August 24, 2007
Does the Internet Need Fixing? Sadly, Yes.
By Deborah Newell Tornello a.k.a. litbrit
How could I have missed this bit of lovely on Tuesday? Oh yeah, it was the first full-day of school. No matter--is it any less relevant today? Sadly, No.
October 23, 2005
Question of the Day
So Ezra says: "No one should ever date another human being who uses 'lol'. They must be weeded out of the gene pool. Sorry folks, I know you're all good people, but you simply can't be allowed to reproduce. A society of raving lol'ers is just too horrible to contemplate."
I must admit, I'm guilty. I have a jolly if annoying tendency to use LOL when I, uh, LOL. The good news is, I have no plans to reproduce, so my despicable LOL genes will go to the incinerator with me.
I am, however, slightly less in the habit of "emoticonning," since I have been threatened with a slow and painful death by one of my best friends should he ever see a smiley, frowny, or any other series of characters meant to resemble a facial expression anywhere contained within an email. He is, it should be noted, in possession of the foulest temperament across which I have ever stumbled, and, I dare say, if I ever made the mistake of sending along such a communication, he would hop the NFOOH* with the EPOSM**. I'll bear in mind I may risk meeting a similar fate from a flight out of D.C. if I persist in directing any abbreviated giggles toward the Beltway.
Anyway...recently at Shakes, we've been doing a series of Questions of the Day which have been some of the most popular posts ever, starting with which movies make you cry, and moving on to which movies make you laugh and which are the most romantic movie scenes of all time. In a twist on that series, and just to give Ezra the willies, what never fails to make you LOL, I mean, laugh out loud? A favorite joke? Movie scene? Comedian? To what do you turn when you need a laugh?
The first thing that comes to mind for me is Eddie Izzard, a stand-up whose shows I've watched countless times, and I never fail to laugh until I cry. I once saw him live two nights in a row, and my stomach hurt for days from the absolute convulsions into which he sent me.
* next flight out of Heathrow
** express purpose of slaughtering me
July 12, 2005
We're Off to See Podesta...The Wonderful Podesta of Oz...
In about two hours, I'll be boarding a plane to DC for CAP's Campus Progress conference. I'll be there for three days and I'm not sure how much blogging I'll be able to do during the trip. That's why I've asked Neil Sinhababu to come on for the duration and offer some backup. So I'll be around, but so will he. As always, expect wacky hijinks to occur.
July 05, 2005
My Very First Panel
The rumors are true. I'll be at the Campus Progress conference as a participant on the morning's "Winning the War of Ideas" panel. With me will be Heather McGhee from Demos, Thomas Frank of What's the Matter With Kansas fame, Paul Begala, Katrina vanden Huevel, and Dee Dee Myers. Should be fun. Not only that, but I finally get to try out the suit I bought...
July 04, 2005
Happy 4th, folks. You should all just pretend I'm up here saying witty and penetrating things about Bush because, in reality, I'll actually be hanging out with my family, eating bagels and lox (yep -- a very Jewish Fourth of July), and making stupid jokes. Speaking of stupid jokes, this line from Madagascar -- which is an enormously fun movie, by the way -- is too good not to share. As context, the animals are breaking out of the zoo, and this is a conversation between a speaking monkey and a silent, KoKo the Gorilla, signing monkey:
Speaking Monkey: This is great! I hear Tom Wolfe is lecturing in Lincoln Park tonight!
Signing Monkey: [Gesticulates wildly]
Speaking Monkey: Well of course we're going to throw poo at him.
Happy Fourth, folks. And if you see Tom Wolfe, remember to fling some poo.
June 09, 2005
The Wonk Takes Over
Sometimes a post, or a point, or an observation sticks in my head and I just can't get it out. That's what Lance Mannion did a few days ago with his piece separating writers from wonks. Despite a kind and conciliatory comment he made in my first reply, I've not been able to shake the larger point, that there is, in fact, a substantive stylistic difference between the group of bloggers I self-associate into and those who'd be counted as writers. This'll be a little more meditative than my usual fare, so if you're looking for more on the deficit, scroll on.
Good, now that those myopic polinerds are gone*, I can address Lance's piece. First: he's right. Totally, completely, disturbingly correct. And I, in fact, know this, because it's been a conscious process with me. Regular readers will have noticed an evolution since I extricated myself from Pandagon's high-traffic embrace. My writing became wonkier, less flashy, more substantial. I made a decision to study policy and write posts that I felt would make an intellectual contribution. Part of that was a lingering fear that my output leading up to the election was not, shall we say, making the world a better place, but was rather a mixture of preaching to the choir and demagoguing to the crowd. Part of that was a desire to write in a way that'd force me to learn. But in doing, I've also become less of a writer. My prose, which I so lovingly crafted before, has been neglected. My literary utility belt sits unused in a corner, metaphors scattered about and allegories hanging askew. And I'm not sure why.
When I was at The Washington Monthly last Summer, It was the first time I realized I wanted to write. Strange as it seems now, my blog had just been a hobby, an enjoyable diversion that'd hopefully reach across time and webspace to put me in contact with those who could help me find an outlet for my activist impulses. When my attitude towards it shifted, I changed how I wrote -- I stopped dashing off posts, sending half-clothed intellectual children into the chilly, critical blogosphere. I began to edit, to read prose aloud, to rework sentences, to pay attention to words.
Meanwhile, the Monthly's conveyor belt was working as promised. I was told daily of the great men and women who'd interned there before me (Katherine Boo, Michael Kinsley, Jonathan Alter, Philip of Macedonia), and their constant invocation made my unpaid labor seem less like the consensual servitude of the affluent (which is, after all, what interning is) and more like a mark of promise. Part of that, too, was the attention the editors paid to me. The illustrious Nick Confessore, now at the New York Times, spent more time than he'd have probably preferred tattooing the importance of "Reporting" onto my forehead. But though Nick's name comes up much more, it was the other editor, Ben Wallace-Wells, who influenced me most.
