Tag Archives: the good-ish old-ish days

On Monday, the web had a collective panic attack when it was announced that private Facebook messages of days gone by were showing up in public Timelines. It turned out to be a mistake. Users new to the Timeline format, unexpectedly seeing the design on their pages, were confusing public for private, and they were scared. Some news outlets were suggesting that Facebook users make their Timelines temporarily unavailable until the whole thing was certain to be a misunderstanding and not the beginning of libel suits and end of friendships.

But really, what’s the point in temporarily changing settings? If a mistake like this could have happened, it could happen at any time. My list of concerns with what the web is doing to my brain is already quite long – lack of focus and the effects of all this sensory overload. I’m adding more paper to my life, but I refuse add being afraid of social media to that list.

This mistake was a reality check. For all of us. It had me thinking about how much we trust, how blindly we trust, all of these sites – from Facebook to private DMs to our email providers – to protect what we place in the cloud.

The cloud.

The nothing.

We place our everything in the nothing.

If twenty years ago someone described an event like Monday to me, I would have asked why people would share anything important online. Because twenty years ago I was fourteen years old, and I was in the midst of all the drama that comes with middle school. I knew that what we scribbled in notes passed in class was a lot more powerful than what we complained about on the phone or at our lockers during passing period. Fourteen years olds know this.

If I have a bad day and tell a friend in person or on the phone, it’s hardly the same thing as if I send a private Facebook message venting my frustration. What I say in those moments are set in 10-point Arial stone.

I’ve heard it said so often it practically deserves its own needlepoint pillow: “Never say anything online you wouldn’t want repeated on the evening news.” And yet, in 2012, sometimes online communication is the only way people can connect. For business and with our closest friends. This medium has value. Far more is positive than negative. But it’s imperfect. We’re all passing notes in class, and we just need to hope they don’t end up in the wrong hands.

Computers make errors. So do people.

Maybe Monday was a reminder that we need to take control instead of letting the screens control us. Because as we sit texting the people sitting right beside us, as we add more of our everything to the nothing, we can’t control computer glitches, but we can be smart enough to keep track of where we’ve placed out digital footprint.

It reminded me of a bizarre thing that happened a couple years ago.

I got an email from an old therapist out of the blue. The doctor’s email had been hacked. The problem was that these emails were being sent in batches to what I presume were all clients (current or former). Names and emails. I got two emails in one day. All with dozens of names attached. When I got more the next day, I contacted him. Turns out he no longer used that email account, never checked it, and was totally unaware it had happened. Do I think it was irresponsible of him to leave that account collecting dust with a lot of confidential info? Absolutely. But by giving the doctor my email those years earlier, I opened up the possibility that this could happen.

On Monday, I figured if I went through years of Facebook messages I have probably bitched and moaned about work and life and said things I wouldn’t want shared – precisely why they were in private messages to begin with. But I am not going to go back and sift through them and look for things that could possibly cause drama because then I would have to do that every day. And then what’s the point really in using any of this.

Of course, this is totally subjective. I respect anyone who feels more comfortable with deactivating their account until they get the all clear. I just hope they realize that whether it’s Facebook or any other server, every day is like Monday.

If I send a Facebook message to my best friend telling her about my awful day at work, I need to know that by using the web to share my frustration, I don’t entirely own my words. I have to know that there’s always the possibility that a Monday scare could be a reality. It’s a risk I’m willing to take, but it doesn’t mean I don’t expect those overseeing the cloud to take responsibility for keeping an eye on it.


In the last six weeks, it feels like a great deal of talent has left this earth. Maybe I’m more sensitive to it than I would be normally, but really, July and August have been rough on the Hollywood farewells. Really rough.

Monday morning, after learning of the the passing of Phyllis Diller, I thought about how, in some small way, I thank her for my being here. Because for many years that was how the story went. Kind of.

Diller didn’t introduce my parents, but for many years, up until Monday, I was under the impression she’d played a part in letting them know they were meant to be together.

My grandfather is an entertainment attorney and did a lot of work in London. That was where the giant rhinos came from. But somehow, someone tied Diller to the story at some point. I don’t know who. It was just a side note. The rhinos came from London.

A six-foot leather rhinoceros. A four-foot one. And a three-foot one, too. Like The Three Bears only with horns and fine with being sat on.

Crated and shipped from a small workshop in England to Los Angeles, my dad remembered them showing up at the house when he was in his early teens. My grandparents traveled a lot. They brought home different things. He just remembers them one day being there.

When you grow up with giant leather rhinos, you never think to ask, “Where did the rhinos come from?” They’re simply there. Like ottomans and ends tables. Only more fun to climb on.

I grew up in with the Papa rhino in my nursery. I used it to cruise along as I began to walk. Later, my sister and I would go on safaris and have tea parties with him, and he was so well-loved that his tail would end up like Eeyore’s, held in by a nail.

We never named him. I don’t believe any of the rhinos were ever named in our family. Edie Sedgwick called her Papa rhino Wallow, which I remember first seeing at about 15, as I read George Plimpton’s Edie: American Girl. From the pages of VOGUE in the mid-sixties, there was Edie doing an arabesque upon Wallow’s back. It was a pose I’d struck myself many times, only I’d been much smaller and wasn’t holding a cigarette.

The rhinos hold memories for me and my friends, as they do for my father and his childhood friends who always had stories to tell when they see the big guy in my parent’s living room. But the one I grew up with didn’t come from my dad’s childhood home.

It was from my mother’s.

Of all the living rooms in all of Los Angeles, that family of rhinos showed up in both my parent’s childhood homes.

I always loved that. Loved that beyond the story of how my parents met was the Day of the Rhinos. The moment where one saw the trio of Rhinocerotidae at the other one’s house and realized that maybe it was a sign that they were meant to be together. At least that’s how I always imagined it.

If you both live in homes where a trio of rhinos fit nicely amongst the art and furniture and people and pets, it’s kismet. Fate. Call it what you will. It was a sign.

What are the chances that a tiny company in the UK that used the leftover scraps from Liberty’s of London luggage makers to stitch their menagerie would end up crossing paths? Animal footstools were their biggest seller, still are, but the rhinos, especially the larger ones, were a rare order. The one’s on my mom’s side came via Abercrombie and Fitch. Back when Abercrombie was more Mad Men selling cool lucite bar sets then half-clad men outside their flagship stores.

They all began in this same little factory, where even today they’re hand stitched and stuffed, regardless of whether my grandmother bought them on a whim while shopping at Liberty’s of London on Diller’s recommendation or if they were, in fact, a gift. I doubt I’ll ever find out what really happened. But it doesn’t matter much.

Boy meets girl. They place rhinos in rooms instead of elephants. And they live quite happily ever after.

P.S. Jonathan Adler has brought some of these critters stateside. So while the chances are slightly less bizarre that two people could own Omersa pets, they’re still fabulous. You can find the Baby Rhino on his site.

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