Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Easy Pieces

On Sunday I researched and wrote a massive post on Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong and his recent investment in Daybreak Games. It took me several hours and naturally only one person commented (thanks, Mailvaltar!).

I knew that would happen. It's one of the unwritten rules of blogging: the more time and effort you put into a post, the less attention it will receive. If you want feedback, post a single paragraph, preferably one that makes some kind of off-the-cuff, smart alec point that popped into your head thirty seconds before you sat down at the keyboard. Even better if it doesn't take much longer than that to type it up.

Lenny Bruce had a routine based on the Lone Ranger. For anyone not old enough to remember either of them (actually, I don't, since they both reached the peak of their fame in the 1950s), Lenny Bruce was a vitriolic and highly controversial stand-up comedian. The Lone Ranger was a television series about a masked cowboy, famous for righting wrongs then riding into the sunset before anyone had time to thank him.

I first heard the routine on a vinyl double-album I had when I was a teenager. Those of us growing up in what Lana del Rey perceptively and evocatively called "the freedom land of the 70s" often felt surprisingly less free than we imagined teenagers of the 1960s or even the fifties must have been.

We also felt we'd been short-changed by the culture. The 1950s had the beat poets, Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs. The sixties had... well, the 60s had everything. We had Marc Bolan and The Bay City Rollers. It didn't seem quite fair.

So, I spent a good deal of time burrowing about in what then seemed to me like the deep past - ten or even twenty years before. Much the way adolescents right now are mining the nineties and beyond for what seem to them to be lost, forgotten gems.

The near past was an inexhaustible treasure-house and in those days it had the added frisson of being barely accessible, too. With no worldwide web and everything analogue you took what you could find in the bargain bins and junk stores and counted yourself lucky if you found anything at all.

I have Woolworth's tenpenny bins to thank for my cut-out copy of William Burroughs Jr's "Speed", probably the title I'd quote if asked for a book that changed my life, although it did nothing of the kind. No book ever has. It did set me up for a lifetime of vicarious self-indulgence, though, for which I'm grateful.

As the sixties' dream died, a few astute businessmen must have noticed the interest youth was showing in age. There were some re-issues. Lenny Bruce's notorious autobiography, "How to talk Dirty and Influence People" was one. The first two Velvet Underground albums were another. I bought those.

There seemed to be a trend towards repackaging once-dangerous material to make it look and feel as innocuous as possible. The VU double retrospective (known as the Coke Bottle album) collected the songs from the first two albums and replayed them in a different order, diluting some of the impact.

Still, that was almost archival reverence compared to what was done to Lenny on the heavily bowdlerized collection of some of his most famous routines, ironically titled "The Real Lenny Bruce", which came out on vinyl in 1975. To my memory there's not a single swear-word on it, which is a bit like producing postcards of the Mona Lisa with the smile tippexed out. I bought it anyway.

Getting back to the point, assuming I ever had one, the message the adolescent me took from Bruce's Lone Ranger bit was that there's no point doing anything in the hope you'll get thanked for doing it. Or appreciated. Or even noticed. You should do it for your own satisfaction or not at all.

It's an understanding that's served me very well for almost half a century, which makes it deliciously ironic to find out, as I just did when I listened to the unexpurgated routine for the first time (not having heard any version in over thirty years), that I may have misunderstood the entire thing. Hearing it now I'm not entirely sure I know what Lenny thought he was going on about. Maybe he wasn't, either.

Nevertheless, the life lesson he taught me, intentionally or otherwise, stands. It really is a very bad idea to do something in the anticipation of getting a particular and specific reaction. People are people and people aren't you. They'll take from what you say just exactly what they want to, which most likely will be nothing at all.

Blaugust is long over so I don't know why I'm here giving blogging tips, if that's even what I'm doing. I meant to post a short response to Syp's post on Feature Bloat. That didn't happen, obviously...

I particularly didn't want to write another long post that required research because not only did I do that on Sunday but this morning I spent three hours writing two thousand words and recording myself talking about one of my old characters for an academic project. That will make a post in itself one day, when the project completes, or I hope it will.

No, I just wanted to sit down and bash something out, but this is what happens when I freestyle. The result is a little like what I imagine noodling must feel like, if you can actually play a musical instrument.

If anyone thought this was going anywhere, it's not. It came, it was here and now it's gone. And so am I. Toodle-pip!


  1. Heh, I've actually been back to your post about Daybreak a couple of times with the intent of making a comment, but I keep ending up with something along the lines of, "Yeah, that is about right."

    It doesn't help that I had my own post and that I am expecting the other shoe to drop from Daybreak when it comes to plan.

    But experience has shown me as well that effort has no relationship with popularity when it comes to posts. Off the cuff nonsense gets lots of traffic and response while things I think are actually important get crickets.

    In the end though, the lack of response doesn't make the posts any less important to me and my monthly review process goes about reviving them every so often as the years go by.

    1. My main advice for anyone thinking of blogging is always "post to amuse and entertain yourself". It's fine (and fun) to address an audience but once you start expecting a response - and especially a particular kind of response at that - you're moving from having a forum for self-expression to becoming a performing monkey.

      Sometimes I do just like to start typing and see where it takes me. Today's post was a prime example. I don't suppose I've thought about Lenny Bruce in a decade and I certainly wasn't planning on writing abut him but there he is.

      I am also waiting for the other shoe to drop at DBG. We really ought to be getting some news about this Autumn's expansions some time soon, what with it being Autumn and all...

    2. Don't get me started on the seasons. Mentally summer is June, July, and August for me. culturally in the US summer is between Memorial Day at the end of May and Labor Day at the start of September.

      But the conspiracy of calendar makers and scientists demand that seasons only change with an equinox of a solstice, which means in their book summer here runs until September 22nd.

      And then there is always the person who has to point out that the summer solstice in June is called "Midsummer" despite the fact that summer weather generally follows the solstice.

  2. Well, that was something. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Yeah, I'm thinking I *really* need to start that non-gaming blog...

    2. I've wanted to encourage you for literally years to start a pop culture blog, but I realized it was rude to tell you what to write when you already have a perfectly lovely blog here.

      All that to say, I love it when these little gems from you appear out of seemingly nowhere.

      You have quite the gift...

    3. Thanks! Now, if only I had the time...

  3. Reminds me of my wife taking 15 minutes to answer a yes/no question. Eventually you get there but you're missing $20 and not sure what the heck happened.

    1. If I gave prizes for comment of the month, you'd be nailed on for September with that one!

  4. I agree with your sentiments... my best posts (in my opinion) tend to get less traction than some of the ones I put less effort into. I also preach that you should write for yourself first, and if people come through to read it that's a bonus.

    I did read and appreciate the work you put into that post. It saved me having to search for answers when it comes to Daybreak. I'm terrible at commenting, averaging a couple a month, so there's that.

    Thanks again.

    1. I was being literally accurate when I said I knew what would happen. It would have amazed me if a discussion had broken out in the comments to that post. As a blog post it was quite self-indulgent, anyway. I like to fancy I'm writing for print sometimes, just for the thrill of it but there's no reason for anyone to indulge me ;) .

  5. Your post on Daybreak was interesting, but most things you write are and I am spectacularly lazy at commenting.

    1. Although I did comment on that post this sums it up perfectly for me as well. :-)

    2. I wasn't trolling for comments, honest! Although apparently if I mention I didn't get any it prompts people to speak up. I'll have to bear that in mind heheheh...

  6. Regarding the apparent lack of correlation between how deeply researched and thought-out posts are, and the comments on them; or often, the apparent negative correlation:

    I read your post. I found it very interesting and thoughtful. (I enjoy most of your posts, you're the second blog I check whenever I do my blog round, just after TAGN; I hope you take that as the compliment it's meant as, and not a putdown!) I just didn't know what to add via a comment to that post. That's why those fast, somewhat rough, posts have it easier attracting answers: somebody will pass by and identify something that is wrong or that they don't agree with. And with that, the chance for a comment thread opens. The posts that take a lot of time are already so good, it's hard to add something to them in the comments. So the comments don't appear.

    Similar things happen with posts that allow for bikeshedding.


Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide