Monday, July 12, 2010

What Now?

This is going to ramble a bit as I work out what's meant...

Thinking of crass materialism circa 1810, Wordsworth wrote: "The World is too much with us; late and soon,/ Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers."

I'm worn down; I've spent over a week now trying to reclaim, relocate, and intelligently re-organize thousands of CDs and records--a decade's worth of excessive acquisition--that had overwhelmed the allotted space and recognized alphabet. With the bulk of all music now relegated to new shelves in our storage area, the library suddenly is resembling a book room once more rather than a warehouse in the midst of a desperation move.

No blog writing attempted or even contemplated during those days, aside from the usual time-consuming remarks left as comments at other good, readable sites. But I did ponder the fate of this odd duck called I Witness.

I live on Vashon Island in Washington State's Puget Sound, a sort of free-spirited suburb of Seattle reachable only by ferry boat--where millionaires and bigtime lawyers rub elbows (hell, live cheek-by-jowl) with artists, retired folks, and ex-hippies grown Green. I'm semi-retired but I do maintain a sales presence on the Internet for collectable books and LP records. Business is slow these days (of course), but I can't give up on trying to find and list some object somebody somewhere wants even now.

At the same time I write this mixed bag of a blog, trying to keep things interesting and not too single-subject. Finding a topic is usually easy since I am hooked as a listener on Modern Jazz, Reggae, Southern Soul, New Orleans R&B, Deep Blues (more Country than City Electric), English and Celtic Folk, Old Timey and Bluegrass, certain aspects of Classical, lots of Alt.Country and Americana, Movie Soundtracks, Progressive Talk Radio... well, there are probably more sub-genres I could point to, but you get the idea. My ears take a major pounding every day.

Yeah, my taste in music is pretty eclectic, and that's actually a bit of a double-edged sword. Does eclecticism really just prevent my blog from building an identity? Every week I wonder, Just what do I write about next? Brand new live album by Richard Thompson, or some great tracks arranged and played by Lennie Niehaus 50 years ago? Forgotten works of composer Joaquin Rodrigo, or comeback CD, say, by that-was-no-Lady Madonna? (Forget Lady Gag-Gag; entirely too risible.) The classic Reggae I play eagerly every day, or the rigid Classics I feel obligated to sample? In my scrambled, non-commercial life there are no sponsors and damn few regular readers. That doesn't stop me from blogging, but there really is no pressure to perform.

I study with some envy the varied stories and burgeoning readership of top, changing-almost-daily sites like Rifftides and JazzWax and the amazing, multi-varied, piecemeal autobiography currently being posted by producer/photographer Hank O'Neal. I find myself torn between wanting to compete with those top blogs and feeling the doubts I first experienced back around 1975 when I gave up writing Rock criticism, convinced that I really had nothing worth saying and not wanting to inflict my trivial opinions on the readers of Rolling Stone and Ramparts and other publications of that time.

Anyway, I'm not quite ready to call it quits yet, but I am perched on the fence hoping for a sign. Should I post less, cut back on the attempts to range so far and wide? Would it be wise to solicit ads and focus the writing on a single broad subject? Or am I just kidding myself... time to hang up my rock 'n' roll shoes.

I'd love to hear from anyone who cares or has an opinion to offer.


Peggy said...

U better keep writing, Ed, we love it!! Keep it varied, U can do no wrong!

Alan Kurtz said...

Well, since you ask, I'll chime in. Seems to me we've heard this song from you before, Ed. In "The Nights Escape Without Us" (December 2007), you wrote: "When I started this blog, it was really aimed at telling my life story a bit at a time, because I knew I was too lazy to write some sort of autobiography." In "Goodbye to All This" (July 2008), you reconsidered: "Nearly 14 months ago, I imagined maybe I could get to a hundred segments. Well, this is posting #96, and my enthusiasm has waned. The number of readers has dropped off too, I believe--at least, almost no one's offering comments, and the counter at the bottom of this page takes longer and longer to register a new hundred. So I'm skipping the last few chapters and shutting up. If there's any reason to continue … then maybe there'll be more. But for now, Stick a fork in me; I'm done." Sound familiar?

Certainly you've produced a remarkable variety of jottings. "My taste in music is pretty eclectic," you write in the present post, "and that's actually a bit of a double-edged sword. Does eclecticism really just prevent my blog from building an identity?" In fact, it's not only your taste in music that's eclectic; it's your taste in everything, which is reflected in your CinemaScopic wide-screen subject matter. Many single posts cover multiple topics. Some are part music, part Great Depression. Others are part music, part poetry. At least one--"Salad Days" (June 2008)--is part food, part poetry. Etc., etc. So, yes, I Witness lacks the sharply focused identity of Rifftides or JazzWax.

But that wasn't your goal, Ed. Your masthead says it all: "a politically progressive blog mixing pop culture, social commentary, personal history, and the odd relevant poem." I'd quibble with the "politically progressive" part, not because you're politically anything other than progressive, but because so little of your blogging is political--at least, not in any sense that I recognize. You definitely avoid the hot-button political issues of the day, which makes your masthead somewhat misleading to unfamiliar readers.

As for your current existential angst, be reminded that in "Lucky Life" (May 2007), responding to the rhetorical question "Why write a blog?" you explained: "The answer is that, by accident, by grace, by dumb luck with little action on my own part, I have frequently been in the right place at the right time, again and again, participating (even if at one remove) in much of the popular history of the later Twentieth Century. I have actually witnessed much … and would like to leave a record, however small, detailing that lucky life. So bits and pieces from that life as witness will appear here from time to time. Stay tuned if you are curious."

I've stayed tuned, and must say you've done a splendid job in presenting those bits and pieces over the course of four years. If now you're worn down, so be it. Take a break. You've earned it. Just as long as you don't stop leaving those inimitable time-consuming (to write but not to read) comments at other sites. Your distinctive, masterfully crafted wordplay improves any site lucky enough to attract you.

Finally, as for that counter at the bottom of this page, at this instant it registers 14,356. Those can't all be me. I suspect there are more curious readers out there than you think.

I Witness said...

Peggy and Alan, thanks for caring and commenting. Your generosity shames my weary whinging. Even if you two are the only readers, at least I have two grand ones. So: Onward if not upward.

scott from chicago said...

I just discovered you, ED! Saw you name dropped in Doggett's "There's a riot going on"...liked the comment about the pretentiousness
of ole Marty Balin's posing as a "revolutionary" on Volunteers, and had to see if you were on the web.....I think your writing can be best compared to free form jazz....just emotes whatever theme du jour you might be pondering, calling up "thought associations" from all over the the best traditions of that same free form jass(old spelling of the same)......

Perhaps you can change the header to "Word Jass"?

hey, why not?

I Witness said...

Scott, welcome to the scrambled, eclectic world of this stuff-I've-witnessed site--which started as shredded autobiography but now might indeed be better, more cleverly, named Word Jass as you suggest; that old spelling is a word I've admired for fifty years, even planned a major game idea around it once upon a time... anyway, keep reading, there's more to be squeezed from the pulp of existence!