet, but I will tell you that it’s tangentially related to this oldie but goodie: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/09/i-am-a-cyborg-and-i-want-my-google-implant-already/63806/

Soon, all will be revealed.

soon

The Plan Is There Is No Plan

Over the past week, I packed up my entire life. I donated about 70% of my things to various outlets, stored 20%, gave away 5% in the form of specialized care packages for my close friends, and packed the rest into two suitcases and a laptop bag. This morning, I left New York.

So long, New York!

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Let it be known that when I say I’m going to do something, I don’t fuck around. As someone who tends to get paralyzed by her tendency to over-analyze things, probably the most helpful thing I’ve learned how to do as an adult is how to light a fire under my own ass. I highly recommend it.

The second most helpful thing I’ve learned is how to wing it. Which is in large part what I’m doing. So apologies to all the people I’ve dodged or maybe even gotten irritated at for asking me what my plan is. Who needs a plan? I’ve got everything I need to live and the desire to do so to the max. There is no plan.

However, there is a goal. I am going to go completely around the world — with no plan other than to not stay in any one place for longer than a month.

Today I arrived in LA, my starting point. Hello, LA!

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For those of you who have stayed up at night ruminating over where I’m going because I pointedly ignored you when you asked (sorry!), I will be writing about my journey. Surely you didn’t think I was going to just go totally off-grid for a year like that guy, did you? Don’t you fret, my darling friends. The Millikan Daily will persist, and I’ll continue writing formally at all the usual outlets and a few new ones I’ll fill you in on soon.

For now, I’ll give you a few peaks of my starting point. I’m rolling in style (obvi) in my new Portovelo Shoes (courtesy of my friends at Small Girls — thanks Mal and Bianca!). I bought a magazine for the first time in a while today because this cover was all too awesome for an aspiring cyborg/technophile such as myself.IMG_20130528_001524

For the next two weeks I’ll be staying at the Advance Camps loft in Downtown LA, working with an amazing team of architects, designers, and builders who are creating North America’s premiere nomadic camp for creative exploration. I’m here to teach, but also here to learn everything I can about being a nomad.

First order of business: napping in the alpha dome :)

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Photo by Carson Linforth Bowley

Second order of business: Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen! A reminder to keep my eye on the finish line: Japan.

IMG_20130528_001907 Third order of business: catching up on sleep.

Over and out.

That time I slammed tequila with Quentin Tarantino at 2 in the afternoon

SXSW had barely begun and I had already slipped away from the crowd. Feeling overwhelmed by startup pitches, I had just made my way down to the lobby to get coffee with Joel, one of my best friends and partners in crime. I led him into the Omni’s sunny bar lounge and plopped down in a booth seat in the banquette farthest away from any other people. Joel sat in the chair across from me and looked at me expectantly, probably thinking I had something important to tell him.

“Sometimes I just need to sit and chill,” I told him.

“Baby, you got it,” he said with this faux-used-car-salesman air that makes me smirk every time.

We talked for approximately two minutes about how good it was to be in the same city again before I saw a man walk up and sit at the far end of the bar. My eyes widened with recognition.

“Is that Quentin Tarantino?” I asked Joel. He squinted at me and slowly shifted his body in his chair, keeping his eyes on me for any signs of Tom Foolery, before finally turning his head to look.

He snapped back to face me. “Yes,” he said decisively.

“Oh my God. Should we talk to him?” My pulse quickened.

“Um. Yeah. I want to get a picture with him.” One does not simply ask Quentin Tarantino for a picture, I thought, but I wanted one too. I don’t usually get celeb-crazy, but here was someone famous for actually being talented, who creates wildly entertaining films to stealthily convey his social commentary. He is no pawn or puppet of Hollywood. When Quentin Tarantino wants to make a movie, he kicks in the door and blasts the industry in the face with his agenda.

“OK. What do we do?” I asked Joel.

