Tag Archives: blogging

Has TalkingPointsMemo.com Jumped The Shark, Or Am I Not Reading It Correctly?

When I first discovered Talking Points Memo (TPM), sometime around 2001, it was solely the political blog of Josh Marshall, and it looked like this:

TPM-screenshot-old

One blogger, one very narrow column with blog posts, an even narrower sidebar with some navigation, a call for donations, book recommendations, and a short list of links to other recommended sites.

That’s it, I loved it, and it would be one of my primary inspirations for becoming a blogger several years later, in 2004, at my now-defunct first blog Transcendental Floss. (No relation to any currently existing websites using that name.)

Now TPM is called TPM Media, it has a full staff of writers, two bureaus, in New York City and Washington, D.C. respectively, 13 sections of their website, and it looks like this:

TPM-screenshot-new

This transformation took place gradually over the past 10 years or so, and for the most part I enjoyed the growth, as it allowed for broader coverage of the political topics I was most interested in.

More recently, over the past few years, with the rise in popularity of political comedy TV shows — The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Real Time with Bill Maher, etc. — along with the sad new reality that these were some of the only shows on television adequately sounding the alarm on the deplorable things our government and politicians do on a regular basis, TPM, like most other political blogs/websites, began posting clips from these shows.

This, too, was ok with me. I don’t have TV at home, and so having these clips cherry picked for me and handily available on a website I already visited on a regular basis was welcome.

Enter The Slice, the newest section, rolled out two weeks ago, and described thusly:

Think of it as TPM’s magazine—deeper takes, more crafted writing. The Slice gets to the thorny, human, gut level of a broader range of issues than TPM has tackled before. We’ll be exploring everything from money and sex to identity and pop culture, from politics and family to those harbingers of modern life you keep noticing but can’t quite parse out.

When I first read that, I didn’t have any immediate negative reaction to it.

Then, today, I saw this on the TPM home page:

TPM-screenshot-slice

I’ll give you a moment to spot the story from The Slice

Yeah, jarring isn’t it? It’s like one of those “which one doesn’t belong” activities for school children.

In the comments section for this Slice piece with the clickbait title What I Learned From Going to the Adult Film Oscars With the King of Porn, two TPM readers echoed my exact immediate thoughts:

Commenter # 1: Am I at the Huffington Post?

Commenter # 2: Or Salon?

I have a love-hate relationship with both The Huffington Post and Salon for this very reason. Both sites have excellent coverage of news and politics, and both offer this jarring mix of content, with articles of substance on important matters posted side-by-side with trivialities.

From just a brief scan of the two home pages just now, I found these annoyingly incongruent headlines:

Huffington Post

Hezbollah Launches Deadliest Attack On Israel Since ’06
The Common Cooking Mistake That Ruins Everything

Salon

White Virginia politician calls African American reporter “boy”
“Ghostbusters” reboot: Let’s weigh the pros and cons of the new cast

So, I was all ready to declare, as the title of my post suggests, that TPM, the self-described “premier digital native political news organization in the United States”, the 2007 winner of the prestigious George Polk award for Journalism, had jumped the shark, but…

…before I could write a word I imagined what Josh Marshall would likely say in response: “We’re not the problem. You are!”

And, arguably he’d be right.

You see, I don’t HAVE to see the content that I don’t want to see. If what I’m looking for is news and politics, then all I really have to do is change my browser bookmarks so that the TPM bookmark takes me to the Editor’s Blog, which aggregates the best news and politics posts from the various other sections. Likewise, at Huffington Post and Salon, I could go directly to their news and politics sections.

I happen to work with a team of web developers, and they have a saying that they use to guide them in developing user-focused software and websites, a saying that reminds them to factor into their work a variety of different user-types in order to make their products as user-friendly possible:

As a [user type], I need to [action], so that I can [goal].

In this case, it could easily be argued that, while the TPM home page does not work well for me [user type], the fact that I have the option to navigate directly [action] to the sections that I want to read [goal] would indicate that their design is still user-friendly by definition.

Now, excuse my while I go and edit my bookmarks.

Science Fiction, or Too Much Time On Hand?

uss-enterpriseOne of my first posts here at Fish & Bicycles was titled Science, or Too Much Time On Hand?.

I’d read a post by a blogger at Wired.com on the science of peeling eggs.

Yes, you read that right, the science of peeling eggs, which prompted me to question whether this was science or simply the product of someone with WAY too much time on their hands.

I was reminded of that 5-year old post today when I came across a post at io9.com, with this title and opening paragraph:

Top 10 Biggest Design Flaws In The U.S.S. Enterprise

Star Trek broke new ground by having a spaceship without fins and rockets, and by consulting with the RAND Corp. on its design. And the Enterprise is indeed a beauty. But the Federation’s coolest starship isn’t flawless, by any means. Here are the 10 biggest design flaws in the U.S.S. Enterprise.

