Friday, October 29, 2010

Blogspot Banter: Post Card A Day

Our final installment of Blogspot Banter (and, I add parenthetically, the final installment of this blog all together) comes from Post Card A Day, a blog that is exactly how it sounds: A site that displays a post card each day. We wanted to get a bit if international flare into the equation, and there really couldn't have been a better blog to center such a thing around. To see what all this is about, we encourage you to click here.

Much like each of our other Blogspot Banter subjects, this particular blog was named a Blog Of Note. And, much like each of our other Blogspot Banter subjects, the blog has hundreds of followers, something we, even on our way out, will never be able to claim. The Los Angeles Times has given the blog coverage, and, more important than any of this, it's simply a neat idea for a blog. Really. It is.

Below, you will find answers to how important a comments section can actually be for a blog that doesn't lend itself to commenters because of its simple nature, the nature of networking and the entire notion of making a career out of blogging (not the best idea, she says). We sincerely hope you've had as much fun reading these things as much as we've had putting them together, and again, if there is one last thing you do before navigating your way away from this particular site forever, be sure to check out Post Card A Day. You won't regret it!

Q: How long have you had the A Post Card A Day blog? Can you explain what the main focus of your blog is and what inspired you to begin this particular blog? We think it's a really neat idea for a blog, but is there a particular audience you are trying to reach with the topics you cover on your blog?

A: I've had the blog since March 2008, or thereabouts, but I can't for the life of me remember my thought processes at the time. Postcards, that's all it is, postcards. Some old, some new. Some from home, some from far away. All I was doing was making a record of the postcards I had, maybe to share them but that was a side issue. Looking back at the earlier entries, it seems to me they're all or almost all ones my father collected. Originally my audience was myself. When I realised other people did appear to be interested, I started to write a bit more and to make some attempt to widen the appeal by covering as many countries as possible, especially beyond Europe. People are on the whole more interested in seeing places they know and those aren't necessarily the ones I'm interested in.

Q: A Post Card A Day was recently named a Blog of Note by Blogspot. How did it feel to be recognized like that? Did you ever know or think it was coming? What can you attribute to obtaining such status within the Blogspot world?

A: It was both an honour and a shock to be named as a Blog of Note. Of course I was very happy about it, then as I watched my stats I was amazed, then stunned. I was nearly overwhelmed with all the comments and related spam. I had no idea it was coming but I can only assume someone read the LA Times coverage of my blog the weekend before. Or maybe it was the Creative Prose article naming A Postcard a Day as "Wacky Website of the Week" (I was less enthusiastic about that!) All that happened within the space of a few days.

Q: Your blog has over 800 followers, and you seem to have a reach that extends all the way around the world. What advice would you give to a blogger starting out in regards to how to gain readership? Were there any struggles you had to begin with, and how did you overcome them?

A: Gaining readership is slow when you're starting out. Networking is the best way to find readers, but it's a long and slow process. You have to read a lot of blogs and join forums, find some that interest you and hope the interest is returned. I've noticed the vast majority of people who've left comments since APAD became a Blog of Note have just started blogging, so that's obviously one way. I will visit their blogs at least once, and follow if they seem interesting. I can't really say that I've had too many struggles. I had no great expectations when I started out. Now though, I feel I have some sort of standard to maintain though I've no idea what that is. My struggles may be about to start.

Q: This blog appears to be something you enjoy doing for fun. What is it you do as a profession (if you don't mind us asking), and how do you balance a career and blogging - especially with the demand of posting a postcard a day can bring? Would you ever consider trying to make blogging an entire career, or just a hobby? If just a hobby - why just a hobby? If a career - what extra steps would you take?

A: I do enjoy blogging and it is for fun. I'm not formally employed now, though I was when I started. It isn't so difficult to appear to post every day because I schedule the posts. I generally do at least a week's worth at a time. Make a career out of it? I don't think so, I don't think it's possible these days.

Q: How important is the comments section/rea-dership numbers to you? Is this something that you only find gratification in when you know other people are reading? That said, have you become discouraged and have you ever considered giving up your blog because you thought no one cared/read? If so, how did you overcome those feelings?

