This is what I do when I’m not at work.

Obligatory Hunter S. Thompson post

Posted: February 28th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: characters, eulogy | No Comments »

I got the first news of Doctor Gonzo’s passing exactly a week ago. It was certainly tragic, exactly as it was designed to be. The end of another high-profile career for the news media to feed upon and for the national conscience to absorb. I’m not exactly sure how far-reaching the impact would be based on the relative obscurity of the author. Hunter S. Thompson was legend amongst most of the folks I know, but I still wouldn’t consider his works widely read. And with the way his career trickled out over the past decade or so, I found it interesting that so many were crushed by the loss. I guess it is hard losing your favorite author, musician, artist, whatever, no matter how well you don’t actually know them. So, like most fringe culture geeks I was pretty bummed out about his passing and spent a lot of time thinking about that old madman journalist that I got to know well over a decade ago.

Someone posted a link to Todd Mormon’s write-up which linked to several good bits on the web about Hunter. I felt quite moved by the people showing their feelings about him, even those whose only real response was “F. U.” These folks got lightly flamed for their posts, but I believe they were entirely valid and would be an opinion essentially espoused by the person being mourned. Oh, the irony of it all. Probably the best piece I read was Kurt Loder’s essay for VH-1. I think he hit the nail on the head with regards to the value of Thompson’s writing style not simply existing in a hallucination-induced vaccuum, but that he was indeed a gifted (some would say “uniquely blessed”) individual with solid writing experience. Of course, Kurt has the benefit of a career in entertainment journalism and the advanced age to have experienced many of the same waves and shifts as HST did.

I would say that my opinion on the matter changed significantly a few days later when it was revealed that he blew his head off while talking to his wife on the telephone. This news made me draw myself up and think “That ain’t right” and this put a tiny chink in my recollections of the talented author. Then, unfortunately, I found out that his son, daughter-in-law and 6-year-old grandson were actually in the house at the time of his suicide. At this point it was difficult for me to think anything good about HST. I couldn’t believe he would be so willing to place this blemish upon his close family members. Arguably, any suicide is incredibly painful for family and friends. But to perform such a violent act within earshot of a 6-year-old? Behavior such as this is beyond the pale, if you asked me.

So shine on you crazy demon. Happy trails you fool. Sorry you had to leave so soon.

Hard to Blog

Posted: February 22nd, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: interwebby | 2 Comments »

I started to keep an online journal on ibiblio back in early 1999. Nothing special, usually just music recommendations or brief stories from my life posted to keep entertained the folks I didn’t get to see in person very often. This was mostly old friends from college, some from high school and other random folks I had met online. It was a lot of fun because there were no expectations and I knew quite well whom I was speaking to. To my recollection, this was well before The Blogosphere came into being and before most of these “blogging apps” became the rage. I had to use my lame HTML skills to translate my thoughts to the web and usually I was satisfied with the results. I didn’t have a digital camera then, so images were quite sparse — usually a shot or two taken with a friend’s borrowed digicam or prints I actually took the time to scan (What a pain!). I enjoyed this electronic journal writing quite a bit, well, at least for a little while.

One absolute thing I have come to realize from writing for the Internet is this: The stronger your opinions, the more likely you are to draw the lunatic cranks out of the woodwork. And online, cloaked in some electronic facade of anonymity, these folks can be relentless in their attacks.

Why does this matter? Or rather, why is this point germane to my topic at hand? Ultimately, I got tired of dealing with anonymous hate mail from people too dishonest to use their real identity while criticizing me. That fact, coupled with the reality that I received practically zero positive feedback and the decision was made. Several years of posting and suddenly all of my pages went blank. All because I had something to say and apparently there were many who did not like what I was saying. So this should explain why I am now so reticent to jump back into the realm of the armchair philosophers and amateur journalists whom write for the blog audience.

I would say that I’m finding it increasingly difficult to maintain a public journal in our fractured and antagonistic world. My good friend Mark always likes to get in my face and remind me of my “Freedom of Speech rights” and how I am more free to express myself here in the Good ‘Ol USA than in any other place on Earth. He also likes to say that by using your freedom of speech rights you essentially open yourself up for everyone else to use their freedom of speech rights on you. Fair enough — two good points I won’t disagree with.

Instead I would like to proffer the idea that perhaps the backlash of a given group against an author can be painfully out of proportion to the topic at hand and/or any facts that are on the table. Usually the vehemence of their response becomes so vicious and completely personal that a fruitful discussion is practically impossible. And when the critics begin hiding behind their veil of Internet Anonymity, then their criticism becomes opaque and bloodless.

