Friday, January 07, 2005


My wife's professional life centers around improving the practice of English composition, writing to the rest of us. She frequently reminds her students of the need to determine who will read a particular piece of writing, why they will be reading it, and the desired result. Once these questions are answered then the writer must choose and then assume a Voice, a writing persona. While this may not seem like a revelation to you and me, at some point we all had to learn this if we were to become decent writers. From the struggles of some of her students over the years, this probably was not as easy for us as we now might like to remember.

While it may seem obvious that one's Voice might be different when writing, let's say, a love letter as opposed to composing a letter to a college admissions officer, what happens to your Voice when it is expressed in a new mode of written communication? Should anything change? If so, what? I am referring here, of course, to blogging. Just as many discovered to their horror the unintended consequences of emails, blogs present some interesting Voice choices I hadn't considered two months ago when I first decided to become the Analog Guy.

But then I had some decisions to make about my Profile. For starters, just who was I? In a reversal of the now classic New Yorker Cartoon "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog" I could have become a dog.

Hell, I could have become anybody, living anywhere. Anonymous blogs are very common and often contain extraordinary wit and wisdom the posters would be reluctant to share if they were held to account. As frequently they are just a self-indulgent mess. Many bloggers choose semi-anonymity, enough personal information to create an identity, but not enough to invite a loss of privacy. That was my initial choice. I was Bibb in North Carolina, no photo. After a few weeks it finally dawned on me with a first name like Bibb even Mayberry's Barney Fife could track me down in about 30 seconds. Hiding out in the digital wilderness would require a deeper cover.

It did not take me long to decide to just be myself. Having to adopt a different persona or a nom de plume just seemed like more work than I cared to do. It is hard enough just keeping myself straight, much less an alter ego. So with only a little work anyone can track me down. I even posted a photo of the view from by front porch. I am comfortable with who I am and take responsibility for what I post. No electronic smoke and mirrors here. So be it.

Then I had to consider who would be my audience. Initially it was my friends and family. I even sent out emails with my new URL. While they remain who I am thinking of when I write, I know that anyone with an internet connection has the 24/7 ability to be reading this. Oddly, for me this possibility makes it more important that I get things right. Friends and family generally have been kind enough to overlook my shortcomings; but that is a lot to ask of strangers. So when I first started posting I was reminded of that moment years ago beginning my first class as a student teacher. I started talking about the Great War, what became, unfortunately, only the first World War. The students dutifully began to write down what I was saying. I remember being momentarily horrified. "Jesus H. Christ," I thought, "I had better be getting this right." So that is what I am trying to do here also, get things right.

That brings up the next choice I initially confronted. Many bloggers seem to really enjoy not deleting their expletives. I have decided, for the most part, to express myself using a minimum of "offensive" language. This is not because of any tender sensibilities on my part. You who know me know better. I also realize that if one wants to be offended by what I write, they will find a way. That is their problem. Free country. Fuck'm. Now, maybe I'm a real blogger.

No, I will refrain - mostly - because after a short while these words tend to lose their effectiveness. So I am storing up this special vocabulary for when the time comes. And the times will come.

Further, I am reminded of a quote attributed to Eugene McCarthy, US Senator, Poet, Anti-war Presidential Candidate in 1968. He once admonished us to always talk as if a child is listening. It captures a similar notion as the bumper sticker on my wife's truck that asks us to "Be the Person Your Dog Thinks You Are." Well, in my case Senator, my child is listening, as she always has. I guess this blog is for her.

P.S. I want to thank the New Yorker magazine in advance for not being upset that I am using a cartoon of theirs without permission. The New Yorker continues to be the source of the finest writing week-in, week-out in the English language. That they would notice this blog, take offense, and divert valuable staff time asking me to remove the cartoon - which of course I would do without having to resort to legal billable moments - would be unfortunate. Of course if in the process they find anything I write worthy of publication in their magazine I would be happy to discuss contractual niceties.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you're right ; i am listening.