A: The comments section is an interesting thing. his blog doesn't really lend itself to commenting very much. What can people say? Mostly just "nice card" or variations on that, but just occasionally I get something great and it makes it all worthwhile. I had a comment on one of my early cards, the Mark Twain Clopper, from someone who had been in the picture 23 years ago. That was exceptional but there have been others. Readers are a different matter and I've become accustomed to watching my stats. It's a great boost to see follower and reader numbers climbing.

Q: How important do you think a name can be when beginning one’s own blog? Did you have designed-minded ideas when you came up with the name of your blog or was it something that all fell together in place? That said, how important do you think a blog’s design is? Is the use of things such as videos and photos essentials to the success of a blog, or do you believe good writing is the key?

A: I think the blog's name is a useful indicator of what to expect but not all-important. The design is more so, because I can't tell you the number of blogs I close as soon as I open if they offend my eyes or even my ears. That said, I'm using a very old basic template and I know it could and should be improved. If I ever do earn any money from it, that will be the first thing I do - pay a designer. Obviously a picture per post is inevitable with my subject matter. I try to strike a balance between the writing and the picture. I don't like a string of postcards with little to say about them but at the same time I don't think people want to read huge chunks of text, no matter how fascinating I think it is.

Quick 5:
Q: What’s your favorite movie?
A: Educating Rita
Q: Favorite food?
A: Chocolate cake
Q: Favorite television show?
A: Masterchef, UK edition
Q: When you are not working or blogging, what do you enjoy doing the most?
A: Walking, photography, reading
Q: What’s your favorite blog?
A: How can I possibly say? I've made some excellent friends over the years and they are all my favourites.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Farewell! How... anti-climactic .

As my blogging better half Colin mentioned on Monday, tomorrow will be the last entry from our little corner of the blogosphere. And how fitting that it will be a Blogspot Banter - the one post per week that requires little-to-no creativity on our part.

I kid, I kid. But seriously.

It's funny... When Colin and I originally talked about starting a blog, I was thinking each of us could post once a week, giving us ample time to develop a witty, fresh, unique perspective on something that a far better writer had previously discussed. Wouldn't you know, a week later he convinced me we need to post twice a day, every day - and I had to fight him to just get weekends off.

Luckily, thanks to my half a dozen years of higher education, during which I mastered both the art AND science of lying (as he so politely put it on Monday), I was able craft a persuasive-enough message to convince Colin that he would be responsible for 85% of the content... but that if we ever put advertisements on the page, we would, of course, split the profits 50/50.

Well, for those who are curious and have actually continued reading up until this point, my name is Frank, and I'm an alcoholic... Not really, but I can see the appeal sometimes. I've got my bachelor's in mass communication and my master's in (are you ready for this) integrated marketing communication. I work in PR and marketing communication for a nonprofit healthcare provider in western PA and, as Colin said, do some freelance magazine writing as well.

I have an awesome, b-e-a-utiful wife named Darcy, two cats named Jimmy and Lydia and an adopted Shepherd/Lab mix named Ginger who we're dogsitting for three years or so while her dad (Darcy's older brother) is serving in Afghanistan. I love Pittsburgh, hate Cleveland and LOVE going on vacation to North Carolina.

Colin and I have played in a few bands together, he as a drummer, myself as a singer. Coincidentally, our partnership in music is much the opposite of this blog - I do most of the work, carry him on my back and do everything I can to keep him motivated. So far, we typically have played power pop kind of stuff, but we'll see what comes next.

I'm not sure how we became best man-friends, but I'm glad we did. It's nice.

What's anti-climactic about my post today, is that Colin was the frontline soldier of this little blog. As the main contributor, he was the face, if you will. I was like the wizard behind the curtain. The silent partner in a business deal. The guy on PTI that wasn't Tony or Michael. And who really cares about that dude anyways?

But for what it's worth, thank you so much for keeping up with us and throwing in your two cents. This was fun, ay?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hi. My name is.

So, alas all good things must come to an end. Or, well, depending on how you view us, all moderately-OK things must come to an end. That's right, friends. As I alluded to last week, we here at The Unusual Suspects blog are throwing in the towel after seven months of work and over 9,000 hits by various individuals all around this fine world.

