Tuesday, September 12, 2006


In Which We Answer Three Questions...

Well, it's the third day of my third year blogging

(which is, if I do say so myself, a well-spun way of saying "I forgot to post something on the Masthead's second birthday three days ago, so I better make it look like it was intentional")

so in honor of that fact, I will answer three questions. One of the interesting things about having a blog with such a plenitude of visitors (and believe me, starting from nothing 24 months ago to having nearly 500 visitors a day qualifies as a plenitude for me), is that I get lots of neat comments and, sometimes, even neater e-mails. About one in five poses some question or other that I either answer privately or ignore completely. So I thought it was time to give something back. Here, then, are the three most common questions that have been posed to me this year.

1. How much of the stuff you write about really happens? Come on, be honest.

Aw hell, ya got me. Well, I guess I may as well fess up:

Blaze does not write his own posts. Sorry, I know that's a real blow to some of you, but there it is. Doesn't write 'em. Has never written 'em. Has not so much as touched the keyboard.

Instead, he dictates them.

Okay, honestly: Everything else? It happens. Just like shit, it happens.

I suspect most people have their doubts about the reality of my stories because in general, they have beginnings, middles, and ends. But in real life, of course, our stories almost always lack that kind of closure, don't they? Life is messy and convoluted. It rarely progresses in orderly fashion. Which makes any stories that start and end in a few thousand words feel unreal.

Most of that is just me doing the textual equivalent of cropping photos. I trim out details that seem unnecessary or that bog the story down. I suppose in the truest sense that does make me guilty of telling lies, but only lies of omission. And I generally think what I omit doesn't change the story too much.

Take my tale about the irate driver who stopped his car and briefly considered thrashing me for suggesting he slow his car down to the speed limit. Everything that I wrote really happened, but I cropped out a few details. For example, I neglected to mention that the driver in question had sped by me twice--once going up the street and once coming back down. Both times I gave him the hand signal to slow down, but he only stopped on the second time. Now you could argue that the fact that I gesticulated to him twice was what really inflamed him enough to stop and swear at me, and that may well be, but so what? In the end, I made a decision--and I have to say, after 20 years of writing and editing, it was a pretty unconscious one--to edit out mention of his first pass. It seemed redundant and not including it doesn't substantially alter the story.

Another detail I didn't go into: the way the story is written, it's easy for the reader to infer that I was aware that the driver was going to get caught in Officer Peltz's speed trap. I mean, I say as much to the dog. But a moment later, I realized it was late enough that it was past Peltz's duty shift and he had probably called it a night. So I deleted the extra sentence I said to Blaze, which was, "Oh wait, Peltz said he was going home around 10, so I guess that asshole won't find out for himself." In fact, I didn't find out that I was right the first time until Peltz himself mentioned it a day or so later. And if you want to really split hairs, Peltz had just called it a night and was driving out of the intersection when he saw the guy tear around the corner and go the other way. Only then did the police officer swing around, follow him, mark his speed and pull him over. But see how long it takes to explain that, when the end result is the same? So I just, um, cut to the chase.

Whew, who signed up for the writing clinic, huh? Long answer to a short question, I know, but hey, this is me. What did you expect? Brevity?

2. What happened to Art Lad?

Nothing. Thomas is alive and well and doing great, thanks very much. But his blog is his blog and he dictates when it's time to post and when it isn't. I don't force him to make posts and never have (sorry to disappoint those who thought I was some pathetic Web equivalent of a Hollywood Dad, trying to push his son into the limelight and bask in his sudden popularity). It's important to remember that Thomas is a 7-year-old boy, and he will go through phases where some things interest him more than others. When he was little, he was so besotted with trains I thought he was going to change his last name to "the Tank Engine". But in fact, by the time he was 5, he had moved on to lizards, then action figures. Today, all his once-beloved wooden trains are sitting in a box in our basement, which would come as a shock to my younger self, who remembers just how much those fucking things cost.

Right now, Thomas is still seriously into baseball. Next year--or next month--it will be something else. I think most parents reading this will back me up when I say that kids are by definition fickle and inconsistent little people and they jump from interest to interest like fleas leaping between household pets.

Thomas still likes to draw and he's uncommonly good at it, but he also takes photos and does videos too. I could post this content on his blog, I guess, but these days he's not particularly interested in sitting down and dictating to me, so it would just be me by myself talking about my son and why I think he did this particular thing, which pretty much makes the blog not an Art Lad blog, doesn't it? And anyway, I already have a place where I do that. It's called Here.

So at worst, I would guess that Art Lad is on hiatus. He may decide to post another entry tomorrow. Or next month. Or next year. I know that many of you who come here really enjoyed his posts--believe me, so did I--so I apologize if this news comes as a disappointment. But you'll still hear plenty about him over here. And if he does decide to pick up blogging again, you'll be the first to know. Fair enough?

3. Who ARE you?

Man, what a great question. I wonder if you realize what you're asking me. That question goes so much deeper than asking me, say, what my name is.

I'm a father, a husband, a son, a brother, a long-lost relation, a good friend, a watchful neighbor, a compassionate (if somewhat disorganized) boss, a dedicated (if somewhat burned-out) employee, a more or less concerned citizen of the Republic. I am The Man, the Great Bringer of Food and Giver of Scratches in The Good Spot. I am an editor. I am a writer. I am a player with words. I am, mostly, a storyteller.

I am...me.

I have answered to many names in my life--You Little Shit, The Kid, Ass-Wipe, Buddy, Chief, Ol' Fella, and Scruffy (don't ask). I have been called Honey, Sweetie, and You Son Of A Bitch (sometimes within minutes of each other, and by the same person). I have answered to Dadoo, Daddy, Best Daddy, Best World's Daddy, and just plain old Dad. Here, I gave myself the nom du blog of Magazine Man, but you all call me MM.

You know every name to which I answer, save one.

Really, how much more do you need to know about who I am?

Okay, so, yeah, that was a cheat.

So, as a consolation, and because I'm feeling festive and generous, I invite you to pose some questions in comments below. Go ahead, ask me anything: a writing question, a blog question, a personal question. I'll answer a few in an upcoming post. If nothing else, it will give me something to do as we head into the next 364 days.

Not that I don't have a few other things planned for you, too.

Here's to another good year in your excellent company, and thank you all for permitting me to remain,

From Somewhere on the Masthead

I get to post first!

I've been here reading silently a lot of the way, but this is enticing.

Why are you so worried about keeping that one name hidden? Publicity? WW? Anna and Thomas being tortured mercilessly by their peers for having a dad who got spider-bit on the but?
Oh, and that last comment was by moi, twisted_syntax, but I've merged over to Blogger Beta and Blogger Betites can't post on foreigner's Blogger Alphites.
What's your greatest accomplishment? And what brings you joy?
Congrats on the 3+ years!
What is the average flight speed of an unladen swallow?

Would you rather be a hammer than a nail?

What books are on your nightstand?

Have you ever edited anyone famous (or who went on to become famous)?

If you could, what time period would you go back to?

What's the craziest conspiracy theory that you subscribe to?

What's your take on ending sentence with prepositions?

Can it be that it was all so simple then? Or has time rewritten every line?

How did 9/11 change you?

Is having a secret identity as much fun as I think it is?
Are you planning on publishing another book? My friends who don't blog think I'm telling stories when I mention you and yours- ;)
Since you are such a fabulous writer, what writers inspire you? What got you into writing? What's your all time favorite book?

I know I have more creative questions for you, but the caffeine hasn't quite kicked in this morning so I'm totally blanking on them.
What's your favorite color and why?
I will now disobey you.

How'd ya get the nickname Scruffy?

Even though you said don't ask, then you said we could ask anything......I had to ask, wouldn't you be disappointed if I didn't, I mean really - telling us "don't ask" is like hanging up a neon sign saying: this is a mortifyingly embarrassing, hilarious story that readers would love or at least find mildly amusing?

Fess up, Scruffy.

What's the best practical joke you have ever played on someone?
I just now noticed that your sidebar has been visually crafted. Awesome!
No questions, I just want to say thanks for being an inspiration who never fails to kick my creative juices into gear. Your site is part of my morning ritual before I get on with what I need to do...

When I first found your site, a little over a year ago, I decided I'd start writing. Several months later, I was back in the swing of things, writing more than I had in years (no matter what people think, working in advertising stagnates your writing abilities, because you write everything in 3-word bursts, sentences be damned!). Before I knew it, I was a blogger, then later, a paid writer of articles... not just headlines.

Thanks MM!
Congratulations on your third day of your third year blogging (and on two years too). Ask you anything, huh? I'll go for the writing question: do you have any pointers on how to write dialog? Even when I write down what someone ACTUALLY says, it doesn't sound natural.

Can you give a brief timeline on your writing/editing experience?

Aside from your infamous book on relationships, on what other topics have you been published?

