Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Joy of Blogging

I began blogging four years ago, during a particularly nasty bout of food poisoning caused by eating bad oysters. At the time, my wife and sons were away in Essex and after a week of lying in bed, I was so bored that I decided to create a blog page to pass the time.

The title of this blog was partly an oblique reference to the fact that HMV had just bought the bookshop chain I worked for and my future, which had once seemed promising, now looked pretty bleak.

I had no intention of keeping a proper blog, but when Ms Baroque posted a very generous response to my first post - a rather fatuous piece about the Middle East - I was hooked.

During the last few years, I have been continually impressed by the intelligence and generosity of spirit displayed by the people who have posted comments on this blog. Thanks to the kindness of strangers, I have discovered new authors, visited exhibitions I would have otherwise missed and had some really interesting email exchanges with people (plus some very enjoyable drinks in Lewes with Laura and Oliver).

So, getting to the point, I have found blogging to be a very positive, uplifting experience that has exposed me to the best of humanity, both in cyberspace and the real world.

Sadly, blogging seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Visit any number of discussion boards and social networking sites and the comments range from the depressingly banal to the downright abusive.

Take this example from YouTube, which was written in response to a negative comment about the Turkish national anthem:

"disabled grik!!!...we never did not give the griks and armenian girl, I always have carry the dna of turks, bastard griks!!!...idiot you nation turks,mongolian,arab,italian,s­lavic,makedonian,gypsy break-mix and the bastard nation...f*ck you homo!!!..."

Or this response to a comment about Germany's winning song in this year's Eurovision Song Contest:

"All the Eastern European dancing prostitute bands are just pissed they were beaten by someone singing a proper song. It's called Eurovision Song Contest not European Lap Dancing Contest you scumbags."

Even the positive comments on YouTube are pretty dispiriting. For example, here is Ivetella's response to a video of "Silly Love Songs" by Paul McCartney and Wings:

"I love the meaning of this Song, What is wrong with that He ask? "LOVE" Nothing is wrong at all,, Bacause Love is power!!!"

It's depressing to realise that a technology that brings millions of people together from all over the world, just ends up being used to vent ancient grievances between different nations and religions. But perhaps, in the impersonal environment of a global village, people feel a greater need to assert their local identity.

Or maybe they just enjoy being able to be rude without getting beaten up.


Nicole said...

Thank YOU for introducing me to both Derek and Philip Gibbs. Your blog is one of my absolute favorites and I always look forward to new posts.

Helen Brocklebank said...

I'm terribly glad you started blogging, though I think you were a couple of years in before I stumbled upon you. The Age of Uncertainty is tremendous. I'm now imagining this comment read back to me: I do hope it makes up in sincerity what it lacks in wit...

Anonymous said...

fuk u homo grik!

Steerforth said...

Anon- Hey, yur mother is Turkiyesh hoor who sleep with soljers and you only win Eurovision one time! ;)

Nicole - I'm so glad that I've introduced you to Philip Gibbs. In the pre-internet days, it was really frustrating trying to convince people that they'd really enjoy a particular book. These days, instead of making my friends' lives a misery, I can simply write a blog post and, half way across the world, somebody decides to try my recommendation.


By the same token, my reading tastes have become increasingly influenced by bloggers like John Self and Caustic Cover Critic.

Mrs Trefusis - Thank you so much for reading the blog and also for commenting, as it enabled me to discover your blog (which is now one of my favourites). I particularly love your posts about reaching the 40s, as they really strike a chord.

As far as the comment being read back is concerned, I'm a big fan of sincerity (and you blog has plenty of wit anyway).

The Poet Laura-eate said...

It was a pleasure meeting you too! I quickly became accustomed to the three heads and multifarious limbs. ;-)

I would concur that blogging is the classiest medium on the internet, though however good the medium, it is the classiness of the blogger posting which is more pertinent. The appeal of yours is that you balance so many interesting elements alongside favourite features such as Derek's adventures or the latest 19th C photographs you have come across.

I suspect the majority of YouTube comments are posted by drunk or stoned people who find a little trolling a good way to unwind. Comedian Jenny Eclair says she wants to see an invention which 'locks' all computer keyboards and mobile phone keypads after 9pm. I fear she has a point and that any study into anti-social comments will find they have been posted during anti-social hours by people who should have long since been in bed!

Brian Busby said...

I, too, thank you for the introduction to Derek... and even more for John Gale. Clean Young Englishman is a wonderful piece of writing. Highly recommended.

An aside (of sorts): I can't help but feel that I'll one day be buying a book of Derek's diaries and photographs. I expect I'm not alone in this.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Steerforth, keep up the good work! :0)
Hope you have a happy new year!
Canadian Chickadee

Jim Murdoch said...

I, too, have found it interesting how your blog has morphed since you quit your job and it truly has become one of my favourite sites. It’s one of the few that gets away with pathos. There’s a lot of rubbish online but you take rubbish – the discarded residua of people’s lives – and restore some of its dignity, charm and humanity. And the simple fact is one never knows what you’re going to unearth next. Have a Happy New Year.

Poetry24 said...

The thing about blogs is, you want to come away, feeling as though you're in profit. That's how I feel about 'The Age of Uncertainty'. Informative, entertaining and thought provoking. What more dare we ask for?

Steerforth said...

Thank you all for your kind words.

Yes, I felt that the blog really took off when I walked out on my job. Suddenly, I had plenty of time to explore different areas of interest and I was no longer inhibited by working for an employer that was completely paranoid about blogging staff.

When I started my new job, I thought that my blogging days might be over. How wrong I was.

I'm very lucky to have access to so much unique material. It also frees me from the burden of having to be interesting myself!

Brian - by the time I've completed the 27th Derek post, perhaps there will be enough material for a book.

I agree that a lot of YouTube comments are probably written under the influence of alcohol. It's just odd how even the most innocuous video can inspire a stream of abuse.

Anonymous said...

I suppose the internet allows people to share with the world whatever is inside their heads - and as you say, the results are fairly disheartening sometimes. Hooray though for all the interesting and well-written stuff that's out there. Your blog is such a pleasure to read, thank you. All the very best to you and your (extended) family for 2011!

Anonymous said...

I wanted to say how much I enjoy reading your blog. It was recommended to me only recently by a friend who particularly recommended the posts about Derek and his diaries, which I love reading, but every post is a joy to read and I am hooked. I am so glad that a time of uncertainty proved to be fruitful for you in unexpected ways.

I particularly enjoy the sense of sincerity, care and thought that emanates from everything I have read on your blog. Thank you for sharing.

Roger said...

"It's depressing to realise that a technology that brings millions of people together from all over the world, just ends up being used to vent ancient grievances between different nations and religions."

WhenMarshall McLuhan said that television had turned the worldinto a global village, someone pointed out that it was full of global village idiots.

Junie said...

I came to your blog via Warwick Deeping.

I think I'll just stop there.

A happy and healthy 2011 to you and yours.

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year Steerforth! Your blog is a must-read for me - your observations on life and bookish things are wonderful and more profound than I could ever manage. I'm glad you love blogging and bloggers and long may it continue.

Matroskin said...

I enjoy your blog but I have to say I have received abusive comments to my blog also. Many of them rather absurd. I'm married to a poor writer and work like hell to feed the children, yet someone wrote an awful comment about me being a spoilt housewife who has nothing to do except spend my rich husband's money – all this just because I displayed some Laura Ashley fabric (bought at a flea market...). It really made me wonder why people take the time to read blogs which irritate them, and post comments thinking they know everything about someone according to their blog.

Another person left a comment telling me my children will end up with behavioural problems because I let them play with Star Wars Lego.

Anyway, your blog is highly interesting!

Steerforth said...

I see a few new names - thanks for taking the time to leave a comment and, by doing so, often leaving a link to your blogs which I've enjoyed reading, including Pinyandnobrain's account of the quest for festive happiness and Matroskin's wonderful taste in clothes and interior design.

I've no idea why anyone should want to leave a critical comment on Matroskin's blog - perhaps her beautiful home made some jealous person assume that it cost lots of money.

As for the Star Wars Lego comment, that's a very odd thing to say.

I agree Roger - there are a lot of global village idiots out there, but blogging has shown that there are fewer than I thought. When I read comments by like-minded people in the US, Australia, Holland, Canada, Portugal or Finland, for example, I feel as if we're all part of a nation that has no name or flag, but has many citizens.

Christine and Junie - a very Happy New Year to you too. I hope it brings you health and happiness.

Gaskella - last year was obviously a very sad one for you and grieving sometimes takes longer than we think. I hope that 2011 will bring happier times.

Junie said...

The negativity and outright abuse at YouTube can be dispiriting. Here's a charming exception that I urge everyone to watch of a Filipino choir singing an American folk song in Germany:


The comments are largely very appreciative and the few negative people were jumped on by the rest of us. It also contains my very favorite YouTube comment by one "simonlee":

"I went to Shenandoah every week with my Hiking Group. Singing cardinal bird! Sound of Waterfalling! It is a beoutiful mountain. I hear you...."

Matroskin, I looked at your blog. It's beautifully laid out with an exquisite color scheme. I've no doubt that made some feel inadequate and consequently envious in a spiteful way.

Mere Pseud said...

Thanks for writing a blog that has rapidly become one of my favourites. Now if you can just find a daguerrotype of Emily Bronte (something I've always fantasized about) in one of your old books, you'll truly become my heroes!

ShaneC said...

Thank you for your blog, as it has become one of my go to places for intelligently written (and photographed) entertainment. I only found it a few months ago, when you were linked on the Metafliter link/news site.
Within a week, I'd read your entire backlog - and just to show that you have had an influence on me, for review on my filmblog, I am watching and writing about Atanarijuat, as per your positive words about it.

Steerforth said...

I hope you enjoy Atanarijuat, Shane. I'm about to watch the slightly less acclaimed Zeta One, which promises to be almost as bad as Plan 9 From Outer Space.

Paul - you never know. If a 1590 Bible can be rescued from a skip at the last minute, a daguerrotype of Emily Bronte isn't entirely implausible.

Junie - thanks for the link. I have to say, it bought a lump to the throat - a beautiful arrangement and performance.

Thomas Hogglestock said...

On smaller blogs like mine, the comments might sometime be banal, but they are never stupid. But, like you, I find the comments on more popular sites (like newspapers)to be so, so stupid. Bottom of the barrel intellect running amok.

Steerforth said...

Thomas, although size isn't important, your blog is bigger than mine. I aspire to having as many followers as yours.

Ms Baroque said...

I did? I got you hooked? It was your first post? I'm so happy! Well done me. Your blog is a very wonderful thing and I would not be without it.

I like to think I would say this in person, and so am not fazed by the idea of a comment-reading-outing-thingy.baroque