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The Internet is weird

Okay, I realize that the title of this post is both a: not news; and b: a vast understatement. Really, weird is the wrong word. Circuitous, synergistic, voyeuristic, participatory…

I was reminded of the existence of a band I used to like, The Flash Girls, by a blog post a while ago. In my quest to locate their music (now available on last.fm and through Amazon, though it wasn’t when I started looking), I ended up corresponding briefly with author Will Shetterly, who was handling the music distribution for his wife Emma Bull, also an author and one of The Flash Girls (with the Fabulous Lorraine Garland).

Looking for the music, I found many other interesting things about everyone involved. All parties have blogs, and put at least some part of their lives online for others to read. Thus, the voyeuristic component. (Circuitous you should already comprehend.) Which is how I ended up making the nice Mr. Shetterly’s cookie recipe last night. (He is very nice, or at least was very helpful with the music acquisition.) His cookies are pretty good too. I used dried cherries instead of the raisins.

oatmeal cookies

Morgan mugged Nick for a cookie, actually forcing his way into Nick’s lap and biting off chunks. Morgan really is a ferocious monster.

Morgan eating cookies

There was no substitution of catnip for any other ingredients, honest.

Morgan eating cookies

Now that I’ve worked in a few gratuitous cat pictures, back to the internet…

As a sort-of-related consequence, I’ve started participating in the comments/discussion of one of the earlier-mentioned people, which has led to a highly entertaining incident that I can’t really talk about yet, I don’t think, but will report on later (fringes of the rich and famous, sort of). Thus, participatory.

There are good and bad aspects to the voyeuristic and participatory components of this whole internet thing. You can peer into the lives of a wide selection of people, or at least as much as they are willing to share. I’m not sure this is entirely a good thing, as you can end up an observer rather than a participant, or only a virtual participant, reading about the things that others do rather than doing yourself. Author Robin Hobb has a scathing essay on bloggers. Worse, you can gain a certain measure of validation from this participatory voyeurism, because many internet-famous people are quite good about responding to comments or emails, and any old person can end up feeling included.

On the other hand, though, this free access to other people’s lives makes it abundantly clear that the folks who do whatever it is that you’re interested in are real people with real lives and do the same sort of things. That layer of polish that was present between you and “famous” people when everything was screened through journalists and publicists has eroded away. The mystique of being an author, or musician, or artist wears off along with it, and I think that lowers the perceived barriers for entry. Not for success, but for trying it.

My blogroll is wildly inaccurate, but I read four types of blogs. Friends, of course – it’s become one of the prime methods for keeping up with each other’s lives. A few authors of great interest who can also manage good blogs (not a given – there are some authors I love as novelists who write dull blogs), artists, fiber and not, whose blogs I read for inspiration, and academics (mostly scientists). In the latter three cases, voyeuristic elements aside, I find the blogs remarkably reassuring – other people do the kinds of things I’m interested, and encounter the same problems, same excitements, same successes. Even the famous ones.

And that, I think, is one of the best things about the internet. Well, along with Google.

7 Comments on “The Internet is weird”

  1. #1 Laura
    on Jun 19th, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    I don’t have as much time as I’d like (perhaps fortunately) to peruse more blogs, but I have seen enough to concur with your essay.

    Another great thing about the Internet: all the museum collections with digitized pictures of fabulous goodies.

    I *love* the Morgan pictures!!!

  2. #2 mom
    on Jun 20th, 2008 at 7:09 am

    so impressed you use cooling racks.

  3. #3 cyndy
    on Jun 20th, 2008 at 8:37 am

    I have to agree with Laura-

    it is a great thing to be able to wander through a museum in Norway…even if it is just a virtual tour….

  4. #4 Phiala
    on Jun 20th, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Yes, I suppose I was kind of using Google as shorthand for the wealth of information available online, since Google is the tool I most often use to find what I want. Museums, journals, books… I can get very nearly anything I want without stepping away from the desk.

    Mom, hi! Of course I use cooling racks – I learned that from you. (Although actually I didn’t have any until a couple years ago.) I do think it’s kind of funny that you chose cooling racks as the first thing you commented on!

  5. #5 Kim
    on Jun 23rd, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    Oh my gosh! The Morgan pictures are fabulous. My cat tries to mug me when I’m eating cereal–she forces her way onto my lap and tries to catch the spoon on its way to my mouth. It’s fun to see that other cats do things like that. :)

  6. #6 elizabeth
    on Jul 18th, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    Love your mom’s comment! It’s such a mom thing to say, ya know?

    My cat mugs me for lettuce and popcorn. But if the boy’s eating chicken – watch out!

  7. #7 Laura Goslee
    on Jul 19th, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    Hello,
    Momma M. is over visiting and we just read String Notes together.
    I love your picts of the garden.
    What a cute little cookie monster you have!!
    Nate said he must know the road where the culvert is partially missing (from the tornado picts), but could not identify it. I wonder if the Marina was damaged?
    I did not know Nick was hit by a tree! amazing story.
    Laura