Gonna change my name to Hannibal, or maybe just Rex

Dear reader, just to keep you wondering, I have rebranded.

If you are a regular reader, you may have subscribed some time ago to a blog called It Keeps Me Wondering, and been happy enough with that, only to suddenly today received in your inbox, or discover in the feed on your Reader, a post from a site called Blathering About Nothing.

The funny thing is, I don’t even have a Marketing Manager, nor have I hired an online consultancy firm who has advised me to rebrand. I just have myself and my usual uncertainty, and my tendency to be unsure about the choice I made 4.5 years ago for what would be a public “image.”

Unfortunately for me, through lack of planning a strategic marketing campaign at the time of my birth, as well as the non-existence of a public profile that I could capitalise on by changing my name to one word and incorporating a dollar sign or hashtag into it, I hadn’t realised that I was a brand when I set up my blog. Now, 4 1/2 years later, my poor blog has a split personality.

When I decided to start blogging, I agonised for weeks over what to call my blog, umming and aahing over possible names for weeks, until my main impetus was to just bloody well pick a name and get writing. I had a list of names in a notebook, so I picked one out: Is That Coffee? Thus the url: isthatcoffee.wordpress.com

(How did I come up with that? Well this all happened during a period when I had given up drinking coffee – I’ve since fallen off that particular wagon – and probably had a lot of spare time on my hands from all those cups of coffee I wasn’t making or drinking.) I guess I thought that was kind of amusing, because it implied that I was slightly hysterical about coffee – and left it pretty open as to what I would write about.

Only days after creating the blog, I came up with a name I liked a lot more – It Keeps Me Wondering. I liked it because it implied that I’d be writing about what I was thinking about, rather than what I was doing. My ideas, rather than my life, if you like.

So I changed the name to It Keeps Me Wondering, but didn’t change the url. Once my blog started to get a few regular followers, I wished I’d changed the url to match, but I’ve continually been too scared to take that step because it sounds like there is a risk of breaking links and losing followers. So I had a blog called It Keeps Me Wondering, and a url address that didn’t match, and meanwhile I wrote my first few posts.

Soon I wrote two posts inspired by some plays by Samuel Beckett, a literary hero of mine:

Blathering About Nothing in Particular, and Blathering About Nothing in Particular, Part 2.

These were named after a line from Waiting for Godot:

…yes, now I remember, yesterday evening we spent blathering about nothing in particular. That’s been going on now for half a century.*

Beckett’s minimalistic plays from the 1950s-60s have almost no action in the traditional sense, and often cross-examine the meaning, or absence of meaning, in language, and by extension, in life, through seemingly absurd dialogues, or monologues. His characters often make reference to the fact that their conversation is both repetitive and ultimately meaningless.

The irony in that concept seemed to fit perfectly with the idea of me, sitting alone writing a blog which would no doubt often be repetitive and ultimately meaningless.

Inspired by this idea, I then changed my user name to Blathering, and the default category for posts, when I’m just writing rubbish, to Blathering About Nothing. I’ve often thought about changing the name of the blog to Blathering About Nothing, in a little homage to Beckett, and also a humorous nod to essentially the same thing – that the blog is about ideas, anything and everything, and essentially, nothing. I like the self-deprecating inference and it also feels very Irish, which is my heritage. The only reason I haven’t is, as I said, uncertainty, and fear of causing confusion for followers.

But it seems that I’ve committed one of the worst sins possible in the world of creating an online presence, which was to have a blog title, a url, and an online “identity” that were all mismatched.

A while back I wrote a post about a book I read, that references contemporary television shows, to illustrate the philosophies behind Pre-Modern, and Modern thought, and the self-imposed problems Modern thought creates. The fundamental difference was around the concept of identity – in Pre-Modern thought, what we did constituted our identity, in Modern thought, what we do only reflects our identity.

So today I spent time pondering the ultimate Modern dilemma of identity:  how many different online profiles do I have now, and should I be trying to consolidate some of them? And, if my online profiles are identity-reflecting, what does it say about me that my blog alone has about 3 different identities?  These matters are, as you can see, of grave importance in the great chain of being.

In the world of social media, having a “consistent brand” is the golden chalice to aim for. It seems to be becoming our primary obligation. Certain human beings are now often referred to as a “brand”, particularly if they go by only one name, or even better, if the media have managed to merge their name with their partner’s name to form one catchy name, as if they are the same being, ie, Brangelina. (If you are not sure who that is, congratulations! You win an all-expenses-paid trip to the Brangelina mansion.)

As if  I have not created enough random chaos by having a blog with an identity crisis, I’ve also delved into Facebook, where I am myself, and into Twitter, where I have a profile that is “me” where I tweet about the arts, or social justice issues that I think are important, as well as a Twitter profile as Blathering, the author of this blog. (@_Blathering)

So in summary, after reading a book about the dilemmas of Modern thought, I had one of my own and as a result, finally made a decision.  Now, at least, the name of the blog, my gravatar, the theme of “blathering” that runs through the blog, and my (second) Twitter account, all match up. Phew!

The long list of things that keep me wondering should hopefully now be shorter by one item.

*

Stay tuned for the next episode where we discuss whether I should make the following changes:

a. Change my name to Hannibal, or maybe just Rex?

b. Change my shorts

c. Change my life

d. Change into a 9 year old Hindu boy, get rid of my wife?

*

 

*the line from Waiting for Godot is said by Estragon, to Vladimir, p.66 in my very old copy.

*the changes above are not really under serious consideration at this point in time. They are lyrics stolen from the great Modern philosopher, Tom Waits, from his albums Goin’ Out West, and Step Right Up.

*Hidden somewhere in this post is the Twitter handle of my personal account – but in keeping with my truly non-strategic approach to social media, it doesn’t have anything to do with any of the other “identities” mentioned here.

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A tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing. (But it mentions stars exploding.)

In my last post I referred to the “spine-tingling” factor that happens when I contemplate the stars and universe.  As a reminder to all you regular readers out there (or should I say, “in there”, since most of you exist only in my head?  Still, thanks for reading either way) – I’m talking about how that light that we see, and call a “star,”  is the light from a massive body (that’s the star) that could have already exploded and died  – and yet that explosion won’t be seen (by the naked eye) for maybe millions of years.

Yeah, that’s right, I had to reiterate that fact, because I can’t get enough of it.

Anyway, strangely enough, when I think about this stuff, my mind often makes an association to something else that I find spine tingling – a quote from Macbeth! I say strangely, because it’s nothing to do with stars or the universe. It is the famous quote, which I have located this morning in a falling-apart copy of Macbeth (complete with scribbled notes all over it) and goes:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

(Shakespeare, Macbeth, v.5)

Did your spine tingle? Mine did. I can’t put my finger on why it is, but I have heard that this Shakespeare dude is quite a good writer, so I reckon he knew how to make a few words have an impact.

I suspect the reason why my brain connects this text from Macbeth with stars exploding and their light travelling for thousands or millions of years and still hitting our vision thousands of years later, is that idea that human existence is so brief, such a mere blip on the radar of what Macbeth describes as dark and dusty nothingness, or in my mind, is the fathomlessness of the universe.

Of course, the play is full of foreboding, and conveys a growing sense of dread and darkness, so all of that contributes to Macbeth’s famous speech, which comes close to the end of the story, feeling so potent and causing my spine to tingle.

I reckon that Samuel Beckett’s spine felt a little tingle when he read Macbeth, too. In Waiting for Godot, Vladimir and Estragon echo some of Macbeth’s ideas.  I think the spine-tingling I experience at these passages is partly due to recognition of Macbeth’s famous speech, as well as my reaction to the similarly dark content of what they are saying. Have a look back at what Macbeth says, and then check out the similarities:

Vladimir: All evening we have struggled, unassisted. Now it’s over. It’s already tomorrow. (p77)

Vladimir: In an instant, all will vanish and we’ll be alone once more, in the midst of nothingness! (p81)

Pozzo: Have you not done tormenting me with your accursed time!….One day,  is that not enough for you, one day like any other day, one day he went dumb, one day I went blind, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you?….They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more. (p89)

I wonder if Beckett was having a little bit of a joke, too (given the nature of his absurdist play it seems likely) as Vladimir and Estragon could very well be the “idiots” that Macbeth speaks of, telling the tale that signifies nothing. The power of their statements is achieved very differently in Waiting for Godot. This play does not develop a growing sense of dread, rather I think that, for me, the power of these deep, existential statements is probably highlighted by the contrast in the way they are delivered: amidst conversation that, on the surface, appears to be pure rambling, by bumbling, pathetic characters that we feel sorry for.

