The Bella Rossa Interview With Chancelucky.
Chancelucky is a California blogger who first caught my eye with his "The Book of Judas, as Told By Karl Rove" post over a year ago, and uses his blog to share efforts at fiction as well as reflections on how weird it was to find a 43-year old picture of himself in an elementary school band online. He's versatile enough to write straight political stuff followed by silly celebrity blurbs like this comparison and contrast of Woody Allen and Steve Martin. He's ready to lay out his opinions on American Idol silliness right beside posts about Condoleezza Rice, which just goes to prove that what makes a blog fun enough to go back to again and again is good writing, no matter the topics covered. Oh, and random fun trivia, he once rode his bike from Los Angeles to New York.
CHANCELUCKY: Because I now spend so much time in front of the computer counting
my hits, I had to think a bit. Ron Suskind's One Percent Solution. I
also recently read a history of the Opium Wars by Travis Hanes and
Frank Sanello which is kind of the British version of our war in Iraq
in that going to war to force another country to buy narcotics was
controversial back then. The British invaded anyway and got Hong Kong
out of the deal along with the right to sell drugs to China.
The writer I've been meaning to get back to is Jorge Luis Borges, one of my posts "The Ancestor Room" was inspired in a very obscure way by Borges's "The Library of Babel".
The connection would be much less obscure if I actually understood
I'm a big Harry Potter fan as well. My younger daughter and I have read all 6 books aloud together.
Music: I only listen to music that Randy Jackson has either
produced, played on, or had some other direct connection to.
Fortunately that's about everything that can be put on Mp3. I sometimes
make exceptions for Bud Powell, Shirley Horn, and anything on Blue Note Records up through 1965. Every once in a while, Steely Dan, Rickie Lee
Jones, and Cheryl Wheeler. In other words, I have a geezer's taste in
music and sort of a snobby one at that.
Movies: I really like Bollywood. Also my wife can't understand why I
watch teen movies. She has never forgiven me for making her go see
American Pie 2, because I insisted that the first one was funny. I'm
also the only person I know who found any parts of Johnny Knoxville's The Ringer funny. I have a weak spot for Farrelly Brothers' movies.
a galaxy far far away, I did work for a movie producer for about a year
in a very peripheral capacity where the high point was getting to see
first hand that Tom Cruise was much shorter than Nicole Kidman. Being
around the people who made the movies totally warped my taste. For
instance, the people on my softball team there thought Mars Attacks was
the funniest movie ever.
Television: I watch reality tv. I watched American Idol for 3
seasons so I could talk to my kids about it. I suspect they've never
read my reviews though or at least would never admit to it. I suspect
I'm the only person in America who watched both weeks of ABC's "The One." Now that it's cancelled, I'm sure I am the only one.
also have always been drawn to the dating/mating shows, because I was a
nerdy asocial teenager. My wife grew up cute and popular and still is
both of those things. I may be the only person in America who saw all
episodes of Average Joe and actually have watched whole episodes of
Parent Control, Elimidate, Fifth Wheel, and Next (I wouldn't have
been allowed to get out of the bus). I even still follow the Bachelor.
Hobbies: I collect stuffed images of Stuart Little and other stuffed
members of the rodent family through E-Bay including a Hamster that
sings Kung-Fu Fighting. I believe that Stuart Little is the most serene
member of the animated cartoon character pantheon and E.B. White's
book traces an American version of the story of the Buddha. Sadly, the
rest of my family does not share my beliefs and my Stuart icons often
get thrown around the house by them.
I also like to bicycle, but
always stop riding whenever I get more than three flats in a month.
Since we have no money to maintain roads in California, I haven't
ridden as much as I used to. I rode from Los Angeles to New York once.
Sports: I've played pickup basketball since I was 13. It's gotten
harder to do as I've gotten older because I don't own a pickup truck. I
would watch world cup soccer, but it's too "pitchy".
BELLA: How would you describe your blog?
CHANCELUCKY: It's green. It has pictures on it. I check it constantly for signs that
anyone else in the world has looked at it. I'd worry about what a
psychologist might think of me if he or she read it.
do you blog? What was your original goal or intention when you started,
and has that changed with time? Is your blog a means to an end (finding
work, developing creative ideas, making money, meeting people), or does
it exist for its own sake?
CHANCELUCKY: I've written most of my adult life with very limited commercial
success. I used to get very excited about writing something I was proud
of, but then obsess over trying to get it published which kept me from
writing until it did (which almost never happened) and gave me writer's
block whenever it got rejected or just ignored (which almost always
I figured if I had a blog, I could pretend that people were reading
it or at least could and I could then move on to writing the next post.
My understanding of my own blogging changes constantly. I think of
Chancelucky as an extension of myself that really doesn't exist
offline. In regular life, I'm the sort who goes to parties and
dinners, leaves early, and comes home without actually talking to
anyone including whoever I went there with. I also tend to ask more
questions about others than I answer about myself. Blogging seems to
let some other side of me out. It's sort of like "Chucky", the
psychotic doll who is more or less inanimate when people see him but
who wanders around in the middle of the night when no one notices and
lives his other life. It happens that "Chucky" is an abbreviated
version of "Chancelucky." I think that was just a coincidence, but
I'm not sure. Wanna play?
BELLA: Is there one particular post that you think exemplifies your work, or represents your best writing?
CHANCELUCKY: I think of myself as a fiction writer, so the fiction posts are
actually the most important to me. I currently like My Father's Paradox, which
sat in my head for almost twenty years after I met and talked to Daniel
Ellsberg's first wife. Hardly anyone reads the short stories on my site
though, which probably should be telling me something, but "Chucky"
won't let it go.
How often do you Google yourself, check yourself on Technorati, see how
many people link to or bookmark you, and/or pore over your referral
logs and visitor statistics?
CHANCELUCKY: This is like asking alcoholics how often they drink.
Is there one particular post that garnered you an atypically large
reader response or number of referrals from search engines? If so, why
do you think that is?
CHANCELUCKY: My American Idol reviews have been really popular because I think
there are a lot of people out there who realize that the show really
shouldn't be taken all that seriously. Of course, the irony is that I
spent all those hours writing posts that joked about people taking the
show too seriously.
Blogcritics.org brought me a bunch of readers for those posts as did Sirlinksalot.
should mention that I was heavily influenced by Daniel Drennan's
reviews some 10 years ago of Beverly Hills 90210, a show I also watched
with my daughters. He eventually got a book contract out of it, but
he's one of these individuals who probably influenced how a lot of
people blog about tv more than he gets credit for. (Damn, I keep ending
sentences with prepositions.)
I've also noticed a similarity between my American Idol Reviews and
Dave White's reviews on the Advocate's webpage. Since Drennan and Dave
White are both gay, I'm a little scared that the Conservatives will
find my blog and annul my marriage.
The single most poplular post on my blog is the Book of Judas, which was one of my early entries in what became my Karl Rove
series. The weird thing is that no one read it for several months until
it turned out that there was a "real" Gospel of Judas that wound up
being about exactly what I suggested Karl Rove's Book of Judas would
I'm not sure what Fundamentalist types think when they find it, but
God hasn't revealed anything to me since. My script for Rambo Four also
gets a lot of hits, but there's no sign that anyone's actually read
it and Sly has not sent me any early rushes of the real Rambo Four.
BELLA: What are some of your favorite, "must-read" blogs? What keeps you going back again and again?
CHANCELUCKY: I like blogs that are personal and individual, but by people who can
write reasonably well and have things to say. Funny helps a whole lot
Pogblog.blogharbor.com is an old real life friend of mine who loves
to play with words in bogglingly inventive ways and writes about
politics from a Mayan-futurist perspective.
GSMSO is the mother of a soldier who died in friendly
fire in Iraq who wants to keep other parents from having to go through
what she has. She's very raw and seems to keep picking up power in her
blogging voice with each post.
Pissed off Patricia and Coffee and Varnish also came to my attention
fairly recently and share a quality of silly, serious, and sarcastic at
any given moment that I like to think happens in my own blog. I also
like your blog.
CHANCELUCKY: I fully expect that a description of anyone who reads all of my blog
would be in the DSM IV somewhere. I have 4 different audiences with
Chancelucky. 1) volleyball folk 2) progressive political folk 3) people
who read pop culture reviews 4) the two people who read my fiction.
It does all link together in a weird way. The volleyball got tied to
a "parents' rights" movement in junior volleyball. Teen girls are a big
part of the Idol audience. A lot of my fiction is about cultural
artifacts that get stuck together unexpectedly like say volleyball,
reality tv, and Karl Rove in bicycle shorts.
If I have a common message for those audiences, it's speak up for yourself, but read the original sources first.
Are there people in your life who don't "get the whole blog thing?" How
do you explain it to them without feeling as nerdy and defensive as I
CHANCELUCKY: Most don't, particularly my immediate family. They think I'm nerdy and
defensive anyway, so there's not a lot to explain. As my older
daughter told me, "Wow, I have to tell you it's weird that you
write about American Idol."
BELLA: What's your relationship with your readers? How much interaction do you encourage?
CHANCELUCKY: I've become online friends with a couple of the people I've
crosslinked. Most started as commenters on my blog or with my
commenting on theirs. I like to socialize online. I guess because in
person and on the phone, I'm not very interesting. I'm happy to
exchange e-mail, talk on the phone, etc. I do draw the line at phone or
cyber sex with any of my blog readers. It's not like there's
anything wrong with that, but I'd go broke really fast having to pay
them for the service and have a hard time explaining it to my family.
