About a year ago we organized a blogging night at the Mezrab. We discussed various blogs and what they meant for us. It was striking though that most attendees did not follow any blogs themselves. It seemed this quintessential medium of the internet age had lost its appeal to many Western readers. In countries such as Iran it’s a different story, if there’s less blogging now than five years ago it’s because of stricter censorship and a crackdown on bloggers. Take for instance the case of blogger Sayed Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, sentenced to 15 years in prison for being “membership in the Iran Proxy internet group”.
The translation of a moving open letter that Maleki wrote to Ayatollah Khamenei can be read here: http://www.enduringamerica.com/home/2012/5/29/iran-letter-an-imprisoned-blogger-writes-the-supreme-leader.html
Maleki is only one of many bloggers that many governments fear, and these governments are not restricted to the Middle East. The most famous Latin-American blogger is Yoani Sánchez from Cuba. Her blog is translated from Spanish to many different languages by a team of volunteers around the world. Here’s the link to her English blog: http://desdecuba.com/generationy/
Though it’s true that blogging has an important function in countries where people don’t trust state controlled media, it also has a great role to play in a free media landscape. There’s ideas, formats and articles that simply do not fit old media constraints. Those find a loving home in the blog format. My recent find, that I hesitate to share with you lest you lose half a day disappearing in its rabbit hole, is a perfect example. Imagine a blog written by the cast of Dona Tartt’s Secret History. It’s articles a collection of strange word jokes, math, language and chess puzzles, and baffling anecdotes from our history. Marvel for instance at this gem:
When a visiting Englishman expressed disappointment that New York had revealed none of the bohemian color that he had hoped for, actor (and inveterate joker) Edward Sothern invited him to a dinner for twelve.
While the soup was being served, one man laid a battleax beside his plate, another a knife, and others produced guns, scythes, and staves.
“For heaven’s sake,” whispered the Englishman, “what does this mean?”
“Keep quiet,” replied Sothern, “It is just what I most feared. These gentlemen have been drinking, and they have quarrelled about a friend of theirs, a Mr. Weymyss Jobson, quite an eminent scholar, and a very estimable gentleman, but I hope for our sakes they will not attempt to settle their quarrel here.”
At that one guest leapt to his feet and cried, “Whoever says that the History of the French Revolution, written by my friend, David Weymyss Jobson, is not as good a book in every respect as that written by Tom Carlyle on the same subject, is a liar and a thief, and if there is any fool present who desires to take it up, I am his man!”
In the ensuing melee, someone thrust a knife into the Englishman’s hand and said, “Defend yourself! This is butchery — sheer butchery!”
Sothern sat by and said only, “Keep cool — and don’t get shot.”
Sothern was famous for such jokes; it’s said that few of his friends attended his funeral because they assumed the announcement was a hoax. Once, at a restaurant, he and a friend gathered up all the silverware and hid under the table. Outraged, the waiter ran off to summon the police. When he returned, the two were sitting at their places as if nothing had happened.
If this is the type of stuff that tickles your fancy, here’s the link to the blog. But be warned, precious time will be wasted reading page after page of interesting nonsense: http://www.futilitycloset.com/