#NoComment #DisappearingAct

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I don’t receive many comments or questions to these blog posts, and with comments it’s difficult to tell how to respond. Like the comment? Comment on the comment?

And, really, no questions at all.

Not that comments or questions would be unwelcome, by any means.  I don’t write things of high controversy, though; I just write about experiences, trying to keep to a topic. Other blogs, other vlogs, they focus on tips, tricks, even the occasional lecture or rant. I try not to do that here; this venue is more like a documentation of my days, whether they bring me magic or mistakes I make. I think of blogging or blogging in the same way I think of memoir or fiction; writing to and reading from to know that we are not alone.

I save the ranting for social media, although, I wouldn’t always call it ranting. Oh, sure, if some idiot tries something stupid on a scooter I come unglued, but for the most part I am flummoxed by social media. Sometimes I shout-out to folks whose books and music and podcasts I love. Sometimes I comment on regular and recurrent posts (I’m thinking mostly of YouTube here, but this could also apply to any of the other platforms).

Rarely I get responses.

I find this silence a bit confusing. (Irony compounds pending the subject matter; I shouted out my adoration for a book about being alone recently and received silence from the author, which seemed too on the nose.) Are those who post the content looking for feedback? Some of them say that they do at the end of their content (“like us, share, send us a comment!” they say, all sparkles), and some of them ask questions at the end of their content and want to “hear from you guys about what you think.” Apparently I rarely think the right thing or say the right comment. Apparently asking questions of the poster is a big no-no, too.

Oh, I get it; trolls could try these things as assault by sarcasm. But other people seem to get ignored, too. If another blue-check verification responds, then, sure, there’s a response, but that’s more of a DM, amiright? I actually have no clue, since I would give my left arm to engage in a conversation about topics I’m passionate about like I used to on platforms. Maybe this fear of trolls has turned folks who post content into silent instigators instead of moderators, but this seems to turn every post of content into…an advertisement.

They don’t really mean, “let me know what you guys think.” They don’t really mean “comment.” It’s cool, distant person…I’ll just like it. I’m not sure how much even sharing has an effect on other people that I pass the content on to…in those cases someone usually likes what I share on LinkedIn, but not so much everything else.

We’re back to the lack of social in social media.

I still “like” things, though; must be nice to see hundreds of thumbs up and hearts when you go back and check notifications, and I don’t mind that contribution. Maybe I’ll figure out the rest of the puzzle on my own. And when someone does respond? Well, that’s pure gold and completely treasured, without trying to take too much of the other person’s time, because I don’t want to pester.

Disappearing act, back into the top hat of the algorithm.

#BookClub

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Every day there’s a new article about how a degree in the fine arts will get you an overabundance of student debt and that’s it; there’s nothing lucrative about literature.  I don’t think solvency was the motivation or even any remote consideration when I entered college as a non-traditional student (read: older than everyone else in the class at 22 years old).  There were a combination of arguments:

  • If I was going to be broke anyway, why not study something that I loved?
  • My manager at the time was a little stunned that I loved books as much as I did and wasn’t in college;
  • Once the general education classes were out of the way, then I would get college credits to gush about other peoples’ writing for months.

In essence, my college years were one long sequence of book clubs.

*****

After the gen ed courses, I briefly double-majored in both literature and history.  Fiction and non-fiction, if you will. I took two classes in literature a semester and two classes in history.  I was already in love with literature when I entered college, but an excellent professor in history during my gen ed years convinced me that history was one of the best stories I could find, so I double-majored.  The two majors paired wonderfully together (read Moby Dick, and then study 19th century whaling to see how Melville got there), and my only hang-up was that writing about literature is a completely different animal than writing about history, unless you break the rules like David McCullough or Stephen Ambrose and have the audacity to tell a story.  Writing about literature was direct, like sipping on a sazerac in the back of a dive bar with a pack of Marlboros, but writing about history in a purely academic sense was a hard lesson in the passive voice, like backing into a glass of rose. I continually mixed up the two, and then there was a British history professor who claimed I had plagiarized Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier (I have never been a fan of Orwell, even before the damn class, and other professors didn’t think it was that close of a match even though they liked my writing, including the dean, so charges were dropped), so that was one too many straws, and history was dropped to a minor.  To this day, however, I still balance out a lot of fiction with non-fiction (preferably memoirs and biographies, but I read about history if the story is specific enough), and love to talk about all of it.

