Ten Years and Counting

Too often, when people have nothing to write about they revert to writing about writing.  This week marks ten years of publishing a weekly web-based essay. I, therefore, request the indulgence of those who happen upon these words as I briefly reflect on the ten years of writing that produced over 400,000 words of text in over 500 essays.

When this enterprise began in 1995, not that many people had Internet access at home and those that did mostly relied on a dialup connection operating at a now painfully slow, 28 Kbits per second. Now the Internet has become ubiquitous and my cable modem regularly achieves download rates of 4 Mbits per second, nearly 150 times faster.  Even if the connections are faster, but there is still an open question whether the amount of useful information transferred has increased proportionately.

This enterprise began when few used the Internet for politics. Indeed, one of the first essays I wrote compared the Republican and Democratic Party websites and suggested that the comparative mean spiritedness of the Democratic pages were a metaphor for their approach to politics. The comparative nature of these web sites has not changed very much, but at least the visual presentations have become more professional.

Now the number of political sites is enormous. I have a day job and writing once a week exhausts the time I am willing to devote to this enterprise. There are many other sites with political commentary produced several times a day with which I can not compete in terms of volume.  I thus indulge myself in the agreeable fiction that quality compensates for any lack of quantity. One down side associated with the growth of the Internet is that the threshold to publishing is now so low that the signal-to-noise ratio in political discourse has decreased.  My hope is that I have always contributed to the signal portion of that ratio.

A computer examination of my published text reveals that, not surprisingly, other than very common words, “political” is the most frequent word I have used over the years, appearing 984 times. The word “Bush” turns up 590 times and “Clinton” follows with 537 mentions, though both terms apply to more than one politician.  There is no quick way to count the ratio of positive mentions to negative ones that Bush and Clinton have received. However, you can be confident that Bush received far more positive references than Clinton. Despite the fact that baseball is a metaphor for life, the term “baseball” appears a relatively few 139 times.

I have always self-published the pages and have even secured the “Monaldo.net” domain.  In June of 1997, Suite101.com asked that I publish there as well and since that time my essays have appeared at both sites. Perhaps the most exciting times occurred when Steve Kangas was the corresponding Liberal voice at Suite101 and we debated frequently in dueling columns.  Unfortunately, Steve apparently committed suicide soon after leaving Suite101. This lapse of judgment has cost him and us his commentary over the last six years.

Suite101 has since changed hands, but in its infancy granted stock options to its contributing editors. During the Internet bubble of the late 1990s, I was actually able to make several thousand dollars from the sale of these assets. Some at Suite101 made even more. However, this writing has never been about money. If it had I would be foolishly working at far below the minimum wage rate.

Sometimes the articles write themselves. Sometimes I struggle. The easiest articles to write are the ones composed in passion.  I have even managed to generate a little poetry about Clinton and Gore. It was embarrassingly easy to write during the Clinton years when finding hypocrisy and disingenuousness was an uncomplicated sport.  In the days and weeks after the attacks of 9/11, words flooded from my keyboard serving as an emotional release for the indignation and distress at the loss of 3,000 fellow Americans.

Perhaps the most liberating feature of this enterprise is that I write for myself. Though feedback is rewarding, I have no one to satisfy, but myself. These essays provide a discipline for me.  Ideas that would have otherwise have floated indistinct and amorphous through my head are now moored to tangible words.

Perhaps most importantly the words written here provide a modest immortality and serve as an intellectual and literary legacy for my children and their children. Of course, I would like for them to understand what I thought of the events of our time. Perhaps, it will help them understand their times in a fuller context. More importantly, I have a private fantasy.  I hope that one day a child or grandchild will spot some clever turn of phrase, some little bit of humor, or a twist of wit I produced and a smile would sprout across their face as they share across the years an intimate moment of joy with me. At such a fleeting moment my mind would be part of their mind.

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