Weymouth NJ Church
Weymouth NJ Church
And just as we’re talking about the continued downward entropy of blogging, here’s a new Quaker blog. Isaac Smith of Frederick (Md.) Meeting (and Twitter) has the first post in a time-limited, “pop-up” blog. He’s calling it “The Anarchy of the Ranters.” I’ll overlook the similarity to this blog’s name in the hope that the people who have been dropping comments on mine since 2004 asking about the difference between Quakers and Ranters will start bothering him now.
The first post is “Defensiveness as a Theological Problem for Friends,” a good blogging debut.
The question of who belongs in the church, which has always been of central importance, is what’s at stake here, and unfortunately, it is often being answered in ways that are hurtful and alienating — the opposite of what the gospel promises.
Two things on the internet that I consistently like are NeimanLab and Kottke.org. The former is Harvard’s journalism foundation and its associated blog. They consistently publish thought-provoking lessons from media pioneers. If there’s an interesting online publishing model being tried, Neiman Labs will profile it. Kottke is one of the original old school blogs. Jason highlights things that are interesting to him and by and large, most of the posts happen to be interesting to me. He’s also one of the few breakout blogging stars who has kept going.
So today Neiman Labs posted an interview with Jason Kottke. Of course I like it.
There are a few things that Jason has done that I find remarkable. One is that he’s threaded an almost impossible path that has held back the centrifugal forces of the modern internet. He never went big and he never went small. By big, I mean he never tried to ramp his site up to become a media empire. No venture capitalist money, no clickbait headlines, no pivot to video or other trendy media chimera. He also didn’t go small: his blog has never been a confessional. While that traffic when to Facebook, his kind of curated links and thoughts is something that still works best as a blog.
Although I don’t blog myself too much anymore, I do think a lot about media models for Friends Journal. Its reliance on non-professional opinion writing prefigured blogs. It’s a fully digital magazine now, even as it continues as a print magazine. The membership model Kottke talks about (and Neiman Labs frequently profiles) is a likely one for us going into the long term.
I’m terrible with blogging these days, aren’t I? Actually my last few bits of writing have been for Friends Journal. I’m posting once a month for the Editor’s Desk series highlighting upcoming themes and I’m writing every other introductory column for the print magazine. For example, here’s February’s The Roots of Our Lifestyle. I chime in when a vintage post of mine hits Reddit as happens every so often and I often drop “hey, this would make a interesting article” comments in lively Facebook threads, along with a link to the Friends Journal submissions page.
Well, one way I’m trying to psych myself is to look at my history of blogging every month.
A rare juicy post of mine from the last few years and one of the few times anyone has followed my blog’s Ask Me Anything link.
AMA: Conservative and Liberal Friends? But even these brief observations are imprecise and can mask surprisingly similar talents and stumbling blocks. We all of us are humans, after all. The Inward Christ is always available to instruct and comfort, just as we are all broken and prone to act impulsively against that advice.
Oh look at that, I was commenting about a Friends Journal article!
Looking at North American Friends and theological hotspots. Over on Friends Journal site, some recent stats on Friends mostly in the US and Canada. Written by Margaret Fraser, the head of FWCC, a group that tries to unite the different bodies of Friends, it’s a bit of cold water for most of us.
I was writing about U.S. foreign policy seemed to be avoiding a growing situation in North Korea. Oh my, too timely still.
Tough Time to Love War(Making). President Bush and his team of war mongerers have been so busy looking at Iraq that they’ve given North Korea just sporadic attention. Recently-declassified reports show that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has known much more about North Korea’s nuclear bomb making over the last dozen years than anyone’s been admitting.
This is like one of those Facebook memes where you present a preschooler with a piece of technology that disappeared decades ago and ask them to guess at the use. Hey kids, gather round: have you ever heard of the Polaroid 600 and Spectra series? I had them both.
Burnished Polaroids. This is a style of photography I got into a few years ago. It’s appeal is simple: it takes little technical expertise and the process itself is limited in time. Everything boils down to basic form: a successful photo depends on setting up a good shot and then bringing it’s potential out in the burnishing.
