If you didn’t know Ed., please bear with me. He made me a better blogger, and a better lawyer. He died of esophageal cancer last week, as announced by his son on Twitter.
Newcomers might not remember Blawg Review, the weekly round-up of law blog posts that he started in 2005 that rotated around and around from blog to blog. The Blawg Review website that he managed and edited held down the anchor with all of the links. The roster of those who hosted Blawg Review looks like a Who’s Who of the legal blogosphere. I was honored that he asked me to host three out of the 324 prior editions before it came to an end last year.
As I noted back in 2009 — a lifetime ago in pixellated years:
Without Ed., there would be no Blawg Review. And if someone else were doing the organizing, you just know it wouldn’t be nearly as good.
Ed. wished to remain anonymous, even as he traveled the country and met with scads of bloggers. To my knowledge, not a single one of us knew his real name. As Scott Greenfield noted, he was always just Ed., the editor of Blawg Review. I had the pleasure of meeting him several times as he passed through New York.
Ed. didn’t want to be known by name. He didn’t want it to be about him. It was about the Blawg Review project. He was the living, breathing embodiment of how to conduct yourself online under cover of anonymity — the exact same way you would if you were face to face.
According to his son:
There was nothing my father enjoyed more than debating the philosophies, merits, and impacts of laws around the world – sharing opinions and celebrating the discourse you helped create here at Blawg Review.
So why did he make me a better blogger and lawyer? It all goes back to The Mummers Veil that he wrote on January 1, 2007. This wasn’t just any old round-up of posts that constituted a Blawg Review that he wrote, but rather, a delightful flight of fancy as he imagined himself traveling the world visiting law bloggers. This was the literary device he used:
In this Blawg Review #89, your dutiful editor appears as the lone mummer, visiting the sites of legal webloggers far and near in the blogosphere between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day 2007.
Now literary devices and lawyering don’t usually go hand in hand — lawyers are boring and write dryly and stuff their pages with case citations and numbers that correspond to book volumes. Some lawyers seem hell bent on putting judges and law clerks to sleep.
But look what was possible in the blawgosphere! There was Ed., not just enjoying the writing that he found at the end, but enjoying the journey to find it. The possibilities of communication were without limit — even for us boring lawyers — and by organizing this weekly round-up of legal writing that he orchestrated, I could explore not just what others were saying, but how they were saying it.
And with that I engaged in my own flights of fancy when he asked me to host Blawg Review, wrestling with how to enjoy the journey through the blawgosphere while at the same time presenting its stories. It inspired me to run the 2007 NYC Marathon with law bloggers in tow, fantasizing that they were running the streets of New York with me while discussing what was going on in their sector of the legal woods. It was marathon length and it was great fun, and the journey was inspired by Ed.’s mummer traveling about.
The same was true when I went trick or treating in 2008 with the Bogeyman in tow. This time we tricked and treated at the homes of law bloggers, each telling us their particular stories. Again, it was Ed. and his turn as a mummer whispering to me at the keyboard while I typed.
The third and final flight of fancy that I engaged in had Arlo Guthrie and numerous law bloggers visit me for turkey and a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat. Ed. was with me all the way.
I received a few accolades for those pieces, but in truth, it was Ed.’s traveling mummer that was the inspiration.
So how did he make me a better blogger and lawyer? By reminding me that it’s all about telling stories and journeys from place to place. Every article we write or client we have has a story in the background. It is not the facts and figures that capture the imagination and compel people to listen — though they are critical to proving a point — it’s the stories.
You can tell them from the start, tell them from the end, or tell it from the middle, just figure out a way to tell it. That is true whether you are blogging or lawyering. As Mark Twain once wrote:
“Narrative is a difficult art; narrative should flow as flows the brook down through the hills and the leafy woodlands, its course changed by every bowlder it comes across and by every grass-clad gravelly spur that projects into its path; its surface broken, but its course not stayed by rocks and gravel on the bottom in the shoal places; a brook that never goes straight for a minute, but goes, and goes briskly, sometimes ungrammatically, and sometimes fetching a horseshoe three-quarters of a mile around, and at the end of the circuit flowing within a yard of the path it traversed an hour before; but always going, and always following at least one law, always loyal to that law, the law of narrative, which has no law. Nothing to do but make the trip; the how of it is not important, so that the trip is made.”
How many others did Ed. influence? Hard to say, but as you read the obituaries online from last week and today — starting with an intro at the Blawg Review site by Colin Samuels — you can see that the answer is many.
But not just any many, for those that he influenced may have, in turn influenced others. Because they are bloggers and they have readers. And it works like a giant chain — just as the bees influence the flowers, and the flowers influence the lovers and the lovers have babies and pretty soon we’re all talking in high squeaky voices and saying, coochie, coochie, coo. Because of the bees.
I think Ed. would have liked that; it was like a little story.
My condolences to his family. I don’t know how much they knew or appreciated how he influenced others, but from where I sit at my keyboard here in New York, it was plenty. He left a legacy despite being anonymous. That’s one hell of an achievement.
Some of you are regular readers and started today at this blog, and you may wonder about the title, Blawg Review 325.7. That .7 exists because this is part of a big web ring, and you are currently in the middle.
Some of you arrived here from Popehat (Blawg Review 325.6), a blog based in San Diego. In honor of Ed., please fly back to the west coast and visit with George Wallace in Pasadena, CA, (Blawg Review 325.8) for his thoughts on Ed.s’ passing.
And then, dear reader, please complete the circle visiting other bloggers, as Ed. did with his mummer.
And we can all wonder if our own obituaries will be half as fine.