Here are some other complications of blogging for the Modern World:

  • Who is your audience now? Most folks are probably getting googled by potential suitors or employers. Or how about your current employer? There are folks getting fired for what they write in their blogs nowadays and I’m sure we will hear about other possible negative ramifications of this in the future. But really, the idea is “Who are you writing for?” Someone came up with a brilliant and widely-adopted meme at the Triangle Blogger Con of “Blog like no one is reading.” This may be all well and good for a feel-good blurb from a mid-winter’s blogger conference, but blogging like no one is reading could cost you your job.
  • How to address a culture that is intellectually blunted by Political Correctness? This relates to the inappropriately large and often damning reproach of Special Interest Groups when discussing (what should laughingly be referred to as) “Hot potato issues.” Race, sex, gender and all the isms you can dream up. All the things we should be talking about, but for the most part cannot — at least not in any effective manner. I have come across a lot of writing lately that seems to want to lead me to believe that the Internet is racist… err.. biased towards whites. Okay, well I agree that this could be an issue worth discussing in depth. I would also agree that most of this criticism is well-written and necessary for our culture to progress and for all to have an equal voice. However, I tend to step back from the table when one side wants to call the other side “racist.” (Especially if we are not discussing Neo Nazis, White Supremacists or others of that ilk). At that point, I just see the claims as emotional hyperbole designed to further your point or agenda. I don’t believe the currently fashionable rhetoric of Political Correctness is doing anything to help solve the world’s problems. I tend more to agree with the comments Jon Stewart leveled at the Crossfire wizards, namely that this type of divisiveness is actually hurting America, not helping.
  • How honest is too honest? First of all, let me state that I don’t like much “Fiction writing” either on the web or in print. The reason I go out to read things (and find things to read) is to gain perspective into other people’s worlds. I want their writing to be personal and honest to the highest degree possible. The tireless blog chatter which regurgitates the daily news ticker (such as “OMG! Mozilla 1.0 is out!!) does nothing for me. I want the writer to give me something to relate to them somehow. Give me a reason to come back and visit. With that in mind, I still believe that web posters can occasionally be too revealing (myself included) and wind themselves up in a whole busload of trouble. See the above bit about folks getting fired for blogging. Getting fired may be an extreme example, but more often than not, the difficult ramifications will come down within your social circle (which could definitely include co-workers). Regardless, be wary of how transparent you become or you may wind up with no mystery left.
  • Do you want to police comment trolls and spammers? I’m not sure this is an aspect of blogging that many consider (at least until they’ve been at it for a while). It was a shame to see performance on ibiblio sites drained as a result of Movable Type comment spam and other web garbage. It can also be frustrating to deal with if you wind up attracting some web cruft with a lot of time on their hands. This was one of the major considerations that delayed any new blog deployment for me. So far, comments have been few and I haven’t had to use the stick, but I certainly anticipate the day. Don’t be that guy.

So, in my overall gross estimation I would have to say that my experience in The Blogosphere has been mostly negative. And that is the topic I wanted to broach with the roomful of journalists and web reporters gathered at Tri Blog Con 2005, but couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Plus, I didn’t want to derail Anton’s little experiment into the seedy underbelly of the ‘net. But that is why I was there. More than anything I was curious to see what the other writers experience was with these deleterious side-effects of maintaining a web presence.

Why stop blogging? I’ve got a handful of reasons, such as no good feedback, lots of hate mail, murky audience definition, lack of time, lack of interest, serious dearth of positive things to write about, slowness of your blog software or hosting provider, etc. You may have your own good reasons to stop blogging. Maybe you think my reasons are whack. Oh goodness, here comes the deluge. 😉

Okay, I think I just blogrolled the universe

Posted: February 16th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: interwebby | 6 Comments »

In setting up any blog system for yourself, it is customary to (eventually) include links to folks you know and/or read. When I sat down to complete this task, I hadn’t put much thought into it. Hopefully it doesn’t seem too haphazard. Ultimately, I just decided on what my categories would be and plugged in URLs from there. It was fun, actually.

If you think your link has been excluded, it is probably just temporarily forgotten. Send a reminder flare.

Happy Valentine's Day to all you Star-crossed Lovers

Posted: February 14th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: generic | 2 Comments »

Yay Hooray! After only 250,000,000 hours of development time I finally have a decent looking and functional operating weblog system in place! Yes, I know Kubrick is the default theme now (Thank goodness!). This fact alone probably saved me several hundred hours. I plan on fooling around with the CSS a bit to attempt to customize things, but we all know what happens when I do that! Interweb Chaos!!

In closing, I’d like to give a shout-out to my new webhost DreamHost for making all my Internet Dreams come true! They even have a Control Panel option to install a WordPress blog for you. Totally cool. You should sign up for DreamHost and tell ’em Matusiak sent ya.

Okay, I’m getting off the computer now, but I hope to be writing more soon. After all, that is what I went thru the trouble to set up this weblog for (and the sub-domain and the…).

dave 😉

Happiness…     is a mowed lawn

Posted: February 1st, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: generic, movies | No Comments »

Finally, after about 3 months of ragged winter accumulation growth, the lawn finally got cleaned up.

Two things you should definitely check out:

Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle

Shawn of the Dead