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Still On Holiday — New Version

October 27th, 2006

People are assholes. Not you, obviously. But in general? Assholes.




10/31 Edited to say: Happy Halloween, everyone! Still on vacation from blogging, but wanted to wish you happy holidays. For me, Halloween, not Thanksgiving, is the beginning of the holiday season, so bring on the fudge and eggnog, dammit. We’re going as a devil, a surgeon, an angel and a fairy princess. Who’s who, do you think? I’ll re-open comments in case you want to guess. We’re handing out little containers of Play-Doh (even to the big kids), Reese’s, M&M’s and whatever Costco candy I haven’t already eaten.

Thank you for your kind e-mails, especially the ones regarding your obsession with my past usage of the word “dork” as a nickname for “penis.” Who knew people were writing so many research papers and erotic novels about this? It warms my heart, really. The cockles of it.

From a reader:
(1) Noun. Someone who is not cool. ie. “Bill Gates is a real dork.”
(2) Noun. A penis. ie. “Stop playing with your dork and get out here.”

(1) Noun. Someone who is cool. The opposite of a dork.
(2) Excl. A greeting. Used with a close friend that is considered cool. ie. “Dude!” Origins of this context word can be traced to California. It was originally used in reference to a horse’s penis.

I’m sort of re-thinking what I want to write about here and how, after this situation.

If you’re not up-to-date, dang. You need to read the blogs more often. An anon. writer, who won’t allow comments or e-mails, is taking on the mommy bloggers in a kind of weird way. We’re apparently “whoring” our children and ourselves with all these cute baby pictures and stories, re-tellings of dogs puking and cats peeing all over and work? Or stay home? Pay the electric bill? Or just the phone bill this month? Oh. My. God! The life of a mommyblogger! I must sell my children and more BlogAds. (Damn. Did Erma Bombeck ever have this kind of trouble?)

The writer grabbed photos of some of the bloggers’ kids and photoshopped them in ugly ways on her own site. Not child porn or anything, but just mean and ugly. And what about the children’s privacy and their rights and all? Here, I’ll help by posting an ugly picture of your kid. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me. That’s a great discussion for us to have, if we feel like it, but not in that kind of slambook way. To you, anon. blogger, I say, A penis. ie. “Stop playing with your dork and get out here.”

This is a topic that is both huge and small. My family, my choices; your family, your choices. I don’t run pix of my kids, but I would if I felt like it. I’m a writer first, then a mom and a wife. I just had an interesting talk awhile back with a girlfriend (who also edits and writes) and she said that for her, she’s a mom and wife first, then an artist. But if I’m not an artist first, what good am I to my family? It’s who I am.

For her, another way works better. Her choice, my choice. Look at all the shit Sally Mann has gotten over the years for her photos of her kids. Mann has said, “When the good pictures come, we hope they tell truths, but truths ‘told slant,’ just as Emily Dickinson commanded.”

Does her work traumatize them? Will our writings and photos traumatize our kids? Will they get teased about it in middle school? I dunno, I think having a parent who doesn’t give a shit about you, and who makes absolutely no art, is way more damaging. I can’t imagine growing up in a sterile environment, with parents without any hobbies — gardening, hiking, photography, writing, music, travel, community service, something, anything. It would be bleak, growing up like that. My kids write, play music, do art, have crazy-wild imaginations. I don’t encourage them to be feral (although sometimes they are), but I do encourage them to be free. To think. To create.

The whole thing, the way this blogger handled it, kind of reminded me of my asshole college boyfriend. A bunch of us worked at the college newspaper, and the office was a great set-up for a student — it had a kitchen where someone was always putting on a fresh pot of coffee, a fridge, a smooshy couch (which I frequently crashed on), computers and free phones to use, all the comforts of home and none of the rent. My boyfriend became obsessed with us all leaving our backpacks and purses around while we were in class, or out for beers. “Someone will steal them!” he insisted. “But no one does!” we said. “There’s always someone around keeping an eye on things.” (Which was true, mostly.)

So he took it upon himself to become the thief. He and his idiot buddy gathered up all the purses and backpacks, stashed them, then pretended like they didn’t know what the deal was. Then… “See! I told you!” Except — no one was being an asshole but him and his friend.

So I’m still writing, and avoiding assholes, twenty years later. My family is my muse. I’m no photographer, although I did take some nice fall pix that I might post later. Dooce and Jon are fantastic photographers; I love Zoot’s photos, too, and her web designs. I love Amy’s writing and her photos. I like Jason’s food reviews, even though we live on the opposite coast from the restaurants he’s discussing. I’m a foodie, too; thus the occasional recipe. Someone posted awhile back that they want more political writing from me and less recipes.

