I don't know what to blog about this week. I noticed Guardian science blogger Dean Burnett was kind of feeling the same so I decided to chat to him about blogging. This was the easiest/laziest way I could think of to come up with a blog. Can you think of a lazier way? I'm in bold (obviously, I'm the loudest) and Dean isnt. Read on....
Hello, Dean. How are you? Seriously, how ARE you? A couple of days ago I saw you tweet something about how difficult it is to find things to blog about. I suffer from this all the time, clearly. How do you find subjects to blog about? Do you ever feel like you're blogging about the same thing at times? I do. Also, what do you say to supermodels who say they have no interest in Doctor Who?
Hi Michael. I'm fine. Seriously, I'M FINE! I did tweet that yes, but there's a bit more to it than that. Seeing as I blog for the Guardian science section, I should have been writing a blog about them digging up Richard III, but I didn't really fancy it for several reasons; I don't know anything about the history or science behind it, every other bugger was doing something about it, and I was resentful because whenever I dig up a dead monarch I don't get any praise.
One of my jokes there. I'm so sorry.
I'm a bit lucky in that I'm contractually obliged to write about science, so my options are a bit more limited. That might seem counter-intuitive, but it works for me because I'm one of those people who doesn't do well with too many options. I've never actually 'surfed the web' per se, I always have somewhere specific in mind when I log on. Given the whole of the internet to explore, I just sit there staring at the google home page until my eyeballs get uncomfortably dry. So as my remit is 'amusing takes on genuine scientific subjects' (or words to that wanky effect) I have a decent number of possibilities for blogging, but not unlimited. This works for me. Yeah, I blog about science constantly, but it's my job and it's a big enough area that it doesn't get repetitive (so far).
I don't tell all the supermodels I meet about Doctor Who. I really like it, but I only started watching it from the relaunch, so I don't consider myself a Doctor Who fan per se. The proper fans know and appreciate all of it (within reason) so I feel like claiming to be one would be like claiming to be a soldier on the grounds that I've been paint-balling a few times (which I haven't).
Do you find this with your blogs? A lot of what you write is about your daily exploits or elements from your own life (e.g. Your love of thermal underwear) but you occasionally delve into things like Doctor Who, mainstream TV (e.g. Mrs Brown's Bastards), Edinburgh festival, the comedy scene and so forth. These things all have their own communities and people with their own opinions, to say the least. Is it a different experience to delve into this sort of thing with your blog?
I have two problems with my blog, which is probably the least amount of problems anyone has with my blog. It has to actually be about something and I care what goes into it. I don't care what anyone else thinks about it but I care what I think about it. Mainly because before I started blogging there were a lot of comedians blogging about their tediously successful careers. Why did they think anyone would give a shit about their incredible lives? I remember one comedian blogging about being recognised in Tesco. How boring is that? Well, it was worse than boring because being recognised as another human being isn't an achievement whatsoever AND it was clearly a lie. He actually lied about being recognised in Tesco. Surely no matter what else happened to him that day it must have been more interesting than being recognised in Tesco and yet, there he was, PRETENDING to be recognised in Tesco simply to show any contemporary that was interested how famous he wasn't. Of course, that didn't stop me from cutting and pasting his blog, changing his name and posting as if it was mine. I was making a point.
I prefer delving. Writing about your day to day life just gets way too cyclical. Especially if your day is as dull as mine (wake up, scream at Homes Under The Hammer, dress my sofa cushions as a woman, kiss the woman, go to the pub, go to sleep, wake up, go to bed, stay awake until 5am). Some bloggers are great at this. Well, Richard Herring is. But I haven't seen another diary style blog that's any good at all. I want to blog every day but unless I really have something to SCREAM, It's getting harder to do. At the moment I'm obsessed with Pointless. There's no anger in that. I can't get a blog out of loving a teatime quiz. Yesterday, I missed the whole passing of the Gay Marriage vote because I was watching Pointless on iPlayer. For a good reason though: I love Pointless more than I love human rights. Human rights rarely comes with a cheeky dig at someone who gives an unbelievably thick answer to a very easy question. AND IT FUCKING SHOULD. Human rights needs to stand up for itself. If human rights is just going to accept thick answers to all of it's unbelievably easy questions then where the hell are we all going to end up?
What I'm saying is, I'm jealous of you. Finding a subject to write about is near impossible these days, for me. You are lucky to have the tiny, wee pool of science to draw from but it's not the constraint of that that makes you lucky. You're lucky that you CAN write about science. That is utterly brilliant. If I knew something I'd definitely write about it. What made you want to blog in the first place? Do you ever read blogs? How do you feel about the people who read your blog?
Took some thinking for a minute to come up with the answer to this, been so long since I thought about it properly.
I started blogging (on my old personal blog, not the Guardian) about 4 years ago. I had/have two big interests, science and comedy. I've been doing stand up as a hobby since about 2005, and been 'doing science' in some capacity since 2000. As I live in Cardiff there isn't a massive open-mic stand-up scene like London and other big (proper) cities have, although it's grown since. There were about 5 gigs a month if we were lucky, and these were frequented by the same people, so I could probably get 20-30 minutes of stage time a month if I worked at it. Not saying I didn't appreciate it, but that's not a great deal if you want to get a decent set practised.
