Yesterday’s writing prompt (there was a legit reason why I missed my deadline!):
31 DAY BLOG CHALLENGE, DAY 26: “5 favorite blogs”.
As you perhaps have come to expect, I shall take one tiny liberty with this topic, if I may. Limiting this to just five favorite blogs is difficult. So I thought I’d list five favorite blogs written by people I know … and then five favorite blogs written by people I don’t know personally.
Still tough to get down to five each. But I shall bear up bravely…
By people I know:
“A Different Kind of Beautiful”, a blog mainly about issues of music education from the perspective of my middle-school music teachin’ friend Joe Wright, who is down in the trenches all the time.
“Sarv Blog”, the blog about Delaware music and Drum Major Academy thoughts and basset hounds and whatever else leaps to mind, by the estimable Prof. Heidi I. Sarver. I’ve linked to her posts a time or two here.
The blog section of the website of “J.H. Language Solutions”, a little business started up by Julie Gniadek, who in addition to being a pretty engaging writer and a standup citizen happens to be a former student of mine.
The blog section of the website of “Soothe Massage Therapy”, a little business started up by my friend (and erstwhile BU Band staff colleague) (and neighbor!, what are the odds?) Jenn Durkin. She never fails to make me snarf whatever I’m drinking as I read.
The eponymous blog of Daniel S. Katz, Ph.D. By day, a educator of educators at Seton Hall University. By night, a dogged blogger on the subject of Trends in Education Today, which means manning the parapets in defense of American public schools. Not only should he probably wear a cape and a cowl – that’s how hard he fights in support of the concept – but he wields that most insidious of weapons, actual research.
So go click on those links and give them the business! You won’t regret it.
And now for the folks I’d like to one day know personally (yeah, not super likely):
Steve Benen, the head writer of MaddowBlog, the online repository of all things goofy in politics attached to The Rachel Maddow Show. Eh, Benen or Maddow, I’ll take either.
Driftglass, a Midwest-based writer who for some time now has been wielding a pen in the effort to alert folks to various left-leaning political concepts. He’s a fun read, but it’s NSFW on the grounds of language. But he is impassioned, and thorough, and usually very funny.
The Rude Pundit … by day a community-college professor of literature; by night easily the filthiest writer of left-leaning and common-sensical political commentary that I’ve ever ever EVER read. If the aforementioned Driftglass is NSFW for reasons of language, The Rude Pundit is easily twenty times as NSFW for reasons of language and holy crap did he just write that?! If you click through and read, trust me when I tell you it’s not for the faint of heart, and don’t say I didn’t warn you. At the end of each article, you’ll be washing out your brain with soap, and I’m really seriously not joking about that … but there’s a great chance that if you can still form thoughts of your own, and you can peel away the layers of NSFW filth, foul and your filthin’ foul, your reaction may well be along the lines of “…yeah, but he’s right.”
(In the interest of maintaining a family blog-reading environment, I have linked you to one of his less profane recent articles. If you want to read the rest of his stuff … that’s on you. I’m serious. It’s great, but you may need a hazmat suit. Really. So why do I like his stuff? Because this is a decent person writing in an indecent manner.)
The blog section of Bear McCreary‘s website. McCreary is the film and TV composer responsible for scoring shows like the Battlestar Galactica reboot, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Human Target, and the Walking Dead. An absolute gold mine for a film-score nerd like what I am: he talks about things like orchestration and exotic instrumentation and the behind-the-scenes of film and TV musicmaking … and goes so far as to post notation of the various motifs he creates for various characters and concepts on the shows he writes for. It’s just dang cool.
And finally, the Politics Blog on Esquire.com, written nearly exclusively by the Boston area’s own local treasure, Charlie Pierce. If you’re a “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me” listener, you occasionally get a little taste of his approach to current events. If you visit this blog, you’ll get five or six sharp, smart and very very funny politics essays a day. And sometimes his essays aren’t funny at all, but rather aggrieved and incredulous, and those are even better.
So. There ya go. People I try to take my literary cues from.
(Except the Rude Pundit. Zzzzzoiks.)
Today’s writing prompt:
31 DAY BLOG CHALLENGE, DAY 25: “best physical features”.
I have to assume that the creators of the prompt meant the blogger’s own physical features, rather than anyone else’s. Anyone, say, famous.
Y’know … Tom Brady’s chin. The late Leonard Nimoy’s arched right eyebrow. The muscles in LeBron James’ upper arms. Other stereotypically admired physical features of other famous persons (this a family blog; if you’re interested in those physical features, there are other sources; I’ll be here when you get back).
But it’s just lil’ ol’ me.
We’re all our own toughest critics. I can offer proof of this by summarizing my own personal inventory of physical features, carried out while trying to determine what I could possibly list as my best ones:
“Nope. Nope. No. I … don’t think so. Not really. Sorta, but no. No. Nope. Oh my no.”
I don’t stand in front of mirrors for hours on end, admiring. I stand in front of mirrors for a long time when I can’t get that frackin’ necktie to tie properly; and to make sure I don’t look like I dressed in the dark … especially when I actually did. But other than that, I don’t primp, preen, pose.
Therefore, I’ve come up with five items of which to make note …
 My freckles mark me as a fellow of English and Irish descent.
 When I’m doing musical conducting, my hands remind me somewhat of a conductor and teacher of mine whose leadership I admired and tried to emulate, greatly.
 My red hair used to be a LOT more screamingly red than it is now. There’s not much left, but what’s left does well when the sun hits it.
 In particular, the color of my beard did a great job, for a long while, of disguising the presence of greyer hair.
