Monday, July 30, 2007

found on the ground

The other day I found a piece of blue lined paper torn from a spiral notebook. It was lying on Castro Street, in the gutter. I had to turn around and go halfway back across the street to retrieve it. Mark and Frank continued on, not yet registering that I’d backtracked to pick up what appeared to the untrained eye to be litter.

Litter, yes. But irresistible litter.

An abstract blobby-looking flower decorated the bottom where the page number should be. It was girlie notebook paper. Retro 1960s girlie notebook paper, judging by the flower.

The handwriting wasn’t neat either, not at all. It strayed from the lines as if all this writing were done in the dark, during the audio-visual portion of the school day; the lowercase letters were small, jagged and crabbed. But there were fancy architectural flourishes on the capital letters like the “F” and the “D”. Swoops and curlicues.

The promise of junior high school drama on the half-shell.

One side said, “Friend Chart” and listed three names, one per line:


Cool names, those. Friends anyone would be darned proud of. Clearly the names of the junior high school royalty. Names that aren’t mispronounced at roll call. Names that no-one makes fun of.

Didn’t Freakonomics have something pithy to say about names as destiny?

Deja. Janaeah. Cameron. They’re the modern replacements for the friends on the last generation’s Friends Chart. Gone, the perky Cheryls, the slutty Francines, the ingratiating Lindas. Gone too are the names that came after, the Caitlins, the Taylors, the Heathers. They’re grown up now, breeders themselves. They’re pushing Peg Perego strollers in Noe Valley.

Enter Deja, Janaeah, and Cameron. It’s your 15 minutes, girlfriends! Your turn to be the dELiA*s models and Trendspotting spokespeople.

But the short list I found was hardly a chart. I’d expect some lines connecting Deja with Janaeah telling me whether Janaeah liked Cameron, or vice-versa, and how much. Or maybe a matrix, comparing the features and foibles of the three girls. Who’s all emo? Who’s got the hippest playlist on her iPod? Who’s got the worst case of camel toe? As I recall, the cruelty of 7th grade girls knows no bounds.

But shouldn’t there be social networking software to do this?

Didn’t I just read about, a site with the tag line, “You’ve got friends!”?

Ah, but the real list is on the other side. Here we’ve got all of them, the ♥Friends♥. Deja, Cameron, Janaeah, Lj, Isoke, Allie, Anja, Giselle, Ellen, Gabby, and Miriam make the grade. BFF, as the tween trendspotters would say.

I’m assuming these are all girls, even though the only other Gabby I know is a dog. A girl dog, but a dog nonetheless—that’s the kind of relationship that should be conducted on Dogster, right?

If the anonymous list maker were using a real social networking service, she’d have a lot more friends than that. And isn’t that the point, to have a really, really (rilly rilly) long list of friends (even if you have to pad it with products you use, weird guys that hit on you, and bands you occasionally listen to)? You’d be embarrassed to have only 11 friends on MySpace; you’d need to have at least 7227 friends.

Actually it’s more fun to snoop around on social networking sites than it is to imagine what’s behind a scrap of notebook paper. The MySpace version of Allie, for example, tells me that she’s sick of my shit, that she’s just adopted a one-eyed dog, that she’s bought a Jayne Mansfield movie, and that she loves her girlfriends. Julie, Ashley, Tracy, and Paige.

I look for Julie, Ashley, Tracy, and Paige among the 539 names on Allie’s friends list. I find Paige among scads of Betties in mid-century glamour poses and cat-eye sunglasses, but no sign of Julie, Ashley, or Tracy. Jenny and Katertots (TM) figure prominently though.

Oh, this friends stuff is *fickle*. One minute they’re your friends and the next minute, they’ve defriended you forever. Oh, the harsh realities of drunken FaceBooking.

Maybe there’ll eventually be a social networking site for exes.

Haven’t you ever had the experience of meeting the ex-girlfriend of your ex-boyfriend and bonding instantly? You’ve got this great thing in common: you hate the same person, a person who has no doubt exhibited the same bad behavior to both of you. Now you agree that Cameron is an irredeemable skank or Jason needs to take far greater interest in his personal hygiene.

Any ex of my ex is a friend of mine. Sounds like a fine basis for a social networking site.

