Friday, June 21, 2013

Now We Are Eleven

This little corner of the Catholic blogosphere turned eleven years old today, but why the hell should you care?

Admit it, people. Life in the Catholic blogosphere has been rather boring of late, or at least predictable. How many times can you watch my close personal friend Mark Shea pick on somebody and get two hundred combox addicts taking to the ramparts, or Rorate Caeli most of whose contributors show their courage of conviction by not using their real names uncover yet another excuse to whine about a pope who won't do the Papal Mass in the traditional form even though no one is alive who knows how, or Michael Voris who never returns my calls spend eight minutes saying something that others could have said in three minutes -- about three decades ago, or some other "mommie blogger" who doesn't exactly move in the same circles as yours truly brag about her dream boat of a husband who probably sits there scratching himself and reading the paper wondering when the hell dinner's gonna be ready? Not too much to get excited about, dear minions.

I mean, yeah, we got a new pope and all that, but really! When I start reading drivel from the Catholic celebrity circuit, in the form of some neophyte barely out of his baptismal robes ...

"Today, the Holy Father appeared at the papal audience hall, and sat in one of the seats towards the back before giving his address. What is he trying to tell us about humility?"

I just want to shake them into some form of alignment and tell them ...

He's trying to tell us that he's seventy-six years old, has two hip replacements, one working lung, and he's really f@#$ing tired, you poncy schoolboy!!!

... but I never really get that chance.

The rest of you might be taken in by those innocent puppy-dog looks and that unpretentious wave to the crowd from the balcony, but I'm not fooled. As a Jesuit provincial in Argentina, he ruled with what one priest called "an iron fist." And when he's not kissing babies or setting a poor example with liturgical norms and making every other conscientious parish priest look and feel stupid, he speaks of sin and the Devil with a bluntness that would warm the cockles of any Lefebvrite's heart. Who knows, maybe we'll get to see what His Holiness does to clean up the Roman Curia. We can watch the heads of insolent paper-hangers roll down the Vatican steps. That's when I'll be impressed. And you'll all be wetting yourselves. Until then, I'll miss my Papa Benny if I want to.

Meanwhile, things have been kind of quiet here at the Black Hat Corral. At my day job, we just got done moving a makeshift video production studio back into the real one in the renovated headquarters building, and I was more or less put in charge of that. (Actually, they only renovated about half of it, and slapped a fresh coat of paint on the other half. Long story. Let's just say the midterm elections caused a lowering of expectations, okay?) After thirty years as a professional graphic designer, or as they call it, a "visual information specialist," I'm still getting used to being what is called an “audiovisual production specialist” (which became official in my personnel file about three weeks ago). But the fact is, I had gone about as far as I could go in my now-former profession, and when dealing with the issues of midlife, it was either a career change, or buying a high-performance automobile that I really couldn't afford.

Instead, I got a 2010 Honda Element about two months ago, essentially a compact miniature SUV with four-wheel drive, manufactured in my home state of Ohio. The model was discontinued in 2011, but I wanted one anyway. I couldn't find one with a sunroof, but I did find one with an overhead rack. And I love the way those big-@$$ doors open wide for light hauling, and how I can sit tall in the saddle. And it's silver, as in “Hi, ho, Silver!” Get it?

Last month I did a piece on the recent change in the membership policy of the Boy Scouts of America. It got more attention than I usually get, but the response was still less than remarkable. Then that guy who claims to showcase "the best in Catholic blogging" posted links to just about every other dilletante's piece on the subject, most of whom wouldn't know a sheepshank from a sheet bend. But find someone who is not only Catholic, but actually belongs to the Boy Scouts of America, and who might know what the hell is actually going on? No, that would be w-a-a-a-a-a-y too outside the box for this astute audience. Then there was that piece I did two weeks ago on the Sacred Heart. That's the sixth consecutive year I've posted that particular story, but it hardly got a notice until this year, when my new close personal friends at posted it at the top of their page. I got 1344 visits to my site that day! After eleven years, that is an all-time one-day record. My piece on the Latin Mass remains my biggest hit, but even that one only got about eight or nine hundred visits the first day. (Only? Geez!)

So, as I contemplate finally attending the annual Catholic New Media Conference in Boston this year, on the chance that someone won't get up in front of several hundred people and tell me little more than the obvious, I have to ask myself this burning question: What the hell is the matter with you people?

Thankfully, I have my answer.

Only a small number of you are reading all the way through articles on the Web. I’ve long suspected this, because so many smart-alecks jump in to the comments to make points that get mentioned later in the piece. But now I’ve got proof. I asked Josh Schwartz, a data scientist at the traffic analysis firm Chartbeat ... [his] data shows that readers can’t stay focused. The more I type, the more of you tune out. And it’s not just me. It’s not just Slate. It’s everywhere online. When people land on a story, they very rarely make it all the way down the page. A lot of people don’t even make it halfway. Even more dispiriting is the relationship between scrolling and sharing. Schwartz’s data suggest that lots of people are tweeting out links to articles they haven’t fully read. If you see someone recommending a story online, you shouldn’t assume that he has read the thing he’s sharing.

That means that just under half of you have made it this far. And that the rest of you have abysmally short attention spans.

Hopefully some of you made it this far with other articles as well. This past year has seen our most popular work. Last fall saw two of them. “The Latin Mass: Why You Can’t Have It” remains our perennial champion, pleasing so many who are devoted to the traditional form of the Roman Mass (except for those pansies at Rorate Caeli, who know that the only way to accomplish anything is through superior posturing and incessant bitching). It was followed shortly thereafter by a revised version of a piece on the history of women and the diaconate that I did years ago, that was hidden in the recesses of the EWTN Online Library, until “Deaconess: A Rose By Any Other Name” hit the Catholic blogosphere. Suddenly there was a guy who knew the whole story. For once.

Were it not for the success of the two pieces just mentioned, this venue may have been shut down for a forty-day sojourn in the virtual desert, if not permanently. But fate, and just the right topics at just the right times, intervened.

And so, we shall press on for another year, with material too original for the average blog reader, some with complex subject matter, multi-syllabic words, and without pictures of nuns riding on surfboards via Photoshop. There will be one or two more stories on the Boy Scout situation, now that those in upper echelons realize the size of the egg they've just laid, and are in full damage-control mode. You'll learn how that's shaping up, what other alternatives are in the works, both Catholic and otherwise, and why yours truly has not abandoned the BSA just yet. (Yes, there's a reason.) There may be at least one more significant piece on the state of Catholic worship, as well as what my son Paul is up to. We might even do a political piece, just to see if anyone at the National Security Agency has enough time to kill to read this. But if they don't, it's just as well. This writer has all the fame he can handle at the moment.

“Mommy, there’s that guy with the black hat that we see in church standing next to the priest. Is he a deacon or something?”

And so it goes.


Jeff Miller said...

Happy Blog Anniversary! Been a constant reader for almost all of that 11 years. A month from now also marks my 11th.

truthfinder2 said...

Congratulations, one day late. I'm also a dollar short. Typical. ~ Rosemary A. (from Hamilton)