poemless. a slap in the face of public taste.

February 27, 2010

Уважаемые читатели! Your input is requested!

Filed under: Meta — poemless @ 12:35 PM
Tags: ,

Or, on the passing of the 6-month anniversary of Poemless (the blog.)

I began this blog because I was told I wrote well, I identified a niche and I was sick of following other people’s rules. I didn’t set out with any grand plan or concrete goal. I tend to avoid concrete goals. I prefer my failure to be open to interpretation. I did not seek to make money (the wealthy are generally crap writers), advance my career (career?), put a political party in office (that’s what I do when I am not blogging) or achieve enduring celebrity (I’ve faith history will see to that). I just wanted an outlet where I could purge the madness from my mind when the mood struck. Hygiene – that’s all I was after. If someone found it helpful or enlightening, wonderful. If people just stop in to gape at the freak show, well, step right up. But the aim was: Low Maintenance. It’s no secret that I can be infuriatingly high maintenance, so I expect you will appreciate the challenge I created for myself. I got a WordPress.com blog that does everything for me but write the content. Free and pre-assembled, all I need to do is write whatever I want.

How hard could that be?

A List of Grievances:

1. I originally didn’t care much what the site looked like. But the header is not displaying properly. And I can’t post videos from their original sources. And I’d like to be able to move things around. And have subject fields for comments. And more distinctly blocked quotes. And I’d like to not have to deal with this new onslaught spam. However, I’m largely technologically illiterate. I don’t have the the first clue how to do these things, which seem like they must be the most tedious and boring things to do. They didn’t teach this in school. (They didn’t have the Internet in school!) So I begrudgingly google about… But it seems all the sites about blogging are focused on 1) how you can make more money, 2) how to advance your career or 3) how to become well known, all of which end up telling you to clean up your grammar and learn to game search engines. What if you just want to know how to have a classy little blog? Where are the instructions for those of us with souls? Halp.

2. WordPress.com tells you how many visitors you’ve had, but not how many are unique or where they’ve come from. I’m one of those people who do not give a damn what anyone thinks of me, except that I still I need to know. In the way I need to know if there is a bit of basil stuck between my teeth. I need to know! WordPress.com stats are like the crack dealers outside schools for people like me. They give you a taste. “Look, at the hundreds of visits, little girl… Yeah, you’re all that. What, like what you see? you want to find out more?, that’ll be $60/month.” I don’t have the first clue if the last 90 visitors are high school kids who accidentally wound up here trying to find a poem less than 10 lines long to memorize for English class, if they are spammers, friends, prophets or the KGB. Who are they? Why are they here? What do they think? What do they want from me? What if they are zombies?

3. As a result I find myself being unacceptably narcissistic. This is not good, given my natural diva-esque tendencies. I suppose you have to be an egomaniac to have a blog and take it seriously in the first place. To assume anyone in the world but the people already obligated to listen cares about your opinion on missile defence or German honey. But that, in addition to pontificating day in and day out, you are forced to be aware of your audience … Uhg, it’s all too terrible. It’s one thing to be an armchair policy wonk, another to be an egomaniac with a blog, counting your visitors, googling your name, wondering what people are saying about your (“opinionated,” “out of touch” …) or panicking because they are not saying anything at all. And suddenly, instead of writing for fun, you are writing for your share, for the lure of fame, for attention, for power, to defend your position, stake your claim.

4. And wondering… Why? Don’t misunderstand – it is great fun. But there’s a dark side to this blogging gig. I certainly don’t have the credentials of my peers, with their think tanks and PhDs and gigs representing jailed oligarchs, so I don’t even understand why I should care about these things or consider myself in their league. But I also don’t have that chillaxed stoner mentality that lets me say, “What’ev. S’just a blog.” I’m a control freak. (Which I suspect contributes to my empathy for VVP.) So if I am going to write about something, I am going to do it effectively and with intent and you are going to be impressed. It’s true I don’t care if you agree with me (if everyone agreed with me, I would have no motivation to write) but I need you to acknowledge my import – that’s all. Though… I’m still not sure why.

5. No really, why?

A List of Clarifications:

1. I have a political agenda, and oh, is it grand. But I really have no expectations of advancing it, let alone via this blog. 35 years of life on earth has tought me not to expect anyone to agree with me. Often, I find it more satisfying when people don’t … and want to talk about it.

2. I am not Russian. I cannot, do not and will not claim to speak on behalf of any Russian or claim know better than they do what is best for that country. Ever. Period. And if I do, by some freak accident or bout of blogging-induced narcissism, it’s bullshit, and I need to be called out on it. It’s a serious pet peeve of mine.

3. I blog primarily to empty my head and to learn. And not, that’s not a contradictory statement.

4. I write for myself, about what interests me, yes, but also to untangle thoughts. Something might make perfect sense until I begin writing it down and realize thought B does not logically follow from thought A at all. But I simply cannot do it alone. I could think AND write something and still be profoundly wrong. Everyday, countless journalists and academics do it. I am surely not immune. How will I know I am wrong, or delusional, or myopic if no one points out my faulty logic? Furthermore, I could think AND write AND be perfectly correct about something and wind up stuck in a rut of rightness. I’m an atheist for many reasons, one of which is I reserve the right to adjust my beliefs when presented with new information.

5. All that said, ok, fine Lyndon, I am opinionated. But I try to let it be known when it’s an opinion based on personal experiences or weird fetishes and one I don’t ask others to share. Mostly I will not use such opinions to seriously defend a political position. I will use things like reason, logic, verifiable facts and empathy. Or will try to anyway.

The Survey! Take It!

“Ok, enough about me. Let’s talk about you. What do you think about me?”

1. Do you primarily read this blog for mindless entertainment, to learn, to debate, to express your opinion or to find like-minded people?

2. Does the design, style, interface matter very much to you?

3. What about this blog annoys/frustrates/disappoints you? In your opinion, what does it not do well? What would you axe or change?

4. What about this blog do you appreciate/find helpful/enjoy? In your opinion, what is its strength? What should be given more attention or expanded upon?

5. Are there any topics, projects, etc. you would like to see here? [For example, there are people I would like to interview, but have not because right now that’s Andy’s thing.]

[Bonus Points!] Name one book or article you think I need to read to make me a better blogger/writer/Russia watcher. [Can I just tell you how much I hate that term, “Russia watcher?” Makes one sound like either a peeping Tom or a nanny. Ick. Ick, ick, ick…]

Please post your responses in the comments. I promise I will not take offense at any constructive criticism! But I will take offense if no one posts responses. You can also use the contact form (or e-mail me) if you want to be all sneaky and anti-social about it. Yes, this post is perhaps the most self-involved thing ever written, but ultimately, I’m doing it for the benefit of you, dear readers.

(Though I’m still not sure why.)

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28 Comments »

  1. Only one suggestion: post more often but less copiously. Each of your posts is so long and contains so many subjects, it’s sometimes difficult to disentangle for discussion purposes.

    Comment by Scowspi — February 27, 2010 @ 1:00 PM | Reply

    • 1. How often I am able post is largely out of my control. I can assure you there is nothing I would love more than to be able to post every day. Ok, there are a few things I’d love more. Also, I only post when I have something to share.

      2. “… less copiously.” Noted.

      Comment by poemless — March 1, 2010 @ 12:18 PM | Reply

  2. I’m amazed, while reading this I sometimes even felt you were writing about me (narcissism). I think we have very similar psychological profiles, at least online.

    Re-List of Grievances

    Re-1. I think a self-hosted WordPress blog will give you substantially more options. You can post videos directly – though I don’t recommend doing too many of them because they hog up bandwidth like crazy – and there are a ton of comments plugins. Of course, you have to pay the hosting fees… but they’re far from exorbitant.

    Re-2. Google Analytics.

    I suppose you have to be an egomaniac to have a blog and take it seriously in the first place. To assume anyone in the world but the people already obligated to listen cares about your opinion on missile defence or German honey. But that, in addition to pontificating day in and day out, you are forced to be aware of your audience … Uhg, it’s all too terrible. It’s one thing to be an armchair policy wonk, another to be an egomaniac with a blog, counting your visitors, googling your name, wondering what people are saying about your (“opinionated,” “out of touch” …) or panicking because they are not saying anything at all. And suddenly, instead of writing for fun, you are writing for your share, for the lure of fame, for attention, for power, to defend your position, stake your claim.

    Yep… that’s my world.

    I blog primarily to empty my head and to learn. And not, that’s not a contradictory statement.

    Not contradictory at all. At the start, you have a lot of scrambled ideas jostling about and being a bother. By the time you post on it, you’ll have resolved most of the internal contradictions so the mind feels emptier and wiser.

    The Survey

    1. Do you primarily read this blog for mindless entertainment, to learn, to debate, to express your opinion or to find like-minded people?

    I just like your idiosyncratic, even humorous, writing style.

    2. Does the design, style, interface matter very much to you?

    No.

    3. What about this blog annoys/frustrates/disappoints you? In your opinion, what does it not do well? What would you axe or change?

    I’m happy with the way it is. I don’t mind the long posts.

    5. Are there any topics, projects, etc. you would like to see here? [For example, there are people I would like to interview, but have not because right now that’s Andy’s thing.

    Honestly, I doubt Andy would mind.

    BTW: Speaking of which, when is your own interview appearing at Siberian Light?

    [Bonus Points!] Name one book or article you think I need to read to make me a better blogger/writer/Russia watcher. [Can I just tell you how much I hate that term, “Russia watcher?” Makes one sound like either a peeping Tom or a nanny. Ick. Ick, ick, ick…]

    Stephen King – On Writing?
    (I can’t really recommend anything very specific since the question is so general and I don’t know what kind of books you like to read).

    Comment by Tolya — February 27, 2010 @ 2:09 PM | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback. I suspected I was not alone in this experience…

      Others have also suggested a self-hosted WordPress blog and Google Analytics, so I will def. look into these. (Though the former seems like a commitment and the latter might only encourage even more excessive levels of navel-gazing…)

      Re: Andy’s interview. You’ll have to ask him. So far as I can tell he’s fallen off the face of the earth. He asked me to do an interview & I never heard another thing from him.

      Comment by poemless — March 1, 2010 @ 12:19 PM | Reply

  3. “Ok, enough about me. Let’s talk about you. What do you think about me?”

    1. Do you primarily read this blog for mindless entertainment, to learn, to debate, to express your opinion or to find like-minded people?

    It’s very entertaining, and I do like the generally spare look. Love the pen. And I do like to make my views known to a critical but not completely Russophobic audience. I’ve about given up on posting anything serious on SWP, for instance, so I don’t go there much except to tweak him and Phoby.

    2. Does the design, style, interface matter very much to you?

    It does. I rather like it.

    3. What about this blog annoys/frustrates/disappoints you? In your opinion, what does it not do well? What would you axe or change?

    4. What about this blog do you appreciate/find helpful/enjoy? In your opinion, what is its strength? What should be given more attention or expanded upon?

    Like I said above, it’s an environment conducive to constructive discussion/criticism of Russia. It definitely fills a need.

    5. Are there any topics, projects, etc. you would like to see here? [For example, there are people I would like to interview, but have not because right now that’s Andy’s thing.]

    [Bonus Points!] Name one book or article you think I need to read to make me a better blogger/writer/Russia watcher. [Can I just tell you how much I hate that term, “Russia watcher?” Makes one sound like either a peeping Tom or a nanny. Ick. Ick, ick, ick…]

    David M. Glantz and Jonathan House “When Titans Clashed-How the red Army Stopped Hitler” University Press of Kansas, 1995.

    Glantz, a retired US Army Colonel and Russian foreign area officer, is about the best living historian of WWII in the East writing in English, and this book is the best one-volume history of the topic. Understanding how the USSR prepared for WWII, how it waged it, and the apalling condition it was in at the end is fundamental to understanding Russian attitudes towards the outside world now. A more in-depth treatment is John Erickson’s “The Road to Stalingrad” and “The Road to Berlin”, which covers more of the wartime diplomacy, politics, and working of the Russian war economy, but at 850-900 pgs each they’re not for the faint of heart.

    Comment by rkka — February 27, 2010 @ 2:28 PM | Reply

    • Thanks for the encouragement. Though I confess I’m not going to read up on WWII. That’s my stepfather’s shtick.

      Comment by poemless — March 1, 2010 @ 12:19 PM | Reply

  4. Before getting to your specific questions, you need to know that what you’re doing can be labelled, IMHO, accurately and specifically: you are an almost-classic essayist. The best bloggers are. And as far as that goes, there’s no particular need to apologize for your ego. Frankly, if you didn’t have one you wouldn’t be writing, and as long as you aren’t a jerk about it, there’s no big deal having one. (Of course, I also have a writers’ ego, so take that with a grain of salt.) So there’s absolutely no need to apologize for any lack of credentials you may think you don’t have. Essayists explore what they see from their point of view, and your only responsibilities are to have your facts straight when necessary, express your opinions when you wish, and do it in your own voice. Check, check, and check.

    Okay, now on to your questions …

    1. The answer is “yes.” And, because this is a really fun read.

    2. Your posts are fairly easy to read, although I will admit hunting through responses can be tricky. The comments just aren’t layed out as clearly in other blogs I frequent. But if you are looking for a slightly better layout, you might poach or steal some notes from A GOOD TREATY. That’s a really clean and clearly laid out blog, I think.

    3. My own lack of knowledge is what frustrates me, especially when it comes to facing up to my own ignorance of post-Soviet history – all the moreso because I thought I was fairly well informed. But that’s about me. And, one of the advantages to reading blogs/essays is that they are wonderful places to try to learn in relative privacy. (Libraries are good for that kind of thing as well, I’m told.) So my frustrations are mine. I just want to, again, thank you and the rest of your posters for allowing a clearly non-Russian expert on to your playground!