Think about it: who makes you feel the best about your break-up? Another ex, of course! You have more in common with your ex’s exes than you do with the people you’ve gone to school with, the people you’ve worked with, the people who listen to the same bands that you do, or the other dog and cat owners of the world. You might even share important things like social diseases (possibly contracted through other social networking sites): imagine that!

There’s more too: I’ve heard many people say that when they’re trying to stay awake in a dull meeting, they make a list of all the people they’ve ever slept with. The cognitive effort of this exercise keeps them awake and entertained.

So a social networking site for exes is just the thing.

What’ll we call it? ExTeriority, perhaps. That sounds sufficiently post-boom, doesn’t it? We don’t want anything too obvious—that signals pre-Internet bust thinking. Y’know. Friendster. All of the obvious names demonstrate that you’re too naïve to embark on an online venture in 2007.

Venture Capitalists. Are you listening?

I can see the comments area now.


You know how he always flossed his teeth all over the apartment, while he was walking around or watching Buffy or something. Little flecks of tooth scum everywhere! Stuck to the TV, even!! Eeeewwww!!!!
It could get fairly gruesome and unbecomingly obscene, which seems like the hallmark of any good and successful social networking site. There’s apparently a real human need to air that dirty laundry.

To wit: I found this one on torn UPS packaging, again in the street in front of our house. GLEN STROUD CANNOT BE TRUSTED.

It’s a simple accusation. GLEN STROUD CANNOT BE TRUSTED. It seems to be everywhere, all over town. It’d be a perfect comment for the social network consisting of all of Mr. Stroud’s exes. And unlike the creepy (and discriminatory) eHarmony, we can make this an open site that respects exes of any orientation or level of commitment.

What a perfect opportunity to Rate My Service! That’s one of the future-looking features of the site: it’s not just for ex-boyfriends and girlfriends, but also for next boyfriends and girlfriends. Such valuable information. It might not cause you to change your mind, but you’d know what to expect. And it wouldn’t demand full disclosure from the prospective partner—after all, full disclosure is a style not everyone appreciates.

It’s just the opposite of LinkedIn, which we have already established as the Amway of social networking sites.

And no matter what I say to my friends and colleagues, I still get invitations to join LinkedIn because people have a compulsive need to sweeten their numbers. Already have 1047 connections on LinkedIn? Why not go for 1048! And they invite me, thinking theirs might just be the invitation that breaks my cone of silence.

But my cone of silence is invincible. We can’t talk here, Chief.

Of course, I make it a point to perversely hang on to my listing in LinkedIn, with its single link, just to demonstrate how very tenuously linked to reality I am. (In case you’re wondering, my one link is from Larry Masinter, who himself gets around. Larry’s the one who was prescient enough to invite Sir Tim B-L to PARC in 1992, when the WWW was finite and innocent, a repository of folk song lyrics and high-energy physics papers. I figure a link from Larry is enough.)

But you just wait ‘til there’s ExTeriority.

Then you’ll be dishing the dirt on your own scrap of notebook paper.


Blogger Rock said...

WTF. Your list of people who you've slept with is supposed to include people you have just spent the night with? Argh. I'm gonna need a bigger tent! (As Maxwell Smart would say "Missed it by that much.")

And, come to think of it, now you are on the list. (Or had you forgotten that night we camped out on the sidewalk in front of Winterland?) You better sort out this potential grey area before you take any VC money.

Anyway I saw the trailer for the new Get Smart movie starring Steve Carell(!). Even though the 1980 Get Smart movie was horrible, I have high hopes for this go around.

9:17 AM  
Blogger Susie said...

Start talking to venture capitalists and get some sort of patent on your idea pronto. It's the wave of the future.

Incidentally, I remember being really creeped out when Facebook added a feature that allowed you to explain how you knew the person--you know, "Susie and Blah Blah had math together in high school." This to my mind utterly spoils the fun--the whole point of social networking sites is to passively keep up with people you don't really want to own up to ever having known. They also have a weird status feature where you can say "Susie is [blah]." But this forces people to use really awkward gerund forms ("Susie is missing her friends!!!") or just to ignore normal sentence structure altogether ("Susie is omg MIDTERMS!!!!").

It drives me batshit.

8:58 AM  

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