Friday, July 11, 2008

...meanwhile, back at the gene pool...

Damn skippy this is Quote of the Week. Have I mentioned how much better my Bloglines world is with Marc Randazza in it?

In such a graceless age

I have a long, rich and occasionally contentious relationship with online discussion. Some of the best colleagues and best people I know I've met because I piped up on CompuServe or responded to someone who responded to me on Tech_Space or Usenet or whatnot. When it works -- when community develops from conversation -- it's very nearly the best thing about the Net. OTOH, as Lev Grossman and everybody and their dog point out this week, these sure ain't the best of times. Among the lovely items in tabs on my screen right this instant:

- A mailing list for tech-journalism professionals, in which one of the members is giving a sustained and full-throated oration on what an evil bastard another journalist is. That journalist isn't actually on the list to respond; he died earlier today. The first journalist is responding to the death announcement.
- A post of mine on a Blog Not This One, where I am blessed with not only some of the dimmest readers this side of "Goodnight Moon" but thumbs-up-thumbs-down buttons for the readers too impaired even to post as anonymous cowards. (Not saying all the readers are that dumb, but the IQ curve over there looks like a course in the Tour de France. And no, not the USAT blog. Those commenters, in the odd little neighborhood bar that was T_S, rocked. And the ones that didn't usually got zapped.)
- A comment thread on an earlier post to this blog, in which some drive-by commenter spewed a ton of hate at the end of an obituary; I challenged her to explain herself, but these types rarely return to the scene of the slime. Now I'm looking at the post and wondering if I ought to, out of respect for the family, kill the whole damned thread.
- A screen capture from a friend who spotted a particularly tasty example of how the biggest assholes online often start the self-embarrassment process with "LOL that's the dumbest thing I heard." (HT to Tony. Again.)

And this isn't atypical stuff right now, not in tone or rudeness or level of inappropriate reaction. (Heck, a friend and colleague of mine got a comment on a story the other day that started by pointing out a couple of typos and concluded with an exhortation for her to die. And I know it wasn't posted by our copyeditors.) Worse, it feels harder to get a good conversation going; poor Science Fair -- goodbye and good luck, on which more anon -- doesn't seem destined to attract that coterie of thoughtful commenters, almost all the blogs over at Other Job seem to be laboring as hard to find "their people" as mine is, and a few of the places on which I'd normally post have reverted to -- !!! -- e-mail for discussion purposes. What next, carrier pigeons and calling cards?

A wise Twitterer I follow asks tonight what makes the world so mean, and now I'm wondering too: Summer's unfortunate tendencies toward id-driven behavior? The godawful economy? The godawful slog to the election? Or is there something more fundamental happening, some basic civility tipping point at hand? I wish I knew. Do you?

And the hits just keep coming

Russell Shaw, Dave Harvey, and now Joe Barr... this dropping-dead-tech-journalists trend must stop. It simply must stop. HAD ENOUGH NOW.

Etiquette news you can use

Let us assume for a moment that you find yourself to be Antonia Fraser,
biographer to royalty and wife of Harold Pinter. (Yes, you may have an
aspirin before continuing.) You are amidst a tome concerning the love
life of the Sun King when your spouse brings home a Nobel. How does one
graciously acknowledge the interruption? Consider a simple and charming

Nobilis and Nobelius

Elegant and, dare I say, adaptable. See how simple that was? Happy to
help there.

Best Woot shirt ever. Ever, I tell you.

Words fail me (which, actually, happens a lot this week; one of these days I should really fill folks in on what's up with this blog, USAT, and whatnot, but FIRST MORE COFFEE)...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Keep on the sunny side

Gawker's got a roundup of the refreshing honesty exhibited in some quarters upon the news that Jesse Helms is dead. I share in the cheering -- damn right I speak ill of the dead in this case, and such thanks to Jack White at for getting the jaunty "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You" stuck in my head -- and urge comfort upon those who are disgusted that Helms may be conferred some special patriot status by (maybe) dying on July 4: Think of it as a sign that his ilk don't last forever, and that the nation is stronger than hate, bigotry, and the past eight years of douchey "leadership." It's like the rainbow over Noah's Ark, even... and though I may not believe in that myth, I definitely believe that turning Jesse Helms' death into a symbol of tolerance and pride makes me happy and would piss the old hater off no end. FTW!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Darn it, baby, that's love

From the fascinating Grace Undressed, a post that works itself into a great short-short story. Whatever her new project is, I hope it involves writing and I hope it comes to fruition soon. And I hope when it does, she takes that boy C out for a fantastic dinner.