Archive for the 'Blogging' Category

New site alert:

May 12, 2009

Salon Slate, one of my long-time favorite Web conglomerates, is beta-testing a new site,, for us double exes. (No, not dress size. Us women. Any url with a capital X in it is probably a porn site, eh?) It has a rather thought-provoking, not entirely positive essay on Elizabeth Edwards’ public humiliation and her reaction to it, as well as another essay on why the snarky is bad for women. Worth looking at.

Thanks for the correction, Jane. I can’t keep up with myself sometimes.


Twitter tutorial

May 6, 2009

The NYTimes has a great Twitter tutorial today. I learned — and implemented — several features from it. Despite all the doom-and-gloomers, I don’t think Twitter is going away any time soon. It’s too convenient and accommodates our rapidly diminishing attention spans. If you can’t say it in 140 characters or less, nobody’s listening!

A foolish expectation of privacy?

May 1, 2009

imagesMsmeta here, poking her head above ground to see if it’s spring yet — oh, wait. That already happened. Way back in February. Which is about how long since I’ve posted regularly. Okay (she said, rubbing the grit out of her eyes), here goes:

I have a plethora of lame excuses for not spilling my guts not posting regularly, most having to do with work, Facebook, work, record snowfalls, work, family issues, blah blah blah. But if you tied me down and put bamboo shoots under my fingernails (or even offered me a Coke with crushed ice, I’m SO easy) I would have to confess that I’ve developed a strange little niggling feeling between my shoulder blades, an uneasiness, a reluctance that I can best express by saying that I’ve been feeling, well, overexposed, vulnerable, too “out there.”

I’ve talked about my penchant for anonoblogging in a previous post, and recently had an interesting, almost uncomfortable response. The reader said it took him only 10 minutes to discover my real identity by following the various breadcrumbs I’ve left throughout cyberspace. So much for hiding in plain sight. (Don’t bother trying to find me. I’m not that interesting. Really.) I think I somehow knew I was discoverable, but it tweaked me a bit nonetheless.

Which is probably why Nell Boeschenstein’s encounter with the limits (or lack thereof) of Internet privacy was so interesting to me. In today’s issue of The Rumpus, an unusual little literary way station on the Web, she tracks how her very personal contribution to a Web site found its way into a very public art exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, which crossed some definite boundaries for her. Like her, the people who posted to that site:

…were looking for something, and their words and their faces and their desires and their loneliness were being put on display on the wall of a major museum without their permission or knowledge. On the one hand, this was found art; on the other hand, was it? On the one hand, these people had put this information onto the Internet themselves and had no legal expectation to privacy; on the other hand, the piece seemed to take advantage of naïve people who didn’t understand what little ownership they have over the information about themselves available on the Internet. On the one hand, information is taken from the Internet all the time and reprinted in different contexts; on the other hand, faces and emotions and private lives on a museum wall take appropriation to a whole new level. The [original] project seemed kind to the idea of loneliness, yet it seemed to disregard the actual people to whom that loneliness belonged.

Ouch. And she only found out about it because she happened to walk into MOMA and trip over the exhibit. (Her account is a bit long but worth reading.)

Do we have any expectation of privacy out here? Did I sign my rights away when I logged onto WordPress that first time? My posts are never particularly salacious or scatalogical, but could I provoke some unwanted interest just by being here?

I know I’m going to think twice before I contribute to anyone else’s site from now on.

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My random 25 list, or “Keep moving. Nothing to see here.”

February 10, 2009

To accommodate the requests from my many annoying dear friends, I am posting my 25 random things list with a little help from the NYTimes.

1. Say that you hate things like this, and are doing it only to get the (oh, so many) friends clamoring for your list off your back.
Oh, I DO!

2. Describe “embarrassing” high school incident that makes you look cool.
I remember high school as a three-year social nightmare. I actually asked Doug Smoot to Preference because Vickie Cate (his girlfriend and later wife) wanted to go with someone else but didn’t want him to stay home and so she bullied me into asking him. Is that pathetic? He was such a nice guy.

3. Confess to crush on a) third-grade teacher b) obscure indie actor or actress c) your significant other, especially if he or she is on Facebook.
While I think Chris Cooper is HOT, I think The Spouse is HOTTER.

4. Identify real, but minor, flaw.
I snore. (Ask anyone who has roomed with me lately.) The Spouse wears ear plugs.

5. Identify major flaw by suggesting how it may also be major virtue.
The older I get, the less I can dissemble. I can’t fake liking or even tolerating someone or something I don’t. I skip a lot of events where I might have to “be nice.”

