Review 2325

The actual layout of the site was going through changes as I was reviewing it. Matt made people aware of this, which was a nice gesture. From what I saw, it was a standard Blogger template with a few tweaks thrown in by the author. Thanks to some of those tweaks, navigating the site is made very easy along the left hand side of the site. The colors Matt has chosen are also much more soothing, in my opinion, then the ones that usually come with the aforementioned template.

You learn about Matt through various avenues – some of his articles for the newspaper are self revealing, the subjects he covers and the opinions he gives give readers an insight as to what kind of a guy he is, you also learn a few things as you navigate through the information alongside the menu and the various links on the left side of the site.

How’s the writing? It’s good. It better be, especially since Matt’s a freelance writer and because he gets paid to write newspaper articles. The posts and articles read like newspaper editorials. They seem to be geared towards the average reader, simple to read phrases, easy to understand verbiage – exactly what you’d want in a newspaper or even a weblog. I wouldn’t so much think of this as a personal weblog, but more along the lines of one that deals primarily with newsworthy topics.

If you read this site in reverse order, which is what typically makes sense if you really want to see what an author is like, the first thing you’re met with are articles that our author has had published in the local newspaper. Most of them are editorials of sorts dealing with whatever heated issue may be gracing the front page of any media outlet or just Matt’s general thoughts on society as it is today. In continuing reading, you find out that the initial purpose of creating this weblog was for Matt to have a place to store or electronically archive the biweekly columns he has published in his local newspaper.

Soon after the inception of the weblog, Matt strays from just publishing his newspaper articles online and, and jumps more into two or three paragraph posts, again dealing primarily with the news and current events.

This isn’t a weblog that’s going to leave an average reader thinking about what’s going on with Matt on a daily basis. It’s a good site to bookmark if you’re looking for something to stimulate your thoughts or justify any opinions of your own you might have.

Occasional Subversion

Review 2325

When giving Occasional Subversion the once-over, I noticed that it had only one month’s worth of posts, an observation that made me frown. Because, usually, that just isn’t enough material. I changed my mind after reading through.

Occasional Subversion is not your usual personal weblog. In fact, I contemplated relocating it from the ‘Personal’ category to the ‘News/Links’ one, before deciding to let it stay where the author had deemed appropriate. On one hand, Occasional Subversion is made up almost entirely of articles that have been published in a newspaper. On the other hand, all of those articles were written by the author himself. Sound like a fascinating idea for a weblog? It is. However, there are areas for improvement.

First of all, a good personal weblog needs to be personal. Although Matthew Cheney, author of Occasional Subversions, does reveal his opinions and stands on current issues in his articles, readers just do not get enough glimpses beyond this public image of his. There are rare, if any, descriptions of his personal life. However, it might very well be that Cheney thinks it is all personal enough, as illustrated in the entry where he quotes Ani DiFranco: “The personal and political are of one realm; to separate them is artificial.”

This, then, is the gist of Occasional Subversion. It has a scope, a narrow one – America and its politics. Being not an American, I didn’t have much trouble digesting his strong and forceful deliveries of his version of right and wrong. I can’t say the same for other readers, though, and I suspect some of them might find the bombardment of article after article a little hard to stomach. In my opinion, a simple way to make this weblog an easier and less tiring read is to add in more facades, more aspects of the author’s life. Because there is such a thing as too much goodness.

The metaphor that comes to mind is slightly too thick chicken soup. I can imagine that Cheney’s column in the newspaper changes quite a few minds and opens some eyes, because coming across a well-written piece against the war on Iraq in between reports of the actual war makes you stop and think. It has impact. On the other hand, when you read, one after another, articles that require heavy thinking and inner debate, there is just so much you can take before you abandon the rigorous battle of finding a firm stand. As Cheney himself puts it, and I paraphrase, if we were to take reality as it is we would be insane. And that is the ‘problem’ with Occasional Subversion – it has too huge a serving of reality with no fluff in between. Again, my suggestion is that Cheney blog about his personal life in between, and not concentrate on just “America According To Michael Cheney”. More points would hit home with a clear and receptive mind, rather than one numbed by a few bashings too many. One last thing: the links at the bottom of the page are impossible to read; a change of colors would be helpful.

Occasional Subversion

Review 2325

Occasional Subversion is a very young blog (the very first entry was posted on 28/4/2003), but don’t let that put you off. The author, Matthew Cheney, uses the blog mainly as an archive for his articles (which are published in a New Hampton paper), and these pieces are well composed and have a winning combination of both smooth writing and wit. His commentaries often challenged me, as a reader, to stop midway and reflect upon what he had just written.

