A Moan about a Meme

I ful­ly real­ize that this is an odd thing to feel strong­ly about, par­tic­u­lar­ly with all that is going on in the polis right now, but I real­ly hate the lat­est viral meme that is mak­ing the rounds on Face­book (and per­haps else­where) in seem­ing­ly tire­less iter­a­tions. You’ve seen the one I’m talk­ing about: four or six hasti­ly-select­ed pics gleaned from an image search arranged on a black back­ground with a pro­fes­sion or inter­est group for a title and a pro for­ma series of cap­tions pro­gress­ing from “What ___ thinks I/we do” to the con­clud­ing “What I/we real­ly do.” Some do a bet­ter job than oth­ers of cov­er­ing the most well-worn stereo­types of the giv­en group, but none, for me, have done any­thing ter­ri­bly well.

I don’t want to fault any­one for get­ting their yuks where they can find them: laugh­ter is a healthy and indis­pens­able part of a bal­anced life, and any­one who knows me knows I crack up at (almost lit­er­al­ly) the drop of a hat. But, boy, I just find the thing any­thing but fun­ny. I can tell it is sup­posed to be fun­ny; the intent at humor is unmis­tak­able. But in ver­sion after ver­sion that pops up in my news feed I can­not see past the thrown togeth­er nature of these paste-ups, the evi­dent haste with which the cap­tions were com­posed, and the lead­en plonk of the punch line, if it can even be called that. And the over-the-moon enthu­si­asm that peo­ple seem to respond to these with only adds a fur­ther lay­er of baf­fle­ment and iras­ci­bil­i­ty to my own reac­tion.

Ulti­mate­ly, I sus­pect, the ire that this meme’s explo­sion has aroused in me is pro­jec­tion on my part: I’m mak­ing this cycle of trite­ness the whip­ping boy for a very real rage that has almost noth­ing to do with it. What am I real­ly angry about? My fail­ure to make things. So while yes, I sin­cere­ly think most of these things are crap, and unfun­ny, uncre­ative crap at that, I am painful­ly aware of how I am spend­ing my own pre­cious time — look­ing at these things and get­ting pis­sy about them. And deep down in my murky depths I am already seething because day after day, month after month, near­ing year after year, I am not mak­ing any­thing of my own, crap­py or oth­er­wise. I have become sunk deep in a rut of con­sum­ing for far too long, and my diet (to bela­bor the metaphor) has been far from healthy to boot. I have been unable to push myself to find the moti­va­tion to climb off my back­side and get scrib­bling. I guess there is only one way to fix that:

I need to climb off my back­side and get scrib­bling.

Not afraid to ask

With the new cal­en­dar year we are going to try some new fea­tures here at The Float­ing Egg. For a long time now we have want­ed to work up a few reg­u­lar con­tent ‑bear­ing points in the week to anchor the rest of my blath­er­ing, and this week we are delight­ed to announce the first of these to actu­al­ly see the light of day.

We had thought of call­ing it “Things I could just as eas­i­ly look up on Wikipedia or Google but fig­ured it would be more amus­ing to make a dis­play of my igno­rance Tues­day” but that seemed a lit­tle too… too, and besides, Tues­days real­ly aren’t the best day for me. So instead, after end­less com­mit­tee meet­ings and mar­ket research, we are pre­sent­ing to you Not Afraid To Ask Thurs­day.

It’s not a big deal. I will dig into the deep bag of things I just don’t know, most­ly about pop­u­lar cul­ture but not exclu­sive­ly so, and hav­ing select­ed an exam­ple of my igno­rance, I will splash it up here.

This is where you, the read­er, come in. After you have snort­ed cof­fee out your nose and called over your cubi­cle neigh­bor to point at the screen and laugh at me with you, all I ask is that you add some­thing in the com­ments that will guide me toward enlight­en­ment. You don’t have to dish it all out for me like pablum: I am just as hap­py, if not indeed more so, with wry/snide hints and clever cir­cum­lo­cu­tions. Links to Wikipedia will, of course, also be accept­able, but they will not bring me as much delight, so I think you should bear that fact in mind.

Let my igno­rance be made man­i­fest!

Why I Do This Thing

Where does a month go?

It does­n’t go any­where (to answer my own rhetor­i­cal cliché): in the case of the par­tic­u­lar month in ques­tion, I lived it, day by day, hour by hour, often minute by minute. It many ways, it feels more gen­uine, from my per­spec­tive, to ask myself “Was it real­ly only a month since my last post?” It has been a packed sev­er­al weeks of aca­d­e­m­ic life for this writer, and for once I am glad of a lull in my stud­ies (or at least my class­es).

And that gives me time and ener­gy to turn up here again. But why? Why this: this blog, this end­less cycle of lapse and retri­al?

I have addressed myself to such ques­tions more than once before, in this space or anoth­er like it. Not much has changed, but some thing are worth say­ing more than once.