To be honest, either of us would have been happy if we knew just nine people would have stumbled across this corner of the blogosphere. So to think that this page has been viewed nearly 10,000 times within almost half a year is something that I can honestly say I'll hold near and dear to the strings of my heart forever (especially when you consider my initial personal goal was somewhere around 3,500 in the first year).

Because we are in complete awe of these particular numbers - and because we wanted to do anything we possibly could to try and convey how happy it makes us to think so many people read our silly ramblings without sending each person a check for 50 cents - we'd like to take a moment to introduce ourselves as we make our way to the door. How self indulgent, you say. And you'd be correct. But having peeked our heads in the comments section now and again to find that some of you may have wondered who we are and where we come from, we thought this was something that has been long overdue, and something you, as the pretty loyal readers you are, deserve.

My name is Colin McGuire. I have been responsible for everything you have seen on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I have also been responsible for every Double Feature you may have read, the Blogspot Banters and yes, every single ...For The Ride Home post. That's me. Working 'round the clock to provide you with links you could find anywhere else, shallow movie reviews on films I haven't seen yet and a glimpse into the everyday trials and tribulations a life such as mine can bring.

Unlike my partner who has his master's degree in lying (or, well, public relations) - and, who I may add will pen his own post surrounding the same type of thing later this week - I went to college to earn degree in journalism. Yes. I know. It's like getting a degree in barista-ology. Him and I both freelance for a couple magazines rooted in, of all things, military actions and the job world. I work a regular job as a Night Editor at a small town newspaper in Pennsylvania and, for the last three years, I've been lucky enough to have a column in said newspaper (so, well, you could call me a "columnist" as well). Finally - and before this sounds too much like a profile - I am an Associate Editor at a Web site called Popmatters, a kind-of-big-deal place that offers CD, movie, book, and anything else reviews, along with interviews, profiles, commentaries, and other such pop culture things. For those interested (though I couldn't imagine any of you are) you can view the work I have done there if you click here.

When we started this blog, we wanted it to be fun, sarcastic, subversive, informational, intelligent and reliable. Whether or not you can associate any of those words with us is still up in the air, but even if we failed miserably, you at least now know what exactly it was we were aiming for. It is for this reason as to why the final thing you will see posted is one last Blogspot Banter set to go live Friday. I always wanted to at least try and provide any possible reader with insight from other, more popular bloggers, and that's why I'm more proud of the Blogspot Banters than anything else I've done for this particular outlet.

So why now, right? Well, to be honest, it's simply become too much. By no means am I complaining at all, but being responsible for as many things as I was when it came to this blog - and considering my natural stubbornness and insistence upon always maintaining at least a semi-professional product with the nature of consistency the features appeared - I have come to acknowledge and realize the amount of time it has taken up in my life. Again, this is no knock on the other half of this operation at all (so please don't perceive this in any such way), but the Rides, and movies, and posts, and interviews honestly began ruling my life for a second or six.

What else? Well, I love evolving. Growing. Maturing. Learning. Our lives are nothing but snapshots. That's all. And sometimes we get lucky enough to catch a perfect night. A perfect relationship. A perfect afternoon. A perfect five minutes. A perfect five days. A perfect five years. And with that said, I've honestly felt as though we have begun the process of spinning our tires in circles. Neither of us could afford to add anything to the already-consuming nature of this project, and, at least from my standpoint, there wasn't too much left to do when it came to this. And I hate that. I felt myself stagnant when it came to this blog, and that was when I knew it was time to semi-gracefully bow out.

So alas, this is my goodbye with the hopes that something new and exciting will be lurking around the corner. I honestly, honestly, and honestly can not thank you guys enough for caring so much as to stop by and check out what we've had to offer. It's been just so much fun, sharing my love for romantic comedies, touching on the intolerance of bullying, corresponding with other bloggers, corresponding with commenters and, of course, meeting people who I would have never, ever come across had I never been involved with this blog.

Thank you. Thank you times infinity. I hope I run into you soon. Somewhere. Somehow. The below video is only added as a final offering. I love her, and I love this record. Really. You ought to check it out. Pretty good. Pretty bitter. Pretty lovely.

But now, for the very last time, and from the absolute deepest and bottomest my heart has ever seen, please don't forget from now until 50 years from now when you think back to that silly little blogspot blog that you used to check out from time to time, please do not forget that....

I'll always love you. I'll always miss you.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Still here...

