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celebrate

Ferrebeekeeper is quickly coming up on its 1000th post (this one, which you are reading is the 990th). Before we get to the thousandth post, we’re going to have a special top ten countdown to look back at some of the highlights of all the topics we have covered so far. Then I’ll write something really super special for the millennial post! After that, it will be Halloween-time, which always features some of our best material…so it’s going to be a great autumn! However, before we get to these thrilling special events and celebrations, I wanted to address some of the issues raised by this blog and also ask the readers a few questions.

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Most importantly, what is the purpose of this blog…or any blog? I actually started writing Ferrebeekeeper merely because a friend set it up for me. Also my blog-hero Andreas Kluth (who has seemingly stopped writing his blog, now that his book is published) recommended blogging as a way to organize one’s thoughts, feelings, and creative impulses. Ferrebeekeeper has 29 topics (you can see them right there to the left) and I try to write about one of them each day. Sometimes I can combine several—like when I write about Chinese snake art, or Ancient Egyptian bee-crowns. Those are happy days! Other days I can’t think of anything that fits any of the listed topics—so I write something random and chuck it under “uncategorized.”

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So I started this blog to share interesting and meaningful things with you–and that is still my wish. I want to use it to push forward my ideas about art, science, and human progress. I also want to keep this blog exciting and relevant—and growing. Yet now I am also stumbling about accidentally on the threshold of a career in journalism. Writing articles a certain way in exchange for money is causing me to reassess the purpose and future directions of Ferrebeekeeper. The media world has been changing with vertiginous rapidity. Sadly, for someone who is a technophile with dreams of space colonization, I have minimal web-savvy—so I didn’t get into the blogging game until the golden age of blogs had passed. Yet the idea of blogs is uniquely powerful and democratic. Ferrebeekeeper is a sort of one-person magazine about life, art, science, and history. Yet when one compares it to a real magazine, the differences become abundantly clear. Magazines are made to make money. They are large corporate entities with marketers, logisticians, and advertisers (in addition to all of the artists, writers, and editors who make the content).

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Instead of a whole team of highly paid artists, illustrators, writers, editors, marketers, and photographers working together to churn out exciting highly produced content, there is just me in my pajamas trying to create a daily post [editor’s note; he doesn’t actually have pajamas…or, for that matter, an editor]. I do the best I can, but some days the research does not pan out and the topic ends up a bit flat (like, erm, cough, this bland post about the color viridian).

Of course a few blogs (or tumblers or twitter accounts or whatever) are making it big. If you specialize, you can sell to special advertisers. My friend always tells the story of his cousin the Korean food blogger who was able to retire from her day job of being trapped in a beige cubicle. All she does now is write about delicious Korean food every day as sponsors fight each other to giver her money! Can you imagine?

 

Argh! Why didn't I write about Korean food?

Argh! Why didn’t I write about Korean food?

But I suppose the point of writing a blog isn’t to seek out wealth and fame (which is what twitter and reality TV are for). Instead I write this blog to explore the world (the universe?) in two ways. The first and most obvious is that I have to find out something every workday and write about it. Some posts, like the ones about parthenogenesis, brown dwarf stars, or alternation of generations are especially interesting and challenging. I am forced to learn all sorts of new things to write effectively about science, history, and geography. However, even the rapidly slapped together “list” posts of mollusk mascots or gothic clocks offer precious and unexpected insights into what is beautiful, intriguing, and meaningful. There have been points where I felt like everything was going to come together in some amazing epiphany–Chinese painting, turkeys, invaders, art, astronomy, and history would all become the same thing and I would understand the world. That larger understanding of how everything fits together always ends up eluding me, yet writing helps me try to weave wildly disparate threads of knowledge into a coherent weltanschauung.

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The second way that this blog allows me to explore the world is through the readers who are always making unexpected connections, or asking questions. Since I can not travel the globe in person, I do so through this blog. Intelligent people from all sorts of different countries have written comments to me (and, according to the analytics tool, even more of you are reading). I am poor at quickly responding to people’s submissions, but I always try to respond cogently.  Please keep writing comments!  I know that wordpress makes it hard to respond, but I really esteem your input.

