I was today years old when I was introduced to the term ‘commonplace book‘, a concept I actually had been familiar with ever since I started journalling actively since 2009. I did not keep a journal the way a journal should be — if there was ever one accurate way to keep journals — in fact, my daily spread contains the quotes I came across, any piece of information I came across, any points of observations, etc. I didn’t particularly record what I did day-to-day, but every page was dedicated to all of these bits of stuff I came across on the day itself, as I use a daily Moleskine journal. If what I wrote did not fit into one page, I’d write on a loose page and clip it to the day page itself.
Bruce Sterling, in his farewell post of his Wired blog, Beyond the Beyond, encapsulates what a commonplace book / blog does well:
It’s the writerly act of organizing and assembling inchoate thought that seems to helps me. That’s what I did with this blog; if I blogged something for “Beyond the Beyond,” then I had tightened it, I had brightened it. I had summarized it in some medium outside my own head. Posting on the blog was a form of psychic relief, a stream of consciousness that had moved from my eyes to my fingertips; by blogging, I removed things from the fog of vague interest and I oriented them toward possible creative use.
[…] A blog evaporates through bit-rot. Yet even creative work which is abandoned and seen by no one is often useful exercise. One explores, one adventures by finding “new ground” that often just isn’t worth it; it’s arid and lunar ground, there’s nothing to farm, but unless you venture beyond and explore, you will never know that. Often, it’s the determined act of writing it down that allows one to realize the true sterility of a silly idea; that’s how the failure gets registered in memory; “oh yes, I tried that, there’s nothing there.” Or: maybe there is nothing there yet. Or: it may be ‘nothing’ for me in particular, but great for you. “Nothing” comes in many different flavors.
[…] I used to toss a lot of stuff into the blog that looked “funny,” but a lot of it was testing the very idea of significance. “Does this odd thing I found matter to anyone in any way whatsoever?” Will there be a public response of some kind to this? You can never get that response from a diary, a notebook, a studio corkboard. A blog, though, has an alternating current; so maybe some little meme will catch on and glow.
I was thinking of this concept today when I came across the term in Catherine Chung’s The Tenth Muse — a book about a woman maths prodigy — that I am currently reading. She was gifted a notebook of equations by her father who had served in the wartime, and the book had helped her not only in her uphill struggle towards trying to find her place in a male-dominated field, but also to find her roots and origins.
I suppose this is how this blog is like too. When I started this blog, I was questioning its goal — I knew it was born because at the time I was struggling to write my thesis, but I still wanted to write something other than for work or for school. From then on, I knew this blog was to be semi-private — friends who found it, found it, but I would never post the link publicly elsewhere. It’s not a lie to say that I had been tempted to go public with the blog, but I find that this is the only space I love writing for the audience of one: me. In many areas — and for those who knew me, know that — I would strive for perfection at an almost rigidity, but I don’t set rules for this blog — mainly for the fact that I only have to write at least 300 words almost every day about anything. And if I do not want to write anyway, it is fine. No rules, no themes, sometimes almost no editing. Just a commonplace blog.
Reading in my tabs:
- Muslims celebrated the end of Ramadan in Animal Crossing.
- Geoff Manaugh on the acoustic effects of the coronavirus on urban environments. “We are being given a seemingly once-in-a-lifetime acoustic opportunity: to redesign urban space for sound, highlighting noises we might want to hear.”
- “Our formal economy is only possible because it’s subsidised by women’s unpaid work.” How women are getting squeezed by the pandemic.
- “The novel coronavirus has unleashed two parallel pandemics. One is the biological pandemic of COVID-19. The second is a social pandemic of digital misinformation: an infodemic. This ‘infodemic’ not just militates against our success in containing COVID-19; it fundamentally threatens to weaken the democratic values that underpin our societies.”
- What precisely is the new normal?
- How international users unwittingly build up WeChat’s Chinese censorship apparatus.
- More than ever, we need sustainable, secure left tech infrastructure for social justice movements.
- “We’re not essential, we’re expendable.” Denita Jones, a call-center worker in Dallas, tells The Guardian that the lifting of lockdown will disproportionately hurt black people.
- Toda mi obra es contra la policía.
- Reading: Still finishing up Angela Davis’ Freedom is a Constant Struggle, which sadly is still relevant in these times. Started Catherine Chung’s The Tenth Muse because I am impatient — only 11% in so far and I already like the book.
- Listening: How to be an antiracist.
- Viewing: This talk with Rob Larson, author of Bit Tyrants, on Silicon Valley and the coronavirus crisis.
- Food & Drink: I recently bought a box of earl grey tangerine teabags during my recent grocery trip, and I never had any idea how good it was, especially with some dash of milk! It’s becoming my favourite tea now.