blogging

Save the environment, curb your blogging addictions.

You may have noticed I haven’t been blogging this week. This is because I am saving the planet, for our kids.

Not really.

It’s just that I’m in full time employment for now, it’s summertime and the light evenings are long and beautiful, and I have the garden to sort out.

I did read a funny news article this morning concerning our collective internet use and its effect on global greenhouse gas emissions. Apparently, a research group has calculated the total carbon dioxide produced by online pornography is equivalent to that of Belgium. I wonder why Belgium; did they show up in data as being particularly interested in streaming erotica? Of course, to get a decent any handle on the seriousness of that statement we would first need an idea as to whether Belgians are light, heavy or moderate web users; it might be bad, then it might not be as bad as all that.

They say that all of the global internet use accounts for 4% of global carbon dioxide emissions and we should cut back. The greed for ever higher quality is unnecessary. No doubt most of what goes on with the internet is unnecessary. Take Facebook.

But it is hypocritical to look down our nose at scrolling kitten portraits, images of moody landscapes captioned with pithy statements in Helvetica 32pt white font, gifs of strangers doing silly things, over and over, silly gifs of people doing mundane things, over and over, etc., etc., without regard to our own unjustifiable addictions, abuses and wastefulness of the online resources.

Crudely worked out, if everyone cut back by 25%, the impact might drop from 4% to 3% – of course, I have no idea how the red hot throbbing machinery of the internet works in reality. Maybe the burners have to keep firing full blast regardless of fluctuations in use. But at least there’d be a slow down in future demand, if not a levelling out.

The end is coming, I can almost sense it.


Porn Produces Same Amount Of Carbon Dioxide As Whole Of Belgium, Study Finds (The Independent, newspaper)

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Oh, no!

Sheesh! I hope I don’t live to regret it but I’ve accepted a bit of work, succumbing to a little flattery from those responsible. I find, when sat at a desk, working, I have more moments of inspiration for blogging but less time to write anything up. Still, with an hour’s commute at each end of the day, I’m listening to more music.

I can’t say too much about the job but It’s the usual “fools rush ahead” fiasco and something about it put me in mind of the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke – that’s a levee thing for holding back the sea.

Googling it, I’m surprised to find it isn’t a Dutch story at all but an American myth. It’s a story within a story and features in the 1865 novel, Hans Brinker, or, The Silver Skates: A Story of Life in Holland, by American writer, Mary Mapes Dodge.

The poor boy isn’t named but the story goes that when walking past a section of dyke, he discovers a hole and bungs a finger in thus saving the whole of Holland from a tragic flood. He remains there all night, freezing cold, until the grown-ups come looking for him, rescue him and fix the hole.

So, that was me this week, feeling like an unnamed boy with a finger in the hole. But nobody came to rescue me.


In my first week at work, I was invited to go “plogging” at lunchtime. This is, apparently, where you go jogging and pick up any litter and rubbish you see on the way.

What will they come up with next? “Blogging”, where you run along, thinking up daft things to post?

Don’t mess with Mr. In-between

The idea of the grass being greener on the other side, and its close cousin, the “what if?”, both of which inspired my previous, flash-fiction post, leads me somehow to think about a theme song for this blog. Blogs ought to have a theme song, don’t you think?

And I’ll let you into a secret; there are times when I tear myself apart keeping my posts away from being downbeat. I’ve actually written lots of stuff about politics, irritations, wrong-headedness and all the rest we inevitably come across, and I bin it straight after. Or, if there’s a particular thing I liked within it, it goes into Drafts, blogging’s purgatory corner or naughty step – and then, after a while, when the Drafts are beginning to look like forming their own breakaway blog, I purge with malice gusto.

It came to me in a flash – where flashes come from is a mystery – something I had once on vinyl from the soundtrack of Dennis Potter’s The Singing Detective. And here it is for your delectation,

Composer, Harold Arlen, really puts some swing into it which is irresistible, and which compensates favourably, in my opinion, for Bing’s naturally lugubrious baritone. If it wasn’t for The Singing Detective introducing me to this, I might opt instead for the Johnny Mercer version, but The Andrews Sisters make a sweeter contrast in Bing’s version than The Pied Pipers do in Mercer’s. Johnny Mercer, by the way, wrote the lyrics.

Anyway, that’s my theme tune and if I can get it to play every time you visit my blog, I’ll be a very happy man. Be sure to sing along…


(hmmm, you know the more I play it, the more I like Johnny Mercer’s upbeat voice. Might have to change the theme…)

Four Lessons for your consideration

This article in Artsy magazine on Willem de Kooning had me thinking whether there was an equivalent in painting and drawing to “writer’s block”. Why I should make this leap – more a sidestep in reality – when the article doesn’t mention anything like it, I don’t know but thinking does that sometimes. There probably are some similarities between the creative arts.

The article deals with de Kooning’s lessons in becoming an artist. I thought I might consider these in the wider perspective of creative work. There’s a link at the end to the actual article if you want to read that.

Lesson #1: Don’t be afraid to be influenced by fellow artists’ work.

This is funny because I’m often unashamedly, and sometimes unconsciously, mimicking the work of others I admire. Sometimes I might even play around with stuff I don’t particularly admire.

I remember reading a story about Jimi Hendrix when he was seen coming out of a back street dive having gone in to see some second rate band. “Why on earth would a player of Hendrix’s standing bother watching a bad act?” He explained that even a poor player can sometimes give you a great idea about performing or songwriting. He took the influence and improved on it.

Lesson #2: Seek out glimpses of inspiration in the world around you.

This is probably the writer’s block bit. I don’t know about you but there’s always moments when I notice something interesting or inspirational. It might be a small thing, or it might be significant. It’s important to just log it in your mind – or jot a note down (I admire note takers a lot even though I rarely do this for myself).

Lesson #3: Pay attention to your desires, not the critics.

What motivates us? Yes, I think we all like a little approval, we like a little praise. Constructive criticism would be good too, providing we can handle it, though it’s not very nice; it depends where we’re at, past the tipping point of having gained self-confidence enough to brush off the nonsense stuff.

I think you have to be faithful to your desires.

Lesson #4: Embrace imperfection—even failure.

Whatever you’re into to, there ought to come an important tipping point when you realise that a mistake, far from being annoying or an embarrassing set back, is actually a real progression in learning your art. Failures make better teachers than successes. Of course, you have to look it squarely in the eyes and know why, and how to avoid it a second time, but this isn’t something you’re more likely to do with a success.

As a perfectionist myself, this has arrived later than it could have. I see perfectionism as a disorder and it still cuts deep at times but it shouldn’t hold you back.


Article: Willem de Kooning: How to be an artist (Artsy magazine)

image: The Privileged (untitled XX), 1985 by Willem de Kooning

The Incomplete Angler

Thinking a little more about it, I wonder how similar writing is to angling for a fish.

You should know the fish, your quarry, its repose, what attracts it and what it likes to eat. You bait it appropriately and when it bites, rather than haul it in, care free and rather clumsily, you play it, carefully and craftily, until it is in the net and yours.

I prefer the British way of angling where the fish is set free again, to be tempted and teased by other fisher folk at another time.


I read a story once and now I can’t remember who it was attributed to or who its subject was other than the subject was an eminent thinker. This man would often be seen at a certain lake or riverside, sitting beside a rod and tackle box. Actually, I’m not sure about the tackle box, the absence of one may have drawn the narrator to enquire about his method.

When asked if he’d caught anything, he would reply “nothing”. Then when asked whether he ought to consider changing his bait, he said he never baited his hook to avoid any possible distraction of having to deal with a bite. He simply enjoyed sitting by water, hidden in plain sight amongst fellow anglers so not arousing suspicion, and he found this peace conducive to his true purpose: thinking.

This is probably closer to my relationship with writing and blogging; not so much fishing for readers but fishing for thoughts, amongst the company of fellow bloggers.

Thesaurus

Self-identifying serious writer, Martin Amis, uses a dictionary all the time. I’m delighted by his confession because so do I. Really it’s to improve my sparse vocabulary but, like him, I often find the meaning of the word isn’t what I had in mind.

It’s interesting what he to say about talent, finding rhythm, and avoiding accidental alliteration amongst other things. He talks about crafting a sentence. I’m not sure how much I put into crafting a sentence. While I think that poetry ought to be recited, I hadn’t thought that way about prose; I probably thought this was a fundamental distinction between the two forms. However, yesterday evening I was remembering all the times when a passage in a novel enthralled me. I decided it wasn’t the narrative but the pattern of the chosen words. They were crafted, I imagine, for such an effect.

I suppose I haven’t any high aspirations for my blog posts but I still maintain if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. I shall try to pay more attention to the rhythm in a sentence, resort habitually to the dictionary and thesaurus. All this will be time consuming, of course. I will make my mantra: shorter and better.


Learning the Language of Literature

I think this is an interesting post on Lit Hub, I blog I follow. It’s an excerpt from a book by copy editor, Benjamin Dreyer, an “utterly correct guide to clarity and style”. How many of the bad habits he cites do you make?

(Hey, I initially typed how many of his bad habits do you make?)

As bloggers, I don’t suppose we have to worry too much about correct style and grammar, though clarity is still important. Blogging is more about social media, less about literature. Yet I always maintain the old saw that if a thing is thought worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

I honestly don’t know how well I’m doing but I do try. Notwithstanding that I went to school – a grammar school, to boot – my confidence in my English is frail. I’m not in possession of an extensive vocabulary, my spelling can be atrocious and lessons in grammar have for the most part been informal.

One thing I tend to do now which I never did when I started writing is edit with intent. This can correct many of the silly mistakes and run a sanity check – or clarity check – on the piece, but also it makes me question what I’ve done with grammar, especially tense. Man, I have a real concern with tenses. It’s like operating a machine without a manual, it seems to work but is it working the way it’s intended to?

