Monday Stepback: Why Read?, Verbing, Straw Feminism, and Getting Yelled At

The weekly links, opinion and personal updates post

Links of Interest

From the Guardian Books Blog, When Authors Met Book Bloggers for Lunch, interesting and balanced:

This is a great strength that literary bloggers have. They do not have to write for a mass audience, their excesses are not necessarily reined in by an editor, and so they are free to produce indecent, funny, inappropriate, uplifting, provocative, controversial or unconventional reviews, just as they are free to produce reviews that are vicious. I defend their right to be vicious and I don’t take it personally anymore, because I see literary viciousness as a dark art that sometimes needs writers as its canvas. I do worry about some of the writers who are just starting out, though. Some of the more casual meanness that happens online might be avoided if the reviewer imagined the author reading their piece, or if they envisaged a day where they had to meet face-to-face in a room.

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From today’s New York Times, Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites like Twitter:

The effect is seen on the companies providing the blogging platforms. Blogger, owned by Google, had fewer unique visitors in the United States in December than it had a year earlier — a 2 percent decline, to 58.6 million — although globally, Blogger’s unique visitors rose 9 percent, to 323 million.

LiveJournal, another blogging service, has decided to emphasize communities. Connecting people who share an interest in celebrity gossip, for instance, provides the social interaction that “classic” blogging lacks, said Sue Rosenstock, a spokeswoman for LiveJournal, which is owned by SUP, a Russian online media company. “Blogging can be a very lonely occupation; you write out into the abyss,” she said.

But some blogging services like Tumblr and WordPress seem to have avoided any decline. Toni Schneider, chief executive of Automattic, the company that commercializes the WordPress blogging software, explains that WordPress is mostly for serious bloggers, not the younger novices who are defecting to social networking.

In any case, he said bloggers often use Facebook and Twitter to promote their blog posts to a wider audience. Rather than being competitors, he said, they are complementary.

“There is a lot of fragmentation,” Mr. Schneider said. “But at this point, anyone who is taking blogging seriously — they’re using several mediums to get a large amount of their traffic.”

I think this last point is very true.

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Rebecca at Dirty Sexy Books is celebrating her second anniversary with an interesting post full of lessons learned.

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At All About Romance, Dabney Grinnan is Flying the Romance Flag With Pride, an innocuous celebration of the genre … until something strange happens in the comments, now numbering 39. I may have made a snarky “contribution” myself.

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Once again my US Senator has a very bad idea. On the Kill Switch bill (via Books Inq).

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Monsters and Humans: Where to Draw the Line in Fiction, a guest post at Midnight Moon Cafe by Roxanne Rhoads.

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Is It Ok To Call Someone Else Nuts? at Udo Schuklenk’s Ethx Blog. I have purged words like “retarded” and, less successfully, “lame” from my vocabulary, but “nuts” is one I am on the fence about.

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Folks participating in a February 11 romance panel at a Sydney library have produced a transcript and a post from the moderator. Check them out for answers to questions like “How has romance changed since the 1980s?” and “Has the stigma against the romance genre diminished?”

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Let’s Say Goodbye to the Straw Feminist, by Cordelia Fine, in response to UVa psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s views on bias in science, as reported in the New York Times recently:

What about claims of sex differences in the brain, sometimes speculatively linked to aptitude in science and maths? Small sample sizes, noisy data, publication bias, and teething problems with statistical analysis techniques leave this literature littered with spurious findings of sex differences. So where does the disagreement lie between the neuroscientist or commentator who reports a sex difference in the brain, and the critic of that empirical claim? Does the former have a far more optimistic view of the study’s reliability? Or is she less concerned about the social fall-out should her claim about the difference between the male and the female brain turn out to be wrong?

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Is the Kindle increasing piracy, or is author Dave Carnoy thinking data is the plural of anecdote? (at CNET, vie @jafurtado)

A lot of people think moving away from paper is a good thing. Maybe it is. But what should also be alarming to publishers is that the number of people pirating books is growing along with the number of titles that are available for download. As I’ve written in the past, the rise of the iPad has spurred some of the pirating, but now the huge success of the Kindle is also leading to increased pirating. Yes some companies, such as Attributor, have done some studies about the issue, and seen increases. But for my evidence one only need glance at Pirate Bay and see what people are downloading and how many of them are doing it.

