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01/06/2010 / mygirlbetty

Like the corners of my mind

And so it is… another semester draws to a close, we throw our pointy black hats in the air and walk off, arms around shoulders, but not before we stand on our desks with cries of “oh captain my captain”… Or alternately we barely notice we’ve finished subjects in the chaos of lastweeklastminuteohmygodhowdoIdothisessayinanhour pandemonium, safe in the knowledge we’ll do it all again next term.

In NetComms I have learnt a lot. And I have been interested more than I thought I would be when I started and some guy was all “oh dude. My mate did net comms last year, and he couldn’t pass. He couldn’t. And it’s boring” and I was all “shit”. I am really enjoying the internet now, which sounds like a statement from an informercial (“The Internet”! Where it’s safe to be a nerd!), but it’s true.  I loved hearing and reading about social theory behind the different facets of the web, I love it that I actually know stuff now- like what wed 2.0 is and you know, about youtube celebrities and stuff.

Writing blog entries has been fun and I certainly intend to keep them up, possibly a little sillier, a few more music related posts, a few more imagined conversations with fictional characters. I have learnt through the experience that it’s tricky being a blogger. Sure, you just write whatever crap comes to mind, but you pour your heart and soul onto a page that most likely friends will say they’ll read and then never follow up on. You say you don’t want to be the next internet thing, but there’s always a part of you that wants someone in blog land (a king or a duke) to notice your lowly scribblings, recognise your superior wit and excellent cultural referencing and give you a blog in the palace. Or you don’t, but it is hard. And I found that writing entries about actual topics made it difficult to be light and airy. I wanted to be funny, but then I got all interested in what I was writing. Which maybe shows how average at sticking to a theme, or being consistent I am. Sigh.

Another thing I’m real average at is writing essays, which explains why I failed one earlier. But, what excites me about the webs is that as Geert says, anyone can blog; it requires no tech knowledge or special skills. I can write as me and not be afraid because I’m not like everyone else. All my part in the internet requires of me, is my self. Goodo.

As stated, I want to continue my burgeoning affair with the world wide web (we’re taking it slow, but.. it’s getting pretty serious), and I want to learn how to share and be shared with and to explore more the idea of a public commons and or sphere. I want to think more about piracy and its cultural relevance and if it’s ok. I want to learn about why the internet -effectively people- does what it does.

And I want to upload pictures of cats.

So many cats..

I’m excited.

01/06/2010 / mygirlbetty

Ima let you finish, but…

I mentioned in my last entry that I like people all coming together and sharing. That goes for anything really, a talk, a meal, books, thoughts, tazos. I honestly believe people are made to be in community. And I was an early  (in my life, not in the life of the net) naysayer about technology that it was claimed brought people together, when really it encouraged people to hide behind their screens and not leave their houses and fly kites and play etc. BUT, after learning a lot these last few months about the interweb and its associated glory,

I’m in!

I love it. I love its potential, it’s theory, it’s kingdoms of tiny nerdlings, all googling pictures of Captain Janeway and creating the next piece of software three people will use. Imagine, friends, the wonder of the internet, billions of people given the ability to communicate at the touch of a button, to connect, to find each other, to share and become a real, worldwide public sphere.

And to upload thousands of pictures of cats…

Yeah. I see the infastructure and the possibilities, but I don’t know how much I see people connecting. It is hard to quantify how much of blogging is done to “connect” and how much is because people are bored/”totally awesome”/angry etc. But I guess the very act of channelling this desire to blurt into such a public forum is in some way an act of reaching out. I for one don’t really expect anyone to read my blog -although my brother has apparently linked to my last entry (terrifying, dizzying new heights of fame) on his- and I don’t expect if people read it that they will wish to enter into a spirited discussion about my thoughts with me. I don’t expect this because I don’t see my opinions or shenanigans to be of any import to anyone and furthermore when I hit up other blogs I don’t comment.

