Thoughts on The Circle by Dave Eggers

imagesHello everyone! It’s been a while, I know, but I’ve been so busy lately that I think I might’ve gone a little crazy. And, speaking of crazy, I’ve decided to make this post about Dave Eggers’ novel, The Circle, that came out last year. Since I’m lazy and not feeling too original I’ll just reproduce the blurb from the back of the book here:

“When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime- even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge”

I would like to start out by mentioning that The Circle is one of the most terrifying novels that I’ve read in quite a while. At some points it felt very dystopian – I thought a lot about Orwell’s 1984– but at other times the structure of the fake society felt so close to home that I wondered if it could truly fall into that category. I don’t think the year is ever mentioned but I think the implication is that it’s set in the impending future, which means if you buy into the premise of this novel, you should be quaking with fear and maybe getting a head start finding a home in the deep forest somewhere. However, as clear of a connection as Eggers makes to our own society, I find the story to be largely hyperbolic. Maybe this is Eggers’ intention – to exaggerate his fictional society to get us thinking about our own and the role that technology plays in both. This being said, I would like to mention again that I found this novel to be one of the most terrifying that I have read in a while. And why? Because it demonstrates how a technology can be advertised with a specific purpose (favorable to the masses), but actually has multiple uses (not as discussed or transparent) that may not be as favorable or possibly detrimental to that society. And it was just plain creepy how fast consumers just jumped right on to the Circle bandwagon without even questioning the new product and its impact on their lives just because it appeared to ‘make life easier’.

There were a few things that I found unrealistic but the first that comes to mind is the society itself. There seemed to be no middle ground. With a couple of exceptions (Ty and that one senator being a couple examples) a person in Eggers’ society is either a mindless drone Circler (which I find ironic since these people are supposed to be highly intelligent) or a Mercer-type who gives up technology altogether and tries to drop off the map. I will say though that our view of this world is probably heavily skewed as we rarely get opinions from those outside of the Circle dominion. We only get news and feedback through Circle technology or through Mae who is part of the Circle.

Another thing that made Eggers’ society unlike our own was its insistence on transparency. While I think that the technology that aids in transparency exists, people are more inclined to having the option of deleting or removing undesirable data. But then again people are always saying that once you put something on the internet it’s there forever. It’s like when you try to delete your Facebook account and after like 20 days it says your account has been officially deleted but then if you type in your login information two months later everything is the way you left it. Just because we now have control over what we no longer want people to see doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still exist. And that’s scary.


First time in Europe!

Sometimes I take a few minutes out of my day to wonder what I ever did without internet as a kid. Over the last couple weeks I had a lot more time to consider this question as I DID NOT HAVE ANY INTERNET ACCESS WHILST IN LONDON. I’m now thinking back to the little ol’ enthusiastic me who eagerly brought her laptop along on the trip in the hopes of keeping up with the blog and uploading pretty pictures and stuff. That me was crushed the moment she stepped into her host’s house and realized that not only did she not have wi-fi, but she didn’t even have a computer. Apparently, there’s a growing number of the population there that don’t own laptops/computers everything with the data on their smartphones. I mean, more power to those people but I prefer having a larger screen and a keyboard over a tiny screen and a really annoying little keyboard that I can never seem to manage with my clumsy thumbs. That and autocorrect. Why would you ever subject yourself to the horrors of phone auto correct.

But I digress, I am not here to complain about lack of internet, but to talk about London and all of the things I experienced because I wasn’t on the computer all day. The first piece of British culture I was introduced to after we just arrived and while the rest of my family succumbed to jet lag was the soap operas. My aunt, with whom we were staying, loves them to death and we watched episode after episode while we waited for everyone to wake up. Even if I didn’t want to I really didn’t have a choice because my bed was the living room couch and the only proper television was located in the living room. The three big soap operas there are Coronation Street (which is my favorite out of the three), Eastenders and Emmerdale. There are toms others but these are the three that most of my London family watched most often. These soaps have been going on for decades and I’m almost sure they’ll never end. I must confess, I cannot stand American soaps. But these British ones were strangely addicting. I don’t know why but once you understand a bit of the back story you get really into it. Or maybe it’s just me. And While I’m on the topic of television, please watch the following commercial. You will not be disappointed. In fact, I would go back to England just to see this advert on the television again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8lLUdyaFO0

But as I did not just go to London to watch tv all day here are some pictures from the various places we visited in our travels:

Tower of London

Tower of London

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London Eye

London Eye

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

The Shard

The Shard

Harrod's

Harrod’s

Marble Arch

Marble Arch

Albert Dock, Liverpool

Albert Dock, Liverpool

The scene by Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard

The scene by Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard

Buckingham Palace through the gates. Too many people to get a clear shot

Buckingham Palace through the gates. Too many people to get a clear shot

Wembley Stadium

Wembley Stadium

So these are just a few things we saw along the way. One of the things I love most about London is how diverse it is. New York is diverse as well but just walking down the streets of London I heard so many different languages being spoken – it was beautiful.

