Gosh, it’s really hard to be a knowledgable blogger these days.
Looking over my email address book, I realize I had totally lost track of a first class travel writer Ethan Casey. Well, travel writer is not the label for him. If I remember correctly, he wrote first person pieces with observations about culture and international politics with a highly literary flair. I remember being thrilled by one of his articles on his blueear.com site in (gosh, was it 1999 or 2000?)
He and I had communicated briefly about the Internet and publishing possibilities. That was in the days before php and cheap web hosting, where web pages were coded by hand and quite frankly, were a bitch. Blueear.com had an active community of internationally-minded contributors, and I remember being on their mailing list forever. For a while, I kept up, and then I lost track of Ethan’s doings and of the people on his site. This Internet thing, you know, it’s quite big.
Net savvy guy that I am, I went to www.waybackmachine.org to collect some of Ethan’s old articles. And then alas! I find that on the archive page the wayback machine had a lot of trouble collecting pages. Yes, it captured the front page and some side pages, but it missed an awful lot of the side pages.
I once formulated one of my own principles as a writer as follows: “All real writing is samizdat; the rest is filler or propaganda.” If you take on a topic or issue too directly and with too overt a political intent, you risk writing propaganda. If you’re unconcerned with subverting anything, what you write is filler, useful only for filling the space between ads, lining the bird cage, and wrapping fish. The trick, for a real writer, is to write samizdat. The first step in doing this is to identify the sacred cows of one’s own time and place. Step two is to screw up the courage to write about them. Step three is to find just the right tangent, just the right measure of indirection, so that you communicate effectively without alienating anyone, which is easier said than done. Also in my judgment, all of the above applies to *both* literature *and* journalism — and, indeed, the distinction between the two is not always clear to me.
I just noticed that Sam Vaknin has a site with blueear archives, plus lots of his own articles. Free registration is required to access the blueear archives. I will check this out over time.
Speaking of independent journalists I’ve lost track of, here’s Rahul Mahajan on Nagasaki and pseudo-justifications for dropping the atom bomb:
So the United States set out to kill as many civilians as possible in these attacks, even though, because of the MAGIC intercepts, they were in a good position to believe the killing of civilians would make no difference to the Japanese government. They gave no warning for the Hiroshima bombing; they did give warning about Nagasaki, one day after the bombing. Civilians had no chance to flee. The bombs were set to detonate at exactly the height above the ground that would maximize the blast devastation. Everything was done to kill as many civilians as possible. And, in the end, it may not have made one damn bit of difference in making the Japanese surrender.
He compares the rationalization with the rationalization for making to war with Iraq:
So what do we make of all this? Does the incredible intransigence of the Japanese military command and its lack of concern for civilian lives exonerate the United States?
This reminds me a great deal of an argument that always got thrown at us regarding Saddam and the sanctions on Iraq. First, we need to kill children because Saddam is intransigent and won’t cooperate fully with weapons inspections and killing children is the only way to make him cooperate. Second, Saddam is hard-hearted and doesn’t care about the children killed, so it’s not our fault that they’ve died.
Finally, to finish off with another link from an independent journalist Clive Thompson on why conservative bloggers have more influence:
Yet NDN concludes that liberal blogs are not necessarily having as big an impact, because of fundamental differences between the way conservatives and liberals use blogs. Liberals may have more traffic, but they have fewer overall blogs. To put it another way, progressives have a small number of enormously-well-read blogs, which conservatives have a large number of blogs with small audiences. That’s partly because of how conservatives use them: NDN claims that the right mostly uses blogs as extensions of pre-existing party structures and organizations; they also more often devote blogs to local issues. The upshot is that conservative blogs have a bigger impact on the real world, since they’re connected to real-world party structures and are focussed on real-world problems all over the country.