Saturday, May 7, 2011

Take My WiFi, Please!

    Writing a blog is hard. Not that I ever thought it would be easy. Not that I ever really thought about it.
    Although I've been something of a computer nerd since before there were personal computers (PCs for those who never knew what "PC" stood for), I'm a slow adopter of social media. I don't ichat, I don't have a personal web page, I don't do Myspace or Facebook and I don't tweet. I only started texting a couple of months ago.
    I've never really been clear as to what a blog is or isn't supposed to be. The early blogs seemed to be little more than online diaries, places for people to document the details of their daily lives. After a relatively short time they became known as sources of investigative journalism and editorial opinion. Now, every company, product and television show seems to have a blog. What are these blogs and why do they exist? I'm sure I don't know. And I'm pretty sure I don't really care.
    Now we get to the part of writing a blog that's hard.
    "What is the focus of my blog and why does it exist?" I'm pretty sure I care about that...which is why it's hard. Without a plan, a design to work from, I'm just staring at a blank screen.
    I considered writing a strictly political blog or a news commentary but I'd have to do research and cite my sources (mostly Huffington Post and NPR) and besides, there are plenty of really good political blogs and news blogs around already (and an abundance of really awful ones).
    Then I thought about who my likely readers would be--nobody--and decided that I should write about things I care most about like dogs and model airplanes and cinnamon rolls. And amusing people. 
    Most comedy writers set a goal of making people laugh. Me, I'm perfectly happy if I can make someone smile and nod. Groaning is okay once in awhile, but not all the time. I try to strike a balance somewhere between getting a belly laugh and getting punched in the face.
    Back in the early 'Nineties while I was in journalism school, there was a show on TV called 60 Minutes. I'm told it's still on. The show included a guy named Andy Rooney who did observational humor. I'm told he's still on. Rooney did these little bits along the lines of "Have you ever noticed that they never have macaroni and cheese on the menus at expensive restaurants? I like macaroni and cheese. It's nice and orange colored." For a time I aspired to write this kind of observational humor for feature columns in the newspapers. Then one day, once I had mastered my Andy Rooney impression, I realized how quickly this kind of humor gets old.
    While I was taking some time off from college (before getting a degree in something even less lucrative than journalism) I spent a couple of years as a comedy writer with a cabaret troupe. That experience taught me that, given the chance, people will laugh in all the wrong places.
    There is sort of a science to humor. I once developed curriculum for a comedy writing class, but I've forgotten most of it. One principle was the surprise twist, something like "I have a friend, who shall remain nameless--his parents are still procrastinating!" Another principle is shock value, but I figure Betty White dropping the F-bomb is only funny the first few times. Me, I'm more a fan of intellectual humor. The funniest guy I know has some hilarious jokes based on obscure bits of aviation engineering history--perhaps not everyone's cup of tea.
    For me, a joke has to be fresh. I never understood how people could laugh at the same old worn out catch phrase again and again. It's just not funny once you've heard it, which probably explains why TV shows that are filmed in front of a live audience also have a laugh track dubbed in. Which is why I don't watch sitcoms. I don't even understand how a laugh track can laugh at the same old worn out catch phrase again and again.
    You have to know your audience, which I don't,  but I figure it's really bored people between the ages of two and 110. I don't lean toward off-color material anyway. If it's not funny without profanity, it's not funny with. Of course, I curse like a stereotypical caricature when I'm not writing.
   So, the adventure begins, casting verbiage out into the interspace. It reminds me of when I was a kid, growing up on a farm out in the backwoods. I had a telegraph with 40 feet of wire and we were a mile from the nearest neighbor--and they didn't have a kid. And for Christmas I got walkie-talkies with a quarter mile range. My siblings were too much younger or older and didn't hang out with me. Gosh that's kind of sad. Now I'm bummed out. Writing a blog is depressing.
   What was I saying? Oh, yeah. I was just saying how hyped I feel to have this outlet. Kind of a message in a bottle sort of thing. Laying my soul bare. Exposing my tender underbelly, drawing a target upon my breast, revealing my deepest inner thoughts to person or persons unknown.
   Wow. Now I remember why there are editors.
--Stephen P.
   

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