And finally

To end the week of meta-blogging -

* Here's a blog-concept I would like to see - Meta-blogs (if I was a techie, or an entrepreneur, I'd do it myself, but since I'm neither, you're free to use it up and go make your millions. But just remember this, when you're sitting in your little log cabin drinking brandy hot chocolate and munching on waffles, it was I who came up with. Remember that!)

A community/group blogtool, so that multiple blogs exist on one page. I'm aware that the bigger corporate sites have several blogs under one domain, but those are just additions to an existing site. And this is different from a current group blog, which is just one blog with several authors.

What I'm proposing is a method where a group of people, under one URL, can have individual blogs. Maybe in tabs, or in different links, like some of those WordPress/Typepad ones. I'm not really clear on the layout - but I'm sure you (you scheming, idea-stealing techie you!) can imagine what I'm trying to get at.

Why would anyone want this? Well, for starters it would save on having to go to 15 different blogsites to leave a comment, or see if someone has left a comment to your comment, and so on. Also for Diarying friends spread across the world, who may or may not be interested in other blogs. Or for people who blog a lot on certain topics or fields, like Caferati or Momus, thus avoiding having to scroll down all the time if multiple posts are put up on one day. Instead, you can just go to another tab and see what somebody else has written. It could also have a central commentspace, so people don't miss out on all the action on some other spot - and you know that's a common occurence amongst bloggers who read too many blogs and leave comments on too many places.

Think of it as Yahoogroups for Blogs. Idea accha hain?

* Which brings me to another idea. Now, there are a fair amount of bloggers who likely classify themselves as unpublished authors (no particular reference intended). It is also likely that a fair amount of them do not post their best - or any - material on their blogs, because they still hope that they will be able to flog it for a book-deal. It is also more than likely that such bloggers...sorry, writers...while perhaps not in need of spare change, would welcome the occasional spare change - if only to buy more books to read. Or wine to drink. Or both.

Therefore - and I suggest this keeping fully in mind the increasing availability of free content, the very cornerstone of blogging as being unpaid for, and the other options of generating revenue from blogging through means such as ads etc - I think an interesting trial would be for a group of unpublished/little published bloggers, who are known for their writing skills, to create a blog where they agree to post their poems/short stories/whathaveyou in return for a standard subscription fee.

Falstaff, I really thought of this while reading one of your short stories....the DICE one. Now, the publishers might have their own reasons for not printing your stories, but some of them are quite good, as many of us agree. As are poems by Space Bar and Phanty, amongst others.

Now, obviously, there are lots of logistical issues but the core issue is this...

Would people be willing to pay for a not-very-high, but still sem-substantial fee for access to such a blog? I, for one, would not be at all averse to paying - oh say $10?$20? a year to subscribe, if I could get to read some of this stuff on a regular basis.

That said, I would only pay for unpublished/little published writers. People who have big-buck book deals can jolly well put their blogs up for free. So, while I would pay for a Neil Gaiman book, but not his blog, I would pay for a blog that Falsie, Neha Vish, Shoefiend, Space Bar, and Phantasmagoria would contribute to.

Now, there will be many who will want to and continue to post such fiction freely. I would, and I suspect many others would. But I don't Write, and if such a scheme allows people who genuinely and passionately do Write to continue to do so, by offering not only a dedicated audience, but some money, not to mention keeping them interested in blogging (which really is the main purpose here)....

...well, would you support it?


A break from the meta-blogging

Sometimes, you come across people who will either inspire and awe you, or fill you with bouts of envy and irrational hatred.

For instance, Alfonso de Portago. One of those characters you think only belong in a Errol Flynn flick. Who just happened to be an F1 driver, won the Tour de France automobile race, rode in the Grand National twice, and was part of the bobsleigh team in the '56 Winter Olympics. All before he was 28.

...aur humne kya kiya? Ghanta.

More on such colourful personalities on this piece on the F1 drivers of yore.


...but is it "writing"?

It is the nature of every niche to try and justify its existence. And if the process takes a celebratory, navel-gazing approach which ends up proving just how necessary and important it is, then so much the better.

And so, inevitably, blog-posts will end up observing the world of blogging. And since I'm not vying for will-power awards, I give in, and for this week this space will all (as KM puts it) "meta".

