Menachem's Writings

The Pleasures of Blogging

One of the nice things about writing blogs is that people actually read them. It's one thing to spill your kishkes* (guts) in public, but you do have the advantage that you can mix reality with fiction and unless readers know you really well, they may think everything you write is fiction, or alternately all is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but. What the heck, if it's entertaining and I can tempt you to click on an advert or two, so much the better.

Adding advertisements to your sites can provide you with a nice income (many blogs exist only for this purpose), especially if your readers are adventurous and clicky. In general I judge this form of commercials to be idiotic, for two reasons. First, if the aim of my site is to sell you something (e.g. my Send Pizza to Israeli Soldiers site), I don't want you to leave until you have parted with some money. Also I don't want my competitors touting their wares (or their politics) on my site.

Second, even in the event one doesn't care whether readers stay or go (as in a blog designed to get you in and then out with a click), you have no control over what your site is being fed. I think the algorithm they use is quite sometimes quite moronic. I have a blog entry discussing vegans and vegetarians. As I list the titles, with their relevant links, to all my old weblog writings, these two words appear in every blog entry. You may notice a lot of advertisement links on my pages to raw food sites. (I'm going to write about the foolishness of this fad later in the week -- a lot of easy money is being made on this trend.) It seems the raw food fadders think that just because one is a vegetarian, or perhaps more so, a vegan, they are targets for their tripe. Actually, mentioning those two words does not make you a raw food fanatic. The writer may be satirizing the concept. But more later on this.

Mentioning Samaritans seems to attract many ads for J-man sites (using the term J-man won't attract any -- neither will Yoshka Ponk or the other names we used for the J-man when we were kids).

It is always nice (I hate that useless, overworked word -- I don't know why I fall into the trap -- we were continually warned against such usage at school -- in this case gratifying is a much better word and expresses something of meaning -- nice, yuk!**) to receive feedback from your blog visitors. Website logs (for those who look and know how to interpret them) let you know whether you are getting readers (or hitters) to your ramblings, but direct mail (or verbal) feedback is the best. Direct. Sock-it-to-me baby***.

Take my old friend Howard. We went to high school together for six years at the (in)famous Randwick Boys' High School -- infamous for, among many other things, six of our classmates, who were sent up the river for being part of joyriding syndicate. There were actually about fifty guys (very few were old enough to have a driver's license) involved from our form and the grades one above and one below, but the six took the rap for the rest. It was even an embarrassment for a few months after that to go into town wearing school uniform: “Oh you guys are from the joyride school, hey?!” Sometimes I wonder where those guys ended up, and also many of the others in our form who weren't much better. I must add that there were many positive aspects to our school, for exapmple the headmaster, Alex Johnstone and the Commerce Master, Percy Lee (and some others too) who were philosemites, and in a very active way.

Back to Howard, we lived a couple miles away from each other back then and also do now (home is now 8,000 miles away, far from Ranwick, Coogee and Kingsford). Howard is one of my avid readers, and took the time to write to me. I receive a score or two of emails from him each week, but they are usually bulk mailings. Mainly funny, informative, interesting and often naughty [read all of the above] (thanks Sharky); but yesterday he wrote the following (fair dinkum quote follows verbatim):


I took some time out to read some of your Writings. Even though i have a lot of time on my hands i don't think i have the capability to do what you are doing. I think that this is due to the fact that i played flog at school instead of paying attention to the teachers. You are one hell of an interesting mate and i will continue reading your blog.


I must admit I played quite a mean game of flog myself, and never played anywhere other than in the back corner of the classroom; I was probably multiprogrammed, multitasked or multiprocessed or just multi, or I just managed to fool the teachers (and some of my classmates). They used to line up for a chance to defeat me on the flog course. The teachers couldn't work out why a different boy sat next to me in each period (for Yankees, read class).

Flog is a desktop game (no, not on a computer screen desktop, but on top of a wooden desk -- the type into which you can carve your initials when the teacher turns his/her back, or a naughty word or two if the pedagogue leaves the room for long enough (these words were usually found under the desk -- we grew up in the sixties when the only legal swearing and cursing took place in the staff room, and teachers were still allowed to carry long canes which they didn't hesitate to use at their discretion). The name, flog, was coined by reversing the word golf. Some of the rules were based on golf, adapted and resized to the desktop. The flog "club" is the clicker on the back of a biro. I have asked Howard to write up the rules to post on this blog so that others may continue the fine tradition of this wonderful passtime. I wonder if it is still part of the Randwick culture? Howard, maybe they"ll invite us back for a veterans' tournament.

The other game we played a lot of in those days, especially Ady and I, was Gin Rummy****. We were really good at it; in those days we were able to memorize the deck as it was revealed -- a big advantage in a game with only one deck of cards. Ady and I made a lot of money playing in the school yard. We used to play each other to sharpen our skills and play others to make money. Once Ady and I played all night long on the Spirit of Progress, the slow train from Melbourne to Sydney. We were so well matched that I think that in that whole 14 hour stint one of us was about a florin+ up -- and we were playing for a zac or a bob++ a parté+++ -- the details have gotten a bit hazy.

So to summarize, if you enjoy my blog let me know; if you hate it think it stinks also drop me a line. Remind of something we used to do in the old days and I'll spin it into a yarn.

* Kishke Yiddish, from Russian kishka, intestine

** Yuk An exuberant laugh. This precedes Internet and SMS shortcuts. Today people would have written LOL (“laughing out loud” or “rolling on the floor laughing”)

*** Sock-it-to-me made famous by Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In among our favourite television shows -- “Say good night Dick -- Goodnight Dick”

**** Gin Rummy: a game for two players in which each is dealt 10 cards and a player may win a hand by matching or sequencing by suit all the cards in it by drawing from a deck. Play may also end when the unmatched cards count up to 10 points or less. If a player matches all the cards he is "gin." The first player to reach 100 points wins. The game was introduced in New York in 1909.

+ Florin A two shilling coin. The Australian Florin became 20 cents after 1966. Florin was an official name, the following names were slang.

++ Zac sixpence. There was also a tray meaning thrupence, threepence (3 pennies), a little silver coin with three stalks of wheat on the reverse (tails) side, first minted in 1910

  Bob Slang for a shilling, 12 pence. Also known as a merino because of the merino sheep head on the reverse side; the obverse bore the monarch, as did all Australia's coinage, in those days usually Queen Elizabeth II, but there were plenty of King George VI coins around in those days.

+++ parté I couldn't find a reference to this in any dictionary, but it's what we called a game up to 100 points. In our parlance, there was a hand, a parté and a game (session).

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