Spexious

Observations and arguments.

Archive for Writing

A month between posts?

It’s been a struggle to maintain a work-life balance–amidst busyness at work and busyness in life. I’ve been able to fill in as the single parent at times, and carve out time to mark our tenth wedding anniversary. I’ve married two friends, cheered on my mother at her ballroom dance showcase, and brought the family along on a surprise trip to my father’s 70th birthday.

What I’ve not been doing includes writing, something I consider a bit of work and a bit of life but which more often is attached to the idea of play–a category of activity that is set aside first at times of busyness. The lack of writing (and the paucity of videos) is the result of a function of time and emptying out.

To whatever extent I hope to make a transition in what I get paid to do–I need to work better to balance work AND life AND play.

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Write less, often.

Geez. Scrolling (and I mean scrolling) back through the three weeks this blog has been in existence.

I know that I like to think big, but I need to be more judicious in how much space I take up in the blog. It’s rough on readers and will take too much time. Soon the job will rouse itself from hibernation and there will be no time for expounding.

Goal: shorter posts. A few a day if one won’t satisfy my brain twitches.
And all those half videos I’ve got floating about: finish one.

Dear Mr. President

Back in 2002, Gabe Hudson helped edit a series of letters to the President over on McSweeneys, as an extension of his own book Dear Mr. President.

I submitted the following letter for consideration, but it didn’t make the cut.

=========================================================

Dear Mr. President:

I am not a perfectionist (though perhaps I used to be a bit of one), but I do like to bring my best effort to the task at hand. I think: why do something half-assed when there’s an opportunity to do better? This attitude brought me success in school, and early in my career, as I demonstrated intelligence, aptitude, and a willingness to go the extra mile.

Then one day I got new boss who, I was told, would be a “better manager” than my previous boss. All of a sudden it no longer mattered how I did the work, only whether it was done or not done. It appeared that he was incapable of assessing (or, at the very least, unwilling to assess) the quality of work being done by myself or my team. I received the same level of recognition whether the work was outstanding or weak or even embarrassingly inept. As long as he could consider the work “completed”, either on or ahead of schedule, I got a smile and a slap on the back. When I tried to raise questions about complex, interrelating issues, he would always turn my query around into an either-or question, which when I begrudgingly replied he would tell me that I had answered my own question, when really I had only answered *his* question, which wasn’t really applicable at all to the issues that I was raising, but he was done speaking to me anyhow.

Oh, how I hated that boss. I believed that he was an idiot, that he was eroding the company’s fortunes by putting out bad product, and that before long he would be fired. I concocted fantasies of getting a job and then hiring my old company, only to cancel the contract at the last moment saying, “See, I am firing your company because it puts out inferior work, and this witless, overpaid fool is to blame.”

Then one day I was standing in a Kinko’s and picked up a book that they were selling about management techniques, and learned that employees who care about the quality of their work are a business liability (rather than an asset). That they slow down schedules by asking too many questions, or by inserting extra steps to “assure quality.” That they take up too much of their managers’ time with their detailed memos and their emergency meetings and their insistence that you consult some other department that actually might know the answer to the question being asked.

I was crushed. Here I thought I’d been contributing all along to the company’s business goals, by working to make the product better. But in fact according to this book being sold in a Kinko’s I was part of the problem, not part of the solution.

In time I did quit that job, but there was no satisfaction in having quit, and after I left everyone (especially my boss) was relieved.

In my jobs since then, I have slowly been learning how not to care about the quality of my work, but it’s difficult.

During your campaign, Mr. President, I learned that as governor of Texas you would be presented with 20-page reports compiled by really smart people who cared about all of the issues, but that you wouldn’t read them, instead asking the author to summarize the report and to boil it down to an either-or proposition. These aides of yours, I read, then tried to deliver shorter reports, 12 pages, or 5 pages, or even 1, hoping that you might read a single page document outlining the complex web of variables associated with any major policy decision. But no, even then you didn’t read the memos. You were just like my old boss.

Some of those horrid talk show hosts and reactionary liberal-types began tossing out accusations that you were illiterate, but they didn’t understand like I do.

You’re not stupid, you’re just a successful manager! You’ve learned, perhaps better than anyone, how to hold the reins tightly on those earnest, overly intellectual wonks and do-gooders who threaten to bring government to a standstill with their questions and their analyses and their insistence on talking about details or “implications” or decisions you made a week ago. You see the bigger picture, or rather you see that the big picture is a distraction from the real work of sparing yourself and your closest advisors from having to sit through an hour-long meeting because how boring is that.

I fear, Mr. President, that you may not realize, that even though you keep the work environment “collegial”, with your winking and handshaking and all the funny nicknames, that these aides of yours, the ones who would rather be writing the 20-page report instead of asking you to answer “yes” or “no” to a single question, that secretly, deep down, they may hate you.

So fucking much.

Sincerely,

Chris Ereneta
San Francisco, CA

Style guide

So some people have questioned (in a wheedling, elder sibling kind of way) my seeming unwillingness to use certain www-slang while uncritically adopting others. What follows, is the first edition Spexious (previously: Mookless and Frail) style guide to language:

likely to appear

words and phrases i use in oral speech (e.g. “timesuck”)
excessive dashes and parentheses
sentence fragments
sentences that begin with a single word followed by a comma
words i have made up
words i think i may have made up but have in fact seen before
acronyms i have made up
decapitalization and depunctuation
lists
“which” as an interjection
unflagged sarcasm
declarative voice to myself in the second person
parentheticals employing (with varying degrees of precision) the abbreviations e.g., i.e., and c.f.
aliases representing individuals not already famous or LJ users
multiple asterisks

unlikely to appear

emoticons
parenthetical descriptions of my emotional state
established chat and www acronyms (e.g. OMG, LOL, RTFM, TMTOWTDI)
established blog and message board colloquialisms (e.g. “i tells ya”)
references to myself in the third person

Mostly because I don’t feel like I could credibly pull it off. My writing style feels deeply encrusted by my early years on the manual smith corona. Perhaps though I’ll try on a few of the acronyms as I go. More likely (see above) I’ll make up my own.

may appear when i’m not paying attention

“and but so”
“reify”
verbal attacks on the president

The dashes, parentheses, asterisks, and commas are of course influenced heavily by the woeful fragmentation of language foisted on us by DF Wallace, D Eggers, M D’Angelo, et. al. Which, don’t hate me because I’m derivative.

Hate me because I’m privileged and arrogant and because I’ve never been much good at returning calls.

The problem of course

is my habitual writing process of smithing the living hell out of each sentence for balance, rhythm, and precision. Multiple times.

Which makes the ability to edit previous blog entries a potential timesuck of its own.

But of course the principal intent is to write, lurching much as possible towards the quantity end of the Q/Q continuum.

Not that I am incapable or unfamiliar with freewriting, but morning pages are intended to remain unread by anyone beyond the writer (who may regret even that wide of an audience).

Which (the supposed fear of exposing my sloppy and unvetted sentence structure and word choice) is in truth an easy rationalization to disguise the true fear: exposure as an arrogant hypocrite–in re: my criticism that the unedited nature of the blogo-journa-sphere makes much of it unreadable.

But that perhaps when juxtaposed with my own less-than-blindingly-buffed prose those writers whom I have judged as less competent talented eloquent interesting to me will emerge as the superior writers for the form.

Because the language structures of the rapid-response www (chat, newsgroups, open directory, blog/journal, wiki, et al.) have long since passed me by. [nts: Remember to write future post about the cultural uselessness of linguist Geoffrey Nunberg.]

Similarly, a cursory glance at the hiphop section of my iTunes Library would make brutally laughable the proposition of me attempting to compose a rap lyric.

Question of the day:
If an old-time musician raps in the shower and there’s no one there to hear him, does he make a sound?

Fo’, as it were, shizzle.