Monday, May 31, 2010


Sheesh. Looks like i accidentally posted a blog entry that was in draft mode from three and-a-half years ago that I had pulled up to re-read. Sorry ‘bout that. I know if you view my blog via RSS, you may have already read it. Not much I can do about that now.

For the rest of you browser-viewers, however, I've pulled ‘There’s a reason For the World’ back into draft mode for the time being. And I suppose I owe you an explanation as to why.

This was one of my favorite stories ever, which unfortunately never saw the light of day. I wrote it during a very turbulent time in my life (which coincidentally I’ll be touching upon in the next post of my current series), back at the end of 2006. I never finished writing it because the removable flash drive on which I kept most of my blog post Word docs back then, suddenly crashed and I lost everything on it. I was ALMOST finished with that bad boy too (it was altogether about 5-6 parts long as I recall).

I was so pissed.

In hopes of somehow getting the drive restored, I was going to send it away to one of those data services that charge you the equivalent of your first born child to recover your stuff from crashed hard drives and media (using software that takes about 15 minutes to do the job). Bottom line is, I just couldn't justify the cost, so I shelved the idea until a time at some point in the future in which thought I’d be able to afford it.

Well that day has never come, so I've decided to just attempt re-writing the parts of the story I can remember, from scratch. I did have the first two parts essentially finished and saved previously to the hard drive of my main desktop computer, of which the part I accidentally posted today was the first.

My plan is to go back in and finish the rest of it following this current series, just so I can get that monkey off my back. If I ever do manage to get that pen/flash/thumb drive (which still sits untouched and un-reformatted since the incident) looked at and the data recovered, well that’ll just be icing on the cake. This whole series is gonna be backdated anyway, although I will, as has become my custom, create an “Unfinished Business” post linking to it in my blog’s current timeline.

So there ya have it. If you liked the first part, well, sorry, but you're gonna have to wait for the rest. I can’t emphasize how much I recall enjoying putting that story together, originally, so I only hope that I can recapture my thoughts enough to come close to that once again, now years later.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Place Called Blogsville (Part III)

The Neighborhood
It’s amazing to me how slow the first half of the recently-completed first decade of the new millennium seemed to pass, versus the last five years, which appear to have evaporated right before my eyes.

Forever ensconced in the midst of that decade will be the three-year period between 2004 and 2006, when I discovered blogging and The Neighborhood was in full swing.

The ‘Hood was in a town we called Blogsville, in a country known as

We all moved in at about the same time, discovering each other en masse; visiting each other often, attending each other’s parties, and generally, having the time of our lives together.

That strip club I mentioned earlier? There was nothing salacious or untoward going on there; just a bunch of wonderful stories from a guy who managed a strip joint in Florida.

Life at TJ’s Place was one of Blogger’s most popular sites of 2004, and as such was constantly listed on the homepage’s ‘Blogs of Note’ section. Naturally, newbies to Blogsville would visit to see what was going on, and subsequently, a lot of us ‘met’ each other there in the blog’s comments section.

Kevin, the blog’s author was an incredible writer. Despite what you might think, his stories were extraordinarily human in focus and compelling beyond belief. His blog served as the focal point of our neighborhood.

TJ’s was the ‘Motherblog,’ the first of what I liked to refer to as one of the ‘party blogs.’ Those were the places you could always count on finding a ‘live commenting’ gathering in progress on most nights. It was fun. We learned a lot about each other, were introduced to their blogs, and many of the friendships sparked — both ‘cyber’ and ‘real-life’ — have lasted to this day.

It was all so new; so different; so cool. We grew close; very close — some of us, too close.

We all told our stories, shared our lives, revealed our secrets, and listened while others did the same.

There were disagreements, friendly spats, and all-out wars. There was friendship and there were breakups. There was laughter and there were arguments. But much more; there was encouragement; substantiation and confirmation; hope and belief in one other — and thereby, ourselves.

But just as happens in those of brick & mortar, our online community’s resident’s life-circumstances changed; and unfortunately, after only a few months, our little Blogsville neighborhood began to collapse almost as quickly as it had formed.

