Q: Are Blogs Dead? A: HELL NO!!!

bring-out-your-deadSo, there’s this article out in The New Republic, by Mark Tracy, titled Eulogy for the Blog.

And, I have to tell ya, it REALLY bugs me, and it bugs me on several levels.

First, unless it’s a thing to call a bit of writing a eulogy even though the subject of said writing isn’t actually dead, Marc Tracy utterly fails to make a credible argument for his declaration of death. (And, you know what? Even if it IS a thing, it sucks, it’s a shallow attention grabber.)

A telling comment (my emphasis added in bold):

This is the context in which the New York Times‘ decision, revealed this week, to review all of its blogs and shutter at least some of them (including the popular, at least among the sort of media wonks who are still reading this article, Media Decoder), ought to be understood.

You see, Tracy is clearly, himself, a media wonk, and so he bases his assertion that blogs are dead on observations of a handful of high-profile bloggers in elite publications like The New York Times. This reeks of ivory tower classism, it’s lazy journalism, and it’s an insult to the millions upon millions of bloggers all around the world who are alive and well and blogging away. (For instance, as of this writing, WordPress, the blogging platform that I use, claims nearly 65 million users. Declaring them dead…doesn’t that make Marc Tracy a mass murderer? Hahaha.)

More proof that his headline is nothing more than sensationalism, Tracy admits:

We will still have blogs, of course, if only because the word is flexible enough to encompass a very wide range of publishing platforms: Basically, anything that contains a scrollable stream of posts is a “blog.”

But, he follows this up with the most inane attempt to justify his conclusion anyway:

What we are losing is the personal blog and the themed blog.

WTF?! This guy has obviously spent ZERO time browsing even a small sample of the blogs out there, millions of which, actually, from my observation, mostly fall into those very two categories. The vast majority of blogs that I come across are either personal journals, musings on daily life events, or they are blogs that specialize in a single theme, from food to politics, arts to sports, celebrities to hobbies, and on and on and on. (Fish & Bicyles would be in a third category, fewer in numbers, but we’re out there: the general topics blog, about, as I like to say, whatever strikes a fancy at any given moment, on any given day.)

I initially thought I’d go with a zombie theme for this post, but you actually have to be dead first in order to become the undead.

And so, just to be sure, I checked the pulse of Fish & Bicycles, and I am happy to report that it is, absolutely, alive and kicking.

Tweet of the Day: @soulpancake

soul-pancakeI gotta say, the more I see of actor Rainn Wilson, the more impressed I am with him.

I first discovered Rainn, appearing as Arthur Martin, the quirky/slightly-creepy/yet-endearing intern at the Fisher Funeral Home, in the 2001-2005 HBO series Six Feet Under. And then, very soon after, he appeared in his most-known role, as Dwight Schrute in the U.S. version of The Office.

He has also appeared in a couple of movies, and has hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live, but the project I’m most impressed with is his website, Soul Pancake, and the the book of the same name. Soul Pancake is a kind of Web 2.0 platform, best described by this blurb from the site:

Our brain batter of art, culture, science, philosophy, spirituality and humor is designed to open your mind, challenge your friends, and feel damn good.

I particularly like Rainn’s video series, Metaphysical Milkshake, filmed in the back of a van, in which he has hosted a wide range of guests, from musicians to actors to entrepreneurs to Deepak Chopra. Now, plenty of fun has been poked at people who are inquisitive and think about life’s big questions, spiritual questions, but Rainn Wilson has achieved a wonderful balance between comedy and seriousness. He keeps things very funny, but the jokes don’t rob the discussions of their sincerity.

If you read up a little on Rainn, you find out that he’s from right here in the Pacific Northwest (Seattle), his mom was a yoga instructor, he’s very open about being a member of the Bahá’í Faith, and, while his humor can be as dark and risqué as it gets, he doesn’t allow it to be mutually exclusive with his spiritual side.

And so we arrive at the reason for today’s Tweet of the Day installment, something that, despite the typo in the tweet, I found very sweet and meaningful and representative of Rainn’s sincere big heart.

Enjoy!

Video Fridays: R.I.P., Allan “Sidney Freedman” Arbus

allan-arbusI’m late getting to this, but I’m sad that I’m posting my second obituary in one week.

Following my post on Monday on the loss of Richie Havens, I heard the very next day of the death of actor Allan Arbus, at the age of 95, mostly known for his role as the psychiatrist, Dr. Sidney Freedman, on the TV show M*A*S*H.

(In a creepy example of the urban myth that celebrities die in groups of three, since I started writing this, I’ve learned of the death of country music legend George Jones at the age of 81. I may or may not be able to post an obit for George later today.)

Anyway, I mentioned once before that I practically grew up on M*A*S*H. In fact, it was such a central experience for me, as well as for many of the people I knew, including my best friends, who would talk about it constantly, reciting our favorite lines, analyzing it’s ups and downs, that it is not unsurprising to me at all that Allan Arbus’ passing would inspire more than just a brief note about how I used to enjoy him on television.

(If you aren’t a TV geek who enjoys exploring the themes of a show, if you are someone who simply likes entertainment, that’s cool, but you might want to skip ahead below, to the video part of this Video Fridays installment, a montage of clips of Allan Arbus from various M*A*S*H episodes.)


Now, the fascinating thing here, for me, is that Allan Arbus and his character, Sidney Freedman, actually represent the epicenter of an aspect of M*A*S*H that divided its fans into two opposing camps:

  1. Those who preferred the earlier seasons of the show, when comedy far outweighed drama, and when the comedy was, as I would argue, of a more sophisticated style.
  2. Those who loved the evolution of the show from mostly comedy toward increasing amounts of drama, and despite the shift in comedic style.

You see, although Arbus only appeared in 12 of the 251 episodes of M*A*S*H, and although his earliest appearances were in Season 2, when the show was still firmly mostly-comedy, I contend that the very fact that Sidney Freedman became a recurring character is symbolic of the evolution of the series towards drama.
Gradually, the show became less and less about the farcical absurdities of war, in the style of, say Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 — the style, incidentally, of the original source material, the novel by Richard Hooker and the film by Robert Altman — and more and more about the emotional, dramatic, traumatic and tragic nature of war.

That said, a convincing argument could be made that, once you delve into the ugliness of war, as would, let’s say, a psychiatrist, digging through the horrible toll it takes on humans and humanity, that it necessarily gets harder and harder to make light of it. A sitcom about war, then, could eventually become shallow or even insulting to those who have faught in, been injured by, or have lossed loved ones to war.

And, nothing underscores Sidney Freedman’s central role in this evolution than his central role in the very last episode of the series, 1983’s Goodbye, Farwell and Amen, M*A*S*H‘s swan song, the show’s last statement on the subject of war, which centered on therapy sessions between Sidney and Alan Alda‘s Hawkeye Pierce, who had suffered a nervous breakdown over a traumatic experience involving a mother who silenced her baby, thereby suffocating and killing it, in order to protect Hawkeye and the other passengers on a bus that was under enemy fire.

Drama indeed. Nothing funny about that.

Now, I should make it clear that, despite my preference for the earlier seasons, I do appreciate the significant achievement of keeping the show on the air for 11 seasons, while maintaining a huge audience and mostly positive reviews. After all, I kept watching and never missed an episode.

Truthfully, my beef with the show wasn’t really with the trend toward drama-over-comedy. Rather, as mentioned above, I found the comedy that did remain to be lacking in sophistication, too often heavily laden with silly puns, slapstick arguments and personality clashes.

Whatever you make of this analysis, regardless of which camp you reside in, I think we can all agree that Allan Arbus was wonderful as Dr. Sidney Freedman. As Alan Alda said, quoted in the Los Angeles Times Arbus obituary, “He was so authentic in the role it was hard to believe that he wasn’t that person.”

R.I.P., Allan Arbus. Thanks for the memories.

McSweeney’s: A Field Guide To Common Punctuation

McSweeneys-logoIt’s been over a year since I last posted something from one of my favorite sources of reading entertainment: McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.

As I mentioned last time, I regularly, literally, laugh out loud when I read the Internet Tendency‘s daily offerings, and one of today’s pieces really grabbed me because I was, am, and always will be and English major, even though I graduated back in 1988.

As a writer, I’ve always wrestled with punctuation, alternately loving and hating it, at times grateful for it, at other times desperate to break all its rules in the name of freedom.

Well, now I owe my deep thanks to Peter K. (I tried to find out who he is but came up with nothing) for his A Field Guide To Common Punctuation, published today at McSweeney’s, for though it doesn’t help me with my relationship to punctuation, it at least helps me laugh about it.

