Wednesday, February 15, 2006

How Not to Blog

or, How to be a skeptic about being dubious

I've been direly remiss in my duty to the blogosphere lately, but fear not, dear readers. Fortunately it dawned on me this afternoon (and not for the first time) that you can blog about anything, including why you aren't blogging. In fact, I am beginning to suspect that the blogosphere is at that strange culturally self-reflexive moment that has been passed already in many other fields (for example, in literature) where there are more blog posts about The Blog and the process of posting to The Blog than there are blog posts about things other than The Blog. I might argue that this is because blogs and blogging are interesting per se, and also because weird self-referentiality (especially heavily flavoured with irony) is part of the intellectuo-cultural environment in which most bloggers live, and so that sort of meta-level discussion is going to be generated no matter what you're discussing, and in the blogging world, that just happens to be blogs.

But if I strip off my Generation X t-shirt for a second, reality bites. And you know, I mean real reality, not the kind that got all fucked up after I became a philosopher. In the first place, there seem to be lots of blogs that are actually about stuff. And important stuff. There also seem to be blogs that foster community, as well as being about stuff. (And sometimes without being about stuff at all). Some blogs I think of as like found objects: they are not "about stuff" in the pedagogical or political sense, but are bower birds which collect up glimmery, fascinating fragments of text and fact and image, and you find them there, in a little nest, like magic. I love these blogs. Mine doesn't seem to be any of these.

I'm sure we could think up reasons to doubt it, but I like to think that blogs are the way they are because they reflect something about what the blogger thinks is important. Certainly, that's what I want to believe about this blog -- my blog. If I try to work out how what's important to me affect what goes on the blog, I tend to think it goes something like this: no matter what else is the case, it's good to think about why you think the way you do. It's good to muse about what's happened. It's good to be dubious about things that seem obvious to you, and it's good to reflect on the moments where what you believe gets rocked a little, or made particularly stark. And, you know, some haiku. Because sometimes it's important just to try to make something beautiful, even if you are a hack.

The evidence of the past couple of weeks is apparently that I still think the thing about the haiku. But the other part? The prognosis is not good. I'm wondering (and not for the first time, but I've hated it every time) why exactly I should think that it's good, or interesting, or otherwise valuable, to think about why I think the way I do, why I live the life I do, why I blog or why not.

The obvious thing to say is, who cares? But that's too cheap. It's cheap because it's too damn obvious: no-one. Duh! The pithy, non-obvious part is that it ought to be enough if I care. But the normative structure of the thing seems to have dropped off the face of the earth. I never believed that reflection was good for some reason other than it was Good. It's just a brute fact about the moral structure of my world. But apparently, the brutes became civilised and started wondering what the hell their justifications were.

God, put me back in the Stone Age with my brute facts. Because now? I have to come to terms with the fact that The Good must lie elsewhere -- perhaps, heaven help us, in what I actually do when I'm not thinking about what I do. In what actually happens during the day before I have a chance to pick up those memories and turn them to the light, flipping and rotating them to see what shadows I can make play on the wall of my self-reflections. I've absolutely not the first idea how to live my life this way. It scares the stuffing out of me. And it's really bad for the blogging.

On the other hand, it may just be that I'm trying to finish a PhD thesis. Amazingly, I'd prefer to believe this baroque existential palaver instead.


dsvkubnkusdbfib said...

Are you o.K . Please see your physician soon i think he may need to tweak your meds quite a bit.

Xtin said...

That's what I always say. But do they listen?

Heidi the Hick said...

Doctors notoriously do not listen, that's why they invented therapy!

Xtin, I can't comment on your haiku because it slaps me speechless- in a good way. I need to be shutted up every now and then.

And I selfishly hope you keep blogging!

Xtin said...

Shucks. Thanks Heidi. You should write some yourself! I love a hack haiku.

Phyl said...

I just checked your blog after you referred to it You-Know-Where, Xtin. [she smiled knowingly]

It now occurs to me that I enjoy the way you write so much that I think I could read it all day.

Scrivener said...

Is your blog not about stuff? I never noticed, frankly, because I've just been having such fun reading it.

Scrivener said...

And how come Tom Bozzo's blog and Brian Leiter's blog are considered "about stuff"? What about me? Why didn't you link to me? Don't I write about stuff? Huh? Don't I?

Tom Bozzo said...

Well, Scrivener, I usually think of myself as going on jags of aboutness, and sometimes I've felt you're way more about stuff than me. But since Leiter Reports went more general interest group-bloggy, I think it's sort of converged with us.

From another angle, I usually self-classify as what some of my local blog pals had termed a "Wisconsin ideas" blog (for the mystified, the reference is to the collection of brains-in-vats at UW-Madison, and secondarily to the mostly tattered local progressive political tradition), the essence of which is less the specific content so much as the presence of the application of the cracked lens of one's academic training to the content. I could see that as applying to Xtinpore, if a classification is deemed to be required.

Apart from that, I'm with Scrivener and Phyl that what you write is enjoyable to read, and to the extent blogging may be crowded out a bit by the need to finish the thesis (I'm glad I did mine in the pre-blog era), at least RSS transforms less frequent postings into to little presents delivered to one's reader.

Xtin said...

Hi Phyl ... how lovely of you to drop by! Have a latte.

Scrivener, my hero, not for a second did I care to imply that your eminently linkable blog is not About Stuff. Oh, how it is. I think I chose Bozzo and Leiter because their blogs make me feel more insecure than yours does. They're so ... About-y. They have no problem with their educated punditry, nor whether it is intimidating. This makes me want to die of envy. Your blog, on the other hand, I find strangely welcoming and inclusive -- it makes me feel smarter, not more stupid. (I'm addicted to both of these feelings, which I think is a precondition on being an academic).

That being said, Tom, I may now die of the edification of having you opine that my blog may belong to the same genus as yours.

I'm glad you enjoy it. And three cheers for Saint RSS and the gifts he brings in his festive red sack.

Tom Bozzo said...

I'm flattered to see my punditry described as 'educated,' though it creates a bit of a blog-existential crisis on my end if it makes you feel 'more stupid.' (Sorry, Xtin, for doing my meta-blogging here in your comments.)

Somewhat ironically (?), I aim for relative rigor in econopundit postings in part due to anxiety over how academics regard consultants (as hired-gun hacks; often justified, though moonlighting academics aren't immune from the criticism), my lack of tenure (despite good job security), and the prospect of words coming back to haunt me in expert witnessing work.

Scrivener said...

Oh, Tom, it just makes Xtin for "more stupid" than my blog because you're so much smarter than me. ;-)

"ewokbycd": A small, fury teddy bear next to Bob Dylan's Love and Theft.