Thanks to the Spanish Inquisitor for including me among the five atheist bloggers he chose to tag for the Evolution Meme. Normally I hate these things and generally tend to ignore them. However, SI could not have picked a better time to tag me for this particular topic, because it dovetails with a post I had been planning to mark the first anniversary of this blog. I will have to be a bit of a killjoy though because I am not interested in tagging anyone else.
The five posts I have picked for this meme are not necessarily the best posts I have had or the most substantive, but many of them represent important milestones in the evolution of Exercise in Futility. So here it goes:
1. My first post on September 30, 2006 (well, actually it was the second, because I botched the first post and uploaded a blank post!). What is important about this post is that I set forth in it the principles that would guide this blog. It would be primarily an atheist blog, but it would also be a forum for sharing my observations about life in general from my own personal perspective and my personal life. My "What About Bob?" series is the best example of this theme.
I also resolved that I would not use my blog as a forum to smear people. It does not mean of course that I refrain from criticizing people. My first substantive post that followed the inaugural post criticized Frank Russo, a conservative Catholic and anti-gay activist who lives here on Long Island. So far, I believe I had adhered to the principles I established for myself in my inaugural post.
2. Another function of my blog as I envisioned it would be to encourage altruism by sharing with my readers my own altruistic and charitable endeavors. The purpose was not to glorify me as some kind of super wonderful guy, but to serve as an example of what anybody can do help make a positive difference in the world, however small it might be. The first post I did in November of 2006 that exemplified this was "Give the Gift of Life", in which I urged all of my readers who were eligible to do so to donate blood.
Interestingly, this post ended up getting the second highest number of comments ever for a post on my blog, mainly fueled by a running debate between two former Exercise in Futility regulars, Christian fundie Sable Chicken (who has since evolved from trolling on atheist blogs to posting her own videos on Youtube) and agnostic Theerasak Phota. Sable was also troubled because I mentioned in the post that I had used the Barnes & Noble gift card I got from Long Island Blood Services towards my purchase of "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins.
3. My January 2007 post "A Traitor to the United States of America" represented my first post to feature a photograph. It represented an important evolution for this blog as I started to become more tech savvy and learned new things. Prior to this post, the fanciest thing I could manage was to include hyperlinks. Also, for a post that featured little more than a picture of a billboard that equated atheists to traitors to this country, it managed to generate a rather impressive 85 comments, whereas many of my substantive posts into which I poured my heart and soul rarely generated more than single digits.
4. In an effort to generate more traffic and build a loyal readership, I decided that a regular dose of humorous film and television clips would be a good idea. My first Friday Night Funnies post appeared in May of 2007, a tradition which I still continue today. It also marked another milestone for Exercise in Futility, as it was my first post in which I embedded a Youtube video instead of just providing the link.
To be honest, I don't know how many of my readers watch the Friday Night Funnies clips that I put up. They rarely if ever generate any comments. But regardless of how many of my readers watch them, just as important for me is that I like to watch them!
5. With the proliferation of atheist blogs out there (and thank God for that! LOL!), it is important to find ways to distinguish one's blog from everyone else's. Any atheist blogger can do a post fisking parts of the Bible or linking to the latest outrage du jour from the Religious Right or Islamic fundamentalists. A really good atheist blog should strive to offer something that most other atheist blogs do not. I decided one way I could distinguish myself would be to meet prominent people in the atheist/freethought community.
The inspiration for this idea came when I received a mailing from the libertarian Cato Institute that it would be hosting a luncheon at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City last May that would feature Ayaan Hirsi Ali as the luncheon speaker. I thought to myself, what a coup that would be if I could not only meet her and get her to sign my copy of her book "Infidel", but to also get photographed with her as well. As fate would have it, I was not able to get my picture taken with Ayaan, so I had to settle for this. This post represented my first post to feature me in the same photograph as a famous person, in this case a Muslim apostate who lives under the threat of death from Islamic extremists who loathe her for her outspoken advocacy for the rights of Muslim women.
It was also the first post that featured a picture that I took myself. I also managed to get myself photographed with Michelle Goldberg, author of "Kingdom Coming", though it hilariously resulted in a picture of the two of us with my head cut off. I had hoped to attend the Atheist Convention in Arlington, Virginia this weekend and try to get myself photographed with such luminaries of the atheist community such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, but alas, due to a number of family obligations, I had to pass on the opportunity. Still, I will continue to keep an eye out for such opportunities in the near future.
While Exercise in Futility is hardly among the top tier of atheist blogs that are out there, I consider myself lucky that I do have a small core of regular and semi-regular readers. I am humbled and honored that there are people out there (and you all know who you are!) who actually take an interest in what I have to say. To my regular readers, I want to say thank you, because it is you who help make this endeavor worthwhile for me. I also wish to give a special thanks to Stardust for her encouragement and for helping me out with some technical issues I had during my first baby steps into the world of blogging.
So what does the future hold for Exercise in Futility in the coming year? For starters, I want to make it a more meaningful blog. While it will continue to be primarily an atheist blog, I want to expand its focus to include advocacy for issues that I believe are important, not just for secularists, but for everyone. I also want the blog to evolve on a technical level, including the possibility of doing short films, as well as finding new ways to make Exercise in Futility a fresh and original blog. I hope you will accompany me on the journey.