Day 366: My State-Of-The-Madness Address, Year 1

originally published December 31, 2012

As I pull the final leafy page off my Lozenge-A-Day calendar (cool! It’s a green Zuigtablet from Holland!), I feel I should take a few moments (specifically, a thousand words’ worth of moments) to reflect on the past year, and on the madness that kept me glued to this project for two, three, sometimes thirty hours in a day.

For those keeping track at home, I have published 365,000 words to this site, not counting all-too-infrequent updates to the Internal Monologue and numerous compliments under fake names. The actual count is higher (about 415,000); only once did I hit a thousand words exactly. I decided before Day 1 that it was more important to go out with a good punchline or a completed story than try to hit some silly exact word count. Or, in lieu of a punchline, I could always toss in a picture of this guy:

I began with a story about a guy with a hole in his head. Good, quirky stories are tough to stumble across on Wikipedia, but I lucked out with this one. The response to my first article was overwhelming – three people commented! One was a good friend from high school, another was my mother, and the third tried desperately to sell me some discount off-brand version of Cialis, but I was nonetheless humbled. Also, I learned a valuable lesson about trusting Internet strangers and a rare medical condition known as Krunk Boner.

Looking at my first smattering of topics, I see that I was quite bold in choosing obscure subject matter: the history of a New York oldies station, a seldom-heard 60’s girl group, and the history of the polypropylene stacking chair. Two of my most popular articles ever showed up in the first month: Day 12’s examination of the game Clue, and Day 22’s treatise on penmanship. The latter has generated more hits than any other article this year (seriously), mostly due to repeated Google image searches for this funky-ass Japanese keyboard:

Finding time to write every day has been a challenge. I’ve acquired a relatively smooth system that keeps me from welcoming the toll-bell of 2AM. Here’s how an average article gets written:

  • First I look at the article I’d written the previous day. Hopefully, the prose isn’t so horrible it fills me with shame and dread – like that time each of my paragraphs inexplicably ended with the words, “Suck it! Boo-ya!” I edit the crap out of it, then post it.
  • I have a running document with somewhere between 6 and 36 new article ideas. Next, I’ll consult this article and pick my day’s topic. Some, like ‘Military Robots,’ sit on the list for months until I’m sick enough of looking at them that I just write something – in that case, something awful.
  • I write the article and search for the photos at the same time. At work, this might mean hiding from customers under my desk, while at home this sometimes requires me to send my kids out on ‘eat what you catch in the park’ nights for dinner. This shit takes time.
  • Three or four nights each week, I log on to Wikipedia after my wife has rolled over and gone to sleep, and I hit Random Article in search of new topics. Then I try not to wake my wife up with my clenched-teeth swearing when all Wikipedia gives me is Polish villages and soccer players.

I have courted controversy several times over the past twelve months. In February I criticized the Texas school system, which irked a friend of mine (who lives in Texas, which is – unfortunately – the Alberta of America). I pissed off a couple of magicians who felt I was making light of the Magic Castle in Los Angeles. Out of fear that they’d use their voodoo sorcery on me and turn me into a pencil sharpener, I apologized for that one right away.

In April I inadvertently wandered into a decades-old feud between surviving members and associates of the Bobby Fuller Four. A few months later I argued extensively with a guy because I pointed out that Bill Whatcott, who goes door to door distributing hate material, is most likely a small-penised ass-mime.

While I don’t seek it out specifically, the controversy is all part of the fun. What’s more fun is the occasional connection (however brief) with the subjects of my writing. Like when the founder of finger-jousting reached out to me – sure, it was to ask me to remove any trace of him being the founder of finger-jousting, but hey, that’s something. Or when I was retweeted by Ben Folds and Kevin Smith, two artists I greatly admire. Or when the makers of Big Rock, the finest beer on the face of this or any other Earth contacted me to say they loved my article, and would I like some free beer? Of course, my journalistic professionalism prevented me from replying, “Fuck, yes!”

Perhaps the most rewarding days came when I’d venture onto a rickety limb and try a style of writing that deviated violently from the standard hey-check-this-out-and-by-the-way-here’s-another-bacon-joke style. I have written articles in haiku, lyrical analysis, a graduation speech, the words of an inappropriate substitute teacher (several times), a Broadway musical, a personal letter, a love letter to bacon (who else?), sonnets, a short story, and several quizzes.

For landmark days, I ventured even further out on that limb, out to where only the spindliest of fragile twigs could keep me from plummeting to earth and making a complete jackass out of myself. On Day 100, I wrote ten words about a hundred different topics. On Day 200, I wrote a scene using 200 song titles from the 1980’s. On Day 300, I reviewed every winner from the Eurovision Song Contest, which was my single greatest achievement in terms of personal sacrifice for one’s art this year, because every one of those songs was awful.

I’ve written on vacation, in the midst of University exams and essay deadlines, on days when work was prohibitively busy, and on Christmas. My resolution for the following year is to try out more wonky styles, uncover more incredible stories from history, and receive more gifts of thanks from producers of products I love, even if that means devoting all of February to writing about Oscar Meyer bacon.

366 days down, only 634 to go.

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