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Bogland Merit Badges

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Blogging by 노강호 on October 8, 2010

Best Blogs in Korea

Somewhere in cyber-space voting is taking place for the ‘Best Korean Blog.’ No, I am not including a link! Firstly Bathhouse Ballads is one of the nominees and, secondly, I am tempted to delete all references to it. To be honest, I have not been very happy with the boy scout badges that e-rags provide. Just being required to string a sentence together as a qualification for their banner is a little like buying a degree. Having that icon appear on my site somehow smacks of prostitution and now that I’ve been ‘exposed’ by An Idiots Tale, ironically asking people to vote for me, I’m tempted to remove it.

So, in response to a true guru of Korean blogs and writing in general, Mr Wonderful, who resides at An Idiot’s Tale, I fully admit that I arse licked to get that pretty badge which I could subsequently stick in my sidebar. I feel quite ashamed! Like I’ve been caught by mummy having a wank while wearing her knickers. And as shameful as it is, I’ll admit to those who asked, rhetorically, on An Idiot’s Tale’s pages, what you have to do to qualify for that coveted badge.  Simple, I wrote a begging e-mail. No one has to nominate you because you can nominate yourself! And I prostituted myself good, telling them I’d ‘been published’ as opposed to having ‘published myself’ – which was in fact exactly what I was doing at the time. Yes, it felt sleazy but you know what students are like when they want a gold star, it doesn’t really matter to them if they cheated or not, it’s the sticker that counts.

Mr Wonderful at An Idiot's Tale

And why is it a form of prostitution? Because even as I was composing that grovelling letter I was well aware that many of the other ‘nominated’ blogs where shite. Half of them provide the same experience as lifting the lid on an unflushed toilet, one with turds in residence! When people enter and subsequently leave your blog in the same click,  you need to reconsider.

In contrast, I visited several blogs last night via An Idiots Tale, all of them regular commentators on his site and ended up having to tear myself away at 2.am. And guess what? All of them had shitty ‘hit statistics.’ Now, I’m quite proud of my paltry hits even though they tally the same amount in one month, as the big bloggers get in a day, but these guys had really poor figures, in some cases under a thousand. And to compound matters, some blogs were much older than mine.  But their content and style was far superior to many of the blogs nominated for the ‘Best Blogs in Korea,’ mine included and many of the blogs I have read, or not read, in the last year!

Now, I love my blog and I love writing and being a snob, I profess I am a writer not a blogger. There is a difference! And of course, what qualifies me to self-aggrandizement is that I’ve been paid by other people to write and have had a substantial work published. Most first time authors earn less than £4000 for their efforts and after all the revisions, and late nights, the pay back is pitiful. But the one reward is that you’ve been published, preferably by a third-party and that’s a kick in the teeth to petty critics. But there is an irony; I have had more hits to Bathhouse Ballads in six months than my book sold copies in 10 years. It’s only natural that I love my blog, as a creative pursuit, above my published book. A book is dead! You write it and leave it and as much as you wish you could rewrite parts, you can’t. And as I have learnt to my cost, you can’t easily retract what you’ve said. And unless you’re famous and successful you have little or no interaction with your readers. Blogging is quite different and compared to a book, it can be changed, it grows and can respond (via its readers). Compared to a book, a blog is alive which also means it needs nurturing and can die.

So, seeing my blog swirling around in that cesspit, shoulder to shoulder with a substantial, amount of shite, made me feel pretty dirty. The feelings of prostitution, of being soiled were intensified when I noticed that some of the nominated blogs have more followers than they’ve had hits. How do you account for 940 followers when your site has only been visited 800 times?  Even the big bloggers don’t have a such a fan-base despite the fact they can attract over a 1000 hits a day!

I am going to vote for one of the nominated blogs as they’re not all crap! But I don’t particularly want anyone voting for me because winning it would really involve no victory, other than the one erected by An Idiot’s Tale and I’m probably going to zap that merit sticker in my sidebar. My artistic pride tells me to but the prostitute whispers  for me to hang on because it’s all about exposure. The only real reward in blogging, apart from the art of writing itself, are the number of individuals who subscribe to your site and read your work on a regular basis and no amount of self-delusion can increase that figure or alter the worth of your writing.