Today's topic:
Is blogging a style/genre/niche of Writing at all, or is it just "words and sentences and punctuation"?

I am in favour of the former. Not fully, mind you, but definitely leaning in a manner obvious to the naked eye. And pray, what justification is there for said slanted stance?

Before that though, to define Writing, as opposed to writing. The group domain, as it were.

How about - a unique, easily identificable, style/format of presenting prose/poetry? Simplistic perhaps, but seems to cover all bases.

So, then, to slightly alter the topic. The search is to be able to justify Blogging as being a unique subset of Writing, not as being distinct from Writing. And for that, all one needs to show is that it has distinct features which can mark it out from other styles (such as journalism, magic realism, free-verse, stream-of-consciousness), and which are likely to be representative of the majority of bloggers.

So, if everyone is ok with the story so far, then (possible) evidence is as follows:

1) The very time-based nature of the format creates a unique atmosphere, in a way that is quite distinct from that of journalism, which is merely chronologically-bound. No, what subtly colours how we blog is the possibility of an instantaneous outpouring of ideas and thoughts. How many of us haven't posted something either as an immediate reaction to a story read elsewhere, or after some event in our lives, or when some sudden idea strikes us? Very few, I would reckon.

Ah, but you say, that's just reaction, that's not a different form of writing. But it is Writing, because the spontaneity alters the very words and ideas that we type, as opposed to if we took the time to think about. My posts this week, for instance, would have been much better organised and written in-depth than if they were not being hurriedly churned out while I wait for that delicious pot of spiced pulao to finish cooking.

Therefore, to summarise point 1: Evolution of a spontaneous, stream-of-consciousness style.

2) As also pointed in a post yesterday, the time factor is present not only on the input end, but from the end-receiver too. Knowing that most of your readers are likely to have many blog-posts to go through on any day, apart from all the news and other work-related things they need to read, in between other mundane aspects like...oh, having a life - that gradually makes most bloggers (with the exception of some like Falstaff and the Punkster) restrict their posts to a certain length range, generally speaking. Whether this is a good thing or not is a separate issue (I don't think it is), but what matters is that it results in a different stlye of Writing.

Blog-posts are - for better or worse - expected to be a quick read, and if they're on a serious topic, spread across several posts (even TR's China descriptions seemed longer than they were because of all those gorgeous snaps in between). Which is why any post that's longer than, say, six 10-line paras (such as this one) usually begin with a "Warning: Lengthy post" salutation.

So, point 2: Self-regulating length-restrictive writing.

3) Stylistic influences. Because blogging, at some level, is a social activity (respond to comments, go leave comments, reciprocate blogrolls, etc), and because bloggers tend to find those who have similar interests and/or writing styles, it is likely that a certain amount of osmosis will take place between the same.

While current bloggers may still be maintaining a unique voice of their own, it is already common to see key words and phrases being picked up and spread through mutual circles. And many bloggers write posts that are triggered by a phrase or throw-away idea seen in others' posts, often to delve deeper into the idea, or to explore a tangential part of it.

Apart from all this, it could be argued that regular bloggers are indirectly forced to get more inventive in the material of their posts, simply because a lot of what they think/feel/do, has already been covered by other bloggers. After all, given that they are all inhabiting the same subset of Bloggerdom (sharing similar interests etc), it is more than likely than they may all react to certain things in a similar manner. Hence, bloggers see greater need to delve further and deeper and wider into matters on which they may post.

Thus, point 3: Styles are affected by blogging peers.

There are some more points here, but this has gone on a little too long already, and the pulao's quite ready, so let's just have the discussions already and I'll either do another post tomorrow, or merge the additional points here.

However, to make my position clear, to me Blogging is more than just having a blog, and posting on it things that have already been written, or using the blog merely as event-diaries without any observations or insights. It is the focused or spontaneous creation of material, as well as an overall awareness and exploration of the medium and the opportunities it offers.

Simply, Blogging is to having a blog, as Poetry is to writing a poem, or Art is painting.

I agree that it's probably difficult to name many blogs that currently fit the above criteria, but I put that down to the newness of the whole experience. Once the numbers of for-the-heck-of-it bloggers tapers off, and those left increasingly start experimenting more, it will be easier to see more bloggers who Write.

