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Monday, January 08, 2007

Til we meet again

So today’s the last day of this humble blog’s existence—though I hear there might be some fireworks here tomorrow (and of course I’ll keep all the archives available).  Thanks to everyone who’s stopped by in the past week to pay respects, offer condolences, ask me to keep at it, or just say hello.

I started blogging three years and one day ago by describing my life a bit and remarking that I wasn’t sure I had the time to work in this medium.  I’m surprised that I kept it up for this long.

In retrospect, the early days of this blog were not so good, in bloggy terms.  I’m still fond of this little item, which put me on the map almost from the start (thanks to a link from Eric Alterman) and got me my first regular readership of about 500 visitors per day.  And I liked this somewhat similar item enough to re-run it earlier this year.  But I didn’t really know what I was doing; I continued working on a 56k modem until March 30, 2004, and I didn’t have the sense to turn on the comments until May 10 (that post also works as a kind of Guide to the Early Blog in itself).  In the end, I think it took me about six or eight months to begin to get the hang of this thing.

And then the next two years were so much fun!  We made so many wonderful new friends and enemies, with the friends:enemies ratio running at a healthy 9:1.  (I note with puzzlement that three of my daffiest and wackiest detractors—Kirby Olson, Dr. Jacques Albert, and “et alia”—all did their graduate work in literary study at the University of Washington.  Something in the water out there?) Then this summer I began to flag, though I had some of the best bloggers on the planet as guest bloggers (thanks again to Lance, Amanda, Lindsay, and Chris) and though I did enjoy writing the long Yeats and Beckett posts.  So I actually first began thinking about retiring from blogging back in September—but I decided I would at least try to make it through the midterm elections.  Then in late October John Holbo announced that November would be Liberalpalooza Month, and, well, I figured it would just be rude beyond belief to sign off in the middle of a huge Valve Book Event dedicated to What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts? So I decided to start winding things down in December instead, with the help of Oaktown Girl and the entire Ministry of Justice of the We Are All Giant Nuclear Fireball Now Party.  But then I was nominated for the prestigious title of Best Educationesque Blog on the Internets, and dammit, just when I tried to get out, they pulled me back in.  And so on and so forth.  I finally decided, while I was down in Virginia Beach for Round One of Momcare® last month (Round Two begins today—by the time you read this I’ll be travelin’ Momward), that I would stick it out ‘til my third blogging anniversary.  And so here I am.

Over the Christmas Molochmas break I gave Scott McLemee the official version of why I’m retiring: like a good member of the Party, I have a five-year plan.  And in those five years, before my hockey skills desert me at last, I intend to complete two more books, The Left at War and Narrative and Disability.  After that, Jamie will be out of high school, and as I told Scott, whatever arrangements we make for him then will be vastly different than the arrangement we have now. (Anyone who wants to consider Jamie for employment in an aquarium or marine science center, please let me know between now and 2012.  Thank you.) Jamie and I have talked about working together on a sequel to Life As We Know It, and he says he’s up for it.  More specifically, he says “cool!” So I have plenty of dead-tree plans in my future.

But I didn’t tell Scott the real reason I’m retiring the blog, which is this: I’ve now taken the medium as far as it can go.  I feel it’s too constrained, too limiting.  My new project for 2007 will involve v-casting my enormous looming ghostly head directly into your living room so that I can harangue you and your loved ones at any hour of the day.  This new form will also be available in eight-track format with a “citizens’ band.” And we hope you like our new direction!

Damn.  I’ve used that Spinal Tap joke before, too.  You know how it feels when you think you’re just repeating yourself over and over again?

OK, so let me try to answer the most serious question I’ve gotten about this decision: why not just cut down?  Post something under 2000 words for a change?  Post once a week or once a month, instead of maniacally posting every weekday?

These are good questions.  In fact, I went around the MLA two weeks ago introducing myself to people as “Michael Blogtoomuch of Penn State University,” and people kept saying, “Blogtoomuch—well, you’d better cut down a little then.” I didn’t get it at first.  Finally when I heard it at the Postmodern Culture party it came to me:  Blog too much so I’d better cut down a little then!  Right!

I’ve tried that, actually, but it doesn’t work.  Blog maintenance on this scale is a daily, sometimes hourly thing, regardless of whether there’s a new post up.  And even if I didn’t try to maintain the blog on this scale (a good idea in itself), there’s still the problem of the invisible blogging.  I don’t write these posts out in advance, you know.  I sit down for an hour or two (more for the really long posts), write them in one take in WordPerfect, look ‘em over, transfer ‘em to the blog, preview, edit, submit, and then proofread one last time once they’re up.  (Because sometimes you can’t catch a typo until it’s really up there on the blog, and even then, I’ve missed a bunch so far.) Which means, among other things, that I do a great deal of the planning-before-the-writing while I’m not blogging.  And that’s what’s been so mentally exhausting.  It’s like ABC from Glengarry Glen Ross: Always Be Composing.  And while it’s been great mental exercise, and it’s compelled me to think out (and commit myself in public to) any number of things that otherwise would have laid around the mental toolshed for years, it’s not the kind of thing I can keep up forever, and it wouldn’t be seriously affected if I went to a lighter posting schedule.  I’d still spend way too much time thinking about the Next Post and the Post After That.

Anyway, I won’t give up the mental exercise altogether.  I have a new essay coming out one of these days in the Chronicle of Higher Education, and a 3000-word review essay of Roberto Mangabeira Unger’s What Should the Left Propose? appearing in the next issue of Dissent.  Those of you who’ve been waiting for Installment VI of Theory Tuesday, the Introduction to Stuart Hall, can rest assured that it’ll appear as a chapter of The Left At War.  And, of course, I’ll also be writing any number of things for any number of venues, except of course when I get rejections.  Fie on those rejections!

So, dear friends and assorted enemies in a healthy 9:1 ratio, thanks for helping to make these three years of blogging so edifying.  I still think this here blogosphere is a great venue for public intellectual work, and I’m deeply grateful to all the blogging liberals and progressives and lefties who decided they’d had it up to here with the “liberal” opinion industry of Joe Klein and Richard Cohen and Peter Beinart and decided to take matters into their own hands.  I’ll be reading you all for as long as you keep writing.  And don’t forget to look for my pseudonymous comments on those blogs!  I’ll be the guy who sounds like me.

Oh, and Jamie will be here to take your calls.  Yeah, I know I’ve posted this picture before (it’s from the 2005 conference of the Canadian Down Syndrome Society), but it’s one of my favorites.  ‘Bye, everyone.

Posted by Michael on 01/08 at 09:23 AM
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