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Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Lies, damned lies & my comments on your blog


Friko, commenting on my recent post, The Play's the Thing : true story mentioned that it was a pity that I'd had to stay factual to the end. It was a feeling I'd had in great measure when writing the post, for the story could have taken off in any one of a number of ways. However, there is a lot of me invested in Pip - and in the group as a whole, for that matter. I have posted before, and written poems, about the group (and one other group - but that's another story) or about individual members of it, and have tried, for example, to change the name, and in one case the gender, of the child concerned. Mostly I couldn't do it. Something inside kept screaming at me: This is not right. You cannot live with this! Nevertheless, Friko's comment set me thinking... and then in a Guardian Magazine (which I hardly ever look at) I came upon an article (two actually, but I'm only interested in the one) on lying. It was in fact, an edited extract from the book: The Liar in Your Life: How Lies Work and What they Tell Us About Ourselves by Robert Feldman. This synchronicity seems to be following me around these days.

The extract dismissed with little ado as fairly obvious, the lies people tell to achieve some pay-off, avoid some punishment, etc. The tobacco executive, for example, who lies about the dangers of cigarettes. Then mention is made of the way in which lies may be used to oil the social wheels. A friend is telling you about the great time he had at Stephen's house. You know where Stephen's house is? he asks, almost in passing. Yes, you lie, simply because you do not want to break the flow, interrupt the narrative.

We lie to present ourselves in the light in which we see ourselves and would like others to see us. Various celebrities are asked (in the magazine) what they have lied about just recently. They all seem pretty trivial. The one that struck me was Ann Widdecombe saying: ... if someone asks me, "Do you like my new dress?" then I'm going to say "Yes." Well, fair enough, as she herself says, that's like everybody else. Probably the most common example she or I or you could have picked on.

I've often thought about this question of lies when I've been blogging. It gets to being critical (pun not intended) when I'm commenting on other blogs. How can you comment on, say, a poem - and tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? I 'm suggesting that you cannot. And I'm suggesting that it's not my fault, or your fault, or any other person's fault. It's all the fault of the confounded words! They are just not extensive enough or subtle enough to do the job. Okay, well some of you wordsmiths out there would make a better job of it than I, but the problem would still be there. Whoever you are and however good you are, you cannot get away from it.

Urgh, I think I am about to drive into a fog, a real pea-souper, so maybe it's time to switch on a headlight or two to keep us out of the ditches that happen to line this particular road. So here are a few guiding principles:-

  • I would never say of a poem that I liked it if I did not.

  • No poem - nor anything else, for that matter - is so perfect that it cannot be improved.

  • No poem (almost no poem?) is without merit.


That said, let me put it this way. Suppose I read a new poem by Seamus Heaney which I think shows Heaney at his magnificent best. I am so enthused about this poem that I produce a post to tell the whole of bloggerland (or that small part of it that visits my blog) about it, and about how I have been moved by it. Maybe I say something like: it's a fine poem! Okay? Clear enough? Well, maybe not. It doesn't say much about the poem to someone who has not read or heard it; pretty pathetic really, or it would be if that was all I said about it. So, hopefully I would have found something more inspiring or informative to say, but let's stick with me being pathetic, if only for the sake of a simple example. Next thing, my comment finished, I continue with my visiting of other blogs. Soon I discover that Jimmy Prettyline has posted a new poem. Fine poem, Jimmy! I comment. But hey, wait a minute, two fine poems? Does that mean I think Jimmy's poem is on a par with Heaney's? Unlikely. Fine, when I apply it to something from the pen of Seamus Heaney, does not mean exactly what it means when I use it of Jimmy Prettyline's effort. And if I chose something more informative, something like Brilliant use of assonance or the line breaks are used to good effect, then the situation is unchanged. I do not mean to put Jimmy Prettyline's technique on a par with Heaney's. In one sense I am saying that I put both of them up there among the best (finest), but... and it's a big "but"... though the words do not change their meaning between being applied to Prettyline and being said of Heaney, nevertheless their field of reference has changed.

