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Keep Your Heads Out Of the Plastic River – Sorry I Haven’t Posted

March 30th, 2011 by Jeff Simmermon
Candy Fangs

(I took this picture of gummi fangs. But otherwise, it doesn’t have anything to do with anything in this post.)

At the risk of appearing in Cory Arcangel’s project, I’m kind of sorry that I haven’t posted in a while on here. I’ve been busy, sure, there’s that. So have Brad, Cyndi, and David.

As you may have seen, Brad’s launched The Standard Issues podcast. This is a project that, like anything else in life, sounds easy when you’re necking on about it over a few beers, then gets really, really hard. That’s how the whole life thing works, I think: everything that’s hard now gets easier, and you can relax for a minute. Then you get some new problems. I’m really stoked for Brad, though – this is a great idea, and once he gets the formula down it’s really going to take off.

Cyndi’s just wrapped the first run of her one-woman show Wonder Woman – A How-To Guide For LIttle Jewish Girls and is gearing it up and refining it to hopefully take out into theaters again. I saw it during its first week and loved it my damn self.

David’s been working on a longer form video piece with our friend and fellow artist Nathan Manuel.

And me, I’ve been doing all kinds of stuff. For one, I’ve been doing my actual job a lot. And when I’m not doing that, I’ve been trying to write a book. Ssshh. I don’t want to curse it. But it’s time. I kinda got myself to this Jonah and the Whale moment in the last few months where I’m either going to have to write a book or turn into whatever the creative equivalent of Frustrated Sports Dad is and yell at a future child from the sidelines at spelling bees or something. I don’t have a deal yet or a contract or anything like that. I’ve got a friend at a publishing house here who’s helping me out, though.

For all I know, all these words will eventually go into a greasy paper sack somewhere and then move with me from apartment to apartment along with a few coats I can’t get rid of for the rest of my life. But it’s still important. It’s got to happen. And it feels right.

So this blog, this project I’ve had for coming up on six years now, it’s changed a bit. I’m not doing this because I feel this *urge* anymore. When this started, I had all this *stuff* inside me that just came flying out. Now I’ve learned how to shape that stuff a little, and I’m not trying to blog my way to a book deal anymore.

Nor do I really want to be a professional stay-home blogger that depends on ad revenue for income. It would be nice to build this thing into a powerhouse with a huge following, sure. My ego would like that. But on the other hand, I really don’t like what I turn into when start living and dying by my blog stats. I spent a few months checking and rechecking my stats about 80-100 times a day, my heart soaring when traffic was up and grumbling and frustrated when it kind of flatlined.

That’s not a good way to be on the earth.

Once you start focusing too much on what’s popular, you lose sight of what’s important. First it slips away online, then it slips away in your real life and you’re just this walking collage of other people’s ideas.

I’ve met a couple of Gawker writers here and there over the years, and they were just these tragic husks that wrote really poorly when they had to share their own souls. I worry that I’ll get to this point where I can’t write anything except blog copy for the Internet’s relentless grunting eyeball parade. A lot.

In PR and marketing and your other marginally creative douchey fields that have glommed onto the Web, there’s this constant talk of “the conversation.” “Effectively leveraging social media in the digital space is about joining the conversation,” according to any number of perky consultants with their jacket sleeves pushed up to their elbows, “about listening to the conversation and sharing ideas among your networks!”

First of all: fuck those people. Ugh. There’s nothing more boring than the listening to the constant wind tunnel of “social media best practices strategy for brands” or whatever the buzzword combo is.

Secondly: Sharing links is the mortar that holds the Web together, yes. But at some point you’ve got to lay a few bricks of your own. If you’re not generating your own URLs and pushing ‘em out on the regular, you’re probably just “sharing ideas” to distract people from noticing that you’ve got none of your own.

It’s fun to look at stuff all day. In the years that I’ve been working online I’ve mastered the art of surfing the Web for 8 straight hours and fooling myself into thinking I’ve been productive. But I always hate myself a little bit afterwards. Making something new, that never existed before — even if it’s just a sentence — is the noblest and most fulfilling thing a human can do, short of taking a bullet for a loved one. If you spend too much time with your head dunked in the Internet’s popular plastic river, you’ll forget to think for yourself.

So this blog has kind of shifted a little. None of us really wants to be popular bloggers. I haven’t asked Brad, Cyndi, or David about this, but I don’t think we’re looking to repurpose and re-present the stuff on Buzzfeed, The Daily What, Reddit, anything like that. We’re using this as a platform for our own ideas, a place to say “check out this new connection I’ve made myself.” Sure, we find stuff and share it. But the point is to find it under a rock WE flipped ourselves.

All of this sits on a bedrock of solid storytelling. Sometimes we’re promoting stories we’ve made, sometimes we’re telling the story right here, sometimes we’re presenting alien artifacts that imply a whole story in another world. But underneath every single pixel, it’s the story that matters the most.

Ultimately, I don’t care about the conversation and I don’t care about social media any more than Vonnegut cared about typesetting. If the whole Internet burned down tomorrow I’d be bummed for a few weeks and then start scratching stories into wet cement with a stick.

This concludes the whining portion of the post. Now, for the good news part: We’re putting on another live show on April the 17th at the Kraine Theater in the East Village. We’ll have a belly dancer, comedian Matt McCarthy, burlesque by Cyndi Freeman and Apathy Angel, puppetry by Z. Briggs and stories by me, Brad, and Cyndi. We may have a live musician in there somewhere, still working out those details.

But the point is, we’re laying a few of our own bricks and making something real. Hope you can join us.

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