Begone bloggy eye candy

What really slowed down those monks in the middle ages as they were hand-copying (= manu+script) the old books were the darned pictures. There weren’t many, of course, but the few were elaborate. Without the images, the monks, tipsy or not, would have blogged a lot more. I mean, copied.

Gutenberg made everything easier but again the problem was the darned pictures. Mankind dealt with that capacity constraint by not including much in the way of visuals in the media for a few centuries. The “press” (as in moveable type) became almost entirely textual.

Text has always been good for word guys and word gals. I can’t imagine that either Tolstoy or Nietzsche or Joyce or Goethe felt that they were held back in their creativity because they didn’t have Instagram, or because their text margins didn’t contain widgets, or because there was no sharing button.

In the early days of blogging, circa 2000, online publishing was similarly textual. At some point that changed, and I can’t even remember quite when. Now you’ve got to dress up even the most banal thought with some snazzy eye candy. Since I started this blog in 2008, even the WordPress themes (ie, layout templates) have changed so that what is being optimized is the eye candy, not the text.

I suck at providing eye candy. My idea of photography is to whip out my old iPhone when I’m at a press conference to take a grainy shot of somebody interesting, more as a memento to myself than as material for anybody else.

That’s one reason (aside from inertia and lethargy) that I have all but stopped blogging this year. I’ve got plenty of thoughts. I could write them down quickly and without effort. But then I feel I have to fiddle around for another half an hour to get the eye candy, because without eye candy a blog looks stupid, doesn’t it?

Enough. Yesterday, I put on my Rambo headband and gave the finger to eye candy. Gone is my old Wordpress theme (Linen). I have been using it for a couple of years, but it offered too much for me¹, and I offered it nothing (visually speaking) back. We had to break up.

Instead, you are now gazing at a new theme, Syntax. I found it after about 30 seconds of due diligence, so it may not last either. But it seems to promise uncluttered, simple and unapologetically textual visuals.

Maybe that’ll get me blogging again more frequently. There are bloggers out there who are confident enough in their writing to eschew eye candy. Here is one in German, here is one in English. (The latter seems to treat his retro look as the eye candy.)

So henceforth, expect no eye candy here. Just words of wisdom or, failing that, words.

¹This reminds me of a classic quote I once used in a technology article for The Economist. Soetsu Yanagi, a Japanese folk-craft philosopher of the 1930s, once wrote that

man is most free when his tools are proportionate to his needs.

34 thoughts on “Begone bloggy eye candy

  1. Alright, here are the ground rules for blogging:

    When composing a post, half one’s time and effort should be spent on finding the perfect image to put at the top, the other half on coming up with a catchy title.

    The remainder can be spent on writing the actual post.

  2. William Carlos Williams wrote (about Marianne Moore’s style) that “a word is a word most when it is separated out by science, treated with acid to remove the smudges, washed, dried, and placed right side up on a clean surface.”

    And, hi.

    • There won’t suddenly be a gusher, Cheri. I just wanted to take the pressure off myself to go from nil to some and then perhaps to regular again….

  3. Your remarks about “eye candy” resonated with me because my sensitivities have long been rudely assailed by the now almost de riguer mug-shot of the writer of well-nigh any article I wish to read on the internet.

    I do of course realise that ours is the age of the new-narcissism and its attendant cult of personality, of which these mug-shots are a part and parcel. But still.

    So I applaud you on your blog’s new look, and hope it’ll make you want to post oftener on it than you’ve done of late.

    Meanwhile I’ll be adding to my Feedly Reader the links of the two eye-candyless blogs you mention in your posting, for they do look of much interest.

    • I recall that you read German. I chose the blogs only because they are text-heavy and image-light, but the Sprengsatz blog is a good window into German political gossip.

  4. eye candy should compliment your post, it’s like an abstract to what the post is about. ofcourse additional effort is required but then one can always find others to delegate the additional efforts to.

    • I agree with the first part completely, Jon. If one has a good image to illustrate or support a point made in the text, then by all means one should use it. What I noticed, however, is that I wasted time looking for images even when I did not have any that were relevant or good, and that made me post less often.
      As to “delegating”: that sounds like what we do at The Economist in my day job, whether in print or online. Sure, there we produce something to which readers bring certain expectations and we are a team where delegating is possible. But here on this personal blog– you recall that in the early days blogs were called “diaries”–there nobody to delegate to, and there should be no need, because, after all, it’s “just” a diary of personal observations. Right?

  5. and btw in reference to the referenced blogs, that is hardly eye-candy but rather clutter! Just looking at it tires the eye, mine said ‘O M G, read all tht!?’

  6. Still some eye candy left: Your mugshot is on the browser’s tab (not sure though if everyone would agree your picture falls into that category). WordPress > Settings > General > Blog Picture > Remove Image.

    • Yes, I see that. That’s OK. When going on a diet you don’t need to cut out all calories and die. You just want to lose the fat.
      I’ll still use images SOME of the time, by the way, and I think the images in the other pages on this site do help to loosen it up. I’m just talking about the near-obligatory fetish with eye candy.

  7. There’s nothing wrong with a good image, but if people won’t read what you write without one, then eff them. I am old enough to remember when kids ragged other kids about not being old enough to read books without pictures.

    • Well, I just headed over to your blog again and immediately noticed your visuals. Those are your own shoulders? Now, see, that’s the eye candy Douglas was talking about. If you got it, use it.
      In my humble case, what I got is … words.

    • I got words too, but I worked hard for those shoulders and I might as well use them.

      However, I also once used Delacroix’ “Jacob Wrestling With The Angel.” Human strength is a powerful theme to me, doesn’t have to be mine.

    • Well said, sledpress! Couldn’t agree more. Andreas, I really enjoy your posts and hope you continue, at whatever pace and with whatever visuals (or not!) work for you!

  8. I’m glad you are back, and am looking forward to reading your posts again. I have most shamefully fallen to adding eye candy to my writing, it has not helped, so will be less in future.

    • Hi Brighid. I wasn’t speaking normatively, you understand. I like your, um, eye candy. It just didn’t work for me, because it made me more averse to firing off posts.

  9. I note this page is the only one without illumination.
    Is there such a thing as word candy to accompany healthy illustration? In such an instance, how is the candy to be distinguished from the healthy diet?
    It is good to be reading your words again.

  10. Is the outlawing of hybridisation to extend to libretti and screenplays? Are words to be divorced from their sounds? Are there to be no lips to utter them? Is not the written word none other than an illustration? Do words exist in some strange isolation from all other existence? Are words the progenitors of all existence?

    In the beginning was the word. Is there to be no heaven or earth? Is the earth to be without form and void and is darkness to be upon the face of the deep?

    Are there to be no gravatars? Now there I draw the line.

  11. “Uniting is a greater art and a greater merit. An artist in unification in any subject would be welcomed the world over.” [Charlotte in Goethe’s Elective Affinities]

  12. It does look stupid without eye candy. Why is that?
    What is needed is a sketching widget so that one can spontaneously illustrate an idea when words are inadequate. Your words never fall short, but a figure can be expedient. I am thinking, for example, of Kurt Vonnegut and his asshole (sketch, that is).

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