Allegedly there are rules, and appropriate ways of communicating with other bloggers

I have witnessed the connections, when I think about it. I’ve stumbled on blogs that have moved from one site to another for instance, and brought their readers with them, all typing little messages of “good to see you here” and sending muffin baskets. So I guess it does happen. But how? My bro assures me that linking is totally dead now and a majority of people don’t comment, so how do we respond to the shit people are throwing around? Geert Lovink says it’s better to post a comment on your own page if you wish to disagree with anothers blog, as you’re unlikely to get a response. So basically we’re all just talking and engaging with each other, on our own blogs, in our own worlds. This surely poses a problem.

Geert Lovink also wrote about blogging as a nihilist impulse

I suppose that blogging is a form of nihilism. In chronicling our thoughts and insights, some of them fictional, some of them fantastic, some dark and troubling, we reject an idea of an established truth, particularly one that is dolled out by someone above us. So if we are writing our own truth and responsible for our own values and reason behind the desire to blog, one can reasonably deduce that to define a singular reason behind the billions of people shaping the blogosphere would be unrealistic to the point of ridiculous. So perhaps not everyone blogs to be heard, or to connect.

Take my bro linking to my blog for example. While I love that he did that, as it means that perhaps my efforts will not go wholly unnoticed in cyber-land, it scares me because if one of his more tech-savvy friends read it, I might be mortified. The danger of said nerd writing something like “Creative Commons is a much more multi faceted idea than you can possibly ever grasp with your puny earth brain. You’re a naff blogger” and me shutting Gerard (my laptop) forever and crying instead, is too great.

I think, no matter what our driving force to publish ourselves, at the end of the day we’re not burning our thoughts after we write them. It’s a very, very public forum, despite most blogs getting lost in the fog of so much info. And I think, despite the fear, I would love comments on my posts and will start to do similar, as my desire to connect to whatever “truth” people have and the authors of it, is too great to ignore.

31/05/2010 / mygirlbetty

Rip me off

There’s a lot of things I don’t think about, y’know?

Like I don’t think about sport very often (actually ever), I don’t spend any time mulling over ways to make recipes better, or much dwelling on politics. Some stuff just doesn’t get much air time in my head, as it’s already quite full of shiny things, and the oh-so-excellent Band I Love The Most that day and reflections on if the Cookie Monster is happy with his lot.

I have never thought about copyright, nor whether I’m breaking copyright law (save for now when writing essays). It seems clear that this type of law is one of the most forgotten but oddly powerful and far reaching types of law there can be. If everything is under copyright, and simultaneously we live in a society where originality is hard to come by, where does that leave us?

Scholars of the copyleft school say we are born to share: ideas, thoughts, files, food etc. I would agree, because I’m a massive hippy at heart. But some more than idle thoughts need to be given to whether or not I, as an individual publishing content on the single most important piece of communication technology known to man, am going to do the same.

Who would want to steal my crap?

At first my gut instinct is to laugh at the notion of putting a copyright on the brain poo that leaks onto my blog. Having thought about it for a while now, I still find it difficult to believe that anyone would ever want to use my thoughts and ramblings for any purpose of their own, and perhaps no one ever will. As a writer (of sorts) who is, thanks to the ease of the internet, effectively published now and as someone who finds the issue particularly pertinent to the future of creativity on the net, however, I think I need to take a stand.

So this bloke, Lawrence Lessig, who I mentioned earlier. He has written a whole heap around the copyright debate, and started an alternate licensing corporation called Creative Commons. Lessig believed the whole copyright thing, as it stood at the time to be a ridiculous farce, designed to make money. While reading a couple of his essays, I was inclined to agree (he is very convincing). Lessig proposed that we needed a new system, one that encourages sharing of ideas and thoughts freely, and one with more freedom to move than the old.

