Note: Here’s an updated comment on the situation from the CEO of Meetup. I also had a fairly thorough and interesting chat with a co-founder of British startup GroupSpaces, and it seems as if they’re developing exciting new features as a result of the communication with former Meetup Organizers, including a pricing structure that’s about a third of what’s currently being asked for a larger group desiring ad-free space. More about that later.

Later in the day, I read a particularly exceptional response from a passionate and involved Meetup organizer here, one that would be worthy of a response from Meetup, were they into, you know, responding. :P

Today, I came across a thread on the Meetup.com Organizers’ Board, posted by a member of the Meetup team, suggesting that the company was in fact listening to our suggestions, and wanted to hear practical ideas on improving their format, rather than simply complaining endlessly. Here was my reply, and my suggestions:

Recently, I came across a posting on the Meetup discussion board by Andrea that suggested, instead of complaining about the New Meetup format, we should give suggestions on how to improve the site, and increase the satisfaction levels of Organizers on this site.

Does this imply suggestions are going to be listened to, or even heard? Yes. But, in reality, the only feedback I personally have heard from Meetup during this fiasco is a form letter telling me they have no plans to change, regardless of my opinions. That does not make me feel like a valuable part of the site, Meetup, and as a paying organizer that’s been driving tens of thousands of hits to your site each month for years, is just disrespectful.

Suggestion #1: Listen to the people. We’re trying to tell you something. We’re unhappy, we feel excluded, and nothing about the way you’re conducting business makes us feel like a valuable part of the organization. However, we are, because like it or not, if we are not here, it’s not long before you won’t be, either.

Suggestion #2: Give Organizers control of their own Meetups. That’s why we’re Organizers. We pay for the privilege of organizing our groups as we see fit, and we serve a valuable purpose. My group has nearly 1500 members in it, and is highly active. People join because they’re new to the area and often don’t know a soul. I spoke with a few organizers over the weekend, and the consensus is that not only does this new “collaborative” method take away from the privilege of being an organizer and minimize the people that make this site happen, it creates dangerous and uncomfortable situations for members. Every Meetup has encountered those people who seem creepy, socially inept, or use the site specifically to hit on/sexually harass others. Every Meetup has encountered those people you who seem a little shady, want to sell you something, or make you feel on your guard. Do you want those people to be in charge of events, or have unlimited rights to post on someone else’s Meetup? Do you really want *your* daughter going to a Meetup where the purpose is for a single guy who’s lonely and socially inept to meet women and ply them with alcohol? Because under your conception, that could happen, if 3 people think it sounds good. It could happen without an organizer there to look out for anyone’s safety.

During my time as Organizer, I’ve had to arrange to get drunk girls home safely from bars, put an end to fights, take away the keys of drunk drivers, give people couch space when they’re lost, and have even helped them move. Not to have too high of an opinion of myself, but I’ve been told part of the reason people come out to my group and participate is because of my presence, as the Organizer. I introduce members to one another, make single women who’d otherwise be hesitant to meet with total strangers alone feel safe, and provide a “center” to our social situations that deflect potentially bad or uncomfortable situations. I kick out members that don’t follow the rules, and make sure everyone’s having a good time. And, when I am not able to attend an event, the turnout for such events tend to be small.

I am not unique. I’ve heard this over and over, from many. I, and all the other Organizers out there, serve a valuable purpose…so don’t diminish our power by enforcing your ideas over ours. Let me choose the impression I want to make, the type of group I want to run, and since I’m paying for the privilege of running a Meetup, let me be in charge of welcoming members and designing my events. You don’t need to add a message to my Welcome Letter. It’s as it is for a reason, and it’s worked. In four years, I’ve built my group from 300 to 1500, and helped others have memorable experiences and make lifelong friendships in the process. My suggestion: Let me continue to do what I’ve been doing, without the company overriding my vision. If I create something, and I underwrite the cost of that creation, haven’t I earned the right to have full control over that creation? It would be different if Meetup.Com were paying *me*, and then I’d see the company being entitled to enforce what it wants over what I’ve designed.

Suggestion #3: Let the members speak. If you don’t want to listen to those that pay to keep the site running and invest time in making events happen, listen to your members. Nobody wants these changes. Prior to the changes, I received 6 new member requests per day. Since they were rolled out, I receive 1 per day. On the other hand, my personal blog discussing my frustration with Meetup has quintupled in visitors.

There is not more participation in my group, except for people who want to discuss being hosted elsewhere. Nobody has RSVPed for ANYTHING since the changes. The day the changes were rolled out, I learned about it via angry letters in my Inbox, from members that wanted me to “put Meetup back the way it was.”

