Recently I may have inadvertently offended another blogger in a casual comment. I have a special knack for doing that, especially these days when I’m peeking in on the fly and want to pay my respects by leaving a thought, without thinking through how that thought might be construed by someone who doesn’t know that I mean well.
All of this is to say to that person and anyone else to whom it applies, I apologize.
Yesterday I saw the story of Meatball on the news. Meatball’s story is just one example of what I was trying to convey in my comment on the topic of making money through blogging.
In the comment thread, I eventually I went, as I often do, to song lyrics, this time from perennial favorite, David Wilcox (the American one). I quoted the following lines from “Sacred Ground,” which compares music to sex. I was extending that to writing, particularly this new trend of blog magazines, group blogs, many of which have the intent of becoming profit-making:
First, you do it for love/Then you do it with friends/But when you do it for money/Right there’s where the innocence ends.
I want to emphasize that I wish everyone and anyone all the success they desire and deserve.
My point is that the game changes — and it’s no longer a game, or it can be an expensive one — when you turn just about any hobby or recreational activity into a profit-making venture.
Admittedly, I’m painting this with extremely broad strokes, but personal bloggers tend to get away with what could be construed (wow, that must be my word-of-the-day) as intellectual property violations that commercial enterprises would not.
Meatball’s story illustrates that point. Here’s how I understand it, based on the story on the CBS Morning News, which you can watch by clicking here.
A 400-pound bear was seen meandering around Los Angeles and in at least one video he was seen eating meatballs, which earned him the nickname, “Meatball.”
A creative Meatball fan named Sarah Aujero set up a Twitter account in Meatball’s name and “gave him a personality.” Meatball’s personality, courtesy of Sarah’s creativity, earned him a reprieve from being euthanized by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Meatball Awareness (no tm, yet) earned Meatball a home at a San Diego wildlife sanctuary, Lions and Tigers and Bears.
Then things took a turn. (If I had time, I’d insert a “ka-ching” sound, but I’d need to research the copyright issues involved.)
According to the CBS news feed . . .
“Aujero came to visit as much as she could and donated more than $2,000 to build Meatball a new enclosure through the sale of special t-shirts and tote bags. She eventually decided to copyright Meatball’s name, in hopes of a children’s book in the future, but that’s when it got ugly.
The animal sanctuary already had a book in the works and wanted Aujero to sign over the legal rights to the Meatball name. ‘We didn’t want to get in a position where we’ve sold merchandize(sic) and then we owe somebody proceeds from it,’ said Brink.
Aujero told “CBS This Morning”: ‘It was never my attention to profit from Meatball. All I wanted to do was help save his life and share his story.’”
I’m not trying to squash anyone’s dreams, nor am I offering legal advice. I’m not saying Aujero wouldn’t have been sitting across from Charlie, Nora, and Gayle humbly sharing her story of “just a simple Twitter feed that became a bestselling children’s book” while on tour promoting her children’s book. I’m not saying that the two sides won’t work it out to be mutually profitable between them, and the bear? Well, he doesn’t get euthanized. So there’s that.
I’m just pointing out that a group of folks entertaining each other on social media is one thing. Potential intellectual property violations seem to be overlooked all the time. But when money comes into the picture, things can take a turn pretty quickly.
Hopefully, creativity and fun and a passion for what you’re doing will sustain you. I just think it helps to go into it knowing that the issues can become complicated and expensive.
So, to you whom I offended, I apologize. I truly meant well, and I wish you the best. I promise to be the first one to buy your t-shirt or children’s book or whatever comes from your dream coming true.
I taught middle school early in my career, at the beginning of the movement to “mainstream” students receiving special education services, moving them from a self-contained classroom environment into the general classroom population.
Jeff was a sixth grader in one of the classes I team-taught with the Special Ed department chair. Try as we might, we couldn’t get Jeff to participate in class assignments. We couldn’t get him to pick up a pencil, much less the curriculum-required blue or black ink pen.
We couldn’t get him to dictate a story or a response to a question. We tried modification after modification, parent conferences, team conferences.
