Before he said “Natalie Portman”, my first guess was going to be “P.S. I Love You”, but that’s Gerard Butler. Also, not Julia Roberts.

“He also recommended– no, wait, he’s looking forward to seeing ‘True Grit’.”

“What’s that about?”

“It’s a western? Something like that. With what’s-his-name. Owen Wilson?”

“Ugh. Really?”

“Or, no, Clive Owen?”

“Oh! I like him.”

“Or Clive Olsen?”

“Uh, no.”

“Really? There’s not someone named Clive Olsen? That sounds like it could be someone’s name!”

“No.”

“Clive Olsen! Okay, wait, Clive Owen is the guy with the crooked nose? The other male model?”

“That’s Owen Wilson.”

“Are you sure there’s not a Clive Olsen?”

“You’re thinking of the Olsen twins.”

“Well who’s Clive Owen, then?”

“He was that guy in that movie that you have, with Julia Roberts. And Natalie Portman.”

“…”

“…”

“… ‘Stepmom’?”

[Edit: I just looked up the cast for “True Grit”. There are no Clives, Owens, Wilsons or Olsens anywhere in the first billing. I need to start subscribing to Star Magazine or something.]

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Unlike a traffic jam when you’re already late, which is just irritating

"You know what song I’ve had stuck in my head?"
"What?"
[mock falsetto]
"Take a look, it’s in a book, it’s Reading Rainboooow."
"Mmm."
"Do you even know what I’m singing?"
"I know of the song. But I don’t actually know the song. I never watched that show, though I do know what it is."
[brief pause]
[He sends me the link to the video. As I’m watching it, it dawns on me:]
"You know what I just realized? And it’s kind of ironic, but– I never watched ‘Reading Rainbow’ because I was always busy reading books instead."

And also cold, straight from the crisper

[The space heater has been turned on for the first time this year, and I’m in the kitchen, parked in front of it]

The Wife: I can smell that.
Me: That’s the smell of CONTENTMENT!
The Wife: Or the smell of your jeans about to catch on fire.

[later]

The Wife: What’s that sound? What are you doing?
Me: Peeling an apple.
The Wife: I used to peel my apples. But then I read that apparently, that’s where all of the nutrients are.
Me: Yeah, I know. But I’m not eating this apple for nutritional content. I’m eating it for MAXIMUM PLEASURE. And that means no skin.

For the record, I’m exponentially more articulate in writing than I am in speaking extemporaneously

It’s late in the evening when I tell him that I read the description of the panel he’s moderating on Saturday. It’s likely that by this point, he still hasn’t prepared the questions he’ll be asking the panelists, but he knows better than to look to me for any inspiration in that arena. Still, he’s asks what I think about the panel– or rather: "What do you think it’s about? The way it’s written on the site, it just seems so… widespread. The topics are kind of all over the place."

I try to remember exactly how the description went, and fail. Still. "Well, obviously it’s built around the new forms of mainstream communication and our generation’s growing use of it, to where digital forms of communication– e-mails, chats, IMs, text messages– are becoming the dominant ones. I don’t know, it just reminds me of a discussion we had in one of my classes at USD, either in one of my upper-division writing classes or one of my comm classes, and we talked about the impact digital communication was having on human relations."

He looks at me, waiting. The pause extends as I try to form coherent thoughts.

"It’s the whole idea of, because there’s this generation of people who’ve learned to express themselves predominantly through online or wireless channels, they’ve reduced their abilities to express themselves with to people face-to-face. Interpersonal social skills are affected. Our ability to form human relations in the real world diminishes as we become more and more engaged in forming digital relations, and so on."

"But what does that matter?" he counters.

I give him a blank stare, unsure if he’s playing devil’s advocate or if he genuinely means this. I ask for clarification: "Interpersonal skills?" He affirms. I’m still a little incredulous. "Because– because that’s part of what makes us human. That’s what we are."

"That’s what we were," he corrects me. "Look at technology. Look at everything we can do online. Who needs the real world? It’s irrelevant."

