Happy Blogday to Me
I first got a blogger account in March of 2005, but didn’t put up The OJ Effect for a couple weeks. That first post started as something I wrote very late at night in the middle of the Schiavo controversy and that I was excited enough to try to place in a print publication. I had absolutely no luck (no shock) and as often had been the case, the only people who ever read it were friends who I would force to read it. It’s gotten a couple hits here, but I suspect it’s still true that hardly anyone has ever read it.
It felt much better though to have it up some place where people might find it even if they never really did.
I didn’t write anything expressly for this blog until April 12 of last year when I put up a short piece about Eric Rudolph and American Right-Wing terrorists. I started metering the site some time in June and was a bit disappointed to learn that hits don’t happen all by themselves. I started with something like five hits a day and most likely three of them were me looking at my own site.
It’s now almost exactly a year since I began blogging. I’ve posted something like a hundred and fifty articles which is roughly a hundred and forty eight more than I would have written in an ordinary year. I’ve had more than fourteen thousand visitors since I learned how to get myself linked to other sites. The first site of any size to link me was the Daou Report for which I remain very grateful. Last month I had three days with more than four hundred hits, largely due to my American Idol posts and linking myself on the message board at Television Without Pity, something which I got in trouble for over there but to be honest it was worth it.
American Idol and volleyball remain the biggest draws on my site, at least based on my hit reports. I’d probably be happier if people read my fiction (which possibly due to length almost no one reads) or more of my Vast Right Wing Conspiracy stories, but I can’t complain.
Before blogging, I’d written for most of my adult life with probably almost no one seeing anything I wrote which brought me very close to depression. My wife has always told me that it shouldn’t matter if anyone reads what one writes, but it’s never quite been that way for me. Partly because a lot of what I write is meant to be funny, I tend to see my own writing as a social act that allows a side of me that most people don’t see to flourish.
In regular life, I’m hardly garrulous though it once was part of my job to do public speaking and I was reasonably effective at it. In general though, at parties or lunches I probably say fewer words than anyone else there, rarely if ever tell extended stories, and have a tendency that often irritates people over time to ask more questions of them than answer or reveal things about myself.
Writing has always been my opportunity to be a little more extroverted than I am in everyday life and a chance to get my own thoughts into words that I’d never manage to say in conversation. I’m grateful that I lived long enough to find this medium.
This is what I’m specifically thankful for in the last year.
- I’ve written more by a factor of at least ten than I have in any other year of my life. Whether people read any of it, it makes me happy to have written a bunch of stuff.
- Mr. Pogblog has been one of my oldest and dearest friends. We’ve known one another for twenty five years now and she has more than anyone I’ve known been the one who would keep reminding me that I ought to be writing more. It’s been nice to reinvigorate that friendship through cyberspace. Mr. Pogblog's own site is truly dlareme grade, in his words, or a flickering "dream peace" beacon on the information highway.
Similarly, I have another regular reader whom I’ve known for twelve years and with whom I never had a conversation for more than about ten minutes in person and almost never about anything other than sports. Odd way to learn that someone has different sides to his/her personality, but I’ve been very grateful for that opportunity.
- I’ve met several people whom I will likely never meet in person, but whose friendship and support online have mattered to me. Most of them are linked here. They include Alan Howard, who I found when surfing Blogger one day and who has been helpful with technical issues here and also remains the only person to ever review my blog online. As a blogger, he’s a restless spirit. Benny found me through some of my Gold Star Mom posts ( btw, Karen’s site needs to be seen by more people. I come up on Technorati as one of the few people who have linked her directly, but we don’t hear enough from Americans or Iraqis directly affected by the war. Besides she writes clearly, persuasively, and with a kind of directness that cuts straight through to why the war has been so immoral) last August and Benny is slowly convincing me to take a serious look at John Edwards (though to be honest right now I’m not happy with the Democrats in general). Part of that I’ve noticed is that when I see thoughtful people of good will support a candidate, that more than any speech or position makes me look at voting and supporting that candidate. Jude is apparently also part of some John Edwards ring link and happened to link a Martin Luther King post of mine some time ago.
Ron Franscell found me when we posted similar things about James Frey/JT Leroy. He’s more conservative than I am politically, but I think we crosslink one another to make it clear that it’s possible to still understand and respect what someone who disagrees with you has to say about any number of topics. Jamie has a knack for finding and posting virtually every political story of interest on his site sometimes before it shows up on the mainstream feeds. I’m not sure how he does it, but I’ve learned to look over there when some story of interest hits the wires.
