Thursday, December 06, 2007

Arthur Frommer on Blogging

Contrary to the impression that I give with my blog, I do have a full life outside of diabetes, its just that has never been the focus of my blog postings. After all, I don't think people read here for details on how I spent my weekend (at least I hope not)! But every once and a while, I have some personal detail that is worth sharing.

On Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to meet Arthur Frommer, whose name is synonymous with travel since he first published his groundbreaking book "Europe on $5 a Day" back in the 1950's. He was giving a presentation to NYU alumni, although it was open to anyone who wanted to attend. Mr. Frommer has been hailed as "the dean of budget travel", and unlike the authors of some other travel book series, he actually stays at the lodgings that are recommended in his publications. The "Dollar A Day" series has since been retired, and in its place, a new series bearing the name of his daughter (Pauline Frommer) has emerged. Pauline, who co-authored The New World of Travel with her father, has authored a number of the books herself, and edited the ones she hasn't written personally.

I have long admired Mr. Frommer's work (although I preferred the books he personally authored much moreso than those done under the "Frommer's" brand name but written by others), particularly because I share so many of his views on the world. Self-described as "A devout liberal Democrat in the FDR tradition" he refuses to visit countries under occupation or military rule. Thats one reason some countries he once recommended, like Venezuela (which could re-emerge given this week's election results) and Thailand, have since been excluded from his recommended places to visit. He is also very opinionated, and occasionally, brutally frank about it -- one reason I like him as a travel writer! For example, Arthur Frommer's Branson, a travel guide he assigned to and wrote himself because of his Missouri boyhood. While he initially thought he would enjoy writing a book that celebrated the city's enterprise, instead, he was disappointed by what he saw, which was reflected (to some extent, anyway) in the book. Here's what he told the press about his Branson experience:

"I hated the jingoism. I hated these country singers, who had all been draft dodgers themselves during Vietnam, who marched down the aisle with drum beats, with machine-gun bullets, and waved the flag," he says, still disgusted. "Also, all of these people who became so religious! ... Many of the country-music theaters in Branson are used as stages for proselytizing." (Editor note: Gospel concerts are not necessarily the same as country concerts.)

Not everyone shares his political outlook or his perspective, but that doesn't mean they won't find his books valuable. In his own words, "Travel is scarcely worth the effort unless it is associated with people, learning and ideas." With the exception of The New World of Travel, Frommer's books generally stick to the basics, how to get there, get around, where to stay, where to eat, what the attractions are, etc., and those are usually routine without having an injection of too much personal opinion.

So, my readers may be wondering, what does this have to do with diabetes? The answer is nothing, but it does have to do with blogging, thus the reason I am sharing it today.

Arthur Frommer On Blogging

I asked Mr. Frommer to autograph my copy of The New World of Travel, which I consider to be one of his best publications ever. He naturally obliged, and when doing so, he commented "Gee, we really need to update this book" (the latest edition was last updated in 1996-1997), as he noted, some of the operators noted in the book had moved, been acquired, gone out of business, etc., although he acknowledged that the basic idea behind the book had changed very little, and that much remained as valid today as they did back when the book was first published in 1988.

I responded by noting, "There's always your blog!" He laughed, and said "I have really created a monster with the blog!", noting that he often feels compelled to make much more than 2 posts a day. (In fact, it is not uncommon for there to be 5 more more posts each day. Although not all are authored by him, those that bear his name are, and generally outnumber those that do not.) He mentioned that last year, there were over 800 postings in his blog. I said that no one expected him to have more than 1 posting a day, which he responded to by laughing.

Although I met him personally for only a few minutes, the time I did spend was quite valuable, and many of my questions were answered before I even asked them. In all, it was a valuable meeting.


Branson Missouri said...

Frommer's comments about Branson were interesting. I haven't had the opportunity to read his book but would like to see how extensive his coverage was. Do you agree with his assesment?

Branson Missouri

Scott S said...

Honestly, I cannot say, as I haven't yet visited Branson. But my experience has been that many country singers do tend to display a great deal of jingoism. Consider the treatment of the Dixie Chicks following their criticism of President Bush's policies. However, none of the things are specific to Branson (it could just as easily have occurred in Las Vegas or Los Angeles for that matter), but to the type of performers who perform there.

Those statements came from a newspaper interview he did on his Branson experience a few years ago, but they should be taken in the context of everything else he had to say. Mr. Frommer believes that as long as long as there is not overt hostility towards people who have a different viewpoint, then its beneficial to see places and meet people who see the world differently than he does.