Kevin, by his own admission, ‘burned out’ by August 2004. Another popular blog, The Abysmal Life of Crayon, also checked out that month. Over the next 2-3 years, more and more folks were showing up less and less.

Some left the neighborhood altogether; others became all but inactive in the group conversation; some just ran out of things to say, or refrained from being so open as to reveal information that might be passed on to outsiders.

In recent years, the neighborhood has almost ceased to exist. Oh people still own the houses, but they’re rarely home. They don’t come out on the front lawn to talk nearly as often as they once did in the old days; they pretty much keep to themselves, occasionally raising the window to throw out a few thoughts from time to time, but seldom are there others around to listen.

The neighborhood has indeed coalesced; those who have remained active have their individual friends that they hang out with, but the block parties are no more.

Just like Real Life?
It’s amazing how closely the dynamics of my old virtual neighborhood have followed that of the physical cul-de-sac I lived on, in Franklin, TN from 1994 to 2007.

Back in ‘94, when our subdivision was brand new, we started like a house afire, and now 16 years later, only two families among the eleven originals on my old block remain.

At last report, I heard that my former physical neighborhood is now comprised of 25% rental properties. For the majority of the original homeowners, it was their first home. Most of them have since ‘moved on up to the East Side,’ so to speak. The neighborhood hasn’t gone completely to pot, though; it’s still a tidy, middle-class ‘burb neighborhood, but it’s definitely lost that new-‘hood smell.

And that’s life; we’re all responsible, but it’s really no one’s fault. It just happens. Same thing applies to my Blogsville neighborhood. It was a phenomenon in the lives of those involved; a phenomenon that had a shelf life which none of us could foresee.

Yet in some cases, the bonds have remained firm. In my case, one of those in particular required some real-time face-time to become immutable.

LA Stories
Something else was different five-or-so years ago: the economy. I had a good job, gas prices were relatively manageable, and somehow, I had considerably less month at the end of the money most of the time.

My Dad, who still lives in Southern California, is in his mid-eighties and 5-6 years ago I had the money to go see him often. I made it a point to get out to California at least once a year. In ’04, I made it twice; once in May ― just before I started blogging, and a second time in August ― not long after having been swept away by it.

Along with seeing my Dad, I had additional motivation as well: to see my friends; the real-time pals of my youth who have always been a big part of my life and desire to make the numerous visits to SoCal that I have since leaving the area in 1992.

Before heading out on second trip to the ol’ homestead, in August, I decided to throw out a fleece and pretty much blindly arrange to meet someone whom I barely knew, but had recently begun running into often in Blogsville.

Michael agreed to meet me for dinner in Santa Monica and we instantly connected. We’ve remained pretty close friends ever since.

The Light’s On, But There’s Nobody Home…
But within a year of that trip, things began to change. The economy, from my standpoint, anyway, began to tighten. By 2006-07, my job security was creeping onto tenuous ground. Fuel prices went sky high, as did most everything else; at the same time, Michelle and I were buying a new house and adding a third more money to our previous monthly mortgage payment.

While I can’t blame the stress I endured at the hands of the economy, I certainly can say that the uneasiness I felt about my job security had an effect on my writing. I lost confidence in myself on a number of levels. I went from someone who had absolutely everything going his way to just another scared, middle-aged Boomer, suddenly out of touch with a rapidly-changing tech world. To say it took the wind out of my sails would be an understatement.

I found myself staying later at work, studying coding technologies in my spare time that I now had to know, both at work and on the weekends, and experiencing the numb, burning sensation on the back of my neck that makes you feel like you want to just burst out of your skin.

Meanwhile, back in my Blogsville abode, I sat and stared out the window most of the time; too stressed to write, too scared to really talk about what was first and foremost on my mind — my real-time job. I tried, though; I came close to breaking trough a couple of times, but for the most part I was writing more apologies for not posting than I did writing many substantive posts.

People would try to tell me not to be so hard on myself (thank you, Brighton), but in reality, I was really trying to apologize to myself.

