Interview with Blogger Eric LangagerBy The Pakistani Spectator • Mar 7th, 2012 • Category: Interviews • No Responses
Would you please tell us something about you and your site?
My name is Eric Langager. I was born in Tokyo Japan to American missionaries. My parents took me to the US when I was 13 years old. I went to a small teacher’s college in Oregon, and then moved to the countryside of North Dakota and taught in a small, one-room school. There wasn’t really any place in that area to go to graduate school, so I went to Canada in the summer time and studied educational psychology at the University of Regina. I now live in Beijing, China, where I have been involved in technical training. I retired from my university a little over a year ago when I reached the age of 55, because my university has an upper age limit for foreign professors. I have been blogging about China since I came to Beijing in 2004.
Do you feel that you continue to grow in your writing the longer you write? Why is that important to you?
Yes, I do. Writing develops writing. You do become a better writer if you keep writing. But it is more important to keep reading. Writing comes from reading. This is important to me, because I believe that there are elements of my background and education that have given me an interest in different countries and peoples and the relationships between them.
I’m wondering what some of your memorable experiences are with blogging?
I have had some interesting communications with readers throughout the world. In the fall of 2004, I visited Shanxi Province, and discovered an old medieval style monastery built in the latter part of the 19th Century. I blogged about this, and got an email from a guy in Germany whose Grandfather built that monastery. He had been trying to find it, and when he read my blog, he sent me a picture and description. I told him it was definitely the place he was looking for.
What do you do in order to keep up your communication with other bloggers?
There doesn’t seem to be that much communication between bloggers. Bloggers are pretty independent. But from time to time I get email from other bloggers and I try to answer their questions as best I can.
If you had to describe life as a blogger in a Twitter message (140 characters) what would you say?
Speak your mind. Focus on the key issues. Try to be fair. Don’t hold back—say what you are thinking.
What do you think is the most exciting or most innovative use of technology in politics right now?
Well, everybody talks about Twitter and Facebook, but I am inclined to think that blogging is still going to pretty important. Along this line, I would also include sites like Youtube and software like iTunes—I refer to the ability to watch and listen to delayed programming on demand. Youtube defeated Hilary Clinton in the 2008 election.
Do you think that these new technologies are effective in making people more responsive?
I think Twitter tends to focus attention on trivia, so I am not a fan. Blogging is potentially good, but also has problems, because bloggers do not always follow the highest standards. Today’s generation is very visually oriented because of television, so perhaps Youtube is the most popular. But I say that with some measure of regret. There is too much of personality and not enough of substance in today’s politics. So sadly, new technologies have tended to focus politics on the shallow or superficial. For me personally, iTunes is the most significant. I say “iTunes,” because that is the brand of podcasting software I use. And I do not use iTunes for music. I use it strictly for news and information.
What do you think sets Your site apart from others?
I tend to focus on writing. Blogs are supposed to be about writing, but some blogs seem to have become sidetracked by other things. There doesn’t seem to be much thought to them. In addition, I also have a podcast (http://beijingdiary.podbean.com ) in connection with my blog, and I have recently started a video blog on Youtube.
If you could choose one characteristic you have that brought you success in life, what would it be?
I love to read. Anything. I always have. I grew up in a boarding school in the north of Japan, and I found that books were a great antidote to loneliness. Because of my love for reading, I have always found it easy to get my own information about stuff, and I find that writing comes much easier if you are a reader. I hate to beat a dead horse, but writing comes from reading. Where else could it come from?
What was the happiest and gloomiest moment of your life?
The day the police came to my door with loaded weapons and took my children away. Believe it or not, that’s standard procedure in the United States when you go through a divorce.
The day that stands out in my mind is the day almost two years ago now, when I carried my belongings to a little place I had rented in a little village out in the Western Hills of Beijing.
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?
Afghanistan. Two million children in Afghanistan have no education. I would like to do something about that.
Norway. My grandfather came from Norway. Actually, all my grandparents are Norwegian. I have never been there.
Africa. No particular country in mind. But I would like to be involved in Africa at some point in my life.
What is your favorite book and why?
Definitely the Bible. I am a lover of books. And I was introduced to the Bible by my parents. I suppose I might be considered a bit biased because I came from a Christian background, but, I don’t know…I guess I was always fascinated by the range of stories from a part of the world that always only dreamed about seeing.
What’s the first thing you notice about a person (whether you know them or not)?
The expression on their faces.
Is there anyone from your past that once told you you couldn’t write?
No, I haven’t actually heard that. But I would say that most people did not tell me the other either—I mean that I was a natural writer or something. Once in awhile I hear it, but for the most part, my interest in writing has been self-motivated.
How bloggers can benefit from blogs financially?
I am sure many bloggers are hoping they will one day make some money at it, but for the vast majority of them, it’s not going to happen. There is an indirect benefit, I suppose. The writing exercise you get from writing a blog is good preparation and training for other stuff. But blogging itself is seldom a money making proposition. But it doesn’t matter. True writers don’t write for money. They write to write. Of course it is handy to make a living at it, because then you can afford to spend more time doing it. But if you are really truly a writer, money is beside the point.
Is it true that who has a successful blog has an awful lot of time on their hands?
Well, blogging is quite time consuming, if that’s what you mean. But it kinda depends on how you define “successful.” If you are blogging when you have time, and you have the freedom to good ideas some expression, then it isn’t the worst thing in the world if you do not have time to do it every day.
What role can bloggers of the world play to make this world more friendlier and less hostile?
Well, if they are sincere people, they can contribute a lot by picking one subject, and telling the truth about that subject in so far as it is in their power to do so. Bloggers should always write to enlighten, not just to vent their emotions.
Who are your top five favourite bloggers?
I try to follow the Danwei blog for information on China. I read the Political Ticker on CNN for quick information about American political life. And there are several independent blogs I have read through Aljazeera that are quite informative. Other than those, there are some others that I read from time to time, depending on their content.
Is there one observation or column or post that has gotten the most powerful reaction from people?
What is your perception about Pakistan and its people?
We hear a lot of stuff about Pakistan these days because of the conflict now between Pakistan and the U.S. re: the assassination of Osama bin Lade by the Americans, and the support for bin Laden by some within the Pakistan intelligence community. But during all this controversy, I was riding the subway here in Beijing one day, and I met a guy from Pakistan. He said, “If you actually go to Pakistan and travel through the countryside, people will be very kind to you.” That started me thinking….perhaps I will fly to Islamabad and begin my travel to Afghanistan from there.
Have you ever become stunned by the uniqueness of any blogger?
Most bloggers are not stunning. Taken as a whole, blogs are a good thing, because they open up a whole avenue of information that was previously not available. But it must be said that most bloggers are not professional writers, and can be very boring to read.
What is the most striking difference between a developed country and a developing country?
Some sort of clear, nationwide, underlying moral belief among the people.
What is the future of blogging?
I am an optimist. I think it’s going to get better. But there will always be lots and lots of blogs and only a few very good ones.
You have also got a blogging life, how has it directly affected both your personal and professional life?
Well, it takes a lot of time. But the discipline of writing has been very good for me.
What are your future plans?
I am currently in the process of putting together an NGO to go to Afghanistan and teach young children. There are many kids in Afghanistan who have no school. And there are lots of young people in China who would be very good at working with these children.
Any Message you want to give to the readers of The Pakistani Spectator?
Try to keep an open mind about what you see and what you read. Vary your sources of information. Talk to people. Listen to them. Ask lots of questions from every day people.