Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Duh? Or is it Doy? Perhaps Duh-hoy-hoy...

When I go so long without cleaning my room, I forget what it is, what hatred or fear prevails, that prevents me from starting such projects... but after starting up again, I am not long in remembering — and if I do take too long to remember why I hate cleaning my room, my sinuses are quick to remind me: it's the dust. I am allergic to dust, and I can never remember that fact until after I have dislodged a great deal of it and sent it up my nose.

Now, the neatniks in the audience will wonder why, in that case, I don't make more of an effort to dust my room, so that it doesn't build up and attack me. But frequent dusting is not really viable for my personality and lifestyle, so the dust builds up all over, and I find it best not to do anything at all about it. See, if I don't do anything to disturb the dust, it just sits there benignly, like mines at the bottom of a harbor. Of course, that means that the very second that I do disturb it, there's so much of it that it just about kills me. It's all about letting sleeping dogs lie... but sometimes the dog just has to wake up and scratch itself.

Still, despite my painful metaphors and the pain in my face, I am somewhat pleased with my progress in the Quest. I haven't actually done any cleaning of the room, yet, all I've managed is to gather up my laundry and expel it thence; the hunt for socks and handkerchiefs in the nooks and crannies is what disturbed the dust. There's still plenty more dust where that came from, too. Nevertheless, with the laundry out of the room, I can see what needs to be done.

My first observation, while studying the mess, was that one of my messiest behaviors comes from my inability to dress myself under pressure. When picking up and sorting the laundry, I made a pile of clothes that I hadn't actually worn but had merely tried on, rejected, and discarded in a hurry. The pile of clean-but-unfolded clothes was fairly large when I finished... and it occurs to me that perhaps I should get rid of those clothes. I mean, if they don't look good on me, or even if they don't look good with everything else I have, the clothes that were actually dirty because I actually wore them, why should I keep them?

On the other hand, I've lost some weight since I tried on some of those clothes (yes, it's been a really long time since I last cleaned my room completely), so I think I'd better try-on again before discarding them. One of the discard sweaters always made me look fat, but I'm wearing it right now and it doesn't make me look fat at all. Still, this clue gives us a start. Getting rid of clothes I can't wear or shouldn't wear doesn't threaten my need for Stuff, and so it will be pretty easy to jettison a lot of it... not to mention the absolute pleasure of jettisoning the fat-pants I bought last winter when I finally spilled over into the thirty-six waist.

I've also been giving more thought to the idea of lining my room with shelves. I currently have two sets of wall-mounted shelves, the kind with planks laying on brackets attached to rods that are screwed to the studs of the wall; and the cool thing about those is that they're expandable. So I'm thinking that I will get longer planks and an extra set of rods and brackets for the shelves above my headboard and above my desk, expanding them as far as they'll go before they meet the next nearest obstruction; then I will take the shorter shelves and mount them on the remaining blank-spaces, such as the space behind the door next to the dressing-table, and the space adjacent to the desk. I can also get small sets of narrower shelves to hang in the dead space over the heater-vent and on either side of the window... spaces I had once intended for posters and smaller artwork, but which are simply blank now.

That way, all the books and magazines can occupy shallow wall-shelves, and the deeper standing shelves can be turned over to file-boxes and sock-baskets and stacks of rolled sweaters and folded jeans. It will be like living in the bastard child of a public library and a Gap outlet! What fun!

The main thing is to set up an easy-to-maintain storage system within the room, for clothes, books, and important papers. It's the latter category that is giving me the most trouble right now... as I get older and obtain more of the trappings of adulthood in my life, there is more and more paper raining down upon me. The car, its payments, its registration, and its insurance all have paperwork involved, and then there are the credit card statements and the cable statements and the bank statements and the magazine subscription statements, all these things have to be kept somewhere I can find them when I need them, and it has to be some sort of a system where I can just drop the papers into a box or something when they come in, and then sort them and file them correctly when I have the time and inclination.

I'm sure this must all be terribly fascinating for you. In fact, I can't imagine why you would have read quite this far. One of the odd tensions in keeping an online diary is the problem of knowing when your inner-thought ramblings might or might not be interesting to other people, a problem of balancing the mundane against the entertaining, the journaler against the editor, in order to both keep it all honest and make it a pleasurable read.