Me? I want to be the girl with the most cake. I like what I write about, and how I write about it. I love reading other people’s stuff, looking at their sites, seeing what inspires them. What scares them. Dooce has gotten so much grief for writing about her mental health issues. I am so relieved she writes about this. My entire life has been trying not to talk about my Dad’s schizophrenia, my family’s history of suicide, all these secrets. Dooce is not alone, and she knows that. Me? I’ve finally gotten brave enough to say, “What if he had had brain cancer? Would you criticize him then?” when people feel the need to do the whole “Suide is selfish! How could they have abandoned their families! How could your father abandon you and your sister and mom?” bullshit trip with me. My dad was sick. He is at peace. He is not in Hell, my friend A reminded me the other day. “Hell for him was here on Earth.” (I had just heard the “suicide rant” from some idiot.) A, thank you. I love you.

If you’re not into my blog, or have issues with what I’m doing here, send me an e, or comment, or move along. People have been writing about their families, and making art and taking photos, sometimes of their families, sometimes inspired by their families, for at least a couple of years now. I dunno. Possibly longer. Us mommy bloggers, we invented family, right? And the concept of family? Yeah, buddy. That’s it.

We’re writers, diarists, photographers, poets, artists. Sometime we’re “just” blogging about nursing, and the politics thereof. Boring? Crossing the privacy line? Not to us. We’re just writing (or photographing) what we know.

My favorite Margaret Atwood quote ever:
“Little girls are cute and small only to adults. To one another they are not cute. They are life-sized.”

Some readers have been giving Our Lady of Amalah a hard time for her post, saying she overreacted and yadda-yadda. It bothered her, the blogger who was posting these pix, and she talked about it. That’s not overreacting, that’s just working it out. Here’s a little secret: I make things up.

From Ian Falconer’s “Olivia Saves the Circus”:
“Was that true?” Olivia’s teacher asks.
“Pretty true,” says Olivia.
“All true?”
“Pretty all true.”
“Are you sure, Olivia?”
“To the best of my recollection.”

I don’t mean I’ve invented an imaginary family, or, eh, I don’t really live in Portland, I live on Mars, or at the library… I mean all of this, everything I write, it’s my interpretation. How many times has Hockey God posted on here something to the effect of, “That’s not really how I remember it.” That’s cool, but it’s how I remember it.

My kids have asked me repeatedly to give up writing. “Get your bootah off the computah,” is Wacky Boy’s new catchphrase.

They would rather have me available for endless games of Mexican Bingo or Chutes and Ladders. Or to pour them juice and break out the string cheese and crackers. Oddly enough, they love the blog — they like to dictate stories and watch as their words unfurl on the screen. Yeah, of course they don’t get the whole Internet thing. They don’t get that people in Vietnam and Brazil and Austria and all over are reading my site (I get a ton o’ hits now but hello, all you lurkers? May I ask why you do not comment? Go for it. Or send an e-mail).

My kids like telling stories. You know me — I’ll tell you stories ’til you puke. But it’s my version of reality, not my kids’ and not my husband’s. That’s why it’s copyrighted to me, me, me, and not them. Or you. This is me, exercising my freedom of speech.

People freak out sometimes when they read my fiction because they are convinced that Hockey God is trying to kill me, or that my house was set on fire by the neighbor or that I’m having an affair with the guy I babysit for. (First clue that one isn’t true: I don’t babysit.)

“I’m a liar. I’m a writer. Do you not get this?” I ask. This blog is non-fiction — to me. My husband would most likely disagree. I try to be conscientious and respectful, but I have free rein here. It’s good to have free rein. It’s good to run a little wild.

Anyway, I need a break, but I’ll be back in a couple of weeks — just wanted to explain what was going on in my wacky mind. And I take it back — people in general aren’t assholes. Sometimes they’re just dorks.


  1. edj says

    NOOOOOO!!! Don’t go!!

    October 28th, 2006 | #

  2. Himself says

    Here’s the thing: these commercial bloggers (by which I mean those making a living off their cutesy postings about their little woogums pooping in the pool) are trading their children’s privacy for cold, hard cash. Real money. Sweetney, for example, sells adds through Federated Media at a rate of $20 per CPM (1000 page impressions). With the listed 84,000 page impressions a month and just one ad running, that’s $1,680 a month. She also runs sponsored links. Amalah also charges $20 per CPM, and also runs Google Ads (which are based on click throughs). It’s real money, and the more traffic they generate, the more they make.

