Friday, May 03, 2013

#573. Direct Current Friday: A-to-Z Reflections

  • Somehow I survived the 2013 Challenge.  I know I survived because I distinctly remember going insane at the end of it.  I lost it.  Thanks for being discreet.  Thanks for stopping by!

  • It was a combination of things, really.  I finished writing a commentary series examining The Annotated Sandman over at Comics Reader about a week before the end of the Challenge, and I think I was more emotionally invested in that than the Challenge.  Twenty issues of Neil Gaiman's Sandman, writing notes about the stories and notes about Leslie Klinger's notes (and managing to muscle past my one regular reader's criticism about this).  I've long been interested in reading Sandman, but have only had sporadic experience with it.  There's still plenty for me to read, but it was interesting to see that I really did get wrapped up in it.  I know Gaiman far better from American Gods and Good Omens, but it's impossible not to know about his Sandman if you know much about comic books.  Like when I finally read Jeff Smith's complete Bone, it's a rite of passage.

  • The end of the Challenge happened to coincide with ones of my many existential crises.  I don't think readers like to read about that sort of thing, which is why I don't tend to write about it.  Unfortunately I was writing on a daily basis.

  • The Boston Marathon explosions hit me pretty hard, too, and I was genuinely upset that it didn't seem to affect pretty much anyone else.  Earlier in the month Roger Ebert died, and people cared about that.  They didn't care about Margaret Thatcher's death, which I guess is either apathy or politics.  But to gloss over the explosions and whatever they might signify was a little much.  Anyone ought to know that the blogosphere itself exploded over the idea of gun rights recently.  I get that the blogosphere tends to be pretty liberal.  Writers in general seem to be pretty liberal.  I'm an atypical middle-of-the-road-leaning-toward-conservative (officially listed as an Independent for American voting purposes) writer.  I'm pretty sure that bugs anyone who thinks about it, even if they don't realize they're thinking about it.  One of the prominent bloggers in my own little circle earned my rare Black Mark of Doom.  I won't visit them again because of their emotional and popular but not very critical opinions (even if they seem critical).  I won't name them here.  But I get that people will or won't visit or comment on a blog if they decide they don't like the opinions being expressed.  I didn't expect that during an event that's all about being as accessible as possible I would come across something that would do the exact opposite.

  • Last year was the first time I participated in the Challenge.  I picked up actual readers, and I found a number of blogs that I still enjoy reading to this day.  Some of them didn't participate this year.  I found that I was disappointed about that.  I tried finding new blogs this year, too, and I'm not completely certain how many I found because I sought them out during the Challenge or because I'd recently found them outside of it.  There were a few.  But the most frustrating thing for me was that one of the things I thought could be improved from the last time that was actually undertaken this time by the hosts was in the sign-up process.  People were encouraged to categorize their themes.  Most of them didn't.  What. the. hell.  I visited the first five hundred blogs on the sign-up after an initial attempt to visit based on the categories, only to see that most people didn't do the categories.  There were nearly two thousand blogs signed up.  That's far too many for any one person (even a ninja clone like Alex Cavanaugh) to visit during a month.  And the subsequent 500 blog survey turned up...Well, maybe a saint can come up with positive things to say and like about all those blogs.  I can't.  Most of them simply didn't interest me.  Yes, there was always a good bet that most of any number that big won't register well.  But when "most" is in the 90% range, there's a problem.  So I didn't try to visit the remaining ones.

  • (Yes, I'm still yammering.)

  • I found that some of the blogs I really enjoyed reading early on I couldn't muster myself to keep the same enthusiasm for later on.  The topic was fascinating, but not fascinating to read for an entire month, day after day.  I'm assuming even my most dedicated readers eventually thought the same about my material.  It only figures, and that's another thing that wore on me.  I never thought my stuff would be trivial.  But that's why most people only talk about things other people might already have a chance to know.  That's how you get comments, anyway.  Most people are only really interested in talking about their own thoughts, or offering basic encouragement.  That's the extent of their reaction.  They don't generally tend to care about reacting to someone else's thoughts more directly.

