Annexe (01)

Interview de Catherine Jamieson pour par Linda Roeder

Origine :
Date : aux environs de décembre 99
Note : Le journal évoqué (Naked Eye) et les liens afférants ne sont plus disponibles en ligne. Le successeur s'appelle Ephemera.

Age - How old are you now?
I turned 37 last June - born in the sixties, hatched in the seventies, mostly remember the eighties as a blur and really grew up in the nineties.

When you started your online diary?
Well, I started the online diary in May of 1999 - so I was 36. I've been journaling all my life in one format or another.

Marital Status - Married, single, divorced, living with a significant other?
Interesting question. How much time do you have? Let's see - I'm officially married - but we've been living apart for a few years and will continue to do so with occasional dates and get togethers. Of course we speak often, we share a 12 year old daughter. My first husband and I were divorced in 1985. So, I am married, but single. Divorced and not living with a significant other. Sort of. Hmmm.

Occupation - What kind of work do you do?
I sold my business and retired in 1997. Part of the strange unfolding story of Catherine is a rather ... interesting vocational/professional past. I've worked in sales, I've been a programmer, worked as an Engineer, a teacher, a business woman. I've earned money writing erotica and features, taking photographs, doing freelance marketing, drawing sketches on street corners, selling shoes to ... um ... plump ladies with um ... smelly feet ... at a Woolworths. Presently I am nurturing a plot to take over the world - hopefully it will have a reasonable income attached. I alternate now between spending too much money and devising ways to get more.

Hobbies - What do you like to do, besides keep this diary?
What day is it? Seriously - my two big hobbies are photography and gardening - but I draw and paint, sometimes I play music. I am a professional quality book store browser and you can sometimes find me in the gym - trying to stuff my 37 year old self into a 21 year old form.

Location - Where are you from? Where are you now?
I'm living in the city of Winnipeg, the province of Manitoba - Canada. I was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It's cold here, by the way. Really, really cold. Send blankets and other warming devices. 

Why did you start writing your diary online?
Oh, depending on the day you ask me this answer seems to evolve. Or revolve, at any rate. I started it, simply, so that I could speak. My journal is named for the song "Naked Eye" by Luscious Jackson - There's a line in the song that probably describes it better than I could. "I take things off to clear my head, to say the things I've never said." 

That said, it was also about writing. Writing everyday. Putting that pillar of routine in front of myself - giving myself the soapbox and the corner and even the business license - so that every day I can write. An audience can be compelling. Readers give you not only a reason to do it - but, on some days, they provide the kick in the pants to get to it. As ostentatious as it may sound "my readers expect me to write" is (sometimes) the reason I sit down at the keyboard. Not always - and not as an overall rule, but sometimes.

There's a bit of the egotist in me, too. I want to be read. I'm a writer and the other half of my own personal equation for happiness is a reader. I'm not one of those people who "writes for themselves" or even for the "joy of it". I write for readers. So, I put my journal online so I could test out the voices in my head - so I could see if I can write in the sort of sustained way I want to write. Writing fiction isn't about making up scenes - it's about putting real scenes together in a made up way. So, I report the daily scenes in my journal - and sometimes scenes from the psychic archive.

Some days it reads like a "today I did..." (with twists, of course, I am loathe to admit I ever do so-called laundry list entries). Some days it reads like a short story. Some days it reads both ways. Some days it reads as if someone snuck in the middle of the night and wrote an entry for me, I am sure. 

It's online because that's where the readers are. It's online because this is a venue in which I am very comfortable. It's online because some days, when I do tell my stories, it seems like they're worth sharing.

All subject to change, of course.

Do you communicate with readers of your diary?
Yes. That sounds funny. Every time I write and save I am communicating - but in other ways, yes I do. I have several readers with whom I carry on what would be considered by most to be intermittent but which I consider "regular" communication - usually via email - but things have arrived in my mail box as well. I don't mean people send me gifts - I mean I have made arrangements with friends who started as readers to exchange street mail.

For me this is one of the best parts of the whole on-line thing. The ability to interact with people.

When I go to sleep and I dream about my site or my journal it is always how interactive it could be - how it could be altered and changed to touch more people - you know what I mean? Half of what happens at Naked Eye is about what comes back to me. Me, Catherine - the writer - is only half the equation.

How much email feedback to you recieve from your diary?
Oi. Oh - until I started publicly whining about it I was having days with 250 mails in my in-box. I hated feeling guilty about not responding - I loved getting them. It was a conundrum. Nowadays it is much more manageable and most people, most readers, say something like "you don't have to respond" in the message - which makes me feel better and worse - all at once! On average, about 50 a day or so, I'd say.

If so is it mainly positive or negative?
Oh, overwhelmingly positive. I suppose, because of the HIV and some of the less than wonderful situations in which I have found myself, people feel inclined - instinctively - to reach out and pat my hand. It's nice.  I get a lot of "Oh, man - have I been there..." emails and a lot of "thanks for saying that" emails. They touch me especially. Naked Eye is my bare naked romp in the rain through the park yelling all my truths into the ether - just for the sake of uttering them - and sometimes that strikes people who dream of stripping away their own clothes and baring themselves too. So they write to say "thanks - I was there and got wet with you".

It's a very cool thing.

Have you met any new friends because of the diary?
Oh my yes. Wonderful people have poked themselves into my life through the journal. Amazing.

Has your motivation changed over time?
Every day. Perhaps more often. The fundamental drive is the same. To speak/write. To be heard/read. But on top of that there are many reasons that come and go. Some days its simply a journal - a place to pour out my disconnected thoughts on the universe. Other days its a canvas and I paint a picture - draw a scene - practice my craft. And yet other days it's a raw and challenging adversary to be tamed into functional form. On rare days it is concrete and the things I say are meant to be a permanent part of my own personal landscape and I scrape my "wisdom" into the wet surface - trying to engrave the truth that I happened upon that day into my own psyche. And I suppose, on those days, as large as it may make my ego seem, I especially want to share my truth with other people. I always wondered if I would have stepped in so many piles of doggy doo-doo had I connected with some truths earlier in my life. 

How has the diary changed your life?
It hasn't. It's added a dimension, in a sort-of way. But it hasn't changed my life. I've always been a writer - scribbling bits of things on papers and parts of my skin, whispering into tape recorders, clacking away at typewriters and then keyboards. I have really just condensed my normal daily output - focused it a bit. I've always had a journal - the only difference is that this one is connected to a rather large distribution network. Hell, my brother used to pass around my journal when I was a young girl - got paid for it, too. I guess the idea is as old as the hills - this peeking into diaries.

Do your friends and family know you keep this journal/read it?
They know I keep it. I talk about "the journal" like I talk about "the kids" and "the car" and "the house". Do they read it? I don't know. I don't ask and if I could make any sense out of referrer logs it would be a miracle.

If so have you had any really negative experiences as a result?
Other than the 50 mile an hour drop to hell my stomach did when my mother said, casually - in the middle of a phone conversation about geranium seedlings - "So, I've been reading your journal."? You mean, other than that? No.

If not why?
Well my friends and family probably only really know two things about me - as the general, universal knowledge-base - (1) I am going to do what I am going to do and (2) you'll just piss me off if you get too involved in telling me how to do (1).

How has the diary benefited you?
I am becoming a better writer, I feel. I am dedicated to a schedule and a routine which is hard for me to do. I am releasing all sorts of old pain and remembrance. I have made friends. Met new people. Been exposed to a whole new community. I am a better photographer, a better artist. I am working the muscles that embody what I want to "do" with my life.

Your friends? Or total strangers?
I'd say it helps the "strangers" that read it. Or they say so - based on the email I get. Mostly just because it is the most amazingly incredible thing to read the words of someone who has had an experience similar to one you have had - it touches on the peripheral sense we have that we really ARE all connected in some way - and because part of the journal deals with surviving an abusive relationship a lot (too many) women identify with the pain I talk about. 

I love that. I hate that. You know? It's nice to connect. It's shitty to have to connect over something like that.

Has your diary ever gotten you in trouble?

Scenario : if you wronged by a person that you know reads your diary, would you bash them anyway? 
I don't bash people. Or rarely enough that I can't recall a specific instance off the top of my head. Even really bad people. It's part of how I feel about "appropriate and acceptable" public behavior.

What about family? What about co-workers?
Same deal.

If you had to do it over again from the beginning, what would you change?
Here's a Zen answer for you. Everything. Nothing. My only changes would be technical. I think I'd do it, otherwise, all the same. I had no plan. I just started doing it. It evolved. It will continue to evolve - that's for sure. The one thing that is certain about me is that I will change - and my work will change. I called the main site Flux (change) Redux (again) for a reason. It's what I would be called if we named people according to temperament.

Do you have any favorite entries?
Here are two recent favorites. The Date and Journal Entry - December 16, 1999

What do you look for in an online journal, as a reader?
Nothing. It's hard/impossible to define. Entertain me. Compel me to be interested in you. Write well. Draw well. Have a beautiful site. Have an ugly site but make me laugh. I don't know. It varies wildly - like my taste in music and books. I like AC/DC - I like Vivaldi. I like bathroom readers and tomes on the history of civilization. I like brilliant writing like Perforated Lines and I like brilliant artwork like terrapindream. And all betwixt and between.

Do you use your real name in your diary?

Do you censor yourself in your diary? If so why?
The better part of anything is discretion. Yes, I censor myself. Partly to protect the untold bits of my stories until I am ready to tell them. Partly to save pieces of me for my own private reflection. Partly because I like having secrets - it makes me feel as if I have an arsenal of dry powder, I guess. Also, I am not always certain that the stories in which I had bit parts are mine to tell. I have a respect for people's privacy that is pretty unbreakable - even if I think they deserve a public whipping - I rarely think it is my place to give one. I censor because without censorship, without editing, without cut and paste a person's life is far too big a thing to fit on the internet - even if you could use every piece of storage space in existence. I laugh at myself - I always say that it's not important to do all the right things - just enough of them. Well, it's not important to tell all your stories and thoughts - just the right ones. That's what makes a good journaler, in my opinion. One who knows when to hold 'em and knows when to fold 'em. Tell me about your day dear, just not all of it. Heh.

Do you ever use fiction techniques such as imaginary dialogue?
Oh mercy yes. Dialogue is tricky. Colloquial speech - given idiolect issues, regional mannerisms and what not - is hard to put onto paper (or the screen, as the case may be). I have a good ability to recall situations and can often repeat dialogue verbatim - and sometimes do in the journal. But usually I weave my dialogue. All the words are spoken - more or less. All the intent is there. But I play with the sequence and sometimes even sew two separate conversations together - or selectively choose from a single one and break it up. I don't fictionalize - but I do "make ready for public understanding" - adding context statements and descriptive action as much as possible. If I could I would write an entire novel in dialogue - it is my favorite form of writing. I work at it a lot in the journal - it's good practice.

Do you ever significantly edit/rewrite past entries?
Never - unless I see a glaring typo/grammar mistake. And even then I often just leave it as part of the footprint.

Would you describe your diary as traditional, essay, novel, rant, letter to someone, a theme journal, or something different?
Whew. Where's the little ticky box for "all of the above"? I sometimes format my entries as a letter to a friend and sometimes like a short story. Yes, I've ranted. I believe one or two qualify as an essay. A theme journal? Hmmm - well, there are consistent themes woven into it - yes. Dealing with HIV. Autism. The weirdness that is uniquely Catherine.

Now - don't get me wrong - I'd say my journal is a positive body of work - with mention of some negative situations. I mean - I'm a middle school dropout who drives a 12 cylinder Jaguar, has been both a homeless streetperson and a very wealthy businesswoman. I have 2 amazing kids. Wonderful friends. I used to write erotica for a living. There are tons of success stories here. Way more than stories of my fuck-ups. Which are there, too. (I'm chuckling - you can't see me - but I am.) I guess what I'm saying is it's a journal about a life - which has a little bit of the good, the bad and the ugly in it. And some beauty, too. All of which can twist on the head of a screw to be either positive or negative - depends on the way the story teller feels on any given day. And most days? Most days I'm a pretty positive person.

So, I would describe my journal as thematic - yes. And the theme? Shit happens. Get over it and get on with it.

What is "one word" that would describe your diary's content?

Sometimes so naked that people have trouble looking, I think.

As an online diarist do you consider yourself a Web celebrity, an exhibitionist, a public figure, a writer, an innovator, or something different?
I think of myself as a person who owns a little piece of internet real estate - upon which I have built the Catherine Hotel (clothing optional) and I intend to see what I can do with the envelope. Push it a bit, perhaps. So, I'd like to be an innovator - I guess we'll have to wait and see if that happens, eh?

How do you tackle the mechanics of Web design and how do you deal with your frustrations when you can't do what you envision.
I use Front Page - started with FP98 and now use FP2000. Handy, dandy product. I used to be a programmer (way back when) so I appreciate computers and even the funky ways they work - and decided I didn't need to learn a new language and didn't want to get bogged down in the wires behind the puppets. I'm not the set builder - I'm the director. So I use a WYSIWYG editor and feel pretty pleased with the way it's performed for me. Heh - and here comes the ego again - whaddaya mean "can't do what I envision?" - heh - I find ways to get what I want done - one way or another. It's been a pretty cool experience that way, too. There are amazing people in the community who are willing to help with technical issues - which is a big bonus.

Why do you think people are interested in what you have to say?
I don't. I'm surprised that they are. Gratified and surprised. I like to talk, I like to tell stories, I like to use words - I hope I got good at it over the years.

What compels you to design beautiful pages and to write from the heart (beyond just the usual question of "why an online journal")?
Every artists craves an audience to share his soul-work with. Every artist craves the soul-food of understanding. Every human being is an artist. I am an artist. I do this because I can. Because, miraculously or otherwise, I am blessed with the wherewithal to connect to the internet and generate pages of HTML code and suddenly I saw an audience. I saw understanding. I saw an incredible new art/literary form growing fledgling legs and I said "me too". And here I am.

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