Patricia appeared to find me through one of my VRWC posts that I republished over at blogcritics. I believe she’s a refugee from Blonde Sense, a fairly large site, and relatively recently decided to start her own site. She’s very funny and has a huge number of commenters (I’m envious). While we’re very different writers, I’m often struck by how close in spirit our blogging styles are though in that she routinely shifts from rants, to the deeply personal, to sheer silliness. Once in a while she does all three in a single post. On the topic of blogcritics, I’ve recently gotten much valued support and encouragement from Joan Hunt and Lisa Mckay, two of the editors over there.
In any case, my biggest discovery about blogging is that it’s about far more than the writing. While blogs are nominally individual creations, mine has been influenced and made better by others in ways that I can’t even fathom. Had I simply written, even if I’d been able to, a hundred and fifty posts in complete isolation, the actual product would have suffered from that isolation. I believe that having readers in some form enriches one’s own writing and makes the act much more implicitly collaborative than most people recognize. (at least it’s that way for me)
That said, I should also mention my fiction writing group that meets the old-fashioned way every two weeks. All of us met through Guy Biederman, a basketball friend, who happens to be a very fine writer and writing teacher.
- To a lesser extent, but still important, I’ve learned some things about how I and other people read beyond simply the words on the screen. It’s been amazing to me to see how helpful something like “expandable” posts and “categories” are in making a blog more reader-friendly. Implementing both had a huge impact in encouraging readers to read more of what I’d written.
More interesting, I was one of the first lawyers to start using pictures in Power Point presentations many years ago. I found at the time that it helped audiences to listen and remember a bit better if I simply included a few visual jokes that underscored points in the presentation. Last fall, I decided to post a picture of a good luck Hamster that had started attending my daughter’s volleyball matches hamster link for the folks at prepvolleyball. I started posting public domain photos with my regular posts here to draw the eye during the one fifth of a second most people look at websites. Fascinatingly, it had a big impact on how many articles visitors read during the average visit on this site. I think of it as visual indexing. I probably should have guessed this might happen, for a while many of my hits came from people looking for pictures of female volleyball players.
- I don’t know how blogging will contnue to change me, my writing, or this site itself, but my decision to start a blog impacted me in positive ways I would never have imagined. I suppose I initially had some fantasy that someone who could get me published might come along and say, “What’s a great writer like you doing on a site like this?” and once in a while I still have that fantasy, but I’ve also discovered that I can take some measure of satisfaction in my writing simply by “publishing” myself online rather than hoping some editor will rescue me off the slushpile.
- Some personal favorite posts from the year follow.
Patriot Minutes I’m proud of the notion of the Red Screen. I spent a year about a decade ago working in the shadow of Industrial Light and Magic’s Blue Screen so this meditation on wiretapping and the technology of politics has sort of a special place for me.
Fab Fiftyitis is the closest I get to understanding the phenomenon of volleyparenthood. Recruiting the Terminator is probably my most read volleyball article, but I’ve thought Fab Fiftyitis was “truer” and cut closer to the giddy weirdness that makes junior volleyball parents who they are.
Pomegranate Fields Forever is a personal favorite short story title because it touches on how exotic middle class Sacramento really was as I grew up there. Of all classes of posts on this site, my fiction gets read the least. It’s probably the way of life that it happens to be the most important writing on this site to me at a personal level. It’s possibly also a sign of how deluded I am in my writing life.
The Zimmerman Correction, one of my fantasies is to write a web-based novel. I haven’t done much about moving this story forward in the last few months, but it’s been fun to come up with an alternate reality where Bin Laden is president and gets stalked by the Walker Bush crime family after World War I destroys Europe and brings scandal on the head of the American Munitions Board, Samuel Bush. Again, this is one of those items that no one reads.
The Fifteen Dollar Future is the basis for what should be a series of posts about the difference between the “Invisible Hand” and the need for any culture to have a “Visible Heart”. I was pleasantly shocked and touched a week ago to get a message from a woman who wanted to post this on her late daughter’s linkmyspace page. One of the mysteries of the web is that we simply don’t know how and when what we post reaches anyone.
That said, I thank all the people who have and continue to follow my blog. You probably don’t realize how much it matters to me that anyone cares to read this stuff.
I have a number of very dear friends who know about my blog, but who have never read it. One of the odd things is I've had to learn that “friendship” is quite separate from “readership”, but at the same time “readership” can be a very intimate and significant relationship in one’s real but virtual life as well.