Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Basic Understanding

I write to be read, and to have what I've written be appreciated by those whose appreciation is worth having. For this reason, at some point in the not terribly distant future, I'm going to ask myself if this effort of mine (this blog and its companion site) is paying off. This does not mean that I'm going to be installing a link to PayPal. Or that I won't, really - I haven't given the matter enough thought to offer any promises - but my immediate, instinctual reaction to that is to say "no, I won't." Ever. No, what I'll be looking for are in-bound links which have not been no-followed, giving both traffic and link juice to my pages.

Sometime around my 100th real post, I'm going to see what I have. This, as useful as it can be, is not a real post. There's no meat to it, it's just something for helping visitors get to where they need to be. This, on the other hand, most definitely is a real post. By the time we're at the top of page 16, we'll have over 100 of those. If I haven't started seeing a reasonable level of linking and traffic by then, I'll start thinking about putting this blog on hiatus. Probably, by the time I've written page 20 and certainly no later than page 50, if nothing has changed, I'll act on those thoughts and why wouldn't I?

When I write a story or create a real blog post (and by that, I don't mean one consisting of lightweight goofing around or discussion of the reasons why I chose the host I did), I put a lot of work into what I do. To ask people to repay me for that effort, not even by dropping tips in a virtual jar, but simply by linking in and telling people about what they saw, so that I don't end up sitting here and talking to myself half of the time - that's not too much to ask. If I don't find satisfaction in this, I have to ask myself why, and really, in the long run, there are only three possibilities.

1. People haven't been enjoying what I've been writing. If so, why would I want to go on writing it?

2. They have enjoyed it, but they've been too ungrateful to link. If so, then shouldn't I start looking for a better audience? Wouldn't I owe myself one?

3. Nobody ever found his way here, and the blog just got lost in the shuffle - a real concern, considering the number of blogs in existence. In this case, see possibility one. What really is the difference between writing a blog that nobody reads, and reading one's work at an open mike night that nobody else has attended?

In case 3, part of the answer to that is that such open mike nights are hardly ever seen. I'm thinking of somebody I know who contributed to a very good blog on which activity ceased in 2007, never to resume. As the man would explain, he saw far more grief than buzz. Consider, he would say, the experience of being at that open mike night, surely the lowest point in a writer's career, because anybody can get up there. To be an open mike writer is to be nobody at all. It is the bottom at which one starts, a place from which one hopes to advance and at which one would not dream of staying for long. If one did not find one's way to something better in reasonably short order, he would ask, would one not soon find a more productive way of spending one's time?

After people nodded in quickly given agreement, he then asked how many people one would expect to find at that low point in one's life. In Chicago, even at an event that was so lightly attended as to be on the verge of closing, one would see more than twenty people. His blog, on the other hand, was seeing only seven visitors per day, at the most, and usually no more than four. Think of it, he would say - on their best day, what he and his fellow writers posted to their blog had an audience that was maybe a third of the size they would have seen, had they simply taken what they wrote to a failing open mike and read it to the people there. So, why not just take one's writing into the real world, and enjoy the satisfaction of meeting people face to face instead of settling for looking at a computer screen, he asked? Should one really be that eager to avoid the cost of a two drink minimum, at the cost of that much of a diminishment of the experience one was having? It's a reasonable question, one which I will ask myself at some point in the year to come. You might notice how many companion pages this blog has. I have given some thought to the question of how to give this blog a modest level of exposure, so possibility three should be ruled out. Possibility one is something that I haven't encountered much in the real world, and as for the remaining possibility, that's up to you.

I will be honest enough to admit that somebody's pessimism was contagious. He got the feeling that the whole experience of blogging had been a bad joke when he finally took a look at the work of a highly praised and much followed blogger, and what he found was clownish and embarrassing. The woman had just accused Rachael Ray of supporting terrorism, on the basis that she was wearing a paisley scarf which her stylist had picked up at a department store, which the blogger then mistook for a keffieyeh, a scarf which people in the Middle East wear to protect themselves from windblown sand and dust. An argument sometimes offered for staying in a place where success is harder to achieve is that, in being so hard won, it will bring about more growth, but to become more like that writer is not something that I would think of as growth. Sometimes, I think that a lot of people go online looking for a freak show, and aren't really interesting in the possibility of finding anything else. Feedback from such people will not make me a better writer or a better person, so if the level of response to my work on this blog tells me to give up, I will not fight that.

