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On the vagaries of what can only be deduced as an elaborate plot by WordPress to limit traffic to my blog

Photo credit: comedy_nose via photopin cc

Photo credit: comedy_nose via photopin cc

Reader Advisory: The blog contains graphic scenes of whinging and whining and may not be appropriate for all audiences. Viewer discretion is advised.

Dear WordPress,

I think you’re broken. You may want to try a level-three diagnostic or a hard re-boot or something. I mean I haven’t seen anything in the media yet about your “little problem” but it’s apparent —  to me at least — that you’re obviously not quite firing on all cylinders.

I know this must be the case because none of my recent posts have generated any new traffic to my site. No shower of new “Likes” or thoughtful messages left for me to review and respond to in the comments section. And new “Followers” are barely trickling in in dribs and drabs, if at all. (In fact I’m now certain WordPress must have recently hit a serious software glitch: I’m not even getting those goddamned make-money-blogging-on-line marketing types “Liking” / “Following” my site any more!)

I mean, I appreciate the fact that the limited bandwidth you have available via the internet probably doesn’t have the capacity to let everybody who’s out there clamouring to get through to my site arrive here all at once. But that doesn’t mean you have to shut off the spigot altogether! I’m sure if you reviewed the dilemma with your IT department one of your techies could come up with a compromise solution that might, at the very least, let several thousand of my would-be readers through at a time.

Think about it. How can I not help but conclude that there’s a deep-rooted systems problem on your end? After all, there’s a ton of crap blogs of “questionable literary merit” out there presently overflowing with comments and gaining followers at an exponential rate. So it only stands to reason that there must be a technical issue with my particular account that is currently rendering it traffic-less for some reason.

I know my stuff is often a little wordy. A little dense. Maybe even a little inaccessible on occasion. But I’m confident that could have nothing to do with the recent dearth of visitors to The Gooseyard. Sure, my sentences, at times, may get lengthy and parenthetical, but they still hold together internally and, if one pays particular attention to the form and the rhythm of their inherent structure — which is maybe a little more challenging in these days of tweet-sized ideas and communications — there comes a significant payoff upon arrival at the end of such a sentence knowing that you’ve stuck with it and teased out its central thesis with no other tools than your own pulsing grey matter and predisposition to appreciate a complex array of thoughts and intuitions interpreted through the skein of another person’s consciousness and presented in more than 140 thumb-punched characters. It can’t all be just cat videos, on-line psychotherapy and lollipops. There are clever, thoughtful people out there who can handle my kind of depth. I know there are because I sign up as a “Follower” on their blogs whenever I happen to stumble upon them. All four of them.

Or perhaps the folks at WordPress have simply taken some of my posts to heart and are so worried that — as I have often bemoaned — my other creative writing has suffered as a result of all the time I now spend on my blog, that they have decided to save me from myself by not letting anybody through to my site. While I appreciate the intervention guys, — I truly do, it’s a wonderful feeling knowing my friends at WordPress are out there trying to do right by me and help me get that first novel written — I really have to work through this one on my own. Let the readers back through to my site and after I get “Freshly Pressed” a half a dozen times my work here will be done and, no doubt, I’ll probably migrate naturally back to my novel.

I do hope we can find resolution on this issue — maybe even with this very post! Please don’t make me go public with this.

Best regards,

Philster999 (for The Gooseyard) 

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dot-dot-dot dash-dash-dash dot-dot-dot; Or, the Allure of the Other

Photo credit: Peter Gorges via photopin cc

Photo credit: Peter Gorges via photopin cc

For anyone out there who either doesn’t have a military background, or isn’t over 40, the above-noted string of dots and dashes is Morse Code for “SOS”. For the purposes of this blog, however, this is not a reference to the traditional “Save Our Souls” distress call — at least not directly. Today, at The Gooseyard, it refers, instead, to “Shiny Object Syndrome,” a recent variation of the acronym I stumbled upon the other day that finally assigns a pithy mnemonic to my super hero-like ability to start about 87 new projects in the run of day, but seldom to finish a single one of them.

