Sunday, March 06, 2005

Since you asked....

Not that Anonymous said... In January, regarding blogging, Andrew wrote:

"I’ll give it to, say, the end of February and see if I think it is worth carrying on with."And now, towards the end of Februray, he says:

"But even if it turns out bad, remember, it could have been so much worse...."True

What I have learned so far from blogging

It is massively easier to post in blog format than to faff around with Demon. The process of updating the old page involved a lot of swearing at Word Templates and the Demon’s FTP homepage system and getting an e-mail from some kind soul pointing out that all the links I pasted in manually are broken. The process of updating the Blog involve, er, typing some text in. This is cool. Someone is going to tell me that the solution would be a more complex web-authoring tool, aren’t they?


I am congenitally incapable of writing anything short, snappy, or to the point. I set out to write a quick comment along the lines of “Did you hear Prescott on Today today? What a twit” and find I’ve written a three page explanation of socialism with special reference to third season Babylon 5. Which slightly removes the original purpose which I had for this page.

I have been posting stuff with more frequency. This is probably a good thing. But the claim that I would post first drafts without editing turned out to be a blatant lie.


There are still some idiots in cyberspace


My relationship with the Guardian is like a messy divorce, except without the psychological trauma, heartaches, messing up of the kids' lives, lawyer’s fees, years of recrimination and regret, so actually not even slightly like a messy divorce.

I have given up counting how often I have said “That is it, I am never reading this rag again”. But somehow two thirds of my rants seem to begin with the immortal line “I read something stupid in the Guardian this morning.” Or at the very least "I heard something interesting on Radio 4”. You have no idea how ashamed I am of this.

Just think, there are Americans out there who don’t know what Radio 4 is, and there is no way you can explain it to them, because "talk radio" or even "high brow talk radio" doesn't give the slightest hint of what a wierd thing Radio 4 actually is. " One of the guys from my office asked me what sort of music they played on Radio 4, and seemed genuinely confused when I told him that the answer was “None at all.”

If Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is a success, do you think we’ll get a big screen adaptation of Just a Minute?

I have absolutely no intention of keeping an on line diary. I can’t write about my friends, because I would like to keep them. I can’t write about my job, because I would like to keep it. I can’t write about my family because I am going to keep them whether I like it or not. Regrettably, the rest of my life consists of “Woke up. Listened to Radio 4. Got on bus. Read Guardian. Came home. Listened to Radio 4. Watched TV. Read book. Watched DVD. Listened to Radio 4. Read comic book. Went to bed.” Which is what I am writing about. Sorry.

Is it true that William Shatner himself personally coined the expression "Get a life"?


I like the immediacy of feedback which the blog format allows. When I post things to the web-page, I generally spend two days thinking “Oh god. I’ve done it now. Everybody is going to think I am a loony / a fascist / a pompous fool / a terrible geek. My family will disown me. People will shun me in the street. I will be forced to travel to Liverpool and apologize in person”. Eventually, I may get an e-mail which says something along the lines of “I enjoyed the article. Thanks for writing it”. Once this happens, I feel fine and no longer care what anyone else thinks. (In a good way.) So then I start ego-googling for “Rilstone-Blair-Wagner” to see if anyone else noticed that I exist.

In the blog format, I get told I’m a pompous fool within an hour of posting the article.. This gives me a big warm feeling. However, if I am not terribly careful, I will spend all my writing time writing witty response to people who make comments, which tends to reduce the page to the Andrew and Sam show. (And note that I get around to responding to twitposts, but not to interesting and sensible ones. “Ah yes. A very interesting and wise post from someone who knows far more about the subject than me. I shan’t respond to that until I have time to do so properly”)


“I do not have time to make it shorter.” In first or second drafts, I tend to say the same things several times in different words. When there isn’t a long editing process, I sometimes repeat myself. I have a tendency to make several attempts at making the same point, and I don’t always have time to go back and delete the redundancies.


