Tag Archives: Blogging

The Week in My World 9-23-11

The gnawing of homesickness abrades—not for my native home, but for someplace that feels like home. But whether inspiration to act is born of ecstasy or sorrow, the result is the same—you are moved to discover resourcefulness you didn’t know you had.

Finding Love in Arizona

The two dogs rescued from my neighbors have been adopted into wonderful homes. I continue to keep a close watch on the yard, which right now is blissfully empty. But there are thousands more animals hanging on to life in similar hells. All mammals have an instinctive will to live. I am researching how to approach schools to talk about how to care for animals. There are scripts to be learned and protocols to follow.

A Story to Share with My Victims

I promise never to use the word share unless it’s to share buried treasure, my bed with dogs and cats, or pizza with a friend. I promise to never share news, an absurd encounter, or personal confessions. Those, I’ll just flat out tell you. Leave the word share for something tangible, like your meal or your toys. You may not notice the almost imperceptible cringe of a polite person when you say you have a story to share, but it’s there.

The Trials of Tag Surfing

A good way to show disrespect to your readers is frequent use of the following phrases:

As I said  •  as I said before  •  like I said    as many of you know    as I mentioned before    I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while    I haven’t posted in a while and for this I deeply apologize    now I know a lot of people will be surprised about this revelation  •  everyone who reads my blog knows how I feel about  •  if you know me then you know that when I  •  it’s a well-known fact that I do not like…

All these phrases do is highlight your ego.

Was it a Girl Shad or a Boy Shad?

Before personal computers existed, I ran a typesetting shop for 12 years. My job was not to edit, but to set the type for a variety of businesses—but naturally I corrected errors. One of my clients was the Griswold Inn, a historic restaurant and inn in Essex, Connecticut. The inn changed its menus frequently and was a steady customer.

The owner at the time was a wealthy businessman from New York who used pompous phrases such as “I’ll see you in a fortnight” or “ring me up” or “it’s frightfully good.” Brochures outlining the inn’s history were available in the lobby, typeset and printed long before I came on board. The owner wanted to make some revisions and asked me to re-typeset the brochure. As I was typing it and fixing the usual errors made by careless typesetters (and careless business owners who sign off on proofs before printing), I came across a howler I will never forget. The copy explained how the inn was situated at the mouth of the Connecticut River where it meets Long Island Sound, and it read:

In the spring, when the androgynous shad swim upstream to spawn…

There, in a haughty Connecticut town full of extravagant homes, luxury cars, sumptuous sailboats, and trust-fund kids, not one person had ever reported the fact that shad are anadromous. I fixed the ridiculous blunder and never said a word.

The Awkward Alsatian

Before restaurants started creating their own menus with computers, they were a primary source of work for typesetters. Owners were often difficult to work with, and would insist I set the copy exactly as they had written it. One testy man from Alsace, France, was not a native speaker. His menu read: I welcome you to sample the flavors of my region. This struck me as both distasteful and hilarious, but there it stood.

Life’s Rich Knots

Your Friend’s Problems

A friend of mine allowed a 35-year-old man to park his RV on her property and hook up to her facilities in return for the completion of an agreed-upon punch list of work. The man had broken up with his wife and lost his job and blah blah boo hoo.

Six months later he has yet to fulfill his obligations and my friend claims she has asked him to leave. Since his truck is in a thousand pieces in her garage, I don’t see this happening without a sheriff.

I disliked him from the first day I met him. He’s a pathological know-it-all with the personality of a blister. He talks about himself obsessively, borrows my friend’s car, and walks into her house anytime he pleases. As he’s sucking up her electricity and hot water using her washer and dryer, he’s complaining about her cigarette smoke. I was curt with him until, in respect to my friend’s wishes, she asked for my cooperation.

A month ago he reconciled with his wife and moved her in without first asking permission. The wife does nothing but sleep and assist her husband in relating pathetic tales of woe. They are accomplished con artists.

I have since stopped speaking to him and his self-aggrandizing logorrhea is met only by my cold glare. My friend does not want to provoke them, so I must seethe quietly. At times I must get up and leave or I will explode in fury.

