Stuck in Reruns

You know, as I mentioned, I’m going through old posts and whatnot, and I notice that I used to comment on the news of the day every day.

Lately, though, my posts have been mostly music, mostly books, mostly life.

Why is that, you ask?

Well, it’s partly because I don’t want to sound like a crank on the Internet, and I don’t devote enough time to my commentary to not were I to jot a couple things here and there. Also, in the modern world, I can’t help but wonder if I would lose career opportunities based on my commentary. Although this site with its rich archives is still here, so any job opportunities I would lose I have already lost. And I’m thinking that the field that I am in has changed enough to leave me behind a bit as it were anyway.

Also, it’s partly because like reading a Rogue Warrior novel, I see the same things come up over and over again over the years, and I’d just be repeating myself.

A couple cases in point: From 2012, stories about local governments in St. Louis County and Republic looking to consolidate trash hauling to a single government-selected option. I know I’ve written at length about this as far back as my Suburban Journal days. Well, look, here the issue is again in Springfield. I wrote about it earlier this year even. What more do I have to say about it except to point out further examples?

I also spotted a story from 2008 about the Hidden Valley ski resort in St. Louis County clashing with local governments about blocking an amenity, and the resort threatened to or it will have no choice to shut down.

It just seems so dull to keep posting the same things, year after year, with little change.

Behind the Scenes at MfBJN

It’s been a couple days (what, almost a week?) since I posted, but I have been working here behind the scenes at MfBJN.

As some of you might know, this blog has been around for over fourteen years. It started on Blogspot back before Blogger supported a title, not to mention categories. In 2010, I switched to WordPress and self-hosting (and moved my images from one site to another).

The result of the transition and the old timeyness of some posts meant that some images were missing from posts, many posts didn’t have titles, and none of them had categories. I’ve been working on them here and there, but I’ve started making an effort to catch up on them. So I’ve been reading individual posts from nine or ten years ago and reading comments (what? people used to comment here?), adding categories, and standardizing some tags.

So it seems like I’ve been working on the blog, but you haven’t seen any new content.

I’ll get back to it in a bit here. Thank you for your indulgence.

Most of My Book Reviews Are Problematic

The Problem With Calling Something “Interesting”:

Calling something interesting is the height of sloppy thinking. Interesting is not descriptive, not objective, and not even meaningful.

Interesting is a kind of linguistic connective tissue. When introducing an idea, it’s easier to say ‘interesting’ than to think of an introduction that’s simultaneously descriptive but not a spoiler.

I often use interesting in book reports.

I suppose it’s fitting, since the book reports are the connective tissue that holds this blog together. I go periods without saying something interesting meaningful except for the book reports that I post mainly so I can look back upon them on the blog to see what I thought about this book or what else I’ve read within the last two decades by the author or on the subject.

You, gentle readers, all ten of you every day, are only along for the ride.

And by “ride,” I mean “looking for a book report on The Sire de Maletroit’s Door on Google so you can cut and paste it for a paper tomorrow.”

The Clearing of the Drafts Folder

Apparently, I’ve somehow started and saved fifty-some draft blog posts over the last couple of years. Some of them are fairly complete posts, some of them are incomplete enough to warrant dumping because I don’t know what I was thinking, and some are stubs for longer posts.

Regardless, because I’m lazy, I’m clearing it out and publishing things I can make whole posts from. So some of the links in the posts over the next couple of days are going to be from news items and tidbits from over the last couple of years. So comment “Dude, that’s from 2015!” as you like, but I know.

Wherein George Burns Corrects My Understanding of Kierkegaard

So, in my book report on Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, I wrote:

One telling word choice that jarred me was vaudeville. Certainly Kierkegaard did not use a direct translation since he preceded the American theatre form by half a century or so.

A couple weeks later, and I’m reading a book by George Burns that includes some photos, including one of a playbill for one of his and Gracie Allen’s vaudeville bits:

Note that this 1926 play bill says that it is Vaudeville’s Centennial Year. Which would put vaudeville’s origin in 1826, which is about fifteen years before Fear and Trembling was written.

The Wikipedia entry is a bit closer to my original reckoning of the origins of vaudeville in the latter part of the 19th century, but given a playbill in a George Burns book and wikipedia, who are you gonna believe? Me, I’m going with the playbill.

So I’m sorry to have spread misinformation. I didn’t look it up; I assumed I knew what I was talking about regarding the origin of vaudeville, and as the old saying goes, “When you ASSUME, you make an ASS of UME,” and ume, as I seem to vaguely recall, is French for yourself. But I’m only a blogger on an untrafficked blog. I can’t be arsed to look it up.

Today We’re Going To Party Like It’s 1998

A couple years ago, when I posted about a weekly column and Web site I did back in the olden days, I mentioned I had my old AOL Web site stored somewhere and would someday reproduce it.

Well, I must have gotten started on it but never finished it until now.

So here’s what my Web site looked like circa 1998.

Mostly samples of my writing and the complete text of my two chapbooks of poetry and a teaser for my forthcoming book Flipside Id which I never did finish after losing touch with the artist who was working on the cover.

Back When I Did PhotoShops

Back in the olden days, I used to edit photos for humourous effect. Then, I had children and no free time. Although I have a bit more free time now, I haven’t gone back to it because the interest isn’t there, and the Internet has moved onto just putting text on a still image and calling it funny.

But for old time’s sake, here are some of my favorites from the annals of this blog.

Welcome Back, Potter:

The Harry Reid series of young adult novels:

Harry Reid's Babysitting ServiceHarry Reid's JourneyHarry Reid, Inc.

Soviet, Jedi:

All the sweet, sweet emus after the police in Carbondale shot a loose emu:

Emu in body armor Emunator Bulletproof Emu

I never claimed to be good at it. I only claim to have done it.

When Max Allan Collins Comes Around

I noticed a couple days back in my referrer logs that someone from Muscatine, Iowa reading the book report for Dead Street.

Muscatine, Iowa, as I learned when I was researching the book report, is the current home of Max Allan Collins, the author of Dead Street. So I was pretty sure it was the man himself.

Given that he linked the report on his blog today, I’d say I was correct.

Collins joins Diane Duane, author of the Star Trek novel My Enemy, My Ally and Joe Clifford Faust, author of A Death of Honro as people whom I can honestly include in the plural “you, gentle reader” in my continuing posts. Although in most cases it’s an honorary title. Given my blog traffic these days, plural is an honorary title when referring to my readers.

Also, it’s why although I’m not at Nick Hornby levels in positivity (as his book Ten Years in the Tub indicates, his magazine editors prefer he only have nice things to say about books he reviews), I try to keep snark to the minimum: because the authors are people, too. Besides, all of these people have sold far more books than I have.

Also also (which is my blog equivalent of P.P.S., which nobody uses any more), this is why I’m thinking about ending my book reports with boilerplate “It’s not as good as MY NOVEL!” Just to see if I can get any self-Googling real author to spend a buck on it.

Allahpundit Gets It Two Weeks Later

On December 14, I wondered Donald Trump: The McCaskill Manipulation Goes National?

On December 28, Allahpundit wonders the same thing:

If this sounds familiar, it’s because Democrats used the same strategy to brilliant effect in the 2012 Senate race in Missouri. The GOP primary was jammed up with three candidates; Claire McCaskill, the Democratic incumbent, wanted to do something to help Todd Akin win, believing (correctly) that Akin would be the easiest of the three to beat in a general election. The solution: Start attacking Akin before the Republican primary, knowing that a big-name Democrat’s official seal of disapproval would be a strong lure to Republican voters to consider Akin. Some of that is pure tribalism at work — Democrats are bad, therefore things they dislike must be good — and some of it is “they’ll tell you who they fear” reasoning at work. The problem is, sometimes they’re not telling you who they fear when they attack. Sometimes they’re telling you who they don’t fear and hoping you’ll fall for it.

You know, this blog was a lot more political when I started out, but I’ve drifted away from it because, honestly, I’m not sure my insights add anything and I don’t think I’m convincing anybody of anything.

I’m not even getting my insights and moments of synthetic thought out into the wild before someone else comes up with them.

Book Report: Blog by Hugh Hewitt (2005)

Book coverThis book was a mighty big deal back in the day when it came out. Bloggers were talking about it, Hugh Hewitt was talking about it. Of course, I didn’t talk about it then because I didn’t get the book fresh off the presses. I don’t tend to get my current events books new unless I get them as a gift; even then, I don’t tend to get right to them because, man, I’ve got 1960s science fiction and/or pulp paperbacks to read, man.

So, what is this book? It’s Hewitt cashing in on the relatively new blogging trend that really reached a crescendo around the 2004 election. Dude, even I was live-blogging presidential debates and nominating conventions. Although I thought blogging would be a good way to get myself writing regularly rather than a way to make money (although in those days, who knew how far you could go?) The book is pretty short; although it is 222 pages, it’s really only 156 pages of new material and then sixty pages of Hewitt’s previous columns on the topic and a number of comments from his Web site.