Suggestion #4:[b]Walk the walk, talk the talk.[/b] It’s not a good idea to represent the idea of “community” and “listening to all voices”, and then make changes to a service that your clients pay for without even consulting them. It’s then not a good idea to delete threads, shut down all ways to let customers be heard (I.E. Facebook and Twitter pages disappeared, nobody could reach customer service, and nobody received anything but a canned response to anything, one that said, in effect “We don’t care how you feel. We’re not changing.”) You’re not exemplifying the values you claim to promote, and that makes your customers more angry than anything. If I, as an Organizer, am supposed to adapt to a “community” way of doing things rather than retaining my right to make executive decisions that won’t be interfered with, why isn’t Meetup.com subject to the same rules of community and collaboration?

Thank you for your time, and for listening to my constructive feedback…if, in fact, you truly are.

Warm regards,
*~ Alayna

I’m hoping that others will provide similar feedback, so it is clear to Meetup that people aren’t simply complaining, but have valid concerns that deserve to be heard, considered, and addressed.

Along with many other Organizers and bloggers out there, I was contacted by one of the co-founders of Groupspaces, a U.K.-based startup that’s looking to develop into a direct competitor of Meetup. I’ll be speaking with him this afternoon, and think it’ll be interesting to hear what other companies have in the works to fill the space that the changes at Meetup.com have left in the industry.

Note: Once again, there’s a great, insightful post about this issue over at Green Tech Girl that’s much more well-written and informative than this one. ;)

The insanity regarding the recent changes to the functionality of Meetup.Com continues today, and despite the fact that both organizers and members everywhere are up in arms about the changes, and those who have organized groups (in some cases, for nearly a decade) simply want back control of the groups they’ve built from the ground up and paid to maintain, Meetup.com is strangely silent.

The number to Meetup HQ’s customer support line has been replaced with a recording, and all inquiries via e-mail are met with a canned response to the effect that Meetup is not planning on making any changes. In effect, they’re issuing a huge “Screw You!” to the people responsible for their success, and who keep them afloat, both financially and in terms of time invested.

Not only is Meetup.Com determined to be silent on the issue, they’re taking steps to silence others. Multiple organizers have had their accounts deleted for infractions such as posting the Meetup HQ phone number so members can make complaints or advocating the organization of a mass walkout on the site. Threads detailing complaints about the new layout have been deleted, even though they’re being replaced almost as fast as they are being deleted, and any discussion of the merits of competitors’ websites are very quickly silenced. They’ve even gone so far as to pull their App from Facebook, since thousands of people were using the page as a forum to discuss their dissatisfaction.

For an organization that’s decided to force the idea of “community without leadership, whether you like it or not” and everyone working together to make events happen, the attitude of the company is remarkably dictatorial.

Users are not just upset about the changes at this point. Meetup is behaving like the arrogant man who divorces the wife who supports him for years while he builds himself up, only to walk away and leave her with nothing so he can take up with a 21-year-old trophy wife. (see: Kelsey Grammer). The Organizers that have invested years of time, effort, and financial involvement in the site aren’t content to be left out in the cold or slowly edged out of what they’ve built, but unfortunately, Meetup is offering few alternatives. Like many that alienate those responsible for their success, Meetup will likely very quickly realise it isn’t upgrading or moving toward a brighter future, but heading toward its’ demise.

For those who care about such things, or are current Meetup Organizers, there is an ongoing list of the changes to the Meetup system that affect you. It seems to be growing daily:

1) Google Maps image on main page
2) “Helped Plan” instead of Organized by
3) No way to insert an image without knowing the HTML code
4) The new place for “We should do this because”
5) There are a lot of places text are to small & color contrasts make it hard to read (really hard for people with bad sight) example “paid”
6) Videos on the main page are gone
7) Pictures on the main page are gone
8) What’s new did not have all the changes, just the main screen change
9) Comments on the main site
10) You can’t really tell it’s a featured Meetup anymore
11) The top phrase “Lets Meetup and…”
12) About Us is no longer a main part of the site
13) Change from RSVP to Count me in
14) Change from Ideas to New Meetups
15) Small icons now for members
16) When you make a change the Meetup Description, it posts a comment and you cant deleted it.
17) The new “Like” link
18) Allowing members to create their own meetups (this can be disabled)
19) Nudge: if the organizer does not have a event posted
20) Removed the announcement to the group feature
21) Changing RSVP’s – You can now search by typing in the name
22) New Members – Get an email that tells them “you’re expected to participate and “don’t flake”
23) Layout in which: new members, new posts, new pictures, etc.. are at the bottom and members have to scroll down to see if you have a few events.
24) The Reminder Emails changed with new layout and subjects
25) Many options have been moved to the “Tools” menu when in an event
26) You lose all your event pictures (the small ones we used to pick from album)
27) When searching for a group, your description may not fully show (happened to me), need to edit it
28) If you had HTML in your description, when searching for a group your HTML code shows
29) Welcome email has “Our Sponsors” & “Perks”
30) Welcome email has “Follow Us” with all your social networking links
31) You can not archive sponsors. It’s either delete or edit
32) Check out our sponsors are at the bottom of the group description page if a non-member views the group.
33) Sponsor and Perks program are combined. Should be a way to distinguish them.
34) Calendar only shows one month at a time
35) About tab turned into pages
36) Selecting a place > Find a place > you can only search name & it’s only local searching. – Major Issue, possibly a bug.
37) Recent places is limited to showing 4 at a time
38) Unable to post an event unless you can find it in the event list. – Major Issue, possibly a bug.
39) There is no concept if ideas that you can monitor and choose from. Ideas turned to a Pre-Meetup and Organizers get an email that says within a day if you don’t cancel it, it turns into a Meetup. So if you don’t want this then you have to shut off the entire “Idea” concept.
40) Members can create Meeutps – This can be turned off. Found under the leadership team link on the main page.
41) Custom Titles that you give members now doesn’t show up when they RSVP.
42) RSVP turned to: “Count me in” & “No Thanks”
43) How to find the organizer has been removed
44) Calendar Notes no longer show on the calendar
45) Members cannot add notes with the “No response”
46) When members change from Yes to No, they don’t get a chance to write why
47) When an event has past, you cannot view members answer
48) On the left it used to say Organizer and Assistant Organizer, now it just says “Organizers”
49) Your group picture is what is now used when you click “Find” Meetup under the Trending/Upcoming/New
50) The mobile site on my BlackBerry,opera’s mobile browser, IE Mobile, Palm OS doesn’t come up anymore. It goes to the full site
51) Reports on: After the switch, waiting lists accidentally turned into “Yes”, so a limit of 10 with 5 on a waiting list now may have 15 people attending.Major Issue, possibly a bug.
52) This is SPAM link on top of the event
53) Recent Activity is pushed to the bottom of the page
54) All existing event descriptions now re-formatted to left-hand justification and there’s now no option to center text in an event listing.
55) Adding colors to the event description has been removed
56) Star rating for the group is gone
57) I just got multiple emails that said “Help complete XXXX” where XXXX is the name of a NOTE on the meetup calendar. possibly a bug
58)”Schedule a Meetup Event: no longer has a link to connect to the discussion board. Connection to discussion board can be added if you edit the event after it is scheduled.
59) Meetup iPad app not working (1 reported)
60) Emails announcing new events are no longer listed in the Mail Archive
61) Announcement emails can no longer be set to respond directly to the organizer, instead, like the old post feature, responses go to the whole group.
62) Sometimes Google shows the wrong thumbnail map
63) Can not save edits to a draft
64) Cannot navigate from one event (whether active or draft) to another event without going back to the home page
65) No More “Check-in” feature
66) RSVP’s (or “Count me in’s”) are no longer an option to appear in the activity feed
67) Calendar is no longer on the navigation bar

I’m not sure whether the Meetup fiasco is based on some sort of premeditated, evil plot to get rid of the organizers and move toward a system that makes that leadership role irrelevant—amounting to the company that insists you bring in clients, and then fires you when your base is loyal to that company— or simply the result of an idea gone awry that Meetup isn’t willing to lose face over. One thing is certain, and that’s that this issue isn’t going to go away. Meetup will either sacrifice a number of current customers, opening doors to competitors and development on the part of sites like Facebook, in order to move the company in a different direction, or it will simply realise that the success of any venture is highly dependent upon listening to the concerns of the customers.

I’ve seen this analogy everywhere lately, but it’s a highly appropriate one. If Coca-Cola hadn’t admitted it made a mistake with “New Coke” and brought back what the people wanted, the market share would be 90% Pepsi in the United States today. The powers-that-be at Meetup.Com should really take a lesson from that. If your goal is to unite people and exemplify the value of community, you won’t get there through divisive action, cutting off communication, and putting your profit margin above the needs of your customer base.

Note: Thanks much for the link love from Green Tech Girl, who wrote about this issue more eloquently and knowledgeably than I ever could!

OK, so it’s probably not as ominous and dramatic as that, but still, I’m a very unhappy camper. :(

Today, I woke up to see that my beloved Meetup group had been thoroughly discombobulated.

Like many organizers on the site, I was crushed to see that the look, content, and ease of use of the group I’ve kept running (and growing) for well over four years could be decimated by the whims of a CEO looking to maximize profit without listening to the users who keep the company afloat.

Meetup never did any beta testing, usability studies, or even asked the people what they want. They simply redesigned our pages, without warning, to maximize the visibility of Sponsors (who aren’t even really sponsors, but people offering 10% off coupons), and minimize everything the organizers do to keep groups successful…as well as make the site look thoroughly unappealing to new members. It’s a slap in the face that a company that I, and many others, have supported throughout the years and credit for the opportunity to build important friendships, relationships, and meaningful experiences, would make these choices.

Worse yet, despite the fact that virtually everyone dislikes this choice, Meetup is not listening. They’re closing down threads on their “forums” that are full of thousands of people listing their complaints. They’ve closed accessibility to their customer service hotline. Concerns are not even being heard, much less addressed. An official statement from a member of Meetup HQ said:

“There are no plans to revert back to the old version of Meetup. If you have suggestions for improvements, or if you’ve come across any bugs that you’d like to report, please take a look at Andrea’s post for more information.

Because we have no plans to revert to the prior version of Meetup, we’ll be closing threads on this forum that are requesting that we do so. Please let us know if there’s anything specific that you’re having trouble with, or any tools that you’re having trouble finding.”

I think this is shameful, and I feel sad, because it’s the first step toward something that’s been an important part of my life on many levels falling apart. I did everything I was supposed to. I built a successful group that is of benefit to many people, to the community, and represents the Meetup idea well. And, still, it’s been damaged and diminished by forces outside my control.

I love Meetup, not only because of the opportunities it’s provided me to contribute to the world in some small way and grow as a person, but because of the role it’s had in my life over the past few years. It introduced me to my boyfriend of over two and a half years, as well as some significant relationships before that. It introduced me to both my present roommate, and my roommate before that, who has become one of my closest friends. It’s introduced me to not just acquaintances, but true friends that are like family to me after just a few years. It’s allowed me to meet people and have experiences, in both my own city and others, that I may not have had otherwise.

And, because I love Meetup, the way they’ve made choices that severely impact my group without consulting me is really a slap in the face. It’s a sad day for me. I feel a little bit like I’m going through a huge breakup I didn’t see coming, with an ex who refuses to communicate with me. :P

For anyone who cares, here’s the letter I sent to Meetup HQ, which they will never read:

Dear Meetup HQ,

Please, just bring the old Meetup back.

Organizers spend a lot of time and energy on putting together what they do. All of that is not only not appreciated, but completely undermined, by a new layout that hides the content Organizers write, overrides the designs they’ve created, and instead features Sponsors (who truly don’t offer anything except discounts off of purchases), and fosters an attitude that Organizers are unnecessary, since almost anyone can do it.

This direction that Meetup is taking is driving people away, both Organizers and community members. As someone with an active group of nearly 1500 that’s been going strong for years, I wonder why the focus on changing what works? The new layout is not friendly, not inviting to new users, and doesn’t give the impression of a community so much as a scheduling tool. That’s not what most are looking for in this site, organizers and users alike.

After nearly a decade of my group being hosted by Meetup, it is a personal affront to me that the group might be harmed by the new layout; members are leaving, I received numerous complaints by people who thought the changes were my responsibility, and people want the old functions back, like the Meetup Stars, and the ability to post comments directly from the Meetup page. Also, just because someone suggests an “Idea” does not make it a “Meetup In The Making”, and it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen…I personally don’t want it lumped in as a “future event” unless it’s something I have planned, not simply something a member suggested.

95% of the Organizers I’ve spoken with agree with me. If Meetup is supposed to be about community, why are you not listening to your community members, rather than rolling out features without asking those that pay to use this service what they think? Even Facebook allows beta testing of new features, and the ability to go back to the old version if you don’t like the changes.

People are leaving this website and investigating alternatives simply because of these changes, so I hope that the CEO and management of Meetup listen. I’d hate to see a great service die because someone took it in a direction the users did not want it to go. (see: MySpace.) Those who are loyal to the vision of Meetup will stay, but only if our interests are being served.

Meetup should at least give us the option to revert back to the old format if we’re not interested in using this new one. The organizers are essential in keeping this site going, and we should have a say, too.

Are you listening, Meetup.Com? No, I didn’t think so.

