I read a story earlier today about a student at Southern New Hampshire University who failed a comparative culture essay because her professor didn’t know Australia was a country. “It’s a continent,” the instructor said. “Yes,” said the student, “but it’s also a country.” The student sent links from Australia’s “about us” page, but the teacher was adamant. The story went viral, the student got reimbursed for the entire class, and the teacher got fired.
I’m sure you’ve been in that student’s shoes to one degree or another.
When I was in kindergarten, my teacher taught us that Thomas Jefferson was on the quarter. This is not so. I corrected her, but she would not relent. The same thing happened in second grade with a different teacher in a different school in a different district.
Sometimes, people learn the wrong thing so well, it’s very hard to learn the right thing.
I know of someone else who believed well into her 40s that the presidents’ heads on Mt. Rushmore were naturally occurring. When faced with the truth, she said, “well, that’s not nearly as impressive.”
The Search Term Mail Bag is one of my favorite kinds of posts. It’s that part of the show where we pretend your search terms are sent by you to me ala David Letterman’s CBS Mail Bag or Craig Ferguson’s email segment. They’re collected here, but they’re getting harder and harder to do.
As Google encrypts more searches in an effort to satisfy consumer privacy demands, bloggers are seeing fewer real search terms come through in our metrics. There are some, of course, mixed in with the growing chorus of unknown terms. WordPress weighs in here.
We all understand why Google and other engines are doing this, but there was something charming about seeing every term and gauging all the reasons people found your koans and haiku about Axl Rose and Plato. We can still use metrics about tags and posts to piece these things together, but that creates the kind of vacuum space and writers always seek to fill.
A few months into any Golden Age comic book archive, you’ll come across the origin story of the title’s featured character. Blogging, really, should be no different. Comics emerged from the frenetic, sensationalist media of the early 1900s, and blogs emerged from the frenetic, media-saturated lives of people living on the other side of a century that saw the best and worst communications innovations in human history.
Chriscocca.com started as christophercocca.wordpress.com in January of 2007. I used the Hemingway theme, and the goal was very simple: I wanted a place to share my publishing news. I was submitting to online and print journals for the first time and had some very early success at those venues (Geez, Brevity, and elimae being the most notable). Eventually I started blogging about craft, which really means I blogged about instinct. One thing I knew for certain was that there were still way too many people using way too many adverbs. To wit, a post from November, 2007, currently in the classified archives:
I hate adverbs. I loved them as a clever little kid, but that was before (insert your own defining literary experience here). Except joyfully, and only when used in reference to the way Uncle Feather flew around Fudge’s house and pissed off Fudge’s family.
I should say about word here about Uncle Feather. When I was 10 or so, my dad helped me write a book report about Superfudge, and we had a good laugh describing UF’s manic flight around the Hatcher kitchen with the world joyfully. First of all, joyfully is a pretty funny word, not because joy is funny, but because it’s kind of one of those words you save for big, important experiences. The thought that a myna bird would do anything joyfully cracked me up. Also, visualizing a myna bird joyfully flying around a room while exasperated keepers try in vain to bring him down, well, I don’t care how old you are, that’s a) hilarious and b) extremely gratifying.
I was writing a lot of terse, evocative microfiction in 2007, and my blogging style from those days reflects that. Eventually, I developed a fuller style, but it was still a very at-arm’s length approach. I don’t think I blogged for fun, even when I was blogging a lot about things that were important to me. But I suppose I thought writing wasn’t supposed to be much fun, either. I mean, this is serious business, after all, and I didn’t want people thinking I was some lamebrain goofball blogging about episodes of LOST and He-Man. My, how things have changed.
My love/hate relationship with blogging in this space went on and on and on. Last year I took a big long break to focus solely on my fiction, and I think was a good move for a few reasons: 1) It gave me time for fiction and 2) it separated me from the constant head-checking I was doing before every click of the WordPress publish button. I needed to get out of my head and into my gut, and I needed to say what I needed to say in ways that weren’t so tied up in my own personal narrative. There were great discussions happening on the blog by then, but all of the sudden I knew that if I was going to dedicate the kind of time and mental energy that a book would require, I was no longer going to be blogging about the ontological grounding of being (okay, okay, it’s God) for a while.
This year, I lightened up. I don’t know exactly why or how, but I have a few guesses. One thing I know for sure is that I started blogging more as soon as I finally designed a banner I really, really liked. When I started playing with the images and thinking of what to call this new welling up of whimsy, The Daily Cocca popped up from the suppressed creative places I’d been trying to cram other projects into. Simple as it sounds, a new banner and new layout energized me to have fun with content, to get out on the WordPress ecosystem and to make connections. Specifically, the picture of me as kid really makes me happy. Look at that smile. That kid is happy, fun-loving, and full of a million crazy ideas. That’s the kid who had the messiest effing desk you’ve ever seen, sloppy handwriting, poor time-management and every other awesome thing no one should really have to worry about as long as they’re young enough to wear a clip-on tie. Seriously, what was the deal with the clean desk obsession? If my desk could close, it’s none of your business. If it can’t close, give me a minute. No, no, I left that book at home. You should be happy…it’s not cluttering up my desk.
Side note: One time in elementary school the teacher was going on and on about something, and I started drawing awesome totem-pole-like doodles up and down the margins of my notebook. This was in a pretty early grade. We passed the books in and I didn’t think anything of it. A few days later, the teacher called me in from recess to talk to me about my doodles. I thought she was going to say how cool they were. Instead, she made me stay inside and erase every single one. I didn’t realize then what I stifling act of idiocy this was. I knew she was being stupid, but I didn’t relate it to this whole idea of feeling like you have to parse your creative side and intellectual side until recently. So let the 31 year-old speak now for the 8-year old who only wanted to draw comic books or play baseball for a living: hey, any grown-up who cares more about order than innovation, more about clean lines and desks than creativity, compassion, nurturing, sustainability and raising up kids into whole people: not cool.
Yeah, so the messy desk thing is sort of mantra for me in this sense: it means be who you are in each of the ways that matter. Write your fiction and your poetry as starkly (adverb!) or as richly (stop it!) as you want, and do your blog whichever way feels right. People are complicated, people have different interests, different modes, different ways of communicating in different circumstances and for different reasons. Why should you or I be any different?
Yesterday, I linked to a post on BookMunch about Stuart Murdoch’s new book of blogs. Will Fitzpatrick says that while Murdoch’s art is “existentialism through fiction, allowing his characters to project his worries and fears that maybe this life isn’t all we want it to be…. his blogs, on the other hand, are much more confident. Murdoch still tells stories, of course, varying from taking pictures for Belle & Sebastian album sleeves to his opinions on the Olympics. But this time, he’s the focal point. And he turns out to be much funnier and more confident than you might have imagined. That’s not to say that he’s arrogant; he’s still self-deprecating at times, but it comes from a man much more comfortable with his own sense of self than his lyrics would suggest.” Despite being a big fan of Stuart’s music, I’ve never read his blog. But it sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Since about the beginning of the year I have had this new, strange confidence in my voice as a blogger, separate and distinguishable from my voice as a writer of fiction or literary nonfiction. The realization that we’re allowed to speak in many voices compels us, I think, to start.
I’ve never had this much fun blogging, and I’ve never been this productive at it. I owe much of this to my teachers and peers in my MFA program, to the kid in the picture, to my messy desk, and to everyone who reads The Daily Cocca, everyone who comments, Jay and future guest posters/contributors, and all of you folks on WordPress I continue to connect with. Thank you!
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been approached with advertising opportunities here on The Daily Cocca. All the offers were for legitimate operations; no link farms and nothing MLM or sleazy. Sponsored links and content, and the content has been things I think my readers would actually enjoy. But for now, I won’t be going down those routes. You might know that the good folks here at Automattic (the company that runs WordPress) have a policy against blog owners running ads or sponsored content on WordPress.com hosted sites like this one. Blogs with traffic in excess of 25,000 visits per month are eligible for an Ad Control feature. The Daily Cocca is gaining steam, but is not quite at 900ish hits per day, dear readers. If I ever do run ads or sponsored content, rest assured the ads will only be for things that are on the square, and the content will only be posts or graphics that are engaging and worth your time and mine. I’m not into blogging for the money (sort of like writing). I’m interested in connecting with awesome people and sharing awesome things.
If you know me professionally, you know that I do make part of my living by working on content and social media outreach for groups with the right kind of ethics. Three Pillars Trading Co. is a new company I’m working with. They’ve asked me to help capture the essence of their fair-trade products and three-pillared approach to sustainable, responsible business. I’m plugging them here because I like their mission. I’m going to put a link to their Facebook page in one of my sidebars to help promote them and to pretty up all that white space. For the record, they have not asked me to do this and I’m not being paid to place their content here at TDC. I just want to give them a shout out, and perhaps start a discussion about how we can use our blogs to help ethical, sustainable operations simply because it’s the right thing to do. We’re all in this together. To that end, if any of you have projects that you think might sort of fit in with this idea and you’d like me to put together a graphical link to them and display them on my white space, let me know. I’ll do it for free (though a link back here would be appreciated). If you want to talk about hiring me for other things, well, hey, that’s great too.