Tuesday, January 24, 2006

hugo ball the pre-blogger

hugo ball
the pre-blogger

Pre-blog diaries, like what Hugo Ball , founder of the Cabaret Voltaire, wrote, are instructive for bloggers who wish to learn how to write creatively, with a distinct personal flair.

When you read a famous writer's agile turn of phrase, a cleverly composed statement, or an allusion with strange descriptors, it can inspire you to dream up your own unique style. I actually notice a strong burst of poetic language flow from me right after I've spent some time reading a good book of philosophy, poetry, anthropology, psychology, or art criticism.

When you read diaries, journals, memoirs, autobiographies of famous people, don't you start to feel like you're reading a blog? I do. For example, I'm reading Hugo Ball's Dada Diaries. Certain phrases, paragraphs, entries sound much like what you read in blogs. His scorn for mediocrity, his love of progress, his belief in self-expression, so many traits and assertions seem so bloggy.

Let's imagine what it would be like if Hugo Ball were alive and had internet access. Here are some excerpts from his diary that sound like really good blog writing. See if you agree.

And next time you read a book, particularly an episodic first person text, ask: "Would this writing style work in a blog?"

Hugo Ball Blog:

From Flight Out of Time: A Dada Diary by Hugo Ball, edited by John Elderfield (University of California Press, 1996).


"The world and society in 1913 looked like this: life is completely confined and shackled. A kind of economic fatalism prevails; each individual, whether he resists or not, is assigned a specific role and with it his interests and his character.

The church is regarded as a 'redemption factory' of little importance, literature as a safety valve.

It makes no difference how this came about; it exists and no one can escape from it." (p.3)


"The machine gives a kind of sham life to dead matter. It moves matter. It is a spectre. It joins matter together, and in so doing reveals some kind of rationalism. Thus it is death working systematically, counterfeiting life.

It tells more flagrant lies than any newspaper that it prints. And what is more, in its continuous subconscious influence it destroys a human rhythm.

Anyone who lasts a lifetime near such a machine must be a hero, or must be crushed. We cannot expect any spontaneous feelings from such a creature. A walk through a prison cannot be so horrifying as a walk through the noisy workroom of a modern printing shop. The animal sounds, the stinking liquids. All the senses focused on what is bestial, monstrous, and yet unreal." (p.4)


"Only the thoroughly tested idea, exposed to temptation and opposition, only the idea that is lived and embodied, only such an idea really exists." (p.15)


"Do not attack abstractions and doctrines. Everyone thinks what he wants to about them, and many abstruse words are used. Attack prominent people and events. One single sentence is enough; it does not have to be the whole system." (p. 22)


"Something is rotten and senile in the world. The economic utopias are the same way. There is a need for a widespread conspiracy of eternal youth to defend everything noble." (p.22)


"Self-assertion suggests the art of self-metamorphosis. The isolated man tries to hold his own in the most unfavorable circumstances; he has to make himself unassailable." (p.96)


"Resolute self-portrayal in the sense of Augustine and Rousseau would be the solution. But a great deal of courage is necessary for that and also a relevance...if the importance of the author were to be dispensed with, then a confessional, self-exhausting attitude would be essential." (p. 87)

Hugo Ball, along with Tristan Tzara, Kandinsky, Picasso, and others, spearheaded an art revolution, or actually a series of revolutions: dada, cubism, constructivism, futurism, etc.

We bloggers can learn from, and be encouraged by, classic art and technology revolutionists of the past.

What smart books are you reading?

[signed] steven streight aka vaspers the grate

1 comment:

carrie said...

i don't know if it's smart, but i am now reading memoirs of a geisha.