PS. Update: A day later, I notice how many sentences start with "and" and "so". Something to work on.


And while we're on blogs

Have you - and I mean this as a direct question - noticed a change in style in your writing since you began blogging actively? (I even include Falsie in the list of questionees, despite feeling that his 600-word comments prove that his style is not that untouched)

Some time back, Neha Vish posted on the same topic. And in recent days, it's got me thinking along similar lines.

About how many ideas and topics don't get posted because of these unspoken rules regarding the length of blog posts, with everybody aware that their readers often have scores (or, in the case of one incorrigible reader, 520) of other posts to read, and so subconsciously tailoring their posts.

About whether the reason most bloggers end up writing in a witty/funny/snarky tone is indirectly because of said time constraints (because people with little time are more likely to read something lighter or sarcastic in vein, than a long treatise, brilliant though it may be*), or because the barrier of virtualspace allows them to drop the shackles of polite behaviour, or because that's how they wrote anyway.

About whether bloggers write less or more about certain topics, and in a certain style, because of reader expectations and pressure. And if so, whether and by how much this is heightened/curbed when bloggers move beyond the anonymous nicknames and get to know each other.

This is apart from my belief that writing styles have changed dramatically since people stopped...well...writing. Certainly I wouldn't be this fluid and semi-prolific if I weren't typing this down.

So, go on - has blogging changed your style of writing?

And to answer the question for myself, yes it has. I'm moving more and more towards a simplistic, yet not bare-bones style of writing, and find I cannot muster the effort to turn ideas into long theory posts (this post is a good example of the same). This may or may not have to do with an aim to try to post on a regular basis, which in turn is fuelled by the knowledge that if I don't, then I'll just go the way of bloggers like Flaffy, AQC, MockTurtle, J., and the Skeptical lady.

* Which is why I won't Urf a thesis....and that's all I have to say about that.

It sometimes seems as if blogging is such a paradoxical activity.

For instance, it could be argued many of the personalitypes* who blog are introverts. Quiet, diffident, observerational types. But blogging demands that you put yourself forward, sell yourself to your readers - and that is so atypical of their standard (I hesitate to use the word normal here) behaviour.

Oh sure, there are lots of super-friendly, dance-for-600-people-at-the-drop-of-a-gramophone-pin people around, and they continue to talk away too - but then that's just as an extension of their usual personality. But bloggers who, offline, would tend to be shy, sitting-in-a-corner-with-wineglass-and-book, somehow get online and get social.

Yes, I get that the anonymity and lack of physicality may be the very things that encourage them to come out and find others of their own ilk and form groups about mutual admiration topics. But that doesn't change the fact that they still have to make that effort themselves. They still have to choose to create a blog, find other bloggers, keep commenting on others' spaces till they deign to return the favour, as well as keep churning out posts interesting enough to maintain the interest of such visitors. That, to me, is social behaviour.

So, paradox.

Which reminds me, does anyone know of any serious papers written on blogging? And no, SB, I'm not going to write one if there isn't.

* I'm not sure whether I love this word, or thoroughly dislike it. Sometimes, it seems so convenient and flowing-off-tonguey, but sometimes it just sounds pretentious and too cute for its own good.


Friday Fun: Food Fiesta

Mixed mood soup

Time Required:
An instant, spread over many years

Keep ready:
Seeds of doubt, handful
Bundle of nerves, shredded
Leaf of veil-of-secrecy, few
Pessimism, 1/2 glass
Juice of creativity, 1 large cup (overflowing)
Essence of bluemood, 1 tbsp
Guilt complex, 1 cube
Oil of apathy

Heat the oil and add the seeds till they begin to sputter. Mix in the nerves, and veil-of-secrecy, and fry well them till they go mushy. Add the pessimism, creative juice, bluemood essence, and guilt cube. Bring it all to a boil, and then simmer till the colour turns dark.

Best served while hot enough to burn the tongue.

Why you should not try this:
It makes you feel like shite, and will cause extensive disturbances to your mental equilibrium.

Non-vegetarians could add in some bheja. Make sure it's fried, though.


10 Reasons Not to Write a Book

1. Think of the trees.
People talk of carbon-neutral schemes for airlines and supermarket foods, but what about books? Each batch of books is one less carbon devouring, oxygen replenishing living organism. And no, hardly any publishers use recycled paper*.

