Me ‘n’ John Shirley

John Shirley and I have a lot in common. Aside from the superficial stuff — he’s a famous writer, I’m not; his blog has thousands of visitors; mine does not, he’s farther left than Ralph Nader, I’m not — we seem to have a similar philosophy of blogging.

Neither of us like to link much. I try — I really do try, but inevitably I seem to nod back to writing about whatever’s on my mind. Typically my thoughts tend to be more than a sentence or two long, and so do my blog entries. In fact, I usually have to restrain myself from writing too much in my blog, putting too much thought into each entry. Heck, if I wrote that much, it’d be more than just a blog entry, it’d be an article. If it was an article, then I’d feel like I had to sell it to a magazine, or a least a newspaper or something, and that’d be entirely too much work.

In this way, I think John Shirley is a lot like me. Take a look at his most recent blog post:

This is no ordinary blog. It’s dense-looking, isn’t it, sometimes? Forbidding looking. The internet is about being like one of those birds that skims over the surface, dips its beak, comes up with a nourishing fish, flies away. The bird doesn’t want to dive in. This exemplifies the modern attitude in so many ways. We can’t absorb all that’s on offer so we just skim the surface–and this is universally regarded as John Kerry’s biggest problem: he’s not a skimmer, he’s a diver. Wait a minute, the above text is too dense for a blog. I’ve been looking at them.

John and I aren’t skimmers; we’re pelicans. In case you haven’t been reading the entries below, I’m at the beach right now, and I’ve been watching them both: the pelicans and the skimmers. Like John says, the skimmers just flit along the surface, dipping their beaks in here and there. The action in their flights is nonstop, but the morsels they scoop up are never very satisfying.

Pelicans are different; they require more patience. They scout things out for a long time, going over and over the waves until they spot a truly satisfying fish a couple feet below the surface. Then they dive. The dive isn’t as clumsy as it first looks. First they bend back the tips of their wings and begin descending towards the water. A fraction of a second before they strike the surface, they extend their necks and stretch back their wings until their body takes the shape of a rocket. We don’t see them underwater, but we can imagine their massive mouths opening, engulfing the fish and several gallons of water at the same time. The water is so heavy that they must strain it out before they can resurface and swallow their prey.

I like pelicans, and I like John Shirley. I really should read one of his books one of these days.

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