Thursday, June 05, 2008

Cheeky Fellow

The Cheek of God is a relatively new blog, started five months ago. It’s about Tysdaddy's secret family stuff and what’s beneath his admitted unibrow. By the way, Brian, what does the Cheek of God actually mean? I also had to look up the word palimpsest, thinking at first it had to do with male organ flaccidity. That's my mind for you. Bad Mutha, bad. Turns out it is something to do with reusing paper, so now I'm going to hell for mocking. OK, fine.

This site is not for someone who wants to read eight or ten lines, get a good laugh and go on with their day. You’re going to have to spend some time reading - maybe a lot of time. I love the faded photos that he has chosen to insert, especially his Dad’s photo, which just resonates with me. The accompanying story is wonderful, too.

Brian seems an interesting character, likable and genuine: “I’m a middle-aged, balding, big-eared, unibrow-sportin’ monstrosity with a gentle heart.” Who wouldn't like that? He writes about his struggles to determine where he fits in as far as his faith goes and his search to try to understand Christianity. He questions, searches and at times, belabors the point. Read what he wrote about watching a fellow at a restaurant and cringing as he realized that he had been just like that in his earlier years:

"I was quite funny, and I didn’t care whom I hurt to get a laugh. If I stepped on your toes during a conversation, it was your fault for not keeping up or stepping aside. I belittled others and carried on as though my opinion was the only one worth hearing. Heck, the guy even looked like I did back then. It became pretty scary and set a pall over the remainder of my day. Why? Because I regret many of my actions from that period in my life. I regret that I didn’t learn to keep my trap shut and give others a chance to be heard. I may have learned a few things had I just shut up once in a while."

I had to quote that, because that great statement was hidden in an excruciatingly long post. Trim those down Brian. Give us the meat. But for all the theology in this blog, he's not preaching to us, and I like that.

There are some interesting topics:

Brian's template isn’t bad, I do love tabs. It’s readable and the sidebar background colors set off the inner panel nicely. He doesn't need three panes. He could easily do with just two, and I don't really like the way the banner distorts the words of his header with streaky rows of white gradient.

The template is there to set off and showcase your writing, much like what a wooden frame does to a canvas, but this one isn't doing you justice. In no way, however, is this template in the rotten, horror of death category as some I have seen recently.

Face it, we’re living in a fast food world where we are used to getting our reads in quick bites. Some of the posts are longer than my crazy Aunt Bernice's armpit hair.

Here are my recommendations:

  1. You can ditch signing your name on each post. We know who you are. I know you have a guest from time to time, but only twice so far, so it's really not an issue.
  2. Do you need separate categories for faith, religion and Christianity? It makes it hard to navigate. Paring down the categories makes navigation easier.
  3. Four or five posts on your front page are more than adequate. You have eight.
  4. Consider carefully your words. Make each phrase count. You knew we would get you on this one. Less can be more. Most people didn't visit to read a dissertation.






33 comments:

  1. I honestly feel guilty. I skimmed this blog and got worn down by the longer posts. I'm going to go back and read it again. It sounds like it may have some interesting things on it.

    Thanks for this review, Mutha. I don't even know if I agree with it yet, but I know it's a very thorough, well-written review. While I do hang out here for the crazy bantering, this is the real reason I keep coming back... to be guided in the right direction toward interesting people.

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  2. Blogger was giving me absolute fits this morning. My links were just driving me crazy. My apologies if things get squirrelly with them. I hate it when things aren't working at 5 am.

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  3. I haven't had trouble with them so far.

    However, I have had trouble commenting over the past couple days, and it's getting on my nerves.

    It's good to know I'm not the only person who expects the world to be alive, active, and perfect at 5am!

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  4. Hey Queen,

    Thank you for your very thorough and insightful review. You respected the nature and content of my blog and I appreciate that.

    "The Cheek of God" is open to interpretation, as is the concept of God itself. We all bring our own baggage into such a discussion and I wanted to recognize that. The statement is actually from the book Life of Pi by Yann Martel, probably my favorite novel. To me, The Cheek of God, in the bigger sense of the phrase, is a place where we are content and welcomed, even when we are surrounded by struggle and full of doubts. If you get a chance, read the book and perhaps my interpretation will make a bit more sense.

    You are correct about the word palimpsest. I fell in love with that word after reading Gore Vidal's autobiography by the same title. The cool thing about a palimpsest is that some of the old writing, the parts that have been scraped away and written over, are still a bit visible, perhaps influencing the new content in some subconscious way. That is how I see my life. At 40, I've been through some shit. Some of it has been scraped away and new experiences and beliefs have been written over the old. But the old me is still there, influencing who I am today. That gets to the heart of what The Cheek of God is all about, and why many of the pieces are memoir, pieces where I retrace my steps and consider how things like my weight loss surgery and former fundamentalist religious beliefs still taint me and guide me in ways I don't often recognize. And how I'm still in the process of rewriting my life.

    Many people see a difference between "religion" and "Christianity" which is why I chose different categories for those posts. But I think you're onto something. I plan to take the time today and rethink the categorization of those posts. It makes sense to file all my ramblings about all-things-theological under one heading. And better to do it now, before I get a year or so into this thing and have to sort it all out then. Thanks for that.

    Just a quick clarification: The post "Whiskers" with the faded picture you liked is actually about my grandfather. I called him Papaw, which may have attributed to the confusion. Hell, I haven't called him Papaw in almost 30 years! But it was about me, back then, so I ran with it.

    As far as "signing" my posts, I know that my name appears as the author at the top of each post, but that happens automatically with my theme. I am currently using a generic theme provided by WordPress and I don't know if that's something I can turn on and off. I do plan to host my own domain soon, perhaps by the end of summer, so maybe then I can find a theme I can edit more freely and do away with that.

    Regarding my surgery, I am doing well. Six years later and I have maintained a weight loss of over 200 pounds. Simply amazing . . .

    I hope all that answered a few of your questions and shed some light on the content of my blog. Again, I can't thank you enough for your respectful review and words of recommendation.

    And to all of you who may visit because of this review, know in advance that I am grateful for your time and comments where you feel led to leave them.

    Now I'm off to class. My kids think it a hoot that I have to go to summer classes and they don't. Ah, the price of education . . .

    Brian

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  5. And, yes, I can be a bit wordy at times. My apologies . . .

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  6. What gets me most about this blog is how genuinely decent this guy seems. Just a nice guy all around, with insight, hope, and humor.

    What I didn't see, though, was a blogroll. I don't know that I've ever been to a blog without a blogroll. I'm not sure how to feel about it.

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  7. I'd get rid of most of the tags. Or at least not display them on the posts. There are WAY too many tags!

    And keep the paragraphs shorter as well as the overall posts. Blogs can't use long paragraphs or you lose people. Especially with fonts that small... it's hard to keep my PLACE in the paragraph, let alone my interest!

    Maybe make the font a bit bigger, so us old fogeys can SEE the words? (jut asking, I know I can change it in my browser window but I'm lazy and don't want to).

    Looks like a blog with potential, but a bit tough to weed through as it is now. I enjoyed the post about your wife, but mostly skimmed it. Just too much for me to read it all.

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  8. Calamity, you helped me find the word I was looking for. He's genuine.

    Brian, congrats on your surgery and new lifestyle! In all honesty, I can't complain about your wordy posts, I go on forever sometimes.

    I do think it's a good idea to tab all the theology stuff together. Not to minimalize any of it, just to make it easier to navigate.

    Calamity, to this very second, I still don't know the first thing about a blogroll. I rarely ever look at them because they're usually so long. But I think that's because I'm on such a simple host site. I've never tried to spice it up any. I'm sure I should.

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  9. I had a blogroll up until a couple days ago. I hate to leave anyone out, and since I read and try to comment on so many good blogs, I'd hate for someone to be a part of my site and not see their blog in my roll.

    Honestly, the way I reach interesting blogs is by reading comments and clicking from there, based on the quality of the comment. I can't recall that I've ever found another blog by clicking on a link in someone's blogroll.

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  10. And I can see your point about the tags. Being new to the blogging thing, I guess I have come to understand that most traffic comes from people searching for very specific things, which is where specific and numerous tags comes in. I do tend to aim wide, so perhaps I can trim that up a bit.

    Thank you all for your kind and constructive words . . .

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  11. I did a LOT of skimming, but damn, I like this guy! He did, however, lose points for referring to his wife as both beautiful and as a "vessel" in the same paragraph. That word is just creepy, man.

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  12. I was revamping some stuff the other day, and the "vessel" phrase stuck in my craw as well. Perhaps I was trying to hard to be cheeky at the time. I am going to work on that . . .

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  13. This is funny as hell!

