Category Archives: Celebrity

Your External Brain and the iDrain

imagesI read recently how having a smartphone is like having a slot machine in your hand. Every time you pick it up, you wonder what you’ll get. You’ve just got to know what you’ve received since you put it down.  On your email, texts, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Three cherries?

A friend said, “Having this object within your reach is addicting.” I thought she meant that having the Encyclopedia Britannica in hand to answer your every question in the moment was addicting. She meant the slot machine.

There are other effects: texting neck, thumbs supposedly growing larger, people losing the ability to read facial cues, families texting instead of talking within the home, device lights bedside ruining sleep, mysterious waves irradiating our brains…who knows? For sure: teens hiding in their darkened rooms gaming (weird) instead of fleeing their parents (normal) to run around in the woods (healthy).

A woman on a plane told me she’d instructed her grandkids, “Leave those things in the car.” Horrified, they asked, “What will we do?” Her response:  Talk to each other.

When people go on such “screen diets,” limiting their hours on devices, they feel freed yet perilously untethered. When we misplace our phones we absolutely panic, the cost and nuisance aside. We are disconnected, lost at sea. An animal cut off from its herd. Danger!

I once asked a techy friend a techy question and he said he knew the answer at one time but no longer needed to commit anything to memory because his External Brain had all the answers. How many times have you looked up a fact on your device and immediately forgotten the answer? Because you don’t need to know it any more.

Your “multi-purpose mobile computing device” has crazy stuff inside: a magnetometer, proximity sensors, barometer, gyroscope and accelerometer (Wikipedia!). Is all that in our internal brains?

The stats about smartphone use – 3 hours daily for adults, way more for teens – boggle.  A decade ago it was 90 minutes. Apps are designed for addiction, with intentionally varying (slot machine!) reward patterns that tease your brain’s reward circuitry. We’re hooked.

With my phone, I mainly communicate – a lot.  I’m hooked on communicating. I stress when I realize I haven’t responded to a missive, when the reality is that people send so many that they are hardly waiting for my answer.

If your kid constantly consulted an encyclopedia, you’d be thrilled. That’s the gorgeous Internet. But how many people are doing this? I do searches and read various newses, but mostly I’m texting and forwarding funny stuff. I “Google” with tremendous urgency things like, “Who’s hosting SNL?” or “What does Serena Williams weigh?” Not: “What is a Rhodes Scholar?”

So despite what most impresses about our devices — the world at our fingertips — many IMG_9440use ours mostly to spread joy. Nice! Until: suddenly the day’s over and your free time went down the iDrain. Your room untidy, tasks incomplete…and that class you were gonna take? The bridge club you were to form? All gone. When I’m in Boston I’m texting Vermont and when in Vermont I’m texting Boston when, really, who cares what I’m up to? Why do I have to “report in?” Send a photo? Suggest a restaurant?

I mostly quit Facebook. Because every time I went in, OOPS, there went another :45. I could’ve learned a musical instrument in the hours I wasted reading rampant, silly pandering in there – “Beautiful!”, “That roast looks delicious!” or, the worst, “You look like sisters!” where a woman and her daughter are pictured. Madness.

The line for phone etiquette is ever moving. First, it was rude to talk on your phone in an elevator with trapped others listening to the asininity of your half-convo. Then that became fine, then to be on your phone at a meal. Then to set your child up at a restaurant with an iPad, no earbuds. We don’t look up from our phone when people speak to us. We answer their questions while typing. Lately, I don’t look at them while we’re talking no matter what I’m doing. I first ascribed that to the increased concentration required in your 50s for word retrieval and recalling the names of celebrities. I’m staring a chair leg trying to describe a movie (Ryan … Gosling? Wait: Reynolds … er … O’Neal? Let me check my External Brain.) No, I’m not old; I’m just rude.

hare IIWhat’s  the solution? Tweet suggestions to #rudeandgoingblindfromlooking10inchesawayallday. Happy Pesach, Happy Easter, and good day.

I can be reached at or @uvgvt. Or by opening your mouth and forming words I receive with 2 sensors on my head.


