The blogosphere is a funny place, defined as it is by ephemeral digital bits that flit around the planet at speeds that were once inconceivable, and turn up on luminous screens as words and pictures of pretty much every imaginable sort. At this point in time there are probably somewhere in the vicinity of 200 million blogs on the web,1 and although the boom years of blogging have probably passed, the number is still growing.

Of course, of these 200 million offerings, barely a hand full are worth attending to, as we all know. And even of these, most settle into the well-worn, usually pedestrian, reiterations of the kind of media that we’ve had for centuries: magazines, news reports, gossip, diaries and opinionated grumblings.

In my opinion, the real potential of blogging has been overlooked by all but a very special few. Joey Polanski, or ‘Sir’ Joey as he is known around these parts, is one of those special few. Or, I should say, was one of those special few, for as many of you already know, a couple of days back, Joey brought down the curtain on his blog The Joey Polanski Show. I watched the lights go out in the JPS theatre with the greatest of sadness, because over the years, the flitting digital bits that have made their way to my screen from JPS Central have formed themselves into something quite remarkable: a friend.2 When I started blogging, I would never have thought something like that possible. Now Joey’s retirement is certainly not the same as if he suddenly disappeared and I never knew what happened – indeed, I even had warning that the Show was going to fold. But it does leave me with the feeling that an actual real friend has left town and that when I wander past his place all I’ll see from now on is windows with drawn shades and cobwebs forming under the eaves.

I think I do understand Joey’s reasons for closing up the show though. Sometimes a thing just runs its course, and the time becomes right to leave it be. I can’t imagine that happening at The Cow just yet, but I know I couldn’t absolutely rule out the possibility. Whatever the reasons, Sir Joey says that even though the theatre has gone dark, the old hoofer isn’t averse to a special appearance now and then and I hope that’s so.

I said before that Joey was one of a special few that, in my opinion, understood the real potential of blogging. The way I see it, anybody can write a diary, but it takes skill, and humour and prescience to understand the idea that a blog works best as a two-way street. This, indeed, is one of the reasons I think that the traditional media is having so much trouble with their presence on the net – they don’t understand the fundamental appeal of being an active part of the thing you’re reading.3 That was one of the very first things that attracted me to The JPS – even when I first started visiting YEARS ago, there was a constant amusing, sometimes hilarious, banter going on. It was like wandering into a party in full swing, and being handed a beer at the door.

The best thing was that Joey started coming to my parties too, and brought some of his infectious irreverent humour with him, and I know you’ll all agree that his shtick in the comments of some posts has often been more entertaining than the posts themselves. On more than one occasion I’ve even had to step back into the shadows and let Polanski and Atlas steal the stage entirely, and indeed, those two guys are responsible for big chunks of Cow Lore. It is without doubt a situation of the sum being greater than the parts.

Joey’s Shelf will remain permanently installed at The Cow. It’s in the basement (which I confess, is prone to flooding) but I do make sure that Sister Veronica dusts Joey’s trophies every now and then, and removes any of the crap that Atlas has dumped there. I urge you to visit The Shelf from time to time as a sort of homage to Joey. You never know what you’ll find.

Joey, thanks for all the good times over at the JPS. Thanks for the laughs and the pomes. And thanks, above all, for getting it.

So, as this sad era comes to a close, only one thing remains to be said:

Sir Joey Polanski: The Cow Salutes You!

  1. It’s actually hard to get an exact figure. This number is based on a best-guess estimation from Technorati and Google. It’s probably an underestimate if all foreign-language blogging is accounted for. []
  2. And a strange and wonderful kind of friend; the person who I know in my head as ‘Joey Polanski’ is a fiction concocted by a real person. I’m sure there’s a lot of that real person in Joey Polanski’s character, but I am always aware that ‘Joey’ does not exist in any corporeal way. And yet, I still conceive of him as a friend. What a remarkable a magic trick that is! []
  3. The Guardian gets it – there is an increasing involvement of readers in the Guardian site. The comments on many articles rage into enormously entertaining debates, and there are Guardian photography and writing competitions – active communities that feel like they are part of The Guardian world. Contrast that with Rupert Murdoch’s cloistered communities, dotted with doddering old fogeys who are wondering why the Letters pages are so empty all of a sudden. []