April 26, 2010

Anything You Can Do...

I think I'm beginning to hate blogging.

Not my blogging, of course, which is still charming and hilarious ninety-nine times out of a hundred (obviously), and not the blogging of the dozens of thoughtful, intelligent writers who I read on a regular basis; against the crusty old print-good-online-bad folks, and along with CNF, I believe that a well-conceived blog post, by an author with something to say, is just as satisfying as any other well-conceived piece of writing, in any medium.

But I do tire of the hundreds of bloggers out there who are paid to comment on stuff, and therefore end up commenting on stuff even when they have absolutely no meaningful opinion to express whatsoever.

Case in point: this insipid item from the A.V. Club about Saturday's episode of SNL. What does the author have to say about Saturday's episode of SNL? NOTHING. Her opinion is basically that it wasn't amazing but it wasn't terrible either, and it takes her EIGHT HUNDRED WORDS to say so. A few excerpts:
I was a pretty happy camper.

If it wasn't hilarious it was infectious.

There were several sketches last night that went that way, maybe not comedy gold but something about them was just silly enough that I went along with them.

Not everything was great but I'm not filled with rage about it.

As I've said I'm a sucker for any SNL episode where we see new material, and if that's combined with an enthusiastic host and a good dose of weirdness, I'm in.
So, to summarize, you enjoy television that has original material, engaging performers, and some offbeat humour. STOP THE PRESSES! SERVERS!

I might be able to put up with such wishy-washy "reviewing" if the actual analysis of the episode had any bite to it, but the author's reasons for liking some parts and not others are just as hollow:
I couldn't hear all the lyrics but the ones I did hear were funny.

The address from the President might have been a cutting commentary about the government's relationship with Wall Street but it wasn't funny.

And I thought the "2010 Public Employee of the Year" awards ran on too long.

"Update" was a good mix of jokes, characters and commentary.

The last sketch was appropriately bizarre, charming, disgusting and funny.
Oh, now I get it. You liked some parts of the comedy sketch show because they were funny, and you didn't like other parts of the comedy sketch show because they weren't funny. Hold on while I call the Pulitzer committee.

I think the high point of the entire post, though, is the author's trenchant commentary on MGMT's musical performance:
I think I like the music but wasn't so much a fan of the singing and lyrics although it was remarkable how half the band looked like Elvis Costello and "Weird Al" Yankovic. I also liked the faces the guitarist made.
Now, look, I can suspend my guilt about all the money that gets spent on pop culture commentary these days — rather than getting spent on, say, fighting poverty/famine/global warming/whatever — and in principle the idea of an 800-word blog post about a single episode of SNL doesn't offend me in the slightest; that's pretty much the premise of the A.V. Club, after all, and I read it fairly regularly. But if I'm going to sit down and read 800 words I want there to be a payoff, you know? I want there to be a firm opinion or some insightful observation at the end of it that makes those 800 words worth my time.

But in so much blogging neither of those key components is present (another example: what if movies had no plot or character?), and so it seems hardly surprising that those crusty print lovers don't take blogs seriously as journalism, or as writing, or as anything, really, beyond self-indulgent, self-referential chaff.

None of which is meant to imply, I should reiterate, that I agree with the crusty print lovers — only that I think blogging, like all writing, can be awful as easily as it can be great, and that bloggers as a whole could tilt the scales significantly towards the latter if they would just shut up, and sit on their hands until they actually have something intelligent to say. Is that really so unreasonable?


Anonymous said...

So, you're criticizing blogs for not taking rabid enough positions on issues?

Andrew said...

Noooo.... I'm criticising them for not taking THOUGHTFUL and INTERESTING positions on issues. ("SNL was neither good nor bad because some of it was funny and some wasn't" is neither of those things.)

The rabid demagoguery blogs (demablogs?) are the other side of the problem, of course, and I suppose I should have mentioned them — though I think the same advice applies ("sit on your hands until you actually have something intelligent to say").

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