In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been easing my way back into blogging since I got out of the hospital. I’ve also been slow to resume surfing the Web, not because I love it less but because I’m afraid of it. For the recovering workaholic, a computer with a high-speed connection to the Internet is a perpetual temptation to excess, and I’m determined not to succumb. Nevertheless, I’ve started revisiting some of my favorite Web sites in recent days, and I’m struck all over again by how much more interesting they are than most of what I read in the mainstream media.
Here’s some of what I found there:
– Mr. Outer Life dreamed that he was reading his own biography:
My Boswell was nothing if not thorough. But as fact after fact piled up I found it harder and harder to find the me buried beneath. I mean, it’s interesting to note the shoes I wore in sixth grade, or my brand of toothpaste, or the scores I achieved on my SAT, or the friends I was closest to in college, or the books I enjoyed most when I was 32, but after a while it got really distracting, then it got annoying, this fire hose of facts drowning me on every page. I found myself reacting against this, at first trying to forget the facts but after a while simply repeating a mantra to myself, over and over: I am not those shoes, I am not that toothpaste, I am not those scores, I am not those friends, I am not those books….
– Lileks holds forth on Christmas songs:
They’re playing Christmas songs at the coffee shop now; the staff informs me that the selection consists of the same four songs played over and over again, but by different artists. I wouldn’t doubt it. There are only four songs, really–religious, secular songs sung like religious songs, happy upbeat modern tunes, and modern krep in which Grandma is run over by a reindeer or the various members of the family gather to rock around the Christmas tree….
This is nostalgia for some–it’s nostalgia for me, for that matter; I remember these versions from my childhood, although I never liked it–but you have to remember that it was nostalgia then, inasmuch as it refers to the “Currier and Ives” versions of the seasons that people already lamented losing. But that’s Christmas; a mass consensual illusion that the holiday existed in some perfect state, and that this state can be replicated again if we find the right combination of lights, ornaments, songs, nutmeg candles, Pottery Barn CD compilations, pine-scented infusers, kicky shoes and brie spreaders….
– My favorite blogger is in a didactic mood:
There are only three syllables in the word, but oh, they are such dangerous syllables. Pianist. Do you say it pompously, snobbishly, in a way that emphasizes the first syllable as if the word were three sixteenth notes placed squarely on beat one? “You’re a PI-an-ist?” This sounds haughty and condescending to my ears–I do not, after all, play a PI-an-o–but I always smile forgivingly and reiterate, “yes, I am a pianist,” as blandly and evenly as possible. In “notational” terms, out of three sixteenths, I tend to make the first a pick-up, saying the word “piano” and yielding to the “ist” four-fifths of the way through. (Sixteenth – bar line – two sixteenths.) Bleating like a lamb through the middle syllable (essentially giving it the full value of an eighth note) is another sloppy mispronunciation; though when accompanied by rolled eyes and lots of laughter, it’s also the perfect way for partying pi-AAN-ists to make fun of themselves….
– Richard Lawrence Cohen sums up art in a nutshell:
I once knew a man who commanded himself to write a sonnet every day for a year. He liked to say that God told him to. For a long time he wouldn’t show his sacred verses to anyone. At last he put them in a book and gave a reading, and I bought a copy.
The poems were skillfully done and showed a hard-earned knowledge of technique. They were full of smart soundplay and allusion and showed great sensitivity to the insensitivity of being male. He wrote about how strong his father was and how his wife had hurt him and how weak his father was and what a coarse, innocent teenager he had been. He wrote about eBay and iPod in meters Dryden had known. Every poem made me feel I had to tell him how good it was.
But of course there was something missing and he knew it. No need for anyone to say it. It wasn’t anything I could advise him to put in. To do that, I would have had to know where to find it. It was–let me try to think–it was that these were the poems any American man our age would have written if he could write poems. And while it was nice to see those things said with assonance and alliteration and half-rhyme and flexible rhythm, none of the lines was more beautiful than we had a right to ask. Which is, of course, what we have a right to ask….
– Jeannine Kellogg is similarly observant about the dilemma of the modern-day singleton:
All the media images bombarding us everyday imply that most everyone in the world is in love or falling in love. Yet there are many singles internet sites that offer to you the love of millions of singles at your keyboard fingertips. So if love or lust is so prevalent and so easily attained, then why are there millions on the internet paying so much money to search for it?
Our tax forms, insurance forms, employment forms, all ask us if we are “single” or “married.” It is our culture’s great delineator; those of us in love and those of us not. A friend said to me that she hated being asked by coworkers, parent’s friends, and married women, if she was single. When she answers, it’s as though she’s contracted a new incurable personality virus. At which point, the inquirer squints and winces and knows not what else to say. For her, an older single woman, the label of single sometimes just feels like a label adhered to the leftovers….
– Ms. A Glass of Chianti, who hails from Fort Worth, Texas, reads a knuckleheaded art review in the local newspaper and finds herself reflecting on the perpetual problem of where to live:
It’s not just art, of course. There’s not a culture of reading. People read, of course, they just tend not to read things that aren’t written by the new pastor of whatever megachurch recently expanded. The books are great; they teach people how to be more involved with their families and churches and communities and how to make God the center of their life… all of the things that really matter. People go to church on Sunday here. Ask any teacher and he will tell you that there is a lot of pressure not to assign homework that’s due on Thursday (as Wednesday is “church night” for most youth groups here).
Now, all of this isn’t to say that there’s nothing to see here. There’s a ton, but there isn’t anyone with whom to talk about it. On the one hand, an empty gallery makes viewing art much easier but on the other, you kind of start wondering what’s wrong with you that you’re all alone yet again. So, if it’s not a cultural wasteland, but people aren’t really engaged in the “high culture,” why might this be?…
As a small-town Missourian turned big-city aesthete, I often find myself pondering such questions. So did Willa Cather, who wrote about them with great subtlety and sympathy in many of her novels and short stories, never more penetratingly than in “A Wagner Matin