I write. That, more than any­thing else I have believed (or endeav­ored to con­vince myself) of myself over these decades I have longed to be some­one I could look up to — that much is true. I write. Not much, not con­sis­tent­ly, not entire­ly sat­is­fac­to­ri­ly. But I do so inevitably. Some peo­ple run (I know, I don’t get it either, but I have actu­al­ly seen them doing it); some peo­ple gar­den; some peo­ple throw Molo­tovs and brace for the tear gas. All of these things are, with­out a doubt, some­thing these indi­vid­u­als, and all the oth­er bil­lions with their own bil­lions of ways, are in some sense made to do. Not in any pre­des­ti­na­tion sense, or hard-wired func­tion­al­ism. But yeah, there is some­thing in me that wants to put words on pages, not for kicks, or to make some point, or because it seems like a vir­tu­ous or roman­tic thing to do. I both need to write, and I love to write: the two dri­ves are expe­ri­enced as dis­tinct, but at the same time are absolute­ly insep­a­ra­ble for me.

And the next step, or lev­el, or com­po­nent, or what­ev­er, of my par­tic­u­lar dri­ve is that, hav­ing writ­ten, I must then share. The very pos­si­bil­i­ty of shar­ing plays a huge and (in my expe­ri­ence) nec­es­sary rôle in me com­mit­ting the act of writ­ing to begin with. And I mean nec­es­sary in a strict philo­soph­i­cal sense here, which any­one who knows me will know is not some­thing I ever do; that’s how seri­ous I am about this. I share because I write, and I write so that I can share what I write. And this blog is how I share.

I have rarely made any pre­ten­sion to being a quo­tid­i­an blog­ger. There have been brief, humil­i­at­ing, demor­al­iz­ing points in my his­to­ry here where I have attempt­ed some ver­sion of habit­u­al reg­u­lar­i­ty, but it is not me. Not “that could nev­er be me” but at least it has not been me yet, and I don’t want the place any bets on when that might start to be me.

But I am com­fort­able enough, now that I am more than halfway through my prob­a­ble lifes­pan, to sim­ply car­ry on, and keep writ­ing when I can, how I can, and as much as I can. I hope you will keep read­ing along with me.

Back At It

I may as well admit it: I am alive.

More than that, I am, by many mea­sures, well. My fam­i­ly and I are busi­ly engaged in set­tling into a house that will — bar­ring any change of plans — be our home for the next two years. I am cycling a not-incon­sid­er­able dis­tance to school and back each week­day, and now that the bath­room scale has been unpacked I see that for the first time in what seems a very long time, I may soon get myself under two bills: a nice psy­cho­log­i­cal boost when­ev­er that hap­pens.

I am a full-time stu­dent again this year, and now I can insert the word “grad­u­ate” into that state­ment. No equiv­o­ca­tion this time around: I am in grad school, fo’ realsies. This is actu­al­ly quite excit­ing, as life jour­ney stages go, and I love being in class with stu­dents who are all, in one way or anoth­er, head­ed in rough­ly the same direc­tion I am, or at least toward the same degree. It is, admit­ted­ly, a bit con­fus­ing enter­ing into an entire­ly new dis­ci­pline where even the cita­tion rules are dif­fer­ent, but I am feel­ing up to the chal­lenge. Even the gram­mat­i­cal details of Latin are com­ing back quick­ly and eas­i­ly so far, although it is ear­ly days yet, and lin­guis­tics is an area I am unchar­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly reluc­tant to get cock­sure regard­ing.

And writ­ing? Sur­pris­ing­ly lit­tle in the way of orga­nized prose will be demand­ed of me in my cours­es, at least so far (there is a sem­i­nar paper of forty-odd pages to be writ­ten by Feb­ru­ary 2011, but I shall start on that anon, prob­a­bly not until ear­ly in the new year), so I am eager to get back to my own prosi­fy­ing in what I will hap­pi­ly pre­tend is my spare time. First on my dock­et: the con­clud­ing sev­en­teen sto­ries in my sum­mer 90in90 short fic­tion marathon. The planned break has been a bit longer than I had hoped, but it takes some doing to move a fam­i­ly of four into a home filled with oth­er people’s things, so I think I can be for­giv­en. At least, I am going to for­give myself, and not lose much sleep over whether you for­give me or not.

So look for the sto­ries to start rolling off the assem­bly line again for a cou­ple weeks, and then… And then? I will have words for you betimes, I assure you.

Admission: The next two weeks are going to be story-free

I had hoped (against all rea­son) that I could some­how keep up with the final fort­night of my fic­tion marathon even while pack­ing up our pos­ses­sions and wind­ing up my sum­mer cir­cum­stances. Today’s dose of truth: it’s not gonna hap­pen.

So, rather than kid myself and try to squeeze in some mas­sive catch-up fic­tion flood, I am just going to fol­low the always-excel­lent exam­ple of Michèle and for­mal­ly hit the pause but­ton on this until I hit the ground north of the border.I expect you will be see­ing the next sto­ry around the 4th of Sep­tem­ber, give or take. In the mean­time, keep read­ing, here and else­where, and please check back soon!