Last night’s foray into SOS territory was in pursuit of the new on-line writing game, Storium. The game’s in beta testing so I figured I’d drop by their site for few minutes, check out what was being written and how it worked, and maybe quickly submit a character of my own to one of the emerging stories. Four hours later I pulled my sorry, end-of-the-week carcass away from the computer and off to bed, having spent the entire evening not only creating and submitting a richly-developed, emotionally-conflicted Ranger-like character, christened Alswulff Glenn, for a “fantasy-type” story that was just getting underway, but also having set myself up as the narrator for my own “Occult Pulp Horror” themed tale which I’ve entitled Arcanus Rising. (Hey, don’t give me that look — the genres are pretty much pre-set and at least I had enough self control to not start developing my own unique story-line(s) from scratch! Give me some credit.)

Yep, just what I need (NOT!) — two more writing projects to work on! And, since those of us with chronic (terminal?) SOS like to spread our contagion like wildfire throughout the community, I figured I’d better invite one of my pals along to Storium to give me a hand. I mean, sure, he’s trying to get that YA book of his tweaked and edited for release this fall, but he’s still probably in need of a little shiny, writerly distraction as well, right? (Sorry Tom.)

And thus expired my Friday night, which should have been spent working on the weekly laundry, prepping for my writing group meeting today (sorry Jim), and fleshing out a couple of outlines for this week’s blogs. Yeah, blogsplural. ‘Cause, hell, two blogs are shinier than one, right? And I really wanted to try out that new “Coco” theme from WordPress…. And why not hitch that second blog to yet another new project — Project One for the Win, where I slowly turn my modest country bungalow from a cluttered family home into a clean-lined, minimalist Nirvana. ‘Cause, hey, a guy needs projects, right? Right? Are we beginning to see a pattern emerge here?

My life— AKA my addiction to the “new”, to anything other than what I happen to be stuck doing at the moment — often reminds me of one of those old Family Circus cartoons. You know, where Billy or PJ, or whoever the hell the young son was, is sent to the kitchen to fetch the scissors for his mother and then we watch that thick dashed line trace his progress on this quest over the course of the cartoon. Starting from the hallway, just before making it to the kitchen, where he gets distracted by a butterfly and climbs out an open window to follow it into the yard. Then, while he’s chasing the butterfly around outside, he sees a low-slung sports car drive by that he decides is exactly the car he wants to own when he grows up, so back inside he goes, down to the family computer station in the basement, to research his coveted future vehicle.

While on-line reviewing car payment schedules he finds himself suddenly re-directed to a mortgage amortization web site and decides he can probably now negotiate a better rate on his own mortgage given the recent dip in rates. And, considering just how low the rates actually are, maybe he’d be better off doing those kitchen renovations he’s been promising his wife this year, rather than delaying it any longer. But if he’s going to do the renovations, he should probably download some nice shiny new 3D kitchen design software to get him started. Which means he should probably back-up his computer first, but his old external hard drive is full so he probably needs a new one, and Future Shop is having a sale, and I should pick up Thief for Xbox while I’m there, and where did I put my car keys?

“Where’re the goddamned scissors I asked for,” screams your wife PJ’s mother from the top of the basement stairs….

Ahoy! The SS Gooseyard is going down! dot-dot-dot dash-dash-dash dot-dot-dot….

My Writing “Problem”

Photo credit: Nanagyei via photopin cc

Photo credit: Nanagyei via photopin cc

I suppose the impending apology / explanation for my near seven-month absence from The Gooseyard isn’t going to write itself, so I might as well get it out of the way once and for all. In fact, I’ve already broached it somewhat over at my “de-clutter” blog, Project One for the Win:

The truth is I took a little break from writing, which turned into a long break from writing. Like most of us who write, I have a bit of a love / hate relationship with the process and I suppose the pendulum has been swinging along the “hate” arc of late. Well, maybe not “hate” exactly, but sometimes you feel like you’re just not getting a sufficient return on your authorial investment. Y’know?

You just get weary sometimes. You’re sure you have a book — or two or three or eleven — in you (which, in fact, you should probably be working on now instead of continually feeding the thankless, insatiable blogosphere). And you know you’d have the will-power / confidence / energy to complete these literary masterpieces if only you had the luxury of being a full-time writer. But you’re already a full-time something else, and, in many cases, a full-time parent (or some other type of care-giver), housekeeper, Man / Woman Friday, etc., as well. Time — or, more accurately, perhaps, the lack of energy associated with having to expend so much time elsewhere — is your nemesis. But time itself? Well, as the irreverent, onanistically-minded Chuck Wendig points out in a recent post, Stupid Answers to Common Writing Questions, time doesn’t much give a shit:

