Archive for Opinion

Blogging: Everyone’s doing it

I was listening to the latest Bloggercon (IV)'s podcasts on ZDnet, and they had one called "The emotion (sic) life of bloggers", which featured, among many semi-famous bloggers in the US, Chris Pirillo of Lockergnome fame (who'd led another session called The User Complaint session, which turned out to be another mega-software corp bashing session and didn't make any real sense at all in the end, but that's another story).

And it got me to thinking about why people blog, and why it's just so popular.

Was journal-writing and diary-keeping ever this hot? Is putting your thoughts out there for friends and strangers the reason it's hot? If so, why?

Why do I blog?

Revisiting this topic, it's because I was a journalist, and I'd wanted to write about other things in my life, put stuff out there I otherwise would not have the opportunity to write about, use that creative side of my brain a little. Rant a little. Share info, links, opinions. I started blogs for my girls because I'd wanted them to have something to look back at when they grow up, an accessible, searchable archive of their lives as little babies and kids.

Looking back, blogging rounded out my 'public personality' a little. It used to be that I was this geeky writer who was neither here nor there, writing about games, technology, AND relationships (yea, I'm diverse like that). People, friends and strangers, got to know me as a woman who had relationship problems, who found the love of her life, got married and now living out the rest of her life as a muddled-up mom. It was my way of letting the world know that I existed.

You don't have to climb Mount Everest or swim the English Channel or pose naked for Playboy (well, maybe some still do) to become famous these days. All you need is a computer and a blog account, average writing skills, a nose for what people want to read, and you're in the race to be seen and heard. Even if you're not in it for the money (direct or otherwise) or fame, simply putting your life out there will get you enough attention to make friends out of strangers, and enemies of friends and family members.

After three years of partaking in this pleasure, I've observed three things about blogs and bloggers:

1. If you're just coming into this phenomenon, the best kind of blog to have is an anonymous one. This is odd coming from me because I hate anonymous commenters but I think if you want a blog that gives you the freedom to vent and rant and say what you want without getting fired or get any significant backlash from, you will need to stay anonymous. Assume an alter ego because when you can blog in the knowledge that nobody will ever find out who you really are (with the clever omission of certain personal details and the right software), you will be able to say whatever it is you want to say. The downside is, of course, you can't publicise it as much as you like and as twisted as it may sound, the reason TO blog is that other people, complete strangers, perverts, quite possibly your mom, will read it. Otherwise, you'll keep it offline.

2. There are bloggers and there are writers. That is why journalists and writing in the traditional sense is still necessary. Bloggers like Scoble, I find, are famous not for their ability to write, but for their knowledge of the industry they're in, the status they're in and the resources they have. Bloggers like my friend Karli and so many like her, may not blog about much, but man, can they write the hell out of their otherwise mundane lives. Ordinary people who write extraordinarily about what it is to be human. They may not get a lot of hits and hence, make a lot of money, but if the blogosphere ever wants to be considered seriously for its artistic, emotional and intellectual integrity, it is people like these that will carry the legacy of humanities through to the next generation, not the technology.

3. Podcasting and vlogging are quickly coming into their own as popular platforms to be seen and heard, which sends a very simple message: You don't have to know how to write to blog. You don't have to have a recording contract or movie deal to be a star. And as an audience, we don't have to pay to be entertained anymore (well, except your ISP bill). All you need is the right technology, genuine talent (for stupidity or otherwise), and you're set.

So what happens when most of the world put their lives online, in more ways than one? What happens when you have so many outlets to speak up and be heard? What happens when everyone lives so publicly?

I can hear my father's answer to this question.

"Then noone really is."

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Dear New Moms

I had this really bitchy post up before this but decided that while it was really satisfying on my part (a girl's gotta be a bitch sometime, you know), it wasn't one of my best. It was also not very constructive.

So then, I decided to write an open letter in my humble blog, to new mothers or mothers-to-be, who may visit it regularly, or may have stumbled upon it.

So you are on one of the most important journeys of your life. You may have just begun. If so, congratulations. You must've heard or read it a million times before, and it does sound cliched, but you are indeed the bearer of a most precious gift. Money may be able to purchase it these days, but it is a gift nonetheless. Even if you're not religious, you must believe in the force of nature which makes possible this miracle that we call a soul, that no amount of science in the world will be able to produce.

If you're halfway through, I have felt your pain. Take pride and comfort in the fact that you're pregnant, eight little letters that can evoke the most extreme of emotions in people. Enjoy your pregnancy – and your life as a wife or a non-'dependee'. And know that no matter how much research you do, stories like this letter you are reading, advice you accept, you will never be prepared enough for motherhood. That's what makes discovery fun.

If you're almost there, take some time to reflect on your life before the Big Day. Go for a stroll with your husband or significant other. Start a blog or a journal to write down all the ideas and memories and opinions you have about the way you see the world. This is to remind yourself, after that Big Day, who you were. And to witness for yourself just how much motherhood will change you six months from now.

Now here's why I came to write this letter.

