Clips, I.M.H.O.

Why I Blog?

Red Fez, November 13, 2016.

I

The only time there’s been a long break in my blogging is between a day in November 2009 and a day in March 2010. By the standard of speed of communication in the Digital Age, that interval in writing is the analog equivalent of 50 long years.

When I resumed blogging after that gap, I felt like a weary, but happy, soldier, back from a war. But I didn’t offer any explanation as to why I’d suddenly stopped posting. None was needed. After all, perhaps no one was reading the blog. Acknowledging my leave of absence, as I’m now, in itself, is enough.

When I reappeared in my online grotto, oddly, I’d also returned to the comfort of my offline home. In the past, when I’ve been away from my blog, I’ve also been away from home. The blog is that plane then, where the digital and the physical meet.

It’d come to be an outlet of my intellectual expression after my move to the Big Apple, for it was only after I took up residency in Brooklyn that I began to bang out my thoughts there with fair regularity. The only occasions when I didn’t were when I’ve been harried to the point of panting, slipping, and scraping my knees to meet deadlines at work. For some puzzling reason, I attained that frenetic pace only when my job took me far from base.

In any event, I picked up where I’d left off.

II

Many moons ago, when I began blogging on Blogger—now owned by Google—the notion of blogging was at its infancy. Back then, I was in graduate school, toiling away. Back then, I had coffee with milk and sugar. Now, I take it black. Much has changed since.

As a photo album is a collection of memories, so my blog was intended to be a a depository of my reflections on anything: interplanetary travel; how I was smitten by a beverage bottle; an outing to the U.S.S. Intrepid museum; a book by Honoré de Balzac; an ode to SpongeBob. Yes, an eclectic mix. That could be because I’m a jack of all trades. Or, it could be that I have an assortment of interests. Which, of course, I do. Better that, than to have none at all.

Some six years ago, Anthony De Rosa, now of “The Daily Show” (with Trevor Noah), shared on his Tumblr stream that “we live in a world of digital feudalism.” “The land many live on is owned by someone else, be it Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr.” Sure, I didn’t own a piece of real estate on the web. But even as a digital fief, I could still till the land as I chose—as long as I didn’t pump out offensive or vulgar content.

III

The 15th century Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus asked his pupils to mark the occurrences of striking words, brilliant metaphors, adages, pithy wisdom, and archaic or novel diction. He also suggested that every student and teacher keep a notebook, organized by topic, so that as and when he came upon anything noteworthy, he may jot it down in the appropriate section.

Erasmus’ recommendation that every reader keep a notebook of memorable quotations was wildly followed. Such notebooks, which came to be called “commonplace books,” became fixtures of Renaissance schooling. Every student kept one. By the 17th century, they’d been adopted beyond the schoolhouse. They were regarded as vital tool for the cultivation of an educated mind. But their popularity ebbed as the pace of life quickened in the 19th century. By the middle of the 20th century, they fell out of favor.

Well, my blog is a 21st century edition of my “commonplace book.” Unfortunately, after I’d launched it, I hadn’t made much progress on it, when I was forced to neglect it all because of pressing demands on my time. Reason: I was busy earning bylines as a journalist.

IV

I’d dreamed of becoming an airline pilot, but by a quirk of fate—and under the tutelage of a pair of doting, but disciplinarian parents—I ended up being inside a newsroom, not the cockpit of a jumbo jet. I was a newspaper person, with little interest in newspapers, even though I cut my professional teeth in the most prestigious daily of the nation where I started out working. I did my job fairly well, even though I tempted the firing squad more than once.

So, I’ve tasted the magic and the dread of journalism. My career didn’t take me places. I took it, from the smog-drenched streets of a crowded and chaotic Asian capital to a tropical island (home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world) to the barren prairies of the American Midwest to Arcadian New England hamlets.

This journey—both through places and broadsheets—was an opportunity to cover a potpourri of events in municipal governments, cop houses, courts, schools, Main Street, and everything in between. At this writing, I’ve worked as a reporter and an editor; in print and pixel publications; in metropolitan dailies and community rags.

IV

As the pastures in the flagging media industry grew more fallow, I turned my blog into my own private newspaper, taking on the roles of correspondent, editor, and publisher. I made sure that I didn’t let it molder away. If anyone stumbled into it and read something that made them wrinkle their nose or hot under the collar, they could get in touch with me.

As far as interactivity went, though, Blogger seemed as lukewarm as the last sips of the deli coffee. Feedback was rare. “Blogging can be a very lonely occupation,” observed Sue Rosenstock, a spokeswoman for LiveJournal—now owned by SUP, a Russian online media company—in an interview with the New York Times. “You write out into the abyss.” That was one of the reasons blogs “[lost] their allure for many people.” People drifted to Facebook and Twitter, where they could connect with others.

But I made the decision to migrate to another blogging platform: WordPress. It was like arriving in a new country, with its new customs and codes (pun, please.) Slowly, I acclimated to the new environment. On another front, however, I dithered.

Should I make that space simply, a showcase of my work? If I did, it’d be a terrible waste of free storage space (of data.) So, I converted it into a dynamic venue, updating it every couple of days. But was I hankering for readership? If anyone happens to stop by, I smile. If not, I “keep calm, and carry on.”

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