Another thing I really love about London is the bus system. New York needs to get on that level. Since we didn’t have a car, we used the buses for our transportation needs and it was so easy to figure the system out. As long as you know which bus to get on (which is easy as long as you have a map, an app, or access to the internet), you’re set. The buses tells you the name of the stop it’s approaching well in advance so you have time to press the stop button and make your way to the doors. I hate taking the buses in NY when I don’t know where I’m going because unless you physically ask the driver to let you know when your stop is coming, it’s all guesswork. Also, most of the London buses are double decker, providing more space for bus patrons and a great view for those up top. I most always got a seat on the buses which is more than I can say for the buses in NY. It’s a little over a pound to ride the buses there (ahem $2.50 and rising mta fare) and the buses have all gone paperless. If you need a ride, you’ll need an oyster card (equivalent to the metrocard except cooler because you get to scan it instead of putting it through a reader that sometimes steals your money if you’re not careful).

There are some things I missed about NY though, like the way we speak. Not the accent – any of the various accents across England are way better than the American ones – but just the way we speak. We use different language for the same idea and it took me a bit to get used to. I mostly thought it was amusing though. London english is just more proper, I’d say. Instead of line they say queue, when your bus goes out of service they say it’s been terminated, they say pram instead of stroller, sublet instead of rent (although I’ve been told they use both), etc. I’ve had quite a few family members make fun of our accent though. We tried to do the same but it’s harder to do it when you’re in their country.

I feel like there’s tons more I need to say and a lot I’ve forgotten at the moment but maybe I’ve already rambled on long enough. Big thank you to all my family across London and in Liverpool that we stayed with, it was amazing to see people I haven’t in years and to meet everyone that I hadn’t yet met. I’m definitely coming back to London someday, just maybe without my parents and brother in tow. I’d love to experience it again with friends by my side.

And finally, a bit of housekeeping: So, I head back to college on Friday. I’m uploading today (Wednesday) rather than my usual Thursday because I want to give myself enough time to pack tomorrow. That being said, as the school year heats up, I already foresee it becoming difficult to post every single week. So be on the watchout – I might change my day of upload and post less frequently but I’ll still be here writing about whatever’s going on at the moment. So, for those who always read my blog, thank you for being supportive and making my summer a great one! Thanks everyone! Catch you later!

A Strange Short Film

Screen shot 2014-08-07 at 7.04.43 PMWow, I almost let today pass without a post. How irresponsible of me!  I’m a little busy today which is weird considering that yesterday was my last day of work for the summer. I know, time goes by so fast – it seems like just yesterday that I was writing about starting work.

And so, with summer’s end fast approaching, you may wonder, ‘well, what are you going to do now?’, and the answer to that is: I’M HEADING TO LONDON!! As a little background, I have family that lives over there. They are always really good about visiting us and almost every time they come we promise that we will one day come visit them. We are finally making good on that promise. I can’t wait to write my post for next week and add all the pictures that I will have taken. It was great being a tourist in my own city but how great will it be to be a tourist somewhere else?!

I’m leaving on Saturday and you can imagine that life on my end is a little crazy with packing and all that. Therefore, I will keep this post short and get to the point. So, earlier on this week, all the interns at the documentary center were supposed to bring in their work for an intern screening. Me, being very wary of sharing my work, went the lame route and brought some black and white photographs that I developed last year, instead of showing the little artsy found footage film that I made. Photographs are one thing but showing something that you worked hard on and want people to like is in two completely different ballparks. Not to say that I didn’t work hard on my photographs – because I spent many hours in the dark room to get them right – but somehow showing the film for me was very different. It’s also in part because I am embarrassed of it a little, I’ve seen it too many times and every single flaw is painfully apparent to me.

