3 Jul 2007, Comments Off on Cute Overload in lieu of actual post

Cute Overload in lieu of actual post

Author: Helen

I’m off on school holidays looking after Boychild. Posts may be sporadic, anything can happen – try to contain your excitement. The dormice certainly are. I may be posting over here – Tigtog has kindly asked me and other Guest Hoydens to do some guest blogging at Hoyden about Town, so that may happen. Or not. Depends. On what? I’m not sure. Stuff.

Comments (0)

  • ThirdCat says:

    Have a good break, you and boy child

  • Mark says:

    Happy holidays! Hope you’re not going to Gippsland, though …

  • Helen says:

    thirdcat – Thanks – I’m very uninspired at the moment, re. planning exciting things to do. A micro-mini bushwalk to the Ada tree (central highlands) in the offing, followed by fire in a picnic layby somewhere with marshmallows. And the Collingwood Childrens farm, because soon the boys will be too old to enjoy it.
    Er, NO! Usually we would- Bemm River for preference. Highly recommended when your kids are lytel.

  • Richie says:

    It’s like Pokemon have come to life.

    Have a good break.

  • Jack Robertson says:

    Hiya Helen, hope the hols are going well.

    Just wanted to drop into this (I hope) non-specific thread and thank you once again for your very kind words recently over at LP. I think my response there to your passing query – re me blogging again – was a bit offhandish, and maybe even downright snobby. Sorry. Was a bit rushed (I don’t get much time online since I became a fulltime Mr Mom.) Anyway, I wanted to correct any impression that I might have given you that the sphere was somehow ‘beneath’ me, iykwim. You’ve always been one of the loveliest bloggers around the joint, and you were also one of the few (I can remember, anyway) who actually deigned to say a few words in Margo K’s defence when she – we – were finally crashing and burning (at least as WD was at Fairfax). Most of the ‘sphere resolutely looked elsewhere. It was a rotten time and a rotten end to five years of hard collective work by a lot of good people; probably the most miserable part of it all for ‘functionaries’ like me was when the Margo-bashers who drove her into a mild breakdown started blaming us for her demise. Anyway, point being that it all left a vaguely sour taste in my mouth about the blogosphere. I personally am certainly not to everyone’s taste writing-wise, which is fine and dandy, and like everyone else online, Webdiary (and I) ran our share of hyperbolic rubbish. But we – she – didn’t remotely deserve the sustained bucketing we got from the grubbier corners of cyberspace. The most demoralising aspect of someone like Blair’s virtuosic bile – his groupies are right, he is often funny, the prick (unless you’re the standing butt of the joke) – was the way it jaundiced the bulk of the blogosphere and his MSM colleagues towards the site and those of us most closely associated with it. A lot of the more decent bloggers who are only now understanding what it is to be the target of that sort of mindless rubbish subconsciously absorbed the Margo-bashing bile and, in the same way that basically decent but frozen onlookers to a beating try to rationalise their lack of action by blaming the victims for it, added their own WD criticisms to the mix. And when MSM pro writers of the stature of Clive James and John Birmingham start laughing with the bully pack who’s been laughing at you for half a decade, it’s hard not to take it to heart if you are a wannabe writer yourself. Anyone with a shred of pride finds it hard not to respond in kind, sooner or later, and before you know it you’ve got a reputation for being a prolix ranter yourself. weathergirl wrote some great honest stuff not long ago over at Sarasparilla, on the potentially damaging nature of the internet to a certain kind of writer. All in all, for me I s’pose WD had a less than great impact on my appetite for public debate and conversation, especially with anonymous oscillating gaggles of 1’s and 0’s who lack even the courtesy to slag you off without a cyber-mask. I wanted to walk away from that sort of thing before it started to hurt my love of writing and my confidence fatally too. Not sure if I was quick enough in the latter case. I can scarcely post anything now without feeling sick in the stomach, wondering who’s going to laugh or sneer at my lack of writing ability. I think there’s probably a lot of ex-bloggers who feel the same way.

    Still, for me the main disappointment re: the blogosphere stemming from the WD experience was that Margo was one of the very few pro journalists around who responded to the rise of the internet with exactly what all the whinier bloggers claimed to want from the MSM: accessibility, responsiveness, interactivity, journalistic humility, an opening up of herself to harsh criticism, using her hard-earned byline to give us amateurs a go…imho it’s a great pity she wasn’t extended a little bit more moral and practical solidarity by the online community she played a great early part in nurturing, when a few more kind words in her defence really could have done her a lot of good personally if not professionally or financially. It’s also a shame she isn’t extended more credit now. Frankly, H, Webdiary might not have ever existed as far as the blogosphere is concerned, even though the ‘great debates of our times’ everyone is having now, from Iraq & oil to climate change to media ethics to aboriginal brutality, are all still sitting there in the Webdiary archives, some of of them almost seven years old.

