Saturday, 11 February 2006

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A Post in Two Parts: The First Will Bore You; The Second, Infuriate 1. I devote what little spare time I have to perfecting this beast. As someone who prides himself on his ability to stay colloquial and address a general audience, I'm saddened by my inability to stay colloquial and address a general audience. I slip into sentence structures of dizzingly complexity as I attempt to communicate commonplace truths about life in Blogistan. Then I read articles by compression experts like Susan Orlean and weep: If, in the Kentucky Derby, all the horses were trucked together to some remote spot and set loose, then galloped back to their respective barns, were they crossed a finish line, and their times were compared and ranked in order by a race secretary (factoring in the difference in the distances to the various barns), you would have the equivalent of a pigeon race. It is the inverse of a group spectator sport. Birds in a race are all together when they are first let go, which is done by a truck driver who transports all the competitors to the release point. None of the bird owners watch the start of the race, because the birds travel as fast as sixty miles an hour and they fly direct, so if the owners watch the start of the race they would probably miss being home to see the birds return. No one implies a scene better than Orlean. She squeezes seven into the space of a single paragraph. Perhaps I shouldn't aim to write like Orlean—what with the scarcity of stageable scenes in Blogistan—but I need to model myself after someone. I stand beside George Orwell in the belief that the best way to learn how to write is to imitate those who write well. Although I doubt mimicking Kipling would do me much good (and cannot spy the Kiplingesque qualities in Orwell's prose) I think the general principle a good one. If you see someone do something particularly well . . . you appropriate it. So if not Orlean then how about McPhee? I have expressed my admiration for McPhee before and so hestitate to do so again. 2. So instead I want to shift gears entirely and discuss one of the issues I'm writing about in my commissioned baby: the difference between academic blogs and the personal blogs of academics. Of course they are hybrid beasts. You can learn quite a bit about me from reading this blog. But how accurate is it? I point (with some reservations) to John Bruce's discussion of how bloggers manipulate their audience. He's absolutely correct. Were I duplicitous and talented enough I could convince you I'm anything: a ninth grader with body image issues . . . a divorcee with nothing left to live for . . . or a graduate student about to hit the job market. This entire blog could be an elaborate scam designed to evoke undeserved sympathy from you. To wit: How do you know I'm a cancer survivor? I've mentioned it a couple of times....

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