Here’s an excerpt, and I highly recommend reading the whole thing:

apostrophe

Rarely at ease in its true habitat, the Yellow-Winged Apostrophe (YWA) is known to “peace out” of its obligation to indicate possession or contraction. Many, weakened by stress, fall to the bottom of pages, assuming the vague shape of Bullshit Footnotes (BF). Completely harmless, the YWA is among the least hardy of punctuation and commonly dies before the full life cycle of a single draft.

colon

The Western Colon (WC), not to be confused with Two Bouncing Periods (TBP), attaches itself with rows of small, sharp teeth to lists. Originally from Western Canada, the WC has now established thriving colonies in all countries, having been inadvertently transported by way of cargo in large ships. Draws blood and gives headaches when overused. Known to flock alongside Overwrought Prose (OP).

Tweet of the Day: @TheOnion

Just because I’m at work and feeling a little peckish, I decided to post this, today’s Tweet of the Day installment, at exactly 10:58 A.M.

LOL!

Bellingham’s Coal Train Blues: An Open Letter To Bellingham Mayor, Kelli Linville

Coal_TrainIn this latest addition to my continuing series of posts on the battle, here in my beloved Bellingham, Washington, over a proposed coal shipping terminal just north of town, some great Earth Day news on the subject prompted me to write to Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville, to implore her to take a stand.


Dear Mayor Linville,

It was with tremendous pride in our beloved Pacific Northwest that I learned of the Earth Day announcement yesterday by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn concerning the newly-formed Leadership Alliance Against Coal.

The time is now, Mayor Linville, for you to take a stand against coal and join this coalition.

I appreciate that, up until now, you’ve been taking a cautious approach to the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) project, careful, as of course you would and should be, not to be too hasty in opposing a project that could bring some badly-needed family wage jobs and tax revenue to the county.

However, members of the Bellingham community, your constituents, through groups like ReSources for Sustainable Communities and CommunityWise Bellingham have done a fantastic job researching the possible local and regional impacts of the GPT, and there’s more than enough evidence out there already, even before the EIS scoping is determined, to see that the terminal would be a disaster, both environmentally and economically, for Whatcom County, Bellingham, and the region.

And now you see, from this new alliance of regional leaders and tribes, as well as from the fact that the overwhelming majority of comments received during the scoping process were in opposition to the GPT:

via TheNorthernLight.com (emphasis in bold added):

The report categorizes comments based on where and how they were received as well as by their issue of concern. Of the 124,889 comments, 108,995 were received as signatures on bulk form letters from various groups in support or opposed to the project, 1,207 were verbal comments submitted during scoping meetings and 14,687 were submitted individually in writing.

…and finally from recent reports that the demand for coal from China is on the decline, as they make massive investment in renewables, that there is a groundswell and momentum, a perfect time for you to announce that you’ve had time to consider all of the implications of the GPT and have decided to join the Leadership Alliance Against Coal.

Again, I appreciate your leadership and your initial decision to not rush into a stance on the coal terminal. But, Bellingham has become nationally-known for our community’s commitment to sustainability, and the GPT project is entirely antithetical to Bellingham’s hard-earned reputation and proud identity.

Thank you for your consideration.

R.I.P., Richie Havens

richie_havensHeavy, heavy, oh heavy, sigh.

I’ve just heard the very sad news that one of my all-time favorite musicians, singer-songwriter and master interpreter of popular song, Richie Havens, has passed at the age of 72.

Even sadder, I don’t have the time today to properly honor Richie, and so I’ll have to settle for reposting something I did back in July 2011.

Richie, thank you SO much for all of the beautiful music, your beautiful heart, and your beautiful voice.


Originally posted July 1, 2011.

This morning, on Facebook, a friend posted a clip of Richie Havens performing his famous cover of George Harrison’s Here Comes The Sun, I was reminded of how much I love Richie, and I realized that I hadn’t listened to him in far too long.

Richie is a beautiful musician in so many ways: his complex rhythm strumming style, his use of open tunings and thumb-wrapping, his soulful voice, a voice like no other I’ve ever heard, and he may very well be the best cover song artist ever.

And as much as I enjoyed the version of Here Comes The Sun, I went in search on YouTube for a clip for this week’s Video Fridays installment, a clip of my favorite Havens song, Follow, but sadly I couldn’t find a live performance.

I then found an amazing older clip of Richie doing a medley of Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey, and Bob Dylan’s Just Like A Woman, that is totally worth watching, but there’s a painful missing bit in the bridge of the latter.

So, I settled on a different version of Just Like A Woman, this one from the 1993 concert celebrating Dylan’s 30-year anniversary as a recording artist.