Issue #38 July 11th - 17th, 2003
Why Weblogs Are Cool
Some slow afternoon and what keeps me going
The long lost diary of Miss S L Gleaden (Part 9)
Why weblogs are cool
On-line journals have always been a part of the Internet and their popularity has been growing steadily over the last few years. It is no longer necessary to buy a domain name and learn html in order to create an on-line journal. Sites such as LiveJournal, Blogspot and Diaryland have made it easy to keep a diary on-line and this has added to their appeal. LiveJournal has attracting over one million registered users since it was set up in March 1999. So why are so many people so eager to recount their thoughts and experiences for a nameless, faceless audience? Do weblogs offer something more than just another way to pass the time on-line?
Keeping a diary can be good for you. Writing about a bad experience in the past can be therapeutic and writing about a present problem can often put it into perspective and sometimes help you find a solution. In order to achieve a goal, one of the first things you should do is write it down. Keeping track of your progress is also recommended and a private diary or journal can be used for all these things.
What's to be gained by moving it to a public forum? It can be argued that there is something vain and egotistical in putting these rants and ramblings on-line and assuming that people will want to read them.
However, there are advantages to moving a diary on-line. For a start, it can improve the quality of the writing. Even if nobody ever reads a word of it, the fact that it is being written for an audience means that the writer takes more effort to be understood. This can improve communication skills and makes the writer more articulate.
Another advantage is the possibility of feedback. This is often the reason why people choose to write on-line. They want someone to read what they have written and tell them what they think. LiveJournal and Blogspot recognise this need and supply comments boxes at the end of each diary entry. Readers can leave comments offering support and encouragement to the writer. And this allows the reader and writer to interact. There is a definite 'feel-good factor' about having someone read and react to something you have written. It can feel like a support system for the writer and friendships can develop.
On-line communities can also develop between readers and writers. This can offer support, friendship and a common bond between members. That feeling of belonging is important. Writers from around the world can set up a domain together and share a small part of cyberspace. This community can spill into real life. For example, the annual JournalCon in America. This event includes talks on topics relating to on-line journals, and it allows people from around the country to get together. It is a social occasion.
On-line journals can also have a position effect on the people who read them. It can be inspiring to read about other people's experiences, in the same way that biographers are inspiring. The advantage of the on-line version is that it is happening right now. You are more inclined to compare your life with the life you are reading about, and this can be very motivating, especially if it is someone your own age. It can encourage healthy competition.
Reading about someone else's life can also inspire you to see the world in a different way and maybe take new risks or make new changes in your life. It can also encourage you to make changes to the world you live in. It is possible to become aware of social problems through on-line journals, and be moved to help. An example of this is the Oakland Library Appeal that was instigated by pamie.com. Pamie encouraged readers to donate books to a number of libraries around the US and had a huge response. Stories like these help you to believe that change is possible and that you can make it happen.
Writing is good for you. Getting feedback about something you've written is even better. But the biggest reason why blogs are cool is that they offer inspiration and encouragement. When you read stories about someone moving to a new country to live and work, or finding the love of their lives, or having a novel published it can change the way you look at the world. You say to yourself - 'If they can do, why can't I?' It makes it easier to really believe that anything and everything is possible.
Some slow afternoon and what keeps me going
Thessaloniki, July 10th 2003
I was going to give you a list of things that keep me going when life gets ugly (because I needed one) but then the weather changed and the Pines' 'Some Slow Afternoon' came on and I realised it all came down to one thing: remembering that life is exciting. Music keeps me going because it makes my heart beat faster, poetry because it mbrings tears to my eyes, love, because it makes me melt inside. Cute boys because they seem like the promise of all happiness. Beautiful people, because they make the world brighter and thus, life worth living. Maybe 'life is thrilling' would have been a more suitable thing to have said: I don't mean 'exciting' in a bounce-out-of-bed-at-six-am-on-Christmas-morning kind of way but rather in a holding-your-breath, thanking-god-for-all-this-beauty kind of way. Wondering if he meant it to be that way or if creation surprised him by turning out this way. Like the stories you write and the kids that you will, one day, have.
Photograph by Mr Rob Brennan
As the wind blew the air grew chillier and Joe sang "I came round your house when we lost the election a few years ago" in a way I can't help but call haunting and suddenly everything fell into place for the first time in a rather long while. The world didn't seem full of invisible to everyone but me monsters but made up of potentially colourful lives to lead. Still quite possibly only visible to me but in this case it's okay. It doesn't threaten my existence - it makes it feel charmed instead. Charmed with a life-enhancing spell: somedays I feel very lucky. Like a little witch set free in a world of humans, who's knoweledge of her being different is enough to make everything okay, forever.
