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January 19, 2003

The Joy of Dross

I was about to post a comment responding to comments made by RK and Pea to my micro-rant on voice, but then I decided to make it a post. I don't know how false. My point is that blogging is about having a voice, not about having to say something intelligent or interesting. You, RK, would know better than most of us, which famous writer wrote her/his best stuff the first time pen was put to paper? Probably 100000:1, could be more. Blogging is a tool of public voice, and it is still in its prenatal stage. And new writers have to find their footing. Of course writers who already have a skill in a nother public writing medium (academics, professional writers, journalists) can leverage their prior skills and experience, and leap over those who are new writers and new bloggers. Yes, publishing the mundane facts of your life can be boring... unless you happen to be Catspaw who can turn the act of clipping her toenails into high drama, or Blatherings where Debbie's life is subject of her cartooning. What's different? Well, they're both out to manipulate the reader, rather then being out to share the facts of the day. They're ready to beg/borrow/steal from their own lives in order to caputer some market share of your attention, and some cycles from your cortex processor. [Sorry, this is pre-coffee, so I may be losing the fight for clarity.] That said, we don't expect the first painting, poem, written page to be perfect. But we do have a fetish that when something is public, it should be interesting and professional, and we have a defacto write, nay a divine command, to position ourselves within a 'great chain of blogging' that puts the writer of the mundane at the bottom. Bet I can't completely escape from that either. Personally, I am more interested in the writers of the mundane than I am about reading what goes on in The New Yorker. Always been that way for me. I figure that enough people read the big journals, journalists and rags that I'll pick up anything interesting by cultural osmosis. Same goes for blogs. Though there are some big names, at least in their own minds, on my blogroll, it is only because I've tripped over them in the same manner that I have tripped over everyone on the list. At random, as friends in other contexts, or as friends of friends. Ok, my point is that it is a new medium, a new form of expression. We can focus our attention on those who will, reasonably enough, want to hijack for ends that jive with their previous medium, or we can focus on the people for whom this is their first location for public voice. There are more of the latter, and most will fail, but some may take up blogging in a new way, and add to our palate of forms of written expression in ways uncharted. And I'm curious as to what they'll do. Another point is that, unlike is the case for previous forms of publishing, it doesn't take much cash. It IS an elitist western form of communication... you need a computer and access to the internet... which leaves most of the world out. That number goes up and down by a billion people depending on what the chinese government's doing. But all in all, it has given more voice to more people for less gelt, and right off the bat I started hearing, in other media, how blogs would bring down writing, pollute the rarified air of journalism with the dross of the average d00d with nothing to say. And thank god for the editors, and more for the filter of time, that separate what is worth reading from what is not. The only rationales I can imagine for this position is that people want to keep their own privledge and power, and don't want to be threatened in their position of authority, and that, as a reader, people want to know what is right and good to read without having to discern what is interesting for them to read. If it is in the 'Time Literary Suppliment' it must be good. But if it is on a blog called the ""fetid gerbil"" who is to tell us if it is good or not. What if we read something trashy and find that we like it. What if we really do enjoy a good wallow? Luckily, we have http://blogdex.media.mit.edu/ which is probably the greatest tool invented for limiting the scope and diversity of blogging that I've ever seen. Or it is the greatest tool that I don't understand. It tells you what is best. It tells you who is reading whom, what topics are hot. And everything else is not. So? If you can't find out what's important to you, you can find out what is important to everyone else and read that. There are others that help you find the best of the best: blog of the day and the list who show you what is good out there. I guess I shouldn't complain. It is just the way things are. I just want to encourage people to keep blogs. Boring blogs. Blog the minutae of your life. Do it the way you want. Don't think that it has to be interesting. And don't care if anyone reads it. Fight the temptation for audience, and embrace the temptation to find something interesting to say to and for yourself. And I think that people should consider how controlled and directed their tastes are towards what is 'best to read' and worthy of reading, without much in the way of criteria beyond the fact that they were trained from an early age to appreciate such things. And you don't challenge your training? I do think that a bit of unlearning is a good thing, when it helps you to find a home closer to your heard, and a bit farther away from the dictates of taste and style. And even if your true and eternal home is rapt and wrapped with all that it 'best in our culture' (you unpack that... my hands are sticky) at least you'll know that it is, cause you've hung with the backwoods homeys for a while. [I reserve the right to disagree with this after coffee...]"

Posted by jason at January 19, 2003 08:34 AM