Monday, February 11, 2019

What am I doing back here?! We'll see... maybe nothing

© Joshua Stark 2019
In our newest addition -- an honest-to-goodness workshop... also, just an obligatory picture

I've been away from the blogosphere for quite some time, spending most of my days in the Facebook.  There's something really great about that space, namely, I've found many long-lost (even somewhat forgotten, at times) friends and family, and I get to read about their goings-on quite regularly... well, the ones who use Facebook, that is.

But I have noticed that lately I'm having a difficult time focusing on longer pieces.  I can't seem to stop and think, linger, contemplate the nuances.  Rather, I'm constantly looking for a photo, or for the "next" update.  Part of this is probably just the digital medium, more broadly.  It is very picture-oriented, and it is very, very fast.  Pictures are now, perhaps for the first time in history, cheaper than words to take, to make, to print and disseminate.

That's not to say that good words or good pictures are cheap.  Good words and good pictures still require skills, and most people just don't take the time to develop these skills.  For example, keep reading this blog, and then go read something from Faulkner.  You'll see. 

But the relative price of written words has dropped to near zero.  Once, we had to carve out writing space and time, and have the tools of pen, pencil, paper.  And photography was even more expensive, requiring actual gear and usually the ability to travel, and also the purchase of film and processing, and the time it took to see what picture you actually took.  The very physical nature of all of these things was limiting, too; just imagine storing as many pictures as you have on your phone in albums.

Back when words were more expensive, people didn't write so much.  Rather, we prioritized, writing to our dearest loved ones, or writing to our superiors, our government officials, our teachers.  Most of us didn't write as much because writing is hard.  It took time and effort, it took a part of our brains we didn't exercise nearly enough in our day-to-day affairs.  But, some of us obsessed over writing: the skill, the dedication, the drive to draft perfect sentences that uncover deep, universal emotions and truths about our world and the human condition.  Some took it up as a professional craft, either by stumbling into it, or driven by dreams of wealth -- using the written word to convince, to titillate, to shock, all with the end goal of making a buck.  Most of us just stayed away as much as we could.

(Some of you can take this quick quiz to discover if you are in the camp of writing as a profession/dedication, or if you don't care so much:  have you been either bemoaning or smiling contentedly at my use of two spaces to separate sentences?  If so, I daresay you work in writing quite a bit.)

Back when pictures were expensive, people didn't take so many, either.  We prioritized, taking pictures of loved ones, great and beautiful places, tragedies, and the like.  Again like writing, some dove into film and photography as a passionate desire, a discipline, and/or a profession.  But for most, photography happened at birthday parties and the Grand Canyon.  For those of you of a certain age: how many selfies did you take before digital formats became as high-quality as those of film?  I certainly did not think of myself as photogenic enough to waste expensive rolls and the time it would take to send off to get developed.  I could just look in the mirror and see all my flaws -- no need to preserve those for posterity at ten bucks a pop!

Our now-ubiquitous tiny, portable computers, and our connected social media platforms, changed all of that.  Though good words and photos still are not cheap, there are so many more cheap words and photos out there in the ether.  We don't need to pick and choose, or rather, many of us find it so difficult to find the good stuff because of the proliferation of the bad.  And the sheer number of words and pictures has driven down the price for all of them so much that many good folks in the written and photographic professions find it really hard to scrape together a living.

And pictures are now even cheaper than words.  People have taken that whole, "a picture is worth a thousand words" to heart, thinking that just by snapping a shot, they don't have to explain nearly so much.  I mean, it's right there, right?  In technicolor?

But there is something even more ephemeral about this current medium.  We've thrown up so much out into it that finding good stuff is so much more difficult.  Just last week, I began moving some of my pictures from my phone to my computer.  When I first bought the phone, I was impressed at the amount of memory it can store.  Now, it's just annoying; finding a decent picture buried in a sheer mountain of crap is the same as not ever having taken it at all.  The scrolling nature of personal, political, local and global news and economic updates is similar; there may be good words strung together out there, but finding them is purnt-near impossible.

I think there is a happy medium still out there, between the tremendous scarcity and elitism of the "old" ways and the utter anarchy of the new... it isn't nearly as popular as it was in the last decade, but it is still around.  I'm talking about the blog.

I loved blogs, and I pored through them until I found some that inspired me.  I learned how to do so many things -- little things, like make yogurt or prune a pomegranate or wax a duck, but still life-changing skills.  Unlike books, where I have also learned so much, blogs allowed me to reach out directly to authors, and from it I also made dear, lifelong friends.  I also felt a connection to a group of people I had cobbled together, even though they didn't, and may never, know of each other.  I brought them together into my world because of what they said and how they said it.

When I jumped onto Facebook, it was for a completely different reason.  I saw a friend who was on there, and it occurred to me that I could find friends and family who were physically distant from me, and I could communicate more regularly with them.  It wasn't because of what they thought, but simply of who they were -- people who'd been in my life, from my small community or from my large extended family.  I read their posts out of love.

Slowly, I lost the threads to bloggers.  Many disappeared, never to be heard from again... something that bothers me from time to time.  Being a fatalistic Okie, I wonder if they've died, though probably like me, they just stopped putting their best ideas down on a blog for free.  Others also moved to Facebook, where they mostly lurk. Still others may reside on social media places I haven't tried.

And it very well be that blogs were the downfall of good writing, since they lowered the price for valuable information to near zero.

Over time, I lost the desire to sit down and think through ideas to put on my blogs.  I have three that I regularly posted in the past, but the world started moving so fast, it felt, that I didn't have much desire to come back and post... also, I never was really good at it.  So it's been two years since I've posted something to one of my blogs.

But I come back here and read them myself occasionally, or link to an old piece I wrote when I see it may relate to something in the news that a friend might find useful or illuminating, or silly.  Mostly silly.  I also look up old recipes I developed for woodworking, cooking, gardening.  This blog, in particular, was originally meant to be a placeholder for useful yard and garden things, leatherworking, cooking, duck-rearing, etc.

Now, I'm back.

I don't know if I'll keep it up this time, but I want to try.  I enjoy writing, I don't do it well enough to get paid for it, and I like coming back to read ideas that I'd discovered from great places around the internet and noted here.  I also enjoy doing the things I write about here: gardening, hunting, fishing, foraging, and this place helps spur me when I can more easily do other things that don't give me the same pleasure, like perusing Facebook.

So, on to updates.

There are so many!  In the past year, we started upgrading our house to make room for our growing family.  No, we didn't have more kids... but, if you didn't know this, then beware:  when you have children, they literally grow.  You have to feed them more and more, and you have to make room for them.  It's crazy, and wasn't in the manual when we first looked it up.

So, we are having an extra bedroom built for our daughter, because we don't want her to kill us at some point.

We've also put in a shed that is big enough to house all our outdoor things, plus have room for storage AND a workshop!  It's been wonderful, simply wonderful.  I've also got a barrel smoker I rescued and fixed up for about $30, and I hope to build out a cheap cook-out space in the yard for it.  I'll try to update with all of these things at some point, including how I'm organizing the shed, prepping and planting the garden, and getting back into leather work.

If you've taken a moment to read my little rant here, leave me a message.  And have a great day.

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