 My knees make fetching maracas sounds when I come out of the catcher’s crouch.
So pleased to be done with this particular prompt. See you tomorrow.
Today’s writing prompt:
31 DAY BLOG CHALLENGE, DAY 24: “a difficult time in my life”.
Well, everybody’s got ’em.
I’m pleased to say that there are plenty of people whom I know personally, and lots and lots more whom I don’t, who have probably had more difficult Times In Their Lives than I’ve had in mine.
Still, they get your attention.
I don’t know that this is the space for the response to this question. Please accept my apologies, Dear Reader – especially if you are a regular and longtime Dear Reader, and have been around for a few of the difficult Times In My Life in online print. Especially if you watched me take on the Young Singing Sensation Fan Club trolls about five years ago.
Yes, I’ve had ’em, both personally and professionally. Some of those Times In My Life have been the kind that only a few folks know about, and it’s darn well going to stay that way (and those weren’t always of the personal variety). Need-to-know basis, and all that. Others have been a bit more widely understood, in part due to their public nature.
For the full story, go back (if you dare) to these two blog posts – one was highly caffeinated snark, and the other was an honest reappraisal of the first one. The second post was inspired by feedback about the first one … feedback which was at worst full of veiled threats of legal action, and at best full of mediocre spelling.
In our current political climate, the slightest online critique of a candidate can attract the ire of online commenters in such a way that the author of the critique starts to wish s/he had never hit “publish” [hey, wait just a damned minute, what the hell ever happened to freedom of speech and the First Amendment and all that great stuff that makes Murrica great? Ohhh, I see; freedom of speech as long as I agree with it. Got it].
Five years ago, I got my own dose of that. At the merest hint that I might not have totally utterly swooned over the vocal performance of this particular golden-tressed, 38-year-old-mezzo-soprano-voiced moppet … the trolls descended. The Singing Sensation Fan Club swept in, bearing their spears and magic helmets. How dare I. This young singer is a gift from God.
(Not making that up. There was talk of singer-as-angel-messenger-from-God. Good Lord.)
I thought I could probably handle online critique of my stuff; I knew I was publishing a blog that anyone with an Internet connection and a pulse could read; so pushback was always possible. But while politics draws fire regularly, surely musical subjects wouldn’t have as big a target on their backs, yes? … Um, I guess no.
Simple disagreement is one thing. A back-and-forth about what strikes you musically that doesn’t so much strike me? Let’s have that conversation. We might learn something, each of us.
This was something else.
In the comment section of that blog post, it got pretty heated.
Meantime, on the online fan forum devoted to the Young Singing Sensation, one commenter suggested that because I said such horrible things about this singing youngster, then logically that made me a Bad Person, and definitely a Bad Music Teacher. Who would want such a horrible person to be teaching music to delicate children? And this person suggested that it might be a good idea to send someone to investigate this Bad Music Teacher. To contact the school where he taught music, and perhaps to alert the administration therein to the presence of such a Bad Music Teacher.
In support of that, one other commenter posted this:
“…if the downside became quite nasty, then who can be blamed for that outcome. Obviously the person who was nasty to begin with. If there were/are negative ramifications, then they fall on the person who needs to take responsibility for making it negative in the first place. I don’t worry for his job. He should. I’ll offer the same sort of mercy for his outcomes as he has for [the Singer’s].”
One of my blog commenters played the part of the mole in the organization and quietly pointed me toward that forum comment thread.
Bad enough that, upon reading this, I considered contacting a lawyer friend of mine and putting him on standby alert. Worse that I considered contacting my school’s principal and putting her on standby alert – because you never know what utter whack job might think that carrying out a Bad Music Teacher Investigation might require visiting a school while carrying a concealed weapon, or something. Principals really enjoy that spectre, lurking out there.
But go back a few paragraphs, to the other commenter who replied to the initial suggestion. Did you notice that I didn’t say he/she, or him/her? I said “she”.
Because the identity of the Other Commenter is very specific, is very important in this, and ought not be downplayed.
This Other Commenter was not anonymous. And therefore she was quite publicly making these accusations and insinuations and, whether she knew it or not, was quite publicly taking the chance of inciting some other person, some potential utter whack job (for all she knew) to go ahead and pull a “Guy Noir, Private Eye” routine on me.
This Other Commenter was no mere fan.
She was the Young Singing Sensation’s mother.
Let that rattle around in your head for a minute.
In that moment, I both did and did not know exactly what I was dealing with.
As it turned out, the firestorm subsided relatively quickly. If our current political circus wasn’t happening, I’d say something like “this is always the case. There’s a lot of shouting (real or virtual), and then the short attention span kicks in and it’s off to the next crisis, the current one entirely forgotten.”
But – partly because of that political circus which has turned the scary-invective-and-utter-whack-job volume control up to eleven – and partly because I’ve made it a habit not to “poke the bear” when I really don’t need to – which was not the lesson I wanted to learn, five years ago, but there it is anyway – I’ve consistently avoided naming this Young Singing Sensation.
Her fans made my life pretty crazy, there, for about two weeks in 2011.
The sad part of all that was: thanks to those two weeks of crazy, generated solely by her fans, she’s lost me as a potential admirer for good, no matter what happens. In my head, her name is a synonym for back away slowly so as not to startle.
Singers aren’t the only public figures whose supporters make them look bad, whose fans’ behavior causes other possible new fans to turn away from them. And it’s a pity.
So I’d love to tell her that I’m sorry about all that. Her schtick, through no fault of her own, only laid the groundwork for the creation of a difficult Time In My Life.
Her mother, though?
In the words of a great philosopher, that Other Commenter needed to go home and re-think her life.