Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Internet is Not Destroying Anything

I'm writing in response to this article at titled "Is Internet Dating Destroying Love?"

Walters seems to believe that internet dating inherently leads to the commodification of love. Profiles are like ads, availability of choice is like a customization menu, and personality/compatibility tests are "mind-dumbingly" rational. He says "love has become an object which people wish to be fully informed about, choose rationally, and not suffer any unexpected disappointments from."

The thesis is fundamentally wrong. If all people have commodified love (and that's a big IF), it's not the internet's fault; it's people's fault. People have been viewing love and marriage in business terms for centuries. There this an ancient practice of winning a good (i.e. rich) husband with your parents money (i.e. a dowry), and there were divorces over finances long before the invention of the internet. Walter does quote a critic who claims "online dating is taking society back to a pre-modern version of arranged marriages," but the historical existence of arranged marriages is proof-positive that the internet has little to do with humans' business mentality. Walter is clearly creating a false causality.

The reason this article offends me is that I met the person I love most on the internet. I did not choose to meet him in person because he had brown hair, brown eyes, taught for a living, and played guitar on the side. I choose to meet him, because when we talked, I found him funny, intelligent, and engaging. There is a horrible stigma surrounding online dating that Walters is merely perpetuating. Some think online dating is only for perverts or gold-diggers. But others, like me, believe online dating is about connection, and the individual attitudes we bring into play are not a result of the connecting medium.

But that's not what bothers me the most. The biggest issue I have with his article is the pejorative tone about informed and rational choice. I don't know about Walter, but when I meet an interesting guy/girl in person or online, I find out more about them and then make an "informed and rational choice" about whether or not to meet again. The romantic idea that rational thought has no place in love is how people end up with stale marriages, unwanted pregnancies, and even abusive relationships. When I meet anyone, no matter where, I'd like to keep my brain on, thank you very much.

As a side note, the article asserts that Facebook and other social networking sites are about "contact-less friendships . . . reduced to pokes, LOLs, and vacuous innuendos." That couldn't be farther from the truth. Yes, there are pokes, there are laughs, there are even innuendos (and since when does word-play, sexual or otherwise, occur without thought). But, those of us who grew up with facebook use it as a sophisticated form of email - a way to contact friends, plan group events, advertise for businesses, discuss life, love, & philosophy, and share articles (like this awful one about internet dating).

Perhaps, if Walters took a few moments to stop being romantic and think rationally, he could have written a better, more informed critique of internet dating.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What I learned from Life 101: First Summer at Grad School

  • Roanoke is beautiful but boring.
  • There’s an awesome band called Honor By August. Look them up. Buy their CDs.
  • A tiny room is adorable, but not great for company.
  • Cooking at home is always cheaper than eating out. Everyone should cook at home more.
  • That said, Cheddar’s is AWESOME. You should go there. Get the Veggie Plate. 
  • Talking to the people in your class makes the class easier.
  • Best stress relievers include friends, pizza rolls, risotto, visits from boyfriends, trips off campus, and wine.

What I Learned from ENG 561: Genre Study in the Craft of Writing for Children: Fantasy

  • Fantasy has subgenres. Before this class, I’d never even heard of subgenres.
  • Fantasy is the “genre ghetto.” If you write fantasy, all the “real” authors will forever consider you to be beneath them.
  • Same goes for writing for kids. Adult authors might even ask, “So when are you going to start writing real books?”
  • Every writer should try using plot-point outlines. You might love them (like me) or you might not.
  • Never be afraid to take a chance on a “crazy” idea.
  • It’s okay to be dissatisfied with your 1st draft. And your 2nd. And your . . . 5th.
  • Revision is BY FAR harder than writing.
  • You’re allowed to steal ideas. You heard me. Writers steal ideas ALL THE TIME.
  • You can write stories based on folktales, fairytales, poems, or songs without being guilty of copyright violation. An original re-telling of Hansel and Gretel would be completely legal.
  • In fact, old tales, ballads, and such are great writing prompts (i.e. Ellen Kushner’s Thomas the Rhymer).

What I Learned From ENG 542: History and Criticism of Children's Literature

  • Folktales and fairytales rarely have an “original” version.
  • We often assume folktales are for children when they aren’t. Then we make the mistake of adapting them for children without analyzing them (i.e. Little Mermaid).
  • It’s important for children’s literature to remain true to who children actually are rather than idealicizing or “adultifying” them.
  • Childhood hasn’t ended. There are just fewer secrets. (See Kathleen O’Donnel, Honey We Lost the Kids)
  • Little House on the Prairie is racist but historically accurate to the author’s perspective. Books like this should be discussed instead of merely read to kids.
  • Velveteen Rabbit is about love triumphing over reason, so the “random fairy” isn’t really random.
  • There are lots of literary theories. I used new criticism in undergrad, and my favorite theories are cultural studies, queer studies, and reader response theory.
  • When analyzing a book, keep the target age in mind.
  • Online discussions take more work than physically going to class. If your teacher gives you a choice, go to class.

Friday, July 22, 2011

In Which the Name of My Blog is Explained

"Why IS a raven like a writing desk?"
Carroll himself had no answer when he wrote this riddle, but fans jumped at the opportunity to solve it for him. Favorite answers include:
  • Because the notes for which they are noted are not noted for being musical notes.
  • Because Poe wrote on both.
  • Because there is a B in both and an N in neither. (Get it?)
Thus, we come to a few reasons MY writing is like that riddle.
  • When I start writing, I almost always don't know the end (the answer).
  • My characters (my only fans so far) usually create the end for me. 
  • My writing is cool. Really, it is. (If I do say so myself.)
And the big reason the parallel doesn't work?
My writing isn't famous. (Yet.)