I Dare You to Watch This Only Once

Catch Joe Bonamassa Live

Joe B lgJoe Bonamassa, iconic blues guitarist who was a child prodigy played with the likes of B.B. King, usually plays big, bluesy shows with the asskicking bands he puts together, in a (happily, for us) relentless tour schedule.

This show, while technically acoustic, does not feel small and everything about it rocks the house (note Australian backup singers’ costumes). The only dates left are right away in NY but I can’t help but hope he trots some of this material out similarly in his Germany, UK and US spring tours because this (sometimes Middle Eastern-influenced) show blew the minds of Burlington right into the cosmos. I’m definitely getting the album when it appears. Here’s who’s playing with him and if you can get tickets, for God’s sake GO. You won’t regret it.

*Forgive my crappy photo. Not pictured is Tina Guo, Chinese cellist whose expertise spans from classical to heavy metal, nor her astonishing gown or insane musical stylings.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

RogersMy contemporaries and I found Mr. Rogers hokey. Whether it was the sweater or our age or a distaste for puppetry, we didn’t watch. In college, we bandied about the word “special” with great sarcasm, the invoking of “specialness” ensuring snickers. Yet when the anniversary of Mr. Rogers’ testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications

occurred on May 1 and its video made the rounds, his words regarding just that – specialness – had a profound effect upon me that has lasted all month.

Here was a guy who was just, essentially, good. Not only inherently good, he did good. You can be good without doing any particular good, but he was and did — without flash or cloying sentimentality or maudlin pity for those less fortunate. He really felt, I think, that all men are created equal. He talked and walked it without raising his voice.

He recounted, in the 1969 hearing, how when the money ran out, viewers of (then young) PBS from all over said, “We’ve got to have more of this neighborhood expression of care.” He addressed the no-nonsense Senator John Pastore from Rhode Island (formerly the Governor of Rhode Island and the first Italian American elected governor or Senator), urging that non-violent children’s programming was critically important. That “it’s much more dramatic that two men could be working out their feelings of anger … much more dramatic than showing something of gunfire.”

rogers bwFred Rogers humbly explained to the gruff toughie senator (whose mother had supported 5 children as a seamstress when his father died and who was unfamiliar with Mr. Rogers Neighborhood): “This is what I give. I give an expression of care every day to each child, to help him realize that he is unique. I end the program by saying, ‘You’ve made this day a special day, by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you, and I like you, just the way you are.’” As I watched this gentle man telling a senator over 40 years ago something so simple, arguing for funding to continue spreading his message, I realized what I’d been missing all along in my youthful superiority complex.

In a world consumed by the accumulation of wealth and fine objects, there is a lot to be said just for just being a decent guy. I don’t know if they still give it out, but years ago my friend’s young son in Randolph received an award at school for being a good person. I bawled at the news, overcome that this quality was considered worth honoring, and proud of the boy. I don’t think Mr. Rogers likely made a lot of money. If he did, he didn’t spend it on his clothes; he probably gave a lot of it away. He probably didn’t live in a fancy house or drive a fancy car; most Presbyterian ministers don’t.

Who is more influential, ultimately: a gorgeous actor or accomplished businessperson or a hot heiress or a leathers-rocking NASCAR stud…or an unassuming man who let millions of children know – back when people didn’t say such things to children very often – that it’s okay to feel lonely or angry or scared; it’s what you do with it that matters? And more importantly, that they mattered. Who’s contributing more to planet earth? I guess it depends on who’s judging. My money’s on Rogers.

For me, it’s become, increasingly, quite enough for people to be and do good. We don’t need a sports car or a big title or awards of any kind. I’m happy competing with my friend to see who can immerse self in the river the latest in October. I’m not disparaging those who achieve great things. I’ve known persons who’ve won an Oscar and the French Open and I’ve held Hannah Kearney’s gold medal in my hand; I’m awed by all three. But I’m equally in awe of helpers. Inner city teachers. Nurses. People with disabled children who fight for them and do their best to give them lives with meaning. And people who are good at anything at all. Making a grilled cheese sandwich. Cultivating a flower garden. Fishing. And nutters who amass Certificates … for, like, Evelyn Wood’s Speed Reading. Rock on.