To which somebody will probably reply by asking if that isn't a good reason to decline a link. What will somebody be left with, after linking to one of my posts or pages and finding that I quit work, anyway, because nobody else linked? How about a link to material which that somebody enjoyed? Did you notice that my work is hosted on a collection of free servers? If this place goes into the proverbial mothballs, I'm not going to take it down. I'll leave it up, because doing so costs me nothing, and I'll submit it to the Internet Archive, so that any broken links left behind should Google ever delete my account for inactivity (something that they don't seem to do at present) will be fixed with the simple addition of this*/

in front of the target url. What's wrong with bookmarking old material, if it is enjoyable? Do people not read old books? The same principle applies, so, no, there is no excuse left for refusing this very modest request of mine, if you like what you're reading, and this is the understanding that will exist, because this is the understanding that should exist. This is a good deal I'm offering my readership, should it exist - free reading material, in return for little more than the giving of a good word - so people, let us not get so selfish that we end up cheating ourselves, because like any reasonably well adjusted individual, I do have other places to be. I'm willing to be here, but I don't need to be here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Where are we, today? / Supplicants / Preface, Part One

Take that title as a warning - those who don't read the preface of books won't care for this post. I probably wouldn't read it, myself, if I hadn't written it. But if you're the sort of person who likes to know what somebody is up to as he's writing something, then maybe you'll enjoy this. If so, I'm flattered by your interest, or would be if I knew about it. At this point, I don't even know if I have a readership.

Where are we? Much behind where we should be, courtesy of my hunt and peck typing in large part, I'm afraid. The chapters I uploaded yesterday were written last september. The good news is that I was outside as I was writing them, by hand, leaving me with a massive amount of transcription to do, but with a durable copy and the pleasant memory of warm sunny days that turned into warm, friendly nights. The bad news is that the very friendly and more than slightly attractive dark featured barrista from Lousiana who commended me on my bravery, for sitting outside in over 90 degree weather, has vanished from the Pig. She will be missed by many of us, even those who she kept calling "sir".

I'm up to mini-chapter 29 of what one might call the pre-rough draft of Supplicants, a story which I mentioned in my last post. As I explain on the homepage, this story started out as an attempt on my part to redo a translation of a story by Kafka called "The Supplicant", but it didn't remain that for long. The characters in the Kafka stories are enigmas to the reader and perhaps even to each other, and I suspect that might be much of the point of the story - that in a society in which people don't feel free to speak, that communication breaks down quickly, and one's very sense of self might very well be lost in the artificial solitude that results, and much of one's sanity, with it. If the dialog seems a little incoherent, this is only because the characters are more than a little incoherent, themselves, and perhaps with good reason.

I won't claim that I can write better than Kafka or any other author whose name has come down to us through History, but I will say that I can probably write better than a fair number of translators can; what is in that little yellow paperback that I've been peering into have not been the words of Kafka, himself, but those of an obscure academic. Kafka's voice almost certainly can't survive the process of translation, even if his ideas can. So, I decided to write my own paraphrase of the translation, which is itself nothing but a paraphrase to begin with, and as I did so, felt the urge to play a little game. I decided to let one hear the thoughts of the characters, let one wander into their mental worlds, see the events from their point of view.

The paraphase quickly became a story written about a story, in which I tried to make the seemingly inexplicable words and actions of the characters be seen as understandable as they almost would have to be, from the viewpoints of the characters, themselves. I also decided to place this story on "Hiding in Plain Sight", instead of on my book review site, feeling that Kafka was far too Postmodern in spirit to be a good fit for that site, with its more traditional orientation. Having thus escaped the need to distort Kafka's intentions by making him into a traditionalist (or pre-modernist, if you prefer), I found that I needed to distort them in another, by transplanting the events of the story into a city that, if never named, greatly resembles what present day Chicago would become, after it had been let to rot a while longer than it already has. There are no secret police in Chicago, though there are corrupt cops and plenty of human rights violations, so Jack's - I'd already given names to the characters, Kafka having left them unnamed, in a way that fit characters that were being reduced to being Ciphers by the lives they led, I would think - Jack's motivations needed to be altered for them to make some kind of sense, even from Jack's point of view.

