Alice Ott is a grandmother, cyber sleuth, and unrepentant blogger. Her commitment to peace and the environment frequently results in arrest. Alice has engaged in many acts of civil disobedience over the years.(Her blog entries include occasional reflections on these events). Although she has been known to be in more than one place at a time, she resides mainly in the mind of her biggest fan, mystery writer Dusty Miller.
I was having breakfast one morning with a friend when she confessed her despair about the future of the written word. It was the usual grumbling: no one reads books anymore, no one writes letters, children don’t know how to spell, etc., etc. “What’s the point of having opposable thumbs,” she said, “if all we use them for is texting?”
I peered at her over my glasses. This is the look that reminds my younger friends (this one is barely old enough for Medicare) that they’re slipping into one of those I’m-starting-to-sound-just-like-my-mother moments. “Perhaps you’re referring to readers under thirty-five?” I asked rhetorically. She didn’t even bother to respond. She could guess that I was going to poke at her fuddy duddyness.
“Perhaps,” I suggested helpfully, “you might try writing a blog. Younger people read – just not the way you and I do.”
She sniffed, curled her lip, and complained awhile longer. Then she finally admitted it — she didn’t have a clue what a blog really was.
“It’s a little like calling a good friend and just chatting,” I explained. “The difference is, you don’t know if anyone’s listening. In fact, you might not even know there’s someone out there in cyber space who is truly fascinated by what you’re rattling on about.” I stopped to gather my thoughts. “Blogging is somewhere between a letter to someone you know well, and the ranting of a bona fide crazy person muttering random thoughts on the street corner.”
“Well,” she said doubtfully, “why would anyone bother if you don’t even knowif anyone’s reading it? Isn’t it a variation on the tree falling in the forest?”
“Aah,” I murmured smugly, “and yet you, my dear, resolutely hold your signs, sit tight in places where you’re not welcome, cover your car with bumper stickers, and shout out global demands as if the President can hear you all the way from Washington! Blogging requires the same faith.”
She glared, and got up to refill our coffee mugs.
When she returned, I smiled winningly at her and reached over to squeeze her hand. “You know I have nothing but admiration for what you do as an activist,” I reminded her. “I’m just saying that we all have our preferred ways of communicating, even if our message may fall on deaf ears.” Then I realized what I had said. “Oh dear,” I told her. “I didn’t mean to belittle the deaf. I admit that I’m deaf as a post if I’m not wearing my hearing aids. But aside from my insensitivity, can you see my point?”
“I’ll give it some thought,” she promised.
I’m pleased to report that after a little coaching, my friend is starting to warm to the idea of writing a blog. “Perhaps I will address the problem of finding one’s place in the social network,” she emailed me today. “Is there a need for a group that wants to hoot rather than twitter? I could start a network for Old Wiley Liberals, and call it OWL. What do you think?”
“If it were my blog,” I wrote back, “I’d call it OWLET: Old Wiley Ladies’ Ebulition Tag.”
Of course she wrote right back. “Ebulition???”
I was ready: “Ebulition (eb-u-lish’un) n. Act, process, or state of boiling or bubbling up; hence, agitation or excitement.”
So far as I know, she has yet to launch the OWLET social network. But she has finally subscribed to my blog.