So does that simply mean that I am saying to Jimmy no more than that for him it's a fine poem! Not at all. It almost certainly does mean that, but it means far more than just that. Some will maintain (have said as much in conversation) that my words should be such that they will carry the same weight in both cases, position each on the same overall achievement scale, if you like. This would entail the use of caveats, qualifications, reservations etc. In some cases it would be like comparing my (no doubt, absolutely brilliant) local village football team with Manchester United. How could I appraise the one in ways that would leave me with suitable words with which to aptly appraise the other in the same terms? There simply are not enough words with enough shades of meaning between them to make that even theoretically possible. In one way or another I would end up damning with faint praise - or at least appearing to. Maybe it is that Jimmy has only just started to write poetry. However I phrase it or pitch it, to use the same standard, the same field of reference, of both his work and Heaney's would (could) be devastating to Jimmy. It might put him off writing poetry for ever - even though, perhaps, he might turn out to be a future Heaney yet to reveal himself! And dropping the use of words like "fine" would not solve the problem, for all the other words I might use have the same undifferentiated levels of meaning depending upon the context in which they are used.

No, if I tried to be totally honest in this strictly linguistic sense, not only would I fail, but I would end up telling a bigger lie than if I simply said it was a fine poem, or if I commended him for his clever use of line breaks or assonance.

What I meant of course, in the case of Jimmy, was that his poem would be reckoned a fine achievement for anyone (not just him) at this point in his development. So maybe I could say that or add a few caveats to my high-blown praise.The result would be the same: it would sound like damning with faint praise.

So what do I do. Usually I read the poem, maybe a couple of times, and then react to it on an instinctual level. If I write Great poem, it's because, reading it, I thought it was great. Simple as that. Same with my local football team. I don't go and watch them b because they are as good as Manchester United. They are not. But neither do I watch them because they are rubbish. Again, they are not. I watch them because I get pleasure from watching them. Yes, sometimes I will find them frustrating (more so than if I followed Manchester United, I don't doubt), but on the whole I am excited by them and I think they are great. Also, there is a special pleasure in watching the improver come good. I may even bore people by telling them how great my team is. If they ask in what ways they are great, then I will tell them that they play attractive, open football... or whatever.

I read the other day that someone had written The political brain is an emotional brain. Not a thought that would readily have occurred to me, but had they said The poetic brain is an emotional brain I could have said Amen! to that. As indicated above, my first reaction to a poem I have not encountered before, is nearly always a straight- forwardly emotional one. Maybe the second and perhaps another reading or so will also elicit purely emotional responses. At some point there must come the conscious application of one's more cerebral gear and the knowledge stored therein. Awareness and discernment will come into play,. But particularly in the case of difficult poems, to begin with a cerebral approach is a bit like trying to get your car to pull away from standing in third gear. Depending on the age, type and condition of your car, it might be possible, but it will be far smoother in a lower gear.

This is no different really, from the way in which my poems get written. Any poem worth the name begins with a distinctive feeling, what I call a movement towards. Even in the very rare case of a first line being given, it comes with an emotional charge attached. The first draft - or if not that much, the first scratchings - are feelings-led. Only later comes the more cerebral activity of shaping the poem into its final form. There are no fixed rules, but that would be not uncharacteristic. There is a lot of talk on the web about expressing yourself - not only in poetry, but all the arts - and too little, I think, about the disciplined shaping that needs to follow.

The difference between Heaney's greatness and Prettyline's may lie more in the matter of repeated readings and familiarity and may not be so apparent upon first acquaintance. Give me a Prettyline poem and a Heaney, both hot from their final drafts, and don't tell me the authors' names, and my initial responses may not be that different. Ask me again a few weeks later and it is likely that I will still be finding new excitements in the Heaney, even if the Prettyline seems to have run its course. By then I will be able to give a more considered and reasoned opinion of both poems. The differences in quality will be showing - or not, as the case may be!

Well, that's just one of the two aspects of "literary lying" that I had intended to discuss, but it's probably more than enough for now.

39 comments:

Karen said...

As usual, you have provided a thought-provoking post - and that's no lie! One of my poet friends and I have discussed the topic of blog lying - that line between encouraging and telling the truth, similar to the actress who agrees that the dress is pretty. As with you, my first reaction to poetry is an emotional one, so it is only when a poem, no matter how well crafted, leaves me cold that I do not find something to appreciate. The distinctions between a Heaney and a Prettyline are the distinctions between an apprentice and a master. "Nice try!" is what I'd really like to say...even to myself on many occasions.

Karen said...

Back with another thought: when I find something really bad, I just don't comment, but I continue to go back to that poet's site, hoping to find something I can praise. The relationships we build with here I find worth nurturing.

Rachel Fenton said...

Perhaps you could try the 'sandwich' approach to commenting (read that on Nathan Bransford's blog recently), where you say something nice, then point out what you feel works less well, then end on another positive - that way you can be tactful and honest. You can be as blunt as you like on my blog, however, I want to write better - all criticism is good!

Rachel Fenton said...

I was going to add what Karen just said, about not commenting and then returning, so thanks Karen!
I just thought, too, that even when someone chooses to focus on the good point (thus ignoring the bad), do other bloggers go 'why is everyone saying nice "one word" when I wrote a 500 word post?' Perhaps there's some analysis arising specifically out of, and for, blog comments...I think way too much!

ladytruth said...

I always, always find it so terribly hard to comment on a poem. I used to lecture a poetry class at varsity and although I loved all my students and their poetry, it was still my job to criticize in order for them and their work to grow. I still hate that word :)

Anyway, on a lighter note: I've always been fascinated by lying and enjoy watching the show "Lie to Me" so much I almost want to start studying something in that field, not for the sake of telling the "perfect lie" but rather being able to tell when people are lying ;)

Tabor said...

This post has given me much to think about. When I write my simple poems it is little more than an exercise for me...calasthentics and I also am smart enough to know that much blogger praise which comes my way is not discerning. As was said, it is more about building relationships. But that is general blogging. I am sure there are sites that exist strictly for criticism of writing and thought. I just hope when the poor writer gets there he/she is nurtured before being flayed.

Totalfeckineejit said...

Always interesting ,Dave. The truth is a difficult one to pin down,so many shades. lies are pretty much monochrome and much easier to nail.

Dave King said...

Karen
I have no difficulty at all with any of your points. They amount very much to my own position, except that it is very rarely that I find nothing to praise, even when a poem has left me cold. There are some great (generally acknowledged to be) that do not resonate with me. I could not clain to like them, but I may admire them for whatever reason.

Rachel
Absolutely, and I do sometimes use the sandwich approach - but I could do exactly the same for the Heaney poem, of course. The similarities and the same diferences are still there. It's really a question of trying to get to know the Poet. The old Marxist maxim: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need, applies here, I think. No use criticising a poet for not having managed what he is not yet capable of achieving. Good practice would be to encourage him/her to make the next step up, whatever that is. Not easy though. When I was a small boy - still in Primary School, I think - my dad received a letter that upset him not a little. In it was the quotation: It is one thing to show a man he is in error, another to put him in possession of the truth. He asked me if I knew what it meant. Even then, I could sense the truth of it, but it has come to mean more and more to me over the years. I told him I thought it would be from Shakespeare. It isn't, of course: it's from Locke, his essay on Human Understanding.

ladytruth
I agree with you about the difficulty of criticising poetry. It's the reluctance to stamp out unawares some latent talent. It is even more difficult, though, to ecognise when the poet has reached a growth point.
I am tooying with the idea of a future post on the very point you make - spotting the lie.

Tabor
Yes, you are quite right to make the distinction between critique and relation-building, though I'm not sure that they are mutually exclusive. You just have to tread carefully. Jim Murdoch is very good at managing both, as is Dick Jones.

(Simple/complex is no indication of quality.)

Jim Murdoch said...

Why do you think I call my blog 'The Truth About Lies'? It's simply because I don't regard language as a precision tool. It's a spade or a hammer. It gets the job done but without finesse.