Now, I love Star Trek. I really do, and I’m no stranger to becoming enamored of something enough, most often, in my case, music, to get lost for periods of time in obsession, and so I’m really just gently poking fun here.

It just struck me as funny to come across this io9.com post — written nearly 50 years after the original Star Trek TV show was on the air — evaluating the design of a fictional spaceship, and it made me wonder whether this was evidence of the enduring power of science fiction or simply the product of someone with too much time on their hands.

Then again, to paraphrase what I admitted five years ago: Here I am spending (wasting?) time blogging about a blogger who blogged about a 50-year old design of a fictional spaceship.

It’s an embarrassing paradox.

Out Of Office: 2014-2015 Holiday Edition

Winter-Season-With-Happy-Holiday-I know, selfish, right?

I finally return to blogging after a year and a half break, and less than a month later I go on vacation?!

Sorry, folks.

I’ll be with the family, celebrating the holiday that isn’t Hanukkah, for the next few days, and I may not be able to post anything new until the 28th or 29th.

In the meantime, if you’re so inclined, please feel free to browse around here in any of the following ways:

  • Tags: In the sidebar, under Stuff About…, you can click on any of the Tags and see all the posts I’ve done that have at least something to do with those topics.
  • Recurring Series: At the top of the page, hover over the Recurring Series drop-down menu and select from options like Celebrating Progress, which applauds businesses adopting sustainable practices; Eyecatchers, a collection of photos, graphics, and videos that have, well, caught my eye; Video Fridays, my favorite video of the week pick; and more.
  • Archives: Towards the bottom of the sidebar, select a specific month to see everything I posted in that time period.

Cheers!

Fish & Bicycles Lives!

Retro microphoneUm…hello…is this thing on?

Check! Check! 1,2,3 check!

Ok, so, how does one break a nearly year-and-a-half blogging silence?

Well, I left off with a June 2013 post, announcing that I was going on hiatus, partly because I’d been lacking inspiration, and partly because I needed to focus my attention on other things going on in my life (translation of the latter: I needed to get my shit together 😲).

In the interim, I’ve missed blogging a little bit, from time to time, but not enough to start up again, and yet just enough to renew the Fish & Bicycles domain name registration, twice.

So, what’s changed?

  • I’ve mostly got my shit together.
    • I’m doing yoga regularly.
    • I’ve lost 20lbs via a low-carb diet.
    • I’m spending more time with my now, gulp, 17-year old son.
    • I’m mostly achieving balance between work and play and family time.
  • I suddenly miss blogging enough to want to jump back into it.

And, what hasn’t changed?

So, let’s see how this goes. I’ll probably be rusty at first, right out of the gate, I’ll likely not be as prolific as I was before I left off, but maybe…

…just maybe…

I’ll find my groove again.

Cheers!

Fish & Bicycles Goes On Virtual Hiatus

hiatushi·a·tus
noun — A gap or interruption in space, time, or continuity; a break


You know, I’ve been working at a university for 12 years, and so, when I hear the term hiatus, I think of privileged faculty or higher up administrators who are eligible to enjoy the occasional long break from employment, six months to a year, knowing that their job will be waiting for them when they return.

Me, on the other hand, while I have excellent healthcare benefits and a retirement plan, as well as paid sick leave and vacation, the demands of my job and the low level of my position on campus do not allow me the opportunity for hiatus. Anything longer than a 2-week vacation is very difficult to get approval for.

Therefore, I hereby announce that Fish & Bicycles is going on a virtual hiatus, for how long I do not know.

This has been a very difficult decision to make. I’ve loved blogging. I’ve been doing it since June 2004, first at my now-defunct first blog, and here at Fish & Bicycles since October 2009.

But, a number of things have added up to a gradual decline in enthusiasm and enjoyment. My life offline has become too busy, cluttered with a wide range of things both voluntary and involuntary.

Meanwhile:

  • I have a 15-year old son who will not be living at home all that much longer;
  • I have a lovely wife whom I ALWAYS wish I had more time with;
  • And, at 48 years of age, I’m finding my physical, mental, and spiritual health to be demanding more attention from me.

Additionally, I find myself, more times than not, feeling obligated to post something here at Fish & Bicycles, just to keep it alive, rather than as the product of an inspiration to create for creativity’s sake. I know that maintaining a regular practice of anything requires persistence in the face of challenges, and I’ve managed to do just that for nine years of blogging. But, I just need to take a break for a while, to attend to other things in my life.

I LOVE that definition of hiatus that I included at the start of this post — A gap or interruption in space, time, or continuity. It sounds so Sci-Fi, and given that I’m taking a virtual hiatus, I feel like a time traveler!

