Month: May 2014

Polished Prose

I’m sure that all of us who love writing enough to be blogging have heard lots and lots of unsolicited advice from other people. Some of it is probably good advice. Some of it is definitely condescending advice. But my goodness, there certainly is a lot of it out there.

The one piece of advice that has stuck with me the most, though, is the one that says if you want to write, you need to read. You need to read a lot.

This advice has been very, very easy for me to follow. As easy as falling off a log, as they say. When people ask me how I have time to read, what I want to ask them back is how they have time to breathe.

If you read a lot, you may recognize my unspoken reply as a reference to Harper Lee’s one and only, To Kill A Mockingbird.  Scout, the narrator, says, “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” If you read a lot, hearing from other readers can be a much richer experience. Because, honey, you are in the know.  You get it. Things that other people say, no matter how off-hand they are, may well refer to one of the most powerful or most witty or most resonant books you’ve ever read. And that makes conversation, and life in general, richer and deeper. And who doesn’t want a little of that?

Those of us who love to read the way we love breathing live in the trembling hope that reading the work of great writers helps to make our own prose better. Unfortunately, there is a downside to this: namely, that it’s very, very easy for us to see when other people get it wrong.

For example, this morning I read a blog entry which referred to “Ann of Green Gables.”  Now, if you’ve ever actually read L.M. Montgomery’s book, you know good and well that the title is Anne of Green Gables, and that Anne Shirley, the main character, places a very strong emphasis early in the book on being called “Anne spelled with an e.” Having her name spelled without an e is hurtful to dear Anne Shirley, and to anyone who’s read and loved the book.

Or another, someone commenting on a blog wrote, “Here, here!” Um, no. If you’ve read and loved J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, you know that when young Bilbo Baggins is completely discombobulated by an unexpected visit from a wizard and a whole lot of dwarves, he shouts out, “Hear, hear!” and when the dwarves ask him what he means, he continues with “Hear what I’ve got to say!” So anyone who has read The Hobbit and knows it well will never, never use the wrong form of hear/here in a blog comment. (Also: Mr. Tolkien used “dwarves” and so I’m using it here. So there.)

The problem is, I think, that I and everyone else just don’t realize what it is we don’t know. I mean, the person who typed “Here, here” probably never considered that he was just getting it plain wrong. He probably still doesn’t know, unless he’s reading this blog, which I doubt. He may not even care. And, on top of that, it is rude to correct total strangers. Which is why I’m addressing  this topic in my own little blog entry instead of joining in the comments.

But if you love reading the way you love breathing, you know a lot of books well and are not prone to making certain errors in your own writing. And you also realize that the people who are getting things wrong are a lot more famous and have many more followers and comments than you do.

So who cares about other people’s little errors in their blog entries?

Only fusspots like me.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

So Glad That’s Over

There’s nothing like social media for making it impossible to ignore gooey, sentimental holidays laden with unrealistic expectations. Remind me to stay away from That Certain Social Media Site on Mother’s Day next year. Please. Not that I’ll need it, as I suspect that the aversion I’m feeling right now will last at least into the next calendar year. Possibly into the next lifetime.

For me, yesterday’s sugary holiday went something like this: my kids were too sick to help cook breakfast, I had to teach Sunday school and only two kids showed up, my son shamed me during his soccer game by yelling at another teammate and making him cry, and I had to do the Mother’s Day dinner dishes by myself while my husband went outside to cope with the fact that a chipmunk had chewed through our dog’s invisible fence.

I now own two very pretty silk scarves, but I’m not exactly wallowing in sentiment this year. I know my husband and my kids did the best they could (although my son needs to be a *way* better teammate) and that’s about it.

Notice who I haven’t even mentioned yet. Yes, that would be my own mother, who was told early on about our busy busy Sunday, who waffled back and forth about what parts of the day she wanted to share with us, and who ultimately decided to give dinner at our house a miss this year, in a fairly last-minute way, and without specifying a reason. I can’t get rid of the feeling that I failed to meet whatever unspoken expectations that are in her mind. I am a bad, bad daughter. Of course, I already knew that.

Enter That Certain Social Media Site. Happy, healthy kids serving breakfast. Photos of outings to places I would much rather have gone than yet another gosh darn soccer game. Mothers posting photos of the presents they received, for goodness’ sake. Friends my age hugging their wonderful, wonderful mothers who have taught them such wonderful, wonderful lessons about motherhood, life, and the whole entire beautiful cosmic universe.

