January 14, 2009

5 years ago today, the long scroll that is this blog began.

"Writing in a blog is both less and more permanent than writing in the margin of a book." That's the sentence at the very bottom of this long, long scroll of what is now 14,450 posts and — though I'm not doing a precise word count — probably well over 2 million words.

It's funny to think that the word at the end of this scroll I started writing 5 years ago today has always been "book," even as the top word kept changing and the scroll got longer and longer. If I were writing in separate books, this blog would be 30 volumes by now, but no one would have published 30 volumes of such disconnected material, and since so much of my time and energy would have been drained off into editing work, it couldn't have been 30 volumes. It wouldn't even have been 10 volumes. There is no me over there in that alternate world where I was writing books instead of blogging. And you wouldn't have been there reading them either. You couldn't have cared about those books. What could they have been? Something completely different from this blog, and someone else, in this world, is writing fine books.

Me, I'm blogging. It may all be disconnected — one post after another, one thing that happened to interest me after another, along with all the things each post made you readers want to contribute, as the threads inside the posts go spinning off wherever they go. But it is all connected too. It is one long scroll — a 5-year-long scroll, with an average of 8 posts a day, and not one day missed. And it is connected in that other sense of being always instantly connected to readers. To be able to see and feel the presence of readers as I write is a deep pleasure denied to the writers of books.

So there are no books. There is only this, the blog, my magnum opus. And to say that is not to brag. Wikipedia says:
The term "magnum opus" is distinguished in usage from "masterpiece" by a requirement that it is a work on a large scale, and by the absence of a requirement that it is generally regarded as among the creator's most successful works. A masterpiece may be small, short or slight, but still highly successful. A magnum opus may be generally regarded as a failure. For example, several 19th century composers devoted enormous amounts of time to writing operas, but are mainly remembered for much shorter works for smaller forces. Examples include Schubert, Schumann, Isaac AlbĂ©niz, and Franz Lizst. Similar examples in literature include William Wordsworth, Thomas Pynchon and John Keats. With other artists, such as The Beatles, Beethoven, Wagner, Michelangelo and Raphael, the two terms coincide in their work—their largest works are among those regarded as their best.
It's my magnum opus, then, for good or bad — this stack of posts, now 5 years high.


Fred4Pres said...

The Devine Ms. A's Opus?


Fred4Pres said...

You are in the League of Superbloggers!

If only this one would leave Sarah Palin alone and focus his true talents and powers on Osama Bin Laden

mcg said...

Happy birthday!

ricpic said...

The Big Book of Althouse is essentially an ongoing battle between the correct positions she takes as a certified member of Bien Pensants 'R Us and the imp in her that sees through those positions and can't be bottled up.

traditionalguy said...

You are truly amazing Professor. You have boldly gone where no one else had dared to go. This blog does remind me of the Starship Enterprise encountering new life forms [in the comments] very week in the unexplored world of cyber- space. Lead on Captain Althouse.

Hoosier Daddy said...

This blog does remind me of the Starship Enterprise encountering new life forms [in the comments] very week in the unexplored world of cyber- space. Lead on Captain Althouse.

Now there's an image. Althouse decked out in one of those hot Trekkie skirts.

With bright red lipstick.

Simon can be Mr. Spock, Trooper is Scotty and Pogo can be Bones.

Alpha, Michael and LoafingOaf can be the Klingons.

Titus can be a Tribble.

Make it so.

Host with the Most said...

Here's to Ann and the amazing class of regular commenters that she has attracted. Nothing quite like "Althouse" exists anywhere else.

Ann, You Rock!

Awaiting comments from the Amazing Palladian, the Rational Simon, the Wit Pogo, . . . .

Host with the Most said...

. . . the Dependably Midwestern Hoosier . . .

traditionalguy said...

I read some oldie but goodies posted by reference yesterday. They made me laugh till I hurt. This blog could be seen as Bob Hope's best gags reincarnated for the 21st century. I am very happy to have found it due to my political surfing. Thanks again Professor.

