Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books



jueves, noviembre 08, 2012

An Update From The Silence

Your Bloguero took a blog hiatus back on October 8, 2012. Why? As your Bloguero stated in his TTFN message:

Well, I'm going to go off and have an adventure or two, and do some different things for a while, and so I probably won't be seen around here for a month or so. Maybe longer. I'm fine. There's nothing wrong. Everything is good. It's just that it's time for a new adventure. Or two. In the material world.

Yes, your Bloguero did break his silent running a few times. For what he thought were things too important or too odd to omit. Things he just had to write. But in general, he's maintained his silence. And he's pursued his adventures.

Your Bloguero is also aware that long silences are often the sure sign that the blog (or its Bloguero) has passed on to other things, that it's finished. Nevertheless, the rumors (are there any yet?) of this blog's death are entirely exaggerated. The blog continues.

With a change. Because of your Bloguero's adventures, which include the changes he is making in his everyday working world, he can no longer write about politics. Other topics, yes. Politics, no. Just not permissible. And he probably shouldn't be commenting about politics either. That too is verboten.

Your Bloguero will doubtless continue here. Other places, particularly where your Bloguero posted only pieces about politics, no. Can't. He will have to say good bye cruel world in each of them. It's a part of the current adventure. A small price to pay.

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lunes, octubre 08, 2012

TTFN

I was thinking that I'd just walk away, and stop posting for a while, and that I'd come back in November, after the election, and see whether I felt like posting some more. I could just go. Quietly. Disappear myself. Self deport. I leave aside any speculation as to whether my not writing would be noticed.

Then I thought that might be rude. I mean: I've been here since August, 2005.I've written 1,365 essays. There have been more than 100,000 page views. In other words, I've been sitting in that chair in the corner of the collective living room for a while. Sometimes I left my beer bottles on the floor, sometimes I had flowers and poetry for others. So maybe the right thing to do is to say something before I get out of the chair and just up and leave. Something like this:

Well, I'm going to go off and have an adventure or two, and do some different things for a while, and so I probably won't be seen around here for a month or so. Maybe longer. I'm fine. There's nothing wrong. Everything is good. It's just that it's time for a new adventure. Or two. In the material world. So, while I'm gone, it's ok for somebody else to sit in my chair. To take it over, make it your own. It's comfortable. And when you sit in this corner, it's ok to be erratic, and even cranky sometimes. It's ok to talk about yourself in the third person. Just try to be entertaining, ok? That's it. Well, I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead.

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miércoles, julio 25, 2012

A Blog Recommendation


Your Bloguero does not usually recommend that you visit and read other blogs. So this post may come to you, dear reader, as a major surprise.

Our friend Matthew is living and eating in Vietnam. He has graced the kitchen at your Bloguero's casa with his innovations many delicious times. He is a true and dedicated foodie. And he has received your Bloguero's culinary seal of approval. Put another way, the dude knows food. Especially Asian food. So you may want to visit So, if you have a stomach and like putting delicious things in your mouth, you really must visit his new blog, The Missing Ingredient: Notes from the Streets of Southeast Asia.

Your Bloguero loves the blog. He only wishes the pixels were edible. Go there. Now. Salivate. Enjoy.

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sábado, junio 02, 2012

Is This What Blog Death Looks Like?


For a long time (in Internet terms) there was a group blog called “Writing In The Raw.” I liked it.I posted at it. I liked some of the writing there. I liked conversing with some of the writers. It was a small but clever community. It was more personal and homey than the giant orange group blog. And less prone to pie fights and tantrums. In fact, it had its roots there because people wanted something more personal.

A long time ago (in Internet terms), in other words, a year ago, Writing In The Raw sputtered to a halt. I don’t know why. Or I have forgotten why. And then it was magically revived with a new address. And now, well, now it looks like the air’s again come out of the tires, and it’s just lying there, prone. Is it still breathing? If it is, it's not enough to fog up a mirror.

There have been three posts since May 8. Two of those are mine. And of the two, the most recent asks simple questions:

What happened to us? What happened here?
Are we finished?

This is probably what blog death looks like. Blog death probably comes with question marks and not periods. It probably comes with silence and not weeping. The energy flows out of it for some unfathomable reason. It takes its last, wheezing, shallow breaths. The writers don’t show up, and they don’t write. Nobody comments. And eventually, when whatever money was paid to keep it on a server runs out, there’s a void. An error 505 message. It’s gone. It's taken down. And it disappears except in our vague, evanescent memories. There is no memorial service, no funeral, no procession, no wake, no shiva.

I’ve seen it before. Frequently. One quick example: I used to love the AOL Chat called “Writers’ Café.” That was back in the early days of the Internet, the early '90's. The chat was fun. And new. And then one day, poof. Gone. It just disappeared. Some of the writers later resurfaced on Twitter and made connections again. But the chat, and it was one with some remarkable characters, just died. Again, there was no grave stone. No memorial. No funeral. No despacho. Just nothing. Only silence.

If there’s an afterlife for all of the blogs and chats that just disappear and evaporate into thin air, it’s a very brief one. It’s in the participants’ memories and their bookmarks. Ever so briefly. It’s rare for anyone to write anything memorializing it. There are no appreciations, no thanks, no farewells. There are virtually no eulogies. No. We, the contributors, the writers just go on to the next thing, whatever that may be, leaving behind us the dry pixels that used to be something, as if it were just an empty water bottle we put down at the gym and then forgot about, leaving it for somebody else to throw away.

