Not long ago, in an era known fondly as the Dark Ages, if your snot-nosed brother stole your diary, you'd kick the crap out of him or, at the very least, make him eat worms.
Diaries were sacred things, a place to express your most intimate thoughts, free from any cruel peer pressure or parents who may disapprove of your trip to the adult bookstore.
But these are more enlightened times, at least in terms of handling soul-bearing secrets. Instead of locking your diary in a drawer and threatening your wee sibling with castration, the popular practice today is to publish your diary on the web, adding a few graphics and random thoughts on feminine hygiene.
Called blogs, these online diaries are now an official phenomenon, as millions of semi-delusional geeks with far too much time on their hands and some sort of deep-rooted need for attention flock to start their own Internet journals. Bloggers range from bitter journalists looking for a place to rant, to 12-year Britney fanatics who feel the need to share their fascinating lunchtime discussions.
With Macarena-like intensity, blogs are spreading through Geekland, shifting the tides of international events. When Mississippi Senator Trent Lott implied at a dinner party that the South might be a better place if black people didn't mingle with white folk so much, bloggers spread the word, eventually prompting even dozing newspaper reporters to pick up on the story.
In Iran, where inquisitive young computer geeks are sent to dungeons for checking out www.bigtits.com, there are more than 10,000 bloggers sharing their thoughts on blink-182 and playing a key role in convincing the world that not all Iranians are eager to bomb U.S. fast food restaurants.
Like Iranians, San Diegans have woes-big woes-and blogging is clearly an important outlet to express themselves on the repressive nature of San Diego society, especially when the surf is flat and Starbucks runs out of amaretto flavoring.
Even sleepy San Diego Union-Tribune TV-radio critic Robert "Bob" Laurence has grabbed on to the blog phenomenon, although, with typical bulldog zeal, he has only made one entry, a June 24 reference to his own column.
Finding San Diego bloggers is easy, thanks to SanDiegoBloggers.com, a constantly updated catalog of local bloggers. Dozens are listed, each with witty and mysterious names like "Sashimi Girl," "Bill's Bloggy Goodness" and "Monkeys in the Pants."
Much of the blogging is geek-to-geek communication, the Klingon-infused dialogue of wireless engineers and website designers. Others are oriented to current events or politics, such as SD4dean, which attempts to entice people to share their thoughts on the charisma of presidential candidate Howard Dean, who, of course, has his own blog.
But most of the San Diego bloggers are like 24-year-old single Catholic girl Veronica, the author of a blog titled "When Boredom Sets In," who describes herself as "Easily amused. Easily bored. Loves to be lazy. Drinks Dr. Pepper. Loves Amazing Race, Survivor and Big Brother."
Blogs like Veronica's provide strangely fascinating insights into the daily lives of real San Diegans, your friends and neighbors. Entries range from meandering updates on watering plants to detailed perspectives on the search for Osama bin Laden, all based on the premise that someone in the world will, presumably, care enough to read it.
Each blog author finds different ways to reach out to readers. For Electric Bugaloo, that means pictures of his favorite naked "chicks."
"I'm a straight male. I love to look at chicks. Especially semi-clothed, scantily clad, or just plain naked ones," he explains to readers.
But Bugaloo has his philosophical side. "Who here can use chopsticks? I can," he wrote recently. "But it's kinda weird. I don't really like Japanese food. So how do I know how?"
Trying to find a form or some higher meaning in this misses the point. Blogs are rarely meant to be profound; if anything, they're designed to serve as a contrast to the condescending blurts of stuck up attention-addicted journalists, who are convinced of they're own profoundness.
Few bloggers display any aspirations to fine literature. The author of "Debbie Does Drivel" recently devoted her blog to cataloging the individual characteristics of her boyfriends, dating back to 1991.
Dr. Phil and his cohorts would certainly attribute this ranting to some sort of mass cry for help, a form of therapy for people either too stoned or too anti-social to deal with real human interaction. In fact, bloggers often seem to be working out issues, which is part of the entertainment value.
SanDiego Bloggers' best feature is a "random" button, which arbitrarily plops you into the middle of someone's blog world, which, on any given night, is easily more entertaining than a new episode of "Who Wants to Marry My Dad?"
For those who choose to tune in on a regular basis, the blogs are a San Diego soap opera.
Many take unexpected twists, such as Howling Point, which is written by Chuck, "a beach and water-loving San Diego attorney" who usually devotes the space to sharing his thoughts on swimming, recent movies and the exploits of his dog, Pongo, a "little African dog who runs around chewing things up."
Until recently, the heaviest moment in Chuck's blog came when Pongo was munched by a rottweiler. But this spring Chuck was diagnosed with prostate cancer and he posted x-rays of his ass, moving the blog in a new direction.
"On the upside, expect more body part pictures," promised Chuck, who clearly knows the tastes of his readership.