If you want to see some bad pictures of me and good pictures of Marissa, a.k.a. Shambling After, take a look at her post about our Acadia Adventure.

And who knows when she’ll get to see that part of Maine again. She ships out for Armenia as a member of the Peace Corps in just a few weeks.

Okay, they aren’t total cowards

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about The Hostel Life refusing to publish constructively critical comments. Well, I’ve taken another look at the comment section in question. They still haven’t published my original comment (I presume it has been deleted all together), but they did publish this other one:

Again, great article, terrible title.

I’m glad someone has a little integrity. Now go read this wonderful article if you haven’t already.

The Hostel Life is run by cowards

I recently read an excellent article by Shambling After about her time in a bathhouse in Istanbul. Take a look. The event clearly represents a significant moment for her, and I think it obviously deserves a bit of respect. As such, when I saw it reposted on The Hostel Life I wanted to leave a quick comment of praise. I did, but then I thought about it a little more. The title. It’s…it’s awful:

Rub-a-Dub-Dub in a Hamam Tub

The article is the same, but this really does it a disservice. This wasn’t some trite throwaway piece meant to bring about a quick chuckle from the audience. Anyone who reads the article – and you should – won’t be able to avoid realizing it has clear emotional gravity to the writer. I think she conveys that fact admirably, which is why she gave it an intelligent title on her blog. Unfortunately, the yellow rubber ducky image The Hostel Life implants in the reader’s mind is misleading and a poor way to start any serious writing. I had to leave a second comment to voice my opinion:

Incidentally, while this article is absolutely wonderful, I think the title is misleading. “Rub-a-Dub-Dub” implies a light-hearted, whimsical piece. It sounds to me like this was a significant experience for the writer, something which carries with it striking weight for her even today. It would be nice if the title reflected that.

I actually went ahead and made it a point to save that because I had my suspicions. The Hostel Life is one of those sites that moderates all comments. That tells me they aren’t very interesting in discussion they can’t control, and when they do have control, they’re going to be censor-happy. Even though my comment could only be described as respectful constructive criticism, I got the distinct sense that some coward wasn’t going to approve it.

It looks like I was right.

It has now been a full week since I attempted to comment on the unrepresentative title and nothing has appeared. The first comment I left praising the piece showed up within hours. It’s hard to tell if anyone else has commented in the News section since my second attempt because there are no time stamps on comments, but I find it difficult to believe no administrator has looked at the submitted reader posts since January 14th. It seems that the most reasonable conclusion is that there is some censorious asshat over at The Hostel Life that can’t deal with a little well-intended criticism.

It’s too bad, too. Bathing in Istanbul is a great article – with a great title to boot.

The return to Gulf Hagas

I wrote last year of my trip to Gulf Hagas. It was so darn swell that I decided to go again this year with Shambling After (who, AHEM, needs to blog more).

Oh, woe is me! I’m only white!

This is fucking ridiculous:

  • A recent Public Religion Research Institute poll found 44% of Americans surveyed identify discrimination against whites as being just as big as bigotry aimed at blacks and other minorities. The poll found 61% of those identifying with the Tea Party held that view, as did 56% of Republicans and 57% of white evangelicals.
  • U.S. Census Bureau projections that whites will become a minority by 2050 are fueling fears that whiteness no longer represents the norm. This fear has been compounded by the recent recession, which hit whites hard.

Uh-huh. All that bigotry I face, day in, day out. I just wish brown folk could recognize how bad I’ve really got it. People see me walking down the street and I just know they’re staring! I must stick out like a sore thumb. Especially in Maine. And when I go for a job? Oh, man. Talk about bigotry. I can’t begin to describe how many times I haven’t even been offered a cup of coffee at an interview. And when I go down to the coast in the summer? I swear I got an undersized lobster one time. Bigots.

Augment your reading with Shambling After.

Capturing the world

As usual, the wonderful writing over at Shambling After deserves recognition.

I lived in a little bubble of ignorant bliss and although I convinced myself that I was concerned with the rest of the world, I couldn’t even begin to comprehend how much of the world there is to be concerned with.

This is about Cairo, but the same feeling found its way into me while I was in Africa. The constant dirt and abject poverty was something I expected, but it wasn’t something for which I was necessarily ready. I found myself often thinking, when people say they’re suffering, when they say they have it bad, it’s all relative. The tiny villages of Tanzania have suffering, they have it bad. That isn’t to say there is nothing but misery there – the number of smiling children I saw astounded me – but it isn’t ice cream and video games. When black Americans say they can relate to their ‘home land’, I now have nothing but contempt for such statements. Just as when a white person says he can at all relate to being black in America, the claim would be risible if it wasn’t such a lie. And I’m not saying I can relate merely because of what I saw while I sat in a Range Rover with my hundreds of dollars worth of hiking equipment and Slim Jims. But I do at least know I can’t relate.

To steal the Samuel Johnson quote used at Shambling After,

The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.


Shambling After has been having an awesome summer, I dare say more awesome than my Utah-Africa summer. Given that I am making this post so far in advance of my departure (it’s July 25 as I type this), I can only hope she has been delighting you all with her excellent writing. But if she hasn’t been posting, I can at least deliver some of what she has to offer the blogging world via this photograph from Cairo.

It’s awesome.

Shambling After

I’ve advertised, supported, linked, and done everything within my blogging power to promote a number of my friends. Just take a look at my blogroll: Acadia Sunrise, Gorgeous Green Mama, Mr. Jay Gatsby. And now that we’re tight, tight Facebook friends, even Ashley F. Miller.

I support these people because I like what they’re doing, what they might do, or just the fact that they’re doing. I wish more people would blog. Back in my dark days of actually being an English major (no, Christopher Maloney, I no longer am one), I came across a lot of fellow writers who really knew what they were doing. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely anyone else will ever read much of what most of them have to say – of what they can say.

But I think the bloggers I’ve listed above have that same quality of knowing what they’re doing. At Acadia Sunrise, there’s the clear intent (and accomplishment) of making a connection between nature and prose. Gorgeous Green Mama has some similarities, but with a distinctive community/family flavor. Mr. Jay Gatsby’s writing is driven, clear, and unambiguous. Ashley F. Miller reminds me a bit of my own style, first with the summarizing then with the analysis. But she is certainly her own blogger, bringing a particular wit I’ve just spent the past 10 minutes trying (and failing) to define.

But I mention that all these people know their way around the English language because I don’t want to offend them when I gush over how insanely…good…Shambling After commands her prose.

It may seem as though I am complaining about the way Cairo is. In reality, all of this is what I like about it. Life is not easy here. Every morning you wake up in 109 degree weather, sweat-soaked and more exhausted than when you closed your eyes, you remember that you’re alive. Every time you turn away a begging child on the streets of Cairo, you remember that you’re alive. Every time you walk away from an epic cat battle on the streets, you remember that you’re alive.

My greatest fear is that I’ll leave Cairo, return to my monotonous life, and forget how unbelievable it feels to feel…

And the thing is, yes, out of context “an epic cat battle” sounds like a joke. But within the structure of considered prose, it means something; that I have a vivid idea of just where this cat battle happened, of the particular cats involved, of the numbed people on the streets, is a good indication that the writing is effective.

Keep reading.