10!

The Blork Blog is officially ten years old.

One might expect on such a majestic occasion a dissertation on the meaning of having documented the first decade of the 21st Century in real time, or of breaking ground in a new medium, or perhaps simply a recap of the “best” or “favorite” posts.

Heck with that.

How about a quick look at where things stand now? Loyal readers will have noticed that I don’t blog as often as I once did. This is partly because of how the medium has evolved and partly because of how it has fragmented. When I started this blog, blogging was the only gig in town for those who wanted to “be the media” and to write and read quickly and easily generated content unfettered by editorial or corporate meddling. Back in those early days, most bloggers were writing about the issues of their day (distinct from the issues of the day) and that was about it. Many people read blogs simply because they were blogs. Writing standards were low, but that was irrelevant in light of the proverbial immediacy of the medium. Eventually blogs began to specialize and along came the food blogs, the gadget blogs, the pundit blogs, and the self-help (weight loss, smoking cessation, career advancement, etc.) blogs.

That was a natural and necessary evolution. I never really went along with it though, despite the illusion for a while that this was some kind of food blog. It remains, at its peril, very old school in that it is, as it was, an online representation of yours truly. To wit, as a child, then a teenager, then an adult, I was never able to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. So it goes with this blog, although in this case more deliberately. Going against all the received wisdom of what a blog “should be” and how I should specialized and promote it so as to gather more readers, I have deliberately chosen to keep the Blork Blog essentially as its always been.

That’s not to say it hasn’t changed at all. For one thing, the posts are generally longer in recent years. If you look at the posts from 2001 and 2002, many of them were extremely brief, on par with today’s Twitter posts. I don’t do those short snappers anymore; my brain farts go on Twitter (you can see my last three Twitter posts over there in the right-hand column, under “Recent Twitters.”)

woof

Cartoon by Alex Gregory, Cartoonbank.com

As others have said elsewhere, people who just want to blather have newer and more convenient outlets for that, such as Twitter and Facebook. Some social media pundits claim that blogging is over, but the more intelligent and less bandstand-jumping ones say that it has simply evolved. The blatherers, they say, are over on Twitter and Facebook, but people who have something to say tend to say it in blogs.

Unfortunately there’s also the notion that people who have something to sell tend to sell it in blogs. Most often it seems that what they’re selling is just more of themselves, in order to generate more hits and click-throughs so as to get so much more advertising revenue. There are boatloads of highly commercialized blogs that do this, such as everything on the Gawker network (including longtime Blork favorites Life Hacker and Gizmodo), and the rapidly growing Three Ring Blog network, the force behind The People of Walmart, D-Bag (douchebag) Planet, and WTF Tattoos (all of which make me weep for humanity – at least American humanity – but I can’t stop looking!). Both of those networks are very successful, for different reasons, and they show the continuing value and success of the blog format. In particular they show that “success” comes from being very focused on a specific topic, or to put it another way, to appeal very directly to a specific desire.

Unfortunately, none of that has anything to do with me and the Blork blog.

After all, what am I going to specialize in? Cupcakes? Pizza? Technical writing? I’d sooner nail my head to the floor than spend the amount of time and dedication it would take to turn this into an “A-List” blog on one of those or any other specialized topics. And for what?

Forget that. The only thing this blog specializes in is me. Or to be precise, “Food (as seen and prepared by me), Montreal (as experienced by me) and me (as lived by me). Sorry folks, but that’s all it is. A few months ago I thought I might let this blog die off after it turned 10, but something tells me I’ll keep chugging away for a while yet.

For what it’s worth, I currently have almost 70 posts in “draft” mode. These are things I sketched out over the years but for whatever reason couldn’t quite make sound right, or in some cases they were temporal and their time passed before I hit “Publish.” Perhaps one of my projects for 2011 will be to work my way through some of those drafts, fixing them up and publishing them or discarding them permanently. So don’t be surprised if in the coming months you find posts about Saddam Hussein or some movie that won an Oscar in 2004. I’ll probably mark them as “recrudescents” or whatnot so as not to seem completely daft.

