The One Off

For years, every time I had something I wanted to write about that did not fit the theme of this blog, which is dedicated to talking about things that make me happy, I thought about starting another blog where I could talk about non-happy things. I never did it because I wanted to try and stay positive so didn’t want to open up a space for negativity which tends to be more my mindset anyway.

Then 2016 and 2017 happened. Over the past 2 years my ability to find things to write about in this space has greatly declined. I don’t feel happy most of the time. I just feel beat down, and I know I am not alone in that. That’s not to say that nothing makes me happy, but even if they do they are overshadowed by all the terrible or I just don’t have the energy to write about them.

This week I again felt the urge to write about something weighing on my heart that decidedly does not belong in this space, so I finally bit the bullet and started a third blog (my other one is my book reviews blog, which I am also terrifyingly behind on). The One Off is now up with my first post, Elegy for Baltimore. I don’t plan on writing there a lot, but now I finally have a space to talk about the not-so-great things too.

Two weeks ago the long awaited (at least by me) site launched. The site is brought to you by Tara Ariano and David T. Cole, who you may recall me mentioning in relation to their podcast Extra Hot Great. When they stopped recording the podcast they announced as their upcoming new project, and I have been eagerly awaiting its arrival for almost a year. They’ve also gotten the band back together as the site is also being run by Sarah D. Bunting, who Tara and Dave co-founded Television Without Pity with back in the day. I used to love that site and found many of the people whose writing I currently read across the internet via their recaps for TWOP. I still read recaps for Vampire Diaries there, but that’s about it. Most of the writers I loved have moved on to other ventures.

Speaking of writers. has pulled together an excellent stable of writers who if you follow people writing about television you have probably read before. In addition to Tara Ariano and Sarah D. Bunting some of the writers include former TWOP recappers Pamela Ribon and Joe Reid, who was also the third member of the Extra Hot Great podcast team. Also writing regularly for the site is Mark Blankenship, who I have written about previously on this blog. His participation is bittersweet because he has moved on from writing about music to participate in this venture (which I know because I asked him). As it is obviously a site about television, he won’t really be writing about music anymore. I have a ton of people who write about television that I enjoy reading, but I don’t have very many people I adore who write about music. His voice in this arena will be much missed at least by me. Oddly he didn’t base his life and career choices on the wishes of a random girl on the internet who tweets at him occasionally. The nerve, really.

The site itself is gorgeously designed by David T. Cole, though I don’t see it that often as I generally read it through my RSS reader (which reminds me I really need to adopt something to take the place of Google Reader pronto). There is a great mix of articles and features on the site that range from oddball recaps/reviews of shows to speculations and hypotheticals about all kinds of shows and everything in between. Even though the site has only been live for 2 weeks, they have been prepopulating it over the past year so there is already quite a bit of content there you can look through.

And in other good news they have also rumored the forthcoming existence of a site related podcast, which I can not wait for. I still miss having Extra Hot Great in my weekly podcast rotation.

It’s a great new site focused on television that isn’t doing quite what any other site out there is doing. If you like television like I do I highly recommend that you go check it out if you haven’t already.

Blogs I Love – The Smitten Kitchen

As we have established on this blog before I love food and love to bake but hate to cook. I don’t really bother reading a whole lot of food blogs because mostly they wind up being a whole lot of things I have zero interest in ever making interspersed with a rare recipe that looks really good. Usually if I get an idea to make something I’ll just Google a recipe or stumble upon a recipe that looks really good in some other way. I do enjoy The Smitten Kitchen blog however because the ratio of recipes I’d like to try vs. those I have zero interest in is pretty good. I still don’t make most of them, but they often look drool-worthy. Plus the ones I have tried have all been super tasty. She writes a lot in the blog telling stories surrounding her recipes. I admit I don’t normally read those. I really actually don’t read most of the blog. I see the headline in Google Reader that tells me what the recipe is. If it looks like something I want to try later I mark it, if not I move on. I’m just in it for the food. If you like to cook or bake though I would definitely recommend adding The Smitten Kitchen to your blogroll.

Blogs I Love – Cake Wrecks

From time to time I follow what I consider gimmick blogs in which someone creates a blog around some goofy topic. Most of these I’ve tired of rather quickly, but the one that has kept me reading for years is Cake Wrecks. People send in photos of professionally decorated cakes that have gone horribly wrong in one way or another. Some of them would be amusing by themselves, while others are made funny by the hilarious commentary written about the cakes by the blog’s author Jen. It’s rather astounding how many horribly decorated cakes there are out there. This blog always gives me a smile and a good chuckle, which is something everyone can use in their day.

Blogs I Love – Wherever Mark Blankenship is Writing

Back to my series about blogs I love. I kind of got distracted from it for no good reason. All the posts were written and set to draft and meant to be published one a day for a little over a week, but that obviously didn’t happen. This week at work is going to be nuts for me at work so it seems the perfect time to start dishing the rest of these out.

This post isn’t so much about a particular blog that I love, but a writer that I really enjoy. Obviously it would be remiss of me to not include a blog that covers music in this series given my own tendency to write about it. I first started reading stuff written by Mark Blankenship on his own pop culture themed blog, The Critical Condition, where he wrote about music, movies, and television. He now has a job writing about music for Logo TV’s NewNowNext blog, so he doesn’t really update The Critical Condition anymore. It’s a little bit harder to follow him now because his posts appear in the midst of a bunch of other stuff posted by other people on that blog that I don’t necessarily care that much about. Although, I can generally pick out his stuff just based on the headline. It also helps that he usually posts a link to Twitter as well.

I like to see what Mark has to say about music because we share a lot of the same taste in music, though he is much more into Euro-pop than I am. I enjoy the fact that he too is a country music fan in addition to pop music and will write about them both. I feel like country music is often shunted off into its own little world, but I love them both so it’s nice to read about them both in the same place.

Mark often introduces me to songs that I haven’t yet heard, which sometimes become huge hits and sometimes not. I first heard Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know on his blog months before I heard it hit mainstream radio and became almost unavoidable. Sometimes though he covers songs that I’m already familiar with and then it’s just fun to see where our opinions align and diverge. We’ve even occasionally posted something about the same song within hours of each other. Though he is a much better writer than I  as is evidenced by the fact that he’s getting paid for his writing and I definitely am not. If you like pop music I suggest you hunt down the posts by Mark Blankenship on the NewNowNext blog.

Mark also works and writes for TDF Stages, which one might guess is all about the theatre. As anyone who reads this blog knows I also love the theatre. However, unlike with writing about music which is I can easily get my hands on, reading this often just makes me feel jealous of all the people getting to see so many shows I will never have the opportunity to see. Honestly I can’t complain too much because between my season tickets to both the Hippodrome for the touring Broadway shows and to CenterStage I get to see a lot of great theatre in my own Baltimore backyard. Plus our nearness to NYC and the fact that my sister-in-law lives there means I also make it up to see Broadway and off-Broadway shows several times per year as well. Anyway, I greatly digress from the topic of this blog post. If you are a fellow lover of the theatre enjoy the behind-the-scenes look at it from Mark Blankenship and his fellow writers at TDF Stages.

Blogs I Love – NPR’s Monkey See

No rundown of blogs that I love would be complete without NPR’s Monkey See blog. It’s mostly though not entirely written by Linda Holmes. I first became familiar with Linda’s writing many years ago when she used to recap for Television Without Pity. I also read the personal blog she used to keep during that time. I was sad when she stopped working for TWOP and updating her blog, so I was very excited a few years ago that she had moved to NPR and was writing the Monkey See blog because I had sorely missed her voice in the meantime.

The blog covers all manner of pop culture related things both seriously and humorously. It also gave birth to one of my favorite podcasts Pop Culture Happy Hour, which I wrote about way back in one of my very first posts on this blog. If you in any way like pop culture and aren’t already reading this blog I highly recommend that you check it out.

Blogs I Love – What’s Alan Watching

It is no secret that I love television. Thus a number of the feeds in my Google Reader are related to television. One of my favorites is Alan Sepinwall’s What’s Alan Watching. Most of his blog is dedicated to reviews of certain television shows with some interviews and analysis of things going on in the television industry. Alan and I tend to share the same taste in tv shows, so I enjoy reading his thoughts on what happened in any given episode or on a show as a whole for shows he doesn’t review on an episode by episode basis. I often decide whether or not I’m going to watch a new television show based on his assessment of it.

Sepinwall is also well respected in the community of television critics and the television industry in general. This was evidenced recently when David Simon, creator of The Wire and Treme, wound up in an online kerfuffle over a comment he made in a story in The New York Times. In order to set the record straight and hopefully calm things down Simon indicated on his own blog that he contacted a critic he respected for a lengthy discussion on the issue at hand. That critic was Alan Sepinwall.

