Sullivan’s Rhetoric

I would not be writing on Chicagoboyz if somewhere along the line I hadn’t heard about Andrew Sullivan, then started reading him on a regular basis. He sent me erratically to Instapundit. And Reynolds brought me to Chicagoboyz. This is the trajectory that found me in a place where I feel remarkably comfortable; for the first time in my life I’m forced to give some order to my musings. I am grateful – to the Chicagoboyz and, therefore, to Sullivan. I admired his work; I teach his essay on “coming of age” as a homosexual. It with clarity and wit emphasizes the biological, the innate nature of his preferences – preferences he didn’t understand at first. I pair it with Scott Russell Sanders’ “Looking at Women,” an essay about Sanders’ growing awareness of the “otherness” of women moving to a joyous tribute to the relation between opposites, a man and a woman. It is easy to treat both essays with respect – and my students do. Sullivan’s award-winning essay, “The ‘He’ Hormone” also emphasizes the influence of the biological.

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Comments to an Author About Blogging

I have this friend who is a published author. He started a blog but practically never puts anything on it. I get these great emails from him. So, I responded ” Might as well use that dang blog. These clever insights might as well see the light of day someplace. You should every day or two cannibalize your email into blog posts. I do that ALL the time. He wrote back about how he over-analyzes and fusses too much, then by the time he’s ready to post something it is no longer timely.

To paraphrase Truman Capote’s famous jibe against Jack Kerouac, blogging is not writing, it is typing. A writer who is blogging is not writing, he is blogging. A concert pianist who is sitting down at the concert grand piano in Carnegie Hall in front of a packed house is the equivalent to an author publishing a finished book. The same person sitting down at the piano in his neighborhood bar on a Saturday night and knocking out a few old standards, doing a little improvisation, and even doing some singing — that is blogging. Same instrument — words, piano — different medium. We forgive the mistakes and wrong-guesses because we value the immediacy and spontaneity. Plus, publish a book, it is fixed in stone. Write a blog post you later decide is completely wrong, it is actually good, since it gives you a good hook for a later post explaining your thoughts that led to the changed conclusion. The essence of a blog is to air things informally, to throw things out, to say “this interests me because …” From time to time a more considered and article-like post is good. But most people read blogs by skimming. If a post is too long, in my observation, it does not get much response and may not be read at all.

He wrote back ” Thing is, I wonder how many spontaneous jam sessions big artists would do if every one of them were recorded and posted as MP3s on the web?”

I responded:

Actually, we are getting to the point where that is exactly what is going to happen more and more. Artists are putting jam sessions, live recordings, demos, everything on the web. They know that their hardcore fans are products of the Web Age and need constant stimulation. So they keep giving us a recurring barrage of STUFF, in between the big projects. So the answer to your question is “all of the smart ones.”

If you are going to have a blog, it should be a blog as that is understood. There are at least three good models I can think of. Barnett’s blog is great. He just dumps that day’s thoughts on there. But it is engaging. Virginia Postrel is the opposite. She only puts stuff up that either supports her positions or pretty directly amounts to promotion of her money-making ventures. Rather cold-blooded, though sometimes interesting. The Long Tail guy is terrific, He is thinking out loud about his next book, tossing out ideas, as he goes.

The main thing though, is a blog has to be frequently updated with enough (short) posts that blog readers will read the posts.

That’s how it looks to me.

(Of course, saying “a blog” is a little bit like saying “a piece of paper”. There are people who use the technology to put up all kinds of erudite stuff, or use it to gather professional or technical information. I am speaking of the blog as an online journal of opinion and commentary, like this one.)

Why Video and Audio Blogging Probably Aren’t the Next Big Thing

Ann Althouse writes:

One thing about written blogs is you can glance over them quickly and decide how much you want to read. These podcast recordings impose their time frame on you. A slow talker forces you to listen longer. A slow writer doesn’t cause you to read slowly.

This is exactly right and I think helps to explain why video blogging isn’t the boon some people think it should be. The reader controls his entire experience; the listener controls some of it; and the watcher of videos, if he is paying attention, is more controlled by the experience than in control (a fact not lost on propagandists, which may explain why the likes of Leni Riefenstahl and Michael Moore tend to produce movies rather than essays). As a blog reader, I want to read what I want, quickly — not watch TV.

Video has a place on blogs, especially in reporting about tsunamis and other events that are dramatic and not abstract. But to watch some guy talk? Nah.

UPDATE: Ann adds, among other comments:

I agree here too. And this point applies in many areas, even ones as far afield as gauges on machines, and voicemail systems. Canned-voice feedback and voice-response systems are usually poor substitutes for the written word, and even for buttons and visual signals.

(See here for an old rant on a related topic.)

DC Meetup Report

Left to right: Notorious BRD, ChicagoGrrl.

OK, turnout was a bit disappointing, but I got to meet fellow blogger Bravo Romeo Delta, who is a nice guy, and had a good chat with the witty and ravishing ChicagoGrrl (before she flew off to her next engagement). Unfortunately neither individual waited as I prepared my cumbersome glass plates, so the photo is somewhat lacking.

May I Bring to Your Attention….

I came across a blog that I think would be of interest to everyone here. It’s Rantingprofs. It’s authored by Cori Dauber, who’s an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of North Carolina.

So what’s the subject of her blog? Cori posts about the media coverage of the War on Terror.

From what I can see, she’s none too happy about the news media’s performance.