Why I Blog – 2016

Blogging feels old these days, to me at least. 

It feels like writing a letter and folding it up in an envelope and licking the envelope flap shut (it tastes horrible) and then running to the post box to find that you forgot the stamp and then running to the post office and buying a stamp and posting the letter…

And then, a few days letter, it comes back stamped ‘Return to Sender’.

Technology and general interest seems to have moved on from blogging. These days, people tend to give and receive their opinions and stories and fun directly on their favourite social media platform. They don’t need to be clicking some link to take them off to some alien-looking cul-de-sac-of-a-site to hear the verbalised bellybutton fluff of yet another self-obsessed idiot with too much time on his hands.

I know this because it’s how I roll myself. Although I persist in writing this blog, I don’t tend to seek out other blog posts. If I ever do (with a couple of notable exceptions) I find people trying to get away with the minimum effort in some vain expectation of the maximum gain. Rehashed content and hundred-word-posts that promise the earth and always provide considerably less than that. Maybe that's part of the reasons why blogs die. Visitors have probably been burned too often. Too many well-meant clicks have resulted in being seriously underwhelmed and constantly disappointed. There is also a tendency in modern social media to meticulously tailor the content it chooses to share and this seems to mitigate against the accessibility of the old-fashioned blog. 

But it’s not just that. Who is a good enough writer to command a returning audience, week on week on week, for years on end? Not many, that’s for sure and I’d be the first to admit that I’m no Clive James. It always seems to have been the nature of the beast that people would form a habit of reading and then ‘un-form’ a habit of reading. It’s natural, nobody could argue against it. Also, with the act of writing a blog for years, some repetition is bound to creep in. I’ve probably written this same post ten times over the years and forgotten all about it. 

It’s understandable that the blog would fade and flicker and naturally go out. That’s what blogs do. It’s the nature of the beast. So why bother? Why continue in being a part of what has become such a dull grey kaleidoscope? 

Every few years, I’ve asked myself this question and the answers have always been quite different. Once upon a time, the blog would reach quite a respectable audience, a casual readership who would often react and respond to stuff. There often seemed to be a sort of reciprocal learning involved and a feeling that there was at least a small appetite for the work being done.

As that feeling inevitably faded, there was a replacement feeling that the weekly stories and thoughts were more of a scrapbook, to be looked over in years to come, to provide a quite colourful snapshot of how one’s mind worked back in those days. 

When I ask myself today, why am I sitting here writing this, the answer is once again changed. The situation has certainly changed. With each blog post being significantly less well read than the last, the whole endeavour is now nothing more than a tiny candle stub guttering in a saucer on a draughty shelf. 

So, again, why do it? Why not stop today? To continue may actually be a bad thing. To constantly rehash tropes and patterns and, in doing so, use up energy that could be valuably expended elsewhere.

Here’s what I see when I ask myself the question about why I keep going.

I see a gym.

I am not a muscular man. In truth, I have only one significant muscle. It might not matter to anyone else but it matters to me. It’s this muscle that makes me strong. It is, of course, my writing muscle. Those lucky people with lots of big muscles need to work them to keep them in shape. They put in hard hours and they don’t need people to turn up and smile and applaud them while they are doing it. If they didn’t do it, the muscle wouldn’t be ready when they needed it to haul something or to lift something heavy. 

And that's the reason. This is my gym. The place I continue to come, to work out my only useful muscle.

Except it’s not. Not really. It’s really more just one key piece of apparatus in that gym. I write a lot and the blog is only one part of it. It's that scary-looking treadmill thing in the corner. The slightly dusty thing that can still give you a good work out if you push it hard enough. 

There may be newer bits of equipment. Hell there may even by a sort of vegetable juicer than would provide the same effect with less effort. I don’t really care. I know I need to work my muscle and this shitty old blog regime does it as well, and sometimes better, than other more popular devices can. 

Some weeks I'll have a thought that’s going to be hard to get down. Some weeks I won’t have a fucking clue what to write. But, pretty much every week, I get my thousand words down and they have a start, a middle and an end and I work to make those words as real and as thoughtful and as coherent as I can.

And if you ever come and ask me to write something, you'll find me trim, I’ll be ready. That one little muscle is wiry and good and I just need to keep working it to keep it that way. That one little muscle kind of defines who I am, to myself if not to anybody else. So I’ve got to keep pumping.

And, hey, I don’t need you to come by every week and watch. That might actually be a bit weird and embarrassing for us both. If you’re passing, maybe give me a wave. I’ll wave back and be really pleased to see you.

But then you’ll have to please excuse me 'cos I’ve got some work to so.

And the work can’t wait. 


b=wc2

Yesterday I rescued a bee from the toilet.

It was floating in there, geometrically centred in the water. It sat, mostly proud of the surface, the opposite of an iceberg, its wings twitching slightly.

There was no way it was staying there. I had to get it out and, if possible, back on its way. We needed it out there, doing good. Besides, it had got this far in its life, it deserved to get a little further.

But how to get it out?

I found a cardboard toilet roll tube in the paper recycling pile. (Hark at me, saving the planet) That might do. It was easy, of course. I dipped the toilet roll tube into the toilet water and scooped the bee into it. Then I lifted him out.

He wasn’t going anywhere until he was dry. I opened the window and put the toilet roll tube sitting on the frame, facing out into the breeze. I looked inside. The bee was in there, trying its wings, feeling the rush of air. I watched for a while but I had other stuff to get done so I left it to it.

When I came back, the bee was gone. I reckoned I’d done a good thing and felt quite good about it. A small life was out there continuing because I took a momentary interest. I told the story to Twitter and even brought it up as a weak anecdote when having dinner with nice people last night. They might have thought I was a no-mates loon except they were nice people so I know they didn’t.

These kind of ‘little deeds’ that I do from time to time bring me a touch of pleasure. They also hang around in my head for a surprisingly long time. This morning, for instance, the bee was still there in my brain, buzzing around. The thought that was recurring went something like this: What if I was just like the bee? 

How does the bee see its world? A world of scent and colour and wind patterns. A world of finding and navigating and returning. A polarised world of work and eventual expiration. Perhaps it has some perception of threat in the form of birds or panes of glass or even us. 

It may know something of these things. But there are things that it cannot even begin to comprehend. Things that are commonplace to us. It cannot know Christmas or telephones or the series-link feature on the Sky box. It cannot know fashion or trying to stand on one’s hands or fishing in the sea in the evening sun. It simply cannot know. And if there are all these things that the bee cannot know, what of the things that we ourselves cannot know?

Hang on, some of you may say, he’s going to do the ‘God’ bit on us now. Others will think I’m going all ‘X-Files’ and will want you to consider little green men and space slugs from Saturn. Not those things. Not at all. I’m just noodling. Noodle, noodle. 

All I’m really thinking, with no agenda at all, is this. If the bee is there in its world and there are things all around it of which it cannot conceive then what may exist beside us or about us or inside us of which we have no grasp at all. That’s why I’m pointedly not thinking about God or Spacemen, because we are capable of dreaming up those things. I’m trying to think about the things we cannot possible imagine and the paradox of that.

I intervened in the bee’s world. I was a thing beyond comprehension, bearing the power to retain life or to take it away. Is it not interesting to toy with the idea, if only for a moment, that it might also be this way for us? Is it not only petty ego that keeps us from considering that we are only top of the heap in our own tiny sphere of consciousness?

Might it not possibly be just as Hamlet said to Horatio. That there are indeed ‘more things in heaven and earth… than are dreamt of in your philosophy”? That some power, completely beyond our comprehension, might one day intervene, pluck us out of whatever mire we find ourselves in, and place us gently in the breeze to dry.

Or else thoughtlessly flush us down.

Purposefully Praising Prometheus

Yesterday afternoon, the sun was shining. In fact, it was a very beautiful day. I celebrated this in my own time-honoured fashion. Finding I had a rare two hours all to myself, I drew the blinds and put on a movie.

'Prometheus' was one of those films that I had looked forward to with much anticipation, from long before its cinema release. Then, after it came out, the negative reaction (shall we call it a backlash?) dissuaded me from ever forking out theatre-sized money on it. 

“I’ll catch it on the telly in a few years,” I said.

So yesterday was the day. I punched the couch into an accommodating shape, assembled some cushions, and had a good old ‘watch’. 

This isn’t a movie review post. There’s been a few of those but this isn’t one of them. There’ll be a little bit of a review but that’s all. This is more a ‘head above the parapet post’ with possibly a scrap of a ‘being facetious to make a point’ post thrown in as well.



I liked it. 

That was it. That was the review bit.

Don’t get me wrong, I can see flaws. I’m not an ape. I just thought it was engaging and rather beautiful with a bit more body-horror than I had expected and a seemingly endless flow of ‘Alien’ tropes, nods, and variations on a theme.

Expectation plays quite a part, doesn’t it? I had been ably primed to detest it and I reckon that gave me a bit of room to find some enjoyment. Also I was watching it from a time and a position where I might otherwise have been part-digesting a thirty year old episode of 'Columbo', so all that heightened cinematic first-run angst was long gone.

Also, I seem to be currently going through a phase of ‘liking stuff’. I think that may be because I am restricting myself to consuming things that I have a fair chance of liking, yesterday having been something of an exception.

Whatever the reason, I had a good time with ‘Prometheus’ and came away fairly happy. 

What to do then? 

Is it best to keep this desperate experience of potentially unpopular enjoyment to oneself, hiding it away under a social-media-free bushel? Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, etc? 

There are many people around who hated the damn flick. People who I respect and, occasionally, admire. People who know their stuff. People who know their stuff a damn sight better than I do. Do I want to be belligerent and force my differing opinion? Do I want to poke my head above the parapet? Do I want to lay low and, whenever a negative opinion of this film pops up again, just fall silent and wait until it passes?

There are the two options. Option A and Option B. As has so often been the case in my life, when faced with Option A and Option B, I choose Option C. 

Option C, in this case, is to not just mutter that I liked it but to slightly make a Federal Case about that or, at the very least, a blog post.

I’ve mentioned it before. There is a tendency to seek out and play with those people who feel the same way as we do about stuff. This tendency is, in my view, exaggerated a hundred-fold on Social Media. If someone comes on and hates something, folk will gather in the comments section, folk who hated the thing too. Occasionally, a dissenting voice will appear and, often, will be entertained and even encouraged. But, make no mistake, if you disagree it’s swimming against the tide. It’s so very much easier to say nothing. If you speak up you may only succeed in appearing churlish and uncooperative. “If he feels so differently about it, why the hell didn’t he just stay away from us?”

It’s a tricky thing, the opposing view. There’s a lot of elements to how it is received. I know places where it is positively welcomed. Huge disagreements break out and flourish like a wild fire and then, when all has been said, the protagonists reaffirm their undying love for each other and move on together. I love those place but, damn it, they are few and far between. 

You don’t have to look far on this Interweb to find good people virtually slaying each other over their differences in opinion on something. The average is three comment exchanges before it all descends into name-calling, personal insult and threats of grievous bodily harm.

It’s partly understandable, I suppose. 

We can’t help but view ourselves as intelligent people, worldly people, people of taste and distinction. Perhaps, then, it is natural that our subconscious would try to tell us that anybody who takes an opposing view to our own is less intelligent than we are and worthy only of our derision.

Here’s what I think.

I think, when someone peacefully expresses an alternate view to our own, we shouldn’t only consider and respect it, we should jump up and bloody dance around for joy that they did so. Firstly, they’ve shown an element of trust and respect in raising the dissenting voice and, secondly, they reaffirmed the most crucial fact of our existence.

That we are not sheep.

What kind of world would it be, if we all spoke the same language, if all our experiences were exactly the same, if we all believed in the same god... if we all hated Prometheus?

You feel differently to me? Thank heavens! Come and have some cake and tell me more about why that is. Let’s have a party and talk it through. Let’s learn a little from our differing views.

To finish:

Just this very morning, as I was twirling through some Facebook updates, I saw super writer and online pal Jason Arnopp waxing favourable about something he likes. It matters not what it was but, if you’re curious, it was the big wheel in Brighton which is being dismantled today.

A person of a different view popped up in the comments section and (rather good-naturedly, one feels) pounded a bit on our Jason.

“What the hell are you talking about man?” he asked.

And, as if reading my mind,  Jason replied.

“You know how some people love things you don't, sir? You know how that's possible? Well... that.”