December 3, 2010

Something Like a Treatise on Blogging

The internet, a commercial told me this morning, was originally called the "world wide web". I don't recall what I was being sold; and truthfully, I switched on an (unmentionable) CD somewhere after the initial line. I did this, because I wanted to listen to music, but also because I needed time to digest what I'd just been presented with.

It was called that? Called by whom? And isn't it still, on some level? Look at your status bar; it doesn't say "www." right now, but it usually does, of course. The internet - or the web, or whatever - is and was a collectivist dream, an open source bastion of creativity, of content, of anything and everything that could be, being brought in to being.

Thus we have this world wide web of ours, equal parts landfill and library. That anyone can create content means that there will be things best left unread, things best left unseen, that will have been exposed to the public. But this is too often the refrain when speaking on the internet. Before the internet, there was bad writing. Of course, there wasn't as much, because there wasn't as much writing at all. So by sheer volume, there is more garbage available for consumption now than ever before.

But volume, as any baker can tell you, is not the best way measure much of anything. The internet has provided, by virtue of its anyone can play ethic, a venue for anyone and everyone to vent, to articulate, to write on whatever they please whenever they choose to do so.

But for all the information and opinion the internet has, I could not find a word, or a collection of them, that would describe in too grandiose terms how beautiful a thing this is. There is a thing they call "the gatekeeper" in journalism school. This mythical figure, or force, is that thing which decides what gets published. Thus, this thing decides what ideas the public can - and by proxy, should - consume.

This gatekeeper exists, but he is withered and dying, if not collapsed already. The internet is the thing which stuck the knife in his back.

And so we are here, for better or, well, certainly for better. The king is dead. Long live the king. And this new king promises and endlessly fertile ground, where successes and failures are infinitely possible.

I picture this ground being tilled by bloggers, their toil producing things which, at the very least, offer them subsistence. But there are others, of course. Others who grow something so majestic, so necessary, that it spreads, that it feeds that masses, and even inspires them to dirty their own hands.

This has all been preamble. What I mean to say, and what I would like to, but cannot succinctly, is that the blogoshpere is filled with endlessly talented writers. That there are blogs out there which contain content which is entertaining, inspiring, intimidating, and nothing short of brilliant. There are ideas created, formed, given life and legs which could not have evolved outside of this milieu. Or perhaps more accurately, ideas which could not have been publicly articulated outside of this milieu.

I am, as anyone ought to be, quite aware that brilliance has been put to paper long before the internet existed. But these things, I think, skew towards being intimidating. I can read James Joyce, or Oscar Wilde, and marvel at, not one trait of their writing, but their whole intellect which allowed for their material to exist. But I cannot fathom how one might go about entering that same arena. In some ways - most ways, even - I would feel wholly unworthy. If the published word is gospel, then I would feel every bit the heretic.

But blogging is, somehow, different. The words are no less real, the sentiments they express no less genuine. But that anyone can do it - that I myself do it - lends a feeling of freedom from the expectation of perfection. It also, thankfully, means that content is free as well.

This, I think, is that thing which is most beautiful. Not that brilliant writing can exist. It always has. But that brilliant writing exists, now, on everything. Joyce and Wilde were not, for instance, writing about their breakfast, the NBA, glucose metabolism, or underwear ads. But one can find just that now. I know, because I've read such pieces.

I've wavered on whether I should highlight anything specific here, because I truly derive my inspiration from almost innumerable points. But sports blogs - and NBA in particular - deserve focus. I was, not so long ago, a sports columnist myself. And I tried my best, for some time, not to write the best I could, but to produce the best sports columns I could. That is, I had an archetype in my mind, and I tried to construct things that were modeled after it.

This site, more than any other, shattered that image I held. It is an NBA blog, and links to others which are quite good as well. The posts are not always long, but some of the best are. There are big words, and bigger concepts. Discussions of aesthetics, of philosophy, or roles and connotations and meanings, and of course, basketball.

A taste, then, from a recent post: Wall can still disrupt our basketball brains, and yet to really come into his own, he must expand this sensibility to an entire unit. Impossible? Who knows. Paul is a mastermind, Rondo an eccentric, Nash a trickster. Jazz fans, stick your Deron Williams line here. None of them had Wall's smoldering message, and yet each has consistently found a way to lead their troops not only toward the basket, but to send them scurrying with style -- an extension of themselves.

The point I'm making, or at least trying to, is this: On any subject, there exists infinite ideas, and infinitely more ways to express them. Everything that exists deserves this sort of inquiry; and everyone ought to have access to it, both to consume and create. 

My motivation then, on some level, was to create a blog about coffee which would, in some ways, take a step in pursuit of this ideal. There are other coffee blogs already, of course. More popular ones and, by most metrics, probably better ones. But none that I've found with the scope I want, the desire to present thousands of words on what coffee means, its role in our lives, society, etc. I claim nothing like success in this venture. That, I think, would imply a completion. And that, of course, is impossible. There is more to think on, and thus, more to write on.

And, provided I consume enough caffeine, I'll continue to do that.

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