Pakistani Spectator interview

Here is my  interview for The Pakistani Spectator. It has now been published. Enjoy. I mentioned this on the Gateway in What’s new on Monday, 30 June 2008.

Would you please tell us something about you and your site?

I was born in Sydney Australia 65 years ago into a very different world. That was after all in the midst of World War II. Not much to tell, except that I eventually graduated in Arts from Sydney University, becoming a teacher of English and History in secondary schools, with a then fairly rare qualification in Asian and Indian/Pakistani history. My teaching career began in 1966 and ran, with a few diversions, until 1995, continuing part time now. From 1990 I moved towards English as a Second Language teaching, adding a Graduate Certificate in TESOL to my qualifications in 1998.

I came to the internet quite late, in 2000, having earlier been something of a computerphobe. I have several blogs in two divisions. One, English, ESL — and more, began as a site for my own students but has since taken on a life of its own; the other is more personal — Floating Life, with a Gateway blog and some archives and a more pictorial blog where there are also pages detailing my family history back to a convict ancestor who arrived in Sydney in the early 1820s, and further back than that to Australia’s first people.

Do you feel that you continue to grow in your writing the longer you write? Why is that important to you?

I think I do, despite my advanced years. This is partly a matter of becoming used to the situation of writing online, partly through feedback from others, partly through reading others and seeing what they do that I like. It is important because I do seek to communicate rather than to alienate, if at all possible.

I’m wondering what some of your memorable experiences are with blogging?

There have been some memorable bad moments, but among the more memorable good experiences have been finding out through contacts made on the blog even more about my own family, and meeting up with a colleague I hadn’t seen for thirty years. There have also been so many precious examples of communicating with people from cultures and backgrounds I may have never encountered otherwise.

What do you do in order to keep up your communication with other bloggers?

WordPress offers good tools for this, and I also use BlogExplosion and Facebook.

What do you think is the most exciting or most innovative use of technology in politics right now?

On the last one, I think the 2007 Australian elections and the Kevin07 campaign showed that the web can be very influential. I admire the Australian site GetUp.

Do you think that these new technologies are effective in making people more responsive?

Yes, I do, but not always in a good way. I suspect people with prejudices sometimes have their prejudices reinforced by spending most of their time on sites they agree with. One reason I enjoy Arts & Letter Daily, for example, is that it places in front of me many articles I may not otherwise have sought out.

What do you think sets Your site apart from others?

I don’t think it is all that original really. I will quote a recent reader though, because if he is right I am very happy: I guess I like those that contain true things, that don’t hate or spread hate, that make me smile or make me think...Urbane and measured writing on a broad canvas from a retired Australian teacher. Gentle but uncompromising social commentary.

If you could choose one characteristic you have that brought you success in life, what would it be?

Materially I am conspicuously unsuccessful. As a teacher, I have sometimes — not always — been a good listener.

What was the happiest and gloomiest moment of your life?

Too personal…

If you could pick a travel destination, anywhere in the world, with no worries about how it’s paid for – what would your top 3 choices be?

1. China

2. UK — especially Scotland

3. Paris

What is your favorite book and why?

Just one? For some reason The Wind in the Willows comes to mind, but perhaps that is just association with the time I read it…

What’s the first thing you notice about a person (whether you know them or not)?

Eyes, I think.

Is there anyone from your past that once told you you couldn’t write?

I have had both experiences — being told I could and being told I couldn’t…

How bloggers can benefit from blogs financially?

My efforts on Blogspot with Adsense have yielded little, but I suppose my English/ESL blog helps enhance a reputation in the area that may indirectly assist, and has sometimes led to inquiries.

Is it true that who has a successful blog has an awful lot of time on their hands?

Very true, I sometimes say “Some people blog; others have a life.” But that is no doubt unfair. I know of quite a few very busy people who blog.

What role can bloggers of the world play to make this world more friendlier and less hostile?

I think they can play a major role, simply by being there. It is difficult to regard someone one has really got to know, as in some blogs you can, as an enemy. Bloggers too would be well advised to avoid filling their blogs with hate, and avoid commenting on matters they may not understand.

Who are your top five favourite bloggers?

  1. Baghdad Burning
  2. 3 Quarks Daily
  3. Easy-Writer: Kanani
  4. John Baker
  5. Man of Lettuce: Sydney Cabbie Blog

They are not in any special order. But there are so many I could have added!

Is there one observation or column or post that has gotten the most powerful reaction from people?

Probably On the awkwardness (and fatuity?) of discussing religion.

What is your perception about Pakistan and its people?

I am influenced by a friend who spent six months in Pakistan and found the people among the most hospitable he ever met — and he has been in many countries. From Australia, of course, we find aspects of Pakistan worrying — and I am not merely considering Cricket…

Have you ever become stunned by the uniqueness of any blogger?

Yes; I think that was my initial reaction to Baghdad Burning, for example.

What is the most striking difference between a developed country and a developing country?

Perhaps people in a developed country forget what their lifestyle really costs, while people in a developing country know that from daily experience.

What is the future of blogging?

I hope it continues as a means of uniting rather than dividing the people of the world.

You have also got a blogging life, how has it directly affected both your personal and professional life?

It has given me quite a few useful tools for my work as a tutor, and it has often enhanced my personal life, though at other times it may almost be a substitute for a personal life.

What are your future plans?

To survive in retirement…

Any Message you want to give to the readers of The Pakistani Spectator?

I wish the readers of The Pakistani Spectator well, and ask them not to trust anyone who tells them their truth is the only truth, or their way the only way, especially if killing people is part of the deal.

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