I don't get the feeling Ben likes politics very much. Where the rest of the office talked of little but, Ben was more likely to wander by -- and Ben always wandered, purposeful strides would've been as alien on him as body fat on an Olsen -- and talk about Page 6, or offer up some social observation. And so too were Ben's pieces different than Nick's, or Paul's, or Matt's. Whether the topic was Greenspan's advice on variable-rate mortgages, the psychological hang-ups of rich kids (to this day, one of my favorite pieces of magazine journalism -- read it here, you'll be glad you did), or the changing electoral nature of Virginia, his stories were stories; textured, rich, detailed, narratives that demanded you took a journey long before you learned the argument. I loved them.
And yet my writing has strayed so far from that ideal that it had to stop at a gas station and get a new map. Part of that is the nature of being a high-frequency blogger and student while living on the West Coast. I have, basically, between the hours of 8 and 3 to write posts that will be read, and I have to cram in the writing between classes. That has a tendency to nix the more thoughtful, long-form articles. Mix it in with the frequency thing -- you folks have a habit of reading less when I start posting less -- and you have one dry, utilitarian cocktail.
But that's a partial explanation at best. Unless you're going to report out some stories, health care and deficit politics defy stylistic prose. And even if I did have the ability to inject such topics with soul, I'm not sure I would. My posts on the subject are long enough already, the addition of metaphor and emotion would make manuscripts out of them. Moreover -- and this is the real reason I wrote this post -- I think the criticism of the wonks is correct, I'm not sure policy writing gets taken seriously when wrapped in floral prose. Certainly some superlative stylists can do it, but those of us whose rhetoric hasn't advanced beyond the journeyman rank end up with a mess of overheated outrage and hidden thought processes. And so I hide from it. I try and write well, which is to say clearly, but it''s very much a process of subsuming form to the demands of function.
And that's saddening, because as much as I love the wonks I read, I find it much more satisfying to read the writers. And I'd like to offer that on my blog. Maybe next year, when I've time to craft my pieces and the use of Tapped as an outlet for my most substantive work, I'll be able to spend more time writing well and can shift this site towards more long-form, consciously-written work, if only because I need the practice so I can eventually write the magazine pieces I want to write: fine storytelling with high-level wonkery. But until then, I fear I'm just another Kinsley imitator (and a poor one at that), reading the wonks, absorbing the style, and forgetting everything that Ben taught me.
* Just kidding. I love you! I am you!
Update: Judging by the comments, this came off as more self-recriminative than I wanted it to. It's not! Honest! It's more of a meditative piece on this weird gulf I've watched open up in my writing. Anyway, my writing's not always where I want it to be, but I'm ecstatic with where it is. I love this blog, I'm proud of what I put on it, and, starting in the Fall, I'll be salaried at a magazine, so no bucking up needed.
May 11, 2005
I have to back soon-to-be colleague Matt up: when he took Kate and I to the French Roast for bistro fare at 3 in the morning, I found nothing rancid about it. Matt's horrified reaction, however, to my mixing of avocado and burger, would've made you think I was ordering poison. Nevertheless, no one, least of all myself, exhibited any gastrointestinal discomfort from the food nor the combinations we made of it.
May 10, 2005
You Read, I Work
Campus Progress just posted an article of mine exploring those home-schooled, deeply religious youngsters who keep getting publishing contracts and syndication deals despite a lack of noticeable talent (save maybe Ben Ferguson, who seems reasonably on top of things). I'm pretty happy with the piece, which also covers Michelle Malkin, Ward Connerly, and all the other conservatives who get trotted out in front of the cameras when their skin tone is needed to to sell a policy. Go read it.
Speaking of talentless youngsters getting ahead in life, this morning, The American Prospect offered, and I accepted, their fellowship position. There's no doubt that the main reason I got the job was this blog and all you folks who read it. So thanks very, very much. It's a hell of a birthday present.
(and come out to the bar tonight! Details below!)
(and read my CP piece! It's got a money back guarantee!)
March 26, 2005
Later today, I'll be attending, and kicking ass in, the "world's largest pillow fight". You think I'm kidding, but no, the Kiwanis are hosting the largest pillow fight ever at the Anaheim Convention Center. I'll try and get pictures. After I kick ass.
March 23, 2005
Sir Singer writes:
I think I grew up fairly independent. I learned how to cook, clean, launder, etc., as a child, but most of my female friends who live on their own still have cleaner houses than me. They generally are more on their at-home shite than I am. Meanwhile, I’m a good cook, but a house that relied upon me for cleanliness would be a relatively sad site (just ask my roommates).
I'll second that, with a caveat. I'm a really good cook. Don't believe me? Ask my girlfriend, she can field questions in the comments. I just am -- it's a very weird, highly unexpected talent. Things I make turn out way better than they have any right to. Further, I love cooking, so it works out well. But I hate cleaning. Worse, I don't think it important. Not so much cleaning up clutter, I know I need to do that, but mopping, dusting, vacuuming, cleaning mirrors, scrubbing sinks -- if I lived on my own, this stuff just wouldn't be done. Now, if someone tells me to do it and it's my share of the chores, I will, but I'll do it with the same sentiment I use when washing dishes before popping them in the dishwasher -- why!?
Now I don't know if this is a socialization thing, a me thing, or what, but I'll echo Matt. Any house relying on me to cook is fine, any house relying on me to clean will be quarantined within the year. My best guess is that it's a body thing: my stomach hurts if I don't feed it, nothing aches if I don't vacuum, and who cares if there's toothpaste in the sink?