Friday, September 09, 2005


In Which I Count to 365...or 186...or 1...

A year ago, I was trolling for writers to fill a page that I have to fill every time my magazine comes out. I wanted to find some fresh new voices, Johns and Janes who were good writers, funny writers, people who could tell stories with wit and honesty.

And mark this well: I didn't tap a bank of well-established writers. I didn't go to the various contact databases of freelancers I have at my disposal.

Rather, I started reading blogs.


My lunch hours--indeed, my entire business week--quickly became an exercise in catching up on the lives and insights of writers from the cosmopolitan world of bloggers. Some I knew already. Some I developed innocent--but hopeless--crushes on. Some I just recognized as people I probably would be friends with, if they worked with me or lived down the street.

Some of you I have tapped to write for me. Many of you have come closer to writing for me than you'll ever know (and who knows what this year will bring). But it wasn't enough.

For years, I've joked that I'm a method journalist: I can't write about something from the outside. I have to experience it (and thank God I've never written about impotence or anal fissures). Some of my earliest experiences as a magazine writer were as an equipment tester and all-around gear guy. Our maxim was "don't write it til you've tried it."

So, on September 9, 2004, I signed up for a Blogger account and posted my first entry.

Reading those early entries is a bit awkward for me, for a couple reasons, one of which I'll reveal shortly. But at the time, I thought this would be a great forum to talk about life at a big magazine and reveal all sorts of interesting and possibly seedy truths about the business. Real simple, right?

That never really happened. O sure, I hold forth here from time to time on my writing and editorial life, but I came quickly to realize that, hey, I actually like my job. I respect my editors and have learned fistfuls from them. Most of the dirt I have to reveal about magazine life has come from previous jobs, and I just haven't gotten around to telling all those stories yet.

But there were still some truths in that first entry that hold today, a year later.

...this is my attempt to cope with it all. To tell some hard and funny truths...

At the time, I thought I was talking about the magazine industry.

But really, I was talking about me.

And now here we are, a year later. This is my 186th post. That's just a hair over one post every other day. A shade under 300,000 words total. I've never done that kind of writing for this long without being paid money for it.

But I've also never done any kind of writing for this long that I've enjoyed half as much.

My only goal in writing a blog was, well, I'll get to that. But as I started writing, I wanted to see what it would take to get people to read. I didn't make any splash, do anything to get myself noticed. I simply did what many other bloggers do: post regularly, write the best I could off the top of my head, read and comment on other bloggers' sites. And see what happens.

For the first weeks, months, you'll see I was more or less talking to myself, a not uncommon occurrence in my life, alas.

But then, things changed. Someone put me in for a Blog of the Day. Word Wrester grabbed a definition off my blog. Shane put me in his blogroll. Suddenly, I had regulars and I became an obsessive Sitemeter and comment checker. "Oh my God! Thirty people visited me today!" I clearly remember calling to Her Lovely Self once (granted, I think that was the day I first posted the bikini picture, so I guess we'd have to blame the Playboy effect for that). By my birthday, it was 50. And then 100. And then crazy shit happened. A brief write-up on the MSNBC site. An innocent father-son activity transformed my son into a Web flavor of the week. Thank God that settled down, but each swell of the tide brought readers into my little lagoon. And each time, a few of you decided to stick around, to become part of my little family circle.

And now here we are, a year later. Some 24,000 people have stopped to read what I've written--that's twice the circulation of the first two magazines I ever worked for. As many as 300 of you stop by to spend part of every valuable day at the Masthead. I know those are small numbers in the grand scheme of the blogosphere, but it's a big deal to me.

And I'm very grateful indeed to every single one of you for your attention. And your feedback.

So grateful, in fact, I feel it's time to give something back. Shortly, I'll be cranking up my first annual Giveaway of Crap, a sort of reverse birthday party, where you all have a chance to get gifts from me, instead of vice versa. But for now, today, the gifts I have for you are in the form of a few truths. My anonymity has always been something of an itch for some of you here, so let's scratch it good with facts:

--In the beginning, there were TWO Magazine Men. A colleague and I thought it would be fun to do a joint blog about the industry and pool our experiences. Didn't you--the three of you--ever wonder why there were two members of this blog in the very beginning? Anyway, the problem arose when my colleague started messing up entries I rather cared about. So I locked him out.

