04 January, 2007

Anniversary buchukchulukes

Yesterday was the first anniversary of the Varieties. Happy returns! It has been an interesting year, to be sure. Perhaps the biggest thrill has been the many generous compliments from bloggers I myself admire; but every comment in the box, even a pedantic correction, quickens my pulse. Chris Miller, one of my favourite sparring-partners, once wrote of me that
Bring him a box of fortune cookies, and he will take you on an amazing trip through the English dictionary and down the major roads (as well as the twisted cul-de-sacs) of European literature—and that’s why his blog is so much fun. You just never know where he’s going to take you.
Not only have I not forgotten this remark, but it has become a tacit manifesto of sorts for me. Since then I have made no attempt to stay on-topic in what I write, seeking instead the unpredictable digression. And you know, it's a more exciting way to write—I see the trait in some of my best peers. It is no surprise that Chris is referring to one of my earliest pieces, On the Antiquity of Fortune Cookies, which is still my own favourite, along with that most personal piece on the wells of London, Chalybea. Other posts have been much more popular. Easily the most viewed—found for the most part from prurient Googlesearches, somewhat predictably—was my rumination on enforced transvestism, though I suppose thrill-hunters may have been dismayed by the rather academic context of my remarks. Kiss-words in Latin got a great many hits too, so perhaps I have helped to bust that myth, just a little. More delights included Slate.com picking up my Apocalypto review, not a great piece, but no matter. Possibly the surprise of my blogging year was the discovery of a considerable Brazilian readership. Bem-vindo, amigos! But in celebration of year one, I have updated my very first post, and one appropriate to origins, on the Chicken and Egg—still rude in execution, but in some ways a template for what would come—with a bit about Plutarch, my new love.

Now, truly, I am glad I have not yet capitulated, as I have wanted to on occasion.


With all this in mind, it is good to see my own friends going strong. Chris is the flat-out winner of the Varieties Award for Blog Prolixity for his fascinating post on Lorado Taft on sculpture, thrashing Gawain with a whopping 8,889 words. Gawain boy has done good too, though—take for instance his classic recent speculation about beauty. He promises more pieces on taste for me to lock horns with soon. My sharp archaeological comrade Raminagrobis continues to frustrate me by not writing enough: still, I can relate to everything he does write. Languagehat, meanwhile, continues to be the ultimate problem-solver, as well as producing the snide fare we all enjoy—really, he could pen this stuff in his sleep, but it's no less fun. John of Blog Meridian scribbles with an infectious enthusiasm, and with no less infectious a feeling for place, and his latest post is a charmingly ramshackle agglomeration of ideas, full of hints. Hank Heatly breaks from painting place—in this John is his true comrade—to dissert on ancient timekeeping. (Have you read this, Hank?) Simon Holloway, finally, who brings out the philosemite in me, charms me with his Biblical geekdom, and would charm my wife with his Lord of the Rings geekdom.

My best new discovery is Imaginative Universal, especially as its proprietor, the mysterious Herr Ziffer, or Ashley as he signs himself elsewhere, has stopped writing about programming, and has started instead on phenomenology, occultism, jargon and other offbeat philosophical topics. It's serious stuff, but has none of the smugness and predictability that usually plagues blog-philosophy. Ziff has the rare talent of finding uses for abstract philosophy in discussing modern culture. This is how to do it, Kugelmass.


John B. said...

Many happy returns of the day to your blog--and thank you for the kind words about my place. Now: to read about fortune cookies.

Andrew W. said...

Happy Anniversary!

All I can say is God bless that guy on the Valve who asked bloggers to comment about their blogs last year.

Although nothing came of his project, discovering you and Gawain through it has made my year immensely richer, both in your writing, and in your own exploration of what's going on out there blogwise.

Keep it coming!

Languagehat said...

Aferin! (I don't know how you figured it out, but I do in fact write my blog in my sleep, leaving me free to spend my days watching soap operas and eating bonbons.)

Anonymous said...

Well, happy b-day, Varieties.
your anniversary occasions some thoughts.

For instance that as badly written as most of Valve is, yet, ho-ho, that's where we can meet kindred souls (you, alt). Maybe i should go back there sometime, to read the comments if not the entries, to see who else is worth meeting.

Second, that the post of yours which slate carried was a middle-brow film review (I mean the film's middle brow, not Varieties'). Clearly, if you lowered your standards a notch and took interest in more drivel you'd be on your way to publishing success. I thank you for not doing the same.

Third, that the medium just isn't us. You tease that people come to Varieties looking for sleeze. well, a lot of my traffic seems keyed to keywords which I *would* like to make me searchable: Akbarnama, say, or Panji, or East-West Divan, or Death in Venice. Googling the same words finds my blog pretty near the top of those classes; which means that I probably get substantially all the traffic which ever searches for them. That's about 3 visits a month each. Clearly, a library catalog listing would be a better place to collect readers.

Also, here are some thoughts about my blogging experienc, if i may: the blog has not really given me a bully pulpit, nor made me famous, let alone rich (and I have been at it almost twice as long as you); and I doubt it is a path to publishing success;

in fact, my technorati ranking keeps decaying at alarming rate (because other blogs are building traffic so much faster);

but it has done two wonderful things:

first, it allowed me to organize some thoughts on (relatively) esoteric subjects in essays which otherwise would never have been written (or, at any rate, finished); and the very act of organizing often revealed just how complex and difficult some of these subjects are and how little I really know;

and secondly: Cafe Gawain has been a great place to meet friends; you, alt, Chris Miller, Yvette, Shilgia, NYR, Joy;

I set out to these two purposes and they are working out. Why am I dissatisfied? :)

Anonymous said...

Conrad, there's a lot to like about Imaginative Universals, and there's also a bell that rings in my head whenever somebody conflates Heidegger and Frankfurt. ("For now, however, the difference isn't all that important.") Heidegger had the, ah, good taste not to publish a gold-plated volume entitled "On Truth" comprising around 300 words.

Happy New Year! Here's to hoping your ambivalence never flags.

Conrad H. Roth said...

Shall we say 10 paces, Joe, or 15? Seriously though, that bell of yours must ring all the time. And could one really put Heidegger and 'good taste' together? The man's mind was high camp. Happy New Year to you, my friend!

(And many thanks to the rest of you! I feel quite the same as you Gawain--but Steve really will have to let me in on his somnoblogulent secret...)

chris miller said...

Happy Birthday, Vunex, and thankyou, Conrad, for your kind words concerning my very self-indulgent blogging (was it really 8,849words ? phew !)

One thing I've noticed about blogging -- as opposed to listserving -- is that it's
more congenial -- more like guest-meeting-host -- and less like thug-meeting-thug on a
dark street.

And while listservs often seem to slog on forever -- blogs are so effervescent -- like spider webs --
that appear without announcement -- and disappear without warning.

It's all very temporary -- but for those brief moments spent with NYR's memories, Gawain's discoveries, Conrad's puzzlements, or ALT's Canadians -- it's just about the most glorious way to waste time ever invented.