Jeannie Lee


I like to know what everyone thinks is going on. To this end, about a year ago, I filled up my igoogle home page with feeds from a bunch of different news sources. They are political news sources, for the most part. I don’t care at all about sports or celebrities. I tried to pick stuff from the hard left and hard right and then some mainstream stuff, thinking I could read headlines every day or two and read the articles that grabbed my attention.

It’s not working out that well. I’m too busy to read much. I do glance over the headlines a bit, but there are a lot of them and often my eyes just glaze over. And while I want to know about the rest of the world, I’m even more interested in what my friends and family are doing. If my sister-in-law, Maya, has posted on her blog, or my mom on hers, my brother Benjamin on his, or my friend Jeannie on hers, or my friend Ethan on a couple of his blogs (one about everything and one about his wife Susannah’s struggle with leukemia–both amazing), or several other friends and family with blogs have posted, that’s what I read while I’m brushing my teeth or during whatever scanty extracurricular-reading time appears.

So I need to cull. I’m considering getting paring it down to the few feeds that I actually click on. That would look like this:

Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman columns at NYTimes.com–occasional reads.

Wall Street Journal feed–very occasional reads.

NPR’s political feed–pretty regular use, but usually just audio clips from “All Things Considered,” plus a nearly-daily five-minute news overview, also audio.

A google news feed gathered from a bunch of sources–very occasional reads.

Plus PsychCentral‘s Mental Health News and Children/Parenting News feeds–pretty frequent reads, a few a week–and Nildoctrine‘s feed for his hilarious feminist political vlogs.

And plus my podcasts, which I have absolutely no problem keeping up with: Left, Right and Center, Planet Money, This American Life, Radiolab, and The Long Now Foundation’s Seminars About Long Term Thinking. These I love the most.

I’d call that a US-centric, left-leaning-centrist list. I’d be ditching my right-winger stuff besides the Wall Street Journal–FrumForum which looked pretty good when I checked it out, but I just haven’t been checking it out, and National Review, whose cartoony headlines and terrible writing meant that I almost never looked at it, and regretted it when I did. I’d ditch quite a bit of left-winger stuff–The New Republic & Mother Jones (cartoony headlines again), Truthdig (generally good but not catching me), and Democracy Now! which I think is great but consistently depressing. Also The Onion, which is hilarious but I’ve stopped looking at it, and a CNN feed, which is weak.

That list doesn’t really do what I originally wanted–covering hard left to hard right–but it seems OK for now. What do you think? I’m interested in the media-intake schemes of anyone who made it this far through my post. How do you make these decisions? Do you think I’m missing anything crucial? Make me some recommendations!

Also, anyone interested in my actual media diet can look at my reading list here.

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In May, this blog got 1,082 “views,” which means that many of its pages showed up on other people’s computer screens for some amount of time in 31 days. That’s my new record, and my first 4-digit month. I got quite excited as the number approached. I was checking my stats page several times a day. It was exciting and uncomfortable. I almost decided that I would not let myself check my stats for all of June. It’s not that I was wasting a lot of time on it, it’s just that I started feeling embarrassed about it.

NME Stats at May 31, 2010

I started this blog as a way of letting my friends and family know what I’m doing and thinking about, as a way of attracting Reanna’s attention (or someone else just like her), as a way of staying connected with friends and family and recording my history as I made it, they way I used to do with a yearly zine of the same name. I knew that writing my ideas publicly made me think more critically about them, and I liked the idea of living out loud, being the same person to everyone.

I’ve accomplished all these things, and this blog has been my most consistent source of inspiration for the last coming-up-on two years. It’s been great. My excitement over breaking 1,000, though, has got me thinking. Am I also trying to be famous?