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Beyond the Blog – An Idiot’s Tale

Posted in Blogging by 노강호 on August 8, 2010

An Idiot's Tale

If you can take the bad language or dodgy opinions, one of the most entertaining K-blogs, if not blogs per-se, is An Idiot’s Tale. The shit floating in bogland is extensive and  finding material  which actually grips you, and Mr Wonderful grabs you by the bollocks, is rare. An Idiot’s Tale definitely meets my criteria as a writer and has an ability to say in a sentence something I might drag out to  a paragraph. Even though I don’t agree with all his comments or particularly like the things he writes, I love the way he says them. And unlike other writers he isn’t afraid to be outspoken or controversial, which may of course be part of his plan but in doing so he provides a refreshing change.

Too many blogs are simply badly written travel diaries, often written for mummy and daddy or mates back home and often full of misinformation. How many more posts do we need on mud festivals or the latest girl band? Other blogs, often over rated, simply give information everyone knows once they’ve lived here a short time and while they might have an occasional use, are in reality no more the product of a ‘writer’ than is a bus timetable. It seems you become an expert on Korean society the moment you launch your first post, even if you’ve only been here a week. And everyone is a writer! Blogs provide the perfect place to blag about ones credentials. Yesterday, I found a blog where the author gave a complete run down of their CV: journalist, newscaster, playwright, writer, poet, teacher, Phd educated, bla, bla, bla… What the fuck are you doing teaching English in Korea? Worse, his blog was shite!

Unlike so many other bloggers, Mr Wonderful doesn’t claim to be a writer, indeed he seems to shun such a label and yet  comes closer than most to actually being one. Not only is he able to take something as mundane as  a mud festival and say something  different about it, but  the bizarre background image he has painted, through characters such as Dragon Lady, Children of the Rice, Jughead and Queen Elephant, are highly evocative. Mr Wonderful has created a strange world, you  glimpse it through cracks, a photo here, a reference there; it’s a shady world hovering between dream and reality, a world that seems  a little sleazy or seedy, of darkened PC bangs, drunken stupors and dirty bodies. The intrigue of An Idiots Tale, its allure, lies in the fact that you can’t establish whether  is fantasy or fact – this is one masterful stroke of creativity. I still laugh at the strange and evocative phrases he uses – ‘off to the paddy’ field, ‘toad juice,’ get some coin.’

As for  political correctness, An Idiot’s Tale kicks it straight out the window. No one is beneath being ridiculed and he has taken the Kings of the K-blogs and re-christened them. I’m Sorry, but I find Clissy Snowfrake such a funny name even though I know it’s origins transgress political correctness. If Mr Wonderful is insulting to others, he is equally as insulting to himself and only this week describes his new haircut as giving him the appearance of a ‘dick with ears.’

A dick with ears

I like An Idiot’s Tale because it is short and punchy, offensive, provocative, rude, ignores the conventions of political correctness and  has the ability to say so much in so little space and in this sense bears an affinity with Roketship. I like it because like a soap drama, it is full of bitchiness and intrigue all of which can be drifted in and out of, easily. Most of the  blogs I read don’t inspire me to write or inspire me to write about them. An Idiot’s Tale does both. Though I know Mr Wonderful would despise me for trying to form a ‘circle jerk,’ I’m pissed of  my blog isn’t in his Hall of Shame. If there’s one place I value it being, it’s there.

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© Nick Elwood 2010. This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

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Beyond the Blog – Pap and Crap in Bogland

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Blogging by 노강호 on May 5, 2010

Cataloging Crap

‘Blog-rolls?’ Is that a spelling mistake? No! Bloggers and writers! They’re worlds apart! The difference between a ‘blogger’ and a  ‘writer’ spans the same gulf as the one separating Britney Spears from Andrea Bocelli. Britney and Bloggers have a purpose, I’m not dismissing them outright. I’m new to blogging but certainly an old hand at writing – which doesn’t imply I’m successful or that my writing is any good, but I don’t class it as ‘blogging’.’ Trawling through blogs you realise that most of them are dull, passionateness and pointless. In just the same way the Bontempi heralded the deskilling of music, rendering florid arpeggios at the touch of a finger, a feat on a regular piano requiring years of practice, the internet has deskilled writing. In just the same way you can be a ‘musician’ today without being able to play an instrument or even read music, you can be a ‘writer’ without actually writing!