Our role in a friendship is often difficult to define. Is a friend’s job to empathize, yet remain a detached third party? Isn’t it natural to feel outrage when a friend reports exploitation or abuse? But at whom—the abuser or the victim? Maybe some people have a subconscious desire to be a doormat, or maybe I do not know how to be a friend.

Subscriber Button Drama

WordPress keeps trying to social-mediatize us. They took the Subscribe by email button off and replaced it with Follow at the top of the page. So many people complained that they returned the subscribe button, but with an obnoxious update—it announced to the world how many subscribers you have. Blogging is not Facebook. We are not here to play Farmville or Mafia Wars or endure the anxiety of publicly accumulating “followers.” Many blogs are specialized, personal outlets, and discussion is our goal. How many subscribers we have is nobody’s business but our own. I just now noticed that the number of subscribers information is gone, so thank you WordPress for listening to your flock.

A Little Antidote

I once worked for two Connecticut veterinarians. They were specialists in conditions other vets were stumped by, and charged usurious fees for consultations. One day as I was assisting one of the doctors in a poisoning case, he said to the client, “don’t worry, we’ll find the right anecdote.” I didn’t understand how relating a clever account of a humorous incident would help the dog one bit.

New Word Rants—Don’t Kill the Messenger

Oxford University Press periodically publishes new words, and they recently announced a small sampling from the list of 400 new words that appear in the now-available twelfth edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary. These words will not appear in print for a while in OUP’s flagship American dictionary, the New Oxford American Dictionary, as the 3rd edition was just released last fall (with the addition of about 2,000 new words and senses), but updates are available online. As I browse blogs, I encounter indignant rants from folks who just don’t get it.

I am proud to be part of the New Words Program. Each month, a group of readers submit 20 new words. Our job is to read, read, read—and though we are all assigned specific subjects, any new submissions are accepted. Sometimes we find older words that slipped through the cracks, sometimes new senses of old words emerge. OUP in no way inserts as actual entries all the submissions they receive—after the group submits them, the lexicographers further research them to determine the number of times they are used in everyday language.

So you’re mad that “sexting” went in. Lexicographers don’t create new words or make judgments on their suitability, unless they are considered too obscene. The lexicographer’s job is to record the language. If they don’t define new words, the dictionary becomes stagnant and unhelpful to a person needing a definition. Without new words, we’d still be speaking like we did hundreds of years ago. Many words become dated or archaic as new words dominate our culture. That’s progress.

If millions of idiots are sexting every day, it has to be in the dictionary. I’ve read angry posts calling for a stop to this—this is the downfall of English! They’re ruining our language! No, they’re not—our culture is. What they don’t realize is hundreds of new words are defined each year from the fields of technology, science, medicine, computers, government, cosmetics, mental diseases, weather catastrophes, fashion, architecture, culture, and a host of other subjects. Note that not long ago, even “blog” was a new word, and someone had to research it and make a decision whether to insert it as an entry. I wonder if the people who are now fuming about “retweet” were also mad about “blog” ten years ago.

Yes, some new words are a sad reflection of our times, but a dictionary has no need to apologize. If you don’t want to see sexting in the dictionary, then make it obsolete. If you don’t want to see jeggings, stop wearing them. If you can put an end to cyberbullying, then we won’t have to record it. If you don’t want to see social media terms in, then check your obsession with Facebook and Twitter. Because this is what people do, it must be documented. If these words bother you, there are still hundreds of thousands of other exquisite words in our beautiful language you can use to express yourself.

The Perils of Honesty

If people are clueless because they just don’t pick up on things, I accept that. An acquaintance I spoke to recently had never heard of hoarders. I don’t know how she’s gone through her long life managing to miss this serious psychological malfunction, but she has. OK, so she didn’t get that memo—I can see how not everybody is able to follow everything that’s happening in our culture. I didn’t get mad at her, I explained it to her.

But there’s a different, more dangerous kind of ignorance, and that is defiant ignorance. I encounter this more often than is comfortable, and it makes me squirm. This is not merely clueless, this is clueless with a badge and gun. This is not “I don’t know” but “I don’t know, don’t want to know, and do not attempt to contact me again with enlightening information or I will shut down and stare at you blankly.”

