Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

A Tiny Conundrum

Regular readers of this blog … are to be commended.

Recently, you’ve had to pay serious attention in order not to miss the very rare flashes of activity.

This calendar year so far, I’ve posted, on average, once a month.

This is far less than the previous rates of writing.

On top of that, while lately it’s been just about once a month, there’s a gap of exactly four months between posts, back in the spring.

So, the average doesn’t quite tell the story.

I’ve been away, seemingly.

 

Well, no. I haven’t. I’ve been right here. And very very often, in spite of the evidence to the contrary, I’ve been ready to write.

And I’ve taken my hands off the keyboard.

If you’ve read the Editorial License blog in the last three years at least, but especially since June 2015, you know that I marinate in politics. I keep up with the news. There are plenty of people in this country who, for various sometimes legitimate reasons, don’t follow the workings of the government well enough to know who the Secretary of Commerce is, or how the 25th Amendment works. They’re working multiple jobs, they’ve got kids, they’re keeping their heads above water.

But I follow, and I know. I make it a point to follow, and know.

Which sounds pretty arrogant, or at least very very confident. But here, “I make the effort” doesn’t automatically lead to “…and you don’t”. My goal is not to be self-inflating. Current events happen to be an interest of mine — and has been since it was part of sixth-grade social studies class.

There have been good reasons to keep up with the news, and to know who’s who and what they stand for and what policies they support, and even how they behave.

Through all the waves of legitimate news stories about legitimately awful or corrupt or mean behavior perpetrated by the federal government in the last couple of years or so, there has of course been one guy … That Guy … who is known by everybody, who is commented upon or joked about or railed against by everybody.

That Guy, the person currently occupying the Oval Office, is of course that guy.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, I worked hard to make sure people knew who That Guy was, why I didn’t care for him in the slightest, and why you shouldn’t either. In the first few months of his occupation of the Oval Office, I kept after him. It wasn’t just your average case of executive branch mischief; I felt like it was important to highlight his behaviors, actions, and beliefs which directly contradicted the patterns of proper and decent and humane behavior, action, and belief that my parents and teachers taught me, and which I (and my friends who became teachers) have turned around and tried to instill in the students we were lucky enough to have in our classrooms.

 

I didn’t want to suffer news fatigue.

For all this time, I’ve suggested to people that one single individual can’t possibly keep track of all the news; can’t possibly be the point person for activism against all the wrongs. There are lots of people in the world; there’s a history of division of labor in our civilization; so let’s take advantage of that. Pass the baton; catch your breath; get ready to take the baton back when it comes around again.

Equally, it’s important to step away from anything, occasionally. It’s a great reason for the existence of vacations. It’s the purpose of sleep — because none of us can go full-tilt, 24/7, all the time.

Actually I don’t think I’ve suffered news fatigue: yes, the news is fatiguing.  But I continue to keep up with current events, and grind my teeth firmly about every new piece of stupid, arrogant, cruel behavior that emerges from our current version of the Executive Branch. I download my political podcasts and listen to them all the way through. I engage in conversation with anyone who also seems interested in discussing the news of the day.

So why haven’t I written about it all here at the rate that I used to? I may have fallen victim to the “frog in boiling water” effect. There is SO much going on, so many things to keep track of, so many examples of terrible corruption and awful behavior and inhumane policies … that it’s only the really seriously over-the-top egregious ones that cause me to leap to the blog and write. Children in cages, as an example. #Metoo, for another.

So with regard to all the important issues of the day, I suppose I’ve not got much of an excuse. Just at the moment, as a straight middle-class Christian white guy, I live every day in an environment of the kind of privilege that allows me to check out. Not many of my rights are in immediate jeopardy. The various demographics of whom I am a member allow me the privilege of stepping back, exhaling heavily, and contemplating my toes for an afternoon, or a day, or longer … before gathering myself and hurling myself back into the fray.