I have a terrible habit of saying at least part of what I think about any poem posted on the web. I don't think the comments box is necessarily the place to critique a poem unless a critique is specifically asked for but I think it's unfair to the poet not to let them know how the poem affected you. If you like it then say what you liked about it and if it didn't work for you try and explain why not. Only once has this backfired on me. Mostly I find poets appreciate constructive criticism. I just don't go overboard.

As for your comment about the discipline needed to shape a poem I am completely in your corner. I have a post coming up where I discuss in part how we view poems, i.e., just because it looks like a poem doesn't mean that it is a poem. But more on that later.

I like when you talk about a movement towards. I think in similar terms. I wrote a wee post elsewhere this week talking about inspiration (which as you know I equate simply with a good idea) but also likening it to impetus, the shove that gets us started. The thing about a shove like that is that for it to maintain momentum it requires effort from us. Otherwise our good idea grinds to a halt. I have to say that although feelings play a part in my poems for the most part I'm driven by an intellectual need to communicate.

This brings me back to your initial thoughts about how inaccurate words are because how I could describe my movement towards is as a feeling but I need to qualify what I mean by that. I mean 'feeling' as used in the following sentence: "I had a feeling you were going to say that." I don't think that 'feeling' is an adequate word to express what's going on here though. Perhaps if we said: "I sensed you were going to say that," perhaps that would be more accurate. I think of my movement towards as an awareness that something is close – a poem, a story or even a novel – and if I just squint my mind I might be able to see it. Does that make sense?

Great post by the way. You can decide for yourself how great my 'great' is.

Derrick said...

Hi Dave,

I'm more than happy to accept a "fine" from you even though it is in a different league to your praise for Heaney! Making positive comment is important but if someone really appreciates and values the words of another, then they ought also to be willing to accept constructive criticism from that person. Since most of us are not qualified to be professional critics, however, most of us would probably shy away from offering such. The comments box is probably also not the appropriate place for detailed discussion.

The newly revamped Read, Write, Poem site offers two levels of criticism for those seeking greater feedback.

steven said...

hi dave - i really enjoyed reading this post. "enjoyed" being a descriptor of the sensation of being asked challenging questions, of watching someone wrestle with a piece of the human condition, and of course the comments that follow - that's where additional riches can be found.
in most discourse, truth hovers in wait. there are social kindnesses, restrictive conditions around words, and the deep disconnect people experience from their own truth which is for the most part a feature of the emotional center running the rest.
thanks for sharing your thinking dave. i am always glad that i visited your blog. i never leave with my mind empty~ have a peaceful day. steven

Dave King said...

Totalfeckineejit
I like the distinction: truth has shades, lies are monochrome. Nice one!

Jim
I think with your second paragraph you may have put your finger on a point to which I have been giving insufficient attention: that part of the trouble lies in the saying of only part of what we feel about a poem. It is inevitable. You are probably correct, too, in saying that the comments box is not the place for a critique, but often it is the forum we have, but a forum that does not allow full coverage.

I agree also on the need for specifics, to say what is good or otherwise.

Your impetus post sounds promising. I look forward to it, like the sound of it.

Any "great" from you, Jim, is great by me!

Derrick
I don't think you should be worried about any lack of qualificatons for writing critiques. What qualifies a person to appraise any work of art, anyway? Intelligence, sensitivity, empathy... qualities like that, which you undoubtedly have and many others like you who inhabit Bloggerland.

Thanks for the new gen on the Read Write Poem site. I didn't know that.

Steven
I absolutely agree with you about the additional riches. They are an important reason for blogging in my opinion - yourself being part of that, of course. Thanks for that contribution, it confirms my (always under review) intention to continue blogging.

willow said...

I think much of this boils down to the point of why we blog. Are we building relationships or are we critiquing? If we met someone on the street, would we tell them their hat was damn ugly? I agree with Steven in the fact that there are social restrictions on brutal honesty that certainly apply here.

I love "the poetic brain is an emotional brain".

Great post, Dave. We all deal with this issue in the blog world.

Friko said...

Glad to have set in motion a train of thought. (Now that is cumbersome!)
I also read the Guardian article, I'd been planning to use it too some time!
To start with, I'd say that the worst form of lying is lying to yourself. Next, provided you don't set out to inflict harm of any kind, on anybody, telling lies is no great evil in my book.

As for the blog - isn't everything simply always great? Great Post! Great Pic! Great Poem! Can the commenter possibly mean it each time, regardless of the quality or otherwise of the post? Blogs are surely full of little white lies, lies to flatter people, lies to get followers, lies to be kind, lies to encourage people.

As for the real world, to get away from poetry, let's take music. I much prefer to see a performance at the ROH (I wish) than my local regional opera company, although that is all I can afford nowadays. I would probably temper my critique of the latter considerably but I would certainly not praise their performance as being of equal merit as that of e.g. the ROH, if it weren't as good.

Damn with faint praise, don't praise or tell a lie, whatever happens to be expedient at the time I'd say.

By the way, is there something wrong with "nice"? You can always come back and qualify the term when you've let the opus sink in a bit.

What would you say to a discussion group? Maybe about this very same subject for starters? Although, come to think of it, you seem to have done well already.

Friko said...

Me again
Something funny happened over at my blog (see, I'm fishing for customers). The last instalment of the Scraper's Diary has a list in it of ever-recurring images and feelings which several people have read as a poem, although it was not meant to be one.
See what you think if you have the time.

Shadow said...

i agree with you that comments are an emotional response. and as such, linked very much to the moment at which the piece was read and the comment was made. but this is an incredibly difficult subject you've tackled though. chapters and chapters could be written about it. and like you, i'd never say i liked something if i didn't, that would be just dishonest and give someone false encouragement or hope and that's not something i'd do.

Linda said...

I would have to agree with Tabor about the nurturing. Personally, I try to comment on the bits I enjoyed as part of a poem or something I would like to question. The other thing I like to do is relate it in some way to my own little world. If the poem is full of connections I give it a brilliant! I agree with the observation Willow made about the poetic brain being an emotional brain. It is an insightful comment! I think if people are not happy about their writing being judged, why are they posting their work on a blog? Maybe blogland is for experimenting and if you are serious about developing your writing, PAY in the real world for your education, your critiques and your right to question their honesty.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Please sir, my brain hurts after reading, digesting and trying to form an opinion on yet another thought-provoking subject! One reason why I do not put too much of my poetry on my blog is that people tend to say that the poem is brilliant - they are being kind but I know it is not really true. If I put a poem on and ask for criticism then I really, really mean it - I want you to say what is bad about it, how I can improve it etc. I try to make my blog as conversational as I can - so that I can almost imagine sitting in a room with other bloggers and really chatting. I think you also have a good point Dave in that last paragraph - we are expected to make instant judgements on blogs on the whole - and really we need two or three weeks to think about it.
Now, what's the other aspect you wish to discuss?

Mark Kerstetter said...

Isn't it wonderful that every blog is an archive? -At your fingertips and instantaneous.

Now, how many people go back into the archive?

There seems to be so much anxiousness, a focus on the here and now. But literary art really specializes in re-reading, in letting it sink in and coming back later (unlike a live musical performance, for example, which is all about the moment). I think this encourages bloggers sometimes to practice a kind of throw-away form of writing, which is fine, but I doubt such an approach can serve poetry well.

That's why I like your blog, Dave. I have found myself at times thinking, 'didn't Dave write something about this?' and I've gone back into your archive to find it.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Tremendous reflections in this post Dave, there should be a lot to say and as usual I am late in my comment.

I must say: the lies we often can't avoid to say are very many.

jinksy said...

You provided an interesting grist for the mill, into which the commenting bloggers added extra spice. Thank you, kind sir.

hope said...

The irony of being raised a "southern girl" is that we are taught to tell the truth...but don't hurt someone's feelings. :)

Like most here, my emotions probably trickle across the keyboard before the rest of the brain has time to digest. But isn't that what art, in whatever form, is suppose to do? Move us...good or bad?

Because you are appear to be a good man and fair fellow, I find it easy to tell you the truth... without mincing words or tiptoeing around things. Knowing me, if something doesn't hit me as "wonderful", I'll probably just keep asking questions until I understand the person who offered the words. It's the best way to learn...at least for me.

