Tag Archive: blogging

16 September 2009

Is there a literary equivalent for having your jaw drop?  Do my fingers fall to the ground mid-typing?  Is it a screen-freeze on my monitor?

I haven’t posted for days on end, and certainly not because there hasn’t been anything to write about.  No, it’s some kind of jaw-drop reaction to the right wing craziness on their hot-button issues:  health care… or taxes… or big government… or government at all… or something?  As the protests over the last few weeks have ramped up, it’s been more and more difficult to get a fix on exactly what the “tea party” folks are aiming to achieve.

It been pretty bizarre.  My last post on the town hall/health reform/evil government contingent was when Barney Frank used his “dining room table” comparison.  I think he was having a jaw-dropping moment, but manage to pick his up off the floor and respond, sort of in-kind.  Since that post, things have moved along alarmingly.  Just off the top of my head

* A finger was bitten off in another heated Town Hall exchange

* Light was shed on The Family and the C-street house

* Glenn Beck, Glenn Beck, Glenn Beck

* Orly Taitz-isms continue to provide background noise

* The latest Texas secession rally actually gets attention

* A big ol’ flurry over Obama’s speech to school kids: indoctrination? or….

* Joe Wilson yells “You Lie!” during Obama’s speech to Congress

* The Nine-Twelvers held a healthy but over-rated rally in DC

And all though this mess, of course, like an annoying squeaky wheel (say a small one, on a child’s red wagon) the hysterical extreme right continues to blather on about their fears: socialist/ communist/Muslim/ foreigner/ fascist/ death panels/ internment camps and coffins for tea partiers/ etc etc etc, on and on, a never-ending whine of crap based on nothing but paranoid fantasies about the communists, and/or heathens, and/or darkies taking over, pardon my french. 

Gawd.  It makes me tired just re-living it.

As if this endless stream of dangerous fantasy wasn’t paralyzing in and of itself, a few days back, Frank Schaeffer posted a great piece on the extreme religious right, how the decades of growth of the politicized religious right led to the Nine-Twelvers.  He shares what he believes these folks really want in American politics, how it shapes the bizarre thinking that sparks cries of “socialism” and considers the bulk of American society as agents of Satan.  Literally.  I value Schaeffer’s perspective, as an religious right insider from childhood, who late in life left the flock after realizing how crazy his isolated world view had become.

But it scares me – knowing what’s going on down deep in the thinking of the Christian extremists – and Schaeffer’s piece on the Nine-Twelvers ramped up my immobilization, my writers block, if you will. 

I guess the Joe Wilson thing broke the gridlock for me.  I moved from jaw-drop to thinking again, in actual words and sentences  instead of the white noise of my cacophony of outrage.  Because it is outrage – outrage that people are so far gone in how they think about our society, casting the events around them in a light which has nothing to do with facts, and everything to do with fear.  Fear, I think, of change, and of the Other.  Add the adrenaline rush of Being Part of a Movement!!! … I guess some people just can’t resist the cocktail of fear and adrenaline and a sense of Doing Something, anything, to gain an illusion of control.

One thing I know:  I have to resist the immobilizing jaw-drop experience, or I’ll cave to despair.  Venting – here or elsewhere – is just the medicine I need.



19 August 2009

About half the time I sit down to write a post, I intend to jet out something quick and concise – usually an in-the-moment reaction to news, or a comment made to me, or a random thought.  I’m thinking a paragraph or two, a snapshot of a reaction.

Then, an hour later, I realize I’m not even close to being done.  I save the draft, and move on to some other project.  Most of the time, I come back to it later, finish my thoughts, clean it up, and post the thing.  But my vision of the snappy response to the world around me disappears in the tangle of thoughts.

I’ve always been a bit verbose.  What starts out as a quick meet-up on the sidewalk evolves into an hour of conversation over lunch.  Five page papers turn into fifteen pages after much editing.  Nothing actually wrong with all that, I suppose, as long as I’m not boring people.

And in any case, in this setting, the self-serving aspect of a blog sort of cancels out any concern about “going on too long.”

And, with unusual constraint, that’s where I’ll stop.

Writing to Think

2 August 2009

I imagine I am only one of many, many people who use writing as a way of thinking things through.  Ideas can muddle around in my head, forming roughly coherent thoughts, but it is when I try to articulate them that that they come into focus. 

You’ve seen Word Clouds?  The one depicted here is from my first post in this blog, pulling out the most mentioned words in the WordCloud-17Jul2009WordpressPost-smalllargest type, down to less frequently used ones, and not including words like “the” and “a” and “and.”  Word Clouds suggest thought, a range of interests, an array of focal points, but don’t actually form a directed perspective or argument.  That’s a little what my mind seems like until I try to talk it out, literally or, well, literately.  That is, in writing.

Conversation helps clarify thought too.  But writing is very self-centered, and in a good way.  While you can count on most conversations to run off on tangents, written pieces, while they can run off in different directions, more easily stay focused.  After all, there’s only one speaker in the room.  One’s own written work only has to pay attention to the author’s interest, and needn’t pay deference to anyone else’s.

That has to be part of the appeal of blogging, I suppose.  Any response, and back-and-forth in the online conversation is almost strictly on the bloggers terms.  Weird.  But useful.

