Tuesday, October 04, 2016

The Muted And Somewhat Melancholy Celebration of Eleven Years of Blogging

Hip hip...hooray?

Yes, I have been doing this for eleven years. No, I didn't expect to. Yes, I did expect it would either go away or turn into something more interesting -- or, rather, stay something more interesting, when I worked in the fields of skiffy. But this is what I got.

(There's only one thing that I know how to do well, and I've often been told that you only can do what you know how to do well, and that's be you, be what you're like, be like yourself. And so I'm having a wonderful time but I'd rather be whistling in the dark.)

Anyway, here's what I wrote on previous anniversaries: the plain first, the hoopla of the second, the hullabaloo of the third, the excitement of the fourth, the missing fifth, the razzamatazz of the sixththe fantabulous sevenththe gala eighth, the splendiferous ninth, and the delayed and rushed tenth. Between them, they contain the whole history of this blog, suitable for wasting a day at work when your boss is off at a conference.

Once again I ruefully note that I missed the day of two of my anniversaries so far, and those were the "big" ones -- the fifth and tenth. I'm enough of a lapsed Poe scholar to recognize my own Imp of the Perverse, and to salute him -- with one finger of each hand, as appropriate.

You may have noticed that this year I am eschewing old-fashioned headers for my sections in favor of bold, shareable-content-like bolded passages, which a speed-reader will pick up and directly apply to his or her business career for untold riches. I do this because it amuses me, and it seems to be the state of the art for blogs in this fallen era. (And it saves time doing that rather than the annoying headlines.)

I usually turn here to the ritual discussion of the origins of this blog, which is pointless. So I'll leave that off this time, and instead note that I'm still using the template that I chose on October 4, 2005, which might be some kind of record. (Not a good record, mind you, but a record nonetheless.) I do periodically look at the blog, dive into Blogger's interface, and search for a new template, but always get distracted and give up. So this likely will be what this blog looks like forever and ever. But I've learned not to try to predict what I'll do in the future, so who can tell?

At this point in the blogaversary proceedings, I get into the historical number of posts, which is both boring and pointless, and so a particular favorite of mine. Since I had the bad judgment to begin a blog in the middle of a year (October 4th, in case you've forgotten), each year is substantially disjoint from the calendar.
  • 2015-2016 -- 144 posts
  • 2014-2015 -- 258 posts
  • 2013-2014 -- 434 posts
  • 2012-2013 -- 285 posts
  • 2011-2012 -- 332 posts
  • 2010-2011 -- 445 posts
  • 2009-2010 -- 711 posts
  • 2008-2009 -- 880 posts
  • 2007-2008 -- 834 posts
  • 2006-2007 -- 841 posts
  • 2005-2006 -- 809 posts
But I also had a blog called Editorial Explanations for almost three years (February of 2011 through the end of 2013), which started as a series of posts on Antick Musings. So it needs to be included in the full accounting of Hornswoggler blogging:

Editorial Explanations:

  • 2012-2013 -- 560 posts
  • 2011-2012 -- 802 posts
  • early 2011 -- 760 posts

And that means, when you put all of it together, you get:

  • 2015-2016 -- 144 posts
  • 2014-2015 -- 258 posts
  • 2013-2014 -- 434 posts
  • 2012-2013 -- 285 + 560 = 845 posts
  • 2011-2012 -- 332 + 802 = 1,134 posts
  • 2010-2011 -- 445 + 760 = 1,205 posts
  • 2009-2010 -- 711 posts
  • 2008-2009 -- 880 posts
  • 2007-2008 -- 834 posts
  • 2006-2007 -- 841 posts
  • 2005-2006 -- 809 posts

So the peak of Antick Musings was in the depths of the financial crisis, when I'd been at the fine house of Wiley for about a year. (And the asterisked peak of both blogs was two years later.) The nadir is....well, right now. So things can only get better, he said brightly, ignoring the fact that sentence is never literally true.

That, along with about five dollars and a loyalty card, will get you a flat white. (Note: your blogger has no idea what a "flat white" is. Please don't ask him to explain himself.)

Antick Musings is now a book blog -- that surprised me when I realized it, but it's been obvious for years now -- as the other things I wrote about have mostly withered and died. I will try to link to them below, but the book-blogging is clearly the main event, as much as anything is.

