Just Say No

It’s something that John Amato, host of the political blog Crooks and Liars, knows all too well. Mr. Amato rarely steps away from his site for any significant amount of time, although he finds updating the page multiple times a day exhausting. “You become your blog,” says Mr. Amato, whose site gets an average of 150,000 hits a day. “It’s John Amato. They’re used to John Amato.”

Some bloggers thrive on the manic pace. Getaways for Jim Romenesko, host of the popular media blog bearing his name, consist of a Friday afternoon drive every month or so from his home in the Chicago suburbs to visit friends in Milwaukee. The 85-mile trip should last around 90 minutes. For Mr. Romenesko, it takes nearly four hours — because he stops at eight different Starbucks on the way to update his site.

The longest Mr. Romenesko has refrained from posting on his site, which gets about 70,000 hits a day, was for one week three years ago on the insistence of site owner, the Poynter Institute. He hasn’t taken a vacation in seven years. “The column’s called Romenesko,” he says. “I just feel it should be Romenesko” who writes it.

While it may seem like a chore to outsiders, many bloggers enjoy the compulsion. Mark Lisanti, who runs the entertainment gossip blog Defamer, is much like Mr. Romenesko in his no-vacation tendencies. Although he gets three weeks off each year from Gawker Media, which owns the site, he rarely takes a day. Not because he can’t, he just doesn’t want to. “My plan is to die face down on the desk in the middle of a post,” Mr. Lisanti jokes.

Jeff Jarvis, author of the political blog BuzzMachine, knows the feeling. He has always posted during his annual vacation to Skytop Lodge in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. When the resort had only an expensive Internet connection, he paid the hefty fee to keep his blog current. His son, Jake, now 14 years old, paid for half of the connection costs so he could keep up his technology blog, Wire Catcher.

Mr. Jarvis says he can count the number of days he’s spent away from his blog on one hand. On the occasional break — for a day or less — he opts to leave his blog “dark,” or untouched, rather than have someone fill in for him. “It’s just my space,” he says.

From here. Related: Kate and I recently had the realization that we haven’t had a “take some time off and go somewhere” vacation for over a year, and on the weekend trip we’re planning on taking to change that, we’re both going to take our laptops to keep up with deadlines and everything that has to be done. For me, it’s partly the fear of saying no to things and then finding out that they’d never be offered to me again; so many years as a freelancer, and I still have that panic. It’s ridiculous.

366 Songs 215: PO Box 9847

Whether it’s the sinking strings, the thumping piano or rolling drums, there’s a ridiculous amount to love in this song, and that’s before you even get to the fantastic, tongue-in-cheek lyrics (“I’ve been writing advertising/That’s not really me”). This is from a relatively late-era Monkees album, The Birds, The Bees And The Monkees, recorded after Peter Tork had left the band, but they were still cherrypicking the best material from other writers; this is a Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart-written song, and the two had actually recorded it themselves earlier, in an almost equally-enjoyable version:

There are a lot of love songs about being in love, or unrequited love, or losing love. There aren’t that many about wanting to be in love, or advertising yourself for the experience. If they could all be as good as this one, I’d heartily co-sign any petition you’d want to change that.

“If You Go Into Those Internet Worlds… That Will Drive You Off Your Rocker”

I don’t go on the Internet. I never go on the Internet. I don’t go on Twitter. I’m not on Facebook. I’ve seen friends go into dark, dark holes of sadness because of that. Frankly, I don’t have the time or the attention span for it. I would rather go to a movie with my free time than be on the Internet. To me the computer is still where I type my script and that’s it. My whole thing about Facebook is I don’t understand, you have email. Friends are like, “Yeah, but I want to send you pictures of my kids.” And I’m like, “I don’t want pictures of your kids! I don’t want to see what your children look like, ever.” I don’t care about that. I just want to send you a nice message saying, “Hey, want to have dinner on Friday?” and I would like you to respond. That’s all I want! My life is very simple.The thing is, if you go into those Internet worlds, if you’re going to believe the good feedback, you have to believe the bad feedback, and that will drive you off your rocker. If you don’t internally have a feel for the show and have a feel for what you like and where you want to go, then you shouldn’t be doing the show. You can’t look for people to vindicate you, or then when the people go, “You actually suck,” you’re going to sit there and go, “Yeah, I actually suck.” And I’m really not emotionally stable enough for that. I cannot hang with that.

That’s Amy Sherman-Palladino, creator of Gilmore Girls and the sneaky-secret show of the summer, Bunheads, talking.

“Good is Good”

I find myself really interested in this story, and the idea that Gawker.com is using its traditionally-low traffic periods (Weekends) to publish off-topic longform writing that it values in general. Especially because the longer essays seem to be finding an audience, and are helping redefine what Gawker “is” as a site. That AJ Daulerio, the site’s editor, describes the decision to run the essays in non-peak viewing times by saying “Good is good, regardless as to whether it’s supposed to fit in with what the site is supposed to be or not,” feels particularly heartening; he’s really turning into someone worth paying attention to, with the various decisions he’s made since taking over the site at the start of the year. If Gawker can push quality and hits at the same time, then maybe enough people will take notice and realize that the choice doesn’t have to be made between the two. Consider this entirely relevant to my interests.

