9th of August, 1945.

To: Dana
From: Uyanga
Subject: Hey

Did I already tell you everything about the West Virginia guy? I don't think so... anyway: I didn't have internet access at home until Autumn of 1996, and at that point I looked at the free installation disks for AOL and CompuServe (I suppose they must have been stuck to pizza boxes or something), shrugged, and inserted AOL. Almost immediately that path began to diverge in a yellow wood and so forth and so on. I really had not been interested in chatting or meeting people, I thought. I just wanted to look things up. Of course, AOL meant an instant barrage of cybersex offers from every 15-year-old kid in North America. So I started to fill out my profile to make it clear that I was old, serious, and boring and that I taught junior college. And that's what must have attracted Dick.

Yes, that was his real name. I probably should have stayed with the 15-year-olds. Dick was married and admitted this, but pretended he and his wife were all but separated and lived unhappily and platonically in the same house until he could steel himself to get out of her hair and let her find happiness again. He was several years older than me -- I guess he'd be 55 now.

For a few months we chatted as friends; he always seemed to think of some way that I was really helping him, serving as a connection to a more meaningful life or some kind of nonsense, and here I was living in Seattle, such an exciting place, so unlike West Virginia where he'd only gone to make his wife and in-laws happy, felt trapped, doomed, washed up, crushed, suffocated, destined to die of sorrow, even suicidal -- but then he came up with the perfect solution! He could marry me instead. Yessirree, he could bring me to West Virginia (he was only a few years away from federal retirement), and it would be difficult at first, but gradually everyone would come around to the idea and be so much happier, and I would have saved his life, and there was certainly something in all this for me too but I don't remember what.

I shucked off my jobs and possessions and financial responsibilities as if they'd been on fire, and we went to Huntington, and nothing turned out to be true, of course, except that I really liked the apartment he'd found us. Alone in it with no furniture, I felt like a child in a playpen. He did stay around most nights for the first three weeks. Things were very, very not platonic, but our brief life together was pretty awful. He looked at me as if he hated me all the time, and cried about his family and how I'd tricked him. Finally he said he couldn't do it anymore, and went home. I cried all night, mostly from fear. I hoped I'd never wake up.

He promised to help me pay the rent, but changed his mind, of course; he couldn't maintain two households. I had nothing, but I scraped by on gifts, plasma donations, and odd jobs I did for my new friends in the environmental organization -- babysitting, cleaning, typing, stuffing envelopes, anything people needed, and then the next winter I was lobbying the state legislature and earning $700 a month plus Taco Bell coupons.

Those enviros were wonderful to me. And I was damned if I'd slink away, and I was too ashamed of myself to go back to Seattle or seek refuge with my family. I had friends, and I did lots of stuff, even if I was eating beanie-weenies and wearing holey shoes. So were most people. It was a good year, really. As wrong as my original actions were, I can't bring myself to regret what happened there. I'm tempted to say I never should have left, but that would probably be a mistake.

But I wish that I had stayed close to my West Virginia friends. I only returned twice. Ultimately I guess I felt too nervous in Huntington, because it's a small place and I never stopped being afraid of running into Dick. The first friend I made there is dead now. Laura was only 39, seemingly in perfect health, a beautiful wife and mother whose child I babysat sometimes, but she basically worked herself to death for the cause. And I didn't even go back for her funeral. I hate that about me.

Oh boy, we're pandering!  (an E2 Copyright Changes critique)

Alright, let's start with:

This is a Big Change for E2, but definitely in the right direction. A writer's site for writers.
Now really, writers? Do we really want writers here? I mean, a lot more than there are here already? The whole site by them and for them? All writers and nobody else?

Like, ok. This website is and has been the most interesting website on my radar, ever. Over and above any of the other crap that's out there, over your Slashdot, your Livejournal, your Fark, even your suck.com, your Salon. Whatever. E2 -- the old stuff and the new stuff -- has been consistently better. I think there are a lot of people here who would agree with me on that, people whose names I've seen on the other users list, and who've seen me there, for years now.

I can't speak for them, but I at least am not here because I like to read or want to be like some windbag writer. Special effects technicians are good though. Linguists also. And gutterpunks, insurance adjusters and salesmen, graduate students, semi-pro drinkers, journalists, film editors, daycare providers, adventurers, coders of various strains, librarians, bartenders, secretaries. Maybe even a few published, professional writers who aren't trying too hard and don't go on and on about it.

What I am not here to read is a bunch of fucking wankers who really like the sound of the "professional writer lifestyle" but don't (yet) have the right combination of experience and insight to make anything original of their own. People who would love to discover the kind of site that's pretentious enough to bill itself as a writer's site for writers and fill it to the brim with their vapidity. Honestly here. We are opening Pandora’s box, and it is full of long-winded, over-polished, amateurish writeups with poor dialogue and no plot. I've read some of the rest of the internet, the kind of spew that's out there, and I know this to be the truth.

A little bit of raising the bar (or as I like to call it, nuking the crap) is great, and has done wonders for the site. Change in general has been good here, and the administration is as worthy of ass-kissing as, I suppose, any other. Still, this particular paradigm shift is troubling, and I'd hate to see it screw up a site I love so much.

