Thursday, April 26, 2012

* Birth of a Blog

 Link to YDN article by Ava Kaufman

Laugh Out Loud


“When I was a kid, troll used to mean someone who hid in the bushes,” Paul Keane DIV ’80 said. “The last thing I do is hide in the bushes.”
Paul Keane, who posts on the News’ website under the username TheAntiYale, is ostensibly one of Yale’s most famous resident trolls. Though his online comments take the tone of a gleefully indignant teenager, Keane’s voice on the phone is older, more unsure. His fiendish online smirk modulates into a softer, bemused smile when articulated over the telephone.
Keane says he doesn’t really know what led him to continue to comment on the News website after his first post in September 2009. He attributes his serial career to his interest in his hometown of New Haven, his alma mater Yale, and to his feelings of sympathy and shock for many of the events reported in the News.
Since that September day three years ago, Keane has posted 1,967 comments on the News’ website, sometimes posting multiple times a day. His blog, “The Anti Yale”, has received 21,000 views from over 103 countries. (“I have no idea what that means,” he added about the Google Analytics results. “It may have been search engines or robots.”)
Though Keane himself sees his time posting as “winding down now” (“I think after three years I haven’t got much more to say”), current News online editor Danny Serna said he thinks trolling in general has gotten worse lately.
Staffers and readers have characterized the comment boards across the News’ website as “particularly troll-infested,” “mad bitchy” and “spiteful.”
News readers and writers are familiar with the site’s group of frequent and famous pseudonymous posters: the biting fusillade of RiverTam, the lewd Joey00, the seemingly satirical YaleMom, and so on. RiverTam, Arafat, Penny_Lane, RexMottram08, HieronymousBosh and FailBoat could not be reached for comment.
No one really knows when the trolls first arrived at the News. Some say it was in early 2000s, while others guess they’ve been around since 1995 — as long as the site has been operative.
Former News editor-in-chief Vivian Yee ’12 said there was a drop in comments with the onset of a user policy change in the fall of 2010, which asked readers to comment on articles only after registering with a valid email address. She said that eventually the commenters — and those whom some called the trolls — slowly returned. “One of the issues during [the past board transition] was how could we balance stupid, unproductive and spammy comments with having a good flow of discussion. For a while we let it collect steam on its own, but eventually we did hit that balance,” Yee said.
The News now allows users the options of signing in through Twitter, GoogleID and Facebook. But the majority of users, including those who post frequently, still prefer anonymity to identifiable Internet identities.
In a largely anonymous community of disembodied voices, TheAntiYale is an exception to this rule. He deliberately signs comments with his real name and identifying information: Paul D Keane, M.Div. ’80, M.A. (Middlebury ’97), M.Ed. (Kent State ’72), B.A. (Ithaca College ’68).
Some would argue that Keane isn’t a troll precisely because he identifies himself as Paul Keane. As Keane confirmed, the TheAntiYale moniker is a succinct summation of Keane’s authored views, rather than the embodiment of a character or the vocalization of an ideology: “Ninety-nine percent of what I say is my opinion, but I do jazz it up with a contrived outrage. I pretend to be outraged and am not really. But I never solemnly say something I don’t believe.”
That leads one to wonder whether the voice on the phone is the voice of the TheAntiYale or the sounds of a septuagenarian speaking from his Vermont home. Even for other anonymous users, the pseudonym becomes a persona in time. Yee pointed out that as pseudonymous users continued to maintain a viewpoint or opinion, they acquire consistent personalities rather than simply spout offensive ideas. Paradoxically, as users post more, they lose their ability to inflame other users as effectively as trolls can because they are “consistent in their opinions and identity and seem to forcefully believe in them.”
And yet, like the typical troll, Keane’s posts are generally off-topic. At times they seem as though they’re randomly generated from a thematic memory bank. But this doesn’t bother Keane at all: He views his posts as his own genuine emotional response.
“I’ve been off-topic my entire life and most of the time it’s brought pleasure to people,” Keane said, laughing. When asked if he read the entire stories in the News before commenting, Keane responded, “No, no, I skim them.” He added that that if the comment section was particularly lively he would sometimes read those before the article, or even instead of it. He said he now plans for the epithet carved on his tombstone to read: “Delightfully off-topic.”


Keane said he settled on the name TheAntiYale to represent the “opposite polarity” of “Yale’s elitism. He said he receives enjoyment from comments “popping that elite balloon” and is also drawn to commenting for the “intellectual rapport” he has with other posters.
Though Keane reads The New York Times along with the News with his daily 5 a.m. coffee, he doesn’t comment on The Times’ site because the flood of voices drowns out the chance to playfully spar with personal and immediate feedback. “Several of the posters and I go back and forth, and in a way that’s enriching to me,” Keane said of his experience with the News. “I enjoy hearing what they say. Every once in awhile ‘River_Tam’ hits the nail on the head.”
In at least one comment, River_Tam seemed to share Keane’s enjoyment from the News comment boards. Underneath a February article about the shutdown of the New Haven Independent’s comment boards, River_Tam wrote: “Most internet comments are not worth reading. I find the YDN comments a pleasant respite from the sewage on reddit and the nytimes and the like.”
But the two do not know each other: as far as Keane knows, River_Tam, who is named after a character from the sci-fi TV series “Firefly,” is “some British scholar studying at Cambridge.” The other commenters’ anonymity, for him, limits their voice to no more than “graffiti on a bathroom wall.”
While Keane and River_Tam often get attention for their radical positions, Serna said the News tries to moderate “offense not opinion,” though he admitted that striking the balance can be difficult. Yee and Serna both said that readers flagging comments for removal and thus prompting moderators to take a closer look has been effective. In the more contentious debates, many comments that are flagged for removal simply differ in opinion, however radically. But removing contention does not fall under the News’ policy. . .

' " Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe . . ."

Photo above is  yours truly, coming out of anaesthesia at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center , December,  2008, after having half a kidney removed for cancer.  

I donned a fools' cap to scorn  the absurdity of  life and death and  recited from memory the "Jabberwocky"  to demonstrate  to the doctors  and attendants that I still had all (or most of) my marbles.  

Soon thereafter, The Anti-Yale was born, and has since accumulated 685 post, with 27,000  "views" in the last 12 months.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

* " I have done the deed." (Macbeth)

2002: Trotter 7 and new pal, Dalmatian, Basil, 9, with the Jabberwock (sculpture)

2007: Trotter, 12, (84 human years) with Dalmatian,  Basil, 14 (98 human years)

2007:  Trotter (12) with new boyfriend,  Basset Hound, Nemo (5)

Good Girl,Trotter. Good, Good, Girl!

I had to put Trotter down, on Monday. She was 17 (119 by human years).

She had lost her consort, Basil, five years ago when he had to be put down at 14, and she immediately developed a limp and stopped eating.  She was twelve ( 84 human years) and I worried she would die of a broken heart.  So, two days after Basil left, I went to the Lucy MacKenzie Society with Trotter and we picked out a companion together, a Basset Hound named Nemo.  

I only adopt rescue dogs.

When Nemo arrived home with us, Trotter's limp disappeared and her appetite returned.  She started chasing Nemo around the house in hide and seek, games. She seemed rejuvenated.

Two years later when she was 14, Trotter tore her ACL chasing Nemo around the couch.  She was too old for surgery (98 by human years) so we settled on pain killers.  She paced herself and lived three more happy years.

Two weeks ago she began to fail, seeming very tired but not losing her appetite.

I waited for her to let me know and on Sunday last, she did.  While asleep, despite Nemo's barking at a strange car in the driveway, Trotter (always alert as a watchdog) unknowingly lost control of her fluids, sleeping right through the enlarging puddle, and the intruding car.

She was tired, at 119. 

Just  plain tired.

The next day I brought her to the vet and held her, kissing her forehead saying "Good girl Trotter" as the injection slowed and then stopped her heart.  

It took longer than normal the vet said, because Trotter had had a bad heart murmur for the last four years, (each of those four year the vet predicted her death but Trotter did not comply) . Trotter's  compromised  but proud heart  did not pump the death fluid through her system to her brain as quickly as it might otherwise have done.

I buried her on my property, a two-acre hillside in Vermont with a 40 mile view of New Hampshire.  She rests now with my two other Dalmatians and three cats and a canary.

Good, good girl.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

* Gutting the New England Town Meeting

Letters to the Editor
The Valley News

Dear Editor:

As a life-long Yankee  and a 27-year Vermonter, allow me to translate  into blunt English the  “report” of the Hartford Charter  Revision Committee at the  4/9/12 televised meeting.

What the Charter Revision Committee did for the last three years  was  to gut (eviscerate) the 300-year-old New England Town Meeting  and replace it with a polite debating society.

The reason five or six  hundred residents used to  show up at Town Meeting is because something real, vital, and immediate was at stake: their voices and votes counted on that very day.  One could see and hear in person all the town characters who had thorny opinions,  and watch them clash as they voiced those opinions in  person, and one could embrace and celebrate the fact that real juices of anger and passion and frustration were flowing in people’s veins because real votes were about to be taken, at that very moment.

Now what we have instead, at the  pleasure of the Hartford Charter Revision Committee, is a town meeting without a heart or intestines, a gutted deer, a kind of  dissected corpse lying on a table with the innards taken out.

I say, bring back the 300-year old New England Town Meeting. Put the heart and intestines back in the corpse and resurrect the Vermont democracy we have been trying to kill for the last three-years  with bureaucratic twaddle, streamlined procedure, and closed-curtain secrecy, all under  the name of “Charter Revision”

What was good enough for  Vermont and New England for the last 300 years is good enough for the next 300 years.  Send the Australian ballot back to Australia and the polite debating society back to the thumb-twiddling bureaucrats. 

Let Vermonters be Vermonters.

Paul D. Keane

Friday, April 20, 2012

" Nobody's Home

At the candlelight vigil for Zach Brunt ’15, one friend remembered Brunt sitting on a bench outside of Welch Hall Sunday night. As Brunt sat there, more and more people gathered around to talk. As they gradually drifted away to go to bed, Zach stayed, talking to friends and enjoying the evening. That was Zach: creating community and enjoying the company of others . . .

At the end of last night’s vigil, Zach’s father spoke. “Don’t let this happen again,” he said. We wish we knew precisely how to do that, but we know it’s our job to try. We can start by remembering the friendlier, more open world Zach built for everyone he met.

The Lights are On, 


Nobody's Home.

The YDN posting-board is not the place for me to make these comments, for they will sound didactic, and that is the last thing one needs at a moment of mourning a community member who has taken his own life, an occurence which has happened three-times at Yale in the last three years.

Even though it was 48 years ago, I can recall experiencing what was then called "Sophomore Slump" right on schedule at the end of my Sophomore year.  I was working  as a "bouncer" in the Ithaca College Pub, and I got on the pay-phone with my parents in Hamden, Connecticut and told them I wanted to quit college.  They talked me out of it----for over an hour, back in the days when long-distance cost by-the minute.

 I was despondent.

Everything seemed "phoney" to me: especially the "academic enterprise", but also my own "people pleasing" personality, and my goal-lessness, even the  artificial carrot of a college degree, then two years away.
I have read The Catcher in the Rye --that book about 'phoneys' ---out-loud to audiences for years now, and know it by heart----or soul.

They didn't have  'mental hospitals' in Holden Caulfield's 1950 America , they were called 'sanitoriums' if you were rich and 'insane asylums' if you were poor.

Holden Caulfield, in a sanitarium near Hollywood where his writer-brother lived, , was speaking  his 212-page recollection of three days in New York  after he flunked out of his third prep-school, Pencey Prep. That recollection has sold 64 million copies and is called The Catcher in the Rye.  The fact that Holden is in a sanitorium is often overlooked  by readers.

What Holden hated most in those 212- pages were "phoneys ," probably because he was trying  desperately to find his authentic self, trying desperately not to BE a phoney.

There was a 1970's expression about someone artificial that went like this: "the lights are on, but nobody's home".

That is EXACTLY how I felt about myself when I was experiencing "Sophomore Slump".  If I had to put it in modern psychobabble five decades later I'd say I was unsuccessfully trying to delimit my personality.

 I was 'coming unglued'----or to be more accurate, the glue I had applied failed to stick.

Incomplete personality development.

I had failed to establish boundaries. 

Quitting college, regressing to the Garden of Eden where I was defined by home and family, was my panic reaction, my default position.

Thank God my parents talked me out of it.

I suspect this crisis is ignored in college today.

I never hear  the term "Sophomore Slump" anymore.

It might be valuable to put it on the diagnostic landscape of personality development, or at least back in the folklore of college life.