Posted by mike in Internet,News at 10:42 pm on September 16, 2010

For about a week and a half now, I’ve been moonlighting at another blog called Get the Big Picture. I’m contributing daily articles on movie news, and starting tomorrow you’ll be seeing the occasional review of mine showing up there as well.

While I’m excited to be writing for a much wider audience, my hope is that I don’t neglect my own blog because of it (at least, not any more than I already do). There’s a writing staff at Get the Big Picture of 5 or 6 people, and I’m really a tertiary reviewer at this point, so the primary source for my reviews will still be right here at 1000 Monkeys. I’ll still link any reviews I post there from my reviews database, so searches will result in write-ups of every movie I see no matter where it’s posted. I intend to post a link here any time one of my reviews goes up over there, too.

My real goal for this site is to get back to it being more of a personal blog, with a wider range of topics covered. I think having a separate, purely movie-related outlet that I post to should help with this.

The Big Picture uses a different ratings scale than I do, so I’ve developed a handy equivalence chart for easy reference:

Big Picture Rating 1000 Monkeys Rating(s) Brief Description
Five Damn Dirty Apes **** Phenomenal
Four Damn Dirty Apes ***.5 Great
Three Damn Dirty Apes ***
Good /
Pretty Good
Two Damn Dirty Apes **
Okay /
Not Very Good
One Damn Dirty Ape *
Pretty Bad /
No Damn Dirty Apes 0 Really Bad

Note that the Damn Dirty Apes really belong to Colin, the sole writer for The Big Picture up until a couple of weeks ago (who has moved on), so we’ll be changing to something new soon. The zero-through-five scale will most likely remain the same, though.

You can see all of the articles and reviews I’ve posted at Get the Big Picture here. Feedback remains the best reward for any sort of writing, so check it out if you get a chance and let me know what you think.

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Posted by mike in Entertainment,Film,Internet at 10:43 pm on November 20, 2009

I don’t know if this is necessarily a dream most people share or not, but it certainly holds true for me personally that I would love nothing better than the opportunity to write my own movie and eventually see it produced. Tucker Max, the blogger-turned-author-turned-screenwriter behind I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, had the opportunity to do just that, and as I mentioned in my review of the resultant film, he was good enough to share the experience step by step with the world via a production blog that offered a surprising amount of valuable insights into the independent filmmaking process.

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell‘s theatrical run has been, by any standard, a failure. Due to Max’s abundant stream of cocksure updates about the decision-making process he went through in bringing the film to theaters, though, I think there’s a rare opportunity to examine exactly why it was such a flop, and maybe learn something about the state of the indie film market as well.

From the start, Max’s fundamental assumption was that he had an undeniably great product on his hands. This was not entirely blind self-confidence: the book that was used as the movie’s source material has sold over a million copies (according to Tucker Max—I couldn’t find definitive sales numbers anywhere), and it has appeared regularly on the New York Times best-seller list over the past 4 years (the current list credits it with a tenure of over two years). What he was incorrect about, however—among several other things—was in making the following additional assumptions:

  1. Everybody who considered him or herself a fan of his book would naturally seek out (and pay to see) his movie.
  2. These people would not only provide him with a built-in audience, they would also provide him with the necessary word-of-mouth advertising to turn the film into a widespread hit.

In his theatrical run wrap-up post from a few weeks ago, Tucker relates a story of an encounter with a self-identified fan who was completely oblivious to the movie’s existence. He correctly recognizes that the movie’s poor box office performance was due—at least in part—to “a complete failure in the publicity and marketing of the movie,” but true to form, he’s quick to imply (in not very indirect terms) that it is the fault of others:

Part of it was a lack of experience, part was naive optimism, and part was straight up malfeasance by certain parties involved with the movie.

