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Can You Please Be Quiet? I’m Tryin’ to Create Here

Starting off this cold January with some warm & wonderful book quotes from Flavorwire.com as a lead in to the meat of my post:

“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” — Confucius

“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.” — Nora Ephron

“We need to make books cool again. If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them. Don’t sleep with people who don’t read!” – John Waters

“Read! When your baby is finally down for the night, pick up a juicy book like Eat, Pray, Love or Pride and Prejudice or my personal favorite, Understanding Sleep Disorders: Narcolepsy and Apnea; A Clinical Study. Taking some time to read each night really taught me how to feign narcolepsy when my husband asked me what my “plan” was for taking down the Christmas tree.” — Tina Fey

And class, what do we need to read successfully?  Anybody?  Why SILENCE (at least in your own head) is critical to good reading.  Why else were we taught to always have a “personal reading book” in our desks when we came in from recess back in the Stone Age?  So we could read SILENTLY and return to a more scholarly frame of mind after running around on the playground (or avoiding mean kids on the playground).  An actor friend tells a story about going on auditions where you could sit and wait for 7-8 hours before you were called to read.  Once she saw a woman sit and wait that long without a book…..either she could meditate with the intensity of an ancient monk, or she didn’t have that much upstairs to require distraction from boredom.  Or maybe she heard voices in her head, but that’s the subject of completely different type of post.

In the past few weeks I’ve noticed a “silent” trend.  On Sunday, January 1, Pico Iyer had the NY Times Sunday Review feature with “The Joy of Quiet.”   I had to chuckle a little bit when I read that some folks pay a premium NOT to have Internet connectivity in their hotels rooms.  Gee, they could stay with my parents for a week.  On the rare occasion the OG’s need the Internets, they have dial-up. (which means they have no phone so you could get crazy calling them with an incessant busy signal, because, you guessed it, they don’t have cell phones either.)    Will self-imposed silence and the ability to get “off the grid” become the new status symbols?

In a somewhat related piece on the same day, Nick Bilton, the Times’ personal tech  guy posted this piece about Disruptions.    The gist is that we’re so caught up in using our devices capturing and sharing our moments, that we totally lose the moments we’re supposedly enjoying.  Nick is resolving to take 30 unconnected minutes a day to get back in touch with his day-dreaming self.   Now I know there are a great many of us who welcome our digital overlords, but if memory serves, don’t these things also come with an “OFF” switch that the user controls?  Or does our inner child just like the feeling that with all this technology in our hands we won’t miss anything?  The problem is that we never really allow the  boredom and down-time to generate any creativity when we fill all our time with Twittering and swiping.

Like many of my proletarian siblings, I sit in front of a computer all day at work.  When I come home I like to decompress and check my e-mail (and blog stats!), but then I like to eat and enjoy my family.   To date, that means we need to use fire and organic materials to make our dinner.  And after dinner we need to clean up the organic detritus and settle down with a juicy book, or some exercise or banal chore that makes for civilized living.  Some of those activities lubricate my creativity — and I rush to my computer to get them down before they seep away.  Every once and a while they turn into something worth sharing….. and sometimes I re-read them and shiver (not in a good way) and hit delete.  But in any case, I do give a little prayer of thanks that my creative juices haven’t totally dried up.

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The Alternate Universe Known as Twitter

I’m a slow merger onto the information highway.

Information highway.  Isn’t that quaint term now?  And speaking of more information, I now have a Twitter account but I’m not sure how best to use it.  My pal, Dr. Blog, likens it to passing notes to your pals in class ~ short and a wee bit sassy, alluding to little inside jokes only your posse would find amusing.  I also like the brevity of the media — a little more wordy than a haiku, but enough characters to get witty ‘wit it.   You can follow all kinds of people and fashion a whole world view out of tweets. I completely understand the marketing value of the thing ~  if you have something to sell, it is pretty groovy.  And I like using those keys & symbols on the keyboard that we so often neglect (unless we are cursing in prose)  like #.

I follow my  friends, far and wide they may be, because I am interested in the things they’re interested in, if only to give me some platform for deeper conversation.   I follow some people linked to institutions or organizations that share my points of view.  And the spooky Twitter algorithms keep re-introducing me to old friends ~ reality friends!  But I am disappointed by the people who have ghost writers tweeting on their behalf or just pulling quotes from their books.  Really?  You make your living as a writer and you can’t spare 19 -30 words out of your day to give to your personal assistant on a napkin to type for you, really?

So I’ve been studying up on the Twitter a bit.  I read a little piece by Jesse Kornbluth, editor of HeadButler.com, about “trending” on Twitter.  I’ve worked in the fashion industry so I think I know a little bit about trends, and something we used to call the fashion cycle.  From a business perspective you could track a trend from its genesis (or early success at retail) and plan to grow it over a term of 12 to maybe 24 months.  After that period you assume the item has reached maturity, or market saturation, and you plan for the post-peak, or clean-up/markdown, of any left-over stock.  In the Twitterverse something is “trending” when there is tsunami of tweets about it and that deluge basically drowns it, because it becomes today’s top story until tomorrow when the next hot trend takes its place, before anybody even has a chance to figure out what the heck it was all about.  Twitter is really a flat platform powered by humans, and so any topic that can reach critical mass can become the most important issue of the day ~ celebrity gossip can be just a weighty as the death of Steve Jobs.  But it is also cool Twitter can help broaden the reach of groups like Occupy Wall Street (#OWS).  So Twitter is like any other kind of tool:  in some hands it is a force for good, for most it’s a harmless diversion, and a few take it over to the dark side.

Sociologists are studying these torrents of digital data to learn more about our moods.  For example, the use of swear words increases during periods of negative mood, such as at the beginning of the fall equinox, when humans anticipate shorter (and sometimes colder) days ahead.  This led the researchers to believe that circadian rhythms were influencing our moods. But it is not an exact science: the researchers were hampered a bit dealing with words without context ~ for example, swearing could be used in both a literal or a sarcastic manner.  In those cases, word count alone falls short in assessing the subtleties of language.  Dr. Dan Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist pointed out, “I suspect that if you counted the good and bad words people said during intercourse, you’d mistakenly conclude that they were having an awful time.”  So you see, the human elements of context and judgement are still critical in this brave new world.  Final example:  I tweeted recently that I’ll be looking for a front-loading washing machine in the next few days (the current one is now too old to spin) and I gained a new follower:

MiniLoader

@MiniLoader
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Yep, the farm-loading business is on the Twitter, but their ‘bot needs to do a little filtering.