Is the book on your recent adventure retrieving Blaze in the works?
I have found links to this site in dozens of other people's blogs. It's cool to see the blogging community be in agreement about what a great writer you are.

So: what blogs do you read? Are there any favourite places on the web that you'd recommond to us?

and a more personal one: why were you living in London, England and how long were you there for? Are there old posts about your time here? I think it's very cool that I live in the same place you used to... maybe some of those good writer vibes are hiding around here somewhere :)

congrats on the anniversary!
Congrats on 3 years.

Hey Stu, an African Swallow or a European Swallow?

You know how I feel about your writing. I call you "The Best Writer On The Internet" in my link to you from my blog. I mean it, most sincerely, and that opinion isn't likely to change anytime soon. Happy Bloggin' Birthday!

One comment, before my question: 500 hits a day? Hell, I get about 100 a day and I'm not 1/5 the writer you are. You deserve more widespread acclaim, my friend.

OK, here are a couple of questions. Just asking for closure on a couple of things previously mentioned in this space.

1 - Have you said an absolute "no" to that job at the smaller, yet prestigious, magazine?

2 - Did you have that medical procedure? If so, everything OK?
Who won the epitah contest? Or better yet (and more to the point) who is your favorite commentor?

You asked for it!!
I still love that you are anonymous to us... It makes it more fun...

I agree with the Scruffy story... we ALL want to know about this one... but why do I have this feeling that you are going to share it with us anyways....
Don't tell us your favorite commentator. The rest of us will get our feelings hurt and never forgive you.

Unless I'm your favorite, in which case I must know regardless of the consequences.

I know I'm your favorite commentGator.
Suldog got my question...I was also wondering about the small magazine. You were grappling with the decision awhile back and then we never heard another word about it. Oh and I agree, do not tell us your favorite commenter. Too many feelings could get hurt, although I read your comments all the time and I have my own personal favorites. Now, if you asked your commenters whose comments they enjoyed, that'd be okay.
Yeah, and who did win that contest?
LOADS of good questions. No surprise with this group, though...

Mine is this: How do you know you are A Writer? Who decides? Is it so deeply entwined in your soul, your DNA, your very person that you can be nothing else? Or is it something that you chose?

Also, if you could be a SuperHero, which one would you be?
Happy Blog-a-versary! Now onto the good stuff.

* What was the scariest moment of your life thus far?
* Do you feel like you're doing what you were put on this Earth to do? (And if so, how the hell did you get yourself to that point?!)
* What big goal have you set for yourself?
* Boxers or briefs? Wait a minute, nevermind. I think we've all seen plenty of your behind.
You've seen a lot of things that can't be explained "rationally". Do you believe in magic?
Happy Blog Birthday! I really love coming to your blog and reading about your life and adventures.

Hmm, question, how tempting....no matter what I ask I'm going to dissapoint myself for not thinking of something more clever.

OK, here's my cheesy question -

What's your secret to a happy marriage? Were you always such a great husband? Or maybe I should be asking HLS what her secret is to putting up with you ;)
happy blogiversary!

what does a writer's agent actually do?

Do you read other blogs much/regularly?

You mentioned somewhere that when you started the blog, there were 2 magazine men. Which posts aren't yours?
Hey MM, congrats on your blogiversary. I hope to be here for many more of them.

My question is rather mundane, but I have wondered it a couple of times. In one or two of your posts, you have impressed me with your depth of medical knowledge (not that I'm a doctor or anything like that, so maybe I'm just easily impressed.)

Have you had some type of medical training (beyond personal hospital experiences) or does this just come by way of doing research for your writing?
bloody hell (i can get away with that because i'm in england) - i just read my comment and realized it doesn't make sense.

apparently one (like me) should not attempt to write anything lucid after more than two glasses of cheap red wine

what i meant to ask was - of the blogs you have listed / not listed - are there any favourites? anything on the web that you read daily or would recommend to your readers?

Have you ever had your secret identity "discovered" by somebody who reads your blog?
Well, you've already started to answer, but I suppose I can ask some stuff here anyway. If you never see it, then it won't matter if the questions are lame.

What's your favorite movie and why?
What is your favorite color?
What's the farthest you've been away from home?

Favorite smell? Artist (painter)? Movie?
another one: has the popularity of your blog affected what &/or how you write?
Do you know personally any of the people linked to in your blog roll? Have you ever met someone whose blog you read?
And, did the guy you shoved into the trunk ever come looking for you afterwards?
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