I Like To Write

I have been lazy. The blog has been slow. Thank Nick for kicking me about it.

To apologize, I will tell you about something I have been up to:

I wrote a little (tiny!) story called Portability. It is called that because I picked a word at random. I picked a word at random because that was the theme for the first week of the Metafilter Writer’s Group, which has just lately sprung into existence.

We’re writing on a given theme each week. 500ish words max. I hope to keep with it. I figure it’s like writing a novel, but without the continunity or the going crazy. Whee!

More posts coming with greater frequency and regularity, I [fingers crossed] promise.

Archeologist’s update, January 11 2017: reviewing old blog entries, and the original link for this story is dead.  Internet Archive had a cache, so I’m copying the text of the story in full below for safe keeping.

“Portability, son.  You got to be portable.  You see this?”

Granther held up the stump.  I saw it; I’d seen it.  Never a day goes by.

“Portable.  Mobile.  You got to keep your assets liquid.  You hear me well.”

I heard it; I had heard it.  Never a day, since I’d moved in two years back.  Granther was seventy-nine, thin and hale.  Last in our line, besides me.  He’d outlived my father, my mother, his other son.  At fifteen, I hadn’t known what to make of him, and at seventeen I’d given up trying.

“Day comes, you’re gonna have to make a hard choice fast.”

“I know, pa, you’ve told me—“

He set down the butcher knife, next to the half-flayed ham, and looked at me.  “Don’t you tell me what you know, son.  You don’t know nothin’ is what you know.  Think I’m a tired old fool, long of tooth, always repeating myself, dontcha?”

I bit my lip.  Cold hard diamond eyes, unmeetable.

“Dontcha?  Answer me, boy.”

“You’ve told me this like fifty times, Granther.”

“Yuh, and you ain’t learned nothin’.  Soft, is what.  Butter that bread, now.”

It was the cheapest butter and the cheapest bread.  Standard MO.  Granther didn’t trust banks, didn’t trust “health food quacks”, didn’t trust anything that wasn’t good common sense as of 1950 or so.  None of that newfangled three-bucks-a-loaf multigrain shit, thankyouverymuch.

The butter was cold—I hadn’t left it out ahead of time.  It tore up the bread.  I cursed under my breath, and Granther brought his one hand across my face before I could think to wince.

“You watch your tongue, son.”  Eyes like mineral deposits.  My cheek burned.  I finished the bread.

Awake still.  The TV had been off for an hour.  Granther had put himself to bed—I could hear him snoring.  I snuck out to the backyard.

I eased open the shed door open, grabbed the shovel, went to work.  Quiet as I could, looking over at the house, ears pounding in the suburban quiet.  He didn’t trust banks.  Kept his money liquid.  Got to be portable.  Hear me well.  I’d found the map in an old journal: a loose drawing of the backyard, X marks the spot.  I just wanted to find his cache, pocket it, and get moving.  I’d have an hours-long headstart.

I dug slow and quiet.  I’d seen Granther use a shovel.  He made it look like no trouble, one-handed and all.  Chuck, stomp, lever, toss.  Quick, sure movements.  Army man—shot his own hand off at the wrist when it got trapped in rubble in Europe, 1944—and he never lost his form.

The shovel hit wood with a wet crunch.  It sounded like his money box was rotting.  I reached down and pulled, and cheap wood came away in my hand.  I reached in again and came up with a skull.

“That woman was tying me down, son.  God rest her.”

His carbon eyes, staring down at me.

“Got to stay mobile, boy.  Hear me well.”

Refi: Metafilter in Review

Yes. Don’t say it. I know, I—look. Just, would y—would you just hush? I know what you’re going to say. I know. Okay? Yes. I know.

Another new project. Yes. A new blog. Another plate to keep spinning. Sue me. Can I—look, can I at least tell you about it? Just let me explain. Okay? Okay? Fine. Good.


Refi: Metafilter in Review is a blog I just started. As the name suggests, the subject is metafilter.com, a site of which I’ve been a member since early 2001, and which I’ve been reading a bit longer than that, even. And the site is, these days, what it is—which is to say, a collaborative weblog, a community-driven running tally of links to interesting things along with commentary by registered users. Not a bad place to spend some computer time, in general.

But the question that comes up an awful lot in contemporary conversation on the site is this: before it was what it is, what was it? How has the site changed? Which assertions about Mefi past are true, and which are fantasy? Which straddle a grey line of half-truth or distorted memory? Have things changed? Have they stayed the same? Were there any identifiable good old days, or do we each of us recall only the subjective joy of the newness of the site whensoever we first became involved with it?

Metafilter has a sort of socio-anthropological advantage over, say, joshmillard.com (which is low-traffic and has only a single writer) or even the hallowed-but-defunct suck.com (which featured several writers but was a professional, edited publication). Metafilter is many-authored and essentially unedited, and so the voice of the site has had the opportunity to change with the interests (and the contents) of the active, posting userbase.

Examining this slow autorial change over the seven-year-history of the site has struck me more than once as an interesting idea; and lo, I have decided to jump in. Hence Refi.

At this point, I’m finding myself writing primarily for mefites—current and past member-readers of Metafilter who are familiar enough with it to recognize some of the injokes and references and bywords of the contemporary Metafilter idiom. However, I would like for the blog to be fairly accessible to the uninitiated. How to pull that off remains a question; should I be more open in the writing? Explain in detail each joke and reference? Provide a glossary and an introduction to Metafilter? I don’t know. For now, I prefer to put my energy toward canvassing the early days of the site, and let those who are curious but confused find their way as they see fit.

I’ve recruited two guest authors already—TAPES INDUSTRIES captain Antifreez (“Dogs love him!”), and controversial (though hopefully not in this context) mefite dios (who has, as part of the blogger account-creation process, been induced to start his own blog, dios and the confederacy of dunces, though I have no idea if he intends to do much with it.

As this project gets rolling, I’d like to get more folks involved, too. Mefites can bicker with the best of them, fight the good infight (a lovely turn of phrase I’d credit if I could recall where I’d read it—I suspect that investigative trail could be picked up at Language Log), but in the end a lot of us just plain love Metafilter, for differing values of “love”, and I hope that I can snare a couple more voices into my retrospective quest.