Prof. Strangemove or : How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog

A lover of Books begins writing a blog…

How is that a strange move?

I’m partial to Books. I like a real book in my hand as I read.

I like to write. I enjoy it, am compelled to it, and can’t do enough of it.

I hesitate to write a blog though. I’ve been reading blogs, been encouraged and edified by blogs, so why this hesitation? What has kept me from blogging before?

What is a blog anyway?

“A meandering, blatantly uninteresting online diary that gives the author the illusion that people are actually interested in their life,” is what one Urban Dictionary contributor calls a blog.

An uncharitable opinion for sure, but it is a common impression that a blogger is self-deluded, and that has been a disincentive for me.

To try another definition: “A blog (short for weblog) is a discussion or informational site published on the internet and consisting of discrete entries (‘posts’) typically displayed in reverse chronological order…” (From the more objective Wikipedia.)

Positive incentive here… I could work with this second definition, especially since “discussion” and “informational” make it more about the reader than the writer. That I can appreciate.

“A regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group that is written in an informal or conversational style.” (Google definition.)

That works for me too.

Blogs. Books. Again, there’s that hesitation. Both inform, educate, inspire. I’ve been reading a few blogs (like I said), as well as news pages, and reference sites too (as you can see above). So, why do I feel this need to contrast books and blogs? What else is there to consider? To weigh, to judge?

Books are published , typically on paper with ink… (More on that in a moment.) Blogs are published “on the internet.”

There’s a saying, something like: “Don’t trust everything you read on the internet!” Sounds hackneyed, but I may have said exactly that as I attempted to explain to my kids (who were sincerely struggling to produce properly documented school research papers); to explain to them just what the difference was between an “anybody could have written that” World Wide Web article*, and an entry in the once widely respected World Book Encyclopedia – or a revered Britannica.

These vinyl or leather-bound “pedias,” I explained, were subject to stringent editorial standards, and were written by authors who were actually educated and peer-reviewed experts in their fields. A reference book, published with the aid of professional editors, is authorized and accountable. Such a book is bought and sold, so it must have value (which it wouldn’t have if the information therein was fabricated). It is therefore assumed to be trustworthy. It’s “the real thing.” And it is all the more “real” because of the time and trouble taken to print it on paper – and even more real or “solid” (and expensive) when it comes in hardback covers rather than soft. (Laugh out loud.) – More substantial certainly than electronic WWW or WiFi data rippling through wires or thin air.

 Internet web

As much as I use the internet, I guess I don’t like the internet as much as I like a book. You can’t smell it. (Or can you? I’ve heard somebody at a computer yell, “This stinks!”)

Does the non-sensory nature** of the internet make its content nonsense? No. Does the seemingly transient electronic-ness of digitized words en-shrouding the earth in their thinner-than-gossamer net make them somehow less meaningful, less real? Of course not. Internet content is permanent as long as there is computer hardware somewhere in the world to retrieve it, I’m told.

Thinking along those lines: A blog, an electronic journal, is like a disembodied soul. There are words to read, and the words may be quite substantial. “In other words” those words may have a lot to say that is meaningful, informational, emotional, intellectual, and so on…The spirit is in the letter, and the letter is… a light on the screen? Hmm…

Books have all that. Meaning. Information. Content. Humanity. Substance. It’s all there (in ink). They also have substance of another kind; substance in an additional, material, even sensual – or maybe we should say, sensory – sense. This Something More, the body of the book, is paper.

Just paper (and maybe cardboard, wood, leather, fiberboard)… It’s not the sum total of a book, but it’s not a “book” without it. And it makes a book more than what you’ll find on your computer screen.

Think about it: Does the crisp (and possibly crumbly) paper page of a dusty (or slightly musty?) old leather-bound tome inspire in you feelings of loyalty, nostalgia and protectiveness? Does the smell of an ancient volume (or even the scent of a brand new one) carry you off to other times and places almost as much as the words inside?

A physical book (particularly with writing inside – a Book – making it body and soul), crafted from the flesh of trees, is in and of itself, a poignant (and even pungent) reminder that “things” don’t last. Books need protection from the elements. Too much moisture, too much sunlight, too much contact with the soil, ruin a book. I’ve seen the sad sight of a recently burned-out house, no roof, books thrown out the fire-fighter shattered windows, rotting in the grass.

Into the ground.

 Decaying book

Some of my fondest memories are of communing with books in libraries. (The driest, safest places for them, right?)

I’ve visited libraries for various reasons: To research Shakespeare (the U of D), to find the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society (Harvard), and for genealogy (Penn State). When in Newark, browsing the stacks, I found works on the time-out-of-mind lineage of the Tuatha d’Danaan, migrants from the Mediterranean, conquerors of Ireland. Only the words in the books are left, and the green mounds of the Emerald Isle leave nary a trace of the once-mighty kings and queens of the land, fore-bearers of many who live today, who have little or no intimation of them.

Their bones were long ago put into the ground.

In State College, I also sought – and found – news of my Stevenson ancestors, who lived first (the correct term only if you’re working backwards, like I was) in London, specifically in the parish of St. Giles Cripplegate. (I learned much that day about the Great Fire of London, which cleared the way for Sir Christopher Wren to re-steeple the city-scape in grand style.) Prior to that, my people had lived in Sunningwell, up Thames-way, beyond Oxford. But after London, downstream in time, the last of that line interred in England, was a barber-surgeon in the Royal Navy. My search took me downstream geographically too, to Rochester, Kent County, England, where a Roman bridge still stands (or stood then, at least, in about 1750). The British journal, Archaeologia Cantiana, provided information on and pictures of the bridge and navy barracks.

 Rochester Bridge

I spent hours perusing the volumes of that journal, absorbing the history (and pre-history) of Kent. Many years later, I found the website for the Kent Archaeology Society (http://www.kentarchaeology.org.uk/publications/archaeologia-cantiana/) and its not-yet-completed on-line archive of scanned journals. They have 135 years of books to “translate” from ink to light.

Today I live in Kent County, Delaware, USA, and I am going to name my blog after that book which so informed and inspired me 25 years ago.

Old Latin names, Roman bridges, Wren’s churches, Irish genes, and Othello’s plot twists – Oh, and the movements of Jupiter and Saturn in the year 4 B.C., which is what I wanted to find a certain article on in the Harvard library.

Today much – though not yet all – of that information can be found on the internet.

I’m going to continue to do research in whatever way I can. Print or electronic. And more…

Today I am learning that our Kent County is very interesting too.

I’m only beginning to scratch the surface…

To get into the ground.

Today I’m getting involved in the Archaeological Society of Delaware, Kent County Chapter, and I want to share my experiences. More than that, I have a responsibility to help inform, educate, and promote.

image002

 http://www.delawarearchaeology.org/

The ASD has an annual print Journal. We have snail-mailed and electronic versions of a newsletter. We have a website and a Facebook page too, so we have an internet presence. This blog isn’t necessary, but it’s something I can contribute.

Today I’m an amateur archaeologist who loves books (I think we all do). I have always loved to dig into books (paper or plasma), and I want to share with you my learning experiences…

As I dig into the ground.

Next time I “blog,” look for something about a house in the ground. Archaeologists can tell you it was a house. We can tell you lots about the house. But, like a physical book, what happened inside of the house before it was ruined… That is what we want to understand. How was that house a home?

Until then, all the best in life and learning,

Steve

~~~~

* An “anybody could have written that” article is like the first quote above from the Urban Dictionary. It is an “audience participation” set-up where anybody can contribute a definition. Many of the definitions appear to be the work of trolls with nothing better to do than insult people.

** Maybe “non-sensory” is not the right word, strictly speaking. You can see (and often hear) internet content of course. It’s the tactile sense I’m thinking of here (in addition to – but not so much – smell and taste): the ability to hold a book in your hands, and to feel a connection with your great-grandfather who held the same volume in his hands, read the same words, and signed his name inside the cover. You get something only remotely like that when you go to log onto your computer and find that your descendant had spilled grape juice on the keyboard.

 Coming to bed cartoon

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2 thoughts on “Prof. Strangemove or : How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog

  1. John McCarthy August 25, 2015 / 4:15 pm

    This is terrific, Steve.

    The connections between Ireland and the Iberian Peninsula have always fascinated me: the “Black Irish” with their mediterranean looks and the very celtic sounding bagpipe music from the northern areas of Iberia are strange indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

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