Thursday, January 24, 2008

Can We Be Taken Seriously? - Part 27

The old Sri Lankan blogosphere is awash with talk about the Galle Literary Festival and most of these awashings are about the session on blogging and whether us bloggers can be taken seriously. There's this on ICT in General, there's these daily diaries on Sach's blog, this piece by David Blacker, who many of us didn't know had a blog. David, thank you for mentioning my blog as a "pimped out diary". I love that description and may use it in my header.

There's Indi's post and this one by the Missing S. My favourite is this in Lakbima News. There are more sour grapes in it than in the bottle of wine Rajpal brought to the last Sri Lankan bloggers' get together. And as a lowly blogger I respectfully suggest that Mr Abeynayake gives his young blogging cousin a call and asks for some variants on the word "kitsch". It's bouncing around that article as if there's been a "kitsch" deficit at Lakbima for many years and suddenly a crate of them has been delivered to the office.

The esteemed editor of Lakbimanews is keen to make some rather negative remarks about bloggers. That's his opinion and he's entitled to it, but somewhere in the back of my mind is a vague memory of a Sri Lankan Sunday paper copying and pasting a load of Sri Lankan blog posts and pretending that they were the work of its staff journalists. Bloggers were clearly good enough for that newspaper on those occasion!

I was thinking about blogging, journalism and writing and music and suddenly I felt as if it had all become clear. This sometimes happens to me and it's usually before I fuck things up big style so I shan't get too carried away. But, the music comparison is a big one as it's what I can relate to easily.

Here it is; I'm not the best drummer in the world by any stretch of the imagination, I'm probably not even the best drummer in either of my two bands (thanks Mr McCartney), but over the years I've put in a hell of a lot of effort in learning how to play the drums properly. I've studied with many great teachers (and a few crap ones), I've done lots and lots of practice and I think I've got quite a good grounding.

Music, the playing of it, is a study that can take many lifetimes and no musician would ever say that they have reached a level that cannot be surpassed, but I feel comfortable in the knowledge that I'm ok at my drumming. And, like any musician, I often see some half arsed fuckwit playing the drums in a famous band. Someone who clearly doesn't know how to play very well, who's just got lucky and is attaining a level of success way beyond that which his, or her, talent deserves.

That's what some people, the "proper" writers, those with books published and who make a living from their words, think of us bloggers. Not that we're crap drummers, although they may think that of me, but that we've attained a level of success we don't deserve. It's as if we've written a book, published it for nothing and then gone out and delivered it to people free of charge for them to read.

Many of us haven't had to learn how to write properly, we haven't had to sell ourselves to publishers and newspaper editors to get published and we sure as hell haven't had to deal with the pressure of trying to make a living from writing. We just chuck some words out on a PC monitor, hit the "publish" button and some people read them.

It's not as simplistic as all that, but I must admit that I can see the viewpoint. The lines can get blurred beyond recognition when blogs are written by proper journalists or bloggers get to publish stuff properly, but the fact is that many of us just haven't paid our dues. That's why we'll never get taken seriously by some, we'll always be looked at as a crap drummer in a successful band.

Rajpal made some points that seem valid in his article, but to me his credibility suffers from a massive surplus of negative criticism. His recurring theme, that the festival wrapped literature in a Barefoot sarong, seems trivial. I for one have no problems with that packaging. I have cupboards full of Barbara Sansoni sarongs and will not hear a word against them. There are few things I can imagine that would not look good in one of them.

But Sri Lanka needs things like the GLF, it needs to get people into the country and to get hold of their money and it needs unique selling points. The Galle Literary Festival is a big one and I think the organisers have done a fine job in getting it to where it is in the literary world.

When the mainstream media starts to write articles about the blogging workshop at the GLF then surely we must be taken seriously. When the GLF has a session centred around bloggers then surely we are already crossing over into the mainstream. When people think that literature is for all, not just for the elite, then we will be taken seriously.

Or will we?


Damith-TS said...

Hmm, Good analogy RD, I think the blogging communities time will come. Few years ago many people wouldn't have even known about blogging.

Indyana said...

Does all this discussion mean bloggers are being taken seriously?

confab said...

even if the GLF might not have satisfied everyone's expectations, it is a great event to be held on our shores in these times. even if the event wasn't all that, then comment on the fest as a whole. rajpal does not win any respect when he slanders! but i guess u can't teach an old dog new tricks.

that article by rajpal was just disgusting! it brings a lot of shame to us and our kind. i agree with u RD, really seems as though Rajpal has a bunch of sour grapes that no one else wants to share. i wonder how lakbimanews expects to do well in sri lanka when they have an editor who writes dirt like this openly.

what ppl should understand is that not all tea parties would serve cups of tea that appease their own individual taste. you must pick and choose what floats ur boat and then place ur money accordingly. the GLF was not for everyone. but ppl who went there because that's what they love, rather than because that's where society says they should be, loved it.

themissingsandwich said...

Nice analogy on the drumming. All I know of the topic is that each of the drums have a different name. The only one I can recall is "snare".
On Rajpal, true. Even if he had valid points (and many bloggers themselves had negative comments)no one will take any of them into consideration after what he's done. Talk about the proverbial pot and kettle!

Anonymous said...

Dear RD

I am one of those people whose stance on bloggers and blogs is to scoff at most, and read some, and am guilty of making a living out of writing, but even I believe that literature is not for the elite, (though democracy is.. but thats for another argument) .

I think its an interesting phenomenon , like final cut pro for the movie industry. It takes the pretentiousness out of creativity.Opens it up to all, which I am totally excited about. Blogging becomes one of simple economics. You guys would nt be successful, if no one read your blogs, but you are and they do. (thus supply demand principles)

I doubt I would have gone to a bloggers workshop unless there was some eye candy on offer, but I think blogging is a great new wave in writing , which will knee cap many writers who arent open to change.

Mr Lakbima should perhaps attend a writing course. I think he shows great potential (though a little too bitter for my liking ) Perhaps a workshop that that is carried out by someone who can write, would be ideal.

SpectralCentroid said...

I think it should be just like making good music. Bloggers should not seek validation from 'mainstream' or any stream for that matter. (Unless someone's using their blog as a launching pad for 'serious'/professional writing.)

One should just think "I'm gonna write what I think is right, I don't give a f*** about your expectations".

Darwin said...

I think an SL blogger would be taken seriously if he/she landed a book deal and perhaps a subsequent TV show! Wonder who would be the first...LOL!

Radha said...

Seriously, with all that you write, you redefine serious. You seem to be too jealous to be taken as anything, because half of what you bloggers write is about Rajpal -- and then obviously it shows if anybody made an impact -- he did. He must be having the last laugh out there somewhere.
Also, he did not make any scathing attack on bloggers -- his attack was on the festival per se, the Sri Lankan writers etc., (It’s reproduced here at His only mention of blogs was when he said by the way Nazreen writes an unspectacular blog, which position has been endorsed in David Backers blog where Blacker even questioned her suitability to be in the panel as she is writing a Barefoot promotional blog. See (
So why drag Rajpal into it when the blogosphpere seems to agree on that one.
So Rajpal carried some of your blogs but with the blog names as far as I remember. Huge problem you have? Say that to the marines.
It’s true a lot of people cannot take sound criticism that comes from Lakbima etc., but that’s your problem.

Java Jones said...

Hey RD - that radha comment sounds awfully defensive. Wonder who s/he is??? Not hard to guess, huh?!!! I mean who in their right mind would even waste their time??!!!

Anonymous said...

Radha: the correct URL is
I doubt if 50% of the content Sri Lankan bloggers write about is about Rajpal - even if that estimate is restricted to posts about GLF. Most likely you will prove me wrong with a word count.

I have to admit I still can't understand what this GLF fuss is about.

Ajith said...

And as if Rajpal is the only one who is critical of the GLF. You should see this just in --- Smokers Delight -

So much for your 'outrage'

Hilal said...

I have no clue as to what's going on or who this 'Rajpal' is. I kept bumping into post after post about his comments at the GLF on Bloggers and had to chip in.

As most of us know the term Blog is derived from the term Weblog. The term Weblog came to prominence in the last 10 years or so with advent of 'blogging' software that boast of one-click publishing. That doesn't make the blogosphere a new thing. The term 'Weblog' just turned every average internet user into a mass publishing tool. Websites and it's authors have been in existence since the advent of Internet, Someone just decided to label a group of them 'bloggers'.
Taking any Website or it's author 'seriously' is down to personal interpretation and going by the standards of journalism in Sri Lanka's mainstream press one shouldn't take a local news papers editor's (I'm assuming Rajpal is the edior for Lakbima??) views as gospel.
In North America succesful bloggers make 5 figure income/month. That's more than any sri lankan news paper's monthly revenue. How can you not take bloggers seriously when every big advertising/marketing firm here is on the look out for fresh blogs to monetise.

Electra said...

cheers, rd.

it seems you just can't say anything anymore (refer to my blog recently?), people are on the blogosphere to merely argue and fight, no longer to listen.

it's become so hard!