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Snapshots of the Galle Lit: #1 Bloggers Take Themselves Way Too Seriously

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The session Bloggers: Can They be Taken Seriously? was one of the few I attended at the Galle Literary Festival. And it was fucking boring.

I wasn’t involved at all in the festival this year, so I was determined to just relax and go only for events I really was interested in (didn’t happen quite like that, but that’s a different post). I discovered blogs and bloggers only a few years ago when I was interviewed for the now defunct site Moju, and it was a great discovery. I was living in Europe, and Sri Lankan blogs suddenly provided me with a view of Colombo that the newspapers just couldn’t provide. It has been a tempestuous relationship; I’ve had my first novel reviewed on a blog, I’ve been asked to contribute to a couple of blogs, I often get sucked into online brawls that seem to continuously rage across the comments forums in the Sri Lankan blogosphere. I also got asked out quite a bit, once I got back to Colombo, and even had a one night stand on the strength of a comment I made on a blog forum. Blogs have made me angry, they’ve made me think, they’ve made me laugh, and they’ve got me laid. Blogs are to me everything that the blog session at the Galle Lit wasn’t. Stilted, boring, one-sided, and in the end, a waste of time, is not how I would describe the Sri Lankan blogosphere. 

Personally, I feel that the person responsible for organising that session, didn’t really understand the atmosphere and personality of Sri Lankan blogging, best experienced at Kottu, which is a Sri Lankan blog aggregator. The session was held at the hot and stuffy Maritime Museum in the Galle Fort, which is a beautiful building, but not really suited for a vibrant discussion. Putting a bunch of people on a stage and having a moderator and audience might work well traditionally, but blogging isn’t traditional, nor so formal. I think it would have been far more conducive to exchange if the whole operation had been conducted just down the road in the bar of the Fort Hotel, where we could have all sat around drinking, smoking and heckling — as we do every day online.

I also feel that the panel of bloggers could have been better chosen. As it stood, the lineup was Indi Samarajiva (Indi), Deepika Shetty (Read@Peace), Nazreen Sansoni, Sanjana Hattotuwa (Groundviews), Jehan Mendis (Ravana), and Iresha Dilhani (Digital Butterflies). The whole works was moderated by Nuri Vittachi, a Sri Lankan-born writer, comedian and feng shui expert.

Now, Sri Lankan blogs can be divided largely into two categories — the ‘personal’ blog, which is sort of a pimped-out diary or personal experience log (such as London, Lanka & Drums) ; and the ‘reactive’ blog, which is a blog generally devoted to a certain subject, agenda, or interest (examples from the two ends of the spectrum are Groundviews and DefenceNet). Arguably, there’s a third category, which is a sort of ‘commercial’ blog, which is run with the intention of promoting a brand or product such as a shop, movie, or car, though whether this can really be called a blog (in the spirit rather than letter) is debatable. Of the panellists, none really fitted into the Category #1 ‘Personal Blogger’. Certainly, Iresha Dilhani’s blogging is about her personal experience, but her work is more of an educational project conducted by Horizon Lanka, rather than a ‘real’ blog. While both Indi Samarajeeva and Jehan Mendis do post personal stuff, the majority of their writing is on subjects they feel strongly about (the stupidity of the government, Colombo’s one-way street system, orgies, etc), and they probably can be classed as Category#2 Reactive Bloggers, of which Sanjana Hattotuwa is a prime example. Nazreen Sansoni’s blog is mostly a promotional one for the Barefoot store, and therefore I’m not really certain she should have been included on the panel. Deepika Shetty, the designated representative of the mainstream media, and a Category #2, isn’t a Sri Lankan, and since the discussion was obviously about local blogging, it seemed a bit pointless since blogging in general isn’t a new subject. Someone like Rajpal Abeynayake, the editor of the Lakbima News who seems to love getting up bloggers’ noses would probably have been a far more entertaining choice. So I would say that the range of Sri Lankan blogs weren’t covered too well.

Regardless of blog type, I also feel that the panellists didn’t really represent a cross-section of the SL blogosphere. Where were the right-wing nutjobs like A Voice in Colombo, and the constipated pundits such as Sittingnut? Almost all of the panellists knew each other personally and mostly shared each others views. They were mostly middle/upper-class English-educated urbanites, whereas most bloggers on Kottu are Sinhalese-educated traditionalists who would have vociferously disagreed with many of the liberal views voiced onstage. A good example was (I think) Sanjana’s comment that this is probably the worst government we’ve had. I think many other more politically conservative bloggers would have pointed out the fact that if he could make such a statement onstage and then travel home to Colombo in safety it shows that we’ve moved on a bit from the Premadasa era. So this lack of bandwidth in the spectrum contributed to a rather stilted monologue by each of the panellists in turn, instead of a vibrant exchange of views into which the audience could have added their own voice. It seemed that everybody agreed with each other (when the hell has that ever happened on a blog?) and had sort of agreed beforehand not to disagree or bring up anything uncomfortable. Even when an audience member politely inquired whether there was any downside to blogging, the only real answer was from Indi who said that he couldn’t really blog about personal stuff or take the time to research background stuff for his posts. No one pointed out that many bloggers just get it wrong, or haven’t a clue about what their writing on. Or that blogs are a source of the most horrible libel and uninformed rumour. Though the whole anonymity aspect was only touched on (with Jehan taking the chance to pop out of Ravana’s closet), it wasn’t really addressed in terms of the lack of credibility blogs have due to the author’s anonymity. This lack of any sort of crosstalk from the panel ensured that there bloody well wasn’t going to be any inconvenient questions from the audience.

