Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The 15th Anniversary of A Shroud of Thoughts

Today it has been 15 years since I began A Shroud of Thoughts. At the time I had no idea that the blog would last this long. I also had no idea that in some ways A Shroud of Thoughts would become my life's work. I have been writing A Shroud of Thoughts longer than every job I have ever had.

For those of you who may have forgotten, weren't online in the years 2002 to 2005, or simply were not born yet, blogs were something of a fad at the time. While blogs had actually been around since the Nineties (indeed, Jorn Barger coined the term weblog in December 1997 and Peter Merholz shortened weblog to blog in the spring of 1999), it was from the years 2002 to 2005 that the mainstream media started taking notice of blogging. For a time during the early and mid-Naughts, it seemed as if everyone and his or her brother had a blog.

In fact, a lady friend of mine was one of those people who had a blog at the time. It looked like fun to me and so I decided to start my own blog. In the mid-Naughts it was fashionable to give blogs titles with some variation of the word "thought" in them. That is the reason I took the title for this blog, A Shroud of Thoughts, from a line in Lord Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage canto iii stanza 113 (I won't quote here, as over the years I think I have quoted it enough). Here I have to say that if I had it to do all over again I would probably have chosen a name more befitting a blog devoted to popular culture and nostalgia. If I had known of the word retrophilia at the time (which Collins Dictionary defines as "a strong liking for things from the past"), I probably would have named it that. While I would eventually consider changing the blog's name, by that time A Shroud of Thoughts had something of a readership and I worried it would confuse people if I changed the name.

While A Shroud of Thoughts has always been dedicated to pop culture and nostalgia, it has changed over the years. In the early days I would sometimes write things of a more personal nature, but eventually I decided to stop writing anything overly personal with a few exceptions. Aside from being a very private individual, I figured that most people did not find my personal life that interesting. Another change to A Shroud of Thoughts is that for many years I would address more recent movies and television shows on the blog. This is something that would eventually fall by the wayside. It is not that I made a conscious decision to stop writing about more recent movies and television shows, but rather the case that I enjoyed writing about classic films and television shows more.  Sadly, I also have found myself writing many more eulogies than I did when I started (especially this year). It is an unfortunate fact of life that celebrities from the Golden Ages of Hollywood and Television started dying off at an accelerated rate from the late Naughts throughout the Teens.

Of course, my own life has changed since I began A Shroud of Thoughts. When I started writing the blog I had one job, only to pick up another job early in the blog's history. I would eventually quit the first job as I found juggling two jobs a bit too much. Unfortunately, several years later I would be laid off from that other job due to the economy. Sadly, since I began A Shroud of Thoughts there have been several deaths in my life. My remaining aunts and uncles would die during those years, as well as some of my older cousins. I lost one close friend to suicide. My best friend, Brian, died at an exceedingly young age in 2011. What was the biggest change in my life since I started A Shroud of Thoughts would be becoming friends with actress Vanessa Marquez, growing very close to her, and falling in love with her. When Vanessa was killed last year it was the most catastrophic death in my life. I am still mourning her to this day, and this is a very bittersweet anniversary for me given she did not live to see it.  For many Vanessa will always be Ana Delgado in the classic movie Stand & Deliver (2008) or Nurse Wendy Goldman on the hit TV show ER. For me she will always be my best friend, the girl of my dreams, and the love my life. I am still very much in love with her and I always will be.

Not only my own life has changed a good deal since 2004, but so too has society and popular culture. While smartphones had been around since the Nineties, they were still rare in 2004. At that time the average person was still using an ordinary mobile phone or, at best, a feature phone. Of course, today I am guessing the average person owns a smart phone if he or she owns a mobile phone at all. Tablets were also relatively rare in 2004, whereas now they are downright common. In 2004 social media services were still very much in their infancy. MySpace was less than a year old when this blog started and Friendster was a little older. Since then several other social media services have arisen, most notably Facebook and Twitter. Streaming media has existed since the Nineties, but in 2004 it was still very much in its infancy. Indeed, Netflix would not introduce its own streaming media service until 2007. Now, in addition to Netflix, there are several streaming services, including Hulu, Amazon Prime, Acorn TV, and many, many others. The first patent for a smart TV was filed in 1994 in Japan, but it would not be until 2008 that Samsung would introduce its first smart TV. Other manufacturers would follow suit, until in 2018 eMarketer estimated that 37.2% of all homes in the United States have a smart TV. Many more probably own online media players, such as Roku or Google Chromecast.

As to what June 4 2004 was like, well, it was not a terribly eventful day. Probably the biggest event to occur that day with regards to popular culture was the wide release of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in the United States. It was the third film in the wildly successful "Harry Potter" series and went onto make $796,688,549 at the box office. As far as music goes, June 4 2004 saw the release of the Ritchie Havens compilation album Dreaming as One: The A&M Years. The album was released on Mr. Havens' own Stormy Forest label and included the two albums he had recorded while at A&M Records, The End of the Beginning (1976) and Mirage (1977), along with some other material. The only television show to debut that day was Impact!, a professional wrestling programme. It debuted on Fox Sports Net, and would later move to Urban America Television and still later to Spike TV and even later Pop. It was earlier this year that it moved from Pop to the Pursuit Channel.