“Let’s just… go to the bar and order a drink,” he said. I contemplated leaving my coffee behind so I could actually have a reason to go to the bar, but I wanted it too much. I gathered up my belongings and we headed over to the bar.

Joel leaned on the bar in a space that was one stool away from Quentin, forcing me to sit there and act as a female buffer zone. I wanted to but could only stand behind the chair awkwardly. I didn’t want to bother him, and felt bad for even being near him. He was drinking a margarita, perceiving if we were about to annoy him or not. I was having a major processing malfunction trying to think of something to say. Joel turned to him and said, “I just wanted to let me know you’re a huge idol of mine.” Quentin turned to him with a look on his face that was humble, tired, standoffish, pleased, and a little skeptical — all at the same time. “Thank you,” he said, and focused back on his margarita.

Joel ordered his drink and I stood there stupidly for another awkward moment that seemed to stretch out into eternity. Finally I asked him, “Do you mind if I sit here?” He turned and looked at me. I was wearing my Texas best: A vintage button-down shirt, half-white half-black with southwestern triangles of the opposite color on each sleeve and a diamond cut out of the chest to make the collar look like a bow tie; standard black pencil skirt; cowboy boots. “No, go ahead,” he said, and gestured to the stool. I climbed on and sipped my coffee, thinking about what I could say to him that wasn’t completely boring, something that he hadn’t heard a million times in the past week.

“Death Proof is like, my favorite movie,” I told him. He arched his eyebrows at me.

“Oh yeah? Who’s your favorite character?” Oh shit. It really was one of my favorites, maybe not THE favorite but close enough. But far enough that I couldn’t remember “butterfly’s” actual name in real life or the movie.

“Well, I love the jukebox scene, I memorized that entire lap dance.” I blurted out. He chuckled.

Butterfly

A stranger walked up and point-blank asked him for a picture. “I’m sorry, no, I’m just trying to sit here and have a drink and I don’t want to take pictures right now,” he told the fan. Joel and I looked at each other wide eyed, glad we had at least some tact. Quentin turned back to me:

“As I was saying, did you know that entire sequence was filmed just down the street at the Texas Chili Parlor?” I told him to get out. No, he was serious. I relaxed a little, as we were pretty much old friends at this point. A woman with long, curly blonde hair came and sat on the bar stool next to him. “She’s a fan of Death Proof,” Quentin told her, pointing his thumb at me. I smiled at her. The bar manager brought up a bottle of tequila from the basement and displayed it for Quentin. Avion reposado. He ordered a second margarita, this time with the good stuff, and a shot for his friend. “Fuck it, I’ll have a glass as well,” I told the bartender. It tasted exactly like Quentin Tarantino’s drink of choice should taste.

As we sipped, we talked about his casting inspiration for Death Proof. I told him I was in awe of Jungle Julia, that I had never seen a woman who looked like her take on such a powerhouse role. He told me about the billboards they put up all over Austin while they were shooting, advertising Jungle Julia’s radio show like it was real. I told him I made my handle Amazon Arikia after I saw that movie, inspired to reclaim a name that boys used to call me in middle school when I was taller than all of them. “I’ll bet they don’t make fun of you anymore,” he said.

JungleJulia

He told me that the funny thing about the actress who played Jungle Julia was that nobody wanted to cast her because of her ethnic look. I told him she was beautiful, and that it was really comforting for me to see someone with hair as curly as mine strutting around with confidence, kicking her shoes off and laying it down in the DJ booth.

We talked about how Death Proof was the movie that broke all the rules when it came to women in films. In college, there was a challenge that went around the Michigan Daily newsroom: Name a movie where there are A) more than two women B) Who talk to each other C) About something other than guys. Nobody could name one, but I fired back with Death Proof. I remember when it came out, people criticized it: “Who wants to hear a bunch of chicks gabbing for an hour in a movie?” they would say. I did, and I loved it, and the way they kicked the shit out of Stuntman Mike in the end.

