As everyone knows who either reads or writes a blog, the entire genre is odd. That's not quite right ... there are informational blogs that serve specific purposes. What I mean is, personal blogs are odd. I wrote about this some years ago, in an essay soon after I started this blog:
[T]he very act of posting my writing to a public space admits the existence of an audience, no matter how small. This wouldn't be worth noting if all I was doing was creating Lists o' Links. But I'm writing a diary. Therein lies the rub. For diaries, at least as I imagine them, are private affairs. When you write "Dear Diary," you are speaking to a schizophrenic audience of one, a combination of the abstract "Diary" and yourself (in theory the only person who will ever read what you write). Nothing is more fear-inducing than the idea that someone else will read your diary; it records the thinking you want to keep to yourself.
So, why post it to a blog, where someone, anyone, can read it? ...
The subject matter of the diary blog is also affected by the audience lurking in the background. The most straightforward and "honest" writing on my blog is probably the movie reviews. I can express myself in those write-ups without wearing my heart on my sleeve. My heart is still there, it's just offered at a distance, through the conduit of whatever movie I'm talking about. I can say "what I really think" in ways I won't if I have some deep personal secret to share with the world at large. In those latter cases, my writing becomes cryptic, and basically uninteresting to anyone except myself. Ironically, I expose myself most when I write about something outside myself, and I hide myself most when I purport to write about Me.
I've pointed this out more than once, but it bears repeating. There is a reason I chose that Pauline Kael quote to appear at the top of my blog. (Pauses while everyone who has forgotten the quote goes and looks at it.)
I have something I want to write here that is "personal" in a non-movie-review way. I hesitate for a variety of reasons ... I resist the rawness of unfiltered cries from my heart, I don't think most of my readers care about that stuff (I don't blame them); the people who will care, the people I am talking about when I get personal, will be uncomfortable at best, angry and/or sad at worst.
So, what to do, when people stop by here to see what ten songs from 1978 I've dug up, or what TV show I watched, or what Obama's done that pissed me off ... do I jabber away about personal crap?
Recently, some old home movies have turned up from the mid/late-80s. My ex-brother-in-law had them, and he gave them to my younger brother to put on DVDs. A couple of days ago, my brother posted a short excerpt to our family email list, a Xmas video from 1986 or so, filmed at my parents' house, the house they moved into just before I was born. It's wonderful to see ... brings a tear to your eye one moment, is mortifying the next. Obviously, everyone is younger ... our now-grown children are youngsters, while the people of my generation are the age our kids are now.
My wife watched the video ... she squealed with delight on several occasions, if one can squeal via text-chat. Various family members are chatting, and my sister has the camera, encouraging everyone to talk to her for posterity's sake. About 2/3rds of the way through the clip, dinner is served. There's my mom and dad, my sister, her kids, and her then-husband, who has just arrived from work (on Xmas!). There are a few close-ups of food, grace before eating, and then the video ends. When it's over, my wife tells me that not once did our (immediate) family ever have dinner with my parents with no other siblings/family around. The scene of my sister and her family eating Xmas dinner with my parents never happened with my wife, kids, and I. We were married in 1973 ... our kids were born in 1975 and 1978 ... my dad lived until 1989 and my mom until 1995. And we never had dinner with them, except when the whole extended family was there.
My son watched the video. He's adorable, although I suppose he'd hate my using that word. I talked to him about it earlier today. At one point in the video, my mom is playing the piano while every one sings Xmas carols. My son tells me that he never once saw my mom play the piano. He was 20 years old when she died ... she was a fine pianist, good enough to have won a music scholarship to Mills College out of high school, good enough to be a church organist for several years, good enough to give piano lessons. He never saw her play the piano, not once in 20 years.
When certain family holidays come around ... the birthdays of my mom or dad, Mother's Day or Father's Day ... I don't say much. I've learned not to open my mouth ... I piss my siblings off, they wonder why I bring up bad stuff, wonder why I never talk about the good, wonder why I don't understand that our parents were as good as they could be, and that there is no sense bringing up the worse parts of the past. (Kinda like Obama trying to change the subject when people talk about torture.) I suppose they're right in one sense ... it's not that I have bad memories of my parents, it's that, more often than I'd like, I have NO memories. And I imagine one reason for that can be found in the reactions of my wife and son to that video. As my son said about the clip, the party didn't really get started until we left.
I posted a 30-second excerpt from the clip on Facebook (if you're one of my Facebook friends, you can see it there). I sing a few bars of "Santa Claus Is Back in Town." I'm wearing Ray-Bans ... my wife noted that I've got those shades on throughout the video, even though we're inside. At the end of my little song, I stare at the camera, smile, and say "I couldn't do this if I didn't have my shades on. I'd be too embarrassed."
I couldn't write this blog if I didn't have my shades on. I'd be too embarrassed. Oops, I just noticed I wasn't wearing them ... I better put them back on.
There, that's better. Now, where's that Random Ten, 1978?