Year of the Spigot

Ah. The dishes are done. The laundry’s all folded. The bed’s freshly made. If I had anything to do with any of that, I could bask in a warm glow of accomplishment.

However, I am sitting in blog central, contemplating the day. A word comes to mind. A not particularly attractive word. Blogiversary. I thought I’d drop it in here as part of marking the one-year anniversary of this continuing distraction. But I googled "blogiversary" and found 17,500 instances of it online; all web loggers congratulating themselves on their one or two or three years or more, some will claim, of this.

So, I’ll just go to the numbers. Three hundred seventy and some-odd posts. (In transferring stuff over from my original Radio Userland home, I culled a handful of items that even I didn’t get the point of.) Maybe a couple hundred comments posted; a few by me. Lots and lots of words. I’ve got a little application that gives me a word count on each and every post, but I haven’t got to the point of actually adding it all up. But if I’ve written an average of 250 words per post (and we’re at about word 221 for this post right … now), which seems conservative, then I’ve spewed 90,000 or so words here. There. That’s my book.

Part of this exercise is listening for the splash when you drop your pebble down the well. So, the comments, written and otherwise, from the small knot of regular readers are all rewarding. Maybe I’m listening for a bigger splash; I always do when I publish a piece somewhere, and I’m always let down when I put a lot of work into a story and hear nothing, or a murmur so low it might as well be silence. You shrug it off and just do the work as an end in itself; and also because, when you’re writing for pay, you’re keeping body and soul together. This is different, but still, you’d like to have an idea who’s reading and whether the words you put together have an impact.

I have no idea if anyone even saw my first throat-clearing post a year ago. It’s probably best if no one did. But a year later, thanks to a traffic-tracking site that’s probably violating privacy twelve ways to Sunday (where’d that expression come from?), I can see that just today people have hit the blog from Ireland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, Italy, Jordan, and Yemen.

I know the explanation for that, I think: I write about plenty of topical stuff, it gets indexed by Google, and when people go out to find something about why U2 says "uno, dos, tres, catorce" (one, two, three, fourteen) at the beginning of one of their songs, I have a post about that. And one about a Florida woman who channeled God into a full-page ad in The New York Times before the election. And one about the United Fascist Union candidate for president. And another about writer Ron Suskind’s somewhat unnerving picture of the force of fanatical religious faith in the Bush administration. Whether or not I had anything useful to say about any of those things, people who were interested in them came looking. And that’s still what surprises me and impresses me most about the Net’s chaotic jumble: It can be all serendipity, all the time.

Looking at blogs more closely the last year, it’s also clear that a lot of what’s going on out here is people venting and talking past each other. I know that’s not news and critics of blogging as an information medium have focused on how a lot of online "discussion" is really people listening for voices shouting messages that reinforce their beliefs while filtering out or shouting down those with whom they disagree. To the extent that’s true, I think it’s just a reflection of what’s happening everywhere else in our society now. Open minds, or even people willing to reason and talks thing through, seem in critically short supply.

So here’s to keeping minds open. To avoiding writing what my friend Pete once termed "just more blather." And to paying attention to Tom Stoppard’s caution to be honest with words: In "The Real Thing," the middle-aged playwright protagonist Henry is lectured by his 17-year-old daughter Debbie on love and sex. She concludes, "… What free love is free of, is propaganda." To which he says, ""Don’t get too good at that."

"What?" she asks.

"Persuasive nonsense. Sophistry in a phrase so neat you can’t see the loose end that would unravel it. It’s flawless but wrong. A perfect dud. You can do that with words, bless ’em. How about ‘What free love is free of, is love’?"

2 Replies to “Year of the Spigot”

  1. And it took me about a month to find you? Of course, it was because you blogged on the occasion of Gov. Ryan’s indictment and I was so surprised to learn that someone from California had so much knowledge and interest in Illinois that I had to link to you and I”ve read you ever since.
    Congratulations. It has been a real pleasure reading your writings. I’m looking forward to many more years of same.

  2. Dan: Congratulations on one year. I have enjoyed reading all your writings and look forward to more. JB

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