All in all it was pretty much almost (but not quite) the crappiest event I attended at the Galle Lit, and beyond the fact that it gave me some material for my own blog, I might as well have spent my time on the beach with a Carlesberg, or getting into a particularly tasty pair of pants I’d brought along.

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January 21, 2008 - Posted by | Literature | , , ,

50 Comments »

  1. I agree that an hour’s not enough, but that’s exactly why the panel members should’ve been selected better, and the topic pushed through harder. Yes, I’ve got links to certain blogs I like, but that doessn’t mean they’re suitable for a panel on blogging. And I’m not sure I am either.

    Comment by David Blacker | January 21, 2008 | Reply

  2. [...] davidblacker wrote an interesting post today on Snapshots of the Galle Lit: #1 Bloggers Take Themselves Way Too …Here’s a quick excerptI discovered blogs and bloggers only a few years ago when I was interviewed for the now defunct site Moju, and it was a great discovery. I was living in Europe, and Sri Lankan blogs suddenly provided me with a view of Colombo that the … [...]

    Pingback by Blog » Blog Archive » Snapshots of the Galle Lit: #1 Bloggers Take Themselves Way Too … | January 21, 2008 | Reply

  3. Hmm looks like Rajpal Abeynayake got up the Gall Literary Festival organisers’ noses too with this post http://www.lakbimanews.lk/lounge/lou1.htm which can be read here http://www.lakbimanews.lk

    Comment by Thilak | January 21, 2008 | Reply

  4. six panelists and an hour to discuss? way too many people and not enough time- I feel the panels should hold a maximum of four at the most.the panelists names were proposed last year and not much changed from last to this… I do like your idea of moving the bloggers discussion to a different location, makes sense as you so aptly describe. Identity is a problem, and now that we know you have a blog, we can call on you for next year. Notice you have three of the panelists with links to your blog. Never mind, I had fun- hope you did, overall. Thanks for your suggestions will take them on board.

    Comment by naz | January 21, 2008 | Reply

  5. Well, N, I guess Shyam Selvadurai might’ve had something when he said literature isn’t about the elite, but it’s for the elite. Possibly blogging is, too.

    I agree, Benevolent one, about Deepika. If we really wanted to see how seriously we are taken we need some stuffy boozy editor from a local newspaper, I think.

    Comment by David Blacker | January 22, 2008 | Reply

  6. Its funny how everyone harps on about the blog democratizing the spread of information, giving a voice to the voiceless, blah, blah, blah…then when a panel of bloggers is chosen to discuss how seriously bloggers should be taken…it consists (mostly) of friends who belong to the elite Colombo crowd…supremely ironic.

    Oh well, maybe eventually intelligence and common sense will prevail on the choice of such a panel. Nice to see u have a blog btw.

    Comment by N | January 22, 2008 | Reply

  7. True David. In addition to that, I felt that the topic of discussion – Should Bloggers Be Taken Seriously – should have meant that representatives of the mainstream media should have been there. Rajpal would have been a good choice as he may have said ‘No’ and then may have had to face the question as to why he obviously reads bloggers and plagiaries them if he didn’t take them seriously.

    I asked as much from Nury and he completely misunderstood my question and pointed out Deepika as an example of mainstream media!

    Comment by The benevolent Dictator | January 22, 2008 | Reply

  8. [...] David Blacker’s clearly getting more out of blogs and blogging than most of us are – but he does have a point. The job of the blogosphere, I read somewhere recently, is to be outrageously outspoken about everything. Bloggers are sometimes mistaken, but never in doubt. [...]

    Pingback by Galle Literary Festival - Thoughts from the panel on blogging « ICT for Peacebuilding (ICT4Peace) | January 22, 2008 | Reply

  9. Rajpal — whether he fits in with your descriptions or not — has the guts to take on everything including snooty Shyam Selvadurai and snooty Nazreen Sansoni. Only bu—er who takes on all those characters in that highly moneyed bandwagon, no matters what others say about him. You have to give it to him — I say Rajpal for President. Certainly better than the one we have now anyway.

    Comment by asitha | January 22, 2008 | Reply

  10. Naz, I think you’re being a bit too defensive about the panel (so I assume you were instrumental in organising it), though I can understand your reaction to the ‘snooty’ comment. I don’t think saying that the names were picked in Oct’06 really cuts it. Come on. Authors, were replaced, so why not bloggers? A questionnaire of some sort could’ve been posted on Kottu for instance. Maybe you could try that next time. Largely I think my criticisms were valid and constructive and at least two of the panellists (Sanjana & Indi) mostly agree. Similarly many bloggers were thrilled to bits over it. A lot of last year’s criticisms were serious ones too, and I think they helped make this year’s festival better. So I think we’re allowed to bitch.

    Comment by David Blacker | January 22, 2008 | Reply

  11. “I say Rajpal for President. Certainly better than the one we have now anyway.”

    :) Well, if that’s the only qualification one needs to be prez, I don’t see any shortage of candidates.

    Comment by David Blacker | January 22, 2008 | Reply

  12. You’re right, a better representation of bloggers could been included in the panel. Sittingnut and justmal would have been excellent entertainment.

    I also think there should have been an option of masks/voice synthesisers for bloggers who might have attended if their anonymity could have been preserved!

    Comment by Darwin | January 22, 2008 | Reply

  13. Oh please. The most tech savvy group in the country and the panellists were a surprise to you? You mean you did not bother to get on to the little web site and find out who was representing you, before hand? I mean you are all taking it so personally? Why don’t you pretty young things take the country and run it the way you will, your doing such a GOOD job in cyberspace I am sure you will be just as effective, if not better, in real life. Frankly I am very flattered to be thought of as snooty, coming from a twenty something that is such a compliment! Anything less, and I would have been very very disappointed.
    Thank god you were represented, as David says it gave him something to blog about. Wonder who thought of a bloggers panel?

    Comment by nazreen | January 22, 2008 | Reply

  14. Err naz was that direct at me? I’m confused :S

    Comment by Darwin | January 22, 2008 | Reply

  15. no darwin, not at you directly, but at the post and the comments it has generated. sorry i don’t even know you, i know you live in Scotland and like to remain incognito.
    i do remember seeing you at barefoot one Sunday. You were the girl taking photographs near the outside staircase.
    I am glad the bloggers panel took place for better or worse. i am sure next year the chosen panellists will reflect the community far better than they did this year. As i said before, the chosen panel was a hangover from some names that were relevant at the time when we thought of a bloggers panel, somewhere around oct.2006, and they just stuck- except, of course, for Iresha. does not really matter. i thought the festival was fabulous and the positive feedback has far exceeded the negative, so we will box on.

    Comment by nazreen | January 22, 2008 | Reply

  16. Absolutely. But it never happened. I think what I am really objecting to, is that everyone on the blog sphere would have known who was participating before hand, so why bitch now?
    Why even buy the ticket? We all know who we are. At the meetings I would say, I think my presence is superfluous as I hardly blog anymore, but some panellists wanted me there. So when you commit, you commit, and you show up, even if you are a bit late.

    Frankly, blogs are great if you have the time, and I just don’t have the time. and to be frank,I’d much rather discuss face to face.

    As I said, next year it should reflect what your community is more accurately.

    good luck with your blog.

    poya. full moon.beautiful. off to sleep.

    Comment by nazreen | January 22, 2008 | Reply

  17. Suggestion: organize a bloggers’ festival. Why complain about other people’s festivals? Make your own.

    Could even be in Galle. I’m sure these guys don’t have exclusive rights except on the exact dates in January.

    Or of you want to ride on the audience they pull together, why not a fringe event. Unlikely they will say no.

    Comment by Rohan Samarajiva | January 22, 2008 | Reply

  18. The criticism is of the way the panel was organised and conducted, not about the festival. But for the record, I think if I’m paying to attend an event (be it a movie, play, or cricket match), I have the right to complain.

    Comment by David Blacker | January 23, 2008 | Reply

  19. I think what I am really objecting to, is that everyone on the blog sphere would have known who was participating before hand, so why bitch now?

    Well, I for one, didn’t know who was gonna be on the panel until around December, when I started thinking about which events to attend, though I had heard some vague rumours about a bloggers panel earlier in ’07, and that Indi would be on it.

    You have the right to complain. But you also have a right to do something better

    Yes, I have the right, but not the duty. If every criticism is to be met by the rejoinder “Oh, why don’t you do it yourself”, there will be no real progress. The mature thing is to take the constructive criticisms, discard the rest, and move on.

    Certainly a blogger-organised blogging event is better than a non-blogger one, but from what I understood, Naz was one of the organisers. I’m not really sure though whether blogging warrants a separate fringe festival, though I’m not against one.

    Comment by David Blacker | January 23, 2008 | Reply

  20. You have the right to complain. But you also have a right to do something better. In economics, we call the former “voice” and the latter “exit.” Politics is about the former and economics is the latter. I am all for economics.

    Seriously, isn’t it better to have a blogger-organized blogger event on the fringe (this is the way festivals grow) than have non-bloggers organize blogger events?

    Comment by Rohan Samarajiva | January 23, 2008 | Reply

  21. I personally was very surprised in the choice of Nazreen Sansoni as a panelist for the bloggers seminar. And that surprise was justified in the fact that she made absolutely no contribution (except for a few comments which anybody picked off Pedlar Street could have made too)to the already boring discussion.But maybe being a part of the organising committee has its perks??

    Comment by thekillromeoproject | January 23, 2008 | Reply

  22. I think a bloggers’ festival is a great idea. Don’t hold it stuffy old Galle though, it’s an old folks’ town. Have it in Hikkaduwa — I was there for the entire period of the Festerval and it was great. Have it next year, at the same time as the 2009 Festerval, and have a blast!

    Comment by Palmyrah | January 23, 2008 | Reply

  23. Hi David,

    It was good to see you again in Galle.

    I’m just glad the thing happened and in a way it’s served it’s purpose. I’ve seen far more attention on the topic of the panel after it was held than before it. If the panel wasn’t up to scratch, I apologise as someone who was up there and partly responsible to wake you all up (I was after my second mohito and fifth gin and tonic for the day and all geared up for verbal abuse). But it’s tough to be provocative when the general thrust of the discussion meanders aimlessly, with the moderator a supine servant of inconsequence.