    So that’s one reason why I find it hard to get too excited about the ‘sphere these days, Helen.

    But the main reason I’m reluctant to start a blog again is that I think I’d generally feel like a fish out of water anyway. Technically things have moved on, which is no real prob to overcome, but more relevantly, I really don’t find much of enough writerly innovative interest to justify the time and energy it takes to maintain a decent site. I’m not being a superior wanker here (you can’t be when you’re as big a failure a writer as me), but for all the terrific individual sites and blog-pens about, what has turned out to be the most successful ‘blog-style’ of online conversation seems, to me anyway, to be a monumental waste of opportunity. I can’t for the life of me understand why, when for the first time in history individual writers are no longer constrained by space-and-reach-and hard copy convention pragmatics, the tendency is towards even more reductionism and superficiality in content than is generally found in the MSM. What is seen as good writing online tends – again, my view only – to be one of two things: either the mere stylistic aping of the MSM ‘Op Ed’ template, or a kind of rapid-fire but (by now) mostly unoriginal and repetitive wise-cracking, drenched in faux-irony, Google and Wikipedia one-upsmanship, with most of the ‘better’ bloggers keeping one sharp eye permanently on managing one’s own precious bloggy image. I’m not just bashing the Net here, Helen; I think these are the kinds of ‘careerist’ writerly tics that always tend to accompany major new technical advances in publishing. Writers get a bit over-dazzled by the new writerly clothes, and end up almost fetishizing them as ‘good writing’ in themselves, at the expense of actually doing something or going somewhere new and interesting with/in those clothes, which is what good non-fiction writing truly demands of the words making it up. Do you remember those early ‘TV Plays’ the BBC made, where you got a troupe of stage luvvies in to do the Bard in a Beeb studio, with one fixed central camera and all the same old directions and overblown stage acting…and they called it a revolution in drama? It took at least a generation before dramatists figured out how to write to the strengths (and forge the new limits) of the new dramatic tool of telly. Well, that’s the way I see online non-fiction writing as it stands in the mighty Ozblogospheristan. It’s essentially following all the same old MSM stylistic rules…some individual writers are certainly much better than the MSM guys at their own game, but most aren’t remotely so, and all are essentially wasting time and opportunity playing to the old rules, anyway.

    And since the decline in the power of non-fiction to have a real world impact (and all the civic fallout that follows such an ebbing of public language) has been driven mostly by its ‘professionalisation’, for the online writer to buy into that process so soon is just daft. It turns out that most serious bloggers don’t want to change or challenge the MSM; they just want to take it over. For me, the endlessly introspective, self-affirming, back-slapping congratulatory clique-ness of the Oz MSM is in great danger of being replicated by the Oz blog fraternity. And, in here, that smug self-adoration is also often accompanied by a most distasteful chip on the blog-shoulder about the status and legitimacy of what is, really, the least important aspect of any writing, anywhere, anytime – the (mere) forum in which it appears. To me, anyway, over-sensitivity about fripperies like that is a pretty strong sign of a certain kind of writer, one who mistakenly thinks that (non-fiction) writing can and even should be appraised hermetically (essentialy by other non-fiction writers), without much (or in fact any) reference to the concrete world (of ‘non-writers’) it purports to be discussing. One thing you could never criticise Margo K and Webdiary generally of was failing to try to ram its language out there into the real world, not simply write it and sit back marvelling at how wonderful it looked shimmering pristinely in the vacuum of cyberspace. Margo never really gave a shit about the ‘writerly’ quality of her journalism; none of us ever had the time or resources to edit stuff to the nth degree, either. It was more important to get it out there, dynamically and aggressively, so that the real work of non-fiction words – not being ‘brilliant writing’, which is fiction’s remit, but simply making things happen in, and/or explaining, the concrete world – could get underway. It amazes me that so few ‘political/public issue’ bloggers take advantage of all the great stuff you can do with online information management, like emailing Op Ed pieces directly (and blog-publicly) to your targets, the better to force a reaction. Some of the best Webdiary output was not terribly well-written, but fantastically interactive like that. That, I think, is why so many people hated Margo’s guts. It was never enough for Margo to write a ‘brilliant’ Op Ed and sit back and wait to be called a ‘good writer’ (by another writer). She always made sure what she wrote got shoved in the face of the relevant people, either metaphirically or, increasingly as she threw caution/career to the wind, by way of some (increasingly) out-of-control personal confrontation.