2. Those rejection slips.
So taking a look around and realising how almost utterly insignificant your life is, isn't enough? Now you need to receive streams of demoralising, soul-crushing impersonal messages underlining your Continuing Unimportance? Please, keep your masochism. No, really, I insist.

3. 15% royalties? Screw you.
That's if you're lucky. Otherwise I believe the industry average is 10%. So, considering that a first book is deemed very successful if it sells about 10,000 copies, then at an average cost price of $10 a book (across all markets), that's only about $10,000. After how many years of toil and anguish? I'd rather invest in stocks, as unpredictable as they may be.

4. The reviews.

5. The book tour and signings.
Long, tiring journeys (which also help rack up your carbon footprint, please note) spent in nerve-wracking agony about what you are going to say during the haphazardly put-together reading at another cramped bookstore in a city you don't particularly want to visit, which you are forced to attend despite trying to explain to your agent that you're a writer.

Each of which is then followed either by hours in which you self-inflict cheek- and arm-cramp by smiling blandly and writing out tedious and unimaginative platitudes for people who're mostly just waiting to go sell their copy on eBay, or spent in cringing embarassment waiting for anybody to turn up, while trying to avoid the pitying glances of the staff who realise you're not famous enough
even for eBay.

6. The public burden of being a writer. Nay, an author.
You're either a super-snobbish elitist, or a popularity-seeking fan-mingler. People will expect you to have imaginative and instant opinions on every possible topic they can think of. Papers will expect you to churn out erudite deliverances on the state of the world. TV channels will hound you to appear on their programmes, expecting you to deliver detailed solutions to the world's problems in three sentences. And peers will expect you to have read at least one book by all the other well-known and critically acclaimed novel.

All this, when all you want to do is watch a football match, then read the new Pratchett while listening to Shakti.

7. The fans.
aka, those Weird Shits Who Can't Get A Life Of Their Own.
Over-eager, desperate creatures who will constantly pester you into trying to explain to them exactly how, when, where, and why you thought up your ideas. They will then go forth and propagate and populate 1,631 online forums in trying to understand the underlying symbolism and metaphors of your work, even though you try to tell them that it "just felt like a good story to tell".

Some of them will also send repeated emails, cards, letters, painted t-shirts, strips of skin off their back, or stone tablets telling you that "u Are the 1st person WHO has ever undrstood mE!!!! I heart you! Uis the Bestest wow!".

8. The anti-fans.
Who will blame you for adding to global warming, deride your style as artistic affectation, and denounce you as the vessel for all the myriad dark forces of hell.

9. The Expectations.
Of your fans - who will pester you for decades to come up with more work, or produce prequels/sequels so that the "truly imaginative" world that you have described can be mined in exquisitely boring detail. And who won't let you rest till you do.

Of the critics - who will be gleefully waiting for another chance to rip you to pieces.

And of your agent and publishers - so that they can screw you some more.

10. Think of the trees.
No, really.

* This is why I now almost exclusively tend to buy secondhand books**. A lesser sin, if you will.
** Y
es I know it's not supposed to be fair on the author, because they won't get any royalty for it. But really, the kind of books I pick up are by authors who don't really need that extra amount.


Lives On Trains - 4

This is a cheating a little, but inspiration has been losing out to sloth this week. So, here's one's first Urf.

PS. This was not a deliberate anti-V post. One couldn't care two grapes about V's-day.


She noticed him for the first time on a Wednesday, standing in the line to get tickets. She remembered the day, because it was the same day she started going to the gym. She took it as a sign, visualising Fate standing next to him with one of those big arrow-pointing placards that said “This could be yours”. Yes, she would quite happy for him to be hers. All scrumptious as he was, especially with that slightly I-may-be-wearing-a-banker’s-suit-but-I-could-do-with-a-little-nurturing look. Oh yes, wouldn’t she like to nurture him.

He had gotten into the same carriage as hers, and was still sitting when her stop came. Probably asking for too much for him to be getting off where she did. Still, at least he took the same train daily, sitting in the same carriage. She took that as another sign of their compatibility, sitting in the carriage that would stop closest to the exit. Foresight and planning, that’s what it showed. She liked that in him. And she liked him, especially when she got a closer look, which was easy to arrange. It wasn’t as if they were assigned seats numbers. And wasn't it probable that she had always taken the seat diagonally opposite his because she liked it, and it was her regular place? Yes, of course it was. And it was her regular place now, what with him sitting there looking just so yummy. Like an extra-chocolatey brownie. Mmmmmmm.

