The mission of VatulBlog is as follows: To leave behind a free, searchable repository of data, research and a somewhat coherent set of my thoughts about geoscience, computing, the internet, Project Gutenberg, disaster, diaspora, culture navigation and, lately, living in New Orleans.
In 1991, this high schooler, who didn’t foresee weblogs, began to write email missives to friends on the topics of politics and science education. The ones that resembled essays were translated into HTML/XML/PHP and archived on old incarnations of my website. Proto-bloggerette then found Blogspot in 2002 (reluctantly) and, two years ago, WordPress (eagerly). Each discussion of import that dozed in the annals of my various email Inboxes was funneled into a Maitri post and out it went.
Why the painful details of my blog-volution? Information is power. Knowledge is power. When I find potentially-useful information and create it through discussion or thought, I share it so that many learn from it (including me, who always learns more from further discussion).
In a recent email, Michael Hart of Project Gutenberg said, “One believes knowledge is power means don’t share it and I remark that this leaves a world filled with darkness. The other believes that knowledge is power means share it, and I remark that this leaves a world filled with light. ‘Tis better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.” The power of my knowledge is in giving it away so that we all know that much more, the world is that much better to live in. For me, there is no money or personal power to be gained from information archival and dissemination. VatulBlog is the online manifestation of that ethic.
This philosophy was underscored during and after Katrina. A displaced resident of New Orleans and a loud civic voice, I had no stomach for superficial news and what Christiane Amanpour describes well as “happy-camper war-and-disaster-zone travelogue” (HT, Ray). I was confused and frustrated from not knowing what was going on with the city, so I pacified myself by stepping in as a reporter and turning VatulBlog into a bullhorn in the NOLA PA system network. This was my catharsis and each time I received an encouraging comment, letter or phone call from an anonymous émigré, it reminded me that I was not alone, others were suffering a lot more and I had to keep writing.
My blog was a single candle. Soon, I found other candles like WetBankGuide, GulfSails and Gentilly Girl and the shining beacon that is Think New Orleans, which shares a lot of my own standards on knowledge work, information, content, archival and sharing. The fire caught from there. Writing about New Orleans over and above their jobs, not as their jobs – the woes, the recovery, the administrative blunders from the federal government on down and our own exploration of identity and the nature of self in a city hit by an unnatural disaster – all of the NOLA blogs linked to from my site share that conscience and that personal touch. A greater free, searchable, linked repository of news, data, research and a somewhat coherent set of thoughts on the re-discovery of ourselves.
It was also through this blog that I found Sepia Mutiny, the vibrant and thoughtful salve to that within me which is Indian, Kuwaiti, American and everything in between.
As I told someone yesterday, “One cannot talk about the truth of anything unless one has lived it, and I cannot for the life of me begin to see the truth [in New Orleans] even while going through this for almost a year now.” Sixteen years after fleeing Kuwait, I don’t know its truth. VatulBlog is not here to give you the truth. It is here to provide information so that you make your own choice. Having a sea of options and viewpoints makes a more enlightened human being. What you make of it is the truth, your truth.
I don’t suggest that one ought not to make money from writing, even if it is using the blog medium. After all, Chris Cooper and Robert Block are Rising Tide‘s keynote speakers and they are making money off a book which we support. In fact, I’ve purchased the book, as I did those of Brinkley, Ray (yes, our Ray), Codrescu, Rose and Piazza. But, these people are professionals, the children of New Orleans, its writers and ambassadors even before the storm and providing a lasting chunk of wonderfully-written and researched information heretofore unseen.
New Orleans is not my domain, anyone on this planet can write about it, but I would encourage those who know it the most and can offer original perspective and news that really helps, whether it makes them money or not. VatulBlog and my principles are completely within my jurisdiction, however, and I cannot give space within it to those who wish to make money from what has already been done and will continue to happen here.