Bill's Blither

Location: Cheshire, Connecticut, United States

devilishly handsome, screamingly funny, overly modest

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Another mainstream blogging referrence- Rory on "Gilmore Girls" discussing her blogs with her Yalie friends. What, you say, is a chauvanistically porcine reprobate such as myself doing watching "Gilmore Girls"? Getting in touch with my oft-neglected feminine side? Maybe trying to find stages of latency that I missed as I rushed through puberty. I hardened into a fairly rigid heterosexuality (unintentional pun) very early on, and sometimes I feel I might have missed something.

The main topic for today is "fear". What brings this to my mind is (1)that I'm having my throat slit open today and (2) some class discussion that irked me way back during Week II. Firstly, My operation (thyroid) looks a lot more dangerous than it is, even though if I could somehow stay awake during anesthesia and wield the scalpel myself I'd probably feel better about it (control, I love it!). The second area I will discuss is my lack of patience for bloggers who "fear" the risk of self-exposure to the point of insisting on maintaining anonymity on their blog. More later, although this may tick off some of my classmates.

For some reason, I have never never felt the kind of personalized fear that I've seen in people around me. I've never feared personal pain , bodily injury, or even death for that matter. This has caused me to miss some life experiences, such as carnival ride "thrills" and shivering deliciously at horror movies. It has also led to some behavior which might be considered less than prudent, such as voluntarily jumping out of a perfectly safe flying vehicle into 2000 feet of air with only a piece of silk on my back between me and a gory landing. This personality trait (defect?) has gotten me arrested for driving my new GTO 150 mph plus on a Nevada flats straightaway and ,20 years later, going even faster in my new Mercedes turbo on,God help, I-91 here in Connecticut. This behavior has been mistaken for bravery. As an army officer on a semi-covert mission in Macedonia I kept cool when an opposing courrier military bodyguard drew his weapon on my superior officer , I being the only one there with the presence of mind to shoot him. Guilt, Ifelt -fear, not. I was praised for my "bravery". Wrong. Brave can't exist without fear.

What does scare the bejeezus out of me is projected empathetic fear for the people around me . My pathologically protective streak extends to my wife, my kids , my grandkids, my friends, my extended family,and (I'm told) to approximately a third of the world's population. I have to stop, I'm late for the hospital. I'll finish later.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Public awareness of blogging and bloggers is rapidly rising. On "The West Wing" last night, the presidential candidate was introduced to one of his staffers designated a "blogging consultant" with no further explanation, clearly assuming that the TV audience knew what blogging is. I wish I did.

I read today's Huffington Post, which says right at the top that it's a blog. I'm not so sure. What it is is a collection of articles and anecdotes evidencing a running diatribe against the Bush-Cheney administration and all right wing political and philosophical spokespeople. This is hardly surprising with Arianna Huffington' name on the heading. She's such a California Zsa Zsa. All this acerbic, unbalanced ranting keeps moving my basically liberal life view farther right. I agree that we have an administration characterized by mediocrity, rigidity, and frighteningly poor decision-making. I just wish our side would combat this with logic and reason, or better yet concrete action, rather than tilting at windmills. What good does it do to call the windmill names?

This is not, however, why this is not a blog. Huffington simply does not meet many of the criteria that we have established (maybe) for qualification as a blog. This is not a "personal opinion", it's a collection of personal opinions. There is no insight into an "authorial voice", merely a cacophany of diffuse sound, unified only by herd instinct. Also it's lacking in the kind of self-correcting interactivity, which might save it from tilting all the way to inanity. A meme could never start from this , there's no hope of credibility. Platonic dialogue? Not even a distant wisp.

McE's use of terms like "riff" and referrences to famous pop composers like Gershwin made a personal connection for me between music (both creating and listening) and blogging. To understand this , I need to give a brief history of my musical experience.

At age 12, I was sent to Danbury to take lessons (piano) from Emil Buzaid, a Big Band musician who had played for 15 years with Xavier Cugat. You can see him in old movies if you can take your eyes off of Abbe Lane. Emil realized that my pubescent interest in girls and my more developed fascination with a variety of sports was not going to leave me time to run scales all day and immerse myself in Mozart and Brahms. He therefore decided to take advantage of my above-average "ear" and teach me chord theory, to understand and create the nuances of harmonies that permeate and enhance modern day pop music. Thus, I play music with little skill but a great deal of sound cohesion. My piano is an 88 string guitar. I bought a "fake book" when I was 12(illegal, then) which gives you the chord, the lyric, and the melody and allows you to "fake it " from there. Soon thereafter, I began playing in a pick-up band, and wrote a song which actually became popular. Iplayed professionally (sort of -anyway I got paid). To this day I spend many hours
a week playing and writing music.
So why is that like blogging? 'Cause it's the same process. First, they are both individual creative processes, with a decidedly personal "authorial" voice. Secondly, I'm always aware of , and playing to, an audience I'm trying to make feel and react, even if I'm playing or writing by myself. Third, I always intend my work to be interactive, in music searching for my audience to join in or at least applaud, and I guess I hope for the same when I write a blog.
The advantage of playing music this way is that even if I play a song a hundred times I'll never play it the same way twice. This forces my mind to continuously create new combinations and thoughts, the way a good blog should sound . Personal, individual, thought-provoking,emotionally reactive and productive.