TMink said...

Althouse, congratulations!

And thank you!

Paladian should be Sulu. (Sorry, pal, it was too easy, kinda like t-ball.)

I would like to be either Cyrano Jones or Harcourt Fenton Mudd.


Michael H said...


Lawprof blogger women are like badgers.

SteveR said...

As someone who has been coming here almost 4 1/2 years, its been a lot of fun and I have looked at, and considered things that I otherwise would not have.

So while I don't pretend its been a life changing experience, I would say its been a big positive for me.

Thanks Ann for your consistent and excellent effort.

Gary said...

Congratulations and thank you!

Henry said...

"Writing in a blog is both less and more permanent than writing in the margin of a book."

Commenting on a blog is a lot like writing in the margins of a book. Fragmentary, additive, erasable. Even for non-anonymous commentators there is an anonymity to it. Someone else's name also leads the masthead.

So here in the comments is a motley band of monks, both merry and dyspeptic, scribbling insults and scatalogical cartoons on the edges of the Althouse manuscript.

Cedarford said...

Congrats, Althouse. 5 years is something, not missing a single day for any reason is Cal Ripkinesque - 1825 continous days vs. Cal's 2632 games (Cal's task was tougher and had luck involved - no serious injury and no slump bad enough to bench the guy in the early years - but he had days off, MONTHS off).

Lets not forget you not only contributed text, but also all the photos...including some extraordinary ones. I still have a mental image of the willows in reflection of rippled water of gold and blue. Hope others commemorating your 5-year streak also mention the pics.

Ever track how many photos you blogged in 5 years? Of your own? Of others?

Salamandyr said...
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Salamandyr said...

congratulations on 5 years!

Oh, and Fred4Pres, that is not even close to the first gay superhero. That would be Northstar, created back in the 80's. The first character I know of to be created as a "gay superhero" was The Ring. And of course there's the lipstick lesbian Batwoman they introduced a year or so ago.

No, I didn't date in high school. Why do you ask?

AllenS said...

Not quite as impressive as Brett Favre's continuous starts, but, yeah, good for ya. Congrats.

Palladian said...

Thanks Althouse. And congratulations.

siyeh pass said...

Congratulations, from an appreciative, bien pensant-challenged observer, and sometimes commenter. Thank you for the forum and conversation.

chuck b. said...

A millennium from now, long after the imminent collapse of our civilization has settled and society has rebuilt itself, some archaeologist will find fragments of your blog still on a server somewhere and try to piece it back together.

Your writings will attract an audience, nay--a following, and those people will call themselves Althousians. They will develop a philosophy (Althousiana) predicated on political pragmatism and social moderation, with a special appreciation of music and art. They will drink wine at their gatherings and entertain different points of view.

Bissage said...

Long scroll that is this blog?

Well, fine, but I’ve always thought of this blog as a new kind of art form; as a kind of digital cinema that happens in real time.

And I’ve always thought of Althouse as auteur.

And so, for me anyway, it has all been very connected for a very long time.

And it has been connected with intelligence, insight, grace, wit, charm and passion -- even genius.

Congratulations, best wishes and thank you.

Admiringly Yours,


Triangle Man said...

chuck b. said...

...and those people will call themselves Althousians.

Sign me up. For my "call to service", please put me down for pinot noir, or beer.

Richard Dolan said...

Ann's post, contrasting blogging and books, started me thinking about how this blog has a medieval aspect to it (other blogs are different, of course), despite all the techno-wonders that make it work. At the center is a dedicated abbess/scribe recording daily her insights into the workings of providence, calling attention to both the delights and the inanities of the wider world outside the cloister. Errors that have led others astray are corrected, sometimes not so gently. Around her is a band of monks/expositors who rework those insights, occasionally for the better, while frequently entertaining the entire cloister in the process. Novices arrive and seasoned members of the cloister sometimes leave, but the population remains fairly stable over time.

