Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Dirty Laundry: A Tale of Two Bloggers

**UPDATE** 08-04-04
Scroll to the bottom of this story for an additional, and final update.

Okay, what’s this all about?
Here again as they say, is something completely different. Amidst the turmoil here in Blogland since late last week, there had been an ongoing conversation between another blogger, who many of you know and read, and myself. Todd Vodka has been at the center of a whirlwind of controversy due to some comments made on what many of us will always consider The Motherblog, Life at TJ’s Place. Through the series of events following those comments, he has been on the receiving end of a bunch of speculation as to his "true" identity, and because of his practical joke, posing as a friend of Kevin called "Bob C.," who came on to TJ's and purported that Kevin's long absense from posting was because he in fact was dead. It's things such as these which obviously have caused Todd to be looked upon with a suspicious eye by many throughout his residence here in Blogland. His encounter with me however was over another matter entirely. I bring all of this forth however not to trash Todd, but to exercise my faith in him as an individual and an adult. To show how we worked through our issue and hopefully to show that he is capable of more than the less-than-mature behavior he sometimes exhibits.

Why air Todd’s and my dirty laundry? A couple reasons. One, Todd asked me to, I suppose because he wants to allow people to see that he’s a real person, and he is. However in doing so I want it to be known that there are a great many things about his approach to blogging that I neither endorse or completely understand. However I do think he deserves a better opportunity to defend himself than he has been given in light of some behind-the-scenes scenarios about which I understand he will be talking in a follow-up post on his own blog.

The other reason is that personally, I thought that posting the process that we took in resolving our conflict was an interesting one and that you might be interested in reading about it. But most of all I think he deserves an honest chance to attempt to make himself understood. Again I make no apologies for Todd’s behavior, past, present or future. He’s someone whose work I respect tremendously, but who remains even now, somewhat of an enigma to me personality-wise. Yet I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope he uses this forum as an opportunity to do something constructive here for the blogger community, which has lost a bit of its innocence with the events of the past week.

I have been a member of Blogger.com since June 2002, when it was still in beta, long before Google bought it and turned it into what it has become today. It’s been so long that it’s hard to remember how much different the interface used to look, but it was totally different than how it is now. My involvement with Blogger, as I’ve mentioned in previous stories, was in a group blog, which effectively served as a message board for fans of the Tony Kornheiser Show on ESPN Radio. Once Google came in, the look and feel of Blogger changed dramatically and the ability for us to use our blog as a message board came to an end. We moved on to a different vehicle last Spring, yet Blogger was still there just waiting for me to actually use it for its intended purpose.

I finally took the plunge in late May and started my blog, not really knowing anything about the community that would soon become such a big part of my life. As so many of the rest of us have, I saw a link on “Blogs of Note” for a blog called “Life at TJ’s Place,” and immediately became hooked.

About the same time I started, Todd also found his way to Blogger.com. He also discovered Kevin’s legendary blog and began commenting on his posts as did just about everyone who wandered in the door. I thought he seemed like an interesting guy and clicked through to visit his site, “Minutiae.” I found Todd’s writing to be clever and smart. His offbeat wit garnered many positive comments for his early stories. I left him a comment that I enjoyed his writing and immediately linked him on my blog.

A little more than a week later I again was surfing Blogger.com for new discoveries in this wonderful new world that I now found myself a part of. This time I checked out the “Recently Updated” section of my Blogger Dashboard, which shows a continual roll of recently updated blogs. As I’m sure you know, that list is updated approximately every 2 minutes, so the chance that you’re going to see a particular site on that list is nearly pure happenstance.

