Monthly Archives: December 2013

2013 in review: Not Bad

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.  I’m not sure if people are interested in this thing or not, but the WordPress.com helper monkeys sent me this report and offered me a link that would allow me to share it with my readers, so at least in the opinion of the helper monkeys, some people might think it’d be a cool thing to see.  What’s most interesting to me is the info right out of the gate there, which you don’t even have to see the whole report to get, and that is that 2013 was my best year.  7,600 views.  I have nothing to compare that to, so I don’t know if I have a hit or a dud; what I do know is that I’ve been doing this for two full years plus now, and with a total number of views at 10,737, my readership has, in the last year, how do I say, blossomed–at least comparatively speaking.  Hey, all you readers: thanks so much for that!

For those of you blogging and for those of you otherwise interested, I have two theories about my bumper year.  On my best day ever here at michaeljarmer.com, I stirred up some controversy.  Actually, I didn’t stir it, somebody else did–by reading a particular blog entry I’d written about the rigors of teaching writing for your average high school English teacher and then by posting the link on Reddit with the headline “This Guy Is What’s Wrong With Education in America” or something to that effect.  So, one lesson about getting more readership might be to piss someone off to the extent that they would say nasty things about you on some other social network site and post links to your blog.  That was an interesting experience, but it consumed me for several days running, and that was bad.  It wasn’t all bad.  Readers stood up to the guy and defended me–people I didn’t know, and that was good.  And of course, it was my busiest day ever, and that was good.

My other busiest time of the year was during the cruelest month of April when I participated in the NaPoWriMo, meeting the challenge of writing a poem a day every day for a month.  And here’s the other wisdom nugget:  a way to increase readership is to post something every day.  That’s it–but you already knew that.  That’s no easy task–for so many reasons, not the least of which is time, and not the least of which is the problem of having a new idea every day–those two reasons are often insurmountable for people.  I doubt very much I could sustain that for any longer than a month, not without neglecting things around the house, or neglecting people around the house, or neglecting work and sleep around the house.  And as far as I can tell, I’m not earning anything, monetarily speaking, from my blog.  That might be a game changer.  Anyone want to pay me to do this?  For right now, I do it because I dig it, and for now, that’s good enough.

Again, thanks so much for being here, for reading, for commenting or not, for sharing or not, and even for saying nasty things about me on Reddit.  I couldn’t have done it without you, without all of your 7,600 views.  Happy New Year and happy blogging.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,600 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Filed under Publishing, Self Reflection, Writing and Reading

On New Year’s Resolutions, Or, On Having Blogged A Bunch and the Dangers of Repeating Oneself

new-years-bucks-county

I began composing a blog entry this morning about New Year’s Resolutions.  The direction I was going felt compelling.  I was proud of the opening paragraph.  I was on to something and feeling clever and witty and all of that jazz. I was also feeling a bit of deja vu, like somehow, I remembered writing, if not these very words, about this very topic at least.  So I started doing some research in the archives of my own damn blogsite, and lo and behold, I found an entry called “Of Resolutions,” published exactly 365 days ago today, on December 30, 2012. It made me wonder how many times I have already done this.  In 131 blog entries, how many times have I said the same dumb thing over and over again in just slightly different ways?  Have I become a broken record?  Have I run out of ideas?  After a brief little panic, I come to the conclusion that no, that if in fact this has occurred throughout the annals of my blogging, it is no big deal, because I think it might be possible that some things are worth repeating.  It might also be possible that my memory is not as good as it once was–but I’m sticking to this first possibility.  Some ideas are worth repeating.  Many good ones are.  And sometimes it helps to repackage the same ideas in a new way, for fun, to keep them fresh, to try them out again in a different way.  Other times, perhaps the best option is just to repeat yourself verbatim.  I read that original post of a year ago and I did not find it lacking too terribly much.  So I choose now to repeat myself verbatim, because I can, because these ideas are worth repeating, and because of this recent mini-lecture I found on Upworthy.com by Dr. Mike Evans:

Recent Mini-Lecture I Found on Upworthy.com by Dr. Mike Evans

So, with that, here’s this, again. I’ve only changed a few words so that the thing can be about 2014 and not our current but waning year:

Of Resolutions

The only new year’s resolution I’ve ever made and then kept was the one I made two years ago to publish my novel Monster Talk in 2012. But I think I was cheating because the decision to do the thing was made before the close of 2011 by a couple of days–so the ball was in motion and there was very little I could do to stop it, even if I wanted to. I mean, I could have dropped the ball at any point in the process, but I didn’t, and there was lots of work to do around revision and editing and proofreading and arranging art that kept me busy all the way into spring of 2012.  That was an impressive resolution to make, though, the results of which were public and out there in the open for all to see, unlike most resolutions people make to drink less or eat less or lose weight or be nice–things that are very difficult for anyone other than the person making the resolution to see or keep track of.

So, I’m having some difficulty this year thinking of a suitable resolution.  Maybe I will resolve this year to make no resolutions.  Isn’t it true that people, on the whole, do things they really want to do, achieve the things they really want to achieve, and those things they don’t want to do or achieve, even if they’re really good for them, don’t get done–whether a resolution is made or not?  Maybe deep down I don’t want to drink less, eat less, lose weight, or be nice.  And most of the things I might resolve to do in 2014 (write more, finish the draft of the new novel, read more, record more, stress less, meditate)–these things just might happen anyway. But perhaps, even when a resolution is not kept, in part or in full, there is still some value in resolving to do something in the new year.  Just saying the words–especially in earshot of someone who might notice or care–might be worth doing.

It’d be nice, though, wouldn’t it, if resolutions could be more transformational and radical.  If resolutions could really shake things up, present real significant challenges, create profound  and lasting changes.  I imagine that some people accomplish these things with their resolutions, but I bet it’s more likely that these people are transforming their lives or the lives of others through a daily process of working toward some goal, some dream or another–it’s a part of their daily living and their way of being in the world and likely has nothing to do with a promise they made on New Year’s Eve.  This is just leading me down a kind of sad path as I realize how little agency I sometimes feel to make radical changes in my life–whether it is about some significant change professionally, creatively, personally, in my relationship to people and things, in how my values reflect or don’t reflect the way I actually live or work.  It’s an interesting, profound, and difficult question–if there were no limitations on things you could decide to do or try in the new year, what would you do? What would you try? What’s holding you back?  Would it help to make a resolution?

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#68: On Watching an Episode of My Little Pony with My Son

MyLittlePony_Friendship_is_Magic_Wallpapersize_Fanart

On Watching an Episode of My Little Pony with My Son

Yeah, I know about bronies.
I was introduced to this term
by a student, an 11th grade boy who wrote an
essay about being a brony,
part confessional, part defense
of the show’s merits, partial
explanation of the idiosyncrasies
of this particular kid. At first,
I didn’t believe such a thing
existed, but a short little research
excursion gave me plenty of insight.
Indeed, the brony exists: a young boy,
a teen, or an adult male who is a fan of the
show My Little Pony, a show
whose target audience seems to be girls,
children, I would say, up through
pre-pubescence, and maybe including
a few outlying teens. Not only are
these boys and men fans of the show,
but they have chatrooms, they go to
conferences and conventions,
they buy the paraphernalia, and they
value, deeply value, the show,
its art, its writing, its characters, and
not least of all, its message to the world.
There’s even a documentary.  Yes,
there’s even a documentary.
So yeah, I know about bronies, but up until
only a couple of weeks ago now,
my eight year old son had not.
It turns out, a friend of ours
has a son, ten or twelve, who is a self-declared
brony, and confessed as much to our
eight year old, who at first, thought this
was strange, and yet, couldn’t stop
talking about it.  Fast forward a few days
and he’s streaming episodes of
My Little Pony, Friendship Is Magic
on the iPad.  “Watch one with me, Daddy,
and maybe we’ll both become Bronies.”

In the episode my boy chose for us,
the main character, Twilight Sparkle,
a unicorn pony, has two tickets to a party
and all her pony friends want to go, and
this of course results in a wild competition
between all the pony girls to win the affection,
and thus the ticket to the party, from their friend.
Twilight’s miserable, of course, because she has to
choose between all of her friends and doesn’t want
to disappoint any of them. Finally, the cut-throat hijinks
gone overboard, the straws that break the pony’s back,
Twilight breaks down. Mortified, one after another,
the friends realize how shitty they have been, and each
in turn relinquishes her claim to the ticket.
In a final act of selflessness, our heroine, Twilight,
relinquishes her own ticket, saying simply,
if all of my friends can’t go, I won’t go either.
And this, in a way, to me at least, seems like a
bold move, a brave thing for our unicorn pony to do.
And yet, her little dragon side-kick (one of the few
male characters in the show) barfs up magically
six tickets, one for each of Twilight’s buddies,
and a seventh for himself despite his pretended
disinterest in the “girly-gala.”

I’m disappointed in the magic barf that
brings forth the tickets for everyone and
the happy ending, I would have been more satisfied
with a sacrifice all of the ponies are making
for their mutual happiness, but, truth be told,
when the show is over, I reflect on my general
response to the show.  Not once did I roll my eyes,
not once did I laugh in derision, not once did I feel
inclined to walk away while shaking my head.
Okay, I said, I can see it.  I can see it.
I can see young boys in an age that has
(not wholly) but more or less shrugged off
the bigotry and sexism of their parents’
and their grandparents’ eras, has embraced
sexual ambiguity and diversity of identity
as a given, and has found great reward,
possibility, and some liberty in the perspective
of the feminine.  And while I doubt my particular
boy will ever grow tired of hitting things with a stick
or staging full on death matches with his stuffed bears,
nothing is lost, and much perhaps is gained, by a
healthy dose once in a while of My Little Pony,
Friendship is Magic.

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Filed under Culture, Parenting

#67: The American Atheist Endorses The Pope

pope-francis_2541160b

He reads that the Pope
has nothing against him,
in fact, sees him as an equal,
every bit as deserving
as the most devout religionist.
He sees the Pope coming out
for those who are coming out
and for those who have been
forever out of the closet.
He sees him saying that
market capitalism has run
amok and he sees the Pope
advocate, really advocate,
for the poor–in the way that
Jesus might have done.
This is all new, every day a new
wrinkle in the Atheist’s old faith,
the one he grew up with and finally
jettisoned because he’s actually
read parts of the Bible and been
sickened at heart by the atrocities
in the Catholic history, both recent
and ancient. And then he reads
that the Pope has said that parts
of the Bible itself are full of “later
interpolations contrary to the message
of love and truth” and finally, finally
he says that women should be ordained
and that one day he hopes
a woman will be Pope.
All this good news is not enough
to make the American Atheist “believe” anything
that he found impossible to believe
before Francis started changing the world,
except maybe for this:
that coexistence is possible
and hope is possible when
religious leaders start to use their minds
and are lead by reason, reason, reason,
and not the blind, unthinking, fundamentalist dogma
and anti-intellectualism that plagues
our country and the planet and in no exaggerated
way threatens our existence.
The American Atheist endorses The Pope
and says a very enthusiastic Merry Christmas
to the new Catholic Church.

Note:  This poem was in large part inspired by an article posted on The Mighty Social Network from a WordPress blog site called Diversity Chronicle.  Following a thread in this original post, someone made the claim that the article was a hoax, and, it turns out, from the blog site’s own disclaimer, that it might indeed be a hoax.  Okay, so maybe the Pope endorsed in this poem did not say that he hoped a woman could be Pope or that the Bible contains bullshit. But my bets are that he might at some point.  And, while I feel a little bit cheated by the Diversity Chronicle people, I am somewhat in agreement with the philosophy of the Lichtenberg quote on their disclaimer page:  “I ceased in the year 1764 to believe that one can convince one’s opponents with arguments printed in books. It is not to do that, therefore, that I have taken up my pen, but merely so as to annoy them, and to bestow strength and courage on those on our own side, and to make it known to the others that they have not convinced us.” – Georg Christoph Lichtenberg.  So let’s write poetry and fiction in which the Pope says women should be ordained and the Bible contains some stretchers, and maybe, through the pure force of imagination, we can make a new kind of reality.  Thoreau:  “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

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Hey, That’s My Bike

bikxtra_14white

I could not remember the title (Reality Bites); all  I could remember was that some character in a film I saw a long time ago had a band called Hey, That’s My Bike, and one, I thought that was the coolest band name in the world, and two, I couldn’t stop thinking about this phrase as I tossed and turned all night in one of those states you sleep in when you’ve got a head cold and your brain is in a fog but at the same time you’re obsessing over some damn thing you’re excited about, namely, a new bicycle.

My new Edgerunner from Xtracycle arrived yesterday and Eric, from his shop The Bike Commuter, posted a picture of it on the Mighty Social Network website the kids call Facebook.  Christmas came early, and today, Friday, after the last day of work before the holiday break, I planned to get a ride to the bike store so I could ride my new baby home.  But the weather outside is frightful, downright shitty, and I’ve got a cold all up in my head and nose, also shitty. So you’d think I’d wait a couple of days, until things dried out in the weather and inside my head.

One of my chief personal weaknesses is my inability to wait very much longer than a couple of minutes for something I want.  It’s embarrassing, and it’s not a trait that I am particularly proud of, but delayed gratification and I–we don’t get along well.  So I weathered the weather and the stuffed-up head and the tickle in the throat that wants to become a cough, and I asked my wife and son to drive me to the bike shop. They dropped me off and I rode my new bike home for a half hour in the rain.  I had my gear on, so I was protected pretty much, except for the new white bike, which was getting muddy, and my cheeks, which were freezing off.  But I kept saying, hey, that’s my bike, and I smiled all the way home–and now, for the time being anyway, I am none the worse for wear–and gratified.

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#66: The American English Teacher Doesn’t Want His Student To See Him Using Facebook

No Facebook

So, the student stops by the house
of his English teacher
to pick up a younger member of his family who’s
taking music lessons from the English teacher’s wife,
and he comes into the study to say hello
and the English teacher minimizes his Facebook page
so that the student doesn’t know
that this is one of the ways his English teacher
spends his time at home.
Afterward, the English teacher writes a poem
about it because it strikes him, somehow,
as a very strange thing that he’s done, this minimizing
of Facebook, or because it makes him feel odd,
like he’s almost been caught doing something bad, or, at least,
caught doing something he’s self-conscious about,
something he doesn’t want his students, or this
particular student, to think he does all the time.
The English teacher can’t quite settle the dilemma,
doesn’t quite know how or what to think about the issue,
but eventually comes to feel all right about the whole thing,
liberated as he now feels from the earlier worry of the day
that he would never find another idea for a new poem.

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