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sábado, diciembre 17, 2011

An Extremely Brief Hiatus

Punta Bahia Soliman, Tulum

Today's local paper reports about Sonny Rollins, one of my favorite musicians, and his recent presidential honor at Kennedy Center. The important part of Rollins's story to this post is that from 1959 to 1961, he took a famous "sabbatical," a hiatus from performing and recording, and he worked on his music by himself. Privately. And he didn't play for listeners. It's told that he practiced in this period on the Williamsburg Bridge. And it's told that he was "frustrated with what he perceived as his own musical limitations."

Asked about this hiatus by the local paper some fifty years later, Rollins said:

“I took a break because I felt I wasn’t playing as well as I could. I had a lot of people praising me and I felt I wasn’t able to live up to it. I have pride in what I do. You have to have strength with your convictions. When I came back from hiatus, people said I didn’t sound any different. That did not matter to me because I did learn something whether or not they heard it. I listened to my inner voice and that was the main thing,” said Rollins.

Put another way, Rollins took some time-- for him it was about 3 years-- to recharge, reorient, resuscitate, restore his edge.

Which brings this post to me, your humble Bloguero. My present judgment, that I'm not writing as well as I can, that my writing is getting stale, formulaic, tired, seems to have been coming out lately in my projections, specifically, that not enough people are reading me, that not enough comments are made, that not enough clicks are received. Habla bla bla bla. This feels like whining. Or whinging (thank you, Xanthe) as one astute reader recently pointed out. The most recent example is here (a special thanks to Diane). The problem, of course, as usual with projection is that it's not the readers' problems. Not at all. Never is. It's not you. It's not outside of me. It's me. So I have decided to ask myself, "You talkin to me? You talking to me?" Well, yeah.

There are two parts of this. First, after a five year slog, Tulum has finally been published. I can write post after post after attempted cleaver post asking people to buy it online at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and iUniverse. I can tell you what a great gift and stocking stuffer it is. But let's face it, I don't like being stuck on that topic for long and using my keyboard as a blunt instrument of book marketing. No fun. Stale. Second, and maybe this is part of the first thing, the space that launching the book into the world might have created in my inner world, space to think about new things, space to dream up new ideas, space that is empty, space that is fresh, seems to be cluttered. With commerce. And work. And fatigue. And cobwebs. Again, no fun. Not for me, and definitely not for you.

And so, I've decided to take some time, a very little time, just from here to the end of the year, benignly to neglect this blog. To assume blog silence for a couple of weeks. To travel into the darkest, shortest day of the year in silence. To be quiet. To be still. To rest. To see, whether with some silence and soon the lengthening of the days, my edge is burnished. And my fatigue is banished. And there is more light and heat and creativity. So I can come back in 2012 restored, rested, renewed.

That makes this, as I walk away, a great time to post this blog's annual greeting:


Felices Fiestas! Queremos tomar esta tiempo para ofrecerle nuestros mejores deseos a usted y sus seres queridos. Esperamos que su hogar este lleno de gozo, cordialidad y buena voluntad durante esta temporada de fiestas. Que usted y su familia gozen de paz, felicidad y buena salud durante el nuevo ano.

Seasons Greetings! We'd like to take this time to extend our very best wishes to you and your loved ones. We hope your home will be filled with joy, warmth and goodwill during this holiday season. May you and your family enjoy peace, happiness, and good health throughout the coming year.

Hasta pronto.

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miércoles, junio 08, 2011

How Many "L's" Are There In "Gullible"

Egg meet face. Or maybe not. Yesterday, your Bloguero became incensed that Syrian authorities or other bad people had seized or kidnapped Syrian Blogger Amina Abdallah, and your Bloguero rushed to post about it, not just here but at about five other sites, using a photo your Bloguero (and most of the world's media) then thought was Amina Abdallah.

Almost immediately, the claim arose that the woman in the photo wasn't really Amina. No, it was apparently somebody else, from England, named Jelena Lecic. OK, your Bloguero thought, somebody is trying to undercut the kidnapping story. Then your Bloguero, ever suspicious, thought, no, Amina had used somebody else's picture so that she would not be so easily identified by Syrian police thugs. That made sense. Then your Bloguero thought, well, and maybe her nom de ecran isn't her real name either. And then, gnawing at your Bloguero's brain stem, the thought arose, "Ut oh. Maybe you're gullible and maybe this whole thing is just an enormous hoax." That ugly, reptilian thought was one your Bloguero immediately filed in his vast personal filing cabinet of ugly, reptillian thoughts.

Your Bloguero thought, "Well, let's see what is next." Today what was next was not pretty. MSNBC reported that Jelena Lecic claims that Amina stole her identity:

The reported disappearance of a gay Syrian-American blogger has attracted skepticism after a London woman claimed the photos published by news organizations worldwide are of her, not of the blogger, and that the blogger stole her identity a year ago.

... News sites, including msnbc.com, reported the 36-year-old writer's disappearance on Tuesday, along with a photo of her.

On Wednesday, a London publicist said photos circulating are actually of Jelena Lecic, a Croatian woman who works as an administrator at the Royal College of Physicians in London. Lecic believes her identity has been used before by Arraf.

Jelena Lenic, who lives in London, said her photo was used alongside stories about a missing Syrian blogger. The blogger has previously claimed photos of Lecic were of her, she said.
"Just over a year ago, a friend called Jelena up and said, 'Do you have another identity up on Facebook? Because there's someone else who has your pictures up but not your name," publicist Julius Just told msnbc.com. "She and her friend complained, and Facebook removed it, and she believed it was the end of the matter."

But when news of Arraf's disappearance broke, Just said Lecic saw her photo alongside the story in London's Guardian newspaper. It was one of the same photos her friend had spotted on Facebook a year ago under a different profile name: Amina Abdalla Arraf....

