When I began posting on WordPress in April, friends from another site held a blog-warming. There were virtual covered dishes, cyber-cinnamon rolls and coffee, a bottle of wine. It was charming – an adaptation of an old tradition for a new time.
I’d never thought of transferring the concept of housewarming to a blog, but I liked it. After all the solitary hours I’d spent at my computer designing a site, revising entries and trying to create something pleasing, it was wonderful to have someone stop by to visit and offer good wishes.
Shortly after I’d begun posting, my mother, who doesn’t care one bit for computers but who tries to be polite, asked, ”What’s happening with whatever it is you’re doing with that machine of yours?” And that’s where the fun began. “Oh!” I said. “We had a blog-warming.” She gave me the look she reserves for certain children and people she suspects of being not quite compos mentis. “A what? A blog-warming? What’s that?” “Well,” I said, “it’s like a housewarming, only it’s for my blog.”
The silence was deafening. “You mean people came?” Knowing I was headed for trouble, I tried to make it sound reasonable. ”Well, sort of. They stopped by and read what I wrote.” It was good, just not good enough. Peering at me over her knitting, Mom reminded me, “But you said it was like a housewarming. People at least bring food to a housewarming. Did they bring food?” “Sure they did,” I replied, throwing caution to the winds. “They brought cinnamon rolls and coffee, a covered dish, some wine…”
At that point, my mother gave me her other look, the one that says she thinks I’ve been holding out on her. “Are there any cinnamon rolls left? ”
Now, there was no escaping. “There aren’t any real cinnamon rolls. They were just pictures on the computer.” “Then why,” demanded the most tenacious parent in the world, “are you talking about them? Are they real, or not? And what good is a pretend cinnamon roll?”
She had me there. As I laughed and promised her cinnamon rolls from the bakery, I couldn’t help but think how completely my view of real and not-real had been transformed. Coming from a world where spiders spin webs the old-fashioned way, one strand of silk at a time, I hadn’t known quite what to think of the world-wide web when I began to explore its possibilities. It was equally amazing, possibly more complex and obviously as “real” as the webs I walked into every day on my boats. This photograph by Mark Chappell for Science and the wonderful fractal image below produced by Karmen for her blog, Chaotic Utopia make the relationship clear – but other questions aren’t so easily resolved. What about internet friends, cyber-parties, virtual greeting cards. Are they “real”, or not?
Sometimes, we think our way to answers for questions that perplex us. More often, time and living bring the answers to us. As time passes, as I walk more comfortably across this world-wide web, I’ve learned a few things. I’ve experienced the strange anxiety that rises when an internet acquaintance “disappears” without explanation. I’ve begun to notice small things in “real life” – a Michigan license plate, a chipmunk, a new recipe – that remind me of online friends. I turn on the computer before television in the morning, looking forward to photographs and postings from people whose work I find stimulating, and I’m enjoying new relationships and new friendships with quite “real” readers from around the world.
It was one of those friends, Jacqueline Smith of Jamaica, who surprised me recently with the Arte Y Pico Award. A peer award given by bloggers to bloggers, the Arte Y Pico helps to highlight the work of writers, poets, graphic artists, thinkers and social critics of every sort who otherwise might not find the audience they deserve. According to the originator of the award, the term itself translates into another phrase in Mexico, “lo maximo”. Difficult to render in English, it denotes both high quality and an ability to compel attention. Poorly versed in Spanish idioms, I imagine arte y pico as my muse, tapping me on the shoulder and saying, “Psst! Better get over here and look at this. It’s good!”
The rules for those receiving the Award are simple.
1. Each recipient must, in turn, choose 5 blogs considered deserving of the Award for their creativity, design, content and contribution to the blogging community, regardless of language.
2. Each Award is to include the name of the author as well as a link to his or her blog.
3. Each Award winner is to show the Award, providing both name and blog URL for the person who has given the Award.
Being granted the award by Jacquie was especially pleasing. Steeped in a story-telling tradition and skilled in the use of words, her Jack Mandora site is a wonderful mixture of social commentary, poetry, linguistic analysis and down-home tales. Perhaps because of my time in West Africa, I feel at home at Jacquie’s, ready to spend time and enjoy her offerings.
