Tag Archives: Facebook

Social Media For Good: The “I Love You, Mom” Project

It was a brutal start to 2018: On New Year’s Day, Stacy Waldman Bass’ mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Jessica Waldman

In the dizzying month that followed — dealing with the diagnosis, finding doctors and treatment plans, facing a very uncertain future — Stacy fell into despair. She searched desperately for something positive.

Photography is one of her many talents. She’s superb at it, and feels comfortable behind the lens. She’s taken many photos of her very photogenic mother. Others have too, over her more than 70 years of life.

Stacy wanted to share her images — and others — with her mother’s many friends.

She asked her mother if that was okay — and to let people know why. A few days later she told Stacy: sure. Go ahead.

Stacy’s plan was to post a photo a day on Facebook, for a year. “I didn’t even know if she’d still be alive then,” she says.

The idea resonated. The project began on February 1 — one month after the diagnosis. Every day Stacy’s photo was accompanied by a brief message.

Stacy Waldman’s first post. (Click on or hover over to enlarge.)

Her goal, she said, was to take

tiny slices of her then almost 74 years as a daughter, summer camper, counselor, student, wife, mother, grandmother, friend, teacher, philanthropist, passionate theatregoer, and lover of language (to name only a few). I hoped to create a living and breathing portrait, one that would both delight and remind my mom of the wonderful life she had lived, and the range of people she had impacted and influenced.

She also hoped to create and fuel a community of supporters to nurture my mother’s memories, and engage her in an online conversation that could buoy her spirits and positively occupy her time.

The photos Stacy chose (and took) were beautiful, insightful and meaningful. Jessica looked forward to them.

For Stacy, the daily postings became a way to fortify and connect with her mother. They were a way to chronicle her life, and battle. They were a way too for Stacy to stay motivated, and get out of bed each day.

Every day, Jessica woke up eager to see what image Stacy had chosen, what she wrote about it, and what the online community would say.

Through the process, Stacy says,

I had the chance to fall in love with my mom anew. I grew to see her as a whole person, a complete and multifaceted woman who was my mother, but also so much more.

It gave me a more refined appreciation for the nuances of her life, the choices she made, the challenges she faced. I saw strength where before I’d seen only softness. Layers and layers of lovely that I may have taken for granted, now shone through.

As explained in the text, this photo — posted on Jessica’s 74th birthday — is one of Stacy’s favorites. It shows her mother as “bold, playful, and quietly confident.”

At moments along the way, Stacy believed that

the swelling force of the movement that formed around her could somehow change the course of her prognosis, or at the very least extend her time. I think she believed that too.

The love and positivity that flooded in her direction, from near and far, from “likes” and “loves” to comments and questions, was so empowering and transformative that maybe, just maybe, it could work. The digital conversation quickly spilled offline. My mother was supported in ways unimaginable by many she knew and loved and many more that she did not.

Yet Stacy’s mother died just shy of a year after her diagnosis: January 12. Stacy was devastated.

Mother’s Day last month was particularly difficult. That morning, she wrote on Facebook:

I felt unending joy and good fortune in being lucky enough to be a mom, step-mom and mother-in-law to 6 extraordinary, wonderful, kind and generous humans. Not to mention the wild excitement I have in anticipation of our first grandchild, due only a few short weeks from now.

But then, then, it was impossible to get though this holiday, another first and looming large, without also feeling the crushing and often overwhelming weight of my own mother’s recent death, only 4 months ago. The contrasts were staggering.

In the quiet moments in between the mourning, the grieving and the throbbing tears, I have been working hard on a plan to make a difference: to honor my mom’s memory and to help others who may have similar challenges still ahead.

Looking back, Stacy wrote, she realized she had tried to “harness the immediacy, range, and force of social media for good.”

She did. The project was a success. But now she wanted to do even more.

She had planned to make a book of all the posts, and give it to Jessica. It would be a small, beautiful treasure.

In 1960, 16-year-old Jessica won a contest. The prize: a date with Bobby Darin, at the Copa. Here are those photos.

Stacy’s Mother’s Day post continued:

I imagined that together, we could celebrate the victory of both the medicine and the memories, and marvel at the astonishing community that blossomed around her.

In her absence, palpable and ever present, I nonetheless still found myself wanting and needing to make that book; and to find a way to redirect the gift that was intended for my mom to others who are still fighting, and who could still prevail.

So — though her mother was gone — she made the book anyway.

And she created it to help defeat pancreatic cancer.

In partnership with the Lustgarten Foundation — the world’s leading pancreatic cancer research group — donors of $75 or more will receive an e-book version of “I Love You, Mom.” Print copies are available too, on demand.

In the foreward to the book — a slightly curated version of her posts — Stacy writes:

I hope that in reading this you will not only learn about my mother or my journey or my loss, but that like so many who followed along, day by day, you will be similarly inspired: to be grateful for and expressive about the relationships in your life—with your own mother, or daughter, or sister or friend; to mindfully nurture and attend to those relationships and to cherish the simplicity and beauty of the everyday.

Every day that you can.

I can’t imagine a finer tribute to a mother.

Or a more fitting epitaph for anyone.

(To contribute to Stacy Waldman Bass and the Lustgarden Foundation’s “I Love You, Mom” initiative, click here.)

Buy Nothing. Get A Community In Return.

Alert — and gratified — “06880” reader Mary Luvera writes:

I don’t remember when I joined the Buy Nothing Westport group, or how I heard about it.

However, Facebook tells me I first posted to the group on September 20, 2017.  It was a “wish” post, asking to borrow a helium balloon holder that I needed for a party.

Another member of the group granted my wish later that day.

On Easter Sunday, a :Buy Nothing” group member offered this.

While I soon became conversant in the language of the Buy Nothing group (“Wish,” “Wish Granted,” “Interested,” “Give,” “Gifted,” etc.), I was a bit of a reluctant group member. I felt guilty accepting gifts from others, or offering gifts that might better serve someone in a less affluent community.

That was before I understood what was actually happening on the Buy Nothing group.  While many of the “gives” and “wishes” were for material items, some were humbling.

One group member gifted key lime pies. Another gifted a pizza making lesson. A third wished for hand-written get well cards to deliver to a local resident injured in a recent storm.

Beyond that, I noticed the support that group members and admins offered each other in the posts.

For example, a post by a first time grandmother asking for a crib received a number of congratulations.

One of my own stranger “gives” was offering soy pulp left over from making tofu. I added “Is this too weird?” to the post.

The admin quickly liked my post and replied, “Not too weird at all!” It was a weird offer, but I appreciated the no judgment attitude.

No one wanted the soy pulp, but I did have a nice exchange with another group member interested in my recipe for tofu.

Want bikinis? The giver says they were worn “maybe once each.”

Then I started seeing “gratitude” posts. One thanked a group member for the gift of a shower cap. It reminds her of Paris where she had fallen in love with a similar one.

Another thanked a local couple for offering their home and washing machine during a power outage. One more thanked a group member for dropping off cookies when picking up a gifted item.

Countless group members have also expressed gratitude to the admins for the friendships and connections the group has given them.

Clearly, a community was developing. Although I’ve gifted and received a number of material items, and like others have expressed gratitude to the admins, the best outcome for me has been the local connections.

A request on “Buy Nothing.” Several members quickly responded.

Earlier this year Parul Kamboj, a Buy Nothing member, offered Indian cooking lessons at her home. A lover of all food, and especially new cultural experiences, I quickly added my name to the more than 40 other replies.

Luckily, I was selected to join one of her classes. On a cold winter day, Parul generously opened her home to 4 members of the Buy Nothing community. She taught us how to make sabudana khichdi, a vegetarian dish with tapioca balls, carrots, peanuts and spices.

A few weeks after our lesson I met Parul again. I couldn’t get her passion for her culture and cuisine out of my mind. I had to write a piece about her for my blog, where I explore culture through food stories.

Mary Luvera

I spent over an hour at her home, chatting and sipping ginger tea. I really got to know Parul that day. I felt very fortunate to have had this view into her life, culture and food. It was all thanks to the Buy Nothing Westport group.

It’s true that members of the Buy Nothing Westport group exchange material items, which could possibly better serve someone somewhere else.

Scratch below the surface though, and you’ll find that real connections are happening behind many of these exchanges. People are meeting, learning about each other, becoming friends, and supporting one another.

Of course if you’re looking for a trampoline, shoes, soccer cleats, softball pants, an American Girl doll, a storage bench, a bookcase or blender, you can find those through the group too!

