Thursday, February 27, 2003

Saturday will be the one year anniversary of this website and ejournal.

It has been an interesting year. I get occasional emails from folks who stumble here. The majority are genealogy inquiries. Among the non-genealogical, the one that stands out was from Officer David Lim, because of my story about Sirius.

There are so many electronic journals on the Internet, and more now than a year ago. It is hard to make generalizations about something so huge. In fact, that's about all one can say with certainty. But why should that prevent me from elaborating?

I’ve exceeded my expectations, in terms of maintaining the online journal. When paper journaling, I’ve always had gaps of weeks or months where I put it aside and didn’t write anything. That hasn’t happened here. But I do think, for the next year, I will make an effort to write almost every day, rather than once per week, which was my original goal. I update the remainder of my Gully Brook Press website, namely the newsletter and virtual museum, every other month, and so far that seems to be working. Originally I had planned on once per month, but I couldn't manage it. I think the March-April 2003 focus will be on historic preservation.

My ideas about electronic journaling have evolved, but some of my early impressions contained a bit of truth, too. There is an aspect that I noted early on, this is just another forum of ignorance, the kind of thing that makes me turn off the radio and television, that leads to flames on discussion boards, the sort of reasoning that I struggle to get students not to embrace. There are too many psuedo-journalism rants and not enough well-crafted writing. Everyone’s a commentator. I am reminded of a line of Kathleen Turner’s in “Peggy Sue Got Married;” she was under the stars with the rebel from high school, and he was showing off, trying to shock her, spouting crappy poetry. Her “yuck” is very elaborate, and then she advises him about his future career: “try to write something beautiful.”

I am struck by the anger. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, as I have noticed it for about the past decade or more in other aspects of life too, there’s plenty on NPR and Fox News. Whether the media is influencing the culture or vice versa, I don’t know. But there are too many hateful lyrics in songs, too much sarcastic dialogue on television sit-coms, too much shouting in cable news. Sure, it’s all part of our rights, and it’s good to express thoughts and have dialogue. There is something exciting about communication, and how it has changed, and at the same time remained the same. (See yesterday's entry.) Personally, though, I am sick of loud, ignorant people on the so-called left and right. To me, this isn’t art, or even news.

Certainly there are way too many angry drivers on the road; this became more apparent in my quest to get a license. So I gave up. I think I’m just not mad enough to drive. Sometimes I click randomly at; I like the recently updated list because it isn’t sensitive to popularity. I find interesting things this way, often a lot more interesting than the usual suspects. But I find anger too. Do people only feel inspired when they are upset about something? Are they just spoiled? Or is being happy out of fashion?

A few days ago I was listening to the NPR station. Local commentator Paul Elisha was so angry I had to stop and take note, instead of tuning it out or turning it off, as I usually do when my private thoughts are more interesting than the speaker. Sparked by a pro-life rally in Washington, he argued in an editorial even more irrational than what’s now commonplace that abortion opponents are responsible for - well, just about every negative policy and belief in society you can name. One that comes to mind that made no sense at all was environmental destruction. I was speechless; too bad I can’t say the same for Mr. Elisha. At that moment, I resolved to never make a donation to the station again. We’ve never given huge sums but we do listen and enjoy some of the programming. We have contributed here and there during fund drives. So another place will benefit instead. My favorite charity - the Mohawk and Hudson River Humane Society - is more worthy anyway.

Part of the "shouting" problem may be the whole millennium idea; that people become obsessed with doomsday logic when centuries change - Y2K being even more scary. And there may be a tinge of the fear of death; the majority cannot imagine that times before, or after their own lives mattered as much. It is an unthinkable concept, that life goes on - do we matter?

Back to the Internet diaries, the whole idea of an A-list surprised me. That isn’t something I predicted. Again, I don’t know why, because why should the electronic world be immune to petty cliques and mob mentality? It’s only another social grouping, albeit using modern tools. Sometimes I amuse myself by thinking of the whole A-list concept, that I suppose it is payback time in a way. Seems to me that there are a lot of ejournalists who are or were geeks or nerds or whatever label is appropriate. Former dot-commers who now have a lot of time on their hands. Some consider themselves writers (which I mistakenly assumed would be the majority when I started) but many do not.

I think 90% of nerds probably were wishing to be included with the popular kids in high school, if only they had better clothes, cooler parents, a car and maybe tweezed eyebrows and a few less zits. They really weren’t above all that, most were as shallow as the jocks, they just had better grades. So now they are empowered by a keyboard, and well, it could be that aging has been kind (if not there’s always Photoshop). I'm not exempting myself from the nerd label by the way, although the truth is I've always been closer to that vast group that occupies the unremarkable middle, in spite of my being fairly studious. And not once have I wished to join a clique.

I'm still not sure about self-censoring, and how much is a good idea. The public nature of ejournaling makes that question even more complicated. I'm also not certain if the time it will take me to write here frequently would be better spent writing short stories, query letters and working on a book. As long as I remain productive, I have always thought journal writing is good practice, keeps the words flowing, and encourages more writing. So it will be important for me to keep track of whether that is true.

Another surprise, and my final thought on the year (at least for now), is that I believe I received more feedback when I sent essays via email to a group I called “test readers.” But using that method there were no anonymous visitors from Google. I dug out a bound journal that I bought at Borders & Books last year and have started to do a bit of writing in that, too. I guess some things lend themselves to paper.

Oh! My sister, maker of Annie McSpirit soap, has many talents. She sells some of the folk art she makes on ebay. Lucindy is one of her more ambitious pieces (I think the link won't work after the auction ends on March 6).

No comments: