Wyoming's Internet Seer

I've been sitting on the bed of the apartment for a couple of hours, trying to find a blog to add to my "Links" section. Darlene is reading next to me, and we are both swatting mosquitoes, which arrived today in disagreeable numbers, as if it had taken a few days for word to get around St. John that there is tasty new meat in the CaribSurf rental unit.

My vague plan for organizing the infinitely vague task of learning my way around the blogsphere has become to identify one blog each day to add to my "Links" list. Tonight the new blog carries a name from my past, John Perry Barlow, whom I met when I was editing a new energy magazine in Casper, Wyoming, more than 20 years ago. John Perry Barlow--I never think of him as "John," because his three names seem to be inseparable from each other--agreed to serve as an advisor to the magazine, and I must have met him a couple of times, because his photo looks familiar to me. But I lost track of him for a decade until he turned up as a founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation with Lotus founder Mitch Kapor, and for a while it seemed as if his name was everywhere, spouting off poetically and believably in Newsweek and Wired about the incredible future of the internet. On a hunch, tonight I Googled "John Perry Barlow blog" and, of course, here he is, still writing fluid, articulate, visionary pronouncements about how the world is changing through the internet. His latest dispatch, four days ago, concerns a very strange encounter he had with two young Asian women who found him via the internet and wanted to practice their English, speaking through a voice program. Sounds fishy, right? But if you read all the way to the end of the lengthy post, you find that some things are to be believed even when they sound like the latest scam, sexual or otherwise.

Otherwise, it was a slow, sunny day here at CaribSurf. Darlene and I and her sister Deb spent the late afternoon at Hawk's Nest Beach, where the water is turquoise and the sand is velvety. Being there feels as if you have woken up inside a three-dimensional postcard.

Tomorrow morning I will report to the Wind Spirit for my first newspaper assignment in nearly 20 years, a feature story with photos for the St. John Tradewinds. Unlike the old days, my camera will also serve as my tape recorder, thanks to the digital wonders of my Pentax Optio. I love new stuff, which is why I am delighted to link fellow new-stuff enthusiast JPB to these Chronicles.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

The scene this afternoon at Hawk's Nest Beach, a five-minute taxi ride from Cruz Bay on St. John's.  Posted by Hello


I was pleased to find that time management guru David Allen, author of Getting Things Done , has difficulty finding time to blog. I've been following his blog for a while (see the link I added to this page), and it's true, he has been a very occasional blogger. In a post last night from Edmonton, he confessed:

I don't have time to blog. (And I lie, if you haven't noticed).

But it's not just time that Allen lacks. My mother and I attended one of his two-day workshops in Cambridge, Mass., last fall, and in that setting the GTD guru is supremely self-confident, sure of his voice, of his material. But as a new blogger, he is finding his way tentatively, as he explains here:

And for Robert (and others who may not be as vocal as he was about wishing I would blog more), may I just run the apology for now that I'm trying to find my own voice in the medium. It's not like I don't get a chance to share myself, verbally and otherwise, with lots of folks. And most of the time I am aware of many other things as higher priorities for my creative time. Also, much of what I have to share will best be served contained and integrated into a different context. But this medium is a unique frame that draws out its own kind of pictures from its participants. Indeed, There's nothing like the salon. Nostalgic memories, hanging out at the Cafe Odeon in Zurich, at age 18 (as an American Field Service exchange student there in '63-'64), with the ghosts of Jung and dadaism...

I am intrigued by this problem of finding the appropriate voice for an entirely new writing medium. You feel as if you are talking to someone, but it also feels anonymous, launching words into cyberspace as if dropping them off in a bottle from an island. In reading other blogs, I find that honesty, or the appearance of it, seems to be a common flavor. And intimacy, as if the conversation is happening, as David Allen suggests, in a cafe in a foreign country, far from home, when you are 18 and full of possibilities.

The women are on St. Thomas today, shopping. So I have treated myself to nearly seven hours of reading and writing on the porch, listening to an island hip hop and R&B station in my headphones, 105 Jamz, while rereading for the third time Edward Said's brainy argument for humanism. This seems right, I thought. One of his most appealing insights is how fertile the zone is between cultures, between wildly varying views of the world. I knew I had successfully tricked myself into falling deeper into hip hop reality when I found myself snapped to attention by the strange voice of a nasally white guy interrupting the black, island rhythms with the Bloomberg financial report. Oh yeah, that's what I sound like!

Friday, January 28, 2005

The view from my porch, toward Frank Bay on St. John. Posted by Hello

Reporting for Duty

This morning I stopped by the office of St. John Tradewinds , the island's weekly newspaper, to offer my free services as an occasional reporter. I was expecting the general manager to be old, someone who had been reporting on the doings of "St. Johnians", as they are referred to in the paper, for decades. Instead, MaLinda Nelson is at least two decades younger than I am, and she was very interested in my offer. In fact, she on the spot assigned me to tour the Wind Spirit, a 140-passenger sailing cruise ship that will stop in Cruz Bay on Sunday, for a feature with photos. I have a call in to the PR firm in Seattle to make the arrangements. The Tradewinds is a tightly edited, clean journal amazingly put out by MaLinda, one reporter, and an ad salesperson who also writes a column.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Flowers at Gallows Point, on the five-minute walk from our apartment to Cruz Bay.