Cayla Yang Wears The Pantsuit

Donald Trump’s election took a lot of people by surprise. Many were “paralyzed or scared,” says Cayla Yang.

“I don’t do well with those emotions,” says the 2009 Staples High School graduate. “I’m not like, ‘woe is me.’ I’m more, ‘what can I do?'”

Cayla Yang

Cayla Yang

Cayla — a Staples field hockey player and yearbook editor who graduated from Northeastern University and now lives in Weston, while working as a consultant for a cloud computing company — always assumed that politicians would take care of her.

Now she’s not so sure.

But instead of paralysis, she chose action.

In the aftermath of Trump’s win, she reached out to Pantsuit Nation. The group of nearly 4 million (mostly) women had used Facebook to share stories of their support for Hillary Clinton. After her loss, it became a place to vent, express fears and frustrations, and find hope.

It also spun off local organizations, where (mostly) women began working together to do more than talk.

The Fairfield County group is called PSNCT — Pantsuit Nation without the actual name. And Cayla is one of its leaders.

“Telling stories is incredibly important. But this group is about advocacy,” Cayla says. “It’s about issues, concerns, and how to help.”

PSNCT has forged connections with politicians. A recent Town Hall meeting with Senator Chris Murphy in Bridgeport was “fantastic,” Cayla says.

Congressman Jim Himes came to an early PSNCT meeting. He discussed his priorities, and offered his assistance.

A photo posted to the PSNCT Facebook page shows a statue of PT Barnum in Bridgeport, "supporting" Saturday's women's march on Washington.

A photo posted to the PSNCT Facebook page shows a statue of PT Barnum in Bridgeport, “supporting” Saturday’s women’s march on Washington.

“We’ll do local fundraisers, and put our money where our mouth is,” Cayla promises.

“We recognize we have a privileged position here in Fairfield County. We want to use our influence to help people and organizations that don’t have our resources.”

Though Pantsuit Nation was created by Hillary Clinton supporters, Cayla says, “we shy away from labels. We want Republicans like Gail Lavielle and Toni Boucher” — state legislators representing this area — “to speak to us, and break down barriers.” Rep. Tony Hwang — a Republican state senator — attended Murphy’s Town Hall session.

As Inauguration Day looms, Cayla says PSNCT is focused on the days after.

“We’re looking to do good, and do it well,” she says.

(Click here for the PSNCT Facebook page. Hat tip: Julia McNamee)

Dylan Diamond Does F8

“On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog” — that’s the classic New Yorker cartoon, showing 2 canines at a computer.

No one knows you’re a high school junior, either.

Not that anyone should care. Staples’ Dylan Diamond designs user-friendly apps that fill folks’ needs.

Dylan Diamond, at San Francisco's Fort Mason earlier this month.

Dylan Diamond, at San Francisco’s Fort Mason earlier this month.

His myHAC allows students and parents nationwide easy access to school schedules and grades. It’s been downloaded 85,000 times.

Ski With Friends helps skiers find buddies on the slope.

His current project, Saround — with fellow Westporter Adam Goldberg — lets users book anything from babysitters and yardwork to concert tickets, by priority.

Next up: an app to expedite food purchases in school cafeterias.

So it’s no surprise that Dylan snagged a coveted invitation to Facebook’s F8 conference this month.

Or that Facebook covered the entire $800 registration fee too.

Dylan Diamond, with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Dylan Diamond, with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

The hands-on, collaborative event — held at San Francisco’s Fort Mason — is huge. It draws developers and entrepreneurs from around the globe. Facebook engineers interact with attendees. They share ideas, teach each other, and return to their offices (or schools) ready for the Next Big Thing.

Dylan made the most of his time. He saw Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, standing on the conference floor. Dylan walked up, introduced himself, and told her about his apps.

Dylan also hung with Mike Schroepfer, the CTO. He sat next to the CEO of Oculus Rift, the biggest name in virtual reality.

Dylan and those heavy hitters talked about Facebook’s new Messenger bot — unveiled at F8 — as well as analytics.

He got advice on startups. Attendees examined his code, and answered his questions about how to do more, be more efficient, and design better tools.

Dylan Diamond was up close for Mark Zuckerberg's keynote address.

Dylan Diamond was up close for Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote address.

Mark Zuckerberg was there too, of course. His keynote address was one highlight. Even better: His announcement that everyone at F8 would received a free Oculus headset.

