Friday, May 27, 2011

Hide and Seek in Flatland

So, I’m clinically a psychopath, a friend impassively informed me over instant messenger. I got tested and stuff.

“Oh yeah?” I replied, equally coolly. “Congrats?”

Mhmm. You might wanna watch out. Apparently being close to a psychopath can ‘negatively impact your life.’

“I’m not too concerned. I can’t see you torturing and eating my pets any time soon, and I can handle anything else.”

I don’t need to torture animals for amusement; there’s an infinite amount of entertainment on the Internet. Plus they wouldn’t be very tasty. He paused for a moment in what seemed to be a thoughtful way. (Though, it’s hard to tell when your conversation partner exists solely as a screen name.) The best thing about this is that my parents have stopped asking if I feel guilty for making bad decisions that impact their lives.

I almost want to offload this review on him. I’m not sure I have the heart to stick to the Ask attitude for this blog, and he – being officially diagnosed with a chronic lack of empathy – could maintain that attitude well.

Reality Hide and Seek” is written by Sheri: a woman with bipolar disorder in her early 50’s, who posts a mix of medical information, journal entries, baking, inspiration and the kind of comics that distant relatives leave in my inbox. She’s got a link to Cute Overload in her sidebar and spends her weekends on a hobby farm with her boyfriend, fer godssake. It’s as if my own grandmother asked me to beat her with a shoe every time her homemade soup turns out a little bland. I appreciate that people want honest feedback, but I’m more accustomed to judging spoiled twenty-somethings, not making a business of swearing at grandmothers who are battling mental health issues.

Fuck you for making me feel bad, Sheri.

At one point in the conversation with aforementioned friend I said, “Well it could be worse. At least you’re not bipolar or schizo. Those people come off as actually crazy, while you’ll just come off as kind of a dick.” Sheri doesn’t come off crazy, so much as frustrated and depressed. This is, in many ways, probably better for her personally, though it doesn’t make for very good reading material.

Sheri can write: she has a clear, crisp voice that makes her posts accessible, if somewhat distant. I guess the thing that’s missing is any sort of passion. A woman who has lived for over fifty years should have some experiences and stories to share. She should have some unique insights to offer the reader as a well-developed personality who has had a rich, long life. But, I certainly can’t blame Sheri for not having thrilling tales of adventure when it’s an accomplishment to shower every day. Instead we get what is essentially a public journal about how it sucks to have mental health issues.

There are occasional hints at something larger: an insight, a passionate description, a silly memory, an inspirational tale. I was surprised to find a single piece of fiction buried deep in the archives, and every now and then is a flash of poetry or some drawings. But, such things are sprinkled lightly throughout rather than being the majority. There is a fair bit of good, and very little bad, but the two are overwhelmed with a cascade of blank, distant writing that coaxes no emotion from my breast.

I know you can write, Sheri. You are smart, you have the creative talent, and you have a voice. Use them more often and you can build something that will touch the lives of others.

If I were to forcefully maul any one thing on this blog, it would be the template. The base of it is inoffensive enough, (where “inoffensive” means “modest and boring”) but the 20+ badges on the sidebar do that thing where they stretch the page to a ridiculous length. Your sidebar is literally over 7 feet long. I measured. So you could either trim some of that stuff away (your tag cloud could use a bit of spring cleaning), or arrange it in the footer or something so that your blog isn’t two feet taller than I am.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I Wanna Take You to a Gay Bar

Whenever I write on my own blog I try to tell true stories.  Sometimes I'm the main character, sometimes I'm trying to properly convey the character of someone I know or someone I met standing in line at the auto pound.  Sometimes I succeed.  Sometimes I fail.   But my biggest concern, whenever I post anything--here or elsewhere--is can I prove to the internet that this person is flesh with feelings? 