Neighbor, please take today to think about your value. The way you make strangers snort at the grocery store. The trash yourogers iii collected on Green Up Day. The pet you chose from a shelter. The estranged friend you wrote even when it was awkward because so much time had gone by, but you knew he was in a hard situation. I’m not sure what I’ve done with my life. I do endeavor, in general, to make people feel good. And to remind them, while their difficulty, or their friend’s, may have little or no upside, how Mr. Rogers once said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.

I think you’re special. There’s no person in the whole world like you and I like you, just the way you are. Good day.

“10 surprising things you may not know about Martin Luther King Jr.”

MLKMLK’s 1963 March on Washington speech is as stirring as the first time you heard it. Favorite parts include “When will you be satisfied?” in the middle and “Go back!” after that. His transcendent oratory backed by tireless work! His beautiful face!

Here are some fakts with the video of the speech. Listen this time with an ear to the church-style MLK Man of the Yearencouragement from listeners near the mike (“Yes!”  “Uh huh.” “Amen!”). Video of the crowd is great.  Mahalia Jackson’s interesting contribution noted here with stills of that day.

Today I will write a check to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Morris Dees’ outfit does sooper cool stuff, like (legally) taking a white supremacist compound and turning it into a summer camp for disadvantaged youth of color. Oh man, that is justice, baby. Amen.

Santa and Me

Santy Claus, Cyn and me poss. 1989…a really long time ago. This was the official shot you got in SantaLand at Macy’s Herald Square, avec “frame.” If you’ve never read David Sedaris’ Holidays on Ice, which includes his stint as an elf there, it’s a heartwarming holiday classic not to be missed.

This guy clearly wasn’t “Santa Santa” (read the book). I think he was more like “Hungover Santa” or “This Is My Lucky Day So Why Ain’t I Smiling Santa.” “Busted Femur Santa?”He may have been concentrating on the cameras or sensors in his beard.

Man, Wish I’d Seen the Tonys


Neil Patrick Harris.

If just for this unreal opening number.

NPH is a total God and Broadway is his playground.

The lyrics, his laugh, the fans going wild, the sheer enormity of it….

ALAS, the cruel, cruel psychos at NBC took it down from every site (via, no doubt, strongly worded letters)–if someone you know recorded it, for the love of God, go watch the opening number!!!

The Mullet is Making a Comeback


Well, business in front when you have a SHIRT on.

The mullet goes back to the 60s. But that nascent coiff wasn’t the x-treme Kentucky Waterfall the mullet (d)evolved into. No, the Tennessee Tophat, Ape Drape, Missouri Compromise, Camaro Cut, Louisiana PurchaseSho-long, Mississippi Mudflap, or what we in Vermont like to call the Canadian Passport reached its perfected plumage potential — fueled for take-off by Bono and MacGyver and adapted by NASCAR trendsters into the sooperhot, pants-dropping fem-mullet — in the 1980s. When fashion did things it had never done before and hopefully will never do again. Business in the front, party in the back…right on.

As People of Walmart have proven, the mullet is making a comeback.

[April Fools’.]

Oscar Oscar Oscar!

kristen-stewart-crutchesLast night’s Oscars amazed, delighted, and appalled–from riveting flop sweat moments to charming winners and iffy dresses to the incredibly odd closing number. The vampire actress seemed a limping pill-popper and sullen presenter but I for one liked that, having wearied of clean living by high achievers. I was hoping she’d been in a cat fight or lover’s brawl but she reportedly stepped on glass. Let’s hope it was at least in a fraternity basement.

Gone forever are the awful thematic dance numbers by pro dancers–replaced with the weak dancing of the stars redeemed by the nutty hosting of Seth McFarlane & kicka** belting by divas. With the usual display of comical reaction shots, shifting bodices, and weepy spouses, we laughed, we cried, we aged. Thank you, Oscar.

UVG recommends: Argo, Pi, and The Impossible. All 3 big screeners for different reasons.

And 2011 closes with…

another golden celebrity shenanigan.  Gerard Depardieu’s famously questionable rape comments — and my personal lack of comprehension at his appeal — aside, this CNN piece that’s more SNL is notable for Anderson Cooper’s snickering.  We loves to see a pro just totally lose it. And if 2011 wasn’t about losing it, I don’t know what it was about.

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