The Awl

So it looks like The Awl is no more. Another blog bites the dust.

The Awl started in 2009, originally some folks who left The Gawker and decided to do their own thing from their apartment in Brooklyn or whatever. It was a general culture blog, with emphasis on New York City, and a bit more about new media, comedy, and technology or online life, with a wry and sarcastic sense of humor, and less of an emphasis on the usual celebrity stuff that drags down a lifestyle blog.

I don’t remember how I got hooked on it — maybe some cross-posting from Boing-Boing or Wired or something. But I started following it religiously in 2010 or 2011, reading every day, commenting frequently, sometimes deep-drilling on research when I read a story that interested me. And I always kept it on my distant radar that I’d try to write something to publish there, some nonfiction or memoir piece, maybe a smarmy cultural analysis thing, I don’t know.

I think one thing that did come out of that was that in that 2011, 2012 timeframe, I blogged a lot more here, and was probably influenced by The Awl to write more article-like things. That always happens, through osmosis or kleptomania, maybe a mix of both. I was writing a lot in general then, trying to find a way to restart a mostly-dormant writing career that hadn’t released a real book since 2002. I didn’t want to be a journalist, didn’t want to fall into that “new media” category or anything, but it shows in a lot of my writing here that I was influenced heavily by that. (Go read an old post like The Death of Death and tell me I wasn’t reading The Awl when I wrote that.)

Another big takeaway for me as I think back over the last ten years of The Awl is how it fed some need to be a New York expatriate, in a weird way. I left Manhattan four or five years before that, which is six lifetimes in New York time, but I had some distant nostalgia for the city then. Magnify this even further by the fact that I started remotely working for a New York company in 2010, and would occasionally find myself in town again, but would also virtually be in the city every day. Reading stories about the hyper-gentrification and strange politics and book gossip and the struggles of living on The Big Smear partly satisfied that need for me, at least a little.

Like all online properties, The Awl got stupid at one point a few years ago, either flipped ownership or editors or something, and the ensuing reboot just wasn’t as interesting to me. I stuck with it when I could, but it no longer became a daily read. Some of this was just the way blogs changed over time: long reads became one-page reads; articles became listicles; opinion pieces became link-bait topics. Things slowly morphed as ads dominated page layout, comment sections vanished, and it went from being a bunch of cool kids exchanging smarmy jokes to a… well, whatever it became. Not really a blog anymore.

I’ve been in my head a lot lately about what’s going to happen when Facebook dies – that’s another article I’ve been meaning to write for a bit. And it makes me think a lot about the cycle of life of these web properties, like SomethingAwful or Fark or Digg or whatever. I know there are things that I used to use daily and then somehow abandoned, and I always wonder why they lost critical mass with me, and with everybody. When did everyone make a conscious decision to stop using MySpace? Was it because Facebook was so much better, or was it because everyone else stopped using it?

And it makes me think a lot about what the next thing will be. I am trying to make more of a conscious effort to blog here, because I will always have this blog, and can always keep going. But I’m shouting into the darkness here, and there’s no network around this, no way for me to follow others, draw in new readers, find like minds, or whatever. This is a single silo, connected to nothing. That’s fine by me, but it’s not the solution for others. Other people won’t blog. They aren’t idiots like me.

And I don’t know shit about how to make money on this, and I never run ads here or strategize some grand scheme, like picking focused topics and trending keywords and how to flip these posts into a book proposal that will get me a deal, blah blah blah. This also is not a way for me to sell books — my writing here is much different than the writing in my books, and I’m a horrible marketer, so who knows what works. So I can’t pull the “I made a million dollars blogging and you can too!” scheme to get the rest of you creative and interesting folks to entertain me by writing your own blogs.

But yeah — the death of a blog like The Awl makes me think the trend is going in the wrong direction, and that’s frustrating. I feel like I have the lifelong dream of opening an indoor shopping mall in the Midwest, then getting in the car and cruising around the dying remains of the malls of Indiana and Ohio and Pennsylvania. It’s depressing. It makes me wonder what is next.

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KONCAST Episode 7: Andrea Donderi

http://koncast.libsyn.com/episode-7-andrea-donderi

In this episode, I talk to long-time friend Andrea Donderi, a recent graduate of The MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.

We discuss: the IU support center; the early web; knowledge bases and creating content; Jorn Barger and the invention of the blog; Gopher versus the WWW; the ChiNet BBS and other internet BBSes; social networks before social networks; hoarding old email; identifying as a writer; learning how to capture life as a writer; the Stanford Stegner Fellowship program; the Warren Wilson MFA program; how a low-residency program works; Victor LaValle and David Shields as teachers; the one fellow graduate student/actor who has been in everybody’s MFA program and shall not be named; Zeroville by Steve Erickson; the inevitable UFO discussion; the government keeping secrets in the desert versus the internet; Don Donderi; and is an MFA worth it?

Links from this episode:

– Andrea’s blog: http://loosestrife.dreamwidth.org

– Jon Konrath: http://www.rumored.com

– The Warren Wilson MFA program: http://www.wwcmfa.org

– Don Donderi’s site: http://www.ufoets.com

– Zeroville by Steve Erickson: http://amzn.to/2eEMTFW

– The UFO documentary I couldn’t remember was Mirage Men: http://www.miragemen.com

 

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Mexican hookworms and shipping companies run as a hobby

I’m not sure which is more depressing: a long-running blog with no entries for months, or the blog post that has a giant preamble talking about how sorry the author is they haven’t posted, the promise to post more, and the likelihood that this post will be an island in the middle of a long body of nothingness. I guess both are better than then site vanishing and redirecting to a Chinese boner pill site, or the long “farewell” post announcing its closure.

I’m still semi-obsessed with hookworms. My allergies go in cycles — not seasonal, but they wax and wane, according to some unmeasurable cycle. And when they get bad, and it knocks 40% of my efficiency away so my body can run my immune system overtime, I start googling dumb cures, which is always a bad thing to do.

The other night, I ended up on some crazy helicopter parent autism site about antihistamines and diet. I’m not saying autism is crazy; just the ideas about crystals or chanting or gluten or whatever else that seem to cross-pollinate (no pun intended) into every other autoimmune disorder’s narrative. Anyway, there’s a low-histamine diet, I think it’s called, and I read enough to start thinking it almost made sense, until the person started talking about the evils of microwave ovens. Then I tuned out.

I already wrote about hookworms a few months ago, which is the danger of this blog. I have a dozen and a half years of various memories here, so when I am suddenly inspired to write about that Christmas in 1992, it turns out I already did. Anyway, I was thinking of the hookworms and that made me think of going to Mexico in 2009, and caught food poisoning. We took this tour of a coconut plantation, which was interesting, but then they had a huge lunch, and brought out a salad, and I think every person at the table stared at the washed greens, and thought “I’m going to get dysentery and die if I eat that” and the guy said “don’t worry, is filtered water!” and so everyone reluctantly took two bites to be polite, and everybody got sick.

I didn’t get as sick because I’d been taking probiotics prior to the trip, but to me, probiotics are the same logic the flu shot: you’re trading a low-level misery for a long time to avoid a brief burst of heavy misery. Some people love probiotics and think they cure everything from allergies to paralysis. Every time I suddenly decide “I’ll start taking probiotics” I get whatever supplement or drink, and it gives me a horrible taste in my mouth 24/7 and I think “this is the rest of my fucking life” and then stop.

And to some people, the simple act of me saying “no, I don’t think I’ll have crippling abdominal cramps and the taste of garbage in my mouth forever” is like taking a dump in the holy water at the Vatican. I get the endless “maybe you aren’t buying the right stuff,” which is basically like “maybe you’re not stabbing yourself in the eye with an expensive enough pencil.” So there’s that.

A lot has been going on, and writing’s been uneven. It’s been long enough since the last book, and I didn’t like the last book, that I feel an overwhelming need to put out another book, because the other ones are slowly rotting on the vine. But I have two projects, and one has no structure or purpose, and the other looks like it could take years to finish. So there’s that. I have a couple of stories out and accepted, and they’ll show up at some point.

I’ve fallen down a horrible music gear k-hole, and have bought three basses in 2015. For the record:

  • Ibanez BTB-686SC Terra Firma – very beautiful and great-sounding. But 35″ 6-string, which has me lost.
  • Squier Jaguar short scale – Great $170 bass, but incredibly neck-divey. I replaced the tuners with lightweights and the bridge with a heavyweight, but I still can’t get into the ergonomics.
  • Lakland 44-01 – love this bass. Lowest action ever, and very great sound. It has a really bright “modern” sound to it, which is the opposite of my Jazz.

I’ve also fallen into a Don Delillo thing. White Noise was exactly the book I needed right now, and is an absolutely incredible piece of absurdism. Libra was a great historical piece, about Oswald and JFK, but had me on the edge of an all-out Nov 22 Book Depository k-hole that’s endlessly deep with far too much online reading to do. I’m mostly through Falling Man right now, and it’s decent, although I typically can’t deal with 9/11 stuff. Ratner’s Star is in the mail right now.

Also, is it just me, or has Amazon’s service gotten much worse since they raised the price of Prime? I swear, before the increase, two day Prime meant two days. Now it’s “well, let’s take a day or two to get our shit together and ship, and then it’s two days from there. Unless it’s a weekend. Or you know, any of those 4 or 5 days take place on a weekend. Also, Mondays and Fridays are sort of part of the weekend.” It doesn’t help that our UPS service routinely takes multiple days after something goes on the truck, because we live in the ghetto, and when the sun sets, if the driver’s not done with his route, fuck it.

OK, need to figure out what I’m writing.

 

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