How do I find the time to write? You do not find the time to write. You make it. You snatch it from the jaws of whatever temporal beast has your minutes and hours clamped between its gnarly teeth. We all fight for our time, whether it’s time for a meal, time for a TV show, time to mow the lawn, time to masturbate wantonly on the neighbor’s front porch so that their cat can watch you from the family room window. Time is not a lost set of car keys. It’s not extra money you find in a pants pocket just before you wash them. Time is a thing for which you fight. And if you want to write, you need to fight for the time to accomplish that task. Because time doesn’t care about you. It keeps on keeping on until you’re mulch for the fucking marigolds. Seize it. Or don’t. It doesn’t care.

Still, I would argue, time is only a symptom of the larger problem. More than time, what a writer really needs (OK, what I really need, ‘cause, if you haven’t figured it out by now, these blogs are really all about me) is discipline. Time can’t generate discipline after all, but discipline can generate time. And here I find myself wishing for the millionth time that I could actually muster enough discipline to write, instead of simply writing about writing. But at least I recognize I’m falling short. That’s a start, right?

Writing’s easy (it’s just putting words together). So is dieting (eating fewer calories than you expend). And quitting smoking (not lighting up). And staying out of debt (spending less than you earn). None of this — intellectually, computationally — is rocket science. It’s straight-forward action / reaction stuff. The difficult part of the process — and this is what keeps the self-help industry raking in obscene amounts of money year after year — isn’t in acquiring the knowledge of what has to be done, but exerting the will-power and discipline to, well (sorry Nike), “Just do it.” But you can’t order discipline on-line from amazon.com. I checked.

I mean, c’mon. How many pity-the-poor-writer posts like this have I issued from The Gooseyard? Most? Probably. When it comes right down to it, I’m really not sure to what extent the Internet has actually succeeded in liberating aspiring writers. What I think it has done, instead, is give wannabe writers a forum in which to while away the hours writing about writing without actually following through on the type of original, creative projects they’ve always dreamed of pursuing. Then they — OK, “we” — dole out all this psuedo-writing (yes, just like I’m doing now — the irony is not lost on me!) to all the other non-writing writers clogging cyberspace, gaining just enough “Followers” and “Likes” along the way to keep us motivated to pen our next self-indulgent missive. Instant gratification. Why does the phrase “circle jerk” come to mind?

Yikes, that got a little dark, didn’t it? Sorry. I guess I probably need more “Followers” to bolster my fragile ego. Either that or I might actually have to start writing something other than a blog to get my fix — though that seems like waaaay more work. As usual, where writers — pseudo or otherwise — are concerned, Wendig strips the emperor bare:

Uh, hello, please to meet every writer ever. We’re all fucking headcases. We all hit a point in every piece of work where we hate it, hate ourselves, hate publishing, hate the very nature of words (“Marriage? What a stupid word what’s that goddamn little ‘i’ doing in there FUCK THIS HOO-HA LANGUAGE IS STUPID I QUIT”). We all bang our heads against our own presumed inadequacies and uncertainties. Writing and storytelling isn’t a math problem with a guaranteed solution. It’s threading a needle inside our heart with an invisible string strung with dreams and nightmares. We are afforded zero guarantees. [Failing Versus Quitting (Or, “Your Lack of Confidence Is Neither Interesting or Unique”)]

Two blogs in, after more than a half a year hiatus, and already I’m starting to implode. But I don’t think I’m necessarily being unfair. Do you?

Saturday Morning and a Double Espresso

Photo credit: tonx via photopin cc

Photo credit: tonx via photopin cc

Apparently, suggest the cognoscenti, my blog lacks focus.

“If you think you have what it takes and are determined to stay the course then know that blogging begins with defining a purpose for your blog that clearly expresses your aim to blog with passion about something that matters…. From the outset you need to be able to describe your blog’s purpose by expressing what you intend to blog about in as few words as possible.” (Creating an Effective Blog Description by timethief)

One option, of course, is to embrace the obvious dichotomy between this recommended requirement for a “grand unifying theory” — as the physicists might call it — and my blog’s present lack thereof. My focus, in this case, becomes its inherent lack of focus, a deliberate thematic diffusion. A menagerie of miscellany. Which, I suppose, it already is. As are most blogs, I would argue, regardless of their purported descriptions.

I tried to start with a focus. My “official” tag line, below The Gooseyard banner, for example, is “Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think…” Hopefully that supposition at least hints at the fact that I’m interested in thinking / writing about the end-run we’re all attempting to make around the concept of our own individual mortality.

Then, beneath my author’s photo (as you’ve probably already seen if, in fact, you’re reading this blog) is a more explicit, supplemental attempt at defining a unifying principal amongst these digital pages: “A (mostly) literary blog.” Except it hasn’t been. Not really. But I do talk a lot about Ian McEwan. He’s awesome. (Though, truth be told, I’m somewhat less than impressed with his website.)

The “literary blog” thing, in retrospect, turned out to be more of an “aspirational” tag than an elucidating descriptor. It was required of me far too early in the process. Like asking a child what he wants to be when he grows up. We can’t all be firefighters after all, but we never really understand this little heartbreak until it’s too late.

Thus far, it turns out, my blog has simply been about what it’s been about. I’m sure there’s a special place in hell for those of us who traffic in such tautological pedantry, but I’ve decided — experts be damned — that I’m simply not going to be pinned down at the moment. Mainly because I’m not sure exactly what I’m doing yet myself. I don’t know if what I’m attempting in this forum can ultimately be construed as entertainment, human interest, or maybe just wordpainting for dummies. Comedy or tragedy? I don’t know if it’s good or bad or utterly indifferent. If it’s poetry. Or therapy. Or a plaintive cry for some last vestige of human community — digital or otherwise.

What I do know is that, when it comes to the various blogs that I follow myself, what matters to me far more than how accurately the authors describe what their blog is about is the quality of their writing. In fact, I seldom find myself reading blogs that focus on single-topic content. Blog-wise, I quickly determined that I’m far more engaged by a good writer writing about something in which I have no particular interest, than I am by a bad writer writing about something close to my heart. Ultimately, the quality of the writer / writing matters far more to me than the consistency of the topic.

And it’s this type of simply-write-about-whatever-may-catch-your-attention-but-make-it-interesting-and-writerly approach that I seem to have adopted by default. I suppose I blog at all because it is an inherently un-focused activity. I’m focused all day —  every day — at work. Like a laser. If I were then to also maintain this focus into my non-work hours, well, the universe might actually begin to falter. That would be waaaay too much focus for anyone to deal with. With that much focus I’d be liable to generate another big bang or something. (SHUT UP! This is so a brilliant metaphor! The big bang was all about things becoming too concentrated, too focused, right? Same as me. Really! I’ve done the math!)

So what’s the take-away in all this bloggerly beating of breast and gnashing of teeth? I’ve decided to revise my tag line to “An (occasionally) literary blog.” Whew, I’m glad I got that off my chest! I bet the suspense was killing you.

NB. timethief (onecoolsitebloggingtips.com) also writes that there are about 39 million posts uploaded to WordPress every month. Talk about the perfect opportunity to fall through the cracks and never be heard from again! Given those kind of numbers I may end up having to simply Freshly Press myself at some point. Though I imagine this would be considered rather gauche by all those who have actually already achieved such distinction. And probably frowned upon by the folks at WordPress.

Not that it really matters anyway given that timethief further advises that the stats indicate that most of us new bloggers won’t last out the year to begin with.

I may need to reconsider my subscription to onecoolsitebloggingtips…

What’s the Good Word, Intrepid Reader?

Photo credit: Florian SEROUSSI via photopin cc

Photo credit: Florian SEROUSSI via photopin cc

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.

Remember that awesome game the teacher would sometimes let the class play when you were elementary school? Telephone, I think it was called. Or telegraph, maybe. The teacher would whisper something into the ear of the first student in the first row and then that student would, in turn, whisper what she heard to the student next to her, and so on, until the quietly-mumbled phrase finally made the rounds to the very last child in the class. Then that kid — usually looking somewhat bewildered, as if he were certain the entire class was deliberately trying to make a dunce of him or get him in trouble — would have to write on the chalkboard exactly what he had heard from the final whisperer. Beside this phrase, the teacher would then write what she had actually said to the first student in the chain.

