A Blogger's Baker's Dozen: The RFT staff presents a sampler of St. Louis' must-read contributors to the blogosphere

Mar 3, 2010 at 4:00 am

We are a nation of bloggers, a chattering class of more than 20 million, pecking away, yearning to be heard, craving a response. If journalists are the Fourth Estate, bloggers have become the Fifth.

We blog to reveal our hidden pundit. We blog to connect, to vent, to share, to argue, to arouse. St. Louis' blogland is fertile, and from its rich soil, we at Riverfront Times have picked thirteen who impress us with their ability to generate community energy, whether it's animated discussions of sex, politics and sports, or sagacious pontifications on science, music and historic preservation.

St. Louis Activist Hub by Adam Shriver, a doctoral student at Washington University, is the region's go-to source for political issues and events from a liberal perspective. In recent weeks, Shriver has broken news about the attempts by well-known Republican pranksters to sabotage a St. Louis rally for gay rights and has provoked the ire of conservative radio darling Dana Loesch by pointing out her inconsistencies during her on-air bluster. Shriver is also the creator of the Facebook group St. Louis Activist Hub, a clearinghouse of news and links for local progressives.

Age: 31

How long has your blog existed? Since April 2009.

Why did you start this blog? It started from my Facebook group, which I started in the summer of '08 and quickly grew to over 2,500 members. Eventually, the posts and comments were getting too long for Facebook. A blog allows me to go more in-depth on topics and issues.

How did you get so involved in St. Louis politics, given that you're from Iowa and here primarily for school? I've been in St. Louis for four years. That's pretty long. I was never all that political, but after my undergrad I did two years with AmeriCorps that had me organizing students. I learned then that all politics is local, and if you want change, you need to take it on at home.

When do you blog? I'm working on my dissertation, so I have free time throughout the day. I do it an hour here and an hour there. On average I'd say I'm working about two to three hours a day.

Where do you blog? Mostly at home. I don't do coffee shops so much. I'm a caffeine junkie but also a cheapskate.

Do you blog in your tighty-whities or PJs? I'm usually fully dressed for the day.

What was your most memorable comment? Oh man. There's a Twitter user who created an account just to attack me. I've been accused of beating up senior citizens, being caught with "condoms and kiddies," and labeled a "Zima drinker." That last one was pretty low.

Blogs he loves: Nationally: Open Left, Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo. Locally: Saint Louis Urban Workshop, Urban Review, Ecology of Absence.

Provel, yes or no? I used to like it. Now I'm a vegan.
— Chad Garrison

Punching Kitty is St. Louis' answer to Gawker, a kindred sprit in snarkiness, with a special affinity for media folly. Mike Flynn, a web developer for Announce Media, comes home from his day job to dish-up thrice-daily dispatches poking fun at local news — and the characters who set the agenda.

Age: 28

How long has your blog existed? Since January 2009.

Why did you start this blog? My last blog, Hell Yeah Bitch!, was about celebrities. I did it for about six years before I got bored. I heard the phrase "punching kitty" and thought it was funny. So I bought the domain name and then had to figure out what to do. I was working at ToastedRav at the time and there were a lot of funny stories we couldn't post. I realized there're a lot of St. Louis blogs, but 90 percent of them are about a person who lives here. So I decided to take my, let's say, unique brand of humor to St. Louis itself.

When he blogs: Between 9 p.m. and midnight, weeknights.

Where he blogs: A home office filled with toys, PEZ dispensers and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles poster.

His blogging uniform: T-shirt, jeans. Occasionally nude, though news stories don't usually excite him that much.

Ever think about putting the Kitty to sleep? Only when I posted a memo from my old company, which somebody sent me anonymously. It had to do with the company canceling the free Starbucks supply in the break room. They were less than pleased with me. They said you can [blog] anonymously and not talk about us, which is kind of hard to do when your site is about local media. So I shut it down. But I changed jobs a month later and brought it back.

What was your most memorable comment — that didn't come from your mother? Some local kid got a perfect ACT score recently, and I guess his mother probably didn't take kindly to my jokes about him.

Bloggers he loves: Daring Fireball, TechCrunch, Viva El Birdos and What Would Tyler Durden Do?

Provel, yes or no? Yes!
— Kristen Hinman

One Hot Stove by Nupur Kittur, who just earned a master's degree in public health from Saint Louis University, chronicles the culinary delights the author creates in her home kitchen, with occasional asides about knitting projects and her dog, Dale.

