Tuesday, May 31, 2005

You Don't Need A Blog, But You Look Like You Could Use A Drink

Cup-O-Noodles links to this. Give it a look: once your spine is nicely chilled from the very notion of a thing called "Blogging 101" and all that it entails, the text will provide it with a much more extensive tour of the subzero.
But I just want to speak my mind, you say. Great. Don't do it in a blog. Speak your mind to your friends, your family, your co-workers, or your classmates. If you're angry or excited about something, tell them about it, and get them angry and excited too.
No. For Christ's sake, don't I already spend enough time talking to my family, co-workers, and classmates? Why do we have to be angry and excited about things all of a sudden? We're actually quite placid, tedious people, mostly just given to coming up with unorthodox euphemisms.
Don't waste your time hoping some intrepid, like-minded soul will stumble upon your sad, default-Blogger-templated website. After the initial delusion that everyone from Finland to New Zealand will care about exactly how you feel about Donald Rumsfeld wears off, you'll realize that you're talking to yourself. And you'll be more frustrated than if you hadn't started the damn blog in the first place. So turn off the computer and get out of the house. It's liberating.
While I feel anyone who is making money by giving people tips about how to blog more effectively deserves a pro forma curtsey, I must say this is the biggest load of sanctimonius bollocks I've read in quite some time. He's absolutely right that most blogs suck - in which case his advice should not be not to start a blog; it should be to stop reading other people's - and consist of one rather sad person talking to themself. The assumption that this is without value, though, I find incredibly wrongheaded. This might just be because I am an academic, and therefore spend a lot of time talking to myself in a professional setting, but I would like to think there's more to it than that: the challenge is not to reach the largest audience possible (and thereby escape the terrible frustrating stigma of talking to yourself) but rather to find interesting things to say to people, yourself included. It's hard to think of a better venue for this than a blog, doomed to failure thought the venture probably is.
A blog isn't the right answer for most of the reasons people think they need one. But you don't need one. Your energy is better spent conversing with real people, not hoping to be the one voice heard in the middle of a riot.
Of course, the author has divined the reasons people think they need blogs. The simplest possible reason - the same reason people "need" amusing websites, animated distractions, social engagements, tropical vacations, involving hobbies, fun - seems to have eluded him.

Monday, May 30, 2005

The Man Who Wasn't There, Unless By "There" You Meant Berkeley, CA. You Did? Ah. Sorry About That, Then.

Emerging from the wilderness, blinking, scratching, unsure if anyone is bothering to read this, uneasy about self-referential comments on readership or lack thereof.

A note on the absences: whenever I am sitting around this stygian basement and considering a swift half across the street, I can usually settle on Blogger as a marginally more responsible compromise. At the very least, it keeps me safely within that part of the day devoted to typing - even though this is clearly not the thing I am supposed to be typing - and well clear of the other, darker, unspeakable part.

Other times, I am off looking for work or engaged in some other extra-basementular activity. Then the entire day is dark and unspeakable, and typing of any sort is seldom to be found. This was the case in Berkeley, from whence I am recently returned, and about which I have nothing to say beyond a congratulatory aside on the quality of their crazy people. Men dressed in rags staggering to and fro in front of me while I'm trying to drink a cup of coffee are a commonplace, but it has been a while since I saw one actually shouting and beating himself about the head with things at the same time.

(Imagine my surprise when he turned out to be the head of the Physics department. Thank you very much! I'll be here all week. Unless the cleaning staff find me.)

Thursday, May 12, 2005

A Retinue Of Feral Clowns, In The Woods, Spilling Wine On Themselves

The talented Mr. Hynes is having a go at Yeats today. Reading the two in parallel with one another (not to mention related scholarly works) makes the lines
And the proud dreaming king who flung the crown
And sorrow away, and calling bard and clown
Dwelt among wine-stained wanderers in deep woods
seem altogether more sinister.

(The poetry is very good. Ha, you really should tackle this one next.)

Saturday, May 07, 2005

In Search Of Our Warlike Panda Forefathers

Richard Dawkins interviewed in Salon, here, once you watch one of their annoying ads.

Not sure how I feel about Richard Dawkins - or how he feels about me, for that matter. He's one of those people who, even when you basically agree with them, always manage to phrase the issue in as contentious a way as possible, just for fun. (His problem with agnosticism, for instance, seems mostly to be that it doesn't piss religious people off as much as atheism.) On the plus side: we need such people to contribute to the lively flow of ideas in society! On the minus side: one fears that the guy is a prick.

So I very vaguely modeled the book on Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales," where the pilgrims start off as a band of human pilgrims walking backward to discover our ancestors. We are successively joined by other pilgrims -- the chimpanzee pilgrims at 5 million years, then the gorilla pilgrims, then the orangutan pilgrims. Starting with humans, there are only about 39 such rendezvous points as you go back in time. It's a rather surprising fact. Rendezvous 39 is where we meet the bacteria pilgrims.
Right, right, right. What we want to know, though, Dawkins, is about the pandas. Tell us about the pandas, please.

"Well, Guess We'll Have To Roshambo For It..."

As we accelerate towards the nightmarish, dystopic future depicted in Troma movies, reminders of our human frailty are always welcome. We can't land our own planes, we'd be overrun and enslaved by chess-playing computers were it not for the Russians, and now there is a webpage that learns how to beat you at rock-paper-scissors. I refuse to watch James Cameron films on principle these days, but isn't this how SkyNet got started?

(Of course, the title of post from a little way down this page. If the game is played along these lines, I still think I have an edge on any lousy computer. But how long will this be the case?)

Friday, May 06, 2005

Only Poetry Stops Rape

Ah, week of no updates. I have been standing on the side of the road offering to clean people's windshields for pocket change, and internet access has been patchy.

When I have been near a computer, I have been busy crying with laughter over this thing. They're all classic, but the first one sets the tone pretty well in terms of hilarity and discomfort. George Carlin's response to people who claim that rape has no comedic potential is "picture Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd". I think Carlin would approve of Amber's evil, all-caps father: "THAT IS A TERRIBLE POEM. YOU ARE THE WORST POET EVER."