(Dallas) Veteran blogger Chris Tucker continues to confer with advisers as he seeks “the road ahead” for the four-year-old Muse Machine blog, which recently recorded its 1,600th post.
“In case people didn’t notice, we’ve actually been in this decision process, sort of taking stock and seeing what was viable for us going forward, since January 1,” Tucker said from his North Texas home. That was when Tucker concluded a monumental if little-heralded project called “31 Days of Cheer,” posting at least one uplifting, positive, affirmative, life-enhancing, humorous, brave or bold item every day of the month.
Sources close to Tucker say the Promethean effort of finding 31 good things about the world while battling a bizarre and painful near-paralysis of the neck, learning of the death of a longtime friend, and watching his beloved Dallas Cowboys crater and miss the playoffs left him “exhausted and close to despair,” especially as December readership figures plummeted in part due to holiday distractions.
Others painted a rosier picture, repeating Tucker’s often-stated belief that the blog had “pretty well served its purpose over the years.”
“Look, the guy’s done everything he set out to do with this blog,” said one long-winded Muse Machine insider. “Go back to the guiding principles he laid out here. He wanted to comment on important issues. He did. He wanted to see if he could maintain the discipline of a blog over time. I’d say 1,600 posts checks that one off. And he wanted to do the whole thing in a way that reflected what he thought was the best of himself and of the American character, not the worst. Read it and judge for yourself. I don’t think he’s got anything left to prove.”
Muse Machine was never one of the best-read or most-commented-on blogs on the Web, averaging 50-100 independent viewers a month at its peak in 2010, according to WordPress statisticians. From the blog’s beginning in April 2007, Tucker steadfastly denied that he was interested in vast legions of chatty readers, often noting that many blog commenters were “vile, foul-mouthed, and far less articulate than George W. Bush.” Even as his readership dropped, Tucker maintained that his real interest in the blog was as a proving ground or “incubator” for ideas that often made their way into magazine pieces or radio commentaries.
“I’m a writer,” Tucker told Small Blog Daily in 2008. “I like to take an idea and work with it, see where it goes, and see what the process teaches me. I don’t need a grandstand full of people to do that.”
But blog watcher Herm Simbitz, author of How Facebook Killed the Little Blogger , says that despite his brave front, Tucker must have been keenly disappointed to see his efforts ignored by so much of the public–a fate suffered by thousands of small bloggers since the astonishing rise of Facebook in 2009.
“Let’s face facts,” said Simbitz. “Your typical Web-browsing person who used to check in on a blog like Muse Machine just doesn’t have time for that anymore. I mean, who cares about some unknown guy out in Texas with his finely tuned sense of irony and his references to a bunch of dead authors when you can be Facebooking about that great new Thai place and ‘liking’ your old high school boyfriend’s post about the new Labrador puppy he just bought?”
Simbitz also noted that the very qualities that Tucker prized in Muse Machine–fair-mindedness, the exaltation of reason, a general sense that despite the constant presence of evil and the perplexities of existence, each day truly is a gift–may have proved fatal to the blog in the end.
“Come on, seriously, does anybody care about that stuff anymore?” asked Simbitz. “What really delights people is conflict, profanity, violence, humiliating people and rhetorically ripping their guts out. The whole Jets vs. Sharks thing of American politics. Nobody cares about some nice guy with a degree in English and a bunch of opinions. I mean, look at the name–”Muse” Machine. That says it all, for God’s sake. We ain’t got time for musing, baby.”
For his part, Tucker denies that Muse Machine is no more, citing–naturally–Mark Twain’s line about those exaggerated reports of his death.
“I’m just taking some time to think about what the blog should be,” Tucker said. “I want it always to be an adventure, even if it’s just an adventure for me. I don’t want to just do the same old thing just because I’m good at doing the same old thing. We’ll see. Stay tuned.”