[Lecic's] publicist said he questioned whether Arraf was a real person.
"She could be a composite. Who knows? She claims online that she was born in the United States, but researchers can find no records of her born in the U.S.," Just told msnbc.com. "Why would you take another woman's identity and claim it as your own? If she is real, Jelena is extremely concerned for her and her family, but her identity has been stolen. This is a serious situation."

Egged on by the "publicist" MSNBC reported that apparently nobody had seen Amina in person. And it wondered aloud whether she existed. It accepted without investigation that claim that there was no record of her in the US. Heaven knows how the "publicist" could know that. One thing is for sure: if she didn't exist, the story of the kidnapping was baloney. Hmmm. That too sounded odd.

So apparently a woman who is an administrator at the London College of Physicians has a "publicist". And that publicist is now speculating on whether or not Amina really exists. And talking about an investigation of US records about Amina. How curious.

Maybe your Bloguero should go around with a shirt with an enormous "G" for gullible stenciled on it. Maybe not. The compelling part of the story is that a blogger would be targeted by the government or thugs because of what she said and would be kidnapped or seized or maybe even disappeared. As a blogger, your Bloguero felt compelled to speak out about this. And he did. But today there is still that loud gnawing on your Bloguero's brain stem.

Is your Bloguero (and the rest of the Blogosfero) being played for the sentimental, self righteous fool? And if he is, is this just the latest attempt by Syrian and other despotic authorities to silence the chattering Blogosfero? Or is the story a real one?

Amina's blog, "A Gay Girl In Damascus," hasn't been updated since late Monday. The story in the Traditional Media is now no longer about a kidnapping. It's about whether there was a hoax.

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jueves, abril 21, 2011

This Is The One Thousandth Post On The Dream Antilles


This is quite a milestone. This is the one thousandth post at the Dream Antilles.

The DA began in August, 2005, as a way to promote my 2005 novel, The Dream Antilles. It did that for a while, but it quickly morphed into something else entirely: a quirky, eccentric, idiosyncratic collection of posts about books, writers, writing, politics, Latin America, law, culture, music and all kinds of other things. I haven’t worried much about whether what I was writing was on topic. Or whether it fit in the DA. Or whether there were any readers. If I had something to say, I wrote. What I’ve been concerned with most is telling these stories. And then putting them up.

Because the commenting on the DA is en Espanol, and because it is moderated, it’s not easy just to read and drop a quick a comment. That would be too simple. You have to really want to comment at the DA. And there are several incentives to getting frustrated and dropping the idea. Especially if the reader doesn’t have a basic command of Romance Languages 101. This wasn’t intended. It’s just how it developed. Strangely, obstructing readers from commenting has become important to the DA. I can’t really tell whether anybody is reading the DA or whether the pieces are liked. Very few people challenge or compliment my views. I don’t get the kind of feedback that I imagine blogs were originally supposed to provide. There’s not a lot of interaction among me and the readers, if any. The truth is that I keep writing the DA because I’m concerned with telling these stories. It’s important for me to write them. Yes, I hope they are being read. I’d love it if they were being appreciated. But, no, that’s not the reason for my doing it. I’d do it anyway. Even if I were one of just a few readers.

I’ve tried to keep the DA pure. The DA has never been about making money. I’ve never tried to monetize (a transitive (?) verb I have doubts about). And I haven’t tried to become famous. Nor have I tried to remain anonymous, or mysterious. I’ve just showed up and written. And I haven’t really tried to promote the DA. Yes, I’ve cross posted pieces. That was because for them I wanted a wider audience. If readers then came to the DA to find what else I was writing, I was happy with that. If the DA has grown, it has done so organically. Because readers by hook or by crook found it and perhaps returned to it.

There are no secrets in the DA about who is writing it. People who care about this can find out all about me if they want to. If anything, my opinions in the DA make what I think an open book. If anybody cares what I think, s/he can easily find out. As a friend said recently, “I’m out about my beliefs and my thinking.” This, as it turns out, is a recipe for my personal comfort. And for the freedom to write whatever I choose. I like the smoothness of that. It’s pure.

So I am celebrating this milestone. To be frank, I didn’t realize I was approaching it until last week. And then I was astonished. How, I wondered, could I write all of those pieces? How could I have such an outpouring? Isn’t that incredible? I thought. The muse, the creative muse, the dream muse have all been fabulously kind to me. Bless them for not taking extended vacations and for helping me with this. And for not teasing me too much. And for not trying unnecessarily to teach me about humility. I am so grateful.

How did I do it? I wrote prophetically on the very first day at the DA. In response to the question, “You have to dig a hole to China. Where do you start?” I wrote, “At the beginning.” And that's what I did. I wrote. And I didn't look in the rear view mirror.

When the celebration is complete, I will continue to write the DA.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. I look forward to whatever’s next.

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viernes, abril 15, 2011

The Dream Machine


I'm sure I am dreaming. There are telltale signs. I’m sitting at a sidewalk café. I’m not sure who the gray bearded, rumpled, bespeckled guy sitting with me is. That is a sign. The table is right on the street. People are placing small packages of Kleenex on its edge as they do in Buenos Aires and then collecting them, but this café seems to be in Brooklyn. Maybe Williamsburg. That is a sign. The waiter, who is smoking and ogling two young women across the street, is ignoring us even though our glasses have been empty for a while. My companion strums his fingers on the table top, makes a noise of impatience, excuses himself, walks up to the waiter, places his arm around his shoulder and walks him back to our table. The waiter is smiling, passive. That is a sign.

We order more red wine. I want an empanada. They don’t have that. Do I want to see the menu? I don’t. What do you have that is like an empanada? I ask. Insouciance, says my companion. Be nice, says the waiter. I can’t eat that, I say. How, I wonder, can there be no empanadas? I’ll bring your wine and the menu, the waiter says, as he escapes. I have the thought that he will never come back. My companion shakes his head wearily.