Someone who posts to is using a quote from me in his .sig. This pleases me quite disproportionately.


I am not convinced that my stuff suits this format. A comment about Doctor Who, followed by a definitive resolution of the problem of evil, followed by a review of a movie feels incongrous. I preferred the way in which the old page was split up into different subject areas so that people who, for some unaccountable reason, cared about what I thought about C.S Lewis didn’t have my opinions on Cerebus foisted on them.

While ego-surfing, I noticed that some American school teacher appeared to have set one of my Lewis pieces to her class as a homework assignment, complete with comprehension questions to make sure that they had read it. I think it was Bernard Shaw who refused the BBC permission to do a radio programme for schools based on his work, because “his plays were not designed as instruments of torture.”

Sometimes I have my doubts about this article stuff anyway. “Go away and write a book” I say to myself. “Write the definitive work on Doctor Who or Marvel Comics or the Bible or something. Or else bloody well go back to college and learn political philosophy properly. Then no-one apart from your lecturers will have to be subjected to your opinions, and they get paid for it. I did an evening class in London a few years or go back, and was the only person who got “distinction” on one of his essays. I believe I could cash it in 1/27th of an undergraduate degree.”


I may go back to sticking articles on the old site, or something like it, when they are finished, but keep this going for the off-the-cuff pieces and general chat.

I’ll think about it and get back to you.


Thanks for asking.


Anonymous said...

Self-deprecation aside, you're bloody brilliant, and I'd read six hundred pages of exposition on the specific gravity of tofu if you wrote it, 'cause I like your style.

Yeah. You've acquired a fanboy, and you've foolishly left the comments section open. Mine, it shall be mine!

If you hate manual website management (and who doesn't?), you might well look into using a wiki set to have you as its only editor. Features like 'recent changes' make publicizing updates a snap and the markup is meant to be as intuitive as possible. You'd need a host that would support it, though. Well, maybe you wouldn't need the full MediaWiki (which is really frickin' full-featured), but could run on something smaller.

There's still livejournal, too.

Y'know, the idea of writing raw HTML with all the styling in it has always seemed repugnant to me, I think. So when CSS came along, I thought it was pretty darn clever, letting me write plain structural markup and prettifying it another way. But now that I spend so much time on Wikipedia, I've been spoiled by its human-centric (rather than machine-centric) markup. ==Section header==, '''bold''', [[link]] and so forth. Integrated image uploading and automatic thumbnailing. Hell, you can get addons to generate chess and go diagrams, all sorts of stuff.

But by all means, continue writing. You know, aside from the one snarky essaylet about the end of season four on your Demon site, I can't find anything you've written about Babylon 5.

And comics! I'd like to be a tenth as well-read, or as well-read-sounding, as you. Having just acquired the later works of Sam Kieth, I'm quite curious as to your take on that, and... well, I've checked your site regularly since you came up when I was googling for things about Cerebus and the madness and weirdness of Dave Sim. It was wonderfully enriching, and I'd hate to see you go.

I can encourage you with naked pictures of my ladyfriend. Seriously. If'n you like that sort of thing, that is.

Anonymous said...

What he said. Andrew, your rants are fantastic. I'm a bit ambivalent about the blog format, because while it reduces the intervals between posts, it does tend to muddy up the brilliance with back-and-forth rambling in the comments section... Like this.

My point is, your long, convoluted essays with lots of footnotes are probably my favourite thing to read on the web. The "hey, look at that" posts are fun too, but just take care you don't blog down your style too much.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't Blogspot have categories though? My weblog, which is on Movable Type, has endless catagorisation, with optional crossposting.

Anonymous said...

Is that the quote about the Red Skull being "slightly less evil" that Captain America? If so, it's a good'n.


Charles Filson said...

Love your stuff Andrew. Like the first fellow said: it’s your style more than the content. You have a way of making gibberish sound entertaining...and then you have a way of slipping in some really insightful commentary as well. What I love best about your site is that it seems to be written just for me. Comics, RPGs, Politics and Christianity all wrapped up in one package.

Whether you keep up your blog here or update your earlier site, I’ll keep reading. I like the blog because more people respond to your stuff here than just Ian, Lars and I, and if I didn’t read your site and the responses, would be my only impressions of Britain.

Jeff Freeman said...

Blogger doesn't support categorization the way that Moveable Type does. It barely supports multiblogging, which might be one way to go. Essentially you create a blog for each topic, post updates to the appropriate sub-blog, and then use an include on your main blog so that there's still a central 'Here's my blog'-sort of site.

Terribly crude, but there ya go. You can see how to do it in blogger's help page under Multi-blogging.

Anonymous said...

I'm loving the blog format just because it means you post more often. I used to check your site every week in hopes that there were updates, and when there were, I would sit there for hours enjoying every bit of it.

I like getting your off-the-cuff comments, but I think if you have the time you should keep up the site also for longer essays, simply because they're easier to read there.

mackatlaw said...

Publishing Paranoia

I, on the other hand, live in fear that someday I'll be at an attorney firm and they will look up my name on Google and find my livejournal. (Which I did today.)

The odds of someone else doing so are fairly low, especially since I am working at my father's office right now and most people don't have that level of curiousity anyway. Yet I have hopes of working elsewhere, and am perhaps overly emotionally candid in my journal.

I try to keep the livejournal separate. I'm all over the Internet other places, which I don't mind: old newsgroups, roleplaying posts and essays, fan-fiction, the reporting jobs. But I don't want journals to be found by the public, at least not until I'm Neil Gaiman and can start a proper one that informs and edifies without giving too much away. If the legal profession has taught me anything, sadly, one of those things has been professional paranoia.

That being said, could you edit my last name out of a post I did? Having my last name next to the entry makes me nervous.


mackatlaw said...

"I have absolutely no intention of keeping an online diary. I can’t write about my friends, because I would like to keep them. I can’t write about my job, because I would like to keep it. I can’t write about my family because I am going to keep them whether I like it or not."

This is the problem in a nutshell. Livejournal seems to encourage diary-like emotings of feelings, ruminations and other musings and bellyachings, interspersed with actual commentary and deeper pieces. Writing about the job is dangerous, especially in my line of work. Writing about friends gets one in trouble, though does help stay in touch with long-distance people. Family is family; I see no need to write about what I know too well.

So I've tended towards writing about my state of mind, roleplaying games, and the occasional rants, though I am moving slightly more towards posting beta-fiction. Many of the more interesting entries get "friend-locked" as being overly personal, at which point I begin to wonder, "Why not just send emails? Am I only trying to save time here with efficiency?"

Blogs seem to provoke more critical commentary and intellectual debate, with less soul-searching.

Hmm. Perhaps I'll change again to blogs someday, then.


Anonymous said...

Just think, there are Americans out there who don’t know what Radio 4 is, and there is no way you can explain it to them... If Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is a success, do you think we’ll get a big screen adaptation of Just a Minute?In one of the more obscure iterations of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Arthur Dent lists the unique things that were lost to the universe when the Earth was destroyed, and Radio 4 is third on the list. "There is nothing quite - or even remotely - like Kenneth Williams anywhere else in the galaxy," he adds. "I've looked. Not very hard, admittedly..."

Anonymous said...

Is it true that William Shatner himself personally coined the expression "Get a life"?Probably not. But he certainly used it to great effect. That would be the Saturday Night Live "Star Trek" sketch, also known as The Funniest Comedy Sketch of All Time (TV Guide, January, 2000).

Perhaps, one day, when you're reading over past entries and comments (narcissistic, I know, but who hasn't) and you come to one of those comments where you find yourself saying, "Gosh, I really should have answered that," make an entry out of it? I've done that over in my livejournal.

(I don't know why livejournal seems to encourage a sort of free-floating emotional warmth, but it does. Strange thing, virtual life.)

Anyway, I'm glad you're posting more. I agree with what's previously said about your style. You understand that you and all the rest of us are really unutterably silly--and yet, twist the perspective just a bit and it's all quite serious, as well.

Anonymous said...

I'm really not sure which I enjoyed more, your rambling bit of miscellany, or the comments. Apparently your other fans are at least as literate and nearly as interesting as you.

I hadn't dropped by your page for a while, and this is my first exposure to your use of the blog format. Like yourself, I'm not totally sure I like it. You do manage to post more, which entertains me, and the others, but, as I know from something like personal experience, it's easier to throw out things that you're still digesting and don't have a set of full-blow comments about. The whole point of reading a lot of your other stuff was that you had taken the time to write a complete set of arguments or philosophical whathaveyou about some topic, earth shattering or otherwise. And I've almost always enjoyed the articles. The shorter pieces aren't quite the same, somehow. I'm not getting the warm fuzzies as well. However, this format would appear to have convenience on it's side.

And in a note on your content itself, as has been noted by the vast majority of those who commented, it's your writing style that wins you accolades. To put it simply, we don't care what you blather on about, so long as you do it with that "remarkable felicity of expression" you happen to possess. Which is rather amusing. I also tend to enjoy the movie reviews a good deal.

So, while I rather like the little blog bits, I really enjoyed the format of the site itself more. But I'll be coming back regardless, so . . . .

Keep it up.

Mike Taylor said...

You wrote: "Someone who posts to is using a quote from me in his .sig. This pleases me quite disproportionately."

That's sweet. But I have been adding
choice Rilstonisms to my database
of randomly-chosen signature quotes
for some time now. Among the chosen
observations are the following, which
you are all welcome to enjoy.

"I didn't see Chaplin. Maybe they played down the fact that he was a comedian" - Andrew Rilstone on the portrayal of C. S. Lewis's Christianity in Shadowlands.

"If Microsoft Word had been around 400 years ago, Martin Luther would never have got around to nailing his thesis to the church door. He'd have spent the evening messing around with the font size and found out the next day that the Reformation had broken out without him" - Andrew Rilstone.

"The Bible is quite deeply rooted in our culture, and still fairly important in some forms of Christianity. So maybe there is something to be said for it" - Andrew Rilstone.

"[The Common People] invented a ritual of Standing in Queue to Pay Their Last Respects to the Body. A national day of queuing is, when you think about it, deeply, deeply English. I venture to say that many of the people in the queue also talked about the weather" - Andrew Rilstone on the Queen Mother's funeral.

"Say what you like about the Church of England, it rarely declares fatwahs. It rarely declares anything at all, in fact" - Andrew Rilstone.

"At the age of 14, Tolkien was fun [to me] precisely because he was not a writer; he was the grand-daddy of all Dungeons & Dragons referees" - Andrew Rilstone, Is Tolkein Actually Any Good?"It is the job of the critic to tell people what they ought to like and it must be pretty galling when they don't do as they're told" - Andrew Rilstone.

Andrew Rilstone said...

Thanks for all your comments.

Especially the nice ones.

My brain just said.

"I think that what I should do is go back to posting substantive articles on to the old web-page, but carry on posting occassional bits of chat and newsclippings here. When I post a new thing to the archive, I can link to it here, and people who want to can commnent on it in the discussion threads. Obviously, the blog-jounal would be linked to from the main page."

But my other brain said.

"That is a incredibly clunky way of doing it. I bet one of these more sophisticated packages that people have been talking about can give you the same effect with less effort. What I want is a blog package which will enable me to archive comments under different headings; have an on-going journal section that people can post to and (in a perfect world) allow me to import my existing archive with less-than-infinite-fuss. Someone said do a blogger multi-blog. Someone else said Wiki, about which I know nothing. A lot of people have said "Movable Type", but I thought that had a reputation for being hard to learn, and I am a bear of very little brain. What should I do, do you think."