Posts filed under ‘Speech’

Excerpt from “Safe Mode”

I was so busy—and so  distracted—I almost didn’t find time to read Google’s newest updates to its privacy policy. The changes would be enacted on March 15, and the symbolism was not lost on me. With less than an hour before the consummate adjustment, a friend dropped off a hard copy of the policy updates. She had altered the text so that a video camera couldn’t easily pick it up.

The apprehension festered in the pit of my stomach. I read down the page to the important part:

Whenever you use our services, we aim to provide you with access to your personal information. If that information is wrong, we strive to give you ways to update it quickly or to delete it – unless we have to keep that information for legitimate business or legal purposes.

A rigid lump welled up in the back of my throat. The broad scope of the language made me dizzy. I scanned the rest of the document. The policy was concise, so I quickly memorized it. Of course, I could have summed it all up in one sentence. But let’s not go there yet.

As I drove toward The Dalles, the following language kept playing in the back of my mind:

Where we can provide information access and correction, we will do so for free, except where it would require a disproportionate effort. We aim to maintain our services in a manner that protects information from accidental or malicious destruction. Because of this, after you delete information from our services, we may not immediately delete residual copies from our active servers and may not remove information from our backup systems.

February 18, 2012 at 3:23 pm Leave a comment

Excerpt from “Safe Mode”

Even if you think you have nothing to hide, it always makes sense to cover your e-tracks. When it used to matter, I had three browsers I’d use for different purposes. Google Chrome was for email, LinkedIn, casual browsing, and other activities I generally didn’t need to purge from my record. Firefox . . . I forget. And then there was Internet Explorer.

At one point, I had two YouTube accounts—one I’d open with Google Chrome, and the other I’d open with Internet Explorer. But then they made you link your YouTube account to your Google account. So I linked my “legit” account to my Google account and dropped the other one, the Internet Explorer one. So there were some videos I just didn’t get to see after that. Which was a shame. It wasn’t like they were illegal or immoral or wrong or anything. I just felt paranoid about looking at anything restricted through my Google account.

I liked at least to pretend I was anonymous. That’s what I’d use Internet Explorer for—all of my anonymous activities. I had some silly username like gemini84 (I’m a Sagittarius and wasn’t born in ’84), and I’d change my password regularly (It would always be something nonsensical like &%$#fraDujlKja9899i9W23). None of that ultimately mattered, but at least I felt I had a sense of autonomy and privacy in a world of virtual spotlights and actual predators.

Turns out I was wise to drop that YouTube account, never to enjoy those restricted videos. Somewhere out there, they really do have more records than the KGB.

December 5, 2011 at 12:28 am 2 comments

Oscar Moments and Quotes

Best Supporting Actress: Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Once she positioned herself behind the podium, Spanish sensation Cruz squealed in delight and warned that she might actually faint. At the conclusion of her acceptance speech, she spoke in Spanish. I will paraphrase her message: To all the Spanish speakers in the world and all those from my country, I share this award with you.

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight

Along with Danny Boyle’s Best Director trophy for Slumdog Millionaire, this was the least surprising award of the night. Many would agree that Ledger’s Oscar for Best Supporting Actor also symbolized the accolades he should have received for his leading role in Brokeback Mountain. As recognized by his immediate family, this award was all-the-more meaningful in that it honored his final film and, in a large sense, his career in its entirety. Kim Ledger, Heath’s father, said that the Academy Award “would have humbly validated Heath’s determination to be validated […] within an industry he so loved.”

Best Actress: Kate Winslet in The Reader (although the Academy certainly had Revolutionary Road in mind as well when casting votes)

When introducing the actress, Marion Cotillard acknowledged Winslet’s “passion, vulnerability, and extraordinary depth.” As she beheld the golden figurine in her hands, Winslet declared, “Well, it’s not a shampoo bottle now.” She had dreamt of this moment since childhood, occasionally using bathroom objects to help her mimic an acceptance speech in front of the mirror.

Best Actor: Sean Penn in Milk

Robert Deniro introduced Penn as a man who puts everything into his work: “Sean Penn, the actor, loses himself in every role.” In the most political speech of the night, Penn urged, “We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.” He described himself as “grateful to be living in a country that is willing to elect an elegant man as president.”

Honorable Mention of the Night: Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler

Sir Ben Kingsley asked the audience of the 81st Annual Academy Awards, “Why do we care for a bleach-blond battered bruiser? Well, there’s one reason: Mickey Rourke.” He then addressed the actor directly: “We’re better off having you in the ring. Welcome back, the returning champ, Mickey Rourke.” While Rourke did not win the coveted Oscar, he did take home a Golden Globe just weeks before. During the after show with Barbara Walters, Rourke admitted that, while winning the Oscar would be an honor, “at the end of the day, you can’t eat it, you can’t fuck it, and it won’t get you into heaven.”

February 24, 2009 at 2:42 am Leave a comment

In Memory of Alex Davis: May 11, 1986 – December 9, 2008

My mother’s friend recently described Alex as a troubled genius. The tragedy behind his sincere compassion and overwhelming intellect was that it existed in direct proportion to a thorough comprehension of all the sadness in the world well beyond his years. Along with his depth and an incredible capacity for kindness and empathy, Alex carried with him a heavy heart. The one relief death brought was the unloading of this incredible burden from his mind and soul.

Carson McCullers, another brilliant yet disturbed soul, wrote The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter in her early twenties. In one of the novel’s pivotal passages, Reverend Blount reflects:

There are those who know and those who don’t know. And for every ten thousand who don’t know there’s only one who knows. That’s the miracle of all time – the fact that these millions know so much but don’t know this. It’s like in the fifteenth century when everybody believed the world was flat and only Columbus and a few other fellows knew the truth. But it’s different in that it took talent to figure that the earth is round. While this truth is so obvious it’s a miracle of all history that people don’t know.”

“Know what?” We might ask. Alex “knew,” and the burden of truth exists in the answer therein.

Alex always wanted to start a family of his own. In fact, my parents thought he would give them grandkids before I ever did. For two summers, Alex worked as an aide for Humble ISD’s Extended Year Special Education Program. After spending a delightful Fourth of July with the students, Alex recounted the experience to his grandmother, Tita: “We had a blast as we celebrated the holiday with a parade!” “A parade?” Tita asked, “How did you have a parade on a school day?” “Well, we marched through the hallways of the school, banging on classroom objects as if they were musical instruments. The pure and simple joy these kids showed on their faces, Tita, it was incredible.” From that point forward, Alex considered a career in special education.

Alex sometimes displayed intellectual and emotional depth in mysterious ways. In high school, Alex had to research the artwork of a famous person who wasn’t known for being an artist. He came home that day and showed me various online images of Hitler’s paintings. “Did you have any idea that Hitler could paint?” he asked me. “No,” I replied, “but that doesn’t change the fact that he was responsible for the Holocaust.” “I know that,” he retorted, “but just imagine what might have been if he had applied his creative energy toward art instead of hatred.” Alex then threw himself completely into the project and produced a brilliant paper on Hitler’s hidden talent. He always reflected upon alternative possibilities instead of tragic realities.

We are on the brink of a revolution, and, at first, I felt immensely regretful that Alex would not get to experience the events in their entirety. But now I think about the huge role he has already played: by voting this November, by graduating at the top of his class from the University of North Texas with a sociology degree, by adamantly expressing his desire for world peace and a more equitable distribution of wealth, by touching so many people with such a limited time frame. Alex loudly and unequivocally demanded so much from those he loved. And it puts me at peace to say that somehow, someway, we gave it to him.


Alex’s online memorial

December 16, 2008 at 5:22 am 6 comments

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