Monday, December 22, 2014

Eighth Anniversary Post

Today is the eighth anniversary of this blog. During that time I have posted 1149 entries which have been seen, depending on which analytics I look at, over a million times. It means that on average, I have written 143 entries a year, or nearly twelve a month. A couple of days ago, I Googled “the average lifespan of a blog” to see if this were really any kind of accomplishment. I learned a couple of things. First, it's estimated that approximately 60% - 80% of all blogs remain active for less than a month. Second, I had asked the wrong question. Truly, the question I asked is unanswerable. That's because even if a blog is no longer maintained it is virtually immortal, as long as the Internet lasts and no-one takes it down. The correct question to ask is whether the content within the blog represents something meaningful and important to the person writing it. Throughout the past eight years, I've had to best job I've ever had. I've been provided with a forum to write, photograph, and consider two of the most important elements in my life: music (especially bluegrass) and books. I've developed habits of considering and writing about two areas of interest which are important to me, and apparently thousands of others. With my wife, Irene, I've traveled many miles and spent untold hours listening, watching, sharing, reading and playing while meeting people I never imagined existed who have, mostly, become our friends, people we look forward to seeing or communicating with through the many ways that today's communications permit. What a life!

First, let's look at some statistics, although increasingly I've come to believe that they're considerably less important than other habits, values, and experiences we've had along the way. During 2014 we've spent 220 nights on the road following the passion we've developed. We attended seventeen bluegrass festivals from New Hampshire to Florida and across the mountains to Tennessee and Ohio. Nevertheless, I'm constantly reminded of how many events there are, how many really good bands, how much fine music in bluegrass and other genres can command attention, and how little time and money we have to experience it all. But given time, age, and our resources, we're doing the best we can. In addition to attending festivals we visited 29 other events and individuals, each of which added to our store of experience, knowledge, and enjoyment. We visited (and wrote about) music shops, concerts, museums, jam camps, luthiers, performers in their homes (a special treat), jams, and small shows. We've come to treasure and appreciate the differences as well as the similarities found in these places and people who share this little world with us.

Increasingly, You Tube has become an important way for us to communicate about the music and musicians in our world. During its lifetime, our You Tube channel has accumulated 1190 individual videos, mostly singles. They have accumulated slightly over four million song plays, with the viral Josh Williams Bird Video accounting for roughly half of them. This year alone this fortuitous event accounted for roughly half of the 1.4 million hits the channel had as well as gaining significant interest from companies wishing to represent it (or me) in syndication, making all sorts of promises. I've allowed several to show the Josh Williams video on television for a single play, but declined to sign any agreements. While it's fun to have people come up to me to ask, “Are you Ted?” and thank me for the videos, or to have them leave comments, I still prefer to write. While we live in a society where people are increasingly more willing to view both their entertainment and learning material without making the effort to read at any length, I'm old enough and comfortable enough in my own skin to continue writing in larger chunks than most people prefer. Meanwhile, the latest and hottest of video experiences is a teen/hipster site called Vine where members post looped six second videos and most of the providers getting millions of hits and making fortunes are kids or twenty-somethings. I still want my readers to read what I have to say about where we've gone and what we've done, think about it, and maybe even communicate with me. As a part of that process, I've become increasingly active on Twitter, continue to keep up my Facebook page, maintain Ted & Irene's Most Excellent Bluegrass Adventure, and participate in various online forums including, since I returned after many years to playing the guitar, the Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum. Although I have a Pinterest account, I honestly can't figure out how it works or how to reach out to people through it. Overall, Social Media both contribute to the activity on my blog and You Tube channel and permit me outlets to express other interests that don't belong on a relatively focused blog. I understand that my online world isn't “real life” but still feel it helps me stay in touch with a wide variety of people as we, ourselves, become less mobile and begin to wind down.

During the year I posted thirty-five book reviews. Several people have suggested I segment the blog to keep the reviews from interfering with bluegrass content. I've stubbornly refused to do this, as I think my blog represents my story, or at least those parts of my story I wish to communicate. Just enough people have come up to me to thank me for book reviews or “friended” me on that marvelous book site Goodreads (the quintessential web site for readers) that I'm satisfied to keep posting book reviews with regularity. Here's a look at my year in books according to Goodreads. Four of the books are explicitly about music, but I also read avidly in American History, biography, mystery/thrillers, sports, and whatever else strikes my fancy. I've added a new twist to how I read books about music, which ought to be reflected in the coming year. I've found Spotify (a music streaming web site) to be an invaluable resource in helping me gain greater appreciation for the music of people I'm reading about. In reading biographies of Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel, I've listened to their music while reading and writing about it. I have at least two history of American music books on my list for 2015, and intend to create Spotify playlists to coordinate with these books, something I wish had been available to me. We'll see what happens with that.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't thank the people who have made this whole project possible. First, and foremost, my wife Irene, who more-or-less patiently, has humored me and adjusted her schedule to make it possible for me to have time and space to read and write. She also serves as an effective filter, keeping me from burning too many bridges and as an incomparable line editor. She's put up with me for over fifty years, and it looks like we'll make though another one. Her own career as Queen of Merch deserves attention, but she much prefers to do what she does quietly and efficiently. But ask the artists for whom she sells. Meanwhile, there are at least dozens, maybe hundreds, or people who have taken time to correct my errors, supply information I ask for, and generally be helpful to me. They always add to whatever quality is found in these pages while not interfering with my trying to make sense of the world we inhabit. Thanks to all of you. See you next year.

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays
Ted & Irene Lehmann

May We Find Some Peace in the New Year

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