    Most non-RWDB bloggers – and journos – are just too damned precious and ‘sophisticated’ to actually get out there and get their hands and bylines ‘dirty’ with a bit of old-fashioned spade work of the kind that saw Margo and Bob Carr go head-to-head, or Tony Abbott get cranky, or any one of a number of great stouches (not online, but in the concrete world). The greatest asset of any non-ficiton writer, including bloggers and especially journos, is an absence of protectiveness of your own reputation. You’ve got to have a bloody go, risk looking foolish. What’s striking about the internet is the growing absence of that. Everyone who doesn’t want to be the next Tim Blair wants to be the next Tim Dunlop, apparently. Far from effecting massive paradigm shifts in public engagement, in fact, I think this caution is making the opposite happen. Smart and energetic non-fiction writers who in another age would have had little choice but to get out there and fight their work – their ideas, their argy-bargy, their entire human selves – into the concrete world, earning the only real human dignity that matters, the dignity of concrete existence…instead are sitting in their little cyber-boxes congratulating one another for being fabulous prose craftsmen. I know it’s well-meaning and basically harmless, H, but I can’t help laughing whenever I see the latest round of blog introspection. Blog awards, blog ratings, ‘best of’ blogs…Crikey’s bias-o-meter was a real hoot.

    So…oh cripes, goodness, Helen….I’m so sorry to ramble. It’s my style, apparently. If you can see past the tedium of the lengthg, I hope you’ll grasp the compliment inherent in the time and thought…I just wanted to drop you a line direct, and say thanks again for the encouraging words. I love writing a lot. Dunno if I can go anywhere with it, but I gave blogging a good shake in many guises and forms over the years, and, on balance, I think it’s probably done me more harm as a writer than good. I do know from long, exhausting experience that running an interactive site that aims to be serious about public debate is an incredible drain on anyone’s good faith and energy. Watching Kim plough on through those dismal FGM threads recently, bombarded by spoiling crap from the same old tyre-kicking trolls (most of them frustrated PJ O’Rourkes on their office-cube 5-minute breaks), reminded me of many countless wasted hours at Webdiary, bending over backwards to accomodate anonymous grubs who have no interest in being accomodated. Sooner or later that sort of relentless barrage gets your better angels down.

    For now I feel a whole lot saner and creatively safer limiting my online forays into occasional outrageous hijackings of other people’s joints. Hope you pardon this one…do forgive, and thanks again for your timely nice words over the years. It really helps, H.

    Got to go and bath the lad. Best wishes, H, & ta again.

  • Helen says:

    My worser half still keeps saying, “G’won, get a blog. You know you want to!”

    Funny – when I read the paragraph beginning, “Most non-RWDB bloggers – and journos – are just too damned precious and ’sophisticated’ to actually get out there and get their hands and bylines ‘dirty’… I thought of Kim and the FGM thread as the perfect counter to that, but you did go on and mention her. So thanks for that.

    My better half says “OK, so you don’t want to get a blog; hope we get the chance to read your stuff in book or some other form, sometime in the future.”

    Would you consider a Dad blog? something the RWDBs wouldn’t bother to notice so much? There’s a wealth of material in there. I wish I’d done Mummy Blogging when my children were little, because I have forgotten so much of the day to day things, the things they did and said. And so much of it is urgently political too… as you are doubtless finding out.

  • Jack Robertson says:

    Yeah, I did mean to start ‘Most…’. There are bloggers around who do still write as if they have no blog-stocks to squander and no friends in the concrete world to offend, but they’re mostly low-profile and usually faintly disdained by the ‘responsible’ blog-elders. Like most of us Kim’s at her most interesting when she blogs angry or pissed; or, for whatever other reason (including genuine commitment on an issue), artlessly enough to stop trying to reason with posters who are just out to spoil her, and simply press delete. The best LP threads are always those where all those erudite avatars ditch their ironic posturing and manufactured sophistication in favour of galloping the matter at hand right back out of cyberspace and into the concrete world on the back of authentic human feeling, even if it is by way of some mechanistic contrivance. Kim’s FGM follow-up – that donation challenge to ‘call out’ her RWDB critics, to find out who was serious about women’s health issues all along and who was just kicking tyres to kick Teh Left – is exactly the sort of stylistic lateral thinking that internet non-fiction/punditry ought to be bursting at the seams with. The interactivity of the MSM and the internet combined with the growing ubiquity of digital information management across society more generally, is (or should be) allowing non-fiction writers to bypass what’s always been the greatest hurdle facing anyone who wants their brilliant ideas to engage the established world: the power of incumbency to nullify dissent by simply ignoring it.

    Sooo…guess that makes me a pretty shithouse applier of my own ‘brilliant ideas’, don’t it. What with me running away from the net’s amazing writerly potential like a limp-nibbed sook, all ‘coz a few brutes called me names…oy.

    Your very generous and deft prodding makes me feel downright embarrassed by my own bloody preciousness, H.

    How have you found WordPress?

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