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October 05, 2006

Two years at Pillage Idiot

When I started Pillage Idiot two years ago today, I never dreamed I would still be at it two years later. This is not exactly an historic occasion, like the surrender at Appomattox, or V-J Day, but for at least one of us, it has its minor significance.

I haven't done an interview with myself since Day One (second post), so maybe it's time to do another one. It's probably the apotheosis of neurosis, but here goes:

A. I was wondering the same thing myself.
Q. A question and answer with no one saying anything? That's very derivative.
A. Yeah, I know. But you read Goldstein long enough, you can't help assimilating some of the shtick. I've also been influenced by a bunch of others -- Dave Barry, for example -- but you don't really want to know that.
Q. I sure don't. And besides, when you talk about influences, it's incredibly presumptuous; you make it seem as if you're worthy of being examined for your influences.
A. I'm not, not one little bit. But I'm still influenced.
Q. Under the influence, perhaps. Now, here's what's troubling me: How is it that after two years, you still don't have any readers?
A. I do. You're a reader.
Q. And you have multiple personalities.
A. I do not. Good DAY, sir!
Q. That was unbelievably stupid. Don't you have an editor?
A. He's on vacation.
Q. I notice you said two years ago that you weren't going to do what was necessary to gain readers. What did that mean?
A. Look, all you have to do is a quick search and you can find dozens of advice posts from respectable bloggers telling new bloggers how to go about finding a readership. There are two basic themes: time and "social" interaction. I have a day job, and I'm also not able to commit the time necessary in what passes for spare time. As for the social interaction, which really means cultivating blog friendships with others, I've already pointed out that I'm somewhat socially retarded. Most people have a place in their brains that helps them figure out how to socialize, how to interact with others. For some of us it just doesn't come naturally. I first realized this when I was interviewing for jobs during law school. I was starting to panic over not being able to make small talk with interviewers, when everyone else seemed to have no trouble. In fact, I sometimes joke that I've spent my entire adult life trying to overcome my social retardation, which is an exaggeration, but only slightly. Probably my friends aren't even aware of it. My wife understands it, but she's such a gem she focuses on my good qualities.
Q. Whoa! That's way too much information.
A. Sorry.
Q. Wouldn't you like to have readers?
A. I do have some readers, including a bunch of very loyal ones, and I appreciate them. But I also have to face up to the fact that I do this as a hobby to entertain myself. Sure, I'd like loads of people to read my stuff and find it amusing, but just remember, if they told me they liked what I wrote, they'd just be encouraging me. I'm like that annoying guy who has nothing useful to contribute to a conversation, but every once in a while he chimes in with a dumb joke. If you laugh at him, he'll keep doing it.
Q. Ever have an Instalanche?
A. Once, but I'd call it a Ministalanche. A link to my kvetch about Jimmy Carter, but it was in the middle of a sentence in one of his longer posts. On a Sunday morning. About 700 hits. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. The night before the '04 elections, I got a nicer amount of traffic from Lorie Byrd, then at Polipundit, who linked to my proto-photoshop called "Bush sweats Wisconsin." Sweat humor, she called it. About 1500 hits in the first 2 hours. But that was just before the presidential election.
Q. But the social retardation thing. I don't really understand. You're the founder of the Maryland Blogger Alliance. If you're socially retarded, how did that happen?
A. Well, I invented this alliance out of thin air, modeling it on the The Bear Flag League, a large group of Californian blogs. There was no publicity for it, except a mention on my sidebar. Not surprisingly, I was the only member for a long time. I was oddly comfortable with that. Then Soccer Dad took a huge chance and joined, doubling the membership in one fell swoop and giving the group some serious credibility. After that, the membership ballooned -- we're at nine at the moment -- no credit owing to me at all.
Q. Pillage Idiot is a hobby, huh?
A. Yes. I write for my own entertainment, with the hope that once in a while someone else will enjoy it. My goal going in was to spend no money and to earn no money, and I've been pretty successful at that. All I've spent out of pocket is a few bucks for a Haloscan membership so they'd remove those horrible ads from the comments page. As for earning, I won't take ads, and there's no tip jar. I once printed Pillage Idiot mugs and offered them free to people who made a $25 contribution to charity. That's the closest I came.
Q. I missed that one. So I'm wondering, why will you still not tell us who you are?
A. Whatever happened to too much information? When I started, my goal in being anonymous was simply to separate my writing here from my real life. That made sense, because, as I said in the original self-interview I linked to above, I expected to write about "politics, law, religion, crime, whatever seems interesting." But I haven't actually written too much about those subjects overall. I've been writing more about immature, sometimes really juvenile, subjects. Which makes it even more useful to separate Pillage Idiot from my real life. I explained this further in my first post as a guest-blogger at protein wisdom, where I even came up with a hypothetical Supreme Court argument to illustrate my fears. You can get the full explanation there.
Q. You did do a few serious posts at Pillage Idiot, right?
A. Sure did. My first post ever -- "Jew in America" -- argued that it was the founding principles of this country that made it the most hospitable place for Jews in the 2000-year history of the diaspora. I've written several times about the Jewish vote (collected here), and even had one possibly original insight -- that 75% of American Jews live in blue states, a fact that may suggest the "equilibrium point" for the Jewish vote will be something like 75% for Democrats. I've written about what's wrong with efforts to show racial bias in the capital punishment system in Maryland, starting here and collected here.
Q. I notice you haven't listed any serious writing you've done recently.
A. Uhhhhh . . . well . . . serious writing takes more time, and I haven't had that much of that lately.
Q. Do you have any favorite "funny" stuff?
A. Starting with the photo comics, I'd say I like the spoof of the Roberts confirmation process, the Ned Lamont strategy, the Bush press conference, and the comic in which John Kerry wages battle with Bush at the White House.
Q. What about your regular posts?
A. I had a lot of fun with the photoshops of the Israel-Hizbollah war, but my posts are all really a blur to me. I suppose I enjoyed writing about the constitutional questions raised by a woman president ("President Cleavage, Part 2"), and maybe about flatulent herring ("Fish story").
Q. I was going to say you're a wit, but it turns out I'm only half right.
A. That joke's older than dirt.
Q. Sorry. Are you witty in person?
A. I'm not witty in person or in writing.
Q. But you're extremely good looking, right?
A. You have to ask?
Q. Would readers like you if they met you?
A. I don't know. I'm an acquired taste.
Q. Has anyone ever met you?
A. You have.
Q. I meant . . .
A. My wife has. My kids, my friends, my colleagues at work. My dog's met me. I once said six words to President Bush . . .
Q. Stop it! I meant have you ever met any other bloggers, or any readers, in person?
A. I've met Soccer Dad a few times and Little Miss Attila once, and both are sworn to silence about my identity. Three or four other bloggers know who I am, and they're also sworn to silence. As if anyone really cares, except me.
Q. You seem rather peevish.
A. I'm not, normally. But you've been bothering me with a lot of questions. I've thought about angrily jabbing my finger in your face, with my own face beet red, sort of like Bill Clinton, but then, if I did that, people would just assume I have something to hide.
Q. You do.
A. Oh, yeah. Never mind.