Thursday, December 31, 2009

God Sex Money Love Football

These seem to be the most popular results for a search of "what is the most important thing in the world". There's a bit of grouping (I throw family in with love most notably), but that's a pretty good breakdown of the results online.

If I were to really work at it, I could probably get some form of a pentagon of equivalence of these (God is Love and the like). But that would be too clever by half. The more interesting ordering is linearly looking at God Love Football Money Sex, where we go from the heavy to the trivial, the permanent to the ephemeral, the communal to the individual, but also from the painful to the pleasurable or the immaterial to the concrete.

It's probably most peculiar having Football being listed as more weighty than Money. But football and similar contests are by necessity about "us v. them", while money is "me v. the world". Money may bring power, but football can bring glory. And conversely, it's a lot easier to get pleasure out of money than it is football.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Webrings and Blogrolls

Is the web at large too big and impersonal to support community?

Not a community of people, a community of web sites. The sense of implicit camaraderie that caused the development of one of the popular features of 1990s Geocities pages, the Web Ring. For those that choose not to remember, a web ring was a collection of sites that had a banner on them "This site is part of the Terry Pratchett Web Ring", with a link to the "previous" and "next" sites, and a link to the web ring home page (which had a link to all of the sites). You don't see this type of thing any more (except possibly for irony) and for good reason: It was pretty much a terrible idea all around.

1) Most of the sites were lousy even by 1990s web standards.
2) Because most of the sites were lousy, the good sites wouldn't join, causing the quality to get even worse.
3) Who really wants to look at 57 different Terry Pratchett Fan sites?
4) Not only were the sites lousy, a bunch of them were almost certainly going to be broken links or unrelated pages by the time you looked at it.

With all those caveats (and I could have listed more), the question remains: Did they support community on the web? Did "Joe's world of Klatch" belonging to the prestigious "Top Pratchett Fan Sites" web ring make Joe feel like he was a part of the Pratchett fan site community?

In a scientific sense, it would be hard to tell, since Joe probably has tried to forget about the site for the past 10 years, and now that Geocities is dead it is probably offline entirely. And since there may not have been more than 4 or 5 people that cared about the web ring at any one time, it's hard to say that there ever existed a community in the first place. Maybe Joe felt he was now part of the world of the internet with a real web page , who knows.

Anyhow, we now have something that we didn't have in the 90s, blogs. (Dave Winer aside, blogging didn't really take off until the 00's.) And the thing about blogs is that it's immediately obvious whether they are completely out of date or not, since each pot has a nice timestamp at the top. Blogs can try to be topical, but they generally meander from their ostensible topic somewhat. And blogs can have the aforementioned blog roll. The list of 20 to 500 "blogs we like". Arguably a relic of an earlier era, thse are still present on virtually every major blog-like site, be it Kos or Huffington Post or Matt Drudge or the New York Times' blogs. And while many of these have the soft personal touch that only a faceless corporation can provide, there's definitely some sense of association associated with those.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Trying to Essay

( with inspiration from )

The astute reader may note that this follows a long period of silence here. This derives less from a lack of time compared to a lack of topics to write about. There's nothing happening in my life so thrilling that I feel it obligatory to expound in long form; 140 characters is generally more than plenty for daily occurrences. It avoids the forced literary diarrhea of excessively long and descriptive sentences, filled with a multitude of adjectives and words of more than 8 letters. It is an avoidance of technical exercises in tempo and rhyme and 14-line poems.

But if clear thinking begets clear writing, and clear writing conveys meaning, then unclear, meandering writing is certainly the sign of a mind trying less to be clear as it is looking for a therapeutic release of thought. The goal is less to present a coherent thought, but a picture of sorts, with sentences providing brush strokes towards the final result, a mosaic that portrays a general sense of feeling. And if art can exist for art's sake, then so too can there be writing for writing's sake, writing that strives to convey emotion or confusion, writing that is deliberately obtuse.

I say this in the context of a recent century where many of the literary greats prided themselves on such obtuseness. Joyce's later works are notorious for such, and later authors such as Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace are even more in such a line. Henry Miller may be less difficult, but is just as meandering, and makes up for it in obscenity.

Anyhow, maybe I should work random anecdotes from my life into 500-word treatises; maybe I should spend that doing circumlocution of interesting work happenstance; maybe I should just post more book reviews and constrained poems. None of those sound terribly exciting, but they might be better than the alternative.