Wednesday, May 19, 2010

today : self reflexion

Whenever I look at my blog I am always surprised that anyone else ever looks at it. But the numbers don't lie. Whatever the counter says, needs to have 5200 added, because I changed the counter and lost that number of recorded hits. Last time I looked closely I have had visitors from 90+ countries.

I started blogging as a way to discipline my writing. I was struggling with what I guess people call writers block and thought that some commitment would do me good. A friend of mine showed me the blog of a Professor of New Media. I was struck by how much of it was cross-posted from other blogs or even just plagiarised. It made me wonder if this particular Professor of New Media was actually an Emperor of New Clothes too.

But I could see the usefulness for myself. Publishing to the world - to a potential but basically imaginary audience, would instill a sense of responsibility in my writing. My initial plan was to write very extended pieces - maybe even book length, and post them as I wrote. But that Dickensian ideal fell by the wayside pretty quickly.

I was never under any illusions that I was adding anything original to the tide of noisy opinion that now sweeps the world via the Blogosphere, the Twittersphere and all the other spheres that seem to grow exponentially as each month goes by. That is why I have tended to shy away from the daily comment model, where I give my instant reactions to news events, politics and the like. But as a teacher I have a special interest in teaching issues and my experience gives me enough insight that I feel writing my thoughts is legitimate and useful. And as I grew increasingly disabled in the last few years I also felt it important to write about that. Partly, this was writing as therapy. It's pretty hard to come to terms with the onset of disability. Your entire relationship with the day-to-day world changes quite profoundly. For me, things like using a wheelchair also re-opened my eyes to the kind of prejudice that I didn't previously encounter, and thought was on the way out.

But mainly my blog has been an exercise in writing for writing's sake. As such I looked back over the (including this one) 452 posts and it also serves as a diary of sorts. There have been pieces contemporaneous with the events of the day. Sometimes I have posted in anger, frustration or excitement. You can't help but be influenced by current events, but I am happy to be more circumspect than most. So don't come here for my take on whatever happened today (today - 18th May 2010 was the 30th anniversary of the death of Ian Curtis and also Mt St Helens exploding).

One of the things that does surprise me is that I get so many hits even thought I have deliberately stayed anonymous and done nothing to advertise or monetize (Google's term, not mine) my blog. This is despite me advising other people on how to maximise their hit-rates (my main advice is to make your links section into an indispensable set of bookmarks on your chosen specialist subject - a place that other folk will bookmark instead of compiling their own links list). Of course, I have deliberately not taken my own advice. My links are pretty random, just stuff I like or have found interesting, which isn't really a specialist subject. A small circle of friends know where to find me, and the fact that it's me. But beyond that I've made no effort to gain a wider readership. Interestingly, my greatest hits - the posts that literally received the greatest number of hits - are mainly to do with religion. A comment on Islamic bathing costumes somehow was posted to a liberal Muslim discussion board and received almost a hundred hits in 2 days. My piece on the death of Baroness Nicky Chapman from a few weeks ago got forty in a day. I put that down to the fact that the newspaper obits were really rubbish and some people were looking to find info on her.

But many of my hits come from the fact that I always accompany each post with an image. I guess these pictures, which I generally harvest from the Web, retain their original hidden information and tagging stuff, and so appear on image-searches. It looks like at least 40% of hits on my blog are to do with the pictures.

As I have said, the international hits and the few regular readers who show up, when once in a while I do the Analytics thing, are a bonus. If someone is amused by something I posted, or diverted, or made to think, then that is excellent. But that is not why I am proud of my 'umble little blog. What gratifies me is the notion that I have followed through with my plan.

It's an odd feeling, but I feel responsible to it. When I have not posted anything for a while I feel a tad guilty. Sometimes I use a tried and tested stop-gap, like a one or two liner about something nostalgic, or a Youtube video of some groovy music. But even these are kind of planned. Music is something that I am deeply involved with and have been posting a lot of recently. But this reflects a recent surge in my own interest in new artists and songs.

Which is perfectly acceptable. My blog should reflect me. Which, in a selective way, it does.

Anyway, the reason that I ended up posting this tribute to myself comes down to a beautiful young woman whom I shall call Katrine. Katrine was one of those women who are so beautiful that they stay in your mind forever - frozen in time like Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not. I was simply driving down the road the other day and saw a sign that reminded me of a restaurant which reminded me of a meal I'd had there with Katrine; which reminded me of the fact that the meal developed into a surprise tryst. And because in the natural order of things, these things don't happen to me, or guys like me, or almost nobody outside of the letters page of Forum magazine in the 1970s in fact, the two nights spent in hotels with Katrine have - even though I've hardly ever thought about them - stayed with me for many years. But actually it wasn't the two nights, but a few seconds that must have been ingrained. Just a few seconds of her coming out of the bathroom. Initially, it amused me because I was with a woman-friend at the time I drove past the sign and seemingly went into a kind of reverie-induced shutdown to the point where she got a little upset, thinking she had done something wrong. But I couldn't explain to her that I was simply lost in the years-old pictorial memory of the sublimely beautiful Katrine in a state of deshabille. Now that would have cause some upset.

Which got me thinking about two things. The first, that of all the things that have the power to stop men in their tracks, the main one is the beauty of a woman. Whether in memory or current reality the power that beauty holds is pretty much immeasurable. Added to that was the idea that somehow these days it isn't the done thing for men to be seen appreciating the beauty of women. It's a tricky path.

The second thought I had was how difficult it is to have any kind of relationship with someone else, without sometimes finding yourself in a position where a lie is the best course of action.

Which got me writing on both topics. Except, what began as a short piece grew and grew. Frankly, to think that 'The Immeasurable Power of the Beauty of Women' is a topic which could be covered in four hundred words is at best very optimistic and at worst obviously insane. Given that a large percentage of the poetry and prose written throughout history is pretty much on that topic, as well as most art and many, many songs, and nobody seems to have managed to exhaust the seam yet.

And the one about relationships and honesty. Well Shakespeare had almost 40 goes at that one and still didn't run out of angles. So what hope do I have?

So of course, what started as blog post grew and grew. I'll let you know how it goes. But it's already heading towards 10,000 words. And with there being necessary erotic elements it could take forever, as they are almost impossible to write.

But I don't mind. It means that my initial impulse to use this blog to discipline my writing has worked. So far I have spun off 12 or 14 significant pieces of writing from blog ideas. Some of them (such as the piece on The Ripper Room - 14 hits in 3 days) appear here. Some, like this piece ,inspired by Katrine and the hotel room, don't really.

Maybe I'll find a way to put them up somewhere, sometime and see if they become hits.

Anyway, if I can write one tenth as well on my chosen topic as Billy Bragg does in The Saturday Boy, I'll be doing pretty well.

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