Category Archives: Blogging

In Appreciation: Chez Pazienza (1969-2017)

At a moment when this world needs every voice of reason, every champion of quality journalism and every don’t-give-a-fuck resister of the current political regime we can muster up, we have lost Chez Pazienza, someone who was all of these things and then some.

If you’re not familiar with his work, Chez was a brilliant writer and author of Dead Star Twilight, an award-winning journalist and media producer, blogger, podcaster and much more. But first and foremost, he was a father, fiancé, son, and loved one of many others who are grieving his untimely passing. My deepest condolences go out to his family.

Through his writing and podcasting, those of us who enjoyed and appreciated his work felt like we knew him. That’s because of what Chez shared with us, of course–a hell of a lot, as it turned out, from the personal to the mundane–and we also knew how much Chez loved those who were most important to him.

Mourning someone you’ve never met is an odd thing. It feels voyeuristic, like you’re trespassing on someone’s private life. You don’t feel entitled to your sadness or in any standing to offer up a eulogy–yet through their presence on this earth, this person was still part of your life and had an impact on it. Which is why this post is intended solely to be an appreciation of and respect for Chez’s work and how it added to my life. Nothing more, nothing less.

I first discovered Chez’s work approximately a decade ago, more or less, through his blog Deus Ex Malcontent. If his wasn’t the first blog I’d ever read, it was one of them. His was the kind of writing I aspired to–fearless, insightful, no-holds-barred, sharp witted as hell. Chez’s talent was to make you, his reader, feel every emotion possible in a handful of words.

And that’s exactly what he did, time and time and time again, regardless if he was writing about politics or his personal struggles, music or the media. Within one sentence, you could laugh and then be angry, with plenty of cursing in between. That was the case with his pieces for The Daily Banter, of which he served as editor-at-large, as well as his podcasts with Bob Cesca on The Bob & Chez Show. His perspective was on-point, always, and precisely what we need right now.

Free of bullshit and full of anger, Chez did not mince words about the implications of the sinister machinations and horrific incompetence in The White House. His newsroom experience provided him with a perspective of the media — good and bad — that one can only get from having been in the the industry’s trenches. And in a year that claimed countless icons who defined our coming-of-age years, Chez always had a relevant unique angle that resonated with those of us Gen X’ers who have the same cultural markers and touchstones.

His listeners and readers knew this election affected him profoundly and deeply. Maybe we didn’t quite realize how much. In the immediate aftermath of the election, I reached out to Chez via Facebook to tell him how much I appreciated and agreed with his commentary. I never expected him to respond, but he did and I am grateful that we had that brief exchange to commiserate and for me to express how much I thought of his work.

None of us need any more reminders or Hallmark card platitudes of how life is too fucking short or how important it is to tell people we care about how much we appreciate them. We get it. If not, Chez’s death makes that abundantly clear.

What is also tragically clear is that without Chez Pazienza’s voice, we need to make ours count even more. To resist, to point out bullshit, to call foul, to take those perpetuating the many injustices that have become calling cards of this regime to task by speaking out. Chez knew how imperative that was and I feel there’s no better way to remember him and honor his work and life.

I’d like to think he would expect no less.

My most sincere condolences to Chez’s fianceé, his daughters, his family and friends. If you are inclined to contribute, a fund has been established to help with expenses towards a memorial service and anything remaining will go to his fianceé and children.


If you weren’t familiar with Chez’s work, here are some links…

The Daily Banter: http://thedailybanter.com/author/chez-pazienza/

Deus Ex Malcontent: http://www.deusexmalcontent.com
(among Chez’s very best posts were “The Grand Finale,” written in June 2013 one week after James Gandolfini’s death and “15 Years On: 9/11 in Two Parts”, written in September 2016.)

Dead Star Twilight 


…and here are some Internet tributes. (But read the Chez links first. Seriously.)

