Chris's blog is a quandary.
First, you must understand that Chris is an academic, a father, and a music nerd. Chris approaches topics with a measured, steady pace. He is, above all, a facty kind of guy. With every post, we get a listen from the soundtrack of his life. He writes:
A good song can get me through a tough day.
Most of his posts start and end with a song, using lyrics as titles and culminating with whatever song has inspired that particular post (or complements it). There are frequent picture smatterings of his incredibly photogenic kid.
Those are the good things I love about Chris's blog.
Here is what I hate, in a nutshell:
I don’t know much about global economics. Actually, I don’t know much about much, to be honest. I know a little bit about the genetics of maize and the U.S. Civil War and 20th century Southern literature, but none of those things pay the rent these days.
I’m off track already.
And there's the crux.
Every post gets off-track.
This is a very fact-filled, political blog at present (though, Chris might beg to differ, that's how it reads from the outside). I don't get my politics from blogs, and I don't particularly agree with Chris's politics. Thus, I don't find his discussions of his politics particularly compelling. These are the musings of an academic convinced of his own rightness. And, he meanders and winds about until he finally, finally makes it to Elysium and culminates.
This is sex with too much foreplay, and not enough good hard dicking.
Here's where Chris's academic roots show, and where he could use a good dose of newspaperman. Academia rewards you for writing a thousand words, and punishes you for brevity. Spending time at the post-graduate level appears to lead inevitably to wordy fuckitude.
But the blogosphere, and most other professional writing, doesn't. Most people don't have hours to manipulate and palpate your words inside their heads until they congeal. Last week, Erin of Poor Penmanship, offered the following advice to another blogger, advice that I wholeheartedly agree with:
1. Before you start writing a story, figure out whether the point is to tell readers about yourself or to tell readers about something else. If the point is to tell about yourself (or your family), know that you have to work really hard to write a post that strangers can relate to or at least be interested in. If the point is to tell us about something else, make sure that other thing gets its due. Resist the urge to steer our attention back to your own personality.
2. Don't waste words characterizing the story you're telling: This is so crazy, this is so funny, this is so sad, this is so painful, this is so awesome. This week sucks. This day sucks.
Erin is a professional newspaper writer, and it shows on her blog. Chris, on the other hand, is a professional academic, and that shows, as well.
The blog is good, but it could be better. It could be trimmed down, tightened up. It could, and should, be edited ruthlessly. It could be written in active, and not always passive, tense.
All of these things need to happen for this blog to reach its full potential. Goddamnit, Chris, put your blog on a word diet.
Beyond that, please decide what this blog is going to be: political, carnivorian, "our daily life, chronicled," musical, or stories from my debauched college days.
I don't think the answer is an either/or, but for me, at least, if it is going to be those first two categories, I'm probably not interested. If it's the latter two, then you have my interest piqued.
At present, I don't hate your blog, but I don't love it, either.
My biggest advice is this: You aren't in college, anymore, and we aren't your students. Pare it down. Strip it bare. Be as choosy and stingy with words as Leonard Cohen is. Your blog will be better for it.
For now, I give you two stars. You are a consistent, thoughtful blogger, but you could be a lot more.
Like a bird on the wire,
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried, in my way, to be free*.
*Johnny Cash, because I love his cover of the original tune by Leonard Cohen.