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an endless succession of beans and nuts.

"How Rod Dreher's Blog Got a Little 'Too Weird' for The American Conservative."

I'm reading this Vanity Fair article by Caleb Ecarma. Subtitle: "The right-wing commentator’s columns, which were unedited and bankrolled by a single donor, will be shuttered Friday after a 12-year run. Sources say it was ultimately a diatribe on circumcision that was a bridge too far."
Over the last 12 years, Dreher... has built a cult following with some of the most bizarre diatribes in opinion journalism. He has warned that so-called sissy hypnosis porn is “profoundly evil;” detailed the “formal” Catholic exorcism of a friend’s suicidal wife; and recalled—in unsettling detail—the time he witnessed a Black classmate's uncircumcised penis....

Howard Ahmanson Jr., the heir to a California banking fortune [was] the sole benefactor of Dreher’s six-figure salary.... This unique funding arrangement—a single donor choosing to cover one writer’s entire salary—was paired with an even more unusual editorial arrangement: Dreher was allowed to publish directly on TAC’s site without any revisions or legal oversight.... 

That is, I would say, Dreher was allowed to write a real blog. And he got real money for blogging the real way. It's appropriate that a writer be paid. But all the money came from one guy. How can you write like that?! I guess it depends on the guy. You'd have to think about whether this one guy is getting what he wants... or enough of what he wants... to keep the money flowing.

Ahmanson must have loved Dreher, so where did Dreher go wrong? Sources tell Vanity Fair it was that post about circumcision. Dreher wrote:

“All us boys wanted to stare at his primitive root wiener when we were at the urinal during recess, because it was monstrous. Nobody told us that wieners could look like that.” 

I took a moment to look up Ahmanson. From his Wikipedia page, check out his "occupation": 

"Heir, idle rich, financier." Oh, Wikipedia!

It wasn't just calling a black man's uncircumcised penis a "primitive root wiener."

Some of Dreher’s commentary on the gay and transgender communities also proved off-putting to Ahmanson, such as his lurid musings on anal sex, rectal bleeding, and the “partially rotted off” nose of a gay man who contracted monkeypox. 
“At some point, he basically decided, 'This is too weird,’” the source, paraphrasing Ahmanson, explained to me. “‘I don’t want to read this or pay for this anymore.’”

The problem was either that or the fact that Dreher, who lives in Hungary, revealed that the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán said NATO is "in a war with Russia" and he wants out of the European Union. That caused a stir.

In his final TAC post, Dreher closed by saying to his readers: “All you Mongoloids were the Primitive Root Wiener in my Lucky Dog, and I love you very much.” I'm sure his closest readers understood all the references. I only get "Primitive Root Wiener" and it's hard to fathom why he would write that... other than that to blog well you have to take chances and say some unusual things. I'm going to guess that Dreher will be better off on his own at Substack with the money coming from a multitude of readers and not from one man — who, of course, had to worry about having his own reputation wedded to the words of a blogger.

I made a new tag — "pretzels" — and applied it retroactively.

This was, perhaps, the most satisfying retroactive application of a new tag I have ever done. Check it out: "pretzels."

The trick with tags is to hit the right level of generality. For example, "food" is too general. What's the point? But should there be a tag for every food that happens to play a role in a blog post? Pretzels came up in the first post today. So did crackers. I already had a "crackers" tag — I love crackers — and it felt like the right time to start a "pretzels" tag.

The retroactive application of a tag is a bit of a chore, but it's relatively easy when you have a distinctive word to search for, but it's so rewarding to turn up a lot of varied posts, which is what happened this time. 

There was the story of a disastrous crowd crush in 1896 in which a promise of pretzels played a role.

There was the time Angela Merkel served Barack Obama "a breakfast of white sausages, pretzels and foaming lager."

There was the one about Billie Eilish that had a philosophical reference — "I think, therefore I am" — and had me saying "I wish I had a 'pretzel' tag, but I won't start one because it would be annoying to add retrospectively, given the metaphorical use of the word." Hah! Lazy me. And I didn't find any metaphorical pretzels today. I guess I'm not one of those people who say "pretzel logic" or "twisted himself up like a pretzel," and I never happened to quote anybody who was.

