Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Maddie Green: Blogger of the Apocalypse

April 12 was a cold, crummy day by all accounts, but it proved to be an exceptionally fine day for reading. Literacy 24/7 had its best year ever in 2007, taking in a record amount in pledges from sponsored readers. One reader in particular stood out. People who came to the event may have noticed an elegantly black-clad woman sitting with an immense stack of books and a cell phone, either reading or tapping away on its tiny keyboard. She stayed for the whole twelve hours of the event. While most readers collected pledges before they came, Maddie Green brought in $350 in pledges through the internet by reporting the event live on her personal website.

Maddie writes about her life and her ideas on a web log, or blog, at LiveJournal.com (madolan.livejournal.com) . Her blog, “Apocalipstick” (subtitled “Apocalypse Is Autobiography”), covers her love of reading, wine, zombie movies and, of course books. Under the nom de blog Madolan she “live-blogged” for the event, using her Blackberry mobile phone and e-mail device to give up-to-the-minute accounts of what was happening at Literacy 24/7 through three websites. Her readers contacted her through the internet to make pledges, but they also could make demands. For a one dollar pledge she would tell readers the last word she read. For ten dollars she made this promise: I will change books for you. It doesn't matter if I'm loving Nabokov … You tell me you pledged $10, you tell me what book to read.” Larger pledges, her website says, would allow a donor to “push me around” even further, instructing her to buy a book from Borders to read.

Maddie also took photos with her Blackberry throughout the day. They are, of course, on the internet now. For photos of Maddie’s experience check out her Flickr.com photo set. A visit to Maddie’s main blog yields a peek into her opinions, her world view, her life experiences and her interests. Those interests include home brewing, science fiction, zombie movies, Tom Waits and dressing like Queen Elizabeth. She describes herself as a nerd and an oenophile.

A month after the event Maddie agreed to meet me for an interview at Cargo Coffee, close to the Literacy Network office. As you may have already guessed, the conversational was lively and colorful.

First off, how do you pronounce oenophile? “‘EE-no-file’ It means wine fan.”

Where do you work? “At a local software company. [She’d rather not say which] I’m a proposal writer. I usually say I’m a marketing sales writer. Today I’m working on explaining our software’s capabilities to a customer in the east coast. Quite dull. It’s a nominal use of my English degree. I’m no novelist, but I can sell some software.”

How did you come up with the title “Apocalipstick” for your blog? “I stole it wholesale from a story line in Grant Morrison’s comic book series “The Invisibles”—perhaps not stole…appropriated, re-visioned. I’m a bit of an apocalypse fan, so I decided to keep the theme.”

What’s the deal with zombies? “I like to think of myself as a zombie scholar. It’s a niche I can fill. I have an origin story—like a superhero. At 12 I saw a zombie movie that scared me so badly that I couldn’t see one for a decade, but I had to see ‘28 Days Later’ which sent me into a panic. Some famous thinker says, ‘you have to grab your fear,’ so I decided to face mine. Then I located that long-ago movie, which turned out to be ‘Return of the Living Dead.’ That’s the movie from which [the concept of] zombies eating brains came from… We scream or we laugh to blow off tension. [Zombies are] a fantastic metaphor for modern fears—epidemiology, the sheep-like nature of humanity’s masses.”

How long have you been blogging? “I’ve had a blog on Live Journal since 2001. Prior to that on my own web spaces since 1998 on. I’m very pro-paper but I think blogs are a combination of personal journal or news regurgitation. It’s not all diary. It’s not all facts. It’s an individual blogger’s subjective world view.”

Why blog so much? “It inspires community. It’s easy for my friends to respond. It encourages conversation and feedback. So my blog is as much about maintaining ties with friends as it is speaking for myself.”

How many readers do you have? “About 300 Live Journal friends—subscribers.” [She does not have statistics on non-subscribers, though anyone can read the blog.]