Sadly, you can’t go to college forever, and the course load decreased when I demoted history, so I graduated against my will in December of 2000.  I futzed around with exploring options into careers in literature or careers in the proximity of literature at the beginning of 2001, but life had other plans, and after a series of diversions I finally moved to what I considered to be a more literary city in San Francisco in 2004.  San Francisco had more bookstores than I had seen in whole states in the Midwest; at lunch I would flip a coin and, depending on the outcome, would visit either Alexander’s on Second Street or Stacey’s on Market, which were less than a block from each other.  I would occasionally chat books with these booksellers, but finding a chatty bookseller in San Francisco has rarely been my luck.  The bookstores in San Francisco are luxurious, “floors of books” and historical sites of Beat poets and quirky adhoc shelves made from planks, but most of the booksellers there seemed…sentenced.  Another starry-eyed former literature student stumbling around in a bohemian funk?  I could have gotten in line or paid subscriber dues.  Yes, the bookstores had author events, or the yearly book fair called Litquake would pop up a rash of author events or panels, and I leaped at tickets.  I had one line of questioning for every author and panel: What are you reading? What books inspired you to write the way you do? What is your favorite book?

*****

I tried traditional book clubs in San Francisco, but they usually defaulted to a combination of wine, appetizers, other book events, other authors, or personal stuff unrelated to the book.  I loved talking about and listening to others talk about books, so having to shut up and be good for the other topics was maddening.

There are several book club movies out there that remind me of this kind of experience.  The most recent is Book Club, which came out last year and has a stellar cast of Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, Diane Keaton, Craig T. Nelson, Andy Garcia, and Don Johnson, just to name a few.  I like every actor in this film and love book clubs and I loathe this movie.  The only redeeming aspect of the film is the music and a flying sequence with Garcia and Keaton in the Grand Canyon…and neither one of those topics are related to the title.  Books are discussed for about seven minutes in this movie, and the overwhelming reference in the club is to the Fifty Shades of Grey series, a collection of books that isn’t struggling for promotion.

Back in the late aughts there was a movie called The Jane Austen Book Club, which wasn’t a much better script but talked about books a lot more more than Book Club.  I watched that movie again after Book Club as a palette-cleanser, and, because it’s January, thought I might be able to follow the calendar in The Jane Austen Book Club this year starting in February with Emma like the characters in the movie did.  Still a lot of wine and coffee in that movie, though.  Probably my favorite book club film was an adaptation of a book for a Netflix production called The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which addresses World War II as well as literary classics and struggles of writers. The members of that group had some questionable edibles (which factors in the plot in more ways than just the title) but the primary food is the stuff of reading, and I could watch that movie on a loop if needed.

*****

I went without a book club for some time after moving to Southern California.  One reason was that I briefly belonged to a writing group who wanted someone to organize their writing lives but did not want to write under the organization of what someone else had put together for them.  The writer’s group that I belonged to in the Bay Area would write in all kinds of places and locations; I had written with them in Oakland after work, at a cafe in Duboce Triangle on Sundays for a day-long marathon session with a lunch break, at the Richmond District Library in the basement conference room, at the Borderlands Cafe in the Mission, where there was purposely no wi-fi.  I tutored kids in writing, science, and math at 826 Valencia and wrote for their 826 Day festivities.  But reading…that fell off the radar early and generated a TBR pile in my apartment bedroom that would choke a fire.  I kept with writing and thought reading would come in later, when an earthquake killed the power or I ran out of ink.

In Southern California I knew people who read, but either didn’t like to talk about what they read or thought of reading as a non-social activity.  I didn’t know how to debate that; when I was in college I was alone a lot, but there was the social aspect of class.  Was it possible that one couldn’t have a book club without other aspects: a classroom forcing to read, a bottle of wine, a number count on Goodreads, a hashtag of Sunday sentences?  Social media has made online book clubs or book communities a sometimes mine field; if I were to pick up a short story by Woody Allen or quote from Garrison Keillor’s anthology Good Poems, do these choices unleash wrath or banishment?  Social media can be cruel and often is (I often find myself retreating into just Sunday sentences, but what happens when I want to find Hemingway there?), and a reader has to step carefully.

Do I wish I were part of more readers’ circles?  Sometimes. I have the added joy of reviewing books for an online publication, and when the authors reach out and connect over the reviews I have a few hours of feeling like a I have a book club to love words in, a safe space regardless. Most of my friends and family fulfill other curiosities for me, since their interests rarely involve books.  Just this past year, however, I stumbled on the greatest fortune: a book club in a book store here in San Diego.  The owner of the store selects a fiction book in paperback, discounts it for the month leading up to discussion, and one Thursday night a month a sizable crowd of us discuss the book.  The personalities and approaches to the book in that group are nearly stories of their own, and I’m back in class in the 90’s, arguing writers’ choices of POV, characterization, voice, setting, and special effects.

There’s no wine, no appetizers.  All the food is brain food. For one hour a month I sit in the room and socialize with a slim paperback in my hand, at the center of all of our thoughts.

#NerdCulture

Sorry, Mom…not my f-bomb, but still my amen to Mr. Kennedy’s sentiment.

