Reading in the archives

by Yule Heibel on January 31, 2011

I was rooting around in my Google documents just minutes ago and came across two 2006 blog post drafts I’d parked there. I published them to my blog at the time, but hadn’t re-viewed them since then: All Eyes (Oct.22, 2006) and Winter will come soon enough (Oct.25, 2006).

Both posts convince me of two things: 1) that I should be leveraging my own archive; and 2) that I’ve become stupider over the past couple of years.

When I started blogging in 2003, I paid attention to what was said about blogging – what it was “supposed” to be, and what it wasn’t supposed to be. I guess I wasn’t particularly good at following instructions, though, so I never rose anywhere near the ranks where the big A-listers hung out – and instead I usually wrote long, convoluted posts.

Why? Probably because I had enough belief in my own ability to analyze – and most importantly: to synthesize – ideas. I continued to pursue my “big” ideas, irrespective of my marginal status and my inability to be popular. So what if my texts were an acquired taste and had a readership of …a few? These few were my readers, and that’s what counted. And so I wrote what I wanted to write.

While it bothered me that popular bloggers insisted that one should write at a Grade 8 level or that one shouldn’t write large blocks of text and that one should always break text up with lots of images and bullet points and paragraph headings, I kept going along in my style. Why? Because it helped me think – and I happened to be thinking about important matters.

That changed.

Somehow, in the last few years I lost touch with my intellectual side, the side that kept me thinking about important things. And it wasn’t other bloggers or A-list pundits who convinced me to lose that touch. It was my local environment. Here, in this island city, I tried to be a local pundit, and lord, what a disaster that was. I wrote for a print publication, which garnered me even less feedback than my blog posts had. I tried writing simply, because I was made to understand that overly complex texts aren’t popular. But I still wasn’t getting any resonance, even if I tried to write at a Grade 8 level. Therefore, it must all be my fault, I concluded. In 2007 the local mainstream media ripped me off, which hammered home the insight that ideas count for nothing when there’s an old boys’ network and $$ at stake.

Things got worse: in 2009 I also got sucked into a very fraught local political issue, which nearly completely destroyed my sense of …being able to make sense. That disaster happened in the slipstream of another lowlight of 2008, the aftereffects of which have dragged on for over two years: a municipal election that swept into power an awful mayor and council, further alienating me from Victoria. The 2011 election promises no relief, incidentally.

Doubly alienated – from my academic self as well as my engaged civic self – I have spent the last many months floundering. I’ve thrown myself into other projects and subjects, but my output has gone to the lowest common denominator. I tried to make myself understood locally, and that was my personal Waterloo. So much time wasted… talking to …whom? The town closed ranks and shut me out.

And I have lost years of serious thinking. What an idiot I’ve been to waste my time like this.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

John Luna January 31, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Hi Yule,
Couldn’t it also just be the character of the medium creeping in in that McLuhanesque manner? You were the person who advised me to become ‘an aggregate’ (great phrase…I may at last be trying, incidentally.) Certainly Victoria and blogging share in common a really circuitous and delayed feedback (or maybe that’s just blogging in Victoria and I don’t know what I’m talking about.) I just finished teaching an art criticism course where blogging (and critics who blogged) was a component, and I have to say, the whole thing sure is in its infancy, qualitatively speaking…many of the models we looked at were very much victims of the situation you’re alluding to at the outset of your post. But a lot of the students were great, so I have hope for the future. I’m still a print person, but I keep wondering if things that have excited me in print (just recently Galeano’s Century of the Wind) and wondered if they would work in a format like this. How it works, what it would tolerate…

Yule February 2, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Hi John, thanks for commenting. Yes, there are many other things feeding into my funk, but I keep coming back to Emily Carr (that most emblematic of Victorians) – whose books I haven’t read, but of whom I know that she described Victoria as a cow, endlessly chewing the cud.
I’m no Emily Carr, but I’m developing a horror of ending up like her. She sacrificed to the damn cow, and look what it got her. 😉
She would have been better off in a more open community, and it would have been great for her art, too.

By the way, re. art and art history blogging, check out Three Pipe Problem, who has a good post (in that link above) about Google’s newly-launched Art Project.

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