Memes of Our Adolescence: A Memoir of Growing Up on the Internet

When I was in elementary school, I attended speech therapy; usually grouped with students from the Special Ed class, we played games which emphasized specific sounds. I had trouble pronouncing r’s and s’s and t’s and v’s and d‘s and nearly every other letter. In fourth grade, I recall entering the speech therapy office (located near the back of the school) to see computers waiting, their screens bright and displaying the start menu of some game which would help us. Already, I was quite familiar with computers; we used them twice a week in Computer class (I’m not sure what it was called then), completing online quizzes to test our mathematical and literary skills. At home, the situation was no different.

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My parents purchased  a bevy of computer-based games for our family monitor, and the ones I can recall most sharply were named The Clue Finders. Each iteration of the game was designed for a different grade level: in one game, The Clue Finders explores Ancient Egyptian temples and in the next underground grottos housing dangerous volcanoes, and so on. We also had access to the internet, the dial-up internet, which required a series of squawks and guttural churning, like someone preparing to hawk a lugie (name for a wad of snot and spit and mucous collected at the back of one’s throat and projected across a room).

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Not long after, when I was in seventh or eighth grade, my parents purchased high-speed wifi, and gone were the days of discordant dialing-in. Gone were the days when one must log off line before your mother could use the telephone. Gone were the days of the Dewey Decimal System, which elementary school librarians attempted in vain to teach us. But by the time my generation came about, this system was dead. Dead as disco.

So we grew up on the Internet. Technology played an important role in our adolescence, shaping us in more ways than one.

This was the beginning of a new generation, and by the time we reached high school, we had mastered technology in such ways our parents could never understand. The generation of Four-Loko-fueled YOLO. The generation of secret Tumblr accounts, sharing messages with strangers.

In ninth grade, I recall a particularly interesting phenomenon known as Mystery Google. One typed in any phrase and were instead transported to another person’s search. This allowed us to share our social media profiles like the Bubonic Plague. At the time, I had just begun recording videos of myself to put on Youtube (a strange adolescent trend), and Mystery Google allowed me to accumulate views. More importantly, my life would be slowly translated to video and uploaded to Youtube. Two years later, I would begin writing blogs. We were hooked, plugged-in to the ether of the nether-webs like no generation before.

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And now there will be another shift. The next generation will never play Spin the Bottle without the IPhone app; they will never discover pornographic magazines in their houses but rather delve into the sexual world via the Internet. I mean, imagine the simple consequences of something as strange as Chatroulette—what will we learn growing up in this world where smut and sin and secrets are merely the currency of the online world?

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What I find most intriguing, however, about the generation of students both in university and in high school is the proliferation of memes. The word memes, of course, applies beyond its Internet meaning: a meme is a re-occurring idea or theme within culture. According to the All-Knower and Grab-Bag-Research-Tool-Of-Our-Times Wikipedia, a meme “conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation”.

We have been able, then, to create a shorthand of memes: pictures with captions. When one sees Kermit The Frog Drinking Tea or Skeptical Willy Wonka or Grumpy Cat, we understand what sort of message will be depicted. We understand the context of the idea, allowing text to build upon this foundation of knowledge.

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Memes, then, much in the same vein of art (films, books, philosophy) serve as a cultural shorthand. We have crafted a universal and complicated slang that might surpass the slangs of previous eras; no longer too may this slang, whether they be words or memes, remain regional. We understand each other, our generation, in ways that are intimate, encompassing, and really, really weird.

And we know what that sound means, you know the one, the sound of a train crashing through your house, that nuclear siren that announces the Internet’s imminent arrival. The sound of dial-up that might as well been our toddler lullaby. An idea we need not speak in order to understand.

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Thoughts On Endings at Dawn

As I drove home this morning at six, I watched the sun rise, the peach-skin skies revealing the sillouhette of a continent of overcast clouds. Leaving out in the dark, I drove and soon looked out the window to see the sky pinker, brighter. You’re left wondering how this happened, so slowly, yet so fast, as if you haven’t even been paying attention. Life’s changes act much like the sky during dawn or evening; we cannot perceive the light changing but it always is. And suddenly as we’re driving, we look up to see that everything around us is different.

