Saturday, December 29, 2012

The New Ground Rules

Last April, I decided to experiment with some week-long series that looked for essay possibilities within either a single year or set of years.  I selected the time periods via a random year generator (kinda fun to do!). From April through November, I did some cursory explorations of 1811-1815, 1856-60, 1930, 1955, 1963, 1965, and 2006.

Since I thoroughly enjoyed this time-focused approach, I’ve decided to expand upon the strategy in 2013.  Knowing that I work best when confined by arbitrary and numbered ground rules, here are my new guidelines for the coming year:

  1. 21 Essays will cover six time-periods in 2013.  The January focus will be 1913, allowing me to explore some highlights of the world, 100 years ago.  The other five time periods will be chosen through the random year generator.
  1. Essay series will naturally emerge.  When I have five or more essays on a single subject, I’ll group them into an informal essay series.  Originally, I hoped to be able to keep up a pace of publishing 21-essays-in-21-days on this blog, but I’ve learned this is an unrealistic goal for me.  With this new approach, I’ll post in-depth on topics that I find most inspiring but without any firm promises to crank out a full 12, 15, or 21 essays.
  1. After a month of heavy concentration on a single time period, I’ll relax things in the second month.  If I feel like it, I can continue working on the time period, or I can revisit earlier essay series (like King Kong, Duck Dodgers, In the Bleak MidwinterDer Golem, or Blackmail), or I can take some well-deserved time off.
  1. Most importantly, I reserve the right to relax, change, or abandon the rules whenever I like.

Here’s the big benefit of the changes…

I run two blogs, 21 Essays and Tour America’s Treasures.  Previously, they had no real connection, aside from sharing the same writer/publisher.  But now I can think of my blogs as a complementary pair.  Tour America’s Treasures is a cultural history blog with a focus on place21 Essays is a cultural history blog with a focus on time.

Place and time:  I think it sounds like a good way to do history.

© 2012 Lee Price

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Story of Civilization

Midway through this past year, I wrote a new lead sentence for my official blog description:  21 Essays is my cultural history blog.

It took some trial and error on my part to realize that my initial blog concept was too open-ended.  I thought I wanted complete freedom to write about anything that struck my fancy.  But looking back now, I clearly see that there was a very real connecting link between my favorite pieces.  They all shared a love of cultural history.

When I was young, I read half of Will and Ariel Durant’s 11-volume The Story of Civilization.  By that, I don’t mean that I read midway through volume 6 (which would have left me stranded in the Reformation).  I mean that I read the parts that interested me: the sections that covered the history of literature, art, science, philosophy, and religion, as well as the descriptions of the history of domestic life.  I skipped over the royal intrigues and the endless wars.

Forty years later, I’m still relatively uninterested in the history of power.  As far as I can see, it’s still the same story ever repeating—only the weapons change.  But I love culture more than ever.  The ideas that shape our world are constantly in flux.  Whether in novels, poetry, film, music, or painting, every artist expresses a new interpretation of the world.  There’s a thrilling wildness in the variety and beauty of creation.

So starting in January 2013, 21 Essays will officially be my cultural history blog.  Of course, I won’t be attempting to repeat the Durants’ mad 11-volume achievement and try to cover everything.  I’ll continue to write about the artifacts and artworks that I personally find most exciting, examining them closely and from multiple perspectives in order to (in the words of William Blake) “… see a world in a grain of sand/And a heaven in a wild flower.”

© 2012 Lee Price

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Wrong Turn

With 16 essays out of the promised 21 completed, I’m quitting the animation series.  My heart isn’t in it.  It’s not what I want to be doing at this blog.

So I’ve been taking a little time off as I consider where I want to take 21 Essays in 2013.  I think I have some good ideas.

From the start, I’ve pictured 21 Essays as a place where I could write in-depth on very focused topics—specific movies, books, poems, paintings, and music that mean a lot to me.  Unfortunately, the format that I adopted for the animation series never allowed for that approach.  I found myself writing a paragraph apiece on three animated shorts, when what I really wanted was to write a full essay series for each of them.  That’s what this blog was supposed to be about.

Nevertheless, I think this has been a very good first year for 21 Essays.  I loved creating the 15 essays on King Kong, the 12 essays on “In the Bleak Midwinter,” the 15 essays on Duck Dodgers, and the 6 essays on Blackmail.  That’s the kind of work that I want to be doing.

So I’m going to be making some changes on this site, doing a little tinkering.  I think I’ve got a blog that has promise…  and I’m hoping that it will more consistently deliver on that promise in the coming year.

© 2012 Lee Price