At one time I thought it was a disease of people of a certain age. For example, those who refuse to learn how to use a computer, even though it’s essential in order to be a useful member of a volunteer organization. People who refuse to acknowledge that the world runs on computers make it harder for everyone else to communicate with them. But I’ve learned that young people can be just as resistive to knowledge. A young person who refuses to learn about the outside world in a purposeful, prideful way is just as frustrating, and it’s a personality type I’m very uncomfortable around. When each conversation builds a new barrier instead of tearing one down, the less interest I have in trying to communicate at all.

So I write about it. It’s not easy to avoid topics that affect me deeply, whether it’s our forests burning, the general shitty state of affairs on our planet, or a difficult person in my life. I am intrigued by various personality types and when I encounter one that’s especially distinct, I like to think about it out loud. I am careful to keep people’s identities anonymous and confidential, as the point is hardly to direct readers toward a specific person.

This weekend I was tried and convicted by an online community who know nothing about me. They stalk me online, never write a comment, and have never had anything to contribute until I wrote about gaming addiction. Then they came out to attack me, knowing absolutely nothing about me, my relationships, or my history. They’ve told me what a very, very bad person I am. One e-mail I received was a sort of outline of all of my personal faults, all laid out for me so I can begin to work on my wickedness as soon as possible. I couldn’t read it, and trashed it immediately. Wow. I cannot imagine, ever, in any way, sticking my nose into a couple’s personal relationship whom I have never met, choosing sides, and then carrying out a personal assault.

This is my blog and my outlet, and I write, with careful research, about my life. I would never, ever, write insulting comments on another person’s blog. I have never done so and will never do so. If I find a blog distasteful in any way, I leave immediately and do not go back. I do not stalk people who irritate me and then flame them when they write something I don’t like. The blog helps me to vent,  recover, and move on—and sometimes this brings unwanted drama. This is a decision each of us has to make.

I could dump this blog and start a new one with a pseudonym but I just don’t see the point. Posting as a fictional character holds no appeal for me. If people don’t like what I have to say, my heartfelt advice is to go away. You have your own blogs to rant on, so please, use them.

Abstract Expressionism—in Writing

There has been an explosion of flash fiction in recent years. Flash fiction has been around a long time, parables and fables go back to ancient times. Some writers berate it by claiming that modern readers have attention deficit disorder, hence the popularity of Twitter, but I don’t believe this is entirely true.

If I want to read a book, I’ll read a book. I don’t have Kindle or any kind of e-reader, can’t afford to keep up, and seem to survive just fine without them. So, when I’m at my computer, which is often, there’s just no way I can sit here and read 1000 word stories, posts, or articles unless it’s part of research for work, writing, or my own curiosity. It would have to draw me in immediately, and there are a few who do, but they usually pertain to a subject I’m interested in.

I believe in the principles of flash fiction and wish all writers would apply these to their work. There are so many longwinded posts, articles, and bestselling fiction, full of superfluous text or boring or irrelevant details that I want to bleed a red pen over them.

But there’s something else in flash fiction that is just as cumbersome, and that is fiction so surreal it defies explanation. Reading a short story ten times trying to figure it out takes just as long as reading a long story once. I keep getting told it’s all about the reader’s interpretation, but stories aren’t dreams nor should they resemble a Jackson Pollock painting. Even a very short story should give you some basic facts and have a beginning, middle and end, even if it’s just 100 words. That’s what a story is. This is done by choosing each word carefully and not assuming the reader knows what’s inside your head. A page from an imaginary novel is not a story. By leaving out important pieces of information, writers think they are being profound but they are simply leaving many readers asking “huh?”

Bloggers can write whatever they want, it’s no one’s business but their own. But I would like to see writers of surreal fiction ask their readers what they think it means. I would like to see the commenters who write “awesome post” explain why they think it’s awesome. I love puzzles—cryptograms, crossword puzzles, Scrabble, jumbles, and hangman. I don’t get the same enjoyment from a puzzling piece of fiction. You can be just as profound without leaving the reader bewildered.

Better than Tuna?

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Better than Tuna?

