Category Archives: Blogs, Socials

Site Maintenance

When I bought the name and space for the BrandywineBooks.net, I thought the host’s behind the scenes traffic monitor would be enough for me to keep up with who is reading and browsing the site, but it hasn’t been. It’s hard to get to and difficult to understand. So I added the site meter we used on the blogspot blog. You can see it at the foot of the sidebar. The number, presently 64,188, reflects all the visitors from the old site, but none from the new site until today.

I should probably take that number for what it is and avoid reading encouragement or discouragement into it. No reason to wonder why more people don’t drop by. I’ve given them reasons to look elsewhere with my inconsistent, uninspiring blogging. But is blogging really about readership? If someone posts on a blog no one reads, isn’t it still blogging?

I’m not serious. Don’t worry about me, but feel free to send your cards and gifts all the same.

Brandywine Books has been online since May 2003. We are an Adorable Little Rodent in the blogospheric ecosystem. We rank 28,111 at Technorati. And better than any of that, you are here now. Thank you for stopping by. Now, go read a good book.

New Media Examples Would Help Rago Essay

I don’t want to assume Joseph Rago, an assistant editorial features editor at the Wall Street Journal, is cut from the same cloth as previous newspaper critics of bloggers, because he writes a good essay despite it being free of examples. He writes:

The bloggers . . . produce minimal reportage. Instead, they ride along with the MSM like remora fish on the bellies of sharks, picking at the scraps. . . . If the blogs have enthusiastically endorsed Joseph Conrad’s judgment of newspapering–“written by fools to be read by imbeciles”–they have also demonstrated a remarkable ecumenicalism in filling out that same role themselves.

Though he seems focused on political blogs, these statements are broadly true of all blogs. We bloggers don’t do first-hand reporting much–though as I say that I think of Mark Sarvas, Terry Teachout, Sarah Weinman, the people at Nextbook, Tim Challies, Sherry Early, and other bloggers who do report first-hand and write thoughtful reviews. They are neither remora fish nor fools.

But I doubt Mr. Rago is addressing them in his essay. He is focusing on political blogs, which seem to make up 60% of the blogosphere. He writes:

More success is met in purveying opinion and comment [instead of reporting, interviewing, or even digesting the news after careful thought – pw]. Some critics reproach the blogs for the coarsening and increasing volatility of political life. Blogs, they say, tend to disinhibit. Maybe so. But politics weren’t much rarefied when Andrew Jackson was president, either. The larger problem with blogs, it seems to me, is quality. Most of them are pretty awful. Many, even some with large followings, are downright appalling.

Every conceivable belief is on the scene, but the collective prose, by and large, is homogeneous: A tone of careless informality prevails; posts oscillate between the uselessly brief and the uselessly logorrheic; complexity and complication are eschewed; the humor is cringe-making, with irony present only in its conspicuous absence; arguments are solipsistic; writers traffic more in pronouncement than persuasion . . .

Perhaps it would only start fights, but I would like to know which big blogs he thinks are “downright appalling.” That’s the meat of his criticism, is it not? Who cares that thousands of blogs are filled with short posts that amount to no more than “Check out this link”? I’d like to know which of the well-known blogs Mr. Rago is criticizing.

To answer his broad assertion directly, I don’t believe most blogs should be considered news sources in the sense newspapers are. Obviously, bloggers are hobbists, enthusiasts, opinion swappers, reviewers, critics and would-be critics. We don’t have newsrooms or staff reporters. Some of us are professional reporters, but most of us aren’t. We’re just talking–typing on our screens. Before the Internet, we would be chatting over the fence, in the barbershop, in the church lobby, or on the phone with a few people. Now it’s a million.

Sure we want to be taking seriously–doesn’t everyone? Sure it’s a charge that one or a few of us could expose a lie broadcast by CBS. That’s one of the strengths of the new media, providing a check to the old media. Another strength is the ability to focus attention on reports the newsmakers don’t believe will sell their papers. Mix the strengths with a lot of common talk about the news–I can’t see the harm in it.

Mars Hill Audio Podcast

I guess I missed the announcement this summer, because I just learned about Mars Hill Audio’s podcast, Audition. Ken Myers’ most recent recording is dedicated to P.D. James’s ideas on fiction and mystery and her sci-fi novel, The Children of Men. I believe I have heard most of this recording in early editions of the Mars Hill Audio Journal, and here you can listen to it for free.

The previous podcast has many literary subjects too. Taking from the description post, this recording discusses:

  • “how W. H. Auden’s conversion to Christianity affected his poetry”
  • “J. R. R. Tolkien’s view of language, and the dangers of a society that debases language”
  • “how Flannery O’Connor’s fiction reveals her incarnational view of life”
  • “how myth differs from the modern novel, and what is lost when the gods disappear from our stories”
  • “how C. S. Lewis was more open-minded than his Victorian atheistic teachers, and how that open-mindedness left room for Lewis to become a Christian”

Wonderful stuff.

Should I Use the N-word in a Title?

Mr. H.S. Key has kicked up a conversation on the word “nigger.” Regarding Michael Richards’ outburst:

Most offended Americans said it wasn’t necessarily the word that bothered them – since the word is used by rappers and even some crazy white people in somewhat less unacceptable ways (nigga and so forth). Rather, it was the manner, context and intent behind Richards’s usage that made the situation so bad. Or was it the word itself?

He describes another comedian who used the word clearly without malice and has apologized.

The word “nigger” is not one I plan to use when I’m not talking about the word itself, but I must say it doesn’t have the negative connotations for me that some people seem to give it, probably because it and other words like it carry more meaning in their usage than they do in the definition. For more on this, see Randall Kennedy’s 2003 book, Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word.

2006 Weblog Awards

I guess litblogs or blogs on books, plays, writing, painting, and similar works are not prevalent enough to warrent notice when you look at the whole blogosphere. Still I keep hoping will point us out, and again my hopes are dashed.

The 2006 Weblog Awards (now accepting nominations) has an arts category with this list: Best Photo Blog, Best Culture Blog, Best Diarist, Best Gossip Blog, Best Music Blog, Best Podcast, Best Video Blog, Video Of The Year.

Best photo and music–good. Where’s literature or best humanities maybe?

Kerry’s Botched Joke

You may have heard that Senator John Kerry commented on education the other day and has since tried to explain that it was a botched joke. The would-be joke: “Education, if you make the most of it — you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart — you can do well. If you don’t you get stuck in Iraq.”

Yeah, I know what he meant. If you don’t make an effort to be smart, you get stuck blogging.

Traffic is irrelevant to your blog’s success

Someone in the marketing department is talking about blogging in 2006. He seems to make good points, but I still don’t like the label “Web 2.0.” It’s old-school, though it may be a better name than anything that would be more accurate.

Feel free to comment on Brandywine Books in this thread whether or not it relates to this list of blog observations. Complain, entreat, rebuke, what have you.

Chesterton’s blog

Well, blimey, Bert! Look what I’ve copped. The blog of the American Chesterton Society (ACS). They have a rare, autographed book of Chesterton poems for sale with a charity angle on it, and they point to a review of an interesting book I hadn’t seen before, The Flying Inn. The reviewer writes that the book “was condemned to many years of neglect, presumably because of what was then seen as the quaintness and irrelevance of its subject matter — an Islamic attack on and infiltration of England.” The ACS says, “This is a hilarious satirical romp in which Chesterton inveighs against the forces of dreary and oppressive modernity, in the form of Prohibition, vegetarianism, theosophy, and other movements.”