I quite like the ideas behind Creative Commons. General copyright law seems outdated, and the freedom to share and share alike is something I’m sure more interesting people than me can make good use of. As pointed out by another theorist, Armin Medosch (paid in full: copyright, piracy and the real currency of cultural production) however, the ideals behind CC can’t cover every extreme. Lessig’s (Open code and Open Societies) seeming view that the economic side of copyrighting will work itself out seems idyllic and often unrealistic. Having said that, if making money from your creation is paramount, there is licences under CC that stops other people from doing the same, however it does not stop them from reproducing yours, slightly tweaked and giving it away. So the issue of how does one profit from their art remains a little unsolved by the CC crew.

What I did

Creative Commons offers a few different options, mainly around whether you want your work to be changed at all, and whether you want people using it to profit or not. To be honest, I struggle to care. Not in a gen x way, but because I feel like taking out a licence that says “as long as you credit me” or “as long as you don’t make no money” makes me a bit of a wanker. If I’m honest with myself, it’s the credit thing that would bother me the most. I wish I didn’t care who took credit for what I wrote, but I do. I want the world to know that I am witty, not some rando. But again, I have to wonder if this actually matters. Putting aside my stuff, I can totally see Lessig’s point about creative types sharing their treasures, and I guess as it doesn’t hurt me at all, and if it can increase awareness about other styles of licensing, I’ll give it a burl.

I ended up picking the licence that meant that people can use my work, but they have to credit me and they can’t profit from it. I still feel like a miser, and part of me is like- if they can make money where you can’t, then more power to them, but I think my stuff is not about making money and I don’t like the idea of it being used for that.

That is all, I guess. The moral of the story being that perhaps while I am producing average blog entries, now someone has the right to make them less than average on their own terms. I like that we’re all in this together.

29/05/2010 / mygirlbetty

Does My Blog Look Big In This?

So, as with any of my entries, one about design is a bit of a fine line. My blog is essentially about the idea of being kind of ok at stuff and in general. But it’s also a blog that I wouldn’t be violently opposed to people reading. So when making the design choices afforded to me by WordPress, I could choose something to go with the “average” vibe of my niche, or I could make my blog all fancy pants so unsuspecting readers are lured by my shiny shiny background and clean, crisp finish.

Cos that’s what comes to mind when we think of a nice looking blog, isn’t it? It is for me, anyway. Clean, neat lines, not too many colours, a kind of readable but ever so slightly personalized font. I guess I have been brainwashed into the Facebook=good looking camp, standing notably opposite the MySpace=hideous camp, with it’s glittery dirt tents and cat graphed port-a-loos.

Veering back ever so slightly to the subject of my blog in particular, the design choices that I have made, I have done so to line up with my niche. Fonts are of course the stationary lovers dream playground, and I did start to think about what font could properly do my particular brand of self indulgent drivel justice. My blog is about being average, so perhaps a font that seems more handwriting-esque would convey the right vibe, conjuring up images of me seated, pen in hand, tongue jutting out the corner of my mouth as I labour to ineffectively chronicle my thoughts. I however found Typekits fairly difficult to use, and then was distracted by my theme.

Originally I dug the idea of a picture across the top of the page, as I think it looks neat, but sort of stylish and individualistic. I love a white background too, I feel it is suggestive of a blog that doesn’t take itself too seriously and relies on its content to make any point it chooses to. But then I was seduced by a Paperpunch, a theme with nice big letters at the top, and an uncomplicated layout. I made the background a slightly apricot colour so it didn’t look too flat with the large white text panels. And I really like the result. Giggle. Deciding not to worry about the font as it’s nice and readable, I have ended up with a sort of normal font, and sort of normal layout, which I feel is sort of appropriate.

So many things are communicated by presentation. I was looking around my room before, and realising just how much crap I have in here.  There’s colours, and postcards and books and huge trashy framed pictures everywhere, and I love it that way because I think it reflects me, and all of my loud, soft, garish and pastel bits. In every part of our lives we make decisions about what we want to represent, and we also make assumptions about everything we see, based on what we see.  This is the way society works, a lot of the time, and people and blogs are not different.

