Monday, April 18, 2011

Keeping it Real

Jeremy attended part of a colloquium last week where the presenter was talking about using concepts of reality television for creative solutions in urban planning.  I'll just leave the bulk of that discussion up to your imagination, but Jeremy and I have been talking all weekend about one specific point she made.  Successful "reality" programing comes from the ideas of fantasy and spectacle.  I used to be a big Survivor fan--but these day's we don't watch much TV so we shifted the discussion to what I'm most familiar with: blogging. 

A (not very close) inspection of some of the top successful blogs I am familiar with can easily be assigned to the category of fantasy or spectacle.  That's why we are drawn to them.  Observing someone's fantasy-level life-- whether it's her house is beautiful, and her kid's are well dressed (and go to really great pre-schools), and she has amazing classy family portraits taken every three months, or she has a passive solar home and composts her household waste in the backyard to nourish the family's organic vegetable garden and sheep pasture(and every category of fantasy in between) it makes for a a successful blog.  Then there's the spectacle--the train wreck that you can't look away from, the radical of some kind or another, the totally backwards person, the family with a dozen kids. 

It's actually often that these two categories coexist-- maybe not always 50/50 but looking closely enough they are there.  The Pioneer Woman sits isolated on her ranch homeschooling her four children, watching her manly husband ride around on his horse, effortlessly cooking grand buffets of food for the hard-working ranch hands, all the while taking beautiful pictures with her professional camera and editing them to perfection with her expert computer skills giving the whole country a feeling of nostalgia for a bygone era of American history.   Fantasy.  Spectacle. 

Now the deepest secret and yet most obvious truth about blogs is that they are a fractional representation of reality.  Whether or not someone is actually living a fantasy life it can appear that way through selective posting.  My life isn't fantasy, though Jeremy and I try very actively to make our life follow our ideals.  We look for opportunities (even when they are not ideal) to live life the way we want to.  Sometimes I wonder if our life choices will land us in the arena of spectacle, though, honestly, I think I'm pretty level-headed.  We make many choices about our lifestyle based on simple logic though the act of not "going with the flow" does create a bit of spectacle. 

Most blogs are happy places.  People post about the things they do or enjoy.  I'm no different.  Seeing my blog as a piece of history for our family--I want to capture the good times, the goals we set and accomplish, our happy memories.  But on the other hand I have not shied away from sharing some major doubts and struggles here either.  They are not what I focus on--but the posts are there.  A few of them are on my list of favorite posts of all time.  Because it's real, and because it's my life. 

I"m am who I am.  I'm an artist--though I didn't study art in college.  I'm a hostess--though more often than not my house is a mess.  I'm an entertainer--though I'm often socially awkward in person.  These parts of me all add up to a person that loves throwing parties--in a big way.  I love the idea brainstorming, the putting it all together, the crazy rush of the event, and the basking in the re-lived memories for the rest of the night.  Then the last step is preserving it for posterity.  I'm excited to post pictures from Baby Wyatt's first birthday celebration.  For me it is fantasy.  This is what I dream of and live off of. 

But just so there's no confusion, though the party was my fantasy--my life is not fantasy.  While I was spreading a tablecloth and arranging chopsticks in a mason jar Jonas was at the sink flooding the bathroom.  While Jeremy and I were in the bathroom using eight bathtowels to clean up the mess, Jonas was in the kitchen playing with knives.

There, I'm just doing my part to dispel any ideas that I think my life is fantasy and "keep it real" in the blogosphere--but probably provide a bit of spectacle as well. 

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