A Few Words on Reactions to Celebrity Deaths…

[Originally posted on Feb 12, 2012. This was a somewhat viral post at the time, thanks to it being cross-posted on Jezebel. Re-reading it, I’m saddened thinking about what has since happened to her daughter, Bobbi Kristina, and I’m sad that nothing in internet posting has changed in four years. If anything, it’s gotten worse…]

When a celebrity dies, social media blows up and follows an amazingly consistent pattern.  Keep in mind, I have done some of these myself. I think most of us have at some point or another:

Round One of Posting: “What? [Insert name here] died!”

Round Two: “RIP [Insert name here]”

Round Three: Posts links to something the deceased did that the posters thought was amazing

Round Four: Other parties decide to chime in: “[Insert name here] was a [drug addict/creepy alleged pedo/tyranical CEO of a company that makes an Operating System people are brainwashed to like and I was brainwashed to hate].” I’m presuming they then find the highest mountain with wi-fi access to climb atop to then proclaim, “I’m going to save my grief for someone who deserves it!”

Round Five: “100,000 people die each year from [starvation/earthquakes/war/listening to Michael Bolton while driving on a windy cliff]. Why don’t you care about them?”

Round Six: “Check out this great video of a cat yawning!”

Here’s the deal, people: there is nothing wrong with being sad someone died, and thankfully we, being the advanced species we are, have the capacity to have sympathy for more than one person at a time.  In fact, we can have sympathy for an unlimited number of people and things.  Wow – Amazing, right?  All this time, conventional wisdom told us we had to hide away our spare grief in cigar boxes, old shoes and mattresses because we thought it might run out at a really inconvenient time.  After all, how much would it suck if the family dog or other loved one died, or we watched Titanic for the 50th time, and we had no more grief to give? “Well, shit, Jennifer; this would normally be the time I’d hug you and tell you I’m sorry for your loss, but I’m all out of grief and sympathy.  I really shouldn’t have burned the last of it on Whitney Houston.”

“I told you not to waste it; she was a crack addict, you know.”

Why are people sad when a famous imperfect person dies?  You can ask the people who are posting the RIPs, and they each may have their own unique response as to why they are sad; perhaps they have a great memory associated with one of the creations of that imperfect person.  Maybe they really are that person’s Number One Fan.  Or maybe, they’re like me.  Every time I’ve felt sadness over a famous imperfect person’s passing, it’s because I feel they’ve been robbed of the life arc I wish everyone could have but few are lucky enough to receive.  On the final curve of this life arc, we overcome our demons, find peace and joy, create more beautiful things with our inner strength and wisdom guiding us, and we die peacefully in our sleep when we are old and grey.

I think of how talented and lovely Whitney Houston was in the “How Will I Know” video.  When I watched that video today, I thought about how the young, vibrant person in that video had no idea what was coming in her life – I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have predicted her future would bring years of substance abuse and a publicly tumultuous marriage.  I’m sure she didn’t predict her final moments would involve drowning in a hotel bathtub, leaving behind a slew of rumors about her addiction and a beautiful young daughter who she didn’t say goodbye to.  I’ll admit, while I have always felt her vocals were about as close to perfection as you can see in pop music, I was never really a fan of her music.  Yet, I’m sad for her, and I am sad that yet another person didn’t have a beautiful and graceful final curve to their life arc.  I’m sad that the world still looks at addiction and other mental illnesses as stigmas.  I’m sad every time I read or hear someone state “fuck them” when they see a person falling hard.  I then get angry, because everyone who says “fuck them” is creating a barrier between those in need of help and the resources they desperately need.  “Fuck them” prevents people from admitting they can’t fix their life on their own.  “Fuck them” is what causes governments to cut funding to mental health facilities and programs.  “Fuck them” is what causes families to be afraid to seek help in the community, or to give up after the first few backs have been turned.

The person who passes may “just” be an imperfect celebrity, but to me? Their passing reminds me of all of our failures and all of the beautiful things that could have been created by those who left us far too young.

Email Hell: Welcome to My Nightmare

If there’s one thing that drives me batty in my professional life, it’s receiving an excessive number of bad emails.  Life is short, my time is limited; please don’t make me sift through blank/vague subject lines or 10 MB emails that only have one record I need to view.

While the vast majority of employees generally understand email etiquette, as with anything, a few people ruin it for everyone.  In all of my professional years, there are three types of senders who are the bane of my corporate existence:

1) The person who either doesn’t “get” email or is playing dumb to shirk responsibility
At a prior job, there was a guy who worked remotely – we’ll call him Sage.  Sage was one of the most charming men you would ever meet. When he visited on-site once or twice a year, he’d make a point to chat with everyone in the office, and he’d always chuckle pleasantly at your jokes.  Once a year he’d have a cake delivered to the office for all of us.  Great guy, right?

