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


Bipartisan Bumper Sticker

I just received this joke from a friend:

At last, a bumper sticker for both parties. FINALLY, someone has come out with a 100% bipartisan political bumper sticker. The hottest selling bumper sticker comes from New York state.


Democrats put it on the rear bumper.

Republicans put it on the front bumper.

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.

American Idol Sucks

The other day I received an email, ostensibly related to my post on how publishing is getting the American Idol treatment.

Dear blog author:

We recently came across your site,, while searching for bloggers who blog about the hit tv show American Idol, now starting its sixth season.

A small group of us have started a new site called American Idol Bloggers. Our intent is to bring American Idol bloggers closer together, and make a positive contribution to the Internet community.

Would you be interested in joining American Idol Bloggers? Please take a few minutes to have a look at what we are trying to do, and if you are interested, there is a sign up page to get the ball rolling. We would greatly appreciate your support in this endeavour.

If you do not feel that your blog would be a good fit for American Idol Bloggers, but are an American Iool fan, come visit us and one of our member bloggers. You can also check our FAQ Section to learn more about American Idol Bloggers.

We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you on American Idol Bloggers.

Craig Cantin
American Idol Bloggers

Please note: you will receive this email no more than twice. If you do not respond to this email, we will send out a second and final email in approximately 3 weeks time. If you respond, by joining or by declining the invitation, we will not intentionally send this invite a second time.

You can join or visit American Idol Bloggers at any time, but we do not believe in spam, and will not intentionally send this invite more than twice. If you have any concerns regarding our anti-spam policy, please do not hesitate to contact us.

I went to the site American Idol Bloggers. The purveyors of this site, who say they do not believe in spam, clearly do not believe in actually reading blog posts that mention American Idol. In my defense, I should have been more explicit in my denunciation of the show and the publishing business’ attempt to mimic it. American Idol has been denounced very cleverly and intelligently here.

But what they hell, I’ll throw in my own positive contribution to the Internet community:

American Idol sucks because it promotes mediocrity by finding the blandest, most inoffensive, singers, to sing the schmaltziest trite songs that will keep corporate music and corporate radio alive and well to the detriment of all things new and vibrant. It also continues a long tradition of the music business making gobs of money while the singers they employ get little to nothing.

They let all those singers compete on television and in front of live studio audiences for the chance to land a contract with a record company. These shows rake in millions in advertising revenue, providing large profits to the producers and the network. Meanwhile, all of the singers, who do all of the performing (that is, the real work), get nothing more than a few minutes in the spotlight plus some criticism from a panel of so-called “judges” of musical expertise. The only person who has a shot at making money is the winner of this contest. And even that’s not guaranteed, because if the album doesn’t sell, well, then no money.

Personally, I don’t care if people want to watch this garbage. That’s the beauty of the free market. People can watch garbage or they can watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Office or Frontline. If they think bitchy Simon Cowell, bumbling Paula Abdul, and the former bassist for Journey Randy Jackson can judge talent, well, then so be it. I do admit that I once owned a few Paula Abdul albums while I was in college. But in my defense I was doing a lot of heavy drinking in those days. It was also around this time that I believed Ayn Rand was some sort of visionary, W. Axl Rose a true god, and that Cocoa Puffs, Skittles, and Pepsi were all a great source of nutrition. We all make mistakes, especially in our youth, and especially under the influence of gallons of alcohol.

So let me state this as unequivocally as possible: American Idol’s success condemns the taste of our age. There are many people and things whose success condemns the taste of our age. From Fox News to Michael Bolton, to Andrea Bocelli, to Whitney Houston, to Metallica’s career post-And Justice for All… to Rush Limbaugh. It just shows that even the clueless and willfully ignorant are entitled to their heroes, too.

If publishing wants to try the same thing, then best of luck pandering to the lowest of expectations. It was Mencken who said “No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.” I don’t mind a good mindless page-turner every once in awhile. But I doubt the likes of Joyce, Woolf, Hemingway, Morrison, Pinter, Beckett, Algren, Sebald, and Erdrich could have ever survived an American Idol-style competition to win a publishing contract. If that makes me a snob, then so be it. That’s where my tastes reside. I can live with that.