Hopefully, on my “travels” I will find my muse again and I’ll return to Fish & Bicycles with renewed vigor and determination.

In the meantime, I’d like to thank all of my regular readers and the many folks who have chosen to Follow Fish & Bicycles. I’ve been honored by the time people have taken to check out what I’ve been doing here.

Cheers!

The Dystopia Fetish

dystopiaHave you ever had one of those experiences where you’ve been quietly tolerating something that really bothers you for a long, long time, but then you suddenly, in a dramatic moment, realize that you can no longer tolerate it?

Well, I’ve just had that experience, and I’m here to pronounce that I have no more tolerance to offer for what I see as a rampant dystopia fetish.

Dystopia: that mostly fictional construct of a future, sometimes post-apocalyptic, sometimes the product of a long, slow decline, filled with darkness and oppressive authoritarian government and violence, societies that retain just enough resemblance to present day realities as to give the impression that we’re heading down that slippery slope.

Fans of dystopian fiction, in print or onscreen, argue that we need these cautionary tales of possible futures, so that we, ideally, wake up and do everything we can to prevent such a future. But, what I see happening more and more is that people are starting believe that dystopia is unavoidable and already manifesting.

And, it wouldn’t be nearly as scary if it weren’t for the fact that some of these dystopians are already heavily arming themselves and preparing for the worst.

In some ways, we all contribute to the problem, by continuing to consume massive quantities of dystopia in books and movies and on TV. The media are happy to keep meeting the demand. I’m talking about everything from The Hunger Games to even the whole zombie craze. (Zombies aren’t real, of course, but they adequately serve as an easy metaphor for any number of evils that can fester in dystopia.)

You know, there’s enough real darkness in the world today, as a brief glance at news headlines will confirm. I’m not preaching head-in-the-sand escapism, but I do think we all should be rationing the attention we place on the dark side.

A friend of mine, a Seattle blogger at sealife chronicles, posted something today that I think is a good companion piece to this post, titled zen test. In it, he provides a wonderful quote by William Rivers Pitt and then writes:

bad happens every day.

and our collective survival instinct demands that we pay attention to it, so we learn to avoid it. trouble is, fed too much attention, the bad can take on a grim, feral life of its own. it’s a wild, dark energy that can turn on you and eat you alive.

this is true…and yet somehow the world is not, always or entirely, a carnivorous beast. we know this because sometimes ~ in quiet moments between the relentless waves pounding our souls ~ sometimes awesome happens.

amen.

Eyecatchers: Fish & Bicycles’s New Look, Via Hans d’Hollosy

basscycle2My favorite memory from when I first started Fish & Bicycles, back in October 2009, was the outcome of my search for a photo or other image for the header of the blog.

All it took was typing “Fish & Bicycles” into Google Image Search and one of the results on the very first page is the lede image you see here in this post, a print titled Basscycle, by artist Holly Berry. It could not have been more perfect, and so I emailed Holly, asked her for her permission to use the image, and she graciously agreed.

Alas, several years later, I was starting to feel like it was time for a change of scenery here, so I started looking around, but nothing really grabbed me. My friend Tom was recently in Dublin, Ireland, on the tour of the Guiness Brewing facility, when he came across this awesomeness:

guiness-fish-bicyle

Unfortunately, due to my limited Photoshop skills, I was not able to edit it into anything useful. The space for the header in my blog’s theme is 1000×288 pixels, the Guiness fish on a bicycle is much closer to a square, and when I tried to stretch it, crop it, adjust the levels, apply filters and effects, sadly, nothing worked.

But, it seems there’s something about my friend Tom, because he was on the epic road trip I just returned from, and on our drive home we stopped for lunch in Eugene, Oregon and discovered this awesomeness:

mural

The mural, located on the east wall of 164 West Broadway, is the work of Hans d’Hollosy, a Eugene artist, and it is outrageous in all the best ways. More importantly, if you look close enough, you’ll see some fish and a bicycle just left of the center of the photo, and as I stood in that alley looking it over it became clear that this was exactly what I was looking for. I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d be able to edit it into a good 1000×288 pixel header, but I took some photos and couldn’t wait to try.

The result? The new Fish & Bicycles header!

fish-bicycles-header-final

Now, I’d like to point out that Hans d’Hollosy’s mural was not commissioned, and so he’s got a Kickstarter campaign set up to raise money for his work, which he reports is about 80% complete. I hope folks who come across this blog post will consider making a pledge to support this gift to the Eugene community and to all who pass through as I did. (You can learn more about the project and make a pledge here.)

In the meantime, I just can’t bear to do away with Holly Berry’s Basscycle, and so I’ve decided to leave it on my About page, and a snippet of it will continue to be visible in the site’s favicon and in the avatar I use, visible whenever I comment on a WordPress blog.

I hope you enjoy Fish & Bicycles new look!