We worked hard to get a computer so that he could use a word processor. Even bribery (yes, it’s in the teacher bag-o’-tricks). Nothing.
He wasn’t a bad student, or a bad kid. He just didn’t want to do anything – seemingly because we wanted him to. We sensed he was probably fairly bright, but we were locked into a “Do it. / I Won’t” cycle that had probably been a pattern for him for years. (Apparently there had been a BIG power struggle – not just for Jeff but also for many of his peers — with their fifth grade teacher over writing in cursive. )
We could tell by watching him that he was taking things in and had some thoughts about it all. He just was not going to share and we couldn’t find a way to make it worth his while to do so.
I experienced many moments of feeling like an abject failure, and if it hadn’t been for the highly skilled, seasoned professional with whom I worked, I might have arrived at that conclusion early on and given up on both Jeff and on myself.
Although she felt the same frustration, my co-teacher had been through many similar challenges, so we didn’t give up on him. We did come to accept that we weren’t going to get much, if anything from him, but still we tried, hoping that some day something would click, even if we weren’t there when it happened.
For assessment purposes, the final exam diamante differed from the traditional form in that it had to include a metaphor, a simile, three verbs, and a summarizing statement of fact, all describing the writer. To achieve the diamond shape, the diamante began with the writer’s first name on line one and ended with the writer’s last name on the final line.
Exam day came, and Jeff showed up without a pen or pencil, much less a diamante. He sat through the entire session with the Scantron (“the bubble sheet”) in front of him. I don’t recall whether he even bothered to write his name.
He turned in a sheet with a few random bubbles filled in, left the room, and that was the end of our time together. There wasn’t much for my co-teacher and me to do or say about it. That was that.
Then, at the end of the day, I found a crumpled up piece of paper tossed on my desk at the back of the room. I opened it to find this diamante, which I have kept ever since in a little frame on whatever desk where I find myself.
Although I’ve altered the names for privacy’s sake, it is written in ink and was signed…in cursive. . . by someone who taught me a lesson worth remembering:
You never really know what’s going on with a person and people will surprise you in the nicest ways.
A traditional diamante begins and ends with nouns that are opposites. The poem can be used in two ways, either comparing and contrasting two different subjects, or naming synonyms and antonyms for another subject.
The subject is named in one word in the first line. The second line consists of two adjectives describing the subject, and the third line contains three verbs ending in the suffix -ing which are related to the subject. A fourth line then has four nouns, again related to the subject, but only the first two words are related the first subject. The other two words describe the opposite subject the lines then are put in reverse, leading to and relating to either a second subject or a synonym for the first.
The trouble with grandmothers began when I came across a postcard published in 1965 that featured a picture of my grandmother standing in front of her restaurant. So much about that postcard intrigued me, even beyond my initial reaction, which was that in 1965 she was about the same age that I was as I stood there holding it. In the photograph she already looks like my grandmother, whereas as recently as just a few days ago, some new acquaintances were surprised to learn that I am older than dirt.
I wondered why the postcard existed in the first place. Surely she didn’t have an advertising budget and even if she did, she wasn’t the type to pose front and center to advertise anything. One of the few things I did know about my grandmother is that she was even more guarded about her privacy and less inclined to want to be at the center of anything than I am. In fact, even as I type this sentence, I imagine some lightning-fast cosmic slap on the wrist coming across the dinner table for a breach of etiquette and discretion. My grandmother did not suffer fools.
So many ideas came to mind about the way the building has changed and yet remained the same in an area that has changed but also has remained the same and the parallels to the ways my grandmother’s life and mine are different and yet are the same.
Sportsman’s Restaurant with Mom’s Home Cooking. My grandmother was Mom.
Ledo’s Pizza. My grandmother was not Ledo. Whoa-oh-oh-whoa-ohhhh.
That post never came about.
Because of you.
Well, not so much you as . . .you.
Those of you who, if you’ve even read this far at all, might be wondering, “When’s she going to get to the punch line?”
The fact is there was one, in the caption of that second photograph. I removed it out of respect for my grandmother. I’m leaving the caption because it was just as I tried to remove it that my keyboard stopped working and I had to replace the batteries for the first time in however many years I’ve owned it. I choose to take that as her nod to Boz Scaggs rather than as a cosmic slap on the wrist. She did have a whimsical side.
