National Catholic Register

Arts & Entertainment

The Carnies Cometh

BY ERIC SCHESKE

August 6-12, 2006 Issue | Posted 8/7/06 at 9:00 AM

 

Bloggers have joined the carnival.

No, they’re not manning the controls of the Tilt-O-Whirl, guessing people’s weight or barking up ticket sales for the Yak Woman. They’re combining cyber-forces to bring readers an array of perspectives on single topics.

So it is that “blog carnivals” are raising their tents across the blogosphere.

It’s a great idea. If you’ve spent any time pondering the information age, the first thing you figure out is, “We have too much information.”

Some people might find such a statement heretical or paradoxical. How, after all, can we have too much information? Doesn’t information make us better informed?

Fifteen years ago, that would have been a good point. But we’re now seeing that the overload of information available from the Internet, e-mails, multiple news channels and other sources make it difficult to process and retain meaningful knowledge.

Enter efforts to organize the information. There is, for instance, software that makes it easier to find information once it has been stored it in your e-mail archives or hard drive, such as “X1,” which costs about $75. There’s also a free version at Yahoo! (desktop.yahoo.com). (Warning: I’ve heard such software can cause problems with your hard drive.)

The Register’s own Blog Watch (ncregister.com/blogs.php) is another effort to distill information. By giving readers five posts every weekday, it boils down some of the Catholic blogosphere’s best blogging into one page — without adding to the glut.

And there are Catholic blog carnivals. They’re the idea of Eric Williams at Funky Dung (alesrarus.funkydung.com) and the product of Jay Allen’s efforts at Living Catholicism (livingcatholicism.com).

Williams noticed that Protestants had been holding successful carnivals and thought Catholic bloggers should try it. Allen liked the idea and got it started in October 2004.

As of this writing, there have been nearly 100 Catholic blog carnivals. Every week, Allen sends a “Call for Submissions” to bloggers, asking them to send their favorite posts from the past week. He gathers the submissions, then arranges the posts on a single page.

Like a regular carnival, the Catholic blog carnival travels. It rotates around the Catholic blogosphere.

In addition to Living Catholicism, the following sites regularly host the Catholic blog carnivals: Cow Pi Journal (cowpi.com/journal), A Penitent Blogger (penitens.blogspot.com), Universal Call (universalcall.libsyn.com), Deo Omnis Gloria (deoomnisgloria.com), Our Word and Welcome To It (hadleyblog.blogspot.com), and Herb Ely (herbely.com).

Each of these hosts receives various submissions from Catholic bloggers, then organizes them into a theme. Sometimes the theme is obvious. Sometimes it isn’t. It largely depends on the posts the host receives.

At times, the Catholic blog carnival calls for submissions on a specific topic, such as Lent or indulgences.

They should do this more, like their non-Catholic carnival brethren. The essence of a carnival is multiple perspectives on a single theme. If the single theme isn’t set, then it’s a loose carnival, at best.

Nonetheless, the Catholic blog carnivals are doing a good job of bringing together some of the best posts from the blogosphere. If you want to see a handful of great posts each week, I suggest you monitor Allen’s Living Catholicism blog. He has become “Mr. Carnival.” If there’s an interesting Catholic blog carnival in play, you’re most likely to read about it from Allen.

If you’re interested in monitoring carnivals of all types (religious, political, historical, sports), check out blog carnival (blogcarnival.com). This site does an excellent job of tracking carnivals throughout the blogosphere and has become the carnivals’ main clearinghouse.

Still the Best

I mentioned St. Blog’s Parish in one of my first columns, but it deserves mentioning again. It has been a source of confusion: There’s more than one St. Blog’s site, each site does something a little different, and they keep morphing.

I’ve been keeping an eye on the situation for the past six months and I’m prepared to recommend The St. Blog’s Parish Directory (stblogsparish.com/blogs/bloglist.php). This site breaks down the Catholic blogosphere into five categories: Clergy, Women Religious, Men, Women and Groups. It also has a “New” feature, which notifies surfers of new bloggers, and a link to a Catholic blog aggregator (groups.blogdigger.com/StBlogsParish) that allows users to key-word search for specific information.

Though I highly recommend the site, I have one warning: St. Blog’s Parish doesn’t weed out dissident Catholic bloggers. You might run across the occasional heretic.

Incidentally, if you’re looking for an old-fashioned search engine that concentrates on Catholic blogs, try Catholicblogs.com. It canvasses more than 800 Catholic blogs and does a good job of getting recent posts into its engine.

Monthly Blog Pick

When researching Catholic youth blogs for last month’s column, I ran across The Lair of the Catholic Cavemen (catholic-caveman.blogspot.com). I planned to mention it as a youth blog. Its contributors are clever and they write with the sass of an 18-year-old smart alec. Subtitled “The Car Crash of Blogs. You Don’t Want to, but You Just Can’t Help but Look,” its posts live up to its self-promotional hype.

But then I saw that its contributors aren’t so young. In fact, they appear to be older than I am. The ring leader, Kevin Whiteman, who blogs under the name “Vir Speluncae Catholicus” (The Catholic Caveman), is a retired Marine master sergeant. He says he blogs because he quit drinking but misses the days when he was the loudmouth at the end of the bar.

I don’t know the ages of his co-bloggers. Whiteman tells me they want to remain anonymous. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re all Whiteman himself, which is cute — a throwback to the old radio days where disc jockeys would take on multiple personalities.

Visitors to the Catholic Cavemen will find discussions of politics and religion. You only need to view the left sidebar of his blog to see where the Cavemen stand, spiritually speaking. You’ll see pictures of Bl. Solanus Casey and Bl. Vincent Capodanno (Medal of Honor winner), along with logos of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Leathernecks.

The Cavemen are no-nonsense guys with a sense of humor, though their humor is quite caustic and occasionally crude. I’m sure you’ve seen the hard-edged type before.

If that’s the type you like, you’ll enjoy a trip to The Lair of the Catholic Cavemen.

Erich Scheske blogs at

ericscheske.com/blog.