Kittur, who was born in Mumbai, India, and has lived in St. Louis for three years, focuses primarily on Indian cuisine, though curiosity might be her true driving force. As she says about her own preference for food blogs with unfamiliar recipes, "Do you need a blog with another recipe for chocolate cake?"

Age: 30

How long has your blog existed? Five years.

Why did you start this blog? I sent [a food blog] a recipe and a picture. It was so exciting to see my recipe up on the web, I thought I must start a blog.

When do you blog? In the mornings. I'm up at about five. The rest of the household is asleep.

Where do you blog? From home.

What was your most memorable reader comment? One woman said she would call her mom and grandmother for recipes. Her mom and grandmother passed away within a few months of each other, and she was feeling very lost. She said, "Your blog and recipes gave me a taste of the food I love and they used to make."

Is there a post you really wish you'd never written? No. I'm not a trained writer. I make stuff up as I go along. That's how I learn.

What do you like least about blogging? The plagiarism. People set up websites where they make money. They don't write content; they steal it left and right! There are print publications in India that have used my pictures without permission. That really breaks my heart.

Blogs she loves: Aayi's Recipes and Enjoy Indian Food: Both of these bring really unusual regional Indian recipes. Homesick Texan: She writes about Texan cuisine. It's really quite meat-heavy, but even though I don't eat meat, I enjoy reading about how she prepares her food.

Provel, yes or no? No, no, no!
— Ian Froeb

The Beautiful Kind might make you blush. Or it might make you barf. All depends on what the polyamorous, BDSM, swinging, all-around-sex-lovin' "TBK" has been up to within the last week. A single mother who does more than kiss and tell, TBK thinks of her blog as "a safe haven for perverts." Everyone's welcome. Nothing's off-limits. As she puts it, "I'll try everything, except for children. Pedophilia — no way."

Age: 37

How long has your blog existed? Since October 2006.

Why on earth would you start this blog? I have so many pet peeves, and I just wanted a place to vent and be bitchy. Then I started focusing more on how awesome my sex life is and bragging about that. More people started tuning in, so now it's turned into this sex community.

When she blogs: 5 a.m.

Where she blogs: In bed or in an armchair. Never in a coffee shop, because most of them block her site.

What she wears: Nothing. She's a nudist.

What's your comment moderation philosophy? I'm all about freedom and expression. I've never deleted a comment. And see, people can't call me a "bitch" or a "cunt" 'cause I already call myself that. So it's totally fine to say what you want.

Are there any posts you wish you hadn't put out, so to speak, for public consumption? I've written about my abortion, about feeding a guy a mug full of semen, about pooping on somebody and throwing up on somebody. And I don't regret writing about any of that. But here's my trick: I always let something sit for two or three days before I write about it.

How about a memorable reader comment? Oh my God. This last year a guy wrote in about how he had ejaculated in his autistic brother's ham-salad sandwich and fed the sandwich to his autistic brother. I know him. I had sex with this guy. It's true.

Bloggers she loves: The Writing Buddha, Always Aroused Girl, Annie Sprinkle.

Provel, yes or no? Yes. I'm a wannabe vegan, so I wish I did not eat cheese, but I'm so addicted.
— Kristen Hinman

Angry Black Bitch is the personal rants and raves forum of Pamela Merritt, a.k.a. Shark-Fu. A freelance author and blogger extraordinaire (she also contributes to Feministing and Shakespeare's Sister), she writes poignantly, passionately and hilariously about race, politics and any other topic that pisses her off.

Age: 37

How long has your blog existed? Five years.

Why did you start this blog? It was a dare. It was given to me by my friend Rob Thurman, who blogs at http://robthurman.com. He told me to stop ranting and put my rants on paper.

Is she really that angry? Not all the time. People usually say I don't sound as angry as a write. I find something to be pissed off at every day.

When she blogs: Butt-ass early in the morning or late at night.

Where she blogs: In my home, always in our living/sitting area on the couch.

What she wears when she blogs: Some ratty T-shirt and socks and flannel. Jammies.

When was the last time you thought about stopping your blog? At least once a week I think about stopping. But I always get that one comment or e-mail from somebody who likes something I said and wants to encourage me, or somebody who thinks I'm completely effed up and hates me and thinks I'm the reason America is going downhill. I either get encouraged or pissed off. It gets tiring sometimes. It's not about money so you look at it and say, "What the hell am I doing?" But it's cheaper than therapy.