It's obvious that Cal, a glib little British puppy who's nearly 21, is also trying to creep into the world of storytellers.  Reading his blog is like window shopping at Christmas.  It's all snapshots of silliness and droll, nimble conversations lightly peppered with some distancing snark and I usually finished each post feeling glad but a bit lonely.  There's very little scandal going on, unless you count being in a healthy homosexual relationship a scandal, like those assholes up in Wisconsin. I like him.  I really, really like him.  I even like his template, except for the centered column. 

Cal's writing is calm and honest, conversational and hopeful, all about having good friends and goofy parents, and just...being twenty.  Being twenty was awesome, wasn't it?  The world is just spread out there for you, all shiny and rippled and just waiting to be fucked, and you haven't screwed anything up yet by falling into unflattering light.

The (Not So) Fabulous Life of Cal never really dives into raw emotion, but love is lingering in the alcoves.  The main difference between Cal's writing and other blogs that focus on light daily life stories is the fact that he's not trying to impress readers with individuality and sassy banter.  Of course there is sassy banter, but it's just friends dicking around.  It comes across as more of a tribute to the people he loves. That's fucking valid.

The last couple of months on the blog are stretched like a chore.  And that's my main criticism of Cal's blog: I was hoping his storytelling and characters would grow and develop, I was hoping to read about new jobs and uncharted waters and becoming an adult.

But he hasn't written on the blog since February, which is a big fat bummer.  I want to know what he's up to.  I want to introduce him to my friend's little brother, so Cal can show him a young, positive role model. 


I don't know what's going on.  I like everyone lately.  Maybe I'm growing.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

No One Cares What You Think

I'm surprised that a grown woman doesn't know this already, but it's true. No one cares what you think. They might feel what you feel, if you give them a reason to, or they might hear your opinion, if it has value, but as it exists at present, the intrawebs will not be lessened, by one single degree, by your absence. In fact, it might be enriched.

Dirty Cowgirl, you write:

I hate being lied to. If someone lies to me they are gone from my life.
And I am always honest, to the point of causing offense at times. But if your arse is big, or you wanna know if you should leave your crap bitch of a girlfriend expect the truth.

I'm not going to lie to you, in fact, I'm going to give you truth with both barrels blasting, cowgirl style. You're not as literate, as witty, or as interesting as you think you are. Your blog is a horror.

I like opinion blogs. I read a few almost every day. One's a dating blog, another is a political blog. In both cases, the bloggers can be brutally blunt, and dismember someone in a sentence for getting it wrong. But, in both cases, the opinions that they are offering are informed by something. The dating blog is written by a career dating coach who draws on her own experiences, and the experiences of clients, to provide information and feedback to readers. The political blogger has literally years of crunching political policy and wonking it to the masses.

So, what are you serving up with your opinions? From what I can tell, you're a self-professed loud-mouthed middle-aged cunt with no particular skills.

You write:

I like swearing. A lot. My favourite word is Cunt.
In fact I am a cunt - and proud of it.
There is a post explaining why.

I tried really hard to read your blog, but it does not appeal. At all. Profanity doesn't bother me, but it needs to have a purpose. I don't care about your flatulence. I don't want to know about your pussy (the thought offends on some primal level). I don't care that you yowl like a cat on a hot tin roof.

Your blog template is ugly, the font too big, the background distracting, and the content abysmal.

This is doing blogging right.

I care about the opinions of these linked bloggers because their blogs are like a gift-wrapped serving of soul. These people are WRITERS. They are't the crazy person on the side of the road with a sign. You, on the other hand? Roadside crazy with a sign, thinking that the shriller and more profane you are, the more you will be liked.

As a woman in her mid-40s, I simply want to tell you: Grow the fuck up. The world is full-up on middle aged drama queens. Your blog is what's wrong with blogging these days, now that everyone and their mother is doing it. Not everyone with a loud voice is capable of saying things worth listening to.

Are you lonely? Go back to school. Take some writing classes. Read some classic literature. If you want to write, start journaling, and do it every day until you have something on paper that is worth broadcasting to the world.

What you are doing right now is an embarrassment. And, that's the unvarnished truth, as I see it.