Matthew’s writings are often satirical and question the moralities of modern-day society (particularly that of America’s). His entries provide great insight to issues that the average Joe would not think about. For example, in ‘Auctioning Civilization’, he discusses how humanity places a price tag on everything that is owned and how this ‘price tag’ syndrome can actually help make the world a better place. (A note of caution: The author CAN get rather liberal in expressing his opinions, so take it with a pinch of salt.)

The Achilles’ heel of this blog would be its design (though he IS trying to edit the template), but well, it isn’t a very big issue coz when you have such high-quality content, who cares about the layout!

This isn’t a let-me-tell-you-about-my-life personal blog, but it sure lets you into Matthew’s mind as he reveals his thoughts through his articles. As a matter of fact, this blog is probably better classified under “News/Links” because of the nature of its content. Most of the entries are commentaries by the author himself, while the newer posts consist of excerpts and links from various news sources and websites, which pertain to the content of his entry.

As mentioned above, it IS a really young blog, but there is still plenty of reading material available due to the fact that Matthew chucks in a few articles per entry. So put on your thinking cap, coz you’re in for a ride!
Occasional Subversion

Review 2325

Nice colors! The first thing I thought when the site Occasional Subversion loaded into my browser was just that. The visually pleasing design of the site wasn’t an assault against my retina as some sites can be. The softness of the presentation lent itself well to the delivery of the articles on the site. I didn’t particularly like the color of the links, but I can live with it. It’s much more about the content on this site than the external links, and the links within the articles are few.

One thing which really stood out about the site was the way it loaded into my browser. At first I thought it might have been an animation, but I soon realized it was just the way the code was rendered in the browser and the way the provider’s servers were feeding the sites out in their busiest hours. I was able to make this determination by loading it in several different browsers and realized the loading of the page was taking anywhere from a few seconds, to “I guess I’ll get a cup of coffee”. This isn’t so much the fault of the author as it is the person who coded the page, and the overloading of the servers at the hosting site.

As I began to read the articles on the site, I found some really excellent writing. Actually, the first article I read on it was a quote from Aristotle. Really not a bad writer for his time…or our time either. The site’s author is quite good as well. He has nice word usage, and his phrasing is well thought out. I’d expect nothing less from this teacher at the New Hampton School. If his style of writing rubs off on his students, they should be good writers as well.

But really that’s more of a comment about his articles which were reprinted from the newspaper. When you read his blog entries, they feel cut off. I get the impression he’s in a hurry but feels like he needs to make an entry. It’s like getting into a nice new Porsche on a race track with a driver like Derek Bell, going three quarters of the way around the track right up to the final straight, and slowing down to pull into the pit lane. It’s anti-climatic for the reader.

The difficult part about this site is the layout. Although I love the color choices and the way the sections are designed, the placement needs work. We have a nice banner area on the top right, a sidebar on the left, and the articles section on the right, below the banner section. If you happen to scroll down past the first few entries, you find a search/archive section, and a block for current news from a few RSS feeds. Then, finally, if/when you get past the articles, you find an area for links. They’re in a large area, in a single column, when three or at least two would have worked better. Maybe the author should audit a class on CSS at his school.

The site is aimed at your average liberal. If you’re a conservative, you won’t like what he has to say. And although he comments to “let me know”, there is an obvious lack of a way to offer comments on the site. Regardless of your political leanings, you’ll find his writing to be better than good, although he won’t be winning the Nobel prize any time soon. This isn’t going to detract from your enjoyment of the articles, but I’d really like to see some work on the layout of the site.Occasional Subversion

Review 2071

Same news, but different is the tag line for this news site. It is a good statement to make about the site as it is the same news, but different.

The weblog is about news and events going on in the world. I like the idea that it is from a different perspective than I am used to, since the author is in Spain, and I am in the states. The news that is mentioned is typically what you can find on a specific day, but there are comments and editorial notes which make it more interested.

One thing I did like, but didn’t think it fit in this weblog was the personal posts. Here is a weblog that is posting about politics, religion, weird news, and then we get a post about his daughter. What? Where did that come from? While I enjoyed the personal entries, I think they should be on a separate page. They may be “news” to us, but they don’t really flow too well with the rest of the site.

The design is like most news sites. There are 3 columns with the content being in the middle. The color scheme is a mix of blue, white, black and gray. All of which can be found on a standard news type site. While the design is nothing original, it does do its job by separating the content properly.

Overall if you are looking for a different perspective on the world news, this is a good site to read. The author is good at updating multiple times a day, and writes well. So if you need a news fix, go check out Ibidem.