And yet most of the time I don't and sometimes something happens and it makes my little world break down. I don't feel the world is out to get me but I feel I've got no place to stand. That something is always infinitely more important than the weather and pop songs even though as everyone knows the weather is a very serious thing indeed. And pop songs maybe even more so. Yet a temperature drop was enough to do what a hundred pop songs had failed to do before. By making me feel chilly it reminded me I'm alive in things I usually forget. Things fell into place. I started to pine for a life more like the one in my head. Less like the one in their eyes. I suppose the things that keep me going are the things that help me keep that in site. I was going to make you a list but it's too late and maybe it would be a better idea if I played you the song. Then you would be able to hear Joe singing "...life should be only that stuff. How many times have I heard it before? All of them still not enough".
Love and kisses,
The long lost diary of Miss S L Gleaden (Part 9)
The diary of Miss S L Gleaden found itself at the mercy of a small rubber dinghy floating out to sea. It rejoiced in the thought that there was not a single person, for miles around, who was about to carelessly lose it or post it off to an unknown destination. The diary lay calmly for many days feeling the sun on its back and the wind ripple through its pages. After its hectic travels this was just the kind of rest and relaxation that the book needed.
The diary, who for most of his live had lived with Miss S L Gleaden, a constant source of stress, had never had the chance to experience an empty life and had often longed for one. Lying on the boat, bobbing up and down, without a care in a world the diary suddenly realised how boring an empty life was.
It is lucky that the diary made this realisation when it did, and it was able to feel some relief as enough stress to wrinkle the face of a poodle returned to its pages, because at that moment a storm erupted. The storm made the made the waves churn and the boat fly this way and that and slightly predictably the diary was thrown from the dinghy into the swollen ocean.
By now, you may have realised the diary of Miss S L Gleaden was prone to the most un-probable events imaginable gravitating towards it. So you won't be surprised to hear that instead of falling straight to the bottom of the sea to await a slow disintegration, the diary came face to cover with a fish called Wanda. The fish who was never in a good mood on account of the unfortunate name given to it by parents with a warped sense of humour, was always on the look out for someone or something to make miserable and swallowed the diary whole.
The diary's voyage didn't end there though, and many weeks later it washed up on the shores of a small town in the long forgotten county of Cumbria. Locals were impressed by the story contained within, not to mention the book's ability to wash up on the shores of a landlocked town, and after many hours were able to track down the explorer herself and made sure that the book returned to her but not before they had read it from cover to cover of course...
The Cumbrian locals, who decided that Miss S L Gleaden's plans to go on holiday were not a bad one, return after a short break to Blackpool, to continue reading the diary…
The past few days have been filled with frustration but despite the fact, that our plans to make an escape from Burma have been gone less smoothly than we might have hoped, we are now hurtling westwards. I'm getting ahead myself hear, and as I have been neglecting you dear diary, I should fill you in on the previous day's activities.
I and E was able to find an eager buyer for his youthful looking horse. Within seconds of advertising it for sale he found 5 eager buyers. The six men had bartered furiously. The 5 buyers outbidding themselves to such a degree that it ended up with none of them being able to afford to pay for the horse. After a few hours of arguments where they tried to bid downwards they clubbed together and bought the horse for an extortionate amount of money. I and E had beamed from ear to ear and promised the horse that he would return from his travels with enough money to buy him back. The horse did not seem too concerned. His new owners didn't look like the sort of people who would forever be making trips into the mountains. He looked forward to a life of leisure where he would be treated like a king.
My part of the escape plan is progressed slightly less satisfactorily but despite the poor communications with the western world after hours of trying I got hold of someone:
I pulled out my readers digest map of the world and starred at it. Molly, I and E's wife, came to see what I was doing. Since she had heard the news that she was going away on holiday she seemed to have become so much more youthful that I had my suspicions that she had sneakily been eating the small white magical flower. In fact though, I think her youthfulness, can be attributed to the powerful emotion known as excitement. An emotion that if it could be bottled and sold would probably do the world more good than the small white flower ever could.
We stared at Burma, then our eyes flicked to India, then back again. It didn't look far.
"My brother says that this part of the border is the easiest place to cross." Molly pointed at small curve in the border between Burma and Bangladesh. "If we could cross there we might be able to find someone with a boat who is willing to smuggle us across to India."
I nodded. It was as good a plan as any.
At that moment a loud roar broke our thought. We got up quickly and looked outside only to see a very proud I and E sitting in a small blue dated mini.
"it goes quicker than five horses and doesn't stop every minute to eat grass!"
We loaded our cases into the boot, and took our lives in our hands as we climbed into the car…and that brings you up to date dear diary I can only hope that this will not be the last time I write in you.