Well, the problem with Sage is no one had a freaking clue what Sage did all day, let alone all month.  All we knew was it was impossible to communicate with him – email was like a Jedi mind trick that left you baffled.  You’d send him an urgent request regarding one of the facilities in his region, and he wouldn’t respond.  If you didn’t already know the abysmally low success rate on him returning a voice message, you’d give him a call, listen to a smooth, baritone voice tell you he’s not available while a soft hint of Barry White music plays in the background, and you’d leave a message that he would likely delete.  After a couple of days, you’d re-send the email, with a “2nd Request: In Need of File from XYZ Facility” type of subject line.  Still nothing.

“3rd Request: Urgent! XYZ Facility Will Not Get Paid W/O Receipt of File. Please Respond.”

Finally, usually after the 4th request, he would decide to respond.  In his reply, he’d say simply, “File is attached.”

There would be no file.

You’d immediately respond with “nothing is attached,” and get no response.  You’d simultaneously call his phone, and get the Barry White.  After banging your head 50 times against the keyboard, you’d start the dance all over again until the dude with the smallest market in the network became the last market to be finalized for the month.  This happened every month.  No, nothing was done about it, because the head honcho adored his charming ways, and the higher-ups just thought he was a face-to-face guy who didn’t “get” email.  He collected a paycheck doing this routine for about 10 years, until new management discovered he couldn’t locate his clients’ locations on a map with the radius of a block.  Sage, wherever you are? You are a smart, smart man who made a lot of money doing a lot of nothing. I’d like to think you were really CIA, and this was your cover job.

2) The person who doesn’t know what Snopes is
I really, really hate forwards (with the exception of an occasional dog-related forward).  I have historically received a few different annoying forwards from a handful of co-workers to my work email…from their work email.  Don’t they have something productive they could be doing? Anyway, I’d get the “WOMEN! AVOID BEING ABDUCTED BY A CRAZED GUY HANGING OUT AT WAL-MART” forwards that give a fake story about a serial kidnapper, and list weird tips on how to avoid him.  I no longer inform the sender that they are sending misinformation with a link to Snopes, because that usually pisses them off.  I also avoid snarky responses, like “Tip #10: Don’t Shop at Wal-Mart.”

I’ll also get the fake “So and So is Dying of Cancer and Their Last Wish is to Carpet-Bomb the Internet with Chain Mail.”  Really? Of all the shit someone can wish for, someone wanted that? I don’t think so.  Dude, you can meet Michael Jordan, or rent out Disneyland…do you really think someone wished for a vague email with 900 nesting levels?  If there is ever even a grain of truth in these, the person mentioned in the email died 10 years ago, and their wish was for everyone to mail a letter with a rose petal to a dictator demanding peace on earth or something.  Somewhere along the way, the “I Pay it Forward by Clicking ‘Forward’” crowd got the message and decided to slacktivate it.

Of course, I’m more forgiving of the Dying of Cancer forwards than the “I’m grabbing your ankles while being dragged to hell” people who send you the sweet message about love and hope and promise and pegacorns and ends with, “forward this to 20 of your friends or you will be damned to a lifetime of poor health and loneliness.”  First of all, I’m not your friend.  Second?  I so want to reply to those people with a cutesy-maudlin story that ends with, “if you forward any email to even two of your contacts ever again, you will be cursed with dandruff and DefCon Sriracha-level diarrhea for the rest of your life.”

My final emailer is a class of their own:

3) Ted.
Every office has at least one Ted.  Ted is the guy or gal who Gatlin guns your inbox with “urgent” requests, cc’s your manager on even the most mundane of emails, always chooses the wrong spelling of a word, and finds the most space-inefficient way of providing you nothing useful. For example, you see this in your inbox:

! Ted Gatlin        Not at Desk                      4/22/2012, 9:15am      355KB

You open the message:

This message is high priority.
From: Ted Gatlin
To: You
CC: The COO of Your Company
Subject: [no subject]

I am considering leaving my desk for five minutes to go too the bathroom, but do not want to negatively effect you’re project.   Please advise.

