October 13, 2014

A New Idea

Try this out.  It might be fun.

The Further Observations of Fielding Mellish.


October 12, 2014

A Note on the Pleasures and Difficulties of Blogging

I was unacquainted with what "writer's block" meant until I got into the regular habit of blogging. One way I might describe it is this: if you're in any line of work where you have to talk or explain things at length on a regular basis (law, teaching, sales, maybe leading a revolution or running for office), you've probably encountered that problem where you get sick of your own voice. You just can't stand to hear yourself say another thing.  It becomes a physical revulsion. 

I think it's because most of us who operate on a reasonably elevated intellectual plane have a certain way of phrasing and packaging our inner thought patterns into words.  We call that "writing style." It's an elusive concept, but it's real.  Style arises from your experiences and your influences, and while it  can evolve over time (usually from complexity toward greater simplicity, as you come to terms with the truism that hiding a banal idea in grandiose prose doesn't really get you anywhere), you're pretty much stuck with the way you write, after a certain amount of practice at it.  Such as regular or semi-regular blogging. 

I've never been completely clear, even with myself, what this blog is supposed to be about. I began it eight years ago with the very naive assumption it could make some sort of difference.  It does not and it cannot.  I will say this for that realization: it's at least learning something.  Part of the phenomenon of uselessness is the sheer volume of writing available in the Internet age.  There was a time, not so long ago, when we left writing to the journalists.  They established reputations by moving up the ladder of major newspapers and winning the trust and respect of the general reading public.  Some of them were very fine writers, and some were complete hacks.  If you blog yourself about some of the same things as the current events writers write about, you become more attuned to and discerning about this dichotomy.  In general, I would say that the writers who made their reputations through the blogging channel (such as Glenn Greenwald, for example) write every bit as well as the bona fide journos such as Tom Friedman, although that's a poor example because Friedman is such a crummy writer. With his penchant for travel, he really would have been better off doing something like selling time-shares.

The Internet destroyed major newspapers of course, and with their destruction we also wrecked the idea of investigative journalism, which requires time and an operating budget. So instead of that, we've moved to a system of "access journalism," where the journos capitalize on their close relationships with power brokers in politics and the world of high finance  (our two power centers).  Thus, the so-called "adversarial press" needed to become buddies and co-celebrities with the very people they're supposed to be "covering."  This was the only operating space left, however.  The world of current events writing is absolutely inundated with amateur writers who, as noted, frequently write as entertainingly as the pros.  Sometimes the amateur writers are actually pros in another and useful field, such as Glenn Greenwald's background as a constitutional lawyer, which means his writing is informed, whereas Tom Friedman's background is in writing with no substantive, structured expertise whatsoever.  To compete in this maelstrom, the pros have to sell their access, and to keep their access the pros have to become the buddies of their sources.

In such a culture, propaganda thrives, which is why utterly insane courses of action, such as almost the entirety of U.S. foreign policy, or to allow planet Earth to become uninhabitable through climate change while we wage war to defend our access to oil, can be treated with a stupefying respect and gravity by the mainstream media.  If it strikes you as nuts that the United States would be firing up another war in Syria, for reasons no one can figure out, or doing everything it can to engender bad relations with Russia, it isn't that you're crazy.  You are simply holding things together in your mind calmly and seeing the picture whole.  You are not trusting the organs of information in the MSM because you have come to realize that they are, almost to a man and woman, completely corrupt and mendacious.

So that's really why I blog.  It's personal.  I do it as an act of mental hygiene.  I do find that by wrestling intellectually with current events I work through them in a way different from that employed by more casual observers.  Writing about something "captures" it in your mind and organizes your thought processes.  It lets you see where you've been and probably where you're going.  It's the "diary of ideas" that George Orwell recommended.