She found out which train he returned by, through a simple matter of getting on every train over a two hour period in the evenings. Even if that meant staying back later at work to co-ordinate with his schedule. Although that wasn’t too bad, as it made her appear more “diligent” and “eager” to her bosses. And he probably thought the same too. It was just enough to balance having to go home in the dark, and bundle up even more against the cold. Not that she wasn’t used to the winters here, but she was no weather-braving junkie. Cardigan, jacket, scarf, hat, gloves - these were necessities, not accessories. Even he thought the same, otherwise why had she never seen him remove his gloves even while in the train? There, another thing they both agreed on. Covering up was sensible. Although she wouldn’t mind seeing him with just a little less on. And spent quite a few hours imagining - and waiting - for summer to come so that he could discard some of them. Or letting her discard them for him. She would be more than happy to warm him up if he felt cold.

And days passed, and she continued going to the gym. Even though it meant she trained later in the evening, and often felt like giving up after a particularly long day at work, she kept herself motivated by thinking of his admiring glances as he noticed her svelte(ish) new figure. And she was sure he was noticing, catching him occasionally glancing at her through the reflection in the window. She knew she looked better, despite all the heavy layers that she was still forced to wear. And he had started looking better too, after he took up cycling to the station. Even if it meant his hair got grooves in them because of his helmet, and that he was more bundled up. She could live with that - she didn’t want him to get a cold or worse. But she did wish for the weather to get warmer, especially if that meant he would (hopefully) wear cycling pants. Those tight ones. Oh no, she didn’t mind him being athletic in the least.

And then, she took a trip. Two whole weeks. She was glad that it was busy enough to let her not dream about him too much, although she did get a few amused stares at times due to her occasional distractedness. And she kept herself going by pointing out that the weather would have warmed up enough for both of them to be able to shed those bulky outers. Not that she wanted to flaunt herself or ogle at him. She wasn’t cheap. But a casual display of one’s vim-and-vigour figure, and a discreet appraisal of another’s similar body - that was quite acceptable. And how she longed to appraise him.

The night before the day she returned to work, she dithered over what she would wear. She eventually plumped for something classy, yet slightly I-wouldnt-quite-turn-down-a-pickup-line. Black skirt, hemmed in dark red, just knee-length (her thighs still needed a little toning). The dark turquoise top. Heels, but not the high ones. And no hat, and no gloves. The warm snap would allow that. That done, she wondered what he would wear.

When she saw him the next morning, she got her answer in vivid detail. Cycling trousers. A light, snug jacket. No gloves. And a platinum ring. Third finger, left hand.

She didn’t reject the chocolate cookies a colleague passed round at work that day.


Guide to Blogging - Problems, disorders, and side-effects

n., An idiopathic mental affliction common amongst bloggers, and is directly proportional the age of the individual in Blog-years. Also known as Blapathy.

Studies have revealed that the onset of this affliction can, uniquely, be identified to a specific event, viz., the point when a blogger sits down to post, and realises that all the brilliant ideas and interesting insights and odd tangents that they had, have already been posted, leaving them with nothing really to write about.

The onset of Blennui inevitably affects production rates, as well as falling standards of posts, which end up causing Statcounter-haemorrhages. The low VPD (Visits Per Day) levels cause the majority of affected bloggers to resort to desperate measures, i.e., Diarying. However, if even this fails, matters quickly result in bloggers taking the ultimate step - Blog-Deletion.

Obligatory bad joke of the fortnight*

Q: What do you call spectacles worn by Maharashtrian women?
A: Bai-focals.

* Masterji, is se zyaada nahin hota. Shamaa keejiye.


Roving Random News Linker

I know, I know, these aren't proper posts. But I did do one nice post, but I can't put it up here till some people put it up where it is supposed to go on. Till then, you get news.


* So, apparently it's easier to hit a century. This should be a heartening, yes? Weeeeeell...not so sure on that. For one, current society is just not equipped for people living for 35 years beyond an average retirement age of 65. Ok, the first decade or so, people travel, or indulge in their hobbies. But once you're past 80, really, what systems do we have in place for people to do anything - even if they are physically capable of doing things?