As I approach my 24th hour of being awake, I am remarkably conscious and alert. Perhaps much calmer after physically exhausting myself. As far as definite turning points in our lives, graduation could count as one of them. Last night at 8, my school filed across a stage to receive diplomas, and we turned our tassels on our caps to finally become these new people. As if we were supposed to feel different, more grown up, gaining like Spider Man strange super powers like a complete understanding of microeconomics.

But changes don’t come like that, a simple radioactive spider bite and you’re changed. Growing up is as slow and difficult as the DMV.

After graduating, the community held Project Graduation which provided us with endless entertainment for the night including inflatable obstacle courses, jousting stations, a very impressive buffet, a dance rave, raffles, gambling, and free spa massages.

What should have made me pass out has instead invigorated me and instilled me with a sense of calm. I drove away, dropped off a friend at his house, and drove to my own. I opened my laptop to write simply because calmness puts me in the writing mood. There is a certain time of night when I lose my mind and begin to babble, losing sanity. Then that passes and I become simply calm and again awake. Right now, I here family members waking from their beds.

Today, when I wake from the heavy sleep that will come, I may post something else about what happens next: the future. For now, however, I’m thinking only of the past and how this past and future converge at an uncertain dawn. We live so ardently in that past, look up and realize that the sky is turning pinker, brighter. Things have changed, and we haven’t even noticed.

I only wanted to give my first impressions after the night’s festivities. I cannot quite even understand how wakefulness will work, whether my energy will suddenly drop out from under me like a trap door. Like a narcoleptic, I’ll fall violently into dreams. It’s nearing seven. Morning is here finally, full and bright, and writing this, I could not even observe its exact changes, only its general.

Because I am going on vacation, I probably will not blog for about six days. Or perhaps I will be inspired by the sea to write, and the sea tends to be quite inspiring, I believe. Class of 2012, make sure to take a look around. Savor the moments because while you look away, they pass and things have changed.

Mutli-Cultural Reading: Spoken Word Poems

Below is a video of my performance at the multi-cultural open mic. I read two poems called “A Savage Yawp” and “American.”

I hope you enjoyed these poems, seriously. I might post videos of other performances of either separately. The second poem is defintiely one of my favorite.

The open mic was hosted by LadyVee DaPoet, as part of Poetry Matters. Poet Big Bailey videotaped this performance and posted it. Many thanks to him. You can find his channel here: http://www.youtube.com/user/BiGBaileysBeats

Thanks for watching and reading.

Would You Read This?

Welcome to the small town of Lickskillet, where the good ole boys kick back with a beer every now again, where the people and friendly, where the local claim to fame is the world’s largest museum devoted solely to garden gnomes, and where a dark conspiracy is brewing. After the prominent ex-mayor is lynched in the affluent gated community Golden Oaks, the people of Lickskillet are demanding justice and quickly revamping their image as the most politically correct town in the Southeast.

The locals are not the only ones in the need of a public image face-lift. A Ku Klux Klan member, Mathew Pepper, being accused of the murder is not helping their quarterly membership ratings, so arrives in town national PR agent for the infamous organization: Roscoe Ostrander. To have a more tolerant image, Roscoe concludes, the Klan need only accept some black members of the community into their ranks.

Roscoe’s son Declin moves around quite a lot, because of the nature of his father’s job. And every place he goes, he’s the new kid, always the outsider. But maybe he can at least be the most interesting person in school for the six months while he stays. If you’re nobody, you can be anybody. Declin has never had a girlfriend and when he lands in Lickskillet, Declin hatches a plot to market himself as a heart-breaking ladies’ man. Girls will surely come his way.

As the trial of Mathew Pepper becomes explosive, Declin learns he may have to stay in town longer than first he believed, and the lies he told to people about his past seem harder and harder to keep telling. He must be the Declin Lickskillet knows, but also keep some shred of himself. But having changed himself every six months for years, Declin is not sure he knows who the REAL him is any longer.

