Monday, December 31, 2018

The Top Ten of 2018

I haven't been very productive this past year.  Once again, I've written fewer posts than I did the previous year, with a couple of periods of months in which I wrote (or at any rate completed) nothing at all.  It's not like I don't have anything to say, it's just that I can't muster the initiative or energy to sit and write it down.  It happens to all writers, but that doesn't make me feel any better about it.

Ah well: one good thing about not writing so much is that it's easier to sort through the year's work and track which posts got the most traffic.  A surprisingly large number got more than 200 views.  Here are those which attracted the most attention.

10.  Where Do You Draw the Line?  (240)  I wrote quite a lot last summer, during the controversies over America's supposed lost civility.  The event that occasioned the most handwringing was the quiet and perfectly civil request by a restaurant owner that White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders take her business elsewhere.  I had, and still have, more questions than answers on the subject; not so much about Sanders, who as a dedicated Trump apparatchik ought not to be served anywhere, as about the principles which ought to guide the refusal of service or other interaction with those we disapprove of.

9. How to Be Good  (241)  Betty Smith's novel Joy in the Morning improved my mood at a time when I sorely needed it.  (Well, I nearly always need it these days.)  Here's why goodness in fictional characters is so important.

8.  You $@#!&% Kids Get the #%&! Off My Mother#@%&* Lawn! (248)  Some uneasy reflections of the widespread use in edgy social media of the F-word.

7.  But What About the Whataboutism, Huh?  (250)  Also last summer, accusations of "whataboutism" flew thick and fast in the discourse over civility and in claims about Russian interference in American elections.  Like incivility, accusations of whataboutism are used on all sides.  In this post I clear away the confusion. You're welcome.

6.  If You Don't Know, I'm Certainly Not Going to Tell You!  (258)   Why, and how, people delight in talking past each other in a variety of spheres.

5.  It's Not What You Know, It's Who You Know  (279)  A theologian of the Force mistook story for proof, confusing happy endings with the way the real world works.

4.  Kindness Is Not Enough  (284)  This one got a boost because I chose it as my representative post in Vagabond Scholar's Jon Swift Memorial Best of 2018.  Now that I've seen the documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor? I'm even more sure that Fred Rogers's adult fans are dishonoring his legacy and his memory.  For example, one of Rogers's PBS colleagues said in the film that she was shocked when he told her that adults have a responsibility to protect children.  She just couldn't wrap her head around that radical, extreme idea.

(It's not nice to say, but one thing that bothered me as I looked through what other bloggers chose for their best posts, was how often they consisted of childish parodies of folk or popular songs to make them mock So-Called Donald Trump.  It's one thing to vent like that, and quite another to choose it as your best work of the year.)

3.  Dude, I'm a Lesbian and Gay Academic  (369)  The first of three posts I wrote about Toni A. H. McNaron's Poisoned Ivy: Lesbian and Gay Academics Confronting Homophobia (Temple UP), a 1997 survey of homophobia in academia.  On the whole I liked it a lot, but I was bemused by some strange historical lapses in her account.

2.   Hold That Thought (539)  Some ruminations about Louise Erdrich's latest novel, an exchange on Facebook with a Christian Facebook friend about the doctrine of plenary verbal inspiration of the Bible, and the uses even liberal Christians make of their scriptures.

1.  Rorschach Snapshots  (546)  A beautiful photograph of a young Brazilian boy enraptured by New Year's fireworks went viral last January, and I was struck by the wildly varying interpretations people made of the situation, the boy's feelings, and the Meaning Of It All.  Unfortunately the tweet linked to the photo is now gone, but I've had occasion to write before about the way people "read" images, and I probably will again.  And here's a good article about the photograph and the responses to it.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Vagabond Scholar's Jon Swift Memorial Best of 2018

Once again, Batocchio has posted his annual Jon Swift Memorial Roundup, carrying on the good work of the late Al Weisel, alias Jon Swift.  Bloggers choose their own favorite post of the year, and Batocchio posts them.  I'm in there, of course, but so are a good many other writers you might not have heard of.  Take a look and see what you think.