While absolutely nobody reads this blog, save for a handful of close friends, it seems I’ve been targeted by a spammer-bot that found me on LiveJournal, and just won’t quit with the comments. So, I’m going to handle the situation like I usually do when a problem with someone or something comes my way: by writing a polite note that is perfectly cordial on the outside, but on the inside, contains a very large middle finger. :)

Dear Spammer-Bot,

My comments are moderated for a variety of reasons, but you are one of them. Your comments will not be approved, so, please, stop wasting your time and mine.

Thanks,

*~ A.

In other news, I have now officially failed at/ broken all my New Year’s resolutions. I haven’t lost a single pound since successfully convincing the scale to take 5 off the number it shows me every day, I spend more time wasting time on the computer during my work day than actually working, I’m not in a financially promising situation due to all the things that are going into planning a friend’s bridal shower, bachelorette party, and attending her wedding next month, and I’ve only read one book and watched one movie on the “classics” list. The past few months have brought a good deal of distance, both physically and emotionally (though, ironically, not at the same time.) into my relationship with The Guy I Am Currently Dating. We’ve had open and kind of emotionally draining conversations about the future of our relationship—or, in my mind, the lack thereof.

I’m certain that those that have known me for a long time have pegged my recent sadness as simply that thing that happens to me every so often, where I realise I’m dissatisfied with my life, and ready to run: from a job that isn’t ultimately what I want to do, but is improving my life and good for me *right now*; from a relationship that often seems too hard and too complicated and destined to end as soon as it is time for me to make any kind of major life change; from a living situation I don’t like, with a roommate that simply refuses to find a full-time job and hasn’t paid more than $100 a month toward living expenses for a year; from friends that talk about me behind my back and I’m not always certain truly like me or consider me a friend, nor if I truly like them. I know I tend to run away from things rather than moving forward, but I haven’t done that in a long while, and as a result, I feel stuck.

And while I know there are options for unsticking myself that don’t involve just packing up and going somewhere where nobody knows my name (which I guess means Boston is out. :P ), that idea can’t help but seem appealing and exciting to me. I’m ready for a new adventure, and for things to not always feel so stagnant. Part of me just wonders if I’ve exhausted my adventures here in Atlanta, while another part simply wants to move closer to the city and into my own apartment. Either way, I find myself being bored and restless, and while I don’t want to leave behind all the positive relationships I’ve built here and find myself all alone in the world, it seems like every time I finally develop something that feels like home and family, my natural inclination is to want to go away from it and visit it on holidays.

I am really, truly, in need of personal growth, adventure, and excitement. For the first time, concerns about relationships, work, money, and everything else aren’t paramount in my mind, although they really should be. My energy and focus always drifts away, and dreams of adventure, exciting changes, and recapturing my spirit.

I’m not really sure what to do with that, or about that.

A bit of my former enthusiasm for all my “projects” has dissipated lately, as is obvious in that this blog has been neglected for the past few days. As I told The Guy I Am Currently Dating, the last time I blogged was very possibly the last time I had an interesting thought.

I dislike January immensely, and February is only minutely better. Without fail, this time of the year is one where I sleep 8-9 hours a night, decide there’s absolutely no reason not to eat the junk food I love, refuse to go outside unless there’s a particularly good reason, and even when I interact with other people, become acutely aware that I’ve absolutely nothing of substance to add to the conversation.

Around this time each year, I become bored, depressed, and a catch a frightening glimpse ahead at the person I might expect to be when I’m 80. Not only do I become bored with everyone around me, all the things I spend my time doing (and often really love), and with the direction my life is heading, I become immensely bored with myself. I start thinking about all the ways I could make dramatic changes, become a different person, living in a different place, perhaps with a different kind of life. All my goals, and plans, and things I looked forward to on January 1st have been replaced with an intense satisfaction and desire to just pick up and go.

Of course, I never do, because it’s way too cold. I can’t even handle the temperatures well enough to motivate myself to go across the street, much less make life-altering choices or embark upon a new adventure.

I’m thinking maybe hibernation is the answer for me. I know once it’s March and I can finally leave the house again without shivering beneath 20 extra pounds of sweaters, coats, scarves, hats, and gloves, things are going to be OK. But, in the meanwhile, Winter is fairly difficult for me to overcome. Even my skin wants to be hidden, as it’s sprouted icky dry patches resistant to lotion or moisturizer of any kind.

It’s hard to feel sexy in January. In fact, it’s pretty difficult just to feel human sometimes.

Thank goodness for my electric blanket. It doesn’t conquer boredom, but at least I can remain healthy while being restless and dreaming of running away to a fun, lively place where everyone wears sandals 11 months out of the year.

Sometimes, the whole relationship thing seems relatively impossible, and really kind of depressing.

I see other people all around me, every day, who somehow make it work. There are people in the world that accomplish this idea of having a committed relationship with one person that is not only a good match and free of horribly destructive tendencies like lying, stealing, cheating, screwing around, beating people up, needing to control others, and engaging in addictions to anything out there that a person can find himself addicted to—but then on top of that, actually wants to build a future with another person and has goals headed in the same direction, and doesn’t have any huge life obstacles preventing this potential future from happening. Typically, I do not know these people—although there are a few in my circle of friends—and I have historically not ended up in relationships with these people, but I do somehow know they’re out there.

I am, admittedly, not the most commitment-oriented person on the planet, and I have my share of huge issues to deal with, which is likely why I attract the same. I’ve been dating The Guy I Am Currently Dating for two and a half years now, and during that time, I’ve discovered he’s still one of those truly good guys, the kind that is free of deal-breaking habits, is willing to put up with my shit and like me anyway, treats me well, and helps to make me a better person. It’s hard to find those guys, particularly when you’re me, and you’re attracted to drama, chaos, and things that don’t make you a better person.

The trouble is, whenever I think about the future, I feel a little depressed and lost. It’s not just that after two and a half years, we’re not living together, not engaged, not married, and have no immediate plans to move the relationship forward past the hanging out three days a week phase. That is kind of unusual, based on my previous life experience, but let’s admit it, my previous life experience hasn’t exactly worked out for me. I’ve made living together and getting engaged important steps in the relationship, which then lead to a desire for freedom, independence, and the realisation I’ve committed myself to the wrong person—or perhaps that I’m just the wrong person for that kind of commitment.

However, I’ve also ended/caused the end of relationships because it occurred to me that after two years, a guy who hasn’t proposed or asked me to move in with him probably isn’t the right person for me. In my mind, that’s enough time to determine whether or not you’ve found the right person—and if you haven’t, it’s a good idea to move on. Maybe it’s not so much that I need that kind of commitment in my life *right now*, it’s just that I need to know that the person I’m investing my time, energy, and feelings in actually likes me enough to want that kind of commitment with me. I need to know that the other person sees a future with me, and plans for that future could actually be a possibility….you know, in the future.

The Guy I Am Currently Dating tells me I am the right person for him, and he sees a future with me, but what I see is a whole lot of obstacles and uncertainties that would make that kind of future an impossibility, even if he wanted that…and I’m not sure he does. In my experience, guys who have gotten past a certain age and have avoided making serious commitments in the relationship department have done so for a reason—and the reason is often that, no matter how much they like someone or how perfect that someone is, they’re happy being permanent bachelors. And, commitment-phobic as I am, I somehow know that’s not right for me.

I’m afraid of continually making this same mistake, of investing years of my life into someone who doesn’t want what I want—either because they’re in a hurry to get married and have kids *right now*, or because they’ve made it to a different stage of life, where dating and maintaining separate lives is ideal. When I think about the future, I feel sad, because I’m tired of having to say goodbye to people, not because I don’t love them, but because our futures don’t fit together, or the obstacles are too great. But, when that’s the case, the only alternative is to not say goodbye…and accept that the other person may never want what you want.

I’m not sure which is the more painful, so most of the time, I relegate “the future” into that “thing I don’t think about” category. But one day, I’m going to have to, and it’s going to put me back in the position of making really hard choices. :( ((

I am not sure how people *ever* get together, much less make it work out for the long term. But, with a 50% divorce rate in this country, I’m not sure anyone else does, either.

Since we’ve been talking a lot about seeing new movies lately, here’s a chance to cross one off of your list for free! Use this promo code to get a free one-night movie rental through Thursday, January 20 at your local Blockbuster Express (it’s the “blue box”, not the “red box”.)

The code is 14CHD2X (expires Thursday, Jan. 20 at midnight)

Thanks goes to Freebies 4 Mom for the code! You can use promo codes online to reserve your movie and pick it up for FREE, or simply use it at your nearest “blue box”.

You need to make sure you return your one-night movie rental before it’s due (9pm the next day) to avoid an additional night rental charge. You can use each promo code more than once if you use it with a different credit card, so share the love with your friends and family members. Check online to find your closest Blockbuster Express location!

….and, no, it had absolutely nothing to do with Sarah Palin. ;)

Tonight, although the world was pretty much back to normal and Atlanta decided to venture out again, The Guy I Am Currently Dating was still stuck inside his house, due to an excessive amount of ice in his driveway. Since our plans for tonight involved a trip to the movies, I decided to have movie night on my own.

I started off with “The Young Victoria”, a lovely period piece about the coming-of-age of the future Queen Victoria—a historical figure I know relatively little about, despite my great love for both the intrigue and drama of the history of the British monarchy, and literature/drama/fashion from the Victorian era. It focused not only on the political intrigue of the time, but on the love story between the young queen and Prince Albert, depicted as one of feminism, idealism, and equality, in a society when none of the above were popularly-held ideas.

Though some will likely find the story a little dull, as it focuses on character development much more than action, I thought it moved at a fast pace and was thoroughly engaging. I’d certainly recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of historical drama, period films, or quaint love stories—or anyone who sat through Showtime’s “The Tudors”. :)

Next, I decided to watch “Eat, Pray, Love”, based upon the book of the same name, which I read while in New York last month. Although I didn’t hold particularly high expectations for the book, it was enjoyable enough; it was something I could relate to, and so I figured I’d give the film a try.

Unfortunately, the author’s words simply don’t translate well to the screen, and after reading the book, the mental image I’d formed of the main character has little to do with the casting of Julia Roberts. It almost seems as if a different type of character—one 50 pounds thinner, 15 years older, and with lips that announce collagen injections gone wrong (I haven’t seen such painful-looking lips since Goldie Hawn in “The First Wives Club“.)—was created with the casting of Julia Roberts, and although Julia is typically very endearing, it actually makes the character far less likable than the one portrayed in the book.

The most annoying artistic choice, and the one worthy of the title of this post? During a scene where the Julia Roberts character first arrives in Italy and discovers the wonder of a good meal, she is in an Italian trattoria, and they have a sweeping operatic aria playing in the background.

This would be a great choice, given that Italy is the birthplace of some of the greatest operas in the world, and there are many recognizable Puccini and Verdi choices to be had. However, this film chooses one of my favourites, The Queen Of The Night’s aria (“Der Holle Roche”), from The Magic Flute. For those who don’t know, The Magic Flute is a great opera written by Mozart—in German!! In fact, the choice is an indirect slight to Italy, since at the time, many composers and opera fans considered Italian more low-brow, music for commoners.

I believe this sense of annoyance is what sci-fi geeks feel when Star Trek opts for a plot device that is just scientifically impossible. *laughs* If you’re going to make a film about a woman who falls in love with Italy, it would be a good idea to actually use examples of things from Italy. (Why was music from “The Godfather” playing when they were in Naples? I thought that family was Sicilian? However, I could be wrong.)

I didn’t make it much farther than that in the movie, since I’m kind of tired, and the film wasn’t worth staying up until 4:30 to finish. I’ll watch the rest tomorrow. But, unless you’re bored and have a free rental code from Redbox, don’t bother with this one. It’s more work, but much more entertaining, to actually read the book.

I really had no intention of commenting on the recent tragic shooting in Arizona, because, quite frankly, all the anger surrounding political discussions in our country has me burnt out. I no longer care to engage anyone in discussions about politics, because in general, I think everyone is wrong. I blame everyone, from partisan politicians on both sides, to journalists and pundits that encourage the dissension because it keeps them in business, to the American people, who are so frustrated with the lack of answers that they’ve taken to the same hatred, name-calling, and blaming of people on “the other side” that once made ideas like the KKK and McCarthy hearings so popular.

There is no “other side”. There are different ways of looking at the world, but that’s healthy. The divisive way in which Americans are approaching the political system, the “us against them” mentality that was largely brought about by the media, and the existence of programs specifically designed to stir up hate and anger against “them”—well, none of this is healthy. We’re all on the same side. We may not agree, but that’s what compromise is for. The guy you so adamantly disagree with who exemplifies the basic philosophy of “them”, he may be way off base in his thinking about what’s wrong with our country, and how to fix our society. Then again, so might you be. But when you discuss ideas in a reasonable and mature way, you often learn you have more common ground than expected, and you share many of the same goals. This builds a foundation for discourse and compromise, ideas that have played a huge role in making our country a successful one, one that promotes personal freedom, democracy, equality, and prosperity.

Economically, socially, and in terms of what I perceive as the world I’d most like to be a part of, I’m the most liberal person out there. According to a recent political compass quiz I took, I’m slightly to the left of folks like the Dalai Lama and Gandhi. However, when it comes to how I view politics, and the role of the political system in a democratic country, I’m the most moderate voice I’ve heard in a long time…well, at least since the Rally To Restore Sanity.

