Doesn't time fly when you're having fun? We're having fun, right?
There's a good reason for the nostalgic mood in which I've found myself this week. According to my records (and a handily-timed mail from WordPress) the very first post on Excuses And Half Truths went out on August 30th, 2008, five years ago today. That first post was very much a “Hello, World” deal, a self-effacing and slightly sheepish greeting. Which was a bit odd, when you consider I'd been blogging for a little over four years at that point.
X&HT was an attempt to move up and on from Blogger, a platform that didn't suit the expanded remit I was looking for at the time. Inspired by a Warren Ellis post on creating your own stuff instead of link-blogging other people (the late-oughty version of the retweet) I decided that I wanted a site, not a blog. A showcase for my longform writing.
Reviewing the early days of any blog is an exercise in cringe. I was hardly a callow youth at that stage in proceedings, and yet I was still making some fairly fundamental errors. Making a big deal out of any site changes or tweaks to the sidebar, for example. This ignored two basic facts; that I was the only one remotely interested in reading about changes in functionality (I mean, if I had to point them out they can't be great, intuitive design, right?) and that as soon as I changed things around again, that particular post became redundant content. Mithering on about sidebars seems a bit pointless for a blog that hasn't had anything of the sort for over a year. Eesh.
The things that I noticed are the the things that didn't get written about. I'm not a confessional blogger, but there are allusions in the post to a tumultuous few years. My work situation, particularly in the early days of X&HT, was fluid and problematic, and I'd find myself working some very odd hours, largely on my own. It's been five years with more than its fair share of births, deaths, weddings and breakups. But these are private events. It's not my place to write about them, and I know full well that any blogger writes about the workplace at his peril. If you care to read between the lines, you can tell a lot about how my life's been going.
With five years of content, I must have written a few things that are worth a second look, right? Well, I hope so. The post that brings most visitors through the door isn't my finest bit of writing, by any means. It's this one, about O2's frankly bizarre site-blocking policy. It got linked to on Digital Spy, and still gives me a double-handful of hits per day. But we can do better than that.
So, shall we take a little stroll down memory lane, Readership?
To start, one from the very early days: September 2008. I was researching Phineas Fogg for that year's Nanowrimo: one of those half-finished projects that's still in the bank, a steampunk, feminist reworking of Around The World In Eighty Days. My research led me to one, very significant conclusion…
From March 2009, a piece on the shooting of my last Straight8 film, Time Out. Despite all the prep, this ended up being shot on the fly rather more than anticipated. They say any plan never survives first contact with the enemy…
And here's the aftermath. Not my finest moment…
In May my 2007 Straight8 film Code Grey was selected to be screened at the Cambridge Super 8 Film Festival. Here's the story of that screening, replete with special appearances from Leading Man Clive and Doco Dom.
I posted three articles at the start of 2010 about how humble items in SF became something else. The corridor, chair and door are potent objects in SF cinema and TV, becoming much more than set dressing or furniture. This is my favourite, but the other two are within a previous click and well worth a look.
A month later, I had something of an epiphany, and realised something very profound about myself. The pleasingly strong response to this post told me the one thing I'd always hoped: that I wasn't a weirdo.
I'm ashamed to say I don't blog about food much any more. I love decent food writing: not recipes, but honest, enthusiastic prose about grub. I'm not good with recipes, and food bloggery in general is too focussed on pictures of the process. If I'm juggling knives, spoons and pans full of hot oil or boiling water, the last thing on my mind is taking photos, sorry.
However, there's the odd bit of food writing of which I remain very proud. Here's one on the strange concept of Food Hell…
One on the magic that happens when TLC and I collaborate on a meal:
This is The Greatest Sandwich In The World.
A treatise on cookery shows that somehow ends up with a recipe for soda bread…
Finally, this, which tells you everything you need to know about how and why I cook.
This is… Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. You all know what a shaggy dog story is, right?
and while we're at it…
This piece, from May 2010 on Doctor Who and his companions, still gets an awful lot of love. Can't think why… (NSFW if looking at pics of a naked girl draped over a Dalek are frowned upon).
With Frightfest still hopefully in people's minds, here's the list of my 15 Favourite Horror Things I put together for Halloween 2010. Still stands up, apart from my enthusiasm for the remake of Fright Night. Dunno what I was thinking of.
As the premiere of End Point is still buzzing in the back-end of my brainmeat (justice will be done on that once I've let the bubbles settle a bit) here's a post on the interview that was the hardest one to snag: an hour's chat with the justified and ancient Bill Drummond.
Finally, a dose of psychogeography from 2012, as Dom and I walk from the South Bank to the Thames Barrier. It's tougher than you think, certainly in the way we did it.
So, what next for Excuses And Half Truths? Well, I always enjoy the collaborative and guest posts from writers I respect like Kate Atherton, Simon Aitken, Chris Rogers and Leading Man Clive Ashenden. More like that coming, for sure (and if anyone else fancies putting something together, I'm always happy to host your work. Hit up the comments or contact form if you're interested). Speaking of Clive, the Speakeasy is finding its feet, its voice and its purpose, and will be running on a regular basis. Exciting things coming up on the podcast side of things over the next few months.
One last thing. That title. Why Excuses And Half Truths?
Well, at the time that I was thinking of starting the site up, I was listening to a lot of The Hold Steady, and in particular the epic track from their album Stay Positive, Lord, I'm Discouraged. One lyric popped out at me as the perfect way to describe the work of a writer, particularly one with an interest in fiction. That was the spark that fired me up into signing up with WordPress, building the site and ultimately to this point, five years down the line.
Join me, Readership, in raising a glass of (fortified) wine to the future. It's been a blast so far. Let's see what comes next.