16 candles for the Ramblin’ blog

Daily since May 2, 2005

16 candles16 Candles. I remember that track. The song by The Crests was released at the end of 1958. It got to #2 in the pop charts for two weeks and #4 on the soul charts in early 1959.

16 Candles was kept out of the #1 pop slot by Stagger Lee by Lloyd Price, a song that also kept Donna by Richie Valens from reaching the top of the charts.

The Crests was an “interracial doo-wap group formed in Manhattan, NY.” It included Johnny Maestro, later of the Brooklyn Bridge (The Worst That Can Happen); Harold Torres; Talmadge Gough; and J.T. Carter. Patricia Van Dross, older sister of Luther Vandross, left the group in 1958.

But I’ve never seen the John Hughes movie.

I suppose those paragraphs epitomize what I try to do in the blog. Find a hook for the topic, sometimes using information gleaned from something called books. And I have a fair amount of them in the office where I almost always write.

In fact, it’s the books, or more correctly, the built-in bookcases which contain mostly my books, many of them reference materials about music, television, and movies, that kept me in here during the pandemic. Meanwhile, my wife ended up in the guest room, where she now does her email, school planning, and church meetings.

How I write a daily blog

This sounds obvious, but it does help. What makes blogging easier is knowing what I am going to blog about. There are about 30 holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. Then I’m going to write about my daughter once a month. All I need to write is about 300 more posts per year. Piece of cake!

Sometimes an event happens in the world, and I need to write about it; the death of someone significant to my understanding of the world, e.g. I might bunch a few together, as I did when Cicely Tyson, Hank Aaron, and others who died within two weeks of each other.

Often, I don’t know that I have something to say until I do. After the Atlanta-area shootings, I thought I’d just put some links in my twice-monthly linkage dump. But then they became so numerous I realized that I should probably create a blog post.

I try to write every day. If I go more than a day without writing, it becomes more difficult to restart. For me, writing begets writing. So I have to muse about SOMETHING. If I know I’m going to note the 1991 #1 hits in October 2021 – and I am, BTW – and I don’t have anything else in mind, I could write about that. I haven’t, yet; maybe tomorrow.

For the birds

My late blogger buddy Dustbury “noted that he and I have something in common: we are both magpies. As he put it: ‘The Eurasian magpie… is wicked smart, especially for a bird… I am not quite sure how ‘magpie’ became a descriptor for humans who flit from topic to topic unless it has to do with the bird’s tendency to be attracted to Shiny Things, but I’m pretty sure I fit that description, and I have several readers who seem to do likewise.”

He was not wrong. In early 2021, I watched five movies in five days and wrote posts about them soon thereafter. But I didn’t post five movie posts in a row because I didn’t want to. I sense that you don’t want me to either. The strength, and weakness I suppose, of this blog, is that it ping pongs all over the place. That’s because my mind does that.

Consequently, I don’t post in the order that I write. Frequently, I have something already scheduled for a date, but something more pressing/timely pops up. I will, and in fact, do move posts around. A lot, sometimes.

This has the added benefit that, as often as not, I have no idea what I’ve decided to post on a given day until I actually see it. Surprise! And, as I’ve often mentioned, it’s not until then that I see the damn typo or wrong word choice (site instead of cite, e.g.).

Long-form

Just recently, my wife asked me if I might want to “publish” sometimes, to which I said, “I DO publish, every day.” But I knew what she meant, write a book or something. The problem is that I don’t know what it would be about.

Now Jaquandor, HE writes books. I’ve read a couple of them and I liked them. Go read HIS books.

I never tried to get a doctorate because I couldn’t imagine spending the time necessary on one topic. And, as I get older, I realize that I keep learning “stuff” about myself, the world. It’s not that I have no preconceived notions, for surely I do. It’s just that they often tend to get dashed on the rocks. Reason enough to keep blogging, I suppose.

WordPress classic editor retrievable

WordPress blogging

classic editorMy blogger buddy Chuck Miller wrote this post about why WordPress fixed what wasn’t broken. Specifically, “WordPress jerked its ‘Classic Editor’ function away from me, in favor of this new ‘fill in the blocks and do it our way’ functionality.”

And they did it without any warning, as Chuck rightly complained about.

While he was ultimately able to get the newish Gutenberg Editor to work, sort of, it’s been giving me a headache since the beginning of 2019. As I noted here: “WordPress 5 changed to an entirely new editor… ” This is SUPPOSED to be easier. “Construction of a post that historically just involved typing now involves pasting together a series of blocks.”

I hated it, and I couldn’t figure out how to use it the way I wanted to. Fortunately, the late Dustbury noted I could download Classic Editor as a plugin. And that works on my primary blog to this day.

Process

But before I write my posts, I create it in a test blog. And THAT blog has been changed to the block editor. One of Chuck’s commenters noted: “There are literally hundreds of WordPress users whose latest posts have been complaints about how awful Block Editor is. Will they listen?” Happily, “I found a hidden way to the Classic Editor… Now the link is under ‘All Posts'” So it is.

Another workaround comes from another Chuck commenter, which you can find here. Enter this in your browser, substituting the name the name of your blog. https://yourblog.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php?classic-editor It will take you to the old-style editor where you can create a post. Then bookmark that page for future use.” Sweet!

Know that I have really tried to use the Block Editor. I can do it, but it takes about 50% longer. I’m no more creative. Spending time formatting is NOT why I started blogging.

Anil Dash: 15 Years of Blogging post

Am I an artist?

I Know You Are
The Bad Chemicals, used by permission
About six years ago, my friend Dan sent me a link to 15 Lessons from 15 Years of Blogging by a guy named Anil Dash. Now that I’ve hit that milestone, I want to see if he was correct.

I Typos in posts don’t reveal themselves until you’ve published. “If you schedule a post to publish in the future, the typos will be revealed then. This is an absolute, inviolable rule of blogging.” Heck, yeah. It’ll be something that I KNOW how to spell. Of COURSE, I know the difference between two, to, and two. But my fingers, apparently, do not.

II Link to everything you create elsewhere on the web. That’s a good idea. I should do that, but I don’t. I’m counting on the Wayback Machine. Not incidentally, I became sad to note the disappearance of the Dustbury blog by Charles G. Hill. Fortunately, it is still archived.

III Always write with the idea that what you’re sharing will live for months and years and decades. Yes, I find that I get requests for information about my late friend Raoul Vezina years after I wrote about him.

IV Always write for the moment you’re in. That IS something I try to do.

Better luck next time

V The scroll is your friend. I love maybe half of what I write. But there’s tomorrow. If I labor over a piece too long, in general, the more paralyzed I am as a writer. I try not to do this.

VI Your blog can change your life in a month. People find me at this blog regularly, and they tell me things about my relatives and friends that I never knew before. It can be powerful stuff.

VII There is absolutely no pattern to which blog posts people will like. This is SO true. If you Google “Spaulding krullers” (a doughnut), guess what is #1? My 2014 post.

VIII The personal blog is an important, under-respected art form. I’m an artist! Someone said that to me at some point in the last couple of years. I poo-pooed it because I can’t draw a lick. But I do SOMETHING here. Some people think I’m a good writer. I cannot judge that, but I AM persistent, at least.

This post is a blogging sin

IX Meta-writing about a blog is generally super boring. “(That probably includes this post.)” I do tend to avoid them, unlike in my early blogging period when I’d note every lunaversary. This is true: “Certainly the world doesn’t need any more ‘sorry I haven’t written in a while’ posts.” Fortunately, I’ve never written one.

X The tools for blogging have been extraordinarily stagnant. I dunno. My WordPress plugins are always doing something, but they use terms I don’t understand. And the great innovation of the WordPress block editor escapes me. (And if you don’t understand that, well, neither do I.)

XI If your comments are full of @$$4013$, it’s your fault. On this blog, I’ve only regularly had one post that regularly generates the schmucks, and I’ve shut ’em down. (It was me writing a response post over three years ago, and the racists comments STILL show up, but I reject them.

XII The most meaningful feedback happens on a very slow timeframe. I’ve said it before: blogging is like slow cooking,

XIII It’s still early. If you have a voice, use it.

XIV Leave them wanting more. I never think, “I have to capture all my thoughts on this idea and write it about it definitively once and for all.” And I might change my mind. So, thanks, Anil Dash.

Blogging is hard – 15 years

equilibrium

SMBC
By kind permiission of SMBC Comics. “Fixing Social Media”
Even I have a difficult time believing this. I have posted a blog item every day since May 2, 2005. 15 years! Tough to believe because blogging is hard.

I enjoyed this story. “Media executives sometimes operate under the impression that writers are interchangeable, or that they could even do the job themselves. Now we get to watch how that turns out.” This was culled from a bigger article that also serves as a link dump on the subject.

Blogging is hard, especially if you are trying to make a living at it, which, fortunately, I’m not. There are new bloggers who don’t know why they haven’t gotten thousands of followers and hundreds of dollars per day.

As someone said, “To make money you gotta have a niche, and you damn well better like that niche. ‘“This blog is about portraits of Abraham Lincoln molded from earwax. Our community is scattered around the globe but very dedicated.'”

bloguer est difficile

Blogging is hard because the blog is, ideally, a dialogue with your audience. Some of my best commenters have, to put it gently, been going through stuff. And one, Dustbury, died last year. Uncomfortably, on 09/09/2019, my blog received 1703 views, 1479 specifically about his death.

One of his fellow acolytes, Fillyjonk, who has had recent troubles of her own, has been blogging over 18 years.

If you don’t want to write about COVID-19 every single day – and I don’t – blogging is particularly hard. I can’t write about the plays and movies I saw because I didn’t see them. Because my wife and daughter are home, I’m not able to carve out as much Roger time as the retiree had gotten used to having.

Perhaps there are folks out there watching videos, bingeing on TV series, and devouring books. To quote the poet, I ain’t me, babe.

So why do it? Why blog? Because there are things I wouldn’t know if I didn’t blog intermittently. In fact, there are things I’d forget in five minutes if I hadn’t blogged about it. Admittedly, there are few things I blogged about and still forget about.

And I blog to maintain my sanity (if any), my equilibrium. I try to keep my mind working trying to find the next subject.

An American album, as it were

U.S. Blues

AmericanBack in the early days of this blog, i.e., 2005, a bunch of bloggers – Fred Hembeck, Lefty Brown, Greg Burgas, Johnny Bacardi, Thom Wade, Eddie Mitchell, Gordon Dymowski, Tom Collins, and several others across the country- created a series of mixed CD exchanges. We’d burn collections of music and mail them to each other. Kind of quaint, eh? This was one of the earliest I created, if not the first. It’s an American album of sorts.

US: American Roulette – Robbie Robertson. From his first solo album, post-The Band.
NY: New York, New York – Ryan Adams, who has the same birthday as Bryan Adams, November 5.
NJ: Atlantic City – The Band, post-Robbie Robertson, cover Bruce Springsteen.
PA: Allentown – Billy Joel.
MD: Baltimore – Peter Case.

DC: The Bourgeois Blues – Taj Mahal, written by Leadbelly
VA: I Believe – Blessed Union of Souls.
NC: Take the Train to Charlotte – Fiddlin’ John Carson, one of my go-to songs.
SC: Darlington County – Bruce Springsteen.
GA: Oh, Atlanta – Alison Krauss.

FL: Gator on the Lawn – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. From the box set.
AL: Alabamy Home – the Gotham Stompers, an instrumental from “1930s Jazz- The Small Combos.”
MS: The Jazz Fiddler – the Mississippi Sheiks, from the “Roots & Blues” box set, as is NC.
LA: Down at the Twist & Shout – Mary Chapin Carpenter. My problem with her is that I can never remember where I file her, under Car or Ch.
TX: That’s Right (You’re Not from Texas) – Lyle Lovett

More states

So, I guess I created two or three more collections, but I can’t find them, alas. Off the top, what else would I pick?

AZ: By the Time I Get to Phoenix – Glen Campbell or maybe Isaac Hayes
CA: Goin’ to California – Led Zeppelin (and you thought I’d go with the Beach Boys!)
DE: Delaware Slide– George Thorogood & The Destroyers, though I did not own that album at the time
ID: Private Idaho – B-52’s
IL: Goin’ to Chicago – Jimmy Rushing On Vocals With The Benny Goodman Orchestra

MO: Kansas City – Wilbert Harrison
MT: Montana – Frank Zappa
NV: Leaving Las Vegas – Sheryl Crow
OK: Oklahoma Hills – Arlo Guthrie, written by his father Woody
OR: Portland, Oregon – Loretta Lynn with Jack White

What would you pick, either in lieu of my choices or filling in the blanks? I can think of two slots for John Denver, and several for Springsteen.

And finally, back to US: U.S. Blues – The Harshed Mellows at 11:05, from the Deadicated album.