i have a prestigious blog, sir

prestigious blog

post title from Party Down, one of the best shows that ever got cancelled

Some of you newer people (are there any newer people? who knows) may not know this, but this website and I used to be kind of internet famous.

Don’t laugh, I’m serious. At its peak (2001-2006), bluishorange got 4,000 unique visitors a day. Blogs were a brand-new thing, I was writing almost every day, and it didn’t hurt that I was young and cute. Sometimes when I sat down to write I would picture all 4,000 people standing together in a room–this was encouraging at times, but other times all those imaginary people were just staring at me expectantly, which was nerve-wracking.

Lots of good things happened to me as a result of that traffic. I met a ton of amazing people (many of whom are now my closest friends), I was nominated for awards, I got to be on a panel at SXSW Interactive. An anonymous reader (and eventual friend) gifted me his used MacBook to take on my road trip in 2007.

But some bad things happened, too, and I’ll tell you about a few of them here.


In late 2000, I quit my job as a web designer to go back to university, and after I quit, a former coworker began to send me lots of emails. They were friendly at first: he wrote responses to things I’d written on my website, or notes about what was happening at my former workplace. Then he asked me out. I politely declined, but the emails kept coming–mostly he was trying to convince me that I should in fact go out with him. We had not been in the same department at work, and though we’d worked in the same room of cubicles, we had never actually spoken in person. But as best I could tell, reading my website had made him feel like he knew me in a way that was very real to him.

Westheimer Street FestivalOne day I made the mistake of mentioning on my website a band that I was going to see at a street festival. I had a few friends in the band, and I’d made their website for them, and I was really excited to see them perform.

You can see where this is going, right? He was there. Of course he was there, and I can’t believe I was surprised by it. He sat under a tree near the stage, and though he was wearing mirrored sunglasses, I could tell that he hardly took his eyes off me. He was a big guy, and to a 22-year-old 125-pound girl like me, he looked a bit menacing. I had come to the festival with a few friends who were enjoying the show, so I didn’t say anything to them or try to get them to leave with me, though I probably should have. When the show ended, he went up to the merchandise table, bought a CD, and then walked away.

I got home that night to another long, desperate email, and (I remember this like it was last week) it ended with, “Please help me, Alison. Please be my friend.”

I replied immediately with, “Please do not contact me ever again,” put all his emails and my responses into an archive folder so I wouldn’t have to look at them in my inbox, and called my father. He insisted we talk to a lawyer (a family friend), who advised me to keep all the emails in case they were needed later, and told me that I needed to take my website down.

I took it down for about two weeks, which was all I could take, but I never again said anything online about places I might be going. The guy emailed me one more time in response to my plea not to contact me. It was full of invective–I was a bitch, and a tease, and I had led him on, and he was just trying to be nice and what the fuck was wrong with me.

Sometimes in my dreams I can still see my reflection in his mirrored sunglasses.


It was mostly easy to not inform the internet of where I was going to be in the future, but harder to avoid everyone knowing that I would be attending a conference I went to at the same time every year.

In the months leading up to SXSW 2003 (or 2004? I can’t remember exactly), there was a guy who would leave lots of comments on my website. The comments were mostly harmless, but his own website was less so. It was more of a home page than a website–he had a lot of different little sections on the page with his favorite quotes, links, and a few of his opinions, most of which were about what races of girls he liked and didn’t like. Fully half of the quotes and links on that page were mine.

He had never emailed me personally, but his apparent level of interest in me reminded me enough of my former coworker that I was pretty freaked out by him.

In a comment a few weeks before SXSW, he informed me that he would be in town during the conference and wanted to meet me. I did not want to meet him, so I ignored the comment, but I worried about the conference itself. I didn’t know what he looked like; would he just come up and blindside me?

I spent most of the conference looking over my shoulder. Eventually my friend Ryan met him briefly outside the convention center, then ran inside to describe him to me and let me know he was nearby and asking where I was. I quickly left the convention center via an exit on the other side of the building, and was lucky enough not to encounter him for the rest of the conference.

This is where my memory gets a little fuzzy. After the conference I remember uploading a lengthy .htaccess file to block his many different IP addresses from accessing my website. Eventually I stopped hearing from him.


There are other stories. A woman from the U.K. used my blog posts and photos of me to construct a fictional online identity, and after she was caught, the guy who had fallen in love with her attempted to transfer his affections to me. I got emails from men telling me that they had seen me out at this concert or that bar or cafe, but they hadn’t worked up the nerve to say hello. I would comb through my memories of those nights, trying to remember having seen someone looking at me.

All of this gave me a constant feeling that I was being watched. The 4,000 people I pictured in the 4,000-person-sized room usually stared at me expectantly, waiting for me to write something good, but other times they just watched. I kept on writing, because I didn’t know how not to write, and 99% of my readers were nice sane people who appreciated what I had to say.

Here is where I remind you that I’ve almost never done any non-blog writing. My stint as a person who writes (I don’t like to say I’m a writer) began with blogging, and continued with blogging, and doesn’t really exist outside of that. People always tell me I should write things just for myself and not post them. But I don’t exactly know how to write something that won’t be shared immediately.