Anyway, I did end up showing the film at the screening after being peer pressured into it even though I was highly uncomfortable with the situation. Their reaction was good but this experience made me realize that I am VERY WARY of sharing my work with people. And so to try and get over this, I’ve decided to share it with you here. I guess the premise requires an explanation but I’ve decided to just let you interpret it for yourself. If there are any vlogger fans reading this post, you might be happy to see the material included. Hope you enjoy! Catch up with you next Thursday!

Soundtrack of my Summer (Do you know it’s unlike any other?)

itunes_logoSo…no adventures in the city this week, unfortunately. In fact, nothing much really happened at all if I’m being honest. Just the usual: waking up early and heading off to work. But you know what really helped me get through the week? MUSIC. I know everyone nowadays always has their headphones in, listening as they commute and go about their lives. I’m not really one of those people just because most of the time I can’t be bothered to pack my headphones every day and I kind of like hearing life go on around me. Beats me how people can hear train announcements and the like when music is blaring in their ears. However recently, I’ve started to warm to the practice of listening to music on my commute. And this is for two reasons: 1) It keeps me awake and alert. I know I really can’t doze off on the train when I’m holding my too-big-to-fit-in-my-pocket-phone and it’s all out in the open yelling ‘steal me!’ and 2) the trains have been ridiculously delayed recently to the point that I get so bored and annoyed that I just need music to take my mind off of how much longer I have to stand next to the antsy woman who is practically begging the person in front of her with her eyes to relinquish the seat.

In any case, I wanted to share with you all my most listened to album of the summer! Now before reveal the album title, I just want to say that I became a fan of the artist in question a little over two years ago after his first album was already out. He has a particular style when it comes to songwriting that I guess you either really like or you don’t, but what impresses me the most about him is that all of his songs come from the heart. When he sings it’s just like sitting down and listening to a story and you really feel all the emotions with him as he sings. A fan commented on one his songs to the effect of ‘I don’t know how but he makes me feel so emotional about things that has never happened to me’. Besides his epic song-writing skills, he is also an incredibly talented musician – whenever he performs I can only look on in jealousy. He makes it looks so easy when it’s obviously not. Have you guessed the artist? Any friends reading this post have probably already guessed correctly long ago as I make no secret of my admiration for this man and his music.
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The correct artist is Ed Sheeran! Which would make my most listened to album of the summer ‘X’ or Multiply! May I just say that this album completely blew me away. I mean I loved his first album but this one was AMAZING. The first album introduced that  sweet, heart-wrenching story-telling songwriting style that has become a sort of trademark, while this one kind of shook up that foundation a little bit and introduced more R&B and hip-hop type vibes. I was especially happy that he added more rap tracks to this album because I loved ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’ (which was the only rap track on the first album) and wanted more. His signature style is obviously still there, and I love those songs just as much as I love the other stuff, but it was great to see that he experimented with this album.
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I have a new favorite song every time I listen to the album and I don’t think I can count the amount of times I’ve listened. How often is it that you come across an album where you absolutely love all of the songs?! If I really had to choose though, my favorite song off the album would be ‘Thinking Out Loud’ because it’s so sweet that it brings a smile to my face every time I listen. The first time I heard it I was washing dishes and I had to stop just to do a dance around my kitchen. It’s the kind of cute song someone could get married to. I’ll link it below:

Even though that one is my favorite, the all-time most listened to track on the album is ‘Take It Back’, which is one of the rap songs. I just love it. I love the rap, I love his voice when he sings the chorus – I just love everything. I’ll also link that song below:

In any case the entire album is awesome so check it out!

Runner-up music include:

Any song by Smallpools

Certain songs by Stromae

‘Stay With Me’ by Sam Smith

 

That’s all for today! Catch me next Thursday!

Pretend To Be A Tourist Day

20140718_153800As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m a New Yorker through and through. I’ve lived in Queens in the same familiar house all of my life. When I was little, my parents would take me and my brother into the city to see Broadway plays and while I loved the plays, I think I was enamored with the skyscrapers and bustling crowds even more. Unfortunately for me however, our visits came to an end after we discovered that trips into the city gave my mother headaches. She would get a headache on every single single trip. And I do mean every. single. trip.