I concede that technology has done great things in eliminating borders: "You can communicate, instantly, with people halfway around the world. You can keep in touch with more people with less effort and often at no or minimal cost. I’ll give you that. The digital realm is great for that. But it doesn’t provide for any of our senses beyond visual or aural. There’s no–" I fish wildly for something to make my case. I’m actually getting upset about this; I read too much Saint-ExupĂ©ry [1] growing up. Out of desperation, I turn to my watered-down version of the Socratic method:

"Okay. You can either be standing in the middle of a virtual garden or a real one. Which would you choose?" He chooses the real one. "Exactly. Because of the experience, right? You can hear the wind in the trees and smell the flowers and feel the sunshine on your skin and the grass under your feet."

There’s a beat. Then: "Now. You can either be on Skype with me for weeks, months even, 24/7, and we’re always connected that way, we can talk to each other and even *see* each other– or you can have one hour, just one, with me in person. Which would you choose?"

And without even hesitating, he replies, "The one hour with you." And I ask him why. And his expression is this exquisite combination of intensity and sweetness as he tells me: "Because I’d get to hold you."

And I smile. "You see? And that’s what makes us human, or part of it, anyway. Without the ability to connect and interact with other people in the physical world, we’d just be robots. That’s why interpersonal social skills are crucial tools, and that’s why the real world isn’t irrelevant. As connected we can be online, to hundreds of thousands, to millions of people worldwide– without someone to share things with offline, we are ultimately alone. Only, we’re not, because we are physically surrounded by communities of those very people. It’s just a matter of whether we are able to connect, to communicate with them."

A small victory, but a meaningful one. Meaningful enough, to me.

[1] Who is the source for numerous well-known quotes, such as, "There is no hope or joy except in human relations."

With apologies to Mr. Grey; it’s just that your work has moved me so much

My morning in conversation:

[via Twitter]

NK: that’s basically like getting a text message from god. his writing and stories are amazing.
Me:

it’s like a text message from god and an internet greeting card from
jesus. and a facebook poke from the holy ghost.

*****

[text messages]

X: Drive safe.
O: Just parked. Drove safely, prevented a forest fire and took a bite out of crime. And said no to drugs. Will be there in a little while.

*****

[three of us in the back of class]

"Oh goody, now he’s going to explain it in *three* dimensions."
[looks into coffee cup] "…I wish I’d put more rum in this thing. One of these days, I’m just gonna show up drunk."
"Bottle o’ Bailey’s’ll do the trick…"
"Not stoppin’ till I can see through the bottom."
[beat]
"And then I’d hold the empty bottle up to my eye and peer through it. Like a monocole."
[stifled giggling]
[mock-drunkenly] "’What’s that sir? Oh, NOW I see what you’re talking about. Ahhh. YES. A-ha!’"

[a minute later]

"Look at the class. I love how no one is writing anything down."
"Look at their faces."
"I’m just waiting for someone to throw something at him."
"Or run out of the classroom screaming."
"Or… ooh. Or start crying."
"Someone just starts bawling. ‘I can’t take this anymore!’"
"’This is my third time in this class!’"
"Oh god, could you imagine? If this were your last chance?"
[we can’t stop visualizing someone actually breaking down into sobs, and the remainder of the class is spent repressing howls of laughter]

*****

And my ethics professor brought a filled trick-or-treat pumpkin bucket to class for us students to pass around. How adorable is that?

Because you were wondering, too. You’re welcome.

"Oh, well, Lora used to work for Blackberry."
"Really? You did? Why’d you leave?"
"I just wanted something different. That old story."
"So what is Blackberry named after? Do you know?"
"Well, the thing about the blackberry is, it was an untapped product icon. Like, RIM wanted to go with a fruit that was cooler, you know? Because Canadians, they’re very progressive, and they didn’t want something old and used and lame, like oranges or pears or–"
"Or apples."
"Exactly. Blackberries are mysterious. What do you know about blackberries? Nothing! They’re probably kind of magical."
"Like that other berry? The acai berry or whatever?"
"Yes. And the blackberry was just the fruit to carry RIM into the future."