I noticed a newly-updated blog on that list entitled: “Minutiae: The Other Blog.” I immediately thought, “Hey! Todd’s got another blog. Think I’ll check it out. So I clicked. To my surprise, I found no Todd Vodka. I really didn’t find a blog — only a shell. It turns out this was the beginnings of a brand new blog by a writer named Victoria Marinelli. She by chance had chosen a name very similar to Todd’s. After looking around I realized that thiswas a secondary blog that Victoria had created to capture her idle thoughts and undeveloped stories that she wasn’t ready to post on her primary blog, which was linked, so I visited. I was blown away by her writing and personal story, so I left a comment on her “Other Blog” which completely surprised her, obviously, since she didn’t think anyone other than herself even knew it existed. We struck up a quick friendship and on June 9th I took a moment to give tribute to her and a number of other bloggers who I had began following:

“I've been spending most of my blog time today (er...make that yesterday), reading instead of writing. There's so much great stuff to take in.

I've discovered a wonderful blog which was only started on Monday by Victoria, an incredibly talented and accomplished writer who established it as kind of a sort of "sticky note" blog to record random thoughts and bits that she could be free to leave less-developed than those of her more-refined main site.

Her personal story is fascinating and her writing captivating. Check out her blog if you get a chance.

By the way, it's also named "Minutiae," as is Todd Vodka's blog, so Todd, your royalty check should be arriving any day now... :)”

That last statement intended to be totally tongue-in-cheek. However apparently Todd took it it seriously. Of course I’m being facetious, but what happened from there completely amazed and appalled me.

On June 26th Todd e-mailed me asking again for the address to Victoria’s blog. I re-sent it to him, thinking that he wanted to go check out her site with friendly intentions. Unbeknownst to me he left comments on both her blogs requesting both a link and acknowledgement on her blog that she was using the name that he had already claimed.

Her response in an e-mail that she CC’ed to me:

From: Victoria Marinelli
To: Todd Vodka
Cc: AJ in Nashville
Date: Tue, 29 Jun 2004 18:59:35 -0400
Subject: Re: Todd Vodka

Greetings Todd,

Not a problem to link and acknowledge, of course, though obviously I had no idea your blog existed until after mine with its similar moniker was posted. (And a quick Google search confirms that umpteen other blogs with the same or similar names exist.) I'm going to be having a "blogs I read" section as soon as I have time to do it, and when I do that, I'll include yours -- since I did pay your blog a visit after AJ (one of your readers and mine) called my attention to it. (The thing about the "free pot" was cute.)

Best regards – VM

What happened next I really can’t say, since I thought the matter, while curious that Todd would make such a request in the first place, was closed nonetheless.


I visited Victoria’s site a week later and to my horror found that on June 30th she had devoted an entire post to the episode of harassment inflicted upon her by him. Todd even went to the extent of creating a Blogger ID, named Victoria Marinelli, so that he could leave degrading comments on her site, masquerading as her.

I was totally incensed by what any mature person would view as childish behavior on Todd’s part. I apologized to Victoria vociferously and planned to reprimand him publically at that time, but Victoria asked me not to bother since he had already backed off. No sense stirring up the waters unnecessarily. I reluctantly agreed, but my sense of Todd Vodka obviously changed.

Nonetheless we remained cordial and my anger passed. I continued to read his blog and he read and commented on mine. In one comment a few weeks ago, Todd said, “don’t be a stranger.” I decised to let things go and bury the hatchet, although I had never said anything to him directly about the matter of his dealings with Victoria.

Which brings us to this past week.

Todd has been a fairly consistent commentor on my blog. His comments have always made me feel that he either admired and/or was amazed by my willingness to bear my emotions in my stories. Yet I could never quite be sure whether he was actually praising that aspect of my personality or snickering about it under his breath.

The e-mail trail
The following is the crux of Todd and my “dirty laundry.” Please understand that there has been little to no editing of these e-mails. This is the raw stuff and it will basically tell the remainder of the story…

Comment from my July 28 post…

You know what I dig about you? You're just layin' it down, completely unfettered by anything but your lovely story. 'Makes everyone else sound like they've mistaken their keyboard for a harpsichord.
Todd Vodka

…and my response…

Toddler...My stories were the only reason I started this blog. I do this for myself and to try to develop as a writer. But I'd be lying if I said that I'm not elated by the friends I've made, which was completely unexpected, and is as gratifying as anything that has ever happened to me. I really appreciate the complement, and hopefully we can all feed off of the energy we generate in combination with one another. I Hope that doesn't sound too trite, but it's really how I feel about this great community of bloggers we have here. Thanks as always for your input!

