While there’s no real quantifiable way to know just how big this particular community is, the best place to pulse-check their vitality is eBay. A quick search for “Kool-Aid packet” seemed to signal the market is alive and well, returning over 250 active listings, some of which were going for triple-digit asking prices: $400 for a still- sealed case of Pink Swimmingo, $225 for a single packet of Yabba-Dabba-Doo Berry, and $195 for a single packet of one of Kool-Aid’s most beloved flavor mascots, Purplesaurus Rex, just to name a few. A search for recently completed eBay auctions showed a display of 1960s Grape packets being sold for $250 and a single packet of Rock-A-Dile Red closing out at $125. The good stuff don’t come cheap, my friends.
There has simply got to be a way to turn this into a glorious troll of obnoxious foodies.
“I woke up this morning,” I said to the salesman, “and I felt like I wanted to be flattered and lied to, but there’s no brothel around so I thought I’d go to a dealership.” If he’d been a dog he would have cocked his head sideways; it’s possible he thought “Brothel” was a new soup place down the road.
I’ve needed that dog cocking his head line so many times…
Something has gone seriously wrong with the Penigma website. The last few articles, all posted by Laci the Dog, are months out of date and actually make sense. https://penigma.blogspot.com/ Did we win? Joe Doakes
I was remiss (overwhelmed with life, really) in not noting last week the big local media news – Bob Collins of MPR has retired after 27 years at the Taj Ma Klling and 45 in radio all together.
Bob worked at MPR, so it’s an absolute given we’d disagree on…well, most things. We sparred a time or two over at the “NewsCut” blog he ran for many years over at MPR. Which says something – Bob would spar. Most MPR figures hid behind the organization’s magisterial facade and didn’t bother engaging the peasantry.
Not Bob. He was the only MPR staffer – and one of very few mainstream media figures – to ever appear at a MOB party, back in blogging’s heyday. The image of Collins talking, I think, sports with Gary Miller was one of the highlights of that whole time of my history doing this blog thing.
And I would be lying if I didn’t admit that he wrote two of the things that I’ve been proudest of in all my years of doing this.
Mitch Berg, author of the Shot in the Dark blog, pens a tribute (by the way, to see why Berg is, perhaps, the best blog writer in Minnesota when it comes to music, see his post on Bruce Springsteen.), invoking some long-forgotten images of when rock married politics, as in the 1989 George Bush inaugural
I’ve gotten a lot of compliments writing this blog – notably, the fact that so many of you spend time reading it every day – but yeah, that one coming out of the blue stuck with me.
And the next year, during the run-up to the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, I walked from my job at the time over to a news conference held by a group of groups that were planning the demonstrations at the convention. Collins took up the scene:
What about what most people think when they hear a term like militant, violence, for example? “The violence that I’m worried about is the violence that’s being carried out in Iraq right now,” she answered, which isn’t really an answer. “You’re not answering my question,” a blogger said, uttering the five words that mark a great political journalist. “I know,” she said, adding that she doesn’t consider the blockades being planned — allegedly — by other groups “violence.” “That’s not what we’re planning,” she said.
I was the blogger, natch. And while I’ve never been a “political journalist” – I’ve always preferred “irascible peasant” – I always took that as a great compliment.
It’s been a little crazy lately, and in the rush I neglected two birthdays.
The first, of course, is today.
Note: This is an “encore” of a post I wrote in 2013
Today would be the 108th birthday of the greatest president of my lifetime.
People say “there’s no Ronald Reagan in American politics today”. And they’re right – but as his son Michael told me in an interview a few years ago, it’s not that there couldn’t be.
Because Reagan had three great talents: he was a great, natural communicator (who, unlike a lot of “natural communicators”, honed his craft with relentless discipline); he developed a vision and he stuck to it with determination and focus; and most importantly for today’s conservatives, he knew how to build coalitions, rather than exclude people from them.
We have plenty of people who can communicate well, although the conservative movement has had its share of duds in that department too. And we have not a few who can visioneer with the best of them – in fact, with the rise of the Tea Party, our movement’s best years may be to come, provided they keep the faith.
But as to building coalitions?
Today, we’re better at building silos.
Reagan did something that conservatives are terrible at today; he got social conservatives (at the peak of their notoriety and political cachet), blue-collar Democrats who the economy had turned into instant fiscalcons, Jack Kemp-style economic hawks and paleocons together…
…by focusing remorselessly on what they agreed on; fixing the economy, and ending Communism.
And once in office, that’s what he focused on. Oh, he paid lip service to issues that were to him tangents – and lip service from the world’s greatest bully pulpit ain’t chicken feed. But he didn’t fritter his political capital away with excessive natterings about issues that were tangential to his vision, and the vision his coalition all agreed on in electing him. He spoke eloquently on issues – many of them – and that speaking had its effect.
Some call that an abdication; it was in fact a matter of leaving that work to the members of his coalition (example: he exerted very little executive effort on abortion and gun control – but the efforts to roll both back at the state and local level started to coalesce during his time in office anyway – in part because of his leadership from the bully pulpit. But for all that, always, the focus was on “dancing with the one what brung him” to DC at the head of an impossibly-diverse coalition; his rock-solid, bone-simple two point agenda, fixing the economy and toppling the Commies.
As I moderated the “Where Do We Go From Here” event last week at the Blue Fox, and listened to some of the friction and cat-calling across the party’s various factions, I thought there was a lot of focus on what divided us. And so my final question to the panel was “what do we all – all of us, from socialcons like Andy Parrish to libertarians like Marianne Stebbins, actually agree on?” Because that is the only real way forward for any of the factions – since if any faction takes Parrish’s (tongue in cheek?) advice and forms a separate party, it’s the road to mutual palookaville, with multiple parties that are less than the sum of the parts they once were.
So for my annual Gipper Day celebration, it’ll be the usual; jelly beans at my desk, taking the kids out to dinner to talk about what Reagan’s legacy has meant in their lives (other than the uninformed, out-of-context crap the DFLers in their lives’ll say)…
…and asking my fellow conservatives “what do we agree on?”
The second? Well, that’ was yesterday.
Shot In The Dark
Yesterday was the 17th anniversary of my starting this blog.
I first remember James Lilkes’ daughter Gnat as a toddler around about 9/11, in the Daily Bleat. Near-daily updates about Gnat were a part of the early years of this blog, reading the Bleat every morning on my way about the rest of my life.
And for its sixteenth birthday vehicle, it chooses a 1968 Lotus 49.
Shot In The Dark started sixteen years ago today. I was in my isolated basement cube at a doomed startup just about the time the dotcom bubble started popping. I read an article on Time.com about this new phenomenon, blogging, bringing unprecedented number of people to the marketplace of ideas.
Having been a frustrated pundit in my twenties, it called out to me; I started reading Andrew Sullivan, and that night I went out to Blogger.com and started “Shot in the Dark”.
The neighborhood’s changed since then. Other blogs have come and gone. Others – Ed Morrissey, Powerline – made it big, and turned into self-sustaining ventures.
Me? I just kept on writing. And here I am today.
Anyway – thanks to all of you for joining me on this ride. It’s never gotten old.
It has been for a while. Andrew Sullivan – my blogfather – wrote about it not all that long ago (in re the death of The Awl, a blog I don’t lament in the least)
William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection attempts an autopsy of blogging – at least, of blogging as a cultural phenomenon and business model. Both were killed by the loathsome Twitter:
Social media really is a sewer, and I attribute much of the evaporation of the blogosphere to Twitter. It’s much easier to find an instant audience on Twitter than to build the relationship with readers to get them to come to your website. Twitter pundits are the worst pundits, counting their worth based on “followers” (many of whom are fake and purchased). The NY Times had an amazing expose on the purchasing of Twitter followers in order to create a fake reality of popularity that then can be monetized as an “influencer.”
The financial pressures also are real, as ever-increasing demand for clicks to drive dwindling advertising payout creates so much noise it’s hard to be heard. And yes, the financial pressures are real in this superheated media environment.
Monday will be my sixteenth anniversary as a blogger. I’ve never been especially sensitive to the ups and downs of the field; I never became a superstar like John Hinderaker or Ed Morrissey or Rachel Lucas. I didn’t go down in a wave of shame and humiliation, either, like Duncan Black or Oliver Willis or pretty much a anyone who ever blogged for “Minnesota Progressive Project”. It’s always pretty much just been me, with the odd contribution from First Ringer (and, back in the day, Johnny Roosh and Bogus Doug).
And it was about the time Twitter and its hordes of droogs took over the job of facile instant political analysis that people stared hitting the gates.
And, like the other highs and lows, I didn’t care. Twitter bores me stiff. I use it mosty to promote the show, and to gauge the cowardice of liberal politicians (the ones that routinely block conservatives are, in fact, gutless cravens).
But the “death” of blogging interests me not in the least. I got into it because I enjoyed writing. And while I’ve gotten the odd paycheck out of the deal – back in 2007, I think I was gettting $200/months in ad revenue, which has plunged to maybe $100/year lately) and my annual pledge drive always adds a nice bump to the vacation budget, I do it for the pure unadulterated love of writing stuff for people to read.
Dead, schmead. As far as I”m concerned, it’s just beginning.
When you run a blog for a long time – and I’m pushing 16 years, here – you wind up with some regulars. LIke most blogs, I have some commenters who’ve been here a very long time. My blog authoring tool doesn’t record when people launched their accounts, but it does count the number of comments left. I’ve got commenters who’ve left hundreds, thousands, and even some with over 10,000 comments.
And that’s great!
But we’ve had a couple of people pop up with their first comment today.
The purpose of advertising is to influence behavior, we all know that. And the more people who see the advertisement, the more potential customers whose behavior is available to be influenced. That’s why advertisers pay millions of dollars for a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl: they know they’ll be influencing millions of potential customers with their ads.
Which brings up the question: how long must I stare at an advertisement for it to influence me? Does it take the full 30-seconds for the magic to work? Could it happen more quickly? Perhaps even unconsciously? Does subliminal advertising work? Lots of researchers think so.
If they’re right, I wish they’d explain it to web designers. I click on links because I want to read the article. But when the web page takes forever to load, then refuses to let me click through the ad, and auto-plays videos I don’t want to see . . . I click away, having never read the article at all. My behavior is influenced negatively.
If they’d bring up the article right away, the ads could appear in my peripheral vision while I read. I’d actually see them, they could do their magic, my behavior would be influenced positively. If the blog author’s article got mentioned on Instapundit, the resulting Insta-lanche would put millions of potential customers in position available to be influenced by the peripheral ads.
SCENE: Mitch BERG is has just picked up a pound of coffee beans from the neighborhood coffee shop. As he leaves, he notices Avery LIBRELLE sitting at a table. BERG tries to look smaller, and starts to slink past to get to the door – but LIBRELLE notices him.
BERG: Oh…hey, Avery. What’s up?
LIBRELLE: I’m leaving comments on your blog.
LIBRELLE: They call you out for being the amoral conservative scumbag you really are!
BERG: Huh. Just like my mom always says.
LIBRELLE: Hah! I bet! And I do it under a pseudonym, so nothing I say will ever get back to me!
LIBRELLE: Because conservatives, being shriveled emotional husks of people, will track me down and attack me if they find out who is speaking truth to them!
BERG: Hmmm. Seems a little…hyper dramatic?
LIBRELLE: And my comments are really, really long, because I have a lot to say! Stuff that will enlighten the mouth-breathing morons that read your blog!
BERG: And I’m sure we’ll all appreciate it.
LIBRELLE: You should! I’m brilliant!
BERG: Huh. And then you’ll discuss the response to your comments? Because that is not only the purpose of my comment section, but really the entire benefit of having online comments; to have a conversation, something from which everyone learns.
LIBRELLE: Discussion? Are you kidding me? What do I, someone with thirty years experience as a liberal activist, have to learn from the brain-dead impotent fat bald hate-filled pieces of shit that read your garbage blog?
BERG: Huh. Well, I mean, among my regular commenters we have an M.D, a couple of engineers, a couple of scientists, some accountants, a lawyer or two, some writers – people who actually have to work with fact, logic and argumentation for a living. You might learn something.
LIBRELLE: From who?
Hey – just a suggestion, here. Don’t you have a blog of your own? “The LIbrelle Point Of View?” One where you are perfectly free to write anything you want, and have the discussions…
LIBRELLE: …no “discussions” on my blog. Any fat, bald, white, brain-dead pieces of crap who comment on my blog get blocked. Life’s too short for idiots and scumbags.
BERG: Anyway, why don’t you write these earth-shaking nuggets of truth on your own blog, since you don’t really intend to actually discuss your comments?
LIBRELLE: But I get like five readers a day on my blog. I can get the truth out to hundreds of people in your comment section.
LIBRELLE: Hey, grab me a large latte, skim, extra syrup, organic only, while you’re up.
Twitter is the most annoying social media outlet (at least among the ones I use; I’ve come to cordially detest “Vine” videos, but I don’t use them, either). Twitter has become a necessary evil for self-marketing; I use Twitter for promoting blog and show content and following pundits in semi-real time, in theory, except that I make about as little time to spend on Twitter as I can get away with. It’s nearly useless as a form of communication; it’s 300 million people shouting…
…and mostly doing it badly. The 140 character limit had been one of the greatest blows to literacy in history – and yes, I know, learning how to fit a coherent thought into 140 characters can teach a writer a lot about economizing, if they’re inclined to learn those lessons. But of 300-million odd Twitter users, perhaps three or four dozen are so inclined.
On February 5, 2002, I – a fairly recently divorced guy with a couple of kids and a fifteen-year-dead “career” as a pundit, working at a dotcom that was already circling the drain – read an article in Time magazine about “the new generation of conservative intellectuals”. They directed me to, of all people, Andrew Sullivan – who was a conservative, at the time – and in a sidebar, explained what a “blog” was.
Starving for an outlet, I ran out to “Blogger.com”, signed up, and started writing. And I’ve kept at it, most weekdays, ever since.
I got lucky – I got a couple of back to back Instalanches bright and early and, on one notable day back in 2004, simultaneous plugs from Instapundit, Hugh Hewitt and James Lileks – which pretty much put me on the map.
Blogs surged, of course, and then settled back into the social media pack behind Twitter and Facebook. What was once a huge, bustling blogging scene in the Twin Cities is now a couple of blog superstars – Ed Morrissey, Lileks and the Powerline guys – and a small, hard core of people who just love to write; I’m one of them.
Up until that first couple of Instalanches, this blog got maybe 10 hits a day. I’ve been holding steady around 1,000 visits every weekday for most of the past decade or so – not enough to make it a fulltime job, too many to be anything but thankful for the opportunity I’ve been given.
And it’s been an amazing opportunity. It led, of course, to meeting a group of amazing friends; Brian, Chad and Atomizer from the Fraters (Brian emailed me back in 2002, the first person to tell me that there were other bloggers in the Twin Cities), John and Scott from Power Line, Lileks, King Banaian (blog is long gone), Brad, the Stroms and the Stewarts, the tireless Mr. D, Enge, Gary, Ryan, Foot, and too many others to mention.
And it led to the show, of which much more next month.
Anyway – thank you all for indulging my little outburst this past almost-decade-and-a-half.
The good news: Night Writer has pretty much retired “No Longer I Who Live“, the essential blog he wrote about life and faith while living with ALS while he, seemingly, had it. Which he apparently no longer does. The ALS, I mean. The life and faith go on – which is better than good news – but let’s not go on a tangent here.
The great news: He’s dusted off “Night Writer”, at least for a bit, to chronicle his family’s trip to Prague to get “Tiger Lily”, the junior writer of the clan, started on her new career introducing vowels to the Czech Republic.
I’ve been blogging away for thirteen years, now. I have an average of 600-800 people a day reading this blog – which is about 10 to 20 times more than I’d dreamed about possibly reaching when I started this blog back in 2002.
I have said this many times in the past; I’d still write every day even if nobody read me, here; writing is just part of what I am and do.
But every April in recent years I’ve passed the hat for whatever spare change people feel this blog is worth to them, provided they can spare it, and only then. Contributions mostly go toward hosting, and a few other little things (and, in some of my past years with more parlous fiscal circumstances, self-preservation; I’m not there, this year, knock wood, and I’m happy for it!)
So if you enjoy what you read here, and have a buck or two to spare, I’d be much obliged.
UPDATE: I fixed the broken button. I think. Sorry!
“Few are as well equipped to bring us this message as Netanyahu. He currently serves as Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations. Netanyahu not only distinguished himself as a commander in many operations for his country’s military but served for several years as the executive director of the Jonathan In stitute, a Jerusalem research foundation on terrorism. He has been touched in the most personal way by modern terrorism. His brother, Lt. Jonathan Netanyahu, died leading the historic Entebbe rescue mission and is the namesake of the institute.”
Sometime next week, this blog will hit its 13th anniversary.
I’ve told the story, of course, many times; when I started this blog, I was inspired by reading Andrew Sullivan’s site. Along with James Lileks, it was Sullivan that I went to to see how this new form of writing was supposed to be done. Back when bloggers kept track of these things, I called him my “blogfather”.
Why? Two reasons. The first is one I hope anyone can understand: although it has been the most rewarding experience in my writing career, I’ve now been blogging daily for fifteen years straight (well kinda straight). That’s long enough to do any single job. In some ways, it’s as simple as that. There comes a time when you have to move on to new things, shake your world up, or recognize before you crash that burn-out does happen.
The second is that I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me. I want to write a book.
i’ve gotten some of the same urges, myself; not burn out – although that certainly happens, from time to time. Working through that has been a zen like exercise in self discipline, on the occasions – roughly every two years – when it happens.
But the urge to do things smaller, slower, older and more deliberate is certainly there.