Enough again. Later.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


There is something I found very disturbing about Mignon Chang's blog "Mignon's Mazemind. On the surface, it's an examination of life by a very bright 17-year-old peering at a brave new world of self-discovery. Despite a tendancy toward insecure overintensity and naive romanticism, which would be expected in a young person, their exists in the blog a kind of desperate optimism that time is on her side, that if she continues her considered examination of the world both she and the world will proceed in mild amazement to some kind of betterment.
Under this apparent quasi-rosiness, however, there are several worrisome undercurrents. What does she mean by " I found a new will to live " in her "about me"? Why did she write on adark background,especially in light of her comments in her last blog about the negative effect "bold colors" and "cheap prints" have on her?(morecomfortable in dark places?) Most unsettling is the July 30 blog about "Pedophiles". Unlike her other writing, this blog is reported flatly, unemotionally, with no personal comment other thant to introduce it as "shocking news". Combine that with her comment that her "worst torture" would be "to be rendered "completely powerless" and it certainly woundn't be a long stretch to at least speculate that this child has been abused. Perhaps I've been reading too much Kellerman and Andrew Vachss, but I think a case can be made.

Eric(from class) brought to my attention the Trinity President's letter on ridicule of students who don't conform to conventional hair styles and dress. As I said in my Email to Eric, even though my ironic rant on our Stepford campus was clearly intended as humor, you don't have to go far to get from attitude to abuse. What is truly amazing to find myself with my finger inadvertantly on the pulse of campus activity. I'm so damn insightful.....

One last apology to Jason Kottke, whom I continuously referred to as "Jason Kottle" in my last blog. I decided not to go back and edit it, so that it will serve as a reminder to slow my eyes down when reading. Evelyn Wood practices make me sloppy. I read the blog for nearly 2 hours and still read the guy's name wrong. You've gotta have sight to have insight. Perhaps the last sentence of my previous paragraph might be a mild overstatement.
Onward and upward.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Before I begin my blog critique, I'd like to make a few observations about our campus. In the paeolithic age when I was an undergraduate (at an all-male school), we lived in comfortable squalor; longish ,unwashed hair (we showered, on occasion, if we thought a female might wander in), unshaved or with a two-day growth, wrinkled shirt, any-old pants. When I went to law school in San Francisco, it was flower-power time, even longer hair and general scruffiness, which somehow equated with radical life-style, Timothy Leary, and intellectuality. Clean and neat meant straight and gererally non-thinking.
But now I look around me and I'm in Stepford! Everybody looks neat and trim, emphatically preppy. Ogling co-eds who don't seem to sweat, ever, even coming off a ball field, is immensely unsatisfying. I guess I'm more a Henry Miller lecher than a Scott Fitzgerald, I like a little raunch in my life -both scholastic and sexual. I feel like walking around messing up everybody's hair.
Enough of this, but it does segue into one last thought I had about "dooce". Heather B.>Armstrong is clearly influenced by her super-straight Mormon environment. She wants to kick over the traces and be outrageous, but she does it in a way that is somehow well within the bounds of social convention, coming off "bitchy" but not a bitch. By the way, Salt Lake City is 76% Mormon and Utah as a whole tops 70%(a s c. Stengel says,"you could look it up"). You can't live there and not re-act in some way to that fact. I believe there are a multitude of young women in the American middle class, with values to match, who suffer from "Thelma and Louise" syndrome and identify readily with Ms. Armstrong, rebelling mentally but leading quiet, conforming lives. Desperate housewives- in Utah, maybe, propelling this blogspot close to the top of the popularity chart.
Finally to Jason Kottle. By his own description, his blog is about "everything and nothing", a Seinfeld of a blog. I really enjoyed his taste in choosing the quirky little items. I also liked his style of presenting common sense thinking resulting in somewhat bizarre, or at least alternative-style, solutions to common problems. In doing so, he definitely assumes the intelligence of his readers, which is a relief to some of us who are fed up with being bludgeoned with the obvious. As an example, the article from the New Yorker suggesting driving up the cost of gas(and gas taxes) to eventually curtail the American public's ridiculous overconsumption of fossil fuels is on it's face outrageous, but with a little thought there may be a kernel of common sense in the idea. J. Kottle is all about sense, common or other wise, and I spent some very enjoyable time reading his blog-especially the section on the AIGA conference.
Enough. Later.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

