Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Allow Me To Retort

What good is the Rid without the comb?

I've already said it, but I guess it needs to be said again.

It's like this, little boy: Your delusions of grandeur are not even annoying, let alone upsetting. You don't know me well enough to question my levels of sincerity, and your stating otherwise just shows how underdeveloped your mind truly is. But you do know well enough that I don't care. Your whole style is fake. So I won't even address you anymore. If I happen to bump into you at one of these little industry book-signing panels that I hardly ever attend, we'll deal with it however it needs to be dealt with. But, for everyone else . . .

When the chips fell down, the little boy holla'd at me asking for an apology. I was like, "For what? You did you, I did me. Period." He tried to clarify: "I think you have some assumptions about what I'm trying to do with my career, yadda, yadda, ya, rah, rah, ray-ray and a blahzay blah." I was like, "If that's what you're trying to do with your career, you're going about it wrong. Writing one-sentence barbs is not criticism." I pointed out that he wrote some shit about the book, which, basically served no purpose--it wasn't making me a better writer; it wasn't informing anyone who read the piece. I also pointed out that, having made my money off the book, understanding that all publicity is good publicity (NYT Bestseller list first week out -- thank you), and the fact that it's not my book, but 50's, means that my level of emotional attachment to it is not the same as if it were actually my book. [Shameless plugs: How To Draw Hip-Hop and Strapped For Cash, coming sooner than you think.] But, all that aside, I appreciate any and everyone who's ever given me constructive feedback about anything I write. His shit? Well, it was just--to use one of his words--"salty." That was about the gist of that exchange. This was not by any means a long part of the conversation and I've only covered it here to clear the lies.

Honestly, I'm embarrassed to be part of this whole thing. And I really, really have much better things to do with my time. For real. I have deadlines for real projects, friends and family to be with, bars to go to, hearts to break--all that type of shit. But there is a train of thought that has been floating around blogville that the boy touched upon with his post. He'd probably call it a "meme," but he'd be wrong, because, well, that's just not the definition of the word meme.

At any rate, let me address the blogger/journalist thing from my humble point of view:

I don't consider myself a journalist. Never have. And I've stated this publicly time and time again. I don't have journalistic training, nor do I hold myself to whatever ideals journalists supposedly hold themselves to. If I did, marriages would end and there'd be more hip-hop beefs than a little bit because, frankly, some of these rappers are wild boys, they say some wild shit, do some wild things. And besides, I've fucked up many times in my quest to be a professional. You can read all about it here.

I'm a writer. I write. Everyday. In notebooks, on the computer, on the backs of press releases, on envelopes, on napkins, on receipts; at bars, in cabs, at home, at clubs; in the middle of the night, in the morning, after having sex, when I'm angry, when I'm confused, when I'm feeling clear-minded. You can get it twisted, because you have free will and it's your right to think whatever it is that you want to think. But, truth is, I write because it's what I do. It gives my thoughts definition and space the same way that cleaning your crib clears your mind or balancing your checkbook lets you know if you can afford a new pair of kicks. For me, blogging is just an extension of all that; it allows me to experiment with voice, texture, emotion, style, wordplay, imagery and so forth. I don't need the hits, the comments or the linkage. If I did, I wouldn't be keeping a bunch of blogs that no one knows about. I won't say that I don't enjoy the community it offers, because I do. I've met some good people through this medium. Hell, I'm on one dude's blog now. Motherfucker lives in Sweden. But me and him, we cool. Shit like that happens with less frequency out in the real world.

Now, as for whether bloggers want to be journalists or journalists want to be bloggers, I guess each individual would have to answer that for themselves. Yet, I will say this: for the most part, when you pick up a magazine or newspaper, there's some sort of guarantee that you'll get a certain caliber of writing. There's a slew of editors who have to be accountable for the quality of the publication, another gang of people responsible for the dollars that the magazine spends and, usually, a managing editor that bridges these two worlds. Of course, there are going to be differences in budget, staff size and quality of writing as you explore different publications, but that's pretty much the template. Basically, print rags have keepers at the gate. These keepers have a lot of control over what is read by the reader. And, depending upon the individuals involved, the process can be an aid or a hindrance to quality reading and writing. But, by-and-large, it means that you have some idea of what you're getting before you sit down to read.

