A shameful habit exposed.

I don’t tweet and I don’t face-beak, but I do carry on a desultory back-and-forth with an email list consisting of a dozen or so of my oldest friends. Every month or two I’ll update them on my doings and they’ll update me on theirs, and we’ll chat a bit about uncontroversial topics.

The list used to be livelier, in part because I would share thoughts about politics and society that I now reserve for this blog. In fact I used to be something of a blowhard, replying to my friends’ terse comments with rants of a thousands words or more. Now I confine my rants to the overlooked corner of the internet where they belong. My blog was never a secret, but I haven’t advertised it to my friends. I believe some of them were unaware it existed.

The other day, one of my list buddies followed a trail of links from one of my music videos back to this blog. He then emailed the group some flattering comments about the essays he’d found here, linking to several of them. I found myself mildly annoyed. I started to compose this reply, but luckily recognized in time that I was falling back into my old ranting habit.

Why should I be annoyed that my friend drew attention to my blog? I suppose I’m ashamed of it. In olden days there was a kind of flinty dignity in self-publishing: humping your crudely photocopied comix around to the hippie bookstores; flogging your homophobic tracts on street corners; or, like high-school-age Michael, selling an ad under false pretenses to the management of the Lawson Heights Mall to finance your underground student newspaper. The self-evident futility of it limited participation to a few doughty eccentrics.

Nowadays any lazy schmoe (like grown-up Michael) can set up a free WordPress blog in five minutes, and Google will supply a steady trickle of visitors to validate his dronings, and incidentally to glance at the Google ads seeded ever more densely around his site, each glance reaping Google a fraction of a penny. At least Uber and its imitators, when they eventually destroy the taxicab business, will still be obliged to pay their drivers some bare percentage of what a taxi driver once earned; no-one drives random strangers around town as an act of self-expression. But narcissists like me are happy to undercut our professionally employed brethren by churning out copy for nothing. Then we bitch about the deteriorating quality of journalism.

So why do I keep it up? I have no illusions about the urgency of my contributions to human knowledge. When I was twenty I thought I was awfully smart; now I realize what I thought were carefully reasoned-out opinions were really only attitudes I’d picked up from the magazines and books I was reading at the time. Since then I’ve reversed nearly every one of those opinions, but I’m pretty sure that’s just a matter of reading a different set of magazines and books. It’s highly possible that I’ll revert to my earlier opinions by the time I’m sixty.

Often I forget exactly why I believe what I believe, and when I try to trace an opinion back to its foundations I realize it’s balanced on a lattice of worm-eaten two-by-fours: I don’t really know how national wealth is calculated, or how reliable crime statistics are, or how much I’m personally to blame for whatever’s going on in Syria. Occasionally I’ll attempt a bit of research to try and shore up the structure, but these topics are contentious, there are ten conflicting answers, and each one needs to be traced back to its foundations before you can decide which to put your trust in. In short, thinking is exhausting, and I’m a lazy man. To my credit, unlike most people who opine on the internet – including those who opine for money – I’m pretty upfront about my ignorance. But that doesn’t excuse my recklessly broadcasting arguments that I’m aware are no better than 50% likely to be true.

I should therefore probably shut this blog down, and maybe I will someday, once I’ve dialled my ego down another notch or two. In the meantime, strangers and friends are welcome to poke around.


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Michael A. Charles is a writer, animator, and musician currently living in the Vancouver area. He used to be the singer and guitarist for the band known as Sea Water Bliss.

You can find a selection of his cartoons, music videos, and ads on the Gallery page.

Michael isn't on LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter and won't be on whatever comes along next. If you need to reach him here's his contact info.

Garson Hampfield, Crossword Inker