As you can see by the date, I've taken some time to "cook" our latest discussions and read, re-read, and try to make sense of "Daily Kos", "Jason Kottle", and some other popular blogs. First, however, a brief comment- even though I've spent a great deal of time with supposedly brilliant people, including those at Yale, a sub-rosa Army think tank, Mensa meetings(really a waste!),and Mario Savio and our Berkeley crew, etc., etc., I was terrifically impressed with the minds gathered in #115. Not a dull pencil in the box, this is going to be fun!
Daily Kos. After re-reading his biography in the context of our discussions, it seems clear that his military background is a key, possibly decisive, factor in the organization of his blog. He entered the army at the age of 17, learning at a very early stage that the chaotic adult world could be effectively controlled "by the numbers". Although his extremely liberal viewpoint is a severe break from military thought, his blog is textbook military tactics. He rigidly controls his "army" of critiquers and limits the field of "combat" to areas which are his own strengths and objectives.
Since this is (I hope) a blog, I am inserting a bit of personal referrence to support my (above comments. Uncle Sam decided to appropriate my services immediately after I participated in what our government deemed inappropriate activity in the Bay Area in 1965. After many demeaning and frustrating experiences (known euphemistically as military training) I was declared an officer and a gentleman ( I had experience at being neither) and spent a year helping to write sections of the European War Plan. Thus my credentials as a military tactician. I can also empathize with Markos Moulitsas from having gone, at least somewhat, through his experience in reverse, moving from the radical left of an SDS cell to bayonet training in Army Basic. Like Kos , I hated my Army brainwashing but I never forgot it, and have used it to occasional great advantage.
One further comment on Daily Kos. His pounding on the same note has seemingly made him popular on both sides of the political spectrum, from the left to manically praise, from the right to just as frenetically scream criticism(remember McE's comment about Rush Limbaugh's obsession with the site). However, atonality in politics as well as music eventually becomes just a drone. I prefer more harmonic chording in my listening.
Lastly, this discussion should have polarized our little group, but there were no screams of pain from the dissident right. Amazingly, I find myself , while standing on the far left of my brokerage firm, being pushed(forced?) into positions far more Midwest Red than make me comfortable in class discussion. Is this academia, McE, the class, or senility? Will find out.
Ive blithered on too long. Jason Kottle tomorrow. Later.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

My eyes are blearily meeting on the bridge of my nose after reading other people's ideas, musings, and rants for several hours. My initial amazed thought is wondering how the human race has survived this long. The self-doubt, paranoia, anger, contempt, fear, and out-right viciousness I'm finding in a large percentage of bloggers is downright scary. The exceptions, however, may make the whole process at least edifying, and possibly even worthwhile.
McE suggested looking at Technorati's Top100 Blogs. Since for class purposes this equates to an edict from Delphi, I have reluctantly complied ('reluctantly" only because I have never taken direction well, especially from those in authority). As a brief aside, I point out that this personality characteristic has caused me considerable difficulty in life, but also has led to a great deal of fun, including a satisfying anti-establishment stint in SDS and screaming at (then) Governor Ronald Reagan from atop a Volkswagen at the Berkeley riots. But, once again, I digress.
In TT100 Blogs several things made an impression. In cartoonist Dan Clowe's interview, his comment in reply to the question "How do I know I want to be a cartoonist?" was "if you can't not do it, that's when you should do it ". This describes exactly my motivation to be in this program and concentrate on writing more. It really hit a perfect chord.
I found the contrast between the ultra-liberal world view expressed on Daily Kos and the opposing ultra-rightist links suggested by Glenn Reynolds on Instapundit really hysterically funny. It makes you wonder what history will make of all this 200 years from now. Guess it depends on the historian, or what administration is in power.
Of all the blogs I read on Technorati I thought the stories on "Drew Curtis" were the most illuminating, not so much the articles themselves but the comments from the peanut gallery. The combination of ignorance and bias on display was spectacular. More on that aspect of my blogging experience later.
My fingers are weary. Onward and upward! Later.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Absolutely unbelievable ! I've set up this blogsite solo, no IT guy, no friendly, wifely, or kidly guidance. Fellow office workers are struck dumb by this unprecedented event. No matter that I can usually be found in the OED under technophobe, but also no-one has ever underestimated my ability to screw up a computer program. Shock waves are radiating from the computer. They're recalibrating the Richter scale.
Which brings up an interesting question: am I really happier in the Computer Age? Now that I can reach out and touch someone virtually instantly, I am continually reminded that touching slowly was a lot more fun. For instance, virtual sex may be a lot less strenuous (or sweaty) than the low-tech method, but my preference remains the latter. But I digress.
Our assignment from our esteemed professor, hereafter referred to as McE for condensation purposes (not condescension, we leave that to faculty), is to read a bunch of blogs so that I'll have some idea of how to write one. This, of course, makes the assumption that my ego will allow me to actually learn from experience. Many people, including my wife and 76% of the people who know me have some scepticism on this possibility. Well, off to read. Later.