What’s In A Blog?

What do you think when you hear “blogger”? I have four characters in mind.

#1: 90’s Archetypal Nightmare

album_photos_12Her edges are as soft as Janeane Garafolo’s/ those of an unfinished curb. She possesses the delightful, earnest, humorlessness of Lisa Loeb. She becomes self-righteous at the utterance of the word “woman,” “girl,” “man” “animal” or “thing”. She thinks she is funny but she is decidedly not funny. She is a monomaniac. She feels oppressed – and yet she wants to share. She is the Ancient Mariner of 2002. She writes about one thing and one thing alone: herself.  She photographs everything she eats. Everything. Sometimes when she’s looking to get personal, she photographs her cat. She does yoga, alot; and when she does yoga, she wears leg warmers, she moans low when exhaling, and a light dusting of pink backne appears when her tank top shifts as she salutes the sun. She is no joke.

#2: Southern Momma

Picture 4She is a stay-at-home mom with an impeccable house in one of the Carolinas. Her husband works. When he dresses up he wears tight, striped button-down shirts with white tribal prints on the pec; slightly flared jeans; and square-toed dress shoes.

The “about” section of her blog will explain that this is about being a mom, “crafty fun,” her beautiful kids, and just documenting how good life & God are.

Her blog will possess one – all of these components: toddler in an argyle sweater vest/ dog named Stella/ baby in a tutu/ subtle reference to Christ in a diy tutorial on making holiday mercury glass candleholders/ picture of her kids icing sugar cookies for a school or church bake sale/ daughter on a swing, in galoshes/ project that asks you to paint the words “live” “all you need” “laugh” “inspire” “together” “love” “family” in various sundry combinations on chalkboard paint, a plank of wood, a little paper flag, a mason jar, a doily, or a scrapbook.

She will have 400,000 followers and make you want to kill yourself, a little bit, in many ways.

Picture 5


Picture 6She writes for Jezebel or Wonkette. She is funny and smart, and able to write about the Kardashians and Hagel with equal panache. You can hear her voice in her writing, but you never see her picture. Who is she? What is her life? How did she get this gig? Does she wear glasses? Is her voice raspy? Does she have friends? What does she do on Sunday nights? Can we hang out?

Often, she is actually a man, much to your (OK, my) disappointment.

# 4: Andrew Sullivan.

Picture 7

I am still unsure of what it means to be a blogger. My biggest fear with this blog is that it becomes navel-gazing; that is the last thing in the world that I want.

So, to combat this, one of the things I really want to do is start interviewing folks. This was my plan all along, but I figured that people would be more amenable to being interviewed if I could show them that Civicization was real, and not just something that I had puked onto Blogger once on a whim (“hi world, it’s me! as a blog! hey! here goes nothin’!”) and then proclaimed was my profession. Now that I’m on my 29th post (!), I think potential interview subjects can come here, take a look, and decide whether or not they’re willing to let me pick their brains.

I thought it would be a good first step to write a list of people I want to interview, to get the ball rolling. This is just a first draft. I’m starting with people I know; later, I’ll move to various degrees of separation.

* This is definitely something I’d love feedback on – if you have suggestions for other folks to interview, or types of interviews you’d like to see, please let me hear it!

People I know/have been in contact with, whom I would like to interview:

