Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Is It Egotistical To Assume Someone Reads Your Blog?

Way back in the long, long ago time when the internet was still powered by two hamsters running in wheels (which later was changed to gerbils because they run faster), I had a gay friend who talked about his website and how he used it as his diary.

“That’s stupid,” I said. “It’s not really a diary if you want other people to read it. It’s just an ego-thing. You just want people to care enough about you to read your thoughts about your life.”

My friend denied that was his motivation, ego-tripping. But he did tell me one thing, that he sometimes used his journal to write things about people in his life that he wouldn’t say to them and then basically wait for them to read about it. A very passive-aggressive way of passing messages.

I guess I’m bringing up this story because I’ve been fighting two urges recently. Take this blog public in the sense of stripping it of anything deeply personal or embarrassing, or just say “fuck it” and write what I want about myself. Blog out-loud, as it were.

I do read other people’s personal blogs. (And if anyone wants their blog to be read by me, post a comment. I think I have tracked back everyone who posted and wasn’t anonymous.) I don’t follow them every day, but I might read a month or so of postings in a stretch. I usually like reading the very first blog post because I’m always curious what motivated someone to start the blog. I find the more deeply personal someone else’s blog is the more interesting it is to me.

But I recently had a mixer with some fairly well-known (well known to me at least) writers and bloggers. And I was just dying to show them my blog. But I couldn’t. There’s a little too much of me remaining and I don’t think the blog is interesting enough to show off yet. Weight-blogging, date-blogging, job-blogging, these are ways of blowing off steam. Not unlike writing in a diary. But there is an ego-trip about blogging about yourself. You are hoping someone cares. Maybe a stranger, but someone is going to read your life and find it interesting. But what happens when potential (or current) employers and dates find these things? Not to mention family and friends? Do you really want your relatives to know that much about you?

I’ve talked about not writing about people I know anymore, but this is a little different. What happens when a future (or current) employer finds out about my James Frey moment? (Still one of my personal favorite posts.) Or how I talk about blogging at work?

The ironic thing is some of the jobs I’m applying for are to be a paid blogger. But no one wants to pay me to write about my life. I wish I was David Sedaris but I’m not (at least not yet). And I'm not living in Iraq or some other kind of interesting situation.

Let’s face it. Writing about your life is easy. It takes no research. It takes very little to craft a post about yourself. But writing about pop culture or politics in a way that someone else wants to read? Well that takes a little skill. And it’s a competitive market, lots of eyeballs but there's probably 100 blogs for every pair of eyes who want to read about Aaron Sorkin.

I haven’t yet decided what I’m going to do. If I strip out the embarrassing stuff a lot would have to go, some of which I'm not sure I'm ready to let go of yet. But in the spirit of this post, here are some of the personal blogs I’ve read from time to time and I’ll add more as I think of them.

Dan Blog
The Virgin Files (So out-loud I wish she’d write more)
Weight Watchers, eh? (She’s Canadian)
Mental Hygiene Unit (A divorced child-free vegan with talent, she blogs out-loud hard)
The World of Von
Jon’s Blog (An actual friend of mine)
And said friend’s wife (they’re having twins!)

More On Torture And “24”

The American Prospect has written about another event involving the writers of “24” and real live (former) torturers getting together. Although actually the article doesn’t really talk much about “24.”

Tony Lagouranis is a 37-year-old bouncer at a bar in Chicago's Humboldt Park. He is also a former torturer. That was how he was described in an email promoting a panel discussion, "24: Torture Televised," hosted by the NYU School of Law's Center on Law and Security in New York on March 21. And he doesn't shy away from the description.
One nugget is that the article ends up damning The Atlantic Monthly as more responsible for promoting torture than “24.”
Back during the NYU event, Lagouranis had sat behind a long table on a stage with his sleeves rolled up and his arms folded across his chest. Toward the end of the discussion, he leaned forward and told the audience that, ultimately, the abuse of prisoners could not be blamed on shows like 24. "I'm from New York City. I'm college-educated," he said. "But you put me in Iraq and told me to torture, and I did it and I regretted it later."
But he says a 2003 article from Atlantic Monthly had a huge impact.
Some of the soldiers and officers had been influenced by Mark Bowden's October 2003 Atlantic Monthly article, "The Dark Art of Interrogation," which describes techniques that, in the author's words, are "excruciating for the victim" yet "leave no permanent marks and do no lasting physical harm."

"It seems to me Bowden was advocating what he calls 'torture lite,'" Lagouranis tells me. "That made an impression on a lot of people. The feeling was that what we had been taught about the Geneva Conventions was not going to be followed anymore. We would be following a new set of rules -- and that was what Bowden was talking about."
I’ve noticed in some op-eds there’s kind of a pat saying that torture ends up harming the torturer more than the victim. At least psychologically, the victims can recover, but the torturers are scarred for life. Maybe that’s true, but it’s clearly not true in all cases.