Ask Me Things And I Might Answer, Maybe

I started doing Fanboy Rampage!!! – which was kind of comics journalism, maybe, I guess? – because I was bored and had access to the internet at my day job, and that was a real time/place kind of thing; it found an audience, and when I quit doing that, Matt Brady approached me about writing for the then-in-the-process-of-beginning Newsarama blog. My memory may be playing tricks on me, but I remember that it was Fanboy Rampage!!! that also caught the eye of Annalee Newitz, who was local to me at the time and we met up at some book reading she was doing after saying hello on the internets, and that got me an invite to io9 when that was being prepared. I feel like I kind of fell into it, if that makes sense? I wanted to write and be a journalist, but that all really started happening after I had done something that I didn’t think of as journalism at the time for a couple of years. Maybe there was something in my voice that people liked, or perhaps it was just that I’d proven that I could consistently put out content on a daily basis for a sustained amount of time. Who knows?

(If I hadn’t started Fanboy Rampage!!! when I did, I don’t think anything would’ve happened the way it did, had it happened at all. I think I really gained from the fact that it was the early days of the comics internet, as we now call it, and there just weren’t that many people out there doing what I did. There was me, Kevin Melrose, John Jakala, Alan David Doane… I’m sure there were others, but my memory is failing me. I remember it being more about message boards than blogs at the time.)

Because I have free time, I got myself a Formspring. That’s me above, answering a question from David Goblitz about how I got started in journalism, but you can ask me your own questions over here, dear reader. Part of me hopes that I’ll get asked questions by Tom Brevoort, considering how often I raid his Formspring for material for Newsarama.

Be warned: I will likely raid questions/answers for material for this blog.

“Even the Music has got a Serious Hygiene Problem”

Tonight, the city wears dirty slut perfume and matching outfit. The rain has stopped, leaving the streets with wet greasy hair, strands of pulp blocking the drainage. All the flyers of every party of all time have gathered at the plughole of life. I’m standing on the balcony of Dubtek’s nightclub, holding my hand over my mouth. High above me, projected from the roof, lasers paint a dark cloud with colour, chameleon to the beat. I’ve come out for some air, but even the music has got a serious hygiene problem and there’s no escaping it. It’s my first ever gig in Manchester, and the place is one giant filthy arse-wipe loudspeaker, zero panache. There’s no sign of my challenger. When I walk to the edge, look down, I can see waves of people streaming out of the club, lit by stuttering lights. A purified canal runs back of the club. Some tables, chairs, a couple of sun umbrellas, all wet and soggy but no matter; it’s the small gaps between the rain that count, and learning how to live amongst them. Clouds of cheap shop-bought hormones lift from the young bodies.

From here, an excerpt of “Homo Karaoke” from Pixel Juice by Jeff Noon.

Noon was one of those writers whom I was madly in love with, back in the late ’90s, when I was also mainlining Philip K. Dick, The Invisibles and Bill Drummond like there was no tomorrow. Weirdly – perhaps because he kind of dropped off the face of the world? – I ended up entirely forgetting about him until he recently re-appeared on Twitter to promote the re-releases of his earlier work and his first new novel in over a decade. When remembering him, I had one of those How could I have forgotten? moments; Noon’s use of language and literal metaphor – for want of a better way of putting it; lines like “clouds of cheap shop-bought hormones” to describe perfume, and the like – were amazingly influential to me, shaping the way I wrote back then. Noon was amazingly important to me as a writer, although you can’t see it now. I’m glad he’s back, and I’m embarrassed that I forgot about him for so long.

(I should find some of that earlier writing for this site, sometime.)

366 Songs 214: Up With People

The mish-mash of genres in “Up With People” is something that kind of fascinates me; the gospel-inflected backing vocals, the ska guitar, the soul horns, all covered with Kurt Wagner’s fragile (weak) indie lead vocal. It’s a confusion that works, something that pushes an inclusive agenda suggested by the title of the song, if not necessarily its lyrics (Although, maybe those lyrics are inclusive as well, in a different fashion; maybe we’re all “screwing up our lives today”). That everything goes together so well in this song is a surprise, but a pleasant one. With so many ingredients, it wouldn’t have been too much of a stretch to see the whole thing fall apart.

Oddly, I hadn’t heard the original version of this song before; I know it from the Zero 7 dub mix, which I’d discovered via some compilation or another, more than a decade ago:

Even stranger, it turns out that Zero 7 covered the song using its own arrangement rather than the original, with Sia as vocalist, and it turns it into a different experience altogether:

It’s more of a… performance, perhaps, than the Lambchop original; Sia works the whole thing more than Wagner’s relaxed take, but it’s not in an unpleasant way. There’re important stories about the differences in musical genre to be found in the comparison, I feel…

Elsewhere On The Internet…

Sounds pretty deep, right? And also, to those who enjoyed the original Arnold Schwarzenegger movie back in 1990, somewhat unlike the source material (Well, a source material; the original Total Recall was loosely based on a Philip K. Dick short story, which I’ll get to in a minute). Yes, Arnold discovered that his memories had been tampered with, and yes, that theoretically left him in a situation where he was as much a mystery to himself as he was to the audience… but only up to a point. After all, this was an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie; you could pretty much predict what he would end up doing before the movie had even started with a degree of certainty (Spoiler: It likely involved some level of violence and no small amount of puns and quips, the latter of which, sadly, will be missing from the new version. Colin Farrell has already told reporters “I don’t have one-liners” in the 2012 movie). The original Total Recall didn’t ask “Who is this man?” as much as yell “We don’t know who this man is necessarily, but boy, can he kick ass – in space!”

More cut-from-the-final-draft (although, in this case, it was reworked and reappeared) from my Time work; this comes from today’s piece, which didn’t really come together the way I wanted it to, sadly. Ah, well.