Some random crap I’ve learned about blogging

Phoenixism turned 7 months old yesterday.
Awwww.
Isn’t he cute?
Doesn’t he just look like his dad?

Yes. That might be a problem.
Too much like the old man.

Blogging.
Before Phoenixism, there was another.

That’s right. Before Phoenixism.
From October, 2008 until my Dreamhost contract ran out 1 year later, in 2009, I ran a blog called Moments for Nothing, based on a phrase I borrowed from Samuel Beckett’s play, Endgame.

The blog consisted mostly of political commentary (left-wing) which I interspersed with other assorted random tidbits, usually based on news items culled from news sites, large and small, local and national.

A real learning experience.

I knew nothing about blogging prior to October, 2008. Nothing. I had a very vague idea of what a blog was and what it did. I remember the date…October 13, 2008, a friend told me I should start one. She noticed something in my emails, my notes, a cynical sense of expression, whatever; that my sense of humor and irony might translate well to this medium.

Intrigued, I investigated. I embarked on a crash course to learn more about this nefarious art of blogging. Overestimated my comprehension and ambitiously kicked off Moments for Nothing.

Let’s just say it had its moments.

I blogged rabidly, for almost a year. With 3 or 4 months left in my contract, I decided not to renew. I outgrew Moments for Nothing.

I lost my way.
Writing about politics and stupid-ass news items I frankly didn’t care about for left me artistically and creatively empty. This was not how I envisioned my penultimate mode of expression. I could have struck around and continued to push Moments for Nothing like a half-hearted whore. I could have changed the name, the image…but that would only have served to further subdue any expression of a new blog personality, which is what I sought. I sought a new beginning.

A rebirth.

At the end of August, with 2 months left on the contract, I started Phoenixism. I let Moments for Nothing run itself out like you would happily let a wind-up toy run out as soon as its sound became too loud and grating. Let it run its course, for by then, I had begun Phoenixism.

Most of what I learned of blogging was through trial and error. Mostly error.

And so I bring you some random things I wish I would have known in October, 2008.

What do I call this mess?

What do you want your blog to be?
To do?
To say?

That will dictate its name.

You really must have a direction.  
Even if it’s the laziest and most absurd self-defined blog goal, just have one.  Without direction you have a mess.  You’re stuck with a blank aimless slate on which you can inscribe your most random thoughts without a cohesive and unifying thread to bring them together.  I suspect that happened with Moments for Nothing.  Initially I was going to write about politics but it turned to a mish-mash of conflicting and unsustainable philosophical twists and dips.  I couldn’t entertain even myself. If you can’t entertain yourself, or even amuse yourself, you have lost the battle.  Your blog should energize you, enlighten you, make you smile or think even, and if your blog meanders you will lose the consistency of theme which will leave you wandering a dark forest without any sense of direction.

Once you have internalized and settled upon a direction, the name should come quite naturally.

When I pondered Phoenixism back in August, 2009, I knew my new blog would encircle the concepts of rebirth, renewal and reform.  On a personal level.  I sorted through the ideas and decided upon the character of the new blog, which though unborn, was slowly forming in my mind.  Its aim, its ideology, its philosophy.  Having an integrated knowledge of the blog’s fetal personality, one night I was walking, listening to my Ipod, thinking about the blog-to-be, and suddenly the name simply dropped unannounced into my mind.  Phoenixism it would be.  

Don’t think about it too much.  Concentrate on what your blog will be and all else will follow.

That damned blogroll

The concept of a blogroll is difficult for an asocial miscreant like me to swallow. And keep down.  

A blogroll brings to mind Myspace or Facebook and its easy “friendship” culture where you can count someone who you’ve never met nor spoken with as a friend;  and each new friend is like a notch on your bedpost as the count continues to rise and rise and is announced quite publicly on your profile. Never mind that many of these people are not your friends.  You don’t even know if they are real.

Your blogroll is but a tool in the grand scheme of building public rapport within the blogosphere.   Placing a blog on your blogroll fools no one, of course.  Blogs I list on Phoenixism’s blogroll are obviously not going to become inundated with hits from the world over by virtue of me adding them.  No delusions!  No, the blogroll is a symbolic tip of the hat to those blogs who you enjoy reading.  Those blogs you find yourself reading at least a couple times each week.

