January 13, 2012

Of Shoes - And Ships - And Sailing Wags


© The artist formerly known as O Docker, 2012

This will be another of my long-winded and rambling posts, So, if you're in a hurry, you may want to skip it altogether and head straight over to Facebook.

A few days ago, Tillerman posted about an invitation extended to a few young bloggers by shoe giant Puma to visit the current stop on the Volvo around the world yacht race. The current stop is in exotic Abu Dhabi.

What may seem strange at first is that the bloggers are not sailing bloggers. They're urban hipsters, fashionista, photographers, and, oh, did I mention that they're all pretty young? Puma, if you hadn't noticed, has spent a few bucks sponsoring one of the modest little sailing ships that's entered in the Volvo race. But Puma's products, like the bloggers, also have very little to do with sailing. They make shoes which used to be functional and boring things for joggers. But their latest offering are, well, how shall I describe them? I've given you my best shot at a deconstructionist interpretation at the top of this post.

"What's this," typed the Tiverton typist, "I've been tenaciously typing about sailing for years now in one of the best-read sailing blogs on the planet" (he didn't actually say those words, but they were there for the reading if you read between the lines) "and no one has offered me any free trip to Abu Abu Dhabi Dhabi." "No one has given me behind the scenes entrée to this great sailing spectacle."

He was mildly miffed. He waxed a bit ironic, hurled a few brickbats at the upstart bloggers (whoever they were), was called for his curmudgeonliness, and has been back-pedalling with apologies and compensatory posts ever since.

Worse, these post-pubescent, pimply-faced poseurs with their instagrams and their cinemagraphs had the cheek to have more readers than Tillerman. How dare they?

Hmmm, did someone say big numbers of readers? And right in the sweet spot of the hottest demographic for a shoe company? You could hear the knees of the Puma marketing dudes quivering and knocking.

"Send the kids off to the races! Put them at the helm! Let them drive!"

And the knock-kneed shoe Nazis had news for Tillerman, too:  "No sloop for you!"

So, what are the lessons here?

I, like Tillerman, am of an age that needs lessons from life's comeuppances. Ours is a cosmos of cause and effect. Excrement doesn't end up on our cheek for no reason. It comes from somewhere. Somewhere, there must be a chimpanzee with a shit-eating grin on his face.

I think the chimpanzee in our little parable is father time. He is marching on. He is having some fun with graying old codgers like Tillerman and me.

We look at the work of the young bloggers and scratch our bald heads. Where are the carefully stated ideas? The logical arguments? The premise? The expostulation? The restatement? The conclusion? Where are the twenty-seven eight-by-ten color glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one?

I think, little by little, things like expostulation and carefully-developed arguments, and all the rest are getting moved up to the attic of time. They are taking their place alongside the victrola. the hula hoop, the typewriter, and the iPhone 3.

Folks in their twenties don't talk the way I do. Or think the way I do. Or laugh at what I do. They have their own language and use it as well as I do mine. They are in more of a hurry than I am. They use fewer words. They talk like they text.

I feel like I am gradually getting nudged towards the attic, too. I'm not quite ready to go yet, but no one seems to care much if I do. And I think things will get on perfectly OK when I'm no longer here.

Another thing I've noticed lately that seems somehow related to all of this is less activity amongst the sailing blogs I follow. Fewer posts. Fewer comments. Maybe fewer blogs. To some extent, I think people are spending more time on Twitbook and less time blogging.

But the Puma Ten may be proof that blogging is alive and well, but just speaking a different language. The paragraph may be morphing into the cinemagraph. Not better. Not worse. But evolving, as things always do.

I was hoping all of this would come together a bit more cohesively at the end of this post. But I still can't quite pull it all together. There is my generation's obsession with neat little arguments that lead logically to clear conclusions, again.

If I were one of the Puma Ten, I don't think I would care much about that. I got my thoughts out there. It's your job to make sense of them.

So, maybe I'll throw this in your lap. What do you think? Is blogging dead? Has its golden age passed or is it about to begin? Is Twitbook better? Where are you spending most of your time online, lately?

Are you still awake?

Am I still breathing?

I wonder if the Puma Ten will know where the title of this post comes from.



  1. This will be one of my long-winded and rambling comments. I don't do Facebook.

    Puma? Yuck. Volvo - a Chinese company now - Yuck. Predatory multinational corporations are dinosaurs now - the walking dead. Energy and other resource constraints will turn globalisation and its inherent exploitation on its ugly head. B'bye.

    Tillerman is awesome and I would never want to compare my fellow bloggers to each other. What's the point? They are all head and shoulders above me. But I must say that I am very happy to read a new post by you, O Docker, as your little grey cells operate on plane that is stratospheric compared to my own, and though there is less oxygen up there, your posts are always like being slipped some oxygen.