  • It's very hard to tell the difference between genuine interest and general encouragement.  In something like this, most people are simply trying to visit and write as much as they can.  

  • I'll also come out and say this: the blogging community still bothers me in that it seems to be based on a system of reciprocity.  As in, you follow me I follow you.  You give me a comment I give you a comment.  There's no such concept of altruism.  It just seems as if most people won't bother to invest their time unless they see a benefit to it.  The benefit to me is whether you derive anything personally from an experience (i.e. enjoyment).  The gain is what you take away.

  • Yeah, so I was a hypocritical idiot, because I went in at least half my own part of the Challenge expecting people to care about books I'm in the middle of releasing.  I've since realized that for me, that's no reason to blog.  If a blogger "cares" about my book because they can also get me to share their book, that's advertising.  There are plenty of blogs like that.  I'm not one of them, and I've got plenty of blogs, including a reading blog, and I don't write about the blogging buddy books there because I read plenty of other books, and there are other websites to do that sort of thing (such as this or this).  I want to be as positive as I can about blogger buddy books.  On my reading blog I tend to be critical even of books that have been around for centuries.  Blogger buddy books can't function like that.  The whole idea is to be as positive as possible, because anything else can potentially get you a new enemy.  (Repeat Blogger Buddy Rule No. 1.)  So that's why I don't do that on my blogs.

  • Oh!  Speaking of my reading blog, the linky list that's on the right is for a new reading club.  Visit the Armchair Squid's blog to find out more about the Cephalopod Coffeehouse.  I'll be participating here at Scouring Monk, but anyone interested, can read more about my reading habits at Hub City (or those other links).

  • Of course, that assumes I haven't succeeded in pissing everyone off, alienating myself.  Although I've bitched about blogging before and survived.

  • I've also been watching a lot of TV-on-DVD recently.  I enjoyed Day Watch and Defying Gravity and Flashforward again.  I loved these short-lived shows the first time.  I love them more now.  I watched Firefly (and Serenity) again.  Everyone loves Joss Whedon right now.  Yet I've never quite gotten around to loving him.  Appreciate him, yes.  But he speaks a different language, the way most people would approach, say, Grant Morrison.  Firefly has always seemed to me a little disturbing.  It's a pastiche on the Civil War and clearly sides with the Confederacy.  In one of the special features from the Serenity DVD, he says it's less to do with sympathy for the so-called Lost Cause so much as the classic underdog conceit.  And yet it's such a clear parallel...Anyway, it got me thinking about being a native of a region where there was a regime that was later determined by popular record to be on the wrong side of a conflict (or ideology or whatever).  Whedon is a native of New York, but I would have assumed that he came from a Southern state.  Why then such apparent sympathy with Johnny Reb?  He says there's a great wealth of American literature from this vein.  I'm thinking Jesse James?  Even Star Wars to an extent.  Apparently I would need to study that a little more.  Anyway, I've determined to write some Browncoats fiction to explore this for myself.

  • I also just finished watching Spin City, some of Michael J. Fox's favorite episodes.  This was a great show.


Michael Offutt, "Johnny on the Spot" said...

Uh...the blogosphere is liberal? You must not follow many blogs. I follow probably close to seven hundred and out of those, maybe 10% or liberal. It's filled with conservative christians. Liberals don't blog...they post on reddit (the front page of the internet).

Tony Laplume said...

There's a difference between the way people label themselves and how they actually behave.

Al Diaz said...