The implicit understanding is that adding a blog to your blogroll will not shift the scales of internet traffic in their direction in the least.  However, in the blogosphere, where popularity is tenuous, the importance of every little “bit” cannot be emphasized enough.  Appearing on someone’s blogroll may very well send you a regular reader who you might not have had otherwise.  In the freewheeling and anarchistic world of blogging, readership is key.  It’s what we all strive for.  Once again, depending on your blog goals, you may value the concept more or less than other bloggers.  Some bloggers are shameless self-marketers and will stop at nothing to rile up visitor traffic to their blog.  At the other end of the spectrum, some bloggers don’t have the slightest concern about viewership and seem to get off on the pure act of public self-expression whether anyone reads or not.

I got your comments right here!

Speaking of tools, commenting is an art and your greatest source of bloggish self-advertisement. You should comment, and comment freely. Comment everywhere you can and as much as you can on blogs you are interested in. Commenting on other blogs is like using their space to publish your own miniblogs as well and expose hundreds and thousands of readers who don’t know you from a hole in the wall to your grand and exquisite wisdom and humor.  Commenting on other blogs is like free advertisement.  If you can share witty and insightful comments, you will capture the eye of people who may be interested enough to check out the blog your username links to.  If you’re commenting on blog A that has a theme B, by default you are accessing that blog’s filtering mechanism which allows you to direct your blog’s worldview at other similar-minded readers.

Speaking of comments, they are one of the clearest measurements we have of just how “hot” a blog is.  WE blog because of the public nature of the blog.  The ability of a failed writer to finally makes his masterful manipulation of the language accessible to all is the greatest advancement afforded by the blogosphere.  And once your precious writings filter into the public pool of perception, the next step is recognition and feedback. Bloggers, by admission or not, enjoy and relish the idea of their thoughts exposed directly and immediately to a global audience.  

And any commenting that you attract to your blog is inevitably satisfying.   Conversely, it is quite easy to fixate on the lack of comments.  At its incarnation, your blog is likely to find itself in the unenviable state of lonely comment starvation.  The best quantitative measure of your young blog’s vibrancy and pool of readers is the statistics available which tally hits or views of your blog.  Google Analytics is a well-known subscription tool available for this analysis.  I use WordPress stats which performs the same function.  Whereas I used to fixate on comments, I now began to keep track of views. It’s a well-known fact that most readers do not comment. What you should be concerned with are views. By tracking this statistic, you can get a very good idea of how many people are looking at your words. And understand most of those people won’t take the time to comment for a multitude of reasons. Even blogs which get hundreds of hits each day will only see a fraction of those convert to comments.

Postscript.
Ultimately, your blog will be you.
It will wear your persona.
If you were magically transformed into billions of bodiless bytes and allowed to roam the electrical pathways of cyberspace, you would resemble your blog.  The longer you continue your blog and the more often you post to it, the eerier its resemblance to you, in mind and spirit.

Until you are inseparable and indistinguishable from whatever it is you call your morass or words and sentences.

I wonder if the priest would bless this potato sack?

Well the silence around here is deafening.
Still, I must admonish the court.

Silence, please.

I’m about to do something incredibly rare.
I will use this blog as a platform upon which to make a point, and beyond that, maybe even volunteer some lucidity.

I might actually make sense!

OK.
Please disregard the ultra cheesy photochopping below. The technique certainly leaves much to be desired. I’m only asking you to use your imagination. While I attempt to make a point.

Suspend your disbelief for a few minutes (besides, isn’t that a requirement when reading Phoenixism??). Just go with it. Go with my flow.

Do not let the slightest bit of logic ruin this post.

Logic clouds the mind, thus spoke Phoenxism!

Say you’re at your favorite spot to hit up chicks and score one night stands. You know, the club, the bar, the casino…but in this case, let’s say it’s a Catholic Singles dance. Substitute your sexual haven, whatever or wherever it is you find respite from the lonely torment that is your fucked up shut-in life.

You’re there, scoping out the room. The off-hours middle school auditorium, during the day home to a bunch of 13-year-olds who probably get more action than you’ll get tonight or in all the CS dances you’ve attended in the last 12 months.

Scoping it out for your next victim.
Because let’s face it. Any woman who obliges to spread ’em for you is most certainly a victim. In varying degrees of desperation.

You’re on the prowl. Victims of low standards!! That’s why we love them singles mixers, isn’t it??

And while the extremely subpar cover band launches into a rendition of George Michael’s Careless Whispers, you see her.

Standing at the edge of the dance floor. Swaying to George’s falsetto.

She catches your eye and you cannot release her stare.
You are slammed with conflicting emotions of desire and repulsion.
I never had one, but I imagine the emotion would be similar to what you would experience if you walked in on your nude sister as she dries the warm shower water from her glistening body in the steamy bathroom.

You know, that.

So you see this chick and she turns.
And you both stare at each other.
Neither of you can turn away. There is no releasing this lustful glare.

She smiles at you.
You shake.
Your lips quiver and attempt a faint acknowledgement of a smile, the same way you would smile at a cop after he tells you to have a nice day after handing you a speeding ticket.

Yet.
You cannot look away.
And she can’t either.
You are both entranced.

She begins to walk toward you!!
A shudder runs the length of your spine.

She approaches, closer, and her face…doesn’t change.
That face…it is not a function of the dim lights or the flashing strobes or gut-wrenching live “music” performance.
She looks the same close up.
The same.
Just…larger. The perspective, closer, larger, that mug.
It fills your vision now as she steps up to within a foot of your face and says, “Hi!”

Well now!
This is certainly what they call a Predicament.

This cover band needs to change tunes.
They should do some Clash.
Perfect for the moment would be “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”
Brrr.

Do you stay or do you go?

Do you tap that or do you scamper away like a cockroach running from the bathroom light at 2:30 in the morning?

I think it’s unfair to portray this in a black or white context.
Like everything else, there is a spectrum, a range, of grays. I imagine most guys would scamper.

I am slightly ashamed to admit I would stay.

Especially with enough Belvedere martinis coursing through my bloodstream. In fact, the minute this fine specimen comes and chats me up and it’s obvious I’m getting some of that good stuff tonight, I might just double my vodka intake in the next 5 minutes because blindness is the only way I could perform to her delight with such undiluted attention.

I’m a body guy.
I would.

Yes, the face is disturbing.
But my God, look at those tits; those hips. Yeah, as much we joke about it, I think it’s high time someone puts the potato sack to the test.

I wonder how she would handle that request?

“Before we start, can I do something?”
“What?” she asks slyly, intrigue lighting up those bulging eyes.
“I’d like to…cover your head with this. Would that be OK?” I might dare as I pull out the heavy sack.

And let the shit hit the fan.
Before executing this plan, I would need to formulate an escape plan. A quick one.

For she may very well be capable of breathing fire from that crevice of a mouth. In fact, I would not put it past her.

Run Forrest run!

Maybe I can find my sister just in time before she gets dressed.

A “Culture of Glitter” Moment in Time

Moments in Time is back and bad
and here
again,

In the morning
bus ride
where else?

Moment in Time this morning on the bus
imagine that
never happened before has it now???? LOLzzzz

The morning bus, the 40, to Pershing Square, my normal bus commute heading to work to the wonderful fricking heart of glamor, Hollywood

Mr Industry that is me
the MexiMogul that is what I should call myself the MexiMogul
ew
don’t like the Sound at all.
Hijole.

So the bus this morning

shortly
after I sit myself down
in the rear
on the sideways bench
and begin listening to my Ipod
commence to zone
because i do that so well
Zone
turn off the mind
my special skill
a few exits later

a man
sits across from me on the opposing sideways bench
and i zone but then focus

and there he is
all fulls of holes and all

holes

little slits
no blaring, clothes hanging by a thread holes,
no
holes that are little slits
the fledgling holes that
will become big holes
one day

but for
now
are not
they are tiny and his blue workman’s pants have 3 on the left leg
one
near the knee
large
showing lots of skin
and some hair

showing skin usually construed as hot
perhaps

not now
showing skin
as in error
three
tiny slit holes on his left pants leg

and the t-shirt
the t-shirt
looking as if it had not been
washed
in at least 3 months

but not
filthy
not filthy not oozing with dirt
just vaguely soiled and unwashed.

and a hole on the shirt
a faded reddish
shirt
with a yellowish
outline
of a cat
or something
and a foo-foo

designer

the infamous
world famous
and renowned
designer

FERRIONI!

yes
man with 3 holes in his pants
is wearing a faded red shirt with
a cat and a hole and a designer
mark of
ferrioni

a shirt not cleaned since
forever
or
did the designer
intend that look?

Ferrioni so cutting edge ya know
maybe
it was meant to look like that

so homeboy
has a
total of four holes
covering
his ensemble
here in
the morning 40 bus to downtown

shoes
faded brown
lace ups
once upon a time
maybe
stylish
to an extent
now they need to be retired
beaten down

at
least
gratefully
no holes

but

holes might actually help these shoes.
might
his fingernails caked with dirt
and the
watch
faux gold
super faux
so gold it looks
Cracker Jacks
like
worst faux gold ever
not even gold
harsh yellow

no doubt a ferrioni as well
that ferrioni
everywhere
even in east la

so my bus mate
sitting
there
looking homeless

dude are you homeless my thought
because
he has the homeless unkemptness
about him
3rd- or 4th-generation hand-me-downs
that
should have been retired long ago

‘cept a giving soul
thought to continue the tradition
and pass down
the threads
because that’s all they are at this point
threads
dirty, blackened threads that will
never regain
their color
their lustre
their youth

like a washed up hollywood actress
the clothes have seen their better day
and the dude
with his dirty nails

and homeless motif

also

holds a packet of letter-sized printouts
looks official
from what I can make out
one has a space for his
name

FIRST MIDDLE LAST

it entreats

and then he rolls the papers
and through the paper it looks
like the bottom
sheet might possibly be a W2
form?

good government
bureacracy

he
is
endeavoring
to enter the System
good luck pal
job interview
?
i hope
maybe we can finally
put the Ferrioni to rest
once and for all
please do not bequeath that to a new generation
of

HALT

suddenly
my heart acts up
to sing
to weep?
to wallow in shame
no more humor
no more judgment

Ferrioni
dirty nails
3-holed pants legs

the sum
of a man

here on the bus

this morning
as he heads towards
something official
for he needs more
don’t we all

but he needs more
seriously

he has not been graced
by the
Culture of Glitter
he must survive
and my heart weeps

not for this suffering soul

who knows
what he ate for breakfast or dinner
who knows
where he sleeps
eats
where does he lie in bed and wish for more

dream
of a world
where he can wear
unbeaten clothes
and wear watches that don’t pretend to be
what they are not

and that paper folded in his hands
is that his key to…satisfaction

he sits
angled forward
anxious
written in his pose
his feet faced forward
and his body also
from this sideways seat
apprehensive
facing the front
looking for his exit
is he looking for the Way out
?
his hair disproportionately
combed
and neat
to his
clothes

glancing at that Rolexi watch he bought off a street vendor
is he late?

so anxious
he even pushes the bus’s stop button prematurely

the bus stops
and no one gets off

poor dude!
he pushes it again
and this time he gets
off
Indiana Avenue
heads toward Indiana
what state office is there, there i wonder

and it leaves me
living this fantasy

my needs met
my fancies fancied
my humble goals
always fed
how easy to define one’s world by that which one…

Has

and define “has” as the penultimate benchmark of
glory
and we discount anything less
as inglory

and we are at a stage
where our Has’s
have become so commonplace, so expected, and given

we rightfully and authoritatively
presume
that those who have less
are unhappy

or we hope
for if you have much less than i
and my happy
life

you are unhappy
and unhappy is undignified and miserable
you better be motherfucker!

but

wait

if you cannot enter
my
Culture of Glitter

get off the bus

Darkness, my old friend

“You’re the least sunny person I’ve ever known.”
That’s what a co-worker once told me.

The thought didn’t really sink in.
“You’re the least sunny person…”

This was about 15 years ago.
And he had a point.
I was a bleak bastard.
Through and through, man.

I was never Goth, and even now, if I was young, I couldn’t see myself being Emo.
All that crap is over the top.
It announces to the world look at me, I’m dark and moody and depressed, marvel at my darkness!

Nah, fuck that shit.
Not my style.
I was dark and morbid as any other 18- or 28- or even 38-year old.

As I grew older I kept pace and surpassed others in my demographic who were happily discovering contentment and joy and peace in stifling marriages and equally stifling careers. I would have nothing of it.

I preferred to entomb myself in the dark cavernous reaches of my soul.

Some people ran around in black clothes and white make-up and topped with black hair dye. I just lurched around looking normal as hell but with a soul darker than any wretch could match.

The darkness. It will search you down and destroy you. You know that, right?
A dark heart is a cannibal.
The darkness very nearly took me.

I’ve mentioned it in passing, but in 2005 I almost ate it. I almost joined immortal darkness; the same darkness which had chased me my entire life nearly claimed its reward. Inches, centimeters, so close.

But I came back.

I would be lying in your faces if I claimed that I experienced a sudden epiphany which saw me change from one person to another overnight.
Bullshit. It wasn’t like that.

Even after the darkness nearly stole me, I had a hard time relinquishing it.
And I still straddled the line.
But gradually, very gradually, I’ve slowly left it behind while its tendrils hungrily reach for me, beckon me to return.

I’ve slowly left it.
Behind.
And here, I, am.
Not quite in the light.
But nowhere near the dark, either.

Yet, sometimes…

Many times I still question my motive for Phoenixism.
I realize it’s a vehicle of my soul, it’s my road back to the world of the living.
I’ve embarked upon this journey which I hope will lead me to the light.
Rebirth.

For the only way I find it possible to combat the malignant darkness of my soul is to illuminate it with the harsh light of the fiery sun.

Phoenixism.

You see, there is an apocalyptic battle that takes place in my soul.
A battle as old as man. Light versus dark. Good versus evil.
What more suitable terrain can there be for this battlefield than in the soul of one who has experienced the extreme nature of both sides?

With Phoenixism, I would say I have generally kept my eye on the ball (or fireball).
I have not sunk into hapless morbidity.
I’ve avoided barren perdition.
I’ve been lively and positive and the journey has stayed on course.

But as with all journeys, there are stops, delays and unanticipated obstacles.
The darkness etched in my soul occasionally bares its fangs.

The darkness roars, it flames and crackles. And I must leash it once again.

It surfaced last night.
Always curious.
My post, The many manners of misery.
A total retreat into the void.
Into my black soul.

What the hell?

Slyly evil, sadistic, really, maybe most of you don’t realize it, but that post was the sign of my sinister past.

I don’t know what possessed me.
I didn’t plan it.
I took the video, thought it was hilarious.
Didn’t plan on posting anything. I was tired, I wanted to sleep.

Then I thought of that fucking musical Easter rabbit and I thought of Easter with its inherent symbolism of death and rebirth and the attendant suffering the cycle of life brings.

I thought of pain and suffering.
And that rabbit playing away stupidly.
Oblivious. And thus, evil.

Like so many people.

And there was much more suffering I might have listed if I wasn’t so mentally exhausted.
The post, it reinvigorated me. Fed my body energy to continue.
Into the madness.

And the rabbit could have played forever.

The many manners of misery

A

In July, 2005, I spent a few days in a coma.  Blood poured out my right ear, and for the longest time the faint smudge of brownish coloring stained Q-tips whenever I cleaned out that ear.   I had a 6″ laceration which spanned the entire crown of my scalp. It became infected.  Pink pus oozed from the wound.  I remember laughing at the irony that I overcame the most improbable odds to survive a terrible car accident. Yet, I could very well succumb to a septic infection.

B

One of Richard Ramirez’ (the “Night Stalker” ) victims was a 66-year-old man by the name of William Doi.  He was killed when Ramirez broke into his home in Monterey Park, California, on the night of April 15, 1985.  Ramirez raped his wife, Lillian, after shooting the man in the face.  William Doi managed to call police after struggling to reach the phone, but died en route to the hospital. I wondered if Doi was the father or grandfather of a boy I went to school with by that last name.  The victim’s house was within walking distance of the intermediate school we attended together and a mutual friend later told me he thought they were, in fact, related.

C

Before we met, my ex-wife worked with a pretty and young Asian girl.  I saw photos later of the well-dressed girl at a Karaoke night they spent after work one night.  The girl was struck down by ovarian cancer.  So young, so pretty, so terminally ill.  I thought my wife said the girl had complained of digestive problems in the months preceding her diagnosis.  Once, in the hospital, apparently unable to tolerate the illness’s physical toll, she attempted to kill herself by starvation by ripping out all her IV’s.   Alas, she failed to do what the cancer was able to eventually.

D

I saw a movie recently which I’d seen once before.  It was a great French movie, “The Vanishing” and it depicted a chilling scene of a man who is buried alive by a serial killer.  He awakens to find himself cocooned in a narrow and claustrophobic coffin-like box.  “Luckily” he has a cigarette lighter which he keeps flicking on so he can get a good idea of just how dire his predicament is.  He yells, pounds and finally, in the face of utter helplessness, degenerates into sheer lunacy.  What an incomprehensibly horrible way to die.  No way to even kill yourself in order to end the suffering.  Especially once the lighter runs out of fluid.

E

I read an article in New Yorker magazine once about USAirflight 427 which crashed just before landing in Pittsburgh.  What struck me is just how suddenly a routine flight, and what appeared to be a routine landing, turned into a disaster in the span of seconds.  I’m not sure the cause was ever determined but suspicions were strong that the rudder controls failed, sending the plane into a near vertical dive from about 5000-6000 feet in the air.  The article describes as the pilot announces that the plane will be touching down shortly and the sounds of passengers preparing to land are audible.  Overhead compartments closing.  The flight crew light-heartedly looking forward to another finished flight.  Suddenly, the pilot and co-pilot lose control of the plane.  It resists their panicked controls and the pilot’s terrified scream lasts the duration of the tape before the plane slams into the ground at hundreds of miles per hour.   So close…and then dead.

____________________________________________________________

It’s a fact of life that misery obeys no stricture of self-restraint.