    As for all this writing and reading of blogs, I am reminded of Bob Newhart's routine about if you had an infinite number of monkeys on an infinite number of typewriters they would eventually type all the great works of literary history. I may have already used this in a comment on this blog in fact. The punch line is "hey Harry, I think I've got something here - 'to be or not to be, that is the gazorninblat'."

    As for some of your questions: Is blogging dead? Has its golden age passed or is it about to begin? Is Twitbook better? I must answer that blogging is not dead because there are still readers for all the drivel out there. Perhaps due to a yearning for human contact which ironically can only occur if one steps away from the computer and goes outside to confront (embrace) the real world and one's next door neighbors.

    Did blogging have a golden age? I doubt it. More of a dark interlude.

    I don't own a cell phone (for seven years now) or tweet or do Facebook or a host of other activities that are probably out there of which I am not even aware. I have enough trouble staying real with simple email and blogging. And I have doubts about those.

    My "new" direction is toward the slow life. I know it will seem "backward" to most people who read blogs, but to me it is embracing that which works; is proven. Just as I rejected cell phones when my "job" no longer required that I have one and automobile ownership when I no long had to endure that mess. Less is often truly more. Really. So...

    I'm buying a typewriter - an Olympia SM9 like I had in college back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth. I wrote my college papers on an SM9 - one that got a "D", others which earned "B" or "A", and another which actually got me thrown out of a class about "European religion during the renaissance". (Dissing John Calvin was the last straw for my professor.)

    So we'll see how much time I spend blogging vs hammering away on the SM9, and what effect it has on my grey cells. Seems to me, the internet tubes are too easy with spell check, cut and paste etc. Yet people still manage to use "there" interchangeably with "their" or (my personal pet peeve) write words that don't exist such as "irregardless".

    With typing, one must try to get it right the first time which requires more thought or face the prospect of starting over or using an eraser or white-out. I think it will help save some of my grey cells. I hope. I'll see. I'll let you know by snail mail if you join my mailing list, and I get around to publishing something....

  2. I think I'll go and have some oysters for lunch now.

  3. I'm with you. All this reading has got me hungry.

  4. You don't have to read.

    You can just look at the pictures.

  5. If you're having oysters, will there be beer? I'm in, if there is beer...make that rum...on second thought, make that bourbon.

    Where's the share button? I need the share button!

  6. There's a $5 sharing charge, Joe.

  7. I rather loved what our respected musical ursine blog-colleague said.

    although technically pandas aren't bears. But maybe they are bearlike enough to be ursine?

  8. I was once on a plane filled with WAGS heading out for the Football World Cup but that's another story.

    Its difficult to find something new to post on hundreds of times a year, even for something fun like sailing or kayaking.

    It helps if your life is on the water (e.g. sailing around the world) but not many of us can do that.

    So the options are:
    a) post less often
    b) post on other things
    c) make stuff up

    I do quite a bit of b) and c) - its my blog after all.

    I wondered if there was involvement from Tumblr and Instagram in the Puma 10 project which meant that blogger bloggers weren't that welcome anyhow.

    It was a bit sad that fashion seems more important than sailing to one of the Volvo teams, but the medium isn't the message as Google+ can do similar things.

    But (getting to the point) it doesn't matter what your platform or age is as long as your content is good.

    Cinemagraphs are lovely but its just one format and there are many other types and styles of content.

    It doesn't matter how you blog - just be interesting.

  9. well said, panda... although your travel back to an old-style typewriter seems odd to me, but maybe I'm too young. not twenty-something young, but still. and I hope my lack of capital letters doesn't bother you too much.

    JP, your a-b-c list is just about spot on. my Sunfish sailing season in Michigan is only about 3 months of the summer (partly due to weather, partly due to being busy with 3 young boys... school, sports, etc).

    I don't use Facebook, although pretty much EVERY single other family member does, so I feel like I miss out sometimes because of it and they way the communicate back and forth over on FB.

    I've joined up on the Twitter thing, but I started that mostly to follow sports, and promote some sports writing I was doing last year. I now use Twitter to follow some sailors, some bloggers, and some even sailing bloggers - but I really use it more for following the sports (largely the pointy football Baydog and I happen to enjoy).

    so, I guess to the aging bloggers out there that are wandering a bit, I say keep up the blogging. I'm sometimes slow to catch up on some of everyone's posts, but I follow you all (using Google Reader), so I will read them soon enough.

    as I said, my sailing season is short, so posting and reading other blogs about sailing helps me keep excited about it, and even more eager to fine-tune things on my Sunfish, and get an even earlier start to sailing the next year.

    cheers, my2fish

    ps. for all those calling out it's time to go eat, I have already eaten dinner, so maybe a beer is in order.

  10. Yes Joe. There was beer with the oysters and a fabulous view of Newport Harbor with a 30-40 knot breeze whipping up some nice crunchy waves. Sailor's paradise.

  11. The Carpenter1/13/12, 4:06 PM

    O Oysters, you've had a pleasant run! Shall we be trotting home again?

