Category Archives: Thinkers

Easter egg of keyboard kindness

When I got my Nexus 7 (which i’m using right now to write this post), one of the first things I bought with the $25 credit to the Google Play store was a new keyboard. I selected the SwiftKey 3 tablet keyboard, which anticipates your next word by examining your facebook and twitter posts to “learn” your writing patterns.

One quirky thing that happens sometimes while typing is the keyboard will be overconfident of what you want to say and you’ll wind up with extra words in your message. I usually just delete and move on, because I’m usually in a hurry, but today while casually attempting to tweet a video, I noticed that if you keep pressing the space bar the keyboard will form full sentences for you.

The first sentences sound like something out of the Horse e-books twitter feed. For example,

“I have been living in the emails as I have heard.”
“So i just cuddled my laptop.”
“I am at least one of the few pieces of furniture.”

Weird, but not terribly bad guesses for me, at least the first two. But after a few lines of nonsense, you get something else, something hidden and deliberate:

“I am pretty sure that you can bring happiness to anyone, even if they don’t know you. 5. Every night, SOMEONE thinks about you before they go to sleep. 6. You mean the world to someone. 7. You are Special and Unique. 8. Someone that you don’t even know exists loves you. 9. When you think the world has turned its back on you, take a look. 11. Always remember the compliments you receive. Forget about the rude remarks. So…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. ”

I’ll be on the lookout for 1-4.

Sometimes I like to watch pigeons flirt. It reminds me that humans aren’t the only ones that play ridiculously silly mating games.

On Fun In Haiti

Lots of people have fun in Haiti. A little-known secret about Haiti is that it is fun. It is easy to have fun, and too much of it if you’re not careful. Especially if you tend to abuse power, like drinking and driving, prostitutes, and general anarchy. If you don’t like those things, which I tend to not (save a little anarchy here and there, and beers-to-go when I’m in the passenger seat (which is always)), fun comes with a side of guilt.

This is because fun is a luxury. A luxury you are viscerally aware of when the majority of people you see every day are not having fun, they’re just “getting by.” This is because you must have money to have fun. I don’t consider myself as “having money” when I’m home in New York, so much as “getting by,” but here in Haiti I “have money.” And I feel damn guilty about it.

When I’m in a cab and the meter is running, I know it’s exactly the same price as a cab is in New York. When I go out to eat, the prices on the menus where I’m taken are the same prices on the menus at the places I frequent in New York. But it all feels more expensive, since here I’m in the maybe 5% of people of who have access to those things, and in New York I let other people pick up the tabs.

When I drink here, though, it feels cheaper. Beers are $2 or $3 here, whereas in New York, they’re $5-13. Maybe drinking is the global equalizer.

Tonight I drank some rhum Barboncourt, the national drink of Haiti, for the first time since the last time I was here. I banned myself from it after the night I allowed some UN guys to take me out to hear a Cuban band play at a local bar. I drank four “rhum punches,” a drink that is basically the Long Island Iced Tea of Haiti, where who knows what goes in it except a shit-ton of rhum and something that masks the taste.

I threw up when I got home that night and the whole next morning and afternoon. I don’t know if it was because I was dehydrated, or because when we left the bar and walked past the rows of tattered tents filled with displaced earthquake victims set up in the park across the street, the sick reality of the situation in Haiti hit me.

The UN guys I went to the party with were talking loudly and laughing when we walked out of there, reliving the fun highlights of a night that took place far away from any poverty or suffering. As we walked past the security staff, onto the street where we were only feet away from the tents, I shushed them.

“People are sleeping over there,” I hissed at them.

“Oh right, sorry,” they whispered back, with the concern of teenagers spending the night at a friend’s house after being reminded to not wake their parents, even though the parents know damn well there’s a slumber party going on and neither of the two parties is overly concerned about it.

They were here to help. They’re all here to help — the NGOs, the missionaries, and the Haitian bourgeois who so graciously contribute to the Haitian economy and create jobs. That’s what they tell themselves, and that’s what they believe. And because they’re here helping, working hard in this destitute country to lift the poor out of their unfortunate conditions, one by one, they’re entitled to a little goddamn fun at the end of the day.

So cheers to you, saviors of Haiti. Have fun. And when someone mugs or murders you or one of your friends in the street because they’re so fucking sick of hearing about how you’re there to help them while you and your kind walk around living life the way you’re accustomed while they’re starving and dying, then maybe Haiti can get some post-earthquake press while the rest of the world shakes their heads and mourns your tragedy, and the tragedy of why Haitians can’t just be civilized and accept the help they’re given.

Lara Logan: Former, present, future role model

When I first heard about Lara Logan, I was a senior in college. My journalism mentor was a New York Times war correspondent reporting out of Baghdad in the height of the Iraq war. We would talk on AIM and he would tell me about the horrific things he’d seen that day, like a defense contractor shooting a dog and nobody having the proper medical equipment to treat it, so they had to Surran-wrap its guts back in as life-support. I’d tell him about the insignificant drama of life at the college newspaper.  He probably thought it was as stupid as I do now looking back on it, but he must have appreciated the opportunity to mentally escape from his surroundings.

I decided that I wanted to do what he did. I was taking Arabic classes in college and learning everything I could about reporting from a war zone. But it all seemed improbable. One day I asked him how the hell I was supposed to do that being a woman who typically gets harassed just walking down the street because of the way I look. He told me it was possible, and that I had to be professional and not take shit from anyone. Then he told me to look up Lara Logan, and said if she could do it, I could.

I was amazed by her. She’s undeniably gorgeous, which at the ripe old age of 20, I’d learned could be detrimental for women in my industry. I watched all of her interviews on YouTube, noticing how some male interviewers would become visibly flustered while talking to her, while others would approach her with seemingly unfounded aggression. It’s always been quite obvious to me that men will step out of their way to make your academic, professional, or social life a special kind of hell if they are attracted to you and can’t express it in an institutionally accepted way. I read about how news stations wouldn’t air some of Lara’s well-researched content about street fighting in Iraq, citing that it was too “controversial” for the news, and remember thinking in the back of my mind that it was probably because some senior editor had a hard on for her, and was punishing her because that was the only way he knew how to behave.

Yet she carried herself with class and spoke with authority and conviction, and never allowing anyone to interrupt her while she was speaking in an interview.

I wanted to be like her when I grew up, and I still do.

When people say she was “asking for” the beating and sexual assault she incurred on her last trip to Egypt, simply by going to a place where there may have been a higher possibility of such a thing occurring,  it sickens me. That’s saying that pretty women should know men want to fuck them, and should just avoid all situations where someone might not have the frontal lobe capacity to control themselves. When really, the emphasis should be on getting men to control their violent impulses and punishing the ones who don’t.

Lara was in Egypt doing her job, a job that she did better than almost everyone else in the industry, man or woman.

For people who go into potentially dangerous situations to report, which I have done before and will do again, there is always the knowledge that something could happen to you. I live in Brooklyn, I know something could happen to me walking down the street at any given moment. But you keep going back, and you keep putting yourself in those situations because you know you can. And you know that somebody has to, or nobody will. Somebody has to get those stories out, so you risk your life and you risk your sanity, and every time you come out of it unscathed you say, yeah, I just fucking did that and it wasn’t so bad, even though you know that it could have been.

Everyone lives life knowing that bad things could happen, but that they probably won’t. And when they do, it is devastating. I am devastated for Lara, and wouldn’t wish physical and sexual violence on anyone, ever—especially someone who is doing such a noble job by risking her life so that other people can have information about a situation they wouldn’t understand otherwise. But we can’t look at what happened to her and conclude that it’s too dangerous for women to be out there reporting, just as we can’t look at the dozens of journalists who were killed in Iraq and close up the bureaus there.

Lara Logan is a role model of mine and always will be. She knew what the risks associated with her job were and accepted them, and unfortunately encountered the ugly side of humanity in a chaotic situation. But people shouldn’t for a second put this on her, or blame her for the decisions that she made. It is the criminals who assaulted her who are at fault. End of story. I only hope that her situation will serve to prevent such crimes from occurring, not to make women who would do what Lara did want to stay home. I won’t stay home.

T-bagging at the Glenn Beck rally in DC

I was in Washington, DC today and attended Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally. I didn’t know what I was getting into two months ago when my mom asked me if I would meet her in DC for a “veterans’ memorial event” and I agreed. Both of my grandparents on her side of the family were WWII vets and, not bothering to look up the event, I just assumed it would be a boring speech by a general or something. Needless to say, I was stunned when I realized that she’s tricked me into attending a tea party rally led by one of the most hateful bigots in the media.

But I’m the kind of person who will try to make the best out of any situation, and walking to the Lincoln Memorial from the Arlington Cemetery subway stop, I passed this couple that gave me an idea of just how to do this…

They were posing for a picture for someone else, and I just kind of walked by and snapped one too, wondering to myself how much the people who made those t-shirts profited from this rally.

Then I started to notice more and more people with full-on tea bagger gear, so I made it my mission to photograph T-shirts with the most idiotic things I could find on them.The closer I got to the stage, the better (read: more absurd, unbelievable) they got.

If “Jesus Is The Standard!” doesn’t that make you and everyone else sub par?

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