(Dylan used it on the plane ride home. His fellow travelers were quite impressed.)

There were a couple dozen high school students at F8, like Dylan. They become good friends. After the conference, he and 2 others drove to Cupertino, to check out Uber and Apple headquarters.

“Everyone there was super-passionate,” Dylan says. “They really opened  my eyes to new ideas.”

Dylan does more than develop apps, of course. He handles the school paper Inklings’ website. He’s also on the ski and cross country team.

That last activity came in handy at F8. A  long line of attendees waited to get into the building to hear Zuckerberg.

Dylan outraced the others, and had one of the best seats in the house.

Dylan Diamond's VR selfie.

Dylan Diamond’s VR selfie.

Remembering Chou Chou Merrill

Chou Chou Merrill hadn’t lived in Westport for decades. But today, countless Westporters mourn her death.

The Staples Class of 1970 grad died suddenly in her sleep Saturday night. She was 62 years old.

Thanks to Facebook, thousands of people knew and loved Chou Chou. She created, administered or was an avid contributor to a variety of online communities: “You Know You’re from Westport, CT If …” “Exit 18 – Westport CT Residents and Ex-Residents.” “Save Westport CT From Itself!”

The indomitable Chou Chou Merrill.

The indomitable Chou Chou Merrill.

Not long ago, she founded another group: “Westport CT Artists and Craftsmen.” It was a site for local creative folks to display their works.

That was no casual interest. Her father, Jason Raum, owned an operated “Jewels by Jason” on Main Street for many years. It was upstairs in the handsome stone building next to what is now Tavern on Main, across from Oscar’s.

That Westport connection meant a lot to Chou Chou. So did many other connections. She reveled in her childhood and youth here — the memories she shared, the friendships she nurtured, the opportunities she was given.

Her mother-in-law was Bette Davis. She seldom mentioned it. But not long ago, without saying whose it was, she posted a photo of the actress’ home on Crooked Mile Road. Chou Chou admired it not because of who owned it, but because of how lovely it looked.

As a board member of the Bette Davis Foundation, Chou Chou awarded scholarships to aspiring actors, and other talented students in the entertainment industry.

A couple of days before she died, Chou Chou Merrill (4th from left, black outfit) joined classmates and other longtime Westport friends at Mario's. It was the perfect spot to celebrate "old" Westport, and she highlighted the event on Facebook.

A couple of days before she died, Chou Chou Merrill (4th from left, black outfit) joined classmates and other longtime friends at Mario’s. It was the perfect spot to celebrate “old” Westport, and she highlighted the event on Facebook.

Chou Chou made her mark on her adopted hometown — Brookline, Massachusetts — too. She was a successful real estate broker there, and served on the Town Meeting (the equivalent of our RTM) for over 25 years. She was past co-president of the League of Women Voters Brookline, a member of the Flag Day Parade committee, and a contributor to Little League, the Senior Center, Library and Brookline Community Fund.

Today, many Facebook pages are filled with tributes to Chou Chou. Geoffrey Glaser wrote: “She inspired so much thought with her postings…. She was the glue that held Old Westport together…. She created conversation that introduced us to new friends and reintroduced us to old friends.”

Thanks to Chou Chou Merrill, Westport lives on in words and pictures. Thanks to Facebook — and her thousands of friends and admirers —  she will continue to live too.

Paula Poundstone Pounds The 1 Percent

Paula Poundstone owes me a new pair of boxers.

I peed myself laughing at her Saturday night show. The comedian — best known for her regular appearances on NPR’s “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” — rocked a sellout crowd at the Westport Country Playhouse.

It was a benefit for Homes With Hope. Between ticket sales and a live auction, the event raised huge bucks — 12% of their annual budget — to help fight homelessness. As a brief video by 4th Row Films pointed out, it’s a problem even in this prosperous town.

Paula Poundstone

Paula Poundstone

Poundstone knew her audience. She picked a few random people. There was, incredibly, former Homes With Hope director Pete Powell (he’s an Episcopal priest — as an atheist, she had great fun with that), as well as a CPA, and a guy in budgeting for a film company (with, to Paula’s great delight, several assistants).

The theme throughout the night was Westport’s affluence. She joked about the difference between the pledges made at the Playhouse (2 people offered $20,000 each) and her kids’ PTA event (“we start at $1, and go down from there”).

