Talking Myself Into It

I’m only a few weeks away from being able to restart the blog in a brand new year, but I couldn’t keep away. There have been a few times since that one-off July entry when I was tempted to come back. One was when I read this comment by Samuel Johnson in Boswell’s A Tour to the Hebrides (in the entry of Monday, 16th August):

I remember I was once on a visit at the house of a lady for whom I had high respect. There was a good deal of company in the room. When they were gone, I said to this lady, ‘What foolish talking we have had!’—‘Yes, (said she,) but while they talked, you said nothing.’—I was struck with the reproof. How much better is the man who does any thing that is innocent, than he who does nothing. Besides, I love anecdotes. I fancy mankind may come, in time, to write all aphoristically, except in narrative; grow weary of preparation, and connection, and illustration, and all those arts by which a big book is made.—If a man is to wait till he weaves anecdotes into a system, we may be long in getting them, and get but few, in comparison of what we might get.

How very apt, sir.

Then at the beginning of November I had nowhere to share my hopefulness and happiness as the 4th turned into the memorable 5th, other than emails and one-line links in the Feed. It was the same problem last year when John Howard got the boot and I wanted to dance on his political grave and record a decade’s memories of what a shower his government had been, but had shut down the blog two months before.

Also in November, I wrote this in reply to a discussion board comment on one of my online courses:

I can completely sympathize with your motives for stopping, as most people who have dabbled in blogging no doubt would, but for me it crystallizes what I’ve been missing since I put my own blog on hold a year ago (because life got too busy to do it justice). I still post other bits and pieces to my website, links to a simple links-feed, and family photos to another blog for relatives, so I probably still put more online than most people, but it feels as if there’s a gap in my online presence because there’s no me, me, me. I’m there but I’m not there.

It’s not about staring lovingly at your own reflection; it’s about seeing your reflection, and the unsettling effects of not seeing it. Even when we’re staring through a window, we expect to see a faint reflection of ourselves under a certain light, because it’s a reflective surface. We expect to be in the world, even as we observe it. And the Web is a reflective surface—it’s not just a window into someone else’s world. We’ve grown used to cookies telling websites who we are, so that they greet us by name; to posting comments on websites of every kind; to leaving and seeing all sorts of traces of ourselves. But without an online representation of ‘me, me, me’ at the centre of it all, it feels like passing by mirrors and not seeing one’s own reflection. Or like being the Invisible Man: the coat and hat are hanging in space, but the person inside is absent.

Wanting to be visible isn’t the same as narcissism, to my mind. It’s not about wanting to be famous, either. You might only want to be visible to you, but it can still matter.

But the main reason I’ve come back now is that earlier this month I experimented with something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, which is a rambling podcast full of nothing in particular, of the kind that I listen to on my walk into work... recorded during my walk into work. I wasn’t sure it would, but it turned out well enough; and if I want to get on with making better ones I’d better release this one into the wild.

It’s called Phoning It In—or rather, Speedysnail Presents... Phoning It In, because after making it I learned that there’s a college radio show of that name with a podcast of its own. The page looks templatey and rubbish at the moment, but I’ll clean it up sometime; it’s already ten days since I recorded it and six since I posted it, so I don’t want to delay it any longer. Subscribe now, and build up your own encyclopedia of stream-of-consciousness, week-by-month-or-whatever. Which may only run to two or three volumes—we’ll see.

So there’s that, there’s the Feed, there have been new Limericks and Found things and Details, and now there’s this. I guess I’m back.

13 December 2008 · Site News