In which Shingo looks back at a spotty, nay mottled year of blogging, and ruminates on the nature of the bounenkai.

Tonight is the bounenkai (忘年会) for the teaching staff at the school where I’m currently working. Directly translated bounenkai means “year-forgetting party”, and while in essence the same as any structured company festivity it serves the additional purpose of getting people tremendously drunk to ring out the old year and ring in the new.

As this will be the last chance to gather with my colleagues in a festive setting before I leave in January (five more days of work after today, all told) I’m expected to give a speech to the assembled partygoers. I haven’t quite figured out what this will entail… it’s been a long three and a half years, and it’s easy to whip up a frenzy of nostalgia about the whole thing when looked at from a certain rose-tinted perspective. I’ve had it good here, to be sure, and moving on will be more like graduating from college again than making a transition to a new job. A daunting proposition.

Before drowning the ups and downs of 2006 in beer, sake, shochu and whatever else the restaurant has in stock tonight I thought I’d take a look back at what HD has been through since the beginning of the year.

In early January 2006 the blog moved from its tyth.net location to a sparkly and new heiseidemocracy.net. I was full of energy and ideas for the new site, and loaded with thirty-ton vats of elbow grease managed to crank out the posts with a speed and furiosity unmatched (personally) to this day. I picked up a new camera and started reviewing figures; attended and posted a comprehensive review of Wonder Festival Winter 2006. HD was the first blog to report on the Haruhi anime, weeks before it aired… looking back I marvel at the sheer bulk of information I was processing.

I found myself gradually slowing the pace, and broke stride completely with the purchase and construction of a new computer in April. This resulted in technical and psychological barriers to posting that in retrospect were what doomed the steady cadence I had established to that point; new computers have always been slack enablers for me, and this one was no exception. I switched much of my free time from blogging to gaming.

As summer vacation approached in July I was feeling pangs of the need to blog and reassert HD’s presence online, to really create something great – bigger than a mere blog really, a destination in its own right that would attract contributors and perhaps become something to rival Akiba Blog or Moeyo. Big dreams. Heiseidemocracy.com launched to much fanfare – and even more stumbling out of the gate – in early August.

Things went well for the first few weeks, with the Negative Campaign drawing over one hundred forum members in a single day. Needless to say I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught, and still hadn’t acknowledged the disjunct between my desires and my ability to carry them out. Left to my own devices I dreamed up this great contest, and totally botched it – the prizes are still sitting on the floor of my room, and I don’t know what’s going to happen with them at this point. That’s one of the biggest millstones hanging around my neck right now as far as the site is concerned.

In early September I began negociations that would eventually lead to the position I’m taking up in January. The prospect of work on the blog eventually leading to employment was an exciting one, but conversely acted to remove a strong incentive to post – with a new lease on my life in Japan, and the arrival of friends from back home to take up job positions nearby, my attention turned away from the online life and toward offline concerns and activities.

This is still the basic position I find myself in: a sudden expansion of offline concerns, coupled with the release of several very engrossing games, has effectively decimated my blogging activity. A rather ignominious way to ring out a year that began with such promise.

I remember looking back on 2005 at the beginning of last year with the ability to unequivocally call it a good year. I can’t do the same for 2006… it’s a year littered with the discarded, broken husks of many small aspirations and good intentions. I accomplished some significant things with the help of some really good friends, made more in the process, and am newly employed to boot – so on balance the year wasn’t a failure by any means. But it could have been so much better.

I still have hope that HD will find its proper place in the blogosphere again, and that I’ll be able to reach a level where I can stop lying to myself that I’ll get certain things done that I don’t have the time, energy, or willpower to do. It’s going to take better time management skills and a good dose of zen on my part to bring everything together again, and some things will be left by the wayside – I can’t patrol a forum or run a wiki by myself – but there are certain improvements that could help manage workflow and provide greater value for everyone involved, and I’m committed to seeing these implemented in the near term.

So what does 2007 hold for HD? Frankly speaking I can’t say. I’d like to think it will be the year where I finally find a reliable, regular update schedule, a unique voice and niche in the community where what happens here will be useful and valued. Sadly, it’s almost as likely that things will trail off into weekly or monthly updates such as this one with lots of emo tripe and no interesting content. The most likely scenario, though, is that things continue much as they are right now – the occasional flurry of posts (usually concentrated around payday… a coincidence? I think not) followed by a week or two of sparse activity and another round of otagasm.

My current thought is to use the physical move to a new apartment over the next few weeks as an analogue to a transition to a new, more focused and organized way of life – or at least way of blogging. As mentioned before, interruptions will be likely during this period due to questionable internet availablity and other unknowns, but new surroundings – and an excuse to dust off all those figures I haven’t reviewed yet – should do wonders.

Anyway, enough of this rambling. HD, meet 2007. 2007, meet HD. I’m sure you’ll get along splendidly. I’ll leave you two at it.

It’s time for a bounenkai.