Orson is, in fact, fast asleep. He's been this way at least since Christmas. I'm unable to wake him, and since social (and economic!) obligations keep me from joining him in hybernation, I've decided to guest write the cyber-culture gazette.
This week's topic: Blogs and blogging.
Blogs fascinate me. It must be something about how they democratize the publishing process, or the sheer diversity of voices and styles. Maybe it is the thorough-going interconnectedness and interdependence of blogs. There really is a sort of weblog ecology.
'Democratize' may not really do the phenomenon justice. I have a feeling that neither the word nor the concept of democracy is appropriately used here, but few options seem to exist to express how the average person (any person with a computer) can gain access to a readership of potentially millions. Once there were letters, and self-published pamphlets and tracts and the lucky few who could afford or who could convince others to afford to print their ideas. Now anyone can type up a few paragraphs and can expose themselves for all the world to see.
This isn't always a pretty thing, but still, it is a good thing.
Of the millions of blogs in existence, many aren't more than a beginning -- a few lines, a page style provided by the blogging service, maybe a photo or two. It's like so many houses built and bought, but never fully inhabited. You'll see what I mean if you hit Blogger's "next blog" button at the top of this site. A lot of proto-blogs -- the barest prokaryotic beginnings of literary life.
Among those millions (ok, probably billions) there are a number of really accomplished blogs -- or, if not accomplished, then at least earnest and alive. There are serious blogs and not serious blogs. Ones that make you laugh and others that don't. Some make you laugh even though the author didn't mean for that to happen. The best serious blogs are often focused on one subject, or some tight nexus of subjects. These are often written by professional journalists, or at least very practiced and accomplished writers.
Look, for example, at Grits for Breakfast, or a new one I've just added to the sidebar, Ken Sain. During the day, Mr. Sain is the news editor for the Washington Blade. Some seriously journalistic blogs are also funny and entertaining, when the subject is one that can be treated lightly, Wetass is my favorite here.
So much for the serious, and more-or-less single topic blogs. Among my favorite types of blog is what I'll call the general topic literary blog. The mermaid tavern, home of the philosofairy, comes to mind. Her posts are cleverly varied, nearly always riotously funny and extremely well written.
Samual Pepys' diary is quite another sort of literary blog. Mr. Pepys, you see, has been dead for at least 300 years! Some enterprising scholars are posting the entire contents of his diary, one daily entry at a time, on the web. This is a spectacular use of the weblog medium.
There is, of course, no dearth of a type of blog that maybe I'll label the "webminer" for lack of another word. There are plenty of these, too many to count. They are the ones that surf the net looking for various tidbits and put these all together for you with running commentary. Some are cool, a lot just get a little tired after awhile. A new one I've found is World Wide Weird, a compendium of all that's absurd and downright stupid. (One thing I find weird is the spelling of 'weird' which I never seem to be able to remember.)
Happening upon a really good photoblog is a treat, especially when it's maintained by a real pro! I must link, therefore to this excellent site, apparently a neighbor of mine: joe's nyc. His work is exquisite.
One kind of blog I really like is the kind that links to me! (Yes, blogging has a lot to do with ego and narcissism, don't you think?) It's always a happy day when you discover that someone unknown to you has seen fit to put your blog on their 'blogroll' or link list. Embrace the Dull has newly done just that. I'll return the favor and mention how much I like his gut-spilling bio.
The interdependence of weblogs makes for a lot of fun. It's like name-dropping and nepotism taken to a whole new level. There are all kinds of little bloglists and blog connectors of various sorts. A new one I'm going to sign up with is Six Degrees of Blogeration.
Speaking of six degrees of separation: The author of Embrace the Dull loves, yes, LOVES Morrissey. Well, he links to me, I love the Smiths (oh, what the hell, Morrissey too), and I once worked in the studio with Stephen Street, the guy who engineered The Queen is Dead. So, Embrace the Dull (and all of you dear readers) are within six degrees of Morrissey. Now how about that?