Hilarity ensued. Every time. Guaranteed. “You’re a better man than I am Gunga Din,” would somehow emerge as “Lorne is bitter and green and Sam hung-up tins.” Or maybe even, “Chicken burgers with lysol in the banana yard.” There was no telling what potential trajectory these feral, semantic missiles might take. All bets were off. It was pure nonsense, grammar and logic run amok! We loved it! What’s more, it turned out to be a game, it now occurs to me on an almost daily basis, that bears an uncanny resemblance to trying to manage complex business projects via e-mail.

The other language-related game I really used to enjoy was more of a public speaking-type exercise that I suppose I would have played in junior or senior high. I don’t know what, if anything, it’s actually called. It would begin with everybody writing a random short phrase or a noun on a slip of paper — “two if by sea,” “Napoleon,” “salamander,” whatever. The teacher would then collect all the folded up slips and bring them back to his desk. Then, one at a time, each student would have to go to the front of the class and retrieve one of the random topics from the pile the teacher had just collected. The object of the game was then to speak for as long as you could — with the teaching recording your time — on whatever topic you had chosen, but without ever saying “err” or “uhmm” or “ahh” or the like. It sounds simple, but if you’ve ever attempted this exercise yourself, you know how damnably difficult it actually is. Try as they might, many of those in the class often ended up being disqualified before they even got underway. For a surprisingly large percentage of students, the first thing they said, no matter how much they tried to be conscious of what was about to come out of their mouths, was, in fact, “Uhmm…”

In honour of this particular language-centric challenge, I’ve decided to make you, dear reader, do some of the heavy lifting for a change.

Every week it’s my responsibility to both come up with an idea for a new blog entry and write the bloody thing. Truth is, I’ve got a list of about 86,000 blog ideas in notebook here beside the computer. I can’t seem to blink and not generate another blog idea somehow. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re anything you might actually be interesting in reading about.

So let’s mix it up a little, lest things go stale by relying too heavily on the same old format here at The Gooseyard, week after week. (Plus I want to know if anybody’s actually out there!)

Here’s the deal: this week, in the spirit of the above-noted “public speaking” challenge, leave me a comment containing a short phrase or a noun you’d be interesting in seeing me blog about. Or even just a nonsense word that you’ve picked out of the ether — the whole point of the exercise, after all, is that it hardly matters a whit what words you start with. The proof, instead, is in the quality of the pudding. (Yes, oh great interpreter of metaphorical language, by pudding I actually mean the blog.)

I’ll copy out all the words, stick them in the proverbial hat, extract one at random, and then, well I guess you’ll be my muse for this week’s blog! (Yeah, alright, it’s just a convoluted writing prompt exercise, but let’s keep that entre nous, for the moment, ‘k.) So? You in?

Only two conditions. First, personal friends and writing buddies can leave a comment, but can’t submit a word for the hat (’cause, remember, I’m trying to see if there’s any else out there!) Second, no filth (including politics and religion), or anything else that’s going to back me into a moral corner of any sort. I can get into enough trouble on my own without anyone else’s help on that score, thank you very much.

And don’t leave me hanging by not dropping by with a word or two. Don’t make me blog about nothing. Because you know I’ll do it if I have to. And it won’t be some laugh-a-minute “Seinfeld-ian” nothing, I can assure you of that. It’ll be all philosophical, and dense, and probably turn into a three-part series at 5,0000 words an entry, and it’ll be all your fault. All on you!

Or, alternatively, I’ll be forced to revert to uploading more cat videos. And none of us — I hope — want that!

Blogito ergo sum

Photo credit: Kristina B via photopin cc

Photo credit: Kristina B via photopin cc

My love / hate affair with blogging continues.

I was hesitant to even start a blog in the first place — see my first-ever post on this site back in February (https://philipjefferson.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/on-writing-2/). And, as it turned out, all the worries that I started with have actually become realities — especially my prediction that blogging would begin to leech time away from my other writing. Which it has. In spades!

Surprisingly, however, — well, to my surprise anyway — it’s also been a fantastic learning experience. I think blogging has really helped me hone some emerging skills. Chief among these would be developing the discipline to write regularly (i.e. trying to turn out a fresh blog every week or so) and, perhaps most importantly for me, actually learning to let stuff go into the ether. Screwing up my courage and finally hitting the “Publish” button rather than simply holding on to something forever and editing it into non-existence because I’m afraid it’s not quite ready yet. Not as perfect as I could, ultimately, make it. If I worked on it for the ret of my life, that is.

