|. . . Our Motto|
|. . . 1999-07-15|
Our Motto: "Nobody asked for your opinion, Walter. You're just a simple little farmboy and the rest of us are all sophisticated beatniks."
|. . . 1999-07-22|
Our Motto, courtesy of Christina La Sala, and temporarily on hiatus: If you can't say something nice, say something formal.
|. . . 1999-08-23|
|Our Motto:||&||(courtesy of a box of pretzels)|
|. . . 1999-10-14|
Our Motto: Fifteen minutes of blowing my top.
|. . . 1999-12-07|
One imagines himself
addressing his peers
I suppose. Surely
that might be the definition
of 'seriousness'? I would like,
as you see,
that my pleasure in your response
but the pleasure of being heard,
of companionship, which seems
|. . . 2000-01-07|
Our Motto: Y.2.K.L.A.M.F.
|. . . 2000-01-18|
The formula I've used since pre-Mosaic days still explains it all: The Web == low-cost very widely distributed publishing.
To put it another way, Alamut publishes for me, but he doesn't write for me. He doesn't have to (second clause), which is why he does (first).
It appeareth to me that the writing of history is a simple matter. Let each man, from the age of puberty, write of the things which happen to himself. So few men can write that not more than enough will be written.
|. . . 2000-02-06|
Our motto: Blurring the line between fatuous and facetious.
|. . . 2000-03-05|
"Out, out damned dot-com!" - Julianne Leigh
|. . . 2000-03-16|
"There is a worthy publication in which every contributor knows all and has a word to say about all, a journal in which every member of the staff can instruct us, by turns, in politics, religion, economics, the fine arts, philosophy, and literature. In this vast monument of fatuity, which leans toward the future like the Tower of Pisa, and in which nothing less than the happiness of humankind is being worked out..."
|. . . 2000-04-21|
Certainly not a journal; not in the sense of diary, and not in the sense of magazine -- not so much editing the Web as muttering at it under our breath.
So NQPAOFU is right; correspondence is closer -- but letters tend to call-and-respond into ever thinner echoes unless frequently larded by topics from outside the letters themselves. For me, a still closer analogy is conversation, with its fragmenting veerings of immediate impulse, its easy changes of tone and subject, its relaxed or fraught (but inevitable) drops into silence, its emphasis on voice.... Most of what I've written began in speech, including my longest short stories and the projected novels I'll never finish (because I run out of talk before the novels run out of pages?). The weblog form presents fewer exceptions to that rule than ever, supporting variations on the reedy tenor from bitchy to maudlin to bumptious to ponderous to bubbleheaded to just plain reading out loud....
But of course a conversation made public and permanent is not quite a conversation any more, except in the sense of The Infinite Conversation: a conversation which leaves politely open the possibility that the person conversed with hasn't heard you or doesn't care to or doesn't even exist yet. (Here's where another meaning of correspondence comes in handy: a coincidence of distant experiences....)
By far the most addictive writing medium I've ever used was a piece of CRT-based software called DECnotes (or was it VAXnotes? I'm pretty sure it wasn't WINnotes, anyway). It was fast and centralized and accessible world-wide; it made it easy to create and track digressions and new discussions; a standard customizable text editor was built in. It painlessly combined aspects of essay, email, discussion, role playing, mob violence, annotated revision-tracking scholarship, and improv troupes: a Collected Letters and Comedy Hour.
I keep hoping that I'll find something similar again, even if only by having someone hire me to program something similar. In the meantime, I've cycled through not quite as addictive approximations of various sorts. The Hotsy Totsy Club is a closer stab than the others, but still lacks some visceral sense of contact that I miss, a sense of immediate rewards and immediate dangers, the pleasantly ambiguous challenge-and-collaboration of dancing or flirting....
|. . . 2000-06-10|
"That is what he liked, what most of us really like: to eat and drink in disorder and endlessly in continuous ingestion, alternating a little bite here and a little swallow there, all day long."
|. . . 2000-07-15|
The moonlit deck that slowly rose and fell before me, the silence and the restless waves and clouds, and the solemn circle of the horizon -- everything gave me the nice, exciting feeling of being terribly important and terribly small at the same time (perhaps, however, more the former).