Interesting points you bring out, Tony. There are a couple that made me think. I had not realized it but I agree. About altruism, I might not understand it as you do, but I think you may find people who reads you just out of sheer devoted love to your content. Yet, I think unless you're J.K. Rowling or someone that size, you'll pretty much have to work on terms of quid pro quo. You give, I give. At first I found that annoying too, but then I pondered about it from different points of view and concluded this is only fair. My time (and yours and everybody's) is valuable. Reading blogs is not the only (or supreme) goal in my life. Giving my time to those who give me theirs sounds, at the very least, fair and decent. IF I can spare a bit more time for others who doesn't read me but I find pleasure in reading them, cool beans. If not, at least I am corresponding to the kindness shown to me. My very particular and dragonlike opinion about that. On the Boston tragedy and arms I do not give opinion, except my condolences. I have found out that my beliefs differ in some subjects HUGHLY from Americans. Differences of cultures, I guess. Anyway, I do enjoy your writing and we'll come back. :D

The Armchair Squid said...

First, thanks for the plug. Always appreciated.

Second, you're right to call us out about Boston. For me, it's been hard to know what to say in this particular medium. I've discussed it plenty with people I know. I posted on Facebook. But not here. Part of it is a determination to keep the blog apolitical but it's more than that. Boston's not really a political issue. It's nice to keep this part of my life lighthearted. Real life is plenty heavy enough.

That may change - and I was actually just thinking about this tonight. I've been planning some baseball/music posts for the summer and, as I think I mentioned, I've been planning a "Tessie" post. To me, one of the most amazing moments of the aftermath was the singing of "Sweet Caroline" at Yankee Stadium. It's hard not to tear up over that. Music can heal. Small gestures are powerful. Let's just say it's sure to merit mention.

Tony Laplume said...

Al, I think that's exactly the prevailing opinion of the bloggers in this community, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Part of what bugs me about this is that some of the people who've chosen to follow me have never even left a comment. I don't have many followers. At least one of them was blatantly doing that around many blogs during the Challenge just to get another follower on their own blog. I'm not saying that all of the silent followers did that. And actually, I simply don't have that much in common with what they're talking about on their blogs. I can't just fake enthusiasm for any topic. That's not me. I choose to believe that if someone wants to follow me, they did it out of some basic interest. I'd rather not just assume it's a tit for tat situation.

As for whatever perspective you have about us wacky Americans, you're always free to share it here.

Squid (and Al), I guess I also gave some people a forum to give their reactions to the Boston Marathon explosions. It may simply not have been something they were comfortable doing on their own blogs. To me the Challenge began to seem a little trivial in the face of events that unfolded across an entire week. Even people who had composed and scheduled everything in advance could have found a moment or two to leave some thoughts. This was no 9/11, but it made me wonder if that's exactly how they would have reacted to an event of that scale. It just seemed as if the only way to motivate any real discussion in this community is if it's a school shooting. As I said, there was plenty of passion about gun control earlier this year.

I couldn't remember who said they would be talking about "Tessie." Short of looking it up, I actually assumed it was Mock. Which apparently wasn't too far from the mark.

I will be calming down. Although Sunday's poem may be a little grumpy...

Al Diaz said...

There was a particular tragedy here in Mexico once that was related to corruption. Corruption is to us what arms "uncontrolled" could be to you. That tragedy involved the death of 50 babies and toddlers. I was outraged and hurt for those innocents and for their families. I was even more outraged when the details of the tragedy came out. And thrice more when I saw that after the first shock, people just went on with their life. To this date the responsible of that tragedy is free and no one seems to remember those 50 babies anymore, except their broken families. I don't know why is that. They say Mexicans have a bad memory. They also say people have different ways to deal with their feelings. As some need to talk about them and address them, some need to pretend the bad thing never happened, and some believe show must go on. I've learned the fact someone doesn't cry for something, doesn't mean they don't care or they don't hurt. It's their way to deal with things. I cannot tell people what to do. I can't change people. I can decide what I will do about what I don't like. It is in my power to change myself but not the others. It would be wrong for me to tell you not to get angry. I am angry about many things all the time. But I can tell you anger doesn't help any and it does harm you.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

The Boston Marathon was something more personal and I discussed it with real life friends and family, not online. Doesn't fit with my blog's theme anyway.

I've been blogging for seven years, and while I could easily have twice the followers, I just haven't gone out seeking those to follow just to gain followers. I have a core group that visits and a few others, and that's good enough.

And I disagree with Michael. Most bloggers are liberal and it seems to go with the creative aspect. I am a conservative Christian, so often I just don't say a thing.

Tony Laplume said...

Al, I have a funny relationship with anger. I think if it's something I feel as a reaction to something, it's far more healthy to address the anger in the moment than to try and suppress it. If something makes me angry, it's motivation for me to try and change what provoked me. It helps me remember, it's almost like the purest form of memory, not because I intend to be vindictive (I'm actually very forgiving) but rather so that it doesn't become routine, just something I should accept. Plenty of people want to change things. Usually they think about the big things. I think about the small things, because the small things are the reason the big things happen.

Thanks for sharing about the death of the innocents. I referenced the book 2666 several times in the challenge. It's based on the unsolved serial killings on the American border. The author of the book, Roberto Bolano, attempted to explain the many facets that have led to these killings and why they remain unsolved. For Americans, I believe we also think a lot about corruption, but we tend to ignore it in favor of simply debating politics. My party is better than your party. That sort of thing. It's incredibly petty. We don't really talk about it, either. or we simply say everyone's corrupt and leave it at that.

Diane, I completely understand. Part of why I thought it should have provoked more of a response was because the whole community was engaged at the same time. It was an odd kind of perfect timing. If the Challenge was already a break from most people's routines, this could have provided an ever greater and more meaningful dialogue. But the month is over, the boys were caught, and it's all I can do to read about all the conspiracy theories that are floating around about what really happened. (Yes, it's already come down to that.)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Yeah, no way I can visit them all!
I didn't do the category because we limited it to just one. Yes, I'm an author and I do blog about other books, but I focus a lot on movies, music and other stuff. One label just wasn't going to fit, especially with my Challenge theme.
There were quite a few doing the Challenge with their current book tied into the theme. Some worked, some didn't. I couldn't do it though - I'd bore myself.
Hopefully it was a good experience.

Spacerguy said...

Its cool making contact with strange new lifeforms. Long may it last. Keep writing about the fun stuff, Tony, readers love escapism.

Tony Laplume said...

Alex, it was fun for most of the month. Unfortunately it ended poorly for me. Last year it was complete escapism for me, because I was in afar worse situation, so I guess I understand how that works.

Spacerguy, I will be getting back to escapism, definitely. Every once in a while, though, it's nice to swim to the surface.

Jay Noel said...

You bring up a lot of good points. I've been doing this a long time, and what I can say is that if you give, you will receive ten-fold. I know a lot of bloggers that write posts and sit and wait for passersby to come by and get their socks knocked off. Unfortunately, that doesn't work for 99% of us. Even if our content is great, it's the interaction that's key.

Blogging has changed a lot in the last several years but that fundamental thing hasn't. Not in the 8 years I've been doing this.

I think because many A-Zers had their posts prepared ahead of time, so they didn't address the Boston Bombing right away. Social media, however, is all about RIGHT NOW.

Tony Laplume said...

I've been blogging here since 2002. For most of that time, really no readership at all. So it's been a huge transition trying to figure out what it means to have readership, and apparently a lot of it really is symbiotic. I didn't really expect that. I think it's because I've been approaching it more as having readers than having blogger buddies, whereas clearly it's far more about the blogger buddies. So that was certainly worth finally learning.

Melody said...

Spin City was good - I used to watch it when it was actually on tv. I've been watching through That 70s Show on Netflix. I don't really like the whole idea of "blog following reciprocity" either...then you get stuck with a bunch of blogs on your reader that you really don't care to read regularaly :/.

Tony Laplume said...

It's something that occurred to me during last year's time, when the hosts suggested pretty much blindly following the next ten people past you on the list. It's no that there are a lot of bad blogs out there, just blogs that don't immediately interest me. And I hate that I've perpetuated the false reciprocity. Now I'm figuring out what it actually means to me, and I figured it was worth talking about. I'm glad to say that it apparently was.


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