Saturday, November 11, 2006

Blogging on Blogging

I find the recent rash of debates among my blogger buddies fascinating. My partner tells me that someday oh-so-soon some grad student will write a dissertation on the subject, which will promptly become a book, possible a minor best-seller. I often wonder what previous communications gurus would publish on the subject. What would Neil Postman say on the subject? Or that goliath Marshall McLuhan? Or Chomsky?

On a personal level, I never expected to use this medium and now I am the author or co-author of three blogs, four come the new year (I've recently inked a deal to write a systems-thinking blog).

I started this blog in October 2004, on the suggestion of a friend, to post and receive feedback on creative writing. The main attraction for me was the comments feature. Originally I hoped to receive constructive critique and occasional encouragement from friends, but as the post to comment ratio climbed ever toward infinity I began to appreciate an unanticipated benefit to blogging: its public aspect coupled with its accessibility from my daily workstation provided ample motivation for creating daily entries, which served to keep my writing sharp and constantly express and form my thoughts.

The feedb ack I'd longed for started coming on the heals of controversy. Several months ago I posted a satirical comment at a racist/rightwing extremist blog/cult called E-NOUGH!. The backlash was almost instantaneous. Uninterested in the exchange of ideas or reason, the extremist hancks fired back with personal insults on my own blog, my favourite of which called me a "Canadian fuckwad." One anonymous fundamentalist with way too much time on his hands latched himself leachlike to my blog for several months. Just when I grew accustomed to his lurking presence he detached himself with a hail of paternlistic put-downs, and I was free.

The upside to such attacks is that other, more friendly, virtual lifeforms stumbled my way around that time, most regularly Kaufman and Ultra. Pretty soon I had joined the gang at the ill-fated 5-word-stories, and later, the Tony Clifton Experience.

My experience with the extreme playa hatas at E-nuff, and particularly the anonymous leach who oozed from their cess, really got me thinking about the art and ethics of the blog. One of my considerations is that anyone who gooles my long-term nickname will easily access every snide remark, poor attempt at irony, and bitter political rant I've made on my blog or anyone else's blog from here to eternity.

What humour and politics have in common is that they both change over time. The hilarity of painting a white man's face black and doing a quick softshoe has long since worn thin, yet long ago it was willingly submitted to tape, and now any analyst with a public library card can go check it out. With our lame 21st century ideas and jokes, we bloggers make it even easier for the alien anthropologists to archive our many shortcomings, which would seem to include racism, mysogeny, forgery, impersonatino, and forgoing innocence without proof of guilt. But, as Neil Postman pointed out back in the 20th, the crime that will be our undoing is the crime of mass entertainment, which reminds me that whatever my motives for blogging, it is ultimately a wal to kill time. Precious yet endless time.

That is why it fascinates me that just when the discussion gets serious, some of us want to stumble out gracelessly. Not that I blame them. On the contrary, when things got personal with the total strangers at e-nuff, I backed down. I love a good debated and the more different my adversary's point of view, the more interesting the discussion, IF it remains respectful. But as soon as it enters the realm of juvenile personal insults, what I have to gain becomes outmassed by what I have to lose from the discussion, even in a relatively anonymous format. As namby-pamby as it may sound, insults can hurt even if the verbal assassin is unseen. In a very real way, the anonymous attackers are the worst kind because they refuse to contextualize themselves, to make clear their own biases, sources of information, or their own experiences.

Having said that, what I like about blogging is one of its original drawing points for me: its honesty. If I write crap you can say so more freely than, say, my wife, who would have to suffer my most insufferable pouting for such a comment. Besides comments, blog posts are in some ways more honest than real life. When the read the terse venom of Mob, for example, I can't imagine he could be so brutally honest in person.

But as the circle eclipses itself, I come back to Postman: why with all our honest critiques are we so reticent to get serious, to move beyond personal philosophies and into the realm of politics, human rights, social justice, health, the sustainability of our big-brained short-sighted self-interested species? And why is it that when we do, it takes the shape of self-righteous rants or personal attacks, and not respectful dialogue?

Please discuss. Really discuss.

Let's just pretend that the numerous typos in this post are intentional, possibly for the purposes of wordplay and irony.
"forgoing innocence without proof of guilt."

Hello! Guilty as charged. Well, what can I say. It's true. This hits home for me because I certainly stuck a knife in when I couldn't be sure of the integrity of my victim, but I went on a gut reaction.

Why no politics? Hmm. I think I may have posted on some political issues before, but I generally end to shy away from it.

I don't discuss politics very often anway, whether it be here or outside.

Do I have a point?



Thinking time...
Hey Ultra,

I hope you realize that this post was not aimed at anyone particular: the list of sins was a summary of the recent accusations out there, all of which I think we bloggers, and most human beings, are guilty of.

Anyway, let me know what you come up with in your thoughts.
I avoid writing about political issues because I always come off looking second rate whenever I do.

Take the following as a chapter in my life: in 1996, on what I now label with a red-taped label maker the height of my depression-fuelled ecstasy phase whenever I write or talk about it, I demanded that one of the people co-inhabiting the drug kennel I was wallowing in commence research into why my political leanings constantly and consistently registered a bloated zero on the then respected ladder of social extremists. I don't need to tell you that the demand was greeted with euphoric apathy from every one of the freeloading brethren and a pass-the-bucket-bong chaser by a tart in a skirt short enough to need air sickness tablets.

In a Scooby Doo-like segue, about a decade later, as I check the belt to find ample bullets on my metaphor for experience, and with my first child kicking its mother's ribs, I think I'm a step closer to discovering why I'm so inept with anything even remotely associated with having a political opinion: I'm uninformed.

I blame the media, which uninforms me daily, if not twice each day, and which, by way of trying to stay that fraction ahead of the inevitable failure of my kind (man though not necessarily woman), has resulted in a state of total and irreversible political neutering. And it's by choice. What's more, it's through nobody else's choice other than my own.


Add further to the more and the equation continues thusly: those who have opinions which may or may not sway the balance of power either side of the scale of justice and who actually state them with grimly determined jaw so that their identity may one day be etched onto the cup of immortal politicising brilliance, rarely associate their viewpoint with their actual, true-to-life identity.

I'm equally as thrilled about that because the InterWeb is a place for such beligerent bombardiers, a place where anonymous scribes may choose an identity, such as Andy Kaufman, Benji Bopper or Uber Biscuit Disco Allah, to invent but three, if they wish so that at some point in the not too distant future they and countless others like them or not, but with a need for a creative outlet nonetheless, may look back on the times they got up someone's hemline and made them think to the point of actually typing a response.

To be moved to write is only a beginning. To get a reaction from someone by what one has written is to break on through to the other side, maaaaaan.

It's been too long, BB. And I wasn't quite sure what I was here to say.

AK, as usual with such vaguely modest intentions you have achieved heights higher than most can see or comprehend. Even I had to read your comment twice, and I was its primary audience.

The same can sometimes be said for TV, which I (inspired once again by the great Neil Postman) blame for our willful ignorance. By entertaining us so effectively and with such comfortable repetition, it has covered us in a protective layer of placental veneer that prevents anything other than pure entertainment gold from seeping in, particularly informed political opinion.

Isn't it interesting though that even with the easy anonymous free speech of the internet (excluding China of course), we still shy away from information and veer drunkenly toward entertainment? And even with our identity shields, when the proverbial shit hits the metaphorically spinning fan, our natural instinct is to sign off for cover even though getting our real-life pajamas dirty is about as likely as a Hulk Hogan - Andre the Giant rematch.

Isn't that interesting?!
I tend to want to keep the blog light, and try for humor over serious 'issues' because this is supposedly a fun hobby for me, and I have plenty of things that can get me down in my 'real' life, I don't need to seek it out on the interweb.

Except when I'm spitting terse venom in a rant about work or whatever, then all bets are off.

Loved the terse venom line, I want it on a business card...

And arguing politics in this kind of arena is silly as hell to me, since the odds of changing someone's opinion in person are pretty slim, how the hell could you expect to sway someone in print, which can be so easily mis-read or misconstrued?

For example: I made derogatory comments about old Dubya on an Australian podcasts' website, and had a guy from the States nitpicking my comments, and wanting to argue with me in thier forums. After a few exchanges, I finally said to the guy "Look, I live in Dubya's hometown, if I wanted to argue 'til I'm blue in the face with his constituency, I'd go the fuck outside and strike up a conversation with someone, I don't need to do it on an Australian forum!"
I hope by entertainment you mean porn, coz that's what I call entertainment.

Also, if you think that you were the only one who had to read my comment twice, let me assure you that the cue had formed a long time ago. In fact, it was the nanosecond that I pressed "publish". And for that, I apologise.


PS 'My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.' - Quote from a movie starring Andre the Giant. Which movie, BB?
Mob, fair enough. My only counterpoint is that talking politics doesn't have to be about changing minds - if done right, without the backbiting, it should be an enjoyable exchange of ideas, says I.

Kaufman: err, Princess Bride? counterquiz: in what Al Pacino movie will you hear the line: 'Benito Benito from the Bronx, remember me?' followed by gunshots.
Princess Bride it is, stable boy. Well done.

I'll stab away without phoning a friend and say Carlito's Way, although my gut is belly-flopping and nudging me to change my answer to Dog Day Afternoon. To sum up, I'm guessing it could be either of these two (perhaps both, yes

carlito's way, you got it despite my misquote - it should have been 'benny benito from the brox.' not benito benito. anyhoo, good show.
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