Off the Sofa

A little lecture from the author of such fine works as "Off the Sofa"

A didactic entry, written late. Ftrain news time is 3:18 AM.

Grandpa took me on his knee and said: "You think you have it rough, kid? I remember trying to scrounge berries with a fucking glacier bearing down on me, while trying to avoid getting raped by horny Neanderthals hungry to suck my brain out of its casing. And I was barely 4 feet tall."

I'm glad I have this stupid, healthy, simple, cushy life. I can't pretend it means a thing, but it's entertaining. It's good to get a little amusement, cash in the pocket, to participate in the mercantile frenzy. I've been receiving some criticism for these choices from a few people, including myself, subtle and not-so-subtle hints that I should be working a dumb job, writing on scraps of paper, and feeling the deep loneliness of the midnight soul. Some friends and strangers want me to suffer a little more, or they feel they've suffered more themselves, and are annoyed at my comfort. They're sure that I don't know what they know, that I can't touch their depth.

I dig their fuss. Still, some of the funniest, most charming people I know are: a guy who was orphaned when his father shot his mother. A girl whose father raped her with such violent intensity that she's brain damaged, no way of knowing what she's lost. A full bevy of suicides and people who've lived in wards. A couple men who shot or stabbed their abusive fathers.

Are they authentic enough for you? Have they paid their dues? Sure, pain is real, but you can't ignore joy just because you're feeling cynical, or in High School.

You and me, we're a fluid exchange. One path out of trillions. You can make up a whole religion to avoid the sperm entering the egg, all sorts of elaborate policies like "deserve" and "sellout." But the truth remains that your father had an erection, your mom was slippery and wet, and from that quick touch, bifurcating endlessly, you rushed through history: cell, trilobite, alligator, cat, monkey, and then--zam! A breath of fresh air and a whack on the ass. No deserving there, just coincidence.

And then you get to be a victim, and write about that whack until your ears pop from your elevated self-image. But--

It would be nice to be special and chosen, but we're not. We're a species with a highly evolved adaptability and enough cerebral complexity to handle tools. No deserving, or victimhood, in that (admittedly incomplete) definition. I challenge you to find me the line in your double helix with those words in it.

The more you believe in righteousness and divine right, the longer you'll wait for the men in orange robes to knock at your door and tell you you're chosen. Or the publishers, or the movie producers, or the lawyers with all the money from your dead uncle. More people would rather install a new doorbell and sit on the sofa than actually admit they're not that big a deal and get to work. Including me.




Ftrain.com is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some time.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

Rotary Dial. (August 21)

10 Timeframes. (June 20)

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

Woods+. People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately. (July 10)

Reading Tonight. Reading! (May 25)

Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford. (May 18)

Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford. (May 17)

Nanolaw with Daughter. Why privacy mattered. (May 16)

0h30m w/Photoshop, by Paul Ford. It's immediately clear to me now that I'm writing again that I need to come up with some new forms in order to have fun here—so that I can get a rhythm and know what I'm doing. One thing that works for me are time limits; pencils up, pencils down. So: Fridays, write for 30 minutes; edit for 20 minutes max; and go whip up some images if necessary, like the big crappy hand below that's all meaningful and evocative because it's retro and zoomed-in. Post it, and leave it alone. Can I do that every Friday? Yes! Will I? Maybe! But I crave that simple continuity. For today, for absolutely no reason other than that it came unbidden into my brain, the subject will be Photoshop. (Do we have a process? We have a process. It is 11:39 and...) (May 13)

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