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Coming Attractions: Net Porn, Brown Power.

This blogging thing is thirsty work. Give me enough Premoistened Lemon Pledge Wipes, and I’d rather clean the Augean stables.

I’ve been under the hammer of a dozen deadlines, hence my absence from the bully pulpit.

That’s my cover story, anyway.

Truth is, I’m having blogger’s block. Every time I crank up the interface and stiffen my resolve with a few belts of screw-top Shiraz, I get this paralyzing what-does-it-all-mean? feeling. I’m not overly burdened by modesty, but blogging about my Diurnal Whatever reminds me too much of one of those Book of Lists entries where they inventory the objects found in the belly of a Great White. It’s scarily close to that This American Life segment about the obsessive-compulsive geek who breathlessly narrated, into a handheld tape recorder, everything he did, no matter how mind-crushingly banal, as he did it.

There’s something about this medium that convinces us that our merest flights of fancy, our wispiest free-floating musings, are Revealed Truths, outtakes from Thus Spake Zarathustra. One example: I browsed on over to the blog of a whip-smart cultural commentator and best-selling author who rarely fails to shock and awe, and the guy is blogging about…snow, for the love of Mike. He’s got a bee in his bonnet about the fact that people only take photos of snow when it’s a beautiful cottony blanket of virginal whiteness. But snow isn’t always that way, Sweet Jesus; it gets GRUNGY, it sprouts dog dirt and stubbed-out cigarettes and why, oh WHY don’t people take photos of it then, huh? HUH? Are they AFRAID to reveal the awful, unspeakable truth of…Dirty Snow?!? (Imagine white-knuckled hands tugging at your lapels, here…)

But this sort of thing is oil on the ruffled waters of the Dery soul compared to self-anointed Masters of the Bloviosphere like this Jeff Jarvis guy. Style dies screaming in the man’s hands. His prose is so soul-killingly beige that somewhere the shades of Strunk and White are weeping tears of blood.

And the extravagant self-regard, the Alpha Weenie arrogance that drips from the man’s every oracular pronouncement on The Obvious! There’s more hubris in a single Jarvis entry than all of Sophocles laid end to end. Why, when, say, the levees fail again in New Orleans, do some people feel the need to POST A NOTE TO THAT EFFECT? Is it the Cokie Roberts effect—the chattering class’s presumption that it must have something, anything to say about everything? (Joan Didion famously said that she left New York because she didn’t have an opinion about everything.) The newswire chatters, and out comes the late-breaking news, and the Jarvises of the Bloviosphere labor mightily to bring forth a quip about Commander in Chief, or Hurrican Katrina, or the International Freedom Center at Ground Zero, or why it’s “appalling” that transit officials are suing over the copyright of subway maps (oh, the humanity…). Why, these people have an opinion about EVERYTHING. The only thing worse than this leveling wind of smug, self-important pontification is the obsequious claque of flipper-clappers that will Post A Comment, seconding virtually anything the Amazing Karnak says.

(By the way, is it just me, snark monkey that I am, or is there a delicious irony in the all-knowing, stentorian style adoped by some of these Titans of the Bloviosphere? Isn’t this the selfsame monologic, “I Speak, You Listen” old-media model they’re always decrying? For all their arm-waving about “citizen journalism” and “social networks” and “my readers are my editors,” most of these self-appointed evangelists of the New Media Order deliver their commandments with all the self-effacing understatement of some biblical Hairy Thunderer, inscribing His Laws in stone with a fiery finger. It’s the Great Men model of history, come back to haunt us. Talk about a pathetic phallacy…

Compare this Old Testament filibustering to the model inherent in the intellectually nimble, effortlessly brilliant bOING bOING, whose added value comes as much from the community of minds that enriches the editors’ already supersmart posts by tacking on links that further nuance the original idea or comment ironically on it.)

That’s the short version of why I’ve let this blogging thing twist in the wind for awhile.

And speaking of smug, self-important pontification, I’ll be doing a keynote lecture, “‘Sex Organs Sprout Everywhere’: The Sublime and the Grotesque in Web Porn,” in Amsterdam, at the Art and Politics of Netporn conference, September 30 and October 1. Come help me live out my flickeringly brief fantasy that I, too, am a Promethean Bringer of Fire. I wouldn’t be anything without you, the little people.
Oh, and the Sept./Oct. issue of Print magazine includes my feature on cholo/Chicano visual culture.


  1. oso wrote:

    The only thing more desperate than filling cyber-ether with unsolicited reminders of broken levees is probably criticizing others for doing so. Just kidding. Sorta. I will admit, I come here for how you write as much as what you write. I strongly agree that prose aesthetics in the blogosphere have been divorced for top ten lists and techcentric minutia, but I don’t think it matters.
    The Internet has become a junkyard of mostly recycled goods, from which a very unselect group of clever artists and self-appointed critics have been able to fashion out cultural pearls reflecting our pulsating collective unconscious.
    I’d much rather spend years searching the trash dumps of New Delhi for for an accidental Picasso than be told what to appreciate any given day by a Sotheby’s charmer or art historian.

    Wednesday, September 28, 2005 at 2:35 am | Permalink
  2. Moon wrote:

    no matter, how much shit you are going to throw over the little people who reads you, and like reading you!
    i can say, that i wish i could be present at this conference, and i wish i could hear you mumbling and talking about “The Sublime and the Grotesque in Web Porn”
    do you think, you might, insert few of your best lines in here for us to read?