Plus, they say talk about what you know, and I knew about science. You couldn't do science in a comedy night back then, Robin Ince hadn't been invented yet. But I still wanted to, I saw it as a gap in the market. Then I realised I sounded like a twat for saying that and felt awful, but the point still stood. That's when I discovered that you could 'blog' whatever that was. I started doing it on my MySpace page (remember MySpace? It were like if Facebook had gone for a 'teenager's bedroom' style. Hahaha, nostalgia. Now buy my DVD again!).
The writing of new material and stuff was always the bit I liked best, with my stumbling mumbly delivery the live performing was always a bit hamstrung. So I just put it out there on a blog, purely to see if I could write funny (for a given value of 'funny') pieces about science. If people saw it and liked it, that was a bonus. Eventually they did, which was a bonus.
This is going to sound like some sort of horrible text-based 69 in a minute, but the first blog I got into was yours. It was your MySpace one (Remember MySpace? Etc.) and it was the 2008 Edinburgh diary. This one http://michaelleggesblog.blogspot.co.uk/2008/09/i-blogged-lot.html I just remember thinking it was brilliant and wanting to do the same in some capacity (Blogging, not harassing a man called Toilet).
I read other blogs now and then, but don't really have a feed I regularly keep up with. In all honesty, I tend to read blogs with a comedy basis, not science. There's yours, my mates Ted Shiress and Matt Price, other stand ups generally. I used to read Ray Peacock's when he did one. Herring's I like, but because it's such a dedicated diary format, if I miss a day or two for whatever reason I feel I've lost track, so I dip in and out of it.
A lot of people I know write science blogs, and good ones. I read them when they tweet a title of interest or when I'm browsing for stuff, but I don't read them as a matter of course. It's nothing personal, but if I read too many quality science blogs I might get dubious about my own ability/qualifications to write about a scientific subject, so I like to maintain this fragile blissful ignorance in order to feel confident enough to write stuff. Plus, science is my job, comedy is my hobby. Reading comedy blogs is fun as I'm only passively trying to progress in comedy (i.e. if asked to do a gig, I probably will, but I don't chase people for them) so don't feel annoyed or frustrated when I hear what other comics are up to (and we know other comics are prone to that). If I were a working comic and a science hobbyist, I imagine my blog-reading habits would be flipped too.
I appreciate it when anyone reads my blog, but with the nature of online commenting, particularly now that I have a Guardian blog, it's hard to separate readers from commenters. These are very different creatures, but it's hard to really assess what your readers think, as they read it and then move on. Commenters either like it or hate it enough to make a comment. And there's no guarantee that a commenter has read or understood a piece either, as I demonstrated with my recent Wonders of Life 'review': http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/brain-flapping/2013/jan/29/wonders-of-life-confusing-overrated
Of course, a lot of the comments I get are from scientists and science fans. Some of these have very idealised notions of what scientists should be like, and my approach really grates on their nerves. How about you? Do you find you get heated comments from the comedy fans/community? I've had a number of comics get really pissed off when they find I've a lot more twitter followers than they do, so Lord knows what you get subjected to. Do other comics act differently around you, as there's a chance that they might end up being blogged about in an amusingly acerbic way?
I find it really weird when anyone gets offended by my blog or any comedian's blog. Weirder still when it's comedians who find offence. But it's happened a fair bit. Quite a few comedians were shocked when I made a joke about another comedian a couple of years ago. I said his topical material was like watching Have I Got News For You. On Dave. One very famous comedian actually said "If you said that about me, we wouldn't be talking right now". Isn't that a bit weird? To make a joke about a comedian is offensive to comedians? I hope it goes without saying that the target of the joke thought it was funny. Albeit a year later.
I read your Wonders of Life blog and the comments. FUCKING IDIOTS springs to mind but that's not always a bad thing. It's great that people take the time to read blogs and it's equally great when a few don't quite get it or even downright disagree. There's nothing wrong with us being put in our place. That said, my recent favourite was someone commenting on my blog about the flag protests in Belfast. It was about how the flag doesn't symbolise patriotism, people do. Someone responded with "ULSTER IS BRITISH. NO SURRENDER". I just thought, you signed the agreement...you surrendered.
Now, finally, I'm sure you're like me, Dean, and you've printed out all your blogs and buried them in the garden. How do you think they'll be seen when discovered under a space car park in 500 years time?
I prefer to think my blogs won't be buried under a car park but something a bit more valuable and inconvenient, like a flagship branch of the future Apple store. On the day they launch the iPad v893, or the iPod Femto. Somebody uses the archeology app on their iPad v892 they bought the day before, which they have on them as they queue for the next one, and they discover a cache of ancient printouts. The place has to be shut down and excavation teams a brought in and they're dug up, but they make no sense to people of that time, so not much will have changed. Luckily, they find traces of my DNA on the printouts (I always leave DNA on writing I'm happy with, via the usual means). They resurrect me with a cloning app, and the first words to my reanimated form are "You're not Michael Legge, you're just that guy who did fairly weak social commentary".
Or something like that. How about you?
Luckily, I know what it's like to be dead and buried so I know exactly how my blog will feel when it's left alone and underground for so long. And that's really where science comes in as far as my blog goes. I can't imagine much literary works besides my blog surviving WW3. It clearly has a hard shell and look at it how it scuttles about looking for the crumbs of acknowledgement it desperately craves. My blog is a cockroach and when found in 500 years time, the only surviving humans on this planet will come out of their swampy holes, cough their teeth out, read my blog and realise they're better off than we were in the 21st century. At least I'll have done that, Dean.
Thanks for chatting, mate. Love you xxx
Read Dean's excellent blog here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/brain-flapping
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