Of course, this doesn't dissuade me from my avowed aim to live to be 159. Nice number.

* Try smiling at the doctor next time you have to get any treatment. It might cheer them up, and as a bonus, might cut down chances of you being misdiagnosed.

* Inter-cousin marriage has always been a matter of interest, and much appreciation would be lauded if directions were given to some proper studies regarding their impact - and whether it really affects their children that much. I wonder if it's really all that bad as it's made out to be - I seemed to have turned out ok.

* Now this is ironical no, OTP? Air-India grounding a steward for having a Maharaja-style moustache.

* The decline of cottages in Bandra is likely to make Space Bar feel more depressed, but I thought I'd link it before they disappear altogether.

* And finally, why do they publish such articles? I almost fell asleep half-way through it - which isn't the response an article on sex-preparation should expect. Seriously, lighten up.


"Only in silence, the word;
only in dark, the light;
only in dying, life:
bright the hawk's flight
on the empty sky."*

- Ursula K. Le Guin (A Wizard of Earthsea)

* I've always loved the imagery of this quote. I still have a t-shirt somewhere, with this painted on. Yes, yes, you can say it - one is a SF&F geek.


Blog-addiction - Identification Method No.6

When you note down every personal detail of the bloggers you read and/or interact with, as and when they reveal the same, in order to gain a better picture of the person behind the post* (specially those who don't...won't...reveal their identity).

Said details being entered into a comprehensive spreadsheet, covering characteristics including but not limited to - Location (current and of origin), gender, age, occupation, beverage preferences, literary inclinations, music tastes, movie picks, apparel choices, favourite expressions, choice swearwords, phobias, and which bloggers they know IRL.

Revealing this habit is guaranteed to ensure in much consternation amongst said bloggers, and also resulting in eventual shunning by all concerned**. You will also successfully freak out BM-OTP.

* Or, just because you're a pyscho-obsessive virtua-stalker.
** Which won't stop you from reading blogs and filling out that list, unless they go private. Which is unlikely in most cases, being too much of a hassle for most bloggers, who are by nature resistant to change.

Screw it, I'm Diary-ing

This is me. Most days. Especially today. Whoo-boy, lunch, here I come*!

* Pancakes. Hot diggity damn**!
Who says that? Really?


Ok, the quiz idea.

Now, this is not QuizNet (which is quite cool....mostly). And I* really don't want this to turn into a theme-blog...you know, recipes, bad jokes, quizzes. Schedules Are For Suckers!, that's what we say. Not really, because we keep to a schedule. But we say it, in case somebody else wants to get inspired by it.


Online quizzes don't work unless they're a time-based programme. Putting up questions and waiting for answers to be posted is just pushing more business towards search engines. And if what with the time differences between one's diverse readership, it'd have to be posted at a time like now for it to be remotely convenient, so that it's 8.30am in Texas, while it's 10.30pm in Singapore. And nobody's going to wake up or stay up, respectively, for a quiz at those hours. Especially if it's on an obscure subject, and if one person writes in with the correct answers and they go "Why did I bother?".

Besides, there ain't gonna be a prize.

The original plan was to put up say 10 interesting-yet-not-obscure questions, on rotating topics, giving everyone 5 minutes to put the answers in the comment-space. Which, for reasons explained above, doesn't feel like it will work.

The alternative option of just putting up said questions, allowing people to post answers (if they want) while relying on them to be honest enough not to search for them, and then posting the answers a day later - that sounds too much like Quiznet.

So...suggestions. Or take your pick. Otherwise this is a no-go.

* That tag broke my independence from this word. It's all I, me, my, mine now. Blast and dem!


Sobering, and slightly depressing

.....reality check for any potential authors amongst you.

See, this is why I prefer blogging- it's the Maggi of writing. And it's far less stressful (although it does have its own pressure). Ok, so not much money in it (yet), but hey, it's more fun. And I get to know you folk. You guys! Heart*.

* Apparently some people still think it's cool to write that. Pisses me off no end. It's worse when they say it. "I heart"??! The word's "love" buster. "Love" is cool, "heart" ain't. Get it? Doof-ass.