iJamming!: An Update
It’s been a month since I last posted anything at iJamming!, which may be a record. Seems like an explanation and an update might be in order.
When I started this site back in the year 2000, I initially imagined iJamming as something between a) an archive of, and access point for, my past work, and b) an occasional e-zine, for which I’d post about music and wine and travel and politics and running and football and life in general. To do so, I taught myself that now quaintly old-fashioned language called html. The overall concept worked a treat, traffic arrived in droves, a primitive forum found all sorts of old friends and new acquaintances stopping by, and I started devoting increasingly more time to the site. Shortly after 9/11 – the, entirely unexpected, life-shattering (and life-taking) 9/11, not a mass-media souvenir commemoration – I started posting on an almost daily basis and soon found myself treating iJamming! as an online diary. The process was essentially a personal (ad)venture through the progression into middle age, but it was also a timely dive into the newly interactive world of the internet. It felt somewhat like running a fanzine all over again (which is how I started out down this path back in the day), but without the printing and distribution and deadline issues. And it worked. Traffic increased yet more, we set up a proper Pub as a forum, and, once the term “blogging” took hold, I allowed that what I had started years earlier now fitted that description. I had been a prototype blogger.
iJamming! became popular enough that I had to consider whether or not to make a financial venture out of it. That is, whether to push hard for advertising, give myself deadlines and assignments, put my daily thoughts and theories through the fact-checking process, commission or at least allow access to other writers, and so on. I quickly decided against it. I’d been through that process in my teens, when the print fanzine Jamming! grew rapidly into a business with all the same kind of concerns (along with the dreaded print costs), and ultimately an unsuccessful business at that. I learned the hard way back then that the process of publishing is very different than that of writing, besides which, by the time I set up iJamming in 2000, as opposed to the print fanzine Jamming! in 1977, I had become a reasonably respected author. Publishing a web blog/magazine would run against my need to occasionally take substantial time out to research and write books.
That, in essence, is why the site has been so quiet of late. I have finally started writing the Smiths biography that I’ve been researching this past couple of years, and I’m in love with the process. Though I WANT to post separately about this, that and the other, I find that if I get up and start work on the book, I can’t tear myself away from it until the end of the day, by which point my writing capabilities are exhausted until the following morning. This is all good. It’s how it’s meant to be. You want your authors to enjoy their work, don’t you?
But that’s not all of it. Over the last five years, as “blogging” has gone from a novelty to a craze to a dictionary verb, it’s become that much less exciting, from my perspective as a (reluctantly defined) blogger. Call it ego if you like, but I prefer to be out ahead of the curve rather than behind it. I don’t get the same buzz posting my thoughts when everyone else is doing likewise; besides, we all have only so much time to spend on the Internet every day (even if we spend all 24 hours on it!) and so it was inevitable that as millions of blogs popped up all over the planet, people would have less time to spend at mine. I accepted that fact gracefully given that I wasn’t willing to put in the work to keep up with the new competition. The arrival of Facebook pretty much killed off my interest in maintaining iJamming! on any kind of daily basis. More than texting or twitter, more than e-mail or iChat, I believed that it’s reduced the quality of online communication to the most patently banal. If that’s the level of language that people are interested in, I’m not desperately interested in attracting them.
I’m not immune to social networking. Though my Facebook page is only really there as a link to iJamming!, I’m an active Twitter user. I like Twitter (even as I recognise that it’s but another fad). I don’t have to “friend” or “unfriend” people, I can send something out to the stratosphere whenever the muse takes me (even if that’s mid-chapter of a book), the 140-character limit is a useful tool for an over-writer like myself, the hash tags allow for humour as well as proper filtering, and the various search capabilities mean that I can follow topics (like the Catskills flooding) as they arise. Should you care, you can follow my Tweets from the scroll bar on the right hand side of this column, or you can follow them direct from my twitter page. They won’t all make sense to all of you and that’s fine: I figure myself as a multi-faceted kind of guy. Insert emoticon.
