Comforts and Pleasantness

Month: July, 2012

Is writing even writing anymore?

Writers are fussing about cursive again. Is this the end? Will be we able to read our historical documents? Our grandparents’ letters? How much does that matter?

I think the more interesting question is not whether we will use cursive when we write with pen and paper, but whether we will continue to write with pen and paper at all. Does our tactile, visual, and auditory experience shape our thoughts as we write? My instinct says so. I worry about what we could lose if we lose the lovely (to me) sensory experience of paper and ink.

As an experiment, I tried to compose this blog post on paper. I couldn’t do it. It turns out that to compose, I need to see my letters, words, sentences, and paragraphs clearly defined. I need to re-read them to myself over and over as I compose. I need to shuffle them sometimes, and re-read again. I need to see them in type, the way people will read them. I need to see the shape of what I am writing. A good piece of writing has a definite shape; to build that shape, I have to experience it as the reader will experience it. To build a piece of writing that can stand on its own, I need to see it as it will be seen.

Pen-and-paper writing feels very personal to me, like a diary entry or a letter. I can give it my stream of consciousness, I can use it to chat, but I cannot use it to compose clearly.

So now I wonder. Should I even call it writing anymore?

What does a long-term power outage mean in a rural area?

I wrote about it for The Daily Yonder:

The Rural Side of Power Outage

Is it possible to have a tourist economy that isn’t modeled on prostitution?

We had a natural disaster here in West Virginia on June 29th. Call it a “land hurricane.” Eleven days on, many thousands of families still don’t have electricity. In the Greenbrier Valley, when the storm came, we were set to host tens of thousands of people for a high-end golf event. Many folks were sure it would be cancelled, given the gas, water, and food shortages that developed quickly after the storm. It wasn’t. Thousands of visitors in Cadillacs and Lexus SUVs showed up to clog the roads and share the limited supplies of water, food, and fuel. Residents waited in 5-hour gas lines and lost public water service because of too much stress on the system. When they complained, Greenbrier owner Jim Justice said “This event is very important to our state. This didn’t take away from helping you — it has helped you.”

It occurs to me that this whole crisis brings the problems with a tourist economy into sharp focus. As it is, tourism is built on the prostitution model; the customer and the pimp (e.g., resort owner) have all the power in the relationship. The prostitute is responsible for making the customer happy no matter the circumstances, and the pimp is responsible for making as much money as possible no matter the circumstances. There is no mutual respect among customer, pimp, and prostitute. In fact, there is often mutual derision and disrespect.

I wonder if it’s possible to develop a form of tourism that works on the model of an old-fashioned host-guest relationship. A host-guest relationship is built on mutual respect: a host sacrifices for the comfort of a guest, and a guest respects and recognizes that sacrifice, bringing a gift as a token of appreciation. If a host is ill — or indisposed by a natural disaster — a polite guest will not hesitate to cancel visiting plans. How would a respectful, host-guest tourism work? Has anyone tried it? I’m curious.