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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Peacock Moment

Well, I'm puffed out a bit with pride today as Ronni Bennett has added one of my stories to her terrific new blog, The Elder Storytelling Place.

It's actually a post from by blog written back in the spring of '03, when I had just returned from meeting super-blogger Denise Howell for the first time. Ronni and I were exchanging emails in which one of the topics was about how forging blogging connections provided an effective tonic for the loneliness of retirement--or isolation in general, for that matter.

As an illustration of the positive experience of meeting someone whose blogging you admired, and with whom you had struck on online connection, I pointed Ronni to that old post. Ronni said it would make a good addition to the series of stories she's been posting, so here we are.

Thanks again, Ronni, for putting this new site together. You're a trooper!

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Anniversary Archives - - May 29, 2002

Having just posted about Elaine's possible departure from the blogosphere, it's serendipitous that what popped up in my archives for today's date was a pointer to Frank Paynter's interview of Elaine--one of the first in his wonderful series of exchanges from that period with bloggers of note.

The Interviews link on Frank's blog unfortunately shows only a handful of these. They're gems. I wonder why he never put up the complete list? (Disclaimer: it's a selfish wish on my part since I have the honor of being one of the interviewees).

Anyway, here's the link again to Frank's interview of Elaine. Highly recommended.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Another Exodus?

I just caught Elaine's post of a couple of days ago announcing the possibility that her blog may be coming to an end. This will be a great loss if it happens. But I, of all people, certainly understand it.

I've been quitting, then coming back , tentatively, for the past couple of years. Some of us grow weary of looking for things to write about. It stops being fun, so we decide to drop out. If you're a blogger who blogs because you have an inner need to write, as Elaine most certainly does, you discover a big empty hole in your life when you stop writing.

Your inner demons begin driving you back to the keyboard. If Elaine, leaves, I wouldn't be surprised to see her back in due course.

Of course, there's always pen and paper, or that artifact of the past, the typewriter. But how can you top the medium of the Internet? The brilliant invention of the web log, its simplicity and ego-satisfaction of instant publishing are irresistible lures.

There is another problem, however, and Elaine's announcement--or rather, its aftermath--highlights it. The old community spirit isn't what it used to be. Blogging seems to have become a more isolated activity. This is highly ironic given the rise of the so-called "social web," or Web 2.0, or whatever in the hell you want to call it.

Yes, there's more connectability, but the connections seem to be more superfluous.

Time was when an announcement like this from Elaine would have generated a flurry of comments, postings, pleadings, protestations, and hand-wringing statements of concern. Now, barely a ripple. It's amazing to me, considering someone of Elaine's quality of writing and longevity in the blogosphere.

Well, whatever Elaine decides to do, I'm sure that I'm not alone in treasuring what she's given us. And, of course, our hearts are with her as she continues her amazing efforts to care for her mother.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Anniversary Cornucopia

Back in August of last year, I started a feature called "Anniversary Archives," wherein I re-published posts from earlier years that originally appeared on that date. It was an interesting exercise, but I only got three of them up before I went on vacation.

Then I pulled one of my disappearing acts, publishing only a bare handful of posts in the ensuing months. The Anniversary Archives idea was completely forgotten.

But now that I'm trying to make another return, I'd like to resurrect the feature. I was scouring around through old stuff, and somehow--I have no idea how--I landed on this page from Jeneane's archives.

It has no relevance to today's date, but I find it to be a gem. So I've decided to use it as my first piece in the re-opening of my Anniversary Archives feature. While not related to today's date, it's about a whole host of blog anniversaries--a compilation of opening posts from a number of exemplary blogs. Very much worth republishing, imho.

Many thanks to Jeneane for these great links.Read and enjoy!

This is by no means a complete list of my classmates/inspirations/co-conspirators, and yet, when I started snooping around, I did find enough "first posts" to warrant a celebratory yeeehaw! We've come a long way, baby....