Just as enjoyable, but far more difficult, was the process of selecting other blogs to receive recognition. I’ve dallied a bit, combing through the list of those I read regularly, and finally have chosen five which delight me and may interest you. While there are hundreds (if not hundreds of thousands) of quality blogs, these have been especially stimulating for me. Each is a mix of good design and solid content, and all are written by people who like to think. Since I’m a great advocate of more thinking and fewer words for bloggers of all sorts – what’s not to like about these? Listed alphabetically, my choices for Arte y Pico are:
Aqui Esto Yo ~ Spain I’ve said for years that I need to learn Spanish, and now I have a pressing reason. eMi’s blog is an elegant and eclectic mixture of writing, photography, music and social commentary. Primarily in Spanish, with occasional English entries, it is accessible with the help of online translation services, and entries such as Barcas and Barcas II are beautiful and arresting. Even now, I do know enough to say, “Muchas gracias por tu hermosa blog”.
Bits and Boblets ~ Norway If you’re looking for a daily dose of anything, boblet’s wonderful blog isn’t for you. This woman gives warning at the very top of her homepage: “If I have nothing to say, I won’t say it.” And sometimes she doesn’t say anything, for weeks at a time. But I check regularly to see if there might be something new, because the new invariably is quirky, fun, dense with meaning, and absolutely guaranteed to keep me thinking, until the next post. She has written my single favorite blog entry of the last year, and when I get around to writing my response to her post, you’ll know which one it is. In the meantime, where else can you find the adventures of Zapf Dingbats?
Chaotic Utopia ~ USA Newly discovered, this offering is a tantalizing look into a world where borders isn’t a bookstore, Buffalo roam, and the theme song is “Don’t (Fractal) Fence Me In”. There’s nothing I love more than someone writing so beautifully about things I know nothing about that I’m enticed into their world, and Karmen has done that, over and over. For years, nothing apart from my blog has kept me up until 2 a.m. Now, thanks to this scientist-philosopher-Mother who offers essays on the complexity of time and such tidbits as Vector Park , I’m at serious risk for sleep deprivation. If you’re curious about the world and love watching creative minds at work, this is a blog worth pursuing.
Ripple Effects – Canada Arti was one of the first WordPress bloggers to visit The Task at Hand and leave a comment here. Consequently, I’ve been reading her blog for nearly a year, and never fail to enjoy the mix of literary and film criticism, art theory, photography and general musings on life. She’s managed to do what none of my English teachers could – make Jane Austen seem interesting – and has introduced me to books I never would have encountered on my own. Winter’s coming, with its short days and long, bookworthy nights, and I’m ready to begin reading through the little stack I’ve collected with Arti’s help, even as I continue to enjoy her blog.
Routing by Rumor – USA If there’s an outlier in the group, I suppose Routing by Rumor would be it. RBR offers his own mix of analysis and observation, but his subject matter is what you might find if Einstein and Leonard Bernstein were in charge of CNBC – beautifully conceived, orchestrated and performed pieces on the economy, digital realities, and the shrinking of the ice-cream “half-gallon”. Kind enough to provide information on the genesis of his title (it has to do with distance-vector protocols – you can find the information on his “about” page) and able to discuss quite complex realities clearly enough for the neophyte to understand and appreciate his points, he’s one of the first pages I turn to in the morning. Besides, the doggie is cute! Even we literary sorts have to deal with WalMart, valve stems, Digital TV and sneaky marketers. You’ll like the dog, and you’ll like RBR.
Eventually, I’ll tell Mom about Arte y Pico, and I fully expect to get that compos mentis? look, along with her usual question: “Is it real?” Those who are part of this new world, folks who’ve seen old traditions revived in new and creative ways and helped to sustain the rituals themselves, know just how real it is. They know human beings are meant to connect, that laughter and good wishes are an appropriate response to new adventures, and that gratitude for what has been walks hand in hand with joy in new possibilties. That’s what these awards and commendations are about – they’re signs of a new world-wide web weaving itself together, one acknowledgement and one bit of recognition at a time.
It’s a reality worth celebrating. Coffee and cinnamon rolls, anyone…?