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Life Arts

Remembering the NYT's Live Chats

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In the summer of 2003, I was separated from my wife and the love-of-my-life and contemplating divorce after almost continuous intense and usually drunken arguments.

As part of getting our minds clear, I'd moved out of our shared living arrangement in her house in the Oakland Hills above San Leandro and taken a 3-months' lease on an apartment near the borderline separating Oakland from Berkeley, planning to live apart for two months and then see a marriage counselor during the third month.  It was at this apartment that I started participating in the New York Times' Live Political Chats.   And believe me, they were KILLERS.

Entrance to the New York Times (2009), by niallkennedy at Flickr Commons

It was being able to concentrate intensely for extended periods of time in the stream or streams which interested you that was so difficult.   And of course, the long-time participants, with numerous correspondents, could keep several streams going simultaneously.   And everyone came from anywhere in the world, writing, however, only in English (I think).   But the main difference between participating in live chats and submitting pieces at OEN, for example, was the intense mental strain imposed on participants.   If you discontinued communicating for long enough to prepare and eat a meal, for example, when you finished, the Chat Moderator may have discontinued you, and/or your chat partner(s) may have moved on to other chats.   You could find them there, and start submitting your own comments, but your partners frequently had become more engrossed in another stream, you would have to sign off, self-interrupted and frustrated.

My OEN workstation (undated), by at Flickr Commons

Encountering these chats after trying to write prose-poetry was like training yourself for a marathon and then waking up in the middle of a four-forty: it was utterly discombobulating.  

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Shortly after my wife and my sessions with the marriage counselors ended in bitterness in Berkeley, I moved to Vacaville, about 30 miles further away from our shared home in the Oakland Hills, with me hoping that actually living that far apart would make a difference.   It didn't, and I never resumed chatting.   By 2006, when I'd started participating at Dissident Voice's comments' columns, the New York Times had discontinued its live chats.   Which was more than fine with me.   By 2006-7, I was trying to get the L.A. Times Obituaries to just mention whether their reporters had asked L.A. area survivors' of deaths in Iraq if their deceased had ever mentioned the Iraq Veterans Against the War.

The L.A. Times Building (2009), by Kansas Sebastian at Flickr Commons

Oh well.   Another gesture into the great internet darkness.   And another apparent zero.  

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I have a law degree (Stanford, 66') but have never practiced. Instead, from 1967 through 1977, I tried to contribute to the revolution in America. As unsuccessful as everyone else over that decade, in 1978 I went to work for the U.S. Forest (more...)

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