But specifically as regards That Guy, the fellow currently occupying the West Wing? For the last year or so, I certainly could have leapt to the keyboard and blogged, vociferously, about each of the four or five latest outrages perpetrated by That Guy. I detest just about every single thing about him. Hate is a strong word, and I’m going to work really hard to reserve it for things that really rate it. But it’s been a rare thing for me to come upon a human being about whom I can find nothing to admire, and everything to loathe. So congratulations, Toddler-in-Chief, Orange Muppet Hitler, Vulgar Talking Yam, Cadet Bone Spurs … I guess you’re the best in one category, after all.

But — and I didn’t say this to myself consciously, but looking back, it was definitely the case — I haven’t felt like constantly, weekly, even daily, railing against That Guy in this space.  And I could have.  There’s lots of raw material; lots of fodder for this particular cannon.  After a year of the campaign and a year of this hideous Administration, it’s not so much a case of “what more is there to say?” because there’s ALWAYS something more to point to and say, kids, don’t be like that.  It’s more a case of “do I want to flog my readers with yet another rant about Cheeto Mussolini?”

The solution might have been, “well, write about happy things instead. Make the blog into a respite from the stupid.” Again, subconsciously, I was recognizing that this would’ve come off as either willfully turning away from the flood of awful, when enough of our institutions and our mores had been under assault and really deserved propping up, and why would I not write about THAT instead of about unicorns and rainbows?

So. A tiny conundrum.

 

A blog doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Or, ideally, it shouldn’t. There are readers — there are subscribers who actually aren’t Russian bots! — to consider, and to respect.

At least they’re not paying readers and subscribers. Dodged that bullet.

But … do I flood my readers with unPresidential rants and tire them out and drive them away? Do I write about subjects that, in the current climate, seem trivial and unimportant? Or do I restrain myself, write far less, and cause my readers to drift away?

I appear to have chosen Option 3. If you’re reading this now, you are, again, to be commended.

Let me see if I can get back to honoring your commitment to this.

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September 25, 2018 Posted by | blogging, current events, government, news, politics, writing | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Confession and (Re-)Connection -or- Where Ya Been?

Hi everyone.

I know. It’s been months.

This was not the plan.

There’s been plenty to write about.

And honestly, it’s not that my schedule, my life, has been that jammed full of every possible commitment and activity that I didn’t have time to sit and park a few thoughts on the Blogge.

I could have gone on and on about, say, current politics. Plenty of writers have done so, and very eloquently and movingly – not that this truth would have deflected me from writing on that topic, as well. I’m not that humble.

My musical life has careened onward at its standard pace. I could have scribbled (metaphorically) a few notes (ha) about all that.

Yes, I had a root canal recently. But it was my tooth that hurt, not my typin’ fingers.

Somehow, several months have gone by.

A friend of mine suggested that it would be a much bigger deal if this were a paid-subscription blog. In that case, then, yes, I would have to process a few refunds!

But still, there are people – not just automated bots, but actual people – who signed up to get eMail blasts every time I published something. They didn’t have to do that. No one was forcing them. They did it – I presume – because they enjoyed something I wrote, and were interested in reading the next one, and possibly even the next one. I need to respect that.

There are others who didn’t sign up, but let me know that they were reading faithfully anyway. I need to respect that, too.

Those are connections.

Connection – most especially these personal connections, with longtime friends and newer friends and friends I’ve never actually met in person! – is something that has become, to me, more important-seeming in the last three or four months of navigating current events. Not that you would know it from my blog activity … so what say we show a little evidence of that?

Write. Write write write.

Will do.

Stand by. Powering back up. Re-acquiring signal. Re-establishing connection. Resurrecting blog in 3… 2… 1…

May 19, 2017 Posted by | blogging, writing | , , , | Leave a comment

The 31-Day Blog Challenge, Day Twenty-Four: Chilling Effect

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.

May 24, 2016 Posted by | blogging, celebrity, Famous Persons, Internet, music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment