I didn't forget about this place
tl;dr I expect this will be rather long and rambling. I'll probably end up covering a whole bunch of topics in this one post: where did the site/I go, the trigger for posting here again, eurovision, nostalgia for lost fandom circles, people drifting with time, twitter, the value of online acquaintances, what even is “blogging” in 2023, and what am I going to use this for now?
I didn't forget about this place.
I had originally added “placeholder etc.” a year or so after deleting the site on impulse back in 2014. The intention was that I would revive it in some form or another fairly shortly after. Clearly that didn't happen. However, anyone who checked last year will have seen there was a slight update in wording to “forever placeholder etc.”, reflecting my resignation that the place would likely never be revived.
(As an aside, the only reason I never let the domain lapse is because it's actually my main email domain. >_< And, the reason that update in wording happened is because I realised that paying for a full package of web hosting at like £100 per year just for a bit of static text and email was a little crazy when it could be hosted free on CloudFlare and a much cheaper dedicated email host. Therefore, it felt appropriate to at least indicate something on the site had changed. It was after all the biggest change behind the scenes in a decade. xD)
So first question: what happened to me, where did I go, why did I delete it and my other online accounts etc? Without going into specifics, I would say the root cause in 2013/2014 was a combination of naiivity, inexperience, and touch of arrogance in the face of complex life situations. My usual coping mechanism in the face of anything extremely negative is very much in the “flight” part of fight or flight. Withdrawing, curling up under the safe blanket of my own company, ultimately pushing others away, believing that only I can support myself or solve it. In the process I hurt some close friends, said and did a lot of stupid shit that I still regret, and while many of those friendships have since been repaired, no doubt they still retain the scars somewhere. In the midst of all that I felt what's the point of having a blog, social media etc, fuck everyone and everything, I'll go live on a farm somewhere far away and not have to deal with any problems, or with any of the people I hurt.
Suffice to say that didn't really work out. >_<;;
A year or so passed, now 2015, I realised that friends actually mattered a lot, tried to repair the damage with many, but perhaps not all. I recreated my twitter account (though under a slightly different name, perhaps out of a combination of shame in not wanting to just step straight back into things as they were before, but also out of a desire to not have decades of tweets easily searchable and identifiable to the same online account for anyone that looks you up). I tentatively started following people again on twitter and occasionally posting (and am still somewhat tentative even today). At that point I added the placeholder text to the site with the intention of reviving it in some way.
After that, more time passed, more positive life events happened: got busy with work, completed a BA and MA in philosophy, got married, got a house like 30 mins north of London, got a dog, flew some planes, grew a lot more tomatoes and chillies, and spent my spare time in FFXIV playing mahjong (currently expert 2 on Mahjong Soul).
Overall though, things were not the same as before, I watch far less anime than I used to, listen to less music, less JPop, spend less time at events and with friends. There are probably many factors contributing to this:
Many in the circle of people I originally followed on twitter seemed to gradually be drifting away from posting there.
Friends were getting older and doing their own life things, getting married themselves, having kids, and therefore less time for meeting up, or for the youthful consumption of all things Japan as before. Ayo, when are we doing karaoke again, last time was pre-covid. >_<;
Members of favourite bands graduating and being replaced with ever younger versions, it's hard to follow the revolving door idol bands when the age difference gets increasingly large, and the music increasingly churned out at low quality. Hello Project or AKB members are pretty much alien to me today, everyone I knew is long gone. At least Momoi is still going (along with Perfume and a handful of others)!
Watching less anime (largely due to getting burnt out by the sheer quantity of shite that was produced every season) and having less friends to attend conventions with naturally meant no longer attending conventions.
The JPop club evenings in London stopped running (I think essentially the one guy from Japan that was running them went back to Japan, lol).
This is going to sound weird, but the changing way in which we listen to music via a variety of different, disconnected streaming services (YouTube, Spotify, Alexa etc.), rather than adding to ever growing .mp3 collections meant that my AudioScrobbler/Last.fm account was getting less and less use. I actually liked having a list of everything I listened to charted in a single space, and sharing this socially with others as a way of discovering music and understanding friends tastes. Indirectly I actually think this made me less motivated to put much effort into listening to new releases and such, I would now only casually pick up things on YouTube occasionally, or where someone sent me something directly.
Work and life itself became pretty busy, with less time for personal hobbies. Having to “schedule” time for playing games with people, when once we just did it spontaneously. xD
However, my core was not lost or forgotten, neither were those friends that have been around for decades, or those folk on twitter that have been a constant name/avatar on my screen for an almost equally long time.
What was the trigger to start posting again?
Honestly, Eurovision. Attending the Eurovision Song Contest in person in Liverpool was truly something special. People who know me from here, or twitter, or in-person will know I have been a fan of Eurovision for a long time. To be able to attend in person, not only in person, but in the UK, not only in the UK, but in a city that put an immense amount of effort and dedication into the production of a week long festival, and not only that but to be able to share the excitement with others that share that excitement around you. It is cliché to say it was a dream come true, but it really was, the entire week feels so unreal that it even happened, I'm still simultaneously crying/smiling. :D
Anyway why was that the trigger to revive this?
Because this site was always a place where I posted event reports, where I could write down all my memories and love for an event and primarily have it recorded, and maybe also be read by anyone that might be interested.
If I didn't have here to post about it, then what would I have done: either gone home and just enjoyed the memories in my head only for them to gradually fade with time, or gush about the event to people around me in person that are basically indifferent to it. At least here it's recorded forever (internet archive, followed by being consumed by our future AI overlords as training data, lol), and there's the slight, very slight possibility that somebody will read it and also smile with understanding.
(Not only that, those that have read this blog before, or followed me on twitter will know that posting about Eurovision was quite a regular occurance. Even after I recreated my twitter account and have been only tentatively posting, the exception has always been during Eurovision, a lot of live tweeting with a handful of regulars every single year, cheering for the awesome songs, and sharing the disappointment when they inevitably lose.)
This event reminded me of attending my very first Ayacon, that feeling of speaking to people where you can make a joke about some niche fandom thing and they will not only understand what you're talking about, but they'll also laugh. Having people you can share your hobbies with is perhaps one of the most important things in the world. If we don't then we end up being passion hermits, we keep our passions to ourselves, and talk to others in person about boring things like the weather or work, and maybe find an outlet for those passions in an online community. Sharing things in person really makes you feel validated, that you're not alone, that there are real people like you out there!
So, of course I had to revive this blog.
I debated about having this as its own event review post, but given how intertwined it is in the reason for reviving the site, I think I want to post it within this page itself.
My earliest Eurovision memory Copying the question they asked the artists during the semi-finals. I was thinking about this myself and two things very clearly stand out.
My first memory: me 10 years old, watching Eurovision 1997, liking Norway's entry, I only remember it because it was my favourite, and it got zero points. Welcome to losing every year!
My first memory of the idea of an online Eurovision community: me 15 years old, watching Eurovision 2002 with a hundred other people on an MSN chatroom cheering for Malta and arguing with the Latvia supporters. Of course Malta lost and Latvia won, she was robbed!
Anyway as for the event itself, I went there for the whole week, tickets for the 2 jury semi-finals, and the live grand final, as well as a week pass for the EuroClub nights, and tickets for a couple of other things going on, already awesome on paper!
Before going I already had an idea of which songs I liked, my top 3 were:
Finland (like there was anything else even remotely close xD)
I wasn't fully anticipating the experience of seeing everything live though. The first impression of seeing the arena in person, the green room in person, the sheer quantity of lighting, screens, and electronics rigged up is far far beyond any concert I've ever seen, it might be one of the most technically complex concerts to produce in the world.
As for the music itself, in person was again absolutely amazing, being around people cheering for the songs, knowing the songs, singing the songs, sharing in that energy. Beautiful.
I did gain a few other favourites after seeing them perform live:
- Israel was mindblowing live, what a strong performance “Do you wanna see me dance??!”.
- Poland, despite the controversy with her national selection and questions about her singing ability, and all the abuse online she was getting before the contest, I honestly thought she smashed it, really turned around the fandom in support of her (though that national selection process still needs investigating)
- Austria, I mean I liked it already, but hearing an entire arena po po po, definitely something special. xD
Being in the arena for the final itself was a dream (I can't repeat it enough). The energy of the crowd, the performances, the voting, me madly waving the Finnish flag (kindly donated by a friend!) enough to get on TV for a single second despite being in the seating area:
So sad he lost. Loreen's song was ok, imo it sounded pretty similar to Euphoria, yet more forgetful, she's clearly talented, but I feel like she already had her chance and won, let someone else, or if you enter again, at least try something a bit different.
Despite that, it will be honestly hard for any event to top this, and I've not even mentioned anything else from the week yet!
As for the other things going on. I arrived on the Monday, listened to some local bands in the village festival stage area they had setup (Zuzu was good, Crawlers were entertaining though maybe a little too emo for me), and promptly got soaking wet with the rain, took ages to find an umbrella too, and had to sit through the first semi-final show with wet socks. The village itself throughout the week was fine, but I didn't end up going very often as there was no clearly defined schedule that I could find, wasn't going to sit around waiting for something to happen despite wanting to see some of the artists.
The highlight of side-events were really the club nights featuring various old Eurovision entries performing. Seeing Emmelie de Forest sing Only Teardrops live was amazing, then Jedward were completely crazy, you can't help but like them live, and the highlight was the surprise performance at EuroClub after the final by Krista Siegfrids, the energy, so much fun! No Eric Saade attending though.
What else was there, hmm, I tried to do some tourist stuff, but didn't really succeed, too much else to do. The ferry trip was underwhelming, though I'm not sure what I was expecting, it consisted largely of grey skies, cold wind, and a view of a lot of warehouses and construction sites. Meeting Croatia's Let 3 in a bloody Lush store was just weird, Lush, actually Lush the soap shop, and they're serving prosecco like a fancy champagne event, while the band turn up in full on comedy military gear while exposing themselves for photos. What an event! xD
Other than that, actually being able to meet up with one of those online acquaintances from twitter, with whom I've live tweeted Eurovision every year, yet never really spoken to properly in person (apart from like saying hi once at a Hello Project event in Paris a decade or so ago). Feeling like you know someone fairly well despite never speaking is a kinda weird experience. Also, I suspect we were the only two in the room laughing and singing Dschinghis Khan in Japanese after getting the original Eurovision version played in the EuroClub on the last night. People with whom you share overlapping fandoms should be cherished, who else in life will you ever be able to share that kind of meta-joke with? :D
...and that brings me back full-circle to the reason for reviving this blog. I think online friends, online acquaintances should be cherished just as much as irl ones. There are many others I've known over the years online where I've attended events at the same time as them, yet barely spoken to, and always regretted. There are also many more I've only spoken with online and never been in the same country, let alone met (I always thought to myself I'd meet them if I ever visit there). I'm actually super shy irl and wished I'd spoken to more people in person over the years when the opportunities arose. The connections one makes when hobbies are shared are truly invaluable, be that either irl or online. Foster those connections, you never know how much seeing those avatars popup online over the years means to you or them. Stability and consistency, seeing the same names grow and change over the years, but still posting, still there! <3
Hence, this blog is now still here again!
Blogging in 2023?
So I didn't want to just restore the previous blog (despite having backups somewhere). I also didn't want to do WordPress. I was considering just doing a plain HTML page with frames for the menu and content... essentially exactly how the site was when I first published it (that Neopets shop html coming in useful for something at the time!). However, on thinking about it, it seemed like a lot of maintenance work, so I opted for the lightest of lightweight blogging platforms I could find, and landed on write.as. It's pretty minimal, didn't even include comments, so the comment system below is somewhat of a hack and may/may not work long-term, we'll see.
Either way, I do intend to continue posting various things. I want to write a full on essay on the whole Eurovision jury voting debacle and possible reform options. There's some philosophy papers I wanted to research and write without necessarily formally publishing them. This is a place I can do that.
I do lament the loss of the internet of 2005-2010, there was an innocence, it wasn't a mass consumer advert-fest, people were happy with their little blog, livejournal, tumblr accounts, just chatting away in their fandom niche. While that still exists, it feels like our little communities have had a city size metropolis built on top of them, concrete poured everywhere, and what was left of that internet has splintered into an ever decreasing attention span.
I feel like there should still be a space for blogs, even if it's only ultimately a personal diary written by someone narcissistically talking to the void believing that someone out there reads it.
If nobody else, at least it's more real content for the all-encompassing AI training data. :D