Weekend Coffee Share: Welcome, Newcomers!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I don’t have a whole lot of time to talk. I am on my way to NOLA (that’s how we say “New Orleans” on the internet) for Little Jedi’s birthday. If you don’t know who Little Jedi is, he is Diana’s youngling. My grandson is a year older, and he is also a Jedi, but since internet handles must be unique, we just call mine The Kid.

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These two have their birthdays in the same month. One at the beginning, one at the end. And they always celebrate at least one or the other in company with one another.

I’d tell you I was so pleased the Weekend Coffee Share was featured on the WordPress Daily post this week. It generated so much interest I had to stay up way too late answering comments on the thread. Also: Sharing the link all over Facebook and writing this post.

And I’d tell you I have plans. I’ve got a post coming on children and gaming at Comparative Geeks as soon as I can finish it. Another one on cultural literacy outlined for Part Time Monster. You’ll just have to wonder about until I get it figured out.

Oh yeah. Me and Hannah are still scheming big-time. And eventually, when things settle down, the Feminist Friday Project is coming back. So lots to look forward to as we get later in the year.

Here, and on Facebook if you pay attention to me there, you can expect the political chatter to get hot again soon. I’ve taken a break to let things settle and do other stuff this week, but I haven’t forgotten the politics. Wisconsin votes Tuesday.mlk_justice

I’m gonna rip the Mississippi Legislature a new one soon over a boneheaded “religious freedom” bill which will accomplish nothing except cost our state millions of dollars in federal court.

I am not done with Donald Trump, either. I’m just getting started on him.

You coffee share regulars need to be mindful of new faces on the scene for the next couple of weeks and welcome them. I did my best on that Daily Post thread to give everyone who expressed interest a personal response and encourage them to join in. Me and Diana can’t hover over the linkup this weekend, because we’re both out doing the same thing with the same kids.

So take a minute to encourage a blogger you’ve never met, if they happen to pop up on the linky list or on the hashtag.

Have a fabulous weekend, and a piece of NOLA history.

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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.

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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.

Weekend Coffee Share: The Hard Year

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I’ve missed these chats over the past couple of months. I’ve missed lots of other blogging things, too, but the #weekendcoffeeshare is my favorite regular blogging activity, and I feel as though I’ve been away too long.

weekendcoffeeshare

And I’d tell you I’m terribly out of practice. It’s amazing how quickly I get rusty when I stop doing a particular type of writing. So today, I’m just putting one word after another until I’m done, because I need to publish something before the weekend is out.

I’d tell you 2015 was one of the hardest years of my life. It was harder than the year I spent in Central Texas working for minimum wage plus tips and living like a monk because I didn’t have any friends there. Harder than the year I lost a good public sector job due to budget cuts — the only time I’ve ever been terminated from a job, and it took a toll.

The only year that was worse was the year Vicki broke her ankle, then was allowed to develop pneumonia due to poor medical care and spent 17 days at death’s door in ICU. That experience was so traumatic I ended up in therapy for PTSD for almost two years.

There are four things that are sure to disrupt the normal rhythm of a person’s life and bring on a ton of stress.

Getty stock image.

Getty stock image.

  1. Major lifestyle changes, especially when they’re involuntary.
  2. Loved ones dealing with life-threatening medical situations.
  3. Changes in professional responsibilities.
  4. Financial pressures.

I spent most of last year dealing with all of those at once. Since I’m a hypersensitive, anxiety- and depression-prone person, what I ended up with was a mental and emotional shitstorm that turned me into a functional basket case. I got to the point where I had to let go of something just to get through to the holiday break, and blogging turned out to be the thing I had to let go of. And not just the blogging. I pretty much left the entire Internet and withdrew from every part of social life except work and my immediate family.

I don’t even know when I last published a blog post, but I went from Oct. 20 to Dec. 15 without so much as posting a Facebook update. At one point Diana had to email me to get my attention and make sure I was ok. That should give you a clue as to what a bad way I was in.

In late November, I started thinking about how and when to come back, but I was overwhelmed trying to catch up on all the stuff I’d missed, beating myself up over several blogging commitments that I just didn’t show up for,  and the holidays were just around the corner. I was paralyzed. I felt like I had nothing to say and little to offer. And then, the week of Thanksgiving, this little girl showed up. Her name is Diesel.

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She’s probably got genes from a dozen or more breeds of dog. Here mother is a Golden Retriever mix and her father is a Lab mix, but we know she has some Chow in her ancestry several generations back and she seems to think she’s a German Shepherd. Having to care for her somewhat jarred me out of the funk I had fallen into, but she was only two months old when we got her, so taking care of her has pretty much been a full-time job until the last week or so.

Then on New Years’ Eve, this fella showed up. We found him on our back porch hiding from the fireworks. We fed him and gave him a blanket, and he’s barely left the yard since. He’s a big dog, but he’s less than 8 months old because he doesn’t have all his adult teeth yet. He’s much less work — hardly any trouble, really. He’s an outside dog who likes to come in after school and play with the boy and the little puppy.

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Anyway I’m somewhat better now, thanks in part to the doggies. I’m trying to figure out what I can do, blogging-wise, through the spring. I simply don’t have the time or the energy to get Sourcerer busy again right now, and that pains me. I put two years of my life into building that blog and dozens — if not scores — of people supported it, so it’s not something I can let go lightly.

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I’m publishing this here today because I don’t want to post over at Sourcerer until I decide what to do with it — I don’t just want to post a couple of times there and then have it go silent for two or three more weeks. And I’m not ready to shut it down, so silence is the best option until I figure out what I want to do with it.

I’m pretty much in a bind with the blogging. Keeping a blog humming the way Sourcerer was when it was firing on all cylinders last spring requires two things.

  1. The person who’s running it has to produce a lot of content and spend time on the blog at least every other day; and
  2. Posts have to be planned at least a week or two in advance, even if they are written at the last minute.

I’m not in a position to do either of those things at the moment. I’ve not been able to predict my schedule more than three days in advance since I started packing my apartment the last week of May, and that seems to be the “new normal” for me. But at the same time, I really must blog. So, I’m setting what I feel is a reasonable goal for myself for February and March, and I’ll re-evaluate the situation the week of spring break.

My blogging goal for the next couple of months is to produce a blog post per week, not counting the coffee share posts, which I’ll do here as often as I can. I’ll offer the one post per week to other bloggers. I have to give Part Time Monster and Comparative Geeks priority, because I doubt I would even be attempting this comeback if not for the support of Diana, David, and Holly. But I’m pretty much writing whatever I feel like writing, so it’s entirely possible that I’ll come up with some things to offer other friends, as well.

I also plan to get back to reading and sharing blogs at least one evening a week.

That’s all I’ve got for today. I’m back, but it will be awhile before I’m able to be all over the internet the way I was in 2014 and 2015. Honestly, I don’t know how I kept that up as long as I did. But it was fun, and it made me a lot of friends, so I hope I can get back there eventually.

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