There an assumption that if you record a  recipe, catalogue the weather, or  sequence how to get down town, that this bestows on you the title, ‘writer.’  Blog after blog churn out the same crap as if the authors are writing for a magazine with an established readership and in which someone else writes material of substance.  And yes! I am aware that his makes me sound like a horrid snob. Blogging allows us to ‘publish’ material that at one time you wouldn’t have dared release to an agent or publisher without ensuring it was the best it could be. Further, it allows you to develop your ability from the very first post. Let me give you an example of two boring posts, two examples of ‘blogging’ and not ‘writing.’ Remember Saturday March 6th? It snowed quite heavily over the country and this resulted in numerous posts that  all read something like this:

Just when you thought it was safe to ditch the duck down thermal anorak, and winter suddenly reappears. After several afternoons with spring in the air, Sunday morning saw Apsan Mountain, Daegu, dusted in snow. So, after an invigorating bowl of chicken and ginseng soup, we took the cable car to one of Apsan’s summits. It was freezing with icy patches underfoot and a wind that stung the ears. Icicles hung from the summit buildings and surrounding trees were covered in a powdery snow.

What a load of crap! And if you look up White Day, you’ll be treated to something like:

March 14th,  White Day, is when men who were given Valentines gifts on February 14th (Red Day), reciprocate, usually with gifts of chocolate, white lingerie or other presents. Like many of the silly days we celebrate around the world, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day, for example, White Day is a fairly recent invention, not as usual  an innovation by  a card company, but by a confectioners based in Fukouka, Japan which launched the first White Day in 1978.

More twaddle! If someone wants to learn about ‘White Day,’ or ‘Childrens’ Day’ you can look it up in far more credible locations. And as for recipes, there are some amazing sites very professionally produced. Copying and pasting is no more writing than it is ‘research.’ Unfortunately, there are examples of blogs ripe with such shite and no one should get annoyed that a little weather report penned to mum or your mates back home isn’t hailed a literary masterpiece.

Writers write  because they are compelled to do so or because it is their living and if fortunate, both. Forget dreams of becoming the next J.K Rowling, on average, an author’s first book will earn around £3000. While some writers are ‘forced’ to write by impulse or economic necessity,  many blog for others reasons.  For some, it’s about keeping a journal and recording experiences and while some do  this in a school kiddy manner,   others clearly think they’re Malinowski  exploring some dark and distant continent. Personally, I prefer a Malinowski approach as pomposity is preferable to the boredom  instilled by mundane cataloging.  Others are concerned with ratings and posts are rife with boring trivia under the assumption that anything is better than nothing – hence the two examples quoted! Others are about self promotion even when it appears there is little to promote. Some are driven to blog  by political and social passions, modern day pamphleteers, if you like.  All this is fine, I’m not condemning blogging,  but let’s not allow blogging to deskill ‘writing’ either as a broad art form or as a skill possessed by an individual.

One of the best methods of  improving your writing is to know what not to write and this involves spotting  weaknesses in the work of  others so you can better spot it in your own. A  crowning blog  I recently extensively browsed, which shall remain anonymous, has had a profound impact on me. Spanning almost 11 years, which I think predates the blogging phenomena,  the  author provides an extensive history cataloging their literary achievements but within the blog and in all its hundreds of posts I could find nothing, absolutely nothing, of substance;  nothing seized my attention or drew me towards it, nothing hit me between the eyes! To consistently publish rubbish for 11 years under the assumption you are talented is self deluded in the extreme and is an attitude adopted by a great many talentless celebrities.  It has impacted on me  because I don’t want my writing to be twaddle or pointless, I want it to spark a reaction. So, my resolution:

1. Never to catalogue topics such as the weather, or social events. Such topics should only be broached if approached from an interesting or different perspective

2. Never to publish a post for the sake of maintaining some statistical target

3. Never to use ‘search terms’ to influence the contents of my writing

4. To spend longer re-drafting and never to write and publish on the same day

5. To avoid constantly prettying-up my site

6. To turn the PC off and go out into the real world on a regular basis

Of course, much of what appeals to us as individuals is subjective, but it is possible to identify well written work without necessarily being enamored by the content. Even though we might not like a topic or might disagree with its content, we should still be able to spot something well written and creative!