    While more diverse views are desirable and should be encouraged for the next GLF, it’s difficult to be really representative without being tokenistic. More importantly, I believe GLF organisers / the moderator needs to look more at how those on the panel are located within the context of blogging and blogs in Sri Lanka than who is really on it.

    What I found lacking was that Nuri didn’t really know how our respective blogs and writing was perceived in the larger SL blogosphere, traditional media and civil society – whether we perceived ourselves to be “serious” bloggers or not. Had he pushed us to respond to the questions he himself sent us in advance, or re-articulated some of the criticisms directed against us by fellow bloggers we all know of, I think we would have had a more interesting discussion and also fleshed out the faultlines between some of Indi’s attitudes and writing, my own and others on the panel.

    I’m very happy that a literary festival recognises blogging as part and parcel of its proceedings. Having a fringe event is just that – a peripheral affair that is often shafted, literally and metaphorically, to a corner. I think there is merit in mainstreaming blogging into future GLFs. This is not to say that Rohan is wrong – having a parallel event to complement an official session on blogging that’s informal, boozy, with more tech so that people can interact with others not at the event and in real time, is a great idea.

    Sanjana

    Comment by Sanjana Hattotuwa | January 23, 2008 | Reply

  24. I think the GLF should start it’s own blog as part of its site, as perhaps a way of discussing topics and improving things. Blogger participation could be one of the subjects and give them an idea of what the SL blogosphere would like to see next year.

    On this year’s panel topic, I think the title itself wasn’t thought through enough. “Can bloggers be taken seriously” might be a sensational (and sensationalist) topic, but is far too general, and impractical to discuss in an hour. Such a topic needs much pre-discussion before ideas can be focused on that point. It’s as absurd as asking ‘Can books be taken seriously?’ Obviously some can and some can’t. To get the right answer we must ask the right question; and perhaps the more correct question would’ve been ‘Are blogs mainstream?’

    Comment by David Blacker | January 24, 2008 | Reply

  25. David,

    GLF does in fact have a blog – see http://galleliteraryfestival.blogspot.com/

    Cheers,

    Sanjana

    Comment by Sanjana Hattotuwa | January 24, 2008 | Reply

  26. Although I wish it wasn’t true, I can’t really argue with David’s view on the session. When I left the session, I was just glad that it had been quite well attended, but I felt deeply unsatisfied that I really had not been able to say very much at all. The time constraint really to me was the biggest problem, and I felt like some teasing wench had given me blue balls when it was time up. Just as we were getting warmed up, it was over.

    As for the panel selection, including Sittingnut and Voice in Colombo would have been awesome, but with more time.

    Palmyrah’s Hikkaduwa blogger meet up idea is brilliant. I think it’s gots to be done. Who’s interested in organising this?

    Comment by ravana | January 24, 2008 | Reply

  27. Fringe does not necessarily mean fringe: I think a lot of people take the Edinburgh Fringe very seriously.

    I think the larger point is that we should decentralize activities and decision making. Libby Southwell and Geoff Dobbs have created something good. Let them continue. Why don’t others take the initiative to create something too?

    There is such a variety of things that go under the label of blogging that it would be impossible for any single session to make a reasonable number of people happy. By the time all the aspects of blogging are covered, there won’t be any time left for conventional literature.

    Comment by Rohan Samarajiva | January 24, 2008 | Reply

  28. Is it actually necessary to have such a blogging festival, when we meet and interact on a daily basis? I can think of only two reasons for such a get-together — (1) to bring blogging to the attention of non-bloggers and (2) for bloggers to meet other bloggers in the flesh. For (1) I think a couple of promotional sessions at the GLF, as well as linking blogs to mainstream media websites will be far more useful than any real festival. For (2) hey, you don’t need a festival to meet for a drink. But if someone can put together a realistically attractive blog festival, cool. I just don’t see much point.

    Comment by David Blacker | January 24, 2008 | Reply

  29. For #1 as noted by David above, I wonder why Indi’s idea of bloggers meeting up over beer at Barefoot fizzled out? I think there were one or two such meetings, at a time when Kottu was far less populated. I wasn’t in the country for either, but understood that they were well attended. Plans to follow through however have failed, to the best of my knowledge.

    As for bringing blogging to the attention of non-bloggers, I had this old gentlemen who had attended the session with his wife, who came up to me at Hall de Galle later on and say that for the first time, he really understood why we blogged. I’ve had Bradman Weerakoon, a man who will never blog in his life, come up to me and say that blogging is today what investigative journalism in traditional media was to him when he was growing up.

    The panel could have been much much better – but despite this, it seems to have opened the eyes of a few in the audience to the potential of blogging. I only wish we had time to explore more fully the pitfalls and challenges facing us in Sri Lanka in particular, and bloggers around the world in general.

    Sanjana

    Comment by Sanjana Hattotuwa | January 24, 2008 | Reply

  30. I’ll talk to Naz about arranging a blogger meet up at Barefoot, but I need some input about how structured it should be, and what we need to have. s is going to be just a time and a place for people to chat and drink, or are we going to organise some debates and/or panel discussions? Maybe even a photo exhibition, readings, an open mike for anyone to say anything they want, and such like.