And in case you haven’t been paying attention, and lest you think this blog is my only online outlet, I’ll remind you that just like Gawker and Three Ring Blogs, Blork is more than a blog, it’s a network!

The Blork Network includes:

  • The Blork Blog. That’s what you’re looking at now.
  • Monday Morning Photo Blog. Live weekly photographs since 2004. No particular theme, but curated to be interesting, exploratory, and broadly scoped.
  • From the Hip – Montreal. Currently hosted on Aminus3, where it has been dormant for some time. (See Street Scene, below for an update.)
  • My DP1. Long dormant but highly informative blog about the then-mythical Sigma DP1 camera. I still get more traffic on that short-lived blog than I get on the Monday Morning Photo Blog.
  • Blork’s Literary Snippets. Essentially just a virtual corkboard for snippets of particularly good literary writing that I find in the books that I read.
  • Flickr. Catch-all photos of everything from my cats to my meals to things I see in and around home and beyond.
  • Blork on Twitter. Brain farts and miscellaneous links.
  • True Blork on Tumblr. Mostly just Hipstamatic photos and links to videos and things. Probably the least essential corner of the Blork network.
  • Blork on Instagr.am (iPhone/iPod/iPad and account needed). Bascially Twitter for pictures. My photos uploaded to Instagr.am are usually cross-posted to Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.
  • Street Scene. A new street photography blog to be launched in 2011; a resurrection and extension of From the Hip – Montreal, hosted at blork.org and with a wider sweep. [Update: it’s been launched. Here’s the launch announcement.]

Alston Adams, 1974-2010

Alston Adams, known as @AlstonAdams on Twitter and formerly as Jonas Parker and later himself on his blog, died of cancer yesterday. He was 35.

I don’t remember exactly when I met Alston for the first time, but it was probably 2003 or 2004, most likely at La Cabane, where we early-adopter bloggers used to hold our monthly YULBlog gatherings. By then, the YULBlog evenings were drawing a larger crowd (20 to 30 people), so I didn’t get to know Alston very well right away. But over time, through seeing him at YULBlog and other events, and by reading his blogs, I eventually fell into his orbit.

In 2007, just after landing his dream job in the video game industry, he was diagnosed with cancer. In September of that year he underwent a radical surgery that removed a large piece of his stomach and esophagus. A few days after the surgery he was able to receive a group of friends went to visit him in the hospital. We were shocked at the extent of the scarring. It was as if the surgeon had deconstructed him, or had unwrapped him like a tube of Pillsbury turnovers and then wrapped him back up again.

Espophogeal cancer is one of the worst ones to get. Hardly anyone gets over it. Alston’s continuing treatments would show some success and then there would be a setback. Up and down he went in his very open battle. By the end of last year he was resigned to the fact that he wasn’t going to beat it, that it was a matter of pushing back as long as life seemed livable, and that this likely wouldn’t be very long. Last November he said, in a blog post, that he’d be surprised to see the end of 2011.

He lived as well as he could over the past three years. Perhaps the highlight was participating in a film, Wrong Way to Hope,  about young adults with cancer. The project saw him fly out west to hang out with other like-bodied people and to do fun outdoorsy things like whitewater kayaking. The film will be released in November of this year.

This clip contains a few scenes cut from the film. That’s Alston at the beginning, the shirtless guy.

Alston also contributed to a book published earlier this year by the McGill University Health Center and The Cedars Cancer Institute, called Cancer Under the Radar; Young Adults Tell Their Stories. On a more personal and immediate level, he contributed to his friends’ knowledge and understanding of cancer, treatments, setbacks, oncology, and even race issues, through his insightful and sometimes humorous blog posts at AlstonAdams.net/blog.

During Alston’s three year battle with cancer, he bounced between sickness and not-quite-wellness. He went out as much as he could, saw friends, and continued to attend YULBlog when he could. By early 2010, however, it was becoming apparent that he might not live out the year. He was thin and frail and wasn’t eating much. He continued to write on his blog, but he didn’t go out as much as he did before, as the cancer, the treatments, and his low food intake were all making him very tired and weak. But occasionally he’d rally and would show up looking thin but good. In April, Martine and I sat with him at the Mainline Theatre where we saw “The Midlife Crisis of Dionysus.” He was as thin as a stick but in high spirits despite the fact that a tumor was pressing on his vocal cords, reducing his voice to a whisper.