In any case, the tangle of concepts, questions and gut-level feelings whirling around the murky container of my brain is best looked at in the light of day, you might say.  Sure, there are phrases, concepts, that in small bits are quite coherent, but don’t really come together into anything resembling a deeper understanding of the whole picture, regardless of topic.  That is, until I start trying to articulate it.  Pulling the mess out, whether in conversation or writing, is really helpful, and since I live a bit like a hermit, spending long hours with just me and the cats, writing has long been a refuge to sort things out.  If I try to articulate something (written or spoken), I have to construct my understanding of it.  When I try to do that, sometimes I reveal what I’d term “bad thinking” – illogical thought, conflicting concepts, poor arguments for what is actually a knee-jerk reaction.  I sort it out, in order to write it out, and find my path through to a better way of framing it, sometimes in the process changing what I actually think.  Usually that’s because I end up discarding some really bad piece of logic, some prejudice or assumption that just doesn’t bear out once analyzed.

Could I do this without writing it out, or talking it through?  Maybe, but that word cloud swirls, a big interesting fog, making it very difficult to decipher what is going on.  I find that writing, even more than conversation but best paired with it, is almost essential to my ability to think.

And so, write on!

17 July 2009

Why am I here?  Not in the metaphysical sense, but rather in the "why blog?" sense.

One can, after, simply keep a diary, private and free-form.  But putting something potentially in the public eye, even if nary a soul ever views it, puts useful constraints on writing.

You have to watch your words — not so much to avoid offending, but in order to articulate your thoughts clearly.  I admit it, this has a rather selfish root:  writing for the public in order to clarify my own thoughts, purely for my own benefit.  But it is an effective way to force myself to make better sense, to express myself better.

I find a comparison from my college days.  I was requested, at a couple of different points, to keep an academic journal, a collection of reflections on what I was reading, hearing, seeing, doing with my college studies.  My professors read through this journal a couple of times through the quarter, so while it was quite a personal reflection on my academic experience, I had to present my ideas in such a way that (a) my professors could understand what I was writing about, and (2) the reader wouldn’t be offended by my thoughts.  That is, I wouldn’t write in my journal something like a scathing rant on the professor who would be reading it, or report on my hot and heavy night with a fellow student in gratuitous detail.

Now, at the same time, I kept a very personal diary, which did reflect some on my schooling, but was more focused on my personal relationships, my toddler, the movies and music I discovered, my bitches and moans about life.  This collection I wouldn’t share with a soul, containing as it did the typical embarrassing rants and scattered musings of most diaries.

A couple of notes on the form of these two very different journals:

My personal diary was kept long-hand — I didn’t yet own a computer (this was 1984, after all, and I was a poverty-level single parent at the time).  In later years, I’ve kept my personal journals on the computer, and don’t even bother printing the pages out anymore, but back then this wasn’t an option.  My journals from those years are filled with almost illegible scrawl, many scribbles, and sometimes notes in the margins.

I wrote my academic journal on the college’s mainframe computer, sitting in the terminal room (a bit morbid of a title, I always thought) at round tables in front of black-n-green monochrome screens, without even a word processor to work in (we used some kind of program-writing program in lieu of the real thing).  I did this at my own option, partly to learn how to use a computer, and partly because of my atrocious handwriting.  I also let myself go back and edit these journals, both for spelling and grammar, and also to ensure that I was expressing myself clearly, or perhaps to expand on something that, upon reflection, I hadn’t explored fully in my journal.

To allow editing was a big difference in my mind between the journals.  My personal diary, with its scribbles and addendum and margin notes, showed where I had changed my mind about content or composition.  The printouts from the computer terminal (on a clacking dot-matrix printer so loud that it was corralled along with the other printers in its very own glassed in room) revealed nothing of any edits or reconsiderations I’d gone through in constructing the journal entry.  It felt like cheating.

The other difference between the two journals was in terms of shorthand references.  In a private diary, one can write "and it really bugged me because of that time at my sister’s house," and there is no need to explain what happened "that time" or why it relates.  When you are your own audience, you already have all the reference points.

In a journal to be read by others, such offhand references aren’t helpful unless explained, and in the process of explaining, not only is the point made more clear to both reader and writer, but you tend to reveal false links, poor logic, and badly thought out connections between the events in our lives.  Sometimes, you know, you can link up things for very poor reasons – like thinking your Aunt has hated you for decades, when really she was just scowling that time because of the bad potato salad your mom made (that’s fictional, btw) – and writing these things out occasionally forces you to face the reality that maybe there was some other explanation for the thing you were just so sure about.

Keeping these two types of journals simultaneously was an interesting experience.  And keeping those academic journals has led to attempting blogs, another form of written expression which you willingly put in front of another’s eye — more personal than journalism, but more public, and hopefully articulate, than a private diary needs to be.

Which leads me to here.

I have been intensely interested in the U.S. political scene since the 2008 election season.  I find myself watching, and commenting on in my own mind, all kinds of issues as they arise in the the news, and that leads to wanting to express myself on political and social issues for the first time in a decade or more.  For others, that expression might come through poetry or painting, but for me it’s writing out my thoughts.

And because these thoughts are issue-centered, I don’t so much want to just blather on about whatever is pissing me off (or inspiring me) at the moment, I want to informally dissect what I am stirred by.  Hence the desire to write, not just for myself, but for an unknown and most likely imaginary audience, in order to force myself to avoid the shorthand of references to unexplained experiences, or the lazyness of ranting.  Not to diss ranting.  I may do it here.  Sometimes it’s necessary, and almost always cathartic.

Anyway, this blog is starting up right at the end of the Senate hearings for Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the the Supreme Court.  Issues of law, the Constitution, and race are prominent right now, as they have been since the election.  I hope to start there, but we’ll see what crops up between this post and the next time I have a chance to write.

Here’s to new ventures, and clarity of expression!

–Sister Artemis

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