There are other reasons iJamming! has been quiet of late. We had to take the pub down a year ago when spammers infiltrated it beyond our capability to keep them out; we were using out-dated, unsupported, open source software, and while there were requests to launch a new pub, I couldn’t help but feel that, again, our purpose had been succeeded by Facebook. The same issues of out-dated software and vulnerability to hackers then caused my web hosts, Hostway, to arbitrarily take down my site in mid-August, kindly sending me an e-mail after the event. Here, too, one comes up against a certain frustration born of the Internet age: when I first signed iJamming! onto Hostway, back in 2000, they were based in Chicago and had live Chicagoans on the other end of the phone. The company is now, I think, based in Singapore, though Customer Service and Technical Support are handled via Eastern Europe. I have nothing against my fellow humans from anywhere on the planet, but I do struggle to have a sensible conversation about my hosting issues with a Bulgarian who claim to be called Dave and whose English is only as good as my Bulgarian.
So: I found someone to fix the software issues. He found me a new web host. I went off on my annual trip to Burning Man with my son for ten days and during the time we were away, the site was reinstalled. I’m very grateful. I had written a couple of posts in mid-August just as the site was taken down; they’re now outdated and I won’t bother with them. I do plan on reporting on Burning Man, but just not in as much detail as in the past. I do want to keep writing about wine, but even here, I am amazed that what seemed like such a genuine novelty when I first started doing so has now become a full-time profession for a number of people. While I believe I know my stuff in certain areas of the grape globe, I don’t pretend that my opinion ultimately makes a difference. I share it for the fun of it.
As for music, I no longer claim to be a tastemaker (assuming I ever was). Moving up to the Catskills in 2005 pretty much put paid to that aspect of my life; we simply don’t get the same kind of live acts (or bar-room conversation) as we did when I was living in Park Slope, Brooklyn, or before that, in Manhattan; and before that, in London. It was part of the calculated decision of moving up here; it was time to step away from the nightly need to attend a gig for fear of missing out on the latest big thing – which is often just the latest piece of unwarranted hype. Did I really want it written on my gravestone that I stayed in New York City so I could see the next Gay Dad?
No, there are bigger issues to worry about. The Catskills have taken an absolute hammering from Hurricane Irene; though we live high enough on a mountain to have avoided personal devastation, I have neighbours and friends who have lost their homes. Our own road to the outside world was mostly washed away in the storm, though credit to the town of Shandaken for getting to our street within 48 hours and putting down enough materials that my wife and younger son were not involuntarily trapped off the grid at home while my older son and myself were quite willingly isolated off the grid at Burning Man. Only ten days later, torrential rains from Tropical Lee have barely (at point of writing) withheld their threat to hit us with a repeat blow, though they have led to the cancellation of the first two days of school and are causing major flooding problems elsewhere in the Hudson Valley and Upstate New York.
While we deal with this attack from mother nature, the media is trying to sell me a tenth-year anniversary of 9/11, and I’m not interested. I lived through the original; I remember it quite well enough, thank you, well enough to recall that there was a window and a willingness there for us to behaviour better as a society, to follow the kind of tenets that are (mostly) followed out at Burning Man, but that our President and our NYC Mayor blew it. Fuck ’em. And fuck the Tea Party and the Republicans and David Cameron and the Tories and all the other pond scum out there who appear to have no concern about any fellow man or woman who may be less fortunate than themselves. I will spend this Sunday morning, September 11 2011 either on a race, running being something I’ve come to love (and become genuinely good at) in middle age, or in meditation at the local Monastery, something else I’ve taken on in middle age; either way, I will not be watching television. Nor will I forget.
So, that’s my news. iJamming! is back. Postings will be sporadic. You can follow me on Twitter. You can find me but not hear much from me on Facebook. And when you don’t hear from me at all, it’s because I have that Smiths book to finish. And soon. Expect it to be published in September 2012. I promise it will be great.