Death in Orlando and What Else We Could Lose

In the room backs 1 cropped
Pre-Summit “Builders’ Day” where leaders of all races and generations share findings and innovations

Tattoos, weird clothes, tee shirts with funny pictures on them, pink hair, long hair, scruffy hair, sticker-saturated computers — and brilliance, geek humor, and deep respect for one another over generation,  gender, gender identification, religion and race: that was what I saw last week at the Internet Archive Decentralized Web Summit* — called partly to discuss the technology and ethical questions behind an increasingly centralized Web.

I kept thinking all weekend about this diverse crew of genius conference attendees as the horror of the Orlando shootings unfolded.  With it will come the inevitable racial and religious generalizations and this international crew of brainiacs included probably 20%  who, because of name or skin color or accent face a higher likelihood of reflexive suspicion,  potential online monitoring, extra security checks at airports, and frightened glances in elevators, Starbuck’s and movie lines.

Over the next weeks and months, we must decide how our country should respond to what is clearly an increasing threat, especially since mainstream security experts have implied a need for more surveillance, not only in person and through interviews but also online.

I have no answers and am barely fluent in the technologies powering these surveillance tools so there’s very little I can add either to this question or the sad jeopardy into which it may place so many of my new conference friends.  For me though, it’s another  – and very important – ripple in the pool of our outrage.

*New Connections
We are bringing together a diverse group of Web architects, activists, engineers, archivists, scholars, journalists, and other stakeholders to explore the technology required to build a Decentralized Web and its impact.

Call to action
The current Web is not private or censorship-free. It lacks a memory, a way to preserve our culture’s digital record through time. The Decentralized Web aims to make the Web open, secure and free of censorship by distributing data, processing, and hosting across millions of computers around the world, with no centralized control.



Bonnie_and_clydeLast Sunday the New York Times reminded us that Bonnie and Clyde, a film seared behind the eyelids of people like me, is 40 years old.  I remember it particularly because just after I saw it, I went to a 21st birthday dinner for a friend at her uncle’s home on Park Avenue in Manhattan.  I was new to such places then, and, despite my anti-war lefty politics, both thrilled and intimidated – particularly because her uncle was a writer of some renown.  For a college senior, it was another experience milestone.

Along with most of adult America, our host had been appalled at the violence of the film.  We, on the other hand, argued that the film was an accurate metaphor for the violence in Vietnam; a social comment that spoke deeply to all of us.  The argument was long, fierce and audacious — and, of course, unresolved.  I haven’t seen the film in many years and am curious how I would react.

I’ve become a lot more sensitive to visual violence as I’ve raised my sons.  Beverly Hills Cop was released when my younger son was five.  His big brother was nine and really wanted to see it; since we hated leaving Dan behind, he came too.  Do you remember the ending?  It was a gun battle too but multiples more gory and violent than Bonnie and Clyde ever dreamt of being.  The worst part?  My son was upset, yes, but the audience barely reacted – and many cheered.  Film and TV violence in the years between 1967 and 1984 had escalated slowly, right in front of us – and we had barely noticed.  That progression has continued.

It’s a creepy dilemma. I’m a true romantic who revels in love stories like Bull Durham (1988) and  Shakespeare in Love (1998), oldies like Now, Voyager (1942) and two I’ve written about before, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)and Rebbecca (1940) as well as decade-old satires like Wag the Dog (1997)and Warren Beatty’s (aka Clyde’s) masterpiece Bulworth (1998).  But another of my favorite films is Pulp Fiction (1994)- steeped in violence, much of it random.  Silence of the Lambs, too.  And of course, The Godfather Trilogy (1972, 1974, 1990)   None of these, and other more "realistically violent" films, would have been possible before  Arthur Penn brought Bonnie and Clyde to life.

My protective instincts as a mother and activist clash with my respect for the vision of the artist and the gifts those visions can bring to the rest of us.  This isn’t a new conversation of course, any more than it was new in 1967.  It’s been going on as long as artists have.  What’s different this time is that I was a kid when Bonnie and Clyde slammed into our lives; now I’m at least the age of that angry uncle.  I know a lot more and that colors how I look at things I don’t know.

I named this blog Don’t Gel Too Soon because I struggle to stay open – available to understand, to appreciate, that which comes next, and to remember that no matter how lovely the lovely there’s more to life than that.  And that, after all, if someone doesn’t help us to see it, we can’t join together to change it.


Weeping_sketch_3 When you first hear the term "cyberstalking" you think it’s a joke.  Well guess what.  It’s not.  Read this.  It’s the post of a prominent blogger who has canceled speaking engagements and remains frightened and close to agoraphobic because of vicious  and threatening online attacks, both verbal and visual.  I started to post one of the photos, but just couldn’t do it.  So instead you see how I felt upon reading Kathy Siera’s post. 

Death threats, violently edited photos of bloggers as well as violent, vicious prose, are a grave threat not only to women blogers (it appears that women are particularly targeted) but to the wonder that is the blog universe.  Those who oppose such behavior have to take a stand – we’re the activist types anyway or we wouldn’t be writing so publicly.  SO. Andy_carvin_3

Here, from the wonderful, generous Andy Carvin (left) and other sites, are some things we can do:

Join Stop Cyberbullying, a site created by the aforementioned Andy Carvin.

Post on our own blogs and/or post comments on participating blogs – which Andy will include in "Stop Cyberbullying" site

Visit and share existing resources like or this parent brochure

Learn more from other sites like this one.

Check out BlogHer co-founder Lisa Stone’s Hating Hate Speech, in which she discusses this issue and offers the BlogHer community guidelines.

Think of something else, do it and post the idea on Stop Cyberbullying.  OH  and remember to tag anything you write about this with the stopcyberbullying tag so it will show up in searches.  Let’s not be silent in the face of this threat to our community.  Thanks, Andy, for giving us a tool to make noise!


Leftbehindgames_promoToday on AlterNet – a wonderful aggregator of things political, there appeared the rather remarkable tale behind production of the video game Left Behind.  Based on the phenomenally best-selling series of books set during the arrival of the End Times and the Rapture, it sounds like it’s pretty violent for a religious game. 

I guess though that the entire story of the End Times is pretty grim.  I remember thinking that back when I first heard of these books.  It was around 7 years ago, when the first one came out.  I wandered back to the galley on a cross country flight and found the flight attendant transfixed, deeply involved in the story.  We spoke of it for some time; it meant a great deal to her.

Duck_and_cover_photo_2 I have always found apocalyptic stories riveting.  Maybe it’s growing up in the "duck and cover" era but the idea of the world ending in fire seemed so plausible in those times*  I was deeply affected by it, I think.  If you had to go under your desk in 2nd or 3rd grade and put your crossed hands over your neck, you’d be scared too.   

In addition to our air raid drills, there were books and movies like Alas, Babylon, On the Beach, and dozens of other nuclear disaster tales.  They were full of small, horrible moments.  I was pretty young but I remember, from Alas Babylon, mobs storming drugstores and looting them for medicine.  Even now it is probably the image of nuclear war that sits most viscerally in my mind.  My father had high blood pressure – and was lost without his hearing aid – and I remember fearing that a war would take away his medication and the hearing aid batteries that connected him to us.

The bombs always came from countries back then.  Now of course all it takes is a suitcase and some under-funded port security to empower someone bent on destruction.  It probably is no accident that the Left Behind books are so popular — there’s so much uncertainty and so much that’s frightening.  Which brings us back to the game.  Somehow it seems less acceptable to insert violence into a religious game, but as I become accustomed to the weekly reading of Torah portions I realize the bloody violence in the Bible itself.  Even God was not immune – his anger was swift and deadly.  The understanding of that somehow seems, at least partially, to justify the violence of apocalyptic literature.

So.  No conclusions — just a riff for a Wednesday night.  And the thought that if violence emerges so often in sacred works it’s an acknowledgment of those things in our natures that challenge us most… to keep our own rage, envy and hatred from popping out and contributing to chaos — in real life, on the pages of a book, or on an XBOX 360.


There is a new anti-terrorism campaign running on TV networks across the Middle East.  I have no idea if its reach is worthwhile but it is encouraging so, assuming that most of you don’t get all the newsletters and links that I receive, I’m telling you about it here.  The first ad seems remarkably understated and the second quite melodramatic but it’s interesting that they exist.  I do tend to be a bit of a Pollyanna about such things so include here some of what AP has said about the campaign – but watch a sample on the link below before you read on.Iraq_anti_violence_1

[Click here to view]

According to AP: “The U.S. government refuses to say clearly whether it’s involved in the commercial, which began airing this summer on Al-Arabiya, Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. and several Iraqi channels at a time when violence was raging in Baghdad and between Hezbollah and Israel. . . .A Los Angeles warehouse district filled with 200 cast members stood in for the market during the ad’s filming earlier this year, according to a statement by California-based 900 Frames, which helped produce the commercial. During the filming, 900 Frames said that the group behind it, the Future Iraq Assembly, wanted to remain anonymous. The group, which also is behind a series other of Iraq-specific ads, describes itself as an independent, non-governmental organization, comprised of a number of scholars, businesspersons, and activists. The Assembly’s site gave an e-mail address but did not respond.

If anyone is in a position to know more about this or to live in that part of the world and have perspective to offer, I hope you will do so.  The news has been so terrible and the prospects of our position in that part of the world so dreadful that it is encouraging to see people stepping up to take responsibility for trying to put the fire out -at least for those in Iraq.  What do you think?  I’m especially interested in what my friend Lori at Sand Gets in My Eyes, living in Saudi Arabia, thinks and what ad maven Liz at Mom-101 has to say — and in YOUR ideas.