Monday, June 25, 2012

Bookmarks part two

I've been asked by a few people outside the loop of my inner-circle to define the Bookmarks I talked about a couple months ago. While I said I wasn't going to make ELEVEN a personal diary, after reading Andrew's comments on the Blogging post, I felt answering those requests would actually be interesting to some readers. So here goes...
  • March 24th - As Alli and our dearest friends Mike & Ginny sat in the rental car outside, I walked through the Log House that had been my home for thirteen and a half years. The tears fell freely as I ran my hands across the handhewn logs and recalled years and years of memories from the house that had become as much me as any other place I'd ever lived. Life was moving on for me, but leaving that house is still emotional to this day.
  • March 26th through April 6th - The Appalachian Trail. More stuff in those couple weeks than I could ever write enough about. A broken bone in my foot took me off the Trail and while there was/is so much more wrapped up in those few days than just that, that one simple thing opened up the world to everything else that would happen in the days to come.
  • May 8th - My Dad died and went to Heaven to be with his Lord, leaving a whole in me that's hard to explain and still hurts.
  • May 26th - On my parents' 40th Wedding Anniversary, not because of that or even on purpose, I asked Alli to be my wife. Asking her to be my wife was one of the most beautiful moments in the history of love. I have found the woman that completes me.
  • June 1st - With all of my worldly possesions packed up, my VW and I made the drive (along with Alli in her car and my friend Grant in a pickup truck) to my new home in Black Mountain, North Carolina. And then on Monday I started my new bank job.
What a crazy couple months, with each one of those events enough in itself to shape a life forever. I've heard it said so many times: "Crazy what a broken foot does to a life." I have to agree.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Blogging, O Blogging. Wherefore art thou, Blogging?

A dying medium? A crippled connection tool? A once (arguably) revered form of literary expression reduced to advertisement and/or political bullshit?

Whatever your view of blogging, if you’ve been around the blogosphere long enough you know it’s dramatically changed in the last few years. What used to be the so-called, “intelligent” side of social media outlets has since been overshadowed and overrun by quick-and-now attention spans encouraged by FaceBook updates and Twitter feeds. One hundred sixty characters now seem to hold more merit than a three point essay or even a well-formulated rant. Likewise, a blog was once a badge of honor like Nineteenth Century name cards; their URL’s passed around and discussed between friends and strangers late at night, during working hours, or any other time of day when the need to respond became too much to ignore. In recent years, the only blogs you hear about are political, fashion, or gossip versions. And these are not written by anonymous anybodies pouring out their ideas late at night under glowing laptop screens, but rather by highly paid, “Editorialists” in penthouse offices and magazine front rooms. Not exactly, in my humble opinion, what blogs were meant to be.
Two years back I wrote about the eminent death of blogging. The post was immediately mistaken by some as a hate piece against FB, but further discussion showed it more of a sad goodbye than a blame game. When I wrote that, I was lamenting the fact that my blogroll had lost numerous members over the four years I’d been blogging and worse, was only half as active as it had been even one year before. Now? Less than one percent of the bloggers that were on that list (I still retain the complete list of blog’s I’ve followed) post (defining a post as more than one hundred sixty characters) more than once every two to three weeks. If you’re doing the math, that represents a 530% decline in bloggers – using the small scale of ELEVEN – in just  two years. If there was anyone reading this so far in a disagreeable spirit, what does that number do for you?
The thing that saddens me most is not the loss of bloggers but rather the exodus of readers. More readers fuel more discussion, more discussion fuels more ideas, and more ideas fuel more bloggers. The reader is where it starts. More times than I can count over the last six years, I would meet someone who informed me they were a reader of ELEVEN. In addition to the regular wordsmiths and idea-boxers I jousted with, these silent readers were an inspiration to me. With no return expectation, I would sometimes craft a post knowing specific someone’s were out there. Knowing my words were being read, invisible as well as in plain view, was a constant source of fiery inspiration.

So where have all the readers gone? To put it simply, life is just too busy for most to devote the time it takes to be an active reader of blogs. Children, work, family, friendships, television, hobbies, and of course, Facebook, have all taken a higher place on the priority list where blogging used to reside. That is not a slam on any of those things; priorities are personal decisions and no matter what your parents may have told you growing up, no one has the right to tell someone else their priorities are wrong. If you have limited time in your day, and blogging doesn’t hold the grip on your soul like everything else on your list, then it has to go. It’s saddening, but I get it.
I’m often frustrated when people bitch and whine without offering solution ideas to their complaint. Unfortunately, I don’t see a clear answer to this issue. As things electronic seem to do, blogging may hold on for awhile, but the crazy mad season of bloom it once enjoyed has mostly faded to a dull pitch. It may still hold value as a private (sarcasm intended) diary for some, a safer (again sarcastic) venue for family photos and stories, (and of course the paid versions will live on while they’re still funded,) the intellectual inter-change of belief system ideals, world views, and off-color humor – all under the beauty of e-relationships – is only staggering along at very best. Fix it? I’m not sure it can be fixed. And besides, I’ve outwritten my one hundred sixty characters and no one has the time to keep reading, so who am I talking to anyway?
What am I personally going to do about it, and what does the future of ELEVEN look like? I’ve yet to hear a convincing argument that FB is an acceptable alternative for how and what I see blogs as being; so despite the constant requests, I still reserve my right not to join. And since I have yet to find anything else that does compare, and even though the readers just aren’t around in the numbers they used to be, I want to keep writing here. I refuse to turn ELEVEN into an e-diary or a family picture album (even though I like reading others that do that), but would rather like to take ELEVEN back to a dialogue of ideas and opinions. One of my favorite things about blogging over the years is that the discussions contained within would often spill into real life, face-to-face conversations, which so many electronic forms of communications do not propagate. So if ELEVEN can give back to the world an opportunity to interact, discuss, or just plain think, I feel it still has worth. Blogging is not dead yet. Until it is I will continue to be on its roll call.

