People Who Blog are Lonely Outcasts…

according to Professor Michael Keren of the University of Calgary. He has written a book titled, “Blogosphere: The New Political Arena.”

“Many of us end up like Father McKenzie in the ‘Eleanor Rigby’ Beatles song, who is writing a sermon that no one is going to hear,” he suggests. “Some of us are going to be embraced by the mainstream media, but the majority of us remain in the dark, remain in the loneliness.”

You could just as easily make the dubious case that people who become professors are lonely outcasts, given how few people read the articles they write.

You can read the whole article here.

Until my next post I’ll be bemoaning the sad state of my dark melancholy life both online and offline.

Yours truly,
Rich the Lonely Outcast

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A Text Message Novel is Published…

…but not for reading on cell phones. Unlike those Japanese novels, this novel is meant to be read in book form.

“The Last Messages” tells the story of a fictitious information-technology executive in Finland who resigns from his job and travels throughout Europe and India, keeping in touch with his friends and relatives only through text messages.

His messages, and the replies — roughly 1,000 altogether — are listed in chronological order in the 332-page novel written by Finnish author Hannu Luntiala. The texts are rife with grammatical errors and abbreviations commonly used in regular SMS traffic.

Wonder if they will eventually offer a version of the novel for reading on cell phones.

SOTU – Iraq Civil War Denial Watch Continued

President Bush delivered his State of the Union address last night. While he threw out a number of proposals, including reducing our oil use by 20% in 10 years, they were pretty much a grab bag. Reducing our oil use? He told us last year that we needed to become energy independent. Does anyone else remember when in a previous SOTU that he talked about creating the Hydrogen Economy?

How much money have we spent on becoming energy independent versus invading and occupying Iraq? The answer tells you which one is the real priority.

Speaking of Iraq, Fred Kaplan over at Slate does a very good job of explaining what the President doesn’t get about Iraq. Though, once again, neither the President, nor the Iraq hawk Kaplan, call it a “civil war.” It still remains merely “sectarian violence.”

Fail Better, Read Better

Zadie Smith, author of White Teeth and On Beauty, has a two-part essay in the Guardian about Writing and Reading. This has been linked to on other blogs, but it deserves to be read.

You can read Part One here.

You can read Part Two here.

Having posted Walcott’s poem Volcano, about being an ideal reader, then seeing this essay, really got me thinking about what it means to be a good reader of literature. There are some books that I read years ago, that I did not “get” and thought the whole world was wrong to praise. I have returned to those same books later on only to be startled at my own cluelessness. Then there are the books I return to and see and experience things in them that I did not before. Then there are those that I loved and now find rather limp and even immature.

I have changed as a reader, as I have changed as a person. I do know that I’ve become a better reader. As good as I’d like to believe I am, I still feel a certain insecurity when having read a book for the first time that I have not understood it, the way I should, the way the writer meant it to be. You want to meet the writer on his or her own terms, at the same time that you want the wholly edifying broad experience that reading can provide. What happens when the terms can’t be understood or the experience is a let-down?

Just as writers write from their own perspective (“dramatising their belief”), readers read from their own perspective. Conflict is inevitable. But I don’t penalize critics like Michiko Kakutani or James Wood if they don’t respond to particular writers. I know them as critics, so I don’t have a problem with them being “corrective critics” as Smith would put it. They are articulating their specific views of art. Regardless, they can provide a good guide to What to Read. You learn to trust certain critics about certain types of books and not to trust them about others. But knowing that (knowing a critic, knowing types of literature) takes time. A lot of time. You have to practice at being a reader.

Which brings us back to what it means to be an ideal reader of literature. Which brings us to an impossible goal: but for lovers of literature a dream. It remains a dream because we can no more be an ideal reader than there can be an ideal or “perfect” book. The book you loved in high school or college or at 25 no longer fires you up the way it did, the way another book does now. The reader you were is not the reader you are now. You are now another writer’s ideal reader.

You play games, listing your ideal “desert island” books. You make them, yet acknowledge how unsatisfying the final list is, and how the list you made in your 20’s, is not the same as the one you made in your 30’s, and are sure will be different from the one you will make in your 60’s. But we do it anyway, getting a glimpse into our own tastes as readers, marking our own development as readers. Striving to understand everything a great book has to offer us about the human experience.

Read on, my friends.

Harold Pinter Collects Another Prize

This time the French Legion d’Honneur.

The prime minister, who, like Pinter, is a vocal critic of the war in Iraq, used his speech at the ceremony to call for a change in the West’s attitude towards the conflict. “If we want the western world and especially Europe to be seen as a model of tolerance and peace, we have to change our minds and leave behind us anything but bombs.”

Last year Pinter won the Nobel. You can read his speech here.

Barack Obama for President in 2008!

After months of speculation Barack Obama has formed his exploratory committee.

His web site is here.

You can buy stuff here.

Personally, I’d thought it might be best if he ran for governor of Illinois in 2010, after Blagojevich had created enough pent-up desire for real change. Obama would then get executive experience, and then run for President in 2016…But the thing is that he needs to strike when the iron is hot. Now seems to be the best time for him, with Bush leaving office in 2008, and the Republican party having done such a wonderful job botching the War on Islamic Terrorists, the War in Iraq, Medicare, and the Federal Budget.

So climb aboard the Obama Express!…And watch for things to get ugly. Afterall, this is politics.

Volcano – Derek Walcott

Joyce was afraid of thunder
but lions roared at his funeral
from the Zurich zoo.
Was it Trieste or Zurich?
No matter. These are legends, as much
as the death of Joyce is a legend,
or the strong rumour that Conrad
is dead, and that Victory is ironic.
On the edge of the night-horizon
from this beach house on the cliffs
there are now, till dawn,
two glares from the miles-out-
at-sea derricks; they are like
the glow of the cigar
and the glow of the volcano
at Victory‘s end.
One could abandon writing
for the slow-burning signals
of the great, to be, instead,
their ideal reader, ruminative,
voracious, making the love of masterpieces
superior to attempting
to repeat or outdo them,
and be the greatest reader in the world.
At least it requires awe,
which has been lost to our time;
so many people have seen everything,
so many people can predict,
so many refuse to enter the silence
of victory, the indolence
that burns at the core,
so many are no more than
erect ash, like the cigar,
so many take thunder for granted.
How common is the lightning,
how lost the leviathans
we no longer look for!
There were giants in those days.
In those days they made good cigars.
I must read more carefully.

– 1976