The Death of Lifeblogging

This post on Sushi’s blog is about why she stopped “lifeblogging” (defined as keeping an online diary or, obviously, blogging about life). She must have read my mind because I had been thinking about the days when I used to chronicle my entire life online (a very unwise move, but I was younger and dumber back then).

I didn’t have my own computer until my freshman year of college, so before that, all my “lifeblogging” was on paper and therefore unseen by the rest of society unless someone was sneaky enough to go digging through my things. (So you can’t call that a blog at all. ‘Twas a diary.)

In my freshman year of college, I was on GreatestJournal, where I used to post extremely long entries about my life, which consisted of college, my then-boyfriend and his nutty antics, and an assortment of high school frenemies whose drama I still followed like it was a torrid soap opera. What’s especially mortifying to my present-day self is that these entries used to be public, and anyone could easily find them. Somewhere down the line, I realized this and made all the entries private, but that didn’t matter much because even the stuff you mark as private can be easily seen and/or made public. I kept on with GreatestJournal until the site shut down, then moved on to a series of other sites that weren’t as “great,” but I continued to uphold my private “lifeblog,” at least until college ended and “real life” began.

As Sushi says in her post, life after high school and college is a lot more boring. Nothing really happens. Friends, excitement, and activities are harder to come by because a lot of people are busy trying to launch their careers. So Sushi didn’t lifeblog as much as she used to… and neither did I. I stopped mainly because of privacy issues; I didn’t want to run the risk of a potential employer (or anyone else, really) finding the embarrassing stuff I used to spew on the Internet. I returned to “lifeblogging” on paper as I had done during high school, and eventually even that stopped that because nothing interesting ever happened. An entry would go something like this: “Today, I went to work. Work was [boring, busy, a madhouse, normal, frustrating, interesting, amusing]. Then I went home and worked on [insert title of current WiP]. I went to bed and dreamed about [something banal, usually a rehash of what happened at work].”

Lifeblogging may be dead for me, but I’m sure it’s alive and well (if not in long form, then in short form like Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr) for the current generation of college students who have fast typing fingers and lots of free time!

Pretentious Poets

This article about the North Carolina poet laureate’s resignation got me thinking about poetry in general, which I don’t usually think about that often because I stopped writing poetry a couple of years back. So the backstory is that NC governor Pat McCrory appointed a self-published poet, Valerie Macon, who has only two books to her name, as poet laureate. The “real” poets revolted because Macon is self-published and because McCrory bypassed the typical selection process for a poet laureate, so in all the hubbub, Macon resigned her post. I doubt McCrory has ever read or analyzed a poem in his life, but that’s irrelevant because… how many North Carolinians (or Americans, for that matter) read poetry regularly? How many people pay attention to who the poet laureate of their state is? To be honest, I sure don’t.

I understand that the poet laureate is supposed to represent the writers and poets of the state, and I understand that self-published writing is inferior to traditionally published writing much of the time. Even so, I dislike that the poet laureate “should be” some academic who’s been holed up in an ivory tower for most of his/her life. As “inferior” as Macon’s poetry supposedly is, I’m sure her writing comes 100% from the heart and hasn’t been meticulously crafted and edited to within an inch of its life so that it is inoffensive, “tolerant,” and tailored to suit a liberal university readership who will analyze it until it’s gray and tired.

To me, poetry is about taking the jumbled mess of emotions from inside of your subconscious mind and transforming them into something meaningful, whether that meaningfulness is for only the poet or other like-minded people. Maybe I’m interpreting this entire incident the wrong way, but for me, poetry is like any writing… at best, it should be honest. That’s not to say that more “professional” and widely published poets’ work is dishonest, but I don’t think the quality of work or the “legitimacy” of the poet should be judged solely on how many literary journals his or her work has been published in or how many “certifications” he or she has.

Night Film (Review)

I got a lot of enjoyment from reading Marisha Pessl’s Special Topics in Calamity Physics, so I was excited to read her second novel, Night Film, which is supposed to be a “literary” murder mystery/thriller about an investigative journalist who’s searching for the full story of a mysterious film director whose 24-year-old daughter recently committed suicide. You could also call the book “postmodern” because the text was interspersed with pictures, news articles, and snippets of paper to give the events a more realistic feel. I didn’t have a strong opinion on these “extras”; it was nice to have some breaks in the text, but I think the book would have been just fine without them.

I admit, the only reason I read the book was because I enjoy and admire Pessl’s writing. She has an incredible way with words and an intelligent wit that I wouldn’t mind bringing into my writing. Normally, I don’t like the murder mystery/thriller genre, and I never sympathize with protagonists who are journalists. (Pessl’s protagonist was no exception; I found him somewhat bland and predictable.)

With that said, as good as Pessl’s writing is, she tends to sound pretentious at times, and you can tell she’s trying very hard to emphasize the “literary” aspect of her work as she peppers the text with tons of literary and cultural references (she does this a lot more in Special Topics). Another aspect of the writing that irritated me was that a lot of words were italicized for emphasis, and the technique was way overdone (several times on each page). I wish an editor would have taken those out. I didn’t like that the book took place in New York City; I understand that NYC is an inspiring place, but it is used often in fiction.

I did enjoy the supporting characters; all of them were described realistically and given interesting, believable backstories. The smaller settings within NYC (and elsewhere) were unique, and I could clearly picture them in my mind. The plot had a made-for-cinema feel, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this book became a movie in the near future. Because the plot was similar to that of a movie, it was fast-paced, with sufficient “downtime” so you didn’t become exhausted by the pace.

By the end of the book, I was expecting a really good climax and ending, but the way Pessl wrapped everything up and “solved” the mystery was sort of a disappointment. I did love one of the “morals” of the story, which was something like “magic and fantasy always have a place in real life, even if you’re a skeptic.”

All in all, I wouldn’t recommend Night Film, unless you are a diehard fan of murder mysteries/thrillers and/or Pessl’s work. For such a good premise, the payoff isn’t worth it.

Replay Value

I’m not a huge video game fan, and when I do play, it’s either on the Nintendo DS or the good old-fashioned PC. Every time I try to play on a console like the PS3 or the Xbox 360, my hands hurt. I also have a hard time fathoming the split screen; half the time, I don’t know which character is mine, so I end up thinking I’m controlling the other player’s character, while my character is literally running into a brick wall or getting killed by monsters. Yeah, I am a numbskull when it comes to games that are played on a TV screen. :)

Over the years, there have been only a few video games that have caught my attention and that I still play, and the reason for that is replay value. (Or, in the case of Dragon Warrior III, I have owned the game for close to 12 years and still haven’t managed to beat it.) In my mind, a good game is one that doesn’t end after you defeat the final boss or complete the final quest. The Pokémon series is a great example of this; most of the time, the game gets better after you defeat the Elite Four. There’s still a ton of Pokémon to catch and all those side quests to complete, and you can always start the game over and begin playing with a different team of Pokémon. That’s why some people still play the original versions that came out back in 1990-something. No matter how many times you play, it doesn’t get old.

Then you have old-school PC games like Quake and Doom (and probably other first-person shooters) that are still played to this day because you can create your own levels and make “mods” for the games. If you want to create a level that’s so labyrinthine it’ll be impossible to get through, you can do it. If you want to modify the monsters so their bodies don’t disappear after you kill them, you can do it.

And then there are games where the worlds are randomly generated. I have a game called Dragon Warrior Monsters 2, which is similar to Pokémon. Once you complete the main storyline, the quest doesn’t end. You are given a set of magic keys that transport you to randomly generated worlds with different monsters and items… and even more magic keys, so that you can play ad infinitum.

Many people say that the older games are better because they have replay value, and the newer games focus more on high-tech graphics and violence, but I can’t form an opinion on that because I don’t play any of the new console games. But if you have played a new game, let me know — is it so absorbing that you could play it for years, even after you’ve completed the main quest?