I have two beautiful daughters. Raeven turned four today, and every year on her birthday because she's my first child, I reflect on the year that was her life. I look at her baby pictures from the day she was born until now. I look at that personal journal I was talking about, about my life before I had her and then after. I cry a little at how much I've changed as a woman. I feel sad and happy about many things. Guilt and relief at some of the choices I've made.

But most of all, I feel blessed.

Same goes with Skyler, my 19-month old. She was born 10 weeks premature and had Patent Ductus Artereosis, confining her to the ICU for 53 days. For 53 days, I went to the hospital once, sometimes twice a day, to see and touch her not only because I was sick with worry, but because the doctors said it would help her develop. For 53 days, I pumped breastmilk and brought it to her (and you know how difficult that is when your baby isn't at home with you, I had to look at her picture to get the juices flowing). In 53 days, I learned to drive my ass through busy traffic to the hospital by myself, which was about 15 minutes away, up the narrow carpark building, and my licence was just one month old then.

For 52 days, I cried everyday, blaming myself for whatever it was I did that made me go into pre-term labour, praying to God to spare Skyler's life for whatever I did wrong. On the 53rd day, I cried tears of joy because the doctors let me take her home – but not without making sure I could care for her on my own (she had apnea).

People say you start to look at the things you take for granted when something bad happens. That is a shame, but it is true. I never appreciated my blessings until Skyler came along, making the 53 days not only the most challenging, but the most contemplated time of my life.

I breastfed Raeven only for two months and blame my confinement lady then for secretly feeding her formula when I could've stayed vigilant about giving my daughter the very best I could give.

I took my in-laws for granted, letting them care for her while I continued to work, thinking that she was better left with them than a maid, when all I was doing was depriving a child of the attention and love only a parent can give. I could've re-evaluated my priorities (I was a freelance writer) given the blessing that my husband was earning enough to keep us moving along. Instead, I chose to work for that extra money which I thought would give us a better life with the expensive vacations and 4X4 car and branded clothes.

I took the easy way out – yes, working hard and earing money IS the easy way out – and never thought that I would be missing out so much on my kids. And more importantly, that they would be missing out on me, especially Rae, who was practically raised by my in-laws until we came to the US.

Giving up your career and opting out and breastfeeding or being a homemaker or stay-at-home mom – these things are not about trying to be a hero. They are not regressive or backward but rather, life-changing, heart-breaking decisions that took a LOT of sacrifice to make, particularly today when anything is possible for a woman.

But being a woman is nothing compared to being a mother.

Parenting will be the most important role you'll ever play as a person. Sure, many working career mothers who never breastfed or coslept with their kids still raised great individuals. But I'm pretty sure it's not because of the designer clothes or expensive holidays or big house your hard-earned money and time away from them bought. And frankly, I would like to meet one of these women whose kids have now become useful individuals and shake their hand, because God, I sure could'nt have done it without sacrificing something essential, like my sanity.

Or my kids.

I'm not advocating that you should give up your career to be mother of the year. But ask yourself one question: of all the sacrifices you are NOT WILLING to make, which is the LEAST painful that you can make, that will benefit your child the most?

The answer is breastfeeding.

After two kids and knowing perhaps close to a hundred other young moms, I find the decision NOT to breastfeed the most selfish one a mother can ever make. I cannot tell you how much I regret not having nursed Raeven (I nursed Skyler until she weaned herself off at nine months) as long as I should've, and all because some people told me I wasn't producing enough and I believed them.

You probably have read and heard about all the benefits of nursing, so I won't reiterate them here. And still, the decision can be so difficult to make, simply because of how it inconveniences one's life. 

The thing is, it's not even inconvenient. 

So mothers-to-be, and new mommies who are on the verge of giving up – heed this. Without my breastmilk, Skyler would've stayed at the hospital with PDA much longer. Think about all the benefits of breastmilk you are depriving your child that no formula in the world in the world can substitute. Think about the fact that your baby has no immune system until he or she is six months and relies on the antibodies your milk contains to protect them.

And if that doesn't work, think about the fact that you won't even need to get up five times each night if you learn to nurse your baby with him/her sleeping next to you. Or the fact that you won't need to lug out warm water and tupperwares of formula and bottles everytime you go out. Just your boobs, diapers, wipes and you're good to go.

Breastfeed, my friends. It's the least you can do.

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Watch what you say. Or not.

Speaking out and speaking right seems to be the underlying theme in today's Seattle Times.

Browsing the 10-inch thick Sunday edition, I saw several truly engaging pieces, one of which struck a chord in me that resonates with all that I believe in the power of words. Especially racially charged ones.

Fortunately, there's an online version.

I could not help but wonder what will happen 50 years in the future when one is allowed to say anything one wishes, using whatever language one sees fit to use, abusing honourable concepts such as 'freedom of speech' and blaming it on evolution and/or popular culture.

And then there's this piece. And this.

What in Pete's name is going on with people?

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It’s good to question

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe (John 20:19-29).

That is one verse that is harder and harder to live by these days.

