Invasion of the blog: The net's pseudo-soapbox

AU students operate almost 200 Web logs

Since the dawn of time, man has yearned to express himself. Sumerian cuneiform tablets, Egyptian papyrus, Gutenberg bibles - all these testify to the inborn need to share one's knowledge with the world and to tell others of the deep philosophical insights gained over the course of alife.

Unfortunately, papyrus is hard to come by outside of the Nile River delta. Gutenberg's last printing press went out of service years ago and, let's face it, clay tablets are made of clay - which is almost mud, which is gross, not to mention hard to photocopy.

Enter the Web log - in its most basic form, a tool that allows the layman to share ideas with anyone connected to the Internet. The basic "blog" is a Web site filled with text, links and pictures posted by the author. Web log authors write about almost everything, catering to every audience conceivable. A Google search for the term "blog" yields 24 million hits, including such winners as The Official George W. Bush Blog, The Dullest Blog in the World and Will Wheaton dot Net (a blog written by a former child star once featured on "Star Trek: The Next Generation"). There are even pornographic Web logs - foul sites that this writer knows nothing about and has certainly never frequented.

Creating a blog is extremely simple. Web sites like blogger.com, livejournal.com and xanga.com all offer free Web space and the templates necessary to run a blog. All the wannabe-blogger needs is an e-mail address.

Naturally, hundreds of new blogs spring up daily. AU students operate almost 200 blogs, according to the Daily Jolt (american.dailyjolt.com). As

the pool of blogs grows, it becomes more interconnected, as each author links to their friends' blogs, who then link to their friends and so on. Because of this fundamental interconnectedness, some media pundits (especially at technology-savvy outlets like TechTV) have proclaimed that blogs are actually creating a culture of their own.

Blogger.com recently featured an article about how to date through blogs. Bloggers have even created an award, The Bloggie. (Apparently, it wasn't titled to showcase the judge's creativity.)

Bloggers on the AU campus seem to disagree about whether this culture even exists, though.

"Beyond a handful of personal blogs and the [Howard] Dean students blog, it doesn't seem like there's an AU blogging community," said junior and Eagle editorial page editor David Hodges, creator of the AU College Republicans blog.

Carlos Ramirez, head of the Jackal's Ramblings blog, disagrees.

"I feel that there is a large community of people blogging at AU," Ramirez said. "I have met many people through blog. I found that a lot of freshmen used the blogs to meet students before they came here."

A third opinion was offered up by the eternally mononomial "Agatha," who writes The Agatha Experience.

"The AU blogging community seems to be united only through a common linking on the Daily Jolt," she said. "I've never met friends through blogging."

It seems that there's no way to generalize a single, all-encompassing statement about the AU blogging community. It's different for everyone taking part in it - every blogger has a unique experience.

The Agatha Experience www.theagathaexperience.com

Apparently not suffering from a lack of self-confidence, Agatha writes her blog under the motto "Because the beautiful people can't be wrong." Unlike the other four blogs listed here, Agatha owns her own domain and designed the site herself. This gives it, if not a tremendous helping of dignity, at least uniqueness.

"My blog's design is incredibly poor, yet somehow endearing," Agatha herself noted.

Yet the design is all that's poor about this blog. Agatha is endlessly hilarious, if sometimes offensive. Her entries scamper from one topic to the next like a 6-year-old on speed - the only similarity one post has to another is its entertainment value. One day, she discovers that Googling "Agatha is a whore" yields her own site as the top link. The next, she regales readers with a story about offering a homeless man a dollar to freestyle for her.

Agatha started her blog during her first year at AU.

"[I] was intrigued by the revolting self-indulgence of blogging," Agatha said.

And she's certainly got the self-indulgence down. The Agatha Experience offers T-shirts, mugs and plush bears festooned with Che Guevera-style pictures of Agatha herself.

But ol' Agatha has made sure none of her blogging fame goes to her head.

"I'm not egocentric," she said. "I'm far too trendy. I'm heliocentric."

Final Verdict: You'll laugh, but you'll feel bad about it tomorrow.