She asked what the main industry in Westport is. “Money,” someone said. All night long, Poundstone returned to the idea of folks in the audience taking care of each other’s money.

It was all in good fun. This was a well-heeled crowd, but they were raising funds for their much-less-fortunate fellow citizens, who live here too.

Let no good deed go unpunished.

The theme of Paula Poundstone's jokes -- and some Facebook comments.

The theme of Paula Poundstone’s jokes — and some Facebook comments.

As a public figure, Poundstone updates her Facebook page often. Just before the show began, she posted: “I’m in Westport, Connecticut. I’m trying to reach out to the disenfranchised members of the 1%.”

Her fans responded. “You just keep taking care of the comical needs of those poor uptight old white folks Paula,” one wrote. “We appreciate it.”

“Good luck,” another said. “I hear that crowd is too lazy to work for a living.”

A woman in Westport on business huffed, “wouldn’t you know, the 1% grabbed all the tickets for themselves! Typically entitled, these folks are, I swear.”

“Talk to ’em straight, Paula,” a fan commented. “They need to hear from you what’s really going down outside their protected bubble.”

Over 700 people “liked” the post. Presumably, they liked her dig at the “1%.”

That’s fine. We loved Paula Poundstone. She loved Westport — and gave a great hour-long performance. And everyone loved raising oodles of money for Homes With Hope.

But she still owes me a new pair of boxers.

 

 

You Know You’re From Westport If…

Facebook pages usually have the shelf life of a Kim Kardashian marriage.

But for weeks, “You Know You’re From Westport, CT … If…” has roared along, gathering comments and steam.

Long-gone stores, dimly remembered teachers, beloved events — they’re all mentioned (and oohed and aahed over). It’s a random potpourri of long-ago Westport memories — I sure as hell wasn’t around in World War II — and those that are long-ago only if you’re still in your 20s.

In no order whatsoever, here are some recollections of people from Westport:

  • The Crest Drive-In
  • Caldors
  • Coach Ed Hall, including his trampolines at the golf driving range, his posing as the Marlboro Man, and his frequent sightings at Bunyan’s and Crossroads
Coach Ed Hall

Coach Ed Hall

  • The fire station whistle blowing every day at 5 p.m.
  • Growing up with Gene Tierney
  • Bill’s Smoke Shop
  • Mark’s Place disco, complete with go-go girls
  • The Sanitarium on what is now Winslow Park, complete with strait jackets and restraining cuffs
  • The Ship’s Lantern on the Post Road, which then moved a few doors west to take over the old Buffalo store
  • Teachers like Mr. Birnbaum, Mr. Marciano, Mrs. Wachob, Mrs. Crews, Mr. Lomnitzer and Mr. Morrison
  • The house on Gorham Island, where a murder led to a shootout at the police station on July 4, 1961
The old Victorian house on Gorham Island. Today there's an office building.

The old Victorian house on Gorham Island. It’s been replced by an office building.

  • Skating ponds, fishing ponds, and the rope swing at Nash’s Pond
  • Davy Jones’ Locker — the predecessor to the Black Duck
  • Grub’s — the predecessor to Elvira’s
  • CApital 7 phone prefixes
  • Cannonballs by the Compo Beach marina
  • Assumption School, with uniforms
  • The Penguin (allegedly a whorehouse), with Top Hat mini-golf across the street on Hillspoint
  • Working at Trendex — an early market research firm — and tabulating surveys by hand
  • Rob Carlson and the Triumvirate band
  • Bringing apples to Rippe’s Farm, and getting apple cider in return
  • Lester Lanin’s Nines Club, on the site of the old skating rink
  • The Troll Bridge next to Devil’s Den
The "troll bridge."

The “troll bridge.” There are warnings: “Beware of Trolls.”

  • The Ice Cream Parlor
  • Milkmen
  • Bonanza Steak Pit
  • Ben Franklin’s
  • Being called a “walker” at school
  • The ping pong factory on Riverside Avenue
  • Buying beer at Vista Market, just over the New York line past New Canaan
  • The African Room
  • A choice for Chinese food: Golden House or Westlake?
  • Waterskiing in the salt marsh between Bermuda Lagoon and Calf Pasture
  • Chez Pierre
  • The Holly Ball — a formal dance for 9th graders
  • Bessie Jennings’ historical bus tour of Westport for elementary school students
  • Players’ Tavern, with bands like White Chocolate
  • Monday night dances at Longshore
  • Saturday matinees at the Fine Arts Theater — and what went on in the balcony during them
  • Rocks — not sand — at Compo Beach, and floats offshore.
The rocks at Compo were no fun. But the floats offshore were.

