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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Happy belated blogiversary to meeeeeee

I was reading a story by the late Kage Baker called "The Angel in the Darkness" a little while ago. In it, a woman about my age deals with the death of her father. Reading about her reactions made me think about my own reactions to the death of my father back in 2005, reactions recorded and preserved here on my blog. That made me think about my blog, and all the events recorded here, all the thoughts that I wrote down and shared over the years, and it made me think about how I've been neglecting it lately, and made me think about how many years had passed since I started it. Then I realized that my blogiversary - the anniversary of the day I started blogging - was sometime in May. A quick check showed that my ninth blogiversary had, in fact, already been and gone. My first (official) blog post was written on May 14, 2004.

A lot has happened and been recorded on this blog in that time. It seemed like I had been blogging forever when my father died, but in fact I had been at it only fifteen months. Haley died, and Ashes, and Minnie. I went to the beach, I started an exercise routine with Haley, and I stopped after Haley died. I went to Ireland, for the third and last time, and visited London for the first time. I bought my grandmother's house. My house was robbed. I lost my job at the place I had worked at for fifteen years. I went back to work as a production worker a few months later, and lost that job three years later. I went back as a temporary and worked my butt off for a few weeks. Eventually I got a job at another place, much closer to home. I have racked up hundreds of thousands of miles on my car. I have studied photovoltaic technology. I have joined a writing group. I have started other blogs, and as a result of one of them I have appeared on TV almost every week for the past year and a half.

I've watched most of the bloggers who were blogging when I started shut down their blogs and move on with their lives. Even many of the blogs I started reading over the years have shut down. Blogs that are updated with any regularity are few and far between these days.

I don't know why this is for everybody else. Maybe blogging was just a fad. Maybe it was a phase that many of us outgrew. Maybe other social networking tools, like Facebook and Twitter, consume our precious Blogging Energy Units and leave use too spent to say anything new. Maybe modern computing tools, smartphones and iPads and things like that, have made it too tedious to type more than 140 characters at a time. Maybe we've said everything we've had to say.

I'm not done, not yet. I've got my reasons and excuses for not blogging, but I'm not ready to shut down Another Monkey. I don't know if I'll ever blog as much as I used to, when I maintained a post-a-day minimum. I don't know if the blogosphere will ever be what it once was, when it felt like there was an enormous global conversation going on, when I would read and comment on updates from friends in Norway, Australia, England, and all over the U.S. Maybe there are loads of vibrant new blogs out there just waiting to be discovered. Maybe my friends who have backed away from blogging will pick up the practice once again. Who knows? Who can say? We'll see where things stand a year from last Tuesday, when I'm celebrating - or forgetting - my tenth blogiversary.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Hyperbole and a Half is back

It is possible that somehow you missed the biggest news on the Internet this week. If you have, I'll fill you in: Hyperbole and a Half is back.

Hyperbole and a Half is one of the funniest and most popular blogs in existence. Written and illustrated by Allie Brosh, each longform piece is accompanied by crudely-drawn but idiosyncratic images that have spread throughout the Internet in the form of memes - usually presented without attribution, but easily recognized by her fans. I first became aware of Allie Brosh's brilliant blog through the post The Year Kenny Loggins Ruined Christmas. That was posted in December of 2010. There would only be five more posts from Allie through 2011, none in 2012, and nothing more from her until this week. Her final post in 2011, Adventures in Depression, gave some hint as to what was about to come.

Allie's silence was broken by occasional messages attributed to her that appeared on message boards during her absence, though their authenticity was disputed. There was even a Facebook page set up by her, or by someone else on her behalf, and that is where I first heard the news that Allie was coming back. That post gave a foretaste of the post that would follow.

On Thursday, May 9, 2013 Allie posted an account of what she's been going through during her absence. And it is brutal.

Hyperbole and a Half: Depression Part Two

I thought I had some sense of what depression was. I now realize I did not. Clearly Allie did not either, before going through all this herself: the exhilarating feeling of nobody-can-hurt-me, I-can-do-anything numbness she described in Adventures in Depression spread out into a nihilistic abyss of numbness and nothingness, a relentless, featureless plane with no sign of hope anywhere.

You should read her most recent post.

You should read the rest of her blog, too. The 81 posts she wrote and illustrated in 2009, the 80 in 2010, the five in 2011. They are fun and funny, and that sense is barely diminished by the knowledge of where Allie is now. Will the fun and funny Allie ever come back? No one can say. But her most recent post ends with a grain - literally, a kernel - of hope, that maybe there is something out there for her other than nothingness. And that kernel gives the rest of us hope, too.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

FICTION: One Friday evening in a supermarket parking lot


The following is a true story. It has had some fictional elements added. Discerning truth from fiction is left as an exercise for the reader.


I almost forgot to go to the supermarket that night. It was about 9:30 and as I drove past I noticed the parking lot was mostly empty, and wondered briefly about what sort of people would be shopping there on a Friday night. About half a mile later I remembered that I wanted to pick up some ice cream there while it was still on sale, and maybe see if they had that Belgian Waffle mix I couldn't find anywhere else. So I turned around and headed back to the store.

As I drove through the parking lot a bedraggled orange cat dashed through my headlight beams. It looked wet - it had been pouring just an hour before, as my fellow bloggers and I huddled in a bar watching suspect #2 in the Boston Marathon Bombings get extracted from a boat. I parked my car and headed for the entrance. Ice cream, I thought. Belgian Waffle mix.

Hey, could you get me something while you're in there? a voice said.

I stopped, looked around. There was no one else in the lot. Nothing but some cars and the wet cat now sheltering in a cart corral.

I'm hungry, came the voice again. Couldja get me a can of something?

The cat was staring at me.

I hadn't had much to drink that night. One Yuengling that tasted sour. A Guinness that tasted like it was watered down. Another Guinness that I hadn't really wanted, but someone else had bought for me, so I drank it.

I turned to continue into the store.

Something nice, the voice said, fainter now. Not that store brand crap.

I was a little unnerved as I grabbed a cart. I didn't need a full-sized cart, but I didn't feel like carrying around containers of ice cream in my hands. I got two cartons of Rocky Road, still on sale, the one and a half quart size. They didn't have the store brand butterscotch swirl my mom likes, but that might get restocked in a few days, so I could get that for her then. Ice cream in cart, I began to search for the aisle with pancake syrup. Find the syrup, and the waffle mix might be nearby.

I stopped at the pet food aisle.

That cat did look hungry. Maybe it would still be outside.

I found a can of the stuff my cats like. Just one can. If the cat was still out there, I'd give it to him. If not, my cats would eat it.

A few minutes later I headed to the checkout. Two containers of Rocky Road ice cream. One box of Belgian Waffle mix. One can of cat food. Nearly ten o'clock on a Friday night. I wondered what the high school girl behind the register thought.

As I walked to my car I looked over at the cart corral. The orange cat was still there, staring at me.

Didja get it? a voice asked.

I reached into my bag and pulled out the can of cat food. I began to open it as I walked past my car towards the cat.

Just leave it and go, the voice said. The cat backed away as I approached.

I pulled the lid off the can, set can and lid on the pavement, and took a few steps back.

The cat scrambled over to the can and took a few tentative nibbles, then began to gobble away.

Oh, damn, this is good, I heard, muffled.

The cat stopped and looked up at me.

Well, whaddya want? Go away. I'm eating.

I kept watching. The cat arched its back slightly.

Seriously. Go away. I'll hurt you if you stay.

I took another step back. The cat continued to stare at me, then began eating again, more warily.

We were done here. I headed back to my car. I wanted to go home, maybe have some ice cream.

Hey, came a voice as I got back into my car. Thanks. Thank you for the food.

I tossed my bag on the passenger seat, started the car and pulled out of the lot. As I drove away I looked at the cart corral one last time. I could see the cat still there, eating.

I went home and had some ice cream.