It’s no secret: my apartment is a structural testament to a deep love of books. I have multiple bookcases, one of them taller than I am, and multiple prints from the designer at Ideal Bookshelf, artwork of differing genres all over the apartment, even on the bathroom walls and over the kitchen sink. I have a pin-up calendar in the kitchen of Hot Dudes Reading, because I think the sexiest thing a man can do is read. (The other stuff a man can do is nice, too, but kind of down the list after reading, writing, cooking, and playing a musical instrument.)

This love of books has gained me some grief in my time…painted me as a hermit, a snob, and a…nerd. The last distinction was the easiest to take (hermit is a struggle because reading is often mistaken to be exclusively solitary an activity, and snob is hard to take because I like literary fiction but the super-pretentious stuff I cannot handle well), after all I have “my books and my poetry to protect me,” to start with from Simon & Garfunkel. The definition of nerd-dom from my past experience (whether with books, in high school band, or in my choice of PBS) has usually involved some kind of social banishment. Sometimes there would be other nerds, a breakfast club of us playing all the tubas and bullied by the football players.

It seems, though, as Dan has so eloquently stated above, that nerd culture has kicked out some of its base. In some cases, some of us have to apologize for liking Coldplay, the planet formerly known as Pluto, The Big Bang Theory, or (gasp) Shakespeare. Can’t I just like the sonnets and be done? But there’s proof now he didn’t write them. So Pluto and Shakespeare can go the way of symbols, like Prince or Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street.

Look, newcomers to my lifetime of separation from society…if you find my eyeglasses and my Bradbury suddenly so very fascinating, can you…let me have my Richard Bach and my Woody Allen and my Hemingway anyway? I promise to love the rest of your hipster crossover and borrowing, and let you continue to pretend that you have the same awkward default as Issa Rae. I’ll look the other way at your new-found love of Trapper Keepers if you don’t say that my definition of nerd, lived so long, isn’t enough. 🤓

*****

The past couple of weeks in my world have been a bit hairy at work, for reasons it’s best to keep confidential at the moment, so here’s how I’ve been medicating lately…

Reading, lately: A lot of chef, food critic, and restaurateur memoirs for some reason…but I am trying to give up a lot of meat, dairy, and eggs and therefore my excitement about food is a bit diminished, so I’m hoping to gain some food love back, somewhere.

Listening, lately: nothing in particular and everything in small doses…from Jidenna to Marcus Mumford covering Dylan to James Bay like an old blanket to Ahi to…Springsteen, always. Repeat gets abused.

Watching, lately: HBO’s Insecure, because, well, she IS a nerd, ain’t no hiding. A lot of baseball because the MLB put a For Sale sign on the rest of the season and instead of $25 a month, the rest of the year is $10. Not sure how much of that applies to post-season, but I guess I’ll find out, right? With the current work situation I watch a lot of dumb comedies, like Disjointed on Netflix and Never Stop Never Stopping on HBO, sometimes on repeat like the music.

All of this, and it’s still hot and sticky in San Diego. I still run air conditioning. This forgotten corner of the world is always sunny and festering like a Petri dish. I’m looking forward to autumn, well, someday. 🍁🍂

#NightstandChronicles #Continue #EightSecondsLeftInOvertime

Here, hold my spot.

June’s gonna get away from me and then I’m going to feel the failure more, so here’s a blog post in recap, a replay of a little ditty I like to call “So This is How We Treat Each Other Now.”

The ditty with verses about how during and after the election the catfish walked off wearing a red trucker’s hat, and you miss that catfish, but maybe them dumping you like a school lunch was the final indicator that maybe you shouldn’t have spent so much time getting attached to start with.

Not great timing, though.

So the introvert spends some time alone, finding out more about humanity in fiction than in people.  I hate doing that.  But I’m alone a lot anyway, alone in passions and in person, so might as well disappear into empathy:


I miss compassion.  And if you don’t think it’s possible to learn humanity from a novel, then may I present Exhibit A, which I am reading right now:


This book, like many others, utilizes a wild animal to demonstrate kindness.  One of the characters gets it.  The rest would rather not go there.  While I don’t advocate befriending foxes in order to have companionship, I am encouraged by the fact that foxes or rabbits or squirrels or seagulls don’t use social media.

Yep, it’s a blog…online, nonetheless…and I’ll drop the subject there.

It turns out that my friends can be found in the following pools:

  • People I work with
  • People I worked with
  • People I used to write with (2)
  • People I buy stuff from

Not a great pool.  Some great people in it, but they are busy, and most don’t read. The danger is, the ones who have the most time for me are the first group and the last.

Which means I’m working too much and I’m spending too much and I have no boundaries.  Alone time, then.  With foxes.  Not so much social media.  I don’t want to see who else has walked away because I’m me, and not, instead, loved me because I’m me.

