Friday, November 08, 2013

The Opposite Of Blogging Is Indifference.

This post is part of Andrew Leon's Oh How I Miss You Blogfest, as that badge over there tells you.  Andrew blogs at Strange Pegs, and writes excellent books the latest of which is Shadow Spinner:

Tiberius has always thought of himself as a normal 10-year-old boy. Maybe he's a little smarter than everyone else, but that's still normal. He's scared of shadows, but everyone's scared of something, right? 

It's an awesome book that you can click here to buy.  But first read my post!

The Opposite of Blogging Is Indifference:

I'm listening, as I write this, to the incredible song Stubborn Love, by the Lumineers

and sure, the song isn't about blogging -- it's actually a devastating, heart-rending song about what a child raised by an incompetent (at best) and terrible (at worst) parent thinks, years later:

She'll lie and steal and cheat
Beg you from her knee
Make you think she means it this time.
She'll tear a hole in you
The one you can't repair.
But I still love her I don't even care.

The chorus is

It's better to feel pain than never feel at all
The opposite of love's indifference.

Which is where the title comes from for this post, and where my thinking comes from on bloggers who I miss (now) or who I might miss if they stopped blogging.

I have probably, over the course of my time reading blogs and blogging myself, read hundreds of blogs.  Heck, I've probably started hundreds of blogs, let alone read them.  And when I first sat down to think of people's whose blogs I missed, I was startled to think that there really weren't any, at least not off the top of my head.

There have been many, many blogs that I stopped reading, and the reason I stopped reading most of them is simple: they bored me.  That's why I stop doing anything: boredom.  Most of those blogs, I imagine, are still out there, boring the world (but not me; I've quit) with their 'musings' on boring stuff, or half-baked takes on tired subjects. (I'm looking at you, "Rachel In The OC,")  I've got little enough time to read as it is, without wasting it on stuff like Husbands: They're Bad At Housework! or "I went to a movie yesterday and it was okay."

What I've always liked from other people's blogs was not just interesting kinds of things to write about -- sometimes people have interesting lives, sometimes they don't -- but also things that were written about interestingly, and with a sense of passion, love, or urgency.  Even the strangest, or most boring-seeming, things can be written about with passion and make them interesting. I read recently about a blog devoted almost exclusively to poisons, about which the author is a dedicated and interesting writer.  (It's here if you want to read it). Another blog I enjoy is a blog devoted entirely to the pronunciation of mathematicians' names and their theorems.  It is called, fittingly enough, "Pronunciation of Mathematicians' Names." (It's here if you like that kind of stuff.)

To me, what makes a blog great is when the author adds value to things -- a businesslike term for for an unbusinesslike thing, a blog.  Added value means that I get something from you that I couldn't get from someone else.  Whether your blog is a list of sci-fi stuff, or a gossip blog about celebrities or a politics blog or just a personal blog, every single thing you are going to talk about has been talked about 100,000,000 times on the Internet already that day.

And that is true of me, too-- especially of me! Look what I blog about: kids. Pizza. Kids eating my pizza. Going to buy pizza with my kids.  If you google "The blog about pizza and kids," you will see that Google tallys 87,400,000 results (as of today.)  So whatever I am going to say about pizza, kids, and the various permutations of those is liable to be mirrored 87,399,999 other times by the time you get to it.

Which is why I try to tell my stories in interesting ways -- I try to do photo essays and have humorous ideas or I discuss the meaning of songs that my kids are listening to or all those things -- so that if I am the 87,400,000th blog you read that day about pizza and kids, you'll at least think "Well, that's a little different."

Here's a true fact of math: If you were to read 1 blog per second, by the time you finished those 87,400,000 blogs, you would have realized that by spending only 1 second on them, you really didn't get much benefit from reading them.

Also, you'd be only about 2 1/2 years older than you are now. I thought that was going to be a much, much higher number, when I started that sentence, but there are, after all, 31,536,000 seconds in a year, so it wouldn't take you more than 2 1/2 years to get through them all.  HOPEFULLY MINE IS NOT LAST.

Anyway, that's why I don't really mourn the loss of bloggers I've stopped reading regularly: they didn't do anything to distinguish themselves from the 100,000,000 other people saying the same thing.  And I am serious about that, too.  Think of the most esoteric topic you can imagine.  I'll say "mining baking soda," which is an actual thing. Baking soda, which is sodium bicarbonate, is either produced by combining three terrible poisons in water (well, two poisons and sodium chloride), or by mining it from naturally occuring baking soda deposits in Colorado.  So when you think of grizzled miners with terrible working conditions and black lung and mine collapses, remember that they are the men who made your chocolate chip cookies fluffier.

But I digress, by which I mean I added value to your reading experience! What other blogger would think, in a list of bloggers of note, to include some information about baking soda mines? None, because they all have the ability to focus on the topic at hand!

