Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Video killed the Radio Star

When you think about the revolutions and evolutions in pretty much every aspect of every day life that have occured in our lifetimes, it's pretty amazing.  I was born in 1971.   I carry a smart phone IN MY POCKET that has more computing power than the computers used to launch the Gemini and Apollo series of manned space flight in the late sixties and seventies.  Landline phones are dead.  There is an internet.  Music videos came and went.  Vinyl, 8-tracks, cassette tapes, and CD's have all been rendered near-obsolete by digital file downloads.  The list goes on and on.

'Matron's diary of the voyage of the 'Fitzjames', 1856-57' photo (c) 2008, Photographic Collection - license: One of the saddest things fo rme is the death of the daily diary.  140 characters, one or two lines of a social network update have taken the place of a journal entry, or even a livejournal blog post.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was "Harriet the Spy" (I actually just re-read it a few weeks ago).  I wanted to be like Harriet - I wanted to see everything, and write it all down.

I poured my heart and soul into my diary, my disappointments, my successes, my fears, my anger, and the details of my elementary school crush, Matt Hoffman.

I even had the perfect hiding place.  There was a loose corner of carpet in my bedroom, and I could stash my diary (a black velvet covered journal, with a silver unicorn embossed on the front) under the loose carpet, then I would set the speaker for my garage-sale turn-table stereo on top of the small lump that the diary made.  A few knick-knacks on top of the speaker, and I believed it was camaflouged beyond any possibility of being found.

My mother was a master-sleuth.  She found that my brother had been pulling the covers off his sports illustrated magazines and using them to cover individual copies of Playboy magazine.  What I thought was a multi-year, multi-issue dedication to all things sports was really a porn stash that would make the local convenience store blush.  When mom uncovered his porn stash, she waited until he got home, made him carry all the magazines into the back yard, and then she threw them all into a garbage can, doused it with lighter fluid, and set it ablaze - masturbation fodder, gone in a puff of black smoke into the clear blue desert afternoon sky.

Despite my clever hiding place, my mom found my diary, read my diary, and then WROTE ME A NOTE inside my diary, telling me that she was ashamed of me and the things I had written down.  That a good Christian girl would not have impure thoughts and be so mean spirited, and that she hoped I would spend some time praying to the Good Lord to make my heart and mind clean so I could be the kind of daughter she would be proud of.

Imagine being 10 years old, opening your diary to write the days information, and finding a note like that from your mom.  I was mortified.  But more than mortified, I was ANGRY.  So, I wrote her a note back.   I don't remember it word for word, but paraphrased, I wrote that I didn't think GOD would be proud of her snooping and reading my private diary.  That it said PRIVATE all over the inside cover, and that is was rude to read something personal, and if snooping around meant being a christian, then maybe I didn't WANT to be a Christian.

Then I ripped out all the pages of my diary that she had read, leaving just her note and my response, and I tucked it back into the hiding place.  I ripped up my private thoughts, tore them into little pieces, and ate them, one at a time.

A couple weeks later, my brother showed up to pick me up at school. 

"I don't know what you did to mom, but you should avoid her for a while," he warned.  "She's really pissed."  I felt the dread come over me - from my head down, hot and cold at the same time.  Like my hair was trying to get away from my scalp and my scalp was trying to get away from my skull simultaneously.  Mom was slamming things around the kitchen and muttering to herself, while I practiced my art of making myself invisible for the next few days.

Just a small sampling of some uncracked journals
Long story short, it blew over.  But I still have a hard time writing in a journal.  I trick myself into thinking 'THIS TIME I will stick to it, THIS TIME, I will write' by buying journals with beautiful covers, or thematic topics.  I have pens that glide over the paper, like the enchanted quick quill Rita Skeeter possessed in the Harry Potter books, and still I can't bring myself to sit down and put pen to paper.

I've been laid up, post-operatively, these past two weeks.  I've spent a lot of time in a vicodin induced haze, watching old television shows on my iPad while laying in bed.  One of my guilty pleasures is a wild fantasy life that involves me and Neil Patrick Harris, happily raising children together in a picture-perfect life, somewhere in New Mexico.  To indulge this fantasy, I re-watched a fair amount of Doogie Howser, MD on Hulu.  The original blogger, young Dr. Howser - how I envy his easy practice of sitting down to write at the close of each day.  Just Doogie and his Macintosh, friendly glowing green cursor, waiting to capture his wisdom and the lessons he's learned.

I've had an off-again, on-again relationship with blogging, starting with the password encrypted journal files on early PC systems, moving into LiveJournal, Multiply, Facebook, and most recently in this incarnation on blogger.

During the LiveJournal years, I achieved a mild notoriety (Which is to say, a small readership, and a troll or two) - one of the community managers for the massively multiplayer online game I was working on leaked the addresses of developers personal blogs on the fan forum.  A fan-boy picked up a post I had written, at the conclusion of a punishing bike ride and shortly after my mother passed away, and reposted it in the forum, making fun of my "incessant whining about missing my mommy" and said the team should "spend more time working on the game and less time out riding bicycles."  I went on the warpath.  The community-adored community manager got fired, and I had my own little "hate-club" of people, complaining that I shouldn't write if I couldn't take commentary when I was read.  I stopped writing (again).

It's so easy to tap out the latest bed-time update on my smart phone - using words that express my frustration (sigh, ugh), indifference (meh, whatever), or joy (wheeee!, HA!).  The ubiquitous "like" button is right there, allowing me to give friends posts a virtual thumbs up with next-to-no effort on my part, but without any real engagement, either.  I long to have a conversation, I want to feel like I have a voice, and yet I struggle to write it down.  Sometimes I make the excuse that no one is reading, other times I use the excuse of writers block, or physical exhaustion, but it all boils down to just excuses.

Have Facebook and Twitter killed the personal journal?  Do "Like" and "Retweet" replace the possibility of conversation that can come out of a (read) blog?  Or is that just another excuse for not writing?  Can I make the time to put thoughts to paper (virtual or physical) and stop making excuses?

It's a new year, time for a new year's resoultion.  More writing, less excuses.  The form may have evolved from a black velvet covered unicorn journal to a shiny MacBook Pro keyboard, but it's time to rediscover that satisfied feeling, so well-portrayed by NPH, of hitting save, committing to memory and completing a days writing.

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