Celebrating Five Years of Cat Flag!

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The year was 2011. I was a journalism student in college taking a class on social media that required each of us to set up a blog so that we could publish the articles we wrote for class assignments online. The teacher would look at our blogs and give us our grade.

I had been wanting to start a blog of my own for a while at that point, and decided to use the lessons I had learned in class to run a private blog on the side. On March 31, 2011, Cat Flag was introduced to the world. At the time, I considered Cat Flag an experiment. I didn’t know how long I would keep the blog going, nor did I know what sort of character it would have. In fact, many of my early posts from that first year were actually class assignments from my various journalism classes, since it was just easier for me with my busy schedule to copy-paste articles I had already written or upload videos I had already made.

Going back over those first few months, the experimental, “I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing” nature of those blog posts really shows. At one point, I even posted a poll to ask my tiny circle of readers what they wanted me to blog about. I learned an important lesson that day: when you throw in a joke answer to an online poll, people will always vote for the joke answer. Still, that poll led to Cat Flag’s longest-running in-joke, so I’m pretty happy with that.

The Quesadilla that will never be forgotten.

The Quesadilla that will never be forgotten.

The longest-running series of serious posts on this blog, though, is Awesome People in History. This series was introduced with my fifth post, and it’s become one of my favorite things to write. I love being able to share the biographies of historical figures whose lives are impressive to read about, especially those that are not as well-known.

I don’t think Cat Flag really started to hit its stride, though, until 2012. This was a time when my life was going through some major changes – I had received my journalism degree, and I was torn between going back to college for a master’s degree or hunting for a journalism job to get my career started. I ultimately decided I would be better off with a master’s degree than without one. While all of this was going on, I really focused on trying to make my blog look polished and professional instead of just a bunch of random, experimental posts.

That was the year I introduced my first movie review, and I also introduced the Strange Politics series to investigate the bizarre, contradictory world that politicians, lawmakers, and diplomats live in. That was also the year I introduced Behind the Headline, my series that looks at the events that are unfolding in the news and asks, “why?” All three have now come to be staples of this blog.

Over the years, I have noticed a few gradual changes to Cat Flag. When I started out, I was putting up two posts a week. Later, I cut it back to one post a week. Now, my posts are uploaded on a “whenever I feel like it” basis, which normally translates to once every two weeks. This was because I was having a hard time keeping up with the much tighter and more rigid schedule. I was basically having to force myself to write when I had other obligations, and that took the fun out of it. What point is there to blogging if I’m not enjoying it?

I have also gradually changed the direction and theme of this blog. Originally, many of the posts I put up on Cat Flag were news-related, including some local news stories I had actually gone out and reported on myself. Indeed, I gave this blog the motto “All the news-ish (sort of) stuff that’s fit to blog!” Over time, though, I have tended to upload fewer and fewer posts about the news and more and more blog posts about my various other interests, especially history. Boy, I sure do blog about history all the time, don’t I? This shift away from news was never a conscious decision, but it is a reflection of changes in my own life. I now have an MBA and have pursued a completely different career path. Five years ago, who would have guessed I would end up working at a bank? I sure wouldn’t have. Just goes to show you how you never know what life has in store for you.

The blog posts I am most proud of:

  • Who Owns Betty Boop? – Such a simple question with such a complex and strange answer. I spent months researching the history of the character and her various owners in my spare time, and as far as I can tell, the post I wrote revealing what I had learned is the only comprehensive article on the subject published online.
  • The Lives and Times of Morro Bay’s Oldest Couple – This video I made for my next-door neighbors is, in my opinion, one of the best videos I have ever made. Stitching together my interviews with each of them, a tour of their home, some family photos they let me borrow, and a whole collection of public domain video clips to illustrate what they were saying, I created a biography of two seemingly ordinary people who have actually lived quite extraordinary lives.
  • The Second Worst Exotic Movie About Awkward Misunderstandings – This was the first time I had reviewed a truly horrible film, and while it was a struggle to make it through the picture while sitting in the theater, actually writing the review afterwards was really fun. I had wanted to rant about the Hollywood habit of making unnecessary sequels for a while, and it was cathartic to finally have an excuse to do so.

The blog posts I would do differently if I had to do them over again:

  • The Dark Knight Impresses – Yes, I was initially very impressed with The Dark Knight Returns. However, I have since changed my mind on the film. Some of the flaws and problems with the movie that either didn’t bother me or I didn’t notice on my first viewing have since become impossible to ignore. I now realize that the movie’s story was slapped together carelessly and failed at some basic levels. Maybe I’ll have to revisit this film sometime.
  • Strange Politics: Congress Begins Debate on Syria Intervention – While nothing is wrong with this post per se, in retrospect it might have been better for me to focus less on the headlines that led into my discussion on the relationship between the President and Congress in military matters and more on, well, that discussion. Time-sensitive blog posts about breaking news stories don’t lend themselves well to repeat readings, while posts about history, how political systems work, and fun trivia can be read over and over again. Trying to do both in one post just makes the whole thing feel awkward.

The most surprising facts I have learned about this blog:

  • People really like posts about flags. I have always loved and been fascinated by flags, but I had no idea there were so many others who feel the same way I do about them. I even learned a new word: vexillology, the study of flags.
  • Movie reviews are really easy to write, while articles on history, even if I know the history very well, are much harder. A large part of the reason for this is that I always try to cite my sources with links to the places I found the information, and that can take quite a while to track down if it’s something I learned a long time ago.

There is one thing about Cat Flag that has never changed. From day one, Cat Flag has been about my sharing interesting, unusual, and fun things with all of you. I have never earned a single penny from this blog, and I never intend to. My goal has always been to have fun sharing these posts with everyone, and that will always be my goal with Cat Flag. So here’s to five years of Cat Flag, and who know how many more!

Thank you, Cat Flaggers, for sticking with me all these years!

Thank you, Cat Flaggers, for sticking with me all these years!

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