He showed up at my birthday party in June, held at a bar above a tapas restaurant on rue St-Denis. His voice had partially come back, and he looked dapper in a short brimmed Panama-style hat.

50 years of Blork

The last time I saw Alston was at a pot-luck Sunday dinner held at Michel and Suzanne’s place in August. Alston brought smoked meat sandwiches from Schwartz’s, and to everyone’s surprise he managed to eat one himself. In the early evening, Martine and I drove him home; he was staying with a friend, a doctor who lives on the edge of Old Montreal. There was a flight of stairs to climb, but he refused any help. He thanked us for the ride and said goodbye to us there on the sidewalk. We all knew that we might never see him again, which sounds very dramatic but in reality it was more surreal and a bit awkward. That’s how it is with the terminally ill; you never know when their time will be up and every time you see them you think it might be the last. In that case it was.

Rest in peace, Alston. You will be missed.

Some other tributes to Alston:

Nine Years of Blork Blog

The Blork Blog is nine years old today. That’s older than some people I know!

Loyal readers have probably noticed that I haven’t been posting very frequently lately. That’s partly due to my having many other distractions (e.g., From the Hip — Montreal, Monday Morning Photo Blog, and the Montreal Burger Report) but it’s also because I’m sort of rolling with the evolution of the medium. In other words, in a time of Facebook and Twitter, the role of the personal blog has diminished significantly, and that makes me less enthusiastic about putting in the time and effort.

Face it; fewer people are reading this kind of blog, and I count myself among them. I’m more inclined to read topical and more narrowly focused blogs like my current number-one “go to” favorite, The Online Photographer.

The Blork Blog would like to thank Rob Marshall for this most excellent tribute.

Therefore, I am once again questioning the continuation of the Blork Blog. Part of me wants to go for another year just so I can call it an even decade, but that’s not really reason enough. After all, if I don’t have anything to say (or more likely, I don’t have the ambition to put what I have to say into words), then what’s the point of just plugging along for the sake of a number?

Thus, I turn to you, my faithful readers. Please take three seconds to vote in the following anonymous poll regarding the future of the Blork Blog. I will say right off the bat that I am not beholden to whatever the results of the poll reveal. Also, I know this is my blog and I can do whatever I want with it (see previous item). However, I want to know what you think. Thus:

[poll id=”6″]

Blork: Famous for Eating Burgers

Of all the things I did in 2009 (OK, so it wasn’t all that much), the thing I got most noticed for was eating hamburgers. (Well, there was that whole “Badge of Shame” thing back in the spring, but that was notoriety for something I did in 2008.) Specifically, I got noticed this year for eating burgers and talking about them on the radio, in podcasts, and on the Montreal Burger Report, along with fellow burger lover Chris Hand.

We started the research for the Montreal Burger Report about a year ago, and went live with the first report in April. People started to notice, and in November Sarah Musgrave wrote an article about the Report for the Montreal Gazette, featuring photos by yours truly (the paper edition used two photos, online used one).

MBR in The Gazette

More recently, Robyn Lee of Serious Eats “grilled” Chris and I for that Web site’s “A Hamburger Today” section, filed under “Grilled.”

MBR on A Hamburger Today

So it looks like I’ve found my calling. I always new I’d be famous but I didn’t think it would be for stuffing my face.

Incidentally, not everyone’s a fan. We got an email from a guy called “DocChuck” in North Carolina wanting to know if we were “queer.” Specifically, he said:

I stumbled across your website today, and I am just wondering:  are you guys queer?

Because I do NOT read pervert’s crap, EVEN if I like to read about burgers.

DocChuck

You can learn more about the delightful DocChuck by visiting his Myspace page, which includes a blog. (Wait a sec… he has a blog on Myspace and he want’s to know if we’re queer?) <- I retract that jab because it’s unfair to queer people.