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03 January 2007

My Mind Freely-Associating with Flashes of Susan Sontag

As I age I recognise more and more my weaknesses (and strengths) in spelling. Is there a double 'mm' in 'accomodations', two 's'es but one 'L' in 'succesfull'? So I use a dictionary more often, not less, as time wears on.

Being an editor and a translator, there are many, many print-on-paper dictionaries right here at my fingertips as we speak.

Here is a word I didn't look up: 'mneumonics'. Did I get it right? Using what something sounds like, rhymes with, or memorizing a little jingle and verse to jog the memory; is that right as well? I need mneumonics I guess.

I think of a whole host of things when I'm reminded of the late New York City writer Susan Sontag. But most I think of the military-medical metaphor: winning the 'war' on cancer, that sort of image. Pathogens as invaders that evade the host's defense perimeter.

Well I was just this instant reminded of Susan Sontag in a bizarre manner. (I had to look up bizzare in Webster's BTW.)

I thought of Sontag when I grabbed a big blue dictionary to spell 'accommodation'. By mistake, I grabbed Mosby's Medical & Nursing Dictionary instead of my copy of the Nelson Canadian Dictionary. For about 3 seconds, I kept turning the damn dictionary around, certain that my eyes couldn't focus because I was holding the right reference work only holding it upside down; that is, until after 3 secs I figured out my mistake and then grabbed the right reference work.

It strikes me that so much of what I read on blogs and on webpages is like those confused three seconds. It takes me more than an instant to figure out what, exactly, I'm looking at as I browse the blogs: all because, as they say in French, 'I grabbed the stick by the wrong end' (J'ai pris l'affaire par le mauvais bout.).

Blogging is quite different from participating in a discussion forum, although both activities can be a matter of adapting to several personas. Participants are presenting roles in public. But landing on a blog, it is easy to become confused as to which public this particular blogger wants to direct his or her message and whether you are or want to become a part of that public. (I know, that's what blogrolls and links to bloggers are all about.)

Back to Susan Sontag. I just pulled her out of a hat. Then I pulled one image, a constellation of metaphors out of a hat. Finally, I pulled a French expression out of a hat. Am I trying to connect with people like me who can connect with all three rabbits I pulled out of three different hats, or am I trying to impress people, or, finally, is this a public service being provided in the same way a reference librarian provides a service? I imagine that in a discussion forum composed of reference librarians my persona could comfortably fit into all three roles. But I continually scratch my head wondering about blogs, especially younger blogs like Cheap Priceless Editions where there are no pertinent prerequisites for viewers nor for participants.

Does anyone have a nifty metaphor that is nicer than the military medical metaphor Susan Sontag exposed? Are we playing at the beach and writing in the sand at the wave's edge?

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