A post she wishes she'd never written: I wrote something about Ann Curry on the Today show. She was growing her hair out. I wrote a post about how I didn't like it, how she looked better with a bob. Then I found out she was growing it out for Locks of Love. That was the lowest of the low. Other than that, I stand by everything I've written.

Provel, yes or no? I like Provel. I'm a St. Louis native. I'll eat it.
— Keegan Hamilton

Urban Science Adventures! by Danielle Lee, a graduate student in biology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, examines the flora and fauna of the city of St. Louis. She's posted photos of such things as animal tracks on her back porch and chicory growing in the parking lot of an abandoned factory in north St. Louis. Lee also discusses the need for racial and gender diversity in the sciences. One of her blog posts was selected for the anthology Open Laboratory: The Best Writing on Science Blogs, which comes out this spring.

Age: 36

How long has your blog existed? Since the summer of 2006.

Why did you start this blog? My friend and I were doing a summer science program for high-school students. We were assisting teachers in biology lab classes at Normandy High School and noticed that students were not receptive to science in the classroom, but to more hands-on stuff. The blog was an outlet for writing things up. It's a page for the scientifically nascent.

When she blogs: The frequency has gone down lately since I'm defending my dissertation in a matter of days. But before I got so busy, I'd blog at night to post the next morning.

Where she blogs: At the university or at the Bread Co. on Russell. Whenever I'm blocked I go to the Bread Co. in the Delmar Loop. I get unblocked every time.

When was the last time you thought about stopping your blog? It never crossed my mind.

What was your most memorable comment? On one of my posts about diversity issues, another grad student, an African American woman, posted about the frustration of being a black person in science. You're a minority on both sides. You feel like you're always double-speaking, especially when you're talking with your family and friends. You have to convince your family that science is not out to hurt African American people.

Bloggers she loves: Dr. Isis, who writes On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess. She's a physiologist, and she writes about how amazingly hot she is. She's confronting the idea that women in science are frumpy and unattractive.

Provel, yes or no? No!
— Aimee Levitt

By day, Gabe Hartwig is the creative director for Go!, the Post-Dispatch's entertainment section. But by night, he's keeping an eye out for weaves — i.e., hair extensions — orphaned on the streets of St. Louis. At his blog, Girl, You Lost Your Weave, Hartwig collects weave news and, of course, pictures of the forlorn faux locks.

Age: 29

When did you start this blog and how did you get the idea for it? I started the blog last September. I had been walking along the streets and taking pictures of these weaves and putting them on Facebook. People would say, "God, you should get a blog for these things." So I did that. I got lazy a few months last year and stopped blogging. [In] January I picked it back up again, and it's been a huge success ever since.

Where and what time of day do you blog? Usually from home at night. I don't do it every day — I set up like a week's worth [of posts] at a time.

What do you like least about blogging? I don't know. That's a hard question. I guess marketing myself.

How do you find your material? Do you have a Google alert for "weave"? Sometimes I post news tidbits — those are from a Google alert. The rest of it's just from my walk to work and my walk home every day. And then people share what they find with me.

Is St. Louis an epicenter for weaves? I think it really is. There are a couple of other cities who would tell you the same thing, but we are a little special. Probably twice a week.

What about the city makes it an epicenter? The places I've noticed downtown happen to be not the cleanest places, but they're also in the vicinity of where you can get weaves, which helps. One of the best places downtown is within a block of a wig store and a braiding place. Maybe there's something to people losing them on their way in or out, or something.

Provel: Yes or no? No.
— Annie Zaleski

St. Louis likes to think that sports are matters of life and death. The truth is they exist purely for entertainment. Even though they're locals who love the Cardinals as much as the next guy, the four bloggers behind Joe-SportsFan— Josh Bacott, Patrick Imig, Jason Major and Matt Sebek — like to keep things in perspective and "celebrate the absurdity of professional sports" with irreverent posts that poke fun at announcers, coaches, athletes and fans. Think Deadspin minus the mean-spirited snark and with more mustache jokes. Here's Sebek's take on the six-year-old site.

Age: 28. Josh, the founder, is 30, and the other two writers are 28.

Why did you start this blog? When we started in 2004 it was a time when ESPN was really getting into online culture, but ESPN is the polar opposite of what we do. They break news and cover sports. We just want to have fun with sports. We realize it's about entertainment value and having a good time.