Michelle said...

There are times when I would like to be able to discuss these things 'academically' but you know, even if I had the words I probably wouldn't know what to say sometimes. When a poem leaves me speechless because it reached in and touched me, well, that's when I consider it great....regardless of anything else at all.

xxx

Adrian LaRoque said...

Very good post Dave, love it!

Titus said...

Very interesting Dave, I have to say that for me blogland is good because you can be honest. As previously mentioned, if you don't like something, you don't have to comment, which is not dishonest. When you go back, you may like/agree/disagree with something, and then comment. However, I like getting critiqued: it's my decision whether I change something or not. But critique is not rudeness.

Carl said...

As always... Thought provoking. Thanks Dave!

Mariana Soffer said...

Regarding copying:The internet is a copy machine. At its most foundational level, it copies every action, every character, every thought we make while we ride upon it. In order to send a message from one corner of the internet to another, the protocols of communication demand that the whole message be copied along the way several times. IT companies make a lot of money selling equipment that facilitates this ceaseless copying. Every bit of data ever produced on any computer is copied somewhere. The digital economy is thus run on a river of copies. Unlike the mass-produced reproductions of the machine age, these copies are not just cheap, they are free,

The act of copying is actually a fundamental human drive. It can be seen everywhere, in everything, from fashion to linguistics to basic human development. Children are obsessive copiers. They dedicate a large amount of their time to imitate their parents, One of their principal learning strategies is copying others while doing the activity they want to be able to perform.

All new technological inventions are strongly supported by pre-existing technological inventions.It also happens with many other types of human creations.

regarding changing accoridng emotions:Our perception of how mentally sharp we are has more to do with how we're feeling emotionally than how our cognitive functions are actually working.

In other words when someone says, 'I think my memory has become much worse recently', research suggests that this tells us almost nothing about how their memory is working, but reliably indicates that their mood has been low.

It's quite amazing to think that we have such poor insight into the functioning of our own minds that we 'mistake' low mood for a bad memory, poor concentration or impaired problem solving.

It seems that our ability to have insight into our own mental functioning is not very trustworthy.


Regarding Meaning check the new one:http://singyourownlullaby.blogspot.com/2009/08/meaning-ii.html

Janette Kearns Wilson said...

I apologise that I have not time to read other comments so it may be repetitious.
You have presented a dilemma which has no convenient resolution.
Maybe the answer is to say
"your work gave me pleasure"....if not then there are many platitudinous retorts.
I was in the performance game and I could plunge to the depths of saying...."the dress was lovely"
However it is always a problem perhaps someone needs to say to you "Dave did I do GOOD?"!!!!otherwise stay vague. I achieved a
n emmy in "waffle" as an examiner where the judgements relied on subjective judgements.
Best of luck and thanks for the comments on my blog.

Aniket said...

Many great thoughts have already been reflected on this post, Dave.

I too, go for the Sandwitch approach most of the time. And sometimes take the 'not commenting' approach too. But quite often, I refrain from commenting not because I didn't like the post but because at some level, I feel may be I wasn't able to connect to what the writer wanted to convey. May be in his frame its perfect.

I think every writer knows it inside what a 'great work' or infamous 'nicely done' means when coming from his readers. They know that the reader is trying to be polite but is unable to find something better to say. Also, when I get a 'I like it' from you I know what I've written is not nearly as good as what Karen or Joaquin write. But I feel, that you must have seen some improvement in my efforts and said so. So it gives me a boost to try harder.

Mostly, we give critical comments only to those who we know wont mind and take it in a good stride. Sadly, there is no work around for that. Its just like when you see a person smoking and you think its bad. But you wont go and ask him to quit unless you know hime well enough.

I welcome critical feedback and have found a few great people always willing to help. Its just that we are uncomfortable in taking that first step. Then it gets easier.