I wish I didn’t judge by appearances, but its so easy and usually partially accurate. If I ever let an errant gaze wander over to a guy I might think is cute, the first thing I do is look at his shoes. Trashy example? Well how about this?

radparty1 by Jonathon Mayhew.

Some might say this is a tacky gathering of tacky pictures to make a larger, tackier picture. Others might say someone was having a laugh. On appearances, and depending on your viewpoint, either of those could be true. It could also be said that this is an artwork put together using old and or discarded pictures that are often considered tacky or kitsch to make something new. This is actually true. While Jonathan Mayhew’s work is not technically dirtstyle,  it does bring to mind the it’s so bad it’s good vibe that dirtstyle represents.

The whole dirtstyle thing can be approached from either the “oh Lord, why would I want a dancing baby/ starry night background/cat anywhere near my blog or the the ones I love?!” point of view or the “I believe dirt style graphics are an ode to where we once were technologically, and also are cool, as all that once was lame, is now excellent” point of view. It’s all about perception.

And so I could create a page full of bits and bobs and colour and flashing stuff (had I the money and the technical know how), to maybe give more of myself as an author away, or to appeal to those that like the dirtstyle asthetic, but I won’t be doing that.

As stated previously, I prefer a “neat” looking page. And neat for me means no dancing anything,

no huge cats,

and totally, definately no glitter.. as I think it looks like crap.

The moral of the story being, whilst dirt style graphics and retro themes are fun for some and a useful method of expression for others, I missed the first wave of the old www, so I don’t really feel the need to be nostalgic and I believe less is more. In relation to my blog, anyways. If you want to see tacky crap, you can come over to my house.

16/05/2010 / mygirlbetty

My mediocrity

In The Beginning… the word was with Dave

“So think of the things that you’re good at, what you do all the time..” my tutor said, the t’s falling from his words like ash from a cigarette. We were being instructed on how to create our blog for assessment, and encouraged to pick a niche. It seemed like it should be easy, after all, everyone in the world has a blog now, how hard could it be to find something worth writing about?

I thought, and then I thought some more, looked around me in a sort of bland panic, thought some more and within me was birthed the uncomfortable realisation that I am not actually good at anything, nor do I have any hobbies that I commit to enough to write about them in any sort of authorative voice.

I am fairly average, in most ways one can think of.

Just by way of example.. Ahem:

I own a guitar, but am always about to change the strings and start learning

I have a book collection that I am quite enamoured of, but am yet to read half of it, along with any Tolstoy or Woolfe, I’ve never even cracked the cover on Catcher in the Rye

I don’t cook

I enjoy art, but have next to no artistic talent aside from free-postcard-sticking-up-with-blutak, and I don’t even have enough technical knowledge to fill one of them

I love music, but only what I happen across. I read music reviews that are like “clearly this, his fifth album was influenced heavily by the Pixies early work..” and my brain explodes. I think I know who the Pixies are

I write, but not often and not very well

I like movies and I watch them, but have yet to enjoy David Lynch, or attend a film festival of any kind

I maintain a respectful distance from real immersion in anything that interests me that is helped by significantly poor time management and a gold fish’s attention span.

Woe. Woe is me and my too many but too few niches. Woe.

And then it hit me. The reason blogging is such a big deal, and the reason so many people do it, is because you can write whatever you want. And statistically, the majority of blogs are going to be fairly mundane,  pedestrian affairs. And so, perhaps the niche that I can appeal to COMPLETE MEDIOCRITY. I can handcraft the most extraordinarily average blog the world has ever seen!

But of course noone would read that, as would be a piece of shit.

I then decided I could record my routine journeys into fair-to-middling town, for all to read and feel better about themselves by comparison.

The Competition.

Obviously a “mediocre blog” can mean a couple of things, one being a blog that mainly focusses on an inept and terrifyingly boring author chronicling his/her/its daily sojourns to the fridge and or toilet, the other being a blog dedicated to the understanding that mediocrity is something we all face and most fear.

Mylifeisaverage.com is the latter type and exists to show up how much meaningless tripe is fed into the internet daily. As opposed to other humorous blogs, its content is generated by users of the site, who submit stories of their funny/ inane lives in the hopes  of having them read by all the other nobodies. It’s really funny a lot of the time, and some of the stories are actually anything but average. If you hit the MLIA official blog, you’ll find an homage to the wonder of the average. Attention is paid to things like toast, and socks, and how good those things are despite their inate anverageness.

I like this site, particularly the official blog, as it is a celebration of sorts of all that is normal, as opposed to the wonder of freakish parkur men, or Lady Gaga and her bandaidie outfits. What drew me to the subject matter is its necessity, and its often unsung beauty. That and my inability to do anything well. Cough. MLIA.

In terms of appearance it would certainly go against the very idea of the blog if it was anything but average, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. Mylifeisaverage itself is smeared over a fairly inoffensive and wah grey background, it is easy to find your way around, the font is readable, if a little uggo, and the couple of ads are not too in you face and seem to appeal to a twenties to early thirties sort of crowd who for the most part would be the appropriate audience.

I found another site that seems to be about the everyday, normal stuff (shocking I know, on the www, right?!). It’s called Exceptional Mediocrity, which of course is right up my alley. This one is more of the first type of mediocre blog, in that it the charting of one man’s life and thoughts about the things that occur in it day to day. It is actually well written and interesting though. This blog obviously doesn’t have the same “everyone get on board” appeal as MLIA, so advertising isn’t an issue, and it is a Blogger blog, so it is a fairly run of the mill layout. He uses snappy headings like “Why are drug reps hot?” and “the Gay Dog” which totally gets you reading, the entries could probably stand to be shorter, but they are for the most part amusing and written with intelligence, so one wants to stick with them.

I’ll leave with a look at my fave sort of average blog. It is not average in name, really, or in its aim, but more so in its covering of such a wide variety of things that it cannot actually be a blog about anything except maybe Everything in the Sky. Ryan writes about his job(s) his dad, his walks down the street, his favorite new gadget and music he digs. He basically puts anything he thinks is rad on his site, which of course is the whole point. Ry-ry, as I have started affectionately calling him, does have technical leanings, but there is too much of a peppering of music bits and excellent photo bits to really be a techie blog. What I enjoy the most is that he is funny, really really, I’m fairly jealous of his sharp as a rapier wit, funny- but he can also turn a poised and thoughtful phrase like nobodies business.

And that my friends, is my niche. A bit of overshare, but that’s how we do.

08/05/2010 / mygirlbetty

8 Habits of fairly average Bloggers

Hi! You look great today!

I thought in honour of the subject matter (being mediocrity) and in honor of the media I’m using (being a blog) I would compose my own list in the vein of copybloggers very helpful list of habits to adopt if one wants to be a successful blogger.

Here are some helpful tips to assist you, the delightful reader in maintaining a nice level of average-ness in your blogging*.

1. Get Caught Up Doing Other Stuff

Right now, you could be watching scrubs, sitting in bed, picking things out of your fingernails, going to class, avoiding class, or talking about video’s of three year old drummers on YouTube. If you want to make sure your blog is pretty av’, maybe do one of more of these, instead of blogging. It’s really easy, and once you start you’ll find you don’t want to stop.

2. Be Vague, and Ramble a Lot

I find that nothing keeps people reading like things that are not round-a-bout and are instead of that more getting to the point quickly so you know what the writer is saying real soon like.

I know once, when I was at school, I read a book- boy that takes me back. I had a teacher who was a ukranian gypsy. Loved to play the panpipes, which was odd because he had no lips.. Where was I?

3. Write About Stuff You Dig, Regardless of Whether People Dig It Too

You know the Japanese poetry you write about the differing varieties of house bricks? Or the tally you keep of grammatical errors in Woolworths catalogues? That is dynamite stuff. Write that shit down. The interweb needs you to tell it all of your things you can’t tell anyone else, on account of them leaving you/hating you/setting you on fire to hear something else besides about your passion for smurf lit.