Being one of the gullible, dim and sadly wayward Christians – if I can still claim that affiliation not having gone to church or picked up the bible in more than 18 years – who thought the Da Vinci Code was one of the most intriguing works of fiction ever written about my faith, this is exactly why I still think the book is worth a read.

Excerpting…

In fact, Brown's conspiracy theories can be portals to knowledge. Before "The Da Vinci Code," the general public had little interest in the legitimate historic actors and events Brown mangles and misconstrues, including the Council of Nicea in 325 and medieval phenomena such as the Priory of Sion, the Knights Templar and quests for the Holy Grail. Numerous books and Web sites about them have been produced since the novel's publication in 2003. Just as Brown captures readers by convincing them they're hearing a dangerous truth, these works are especially exciting as they reveal the truth Brown won't tell us.

Nevertheless, truth is a complicated matter. Although unacquainted with facts, "The Da Vinci Code" has become a phenomenon because it encompasses so many larger truths…

At a time when most writers confront "small" ideas — often an individual's search for self-understanding — Brown's book satisfies our hunger for big ideas. At play is nothing less than the greatest story ever told.

Perhaps what is so scary to the faithful, is if the Da Vinci Code will drive the 20 million or so dim-witted half-Christians who have bought and read the book to apostasy. The irony is while we believe this book and movie to be nothing more than silly fiction, we are still afraid of its impact that we have congregated by the millions to protest against it.

Love it or hate it, it raises one important question: Is it so wrong to question what we think we know about Jesus, God, His word and the church, even if it is prompted by popular culture? Is our faith so shaky that it will not withstand worldwide scrutiny?

At best, the book makes Christians strong in their belief stronger.

At worst, it will prompt those of us in doubt to search harder for the truth.

Thing is, those of us who find it hard to believe but still do even when we have not seen, are protecting our right to WANT to see. Blind faith isn't the only kind of faith worth having.

Or is it?

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My Idol take

Okay so I just got the news about Chris.

Although I'm also tired of the whole rocker thing after last season's Constantine  and the whole INXS shindig, I honestly also thought Daughtry will sail through to the top. What a shocker, eh?

Now there's no clear winner. Only Elliott is left in my top four list which I made at the beginning of the season. And as much as I like Hicks for his goofy persona, he isn't as marketable as McPhee.

Or is he?

I'm officially stumped. Plus you never know what American mobile phone owners and American Idol fans will vote for in the end. I mean, c'mon. Outing both Paris Bennett and Chris Daughtry really shows you the musical leanings of the demographic's majority.

I sure as hell am not going to spend $$ voting now that the two best Idols are gone. Sorry, my (husband's) money is only for real talents!

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Hurting to heal

It is reading reports such as this, that makes me feel blessed.

Sad, but blessed.

I don't know how it feels to want to hurt myself physically. Of course, I hope I never will. I guess this is the blessing I speak of, not coming to a point where the only way to deal with pain, is more pain.

Not a lot of people in Malaysia – people close to me included – think about depression, much less take the effort and time to understand or accept it. It is a frou-frou non-ailment to us. It isn't physical, like cancer or leukemia, and therefore it cannot exist. It cannot be healed, and most of the time, it cannot kill, and therefore it is paltry.

And when it does manifest itself physically through deeds such of suicide or murder, we shake our heads at it, dismissing it as a random act by a crazy person who is already beyond help.

Thing is, people get depressed all the time, and not know it. It is not so much as suspecting that one is depressed and then refusing to take control of the situation before it gets worse, than just going through episodes of semi-conscious sadnes. You know you feel crappy but think it will pass, and before you know it, you can't remember the last time you smiled or laughed.

"It's all in the mind," Lokes would say. That is true, and that's exactly why depression is so hard to manage. If we could all command our brains to think properly so that we can act properly, the world would be a much better place. And if we know we cannot always tell our thoughts not to misbehave, why do we find it so hard to accept that they can very well run wild one day?

The day we figure out what makes us tick (or rather the bombs in us tick), we just need to take better care of ourselves, both physically and mentally.

"I'm not crazy," said a friend of mine whom I thought could use a few sessions on the couch.

"Well, not yet," I'd told her.

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The changing face of journalism

Another interesting Digg I dug.

This makes me think about three things.

First is literacy. Believe it or not, literacy rates in the US have changed little. What is our literacy rate in Malaysia? Still, more and more people will read one day, especially since emphasis on education has been strong everywhere in the last few decades. The generations born on and after 1990 are hitting blogging age (the youngest are 16 this year), and we will see the blog explosion continue to ripple through. What will a child of 16 years do today, if he doesn't read or write? 11 years still seems insufficient to me.

Second is separating the REAL reporting from the bad. Citizen journalism is on the rise, MSM is on the decline and/or looking to 'supplement' reporters with bloggers. This results in:

– more bloggers, good AND bad
– less jobs for reporters/writers/journalists – MSM becomes even more discriminating of who they hire.
– maybe rise in more jobs for fact-checkers and editors?

Which leads me to my third point: The rapidly declining worth of a Mass. Comm. / Journalism degree. Good luck to all who are still taking it. Might as well change your course.

And start your own blog.

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