As to what the broadcast networks aired that night, well, the answer is not a whole lot of interest. In fact, I am guessing many of the shows that aired on the night of June 4 2004 have long since been forgotten. ABC showed George Lopez, Married to the Kellys, Hope & Faith, and 20/20. CBS aired Joan of Arcadia, JAG, and 48 Hours. On Fox was the movie Cats and Dogs (2001), which aired on their movie anthology series Fox Night at the Movies. NBC showed Dateline NBC and Las Vegas, while UPN aired the movie American Outlaws (2001) on their movie anthology series UPN's Night at the Movies. The WB aired Reba, What I Like About You, and Grounded for Life. Of the broadcast networks that existed in 2004, two are no longer with us. It would be in 2006 that UPN and The WB merged to form The CW. As to the various shows that aired that night, only three are still on the air and all of them are news magazines: Dateline, 48 Hours, and 20/20.

As I said earlier, June 4 2004 was not a terribly eventful day. What had to be the strangest news item of the day happened in Granby, Colorado. Quite simply, a welder and an automobile muffler repair shop owner went on a rampage on a specially modified bulldozer. The man had modified the bulldozer so that it was bulletproof and then proceeded to demolish Granby's City Hall, Granby's former mayor's house, and several other buildings. Fortunately, no one was killed during the rampage, although sadly the culprit killed himself with a handgun at its end.

Before I congratulate myself too much for A Shroud of Thoughts turning 15 years old, I have to point out that it is not the only old blog around by a long shot.  Immortal Ephemera is even older than this blog, dating to 2002. Inner Toob is about a month and a half older, launching in April 2004. Both The Stop Button and Laura's Miscellaneous Musings date to 2005. The Rap Sheet dates to 2006. My friend Raquel started Out of the Past in 2007.  Blogs older than a decade are hardly common, but they are not as uncommon as some people might believe!  By the way, I strongly recommend that you visit all of these fine blogs (they've lasted so long for a reason).

When A Shroud of Thoughts turned 10 in 2014, there were those in the media who claimed that blogs had diminished in their importance and that conversation had largely moved to social media. I didn't believe that was true then, and I certainly don't believe it is true now. I have not noticed an enormous decrease in the number of blogs, and, if  A Shroud of Thoughts is any indication, people are still reading blogs. In fact, I get more hits on this blog than I ever have. This seems true of every blog I read. If discussion has largely moved from the comments sections of blogs to social media sites, it is probably because most bloggers I know post links to their blog posts on social media sites where discussion about the blog posts then ensues. I rather suspect blogs will be around as long as the World Wide Web. I know I intend to continue writing A Shroud of Thoughts until I am no longer able to.

Anyhow, I want to thank anyone and everyone who has ever read this blog over the years, as well as my fellow bloggers who have supported me in this endeavour. I really don't know if A Shroud of Thoughts would have survived the past fifteen years without them. I encourage you to visit my fellow bloggers' blogs listed on the right sidebar. You won't regret it!

Every year I publish what I feel to be my best posts of the past year (for this year I did that yesterday). It then seems fitting that since A Shroud of Thoughts has now lasted  fifteen years to post a list of what I think are the best posts of the past fifteen years. I have chosen two posts for each year, counting series of posts as "one" post. Here I have to point out that some posts are missing images. Quite a few years ago every single image was wiped from the blog and I haven't gotten around to replacing  all of them!

 "The Vanguard of Mars Part One" September 3 
 "The Vanguard of Mars Part Two" September 4

"The Rise and Fall of the Independent Television Station" June 13
"Les Belles Dames Sans Merci: Elf Maidens and Men" June 30

"Mary Ann Versus Ginger" February 25 
"Dick Tracy Turns 75" October 4

"Cinema Killed the Radio Star: How Elvis Presley's Movies Nearly Ended His Career" August 22 
"Superman's Pal, the Smut Monger" August 29 

"Aurora: the Company That Monsters Built...And Destroyed Part One" January 13 
"Aurora: the Company That Monsters Built...And Destroyed Part Two" January 14
"Quality Comics" July 5 

 "Ida Lupino as Director" May 19
"The Devil's Business: The Murder of Sharon Tate" August 9

"Mama Told Me Not to Come: The Sixties Party Scene on Film" February 2
"All of Your Toys: The Monkees vs. Don Kirshner" April 17

"Everybody Loves Lucy: Lucille Ball's 100th Birthday" August 6   
"The Gothic Horror Boom of the Sixties" October 30

 "The Psychology of Betty Draper Francis" April 3
"Naming Names: The Rise & Fall of Confidential Magazine Part One" August 19
"Naming Names: The Rise & Fall of Confidential Magazine Part Two" August 20

"Perry Mason: The Case of the Disappearing Defence Attorney" January 11
"The JFK Assassination's Impact on American TV & Film" November 22

"The Birth of Beatlemania in America Part One" February 8 
"The Birth of Beatlemania in Amerca Part Two" February 9 
"Rock & Rule: Canada's Animated Masterpiece" October 4 

"Rita Moreno: Puerto Rican Superstar" October 12
"Shock! How Television Revived the Universal Monsters"  October 17

"The 75th Anniversary of M&Ms" March 5
"The Maltese Falcon: From Book to Screen" April 9

 "The 75th Anniversary of Archie" January 13
"Animated Christmas Television Specials of the Seventies" December 23

"The Planet of the Apes Craze Remembered" February 8
"The 50th Birthday of My Dearest Vanessa Marquez" December 21


KC said...

What an accomplishment Terry. Congratulations!

Andrew Wickliffe said...

Congratulations Terry!


First of all, congratulations! Blogging is a labor of love.
The first time I tried to blog was around 2004, in a website that doesn't even exist anymore. I failed because I had nothing interesting to say. When the site closed, in 2009, I created my current blogging account, but only in 2010 I found my purpose: writing about old movies.
Congrats again!

Hal said...

Congrats Terry! Been at it since 2006 myself, and I don't see my blog stopping anytime soon either. Been enjoying reading and participating in the blogathons!