At least he’s entertaining…

Elon Musk has always engendered my curiosity. From Tesla and The Boring Company to his new role as chief of fucking around and finding out with Twitter, the man may be a lot of things, but dull and uninteresting isn’t generally considered one of them.

As much as he captures my interest, I wouldn’t exactly call myself a fan. I tend to think he’s a guy whose demons are at least as big as his better angels. Still, he’s undeniably entertaining to watch if you come at it from a slightly nihilistic perspective.

Elon’s most recent hot take, that somehow Freedom of Speech equals buying ads on Twitter, is one of those times where he just makes my head hurt. He’s obviously smart enough to know that what we commonly call “freedom of speech” precludes the government from sanctioning you, the individual, (or you the company) from things you say. It doesn’t in any way protect you from other people or businesses deciding you’re absolutely crammed full of shit and opting to not work with you.

While Elon is perfectly free to say anything he wants and use Twitter in whatever way he chooses, what he isn’t, and can’t be, is free of the natural consequences of his words and actions. In the free marketplace of radical individualism that he seems to espouse, people (and companies) voting with their feet and their wallets, should be the thing he most welcomes. The fact that the big advertisers have left in droves, is sending a message, but Elon seems determined to misinterpret the signal.

Shouting into the void…

I’m throttling down on social media. Over the last few days, I’ve slashed and burned through Twitter to drop a lot of follows and focus in the content I want to see. Instagram was already kind of a dead letter for me after their last update. If I have to go through multiple convolutions to see people I chose to follow, versus those you want me to see, your app has very limited utility for me.

Finally, I turned my attention to Facebook and deactivated an old page I had set up when I was doing a lot more writing than reading. If anyone was following my lack of updates over there, sorry about that. I should have killed off that page a long time ago, but it’s done now. My personal Facebook page could probably use a good “friends” trimming too, but I’ll leave that effort for my next fit of streamlining and trying to make my social media footprint more useful. At least in its present form, Facebook has the advantage of being filled with people I know – or those I’ve known in years gone by. I’m less inclined to do any wholesale cleaving there… for the moment.

I’ve been looking at Mastodon for the last week or two. I like the concept, but don’t particularly want to make the jump to add yet another platform unless Elon’s fuckery on Twitter just gets to be too much to bear… or he collapses the entire company, which given his performance over the last couple of days doesn’t feel entirely out of the realm of the possible.

Look, I remain a big fan of social media. It’s given me insights and let me talk to people there’s no chance I’d have ever encountered organically. I’m never going to be one of these people who abandons the internet, tosses their cell phone in the sea, and proclaims themselves “free.” I find there is plenty of useful bits left even with vocal minority of users trying to suck up all available oxygen in the room. Still, I seem to be at a crossroads in terms of how I consume my media – and I’ll be much more purposeful going forward with where and on whom I allocate time and attention.

Not to worry, though, I’m sure I’ll still populate Facebook with my stream of consciousness rantings. There’s nothing I enjoy more, after all, than a good shout into the void.

Damned glitchy algorithm. 

As a rule, I find the Twitter algorithm much more entertaining than the one Facebook uses. Twitter tends to feed me a steady diet of people who talk about dogs, UK politics, the age of fighting sail, archeology, military affairs, book collecting, egirls, and the occasional American politician. It’s more or less balanced based on my interests.

Every couple of months, though, I somehow land in environmentalist crackpot twitter. My most recent territory was getting twisted up with Twitter’s urban planners who were demanding that everyone must live in densely built walkable communities.

I’d like to encourage that group to piss directly off. Not everyone wants or needs to live in dense, urban housing – walkable or otherwise. I’ve spent my life specifically avoiding living under those conditions. I have no idea why it’s so hard for urbanites to understand that not everyone is interested in living asshole to elbow with their neighbor, stacked 47 floors deep, just for the pleasure of having a bakery or bodega a block over. I worked my ass off to make sure there was plenty of space between me and the next guy. In fact, I suspect my current space allocation isn’t nearly enough and the next time around I’ll focus on less house and more land.

I’d be hard pressed to think of a single argument the urban planning true believers on Twitter could make that would lead me in a different direction. That won’t stop that oddball little corner of twitter from being filled by people who think they have the One True Way and the rest of us should just live in accordance with their pronouncements of the higher good.

I obviously need to find a way to get Twitter to stop feeding me this nonsense, as I’d much rather focus on the nonsense that actually interests me instead of rabbit holing me into things just guaranteed to elevate my blood pressure. Damned glitchy algorithm. 

The power of mute and block…

In spite of myself, I like Twitter. Maybe it’s just the least awful of the big social media sites, but I check myself scrolling around over there far more often than I do on Facebook these days. That said, Twitter is still a cesspit of users who are ill informed, under informed, and some who are downright obsessed with whatever propaganda they’re drowning in at the moment.

I’ve found over the last year that Twitter is a much more useful and interesting place when you avail yourself of the block and mute functions quite liberally. I’ve recently started muting or outright blocking anyone who showed up in my feed spouting Russian propaganda. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even look past the individual tweet to determine if there’s any residual value to what these people are saying on any other topic. If you’re a mouthpiece of Putin, there’s really nothing you can say that I’m going to have any interest in hearing at this point. 