To be clear, I don’t think I’m getting famous by writing this blog. It’s just making me think and feel about it. Even if I keep this pace up, 1,082 views is only about 34 per day, and I posted almost every day this month. I get a few people I don’t know finding the blog with search engine terms that I’ve written about, like “schizophrenia diagnostic criteria” or “are anti-inflammatories bad for you,” but most of my traffic comes directly here, on purpose. I imagine that means that there are maybe 40 folks who read this fairly regularly, and that’s easily accounted for by family and friends from school and Not Back to School Camp.

Still, 1,000 views means a lot more people are reading my writing  than they were two years ago, and that number could keep going up. My friend Jeannie recently beat 6,000 views and I thought, “Wow, that would be cool!” But there’s no way 6,000 views are all friends and family. A blog with 6,000 views is beginning to hit the public sphere–almost 200 a day. That’s not fame either, of course, but I bet those numbers keep going up, and maybe I could get there too, and I’m feeling a little tension about it.

Part of the tension is aesthetic. My aesthetic ideal of fame is from my music and record production career: I’d like to become just famous enough that fans of my kind of music are waiting for my next project, but not famous enough to get recognized on the street.

I’ve always felt comfortable with that picture, but now I’m becoming a therapist, and it appears that the therapist-fame aesthetic is different. My supervisors tell me that I should be unfindable–no public phone numbers, websites, etc. Clients should not be able to contact me except through the clinic, and they definitely shouldn’t be able to find out about my personal life. I can see the wisdom in that, but I don’t want to do it. I can make my phone, myspace, and facebook private, but I’ve got this blog and my band’s website, plus I show up on other websites that I prefer to be publicly affiliated with, like Not Back To School Camp, my swing dance group ELLA, and my family‘s music sites.

Another part of the aesthetic tension is about transparency. I have to be one person to everyone on this blog. Being the same person to everyone is an ideal for me but makes me uncomfortable. I have psychology-research friends, therapy friends, and co-counseling friends, all of whom would be distressed to some degree to learn how deeply involved I am in each field. My atheist friends can see that when I say I am agnostic, I really mean it. I’m not a hedging-my-bet atheist. I think about God a lot and take the idea seriously. My religious friends will see that I mock fundamentalism pretty regularly. And so on. The more well-known I get, the less I get to show people the parts of me I think they will like and hide the parts I think they won’t like.

And then there is the ethical aspect of fame. In a way, the better known I am, the better off my friends and family are–the more traffic I can drive to our businesses by mentioning them, the bigger audience I’ll have built for books I write or records I make. I can also bring more attention to worthy causes, potential problems, things like my Headlines From Psychology, that people would be better off knowing. The more fame, the more impact. A famous Nathen would be a stronger force for good. If I do say so.

On the other hand, the extent of my fame also forces transparency onto my friends and family, and they don’t all share my aesthetic preference for transparency. I didn’t really get this as an ethical issue until Reanna asked me not to use her last name on the internet. She wants to control what people can find out about her, and who doesn’t? I regularly tell people who video me dancing, “No YouTube!” But it didn’t even occur to me to ask the friends and family I’ve written about whether I could use their full names, or even post their photos. I’ve been considering starting that project soon. I like using full names, talking about real, specific people. So and so said such and such. This, however, a big reason Kerouac died friendless. I guess ethics trumps aesthetics.

[Oh! Here’s my opportunity to make that project easier for myself. If I’ve used your name (or if it seems likely that I will) in NME, please email me your preference: last name or no last name.]

I wrote most of this in early June, not knowing if I my views would continue spiking. It turns out they did not. At the end of June I’m almost exactly where I was at the end of May. I suppose it’s possible that staying level is an achievement, though, since I posted almost every day in May but only every other day in June. I’ve also lost a good deal of my both excitement and tension about my stats, though I still check them every day. Maybe it’s having watched them level off again. I’m tempted to start posting every day again to see if I can get another spike, but I think I’d rather post even less frequently and give myself time for more thoughtful essays. I’ll keep you updated.

