12 February 2016


I started this blog on 12 February 2006 (at 4:05 PM Pacific time, if you want to be exact), so . . . it's been ten years. That's a pretty large span of my life, and eons in tech-time. When I started, blogs were a new and strange phenomenon, and in a way they still are (strange, though not new), as other forms of social media have risen in prominence. The rise is partly due to the thirst for constant novelty that afflicts anything tech-related, and partly because blogs can be difficult and Facebook and Twitter can be easy. Both of those systems have their charms, though in the way of all things tech, those charms have been exaggerated. Facebook I find useful mostly for updates and photos from people I know – I follow lots of arts groups there, but can't say I really get too much out of their posts, which tend to be blandly promotional. Twitter is an enjoyable constant stream of possibly interesting items – things rise and sink there and life goes on; the beautiful and significant jostle shoulders with the trivial and offensive, and all are fleeting. Both systems tend to attract frenzies of faux (or maybe sometimes real) outrage around topics that are forgotten a week later. I don't find either system much use for discussions of the arts.

Twitter of course has a 140-character limit built in, which is its lure (though I had to make three or four attempts to get my first tweet under the character limit; my irritation was not eased by Twitter telling me repeatedly that I "needed to be more clever" – I can be clever at length, as any reader here knows; what they meant was I needed to be more concise). The character limit means that either you're posting a link to a longer piece (in, perhaps, a blog) or you're just posting a quip. And I love quips, but it's the nature of such things that you already have to know their context, otherwise your little jab or aperçu is merely confusing, and that does limit how much you can say that is original or that requires possibly lengthy explanations. Facebook has no such official limit, but there is a limit to how detailed an entry people will read, especially if not all of your "friends" have friended you because of a mutual love of certain arts. And that's another weakness of both systems when it comes to discussion of the arts: both require that people follow you, whereas with a blog anyone interested in the topic you're writing about can stumble on your entry via various search engines. And there's a certain permanence in that; on Facebook and Twitter – and this is part of their appeal – things disappear and are replaced by shiny new things with dizzying speed, and that's a deliberate feature, so that you'll keep going back and giving them those clicks they need so they can appeal to advertisers, and it's also what makes them so like life. But the reason many of us seek out art is to see and think about something that is, if not standing still itself (as our perceptions and reactions constantly shift), causing us to pause at least momentarily amid the noise and hubbub and to reflect.

So I still think there is a place for blogs, however uneasily they fit into the scene. I have the impression they're considered a bit old-fashioned in tech terms, which is kind of funny. Remember when e-mail was new? People were dazzled. Imagine, you could sit down and send a letter electronically to someone thousands of miles away and it would show up in minutes! And you could receive a reply with equal speed! That's an incredible thing. But people now shrug at it, find it a burden, claim that no one e-mails anymore and it's all about texting for the cool kids. But I still think e-mail is one of the greatest things ever. I try to take a mindful view of technology, which, these days (especially in the Bay Area, where tech companies exercise such powerful control over our economy and even our fantasies), leads some people to consider me a lunatic Luddite. (Which, clearly, I'm not – though not the first of the local bloggers, I was an early joiner. It's a matter of deciding which tech you need, and which tech is just stuff people – or profit-seeking corporations – claim you need.)

I think people have never quite known what to make of blogs. Some local arts groups have been extremely forthcoming and generous, others have never acknowledged my existence – which is fine, I'm not complaining, I have no sense that anyone owes me anything here. (I will admit to looking askance at one local group that pretty much ignores bloggers yet has "tweet seats" for certain dress rehearsals – I don't really want to go on here about why I find "tweet seats" ridiculous, but I'll just say that I do; to sum it up, if you're tweeting during a performance, you're not paying attention, and if you're not paying attention, what do I care what you are saying?). But the ambiguous position of blogs is exactly what makes them interesting: they can be anything, a point people don't always seem to grasp. I've always been surprised at how many people assume the journalistic model is the necessary and only one for blogs – I can see why, but bloggers are not constrained by deadlines or advertisers or considerations of length or of general appeal (or even, to be honest, grammar and coherence). I'm not really a journalist by nature, though; when I see BREAKING at the head of a story (or tweet or FB entry) I usually, literally, LOL, or at least chuckle. It seems silly and overblown to me. If someone asked me what was BREAKING!!!, I'd probably say thousands of unseen hearts and leave it at that. It just conveys such a false sense of urgency about what matters in our lives.

This does bring up something that has always been a thorn in my side (though to some extent it's mostly one I keep jabbing myself with, I don't know that it matters to anyone else), which is the timeliness of posting. I perpetually feel like the White Rabbit, always running and always running behind. I would love to post entries right after seeing something – but first thoughts are not always best thoughts, and sometimes things need to sit inside you for a while, developing. It's all memory once the curtain goes down anyway. And if I were a performer, I would be flattered that someone cared enough about what I did to write about it days or even weeks later – an artist's life is cumulative, and so is a viewer's. But at what point do things slip into irrelevance (and at what point do they resume their "relevance", becoming an interesting light into a now-vanished scene)? It's interesting to see what details survive in the mind, but even with my fairly accurate memory there's bound to be some blurring and forgetting. But quite honestly, I just don't have the time to write things up in more or less timely manner, even if I didn't have semi-serious philosophical objections to a journalism-style mode of deadlines (what are deadlines in the Memory Palace?). I was aware from the start, though, that this might be a problem; the one thing I decided before beginning this site was that I would never apologize or be sheepish about posting "late" – I understood at least that much of my life.

I have to work for a living, and as we all know American workers are burdened with excessive time demands from their jobs. I have a house and garden to take care of. There's laundry and cooking and cleaning and the mundane maintenance of a life. And, obviously, I'm out a lot, going to various performances. And, again obviously, I'm ten years older than I was – my energy has diminished a bit; I find it more difficult than I used to when I don't get enough sleep, and I sleep poorly anyway. Things pile up. And I'm perhaps not the swiftest writer around – even when I write something quickly, I tend to go back and revise obsessively. Years ago I read the Borges story about a man with total recall; the narrator is taken to meet him, and he spends the entire visit reciting every detail of their last visit (so, presumably, if they meet again, he will recall recalling the earlier visit). Sometimes I feel like that: trapped among details and memories of details that I need to get out, only I don't have the time. And of course I'm always fighting against the pressing conviction that I have nothing to say and no one is interested in hearing me say it anyway (I should point out I'm not fishing for compliments here, so there's no need to reassure me; I'm just trying to offer an honest view of my inner life). Unwritten entries pile up in my head, and sometimes I barely realize I haven't actually written and posted them. There's a ghost-blog of such entries that, for me at least, haunts this blog.

So this blog hasn't quite taken the shape I had first intended. For one thing, it's a lot more about poetry now than I thought it would be (and I'm fine with that, though I do sometimes wonder if a more limited focus isn't what people prefer). That seems like a good development to me. But I frequently intend to write about books and movies and recordings and seldom find the time. I keep on with it because blogging is one of the few outlets I've ever found for expressing myself on the things that interest me most in life. So I guess it has been like my life in that it's mostly about a more or less desperate and perpetually failing attempt to carve out enough time for Art.


Teresa VazGoodfellow said...

Happy Birthday to you and your blog! This is belated, which is ironic since you wrote about your entries occasionally being late, but how much mulling does one need to say, "Happy Birthday"? I think it's remarkable to have a running journal of your insights that, while not always commented on, has meant something to me. I don't dwell on how much I don't know since that list is staggering, so I settle for knowing that every time I read your blog, I learn something new. You describe your blogging as a desperate attempt to include ART in your life, but you do it so well that there is no desperation perceived by your readers. Keep up the good work of inspiring us all to learn and seek more artistic opportunities in our every day lives!

Patrick J. Vaz said...

Thank you! That is very kind.

John Marcher said...

Dear Patrick,

Happy 10th anniversary. May you never catch up.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

Thank you!

And I'm pretty sure you'll get your wish that I never catch up. . . .

Unknown said...

I promise to read and enjoy your "late" posts if you promise to accept my late reading of your posts.

Thank you for 10 years of posts. I know so much more about poetry than I used to, thanks to you. And keep the photos coming.


Patrick J. Vaz said...

Thank you -- you were the one, of course, who first told me to start a blog.