Once a month I’m doing flashbacks to past eras in my blog.
A year ago the shock to the system was Trump’s election. One reaction of mine was a promise to blog more; I set up the system but I’m still not as frictionless about it as I’d like.
Waking Up to President Trump: We do not get to choose our era or the challenges it throws at us. Only someone with historical amnesia would say this is unprecedented in our history. The enslavement of millions and the genocide of millions more are dark stains indelibly soaked into the very founding of the nation. But much will change, particularly our naivity and false optimism in an inevitable forward progress of our national story.
Five years ago I wrote about how I had been blogging for fifteen years. Do the math: it’s now 20 frigging years since I started blogging.
Fifteen Years of Blogging: I keep double-checking the math but it keeps adding up. In November 1997 I added a feature to my two-year-old peace website. I called this new entity Nonviolence Web Upfront and updated it weekly with original features and curated links to the best online pacifist writing. I wrote a retrospective of the “early blogging days” in 2005 that talks about how it came about and gives some context about the proto-blogs happening back in 1997.
Freelancing and working the overnight shift at Shoprite, I wondered if my Quakerness was hopelessly useless to my new circumstances.
Who are we part one (just what pamphlet do I give the tattooed ex-con?): I love the fellow who gave the message and I appreciated his ministry. But the whole time I wondered how this would sound to people I know now, like the friendly but hot-tempered Puerto Rican ex-con less than a year out of a eight-year stint in federal prison, now working two eight hour shifts at almost-minimum wage jobs and trying to stay out of trouble. How does the theory of our theology fit into a code of conduct that doesn’t start off assuming middle class norms.
Four years before 9/11, I was asking how we could break the cycle of terrorism.
How Come the U.S. Trains All the Terrorists?: It would seem a simple case of U.S. militarism coming home to roost, but it is not so simple and it is not uncommon. Follow most trails of terrorism and you’ll find United States government funding somewhere in the recent past.
Shhh: there have been a few times lately when I wish we had more options when choosing articles forFriends Journal issues. Yes yes, we did notice that the feature article contributors for the October issue on “Conscience” were all older men and that the topics were perhaps a bit too familiar for Friends Journal (nonviolence, civil disobedience, conscientious objection). They were all great articles. And I think cliches can be important (see footnote below) for a publication like ours. But yeah.
I had hoped the idea of conscience would leap up to new writers, especially in our current political climate, and that the articles might serve as a bridge between 1960s Quaker activism and today. Sometimes our themes inspire writers and sometimes they don’t.
I’ve occasionally written Quakerranter blog posts about upcoming submission opportunities but I’d like to make it more official and post these every month from the Friends Journal website. We’re calling the feature “From the Editor’s Desk.”
I’d also like you all to share these with people you think should be writing for us, especially if they’re new writers coming from different perspectives. Diversities of all kind are always welcome.
I was a Quaker blogger (and thus writer) for many years and I worked for Friends Journal for part of that time but I only once sent in a submission before I became senior editor. Why? Was I waiting to be asked? Was I unsure what I might write about? Whatever the reason, we need to always be finding and encouraging new people. Some of the most interesting articles we’ve published started after one of our fans shared an upcoming issue topic with someone who was outside of our network. My goal with these posts is really to encourage you all to share these in emails and on your Facebook walls so we can keep expanding the Quaker writer universe.
Here’s the first one: a call for writers for the March 2018 issue on Quakers and the Holy Land.
In March 2018 Friends Journal is publishing an issue on religion and politics in the Middle East. We could have…
Footnote: Every once in a while we’ll get some article in and I’ll sigh because I can remember a previous article that covered the same ground. When I go to look it up I realize that the earlier article was published fifteen or more years ago. We have new readers every year and it’s okay to circle around to core themes every decade or so. We also need to remember the interesting people and incidents that happened long enough ago because our collective memory is always in the process of fading. I’m a peacenik longtime Quaker so I knew Dan Seeger was the named defendant in a major landmark Supreme Court decision in the 1960s, for example, but I don’t assume most Friends knew this. It’s still a cool story. It still inspires. It’s important to keep the story alive.