I guess the point of this blog is you–the readers! Of course, like all writers, I want to be read and to reach more like-minded souls! The fact that someone is actually reading Ferrebeekeeper is what makes it different from being a diary or a weird set of notes. I am constantly thinking about how I can make this effort more appealing while not selling out and using misleading click-bait to write about worthless celebrities.

Although Katy Perry always manages to sneak in somehow.

Although Katy Perry always manages to sneak in somehow.

It comes down to this paradox. This blog is not about selling something (although I guess WordPress sometimes puts ads on it), yet I do want it to be better and reach more people—which involves selling myself more effectively. What can I do to improve? How can I make this space better for you? Please write to me with your concerns, suggestions, and comments.  Working together, we can make the next thousand posts even more astonishing and beautiful!

1000

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Another year is passing and, as in years past, we pause to recall some of the important people who passed away this year.  Numerous World War II heroes died as the greatest generation fades into a glorious Technicolor sunset.  We will not see their like again.  All sorts of celebrities, criminals, titans, sports stars, and pioneers also passed on as the great parade of human life continues.  Here are some of the scientists, space pioneers, artists, writers, and leaders who deserve a last shout out before 2014 begins with its possibilities, anxieties, and hopes.

Illustration from Frederick Back's "The Man Who Planted Trees"

Illustration from Frederick Back’s “The Man Who Planted Trees”

Noted animator Frederick Back died on December 24, 2013.  He was known for his profoundly moving short animations.

Dr. Janet Rowley in the lab

Dr. Janet Rowley in the lab

Dr. Janet Rowley demonstrated that chromosomal translocation was the underlying cause for leukemia (and other cancers). By establishing the genetic underpinnings of many cancers, she vastly furthered cancer research and treatment.  ABC news reported “She is a recipient of the National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest scientific honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.” She was still publishing papers and researching at the University of Chicago (where she graduated from high school, college, and Medical School and spent most of her professional life) right up until her death on December 17, 2013.

Peter O'Toole in "Stardust"

Peter O’Toole in “Stardust”

Peter O’Toole one of the foremost thespians of our era died on December 14, 2013.  The quality of his movies varied wildly, but the quality of his acting was always the very highest.  I remember watching him on a late night chat show and being impressed by his vivacity and intelligence.  He finished the segment by reminding the audience that this isn’t a dress rehearsal (a sentiment which bears repeating).

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Harry Rosenthal an AP reporter who “covered America’s golden age of space exploration” died on Dec. 12, 2013.  I hope a new reporter appears on the scene to cover a newer and more glorious era of space exploration (but a lot needs to go right for that to happen).

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Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, died on December 5, 2013. Too often, brutal civil wars have swept across African nations after independence. It did not happen in South Africa thanks to largely to Nelson Mandela who reached out to his former oppressors in order to build a unified society.

That painting in the back was by Fred Scherer==he might have been one of the greatest living landscapists

That painting in the back was by Fred Scherer–he might have been one of the greatest living landscapists

Fred F. Scherer a painter and sculptor responsible for crafting some of the amazing wildlife dioramas for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, died Nov. 25, 2013.

Dorris Lessing drinking in front of a maritime painting

Dorris Lessing drinking in front of a maritime painting

Doris Lessing, Nobel Prize laureate and author of harrowing science fiction dystopias (some of which were based on her childhood in colonial Africa) died on November 17, 2013.

Legendary rock-and-roll musician Lou Reed died on October 27, 2013.

Legendary Irish punk/rock/traditional musician Philip Chevron died on October 8, 2013.

Chicago Pile 1 was underneath the underneath the bleachers at Stagg Field football stadium

Chicago Pile 1 was underneath the underneath the bleachers at Stagg Field football stadium

Harold Melvin Agnew, an American physicist and nuclear pioneer died on September 29, 2013.  He was best known for working on the first nuclear reactor (Chicago pile 1) taking part on the Hiroshima bombing mission as scientific observer, and (eventually) acting as director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Young Roger Ebert

Young Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert died on April 4, 2013. Ebert was a screen writer, an essayist, and above all a movie critic.  I did not always agree with his reviews, but I usually liked reading them more than I enjoyed watching the films.

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