The new blog format for 2020

Some things will be changing here at Edward Trimnell Books in 2020. Other things will remain the same.

What will stay the same?

The fiction. I primarily write fiction, and I’ll continue to post novel excerpts and short stories here.

I may even serialize a complete novel here before the end of 2020.

What will change?

The blog. No—I don’t intend to stop blogging. You will, however, notice changes in the length, tone, and style of the blog posts in 2020.

We will still discuss current events. That said, there will be no effort here in 2020 to follow the daily news on a headline-by-headline basis.

This site isn’t Huffington Post. Nor is it Breitbart, Daily Kos, or Instapundit. Those are all group blogs. I’m one person, and this is a personal website.

What you’ll get here instead in 2020 will be a deeper perspective. That will, though, necessarily mean narrowing the focus, and letting some headlines go by.

A semi-autobiographical orientation

Many of this year’s essays will be semi-autobiographical.

No, this doesn’t mean that I’ll be telling you what I had for breakfast each morning (oatmeal and a protein shake today, just in case you do want to know.) But I’ll be adding more of a personal spin to the blog this year.

Some of you will like that—others may not.

Time and perspective

As I begin 2020, I am fifty-one years old.

Granted, that’s much younger than many people who remain in the public eye. Former President Jimmy Carter, at the age of 95, could easily be my grandfather, after all. President Trump, age 73, was born the same year as both my parents.

On the other hand, though, I’m old enough to be the father of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, age 30. (Not that I’d want to be, I should note, but I’m old enough). If you’re old enough to be the parent of a sitting congressperson, well, you’re no longer a kid, are you?

A half-century on the planet has taught me a lot of lessons.

Chief among these is the need for humility, and the corresponding pitfalls of taking oneself too seriously. When we are young, we see the world, and ourselves, in very black-and-white, absolutist terms. As we get older, we are forced to accept that real life—and real people—involve many shades of gray.

Sometimes we are tested and we come through. Sometimes we are tested and we come up short. I have made my share of mistakes. At least some of this year’s essays will detail how I screwed up—and how I would do things differently, if I had my life to live over again.

In many cases, it might be too late for me to change my circumstances. But it might not be too late for you. If that happens to be true, then it really will have been worthwhile for me to talk about myself.

I have also changed my mind on occasion, when the available evidence has changed. Politicians often say that their opinions have “evolved”—which usually means that their opinions on a particular issue have shifted to the left.

Well, not always. Sometimes my opinions have “evolved” to the left—but just as often they’ve “evolved” to the right. I’ll probably find time to delve into some of those about-faces, or subtle shifts of perspective, too.

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Anyway, that’s a little bit about the new blog format for the New Year. Welcome to 2020. I hope it’s a happy, healthy, and productive 366 days for you.

The Internet, Jonathan Franzen, and distractions

About a year ago, literary novelist Jonathan Franzen shared his “10 rules for novelists”. Number 8 was:

“It’s doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.”

Jonathan Franzen

I’m not sure I would be this absolutist about the matter. But as someone old enough to have reached adulthood before the Internet was “a thing”, I can appreciate just how distracting cyberspace can be.

It was bad enough in the beginning. But then came social media (I’ll spare you my usual rant), and those damned smartphones. 

As for Jonathan Franzen: The guy gets a bad rap, and I’m not sure why. Yes, he is quirky and eccentric. Yes, he is fashionably progressive and eye-rollingly politically correct in his politics. But no more so than many other people in the arts.

I’ve read two of his novels: The Corrections (2001) and Freedom (2010). I thought both books were pretty good. 

Technology and the voluntary loss of privacy

This is bigger than Katie Hill…

A certain politician from California has been in the hot seat of late because of embarrassing revelations of a highly personal nature. 

Katie Hill, a freshman representative from California, has recently seen her private life aired on the Internet, from The Daily Mail to Twitter… 

And what a colorful private life it is, apparently. Say what you will about Representative Hill and her politics, but she isn’t boring and she isn’t a prude. 

This naturally raises a lot of questions: Should a politician’s sex life be an issue, so long as they aren’t breaking any laws or violating anyone’s rights? Can a politician who leads an unconventional sex life govern effectively?

Politics tends to attract horndogs of both sexes, irrespective of ideology: Consider the examples of Bill Clinton, JFK, and Donald Trump.

Further back in history, consider Catherine the Great and King David. 

That isn’t the angle I want to consider, though. 

I grew up in the 1980s. Back then, unless you were a famous person, most of what you said and did simply wasn’t documented.

Photographs existed, obviously. But individual photos had to be developed, usually at a Fotomat. And since they also had to be printed out on paper, there was a cost associated with them. 

“Instant cameras”, with self-developing film, enjoyed a period of popularity in the 1970s and 1980s. But the film was expensive, and the photo quality wasn’t very good. 

Because of such negative cost and convenience factors, people tended to take photos only when it was an “event”: a birthday celebration, a school play, a family portrait, etc. I won’t go so far as to say that having your photo taken was a big deal in the 1980s, but yes…it was kind of a big deal. It didn’t happen every day, for the average person. 

As a result, most of what you said and did died in the moment. There wasn’t this minute-by-minute record of your life that we have now. 

Those technologically primitive times had their benefits. Suppose that you said something dumb, or you did something that pushed a few boundaries. Unless it was really over the top, it was quickly forgotten. 

Which is, I would suggest, the way it should be.

Katie Hill certainly didn’t want her private photos published on the Internet. Her reasonable expectations of privacy were violated. Let’s be unequivocal about that. 

But the vast majority of the photos which came to light were clearly posed. This strongly implies that she consented to them being taken. 

This, in itself, represents a major lapse in judgment. Why, pray tell, would anyone consent to a naked photo of oneself, smoking from a bong, with an iron cross tattoo plainly visible near one’s pubic region?

We’ve bought into the notion that every moment of our lives needs to be Instagrammed, Facebooked, and selfied. Perhaps this is mass vanity, or perhaps this has just become a habit. Either way, it’s what we’re all doing. 

And this isn’t just the Millennials and the GenZers. I have friends in their forties and fifties who seemingly can’t go out to dinner without taking a half-dozen photos of themselves and uploading them to Facebook. 

Look at us, and what a happy couple we are, having a fancy meal out on the town!

More of our lives needs to remain private. But our private lives especially need to remain private. 

How do you define “private”? Here’s a rule of thumb: Don’t consent to any photo of yourself that you wouldn’t want posted on the homepage of The Daily Mail. Because as Katie Hill now knows, that may very well happen.