Goodbye (tribute to Chez by Bob Cesca of The Bob & Chez Show podcast, 2/28/2017)

My Friend Chez Isn’t Gone … He’s F*cking Everywhere (Bob Cesca, The Daily Banter)

The Internet Has Lost One of Its Most Distinctive Voices  (from Pajiba)

Journalism Lost a Giant on Saturday: A Tribute to Chez Pazienza (from The State Today)

RIP Chez Pazienza (from The Tentacles of Yesterday)

 

 

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Currently…Hibernation Sunday

Currently
It’s a day for staying indoors, given that it is all of 11 degrees outside as I write. Such is January in Pittsburgh. I skipped church because of the weather and a morning migraine that has, thankfully, subsided. We de-Christmased the house earlier, then I spent most of the day on the couch with a cup of rooibos tea with the Steelers-Miami game on as background (whooooo hoooo, Steelers!) while I caught up on some blog reading and perused Pinterest for some meal planning ideas. You know, the usual lazy Sunday.

The upcoming week will be busier than usual because I’m immersed in a big project at work. This will likely require a few later evenings, on top of several hours of work yesterday during a rare Saturday in the office to try and get ahead of the game.  I took today as a break from the work project which will wrap up this coming Friday the 13th … hopefully a luckier day than the date portends). The intensity is a short-term thing, but this has been in the works for a year, so it will be good to have some semblance of completion.

Reading …
I need to spend some time this evening with a new short story collection which I’m reviewing. (That deadline is Friday, too.) This one will be my first book of 2017, not to be confused with Sheila from Book Journey’s annual First Book of the Year project. I had all good intentions of participating in that but had to temporarily set aside my choice (The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes) to focus on the review book.

Watching…
I spent a good chunk of my two-week Christmas break binge-watching “This Is Us” and am completely hooked on this show. I don’t watch much TV to begin with and I certainly didn’t need a new obsession, but here it is.  I have two more episodes to watch, which I plan to do right after hitting publish on this. Perfect timing for the season premiere this Tuesday.

Blogging … 
I’m planning to participate in the Winter 2017 Mini-Bloggiesta, scheduled for Jan 14-15.  If you’re new to Bloggiesta, it is described as “a blogging marathon revolving around ticking off those items on your to-do list and improving your blog while in the good company of other awesome bloggers doing the same thing.”

The timing is great because I’ll have a four-day weekend, thanks to the MLK holiday and a vacation day that needs to be used this month. To-do’s for this Bloggiesta include updating my Book Review page (and revising some others) and writing some posts. If you missed it last week, I shared my selections for the Best Fiction books of 2016 (meaning, those I read in 2016, not necessarily ones published during the past year). Even though the window of time for 2016 wrap up posts has pretty much closed, I still want to finish my Best Nonfiction post. I read a lot of stellar nonfiction last year that I’d really like to share with all of you.

OK, I’m off to finish watching “This Is Us” with a case of Kleenex at the ready. Hope your Sunday is going well and that you have a great week.

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Ready for the Readathon! (Kick Off Post)

Readathon - Day and Night

Today is one of my favorite days of the year — Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon, an online community celebration of reading and connecting with others who love books. To quote the event description, “for 24 hours, we read books, post to our blogs, Twitters, Tumblrs, Goodreads and MORE about our reading, and visit other readers’ homes online. We also participate in mini-challenges throughout the day. It happens twice a year, in April and in October.”

Needless to say, I love everything about the Read-a-thon. I love discovering new-to-me blogs, seeing what other people are reading (and adding those books to my Goodreads), sharing bookish conversation on Twitter and (new for me this year) Instagram and Litsy, and cheering on others who are among the hundreds (thousands?) of readers engaged in the love of all things literary.

Most of all, I love that it honors Dewey, a beloved book blogger who passed away in fall of 2008.  She was passionate about books and connecting people.  She  was (and still is) very special to many of us in the book blogging community. It’s a gift to be able to carry her legacy on and celebrate her life through things like the Read-a-thon, which she started and which was one of the ways I was first introduced to the book blogging world back when I started blogging eight years ago in August 2008, shortly before Dewey passed away.

