Personal Impersonal

I pretty much live the life of a hermit these days, only seeing my brother and his family from time to time.

I used to think of hermits as people who went and lived on mountains because they wanted to get away from an overcrowded, busy, tiresome world. But now I suspect that they had probably been expelled from society for one reason or other, or maybe none at all. They didn’t want to live on top of mountains. There just wasn’t anywhere else they could live.

And yet, even if I have become a hermit, I feel that I have friends all over the world.

Never more so than today, with all the advice I’ve been offered about what new computer to buy or build.

It’s rather heart-warming. And it’s a strange new experience for me, to live more or less entirely alone, and yet to feel surrounded by far distant friends and well-wishers. In the past when I hardly knew anybody – as would happen from time to time, usually when I moved from one place to another – the isolation could be rather dispiriting. But these days I’m not in the least bit dispirited or depressed. I feel I know lots of people.

All the same, I’d like to be able to sit in a pub, and drink a pint of beer, and smoke a cigarette, and meet people face to face. But that’s not been possible since the smoking ban, now that a key element of relaxation and enjoyment has been forbidden, and I can only stand being inside a pub for half an hour maximum. They may as well have fixed upward-pointing spikes on all the seats inside pubs. And knowing them and their spiteful ways, they’re probably planning to do exactly that – as a ‘health measure’ to make people do some exercise, by getting them to immediately stand up again after sitting down for half a second.

All of which reminds me that I’m supposed to be writing the ISIS survey report. I spent January and early February mulling over the data, seeing what I could glean from it, and I now think I’ve learned all I can. It’s a matter of just putting it together, and publishing it – if I can stop myself from being diverted by stuff like DA14.

But in that respect I face one difficulty. I have a natural way of writing, and it’s the way I write this blog. It’s the same way that I wrote in the copious journal that I kept for many years (and still keep). It’s first person singular. And I find writing that way very easy. And that makes it rather hard to write in any other way. And yet most academic papers/reports/studies aren’t written that way. They tend to be third person impersonal. The ‘person’ very often completely vanishes.

And yet sometimes re-emerges. I remember reading a book about moral philosophy some years ago, which was rather dense and abstract and impersonal until on the last page, the author – some American academic – wrote that he’d been writing this book in his study at home, with his dog curled up asleep beside him, and a view of a forest in the distance out of the window. And with those few words, this dusty academic came alive, and real. He had a dog! There was a view from his window! Perhaps he drank coffee? Perhaps he smoked? I was enchanted.

A similar thing happened when some girl phoned about my gas bill a few weeks back. She apologised for having a bit of a cold, and for her voice being so nasal as to be hard to understand. And with that she became a person. And a person who had a bit of a cold. So when she phoned a few days later, I asked,

“Has your cold got better?”

“Oh, yes!” she replied brightly. “It was really pretty awful for a few days, but it’s much better now.”

And I was far more co-operative with her than I usually am with such people.

Anyway, if I could write the ISIS report the way I usually write, it would be easy to write. But, feeling that I should write impersonally, it looks hard to write. And so I’m thinking of including lots of pie charts and graphs, and let them do the talking, and keep my own written input to an impersonal minimum.

Anyway, I’m very much inclined to take up Bucko’s offer to build me a computer. And one of the reasons for that is that he’s one of us. He’s one of the blogging fraternity, who are all also people with their own personal foibles, and even their own personal coughs and colds, and perhaps even dogs curled up beside them. And I’d far rather hand money to one of us than one of them.

About Frank Davis

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28 Responses to Personal Impersonal

  1. harleyrider1978 says:

    Frank I can kinda feel the Hermit position myself. 10 years ago my wife now ex ran off with one of my 2 best friends. I tracked em down and was really ready to kill them after I found out she had run off with him. I found em gun in hand and I tossed the gun in the bed of the truck. Dont know why just did. We had it out but it really didnt matter,My revenge was in tracking them down after they spent 3 months hiding out not even telling his own mom where he was.

    I got over that after about 6 months and then I met my current wife via the internet!

    Then we got married after a 7 month run and still together 9 years on!
    A year after I got Remarried my closest friend basically killed himself over a WaffleHouse waitress over dosing on Loritabs and beer. His brother thought somebody murdered him and 5 days on he still hadnt been found. I asked his brother right before I was heading down to help search for him did he look out back by the old log barn at the homestead. He said he hadnt, 5 minutes later I got the call he was there in his car dead at the wheel.

    Strange things happen in life like lost friends and smoking bans. The bans destroy the close realtionships of other friends in the pack at the local dive any of us would have known for a lifetime.

    Peculiar as life is we find new friends with common cause. We didnt just decide one day to fight back! We decided individually to do something about it and then fight back. I was a loner fighting a war I didnt ask for. Then Michael found me and guided my path………….lol.

