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Is Olive's blob a blog or a blogalog?

By ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia

Happy birthday to Olive Riley, "the world's oldest blogger," who will be 108 on October 20.

All About Olive has touched the heartstrings of thousands of bloggers around the world, but a few carping critics have suggested that itís not a true blog, as Olive doesnít type it herself.

Olive calls it a blob, while her helper, Mike Rubbo, who does the typing, refers to it as a Blogalog, a cross between a blog and a travelog. He describes its birth:

Should we be calling Olive the worldís oldest blogger when, as youíll see from the blog, itís a collaborative effort? It was Eric, himself a record holder in journalist age terms, who first broached the idea of Oliveís blog. Eric is 88 and publishes an e-book which you can easily find by googling his name, Eric Shackle.

I met Eric at our local radio station. I was on radio to talk about saving our lovely Avoca Beach Theatre from over-development, and Eric was the interviewee before me. I heard him telling Central Coast residents, many of whom are retired, that they donít need to be afraid of the internet.

I was fascinated by Ericís message coming from someone who was 87, and me being 67. Iíd been somewhat fearful myself of the internet, though Iíve been emailing for years. I was certainly stumped by the technical side of blogging and web siting, reliant on others for my internet presence.

Anyway, Eric and I got talking at the radio studio that day and then kept in touch, me reading his e book regularly.

Soon, he was doing a story on a film of mine that Iíd made on the Shakespeare mystery. Iím sure you all know itís quite unlikely that William Shakespeare actually wrote those famous works which bear his name, he being illiterate, as far as we know.

Some years ago, I made a documentary called Much Ado About Something, which attempts to prove that the hidden hand behind the Bard was one Christopher Marlowe, another playwright of the period. I proposed that Marlowe had had to flee England to escape charges of atheism, that Marlowe had faked his own death in 1593, and continued writing plays from exile in Italy under the name of Shakespeare.

Eric had fun telling the world about my theory on his e-book, far from convinced, I suspect.

Later, I gave him a copy of a the Documentary Iíd recently completed on the amazing Olive Riley, then 105. This film was called All About Olive.

It must been about a year later that Eric discovered the blog of Spainís Maria Amelia Lopez who was blogging with the help of her typist grandson, at the great old age of 95. It was Eric too, who said, ďIf Maria can do it, why not Olive?Ē

I was immediately intrigued because I had in hand many of Oliveís engaging stories that Iíd not been able to put into the film for space reasons. So, I went to Olive, whoíd stayed a friend after the filming, and explained what a blog was, and how she and I could serve up the delightful leftovers, the stories, I mean.

Would she like to blog if I did all the work, the typing, the photography, and later the YouTubing? She was mildly interested, mainly because she does love telling stories. It was only later that she came to realize the amazing reach she could have so late in her life.

Here she was, a lovely straightforward person, a barmaid for much of her working life, now world famous. Olive is someone nobody had ever paid much attention to, except to say, ďanother schooner of Reschís, luv!Ē from the other side of some Sydney bar. The years and wars of the 20th century rolled by, Olive remaining in obscurity except to her growing pyramid of descendants. Now, suddenly here she was read and followed around the world.

Well, it was heady stuff for all three of us, and then came the realization that what Eric had spoken about in the first interview on local ABC radio, namely helping older people to overcome internetic fears, was actually happening globally because of Ollieís blog, or Blob, as she first called it.

Not only that, but many people with older rellies, were getting off their bums and recording the reminiscences and stories that theyíd always meant to record, but never had.

Next, web sites like the wonderful As Time Goes By picked up Ollieís blob, and passed it on to seniors across the vast US, linking us with the enterprising Ronni Bennett who was already coaxing great writing out of older people.

But all that being said, we must admit that this blog is more blogography than autoblogography, if you get what I mean.

And as it advances and Olive ages, it could well be that the mix changes and there are more stories initiated by us, Eric and I, especially me, since Iíve got the best legs of all three, and am still physically frisky, unlike my partners. (thereís 40 years between us. Iím 68, Eric is 88 and Ollie is 108)

Iíve also Iíve had a packed life making films, both documentary and fiction, which my blog partners find interesting. Now, with YouTube, one is able to share bits of oneís past life like never before.


Story first posted October 2007

Copyright © 2007

Eric Shackle

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