Homo homini rodentius est

A Year in the Life of A Rat

‘Tis the season for taking stock, looking back and finding any lessons to be learned from events of the previous year. A tired convention to be sure, but it can be fun and — as a matter of pure practicality — it’s an easy piece to write when one is dragging with slothful indolence from the excesses of Christmas toward the alcoholic decrepitude of New Year’s. The colorful, albeit brief history of this blog might be of interest to others engaged in similar pursuits, or internet historians or, most probably, just me. At any rate, here’s the Diary of a Rat review…

Last April I launched this site and became blogger number 56,000,001 to join an ever-expanding mob of would-be writers wading into already over-crowded waters. The conceit of the site was to do a personal blog that wasn’t obviously personal — it would be written anonymously (the name I write under is a type of lab rat… clever?) and would disclose the personality of the author over time by commenting on what caught his attention in the world around him. The lab rat identity was taken partly because I wanted the freedom to write on whatever I wanted without worrying about what employers, family members and former grade school teachers would think and also because I have a background in scientific research and have often felt like a failed social experiment for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who has read the blog. It felt right for the times we live in. We are all social experiments to greater or lesser extent successful.

Getting the word out on a new blog is not easy. Advertisers have a term, “clutter”, that describes the glut of information in the culture that prevents any particular message from breaking through. Occasionally something quirky and clever breaks out and lucky are those who get noticed by the A-list bloggers who can provide a large referral service (in fact, a [post I wrote] that got picked up by blog impresario Jason Calacanis led to a 900% jump in my Alexa ranking overnight). But for the most part writing a blog thesedays is like yelling into the Grand Canyon. Even still, thanks to some word of mouth and a few grand spent on targeted Blogads (a very efficient way to build reach), over the past nine months about 30,000 people have racked up almost 135,000 page views. Not much when compared to the million pageview per week sites listed on Technorati, but when you consider that in its heyday the Paris Review never had more than 9,000 subscribers… not too shabby. The page views would be higher if I posted more often, but I decided early to post fewer pieces of better quality. I wanted what I write to be worth reading and that takes time.

And what were visitors reading? In looking through the archives of the site it’s amazing to see how much time I spent lambasting New York media obsessions like [Kurt “I’m Snarking as Fast as I Can” Andersen], [Radar “The Little Magazine That Couldn’t”] and, most of all, [“the palsied fingers that scratch out” Gawker]. Sour Grapes? Partly. It grates that people with so little to say have such opportunity to be heard. But it’s more than that. They all represent a nasty cultural trend of sarcastic mockery that goes beyond irony and approaches nihilistic cynicism. In their worldview everything is unworthy of more than passing disdain. One elevates oneself — whether as writer or reader — by sneering at all who don’t see the futility of virtue. Hope is exhausted, apathy the only rational response. I think this attitude is bad. But I’ll try not to write so much about them in the coming year. It’s not good for me, or the people who come here.

The nature of our status as on-going social experiments was addressed in pieces on [happiness] and a few on the risks of [genetic fundamentalism] that seeks to define our humanity as little more than an expression of [undiscovered genes]. It’s a new form of faith that risks replacing an outdated faith based on religious doctrine with one far less subtle and humane. The recent onslaught of [radical secularists] is part of the trend. Being a queer atheist rat, these issues are personal and immediate. Many of these themes, secularism vs. religion, genetic vs. social, turn on issues related to sexual identity and, not surprisingly, a number of posts dealt with [sexual politics], [gay marriage], [AIDS] and the cultural impact of stories like [Brokeback Mountain].

And then there was [this].

Whether the posts taken together present a coherent profile of the author, fulfilling the aim of the site at its inception, only you can tell me. But, nine months in, it seems like a worthwhile experiment to continue.

Homo homini rodentius est
“Man is a rat to other men”

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