    Each of us fights and finds a new path in life while not surrendering to the enemies demands.
    Myself I moved state to Kentucky where there was no ban and well it has bought me more years of freedom for my efforts to smoke and enjoy life. Ive made some new friends and even some enemies. But anyone who will demand their freedom and right to exist it is us. We carry the torch of freedom for all the world to see………We Frank and our friends are the army that will free an enslaved world. We are free we never gave up……………

  2. Walt says:

    Uh-uh, Frank. Writing in 3rd person, ie, objectively– or to be more concrete about it, writing without an “I”– doesn’t mean you have to lose any of your style. Not a bit of it. I’ve always been a high-stylist when it comes to journalism and remain “conversational” even in the realm of the semi-academic which i’ve always been sure is a (perhaps secret) relief to the people who have to read the semi- academic stuff are are used to being stultified. Let me suggest for inspiration that you read some Mark Steyn columns (I’ll try to come up with a link for you) if you want to see how relaxed and stylish the non-I can be. Or you can look at some old Tom Wolfe stuff.–at least the stuff without the sound effects.

    I’ll add that, for one, I find graphs and charts– especially when they’re complex– to verge on the unfathomable or, at least, the boring. So continue to be yourself in print. It’ll pack more punch.

    • Walt says:

      Not to say you can’t put some I’s in either– after all, you’re the analyst who’s doing the report and it’s your analysis. Meanwhile, on another board recently someone quoted me who had in turn quoted–and credited– you (see 2nd ¶ below) so I give you back your own I-less paragraph as an example of what you can, and should continue to do:

      “in 2007, a group of researchers showed that the mean time it took for a smoker to stop exhaling residual tobacco smoke particles after finishing a cigarette was 58.6 seconds, corresponding to about nine subsequent breathings.”

      That’s worth remembering. Just had a cigarette outside, and wondering when it’s safe to come back inside? Take 9 breaths. Or count off 58.6 seconds. Don’t forget the 0.6 on the end. 58.5 seconds and your darling daughter will drop dead the moment you step back inside. 58.7 seconds, though, and she’ll continue to be an unstoppable bundle of toy-smashing energy.”

  3. smokervoter says:

    By way of your link to Bucko’s website*, which I’ve always enjoyed (and he’s right – It is all bollocks!), I reconnected with Wendy McElroy’s musings. She is one great lady and a wonderful writer. I had her on my Bookmarks list, but it has gotten so stacked up and unwieldly that I’d lost track of her. Sometimes I think it’s going to spill right off the monitor.

    Anyway, she’s written a piece that I’m very taken with and I thought I’d pass it along to the gang.

    I the Person versus We the People

    If I’m not mistaken, at one point in time she moved out to the desert about an hour away from here. I wish she’d move next door to tell you the truth.

    *Actually it went like this: Bucko’s>Oh What NOW!>Wendy’s

  4. smokervoter says:

    And one more gem from her. She is really something else, she’s one of us.

    Only Places Have Rights?

    I think I’m in love.

    • smokervoter says:

      Whoopsy daisy, pardon my blunder. I had her confused with Claire Wolfe, who links to Wendy McElroy and often vice-versa. They’re both free society, counter nannyist women, which sets them apart from the majority of women I seem to know and meet up with these days. I’m also let down by the vast number of women voting for Democrats and Obama. The closer I look into ObamaCare the more I see it as the inviolable constitution of an unavoidable Nanny State with nothing but headaches for smokers and cheeseburger aficionados.

      And a lot of dudes are even worse.

      If you StartPage “Wendy McElroy Claire Wolfe” you’ll find they wind up in a lot of the same articles. Also, I was being jokingly effusive about Wendy, she’s quite spoken for and lives in Canada I think.

      • smokervoter says:

        Whoopsy Daisy II. I just test clicked that second link “article” and I don’t like it one bit. Shame on Disregard it and my apologies to anyone who clicked it. I went there initially with NoScript on and Images Off and none of those idiotic shenanigans materialized.

    • Margo says:

      I like her too!

  5. nisakiman says:

    Frank, I think that hooking up with Bucko is definitely the way to go. He has the knowledge and expertise to not only build the tower unit for you, but also to advise you as to what will best suit your needs. As I said in my comment yesterday, that’s what I did with Manolis, my computer fixer, and it worked out really well. I have a PC that does everything I want it to. It’s never stretched; it just chugs along 24/7. And as you say, he’s one of us, one of the unrepentant awkward squad. When given a choice, I will always give my money to someone I like.

    You are right about not being alone. Although I’m not excommunicated here like you are in UK, I don’t have many Brit friends, and not a lot of Greek. Plenty of acquaintances, but not many friends. I avoid ex-pat bars like the plague. I didn’t come to Greece to spend my leisure time with people I wouldn’t give the time of day if I was in UK. But I really feel part of a community with a common interest online, and those people are scattered around the globe, which is great. I get all kinds of perspectives. You should take a break in Greece this summer. It would do you a power of good to be able to go where you wanted and be welcomed with an ashtray on the table! As far as the Greeks are concerned, it’s a complete irrelevance whether you are a smoker or not. I can’t imagine living in UK, feeling like a leper every time I went out for a drink or a meal. It must be awful. Can’t see myself ever returning to a situation like that.