Back to you.
The timing wasn’t right for a serious, reflective post at the time that the postcard came to me. Either I’d just written something silly and had picked up a number of new followers who might be thinking they’d found another humor blog and would be disappointed . . . or I’d just written something serious and reflective and I thought it best not to ask you to endure too much of that.
I spend a good deal of time thinking about how the audience I’m building shapes the topics I choose, the form that it takes, and the purpose of writing it at all. In fact, it tends to shape the purpose of the blog itself. When I set out to write a blog, I didn’t anticipate any of these things. I just intended to have a place to say things.
So I filed away the postcard and the related musings because it seemed time for something light and funny.
Abuelita tells the story of the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo through the voice of a grandmother talking to the grandchild she has never known.
(photo credit: Silvina Frydlewsky/For The Washington Post)
Rosa Tarlovsky de Roisinblit’s picture puts a face to the story in the song. She is now 92 years old and every day she goes to work, continuing the search for her own daughter, Patricia Julia Roisinblit, and the grandchild she has never known, as well as about 400 still-missing children and grandchildren kidnapped by a military junta supporting a dictatorship in Argentina from 1976 to 1983.
There was so much in this experience of reading this article about these grandmothers, putting a face to the story that has touched me in song for such a long time, that I wanted to write about. But again, I decided to wait for another day.
Once again the timing wasn’t right for something so deep. You, whoever you are — either for real or in my mind, expect different writing from ”the Hipster” .
I Need Younger Friends
Earlier this summer I came closer to finally having an audience-worthy post about grandmothers. First a friend of mine who is younger than I am became a grandmother. I found this somewhat difficult to comprehend. I still find this difficult to comprehend.
Then a few weeks later I was in a car with several other friends, all hip, cool, totally righteous babes, who were trading updates on . . . their grandchildren. One turned to me, flashed her gorgeous Faith Hill-lookalike smile and said, “Sorry, you’re with the old folks tonight. You’ll have to put up with this grandmother stuff,” to which I replied, “Yeah, I was just thinking I’m going to have to start looking for younger friends” and then we giggled and went about laughing in the face of osteoporosis.
You might have liked that story. It’s more what I imagine you expect from me. Still, it was lacking something.
A grandmother to the rescue. ((PHOTO) Twitter: @selirebekka6 via Christian Post)
You may remember this story from a few weeks ago. Queen Elizabeth II made the headlines when she was spotted driving her Range Rover wearing a hoodie.
What to the world was Her Royal Thugness was to me a grandmother doing what grandmothers do: taking care of her own.
Before there was Topless Kate, there was Bottomless Harry, who learned the hard way that what happens in Vegas does not necessarily stay in Vegas when one is extraordinarily famous, wealthy, and unclothed.
All the world was a-Twitter with news of Prince Harry’s naked bachelorette party romp and then, in what seemed to me to be a fabulously well-timed photo op, the Queen was spotted rollin’ in style.
Suddenly Harry’s youthful indiscretion was old news and the Queen’s fashion statement was the new shiny thing that captivated us.
Maybe it’s because of the women of her generation that I’ve known, most of whom have been dignified and refined ladies, yet tough as nails and full of spunk.
I imagined them in her same position thinking, “Oh dear. How shall we handle THIS mess?” and then taking matters into their own hands. I couldn’t help thinking that when I saw these pictures. It amused me, and I thought if I wrote about it, I could share that amusement.
But I didn’t.
Because of me.
I was glad to have finally come upon the grandmother post that was appropriate for the blog and I probably would have written it as HoodieGate was unfolding if not for real life issues of time or whatever else was going on.
By the time I did start to write it, I saw these other grandmother ideas that I was discarding in favor of the silliness about the Queen (God save her for saving Harry) and I started to think about how many ideas I would write about that are important or at least interesting to me that I don’t write about because they don’t “fit” with the blog’s “purpose.”
Like many others I see writing on this issue, I don’t know what the blog’s “purpose” is. I know what I intended it to be: a place for me to say things.
