Symbolic Forest

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Blog : Posts tagged with ‘information’

Road Trips

In which we discuss similarities between books and blogging

Last week, in the last Book I Haven’t Read post, I mentioned By Hook Or By Crook by David Crystal, and predicted that – in contrast to the book I was actually writing about – I’d have By Hook Or By Crook rattled through and quickly finished off.

Well, indeed, I have: it’s read, finished, and back on the bookshelf now. Prediction correct. And, as I said before, I think it was easy to read precisely because it mirrors the way I think. To recap: it’s written as a road trip, during which the writer muses on anything, really, that he finds of interest as he passes. A nearby manor house reminds him of a railway engine named after it, which prompts him to muse on railway engine names in general. The journey from Anglesey to the mainland prompts him to recount the history of the Menai bridges,* and a trip to Hay-on-Wye leads to the history of inn signs, coats-of-arms, and many other things besides.

It’s a book of associations, and a celebration of associative thought. I’m sure that it didn’t actually take place as a single trip, and that when Crystal sat down to write the book he didn’t just muse on whatever came to mind; it’s too carefully structured and crafted for that. But it does read as if that’s what he’s doing. It made me think, moreover, of the way I write this blog, which isn’t at all carefully structured and crafted. But, as I move through the world, I see things which spark my brain alight and give me something to think about; and this blog is the result. It’s full of rambling and digression, but, rambling and digression with a common thread behind it, the thread being the things I encounter.**

I was thinking about this as I got towards the end of By Hook Or By Crook. So, I was quite amused when I reached Crystal’s thoughts on blogging.

[Blogging] is writing which is totally spontaneous, put up on a screen without the intervention of an editor or proof-reader, so it is much more like ‘speaking in print’ than anything before. And it shows many of the properties of spoken language, such as loosely constructed sentences and unexpected changes of direction. Bit like this book, really…

David Crystal has a blog. He started writing it at the end of 2006; he said, as a sort of FAQ page. Given that By Hook Or By Crook was published in ’07, though, I’d assume that he started blogging either a few months after the book had been written or when it was in the final stages of completion. I’m wondering if writing that book was one of the other things, though, that prompted him to start writing a blog. Because, really, they’re often exercises in a similar sort of vein. Spotting something that interests you, and telling other people about it.

* from building up to burning down, you could say

** Which is all a bit of a longwinded and pretentious way of saying: I write about whatever’s on my mind.

Tagged (part one)

In which we are descriptive

I’ve been tagged, by Dimitra. The idea being, I write eight things you don’t know about me. Which is hard. I mean, there are a few people reading this; and moreover there are different sets of people reading this. Some of you know things, some don’t. I’ll have to think of eight things you might know, might not. I never know who I’ve told what to.

Today, you get four things. The rest: to come. Maybe it will turn into a sort of manifesto.

One: there’s only one of me. Lots of you probably know that: I don’t have any brothers or sisters. I’ve always liked my own company, to an extent. Although I’m a social person, I have to be able to retreat somewhere, on my own, to get away from distraction and obligation. And it has to be on my own terms. Maybe it comes from being a solo person to start with. There’s only one of me, but I’m under no illusions that I’m unique in any one individual trait.

Two: I believe in second chances; but I don’t believe in third chances.

Three: I’m a heavily rational person. I believe in what I can touch, what can be proven, what other people can show from logic. I’m enquiring, and sceptical. But I’m not skeptical.* I believe in the third eye, in seeing things that aren’t yet there, that are going to happen. Or rather: I don’t believe in it, I know it can happen. When I was a teenager I used to dream things that hadn’t happened yet. Whether this means some things are unavoidable, I don’t know.

Four: I have an extremely bad memory. I can remember useless things with a worrying ease, but useful information never sticks in my head. I get by, by remembering how to find things out. Knowing where to find information can often be far more useful that knowing the information itself. Sometimes, though, it’s just a nuisance.

* yes, there is a difference.

The Internet Will Kill Us All!!!

In which we learn something which could harm your health

According to this story in The Guardian, the government thinks that we shouldn’t be looking at websites that can show us how to kill ourselves. So, they want ISPs to stop us. Search engines should alter their results so that the first hit for “suicide” is The Samaritans. We shouldn’t be allowed to discuss ways to kill ourselves with each other.

This has all started because of two people, who met via the net, and killed themselves together. The Guardian is so concerned for our own safety that it won’t even tell you that they killed themselves by using charcoal to produce carbon monoxide. Careful. Now you know that – and you read it on the internet, too – you might go out and do something stupid.

The whole idea that people are more likely to kill themselves just because of the internet is very, very silly. People who want to kill themselves will do it unless they receive support or medical attention; the internet is just a scapegoat; and if it can persuade people to kill themselves in peaceful, non-disruptive ways, then so much the better.* The worrying thing, from my point of view, is the risk that this could be the thin end of the wedge. If the government can persuade ISPs to filter one topic, or can warp the results page for one search request, then they can do it for others. It doesn’t matter how well-meaning they are; they’ve crossed a line. The second time they want to do it, it might not be for such a well-meaning reason.

* Jumping in front of a train doesn’t just kill you, it will scar the driver for life too. Not to mention all the people who have to hose your fragmented remains off the track.