    Wednesday, September 28, 2005 at 4:39 pm | Permalink
  3. Grego wrote:

    O.K. just had a quick peek at you after a “bloglet” from Susan at EBC.
    So there´s good stuff and bad stuff on the blogosphere, what´s new ? You have a rant about it, I pick out the bits I like and also get confused and bored at times.
    The ocean is just too big for one little fish to swallow.It would take a brilliant mind to sum up the whole thing in one well turned quip.
    It´s still great fun though isn´t it ?

    Friday, September 30, 2005 at 4:54 am | Permalink
  4. Jeff Jarvis wrote:

    Good God, man, are you working on a textbook and this is the chapter called “overwriting”?
    Or are you just trying to cover for the fact that you posted a plug?

    Friday, September 30, 2005 at 11:53 am | Permalink
  5. Gunther wrote:

    Jeff Jarvis criticizes someone else for posting a plug? Are you kidding me? And it’s nice that he includes a link to his own blog in the same comment where he critices the self-promotion efforts of others.
    Hey, at least he didn’t call you Professor Pondscum.

    Friday, September 30, 2005 at 2:36 pm | Permalink
  6. Jeff Jarvis wrote:

    Well, Gunther, it’s the comment software that includes the link. I’m honest enough to give my full name and a link to what I say (unlike someone I don’t know who says he’s named Gunther). And, no, what I’m really making fun of is the overwriting.

    Saturday, October 1, 2005 at 10:51 am | Permalink
  7. M. Dery wrote:

    Jeff Jarvis stoops to conquer! I am not worthy. But seriously: enable irony filter, dude. I was ranting, and hyperbole and scenery-chewing melodrama are essential requirements of the genre (the rant, that is). As for overwriting, you cut me to the quick, sir. Coming from a master stylist whose prose flows like poured concrete and whose insights are worth their weight in cubic zirconium, that really, truly stings. A parting thought: *Isn’t* there at least a little irony in proselytizing for a more democratic, dialogic media, then adopting the autocratic monologue as your operant mode? Just a thought. Your learned junior, M. Dery

    Saturday, October 1, 2005 at 6:14 pm | Permalink
  8. M. Dery wrote:

    And why would I coy about posting a plug, pray tell? This whole damn thing is one big, fat, shaggy, shameless Advertisement For Myself. Drop by anytime you want to see me buffing Brand Dery to a high gloss.

    Saturday, October 1, 2005 at 6:18 pm | Permalink
  9. M. Dery wrote:

    Nice one, Oso. But I can’t agree that style counts for nothing. I’m not arguing that every post has to be deathless prose. But for Bob’s sake, man, there should be some minimal standard. Jarvis’s colorless USA Today op-editorialese, and worse yet, the hushed solemnity with which he presents the most breathtakingly obvious insights, makes Roger Rosenblatt’s ponderous prose seem positively sprightly by comparison. That said, what I’m really reacting to, I suppose, is the staggering arrogance of the tone, with its daily fits of pique, scoldings, and I-am-so-not-impressed dispatches about everything from that Pawn of The Vast Liberal Conspiracy, Juan Cole, to anything else that blows Jarvis’s skirt up. Look, we’re all overeducated logorrheics with way too much time and bandwidth on our hands. But to the Jarvises of the world, I say: Grow a little hubris, dude. A modicum of modesty would be nice, but we’ll settle for false modesty, in a pinch. M.D.

    Saturday, October 1, 2005 at 6:36 pm | Permalink
  10. k. leurs wrote:

    Just came home from Amsterdam from the Netporn Conference. Was a pleasure talking to you, although being not really content that I had little time, but I have to say that I was shocked or astonished I must say that research on pedophilia (in my words) wouldn’t necessarily be the smartest move for me to pull of.
    That’s it, thanks for the great lecture.

    Saturday, October 1, 2005 at 7:12 pm | Permalink
  11. Funny. back-to-back comments. such earnestness. all the overwriting and self-love in relation to the post on the same subject makes for good comedy. Not TAN great mind you, but great, you know, for crackers …

    Sunday, October 2, 2005 at 1:49 am | Permalink
  12. oso wrote:

    I feel a little bad calling Jeff Jarvis the Britney Spears of cyberspace, but there you go. He gives you easy-to-digest, web-centric (and yes, obvious) commentary on all the same things that everyone else is talking about. But it’s worth asking why you and so many others are reading it if it’s really so bad.
    In that first comment, I wasn’t trying to say style doesn’t matter. I was arguing that a decentralized editorial system is in place that helps you find the good stuff (whether “good” to you is BuzzMachine or Borges). And it works a lot better if you point your readers to what you like instead of complaining about what you don’t. This comment thread, for example, has turned into a virtual advertisement for BuzzMachine, while a week’s worth of goodness from all over the world has been left ignored.

    Sunday, October 2, 2005 at 12:56 pm | Permalink
  13. propster wrote:

    finally i have found a place where people can make fun of jeff jarvis and he can’t delete the comments! please, keep going!

    Monday, October 3, 2005 at 1:46 pm | Permalink
  14. Well, I thought it was funny, Mark. I think you locked dead-on to the intersection of several problems with blogging and those doing it. Our time’s sense of irony seems to be folding in on itself, and, as a result, “funny” doesn’t always shine through a guise of critique. I’ve tried this in smaller, more subtle ways and it fell flat like pancakes.
    It’s such an odd thing to do, blogging. I mean, admittedly I have one, but I try to have a point (or at least something to which I’m directly connected) to write about. Blogging in general reminds me of Doug Stanhope’s bit about CNN viewer polls: “Everybody has an opinion, but the pie chart should be ‘99%: I don’t fucking know.'”

    Tuesday, October 4, 2005 at 2:37 pm | Permalink
  15. xepulajecn wrote:


    nice post

    Thursday, November 29, 2007 at 3:08 am | Permalink