Feeling a bit like Rip Van Wrinkle after a good holiday spent in mostly wild areas without full access to news, I am slowly regaining my Â “urbane” senses. But I have mixed feelings about my return to the Asian city in which I live. The best part of the trip was breathing real, clean air, feeling the breeze and listening to the night-time silence and bird singing at dawn, swimming in unpolluted open water, seeing wildlife in their natural settings rather than in cages, talking with people wedded to the earth or at least without pretense, and forgetting what day of the week it was. Nothing my wife and I took in the way of pictures can accurately capture the fullness, nuance, and complexities of the trip, which is why the return to the noise, smell and rush of the city is underwhelming.
While away I was struck by how, in virtually all of the places we stayed, other than local stories the majority of what passed for available global news were truncated newswire or US/European newspaper bylines and (mostly) celebrity-focused nonsense. I return to much of the same here, as is the case with the on-line versions of NZ news outlets. So, in a sense, I really did not miss anything by being away (save an aborted terrorist attack on a US-bound Â airplane and, much more importantly, a successful suicide bombing attack on a CIA post in Khost, the sequels to which will be very far-reaching). In fact, it was perversely delightful to not have to be up to date on anything other than the tides and Â wind, to wake up with the light, and to utterly depend on local knowlege rather than familiarity with world events to make the days interesting and enjoyable.
For their part, while I was away NZ political bloggers who continued to post regularly (unlike us more relaxed folk at KP, who actually have lives and priorities other than blogging) appear to have been obsessed with themselves and their self-importance, led by one particularly sociopathic character with a serious martydom complex (which in turn is a reflection of a deeply narcissistic personality gone into disorder). Some things never do change.
What has changed is my approach to the second year of blogging at KP. I want to be more judicious in my posts, and to sparse them out more evenly relative to my editorial and scholarly work. Last year I found that I was at times blogging just for the sake of it rather than to make a point or critical observation about something of substance. Some of that is due to having too much time on my hands, but some of it is due to getting sucked into what I see as a blogging syndrome: an addiction to the immediate call and response effect of posting, which for someone who likes to argue and debate, is the purest opiate of all. In that sense, blogging is the opposite of “real” scholarship in that the latter is done a solitary pursuit in which feedback, in the form of peer review and critiques, comes infrequently and in highly formalised format (such as via referee manuscript evaluations and comments on conference papers). In fact, original research publication is very much a lonely, lengthy, painful affair in which devastating core critique, rejection and self-doubt are all part of the process for all but the most brilliant of minds. None of that happens on a blog, in which the poster/author is also the censor (should s/he care to be), and in which the commentariat often is unversed (or less informed) on the subject relative to the author. Editorial writing is somewhere in between, in that it is light on original research but retains an element of editorial scrutiny and critical feedback in the form of editorial responses or letters to the editor, some of which can be quite arbitrary and politicised ( for example, I have yet to figure out what the NZ Herald editorial policy is, and on what grounds it publishes op eds).
All of which is to say that I am going to refocus my energies this year on scholarship rather than blogging, which means a diminished output for the latter and hopefully an increase in the former. That certainly does not mean abandonment of blogging altogether–I still expect to post regularly–but simply posting at a slower, more measured rate. I also need to reflect more on my choice of subjects for this particular forum, as I do not want to get trapped into repeatedly posting on subjects that, although of high interest to me, do not necessarily occupy the attention of my colleagues in the KP collective or the readers (who are the audience which I hope to engage). That more narrow focus can be left for the scholarly audiences to which I seek to appeal, with blogging focused on more contemporary and variegated, although no less important subjects. I shall continue, as before, to offer episodic links to the Word From Afar column at Scoop.