Jackal's Ramblings www.xanga.com/home.aspx?user=terrorista84

Carlos Ramirez's blog, written under the tagline "12 months online and still kicking," doesn't have a mission. It lacks any clear objective and seems to exist only for the author and his friends' own satisfaction - it is, therefore, the prototype for a blog, merely a journal of Ramirez's daily life and times.

It chronicles his fraternity's recent startup (Pi Kappa Phi), his squabbles in the AU General Assembly (of which he has many) and his battles with a comment-poster who calls himself "carlossucks" and seems intent on hurting not only Ramirez, but the English language as well ("the frat u r founding is the moronic").

In fact, the most entertaining parts of this blog are the tales of parties gone awry, as in a recent post where he quoted a drunk he had run into:

"I don't know why the hell that happened ... umm ... take the tap off and hold it upside down ... how should I ... know? I'm an alcoholic, not a kegologist."

Ah, kegology - the noble science. Furthermore, it's extremely rare to find such evocative vomit imagery in a piece of non-medical writing. Ramirez captures all the stomach-evacuating action brilliantly.

Final Verdict: Some of the quotes and stories are pretty funny, but much of the blog has too many inside jokes for the casual reader to enjoy, especially for someone who doesn't care an ounce about the GA.

Patriot League Hoops http://patriotleague.blogspot.com/

The author of this site, Matt B., never really explains his connection to the Patriot League. But he's so knowledgeable about the teams and players in it that he might as well be the commissioner.

Only fans of AU basketball will really enjoy reading it, but there's an amusing quirkiness to the site that numbs the stinging dullness of schedule listings for the rest of us. For example, after an extended absence, Matt posted two things: "I'm still here" and a photo of Mark Twain staring out at the reader. It doesn't make sense, but it breaks up the monotony of reading about Colgate's defensive strategies.

Matt also includes occasional allusions to "The Simpsons" and "The Dukes of Hazzard" ("Them Bucknell Boys Sure Is Brainy," he writes). Yet through it all, Matt manages to keep the focus on basketball, never resorting to talking about himself. He runs the most business-like blog of the five covered here. Whether that's a good thing or not depends on if the reader enjoys college sports.

Final verdict: Very interesting if you love basketball. Naptime if you don't.

Random Chef's Random Ramblings www.livejournal.com/users/randomchef/

Randomchef, who chooses to blog anonymously, really likes music. A lot. In fact, most of Randomchef's blog is devoted to covering music and music-related issues. Entry topics cover CD purchases, games played with people's iTunes lists and upcoming and recent band appearances.

Each post on the blog is accompanied by an icon showing Randomchef's mood at the time of posting. It takes a while to realize that the icons are from the film "A Mighty Wind," which is, of course, all about music.

Occasionally, a post not about music weasels its way onto the site.

"The window from my bathroom looks east, and I love seeing the sunrise through the silhouetted trees while I brush my teeth," Matt B. wrote. "Every morning should start with a good dose of beauty."

This sort of profundity is unsettling when placed directly next to a half-page worth of "American Idol" predictions.

Final Verdict: Probably pretty entertaining if you know Randomchef and like music. Otherwise, steer clear.

The College Republicans aurepublicans.blogspot.com/

If you're an AU conservative, you may want to visit this blog, which is maintained by about 10 writers (that probably translates to about half the conservatives on campus) and features links and commentary on current political topics. It labels itself "A blog brought to you by capitalism, democracy, liberty and some of American University's finest conservatives and libertarians." The blog is set up in a post-and-comment format, with the bulk of it made up of links and excerpts from articles like "Tolerance and the Far Left" and "Political Correctness Runs Wild in Canada."

The site also links to other Republican blogs, including "Blogs for Bush," the central directory for dozens of blogs written by people who really want him re-elected. Campaigns in need of volunteers find space to advertise here, too. Currently, Alice Forgy Kerr is asking for help in her run for a Kentucky congressional seat.

David Hodges, who founded the Web site a few months ago, summed it up best.

"Ideally, I'd like people who aren't traditionally exposed to the conservative viewpoint to come to our site and find engaging, intelligent debate about the issues of the day," he said.

Final Verdict: Well-maintained and frequently updated, though not something you might peruse to relax. Liberals' blood pressures will skyrocket when reading some articles.

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