My 12/30/07 Missoulian Column
It’s almost 2008 and I didn’t want to write the obligatory “Best Technology of 2007” column or run through a bunch predictions for the high-tech industry for the next year. Instead, I thought I’d offer four of the Web sites I’ve read almost daily in the last year (except for one, which started up last fall) and plan to continue to read in the new year.
To me, these blogs are seriously interesting stuff, not the fluff the other 90 million blogs out there provide, and I think you’ll find one or two worth your time. And for a change of pace, none of these blogs is technology oriented; I like to maintain a life outside of technology, as we all should.
So, in no particular order of importance, here are The Daily Coyote, The Blog of Henry David Thoreau, The Writer’s Almanac and Metafilter.
The site closest to Montana in terms of geography and subject matter is The Daily Coyote, a blog by Shreve Stockton, a writer and photographer who lives in a small town in Wyoming, 60 miles from the nearest grocery store.
Stockton is raising Charlie, a wild-born coyote that, she writes, was unexpectedly delivered to her doorstep last April after both his parents were shot for killing sheep. She has documented their life from that first day. Stockton admits she doesn’t know how long Charlie will stick around; he can always go wild, and she expects that – and when it happens, I suppose the Daily Coyote will come to an end. For now, she and Charlie are living in her off-the-grid house with her orange cat Eli. Charlie rides in her pickup and seems afraid of other coyotes they spot. Undisclosed people help supply the elk meat for Charlie’s meals and advice comes from an anonymous coyote expert.
This month, Chicago and Los Angeles newspapers have picked up on the story, and the Daily Coyote is now getting 30,000 hits a day. Stockton is working on the backlog of photos and you can subscribe to a mailing list. Charlie might go wild in the spring, so check out the Daily Coyote before then.
Next is the The Blog of Henry David Thoreau, which is not written by old Henry, of course, as he’s been in the ground since 1862. It’s compiled by Greg Perry from the 2 million words of Thoreau’s journals, the largest body of writing from the Massachusetts author, philosopher and pre-eminent environmentalist.
Thoreau began journal in 1837 on the suggestion of essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson and kept it up for the next 24 years. While Thoreau is mostly known for titles such as “Walden, or Life in the Woods” and “On Civil Disobedience,” his main output as a writer and the source material for his many books was his journal.
So each day (with a hiatus here and there as the blog is a volunteer effort), Perry gleans a few paragraphs for a corresponding date in the journals. If you’re familiar with some of Thoreau’s books, his journals will sound familiar: His legendary crankiness comes though, as does his sometimes myopic visions, his detailed nature writing and expansive philosophy about the world. If you’ve never read Thoreau, it’s worth a look, and the blog is a good way to take in his work in small doses.I suppose if Henry was around today, he might be writing about how the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation through their blogs.
If you listen to public radio, you’ve probably heard of The Writer’s Almanac, Garrison Keillor’s daily digest of poems, biographies of authors, the writing life, and other scientifically, historically and culturally important items. “The Writer’s Almanac” is the more cerebral side of the creator and main voice of “A Prairie Home Companion,” with quiet humor, irony and commentary.
Why I list it here is because the almanac also maintains The Writer’s Almanac website, and I can keep up with the almanac if I miss a day, or if I want to just read the poetry and take a break from Garrison’s sonorous voice. Sometimes Garrison strays from the script, too, so the Web site has the complete copy of the daily almanac.
Like most sites, the almanac also has a searchable archive, so I can check if a writer has been featured in the past 12 years of the show’s life. (Thoreau is covered very well.) And you can follow links for more information about the writer or the cultural happening. (Unfortunately, there is a large number of broken links to books and biographical sources in the archives, which is a surprise; Hey, Garrison, are you listening?)
And, lastly, something completely different. Metafilter is a kind of an addictive free-for-all called a community Web log, but it’s hardly chaotic.
Metafilter is part encyclopedia, dictionary, blog, how-to, Q&A and more. Users gather information and links about news stories, cultural happenings, art and science and craft collections of links that sometimes become stories and chronologies in and of themselves. Submissions are listed by date, and up to 20 or 30 interesting links are listed a day. The site was “invented” by one of the programmers who helped write the first blogging software. Beyond that, I can’t think of any other way to describe Metafilter, so I guess you just have to check out the site yourself to see what it’s like.