Wednesday, 30 April 2008

blog self-identity crisis

As has been my want this week, I have spent yet another day mostly at home. I do not immerse myself in the exotic oriental bustle of the Old Quarter, nor recline in my cyclo as he doggedly peddles from one cultural marvel to the next. I potter, I cook, and trace various ingenious routes around an apartment whose multiple doors allow you to walk in a figure eight-and-a-half. I spend grossly unequal times looking at a computer screen and gazing over West Lake. Mornings are mostly spent chatting to the peeps online. Returning emails to the peeps back home. Updating scratchindog's flickr site and writing in my diary. That is writing with a pen. Onto paper. In cursive script.

The hand written diary. The romantic looking pages full of English trained whirly-curly-ness. You would think that is where the juice is. Alas, it isn't so. My feeble organic memory has its mnemonic hands quite full with just standard day-to-day necessities of life. It tends to, after a few days, dump vast stretches of virgin memories into the trash bin. Even worse, it produces Reader Digest condensed versions of those that survive the cleaning and keeps them for Catherine the Great village purposes. The hand written diary, disappointingly for my many future biographers, is a simple narration of where and when with whom did what. Remembering the basic facts of the past becomes the physical act of turning pages. This is not mirror of the soul stuff. There are no interpretations of the shadowy inhabitants of my seething passionate subconscious. Do you know how long it takes to write in long hand? When is the last time you wrote two full pages by hand?

Friends claim that they want to know what I am doing here. They appear to show an interest in the day-to-day stuff of my life. More interest than I show in their lives anyway. Should I ditch this hand writing nonsense and post it on the blog instead? Sacrebleu! No way! It is way too boring. Do they want to hear a list of names of people who are not introduced? Do they want to see addresses and place names faithfully noted but not described? The written diary is a scaffold, tied off along a series of temporal-space locations with objects and people dangling from it. It is a tool for me to explore the trajectory of my past. To choose a spot and orientate myself with the help of a few notes. It assists that strange resonance construction method the brain appears to use to remember the past with us: Create a model of a situation in your mind. A few particular folk in a particular place doing some generic action at some time. Take your model down to Reflection Beach on the shore of Memory Sea and show the sea your model. Does the sea resonate with your model? Given the sea's layered and compressed and moth-eaten experience, have you provided it with something it can work with? Is there a form of empathy? If so, you can watch those salty tendrils reach out and clothe your model with the whole gamut of emotion and sensation, mood and context. The sea will paint-in details, extend the framework, even do some renovations (to produce a nice holistic effect). This beautiful construction may have nothing at all to do with an event in your past, but it can certainly pass itself off as one. Or it can indeed faithfully depict a scene from somewhere far far away and a long time ago. I guess it depends on your model and your relationship with the sea. Tangents aside, my hand written models for Memory sea are not the stuff for an audience.

If my friends or parents or workmates or hairy-man lovers of the internet want to know what I am doing day-to-day, they are not going to read my blog. The are going to look at scratchindog's flickr site. If a picture is a thousand words, then my word count on flickr is pretty impressive. Here you see the people, are immersed in the bars, ogle the food! And if you really really must have words to get your jollies, there are pithy titles and sometimes humorous mini-descriptions to give you context and local flavour. Yes... that's blogging your life. Who cares for opinions when you have pictures? Who cares for your deep existential self-destructive abyss of self-loathing when you can make a witty word play on bòng dền? If the diary is my tool for divining the past, then flickr is my public relations department of the present. Here is the exquisitely crafted propaganda of my life. And in a certain bent of mind, watching a slideshow of the last three years of my edited life can be enlightening narcissistic entertainment.

Obviously the scandal, gossip, licentiousness and horror doesn't make it directly onto flickr. Blog worthy? Yes! And many people make a fine life out of it too. But being the discrete, polite, realpolitik, Machiavellian coward that I am - I cannot do it. I need these friends (my dear dear friends) who are closest to my heart in all the world. I trust, respect and value these people. If they all knew the details I'd be lynched - and who wants that? No, no, no. The detail is a potent, often fatal, herb that requires a specialist hand in distribution. A little here, a little there, mixed with the right accompaniments. Never too much for any one person (it builds up in the mind like mercury in the body, and at critical levels can cause similar physical malfunctions). However all the little morsels are eventually put out there into the world. My mornings of endless gmail chats and email replies are the rafts upon which these little creatures are sent out into the world. Cute little chaps by themselves or in small fluffy clumps, but if all brought together, like gremlins, they would kill us all. I do not need my blog as my coffin.

So each morning I now have to feed three functional word mouths - the Guide, the Bard and the Ugly. (Ed note: This pun is so bad it should be removed, but because it could possibly be reformed into a joke about New Zealanders or the Irish we have left it in.) What hope is there for the fourth cousin without a job? The poor little blog who stands at the window of morning looking in at the others gorging themselves. I do not know, I do not know. For the meantime it will have to shiver in neglect. Get the odd bone thrown at it. Scramble for attention in those glorious author drunk moments when anything seems like a good idea. All three members of the global audience will just have to make do until a purpose is found...


Krin said...

Bravo! Excellent post.

The Flickr is the public relations department, first place I send people who ask about my holidays, or life in general.
The Blog is for random musings about the world, not for details of every day life, although some people use it this way in an effective manner. Those people are not you or I.

I miss you, realised that as I read this post. I am glad however, that you are finding space in Vietnam, even if it is a figure eight and a halfs' worth of space.

"Do you know how long it takes to write in long hand? When is the last time you wrote two full pages by hand?"
Saturday, over Brunch. Wrote out my manifesto. Didn't take so long, however I may not have noticed as the Chocolate Dog cafe was having a busy morning and orders were taking forever to reach tables.

Deepwarren said...

I was going to say something about why we do things.. but I'm too sick to care. You can put twitter on yr blog..

crybaby said...

regardless of what you are up to, be it for good or evil, i will probably lynch you anyway.