The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Arts February 8, 2008

Opinionated Obie with a Blog to Match
Ich Bin Ein Oberliner John West’s blog is a no-whining zone, instead focusing on its writer’s interests and opinions.

When Conservatory junior John West started his blog, Ich Bin Ein Oberliner, he didn’t want to create his own personal Oberlin Confessional. Hence his first post, “Five Reasons Why This Blog Is a Bad Idea.” But now, despite initial a year later, he finds himself tethered fast to the keyboard.

“I’m in constant need of outside validation,” said West, when asked why he started the blog.

Oberliner is a blog focused on West’s interests, mainly books and art. At times it mirrors the professional blogs that have become so popular in the last few years, such as the Times’ ArtsBeat, and comes complete with links to items of interest and photos.

“The wonderful — and horrific — thing about blogging is that all you need is an opinion, a computer and a few spare minutes,” said West.

West’s statement is a tribute to the newly born blog culture that has invaded the lives of many avid readers while leaving newspapers and other publications worried that they might become next year’s eight track. Many, such as the New York Times, have employed the “if you can’t beat them, join them” camp and weather the threats by featuring links to company-sponsored blogs on their websites.

Obies will know that the recent internet rage on campus is not necessarily the personal blog, but the more participation-friendly Oberlin Confessional. This site allows users to post anonymous threads without a threat of being discovered. But bloggers like West have a quite different aim; if the Confessional is a diary, Oberliner is a series of essays.

While the idea of a blog is still shiny and new — Microsoft Word refuses to validate the word “blog” as dictionary-definable — the phenomenon has already infiltrated the ranks of the everyman, namely students and other people who have a lot to say.

“I can tell what I don’t want Oberliner to be: a place where I detail and bitch about the minutiae of my life,” said West. “My guess is that 90 percent of the internet is porn and the vast majority of the rest is lonely people writing...” And if you’re looking to blogs for more than just entertainment, West provides you with a reading list, detailing all he has read and offering thoughts on selected material.

The episodic nature of a blog makes it easy to hook readers. Once they’ve enjoyed a post, they’ll often come back. For West, the creation of his blog is a hobby, and for his readers, making their way through his often self-deprecating and caustic prose can become as natural as tuning in to the latest episode of Lost — and hopefully with a more substantial result.

Despite West’s dedication, amateur blogging hasn’t quite reached its stride in Oberlin. When asked about similar sites on campus, West said that there were, “none that are still active. Every once in a while one or two will pop up only to shut down again in a couple of months. Amateur blogs (like mine) have short life cycles.”



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