two links, and a tiny bit of disorganization

So. I had this new thing, Seven Sentence Sunday, and I was going to go through my works to date, and pull a seven-sentence chunk from each…

Well, I made two weeks in a row! A two-week streak! Then I got a little distracted by finishing my story(!!) and so on, and here we are. Somewhat after Sunday.

This Sunday, the one that’s coming up, definitely back on the track — in fact I have a kind of interesting idea for that — but for now here are two links that I thought were worth checking out:

1) “Is Romance Devolving?—50 Shades vs. No One Puts Baby in a Corner

This is from Kristen Lamb’s blog, and it apparently hit a nerve, because it was posted earlier today and already it’s got 187 comments (and seven more just as I’ve been writing this post), plus a ton of reblogs and so on.

Added later (another good post on this subject, including the insidious implication of opening the film on Valentine’s Day): “Fifty Shades of Something That Ain’t Love

And here is the comment I left on Kristen’s post:

I saw an article on Huffington Post yesterday (no link – they’re getting no clicks from me) saying that women should take their husbands or boyfriends to see this, so the guys can learn positive lessons (Christian is attentive to her moods, Christian is monogamous and makes it clear to other women that he’s in a committed relationship, etc.).

Words actually fail me as to how wrong this is. Not that those are bad lessons, but talk about missing the big picture.

2) “How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life

Definitely a cautionary tale (a friend on Facebook posted a link saying she was about to close her Twitter account after reading this).

Not to excuse the tweet itself (“Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”), which shows the tweeter to be, at best, pretty clueless, and quite possibly a lot worse.

But I would have a couple of questions for the people who all went after her with such relentless zeal:

1) So, you woke up this morning and looked at the state of the whole world, every bit of it, and you decided that, out of everything bad you saw, this was the thing that most deserved your enthusiastic condemnation?

2) So, you never ever in your life said something that you realized later was remarkably dumb and probably offensive?

Also, I think Ms. Sacco is making a big mistake here:

“To me it was so insane of a comment for anyone to make,” she said. “I thought there was no way that anyone could possibly think it was literal.”

Obviously this is after-think on her part, but there is nothing so “insane” that some people somewhere don’t believe it. You can’t make humor work that way in a mass medium. After all, some people don’t believe the Holocaust ever happened, or 9/11, or the moon landing, or they think Paul McCartney died in 1966 and was replaced by a double (I’ve known people who believed that). And, referring specifically to the topic of AIDS, there were certainly a lot of people who thought that only gay men could get the disease. Maybe some people still think that. I’m sure there’s somebody out there who thinks Miley Cyrus is a Martian (as far as I know this is not true — it’s an example for illustration purposes only).

  Anyway, I want to tell a little story about a friend of mine named Walter. This was pre-Web (you know, the early Paleolithic era), and what we had then was dial-up BBSs (Bulletin Board Systems). You dialed in to the BBS (which was basically a computer with a phone line in somebody’s apartment), saw the various conferences (organized by subject) on your screen, and you read some messages and responded if you wanted to, and then logged off, leaving the line clear for the next caller.

The tone varied a lot from BBS to BBS, but when you get people all writing the first thing that comes into their heads and publishing it immediately… well, we see every day what that leads to.

Walter wanted something very different, so he emphasized (and pretty much required) offline reading. People would download a packet of messages (everything since their last visit), log off, read and respond at their leisure, using a program called an offline reader, and then upload the replies later.

And the tone (and intellectual level) on Walter’s blog (named AMI) was very different. Certainly not all serious — there was plenty of goofiness, but almost no personal attacks or dumb remarks. For example, there was a religion conference (many BBSs didn’t even have a religion conference — because they were usually pretty childish), and the two main participants were an Orthodox Jew and a Born Again Christian (born Jewish, as I recall). The rest of us were pretty quiet there, not because it was nasty but because it was serious and thoughtful and on a very high level. I seldom participated because I didn’t know enough.

When you take your time, think about what you’re writing — that makes all the difference. Every day, when writing online or even when writing emails at work, I think about Walter and the important lessons I learned from him.

I was going to post this right away, but I think I’ll save the draft and read it over in the morning, just to be sure…

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