Read-a-Thon, Fall 2016 Edition
I’m getting a late start on participating today; as I write this, the Read-a-thon is heading into Hour 6 and besides this post, I’ve done nothing but sleep in a bit (storing up energy for the later hours), eat breakfast and read the newspaper (that counts as Read-a-thon reading, right?) and check in with Read-a-thon happenings online.

Weather-wise, it’s cloudy and cooler than usual here in Pittsburgh, a perfect day to be curled up inside reading. At some point today I’ll need to take a break to do this week’s meal planning and grocery shopping.  (There are much more organized Read-a-thoners who get that sort of nonsense out of the way days before Read-a-thon.  I’m not one of those people and most likely never will be.)

So, without further ado, here’s my smallish pile of books that I plan to read from during today’s festivities:

readathon-fall-2016

 

You’re The Most Beautiful Thing That Happened, by Arisa White (not pictured, as this is an online poetry collection I’m reviewing)

American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers, by Nancy Jo Sales (I’m on page 187 of this; I’d like to finish it today)

A Want of Kindness, by Joanne Limburg (may not get to this as this is a book I’m reviewing and I typically don’t read review books during Read-a-thons, but this one has a looming deadline so it might be a necessity ….)

Love Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton

Springtime, by Michelle De Kretser

Shut Up and Run, by Robin Arzon

I’ll do another post later today that will serve as a one-stop for updates, etc.

Happy Read-a-thoning to all who are participating!

 

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sunday salon/currently … some reflections on 8 years of blogging

Sunday Salon 4

“Have you read my blog today
Three hundred million little USA’s
Your doorstep is just a click away…”
~ Five for Fighting, “Slice”

Eight years ago — probably right around this time of the evening — I decided to start a blog. I’d been thinking about it for a few weeks.  I didn’t have any grandiose expectations that anyone except my mom and mother-in-law would ever read this thing, and in fact, they were my original target audience.  We were living two hours away at the time and I thought a blog would be the perfect way to keep both sets of grandparents well informed on their grandchildren.

So, I started writing about my kids, who I called Betty and Boo to match my then-blog’s name of The Betty and Boo Chronicles.

I was also reading several book blogs at that time, and I remember feeling like I had discovered my tribe. I was amazed that there were people just like me who were passionate about books, who wrote reviews (I always thought it would be cool to be a book reviewer), and who enjoyed sharing books with others.

So, I started writing about and reviewing books — and as of today, I’ve posted more than 350 book reviews here on the blog which have led to friendships with many incredible writers, trips to New York for Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Conference (back when the latter was called that) and BlogHer, and regular freelancing assignments with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Along with book blogs, eight years ago I was also reading blogs written by parents who, like myself, were raising a child with autism. In 2008, we really didn’t know any other families with a young child on the autism spectrum. We felt incredibly alone in our lives — and quite frankly, in many ways we still do.  But back in 2008, I remember feeling for perhaps the first time that there were parents who completely understood the unique challenges of our lives.  So very much of what I know now is because of reading these blogs.  If you were blogging back then, words cannot express how indebted I am to you.  Although I may not blog as much these days about our family’s experiences with autism, I hope that I’ve been able to give that same sense of reassurance to someone else.

Of course, as one may recall, there was a very interesting presidential election happening in 2008. I quickly discovered that I had some thoughts on that and this was the perfect forum to share them.

It’s interesting to think about the past eight years of blogging.  Certainly, the blogging community has changed dramatically since I wrote that first post.  Many bloggers who were writing back then are no longer doing so and others have spun their blogs into books, businesses, and other profitable endeavors. New shiny toys and trends have come and gone, and every so often, some pundit or social media marketer/guru/expert/rockstar/ninja claims that blogging is dead or on life support and we should pack up shop and turn off the lights because nobody is reading anyway.

Maybe there’s some truth to that, but mostly I think that’s bullshit.  I subscribe to 1,476 blogs that post something on a regular basis. That includes 338 book blogs.  I also have an additional 82 blogs flagged as “Blogs That Have Gone Defunct” so that I don’t miss a post if and when their owner decides to get back into the game, which has certainly happened on occasion.

Here’s what I do know:  as much as this blog was intended to be a chronicle of our lives and of the books I was reading, it also was very much for me. It was born at a time when I wanted and needed to start writing again. If I was the only person reading these 2,147 published posts since August 14, 2008 that would have been fine — but I’m so grateful that you’re interested in hearing what I have to say. So very grateful.

And indeed, after blogging for 8 years, I have ZERO intentions of closing up shop anytime soon. None.  I still have a few more things to say in this corner of the Internet that I carved out for myself in 2008. I’m not going anywhere.

So, raise a glass or a piece of cake or whatever your pleasure may be. Here’s to the next eight years and the next eight after that and ….

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #77 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project and post #2,147 since August 14, 2008. 

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goodbye, alison

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (37)

A brilliant light left the world this morning with the passing of Alison Piepmeier.

Like many others, I’m saddened that brain cancer (fuck you, cancer) has taken such a gifted writer, passionate advocate, devoted mother and wife, compassionate educator, friend to many around the world, including many (like me) who she never had the opportunity to meet. I will miss reading her words on her blog and in the Charleston City Paper, which offers a lovely tribute today.

I will be forever grateful for how her beautiful life touched mine, if only for a too short time.

Peace and love, my blog friend.

 

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for alison, for her beautiful life

I’ve always been fascinated with the interconnectivity of our lives. You know, if _____ didn’t happen, we wouldn’t have ever met.  Or the way we’re all just six degrees of separation (or less) from everyone else.

Alison Piepmeier is that kind of person for me.  She’s a “blog-friend,” as she once said to me. (And I probably should say right now that I’m not the person to talk to if you believe people you know “on the Internet” and have never met aren’t the equivalent of real-life friends. Because after blogging for almost eight years now, I know firsthand how someone you’ve never met can make a difference on your life. I’ve seen it. Up close and personal, time and time again.)

Girl Zines - Making Media, Doing FeminismBack in 2010, I read a post on Girl w/ Pen about an intriguing book by Alison Piepmeier called Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism. I knew about zines, but I didn’t know their history and significance to feminism. Awhile later, I spotted Girl Zines on the shelves of the Newark Free Library in Delaware, read it, and wrote this review.  Sometime afterwards Alison discovered it, and we became connected through our blogs.

We almost met once. Back in April 2011, Alison visited Pittsburgh for a celebration of feminism and zines, at an event that was hosted at my current place of employment.  We weren’t living in Pittsburgh yet, but had just been there a week earlier to get acquainted with the area.

Connections and missed connections.


I continued to follow Alison’s blog and her writing, still remaining her “blog friend.”

Then, in 2013, a yearly checkup at the pediatrician for my boy prompted a simple question from the doctor.

“Do you ride your bike in the neighborhood, maybe with a friend?”

As I wrote in that post, published here almost exactly three years ago on July 23, 2013, my boy’s eyes went to the floor.

There was no mistaking the look, the loaded weight of that inquiry.

His silence was just a moment, fleeting – accompanied by a quick look to me in the corner where I’d fortunately looked up from my phone to catch his glance.

His blue eyes said it all.

I don’t know how to ride a bike. 

My bike is kinda small. I got it when I was 7. It has training wheels. That’s embarrassing. 

What do you mean, a friend?

“I don’t really do that,” he said to the pediatrician. 

I remembered this post from my friend Alison Piepmeier about her experience with what is now iCan Shine, Inc. (formerly Lose the Training Wheels). I remember thinking how much my boy would benefit from a program like that.

I remembered reading Alison’s post when we were on the cusp of moving to Pittsburgh, and checking to see if our new city had the same program. I remember the feeling of this is going to be okay when I realized that they did. I remembered being at The Children’s Institute (the program host of the iCan Shine Amazing Kids Bike Camp here in Pittsburgh) and mentioning the camp during a job interview I didn’t get.

I remembered my boy’s face in the pediatrician’s office.

