BLOG: BLOGGING V2.0 AND SOCIAL MEDIA
When I moved to Canada over ten years ago I began blogging. I don't really know why I started, I just felt something inside prodding me to have my say. Plus, I guess, it was a great way to distract my writing demons from their incessant torture to get me working on that novel I kept trying to convince myself I must write.
So I started a pseudonymous blog. (Maybe someday I'll reveal it.) Surprisingly quickly I had a following that brought me some notoreity: I soon found myself interviewed by international newspapers. A couple years later I was cited in doctoral dissertations (one of the first pseudonymous bloggers afforded the distinction). And, most gratifying of all, I received emails about how I changed people's lives by opening their eyes. I think one of the reasons for my old blog's popularity was that — in addition to providing unique and compelling content — people were able to follow and share in the deepening of my political awareness.
Then, at the apex of my popularity, I stopped blogging.
Why? I don't really know. Why did Sibelius never complete that much-talked-about eighth symphony? Why does the cautionary example persist of the successful first-time novelist never writing that second novel?
I think what happened was... One of my more renowned readers offhandedly challenged me to address a curious question that, to him, remained unanswered, or even unadressed. I spent a few years researching an answer that I eventually wrote and posted in installments over the course of several months. After I posted my conclusion I guess I felt like I had shot my load and didn't feel the need to say anything more. I suppose the blog had served its purpose in providing me with a venue for my intellectual and political maturation...
It's been several years since then. Now I'm back, blogging under my own name, on my own website. I missed sharing my thoughts, just as I had missed taking pictures when I moved to Canada from California. (A topic of a future blog post.) But it's more than that.
Certainly there's no guarantee that I will be read, so that's not the point. I suppose it's like singing for yourself: you do it for your own enjoyment, even your own edification, and if anyone enjoys overhearing you then they are welcome to it... and, who knows, maybe they'll even be moved to accompany you.
In a world driven by speed, noise, and instant gratification — filled, as it is, with loud and insistent barkers all clamoring for people's miniscule attention span to visit their tent — I am under no illusion that I'm likely to attract a wide audience with the patience to work through my self-indulgent circumlocutions. (Head's up: Henry James is one of my favorite authors, especially his "difficult" major phase.) I know that blogs are now supposed to function as easy-to-read bite-sized infotainment-factoid marketing lures. In our profoundly anti-intellectual, proudly ignorant, don't-have-the-time-to-think 24/7 entertainment addicted jingoistic times, who has the time and attention span to read more than 140 characters in one sitting?
So what's the point of a blog that bucks this trend?
Well, since this is my blog on my website, I'm going to use it for what I believe a blog is best used for: as a modern vehicle of how Montaigne approached the essay, namely: as a way for me to discover what I think about things, and share my discoveries with those who care to join me on my journey.
Thus my intent is really quaint, if not antique: rather than provide the reader with some easy distractive fun, I hope to engage the reader in a dialogue — even if in their own mind — wherein they will be invited to consider another person's point of view (whether or not it's one they agree with) and maybe discover where that point of view comes from. (And maybe even use that as a means to discover where their own comes from.) And thus does empathy germinate and spread, helping mutual understanding grow, which is a path towards peace.
Thus, to me, the point and purpose of a blog is to share with others one's journey of self-discovery. And, hopefully, build a community with others who wish to share in such adventures.
The real joy of blogging (again, to me) is that it compels me to learn. I have always believed that writing is the best way to determine what one thinks, for how does one know what one thinks until one finds the words to express their thoughts? The act of writing, the act of finding the right words and putting them in a coherent order, is what nets those formless feelings and ideas fluttering around your head and pins them on the page, putting them in sharp focus for you to evaluate, and to see if it's what you were hoping or expecting to find.
That's how we discover what we truly think; and also, if we're honest, it's how we discover what we don't know. For how can robust thoughts be formulated without having enough awareness of the pertinent topics that feed those thoughts? It's in the act of writing about a topic that I discover my blank spots. That gives me a reason to learn about the things that are missing from having an informed opinion: though humans are hardwired to make snap-judgements (which is what happens when evolutionary instincts share the same wiring as ratiocination: we easily invent logical justifcations for any emotional reaction), I'm not comfortable formulating opinions based on ignorance. (Of course ignorance is a relative thing, for knowledge can never be absolute. But a threshold can be reached where enough information can be adjudged as adequate to inform a reasoned opinion — so long as that opinion remains fluid to further information. Opinions that calcify are the beginning of belligerence, zealotry, and deadly conflict.) It's often not enough to say "I like something", "I don't like something", "I agree", "I disagree", "that's right", "that's wrong". If I want to challenge my assumptions it's because I have an aversion to holding beliefs that are based on falsehoods. I want to reach my own conclusions, even if they are perilously outside the mainstream: I prefer a truth that isolates me to the comfortable/comforting lie that helps me fit in. And so I strive to think for myself: if I don't trust facile, received opinion it is because it is usually wrong, based on intellectual laziness, superstition, tradition, groupthink, and, most perniciously, lies — lies often deliberately promulgated by those who benefit from the public's false consciousness of widely cherished beliefs. (Or, as Betrand Russell more succinctly put it, "The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd.")
> Whew! <
One final note about my new blog. Though my previous blog existed to explore social and political questions, this one will focus on cultural and artistic ones. But, given that everything is political — perhaps especially the arts! — I'm certain there will be politics slipping in here and there. That said, I will refrain from focusing on the manifestly socio- & geo- political.
I've completely refactored my website. Previously it was nothing but static pages, about thirty of them. That meant that if I needed to make a change to the header, or the nav-bar, I'd have to edit thirty files invidivually.
The website is now dynamic, using the CodeIgniter framework. Though there was a learning curve, it wasn't all that steep, largely because I was motivated: I just couldn't tolerate the inefficiency of my website any longer. When researching the various frameworks CodeIgniter stood out to me as the most straightforward MVC framework I came across, so I just dove in. Even though I didn't know php going in, and was reluctant to learn a new language, CodeIgniter made it easy to learn because their MVC model is elegant and intuitive.
Now when I need to make a change to the header I edit one template file... done! Plus adding new pages now is a breeze.
And so my new website is up. It may be pretty hacky, but that's ok since I wanted to get it live as soon as I could. Like any project, you start somewhere, then refine it as you go. And I'm happy that I've finally gained some insight into php and have a better understanding of how all the many pieces of a dynamic website work together in action.
Because this blog is not about politics (at least, not overtly) I will not discuss the reasons for my profound aversion to joining social media, especially Facebook. I will instead focus on the reasons why I've decided to take the plunge.
I'll keep this short and simple. I decided to join social media because I've decided to be realistic about the world as it is right now. With few rare exceptions (eg: Howard Hughes), it's difficult for most mortals to be both popular and reclusive. (Even Thomas Pynchon's reputed reclusiveness doesn't hold water.) It's a rare celebrity who doesn't need to exploit social media as one of their PR tools to keep their name in the public.
It's simple, really: unless one is very well connected and/or very wealthy, it behooves someone in the arts who wants to make a living from their creative exploits to be well known. A brilliant actor would probably have a tough time making a living from their craft performing only for himself before a mirror in his living room.
Thus it is foolish not to use the tools at one's disposal that can help make one's dreams a reality... though it is probably better to do so with an awareness of the economic, personal, and political costs of using such tools, than it is to actively ignore those costs.
Here, then, are my new social media outlets. Please visit them, give me a thumbs up, like me, follow me, retweet me, and whatever else one does in these surveilled playgrounds. I look forward to our virtual time together!
Here, then, is where you can currently find me on social media:
The buttons can always be found in my footer.