Fishrush's Hello World: September 25, 1952 (ROTFL)

xian's Breathing Room: October 30, 1997

Lisa Williams' Cadence 90: May 31, 2000

Chris Locke's All Noise: August 5, 2000

Marek J's Soapbox: August 5, 2000

Brooke's Rivervision: November 7, 2000

Dean Landsman's DeanLand: December 17, 2000

Deb Gussman's Distracted: February 27, 2001

Michael O'Connor Clarke: March 1, 2001

Shelley Powers' BurningBird: [[April 5, 2001, after lurking for a year. Shelley's first post was on a Userland Manila site and has since disappeared. Conspiracy? TAHDW? You be the judge. Shelley has special dispensation because she is my idol. She's the only first post I'll include without a link.]]

Marc's Nexistepas: October 8, 2001

Gonzo Engaged: October 14, 2001

George Sessum's Musick: October 23, 2001

Jeneane Sessum's Allied: November 4, 2001

Gaspar Torriero: November 7, 2001

Kevin Marks Epeus' epigone: November 7, 2001

Gary Turner's* MLOD: November 14, 2001 (Gary Turner's "Inturnernet News" blog dates back to 1999.)

David Weinberger's JOHO: November 15, 2001*. (*JOHO was started in 1999, and after a two-year hiatus, re-emerged.)

Denise Howell's Bag n Baggage: November 28, 2001

Elaine's Kalilily: November 29, 2001

Jennifer Balderama's Nonsense Verse: December 7, 2001

Frank Paynter's Sandhill Trek: January 5, 2002

Halley's Commentsans: January 10, 2002

Mike Golby: Jan 11, 2002

AKMA: January 23, 2002

Tom Shugart's Insiteview: Feburary 21, 2002

Doug's The Dynamic Drivel: March 28, 2002

Jonathon Mays' Stretching Thought: April 16, 2002

Liz Lawley's Mamamusings October 22, 2002 (happy first birthday, Liz!)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Story Time

Kudos to Ronni Bennett for the creation of her new adjunct to her main blog. It's called The Elder Storytelling Place, and it's a fabulous idea. She already has quite a few entries. Good stuff! I'm definitely inspired to make some submissions. Ronni's already accepted one, I'm happy to say, and it should be appearing in the near future.

Whenever I would lapse into storytelling in this blog, I would feel like I was being self-centered and boring. But over time, input from readers, combined with my enjoyment of reading pieces of nostalgia and remeberance put up by other bloggers, caused me to change my mind. I came to realize that stories--at least well articulated ones--were among the most important contributions the older blogger has to offer.

I remember once replying to Dervala's lament that my generation seems to have "disappointingly little to teach us," to which I responded:

"Everything changes so fast now! What the hell do we have
to tell you except our own stories, as honestly as we can. "

I also remember how much I enjoyed my mother's stories despite having an unpleasant, mostly contentious relationship with her. It would be the one situation in which I would feel a bond of warmth with her and a pleasure in being offered something, a sense of receiving something of value, rather than the usual neediness.

Many thanks, Ronni, for this offering. I'm sure it's going to be a hit.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Recalling the Impressario

I've been enjoying the string of comments that Frank Paynter's recent post, "Entheogens," has inspired. Frank's posting of an early Grateful Dead video has stimulated some nostalgia and memory-searching from some of us old enough and lucky enough to have been there.

Frank describes Bill Graham as "running around as self important as Dave Winer." I haven't had the distinction of seeing Winer in action, but I did indeed have occasion to see Graham doing the running around number (in small venues, that is, before the days of arena concerts).

However, my take wasn't so much "self-importance." What I saw was a guy fantastically committed to perfection--in a frenzy to get it right--for the fans and for the musicians, both of whom he dearly loved, underneath that gruff, foreboding, getouttamyface, boss-man presentation.

Yeah, Graham may haved seemed self-important, but Frank's commenter, Hannah (she doesn't provide a link to a website) has got it right, imho. His contribution to popular culture is historic--and crucial--because, as Hannah says, a lot of it might very well not have happened without him.

I rank him as a true pop visionary, right up there with Sam Phillips, Barry Gordy, and Jann Wenner.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Commencin' and Tripppin'

OK. I’m returned from a short jaunt back to the Midwest to attend the graduation of my niece from the University of Illinois—and to get in some family schmoozing time.

Commencement addresses are usually rather boring affairs, but this one had something different--a guy under 30 giving the address. How does a lad of 28 land such an honor? By being a co-developer of PayPal and co-founder of YouTube, and having a billion bucks or so, some of which you can bet has the University scheming for future endowments.

Which is to take nothing away from the accomplishments of Illinois alum, Jawed Karim, who received the outstanding achievement award for alumni under 40. (no duh!) and was invited to give the address. It was a pleasant surprise, and Karim, to his credit, gave a fairly good speech.

Christine Hurt, a U of I Law Prof, provides this account, saving me the trouble:
Karim's speech was great. It was short, it was funny, and it had video clips. He advised students to always be open to opportunity and to take risks while you can (like leaving college while still young to try something brand new). He apologized for ruining their gpa's by inventing YouTube! He was self-deprecating when reminding students that things don't work right away. In 1997, Karim's application to the University of Illinois' computer science department was rejected. He wrote a letter asking them to reconsider, which they did. (I would like to see a copy of this letter. I've seen letters from law school candidates asking for their admissions decisions to be reconsidered, and they generally only confirm initial judgments!) He also talked about how lame YouTube was in the beginning until users started uploading their own videos -- a concept that the founders had not envisioned.

The funniest line of the speech came when Karim explained that YouTube was launched on February 14, 2005. I am paraphrasing, but he said something akin to: 'One of the best things about being a computer science major is that Valentine's Day is just like any other day.'

(Thanks to Kevin O'Keefe of LexBlog for the pointer. Kevin's lengthy blogroll, btw, has Denise Howell way down near the bottom. Hey, Kev, she practically started the whole law blog thing. Doesn't she belong at the top?)

I started reading David Weinberger's latest book, "Everything is Miscellaneous," on the trip. As you might imagine, very insightful, provocative, original, and humorous--the usual Weinbergian cocktail. I doubt that I'll put up a review. It's a bit out of my league, which is not to say it's dense--not at all. It's just that my ventures into the art of criticism have not gone beyond the realm of popular culture (I've made a few contributions to BlogCritics Magazine). I'm probably wise to leave it that way--although maybe I could submit something along the lines of "Why 'Everything Is Miscellaneous' Matters to Average Joe." But does anyone care?

Anyway, getting my butt out to the Weinberger book signing and informal talk was a shot in the arm. I wish my ol' bloggin' buddy Frank could have been there. He would have loved it. (Speaking of Paynter the Prolific, do catch his current post with the early Grateful Dead video).

Thanks to Ronni Bennet for chiming in with a supportive comment. And thanks also to Jeneane for the encouragement. Good to hear from both of you guys!

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Friday, May 11, 2007

I'm rushing off to the Midwest for a niece's graduation and don't have the time to report as fully as would have liked on the blogger meetup with David Weinberger--but, fortunately, you can read his own account of the affair.

An added plus was getting to meet one of my all-time favorite bloggers--Dervala Hanley. It's hard to believe she's actually ended up right here in our area after all the changes she's been through and all the miles she's logged since she began her wonderful blog. Thanks so much, Dervala for sharing your adventures with us--and doing so with all the grace, wit, insight, and poetry that is your unique voice.

It was a stimulating evening, and per my hopes and intentions, it helped re-ignite my interest in getting back to some blogging.

See you after I get back from Illinois.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Moving Forward

My strategy for getting some motivation for jumping back into the blogging scene seems to be moving along nicely. Weinberger himself sends word that he looks forward to my presence (provided I don't look him in the eye). Dervala likewise announces her intention to cross my path there.

