Tuesday, July 7, 2009

More news from Lake Wobegon

Bloggers are generally a pretty self-absorbed bunch. We have to be. To think that other people want to read the details of our bike rides, look at pictures of our kids, try our recipes, or know what we said to our daughter’s date when he came to pick her up, we’ve got to have a pretty egocentric view of the world.

Most of us recognize that there’s always someone faster, better-looking, or more successful, but to take stuff that’s pretty much all about us and publish it on the Internet suggests some pretty severe Lake Wobegon effect. Unless you’re Dug. Because I’m pretty sure he is, in fact, from Lake Wobegon.

Of course, there’s a hierarchy, and some blogs are more self-absorbed than others. Many are nonchalant and self-deprecating. Some are well-researched and informative. Others are hoity-toity and pretentious, often without realizing it. (If you’re a blogger, you’re probably now panicking, wondering if I’m talking about you with this last one. If you read my blog, I’m probably not.)

The blog that takes the hoity-toity cake—and yet that I read anyway because pretentious as it is, the writers still know a lot of interesting stuff—is Belgium Knee Warmers. Good material most of the time, but pretty full of themselves, too.

Due to perceived popular demand, the much more pretentious half of the pair behind BKW has decided it’s time to launch a solo career and has a new blog called Red Kite Prayer. As if it weren’t enough to have cycling often knocking the five axes of life off balance, Padraig now has the audacity to imply that either cycling, his blog, or both are a religion. Please.

I mean, what is Red Kite Prayer anyway? Sure, I get that there’s the flamme rouge, or red kite, at 1K to go in a race. But is he suggesting that racers offer prayers upon passing underneath? Or that God is actually moved as some arrogant bastard with an angel’s portion of natural gifts implores the almighty for a further outpouring to help him secure victory?

I’m pretty sure that God has no preference whatsoever as to which of us pathetic souls who put riding bikes in front of so many other worthy causes will actually win a given race. If he did, I’m confident that it would be one of the meek who’s actually written into the will rather than some arrogant, self-serving, agnostic.

Moreover, RKP is right up front about the fact that he intends to use this “religion” to make money by selling ads. Now, I’ve got no problem with bloggers trying to make money or get free stuff from their blogs. I do it. We put enough time into these things, that it doesn’t seem like a big deal to get something out of it once in a while. But to feel the need to offer an explanation sounds a lot like the PTL club to me. But I guess you can’t have religion without guilt.

Of course bloggers, and even pretentious bloggers, aren’t at the top of the self-absorption heap. Because if publishing the details of our lives in a blog post isn’t conceited enough, nothing screams “I don’t give a crap about you, but you should still want to know every bit of minutiae about me” quite like limiting it to 140 characters.

Seriously, aside from alerting people to breaking news, why does twitter even matter? With a blog, at least people are (generally) taking the time to put together a few coherent paragraphs. But a text? Telling me (and the rest of the world) that you’re “listening to Bob Marley and getting a massage?” I think that’s less relevant than a Cadillac ad during Tour de France coverage. Even if it were relevant, please explain to me why I should care.

But twitter’s not even the worst of it. Because as far as I can tell, it’s just a low-investment, low-return manifestation of narcissism. If you’re an English footballer, on the other hand, apparently you’ve lived enough life and gained enough experience in 25 years that it’s your duty to share it with the world in an autobiography. Besides Joan of Arc, has there ever been anyone in the history of the world who’d lived enough to be worth writing a book about by age 25? I didn’t think so.


  1. I had 2 thoughts reading this post. First, when you were describing different types of blogs, I was biting my lip, waiting to read "or just plain strange" and breathed a sigh of relief when it wasn't there.

    Second, I accept that there's always "someone faster, better-looking, or more successful" than me. It's only a drag when I go on a really tough group ride and it seems like everyone else on the ride is all 3 of those things. Then I need to go get a massage and listen to Bob Marley.

    FWIW I totally do not get twitter either... what am I missing...

  2. Nice rant. All pretty harmless stuff, if you ask me. Though puzzling at times.

    Blogging has been an interesting experiment. Fun sometimes, a chore others. It allows me to record details I might otherwise forget and has already been nice to refer back and refresh my memory. One goal was to learn to write better by writing (and reading other blogs), not sure how I'm doing there. The composition (putting together words and photos) has also been interesting.

    I think I do get Twitter and don't see there's much to get. I can see it for short mass broadcasts. I'd say Lance Armstrong makes good use of it. But for the vast majority it seems vacuous and full on narcissistic. At least with a blog your putting something together, telling a story. Twitter is largely meaningless minutia. I think this video lampoons it accurately:


    And Facebook, while a tool with much potential, is largely just another Twitter (status updates).

  3. It's nice to know my work gets a strong reaction. I know what I write isn't for everyone, but I do try to avoid pretension. FWIW: One of the reasons I chose to take advertising was to be able to pay for the opportunity pair my work with the photography of John Pierce at Photosport International. I use each of his images with his permission, rather than just stealing a link from someone else's site.

    I think you do good work, even if you don't much care for mine. I hope you keep it up.

  4. Padraig,

    Keep up the good work. And forgive the hyperbole in the post. I won't try to backpedal from my position on the name "red kite prayer," I just saw an opportunity to toss some barbs and figured if I was going to go, I'd go all out. And don't feel like you need to explain the decision to sell ads, either. Have you seen Fatty's site lately? Crap, I'd sell ads if anyone would buy them.

    Glad to see you wandered over to my corner of the web. I'm actually flattered that you even noticed.

  5. SBJ: Your blog is fun and interesting; that's enough to get me coming by. As for the name RKP, I thought it a fun way to acknowledge that bow of the head you see riders do once they're in that final k.

    BTW: I'm so glad Cav is giving us another story line aside from Lancelancelance.