To paraphrase Richard Nixon on August 9, 1974, in his last speech as US president, I am not a blogger. Blogging is abhorrent to every instinct in my body.
Well, maybe not (Nixon referred to his imminent resignation). But I am a professional writer whose articles have appeared in print newspapers and magazines, whose books have been retailed in stores, and who’s earned tidy sums in advances and royalty payments. So the idea of posting my work on the Internet, to be read for free by anyone who cares to, feels a bit like self-sabotage – as if it’s 1913 and I’m promoting my horse-and-buggy service on the side of a motor car, or as if it’s 1953 and I’m advertising my passenger railway in an in-flight magazine. Publishing’s day is past, I’m told, and blogging is the future. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Has it come to this?
The choice is made more difficult by the themes I’ve already expressed in my writing. In my first book, Silence Descends: The End of the Information Age 2000-2500, I imagined a future where a great babel of electronic noise proved useless in the face of real-world catastrophe and human spiritual evolution. I had a letter appear in Time magazine in 2000 in which I griped, “The difference between corporate dominance of media and online do-it-yourselfers is the difference between oligarchy and anarchy…[W]e will get an avalanche of what is essentially vanity publishing.” In my books on the Classic Rock era of the Beatles and Led Zeppelin I have lamented how today’s YouTube / American Idol amateur entertainment culture has fatally lowered the bars of musical talent and popular appeal to which an earlier generation of artists aspired. In an article I wrote for the Vancouver Sun in 1998, I stated:
Perhaps in the long run it is those of us who amble along the shoulders of the Information Highway who will actually arrive at the most worthwhile destinations…[T]he best positions of our own time may not be the hacker’s or the cutting-edge trendspotter’s, but those of the mystic, the non-joiner, the type who has never heard of the Spice Girls or Mortal Kombat but puzzles over the existence of God and the nature of mankind.
Putting up a blog threatens to betray all that. To that end, and by way of introduction, I’ve laid down some ground rules for myself. Firstly, I’m going to post only finished, self-contained articles here: this will not be a daily journal of rambling thoughts but short essays on society, politics, and ideas, written to the same standards as anything I’d submit to a big-city newspaper, a quality magazine, or a traditional publisher. As much as I can help it, I’ll try not to add to the clutter.
Second: no links. Any music, book, film, news, or whatever I refer to here can be looked up later. These articles are meant to be read in full, from beginning to end, in one sitting. “Undivided attention” is almost an oxymoron these multimediated days (see Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains), and I’m not going to distract my readership, such as there might be, any more than it already is.
Finally, I’ll start by putting up one new article each week. I may respond to topical subjects and current events, but just as often I’ll write something more general which won’t be immediately obviated by subsequent news. In his 1999 book Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything, James Gleick complained of the “instant reflectivity” dispensed by pundits, and now by the blogosphere. That too is something I’ll try to avoid.
Thus, for better or worse, my blog. Take your time and read.