A post for Johnny - Happy Birthday!
A book reviewer/librarian named Lisa Guidarini, who lives northwest of Chicago, kept a blog called "Bluestalking" that I liked to read. It was pretty much the inspiration to start my own blog. We emailed back and forth -- virtual friends. Lisa often published interviews with other bloggers; in 2009 she asked to interview me (via email), but never published it. I came across it today at work when I was "cleaning up" my computer, ridding it of personal stuff that really shouldn't be there. So, since I enjoyed reading it, I'm putting it here. I have not paid much attention to blogging lately; partly because I bought a new scanner which I didn't know how to use. Luckily a friend from New York, Ellen, visited me over the long weekend, and her friend, Scott, who has become my friend, gave Ellen a ride up and back; yesterday he -- being really really smart on all things computer -- showed me how to use my new scanner.
I guess my favorite answer is the one of Lisa asking me who is my favorite politician.
(Oddly, being thrilled to have a useful scanner again, this post does not contain anything scanned!)
1. In a few sentences, describe your blog.
Serendipitous? I try to keep on the literature/grave track but I get disorganized or short of time and then will post anything that amuses me, hoping that it might also amuse or interest others.
2. How long have you been blogging?
If you publish this on November 30th it will be on my blog's first anniversary.
3. Why do you blog?
I was a letter writer all my life. I loved writing and receiving letters. I'm still in touch with my Irish penpal, Flo, to whom I first wrote when I was in the 8th grade in 1953! In fact the most recent letter I received was from Flo. But somewhere along the way letter writing went away, succumbing to email, or sometimes to the deaths of my correspondents, so that now I write letters to basically just two people ... Flo in Ireland, and a poet friend in New Hampshire ... and I just learned that Flo is going to get a laptop in the very near future, so maybe I’ll be down to one! But to get back to the question, I think keeping a blog is a good substitute for the letter-writing I used to do. It makes me feel I'm in touch with others via written words.
4. What's the most positive aspect of blogging? Most negative?
The positive is that it's a good past-time. I have no idea how many people read my blog but when someone from Juneau, then someone from Singapore, and then a young man in Australia, and then even someone stationed in Antarctica, comments on the blog or emails me, it gives me a little thrill. Since there were some compliments from outside the USA I was able to refer to myself to my nephew, who likes to tease me, as an "internationally acclaimed blogger."
I'm not sure of any negative except that sometimes I wonder if it's too self-indulgent, ego-based. I've had aims of avoiding that but in the end, at the bottom line, it seems to be all about me.
5. What inspires your blog entries?
A poem or a good book. Or just whimsy. I like to say that I used to paste things in scrapbooks or photo albums but now I just put them on my blog.
6. Do you compose posts ahead of time, or do you write "on the fly"?
Usually ahead of time, and sometimes I'll just copy a passage from old journals I've kept. I like to take a lot of care with composition and now try to make things compact. If I can successfully make a sentence just as clear with fewer words then that's good; I enjoy trying to do that. Even if I write a post "on the fly" I go over and over it until I think I got it down as best as I am capable of getting it down, so on occasion “on the fly” ends up being a long flight.
7. What blogs do you read on a regular basis?
I read Crooks & Liars for political news and commentary; Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic; the blog of a Chinese poet whose name is Fan Jingua; one called BlueGal who is politically funny and does the best satirical videos. I also read something named Driftglass, which has great photoshopping political satire, but I read him (her?) mostly because he says really really mean things about Andrew Sullivan. I guess I love/hate Andrew Sullivan. Hate him because he was a George Bush cheerer (but has reformed) and like him because he finally saw the light; some of his causes, such as gay marriage, and his Catholic faith, bore me. If I were asked if I'm pro-gay marriage I'd have to say no because I'm against the government's sanctioning marriage at all, gay or straight ... it should only be doing civil unions, and let the churches do the marrying. But back to Sullivan, he's a good writer and his stuff is always well thought out. And I read a blog called "A Celebration This is" done by a guy named Peter Steinberg who seems to be as Sylvia Plath-obsessed as I have been and he's an excellent source for not just the best collection of Plath-related photos but also for news about Plath events and books and so forth. And I read you! You're funny and your pictures are great. I want a camera just like you have but I don't want my cat to get pissed off at me and pee on my camera like your cat did.