All people everywhere are free to speak out in support of whatever it is that gets their motor running. Their right to speak, however, doesn’t negate my right not to listen to them… or call them blathering cockwombles and then not listen to them. I’ve never had much of a tolerance for fools – particularly for the special breed of fool who are convinced they alone have the One True Answer. The older I get the less inclination I have to suffer fools gladly or otherwise. I owe them nothing… least of all the attention they seem to so badly crave. 

I don’t have the time or inclination to be part of whatever echo chamber they deeply want to be living in. The best I can do is smash that mute or block button and move on without laying out in extreme detail why they’re quite simply dumber than dog shit.

More problem than solution…

This past Saturday, Twitter was determined to serve me tweets from people saying things like “I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t rather use public transportation than deal with their own car.”

I suspect people who say things like this have never lived outside the ring road of a major city or god forbid in a truly rural area, where cars are literally freedom of movement from one place to another or indispensable equipment serving farms, ranches, or homeowner needs. Just try getting on the bus or subway with 500 pounds of horse feed or a ton or mulch.

I don’t have particularly fond memories of my time riding the DC metro five days a week. Maybe that comes from the time my Blackberry got stolen or maybe it’s just the general unpleasantness of dealing daily with panhandlers, delays, track service, oppressive summer body odor, and constantly arriving five to ten blocks away from wherever I really needed to go. By contrast, my personally owned vehicle generally gets me anywhere between 10-100 yards from my destination… and in all my years of driving, I’ve never had the person sitting in the seat next to me shit themselves. Can’t say that about being on the Metro.

I mean people should obviously feel free to take whatever combination of Uber, buses, trains, and subways gets you from here to there, but I’d be hard pressed to think of a time I’d have rather used any one of those means of transportation than my own vehicle. The people who think public transportation is the One True Way are every bit as out of touch with reality anywhere beyond their echo chamber as any other band of fanatical, myopic “problem solvers.”

If you’re so caught up in your one size fits all solution that you can’t see any other possible alternative, I promise that you’re more a part of the problem than you’ll ever be part of the solution.

Get a helmet…

This morning I stumbled across a thread on Twitter wherein the poster bemoans their seeming inability to work, pay bills on time, eat three times a day, perform basic personal hygiene, clean their place, and take care of the lawn. “How does anyone get it all done,” they rage into the electronic void.

By the time I saw it, the post had garnered 26,000 likes and hundreds of replies of “Same girl” or “Uh, this is the world capitalism gave us.” Other replies were some variation of “I just live in filth,” “Nobody does that,” “They’re rich and hire help,” or “They have a significant other who does it.”

I’m sorry, but that whole line of logic sounds like raging bullshit to me. Not all of those things are the top priority on every day – sometimes the house is a little dusty or I pull a meal out of the freezer instead of making a full dinner. But taken on average doing all the things is pretty much just being a responsible adult.

I’m sure someone will come screaming into the comments that my cis het white male conforming neuro-normative privilege is showing, but all I really read in that thread was a laundry list of excuses. There’s no staff here at Fortress Jeff. There’s no domestic help or significant other picking up the slack for whatever basic household task I don’t handle. Sure, I farm out some of the more specialized tasks (like fixing the well and cleaning the gutters), but I’m a one man show keeping up on the day-to-day essentials.

If anything, I suppose it’s my non-religious Protestant work ethic is showing – or maybe I just don’t expect to have others manage all my basic life functions for me. Then again, it could be a matter of trying not to take so many cues about how your life should look from Instagram and spend that time taking a damned shower or folding some laundry.

Life’s tough, kids. Get a helmet.

Where no one wants to live…

For a while on Sunday afternoon my Twitter feed was near filled with what I’ll generally call serious lefty climate people. Look, I’m there. Climate change is a real thing. It’s a topic worthy of serious discussion by serious people. I’m not in any way sure that’s what was happening on twitter. The one theme I kept seeing over and over was the call to “reimagine” cities.

That’s fine, I suppose. Cities have been reimagining and rebuilding themselves for as long as there have been cities. I’m sure in 3428 BCE some Sumerian urban planner in Ur was convinced there was a better way to build a ziggurat. 

The trend of growing urban populations increasing while rural populations decline is not in any way a new feature in this country. It’s been happening since nearly the beginning as people left the farm for new job opportunities in the city created during the early stages of the Industrial Revolution. There’s no reason to think that trend will stop as we move forward, so our cities should absolutely plan for dealing with larger populations in the future.

What I always struggle with in these discussions is these “thought leaders” on social media never seem to take into account is the number of people who have never, do not currently, or never will have any desire to live in a densely urbanized bicyclist and pedestrian paradise. I just don’t care how many bus routes you have or how wonderful the subway is, trading my patch of land with its flora and fauna for 600 square feet on the 87th floor just sounds awful.

Good luck with it, though. The more people you convince to be warehoused in towers of steel, concrete, and glass, the more green space I’ll have out here “where no one wants to live.” You might want to talk about nature, but I value seeing it from my back porch. We’re not the same.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. We’re back to masks full time in the office. Yes, it’s annoying, but not debilitatingly so. The hardest part, as ever, is to remember to take the damned thing off before I try to drink my coffee. Anything that gets in the way of my hot bean water pretty rapidly climbs the list. Still, in the back of my mind I can’t help but think we’re stuck in these masks to “protect other people.” People who have had every chance in the world over the last six months to protect themselves but who have opted not to. At some point, I have to believe we’ve got to collectively just accept that people have made their own dumbass decisions and they’re going to have to accept whatever natural consequences follow.

2. Marjorie Taylor Greene. I’m utterly and completely embarrassed to be a member of the same political party that sees Marjorie Taylor Greene as a rising star. She’s the poster girl for everything that’s wrong with contemporary conservatism while lacking the dignity and seriousness of purpose embodied in her Republican forbearers. Twitter shouldn’t need to mute her. We Republicans should already be shouting her down.

3. Hella Mega. I’ve had tickets for the Hella Mega tour stop in Hershey since the day they went on sale two years ago. It was the perfect chance to see two bands I’d have given my eye teeth to see twenty years ago. Sitting here a day before the show, looking at a projected heat index of 105 with bonus evening rain and thunderstorms it feels decidedly less enticing. It’s safe to say that my days of wanting to do concerts in anything other than relative comfort seem to be well past. Throw in a healthy dose of my standard aggravation at being surrounded by people and top it with a healthy dollop of the Great Plague and my go/no go decision is a lot less clear than it was two years ago. All indications point towards making a snap call sometime tomorrow. 

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Parking. One of the only perks of going to the office occasionally during the height of the Great Plague was that parking was absolutely amazing. There were always spots directly in front of the building, no more than 10 spaces back, regardless of what time you arrived or whether you had the audacity to go out to grab lunch. It was an absolute idyll compared to crossing acres of burning pavement to your car in the Before Times. Alas, what was old is becoming new again. Parking is still decent, but landing the really prime spots is getting harder and harder to do as people are forced back to their cubicles. I’ve said it before, but I really will miss the plague months of 2020-21 as a wildly underappreciated golden age.

2. Matt Gaetz, Mike Waltz, et al. The testimony of General Mark Milley and Secretary Lloyd Austin before the House Armed Services Committee yesterday illustrated what’s probably my bigger frustration with Republican lawmakers. Matt Gaetz, Mike Waltz, and their ilk demonstrate through their questioning that there’s an undeniable stripe of fear among this group. They’re knee-knockingly afraid of ideas. If they were truly convinced they are right, they’d have no hesitation of having a conversation, of encouraging study, or gaining broader understanding. Instead, they assert the rightness of their position as received truth. No further information is needed. Dissent is not to be tolerated. Personally, I tend to think critical race theory and most of the other touchy feely soft science theories that posit everyone is oppressed or needs a hug are largely hokum… but like the good general, I’ll keep reading Mao, Marx, Lenin, and their modern equivalents while being utterly unafraid I’ll be injured by ideas.  

3. Twitter. Of all the social media I consume, Twitter is, in my estimation, the most toxic. I’ve made a point to greatly reduce my time over there for the last few weeks and it’s made for considerably less crazy making. The thing I struggle to remember sometimes, is that even though everyone is entitled to their opinion, I’m under no obligation to in any way pay attention to them. Ignoring them won’t make asshats any less asshatt-y, but like a tree falling in the forest, I don’t need to care if it makes a sound.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Twitter. Like so many other sites I’ve already abandoned, Twitter is quickly climbing the list of platforms that aren’t improving my life in any meaningful way. In fact, over the last few days I’ve noticed that I’m happier at the end of the day when I don’t check in periodically with Twitter. As always, the far right wants me to be outraged over A, B, and C while the leftists want me to be outraged by D, E, and F. I’m left to sift through the ginned-up outrage to find the nuggets of history, books, and sundry other content that I’m interested in. I really do like the concept of Twitter, but I’m increasingly less interest in endless social outrage and those who seem to thrive on it that are cluttering the space.

2. Anti-vax. I would love to see a Venn diagram of people who vocally won’t get vaccinated against COVID-19 because “who knows what it’ll do to my body” on one side and people who smoke, drink, or use/sell “nutritional” supplements and essential oils on the other. I don’t think It would be a perfect circle, but I have a hunch there would be some considerable overlap. 

3. Court packing. It seems there’s legislation drifting around the halls of Congress that would add four seats to the Supreme Court. I have to ask, if this new court packing scheme is allowed to move forward, what’s to stop the next Republican administration and Congress from adding four more… and then four more the next time Democrats hold power, and so on indefinitely into the future? Aside from the obvious – that it’s a blatant attempt by Congressional Democrats to change the rules purely because they don’t like who the previous administration nominated – it sets a dumb precedent based on the assumption that their party is going to hold all the levers of power forever. Based on the historical record, is a patently ridiculous assumption. I suspect that once the consequences of treating the size of the high court as something that should be changed at will are fully realized, we’ll find that this legislation, if passed into law, simply created another battlefield where the issue will never fully be settled and there will be no end to the self-inflicted turmoil that ensues.