Friday, December 30, 2005

Closing thoughts on the holiday

I recently received this from a friend. I think it's worth passing on. Good-bye to 2005, and welcome to 2006.

A poem by thePolish poet, Wislawa Szymborska (translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh), printed in The New Yorker on 12/5/05, entitled “A Note”:

Life is the only way
to get covered in leaves,
catch your breath on the sand, rise on wings;

to be a dog,
or stroke its warm fur;

to tell pain
from everything it’s not;

to squeeze inside events,
dawdle in views,
to seek the least of all possible mistakes.

An extraordinary chance
to remember for a moment
a conversation held
with the lamp switched off;

and if only once
to stumble on a stone,
end up soaked in one downpour or another,

mislay your keys in the grass;
and to follow a spark on the wind with your eyes;

and to keep on not knowing
something important.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Rolled over by The Family Stone

(Don't read this if you want to see the movie -- I don't want to spoil the ending).

It's the usual crazy Christmas around here, so I thought it would be nice to see something light on Saturday night. The commercials for The Family Stone looked funny and it got decent reviews, so I dragged my reluctant husband (he wanted to see King Kong )to the movies.

The movie is billed a Sarah Jessica Parker comedy. It ain't. The storyline seems to be about the uptight brother in a big family bringing his even more uptight girlfriend home at Christmas to meet the kinfolk. The tension is so thick you can cut it with a knife. This is only funny if you enjoy laughing at other people's misery and discomfort.

The real storyline is that the family matriarch, played by the awesome Diane Keaton, is dying of cancer and this will be her last Christmas. The reason that this kinda sucked for us is because my mother-in-law Anita died from cancer on January 16, 2004. We spend the 2003 holidays, two years ago, taking care of her, saying good-bye to her, and dealing with the emotional trauma of watching someone we loved slip away. The pain was so gut-wrenching I won't even try to describe it here, although unfortunately too many of you reading this have been through that.

This movie reached out and whapped us upside the head. Instantly, we were back to Christmas 2003, when we flew from Anita's bedside in Florida on Christmas Eve to spend the holiday with my parents, then flew right back with our children so they could say good-bye to their grandmother. After Anita's death, my whole life shifted. At first it was completely off-kilter, but later, after it righted itself, I found myself in a better place. I kept thinking, "You're not supposed to miss your mother-in-law this much." You know, nasty mother-in-law jokes, mother-daughter-in-law tension, etc. But I loved Anita and I still miss her. The movie reminded me once again that my husband's grief was more vast than mine. I lost a dear friend, a loving relative, a support system, and a cheerleader. He lost his mom. The two don't compare.

I really admire the human race. Most of us, given the age-time continuum of life, will lose our parents and all that involves. And yet, we endure. We go to work, we go out with friends, we play with our kids, we live on. But most of us will have this hole in our hearts from losing a parent. After Anita died, I would find myself looking at others, and thinking, "His mom is dead." "I think her mom died last year." "How old is he, I wonder if his parents are alive?" I wonder if they're walking around with that base grief.

In the final scene of the movie, the entire clan is gathering a year later, major issues resolved, at the homestead for a post-Mom Christmas. There's a Christmas tree, a brave Dad, and decorations, but somehow the whole house seems bleak and empty. I thought of my father-in-law's dirty bathroom and fridge full of ketchup and mustard. I had to take deep, shuttering breaths to keep from crying, because I was afraid that if I started, I would start wailing and be unable to stop for a while. My husband was muttering in his deadpan way, "I hate you. I could be in Kong right now."

Maybe we need them, these transcendent painful moments. Maybe every once in a while, we need something sharp and pointy to unexpectedly jab at that hole in our hearts that stops us up short and takes our breath away. Maybe there is some cosmic message to appreciate the fragility of life. But it still sucked.

I can't say that I didn't like the movie. I am annoyed with the commercials which portrayed it as a funny little holiday comedy, ha ha. But it was a good movie. I've been thinking of Anita all day.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Patti, You Promised

This is addictive. I am going to keep blogging. Right now I am busy grading 50 final papers and putting together grades by the end of the week, but I have many things to say, it turns out.

To my blogging class, all I can say is "thank you": for listening, reading, laughing, and being the interesting, stimulating group of people that you are. Especially you, Prof. Colin, for leading us on this intellectual and occasionally spiritual journey.

Those of you that are interested, stay tuned. I'll look at yours if you look at mine. You know what I mean.

And Patty, don't forget that you encouraged me to keep going!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Rhetoric of Blogging (Part VII): Closing thoughts on Nileblog

I started out this class with some reservations. I couldn't imagine why I'd want to "blog," whatever that was, but it was a required course. I was pretty nervous about writing a blog; I think that I realized that in the course of doing so, I would probably reveal more about myself than I cared to. Plus, there was this hot-shot local celeb as a prof, and a bunch of very smart fellow students who were probably way ahead of me on this whole blogging thing. So I was intimidated. When I look back at those first few posts, I feel my nervousness. I'd say the rhetoric of Nileblog in the beginning was "tight-assed," but I'm not sure that Aristole would approve. I was trying to engage in logical, intellectual discussion of blogging without giving too much of myself away. I was aiming for logos, with a side order of ethos, hey, I KNOW what I'm talking about. Between the cracks, though, I see the tenativeness, the pathos.

I start to waver pretty early on. In this post, I throw in the towel and decide I suck at blogging. Immediately Brett and Marc come to my rescue with their comments. I knew Brett from the previous semester, but I had no idea who T.G.T. was. It was nice to get encouragement, though. Maybe blogging isn't so bad. I start to loosen up.

I try to get a food thing going, but it fails miserably. Can you feel the pathos? Let's create a community, let me help, okay, let me be "Mom."

But I'm still trying to make some serious, scholarly posts. I find this difficult, and skip a week. I would find it easier to discuss these blogs if I were submitting weekly papers; I know how to do academic discourse. What is difficult is trying to say something intelligent and unique without sounding pompous. I already feel the pull of the blogging aesthetic, the spur-of-the-moment, informal writing that works best. It's hard for me to meld that with the requirement to seriously discuss these blogs. Plus I keep worrying that I'm going to offend the bloggers I'm writing about, which further inhibits me.

Sometime in October, I start to understand the medium more. I'm pretty interested by the interaction between the MSM and blogging over the Harriet Miers debacle. My writing becomes more authoritative (ethos), as I realize that there is no "right" answer and no one else is really ahead of us too much in study this stuff.

Then we hit November, and I think I finally let my guard down. I'm not the only one. A lot of us are revealing more about ourselves than before. Part of it is because it just seems to happen in blogging. A larger part of it, though, is that I'm starting to think of the class not as a bunch of fellow students, but as a group of people whom I want to know and sort of trust. Interestingly, this feeling of trust is being created in a completely open environment which anyone can read. Fortunately, not too many other people do. I end up messily confessing my "angst" on Thanksgiving (how embarrassing) and guess what -- nobody makes fun of me! (At least not to my face). Pathos, pathos, pathos.

After that, I still try to relate my blog to the assignments, but I start venturing off more. Nileblog becomes much more about my connections with the class, and discussions within the context of that community. Interestingly, once I let go of some of my reservations, I think I got more clarity on the blogging issues. Once I STOPPED trying to avoid the pathos, the logos and ethos appeals were also much stonger. I think. This leads me to conclude that blogging is a medium that works best when the writer is NOT constrained to avoid the informal, intimate language of blogging. Trying to be too academic, too authorative, too reserved, too emotionally distant from the subject matter, a la James Wolcott, doesn't work as well. There is no ethos or logos without pathos in the blogdom.

So here we are.

"I am a part of all that I have met." -- Alfred Tennyson

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Rhetoric of Blogging (Part VI): Once more, with feeling

Let's talk about comments. To me, the overriding rhetorical appeal of blogging is the possibility or actuality of COMMENTS. Call me a wuss. Call me a wimp. But I write in fear, in dread, in hope of generating comments. I contacted each of the blogs that I wrote about, and emailed back and forth with all but Daily Kos. I wrote each post with the desire to be clear, balanced, and genuine with my analysis. However, there was a little voice in my head as I typed saying, "What will happen when they read this? Will they like it? Will they agree? Will they get mad? Will I hurt their feelings?"

I feel the emotional pull. Maybe it's that I have an overriding desire to have people like me, I don't know. But mostly, I don't want to make anyone feel BAD. I don't want to hurt their feelings. So I try to say things correctly -- but nicely. So tell me THAT doesn't affect my writing...

Then I get comments, and actually, that's great. I love the back and forth, because the informal nature just begs people to lower their guard and turn off their filter. You know how we are in cars? When someone cuts us off, we curse, we honk, we give them the finger. I venture that most of us would NEVER tell the old lady who wanders in front of us in the bank line to go f- herself, punctuated by the bird. And yet, from the protective bubble of our cars, we lose all our inhibitions and our manners. That's how I see blogging. We speak from the protective comfort of our chairs through a key board. We get to be freer, because no one can see us, no one can challenge us in person, and we don't have to watch the recipient react to our words. So we're more angry, more passionate, more loving, more emotive, more everything on a blog. So I brace myself for comments, but I'm delighted when they come. I'm not afraid of a challenge. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but I like enlightened discourse. With comments, we can let 'em rip. So we go at it, usually with civility, but not with the usual discussion group disclaimers: "Don't take this personally, but..." "I hear you, and you make some good points, but..."

Once again we come back to the constraints of conversation and the joy of uninhibited writing. Somehow the blogdom has created a unique forum for communication because we have nearly instantaneous dialogue in a stream-of-consciousness format. It's compelling. It draws you in. It's happened to this class!

Not everyone may feel the pull of comments. Coffey claims she doesn't care, as does Marc. I say again, is that not caring, or is that rejecting? But for me, and for many of us, I think the comments are the unique feature, because of the way they foster the one-of-a-kind blog rhetoric, its unique pathos appeal. Without comments, I'm just another wolf baying at the moon. But then someone answers, and I answer back, and then we're talking about my stuff, and their stuff, and your stuff. And because of the way it all unfolds, in a less filtered, less edited, less defensive way (write-click-send-read-respond), I realize we're mostly alike in so many ways. Thanks for letting me in.

Update: I've got to add this from Glenn Reynolds' interview:

"Why is blogging important?

It's a conversation. It's self-expression (my wife started blogging recently and has found it really therapeutic). And it gives us practice at self-organizing spontaneously, which we're likely to need in the future."

It explains so much of what's happened in our class.

The Rhetoric of Blogging (Part V): Daily Kos

I can't discuss engage in a serious discussion of blogging without taking a look at Daily Kos. I think dKos (Dkos?)has become the Big Brother of blogs, for many reasons.

First of all, it's extremely popular. As the site says, discussing its stats under "Warm Fuzzys":

The TTLB Blogosphere Ecosystem
Daily Kos is the highest-trafficked weblog. Really, this is the most important metric.

Most Important 100 Blogs
Consistently ranks in the top 5 of all weblogs in link popularity (that is, links on other sites pointing to Daily Kos).

Top 100 Weblogs
Ranks number two of all weblogs in link popularity (different formula than Blogstreet uses). Top political blog of any ideological stripe

So lots of bloggers think highly of dKos, lots of blog rolls think it's important. Why? What the source of its power?

Again we go back to rhetoric. Rhetoric is about persuasion. What do so many bloggers/readers (are you a blogger if you only read?) think dKos has such authority, such believability?

First of all, consider its apparent purpose. Its tag line reads, "State of the Nation." So presumably this blog will provide commentary on current events in the U.S. And indeed it does. There is some pretty heavily political stuff on the site, which goes far beyond the "skimming the top of the waves" type of pieces you'd tend to find in the MSM. In a very recent post, for example, there is a link to the Courant's recent poll on a Leiberman-Weicker race, with indepth commentary.

It's not really State of the Nation so much as State of the Liberal Nation. If a quick review of the articles doesn't tip you off, you can read the info on the bio of its founder, Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga, aka "Kos." In explaining the site's policies, he says,

"We desperately need to catch the Right in the Blogger Wars, and I am proud of each and every person who has the guts and initiative to start his or her own weblog. The progressive movement of the future will be built, in large part, on this digital foundation."

If I'm reading this correctly, this site thus is promulgated in part as a means of fomenting liberal discourse and political action.

The clear authorial voice is Kos. He posts his picture on the site, gives you a bit of his background, and uses the first person in describing the blog's mission and policies. There is no doubt that Kos is The Man at dKos. This lends itself to a blog with a strong ethos or authoritative appeal. Kos limits links, requires registration of commentors and allow them in only after a waiting period (wish our gun control laws were as effective), and tells his readers what to do if they want to get linked:

So how does a site get listed? Be noticed. Make a stir. Don't regurgitate the contents of a news story, but provide perspective or additional insight. Be clever, funny, original. Get away from the default templates. Get away from Blogspot. Create your own identity. Your own domain. Have attitude. Be self-confident.

Kos is also the author of many of the articles on the blog. He writes about politics and current events, but also doesn't hestitate to promote his upcoming book. More than once.

So the primary rhetorical message of this site is that it's Kos's world. He knows how to create liberal press, he knows how to foster progressive dialogue, and he is an authority on the state of the nation. It's his sandbox and if you want to play it, he's the boss.

Understand that I am not commenting on whether or not he is qualified to be an authority on any of these issues. I'm not, and my opinion really isn't relevant to this analysis. The opinion of dKos is the one that matters here, and the blog is set up to reflect Kos as the benevolent despot.

I also see an underlying emotional appeal to this site, however, Much of it reads like you're coming into a conversation in the middle. There's also the comment feature, which is regulated by Kos, as well as the rating of comments by other readers. Kos directs us how to use the rating system:

Many users believe that the rating system is intented to be an opportunity to express agreement or disagreement with a post, or with the poster themself. This is not accurate; ratings are intended to help elevate those posters that consistently make clear, good arguments and points, regardless of content, and to prevent trolls from invading the message board. Downrating commenters on the basis of agreement or disagreement with their arguments leads to a monolithic forum, free of new ideas and input.

It's human nature to want to belong, to be a part of something. It's also human nature to a certain extent to want to be exclusionary, to be a part of something good and special. You may be the biggest geek in the pond, but you can still be cool on dKos if you're a part of the club. You can also have the fun of smashing other would-be members by giving them negative ratings. You can walk the walk and talk the talk on the blog if you just follow the rules -- and the conversation.

Hence its popularity: a strong, confident leader who doesn't seem to equivocate much on the proper way to do things, a blog with a righteous mission, plus a club atmosphere that lets you join and at the same time, try to keep others out. What could be more appealing to us disenfranchised, rutterless liberals?

Okay, I just have to make one comment: I find the whole thing a little creepy. Mr. Kos is probably a great guy, but I don't know him. I appreciate the need to moderate comments to keep things from degenerating to the "that's just stupid, stupid" level that we see on most blogs. However, I feel censored and a bit manipulated when I read this blog. The articles are often edgy, but they are heavily skewed to the left. Isn't there occasionally room for debate? I also don't like the pressure to be funny and original, and who cares if I'm on blogspot? Plus I can't help wondering: what is Kos leaving OFF this blog?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Rhetoric of Blogging (Part IV): Coffee Rhetoric Rhetoric

A quick review of rhetoric appeals: ethical, logical, emotional. There seems to be no doubt that our friend T.'s blog is has a primarily emotional appeal. Let's look at the tag line: The ravings and digital photo diary of a moody, chronically single, and impatient young woman. The description of the author are emotion based words, like moody, chronically, and impatient. She's painting a picture of herself that seems to disclaim any responsiblity, like an anti-ethos. "Okay, this is who I am, so don't expect me to be sensible," is what I read from this.

When I first started reading this blog, I would have thought that's all it was. There's a lot of "I got drunk, I'm hung over," "I got hit on by a loser, now I'm going to get drunk" type of writing. Granted, it's well-written and often funny, but why write this stuff? I'm not denigrating the content or the format, I'm asking seriously, why?

I asked T. and here's what she said: As far as why I started the blog... simply put, I wanted to be writing on a semi-consistent basis. I had
hit a pretty rough writing patch where I wasn't able
to produce anything. I felt as if my creative juices
had dried up. Blogging allows me to keep up the momentum in terms of

So it started as a place to put her stuff. However, she could have just written all this in a diary. Somehow, however, knowing that there were potential readers out there kept pressure on her to produce. I think she enjoys the audience. Don't all of us would-be writers ultimately hope to appeal to somebody? I think T. likes putting her life on the internet to draw us in. She writes with a strongly emotionally appealing style. Consder the following from an October post:

"I've said in previous posts that with maturity comes a sense of clarity. With clarity comes relief. This sense of relief comes from not having to impress (or pacify) anybody for any reason of frivolity.
I feel comfortable in my own skin and with the decisions I choose to make, in maintaining my sanity. This includes surrounding myself with significant other people."

This is a young woman trying to come to grips with herself, and writing about it. She also tries to makes sense of the crazy events in her life. She is also very amusing. Finally, there are times, especially with some of her pictures, that I think she is posing, creating a very coy image. (There's one that unintentionally looks like a bondage thing that's a bit disturbing). Perhaps her primarily goal is to create an emotional connection with herself, as she says. But even though T. says that she doesn't write for her readers, I don't think this is true:

"I don't blog to appease the reading masses. I do it to appease myself. It's
cathartic and it allows me to do what I enjoy most...write.

People are definitely welcome to post comments and
offer their feedback on my blogs, but comments don't
have any direct effect on my writing style and what I
decide to blog about."

I think this CAN'T be true, for anybody. First of all, once we read comments, we internalize them in some way. I guess the most hardened of us could say, "I don't give a damn about what anyone says or thinks about me," and mean it. As Bora commented, it's human nature to gravitate towards like thinkers. If T. posts a hilarious piece on, oh, getting hit on while on the bus, and lots of people comment and say that is so funny, write more, we're going to tend to write more. Conversely, if commenters says, "That was offensive, you suck," we are as writers probably going to withhold that part of our writing -- perhaps because our feelings are hurt, but also perhaps because we feel our readers don't deserve to see that part of us, they don't deserve to know our thoughts if they don't appreciate them. Or perhaps we grit our teeth and say, "to hell with them," and keep pecking away at the keyboard, but we'll still affected -- and how can that not manifest itself somewhere in our writing?

Finally, although T.'s blog has strong emotional appeal, there is also an element of logic and authority in places. For example, in her post about the movie Rize, she tells us she's a film buff (authority), and then gives a convincing description of why it's a great movie (logic). So once again, we see a melding of rhetorical appeals, even in a primarily pathos-type website.

One small aside: I told T. that I thought her name might be a pseudonym in case we were a bunch of web-crazed maniacs (thereby, I'm sure, convincing her that we ARE), but she assured me no, that's her name, but her dates always ask, "So what's REALLY on your birth certificate?"

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Rhetoric of Blogging (Part III) - Flu Wiki

I still don't know if it's a blog, but I'm fascinated by Flu Wiki. We talk about Utopian endeavours; this seems to be one in its purest form. On my blog, I suggested that the site has an agenda, which was to motivate people to care/do something about the bird flu. This prompted a response from Melanie, one of the creators, who said, "The Flu Wiki is an attempt to be a site which simply posts the best information we have. It takes no political point of view, but wishes to give the power of information into the hands of communities to do what they must to deal with avian flu." We had a polite back and forth about Flu Wiki via email, and she stated that their only goal was dissemination of information.

I think Flu Wiki has appeal on all rhetorical levels. It has ethical appeal because it presents itself as an informational site. If you look at it, it looks very serious, appropriately so because it's dealing with a life-or-death issue. It also provides information in a formal manner, with lots of links to national and international governmental and health organization sites. So there's a "we know what we're talking about" authoritative rhetoric to the site. Indeed, that was one of the purposes of the site, according to Melanie: "Flu Wiki is considered an authoritative source by the professionals."

There is also logos, logic appeal here. If you want to learn about the flu, here's info. If you want to learn how to contact your government, here's the address. If you want to help, here's some phone numbers. Lots of logical explanation of information.

Finally, we have to acknowledge that there is also an emotional appeal to the message. In this current environment, we can't have a flu discussion without at least unconsciously thinking, "Oh no, are we all gonna die?!!" Consider this quote from the site:

"Once the virus spreads easily from human to human and becomes a pandemic (many disease experts say when, not if), we will be confronting a worldwide public health emergency with hundreds of millions of people infected."

Factual? Seems so. Authoritative? Yes. Emotional? Yes! How can you not read that and feel a sense of panic or fear?

I think that's what Flu Wiki is all about: providing authoritative information that is useful to all kinds of groups on the flu, and yes, to motivate people to do something about it, to push their governments to take action. Just the fact that Flu Wiki is not a part of Wikipedia, for example, is a message that the bird flu issue is too important and too big to bury in a general purpose site.

Flu Wiki also helps define the power of blogging rhetoric. Melanie wrote that the site was started as "a small site for practitioners, professionals and the kind of flu nuts that gather on the flu threads." Now it's taken off and being moved to a larger server. It's become Melanie's full-time job (as part of a larger organization), and she went to a flu conference last month to discover she and her co-founder were "famous." As she says, "This is a very strange and unexpected story."

I have been concluding that blogging is less about info transmission, and more about interhuman connection building. Now I'm re-thinking that. Bird flu is definitely a hot meme right now, with good reason. Everyone is talking about it (and hopefully some people are actually DOING something about it). Did Flu Wiki start the meme? Probably not, but it has definitely helped spread the meme and increase the power and authority of its message. As Melanie says, it's taken off like crazy and "the response from the Web has been astounding." So Melanie and company started talking, and eventually, a lot of people started listening. An persuasive example of the ability of blogging to impact important issues.

Update: Melanie responded to my comments on the power of blogging: "Your essential insight about community is correct: I have a dear friend who is an anthropologist who's job is very similar to the new one I'm starting next month. I showed her blogs for the first time a year ago. She came back to me a few weeks later and remarked, 'This platform is the most powerful tool for community building since the development of literacy.' Not the printing press, literacy itself."

Also, as another example of the spreading meme, she writes, " 15 minutes of fame from Flu Wiki has been that I give a lot of interviews to the press. The most recent will be in USAToday and National Journal this Thursday."

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Lodge Are We

Someone at the last class (Joe, my dear friend and ex-husband?) said that no one goes bowling any more, no one belongs to the Elks Club. Agreed. We are all so busy with our "main" lives that we don't carve out that escape-from-reality place like our forefathers (and mothers) did. I guess we don't value it as we should.

Well, you guys are my lodge, my bowling team, my Starlight Lodge (that's was a women's club in the Catskills). Once a week, I get to just hang and talk with an interesting group of people. What I do for a living, how my kids are, what my husband's name is, whether I can pay the mortgage, all not relevant. It's a sanctuary of sorts, and the closeness is a product of blogging and sharing our thoughts with each other. But I thought it was just me, or just a couple of us mushy, emotive types. Then I listened to Eric's blog...

Anyone for one last post-class gathering Thursday night?

The Rhetoric of Blogging (Part II)

Rhetoric analysis can be approached in many ways, but for my purposes, I'm going to examine (1) the type of appeal; (2) the author or apparent author; (3) the recipient audience; (4) the medium chosen to deliver the message.

For a more in-depth review of rhetoric, Wikipedia has an excellent entry. Note that although Colin may express skepticism about some aspects of rhetorical theory, Marshal McLuhan was first and foremost a rhetorician. Consider this quote from the Wikipedia entry:

"After studying the persuasive strategies involved in such an array of items in popular culture, McLuhan shifted the focus of his rhetorical analysis and began to consider how communication media themselves impact on us as persuasive, in a manner of speaking. In other words, the communication media as such embody and carry a persuasive dimension. McLuhan uses hyperbole to express this insight when he says 'the medium is the message.'"

When discussing a blog, we must therefore consider (1) the apparent purpose of blog (i.e., to the extent the blog identifies its mission); (2) the primary authorial voice; (3) the audience, which may include an "apparent" audience (for example, Dems on a Democratic website) and the actual audience (anyone who wants to log on); and (4) the blog as a medium of communication and how that affects the message.

Bora Z., who comments frequently as "Coturnix," was kind enough to answer some questions for me about his blogging. He has many blogs. He said that he started blogging mostly to have a safe place to store things in case his computer crashed. Then lots of people started responding, and in his words, "I got validation from other people who I trust." I asked him why he was so interested in our class, and his response was that we were "newbies" who were expressly reacting to and writing about what we were seeing. "This was a unique opportunity to actually see expressed the first thoughts and feeling of people freshly introduced to the medium."

His comments on our class actually support what Colin has been preaching, which that we, at this moment, know more about blogging than most bloggers, new or old:

"It was very interesting to me to see how many people here strongly disliked the political discourse on blogs, hated Kos and Wolcott, loved Coffee and Andrew Sullivan, and had mixed feelings about Vlogs. That is definitely NOT how old bloggers see them. It is refreshing and thought-provoking. Makes me think what I am doing with my blogs and why. How are they perceived. How am I perceived."

So let's dissect one of his blogs. We were first introduced to Bora through Science and Politics. The tag line for the blog (is that what it's called? I guess it is now.) is Red-State Serbian Jewish atheist liberal PhD student with Thesis-writing block and severe blogorrhea trying to understand US politics by making strange connections between science, religion, brain, language and sex.

So the apparent purpose is to help a grad student understand American politics. The real purpose seems to be to help its author connect, foster communities, and as he candidly states, obtain validation. The latest posts are on movies, a favorite blog carnival, and a link to a blogging article. So its actual purpose is not politics.

The authorial voice is Bora, as affected by comments (more on comments in another post). The audience is...anyone who listens? There doesn't seem to be a particular audience prescribed by this blog. Now the fun part, really, is the way in which the blog affects his communications. Almost every entry asks for a response: what do you think? What do you like? What type of blogger are you? Do you want to host a carnival next weekend?

What type of message is this? Not ethical that I see, as Bora doesn't hold himself out as an expert on anything; in fact, his tag line starts out by telling us that he's looking for answers, and then he continually seeks to draw his readers in to answer questions. There may be some logical appeal to his writings, as he calls his blog "Science and Politics," which is a pretty heavy this-is-serious-stuff title. He also links to various articles on blogging and carnivals, so there is some informational items on his blog.

Mostly, however, it seems to have pathos, emotional appeal. In his recent post about movies he talks about the ones he likes: "Don't ask! Even I have no idea what is it about these particular movies that makes me watch them again and again...." Then he asks, "So, what movies do you watch again and again? Can you say why?" All this is emotional rhetoric -- let's talk, let's be friends, you should read this because it's interesting, because I'M interesting. As he says, it's validation, the human need for connection and approval. Because he's blogging, this medium allows him to ask for and receive validation, in the form of comments.

Here's the fascinating and frightening thing about blogging. I am examining the subject as he's sitting in the room. It's hard to remain detached when I picture Bora looking over my shoulder as I'm writing. So I think we're all heavily affected by this medium. I know McLuhan was using hyperbole when he said the medium is the message, but in this case, it can't help but skew the content of the message.

I think some in our class (mean old Marc, our favorite beloved curmudgeon) would scoff at a need for validation as a weakness, as seeking validation from strangers as silliness. I don't agree. I think hopefully we don't need blog-approval to keep functioning in happy, healthy lives. But any time we put ourselves out there in a blog, we know others are going to potentially read and comment on US, on our words. To say we don't care is not to be indifferent, I don't think, but to be rejecting of any messages, good or bad, that come in. It's a decision not to consider the potential response. I don't think it means we don't all need validation in our lives. Or maybe Marc just has a thicker skin than I do, entirely possible.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Rhetoric of Blogging (Part I)

As everyone in our blogging class know, Chris, Brett, and I took a class on the theory and practice of rhetoric last spring. Once you look at communication through the rhetoric looking glass, it's hard to go back.

The term "rhetoric" has become a perjorative term in many ways, used to describe speech that seen as shallow or insincere. To say "That's just a bunch of rhetoric" is not a compliment.

The study of rhetoric has nothing to do with discerning artifice in speech. Rather, to quote James J. Murphy, it's the art or science of men and women communicating with other human beings. Aristole was the first philosopher to study and write about rhetoric. He viewed rhetoric as "the ability, in each particular case, to see the available means of persuasion." He described three main forms of rhetoric: ethos, logos, and pathos.

Ethos is ethical appeal, based on the character of the speaker. A teacher's words may have ethical appeal, because he is in a position of authority.

Logos is logical appeal, appeal based on reason or logic. A manual on how to build something has logic appeal, as it tells you that if you do A+B+C, you will get D.

Pathos is emotional appeal. Communication based on pathos appeal to your emotion, such as an adverstisement with a woman in a bikini with her arm around a man with a beer. The unstated emotional appeal is that if you drink the beer, you will be attractive and sexy.

One of the principles of rhetoric is that all communication is a form of persuasion. This may cause skepticism at first: ALL communication is persuasive? What am I trying to do with my shopping list, persuade myself to buy groceries?

Those who study rhetoric take, I believe, a different view of persuasion. All communication may not seek to induce action in the recipient, to persuade the recipient to do something. However, I do believe that consciously or not, all communication does seek to induce some kind of reaction. When rhetoricians speak of the type of persuasive appeal, they are really talking about the type of reaction that is sought in the reader. When a teacher tells you to do your homework, you do because she has authorative or ethical appeal. When you make a shopping list, you are logically describing a need for groceries. And when the beer company puts on that beach bunny commercial, they hope you will feel sexy and appealing watching it, and hence buy the beer.

My question is, what is the rhetoric of blogging? The answer depends on the blog we're talking about. Most of the interesting ones, I think, are based on an emotional appeal, an ability to create an emotional connection with the reader. However, I plan to look at a number of different blogs and examine their rhetoric.

My Blogged Blogging Paper

I'm going to try this: blogging my final paper. It seems fitting, give that the class is about blogging, so why not try to give a paper on the topic all the benefits and drawbacks of the medium that is being studied?

The challenge is writing in enough depth to provide adequate analysis for a grad class, without just sticking a ten page paper up on my blog, which, let's be honest, no one will read. So I'm going to post a series of writing, which hopefully will be short enough to draw some comments (please!), but taken together, will provide some interesting analysis. So, let's go to the next post...

Friday, December 02, 2005

Tiny Deaths

I ran into an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in a while yesterday at Starbucks. I was busy grading papers, and a business associate was waiting for him at a nearby table, so we just exchanged hi, how are you’s. Even if we had had more time, we would not have talked for more than a minute or two; we’re friendly but we’re not friends.

I’ve known him and his wife for years. I recently heard that they were getting divorced. That moment at the coffee shop was not the right time to tell him that I was sorry to hear about their breakup. I’m not sure when would be the right time; is there etiquette for expressing regret about the end of a marriage to someone who’s just one of those interesting people in the background of your life?

As he sat down, I heard him apologize to the person waiting for being late. He had the kids last night, he explained casually, and had to drive three different carpools this morning getting them to school. It struck me that while I was stuck in the awkwardness of seeing him for the first time since I learned of his divorce, he was comfortably settled in his new life, playing the role of the single dad.

I sat there at the next table for a few moments, mourning the death of his marriage as he cheerfully discussed business over coffee. I’m sure he’s already mourned, or maybe still is, but for now, he’s moved on. But we are surrounded these little losses every day, whether they belong to us or someone else. The intricacy of the interconnected web of relationships that form the fabric of our lives scares me almost as the fragility of those human relationships. When one of those strands shatters, it reverberates along the web like impulses along a nerve. Why was I so affected by an acquaintance’s divorce? Is it because this newly single parent with young kids is only a few years older than me, and it was too uncomfortable to imagine myself in his position? Or was I just feeling the residual loss that accompanies a divorce, a shard from that shattered relationship?

I have a sense that he probably wouldn’t want me to say anything to him about him and his wife. A divorce is not like a real death, where you send a card to express your condolences from a polite distance. So I guess I’ll just keep smiling when I see him, and asking how he’s doing without expecting an honest answer. Right now, though, I’m going to go drink a glass of wine with my husband, and watch TV on a tired Friday night. And hold hands.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Small Worlds

Aldon (who has definitely become an extended part of our community, along with Coturnix) pointed me to "I Love Colonscophy." It's good to know it's there if you need it.

I'm never any good at finding the cool sites, but I thought about what I'm working on or thinking about at any point in my day, and went looking for some like-minded bloggers. I played field hockey in college, which is one of those sports that's useless once you're out of school, but I did find some others interested in the sport. My Humanities class is reading "When Bad Things Happen to Good People," which led me to the Velveteen Rabbi. The kids are home, so when they finish beating each other up, they can enter the mind of a leading guru of the seven-year-old boy crowd, Captain Underpants. Yes, it's as gross as it seems. Right up there with one of their other favorite hobbies, pickin' boogers (check out the Kids FEMA Rap). Now Sparky is scratching at the door.

So what does this prove? That there's a Jack for every Jill, that at any given moment, if I want to connect with like-minded people and chat about something -- just about anything -- I can find a community in the blogdom. If that fails, I can try to create one. So even though I blow a little hot and cold on the blogdom, I gotta say: how cool is that?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Response to Joe -- Exactly!

Blogging gives us the best of both worlds: informal discourse, PLUS a captive audience. Look at Michele's "cocktail hour" post. We get to chat, connect, feel like we have some cyberfriends, but no one traps you in a corner discussing his colonoscopy, sneezes on your food, or rattles her ice cubes then says, "Excuse me, I need another drink." It's a feeling of connection, without all the awkward body language.

My Personal Thoughts

Colin raises the issue of the "personal" nature of blogging in his "other" blog.

That's one thing that's bothered me about our attempts to define a blog aesthetic. We've at least toyed with idea that blogs are "personal," and I don't agree. Some are, and some aren't. The dictionary defines personal as "private." I would define it as "of an intimate nature." Whether a blog contains personal details seems irrelevant to me as to whether it works.

Many interesting ones DO have an informal tone -- but that's not the same thing. I like blogging because I feel less constrained to filter and manipulate the voice of my inner self -- so what I write is often closer to the voice in my head than most other written work, which is edited for tone and audience. That is some of the most "personal" writing I do, but I don't write about personal things much. Except late Thanksgiving evening, high on turkey.

So while I admire my colleagues like Brett and Bill who are so free with the details of their lives on their blogs, it ain't me. In fact, if I did try to give more personal facts, my writing would sound more constrained because I would feel uncomfortable.

It all comes back to authenticity. If the authorial voice rings true, because it seems to genuinely reflect the writer, then the blog is more appealing. Compare Dooce (a cool person I'm probably too nerdy to hang out with) with Wonkette (a total facade, in my opinion). So how do we define authenticity?

To borrow from a Supreme Court justice discussing porn: "I don't know how to define it, but I know it when I see it." We may have trouble consciously differentiating the true from the trumped-up, but we can sniff it out in an instant.

Maybe lack of authenticity has a place -- after all, many people, not just horny men, like Wonkette. But do you really believe you're getting the "REAL" woman? No, you just don't care. But if Colin started being overly personal, it probably wouldn't work as well, because he's a person, not a persona.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

On Writing and Blogging

I teach writing. I teach college student, lawyers, law student, elementary school students, high school students, just about anyone who is in my classes or asks me for tutoring. It's a great gig. The best thing about being a writing instructor is that I get to know my students so well. For anyone to write halfway decent, they have to turn off that little voice that says, "This is stupid. You can't write. No one wants to read that. Everyone will think you're an idiot if you say that." I thus encourage my students to write what they feel, with lots of detail from their lives, without regard to that little voice of censorship. As a result, many of them open up to me on paper in ways that they would never dream of in class. My best writers are often mute in class.

I think it works because they write it, and then they hand it in to me. I go home and read it. They don't have to say it to me, and watch my reaction. They don't have to listen to me say something back, something that could be hurtful, demeaning, or irrelevant. Instead, they just have to read my comments on their writing, and usually then discuss them with me. Because of this process, I think my students find it easier to really express themselves on paper.

I think blogging has the same benefits. We get to say what we feel in writing. No one interrupts us, or makes a face, or counters with a story about their own lives because they want attention. We get to get it all out. Then, yes, maybe someone will comment. But it will be in writing, not with a snotty tone and the rolling of eyes. But if we don't want to read the comments, that's okay. It's not rude if we don't reply, and we don't have to stick our fingers in our ears if we don't want to know how others feel. But it feels good to blog, because we get to express ourselves as fully and completely as we want. And no one interrupts. Or walks away. Instead, we get to write it, so it feels full and permanent (even if only in cyberspace). I think that's a good thing.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Feeling lonely

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving. I send this to you late Thanksgiving evening, full of turkey, gravy, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, etc., etc. I'm in Slingerlands, NY with my family, having a lovely holiday. I just checked in with our class blog, and then checked over my blog, and realized that I haven't made a post in an entire week, and we haven't been "assigned" any blog-reads since last class, either. Although I am happily basking the family glow here in the greater Albany area, I miss the comradery of our class, and also knowing that Nile Blogger is out there in cyberworld, reading, commenting, and posting. I guess I miss Nile. Hmmm. I've been wondering if I would continue blogging once class was over. I didn't think I would -- mostly because it's time-consuming and somewhat unproductive...blogging away under an assumed name on a site no one really reads. But I do miss the process, and the persona. So maybe the need for self-expression that we discussed will keep me going after all. Maybe I don't always have to be productive.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Feeling stupid

I was prepared to write that I don't like vlogs very much. One of the joys of blogging is the click-hit-skim-link-off phenom. I frequently spend 30 seconds on a blog and realize that I don't like it. Kind of like a blind date. Fortunately, I can just click off the blog without having to make an illness, receive an imaginary phone call, or climb out the bathroom window. No harm, no foul. That's what I like -- the skim. No commitment.

So it's no wonder I'm not a vlogger. It's such a commitment. I actually have to sit still and watch something. I'm afraid to stop too early, because the good stuff might be at the end. So I end up watching MINUTES -- not seconds -- of video that, frankly, doesn't mean much to me. I miss the skim. I don't have the time or the interest.

Second, I'm not visual. They told us in teacher school that students have different learning preferences -- "VARK" -- Visual, Aural, Reading-Writing, and Kinesthetic. I am definitely Reading-Writing, with some Aural thrown in. I am NOT visual. So given the choice, no surprise I prefer to read, rather than watch.

Plus the stuff I watched was mostly pretty dull and self-indulgent. Yawn.

Then I met THE MAN as Colin calls him. He was completely compelling. I actually watched his video because I wanted to, not because I felt like I had to wait until the end to see if there was actually any point. I especially like when he described calling his wife, although I can't say why. I also agree with his point: vlogs seem much more commercial than blogs. And our media does seem to be controlled by Big Brother in many ways, as This is one of the last public forums that I can say "fuck you" without getting arrested or losing my job. Can't say it on TV, in the newspaper, the radio, or standing on a box in West Hartford Center. I think They will attempt to control the Internet and blog discourse sooner or later, too. Unfettered discourse is simply too threatening.

But I'm feeling stupid. First, for pre-judging vlogs based on my own VARK prejudices, and for not being as deep and thoughtful as the Man (who reminds me of someone in our class). Second, for not having a firm grasp of what quotidian alienation is. So I'm looking forward to class.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Okay, got it working (sheepishly)

I saw Jerry...I like that he's selling T-shirts on his blog with his first posting. Everyone on the comments think he's hilarious. I see the creativity, but to be honest, no LOL. And I keep thinking, who is this guy? This must be more than "Jerry," unless Jerry is a filmmaker, because this looks to be commercial work (the memorabilia was a clue).


I have been trying to view these blogs for a hour and a half, and I can't get them working. What the %$#@! I have downloaded repeated updates to my media player, and I can't make them work. I think my laptop is going to explode. Vlogs are stupid. That's all I can say.

(Okay, I'll try again tomorrow).

Am I the only one who didn't know this?

It just struck me how much blogging is like emailing: the informal tone, the faux intimacy which got so many employees in trouble (way before anyone was Dooced). We forward interesting things to our friends, much like the way we link in our blogs. Often we get lulled into thinking we're composing harmless little thoughts, only to be surprised when someone unexpected replies because our email got send to or read by an unintended recipient, just as we're sometimes shocked when someone randomly comments on our blog. Blogging is like emailing on a grander scheme.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Back in the saddle

After being sidelined with an eye injury for a week, I'm back with a vengeance. I can now spend more than 5 minutes on the computer without getting a massive migraine (I hope). I have some ground to make up on the religious blog issue, and I have been pondering the role of the religious blog since last class (and wasn't it a fun class? Thanks, Colin, for letting us all get out of our comfort zone).

One of the big tasks for religions (and political parties, apparently) is KEEPING its followers (minions, whatever). We talked about proselytizingand whether the blogdom was appropriate for that. It seems, though, that the more obvious ground for blogs is to stay in touch with one's followers, and offer solace, comfort, a sense of caring, on a routine basis. Blogs are perfect for that, as they can be written in a very personal, intimate way and yet reach thousands, millions. Much more effective for reaching members of one's flock than the traditional one-to-one contact. This site, for example, seems to post daily readings much like my grandmother's Daily Word devotional that she read every day. This one similarly is a "daily devotional" type site.

The Daily strikes me as being daily God talk...kinda goofy, but interesting, quirky topics. This is one of the few religious sites that does seem like it's about dialogue and not preaching.

Overall, though, I didn't find much in the way of the daily "I'm thinking of you, here's a thought for the day" kind of religious blog. To me that seems like a very useful tool for a preacher. I can see the announcements in the church bulletin..."Keep in with us every day, not just on Sunday, by going to" Let me know if anyone finds that!!!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I just looked at Anvil and Fire, and I love that John's post prompted a reaction from John Rush. He probably has one of those programs that identifies who is linking to his blog. It's now pretty impossible for us to remain anonymous and quietly monitor the blogosphere. Even as we observe it, we change it. Isn't that the essential anthropological conundrum?

As for John Rush, he responded judiciously to John's comments and seemed appreciative of what could have been construed as criticism. I'm not sure, honestly, how to comment on these Christian blogs. I have such issues with organized religion, and I cannot fairly judge them (can anyone?). Anvil and Fire is actually a refreshing change after all the political blogs of last week. Rush is trying to calmly and fairly ponder some of life's deeper questions. Pretty far cry from the frentic pace of "I gotcha" that seemed to prevalent last week.

After thoughts

I've been pondering the question one of my brethren asked me during class when I said that I write only for the class: "Your friends and family read it though, right?"

Well, no. They don't know that it exists, and I'm certainly not pushing them to read. I have a blog for one of the classes I teach, and my students read that -- but not this.

Why not? This is a question that has continued to nag me through out this course, not just about me but about others. I am carefully controlling who read this. Why? Well, in part to keep it about blogging for this class. If I start introducing others, I will inevitably start changing the tone and content, however unconsciously, to meet their expectations. Or I will feel constrained by the fact that they are reading it, and start to write self-consciously. That is because (head hangs in shame) I care about what others think. Yes! That must be why, otherwise, what the heck, let 'em all read it, right? But as Holly says, "We are written by our blogs," AND I suggest, our blogs are written by us...the "us" we choose to be at that moment. I enjoy being Grad Student Blogger Girl. I don't want English Professor Person, Old College Friend, or Wife/Mother/Neighbor Mode to intrude. I know I'm not saying anything new, but it keeps buzzing around my brain like a fly: the beauty of the blogging persona, the appeal of the blogging persona, the versatility of the blogging persona. It's like going to a costume party: I can be whoever I want, as long as I keep the mask on. Lift the mask, and the persona is destroyed. I guess that's why I think authenticity is so important -- we need to stay in character.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Looking for Jon Stewart

I just watched the Daily Show, and there was a piece on the bird flu (very funny of course). We should recommend Flu Wiki to him...think he'd be interested in coming to the Wood 'N Tap next week? After all, he is kind of a poster child for pushing actual political discourse.

Somehow I ended up in Kentucky

While desperately searching for something interesting to read, I saw this. Perhaps we really are extolling the virtues of the Wild West just as it's starting to melt away.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I tried, I really did

I went hunting for some calm, dispassionate discourse on the state of the world today. I hunted and peck, looked at Slate's blogs, Technorati, Salon, searched Google blogs, etc. With the Harry Reid move today (honestly, does it make any difference to anyone? Did it accomplish anything?), the dialogue has just gotten even more rabid, if that's possible. Basically, blogs on either side are trying to find newer, fresher, and more creative ways of saying, "You're an idiot!" "Oh really, well, you're a moron." I did find some useful info on TalkingPointsMemo, but I am suspicious that what I see as balanced and dispassionate might be viewed as incidiary by people "not like me" (i.e. bleeding heart liberal). There's one site I'd recommend because happily it doesn't take itself too seriously. But once again, I must admit to a certain inherent symmetry of political philosophy.

Are we up and coming yet?

I see that to be "up and coming," your blog has to receive between 50-100 hits a day. While I'm pretty sure I haven't gotten more than a total of 100 hits ever, our class blog may be hitting that mark, especially during the halcyon days of fighting with other blogs, when the comments were flying fast and furious.

I wonder if we're part of a newish genre of working class blog, that is a blog that exists to transfer a specific set of information to a set group of people. Our blog isn't designed to inform the general public or opine on current events -- it's a blog for a class, whose visitors (at least in concept) visit to perform a function (learn what we need to do).

But I digress...I think, as discussed by Clay Shirky, that there IS an A-list of blogs. To a certain extent, so what? Unlike a traditional marketplace, supply has little to do with demand. While many bloggers may try to garner influence, if they fail, it doesn't matter. It doesn't cost anything to maintain a blog, and a successful blog really doesn't yield any money. If I want to maintain a blog for no one other than myself, it really doesn't matter. It doesn't cost me anything. Unlike just about any other marketplace, I can't get pushed out -- at least not yet. Maybe someday it will cost money to do "this," it doesn't yet. I can therefore keep doing this as long as I want.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Back from Utopia

I just spent some time cruising around Wikipedia and Flu Wiki. While I tend to get very cynical when I read the political stuff, I'm feeling a little verklempt about the wiki stuff. It's seems like a world motivated by mostly "pure" intentions. When I consider the time and energy it takes to maintain a site like that, and to think that people do it for no other reason than a desire to pass along info...well, I am moved.

Look at Flu Wiki. From what I can see, its purpose is to inform and motivate. While motivating is "political" in some sense, the whole import of the wiki sites is different than other sites (are these blogs??), especially when they are contrasted with the Salon-type stuff.

I'm going to challenge myself, however, to suspend my cynicism and disbelief as I look through Salon and the other blogs this week. (Per Brett, is Salon not a blog? There does seem to be some bloggin' goin' on). Maybe my prejudices are preventing me from seeing how useful blogs can be. After all, they are everywhere, so they must be accomplishing something more than the dissemination of gossip and the creation of interest for interest's sake, right?

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Tao of Daou

Okay, I had this really insightful post going, and my computer crashed and I lost it. Grrrr. Now I'm flippin tired. But here's the gist: Daou states its mission: The site was launched with three objectives: 1) to offer a diverse, unfiltered sample of online political discourse, 2) to probe the ideas, passions, and perspectives that give rise to our current political divide, 3) to examine the relationship between blogs, the political establishment and the mainstream media.

Does it accomplish its lofty mission? I dunno yet. It does provide a diverse link to left and right blogs. The Alito nomination provides the perfect Petri dish to examine whether (how, if) blogs shape or control the media debate. Right now the main message is "it's abortion rights, stupid." Okay, so Daou gives lots of links. How does it "probe" the perspectives? I haven't seen analysis yet, just links. I will say that I read the article on blogging, and I don't get it. I don't. What are netroots activists? What's the main point? I am turned off, I admit, and very suspicious that my first impression from the Lexis commercial -- that this is an elitist club with their own private jargon and secret handshake -- seems confirmed. Okay, I can watch the debate and listen to the debate, but clearly neophytes like me can't participate in the debate, at least not on Taou. Or am I just oversensitive?

Geez, that's annoying

Salon is clearly violating the basic blogging ethos by making me watch that Lexis commercial. I've adapted the basic notion that blogging is form, in spirit, in structure, and in fact. By inflicting advertising on me as a precursor to even viewing the site, Salon seems to be sending a "hands-off" message. I do not expect to have a great interactive chat on this site. I expect high-brow, self-important discourse. After all, it's a Lexis commercial.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Harriet Miers: Howard Fineman says "I told you so"

Whe the Today Show broke the story about Harriet Miers withdrawing her nomination this morning, they of course pulled in a resident "expert" news wonk, Howard Fineman of Newsweek. To be honest, I'm not familiar with Mr. Fineman or his work, and I'm sure he is a fine man. What caught my ear was that as he was discussing the withdrawal, he said, "As I said online yesterday, we strongly suspected this was coming...."

Wow! The blogdom is officially the info source of first resort. Mainstream journalists are now using blogs to demonstrate that they are first in line with the best info. It's not, "as I predicted yesterday," or "as I said yesterday," but "as I wrote online"! The blogdom ethos that we say how we really feel, what we really think, as we think or feel it, in our blogs, now seems to be part of the MSM. Even Newsweek -- a weekly rag -- is acknowledging that the first, best source of info is found in blogs. That just kinda blew my head off. Blogging is everywhere! It's legit! Amazing! I've got to stop using that damn exclamation point!!!

Spreading the blog gospel

I thought we all thought that "kids today" are swarming around the blogosphere, constantly creating edgy new sites and revamping the way we think and act on the internet. Hmmmm, maybe not so. I created a blog for my Humanities class that I teach at a local community college, then realized that most of them didn't know how to access it or leave comments. After walking them through the process, I then realized (duh) that many didn't know what a blog was. Today's class was thus on blogs and I had them read the "Decoding the Blogosphere" article from the Courant. I booked a computer classroom and we all blog-surfed. I took them to, Coffee Rhetoric, and Daily Kos as examples of some of the types of blogs that are out there. I then introduced them to the blog search feature on Google. Judging from the giggles and snickers as they crusied around on their own, I guess they found some fun and interesting stuff, to put it mildly.

I felt like I was Janey Appleseed, spreading little kernels of blog-fo among my students. Pretty cool feeling. This of course got me thinking...blogging isn't exactly America's favorite pastime AT THE MOMENT, if 15 out of 20 freshman college students weren't doing it until I taught them how. I think I'll try this again next semester, and perhaps the next, and see how fast the addictive blogging habit spreads. For now, though, I feel like part of a thrilling cutting-edge cool movement -- and a bit of a geek.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Second thoughts

I keep thinking about last Thursday's class and our visit from Ms. T. First of all, very cool that she came, and she was very smart and articulate. Thank God she fit the image of the "superblogger" -- literate, irreverent, well-spoken, and frankly, much hipper than me. I for one was grateful that she could wear a scarf with such panache. Wait, wait, wait, I am not making fun, I'm serious! Weren't we all happy that she is what we sort of pictured her to be? What if our friend with the great blog had turned out to be inarticulate, unpleasant, or rude? I sensed some kind of giddy relief that cool blog=cool blogger.

Okay, maybe I'm overthinking this. But I keep coming back to the bizarre and uniquely blog-based experience of reading someone's intimate thoughts on a regular basis without any context for who that person is. I asked Ms. T. why she blogged, but now I ask myself, why do I read? If we read sites like Dooce, Coffee Rhetoric, or even the one by Sally, it seems we are searching for human connection, savoring those details of others' lives that we often miss in our bedroom communities and our over-developed American sense of personal space and privacy. (I'm not against privacy; I just think it wouldn't hurt if we showed a little more interest in the details of the lives of the people around us). So when we feel a connection, we hope it's real. We don't want to get duped; that makes us wary and mistrustful. So when our impressions are validated, it feels good. Ms. T. seemed like someone we wanted to talk to -- and she was! Phew! How would we have felt about her blog if she had turned out to be an sixteen-year-old high school boy? Would we still read it? (No.) Would we feel betrayed? (Yes.) Why? Again, the elusive search for authenticity. The ethic of the blogdom is TRUTH...a blog is not supposed to be a novel or fictious (unless it's clearly billed as such, like Brett's book in progress). So say whatever you want on your blog -- but you better mean it. It better be real. Or we're really gonna be pissed off. Don't try to Wonk me.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The rhetoric of "don't kid yourself"

When I started this blog, I did it "uncover." Yes, I, the mysterious NILE, do hereby ascribe unto the blogdom my great and uncensored thoughts on...well, on the blogdom. Not too sexy, but hey.

I wanted to see how it felt to be totally detached from my true self (tall 40-year-old teaching, married, attorney, grad student, mother-of-two self). Hence the no-name blog. I quickly found, however, that my class knows who I am, and since that's about all (mostly) who read this thing, I censor my writing because, ya know, I don't want you guys to think I'm a freak or anything. So the rhetoric of my blog is "I'm trying to be smart, mildly amusing, and not too freaky."

I bet a gazillion dollars I'm not alone in the quickly-evolving sense that there's not really much hiding on blogs. Not matter what, people can generally talk back to you. It's a Harry Potteresque kind of thing. You start writing and suddenly the page starts complaining about your writing. Invariably you're going to respond. And the other thing is, even if you try to be a mere anonymous commenter, most blogs have a log-type thingie (the technical term) that allows the author to see the visitors and even know something about their computer screen. Very Orwellian. (see, smart, mildly amusing, not too freaky).

So "even as we celebrate the freedom of the blogdom, we destroy it" -- right, Colin?

Witness the shock and occasional ire when we discuss other blogs. It's like they're pissed that we have the audacity to comment on their personal thoughts. But get real-- why use the internet when you can write in a diary, if you truly want private expression. The real truth is that we ALL want our blogs to be read, for some kind of perfectly understandable human validation of our true selves (there's the humanities instructor in me rearing her ugly head).

Even sites like Dooce, which don't allow comments, are at least conscious that others may read them. Even if we take the most devil may care attitude about what we write in a blog, we are doing that with the very idea that someone may care, but f**k 'em (see, I'm a teacher, so no bad words in my blog...but if you need me to explain, I removed the "U" and the "C" and then put in....) In fact, the no-comment blogs may be the most paranoid because they DON'T know how the world is reacting to their posts. It's a one-way mirror -- we see you, but you don't see us. And how uncomfortable is that??

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Funny stuff

Sadly no is happily funny. Here's the rhetoric class question: why? Not as in why is it funny, but rather, what is the rhetoric of a funny website? Of what is the writer trying to convince the reader, if we accept the rhetorical proposition that all writing is persuasive in some way?

First, a funny site is trying to convince you that the writer is funny. After all, if you're trying to be funny by creating humorous blog postings, than you think you're funny. Why does he or she want us to think he/she is funny?

Maybe because we like funny people. Let's face it, if someone can make you laugh, you like them. Humor feels good. I married my husband because he makes me laugh. So, reason one for funny website: we will like the writer (if we like his humor).

Second, political humor or satirical humor (and there's tons of it on the website) obviously has a message. Usually, it's along the lines of "aren't they stupid," the "they" being the target of the satire. Along with the "aren't they stupid" message is usually an underlying layer of "and don't they take themselves too seriously." When we poke fun at people, especially people in some kind of "position," we are generally making ourselves feel smarter. So, the rhetoric of webhumor also often includes a persuasive political message, along with an emotional appeal of you, reader, are smarter than the people I'm writing about because you're laughing at them. And what does making the reader feel smart do? Oh yeah, makes us like the writer. So back to reason one.

Finally, there's the way a humorous website makes the writer feel. Back to that idea of self-expression. If I could write a blog that continuous posts very funny stuff (and I can't -- I'm not that funny; even my kids tell me my jokes are stupid), I would feel great about myself. For one, because I would be that funny, and I would have a place to vent my funny self, and two, because I'd feel good that I was sending little laugh bombs out into the world via my blog. So maybe the rhetoric of the humorous website is also that I am funny, and I will make you laugh. That will then make me feel good.

Or was my brain so saturated in Rhetorical Theory last semester that I just can't enjoy a good laugh anymore? Damn. Well, you asked for the rhetorical analysis.

On internet writing

I love the idea of looking at the writing and rhetoric of the blogger. I don't love READING the writing and rhetoric of most bloggers as much. I read Lance Mannion...his latest post had me laughing as it started out with the description of evesdropping at Starbucks. That's a totally random moment that I have lived through a million times, especially since I am embarrassing addicted to mocha-loca-latte-supremos, and the oatmeal cookies are unbelievable. But I digress...and so did Lance. I think the internet has fostered the development of a kind of "brain dump" writing style. A blog, even more than a diary, allows the writer to go on and on and never have to worry about running out of paper or turning the page or the pen drying up. About the only limit is carpal tunnel.

Lance has some good stuff in his site, but some of it, especially that last post, is excruciatingly detailed. If this were appearing in any other forum, it would be edited in some form or another.

Okay, so is the brain-dump aesthetic a bad thing? I guess not. I'm just brain dumping right now. It's not hurting anyone, it allows us bloggers to just say whatever we want to say without much or any editing or filtering,other than what we impose on ourselves. So it is a great form of self-expression, even if it is a bit tedious to wade through at times. But no one has to wade through if they don't want to, right? So maybe the value is in self-expression, even if a lot of the blogging writing in stream-of-consciousness.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

"Find good stuff"

Prof. Colin (when not being cranky about CT politics -- let me tell you about my stint as a Rowland employee) asked us to pass along some of the webwriters we've foung who we like. You should check out this site...the webster is Bill Diamond, who's also a contributor to Huffington Post. What I like about this site is that it's funny and about absolutely nothing at all seems to exist to poke fun at pomposity (am I pompous for using "pomposity"?) Anyway, this genre of writing -- short satrical bits on random happenings -- seems to be a uniquely web-based genre. Where else could it exist? Perhaps as a picture or two in a magazine as a sidenote, but not as a whole magazine. Anyway, it's worth a look.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A Blogger of Our Own

I like this guy Aldon Hynes. I'm looking forward to meeting him. His site is an eclectic mix of interesting bits and pieces.

Arguing with myself as I beat a dead horse

Okay more on that master list of "Connecticut" blogs: I note that our class blog (Colin's blog, really) is on there. That's not really a CT blog, is it? We don't discuss Conn. issues, except to note that there ARE CT blogs.

On the other hand, our blog is about a class at Trinity, in Hartford, CT, and does entail people in CT ruminating about blogging. So is it, in some sense, a blog with some tangential Connecticut interest at heart?

More importantly, does any of this matter?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Conservative blog this is a conservative blog. Actually, it's pretty boring. Usually I can find something in every post of a conservative blog to get my blood pressure up. This blog certainly seems to tread lightly. I wonder if that's a reflection on Connecticut? Not a fire-and-brimstone state? More like wealthy restraint -- Apatheticut?

Who knew politics could be funny?

True confessions: I generally hate politics because of the senseless, irrational rhetoric that accomplishes nothing. Nonetheless, this blog manages to lay it all out in a logical fashion with a good mix of wry humor and insightful commentary. He uses my favorite descriptive word for much of the political discourse we're subjected to: vitriol.

Colin's right about the links, also: They are interesting and relevant, and seem to complement the articles, instead of just being a link to another site to get the info.

This is a true "Connecticut" blog to me -- it's not just another blog that happens to be run out of a computer in CT (or someone who says they're from CT). To continue the debate on the function and purpose of "Connecticut blogs," this one obviously demonstrates the purpose and function of blogs organized around CT issues.

To address a comment, I suppose there is a function to knowing blogs which originate in CT, regardless of content, as a sort of address list. In that case, though, we're just noting (highly unreliable) profile information, right?

Monday, October 10, 2005

What it means to be CT blogger

As I looked through the list of CT blogs, I was struck by the total randomness of the listings. In the CT super-site, it just shows snippets of what's been posted recently on CT blogs. I guess to be a CT blog, you just have to sign up as one?? Or maybe they did a search for people who listed Connecticut in their profiles?

The site says the following: "The goal of Connecticut Weblogs is to help draw attention to state blogs and bloggers." That makes some kind of sense if the blogs featured were focused on CT. From what I can see, however, that isn't a common link. The blogs are about anything, everything. So is categorizing Connecticut blogs creating a distinction without a difference? If these blogs have nothing more in common than that their masters are sitting at computers somewhere in CT (and I'm not sure that's even true), than what is the function of this listing of blogs?

The only answer that I can see, since the label of "Connecticut Blog" has nothing to do with the content or substance of the blog, is that people have an innate need to impose order on chaos. If the blogdom is chaotic (surely true), than all we're doing with a list of CT is trying to determine some commonality, some theme, some sense, of what other people in CT are talking about and looking at. To talk about "Connecticut blogs," is, to me, really just to sit in the cafeteria and evesdrop on the surrounding conversations, in order to see what's going on with those in my Connecticut community.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


My brain hurts from trying to come up with witty titles...

Westportnow is interesting because it seems to be completely different in purpose and function than the other types of blogs we've looked at. It's not political, it's not trying to be first with the latest memes (I don't think), and it's not personal. It also, according to the article, is read by "stay-at-home" moms and various other members of the Westport community. It seems more akin to the traditional hometown-newspaper-telephone-party-line than what we've seen before. It makes me wonder if we've pigeon-holed blogs too quickly as a tool of "bloggers," and all that implies. Really, they are just another form of website, right? They are available and useable by everyone, not just computer wonks, students, and unemployed journalists in their pajamas. Are we manufacturing a "blogger" image that doesn't really exist?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Metafilter, Slashdot, Huffington Post

Slashdot: Help! Total sensory assault! Who actually LIKES this stuff? Am I so old that I can't take a LOUD blog? Bleck.

MetaFilter: If the blogdom is a marketplace of ideas, this is the junkyard. It's not that it doesn't have good stuff in it, but it's buried in a lot of crap I'm not interested in.

Huffington Post: I like this the most of the megas we've looked at. It's calmer, more readable, and incidentially contains the weirdest story I've read in a while. Joke, right? Many of the commenters didn't get it.

"Smartest man I ever knew": On the trail of a meme

I first heard that Miers called Bush "the smartest man I've ever met" when I was watching news of her announcement on Monday. By that time, it was all over the blogdom when I went to check it out.

That night, PBS's Charlie Rose discussed the nomination with Nina Tottenberger, Larry Tribe from Harvard, and a rabid Democratic Senator whose name I don't remember (but you know it's bad if I thinks he's over the top). Nina made a comment that the conservative blogs were going nuts over the nomination. She also referred to the "smartest person" meme as well.

I checked the Courant on Tuesday and Wednesday, but no mention of the meme. Interesting because it's quite provocative, but totally gossip. Maybe like the "George is drinking AGAIN" meme, the print media won't touch it. Why not?

After some investigation, I think I know why. The source appears to be Marvin Olsky commenting on WorldViews blog (Daily News/Christian Views), which is based on the dreaded anonymous source.

I'm not familiar with Olasky, but Confirmation Whoppers, run by Gary Gross, describes Olasky as "an evangelical Christian & the author of a book titled 'The Tragedy of American Compassion', which Newt Gingrich used to adopt the cause of welfare reform." (Lousy punctuation is his, not mine). Wow, I guess we can trust THIS guy!

Since Olasky is the source of the meme, based solely on an "anonymous Christian lawyer," I can understand why the Courant, etc. won't touch it. Could be Swift Boat all over again, and isn't it funny that this meme is supposed to be an indication of her lack of credibility and her low-octane brainpower? Cause on both sides of the aisle, we all know the Pres. is no genius?!!!

Those of us who've been predicting the end of the newspaper as we know it should push back our timeline a few more years. I have renewed respect for the Courant, etc. for sticking more closely to verifiable fact, and not jumping on the "guess what I heard" bandwagon.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

More stuff...

Nora Ephron makes a good point about the NYT's charging to read its op-ed pieces. It takes the paper out of the realm of blog-searching. It will surely change its policies.

Whisky Bar is a little boring for me: too much of the "I" game. First-person writing poses a credibility problem. I start to wonder, "Who is this guy, and why do I care about what he thinks?" It's semantics, really, as the same info can easily be conveyed in the third-person -- it's just more work to write.

On Bush drinking: I love the day-after-pretzel picture. So he's drinking again. I guess they can't do anything else to him.

On The Next Hurrah: I like it. Funky, funny, irreverent. I like the way it tries to tackle the Judith Miller story. It's one of those horrendous stories that most of America doesn't get.

On Interesting approach -- an IM style. I get the feeling the chief-cook-bottle-washer is sending in stuff from her Blackberry on the subway. Intriguing but thin on details.

Tacky, stupid, and insulting

I'm totally disgusted with MeMo and Wonkette for the way each has handled the Harriet Miers nomination. All they are talking about is her make-up, her shoes, her dress size, etc. It's particularly disturbing because these are blogs run by women. Yeah, yeah, we all need to have a sense of humor, but I am so sick of how we reduce female political figures to dissections of their anatomy (and I don't mean their brains), and ridicule them for being ugly -- or attractive. Or rich and workaholic, traits we love in our men (sorry, Zoe, bad mom). Yuck. I won't be making regular calls to them.

Am I overreacting? Maybe. After all, there's other important female news on MeMo -- like that Target will start selling vibrators.

Alterman's okay

I like this guy. He does one subject at a time, in some depth. I was interested in the way he handled Harriet Miers. Lots of info on the nomination, her history, the reaction from all sides, etc., but the rhetoric was fairly calm. Although it's a liberal site, it's not rabidly anything.

No Blogspot = no blogdom

Blogger's been down for most of the night, and I've discovered that 90% of the stuff I wanted to look at was on a BlogSpot website. I guess Blogger's the lynchpin of bloogers everywhere. Let's hope it never gets hit by a hurricane.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Plastic fantastic?

Where DO I come up with these pity titles?

Just a note on Plastic, a blog that many people seemed to like in class. I just checked it (it's 9:43 pm), and the last post -- the "hot" news -- was from early this morning. No mention, for example, of the Harriet Miers story. What kind of top-notch blog is this that doesn't stay on top of stories?

A meme of my own?

I've finally found a meme I can sink my teeth into: Harriet Miers. What's going to be the predominant meme on her? So far, I've found an allegation that she said Bush was the most brilliant man she's ever met (don't get out much?), a theory that she's just a "yes" woman in the administration, and a "isn't it strange?" issue that she, like Rice, has never married. I wonder which one will rise to the top of the marketplace of information? If you want a fun read, try Ms. Mier's "blog." I especially like the link to Miers' actual White House website.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Reverse engineering the meme (a fascinating read)

After our robust discussion in class, I think I know what a meme is. The rumor from the Presidential election that John Kerry had an affair with an intern certainly seems to fit the bill. This is a great article by Alexandra Polier, the woman who was the subject of the rumor. She is a journalist, and she went back and traced the origin of the Kerry-affair meme. She does an excellent job in this article of tracking down the birth of the meme. It was, as you can guess, largely a blog-birth. The article illustrates the awesome, frightening power of the false meme, as she says it changed her life.

p.s. picture is taken from the article; see the piece for the photo credit

Ailes, Sullivan

The style of these guys is much more interact, with the comments, etc. Also, their posts are shorter than Wolcott's. Ailes also posts frequently throughout the day. I really can see this guy sitting at the computer in his pjs. His site feels more like a dialogue, with its frequent posts and comments. The posts generally don't go on and on, like a long-winded uncle. This is a site I might go back to, because of that, and because it's that liberal democrat thing that I like.

As for Andrew Sullivan, I again am having trouble separating the format from the content. I was enjoying the reading, until I read his post on being called a "prominent liberal." Then I re-read everything in a different light...

"Pre-existing" media

I've just taken a look at some of the bloggers who were news somebodies before they were blogging somebodies. It's hard to separate my reaction to their sites from my reaction to the content on their sites. For James Wolcott, his site was a turn-off for me because it is a seemingly endless diatribe on how crappy the world is. It's feels to me that he sits at his computer, ponders who or what he wants to attack, and then spits out yet-another "the world sucks according to me" post. Easy on the eyes to be sure -- no annoying link-to-link-to-link, flashing ads, or endless threads and sidebars -- but really, a bit depressing for me. **Addendum: I rechecked his site - which I was JUST reading -- and he just made a post that was much lighter than the prior ones I read. I guess he's feeling frisky from his vacation on Cape May. So now I'm flummoxed. Do I like this guy, or is he annoying? My reaction is also different than it would have been before this class and all the blog-surfing we've been doing. He writes provocatively about current issues but doesn't have any space for comments. I find this frustratingly PASSIVE as a blog reader. I would like the opportunity to react to his stuff. However, I didn't have this same reaction to Dooce or our friend "Sarah" -- why not? I guess because they each write about their own lives and aren't proselytizing on their point of view. Wolcott, however, takes a stance on everything. In blogworld, it's too heavy-handed for me to do that without giving the readership a chance to respond. I guess it's the difference between a commentator on the radio, and a commentator with a radio talkshow. After a while, I really get sick of listening to one person go on and on about his or her opinion of all that's wrong (and very occasionally, what's right) with the world (think Rush -- barf). It's much more interesting when there's the interaction with callers and other guests.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

I smell panic

More on the idea that weblogs, the internet, and CNN portend the death of newspapers. Even the Courant is running scared. It's hard to foresee that there would really be NO newspapers, but is that possible??

Monday, September 26, 2005

Where have I been?

Okay, how could it possibly have been a week since I last posted? Bad blogger...

I guess I've finally recovered from all the birthday festivities, time to get back to work.

Some random thoughts. The Prince guy refers to himself in the third person. Didn't MacArthur do that? Fairly weird thing. I guess in the blogdom, we can all be princes.

I found the blog carnival discussion pretty fascinating. From what I can discern, the key to being a carnival is the rotating editors. "Serious" blogs, like dKos, have a theme and a voice, but the idea that a carnival blog allows for differing editors to rotate through as the principal authorial voice does seem distinctly different from a plain ol' blog. Carnival is an interesting and descriptive word choice, as it does imply a certain friviolity, and certainly constant change. I wonder if carnival blogs might have less chance of developing that certain self-important "I am God" tone so many of the established blogs have developed.

Finally, the Reporters Without Borders site was a striking reminder that blogs really are the new frontier for many people. In the US, we tend to bicker over press bias, and White House censorship, but the bottom line is, we get to say pretty much whatever we want. For some many in other countries, blogs are perhaps the ONLY way that certain information and news can get disseminated to the rest of the world. The blogdome is pretty heady and powerful when you put it that way.

Monday, September 19, 2005

What's a web log?

I just read SMUG's definition of a blog. According to them (who are they?), it basically a compilation of links to other sites. This seems kinda narrow to me. Under this definition, Dooce, which has no links, is not a blog. What about dKos? It has links, but is more focused on internal threads and commentary. Hmmmm...

Sunday, September 18, 2005


I've been browsing on Daily Kos. This blogging thing can really suck up the time, can't it? My seven-year-olds are now complaining, "Are you blogging AGAIN?"

DK does seem to have a compilation of serious discussions on topical liberal political issues. I really enjoyed the dKopedia Hurrican Katrina timeline. When I read this site, I feel like I'm sitting in a Washington bar near the DNC headquarters listening to the conversations around me. It's intelligent, tries to take a fair view of both sides, but in the end, it's liberal politics (fortunately it goes along with my views, but I wonder -- why aren't any of the conservative blogs as popular?)

The bio posted by the dK creator was interesting...he was pretty frank about his point of view. I was curious why he gave a detailed list of his music recordings -- is he trying to get us to buy them?

The discussion threads are cool -- they let you get into the substance of the discussion more. It's like I pulled my chair up to the table in that bar I mentioned.

As an aside, I have to comment on how disheartening today's stories are on dK...our VP is a completely cold-hearted SOB, the polar ice caps are harkening a climatic Armegeddon, and Roberts could try to dismantle the last fifty years or so of civil rights protection on the Supreme Court. Maybe this is why Dooce is so popular...just poopy diapers and an off-beat Mormon.

Incidentially, dK brags that it's on of the top blogs on's worth the trip just to see the names of the top 100.

After the kids go to bed, I'm definitely checking out skippy the bush kangaroo.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Thinking Dooce

After Thursday's class, I went back and took another look at Dooce. I really do like the site. It's interesting, fairly-well written, and nice -- you know, pleasant and entertaining. It's not, however, earth-shattering. To me, it's an indication of how little else there is (that I can find) that is really COMPELLING. Fark and such are fun to click around, but you don't sit there and READ Fark. It's a site about other sites. Dooce is, on the other hand, kind of Seinfeld-like; it's a site about nothing. Nothing that is, except the humorous musing of a stay-at-home mom. When I go there, I find her stories and nothing else. Therefore, I will keep going there to read about her -- not to get links to other funky, weird, or gossipy stories. I'm not even sure that I'd be friends with Heather B. Armstrong if I lived near her, but I do feel like I know her somewhat, since I get to hear her (supposed) inner thoughts and musings. It's a site that has a name, a face, and a storyline...although not an agenda. She's not trying to convert me to any political cause (although she may try to sell me a camera and some clothes). I think its appeal is that it's always about the same thing; it has a consistent theme. In the chaos of the blogosphere, it's nice to have an on-going relationship with SOMETHING.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Hey blogging class -- FOOD

This is the site for us renagade members of the class who would like to start a "food chain" for class. The idea is that two people sign up to bring food for that night. It doesn't have to be anything very elaborate, but many of us have found bonding and late night comradery in those plastic tubs of hummus and slightly stale bagels.

I should add that this idea has a very lukewarm endorsement from our intrepid professor (sorry, Colin), but we think we can convert him to the beauty of the 8:00 pm pizza delivery.

If you're interested, please post a comment as to a day you'd be willing to bring something. Hopefully someone else will be willing to assist you. (The first ever blogged food chain?) No one should fee obligated to participate, of course.

I volunteer to bring on Thursday, 9/29.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Bleary-eyed from blogging (true confessions)

I tried an experiment and failed miserably. This confirms that I am either (1) blog-challenged (most likely); or (2) the blogosphere is not quite the Mecca of cutting-edge news it's been cracked up to be.

I heard yesterday that Osama Bin Laden reportedly (as told to a London newspaper by a U.S. Army officer) is ill and is seeking medical treatment. I heard this on the always edgy Today Show. I then decided to see if there was any blogtalk to be found on this report.

I couldn't find nuthin'. I came up with nil on said rumor, even using the brand-new blog-search feature on Google. I did, however, find this extremely bizarre, funny, and slightly scary blog called Osama's Bin Bloggin'. It looks bereft and abandoned,so maybe its blog-master is also away seeking medical attention.

My utter failure (not just "failure," but "UTTER" failure) to find anything on the Osama-is-sick rumor could be a symptom of my poor blog-searching skills. However, since I'm probably more computer literature than the average American (hey, I have my own BLOG, for crying out loud), this means the greater blogdom just isn't not yet a reliable source of info-rumor-innuendo. I mean, I couldn't even find a rumor that was on the Today Show!

Or I just suck at blogging.

Regrettably, Nile

P.S. Why didn't that U.S. Army officer call the Washington Post? Why do we have to hear about this from London?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Sort of a long story

After looking around at some other blogs, I made some changes, including changes to the name and address of my blog. No real reason, other than the realization that I CAN change them, and also, with the ability to change settings, edit prior postings, etc., a blogger can revise her history at will, ad nauseum, and no one is the wiser. Mistake? Misquote? Spelling error? Not any more. With nothing but a wisp of cyber shadow, poof, it's all gone. The implications of that are, to me, rather frightening. Let's say someone wants to post some real trash on his site, something completely outrageous, libelous, and scandalous. Then, damage done, the blogger can disappear, or simply "edit" history. Unless someone printed it out, where's the proof, the trail? And even if someone did print it out, I can tell you from my lawyerly perspective that it would be extremely difficult to authenticate (i.e., prove who wrote it, and when). The bottome line is the lack of accountability, or even traceability, is frightening. It's the ultimate anonymous source.