After finishing the first 10,000 words of my next novel, I’m quite proud. At this stage of writing The Savagery of Sebastian Martinelli, the plot was not so complicated. Furthermore, I’m very proud of the character development I’ve already been able to implement, and this is only a bare bones draft. Above is only a basic premise, which I realize is long. I like stories to be fairly complicated and strange, and I imagine the story will only get stranger as I progress to write it.

My question to you is: would you read this?

Book Snobs Are Snobby

Sometimes, just because you have a degree in English doesn’t give you the right to be persnickety. (If you were not such an inarticulate plebeian, you’d know what that means.)

“Oh, what books do I like to read? Well, I’m glad you asked, but probably have not HEARD about any of them. I have very obscure literary tastes:  no Pulitzer prize winners or Short-listeners for the PEN/Faulkner awards. CERTAINLY nothing on a bestseller lists, because those books have such drab plots.

Actually, I only read books that haven’t been published yet. No, it’s fine that you want to read “normal” books along with the rest of the plebians.

Oh, The New Yorker gave it a good review? Well, if you want to conform to what the NEW YORKER thinks, fine go ahead, read to your heart’s content. I’ll just try to find authors you’ve never heard of and then laugh at the absurdity of your reading choices.”

Just to be clear, I hate these people. There’s a reason certain books are read widely or win awards. Just because you dislike a book doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold merit. In fact, any book that can make you feel something- that’s good literature. Even books that merely piss you off.

I feel the same way about music. I just don’t listen to bands if in order to buy their new albums I need to know some secret password which I can only find scrawled on the door of an Ohio truck stop bathroom. But I think music and books are good as long as they make you feel something. That even means Ke$ha who only inspires me to dance and party; note, though, that she does inspire me to do SOMETHING.

A story that inspires nothing, not even frustration… that’s quite a bland story.

The truth is, reading has been an elitist activity, done only by intellectuals. I’m not impressed that you like to read War and Peace over the summer instead of some fun book. Because guess what? I spent the summer reading Nick Hornsby and The Hunger Games triology. I know, as a writer I’m supposed to be a literary snob. I am supposed to like highbrow fiction only, constantly study the syntax of MASTERS.

But you write a book that people will enjoy, and just because scholars say that a book is classic, I shan’t read it unless it excites me. Unless I like the story and relate to the characters. Now, some classics are certainly classics for a reason, but understand, other classics are classics because they’re intensely difficult to understand. Scholars and English majors love authors that only they can relate to, because it gives them a sense of superiority.

I’m looking at YOU James Joyce.

Some books, I know, are even referred to as “guilty pleasures” or as “trashy.” But anything you enjoy has some merit, doesn’t it? I openly admit that I obsessively watch shows like Misfits, Skins, Glee, and True Blood. I even watching THE GLEE PROJECT! While I have been told these are “trashy” shows, they allow me to indulge in something separate from my life. And that… seems to matter.

What I’m saying is, I will not criticize what you read, because all writers are not snobs. Read whatever you’d like. And if anyone casts a downward glance at your

Review: Misfits, Series 2

The show about our favorite delinquent super heroes returns, but this time, the community service is a lot less civil. With the same crudeness and humor, Misfits’ second season explodes with news surprises. The best part of this show is the tumultuous plot: unpredictability has never had a better home.

Misfits has run its second season on Hulu, but I’ve taken the initiative to watch the entire second season on Youtube, so here is a review. I will launch now into a fuller discussion of the season, point by point. If you haven’t watched the episodes, SPOILERS AHEAD. So, go watch Season 2 immediately. It will not disappoint.

First of all, Nathan (Robert Sheehan) is back from the grave, at his best, which happens to usually be at her most disgusting. After he returns, he and his delinquent lackeys meet even more crazy people with supernatural abilities. They come face to face with one man who believes he lives within a video game. A villainous tattoo artist manages to control people’s affection with tattoo ink. A gorilla in a man suit in a gorilla suit is on the loose. Also, some super humans have begun to “come out the closet.”