As fate would have it though, I ended up attending high school in the city. Now you would think that my constant exposure to Manhattan would somehow lessen the charm that it had over me but I must report that this was simply not true. I’m pretty sure my biggest fantasy in high school was just doing all of the stereotypical New York tourist things just for the fun of it. However, those tourist activities are normally very expensive and I was more than content to just be in the city hanging out with friends rather than being swindled blind like the poor unsuspecting tourists that don’t know any better. 20140718_125005 All this being said, you can imagine how happy I was when I was finally able to fulfill my dream of pretending to be a tourist for the day. It all started last Friday with a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, followed by a lunch at Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, and ending with a stroll through Dumbo, Brooklyn. The weather, may I just say, was absolutely beautiful. The sun was shining and it was a wonderfully warm day – not too hot so that you might want to drag yourself to the nearest body of water and throw yourself in just to cool down. The walk over the Brooklyn Bridge was quite nice. Every now and then, my friend Claudia and I, would stop to take pictures (and selfies) and enjoy a bit of the view along the way. The pedestrian walkway was pretty crowded with people – it was a mix of New Yorkers who had the same idea that we did, New Yorkers who were in a rush to get somewhere (which I don’t really understand – if it’s that urgent take public transportation), and the real tourists who were in awe of everything around them and would frequently stop to take pictures. I was surprised to see, even though I probably should not have been, to see a lot of street vendors lining the way selling their wares and artwork. There were a few of them selling almost identical work in close proximity – to those vendors I can only wish luck. 20140718_130123 Towards the end of our walk on the bridge, we were graced by the presence of a group of university guys walking almost directly on our tails. If we had come to a sudden stop they would have most definitely bumped into us without being able to stop themselves. I felt that I must mention them in this post because they seemed very much a part of our experience after having been so close to us that there were times that I heard their loud, obnoxious conversation over our own. I wish these obnoxious youth well in their endeavors. One can only hope that they learn sometime in the future what a respectable walking distance is.

Excuse my finger at the top left...

Excuse my finger at the top left…

Once of the bridge, Claudia and I made our way over to Grimaldi’s Pizzeria. Grimaldi’s, for those who are unfamiliar, stake claim to the coveted ‘Best Pizza in the City’ and can be found in many a New York City guidebook under ‘Places to Visit’. We soon learned that Grimaldi’s does not serve slices and only takes cash. Yup. If you want to eat at Grimaldi’s you better be hungry for an entire pie. And you better have the cash to pay for it. Anyway, being the famous little pizzeria that it is, there was a line of people extending down the sidewalk waiting for their table (because they also do not take reservations). Claudia and I almost left because we were hungry and there were other places that didn’t have a line extending down the sidewalk but we stuck it out like troopers just to catch a taste of “New York City’s Best Pizza’. And why do they call themselves the best pizzeria in NY? Because each pizza is made in a coal oven which apparently does something for the crust or something (Admittedly, I don’t really care what they make it in…as long as it tastes good). And so the verdict: the pizza was alright. Not mind-blowing like all the reviews boast. I feel like I’ve had better pizza in other places. Grimaldi’s pizza was certainly not bad – it was great – but it was also not the best pizza I’ve ever had. I do encourage people to get on over there though for the experience. The atmosphere of the restaurant and the quick service makes the trip worth your while. 20140718_132807 20140718_142605<img
Bellies full, Claudia and I head over to some park with a great view the NYC skyline where there were a line of folks waiting for the NY ferry. Everything about the park was gorgeous although I was a little put off by the fact that they were selling ice cream for $4 a scoop. That’s so unreasonable! Let’s suffice it to say that I did not get any ice cream that day. Even though I really, really wanted to. I can’t remember the name of the park (curse my memory!) but if you ever come across it or think you can find it based on the clues in this post please note that they do not allow dogs or furniture on their lawns. That’s right. Leave your sofas at home. 20140718_151004 20140718_151151
Anyway, the day ended with a nice stroll around Dumbo, Brooklyn where there were a lot of nice expensive looking eateries and small shops around. On the particular day we went there was a Come Out and Play Festival that some people were setting up for and I do believe it was basically an event where adults could play like little children. We did not attend because I had to head home but we were able to watch some employees make a fool out of themselves while they worked.
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So that was my ‘Pretend to be a tourist Day’! It was great, and relatively inexpensive might I add. I now feel inclined to have more days like this. It’s strangely refreshing to be a tourist in your own city. Maybe next I’ll hop on a boat to the Statue of Liberty, who knows? Catch up with me next Thursday to see what happens next!

