Monday, January 5, 2009

Blogging: Is it, as Sir Toby asks,"a world to hide virtues in?"

I was young once.
I can remember getting a new HotWheels™ and running it around and around, up walls in the garden, down into the plant beds, through the muddy fields, and back and forth across the asphalt of the driveway until the wheels were worn down and the little plastic windows were scratched or shattered and if there were articulated doors, well, they were no longer that articulate.
And that was the first afternoon.
Apparently, somebody in the SouthCoast has a new toy that they just can't seem to put down. Everybody's talking about it: newspapers, radio stations, everybody!
It's the Internet.
More specifically: BLOGS!!!1!
If I look around -- oh, let's say over there on the right, The Gam -- I see Aces Full of Links, Al Gore, Armagideon Time, C-SPAN, Cerebus the Aardvark, and Constitution (the document). "Aces" and "AT" are (in one case "practically" and in the other, "maddeningly") daily, intelligent, edifying, and entertaining presentations about topics which interest the authors. As you might surmise, their comments sections are chock-a-block full of brilliant observations and helpful discussions on a wide variety of fascinating topics. I read them and I have -- self-consciously and awkwardly -- joined the conversations. The Al Gore site is, like the Cerebus one, a site about a popular character; C-SPAN is television that doesn't require a subscription to Seventeen magazine; and, the Constititution is there because it just fucking should be.
I visit a lot of different sites because I am incapable of focusing my distractable and extendable mind on one particular vile task for too long. Thus, if I'm painting trim or writing about Eighteenth Century theater, I will also need to divert myself and look at A View From Battleship Cove, briefly wonder WHY in the name of all that is brine shrimp does shamrock identify me as a "Fall River link" on Fall River-tastic, and then I stop by my Facebook page (Not MySpace, however, where the kids called me "old." They call me old on Facebook too, but at least they're pleasant and offer me Werther's butterscotch toffees). And then, back to plowing. Or harbor furls. Whatever it is that I actually do.
You're familiar with my disdain for comments on newspaper forums. It's not the anonymity that bothers me, because every comment has a fingerprint and often Anonymous is merely a name that people use that isn't their real one. Sometimes anonyms are names that actually make the commenter instantly recognizable. They take on characters that are no longer anonymitic; they're actual names, like "Mister Pibb" or "Zaphod Beeblebrox." In many other ways, these "secret sharers" are made recognizable by distinguishing unorthodox spellings, CAPITALIZATION, and identifiable grammatical earmarks. But I don't see any problem with anonymite commentors because anonymity shows humility, modesty, and reserve -- qualities that are lacking in most political and social discussion forums, like the windbaggery of talk radio.
I like the new "All Anonymic" blogs that are coming out of Fall River. And from out of Fall River but about Fall River (which is, apparently, a bad thing). I especially enjoy the play at RadioFree, but I had to mitigate my own participation because I am only a vain wanderer on those boards and far from my comfort zone among those outstanding Anonymi (I made posts as "Thirdmate" -- with the above picture and everything -- and then as "PJ" and then, yes, after one final "stop dissing Keri, it's her blog" post, I finally caught on to the "everybody just be Anonymous to piss off Bob Correia and save Spartacus" scheme, and I ended my commenting pastime. Plus I don't dig the "Anonymous 3:15 is wrong to denounce Anonymous 2:48 for agreeing with Anonymous 2:15..." jazz).

Then I got all freaked out when somebody ratted another commenter -- not me -- for being a "Randy[sic] pirate" on Facebook. Hey, I thought, I'm on Facebook. Some people think I'm "piratey." I'm vain enough to accept the epithet "Randy[sic]." But, since it's hard to get Facebook info without being on Facebook, and you actually have to be a "friend" to get access to an account to find out how "Randy[sic]" or "piratey" someone is, I wonder who they were really talking to. About.
One way that people stay connected to each other through the haze of anonymazement is by knowing each other's IP address. Depending on what website tracking counter service you were fooled into allowing to latch onto your site, you can find out a blog visitor's location, operating system, and what brought that visitor there -- like did she type "pope fish Friday inca mummy Hannigan" into Google.
Of course, my IP address tells people that I'm in Malden. I must be very anonymous, since Comcast doesn't even know where I am. And I even send them a bunch of money occasionally.
But I hear that important local radio personalities know who I am because of my "override code" or some very top secret superparanoia delusional stuff like that. That's a part of the professional wrestling "us -vs- them" simplicity that they need in order to stumble from the car to the mic every day. But I get a kick out of the mistaken identity/confusion/Shakespearean battle of wit and wills.
Plus: Everybody knows that I'm really in Illyria for Twelfth Night. Think what you will, but at least I know who Viola is.


Dr. Momentum said...

Your kind mention honors me. And I have to say this particular post expresses feelings I've had about comments on newspaper sites and on Keri's blog.

I do not read the local paper's comment sections. I also do not wade into cesspools as a hobby. Related facts?

I read Keri's blog, and it pains me to read the comment section. This is the case partly because I am friendly with Keri and nobody deserves to get the kind of comments that her blunt criticisms seem to garner from those who are always threatened by any sort of criticism. I also feel physical pain from the feeling of hopelessness that washes over me from reading how some people choose to make use of their ability to comment.

Anger I can understand. Frustration I can understand. But that the anonymity seems to lend a brazenness to ignorance, stupidity and a total lack of creativity is thoroughly depressing.

ThirdMate said...

Thanks, Dr. Momentum. You are very wise.

When I first started to write this piece, I was full of piss and vinegar, but then I effectively moderated my gripes and made a more palatable post. Maybe if I could trade a little of my internal editor for a more effective "turnaway mechanism," I wouldn't get into trouble when my Celtic propensity for gossip succumbs to the call of the comments section.

I've stopped writing them, maybe I should stop reading them.

Andrew Weiss said...

I think you're pretty peachy, too, PJ!

I try to stay clear of the most toxic comment sections (*ahem* Kotaku *ahem*), but there are times when I just can't resist taking a peek.

You'd think I'd learn my lesson by now.

ThirdMate said...

The Gawker Media Network has very site-specific toxicality. Wonkette has raised the smart vulgar in-joke to a highly adept craft, which is probably why they're no longer affiliated with GMN.

I try to think of it as research. Plus, it can only serve to strengthen the log-rolling skills. BTW: Hanx!

shamrock said...

What?! You don't enjoy the honorary Fall Riverite label? I have been meaning to change that; I hope I didn't get you on any "whackjob blogga" payback lists.

ThirdMate said...

The "whackjob blogga" thing was a consideration. I have been, however, wicked honored.