The season ends with our love-able Misfits selling their powers for a few thousand dollars apiece. By the end of the series, however, they present the “power dealer” with money to buy back their powers. (SPOILER: They steal that money from a man masquerading as Jesus, as he has purchased all of the powers necessary.)

Series 3 should come out this Fall, for which I am stoked. Misfits is a show that shines a divine life on urban scum. Unfortunately, Sheehan will not again make it back from the grave, for he has left the show. How the show will deal with his departure is yet unknown, except that it makes me lose faith in the goodness of life.

Poetry/Music Open Mic

If you’re looking for something to do tonight in the CSRA area, swing down to the Augusta boardwalk where we’ll performing at an open mic. It will be held at the ampitheare right there next to the river. Bonus: I’ll be the co-MC for the night, and I will be performing poetry. The performances are probably going to be videotaped and will eventually find their way onto this blog. Exciting? I think so. Come out for a great night of music and poetry.

Most exciting news, I’ll perform a poem by my all-time favorite poet: Shane Kocyzan. What? You’ve never heard his awesome poetry? Well, let me introduce you…

Poem: Bare Knuckle Chalkboard Punches

This poem is for anyone who has ever been a teacher or been taught, who has ever been through the American education system and emerged alive. This poem is for you. Enjoy.

I read this poem last Wednesday at Sit-a-Spell Cafe which is located on Broad Street in Augusta. They hold an open mic every other Wednesday. and soon, I’ll be MC-ing. More on that later! For now, I hope you enjoy my work. Still working on getting an agent for my novel and publishing that book of poetry.

All of that news is uber exciting! I hope you enjoy the poem; please comment below.

Sometimes, I get very passionate while reading.

“Just Chilling” Is Not Chill, Bro

It’s cool to be chill. You know man: chiiill. Just chill out. What? You’re making terrible grades and you can’t get into any college? Chill out, dude. Your parents are kicking you out? Chill out. Your apartment is on fire? Chill, man, chill.

Teenagers are infamous chillaxers, even going to the lengths to list “chilling” and “chillaxing” as their topic hobbies on The Facebook. Well, everyone needs a little downtime, some time to relieve stress from our busy schedule. But when “chilling” becomes your primary function, well then, we have a serious problem.

Here’s my shtick with “just chilling”: with such a messed up, exploitative world full of suffering, maybe all that free time should be used for something good. Tonight, a recent college grad told me, “You’re much more productive than I was in high school. I mean, I mostly just chilled and smoked weed.”

Well, maybe it’s never too early to begin my professional career. It’s never too early to start changing the world. Teenagers like me can make a difference everyday. So, maybe “just chilling” isn’t what we should be glorifying. We should be praising the kid who began “Hoops for Hope” which uses basketball free throws to build medical centers in Zimbabwe right now. THAT is pretty freakin’ cool if you ask me.

Even young, don’t tell me you can’t make a difference. Don’t tell me your life can’t mean something great. Recently, at a poetry open mic, I told people about my plans for Young Artists for Change. It’s a non-profit organization I’ll blog more about later. Here’s a cool video to watch, in order to get a better idea of what we’re doing:

If you’re in the Aiken area, please come to the informational meeting on Thursday, August 11th at 3:00 at the Aiken County Library. It’s meant to make a change.

What I’m trying to say is, don’t waste time. Next time someone says, “Be chill,” sock them in the FACE! Because with all of the crazy, horrible things happening in the world and with us being the most-spoiled nation, we cannot waste time. We cannot let such hot issues boil over while we simply “chill” So, I say, let’s stop chilling. I mean that, completely. Full-heart to stop “chillaxing” or any deviation.

By just chilling, we miss out on an important part of the human condition: compassion.

Because while we’re busy chilling, others are dying. And suffering. And maybe we were born in America for a reason. Where you are right now, you can make a difference. So hey, join the fight. Don’t spend this next year “chilling” in your downtime. Try to help cool down the entire earth– don’t focus solely on your own chill zone.

Also, check out the Young Artists for Change Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Young-Artists-for-Change/169993989739233