Weekend Coffee Share: In Which I Find Myself at a Crossroads

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I miss writing for the #WeekendCoffeeShare linkup. I also miss writing the pop culture posts, and wanking about social media, and occasionally ranting about politics. Writing — especially high-frequency writing that’s done just for fun — has to be a habit if you’re going to do it consistently. Sadly, I’ve gotten myself out of the habit.

newcoffee

I’d tell you I miss reading a dozen blogs a week and chatting with people on comment threads even more than I miss publishing my own posts. Facebook has somewhat taken over my social media life, because for the last several months, my internet time has come in unpredictable 20- and 30-minute blocks. And let’s just face it. Communication on Facebook is way easier than communicating on blog threads.

Well, I have a lot more free time than I am accustomed to this weekend, so I’m planning to spend quite a bit of time in the blogosphere. After I add this post to the linkup at Part Time Monster, I plan to check out the Princess Bride Linkup Party at WriteOnSisters.com.a-princess-bride-linkup-party_

I may even re-watch that movie this afternoon and see if I can rush out a post for the linkup myself. You can check out the FAQ here and you can add your own post to the linkup here and you can also share Princess Bride links using the hashtag #PrincessBrideParty. Check it out! It’s sure to be a lot of fun.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you we’re closing in on the time of year where I typically cut back on my blogging and start planning for January. I do this because in my experience, mid-November to late December is the worst time to try and get anything except holiday-themed content seen on the Internet. I’ve blogged so little this year, there’s really nothing to cut back on, but I am still taking stock and trying to make some decisions about what I’m going to do next year.

Part Time Monster and Comparative Geeks have both moved recently and they are both still thriving, so I feel as though I accomplished the two most important goals I set for myself when I came back to the blogosphere three years ago. My blogging, in the first instance, was always about giving either Part Time Monster or Sourcerer a chance to break out. And about forming a community of bloggers that was loose enough to tolerate a broad spectrum of worldviews, but close-knit enough to hang together whether I remained at the center of it or not.

I think Part Time Monster still has a chance to break out, and a lot of the contributors I recruited for Sourcerer during the two years I ran that blog are still talking. In fact, a lot of them are contributing for the new-and-improved CompGeeks. That makes me unreasonably happy. I feel that all the energy and sweat I put into the blogging between 2013-15 was worth it, even though I am a peripheral part of the operation at best (for now).

Getty stock image.

Getty stock image.

All this said, my own blogs are practically dead. I wasn’t able to bring Sourcerer in for a soft landing. I’ve almost slapped a coda on that blog several times just for the closure, but when I sit down to write the last Sourcerer post ever, I just can’t bring myself to do it. It hasn’t been updated in nearly a year, and the last post is a comics post Luther published for me in the last days before I decided I had to let it go for awhile. Sourcerer at this point is a like a story with no ending and that pains me. It’s still the most valuable piece of internet real estate I’ve ever developed, though — especially when I include the twitter account I built for that blog. That’s hard to let go of.

As far as this blog is concerned, it’s been through several iterations, and it has never performed to my satisfaction. I have around 350 Facebook friends and followers. More than half of those are bloggers and people I met through blogging. Even if I go back to posting a couple of times a week here on a regular schedule, I’m not convinced this blog is ever going to get me more than I’m getting with well-timed public Facebook updates.

So I am not sure where to go with my blogging in the next year. I feel as though I need to either commit myself to publishing one high-quality post per week, or else I just need to walk away. And I have no blog of my own that’s good enough at this point to post my very best stuff, because I can’t get enough readers on my own blogs to make it worth the time and energy I put into my very best posts.coffee

I’m still thinking, but it looks like I’m going to be a contributor at CompGeeks and occasionally at the Monster for the next little while — if I am able to get back to blogging consistently at all. This blog will be for infrequent personal posts and political rants, unless I can find a way to get Sourcerer running again.

I’d love to have some input from those of you who have followed me for a long time, and from those of you who have more blogging experience than me.

This post is nearly 1,000 words long, so I’m calling it a day. Maybe I’ll see you for coffee again once or twice before the holiday season kicks into high gear. Have a photo of my puppy, who I’ve talked about here a time or two before. She’s nearly a year old now, and this was taken a couple of days ago.

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Have a great weekend, and keep blogging!

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Weekend Coffee Share: In Which I May be on the Mend

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you this has been the best week I’ve had since I can remember. My stress level is as low as it’s been since May. I’ve had a bit more free time than usual, so I’ve done more blogging in the last seven days than I did in all of January and February.

newcoffee

I don’t know how long it will last, but the words seem to be flowing for me again. I think the move into social commentary and politics helped with that, but I’m afraid it’s not done me much good in the way of audience.

If you’ve been following me since the days when this was a writing blog, and through all the ups and downs of the Sourcerer experiment, thanks for sticking with. I doubt I’ll ever get back to publishing three and four posts per week because the stuff I’m writing now is time-consuming and I don’t have that much time most weeks. But I have no plans to give up blogging. From here on out, I’m focusing on quality rather than quantity and working myself up to the point where I can start placing posts on blogs other than my own.

