Posted by dahosek

Who were all those Facebook friends anyway?

It’s been a year since I’ve dropped off of social media. I occasionally fall off the wagon when I check the Twitter account for but for the most part I’m social media free and happier for it.

That said, I was a bit curious about who the people I was friends with on Facebook were. I’d engaged in some ruthless pruning of my friends list, clearing out the people posting racist and sexist stuff (and then in 2020 also anyone who thought that that Plandemic video was worth sharing). Maybe a better person could have engaged with them and brought them to reason. I’m not that person.¹

In my last days on the site, I tediously made a list of all 420 people I was friends with on Facebook and put them into a spreadsheet so I could make all sorts of nerdy charts graphs and calculate random statistics.

First off, how did I meet these people?

Family 5.7%	Early childhood 1.4%	Grade School 10.7%	High School 16.2%	College 14.0%	Grad School 18.1%	Church 7.4%	Music 6.0%	Work 1.7%	Online 4.8%	Writing 6.4%	Type 1.4%	Other 5.5%	Never Met 5.7%

 The categories are arranged roughly chronologically and there is some overlap (e.g., people I knew from early childhood—i.e., non-family who I knew before I started kindergarten, were often also grade school classmates and grade school classmates often high school classmates, but no other overlap beyond that really) which is why the percentages add up to more than 100%. The big categories, grad school and high school come down to when Facebook was a big thing (Facebook became a big communications medium for my MFA program) and the fact that early on, I used to accept/extend invitations to pretty much anyone I went to high school with.

Some categories call for explanation: Music is folks I was in various non-church-related musical groups with over the years (once upon a time I was a pretty active bass player), online is folks I only ever knew from online communities, writing is people I knew through writing activities, and type from my days when I was big in the typography world.

Given where I grew up that was overwhelmingly white and the overall state of American society, my racial breakdown of friends isn’t so great:

? 0.2%
Asian 4.5%
Black 3.8%
Latino 6.9%
White 84.5%

The gender breakdown was 56% male and 43.8% female with one person of unknown gender (I have no idea who “Dain Deon” is or was). I may have misidentified some people’s gender who don’t identify as male or female.

One thing that I found interesting was that Facebook “outed” a number of LGBT folks² in my friends list. In some cases it was their own activity, in other cases, it was the algorithm suggesting that because C⸻ was interested in a pictures of men in their underwear group perhaps I would be too. In most cases though, it was more a case of the person being out and my just not realizing they weren’t straight. My possible undercount had 5.7% of my friends being LGBTQ with almost half of them outed to me through Facebook.

Other interesting stats: 2.4% of my Facebook friends were dead, 11.2% were musicians, 27.4% were writers, 2.1% clergy, 2.1% used pseudonyms, 5.5% had deactivated their accounts and 2.9% were people that I looked at their profiles and had absolutely no idea who they were (although in some cases, I was able to figure it out eventually).

  1. And let me just say, a huge number of the people I grew up with are disturbingly racist. And this was a big motivator to dropping out of Facebook. They weren’t people that I would have continued friendships with later in life if Facebook didn’t exist so why would I want them in my life just because Facebook does exist. A couple of hours in a banquet hall every ten years for a high school reunion is plenty of exposure to these folks for me.
  2. My prize-winning outing story, though, would be the actor Dennis O’Hare who I met on a walk from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica who was outed to me by Gus Van Sant when the director appeared on Fresh Air.

Three poems in new anthology

I had three poems come out this weekCover of Rising Voices in the anthology, Rising Voices: Poems Toward a Social Justice Revolution. These are all part of my Chicago Sonnets series.

Chicago Sonnet #4 has its origins in a research paper I wrote in high school where, somewhat enamored of my role on the school paper, I decided to focus on journalism and picked two books from the school’s library to write about. One was Mencken’s Minority Report, a collection of short notes and observations. The other was a collection of articles written by Carl Sandburg for the Chicago Daily News about the 1919 race riots in Chicago.¹ Reading about this stuck with me (and it’s interesting that so few people are aware of this chapter in Chicago history) and when it came time to write sonnet #4, I decided to have it focus on this particular event. Of course, since I originally wrote it, the poet Eve Ewing has written a whole book of poems on the subject which covers it far better than I could ever have accomplished.

 Chicago Sonnet #27 tells of the fate of Cabrini Green, long the bogeyman of Chicago’s public housing, its location was far too valuable to be squandered on poor people and so the community that did exist there (Mary Schmich’s² articles in the 1990s for The Chicago Tribune were a great source of my own knowledge of the neighborhood even when I lived less than a mile away while reading them) was erased so that luxury housing could take its place.

Chicago Sonnet #29 was inspired by free-style rap and how rhyme was retained and meter largely discarded. Using this to give the perspective of a young Black man on the streets of the West Side is something that I’m still not entirely comfortable with and perhaps should the sonnets ever be collected it may find itself replaced with a different poem but for now it will stand in that number’s place.

  1.  One of the distinct memories I have about writing this paper was going to the downtown Chicago library to pull up microfilms of contemporaneous reporting on the riots. At that time, the original main library in what is now the Chicago Cultural Center was closed and the Harold Washington Library had not yet opened so there was a temporary facility on a couple-three floors of a high rise somewhere in Streeterville. 
  2. Schmich’s greatest claim to fame is being the author of “Wear sunscreen” which has been widely circulated as being a graduation speech given by Kurt Vonnegut. She deserves the full credit for a brilliant piece of writing (which I’d first read when it was published in her column space in the Tribune. She also is a Claremont Colleges graduate (Pomona College to be precise) which is another big plus for her. I’d say something about the shared mascot for Pomona and Pitzer where I got my degree but I don’t think in my years in Claremont, I ever met anyone who ever attended any sort of athletic event who wasn’t participating in some fashion.
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Writerly resolutions for 2022

My goals for the year:

  1. Goals are nice, but remember that they don’t really matter. I’ll get done what I’ll get done, acceptances are out of my control.
  2. Get We, the Rescued through the rewrite and revision stage and then get some people to read the whole damned thing.
  3. I’ve got eight stories that have been workshopped but not gotten post-workshop revision. I need to prioritize getting those kicked off my computer.
  4. I need to get myself finishing some of those unfinished (or unstarted) stories that are lurking about, but trying to workshop monthly is a bit insane. It’s fine to pull back a bit if necessary.

Writerly resolutions for 2021–the post mortem

I set ambitiousGraph of the progress on the novel showing the completion of the first draft and the beginnings of the rewrite goals for 2021 and I failed at them all. Perhaps I should set less ambitious goals? Or perhaps I should remember that the goals don’t matter in the end and that creativity doesn’t follow schedules and spreadsheets.

I had two goals for the year:

  1. Work on We, The Rescued daily until I’ve got it ready for other eyes to look at.
    I didn’t do too bad on the daily part. I only missed 5 days’ work on the novel, but I didn’t get the first draft done as quickly as I would have liked and I’m still some distance from finishing the rewrite.
  2. Workshop a new piece of fiction monthly.
    I workshopped something every month, but I had to dig into my stash of rejected stories that I still want to submit most of the time. I did succeed in getting two new pieces into workshopping, but that’s ten less than twelve.

But even with missing my goals, I did have two stories and five poems accepted in 2021, so there’s room to not be too hard on myself over my performance.

2021 in rejections (and acceptances)

2021 was a pretty good year for me publication-wise. I’ve not been that good about getting stuff out the door, but what I have submitted has been well-received. In fiction, I managed to have fewer responses this year than last despite the fact that in 2020 I didn’t actually submit anything¹ and this year I did. I do feel like my new writing group has done a lot to up my game so while my acceptance rate was only marginally higher, my tiered response rate was my best ever.

Graph showing my total acceptances, tiered responses rejections and lost submissions since 2007. This year 37% of responses were tiered or acceptances with a 3.8% acceptance rate

Publications this year were “Saint Anthony in West Hollywood” and “The Norton Anthology of Self-Destructive Behaviours.”

 Poetry was also a pretty good scene for me this year, I had my best acceptance rate ever and my best rate of tiered responses as well.

Graph of poetry rejections I sent more stuff out this year, but more stuff got accepted too.

Most of the publications are coming out later in 2022, with just one poem, “Chicago Sonnet #19,” coming out in 2021.

  1. All of my 2020 rejections and acceptances were for pieces submitted in 2019.

Things that delighted me in 2021 (that aren’t books)

I thought it might be a nice thing this year to add in some lists of the things that delighted me this year that aren’t books.

I’ll start with Is that Ted Danson? No it's Ted just standin' there.White-haired Ted Danson. My least favorite thing about Cheers back in the day was Ted Danson, and that made me less inclined to pay much attention to the qualities of him as an actor and while I did watch movies like Cousins and Made in America, it was more despite Ted Danson than because of him. But this year, I’ve come to really appreciate him, whether it’s on Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Good Place or my latest binge, Bored to Death, he brings just the right level of whatever it is he has to his role making White-haired Ted Danson the best Ted Danson ever.

Like most white-collar professionals, I’ve been working at home and I splurged earlier this year on a huge monitor. In this case, I got an LG 38UC99-W 38-Inch 21:9 Curved UltraWide monitor.

