Surly Bastard

I suppose some of you know this already, but I’ve been secretly updating a new site, Surly Bastard.

It’s a different sort of site than this one has been over the years, more like a “Tumblr Blog” or “tumblog” or whatever they call those things, where you don’t actually write very much, just slap on pictures and links and pithy quotes or whatever.  Most of what I post is stuff I’m working on, pictures and whatnot, or links to “shit I like”.

Here’s something I posted the other day, a painting I whipped up for the February “First Friday” event here at the Pajama Factory:

I’m pretty happy with how it came out, especially because it’s my first attempt at painting.  It’s four feet by eight feet. On plywood.  People seemed to like it well enough.

Oh, if you read blogs though a feed reader, here’s the feed link for Surly Bastard.

Bellevue Cottage

Say hello to Bellevue Cottage. Bellevue Cottage is a beautiful mountaintop bed and breakfast not far from Williamsport, with absolutely spectacular views. Barb and I went up there last weekend to shoot some photos and get a start on the website for the cottage. Anna Alford is the owner and heart behind the place. She grew up on the mountain and her love of the place is obvious—it’s a beautiful hundred-year-old building that has been lovingly cared for.

We were lucky to come on a day as spectacular as we did. One thing I really missed when I was living in Japan was the amazing Fall foliage that we get here in the Northeast. Sure, you can go to Nikko and see leaves, but I never saw anything that could compare with the colors of Pennsylvania.

Go take a look around Anna’s new site.

Welcome to Bellevue Cottage

After several years of planning and work Bellevue Cottage is finally ready for you to come and visit. Watch this site for news about upcoming events. I look forward to welcoming you to my home soon. In the meantime you can come for a virtual visit via this web site. Anna Alford

[From Bellevue Mountaintop Cottage]

Easier Login

Here’s a bit of a non-camera news about the site: After my last re-vamp of the backend, I decided to add support for OpenID.

What that means, basically, is that you don’t need to create an account to make comments here, you just type in the address of your home page on a service that supports it. In effect, if you’re a member of almost any social network site, you can use that account to log in, except that I never need to see your password.

The Login page is here. don’t use the username and password fields, type the URL in the third box.

Give it a try and let me know if you have any trouble!

As I probably know most of you from Flickr, you’d probably want to sign in using your Flickr address (not your login and password!) It should look like:

Flickr
www.flickr.com/photos/username

For other accounts that you may have, here’s a list of URLs to try:

AOL
openid.aol.com/screenname
Blogger
blogname.blogspot.com
LiveDoor
profile.livedoor.com/username
LiveJournal
username.livejournal.com
Orange (France Telecom)
http://openid.orange.fr/
SmugMug
username.smugmug.com
Technorati
technorati.com/people/technorati/username
Vox
member.vox.com
Yahoo
http://openid.yahoo.com
WordPress.com
username.wordpress.com

I need an editor

Between the blog spammers and the people who wander in from Google and post absolute crap, I’m getting more junk posts than real ones.

It’s tempting to just shut down the site, or to at least turn off comments.
For now, I’m closing comments on some older posts that are attracting morons. If you really want to comment on an old post, mail me and let me know – I’ll revive the topic.
(I’m also no longer allowing anonymous posts, but I doubt that will make a difference, since there is no way to verify what you they put in.)

Maybe what I’d like is the option of having registered users, I guess, or at least an email confirmation for unknown users. I don’t know – I’ve looked a lot at the blog spam issus and I haven’t yet seen anything that I’m confortable with or confident in. (Yes, I’ve heard of the popular anti-spam plugins. When I see one I like, I may actually plug it in…)

You may never have seen blog spam here, because hardly an hour goes by that I don’t weed out the crap – hopefully before the Googlebot sweeps by and indexes the site. You see, a good percentage of the spammers are advertising porn or adult services. If Google finds links to those kinds of sites, this site will get classified as an adult site and SafeSurf will hide my site from the bulk of its users. I run a pretty PG-rated site, so that’s really not what I want.

So yes, I guess it’s come down to this – if I don’t like your post, I’m going to delete it. If you think it’s unfair, write me – I’ll open up the topic to discussion.
(If you’re reading this, there is virtually no chance that I’ll ever delete a post of yours, though…)

It’s either that, or I pull the plug and go back to a one-way dialogue and I really think the site would suffer. (Or I quit doing this because it’s become un-fun.)

This all OK with you guys?

Writing to groups of five

(An early draft of this was posted last night by mistake, so I took it down and finished it up a bit…)

When Yuka and I were deciding what to do Sunday morning and seeing who was around, we thought of seeing Tod & Kristen, but rather than picking up the phone, (as we didn’t have their number anyway,) we got on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) where Tod runs a private server and a channel for them and their friends to come visit.
It functions as a kind of living room, not for everyone, just invited friends.
Joi also runs one, a much more public channel on FreeNode, where people hang out and chat all the time.

I wonder if these little private spaces will become more and more common. It seems a kind of natural extension to the whole blog thing where people are creating these little microcosms of their public personality. Email is of course, becoming a last-ditch medium of communication. After all, how can you be sure that your message will actually reach the person and not get tossed out with the dirty bathwater of spam that most people seem to get these days?

Thinking about this, I got to thinking about weblogs and their role in the writer’s life. This is where what we do differs from Journalism. Journalists do what they do to have people read what they write. A successful Journalistic publication is one that is widely read and influential – the goal, money aside, is to have as many people as possible read their words.

For this reason, people looking at blogging tend to focus on the big players, or the “Alpha Bloggers” as I call them. Those, being the most widely read, must be the best, right? I don’t necessarily think so.

It’s the little blogs, the ones with an audience of just a few people, that are going to define this medium.

These blogs are conversations. They address a very limited audience in a very familiar fashion. They tend to be on a first name basis. They talk about trivial, often uninteresting (to an outsider) topics.
Maybe that’s ultimately where blogs will make the biggest difference – microscale audiences. Personal conversations, not pronouncements.

So given that thought, why do the big-name blogs work? They drop all pretentiousness and speak directly to with their audiences. They maintain a sense of intimacy with the readers, often by adding the little mundane details of daily life. Stuff that can’t be faked.

Franklin Roosevelt knew that a dialogue with the people was important, opening one with the public in the form of his Fireside Chats. Groundbreaking as they were, they still had the tone of a father speaking to his children. It was a one-way dialogue, firm, yet kind. His wife Eleanor, on the other hand, was able to convey a sense of conversation and intimacy in her daily column My Day.

Boston’s infamously-corrupt and colorful mayor James Michael Curley knew the power of these dialogues as well. I never understood how such an obviously criminal man was able to remain one of the most popular leaders of the 20th century – until, that is, I had the opportunity to listen to some of his radio addresses. They were warm and familiar, delivered in a voice that could have been one of the older Barrymores, kind, fatherly and sincere, yet humble in their tone. After hearing them, I realized that had I been in Boston when he was running for office, I probably would have voted for him a few times too.

Listening to Curley, or reading Mrs. Roosevelt’s column, you get the feeling that you are part of an audience of perhaps five people. Intimate..

I think this is what works best for blogs as well, an audience of five, whether that number is actual or perceived.

The Japan expat bloggers are some of the best in the world, in my opinion, because they are familiar with this style of writing. Many of us were writing emails to small groups of family members and friends back home in groups of five or ten, describing the odd happenings of daily life as a stranger in a strange land. A trip to the market becomes something to write home about. A trip to Akihabara that results in a new digital camera adds images to this dialogue. A bit of web space makes it public and some blogging software makes it interactive.

Yet it’s that original bit of writing that is the heart, not the technology. Not the number of readers, not your rankings on the blog popularity charts. It’s the writing.

Someone trying to compare Journalism to blogging will probably not see this, after all, a blog with five readers cannot possibly be a success, can it? Blogging and Journalism are starting to bump elbows and step on eachother’s toes. There are journalists who blog and bloggers who report news, but the overlap is insignificant, (though not unimportant,) in its scope.

Yet in my opinion, it’s the blogs that speak to with their readers in groups of five that are the true successes, no matter how many readers they actually have.

Microscale Publishing

(An early draft of this was posted last night by mistake, so I took it down and finished it up a bit…)

When Yuka and I were deciding what to do Sunday morning and seeing who was around, we thought of seeing Tod & Kristen, but rather than picking up the phone, (as we didn’t have their number anyway,) we got on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) where Tod runs a private server and a channel for them and their friends to come visit.
It functions as a kind of living room, not for everyone, just invited friends.
Joi also runs one, a much more public channel on FreeNode, where people hang out and chat all the time.

I wonder if these little private spaces will become more and more common. It seems a kind of natural extension to the whole blog thing where people are creating these little microcosms of their public personality. Email is of course, becoming a last-ditch medium of communication. After all, how can you be sure that your message will actually reach the person and not get tossed out with the dirty bathwater of spam that most people seem to get these days?

Thinking about this, I got to thinking about weblogs and their role in the writer’s life. This is where what we do differs from Journalism. Journalists do what they do to have people read what they write. A successful Journalistic publication is one that is widely read and influential – the goal, money aside, is to have as many people as possible read their words.

For this reason, people looking at blogging tend to focus on the big players, or the “Alpha Bloggers” as I call them. Those, being the most widely read, must be the best, right? I don’t necessarily think so.

It’s the little blogs, the ones with an audience of just a few people, that are going to define this medium.

These blogs are conversations. They address a very limited audience in a very familiar fashion. They tend to be on a first name basis. They talk about trivial, often uninteresting (to an outsider) topics.
Maybe that’s ultimately where blogs will make the biggest difference – microscale audiences. Personal conversations, not pronouncements.

So given that thought, why do the big-name blogs work? They drop all pretentiousness and speak directly to with their audiences. They maintain a sense of intimacy with the readers, often by adding the little mundane details of daily life. Stuff that can’t be faked.

Franklin Roosevelt knew that a dialogue with the people was important, opening one with the public in the form of his Fireside Chats. Groundbreaking as they were, they still had the tone of a father speaking to his children. It was a one-way dialogue, firm, yet kind. His wife Eleanor, on the other hand, was able to conveigh a sense of conversation and intimacy in her daily column My Day.

Boston’s infamously-corrupt and colorful mayor James Michael Curley knew the power of these dialogues as well. I never understood how such an obviously criminal man was able to remain one of the most popular leaders of the 20th century – until, that is, I had the opportunity to listen to some of his radio addresses. They were warm and familiar, delivered in a voice that could have been one of the older Barrymores, kind, fatherly and sincere, yet humble in their tone. After hearing them, I realized that had I been in Boston when he was running for office, I probably would have voted for him a few times too.

Listening to Curley, or reading Mrs. Roosevelt’s column, you get the feeling that you are part of an audience of perhaps five people. Intimate..

I think this is what works best for blogs as well, an audience of five, whether that number is actual or perceived.

The Japan expat bloggers are some of the best in the world, in my opinion, because they are familiar with this style of writing. Many of us were writing emails to small groups of family members and friends back home in groups of five or ten, describing the odd happenings of daily life as a stranger in a strange land. A trip to the market becomes something to write home about. A trip to Akihabara that results in a new digital camera adds images to this dialogue. A bit of web space makes it public and some blogging software makes it interactive.

Yet it’s that original bit of writing that is the heart, not the technology. Not the number of readers, not your rankings on the blog popularity charts. It’s the writing.

Someone trying to compare Journalism to blogging will probably not see this, after all, a blog with five readers cannot possibly be a success, can it? Blogging and Journalism are starting to bump elbows and step on eachother’s toes. There are journalists who blog and bloggers who report news, but the overlap is insignificant, (though not unimportant,) in its scope.

Yet in my opinion, it’s the blogs that speak to with their readers in groups of five that are the true successes, no matter how many readers they actually have.

On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings

William Henry James, 1899


On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings

The spectator’s judgment is sure to miss the root of the matter, and to possess no truth. The subject judged knows a part of the world of reality which the judging spectator fails to see, knows more while the spectator knows less; and, wherever there is conflict of opinion and difference of vision, we are bound to believe that the truer side is the side that feels the more, and not the side that feels the less.