And I’d tell you I measured my little puppy today because she’s six months old next week. She’s almost 21 inches at the shoulder and weighs 45 lbs. So not that little any more, and she’s gotten bold. She’s still not mature enough to be outside off a leash because we have no fenced yard. But she thinks she is, and if we aren’t careful she bolts outside when we open the door.

She likes to sit to the left of my computer chair while I’m working at the desk because she’s figured out that if I’m surfing instead of typing, she can get lots of head scratches that way. And she’s learned to grin.

diesel_5mo_grin

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I’m as concerned about the overall political climate in the U.S. as I’ve ever been. I’d try not to go on and on about it, because I’ve already thrown nearly 10K words at it and I’ve got more coming. But I would share with you, briefly, the two things about it which worry me the most.

First, we have a serious contender for President who’s been permissive of violence at his rallies. Much of this violence has been motivated by a combination of racism, nationalism, and anger at the economic stagnation we’ve suffered over the last decade. If you’ve read your history even a little, you know what a volatile combination that is. I hope we can find a way to rein it in before it spills over into the streets and into the policies of the next administration.

Second, I’m pretty sure U.S. foreign policy over the last 15 years or so has precipitated a full-scale regional re-alignment in the Middle East and it’s only going to get uglier for at least the next few years. That has consequences not only for the Americas and Central Asia, but for Europe, East Asia, Africa, and Australia as well. Because we’re all so interconnected, there’s no disentangling ourselves from one another.

There are more trigger points in Asia for serious conflicts between powerful countries than I can remember seeing in my lifetime. The next President will need to be smart about his diplomatic strategy. It’s as frightening a situation as anything I’ve experienced since the days when we were doing the nuclear tango with the Soviet Union.

I think it’s probable that the next President will need to decide whether to double down on the Middle East and make a serious long-term military commitment there, or to pull out completely and realign our forces so we can continue to meet our security obligations to our European and Asian allies without a significant presence in the Middle East. Because what we’re doing there now isn’t working or even helping.

These are treacherous waters, and I don’t fully trust any of the likely candidates to navigate them without making things worse. So I’m at a loss. It’s far too late to point fingers or place blame about the foreign policy errors we’ve committed over the past few years. We need to find a way forward, but I have no answers. Only questions.

And that’s all I’d say about the politics if we were having coffee today.

I’m back to the normal schedule next week, so I won’t have as much time to write and chatter as I’ve had these last few days. My goal remains to provide one post per week other than these coffee posts, and I’ve got next week’s almost done. Eventually I’ll work out a routine and post them at a consistent day and time, but for now, I’m just trying to meet the goal itself.

Happy Saturday! Don’t forget to add your post to the Weekend Coffee Share linkup at Part Time Monster, and to share it with #weekendcoffeeshare on Facebook and Twitter.

Weekend Coffee Share: In Which I Reboot and Get All Political

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I hope you’ve been well since the last time we chatted. Unless you are one of those folks who chatter with me on Facebook that means it’s been almost a month.

weekendcoffeeshare

And I’d tell you I’ve been doing some thinking — soul searching really — about what it’s going to take to get my blogging life back on track. My output isn’t where I’d like it to be. I doubt I’ll ever get it back to where it was in 2014 and ’15, but I’d like to be publishing a post per week somewhere. I don’t see why I can’t find a way to swing that.

My problem lately has been figuring out what to blog about. Coffee posts are definitely still on my agenda, but they can be about literally anything as long as they’re structured correctly. I feel as though my pop culture blogging has pretty much run its course for now. That was always about collaboration with other bloggers — my pop culture posts were consistently less popular than other contributors’ for the entire life of my collaborative blogging project, and in any case, I don’t have the time to write high-quality reviews nor to consume the amount of entertainment required to be a pop culture blogger.

The only other thing I’m absolutely committed to keeping up at this point is my feminism project, and I’m really wanting to do some other politically-oriented blogging as well. During 2014, when Diana and I were more or less throwing as many different types of posts against the wall and seeing what stuck, I wrote quite a few political posts at our blogs. Those posts didn’t do poorly, but as our contributor base grew and I moved into pop culture, I stopped with the political chatter. Here’s why I made that decision.

Getty stock image.

Getty stock image.

  • The audience I saw developing, such as it was, was an audience of creative types and pop culture geeks with highly diverse views. I felt as though my political writing — which is always strongly opinionated — had the potential to create unnecessary divisions among contributors and alienate readers who were just looking for cool photos and smart t.v. reviews.
  • The socio-political commentary market is thoroughly saturated, and political blogging is a competitive game. Since I didn’t have a foundation of readers who were interested in reading what I have to say about politics, I thought I’d probably just ending up screaming into space.
  • My original audience included many, many conservative southerners. Since I was trying to start up a pop culture blog and a writing blog and I was only generating 20 to 50 views per day, I didn’t think it was wise to continually antagonize 30 to 50 percent of my audience.
  • In short, I didn’t see enough benefit to warrant the effort, because I don’t blog for solely for emotional gratification. I blog because I want to be read.