That's what makes this blog such a tool for learning the writer's craft... often one sets out to entertain but only succeeds in being facile; sometimes one just rambles on to fill up space and accidentally ends up saying something of profound interest. Sometimes you can purge your soul of some dark and shameful secret which will do nothing but induce yawns in the reader, and sometimes you can prattle on about something you consider completely unimportant and both shock and challenge a reader. And you don't really know, when you're writing, which outcome is going to happen.

You can't second-guess the reader... you can only tell the truth the best way you know how, and let the chips fall as they may. But you can deduce from the posts that get the most responses, and from studying the phrases that people respond to, what works and what doesn't when trying to entertain and tell the truth.

I've been thinking about this lately as more and more of my daily reads have stopped writing... nobody has actually quit blogging, but there are a lot of bloggers from my Daily Reads column on hiatus right now. These are, for the most part, people who might be described as "A-list Bloggers," people with hundreds of daily readers, known and loved all around the web. They have captured the style of sublime mundanity that characterizes a great blog, that balance of brevity and ramble, of gripping and accessible yet structurally informal language. Their silence, paired with the number of mainstream celebrities and news-people who now have blogs, makes me wonder if perhaps this whole blogging thing has run its course as a trend.

I've also been thinking about this as I read Stephen Fry's early-life autobiography, Moab Is My Washpot. In it, Fry discusses a number of his early literary influences, and how his love of words led to his love of literature. I, too, had a love of words at an early age, born from a desire to be seen as "smart" and to learn something that other people didn't know (so as to have a weapon against Them), but which grew into a passion for the obscure and the opulent in words... and later, as I gained education, in literature.

I share with Fry a love of the baroque sentence, the joy in a pointless pleonast construction of beautiful words and advanced punctuation that conveys only a minimum of utilitarian information, like those glorious overblown Victorian window-treatments that required eighty yards of velvet and tassel and fringe and gilt rods and crystal knobs and sheer panels and carved valances just to cover a three-by-eight window.

However, the modern audience's patience with all this pleonasm and baroquery is rather limited, so the indulgence in the 157-word sentence (my record so far) is a self-indulgence, and will not be tolerated by most readers. The truth is that elegant language has to be counterbalanced by a concision of thought and phrasing. Fry has learned to do this, and has written three gorgeous novels all full of beautiful language and concise thought (actually, he's written four, not including his autobiography... I've only read three, though the fourth is at my bedside, waiting). He uses the baroque not for its own sake but to further the understanding of the character or to entertain the reader over a slow spot in the narrative.

I know that my opulence is made somewhat more palatable by a sense of lyricism that makes it seem to flow nicely, but it is still weighed down by an unnecessary meandering that turns a lot of readers away. I invariably take twenty words to say something that could just as easily, and more accessibly, be said in ten. The whole thing about writing is accessibility, despite what the Victorians thought... if you can't get your point out to as many people as possible, then you're pretty much hollering in an empty room.

Whoah, wait a minute, how did I get on this subject? As I look back at the title I gave this post, I must have intended to go somewhere else with it, but damned if I can remember what that was.

The problem today is that I'm doing too many things at once, and too many things are happening around me, so I can't focus. So I guess maybe I'd better let go of one or two activities... and since I'm at work, in all fairness to the people who pay me, I should let go of the non-work activities and focus instead on my work. I'm still writing minutes, and I guess that's what got me on the topic of pleonasm and baroquery: at the last meeting, I received direction from the Executive board (in the most supportive and painstakingly non-insulting way) to simplify the minutes to a mere relating of motions and supporting discussion; and as you, my regular reader, can guess, I'm having a hell of a hard time with the simplifying. And it doesn't help that I can't focus on it because I'm too busy boring you with an account of my messy dusty allergenic bedroom and thoughts on pleonasm and Victorian curtains (and answering the fucking phone, which has been ringing off the fucking hook all fucking goddamned piss-shit day).

So I'll go an focus on the minutes, and you can focus on this:

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