Monday, December 28, 2015

a red day: Robert Koehler calls it quits

Long a fixture in the Koreablogosphere, The Marmot's Hole, a Koreablog started by my Georgetown hubae Robert Koehler, is striking camp after having barely entered its teen years. In an honest self-assessment, Robert professes that his heart is simply no longer in it: blogging about Korea-topical issues is just too damn demanding. Can't say I blame him, and if I'm honest, I was one of the people who would periodically voice disappointment at how the blog had evolved over the years. Originally, it was Robert's voice alone, but when the Hole became a team blog featuring writers of wildly varying quality, the blog lost its focus and became, arguably, much less interesting. I'm not a fan of team blogs, anyway; it's far more entertaining to visit a site and be privy to a single person's undiluted thoughts on the world at large. Of course, the other problem with the Hole was its Mos Eisley-like comments section, which featured a few educated voices and a whole sea of idiots. I'm sure that mucking the comment-thread sewers was as distasteful for Robert as treading through the muck was for me—which is why I eventually began to avoid the comments entirely so as to concentrate on the main blog posts. I admit that, even until recently, I would occasionally dive into the comments, but that was mostly out of morbid curiosity than for any other reason.

How much of the Hole's disintegration can be placed on Robert's shoulders is, at this point, a moot question. I suspect that Robert did what he could; unlike my scattered and desultory blog, which started around the same time in the early 2000s, Robert's relatively more focused blog immediately shot into prominence, with site traffic numbering in the daily thousands, and staying there (according to SiteMeter, I don't think I ever broke 400 unique visits per day except for that one Instalanche and that one Den Beste-lanche). Handling fame is a burden I've never experienced, so maybe I don't have the right to criticize what happened to the Hole. All I know is that my experience of the Hole was much more pleasant back when Robert was the sole captain, and back when the comment threads were a bit more civilized.

Like a lot of people, I got much of my expat-relevant information about Korea from The Marmot's Hole, especially in the early days. These days, my daily circuit of blogs includes a lot more than just the Hole, and it also includes the ever-updating Twitter, with its constant stream of news and topicality. Upshot: losing Robert's blog isn't going to be tragic, as so much has arisen, since 2003, to fill in any news/information vacuum. But I'll feel a sense of loss, all the same, because the Hole has been a standby for so long: it has the force of tradition behind it, and it's been on my RSS feed until now.

Robert's been investing a great deal of effort in his magnificent Tumblr photoblog, which he avers is a more constructive use of his time. Follow your passion, I say. If the man is happier for pursuing narrower interests, who's to blame him?

Koehler and I have still never met, despite having known of each other's existence since about 2003. One day, perhaps, we'll cross paths. He strikes me as ferociously intelligent, extremely talented, yet modest in demeanor. With an alma mater in common, we'd no doubt have plenty to talk about.

Happy trails, Robert, and adieu to The Marmot's Hole.

UPDATE, 12/31/15: Joshua at One Free Korea writes a heartfelt tribute.


1 comment:

Lee Farrand said...

Yes, a sad day indeed. I only found out about it today, being as I am, a bit tardy in the blogging world (forgive my possibly incorrect punctuation).
I've been lucky enough to meet him in 'meat space' a couple of times and he is indeed ferociously intelligent - like a lion in a bar full of kittens. I do hope you'll meet him someday.

We should meet someday too (I'm moving to Australia in July). Perhaps we can invite Mr McCrarey also?