Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

A case of the blogs

So, what am I doing here?

That’s not some idle, angst-ridden, existential, poseur question about my place in the universe. It’s a real question. What am I doing here? Specifically, what label am I meant to put on all these bits and bytes of electronic data that I send over a phone line (yes, dial-up is still state of the art in the west of Ireland) to some server somewhere. (Come to think of it, I don’t actually even know where my host server is physically located. And I don’t even care.)

This isn’t even a question that has popped into my head recently. I’ve been thinking about it for a good year and a half. That was when, on an impulse, I shot off an email to writer/editor/pundit Andrew Sullivan, complimenting him on his web site ( I find Sullivan fascinating to read. He has the two main qualities a good commentator needs: he is entertaining and he is thought-provoking. How can you not be provoked by someone who was totally in favor of the invasion of Iraq (and extremely critical of the American post-invasion follow-up) and who lambasts President Bush not only for running up huge deficits but also for not supporting gay rights and, in particular, gay marriage?

Anyway, I shot off my email and was surprised to get, almost immediately, a brief reply. “just checked out your movie blog,” wrote Sullivan (who, like so many people using email, eschews the shift and punctuation keys), “looks great”

I basked in the compliment for only a few nanoseconds before I went, “Huh?” I had never before thought of what I was doing as a blog. Now, as someone who takes a bit of an interest in the evolution of the language, I was aware that the nomenclature for internet publishing has always been in flux. In the early days of the world wide web, what I (and everyone else) was doing was called a “home page.” I’m not sure why. Presumably, it was based on the assumption that anyone who put together their own HTML document was probably using it as their default page in their internet browser. The name also made sense, sort of, because the content of most people’s home pages seemed to be personal info and photographs, basically chronicling what they were doing at home.

Somewhere along the way, it seemed that people began referring to these pages as “web pages,” perhaps in recognition of the fact that not all of them were people’s default browser pages or about their home life. Then, it seemed as though people were using the term “web site,” in acknowledgement of the fact that these online documents, more often than not, consisted of a collection of pages rather than a single page. Now, it seems, they are all “blogs.”

The term “blog,” of course, is an abbreviated form of the term “web log.” As name implies, it was originally a kind of an online diary or journal. Although I joked about being a blogger (instead of a film critic) in my recent review of Sideways, I never actually thought of myself as a blogger, even as the term became trendier and hotter. In my mind, I always thought of blogs as one paragraph after another, documenting routine things like “Got up this morning. Watered the plants.” That’s not what I did. I was producing an Online Publication. I was doing the online version of a print magazine, just like, say, Time or Newsweek or The New Republic, except that I wasn’t actually doing the print magazine part.

But then “blog” and “blogger” became buzz words. Bloggers were allegedly affecting the presidential race last year. Then bloggers “brought down” Dan Rather (who finally signed off from anchoring this week; courage, Dan!). Now they were being included, along with AM talk radio and cable news, as “new media.” This was to distinguish them from established newspapers and magazines and major television networks, which were now labeled “mainstream media,” or MSM. Others were calling MSM “old media,” a nice juxtaposition to “new media,” which echoed Donald Rumsfeld’s not-so-subtle putdown of certain European leaders, when he divided the continent into “new Europe” and “old Europe.”

The format of the blogs, generally, is, again as the name implies, in the form of a constantly running transcript. The first entry you read at the top of the page is the newest one. As you read down, you read increasingly older material. It’s like a virtual tickertape or, in the parlance of journalists, it’s the copy coming off the wire. But instead of coming from the AP or the UPI, it’s coming from a (probably) lone guy sitting in front of his computer in (perhaps) his pajamas. While I like to think of my web site as being a reference, with all the film reviews listed in alphabetical order, what I do has been more of a blog all along. The main page lists the ten most recent reviews in reverse order. My comments archive page does the same for the weekly commentaries. And, I even have a page that lists all movie reviews in the order they were written, so that the reader, if she or he so wishes, can read everything I wrote in the order that I wrote it. Could it be more blog-like?

So, the bottom line, I guess, is that if you want to call this “a movie blog,” I won’t argue with you. Especially since I never mind cashing in on a hot buzz word.

Incidentally, I have recently added a separate page of statistics, for which you can find a link on the reader feedback page. I will update or expand the statistics page as the mood hits me. In addition to a chart of monthly “hits,” it includes a list of the ten most accessed weekly commentaries. I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising that the No. 1 spot goes to my infamous savaging of the endless women-as-victim slate of movies that the Lifetime channel airs. That diatribe spurred nearly as much email as anything I’ve ever written. What is surprising is that another commentary that sparked as much or more reaction as that one, the one where I thought I was joking about the pronunciation of Cannes, did not make the top ten.

The list, on the whole, is a strange grab bag. Predictably, it includes a few lists of top movies (Christmas classics, the funniest, best war movies) and a couple of my beginning-of-year remembrances of people who have passed on. Less predictably, it also includes my tribute to Katharine Hepburn and discussions of the films Minority Report and In the Bedroom.

* * *

Fans of the late great television series Babylon 5 suffered another devastating blow a couple of weeks ago, although thankfully this time it wasn’t the death of another cast member. It was, rather, the death (for now) of the dream of seeing the Babylon 5 story brought to the big screen. In a letter to B5 fans published on the internet, series creator J. Michael Straczynski announced that, after more than a year of negotiations, the plans to make a movie called Babylon 5: The Memory of Shadows had dead-ended. He didn’t go into great detail and did not confirm or deny the rumors that the financial backers had wanted to recast characters that had appeared in the TV series, a controversial subject among the fan base.

While a disappointment, there is a silver lining, according to JMS. He revealed that this was not the first attempt at a B5 motion picture and opined that it would not be the last. Just as, after several years following its TV demise, Star Trek finally went on to a new life as a feature film (and several sequels), he did not doubt that the same would eventually be true of Babylon 5.

-S.L., 10 March 2005

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