Who are your readers? Most of our success is on the east and west coasts. Only in the past six months did people in St. Louis figure out who we were. From a traffic perspective St. Louis wasn't even in our top ten. We've never really focused primarily on St. Louis sports, but in 2010 we'll do St. Louis a lot — a lot — more.

Blogs he loves: I'm a big fan of sportspickle.com. It's run by one of our buddies, DJ Gallo, who also writes for espn.com. Also withleather.com, another sports-humor site based out of New York.

What's your comment moderation philosophy? Our motto is, we don't write anything we wouldn't feel proud for our moms to read. We never publish anything our moms wouldn't read. If somebody crosses that line, we'll restrict or delete comments altogether.

Does your mom read the blog? Oh yeah.

Provel — yes or no? Yes, absolutely. I'm St. Louis–born and –raised. I'm an Imo's guy.
— Keegan Hamilton

Courtney Chesley, a transplant from a not-so-far-away place she likes to call Bellevegas (Belleville), uses her eponymous blog to muse on craftmaking, thrift-store adventures and domestic life with "Mr. Husband Pants" and an old English sheepdog named Walter Bishop. Her voice is fresh and friendly, and after a while you feel like you've known her forever.

Age: 28

How long has your blog existed? About three years.

Why blog about your personal life? I'd just moved to St. Louis and was able to meet a lot of people through blogging. And it was a way of discovering the city. Once I met people who actually read my blog, I just kept going. It was like feeding a monster that didn't stop.

Does your husband read your blog? No. Maybe three posts in the history of court neychesley.com. I think he just left his first comment. He is finally OK with it. I mean, he never really had a problem with me writing about our lives, because with his job it doesn't really matter, but it's still weird for him to read what I write.

When she blogs: At night. She can't sleep. This helps.

What she wears: Pajamas.

Have you thought about retiring? Definitely. It's a major time suckage. I have a real job, a craft business and another blog now. But if I don't post for a week, I start to miss getting the feedback and connecting with readers. So there's no end in sight.

What's your comment moderation philosophy? It's a G-rated blog for the most part, but you can drop an F-bomb sometimes, when it's appropriate. As long as you're not offensive personally, like racist, I'll allow it.

Had any memorable reader comments lately? We had to put my dog down last year, and I got the most comments I've ever had. It really stood out to me that a lot of people read the blog but never comment, yet everyone's had an experience with losing a pet.

Blogs she digs: Lo-Fi Saint Louis, the Bloggess and Apartment Therapy.

Provel? Yes. I didn't grow up eating it, but I do now.
— Kristen Hinman

Subterranean Books is a collaborative effort among the five staff members of the bookstore in the Delmar Loop. Kelly von Plonski, Alex Weir, Marina Hoag, Afsaneh Razani and Joe Betz take turns writing about their favorite new titles, goings-on in St. Louis and the book world, and their thoughts on what they've been reading lately. Store owner von Plonski spoke on behalf of her staff.

Age: Subterranean is ten years old.

How long has your blog existed? We started maybe six years ago. We started on Blogger, and I don't know if all the archived posts migrated to WordPress.

Why did you start this blog? We wanted to reflect the personality of the store. We have such a small staff, and it's super-important to give a glimpse into our personality.

Where they blog: I do it at the store or at home. I don't know where the others do it. Marina always posts at work, but I don't know if she does it ahead of time. If she writes those posts off the top of her head, I'd be like, wow, because they're always really thoughtful.

When they blog: I feel like I'm noticing more new posts at midday.

What do you like least about blogging? I hate writing. I'm not a writer. I have no skill whatsoever. I know Alex really likes to write. Marina, too.

Where do you find the kids who guest-review kids' books? They're regular customers. When we get review copies in, we tell them, "Take what you want, but you have to write for us about what you like."

What was your most memorable comment? We had one negative comment from an awful, mean person. I don't remember what they said. I've tried to block it out. I can't think of an actual quote, but we have some regular commenters. Alex is really good at wordplay. He and the commenters play back and forth and get silly. It takes a lot to comment. You have to feel something.

Provel, yes or no? I'm cool with Provel. And I'm not even a native St. Louisan.
— Aimee Levitt

Where others see a shabby old building left to rot, Michael Allen sees a treasure needing love. For years, he's posted photos, maps and blueprints on Ecology of Absence to highlight specimens of St. Louis' architecture threatened by brick rustlers or the wrecking ball. Best known for being the first to identify Paul McKee as the one amassing parcels of land in north St. Louis, Allen has become one of the most thoughtful and prolific commentators on historic preservation policy in the city.