|. . . 2000-09-04|
Why I Am Not a Diary, as explained by James Thurber of Columbus, Ohio:
"The sharp edges of old reticences are softened in the autobiographer by the passing of time -- a man does not pull the pillow over his head when he wakes in the morning because he suddenly remembers some awful thing that happened to him fifteen or twenty years ago [or he doesn't do it oftener than twice a week, anyway - RD], but the confusions and the panics of last year and the year before are too close for contentment. Until a man can quit talking loudly to himself in order to shout down the memories of blunderings and gropings, he is in no shape for the painstaking examination of distress and the careful ordering of event so necessary to a calm and balanced exposition of what, exactly, was the matter."
|. . . 2000-09-09|
|. . . 2000-10-02|
That which lies here in ruins, the highly significant fragment, the remnant, is, in fact, the finest material in [weblog] creation. For it is common practice in the literature of the [weblog] to pile up fragments ceaselessly, without any strict idea of a goal, and, in the unremitting expectation of a miracle, to take the repetition of stereotypes for a process of intensification. The [weblog] writers must have regarded the work of art as just such a miracle.
In [the Web] they saw eternal transience, and here alone did the saturnine vision of this generation recognize history.
|. . . 2001-04-16|
|Our Motto:||(via June Brigman & Mary Schmich)|
What with nostalgia for when I had more writing time and anticipating when I'll have it again and too many dampened spirits among my compeers and maybe even a trace of Joey Ramone sentiment, I feel like expressing less sheepishness than usual about these web ventures. Although deciding that one's desire is deserving of respect probably fulfills some nutritional need or another, audience members with weaker stomachs may wish to turn away.
Yeah, as another asshole said in the catchiest phrase he'll ever coin, occasional writings are advertisements for oneself. But the reason so many of my treasured friends write well is because they're also advertising something better than just self: curiosity, engagement, humor, anti-solipsistic passion.... It's possible to attract attention for a worthwhile purpose, like mutual satisfaction.
And yeah, the web is vanity publishing. But it's not only vanity: it's also an attempt to add to the evidence that love is other than career. If that's hubristic, at least it's in a tradition of not particularly destructive hubris: Virtually every piece of critical writing I care about came from "amateurs," and quite a bit of the art as well. As a reward for being an amateur at a time when the persistent and cheap publishing medium of the web is available, I get a heartening number of responses from working students and from working artists (although only once from a working academic, I wonder why) -- but the beauty of amateurism is that by definition numbers don't matter. The success of a marriage doesn't depend on how many priests attend the wedding.
So, at Juliet Clark's suggestion (she's been reading E. B. White's wartime essays about his small egg-and-dairy farm), I'm going to stop using all those more unpleasant names and start calling myself a "gentleman critic."
|. . . 2001-06-09|
"I am not a concrete box. I am a sexy nightclub."
|. . . 2002-03-14|
There are two primary ways that a blog can develop: blogs can form as sphagnum moss grows over a lake or pond and slowly fills it (terrestrialization), or blogs can form as sphagnum moss blankets dry land and prevents water from leaving the surface (paludification). Over time, many feet of acidic peat deposits build up in blogs of either origin. The unique and demanding physical and chemical characteristics of blogs result in the presence of plant and animal communities that demonstrate many special adaptations to low nutrient levels, waterlogged conditions, and acidic waters, such as carnivorous plants.
Functions and Values
Blogs serve an important ecological function in preventing downstream flooding by absorbing precipitation. Blogs support some of the most interesting plants in the United States (like the carnivorous sundew), and provide habitat to animals threatened by human encroachment. Blogs are unique communities that can be destroyed in a matter of days, but require hundreds, if not thousands, of years to form naturally.
|. . . 2002-08-31|
Waffle while the iron is hot.
|. . . 2003-04-19|
|We ask here: Who is in bad faith? The [weblogger] or the champion of sincerity? The [weblogger] recognizes his faults, but he struggles with all his strength against the crushing view that his mistakes constitute for him a destiny. The critic demands of the guilty one that he constitute himself as a thing, precisely in order no longer to treat him as a thing. And this contradiction is constitutive of the demand of sincerity. Who can not see how offensive to the Other and how reassuring for me is a statement such as, "He's just a [weblogger]" which removes a disturbing freedom from a trait and which aims at henceforth constituting all the acts of the Other as consequences following strictly from his essence. The champion of sincerity is in bad faith to the degree that in order to reassure himself he pretends to judge, to the extent that he demands that freedom as freedom constitute itself as a thing. We have here only one episode in that battle to the death of consciousness which Hegel calls "the relation of the master and the slave."|
|. . . 2003-04-22|
I'm plenty patriotic, but when I look at some of what I've written here -- I know you're not supposed to, but it happens -- I start to think that there's a lot to be said for grunting monosyllables.