6. Cite mean nickname you were given as a child.
Can’t remember any. Being me was bad enough.

7. Follow with offhand mention of receipt of high professional honor or athletic or artistic achievement.
Excuse me for a moment while I fix my hair, which I can see in the reflection of my framed CASE INTERNATIONAL CIRCLE OF EXCELLENCE GOLD AWARD.

8. Describe meeting a celebrity and how it a) disillusioned or b) thrilled you or c) if it’s a really good celebrity just the name will do.
I had my picture taken with Harry Smith of ABC-NEWS. He’s tall. Oh, and I did a recording gig with Sting. He wore black leather pants. It was okay.

9. Mention small adversity, like long commute or annoying neighbor, and the unexpected, preferably funny, way you overcome it.
I’m not pretty, so I became pretty smart. And pretty funny.

10. Cite an actual random thing that comes to mind while writing this list.
I love raw oysters.

11. “Admit” that you always identified with weird ancillary character on popular TV show in 7th grade, as if you didn’t know that everyone in retrospect agrees that was the best character.
I don’t remember much TV from 7th grade, except for afternoons with “The Mickey Mouse Club” and “American Bandstand.” I did grow up wanting to be Laura Ingalls Wilder from the “Little House” books.

12. Expose something genuine and poignant about yourself, such as untimely death of close relative or rare genetic condition.
I have a mesenteric venous thrombosis with accompanying portal hypertension and esophageal varices. Cool, eh? (You’ll NEVER get it, so don’t worry.) It nearly killed me, and may yet.

13. Express heartfelt thanks to friends or family for helping you through #12, or just for being there, or whatever.
The Spouse sat by my bed at the hospital every day, with only his computer for entertainment. The Goons were both water-skiing at Lake Powell. Figures.

14. Conclude sentimental portion of list by citing the scene in movie X that always makes you cry. Could also be a lyric, or a memory, so long as it involves crying.
That moment at the end of “Carousel” when Billy says, “I love you, Julie. I’ve always loved you” to the strains of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Break out the Kleenex.*

15. Something about drugs.
Don’t do them, unless they’re prescribed (said the pharmacist’s daughter).

16. Tell a story of how you stood up to authority. Dwelling on descriptive details can help it not seem like you are making yourself out to be a hero even though you are.
I don’t generally stand up to authority, but then, I don’t always recognize authority. I just burble along, usually under the radar.

17. Recount a dramatic moment, like having your heart broken or getting arrested, but withhold details, forcing readers to ask for them in your “comments’’ section. In case you didn’t know, comments equate to status on Facebook even more than number of friends.
I was singing a solo on TV and forgot the words, so I repeated the previous verse. In Spanish, no less.

18. Make one up.
I was caught smuggling hashish and spent 12 years in a Turkish prison where I was recruited by Al Qaida.

19. Say “one of these is completely made up.”
Guess which one.

20. If you have kids, a) cite weird names you wanted for them and how your more rational, if less creative, spouse rescued them from a lifetime of torture.
Mother didn’t like “Lincoln,” so for awhile she kept calling him “Tony.” We ignored her. She gave up. Oh, and Jefferson was supposed to be Jeffrey, but we got carried away.

21. and/or b) relate story that appears to expose your inept parenting while in fact highlighting their precocious brilliance. If you don’t have kids, relate a cute anecdote from your early life to show everyone that you’re still a kid at heart.
My sons were shamefully easy to discipline. I merely had to suggest to Jeff that I would separate him from his beloved friends and he would turn into JELLO, and you just had to look at Lincoln cross-eyed and he’d burst into tears. No sweat. The only thing I had to put up with from them was the occasional LIP. Thanks, guys.

22. If you have a pet, you have one item only through which to convey its superlative nature. If you don’t have a pet, talk about how much you yearn for an obscure breed of cat/dog/reptile or, alternatively, how much you hate animals and the people who love them.
We had Mo, a Sheltie, for nearly 15 years. He wasn’t very bright, but he was sweet. And loyal. And hairy. He died seven years ago. The Spouse is still in mourning, so negotiating for another one is on hold.

23. Something about parents.
I wish they’d been straight with me. We had too many secrets.

24. Name skill that you are proud of by recounting unexpected way you acquired it.
At age 40+, I finally learned how to downhill ski, thanks to Liz. We started out doing cross-country, and it escalated from there. I can even parallel turn!

