Category Archives: Popular culture

The Blog that Broke the Camel’s Back

The other day I had an exchange with another blogger here on WordPress, during which he told me that there are some 600 million blogs in the world.

Later on, I read a recent survey that put the total number of blogs at WordPress alone at close to 74 million. FYI Tumblr hosts over 100 million blogs, as well.

It’s mind-boggling, really. Or should that be mind-blogging? Boggling and blogging are, after all, anagrams of each other, aren’t they?

Anyway, whether the initial figure of 600 million blogs is accurate or not, I did some rough calculations about how long it would take to visit every single blog in existence. As part of this equation I allowed 10 seconds per blog view and the number I got was 190 years.

In fact, to be honest, I actually got 19 years, but now I’ve re-done the sums I think the answer should have been 190 years. If it is actually the latter, then this would be proof enough it’s in no way humanly possible to see every other blog in the blogosphere.

Who cares? I hear you cry out in despair at my lack of a discernible point.

To which I reply, all right already! Be patient! For here is my point. Are you ready? OK. Let me ask you this, how is it out of the literally hundreds of millions of other blogs (that are just blogging around out there) you ended up here, reading this?

Think about it…Life’s short, and it would take you somewhere between 19 and 190 years (trust me, math is not my strongest suit) to visit every blog in existence. And yet here you are reading this.

Is it fate or kismet or synchronicity, perhaps? Pure chance, maybe? What is it that makes us visit and follow the blogs that we do? I’m sure, most of us would like to think we exercise the power of choice in such matters. But I’m not so sure.

My primary criteria in selecting blogs to follow is a perceived sense of like-mindedness. That and curiosity. By which I mean, if a blog diverts me from my habitual preoccupations, in some interesting or unexpected way, for long enough, I might also give it a go.

Whatever. What I’m really trying to get around to saying is that what we’re seeing with this whole blogging phenomenon is actually the next evolution in writing. For in many ways we are currently witnessing the end of the novel and other more traditional forms of the written word.

And so, ultimately, I believe, the next big shift in writing will be towards a more collective approach. And that’s exactly what I would argue is taking place right now within blog-writing communities more generally. People are aligning with each other and forming small collectives, whereby they can freely exchange comments and feedback, almost immediately after a piece of written work is posted.

In the past a new idea would find expression through the writing of a single individual, be it the societally critical insights of a Charles Dickens’ novel or even the evilly distorted vision of something like Mein Kampf, for that matter.

But is it possible that maybe humanity is now moving towards a point where new ideas will find their expression through the kind of “writing collectives” that blog-writing communities naturally engender?

So put another way, are we really choosing the blogs we follow? Or is there a larger purpose bringing us all together? Because, sure, while it might prove to be an extremely long and gradual process, it’s entirely possible there are certain yet to be formalized ideas actively seeking new modes of expression through our various collective on-line groupings. Just what those ideas might be is only limited by the extent of our imaginations.

It’s either that, I guess. Or that instead of 600 million blogs, there’ll soon be 6 billion and not a single one of them will be read by another individual because we’ll all be too busy blogging ourselves into oblivion.

Makes you think, though, doesn’t it? 600 million blogs…


Confessions of an Inverse Snob

Just recently I had the opportunity to meet one of the heroes of my youth. And while both of us may have aged somewhat over the last 25 years, it was still a real buzz.

The hero I’m referring to is Joe Satriani, and believe me he is still very much at the top of his game.

For those of you who don’t know of whom I speak, it is probably easiest to describe Joe as being the ultimate guitarists’ guitarist. He can do things when he plays that causes mere mortals like myself to question why they ever bothered to pick up a guitar in the first place.

I do believe the Devil himself would sell his own soul to be able to play as well as Joe (or Satch as he is known to his legions of fans).

But enough. I could enthuse about Joe’s mad skills forever. However, that is not my intent. Because what I really wanted to focus on here was the man himself.

You see, in person, Joe happened to be everything you would want your hero to be: humble, polite, very centered and totally inspiring. And I know all this from a quick handshake and a brief exchange of words as I got my photo taken with the great Professor Satchafunkilus

So what of it? I hear you ask. Well, I suppose, this is meant to serve as a confession of sorts. For as much as I am ashamed to admit it, I didn’t conduct myself in a totally dignified fashion throughout this fleeting interaction.

The problem was that I initially approached meeting Joe with the wrong attitude. I thought he would be all aloof and dismissive with me, his being world-famous and all. And so, I therefore acted like an “inverse snob”, sort of almost snubbing him before he could snub me type-thing.