Sincerely Yours,

Ted Gatlin
Specialty Specialist
ABC Company

“When the pawn hits the conflicts he thinks like a king
What he knows throws the blows when he goes to the fight
And he’ll win the whole thing ‘fore he enters the ring
Theirs’s no body to batter when your mind is you’re might
So when you go solo, you hold you’re own hand
And remember that depth is the greatest of heights
And if you know where you stand, then you know where to land
And if you fall it won’t matter, cause you’ll know that your right”
- Fiona Apple, from her 1999 album, When the pawn hits the conflicts he thinks like a king
What he knows throws the blows when he goes to the fight
And he’ll win the whole thing ‘fore he enters the ring
Their’s no body to batter when your mind is you’re might
So when you go solo, you hold you’re own hand
And remember that depth is the greatest of heights
And if you know where you stand, then you know where to land
And if you fall it won’t matter, cause you’ll know that your right

CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: The information contained in this message may be privileged, confidential, and will likely put you on the No-Fly List. If you are not the intended recipient, or an employee, or federal agent, you are about five minutes away from having a man dressed in black rappel down the side of your building and kick in your office window. If you have received this communication in error, please unplug your computer, take it to the parking lot, pour gasoline on it, set fire to it and go Reservoir Dogs on it with a crowbar. Then take a high-powered magnet and shuffle your feet on carpet all the way to the server room.  Upon entry, touch everything and unleash the sweet, sweet power of your magnet. The sender does not accept any responsibility for any loss, disruption or damage to your data, computer system or IT department that will occur in this process. Cherrio!

I initially thought it would be great if we got all of the Teds to work together in one company, but that one company alone would break the internet and send us back to the stone age. Someone would do an archaeological dig hundreds of years in the future, locate an exchange server and discover that the last five minutes of our civilization as we know it was recorded with the following string of emails:
! Ted Gatlin       Welcome to the Gatlin Company!       4/22/2012, 9:15am     355KB
! Fred Phalanx       I Can’t Access Email!!      4/22/2012, 9:15am     1MB
! Ted Gatlin       RE: I Can’t Access Email!!       4/22/2012, 9:15am     1MB
! Tommy Gun       Re: Welcome to the Gatlin Company!       4/22/2012, 9:16am     400KB
! Ted Gatlin       Re: Re: Welcome to the Gatlin Company!       4/22/2012, 9:16am     400KB
! Fred Phalanx       WHO ATE MY KRISPY KREAM?       4/22/2012, 9:16am     1MB
! Ted Gatlin       RE: WHO ATE MY KRISPY KREAM?       4/22/2012, 9:16am     1MB
! Jane Gun       RE: RE: WHO ATE MY KRISPY KREAM?       4/22/2012, 9:17am     1MB
! Em Sixteen       RE: RE: RE: WHO ATE MY KRISPY KREAM?       4/22/2012, 9:17am     2MB
! Em Sixteen       Policy on Food [PLEASE SIGN]       4/22/2012, 9:17am     2MB
! Jane Gun       Pics from Grand Opening :)       4/22/2012, 9:17am     50MB
! Fred Phalanx       FW: Pics from Grand Opening :)       4/22/2012, 9:17am     51MB
! Em Sixteen       Policy on Email [PLEASE SIGN]       4/22/2012, 9:18am     53MB
! Fred Phalanx       CANNOT SCAN SIGNATURE!!!       4/22/2012, 9:18am     75MB
! Fred Phalanx       HELP! Can’t work new phone       4/22/2012, 9:19am     75MB
! Em Sixteen       Policy on Phone Usage       4/22/2012, 9:19am     2MB
! Fred Phalanx       FW: Policy on Email [PLEASE SIGN]       4/22/2012, 9:19am     76MB
! Jane Gun       FW:FW:FW:FW OMG SOOOO CUTE!! :P!!!!!<3 :D       4/22/2012, 9:20am     200MB  
! Tommy Gun       Taking Girl Scout Cookie Orders       4/22/2012, 9:20am     50MB

We don’t want our world to be sent to the stone age, right?  Right?? Let’s all do our part and not be a Ted. Besides, you don’t want us to go off the grid before you put that Girl Scout Cookie order in.

Image: David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Server Not Found: My Lord of the Flies Moment

You really don’t know how much you use something until it is suddenly and unexpectedly unavailable to you.  Like when your power goes out, and you’re like, oh, no TV! I’ll just go on the computer – d’oh, I CAN’T! Or, I’ll just cook something on the sto-DAMMIT! A while ago, we had one of these moments, and I decided to document it for historical purposes.

Friday, 4:30 p.m.
Came home from work and opened up Facebook.  “Server not found.” I look at my Wi-Fi icon.  Full power.  Facebook goes down on occasion, so I go to Google, a.k.a., The Site that is Never Down.  “Server not found.” Uh-Oh.  Maybe it’s just a hiccup. Disruptions occur; I’ll just do something else.