Next: AJ 2.0

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Place Called Blogsville (Part II)

As great as things were moving along, little did we know that behind the scenes, a pattern was developing that would be repeated across a wide spectrum of web-based companies throughout the 2000s, and Blogger was one of the early ‘victims.’

Growing, but still struggling, was purchased by Web-giant, Google, in February 2003. At first, it was no big deal to us. In fact, the news brought with it a sense of pride, given that Google was sort of the epitome of the kind of growing, aggressive, cool, Web company who started out little and just ran with it. Those of us who had been involved with the business of the Internet for years were encouraged to see a company truly emerge from the DotCom Bust with signs that they really were going somewhere; that the Web truly had a future based on measurable success, rather than merely unfounded speculation as had been the case in the DotCom Boom years.

Google had it together, and we all assumed that what was good for Google would be good for Blogger.

Only one thing though; we soon learned that what was good for Google was good for Blogger — it just wasn’t good for ‘The Blog.’

On May 9, 2004, Google announced the new, massively significant upgrade of The typical style of blogging, having been incredibly influenced by the medium’s biggest growth spurt: the 9/11 catastrophe, had shifted.

The term, ‘weblog’ didn’t quite apply as it once did. In the 90s, the medium’s early adopters generally held to a style in keeping with it’s name: a log, i.e.: a series of brief, understated, usually off-the-cuff remarks, generally not more than a short paragraph or two.

The format for weblogs was then, generally a galley list of posts, all on a single web page divided only by the week or month.

However, with the citizen-journalist sea change of post-9/11 commentary, blogs were now becoming decidedly more essay-related in length and scope. The new upgrade to Google’s version of Blogger would reflect that.

There would still be the digest front page, containing a dynamically-created run-on list featuring blog entries of a determinate span of time, but now the layout emphasis would be of a format to support longer, individual page blog entries.

The old template we were running still worked, but the publishing process had changed completely.

This rather played havoc with our groups’s faux forum purposes for using Blogger, so on May 9th, 2004, as the rest of the blogging world rejoiced, the TK Bloggers cursed the ground that Google walked on. We walked out in favor of finding new digs, in an actual message board environment that closely simulated our old Blogger home. It took some doing, but thanks to some geeks a lot smarter than me, we got it worked out, and we still meet there today.

But what to do with Blogger?

Curiosity and the Inside Joke
With the new Blogger now up and running, I couldn’t help but remain interested, however in practical terms, I still had no real idea what a blog was, even after being a registered Blogger user for nearly two years.

For purposes of posterity and reference in daily dealings with my TK buddies, I certainly wasn’t going to cut myself off from access to the old account, but I also decided to poke around the new and improved dashboard and see what possibly creating my own blog would be about.

Then about a week and a half after we pulled up stakes on the old blog, somebody posted a link to one of the new, upgraded blogs. The site was creating quite a stir in the local Washington DC media, as it involved the kiss-and-tell-all details of a Congressional page and a prominent US Senator.

The scandalous exploits of The Washingtonienne were, well, interesting to say the least. But even more interesting to me was the concept that one could lay out a story like that for all the world to see, and all you had to do was type it and press a button. I, at that very moment, ‘got’ blogging for the first time.

However I had no illusions of grandeur, thinking someone would find anything I had to say interesting. Instead, I saw it as a way to pull a rather inside joke on my pals.

As I explain in one of my info-pages found in the blog navbar, ‘What happen?’ is this:

We had long since carried on a running joke in the group about a key phrase from an otherwise obscure late-1980s video game called Zero Wing. The mangled-Japanese-to-English transliteration of, ‘All your base are belong to us’ had become a geek catch-all phrase in the late 90s. The application, in varied, crazy forms, was rampant on message boards all across the Internet.

So I decided to create a new blog and call it, All Your Blogs Are Belong to Us, assuming that at least one of my buddies would find it, get the joke, and we’d all get a big laugh out of it.

So I did. On May 24, 2004, I created my blog and started posting — fairly innocuous stuff at first — waiting for someone to notice. But no one ever did.

However, something completely unexpected happened. The more I wrote, the freer I felt; like a great weight on my shoulders was being lifted; it was cathartic. Apart from a few lengthy emails, I had really never before expressed myself by way of the written word, and the feeling was absolutely liberating.

