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Deborah Esch
Toronto, Grand Manan, Briland
Professor of comparative literature and theory, writer, novice blogger
Interests: blogging in all its manifestations, including twitter; journalism; historiography; literary and cultural theory; history of aesthetics
Recent Activity
The blog-formerly-known-as-fledgling has flown the coop. She is working away at , where the door is always open. Continue reading
Posted Feb 4, 2010 at fledgling
The blog-formerly-known-as-fledgling is preparing to leave for its new quarters at WordPress. The move will bring a new URL and a fresh design - and, more importantly, a new name. The project remains the same: the practice and critique of blogging in all its manifestations, with attention to the impact of media, new and old, on journalism and historiography. After four months in its cosy nest here at TypePad, fledgling will try its wings from a new platform, with a new title: Makurrah's Blog. Look for it in the coming days at You can continue to follow updates on... Continue reading
Posted Jan 7, 2010 at fledgling
I finally made the time to embark on Clay Shirky's book, which I've been wanting to read for months. Having consistently come away from various blog posts and videos that he's shared a bit wiser than I was going in, I opened the volume with high expectations, which were met in the first few paragraphs. His anecdotal example of the stolen phone, and his analysis of the extent to which it "demonstrates the ways in which the information we give off about ourselves, in photos and e-mails and MySpace pages and all the rest of it, has dramatically increased our... Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2010 at fledgling
Things have been quiet over the past few days, as I contemplate the potential migration of fledgling from her TypePad nest to a new horizon with WordPress. A significant decision, which I expect to make shortly with some input from folks who know someting about conversion. I think she's strong enough to survive this migratory route, and to thrive at the other end. Updates as the situation evolves. And of course I would welcome advice from anyone who has taken the leap. Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2010 at fledgling
Audacity is just the word for it (at last, a blogger who cares about words!). No doubt the public is disgusted, and it's tempting to believe that Harper and Co. (truly Pro Rogues at this stage) will pay down the line for this insult and breach of trust. But this erstwhile Yank is not at all sure. I'll pass your comment along to the likewise-appalled author of the post.
Today's brief offering transcribes another scrawled entry in my notebook, which records more of Walter Benjamin's One-Way Street (which had its own origins in barely-legible notes). In the context of the year-and-decade-end inbox avalanche of advice on how to optimize, maximize and monetize one's blog, this comes, to me at least, as sweet relief and bracing reminder. "Standard Clock" To great writers, finished works weigh lighter than those fragments on which they work throughout their lives. For only the more feeble and distracted take an inimitable pleasure in closure, feeling that their lives have thereby been given back to them.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 4, 2010 at fledgling
Herewith fledgling's first guest post of the new year - make that first guest post, period. The author is Phil Jackson, a noted authority on (among other things) health policy, British punk and post-punk music, Indian cooking and the legacies of Marxism. To my mind the post exemplifies the kind of intelligent, incisive curation of writing and images for which this blog strives. At least a minimal awareness of current affairs in Canada will be required to appreciate the critique embedded here. And so prorogation… and the new Holy Tunic. “ Driven by the contradictory demands of his situation, and... Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2010 at fledgling
A link in the Twitter blog post by @Biz (December 29, 2009) connects the reader to his article "Why we can never rest: a year in the life of Twitter." The article's closing lines are worth re-recording. Many people have assumed that Twitter is just another social network, some kind of micro-blogging service, or both. It can be these things but primarily Twitter serves as a real-time information network powered by people around the world discovering what's happening and sharing the news. The Iranian election was the most discussed issue on Twitter in the final year of a decade... Continue reading
Posted Jan 2, 2010 at fledgling
The new year appears to be off to a fine start. I'm fortunate enough to be blogging from a gorgeous small hotel in Toronto, where I'm ensconced en famille, ipod cranked as the kids watch a movie (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs) as the snow falls softly on the other side of the windows and I embark on my first post of 2010. This time last year I wasn't yet a blogger; with nearly 100 posts under my belt, I'm feeling at least legit. As I mentioned two or three posts back, my idea is to take as a... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2010 at fledgling
A few days before her own death, journalist Michelle Lang blogged about the passing of Lt. Andrew Nuttall, a fellow blogger. Both died via IED. A "rough" year in AfghanistanBy Michelle Lang in Afghanistan Sun, Dec 27 2009 As 2009 draws to a close, Canada's top general conceded the past 12 months were "rough." Speaking to reporters in Kandahar this weekend, Gen. Walter Natynczyk, the country's chief of defence staff, said the growing danger in Afghanistan and problems with corruption in the summer presidential election made the past year a difficult one. You can read more here. His comments follow... Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2009 at fledgling
Canadian journalist Michelle Lang, who began reporting from Kandahar on December 20, was killed today, along with four Canadian soldiers she was accompanying on a routine patrol that ended when an IED exploded beneath their vehicle. She wrote 7 blog posts during what was to be a two-week tour in Afghanistan. Here is the most recent of her "Afghanistan Dispatches" for the Calgary Herald. Wanted: combat barbers By Michelle Lang in Afghanistan Tue, Dec 29 2009 On a recent trip outside of Kandahar Airfield, I started talking with a lady who had an unusual patch on her body armour. It... Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2009 at fledgling
As the year winds down, I have been thinking, in passing, about the nature of New Year's "resolutions," and specifically whether they are of the order of promises, which is to say, of contracts. Does it matter whether resolutions are made public (which would imply consequences of some sort if they were not made good down the line), or can they remain vows, made and kept internally? In any case I expect to see lots of resolutions on my Twitter feed in the next few days. And herewith I make good on a tacit promise made in my last post,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2009 at fledgling
Having said that (cf. my post from earlier today), I did break down and read a few of the posts in my inbox promising to make me a better blogger in 2010, and actually found a list that made some sense. I'm pasting it below for my own reference as well as for readers who might find it of interest. You can find it at I'm thinking of revising my avoid-reading-Stephen-King-at-all-cost in light of what follows. 13 blogging lessons learned from Stephen King’s On Writing Stephen King’s book On Writing is a very good read. It is targeted towards... Continue reading
Posted Dec 29, 2009 at fledgling
Over the last few weeks, my email inbox has been brimming over with posts from other bloggers proffering advice (and flogging books) on how to blog bigger and better in the new year. The majority of these posts take the form of lists of what to do differently (which undoubtedly includes translating my sometimes cumbersome paragraphs into something more telegraphic). I confess that, while I have deleted only a few (whose sources I don't entirely trust), I haven't been able to bring myself to read the ones that still await my attention. There are a number of reasons for this,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 29, 2009 at fledgling
If this is off-da-hook, I'm hanging up.... But rather than resume my sporadic rant, well-documented on Twitter, I thought it better to share a useful year-end account of the debates surrounding Twitter's imposition (sorry, implementation) of its "Retweet" feature, and the resistance of users adhering to the consensual RT practice generated by themselves. The latter, while requiring slightly more effort than the click of a single button (since when did copy/paste become labour-intensive?), allowed for both off-the-cuff and more thoughtful editorializing and contributed, sometimes significantly, to the ongoing conversations facilitated by Twitter. RT vs. Retweet Posted on December 3,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 26, 2009 at fledgling
Pasted below the photo is the final post on the blog kept by Lt. Andrew Nuttall ofthe Canadian Forces, who, together with his ANA partner, lost his life to an IED a few days ago. I will return to this and other passages from this moving artefact in due course. Update from Afghanistan 4 December 1st, 2009 Posted in Military, Personal/Website| No Comments » (I’ve put some more pictures up on flickr!) Hi all! In order to be as open as I can i’m now going to post these updates on my website, although I am going to have to... Continue reading
Posted Dec 25, 2009 at fledgling
The fragmentary imperative attributed to Goethe as his dying words is "Mehr Licht," which translates as "more light," a characteristically rich turn of phrase with multiple possible senses (e.g. "Bring the candle closer, dammit, I can't see a thing," or "I see a reassuring glow on the far horizon"). With the passing of the winter solstice, as the days begin slowly to lengthen, I've reverted to Pico White as my backdrop here. (A glance at my archive during the dark days revealed that highlighted passages disappear almost entirely under the Pico Dark Blue regime, which I otherwise enjoyed.) The blank... Continue reading
Posted Dec 22, 2009 at fledgling
Readers may notice a minor design modification to fledgling, made in view of the impending winter solstice and the shortest days of 2009. This too shall pass. Between now and the new year I'll be posting mainly on makurrah's posterous. Continue reading
Posted Dec 19, 2009 at fledgling
December 18, 2009 Turns out this is my first mobile posting, punched into my trusty BB as I wait in a cafe for my kid and her friend to exit the nearby cinema. I've just re-read Clay Shirky's "A Speculative Post on the Idea of Algorithmic Authority" for the fourth time - in hard copy, of course. Two colours of highlighter compete with scribbled marginalia at this point. Having already pasted up the OED definitions of "algorithm" and "authority" in an earlier post (when in doubt, adhere to etymology and historical usage), and reviewed what are in fact fairly tight... Continue reading
Posted Dec 18, 2009 at fledgling
In the half hour or so that I have to devote to this blog today, I thought I'd try to put myself in a position to be able to contribute something by way of a gloss on or supplement to Clay Shirky's "Speculative Post on the Idea of Algorithmic Authority" ( ) I've been thinking about it off and on for a couple of weeks now, and more intensively since my reading of the flurry of posts on the menace of "content farming" (cf "'Content farms'? Can we parse this before we start to worry?", posted yesterday). Clay's "rough and... Continue reading
Posted Dec 16, 2009 at fledgling
Yesterday I retweeted (the user-generated way, which allowed me to editorialize "Nightmarish") the rww Sunday Editorial "Content Farms: Why Media, Blogs & Google Should Be Worried" ( ). The fact that I follow Richard MacManus (author of the editorial) and Co. on Twitter demonstrates that I take them to be authorities of sorts, such that, if they are worried, perhaps I should be as well (though the last thing I need is more anxiety in my life). So I did a bit of homework on this pending threat to my relative tranquility as a blogger, and read a cluster of... Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2009 at fledgling
Deborah Esch is now following Anil Dash
Dec 14, 2009
It occurs to me that I might borrow a technique, and the language that makes it work, from someone I just began to follow on Twitter yesterday. @danielbachhuber sent the following tweet on December 13: "Two pieces, loosely joined: @jayrosen_nyu's and standard fare at the @guardiannews. The link is to a post on his blog, one that I highly recommend as (to quote him) "an entry point for deeper learning" about the possibilities inscribed in Jay Rosen's conceptual framework for For now I will simply borrow the "loosely joined" structure or relationship to tie today's post to... Continue reading
Posted Dec 14, 2009 at fledgling
This a.m. my inbox yielded another post from the prolific Chris Brogan: "Write Better Blog Posts Today." The "today" was an effective hook - of course I want to start writing better posts today, right away, now - so I read with attention, finding myself admiring once again Chris' willingness to share the benefit of his experience. He offers a good deal of solid advice, succinctly put, and I would recommend the post to novice as well as more experienced bloggers. Read it at But I had to disagree on one point, which I reproduce below: A caution about... Continue reading
Posted Dec 13, 2009 at fledgling
A link provided by Dave Winer on led me to a useful piece by C.W Anderson on the NiemanJournalismLab site, entitled "Next year's news about the news: What we'll be fighting about in 2010." Following a handy summary of "What we kinda-sorta know" at this stage (e.g., "'bloggers' versus 'journalists' is (really, really) over," "Some information won't be free, but probably not enough to save big news organizations," "The news will increasingly be produced by smaller, de-institutionalized organizations"), Anderson tries to "pretend (just for a moment) that all those fights are settled," in order to reflect on the... Continue reading
Posted Dec 11, 2009 at fledgling