Two of my good friends, Mo’ and Chad, have never met, even though I’ve known Chad for 33 years and Mo’ for 9. It’s geographical–Mo’ is part of my Oregon community and Chad is in southern California. It’s too bad because they’re both really funny and it would be great to get to watch them riff. Mo’, for example, early on, decided that Chad was my imaginary friend and made a lot of good fun of me: “Oh, riiight, Nathen– “Chad” climbed Mt. Whitney with you…” etc.

When Chad married another good friend of mine, Jeannie, a few years ago, Mo’ and his partner Vangie made this video for them. I’m not sure how funny it will be if you don’t know Mo’ or Chad, but if you’re reading this blog, you probably know one or both of them, and I think it’s just plain funny:

Jeannie Lee, my blog advisory council, says that people generally don’t explore blog sidebars since it’s not obvious when that stuff gets updated. Here’s what I’ve got going on so far.

“In” is for my input: I’ve got a list of most of the blogs I’m currently reading, with short reviews, and, under ‘learning,’ a list of the classes, lessons, workshops, and lectures taken or listened to. “Listening” is for music. Under ‘reading’ I have a list of what I’ve read this year, and at the bottom a link to what I read last year. “Viewing” is a list of movies and TV I’ve watched. “Websites” is a list of my most heavily used sites, with little descriptions.

The “Nathen Online” section is self explanatory.

“Out” is for output: Under ‘driving’ is my driving log since my birthday and a little essay about my truck and driving. Under ‘landfill’ is a trash project I started in January, documenting my landfill contribution. ‘Photographs’ has links to some Flickr slideshows I’ve put up. I’m almost a year behind on that project, but what’s up is good. ‘Writing’ is where I post my academic writing. I intend to put up everything I’ve written for school in the last two years but so far I just have my fall term up.

“Categories” is just that–how I’ve categorized my posts here. Having that list up is a straight rip off Ethan Mitchell’s blog. I thought it was a cool idea.

11 years worth

11 years worth

I have started this blog inspired by my friend of just over a decade, Jeannie Lee. I’ve been waving her away about it for years because of the time commitment: learning curves and then continuing to post. I’d already stopped writing in my precious journals in favor of a voice recorder because of how much time it took. I already have plenty of ways to keep myself a little too busy: university, learning to dance, making money, reading, writing music, keeping up with friends and family…. Jeannie’s rebuttal was that I could put as little time as I felt like into the project, which is true, of course, but not usually how I operate.

I think two things tipped me. One is that I’ve been thinking a lot about how difficult it is for me to write well, and that it’s because of how difficult it is for me to think clearly. But good, clear thinking is important to me. I decided I could stand to nudge my daily activities in that direction. Another push was from my new friend, Reanna, who told me she liked the little rants I’d put up on my (feeble) myspace page. She’s smart and a writer and I have a crush on her, so that convinced me to make better friends with the part of myself that says things. Plus, the few writings and images she has up online give a sense of her personality and life that mine do not. I’m jealous.

NME 32, 33 & 34

NME 32, 33 & 34

So here it is, starting September 29, 2008, the first day of my 38th year. I’m calling it Nathen’s Miraculous Escape after a zine that I made for a while about my year, each year, for Christmas presents. (I stole the name from the title my dad gave to the film of my brother Ely’s birth: Ely’s Miraculous Escape.) I hope this blog will serve the same purpose as the zine—make it easier for you to stay connected with me during the times (most of the time, actually) that I’m working on projects and neglecting the loved ones in my life who I don’t see every day.

I’m excited about this project. I always get a creative rush around this time because I always spend a lot of time brainstorming about my new year, clarifying my goals and visions. This year’s creative rush has been bigger than usual, though. The last several days I’ve woken up after only a few hours of sleep and lain awake until morning, thinking about how to organize this page, how I can include all of my inspirations. Normally I’m not a big fan of insomnia, but this has been fun. I hope you enjoy it.

Love,

Nathen