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Friday, January 19, 2007

The blog that changed my life

Camilla was the first blogger I ever read on a regular basis, starting back in late 2002. A link on her site, wallflower.nu, pointed me to another site where, early on the morning of January 1, 2003 I noticed a pretty, smiling blonde girl. On a whim I followed the link to her site, sdfsdf.wox.org. Suddenly I was hooked on Sammie's blog.

I know Bill from Industrial Blog through a mutual friend. I knew him for several years before I discovered in early 2004 that he had a blog. After reading posts in which he eloquently and passionately expressed political and social views with which I strongly disagreed, I realized that I could no longer be silent. I could no longer simply comment and kibitz on other people's blogs. I needed to start my own blog.

And then one morning on NPR I heard that Blogger had just revised its software to be extremely user-friendly, and they were encouraging everyone to start a blog. I took them up on their offer, found my first choice of a name was available, and Another Monkey was born.

But I'm not talking about any of that.

The blog of which I speak is nothing like the personal journal / slice-of-life blogs of which I wrote yesterday. Nor is it like the political blogs, although it does have some aspects in common with them: it comments on and critiques the creative work of others, sometimes with admiration, sometimes with gentle humor, sometimes with outright scorn and sarcasm that will flay flesh from bone.

The blog of which I speak is Josh's Comics Curmudgeon.

I'm a relative newcomer to this site. I believe I had randomly visited it a time or two in the past, but it was not until late October of last year when the death of Mary Worth's Aldo Kelrast - a crushing blow to the phenomenon known as Aldomania - got a mention in a CNN article that pointed to the site.

It's not just a site critical of comics. It's a celebration of the funny papers, a collective work by Josh Fruhlinger and dozens - perhaps hundreds - of regular commentors. Each post by Josh is responded to with hundreds of comments, many of them witty and pithy one- or two-liners, some of them full-fledged song and poem parodies. His commentors are disproportionately made up of Copy Editors and former marching band members. They are literate, articulate, fast, and furiously funny. And they are passionate about the funny pages.

We have developed our own in-jokes and code words over at Josh's site, phrases that instantly recall weeks or months of cross-referenced comments. Ubiquiducks. Molly, the Best Bear in the World. FOOBs. "Pulling an Aldo." Even some things that stretch back before my time. I still don't get the "Glass Swan" references made about Mary Worth - but with enough research, I will!

I have always read the comics in the paper, all of my life. The funny pages were the first place I learned to read - though some of my earliest experiments with trying to make sense of words came with the funny pages' crossword puzzle solutions, where I decided that some of the things in the squares were words, and some were not. (I still think about that every time I see the word EPEE in a crossword.) But in recent years I have cast only a cursory glance at the pages, maybe to see if Dilbert has any bearing on current events at work, or if Garry Trudeau has decided to maim any more of his characters.

Thanks to Josh's site I now find myself eagerly reading all of the comics in every newspaper I come across. There is so much good stuff there, and bad, too. I never realized how much people cared about For Better or For Worse. And now I care about it, too: I deeply, deeply hate it, and its creator, too.

Perhaps more important than anything else: this site is funny. Josh is funny. His commentors are funny. No matter how crappy my day is, I will always find something on The Comics Curmudgeon that will make me laugh out loud - sometimes way too loud. And that's a good thing.

Josh's site has deeply enhanced my appreciation for those few pages of entertainment tucked in amongst the news of the day. It's truly a remarkable experience - something like having discovered late in life that flowers have a smell, or that salt can enhance the flavor of food. Set aside a few hours to visit Josh's Comics Curmudgeon. Read a few weeks worth of posts and all of the associated comments, and then see if you don't look at the funny pages in your daily newspaper in a whole new light!

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