The daily reenactment of the ritual becomes an end in itself, each participant getting from it what he will and there being no other purpose to the entire exercise (ignoring the ads that may generate a small cash flow for the abbess). The bond that holds it all together isn't religious, but it is a kind of dedication.

The image is far from perfect but not so bad as to be useless.

Triangle Man said...


Could you comment on how blogging has affected your view of privacy? Clearly, you put a lot of yourself out for public viewing. How do you segregate topics that you are willing to share from those that you hold back?

Paul Zrimsek said...

Why aren't you, as a Starfleet commander, doing more to expose the evil of the Boosh regime?

former law student said...

and the imp in her that sees through those positions and can't be bottled up.

Which prompted me to reread Stevenson's The Bottle Imp, published 115 years ago:


rhhardin said...

Writing in book margins (better, in the flyleaves) is to aid in finding the passage in question later; and little square marks are to show which sentence you left off at the previous day.

A function somewhat obviated by google books, if you can remember a key phrase or word, and the publisher isn't a complete asshole.

raf said...

Blogging about the blog. Closing the ring. A Zen thing? Achieving Nirvana? To some extent, the blog has always been about the blog first; the topic secondary. Here the topic is the blog. Does that violate or substantiate blog-primacy? And why is this performance still interesting, even fascinating, after 4+years?

I'll just have to keep on observing until I figure it out.

Smilin' Jack said...

Staying interested and interesting every day for five years is indeed a remarkable achievement.

Congratulations and thank you.

chickenlittle said...

Congratulations, and thanks for letting us comment here. It's a privilege and not a right.

TMink said...

Yeah, thanks to the fellow inmates! You guys and gals are a HUGE part of my enjoying this place. Thanks to all of you.

Great party Althouse, where is the wine?


Darcy said...

Happy Anniversary, Althouse. I'm grateful for this blog.

And congrats for the blog banner, ricpic! :)

Simon said...

Blog long, and prosper!

Sir Archy said...

To Professor Althouse.

Dear Madam,

To the Ghost of a Gentleman, dead these 260 Years and more, you may imagine that five Years would seem but a trifling Moment.  Yet, in human Affairs, a Span of five Years may represent the Time for the creation of a magnum opus, that will, perhaps, outlive its Creator and endure longer than the Ghost who would admire it.  That you have shewn such Energy & Application in your Endeavour is, in itself, worthy of Attention; that you had done it so well is worthy of Admiration.

Yet, what is this Work for which you have become so justly famous?  Some have aptly compar’d it to a Voyage of Discovery, with yourself as Captain.  Others would have it be a Salon, or, an Ale-House, or, the famous Round-Table at an Inn at New-York, or, as you yourself seem to suggest, a Chronicle, writt’n on a Scroll, bound, and run to Thirty Volumes.

There are two Conceits descriptive of your opus, Madam, that naturally spring to the Mind of someone from my Age:  That of a periodical Paper, such as kept by many an Author in my Day; and, that of a Theatre, with yourself as the charming & perspicacious impressaria. Many an Owner or Manager of a Theatre use'd to act in various Roles, additionally to chusing the Plays, hiring the Actors, etc.  I shall not go so far as to say you equal Bernini, of whom 'twas said that he built the Theatre, painted the Scenes, cut the Statues, wrote the Comedy, & compos'd the Musick; but, I should not be far from the Mark if I say you've come close on many an Occasion.

So, 'tis, Madam, that, with your Permission, I call this, your magnum opus, a Theatre of Topicks.

With every good Wish that this Theatre continue to prosper & that its impressaria be long employ'd thus, I am,


Your humble & obt. Servant,

Sir Archy

LonewackoDotCom said...

Althouse's inability to figure things out is illustrated in a minor way right in this post: she links to Wikipedia, something that serves to increase the chance they'll come up near the top in searches. Due to the fact that many of their entries containing misleading information (or don't discuss all facets of a topic), they're a great disinfo tool for those with an agenda. And, none of that is something that Althouse could figure out.

It's too bad that, when she was among the few given a chance, she didn't ask McCain a real question. If she'd asked one of mine, she might have done a public service by forcing someone who wasn't qualified to withdraw from the race. Instead, she put on her ditzier-than-Goldie-Hawn act.

Chip Ahoy said...

I have hung on every word, Madam, and by "every," I mean most, and by "most," I mean some.

* bows deeply *
* Salaams elaborately *
* backs out of room *

Trooper York said...

Congratulations. Blogging every day is very hard.

AJ Lynch said...

Way to frigging go Althouse! Five years and never missed a day? Wow that is impressive!

Thanks for all you do to provide a clubhouse where your many commenters can thrash about. I think you would have been quite happy and successful operating a little taproom.

blake said...


Now, about the next five years....

Trooper York said...

Ooooh AJ good point.

Althouse the Miss Kitty of the blogosphere.

William said...

I agree with ricpic. Margaret Dumont and Groucho Marx fight a fierce battle for possession of your blog, and sometimes Groucho wins. Thank God for the comments section to remind us of the high moral purpose of life.

knox said...

I like to think of her as the Mrs. G of the blogosphere.

Congratulations again, Althouse.

Joe the Electrician said...

The scholarship-free professor!

It's good work if you can get it.

Well, unless you care what your actual colleagues think.

Ha ha.

Freeman Hunt said...

Congratulations! And quite a magnum opus it is.

Trooper York said...


You got it exactly right.

Simon is Blair.

Ricpic is Natalie,

Beth is Jo.

And Mort is Tootie.

How could I have been so blind not to have seen it before.

BJM said...

Congrats Professor Althouse!

Perhaps a bit of interweb humor is an appropriate hat tip to your blogging acumen and comments camaraderie. (NSFW)

blake said...

Hey, Troop, didn't Leah Remini guest on that show, or am I confusing it with "Who's The Boss?"

Trooper York said...

I believe she did along with George Clooney and Jena Jamison as the beaver.

TitusRenalFailure said...

We will all ever forget the time I made my premeire here you queer?

I rhymed hee hee.

That will go down as a day of grande statements and bold initiatives and a bunch of other crap.

If I do say so myself I took this place by storm and we have never looked back.

What I offer here is really fab, do you work in a lab and never forgot to drink tab.

Oh God I did again.

Someone stop me... I am about to pee...what's on your tv...oh I see.

Ann Althouse said...


thoughtfulconservative said...

Congratulations, Prof. Althouse. Five years is a long time in the blogosphere and the work you've done here is quite an accomplishment.

You blog the way I'd like to if I had more time (I just like reading posts too much to post a lot), whatever crosses your path, strikes your interest, piques your curiosity.

BTW, I like this photo, too. :)

Dean (deaninwaukesha)

Paul Zrimsek said...

If you enjoyed BJM's link you'll probably also enjoy this one.

yoSAMite said...

Happy Anniversary and continued success and happiness in you magnum opus.

amba said...

Allusion to Jack Kerouac? More obscure and less likely, reference to Winnie-the-Pooh?

amba said...
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amba said...

There's Kerouac's exterior scroll, unrolling like the road; then there's this woman's interior scroll.

Chip Ahoy said...

Zrimsek, that was great!

My favorite meta-comment:

I have travelled forward in time to post this comment.


The future looks so different!

That made me laugh and to continue laughing temporarily doubled over incapacitated by involuntary paroxysms because it reminded me of the note with attached artwork of a seven-legged spider intended to substitute or delay payment.

Strange though, 1104 posts and nobody said, "WAKE UP, AMERICA !," which is a remark I find particularly annoying because anybody reading it is already awake and aware.

nina said...

Happy continued blogging, Ann. Congratulations indeed.

Ann Althouse said...

I thought of Kerouac, but his scroll went in the other direction.

Rick Dale, author of The Beat Handbook said...

Wow! I have blogged for three months every day and was running out of steam until I ran across your post!


Maybe you'd enjoy my Kerouac-obsessed blog at www.thedailybeatblog.blogspot.com.