Could you describe live-blogging? “Live blogging is almost like a play-by-play. I think the reading marathon was very much a live-blogging event. I tried to choose interesting words from what I was reading at the moment [for $1 pledge]”

How many people gave at the ‘switch books’ level? “Two. But there were other recommendations which I took to mean ‘get this book and read it.’ There were some people with sincere recommendations but limited funds, So I bought a book for them anyway. Orlando by Virginia Woolf and Hyperspace by Michio Kaku—very fascinating. It’s like every science fiction book wrapped up into non-fiction. I’m going thru that a little slower than I usually read.”

Is there a good wine to read by? “What wine isn’t good to read by? Now, matching wine to the book would be wonderful. For Hyperspace, a complex, old-world wine. Something like a Bordeaux, because that’s a carefully weighted blend. Everything has to come together just so. It’s as close as I can get to an extra-dimensional wine.”

Are you usually a quick reader? “Relatively swift. I try to read a minimum of 50 books a year. That’s my goal. I should mention…a co-worker donated $100 and arrived at the marathon. Handed me a stack of books and told me to keep reading. I read at least 1 chapter from every book I brought, was loaned, or was encouraged to purchase. That coworker make me read a book that I was passionate about—I loathed it. I hated every chapter, but he donated $100. My obligation is to read it.”

What other blogs do you read & recommend? “Nah.”

What other volunteer projects would you like to do? “Every college student wanted to volunteer to read to kids, so it was tough to find a time slot. But reading is such an important skill that I feel it’s worthwhile. I’m a cancer survivor so I feel strongly about that, but I don’t even feel as strongly about that as I do about literacy.”

How do you feel about the blog audience as potential donors? “I specifically went after the blogging community instead, of for instance, my coworkers because it applies to a diverse pool of people with different points of view. If I had applied to my coworkers, it would have just been another Girls Scout Cookie box to buy. And there were so my people to ask—a wider pool of people. And It’s very quick to donate on line. There’s efficiency. It might be somebody in Australia, drinking a beer, reading my blog and they say, ‘Yeah, sure!’ and they wake up in the morning and they’ve already donated.”

Who are your audience? “Both friends and people who find me from Live Journal. I met some friends on line as mutual fans of our blogs. Since then we’ve created such a strong real life—I like the term meatspace[1]—relationship that we’ve traveled to three continents together.”

You self-identify as a nerd, but you don't seem externally nerdy. What makes a person a nerd? I think geeks and nerds are better defined by their passions than by their deficiencies. We tend to have in common a love of science fiction, comic books, or building computers. We don't necessarily have … the social drawbacks that used to define nerdery. And I'm glad that self-identifying as a geek no longer carries the shame that maybe it once did.

What would you like to be able to do with your blog? “I lack the equipment to vlog—video blog. One of the reasons I blog textually is that I’m more comfortable with the written word. I hesitate to debate. I don’t want to fight on my blog. I could never be a political blogger. Ex temp speaking is not my strength.”

How did you get to dress as queen Elizabeth for work? “My company has an annual conference with a different theme each year. Employees are encouraged to participate. They rented a Queen Elizabeth costume. I wore the same dress that Sara Day, an actress at American Players Theater, wore. The theme this year was Shakespeare. The first year I was an elf for the Lord Of the Rings theme. A year later I dressed as Bat Girl.”

What continents have you seen? “Not too many. Australia. I’ll be hitting up Europe in August. I love continental voyages also. I went on a ridiculous road trip in which I tried to hit up all the ridiculous roadside attractions I could hit. Anything with a sign that said ‘World’s Biggest’ I saw Graceland, the Superman statue in Metropolis, IL. etc.”

On comic books: “I stepped on one in my little brother’s room. ‘Oh,’ I said, ‘this isn’t all “BAM! POW!” the characters are interesting.’ Now I have a separate bedroom where I keep all my comix.”

On her Blackberry: “I really use this as a tiny, tiny laptop. I hate using the phone part. I hate picking up my calls.”

On William Gibson, author of Neuromancer: “The future caught up to us, at least as far as William Gibson is concerned.”

On home brewing: “I home brew with a friend at work. We’re bottling tonight. We’ve got some nice summer amber in the closet. I’ve been brewing beer for a couple years now.”

[1]meatspace: physical space where two human beings (i.e. their meat) can meet in the flesh—antonym of cyberspace.




Maddie passes out from exhaustion

6 comments:

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Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

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