Tracking Weblog Services

Okay, this is so big brother it will freak you out. Or if it doesn’t, you’re just more comfortable with the whole Internet-looking-over-your-shoulder thing than I am. I just found out about this, so if I’m a bit slow to the party, bear with me here.

There are a number of sites out there listed as referers on my hits count page that are these active-tracking services that are essentially this big database of linked-up information. Any search term you can think of will bring up a number of blogs and the search term that’s listed in them. Type in “Catcher in the Rye” I’m listed on that page. That just sort of freaks me out a little. If you ever saw Seven and remember the part where Morgan Freeman’s character pays “Stinky Man” under the table for the library records of John Doe–okay, so it’s not exactly the same. But this is definitely a thin barrier between public and private. So if you’re publishing a Weblog, you’re prety much fair game, I s’pose.

And to all you crazy kids publishing dirty, inappropriate stuff, this should mean be careful, buddy. You best decide what’s public info. And quit checking out dirty library books…

Speaking of that, have you ever taken your 19-month-old daughter to the library while her mom’s out of town for the weekend and get up to the counter with a bunch of Teletubbies videos and some random Fellini film from 1972 with a half-clad lady on the cover, and the nice, matronly lady looks at you as though wondering if you’re the one she saw on the wanted poster and if you’ve kidnapped this poor innocent child to lock in your basement and force feed cheesy poofs to through a slit in the iron door? Maybe it’s just me inventing things again, but I could swear that was what happened to me on Saturday. It tells you something about the place I live if a guy who looks as ordinary as I do can be suspected of such things so flippantly. I mean, I must have dreamed this up.

It’s probably that overly self-conscious part acting up again. I just hate feeling watched.

Mr. Mommy-Daddy

So far, I haven’t said anything about myself or what sort of life I lead, not wanting to focus undue attention on the trivialities of my oh-so-exciting existence (I guess I mentioned I was an associate editor yesterday) (and there’s enough of that stuff on my bio page).

But today I want to share some things about writing as a parent. My daughter, Ellie, is 19 months, and has a somewhat limited speech repertoire, but this stuff just always makes me smile. There was this special word we couldn’t figure out–“Nackeys”–that was her favorite for a while. We had no clue what she was saying. My wife, Sheri, finally figured out it was necklace; I never would have. I figured it held some mysterious corelation with the “obadonoes” video and at least a familial resemblance to “tapee-suff.”

Being a parent of this age child, most of your work is guesswork. You do the routine feeding and clean-up, but there’s so much that goes on in a given day you have no idea how to respond to, it’s like trying to give someone from another country a tour of a city you can’t adequately explain, and the whole time you can’t understand what he wants, thinks, feels, or needs. Until you learn his language, you’re out of luck trying to please him. I find myself saying “What. What is it!” multiple times throughout the day, and I’m not asking it as a question, I’m demanding an answer. “Just tell me what you want. For the love of St. Obedono!”

This weekend, Sheri’s off with the girls in Santa Fe, leaving me to play Mr. “Mommy-Daddy” and figure it out. It was time. She hasn’t had more than a 6-hour stretch away from her since she was born. So she’s due. But that didn’t keep me from threatening to let the old couple downstairs babysit–the ones from Florida who favor using the fireplace in the middle of summer and coming up with new definitions for the term “partially clothed.” Hey, she doesn’t need to get the idea she can stay away too long when she’s obviously the better mommy of the two of us. Just to prove it, while Ellie calls her Mommy, I am Mommy-Daddy, unmistakably the second-tier parent in that lexicon. She knows I’m the stand-in who doesn’t know the score and lets her eat cookies for dinner and go to bed with arm-loads of toys. If you saw me right now, surrounded by toys, blocks, books, puzzles, juice bottles, a talking telephone, and wearing a rainbow-colored, plastic necklace that I apparently have to wear while I’m typing, you’d know I wasn’t kidding.

Seeing her language develop is incredible and something I have trouble not taking advantage of. Before I had kids, I told myself I’d resist the urge to call elephants “buggie-magos” and underwear “giggle-britches” and stuff like that. But now that I have the chance, it’s too much fun not to.

It’s bathtime now, so I’ll have to cut it short tonight. No words of wisdom tonight. Well, okay, maybe just this: keep your kupah on the baw and your eaw to the gwoun because it’s a hup, thkip, and a jimp to ganmuh’s house the oduh side of the wivuh.

Just remember that.

WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!

Being an associate editor is kind of like little Mikey on the Life cereal commercials, always handed the stuff no one else wants because Hey, he likes it! He has to like it. He’s the littlest. It’s a bit annoying. There’s only so much you can take.

Actually, there’s only so much of most things you can take. I can’t really think of anything–okay, well, maybe one or two things–that don’t get tired by about the 4th or 5th round. And we’re supposedly creatures of habit and routine. So why do we all tend to resist doing the same thing over and over no matter what it is?

