A Can of Beans, Some Black-Eyed Peas

Just finished The Ground Beneath Her Feet, by India's great transplanted Canadian novelist, Calvin Rushmore. The book is a marvel, stuff like this is why I read. You have to wonder how he does it, how he makes all those ideas and strands fit together, it seems so overdetermined, and then, I kind of realized, you could give a list of randomly-chosen words and he'd be able to pull out connections and resonances. And when he gets free rein to define his own names and ideas, you just know he can do even better. And he does. The references and allusions alone are dizzying. And his tribute to Zoo Harrison, Icon, and Allen Konigsberg -- sheer brilliance.

Given the flop-down-on-couch-read-straight-through return home I made today, along with the incessant demands of other projects, as well as a slightly later-than-expected return home from work (but one well-justified by what got done in that last hour), today I'm going to refrain from originality, and instead just make like a weblog and link. I came across the following idea some time ago over at Tom Ewing's Blue Lines weblog and have been meaning to point to it for a while.

For those too lazy to click on the above link (come on, man, you won't regret it!), he wonders where all the weblog manifestoes are, specifically some sort of web log analogue to Dogme 95, which he calls (you'll need to click through into the forum) Blogme 95. Which is a really neat concept, in exactly the same way that Dogme 95 is itself a neat concept. Ewing, correctly I think, points up the value of Dogme-like purity as a rule-set, rather than an intrinsically attractive collection of ideas. The value of the Dogme 95 restraints is that they are restraints. Going further, I'd say that the usual Dogme confessions and violations are actually indications of how well the system works -- it's not that the directors are straying from their abstract notion of perfection, it's that they're being forced to fight tooth and nail against the limits they've set for themselves, so that they punch out for a bit of breathing room only and exactly where it is truly necessary. In addition to exploring more carefully the possibilities of their confined technical spaces (the scene from The Celebration illuminated only by matches that flare up and then go out leaps to mind as a particularly wonderful effect of having to live within a Dogme constraint, this one the prohibition on artificial lighting), the very process of setting limits gives them something to push back against, a creative tension that's not always so easy found.

For weblogs, well, I don't pretend to be a major authority on the subject, but it strikes me that most sites I really like are already working under a pretty substantial set of creative restrictions. The web log format itself is in some ways a monumental restriction. You have a visual format, but once you've locked into it, you basically have words and hyperlinks which are adapted to a particular, fairly constrained, reading style. I feel a bit as though web logs are themselves the Dogme of the Internet world in that sense, just because the format is so locked down: it's a kind of a backing-off from the possibilities of Flash or, in another direction, of content organized in any other way than discrete chronologically. To extend the comparison, then, I think the real possibilities here come when people are on the one hand taking weblogging seriously, respecting for the most part the various limitations and unspoken rules of the genre, and are on the other struggling against the genre, trying to find the places where they need to punch through the walls, sprinking in a little DHTML or organizing the content in a way not quite envisioned by Blogger.