--As near as I can tell, less than 20--perhaps less than 12--regular readers here know who I am. Six of you are bloggers like me. Only two of you solved the secret on your own this year, and my hat's off to the both of you (and of course all of you are sworn to secrecy. Why make it easy for someone else?).

--Several of you think you know who I am, or where I live, or who I work for. And I have shamelessly allowed you to believe it. But guilt overwhelms me and it's time to put you straight on a couple of things:
I do not live in San Diego. Nor Urbandale. Nor Pleasantville. Nor Birmingham. Two words, people: Proxy Servers!

I am not this man. Nor this man. Nor this man. Unless, of course, I'm lying (see #22).

--Number 10 was Scaramanga. AuxMem was right.

--Oh, and one more thing: The name of my magazine appears in today's post (and if you think it's that easy, you've got another think coming).

When I set out to experiment in blogging, I told my editors what I was doing. It was a kind of ongoing research project to understand the allure of this form of self-publishing. I planned to do it for a month, then gather my notes and write a story about it. But it seemed I'd barely scratched the surface after a month, so I decided to do it for six months.

At length, I planned to stop after a year, figuring by then I would need to turn my attention to other things: perhaps spend some time sharpening my parenting skills, or take off from work for a little travel and leisure. Or maybe I would finally get down to the business of finding an agent (repping your own book deals is a serious hassle), polishing up the children's book I wrote for my son, or exploring the other book ideas I've had batting around for ages: one about life in the small New Hampshire town where I was raised, and one about life as part of the new generation of dads who are astonished to find themselves responsible for little people.

Oh, plus continuing to do my job at the Really Big Magazine.

Full plate, right?

Which is why this is the day I'm supposed to bid you all a fond farewell and promise to check in on your blogs and comment from time to time.

But then I thought: Why can't I do these things and still blog? What's the worst that can happen?

Aside from becoming a burned-out husk and a bed-ridden invalid, I mean.

The truth is, I'm having way too much fun to stop now.

Hope you are too.

So here's to a year in your company, with many more to come. Thanks to all of you for your encouragement and support, and please know that, for as long as you can stand it, I will remain,

From Somewhere on the Masthead

Bravo! Gelukwens! Way to go!

MM, please listen clearly. You are a fantastically talented writer who has brought both tears and laughter (an assload of laugh-out-loud, guffawing laughter) to my wife and I. Thank you for this. Especially now.

You are a mensch.

(who is not a mystery)

NP: Stairway To Heaven by Frank Zappa
One more thing, Mr. Man.

Please, no more clues on who you are. I want it to be a mystery to me, the same way I don't want to know how the magician makes my card appear at the top of the deck every time.

Besides, I only read Astronomy magazine anyway. :-)
As a recent but already devout reader, I am very glad to know you'll be sticking around for awhile.
Hey MM, congrats on your blogiversary. Since you're one of my primary Blog Mentors, I'm glad you'll be sticking around. I've never really tried to determine your secret identity, although I did notice a couple of RBM titles in your blog post today...
I've never commented, but I am a faithful reader via your Live Journal feed. I'm an ex-pat mother of twins in Finland, and you'd think we wouldn't have the least thing in common, but we do. I quite enjoy all of your writing, but your posts about fatherhood are especially touching and real to me - real enough to bring me to tears. Your blog is a marvel, your children are delightful, and HLS is one very lucky woman to have you (even though she is the alpha dog). Cheers to your anniversary, and I am looking forward to more more more. Thanks so much for continuing.
Don't really care who you are but it would be nice... I just love coming here and reading your stories and your memories of your life back in the day...

It brings some laughter to my day...