Fortunately, his gentle, zen-like demeanor cut through all my crap real quick. And that’s when I realized it’s not always enough to be the very best at something. Because if you’re going to rise to the top of whatever it is you do, you’re also going to have to learn how to deal with other people on a major scale. Something which is an entirely different skill set again.

Anyway, that was my recent celebrity encounter and subsequent bout of self-analysis. And so now I wonder if any of you have had a similar experience? And, if so, what did you take from it?

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Congratulations, You’ve Been Elected Chairman of the Bored!

This post stands to potentially be the most offensive I have yet posted on this blog. And for that reason I apologise in advance to anyone who finds themselves even remotely affronted by what follows…(NB Although the title of this post offers a satirical take on a well-known Monopoly card, the following has nothing to do with that particular board game).

So, then, here goes nothing. Ahem, how should I put this? Oh, yeah, I absolutely HATE scrabble! I positively loathe it like I would loathe having Ieprosy of the feet. In fact, there are not nearly enough seven-letter words contained within the English language to describe the intensity of my hatred.

Ok, let me make this abundantly clear, shall I? Just in case there is still any vagueness around the nature of my feelings towards the aforementioned board game. Simply put, I would voluntarily submit to experimental root-canal therapy long before I would submit to playing a casual game of scrabble. Believe me, I can’t help it, but I truly just want to take a hammer to every scrabble board I see.

My family, more widely, mostly loves the despicable excuse for a game. Which only serves to make me feel even more ostracized when attending family gatherings and holiday get-togethers etc. Hmm, “outcast”, now look, there’s a good seven-letter word to describe my predicament!

Anyway, I suspect at this point you’re thinking I’m merely being churlish for the sake of it. Well, I beg to differ. My chagrin is heartfelt, honestly, and I’ll tell you why.

To my mind, scrabble is tantamount to word-abuse. It’s also mean-spirited and nasty in the way it forces players to reduce letters to mere numbers, for point-scoring purposes. And moreover it makes champions of those who would piggyback their own words onto the existing words of others. In essence, it lacks any real poetry.

I myself am a lover of words. And to see words being made to conform to the grids of a scrabble board therefore causes me to erupt in seething fits of rage. Although, strangely enough, crosswords I seem better able to tolerate, for some arcane reason.

Whatever, scrabble is also tiresomely tedious and boring. Aargh, please, don’t even get me started about its deficiencies as a suitably entertaining pastime!

Have I offended you yet? No? Don’t worry, I haven’t finished yet so there’s still time for you to feel completely affronted by my brazen effrontery.

How about this, then? What if I were to say that scrabble sux!

Yeah, now, that’s really hurting all you diehard scrabble-lovers, isn’t? And I know why! It’s because sux isn’t a real word, and you just can’t stand to see that big, juicy “x” just hanging there with its eight points going to waste. You’re just itching to get it, so you can slam it down on the next available triple letter score square.

Yeah, I know you. So whaddya say, should we maybe swap families next holidays? You can go all wild with my kith and kin, and you can all be, like, high 5-ing each other, over how you just added “sycoph” to someone else’s “ant” and thereby joined up the word “sycophant” right on top of a triple word score square.

O, Brother, where’s the art or tao, I ask you? Later…

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2279311/Scrabble-fan-spends-years-compiling-list-letter-words-highest-scorer-leave-red-faced.html

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The High Price of Obscurity

Due to the fairly mild weather where I was today, I went out and did some busking. It was nothing too elaborate. I kept it pretty basic, limiting my set up to just me and my guitar and a microphone stand down by a wharf. Although I did also use a little busking amp (that runs on batteries), to cut through the sound of passing traffic and general street noise.

As a rule of thumb, I tend to get around $40/hr wherever I busk; and today was no different to usual. Which got me next thinking about how impossible it is for me to make any kind of money at all from writing, my other great passion alongside playing music.

Seriously, over the last 20 years or so, I have earned 10’s of thousands of dollars kicking around in dead-end bands and teaching guitar and busking etc. But, please, you must trust me that I’m not telling you this so as to boast about it. I’m just pointing out a fact, so as to put what I’m trying to say in context.

Because, even though I have a degree in English literature and have spent many years trying to refine my writing style — during which time I have also completed a novel, I might add — I’ve never managed to make any real money out of being a writer.

Sure, at the drop of a hat, quite literally, I can stand on any street corner in the country and earn enough money to feed myself, by busking. But, trust me, if I had to make an equivalent amount of cash through writing I would immediately end up starving.

“So what’s up with that?” I ask you.

Yeah, okay, you might argue that busking is simply a less demeaning form of begging. And that people are merely handing over their money to buskers the same way they would to someone who was panhandling.

Well, of course, it hardly needs to be said I totally disagree with this view of busking. And yet while I could next go on to explain exactly why it is that I disagree. I’m not going to for the sake of brevity.

Suffice to say that I’m much more interested, instead, in again lamenting the sorry fact that, as a writer, I have no means by which to make the sort of money I can from strumming a few chords while casually belting out a handful of old Iggy Pop and Lou Reed standards.

From searching the Internet, I gather what I’m suffering from is actually referred to as Starving Writer Syndrome. A condition that evidently is largely fed by a misguided belief that there is something romantic about living in obscurity as a struggling writer.

Notwithstanding the accuracy of this label, I’ve decided to end (somewhat ironically) with a quote from a famous musician about his view on making money from writing. To my mind, it neatly captures my own misgivings about professional writing, more generally. And perhaps it even helps explain why I have not enjoyed any real financial return for my literary efforts so far.

“I didn’t want to write for pay. I wanted to be paid for what I write.”Leonard Cohen


Love Me Two Times — The Impossible Task of Keeping Both of My Muses Satisfied

radiohead at heineken music hall, may 9. Ed O'...

radiohead at heineken music hall, may 9. Ed O’Brien (left), Thom Yorke (right) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m a dirty, two-timing swine. There, I said it! And, yeah, I know what you’re thinking now, too. How can I live with myself?

Well, the truth is, it just sort of happened. I didn’t set out to fall in love with two muses. But that’s exactly what has taken place. On the one hand, I have a love for words and writing. While on the other, I’m just as passionate about being a musician. Oh, God, I feel so torn!

You see, I can’t ever indulge one of my loves without feeling I’m cheating on the other. I don’t think being a Gemini helps, either. Because, ultimately, I want to be true to both my muses at the same time, but the physical reality is that there is only one of me. Not two, damn it.

Even as I’m writing this, I’m suffering from the guilt of knowing I’m neglecting my guitar playing. And yet earlier today, when I was struggling to learn the fingerpicked guitar part to Radiohead’s Street Spirit all I could think about was writing today’s blog. Aargh!

And you know what? That’s the problem right there. The fact that I was struggling with what’s really a pretty simple bit of finger work. Now, believe me, I’m not disrespecting Radiohead’s musicianship, far from it, I’m just saying I have mastered much harder pieces five minutes before having to play them at some stranger’s wedding.
(FYI I’m talking about what’s often required of me as a guitarist in a covers band, at this point).

Anyway, lately, I’ve been going really hard on my writing again, including trying to keep up this blog for instance. The only trouble is my guitar playing has dropped off as a direct consequence. I can’t please both of my muses at once, you understand. And it’s driving me crazy, because I love them equally.

You’re probably inclined to think that I should just shut up and choose between the two. But I can’t. If I stay too long away from either passion I get totally depressed. I need them both for different reasons. The power of words and the associated act of writing, more generally, fires my imagination, while playing music stirs my soul.

So, look, there’s this Sufi proverb, I know of, which I like to think perfectly sums up the predicament I’m faced with, which says that, “the imagination is the seat of the soul”. Meaning that the two are totally interconnected.

Suffice to say, then, that I can’t bear to think of living without either one of my muses for longer than a day or two.

Although I only wish they’d kick in occasionally and help pay a greater share of the rent, every so often. Just sayin’…

'Only Sufism' Facebook capcha

‘Only Sufism’ Facebook capcha (Photo credit: FredMikeRudy)


The Daily Dilemma — “What Should I Be Feeding My Pet Blog?”

Gremlins

Gremlins (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sure, blogs are like pie-holes — everybody’s got one. Right? But, the thing is, I’m sorta new to this whole blogging thing, and so I’m not so sure what I should be feeding mine.

My blog, not my pie-hole! You see, I’m talking about what my blog needs to help it thrive and grow strong. I’m trying desperately here to discover the equivalent of the daily food pyramid for blogs. Really, what is the ultimate blog diet?

As a kind of sidebar, let me just say that when I think about my blog having a diet at all, the first thing that comes to mind is those words of caution from the movie Gremlins about not feeding them after midnight. Gremlins, that is. Whereupon I next find myself compulsively substituting the concept of a ravenous blog for the concept of a hungry pack of gremlins, just because. It’s automatic.