The following day I received the following e-mail from Todd…

From: Todd Vodka
To: ajinnashville@gmail.com
Date: Thu, 29 Jul 2004 07:36:57 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Theodore Vodka


Would you do me a favor? I would like you to be the first to comment.

Thanks Bud

P.S. I read the reply you gave to me in your comments section. Message received. But hey, don't take all this too personally, most of us are just having fun.

From: AJ in Nashville
To: Todd Vodka
Date: Thu, 29 Jul 2004 19:42:42 -0500
Subject: Re: Theodore Vodka

Hi Todd...

Sorry I didn't get your e-mail until eight hours after you sent it, but unfortunately my Gmail account is blocked from my accessing it at work. I went ahead and commented on your current post about your friend Aaron. Y'know, there was a time when I considered myself somewhat of a John Wayne type. Back in my gymnastics competition days, while I was still a fairly small guy, I was well put together. Nobody messed with me. I felt pretty macho. Yet gay guys’d hit me on all the time
and it incensed me.

In the years since, I've gotten to know more gay men and have learned that for the most part they're just like anyone else. As a matter of fact I find that they're actually pretty easy to talk to, I suppose, for the same reason that women are often easier for me to talk to than men. As you've noticed I'm sure Todd, I'm an emotional guy. I'm a sentimental fool. I'm easily moved to tears. I'm a good listener. I
allow myself to feel everything. And I like it. But I'm not gay. I'm the most heterosexual guy I know! In fact, I can honestly say that the thought of having any kind of sex with another man repulses me more than just about anything I can think of. Yet I LIKE to feel. It's a wonderful thing to me. I don't hold back tears — they're cleansing. I like to talk about heartache — it's cathartic.

The reason women are so much fun to talk to? They can talk about ANYTHING. They don't have to filter their thoughts about emotions for fear that "Hmmm...I can't say THAT...that sounds too queer."

So yes I commend you for your story about Aaron. I can honestly say I respect you a lot for posting it. And I hope your wanting me to comment on it is because you appreciate my opinion, and not because you wanted to make fun of me. Well if it was the latter, I've just given you a ton of ammunition! *LOL*

Take care man, and oh yeah, I really don't try to take things *too* seriously. Unfortunately though the way I write sometimes makes it seems that way. That's why I use a lot of emoticons :) So hopefully people will actually know when I'm smiling or being purposefully sarcastic.

Thanks for writing Todd. Take care.


From: Todd Vodka
To: AJ in Nashville
Date: Thu, 29 Jul 2004 20:16:23 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Theodore Vodka

Hey AJ,
I am really sorry. I have to re examine my ways. If you thought that I wanted you to be the first to comment on my post for any other reason than admiration, then I apologize.

I think you where the first person to link me, and I sometimes feel guilty for not coming to your blog enough.

Todd Vodka

I realized that he had misunderstood me, so I immediately followed up…

From: AJ in Nashville
To: Todd Vodka
Date: Thu, 29 Jul 2004 22:53:13 -0500
Subject: Re: Theodore Vodka

Whoah Todd!

Evidently I didn't have my tongue planted firmly enough in my cheek
when I wrote that! :) I was totally being facetious, based on the
somewhat risky confessions about my emotional nature that I made in
the e-mail. I wasn't seriously thinking you were setting me up,

But hey, as long as you're feelin' guilty, maybe you'd feel better if
you returned the favor and linked me on *your* blog, huh?
*winkwinknudgenudge* :)

I appreciate your visits Todd, however often they are. Believe that. :)

Take care, and keep up the good work!