Eventually I did stop writing regularly. Weblogs stopped being the best and easiest way to meet and keep in touch with people, and my site traffic fell. Blog commenting technology improved, allowing me to delete comments I felt were inappropriate or scary, but those comments never really came.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss my internet fame from time to time, especially when it happens to my friends and I can see the looks on their faces when someone they’ve never met tells them they like their work. If I hadn’t stopped writing, would I be a professional writer right now? Would I have an agent? A book deal? (There’s an old, old message in my “Other” folder on Facebook from a publisher asking me if I’d be interested in writing a book. I never followed up.)

If I hadn’t stopped writing, would I be safe?


At the XOXOFest closing party, I was talking with my friend Casey about Anita Sarkeesian. She’d spoken at the festival despite the numerous threats to her life and family she’d received in response to her video series about women in gaming culture, and Casey and I were discussing how impressed we were by her work, her tenacity and fortitude. I told Casey that if I had to deal with what Sarkeesian has, I would just have curled up into a ball on my bathroom floor and stayed there forever. No way would I have been able to continue my work as she has.

And I guess I didn’t continue my work. Granted, that was more about my depression than my online creeps, and my online creeps were of a different caliber and much smaller magnitude than hers are, but I can still see the comparison.

I realized while talking with Casey that in not writing about my online creeps back in 2000-2004, I missed an opportunity to expand (start?) the discussion about What It’s Like For Women On The Interwebs. What it was like is that I wrote about myself, about being a college student and a waitress, about traveling, about living with depression and anxiety, and people (men) thought this meant that I owed them something. But I don’t owe anyone anything. I’m not sure what Sarkeesian’s harassers want from her (silence? an apology? I doubt they actually know what they want), but she doesn’t owe them anything either.

I’m glad that other people are now writing and talking about this issue and doing it better than I could have.

elysium, fringe, the apocalypse, etc

Lately I have been watching the fifth season of Fringe, and then yesterday Brendan and I went to see Elysium. So I was thinking I might like to write a post about how interesting I find post-apocalyptic narratives these days, but then I realized that it’s been over five years and I never updated you all on this.

Would it surprise you to know that I don’t really think about the apocalypse much anymore? And that when I do think about it, it doesn’t really bother me? It doesn’t surprise me at all, because now I know that that months-long period of gripping fear was caused solely by my having gone off my anti-depressants.

I was going to tell you what happened two months after I wrote that post to make me go back on my meds, but I don’t really want to talk about it. I don’t even like to think about it. Don’t freak out; it’s not like I punched anyone or ran naked through the streets or anything. I didn’t have to be restrained or hospitalized or put on suicide watch. I just had to start taking my medication again. And I did.

2007-2008 was the second time in my adult life I’ve tried to see if I might not need medication, and it was worse than the first by a long shot. I won’t do it again. Now I look at my pills as something I have to take to be alive, just like if I had a heart condition or an endocrine disorder. My brain chemistry is faulty, so I take medication for it, and I will do so for the rest of my life. And that’s okay.

I guess I do think about the apocalypse some these days. It’s hard not to. Our consumption-heavy, disposable way of life isn’t sustainable, and it’s breaking down. People who don’t want us to look into alternative energy sources, reduce our dependence on oil or change the way we produce food are still in power, and it will take a long time to change that. We’re starting to turn it around a little, but ultimately I think it’s too late.

Besides my mental health, there are a couple of other reasons why the apocalypse doesn’t bother me as much. The first one is that I’m less alone than I was before. I live with Brendan, I have friends I see pretty often, and my sister and her husband live nearby. If some apocalyptic shit went down in Austin, there are plenty of people with whom I could band together to find food and water, fight roving bands of looters, and keep each other from being killed for a tank of gas.

The second reason is that I’m stronger now. I’ve been working out! I do this regimen where I go for walks on some days and do strength training on others. Eight weeks of strength training means that I’ve started to see changes in myself. I can lift two ten-pound dumbbells over my head repeatedly! I can do twelve prisoner squats in a row! I can plank for twenty whole seconds! I also get less winded every time, so that’s a good sign. Anyway, if the apocalypse comes, I might be pretty good at kicking and punching people until they stop trying to kill me for a tank of gas.

The third reason ties into some of the post-apocalyptic things I’ve been watching lately. I won’t spoil Elysium for you, but I will tell you that I didn’t love all of it. I thought the good characters were boring and undefined, the bad characters were two-dimensionally evil instead of being evil for a reason (a pet peeve of mine), and a couple of actors delivered their lines in a stilted way that made them hard to understand. Worst of all, Neil Blomkamp hit the emotional notes in the narrative so hard that they stopped working on me. One of the first things I learned in my college beginning fiction class is that if you hit the reader over the head with what they’re supposed to feel in a story, they can see that it’s the author saying HEY, I WANT YOU TO FEEL THIS, OKAY? and it pulls them out of the story. If it’s more subtle, then the reader is feeling what the characters feel, not what the author wants them to feel. I know that summer movies aren’t known for their subtlety, but since I liked District 9, I’d been expecting more from Blomkamp.