    I quickly grab a slice and dig in. Only the pizza is hot as hell. (Though my mother, the ultimate example of patience, had tried for years to teach me this simple lesson, “Food is generally hot when it comes out of the oven,” I am apparently a slow learner.) I yank it out of my mouth. Only I forget to quit biting down first so I drag the cheese and flaming tomato sauce off the crust. Only I have quick reflexes back then, so I go to catch all that steaming goodness with my left hand. You know how adrenalin works, right? Momentum takes over and I cram the whole shooting match up my nose. Now I’m suddenly in serious and acute pain, so I blow it all out. Sauce nearly reaches the TV. Pizza is everywhere; on every square inch of my face, on the coffee table in front of me, and down my shirt. All this transpires in less than about two seconds. And as the blisters are forming on my nose, there’s Garsy laughing, a hearty belly laugh that shakes her glasses, sends her into a rocking fit and gets the attention of everyone in the place. Somehow I’m not really embarrassed. She doesn’t abandon me to my sorry state or try and cover up the fact that I’m an idiot. She just laughs, even as she grabs a napkin and helps me clean it all up.

    Great stuff man.

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  14. I love Brian and his blog. His writing is almost too good for the blogosphere ***(ducking now to avoid shiny throwing stars)*** but it's interesting to see how his posts have changed over time, how he seems to be working to make them fit here. He puts a lot of thought and effort into his craft, and it shows.

    Good review.

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  15. I agree, Dammit.

    But I disagree with coupling the religious terms together. Religion and Christianity, combine them for sure, but faith... that should be separate. Religion can be measured, but faith is like memories.

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  16. Or am I looking into it too much? Cheeky bastard, making me think about my comments' reception.

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  17. Barry - Thanks for your kind words. That was nearly 20 years ago, and I still remember all the painful details like it was yesterday. Glad you enjoyed the piece.

    Maggie - As I've told you before, you are one of my blogging heroes. Thank you for your generous comment.

    Rassles - You make a valid point about the difference between faith and religion. This is something I've wrestled with over and over. I've had plenty of religion in my life, but faith . . . that is harder to grasp. Thanks for chiming in.

    I'm enjoying this everyone . . .

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  18. His various comments around the place made me check out his blog.

    He is one of the few bloggers who REALLY blogs for himself.

    It was hard at times to stay with some of the entries, and some of the topics are just not for me, but he really does write.

    No filler.

    Good blog and I know it will get better.

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  19. Perfect review, you reminded me of why I enjoy the blogs.

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  20. I fixed the "vessel" thing.

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  21. Just by un-calling his wife a vessel, I went from liking this guy, to Liking him. Because that's how easy I am.

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  22. I think that faith has a great connotation with me, religion has a much more negative one in my mind. So maybe grouping is a bad thing. It seems like faith come from God and religion is a man made thing.

    Man, now what I want is a buttfugly blog so that I can see if my new manicure was worth it.

    Send me someone bad, I know they're out there!

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  23. Queen,

    You wrote:

    "It seems like faith come from God and religion is a man made thing."

    If you are ever in a philosophical mood, you might really like Daniel Dennett's book "Breaking the Spell," particularly the chapter on "Belief in Belief."

    Ok, I'll stop recommending books now . . .

    And again, thank you everyone for your comments. It's been a busy day, meeting new people and reading some very cool blogs. Now, I feel pressured to post something . . .

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  24. I want to like this guy, I want to like him a lot. But I'm struggling to get into it. Could be me. I am short attention span man. Nice review though, Mutha.

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  25. Hey . . . um . . . Booty,

    (That just felt all wrong . . . )

    Try some of my freewriting stuff. Those are posts I wrote in ten minutes or less using writing prompts from Natalie Goldberg's latest book about memoir. Short and sweet for the time and attention-span challenged.

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  26. 10 minutes or less?

    I don't think I've ever spent 10 minutes writing a post.

    You're like a savant

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  27. A savant?

    The "learned, scholar" type, or the "idiot" kind . . .

    Wait! Don't answer that . . . I haven't had my coffee yet . . .

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  28. He truly seems like a great guy, but I can't get into the religious stuff, AT ALL. Guess it's the hardcore agnostic in me.

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  29. Religion fascinates me. I minored in religion. But I don't believe in any of it, either, I'm just obsessed.

    Who is more like a frozen apple: hardcore agnostics or hardcore Jesus?

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  30. What's more like a frozen apple? i'd say a hardcore Republican in Alaska
    (ignore me...i'm a wee bit drunk)

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  31. I found a new template which I think will make The Cheek more attractive and user-friendly. It hides all the tags when you're on the main page; they only show up when you visit a specific post.

    It also has only one column, and I stripped away some of the clutter.

    Instead of a blogroll, I've now integrated a feed that points readers to some of my favorite posts by The Tweakers.

    The header is customizable as well, but for now I kinda like the fuzzy tree landscape. Fits the purpose of my blog nicely.

    If you've got a moment, let me know what you think . . .

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Grow a pair.