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?”

The Type of Rock Music I’m Looking For

I recently had a conversation with Mitchell wherein I told him how much I liked AC/DC and Van Halen. This is especially true when I’m in the mood for music that really rocks. Later Mitchell asked if I could explain specifics about both groups that appealed to me. I did a cursory listening of various rock groups last night, and while I think my thoughts are still fuzzy, I’m going to offer some thoughts (because I might never get to this if I wait until my thoughts are clearer). To start things off, answering the following question might be helpful: What does it mean for a group to really rock? Here’s a list of things that come to mind: Continue reading “The Type of Rock Music I’m Looking For”

Verdict: Internet is Not a Medium for Thoughtful, Civil Discourse

Civil Beat announced their closing down their comments section. What’s interesting is that they’ve tried different software/methods, but none have really lead to civil place for thoughtful discussion. This jibes with my experience on a variety of different comment sections and discussion boards online over a twenty year period. (The Atlantic also recently shut down their comments section.) To be clear, thoughtful, civil discourse is possible on the internet–I have definitely participated in this–but it is very rare, the exception to the rule. This is really disappointing and sad to me, because I expected that the internet would provide more opportunities for this type of discourse. My sense is that this building a place where this type of discourse is the norm is too costly, and those looking for this type of discourse have to go to places where the majority of conversation turns the site into a cesspool.

(One question. Both Civil Beat and The Atlantic are keeping FB discussions alive. Are discussions more thoughtful and civil there?)