This is a post I’ve had sitting on the shelf for when I wanted an easy one. I don’t know about other bloggers, but it takes hours for me to crank out a post. Some can take most of a day. (There are some where I spent days making graphics, and an upcoming one has work that took weeks! (You saw a glimpse in a recent post!))
The situation this concerns is long past. This is no rant, just a piece on a life change that surprised me a little, made me sad a little, and which doubly reflected the end of an era.
I could write this any time, but today I got another plea from Scientific American magazine. Again they beg me to come back. Again I won’t.
This, then, is an open letter to SciAm, a dear old friend with whom I’ve parted ways.
My Friend, there are two problems here, both of them sufficient to end our long relationship. Combined they make it a dead certainty. If it helps at all, this is mostly your fault, but I will admit I’ve changed, too.
Let me touch on the first problem, since that one is beyond our control. Times have changed; our kind of relationship is becoming obsolete.
I mean, let’s face it: sacrificing living trees in the name of being together is archaic enough, but to spend all that time and energy on pulping them, applying all that harsh chemistry and driving them around the country. For what? To run them through your giant color presses, fold them into “magazines,” stick steel staples in their bellies and send them off—alone—into the world to who knows where.
That’s just… well, it’s an industry!
No this trafficking in trees won’t do. Cellulose must live free in sunshine.
So there’s that, and that alone would give me pause, would make me rethink.
Yet I might have turned a blind eye, might have made you the one exception after I’d shunned all the rest.
The real problem is you became a whore. You wanted to be more popular; you wanted as many relationships with strangers as possible. You began playing to the groundlings. You became common and easy. You lost what made you unique and special.
Now I admit I’ve changed, grown, learned things, and it’s possible I’ve grown away from you, too. There was a time when you were a real challenge. There was a time, especially early on, when our times together left me puzzled, confused and scratching my head. It was as if you were speaking a foreign language.
I found so much in you I couldn’t understand, especially in the early days. But I kept at it. I wanted to know you and all you contained. I wanted to explore every area of you.
Over the decades we were together that’s exactly what happened. Every month we’d start a fresh cycle of exploration; there were new discoveries, new sights. You taught me so much; not always useful things, but always interesting things—exciting things!
I admit I was a bit less interested when you spoke of anthropology or biology, but I loved you, so I paid attention always, and you taught me even there.
Then—in the last decade or so—you seemed to become less interesting. Our conversations weren’t so esoteric anymore, weren’t as detailed.
Weren’t as interesting.
In fact, it was hard not to notice how quickly we’d finish our times together. You said less and less, and I found even less of it new to me. I’d heard most of it before, knew it already.
It became obvious you were reaching out to others. You wanted a new audience, but an audience with less advanced tastes. An audience mostly characterized by their strength of numbers.
And you know what? That same revolution that made tree bondage unnecessary also gave me access to a world of professionals freely talking about their science, art and craft.
There is a great deal of selling in the ‘web. There is also a great deal of giving, and some of that giving is very, very good.
For all those reasons it’s just not the same between us anymore. It’s over.
Do you remember how it all started? A friend introduced you to me. You’d been with him a while at that point and were looking a little frayed around the edges. But what was inside you was pure gold to this geeky kid! It was deep love at first sight!
[And do you know, I still have those times. I have almost all our times together, and let me tell you, it's been a lot to haul around these years. But I do have those early times from the 60s. You look even more frayed, and your gold has in some cases turned foolish. But you were still really something back then!]
Let us then remember the good times we had, remember all you taught me, remember all the hours we spent together enthralled. Alas, the center has not held. The stars may not change, but we do, and so does the world.
I will always remember you with great love! And I do wish you luck in your new life.
And, no darling, your website doesn’t interest me. It’s more of the same populist “big-box” model, a giant commercial internet store plopped down on Seller’s Row. I repeat: window shopping at SciAmMall versus sitting down with real scientists for coffee. Which sounds better to you?
I just don’t like glitz and glam. I do like good hard science.
I like knowledge. (Sepere aude!)