Monday, October 07, 2002

So I stayed away from the blog for a couple of days worrying about this: Some guy on the BookTV channel was talking about the use of old journals and such for writing history. This is also a technique used quite a bit in documentary films. Since Ken Burns did his acclaimed Civil War series, any documentary worth watching has had actors reading from old diaries and letters over the photographs of the period being studied.

The historian/professor on BookTV was saying that appearances aside, that didn't mean that most people in the nineteenth century kept journals. Quite the opposite, actually. But when they did keep journals was during a time of change or crisis, and only for brief periods. The Civil War was one such experience that led many people to keep journals, the westward movement of the pioneers was another. He pointed out the common root of the words journal and journey; that this is not a coincidence.

Journals of these epochs abound, but that doesn't mean that everyday life in nineteenth century America was at that level of intensity on a daily basis. Only the days that anybody bothered to record. The average person could not just take a few snapshots to remember seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, they couldn't phone Mom and tell her about the battle of Bull Run, they could only sit at night by the light of a kerosene lamp and write about it in their journal to share with their loved ones much, much later.

Of course, what I got out of that (in addition to the above) was just how self-obsessed those of us with blogs must truly be (myself included). That we choose not only to record the events of the most mundane days (how many of my posts are along the lines of, "I'm really tired - long day at work"?), but we then post it to the web to share with the world. Even more amazing is that there are people who actually visit this site on a regular basis to see what I'm up to. And so I didn't post anything over the weekend.

Let me just tell you; I didn't make any overland journeys by wagon train, and I didn't battle to save the Union. But it was hotter than Hell here in San Jose. It had started to cool off a few weeks back, but now, getting towards the middle of October, we're looking at 90 degrees again tomorrow. I believe that this is as mundane a post as I can muster. But who knows? One hundred years from now that weather report may hold the key to understanding life in America at the beginning of the twenty-first century. But I doubt it.

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