Somewhere along the line, I wrote something that resonated with the kindness of strangers as “humorous” and I started to pick up followers (this still amazes me and I very sincerely thank you). I started to choose topics and then write in a voice and format that I thought would appeal to that audience and more and more began to discard the other ideas that are equally, if not more so, reflective of who I am and what I think about.
When I realized I was discarding ideas that really ‘coulda been contenders,’ I was a little disappointed in myself for not writing true to who I am. When I step back and look at the blog as a whole, I remember the response of the first person I showed my first post to. It was someone whose opinion mattered to me. He laughed as he read it, but then when he finished, he looked at me and said, “Who would read this stuff?”
I’m so thankful to you, yes you. . . and you. . . and even you, for reading my posts, even if from time to time, I post something that doesn’t resonate with your particular kindness.
I still find myself lacking any particular purpose, but maybe the search for purpose is a purpose unto itself.
I imagine my grandmother reading that line and thinking, “Get yourself out of that chair and get to work.”
The woman did not suffer lazy, introspective fools.
(This post is a follow-up of sorts to an earlier post on using a pre-writing thought process based on FATP in the process of writing for a blog. You can find that post here. )
I can’t help it. You know how it is when you’re basking in the glow of newfound love. You just want the world to know.
You want to spend all your time together getting to know your new love, discovering all the little things that make him (or her)* special. All day you find your mind drifting to the next time you’ll be together, striking out to explore the world from a new perspective, or remembering the special moments from that last time.
You drift off to sleep at night thinking about how lucky you are and you can’t wait to get up in the morning to see him (or her)* again.
Truth be told, I’m old enough to have been around the block a time or two, so I’m still a little cautious, but optimistic. It’s not just my new love: I’m not sure of myself, either. Can I take proper care of him (or her)*? If I learn to do everything right, will I end up getting hurt anyway?
It’s like riding a bike. This gender-neutral one. One of my favorite things.
I mean, things look good, but looks can be deceiving. Before we go too far, I want to be sure there’s not a slow leak in that front tire.
I had to take that tire off to get him (or her)* home and the owner’s manual strongly cautions about making sure the tire is properly attached, which only makes sense.
The brakes seem just fine, but the streets around here are flat. I don’t want to be headed downhill, carried away with the thrill of new love, headed toward water or a major intersection, when I find out things aren’t what they seem.
I have a plan, though, which led to the serendipitous discovery in the next and final piece of the three-part series, “A Few Of My Favorite Things.”
*For lack of an appropriate singular gender-neutral pronoun other than “it.”
To you it may be just a paper clip. To me, it’s a serendipitous emblem of hope, a curious mix of mystery and possibility.
It came into my life last week. Of all the copy rooms in all the offices in this bureaucratic, document-infested town, this paper clip wandered into mine.
I don’t know how it got there. I don’t know where it belongs. All I know is somewhere someone must be missing it. It’s too special to end up sitting in a communal supply bin, hoping for rescue from the miasma of ordinary office supplies.
There it was, carelessly tossed among the utilitarian metal clips, disregarded, possibly even envied by its fancier plastic neighbors, so obviously out of place but with nowhere else to be.
There I was, attending to my own administrative tasks after normal business hours, both of us out of place in this fluorescent-lit machine room.
For my part, I come here often, and when I do, I always check the bin for plastic paper clips.
I’ve been hoarding them for some time now, ever since the Great Recession forced our supply room to stop stocking plastic clips as a cost-cutting measure. Thanks to a highly placed ally and these stealthy procurement runs, my secret mission to maintain a steady stock of plastic paper clips has met with quiet triumph for almost four years.
Until this one appeared, a good catch was a handful of large plastic clips, which are slightly more precious to come by. When I surreptitiously cast my glance across the counter, I never suspected spying this. To say it is the coolest paper clip ever to have entered this room is a gross understatement.
Not only does it combine the durability of metal with the color and pliability of plastic, it’s guitar-shaped. You don’t just come by guitar-shaped paper clips any day of the week. It has to be special to someone, which means it’s quite possible someone else around here appreciates guitars. Or maybe music in general. Or maybe just fun paper clips.
Still, this is a rough-and-tumble town. This paper clip should be cherished, not haphazardly attached to meaningless documents and tossed in a bin, like so many everyday metal fasteners. I’ve taken it home, where it has been sitting on the sideboard. Every time I pass by it, I smile.
It’s a really groovy paper clip. For now, it’s one of a few of my favorite things.
This post is the first of a three-part series of “A Few of My Favorite Things,” the Weekly Writing Challenge on WordPress. Serendipity is one of my favorite things*, if a bit more abstract than would be in keeping with the spirit of the challenge. So I went with paper clip.
The challenge topic gave me a framework for writing about three things that have come my way recently through the beauty of serendipity, which, as you may recall (*because I just said so), is one of my favorite things. I just love it when things fall into place like that.
It makes little sense that I remember her fondly. She was cranky and dour. The thunder of her condescendingly didactic reprimands belied her tiny, withering frame. Very early in our acquaintance, I came to appreciate that she was justified in the less flattering traits. They are the reasons I smile when she comes to mind.
I wasn’t in the habit of giving my professors nicknames, but for whatever reason, in no way intentionally connected to a former First Lady, the name Lady Bird occurred to me and I couldn’t make it stop occurring. Her husband then was Mr. Bird.
When she couldn’t hear what we were saying, it was Mr. Bird’s fault because he’d forgotten to change the battery in her hearing aid. You got the sense that, unless his hearing were similarly uncharged, Mr. Bird would be getting an earful when class was over.
Mr. Bird was already retired, while she had to eek out one last lousy semester due to changes in the university’s retirement system. As much as she had loved her work, she didn’t want to be slogging through Chaucer with another group of unappreciative 20-somethings any more than most of us wanted to be there. She had things she wanted to do in life. We were suffocating her.
Having grown up with a vision-impaired parent, I understood her crankiness born of her inability to be as fully engaged as she would have liked.
Having things I wanted to do in life, I understood her impatience with having to eek out one last lousy semester.
One day she stood at the front of the class and recited the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales in Middle English. Recited, not read.
I followed along in the text and as best I could tell, she nailed it. She had every right to be condescendingly didactic. Boy, did she know her Chaucer.
She amused me, fascinated me, and terrified me. These days, I couldn’t recite more than the first line from the Prologue (something to do with April showers), but the best and worst thing Lady Bird did was to leave an imprint in my consciousness about passive voice. Whenever I see or hear it, I think of Lady Bird and I wish I had a nickel.
When she returned our first set of papers, she was livid. Livid, I tell you.
In total disgust, she complained at a volume that indicated Mr. Bird had shirked his battery-changing duties yet again, ”If I had a nickel for every time you people used passive voice, I could retire today.”
I was amused. And terrified. And fascinated.
What on earth was passive voice? Was I guilty? What was so bad about it that this diminutive, otherwise harmless academic would be so enraged by it? In those days, you had to find a grammar book or go to the library to figure this out. Times were tough.
I scoured my paper. No comments about passive voice. Did that mean I wasn’t guilty, or had she just grown tired of writing about it by the time she got to my dribble?
And so it went with the next set of papers. Same complaint.
. . .If I had a nickel for every time you people used the passive voice, I could retire today.
A professor’s pension
If I was one of the passive aggressors, I was starting to feel a bit guilty about not paying up, thereby keeping this woman from enjoying her golden years. If I wasn’t one of them, I was starting to get indignant with them on her behalf.
She never told us what passive voice was. I don’t know whether that was because she considered that the responsibility of composition teachers, who had very clearly failed us, or if she just didn’t hear us asking. Her job was to teach us medieval English literature and to get through this last lousy semester.
I don’t know how many papers we wrote, but every time she handed them back, we got the nickel speech. Eventually it was more amusing than terrifying.
At the end of the semester, I bought a decorative jar and we filled it with nickels to present to her with a cake and some flowers. Lady Bird spent that last class telling us about her plans, which sounded more like work to me, but work that she was passionate about.
I like to think that when we wished her well and thanked her for the semester, she heard every word.