Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Decade of Blogging (infrequently)

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Materialist Zen, and even a blogger as apathetic as I cannot deny the excitement and joy of celebrating such a momentous occasion.  So here, without further ado, is the very first post of the year!

Blogging is fun but blogging is also a drag. It takes time to type and coming up with ideas to write about is hard, so I don't do it much. I'm usually too in the moment to take a picture or ask a relevant question, then I forget the idea altogether because I'm too dumb to make a note. After all that I normally settle into the idea that this is just the most redundant activity. Blogging really is entirely unnecessary and it takes a certain level of self-absorption to be any good at it. So it is that spirit, the spirit of self-absorption, that I kick off this year of celebration with a brief conversion with myself discussing what it's like to blog over a period of ten years. 

Congratulations on my ten years! How does it feel to write of such a long-running blog?

 It feels great, thanks! When I started I never imagined I would still be doing this ten years later.  

How has blogging changed since I started out?

The blogging itself hasn't changed much, but the interconnection with other social media certainly has. It was such a pain in the neck to make people aware of my blog that I basically still can't be bothered with it. It was that time consuming to cross promote. Things like Google Ads were so terrible, absolutely getting in the way of what I am trying to do here and not delivering on the promise. There's an ease of use and access now that wasn't present ten year ago that I would say is the biggest change. People are blogging with their cell phones!

How have I changed?

(Laughs) I've changed but I'm not getting any smarter, stronger, or better looking! Seriously, if I've changed it's probably in that I'm more focused and have lower expectations. Maybe not "lower"  but more reasonable and within reach. Life isn't as tumultuous as it once was. That's given me a chance to pause in self-reflection, and come to some realizations, like what it is I'm doing by immersing myself in the hobby like I do.

What is it I'm doing by immersing myself in the hobby like I do? 

I had to ask! Maybe I spoke to soon. I know I'm more active than I ever was, with things like the toy show, various Facebook groups and Twitter, but what is it I'm doing? It definitely qualifies as an avocation, and even though I don't see that changing anytime soon, I'm likely to keep putting my energy into it. It's the simple pleasure of acquiring a dumb thing, and sharing that love with as many people as possible. 

I haven't posted in almost two years. Why?

Well, there where technical issues, such as my 17 year old Dell finally crashing, but I was sort of burned out anyway. I have several drafts I never published because I just lost interest in finishing them. I also became preoccupied with Twitter and Instagram, and got really involved with the Facebook hobby community, then starting promoting the show which has a sizable online commitment attached to it, so I wasn't really thinking about the blog. When I finally saw The Force Awakens I knew I couldn't blog because people aren't interested in how bad that film is. It was everything I could do to not go on the internet and lash out at the incredible levels of suck that is Star Wars The Force Awakens. Now I've had a chance to cool down and my opinion of the film has softened enough that I can go online and pretend it doesn't exist. In the meantime it became 2017, MZ's 10th anniversary, so returning attention to the blog is a must.

Has my subject matter changed, and if so how?  

It has changed, particularly with toys, which aren't really made for kids these days. Sure, they still make kids toys, but they sneak all this elaborate, expensive junk for adults onto the shelves that gets in the way of the things that should be there, which is more stuff specifically for kids. I know a kid probably likes the transformer toy while it's still not broken, but I kind of feel sorry for him having to help his dad vicariously relive his childhood. Then again, everything is so expensive that nothing can get made unless Wal-Mart says so, so I guess terminal adolescence is better than nothing. The reality of these marketing considerations seems to have enabled an acceptance level of toy collecting among adults that is mind-boggling. Even ten years ago, an adult collecting toys and comics was seen as at least somewhat peculiar. Not so much anymore. 

Pittsburgh is obviously a very different place, in ways both good and bad. There is more attention being paid to the city thanks to the Tech boom, so the types of local quirks I like to write about are being covered by mass media outlets now. I didn't expect people to ever take our greasy spoons so seriously,  yet, on the other hand, the music scene is exactly where I said it would be, sounding like Philly did ten years ago. I'm happy to be able to say the people associated with my core subject matter are still the same down to earth folks they always were. 

Perhaps more specifically my subject matter has changed in that I deleted several posts I felt were too off topic, such as my Olympic satire and tribute to Tailgate Magazine. The Tailgate post was one of my better essays, just not something that fits in with the grand design as I now understand it, so it's gone. I've narrowed my subject matter slightly, and continue to fine tune it. I understand now that there are some things I'm better qualified to discuss than others.

What, if anything, do I see happening with blogging as it continues to move forward?

I can't say I have any idea what's happening now, let alone what the future might hold.

Materialist Zen still gets multiple hits every day, even though it hasn't been updated for so long. How do I explain that? 

I think the topics I've discussed are gaining more traction in the realm of everyday people, as everyday people continue to be made aware and accept things like japanese toys and french fries on a salad. I know a lot of times this blog is the first thing they'll encounter when doing a search for, say, banana seat bikes or HG Toys Godzilla, stuff the average person didn't know about or forgot until more recently. I tend to dig a little deeper and consider things for longer periods, so some of the content I've developed has aged very well. Also, the name of the blog is somewhat brilliant, even if I do say so myself, and has the type of universal appeal that continues to draw in readers.  That was one of the smarter decisions I made. There's more people every year, and they're always curious about what others are getting into. People are the one resource we are not going to run out of soon.

Are there any special plans to help celebrate my anniversary?

I'm working on a few concepts. I'll probably finally update the imagery and layout (who is Tom D. anyhow?) and start publishing in terms of a series of articles. I have ideas I can't really talk about because I like surprises and don't want to promise something I'll change my mind about later.

Finally, is there anything I'd like to say before I wrap things up? 

I would just thank readers for their continued support. It means a lot when someone takes the time to comment on a post or stop me in real life to continue the conversation. I do this mainly for my own satisfaction, only vaguely aware of others impressions, so when I get direct feedback I'm compelled to double down and push a little further. Thank you!

Thank me for the time I took to answer my own questions.

(pause) Wait, what?


So there it is, the first post of the year. Pretty interesting stuff, and maybe the weirdest thing I've blogged yet. Stay tuned for more of our tenth anniversary celebration over the coming four months.







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