But that would kind of miss the point, I guess.
|. . . 2003-05-05|
Doctah, Heal Yuhself!
When I was very young, I read in a kid's book about heartfull lab scientists trying to save a chimp who was starving itself to death on account of being appalled by organic existence.
And what some bright scientist did was hold the little traumatized critter down and smush overripe banana all into its paws.
And the chimp, released, appalled, with no other way to get clean, licked the banana goo away and was saved.
I don't remember much from prepubescence. That book stuck, I guess, only because I'm pretty much just as prissy now as I was then.
Maybe overripe banana is an even better analogy than the charnelhouse?
|. . . 2003-06-08|
|There is no snare more dangerous to busy and excursive minds than the cobwebs of petty inquisitiveness, which entangle them in trivial employments and minute studies, and detain them in a middle state between the tediousness of total inactivity and the fatigue of laborious efforts, enchant them at once with ease and novelty, and vitiate them with the luxury of learning.|
|- Samuel Johnson, Rambler 103|
|. . . 2003-07-19|
That is, if Mr. Delany doesn't mind sharing it:
"I assume that of the 280 million people in the United States, there must be 150,000 who are concerned with the same things I am. I have no desire to convert. I don't like to preach, and I don't like being preached to. I like to believe that we are civilized people."
That little laugh again. "But sometimes I have odd notions on what is and isn't civilized."
|. . . 2003-10-10|
This is no jest. Scribbling seems to be a sort of symptom of an unruly age. When did we write so much as since our dissensions began? When did the Romans write so much as in the time of their downfall? Besides the fact that mental refinement does not mean wiser conduct in a society, this idle occupation arises from the fact that everyone goes about the duties of his office laxly, and takes time off.
The corruption of the age is produced by the individual contribution of each one of us; some contribute treachery, others injustice, irreligion, tyranny, avarice, cruelty, in accordance with their greater power; the weaker ones bring stupidity, vanity, idleness, and I am one of them. It seems to be the season for empty things, when harmful ones weigh upon us. In a time when it is so common to do evil, it is practically praiseworthy to do what is merely useless. I console myself by thinking that I shall be one of the last on whom they will have to lay hands. While they are attending to the more urgent cases, I shall have leisure to reform.
|. . . 2003-12-15|
I don't speak of entertaining you, or shewing you sights, which I think is a poor compliment to a man: here are books, and you may do as you please.
- Edward FitzGerald to W. B. Donne
Oct. 6, 1834
|. . . 2004-01-01|
... he was ever on the alert for an interlocutor to take part in the conversation, which (pleasantest, truly! of all modes of human commerce) was also of ulterior service as stimulating that endless inward converse of which the Essays were a kind of abstract. For him, as for Plato, for Socrates, whom he cites so often, the essential dialogue was that of the mind with itself. But then such dialogue throve best with, was often impracticable without, outward stimulus — physical motion, a text shot from a book, the queries and objections of a living voice.—"My thoughts sleep, if I sit still." Neither "thoughts," nor "dialogues," exclusively but thoughts still partly implicate in the dialogues which had evoked them, and therefore not without many seemingly arbitrary transitions, many links of connexion to be supposed by the reader, the Essays owed their actual publication at last to none of the usual literary motives — desire for fame, to instruct, to amuse, to sell — but to the sociable desire for a still wider range of conversation with others. He wrote for companionship, "if but one sincere man would make his acquaintance"; speaking on paper as he "did to the first person he met."—"If there be any person, any knot of good company in France or elsewhere, who can like my humour, and whose humours I can like, let them but whistle, and I will run."
Notes of expressive facts, of words also worthy of note (for he was a lover of style) collected in the first instance for the help of an irregular memory, were becoming, in the quaintly labelled drawers, with labels of wise old maxim or device, the primary rude stuff, or "protoplasm" of his intended work, and already gave token of its scope and variety. "All motion discovers us"; if to others, so also to ourselves. Movement, some kind of rapid movement, a ride, the hasty survey of a shelf of books, best of all a conversation like this morning's with a visitor for the first time,— amid the felicitous chances of that, at some random turn by the way, he would become aware of shaping purpose. The beam of light or heat would strike down, to illuminate, to fuse and organise the coldly accumulated matter of reason, of experience. Surely some providence over thought and speech led one finely through those haphazard journeys!