8. What have you been reading lately? Do you read books, ebooks, or both?
I just finished an excellent novel called "The Uncle From Rome" by a Joseph Caldwell. It was published in 1992 but I just got turned onto it by a friend who's acquainted with Caldwell and she sent me his novel "The Pig Did It" for my birthday. And not long ago I read one of the greatest novels I've ever read -- "The Kindly Ones" by Jonathan Littell. It was a thousand pages of really great writing and astonishing events. Next up is "Garden, Ashes" by Danilo Kis, whom Susan Sontag admired. I'm an admirer of Sontag and I've learned that it is smart to read anything that she recommended.
And, no, I do not read ebooks and never will. I love books for themselves, the feel of them, the look of them, the font on the pages, the heft of them. [2015: I just got a Kindle!]
9. What's your take on the current financial crisis? Who, or what, is to blame?
Beyond simple arithmetic, economics is beyond my understanding, but I think I can fairly assume that the ugly heads of greed are to blame ... I believe, for instance, that Bush went to war in Iraq with the aim of making himself look like a conqueror but also to enrich his friends at Halliburton and Black Water et alia. He supposed it'd be over quicky, but he didn't give it much thought since he wasn't intelligent enough to analyze anything deeply, and then it was handled so badly and has gone on so long that now we're sapped and broke.
10. What music do you listen to? Any favorite artists or genres?
I pay attention to any music and love things from all genres. Some loves: Sinead O'Connor, all of Motown, especially The Supremes, Bob Seger, John Mellencamp, Beatles, Stones, Eminem, George Jones, Neil Young, Merle Haggard, Aretha Franklin, Nirvana, Emmylou Harris, and, lately, Celtic Women! Because the Celtic Women fiddler, Mairead, is my Irish penpal's niece, I had a backstage pass for their concert in Connecticut. Mairead is gorgeous and lovely and the show was for me a two-hour swoon, beautiful and flawless.
11. Where do you get your news?
I read the New York Times every day but Sunday. I read Huffington Post for free and don't really need the expensive $2 Times but for something like fifty years I've been going out for breakfast and a newspaper. When the Times went up to $2 I swore I was going to boycott it, but I just can't seem to break the habit.
12. Are you reliant on any technical devices (iPod, Blackberry, etc.)?
No. I don't want to learn further technical stuff.
13. What is your political leaning? Do you consider yourself affiliated with a particular party?
Total bleeding-heart liberal. My favorite politician is Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont, a Socialist. I'm registered as an Independent but always vote Democratic.
14. Do you consider yourself religious?
Not at all. Kind of spiritual or pantheistic.
15. Have you done any foreign traveling? Favorite destination?
Maybe 15 trips to Europe, most of them to Ireland. I love all of Europe for sight-seeing but there's nothing like forty-nine shades of green. In May I went to Provence and it was amazingly beautiful. Mexico twice and Canada countless times.
16. What is your personal philosophy of life? Is there a meaning, to you?
My philosophy is a bunch of scattered ideas from a mixture of disciplines. I know of no extraneous meaning to life. I like to say I'm an existentialist but it's difficult for me to even define that beyond saying "there's no meaning prior to existence" but I figure if it was good enough for intellectual giants like Sartre and Camus (some Camus essays I've read 15 or 20 times) it's good enough for me. So, beyond the mundane such as "do unto others ..." I don't have a particular philosophy. I do like to say that I am a follower of Christ but not a capital-c Christian.
17. Aside from your blog, do you do any other writing?
Not now. I've written maybe twenty or thirty short stories but think only 2 or 3 are much good. I'd like to have written novels but, like Sylvia Plath, I have no subject but myself, and a good bit of the time even I find myself tiresome. I've done lots of mini-memoirs and casual essays which I recycle sometimes for my blog.
18. If you could orbit the earth in Richard Branson's spaceship (or any other that takes civilians), would you?
Absolutely not. I want to go only to places where there's civilization and culture, and I want nothing to do with the likes of Richard Branson.
19. Do you consider yourself adventurous, in general?
Only slightly so.
20. Have you ever met a celebrity? Who, and when?
I had dinner with Skeeter Davis in the mid-sixties. I'm still swooning. And the film-maker John Waters is my friend since 1973.
21. Do you watch television? Favorite programs?
I'm addicted to college basketball. Otherwise I love Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. I like to say I've never watched a sitcom, they just bore me, but it's not exactly true as once I was a visitor in a home and "Sienfield" was on (and actually funny). Another time in the sixties "All in the Family" was on someplace I was visiting and that episode was really stupid.
22. Have you ever been on television? In the newspaper?
Never been on television. Was in the weekly newspaper in a small Indiana town in 1940 because I was born on New Year's Day. I was born on a Monday; the paper came out on Thursday and it said "the little chap has not been named as yet."
23. Who are your favorite writers -- please list three or four.
Marcel Proust, Violette Leduc, Jean Genet, Sylvia Plath, Albert Camus, Amos Oz, Gunther Grass, Julia Older, Orhan Pamuk (but only for "Istanbul") and V.S. Naipaul (but only for "The Enigma of Arrival". Sorry not to honor your “three or four” request.
24. What is your astrological sign? Does it reveal anything about you?
Capricorn. I don't know much about astrology, but I do believe absolutely that some people can see into the future.
25. What's the single greatest/biggest world event to have happened in your lifetime?
Sad to say but I suppose that'd be the elevation of George W. Bush to the Presidency, for I think he is a really stupid man, and he set our country, and thus the world, on such a downward spiral that I'm not confident that recovery is possible. I guess that to bring a country to its knees is a big event.
Otherwise I was absolutely obsessed with the Patty Hearst kidnapping and trial. I love all sensational journalism! Oh, I said I was never on television, but I used to stand over the shoulder of Hearst's lawyer F. Lee Bailey when he was addressing the press and then I'd run to a friend's house to watch me on the evening news. And now I remember another time when I was sitting in the front row of a basketball game between Duke and Kentucky and Duke's Danny Ferry, 6'10" and 230 pounds, got tripped and stumbled out of bounds and fell on me; my friend's mother saw it on TV and was worried about me. I guess I'm just an ounce's worth of dignity away from becoming one of those idiots who stand outside 30 Rockefeller Center in the freezing cold and wave at a camera during a morning show. Oh, god … all in all I'm pitiful.
26. Who is a personal hero of yours, and why?
I'll have to get back to you on that. Not sure I have any.
27. Do you enjoy cooking? Any specialties?
Not really. I always imagine I'd like to cook gourmet stuff but so far I haven't progressed beyond a decent Beef Stroganoff. I make excellent pies. For dinner tonight I went to the local market and bought a slab of meatloaf in the deli section.
28. What do you do to relax?
Read. Walk in the woods.
29. Do you have a college degree or degrees?
Nope. It hardly seriously occurred to me that I might go to college. Having a job to make payments on a red convertible with a white top was my priority.
30. What is your profession, if you're currently employed?
Was in restaurant business most of my life ... waiter, bartender, bookkeeper, and co-owned three different businesses. Am now too old to work hard and am an administrative clerk in the Headquarters of a park. It's the perfect job for me. It's easy, it gives me reason to get out and be among people, and I find that I'm really good at menial tasks. I enjoy my job enough that sometimes I'm disappointed when there's a holiday and I don’t get to go to work.
31. In what area of the world do you live? What's the best and worst thing about it?
I live on Cape Cod. It's gorgeous. The worst thing is probably that everything is too costly and there're too many golf courses drenched with fertilizer that's spoiling the ponds.
32. If money were no object, where would you live?
Four months of the year in NYC, three months in Ireland, three in France, and two months visiting scattered friends and family.
33. If you were forced to evacuate your home, what possessions would you grab on your way out the door?
After I got the dog and cats out, I guess I'd grab my computer. I live on it now. I've set out to store my entire life on it. It's a cryin' shame but that's how it is.
34. What value, moral, or principle do you think is most important in life?
"Do unto others ..." Do not be greedy. Be loyal to good friends and good family.
35. Any plans for your next vacation?
Forty-nine shades of green.