I had already been thinking about writing about some music that I’ve been listening to lately that has transported me to the 2000s but today’s news that Heather Armstrong, aka Dooce, passed away yesterday by suicide has me (and the entire 2000s blogosphere) reeling and falling even further into the 2000s reminiscing.
Let’s rewind to me reading somewhere on the internet recently that Feist had a new album out. I went to Spotify to listen to the new album but suddenly got a craving for 2000s Feist—the Feist of Mushaboom, 1,2,3,4, I Feel it All, and My Moon My Man. Why? Because they and other musicians and songs encapsulate that era so well for me. Just like watching movies pre-smart phone or pre-45, or pre-whatever-the-hell-era we’re in now can send you back to how life was then.
The music revolves around memories of the blogging world at that time but also about just me generally going about my life. I found out about Feist from a blog, probably via someone mentioning the music platform Pandora when it came out in 2005. YouTube was just launching at that time, too, but I can’t recall when artists began putting music videos there. But Pandora was really where I began exploring into new musicians, or finding out about them from other bloggers. That’s how I found out about The Weepies. And then diving into Chantal Kreviazuk after hearing Surrounded on Pandora and it reminding me that I knew the song from the 90s but never knew who the singer really was, which prompted me to dive into her discography and purchase several CDs from Amazon. They were on heavy rotation in my truck from the mid to late 00s and I still dig them out to listen to from time to time. They evoke a lot of memories of driving around Broward county and going to yarn and craft shops, running in a local park, and rollerblading. And then there’s the Juno soundtrack, which I bought after seeing the movie in Arizona while on a work trip. I also got really into Dave Matthews Band there for a while because a co-worker was obsessed with them. And Coldplay—oh the amounts of Coldplay I listened to. The Viva la Vida/Death and All His Friends album is basically a soundtrack to a work trip to Montana and a drive I took to Yellowstone. I remember buying it at the Target at Sawgrass Mills. That’s also where I would buy my Twilight books.
I never use my Pandora account but maybe I should for old-times sake. I just opened it up to see the stations I had piled in there. Regina Spektor is absolutely another artist I found via bloggers. I can probably sing every song on Begin to Hope. Remember when Starbucks did those free iTunes songs every month when you went in to buy a drink? That’s how I discovered Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and A Fine Frenzy. My brother introduced me to Rilo Kiley and then I went down a Jenny Lewis rabbit hole.
All of this is to say, the music is tied to blogging, tied to my life in the 2000s (and subsequently my life living in Florida), tied to various crafts and hobbies I had back then. The way blogging operated in those days was through word of mouth, the luck of being linked by someone else or appearing on their blogroll. This was before feed readers and then Google Reader came into view and we had access to all of these wonderful places to read from our favorite bloggers. Half the time I never bookmarked any of them and relied on remembering a couple of key blogs and then basically blog hopping for an hour, leaving comments (or not) and following along on the lives of whomever I followed. You weren’t drinking from the fire hydrant of constant updates that is how social media operates now, though when food bloggers got going some would write two and three times a day! I still can’t believe I would almost blog daily, or schedule blogs for the week in advance. And we all read them. Now I have a pile of blogs in my feed reader that I will end up “marking all as read” at some point soon because who has time to read? Oh, the 2000s.
Which brings me to Dooce. I was never a daily or even a weekly/monthly reader of hers. I would dip in and out when I felt like it, mostly in the earlier days of her writing. I imagine I first came across her blog in around 2004. I remember being impressed that she changed her blog banner out monthly and aspired to do the same on my blog. In that era many people were still writing with a screenname instead of their real name but some folks were dipping into that, Heather being one of them. She was the one who really elevated blogging into something that people could make money at, while most of us were toiling away at Blogger or Moveable Type accounts. Some of the best blogs were on those platforms, and then WordPress happened and we all moved there. For years I hand coded my blog until finally I moved to WordPress and automated the whole thing.
Those blogging days were the era before the masses were Very Online. Before smart phones. And so the internet still felt somewhat quiet, this despite many bloggers gaining large followings. Some of the biggest things I remember that that era was when the Kim family became lost in the Oregon mountains after Thanksgiving during a snowstorm. I found out about it on a blog that had linked to someone they knew who knew the family. And then there was Stephanie Nielson and her husband after their plane crash. I found out about Stephanie and her blog from another blogger after the plane crash because there was a huge community coming together to fundraise for them, which included using Etsy for the fundraiser. Etsy was born from that blogging area! I still have the earrings I bought from that fundraiser and I wear them fairly often. Etsy linked so many bloggers together, especially when they showcased a creator on their main page or blog. Etsy wasn’t the Etsy it is now—it was truly the best!
I guess what I’m trying to say is that blogging knit a lot of us together. I’m still online friends with some of those folks. I lament the loss of some of the bloggers who slowly faded away, switching to social media and then even fading from there. It felt like a real community. There wasn’t the chasing of numbers that social media wants you to aspire to now, though of course many would start advertising on their blogs in the latter part of the 2000s. There were whole blogging conventions that sprang up around blogging—I always wanted to go to one! So, when I saw the post announcing the death of Heather it felt like that era was closed for good. When we all form a vested interest in what someone is writing and never even know them in real life, it is still a shock to see that they have died. So many former bloggers (now turned newsletter writers or podcasters or social media influencers) have written small missives about the impact Heather had on their lives, from her influence as a blogger to her writing about motherhood, depression, and addiction. So many of us write and never know the impact we have on others with our words in our little space on the internet.
This is long enough and honestly, I’m not sure how to end it.
I’m going to go finish listening to Cat Power sing Sea of Love…