    Comment by ravana | January 24, 2008 | Reply

  31. i didn’t come for the bloggers’ do coz i was too busy for once, i came after 4 for a soft dirnk on the lawn… now i’m happy i didn’t come by the sound of it! i did make an effort to come tho, i was genuinely interested.
    it sounds like what i expected happened,(like the elephant polo, for crying out loud, get a life!!!!). i.e. the basic problem is the organisation, hte general setup, a little elitist, no? it appears that the glf is yes populated by writers etc etc BUT who are the ppl who attended? what’s is the purpose of the festival? i’m lost, i’m not being sarcastic, promise.can somebody fill me in?
    is it to fill the sun house et al and their posh expat villas, (all linked together of course) of galle fort and sorrounding areas? like elephant polos (when close by ppl were still in tents) and any other activities these “philantropists” organize? mmmm, i suspect so…. but at least they refurbished the latrines near the fort entrance, which is good, they were in a pitiful state….you know the ones i mean? can u see them? behind those monteros and pajeros…? u should have heard the comments of the ppl in galle…..pretty sad really….anyway, if there is a bloggers’ meetup in da down south and anyone needs a hand….i can put u all in a 5 star and make a cut! just jokin…..
    rant rant rant….

    Comment by galleblogger | January 25, 2008 | Reply

  32. Well, basically, the GLF is a celebration of SL English writing, as I guess you know. Bringing in other Asian writers like Vikram Seth’s a way of pulling in a crowd. Add Gore Vidal, and the audience expands further. While things like performance art, music, and architecture may not be literature or even necessarily language-related, I don’t see a real prob in it being included, as long as it doesn’t take centre stage. As for elephant polo, well, I doubt anyone came just for that, so what’s the big deal?

    Sure, it brings in money for the 5-star hotels and boutiques, but is that a bad thing? In addition, lots of us stayed down in Unawatuna or further away in Hikka, and so the smaller places got their share too, especially this year, since the crowd was much larger.

    Yes, it’s sad that many people are still in tents, and its even sadder that thousands more in the NE are also homeless and in fear, but you can’t very well hold the GLF responsible for their welfare can you? Maybe the GLF could consider setting up some educational foundation for underprivileged kids in the Galle District. Maybe you can suggest it to them.

    Comment by David Blacker | January 25, 2008 | Reply

  33. the tents refer to the first edition of polo after tsunami, not now…the bgi deal was at the time, and ppl have memories, of shoving lord/count/duke chivas regals into displaced faces…anyway that’s past.
    my friends, restauant and hotel owners etc.. didnt notice any increase of tourism/profits (unlike the “high class” places which probably recoverd from a disastrous season in this way) on the contrary, the words were, no tourists this year… i am referring as well to the various secondary evenign events taking place where i’m tlaiking about, i.e coktails, meetings with poets, discos (lighthouse if not mistaken)etc etc , basically social events where u could discuss meet etc… these were not affordable/availabe to locals because of the venue locations. btw the 5 stars making money doesn’t mean the locals/mallis working get any richer, now do they? the owners do, i.e. big corporations (jetwing) and chivas regal boutique hotel owners (90% suddhas). pls don’t try and sell me the story that they give jobs and improve the country next!!! (i once had an argument with one of these ppl at a fancy dinner once and got called a communist to which i proudly replied yes if it is to contrast ppl like you acting as benefactors while u fill ur pockets with gold thanks to cheap labour/costs). the above is not an attack to u david, only a rant…
    p.s i dont seem to be the only one with these thoughts either, (not that it matters)

    http://paan-waati.blogspot.com/2008/01/galle-lit-fest.html

    Comment by galleblogger | January 25, 2008 | Reply

  34. Sure, there were less tourists this year, but I can’t see how you can grudge the bigger places taking what they can from the GLF. Rather than envy them, wouldn’t it be better to organise something that would fill up the smaller places (surfer tournament, volleyballl, etc)? I myself noticed that lots of places filled up with GLF people. You couldn’t get a table at Spaghetti & Co for any amount of money for example.

    Dinners & drinks with poets, authors etc, are always gonna be elite and exclusive just for the reason that you can only saddle an author with about a dozen dinner companions. On the other hand, many authors met children and students for free.

    If you want to benefit the mallis and little places you need to get that crowd in. I don’t see Gore Vidal staying at Mambo’s.

    I think it’s unrealistic to expect the GLF organisers and sponsors to be benefactors, and they aren’t taking business away from the little guys, which seems to be what you’re implying.

    Don’t worry about me mistaking this for an attack on myself, ‘cos I’m not in anyway involved with the GLF.

    Ranting’s OK, but I think you’re wasting it.

    Comment by David Blacker | January 25, 2008 | Reply

  35. i agree that ppl have been dormant and that they haven’t organised other activities as you say. i dont have a restaurant or anything, but personally i would have done somehing.

    i dont envy anyone tho’, and have no reason to, my line is totally different.

    spaghetti and co (friends of mine) always have ppl. if there are any around they will have some. tehy’re good at waht they do.

    i have seen local bloggers and a varied crowd at mambo in the past. maybe it would benefit gore vidal to stay there.

    i dont expect ANYTHING from glf and their organisers, i have seen wht they do and what they’re about in the past as i said previouly. i never implied they are taking business from other smaller joints. how could they? it’s a different crowd. plus the fact that these ppl wouldn’t stay/eat at those places anyway.
    salli salli is what i say.
    maybe it’s the way i am, but i associate culture with the widest audience possible, otherwise it’s not really culture, it’s something else, u name it. not to mention ticket prices…

    Comment by galleblogger | January 25, 2008 | Reply

  36. There is a cost to culture. Unlike in the old days when thinkers and luminaries moved from India to Sri Lanka costlessly and timelessly after attaining arahat status, it costs real money to get their modern equivalents to come to a bomb-torn country that is quite distant from where they live.