Friday, 4:45 p.m.
Oh, that’s right; a friend sent me an mp3 of one of their songs via Facebook.  Let me just log in and – “Server not found.”  Crap.  It’s just sitting out there waiting for me and I can’t pull it up on my computer.


Friday, 5:05 p.m.
I wonder what’s cracking on Jezebel? I…oh, yeah.  Well, I have an iPhone.  I can’t post a comment from it, but I’ll at least read the stories and comments…


Friday, 5:15 p.m.
Chris comes home.  I tell him the internets are gone, so he opens a closet filled with green lights and looks perplexed.  He places a call to Cox while walking in and out of the house furiously.

Friday, 5:30 p.m.
Chris gets off the phone.  “We won’t have internet until 3pm tomorrow.”

Leaves stop rustling, birds stop chirping – a haunting quiet creeps over suburbia in a black cloud of despair.

In the silence, I stare hopelessly at him.


A flock of blackbirds take flight from a tree.

Friday, 5:35-7:15 p.m.
Have a dissatisfying dinner at Cadillac Ranch.  Why do people go there? The food is mediocre and the service is slow.  It’s like Applebee’s for people who want to think they’re too good for Applebee’s.  Wait a minute; I’m at Cadillac Ranch and I’m too good for Applebee’s. Oh.

Friday, 7:15 – ??
Hopeless meandering.

Saturday, 5:42 a.m.
I curse myself for waking up so early on a Saturday.  As always, I look forward to checking my Google Analytics numbers, because I’m obsessed with tracking the 5 visits to my site.  On Friday, I made a total ass of myself to promote my web site, and wondered if I would get any visits from it.

Saturday, 5:45 a.m.
I remember the internet is down, and Google Analytics is flash-based.  Shit.

Saturday, 7:00 a.m.
I pathetically look at my little iPhone screen to connect myself with the digital world.

Saturday, 7:30 a.m.
I break down and bring up Google Analytics on my iPhone.  It is near impossible to navigate through.  Why don’t they have an app for this?? I mean I know it’s Google v. Apple, but JESUS CHRIST GOOGLE, GET OVER IT.

And yeah, Friday’s embarrassment yielded nothing noticeable on the site.  New business rule for The Menacing Kitten – if it feels dirty, it’s probably not worth it.

Saturday, 9:00 a.m.
Misery = Opportunity for blog topic.  Yay.  I pull up Word and go to town.

Saturday, 9:10 a.m.
While writing this post, I think of 5 different things I need to look up on the internet.  Out of habit, I click on Firefox. “Server Not Found.” DAMN YOU, INTERNET.

Saturday, 9:37 a.m.
Try to write music.  Play something that makes me want to look up a song on YouTube.  I hate trying to watch YouTube on my iPhone, so I suppress the urge.

Saturday, 9:38 – 11:00 a.m.
Hopeless meandering.  I finish my coffee.

Saturday, 11:05 a.m.
YouTube withdrawal.  Make puppets with my oven mitts and reenact “Bed Intruder,” singing through a wax-paper covered comb to emulate Auto-Tune.

Saturday, 12:00 p.m.
I try to make my dog do funny things and hold up an empty frame to her to pretend she’s on YouTube.  I decide to title this masterpiece LOLDOG

Saturday, 12:03 p.m.
To make LOLDOG more realistic, I tape a piece of paper with typed comments to the bottom of the frame.  The comments consist of things like, “UR GAYYEEEEE,” “25 dislikes? 25 PPL R CAT LOVERZ! HAR!” and of course, “First!!” 25 posts later.

Saturday, 12:05 p.m.
The star of LOLDOG had enough, ran outside and hid under an Oleander bush.  That’s fine.  I don’t need her; I’ll just join my good friend Aloha Tri-Peaks Solitare on Yahoo! Games and- OH INTERNET I HATE YOU.

Saturday 12:06 – ??
Slump in corner, cradling self.

Saturday 1:30-ish
Sing that song Rose deliriously sings in Titanic while she’s floating on a door next to Leoscicle .

Saturday 3:00pm
Rogue-looking serviceman comes to door.  Lead him to outdoor box because we are confident this disturbance to the universe was because we switched from business to residential, and someone unplugged our line without researching the matter.

Saturday 3:05pm
Rogue-looking serviceman sees unplugged line and pretends like he doesn’t realize what happened.

Saturday 3:10pm
Rogue-looking serviceman turns into knight, Cox van turns into white steed.  He gallops off.  I fall on my knees and raise my arms in exhaltation.

Like this. But with more clothing and less redemption.


Saturday 3:11pm

I go on a 3-hour Aloha Tri-Peaks Bender.