Anyway, with that in mind, I was able to come up with three bloggers I do actually miss, and three that I would miss if they weren't around anymore, and they are these:

Scott, at "Husbands Anonymous."  Scott, whose blog still exists although it is sporadically written in and I dropped away from it for some time when he stopped writing for a while, used to write a blog called "Husbands Anonymous."  Maybe it was called that, anyway.  Maybe I misremember.  Anyway, Scott used to comment on my posts on another blog of mine, for a year or so, being a regular commenter whose comments were actually thoughtful and fun to read and themselves added value, without feeling the need to suck up to the writer, either.

For example, commenting on a post I did about an Elvis statue made out of butter, Scott said:

Let's be honest, that didn't look much like Elvis. Very poor sculpting indeed. Surely it goes rancid? a ton of rancid butter must be charming- rancid butter elvis... 

Which I was then able to turn into a haiku:

A ton of rancid
butter must be charming -
rancid butter elvis.

Scott did, though, comment on my post about The Best New Food:
What is it about your posts that have the ability to provoke physical response:
This time, I threw up a little in my mouth.

Scott's own blog was about his life in South Africa, and I remember it reading it a lot during the time his wife was away for about two months.  While it might seem easy to make a blog about life in South Africa seem exotic to a guy in Madison, Wisconsin, remember: 100,000,000 others do it, too.  Scott's entries were great because they had a poetic, lyrical quality to them.  Reading them was like reading what Ezra Pound might have come up with had he been edited by Walt Whitman: there was a flow that made the stories beautiful to read, even when they were just about painting a room.  You could feel the love he had for his life, and the beauty he saw in the world, in even the most mundane posts.  I was always jealous of his writing.

Scott does still blog, as I said, at "Squid Squirts." I haven't checked in in a long time -- I think he stopped blogging and until I went and tracked down his comments I hadn't looked at his blog in a long time.  Links will be at the end of this post.

Allie, at Hyperbole and a Half:  Like Scott, this isn't a blogger that's totally gone, but like Scott, it's a blog that almost disappeared and then came back, very sporadically.

Hyperbole and a Half is one of the greatest blogs, ever.  EVER.  EVER! I first learned about it from one of our clerks, and went and read the first essay recommended, only to then spend the next few days reading almost everything Allie has ever posted.  These stories, with accompanying pictures, are among the funniest things I have ever read in my entire life; they have had me crying tears of laughter, openly.  And while the prose itself is hilarious, it is the pictures (sometimes dozens in a post) that really separate this blog; the pictures (a sample of which accompanies this header) are absurdist drawings from the kind of books you WANTED to read in your childhood:

That's from her most recent post, about how when she was a kid she had a costume that, when she put it on, made her feel invincible (and got her into tons of trouble, also).

The posts all have a bittersweet quality to them, just like childhood (most of them are reminiscing about her childhood, but there's a fair amount of her life now, as a mid-20s? college grad.)  And sometimes there is just a sad quality to them that tries for humor but can't overwhelm the sadness, such as the post she did about depression, which she posted shortly after noting that she got a book deal, and shortly before going on a months-long hiatus, unexplained.

So she's back now, and posts (as Scott does) sporadically, but it's worth checking out her blog, too, as the ability to make you laugh so hard you cry, or cry so hard you have to laugh, is rare in this world.

TWO blogs I 'miss' that aren't actually gone.  Let's go with one that really truly is gone.

Petri Dish, Love Fears A Lover.  Here is what I know about Petri Dish: She is a girl, and she blogged until 2009; that's the last entry on her blog "Love Fears A Lover."  And she only blogged for about four months, so far as I can tell.  Here is her first entry, ever:

Now don't get too excited, the blog’s title is just a line from a haiku that I liked, don’t expect anything particularly deep or thought provoking. As a matter of a fact, don’t expect anything. That way you won’t be too disappointed when a well researched post about atom smashers is followed by a post about the colour, texture and temperature of my snot when I’m sick. If you want good writing, go read Keats. Here you’ll get tidbits about my day, reviews of books and movies (“Worst piece of sh!t I’ve ever seen.”, “Boor-ring!” or “Made me want to rip my hair out.”), lists of things I like and a life changing piece about the importance of eyelids. Like a cherry salmon smoothie, Love Fears a Lover is an acquired taste. Give it try, you might get used to it, maybe even like it!

Petri Dish's posts, still new, gave me the feeling that she was younger, and at the time, four years ago, I enjoyed checking in occasionally to get a different perspective on things, with a clever twist.

Petri was a regular commenter on my blogs, too -- so regular that she once caught when I posted a "Friday's Sunday's Poem" a second time (back when they were poems by other people as opposed to being by me.)  She once expressed disappointment at the end of a serialized novel: "That's it?" she asked, and that was among the last comments she ever left -- maybe I let her down too much?  She was the reason I sometimes post optical illusions when a post is on its way: she suggested it.