Well, some of us don’t. I’m listening to Rachmaninov. It’s the London recording of the Ampico recordings made in 1979, “Rachmaninov plays Rachmaninov.” (Who else should he play?) So it’s actually him performing his seriously unbelievable music (and some rearrangements of familiar pieces). Some future Jeopardy contestant is out there thinking, But Rachmaninov wasn’t alive in 1979. That’s true. He died in 1943. The Ampico was an original “player piano” presented in America in 1913. The recordings were made from one of these specially-adapted concert grands. All of this is in the liner notes for any inquisitive freakoes who actually care. But it’s incredible to think of the time and energy spent developing this system to keep original performances of this music “alive.” Obviously, it wasn’t made just for Rachmaninov, but I can understand that impulse to commit day after day to bettering one’s piano proficiency. But the technicians who assigned themselves to the tedium of developing a better system for recording and reproducing the music, working for so trivial and secondary a goal to the actual art being preserved, it seems less worthwhile a role to carve out for oneself in history. Yet they had to because it was there, much like climbing the mountain. And it’s a good thing they did, because we would have never heard Rachmaninov play his own music the way it was meant to be played. It truly is a glorious thing to hear.

What the heck this non sequitur silliness has to do with any of my earlier points is that these men dedicated their lifetimes of learning to this endeavor because it was there, it was possible, and it hadn’t been accomplished before. It strikes me that this has been going on for some time now, since the first caveman saw the first mountain and thought, I’d be willing to wager that of yet, none of my cohorts has ambitioned to scale that eminent massif. . . (Okay, it was probably more a series of impassioned grunts and club waving, but you get the idea.)

Want to know what I think? (You’re reading, aren’t you?) I think the entire human race is doomed because that old saying Mom was fond of saying about following your friend over the cliff just because he jumped is actually our inescapable human instinct. We can’t help but push the button on that nuclear warhead because it’s there to be pushed. It’s what so many authors and philosophers and musicians and artists throughout the ages have been saying: Not only can we not save ourselves, we will be our own ultimate demise. We won’t have to wait for Armageddon because if Jesus doesn’t come back and defeat Satan soon, we’ll beat Him to it. The button is waiting to be pushed, God, in case you didn’t notice. I don’t mean to be pushy here, but we keep climbing the mountains, advancing, and pushing the buttons, and pretty soon there won’t be any more to push. The longer we live, the further from fine we be.

And if that isn’t reason to be writing your ever-loving guts out, I just don’t know what is.

Inspiration / expiration

I feel like I’m talking a lot about motivation as it pertains to writing. The major reason for that is writing doesn’t happen without it. With as many people out there as there are, most of whom carrying around some vague, unrealized notion of writing a book someday, how many do you think actually will? Only the ones with sufficient motivation to get their hineys in the chairs.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about motivation–particularly, my motivation when it comes to authoring my book. It’s not easy to justify spending so much time away from family and friends and other worthy pursuits like learning and reading and exercise in order to scribble, which seems such a selfish, unproductive thing to do with your time. But it’s not easy to write either. You don’t just sit down and write War and Peace–or even The Cat in the Hat–without a truly mind-blowing amount of energy and effort, devising and editing and building and organizing and crafting. It’s not sitting by the stream, languidly jotting your musings and ruminations. If you’ve ever actually done it, you know it’s just not.

And besides, it’s likely that drivel you wrote by the stream wouldn’t be readable anyway. It is my strong suspicion that unless writers slog it out in an uncomfortable, dingy hole, sweating, fingers cramping, fighting against the urge to quit with every word, birthing each thought through hard labor without the aid of laudanum, morphine, absinthe or Nyquil, it’s not going to be any good whatsoever. The world is simply not prepared to give you such an easy time of it. Of course, you want to take that at face value and not become masochistic about it. I’m not suggesting you go live in New York or anything.

But I’m convinced it is, in fact, struggle that keeps writers writing. If it was too easy, most would find something else to do–like play with the kids and go on long vacations to deserted islands. Maybe writers, like politicians, defense attorneys, and professional athletes, simply possess a weaker survival mechanism than most, which allows them to court their own expiration with such abandon. Maybe it’s good more people aren’t so motivated.

Story for story’s sake

Apologies for the quick post today. Haven’t much time.

But I found this post from Dave Long’s site (faithinfiction.blogspot.com) so intriguing, I couldn’t resist the chance to commandeer it and use it here. He’s talking about the state of Christian fiction, but he may as well be talking about the church, every Evangelical ministry in America, and anyone who’s ever picked up anything with a distinctly Christian flavor and sensed there was something rotten in Denmark:

“I hurt myself today, to see I still feel. I focus on the pain, the only that’s real…”

“All around gloomy guy Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails wrote that in his song, ‘Hurt.’ He’s on the other extreme of us, the guy who could use a shot of hope, a snug pair of fuzzy bunny slippers. We have to realize that we can become just as desensitized as Reznor if all we do is feed ourselves pablum endings. We need the good and bad. The yin and yang. The perfect sunsets and crappy, terrible days.

“We need, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, some folks to come to a bad end.”

Happy endings in your typical Christian fiction are emblematic of the smiling veneer that passes for Christianity these days. What is a story without truth? What good does it serve? What redemption can be found if it sacrifices reality for nice, neat, and comfortable. And what, for that matter, does any of our “thinking of things pure and lovely” do for people when to do it, we sacrifice relevance with the larger culture?

To write a story for story’s sake is to live your life in a such as way as to be truthful to the work and not sell out to the idol of comfort and tasteless “pablum.”

Greg talked about this in his editorial this month, which covered Paul Elie’s book The Life You Save May Be Your Own: www.imagejournal.org/current/editorial.asp.

The status quo can change, but only if you want it to.

Inspiring Books