25. Close with the unusual: a) recount a genuinely traumatic event you witnessed or b) name an exotic location that is your favorite place on earth or c) cite a dubious world record that you performed.
My favorite city in the world is Florence, Italy.

26. This is important: Do not add “bonus” items.
I’m not!

Can I go out and play now? (I always say that, but this time it’s TRUE.)

*True funny story: My friend Walt was asked to sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at a funeral. When the time came, the bishop stood up and solemnly intoned, “And now, Walt Boyton will sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Again.'”

(And Walt had to stand up and sing! With a straight face!)

msmeta reveals herself, at last

January 13, 2009




















Now you too can become your very own Obamicon, thanks to the folks at paste magazine. (Via Gawker. YES, I REALLY DO LOOK AT THAT AWFUL SITE!  SO SUE ME!)

About Blogging: Is anybody listening? Does it matter?

January 8, 2009

Merlot Mom, a fine site I have followed since I started hanging out here, is back after a noticeable hiatus, and admits that she wasn’t just too busy to blog:

…I also left to pull myself out of the debilitating internal competition I was having with Sitemeter, Feedburner and Statcounter, not to mention you other bloggers out there (you know who you are) who get dozens or hundreds of comments for every post no matter how large or how small). To be honest, that is just hard to take.

Indeed, it is, girl. Once I was introduced to stats checkers (thanks to some of YOU), I found myself blogging more and enjoying it less, and actually came to the point where I was more concerned with my stats that with what I was blogging about. And, if that’s what becomes important to you, it’s discouraging.

As I said to ByJane in an earlier conversation, it sometimes seems like the only way to get a following out here is to engage in a lot of breast-baring exhibitionism, sprinkled liberally with snarky comments and a dollop of dirty-laundry airing. I hate to disappoint anyone, but my life isn’t that dramatic and I HATE SNARK. (Which, of course, means I have no future in cable news.)

But then, the better angels of my nature crawl back onto my shoulder (I keep knocking them off) and gently remind me that I didn’t really embark on all of this a year ago to be read. I started this to become part of an interesting, compelling and dynamic phenomenon, and to try to find out exactly what I thought about it. And I don’t need Sitemeter to tell me that, on those points, I’ve succeeded. The big bonus has been meeting so many interesting and articulate bloggers, some of whom have kindly stopped by long enough to comment and encourage me. Thanks.

So I guess I’ll keep nattering away. For now. You too, Merlot Mom.

About Blogging: Have you Wordled lately?

December 16, 2008

Unmitigated, who is always good for something interesting, has introduced me to Wordle, which generates “word clouds” from any text that you provide. And so here is my latest:


I had no idea I used the word “just” so much. I need to quit qualifying my ideas. Verrrrrrry interesting.

Women and Election 2008: A gut check

November 18, 2008

At the risk of flogging that dead horse, I renew the concerns expressed in my last blogpost by referring you to today’s The Daily Beast, which has an article that quantifies my uneasiness over the state of women following the recent election. According to its own poll:

• By an overwhelming 61% to 19% margin, women believe there is a gender bias in the media.
• 4 in 10 men freely admit sexist attitudes towards a female president. 39% of men say that a male is “naturally more suited” to carrying out the duties of the office
• 48% of women thought Hillary Clinton received fair media treatment and only 29% believed Sarah Palin was treated fairly. In contrast, nearly 8 in 10 voters thought the press gave fair treatment to Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
• More than two-thirds of women said they were being treated unfairly in the workplace (68%)

And, it determined, “Women over 50, the first generation to have a majority in the workforce, see far more discrimination in every area of life than younger women.” (HA! I wasn’t just imagining it!)

So clearly I’m not the only one grinding my teeth over this issue. We seem to be running harder than ever, but are we just running in place? Our biggest enemy may not be a biased media, but our own ambivalence, since The Daily Beast’s survey also found that, “Only 20% of women are willing to use the word ‘feminist’ about themselves [and] only 17% of all voters said they would welcome their daughters using that label.” And while more than 90% of African-American voters supported Barack Obama, American women did not back either Clinton or Palin in such significant numbers.

Do we really want to succeed? If we keep thinking that “feminist” is a dirty word, do we need to rescript or relabel the whole endeavor?

“What will women do now?” wonders The Daily Beast.