“As I was saying,” my companion continues, ”people just don’t share and participate in the big dreams now the way the used to. Yeah, they can quote from The Big Lebowski or Seinfeld or other artifacts of pop culture, but they don’t know the books. They don’t know the ideas, the concepts. The canon. The history. The foundation. And if they don’t know the foundation, how can they possibly share the dreams? Their dreams are untethered, confused, ill formed because they’re not properly educated to participate in these big dreams.” He stares across the street at passers by. “Their dreams are about things, not inspiration. Know what I mean?”

I have no idea what he’s talking about. I look at him. He really is a wild man. He needs a shave. His hair is mussed. His clothing is out of date. No, I don’t want a cigarette. He fires one up. “I don’t know,” I say softly. “Oh,” he raises an eyebrow. “Sure you do,” he whispers Silence.

I begin. “You mean we don’t share dreams and ideals because we’re not educated about them? We don't know the history?” I ask him. He nods. “Maybe we think about consumer goods instead of ideology because we’re trained to do that. Maybe people just care about themselves and their things because we’re in a deep trance, we’re totally drugged, we’re sound asleep.” He nods and pulls his beard a little. "Maybe we've lost our souls," I say.

“Listen,” he says. “There’s something I want to show you. It’s in the basement. It will remind you of what it was like before the trance.”

We walk through the café. The waiter passes us carrying our two glasses of wine. He has no menu. We walk to the back, and my companion opens the door to the basement stairway that says, “No Entrance,” in two languages.

He flips on a light, we descend a wooden stariway. In the middle of the room, under a clear plastic sheet, is a black and silver machine. He pulls the plastic off of it. He points at it.

“What is it?”

“It’s a mimeograph machine. It’s like a printing press. Or a copy machine. It’s what we used to make copies of papers about fifty years ago. And this is a very special one. It ran all day and all night long putting out broadsides calling for the overthrow of the military government. And for solidarity with the workers. And in opposition to the police. It poured out inspiration, and news, and organization, and ideas, and of course, dreams.”

“We don’t have this any more. We don’t have people to carry the papers and pass them out and put them under doors and paste them on the walls and put them under windshield wipers. We don’t have people passing out poems and arguments in cafes. We don’t have physical communities and discussions with strangers. Now we have blogging. Instead. This is gone. Isn’t that sad?”

I put my nose up against the machine to see whether any of that distinctive alcohol smell from decades ago, the intoxicating smell that used to be on school test papers, remained. It was all gone.

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viernes, marzo 04, 2011

Bloger@s: Play The Game Right

It's Friday. Some of my favorite blogs have been convulsed in conflagration. I spare you the facts, the details, the opinions, the analysis. The bottom line is that even though lots of us write under anonymous names, even though we get paid nothing for our labor, we're prone to defend our good names, even if they're not our names, fiercely and without restraint, and we'll fight with each to cyber-death and banning and recrimination and across several blogs all in response to real or perceived calumnies against our good character. In other words, what used to be called "ego trips" abound on the Internet. And they leave the expected carnage behind them. And the carnage travels from URL to URL. Until somebody steps in to stop it.

People who probably have a great deal in common with each other and probably agree with each other about a lot of things sometimes fight bitterly and rant and rave and flame and wag their metaphorical fingers in another's face because, well, they are frustrated or they got mad. They usually get angry because of perceived unfairness or inequality or judgments they dispute. And then, and this is the important part, they defend themselves. It doesn't matter whether or not the grievance is or is not justified. The essays and diaries in which this defense of one's self is taken up and in which the inevitable recrimination is unleashed will get hundreds and hundreds of comments. Far more comments than serious essays about serious topics ever get. Far more readers than serious pieces. People who haven't posted a word in months will suddenly start to comment. This kind of meta, the kind that wakes up most lurkers and makes those in the peanut gallery point and laugh and cover their eyes and hide under the nearest table, convulses blogs and those who read them. Sometimes the blogs never recover. Some participants are thrown overboard, others jump. Most people stand on the sidelines and shake their heads, happy to avoid the stray punch or broken bottle. Months later they will discuss what happened the same way survivors of Katrina talk about that. Except this was no Katrina. Not even close.

We're people after all. And writers. We're prone to exaggeration and umbrage. Only we're not in the same room. And our imagined friends, those whom we support and agree with, and our imagined enemies, those whom we decry and flame, are too often projections of our own insecurities, our hunger for fame, our search for appreciation and validation from external sources, our pride, our need for recognition, and most of all our thinking that we're somehow special. Sometimes we have delusions of adequacy. Other times we're simply grandiose. And ridiculous.

When Charlie Sheen this week repeatedly told reporters he was special, we guffawed. No matter. We then fought and accused and threatened and ranted in defense of how special, though unacknowledged, we really are. And how wrong those who disagreed were, even if they were our friends. We posited how those who argued were involved in evil conspiracies, how they were stooges for others, sockpuppets, paid provocateurs, on and on and on. And of course, we rehashed for the millionth time who gets to make the final decision on who can post on various blogs. And who cannot. And why. Enough. Basta ya.

I am tempted to speak of this as if I were the Prophet Isaiah. For verily, thou hast smitten thy nearest neighbor and have stood on the ashes of his home and have no regrets but your self righteousness abounds and causes others to weep. Or I could speak of this as if I were Polonius:

Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportion'd thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar;
The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel

But I spare you (and me).