It’s a quick hitter “aimed” at businessmen who need to know about blogs and what they can do to a business, both positively and negatively. He thumps the washbin about executives hiring Glenn Reynolds, the Powerline guys, Ed Morrissey, and other leading lights as consultants. And it paints a fairly rosy picture of blogs.

Ten years later, most of the people he mentioned as leading lights are still leading lights, or at least bloggers I still read. There’s been a lot of consolidation in the industry, so the aggregate blog trumps individual blogging as far as the amount of noise they can raise. And the microblogging (Twitter) and social media trends quickly overwhelmed blogging, as it’s easier and more accessible to individuals to put up a pithy short sentence than to write what amounts to a short, coherent essay from time to time.

So in 2015, the book is a historical document relevant mostly for its place and moment in the history of online communication. I suppose you could read it and replace the word “blog” with “social media” and get something out of it, but there are probably more modern books on the theme all looking to make a quick two bits on explaining the current state of the Web, and they all come with an expiration date of about two weeks from now.

Strangely enough, though, I got the most out of the early comparison to the Protestant Reformation–in the early going, he likens the rise of Web logs to the changes in communication that made the Reformation possible and how the blogs paralleled it. So it has a history of the Reformation and the rise of printing in it, and I liked that.

At any rate, it might be worth your time if you haven’t read it already.

Train of Thought

So, I see Ms. K.‘s post about this video:

And a little later, I’m recollecting a conversation about raising cattle with a friend, and I thought I’d ask him if he’d been in the FFA, which leads me to think of this song:

And so I think, you know self-directing machines are going to hit the farms first, where they can go along in their laser-and-GPS-guided finery to handle the time-consuming chores of farming with far less insurance liability concerns. Just imagine when this becomes mainstream, at least as mainstream as farming is, and automated farm machines can work day and night on ever larger farms. Great swaths of land will really become food farms, and it’ll squeeze out the family farmers most likely.

Will the prices go down for commodity foods (but remain high for the locovore organic artisan stuff), or will it put Google in charge of our food supply?

Regardless, I’m getting my robot insurance before that, too, is nationalized.

Further Dumpster Diving

Forget the Wayback Machine, here at MfBJN, you get the full experience of my Web presence from across the years.

In addition to The Cynic Express(ed), I’ve added the following sites for your amusement:

  • My old AOL Web page which is not as cool as Ms. K’s, it does the complete text of a couple of short stores, a couple of essays, and my two chapbooks Unrequited and Deep Blue Shadows. Also, student, you can see that my preference for dark backgrounds and light text goes back almost twenty years. But it’s gotten better.
     
  • Toht or Not, ca. 2003, which was hosted on Geocities. I’m only a Compuserve short of the complete collection of old timey Internet presences, gentle reader. And long time readers might recognize the images therein reappeared in my blog series from 2006-2007 Ask Dr. Creepy. As you know, my predilection for a fedora and trench coat goes back twenty years, but I look slightly less creepy now. Or older, which might make me less creepy. Who knows?

I wrote the AOL Web sites on an old AMD 2/66 and uploaded them to AOL. And I’ve backed them up and copied them over every time I’ve gotten a new computer for the last fifteen years. So you’re seeing them in the original, although I admit I corrected some typos in the hard-coded links as I updated them. I was not a software tester in 1998, so I was just happy to have something on the Internet.

Maybe someday I’ll share with you old message threads from BBSes that I’ve saved off or the hundreds of pages of emails my beautiful wife and I exchanged between the times we were simply two USENET readers with a common interest and the time she moved to St. Louis.

Because I’m a pack rat, and that goes for digital, too.

The Rest of A Story

Back in 2010, I did a little throwaway bit about a courier company that helped an elderly woman avoid being taken in by a scam. The story itself was on StLToday.com, and it mostly focused on the Arizona company trying to bilk the old woman out of $15,000.

Me, I just wondered how the courier knew what he was delivering.

And so I made that little post, playing in my head to the paranoia schtick I toss around on here from time to time (I don’t actually eat my shredded documents, you know) and a bit of the-newspaper-is-leaving-some-of-the-story-out bit.

The owner of the courier company contacted me to explain the rest of the story, and I’ve appended it to the original post. The part of the story the St. Louis Post-Dispatch blogger didn’t cover is as interesting as what he did.

Check it out.