If you’re a fellow television lover I highly recommend that you check out What’s Alan Watching.

Blogs I Love – Crumbs from the Communion Table

The second blog I’m going to write about in the series on the blogs I love is Justin Lee’s Crumbs from the Communion Table. I actually graduated from Wake Forest University with Justin. We knew each other in passing, but weren’t really friends. I don’t know if he would remember me or not. Justin is the founder and Executive Director of The Gay Christian Network, a ministry serving Christians who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. On Crumbs from the Communion Table, Justin writes about his work as well as answering questions on Christianity and homosexuality posed by readers.

Much like the reasons I elucidated in my post on Whatever, I really enjoy reading Crumbs from the Communion Table because of Justin’s reasoned approach in writing on a topic that is very polarizing. Though Justin does not believe that homosexuality is a sin he approaches the topic from multiple angles and addresses how even Christians who don’t share his view should be reaching out to the gay community in Christian love as modeled by Christ and not in the hate that is too often the basis for their interactions.

Blogs I Love – Whatever

The first blog I want to highlight in my series on blogs that I love is John Scalzi’s blog Whatever. Scalzi is a science fiction author. I don’t really care much for science fiction, but because I am such a fan of his blog I gave one of his books a shot. I didn’t hate it, but it was still science fiction and I would much rather spend my time reading something I enjoy more so I won’t be reading any more of his books. His blog on the other hand I will continue to read until he stops writing it.

As is evidenced by the title of the blog, Whatever, Scalzi writes about whatever is on his mind. Sometimes the posts are dedicated to things in the world of science fiction writing. Those posts I tend to skip. He also allows authors to promote their books on his blog via his Big Idea series. It’s all the other posts that are the ones that keep me reading though. He often weighs in on issues occurring in the news. I often though not always agree with his views, which probably helps my enjoyment of his posts. However, what I really appreciate about his thoughts are how reasoned they are. Unlike the crazed vitriol that too often gets spewed around 24 hour so called news channels and the internet, Scalzi presents reasoned thoughts on the subject at hand. He’s willing to engage in civil discussions and not just try and brow beat people into seeing things his way. It’s for this reason I think that he has a lot of readers and many who request him to weigh in topics that they want to hear his opinion about. I suspect that even if I didn’t share his views I would still appreciate the way he approaches writing about often divisive topics.

In addition to newsworthy topics he also posts about just his life in general: his wife, his daughter, his pets, etc. I appreciate those posts as well as they provide a look into his life and make the blog feel human, which is something I gravitate towards. If you don’t already read Whatever I would highly recommend checking it out.

Blogs I Love

This is kind of an introductory post to the series of posts I’m about to write on the blogs I love. Thanks to the wonders of RSS I follow a lot of blogs, and there are a handful that I want to write about here. Don’t worry if you write a blog and you don’t see it included in my list, it doesn’t mean I don’t love it. At least for now I’m concentrating on blogs that have a wider audience. Thus no one reading this who writes a blog is going to be included because I can guarantee that none of the bloggers I’m going to write about read my little blog. I also read a number of libraryland blogs that I am not going to include because most of the people reading this won’t care about library themed blogs.

Putting together the list of blogs I wanted to write about was a fun little exercise in that I unhid all the feeds in my RSS reader to see a list of all the blogs I was subscribed to revealing to me a ton of blogs that are no longer updated. Many of them I had completely forgotten about. Some of them I don’t even remember what they are just based on the name. There are others like the short-lived blog my sister wrote after my first niece was born that made me smile. I did go back through that one and look at the really old pictures of my niece. There were some defunct blogs that made me sad because I really miss the voices of the people who were writing them. I understand why people quit blogging especially in the age of Facebook and Twitter when it’s so much easier to share quick thoughts or why they move on to other projects that I’m not as interested in, but I still selfishly hope that one day some of these bloggers will return. In addition to just being lazy, it’s partly why I haven’t culled the dead wood out of my RSS feed. If any of these blogs are resurrected I’ll be sure to know. Plus since I can hide any feeds that don’t have new content it’s no big deal for me to leave all these blogs that are no longer updated hanging around.

I’ll be doling out my list of the blogs I love in no particular order over the next week or so. Hopefully you will find some of these bloggers to be as wonderful as I do.