Origin of the Specious

Does the world need another web log or on-line journal? Can the world ever have too many people communicating their thoughts for everyone to read? Apparently the world’s 130 million bloggers don’t seem to think so. It would seem logical to assume that at least some of these people are repeating themselves, and some are likely never read.

I have been a blog reader for a long time now and I must confess that lately I have begun to wince at the plethora of bloggers strutting their authority of some subject or flaunting their cleverness in telling me how life is. It’s time I joined the throngs if only to provide an alternative to the blog’s traditional machinery, which mostly seems to be didactic. Essentially I doubt that blogging has anything to do with long-term learning or human progress, but as a vehicle for culture criticism, I believe it can play a role. This is the backdrop for the creation of Thistledown’s Whittle Nods.

The invention of the name Whittle Nods evolved from word definitions. Whittle:  the action of assembly through paring or cutting away, or perhaps as an object to provide a cloaking comfort. Then too this evolution drew its energy from the buoyancy of the word “nod” — a word that can be configured to signal agreement, sleep, or, as a noun a place of exile or, figuratively, the guilt of oversight. It’s a delightful stew that serendipitously evolved from an anagram of “Thistledown”. That’s the way magic works and we were lucky to have it come our way. The nature of Whittle Nods is rather straight-forward. They are notebook writings with a civic conscience.  Because Whittle Nods will appear on the Thistledown web site, they are necessarily linked to books, language, literature, publishing, and the interlaced cultures that support these.  While a Whittle Nod may have a defined, assigned purpose, I warn you that it can also operate as a form of camouflage for ideas with more oblique purposes.

The premise for creating a Whittle Nod is always based on the assumption that language has an ideological agenda that can be a hidden view. The late Neil Postman could wax on this subject for hours, but suffice to say that a Whittle Nod may not always say what you think it says. A quick illustration of how this works resides in its name itself. For some the word ”Nod “ can refer to sleep — the land of Nod — and is a pleasant experience,  as it was for Robert Lewis Stevenson in his A Child’s Garden of Verses and Underwoods or in songs like Tom Waits’ ”Singapore”. For others, the Land of Nod takes its energy from The Bible (Gen. 4:16) and refers to the anguished exile place of Cain — the East of Eden that positions Steinbeck’s novel. The antithetical meanings here serve a valuable purpose for understanding Thistledown’s “Nods” and demonstrate the potential for camouflage referred to above.  Like Macbeth’s “Nothing is but what is not”, the possibility is always there that the Whittle Nod’s meanings may lie in what was not said as much as what was said.

Now all this may seem counter-productive to what should be a form of simple internet communication.  Maybe it is. Maybe we should have titled the writings ”TD’s Blog” or “Metaphor and Muck”. But we didn’t. We hope that if you stumble upon Whittle Nods you read them.  We know they will be somewhat problematic for regular blog readers:  their titles will usually be layered rather than simple and clear, their use of grammar stubbornly orthodox,  their vocabulary noisy but lucid, and their subject matter murky and mischievous.  But, that’s the way it is with Whittle Nods.