It is OK to disagree with ideas that don’t align with yours. But, before you disagree, you must understand where the other person is coming from, discuss the idea intelligently, and debate the pros and cons of it. Simply shutting the idea out and calling the other person a Nazi, a Socialist, Ma-Obama, or Hitler doesn’t accomplish anything. Hate is always born out of anger, and usually stems from a combination of frustration, ignorance, and the need to blame someone. It’s convenient when your problems are because of the Jews, the blacks, the Muslims, the Communists, the President, the political party you don’t agree with and everyone that follows them. But the true answers to life’s problems are never the convenient ones, and hate is just a smoke screen that obscures both the real issues, and the possibility for solution.

When can we get back to rational, intelligent discourse about the problems we face, and the potential solutions? When can we stop making it about journalists, TV networks, and pundits on both sides, or politicians that are more interested in becoming celebrities and stirring up emotions, meant to detract from a more solution-oriented way of thinking? I think it can only happen when the American people decide they’re too intelligent to hate, and not naive enough to be distracted by the outside noise of the media, popular culture, and the undercurrent of anger and frustration running through our country.

Here’s what I posted on Facebook today, which kind of sums up my view on the whole deal:

“People don’t shoot people because they are conservative, liberal, or anarchist. They don’t shoot people because of irresponsible politicians who publish maps with target markings, or inflammatory pundits and journalists who see a tragedy as a way to boost ratings, or even because they were tired of hearing America blame one another for everything that sucks. Sometimes, people shoot other people just because they are unhappy, crazy, or disturbed. All the arguing, name-calling, accusations, and viciousness I see on FB regarding discussions of the AZ shooting and politics make me all of those thin…gs. (though I’m not going to shoot anyone because of it.) This is why so many Americans are apathetic and don’t want to participate in the political system. Call me when it’s time to stop blaming and name-calling, and time to actually start doing something to make the world a better place to be. ”

Something’s wrong with a world where I, one of the most overly emotional, impulsive people around, stand for the voice of reason. ;)

Sometimes, I think relationships for me are always about someone falling for the idea of who I might be, who I could possibly be in the future, or who I was sometime in my past that might make a reappearance. I think this because it’s easy for me to start relationships, to find people who are interested and profess love and admiration, but once it’s 6 months or a year or two into things, life seems more about “No, you’re wrong.” and “I don’t agree with your way of looking at things”.

It’s harder to just be myself, without the feeling of disappointing someone who wasn’t quite aware who that person was, whose subtext is always, “I didn’t know you were like that” and “You’re hard for me to figure out.”

It’s easier to be quiet, to neglect pieces of myself that don’t quite fit the picture, to not mention that after all this time, I’m still an incurable romantic who just wants that end-all-be-all connection with someone who just gets me; who clicks, and connects, and understands, and still likes me in the process.

Every relationship I’ve ever been in, as time passes, I start to hide myself…or at least, the pieces of myself that don’t seem worthy of commentary, or I deem too uninteresting for another person to care about. And, inevitably, I grow farther and farther apart from that other person, until it occurs to me that I’m still looking for that connection I’m at least partially responsible for making sure doesn’t happen.

I think that’s why I’ve had such struggles with ideas like monogamy and commitment in my life; they’re so wrapped up with this idea of losing myself, hiding myself because it’s easier than openly addressing the fact that the person you’re with might not “get” you in the particular way you need to be understood and related to. It’s easier than seeing that you run from relationships, make yourself unavailable because part of you is always chasing something—something that’s this elusive ideal and may not even exist, and most people know not to look for or expect, but you just can’t quite give up on.

I can’t give up on the idea that I don’t want so many of the little things I do or say or think or believe to become less endearing and more annoying as time passes. I can’t give up on the idea that the right person for me is someone who knows and appreciates who I am on some fundamental level, and as a result, finishes my sentences and knows what I’m thinking even when I don’t say it out loud, and still thinks I’m adorable. I don’t think I’ve ever found that, and logically, I know I shouldn’t need that. But I do.

So much of the time, I feel like there’s someone else in my life—-friends, parents, significant others—who tell me what I think, feel, say, and do is wrong, no matter what. Sometimes, I feel as if the world tells me I’m wrong just for being me, and I should work on being someone a little entirely different, something I’ve never quite figured out.

I don’t want being loved for who I truly am to be a compromise another person makes to make things work; an “in spite of”, when it should be a “because”. I wonder if that makes sense to anyone else but me.

On the other hand, consistently having relationships with people who are my emotional opposites, or with whom I don’t share as many common interests as I’d ideally like in a relationship, probably makes this issue harder for me to deal with. I know I’m very rarely the only one who feels misunderstood. :(