Our drinks were getting low, and I turned to Quentin and asked him: “What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not making movies?” He shrugged. “Live life.” Then he furrowed his brow and said, “no, let me revise that. It’s ‘not make movies.'” He explained that it was difficult for him to put his work away, and to experience life without being compelled to process people and events for the big screen. “So how do you decide when you’re going to stop not making movies?” I asked. “Well, something really has to grab you to make you decide to do only that for the next two years of your life,” he said.

When he asked for the bill, I told him I didn’t want to be one of those fans, but could I please have his autograph? I gave him my journal, which I don’t think I’ve ever let anyone else touch let alone write in, and said he could have a whole page.

QuentinTarantinoAutograph

That, my friends, is how you win SXSW on the first day. Life lessons from this encounter:

  • Dress like you want to be addressed, and if you want to be addressed like a cowgirl than fucking hell yeah, do it.
  • People who say you don’t need to drink to have fun or get ahead in life are WRONG.
  • If someone makes you nervous, it means you should definitely talk to them.

I wanna be a cyborg

Last year I wrote an article for The Atlantic Tech called “I Am a Cyborg and I Want My Google Implant Already.” The article includes an excerpt where I precociously-but-charmingly (I hope) butt into an interview between my awesome then-boss Nate Silver and Google’s Chief Economist Hal Varian, who is an incredibly good-humored man, to prod Hal about the possibility of a Google brain implant.

Little did I know that the very next day following its publication, Atlantic editor James Bennet would ask Erik Schmidt, then-CEO of Google, about my article and Hal’s enthusiasm towards the implant at the Washington Ideas Forum.

From a recap of the session by Derek Thompson:

The end of the interview turned to the future of technology. When Bennet asked about the possibility of a Google “implant,” Schmidt invoked what the company calls the “creepy line.”

“Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it,” he said. Google implants, he added, probably crosses that line.

Ha. Well there goes that idea. Vetoed. I was a bit discouraged until some Italian journalists decided that my advocacy for the creation of a Google Brain implant qualified me for their Top 100 Global Thinkers list. You can find me at number 99, right above Cesare Geronzi, who Time Magazine has dubbed “Italy’s most powerful banker.”

I think it’s all hilarious, and have made the signature on my Nexus One “Sent via my Google Implant” to commemorate this snowball of an article. Anyways, I thought this post should probably live on in my blog:

 

Sep 30 2010, The Atlantic Tech:

About nine months ago, I sat in a conference room at Google Headquarters in Mountain View with my boss, Nate Silver, and the company’s Chief Economist, Hal Varian, talking about the Google of 2020.

The previous night, Nate and I had been hanging out with one of my childhood friends in downtown San Francisco, brainstorming questions to ask Hal in our interview the following day.

I’d been working with Nate as his research assistant on a book project that examines forecasting and prediction in a variety of different fields. Going off on a tangent, we conceived of the concept of a Google Singularity — an event where the amount of information known by Google surpasses the amount of information it’s possible to know. I laughed as Nate drew a graph on a piece of my friend’s Hello Kitty stationary illustrating the theoretical point where this event would occur.

In the interview the following day, after a good 45 minutes of serious discussion about Google’s search algorithms and new projects going on in the company, Nate brought up the Google Singularity. Hal got a kick out of this concept, and we mused about the things the future of Google might produce, one such thing being a “Google implant” that would allow one to browse the Web simply by thinking.

Nate: What will Google look like in 2020?
Hal: Now you Google things on your computer — of course. And you Google things on your phone. That’s the next stage. And I believe — people may laugh — but I think there will be an implant. So you’ll have it there, and I won’t say it’s necessarily Google, I’ll say the Web, it will access the Web of information.
Arikia: Sign me up when that happens.
Hal: You want your implant?
Arikia: I want it now.
[laughter]
Hal: Yeah! Right, see? There are a lot of people that say that. I think you will be continuously connected to the Web in 2020. You’ll be able to pull information in, information out, you’ll be able to record information. And you can do all these things now; you’re recording this conversation and you can play it back later.
Nate: Sure. But you think that soon, by 2020?
Hal: 2020! That’s away 10 years! Look at where we are and look at where we were 10 years ago. Google’s only 10 years old. So uh, yeah, I think so. We’ll certainly have some kind of implant interface by then, in my opinion.
Nate: Will it require surgery? Or will it require some kind of earpiece that you can… I don’t know…
Hal: I don’t know either.
Nate: Are there people at the firm working on that?
Hal: Not that I know of. Although there are people always working on user interfaces, so I wouldn’t be surprised if someone was thinking about it. There are people working on things that display text on your glasses.