Keep writing because you do bring some enjoyment to many of us!!!
Oh my God! please don't even THINK of stopping...
I got nervous there for a minute --- the thought of you stopping made me quite sad as you are well aware of the mad crush I have on you

Happy blogiversary, MM! (so we've been wrong thinking that it's LHJ??)
My heart almost stop at the part where you say you were going to bid us farewell.

Know that you are more than a blogger to me.

You are the reason why coffee is spilled all over my work place every other morning.

and I (stupidly) still could not find the name of your magazine in this post ... :( ...

I am glad I found your blog.

and I am happy that you will continue.
Phew, you scared me just a wee bit towards the end there. I'm glad you're not ending this, because you are by far my favorite blogger in the 'sphere.

So, if my eyes have failed me not, I spotted the following names of magazines in today's post:

*Business Week (I interned there once, so if it's BW, you might know me)
*Method (snowboarding trade pub/special interest mag of some sort--I googled it)
*Outside (It can't be this one, based just down the road from me in Santa Fe
*Travel and Leisure

I'm sure there are others, but I have things to do today, and already I've spent way too much time inspecting every.single.word. of this entry. As in: "Street?! He used the word street! I wonder if that's a magazine!" (I actually just googled it, and it turns out that Super Street Magazine exists--it's about cars).

I hope my listing of these suspect words doesn't upset those readers who don't want any more clues as to your identity. Not that my list narrows anything down in the slightest. So.

Happy blogiversary!
I think you can tell from all the nice comments you are well loved and respected. Happy Anniversary MM- and many, many more.

PS- I could care less who you are its what you are that I admire.
My guess has always been Time magazine.

Clearly, I Know things.

So everyone can stop guessing right now and instead go with my instincts. This will one day lead us to saving the world.

In the meantime, however, well said, Mr. MM.

Although, your blog could probably use more curse words and anti-Pyrate flair...

Trust me. People like that stuff.

I should Know.
Really, this was a scare. I thought you were done blogging, which would terribly upset so many loyal readers.

Obviously, you've had quite an impact in our virtual lives. I admire and envy you as a fellow writer.

Never will my blog be as funny, interesting, clever and popular as yours, MM.

Gee, I think I might have figured out who you are....
I think you should quit. I mean, who needs a funny, well-written, modest, interesting, wise, generous presence on the internet anyway? Pfft. I mean, I GUESS if you want to keep writing a bunch of free stories that I look forward to more than I look forward to any other blogger's stories, you can. I just don't see the point.


I jest, I jest. Looking forward to many more tales from the Masthead.

(And what the hell is Scaramanga? I'm afraid of what google will show me.)
Gawd MM, you better not stop. If you haven't noticed on my edited linklist, you earned the title of "My Hero" right there. Decided that yeah, my dad was right and wasn't off my much. :D I've only been reading since this summer, but I've gone through a bit of your archives and even gotten my dad hooked. You're slowly making your way into a Family Addiction with us. (Much like Firefly and Battlestar Galactica.)

So, a very big congrats on your first successful year. I hope you have many, many more! I'm also speaking on behalf of dad. He's been so busy lately to comment on anything. Keep up the posting, MM. :)

Mag. A. Zine. MAN! Happy Blogday to you!

I have totally guessed the magazine.

It's Bed-ridden Invalid.


May your pneumonia leave you instantly and your blog, never.

Wicked big fan,
I'm with everyone else...for a moment you had me wondering what I would read when I first arrive at work in the mornings...then a sigh of relief when I realized you weren't bidding us all adieu.

Congrats on a year...looking forward to the next year(s) of stories.
Well wishes here too.

I wasn't buying it anyway. You are having waaaay too much fun and we are too addicted for you to stop. No matter how careful you think you have been - a torch wielding, strung out mob would find you and demand "More blog!"

mydogischelsea - I spied "O" and Family Circle too. (The little shit just loves to mess with our heads).

I noticed Shane hasn't commented....perhaps because he is one of the two that solved the mystery?
10,000 years to the editor!

Wait, I don't think that's exactly how that toast goes...