This borderline tinfoil-hat assessment is in character for Max, but given his previous candor about the decision-making process (and his personal role in it), it’s hard to buy the conspiracy theory angle he’s trying to sell—though I’m sure it’ll be amusing to read his promised forthcoming explanation of that aspect of it. Even his claims of naiveté don’t totally fly, though, particularly if you examine his posts leading up to the movie’s release that revealed the self-education on independent film distribution he was (impressively) able to attain. Back in July, he wrote a primer on how film distribution works, and his tone in it is quite telling: confident that he had a hit on his hands, Max settled on a deal that was “an incredibly risky one, one that will pay off huge if the movie does well, and hurt us a lot if it fails. High risk, high reward.” I suppose you gotta admire the guy’s bravado, if nothing else.

Max’s description of their distribution model of choice goes on:

Normally, this is not an option available to an indie, because most indies don’t have any real commercial appeal, so no one wants to invest 35 or 20 or even 5 million dollars because they don’t think they’ll get their money back. But we are different–we have a broad commercial comedy that we could have sold to a studio at any point in the process, and based on the quality and reaction to the movie, Darko [the film’s production company] was able to independently raise the P&A we needed to distribute the movie ourselves.
On even a 40 million dollar box office with this movie, we are all swimming in money, whereas with a major distributor, we might have to hit 60 million before we start to see even pennies.

Even ignoring the lofty numbers he’s talking about, there’s a lot of confidence in his product behind those words, but I think it’s quite obviously unfounded. In that wrap-up post from a couple of weeks ago, Max had this to say:

I’ve seen every reaction, read every email, seen every review, and talked to more people about this movie than anyone else. No one has been more on the ground and seen more actual audience reaction than me. I know what real people who have actually seen the movie think about it, and it’s going to do great, given enough time.

He’s mostly referring to the month-long premiere tour he took the movie on; you can view videos from all of the stops at the movie’s YouTube channel. There’re a couple of interesting phenomena at work there, though, both of which I think contribute significantly to leading the filmmakers to believe that audiences like their movie a lot more than they actually do.

The first (and obvious) one is that people who go to the effort to purchase advance tickets, stand in line, and go to the general trouble of seeing the movie on a premiere tour stop are already predisposed to liking it. To even know about the movie in the first place, they’d probably have to be pre-existing fans of Tucker Max and his books. And to know about the premiere tour, they’d probably have to have been following his blog already. This all adds up to the fact that they’re likely going to be fans of the movie pretty much by default.

I think more interesting, though, is what I’d call the “I Was There” phenomenon. I used to encounter this a lot when I was in college and would go to see Phish a lot. People would often post show reviews on Usenet and mailing lists, and those that came from a guy who lived in the town where last night’s show took place—and who only attended that single show on the tour—never had much credibility. Invariably, said guy would gush about how great the show was, how it was the best of the tour, and how everybody should seek out tapes of it. There’s something about being “in” on something, experiencing it first-hand for yourself, especially when it’s something that’s not widely known about—it adds a counter-culture aspect of exclusivity to it, as well. I think this definitely occurred on the I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell premiere tour, and the audience reactions in the tour videos certainly seem to bear this out. (Of course, they’re also only putting positive reactions in the videos in the first place.)

If you’ve read my review of this movie, you know that at the most basic level, I think there’s a really easy explanation for why it was such a flop: it’s not good… at all. Even the trailer isn’t funny: there’s nothing in there that I can imagine would make the average filmgoer think, “Man, I wanna see that!” But I do harbor some respect for the process, for the way they attempted to go about doing things. Max sums it up fairly succinctly:

If you care about independent film or helping artists own their work or just generally root for the underdog, you are looking at that philosophy embodied in reality, right in front of you. We are not sitting around talking aimlessly about how we wish we could beat the system; we are putting our money and reputations on the line and trying to do it.

That, in a nutshell, is why I’ve paid so much attention to this movie from the get-go, and why I’ve been so interested in seeing how it does. Conversely, though, since I think the actual content was so poor, it’s hard to come to any hard conclusions based on this one example.

The biggest irony in all of this is the headstrong, self-confident series of assumptions behind the decisions that were made, most readily characterized by a post made back in June. There Tucker says, “For over five years I have looked at this movie as the first major battle in the grand campaign to change the entertainment business.” He takes his cockiness to the point of absurdity, albeit with an admirable slant:

We examined the “normal” Hollywood way of making a movie, found it to be stifling to creativity and utterly evil in how it treats artists, and consciously rejected it. Instead, we took another path:
We wrote a different way–not worrying about what would sell or what we were “supposed” to do, instead focusing on nothing other than what made the best movie.
We financed it the right way–turning down upfront money and guaranteed “success” so we could do the movie with a company who would respect our artistic vision and give us creative control.
We made it the right way–by hiring people who got our vision and wanted to do it the right way, not the “Hollywood” way.
And we are marketing it the right way–by engaging fans in the process, being completely honest with them, and always treating them the way we would want to be treated, instead of shilling and lying to them at every turn.

The ideas expressed there are great, in a pie-in-the-sky, naively dream-like kind of way. If you can choke back the snickers every time he refers to himself as an “artist,” in fact, that post in particular is well worth reading in its entirety. The ironic part is that there is nothing ground-breaking about the movie that came out of this process (no matter how many claims to the contrary are made by its originator). The writing was trite and unoriginal, the production half-assed, and the marketing—premiere tour aside—uninspired.

If it sounds like I’m sort of vacillating between the two extremes of hating and loving the endeavor that is I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, the movie, it’s because that’s where I stand: On the one hand, it’s a bold attempt at doing something different, if not in its actual content then at least in its approach. On the other hand, it’s a shitty movie. That makes it hard to judge the totally independent, outside-the-norm process on its own merits. Max sums up the situation like so:

For maybe the first time in history, the creator is free to be who they want to be, to create what they want to create, and to not have to answer to the interests or demands of the powerful, or of anyone but themselves.

It’d be great if that were true—and I think that in some ways, it probably is—but unfortunately the manner in which Tucker Max chose to exploit such a level of creative freedom was quite underwhelming. He’s absolutely right, I think, that “audiences are craving originality and meaning”—he’s just not providing either of those things.

There’ll be more and more films that attempt an approach like this, and I’m sure some of them will be successes in one way or another. While I care a whole lot more about artistic value than box office returns, the latter is always nice to see, too, especially since it serves to give those artists further chances at realizing their creative visions. An indie doesn’t have to go to Paranormal Activity heights to be considered successful, either; oftentimes doubling its (presumably meager) production budget can be considered a huge success for a small-budget film that finds a strong following and capitalizes on it. Given the chance to predict Beer in Hell‘s box office take, I probably would’ve put it right around that level—about $15 million. That it struggled to scrape one-tenth of that total, I hope, doesn’t mean the movie-going public won’t embrace this approach to production or style of distribution when other, better films give it a shot in the future.

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Posted by mike in Film,Internet,Sports at 12:03 am on May 8, 2008

A lot of people, when there’s a movie coming out that they’re excited to see, will mark the release on their calendars. Some will even take the day off for the occassion, catching an afternoon showing to be one of the first to see the highly-anticipated film and avoid the crowds that will inevitably be a factor in the evening. I myself have done this several times. I never expected my favorite baseball team to do the same, though…
Cubs calendar
The Cubs appear to be really excited about the imminent release of the new Indy movie, and I can’t say I blame them.

(Yes, I realize everybody’s favorite baseball team appears to have done this, since it’s an MLB-wide promotion and all of their schedules have Indy on them on 5/22. It just makes it particularly amusing since the Cubs happen to have that day off.)

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Posted by mike in Family,Internet,News at 11:22 pm on May 7, 2008

I’ve been pretty negligent with the blog updates lately, but I think I have some good excuses, so it’s time to provide a rarely-seen personal update or two.