And then seemingly out of nowhere he opened up an old wound…

From: Todd Vodka
To: AJ in Nashville
Date: Thu, 29 Jul 2004 21:07:21 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Theodore Vodka

Don't take this personally or anything, but I kind of feel like I have to keep my guard up with you. I suspect you may have set me up for your own thrills
when that other Minutiae showed up. I mean, after the confrontation she disappeared.

I hesitated and thought, “is it really worth the effort to get into this?
Okeeeyyy Here we go…”

From: AJ in Nashville
To: Todd Vodka
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2004 02:51:53 -0500
Subject: Re: Theodore Vodka

Todd...Please...And now I'm not laughing.

I am going to take a deep breath, and then I'm going to say a few things to you.

I'm sorry, but I can't HELP but take it personally. Please, for the love of Mike, you've gotta get a grip here. I'm gonna say this clearly, so don't miss it.

I am not your enemy. I am not in competition with you. No one that I know of is in cahoots with anyone else to mess with you, to steal your name or anything else.

I *am* offended at your assertion that I have either the time or the will to create any kind of hoax, much less "set you up." The confrontation you had with Victoria was one you brought on yourself. You obviously would have not even found her if I hadn't given you here URL on 3 different occasions. If anything it's me who was set up, thinking that you were going to visit her site for purposes of friendly interaction, when in fact your purpose was to confront *her* for "stealing" your blog name. Demanding that she link your site or otherwise provide some kind of disclaimer that she wasn't you? What kind of nonsense is that? And don't say you didn't do it, because I saw your comments on her site. Still I didn't take you to task for your tantrum, because Victoria assured me that she could handle the situation, which she did. Your behavior, Todd is grounds for TOS action by any ISP in the country, particularly yours. You are *lucky* she backed off.

And let me correct you on another misnomer in your statement: *she* didn't disappear. She's still there. But when *you* backed off, so did she. Doesn't that say anything to you? Like maybe the fact is she didn't know you or your blog existed? That she chose the same name as yours for her "other blog" was PURE COINCIDENCE, not to mention the fact that there are many, many other blogs whose name is or contains the word "Minutiae." Hey Todd, I think you have some more work to do...

Why not check out:

There's a dozen to get you started. Have at it, tiger! And after you've harassed all these people c'mon back...there's more. Well, what are you waiting for? They're obviously out to steal that which you worked so hard to establish, right?

Don't you see how silly this is Todd?

And you know what's even sillier? The reason I visited Victoria's blog in the first place was because I thought I was going to VISIT YOU. I thought, "Cool, Todd's got "another blog." I wonder what kind of cool stuff he has on that one."

And now, after all that, do you know how pissed I am that I have sacrificed 3 hours of time tonight that I should've been spent on my own blog entry, writing this fucking apologetic for some conspiracy YOU imagined, just because i want you to trust me? Yeah, I AM too nice, because you don't deserve this.

I'm sorry, I take that back. You do deserve it. But this is all you deserve.

If you can't accept the fact that I want to be your friend Todd, than I feel sorry for you. Because you will never meet a more transparent and honest man than me. No brag, just fact. it's what I'm about. It's what my blog is about. I would have thought you would have been able to see that by now.

The fact that I use a quote from Victoria in my signature line has no relation to anything that happened between you and she. She is my friend, as I thought you were my friend. I don't play friends against one another. I don't take sides unless the evidence warrants it. And your case against Victoria didn't even warrant a whimper.

The saddest part of all this is that this should be so far beneath someone who I have always assumed was as intelligent as I believed you to be. Please don't cause me to think that my faith in that fact was misplaced.

I am not your enemy, Todd. If anything, I'm one of the truest friends you have in this community, because I have continued to support you as you continue to piss more and more people off.

I found you when I first started my blog. I thought you were clever and literate. I told you as much. I voluntarily linked you to my blog, LONG before you began going around asking everyone to link to you, when you yourself were linking no one and now, only recently have linked three other blogs TOTAL. I have to admit that rather irritated me, but I didn't say anything to you or anyone else. I have never spoken ill of you to anyone, and even just tonight I defended you in an e-mail to another blogger who asked about you in reference to the thread that's going on at Sloth's blog. Speaking of that post, my request to Sloth to e-mail me was to acquire information that would CLEAR YOU of this silly rumor that you and Kevin are one in the same!