In the end it all comes down to the reference frame:

A tale by Shakespeare and an essay by a 5 yr old can both be "great" :D

Dave King said...

willow
There are social restrictions on brutal honesty - except, of course where the author has aked for brutal honesty, and even here perhaps we should ask if s/he was fully aware of what was being asked!

Friko
Although I agree with you over the prevalence and purpose of white lies in blogs, it occurs to me that maybe I should have listed the occasions when I might write Great post! or Great poem!. I haven't got them all to my finger tips just now, but one would certainly be when the post or the poem was above that particular author's usual output.

White lies can encourage, but so can the brutal truth on occasion. The trick is to know which is appropriate in any particular case.

Nothing wrong with nice! I do recall an English lesson in which Mr Rushworth was denigrating words like nice, saying that Nice as in nice dress, nice day, nice time all meant different things. He challenged us to define a nice dress. One brave lad suggested "One long enough to cover the point, but short enough to be interesting." I've liked nice ever since. (You can tell the story dates from the stone age, can't you?)

Synchronicity! I have been idly making random lists of things (headlines, picture captions etc) from neewspapares to see if they would come out as anything like a found poem - they haven't so far! I will pop oer and see.

Shadow
Thanks Shadow. The difficulty is saying how much you like it, I suppose.

Linda
I agree with you about connectionns. For me Blogland is very much about getting feedback and thereby improving, but I am very conscious of the fact that the difficulties I encounter commenting on others' applies equally to their comments on mine.

The Weaver of Grass
Actually you have written nothing there that I might not have written. Wish to discuss something? Moi?

Mark
I hereby promote you to the position of chief archivist! No, but you are absolutely right. I also use the archives, sometimes my own, to see if I am still saying what I said back then! Thanks for that - and for using the archive.

Tommaso
Maybe they are not as many as the ones we do avoid, though? Thanks.

jinksy
And my thanks to all the commenters, including your good self.

hope
Yes, I agree: that is what art is supposed to do! I think you have put your finger on the major difficulty to commenting on blogs: the fact that we don't know the person well enough to judge the level of praise or criticism appropriate to their needs. With that small reservation, I agree with all you say.

Michelle
Excellent point. Difficult to argue with that!

Adrian
Thanks

Titus
No, critique is not rudeness. Genuine critique is the life blood of blogging in my opinion.

Carl
Thanks Carl.

Mariana
Thanks for that. I found your first paragraph absolutely fascinating. I have to confess that I didn't know all of that, though I did realise that copying was a fundamental part of the way computers and the internet works.

The effects of mood and emotions on cognitive functioning is another fascinating area, I agree.

Janette Kearns Wilson
I think concentrating on the pleasure given is not just a way out, but probably the most fundamental way to critique in the first place.

Ah, the nostalgia in that word waffle!

Aniket
I hope I don't write "great work" or "nicely done" unless I mean it. I certaily wouldn't write "I like it" unless I did. It is true there are an infinite number of levels of liking an, as I said in the post, not enough words with enough gradations of meaning between tham to cov er all the levels, but it is also true that art cannot be stacked according to quality. You cannot place even the top 100 paintings, let's say, in order of merit - as some will try to do. It just does not work that way - and should not even if it were possible.

Your final sentence is a most telling point to have made.

Ronda Laveen said...

I liked your dissection of this issue. In blogging, I find many different types of writing. It is hard to be adept at analyzing all types. For instance, I enjoy poetry but don't know the technical aspects of what makes one good and another great. In this case, as you point out I have to rely on my emotional response and comment from there.

Thanks.

lakeviewer said...

Good points, David. In Blogland, a certain amount of socializing prevents one from reacting critically, as a teacher might in a classroom. We are just sharing, interested in handing out little plates, appetizers of our lives. What we expect from others is a similar gesture-take a bite here-a drink ther-sit and chat or greet and run. I'm sure there are sites where one can get critiques and close analysis.

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Lying has taken on a totally new dimension here in the states. It's the type of lying that incites people to near riot. Our health care debate has risen to a crescendo of hate brought on by tactics designed to strike fear into elderly people by well moneyed pharmaceutical and health insurance companies. It is sickening.

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I do like your metaphor about pulling away from the curb in third gear!

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