Looking Back (and forward)

It’s the end of November (well, beginning of December as I post this)…so maybe it’s decision month. That is, I began this blog approximately one year ago — November 2011 — and now maybe is a time to pause and say: what now?

This blog evolved primarily out of my website, The Great Canadian Guide to the Movies (& TV) which I had been maintaining for well over a decade. I kept promising myself I would expand the themes of my blog posts (and I have on occasion) but equally, I figured most of the visitors to this blog were coming here because of the Canadian film & TV theme and wouldn’t really be interested if I strayed too far afield, too often. At the Great Canadian Guide to the Movies & TV — in which I post capsule reviews — I had also posted long form essays…occasionally. Sometimes one every month…or even longer between. When I decided to start a blog, I made the promise that I would up-date it with some new post every few days — just to keep it alive, and as a kind of writing exercise for myself. This, of course, has led to a wee bit of repetition in topics and themes as I probably end up repeating myself a lot.

And after 12 months (well, 13) — I now have to look back and say: so, is there any point to it all? This isn’t exactly a new thought with me. Prior to starting this blog I had been thinking about that with my Canadian film site — a site which served a genuine purpose when I started, there being no wikipedia then, and the Canadian film entries at the Internet Movie Database often Spartan or non-existent. My site was, I’d like to think, an important — a necessary — presence for Canadian film and TV on the internet.

But now? I’m not so sure, there being a lot more places to find info on Canadian movies and TV than there used to be (if not exactly conveniently lumped together as my site has done).

So beginning a blog acted as a kind push to regalvanize myself after doing the same thing for so many years and wondering if it was any longer relevant.

Now I’m going to be honest and open — and reveal my soft, vulnerable centre. This blog is partly an ego trip.

What? you gasp. But you always seem so humble!

Seriously though, that’s true of all blogs, editorials, and personal writings in general, whether a self-poster, a Huffington Post blogger, or a newspaper columnist. Writers figure they have something of value to say, and wisdom to impart. Even when they don’t. It’s smug and egotistical…and just human nature.

Writing this blog — and my Canadian film site in general — I was hoping to toss ideas out there, contribute to the discourse, and maybe get people talking.

And I’m not sure that’s really happened. People do visit my blog (and my film site) — which tickles me pink. People occasionally comment and respond to things I’ve written. But I’m not sure this has ever become more than a blip on the radar — if that. Partly that’s just because, well, I suspect a lot of people aren’t aware of the site or this blog. Partly I suspect it’s because I’m just not really saying anything that enough people find interesting. Partly I suspect that my site holds a slightly ambivalent place in the thoughts of people within the Canadian film biz. I’ve been aware of Canadian film & TV folk who continuously lament the lack of attention and discussion given to Canadian film & TV…yet never allude to my site in their writings even when I know (for various reasons) that they are aware of it. And I suspect that’s because it is a “review” site — and they don’t always like my reviews. They want people talking about Canadian film & TV…just so long as those people are saying what they want to hear.

Personally…I’m not sure that contributes to anything. Having people just blithely dismiss Canadian film and TV isn’t helpful…yet neither is simply saying everything is wonderful and keep doing what you’re doing guys! I suspect a lot of people in the biz, though aware of the problems, want to be told how they, themselves, are wonderful…and the problems lie with everyone else. But that’s not always the case.

As I say: I freely admit to some degree of egotism. After maintaining a blog for a year and a Canadian film & TV website since 1998 (!!!) I had some hope that there might be some sense it would have established a presence — an occasional reference on someone else’s blog, a passing allusion in an essay about Canadian entertainment (if only to say: “There’s this moron who wrote…”). And although that has occasionally happened…it hasn’t been often. I wrote a piece a while back about “ten ways to improve Canadian film” which I thought might encourage some responses…if only people posting contradictory suggestions on their own blogs, or inspiring a journalist to attempt something similar.

I half hoped my slightly cheeky piece about the 33 Hottest Canadian Babes might inspire some responses…again, if only to get people to throw together their own lists (or to call me a sexist bastard!). I realize such a list is frivolous — but that’s the point. Canadian film & TV needs a bit of frivolity. As well, looking over my list after the fact, and comparing it to earlier lists by others it can provoke certain topics of conversation (see if you spot what I spotted). Yes — even a hot babes list can provide grist for social, political and philosophical ruminations.

And that’s really the point. To provoke conversation.