So art can make my spine tingle too, just like the idea of stars exploding, and the universe in general, can do.

I guess that what makes for a spine-tingling feeling varies for everyone, but occasionally we all feel it for some reason or other, either by staring up at the stars, listening to a beautiful piece of music, or reading Macbeth!

Star exploding

An explosion 7.5 billion years ago – visible in 2008

Photo Credit: NASA/Swift/Stefan Immler, et al.

(Click here if you want to read about this exploding star. Apparently it exploded 7.5 billion years ago – well before Shakespeare was born, or even before Macbeth, whose story took place a mere 1000 years ago.  After travelling for all that time, the light from the explosion finally arrived close enough to earth to be seen by the naked eye in 2008.)

Blathering about nothing in particular, part 2

Blathering About Nothing In Particular – Part 2.

So, a few weeks ago I went to see The Gare St Lazare Players Ireland performance of The Beckett Trilogy for the Melbourne International Arts Festival. (read a review here). These were one-man performances, excerpted from three novels by Beckett:  MalloyMalone Dies, and The Unnamable,and the inspiration for the previous post. I could have mentioned them in that post, but it really was long enough already, wasn’t it?!

After seeing these plays, I imagined Beckett encountering (with great surprise, since he died in the late 80’s) the idea that in 2010, millions of us isolate ourselves at our computers writing blogs and feel as if by doing so, we are communicating with the rest of the world. It just perfectly illustrates his vision of humanity. It’s so like his characters, who feel compelled to keep on speaking, waffling on without knowing if anyone is really listening. So do we blog, like Beckett’s characters speak, in order to reassure ourselves that we exist, and avoid being engulfed in silence that offers no distraction from the reality of being human?

If Beckett were writing a play now, I imagine that the set would be raked platforms covered with lots of little partitions, and kept in darkness so that the audience could just make out in each an isolated figure, typing away at their blog. A spotlight would focus on each n a seemingly random order, and when it did, snippets of that person’s blog would be vocalized by some other, detached voice speaking over the PA system. There could also be a screen with the words running across it at the same time as they are spoken – or , even better, not in sych with what is being spoken, just like watching CNN. At random intervals there would be  silence and darkness when they all stop and suffer from writers block (or power outages). At other random intervals, multiple voices would read blog entries all at the same time, creating a nonsensical, jumbled cacophony of disparate, muddled stories.

I would see that play.

 

 

 


Blathering about nothing in particular

Blathering About Nothing In Particular – Part 1.


Like a rabbit caught in the headlights, I seem to be frozen in my tracks. That is, I’ve got something stuck in my head that I’d like to blather on about, but after more than a week with this vague thought rolling around in that – apparently empty – space, I am unable to formulate anything to say. In fact I’ve come to the conclusion that I have nothing to say on this topic that is worth a post….yet I’m unable to let go of the topic and move on to anything that seems more promising.

In a perverse way, though, all of the above seems delightfully appropriate – so much so that I’m getting a gleeful enjoyment right now out of writing about how I am unable to write!

Confused?? Thinking of getting out now, yet oddly compelled to read on just to see if I say anything that actually makes sense???

Well that’s all ok, because that’s thematically appropriate too.

*At this point, I could if I chose to, imagine readers – as in, more than one person –  thinking Wow, this woman is an unrecognised genius who deserves a Nobel Prize for services to literature AND an all expenses paid trip to New York, which luckily I’m in a position to offer her! After all, imaginary people can do whatever you want them to.

Sadly though, even with the power to imagine that, I can’t quite get past the suspicion that even an imaginary reader would be thinking, OK, I gave her first few posts the benefit of the doubt, but now its clear she is a raving lunatic. That’s it! I’m not going to keep reading!

Alright, keep your imaginary hair on. If it’s any comfort (and it certainly is to me), that response also fits the theme. Because today’s volcano of suddenly erupting thoughts is inspired by recently seeing some plays by Samuel Beckett.

Samuel Beckett

Aaah, see…..some of you are nodding (although that could be because you’ve fallen asleep). Now it starts to make sense…..or alternatively, it still makes no sense, but for a reason. Or rather, it might make sense if you have ever read any Beckett. So in the spirit of Beckett, I shall continue to meander my way through this post with no fixed idea of what I intend to say, and acknowledge that whatever I might say is most likely not worth reading. But, I might also ask, is anything that you will ever read? Aha!

If you haven’t ever read any Beckett, yet have made it this far through this post, you should really delve into some Beckett at the first opportunity, because if you are willing to stick with this drivel, I’m guessing you will positively adore his work. That came out wrongly: I think Beckett is a genius! However, between his works of artistic genius and my lacklustre drivel, there are some similarities that you may perhaps enjoy. For example, so far, at least, this post cunningly gives the appearance of nonsensical rambling, bordering on the absurd, and is filled with self conscious references to the fact that I’m writing it and/or having trouble writing it.

Similarly, Beckett’s characters appear to ramble nonsensically, they carry out absurd conversations and rituals, and they refer to the fact that they feel compelled to keep talking, while acknowledging that everything they say is meaningless, or, at other times, remark that they can’t think of anything to say.

Waiting for Godot set, Theatre Royal, Haymarket, 2009

Ah yes, that’s right, for anyone who hasn’t read Beckett, there is a lot of talking – about talking – and not a lot of action – in the traditional sense. But really, who wants to go to the theatre to see a phantom clomping around in an opera house, screeching about unrequited love, when you can have a homeless hobo struggling for 5 full minutes to pull off his boot and then peer inside it?

In case you’re wondering, there are also a few clear differences between my blog and Beckett’s writing. For example, my blog really is just nonsensical rambling, and lacks any deeper, existential* themes, I don’t have a Nobel Prize for writing nor am ever likely to own one, and, at time of writing, there are no odd characters who live in bins in my blog, although I guess that in the Global Financial Crisis, anything could happen – so stay tuned!

*Beckett apparently did not see himself as an existentialist, but it’s easy to interpret his writing as being influenced by existentialist ideas. I know – because I did this without even realising existentialism was a thing! The first time I ever heard  the term existentialism was in first year uni, when my tutor wrote on my essay on Endgame, something along the lines of “You failed to acknowledge that your analysis of  the text looks at it only through the framework of existentialist ideology and excludes any other possible interpretations.”

Huh?

After I’d managed to decipher his scrawled comment, I had to go and look up Existentialism to see what this framework was that I’d apparently been using without knowing. (in doing so, I probably learned about as much in doing that as I had in a whole year of English literature at Melbourne University). Until then, I’d been labouring under the delusion that the ideas in my essay were my own original thoughts, smattered with a few secondary references, as required. Apparently you lose points for accidentally clueing in instinctively to an ideology which, as a first year uni student, you are not yet aware of. Life is harsh for the privileged university student.*

In hindsight, I think Beckett would have enjoyed that (mis)communication

*

Estragon: ..Yes, now I remember, yesterday evening we spent blathering about nothing in particular. That’s been going on now for half a century.

(Waiting for Godot)

An academic at Melbourne University earlier today, worried that this blog may have discredited his 80,000 word thesis on Beckett

 

*(That was the last year that tertiary education was free in Australia so I suppose the tutors could afford to actually be tough on students back then, instead of passing them as long as they were able to pay the tens of thousands of dollars their courses cost.)

*Update 7 years later: I just came across this review of a Beckett play which delighted me because it tackles the problem of saying anything about the work of someone whose work questions the validity of using language to create meaning, in a far more eloquent way than I was able to.

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