But blogging also drives me nuts. Maybe it’s because I still don’t truly understand or appreciate the medium. My 13-year-old son tells me my posts are probably too long. People are on the internet for instant gratification. Most of my posts are at least 1,000 words or more. And typically require some concerted effort on the part of the reader to follow and appreciate whatever thesis I happen to be laying out at the time. And maybe when someone — magically, because I still haven’t quite figured out how this happens — stumbles across my blog at 11:30 at night, having previously enjoyed several of the latest YouTube offerings, or just finished updating the images on their Pintrest  homepage, the thought of tackling 1,000+ words, compressed tightly into a minimal number of densely-packed paragraphs (even with a nice, evocative photo at the top) is simply too daunting.

Should I dumb it down?

Should I, like many of my fellow bloggers seem to do, revert to staccato one-sentence paragraphs like some remedial virtual newspaper so as not to tax my poor readers’ ability to take it all in at one glance?

 

Use More Sub-Headers 

Or use sub-headers within the post to break things down into bite-sized, easily digestible pieces?

Or pepper the blog with ever-popular grumpy cat photos?

Photo credit: Scott Beale via photopin cc

Photo credit: Scott Beale via photopin cc

Or maybe, instead of trying to actually attempt to weave together a thoughtful, critical — and, hopefully, often humorous — approach to something that interests me, simply revert to banal, sophomoric clichés about the way we appear to live in the world. This seems to be a staple of many a blog with thousands of followers:

“It’s rainy this morning and I’m blue. I don’t even want to get out of bed today, so I’m just going to call in sick and work on my blog instead. Only through such rebellion can I embrace my inner “Creator”. Life is hard, isn’t it? Here’s a dancing cat video that helps me out when I feel this way.”

Likes: 425 (within eight minutes of posting somehow).

Comments: 87 and counting (most of which applaud the writer for his / her deft handling of the intrinsic meaning-of-life question and involve an emoticon of some sort in response to the cat video).

 

Another Strategic Sub-Heading to Focus My Readers’ Attention

WTF!?

 

In Which Our Hero Attempts to Extricate Himself from this Morass

I, on the other hand, with my complicated, long-winded, over-earnest blogs, typically average only a couple of “Likes” per upload (friends and writing buddies not included), though I do, somehow, seem to gain at least one new “Follower” every post or so. Given that part of my rationale for starting this blog in the first place was to create a platform — and an audience — from which launch a “lucrative writing career” (sorry, is than an oxymoron?), and that to do so, I calculate, would require somewhere in the vicinity of 250,000 potential readers, and allowing for writing a blog a week, I should pretty much achieve my goal, at this rate, in another 4,800 years. Though I’m probably being overly-optimistic here as I’m not sure in what capacity several of my existing 30 recorded “Followers” actually or still exist as viable “WordPress” entities.

And with these happy thoughts in mind, I’m going to close for today — under 800 words for a change, so I don’t scare anyone away.

And since, apparently, the only way I’m ever going to gain enough readers to make this whole blogging thing worthwhile is if The Gooseyard somehow goes viral, please enjoy the requisite cat video. 😉

 

A World of (Virtual) Wonders

internet photoThe internet never ceases to amaze me.

I’m old enough that I can remember life without the net, and without PC’s in general. And I suppose that this has a huge influence on how continually astounded I am by the rate at which the virtual world continues its exponential evolution. It’s become such a ubiquitous presence that we seldom even think about it any more. But when I do stop to think about what it would be like — what it used to be like — to do the things I take for granted now, without a PC, or a smart phone, or a tablet or an internet connection, I’m often flabbergasted.

Blogging, for example, is a brave new world. Who would have thought that there were so many writers out there just waiting to exorcise their poor, tortured souls onto the virtual page? Imagine, the minute I upload this file, someone half a world away in Sydney can start reading it. Or in Berlin, or Peoria. No editor, no intermediaries — just me, open to the world for business. (Anyone born into the internet age is rolling their eyes at this point, — duh? — but get off your high horse for a moment and just dare to imagine how it must have felt to live in a world without such immediate syncronicity. In retrospect, it felt pretty good actually, but that’s another blog altogether…) And with the emerging availability of on-line translation protocols, folks can even read this flood of blogs in their language of choice. (Must be the death knell for Esperanto.) Oh, what I would have given to have had Google Translate when I was struggling through high school French!