You get a flaming finger. Maybe you can use it to spice up your sex life and/or cauterize your weeping vagina. Either way, I don't see that you've given me much reason to care.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Throw another shrimp on The Farbequeue

It was darkly golden, the thing that was thrust into my hands with little ceremony. Harsh tendrils of semi-molten metal twisted about and obscured the core of indeterminable gems. It was weighty and sluggish as it sat slowly squirming in my palms. It felt… magical; it felt… meaningless. It was named The Far Queue , I was told, though that name seemed to lay fitfully on this strange object rather than being a true part of it. The thing was beautiful, at the very least. It would take further inspection to determine whether the beauty was superficial or born of unfathomable artistic function.

I won’t subject you to any more on that nonsense, but the above is what artsy blogs do to me when I read them for too long. Somewhat fortunately for TFQ, this review actually caught me in the middle of a melodramatic and misanthropic mood which TFQ managed to reflect; unfortunately for me (and you), it reflected well enough that it put me in that mood for a couple of days. Had it caught me in one of my more manic episodes I am unsure how I would have reacted, but I can guarantee it wouldn’t have had me writing soggy mush like that paragraph above, and I doubt I would have had the patience to push past my typical reaction to poetry blogs. (“Yeah, I get it, you’re angsty and everything sucks. Put down that rhyming dictionary. Aurgh.”)

Go look at it right now. I want to compare some notes with you. Go on, it’ll take but a moment. Gather your first impressions. Got ‘em? Good.

If your mind works anything like mine (you poor, poor fool), your experience was probably something like this: the first thing you notice is that the blog is beautiful. It has a dark, simple je ne sais quoi that only comes from actually planning a website and rarely appears in blog form. Of the aesthetics of the blog, I have nothing but good things to say, and so will say no more.

The second impression you got was something akin to, “What is all this bullshit?”
Over the days I was reviewing TFQ, there were five posts on the home page, each prominently featuring an image – mostly works of art, presumably not of the author’s making. Spread over these posts was two short poems and two uncontextualized, unrelated paragraphs that appeared to be excerpts from a larger story. Under each of these posts were rating boxes labeled subterranean, grounded and transcendent. (Did you giggle at those? Because I did.) The only explanatory or introductory text is found above the navigation menu: “ANTI-PROFIT/NON-PROPHET” which I can totally get behind, although at this point I’m really not sure how it has anything to do with anything.

The message being conveyed is “I am a deep, dark writer-type who likes to use words in surprising ways and I take myself very, very seriously. Also I am a huge asshat and I probably wear a fedora.” (To paraphrase my English teacher, “deep” and “dark” are reserved for oceans and pussies; I have no patience for the mystery wrapped in an enigma routine.)

I ended up staring blankly at the pleasantly dark background and then played with the hover effect on the navigation menu for a bit. The realization that the navigation menu is both more interesting and more comprehensible than the content of the blog is, I suspect, a tipping point for most visitors. This time I would not have the luxury of totally dismissing TFQ, so I forced myself to read on.

Bolstered by beer, I first visited the biography. It appears that our author uses a lesser-known definition of “biography,” as I was instead greeted with two thousand words on the history of South Africa before anything personal and relevant appeared. We eventually learn that "Pisces" is a creative atheist who likes music and apparently wrote a book. Super. I rather wish he'd just left it at a simple “I'm just zis guy, you know?” because it's infinitely more brief and just as accurate.

I then realized TFQ is very large. It spans across several domains like a web of dark gossamer silk (sorry) and its archives reach into the dim shadows of 2006. All the inter-linking between posts and indexes creates a novel website structure - more visually pleasing than the use of tags, at least - but the whole thing is terribly awkward to navigate. It's organized less like a website and more like a virtual hedge maze with short fiction at the center.

Oh yes, I finally found what the main strength of this blog is: short fiction posted in paragraphs at a time. (It is mixed in with copious poetry, a form of which I am neither a fan nor a critic, so I will let those alone) There is very little of anything bloggy on this blog – in my reading I didn't get any real sense of Pisces at all, aside from a few flashes of “this guy is a prat” while reading the comment sections of some older posts. Yet, you can clearly witness the development of Pisces over the years, from a sort of generic romantic-misanthropist to someone who actually has some fun without overthinking and forcing "deeper" meaning .

And I suppose that's the main gist of it, eh? It is a feat to walk that line between visionary and self-important twat. A sense of inflated artistic ego and the stench of overwrought depth hovers just above most of the posts on TFQ, occasionally descending to infest the writing itself. To be absolutely fair to TFQ, the cringe factor of the past couple of years is decidedly less than that of most similar blogs. To be absolutely honest, the cringe factor is still there.

So, the big question: is TFQ just another poetry blog? Well, in many aspects it is – a fair number of the posts I read were artistic fluff – inspirational quotes and non-original artwork. A large number was short poetry of the kind that is always in danger of having the multiple multi-syllabic words obscure the meaning. But every writer has their gold, and Pisces produces some intriguing short and micro fiction. Given that I didn't hate it, and that some parts were too good to bore me, I'm awarding two stars:


Use them well.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

More Like A Quarter Pound of Splenda

First of all, I am fucking pissed off that this review got deleted and now I have to write another, and I've forgotten most of my jokes and links, which are now probably hovering nervously over one of the gimpier, glibbier internet sectors that probably has pictures of cats speaking like twits, and my words are all, "O Shiner, why have you forsaken me" and I'm all "if you love something set it free" blah blah "come back here."  Everyone gets that quote wrong anyway.

Everyone including Tinker Belle (in a post I linked before but totally don't feel like finding), our young author of Confessions of a Twenty-Something Drama Queen, the most redundant blog title ever, who rightly admits in her blog-blurb-beneath-the-title-thinger that her blog is about "Nothing, really. Just a walk through the world I exist in and observations of the people around. All with a little pinch of salt." I'm not sure if the salt was a late addition to the description, but it's definitely a late addition to the blog.

It's as if she wrote for two years with saccharine, chemically-sweet sentiments, actually read her own damp writing, realized she sounded like a fucking fifteen-year-old Twihard, started to try hard, and just salted the shit out of everything, instantly making things a little more delicious.

The best thing about this blog, by far, is watching Tinker Belle grow up. In the beginning, she's just another girl who uses too many exclamation points, wants a boyfriend, like, really bad, and everything is I'm-so-different-and-special, fanfic-styled stories, I'm-so-deep-because-you're-so-shallow, posts with nothing but soft-focus romancey pictures and horrible song lyrics, bad poetry, and emo heavily detailed updates about cleaning supplies. 

But Tinker Belle's growth as a writer and a person becomes obvious as she slowly evolves from a boring, whiny, insecure, hopeless romantic to a layered, confident, honest, hopeless romantic.  She turns her feelings into a story.  Sometimes it can come across as cheeseball drama, but it works.  She's trying new things with her writing, some good and some bad, but interesting. 

Although I really fucking hate the posts that are just bad music videos and lyrics, one eye-rolling line about Tinker feeling sorry for herself, and her ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY EIGHT LABELS.  I would lose those lame posts because they're awful and stupid, but I know she likes them, and if I were her I would tell me to fuck off. 

Seriously, though.  How many labels does one need?  I can understand having a great deal of labels if you're like, using them ironically instead of tagging posts with a new celebrity whenever you drop a name, which is the blog equivalent of a Tiger Beat locker collage.  Don't put them on your blog at all.  Get fucking rid of them.  I'm not a big fan of the orange-on-rainy-window template - but just using a color other than orange would fix that.  Try to let readers view more than one post at a time.  Create an "About" page.  And please, please, please change the title.  Maybe "The Confessional" or "Emotional Salt" or something. Because yes, she does confess things.  Yes, she's in her twenties.  But she ain't no drama queen.