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Reading is Overrated by Rick Gekoski at the Guardian, a post probably more interesting for the way it rides the line between satire and seriousness (or is it the line between brilliant and bad writing?) and for the comments than for the words it contains:

And then we have this, from Somerset Maugham: “To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all of the miseries of life.” Well, almost all? I wonder which miseries reading is a refuge from, and which not? And if it is such an escape, are we not likely to doubt that what we were protected from was not a misery, but an inconvenience or an occasional source of bad temper? I suspect that a good definition of “misery” might well be “pain so acute that even reading will not assuage it”. I’d be surprised if reading provided a “refuge” from the pains of toothache, colic, or childbirth, the deaths of loved ones, the decline into dementia, the experience of war, famine, or grinding poverty, or the relegation of Coventry City FC.

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Do You Verb? by Stefanie at So Many Books:

the penchant in English to turn, usually nouns but sometimes other words too, into verbs. The grammatical term for it is “denominalisation” but I like “verbing” better, it is much more fitting, don’t you think?

Sometimes verbing make me nuts, but usually in my professional life. So, for example, when people say they “consented” a patient. What the hell does that mean?!

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If you were as disappointed as I was in the 20-years-late-to-the-party New Yorker Paul Haggis Scientology piece, read this excellent article at the Awl on The Early Heroes of Scientology Reporting.

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As a bioethicist, I am always interested in the lines between (often overlapping really) mental disorder and moral failings. This Time Magazine article on Sex Addiction is actually pretty interesting in that regard:

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is debating whether sex addiction should be added to its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The addition of what the APA is calling “hypersexual disorder” would legitimize sex addiction in a way that was unthinkable just a few years ago, when Bill Clinton’s philandering was regarded as a moral failing or a joke — but not, in the main, as an illness.

APA recognition of sex addiction would create huge revenue streams in the mental-health business. Some wives who know their husbands are porn enthusiasts would force them into treatment. Some husbands who have serial affairs would start to think of themselves not as rakes but as patients.

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If you are interested in roundups of what happened at last week’s Tools of Change conference, check out these posts by Jane Litte, Sarah Wendell, and Ron Hogan. I was pretty wowed that Margaret Atwood commented — although not with super humility, unless I read it wrong — on the Smart Bitches post:

I was the Good Fairy who sprinkled you with snark dust, which you have to admit has served you well; and I have been following the fortunes of the Daughters of Pride and Prejudice (Harlequins) and the Daughters of Wuthering Heights (rippers with cloaks) and the Daughters of Aurora Leigh (a wounded man is more controllable) off and on ever since. In Lady Oracle, the secret life of the hapless protagonist is as a romance writer…
I will send you my shortie, “Women’s Novels,” if you like. (Inspired by my sister-in- law asking me why I didn’t write them, or at least something with white sharks in it.) Or you can find it in the (cough, ahem) book, Good Bones and Simple Murders… if, that is, you can find the book…

And have also been puzzling over this comment by Edward Champion:

The problem with conferences like Tools of Change is that they are often run by people who are socially clueless and extraordinarily rigid in their thinking. Real world pragmatism is going to be what separates the successful bookstores from the Black Books types that vanish in the next year.

… The collision of commerce-driven, socially clueless geeks with booksellers who comprehend social intricacies can often lead to regrettable results. And I suspect that the solution will probably involve a new panel called Humanity 1.0: Rediscovering Vital Social Values Practiced by 90% of the Human Population (Who Also Don’t Own E-Readers).

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Funny of the week: At Risky Regencies, author Janet Mullany on a Quick Writers Guide Through History. (via @keirasoleore)

Personal:

I gave a talk very early this morning at the hospital as per usual. This time, we were going over cases (rather than doing theory, for example, or policy). One fictional case had to do with a 4 year old who had to have surgery to remove baby teeth. Her parents gave her sugary drinks and failed to encourage good eating habits. After the surgery, when they saw how many teeth had been pulled, the parents were angry. In the PACU, the nurse anesthetist is confronted by them. How should s/he respond?

I’m not going to go into the details of how I would work through this case with the group, because I wanted to mention one physician in the room who was increasingly agitated as I went through the details of the (fictional, but all too common) scenario. He raised his hand right away and tried to derail the conversation in favor of a discussion of patient rights versus patient responsibilities. He was angry — very angry — that I failed to take into account that the whole problem began with bad parenting. He interrupted my talk several times, along the same lines. When I suggested that clinicians try to figure out why the parents were angry, he accused me of being “too touchy feely” and “ridiculous”, noting that his job was to bring the patient safely through the surgery, and that’s it. When I tried to find common ground (a usually foolproof mediation tactic, as in “we both agree clinicians should not get enmeshed in patient emotions”) he threw my handout on the floor, grabbed his bag and stormed from the room in the middle of the session.

