My life as a Sagittarius is no longer. I am now, alas, an Ophiuchus.

I went to bed thinking I was driven, stubborn, good natured, not entirely reliable, passionate, adventurous,  dedicated to learning, fiery, honest to the point of bluntness, and that  my sign was  the fabulously strong, masculine this:

And I woke up learning that I am poetical, wise, a seeker of fame, a beloved of authority and fathers, a builder, one whom others envy, who likes to wear—plaid?–and  my sign is a weird this:

Yes, there are certain overlapping qualities between the two signs, seems those born between Nov 29 and Jan 20 in general are potentially brilliant and self absorbed leaders, but “wears plaid”? Really?

It’s disconcerting.

Especially since I was going to lean on that “unreliable” Sagittarius trait as an excuse for the lazy blogging.  It seems, my fellow bloggers, I’ve been kidnapped by the Tweeters.

eightysomething essays

Somehow, I managed to plan so poorly this term that on my desk now sits 80-something essays that need to be read and evaluated by next week (40-something literary analysis essays on Huck Finn; 40-something argument analysis essays).

Clearly, I wasn’t thinking.

I’ve just finished alphabetizing them to see who submitted them on time (of the 15 or so students who have not submitted assignments, some have been MIA for 2 weeks; others e-mailed me blank or funky, unopenable attachments; and one poor soul handed me his flash drive to prove that he has his assignment done but was unable to print it).

I decided before I left for the evening I’d read one lit essay, just for kicks. And, in what I hope is a good sign, it’s a fabulous essay: a mostly well written, well supported argument about the humanity of Jim that also refutes several of the objections that were raised during class discussion.

I feel a little less stressed already.

On a lighter note (and a possible assignment for our next discussion on The Awakening):


So, this quarter, I read 4 student researched essays on the popularity of Facebook or Twitter.  All four were excellent: good research, thoughtful analysis of the causes and effects (without going into the usual “the world will end” or “this stuff is awesome” conclusion that often sometimes happens with cause/effect analysis essays).

The students who focused on Twitter both joined Twitter as part of their “research” and they convinced me to join, too (the fact that Rosemary Feal of the MLA is twittering in anticipation of the convention this year also enticed me to join). 

Both students noted the phenomenon of odd strangers “following” them, and that most of the tweets were the usual Facebook-like status updates about Seinfeldian nothingness.  One student concluded that Twitter seemed to be more common with “older” people (you know, those of us older than 25) than with people his age (18ish) and that they used Twitter to connect on professional issues or to keep up with whatever sort of news that interested them.

Since I told both students I had joined  Twitter, and showed them my home page (or whatever it’s called), they both “interviewed” me, novice user, as part of their research, pointing out with some glee that after 3 months I only had 3 followers, and only followed 6 others, 5 of them professionally-related organizations, including the MLA.  {Note: neither student asked to follow me, thankfully.}

So, what have I concluded about Twitter? Well, it is amusing to read Rosemary’s tweets promoting the convention (see the Hurston film! buy the cool MLA t-shirts! go to this panel!). And I can see instant updates from The Chronicle or Inside Higher Ed.  And my one friend is quite witty with her tweets.

But  in all of those cases, I’d much prefer to read the blogs: I can read a more detailed overview of a Chronicle or Inside Higher Ed story in Google Reader; I can find out more about my friend’s subway incident on her Facebook page; and Rosemary can give a much more vivid sense of what is happening in Philly during the convention on the convention blog she promises to do again this year.  140 characters can point elsewhere or provide a quick moment of wit, but no, it doesn’t quite satisfy.

Since I so rarely remember to check Twitter, I decided to read Rosemary’s tweets the old fashioned way: by subscribing to them in Google Reader.

Twitter: Twitterdee or Twitterdum? Discuss (in more than 140 characters, please).

Only the nose knows?

Although I generally don’t follow sports, I enjoy listening to Frank Deford, NPR’s sports commentator: his reports are witty and usually go beyond the stats to the personalities in the sports world (no doubt to appeal to the non-sports fans who listen to NPR). This morning’s comments on Tiger Woods and the cult of celebrity that has now enveloped the sports world was no exception.

And perhaps because I’m swimming in nearly 100 final research papers to grade, I giggled at this:

“To quote the young poet Muhammad Ali…: ‘Only the nose knows where the nose goes when the door[s] close.'”

How charming is Ali’s poem: the idea that anyone wants their private lives to remain private in the age of full self-disclosure and public confession (via Twitter, Facebook, blogging) is so– quaint.  But of course, still true. Even those of us self disclosing away on the Internet do so, usually,  in a carefully crafted way so that we are creating a public persona–certainly not our real inner selves.  I’m sure none of us would want our private text messages revealed to all (and of course Tiger’s women saved his texts: they were from the famous Woods!). But enough about Tiger.

William Deresiewicz has written several articles on this theme: his Chronicle articles are long (over 5000 words–longer than most) and historically grounded.  This term, I encouraged my composition students to read and respond to “The End of Solitude” (in an early January edition of The Chronicle of Higher Ed) and those that chose it wrote wonderfully rich responses: while their initial instinct was to criticize what they perceived to be an attack on their generation, they soon conceded, as Deresiewicz himself does, to his claim that being alone is fine, but for more than an hour without checking some electronic device,  not so much.

His most recent article in the Dec. 6th edition of The Chronicle, “Faux Friendship”  ponders the changing definition of friendship over the centuries, naturally in response to the dozens or hundreds of friends many of us collect on FB or Twitter.

Deresiewicz has much to say about the faux friendships formed on FB. About those FB “friends” you haven’t been in contact with for 20 years:

“Your 18-year-old self knows them. Your 40-year-old self should not know them.”

So true. At first it is amusing exchanging anecdotes, but then, you realize that your old “friend” has become a ________ (fill in the blank), whose status updates cause you physical pain.  Let’s say I’ve use the “hide” and “de-friend” function regularly on FB.

About the inability to form true friendship in 140 character informational blips:

“In order to know people, you have to listen to their stories….Posting information is like pornography, a slick, impersonal exhibition. Exchanging stories is like making love: probing, questing, questioning, caressing. It is mutual. It is intimate. It takes patience, devotion, sensitivity, subtlety, skill—and it teaches them all, too.”

While I appreciate the “storytelling as making love” metaphor, I’m not so sure about the pornography metaphor: Really?  Does that mean those who Tweet or post updates on FB are all exhibitionists? And that those who read such postings are getting some sort of physical pleasure out of doing so?  Hmmmm, no.

But I get his point. FB, Twitter, Blogging: all allow us to feel connected with others, but we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking such connections are real friendship.  They are, he would argue, too EASY to be real.  A real, lasting friendship is complex, messy, often rife with conflict.  And it requires some real physicality (and here, I suppose, the pornography metaphor does work).  I see my good friends from college only once a year, if that.  Even though I’m aware of what they do throughout the year. But it’s only in that physical meeting that we reconnect emotionally.  Old angers come out. Past shared laughter is reignited.  It’s momentary, but it lasts for weeks, and the flame of that true connection stays lit, though dim, until the next time.

Such a long-term, long distance  friendship is a different sort of friendship than the friendships I have with those who live near me.  And that’s what Facebook, e-mail, etc etc IS good for. It allows my friends and I to mimic the daily interactions I have with friends nearby (what are you doing now? how was the food at that new place? did that student bug you again today?).  We certainly do have fact-based, informational status updates with friends in person: it’s the shared daily-ness that is a big part of our friendship.  I know what latte so and so wants from Starbucks, and I know about the broken water pipe in so and so’s house, and the annoying thing so and so’s mother said to her last week. That’s something my students who were responding to Deresiewicz tried to express in their responses to his essay.  Yes, perhaps a faux friendship is only based on status updates, but a real friendship has them, too.  FB, Twitter, Texting all allow us to keep that part of friendship in tact when distance separates us.

[Note: I’ve only recently discovered that there was, many, many moons ago, a bloggosphere conversation about cooked and raw blog postings, a conversation I will resurrect on this raw blog someday since I hate that I missed it at the time.  This post, is, by dint of being a break from finals grading, half cooked.]

Church Tweets

Since the ½ marathon training runs are on Sunday mornings, I’ll be skipping Sunday services at church for a while. But never fear: as I’ve noted before, my pastor posts his tweets on Facebook, so I at least get a hint about the sermon ideas he’s pondering, and, even better, I get links to songs that reflect his moods, beliefs, daily life.

One of our church Elders, who is also on Facebook, shared the following Time.com story, “Twittering in Church With the Pastor’s Encouragement” by Bonnie Rochman.  Some pastors encourage attendees to twitter during sermons, with the tweets sometimes visible on the big screen.  As the article notes:

As expected, banter flourished. Tweets like “Nice shirt JVo” and “So glad they are doing Lenny Kravitz” flashed across three large video screens. But there was heartfelt stuff, too.

“I have a hard time recognizing God in the middle of everything.”

“The more I press in to Him, the more He presses me out to be useful”

“sometimes healing is painful”

As bizarre as that sounds, though, I’m all for anything that gets some mainline Protestant congregations more actively engaged in worship.  I suppose it’s not unlike the “clickers” used in large lecture classes.  Heck, I’d try it (though I wonder if the IPhone I’d need to buy is then tax-exempt?).