What has once again transgressed is the usual admonition, to be excellent to each other. That's one thing that we haven't done. We pay it lip service. But then we explode. We accuse. We fight. We defend. We should be excellent to each other, but sometimes we forget. We should remember it more. Here's Ziggy Marley:

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lunes, febrero 21, 2011

I'm Not Going Nowhere

Today the New York Times reports that blogs written by children are waning because young people have gravitated to Twitter and Facebook. It neglects to note that many of those blogs, especially those written by junior high schoolers, weren't anything you would ever want to read on a regular basis. There are exceptions: if the blogger were your own kid, and you wanted to know what s/he was up to, a service well provided now by Facebook and Twitter, you might find the blog interesting. Or at least telling. This has something to do with the evolution of the Internet.

Writes the Gray Lady:

Blogs were once the outlet of choice for people who wanted to express themselves online. But with the rise of sites like Facebook and Twitter, they are losing their allure for many people — particularly the younger generation.

The Internet and American Life Project at the Pew Research Center found that from 2006 to 2009, blogging among children ages 12 to 17 fell by half; now 14 percent of children those ages who use the Internet have blogs. Among 18-to-33-year-olds, the project said in a report last year, blogging dropped two percentage points in 2010 from two years earlier.

Former bloggers said they were too busy to write lengthy posts and were uninspired by a lack of readers. Others said they had no interest in creating a blog because social networking did a good enough job keeping them in touch with friends and family.


Yeah, ok. Does that mean that blogs are waning, as the headline pronounces ("Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites Like Twitter")? Well, only sort of. It means that people select the service or platform that serves their needs.

There's not much of a story here. In the beginning, before blogs, there were Listservs. They're still around. They put an email in your box about something you're interested in. Nothing more, nothing less. Nothing mysterious. You could send the same email to a thousand people, all of whom were willing to receive it. In the beginning, the Listserv was all there was, so it had to do everything.

Then there were blogs. And blog-like things, Livejournal and MySpace. These bloggy-like things, I think, are now pretty much fossils. Real blogs? Not at all.

Initially, a lot of what got put up on blogs was awful to read, but that didn't matter because again that was all there was. Heaven knows how many abandoned blogs there are. Blogs with one entry, "Oh, so now I can blog, see?" Blogs that haven't had an entry in 5 years. Blogs that nobody ever read. The list goes on. The extinction level was and is enormous. Blogs require writing and a certain level of persistence. If I returned to a blog and saw that nothing had been posted for 90 days, I knew it was most likely dead. That happened frequently. Still does.

Then along came Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is great to keep in touch with people. You can return to what was posted last week or last month if you want to. Twitter on the other hand is much quicker, but doesn't leave much of a trail. If you have a lot of people you're following, it scrolls fast and is always on to the next thing as fast as you can refresh.

All of this depends entirely on what you want. And because people probably will want something that these outlets don't yet provide (I don't know what that is), there will probably be the next new something launched right after I post this.

People who use the Internet find the services that let them do what they want. I use Twitter (@thedavidseth), I use Facebook (my real, 3 word name). I have a couple of Listservs I use (e.g., this one about the death penalty) that I've kept going since 2002. The idea, and it's a very modest one, is that various platforms are good for some things and not so good for others. When there were few options, everything got used for, well, everything. Now there are enough options that people can gravitate to what seems works for them, and they do.

This particular blog, The Dream Antilles, serves me excellently to do what I want it to do: it provides analysis and opinion, and it has particular subjects that it is about. I spare you a list. If you're reading this, you know what the focus is (or can easily find out) because there are more than 950 posts. And you no doubt know (and hopefully forgive) the idiosyncrasies and extremes of your humble bloguer@.

So this blog is not waning. No, it's continuing. Here's Dylan:

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sábado, febrero 12, 2011

A Piece Of Internet History

The following screenshot marks the end of a period of Internet history, and I think the end of the influence of dailyKos on the left-blogosfero. I think that enormous group blog will now be divided up in a way that the previous vital cacophony will die down, groups will be isolated, and ultimately, it will feel and look a lot like Left Coast FacebookTM:


I, as I said before, will not follow the masses to the new format/platform, because I am not providing big sites with any more free content.

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lunes, febrero 07, 2011

Sorry, Ariana and Markos, No More Free Content For You

I know all too much about writing for free. I do it here all the time. It's a labor of love. I've been at it for more than 900 blog posts and more than 5 years. I know about writing without being paid for it. Despite that, and despite my understanding that when I post at group blogs I know I won't get paid, I am absolutely furious about the AOL-Huffington Post Deal. Why? Because the writers are getting screwed, and they're not going to get a cent out of the deal. Not a sou.

The news this morning-- I'm sure you haven't missed it-- was that that beleaguered, dinosaur of dial up AOL has bought Huffington Post and made that doyenne of self promotion and faux progressive politics, Arianna, an AOL executive. Here's the essence of the story from the New York Times:

The two companies completed the sale Sunday evening and announced the deal just after midnight on Monday. AOL will pay $315 million, $300 million of it in cash and the rest in stock. It will be the company's largest acquisition since it was separated from Time Warner in 2009.
The deal will allow AOL to greatly expand its news gathering and original content creation, areas that its chief executive, Tim Armstrong, views as vital to reversing a decade-long decline.

Arianna Huffington, the cable talk show pundit, author and doyenne of the political left, will take control of all of AOL's editorial content as president and editor in chief of a newly created Huffington Post Media Group. The arrangement will give her oversight not only of AOL's national, local and financial news operations, but also of the company's other media enterprises like MapQuest and Moviefone.

Meanwhile, the bloggers at HuffPo, the ones who provide the "original content creation", that was just sold for $315,000,000.00 get, wait for it, nothing. Zilch. Nada. Zero. And in an email this morning to bloggers, Ariana told them not to worry, no te preocupes, they could still churn out "original content creation", just like before, and well, continue to get the same nothing for it:

The HuffPost blog team will continue to operate as it always has. Arianna will become editor-in-chief not only of HuffPost but of the newly formed Huffington Post Media Group, which will include all of AOL's content sites, including Patch, Engadget, TechCrunch, Moviefone, PopEater, MapQuest, Black Voices, and Moviefone.

Together, our companies will have a combined base of 117 million unique U.S. visitors a month -- and 250 million around the world -- so your posts will have an even bigger impact on the national and global conversation. That's the only real change you'll notice -- more people reading what you wrote.

Far from changing the Huffington Post's editorial approach, our culture, or our mission, it will be like stepping off a fast-moving train and onto a supersonic jet. We're still traveling toward the same destination, with the same people at the wheel, and with the same goals, but we're now going to get there much, much faster.

When I first read this, I was furious. I quickly penned an essay, which I published at dailyKos in which I argued that the bloggers, the writers at HuffPo were being screwed because they weren't getting a cent out of the $315 million dollar deal.

To my amazement, many of the comments to that essay told me that I was off base. Did I write for free and publish my writing at daily Kos? Yes. Didn't I do that because it would expose me to a wide audience? Yes. Didn't I write it all for free, without hope of money? Yes. Didn't I? I did. What kind of loon (I'm paraphrasing here) would think that he should write hundreds of diaries for free and that when the platform was sold, he should receive something? You've already received something, it was argued, you got the exposure and a larger audience for your writing. You don't, it was argued, deserve anything more. You get bupkis from the $315 million deal; you don't deserve more than that.

That just may be so. I never posted an essay or a comment at HuffPo. So I don't deserve any of the $315,000,000 Ariana and her investors are being paid. I figure that if Ariana put 1% of the deal up and gave it to the writers, there would be $3.15 million to distribute. How many writers could there be? If there were 1,000, they could each be given $3,150. They could be told, "Thank you for writing for free. Because your writing helped me make a bundle, I've decided to send you this small check as a token of my appreciation. Your writing is worth far more than this amount, but this is something I want you to have as a token of my gratitude. It's not pay. It's a gift. You helped me make a big score, and I want to thank you for that."

MSNBC is reporting that HuffPo had 6,000 free bloggers writing for it (last sentence of linked article). If that's so, the 1% gratuity would come to about $500 per person. And the number of people who wrote so that Ariana could be well paid would be enormouse.

At any rate, you'd expect some acknowledgment of the bloggers and writers. You wouldn't expect anything less from a progressive. When somebody at the race track gives you a tip, and you bet the horse, and it wins, you always give the tipper some of the winning. When a football quarterback wins a big game, he takes the linemen out to dinner and drinks. You have gratitude for those who make it possible to win. When someone in business helps you out and you have gratitude, you send flowers or wine or a fruit basket. Or you pay for a meal. These are expressions of gratitude for help. They are always appreciated, especially if your original deal was that you wouldn't be paid.

Is Ariana going to get out her check book and write a check, or is she going to sit on it? Probably the latter. So I won't be signing up to write at HuffPo at any time soon. And I'll support Al Giordano and others who have decided to take down their writing from the site.

Which brings me to Markos and dailyKos. I have loved writing for dailyKos over the years. But if today's events tell me anything, it's that dailyKos might well be the next group web site to be sold for hundreds of millions of dollars. And it's the same as HuffPo in this: there are many, many talented people writing diaries there. There is some brilliant writing. That writing is the value of the site. And that writing is being given to the site and its readership for free. And when the site is ultimately acquired by the capitalists with the big check books and they write Markos a gigantic check, what then? Same story, different day. I'll be told that I agreed to write for free, that I had a large audience, and that is all. I got what I deserve; I will get nothing more. Things will be the same with the new corporate master. Why, I wonder, should I or anyone else contribute our writing, increase the value of the site, and then, poof, have it be sold while we receive nothing?

As America's former poet laureate tried to say, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." So, no, I'm done. I will not be moving to DK4 when the site changes over this week. I will not be publishing any further diaries at dailyKos. I am not willing to continue to provide value to dailyKos that will eventually be sold without any payment of any kind to me. No. I'm done. I'll stick to my blog and to the Writers Port Alliance. You can join me there or at the other Writers Port Alliance sites (all listed at the top of this blog)

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domingo, enero 02, 2011

2011



Oddly apt for 2011. How did I get here is a really good question. It's not a question frequently asked by ostriches. Or emus. But enough of the ornithological digression.

Welcome to The Dream Antilles for 2011. This is the 900th post on this blog.

We could try to improve things here this year. We might fix the broken links on the right margin, or the parts over there that won't light up any more. We might even make it easier for non-Spanish speakers to leave comments. But who are we kidding? It's not likely. What's more probable is that our many idiosyncrasies will continue. And become more pronounced. I guess if you're reading this you probably expect that. That's what will have to pass for charm in 2011.

May you have a wonderful 2011, one in which all of your dreams come true.

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lunes, diciembre 20, 2010

And Now, Paranoia

I'm not really an anonymous blogger. You can easily find out my name and where I am and what I think and what I do for a living. After all, my blog, The Dream Antilles has about 900 posts over more than 5 years, so what I think and write is by now no surprise.

Today, though, I had a bit of a paranoid moment.

I have a google alert in my actual name, so that when my name appears anywhere on the Internet, I will know where it appears and what it says about me. Today I got one of those emails.

It referred to me by name and it was a quote from an essay I published at Writing in the Raw on December 8, "I'm Bernie Sanders, And You're Bernie Sanders, Too" Hmmm. The same quote also appeared here at Dream Antilles, at docuDharma, at Wild Wild Left, and maybe daily Kos.