This is the kind of exchange I have very frequently in my work at the hospital. I don’t get called in unless there is a “situation”, so emotions are always running high. People — nurses, doctors, social workers, patients and families — care very much about their work or their loved ones, and they also, being human, care about themselves. It matters a lot to me to be an agent of good, as far as I can (often, not very far), in this setting, and I will persevere even with people who don’t respect me, don’t like me, argue in bad faith, lie to themselves and to others, and are generally very difficult to deal with. I can’t let that exchange go by the wayside: I will work on it, through intermediaries if necessary, even if it is upsetting or frustrating.

But here, in Romanceland, I’m not going to do it. Here, for me, the bar is set much much lower for “not worth my time”. I’m sure in some cases, online meaningful discussions with people who seem “impossible” can yield important interpersonal breakthroughs, but in most cases, I doubt I can do it. More importantly — most importantly — I don’t have the energy. I just can’t. For me, in my life, disputes like the one this morning are much more important to face and resolve than disputes on a thread in Romanceland. I do not have loads of energy, so if I use up a lot of emotional energy in Romanceland, I know I won’t have enough for the other work that I have decided is more important for me, let alone for my family and friends, who are the most important of all. So — and I am responding to some emails here, which I’ll keep private — if I am not as involved in flamewars, or don’t get into it with commenters here, or just bow out of discussions or threads, or ignore some people on twitter, even though I may follow them, this is why.

The kids are off this week. And the spouse and I are … not. A lot of juggling. I hope to review Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas later this week.

HAPPY WEEK!

27 responses

  1. I’m quite new to blogging, but I’ve been reading and sometimes even commenting for years. I have come to the conclusion that responding to flamewars and other internet crap never leads to a helpful ending. I don’t know why, but something about the internet stunts good manners and even logic.

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  2. How can anyone attend Tools of Change? The price alone is a deposit someone would put down for a car they wanted to buy. Isn’t 3 days over $1000?

    Totally agree with the drama on-line. It seem so silly in the big scheme of things when people are still out of work and worry how they’re going to put food on the table.

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  3. Commenting because I can relate regarding flamewars online because that is exactly how I feel. I’m not going to waste my time and energy to convince a stranger to my side of an argument even if I may have started it. I can’t help participating in the odd one occasionally but it’s not a regular practice. I really don’t know who Edward Champion is to give his opinion anything other than a cursory glance. I love WordPress as I think it is the better medium for blogging. The rest I’ll have to read.

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  4. Nah. Miseries are nagging, persistent discomforts that wear you down. A nasty cold. Hot, humid weather when you have no a/c to escape to. Chronic, low-grade pain of one sort or another. A brief or extended separation from loved ones for whatever reason. Disagreeable people at work that add to your stress. Tax bills that add to your worry over paying bills and making mortgage payments.

    Toothache, childbirth, and the rest I’d put under the heading of “agonies.” Certainly war, famine, extreme poverty, and the loss of loved ones.

    A little more endurable may be the relegation of Coventry City FC. :)

    I’m in complete agreement re: flamewar involvement. It would be more productive to repeatedly pound your head against a brick wall. And probably less painful.

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  5. Of course I clicked on the NYT story about blogging. I thought the final couple of sentences undermined some of the main point:

    But some blogging services like Tumblr and WordPress seem to have avoided any decline. Toni Schneider, chief executive of Automattic, the company that commercializes the WordPress blogging software, explains that WordPress is mostly for serious bloggers, not the younger novices who are defecting to social networking.

    In other words, if you’re blogging to talk about substantive issues, then the decline is less steep. Not a surprise, really.

    On flame wars: some issues in romanceblogland motivate me to post/comment/tweet, others don’t. Just because there are always controversies doesn’t mean you have to register an opinion every time. But it also doesn’t mean you can’t register an opinion occasionally. And Ed Champion is a shit-stirrer from way way back.

    Or, more succinctly, what Keishon said.

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  6. Hi Jessica – Your pingback tickled me this morning. Thank you.

    Every time I follow the links to rubberneck at a flame war I always feel bad afterward. I just want to hear about books, and hopefully good books, so that I can experience them myself. The excessive negativity is certainly titillating, but I don’t think it helps our community in any way. I applaud your resolve to avoid jumping into the muck. Who wants to dwell there anyway? I feel like a dirty pig afterward.

    Sorry for rambling a bit, but this topic has been bothering me lately. I was thinking of tackling it in a post, but I think your anecdote above said what needed to be said.