    Airfares have to be negotiated (even if the tickets may be subsidized by sponsors, the negotiation costs money). Possibly appearance and speaking fees had to be paid to the stars. Etc.

    These costs have to covered, one way or another. You either pay for it directly, or the tax-payer pays for it. In Sri Lanka, the latter is only a theoretical possibility.

    As David correctly points out, there is also the economy of attention. The small-group interactions are valuable because they are small. Two ways of rationing are money and first-come-first-served. Generally the former is more efficient.

    There is nothing wrong with Jetwings getting business. Official tourism policy in this country is to promote value-added premium tourism. The benefits to the economy and the people who work in the tourist industry are many, but this is not the place to describe them.

    But that aside, why gripe that someone has done something not meeting your requirements? Organize a festival of culture for the widest audience possible; make sure the benefits flow to the smallest hotels and restaurants. Make sure your requirements are met.

    The cultural vaccuum in this country is so big that it can easily accommodate multiple efforts to fill it.

    Do your own thing; then somebody else will rant at you. That is, unfortunately, unavoidable. But there will be a few who will praise you.

    To quote from one of the authors featured at the festival: Don’t rant at the darkness; light a candle.

    Comment by Rohan Samarajiva | January 26, 2008 | Reply

  37. agreed rohan, but i still disagree (?!)
    i suppose it’s still btter than nothing in this cultural desert called galle….over and out…

    Comment by galleblogger | January 26, 2008 | Reply

  38. I think the GLF was created by rich people who have nothing better to do than try various methods to improve their image and standing in society… Literature and culture for colombo’s elitist. What bothers me is the fact that literature comes from humble beginnings where as now in Sri Lanka it’s only for rich people….the shame.

    Comment by Nigel | January 26, 2008 | Reply

  39. “maybe it’s the way i am, but i associate culture with the widest audience possible, otherwise it’s not really culture, it’s something else, u name it. not to mention ticket prices…”

    “I think the GLF was created by rich people who have nothing better to do than try various methods to improve their image and standing in society… Literature and culture for colombo’s elitist. What bothers me is the fact that literature comes from humble beginnings where as now in Sri Lanka it’s only for rich people….the shame.”

    Oh c’mon. That’s being extremely naive and unrealistic. Literature may have a wide audience, but it’s celebrated by the few (and elite). Do you think the Oscars, the Sundance Festival, Cannes, or the Grammys are open to all and sundry? They are not. Can the average man afford the opera or national orchestral performances? Of course not. Does that make movies, pop and classical music somehow not part of culture? I think we all know the answer. And however much you might not like the sound of it, English Literature in SL has mostly an elite audience (thanks to SWRD and ‘Sinhala Only’). Do you know how many English bookshops there are in the country? Outside Colombo, I believe there’s a Vijitha Yapa in Kandy and a Barefoot in Galle. That’s it. In SL if your book sells a single print run (1,000 copies) you’re doing pretty good. Culture for everybody? Get real. If you want that, go watch a cricket match.

    “i suppose it’s still btter than nothing in this cultural desert called galle”

    I’ll take that as sarcasm.

    Comment by David Blacker | January 28, 2008 | Reply

  40. Hi David, I really couldn’t make it to the blog workshop but did attend the festival opening.
    http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2008/01/27/mag04.asp
    However, I do agree with you on the blog panel. Indi uses Kottu as a link to other more interesting bloggers and Nazreen does promote Barefoot via her blog and I totally understand her lack of time to write. I guess everyone uses a blog the way they want to. There is no specific standard to blog. As a journo, I’d rather put my great work on the Observer rather than on the blog because I have a case of severe writer’s block. So I hate bringing out my best work in the blog and most of the time, I tend to swear over the blog than really work with my words.Remember you were telling me link my blog with Kottu? However, I’d rather people check my articles on the paper than my blog. I do despise blogs sometimes. I wrote a review of the TNL ONSTAGE finals on LAKBIMANEWS and did a more elaborate posting on my blog. An admin of the rock.lk site started commenting on my blog rather than what I published in the paper and started judging me by that. You wouldn’t believe the comments. Blogs have graduated to more than just an outlet of human release, they are used to judge the real person. However the funny part is the blog is so public (on the internet) that you can’t imagine how damaging it will ultimately be to you. Like the comments I got for airing my truthful views. In this light, I warn all bloggers to be careful. As for the Galle Lit, yes they should have a blog and hopefully, Libby would do some writing.

    Comment by Nilma | January 28, 2008 | Reply

  41. 4 david:

    i wouldnt rate the current standards of music or cinema (oscars etc)as higly cultural…on the contrary most of it is shit to put it bluntly. i am a bit surprised that u identified these money spinners as exaples of Culture. maybe trash culture is more like it.
    opera and natioanl orchestras are a bit more what i identify Culture with… even if i’m not interested personally.

    btw, there’s a vijithayapa in galle and the other chain too, i cant remember the name at this mometn, sorry, and a public library.(where i cant borrow books, coz i live 20 yards outside “city” limits…i can go thru friends tho’).

    the last line was not sarky, it’s true… unless u want ot include culinary culture (bat kades) and religious culture (banas from temples), sporting culture (cricket and elephant chivas regal polo), driving culture (buses), drinking culture (arrack attacks), arts and crafts(wooden statues for tourists which are all alike) there’s sod all here…NOTHING happens apart fromn the odd iraj appearance (is it culture?) amd the richmond mahinda college annual cricket bash…now glf in this way. so unfortunately this is the picture, no offence to galle, it’s the way it is and i still like it. the glf tho’ has/will not make a difference to this town in this way either. u can bank on that. i hope i’m wrong, i’ll actually be happy if i am, because it will mean some sort of difference has benn made….

    Comment by galleblogger | January 29, 2008 | Reply

  42. i wouldnt rate the current standards of music or cinema (oscars etc)as higly cultural…on the contrary most of it is shit to put it bluntly.

    I’m sorry, I didn’t realise this was a discussion on what we consider culture. Since you don’t consider film, classical music, or the opera culture, I’d like to hear your subjective opinion on what you actually do consider culture.

    Culture (from the Latin cultura stemming from colere, meaning “to cultivate,”) generally refers to patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activities significance and importance. Different definitions of “culture” reflect different theoretical bases for understanding, or criteria for evaluating, human activity… Culture is manifested in music, literature, painting and sculpture, theater and film and other things.

    That’s Wikipedia’s definition

    maybe trash culture is more like it.

    You may put whatever adjective or qualifier you wish, but it remains culture, popular or otherwise.

    opera and natioanl orchestras are a bit more what i identify Culture with… even if i’m not interested personally.

    If you’re not really interested in even the things you do consider culture, why are we having this discussion? Is there a point you want to make?

    btw, there’s a vijithayapa in galle and the other chain too, i cant remember the name at this mometn, sorry, and a public library.(where i cant borrow books, coz i live 20 yards outside “city” limits…i can go thru friends tho’).

    My point was that English is a very tiny portion of the overall readership market in SL.

    the last line was not sarky, it’s true…

    Well, I consider Galle to be rich in culture, both architectural and historical; but that’s me. As I said at the beginning, maybe you should tell us what you consider culture.

    the glf tho’ has/will not make a difference to this town in this way either. u can bank on that.

    Oh, I’d be very surprised if it did, given that the Sinhalese-educated majority of Galle are more interested in other things (Iraj, bath kades, etc). I don’t think the GLF set out to make a difference to the town at all. I think it picked Galle for commercial and aesthetic reasons, and I have no problem with that. I’m frankly surprised you do.

    Comment by David Blacker | January 29, 2008 | Reply

  43. david:
    after quoting me, you interpret the quotes as something totally different… you’re on (various) totally different tracks. unfortunately here goes:
    “wouldnt rate the current standards of music or cinema (oscars etc)as higly cultural…on the contrary most of it is shit to put it bluntly. [it's not a discussion about waht we considr culture, ur right, but u say to this "Since you don’t consider film, classical music, or the opera culture," [erm... where did i say that? nowhere.. actually the opposite, i said most films and music is nowadays SHIT, very few are culturally uplifting. opera and classical music are normally culturally valuable, or more valuable, imo. THAT's what i said.]

    i said>
    “maybe trash culture is more like it.”
    to which u reply:
    You may put whatever adjective or qualifier you wish, but it remains culture, popular or otherwise.

    the venga boys are/were (god knows?…) very popular too.. equating popularity with culture is a mistake imo.

    the definition of culture was a waste of copy nad paste time. more misinterpretations:
    i said
    “opera and natioanl orchestras are a bit more what i identify Culture with… even if i’m not interested personally” u replied:
    “If you’re not really interested in even the things you do consider culture, why are we having this discussion? Is there a point you want to make?”

    i mean, just becasue one doesn’t like opera and/or classical music, does it mean he doesn’t like van gogh either???? or the beatles? or amaradewa? this is about the glf’s way of “spreading” culture. what was spread and to whom? how it ws spread, these were the topics of the replies to ur post by the people who replied, my first reply just one of them.
    u conclude:
    “Oh, I’d be very surprised if it did, given that the Sinhalese-educated majority of Galle are more interested in other things (Iraj, bath kades, etc). I don’t think the GLF set out to make a difference to the town at all. I think it picked Galle for commercial and aesthetic reasons, and I have no problem with that. I’m frankly surprised you do.”

    so then if it doesn’t make a difference, it’s not a cultural event, it’s only salli salli, as i said before. and u also seeem to agree.
    i never said i had a problem with the choice of galle for glf, where on earth did u find that? i actually said better than nuffin. i.e “i suppose it’s still btter than nothing in this cultural desert called galle”, remember?

    anyway, pls be more precise if u quote ppl, it happened at the start of the discussion and carried on til the end…. it’s boring to correct what was alredy in black and white, paste, re-explain etc… i think i’ll just piss off from this topic, maybe better, it’s getting long and going nowhere…see you around!

    Comment by galleblogger | January 29, 2008 | Reply

  44. Sorry, Galleblogger, but if you feel I have misinterpreted you, perhaps you should consider the fact that you aren’t articulating your point very well (if there is a point). I’ve just waded through your lengthy piece where you’ve backtracked, denied, and otherwise contradicted yourself. Common sense tells me to leave you to your rather heavy chip, but since your POV isn’t unique, I’d like to use this chance to get to the bottom of it. So here goes:

    “it’s not a discussion about waht we considr culture, ur right, but u say to this “Since you don’t consider film, classical music, or the opera culture,” [erm… where did i say that?”