Also, I’m learning to tighten things up. My venture into flash fiction prompts with word count limits has made me aware of this. The irrelevances, the tautologies and repetition, the pointless adverbs, the inconsequential detail. A rose smells sweet but if there isn’t a nose to appreciate this, why mention it?

Better Places to Read & Write

I want to record this fact, that I’m writing this after reading through the latest posts from my followed blogs, sitting in The Cricklade Club. They are promoting Veganuary but I chose from the menu a chilli bean doodah which came with a soft poached egg.

I am also sinking deep into a wonderfully distressed, tan leather armchair, part of a suite corralled about a low, broad table. I sip an IPA called Pioneer which isn’t over bitter and has distinct floral-fruity notes. The place is buzzing but oddly not distracting, and it is this which makes me think I should read, and perhaps write, more in places like this.

After we move house, I must try to look for a pub with wi-fi and a comfortable corner, and bring along my iPad (the phone I’m using here is a bit too small for typing). Perhaps, amongst noise and strangers, I will be plagued by far fewer interruptions and distractions.


image: on the wall by the comfy corner, a stranger in contemplation.

Views on Writing: Catching the Light

Clive James wrote of writing that it was turning a phrase until it catches the light.

When I read – and when I write, though this is a late experience and I’m still on the nursery slopes – too often I’m not noticing the glint of light. This is made more obvious when I consider those times when the light appears brilliantly, and it’s as if something magical is happening. It’s quite often an opening paragraph or an introduction to something, and it’s usually quite simple, precise, colourful and concise.

Following a path towards an understanding of Reena’s Exploration Challenge this week, I googled the name Kosho Uchiyama Rōshi. He was a Zen Buddhist monk in 20th century Japan, a master of origami, and an exponent of zazen, literally “sitting”, a method of meditation devised by the Zen master, Eihei Dōgen.

I follow his name in turn and find this passage on zazen attributed to him,

“I have not visited many Zen monasteries. I simply, with my master Tendo, quietly verified that the eyes are horizontal and the nose is vertical. I cannot be misled by anyone anymore. I have returned home empty-handed.

I quietly verified that the eyes are horizontal and the nose is vertical. This is a phrase that catches the light.

Music: De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum

I was reading an article last week about different country’s attitudes to social media interaction, which must include blogging, and those “taboo” controversial subjects – religion, politics, sport, and music/movies.

Not being religious, I don’t want to be one of those aggressive, brute, atheists I often read in the comments section of national newspapers. I don’t wish to pour scorn on people’s personal faith. Politics, I just don’t understand enough about to argue. As for sport, it’s games – fun to play and all that, but what’s with the tribalism? I never got it.

I was surprised to see “music/movies” included. What can be controversial about those? Surely, both are fair game for social topics. I know there are significant numbers of people who still hold faith in power of The Beatles, and others who feel the same about Led Zeppelin, but generally I’ve found people to be open-minded and curious towards music.

I’ve probably written before that my first foray into blogging was themed around music. It was simply something to write about; I wanted to try blogging and couldn’t think of anything else to write about. It’s often tempting to go back to that theme and write around music till the cows come home but I’m mindful to avoid it. Mainly, I’ve found music to be a personal journey, one not easily put into words. I could do a mix-tape – been there, done that, on a blog, weekly – but who’s interested?


But as it’s Christmas, and I seem to have had a bit of time on my hands this morning, I’ll let the guard down slightly and offer a glimpse of my musical tastes. Bandcamp, whose blog I follow on WP, have posted their top 100 albums of the year and I’ve listened and selected three of those which I quite like (I was happy to hear all of them though some of them once only),

It’s annoying that I can’t get an audio clip to stop playing once another clip is selected. I did try some code – it didn’t work – sorry but life is too short.

Immediately this felt like familiar turf. It’s what I’ve concentrated on for the past decade. I started exploring bebop, and jazz in general, just to get away from pop and the dull, time-worn ubiquity of electric guitar bands. I’ve always had an ear out for jazz, or at least jazziness, but it got serious when I gave Miles Davis a chance. Not being a musician, I wouldn’t say I get the theory involved, but I love the instrumentation, and the sense that they are virtuoso players, not people making sound with the minimum of education.

There’s a whole wide world of music out there though most are content with what’s in their own back yard. It’s a shame, I think. I didn’t know this performer. Though the style is pretty familiar, the vocal is in Korean. I find electronic music – synths and stuff – can go one of two ways, but carefully composed, it’s delightful. I love to get my ears inside those layers of simple, repetitive beats and rhythms. I like mesmeric sounds too, though not necessarily electronic.

I like folk, and I like country. And I like to hear an acoustic guitar being picked, and I like meaningful words. This is a proper ballad, it tells a story, it draws you in, it’s interesting. A ballad isn’t just any old quiet number in the repertoire of a hard rock band. Do me a favour! It’s quite dark this one, isn’t it? I like the ‘cellos too.


What people around the world do and do not talk about on social media.

Bandcamp’s Top 100 2018