Monday, 12 July 2010
I have to write something. It’s been ages. But again I ask myself the question – why am I doing this? Why the compulsion to write something when I’ve got nothing to say? Who cares? There are blogs which are informative, angry, satirical, issue-based, world-changing, committed, and the blogosphere is a welcome phenomenon when almost all the media are in the hands of predominantly right wing proprietors who dictate public opinion. (For several demonstrations of how bad our tabloids are, check out the excellent http://tabloid-watch.blogspot.com/.)
Mind you, there are some extremely unpleasant bloggers, too, across the whole political (and religious) spectrum, but so far it’s a place where freedom of speech is a reality rather than something to which lip service is paid by pressure groups hiding behind dubious interpretations of constitutional ‘truths’.
But what am I doing here? The short answer? Being self-indulgent. Peddling trivia in the hope of getting a laugh and maybe fooling enough of the people enough of the time to sell a few books. I think digressions such as the one which invited you to contribute to what became Dinsdale the whale are interesting and, for me, very enjoyable. They give me the chance to be even more self-indulgent and have a good time writing something without deadlines and with just the joy of writing as a stimulus. The fact that Diane then put it into print is a source of pleasure but, since I didn’t know that was going to happen, it wasn’t part of the ‘why am I writing this?’ equation.
I wonder whether, like other online things, it’s delusional. I genuinely believe that some of the contacts I’ve made through blogging and reading other people’s blogs are real rather than virtual. But it would be too easy to start believing that I really do have 144 ‘friends’ on Facebook or however many ‘followers’ I have on Twitter. Wait, though. That last thing makes sense. Since I hardly ever go there, what are those followers following? Nothingness, absence. Now that makes sense. All my followers there are waiting for Godot. They’re confirming that virtuality is a void.
In a way, it’s sort of comforting that this online experience that dominates so much of our lives is illusory. We’re all figments of each other’s imagination. It’s perhaps especially true for writers. We’re sitting at our keyboards anyway and thus have such a handy displacement activity which we can pretend is ‘networking’ or some other post-modern advantage and which is part of the fictional world we inhabit all the time.
But enough of this self-indulgence. This blog is supposed to be ‘about’ something and not just me preaching at you (until I reassume my guru persona and we have the grand hut opening). So let me offer just one highlight of the past week. It came as a question in an email from my son. A friend of his was driving along with his wife when they passed a man with two young boys wearing Spiderman outfits.
‘Oh,’ said the wife, ‘look at that man with his two Spidermans’.
The husband ‘corrected’ her. ‘Spidermen,’ he said.
‘There’s only one Spiderman,’ was her answer.
My son was asked for his take on this seeming paradox and, either because he sees me as an oracle on things linguistic or because he likes to throw me titbits to help keep my mind active in my dotage, he passed the query on to me. I, in turn, asked my wife and a French friend who was here. This led to a short debate involving other superheroes and the rules of grammar (and the discovery that Asterix wasn’t a suitable example because a terminal ‘x’ is already a legitimate plural in French). Then, the following day, at a birthday party, I asked other guests (two teachers of English as a foreign language, a professor of English and a lecturer in linguistics) for their professional opinions.
I know, I know – once again you’re thinking ‘what an exciting life he has’ and ‘what great parties he goes to’ – but the matter was resolved (to my satisfaction, at least) and I hope marital harmony was restored in the home of my son’s friend.
So there, a blog about the possibility of creating a plural form of a unique concept. The world is now a more informed place. But I have to stress that the questions with which I started were rhetorical. When I asked ‘Who cares?’ I certainly wasn’t soliciting a chorus of ‘We care, O Master’. On the other hand, it would be interesting to know two things:
• why you yourselves read or write blogs and
• your response to the Spidermans/Spidermen conundrum.
I leave the punchline to one of my heroes, Samuel Beckett. ‘Nothing is enough.’