So here are some of the posts about books -- you could call them reviews if you wanted to, and that would be basically accurate -- from the past year, linked from sentences that I'm particularly fond of on the day I assemble this post. Because that's the way blogs work, the quotes are in reverse chronological order.

What was so enticing that they could die doing it?

Everything can be turned into a Batman story. Everything can be turned into a Lovecraftian story.

And didn't the Inhumans used to be a family that lived on the moon? I miss those Inhumans; these road-show mutants are dull and derivative by comparison.

Writing an autobiography the normal way is just so boring -- a tedious forced march through the details of a bland childhood, early struggles, and then the inevitable grand success.

Being of the moment can be a big advantage -- but only so long as that moment lasts.

I can't say every family goes through something like this -- some have it much worse, and some have enough money and privilege that hard choices never come into the picture.

Gather 'round, children. I'm going to tell you a story of the dark days Before the Internet.

Luckily, I can't remember what that book is, so I'm not even tempted to name it. But any book can be The Wrong Book if you pick it up the wrong day, or are in the wrong mood, or just come to it after the wrong lead-in.

I feel guilty about my reading pretty regularly.

If I knew more about the history of Japanese publishing, I would pontificate here on their place in literary history and try to connect them to the modern "light novel." But I have no idea about any of those things.

There is a contradiction at the heart of this excellent graphic novel, but I don't know if I should point it out to you. Perhaps I can hint at it.

Against those nightmare horrors stands mostly government bureaucracy: underfunded, neglected, full of misfits and time-servers and the odd competent person, organizations that are at least as dysfunctional and soul-destroying as the place you work.

It's a Powers novel, so it's about love and regret, families of blood and circumstance, old secrets and obligations, and, inevitably, about doing the right thing even when that is the hardest thing to do.

And his story is about no less than free will and control, freedom and necessity, and of course the struggle against a cruel imperial power.

And Little Dribbling is thus the "all the stuff I used to like is gone, you rotten younger generations you" book that inevitably must follow the "all of this stuff is wonderful" book.

But he's still the same writer, with the same concerns: the man who said the happiest humans are bare-assed is always going to be most concerned with the poorest, the most marginal, the ones on the edges and margins.

The latter would be particularly useful if, as I assume, one purpose of Contact! is to induce the reader to buy more books by Morris.

One of the biggest potential dangers of working at home out of your own head all of the time is becoming a crank from lack of interaction with normal people on a regular basis.

The bad news is that there's just this one book, and that the world has not provided more opportunity for Brown to make her great comics, as it was supposed to.

We will never get away from the image of the killer robot, despite all of the hard work by Isaac Asimov during his long career.

So the book I was hoping for -- a clear-eyed look at death and how we deal with it in the modern world -- only appears in The Undertaking in flashes, interspersed with sub-Thomas Merton thoughts about the meaning of life and how we'll all be enfolded in Jesus's hand and lovingly placed in sunlight uplands to live forever.

This is the book that broke me, broke the Vintage Contemporaries reading series, broke it all to hell.

The flourishing of self-publishing over the last decade or so has brought a lot of those stories into print, if not into the marketplace, as a thousand family elders write down their memories in hopes that the grandkids will actually read them. (Spoiler: they mostly don't read them.)

Because if there's a girl running around ripping off other girls' clothing and spraying them with various thick viscous substances, the thing to do is declare the closest man responsible, right? This series finds new and different ways to fail feminism on nearly every page -- it's quite breathtaking.

Zenith supposedly is a slacker superhero, and these stories are old enough that Generation X (my generation) was the one filled with young lazy layabouts who couldn't be bothered to work -- whereas now we know that really describes millennials, who have the bad grace to be young now, when so many of us are sadly no longer so. (We may all know different in another twenty years, but we'll need to think up a new derogatory nickname for yet another generation first.)

Perhaps so you can have it out while feeding your infant, and wipe it clean when the strained peas go awry.

I don't think Hall has really identified anything specific here; his book is so full of caveats and qualifications and explanations of the levels of particular elements in particular books that there are no rules here.

Any prediction that contains "and then it goes on just like this for a long time" is bullshit.