When are you gonna get a clue as to who your friends are and how to keep them, man? Do you really think I would go to all the trouble to craft an e-mail like this if I was being disingenuous?

Okay. I'm taking another deep breath. I've said my piece. Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to send this e-mail to you, then I'm going to wait 24 hours for you to respond. I want you to acknowledge that you have done me a disservice here tonight. I hope that's what I'll see, because if I don't, then I have nothing further to say to you. I hope that's not the case, because I *can* put this behind me and give you the benefit of the doubt that you were *sincerely* mistaken. Hey I was just as furious when this confrontation between you and Victoria happened in the first place. I was ready to escalate it then, but Victoria said it wasn't necessary. So I let it go. I can let it go again.

The rest is up to you, Todd. I think your latest blog entry indicates growth in you as a person. I'd like to see that continue. I'd like to take part in encouraging you, and supporting you. I'd like to be your friend. If you can accept that, my hand is extended. If you can't, you won't need to keep your guard up any longer, because you won't be dealing with me any longer.

I'm not your enemy Todd, but if you want me to be, I can do that too. That's not intended to be a threat, only the reality of how things will be if you decide to mess with me instead of walking away.

I know that I can put this behind me, can you?

I'll wait to hear from you. Take care.


From: Todd Vodka
To: AJ in Nashville
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2004 06:55:07 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Theodore Vodka


I started my blog a few months ago when a friend told me about the phenomena, and suggested that I do so. I checked out a couple 'a others so that I could size them up, and then I got going.

I was happy with how it came out.

But I realized I was not cutting it. To me, it seemed that there was a bit of a clique, and that I was not going to break through and establish a base.

You see, the writing itself is not enough.

I knew that "Kevin" was using a few noms de plum to get his comments going. So in the tradition of the Great American Craftsman, I decided that the best kind of promotion was self-promotion. As I contemplated an approach, I decided that the easiest way to offer a consistent message was to employ one where I could have a little fun at the same time. So I looked
around, found the biggest stick I could get my hands on, and began stirring up shit.

I didn't mean to hurt people in the process. But surely you know that I served as a pawn to other's ends.

Anyway, you where kind enough to take the time to point some things out, and I want you to know that I appreciate it. You where a bit presumptuous, but I am just going to chalk that up to emotion.

You seem like a heck of a nice guy, so I don't want to have anything to do with compromising the quality of your day. I'll send this to your work address as well so you can get it right away.

Todd Vodka

P.S. If you decide to send along the information you mentioned in Sloth's blog, I would not mind a tad.

Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2004 08:35:17 -0700 (PDT)
From: "AJ in Nashville"
Subject: Re: Theodore Vodka
To: Todd Vodka


I'll try to make this quick due to the hours I poured into that, yes, highly emotional e-mail last night. I don't know what all your thoughts are, or what the presumptions you referred to were, but I appreciate the fact that you're willing to let them go. I too will choose to let my ruffled feathers settle back down, and I'll consider the matter behind us. I only hope that you believe that I don't work the same way as those "others" who's ends you served as a pawn to.

I don't know how old you are, Todd, and I don't know what your life's experiences are. I can only assume that you're not old enough to have learned that "stirring up shit" only serves to make the shit stink a helluva lot more. It doesn't make to look good, pal. It makes you look juvenile. That stunt to which you were made a pawn made "those others" look bad too. And I'm sure that's never been your aim.

Todd, I hope you believe that I've never "sought" the spotlight like some of the "partybloggers" who are part of our community. But if that's what you're going after, all you have to do is what they do: talk about sexy, spicy stuff which naturally spurs comments. But I can't believe that's your style, and if your last two posts are any indication, I know it isn't.