I don't know why she quit blogging, and it seems almost as if she quit the Internet, but I thought her comments and her early posts showed promise for a young person writing in a creative and fun manner, and I wish she'd gone on writing.


*takes long swig of coffee from mug on table, realizes that's coffee from several hours ago, wishes he could spit it out, cannot, reluctantly swallows, puts on "Good Girls Don't" by The Knack:

gets on with life*

Now, for the bloggers who I'd miss if they went.  This was EASY, and not to slight people who don't get mentioned but Andrew limited me to three, so ALL OF YOU ARE GREAT I LOVE YOU IF YOU WERE LEFT OFF THE LIST YOU ARE PROBABLY FOURTH AND YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY FILE AN OFFICIAL PROTEST AGAINST ANDREW but the obvious first choice is 

The Grumpy Bulldog himself, PT Dilloway.  There was a time a while back that PT threatened to stop writing books, and I think he has done that, and just the threat of him not writing anymore was enough to get me to write what amounted to a 3-page comment on his blog about how stupid that was and how he should definitely keep writing.   Like I said, I think he quit writing new stuff and is focusing on putting out the 15+ years of writing he's got backlogged, but at least he keeps up blogging, near-daily, on his blog, and remember what I said about adding value? PT does that.  Some of his posts are simple -- pictures he's made, comic captions, "Box Office Blitz" contest -- but almost every post he does features some offhand (?) comment that makes me laugh, he slips in smart commentary on books and movies and politics, his reviews of stuff are SPOT-ON -- by which I mean I think they are the most accurate, reliable reviews I've ever read, without a lot of nonsense -- and he periodically gives you a glimpse into his actual life (which is only sparsely referred to in the blog) that helps color it all.  The overall effect is one of honest, irascible sincerity about whatever it is he's talking about, written in a style all his own.  PT's is the first blog I read, every day.

Andrew Leon, Strange Pegs (and the crowd cries, NEPOTISM!)(The crowd is NOT QUITE ACCURATE BUT WE GET THE GIST OF WHAT THEY MEAN!).  

Andrew already got his book listed here.  I know he's hosting this thing, but Andrew deserves mention because his is the second blog I check every day; he gets second because I've known about PT's blog longer.  

Andrew's blog you probably already know about (that's how you know about this blogfest, right?) so let me focus on what I like about it: like PT's, Andrew's doesn't focus on his life, although there are more frequent descriptions of his kids and family and outings, but instead presents Andrew's thoughts on writing, which are mixed in (cleverly) with various other matters ranging from Star Wars to vampires to whatever else is on his mind.  

The thing is, I hate blogs about writing.  I really do.  But Andrew's blog is so much more than "Watch your grammar! Here's how to write a query letter!" (Though he does mention grammar, so often that he inspired a series of posts I wrote, "Grammar Funnies").

In Andrew's world, writing seems more than just a thing you do: it is almost a philosophy.  Everything you do in some way can be related to how you write, why you write, when you write -- and how you should do those things, and how you shouldn't.  Many times, I've started reading a post that is ostensibly about church gatherings, and ended up with a lesson on writing that is far more memorable because it's tacked to a story.  His writing discussions -- they're not really tips-- are almost parables, and parables make lessons more memorable because while you might forget when to use who or whom, it's harder to forget a post about religion, gastromancy, and why you might be kind of dumb for saying stuff like it's almost as if my characters were talking to me.  (Which is the kind of writerly thing writers do that I, too, hate.)

If PT is your grumpy-but-fun uncle, Andrew is like the teacher who had a bad reputation for being tough but who you secretly liked a lot.  And you learned a lot.  Andrew's posts always make me think, and that's a great thing to have.


Okay, honestly, there are about 30 different blogs I read on a more-or-less weekly (biweekly sometimes) basis, checking in from time to time, mostly on weekends when I have more free time while Mr Bunches and Mr F play quietly on their own, which they almost never do, and so many days I'm happily playing Joker vs. Batman or spinning Mr F in a blanket over and over and over, which I do less happily because, let's face it, I'm not getting any younger and he weighs 80 pounds. But still happily! Anyway, there are a lot of people I could choose for this, but the one I am choosing is one of my newest almost-daily reads:

A Beer For The Shower:  What can I say? I'm a sucker for funny stories with funny pictures.   I'm not sure how I found this blog in the first place, but it has rapidly become one of my favorites, because it is brilliantly funny, in the way that South Park used to manage, a combination of scathing satire, aw-shucks sentimentalism, and a hyper-smart knowledge of everything.  