No, this time Chaykin is closing things down -- this is the story of the Shadow's last case, in 1949, as he decides to give up on the harvesting-bitter-fruit business entirely and disappear.

If you say something is necessary, and then don't do it, you undercut your own argument.

Miller tells this story in the best example of '80s style I know of, all stream-of-consciousness narrative captions from multiple points of view and overlapping screamed dialogue. He throws hints into the air to have them hit targets perfectly sixty pages later, and weaves it all together seamlessly. And this is Sienkiewicz at the height of his visual ambition, right before Stray Toasters, painting like a demon and shifting from photorealist to a child's scrawl to slashes of color instantly to support Miller's equally quick changes of mood.

In short: Langridge! Weird vaudeville-inspired comics in a variety of quirky modes, about various things that used to be pop culture a long time ago, drawn impeccably. Go get it.

Superhero comics have been a friendly home for purple prose since at least Stan Lee, with captions cluttering up pages to declare things that we should be able to figure out by looking at the pictures.

Speaking of books, this year, like all of the years of this blog, I posted at dawn on the first of January about my favorite books of the prior year. Feel free to insist my tastes are horrible.

(Even more self-referentially, I also posted that morning a set of links to the first and last sentences of the posts of each of the months of 2015. It was a meme once, and I have a hard time giving up "traditions.")

I've also written about other things on this blog. No, not often, but I have done it. Some of those things follow.

The most common post here is the Reviewing the Mail series: each Monday, I gather up the books that came free in the mail the prior week (I know! for all my grumping, blogging has some excellent perks) and try to talk about them mostly positively without having read them.

Somewhat related -- in that they're long lists of books that I haven't read, with covers to illustrate them, is the series of Incoming Books posts, which lists stuff I paid for. I keep these two categories separate because I have a mind devoted to keeping things excessively tidy in usually less-than-useful ways. (Note: books I bought sneak into Reviewing the Mail all the time, usually because I'm too lazy to do two posts. And there may be serious disagreements about how tidy is excessive.)

Twice in the past year, I've complained here about my commute. (My wife gets it much worse; you should pity her.) There's no reason you should care; this is a blog, so it's about what annoys or interests the blog-writer on a daily basis.

Speaking of my commute, a series of drug-war hysteria posters I see there have been annoying me for some time. There's actually a worse one than the one I photographed, but life is too short to complain about the same things too many times.

This invites infinite reflection, like two mirrors set up facing each other, but I've been posting on Quora (an Internet site, optimistically designed to increase knowledge, in which people ask and answer questions with varying levels of expertise and honesty and objectivity) for a little more than a year, and linked to some of my answered questions there from this blog. The second time I did so was even in this blog-year.

You still have the opportunity to help Send My Boy to Europe. Donate now!

I post about music inconsistently. This year, I remembered Pink Floyd's great "When the Tigers Broke Free" in time to post it on Memorial Day. And I posted the Pogues's "Tuesday Morning" on a dreary Tuesday morning in mid-Spring.

In a textbook example of one's work bleeding into what one cares about, I engaged in a Twitter rant about the ownership of law firms, and posted the result here. I'm as surprised as you are.

On a related note, I had a badly informed opinion on attorney-client privilege, as well.

I provided a remedial social media lesson with I Will Not Add You On LinkedIn If.

I had a now-rare commentary on the SFF world when I weighed in on the clamor to change the World Fantasy Award statue.

When bad theme-park rides have their last day, I and my sons will be there. Well, we were there, once.

And those were the things I blogged about in 2015-2016, the tumultuous eleventh year of Antick Musings. Will we ever see their like again? Well...probably so. It looks like I'll keep blogging, most likely about the same mix of things.


-dsr- said...

A flat white is a coffee with milk. Except, of course, that would be a cafe au lait, which is not a flat white. No, a flat white is an espresso with steamed milk on top, which also describe a cappuccino and a latte, so what's a flat white again?

A flat white is an espresso with hot milk plus milk foam of the tiny-bubble variety, so that it feels smooth. A cappuccino has stiff foam and less liquid milk, and a latte has more liquid milk and just a little foam on the top.

Now you know too much about espresso drinks. You're welcome.

Shane said...

Glad you're still here. I've enjoyed your reccommendations since the SFBC days.

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