I have never once posted a comment on anyone's blog that asked them to or titillated them into visiting mine. And the *nudgenudgewinkwink* comment I made in my second e-mail to you last night was the first time I've ever asked someone to link me to their site. But you know what? Fifteen people have linked my blog without even telling me they did it. And since that post I did a week ago thanking them for it, my hits have increased steadily every single day since. I'm seeing at least 3-5 new IP addresses on my SiteMeter stats every few days.

And please believe me when I tell you, this was nothing I counted on. But it reinforced something I already knew: people like to feel appreciated, and HATE to feel used. If you want to "break into the clique," don't try so hard to promote yourself, because I can tell you, you're not fooling anyone -- everyone *knows* what you're trying to do.

I don't say this to diss you, but dude, you're *not* Kevin, no matter how much people want to think you are. Personally I don't care who Kevin is, or how many other blogs he has. I appreciate him for his writing, whether it's authentic or not. It's enjoyable and a nice escape for a great many people, myself included. But miGAWD, the guy has created a monster! I would *never* want to be under the kind of pressure he must feel to produce. But that's just me.

Todd you're a big boy. You go do what you're going to do. But if you want my advice, stop trying to *make* people visit your blog. Let your writing do the work, because it will if you give it a chance. I guess I just don't understand why you would say "the writing is not enough." Why not? What else are you doing this for? Why *can't* it be enough? You are a wonderful writer. Don't sabotage your own efforts by playing games. We're all adults here. Don't alienate your neighors by making them feel used.

Again I'll get off my soap box, but I hope throughout all this you've learned one thing. I want you to be a part of my circle, and I want to be a part of yours. I want to learn from you, and if I have anything that you can learn from me, all the better. I never have, and never will, use you to elevate my own agenda, because I have no agenda other than to tell my stories and make as many friends as possible. And I really believe that's what the vast majority of the other members of our community want as well.

I'm really glad you wrote me back so quickly. I apologize if I got a little carried away last night. However I really hope that now you both understand and trust where I'm coming from.

Are ya feelin' me dog?


Have a great day and a better weekend, my friend.


Todd later e-mailed me back and again apologized for “pissing me off.”

Spin Cycle
So there you have it. What will we see come as a result of all this? Hopefully a more mature Todd Vodka. Not because of anything I did, but hopefully because he sees the value in being real and not dealing in subterfuge.

The issue with “Bob C.” and the alleged multiple personalities of “Kevin” from TJ’s Place is yet unresolved. On a personal note, I would beseige all of us in our Blogger community to just ignore it and go on. And I have to also admonish Todd that he is close to becoming a person who may be close to becoming someone who people will decide to ignore, should he choose to pull stunts like he did the other day at Kevin’s blog.

Why air this dirty laundry? because I’m willing to grant him a chance to redeem himself and continue to be what we all agree he is, a wonderful writer and as such, a valuable member of our community.

**UPDATE** 08-04-04
Against my suggestion, Todd has requested that I post the text of a final e-mail that I received from him late Tuesday afternoon. This will be my final involvement in this story.

From: Todd Vodka
Subject: Re: Theodore Vodka
To: "AJ in Nashville"

I don't want to incriminate myself. I just want to raise this purely hpothetical course of reason: I was never Bob C. Kevin was Bob C. He really was trying to back out of his blog, you can see his lack of enthusiasm in his past few posts. When I
hypothetically claimed to be Bob C no one was around to dispute it, everyone bought it because the only people who knew it was not true where Kevin and I. Hypothetically, I saw what he was up to and cornered him into resurection. I, hypothetically, knew that people would easily buy that I pulled a lunker on
them, and could therefore dismiss Kevin's Bob C. story or any others of the sort.

Kevin, I guess, got pissed. He used other identities to spread little rumors all over the place that he and I where the same person. If you go back you can see
that I started going on a rampage disputing this. I, hypothetically, thought he was baiting me into being a braggart and taking the credit for his blog. Then he
would come back to life and show me up for doing this. See? Right when he saw that I was not falling for it he came back and posted.

This could all be coincidence. But hey, who am I to say?

Todd Vodka

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