Last week the top part of the agitator in my washing machine stopped turning properly. A couple of minutes on the internet and I soon discovered that the top part of the agitator is actually called the auger. A couple of minutes more and I discovered that, in fact, I was lucky it was an auger issue because this is far preferable to having a problem with the agitator proper (i.e. the wider, lower part of the shaft that twirls the clothes around in the bottom of your washer). If you’re having a problem with the agitator, I learned, it could be a motor or a belt or a clutch problem — all requiring serious and potentially expensive fixes. With the augur, what usually happens is that the plastic “dogs” that turn against the teeth of the main agitator, to keep the upper spindle turning independently, often wear out. When they’re stripped and don’t engage properly the augur doesn’t turn. Five minutes on YouTube with weezie63, the “red neck” plumber, and a trip to the local appliance store the next day to purchase four plastic replacement “dogs” ($8 plus tax), and I was good to go. Back in the day, this would have meant an expensive visit from an appliance repair person. Do they even have appliance repair people any more?

Then yesterday, doing a bit a research for an upcoming blog I’m planning on life lessons gleaned from minor hockey, I went searching for an image of one of those “Hockey is Life” t-shirts that were so popular (for so many sports) a few years ago. Of course, I found one immediately, with my first search query. And then that started me thinking about other funny t-shirts I’d seen over the course of the years — because, hey, this is the internet whose apparent raison d’être is to lure us down these alleys of lateral thinking so that we waste huge freakin’ swathes of our evenings and weekends without even realizing what we’re doing and that it’s already 1:32 in the morning.

Any variation of the classic “I’m with Stupid” shirt, as you might expect, offered no challenge either — found those images in an instant as well. Then I remembered a t-shirt I had seen years and years ago, but have never seen since. A shirt that became the stuff of legend, my grandfather’s favorite t-shirt of all time. We would have seen it together some time in the late the seventies or early eighties — while I was still in junior high school — on one of our summer excursions to a local “Wildlife Park”. This was around the time when “Egyptomania” was on the rise and the funerary treasures of the young King Tutankhamun were being shipped to key museums around the world for display, and attracting huge crowds in the process. Gramps and I certainly never made it to the Met in New York to enjoy the exhibit. But what we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one enchanted summer day at the park was a buxom, t-shirt-clad young lady striding languorously toward us with matching imprints of the sarcophigal (sp?) visage of King Tut emblazoned proudly across each of her breasts. And, below that, — just in case you happened to be a complete moron and miss the pun altogether — the dire warning, “DON’T TOUCH MY TUTS!” Surely, I thought, there’s no way the internet has that one on file. I was wrong…

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Provocative pharaoh-centric fashion statements aside, however, don’t you find this vast, seething, unbounded, what? intelligence? of the Net unsettling somehow? The coalescing hive mind at work. Call me a pessimist, but I simply can’t imagine this will end well.

Neo? Neo, help! I think we’ve entered the Matrix…

photo credit: photosteve101 via photopin cc

Me, bowing modestly from the waist…

very-inspiring-award

Hats off to Nicole Oliver (“borednicole”) over at http://desireinspiration.wordpress.com who recently nominated me for a “Very Inspiring Blogger Award.”

I initially found my way to Nicole’s blog because she had been kind (discerning? — *insert winking emoticon here* ) enough to “Like” nearly all of my recent blogs. If you’re a blogger, especially a “newbie” blogger like I am, that’s like cocaine: the idea that there’s a person out there consistently giving you positive feedback on the stuff you write! And maybe even reading it. Dare to dream…

Nicole’s tagline is “A bored housewife’s quest for something…more.” The “more” part is about working through whatever life throws at her via the lens of her writing: “I’ve always believed there was a great story in me, but my passion and creativity have lain dormant for so long I may need the jaws of life to extract them. I’m hoping this blog will reawaken my soul.” Which, I suppose, is what the majority of us writing on-line are trying to do; frequently laying ourselves bare, post after post, here in the blogosphere.

But don’t let the “bored housewife” moniker mislead you. Nicole’s the “bored housewife” you’d meet in a “Dear Penthouse Forum” letter and her provocative blog entries are filled irony, wit, and no small amount of self-deprecating humour.

In any case, there are some guidelines to accepting this “Very Inspiring Blogger Award,” so let’s take care of those right now.