Brothers Hypnotic in the Park

2014-03-17-BrothersHypnoticHello Everyone and a happy Thursday to you! I’m a little pressed for time today because I have to work an extra day this week but I wanted to pass along a great event if you are in NYC and enjoy film and music. Maysles Cinema is hosting an event later tonight (7/17) at the Jackie Robinson Park Bandshell in Harlem and it will include music from DJ Laylo followed by a showing of a documentary called Brothers Hypnotic about the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, their beginnings and their career while maintaining their maintaining and showing the world their unique style of music. It’s a beautiful day today here in the city so if you have the time please come out for what should be a good time. And did I mention it’s free! I’ll include the flyer below so take a look at that for all the details. Well that’s all for now, gotta run. Catch you next Thursday!
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Things I’ve Seen

3862382389_680d67017a_oHas anyone seen anything interesting lately? It’s always a dull week when nothing exciting, interesting or strange catches your eye. That’s why I’m always on the look-out – it adds a little spice to my life and a little chuckle to my buckle (<-not an actual phrase, sorry). Here’s my list of interesting/strange things that I’ve seen this week! I wish it was longer but it will suffice…
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1. Gimme Shelter (Albert and David Maysles, 1970)

So I was working through my list of Maysles documentaries and finally got the chance to sit down and watch Gimme Shelter. Gimme Shelter is a documentary about the Rolling Stones as they work their way into giving a free concert at the Alamont Speedway. The first thing I really enjoyed about the film were the shots that Albert and David (the directors) employed. The documentary switches between footage of a concert The Rolling Stones did at Madison Square Garden, shots of the band in the recording studio, shots of the process of preparing for the Alamont free concert, but more interestingly, footage of Mick and Charlie reacting to the footage that we are also seeing. It was great how the film switched between the actual footage and then that same footage on a second screen that the band was watching. The second thing I enjoyed was just watching the band members themselves and how they reacted to certain things and how they reacted with each other. I think I have a new interest in Mick Jagger and a strange fascination with Charlie Watts.
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2. Cracked Actor (Alan Yentob, 1974)

After watching Gimme Shelter I decided to watch another music documentary to see the difference in style between the two films. Cracked Actor is a BBC Tv documentary about David Bowie. The documentary mainly flitted between footage of Bowie’s concerts and then interviews that were done in limousines or backstage and the like. With this documentary I was just really focused on David Bowie’s character. In the film he describes the creation of his different stage personas and how they are all a part of him – different facets of the same person. He also goes into why he had to kill off his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, as a result of the fame. In general, David Bowie came off as a very straaaaange character. Sometimes he would make absolutely no sense and other times I would be so interested with what he was saying and his little mannerisms even though I still would not understand what he was getting at. I don’t really blame myself for not understanding though, because he was famously addicted to cocaine at the time and the film really shows off his delicate mental state.

3. A Friend!

This one’s not a film, surprise, surprise! Yesterday I had the chance to see a friend that I haven’t seen in a long while. She goes to school overseas so I obviously don’t get to see her during the year and she was held back a bit this summer because she got an awesome internship over there (that made me insanely jealous) which delayed her return flight home. She came and visited me at work and we went out for lunch. Nothing fancy, just Subway but it was awesome because it’s really great to see someone in person instead of just messaging all the time. She made my day yesterday!
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And for a bonus I’m including something that I saw this week that I wish I didn’t…

4. A Funky Haired Man

On my way to work on Tuesday I saw a man with a long ponytail on the bus. I thought to myself  ‘wow, his ponytail is so long and luscious’. But then he had to go ruin it by sitting directly in front of where I was sitting on the bus. It was then that I saw with great detail what I previously thought was “long and luscious”. I could see bits of dirt and dust littered throughout the ponytail and there was even a portion that was stuck together by some unidentified substance. But it did not stop there. Unfortunately, it got worse when I saw a little white tick looking bug crawl out of the depths of his ponytail and continue up the length of his hair. I watched on in horror as I started to get the chills and started to feel itchy all over. For the remainder of the ride I felt like things were crawling all over me and I wanted nothing more than to throw myself into the shower. I kept myself as far away from that man as I possibly could but even now when I think about how close I was to him I cant help but shudder.
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And that ends all the note-worthy things that I’ve seen this week! There are others that I’ll probably remember later but whatever. Don’t forget to catch up with me next Thursday!