There was the woman who "squirrels away nibble-friendly fare like string cheese, pretzels, apples and trail mix in her purse" to deal with her husband who gets "hangry." Ha ha, a metaphorical squirrel... and I went ahead and gave it my "squirrel" tag.

Best of all, there was the "Pretzels and free will" post from the first year of this blog, one of the best posts in the history of this blog.

"71% of Democratic Voters Think Biden Should Be 2024 Nominee."

Says a new Emerson poll.

I said it 2 weeks ago:

"That's your candidate, Democrats. There's no getting around it. And it seems that America will spend the next 6 years in the arms of the gerontocracy. Snuggle up!"

I'd already factored in my belief that Trump will get the GOP nomination and go on to lose the election. I've decided I'm not getting cranked up about it. I have blogged the presidential campaigns for almost 2 decades, with day-by-day observations and insights throughout 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, and 2020. What a hell of a thing to become so immersed in. This time will be different. And not because I'm tired of all the immersion. It's different because I can see it's different. We're in a ridiculous fix. But I'm not going to make it worse by struggling. The ancient grandfather will enfold us. 

"My channel was as raw and honest as I would have been in my diary. That’s part of the culture."

"Being known as you are — and praised for it — lures in those of us with a deep desire to be seen. But another part of the culture is to make yourself into a product and figure out how to sell that product. Success is measured in views and subscriber counts, visible to all. The numbers feel like an adrenaline shot to your self-esteem.... When done right, YouTube can quickly become a lucrative career. But maintaining it is a delicate balancing act... In 2018, I impulsively released a video about my struggle with burnout.... [I]t brought me even more attention.... I kept making videos.... I was entering adulthood and trying to live my childhood dream, but now, to be 'authentic,' I had to be the product I had long been posting online, as opposed to the person I was growing up to be.... Changing an online persona is something at which few have been successful.... Staying unchanged brings its own challenges — stagnancy, inauthenticity, burnout.... But to those who will walk the path I did, I hope you will learn... [to] use these platforms to open opportunities, but not at the cost of giving all of yourself away."

From "YouTube Gave Me Everything. Then I Grew Up" by Elle Mills (NYT).

Here's that 2018 video:   

I started blogging when I was 53 — already way beyond grown up — and I've continued for 19 years, with never anything that felt like burnout. I get up in the morning feeling good about getting to live freely in writing on my little patch of social media. Because so much of my life is in the past, what I have to say is only partially relevant to a young person starting out, but, for what it's worth, I offer this insight into how to live happily with the exposure of social media, composed 5 years ago. I was able to find it because it contained the word "blinds." I have always pictured blogging with the metaphor of Venetian blinds. I get to adjust the slats continually and control how much or how little of me is on view.

January 14, 2018

All right... time to start Year 15.

It was 14 years ago today that I opened the blinds on this little window into my head. I didn't know who would peek in, only that I had made it possible to see the things I let show, and the sheer possibility felt incredibly exciting and almost too frightening.

As I said in the second post on that first day, January 14, 2004:
I had just emailed [a blogging colleague] about my admiration for her and my own timidity: "I'll have to think about getting up the nerve to do this sort of thing. It seems if you're going to do it, you need to become somewhat chatty and revealing, which is a strange thing to do to the entire world." Then it seemed altogether too lame not to go ahead and start the blog.
Having set aside my lifelong timidity, I got on the blog ride that let me see what I thought about everything that happened — including things that happened to me — for 14 years. I got to pick what I genuinely felt like talking about and to say only what I wanted to say...

I write for the flow — the sheer intrinsic pleasure of unfiltered writing. I love having readers, but only if you like this sort of thing. Why else would you be here?....

It's fine if you're reading because I annoy you and you want to fight about it in the comments. The main thing I wanted in going into law teaching was to have more vibrant conversation than I'd experienced in law school, and what drew me into the blog was a desire to get into discussions that in real life were muffled and suppressed.

The desire still rages, so onward to Year 15.

"There are all kinds of things you can do to develop and retain [a blog] audience... but the single most important thing you can do is post regularly and never stop...."

"[The demand for content] is so insatiable that there is currently no real economic punishment for content overproduction. You will almost never lose money, followers, attention, or reach simply from posting too much. It’s this last part that is often most difficult for writers to accept.... Before they post, therefore, many writers mentally calculate: Is this post 'good enough,' or does it dilute the overall quality of my work, alienate my audience, etc.? But [WaPo's Matt] Yglesias profile’s very existence reminds us of an important rule of thumb for navigating the content economy in the 21st century: Under the present regime, there is no real downside risk to posting.... Even the most anodyne, mediocre writing fulfills the requirement of regularity. (What is the 'Wayne Gretzky' quote? 'You miss 100 percent of the audience conversion opportunities you don’t take'?)... What do the top text-based content-creation entrepreneurs of our time have in common? Logorrhea.... It’s easy to see why writers reared in the hothouse reputational marketplace of Twitter are desperate to avoid the shame of negative attention. But... people forget, or move on, or don’t really care.... Feeling shame that prevents you from doing or saying inappropriate things is maybe a useful way to navigate complex moral-social arrangements, but fearing shame that prevents you from adhering to the first commandment of blogging ('post frequently and regularly') is counterproductive. As Yglesias says, it's the best time there’s ever been to be somebody who can write something coherent quickly. Put things out. Let people yell at you. Write again the next day."

Writes Max Read in "Matt Yglesias and the secret of blogging/How to be a successful content entrepreneur" (Substack)(riffing on the WaPo profile of Yglesias).

Max Read doesn't mention artificial intelligence, but if his idea of successful blogging is right, then bloggers can set their blogs to automatically generate endless posts. And that's why he can't be right. But by his own terms, he doesn't need to be right. He just needs to load in more words words words. 

I looked up "logorrhea" to see if it fits the writing of ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence. The OED says it's "Excessive volubility accompanying some forms of mental illness; also gen., an excessive flow of words, prolixity."

That is, the original and narrow meaning is an actual illness. The oldest historical example, from a psychology reference book, calls it "a common symptom in cases of mania." A 1907 newspaper article calls it a form of "insanity" in which "the ideas come rapidly tumbling over each other."

By 1970, the broader meaning had taken hold and non-insane people got accused of it: "We are left with a tedious tale of complicated intrigues written by an author suffering from acute logorrhoea." Yeah, but non-insane people get accused of insanity too. It's hyperbole to say you're crazy, unless you're speaking about a person who is literally crazy, but in that case, you probably wouldn't say it. 

You only say "logorrhea" when you mean to insult. I'm sure ChatGPT deserves to be insulted, but "logorrhea" is not the right insult. "Logorrhea" aims at the emotional structure of a human individual, and the machine has no emotion. It can sound like a needy, anxious person who can't stop blabbering, but it can just as well imitate a stuffy, endlessly thoughtful sage. But it's serving no emotional needs of its own. 

The etymology of "logorrhea" — according to the OED — is "< Greek λόγος word + ῥοία flow, stream (probably after diarrhoea n.)." I think most people who use the insult "logorrhea" are intending and enjoying the association with diarrhea. That's another reason why it doesn't fit what the AI is doing when/if it bests the human blogger. 

It's the 19th anniversary of the day this blog began.

I'll say it again: I have blogged every single day since Day 1. At this point, how can I not?

Next year is a big milestone: 20. But I have no plan to stop. As long as Blogger keeps letting me balance one more post on top of the giant pile of posts and I can do it and it feels intrinsically valuable to me, I'm doing it.

Thanks to everyone who reads this. It has felt very cool for a long time to write knowing I have readers, and I hope the experience is intrinsically valuable to you. And thanks, as always, to Meade for his ineffable companionship.

"6 a.m. Wake up and put on knit cardigan, slacks, and sensible shoes. Feed my cat, Mr. Foibles. Have tea and English muffin..."

".... while I read Shakespeare and listen to symphonies. 7 a.m. Get into twenty-year-old Corolla, turn on NPR, get rattled by news and switch to listening to a Charles Dickens book on tape read by Alistair Cooke...."


I need to work on a list — something like 20 most-[something] blog posts of 2022. Maybe 20 most useful tags of 2022 or 20 most meandering sidetracks of 2022 or 20 least expected topics of 2022 or 20 best hobbyhorses of 2022....

"How Rod Dreher's Blog Got a Little 'Too Weird' for The American Conservative.""My channel was as raw and honest as I would have been in my diary. That’s part of the culture."Can anyone explain what's going on here? Should I be opting out?

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