I kept writing, and waiting for someone from my TK group to comment — in my blog’s comments or in our private forum — but no one did…for awhile, anyway.

I posted on disparate subjects; from the etymology of the word, shit, to the mountaintop experience of my very first rock concert, seeing The Beatles in 1964 at the tender age of eight years old.

I found myself in an increasingly comfortable place. I didn’t know where I was going, but I was certainly enjoying the ride.

But it wasn’t until I stumbled upon a virtual strip club that I realized I was in the right neighborhood.

Waaait…c’mon, nah! Get your mind outta the gutter!

Next: The Neighborhood

A Place Called Blogsville (Part I)

In a Blog of my own (Revisited)
While I may not have any sordid escapades to write about like the Washingtonienne, it's going to be kinda cool to just post a little stream-of-consciousness every now and then.

I would like to officially thank my Blog comrades in TK fandom, who on a daily basis, make me meaner, more irreverent and a more than just a sight bit smarter, as the inspiration for my Blog moniker. It has absolutely no significance to me or my life, but it makes me laugh every time I think of it. Those who know where it came from will get it immediately; those who don't, won't.

I'm not exactly sure what I'll do with this thing. It'll probably be a series of random thoughts composed of equal parts friends, family, music, sports, and personal history. I'm kind of excited about the idea of chronicling reviews and thoughts about the many concerts and music shows I attend; just to have a record of the experience. I've never kept anything that resembled a journal before, so this should be fun.

I'd also like to talk about some things that I think about a lot: friendship, loyalty to ideals, genuineness, my wife and kids, and other things that make me happy. If anyone reads any of this and wishes to comment, I'd welcome the dialogue.

Well, here we go...

That was my very first blog entry, posted exactly six years ago today. I really didn’t know what to expect of this medium, which I’d actually already been a part of for nearly two years previous, because I still didn’t have a sense of what was bottled up inside of me that needed to get out.

Mister Tony Made Us Do It
I was a part of a group of sports talk fans who in the early 2000s listened with great enthusiasm to former Washington Post sportswriter, Tony Kornheiser’s daily talk show on ESPN Radio. You may have heard of Mr. Tony’s broadcast show on ESPN TeeVee, Pardon The Interruption, in which he banters in crossfire-style debate on topics of sports and pop culture with his good friend and former colleague at the Post, Michael Wilbon.

If you know anything at all about Kornheiser, it’s that he’s hilarious, whether anything he says about sports has any other value at all. So I began listening — and laughing — regularly, at just about this time of year, April/May of 2002.

I discovered this group of mutual Kornheiser enthusiasts purely by accident, while trolling the message boards. They all used to congregate in the Major League Baseball forum there on the web site. That was the point at which I realized that I could actually listen to ESPN Radio online from my desk at work; previously The Company had blocked streaming audio on our network.

I began to participate, familiarizing myself with the members of this TK group, and had a fabulous time laughing quietly in my cubicle as I worked.

Then in July, the always outspoken Mister Tony was suspended for comments critical to ABC/ESPN management and their handling of the events surrounding the recent firing of Tony’s radio show producer, Denis Horgan. The message boards went wild, and the TK group staged a war of words (and deed) with ESPN.

That quickly got the MLB board shut down, temporarily quashing the voices of dissension. However we continued on with a continuous stream of complaint emails to upper management (along with a few other less public forms of protest).

By this time, we were all connected via email, but given that we had lost our means of more immediate dialogue, it was clear that a new forum needed to be found. But message board software was expensive, cumbersome to install, and time/resource-heavy to maintain. We needed something cheap (read: ‘free’) and easy, and we needed it yesterday.

Hence, ‘The Blog’
As a result, one of our group’s members suggested a new, free online service that supported this new phenomenon called, ‘weblogging,’ which I had absolutely no concept of at the time.

The site was called, and we found that the way it was set up, we could actually use it as a kind of faux forum by assigning each of us as an author.