‘Writers’ shouldn’t be writing for the sake of writing. It’s not about typing words onto a screen with little creative forethought and when the words are amassed, publishing them instantly. Before blogging, the only way to get work published was to make it stand out. Content preceded all else else and drafting and redrafting was the standard process. While the internet and modern technology provide the writer  with some superb resources, it also encourages the cutting of corners  and the array of ‘toys:’ themes, widgets, statistics, other paraphernalia, distract the  writer from writing. I’ve spent ridiculous amounts of time prettying up my pages when I should have been up-grading the content.

Popular doesn't mean better

And have you noticed how the blogs with the highest hits are often the most boring? This should come as no surprise as it is a general rule that the shittiest ‘things’ in our society, pop music, fast food, Hollywood, etc, are shite! Yes, I know there are some great pop musicians and excellent Hollywood movies, but by and large the governing maxim is, if it’s popular, it’s crap! Last week, a 16 year old student asked me how my blog was doing. He wanted to know how many hits I’d had. ‘About 1400,’ I told him, proudly. For a moment, I thought the revelation had excited him until I found out he’s had 77.000 hits over a period of approximately the same  time. I looked at his site and it is very well presented but what lures an audience is the Jeremy Clarkson, boy’s toys appeal: guns, fast cars, fighter planes and You-Tube clips of people getting their brains blown out. Amidst all this typical ‘laddy’ content however, a bizarre twist which for me at least, gave the site a strange appeal, for amongst his categories of ‘Army,’ ‘Air-force,’ ‘Navy,’ and ‘Special Forces,’ were: ‘Recipes,’ ‘The Music of Erik Satie’ and ‘My School Trips.’

Beyond the Blog

There are some fantastic posts lurking in Bogland, quite often with little or no readership. I occasionally discover posts or blogs which demand your attention and which you cannot  ignore. Often their content is the same as the all the other crap except  that it’s written from a unique perspective or is hinged on a wacky, off beat idea, or it might simply an mesmerizing choice of vocabulary. Whatever, such writing takes you on a journey which you unwittingly subscribe to.  Often such blogs will make me wish I could had thought of their idea or that I had some of their skill.  In the pages of such work you can sense the enthusiasm and passion of their authors. When a ‘blog’ or any artistic product engages you to the extent it keeps you from going to bed or makes you late for work , it probably has a quality which takes it beyond the blog . But then a shitty movie or porn video can have the same effect, and Wagner, who I know is highly talented, often sends me to sleep. Perhaps I’m talking shite!

You think I’m a snob? I am, but I know my limitations because I wrote and published those shitty extracts above! And besides, as a teacher it’s my job to both encourage better writing and spot the merits and flaws in work of students. My own scribblings get treated the same way!

If you want some truly interesting posts / blogs, click this link. My opinion, of course….

Like all bloggers, I decided I needed a blog roll and that the more extensive, the better.  So I spent a a considerable ammount of time dwvising a system to rank and rate blogs and catologue their content. After researching about 15, I started falling asleep. Then, when I realised I had to contend with not just WordPress Blogs, but Blogger, Tumblr and so forth, it dawned on me what a gargantuan task lay ahead and I was already bored.  There an assumption that if you write a recipe, catalogue the weather, or write about what bus to take to get downtown, that this bestows on you the title ‘writer.’  Blog after blog. after blog, seem to churn out the same crap as if the authors are writing for a magazine with an established readership and in which someone else writes material of substance. A great many of us are teachers, perhaps not by training but by vocation, but it does make me wonder how we teach the skills of essay writing when the quality of our output is so boringly mundane. And it also becomes clear how little many writers have read and how little they actually think!  This makes me sound like a horrid snob. Remember April 10th

and spent a considerable ammount of time I am quickly coming to learn that the majority of blogs are shite. That’s a horrid and mean thing to say but if you In a sense I cannot wait to reach retirement so I can    employers would not like  Most of the stuff I do write about probably infuriates people

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