The View From Your Window

Jan 31 2015 @ 8:55am

Adelans, France-12pm

Adelans, France, 12 pm

Busted With An Eggcorn, Ctd

Jan 31 2015 @ 7:53am

We could all use some more of these right now:

In case the Dish doesn’t go ahead, I have an eggcorn to share. My wife and I both work, so we have a nanny for our two kids. We live in SE Asia, and our nanny speaks English fairly well, but it’s her second language. Instead of belly-button, she says “belly-bottom”, so now my 3 year old does as well. It makes me smile every time.

Another kiddo:

My 9-year-old niece, who arrived from Thailand only six months ago, is determined to learn English. When her father said she and her mother could go to the store without him, she replied, “No, that is something we should do threegether.” (Not “together.”)

And another:

This just happened and it’s too cute not to share. My five-year-old son is into bluegrass, particularly the banjo.

Read On

A Note To My Readers

Jan 31 2015 @ 2:00am

shipcape.jpg

[Re-posted from earlier this week]

One of the things I’ve always tried to do at the Dish is to be up-front with readers. This sometimes means grotesque over-sharing; sometimes it means I write imprudent arguments I have to withdraw; sometimes it just means a monthly update on our revenues and subscriptions; and sometimes I stumble onto something actually interesting. But when you write every day for readers for years and years, as I’ve done, there’s not much left to hide. And that’s why, before our annual auto-renewals, I want to let you know I’ve decided to stop blogging in the near future.

Why? Two reasons. The first is one I hope anyone can understand: although it has been the most rewarding experience in my writing career, I’ve now been blogging daily for fifteen years straight (well kinda straight). That’s long enough to do any single job. In some ways, it’s as simple as that. There comes a time when you have to move on to new things, shake your world up, or recognize before you crash that burn-out does happen.

The second is that I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me. I want to write a book.

I want to spend some real time with my parents, while I still have them, with my husband, who is too often a ‘blog-widow’, my sister and brother, my niece and nephews, and rekindle the friendships that I have simply had to let wither because I’m always tied to the blog. And I want to stay healthy. I’ve had increasing health challenges these past few years. They’re not HIV-related; my doctor tells me they’re simply a result of fifteen years of daily, hourly, always-on-deadline stress. These past few weeks were particularly rough – and finally forced me to get real.

We’ll have more to say – and we’re sure you will as well – in due course. I particularly want to take some time to thank my indispensable, amazing colleagues in a subsequent post. For the time being, auto-renewals have been suspended and the pay-meter has been disabled. While we’re in this strange, animated suspension, I just wanted to take one post to thank you personally, the readers, founding members and subscribers to the Dish.

It’s been a strange relationship, hasn’t it? Some of you – the original white-on-navy ones – went through the 2000 election and recount with me, when I had to explain the word “blog” to anyone I met; we experienced 9/11 together in real time – and all the fraught months and years after; and then the Iraq War; and the gay marriage struggles of the last fifteen historic years. We endured the Bush re-election together and then championed – before almost anyone else – the Obama candidacy together. Remember that first night of those Iowa caucuses? Remember the titanic fight with the Clintons? And then the entire arc of the Obama presidency.

You were there when it was just me and a tip jar for six years, and at Time, and at The Atlantic, and the Daily Beast, and then as an independent company. When we asked you two years ago to catch us as we jumped into independence, you came through and then some. In just two years, you built a million dollar revenue company, with 30,000 subscribers, a million monthly readers, and revenue growth of 17 percent over the first year. You made us unique in this media world – and we were able to avoid the sirens of clickbait and sponsored content. We will never forget it.

You were there when I couldn’t believe Palin’s fantasies; and when we live-blogged the entire Green Revolution around the clock for nearly a month in 2009. You were there when I freaked out over Obama’s first debate against Romney; and you were with me as I came to realize just how deeply wrong I had been on Iraq. But we also fought for marriage equality together (and won!), and for a new post-Iraq foreign policy (getting there), and for legalizing weed (fuck you, Hickenlooper!). We faced the brutal reality of a Catholic church engaged in the rape of children, and the bleak truth about the United States and torture. And I think we made our contribution to all those struggles. The Dish made the case for Obama in a way that actually mattered when it mattered. I think we made the case for gay equality in a way no other publication did. And we lived through history with the raw intensity of this new medium, and through a media landscape of bewildering change.

I want to thank you, personally, for the honesty and wisdom of so many of your threads and conversations and intimacies, from late-term abortions and the cannabis closet to eggcorns and new poems, from the death of pets, and the meaning of bathroom walls to the views from your windows from all over the world. You became not just readers of the Dish, but active participants, writers, contributors. You trusted us with your own stories; you took no credit for them; and we slowly gathered and built a readership I wouldn’t trade for anyone’s.

