Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ten Years in Blogistan

Looking down....

Ten years ago today, this post went live, and Byzantium's Shores was off and running. Wow.

I've told the story before of how this blog came to be, but why not...after all, today's the Blogiversary. In late 2001 or thereabouts, my main area of interaction with others online was on the newsgroup, as well as a couple other USENET groups. It was quite the free-for-all in conversation at the time, but there was always a pressure to stay on the topic of the group, so if I wanted to discuss a book I'd read, it wasn't really in good form to do in on r.m.m. Unfortunately, those were the people I knew the best...and none of them were active on any of the book groups. That's just one example...but I started wanting to write about things other than movie music. (And to be honest, r.m.m. was hardly the most militant group out there when it came to policing off-topic discussions.)

Also around this time, I would occasionally plug an old schoolmate's name into Google and see what, if anything, came up. More often than not, nothing did, because back then there was no real social networking to be had and few people had any kind of online presence. But one friend of mine did turn up, a guy I'd known from college, Sean Meade -- who appeared to have an odd kind of website that consisted of things he'd post, which were arranged by date. This idea appealed to me, but I had no idea how to implement such a thing.

A little bit after that, I read an article in TIME Magazine about a new thing called "blogging", short for "web log", which was simply an online diary onto which one could post anything one wished. Like...essays about books, movies, music, and current events! So I checked out this site called "Blogger", familiarized myself with the concept, and created a blog.

Which I almost immediately abandoned.

See, that first blog was something called "Jaquandor's Rants" or something like that. I regretted that title almost immediately, because I didn't intend to just rant all the time. I abandoned that one and created another one, and in striking about for a title, saw a book on my shelf: a historical fantasy novel called Byzantium by Steven Lawhead. It was a quick leap from there to Byzantium's Shores. As I wrote in my second-ever post:

Why "Byzantium's Shores"? Well, for one thing it just sounds exotic to my ear, five syllables which strike me as fairly melodious.

But more importantly, Byzantium was a place where east and west met along with new and old; it was a city which looked backward to the fallen glories of Rome and forward to the eventual rebirth of the continent that lay to its west. It seems a good fit, then, to cite such a place to name this space where I shall explore my own tastes -- tastes which range wildly from the techno music of Tangerine Dream to the symphonies of Mozart, from the abstracts of Jackson Pollack to the English pastorals of John Constable, from the magnificent verse of Shakespeare to the punching comedic prose of Christopher Moore. And then, of course, there is that wonderful poem by Yeats, as well as the wondrous fictional Byzantium that appears in Guy Gavriel Kay's The Sarantine Mosaic.

And then, the final word: "Shores". A journey can both begin and end at a shore, from either the land or the sea. No matter which direction one is traveling, a shore marks some kind of terminus. know, there's a reason why I rarely read my own writing. Could I have sounded any more like a pretentious ass? My God, that's just so twee, I can barely stand it. Ye Gods.

And yet, Byzantium's Shores stuck.

At first, I was strictly pseudonymous and said almost nothing of myself. I cut my Internet teeth in the mid-90s, when it was not an uncommon belief that it was unwise to post things online under your real name, and aliases were a lot more common then, so I merely continued the practice. As I went on, though, this began to feel more and more like a hindrance than anything else, so I gradually loosened the reins on that, allowing my name to appear here and there, and opening up as time went by. I revealed that I lived in Buffalo, and then Syracuse, and then Buffalo again; I discussed jobs of mine and the search for a new one; I discussed the birth of our second child, Little Quinn, whose story was vastly different than anything we'd ever prepared for. Opening up just seemed more and more natural, the longer I spent hanging out in Blogistan.

Oddly, I've never really fallen into any particular mold of blogging. I never blogged enough about politics to be considered a political blog, and even now, I tend to restrict my political comment to Sentential Links posts or to Tumblr, where I let the hair down a bit more even than I do here. I never blogged enough about any of the arts to fall into one of those categories, either. There was a relatively brief time when there was a "local" blogosphere -- what I called, for a time, the "Buffalo prefecture of Blogistan" -- but for the most part, the Buffalo blog scene is now pretty limited in scope and in sense of 'community'.

What kind of blog is this, then? I suppose it's just a personal blog wherein a guy with a fairly large set of general interests posts about anything that strikes him as post-worthy. And since that's really what it was meant to be in the first place, that means I've kept true to the original 'vision'. Yay, me!

So: what are some memorable moments I've had while blogging? Most obviously, the outpouring of support for Little Quinn's birth and later, his death. Seven-and-a-half years on, that event is still one whose ripples in the pond of my life are quite visible. Almost right up there was the end of our fourth attempt to add to our family, when baby Fiona was born at only 21 weeks' gestation. (And for those with long memories and who may be doing the math...yes, I said fourth. I never discussed the miscarriage that happened a year before Fiona, and likely never will. I have limits.)

Of course, it wasn't all sad. I've posted about Star Wars more times than I can remember (although, thanks to post tags, I can pull most of 'em up). And Star Trek. And James Bond. And The Lord of the Rings. And so many's mostly been fun.

Other moments haven't been quite as much fun, I must admit; some of those were my fault. My off-the-cuff "Too bad he wasn't having a fatal heart attack" comment about Rush Limbaugh following his hospitalization for chest pains a few years back was, shall we say, ill-advised. I've said other dumb things over the years, because, well, you can't say stuff for ten years without having something dumb-arsed cross your lips or emerge from your keyboard once in a while. I do generally try to keep from offending people, but there are times when one's beliefs are by definition offensive to someone. Given that, though, sometimes it's best just to not throw gas onto the fire. I haven't been guilty of that very often...but I have been guilty of it.

What's made blogging so fun for me -- after the bit about having my very own forum to spout about what I want, when I want, how I want -- are the other bloggers and the readers. I'm not sure I'd have kept it up through the years without the folks who would read this stuff and, occasionally here and there, link it from their own blogs. I'm grateful to each and every person who has ever read or linked me, whether they were "drive-by" visitors or people linking me just to make fun of me. (This has not happened much...nor have I received more than a handful of hate-mails or insulting comments. But it was mildly disappointing to get a link from only to have it turn out to be a "Hey guys, get a load of the big dummy!" kind of thing. Oh well!) I remember a few readers who were regulars but who fell away over time, for various reasons, and I remember the ones who are still around. I'm grateful for all!

I keep thinking about what is different now from when I launched this blog. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone were in theaters during their first run; only four of the seven Harry Potter books had come out. George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire stood at three volumes. The top teevee show was Friends. The first Spider-Man movie was due in a few months, as was Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Just two NFL seasons had passed since the Buffalo Bills' last playoff appearance, and the newly-reigning Super Bowl champs were a team that I would grow to loathe more than any force in history: the New England Patriots!

The Red Sox and their "Curse of the Bambino" was still two years from coming to an end. I was working a telesales job at which I sucked. I was hearing things online about a space opera teevee show to come that fall, created by the guy who had created Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We were two years away from the dawn of a site called Facebook. George W. Bush was barely into his second year in office, and 9-11-01 was a terribly real and raw force -- it was barely a memory even, when I started this blog, just five months and a few days after that awful event. I was two years away from hearing about a state-level politician from Illinois whom some said might one day run for President. Space shuttle Columbia was still in service and would be for another year, before breaking up on re-entry over Texas. Adele was 13. George Clooney was still the most recent Batman. Pierce Brosnan was still James Bond.

And at that time, The Daughter was just two-and-a-half. We were a year and a half away from deciding to expand our family. I knew nothing at all about cerebral palsy. My sister-in-law, now a mother of two, was three years away from marriage. About the only constant was that I had long hair and I was wearing overalls a lot...but I was two years or so from putting up a picture of same. I'm now writing this very entry on a laptop that I bought in 2007, five-and-a-half years into the blog's life. This is the fourth computer on which I've written entries for this blog (of computers we've owned -- I've also posted a few brief entries from other computers, such as ones at work [only when I'm on break!] and the like). And Computer Number Five for Byzantium's Shores is like to debut sometime in the next few months, as my poor beloved Dell Inspiron 1520 is becoming slower and slower in its advancing digital age. When this blog started, I would not own my own cell phone for another six-and-a-half years. I'm on my second cell phone now. It's still not a smartphone.

Ten years in Blogistan. How much longer? Who knows? Maybe a while, maybe not. I don't plan it, really. When I started I figured that I might have one year of this in me...and here I am. Who knew!

And that's enough navel gazing, I think. On with the blogging!

Writer at work

(And if you haven't Asked Me Anything! yet, what's it gonna take? I'm waiting for you!)


SK Waller said...

I don't remember exactly when I found your blog, but it had to be around 2005. I liked it immediately, and I remember that I lurked for a long time because I was intimidated by your blogging prowess (I began blogging just five months after you did). I didn't think there was a chance in hell that you'd ever visit my blog and, if you did, that you'd return.

Finding and getting to know what I call "Blog Friends" is what has kept me online. Like you, I enjoy reading. I especially enjoy reading people's thoughts and about their lives. Your blog remains one of my morning-with-coffee joys.

Congratulations on 10 years of excellent blogging!

Call me Paul said...

Happy Anniversary! It's quite an accomplishment to have a blog for that long as active as this one is. You've made more posts this week than I've made this year so far.

Lynn said...

Wow. It's been almost ten years for me too. I don't know if I'll do a big, special anniversary post. I guess I should.

Anyway... Good show, sir.

Buffalopundit said...

Cheers & happy blogiversary!

Jason said...

Happy anniversary, my esteemed colleague.

I can't remember how I first arrived on these shores (see what I did there?)... I think you commented on another blog I was reading and I was sufficiently intrigued to follow the link back here. Or maybe I just ran across your blog at random. Regardless, I've been a faithful reader ever since. I admire the breadth of your subject matter, the honesty of what you choose to reveal about your life, and your tenacious damn-the-torpedoes support of the Star Wars prequels (not to mention your intelligent and provocative approach to revising them!). And I really envy your output, especially given how sporadic and paltry my own blogging efforts have become in recent years.

Here's to ten more!

Roger Owen Green said...

Seems that I was following my friend Fred Hembeck's blog, and he had a rather extensive blogroll, and one of those folks was somehow following you, or you made a comment on one of their blogs, or something; I don't remember.

As a newbie of only 6 years, 9 months, you are the ever moving goal. At least now I can say that I've been blogging 68% as long as you.

Oh, I'll try to come up with a question for your Ask Me feature.

May I say, though, that I HATE, HATE Blogger's new comment moderation feature, with 2 words, one which I generally have difficulty reading. Since you are approving every comment anyway, you might consider getting rid of it.

Belladonna said...

TEN YEARS?? Kudos my friend.

As one who has done much on again - off again blogging I am impressed by your tenacity!

You make me think. You make me smile. You occasionally make me shriek with laughter or shake my head in befuddlement.

One of the things I like best about your blog is the balance you have achieved - sharing enough of Kelly the man, the husband, the father, the pie guy with a tool belt, the reader, the writer, the dreamer to let us feel we can connect with you on an authentic level. And yet you don't make the blog all about YOU. Some personal blogs are so in your face with individual angst or so entirely focused on meditating their own belly button lint that there is no room for anyone else, ya know?

You consistently bring in big ideas, events, opinions that invite us all along for the ride.

It continues to be a privilege.