  6. Rose says:

    All the same, I’d like to be able to sit in a pub, and drink a pint of beer, and smoke a cigarette, and meet people face to face

    So would I, but when I look back, the kind of pub I would choose is one from the 70’s. Last time I spent the evening in the pub, conversation was stilted because everyone else seemed to distracted by some random programme on the TV. When I went to a pub for lunch I noticed a camera watching me.
    It was the chatting and setting the world to rights in good company that I loved. I don’t know if that happens any more.

    I was a hermit for 20 years when I was looking after the kids, it just didn’t seem right to go somewhere exciting and leave them behind, apart from the fact that my family proved very reluctant to babysit.
    I developed a most fascinating and informative internal dialogue, as Gandalf said, I was addressing myself to the most intelligent person in the room.
    I had just started socialising again and building up networks of friends, when the smoking ban came in and spoiled everything.

    I very much enjoy the conversations in your online pub Frank, but this time I am communicating directly with other peoples minds, without the distraction of clothes or shapes or appearances.

  7. Margo says:

    Frank, please be a maverick and write the ISIS report in your own way. In all my years (long gone) of being a student and teaching students, I stubbornly refused to practise or accept the ‘academic’ writing style – all that rubbish about using the 3rd person and the passive mood, which results in unreadable, clumsy, obfuscated prose (with ridiculous phrases like ‘the writer’ instead of ‘I’. How stupid.) I nevertheless tended to get high marks for essays, as a student.
    Your report should be like all your writing – interesting, informative, clear, and refreshingly quirky, and consequently read and appreciated by many!

  8. garyk30 says:

    “drink a pint of beer, and smoke a cigarette, and meet people face to face.”

    You have a ‘Facebook’ account and a web-cam.

    So do Harley and myself.

    Anytime you want to chat, set up a get-together and we will blabber, face to face, smoke and drink.

    • nisakiman says:

      Or Skype. I have regular video calls with my daughters in UK. It’s great, almost like being in the same room.

      • garyk30 says:

        How do you go about connecting via Skype?

        It would be interesting to speak with you.

        • nisakiman says:

          Download the (free) software and add the name (in my case nisakiman) to your contact list. If I have your Skype name in my contact list also (you can text it to me – Frank has my mobile number) then it’s merely a question of arranging a mutually convenient time (I normally do that by text messaging with my daughters) , logging on (I don’t leave it permanently logged on), and it will show your contacts who are online. Click the contact, click the “video call” button, and it will ring at the other end. Once answered, hey presto, video call! Easy peasy! It would be great to have a chat. I’m not sure, but I think you can even get three-way (maybe more) calls going. I’ve not investigated that, but I have a dim recollection of seeing it mentioned somewhere. That may be a paying option though. Dunno. Obviously you have to have a cam connected, and there is the facility in the tools menu to integrate your cam with the Skype software – very simple to do – to adjust speaker and mike volume, check that the cam is working properly etc.

          Go for it gary! I await your text! And you too, Frank, if you feel so inclined. It would be good to talk face to face. And jay. And anyone else who fancies a chat! I’m not the shy, retiring type!

        • garyk30 says:

          my skype name id gary.k.1
          Frank, what is your skype name?

        • Frank Davis says:

          cfrankdavis, I think.

          It’s written down somewhere. If I could remember where…

        • garyk30 says:

          That name is no listed.

        • Frank Davis says:


          Come to think of it, I vaguely remember Skype emailing me saying they’d frozen the account, and I’d have to reactivate it.

    • Frank Davis says:

      You’re quite right. Talking to Winston Smith in NY state last year was fun via Facebook.

      I’ve got a Skype account, but I’ve never used it. I keep meaning to find out how to. Just a week or two back, my sister-in-law suggested trying it out. It’s a low priority item on my agenda.

  9. jay says:

    Skype sounds great (I’m a computer idiot but keep hearing about people skyping family) – is it possible to multi-skype? Or possible but you need a fancy split-screen thingy? If everyone could see everyone else it would be almost like a pub – not quite though: there’d be no smoking forbidden signs plastered everywhere!

  10. Bucko says:

    Cheers for the link Frank
    (I have a cat curled up beside me)

  11. legiron says:

    Your writing style is easy to read so I’d say go ahead and write it in your style.

    If you like, I could convert it to ‘science-journal-speak’ afterwards.

    • legiron says:

      Hit ‘post’ too soon.
      That way you’d have a science version and a more accessible version for the general public. Science-journal-speak turns off most general readers precisely because it’s so dry and impersonal.

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