April 19, 2012

Diaristic Wanderings

Had a strong hankering yesterday for Thomas Mallon's Watergate and consumed about an hour's worth. Surprising, because I'm really not that interested in that dismal presidential period. And yet I must be interested given how many Watergate-related books I've read over the years. Also Mark Steyn's book America Alone is riveting. The guy can write. Especially telling was how England went from an empire to modesty: the U.S. during the Suez Canal crisis threatened to shed Britain's war bonds, which would cause great fiscal consternation. Britain buckled under quick. Similarly we're getting into huge debt and I don't see what good can come of it, mutually assured financial destruction with China aside.


Planning a short trip next week. Sure, I'm tempted to look down my nose at the relatively nouveau Midwestern city, but I looked at pictures of the hotel I'll be staying at and the area seems of pleasing density, with old buildings and a promising plenty of old churches. Also there's the art museum of course.

Cities exhilarate, and if London was so inspirational to the great Samuel Johnson then Indy should be the same to me. If Indy's no London, well, I'm no Samuel Johnson. I shouldn't expect the same level of cultural enrichment as a genius.


It's past time for my annual "State of the Blog" address. Here's my speech:

The era of the blog feels in declination, at least as far as the original stalwarts go.

I blog less frequently and really have only one, called M & M, that feels extant. But I was there, I can tell my grandchildren, at the start of it all! I got linked from National Review once! And was asked by the editor of First Things to write something for the magazine! I was like a lifetime .230 minor-leaguer invited to the majors for a cup of coffee, and I wrote of Norman V. Peale and Pelagianism but lacked the research effort, fatally lapsing into the self-indulgent personal even while knowing I was doing so. And not getting published. I prided myself on my lack of sentiment while at the same time evincing it. I think I got the First Things nod simply on the basis of once saying something like, "maintenance of society is not job one," meaning that our first job is to build the Kingdom. Swiftly closes the window of opportunity! That heady time of so many links and mentions on other blogs, oh the star power we felt in our headstrong blog youth. Such responsibility I felt! For the first time in my life I was acquiring a small patina of fame - call it my fifteen minutes (Warhol was at least 15 minutes ahead of his time on that). I was being taken seriously by strangers in faraway cities and countries by folks far brainier than me.

The once tight community of bloggers included Steven Riddle and Dylan and Tom of Disputations and Amy Welborn and Kathy the Carmelite and Zippy Catholic and Bill Luse and Bill of Summa Minutiae and Mary Herboth and the Summa Mamas and the Philipino Catholic girl whose name escapes me now and The Mighty Barrister and on and on... Most of the original bloggers are doing so in greatly reduced straits. Steven started a literary blog, Amy a travel blog, Zippy and Kathy quit altogether, Tom and Bill L. & Bill W. post very infrequently. Part of me wishes I'd kept the tradition of the weekly "Spanning the Globe" post just for the sake of tradition, for the sake of continuity, to create a tiny island of stability, something seemingly changeless in this change-filled world.

Certainly Facebook picked off some people, especially the bloggers who were there less to write treatises and more for the social aspects. And FB puts the "social" in social media: you broadcast to a public who accepted one friend request. With blogs, at least before the ubiquity of RSS feeds, you weren't really foisting your stuff on anybody because they had to make the effort to go to your website each and every time they wanted to read something you had to say. And because of that you felt less guarded and also felt less guilty for potentially wasting their time. And why post kid and pet photos on your blog when you can more easily post them on FB?

Then too Twitter cut out a lot of the reason for blogging. Blogging is at least 50% linking, and what is Twitter but a far more efficient linking service?

Cut out links and pictures and you've narrowed the thirst for blogging. Mainly for argument, verse and fiction, the latter two not too common in bloglands. And I've become far less interested in argument, be it in politics or theology.

There are of course some diehard bloggers who seem immune to change or burnout. Eve Tushnet comes to mind - I'm not sure I could tell one of her 2004 posts from a 2012 one, although I don't read her enough to make sharp distinctions.