My social media life has changed drastically since I started. The southern conservatives I depended on during the first few months of my blogging startup have mostly moved on, or have at least learned that when I start spouting off as an opinionated liberal in my own media space, discretion is the better part of valor. Many of the bloggers I met during the past two years who have an affinity for my political opinions are now Facebook friends. Sourcerer’s silent, but a lot of the people who contributed to that blog and kept the threads busy are still in contact and are contributing for one another now.

So the community-building part of the Sourcerer project was a success, even though I’m not able to get that blog running again right now. All of which leaves me in the position most bloggers find themselves in at some point in their careers. My output has dwindled and if I’m gonna ever get going again, I’ve got to start as a solo blogger and get to the point where I’m producing enough content to keep my own blog busy and give posts away from time to time.

This is me.

This is me.

And the only way I’ve ever been able to be consistent as a solo blogger is to write about things I care about and that I find not-terribly-taxing to write. Until I set up Sourcerer in 2013, all the blogging I’d ever done had been political blogging. I learned almost everything I know about how information spreads on the internet from studying the development of the early blogosphere in the first decade of this century. And I’m also good at turning personal experiences into entertaining stories.

So, for the next little while — until I find something that works bettter — what you’re getting from me on the blog is a combination of personal experiences and political opinions. Even during the months when I was mostly keeping politics off my social media, I never disengaged completely and I never stopped keeping up. One of the reasons I don’t have time to consume the quantity of entertainment media required to do pop culture blogging is that I consume a TON of information about domestic politics, international affairs, and social trends. So the only way I can realistically get back to blogging frequently is to leverage that information and hope to find readers who appreciate it.

So, just to get this reboot rolling, here are a couple of things I have on my radar at the moment.

The U.S. Presidential election, especially Donald Trump’s candidacy.

My Facebook feed is awash with Trump chatter. The smart money says it’s demographically impossible for him to win the general election, but his candidacy has unsettled me practically from the moment he announced. Just the other night I had a long and somewhat heated exchange with a person who claimed that Trump is a victim of a big media smear campaign, and who was also characterizing one of the Dem candidates as a “shameless felon,” despite the fact that the candidate in question has never been convicted — nor even indicted — for a felony.fblike

Now, of course election season in the U.S. always causes some people to say bizarro things. But I don’t see it that way. I think if anyone’s trying to smear Trump, it’s the GOP establishment, and they’re doing a terrible job of it. What I see the professional media doing is uncritically pumping Trump into the homes of potential voters 24/7 to sell ads and generate internet traffic. And I will never stand by and let another person jump into the middle of a conversation I’m having and call a public figure a felon just because they dislike that person. I’d call that out even if I saw someone whose politics I agree with characterizing a hard-right Republican that way.

I know anecdotes don’t count for much, but I find this trend in the U.S. political discourse disconcerting. And while I HOPE the people who say demographics preclude a Trump Presidency are correct, this poll worries me. Tl; dr:

What I found is a trend that has been widely overlooked. A voter’s gender, education, age, ideology, party identification, income, and race simply had no statistical bearing on whether someone supported Trump. Neither, despite predictions to the contrary, did evangelicalism.

Authoritarianism and a hybrid variable that links authoritarianism with a personal fear of terrorism were the only two variables that predicted, with statistical significance, support for Trump.

Now, to be clear. I don’t think the U.S. is about to slide into outright dictatorship on the fascist model. But if you think of “authoritarianism” as a set of attitudes which includes things like conformity, resistance to changes in traditional social norms, and fear of outsiders, maybe you can see the problem. There’s a deep and persistent strain of that type of authoritarian thought which runs through American political history all the way back to colonial times.

The sample size for the poll is small, but the fact that age and race weren’t statistically significant predictors of support for Trump worries the hell out of me. So does the general tone and attitude of the crowds from the Trump rallies that I’ve seen footage of.

Mississippi has Declared April Confederate Heritage Month

This one’s closer to home, and I may have more to say about it later. But I don’t like this. And I especially don’t like the potential for it to turn into a month-long aggrandizement of the Confederate government and military with no serious acknowledgement that the Civil War was fought to preserve chattel slavery as a legal institution.

The State of Mississippi made this clear in its Declaration of Secession:

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

mlk_justiceI think any discussion of the Civil War as an exercise in remembrance needs to start by acknowledging that it was about slavery in the first instance. “States’ rights” is an abstract concept and it is a justification, or a best an explanation of the underlying philosophical differences between the factions of elites who drove the country to war. It is not a causus belli in and of itself.

That’s all I’m saying about it for now. I’m still deciding how to handle this one, and what I’ve said today may very well be my last word on it. Then again, I may use the A to Z Challenge to talk about my heritage in a real, honest way every day during April.

I’m over 1600 words, so I’ll thank you for reading and wish you a fine week. I hope to see you again next weekend, if not before.