Excuse me while I mentally vomit. It’s just so sickenly sweet, and so endless. Like high-fructose corn syrup glugging out of a giant vat, ad infinitem.

And then, on top of it, people wishing me and everyone a Happy Mother’s Day. Just when my mental nausea is at its peak.

Gooey, sentimental, greeting-card-company holidays really seem to bring out the precious in just about everyone.

Except me.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Benign or Toxic?

For some reason I was watching a podcast/ video presentation during which the speaker was discussing benign versus toxic disinhibition. The discussion is called Why Internet Jerks Aren’t Going To Win and I guess I was looking over my husband’s shoulder or something, since he is a giant fan of Giant Bomb.

Because in my little world everything’s all about me, it got me to wondering into which category this blog would fall, benign or toxic? Let’s see…

The reason I started this blog is because I wanted to state certain opinions out  loud, but not in a context where anyone would know it was me or I could personally hurt anyone’s feelings. I continue to maintain that there is nothing more obnoxious than posting comments on That Certain Social Media Site that negatively reflect on how others are using the site. Sure, people do and say all kinds of irritating things on that site (see every single blog entry I’ve written) but it really isn’t kind to use that site as a forum to call others out for irritating behavior. I think it might be said that *some* of my motivations for writing this blog are benign. I don’t want to hurt the feelings of people I know by commenting on their behavior in a direct and personal way.

On the other hand, I’m really not very nice about other people’s irritating behavior on this blog. I’m sarcastic, I’m snarky, and I make jokes at the expense of others. Is that harsh enough to count as being toxic? I’m not doing much to spread joy, warmth and tolerance toward my fellow human beings. Unless the people who agree with me think I’m funny. That’s one kind of joy, I suppose. And maybe anonymous venting helps those of us who enjoy it to be more tolerant in other contexts, such as That Certain Social Media Site.

I guess my question is, does “toxic” always mean direct, personal, bigoted attacks? I think it probably does, and I don’t have a lot of tolerance for that in either my real world, or in this one.

It’s very hard to be witty and respect the feelings of others at the same time, I notice. Self-deprecation becomes tiresome, and it’s all too easy to count on other people to do and say things that create an opportunity for them to be the subject of your wit. Also, it’s fun to be clever and it’s fun to be outside looking in on what’s happening in your society. And I do find that it’s easier to achieve the feeling of outside looking in when one is writing under a pseudonym. And I’d like to think that anonymous wit doesn’t severely detract from any one person’s online experience.

Oh, look. I am absolving myself of being toxic. Sly and secretive, yes. Toxic, no. Benign, also no.

Thorny might be a good adjective. But in the online world, no one is going to prick herself on a thorn unless she goes looking for it.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Meta without the Links

So recently a “friend” on That Certain Social Media Site linked to an article by an actual, published columnist about how she doesn’t like that people are publishing lists of annoying social media behaviors. If I were a real cutting-edge blogger, I would link to this article. Because I am a beastly slacker, I’m just going to let you do an internet search for it if you want to. In my experience, links to articles tend to be like the floor plans in Agatha Christie mystery novels, in that I suspect most readers just skip right over them. So no link, and you’ll have to take my interpretation of this article as gospel unless you do the search.

Anyway, my “friend” agreed with this columnist, and told us all how much she loves posting to That Certain Social Media Site. Well, yes, dear, we all guessed that. We all are able to follow your vacations hour-by-hour, we all know exactly what articles are trending in your profession, and we even know about the symptoms displayed by your child when she is suffering from a virus in the middle of the night. It’s clear to us that you are a real fan of That Certain Social Media Site.

I don’t know, it seems to me that people have a perfect right to tell the world that there are in fact a lot of behaviors on That Certain Social Media Site that are really, really annoying. The lists I’ve seen don’t even touch on all of them; of course, if they did, they’d be so long that nobody would read the whole list. In my experience, any list published online has a very obvious title in big letters, making it very easy to decide not to read it if you don’t want to.

The thing that is really rude and annoying, in my opinion, is people who choose That Certain Social Media Site as the venue for complaining about how other people use it. But if you publish a list elsewhere? If you have a secret, pseudonymous blog expressly for the purpose of making fun of social media? Go for it.

And I do.

Therefore, I am using my social-media-topic blog to talk about a post on That Certain Social Media Site that references an article that comments on a list of social media behaviors. How meta is that? I ask  you.

Is it **more** meta not to include the links? Are there degrees of being meta?

Questions for the ages.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy