January 28, 2008

"Following links is like putting on 3-D glasses."

That's a line from Sarah Boxer's big review of a lot of books about blogs in the February 14 issue of The New York Review of Books.

Oh, we saw "U2 3D" — the IMAX 3D U2 concert film last night. I'm trying to write a post about it, but I got distracted by this book review. I'm more interested in books about blogs than a humongous in-your-face concert film, but I'll just say the technology had one of us seeing double — the technology is not perfect — and me longing for the lush beauty and composition of traditional film. Also I don't really see the point of getting that close to Bono's face. His eyes are all but invisible behind those wraparound glasses — the wraparound 3D glasses curved inward in back and gave me a headache right behind my left ear — and his face is not expressive. He's a great rock and roll frontman because of his whole-body expression, which projects to the whole arena. So get back, get back, and see the whole arena, which did look very deep and real in 3D. Technology... Did you know the kids at concerts these days wave cell phone and camera digital screens around instead of cigarette lighters?

But back to Boxer's review. She's got a book of her own about blogs — an anthology of blog "masterworks" — but she's skeptical about blog books:
Political blogs are among the trickiest to capture in a book because they tend to rely heavily on links and ephemeral information. But even blogs that have few or no links still show the imprint of the Web, its associative ethos, and its obsession with connection—the stink of the link. Blogs are porous to the world of texts and facts and opinions on line.
What's the point of writing or reading a book about blogs? Write a blog or read blogs. What are books doing here?

Boxer has a nice, compressed history of the development of blogging:
When the blog boom came, the tone of the blogosphere began to shift. A lot of the new blogs—though certainly not all of them—weren't so much filters for the Web as vents for opinion and self-revelation. Instead of figuring out ways to serve up good fresh finds, many of the new bloggers were fixated on getting found. So the very significance of linking began to change. The links that had once mattered were the ones you offered on your blog, the so-called outbound links pointing to other sites. Now the links that mattered most—and still do—are those on other blogs pointing toward your blog, the so-called inbound links. Those are the ones that blog-trackers like Technorati count. They are the measure of fame.

Now that fame and links are one and the same, there are bloggers out there who will do practically anything— start rumors, tell lies, pick fights, create fake personas, and post embarrassing videos—to get noticed and linked to. They are, in the parlance of the blogosphere, "link whores." And those who succeed are blog celebrities, or "blogebrities."
She also has this list of words she found on blogs:
anyhoo, bitchitude, fan-fucking-tabulous, hole-esque, nastified, alternapop, coffin-snatching, YouTube-ization, touzing, Daddio, manky, nutters, therapised, Boo-Ya Nation, dildopreneur, dudely, flava, haz-mat, nut sac, sexbot, underwearian, fugly, vomit-y, consciousness-jumped, tear-assed, fetbryo, grapetastically, mommyblogdaciousness, Nero-crazy, Engrish, pidginized, votenfreude, angsty, malgovernment, bejesus, JumboTron, man-dresses, babe-aliciousness, droit de senny.
The squarest old man I've ever known said "anyhoo" a lot. We laughed at him behind his back... in the 1970s.

Boxer has a feeling for what makes blogging bloggy:
Bloggers are golden when they're at the bottom of the heap, kicking up. Give them a salary, a book contract, or a press credential, though, and it just isn't the same. (And this includes, for the most part, the blogs set up by magazines, companies, and newspapers.) Why? When you write for pay, you worry about lawsuits, sentence structure, and word choice. You worry about your boss, your publisher, your mother, and your superego looking over your shoulder. And that's no way to blog.
Yes, blogging must be free. Don't give those bloggers a job. But do send them money! Help them be independent. Place ads and hit the PayPal button.

14 comments:

MadisonMan said...

babe-aliciousness

This was all over usenet in the 80s. Anywho, everything old is new again.

nina said...

I'm not sure I understand why you only worry about jobs, bosses, family, lawsuits, etc. when you're paid to blog. Do you really believe bloggers are free?

When you write an autobiography or an essay that appears in print, you may be equally offensive, but you have the credibility of a published text. You're forgiven. Not for everything, but for a lot. When you blog, you are on your own, at once vulnerable and completely responsible for any offense you may (intentionally or not) dish out.

