Sunday, December 6, 2009

Editorial Control

I now have a new home - it's actually my old apartment, overstuffed with things from my former house. When I used to live here, somehow there was space for two daughters, a sleepover girlfriend, and room to work. Now it's just a mishmash of junk, and that's after I donated away or sold the bulk of what was in the house.

I'm not known for my decorating sense. Well, that might not be quite true. If I'm working on someone else's house, I can be pretty good at it. I can also be pretty good at sensing someone else's style, and offering editorial assistance. But I'm blind with me, always being taken aback when someone offers how ugly that tie is that I thought was pretty cool.

I tend in the direction of experimental is my excuse. I'm always conjectural about myself. So I end up walking the streets in teal chucks, say, or with a stupid looking hat. I know I write that way too.

Some folks are gifted with proprioception; with a solid sense of self. They can dance, for instance, or intuit just the right sense of style about themselves. I'm not gifted like that. So, blogging might be just the wrong pursuit.

I sit now among furniture poorly deployed, pictures hung at just the wrong height and in the wrong spot. I have no more energy to deal with the little piles of stuff which just simply can't find any place but isn't quite ready for the garbage sacks.

I've written myself into some alive sense of who I am, and so now what? I have two pretty good job prospects lined up, and I know that you, gentle reader, are urging me, please to take one. It would be the sensible thing, and two job prospects ain't bad the way the economy's going.

I actually think these prospects would not have materialized had I not taken it upon myself to exercise my voice in public. Or maybe it doesn't count as public if no-one's paying attention, like that famous tree falling in the woods which might not make a sound.

(lots of "I" at the begining of my paragraphs here, like Doris Lessing's famous machine gun, right?)

This must be the power of prayer then, which I must take the word of religionists actually does and can "work." Giving oneself over to the unknown, which is different from writing in a private journal, say, must have some power quite apart from whether you make an actual connection. Very much as if words themselves have power.

Like many of you (I would hazard a guess that anyone who reads this would fit the category of "many" here), I mourn the loss of books and newspapers. I feel very much as though they represent, on balance, a power for good. Sure, there are idiot screeds like "Going Rogue" which represent the foolishness of thinking there are still geographic-style frontiers. I guess that would be easy to believe up in Alaska. And Pulitzer-style newspaper power has caused its share of mischief.

But the best of us, well edited, is encapsulated in books. And a newspaper is such a brilliant "technology" for rapid orientation to the events going on around us. Professional writers become that well accomplished at giving us something we can both skate across and dive into, with headlines calling out their slant.

But we are different readers now. The books we buy often represent what we already know and believe in - bestsellers designed to push the envelope only of what we already think. With Rupert Murdoch in control, what do we expect of free and independent reporting?

Much though I will also mourn the loss of local independent booksellers, these could be replaced by coffee shops with readings, say. It isn't necessary that we do all our interacting on the web.

Our startup,, will shortly be going regional. Like Craig's list, you'll be able to see what people in your neighborhood are thinking about. You might be interested to contrast and compare the voting between, say, Kansas and Buffalo, on stories of national interest. You might want to read only the stories of relevance to Buffalo.

We're hoping that there might be something there to recapture part of the energy of newspapers. Headlines to draw you in. Some localized ad revenue to pay for the editors behind the pikk links. We hope that the good bloggers will rise to the top too.

Everyone struggles now with boundaries. Some kid surfing porn accidentally downloads child pornography and must go to jail. He'll be labeled a sex offender now for the rest of his life. Protectors at Virginia Tech tell their own families before telling the ones they are paid to protect. And people were killed because they were allowed out of lockdown too soon. A sex and drug unbalanced preppy-style college student gets put away for thirty years because of proximity to risk-takers perhaps more familiar with murder.

These are judgments which assert our distance from those kinds of risks. But still the heartstrings thrum with a kind of terror that there but for the grace of some God . . . . And there are other kinds of risks which we are also terrified away from. We can't quit a lousy job because we see too many people bankrupted by illness. We can't criticize our leaders because we see too many extremists waving teabags in mockery of their freedom to speak. We won't speak out because we might sound as ridiculous as we do when listening to ourselves on tape. And we know what the flamers on the Internet sound like.

It really is hard to tell the gentle from the dangerous. It is nice to be affirmed by those around you, even when and if they're just taking advantage of your vulnerability.

We just found out that pikk in norwegian is a rude word for that famous male member which can be referred to only by such oblique references as dongle, say, when referring to something you plug into your computer. But just like those scrotal sacs you now see hanging from the trailer hitches of really big pickups, aren't we grown up enough to call a thing what it is? Waving teabags just makes you a fool when the cool folks know that it's homophobic balls you're swinging.

Well, I have to exercise some editorial control on my apartment now. Rearrange the pictures. Sweep up the debris. I hope I get a kindle for Christmas, since I can hardly bear to move all these books again. And I'm practically dying to find some time for reading. Santa?

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