There were mysteries in the Catlick blog world, such as where "Maine Catholic" disappeared to (turns out he went to jail, for what I know not). There was the scandal in the past of the dearly departed Gerard S. which only came to light towards the end of his blogging life but which, oddly, made his blog more interesting. I'd initially taken him for a goody-two shoes who spoke intensely of mercy and love for pious and overly devotional reasons but who turned out to have had a personal experience of mercy and love.

And of the blogworld one can say there have been new*, bright lights coming to replace some of the oldtimer's: Jennifer of "Conversion Diary", the Darwins, Betty U.S. Duffy and Heather King among others!

* - where "new" is relatively new to me, in that I started following them after my 2002-2007 intense blog period.


Darwin said...

Ah, Spanning the Globe, those were the days.

I keep wondering if there's a necessarily half-life to blogs -- at after a while most people have simply said what they have to say and need to either drastically change and do something else.

But then, this feeling that the blog isn't very good any more and should be spun down is something I've had off and on pretty much since the first year I started blogging, so perhaps it's just life.

TS said...

Well I think you still relish a good disputation and there's a lot to be said for that! Somebody needs to help clarify things out there given the general diffusion of confusion.

BettyDuffy said...

I always love blog posts about blogging.

Is there any reason Spanning the Globe could not be brought back? It was fun.

I think you'll find much to admire in Indy. Be sure to walk the canal and arts garden downtown. And have a dinner in Broadripple. Bazbeaux Pizza is a good bet. At the Ram brewery downtown, you might find my brother-in-law tending bar.

William Luse said...

This infrequent blogger thanks you for the mention and hereby gives you permission to do it as frequently as you like.

I found that I couldn't handle my job, preparing my book for various forms of publication, editing TCR, painting, and blogging all at once. Not to mention house and yard maintenance. Something had to give. I do miss the old days of the Catholic blog nation, and Spanning the Globe was a big part of that. And there's nothing preventing you from resurrecting it. It might even inspire me to blog more in the vain hope of sneaking in.

TS said...

Hey Betty thanks for the tips on Indy and the appreciation of Span the Globe. Could be back although don't like having broke the streak. (Sort of like how the World Series was cancelled one year due to the baseball strike.)

TS said...

As much as I like your blogging Bill I think you made the right choice as far as working on your job/book & paintings. Of the latter, I still relish that one you did of a cow in the pasture. Definitely my favorite.

Bill White said...

The first post of yours I read was your WFB parody, and I thought I'd actually found his blog! I even went home after work and told my wife I'd found a sort of online diary that WFB himself wrote and I recounted some of his wittiness. It took me a week or so of eagerly checking back to realize with puzzlement and a bit of disappointment that it wasn't really his.

Maybe the two things keeping me from blogging much nowadays are first, that it's a hassle to go over to wordpress.com and fire up the clunky editor and make a dozen iterations, and second, giving every little entry a title. Facebook is blessedly easy, dang them.

Ah, the good ol' STG!

I was just thinking about Gerard Serafin last week. I miss his solid optimism borne of suffering, and his particular mix of topics, and his putting the word heart in red wherever it appeared. His blog in particular participated in that "grace of beginnings" where the first of a kind turns out to have been the best.

TS said...

Well-said Bill about Gerard Serafin. I always thought he supplied something unique in Catholic blogdom, right down to his trademark heart in red.

Funny anecdote about seing the WFB parody. I must not have been too clear it was a parody. I used to have a picture of a gal drinking from a huge glass of beer and never realized that some might think that was me until someone did.

Jim Curley said...

Ah, those days when I looked for a mention of ME in the weekly edition of Spannin' the Globe-as if it gave justification to my writing.

I do think that Darwin has a point about many of us saying everything we have to say then moving on. I know I waxed more philisophical early on. I sort of ran out of steam or time to write about things I thought important.

Now I just periodically report what's been going on around my place. (I think my family checks in).

And I read fewer and few blogs. And long posts ... forget it. I just don't spend the time. No facebook or twitter for me (yet).

Cheers. Jim

TS said...

Ah...it's like old home week here at the blog. Good to hear from you Jim.