Saturday, December 17, 2005

What's All This Then?
(This post has been edited and expanded since it first appeared.)
In the annual letter that goes with our 2005 Christmas cards, The Mrs. and I mentioned that I spend a lot of my spare time shouting into the void on the Internet. So I am guessing that in the next week or two, lots of people who know me personally but who have never visited this website will be checking in. Which means it's time to address some likely-to-be-asked questions.

What is this site of yours, anyhow?
It's a blog, which is short for "weblog." When blogs first began appearing on the Internet in the late '90s, they were defined as "online diaries." Some bloggers treat them that way, reporting on their lives and feelings in detail. Sometimes this can make good reading, and sometimes it's just dumb. Topic-oriented blogs soon followed, and one of the richest veins of "the blogosphere," as we like to call it, is the political blog. That's what this blog purports to be. There are thousands--and I do mean literally thousands--of political blogs on the Web. This one is very modest, but its purpose is similar to that of the big boys--to provide running, real-time commentary on what's happening in government and society. By reading this blog, you'll find out what I think, and you'll find lots of links to columns and posts on other blogs that tell you what those writers think. (I contribute to another political blog, Best of the Blogs, and I have a non-political blog about music and radio called The Hits Just Keep On Comin'. And, just maybe, a little too much time on my hands.)

How long have you been doing this? The Daily Aneurysm actually started in February 2003, without a name. In the runup to the Iraq war, I found myself ranting about politics in my personal journal. Some of the rants read pretty well when I got done and seemed to deserve a wider audience, so I started posting them on my website, which I'd used previously to warehouse other writings of the same sort. (Not that anybody was actually reading them, of course, but at least there was the theoretical possibility that they might.) The rants became more frequent as the war drew nearer. About the same time, I was reading Best of the Blogs one day when I was moved to comment on one of the site's posts. Since the Haloscan comment software everybody uses has a place for you to put your URL, I put mine on the comment. A few days later, I was surprised to find that Best of the Blogs had added my name and URL to its blogroll. This was sufficient motivation for me to start updating my own website with new commentary every day. (Best of the Blogs invited me to become a guest contributor a couple of years ago--their first one ever--and I've maintained the connection ever since.)

I have read some of your articles and I notice that you're a liberal. What's up with that? Every now and then I run into someone who knew me way back when, and they're surprised to learn I'm a liberal. Well, back in the day, especially in college, I was pompous, arrogant, lacking in empathy, and utterly convinced of my own rectitude--so I understand the mistake. But yeah, in my mid-20s, when I finally figured out my political opinions, they were liberal, and they remain so. Pro-choice, pro-gun control, anti-war (but I approved of the war in Afghanistan), in favor of free speech, gay rights, and other stuff under the rubric of live-and-let-live. Economically and politically, I'm a New Dealer: as FDR believed, improving the lot of the poorest among us is the most effective way to improve the lot of all of us.

I have read some of your articles and I notice that you don't have nice things to say about God and religion. What's up with that?
Hey, I went to Sunday school as a kid, and I belonged to a church as recently as 1994. I won't bore you with the story, but in a process that took several years, I ended up fairly well-convinced there's no God. But even before that, I was bothered by the toxic effect religion had on many people--and since 2000, I've become about half-convinced that toxic religion is going to be the death of this country. I know that millions of Americans belong to progressive denominations that don't spend all their time hating gay people and the poor and worshipping fetuses and George W. Bush. But those people aren't in charge of the government, or working to make sure their control of government and society is made permanent.

(By the way, around here we refer to Bush as "He Who Shall Not Be Named," or "HWSNBN" for short.)

Such language you use sometimes. What would your mother say? I believe that one way to do effective political battle with the other side is to make fun of them when they do or say stupid things, and that's often my primary goal when I sit down to write. I'm often rude, sometimes crude, and occasionally R-rated, because sometimes nothing gets a point across like Anglo-Saxon four-letter words. (Sometimes, I use them just because I'm angry.) And my mother doesn't have Internet access, thank goodness.

How do you find the time to do this? For the first six months of its existence, I wrote this blog mostly at work. (I had a corporate job I hated, and writing was more fun than working.) In October 2003, I bagged my corporate gig and started working at home. The freedom to read and write on my own schedule kicked my blogging into overdrive. Now, I spend a couple of hours every morning reading news and other blogs, and then writing. On any given day, I rarely know precisely what I'm going to write about, although there may be an idea or two floating around in my head when I sit down. The entries ("posts," as they're known to bloggers) sometimes take half-a-day to percolate, and sometimes they almost write themselves. Usually, they're somewhere in between.

How many readers do you have? That's hard to say. I get roughly 1,000 hits (visits) per month, which is about equal to the number of people who click the major political blogs by accident in a given hour. So this is not exactly one of the busy corners of the web. The number of hits has been trending up lately, though.

Who's this Tom Herbst guy, whose byline I see every so often? Tom is a longtime reader who made such a pest of himself--er, I mean, had such a unique and intelligent perspective on current events--that I made him a regular contributor, whenever he feels like it. He claims to be a normal family man with a wife and kids living in Pennsylvania, although he and I have never actually met. Things being what they are on the Internet, of course, he may be a one-legged lesbian living in Jamaica. Then again, I could be, too.

I want to respond to something you say on here. How do I do that?
There's a link after each post labeled "Comments." Click it and tell the whole class what you think. You can comment anonymously, if you want. If you'd prefer to e-mail me privately, there's an address in the right-hand column.

I'm glad you've found your way to this outpost, and I hope you'll come back, participate--and if you're not persuaded by my arguments, I hope you'll at least be entertained by the way I make 'em. And now, let's get on with the show.

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