Archive for July, 2004

On Blog Crushes

Sunday, July 25th, 2004

Are blogs real? How accurate a representation of a blogger is one’s blog? Could I get to know someone just by reading his or her blog? How well? Well enough to fall in love? For that matter, how well could I get to know someone in the non-blog-world, the “real world”? Is there any guarantee that the person I meet out there is showing me his or her true self?

If I say I have a crush on another blogger, is that simply pathetic?

Here’s the thing: I get crushes pretty easily. I go goofy over a girl at the drop of a hat. There’s a certain physical type I like, but what I really go for is brains. I really like smart women. So, all my life I’ve had crushes on teachers (including law professors), women in the grades ahead of me (having another year or two of classes meant they knew a little more, I figured), and women in my class who were smarter than me, regardless of what the class rank said.

Now, a couple of minor points. First, the intensity of these crushes varied dramatically. I’m not talking about stalking or sending flowers for every one of these women. Um, and I’m not talking about stalking for any of them….darn ambiguous phrasing. Some of these women I just thought were nice, some of them I pined over a bit more, and some I even dated. Second, I’m not saying that smarts are the only thing I look for, or that I like all smart women. It’s just a big factor for me, is all.

Anyway, this still happens to me. There are a couple of women at work I am smitten by. They’re both married, naturally. (My tendency to get crushes on unattainable women merits a post of its own.) But the other way it manifests itself is via blog crushes. (Technically, that might ought to be hyphenated: blog-crushes. But I don’t want to do it that way; it’s unwieldy.)

I get blog crushes.

I’ve been talking a lot about this with a friend of mine. My friend confesses to a blog crush here and there, too. But my friend’s position is that the crushes are on the blog, not the blogger. I think my friend believes that the image of bloggers we get via the blog aren’t “real,” and my friend would rather have a crush on the idea of a person, based on what one sees on the blog, rather than the reality.

Because, after all, how much do we really know about even the most exhibitionist blogger. Most of you reading this don’t know my real name, where I am, what I look like, etc. Okay, I’ll clue you in a little bit. Warning: spoilers ahead. When I blog, it looks a little like this. (Just kidding — I don’t have a Mac. And just kidding, that’s Kevin Smith. But my co-blogger Fitz and I did once go to a Halloween party as Jay & Silent Bob. I had to grow a full beard, and then shave it the next day for a clerkship interview. I’m dedicated that way.)

So, you don’t know much about me, but you know me better than any of my co-workers and most of the people I went to law school with. And the same is true for me and the bloggers I get crushes on. Because I definitely get crushes on the bloggers, not (just) the blog.

Because here’s my point (and I really think I have one this time). The people I meet in real life are just showing me their best selves or only what they want me to see, no different than bloggers. When you’re around somebody in person, you might get a better sense of certain physical characteristics or quirks or bad habits. And of course no one has a “backspace” button in real life. So maybe blogging can’t give me a perfect sense of what the blogger is all about. Maybe I’m cynical, but I’m not always sure I’m getting a perfect sense of what a person is all about when I meet him or her in person, either, especially with some of the phonies I went to school with. People “reinvent” themselves all the time, and let’s just say that I take 90% of what I read on with a grain of salt. And maybe I’m naive, but I really do think that the image I get of most bloggers I read regularly is as good as I could get from meeting them in person.

Alright, I admit it. Even though I had a point when I started this, I think I’ve lost it by now. So, I’ll close with two things. First, I’ve been trying hard to think of ways in which I’m different in person than on the blog. People who know me should feel free to mention them in the comments. It’s not that I can’t think of any, it’s just that I think they are differences only because of the nature of speaking in blog. For example, writing multiple posts instead of weaving multiple stories together with a “What was I talking about?” transition. But I don’t think it will suprise any of my readers to find out that I’m kind of disorganized, a procrastinator, and a little bit of a whiny navel-gazer (but I don’t think I’m obnoxious about it). I’ll leave the rest of my faults to others. But I’d be pretty amazed if they told me that they don’t think the picture I present on the blog is the “real me.” I don’t know if that’s worth anything, other than as an admonition to anyone who might be getting a blog crush on me that what you see is what you get.