The Rules:

1. Display the logo on your blog. (Done)

2. Link back to the person who nominated you. (Done)

3. State seven things about yourself. (See below)

4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award. (See below)

5. Notify your nominees. (OK)

Seven things about me:

1. I’d rather be traveling in Europe.

2. I still listen to 80’s music.

3. I love storms and especially the feeling of being “snowed in” in the winter.

4. Favourite actor of all time: Cary Grant.

5. I think it’s already too late and we’ve completely screwed up the environment for our children and generations to come. Now what?

6. I prefer writing with a fountain pen.

7. I’m still struggling with trying to figure out if blogging is a useful exercise or just another another insidious way to waste my time navel gazing while “life” whizzes by.

Envelope, please. And the nominees for the next “Very Inspiring Blogger Award” are:

1. Tom Marshall: thomascmarshall.com

2. Charles Gulotta: mostlybrightideas.wordpress.com

3. Margaret MacQuarrie: wordperson.ca

4. Joe Warnimont: writewithwarnimont.com

5. Christian Mihai: cristianmihai.net

6. Chuck Wendig: terribleminds.com

7. Sam Harris: samharris.org

OK, so I failed miserably at this part of the award (i.e. nominating 15 additional bloggers for the award). I can’t help thinking that if I actually followed another 8 or 10 blogs, I’d have to quit my day job just to find the time! In fact, I probably failed at this exercise more miserably than it may initially appear given that, from nominee #4 onward, all the bloggers noted are well enough established already — with thousands of followers — that I won’t actually be forwarding them their nomination papers anyway.

Chuck Wendig and Sam Harris I’ve been following for a couple of years now and, in one form or another, are a continual source of inspiration. Joe Warnimont was an early “Follower” of my blog and has a great site of his own about writing. As does Christian Mihai who I just discovered this morning while trying to find enough websites to fill this list!

Tom Marshall, Charles Gulotta and Magaret MacQuarrrie are personal friends and fellow writers whose blogs I check on daily  to make sure I’m up to date with their latest posts.

Still, because I’m all about dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s in whatever I undertake, here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to keep the remaining eight slots open and assign them piecemeal as I stumble across future sites of inspired bloggery. Sound like a plan?

Thanks again to borednicole for the nomination and I hope folks will take a few minutes to check out the blogs noted above. Drop me a line if you find one you like enough to add to your own favorites list.

Three Cheers for Early Adopters!

thank-you February 22nd, marks the high water mark of my writing career thus far. On February 22nd, not quite a week ago now, The Gooseyard and I attained a record five “Followers.”

While, obviously, this accomplishment is not all that impressive numerically, the significance of this discerning fifth follower remains indisputable. Of my first four followers, two were actually friends from my local writers’ group. With a fifth follower, however, I can now boast more followers who are not known — or related — to me than are! That’s critical mass, baby!

And then, on February 23rd, along came yet another! This means I now have twice as many followers who I don’t know (yet) than I do know. Thanks to all of you who took the leap and clicked the “Follow” button. (Even in those cases where it might have been mainly in the hopes of generating some additional traffic to your own site. A win’s still a win, right?)

Until I hit the “public” sharing button on my blog nearly a month ago, and not including the mind-numbingly copious e-mails and memos I strew into the ether everyday at work, the only folks who had ever seen (or heard me read) my “creative” writing consisted of the judges of the various writing contests I’ve entered in the past few years and the on-again, off-again members of my local writing group. The latter were encouragingly receptive, the former, not so much. (At least I’m assuming the judges weren’t all that receptive given that I never heard back from any of them.)

Still, as excited as I am that a handful of complete strangers have enjoyed my early output enough to actually become my “Followers” – that sounds strangely egomaniacal somehow, doesn’t it? – the blogosphere remains a place of some consternation for me. It’s great fun, for instance, and a nice creative outlet, but, holy crap, it’s a bit of a time sink, isn’t it? Not only writing the entries, but sitting around for hours on end staring at that damn “Stats” page and waiting for the counter to record your next visitor. I haven’t had a single hit yet today, for example, and it’s driving me nuts. Clearly I’m a bit of a “Newbie”, but seriously (OK, not really seriously), this is what doing crack must be like. Just one more hit and I can die happy! And who the hell was that visitor I had from Singapore the other morning? The mind boggles. Heady days, indeed.

What do you think intrepid Followers? Is this blog stuff really worth the effort?