Friday, February 01, 2008
Memoirs in the Now
by Johnny Hughes, author of the poker novel, Texas Poker Wisdom
"I remember when there were just three bloggers, Al, Iggy and Dr. Pauly. They walked three miles in the snow to write posts. Blogger then ate the posts and they had to walk three miles back home, retype the post, and walk three miles back to blogger to submit the post again. In the snow. Uphill both ways."
You young, whipper-snapper, loose players forget just how new and revolutionary blogging is in our culture. Traditionally, writers had to wait until they were really old or really dead to write their memoirs. If they weren't already dead, they probably would be before a book worked its way through the glacial-paced world of book publishing. A certain type of journalistic distance and alleged objectivity meant the writer kept their own selves and opinions out of it. If they crept in, some editor would cut them out. Only a few hep cats like Mark Twain made themselves a part of the story.
Now we have the memoir of the now. Dr. Pauly and Change100 have grand adventures in Australia and we follow them journalistically in almost real time. The writing is unedited, uncensored, and straight through..them to you. Its interactive, you can comment. Imagine Boswell tagging along behind Dr. Johnson, and stopping in Internet cafes to keep us informed. Pauly and Change100 grab hold of some bar-b-cued kangaroo and some alligator eggs, well, we get pictures and a graphic description of hangovers in helicopters that follow.
Iggy's like the Reader's Digest and Walter Winchell and Johnny Carson bringing us topical, right then news and his thoughts on all this. Of the two, whom do you know to be the most secretive...Dr. Pauly or Iggy?? Yeah, well, that's part of the deal. You choose what to put out there to the whole damn world and what to keep back.
I was in on a first wave of journalistic change writing for an underground newspaper in the late 1960s and early 1970s. We wrote semi-annonymously, mostly humor. We could just make up stories, but you knew they were satire. We had a wire service, Liberation News Service. We printed their radical message for the far-left radicals. This was also the time of a new personal journalism that gave us guys like Iggy and Pauly. Writers like Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer started putting themselves in the story. It wasn't about a Grateful Dead Concert, it was about what happened to Dr. Pauly at a Grateful Deal Concert. The concert was only backdrop.
I met Ralph Nader at the airport and attended a speech he made and wrote mostly about me.
As a warning, the FBI had a nation-wide program called COINTELPRO, for counter-intelligence. That meant they screwed with and did things to left-wing groups, left-wing leaders, underground newspapers, all writers. They kept files. Worried way too much. For the underground newspapers, they visited printers who canceled. They broke into offices. They opened mail. Tapped phones. Freedom of info act requests reveal they had agents that would visit and try to get people to do more radical, violent acts. There were false accusations. Our editor was arrested for drugs...cough syrup from the Texas Tech health service which tons of students had...by the Lubbock Police. Our ACLU lawyer got him out. They gave him the cough syrup back. Then that night the Lubbock County Sheriff's office arrested him for the same cough syrup. He had two drug arrests on his record. Charges were dropped. Stuff like this happened to college student leaders across the country.
For decades, I have known people, like myself, who were writers, going to conferences, getting little stories in obscure places. Writing without expecting readers. And reading in a vacuum where you could not comment. Now when you read an article, often you can comment right away. When you read a book, you can review it on Amazon or write the author or challenge the author. I remember reading Douglas MacArthur's memoirs and thinking, "What total horeshit." Now, I can speak up.
I listen to four local talk radio stations here in the mornings while I roam the blogs seeing what happened to my new blogger friends overnight and getting my first early morning BrandiRose hits as he first rays of a golden sun peak out over the Caprock. I am a regular writing emails to one and calling a couple of others. In the mornings I may hear a DJ read what I wrote and hear people comment or call myself. This week I screwed up, being this the age of straight through, uncensored radio, where you censor yourself. It is even more immediate than the Internet because there is zero edit.
They started talking the pro-guns rap you hear in Texas and how everyone should carry a gun, which we already do. Then they started talking about this store owner I know we will call Jake. They said you always felt safe around Jake because he wore a sidearm. They said he had this beautiful derringer. I was immediately outraged and called in and said, "Jake is no poster child for the National Rifle Association because he shot himself right in the head." Awkward silence. I'm wishing I had not said it. There's more to the story.
I've always worked in the communication business..book business, newspaper, radio, Television, and then university teaching. You bloggers should cherish the freedom to go straight at the readers right from the heart.
I wrote a couple of poker pieces for Texas Monthy.com. Some junior intern edited and cut them up like a boarding house pie. I wrote about hand nicknames and they cut out Big Slick. I wrote about West Texas gamblers nicknames. One of my pals was named Train Wreck. Years later, he was in an actual train wreck and wore a brace all the time and was suing the railroad. He won. They cut that, my favorite little part.
Iggy and Pauly and Al and all those coming along behind should realize what a magnificent, new thing it is to write your memoirs in the now, as you live them, unfiltered, straight though to readers all over the world.
Johnny Hughes, author of Texas Poker Wisdom.
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