Snark Jerk

I remember back in the early days of blogging when it seemed (to me) quite brave to raise your head above the parapet and leave a comment on a blog. I mean, who was I to say anything in public about something someone else had written? Who would care what I thought? Obviously once I started my own blog I realised how pathetically grateful bloggers (well, this one at least) were for any kind of response or interaction which proved that people were reading what you’d written. And so I moved from lurking to commenting on a fairly regular basis.

Once social media took off this kind of behaviour became normal, as interaction was the whole point, and also maybe because it involved responding to people with whom you already had some kind of relationship. You knew what you could say and how to behave within the context of a pre-existing relationship. Lurkers still exist: probably only about a quarter of my facebook friends (if that) ever comment on my posts there, while the rest either read but keep silent, or just scroll past me.

But this freedom to respond has another side. As you get the immediate feedback and validation of comment “like”s and other responses, you get a little addicted. Your ego swells a little and you find yourself wanting to comment more and more. Even when perhaps you don’t really have anything interesting to say. What’s more, in my particular case there’s often an instinctive tendency towards snark: the temptation, when you don’t have anything really constructive or substantial to contribute, to simply make some sarcastic or snide joke.  It’s a kind of knee-jerk response (which I have christened “snark-jerk”). Trying to be the first one to say something funny or clever (in a superficial way) can often backfire, and while I think that most of the time I manage to walk that fine line without falling on the wrong side, occasionally in my rush to say something witty I’ll end up writing something which could be taken as mean-spirited or rude.

I’m working to reign it in, but please feel free to point it out to me if you feel any slip through the net (he said, mixing his metaphors).



I’ve never done National (which nation is it, anyway?) Blog Post Month before. And maybe it’s a little perverse to do it now that blogging seems to be declining in popularity. That appeals to my contrary nature, of course. But it’s also a way to force me to write something (and I need a push). And to maybe think about new things.

Because to be honest I’m getting a bit bored of blogging about restaurants. I still love eating out, but I’ve lost interest in pointing my camera at my plate and writing a caption along the lines of “This tasted nice”. I’ve had my fill. I’m stuffed. I need to go on a diet.

I promise to write something every day for a month, and not to cop out by just posting a photo or copying and pasting a quotation. Suggestions for topics are welcome.


J tagged me in a Q&A meme. It’d be rude not to reply, no?

Where do you do most of your writing/blogging?

At work. There, I said it.

What books were your childhood favorites?

Hmmm. I know I read a lot as a child, but have a hard time recalling specific books. I can name plenty of kids books I liked, but a lot of them I read as an adult. I do seem to remember liking Nicholas Fisk‘s novels. And Roald Dahl, obviously. James and the Giant Peach is probably my favourite, but it has to be the edition I had which was illustrated by Nancy Burkert. Nowadays all you can find is the Quentin Blake version, and I can’t stand Quentin Blake.

Who is your favorite fictional character?
Pretty much anyone from the Gormenghast books. Amazing gallery of memorable grotesques.

What is your favorite time of day and why?

First thing in the morning. Preferably on a clear day. Quiet and untouched and full of promise.

Have you ever Googled yourself and been surprised at what you’ve found?

Who hasn’t googled themselves? But there were no surprises. My blog, my imdb profile, a couple of work-related things.

Who would play me in a movie of my life?

Easy. Billy Zane.

One material possession I could not live without?

Can’t really think of anything. If anything I’ve been getting less materialistic as I get older, and less interested in hanging on to things. In the proverbial fire I’d probably save the hard drive back-up with all my photos on it.

Have you ever been naked in public?
Do beaches count? If so, yes.

What is your dream car?

I don’t really dream about cars, to be honest. For me they’re purely functional, not objects of desire.

What/who/where was your first proper kiss?

Define “proper”. Emma Davidson at age four, but that was a fairly chaste, lips closed kind of thing. So then it was probably a lady at university whose face I remember but whose name escapes me. Dead romantic, me.

Your correspondent

“She was funny. Yet despite my feelings for her, I realised that I would have preferred a letter to her presence. Is this pathology due to the predominance of written correspondence in my life? Rare are those whose physical presence is preferable to one of their letters – assuming, of course, that they have a minimum of letter-writing talent. For most people such a realisation would mean an admission of weakness, a lack of energy, an inability to confront the ‘real’. People have said to me ‘You don’t like people in real life’. I retort ‘Why are people necessarily more real if they’re standing in front of you? Why is their reality not better, or just different, in a letter?’ […] ‘There are people I know only via their letters. Certainly, I’d be curious to see them, but it’s far from indispensable.’

Amélie Nothomb, Une forme de vie (my translation)


I haven’t done a meme post for a while, but I saw this one over at cheeseweb and thought I’d give it a go, mostly because it’s a thinly-veiled excuse to link back to posts from my own archive.

  • Your first post Well, it was a fairly dull “Ooh, look! I’ve got a blog!” kind of thing. 
  • A post you enjoyed writing the most I enjoy writing the people-watching posts that go in the “human zoo” section. Also this one about Austrian food was fun.
  • A post which had a great discussion. I often get a series of isolated comments but it’s not often that it develops beyond that into a full-blown discussion, so it’s gratifying when that does happen. This one wasn’t bad. I like it when people challenge or disagree with what I’ve said, as it forces me to go back and think more clearly or deeply about the topic.  I’ve also been known to spar with commenters on other people’s blogs. This was a recent memorable (for me, anyway) exchange.
  • A post on someone else’s blog that you wish you’d written. Far too many to mention. I wish I’d written everything The Nonist ever wrote, for example.
  • Your most helpful post. Not for me to say, surely? I don’t think much of my stuff falls into the “helpful” category, but maybe people could use my restaurant reviews for advice on where to go for a fancy meal in Belgium?
  • A post with a title that you are proud of No idea. Most of my titles are either functional or bad puns, but some people said they liked Lighting candles.
  • A post that you wish more people had read. Well, most of them, to be honest, especially the old ones back when I didn’t have any readers. I’m often surprised by certain posts not getting any substantial reaction, like this one about old family photos, which I really love, for example. Then again, maybe it’s too personal and no-one has anything to say about photos of my relatives?


I have about 40 blogs in my feed reader. Is that a lot? I have no idea. Then again, about half of them post pretty infrequently, so it’s not like I have to catch up with 40 people’s doings every day, or even every week.

Of these:

  • 4 are people I knew in real life (I hate that phrase – is the internet just imaginary?) before they started blogging
  • 5 are people I met in real life after following their blogs
  • 6 are people with whom I’ve had no contact, and I read them regularly but never comment (often because they don’t permit comments)
  • 3 are well-known writers who happen to have blogs, rather than well-known bloggers
  • 21  (the largest group) are people on whose blogs I regularly comment and with whom I’ve also had some other kind of direct contact; email, facebook, twitter or flickr. In fact if I like your blog it’s highly likely that at some point I’ve tried to make contact with you in some way, if only to say that I like your blog.
  • I haven’t counted “blogs” in my feed reader which are part of magazines or news sites. I’m talking about people who just decide to share their thoughts online for free, not journalists.