Anyway, ultimately, then, I guess, the problem is that I fear what’s going to happen if I get it wrong. I can already see the headline now, in fact…When Blogs Go Bad! Because I fear that’s exactly where my blog will end up going. Firstly, it’ll slowly wither and die, And, then, secondly, it’ll turn into a zombie blog and go on a brain-eating rampage. Nobody’s blog will be safe! Least of all yours, dear reader…

Which again leads me to my asking you for your advice. Really, just what is the ultimate blog diet? But wait, before you answer, let me tell you what I’ve already been feeding mine. That way you can let me know if I’m on the right track.

So far, I’ve fed my blog some “Top 10 list”-type posts and a bit of flash fiction, along with some blog posts about blogging and a handful of poems. But it still doesn’t seem like enough. I mean, does it?

The trouble is that I’m not pretty or handsome enough for posting a whole lot of selfies, and I’m not really all that big on having travelled to interesting places, either. Well, I suppose, I could have a go at writing a few…oh my gosh! Is that really the time? I’ve just realised that I’ve only gone and broken the only cardinal rule of blogging…

Help, what have I done? God, forgive us all, I’ve gone and fed my blog after midnight! Aieee!!!

The End

PS Any thoughts, people? 🙂


What’s in a Name? The Illuminati, Just Another Secret Handshake Club?

The all-seeing eye in the pyramid - Original artwork by Lorem Ipsum

The all-seeing I – Original artwork by Lorem Ipsum

A professor of law at Ingolstadt University called Adam Weishaupt is usually credited as being the man who first founded the Illuminati, on the 1st May 1776.

The original secret society that he created is also referred to as the Bavarian Conspiracy or the Order of Perfectabilists. And by all accounts it proved to be a very short-lived organisation, flourishing for less than a decade. It’s aim evidently was to infiltrate Freemasonry and thereby promote “freethinking” in line with current Enlightenment philosophy.

However, some social commentators at the time believed that this initial incarnation of the Illuminati was also responsible for orchestrating the events leading up to, and including, the French Revolution (1789-1799).

As an interesting aside, it is said that on reaching the highest level of this “oh-so” secret organisation members were finally informed that, “the only secret is that there is no secret”.

Anyway, what is strange, then, about all of this, is how the term Illuminati has come to now dominate our own popular culture of today. From conspiracy theories linking the Illuminati to every significant world event to have transpired in the past 350 years (the rise of Nazism, the JFK assassination, 9/11), to accusations of their controlling both Hollywood and every major recording artist currently releasing music (Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, One Direction etc) almost universally the so-called Illuminati are portrayed as being the evil masterminds behind a heinous plot to enslave mankind and take over the world.

On the one hand, Illuminati whistleblowers say it is the old money of Big Business families like the Rothschilds and the Rockerfellers which is behind such a plot. Whereas on the other, more paranoid self-appointed watchdogs, such as David Icke, argue that the Illuminati (along with its agenda of establishing one world government) is simply part of a millennia-old global conspiracy, being perpetrated by humanity’s reptilian shape-shifting extraterrestrial overlords so as to dupe us into submission.

Whatever the case, a great deal of fear has become stirred up in the minds of large sections of the community, especially amongst fundamentalist Christian groups it would seem.

Ironically, for many such Christians, the term Illuminati has become synonymous with the word Satanist. Why this is ironic is because Adam Weishaupt first founded his secret society as a way of propagating secular ideas and beliefs that were central to the Enlightenment thinking of his day. Meaning that he believed in the Devil no more than he did in God. In fact, he probably didn’t believe in either concept as being anything other than a superstitious leftover from a less enlightened age.

Misguided? Yes, perhaps, you could argue he was, depending on your own faith. But a Satanist? No. Adam Weishaupt worshipped reason and order over chaos and evil. So what is this legacy of his we have been left to contend with, this shadowy outfit he named the Illuminati? Well, I believe, the word Illuminati is a hollow name used solely as a marketing ploy by unscrupulous sellers of snake oil. Advertising executives and would-be, false prophets have latched onto it, in lieu of the term “Bogey Man”. Because, you know what, there’s only one thing that sells better than sex, and that’s FEAR!

And therefore as regards worrying about the actual existence of the Illuminati goes, my best advice to you comes by way of a very famous (non-reptitilian) terrestrial who once said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.

Lady GaGa

Lady GaGa (Photo credit: ama_lia). Lady Gaga plays “peek-a-boo” with her fans in the hope of increasing record sales.