The iBook at One Year (Give or Take) | Main | Hey! You Put Your Garou in My Ventru!

September 8, 2003

Birthday Ambivalence for PuddingTime!

Posted by Mike on September 8, 2003 11:39 PM

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of Puddingtime! as it appears today (mostly). I had a few blog/journal things, including a sort of bloggish collection of links on the PuddingWiki going back a year before that, and some proto-bloggish things back before that, but it's been a year since I started this project and kept at it. Birthday ruminations follow.

If you look over at the "favored stops" column on the right, you'll see links to a few people who do politics pretty well. Better than I likely ever will.

There, I said it.

Probably because of impending events that I don't feel like broadcasting quite yet, I've been in a "sum it all up" sort of mood for the past few months, trying to figure out what sort of story arc I'd inflict on life, as if someone coming up to me and saying "So, just what the hell are you?" was a real possibility.

One thing I've always figured about myself is a sort of auto-didactic drive. School has always been a helter-skelter thing for me, and it seems that the stuff I'm the very best at is what I spent the least amount of time worrying about in a classroom. A recent bookshelf cleaning/rearrangement reminded me of everything that's caught my eye over the past few years; and revealed to me a sort of anxious need to be very, very good at things that don't even rate as solid passing interests, let alone full-fledged hobbies. The sum of stuff I tried to be good at vs. the collection of skills I actually acquired makes for uneven piles of stuff, but I gave a lot of things the old scout try and I've got, if nothing else, a ton of books to show for it.
It's also contributed to an unfortunate inability, sometimes, to acknowledge that there are some things I can figure out how to do that I'm not the best at; or things that I know something about that I don't know the most about. Within every man lurks a black-sock-wearing dad, out in the lawn with a mower, absolute ruler of all he surveys and final answerer of every question set before him.

So hold that thought.

Weblogs have been around for a while, but I think I started really noticing them in the form people think of as "the modern blog" until after 9/11/01, when it seemed you couldn't follow three links without one of them being someone's warblog. They filled a spot for me.

Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, I got cc'd on a few widely distributed mails from people who wanted to talk about the impending war on Afghanistan. One mail in particular was a piece of Tom Clancy-inspired wishful thinking that simultaneously amused (you'd have thought US special operations soldiers were bullet-proof ninjas with special bat wings and the ability to walk on ceilings before dropping down on their prey to read it) and revolted (because the bloody slaughter the author gleefully predicted was related in a manner so bright-eyed and eager I had to come to grips with just how cheap life had become in just a few hours). I contacted a few people who were acting as my point of entry into these discussions and politely asked them to make sure they dropped me from the cc: list the next time they sent something out.

I'd been done with the army for just under four years when the attacks happened, knew that I probably would not get recalled to active duty, felt relieved at that thought, and felt guilty about my sense of relief. People who'd never served and were calling for war made me angry and I didn't want their mail in my inbox. The warblogs were useful to me because I needed to know what people were saying, and it was easy to find a warblog and start chasing links. I got just as angry at some of what I read, but had less chance of meeting the authors at a Christmas party where I might end up saying somethign hurtful.

After a few days of unsolicited war mailings, things got back to normal.

The most compelling thing about blogging to me at the time was the way people seemed to be finding their voices all over the place, and the way it seemed like the combination of cheap net access, decent publishing software, and a widespread sense that we were (and are) living in a crucial time was fueling a new sort of civic interaction. I wanted to be involved.

The auto-didactic thing comes in here. I made a few half-hearted stabs at being a political pundit-for-a-day (dig through the archives yourself, if you're curious), but I've come to the realization, after a few years of keeping a personal weblog up and running in one form or another, that there are people who are just plain better at this stuff. Anything I come up with re: most national political issues isn't particularly well-informed, and I hate the idea of spending enough time getting informed enough to actually write something that would contribute, rather than add an echo, to the overall political discussion.

I'm writing this to publicly relieve myself of something pudding-colleague Phil is also suffering from: blog-guilt, which is the malaise that comes from having a blog and not using it to make sure everyone knows exactly what you think on the Pressing Issues of the Day. I'm not going to put three paragraphs together about anything political that you haven't read elsewhere, so I'm not going to waste your time with that.

Snarky asides? Maybe. But life's too short to spend my precious learning time on guilt over a thing I wanted to be good at but just don't feel like doing. Go read Josh Marshall for top-notch opinionating that I agree with most days. I'm good at other stuff.

I feel better now.

Happy Birthday to PuddingTime!.

Post That Says the Same Thing: Why Blog? Mix Tapes and Manners (5/31/03)