What I did like about Elysium was that in the absence of widely available consumer products, people on Earth appropriated whatever technology they could find to meet their needs. All the cars and laptops in the movie were old, but had been retrofitted with miscellaneous new parts. The cars were like that in the future portions of Looper, too. And I’m only two episodes into season 5 of Fringe, but they’ve already watched an old Betamax tape to learn how to fight the people who have taken over Earth.

I’ve talked to some people who say that governments, corporations, and other organizations are going to find a way to prevent societal collapse. A few of them genuinely believe it, and a few others have said, “I have to believe that, otherwise I’ll go crazy.” Well, I don’t really believe it. Large systems with lots of people tend to move slowly, and as I said before, I think it might be too late for slow-to-implement solutions. So it inspires me to see stories in which marginalized people are able to use what they have in order to overcome obstacles.

(I know that Fringe and Looper don’t fall into the believable-collapse category, but Elysium sort of does, and I’ve found the way people appropriate old technology in all three to be believable.)

So, the third reason. I’ve been making a lot of stuff lately. You guys already know that I sew and knit and make jewelry, but now I also work with wood and concrete! I don’t know how good I am at that stuff so far, but I do my best, and sometimes I even make something nice.

Last weekend I was at a friend’s party, and he was showing me his workshop. He makes swords and does all kinds of things with stones and minerals, and his tools were similar to those I’d used when I worked at the jewelry studio, so of course I was fascinated. We were talking about rock tumblers, and I said that I really wanted one, but they’re kind of expensive. “You could make one yourself,” he said. “There are schematics all over the internet.”

“Oh,” I said, “I don’t know if I could do all that.” Then I paused, and said, “Wait a minute. Of course I could.”

“Yeah, she can make anything,” Brendan said.

I can make anything. Give me an idea, some supplies, and maybe a diagram and instructions if it’s new to me, and I can do it. When the apocalypse comes, I’ll make some bows and arrows and slingshots and rig up a device to get fresh water. So, I’m not worried. I’ll be fine as long as the pharmacies stay open.

misogyny bowl

I’m not much of a football fan. When I was a waitress, I’d always volunteer to work on Superbowl Sunday, in hopes that someone would volunteer to work for me on Oscar night. Since then, my Superbowl-watching has been confined to the years when someone I know has a Superbowl party or people come to my house or whatever. Left to my own devices, I spend Superbowl Sundays sewing or knitting or watching DVDs or whatever.

This year my boyfriend wanted to watch the Superbowl, so we invited my sister and her husband over for food, drinks, football-explaining (my boyfriend’s forte) and general mocking (my forte). Dear readers, if you saw the Superbowl, I’m sure that my anger regarding a number of the ads will come as no surprise to you.  The message in many of them was: Women are bringing you down, men! Bitches have removed your spine! They’re making you watch vampire TV shows! They’re bossing you around! They’re inferior to a set of tires! It’s time to remedy this by buying stuff and acting like an asshole.

(Side question: Regular Superbowl watchers, is there always this much misogyny in the ads? I don’t remember it being this bad before, but as I said, I’m a sporadic viewer.)

Anyway. The worst, most rage-filled ad as far as I’m concerned was the Dodge Charger one (which you can see here; I’m not going to embed it). I found this clever response to that ad and posted a link to it on Twitter:

A woman I follow on Twitter wrote that she didn’t watch the game, but from what she could tell, the ads were pretty alienating to the female audience. I responded:

Yeah, a LOT of the ads were of the “WOMEN BE SHOPPIN'” variety. Made me wish @sarah_haskins was still doing “Target Women.”

Then I said:

Our superbowl: leftover party food, @meganheadley falls asleep, @luiztauil watches the game, I bitch to @bpriker about sexist commercials.

I got these two replies within two minutes of each other:

@bluishorange yuck. I hope the fallout from the critiques doesn’t further it with “women are too sensitive and can’t take a joke”

@bluishorange I tried bitching about the sexist commercials, but everyone thought I was being an overly sensitive whiner. ARRRG.

It took a lot of exposition for me to make this point, but here it is: Thinking critically about the portrayal of your gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, etc, in the media does not qualify as being oversensitive. Speaking up about it does not mean you can’t take a joke.

The fact that two people I know worried at nearly the same moment about being thought of as oversensitive whiners is evidence to me that this sort of “Oh, lighten up!” response is still pretty common. Well rest assured, people, I’m not planning to lighten up on this issue anytime soon.  It’s not that hard to create TV shows and movies and advertisements that are funny, interesting, enlightening and engaging without insinuating that women are bitches; and it’s up to us, the viewers, to demand that standard.

I’m fortunate to have a boyfriend who is happy to discuss sexist commercials and sexist other things and general feminism with me. He maintains that the ads like the ones aired during this year’s Superbowl are offensive to both sexes: they’re hostile towards women, but they also assume men to be thoughtless, anti-intellectual cads. And I think he’s right. Gentlemen, if you’re part of the “lighten up” contingent, you may want to start evaluating how you’re being portrayed.

P.S. Matt Haughey made a good response video as well:

Parisian Love, Part II from Matt Haughey on Vimeo.