At some point, soon after, I simply accepted that this was going to be a new story. Bits and pieces of Kafka's prose (in very old translation) still exist in the text I have uploaded, albeit no more than would be allowed under fair use even if the translation hadn't already passed into the public domain, but still, enough that my work still isn't entirely my work - a point which I acknowledge in the introduction to the story. Thus the failure of this to even be a rough draft - that won't exist until I've replaced the last bits of the translation, which served as a sort of scaffold on which my rickety new edifice was being erected - have been replaced by prose that I've written myself, in its entirety. I'm not sure that this will make the story entirely better, at least in the short run, but it will make it more unambiguously mine.

There is a satisfaction in that, even if it is a vain one which the far better storytellers of generations past would have viewed with a little scorn, feeling that I had placed my ego before my very amateur art. Perhaps so, but one does have to do what what can feel at least a little bit comfortable doing, and I will be leaving the excised passages on pages that will be linked to from the revised drafts. In principle, if one wishes to spend the time doing so - not that I could imagine why one would want to - one could easily, and without doubts about the validity of one's results, reconstruct the original from the notes I'll leave visible. My provider grants me unlimited bandwidth and storage space, so I would have no reason to remove anything from public view, once I've uploaded, other than maybe some search engine considerations (which I don't picture arising) and the desire to create a mystique about my work, one which even I couldn't greet with anything other than laughter.

These are writing exercises that you're seeing my upload, at least for the first few drafts - nothing more - and I'll let you see all of the drafts. If, as you look at the latest draft, you think "Joe, you ruined it - you should have left it as it was" - you'll still be able to read the story as it was, and link to it. As long as Freewebsites / Artshost lets my site stay up, that link will almost certainly not rot.

As I write this, mini-chapter 29 is the most recent to have been uploaded, and here I'll stop, for a while - stop uploading, not stop writing. Looking over chapter 30, I found that the characters seemed to have enjoyed far more familiarity with each other than the history between them, already seen on the pages of the pre-rough draft, would justify. Some events need to be stuck in between, before I start uploading again, a few intervening mini-chapters, with mini-chapter 30 becoming mini-chapter 50, maybe. These "minichapters" are generally only a few pages long - we're bouncing from one point of view to another fairly quickly - but the plot seems to be breaking into a few natural pieces, and I do have some idea of where I'll be marking the beginnings of the real, full fledged chapters, which I'll leave broken into marked sections.

I feel those are absolutely necessary, in the new story I've built out of the fragments of somebody else's. What you'll find altogether absent in the story is the omniscent narrator - if one slips in style from a would-be screwball comedy as Pat Jones narrates, to something else altogether as another character is heard, this is not because I see the story as a screwball comedy, myself, and then change my mind. It's because the events are what they are, and Jones has imposed his own narrative on events that don't necessarily justify it - his view of reality being filtered through his own expectations and prejudices. Anybody seeing a postmodern point of view of my own in that is greatly mistaken - I very strongly believe in the existence of an objective reality, existing outside of our own points of view. What I deny is the direct accessibility of that reality to us in anything other than a distorted approximation, limited by our own unexamined prejudices and capacities.

The redo of a translation has since drifted, without serious resistence from me, until it has been changed almost beyond recognition into a story of its own. I embrace this. One could do far worse than choose Kafka as an influence, which is what I'm doing by using one of his stories as a starting point. If the Pat Jones narratives reflect an influence that I wish I didn't have, resulting from my careless decision to read a book I don't think very highly of, that influence is there whether I want it to be or not, and all I can do is worth through it, until it is as well buried as possible, and see what good I can extract from it as I do. It's therapy, of a sort.

In subsequent drafts, I will be trying to give each character more of a voice of his or her own, mainly by studying the people I meet in a variety of locations and borrowing some of their mannerisms, and working them into the text, to make what one hears sound more natural. I will be working on improving my choice of reading material - really, buying and reading a bad book just because I overheard somebody saying that I was just like one of the characters in it (which I am not) is just sad. Not vanity in this case, just curiosity, but I should have more self-control than that.

The girl, who in Kafka is mentioned only in passing, is already a character in her own right (Meg); all chapters involving the girl are purely of my own making, as are any that involve any character other than Jack or John. Those who know me personally might hazard a guess as to which of my ex-girlfriends Meg is modeled after. Overall, I'd say none of them. Maybe one can see each of those girlfriends in one of Meg's reactions or another, but if so, only because each of those women had a major impact on the person I became, and I created Meg.

An abrupt end to a post, but time draws short, so I'll pick this up later, with the same built-in warning of navel gazing tedium to come built into the title of the post.

Friday, February 4, 2011

It's about time / Deadjournal / January 07, 2011, 06:21 am

Since there is always at least one person who doesn't get this ... this is an archived copy of a post from the previous copy of this blog, on Livejournal. Please do not misquote me, and say that I'm saying that Deadjournal has been censoring its users. As far as I'm concerned, at the moment, Deadjournal is very, very cool. Livejournal, not so much.

Which is why I'm here.

Yes, I've finally started writing and yes, this should have happened ages ago. The first stories, being of novelette length, aren't going to be posted to the blog. Neither livejournal nor any livejournal clone has static pages, as far as I know, so there's no good way to display a fifty page story on one of these blogs. In these first few stories, I'll be introducing you to a few of the characters and creating the world they inhabit, a place that bears some resemblance to Chicago. The longer stories will be found on the blog homepage, which is currently on, the first of these being Supplicants. As I'm writing this, I have a few hundred handwritten pages to upload, by hunt and peck, and an enthusiasm for that task that can be measured by the fact that I've only transcribed about five pages so far - a fact for which I don't apologize. I got outside more this summer, and that was wonderful.

You might notice a little evasiveness, as I say "the blog" and not "this blog". That's because this blog will probably be moving, most likely to Deadjournal, which certainly won't be offering as nice a look as Livejournal does.  Much like Livejournal didn't offer as attractive a look as Imeem did. This is not a trend that I like. I won't pretend that the reader's experience won't be diminished by this, but ... even with the kind of amateur writing that I'm doing, nothing to be taken too terribly seriously, censorship has to be seen as being a deal breaker. Livejournal, after many assurances that it had learned from its past mistakes, is back at it, again. I'll discuss this in greater detail elsewhere, but let's say that the offending party in this case is one whose name you've probably heard before, and he's doing the same sleazy stuff. For all of the talk about how Livejournal has seen the error of its ways, it's interesting how that guy, whose name keeps coming up in such a horrible way, never gets removed from his post.

The way I read this is that, in each case, Livejournal was far more interested in getting a loud public outcry silenced than it was in honestly learning from those mistakes. This most recent time around, there is one guy being treated very unjustly - with management having been advised of this and refusing to act - maybe there are a few others experiencing the same at the moment, and as blatantly wrong as this is, there isn't going to be an outcry, so Livejournal is not going to back off. Even if they did ... are they going to start having employees enforcing the TOS instead of a group of volunteers? Doubtful, and the implications of this should be obvious to anybody familiar with the expression "putting the inmates in charge of the asylum". Power given to volunteers is going to be abused, as it has been in the past. This is inevitable. The volunteer abusing his position gets a little ego rush from doing so, and if he gets caught, at worst, what does he lose? Not a career, just a chance to volunteer his time. Not much deterrent value in that, especially for those whose motivation in volunteering in the first place, was to get that ego rush.

Somebody might read this and ask, "so do you think that you'll be teaching Livejournal a lesson by walking off". I don't know, and I don't care. What is of greater interest to me is that I'll be walking away from a headache. Livejournal seems to have forgotten this, but the power abusing folk on the Abuse team aren't the only volunteers on this service. Approximately 100% of the content on which Livejournal places its ads, the ads on which its revenue stream depends, are provided by a different, unappreciated class of volunteer - the volunteer writers who fill out the blogs on this site. If Livejournal can't grasp that, and obviously they can't, there are always companies that can and will, and it's not like I'm being paid to take abuse from these folks.

How they'll respond to the fact that they're being criticized in print, I don't know. Note the subscription options in the right margin on this page, none of them powered by Livejournal. These, I can and will update, as I move my blog to a new location. Oh - and yes, I have saved copies of all of my posts, so if this blog should be deleted, Livejournal Abuse will accomplish absolutely nothing other than making itself look even worse than it has in the past. I'll leave this blog up as long as I can, with enough posts visible on it for it to clearly not be an inactive blog, as defined here, or a gateway, but until real reform is seen out of Livejournal, the action is going to be elsewhere.

As it should be.

Which South Park Character am I?

Was it even a question ...

Which South Park character are you??? PICS!
created with
You scored as Kyle

You are Kyle. You have a deep sense of right and wrong and will fight for justice and stand up to just about anyone for what you think is right, well...except your parents. You have a great best friend that you cherish. Just don't obsess about stuff too much because obsession often leads you to in-balance and error. Also be sure to guard your Jew gold with your life!

Kyle 81%
Stan Marsh 81%
Butters 63%
Jimmy 44%
Kenny 38%
Cartman 6%

Ummm, I saw that episode, but still ... Jew gold? Oh, and Butters is third in the listing. I'll try not to think about that one too much.

Chicago Parks and Gardens starting up / Imeem Dec 05, 2007 at 1:58 AM

It's a page I have elsewhere that I'm finally adding some content to, hence this generally out of place image, which links to that location:

The subject matter of the images on this site will be quite different.

First Pointless Post / Imeem, Nov 13, 2007 at 8:32 PM

Have you seen this, already? If so, "this link should get you to your ring, the code for those rings following below, because total webring ring navigability rocks my world. Until recently, this was a very simple post, reading

"Just setting up. Yes, I'm this guy."

the words "this guy" linking to one of my other journals. This was my way of saying "I'm this Joseph Dunphy and not one of the many people who have the same name", something that has, in the past, lead to much confusion and requests for basketball picks and stock tips. In either case, I have no idea.

(I took this. I like photographing flowers, a lot)

Really no idea. "Are you sure that you wouldn't rather I recommend a good book for you to read", I'd wonder. "Dude, cut it out. People will think that you're a nerd" ... imagine that ... "or maybe, umm, something else. How do you feel about showtunes, Joe?" "Why, whatever do you mean?", I'd ask, while digging into a nice, large wheel of brie. It was simply delish. But I digress.

Last night (I'm revising this on March 8, 2009 around 2:51 pm), I clicked on the link and found that Imeem had broken it. The blog was still up, but the link now took the visitor to a page on which Imeem was promoting itself. I tried entering a new link to my other blog on my profile, and found that Imeem's system stripped it away. Originally one read "Current Mood: relaxed", but this is annoying. Creating a simple link to an inoffensive site should not be a problem, and the staff at Imeem has made it one. Why? Is there some war going on between Imeem and Blogger that I didn't know about? Did Sergey Brin not invite these guys to a party? Did Larry Page run off with one of their wives? What's the deal, and why are my visitors being hassled over it?

I used photoshop on this one.

So, Imeem, guys - could we chill it? No more mini-hacks? Linking between sites isn't evil, it's half of the point of even having such things as blogs, or even the Web, itself. When it becomes anybody's guess as to whether or not a link will be hijacked by the service a blog is on, that's a direct attack on what it is that we're all here to do. In effect, the company ends up telling it users "please don't help improve the quality of our site, because we're just going to vandalize your efforts, afterward". Is it smart business to send a message like that?

To everybody else:

If you'd like to return to your ring on or one of its competitors, the code for that ring should be below and who knows - it might even still work, having not been sabotaged by the staff, who I hope will have the sense to understand that these links are what is going to keep traffic coming to this blog. If not, go to this ring return page, and you should be able to find your way back.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Not sure yet

Still deciding what the theme of this new blog shall be. Theme as in topic matter and emphasis, not as in look and feel.