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  7. As long in the tooth as I am….I tend to chalk up 99% of flame wars as “sh*t happens.” These days I tend to stay out of all of them. Partly because there are no new flame wars (the same crap seems to keep getting recycled, with the same people shouting above the noise, and the same trolls popping out of the woodwork), and partly because, like you, who has the energy to waste? These days I don’t wade in unless I’m really motivated to do so. And I mean, really motivated. Something has to push a hot button and push it hard.

    Plus, like Rebecca….I just wanna talk about books. All sorts of books. Even the books I know I’ll never read. Books, books, books – oh how they make me happy :)

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  8. Thanks for quoting the Guardian piece about Maugham’s comment on reading curing misery. It made me laugh :) It’s good to see a superficially attractive statement well satirised and its overstatement deflated.

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  9. Since my entire working life is about disputes, I’m not interested in dealing with them in my ‘off’ time. You inevitably see all the classic dispute behaviours emerging in these flame wars and all the clarification in the world regarding the subtleties of the opposing views isn’t going to get you any nearer a resolution. When it crosses the line from debate to dispute, I lose interest. I don’t even read the threads themselves.

    Whilst the reference in the Guardian article to ‘casual meanness’ strikes me as pretty balanced, it does stray pretty close to the some of the arguments you come across in the regular ‘mean girls’ type posts that pop up (if you haven’ t got anything nice to say etc.) As you know, I defend the right of bloggers to give strongly negative reviews and yes, to use snark, but equally I think it’s important that bloggers think about what they write. Ultimately, however, this is a subjective test determined by a whole range of factors. My test is : will I regret this tomorrow?

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  10. @Julia Broadbooks: that something is (the sense of ) anonymity, I think! That’s why I decided to be up front about my identity (not that it was hard to figure out). I still fuck up, but only about the same amount that I do IRL.

    @katiebabs: TOC is very expensive. But it must be worth it because it sold out this year. I think it is a conference for professionals, not fans or hobbyists, so maybe people are paying on company tabs? Or deducting the cost. etc.? Plus, we have no idea how many tickets were given away or comped.

    @Keishon:

    I’m not going to waste my time and energy to convince a stranger to my side of an argument even if I may have started it.

    Word to yo mutha.

    @Tamara:

    I’m in complete agreement re: flamewar involvement. It would be more productive to repeatedly pound your head against a brick wall. And probably less painful.

    LOL.

    @Sunita:

    And Ed Champion is a shit-stirrer from way way back.

    I found his comment odd. As much as I like to make fun of the circle jerk that the social media crew seems to devolve into on occasion, I would never doubt their social skills. I know Champion does long interviews with writers, but as a romance reader with the attention span of a gnat, I can’t actually listen to them.

    @Rebecca: I hope you do post on it!

    @Wendy:

    and partly because, like you, who has the energy to waste?

    I’m glad you put it that way, Wendy. I went back and reread the post and had a dread fear that I came off sounding like “my work is too important for your flame wars”. That’s not how I feel. I think (a) each of us has to make her own decision about where to expend energy, and pretty much any of us has other things going on that are important to us, and (b) I don’t mean to say the topics people get into it over are worthless, at all. I juts meant that I don’t want to spend time trying to convince certain people of things.

    @fortygreatideas: Glad you enjoyed it.

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  11. @Tumperkin:

    I have to agree with you. I’m reminded of the conversation Jessica hosted on her old site about authors & whether or not their presence stifled conversations on review posts. Then I move onto the ‘what is the purpose of reviews’ and if reviewers are constantly thinking about what may or may trigger an individual author who they don’t know then they are in a sense short-changing the review.

    I do think that reviewers, even the ones who label themselves as readers, need to remember that a negative review can be just like a horrible employee review where all your peers and supervisor point out all of your shortcomings even though you’ve worked your ass off. It can be gut wrenching no matter how prepared one believes they are. On the flipside, authors need to take themselves off of Google Alerts until you can damn well handle it better. No one is forcing them to read the reviews and many times I really do believe that author would be better served by not being online at all until after they’ve developed a thick skin and a sense solid sense of self and authorial voice. Unlike other performer such as musicians or even artists who got critiqued as they learned their craft, sometimes newbie authors have never been critiqued except by their editors whose ultimate job is not to help the author create something grand and wonderful (even if that’s what they’d love to do) but rather to massage the manuscript and get it to the buying public. (sorry, darn tangent again)

    —-

    There’s more aspect that I don’t think gets discussed or rather I think is reversed. Many people say that it’s the authors who are the professionals. But in the case of reviews, I tend to think that any blogger who posts a review a week over multiple years is really the professional in this scenario and typically the reviewer with longevity is getting constant reinforcement from other their community or the other reviewers they share a site with. In a sense, they are getting constant critiques as they hone their art but in much tinier, frequent, consistent doses without the investment of writing a novel.