I remember when Sister Dianna Ortiz published her memoir of her was abduction, rape and torture in El Salvador. She was one of the four infamous American nuns who were, almost accidentally it seems, victims of the civil war in 1989. (The big deal was when Americans nuns were picked up suddenly the American media started paying attention to the violence in the region). I have not read her memoir, but in reviews I read one of them commented that Ortiz says herself that she is not quite whole from her experience.

It struck out at me at the time because you often don’t read narratives where the ending is “Yes I am still kind of broken by the experience. It didn’t kill me but it didn’t make me stronger either.”

The Buddhist part of me wants to say the only way Lagouranis can recover is if he devotes his life to undoing the harm that he has done. He can’t erase his crimes but he can make up for them. He doesn’t need counseling to “get over” what he did. He needs to help his victims.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Nerdy Bar Games For Washington Types

My roommate and I move in feminist circles and one night I challenged her to name all 16 female senators. (No using the internet, cheater!) I'm not saying this is information every person should know (like the way you should be able to name your own senators) but for nerdy, feminist, DC types it makes a good bar game. I started playing it last night at a networking happy hour and it turned out beautifully. People started talking to each other and larger groups of people slowly got involved.

An alternative game, strictly for DC people: list as many Representatives as you can in 2 minutes (this is a team exercise.) It's like "DC Boggle" really.

Okay sure, someone told me this sounded "boring" but I think DC media types actually enjoy the chance to show off this knowledge. It's the one thing we excel in over other parts of the country, useless knowledge about Congress that our friends and relatives don't know.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Blogging Ain’t Pretty: It's Thursday And Gonzales Is Still Around

A commenter reminded me that this post still is up. Now what most of you don’t know if that on Tuesday there was an “announcement by Bush about the attorney general” and for about a half-hour I thought Bush was about to announcement Gonzales’ resignation. So I crafted a post: “I Called It!!!” Had you visited my site at 5:30 pm you might have seen it.

Of course 5:45 p.m. rolled around and showed how far I had put my foot in my mouth. (Yum...tasty ankle....) So while I deleted that post, I left up my predication. Why? Because sometimes blogging ain’t pretty.

And now I see is starting “Gonzo-meter” where they track the daily chance of Gonzales’ resignation. Considering its Slate I’m pretty sure this now means his last day will be Jan. 20, 2009. Thanks Slate!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Tuesday Is The Day Gonzales Resigns

I’m just getting my bet in early. I predict it’ll be tomorrow he steps down. I remember correctly calling Harriet Mier's withdrawal . (My father'll back me up on that).

Yeah I'm playing around with digg. Still working out the kinks.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Tell Rahm Emanuel The Colbert Report Is Perfectly Safe

This came out in The Hill yesterday:

Emanuel tells freshmen to avoid Stephen Colbert

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), the Democratic Caucus chairman, has told new Democratic members of Congress to steer clear of Stephen Colbert, or at least his satirical Comedy Central program, “The Colbert Report.”

“He said don’t do it … it’s a risk and it’s probably safer not to do it,” said Rep. Steve Cohen. But the freshman lawmaker from Tennessee taped a segment that last week was featured in the 32nd installment of the “Better Know a District” series. Colbert asked Cohen whether he was a black woman. He isn’t.

I actually have some experience advising a Congressman’s office about going on The Colbert Report. A while back I interviewed for a press secretary position with Rep. Brian Baird’s office (WA-3). I didn’t get offered the position but one of the things I discussed with his then-press secretary was whether to go on the Colbert Report. She said their office hadn’t made a decision yet, although some of the staffers wanted him to do it, she wasn’t sure.

I laid out a pretty passionate case why it was fine to do the show.

  1. It’ll please your staff. (This is minor, but hey, it’ll boost morale).
  2. It’s good practice for Congressmen who don’t get much national exposure.
  3. It’ll humanize your Representative.
  4. There really hasn’t been any lasting political image problems from doing these interviews.

I find all the talk about the “dangers” of doing the interviews and lasting PR problem to be way overblown. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla, who had a famous “Better Know A District” because Colbert got him to say “hookers and cocaine are fun things to do.” And of course you heard about Wexler’s overwhelmingly close re-election in 2006? What? No? You mean he still ran unopposed and the interview brought him a lot of ultimately positive name-recognition?