BELLA: How much do you self-censor, knowing that your friends and family might be reading?
CHANCELUCKY: Enough to keep some plausible deniability in my offline life.
Have you ever heard yourself say something like "If you really cared
about me/were really interested in me, you'd look at my blog"? Is this
a fair thing to throw at, say, your sister, during an argument over who
gets the nicest drumstick at Thanksgiving?
CHANCELUCKY: Not many people I know in the offline world know that I blog. I've
noticed that when I do tell someone, I have this very unrealistic
expectation that that person will suddenly become a regular reader.
they have turkeys with three or more legs in the Midwest? The turkeys
who wander my neighborhood in California only have two drumsticks so we
only argue about who gets the "nicer" drumstick while hitting one
another over the head with the Chicago Manual of Style.
BELLA: Do you video blog? Would or will you? Are there any video blogs that you look at? What would you video blog about, if you did?
CHANCELUCKY: I would if I knew how and had a better video camera. I actually got inspired to look into it by some of your video posts.
BELLA: Have you ever blogged something that later you regretted and/or deleted from your blog?
CHANCELUCKY: Well, one time I misread a pentagon casualty report and thought I had a
major story about the misreporting of fatalities in Iraq and as soon as
I picked up the mistake had to take it offline right away. Fortunately,
no one actually saw the thing before I caught the mistake. It was an
interesting experience in learning to read governments and how it's
easy to get excited and post something before you've double-checked
I have a loved one who has a traumatic brain injury, so I suspect I'm
more sensitive to the "wounded" totals than many folk and maybe
that's why I rushed the post.
What are your thoughts on the phenomenon of "doocing," wherein someone
loses their job because of things they posted on a personal blog? Are
you careful to maintain a clear line between your online self and your
real world self?
CHANCELUCKY: It makes me think of Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash" for some reason. I think of
my blog as an extension of me but not necessarily me. I keep them
separate for that reason, but am increasingly aware that they share a
psyche. When I start e-mailing or IM'ing with myself, I'll really start to worry. Personally,
though I believe work requires you to do certain tasks but no one owns
your mind. I see blogging as an extension of one's mind, or self. It's
like speaking through a keyboard. Unless you work in a Cistercian
monastery, the question should be are you getting your duties done?
BELLA: Are you conscious of creating an online persona? How is that persona different from the real world you?
CHANCELUCKY: My blog self is taller, better looking, has fresher breath, and is way
more attractive to women. Blog self also never throws cross court no
look passes on the fast break. Blog self is also much more assertive
and riskier than my offline self. I suspect that's why my wife doesn't
like my hanging out with my online self. We did fool her once, that was
the night she started calling out Chris Daughtry's name. I probably
shouldn't have revealed that, but my online self took control there for
a moment. Stuart Little didn't approve and refused to speak to either
my online self or me for almost a week after that. I had to get his red
convertible washed and promise him that I would use Strunk and White as
my style reference from now on.
BELLA: How long have you been online, and what kinds of things have you done online (chat rooms, message boards, games, aimless surfing, etc.)? How has this changed your life, for the better or worse?
CHANCELUCKY: I started online in 1991 though I had e-mailed some in 1987. I surf
aimlessly constantly in hopes that Iâ€™ll find some metaphysical truth
hidden in the web. I think of it as a modern version of the Oracle of
The online obsession has impacted me in some weird ways. I
start sweating and hyperventilating if I can't get on the web for more
than a few hours. I now hear news and think about ways to blog about
it. A friend was having a baby and was asking me about names and all my
suggestions started with "http://www." He got really mad when I told
him that his surname wasn't a valid domain.
I was filling out my driver's license renewal the other day and put my ISP in as my home address.
Fortunately, I'm not addicted or anything. That would be really bad.
BELLA: How long do you think you will continue to blog? What are the circumstances under which you can imagine yourself quitting?
CHANCELUCKY: They'll have to take the keyboard out of my cold dead hands. I'd say
I'd quit once I'm brain dead, but right wing bloggers keep going
anyway, so....I mean how many oxycontin do you have to have your maid
buy for you before you actually fry your brain?
I wonder if they'll have little blue pills for guys who can't get their post or hit counts up anymore?
BELLA: What's the coolest thing that's come out of your blogging experience?
CHANCELUCKY: I'm writing much more than I ever have and reaching more readers than I
ever did before thanks to a technology that didn't exist when I started
writing. I also value many of the friendships I've made through my blog
even when the friendship is nothing more than a kind word in a comment
or someone linking me.