The rocks at Compo were no fun. But the floats offshore were.

You get the idea. If you lived in Westport then, you’re probably OD’ing on nostalgia.

If you didn’t, you may wish you did.

Click “Comments” to add your own “You Know You’re From Westport If…” memories. There must be millions.

40 Days And 40 Nights

Ev Boyle’s family got AOL in 1995, when he was 12.  Ever since, he’s been connected to the internet.

But don’t try to email Ev today.  Or any time until August 18, in fact.

The 2001 Staples graduate is in the middle of a 40-day, self-imposed internet ban.  He’s sworn off everything — Google, Gmail, Facebook, porn — and, surprisingly, he doesn’t miss it.

At least, not much.

Ev Boyle

Ev is a digital native, though he remembers back to the days when information came from Encarta, not Wikipedia.  Ever since Staples, he’s been immersed in bits, bytes and pixels.  He studied communications at Penn; did web work for non-profits; freelanced for Al Gore’s Current.com, and helped found 2 websites:  Glassbooth for politics, and Measy for gadgets.

After a year at the London School of Economics, Ev heads soon to USC, for a master’s in global communication.

Until then, he’s disconnected from all forms of global communication.

Earlier this year, Ev used an online program — naturally — to analyze his internet use.  He was online up to 10 hours a day.  60% of his time was on Facebook; 20% on Gmail.

And that was just his MacBook.  He spent more time on his phone and iPad.

“I knew I was wasting a lot of time,” Ev says.  “I love the web — it’s valuable in so many ways — but I wanted to see what life was like without socializing on it.”

So he chose to cut his wireless wire.  40 days seemed long enough to be significant — without being absurd, like 6 months.

Plus, Ev says, “it sounded biblical.  Wandering in the desert, if you want to get philosophical.”

He started on July 8.  And quickly logged back on.

So July 9 was his official start date.  Ev had his mother change all his passwords, so he couldn’t sign on.  He began life without the internet — and began a journal, to chronicle his saga.

In some ways, the web remained unavoidable.  “I’m exposed to it all the time,” he says.  “My mom is the worst.  She tries to show me YouTube videos, and pulls up Google Maps.”

For the first few days, he had a “Pavlovian instinct” to log on to Facebook and Gmail.  Without his passwords, he was stuck.

But in other ways, Ev’s exile is less difficult than he imagined.

“I thought I’d miss emails, but I don’t at all,” he says.  “My phone doesn’t beep, and I don’t have to reply to people all the time.”

He does text.  “My phone is critical for coordinating with friends,” he notes.

Ev adds, “I’m in a privileged position.  I don’t have a job.  Life would be a lot harder if I had emergencies to respond to.”

He knows he’s missing some things — he did not hear about the Norway shootings for a couple of days — but overall, Ev says, “I don’t feel like I’m missing much.”

What he misses most is porn.

“I’m not addicted to it, but for my generation, it’s really a part of life,” he says.  “I’ve watched it since I was 14 — like almost every guy I know.  There’s not a lot of literature written about it, but internet porn is huge.”

So what is he doing with all the extra time in his life?

“I was actually hoping I’d have more,” he says.  “The time seems to fill up on its own.”

He goes outside, and works out regularly.  “I feel good!” Ev says.

He reads “a ton” — 4 to 5 hours a day.  And he focuses better on his books and magazines.

“It’s hard to concentrate on a computer,” Ev says.  “It’s an ‘everything’ machine that always calls out to you to do something else.”

Still, he insists, “it’s not like I feel like I’ve got 8 hours more each day.”

Midway through his 40 days, Ev says he realizes the web “feels more like transportation than a drug.  Like a subway, it’s easy to use.  But if it’s not there, there’s other ways to get around.”

The internet, he says, “is so integrated into every facet of our lives, we don’t even notice it.  But if it’s not there, it’s not like we break down.”

Which is not to say that life un-logged-on is easy.