The other person who’s appearance was infamous (and the last sitting real Republican to appear on the segment) was Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., because he couldn’t name all of the Ten Comandments. Again, Westmoreland suffered VERY MINOR public relations feedback in relation to this appearance. And while going on The Colbert Report is relatively safe, it’s not entirely risk free. You will be ribbed a little. And you can still appear foolish.

But so what? For many of these Congressmen and women this appearance will be the first thing a national audience hears about them. And when the time comes for them to play on the national scene, audience recall of them will be generally positive. They are mostly low-risk, high-reward interviews. And moreover the people who have done them talk about how enjoyable they were to tape. Nerve-wracking? Maybe a little. But jeeze you gotta have some balls if you want to be a U.S. Congressman. If you can't handle doing an interview with a soft-ball comedian (he's not Borat for god's sake!) then maybe you don't really want a job in the public eye.

So anyways, when Brain Baird appeared on BKAD on Jan 17, 2007, with Colbert asking him to “eat his sausage” I felt like I was partially responsible for making that happen.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Jack Bauer Live And In Person

Is a really skinny dude. Seriously. His legs are like sticks. Highly coincidental of my constant recent musings on how 24 is hurting America suddenly I was thrust into a room with Kiefer Sutherland. Or rather I volunteered for a week at the DC International Film Festival with the prospect of just such a meeting.

Okay I didn’t actually tell Kiefer that his show is hurting America. Mostly because I didn’t want to piss off the people I was working for. But really, I also got the sense that this guy is not a deep thinker. Of course it's possible it just wasn’t his night. Or maybe my impression was partially formed from the movie he was there to promote, “I Trust You To Kill Me”. But even at age 40, Kiefer Sutherland is still quite the male adolescent.

Personally pleasant to be sure. Book him for your event, y’all. He doesn’t disappoint or get grumpy. As a professional hire, I see no room for complaint. But as an added psychological observation; at age 40 he doesn’t give off a sense of someone who knows what it’s like to be an adult and not an overripe 20-something. (The best approximation is that he’s like’s Paul Giamatti’s actor friend in Sideways, only not desperate because Kiefer actually has professional success. Charming, but shallow and somewhat self-destructive.)

I Trust You To Kill Me is ostensibly a “band road trip” documentary but really its all about Kiefer rather than about the band, Rocco DeLuca (which every time I heard his name I kept recalling Rocco of The Restaurant). I give Rocco DeLuca and the Burden credit for actually being really, really good. Good enough I’m going to try to find their CD. But in a way they are diminished by their association with Kiefer. His stardom blocks their talent. Basically Kiefer is more interesting to watch than Rocco.

Update: Okay after finding stuff like this I feel a little bit shitty calling the guy shallow. I stand my evaluation of his nature, but that doesn't mean he can't be a perfectly decent person. Some adolescents are.

Working From Home

I’m sort of lucky to be working from home today but I’m also realizing that “working from home” isn’t as much fun as advertised.

I'll try to remember this feeling if I ever get the desire to go back to freelancing or start to think telecommuting is the way to go.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Sneak Review Of The 300: The Gayest Movie Ever!

I got to go to the movie critics screening of the 300 tonight. Short version: gayer than a chorus line. Longer version: Like someone made a movie just cut from the battle sequences of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. (Just try to watch the movie and not think of lines from LoTR. It was all I could do not to shout at the screen Mystery Science Theater 3000-style.)

The movie is based on Frank Miller’s comic book and, while it’s not shot as artfully as Sin City, it bares a similar sense of masculinity and femininity. But while Sin City was all about noir atmosphere and crime, the 300 is all about manliness. From men wearing leather diapers. Really. (Meanwhile the women all have nipples to cut glass on. I don’t think there’s a single female actress in the movie who doesn’t bare her nubbins.)

The dialogue tries to make the struggle to be one about freedom versus tyranny, but frankly the lines are just cardboard staging for men who seems like they just can’t wait to die for trivial reasons. It kind of makes them seem more like little boys than the manliest of men.

While the movie reportedly is about Earth, circa 480 BC it really seems more like it belongs to the world of Middle Earth. When the men of Sparta take on Persian Immortals it’s really an orc beneath the mask, not a human. (There are also cave trolls and oliphaunts in the movie.) However, artistically the sci-fi feelings was something I would put in the movie’s favor. It ends up being very, well not exactly pretty but interesting to look at. The story, however, is really just one big battle. It’s actually being released on IMAX and I’m almost tempted to pay the $10 just to see if it’s better as an “image” film rather than a story.

Last comment, after seeing this and Sin City (which I preferred) I really do have to wonder how gay is Frank Miller? Because for a straight guy, the dude is obsessed with sweaty, bloody dudes acting out Fight Club-style. (Hmmm...maybe David Fincher and Frank Miller should be paired together?)