Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Pause That Refreshes, a service of Google, hosts blogs of the “blogspot” domain such as this one. In addition to offering bloggers ready-made formats, it provides readership statistics that are fascinating to the bloggers, if to no one else. Don’t worry: does NOT tell us who individual readers are. Anyone who reads this site does so completely anonymously. But it does tell us (broken down for the day, week, and month) how many readers there are and from what country. Sometimes peculiarities appear in the stats for Richard’s Pretension that raise unanswerable questions. Real recent examples: “Why did 27 people in Taiwan read my remarks on the closing of the Broadway show Cabaret?”; “Even though more people see movies than read books, why do my book reviews consistently receive more hits than my movie reviews?”; and “In the first 24 hours after I posted a recap, why were 56 Russians eager to read about a local roller derby bout in NJ?” Don’t get me wrong: the more folks who view my site the happier I am, regardless of which post they read or from what country they hail, but I sometimes wonder why they do.

So, it was pleasant to discover that one such perplexing question actually had an answer. Nearly every day for the past several months, I’ve had a handful of hits on a blog I posted years ago titled Save the Semicolon. The blog was a lighthearted defense of a punctuation mark that has been fading in use for the past two centuries. The small but persistent recent interest in a 4-year-old blog on punctuation naturally raised the question “Why?” A Google search quickly provided a likely explanation. People looking for something else were stumbling on my old blog instead.

The semicolon still might be vanishing from books, stories, and articles, but apparently it is showing up on skin in ever increasing numbers. In 2013 Amy Bleuel, who had lost her father to suicide, began Project Semicolon “dedicated to presenting hope and love to those who are struggling with depression, suicide, addiction and self-injury.” Its symbol is a semicolon tattoo, because "a semicolon is used when an author could've chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to.”

It’s hard to find much fault in that, other than perhaps the grammar of the singular “their,” though this has its proponents for reasons of gender politics. I prefer to make my own symbolic statements in ways that involve fewer needles, but I fully respect those who choose skin ink instead. Besides, my generation has left younger people little option since we already had tried every statement of hair and dress in our youths. P.J. O’Rourke in his book The Baby Boom apologizes for this. “We used up all the weird,” he says. “Thus when it came time for the next generation to alarm and surprise us with their peculiarities they were compelled to pierce their skins and permanently ink their exposed flesh. That must have hurt. We apologize.”

I don’t mean to make light of Project Semicolon, which makes a serious and hopeful statement for a serious and laudable goal. However, I can see the possibilities for other ink statements of a less solemn sort: ! for extroverts, ( ) for introverts, “” for those without original thoughts, periods for the inflexible, and so on. Perhaps there is something to be said for wearing one’s nature with a properly punctuated dermis.

For myself, though, I’ll continue to let time tell its own story on my skin:

“Nature gives you the face you have at twenty. Life shapes the face you have at thirty. But at fifty you get the face you deserve.” ― Coco Chanel


  1. Ha, I've wondered about those stats. Sometimes I wonder if they are made up. I don't see why Google would bother doing that unless they are just randomly generated. As far as I know authors don't make anything either way from the amount of reader. It is fun to know, however, that someone in a foreign country reads your blog. I got a reader comment some time back from an Italian man, which brought a smile. Sometimes I wish more readers would at least say hello, but mostly I do it for grins and creativity.

    1. If you sign up for AdSense you'll get paid based on click-throughs on the ads on your blog site, but it is an ultra-tiny wee fraction of a cent per hit. For me, the annual total payment doesn't equal the price of a single breakfast at a diner. It barely covers the tip. Also, when you sign up, Google advises that they will know if you click on the ads yourself; they will cancel your contract if you do it more than a few times. You need a weekly readership competitive with commercial publications in order for the $ to be more than negligible.

      Like you, I'd write blogs even if no one read them, which very well might have been the case in the early years. (I used to blog on Myspace. Remember Myspace?) It's nice when someone does, though. That's true of my short stories, too.

  2. Yeah some of those stats are really bizarre when you look at how they break down. I wonder why my review for the 80s family flick "Explorers" has the highest hit count of all my reviews. Or why of all my Tarzan reviews, "Tarzan and his Mate" still gets a view or two every week... wait, I think i know why that may be. :)

    1. "Explorers" is an odd one for that status. I'm guessing it has a cult following, but I'm not sure why, given the annoying aspects of the second half.

      As for "Tarzan and his Mate" (1934), well there is that swim scene edited out for TV broadcasts, isn't there?