Friday, June 15, 2007

Blogging Rights

First, a short history...

Men, and obviously women, have always wanted to keep a record of their written expression. At first, they did this mostly by drawing pictures on the walls of caves. Mostly pictures of animals. Mostly buffaloes. Mostly, male buffaloes. They were doing all kinds of things. The buffaloes in the drawings, I mean. The first or oldest ones were discovered in a French cave. At the time of discovery, which was almost a million years after the pictures were painted but not quite, the French people did not have a name for it, so they called on their neighbors, the Italians. When the first Italian, who studied Latin, saw it, he exclaimed "Muy graffito!", and the name stuck. Then they named the collection "graffiti."

Somewhere back in time, at another part of the world where they did not have many caves, people became more sophisticated. They got together and used symbols to standardize the pictures, so that they can write more articles and statements per space. This is known in today's lingo as "the fine print," which is popular with lawyers. Anyway, the Egyptians used this system. They did not have a name for it yet at the time because they had not invented written words. Later on they asked their Greek neighbors what to call the system. They said hieroglyphic, from the words hieros (sacred) plus glyphein (carve). The Egyptians--although did not have plenty of caves--had plenty of walls, so they filled them up with writings. They used sharp and pointed instruments to write on stone walls. Only adults were allowed to write, because children could not have sharp instruments, even way back then. Some of the adults even used tablets of stones to write on, but it was not very practical because they were both heavy and cumbersome, and could not take them easily from place to place.

To solve this problem, someone invented the use of the bark of trees for their writing implements. This was better. The word paper was not yet in the Webster dictionary at the time, so they called it papyrus. When the ink dried in those writings, they were able to roll up the bark. They called them scrolls, short for "spiral coiled rolls." And they could take them from place to place. The most famous ones were found--guess where, of all places--in a cave! What irony. Some enterprising individuals tried to write on the dried skins of animals, but it did not catch on because the skins were smelly. Instead, they used the hide to make shoes, and that is how smelly feet were created.

Even though the new symbols were smaller and easier to write and understand, the new system was still outdated. Thus they invented the letters and words. This was practical because now you could use the same letters again and again in the same word. It was okay until someone, for lack of a better reason, used the same word to give it a different meaning. A Chinese philosopher, whose name I cannot remember, called this "confusion." This confusion was helpful to women, so it caught on with women fast. The women also found out that giving the word a different pronunciation, they could alter its meaning. Take the word "fine" for example. It means, well, fine. Until a lady says it with heavy emphasis, storms out the room, and slams the door behind her. Then the adjective word "fine" became a noun, which now means "a levy a man has to pay." Or so it seems... but I am digressing now.

Later, they invented a printer which made possible to write on both sides of the paper. The environmentalists lauded this discovery because now they did not have to cut down a lot of trees to make paper. Then they bound the papers and called them books. Some books are so small that they fit inside their pockets and called them "pocketbooks." Ladies used these books sometimes to put their money in-between the pages when they forgot to bring their purses, so these also became known as pocketbooks. I'm not sure if it was the men or the women who coined this term.

At home, people wrote in longhand. This was very tiring, and it felt like your hands were stretched, thus the term "longhand." At first they used quill pens, then pencils were invented, then the fountain pens, and then ball pens. People in Asia way, way back used brush and paint or ink to write. They still do it today.

Elsewhere, the later generations of men used a new invention, called spray paint. They used this mostly in painting crude inscriptions or messages on somebody else's walls or public surfaces. Why they didn't use their own walls to do this baffled mankind in the beginning, but now the real reason surfaced: their mothers would kick their asses if they did this on their own premises. They learned this when they were young--no writing on the walls at home.

From longhand to typewriters, from typewriters to computer printers, and from computer printers to websites, the history of men's and women's attempts to preserve their written record of expression has come a long way. Now, we can just log on to any website, and read someone's blogs, blogs, blogs.

And now, the blogging rights...

I am almost convinced that writing is a calling. It may be a gift, a talent that is inherent in some people, and with little coaching, could blossom into a wonderful work of art.

People write for different reasons, but the underlying purpose is to tell a story. Whether he or she is a journalist, a playwright, a book author, or a comic writing his or her own materials, the desire to convey an idea is the motivating factor.

It used to be that the avenues for such endeavors were limited. You had to send in your manuscript to the publishers, producers, editors and executives and if you are both good and lucky, your articles could be produced and printed for millions of people to read and enjoy. It would show up in books, newspapers, and magazines. Thank goodness for the Internet--now you can have your own studio where everything can be produced and processed and distributed to your captive audience.

Why do people blog?

Before website blogs, there were diaries. Teenagers mostly used them all the time to capture their emotions while they were still fresh on their mind. They wrote their feelings, their aspirations, their hopes and dreams, and even their anxieties on paper on small notebooks--usually with a lock and key--and aside from them, nobody else had access to their writings. Speaking of diary entries, one teenager wrote a series of them and it became a best-selling book later, and also was turned into a movie. But most diaries are kept in their rooms by the writers, and nothing much happens to them. Until sometime later, when because of a simple mistake, their diaries are included in the list of items sold at a garage sale. And when this happens, usually one of three things occurs: if the writer is nobody, the diary ends up in the trash; if the writer happens to be somebody, and the writings are juicy, the lawyers get involved; or it may just end up on eBay before anybody can do anything about it.

I would suspect there might still be a smidgen of people who still write in their diaries to keep a log of personal records they want to keep for themselves, but lately, the process of people writing about themselves and telling the world about it has become more and more popular. There was a time when people wanted to have their space and away from anybody. Nowadays, people have their MySpace and wanted to be with everybody.

People just want to tell a story. They are the producers of their shows. They are the directors of their own movies. They are the editors of their own manuscripts. And they are the critics of their own writings.

Speaking of criticism, it was only recently that a comprehensive study was made of the old drawings and paintings on those cave walls mentioned earlier. It seems like there were other drawings in an around the buffaloes that were undetected before and that now just came to light. The paintings unmistakably depicted animal excrements under the buffaloes. Under the male buffaloes. And this, the scholars decided were the first recorded message of the phrase, "bull sh*t."

Those cave men and women, they were funny, weren't they?

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