Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Bloggers of Extinction: A Tribute (Part I)

This is long overdue.
As I’m sure we all do here in Blogland, I constantly weigh the thoughts that swirl around in my head. I try to determine whether or not it is worth my while to pluck them out of the air, throw them down onto my keyboard, and see if a story emerges. Ideas come and go, and if I’m lucky they stick around long enough for me to get a few notes down before they return to the mental maelstrom from which they came, sometimes reappearing later, but often disappearing altogether.

Well this is a story that has been swirling around literally for weeks and weeks, so I wanted to make it the first up in what will hopefully become a return to posting regularity and normalcy for me and this blog.

“Ohhh, Oh — Catch that buzz — Blog is the drug I’m thinking of…”
Blogging is an addiction for most — anyone will tell you that. This addiction is more often than not a healthy one. The outlet it provides is often liberating, making it possible to express oneself in a way much differently than with a standard journal. Blogging provides a connection to other people; contact with a world unknown; a cry in the wilderness answered.

It was this aspect of the phenomenon, which was both unexpected and instantly engrossing to me as I began this site in the latter part of May, 2004. As many have discussed before, it was around this same time that a great many of the blogs which form the community of writers and readers who own and frequent the sites linked to my site began. It was and still is, a wonderful group of people whom I am more than happy to call my friends, despite the fact that the vast majority of them, I have never physically met or even spoken with on the phone.

Some of you I have gotten to know through your own blogs, others more so through our interaction in your comments here. And while I make it my policy to be easy to get along with, I’ve almost never encountered anyone who has challenged the spirit of friendship and respect that is the rule in our community.

That being said, the purpose of this entry is to pay tribute, certainly to all of my friends who are still around and continue to support this wonderful ideal of respect and support, both emotional and physical. However, my deeper wish is to honor those who are no longer with us, for whatever reason. For some, perhaps the addiction was too intense. Not to say that they couldn’t deal with it, but rather, giving them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps it became a burden that they simply no longer wanted to bear. I for one can completely understand and identify with that feeling. Dealing with the emotion of my just-concluded series of stories about my brother Alex has been tough to say the least. My will to push through the pain and self-analysis was daunting, and took a huge toll on my productivity. So I understand “Blog burnout” in no uncertain terms.

But my purpose here is not to analyze why they left, but to let them know (if somehow they’re still out there looking in on us from time to time, as I know that some certainly do), just how much I appreciated their genius; their wisdom; their mojo — all communicated to me personally through their written words. Some have been gone for several months, others for mere days. As a matter of fact, the list of bloggers whom I had originally planned to mention in this post when I first conceived of writing it almost two months ago, has both shortened and grown in the meantime.

Because of this, the person whom I wanted to lead off the list with, Michael, has now returned for what turned out to be only a brief hiatus of exactly a month. However inasmuch as makeminemike has now picked up where he left off, entertaining readers with his often poignant, but always entertaining observations of life — past and present, there has been a recent spate of other longtime pillars of the community who have left us. We can only hope that Lovisa and Jack’s respective departures turn out to likewise be a brief respite, as opposed to a permanent vacation.

So here are a few thoughts devoted to our departed bloggers, listed in roughly the order that I became aware of their departure. There is no order of importance, because they have certainly all been important to me, as I’m sure they have been to many of you as well.

Still online, but in stasis since her final post, May 18, 2004

This blog is a bit off the map, and might be completely unfamiliar to many of you, but is significant because it was my introduction to It was the one that got me started.

A friend of mine on the group message board that I participate in daily posted a link to this very short-lived blog (May 5–18, 2004) of a Capitol Hill page named Jessica Cutler. She raised quite a stir in local Washington DC web-gossip circles for the posting of her day-to-day sexual exploits with a number of men, most notably an alleged US Senator from the Midwest. By her own admission she did it as entertainment for herself and friends. She never named names, but apparently someone close enough to her boss got wind and connected the pixels. She was fired for misuse of government equipment (ie: blogging at work).

