Tuesday, December 09, 2008

If you're not here to read me talking about me, move along please.

I've pruned the social media tree enough to have the energy to post on WFA again. I ended up deleting several weeks worth of bloglines posts, and my livejournal. I had starting using my livejournal friendslist as a quick linkfarm rather than add everything to bloglines. While I was doing that I discovered that the friendslock feature gave me a convenient place to gripe about things I didn't want to bicker with trolls over, and gripe about politics or work. I've long avoided blogging politics and work on this blog, but livejournal's friendslock gives a false sense of privacy that I slipped into. It was quick, it was easy, and it wouldn't get back to anyone I didn't want it to.

Well, as long as I didn't gripe about family it wouldn't get back to anyone I didn't want it to. I discovered a leak in this area early on when I tried to vent healthily and it resulted in a member of my family dropping me from the "on speaking terms" list for a short time. Never zeroed in on who the leak exactly was, but the incident itself was not worth digging too deeply into it. That incident was, however, a good reminder that the sense of privacy was a false one. Not only did everyone on your filter have to be trustworthy, you also had to go through a few coding hoops to keep your locked entries from manifesting on feed aggregators and search engines. Plus there's the whole matter of livejournal's changes recently, which let advertisers scan your locked stuff to decide what ads to put there. And--to use a completely random example--if I don't want my sister to discover that I was actually really fucking upset about the matter of the daffodils last Thanksgiving, for example, and that I was lying when I told her it was no big deal then it might be awkward if she sees the ads on my page are for florists and turkey farms lately.

Really, you may as well just blog without locking. And if I'm blogging without locking, what's the fucking point of livejournal? I like the Blogger and Wordpress interfaces better. I have Bloglines--in which I can divide the feeds into manageable folders rather than one stupid feedlist and which allows me to pin and mark read or unread. I like reading some people's locked posts, but not so much that I really need to stick around.

And there was one other result of the under-friendslock writing. I was becoming more reluctant to write about the little things in public. Because it was less of a hassle to just lock them and gripe within my little group than to go out with sword in hand and hack my way through hordes of trolls. Which had two effects, the first being I became a more cowardly writer, the second being I became a less adept reasoner. When you don't fight trolls, your reason and with dull. When your reason and wit are dull, you become reluctant to fight trolls. It's not so much a circle as an ever-lowering spiral staircase to the depths of stupidity and isolation.

And who the hell needs that?

So I dumped the livejournal, made a cute little "This is where you can find me elsewhere" and meant to never return.  I kept the account open for comments, but figured since it was already something I'd let lapse I wouldn't be tempted to return.

But I neglected one thing: Newsarama.

In the past, when I saw a particularly annoying comment on that site that I wanted to gripe about but not engage (because engagement would lead to a quick release of temper in many cases, and I'd been kindly asked to keep it under control on that site) I would gripe on livejournal and not have to engage the person.

And in the past, when a poster that I wanted to support or at least give a fair chance to said something that encouraged the introduction of the heel of my palm to the top of my forehead I would go under livejournal, vent, and keep a pleasant face.

This seemed to be a necessity as I was doing When Fangirls Attack and needed an outlet but didn't want to jump the gun. As things tend to spiral, I grew to rely more on livejournal and less on the main blog as that outlet, until things that desperately needed to be said in public were only said in private, and of course that private was not as private as it seemed at the time. This spiral also led to stupidity and isolation.

So, on the whole, closing the livejournal seemed to be the best thing to do. And as I had neglected the journal during my residency in the Gray Realm I figured I could keep the account without being tempted to write on it.

But again, Newsarama. In my distress this weekend at my apparent replacement, I asked the head of the blog if he was planning to bring in a feminist blogger. He responded that he had two. My relief was tempered only by the realization that I very probably should have heard of Sarah Jaffe before this, but hadn't. I don't like that sort of thing. I may not be the best blogger in the community, I may not have the widest audience but I always took a pride in knowing my way around the place. This was a new person, but one who had been writing about women in comics that I hadn't seen before.  I do not like this strange feeling of being the second or third person to notice new people.

So I tracked down the posts from both bloggers and found several WFAble items had already been posted.

And yes, this new person has already caused me to shift uncomfortably in my seat. (Smart, strong, sexy women as badass as the men? Nothing else you'd want to add to that, perhaps? Even a little "despite the difficulties" or "despite the criticisms"?) And perhaps shift uncomfortably over email. Still, the criticism was unfair. Plenty of perfectly rational women enjoy Frank Miller. I really liked Frank Miller's comics until I realized he was using the same creepy older-macho-man-gets-together-with-young-female-sex-worker plot over and over and over again. After that, his work lost of its charm.  The movie is visually fascinating. Lots of violence, that's fun. And this was just a happy nostalgic post on a site that encouraged positivity.   I wouldn't have blinked twice seeing it on a familiar writer's blog.   Well, I might've blinked twice if one of the major Girl-wonder.org columnists had said it, not because I would feel she just lost feminist cred but because because the mood on that site is so consistantly anti-Miller that I'd have to believe anything positive was sarcasm or mind control.

Now before I go on you need to know that the point of this post was never to criticize the new blogger on Newsarama. This post is entirely about me and my problems. That's what you're here for, I'm just including a free side of Newsarama-nitpickin' with the main meal of my introspection. (And enjoy this meal, because my tortured writerly soul is a seasonal item on the menu, available for limited time only.)

As unfair as it was, I had this little twitch when I read it.  And then when I read this post from her co-blogger (another person I haven't heard of.  This bothers me.  How far out of the loop am I?), and the resulting comment nitpicking. And then I read this post, referring to the previous post, and the resulting comment discussion. And then I introduced Mr. Palm to Mr. Face again.

THAT is when the urge to complain about the whole lot of them--bloggers and commenters--on my livejournal, in private, set in. And then I thought to myself-- well, why? What am I afraid of? Looking bitter? Everyone knows I'm bitter. It's one of the defining characteristics of my writing.

I narrowed my eyes at my livejournal profile, stewed in irritation for a few moments and realized something.   Livejournal and Blogger both support OpenID.  Perhaps I could free myself from the shackles of self-absorption in the living hell of eternal navelgazing. Perhaps I could climb that spiral staircase out of stupidity and isolation. Perhaps I could just delete the freaking livejournal account.

So I did. And I have thirty days to avoid using it, and then it can never come back. And then maybe I'll get my sharpness back.

And then maybe--just maybe--I'll be able to read a post by an unfamiliar blogger that irks me just slightly without turning the whole matter into a personal journey of self-discovery that leads to a fourteen hundred word essay on the true meaning of Blogging.

Monday, December 08, 2008

December 8th, 2008.

You should all know by now that I've left my writing job at Blog@Newsarama.  Not much behind it, really.  JK Parkin was leaving and I didn't feel like explaining to a new editor that holding me to a deadline or a predictable posting schedule was a threat to national security.  I took the opportunity to bow out gracefully and start pruning away the other responsibilities that are making me an overwhelmed/overworked/overstressed lump of misery.

I do admit to missing the massive soapbox and the ability to brag about being paid to write.

The new blog posts too much to really keep up with, so I didn't really pay attention to it even when I got an email linking this post as indicative of Blog@'s new direction. Then I got another email linking the same post, so I figured it might be worth looking over.

I had the strangest reaction, too.  It wasn't anger or disgust. See, it was posted on Friday, which was theoretically when my own feature was posted.  It was posted in a rambling stream-of-consciousness manner.  Every sentence in the first paragraph started with "and" or "so."  I admit it's conceited of me to think they might try to replace based on my writing style rather than my role, but that's almost certainly what it looked like.  And the substance of the post screamed the opposite of any word I had ever posted on that entire website.  To hell with humility and perspective, the only two words in my mind at this point were "Bizarro Ragnell."

So at the same time my feminist heart fell to the floor with the impact of what I'd been replaced with, my ego swelled to four times its natural size.  But alas, I have a brain and it does have some sense of perspective.  This was just a fucking weird coincidence.

