Just forget the words and sing along

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The 10th Anniversary of Midnight Ramblings: A Decade of Spilling My Guts Online

“Just a test.  This is only a test.”

And with those auspicious words, on this day 10 years ago, April 2, 2003, I launched this blog.

I don’t think I expected this to go on for 10 years.  Back in the day, it was just meant to be a quick and easy replacement...something to maintain my online presence, as such things were important to me back then.  There I was, on my post-college adventure, teaching English as a second language in Japan.  My laptop crapped out on, leaving me with no way to update my website.  I wanted some way to keep posting messages online, and let my family back home hear my stories of my Japanese adventures.  I wanted something that would be quick and easy to update at the Internet cafes.  A lot of my friends were hopping on the Blogger service, because that was the blogging host of choice back in the day.  So, on one moonlit night, at the Manga Hiroba Internet cafe, I signed up for a blogger account, and Midnight Ramblings was born.

While this is the 10th anniversary of this particular facet of my online presence, it’s not the 10th anniversary of me blogging.  That would be 14 years of that.  And even then, it goes back further.  Nope, for my first ventures into having an online presence, we have to go back all the way to a wintry November night in 1997, when I was still a carefree college student at Augustana University College.  The dot-com bubble hadn’t popped yet, and the Internet was rapidly expanding.  As I spent many an evening in college, I was hanging out in the offices of the school newspaper, where my best friend was the editor, and we were having one of our typical conversations about life, the universe, and cartoons of the 1980s.  And the topic soon changed to the growing Internet and how it was starting to take hold in pop culture.  “Man, I would sure love to have a website,” I said.

“Well, let’s get you one,” he said.  And within 10 minutes, he directed to me to a free webhosting outfit called Angelfire, and I had a website.  With the “how to use HTML” tutorials I found online, and my best friend’s help, I soon had a half-descent website to promote my college radio show.  In the drive for more content, I started posting my opinion columns from the college paper.  Since my radio show was Chaos in a Box and my opinion column was Chaos in Print, I decided to christen the website Chaos on the Net

But then, along came the summer of Episode I, 1999, and with it, graduation.  Upon my college graduation, like with most college grads, I suddenly found myself at a loss.  I didn’t quite know what to do with myself, or what was to come next.  And even worse, now that I no longer had my radio show or my opinion column in the school paper, I had no creative outlet where I could put my words out there and help sort things out.

But I still had the website....

So on July 5, just a few days before my 22nd birthday, I re-launched my opinion column on my website.  And for the next 7 years, for once a week, I saw down and wrote a 2-page article about the state of my life.  Blogs really were starting to enter the pop culture lexicon at that time, but I deeply resisted referring to what I was doing online as a blog.  It wasn’t a blog, it was a column.  It was real, honest-to-gosh writing I was doing, not just simply popping off a paragraph about what I did that day.  No, I was popping off an essay about what I did that week.  This was serious, you guys, and blogs weren’t serious.

Looking back at it now, yeah, it was a blog.  But I think it was very beneficial to me.  I’ve read that the period in your early-20s, when you’re done with school and wrestling with what to do next, is now referred to as your “quarter-life crisis.”  Needless to say, putting my thoughts on paper about that time in my life really helped me figure some things out.  I keep threatening to go back and take it down someday, because a lot of it is deeply moody, introspective and personal, but I haven’t yet.  I really hadn’t figured out the concept of a website’s back end yet, so each and every entry in that blog – all 500+ of them – were lovingly hand-coded by me.  That’s a lot of computer programming.

And with all that hard work and effort, it came as quite the devastating blow in 2003, when I was on the other side of the world, and my laptop crapped out, and I couldn’t blog anymore.  Looking back on the history of my blogging, I really think that things kind of peaked in my year in Japan.  I mean, when you’re completely immersed in another culture, suddenly going down to the corner store for a carton of milk is an adventure.  For the first time ever, it felt like my blog was truly about something.

Me at Ginkaku-ji in Kyoto

I had to keep it going.  I had to continue to tell my tale.  For the first time, my tale was worth telling.  And that’s what led me to the Internet cafe that one night to launch my blog.  I christened it Midnight Ramblings to differentiate it from Chaos in Print.  The title comes from a series of entries I did in Chaos in Print.  Taking the form of an e-mail to my best friend, I’d just share the latest pop culture news that I’d come across and felt my friend would find interesting.  When I did return home to Canada and finally got my laptop fixed, I decided that’s what I’d do to differentiate Midnight Ramblings and Chaos in PrintChaos in Print would continue to be my column; my serious writing where I’d sit down and lovingly hand-code a 2-page essay.  And Midnight Ramblings would be my off-the-cuff comments. 

And it’s a dichotomy that existed until the spring of 2006, when I finally landed a gig in radio and moved to Athabasca.  I swore I’d continue Chaos in Print once I’d settled in and things started feeling like home, but I never got around to it.  And in a way, I think that’s appropriate.  It was there to help me sort through stuff, get through that quarter-life crisis, and it led me to the ultimate decision that I wanted to work in radio when I grew up.  It served its purpose, and I think I can close that chapter for good.

But I still have this blog....

This blog was started because I wanted to maintain an online presence.  Now, though, maintaining an online presence is easier than ever.  There’s Facebook.  There’s Twitter.  There’s podcasting.  There are YouTube videos.  That once-important online presence has now become a wildfire.  It’s growing and spreading and taking on a life of its own.  I can’t end it completely, but the best I can do is try to keep it under control.
And in trying to keep things under control, the question becomes, what is this blog’s purpose?  Obviously, it still has one, or else I wouldn’t have kept doing it after I got home and resumed Chaos in Print.  It must have one, or else it wouldn’t still be here after the rise of the social networks.  What tale do I have to tell that’s so important that I still come here a couple of times a week and jot down my thoughts?

I know one thing that this blog shouldn’t be about...my life.  My friends have mentioned that they miss the moody and introspective analysis of my life that represented the Chaos in Print days.  My best friend was telling me the other day that he always longed for the day when I finally got a girlfriend and settled down and the blog became moody and introspective analysis of my relationship.  No doubt, he’s hoping for a little payback, as him and his girlfriend were large recurring characters in Chaos in Print back in the day, and I’m sure he grew weary of the moody and introspective analysis of his relationship. 

But no, the moody and introspective analysis of my life is gone, and I can tell you why.  I have a job now.  A job I love and would like to keep.  Long before the news was sharing tales of people being fired because they tweeted about a slow day at work, I was reading stories of people being fired because they blogged about a bad day at work.  And there’s no doubt that blogging about the intimate details of my life these days would eventually turn to moody and introspective analysis of my career.  I can’t take the risk of writing something that would displease my employers.

Just a typical day at work

And I know it’s happened.  I know I’ve made enemies because of this blog.  Back at NAIT, I was warned time and again by my teachers that this blog could get me in trouble with any future employers.  I didn’t heed their warnings, and I have classmates from NAIT who, to this very day, refuse to speak to me because of things I wrote on this blog.  And I have been told by some in the company that I have an ex-co-worker who reads this blog every day and sends a weekly report on my online activities to my boss.  “But don’t worry,” said this person who warned me of this ex-co-worker.  “Your blog is nothing interesting and won’t get you in trouble.”  Good.  Let’s keep it that way.

So if what created this blog is out, what should the content be?  Well, let’s take a look at the web stats for my blog.  The web stats only go back to May of 2008, because that’s when Google acquired Blogger and then incorporated Google Analytics into all their Blogger blogs.

Taking a look at my all-time blog stats, my top 3 entries are:

3)  Alpocalypse Track Listing!:  May 2, 2011 – In this entry, I share the news of the track listing of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s album Alpocalypse and what the songs parody.

2)  Double Down Comes to Canada!:  October 7, 2010 – Sharing the triumphant news that KFC was bringing their infamous Double Down sandwich to the Great White North.

And my #1 blog entry, with more than 4000 views....

1)  And the news Transformers Girl Is...:  June 2, 2010 – Announcing the news that Rosie Huntington-Whiteley would be taking over for Megan Fox as Shia LeBeouf’s girlfriend in Transformers 3.  No doubt it has so many hits because I posted some of Ms. Huntington-Whiteley’s Victoria’s Secret modeling work to jazz up the blog entry, and Google Images is directing horny young men to those pictures.  Stay classy, Internet!

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley

So if we use these three entries as my guide, then the Internet is telling me that my blog should be about Weird Al, fast food, and boobs.  But in the end, with things like that as my guide, then all I’m doing is repeating other things I’ve found online.  While it may drive up the hit count, ultimately it proves...unsatisfying.

I think I had the right idea all those years ago in Japan, when things started.  This blog should be about adventure.  It should be about heading into the world and seeing the sights, and then sharing those sights with you.  Even in casual conversations with friends and co-workers, they tell me the blogs they have the most fun reading are my days in the city, just talking about the things I see in West Edmonton Mall and the stuff I buy.  The interesting things to write about are from the journeys without, not within. 

So I’ll probably keep writing about that.  I’ll keep writing about movies.  I’ll keep writing about fast food.  I’ll keep writing about the things that are interesting to me.  I’ll keep writing about me.

My best friend, who set me up with my first website, and who has been one of my most dedicated readers throughout all my online endeavours, once told me that “blogs are done by people with little to do and even less to say.”  The trick must be then to keep doing stuff, keep busy, and get things worth saying. 

The blog will always be about me.  I will continue to tell my tale.  It may not be a compelling tale or particularly interesting, but it’s my tale to tell, so I will tell it.

10 years ago, this was just a test.  And it seems that test continues. 

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