​Waiting To Change: An Update

I hope you had a blessed and happy Easter. Mine was so unbelievably full of activity, that by the time I got to evening on Easter Sunday, I was so exhausted that I’d made myself ill. I can well understand why in many countries, Easter Monday is a public holiday.

You’ll recall that a few weeks ago, I wrote about wanting to make some significant changes here, and I’m very grateful to those who responded with their thoughts and suggestions. As it turns out, things have been moving in an entirely unanticipated direction over the last few weeks, thanks to some opportunities coming my way from very encouraging people. While I can’t make any announcements until everything is finalized, I can say that I won’t be going away, I’ll just be moving to a new home – er…homes.

Most of you who honor me by subscribing to this blog tend to fall into two categories: those mainly interested in Catholic culture, and those mainly interested in secular culture. Some of you came to know me many years ago, as a result of many kind people in the Catholic media community taking an interest in my work and allowing me to share my thoughts with their audiences. Others of you may only know me from more recent years, when once again a number of good-hearted people in the world of secular media have helped me to become better known to their readers. I’m indescribably grateful to find myself in this position, with a great diversity of subscribers, followers, and engagers.

However, over the past two years it’s become very difficult for me to express my interests in both the sacred and the profane through a single, self-sustained media outlet. Everything on this site comes down to me: content, editing, layout, publication, distribution, marketing, feedback, etc. All of this is time consuming, and I don’t do media for a living. I don’t have minions, and no one pays me to write this blog; any advertisements that you see here are making money for WordPress, not yours truly. At the same time, I’ve gotten so used to being a one-man band, that I’ve been reluctant to consider yielding control over my work to someone else.

But listening to Mac Barron last evening talk about a new job he’s taking, and how he’s happier and more productive when he’s given structure, really hit home for me. His observation reminded me of a conversation I had near the beginning of this process, with someone whose experience in and opinions on media I very much respect. He pointed out that I, too, seem to do better when I’m given structure, instead of trying to create everything myself. And that’s absolutely right: I’m a lists and research guy, not a seat-of-the-pants guy.

So, for those of you mainly interested in my commentary on Catholic matters, you’ll be able to read and engage on a far more regular basis than you have lately, and in a forum which you are probably already visit regularly. For those here primarily for the arty-farty stuff, you’ll have a brand-new product from a familiar brand which will give you what you’re already coming here for and even a bit more, which will hopefully serve as a practical resource. For those of you who stop by for both, well, pretty soon you’ll have double the pleasure, or displeasure, depending on your view of my scribblings.

Of course, this isn’t last call just yet. I’ll give plenty of actual notice before this old blog gets put out to pasture. But if you can, please keep these upcoming changes in your thoughts and prayers, and thanks for your continued support.

Help Me Move! (No Heavy Lifting Required) 

After nearly nine years, I’ll be retiring the Blog of the Courtier in the near future. Now don’t panic, because I’ll still be writing. But it’s time for a change – and I need your help.

I began blogging back in the mists of time, when I taught myself HTML during law school and started my first web site. Later I launched this blog on Blogger, and then switched to WordPress several years later. Over the years I’ve built up a loyal group of readers, who appreciate my (often overwrought) musings on this, that, and quite a bit of the other, and from whom I’ve learned a great deal.

Yet I’m very much aware that I’ve plateaued.

If you’ve ever lifted weights or played a musical instrument, then you know that at some point, you reach a level where everything stays the same. You don’t have to try so hard, and things come pretty easily. That leaves you with a choice: stay where you are and coast along, or try to do something different. That’s the place where I find myself, since there a number of things about this site that just aren’t improving anymore.

For example, the title of this site neatly sums up the sort of things I write, since it’s a play on Castiglione’s “Book of the Courtier”, a work that I’ve always found inspirational. On the other hand, it’s pretty clunky. Without naming names, I know several writers and podcasters who reference this site in their work, but struggle with how to pronounce it, or even remember what it’s actually called.

We have to keep up with the times, if we’re to stay relevant. That doesn’t mean lowering our standards, but it does mean taking a long, hard look in the mirror from time to time, to see what needs to be updated. Your grandfather’s Harris tweed jacket will never go out of style, but his extra-wide ties certainly have.

I know that this is a risky move as a writer who is not more widely known. I also realize that I’m going to lose a lot of readers when I move. I could just stay here and do more of the same. But I feel the need to push myself a bit harder, and the least I can do, for those of you who want to stick around, is to make that as pleasant and attractive a prospect as possible.

What I’m hoping to get from you, gentle reader, is some feedback.

I’ve already got several ideas about where I want to take things in the future, but I’m still working those out. In the meantime, it would help me a great deal if you would let me know your thoughts. What do you like/dislike about reading my work? What are your opinions on issues such as format, length, subject matter, and so on?

Please use the “Contact” tab, located up in the header of the site, to send me your thoughts. I’d prefer that you use that form, rather than comment directly on this post, since it will be easier for me to review the responses. I‘ll be very grateful to receive them, and I promise to read and consider all of them.

For the time being, I’ll keep posting on this site as I always do. It’s not going to go dark without plenty of advance warning. And while we await the outcome of this move, please allow me to thank you for your many years of support; I hope you’ll continue to support my efforts, as I launch into the unknown.

The Write Stuff: On Bosch, Travel, and Virtual Ink

Having been warned by the museum itself to do so in advance, I recently purchased my tickets for the opening of The Prado’s upcoming show, “Bosch: The Fifth Centenary Exhibition”. From the website:

To mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Hieronymus Bosch, the Prado is holding the most comprehensive exhibition ever organised on this Dutch artist. In addition to the works by the artist in the Museum’s collection the exhibition includes exceptional loans, among them The Triptych of the Temptations of Saint Anthony from the Museo de Arte Antiga in Lisbon, as well as paintings lent by leading institutions such as the Albertina and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the National Gallery, Washington, the Musée du Louvre, Paris, and the Polo Museale del Veneto, Venice.

It is a given that if you ever happen to find yourself in Madrid, as I will be at the end of this month, you must go to The Prado. Even though I would have gone anyway, their hosting a major retrospective on one of my favorite artists is a significant bonus. Naturally, I plan to write a review of the exhibition for publication, but the question of what else, if anything, I will be publishing during my time in Spain remains a bit up in the air.

Part of the joy of going away on vacation is that you vacate the premises, physically and mentally. Home and the workplace are left behind for a period of time, so that you can have new experiences, clear your head a bit, and allow amorphous ideas the opportunity to begin taking shape. For me, having time off can be a period of welcome inactivity, but it can also be an opportunity for more scribbling – something which I have less time to do now than previously. It amazes me that for so many years I was able to churn out a blog post of 1,000 words or more, five days a week; I certainly couldn’t do that now.

At this point I don’t want to make any promises. Perhaps I will do a travelogue of each day’s adventures, or perhaps you will hardly hear a peep out of me, other than the de rigueur Instagramming of meals and cocktails. More likely the result will be somewhere in between.

Watch this space, gentle reader.

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Bosch's accurate prediction of the horrors of air travel in the 21st century