My name is Len, I am a blogger...

Once again, blog-lust is stronger than mere hunger, and as 2 p.m. approaches I am procrastinating my walk down the road for lunch. After solid work on my upcoming review for Rain Taxi on Edward Said's Humanism and Democratic Criticism, I dialed up the internet and began tinkering with these Chronicles, adding three links to other blogs, trying unsuccessfully to make "the chronicles" appear capitalized, and failing to understand how to delete the redundant comment I left, posing as Maria, Darlene's sister Deb's roommate. So I've run out of time to post anything about Blink, which I was disappointed with by the time I finished it last night at midnight, or Said, or to say much about the excellent review of Dale Peck's creepy Hatchet Jobs that I came across in The Guardian's outstanding book review section.

I happened on a profile of Edward Said in the print edition of The Guardian in Oxford, England, last fall, and immediately afterward found myself standing next to a copy of his new posthumous book in Blackwells. Sensing synchronicity, I bought the book, and thus began a long and happy immersion in Said's writing and my upcoming review of Humanism and... , which I have now read nearly three times. Shortly after my introduction to Said, back in Cannes, I read a sweet homage to Said on the front page of Le Monde . It was a French translation of a piece by Said's friend Daniel Barenboim, which I just found at Guardian Unlimited in the original English.

Returning to the Peck review, I am glad to see that it answers the question of why my friend Sven Birkerts found himself in Peck's gun sights. To wit:

First, though, there's a score to settle with Sven Birkerts, a fellow critic who dared grumble that Peck's reviews "subtly degrade the profession". Peck responds with a 36-page extravaganza of scorn, of which the following is only one of several climaxes: "Or, to put it another way (ready Sven? I've been saving this one up...), with friends like this, literature needs an enema. Ooh, that was probably a bit much, huh?"

And so, still forgetting hunger, I taste the addiction that is blogging, how one thought leads to another, and how with a few clicks of the Vaio's pointer and Blogger.com' s tools, I can reference the original text of what I was thinking about, and then the thing that reminds me of, and then.... STOP!

(But I didn't stop. I made the mistake of reading over the draft, changing it, playing with it some more, diddling with the links. At 2:04 Deb arrives with Maria's little dog, Mia, to lure me back to reality and food. "Wait, I can take your picture and put it in the blog," I say, then realize that will take another hour to pull off. "I'll be right there," I say. "Just let me finish this off...")

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

I have spent the last four hours banging my head against the mainly intuitive and well-designed Blogger interface, but I don't have much to show for it. Half of that time went into creation of a long posting about a book I brought with me to St. John, Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point. I found his web site and an anecdote by another blogger, which I pasted into this space and tried the "blockquote" button... But after two hours of happy work, it all disappeared. The rest of the time was spent relearning how to load photos to the blog, which required downloading a new version of Picassa. I am spent. I worked through the normal time for lunch, snacking on almonds, dried cherries and Goldfish, drinking cold coffee. Not that I am complaining, given that I am working on the porch of our rented studio apartment, looking out at palm trees and listening to the ocean 50 yards across the street. It's actually on the cool side in paradise today, and cloudy. Over and out.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

On the ferry yesterday from St. Thomas to St. John, the sky put on a lavish welcome.

In a half-hour the Hilton Atlanta Airport's automated wake-up computer will ring the phone in our room. That gives me enough time in the dark to shift The Chronicles to a new phase, toward blogging, away from traveloguing, although I am likely to combine the two genres as we head for a month on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Maybe this is travelogging--trogging for short. For the past nine years, I have been refining my Chronicles, dispatches of words and photos e-mailed to a growing list of readers. The first episode was titled Chronicles of the Mouse, filed from Disney World, and it was followed by Chronicles prepared during treks in the Rialta, a 21-foot motorhome that we drove through Canada twice and around the U.S. This blog began as an alternate medium for the last installment of e-mailed Chronicles, the Cannes Chronicles, created last fall during a five-week houseswap with Francoise Philippe.

So this time it all happens on the blog. I've been surfing blogs in the middle of the night for the past week, preparing for this transition, as well as looking for blogs for the nonfiction section of the Denver-based online literary journal, Wazee. I have felt a similar excitement exploring the blogsphere to what I felt the first time I found the internet in the mid-1990s on my Radio Shack Model 100. Only instead of the simple discovery that there are people "out there" able to send crude text messages to each other, this entry into the world of blogs is about finding a world of thinkers, writers, cranks, pedants, and critics--my kind of people--all posting unique views on an infinite number of topics, updating daily, commenting on each other's posts, building what seems like an entirely new take on reality. I am assembling a list of blogs that updates automatically on my computer using Bloglines . They include Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind by Sarah Weinman, the crime fiction columnist for the Baltimore Sun, and Silliman's Blog, described as "a weblog focused on contemporary poetry and poetics" by the poet Ron Silliman, whom I hadn't known of before finding his blog, but whose bio of published books and accomplishments is 43-pages long.

There's the phone, waking me from my blog reverie--bloggerie? We must now dash to the airport in hopes that US Airways will honor our free tickets issued by United, taking us from Atlanta to Charlotte to St. Thomas. Time to click on "Publish Post." Let the trogging begin!

Monday, January 24, 2005

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