They're not afraid to mention how they make one of their wives suffer through a spider-bite for the purpose of humor, they took on Facebook and Wal-Mart (quixotically, of course: both of those things still exist/secretly run the government), and they present a twisted-in-a-fun way look at stuff like the time parts of Colorado wanted to secede from other parts of Colorado.

So there you have it.  Bookmark those three, write angry emails to Andrew about why he wouldn't let me list your blog, check out Scott and Allie's blog, and keep your hands off my $(#&%& pizza, I'm going to eat it just as soon as I finish this round of Batman.  Let's go, Mr Bunches!

In summary!  What I really like about Andrew, PT, and Beer(s), as well as the bloggers I miss/ish, was that they really felt the stuff they wrote: they wrote it not (it seems) to make a buck or because they could, but because they wanted to not just impart information (Here are things to be grumpy about/here are idea on writing/here is a picture of a cat stabbing a spider with a sword) but to impart it in a way that conveyed their emotional reaction to the stuff they were writing about -- and to elicit a reaction as well. 

"The opposite of blogging is indifference," as I began: if you're indifferent to me, as a reader, if you don't want to really try to make your blog stand out and give me something I can't get anywhere else, I don't stick around.  I've stuck with these guys.

Without further ado, play me out, George Baker Selection!


Squid Squirts
Hyperbole and a Half
Love Fears A Lover

Here is a complete list of Friday's Sunday's Poems

"The big problem with eggs was, as we all know, they cannot easily be carried from place to place." And so I named The Best New Food, here.

Grammar Funnies: They said it couldn't be done! It almost wasn't!

Joker vs. Batman, in The Story Of Batman! You won't regret reading this exciting, action-packed adventure story full of scenes like this:

Then, a SECOND BATMAN came out, too, and the JOKERS also grabbed him and this time they can fight a little so the JOKERS punch this other BATMAN and they take him back, too, until BATMAN and ANOTHER BATMAN and ROBIN are all in the jail.

Then, here are your links to bloggers who are better than I am (but not as devastatingly handsome.)

PT Dilloway

Strange Pegs

A Beer For The Shower

And lastly, here is a picture I took:

I call it "Duck Candles Sitting On A Homemade Pound Cake."  


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Brandon and Bryan's site is awesome. They pull no punches. I'd lost track of them for a while when both of our sites experienced huge growth, but glad I'm following them again. Great writers as well.
Isn't Allie's site the one with almost 60,000 followers? There aren't enough clones in the world to keep up with that.
Thanks for participating in the blogfest!

Pat Dilloway said...

I don't think I ever went to any of those blogs before.

Rusty Webb said...

You'd know a lot more about how long it takes to count to 87,000,000 if you'd ever read MY post on counting to a Trillion.

Sheesh, pearls of wisdom, totally disregarding by an unappreciating public.

Good list of blogs. I almost want to say I'll check one or two of them out, but I need to be honest, I probably won't. I MIGHT, but I just don't know. I intend of posting this comment, then leaving the internet for an hour or so, and by the time I get back I will probably have forgotten.

Rusty Webb said...

Dammit, a one sentence rant ruined by a typo. That was supposed to be a 'DISREGARDED' by an unappreciating public.

Stupid words, they keep confusing me.

Tina said...

This was vintage Briane. You can take any topic and explain it in a way that really makes me think, and laugh, and your total irreverence about certain social conventions (such as not calling a spade a spade when we all know it's a spade but we don't say it because our mothers taught us not to) is so refreshing. I love your long posts. I love that you don't care that you write long posts that most people don't have the time (or take the time) to read. I love your devotion to your family.
I do have one bone to pick...I wrote a comment at Andrew's, and you said it was going to be a featured comment in a post, and I figured you'd let me know when you did that, but I haven't heard anything, and you have like a million blogs and I can't check all of them just break it to me gently. I can take it. I'm not sensitive or attention seeking or anything...(big fat LIE).
Seriously, whether you do or not, I'm glad I found you through Andrew and truly enjoy your value added blogging.
Tina @ Life is Good

Andrew Leon said...

I am almost 100% sure that you found Beer through me (as did Alex in his re-connecting to them). Man, I spread the love, don't I?

That baking soda thing made me laugh. I will never think about chocolate chip cookies the same way again.

I'm about to head to class, but I'll come back and check those other blogs later. The two I don't already know.

Matthew MacNish said...

OMG, Hyperbole and a Half is the best thing on the internet!

Liz A. said...

Ah yes, the challenge of how to make the mundane interesting. That's the whole point of blogging, isn't it?

Nigel G. Mitchell said...

I love Hyperbole. And I need to stop blogging about writing. I was thinking I need to stop giving writing advice because that implies I'm successful enough to be an inspiration to others, which I'm not. Only successful people can tell others how to be successful. But when I find something that's helped me, I feel like sharing. Maybe I'll save it all up until I'm successful. Anyway, good article