Point three is tricky though folks, if you’re not careful, you could inadvertantly stumble apon or even create a new niche market for those who can’t get enough of Morag from Home and Away. Before you know it you’re on the front page of WordPress, and then where are you? You’re popular, that’s where. Watch out for the long tail, ya’ll. It’ll getcha.

4. Be Distracted By Interests In a Multitude of Subjects

My favorite kind of blogs are those that cover heaps of different subjects.

“A blog about ballet, whiskey, Television, Zinc, and all that comes between”.

I think I like them because my brain works that way, jumping clumsily from one shiny thing to another like a drunken magpie. Some blogs like this are really succesful, too.

So my advice would be to not censor yourself. If someone tells you there’s no discernable link between football and knitting needles, they’re wrong. Well, they’re right, but we don’t care.

5. Post Erratically

This probably goes hand in hand with the first tip, and you will certainly find yourself with a lot of time between posts if you are as easily distracted as I hope you are. Probably the more erratic the better. Readers seem to dig regularity or at least a blogging pattern they can rely on, no matter how long between posts. Try this: when someone says the exact phrase “have you posted anything new on your blog about -insert rando subject here- lately, I will give it a read” , take it as a sign, wait exactly a month and post then.

6. Be Spontaneous!

And you know what else, Cornflakes!

That was an example of aforementioned spontaneity.

I subscribe to the writing school that says WRITE WHATEVER YOU WANT TO. I say, forget planning, forget spelling, grammar and themes and forget paragraphs or numbered points (Oh irony.. my old bunkmate). Structure and meaning are all constructs of a society afraid of what bloggers will do when there’s  NO PARAGRAPH BREAKS AND CATCHY TITLES! YEAH! How you like me now?!

It’s like Napoleon Dynamite and Lizzie McGuire  say. Follow your heart.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Lose Interest

Look we all know this blogging thing is a fad. You thought it was cool when all your friends started doing it. You thought it’d be fun to blog about fights between Star Trek characters, and who wouldn’t. But you don’t need to hide anymore, we know it’s tough having to write all the time, having to do anything at all.  It’s ok. I’m here. Just let go. Ssshhh. You can rest now.

8. Forget Most of the Time to Do Anything

It’s definately best, and easiest if you don’t have to plan to be distracted, or to write down your erratic thought poo, or to make sure your links between subjects are hazy at best. It’s probably best, and definately best for your very, very mediocre blog if you just forget you even have one most of the time.

For some futher inspiration here are some examples of blogs that are interesting, succint and well planned, so you know what to avoid.

http://techcrunch.com/

Mmm. See how it’s organised? And looks good? Also, the writers seem to know what they’re talking about and have a very clear idea of their target audience. Yup. That suckah’s go’ be read.

http://www.brooklynvegan.com/

Yeah. Same problems as before, plus this blog clearly makes sure it is an up to date source of information for its readers, and therefore posts regularly. Tut tut.

http://jezebel.com/

Straight to the point, short posts that engage the reader and then entice them to post something of their own. Amateurs.

I hope this has helped you start your own journeys of mediocrity, I’ll see you again in a hopefully less smart arse post. Not sure when though, obviously. Cheers!

*hint, these can perhaps be carried over into other areas of your life as well! I know, right?!

20/04/2010 / mygirlbetty

Can you dig it?

Average is obviously a relative term. One needs something they’ve attempted in some way, something presumably others are more than average at, to try out and to feel like they’ve not done real good at (when compared to aforementioned others).  There are so many things one can be average at, so many levels of done-ness, or aptitude to compare to that for the average connoisseur can be difficult to navigate. This will be my attempt to chart my own mediocrity in all its wonder, an examination of why it is we feel the need to excel, and a celebration of the many, many things that I am average at and hopefully a journey into more.

Can you dig it?