Hi friends, just a note to say we'll have a full post soon enough. Unfortunately, I have no witty list of reasons why... Just one excuse: I have to get a physical today and I didn't have the chance to get a post ready for your viewing pleasure in advance.

I always feel intimidated before getting a physical - is that normal? I'm under 30, so I still feel like they're kind of pointless, yet I still get butterflies in my stomach when entering the office.

Here's something fun for you - Steeler fans will especially appreciate it, but it's for everyone. Like me. Sort of. Have a great day!

Monday, October 18, 2010

These six things I know are true

1. I spent a lot of time with "Recovery" this weekend. The above video plays a song that literally made me laugh out loud. Damn, he's good.
2. I am going to take a breather from these parts this week. I cannot speak for my better half, though, so you may want to check back Tuesday and Thursday to see what he's got to offer. Though I love you dearly, I have a few things to focus in on this week that have nothing to do with a silly little blog that nobody really reads, anyways. Many reasons are behind that, but none too particularly interesting.
3. There was no Ride Friday, and I apologize for that. The InterWebs crashed and access to such things became non-existent for myself.
4. I had a fabulous weekend.
5. Yes, I know the season finale to "Mad Men" was last night, and because there will clearly be no Ride today, I will be sure to give the entire season/last episode its proper due with a full post - but only if the following doesn't get in the way...
6. I'm not really sure if I'll be back. If such a thing occurs, I will most definitely poke my head in to offer a proper goodbye, and remind you lovely, fantastic, loyal readers that I heart you more than Valentine's Day candy. If such a thing does not occur, then I plan on seeing your pretty virtual faces back here, smiling and shiny one week from today. Either way, because I was unable to be around Friday (and because I will not be around this coming Friday as well), I must remind you once again that though I'll be stepping away from the computer for the next couple days, you can not forget that I love you, miss you!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Double Feature: Red & Hereafter

Each Friday, we will offer up two movies that are scheduled to be released within the accompanying weekend. We know, we know. It’s hard to come across blogs who ever actually get movie talk right. That’s why we won’t say much. A trailer. A paragraph. And boom – all you need to know about what new movies you can take your beautiful object of affection to see this weekend. It's like going to the drive-in movie theater. Remember those? So much fun. Thank us later, not now.


It's an odd week for movies, really. Both this and the below feature are two flicks I probably won't take the time to see in theaters unless if I find myself in a situation that says "Gee, I'd really like to go to the movies today," which is a notion I simply never have the time for these days. And even with that said, when both of these movies inevitably come in the mail through Netflix, I know I won't be excited. But there's something about both of these that I'm attracted to. For this first movie, I think it's safe to say I enjoy pretty much everyone involved here. It seems a bit cheesy, but that's what these sometimes-terrific actors seem to be aiming for more so these days than ever. Helen Miren is still getting it done. Like, really. Getting. It. Done. And we all love Morgan Freeman, right? This movie seems like the perfect fit...for a weekend sitting at home sick in January while the remote control is too far away to reach and change the channel from USA. A couple gags here. A few lines there. Can't fault these dudes for wanting a pay check.


This is a call to the 12 people who read this blog: Can you please, please, please explain to me what this movie is supposed to be about? I don't get it. If you know, please kindly take to the comments section with thoughts and information. I know this is a limited release this week, but it's about to go wide, and when it does, people will flock to it as though Matt Damon is starring in it and Clint Eastwood is directing it. Oh, wait. Why I'm skeptical: "Invictus" wasn't really that good, and not only does this feature the same star and the same 80-year-old director, but it also features the same behind-the-scenes crew. Why I'm curious: Matt Damn is simply lovely. He was on David Letterman's talk show earlier this week and was utterly charming. I can't think of a movie I've seen him in that I've hated. "The Informant!" and Invictus" are two that weren't all that good, but hate is not a word that's applicable. Another wait for DVD situation? Sure. That is, unless if one of you can tell me what the hell is going on here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

...For The Ride Home: CNN beats Fox News at something, Perez Hilton is a bully and more Brett Favre, of course

