Assorted critiques

Al sent me this critique of ’the nonprofit industrial complex’ yesterday and it’s another one of those things (though a few years old) that reminds me of the ways The Consensus is falling apart. Asked a few years ago, I’d have believed a phrase like “nonprofit industrial complex” was wholly owned by my local subreddit’s reactionary goon squad. I’m sure the phrase will still incite some liberals.

But it means something that my wife, a 20-year social work veteran with an MSW — as dedicated to public service as anyone I know — is sharing that article with me, because she’s probably more angry about the state of nonprofits than the reactionary goons in my local subreddit, just … from the opposite direction. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt, in my politically aware life, like so many people across what passes for the political spectrum in this country are convinced that whatever is going on here is simply not working.

I first noticed it for myself early last year:

“Like, there’s an actual market for attacking liberals from the left that can be serviced and people can make a living at it, and that says something interesting about where political sentiment might be right now … something interesting about what people are hungry for.”

More downpage.

reddit, lemmy

With no Apollo, I just don’t go to reddit much anymore, and I’m not signed in when I do. I just go to one or two subs in my browser history. I think I’m fine with that — the one sub I was a regular on isn’t really the healthiest place, and a few others are just disposable. But it has started to strike me that a lot of Google searches end up on reddit, and I get a small amount of traffic to here from reddit from posts that have turned up there over the years.

I’m also struck by how annoying the ads are in their size, irrelevance, and repetition. They make the experience confusing.

Lemmy is still pretty quiet. I subscribe to a portland-related local, a bunch of meme communities, and a few technical ones. There’s not a lot of conversation. Hexbear is very active, but it’s not federated (getting there), and it could just as easily be on any discussion platform. I understand lemmygrad is widely blocked, which is sort of hilarious to me because coming up on the left decades ago we understood that the presence of a few tankies in any left space was mostly just cause for amused eye-rolling. But we’re all heads in jars now, so they seem to be taking on a significance in online spaces they could never assume in meatspace. 2016 will never end.

This generation’s Watergate

I say “2016 will never end” as someone who remembers watching Richard Nixon resign in 1974. At the time I registered that event as an unwelcome disruption of normal t.v. because I was six years old, and somehow this bizarre intrusion on normal programming had taken over all three stations available to me.

We were, by the way, a Cronkite family, so I imagine this is what I was watching:

But we all know that the matter didn’t end there. We were still feeling its effects 25 years later, while Clinton was in office. We’re still feeling its effects. It is not hard to imagine that everything around 2016-2020 will remain a defining political trauma for years to come, and some of that trauma is just a fractal iteration of what came 40 years earlier.

So I don’t think it’s important to be very online and very “current.”

One thing I adopted post-2016 was a radical pare-down of news inputs. I have two paid subscriptions, so I don’t waste time trying to get around paywalls: One national, one local. I prefer to get one each of their daily newsletters at the end of the day. I follow one local alt-weekly, as well. I’ve gone from “guiltily ill-informed relative to all the other middle class people” to “defiantly disinterested in playing this ridiculous game.” My mental health is better, my sense of broad patterns has improved, and my patience for others has increased.

It’s sort of interesting to look back maybe two or three years, because I can see a period where the decrease in daily news intake shifted a little left to an increase in current-events-related books. I think that made sense to me because, you know, books take a while to write and produce and distribute. But really that’s not true — on the timeframes that matter, they really don’t take that long. The fast-paced ephemerality of the social/blog-to-book pipeline is only picking up speed.

So I had a period of relative calm after I slowed down my news intake and refused to read the op/ed pages, then began to feel more and more agitated again as Libby began to deposit long-form current events stuff on my Kobo. It lured me into a period of newsletter and blog subscriptions (“not news, therefore ok”), and I’m glad something bothered me enough to set all that stuff aside, too.

Yesterday I referred to Metafilter as “Web 2.0’s Doom Spiraling Hermit Kingdom,” and I think it is a great example of what happens to people who are very current and very online when they lock themselves in a space together. The recent thread on the bizarre Wagner Putsch — sorry, I don’t want to find the link — just seemed unhealthy, obsessive, and likely to age like milk for all the authority people were claiming to hold forth.

Am I saying I’m above it all? No. I just prefer to be outside it.


I went to look up a recent post and it caused me to realize that almost all my posts are “daily posts.”

A very long time ago daily posts were my way of blogging at work without being seen to be blogging at work: I opened a BBEdit document at the beginning of the day, started filling it with links and things, then waited until early evening to run a Perl script that squirted it into MovableType. There. Plausible deniability.

I started doing them again on this blog as an adaptation when I shifted away from Coo all you want about version-controlled static site generators — and I do — they’re more cumbersome than something that works well with, e.g. MarsEdit. So rather than a bunch of microposts, I preferred to gather them all in one place and save last pass and publishing for the end of the day.

But I came across that fragment of a Joan Didion quote:

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking …”

… and I think “Daily Post” is also helpful to me as a writing aid.

One of my preoccupations I’ve had over 20 years of blogging is how to handle representing “what I am” or “what I do.”

Like a lot of preoccupations, a key ingredient was irritation: Early web celebrities would write about something they did, or thought was interesting, and it’d start a conversation about that thing, and then the comments would be full of people talking about “what I do.”

Like, let’s take “GTD methodologies.”

You read 20 or 30 multi-paragraph comments about “my GTD methodology” and for some of them you’re just, like, “no, I know for a fact that you do not do that because if you truly managed your life that way you would not be able to keep a roof over your head or food in your children’s mouths. This is entirely too complex, too elaborate, and too utterly incompatible with the information, organization, or communications needs of any other human being on the planet to actually be a real ‘methodology’ that wouldn’t eventually get you fired or simply render you unemployable to begin with.”

But a more charitable impulse would kick in, and rather than thinking “this person is lying,” I’d decide “this person is sharing an aspirational state they probably haven’t been doing for long, or realizing quite this fully.” The more I worked in operational roles over the years, the better I got at spotting the first draft of a process doc, and those are always about as impractical and weird as any comment in 43Folders on how to live entirely out of 3x5 cards you keep in a DIY duct tape pouch and annotate with 12 shades of washi tape you arrange sempahore-style.

Plus, shit; I do it, too.

I’m constantly fussing with things, trying stuff out, getting restless, trying something else, going back to the last thing, hacking together some god-awful script to mostly — 76-percent-complete, anyhow — back me out of a bad data decision. I’ve made an effort to isolate things I think of as “core systems and tools” from my worst impulses — I am way less interested in fucking with how I process photos or track todos than I am with how I keep scratch notes for work — but as someone who was splitting his time between a Sinclair ZX-81 and a VIC20 because each had its charms, who played first chair parts on a bass trombone to stretch my articulation, who made a portable Commodore 64 out of upholstery vinyl and a 5" black-and-white TV to let me write term papers on my third-shift workstudy job at the power house, and who owns no fewer than eleven slings, bags, or pouches in the 3-to-10 liter range, I know from screwing around with shit for the hell of it.

Calling things “Daily Posts” has provided a little relief from self-consciousness over that.

When I put something under “Daily Posts,” it feels less like I’m issuing some proclamation about What I Do and more sharing a little about What I’m Doing, because that is constantly changing, and putting those constantly changing things under single posts that jump out on the index pages feels entirely too weighty for what they’re meant to tell you.