The last thing I want to mention before I go is the two women who have inspired this post, my two blog crushes. My first blog crush was on Scheherazade at Stay of Execution. The first time I found her blog (when I saw the title, I thought it was about the death penalty; I’m not sure I would have read it if I had known it was a bankruptcy term too), I sat down and read the entire archives, about five months at the time. It was crush at first sight. Anyone who writes this beautifully is beautiful to me. True, there are things I don’t know about her. She doesn’t write much about her love life on the blog, for instance. But does a client of hers know her as well as I do? The client probably doesn’t know she blogs at all.

My other blog crush is more recent. (Sherry’s still got a place in my heart, even though she spurned me — I didn’t even make her top three!) My newer crush is a young woman who calls herself Larry and writes a blog called Lone Star Expat. She’s bright and witty and wild and I just know I could be a good designated driver for her.

Oh, and here’s my point. I wrote long enough to remember it, which happens a lot with me. My point is that people don’t think it’s automatically crazy when I say I have a crush on a woman I work with, or the woman who sat next to me in Property. (My right side, if the woman who sat on my left is reading this. Wait. I had a crush on you too, just not as big. Never mind.)

So, why would people think it’s automatically crazy if I say I have a crush on a person whom I know only though her blog? My point is that I don’t think I know these women so much less than most women when I first get crushes on them. I see a side of them a lot of people who know them personally don’t. Maybe it’s true that if I met them, I would see something that turned me off them and destroyed the crush. But I’d sure like to have the chance to cross that bridge. You never know….

The BTQ Review: To The 5 Boroughs

Monday, July 19th, 2004

For the latest entry in our occasional feature, The BTQ Review, I present the Beastie Boys’ To The 5 Boroughs. Far removed from from the fresh faced youth fighting for their right to party and getting arrested for cavorting on stage with an inflatable penis, the Beasties are grown up, the old men of rap, boys no longer. But this album has a lot of what made the Beasties so popular to begin with, and what makes it work is that it’s so comfortable, like running into old friends and picking up where you left off.

Where I left off is with Paul’s Boutique and Check Your Head. Those are the only Beastie albums I ever bought or even listend to that much. So, I’m no Beastie connoisseur. But Bouroughs fits right in with those old landmarks. If it weren’t for the lyrics, it sounds like it could have been made between those albums, after they decided to simplify from the heavily-layered sound of Boutique but before they picked up the instruments for Check Your Head. “Ch-Check It Out” and “Rhyme The Rhyme Well” from the new one could easily subsitute for “Pass The Mic” and “So What’cha Want” from Check Your Head. The beats are pretty simple, but are full and flowing, so they sound more complex than they are. There are far fewer samples than Boutique had. Whether the Beasties wanted to see if they could make their own sound without all the samples, or were just tired of all the litigation, it’s anybody’s guess. I don’t it want to seem as if I’m calling the sound simple, because it’s not. It’s just solid, not full of tricks. It’s like the Boys know they can get wild in the mixing room, but don’t see the need with this album.

If the music could have been made a decade ago, the lyrics couldn’t. There are plenty of the Boys’ classic wacky rhymes and oddball pop culture references, from Miss Piggy to Sasquatch, from Reunite on ice to Dr. Spock. It’s always fun to find yourself hearing a new one and getting the joke. But aside from a few old-school put-downs of unnamed “sucker mc’s,” the lyrics in many places refelct the new place the Beasties find themselves in. There are a few too many anti-Bush rants, but it’s easy to tell that the Boys are much more politically engaged than the days when the worst injustice one could suffer was when your Mom threw away your best porno mag.

While my favorites are “Ch-Check It Out” and “Rhyme The Rhyme Well,” the most powerful song on album full of love for the five boroughs is “An Open Letter To NYC.” Like the movie 25th Hour in some ways, the song is a self-assessment of where the city is post Sept. 11 (“Dear New York, I know a lot has changed/Two towers down but you’re still in the game.”) and an ode to the city that truly is the melting pot (“Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, and Staten/From the Battery to the top of Manhattan/Asian, Middle-Eastern and Latin/Black, White, New York you make it happen.”).

If you’re a New Yorker, I’m sure you’ll find the album full of inside references to subway lines and streets and the city’s peculiarities. For me, I like it because I can kind of tune it out. It makes nice background music, because there’s not so much going on that you feel like you have to listen to catch it all. It’s just a nice, soild effort, and like I said, comfortable. It’s not obtrusive or in-your-face. (Is it too condescending to say it would work as a soundtrack to a high school reunion?) It’s just the good old Beastie Boys, checking in to say that, like their city, they’re still around, still strong, still running, still doing what they do well. It doesn’t break any new ground, but you never feel like it needs to. I liked it. I didn’t think it was great, but I did think it was just fine. I give it four and a half cans out of a possible six-pack.

Won't you gentlemen have four and a half Pepsis?

What Have You Blogged For Me Lately?

Monday, July 12th, 2004

[Note from Milbarge: What follows is my last guest post at L^3. It’s simulposted here. Although it’s really geared more to the readers over there, I wanted to post it here too, for a couple of reasons. First, as you’ll see in the post, I feel a need to post stuff here as much as I can. Second, to the extent that readers here aren’t also readers there (you should be!), those folks might find it interesting. Third, there is an important request at the end of the post that I want our readers to heed, so I felt it needed to be printed here as well. More on that below.]

As far as I know, this will be the final post from either Fitz-Hume or me during our guest-blogging stint here at Life, Law, Libido. We both want to say again how much we enjoyed it, and how happy we were to help out Scott and Matt.

I also want to say thanks to those guys for not cutting me off until I could dash off this post, even though I’m sure it will be anti-climactic. It’s just that I had a couple of thoughts about the nature of blogging, and even if I can’t tie them together, I wanted to ramble for a few minutes about them.

Concerning the first topic, it’s going to be hard not to sound bitter, but I’m really not. I promise. Like I said above, Fitz and I enjoyed doing this and were glad to be here. But the cold truth is that it hasn’t produced many visitors for us on our regular blog, Begging the Question. Now, it may well be true that those “missing” visitors were just Scott and Matt not coming over to visit. Also, it may be the case that the readerships of L^3 and BTQ overlap to a high degree anyway. Moreover (and I really hope this is the case), maybe the true test of carryover won’t occur until this week, when we’re no longer here.

I don’t want to imply that only if one-time non-readers follow us back to BTQ has this thing been worth it. Regardless of the numbers, it’s been fun to do and we like helping our friends this way. But, as Eugene (“We’re in it for the eyeballs.”) Volokh points out, the numbers are one of the few tangible ways to see if this whole blogging thing is worth doing.

So what brings eyeballs to a blog? This is the second topic I wanted to ramble about. I think it’s clear that one very good way is lots of posts, frequent updates. It’s one thing to get new “customers,” but to keep your repeat business, you’ve got to give them a reason to check back again and again. Why else would these guys need guest-bloggers this month? How many readers would they lose if they just said, “See ya in a month”? My guess is, lots. There are so many blogs, not to mention other demands on our time, that it’s really a contest not to be replaced by some other suitor for one’s eyeballs.

And what does that lead to? Pressure. Pressure to post something, anything. Apparently, there’s even a phenomenon of “blogger burnout,” according to a Wired news item. A certain Insta-blogger commented in that article that if he doesn’t post for a few hours, he gets emails inquiring if he’s okay. We’re not quite so popular yet. And our posts, while less frequent, are usually longer and more in-depth. But we do feel some pangs of guilt if we don’t put at least something up every (week)day.

Should we? I don’t know. When I decided to start a blog, I said it was an extension of emails I had been sending to a group of friends from law school. Blogging was an easy way to get my thoughts to them and save them the trouble of having to check email all day. Instead of hitting “reply all,” they could just leave a comment. It’s morphed into the current form and doesn’t exactly resemble that, not least because those guys rarely comment on the site. Plus, my desire for anonymity means I have to email them about a lot of things that would identify me if I posted them on the blog.

But this group email mentality remains to some degree. Our readership (we get about 100 visits a day, on average) is still small enough that it feels somewhat intimate. And although I thought at first that our blog would only be read by friends we had known before starting it, I have come to consider several of our regular readers friends. Some of them I even email off-blog from time to time. And while I haven’t met any of them yet, if I find myself in the same city as them, I plan to at least try. It’s that connection with our readers that makes me feel guilty if I don’t post anything. It’s the same feeling I get if I haven’t talked to a friend from law school or college in a while. I don’t want to be a bad friend or a poor correspondent. So I post something, even if it’s just to say hello to our readers.

Does this mean blog-friendships (“blogships”?) are some new kind of relationship, some new way to interact that is closer than I’d have with, say, the waitress at the diner who knew my order and would chat with me, but not as close as someone I went to school with or work with? Maybe. In fact, I would say that I am “friendlier” with many bloggers than I am with a lot of people in my office. And there’s probably 2/3 of my law school class I haven’t talked to since graduation two years ago. (For some of them, that makes me very happy; for others, less so.)

What’s the point of all this? I’m not promising that I have one. I guess there’s just two things you need to take away from all this. First, we consider our readers to be our friends, and want more. So please come visit our site, and we’ll try to post plenty of stuff for you. Well, we will post as much as we can without burning out or losing our jobs. Second, speaking only for myself and not Fitz (who’s taken), I want blog groupies like these L^3 dudes have. (Scroll down the left column to see them.) I need the personal validation of knowing that attractive women are reading our blog. So please send me your pictures. I’d also like some assurance it’s actually a picture of you, but I’ll take your word for it (I don’t need a Proof of Life-style picture of you holding up a sign with BTQ on it or something). If you don’t want it posted on the blog, that’s fine. Send it anyway. Maybe I’ll end up being in the first blog wedding. Right now, I’ll be happy with a blog date.

OK, I’ve clearly got blogs in my belfry, so I’ll quit. But I’m serious about encouraging you to visit Begging the Question, and I’m serious about needing some eye candy from our readers. Thanks again to Scott and Matt, and good luck on the bar exam from both of us!

[Postscript from Milbarge: My request for “eye candy” goes double over here, because I know folks reading this are our true loyal readership. I’ll also tell you that one reader has sent us a picture already, and I promptly fell in love with her. I can’t guarantee that won’t happen with you; you’ll just have to take that risk. Thanks, ladies!]

Don’t Worry If You’re Seeing Double

Monday, July 5th, 2004

This week, Fitz and I have the distinct honor and pure pleasure of being invited to guest-blog at Life, Law, Libido, one of our favorite blogs. My first post there, immediately lowering the property value of that acre of the blogosphere, can be found here.

We’ll be simul-posting here most of our guests posts, so you’ll be able to read them either at L^3 or BTQ. But, since some of the stuff will be exclusive to L^3, and because it’s such a good blog in its own right, I encourage you to visit over there.

Anyway, after a week of travel, a week trying to catch up, and a long holiday weekend away, I’m finally back to my usual routine. So, I’m going to try to do as much blogging as possible this week. If you’re dying to get my opinion on anything, let me know and if it interests me enough I’ll blog on it. I’m responsive to the people that way.

In the meantime, enjoy the remnants of what I hope is a long weekend for you as well.