Blogger’s format (typical to how most people composed their weblogs in the early days) was not so much based on individual page posts, but rather on those consisting of a brief paragraph or two; from the blog homepage, they were displayed in digest format with the author’s name and post timestamp appended to each entry. As a group, we simply had to publish the blog after each of our posts and everyone would then be able to see it, updated online, en masse.

I knew nothing about Pyra, the parent company responsible for this wonderful little service. I knew nothing about their previous struggles and growing pains over their previous three years of existence; I knew only what we all knew: that Blogger was now the greatest thing since sliced bread.

It was mid-to-latter 2002, and fortunately for us, was gaining momentum, both from within as well as without; but more on that later.

Our new ‘forum’ was operating flawlessly (most of the time, anyway), and in it, we happily congregated, commenting, and contributing to each other’s Tony Kornheiser experience. However we didn’t meet only during the show’s three hours each weekday. Someone was pretty much always there most of the time, chit-chatting, spinning stories, telling jokes, whatever. A profound, albeit testosterone-dominated community was forming; and it was good.

Guys were becoming friends. Despite how much we ragged on each other — oh, and believe me, it was merciless at times — there was always a sense of community, and a deep-down respect for all.

Our new community had no official name at this point, but since it was born of a place called, ‘Blogger,’ we universally referred to it as, ‘The Blog.’

We still do.

Next: Googled

A Place Called Blogsville (Prologue)

Waxing Sentimental
I usually do a special post on the anniversary of this space, which today marks six years for AYBABTU. However I’ve never really taken the time to talk about why I got started blogging, and how my concept and awareness of it as a medium evolved to get me to the place I was six years ago today.

I think I’m gonna do that now.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a post like this. Heck — it’s been awhile since I’ve written much of anything at all. But I’m not gonna worry about that; not right now; hopefully not ever again. Seven months of forced self-employment has taught me a lot about priorities — not to mention the value of melancholy as a state of mind for me.

See, navel-gazing is an art form that comes pretty naturally to me, and to be perfectly honest, has always been the basis of this blog, whether I like it or not. I don’t write 5-Steps To a Happier ‘X’-kind-of-posts. I write long, thoughtful essays about my life, my memories, and the people I love.

After struggling to morph my style into something more akin to the today’s ‘grip it and rip it’ mentality of ‘useful’ blogging, I’ve finally decided I might as well go with what I know.

I’m a thinker, and this is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately; somewhat initiated by the previous Happy Birthday post to my friend, Michael, who is the greatest personification of what I value the Web as a social medium to be. The fact that he and I could become friends, coming from different parts of the country, with totally different backgrounds (not to mention, upon initial introduction, thinking that each other was sort of a jerk) is simply amazing to me, and not to be taken lightly. It’s something to be celebrated.

However, in the yin/yan of relationship, where there is celebration on one end of the dynamic, the opposing emotion can present itself just as powerfully on the other. The mourning of friendships that die from malnutrition is often sad; even more so because sometimes the death is inevitable.

This is a look back at the beginnings of my personal experience with blogging as a social medium and community-generator. It took place at a time when social media was in its infancy, and its effect, decidedly more dramatic — in my opinion — than it is even today.

It’s about a place that has always been my touchstone as a participant in the SocMed phenomenon; a place that revealed a side of me I never knew existed; a place called Blogsville

Next: In A Blog of My Own (Revisited)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What if? (The Rhetoric of Love)

What if today,
You could see yourself
The way we see you?

Or the mischievous toddler
Who never stopped
For more than a minute?

So full of life
and curiosity
about the world around him?

Then you would always know
Without a doubt,
How much we have loved
(and worried…);
watching you change
and grow
and become
the kind of man
we always knew you would be.

And what then?

Would you realize just how far you’ve come;
how proud you’ve made us?

Would you sob like that little boy —
just as I am right now as I write this?

Would you know how grateful
we are to have you in our lives?

What if you could know how much,
how often we think of the journey
that you’ve made for yourself?

Then you would always know
how excited we’ll be
to see you reach your destination.

And we’ll be cheering you on,
all the way.

Happy Birthday, Shawn.

You will never cease to amaze us.


Dad & Mom