  • Anna Aagenes Young. Blond. Executive Director of GO! Athletes, a non-profit helping create LGBTQA-friendly climates in high school and college sports. Blogs for the Huffington Post. A semi-professional runner, with an amazing job coordinating community services in my neighborhood for our state rep Brian Sims. Would be my arch nemesis if I didn’t like her so damn much. Able to sit with me for two hours over coffee and talk about Lake Atitlan in Guatemala; the difficulties of wearing lady suits as a 20-something; civic engagement; boobs; politics; dogs. I have many many many questions for her, and look forward to working with her, as she’s going to join my Young Friends group of the Civic Association! My first question is, when did the “A” get added?
  • Michelle Freeman – I first met her at a Young Involved Philly event; she was a board member, sitting at my table, moderating a conversation around “how to attract and retain talent to Philadelphia.” When I piped up and said that nice as that sounds, I would prefer if we didn’t – I like Philly with its soul intact, not labotomized by post-collegiate gym-crazy brunch-zombies like my old Murray Hill neighborhood – she laughed good-naturedly instead of looking at me like a psycopathic hoarder, which of course made me like her instantly. Then I online stalked her and found out that she runs a great online magazine – Flying Kite – about urban redevelopment in Philadelphia, has her own business organizing events, and is super active in about 27 different non-profits; i.e. she is Dream Me. Must. Learn. Secrets.
  • Rudy Flesher Rudy, Rudy, Rudy. Where to begin? Rudy is a new friend of mine. He is on at least five boards, of really interesting organizations – not perfunctory board seats, but great ones: William Way Center & Spruce Foundation to name a few. He’s also a drag performer. And is a little bit of a rainman when it comes to citing laws off the top of his head. He is the second person ever with whom I shared my theory of transracialism (now you’re curious, huh? Well you better grow 3-inch long finger nails, paint them glitter silver, become a local juggernaut, and snuggle into a coffee with me for an entire afternoon if you’re going to get that gem out of me . . . ’cause that what Rudy did.) If that’s what a tepid cup of joe produced, who knows what an interview will yield? Most specifically, I know he wants to “run for office,” but which? When? Why? How?
  • Alex Hillman founder of Indy Hall. While that’s a pretty damn big deal, I’m actually more interested in his fantastic newsletter about building community. I really want to take his Community Builder Masterclass but it’s a bit out of my price-range, so I’m hoping to pick his brain a bit instead. How did he become a Community-Building-Master? What does that even mean? How did he come up with the idea of Indy Hall? What did he do before IH? What does he do outside of IH? What does he see as his next steps? What are his big goals? He is, I believe, a fountain of knowledge from which I would like to sip. In a totally professional way.
  • Marty Molloy – works at YouthBuild charter school. Second nicest person I’ve ever met. Hugely involved in community service; was the ED for the United Way here in Philly before returning to YouthBuild; he just loved it too much there and couldn’t stay away. Excited but calm, humble but ambitious. Big smile, ginger hair.
  • Hiram Carmona Met him at a Colombian/Cuban restaurant across the street from my house. He arrived by bicycle and ordered two martinis to make it under the happy hour wire. When I came back from the bathroom he was talking to Husband and sitting in my chair. I found him off-putting at first. But by the end of my wine and his fourth martini, I had discovered he runs the City of Philadelphia Housing programs to help people from losing their homes to foreclosure, and has won awards for caring and helping so damn much; loves Gabriel Garcia Marquez; philosophized about why gringas are bashful about the fluidity of salsa dancing, and told me; ” don’t be an educational consultant – be a writer. We need more of those. We need more consultants like a nail in the head. But writers – we need you.” He is one of those people who seems like your fun uncle, and then you realize two hours in that they run the entire city.
  • Emma Fried-Cassorla In charge of Philly Love Notes. Tortoise shell glasses, bobbed hair, little. Seems nonchalant, but I imagine is very organized & driven, to create, build, and run such a project. How did she end up doing this? What did she do before? Where did she get the idea? What’s her story? What’s next for her? Is this her full-time gig, or are there other pots in which she has her thumbs? Many questions have I for Ms. Emma.
  • Eli FreedmanRabbi at Rodeph Shalom who is like your best guy friend at Oberlin, who majors in film because he “loves movies”, and plays the acoustic guitar semi-well, and frequently. When he becomes a Rabbi instead of a Peace Corps member or video blogger, you’re surprised, but then it all makes sense when you remember how he lit up talking about 18th century philosophy and never went raging on Friday nights. Freedman is young, new to RS, runs a million civic engagement groups through the temple, makes jokes about smoking weed, and is funny. My favorite off-handed comment of his so far is,  “I mean, I know we’re supposed to not like that kind of behavior, but I just feel like Reform Judaism should be a prosthletizing religion because it makes so much damned sense. Oh, do you like human rights, and being with people, and learning? Then come on down! I mean, right? It’s so rational. What normal person wouldn’t love it?” I feel we’ll have lots to discuss . . .
  • Michael Rice – calls himself The Connector. Encouraged all of us sitting in his workshop (at the couldn’t-be-more-dully-named Out-of School Time Resource Conference) to think of ourselves as P.L.A.Y.E.R.S. – and his argument was so convincing that I started to. He also works for the City of Philadelphia and runs the EPIC Stakeholder groups, which I’m very curious about. Play on, player. Play on. And while you’re at it, teach me how to play.

Alright you all – let me hear your thoughts! Who should I try for interview #1? And who else should I put on the list?


One thought on “What’s In A Blog?

  1. 1) My nails grow every time you mention them/me. 2) I actually laughed out loud t several of your descriptions including calling me “a little bit of a rainman.” TRUE. So much so that I literally had a panicked moment getting ready before class in college that resulted me literally walking in circles muttering and my friends thought I was riffing on the scene from Rainman when he was late to watching The People’s Court. Except that, at that point, I’d never actually seen the movie. Womp.

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