    Here:

    “i wouldnt rate the current standards of music or cinema (oscars etc)as higly cultural…on the contrary most of it is shit to put it bluntly.”

    Unless you can specify how film differs from cinema, and how your use of “etc” is different from its use in the English language, I’m afraid you’re contradicting yourself.

    “equating popularity with culture is a mistake imo.”

    You’re welcome to your opinion, of course. There are various definitions of culture, some accepted, some not. The Wikipedia definition covers it fairly well, so I don’t see a need to repeat myself.

    “i mean, just becasue one doesn’t like opera and/or classical music, does it mean he doesn’t like van gogh either???? or the beatles? or amaradewa? this is about the glf’s way of “spreading” culture. what was spread and to whom?”

    Firstly, I never said you didn’t like Van Gogh. In fact, at the outset, I suggested you define what you consider culture (even though this isn’t a discussion on what is or isn’t culture) in order to focus this discussion, but you conveniently avoid that and instead keep hammering along on your frankly vague track. Secondly, you profess to be personally uninterested in the only two things you admit are culture, which spurred my comment. Thirdly, what gave you the idea that the GLF is about spreading culture? The GLF is about celebrating English literature — the latter is part of culture, but isn’t culture itself. If you were to do a study of manure –which is largely bullshit — I doubt anyone would accuse you of attempting to spread bs. Or would they?

    I said, that Galle was picked for aesthetic (or cultural if you prefer) and commercial reasons and you reply:

    “so then if it doesn’t make a difference, it’s not a cultural event, it’s only salli salli, as i said before. and u also seeem to agree.”

    I’m afraid I cannot find any part of my post that agrees with you. Did you somehow miss the word “aesthetic” in my above response? How you thereby deduce that a celebration of literature is not a cultural event escapes me. Perhaps you can clarify this. It was you that suggested that Galle is a cultural desert (even though it patently isn’t), not me, thereby implying that Galle isn’t the most suitable venue. Are you now agreeing that Galle is a great place for a literary festival?

    “it’s boring to correct what was alredy in black and white, paste, re-explain etc…

    Enormously, and doubly so, when one person in the discussion doesn’t seem to have a point.

    “i think i’ll just piss off from this topic, maybe better, it’s getting long and going nowhere…see you around!”

    Please come back when you’re able to articulate your view point. That way we might get somewhere. I’ll make it easier for you:

    Define what you consider makes up culture, and I’ll point out to you that almost all those components are celebrated by the elite, even though it is absorbed by the masses.

    Comment by David Blacker | January 30, 2008 | Reply

  45. Almost all of you share a common misconception about blogging.

    As per WIKIpedia:

    A blog (a portmanteau of web log) is a website where entries are commonly displayed in reverse chronological order.

    One doesn’t need to be a good writer in order to be a good Blogger. He/She must have a keen interest in a specific topic and relevant knowledge. People read personal Blogs for a peek into someone else’s perception of things, to satisfy our curiosity. Writing skills are a plus but not a requirement.

    Dont judge a Blog by it’s author or the author’s literary skills.

    Ever since Youtube has been in existence it has always been a Blog but never known as one. In fact Youtube has a section under profile titled ‘Vlog’ AKA Video Log. Whilst you guys are zoned in on a good read countless others are doing spectacular work by taking Blogging to another dimension. A wealth of Video pours out of Sri Lanka and thanks to these video Bloggers some of you have posts to write on.

    When are these individuals ever going to be recognised or acknowledged if you only consider good writers to be good Bloggers?

    Comment by Hilal | January 31, 2008 | Reply

  46. Er… where did anyone say that only good writers are good bloggers? Certainly not on this blog.

    Comment by David Blacker | February 1, 2008 | Reply

  47. David,

    My comment was not a direct response to anyone in particular. The 6 member panel chosen to discuss if Bloggers should be taken seriously and the given examples above of some of the ‘best Sri Lankan Blogs’ proves that everyone’s opinion of a good Blog is singled out by only one view. I’m merely pointing out to some of you that you need to have a broader view of Blogging/Bloggers.

    Comment by Hilal | February 1, 2008 | Reply

  48. [...] in general. It doesn’t represent True Sri Lankan Culture, and according to one Galle Blogger doesn’t do anything to help the culturally challenged victims of Galle. So what use is it? It’s just a bunch of foreigners and some Colombo English writers who [...]

    Pingback by Let’s Put a Stop to the Galle Literary Festival « the Blacklight Arrow | February 7, 2008 | Reply

  49. Its good to know I did not miss anything: I could not make the blogging session as I was too tired after a late night on Friday.

    I would have liked to ask why they bother blogging to reach a small audience (admittedly, you could well ask me the same question).

    Your criticism of the accuracy of blogs is fair: only some check their facts, do research, etc. The problem is that the mainstream media also rarely check their facts (I have a section on my blog slowly collecting examples of major blunders that I notice).

    The blogs that I choose to read are very high quality, such as economics blogs by academic economists and IT blogs by people who work in IT.

    Comment by Graeme Pietersz | February 7, 2008 | Reply

  50. Deepika Shetty representing the mainstream media? That’s very amusing. She works for the Singapore government-controlled Straits Times, usually known as Pravda for very good reason..she wouldnt know journalism if she fell over it

    Comment by Tan Lee Lin | March 31, 2008 | Reply


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