I started blogging back in 2003, using "Diaryland." But then I just stopped dead in 2004. I just restarted in February of this year, and it's bloggers like you that inspire me to keep going. You have a great gift for storytelling, and I think most of us would be delighted to have one-tenth of your talent.

Congrats on Year One. I'll be looking forward to Year Two.


So very glad you're here. Thanks for all of it. That scare toward the end, though, was just uncalled for! If I had HLS's voice, I'd "Baaa!" at you for it.
Congratulations on the anniversary. I'm thankful to have found your site. You've helped me become a better writer and - at the risk of sounding gooey, syrupy, schmaltzy, a better person. Thanks.
Damn you MM, now I shall have to spend all weekend taking this story apart for clues. Was I even close the other day? I was glad to see the part about finding an editor for your book. I've always wondered why none of this stuff was being saved for a book. In fact it all could be a book. Like many you were my inspiration to start blogging. I hope a year from now I can say I have 300 loyal readers, right now I have like 6. But it's a start.
PS: The blogging community is apparently not ready for flash mobs (crash and burn). Have a great weekend!
Damn you, you excellent and elusive Magazine Man, you!

Still hanging on a cliff,
another fan,

I will continue with the well-wishings. Happy blog-day! I can honestly say you are an inspiration to those who might want to write but don't know what to write about. It's so simple, our own friggin' lives!
Keep it up, and we'll keep coming.
I'm glad Shane asked what the hell scaramanga was... I was worried for a bit that I was the only one clueless. I too scoured your post and picked up on all the magazine titles in it and then realized I really don't care who you are, but your blog is up there right along side my morning cup of coffee as things I am lost without. Thanks for a year of riveting posts.
I stumbled onto your blog after having looked at Thomas' Art Lad blog, and I am really glad that I did.

I have never understood the facination with reading about other people's lives. After reading your posts, I now understand. It's not all about getting insight into someone else's life, but also about reading a really good story.

Thank you.

It doesn't matter who you are, or where you work, as long as you continue to write engaging tales.
Happy Blogiversary, MM! I like that fact that you're a "man of mystery"...not that I have the gumption to actually try to solve this particular puzzle...nor do I have the know-how. I'm just lazy, I guess. Even with blogs - I'm a reader, not a writer - I have a half-assed LJ that I periodically update for the three or four friends that read it, so I marvel at the works of you, Shane and others who take great joy from writing.

We're so very glad you do!
Thanks for being yourself and sharing yourself with us. I am not trying to figure out the mystery, because me, Scooby and the gang burned out on mysteries in the 70s and 80s. As long as you are not John Stossel, it's all good. And if you are John Stossel, I'm afraid I may have to throttle for all the obvious reasons.
Congrats... here's to another year. I'm a new reader, but hopelessly addicted.

Please don't get a crush on me now. ;-)
I'm not a blogger, although my daughter is one- and that's how I found you. She had a link to your son's "Dinner". That hooked me! And, after reading Art Lad several times, I decided to read your blog.
I am glad you are not stopping, as I look forward to that regular dose of laughter that I expect to find here. Better than a spoonful of sugar! Thanks for all the smiles, laughs and interesting stories.
It's always awesome to find fellow journalists who blog as a means of expression. It builds up some serious hope in me that one day I might be pretty cool, although awesomeness like that of Magazine Man is almost certainly out of my reach.

Don't stop wranglin'. You give others like me laughter and hope.
Scaramanga, eh? I think we need a photo for that one! :)
I enjoyed reading. Wish you the best.

p.s. "O"!
Which is why this is the day I'm supposed to bid you all a fond farewell and promise to check in on your blogs and comment from time to time.

DON'T DO THAT!!! You scared the crap out of me! LOL! Your blog is the highlight of my day!

Thank you for sharing your life with us. You inspire me to want to be a better writer!

*Raises a glass in toast* Cheers MM! Happy Blogiversary!

As you are my first stop each morning on the net I'm very glad to hear you will be gracing us with your presence for a while longer yet.

