mistakes

(This illustration is a Demotivator from www.despair.com.) 

Groan.  Add the name of Joe Klein to the long list of Pompous Old Bores Who Should Know Better (like Tom DeLay) who have decided that hey, anybody can do this blogging thing and gone and started their own.  

"Swampland" (you can't make these things up) is the new blog at Time.com and features Joke Line, The Blogger Formerly Known as Wonkette, and two other people you've never heard of.  Things are already off to a roaring start over there with Wonkette reverting to form and tackling such weighty issues as Barack Obama's pectoral muscles and Mitt Romney's chest hair (Oh, for F*ck's sake.  Again?!  That shtick was tired in 2004!-id.) and Kleiny going all snippy and defensive with his commenters before the blog was even 24 hours old.

I tried to post a comment there, but they pulled a Li'l Debbie and wouldn't print it.  I'm sure if you asked they'd tell you that it was abusive and chock full of words the likes of which Gentle Joe had nevah, evah heard before.  (Get the smelling salts!)  Thankfully, I saved it before I tried to post it:

Oh, Joe, Joe, Joe. First day at school and you’re already shooting spitballs back and forth with your commenters. This does not bode well for your future in blogging. That activity rapidly becomes the verbal equivalent of playing Whack-a-Mole.

Respectfully, sir, this is not a realm for thin-skinned, pampered “star” columnists like yourself. People will be leaping upon your every word with blood in their eyes and murder in their hearts.

You’re either going to have to learn to take some hard knocks to your sensitive parts and cope with it or you’re going to need to find a new hobby. I don’t think you quite understand the world you are stepping into. It’s like you’re walking into the lion cage at the zoo wearing a suit made entirely of pork chops.

Good luck. We’ll be watching. My guess is that you’ll be shutting down your ‘comments’ feature before the end of the month.

Sincerely,
T. Rex, Esq.

Watching Joe Klein blog is like that moment when your Dad's buddy from work gets a couple of beers in him and decides he wants to try out your skateboard.

"Here, lemme see that," he says, "It can't be that hard." 

You know that he'll be getting his elbow x-rayed in the ER within the hour.  The countdown has begun. 

But, in the spirit of helpfulness, I thought I would offer up some of my hard-won blog knowledge and outline for Joe and other beginners what I have come to know as The Five Stages of Blogging

1. Trepidation

"Do I dare/disturb the universe?/In a minute there is time/For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse…" (T.S. Eliot)

So, you have decided that you want a blog.  You have watched thousands of others do it, seemingly with no ill effects.  How hard can it really be?

Cautiously, you choose a name for your little corner of cyber-space, hang out your shingle, and tentatively put up your first posts.  Your heart pounds in your throat.  This could go brilliantly or it could go horribly wrong.  The whole wide world of blogging is open before you.  You obsessively check the comments to see if anyone has dropped by to offer encouragement or shout derision.  You sign up for Technorati and check it hourly.  Come on, world!  Bring it on!

2. Elation

 "I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,/I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world." (Walt Whitman)

Success!  Like-minded thinkers have found you!  Through a combination of luck, work, and strategic linking, you have drawn a group of readers.  Oh, what delightful, insightful, clever new friends they are!  How wonderful that you are not alone in the universe.  You begin to think of your readers protectively, possessively.  They are akin to the imaginary friends you had as a child.  You think about them throughout your day.  You begin to post more frequently to entertain them.  Sometimes they squabble among themselves and you wade in like a tireless parent, soothing their hurt feelings and patiently easing the tensions that arise in the fragile ecosystem of your comment threads.  You don't mind, though.  It's worth it to you to maintain calm in this, your clean, well-lighted place in the wilds of the electronic frontier.

3. Saturation

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…(W. B. Yeats)

Chaos!  The ten posts per day schedule you have set for yourself is beginning to wear you out, not to mention cutting into your time for such mundane real-world activities as eating, sleeping, bathing, and housework.  Your skin is rapidly turning a luminous moon-pale shade of white common to certain poisonous mushrooms and the eyeless fish who live in underground lakes.  You know you should get outside and get some fresh air and sunshine, but first you have to put up a post about an obscure news story you found about a woman in China who tried to teach her dog to drive a car.  Then you have to answer 12 emails from commenters complaining about your Ann Coulter post from yesterday and try to calm them down before their pique spreads to other readers.  What the hell do they expect from you?  Blood?  All day every day, all you ever seem to do is read and research and write in an effort to amuse them and keep the blog fed and they have the nerve to COMPLAIN about what you write?  The ungrateful bitches!

4. Conflagration

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!– An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.–
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

 In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. (W. Owen)

It's WAR!  The tensions that have been boiling below the surface erupt(!!) into actual verbal combat.  Whether it's with your own readers, other bloggers, or trolls coming to torment your commenters, this is where your beautiful dream turns ugly.  You write posts filled with rage and vitriol.  You call people names your mother would weep to hear you say.  You open up your flame-thrower at anything that moves, friend and foe alike.  You've had enough!  All you ever wanted to do was have some fun with your new hobby and now EVERYTHING IS RUINED!  GODDAMMIT!!  DAMN IT ALL TO HELLLLLL!!!

You begin to angrily stalk around your house waving your fists in the air and cursing aloud.  You go through the motions of daily life with your fists clenched and teeth grinding.  Those BASTARDS!  How DARE THEY?!  You have elaborate fantasies about disemboweling your enemies and mailing their entrails to their loved ones.

You struggle mightily to wrap your mind around the fact that something that previously brought you so much joy has become a bottomless well of dread and loathing.  How can this have happened?  Why did no-one warn you?

5. Resignation

I felt a funeral in my brain,
        And mourners, to and fro,
Kept treading, treading, till it seemed
        That sense was breaking through.

And when they all were seated,
        A service like a drum
Kept beating, beating, till I thought
        My mind was going numb. (E. Dickinson)

You have decided that blogging isn't right for you.  It never was.  Blogging is a boring passtime for boring, ugly people who would rather hide in their basements and blog about life than actually put forth the effort necessary to live a life.  You're through.  Done.  This was a terrible idea.  Good riddance!  You feel for all those poor souls hunched over their computers, futilely spilling their guts to the world in a desperate plea for the admiration of strangers.  Not you!  Not anymore!

You rediscover housework.  You struggle to reconnect with your old friends, even though you are consistently finding yourself at a conversational disadvantage because everything that has happened to you for the last six months has been on-line.  You realize that your friends neither know nor care about that hilarious thing that Gavin from Sadly, No! said about Ann Althouse in November.  They don't even know who Glenn Greenwald is.

Occasionally, you wonder what has become of your readers.  You find yourself cruising by the now lifeless URL where your once thriving blog was and idly toying with the thought of just putting up a quick post to let everyone know how well your post-blog life is going.  Sometimes you even go so far as to open up your blog's dashboard, but then you come to your senses and quickly close the browser window.  What's the point, after all?

A crucial juncture.

You have now arrived at the place where you impulsively delete your blog and go on to live a perfectly normal life…or you proceed back to Stage One and repeat the process ad infinitum.  The measure of how much this is controlled by you and how much of it is actual compulsive, addictive behavior is still a topic of lively debate among scientists.  Studies have indicated that it is possible to be a social blogger, casually posting when you feel like it, at least until you get bored with it and go on to take up rock-climbing or collecting rare stamps.  In others, however, blogging is a chronic condition that neither medical intervention nor psychiatric treatment can cure.  For these individuals, the prognosis is poor, but at least you will be able to read about the details of their symptoms and struggles every day on their blogs.

For those of you who are chronic bloggers (like me), I offer these words of wisdom.  The world of blogging is, by nature, interactive.  Understand that each post you write will expose you to criticism from someone, and some of it will even be helpful to you.  Learning to take criticism and respond to it without letting your composure decompose is a valuable skill in blogging and can keep you out of the vicious cycle outlined above. 

It is this very interactive quality, however, that tends to make blogging so egregiously difficult for vain, fatuous, hypersensitive divas like Joe Klein.  Mr. Klein is used to being petted and cossetted by his editors and when he does receive criticism, it generally is in the form of a letter to the editor that passes through several hands before he ever sees it.  Something tells me that his romance with blogging is going to be exceptionally nasty, brutish, and short.

But hey, you never know.  This could be the birth of a whole new Klein, a magnanimous, free-thinking individual who is willing to question his assumptions and gain new knowledge and fresh perspectives through reader interaction.

Snort.  I was almost able to type that with a straight face.  Almost.