    As an outsider looking in, I don’t always see much difference in the emotional base of an upset author gathering/rallying their forces around them to defend (even if I sometimes think they are way out of line and showing their asses) vs. the reader/reviewer community rallying around a reviewer. Sometimes I rather wish that the online community could find a gentle, consistent way to give the author a little standard poke to get them to wake up or that authors could be trained ahead of time to let go of their emotional responses quicker. Other times I’m not surprised because the author is truly an ass asking to be hit with a stick to the point that I wonder if they aren’t seeking bad publicity just to get people to notice them.

    if I am not as involved in flamewars, or don’t get into it with commenters here, or just bow out of discussions or threads

    Jessica, I realize that I’ve been rather provoking in a couple of the last threads so if I ever get to be too big of ass or push the line too far, please tell me to shut the f*** up or take it down a notch or five.

    I’m still mulling over all the points Laura brought up as well as her linked posts and the points brought up by the other commenters. ***eta It was never my intention to start a flame-war but it was my intention to break the barrier of ‘nice’ and ‘safe.’***

    And thank you, Laura, for engaging/indulging me. My mom said I’ve been living inside my own head too much lately. (she’s probably right)

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  12. And thank you, Laura, for engaging/indulging me.

    Thanks for engaging with me, too. I didn’t get back to you on the other thread because I wasn’t sure I had anything particularly insightful to add, but your comments have been very thought-provoking. I’m still pondering the idea of romance being hero-centric.

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  13. @Laura Vivanco:

    I’m still pondering the idea of romance being hero-centric.

    I’d love to test this theory but the genre is so huge that I’m not really sure how to start: subgenre, trope, imprint? Books released in March 2011? interview authors and ask who they think the protagonist is of their story? survey readers?

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  14. Some of the more casual meanness that happens online might be avoided if the reviewer imagined the author reading their piece, or if they envisaged a day where they had to meet face-to-face in a room.

    Does the author of that piece really think that truly honest reviews would result if the reviewer thought the author had to like every word they wrote? Authors need to butt out of the reviewing process of their own books. Seriously. They come off like idiots every time.

    I may have made a snarky “contribution” myself.

    You did and you were wonderful. Others there…not so much. Eponymous commentator indeed (thank you, SonomaLass :) )

    “nuts” is one I am on the fence about.

    As a bona fide member of the mental illness club, I can confidently say I can tell when someone is calling me ‘nuts’ to deride my condition, and when they are deriding my views. It’s pretty weak tea as criticism of an opinion, so better to avoid it, but not offensive. As for those who use it to make fun of my illness…well, whatever words they use, it’s still shitty, and reflects worse on them than it does me.

    More importantly — most importantly — I don’t have the energy. I just can’t.

    Totally understand. Many times when I am going through a real life crisis, it’s amazing how unimportant the current kerfuffle du jour can seem. I often think that people who throw themselves over and over again into some stupid row or other have insufficient drama in their real lives, and that a solid case of terminal illness would put their idiocy into perspective.

    But sometimes it works the other way. Two years ago my husband – previously believed to be in the rudest of health – suffered a Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA). In other words, a ministroke – one I knew from previous research was very often the precursor to a major stroke. He was in hospital for six days, but fortunately has not had another one or any other illness since then. For some reason, a time when I was frantically worried about him and stressed to the max, was the time I chose to involve myself in a toxic and ultimate futile discussion with raging racist arsewipes over at John Scalzi’s blog. I needed the distraction and the connection with other people, however hostile, just for distraction. It was like hitting your thumb with a hammer to distract yourself from a migraine.

    Not, as you can imagine, a very healthy way to deal with a stressful situation, but I am rather socially isolated. I couldn’t talk to anyone in person about my husband’s illness, or get any support other than online. I didn’t want to talk online about it because thinking about it made it too real. Instead, the argument about John Scalzi’s idiocy acted as a surrogate for what I was really worrying about.

    Personally, I think you’re the wiser of the two of us :)

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  15. Thank you for including the romance panel transcripts in you blog. Such an honour to be listed in a Monday Morning Stepback! The question about the stigma associated with reading romance came from an audience member (who later introduced herself with 2 of her friends). All 3 of them are creative writing honours students at the local university and it seems their reading choices have been met with disdain by their tutors/professors etc. which drives home that, though inroads have been made, there are still some ways to go in breaking down those biases. I think that your blog certainly contributes towards this.

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  16. @Laura Vivanco:

    I’m still pondering the idea of romance being hero-centric.

    It depends on geography/culture, doesn’t it? I still think that the UK romance genre focuses on the heroine, the US romance genre focuses on the hero, the JPN romance genre focuses on the hero, the HK CHN romance genre focuses on the heroine (well, I must admit I’m still struggling to decide), the SK romance genre focuses on the hero, and – bear in mind that I didn’t read many – the SPN* romance genre seems to focus on both. Not all do, of course, but it’s my one-glance take.

    *Spain, not other Spanish(?) countries (excuse my shameful ignorance! I’m still struggling to figure out which is what).

    Speaking of which, a friend recently gave me a pile of locally published romance novels she got from home in Nigeria. She says it’s generally heroine-centric so I’ll dive into those later this year. Yay. I’m keen because there was a buzz about Nigerian rom books last year. Here’s a review/commentary, written by Sylva Nze Ifedigbo from Critical Literature Review, of Myne Whitman’s self-published romance novel A Heart to Mend for example.

    And this is the article that first brought my attention to the growth of the Nigerian romance genre: Romance books a hit in Nigeria’s Muslim north by Edward Harris, Kano of Nigeria, at theage.com.au in 2008.

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  17. Jessica, I hear you on your need to not get into the flamewars and drama that goes on online. I kind of can’t help but look sometimes, but I’m actually trying harder this year not to get involved too much myself. I may read up on the situation, but it’s not important to do a whole blog post on the subject. And it’s one reason why I finally decided to close down my reading message board. There were some really bad, flamewar-esque things that constantly demanded ridiculous amounts of energy from me (and the others running it). Why the hell was I giving it to the perpetrators? Even thought he board had calmed down immensely I never felt it really became a comfortable place to be after all that. Who really has the energy and time to devote to that kind of thing? But sometimes it does take a conscious effort to stop giving it attention, so good for you.

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  18. I was pretty wowed that Margaret Atwood commented — although not with super humility, unless I read it wrong

    LOL. I am convinced she long ago bought into the view of herself as Revered Canadian Institution. Why else would she do stuff like opine to a national newspaper on whether Canadians should get flu shots?

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  19. ughhhh. *shaking fist at laptop* I just lost replies to all of you! no time to redo, but thanks everyone for the comments. Much appreciated and enjoyed.

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  20. RE: Verbing. This is a major pet peeve of my Daughter the English Major. I do it rarely, and mostly just to irritate her – after all that is what Mother’s are for, right!

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  21. Re the flamewars – I agree that you have to keep yourself safe and sane. I sometimes read the stuff and treat it like a newspaper headline. I know what the fuss is about and I may now have a personal opinion in response and that is all I need to do.

    As always, lots of interesting links.

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  22. This may be verging into TMI territory — I guess I should apologize in advance — my middle son definitely has, as they say, some “issues”. He can be a 21st century hermit, he really dislikes some social situations and he definitely beats himself up prior to anything happening by imagining the blackest possible outcome. Is he “nuts”? Well, maybe sometimes but he’s also my kid and I love him and mental health labels hanging around someone’s neck can be quite the millstone.

    My daughter, as my husband and I have often discussed, “would” have been the stupid girl in the class, pretty and pretty loud and certainly she’d be out-to-lunch in a lot of discussions. Operative word, WOULD. Because she’s had a lot of compensatory tutoring and has benefited from many programs — probably the best one being the guidance of a fabulous tutor over a 7 or so year period. She also benefits from some meds that help her focus. So … she’s not stupid, not in the least: she’s doing really well at a competitive liberal arts college. But without cutting edge psychological/scholastic help and a lot of self-discipline and I’ll admit it, very determined parents, she might have been the drop-out or the under-achiever. So I’ve been thinking a lot about words. Dumb, stupid, nuts, pyscho, crazy, borderline … and thinking how often they don’t really tell even half the story of the individual behind them.

    As they say, thanks for letting me get it all out.

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  23. Given the consensus that kerfuffles require time and energy we don’t have, how about we declare March as a kerfuffle free zone? The US Federal Government designates March as Women’s History Month. I’d rather read about trail blazing women than any rehash of a dust up that will not be resolved.

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