Sunday, February 11, 2007

Plastic Crab

[posted by Callimachus]

Yglesias wonders if there's a connection between blogging and hating the phone.

I can get through a conversation with, say, my dad but as a general matter I just absolutely hate to talk on the phone and will always use email, IM, or SMS if it's even vaguely plausible as a substitute.

Yes, same here. "Do Not Pick Up the Telephone" is one of my favorite Ted Hughes poems: "That plastic Buddha jars out a Karate screech". Later he addresses it as "a bad god" and a "detonator" (you have to picture old-style cradle phones).

It's all I can do to sit through a phone conversation. I writhe like a schoolboy on the last day of class. I have seen friends drift off because I could not stand to talk much on the phone and they would not get Internet connections.

It wasn't always so. In part it's because for 20 years I've worked nights, slept days, and the Karate speech of the telephone at 1 p.m. or so always was the thing that jarred me out of my dreams. Also, as a journalist, I've been tied to the phone my entire career and have come to associate it with the grind of the office.

Then for years I had a deaf-mute lover and we talked mostly by writing, and I got an unlisted number and had very little to do with phones. Like television, I didn't decide to cut it off, but after I did it was hard to go back, and not worth it.

Now when I have to use the phone I talk as quickly and to-the-point as I can, into a black blank space where I can't see the someone on the other end. I've lost the ability to read the clues in just the sound of a voice. Like Hughes, somehow I feel death in it.

Is there a connection between that and blogging? Probably. Not directly, but the two tendencies will go together. Blogging is not writing -- though you can write on a blog. It's conversational speech, generally.

More likely, it's personal: I don't think fast. I need a few seconds to get something together in my head, get its shoes tied and dress it up for the weather before sending it out into the world. Just a few seconds, usually, but I'm always agog at people who can spit out complete, tight thoughts in real time, like Charlie Parker riffs.

This medium slows everyone down just enough that I can keep up.

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