Friday, January 06, 2006


When Michael Blowhard (of asked me how I got into blogging, I had to say that when blogging come over the horizon, I was waiting with open arms. A few specific characteristics of blogs and myself make us a good fit.

No one controls what is said. In my 66 years it seems as though many persons around me have wasted a lot of energy shushing me, because I blurt and quip. It’s not only “why is the emperor wearing no clothes” but also “he sure has a funny-looking... belly button.” Mothers, editors, principals, department heads, get scared. As the mayor of Browning ordered Bob Scriver, “Get that woman under control!”

Though email is wonderful, one can create mailing lists of friends, and listservs are also an effective way to find a community, they are not perfect strategies. When I send an email, I presume a response but some people still only answer email once a month, if then. Mailing lists are always too long or too short (Someone is always angry at being left off or being included.) and the “mail” might not always be welcome. (I myself am very resistant about “forward this wonderful message or die” stuff. Or cute animal photos.) The list, in any case, is controlled, even if by someone tolerant and inclusive. One has to be “on” or “off” and remember to do something about long holidays so your inbox doesn’t get crammed, bounce messages, and gum up the works.

A blog is like a magazine article: long enough to finish the discussion, short enough to write in one session, sequential so a line of argument or information can be continued, and capable of accepting photos. It even provides attractive layout, which is a shortfall of email. People can read it, if and when they want to, and comment, if and when they want to. Otherwise a blog minds its own business and bides it time.

What makes a blog even more brilliant and useful is access through Google. A major problem of the modern world is that people of similar interests are scattered all over the globe. The City or University provide the physical concentration necessary for a lot of people with the same obsessions to talk to each other, but not all of us are temperamentally or economically suited for such a location.

I want to live out here on the Montana prairie, but I HAVE lived in cities and universities where I acquired a taste for talk about things of no interest except in those places. If I find the right blogs, I am restored to the “talk” whilst happily living here under the wind. And because I’ve lived in a lot of different places and on a lot of different social levels, I can keep up with everyone from the little old ladies in my UU congregations in New England to the granddaughters of my students here in Browning.

“Linking” is the other godsend, so that if one finds a pack of what Anne of Green Gables called “kindred spirits,” they are likely to know of other invigorating circles, maybe just slightly over on a different topic. It’s not just the topic, but the way it is interpreted. I still haven’t found an animal-related discussion group that is right for me. Nor one about religion. It’s also possible to use “links” as a kind of footnote that allows one to summon up the referenced article intact and instantly. What suits me best blog-wise, it seems, is an eclectic group of mature (ahem) educated people interested in the arts and loosely related topics, like

Not just the topic or the “inhabitants” of the blog make a difference. The “method” assumed to be appropriate to a blog is important. At first the comparison was “journalling” and the Me-generation was soon busy making daily posts about their mood, song du jour, and other gut-wrenching trivia. If they weren’t very verbal, they could always cut-and-paste expressive cartoons.

Then teachers saw that the “class blog” was much better than clumsy emailing. I once happened onto an ichthyology class exam that was nothing but photos of little fishes to be identified.

But the blog really made waves when it took advantage of the “evasion of censorship” and became political, both as observing journalism and as manifestos from the inside. These are the blogs that bridged to ‘zines, stalked politicians, corrected media error (not just spelling of names, but major near-felonies), made reputations and got shut down in China. This is the ONLY kind of blogging that many people know about, so what they think when one says, “I blog,” is that one is involved in attacking the authorities. It scares them.

A different kind of bridging to print has just arrived enough to get a name, though it was always there: “blooks,” which are the downloading and binding of already blog-written materials. I’m doing that myself. A computer isn’t always handy for people who want to read what one has written. Sometimes the posts amount to chapers of a book anyway. I did this consciously with “Twelve Blackfeet Stories.” They should be read chronologically which is awkward on blogs, since the “top” is always the last post.

The biggest problem with blogs from a narrow point of view is that people are too intimidated or reluctant to look at a computer screen to read them. Their model is the clam, which attaches somewhere and waits for useful items to arrive on the tide. So -- progress is not their game. Often neither is sitting down to read, either with the computer or with a print-out. For them, the pod-cast! Throw it into your car’s CD player or your iPod, and you’re off. Passive, distracted, dependent on the voice quality of the reader. A kind of background sound the way everyone uses music. Oh, well.

The point is choice, suiting one’s situation. And that’s ALWAYS the point, no matter the age and resources. What’s so great for me is that blogging should show up just as I have the time, the skills, the resources, and the drive to do it. In my own way, of course. So no wonder I embraced blogging with joy.


SB said...

What? You don't like cute animal pictures?!!

Chas S. Clifton said...


speaking of "blooks," why don't you put the Blackfeet stories into one big PDF file somewhere so that people can download it and read them sequentially?