This is great! Takes me back to the time of my very first blogger meetup (before the days of organized meetups).

Monday, May 07, 2007

Unexpected Opportunity

Having promised Frank Paynter—and then the world at large in my previous post—that I would fulfill my obligations to get something up on this neglected blog at least once every quarter, my time is more than up.

Tax season is over. No more excuses, not even spring yard work, branch clearing, and all that other horticultural horseshit (how’s that for alliteration?) that would be oh so convenient to justify continued avoidance of my blogging commitments.

I’ve parked myself in front of the keyboard nearly every day for the past couple of weeks, trying in vain to compose something. I’ve been perusing many of my favorite blogs for inspiration. Shockingly, not even the splendid examples of these estimable people have been able to re-ignite the writing engine.

Something unpleasant seems to have happened. I’ve completely lost touch with the community that I used to value so much (although one could argue that there isn’t that much of a community spirit anymore. Frank, though, bless his heart, keeps trying to fan the flame).

Some formerly prolific writers—Maria Benet and Dervala Hanley being two excellent examples who spring to mind—appear to be cutting back on their posting. Unlike me, however, they don’t seem to wring their hands about it. They just put up another great post when they get around to it.

Using their example for inspiration, I’ll calm the agitated hands by applying them to the keyboard---and just go with whatever happens to come out. I really do want to get my writing chops back. How else am I gonna do it? It reminds me of the opening of my very first blog post (Feb 21, 2002):

“There's no way to start it except to start it. So here I go. After all, David Weinberger, who's probably my biggest source of inspiration for this undertaking, has as the motto for his blog, "let's just see how it goes,"

Which leads me to what’s behind the title of today’s post. The one and only Dr.W is appearing in San Francisco in a couple of nights to promote his new book, “Everything Is Miscellaneaous.” The affair is described as a blogger meetup and is taking place at the digs of Yahoo’s new venture, The Brickhouse.

Whathehell? I could jump on a train, walk four blocks, and be there in about an hour from my door. I rarely go out on weeknights anymore, but why not? Weinberger, after all, is the godfather of this blog. (Jeneane Sessum’s the godmother, btw, in case you were wondering).

To hell with my age. I’m not ashamed to be starstruck. And the Brickhouse is a stone’s throw from Dervala’s neighborhood. What if she happened to be there? God knows what other luminaries might be there, but W and D would be enough to make the trek worth it.

OTOH, most of these people, Dr. W excepted, are going to be young enough to be my children. The crowd at the Brickhouse will no doubt be uber-hip. Even though I’m no square, I’m clueless about Web 2.0 and all the other up-to-the minute goodies they’ll no doubt be talking about. And even though I was once a fair-to-middlin,’ almost daily blogger with a respectable audience, I’ve been out of the loop for a long time now.

Am I going to feel like an idiot if I show up at this affair? It looms as a distinct possibility. Then again, why not simply claim my space as a been-around-the-bend elder who knows that, in the blogosphere at least, words trump technology and always will, no matter how exotic the evolution of the tech stuff.

Well, I think I’m willing to risk it, because what I’ve really been trying to say in this post is that I’m looking for some way to get my spirit back. I don’t know what happened or where it went (I have a few theories but what do they matter?). I just know I want it to return.

As Paynter responded a while back in reply to his own question, “Why do we blog?. . . “Because we’re writers.” My blog’s motto, after all, is borrowed from a quote from Dr W--“We are writing ourselves into existence.”

I haven’t been writing. Ergo, I haven’t been existing. Small wonder I’ve been dispirited these recent months. Maybe putting my fears and embarrassment aside and hitting the Brickhouse will be the jolt in the ass I need.

If I end up feeling terribly out of place and convinced that time has passed me by, that I had my run with the blogosphere, etc., etc. and now it’s time to just go home and tend to the yard, so be it.

I’ll never know if I don’t go.