And for what’s it worth, this post is approximately 5397 characters.      

Musings, Thoughts, Observings, two weeks new

Two weeks yesterday, I arrived at my new house in Black Mountain, North Carolina. The overall feeling is one hundred percent happy. Everything about my time here has been beyond expectations -- much akin to a, “pinch me, I’m dreaming” moment -- but every day, all day. I’m even finding it hard to explain the exact emotions surrounding how I feel, because every environment I’ve called HOME before now has carried with it highs and lows that needed to be weighed against each other, while Black Mountain is simply a constant. There is nothing to be compared, no shortcomings to be accepted, no justifications to be made. The only swing in feeling comes when the intensity of realization hits me and Alli and we look at each other with wide eyes and toothy smiles and say, “We live here!!!”

For those of you still clicking on ELEVEN, I thought I’d share some things about Black Mountain I’ve noticed the last couple weeks…
·         Every morning’s work commute opens onto views of the beautiful mountains that surround our house on all sides. One view in particular is awe-inspiring, and it’s less than a half mile from the front door of the house.
·         Black Mountain is a much larger tourist destination than I remember from my previous visits, and every day the streets are filled with people. It’s easy to see why as there are so many interesting shops and stores and restaurants to visit. To list a few things that have individual shops dedicated to them: yarn, hammered dulcimers, books, kitchenware, clothes, furniture, art, sculpture, herbs, running, pottery, cupcakes, chocolate, beer, woodcarving, tin, coffee roasting, and so much more. Every day I find a store or shop that adds a person to my list of people I want to visit this town.
·         Almost all the restaurants here buy and cook with local food; a few even have their own gardens behind the restaurant.
·         The organic produce sections of grocery stores here are usually larger than everything else. It’s refreshing to live around so many people who understand why it’s better (and cheaper in the long run) to eat organic (and most of the time, local organic.)
·         Every weekend from the time we got here through the beginning of fall, there is some kind of art/music/craft festival. This is not a town you could ever claim there’s nothing to do.
·         The people are friendly. That’s all I can say about that. Everyone is friendly.
·         Pisgah Brewing Company, an excellent craft brewer that rivals my beloved Great Lakes Brewing, is just over a mile from the house. I may need a second job just to pay for beer.
·         The daily temperatures never vary more than ten to twenty degrees from the dead of night to the hottest part of the day. It’s kind of a shock coming from the daily roller coaster of Ohio’s mercury.
·         The mountains give off a sweet smell every morning. I can’t explain it, it’s just pleasantly sweet.

Those are just a few things that come to mind right now. This is an amazing place and I am very happy.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Now that you're here...

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a musical often played out by high school students or in fancy dinner theatres, but started as a classic film from the 1950’s. It tells the story of a young lady who finds what she thinks is love-at-first-sight, only to find out shortly after her wedding that that love is more like indentured servitude. One of the most famous lines in the movie appears shortly after the new bride finds out she will have to care for not only her husband, but also his six adult brothers who all live in the same house.

The husband starts listing what her new role as wife will entail:
--“We’re kind of hard on clothes so there’s a lot of mending and sewing to be done. But now that you’re here…”
--“The house really needs cleaned up. But now that you’re here…”
--“We get mighty hungry after a day's work. But…”

“Now that I’m here…” she says, interrupting the man she now thinks much less of.

My new boss has said, “Now that you’re here…” to me at least five times a day over the last three days. It got to be too much to hide my laughter so I told her about the movie reference and we were able to share the humor together. The bank I’m working for now has been through a really rough time in this town the last year or so, and my new boss, herself only four months in the branch, is looking to my experience and expertise to fix the reputation and help see it into a new place in the community.

Please don’t take my movie reference to suggest I’m not happy with the new-found job requirements and expectations; I’m super excited to be a part of that goal. The pressure of being the branch’s saving grace sounds like a heavy burden, but I’m not concerned. This isn’t my first time working under pressure, so really, what is there to fear? Now that I’m here...