I'd be fraudulent if I didn't say that I've learned a lot from many great editors. They've definitely made me a stronger writer. I've argued with them, hated them, called them all types of idiots (most times to their faces), but I've been blessed by these men and women and I am thankful to have learned from the constraints which they placed upon me as a writer. Without a doubt, there are pros and cons to writing hundred-word album reviews. One of the cons is that they're limited in their ability to inform the reader as to whether or not the joint in question is worth 15 bucks. But one of the indispensable pros is that they teach the writer to make every word count. At this point, I can write 100, 350, 500, 800, 1500, 2000 and 3000 words in my head, without a pen--paragraph breaks, quotes, transitions and everything. Of course, I still have to sit down and fine tune with the pen and paper, or keyboard and screen, but I can get a pretty decent first draft done before I ever hit my brick and mortar tools. The reason being, the aforementioned are very common word counts in the game, and if you are forced to turn in copy at those lengths for over a decade, I'm sure that you'll mentally know what they feel like as well.

I'm not perfect, though. I usually come in over. Most editors will allow you a 5-10% overage that they can squeeze in. I tend to come in around 15-20%. Then we gotsa get to cutting. That shit hurts. Sometimes it damages the piece, sometimes it makes it tighter. But when I see it in print, it's always--always--different from the last thing I saw. Why? The art/design guy who can't (or refuses to) shrink a picture or fuss with his layout, the copy editor who misunderstood a bit of slang or a reference, the legal department that thinks that something may be libel. Shit happens. You get used to it.

With blogs, there's none of this give and take. Once again, pros and cons. Pro is that you can get unfiltered, unadulterated writing. Con is that it may not be any good. Seriously, some of these dudes lack original thought and they're devoid of any style when saying something we've all heard a million times before. This would never happen at any good magazine because a competent editor will tell you that you're not bringing anything to the table and send you back to the blank page or, at the very least, help you find something new to say that hasn't been said. Of course it doesn't work out this way 10 times out of 10, and you may wind up reading the same piece more than once. Still, most editors try to make sure that there is some new observation, some new understanding, some new bit of information involved. Even if the revelation isn't novel to you, a proper editor will aspire to make sure it's something that will be fresh to at least the majority of the publication's readers. Better bloggers will do the same for themselves--they'll self-censor in order to ensure that they are advancing a conversation. But too many bloggers just want to be heard, regardless of the discussion that has taken place before. It's their turn to speak and that's all that's on their mind. As far as I'm concerned, these types will remain worthless until they step their game up.

Another thing is that the overwhelmingly vast majority of blogs lack primary sources. The authors are simply picking over other people's research and commenting on that. They don't go out and find the news stories, interview the politicians, build with the artists or talk to the victims of crimes. They just play peanut gallery to someone else's findings. This is fine when the peanut gallery has something of interest to say, but when they don't, well, then no one is there to tell them to stop. They just post away. Sometimes this results in getting put on to new artists, debunking media/government lies, exposing plants in the White House press corps and much more. More often, however, what happens is that people who can't gain an audience in their own livingrooms attempt to pose as experts on a subject and, unfortunately, some unwitting souls will follow along.

I think you have to take the good with the bad and use your discernment. There are engaging writers, people and thinkers in all forms of media; but there are also a bunch of dim nitwits. It's just a microcosm of real life. The same rules apply. You have to know what works for you and be careful whom you follow.

Ed. Note: In its furthest definition, I may be wrong on the "meme" thing. But, I'm cool with being wrong. Shit happens.

P.S.-- This a bit under 1800 words. Just like I thought.

If you can't respect that, your whole perspective is wack.

No comments: