Pushing the Envelope

Although there are probably as many different ideas on what a blog is, and should be, as there are blogs, Dorothea and Jonathon seem to have two very different ideas about what the nature of the kind of blog I write should be. In other words, I’m not talking about linking-blogs, per se, or even private journals that appear to be meant for private consumption by a close-knit group of friends.

I think Dorothea accepts the more traditional (if you can have a tradition for something so new that it doesn’t even appear in a dictionary yet) concept of what a blog should be. In other words, she wants it to be a place where bloggers can honestly discuss important ideas of the day. Although these blogs may often start with the blogger’s technological expertise, they generally move out from this center to broader topics. Recently, these blogs have turned to political discussion, but by nature they seem more devoted to a discussion of life in general, oftentimes to a search for meaning in life. These blogs center on one or two bloggers with a peripheral group that recognizes but may not always link to other members of the same community. One of the strengths of this kind of community is a “shared wisdom” based on the individual strengths of various members. In order for these communities to function well, though, there has to be a shared trust.

That “shared trust” is based not only familiarity with other bloggers, but on the honesty of each of the members. After all, members often argue vigorously over topics of discussion and need to be able to trust that other members are honestly debating the issues, not using hidden agendas to promote other issues.

Jonathon, however, seems to be pushing for a new kind of blog, one that Shelley has recently alluded to with her shift from a technological focus to a literary focus. Since I’m unfamiliar with the Japanese literary tradition Jonathon refers to, I can only guess what kind of tradition he is aiming for. I suspect that whatever format he is trying to evolve will bear some resemblance to Kundera’s writing style in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, with it’s unique mixture of personal experience, philosophical exploration, and story telling, though this is, of course, merely speculation on my part.

I’m not sure that Jonathon’s kind of blog is entirely compatible with the earlier vision discussed, though it certainly shares a lot in common with blogs like Eeksy Peeksy, High Water, and You Live Your Life as if It’s Real. Clearly, though, it’s one thing to read Kundera’s novels, and something quite different to read an individual’s daily blog. Most importantly, it’s more difficult to trust what the author is saying when you know he’s making up much of what he writes about.

Perhaps, though, it’s not too different from what I’ve been trying to do here, using literature to understand who I am and what I believe. While I’ve always tried to stay within the boundaries of personal (t)ruth (Yes, Shelley, there really is a Gavinator), I’ve tried to relate my appreciation of literature to my personal philosophy and to my outlook on the political world. Truly, this is NOT a poetry blog, despite my earlier admission and others’ attempts to put me in that classification. I’m not teaching literature any more; I’m getting ready to die (NO, Dawn, Leslie, etc., not in the next few days, months, or, hopefully years) but I am merely trying to make sense of this life before shifting planes.

Unlike Dorothea, if I read her correctly, I’m looking forward to seeing how Jonathon’s blog proceeds, though I doubt I will ever be able to read it in quite the same way that I used to read it. I’m curious if Jonathon can successfully stretch the limits of blogging by intermixing fiction and fact.

That said, I’m getting off this soapbox and moving back into the shadows of my poetry blog again. If you want to read some excellent commentary on the limits of blogging see:

Language Hat
Jeff Ward

They Eat Their Own, Don’t They?

Needless to say, I would find this topic much easier to deal with if I didn’t like the principals involved quite so much. First, let it be said that I probably am most sympathetic with Dorothea’s position. I’m not at all sure what is true in the world, but I subscribe to telling the (t)ruth, if not the (T)ruth, as much as possible. And, like her, I never read the “About” statement on Jonathon’s site. So, despite the fact that I received straight “A’s” in two years of grad school, with the exception of Deinum’s Film-Making Seminar, and despite the fact that I consider myself a fairly sophisticated interpreter of literature, I never realized that Jonathon was injecting fiction into his blog.

Like Dorothea, at first I was pissed off that I’d been deceived. Perhaps it was a mere EGO problem, and I was mad that I’d been fooled. After all, I consider Jonathon a “virtual friend,” and we INTP’s don’t have many friends. After limiting my comments at Burningbird’s site to a reference to the staging of the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Baghdad (and being rebuffed by the piss-ant comment that EVERYONE expects the government to lie, so it was irrelevant ((by the way, NOT EVERYONE expects their government to lie to them,)) I decided to go back to taxes and let these ideas fester for awhile.

Being an introvert, I wasn’t about to go blabbing all my thoughts in public. After reading numerous posts on this topic, I spent a few sleepless nights, caused NOT by my usual bad back but, rather, by thoughts bouncing off my head. Thanks Jonathon and Dorothea !! Just what I needed, another reason not to be able to sleep.

Mercifully, I’m going to limit myself in this post to just one conclusion, and I’ll finish my ruminations on this subject with a final post later today before returning to my official role as a “poetry blog.”

Personally, I understand and appreciate the anger Dorothea and Jonathon expressed in their initial posts on the topic. Both felt betrayed by a “personal,” if merely virtual, friend. Dorothea was angered by what she felt was an unjustified manipulation of her feelings and by the betrayal of an unwritten code of blogging. Jonathon felt equally betrayed to suddenly find himself unjustly skewered on the pages of a “friend.” Both of these expressions of anger, at least to me, were legitimate and acceptable responses to an unfortunate misunderstanding of what “blogging” meant to each other.

What I really felt was unacceptable, though, were the responses of some other members of the blogging community. While the Happy Tutor at least couched his criticism of Dorothea in humorous disguise, Frank Paynter of Sandhill Trek unfairly roasted her by suggesting that she isn’t quite ready for this sophisticated world of bloggers and “would perhaps be more comfortable in an online romance of the type that Jack of Hearts has described so delightedly elsewhere.” TRASH! PURE TRASH. I’ve seen few signs (oops, read that NO SIGNS) that his site is more “sophisticated,” or knowledgeable, than Caveat Lector’s site. No wonder Dorothea snapped back with such anger.

That kind of trash talk is unlikely to expand this discussion into a meaningful discussion of the potential of blogging and how we can reach that potential while avoiding these kinds of misunderstandings, or without undermining the discussion that Steve Himmer started earlier but which seems to have been overwhelmed by the furor over virtual betrayals. And it seems to me, that that is precisely what Jonathon was attempting to do when he pointed out that he has been injecting fiction into his blog entries.

Where the Hell is Shelley Powers’ calming influence when it’s needed?