I admit, I'm curious as to who you really are, but I also admit that it doesn't matter enough to me to dig out my Sherlock Holmes dectective kit. I just enjoy your presence on the web.
I am pretty sure from the amount of comments here, you will have gotten the clue that if (ever) you made that decision to quit blogging, an army of coffee addicts will be storming all over the states lookinng for the "sex man" and at gun point force him to blog for the rest of his remaining life (which would be forever if we had a say in it).
You know, I've been reading for a few months now and I know what I want to know about you. You're a smart, funny, caring family man who knows how to mine his life for great tales to share with others. I enjoy it every day.

Along with the rest, I am quite pleased to be along for the ride. And I'm so glad this is not the end of your blogging journey.
I too enjoy your work, and the mystery that is MM.

But...I can't believe you work for any of the obvious places you name-dropped. You said it's not that easy and I believe you.

It's gotta be a code. Maybe every 23rd letter (your lucky number) spells it out. Or the first letter of every sentence. I know I'll crack it.

But some part of me doesn't quite want to either.
Happy Masthead-anniversary, Magazine Man.

May the next year bring just as many moments of side-splitting hilarity, heartbreakingly moments and breath-holding suspense. Especially the latter - I love/hate coming to a climax in your story only to see that wretched ellipsis of yours that makes me wait (im)patiently for your return.

You are an inspiration to bloggers everywhere.

I'm a recent MM addict, and hope to crack the code and discover your true identity soon. Not because it makes a difference, but because I'm too close to the editorial world every day, and the secret will slowly eat away at me from the inside out unless I at least TRY to solve it.

I'm about to have a son, so I particularly enjoy those postings.

Not on board with the folks who don't want the clues - few things as satisfying as successfully unraveling a mystery. I imagine a wall in my office will soon look like a detictive's office with various clues tacker up and linked together by different colored string...

Thanks for bringing your world to us - love the ride (and appreciate the stickiness involved with blogging about the spouse!).

Thanks MM!
You know, I've only been a reader for a few weeks, but when you mentioned discontinuing this blog my heart nearly stopped. I'm so glad that you're sticking with it.

Oh, and the fact that you dropped about a billion magazine titles into this post made me laugh out loud. :-D
People, I know I don't respond to comments as much as I should (read: pretty much never), but I just wanted to say how happy and overwhelmed I am by the good wishes. I swear I wasn't going for some emotional twist by suggesting I might end the blog. I really was just walking you through what my original plan had been, figuring that you, like me, would instantly see how impossible it would be for me to stop at this point. You mean too much for me to turn my back.

They say a man is measured by his friends, and you've all shown me I've got the best. Thank you.

And now I must run. Her Lovely Self is off with the Yummy Mummies for an overnight and chaos reigns at the Magazine Mansion.

This is the very last time I feed my kids M&Ms just before bed.

Thomas! Thomas, get your sister off the chandelier!

Gotta go...
Hello, MM, I decided it was time I actually commented. My best friend insisted I had to read an entry of yours and I found myself hooked. Your writing is absolutely wonderful and witty and contains the sort of honesty that seems rather hard to find...perhaps I should look harder? Ah, but it's a joy to read your posts, so here's a toast to many more!

MM, you are responsible for countless hours of lost office productivity, and for inducing excessive feelings of joy and sentiment.

Yes, it's all your fault.

I did not want to read your blog.

But I was lured in. First hook, then line and sinker.

Then the whole goddamn BOAT.

That fateful afternoon about a month ago reading a post on BoingBoing, I thought I'd be clicking to see was an adorable little boy artist and his little blog.

I have since learned to never, EVER underestimate the cunning of a Magazine Man who is out to increase his blog readership. He'll go as far as setting up his kid's blog. With PICTURES. AND A LINK TO HIS TRA- I mean, blog.

Reading the blog, I made the mistake of thinking, "Aww, what a nice dad little Thomas has, putting up a blog for him", and clicked to see who this rare and endangered specimen of a father is.