    4. For all the political talk, which I sometimes find a little at sea on (see above), I find the occasional forays into Russian culture and intellectual life really interesting. I think those kinds of posts and analyses do just as much to illuminate history or current events as hardcore political/media analysis, if not moreso sometimes. More ‘pop’ culture, in other words. And, the forays into life in Chicago and Chicago politics and whatnot are also refreshing — remember, Russian politics may be the primary subject, but as your “book of essays,” if you will, you can explore whatever you wish to explore. Feed that ego!

    5. See #4 above. More movie and book reviews! More links to weirdness! Don’t feel you have to be all-Russia or all-politics all the time! And, if for some reason you wish to try to sell some ads to make some coin, I for one will understand. Egos aren’t the only things that need feeding.

    BONUS: Since I get most of my Russian from here, I’ll defer to others on those suggestions. However, if you’re writing essays — and, again, I kind of think of bloggers as essayists — find some good, classic essay-writers as models and examples of how to play with different issues. Some of my favorites include Montaigne, M.F.K. Fischer, Cornel West, Lewis Thomas, et al. And online essayists like Digby, the goofballs at Sadly, No!, and Orcinius (Peter Beinart’s blog), to name three web-only bloggers.

    Finally … brava on your six-month anniversary! Keep on truckin’!

    Comment by EdgewaterJoe — February 27, 2010 @ 4:01 PM | Reply

    • 1. Thanks!
      2. Re: A Good Treaty. I really don’t think it is a very good idea to adopt the same format as one of the handful of other blogs in my niche. Would be seriously annoying and confusing.
      3. I’m glad you find it informative.
      4 & 5. Noted!
      6. Thanks for the recommendations. (Funny you should mention M.F.K. Fischer. Melissa says my writing reminds her of M.F.K. Fischer.)

      Comment by poemless — March 1, 2010 @ 12:20 PM | Reply

  5. I’m with you regarding WordPress.com’s lousy analytics. Blogger was much better about allowing you to add your own trackers, but Blogger is ugly-as-hell and it doesn’t have WordPress’s community. Sean Guillory seems to use WordPress.org, and his website has lots of nice bells and whistles. Maybe you could ask him what his advice is? (I assume he forced himself to figure the software out, since he’s a historian by training and, therefore, incapable of any practical action.)

    As for your survey:

    (1) As other readers have pointed out, your style and attitude are probably what I find most attractive. It’s like reading the eXile, but without that last five per cent of aggression that usually made me a little sick after a couple of articles. You’ve got loud opinions, but there is enough ambiguity and agnosticism that I don’t feel like you’re lecturing.

    I also like that you follow certain figures and stories, which allows you to author multiple posts on a similar subject, without having to re-establish all the basic facts each time. As a result, the reader makes an investment reading your blog, and when you pick up on an idea of theme from before, we can all cash in.

    (2) There’s lot of unused space on the page interface-wise. Also, why is there a pen at the top of this blog? I might be alone here in asking, but why not have an image that somehow reflects the title of your blog?

    (3 & 4) I agree with a previous comment that you should post more frequently, but in fewer words. I know you want to make your posts count, to do a respectable amount of research prior to throwing something up on your webpage, so visitors feel like they’re getting access to something valuable, that took some work. Every now and again, I think it would be great to lay down a more in-depth piece. But, more often than not, I think people would prefer you to point out some interesting event going on in Russia, and for you to share your two cents. That’s more than enough for a great post.

    (5) You’re in Chicago, yes? There are some serious Russia literati up in there. I don’t know if you could get access to an old warhorse like Sheila Fitzpatrick, but I’ve no doubt we’d all like to hear her air her thoughts on contemporary Russian politics — or even on Soviet history. That might be a tall order, but more realistic is perhaps hunting down some of her graduate students (or some from the poli sci department). Those punks spend their nights dreaming of finding people to listen to their intellectual musings. I know I’m enough of a dope to want to hear.

    I don’t know if you follow him already, but Maksim Kononenko is probably one of the more entertaining political writers in Russia today. He’s the author/creator of “Владимир Владимирович™” and a columnist at Взгляд. His support for Putin is totally incomprehensible to most Westerners — and by that I mean they don’t understand his wonderful sense of humor. If somebody like Ariel Cohen or Anders Aslund ever began to ‘get’ Kononenko, the Earth would implode and the resulting vacuum would almost certainly destroy the universe. He’s just beyond them.

    I think you’d like his stuff.

    Comment by A Good Treaty — February 27, 2010 @ 9:19 PM | Reply

    • Ouch. Sean’s got a PhD and a wife (and a pic of Rasputin’s preserved package) so let’s not underestimate his fierce capabilities. (BTW – why has he not commented? grrr….)

      1. Thanks – glad to see someone gets it. 😉
      2. Er, because I liked everything else about the theme when I picked it out. I personally like the text-heavy, red (Tolya says pink), minimalist look. Lesser of the WordPress.com theme evils. I do have a little b&w photoin the corner, which, in my head, expresses my blog identity. It’s a Mayakovsky poem. I like that I know what it is and no one else does. Also, what do you think the title of my blog reflects – out of curiosity?
      3 & 4. An explanation:

      I can’t post much more frequently, but will work on the fewer words.

      You write “so visitors feel like they’re getting access to something valuable, that took some work.” As I tried to explain when I wrote this post, I do a respectable amount of research prior to throwing something up on my blog primarily for my own benefit. So I know a little bit about what I am talking about. Also, I am not trying to impress anyone – just to let them know how I came to the conclusion of x,y or z, or to illustrate a point.

      You write “I think people would prefer you to point out some interesting event going on in Russia, and for you to share your two cents. That’s more than enough for a great post.” There are many other blogs that do this. And the soundbite thing is not my style. Frankly, if I did exactly as you suggest, I would only be replicating a dozen other blogs. Moreover, I think the blogosphere needs more explanation and exploration, and less of people throwing out their few cents. So while I respect your opinion, if that is what you are looking for, this might not be the blog for you. 🙂

      OTOH, if I’m being verbose and rambling taking forever to get to a point – I can certainly work on that!

      5. I know – it’s a positive shame. I studied at NU and work at UofC and live in a city of 3 million. I should totally look in my own neighborhood. The problem is, I don’t think I have enough clout to make it worth their time.

      Maksim Kononenko … I’d totally forgotten about the silly Putin stories site! Ha! (And had no idea who Kononenko was, fwiw.) Thanks for the reminder and for getting me to check out his other blog!

      Comment by poemless — March 1, 2010 @ 12:18 PM | Reply

      • Regarding point #5, it couldn’t hurt to email some of the grad students!

        http://history.uchicago.edu/graduate/grads.shtml

        I’m sure some of these people would be happy to answer some brief questions over email of chat or the phone, or whatever. Don’t doubt your clout when it comes to lowly doctorate maggots. 🙂

        Also, point taken about the two-cents commentary approach. I just know that, sometimes, being made away of some strange event or story is just as good as reading quality commentary. Whatever works!

        Comment by A Good Treaty — March 1, 2010 @ 12:27 PM | Reply

      • I wanted to propose Maxim Kononenko as well.

        I actually read two political blogs: Kononenko’s and Oleg Kashin’s.

        That means, http://idiot.fm and http://kashin.livejournal.com

        I enjoy reading them, because both of them live in the real world.

        Comment by Evgeny — March 1, 2010 @ 12:40 PM | Reply

      • “The problem is, I don’t think I have enough clout to make it worth their time.”

        Riiight … because the last thing authors the world over want are (a) fans and (b) the opportunity to sell a few more books!

        Trust me: you ask, they’ll be flattered – and I’ll bet you’ll get more yeas than nays. Remember, you don’t get what you don’t ask for!

        Comment by EdgewaterJoe — March 1, 2010 @ 1:08 PM | Reply

      • Sorry I missed your question about what the title of your blog means.

        Well, I reckon you enjoy its obscurity, if it means anything concrete, in the first place!

        I’ll offer my own interpretation: you set out to debunk and disrupt the rhythm of Russia analysis, so maybe “poemless” is your away of saying “the story, without all the pretty distractions.”

        I’m clearly biased against poetry, though.

        Dude, I have no idea what your blog title means. 🙂

        Comment by A Good Treaty — March 1, 2010 @ 1:14 PM | Reply

  6. First, I read your blog for YOU and I think it’s great even when I don’t comment. Which I don’t do most of the time because I don’t know a thing about Russia except what you tell me and I don’t retain much of that. But that’s ok. I like your blog even when you get all wonky. But I live in hope of naked Putin pictures or at least Russian movie reviews.

    Second, I use Google Analytics which I guess you can use with wordpress (I don’t know for sure, my blog is in blogger). It gives you a lot of information but still not enough to satisfy me. But it is satisfying enough on the days when I’m sure only Andi is reading (and my mom who refuses to comment). I can go look and see that people were clicking on posts that I wrote months ago. The long tail of blogging. Or whatever.

    Happy Six Year Blogiversary! Many more to come I hope.

    Comment by maryb — February 27, 2010 @ 10:47 PM | Reply

    • “But I live in hope of naked Putin pictures.”

      Wow – what a coincidence, so do I! 😉

      Comment by poemless — March 1, 2010 @ 12:25 PM | Reply

  7. 1. It seems for me lastly that everything I read is for mindless entertaining, so… skip it.
    2. Not in the least.
    3. Nothing.
    4. Everything.
    5. If you wrote something great on Iran, it would be read with interest in Russia. The problem, IMHO, is that in case of Iran there are several contradictory moral imperatives of great power. (An example of contradictory points: a. Iran’s nuclear bomb could endanger other nations. b. They have every right to make it.) If you could provide a careful insight on the problem, it could interest Russians much.
    6. I would propose you reading at least a single Russian fiction book in a year. It tells hell of a lot about the modern Russian culture. There are many multiple reviewers, so…

    Russian serious literature is divided into the domains of prose and science fiction.

    Why should you waste your time reading Russian science fiction? 1) It’s fun, 2) It’s a significant part of the modern Russian culture, 3) It tells you about the Russian reality in unique ways
    (see Lukin’s essay “Forgery leading to truth”
    http://read.aif.ru/pages/read_book_online/?art=140519&page=1
    )

    Just for example, you could have a look on Lukin’s “Alaya aura protopartorga”. On one hand, you have there a fantasy story: a disgraced politician moves to a neighboring country to win support there and return to his home country taking the power there. On the other hand.. oh hell! there is a significant real-world layer. The political struggle between Democratic Witchers and Christian Communists in the novel is a satire of the whole Russia’s 1990s.

    And more seriously, why won’t you subscribe to 2-3 leading Russian newspapers? 🙂

    Comment by evgeny — February 28, 2010 @ 3:39 AM | Reply

    • Ach, Evgeny. You’ll be the death of me…

      1.-4. Wonderful to hear.
      5. Not only does the Iran thing not interest me very much (and as an American I cannot possibly take a position other than “let ’em do what they want” until my country scraps it’s own nukes program…) But more importantly, my aim is not really to write for a Russian audience. I mean, if they want to read my blog, fabulous, but I’m far more interested in educating/entertaining/lecturing my own people, who are often incredibly ignorant and biased about Russia. I’m highly motivated by the irresponsible journalism and politics in my own country, which I have a far greater understanding of, and a sense of moral responsibility to hold accountable, for the health of my own country.
      6. I read more than one Russian fiction book a year. (FWIW – I work in an academic library, with the Slavic languages collection. I don’t read all the books that come through here, but I would not say I am ignorant of contemporary Russian lit!) That said, I’m always looking for recommendations. Frankly it seems like a vast amount of it is pulp…

      That said – I don’t like science fiction. It’s not something I can force myself to enjoy. I’ve tried – believe me. Not gonna happen. It’s not enough I read poetry?

      Because I don’t subscribe to any newspapers at all.

      Comment by poemless — March 1, 2010 @ 12:20 PM | Reply

      • Unfortunately, I have a very little idea of the modern Russian mainstream!

        One of the authors I can name, though, is Dmitry Gorchev. He writes some “sketches” which show his attitude to everything. Possibly, his last book emerged from his LiveJournal blog.

        Despite over-active use of obscene lexics, he attempts to show the Russian mindset.

        For example, his “sketch” about Justice:

        http://gorchev.lib.ru/txt/by1/spraved.shtml

        Or the one entitled “Любовь и Космос” (you would need to use search, it’s a link to a whole book):

        http://lib.rus.ec/b/174061/read

        Comment by Evgeny — March 1, 2010 @ 12:50 PM | Reply

  8. 1. Mindless entertainment, and because it makes for sharp, snappy reading – so it excercises the brain too.

    2. No.

    3. Seems to lack ‘connections’ with other blogs – we’re sure you read other authors/bloggers worldwide – how do they inspire you? When you write articles that (also) use other bloggers posts as a foundation, it gives us a chance to find other people whose writings are interesting. [I found you from SO, and I believe it was a post in which he quoted you, rather than the blogroll]. Blogrolls are like grocery lists, they’re interesting only when you’re totally out of things to do.

    4. Its strength is sharpness and unpredictability. No need to add more of those though, the current mix is just fine 😉

    Bonus book/article: The [apocryphal?] translated speech of Chief Seattle when asked to give up his tribes lands.

    About your woes: Theres no point wasting your energy working on the technology of the blog. Hire somebody – quid pro quo basis since this isn’t a commercial venture – ideally somebody young, for whom this would be somewhat of a showpiece. You can even offer them a banner on your blog (linking to their site / whatever), if thats worth it to them.

    That said, it makes far more sense to host your blog elsewhere, use wordpress to manage the content, and use google analytics [mentioned by a comrade above] to analyse your traffic. If you want a service that is terribly easy to use, has reasonably good support, and will automatically install wordpress etc for you, you can try netfirms [canadian company] – I dont work for them, but I’ve used their services in the past.

    A wordpress.com blog will be very difficult to customize too – resulting in there being no solution to many of the issues you face (e.g. comment subjects probably requires a change of plugin?).

    Have fun with your blog,

    Comment by blitzen — February 28, 2010 @ 10:31 AM | Reply

    • 1. Ok, now I’m feeling all Joe Pesci. “What do you think I am, a clown?”
      2. This seems to be the consensus, which is not motivating me to make any changes…
      3. Can you elaborate? I don’t think I understand about the “connections.” I feel like I’ve already fallen over myself to give props to Sean’s Russia Blog and Robert Amsterdam, I regularly post items from Sublime Oblivion, Eternal Remont, and frankly all kinds of blogs (especially in the “Odds & Ends” and other random collections of items I post). I just highlighted A Good Treaty and devoted a whole post to Mark Admonanis. Or do you mean they do not link to me enough? Well, not much I can do about that (though to their credit, some do.)

      I actually find blogrolls very very helpful. It’s how I find out about new blogs or resources I’ve never heard of. To my mind, they have a purpose similar to bibliographies. They shed insight into how the blogger gets his/her information, and provide direction for further reading.

      4. Super.

      Chief Seattle? Okay…

      Thanks for all of the info/advice. I’m certainly not ready to pay anyone to do it for me. But I may reach that point eventually…

      Comment by poemless — March 1, 2010 @ 12:15 PM | Reply

      • > 1. Ok, now I’m feeling all Joe Pesci. “What do you think I am, a clown?”

        blitzen: Joe Pesci, while funny, is hardly sharp, nor does he make your brain emerge from deep freeze, let alone cause you to exercise it! ‘My Cousin Vinny’ excepted, of course.

        > 3. Can you elaborate? I don’t think I understand about the “connections.” I feel like I’ve already fallen over myself to give props to Sean’s Russia Blog and Robert Amsterdam, I regularly post items from Sublime Oblivion, Eternal Remont, and frankly all kinds of blogs (especially in the “Odds & Ends” and other random collections of items I post). I just highlighted A Good Treaty and devoted a whole post to Mark Admonanis. Or do you mean they do not link to me enough? Well, not much I can do about that (though to their credit, some do.)

        blitzen: Might just be a matter of perception as to how much you’re currently doing it. To put it in clear simple terms, using whats posted elsewhere as a starting point for creative extensions, critical analysis, satire, etc. Perhaps you already feel you’re doing this, and its just my own perception that this isnt being done enough – in any case, thats my opinion on the subject. It could also be related to how you use the stuff you pick up from elsewhere – maybe you can do more with it?

        Its somewhat like the exercise we’re going through here. We’re helping you since we enjoy reading what you write – and how we’re helping you is an exercise in mapping exactly where you stand, and what you could be – each of us extrapolating to chart the latter according to our individual temperament, and what we like. And thats pretty similar to what you could [and maybe currently] do with blogs, opinions, news from all over – build on top of it.

        > I actually find blogrolls very very helpful. It’s how I find out about new blogs or resources I’ve never heard of. To my mind, they have a purpose similar to bibliographies. They shed insight into how the blogger gets his/her information, and provide direction for further reading.

        blitzen: The problem with blogrolls, quite often, is that they lack consistency/homogenity. For example, you’ll often find among the blogroll of an author the following – a famous economist, the authors significant other, a livejournal page showing you cute pictures of cats, a blog on nightlife in georgia [made that one up], etc. And all with cryptic titles e.g. “Sublime Obvlion” – that make you wonder what the blog – and hence the author – is really all about!

        A blog is ultimately all about the author/team behind the blog, really – and one would like to get a feel for what they’re really into – something that isnt conveyed by the genre/topic of the blog. For example, I read this blog because you write it – not so much the topics you write about….I know that you will write about enough things to be worth looking the blog up. Its the same with Anatoly Karlin, Eric Kraus, Kyle Keeton [Windows to Russia] etc.

        And what really helps me get a feel for a blog is when somebody else brings out the best in that blog, and it feels to you like chocolate potatoes….you simply have to go out there and get them – and sample more from the same source, whatever you may think about the rest of their cuisine 🙂

        So thats where a blogroll fails…feels too much like a school exercise – go through all these links and see what you like. But that works fine when you really have nothing else to do 🙂

        > Thanks for all of the info/advice. I’m certainly not ready to pay anyone to do it for me. But I may reach that point eventually…

        blitzen: My advice again here is…dont pay for it in cash. You will need to pay for hosting, if you want control. But beyond that, dont pay for the tech help. Form a quid-pro-quo relationship… there are enough ‘geeks’ in the world for you to find a way to work with one of them, and form a partnership that will allow you to keep out of the messy details.

        If this really irritates you, then you should find somebody to help. I’ve helped plenty of people with technology – sometimes putting in a lot of hard work – without earning from any of them anything more than their goodwill. And I’m quite happy with that state of affairs….and Im definitely not special, or an exception.

        I’m sure you’ll find a way,

        Comment by blitzen — March 1, 2010 @ 1:59 PM | Reply

        • 1. Do you have a blog?
          2. Since you don’t comment often, can you tell me about how frequently you read this blog?
          3. I think your issue with blogrolls sounds like it is about their existence in general, and not mine in particular. Anyway, I’m quite happy with mine.

          Comment by poemless — March 1, 2010 @ 3:12 PM | Reply

          • > 1. Do you have a blog?
            blitzen: Nope.

            2. Since you don’t comment often, can you tell me about how frequently you read this blog?

            blitzen: Everyday, when Im in the mood/free, with big gaps (weeks) when I may be focussed on something else.

            3. I think your issue with blogrolls sounds like it is about their existence in general, and not mine in particular. Anyway, I’m quite happy with mine.

            blitzen: Not so much an issue with blogrolls, but looking for a better way to pick up on your sources, inspirations, peers, like-minded people (similar to you, that is).

            Comment by blitzen — March 2, 2010 @ 1:58 AM | Reply

  9. Hey, I thought I said something like “opinionated in a good way.” If not, that’s what I meant.

    As for stats, I understand Google Analytics is prob the best way to go. I haven’t updated anything about the layout of my blog for a long time, though, and StatCounter does OK for me in terms of showing where the last 500 visitors came from, who they are, etc.

    Survey says:

    1. Do you primarily read this blog for mindless entertainment, to learn, to debate, to express your opinion or to find like-minded people? None of the above – I read it for non-mindless entertainment.

    2. Does the design, style, interface matter very much to you? No.

    3. What about this blog annoys/frustrates/disappoints you? In your opinion, what does it not do well? What would you axe or change? Nothing. Blogs are highly personal, everyone has their own focus and voice, and I can’t really imagine asking another blogger to change something about what they do. If I don’t like it, I don’t read it. And I expect no more/less of all 10 of my own readers.

    4. What about this blog do you appreciate/find helpful/enjoy? In your opinion, what is its strength? What should be given more attention or expanded upon? The randomness. And the comments are sometimes entertaining.

    5. Are there any topics, projects, etc. you would like to see here? [For example, there are people I would like to interview, but have not because right now that’s Andy’s thing.] You should blog about whatever is of interest to you whenever you have time. And (not to speak for him) but I’m sure Andy doesn’t lay claim to a monopoly on the interview schtick in the Russo-blogosphere.

    [Bonus Points!] Name one book or article you think I need to read to make me a better blogger/writer/Russia watcher. [Can I just tell you how much I hate that term, “Russia watcher?” Makes one sound like either a peeping Tom or a nanny. Ick. Ick, ick, ick…]

    Well, you see the links I post to facebook, so that answers the question for today and the future; as for the past few years, I think you could do worse than perusing the archives of my blog from ’04-’08 (hey, I’m allowed to have an ego, too, right?)…

    Comment by Lyndon — February 28, 2010 @ 11:35 AM | Reply

    • Lyndon, yes, that is what you said. I like to imagine I’m a little more substantial than that. I don’t want to be like Drudge or something…

      But thank you for your sensible responses!

      Comment by poemless — March 1, 2010 @ 12:21 PM | Reply

  10. I have to copy and paste a special code onto every single page and post if I want to use Google Analytics? Yikes. No thanks.

    Also, I am glad people read this blog for “entertainment.” Admittedly surprised (and disappointed) that for most, it’s not for all the other reasons.

    Comment by poemless — March 1, 2010 @ 3:08 PM | Reply

  11. “I have to copy and paste a special code onto every single page and post if I want to use Google Analytics? Yikes. No thanks.

    Also, I am glad people read this blog for “entertainment.” Admittedly surprised (and disappointed) that for most, it’s not for all the other reasons.”

    If you host your blog elsewhere, just add that code to the default header/footer, and it will automatically be added to all posts

    Theres even a plugin to automate it!
    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/google-analytics-for-wordpress/

    Cant do that on wordpress.com though.

    Comment by blitzen — March 1, 2010 @ 3:16 PM | Reply


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