“I didn’t know how to pay my credit card without the web,” Ev admits.

“And I’m glad I got my plane ticket before I did this.  I’d have no idea how to buy one today.  Maybe go to a travel agent?  But I’d probably have to pay a lot more.  I just have no clue how to do something like that.”

So on August 18 — the end of Ev’s 40 days — what will do first?

“It’s a long list,” he notes.  “There’s a lot of stuff I’ve been wanting to get on Amazon.  Like a coffee grinder.”

Right now, that’s a problem.  “I know maybe I could call around to see if some stores have one.  But we don’t have a phone book.  My parents got rid of it.”

One of Ev Boyle's 957 photos on Facebook. This was taken a couple of months ago, following his London School of Economics final exams.

He does know that, post-40 days, his web life will be more controlled.  “There are great programs, like SelfControl, that let you turn off certain sites, or even the entire internet, for anywhere from 1 minute to 24 hours.  I’ll use that a lot, if I want to do work.”

At this point — the end of our interview — I’d normally ask Ev to send me a couple of photos.  By email.

Suddenly, I too had been sucked into Ev’s experiment.

So I went on the internet myself.  And found the shots I needed, on Ev Boyle’s now-very-quiet Facebook page.

Back To 365 Drawing Boards

For Carson Einarsen, this past year felt like “back to the drawing board.”

365 times.

Carson — a rising senior at Staples — has always liked art.  He spent last summer at Vermont’s Center for Cartoon Studies.  This month, at the Savannah College of Art and Design, he studied comic and sequential art, and animation.

He doesn’t just scribble.  “Life drawing is required for comic art,” Carson says.  “So I do a lot of that.”

Carson does a lot of drawing, period.

Last July, feeling he did not draw faces well, Carson set a goal.  Every day, he’d find a friend’s face on Facebook — then draw it.

And he’d do it every day for a full year.

Carson Einarsen's favorite: a fisheye portrait.

Carson usually drew right before bed.  He’d make an initial pencil sketch on a 3×5 card, then ink it over.  He scanned each drawing — and the photo he used — into his computer.  He posted them all in a Facebook album.  (Search “The fACEs Project” to find it.)

His final drawing — #365 — was Monday night.

“Some were really good.  Some were bad,” Carson says.  “It depended how I felt.”

The 1st sketches took “about 30 seconds.”  By the end, they took 20 minutes.

“I got a lot better — and not just drawing faces,” Carson notes.  “I’m much more attuned now to what makes something look the way it does.”

One of the hardest parts of the project — beyond the discipline of drawing every day — was working from photographs.  “Everything looks flat,” Carson explains.  “When you draw from life, it looks 3D.  I had to work hard to make my drawings look like an actual person.”

Like any artist, Carson has his favorite:  the girl whose Facebook photo showed her looking at a fisheye lens.  “Her face was really distorted,” he says.

Carson's self-portrait -- midway through the project, of himself midway to his current age.

Carson created several “milestone” sketches.  For #184 — the halfway point — he drew himself at half his current age.  Monday’s final drawing shows the same person he did for #1:  classmate Elliott Enriquez.

Last winter, the Westport Arts Center included 80 of Carson’s works in their “Kid Culture” exhibition.  Other than that, though, he hasn’t publicized his project.  It’s his; his personal — and, finally, it’s finished.

So what’s next?

“A comic book series,” Carson says.  “I want to apply everything I’ve learned to comic work.”

He plans to draw one page a week.

For a year?

“No!” he says emphatically.  “I want a different goal — something like 60 pages.”

He pauses, then laughs.

“Wait!  That’s more than a year!”

Back to the drawing board…

Just a few of Carson Einarsen's 365 sketches.

Like, The Library

People use Facebook’s “like” button for many reasons.

They like status updates.  They like comments, photos, videos.  They like to like stuff.

Tomorrow (Wednesday, April 13), everyone should like the Westport Public Library.  It’s “Snapshot Day” — a statewide event — and libraries are taking “snapshots” of the impact they have on their communities on a typical day.

This is Westport’s way of showing the rest of Connecticut that you support our library.  Clicking the “like” button tells the world that the Westport Library is important to you.

And — by liking the library — you’ll get $2 off at the Library Cafe.

What’s not to like about that?

(To find the correct page to like, search for “Westport Public Library” on Facebook.)