The poll suggests that there is tremendous potential for an expanded, revitalized, and updated women’s equality movement. Certainly there would be considerable support for boycotts of news stations that carry sexist commentators or generally cover women unfairly.

I think it’s time to us women to start speaking up — in ways small and large, gentle and forthright, local and national — instead of hoping that our sheer numbers are going to speak for us.

Update: Social critic Daphne Merkin shares my pessimism.

Another day, another honor…

October 28, 2008

In an odd conjunction of cosmic forces I’m sure, both Smart Mouthed Broad and Midlife Slices — two finely aged bottles of sack wine — have nominated me for this esteemed honor:

Ah shucks, I’m speechless. (Canned response, but sincere.) Janie wondered if I liked this sort of thing, and I guess I do, really. It’s proof that someone reads my blog besides me and my daughter-in-law. (Thanks, Mallory!)

The rules, of course:

  1. The award may be displayed on the recipient’s blog.
  2. Add a link to the person from who you received the award.
  3. Nominate up to seven other blogs. [NO, I’M NOT DOING 14!]
  4. Add their links to your blog.
  5. Send a message to each of those you awarded to tell them about the award.

I hereby nominate some random faves, including The Dame Domain, Granny Sue, Ms. Cleaver Chronicles, Unmitigated, and the ever-popular ByJane, who probably already has one, so she counts for three!

Can I go back outside and play now?

On Blogging: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Blogger

October 21, 2008

Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic has composed a remarkable hymn to the art of blogging, which, if it hasn’t officially become a literary genre, certainly should be. Unlike previous generations of wordsmiths, “[w]e bloggers have scant opportunity to collect our thoughts, to wait until events have settled and a clear pattern emerges. We blog now — as news reaches us, as facts emerge,” he says. “For bloggers, the deadline is always now. Blogging is therefore to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud.”

It is indeed unprecedented, I think, this ability to publish right now, without waiting for editors or presses or distribution chains, and it is therefore fraught with its own sort of peril. Who has time to check facts when your peers or competitors are posting and while that “Publish” link is staring you in the face? Not to worry, says Sullivan, who came to realize that the blogosphere had reasons to be even more honest than traditional journalism:

To the charges of inaccuracy and unprofessionalism, bloggers could point to the fierce, immediate scrutiny of their readers. Unlike newspapers, which would eventually publish corrections in a box of printed spinach far from the original error, bloggers had to walk the walk of self-correction in the same space and in the same format as the original screwup. The form was more accountable, not less, because there is nothing more conducive to professionalism than being publicly humiliated for sloppiness.

He has a lot more to say, in fact, too much for a blogpost, since he admits that one of the fundamental characteristics of a blog is its superficiality:

By superficial, I mean simply that blogging rewards brevity and immediacy. No one wants to read a 9,000-word treatise online. On the Web, one-sentence links are as legitimate as thousand-word diatribes—in fact, they are often valued more… But the superficiality masked considerable depth — greater depth, from one perspective, than the traditional media could offer. The reason was a single technological innovation: the hyperlink.

Imagine! Immediate access to the primary source, embedded right there in the document! Any Freshman English teacher would be thrilled. (And so I’ll leave you to the hyperlink to pick up the rest of his ruminations.)

I do like the immediacy of blogging, both in my own blogging and particularly in the other bloggers I read regularly. I like to know what you are doing and thinking now, what the real-time pulse of your life is. I’ve always enjoyed reading memoirs and journals, but I was frustrated by knowing that what I was reading occurred months and even years ago, and that the writer had likely long since moved on.

Sullivan writes about being able to share his reaction to 9/11 with his readers immediately, hour by hour, right as the tragedy occurred, and he made me wish I had been blogging back then. I have had perhaps a similar but smaller experience blogging and reading blogs as the current financial meltdown has unfolded, and I have been educated, scared and comforted by what I experienced. And there were no moderators, no editors, no media, no pundits to come between me and my publics. It was ragged and real and very moving.

It was, well, art. Maybe a new populist form of art, a little primitive, straight from the streets, more Garrison Keillor than cowboy poetry, more Grandma Moses than graffiti, I think, although there are all sorts of voices and styles. Whatever your definition or description, blogging at its best feels like art to me. That it is so immediate and ephemeral is I think a reflection of our technological times, and makes it a perfect form of expression for our age.

I’m glad I finally climbed aboard this train, and I’ll be interested in seeing where it goes from here.