My ego deflated to a healthy size again, I picked my heart from the floor and placed it back on the bookshelf next to Jim Butcher's Blood Rites where it belongs.  (I keep my rage tucked between the covers of Chronicles of the Lensmen if anyone's curious.  Gives it a good charge.)  I then sat down, expressed the acceptable amount of human sympathy for the poor saps who are now stuck with the Blog@Newsarama audience and outlined just what was wrong with that particular post.  I refrained from asking Mr. Brownfield if he'd ever read my column while I was at the blog.  I've always had a sneaking suspicion no one did, and this is no time for that sort of idea to be confirmed.  I just told myself I was done with preaching to Newsarama after that comment and went back to the daunting task of organizing and reviving my crumbling life so I could get back to writing something someone might actually read.  Then the author of the article responded:
Thanks guys for the feedback. I appreciate the words and that anyone even takes the time out to read anything I write. Thank you. As for the not respecting women statement, I have nothing but the utmost respect for women. A gay friend of mine read this same article and mentioned that the same statement could relate to him as easily as it could a women. And the lesbian statement came from Terry Moore writing Strangers In Paradise ( a wonderful book that I highly recommend to anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of reading it) in which, hey, there were lesbian assassins as well as a whole world of crazy crazy goodness.

And yes, I do tend to put my foot in my mouth more often than not but the comparison to porn was only just that, a thought or idea meant to convey an image in the mind of the reader. Not at attempt to downgrade women.

My mom, my sister, my nieces and my aunts all read my blogs, and works, and the majority of my friends, as well as readership (not to mention the main, Calie Liddle, character of the Wonderland series that I write) are female as well and while something’s I might say might seem uncoth or less that civilized, I’d rather it be me coming out rather than everything else you see on the internet that goes through this strange policitical filter of not wanting to write something that everyone will not find offensive.
For those of us who can't sigh over the internet when I see something like this, there's Twitter.

There's also painstaking replies that barely scratch the surface of the column but are still long enough to be put in moderation forever:
Raven -- Okay, I've got nothing against you, man, and I can tell you mean very well but there's two really wrong things with that comment. I don't really have the time/energy to get into the details right now but you did two very big groan-worthy things in that second-to-the-last paragraph.

The "Some of my best friends are women and they aren't offended" thing is incredibly problematic for a few dozen reasons, but the biggest one is this: I don't know these friends and family of yours, I just know what I read in your article. I can only judge based on my knowledge and experience. So can the rest of the commenters here and many of us were given a poor impression by your post and the accompanying imagery.

The other issue is saying that people who carefully watch what they say are just politically-motivated and not merely thoughtful people. I don't know of a nice way to put this, so here it is: That's pretty much dodging responsibility for thinking. Look, writing is communication. What you communicated was that women aren't worth the time it takes to phrase and frame your piece--a piece that seems designed to try and SELL a product--in a manner that at least won't actively offend them.

Maybe to you that's a bogus "political filter" but all writing is political. LIFE is political because human beings are insanely social creatures. We have a billion little tiny rules that we observe in our interactions with each other. There's a reason for that. Because our lives depend on the support of other humans, we've developed a system of rules based on gaining and keeping that support, as well as fettering out who can be trusted to give that support and who that support is worth giving to. What rules are followed and what rules are discarded TELL us what other people consider a priority, and what might be result if we invest our time our efforts or our money in this person. This piece on a professional blog written by a man in a professional capacity is like a neon sign flashing "This guy's product will not appeal to you!"

Example of that political filter? My first impulse was to write "This guy will spend your money on strippers!" but I didn't want to risk earning your emnity for the sake of a cheap laugh when I'm trying to convince you of my point of view.

But there's a more serious, more disturbing implication in that paragraph. And I'm going to qualify it by saying I don't have anything against you personally, and I don't dislike your comics but I'm going to bring it up. It's worth the risk of your emnity so that I can get you to think it over: You seem to be saying you dropped those early thoughts and wrote this because it was a truer representation of your personality than a more measured piece. Well, if people react badly to your true personality after you've dropped the filter, can you really defend yourself by blaming the filter that keeps people from seeing that?

Even pared down I still wrote way more than I'm comfortable in someone else's column, but I still probably just miss the soapbox. On the bright side, I'm writing again.