Just what is a blog, anyways?
It seems to me to be, quite obviously, a new form of information, a new style of written communication that lies somewhere between a diary and a newspaper column. A diary, because most blog entries are, by and large, more or less, for better or for worse, somewhat random collections of stray thoughts on various topics and events that are clouding our brains on one particular day. But it's also more of a column, the kind one would find in the op-ed pages, because if it was nothing more than a diary entry, we wouldn't be publishing it electronically, wishing and waiting and hoping for outer views on inner thoughts.
Many blogs are simply random collection of the day's events, with the odd humorous anecdote thrown in. But today's Japan Times informs me that the number one language for all blogs being written in the world today is, start the drum roll, Japanese. And I don't mean percentage-wise; I mean that the total highest number of words written in blogs in the entire world is not that of English, but Japanese. Think about it. That's kind of, I don't know, astonishing. There are a billion speakers of English, and a hundred and thirty million speakers of Japanese, and they're blowing us out of the water, big-time. The Japanese are blog crazy.
Curiously, however, the content of their blogs is, perhaps not so curiously, much the same as the Japanese themselves: reserved, withdrawn, somewhat shy. Listings of this and that, with very little emotional baggage presented for public display and commiseration. The blog is thus an extension of the Japanese personality, unwilling to burden any potential readers with the confusing emotional underpinnings that form the bedrock of even the most innocuous western blog entries.
This is where the not-really-a-diary part comes into play, I suppose, because diaries are written for one person and one person only: the person writing them. Think of growing up, and all the tv shows we watched, sitcoms and dramas, whose plots revolved around the diabolical notion of people reading the diaries of their lovers and friends, families and enemies, without their explicit permission.
Now, things seem to have tilted sideways. We want people to read our innermost thoughts; we desire strangers and friends to gaze languidly over our secret thoughts as they kill time at work or absent-mindedly surf the net in their underwear while watching TV and yapping on the phone.
What's going on here?
When I studied for a Creative Writing degree, I never even imagined such a thing as the Internet (and this was only a little more than a decade ago), let alone the capacity for publishing one's words on a daily basis from the comfort of one's own living room, dorm room, coffee shop or snack bar. I simply assumed that I would have to work to get my writing to a publishable level, at which point some publisher, on some distant day in an unimaginable future, might possibly take the risk of putting my work in print.
(Actually, I just recalled that my Creative Writing teacher from my fourth year workshop class told us point-blank at the start of the semester that he expected us to be writing publishing-level prose by the end of the term. And yet just the year before, my third year instructor had told us, also point-blank, that the average age of a first novelist was forty, so we shouldn't have any adolescent delusions about breaking into the literary field any time soon. What the fuck? I thought. We're expected to work our asses off to have publishing-level quality in our fiction so that we won't get published for, at minimum, another eighteen fucking years? One of the perils and promises of a Creative Writing program: eccentric professors pontificating contradictory maxims.)
Now, though, we've reached a point where anybody with access to a laptop can publish anything they want, at any time, for free, at whatever length, and not only does it not have to be interesting, it doesn't even to make sense, or even be properly punctuated. Multiply this actually astonishing equation with the fact that you can now post your own films made from your own phone, visible to anybody from Atlanta to Adelaide, and the net result ends up being
a new world order taking place before our very eyes.
We're becoming our own publishers, our own studios, our own rock stars and writers. A revolution is taking place, one that is growing exponentially larger by the second, and I cannot conceive of what the entertainment world will look like in, say, ten years. I sense a downfall of corporate oligarchy, one that may actually prove to be as imprisoning as it is liberating. With no gatekeepers manning the cultural gates, deciding who gets published, or what gets shown, or which song gets listened to, will there even be any benchmarks for quality? If we can publish at will, will we then have the moral fortitude to judge ourselves, censor ourselves, strive for art and perfect our souls in the process?
But perhaps I'm getting off topic.
They are slices of time, lauded for their brevity and wit, two things that I'm not good at. I like stuff long. Big books, big movies, big lives. I like falling into stories and living there, which is why I've never been a super-duper fan of poetry or the short story itself. I want to revel in the infinite. Learning another language, too, especially one as complex as Japanese, is a means by which I can ensure that I will be continually forced to descend to the depths of my stamina and will. I'm trying to figure out how to make blog entries an extension of this quest, a pursuit that somehow enlivens myself and the reader with a link to the infinite, if I may be so bold.
The irony, of course, is that blogs are, by their nature, short. And so, by our natures, are we. Meaning humans. Meaning our time on this earth. Years are passing like months, sunsets and sunrises merging and blurring from pink to gray to black and back, and yet somehow I have to believe, choose to believe, that we can some day, in some way, become eternal, that this new technology, linked to our own determination, can reach the next level, the higher plane, where day and night become one, where blog and novel are pieces and parts of the same extended whole, where nothing can die and we all can stay well, where disease recedes with time and age descends into youth, nature be damned.
Of course, I may be asking too much from you and from me, and ultimately from this, a simple blog.
Or not enough, perhaps. (For we, too, have possibilities.)
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Was Thoreau right? Do the mass of men truly lead lives of great desperation? Watching the salarymen on the train each morning, you might think that this is the case. Is this where they want to be going, these men? Huddled together, smashed together, riding through the darkness to the anonymity of their offices, where they can sit side by side for hours on end, staring at blank screens with flashing cursors. Too early to be standing for so long. Too long, beginning and ending each day. Wearing suits that cost too much, and ties that tie too tight. Leaving little room to breathe. The small veins of the neck slightly but persistently bulging against the starched collars. Green against white. And the destination of this hurtling rocket? A financial core that masks the hearts of the men and women, and only demands their humanity in return. (Only!) Let us travel this train as for as it will go, to the end point, and see what we get in return. Endless days and nights that wear out their welcome. Downing alcohol in the billions of pubs that Tokyo has branded. Leaving children barely seen, lives hardly lived. Living room carpets whose colors they cannot remember, bearing stains hardly glimpsed. And up again, tomorrow, before the sun. Rewind. Repeat. And yet here, too, on this train, at a different time, a different day, there is a child, with his mother, staring out the window, pointing. At what? At another train, parallel but moving in the opposite direction. Hinting at another road that may be taken.