One more thing:

However noders who aspire to become professional writers and who participate in professional writing communities are put in an awkward position. ... What can they say when their friends, who violently oppose any and all unauthorized uses of their own works, see huge amounts of lyrics and stories posted without the author's consent?
Right. Perfect example. If your "author" friends are taking themselves so seriously that some fucking lyrics writeups are enough to turn them off of the site, then there is every possibility that they are pussies and should go away. I'm sorry, but really.

It's not like I have more than a handful of lyrics writeups and need to cover my ass here. It's more like I think the benefit of lyrics writeups -- of having somebody's thoughts and feelings about a piece of music accompanied by the lyrics to it -- outweighs the benefit of pandering to whatever miniscule percent of the creative population is turned off by the sight of a few measly verses.

I asked a new noder who had decided to quit "Why did you choose to post the writeups you've written so far?"

He msg'd back, "I posted them because I want to contribute to the database."

I smiled though I knew he couldn't see it, and msg'd back (now cleaned and polished):

Funny thing about contributing: much like "helping" someone, contibuting must be done in the manner inkeeping with the forum you're contributing to. As a new noder you can't vote or C! so there are only two ways for you to contribute: posting writeups or reading writeups and providing useful feedback.

Posting contributes to making E2 a site people like to read, but only if it is good. If your writeup is subpar, you're not contributing to the site, the site is contributing to you. However, the boundary conditions of what is acceptable are fluid and vague. Obviously, leet speak is definitely not okay, while in-depth, well-written write-ups (even if not comprehensive) are strongly encouraged. Anywhere in between, especially toward the middle, becomes a matter of taste and intuition. Butterfinger McFlurry is outside the "sanctioned" style, and yet it persists. But if someone else, especially a beginner, tries something like that, it'll be the exception if it survives.

Look at Watching you eat an apple. Aphrodite is well-known for the kind of writeup she posted there, and it has a certain quality so it remains. Allseeingeye is also well-known the kind of writeup he posted there, and the juxtaposition is entertaining to enough people, so it too stays. Neither are exmples of something which I would suggest a newbie try: they're risky and take a certain kind of skill to pull off. You have to know what you can get away with.

Offering feedback is no better. You're probably still new to the site, so what insight can you offer? Maybe you feel pretty confident about your writing abilities and you can communicate them well. Good, you can help others, but it won't gain you levels, or ability to vote or C!, which are the only measurable rewards you can get from participating.

I know you didn't ask, but let me give you the gist of my experiences here: don't worry about "contributing" to begin with. Think of it as a feedback loop that is training you how to write better, both for this site and in general. I suggest spending at least twice as much time reading as you do writing, but definitely do both. You don't even have to give feedback, just read what others have done, decide what you liked and didn't like, and then try emulating different styles. Learn.

Whatever you decide to do, don't do it for the database or the nodegel or whatever. Do it for yourself or for another person. Without the people who form the community here, the site is an artifact, an empty house, a record of past events. Much like any construct, it cannot care for you. XP and levels may be the measurable signs of your standing here, but they ultimately mean nothing. The only things you can take from participating here are the friends, the skills and the actual experiences of participating.

In some ways, this site is a little cul-de-sac off the information superhighway. It has some really nifty people and features, but it's also quite limited. If you can accept the limitations, it has a lot to offer. I haven't been here long and I've seen a number of noders, new and old, throw up their hands and say, "Don't waste your time!" or "That's censorship!" or "You all suck!" or "Raising the bar is the most brain-dead pile of feces ever!" And all I can say is, "I see. I'm sorry you didn't find what you were looking for. Fame, respect, whatever. I'm still getting what I want out being here: I'm learning to read and write more effectively every day, and I'm finding I don't have to do it alone."

I stopped. In months of noding, no one had asked me what I'd asked him. Sure, I filled in a mission drive on my homenode, but what does that really mean? And now without meaning to, he'd led me around to face my own question and answer it. I thanked him.

I write. You write. Any of us who has submitted something of their own work here has written. A writer is somebody who writes.

So we're all writers. How could we not be?

I'm a bit baffled at the suggestion that making the decision that we should have enough respect for other writers to not use their stuff unless we've asked them for permission somehow makes us "pussies". Even if it weren't the law, it's simply the polite and honest thing to do.

Right. Perfect example. If your "author" friends are taking themselves so seriously that some fucking lyrics writeups are enough to turn them off of the site, then there is every possibility that they are pussies and should go away. I'm sorry, but really.

It's not a matter of anyone taking themselves too seriously, friend.

It's about respect.

Say that you go into a pawn shop hidden in an out-of-the way alley, and you see a lot of stuff that you suspect is stolen. You ask the shopkeeper about it, and he winks at you and says, "Yeah, it all came from some rich rock stars' houses. They trash their stuff all the time; they'll never miss it. If the police come looking we give it back. What's the problem?"

If you felt that stealing from people's houses is A Bad Thing, why would you do business at this shop, knowing that you would be tacitly supporting activities you felt would ultimately harm people you respected and cared about?

A lot of people have passed E2 by for a lot of reasons, and seeing copyright violations going unchecked here is one of them.

Those who think I'm being an unreasonable, no-good oppressor of the masses for thinking E2 should honor the spirit of intellectual property laws should read Harlan Ellison's take on things at http://harlanellison.com/KICK/kick_rls.htm. And lots of people totally agree with Ellison, and they got lawyers. Trust me, I'm a moderate in the grand scheme of things, else I wouldn't have stuck around here as long as I have or sunk so much time and effort into trying to help out here.

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