Age: 29

How long has your blog existed? Since 2004.

Why did you start the blog? This info I put out there on vanishing buildings and historical buildings will inspire action, hopefully. And getting it out to the largest number of people possible is my goal.

What's your traffic like? I get 400 unique users on an average day. Sometimes it gets up to 500 or 600.

When do you blog? Early in the morning. Readership is really high before lunch.

Where do you blog? Almost exclusively from my computer in my home office. I never blog in cafés or bars. I try to keep a wall of separation between business and pleasure.

What's your comment moderation philosophy? I started out allowing anything and everything. Now, the ones I weed out are the ones that attack somebody that's not key to the message of the post. Ultimately I want people to focus on preservation and the architecture I want to cover. I don't just want to be a forum for ranting and raving.

Most memorable moment as a blogger: I was at Whole Foods and this young man in the wine department came up to me and said, "Aren't you from Ecology of Absence?" That was kind of fun.

The first time I met Paul McKee, he was coy about whether he read the blog. But by the third meeting he was referring to specific posts. It was like, "Wow, you really were reading."

Blogs he loves: B.E.L.T., Confluence City, Creative Saint Louis, Exploring St. Louis.

Provel, yes or no? Not at Imo's. But at Riley's, yes.
— Nicholas Phillips

A few years ago, computer programmer Joe Stumble purchased a 45 by a California band called the Deadbeats. After finding out that the record had sold for a large chunk of change on eBay, he was shocked and appalled at how this type of music was being exploited.

"And so I came up with this idea that I was going to do a Robin Hood thing," he says, "where I was going to lower the sale price of records by sharing them with people." Enter Last Days of Man on Earth, Stumble's MP3 blog. Mixing smart, insightful commentary with free downloads, the site has become a must-read for fans of obscure punk, new-wave, hardcore, noise, power-pop and post-punk music.

Age: 39

When did you start the blog? February 2006

What time of day do you blog? I usually do it in the early morning, which is not rock & roll at all. I usually am up pretty early, and my brain is relatively fresh in the morning. I'll usually have coffee and sit down and start writing stuff out.

What blogs do you read? Good Bad Music, Armagideon Time, and Egg City Radio.

When was the last time you thought about stopping your blog, and why did you keep it going? I've stopped my blog all the time, and I generally keep going at this point because of audience feedback.

What do you like least about blogging? The time commitment of it. I don't get paid or anything, so it really is a labor of love, a free-time thing. I hate to say that, because it sounds like I'm complaining — and it's actually been a great thing for me — but sometimes you're tired, and you don't want to spend a couple hours fooling around with your computer. You want to go watch a movie or something.

Provel — yes or no? Absolutely, unequivocably, yes.
— Annie Zaleski

"Everybody assumes because I'm a Republican, that I'm an old cranky white guy. I'm more of a young cranky white guy," says St. Charles-based blogger John Combest. By day, he's a PR man for Monsanto, but he's better known as the top hyperlink aggregator of Missouri political news. For more than eight years, he's posted a daily list of stories in a bare-bones fashion and gained an audience of policy-makers and political junkies.

Age: 32

What's your blog's birthday? October 2, 2001.

Why did you start this blog? Nobody was really amalgamating and collecting these stories. If you really cared about Missouri politics in 2001, you had to go to 40 newspaper and TV websites. A lot of those little newspapers, I link to today.

When and where do you blog? Every morning on my laptop, from my kitchen table. I get dressed for blogging by putting on my boxers.

Have you ever not run a story at the request of a politician? Absolutely not. If they have something to say about an article, they can leave a comment on the story.

How do you choose a story to link to? I try to keep the reader in mind. I don't want to wade through inches of bullshit to get what I want.

Your most memorable reader e-mail? One day I got an e-mail from Martin Duggan [the erstwhile conservative Donnybrook provocateur]. We communicated occasionally and I was able to be a panelist on the show on election night 2008.

When are you going to update your blog's look? Soon. I've had several aborted — that's a bad word for Republicans to use — attempts.

Bloggers you love: Nationally, it begins and ends with Drudge. Locally, there's Dana Loesch, and my Republican friends hate this, but I read Fired Up! Missouri.

Provel, yes or no? Heck yes! Only on pizza and salad, though.
— Nick Lucchesi