The quote:
it was the most important political speech-- by far-- of the past two years. Seldom, if ever, has anyone seized the spotlight to discuss and examine so thoroughly the plundering of the nation by its wealthiest citizens.

The problem wasn't the quote, or that it left out the part I liked best of the second paragraph of the essay. No. The problem, if it was one, was that I was quoted by name in Al Jazeera..

I have no animus for Al Jazeera. But there are a lot of people who do.

And now friends of mine who I told about this odd quotation are asking me how long it will be before I am on the no fly list, and how long it will be before I come up on "Patriot Act" searches, and how long it will take me to cross the US - Canada border, and whether my phones are now being tapped, and I'm being followed at a discreet distance wherever I go.

Very funny. I guess. I guess I'll see about this. Won't I?

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martes, noviembre 16, 2010

And How Are We Today?


Woof Woof Woof Woof. Repeat as necessary.

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viernes, agosto 06, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dream Antilles! On 8/7/10 You Are Five.

I almost missed it. I almost missed the actual 5 year anniversary of this blog. It's 8/7/10.

This is post number 814. I am astonished.

Thank you for visiting.

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viernes, julio 09, 2010

The Five Year Blogaversary: 8/7/10

Boy is this ever weird.

August 7, 2010, is the fifth anniversary of this blog. This is the 794th post. I have no clue how many people have visited here. I have no idea who has read what. I imagine that only I have read it all.

I have enhanced my own ignorance about the readership. Who is reading and what. You may recall that in a moment of clarity I proclaimed that I wasn't going to keep track of statistics any more, and I then took down all the counters. The counters, truth be told, didn't work very well anyway. It wasn't a big deal. I made believe it was.

Come to think of it, there have been a lot of quirky things in the five years. One of them is that the readership has been surprisingly quiet. The other is that nobody tells me that I've jumped the shark. I am far more ignored than scolded.

So here I am. I'm five years older than when I started. This is my Polonius moment. I probably write faster. Do I write any better? Doubtful. I have aphorisms, though: Writing fast is a virtue, editing fast is an important skill. Persistence has some value. Neither a borrower nor a curmudgeon be.

There are five years of writing piled up behind me. And the open road ahead. I guess I'll continue so long as this is still fun.

As ever, thanks for reading. And while we're at it, do you think you could order my book?

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sábado, octubre 03, 2009

Starting Over: Pontifications From A Nobody

Yesterday, I put up a diary at GOS decrying how our writing had become so completely predictable, so formulaic, so prosaic. It was derivative, and it was funny. But it was also extremely sad. In many ways it was a commentary on the powerlessness of progressive bloggers: we can yell louder, we can scream, we can write explosive rants. But you know what? It isn't changing anything. And frankly, I'm tired of our dogged, persistent pursuit of something that's not working. And, I suspect, isn't going to work.

Maybe you're lucky and can write face blistering essays on this site and you can have readers tell you how right on you are. How smart, how important, how clear. But if you're poor and without a job, or if you're sick and you don't have insurance, or if you're running out of unemployment benefits and the next job isn't in sight, or if your kids are in trouble and you don't know how to help them out, or if you are overdue to retire and you don't have the funds and have to work, or your wage slave pay isn't going to bail you out unless you win Megamillions and you're not too big to fail, or your kids are in the military, these essays aren't going to help you. Not at all. They're just going to highlight how you have somebody's boot on your neck. And you cannot get it off. And they're bound to inform you, if you don't know it already, about how very weak you are and how very powerless we as a group (I'm talking about progressives) remain.

Look. I'm just a writer. I'm mostly anonymous (though I have a web presence). I have my opinions. I have some ideas. I have my private life. I have my work. I wish, I really do wish, we could all be free from suffering and illness and hatred. I wish progressives had some real power. I wish we had influence. I wish we'd all wake up tomorrow morning and be covered by Medicare. I wish the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan would be over. I wish unemployment would be extended until the economy turns around. I wish foreclosures would be stayed. I wish we'd all have enough to eat, adequate shelter, first rate health care, decent education, a whole shopping basket of safety net programs. I wish we would have something that resembled a moderate, socialist European government. But we don't. And despite the electoral win this past November, we're not going to get those things. Ever.

We may have thought, in our desperation and gullibility, that our lives would change. But here we are, October, 2009, and if your life is better than it was in October, 2008, I'll be amazed. In other words, it's the same old same old and it's now time to see it for what it really is. It's the same if not worse than it was a year ago. The fantasy of structural, fundamental change was just that, a fantasy. The illusion that the Government would help is was just that, an illusion. There are still homeless people. Sick people without insurance. Unemployed people in foreclosure. And the prospect of a change for them, a change they can believe in, well, it just doesn't exist. It's not happening this year. Or next year. It's probably just not happening.

Strange as it may seem, I'm not discouraged. To me all of this means that I was making a mistake in what I thought was happening, so now I need to revise my thinking. I'm a writer. I revise all the time. I'm good at editing. I'm good at rewriting. I've spent far more time at that than writing first drafts. So I suggest to my friends who are writers, blogger@s, that we forget about starting to write chapter 2 and go back immediately to rewrite chapter 1. Put another way, we need to rethink all of our expectations, our hopes, our dreams, our demands. We need to remember that the change we can believe in was something we could be believe in, but, alas, it was just another dream. It was not real. And when we woke up, poof!, it was gone.

So I suggest that we retrench slightly, that we retreat, that we pull back. Only for a few moments. I suggest that we stop acting like the Government gives a hoot about what we think or say or write. It clearly doesn't. And I suggest that we go back to basic, modest, local things we can actually improve. That we stop being all puffed up and making believe we're powerful, and recognize that all of that, that dream, that illusion, that hope, wasn't real. No, it wasn't. We need to recognize that the struggle for a progressive America is still ahead of us in the future.

