Why I no longer read viral content

There’s a handy little app for Facebook that fixety-fixes things so that you can filter out annoying content:

… that kind of thing.  It’s called Social Fixer and I endorse it heavily and heartily.

The problem, of course, is that Social Fixer is only responsive technology, that is, it can only filter out content you’ve already identified as objectionable.  You have to object to annoying posts first.

Lately, I’ve noticed most of my knee-jerk “fixing” has to do with parenting posts (or articles or videos) that have gone viral.  I just have so little patience for it.  My friends share, share, share and I reflexively hide, hide, hide.

Why the aversion?  If I’m going to be honest, it’s partly envy that someone else’s work has gone viral and mine hasn’t — but that only accounts for, say, 3-5% of my irritation.  It’s mostly boredom.  I mean, how many different ways are there to say, “This is hard; you’re doing alright?”  I checked: there are seven.  I’ve read those seven ways, and they were pretty good but I swear — everything from eight through infinity sounds exactly the same:


There is some good in posts that go viral.  They wouldn’t go viral if there wasn’t.  But the difference between finding astonishingly good writing or a perfectly phrased insight all your own can’t be underestimated.

It’s the difference between the pie that you bake from apples you picked … and this.  It’s the difference between the way you always pictured a character from a beloved children’s book, and the actor some casting agent picked for the part (I mean, Michael Landon was a fine actor, but is there a person alive who didn’t think Victor French would have made a better Pa Ingalls?).  It’s the difference between burying your nose in a guide book and setting off on your own adventure.

Go forth.

Speaking of freaky-deaky Dutch …

Got this challenge from my friend Geoff and even though it’s supposed to be “played” on Facebook, I knew I was going to have too much to say.  So here’s the extended response to this pretty straightforward challenge:

“This is a game to Keep Art Alive.  Click “like” and I will assign you an artist.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t know their work.  Just search the World Wide Wisdom machine-ulator, find a piece you like and post it on FB with text similar to what you’ve just read here.”

The first thing I think of when I hear the name “Van Gogh” is not the usual: sunflowers and irises and severed ears.

Although on that ear … there’s some debate as to how it happened. Convention has it that he went apey when his pal, fellow artist Paul Gauguin, threatened to leave after an unsatisfactory painting retreat, showing his displeasure by lopping his lobe and handing it to a prostitute (further evidence that the Dutch are sub-par tippers). More recently, German historians have argued that it was most likely an altercation between the two that led to the cranial redecorating, as in: Gauguin knocked it off with a sword and the two decided to keep it on the down-low.

If true, that’s an extraordinary display of friendly discretion. Which begs the question: Were they friends? Rivals? Lovers? I’ll never tell.

So what is the first thing I think of when I hear the name?

How P pronounces it: Fawn Gauchhhhhhh (the “ch” is more of a gutteral, back-of-throat, aged-feline-with-an-oversized-hairball kind of sound; you’ll know it when you hear it).

To be fair, he speaks Dutch. Enough to be able to go to a market and buy, say, 150 g of mussels, which is of course what you do when you’re in Amsterdam with your mother and your prudish Canadian girlfriend. Dutch was the second language he learned, after Spanish, and before French, and later, English. Can you believe that in the 10+ years we’ve been together the jerk has never made a single spelling mistake? Four languages. No typos. So not fair.

Because he speaks Dutch, it’s not Goo-dah, it’s Ghow-dahh. It’s not “The Hague,” it’s “‘s-Gravenhage,” pronounced “chlaaachchcttllllaaach.”

As for the art … beyond the numerous self-portraits, the flowers and orchards and wheat fields, there are likely a number of Van Gogh pieces you’d recognize. Because I’m paranoid about copyright infringement, here’s my own version of “Starry Night,” as rendered in the once-popular app “Draw Something:”


I know, right? I’m shockingly talented, really.

To my eternal regret, we didn’t manage to see Starry Night when we were in Amsterdam, because the Rijksmuseum was closed for renovations (also because it’s at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC).

Largely unappreciated during his lifetime, Van Gogh died at age 37 “from a gunshot wound, generally accepted to be self-inflicted (although no gun was ever found).” This is disconcerting on two levels: 1) I am 41 and decidedly less famous, 2) I’m pretty sure this is where that hack Chekhov got his idea about guns (and possibly where he got a gun).

Out, damned spot! Out, I say!

Nobody puts Pinky in a corner

Last year, when he was about three months older than Juno is now, I took Seve to a ballet class.  It did not go well.

Today, almost fully recovered from that experience, possibly high on tutu dust and definitely feeling the judgment-impairing effects of a terrible night’s sleep, I took Juno to her first ballet class.

Not without asking the prayerful folks on Facebook to beam me their very best:


I was smart about it.  Her class didn’t start until 10:00 AM but I showed up an hour early to let her “get her zoomies out,” so that hopefully she’d be calmer and less distracted when class began.

Oh, but you know what wasn’t smart?  Showing up somewhere without an extra diaper for your kid who isn’t yet toilet trained.  That was super duper not smart.  I mean, we avoided an in-class pooptastrophe, but we sure flirted with one, and that was Ultimate Grand Supreme levels of Not Smart.

As it turns out, I could have easily run home to pick up replacement peentaloons because this is how effective my child-exhausting strategy was:


Why was I upstairs and not sitting in on the class?  Well, it looked like that was sort of the thing (not) to do, and I’m eager for any excuse to fly at a distance, even if it’s earlier than I’d anticipated.

I do wish I’d thought to ask about props, though, because this:


And as you can see here, actual Bedazzled Beatin’ Wands:


I’m pretty sure she didn’t beat on anyone.  I mean, we didn’t have the “maybe this isn’t the best environment for such a spirited child” conversation, so I’m guessing we’re still welcome to show up next week?

Juno’s listening was, as expected sup-par.  She’s the youngest in the class, I think, and the least likely to know what the teacher is referring to when she says, “Okay, so now we swish our tails like Ariel and then we do a mermaid spin and then we go sit down on our rock.”  That’s partly because she’s never been exposed to the “princess” stories (books or film) and partly because, well, she is who she is.  As likely to be captaining the Orca as she is to be faux-sunning herself on an imaginary shoal.

We wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you think I’m talking about you here, yeah, you’re probably right.

If you think I’m talking about you here, yeah, you’re probably right.