This is your official reminder that the best show on television these days is going to do something unprecedented tonight: Broadcast a live show. That's right. "30 Rock" is going all "SNL" on us, and it's going to have a go at live television. I eagerly await this, though I have no idea if I'll actually be able to see it as it's happening, and that upsets me. It should be interesting, though. In any case, hello Thursday. How do you do? I got a good workout in this morning, though I feel as though there was more to do. I hate that type of feeling when you are coming home from the gym, don't you? Oh, you do? Good. We have something in common. Tomorrow marks the final day of the week, and the final day before a weekend that is supposed to be "fun" for me. But never invest too much into one thing, friends. You never quite know how it could turn out. Before the weekend comes, though, we must tread our way through today, and today means a few links for you to consider before you can finally let loose on the days that matter most. We sincerely hope you enjoy at least two of the following and from the bottom of our bottomest hearts, we hope you have a fantastic Thursday evening.

A round-up of what everybody has said about the Brett Favre situation. It’s worth a look. (Deadspin)

A documentary about dubstep. I foresee this in my Netflix que sometime within the next year. (Pitchfork)

We said yesterday that the folks at NPR are not allowed at the upcoming Stewart and Colbert rallies. Today, the Washington Post weighs in. (Yahoo)

Aiming to change the idea that men are only interested in women and booze. Well, duh. Men like sports, too. (Good Men Project)

More people watched CNN than Fox News when the first miner came to the surface. Take that, Bill, Glen and the cast of “Red Eye.” (The Hollywood Reporter)

The 125 best albums of the last 25 years. Lists are so, so fun. No. 1 is admittedly a bit surprising. (Spin)

Hey, here’s a good point: With all this bullying talk, why hasn’t Perez Hilton been criticized for partaking in such things? He’s downright cruel when it comes to some celebrities. (Salon)

The Academy Awards will stay with a late-February date in 2012. That’s assuming we are all still alive, of course. Doesn’t it seem just a bit late? You nearly make it to March before you find out who had the best movie of the previous year. (Los Angeles Times)

Chilean miners’ disaster response shows us how it SHOULD be done

I had a post all ready to go about how Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year, but in an effort to add to the already extreme number of blogs talking about the Chile miners’ rescue, I’d like to give my two cents.

This topic does kind of ties in with Halloween though, the more I think about it. Thirty-three guys, undoubtedly dirty and ornery, trapped in an area that comfortably holds 10, in total darkness for the better part of two-plus months – that sounds like a nightmare I had once after a night of mixing red wine and spiced rum then devouring a Tony’s frozen pizza right before bed.

There are many factors you can point to throughout this process that are awe-inspiring, or at the very least, amazing. One thing I found pretty astonishing was the considerable lack of BS on the part of those involved with the accident, i.e. the government, the unions, management and “concerned citizen groups.”

The mantra throughout this ordeal was that a tragedy occurred and lives were at stake – so let’s get it done by any means necessary. We’ll worry about the particulars AFTER the 33 human lives are saved. I’m not so sure we could have pulled this effort off in the U.S. to be quite frank.

I’m not trying to be anti-patriotic here by any means, but it’s a fact that disasters such as these are breeding grounds for the most, shall I say, “opportunistic” of people, and that’s unfortunate. I’m also not saying this sentiment is exclusive to the U.S., but it seems to be pretty ubiquitous around here.

There wasn’t weeks of finger pointing before deciding who would be responsible for the cost of extracting the miners, there was no oversight committee that needed to make a recommendation, there was no considering NOT taking help from a foreign country for fear of having to return a favor… it was let’s pool whatever resources available and get these men out. And that was refreshing, even if it took 10 weeks because of the depth and the fact that there was no precedent.

A radio show host yesterday asked his listeners what’s the first thing they do after exiting that steel transport structure, after being entombed for 69 days. He had his serious callers (hug and kiss your family), comical callers (have a pizza delivered to the rescue site and go to town on it) and realistic callers (shield your eyes from the flashes of the cameras). I posed the same question to my wife and had to laugh at her response, because it’s so right on: “I’m going to a freaking doctor and then sitting in a hyperbaric chamber for a month.” Yeah, she’s in the medical field.

It’s true, the struggle for these guys is nowhere near over as they begin to deal with the physical and emotional tolls this experience put on them. But surely they’ve all come out of this with a better appreciation for life. Hopefully everyone else did too.

Come on back at 4 p.m. for the Ride.