And the rest is history. My productivity, that is.

But what I may have lost in productivity, I got back much, much more, in a renewed faith in humanity and a zest for life.

I'll bag you over ther head with my worn back-issues of Reader's Digest (all 13 years' worth) if you ever dare decide to stop blogging.

Your anecdotes and stories have touched more people than you could possible know -- for one, did you ever expect to be reading a comment from a reader in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia?

A long, windy one at that?

Who happens to be one of those patently insane 300 who spend socially-crippling amounts of time reading your blog daily?

Well, no I'll bet.

But you'll get used to it.

And so will I, writing to a white guy halfway across the globe whose true identity I do not know (yet).

You know what they say about talking to strangers.

But you know, somehow this stranger doesn't seem all that strange. It feels like I've known him a long time.

Happy Blogiversary,

Shane - Scaramanga is the name of a Bond villan - as MM said, he has a feature in commom with him. I'm not quite sure whether he means that no photographs of him exist, or that he has a third nipple, but I'm betting on the latter.
You'd better not think of stopping this blog! What would I do without my little fix?

I understand entirely why you keep this blog. It's probably why I keep mine. Writing every day just feels good. If you're a writer, there's nothing like writing. Not talking about writing. Or teaching other people about writing. But writing, daily, pounding out the words on the keyboard and seeing them appear in front of you. It's a great high.

But more than that, it's being part of a community. I check my stats counter too, and when there are readers from Iran and Iceland and Ireland (and those are just the Is), I get a little giddy thrill up my spine. Wow, people in other places are reading MY words? Yikes.

People in the mainstream press like to deride blogs. And there are some bad ones out there. But I figure, the more people writing, and connecting with each other, the better.

Please don't stop.
I just want to say thanks for everything so far. I just discovered this blog a few weeks ago, and it finally pushed me a bit to realize that I wasn't enjoying the advertising writing I was doing enough, but a blog would allow me to write about what I want.
Ha-hah! I knew it was the triple nipple (Wow! I really wanted to spell that as tripple nipple)!

It was actually a real simple jump to that conclusion after your clue and having learned your particular brand of wierdness. Congrats and keep it up.
48 comments? When did that happen? I can say I was here way back when. Sharfa should get a special prize because she was the only one commenting for a long time. Seems like you make people's heart stop or spit food onto their computers. Good work. Congratulations, MM.
I was kind of freaking out for a while, but I'm relieved to know that you'll continue. I only recently discovered your blog, and I'm not kidding when I say that it has become a very important part of my day. I don't need to know your identity, and the only reason I'd especially want to is so that I could buy your books. Any way I can get more of your writing, I will. Thank you for doing this.
MM you are a hoot.

Even better than searching for magazine names was imagining magazines called "Hopeless Crushes" or "Bikini Pictures" or um, "Fissures".

"Seedy Truths" would probably be the one I'd subscribe to though. :)

Glad you plan to continue!
At the risk of sounding like either a kiss-ass or a freak (perhaps both?), I have to say that reading your blog was one of the things that inspired me to start my own. Again with the ass-kissing and freakiness, I will also say - in honor of your blogiversary - that my blog crush grows daily. Congratulations, and keep 'em coming!

(also, you might find it noteworthy that your identity was actually the topic of conversation in line for sandwiches at lunch today - me and two of my friends from work were discussing a third friend who is determined to crack the mystery)
I wasn't afraid you'd quit the blog (the twist is MM's MO), but I was intrigued to discover that that was your original intent. I'm glad that the blogging bug bit you. If it hadn't, you wouldn't have written all these fabulous posts. This is probably the best blog I've ever read. It's certainly made me want to do more with mine. (I post several times a day, but I am low on anecdotes...I want to become more of a storyteller.)

Thanks for what you do. I'll keep reading for as long as you keep writing.

(I must admit to having a bit of a thrill when I read that you scoured blogs for writers. Maybe someday my writing will impress you. Of course, for that to happen I would actually have to write something impressive...)
I have changed my guess.

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