The closest to "free" is a blogger who writes only about those in the public eye. An "impersonal" blogger. Protected, to a degree.

Simon said...

"[S]he also has this list of words she found on blogs ... [including] malgovernment...."

As we learned from the Madison girl in the spelling bee, the word being sought after by that author was "kakistocracy." To bastardize Orwell, it's often easier to make up words than to think up the existing words that will cover one's meaning, leading to The result, laziness that in general produces barbarous neologisms and inelegant and vague prose. Which, come to think of it, actually well-represents much of the blogosphere! ;)

Pogo said...

What's the point of writing or reading a book about blogs?

Anthropology for the unbloggified.

Here we see the "blogger" (definiton in Chapter 1) in her native habitat. We throw the "blogger" a tasty bit of political news wrapped in today's NY Times (interestingly called "dead tree news" by "bloggers").

And she bites! And wrestles the helpless news item to the ground. Will the "blogger" "fisk" it, or simply eat it raw for its "bloggy goodness"?

shade said...

The squarest old man I've ever known said "anyhoo" a lot. We laughed at him behind his back... in the 1970s.

It was also the catch word of the squarest movie character ever, Ned "The Head" Ryerson in Groundhog Day.

Ann Althouse said...

Nina asks "Do you really believe bloggers are free?"

I didn't say we are free. I said we should be free. We need to be free to be good. It takes some daring to claim that freedom, and we know there are plenty of lawprofs who won't blog and shouldn't blog because they sensibly figure out that they don't want to take those risks.

As they say, freedom isn't free.

Simon said...

^ It's just bad luck that in a comment criticizing other people's writing I end up making a typo. LOL. But I think comments - where editing is impossible - get a little more latitude.

former law student said...

As noted in this blog, Dr. Johnson said it all:

http://althouse.blogspot.com/2006/03/no-one-ever-writes-book-to-make-money.html

Back in the day, my favorite blog was called "Neutered Poodle of a Man," which was simply the sporadic diary of a usenet user. There were no links to anything; no blogroll, blogads, sitecounter, etc.

rhhardin said...

Reading quotes is like wearing a pince-nez.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Happy 12 million hits! What? No mention of squism? Dust-up? Kerfuffle? The Amsterdam diary? No mention of the egg salad sandwich challenge? The JVBCBC*? Bloggingheads viral video? Sopranos/Freud/Clintonian interpretation?

Live free through blogging. Do it for your art. Do it 'til you die.





*Joint Venture/Bill Clinton Blogging Controversy

Smilin' Jack said...

She also has this list of words she found on blogs: anyhoo, bitchitude...

Let's not forget "teh"

Blake said...

I started saying "groovy" in the '90s ironically. I found, though, that a lot these punk kids today just thought I was really old (i.e., old enough to be using that word seriously).

Anyhoo (and I'll fight MM to the death on the spelling!) I think the point isn't that the words were coined on blogs, just that they're an example of the informal atmosphere that pervades them. Though "coffin-snatching" strikes me as just plain good, descriptive writing.

Google some of these and you'll find Althouse at the top of the search page. She's going to become the world's premiere dildopreneur blogger....

Blake said...

Oh, and you're dead on about the close-up thing. I hate that. Some enterprising director thinks moving the cameras around and doing a lot of cuts is going to enhance the experience of something that has been deliberately staged to be seen from the front and from a distance.

Morons. Or more likely, bored people fishing for awards.

Example. The whole act is based on being able to see the guy's full body, and yet the cameraman can't help but do closeups and swoops and other things that ruin it. (Still pretty funny though.)

Simon said...

Blake said...
"Oh, and you're dead on about the close-up thing. I hate that. Some enterprising director thinks moving the cameras around and doing a lot of cuts is going to enhance the experience of something that has been deliberately staged to be seen from the front and from a distance."

I don’t mind moving the cameras in a nice stately sweep, and I don't even mind close-ups - it's the cuts that get my goat. This was one of the neat things about the U2 Boston DVD - it seemed (subjectively) to really avoid the sort of constant cuts and angle changes that ruin so many live DVDs. And then the U2 Chicago DVD (we were at that show!) was a perfect example of how not to edit - it felt very cut-heavy.