On to what I have been doing lately, as Jamaica would start.  ✨

What I Have Been Reading Lately:  The afore-mentioned fox fable, written by a lovely Brit from the Guardian.  Between this lady, Jeanette Winterson, JoJo Moyes, and JK Rowling, the UK seems to have my ears these days.  I am still working on the Chabon book, though (Moonglow)…more like lingering in it.  Today’s library visit will hopefully include a book on Islamic issues and an old Edward Abbey favorite my brother got me hooked on about six years ago.

What I Have Been Watching Lately:  Still watching Last Week Tonight, still working my way through the entire series of West Wing (again; I usually do this about once a year), still watching a LOT of baseball.  I say “watching” but most of it is the free MLB game of the day playing on my phone and I glance at it if I need a distraction from another work nightmare.  The broadcasts are a boys club of guys trying to crack each other up and sometimes they succeed in getting me to do that.  The free game is rarely the Giants, which is probably a good thing; I still bleed black and orange, but years like this means I get back to the passion of the game in general…and other players in their glory.  Also, I am hooked to the footage of the Flash and the exciting installments of his wins and losses.

I’m also still watching Real Time.  Judge away, America; while you’re at it, I also like other stuff I’m not supposed to, like Hemingway’s fiction and Woody Allen films.  The floor is yours to throw stones.  Yes, Bill Maher does offend me from time to time.  But he wakes me up, too, like Friday’s opening segment with Maajid Nawaz.  Some of my teachers in university angered me beyond measure and got me thinking in the same semester, and I’m used to be offended in otherwise productive discussions.

What I’m Watching On Film:  Last weekend was The Edge of Seventeen–dark, but I love the actors, so that one’s a keeper.  (Pro tip:  I have to dock all movies with puke scenes as 4 instead of 5 stars, so this film had a blemish in case you are also of the nature that you don’t feel you should have to pay any kind of admission price for pieces where someone pukes/pees/poops/etc.). On the rental list is The United Kingdom (David Oyelowo strikes again) and I Am Not Your Negro, which I saw at an indie theatre here in San Diego but which I loved enough to watch again.  Also, I have been rewatching, over and over, the movie Paterson with Adam Driver and Moonlight.  They soothe me.  When movies about verse-writing bus drivers and violence soothe you something’s probably not right in Denmark, but that’s my inclination these days.

What I’m Listening To:  for starters, today with the current social situation, this.  That song is a recurring theme in my life, and I take full responsibility.  Also, a band called First Aid Kit has a lovely song called “I Found A Way” that paints me over so that I can sit in a shadow and nod my head to the beat and agreement.  Also, the remastered Sgt Pepper’s, and the solo album by Dan Auerbach (don’t strain yourself; if you are trying to place that name then here’s a hint–Black Keys).  I have got a dosage of country from the latest season of The Ranch on Netflix, a wonderfully senseless show that I can also play while working to keep from getting spooked (like cattle might), and danced a little in my living room with Garth Brooks’s “Friends in Low Places.”

I do get out, too…dancing on Friday night to a jazz band by the harbor…walks down the jacaranda lane of Kettner…fireworks…cattle drives to promote the local county fair.

Still looking for humanity, after all.  ♥️

Trolling

I’m social media moody.  Sometimes I love it and will spend hours on all of the sites, reading the prizes dropped in my feed, and sometimes I do without, not in the mood to be a cheering squad for the world.

One thing that I never fail to hate about social media, however, is the fact that sometimes it is the only option for customer service.  I hate having to complain to a company online.  And it seems like lately I have to complain more and more.

To begin with, I’m pretty lenient when it comes to services and products…it takes more than one factor, or more than an “imagined” factor, to un-satisfy me.  Not so very long ago I could send an email if a product or service was unsatisfactory, but anymore emails and phone calls don’t work.  I’m either greeted by silence or auto-replies with the email route, or a lengthy wait on the phone with calling in.  So now usually the best avenue is shame the crap out of the organization on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media.  Taking this approach could be done anonymously, I suppose, but I consider that cowardly, so I always post as me.  But every time I have to post as me, I think, “Wow, you sound like a petty fool,” even though I’m not getting any satisfaction in trying to take care of the problem in a way that isn’t petty.

Anymore, shame is the only way to get action.

Why?  Why can’t customer service be a focus, innovation be a focus to proactively reduce the problem?  Why does it take scrawling “For a bad time, call ***-****” on the Internet wall to get anything to be done about the problem?  Why not review methods that don’t work at the private level, correct them, and therefore leave only the anonymous trolls in the feed?  

Maybe it’s just thought that to be cutting edge, organizations only have to place resources in social media…and let the lack of response funnel the action down to one place.  Maybe customer service is reduced to how squeaky of a wheel the consumer can be, instead of who takes care of their customer in the best way.

I’m still learning…and hoping to find the happy medium someday before I just have to perform constant ridicule.