    So the real irony is that this little crisis wherein some slacker made fun of her daughter’s hair (oh! the pain! the horror!) increased traffic to their sites dramatically. I wouldn’t be surprised if it doubled for a few days. And remember what I said above: Federated Media charges by page impression. Above the sounds of the maudlin gnashing of teeth that Amalah and Sweetney and all their fawning sycophants were making, I could hear the sound of cash registers ringing.

    Violent Acres, the slam site that parodies the genre, made a point. These women can profit from pimping their kids, and they can also profit from the negative attention they will invariably get when they put the real names and real photos and real locations of their real human children on the World Wide Web. Violent Acres also notes that many bloggers, while refusing to concede the point, have decided to make their children’s photo albums private. Well, good.

    The fundamental issue to me is the violation of a child’s privacy for monetary (and egotistical) gain. It’s not about being an “artist” first, mommy second.

    You, Wacky Mommy, have never posted pictures of your children, or their names. You have done this consciously, out of respect for their privacy. They are human beings and deserve that respect. Thank you for that. Your take on things is more from a literary angle than a “Look at me! I’m cool!” angle, like some of these prom queen rejects and rock star wannabes. I believe Violent Acres has done a service in delivering a wake up call to these other bloggers, who don’t seem to understand that their children are not appendages of themselves to be displayed for profit and fame.

    November 1st, 2006 | #

  3. Wacky Mommy says

    Oh, yeah yeah yeah, you. Don’t insult my friends!

    November 1st, 2006 | #

  4. edj says

    But how is posting your kids’ real names on your blog different from writing a book? Tons of mothers have written memoirs, for example, about their families, and people didn’t go on and on about lack of privacy issues. The fact is, privacy is elusive in our world anyway. I think Violent Acres is jealous of the “big girls” in blogging — the ones getting lots of traffic and lots of attention. Her attack was mean-spirited, and along the lines of when Rush Limbaugh made fun of Chelsea Clinton’s looks. No one got mad at the Clintons — everyone, properly, was outraged at how lame Rush was. I mean, if you think someone’s blog is self-centered and insipid, don’t read it! That’s what I do.

    November 6th, 2006 | #

  5. Himself says

    Commenter edj brings up some points worthy of consideration.

    There are real privacy concerns in both books and blogs, but the memoir vs. mommy blog analogy is faulty. The blogs in question fall far short of the standard of memoir. Rather, they tend to feature the authors wallowing in their own neuroses and displaying pictures of their progeny in the shadows of expensive ads for Kahlua and Hoover vacuums. Tossing off an unedited 500 word stream of consciousness about potty training little woogums sells ads and delights the masses, but it’s not the kind of thing you’d be happy to find in a book.

    There is also a much greater privacy issue with blogs. Unless you explicitly opt-out, everything you publish to the World Wide Web is archived by a nefarious project called the “Internet Archive”:http://www.archive.org/web/web.php . This means that, for example, future generations of wicked pranksters will be able to search on “Leta Armstrong” and find (among many, many other things) “this”:http://web.archive.org/web/200.....index.html charming little tale about how Dooce broke her daughter of the pacifier while comparing her to Robert Downey Jr. and calling her “Leta ‘The Gawker Squawker’ Armstrong”. Oh sure, the Internet Archive allows you to have pages removed from the archive, but there’s one little problem. Dooce has published under a Creative Commons license, which gives everybody (including the aforementioned evil pranksters) an irrevocable right to republish this in perpetuity. Ergo, little Leta is all but guaranteed to have her peers pulling this crap out on her and throwing it in her face as she grows up. If her mother had simply written a memoir, Leta’s peers would probably never find it.

    Privacy elusive? You bet, but especially if your parents trade yours for corporate ad money and fame when you’re a baby.

    There is no doubt that Violent Acres’ attack was mean-spirited, and she probably is jealous to some degree. But her attack had a point. Imagine how much worse it will be when a vulnerable pre-teen Leta has some of this crap dredged up by her peers. Will that be blamed on a slam site? Or will her parents finally start to see their own culpability in compromising their child’s privacy?

    Rush Limbaugh’s attack on Chelsea Clinton is also a faulty analogy, for two reasons. First, the Clinton’s did not become famous by selling Chelsea’s privacy. To the contrary, the were extremely protective of it. Second, Limbaugh had no point, except classless, juvenile humor.

    Generally, I expect blogs to be self-centered and insipid. Mine sure is. What gets me is the selling of children’s privacy. These people evidently have no shame — or no clue. Either way, it’s their children who will ultimately foot the bill. I find that hard to swallow.

    November 6th, 2006 | #

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