Of course, too often the conversations either involve people who applaud you — simply because they already agree with you (which at least suggests you’re voicing an opinion wider than your own). Or they are simply interested in contradicting you. Remember the old Monty Python sketch about the distinction between an argument — an exchange of ideas — and simple contradiction? And a lot of internet arguments are simply contradiction, where neither side is really interested in listening to what the other is actually saying.

Now of course, it’s all in perspective. I can have an inflated opinion of my blog (and website) because I can ague there aren’t a lot of comparable Canadian-centric sites out there. Canuxploitation is another. TV-Eh is certainly another (well, okay…TV, Eh? is on a whole higher level of importance and utilitarianism than mine). But even in terms of blogs — most pop cultural blogs where the writer does write about Canadian stuff…it’s not the primary focus, the Canadian stuff usually squeezed in between writing about Charlie Sheen‘s latest meltdown and who should be voted off which peninsula. Blogs that do focus on Canadian stuff…usually seem to burn themselves out very quickly, the writer driving himself into the nuthouse with chronic frustration! (Or seeming to be using it to air personal show biz grievances that are better shared only with their analyst). As such, though I can claim that if your interest is in Canadian film & TV, surely my site (and blog) must be in the top ten of your “saved favourites” section…conversely, the fact that the field is rather thin means: who exactly do I expect to allude to my site?

Not that I’m alone, obviously. And people read blogs all the time without ever then writing about it or posting comments. I do it myself! I’m constantly web surfing, reading other people’s posts…and they’ll never know I was there or that I might have found their post interesting. The internet is full of blogs, websites, even professional webzines with “comments” sections forever left blank and virginal and the posters can only hope that the number of readers is greater than the number of commentators. So, really, I’m in no different a boat than a thousand of other internet posters.

And there are thousands. And after a while I have to ask: am I making a valid contribution to the discourse…or am I simply adding to the noise?

Which is another factor. It doesn’t take much perusing of everything from personal blogs to “professional” newspaper editorials to simple comments left in response to such editorials to realize that often such writings fall into three categories: that which the writer genuinely believes to be true after careful and balanced appraisal of the facts on all side of an issue, that which the writer wants to believe is true and, perhaps most insidiously, that which the writer knows isn’t true but is trying to convince the rest of us is true (ie: propaganda). And the first category is the minority. I mean, take the recent publicity over Liberal politician Justin Trudeau’s impolitic remark that Alberta conservatives have dominated the federal agenda…it doesn’t take much reading between the lines to realize that those editorialists and posters quickest to “impartially” insist the remarks have scuppered Trudeau’s political ambitions are Conservatives and NDPers who are simply trying to convince Liberals (and the unaffiliated) that Trudeau is a dead duck. (Ironically, I think it’s his recent flipflopping on the long gun registry that is more likely to hurt him, simply because whether you are right or left, it makes him seem like, well, a smarmy politician, willing to say whatever he thinks will win him the most votes).

I read editorials and op-ed pieces to get a sage assessment of current issues…and too often all I get is noise. And honestly, I try — I try — not to fall into that, acknowledging counter arguments even when I’m putting forward my point of view…but maybe I’m just fooling myself.

And, of course, there’s the personal factor — whether doing this blog, and maintaining my Canadian film site is really tenable given my personal circumstances anymore, regarding time, dwindling financial resources, and health, and other factors.

So I think maybe I’ll aim for the end of the year — I have a few posts drafted, a few more ideas I did want to pontificate upon. Then, after that…who knows? Maybe I’ll keep going. Maybe I’ll keep going but cut back on the frequency of posts, or maybe give more attention to topics I kept meaning to write about, but didn’t in favour of the primary theme. And maybe I’ll just stop, realizing a blog can be a crutch, an excuse to feel like I’m doing something productive…when I’m not accomplishing anything.

At this point, I’m not sure which. But I didn’t want to be one of those guys who just suddenly stops blogging and people wonder what happened.

So with that said: if I’ve failed in my task to get the chattering classes chattering, and to be a provocateur of the purveyors of Canadian cinema, then what’s needed? Well, in my previous post I mused about what might be a good idea for a Canadian film/TV focused website/blog (I had actually intended to post it after I posted this…but reversed the order).

And next time? Well, maybe I’ll tease it by positing a riddle: what’s the difference between a Canadian musician and a Canadian filmmaker?

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