What a bunch of dopes. Look at them down there, always making a big commotion about every trifle. A gnat flies by and they gotta let you know they’re on Stupid Patrol. I get to go outdoors but I don’t need no stinking fence. I’m sitting here on the ledge out of their sight, but my route to the branch that goes into the park is a well-marked course. I like to sit here for a bit and meditate before I go in. I’m quite Zen, you know.

I leap smoothly to the branch and wind my way through the tree into their territory. All it takes is one little meow and here they come. Look at them all barking and howling around the base of the tree. Though my own dogs are much better trained and know they’ll get a sharp slap if they chase me, they just can’t resist acting like a bunch of barbarians when they see me in a tree. Some primitive instinct to corner something I guess. Idiots, will they never evolve? Now their owners are all yelling at them to quit it. Ha ha. Whoa, was that the sound of a can opening? Gotta go!

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Stephanie’s responses to prompts at BeKindRewrite are exploding. It seems like a lot of work for a person who has a busy life. She puts a lot of thought into these prompts, and it doesn’t seem fair to her to combine her excellent prompts with others from different sites. Also, all you have to do is pingback somewhere in your post to Inspiration Monday VIII  or whatever number it is. You don’t have to print your entire story on her website or bug her to look at your story. She’ll be notified of your pingback and give you credit on Monday night. I’m afraid we’re going to lose this wonderful opportunity if we don’t respect these simple rules. I’m not trying to be a dick, but she is just one person, and I for one do not want to overwhelm this brilliant woman who has a full-time job, a book she’s writing, and a lack of sleep she has written about.

Prompt is A Cat in a Dog Park.

Freshly Pressed—Be Careful What You Wish For

It seems the goal of many bloggers is to be Freshly Pressed. I even read forums where bloggers complain they haven’t been Freshly Pressed, and damnit they want to know why, and they’re rude to the volunteer moderators!

My experience was totally unexpected. I woke up to 700 hits, and by the end of the day I had 3200 hits and hundreds of comments. I was overwhelmed.

I confess I don’t usually read Freshly Pressed posts, because I get much more satisfaction from new blogs with potential, or any blog I can relate to where the author actually wants to talk to me. I’m here to share, learn, and connect. I enjoy dialogue with likeminded people. It’s not as easy as you think.

Many of the comments I received were extremely generic, “great post” or “loved it.” I began to wonder why people would do this. I went to the Freshly Pressed blogs of that day and found many of the same bloggers who left me generic comments wrote the same comments on other Freshly Pressed blogs. I began to see a disturbing pattern. Many comments were simply a link to that person’s blog! Others came from people trying to sell something. I’m certain they didn’t even read the post, and I did not approve those comments.

The other day I received notification of a pingback, and when I went to the site what I found shocked me. It was set up to look like a news blog, but every post was the first paragraph of a Freshly Pressed blog with a link to their site. The “About” page was blank. However, there was an enormous blogroll of about 50 hardcore Islamic blogs and websites. I wrote a comment under my own pinged post and asked them to remove it. They did not respond.

Under “Blog Info” at the top of any WordPress post is a “Report as Spam” option. A box comes up to state your case. I explained that I thought this site was a front for Islamic sites using Freshly Pressed blogs as a lure. Within about 15 minutes, I got a response from WordPress saying they had shut the site down. When I clicked on the site again, a banner came up that said “This site has been suspended for violations of terms of contract.” I never expected such immediate action. I wrote WP a thank you note and asked if I could write about this experience, to which they replied “of course!”

A friend told me she had similar experiences with other blog publishing platforms before she switched to WordPress. Her requests to delete her blogs have been ignored, four years later she is still getting spam from her former blogs, and that writing the administrators accomplishes nothing.

Those of us who have chosen WordPress have the best blog publisher available. For free. WordPress rocks bigtime. They make it easy to set up, post, and  contact. Problem? They fix it.

I also received sensitive, perceptive, and observant comments and met some new bloggers because of my Freshly Pressed experience, some of whom I am now subscribed to and consider part of my “circle.” I’m not looking for thousands of hits or pingbacks. All I want is mutual, friendly relationships with people who have something to say that I’m interested in. WordPress has them.