Here it is, my 75th post. My astute readers will have noticed that for every 25 “postings” I do a piece explaining essays. I say “posting,” not “blog,” because hey, I’m not a blogger: I’m an essayist. But today I'll try to explain blogs too.
When telling people I have a hobby of writing, I merely say I write “nonacademic” essays, and leave it at that. I couldn’t begin to explain in just a sound bite how the essays school kids learn to write are—ahem!— for kids. In the wider world essays start out with different goals and functions, and of course follow different forms. Open any magazine and see: An adult essay never ends with “in conclusion;” it very seldom begins with a topic sentence as a thesis to be “proven.” Such writing would be “bad form.” I’ve heard that essays in The New Yorker will begin by meandering along and then finally, at the bottom of the first page, announce the topic. This form allows busy New Yorkers, in their fast-paced city, a nice chance to stop rushing… and fix on something that rewards an adult attention span. I wish internet blogs were simularly aimed at adults.
It was a guy with a decent attention span, Paul Graham, who inspired me to do my own internet essays. Graham noted, in his Age of the Essay, that the internet had existed for a few years before people figured out they could use it for blogs. (web log or public diary, with people's comments) His hope was that soon people would figure out they could use it for essays too. This hasn’t happened yet, and I’m losing hope it ever will. So far, no one else writes wide ranging essays like Graham, while my number of bookmarked essayists I can count on the fingers of one hand—not including my thumb.
I was at university when personal computers arrived for the public- but not for the university, not yet. Computers weren’t quite an everyday topic of conversation for people, not nearly as often as when color TVs or 10-speeds arrived, but still there was a trace of the old “left out” feeling if you didn’t have one. Naturally, among us starving students, only the nerds were motivated enough to get one. After all, a computer cost more than a used car. I remember, back then, being at a seminar of people from Strategic Studies. Some one asked why armies still had those big expensive all-too-vulnerable tanks. I quipped, “Tanks are like personal computers: Everyone knows you should have them… but no one knows quite what to do with them.” As for computers, what we did with them was do household accounts, write letters, address envelopes and, uh… mostly guys resorted to playing computer games like Space Invaders.