Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Man Behind the Curtain


[[W E L C O M E]] * Am I the last person on the planet with his or her own blog, or what? The growth of blogging has been absolutely phenomenal over the last couple of years, perhaps reaching its apogee of visibility in the United States during the 2004 presidential campaign, when John Kerry, Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, and myriad lesser candidates tried to give reticent voters the impression, through their use of Web logs, that they were getting an up-close-and-personal, insider’s perspective on the sausage-making process that is American politics.

David Sifry, founder and CEO of the Web-watcher Technorati, wrote recently that
Technorati is now tracking over 13.3 million blogs, and 1.3 billion links. We are seeing over 900,000 posts per day on average, which means we’re adding about 10 posts per second. We’re also seeing about 80,000 new weblogs created each day. That’s more weblogs created each day than there were total when I started the service in November 2002. And our search traffic has increased by over 40% month on month for each of the last 4 months. The day of the London bombings we saw over 1.2 million posts, and had an additional 30% increase in traffic as people turned to weblogs, moblogs, and other citizen’s media for instant updates on events in London, survivor accounts, and sharing of deep feelings on the tragedy.
It seems as if every Tom, Dick, and Harriet is building a blog these days--and that doesn’t even include the comparatively modest number of folks who actually have something interesting to say on their sites.

So, why not me? Although I’m not be a high-priced TV pundit, or a snarky Hollywood quidnunc, or another bloviating right-wingnut with more time on his hands than wisdom, I have been known to possess an opinion or two now and then. And to be willing to express my thoughts--at the top of my lungs, if necessary. We’re now living in a world much in need of both informed interpretation and piercing dissent, where the oft-reiterated lie and the clever propaganda tactic too often substitutes for truth. Those of us who feel compelled to speak out against the conventional wisdom--whether on the subject of America’s recent bankrupting of its economy and soul, the latest book from the non-bestseller lists, or the contempt with which today’s TV networks treat their viewers--do a disservice to our fellows by sitting silently and allowing others to form public opinion.

Don’t misunderstand: I am not arrogant enough as to believe that my opinions are inevitably right; I just don’t think that they are inevitably wrong.

This self-confidence derives partly from having been reared in an upper-middle-class household in the western United States--a home where no one even pretended to be leery about discussing such supposedly sensitive topics as politics, religion, and the abject ludicrousness of TV pro wrestling. It also comes from my more than a quarter century now as a journalist--an occupation that, while it doesn’t promote the flaunting of opinions, certainly leads to the formation of them. (One can only listen for so long, for instance, to the happy talk of new-product floggers or the relentless spin of political aides before concluding that Hell is much like the suburbs: never big enough to hold everybody who belongs there.) My eventual move into magazine editing and then book reviewing (primarily for the Web literary journal January Magazine) only increased my willingness to reach and express personal viewpoints. This, coupled with my fast-typing skills and my modicum of knowledge regarding design, made a blog almost inevitable in my future.

I don’t intend for there to be a unifying theme to Limbo. You can expect here commentary on everything from politics and the media, to history and the arts, to television, books, and travel. The little red subject “bugs” at the front of each entry, under the headline, should help readers decide what they want to read. And while I can’t guarantee daily updates (hey, some of us still have jobs--even in George W. Bush’s America), I shall certainly endeavor to keep things fresh and lively.

There’s a quote I like, from Eleanor Marx (daughter of Karl), and which I think should be posted above every blogger’s computer keyboard: “By the time your life is finished, you will have learned just enough to begin it well.” Those of us intent on sharing our opinions through what Sifry calls the “citizen’s media” need to remember that we don’t know everything, and therefore can’t be right about everything. And the only way to learn more is by remaining open-minded enough to change our attitudes. You’ll have to let me know how I’m doing on the learning scale, as time goes by.

2 comments:

Charles Smyth said...

LIMBO is a handsome and interesting blog, with good, lively writing, thoughtfully considered links, and a forceful opinion or two. The quote from Eleanor Marx is one for the ages. I look forward to spending a lot of time in LIMBO.

Peer van den Boomen said...

I like the design of this blog a lot. Given the fact that it is set up with only a modicum of knowledge regarding design...