  12. But answer came there none--
    And this was scarcely odd, because
    They'd eaten every one.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. We stand on the shoulders of oysters. And the heads of beer.

  15. Well, one thing we have learned is that O Docker's question has elicited the longest average posts since I have been following!

    And they are all from the same circle (family) of like minded bloggers who read and and comment and socialize on each other's blogs.

    What's wrong with that?!

    The point is not to have the broadest, hippest audience with the biggest numbers... is it?

    It's a pure form self expression that is true to your soul and personality.

    Let whomever chooses to join the party, come, and so be it! Do you really want to shape your message for a broader audience?

    Rejoice in the enlightened family who are here, and don't chase the "twits".

  16. My take on all this is a little different Mojo. I think it is good to be exposed to all kinds of writing and blogging influences, and then to allow yourself to develop and change your own personal style in a way that reflects your own personality but also the influences of others.

    I'm not going to start writing like Mr. Hepburn tomorrow. But I think I have learned a lot about different styles of blogging from watching the Puma Ten over the last few days, and I think I will incorporate some of those learnings into my own style.

    I have written before about this at Are You a Mockingbird and Coarse Sailing. I don't want to write the same old stuff in the same old way until I drop dead of boredom. I want to learn and change and have fun with this blogging game.

  17. Couldn't agree more, Tillerman; exposure to all kinds of other voices and perspectives is how we grow and learn. If not, we die/fade into irrelevance.

    Just please don't dumb it down. As Panda noted above, we need your "oxygen"!

  18. No man ever steps in the same river twice.

  19. I'm not buyin' the Puma Ten
    They weren't sailors now
    and they're not even then

    Yeah it's cool to take photos
    of camels and sails
    Of dates and skyscrapers and
    legs over rails
    But do they really know what it is like
    To hook under that strap, sit out and hike?
    And grasp the mainsheet with all of their will
    While their asses itch from salt water until
    They make it back to the dock and then think
    Let's rinse down the boat and get us a drink
    And during the whole drive home their minds replaying
    The day's sights and sounds and thoughts and just saying
    An earlier start tomorrow would be nice
    'Cause we gotta stop and get 3 bags of ice

    The hipsters in SoHo are not gathered 'round
    The table debating whose crew is most sound
    Or which boat points higher or whose course was best plotted
    Who tore more spinnakers or had windshifts spotted

    It's not about sunglasses, shoes, or fashion
    It's about the love of sailing, racing, the passion

    I'm not buyin' the Puma Ten
    They weren't sailors now
    And they're not even then

  20. Mojo, I think you're right.

    This may be the best serious discussion ever to grace the comments page on O Dock, thanks to a great group of thoughtful and articulate readers. I've been tied up at work all day and couldn't join in as I would have liked. Thanks to all of you, from Panda's opener right through to maybe the best comment I've ever seen Baydog write - and in verse, no less.

    My own take on the Puma Ten is probably closest to Tillerman's, though. No Baydog, these aren't sailors, and they'll probably never know the roar of the bottom paint and the smell of the crew, but that's OK in my book. I really haven't had a chance to look at much of their blogging, and some of them may be a bit superficial, but there does seem to be some good photo work being done and, judging from the Ned Hepburn piece that Tillerman linked to today, at least some of them can write very well.

    But what's best about this is that these are fresh voices experiencing sailing for the first time. It was exciting to see Ned Hepburn sweating through a thin veneer of cool as he got the crap scared out of him by one badassed Volvo 70.

    Any of us who write or photograph or even try to turn linguini into art can only benefit by seeing a fresh take on what we have often attempted ourselves.

    And while I may never compare anything that happens on a sailboat to a camel having sex, it's fun to imagine whether it was one hump or two.

  21. Somehow I commented to JP rather than my2fish. Sorry. So now I erase the one and post anew. "an alternate past for an alternate future..." eh?

    Thanks my2fish. lower case is fine with me. The rest of my family in the usa uses fb too, but I don't feel a need to be that connected to what they are all doing all the time.

  22. Yes Baydog, one ride on a Volvo 70 does not a sailor make, but maybe it lights a spark? Will some of them go home and find a way to try out sailing as a sport? It's possible.

    And it's even more likely that some of their readers will get the itch to try out sailing after seeing some of these pictures and reading articles like the one from Ned.

    Not of all of us grew up in a sailing family like you Baydog. I can't even remember what first triggered my interest in sailing but I think a big part of it was following the media coverage of Francis Chichester's circumnavigation in 1966/67 and the Golden Globe (first single-handed round the world race) in 1968/69.

  23. fucking old salt1/14/12, 6:55 AM

    "One hump or two" !!!!!!!



  24. Despite the trends toward shorter attention spans and graphical interfaces displacing text, J K Rowling found a huge audience among the young.

    It helps to have something to say - and the ability to say it well.

    Blog on!