Friday, August 20, 2010

Eat Pray Make Stuff Up

I guess I've been doing this blog thing for about 5 years or so. I do it mainly as a hobby. As cheap psychotherapy. It gets read, much to my considerable surprise, and there are folks who tell me that they especially look forward to my recurring Sunday post. Lord knows that I have my critics too and I hear from them every now and again. I generally do not respond because, random occasional nut aside, must folks wouldn't write if they didn't care.

But the responses have mostly been positive and folks have told me that they especially like the recurrent Sunday post I have put out for years on this page. And so I try to be careful to put out a thoughtful product even when I am writing about sports or about some humorous topic. I do that because that is my nature and also because it is easy to forget out here on the blogosphere where there are no editors except yourself that people do read this stuff. It's easy to get sloppy out here on the Internets. I know. I've been guilty of it myself.

A good example of this was contained in a post on a blog called Moxie Life up in Eureka Springs in response to a review of the movie Eat Pray Love by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette movie reviewer Philip Martin. Phil-Full disclosure time! He's one of my best friends!-pretty much panned it. This resulted in a scathing post on Moxie Love entitled "Philip Martin I Double Dare You" in which the proprietor of the blog wrote an exceedingly and unnecessarily personal response to the review. This resulted in Phil responding to both the dare and her response to his comment which resulted in another salvo from Phil. If this sounds more than a little silly that's only because it is. In any event, you can read the whole catfight on the jump: .

What seems to have particularly hacked Phil off, and what he reprinted in his "Critical Mass" column in today's paper was the following characterization of him as " a narcissistic, petty, whining, bitter and biting writer who fuels his regret at not having realized his own dreams as a writer or would-be filmmaker into his reviews. Everything about him makes me crazy;he complains about watching movies, going to festivals, waxes on about his scotch and cigars and is-in my mind-an SOB."

I can't say that I blame him at being pissed off. It is bad enough when somebody that knows you well believes that "you fuel your regret at not having realized his own dreams as a writer" and tells the world. It's even worse when somebody that doesn't know you does it. It is one thing to think a person is a "narcissistic...writer." That's fair enough. That's an opinion drawn however fairly or unfairly from the body of work. But it is unfair to say that his movie reviews are informed by his "regrets" when you don't know him, have never heard him say or write such a thing or never heard anybody else say or write such a thing about him.

Because, as the old saying goes, you are entitled to your own opinion. You are not entitled to your own facts. Which brings me to the Scotch and cigars. Philip Martin and I have spent countless evenings together during which spirituous refreshment was partaken. I have never seen him drink Scotch. Backed when I smoked cigars I used to offered him cigars out on the golf course. He never took me up on it. Never seen him use any tobacco product for that matter. He's written about Scotch in his "Drinkies" column. Maybe he's written about cigars but I don't recall it if he has.

My point is that I believe the blogger's desire to infuse Phil's review of Eat Pray Love with the aesthetic of a bourgeois male chauvinist led her to MAKE SOMETHING UP. You notice that I said that I believe this. I do not know this for a fact but it seems that way to me. I say this not because I think the woman's a liar. Jacqueline seems to be an otherwise interesting and nice person who has sense enough to have a daughter at my Alma Mater. Which makes her OK with me. That and because I think Jacqueline is a pretty name. But maybe these "facts" about the "SOB" became "true" for her in the way that urban legends are "true" to those that pass them around despite the fact that they are factually incorrect. After all, Obama's a Muslim who wasn't born here and somewhere an illegal immigrant is taking your cousin's job away from him.

In today's column Phil refers to such references as "obliterating gestures" which are the province of bullies. Or maybe French bullies. I'm not sure. Being the bourgeois male chauvinist former cigar smoker that I am, I refer to it simply as getting sloppy. Which happens all the time out here in the blogosphere.

This latest contretemps proves little except for one thing. People read this stuff. And you never know who might be reading.

It is best not to get all caught up in one's deathless prose. Mother always said to let that letter written in anger cool off for a day before sending it. Mother's advice applies with equal force to blogging.

We would all be better off to read our stuff with a critical eye before hitting the "publish" button. Because you never know who might be reading.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Admittedly, the Moxie blog should avoid personal attacks but Mr. Martin's thin skin is well known throughout Central Arkansas. Stories of phone calls to writers an competitor publications have been bar talk for some time(don't put your ridiculous cover of Born to Run on the Internet if you can't handle people making fun of you). The reader wonders how Mr. Martin comes across a very niche blog that responds to his column with a healthy circulation. Google Alert, perhaps?

If you're a columnist, you can expect some criticism. The better part of valor would be to simply let it go. We're not talking about Max Brantley taking on Martin in the Times, but rather a blog written by a Eureka Springs resident - Arkansas's most, ah, interesting place. And yet Mr. Martin uses his Friday column to address these "wrongs". To his credit, he didn't link to the criticism or mention names, but it once again came across as small, petty. He's shooting a cannon & she's shooting a BB gun.

The Moxie blog's point may have been poorly made but Mr. Martin's columns have been a running joke of many offices due to his penchant for $3 words when a 50 cent word would do. Such efforts remind me of the college freshman constantly using the thesaurus to try & impress the professor. I know English major who read his columns just to see how many times they have to look up his pretentious word choice.

I write this yet knowing that his voice is one of the few sane ones amongst the Mastersons, Weak Tea, Gitz, Kelly, Greenberg & the other David O. Dodd remembrance corp who still refuse to mention seat belts and their numerous other penchants. Add to that Wally Hall (whose defense of the Razorback last week was just embarrassing). However, your Wally posts are quite entertaining. Mr. Martin should just be glad someone cares enough to respond and leave it at that. We all know he can respond to disagreements with colorful language but we'd be more impress with a thicker skin.