March 18 was a big day for me this year. Megan's Ring First and foremost, it was the day I asked Megan to marry me. Since people like hearing proposal stories, and I’m already going against my track record and sharing aspects of my personal life, I might as well recount it here. There are a few pieces of background information that might help to make the story better demonstrate how awesome I am:

  • When we first started dating, I told Megan that guys only buy flowers for their girlfriends when they feel guilty for having cheated on them. This set the stage for me never having to buy flowers, since she never wanted to receive them from me given my view of what they represent.
  • We both love movies, and spend a lot of time watching them together. I’d say it’s a large part of our relationship if there was a way to do so without making it sound trivial. At any rate, suffice it to say that we’ve always been able to enjoy a movie together, and we’re both equally big dorks about movies in general.
  • Like most girls of our generation, Megan is a big fan of Disney movies. Like most guys of our generation, I am not.

So, on the day in question, I “happened to” get off work early. It also “happened to” be the day that Enchanted–a movie that Megan had seen twice in the theater, she loved it so much–was released on DVD and Blu-ray. So, I beat her home from work, and had flowers waiting out on the table for her when she got home. The first thing she said upon walking in the door, of course, was, “Did you cheat on me?”

After clarifying that “I just felt like doing something nice,” she remembered that the movie she’d been eagerly anticipating was released that day, and asked if I’d gotten her anything else. At this point I pulled out the BD from its hiding spot, still shrink-wrapped (or rather, apparently still shrink-wrapped). As she ripped it open like a kid on Christmas morning, I slyly slid off of the couch and onto a knee without her noticing. The timing worked out even better than I’d planned: “Oh look, it even came with a ring–OHMYGOD!” (For those unfamiliar, Enchanted is, um, about a princess or something, so it’s not completely outside the realm of possibility for it to come with princessy things–like diamond rings. At least, it was plausible enough to fool my would-be fiancée for just the right slice of time.)

So then, of course, we (well, mostly she) had to spend the rest of the evening calling friends and family and telling them about our newly-minted engagement. And, of course, Megan had to watch her new movie. Since it didn’t really hold my attention, I diverted myself as I usually do by turning to the computer I keep next to the couch to check my email, update Facebook, chat online, and the like. And that’s when, in an irc channel, another life-changing even occurred:

21:18 gdm_> so -- any SAs looking for honest work?

This would lead to a discussion of the pros and cons of living in the San Francisco bay area (primarily focused on the cost of living differences between there and Champaign), and eventually to me sending the inquirer my resume. The company responded with surprising and impressive speed, and the next day I found myself scheduling phone interviews with them. After another round or two of phone interviews, they were flying me to San Francisco for an in-person interview. All of this went well, and I ended up–less than a month after starting the process–getting offered and accepting the job.

Things moved so quickly, in fact, that I find myself now writing this from a hotel room in San Mateo, California. My first day at Aggregate Knowledge was Monday (Cinco de Mayo), the day before Megan’s and my four-year anniversary (“Cinco de Mayo plus one”). We have settled on a place to live in South San Francisco, and will be moving permanently next week.

March 18th ended with my friends from what is now “my old job” noticing the big news:

22:43 CmdrKuehn> whoa, facebook engagement!

So, in summary, after over 6 years working for CITES, and after 9 years in Champaign (virtually my entire twenties), Megan and I are moving on to pursue a new adventure. (It also gives us a good excuse for pushing the wedding back until next summer–a much-needed chance to get settled and catch our breath before taking that plunge.)

Our cat Yoshimi was even happy for us, taking it upon himself to guard what would come to be known as our “engagement flowers.” He and his younger sister Dani will be making the cross-country road trip with us next week. I made the trip myself last week, but that’s worthy of being its own story, so I’ll save it for another day.

Shimi guards the flowers

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Posted by mike in Film,Internet,News at 2:47 pm on April 7, 2008

WARNING: Do not read this post if you have yet to see There Will Be Blood, as the main topic of it is a giant spoiler.

I’m sort of a big nerd when it comes to cheesy movie collectibles, especially the kind that are somewhat esoteric and obscure. For instance, instead of getting a regular Pulp Fiction t-shirt, in the summer of 1995 I bought a UC Santa Cruz shirt for myself.


In a similar vein, I thought that a cool collectible related to There Will Be Blood would be replicas of the somewhat iconic bowling pin from the end of the movie. So, just in time for the release of TWBB on DVD (the Blu-ray is still forthcoming), I’ve launched a site that sells just that:, featuring novelty old-time bowling pin replicas complete with blood stains, in two sizes: a 4″ desk decoration, or a 2-11/16″ keychain.

I'm Finished.

Cheesy? Yes. Nerdy? Definitely. And it remains to be seen if I’m the only person on the planet who would want such a thing or not. But it’s been a fun little side project, nonetheless.

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Posted by mike in Entertainment,Film,Internet at 9:33 am on September 28, 2007

A few months ago, I wrote about the Crazy 4 Cult art exhibition, which was being hosted by Kevin Smith. I thought the artwork from the invite that Kevin posted was really interesting, so I thought we’d make a little game out of trying to name all of the movie characters featured there.

The originator of that artwork, Jeff McMillan, recently found that post and provided all of the answers for us in its comments. Note that the invitation from which I originally got the picture did not have the final version of the painting on it, which includes a few additional characters:

Crazy 4 Cult

The full list of answers, as provided by Jeff, is here (going roughly left to right, as my original key did):

  1. Divine as herself (Pink Flamingos)
  2. Funeral Bouquet (decoration)
  3. Paul Reubens as Pee Wee Herman (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure)
  4. Kevin Smith as Silent Bob (Clerks)
  5. Johnny Depp as Ed Wood (Ed Wood)
  6. Jeff Bridges as The Dude (The Big Lebowski)
  7. Gunnar Hansen as Leatherface (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre)
  8. Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat (Borat)
  9. Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth (Blue Velvet)
  10. Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves as Dead Presidents (Point Break)
  11. Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer’s Prom Photo (Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me)
  12. Malcolm McDowell as Alex de Large (A Clockwork Orange)
  13. Frank the Bunny (Donnie Darko)
  14. Christopher Guest as Nigel Tufnel (This Is Spinal Tap)
  15. Rick Moranis as Bob Mackenzie (Strange Brew)
  16. Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer (Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me)
  17. David Lynch
  18. Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter (The Rocky Horror Picture Show)
  19. Funeral Bouquet (decoration)
  20. Jeff Cohen as Chunk (The Goonies)
  21. A Fury from The Warriors (was previously Michael Rapaport as Remy in Higher Learning)
  22. A Zombie from Dawn of the Dead
  23. Stephen Root as Milton (Office Space)
  24. The Leg Lamp from A Christmas Story
  25. Mitch Cohen as the Toxic Avenger (The Toxic Avenger)

Aside from admiring (and being amused by) Jeff’s artwork, and grateful to him for sharing the answers with me and allowing me to exhibit images of it here, I’m also really impressed (and a good bit jealous) that Kevin Smith bought it from him! So in addition to saying “Great work!” on the piece, and “Thanks!” for sharing it and the “solutions” to its puzzles, I’d also like to say “Congratulations!” to Jeff not only for selling it, but for selling it to such a hero of mine who he also got to meet in the process. Very cool.

Jeff and Kevin

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Posted by mike in Internet,Sports at 1:16 pm on September 10, 2007

I was looking for a new Bears hat on and found what I believe to be somebody there playing a sick joke:
What's that Packers hat doing there?
I can only assume that this is the not-so-subtle urging of a hopefully soon-to-be unemployed Cheesehead to convince Bears fans to raise their children to root for the Packers. I’m happy to say that this oversight has convinced me to think twice about spending my money at

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Posted by mike in Film,Internet,News at 12:25 pm on August 1, 2007

A huge announcement for movie lovers everywhere was made by Roger Ebert today:

The various incarnation of Siskel & Ebert & Roeper represent about more than 1,000 TV programs, on which the three of us, and various guest critics, reviewed more than 5,000 movies. And now at last an online archive exists with all of those reviews.

The site is up now with a good amount of reviews that you can start watching, although the official launch with full archive searchability isn’t until tomorrow (August 2). Along with Ebert’s archive of all of his print reviews, it’s all the reference any movie fan could possibly need.

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Posted by mike in Computers,Entertainment,Internet at 8:22 am on May 15, 2007

This past weekend was commencement at U of I. As is pretty typical of these things, they had a relatively famous alum (Jawed Karim) speak at it. What’s different about this particular guy, though, is that he’s quite young for a speaker–he and I are about the same age, actually (like me, he’ll presumably be skipping his 10-year high school reunion this summer). His resume pretty much speaks for itself: he’s been working on some interesting and high-profile Internet-related technologies for his entire adult life. The most recent such endeavor, and by far the one he’s most famous for, is YouTube.

As the already-old joke goes, I couldn’t find a video of his commencement speech on YouTube (yet), but I did find a description of it:

Karim’s speech was great. It was short, it was funny, and it had video clips. He advised students to always be open to opportunity and to take risks while you can (like leaving college while still young to try something brand new). He apologized for ruining their gpa’s by inventing YouTube! He was self-deprecating when reminding students that things don’t work right away. In 1997, Karim’s application to the University of Illinois’ computer science department was rejected. He wrote a letter asking them to reconsider, which they did… He also talked about how lame YouTube was in the beginning until users started uploading their own videos — a concept that the founders had not envisioned.

The funniest line of the speech came when Karim explained that YouTube was launched on February 14, 2005. I am paraphrasing, but he said something akin to: “One of the best things about being a computer science major is that Valentine’s Day is just like any other day.”

Jawed previously gave a talk at the UIUC ACM chapter‘s reflections|projections conference last year. This one is available on YouTube, entitled “YouTube: From Concept to Hyper-growth,” and I think it’s well worth watching for anybody interested in this stuff:

Aside from noting that they began development on Valentine’s Day, as Jawed himself saw fit to joke about during his commencement address, I think the funniest part is around the 39:50 mark (11:00 remaining), when he talks about how they realized that in order to really get YouTube to become more popular and start spreading, they’d have to get chicks involved. So they posted an add on Craigslist LA:

Hey, if you’re a female, and we think you’re attractive, and you make 10 videos and upload them, then we’ll send you a hundred bucks via PayPal.

Surprisingly (or not), they didn’t get any replies, but as we all now know, that didn’t hurt YouTube’s success.

What I find so fascinating about this guy is not just the fact that he’s already accomplished so much before his 28th birthday, and not just the fact that he’s somewhat more interesting to me than most young entrepreneurs because he and I went to the same school. It’s the matter-of-fact way he presents himself and his endeavors, as if it’s just a common occurrence to create something that sells for 1.65 billion dollars. I think this is probably what sets folks like him apart: they are so driven that they can’t imagine not working your ass off on idea after idea until you get something that does succeed, so it’s not even surprising to them when it happens. That’s a perspective I don’t think I’ll ever know, but I bet it’s nice, albeit frustrating at times when things that you just know are going to pay off for you take their time getting off the ground.

In a way, of course, I’m envious. How cool would it be to make one of the most popular Web sites on the Internet? Then again, how much work would it take? I think just the fact that the second question so closely follows the first in my mind proves I’m not cut out for this type of thing. But it’s certainly interesting to follow.

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Posted by mike in Internet,News at 3:18 pm on December 30, 2006

As people are often wont to do around the end of the calendar year, I’ve decided to take a few moments to reflect upon this site and do a little self-critiquing. In general, I don’t think this blog is very good. Largely this is probably due to the fact that I haven’t quite gotten used to the whole idea of it yet. I tend to write a lot in general, but most of it isn’t directed at my blog. I think in the future I’ll try to turn it around; a large part of the reason I started a blog, in fact, was so that I could direct all of my writings to a central location. I found myself repeating the same thoughts, rants, criticisms, and general opinions in many different forums, and thought it’d be better to focus on writing each particular idea once, in a slightly more formal manner, and then linking to it as the topic came up elsewhere. I’m going to try to do this more, and hopefully in 2007 you’ll see a much higher posting frequency.

I’d also like to increase the overall quality of my posts, and another area in which I’d criticize myself is my posting style. I said in my first post that I was going to play it by ear and see what direction the site would take on its own, and that open-ended policy has given me an opportunity to see what kind of posts I would make naturally, without trying to shoehorn myself into a specific style or tendency. That said, the posts I’ve made so far seem to fall into two categories:

  • Current Events: These are generally shorter posts about something that has just happened, or is ongoing at the time of writing. They are more along the lines of what I’d consider to be a diary-type blog.
  • General Opinions: These are what I suppose would generally be called “rants,” but that term is thrown around so often in reference to blogs that I find it to be a bit too cliched. Because of this, instead of just bitching about something, I have tried to make longer, more thoughtful posts, again in a slightly more formal writing style than everyday online conversation.

And of course there are some posts that are a combination of the two: sometimes I use a current event (or something I’ve recently read/seen/encountered) as a springboard to discuss a broader topic. Personally, I think that these are my best posts (the God Bless America post is probably my favorite so far). In the future, I’d like to add anecdotes as another broad category of posts–stories I’ve told over and over again that I think would be entertaining to others. I’m not interested in retreading the same ground where the likes of Tucker Max and Jason Mulgrew have gone before, but I think I’ve accumulated some unique and entertaining stories that others would enjoy reading, so I’ll try to get some of them written out and see what kind of a response they get.

I think my biggest criticism of myself thus far is that I’ve tried to be too autobiographical in several of my posts. The intention was that if you read every post, eventually they would build up somewhat of a story about “who I am” or something, without actually having to read a page called “About Me.” To this end I’ve tried on a few occassions to frame my posts in the context of some biographical information. I think that this presents several problems, though:

  1. It dilutes the focus of the post. Beginning a post about some religous jackass by talking about Kevin Smith movies doesn’t make any sense, for example.
  2. It makes the site too scattered. Somebody coming to this site to read about a particular topic wants to read about that topic. If they care about who I am, they probably aren’t interested in reading every single post I’ve ever made to piece together the bits of biographical information for themselves.
  3. It’s probably more information than I want to give, anyway. I don’t do much to keep myself anonymous (hell, I’ve posted my picture), but I’m not really interested in this site being used as a portrait of who I am. I don’t think I’m giving away too much by revealing that when my group at work interviews job candidates, we hunt for any online records we can find as a way of fleshing out our impression of the applicant. The Chronicle of Higher Education details some of the downsides to this in an article entitled Bloggers Need Not Apply, which concludes:

    We’ve seen the hapless job seekers who destroy the good thing they’ve got going on paper by being so irritating in person that we can’t wait to put them back on a plane. Our blogger applicants came off reasonably well at the initial interview, but once we hung up the phone and called up their blogs, we got to know “the real them” — better than we wanted, enough to conclude we didn’t want to know more.

    So in the interest of maintaining at least a slight amount of anonymity, I’ve attempted to keep identifying information to a minimum. If you Google my full name, nothing from is returned, and that’s intentional. (As an aside, I realize that once a visitor has arrived at this page, it would be fairly trivial to discern who I am–all one would need to do is look up this site in whois–and from there to perform further searches to find out more information. It’s the other direction I’m concerned with, though–given some of that other information, I don’t want the connection with this site to be obvious.)

  4. It makes posts too long. I know this may seem like an ironic comment to make around the 900 word mark of this post, but I’m allowing myself some leeway here in the interest of making a thorough analysis. I will likely continue in the future to allow myself some lengthy posts, provided they maintain focus (see #1 above). The specific criticism here is to note again that somebody coming to this site to read a particular post probably isn’t interested in a couple of paragraphs of expository information that provides context for that particular post in my personal life.

While I’m not going to go so far as making precise rules for myself, I think the above are good points to keep in mind as I go forward. As I said at the outset, though, this is merely reflective of my own thoughts about this site. I welcome input from my readers, as always, and would be interested in hearing if you think this critique is accurate or not, as well as any other criticisms you might have.

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