For me this means no more money to politicians or political parties. None. Nada. Zilch. I'm giving the money to local programs that help people who need help (the local co-op, the food bank, e.g.). I'm going to try directly to help people whose suffering is not being addressed.

For me this means no more acting like the national Government is influenced by what I say as opposed to those people who can and have written fat checks to the incumbents and the PACs and the political interest groups. Just look at the health care debate. I want a single payer plan. And I have insurance and in a few years I'll have medicare. It's not my personal battle, as if I would battle for a 5% "public option" anyway. I want all of us to be safe and to have appropriate care. But this debate isn't even about health care any more. Now the Administration refers to it as "Health Insurance Reform." Jeebus. But I digress.

For me this means no more acting like people read what I write on blogs and just by reading it, it changes their views. Only the trolls disagree with what I write, and we all know they suck. The rest of us, those who agree with me, are great and wonderful people. But I'm just preaching to my own choir. I like the choir, really I do. But our singing doesn't matter. Here's an example. I've been writing about Honduras. People who are for democracy agree with me. Golpistas and Republicans don't. There are lots of "Democrats" who don't understand and are so anti-Chavez that they support the golpistas. Who are these people and why are they tormenting me in the comments? If they're not being paid by the Golpe de Estado or Republicans to troll what I write, they need to get a life. And by the way, so do I. Another digression.

For me, what I'm saying means that it is time to get down to basics. Does our writing change anything? I suspect it might if we were talking about something modest, something smaller. If we had good ideas. If we had action steps that were simple. If we had a real plan. If we had command of what was wrong and what had to be done, and it didn't involve enormous, structural changes of the national legislature.

Does what we write have an effect on national or international stories? I doubt it.

What about our fame as writers? Certainly, it's not about the money (which for me has been nonexistent). What about our being recommended, making the recc lists, being "up" for days on end, being famous, being named as famous, being cited? Yeah, that's all really, really nice. And maybe some of us are in it for that, but to be frank, I'm not. I like all of that, don't get me wrong, but that's not what it's about. It's about something else. It's about being heard and having that make some changes in thinking and actions. Does that happen? I doubt it.

For me this means I'm now going to get back to basics. I've taken down the hit counters on my blog. I'm going to stop posting at Naranja. I'll continue here and at my blog and at the other small blogs that I like.

I'm going to try to break out of the formulaic box. I'm going to try to find ways we can actually make a difference. I do hope you'll all join me in that. Our present way of "doing business" is a road to persistent irrelevance.

If it's true that the keyboard is mightier than the sword, and sometimes I have my doubts about that, we need to use it for what it can do rather than as a paperweight.

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Why No Web Counters? Why'd You Remove Them?

I took all of the web counters and anything that resembled one out of the right margin of this blog. Why? Because I'm not competing with anybody, and I'm apparently going to continue writing this blog whether or not documented, huge masses of people read it (there's evidence that many, many people read this).

I don't have a hidden counter somewhere. This feels good to me: I'm not imitating the capitalist bloggers, I have no intention of figuring out how this blog can make money, I am not going to have advertising, I'm not selling anything to or for anyone. To me this feels like a recognition of just what this blog is. Nothing more. No aspirations. Just what it is: decent writing about eclectic topics. Something to be enjoyed.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I'm enjoying writing it.

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lunes, julio 27, 2009

My Impending Fifth Blogiversary

In August I will have been posting on this, my personal blog, The Dream Antilles, for five years. That's about 640 posts. Because of a host of unreliable hit counters, I don't have an exact number of how many people have visited this blog. I estimate that the number of hits is something between 50,000 and 100,000, but I can't really prove it. Maybe I'm exaggerating. Maybe not. Who knows?

This Blogiversary has to be some kind of an achievement:

"Douglas Quenqua reports in the NY Times that according to a 2008 survey only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days meaning that "95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled." Richard Jalichandra, chief executive of Technorati, said that at any given time there are 7 million to 10 million active blogs on the Internet, but it's probably between 50,000 and 100,000 blogs that are generating most of the page views. "There's a joke within the blogging community that most blogs have an audience of one."
source

So we live in a world in which most individual blogs are quickly dropped. I can easily understand why. The reason has to do with the need repeatedly to create content. It's easy to post once. But after that, the road is strewn with casualties and unposted rough drafts. In fact, it requires writing regularly, which anyone will tell you, isn't all that easy. Writing regularly is far easier in theory than in practice. In practice it requires something that looks and feels a lot like work, only you don't get paid for it.

Keeping an old style, individual blog afloat with original content has to be a labor of love. Or of obsession. In a way an old (more than 3 years is old) personal blog resembles a treasured fountain pen or beloved portable typewriter or even a well worn pencil. Using it becomes second nature. For me it has become something I do, whether or not anyone is looking. Why I would do this is a harder question by far. It has something to do with writing and having things I want to say about topics that interest me. In some ways it's like those other pursuits one embarks on just because they're there.

And most times, nobody's looking. Group blogs get far more hits in a day than I get in a month. Some blogs get as many hits in an hour as I've had in 5 years. None of that really seems to matter. I go on and on and on. I continue to have things I want to say, so I say them. If people read it, that's great. If they don't, I'll just continue to write and to hope that some fine day readers will discover my blog and get lost in it for an hour or two and that they'll enjoy the way it makes time disappear. After all, that's what it's here for.

Which brings me back to this Fifth Blogiversary. I have no idea how to celebrate this milestone. But I suspect that you, dear readers, might have ideas. Any suggestions you have are appreciated. That's why you can post comments.

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