Walter Pater, Gaston de Latour
|. . . 2004-02-20|
When the pseudopodium of an Amœba has reached a certain development it suddenly retracts, or rather collapses, for Kassowitz regards the phenomenon as a rapid tumbling to pieces of the molecular structure owing to stimulation: certain protoplasm-molecules are shattered, atom-groupings of carbon and hydrogen split the molecular oxygen and are at once burnt to CO2 and OH2, the heat-vibrations evolved during the combustion shattering more molecules, and so on, throughout that part of the mass. This process exhausted, a period of restitution sets in, and new molecules are built up from the fragments of proteids, carbohydrates, fats and mineral substances at disposal, and become interpolated between those which had escaped destruction, and a new pseudopodium is put out by assimilative growth. Among other arguments for the view that this is really a process of growth, Kassowitz points out that the rate of protrusion of such a pseudopodium, rapid as it appears under a high power, is really not much more rapid than the growth of a stem of asparagus, a mushroom or a bamboo.- Nature, 5 July 1900
My reviewers felt no sense of need to understand me — if they had they would have developed the mental organism which would have enabled them to do so. When the time comes that they want to do so they will throw out a little mental pseudopodium without much difficulty.- Note-Books, Samuel Butler
"I call that good whiskey," says the father as I came in. "Good whiskey?" exclaimed Phelim; "did ever you see any whiskey that was bad?" "Now that you mintion it," says his riverince, "I never did; but I've seen some that was scarce." "Another bottle, Aunt Molly," says Phelim, "his riverince has a hollow leg."The Turquoise Cup, Arthur Cosslett Smith
|. . . 2007-06-21|
Assholes to be useful must be inconclusive.
Put that way, it doesn't sound so paradoxical.
My notebooks write several years ago:
I dreamt I saw a news clip from 1964, Jerry Lewis interviewed in a French airport on his way to a Pan-Am plane, saying, "All my movies from now on are going to be five hours and over. I'm mature now; I don't know how to stop."
|. . . 2010-03-21|
Typically of Pavese, he seeks to recover self-esteem through the exercise of writerly control, fielding more and more succinct, aphoristic analyses that aim to combine the darkest pessimism with the greatest aplomb.- "Stop It and Act" by Tim Parks
I can't resist also quoting Parks's translation of Pavese's suicide note —
I ask forgiveness and forgive you all. OK? Keep the gossip brief.
— not because I feel unusually suicidal but because I'm still irked by not having found a way to fit the word forgiveness into the text of my "Gift" post. I wouldn't have published it at all if I hadn't been able to squeeze in marriage.
Not everyone writes prose this way, I know. In 1993, during a close-reading critique by Kate Wilhelm, I explained that removing a particular bit of dialogue meant finding some other way to deploy the idiom "of two minds" or "half a mind to" — and from across the room came the alarming wheeze of ancient laughter, and Damon Knight, sunk in a corner armchair, caught his breath, rubbed his eyes, and said, "I'm sorry. I just... I never saw one quite like you before." (That and the note under a mediocre grade from M. Dufaux — "A+ pour la beauté de tes idées; C- pour la grammaire et le vocabulaire" — are among the proudest moments of my life. Sad, isn't it?) Although my accent may be that of the undisciplined American autodidact, my most distinguished critic correctly noted that my elliptical logic and micro-verbal fetishism (and, although he couldn't know this, my editor-exasperating tendency to rewrite proofsheets) are pure Walter Pater.
Of course it's as ultimately destructive for a writer to seek le mot juste as for a technophile to seek efficiency. By these repeated swellings and collapses, we hope to mimic the layered texture of puff pastry and only achieve its indigestibility. But if, as Peli Grietzer claims, it's a question of who is to be master, I'm afraid the contest was decided long ago. Words are older than me, outlive me, and take my memories down when they go. They own my ass. My ass has become mostly comfortable with that.
I mean this as a compliment and hope you can take it as such; I think I see your critical approach as an unholy cross of Guy Davenport and Alastair Fowler.
Anyone who wouldn't take that as a compliment is not someone I'd want to talk to except to find out what the hell was wrong with them. I especially appreciate the use of "unholy" as a euphemism for "undereducated." Thank you!
|. . . 2016-11-24|
Peter Brown translates Pacianus of Barcelona's account of his flock's inadequately repentant attitude, c. 380 AD:
It is good that we are middling persons [mediocres]. It is not for us to live in houses sheathed with marble, to be weighed down with gold, in flowing silks and bright scarlet. But all the same we have our little places in gardens and by the sea-side. We have good quality wine, neat little banquets, and all that goes with a sprightly old age.(From Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350–550 AD. Cf. Apollinaire.)
Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.