2018 Year-End Lists

“I love lists. Always have. when I was 14, I wrote down every dirty word I knew on file cards and placed them in alphabetical order. I have a thing about about collections, and a list is a collection with purchase.”

Adam Savage
Wired Magazine
“Step One: Make a List”
October 2012

Your Opinions and Perceptions–What Has Changed and What Has Stayed the Same?

If you’re like me, you have experienced what I’m about to describe. At some point starting in my mid-30s, I started becoming aware of strongly-held ideas in my 20s didn’t have much merit. In these moments, not only did I realize I was wrong, but I would sometimes feel foolish, especially when I recalled the ideas I passionately held and argued for. In many instances, I held these ideas because of ignorance and lack of experience. Once I acquired more of both, I realized that those ideas didn’t have much merit.

At the same time, there have been other opinions that seemed to have stood the test of time; or I at least haven’t gotten to the point where I realize these opinions also don’t have merit; it wouldn’t surprise me if, after more knowledge and experience, I realize these opinions also are pretty worthless. In this thread, I’m interested in hearing examples of both, for those willing to share. I’ll try to give some examples of both soon.

Musings on Dissatisfaction

I was thinking recently about a couple of very popular novels that I find unreadable, mostly for the quality of the writing itself. One, Eragon, was written by a teen, and teens responded very well to it, and a lot of them who had picked up some reading momentum from the Harry Potter books found a new series to love. I was fully on board with the enthusiasm because I believe reading just about anything is good for language development, not to mention just good for our brains and hearts in general.

The other is 50 Shades of Grey, which was originally written as Twilight fan fiction. When the author got really good feedback from her audience (that is, people who read fanfic), she restructured her story with original characters so she could sell it independently, and now she’s filthy stinking rich. I know a lot of middle-aged women who haven’t picked up a popular book in many years, who read the whole 50 Shades series and dug it. Most will admit the writing is not good, and that the content is pretty fluffy, but they found it a guilty pleasure.

I’m on board with guilty pleasures as well.

But while I can enjoy mediocre writing, truly bad writing is really difficult to endure. I get distracted by thoughts about the editor (who edited this? what was he or she thinking?), the writer, the audience, and all kinds of stuff like that. There’s a level of bad quality past which I feel insulted as a reader. If nobody cared enough about the quality of the writing to do such simple things as run a spell-check, why should I care enough to spend three hours reading it?

This is a long introduction to my larger musings, which have centered lately around being satisfied with my consumption. While I believe I look at music, books, and other media pretty critically, in general I enjoy the stuff I let through, even if it’s just good enough. Penny has an even broader satisfaction threshold, and if I might presume, I’d say it extends to the rest of her life, too. Because Penny’s pretty satisfied with most things she encounters, she’s generally a happier, more pleasant person to be around. It helps too that she’s not as moody as I am.

I’m thinking this is a direction I want to move into, one where I can still look at things critically, but not be disapointed or dissatisfied because of their flaws. It’s possible I’ll never get to the point where I can read 50 Shades of Grey, but what if that’s where the line is? It must be possible to continually seek excellence without being disappointed by its absence.

What do you guys think? How satisfied and dissatisfied are you with the stuff you consume? Websites, TV, music, movies, food? Do these things generally make you happier or less happy, and does it matter?

How Big of a Problem is Miscommunication on the Internet?

One of the many disagreements between Mitchell and I involves the degree to which miscommunication is a problem….Actually, I’m not even 100% sure this is the case, but let me explain what I sense is an issue we disagree upon. For me, I think people, even very intelligent people, have trouble communicating with each other–either the person expressing their thoughts and feelings or the person receiving them. Think of the telephone game, which provides compelling evidence for this. In my view, I think the communication is even more difficult on the internet, largely because of the nature of the medium (which I won’t go into). Because of this difficulty, I have tried to be more circumspect in my dealings with people–going so far as assuming that when disagreement occurs, some breakdown in communication has likely occurred, rather than actual disagreement. My sense is that Mitchell disagrees with this–that he thinks I’m overstating this problem, and maybe making a big deal of this than it really is. Again, to be clear, I’m not saying my perception is accurate. Indeed, in keeping what I just wrote, it wouldn’t surprise me if my impression is wrong, and a result of miscommunication and misunderstanding.

In any event, I saw an exchange that made me think of this, and I wanted to post it here. Continue reading “How Big of a Problem is Miscommunication on the Internet?”

Written Passages That You Like

This thread is a repository of your favorite passages and quotes from novels and non-fiction work, including magazine or newspaper articles. Include favorite sections of song lyrics or even poems (or even entire short poems themselves) . The emphasis is on good writing–the skillful composition and organization of ideas through the written word, exemplifying good technique, mastery of language, including le mot juste, and the ability to make a passage sound appealing to one’s ear, especially when read out loud*. The content is secondary, although I suspect the best writing often marries the masterful use of language and high quality ideas. (Are there any passages that contain masterful use of language that is largely empty or even devoid of ideas? First answer that comes to mind: the chorus or even lyrics of a good pop tune; a specific example of this: a Jim Morrison song, like “Break on Through to the Other Side.”) Continue reading “Written Passages That You Like”