After that, the conversation veered to topics like The Cloud, Steve Mann and real-time search. As Nate always does when an interview is wrapping up, he invited me to ask any questions I may have been sitting on. So I asked Hal: “Are you going to get the implant?”

“The implant!” He exclaimed good-naturedly. “Yes, I want an implant! And we’ll see if it will be the Google implant.”

Just to be clear: This in no way indicates that a Google implant is in, or anywhere near production. But the demand for enhanced cyborgification is being driven by technophiles everywhere. Kevin Kelly recently wrote that “our minds are being rewired by our culture” (Domesticated Cyborgs, 9/6/2010), and for some people like me who grew up in the post-Internet boom era, they already have been.

I got my first computer and Internet connection in 1994 when I was eight years old, so my growing mind learned to navigate the physical world and the online world simultaneously. Some mental processes that were critical to previous generations are obsolete to mine. Bulk memorization is the new manual labor; navigating user interfaces is what counts. Acknowledging the way the Internet has shaped my brain during development in these respects, I would consider myself a cyborg already.

By the time I finished elementary school, writing letters to communicate across great distances was an archaic practice. When I graduated middle school, pirating music on Napster was the norm; to purchase was a fool’s errand. At the beginning of high school, it still may have been standard practice to manually look up the answer to a burning question (or simply be content without knowing the answer). Internet connection speeds and search algorithms improved steadily over the next four years such that when I graduated in the class of 2004, having to wait longer than a minute to retrieve an answer was an unbearable annoyance and only happened on road trips or nature walks. The summer before my freshman year of college was the year the Facebook was released to a select 15 universities, and almost every single relationship formed in the subsequent four years was prefaced by a flood of intimate personal information.

Now, I am always connected to the Web. The rare exceptions to the rule cause excruciating anxiety. I work online. I play online. I have sex online. I sleep with my smartphone at the foot of my bed and wake up every few hours to check my email in my sleep (something I like to call dreamailing).

But it’s not enough connectivity. I crave an existence where batteries never die, wireless connections never fail, and the time between asking a question and having the answer is approximately zero. If I could be jacked in at every waking hour of the day, I would, and I think a lot of my peers would do the same. So Hal, please hurry up with that Google implant. We’re getting antsy.

 

My Amanda Palmer fan girl moment

This is my latest ear worm that has been in my head all weekend:

But you are my love/

The astronaut/

Flying in the face/

Of science

This broad is fierce.

And now to recap the story of my fan girl moment……. I once had a very special encounter with Amanda Palmer.

In July of 2008 I given a press pass and two free tickets to the first Rothbury Music Festival. So I packed up some friends and some camping gear and headed out to the Double JJ Ranch.

At one point I split from my group and went wandering around the press tent. That’s where I saw these two fabulously dressed ladies sitting in the grass. One was holding a pale yellow parasail and looked like she could have been straight out of the victorian era. “HEY!” the other one yelled to me. “Do you have another cigarette you could spare?” Hell yeah, no prob, and I gave her one and a lighter.

Then an arriving vehicle caught the attention of the Victorian woman and she got up and bounced over to it, parasail spinning. And then it struck me.

“Wait a second… is that Amanda Palmer?” I asked the woman, now happily smoking.

“Yeah, and if you come to her show tonight she’ll sign your tits!”

What’s that? Picture or it didn’t happen, you say?

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