Friday, March 19, 2010

Are You a Mockingbird?

This morning I looked out of my bedroom window and I saw a bird doing a strange display in my American Native Wildflower Border also known as "that patch of weeds by the side of the house." Tillerwoman announced, "That's a Mockingbird." My wife never ceases to amaze me. She know all sorts of useful facts like how to recognize a Mockingbird; whereas I know mainly useless stuff like how to prove that every number is interesting.

Of course I didn't believe her. "Trust but verify," as a famous marriage guidance counselor once said. So I checked The Google and The Wikipedia and sure enough she was right. Being right all the time is one of her least endearing attributes.

The clincher was that The Wikipedia said that, while foraging, Northern Mockingbirds "frequently spread their wings in a peculiar two-step motion to display the white patches" and that's exactly what this particular Northern Mockingbird was doing while foraging in my American Native Wildflower Border.

Mockingbirds, of course, are famous for "mocking", by imitating the sounds of other birds and, according to The Wikipedia, even imitating car alarms. Tillerwoman probably knew this already.

Strangely, that got me thinking about blogs. I asked myself, is there such a thing as an original blog, or are we all imitating other bloggers? Are we all Mockingbirds?

It's certainly true that I drew inspiration and some ideas for style and content from other blogs that I read just as I was starting Proper Course five years ago. I know I picked up several things from the now defunct blog Stay of Execution written by Sherry Fowler. The title of her blog has at least three meanings: the legal meaning (she used to be a lawyer; a pun on her real name Scheherazade whose namesake was, of course, putting off her own execution by telling stories in One Thousand and One Nights; and surely some indirect reference to Sherry's own life at the time where she seemed to be putting off the inevitable (marriage? settling on a career?) while she spun tales on her blog.

I chose "Proper Course" as the name of this blog because it had some of that same ambiguity as "Stay of Execution". The technical meaning in the Racing Rules of Sailing of course. The sense that the blog would be about the proper course an old geezer Laser sailor was searching for in order to become a better sailor. And, more fundamentally, the proper course I was attempting to steer through life as a relatively recent retiree still working out what the hell I was going to do with the rest of my life.

Another blog, also now defunct, from those early days Zephyr made me realize that a sailing blog can be a bit like a sailing magazine with a huge variety of different topics and styles of post. I just looked back at what he was writing about in March 2005 and, among other subjects, he was telling us about a community sailing program, sharing his liking for rum, recounting a personal tale of surviving a boat sinking off Puerto Rico, and questioning why there are so few people of color in sailing today. I like to think I am following in Zephyr's footsteps in my random, drunken walk around the sailing world.

From Edward, at what was then called the EVK4 Bloglet, I tried to pick up his talent for telling personal tales about what were really pretty ordinary days on the water that he made funny and interesting with his screwball sense of humor. Again, just dipping at random into this blog's archives in May 2005, I found a story about a bird's nest on his boat, a sail with his daughter ("I didn't even know 4-year-olds could get seasick"), and an hilarious account of a failed attempt to sail out of the marina. I realized that you don't need to be a hotshot ocean-going racer to write about sailing in a way that is entertaining... and I have been trying to apply that lesson every since.

I could mention other inspirations. The Skip's Blog for its way of using every blog post as a learning experience. Soulsailor's earthy stream of consciousness blow-by-blow racing accounts. (Sorry for no link - I can't find his old blog.) And in the world of writing outside blogging I am sure I have picked up something from reading all of Bill Bryson's books. I just wish I was half as talented as he is at spotting the comic side of everyday situations and then making us join him in laughing out loud at it with his unique mix of whimsy and hyperbole.

I hope I don't literally imitate any of the above writers. I'm not a Mockingbird. That would be strange. But I am sure they have all influenced what I write about and how I write.

What about you? Are you a Mockingbird? Are there any bloggers, or other authors, that you find yourself imitating, consciously or unconsciously? Who are your influences?

Points will be awarded for the strangeness of any comments. After all, this is Strange Blogging Month.


Ant said...

Soulsailor... Soulsailor, who the hell?

Oh yeh it's me... sorry my blog is still their, less sailing and more geek over the last couple of years... BUT i'm contemplating buying an International Moth AND converting it to a foiler to do some proper Soul-sailing.. re-discover me here:

Missed you guys, but I'm on my way back

Tillerman said...

Sorry Ant. I found your Fluffy Clouds blog and it seemed like it was mainly about your work, with only the very occasional post about sailing. But I see that all your good old sailing posts going back to 2003 are still there in the archives.

Look forward to the resurrection of the real soulsailor!

Ant said...

I shall do my best...

I am sooo happy that your still trucking on.. You must be classified now as THE SAILING BLOGGER?

We must meet up at some point somewhere...?

O Docker said...

I was going to leave a comment here, but this gives me an idea for a blog post.

Anonymous said...


my new blog about sailing,pottery and yacht sales will always honor you as my mentor blogger par excellence sir Tillerman.

be well


Pat said...

Almost five years ago I realized that the idea of sailors in the desert was oddball or unusual enough to make it worth reporting the blogosphere. Certainly we still get strange looks when we tell people we sail in New Mexico...

JP said...

I soon found out that there were regular sailors blogging to a level of detail that I couldn't hope to match and hence have tried to be different.

pfb360 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pfb360 said...

I'm pretty new to the blogging scene and as such, I'm still looking for writing mentors. My writing has a short, blocky style to it which I would like to develop into more fluid and personal prose but that will take some time. As for right now though, I seem to constantly be looking to Proper Course as a source for inspiration.

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