Three and a half years later…

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour


Ned Ludd

Here’s a little article I published in the Hartford Courant, March  2007, which is only three and a half years ago.  I definitely would have been surprised to see myself expertly updating Bill and Dave’s Cocktail Hour back then, in like the middle ages.  After that, I’ll post an item from an interview I did in March of 2002 with the wonderful Dan Wickett, who has run the website Emerging Writers Network for ten years or so.  Note my contempt in both pieces for the man I have become: a blogger.  Oh, well, three and half years is a long time–almost enough time to get a college degree.


My Chlog (March, 2007)

I have a confession:  I don’t really know what a blog is.  I mean, I know it’s short for Web Log and really admire whoever figured out how to save that extra syllable, and I know there are profound issues of press freedom and freedom of speech and dissemination of ideas and I know about that Iraqi youth who had a blog (‘blog?) and got to speak his mind (or was that the CIA?) and I know that kids today communicate through blogs, I mean I know all that, but I’ve never visited a blog on purpose, and well, when I was asked to write about one, I, well I, I had nothing to say.  So, I asked my advanced fiction class at the college of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts (probably the town or college or both has a blog, or do I mean a website, which I myself have,, but I disabled the interactive feature a couple of years ago because I had no idea what it was): I asked them point blank: “Kids, what is a blog?”  And the answer was multifarious and diverse and really very exciting for all that: a blog was a diary, one said, and another said a blog was a kind of record of events, and another said no one knows what a blog is, but facebook is better anyway.  Still another said her family had a blog, that her brother had set it up as a Christmas present some years back and that they checked in with each other through it, you know, posted photos and gave news, and introduced friends and so forth.  And that sounded very nice to me, whereas the word blog has always sounded very kind of, I don’t know, kind of blah mixed with fog.  Anyway, then, after class, this student (a very smart, wonderful student) sent me the URL (if that’s the right group of letters) for her family blog and I thought, okay, here goes, my first purposeful attendance at a blog.  And really it was very nice.  I got to meet her family and get a sense of each of them, including the bomar brother who’d built the blog, and got to see her sister, who looks like her, and got to click on a button called Beach Day and see my student in her bathing suit, and I thought, well, okay, now, that’s freedom of the press right there.  And then I got this spectacular idea where, okay, we’d skip several decades here and go right to the moment when the grid fails and all the power goes off and actually just write, like, diaries on white birch logs (or similar if the white birch is all dried out and dead) and float them down, like, rivers to, like, the ocean where many, many, many millions of logs, maybe billions, would gather and you’d go to the beach not to swim or show off your tanned and beautiful young bod but to read people’s birch logs, which of course would have to be shortened to one syllable, maybe birgs, or chlogs, something like that, to save time for all the reading.  And finally, finally, we’d all get our one milli-second of fame, as Andy Warhol predicted on his blog, I think.


Dan Wickett: How do you feel the internet has helped or harmed the writing and publishing process?
Bill: Oh, fuck the internet. It’s good for certain kinds of research. I’m afraid it’s gotten hijacked by the big boys, though. E-mail is useful, of course, but I’m still in love with my mailbox out on the street. And I think everyone knows that the only reason the internet exists at all is that it’s an efficient delivery system for pornography. So I’m back to my first exclamation. Meanwhile I’ll email these answers to you and wake up in the middle of the night and wish I hadn’t pushed SEND.
Dan: What about e-readers, and books printed on demand?
Bill: What a dismal, profound failure. What nonsense and bullshit. How do you throw a book you hate in the
woodstove if it’s on your palm pilot? Paper books will always be here. Oh fuck! The Microsoft Police are at my door! What did I do? What did I say?


[Update, 4:00 p.m.: What I wish I had said those eight years ago:]

Dan Wickett: How do you feel the internet has helped or harmed the writing and publishing process?

Bill: Well, it’s a wonderful thing and will create space for many new art forms, including narrative art.  I do have some ideas on the publishing end, too–I have this thing going with a couple of Harvard kids called Face to Face or maybe Facebook–something like that.  Anyway, we’re equal partners in the enterprise…  Also a video site, called, I don’t know, like MeTube, or I and I Tube, not quite sure yet. And I’m working with to come up with an electronic reader.  Meanwhile, writing my own books of course using plot algorithms that spare me all that extra writing that goes nowhere–and hey, I put all my money on a dumb bet–that the Red Sox would win two World Series in the next ten years!

[Update, 4:39 p.m.]

Just back from a long swim with Barbie mermaids and three magnificent little girls down in Temple Stream.  Saw some minnows that had got trapped in a pool left behind as this very hot weather lowers the stream level (swimming hole only waist deep, but nice–cold spring flows up in the center of it, so you get your pick of temperatures…).  Dug a canal in an attempt to free them, though not all took advantage.  But started thinking that as a writer I’ve been feeling like those fish, caught in an isolated pool as the stream of literary history keeps flowing past… and, like, a big hand has come and dug a shallow canal, my last chance perhaps.  Should I stay here?  Should I swim out? Should I count on rain? Or will this hot little pool dry up altogether with the last of us holdouts flipping and flopping in the wet silt that’s left?

  1. Steven Stafford writes:

    I too hate the internet and use it daily. I wish I didn’t have to. All these new toys we have we didn’t need before…suddenly we need them. My dream is to be financially secure enough that I can completely disconnect from TV, Internet, radio…I’m even thinking phones. Sort of like Philip Roth’s setup–silent solitude. I find it harder to think in front of a computer.

    But I have a kindle and it’s the best present I ever got. My Mom just got the new one and it’s 10x better than the one I have. Gotta be honest about that.

  2. monica wood writes:

    You know, Bill, I still feel that way. I hate the Internet even though I use it every single freaking day. I will probably buy a Kindle; not tomorrow, not even next year, but eventually.

    I hate knowing this about myself, because I love paper. I love paper so much.

    I don’t know why I read your blog, to be honest, except that it’s entertaining and keeps me in touch with you. But let’s be clear: it’s a time-sucker. All blogs are time-suckers, for both blogger and bloggee (that’s me). I will tell you this: I will never succumb to my own inner blogger. Never, I tell you!

    I like knowing this about myself, because I love my privacy. I love my privacy so much.

    I have constructed a virtual fence around my time in this one fashion: I keep only three blogs on my “favorites” bar. Three. Only. So, if something comes along that fascinates me more than your blog but less than the other two blogs, you, my friend, are out like an old palm pilot.

    • Bill writes:

      Ouch! Well, we are about to update things, hoping to stay on your bookmarks toolbar! A phrase I didn’t know until, like, five months ago. Which is also when I started on Facebook, YouTube, etc… Next we’ll be going to the doctor’s office at Microsoft Hospital to get chips put in our cerebellums… Didn’t they use to make monster movies about this stuff?

      • monica wood writes:

        Be assured that you would have to get really, really boring–a stretch for you–to be demoted from my Fave Bar. Remember when bookmarks were laminated strips with kitties on them? Sigh.