Apr/May 2005  •   Salon


by Tom Dooley

Who doesn't love talking about himself? Or, apparently, to a quantifiably lesser degree, herself? Every submission period, we here at Eclectica receive (and almost summarily reject) dozens of stories and poems centered on the subject of writing fiction and poetry. Admittedly, Charlie Kaufman was nominated for an Oscar two years ago for writing a screenplay about a guy who's writing a screenplay, but generally speaking, poetry about writing poetry is doomed from the start to be self-indulgent and annoying. This is the case with most such phenomenon. Members of our nation's news media had a heyday recently when, thanks to Dan Rather and the "liberal bias," the number one news story was the news media itself. It was hard not to be a little embarrassed on their behalf for the zeal with which some reporters reported on the bias of their own reporting.

The latest? Thanks to a kerfuffle (to borrow a wonderful term from Washington Post Outlook editor Zofia Smardz) between Susan Estrich and Michael Kinsley over the dearth of female voices in the Los Angeles Times op-ed section, the nation's opinion meisters—talk show hosts, columnists, and political pundits—now have license to spout their opinions about, what else? Their opinions.

It reminds me of something my fellow candidates and I had to learn in the Teachers for Alaska certification program back in 1992: meta-cognition. Put simply, it meant thinking about thinking. Stepping back from one's thoughts to look at the thought processes themselves. The basis of what they called reflective teaching. Reflecting being what mirrors do, and windows on a sunny day, and placid pools of water when vain Grecian demigods bend down for a sip. A good idea, I guess, but if you take it a step further and think about the fact that you're thinking about how you're thinking... I mean, that does get annoying, doesn't it?

Ever taken a random word and said it enough times that it started to sound foreign? Take the word "foreign," for example. Foreign. What kind of a word is that? Foreign, foreign, foreign. I went to a foreign country. She was versed in foreign affairs. The Foreign Exchange Services provides foreign currency exchange rates. Our foreign policy negatively impacts foreign relations. We depend upon foreign and domestic oil sources. The most popular foreign language at universities is now Arabic. The Veterans of Foreign Wars. Foreign embassy. Foreign exchange student. A foreign object in one's eye.

This whole train of thought has made me so self-conscious, I can barely bring myself to write this Salon essay, which I guess is going to be about writing Salon essays, unless I manage to get side-tracked before I'm through. Not much chance of that, though, because like I said, who doesn't like talking about himself?

Ah, the hell with it. You get the point.


Note: Now that I think about it, as I reflect on the reflecting I've done here, there aren't any female voices in Eclectica's Salon. Anyone out there who wants to help change that before Susan Estrich starts coming after me?