I looked to see when the Pittsburgh camp would be taking place, knowing full well we may have missed it. Again.

And there it was. Registration ended six weeks [prior]. 

I emailed the camp director anyway.  Long shot … just thought I’d ask … know it’s last minute …

There was one spot left.


Who knows if I would have learned about the bike camp for people with disabilities, a national program of iCanShine, if it wasn’t for Alison’s involvement with them as a volunteer and her deciding to write a blog post about the experience?  Maybe I would have, but maybe not. Regardless, it’s an example — albeit simple and small — of how one person directly influences the life of another.

Because even though my boy doesn’t ride his bike much these days, I will never forget watching him and experiencing the sheer pride in his accomplishing something that so many parents take for granted. This was a gift, a glorious momentous milestone of celebration on what has not always been an easy road.

And it was because of Alison. My blog-friend.


I’m remembering and reflecting on all this tonight because Alison’s time here on Earth is, unfortunately, very short. She is nearing the end of a long battle with cancer, a fight she fought with the utmost grace, dignity and honesty imaginable and one that she shared in heartbreaking blog and Facebook posts with those of us who care about her. Her words, here in what may be her last column for the Charleston City Paper, are as moving and poignant as ever.

Through her books, her scholarly contributions to the field of feminism and disability studies, and her work as a professor of English and Director of the Women & Gender Studies program at the College of Charleston, Alison Piepmeier has touched many, many lives — especially those of her husband and her young daughter Maybelle.

We may have never met, but I will forever be grateful to Alison for that blog post that led to my boy being able to ride a bike and thankful that her life connected with mine, albeit for a short time.

Much love, peace, and comfort to you on this journey, my blog-friend.  You will be forever missed, until we connect again.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #52 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.

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all downhill from here (50/99)

99 Days of Summer Blogging

As of today, summer is halfway over, unofficially — if you consider summer to be from Memorial Day through Labor Day, as I do.  I wish I could say this summer is flying by, but it’s not.  It feels long and difficult and challenging and uncertain. And this is on all levels — personal, political, all of it.  I think a lot of us are feeling similarly, yes?

(Forgive my pessimism.  I started writing this post at 3:30 a.m. today and I am putting the final touches on it after watching the utter travesty of a shitshow that was the Republican National Convention. Which was also the inspiration for the title of today’s post.)

With this midsummer’s mark, my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project has also reached its midpoint.  Granted, I realize this probably doesn’t matter to anyone but me and maybe a handful of bloggers who love this sort of thing, which is fine.

For several reasons, I didn’t think I would last this long with this 99 Days nonsense. I tend to fizzle out early with blogging endeavors like these, so believe me — nobody is more surprised than me to see this still going on Day 50.

It’s been an interesting experiment.  The positive aspects have been that I’m writing more, which is good. And for the most part, it’s new content.  When I started this, I thought it would be a good way to clear out some of the posts in Drafts, but that hasn’t happened. Instead, I’m writing posts that I may have otherwise procrastinated on, had I not been doing this.

I will say that, as of now, I’m not likely to take on another long-term blogging challenge like this anytime soon.  It’s a lot of work to crank out a daily post — which I knew, of course, but it sometimes comes at the sacrifice of other things, like reading. There have been more than a few days when I’ve just wanted to come home from work and read instead of writing a post. And I know, it wouldn’t have mattered if I skipped a day nor would it matter if I gave up altogether right now, but at this point it’s the principle of the thing.

Of these 50 posts, I was curious to see which ones received the most views during this time. Here they are, the Top 10 Most Popular, from most views to least.

Best Books of 2016 …Thus Far (33/99)
This Is the Father’s Day We Almost Didn’t Have

And Then We Practice (39/99)
Weekend Cooking: The Joy of Culinary Arts (6/99)
kicking off 99 days of summer blogging (1/99)
Why I Decided to Delete My Cell Phone Photos (9/99)
love and orlando (14/99)
discombobulated (3/99)
Book Review: Sugar Crush (2/99)
beautiful day (13/99)

Here’s to the next 49 days!

 

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