One big-ass monitor

There’s something about having all the extra space that was totally worth the roughly $900 I spent on this thing. It works nicely divided into thirds so I can do things like have one-third dedicated to a web browser and the other two-thirds  set up for programming work, or when I’m writing, I’ll have three windows across it, one with the manuscript I’m working on, another with notes and the last with a browser for active research. Even more than fear of Covid, I’m reluctant to not work from home because I won’t have a great monitor like this in the office.

I’ve only been to the movie theater once this year (on my birthday) and I hope to get out one more time beforeStarro the Conquerer year’s end, but I saw on a large-ish screen at my brother’s house, The Suicide Squad, a movie which is not afraid to dive into the inherent absurdity of super hero movies with its cast of B-grade villains acting the hero role. The DC movies have largely been a huge disappointment, especially given the superior quality of their Marvel competitors, but Warner Brothers did the smart thing here by snatching James Gunn during his separation from Disney and giving him free reign to make the movie that the first Suicide Squad could have been. I’m looking forward to seeing the spin-off series that Gunn has made for HBOMax that will be coming out in early 2022.

Finally, my biggest delight of 2021 was the Covid vaccine. It’s absolutely amazing that a year and a day after everything shut down from Covid, I was able to get a vaccine that would greatly reduce my chances of getting Covid and enable me to finally go to my parents’ house and hug my mom. This was a fucking miracle of science.

And then, Fox News and the Republican Party decided to fuck things up by leaning into their Covid denialism by turning into anti-vaxxers.  I honestly cannot understand this. Boost your short-term profits by making your viewers and voters more likely to get sick and die? But then again, I still have to remember that this scene was written, filmed and aired before anyone knew that Covid was going to be a thing. If it were written now, everyone would be declaring it too on the nose.

My favorite reads of 2021

I’m going to do something a bit different this year. Much less on the numbers other than the top line of 85¹ books read this year with 50.1% by women and 38.6% by non-white authors.

 I’ve been a bit better about finding time to read without my commute by “L” to give me the time with my books. Even so, I 85 is less than my goal of 100.

I started the year with a few books by women, with Siân Griffith’s The Heart Keeps Faulty Time being the first book that really blew me away. It’s a slender book, but I can remember being torn between savoring it and tearing through it as I read.

Charles Yu’s How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe came close on the heals of reading Griffiths. Everyone else was reading his latest book, Interior Chinatown, but this popped up higher on my to-read list and it was an amazing book and made me eager to read more of Yu’s writing.

As part of my Dewey Decimal Project, I read Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire trilogy² and was absolutely blown away by it. It feels in many ways what Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States should have been. This is the book that I keep bringing to other people’s attention.

I only read one book in Spanish this year, and it was the slender La Historia de mis Dientes by Valeria Luiselli. I read Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive last year and wasn’t that impressed by it. My sense, coming at this book, is that Luiselli is a more compelling writer when she writes in her native Spanish than when she writes in English which seems to make her more conventional in her voice.

Kristen Radtke’s Seek You: A Journey through American Loneliness was a revelatory read. Radtke managed an amazing mixture of words and pictures for her illustrated essay that allowed the text to have even greater strength than it would have on its own.

  1. Assuming that I do indeed finish the two books I expect to finish by Friday.
  2. Strictly speaking, I only read the first volume as part of my Dewey Decimal Project but I was so taken by it that I made a point of reading the other two volumes at the first opportunity.
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1000 rejections (poetry)

Today’s mail brought poetry rejections 999–1,001. It took a lot less time to hit 1,000 poetry rejections than fiction, not least of why being that poems are generally sent in packets of 3–5 and even an acceptance includes a handful of rejections. And then there’s the fact that I’m not that good of a poet (my overall acceptance rate for fiction is double my acceptance rate for poems).

So now, just as with my 1000th fiction rejection, I’m off to subscribe to the rejecting journal, in this case Atlanta Review.

New poem in California Quarterly

I just got in the mail the latest issue of California Quarterly (Vol. 47, No. 3, which for some reason is not yet listed at their website) which includes my poem, Chicago Sonnet #19. 

Postcard of the Beverly House. On the left, an exterior view of the restaurant from Beverly Blvd. Top right picture of food, bottom right, chef/owner Sam Corkalo alongside food and wine

The poem details my vague memories of the Beverly House restaurant in Chicago’s Beverly Hills neighborhood on the South Side, an area speckled with my grandfather’s architectural designs, many of which were for commercial buildings now long gone. This is part of my series of Chicago Sonnets of which Sonnets 1, 2 and 5 have been previously published and 4, 27 and 29 are forthcoming.