This was my introduction to blogging. And because hers was a site, I started mine here. So to Jessica I have to say thanks for piquing my interest. I am a blogger totally because of you.

Oh and by the way…don’t fret for Ms. Cutler. Did I mention, she came out of all this with a $300,000 dollar book deal?

Kevin — Life at TJ’s Place
Still online, but in stasis since Kevin’s final post, August 29, 2004

It may well have been one of the first five blogs I ever visited. The man from whose loins sprang The Motherblog, as I have always referred to it. Kev’s was the first Blogland gathering place for a large number of those who make up our community, and was by definition our touchstone. Never before and I sincerely doubt, ever again will there be a place like TJ’s. The reader response was absolutely frenetic — the comment section truly took on a life of its own — but the blog itself was absolutely brilliant. Kevin’s understated style and humble demeanor inspired me to remain true to my own narrative style, which I felt was very similar.

So Kevin, I don’t pretend to believe that you’ll ever see this, chiefly because I have no idea if you ever even visited my blog, but I want to thank you on so many levels I could easily devote an entire story to your site alone. Your work truly infected me with the desire to follow in your footsteps…if not in subject matter, then certainly in the quality and sincerity of your vision. Thank you sir.

Maddy — Maddy’s Mind
Still online, but only one post since, August 23, 2004

Maddy and I discovered each other early on. We began our blogs on the very same day, May 24, 2004. Within a week or so we had found our way onto each other’s blogs. She was one of my first and most faithful commentors, always speaking her mind, and sometimes playing the devil’s advocate to my often-lofty platitudes. Although she admittedly was much more of a blog reader, she is an excellent writer as well. Her series of posts on her niece’s voluntary choice to leave her middle-class parent’s home and live on the streets of a large Canadian city still ranks as one of the most gripping pieces I’ve read in Blogland.

Unfortunately (for us anyway) Maddy’s affinity for blogging was a secret one which she hid from her husband and family for concern of their reaction to being named in some of her stories. That tension seemed to me to contribute to several long gaps of time in-between her posts. Conditions apparently became such that she was no longer able to find the time alone to follow her blogging interests. Slowly she faded from the scene, interestingly, just prior to the time Kevin stopped posting to his blog, on August 23, 2004. After months of reader comments encouraging and wishing her the best, Maddy posted an entry in late December, explaining the family circumstances for which she had been absent. She hasn’t posted anything since, but hopefully she will be able to again sometime.

Maddy, my dear friend, please allow me to say that you are in my thoughts and prayers often. I wish you all the best and hope that the time comes very soon when you’ll be able to continue your blog and be an active part of this community once again. Thank you for the love and support you radiated to each and everyone here who knew you. I hope you have an idea of how well you were appreciated and certainly how much you are missed.

The Abysmal Life of Crayon
Still online, but in stasis since Crayon’s final post on August 19, 2004

Anyone see a pattern here? It almost appeared that a trend of blog burn-out began to spread in August of last year, for whatever reason. Crayon was another of the original bloggers from the TJ’s gene pool who had a large following but faded from view. Her gentle, yet often depressed view of the world was melancholy incarnate, and beautifully written. Unfortunately I came to enjoy her blog only a week or so before she retired, apparently to leave her native Sidney, Australia and travel across Europe with her boyfriend for an indeterminate amount of time (or as she put it, “until we feel we feel we’ve done enough”). Whether or not she ever returns is of course another unknown, but hopefully the fact that her site still stands means that she will indeed re-join Blogland someday.

She never commented on my site, and quite frankly I have no idea if she ever even visited. If you like to feel the things you read, I would recommend her archives as well worth your time.

To Crayon I would only say, thank you for what you gave us; I only hope I hadn’t been so late to the party.

Which leads me to certainly the most emotional tribute in my story. Warning — gratuitous self-flagellation ahead…

Next: Contemporaries
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