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Archive for the ‘Lileks’ Category

Knowing

About 82% of Everyone in Blogland is upset about Richard Schickel’s cranky dismissal of bloggers’ critiques. Lileks did a fairly good job of fisking the fellow, so I won’t bother.

I would, however, like to point out that I think pieces like Schickel’s are fantastic. They’re the writerly equivalent of one of those scenes in a civil rights movie where the politely restrained white person breaks (around act three or so) and unleashes a diatribe of racist invective–leaving no doubt in the viewers’ minds that the Kindly White Character’s niceness was a facade and that the heart of bigotry is pumping undiluted poison through the system.

Folks like me talk alot about the Great Snob Divide in our culture. Some of that may be sour grapes on our part. We didn’t get into Harvard and we didn’t get into UCLA film school, so we have to whine about how great those schools aren’t. Really, though, I think one of the scariest things about the world of Blogs is how it gives lie to the Myth of Betters. It’s got to be intimidating to the Schickels of this world that there are puppies without pedigree who are just as cute.

But the real dilemma here is the value of knowing. What is knowing in post-modern culture? The gist of Schickel’s piece* is that some people are better-suited to be critics because their opinion is formed through education, experience and erudition. Those opinions are then of more value and should carry greater weight. What an insecure position to hold! And how bullying!

Opinion is one person’s evaluation of an experience. It is not fact. The danger of our over-educated, self-satisfied culture is that too many people mistake their opinion for the ultimate in truth. They attempt to validate this by offering their opinions’ curricula vitae as though that makes fact. “I didn’t like this movie. I’ve studied movies for years at the Greatest Movie School Ever and have read 800 books about movies, many of which I will quote to ensure you that I do, indeed, know things about movies. That means this is a bad movie.” Of course, all the people who bought tickets to the last Pirates Of the Caribbean film disagreed with those critics. They thought it was a good movie. So is the movie good or bad? Who knows. It’s a matter of opinion.

To be sure, there are still facts. The sun is hot. Water boils at 212 degrees celsius fahrenheit. But so much of our dialogue is comprised of opinion–both filtered and unfiltered by education–and it’s a shame that some of us don’t realise that we’ve skated for years on offering our wordy opinions for money. Don’t look now, Schickel, but for every one of you being paid to snoot all over the paper there are about twenty-five thousand of us who realise that opinions are exactly like a…holes. Everybody has one and most people don’t get paid to show theirs in public.

*I’m not linking directly to the Schickel piece because why should I? Who wants to participate in the irony of the LA Times getting increased web traffic by insulting the web? Not me, thanks.

update Magniloquence asks the question “Who gets to have an opinion” about a completely different topic. Yet, still, eerily the same.

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Why Lileks Rocks

Because he gets it.

having spent four days in the realm of the Mouse, you could cut my wrists and I’d bleed Disney Kool-Aid.

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I guess the word is out about Lileks being slowly weaned away from a paid writing gig. I’m sad for the guy, because I hate it when anybody gets fired. Even worse are these slow-mo firings from plum gigs. You know what I mean…the kind of “firing” where they never tell you that you’re fired, per se, but they let you languish in some hellish backwater part of the company until you quit. That happens to writers all the time. You’re hired to do, oh, I dunno, catalog copy. Next thing you know they can’t afford to have you just write copy so you get to answer phones and make coffee and file and before you know it your plum writing gig has turned into a secretarial job with a bit of writing on the side. Not that I would know anything about that.

That’s how they fire writers. And that’s why most of us freelance.

My favourite twist on this whole Lileks business is watching the reaction of other writers with good paid writing jobs cackle with glee about this sudden downturn in Lileks’ fortunes. From where I’ve sat as a writer, Lileks and Nall both had really nice niches carved out for themselves. In fact, to my mind they’re often similar people, albeit one is unabashedly a neocon while the other is unapologetically leftist. Still, they’re both okay writers of a similar age who fell into paid column writing. I’m just a few years younger than both, and by the time I came onto the scene those jobs were long gone–snapped up by the Nalls and Lilekses of this world–leaving folks like me to blog for no money and answer phones at publishing companies to keep the wolves from the door. I remember when Nall was downsized from my hometown paper years ago. I felt bad for her in a way, yet like most folks figured the gravy train for paid writing gigs was really more of a boxcar, and she was lucky to have partaken as long as she did.

Now I feel the same for Lileks. I’ve not read him in months because I’m deathly afraid of opening the Bleat to read the increasingly inevitable entry about the increasingly inevitable demise of Jasper (his dog). I’m sorry he’s lost his good job. I hope he can find another one. I’m pretty sure he’ll have luck, because he’s built a good network of friends and he has other readers who aren’t so afraid of losing Jasper. Nevertheless, I can’t help but point out that there is a lot of luck to the equation.

To read Roger’s take on the whole deal, hop on over to Krumm’s.

And this from Done With Mirrors. Their title pretty much says it all.

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