You were there before I met my husband; you were there when I actually got married; and when I finally got my green card; and when Dusty – who still adorns the masthead – died. I can’t describe this relationship outside the rather crude term of “mass intimacy” but as I write this, believe me, my eyes are swimming with tears.

How do I say goodbye? How do I walk away from the best daily, hourly, readership a writer could ever have? It’s tough. In fact, it’s brutal. But I know you will understand. Because after all these years, I feel I have come to know you, even as you have come to see me, flaws and all. Some things are worth cherishing precisely because they are finite. Things cannot go on for ever. I learned this in my younger days: it isn’t how long you live that matters. What matters is what you do when you’re alive. And, man, is this place alive.

When I write again, it will be for you, I hope – just in a different form. I need to decompress and get healthy for a while; but I won’t disappear as a writer.

But this much I know: nothing will ever be like this again, which is why it has been so precious; and why it will always be a part of me, wherever I go; and why it is so hard to finish this sentence and publish this post.

current-staff

Many, many readers have asked that core question since Wednesday’s post:

You’re just done? Everyone? Chris and Patrick and the gang aren’t holding down the domain? We could learn to love them; they seem like smart, dedicated folks. They lack your endearingly fallible, sometimes hysterical, always entertaining voice, but give them a shot, a trial run, something.

Another is more direct:

Please keep the Dish going without you. I’m in tears over the possibility of its ending. You’ve got the team, don’t you? PLEASE find a way!

Another:

You don’t owe me or other subscribers anything; you owe something to the creation that is the Dish. Keep it alive and figure out a sane way to remain involved. The community is ready to make this work.

Another notes:

Andrew, I remember you writing that you hoped that the Dish could continue and grow even if you moved on. I truly believe it could, can and will. Please let it try. It’s too important now. It’s not just about you and your blogging; it has grown bigger than that. I believe your “baby” can survive with you occasionally helping from afar.

How another reader puts it:

Your writing drew me here. Your team kept me here.

Another makes a compelling case:

Andrew, Chris, and the gang, are you ready for the next asshole who’s going to try to convince you to keep this thing going? Maybe the stress of running a company such as this, and blogging every day, is just too much. Maybe your staff has already landed new jobs in other places. Maybe The Dish has become a chain around Andrew’s leg. Maybe the blog has to completely die for Andrew to truly break free.

Screw that. Let’s talk about options for keeping The Dish alive and thriving.

There is a problem: Andrew needing to stop blogging (I understand and immensely respect this), and there are various solutions. Shutting down the blog completely is only one solution. In my selfish opinion, it isn’t the best solution. This blog is an institution. It can very easily live on without Andrew. That isn’t meant as any sort of insult. It is to Andrew’s credit that he has assembled a staff as talented and competent as he has.

Is Andrew the only one who needs to temporarily/permanently cease blogging, or have the majority of you all had enough? Is the grind too much for any normal person? If Andrew needs to stop, but the rest of you have any desire to continue on with this publication, why not make it work?

How about “Andrew Sullivan, Blogger Emeritus”? He can still break free completely. I mean completely. No day-to-day responsibilities. cartoon-patrick-chrisNot even weekly or monthly. Keep the mind on writing essays or books or anything he wants. Chris, Patrick, or Jessie can step up and steer the ship. Or bring someone else in for that role. Andrew will still own the blog, even in silence, kind of like Forbes or Bloomberg or plenty of other media entities with a founder’s name. Letting this blog die is a colossal waste of influence and talent. And you’re throwing away money that you don’t have to. I really think you can have it all.

What you’ve all built is unprecedented and cannot be replicated. I would give almost anything to have the opportunity that you have. You think you’ve reached the end of the road, but you haven’t. There are still so many possibilities, from content to contributors to engaging readers in creative ways to innovative revenue streams to strides you can and should make on the technical/design side. Don’t go work at other places. Stay here and make this website even better.

With all that said, what are the odds of being convinced to change you mind based on an email from an almost total stranger? I’m placing in at 1/1000. I’ll take it.

But another asks a key question:

Are you, or your team, unsure about continued subscriptions in your absence?

Yes, we have wrestled with that uncertainty for a while. One encouraging sign from a reader:

Like so many others, I will miss your voice when it leaves the blog. But if this makes you happy, I’m happy for you. And I will look forward to whatever new form your voice takes from here.

But I was also looking forward to renewing my Dish subscription. I went in for $250 last year and I was thinking $1k this year. I’ll up that to $5k if it will help your team keep the business running, even if there’s no Andrew here anymore. You can count on me to support whatever the next thing is.

Another gobsmacking gesture from a reader:

TL;DR Version: I’m renewing. Have your staff keep The Dish going. I’ll miss you when you quit blogging, but I’m still renewing at the $200/yr level.

This reader’s investment is just as meaningful:

You didn’t need to remove the “subscribe” button. I’m long-term unemployed and keeping a low profile on my “voluntary” payments. But I was going to subscribe once I got a job. Shrug. I decided that hitting the “subscribe” button was the clearest way to vote emphatically for The Dish to continue. You’ve spent 15 years building a community here and I DON’T want to see it go. And I’ll give you a $20 vote of confidence.

So would this reader:

If all those things you said about us readers are true, then we can handle it. Turn the Dish over to us – we won’t let you down. I’ll even finally subscribe. (Sorry I’ve been an asshole.)

On the other hand, readers also have this sentiment:

If Andrew is not going to blog anymore, I do not want to continue subscribing to the Dish. How do I opt out of auto-renewal?

Another has already backed out:

I’ve enjoyed the blog. But given changes, I’m canceling. Thanks so much for the good readings.

And another:

Please retire the Dish. I love it, but it needs to be done – hear me out.

Consider the contrasting paths of two other creative geniuses with legacies in defining an unconventional medium: Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts, and Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin & Hobbes. Schulz allowed Peanuts to remain in syndicate after he retired, and the once-lovable icon of schlubbery, Charlie Brown, has degenerated into an overused catch phrase “Good Grief” (interestingly, in the original Peanuts Christmas Special, it’s Linus who says that line). On the other hand, Watterson took C&H with him into retirement, to the initial dismay of both fans and financially-interested parties. But time has vindicated his decision, with C&H still one of the most beloved icons in all of comicdom.

So please take the Dish with you into retirement.

Another sees both sides:

Succession is tricky. For example, Garrison Keillor has tried to leave Prairie Home Companion several times, but inevitably, the enterprise was too personality-driven to survive the transition. He’s still cranking out Saturday evening shows that are widely loved, but nothing fresh has happened at PHC for years. There’s such a thing as loving something to death, and I’m glad that Andrew is bright and brave enough to back away before that happens to you or to us.

In the early days when Andrew took breaks, readers snarked unmercifully at the stand-ins until he returned. That doesn’t seem to happen so often now; the quality and the accent doesn’t change as noticeably as it did on earlier Andrew holidays. And yet … it’s hard to imagine the Dish without a big personality at its center.

So, it will be a tough transition. But if there’s a critical mass of the staff that’s up for it, turn the fucking pay-meter back on and start a renewal drive. You can keep me on auto-renew. And Andrew, I look forward to seeing that new book! Whatever you decide.

I’m a little emotionally drained right now, I have to say. Last night, I could barely sleep. I’m going to write about the amazing people I’ve worked with here at the Dish in the coming week. And our readers are absolutely right. This blog is a collective project, and has been for a very long while. Jessie, Chris and Patrick were my first three interns and they are now our top three editors, seven years later. They created the Dish in its current formulation. So did Chas, a fireball of love and energy. The Dish would be very different without Matt’s attention to the life of the soul as well as the mind; and has been immeasurably leavened by Alice’s inspired poetry selection. Jonah is simply a rock-star of intellectual fearlessness.

These people have become my family; in fact, we are family to each other. To have lived and breathed and worked and created this elixir together has been one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given. And the family goes back to all the former interns and staffers, to our beloved Zoe, Doug, Brian, Conor, Katie and Tracy and Zack and Gwynn and Maisie and Phoebe. And, of course, it also extends to Robert Cameron, who created this blog with me in 2000, designed it, worked tirelessly for it, and built the foundation on which all this has been constructed. If you think this blog is my creation, you could not be more wrong. This is their creation as well.

And, of course, it is also yours. We’ve all been deeply moved by the wave of protest that this community not simply be disbanded. There’s an intimacy to this conversation that makes this feel less like a business decision and more like a terrible family break-up. I understand all that. I’m deeply torn about it. It takes time to process.

So give us a little space to absorb this week. As of tomorrow, we’re going back to regular blogging. And let us know if you would be prepared to give the team a chance to figure this out or if you think it’s best to leave the Dish as a 15-year adventure that helped shape the Internet conversation.

This may be the denial part of grief. Or it could be something else.

See you in the morning.

(Top photo: Current staffers after an editorial meeting last month. Left to right, that’s Jonah (international editor), Matt (literary editor), some clapped-out old bear, Chris (editor and co-owner, in charge of the in-tray and Dishness), Patrick (editor and co-owner, in charge of Dish Prep and the budget), Jessie (editor, in charge of the weekend), and Chas (managing editor, aka Special Teams). In that photo were about to head to a bar to join poetry editor Alice, former staffers Tracy and Brian, and former interns Phoebe, Brendan, Doug, Gwynn, and Katie for a Dish holiday party. Zoe lives in Toronto now, so she couldn’t make it, and former staffer Conor and former interns Maisie and Zack live in DC. But here’s a composite of everyone, past and present:

dishies

First column: Matt Sitman, Tracy Walsh, Alice Quinn, a small cartoon of Jessie Roberts (long story), Maisie Allison, Brendan James, and Dusty the Dish mascot. Second column: Patrick Appel, Jonah Shepp, Chas Danner, Zack Beauchamp, Doug Allen, and Phoebe Maltz Bovy. Third column: Chris Bodenner, Katie Zavadski, Brian Senecal, Gwynn Guilford, Zoe Di Novi, and Conor Friedersdorf.

The View From Your Window

Jan 30 2015 @ 1:45pm

Patagonia-AZ-1223pm

Patagonia, Arizona, 12.23 pm. The reader is arguably our best VFYW contributor ever, given all of her great submissions over the years, stretching back nearly to the beginning of the feature. We got her permission to print her full name below (given the Dish’s default anonymity policy):

Andrew, you have become a HUGE part of my day, my husband’s day (he is copied on this), and our marriage, as you have provided us much fodder for conversation as well as little digressions from me while on vacation, etc., to take VFYW pics. (Vince is very patient!) You have enhanced the classes we both teach at ASU through timely blog posts or less-timely ones we’ve saved for the future or dug back to find.

We have exposed our kids (now 26 – our daughter who was cat-called in DC and moved to Silver Spring, is now in Tucson getting her Master’s degree – and almost-24 – our son whose HuffPo blogs on being transgender you have linked to more than once, is still in San Francisco, living with his wonderful girlfriend and gainfully employed – yay!), who have also found you interesting, informative, and entertaining. I have shared many of your posts on Facebook and know I am personally responsible for getting you several more readers. :-) (It was lovely to click on the link in the pets’ deaths comment and see our sweet Zella looking back at me.)

You will be GREATLY missed, and if you ever can resume The Dish on a part-time basis (with the excellent Dish staff’s assistance, of course), we will follow you again, immediately. (Post only M-F AM, with the Window Contest on Saturday, and take off one week a month? No need for guest bloggers – Patrick, Chris, Zoe, et al. are FAB-U-LOUS!) But I am sure you have thought of every possible permutation …

I wish you God-speed and good health and much happiness, with Aaron and your parents and your family and your LIFE. If you ever want to visit Arizona, we have a guest house that you (and Aaron) would be welcome to stay in.

Kathleen Waldron
Phoenix, AZ

Her first view was posted on January 11, 2007:

Read On

Tweet Of The Day

Jan 30 2015 @ 11:00am

Just a reminder that the Dish has a Facebook page where you can leave any comment you like – the good, the bad, the ugly. Read all of them regarding “A Note To My Readers” here. And as always, you can tweet any praise or invective @sullydish.

Beard Of The Week, Ctd

Jan 30 2015 @ 9:00am

photo-1

Our long-time hirsute reader sends an update:

I kept going back to The Dish all day on Wednesday hoping there would be at least one more post after “A Note To My Readers“. It’s been ten years since I started visiting your blog on a daily or sometimes hourly basis, depending on what was happening in the world. I was honored to be a part of The Dish with my BOTD pics on not one but three occasions this year [here and here, including the year-end contest].

I will leave you with one last beard pic in your honor. You will be greatly missed.

Likewise. And every one of these BOTWs will be missed as well. Bonus beards after the jump:

Read On

A Poem For Thursday

Jan 29 2015 @ 8:00pm

bowie3

Dish poetry editor Alice Quinn writes:

If we replace the word “today” in the title of the poem below with “yesterday,” perhaps we have an apt valedictory poem to Andrew following his note of Wednesday about his sad (but for him also liberating) retreat from blogging for the time being. The poet is a certified journeyman farrier who lives near Livingston, Montana.

May you stay fleet of foot on your amazing journey, Andrew.

“Something That Happened Today” by Michael Earl Craig:

I picked up a little beagle today;
I held her between my hands.
Her little legs kicked like sausages.
She was trotting away from me in midair.

I picked up a little beagle today.
She was wet.
And a little cross-eyed.
Had she been swimming in the irrigation ditch?

I picked up a little beagle today.
What was she doing in the barn?
I know I know . . . this story is unfolding
way too fast.

(From Talkativeness © 2014 by Michael Earl Craig. Used by permission of Wave Books.)

How It Happened

Jan 29 2015 @ 7:15pm

Over a year ago, I did an interview with John Huey who was engaged in a long project at the Nieman Foundation of documenting how the Internet changed journalism. He sat me down and asked me to spell out the various stages of the Dish experiment and what I thought I was doing at the time. I forgot about it, but the Nieman Lab did a post on my quitting, and embedded two videos of the conversation and a transcript.

It’s kind of like a mega Ask Andrew Anything about the entire history of the Dish, from the very beginning. The second part of the interview is after the jump:

Read On