Sunday, May 09, 2010

My Meme Meme Mine

Well, that was fun. I spent a week in an unfurnished Brooklyn apartment, updating the kitchen (because I can't get enough, and the components I used here at home were sorely lacking in umlauts) and painting most of it. Also, I ordered new windows! So there was no end to the excitement. But it paid off; today I got a deposit from a lovely couple and the stress of finding tenants has abated for a good while. The high points of the week were a series of dinners I lined up with food bloggers and friends that really took the sting (and stink; the week began with freakish heat) out of long days of manual labor. I will post about those tomorrow.

But first, while I was down there, armed only with my phone, a bit of a kerfuffle arose over a recent post of mine. See, I linked to another blog's post, using the meme idea within as a jumping-off point for an adorably opinionated tirade on the subject of mediocrity in the food blogtubes and how I thought that encouraging still more of it was not the highest-temperature idea I had ever heard. I have ranted here before, occasionally–always adorably, mind you, and I must emphasize that since it is my blog I get to say whatever I goddamn well want to–but never before was there such a teacupular tempest as this. See, the blogger in question took my whole rant and the comment thread that followed as a personal attack.

Update: We worked it all out, though it was a pain and used up time that could have been much more productively spent. I cut a section that no longer applies, but I'm keeping the bulk of the post because it addresses something general about the level of food-related internet discourse that has been bothering me for quite some time. This could have gone better, true, but I honestly prefer a good air-clearing to perpetual tiptoeing around on eggshells.

So here's MY time-saving tip to help you all get dinner on the table on a work night: stop reading shitty food blogs. If the content bores, move on. If the comment "thread" is an unrelenting stream of emoticons, exclamation points, and it feels like a mutual admiration society, move on. Leave questions, or thoughtful responses, or don't bother. Try, if possible, to actually create or sustain a THREAD. Do we really need 27 or 63 comments that are all variations on "OMG that looks so good! I'm drooling!!!!! :D ?" Why is everybody so freakishly afraid of saying what they actually think, or of saying nothing if they have nothing to say? If all the self-serving comment-whoring and vapid, rote reciprocity stopped tomorrow, the internet would be a better place and many of us would magically discover more time in which to engage in the real life activities that help provide high-quality food to ourselves and those we have mated with and/or spawned. And the remaining conversations would actually be worthy of the name.

I suppose that many bloggers think that if they can just get their traffic up to 150,000 unique hits a month, they might just get that book deal they fantasize about. (And that's what it takes–along with a good agent–at a bare minimum, lacking any other platform). And so memes and challenges and cupcake after cupcake after cupcake after godforsaken motherfucking cupcake all get foisted upon the web in an effort to go for that big fat sweet spot in the middle of the bell curve wherein lies most of the population. But every blogger-turned-author I know of actually has an original voice. It may not be particularly edgy, or profound, but they have something which gets and keeps other people interested. Attempts to bolster traffic read as such; this is why corporate ads never go viral, but the guy who sings "United breaks guitars" does. People can tell when it's real. We all have at least a Master's degree in semiotics just by living in this mediated time.

If we're building a community, then there will be dissenting opinions. If those opinions are more than gratuitous insults, then people are entitled to express them and have them respected as valid points of view. And we should be able to respond without having our heads revolve all the way around. I've had plenty of bad ideas (remote-controlled luggage, methadone suppositories called "I can't believe it's not Vicodin!" and a lesbian yoga studio called Om Depot, among others) and I don't turn them all into Things that embody my whole sense of self esteem. (Though, on second thought, Om Depot is money).

And I'll say it again: you don't get to complain about how little time you have to make good meals if you watch TV. Cancel your damn cable, already; 99% of TV–including food TV–sucks ass and makes you stupid, and it's underwritten by the exact same assholes who are destroying the planet by making the worst food possible available in unconscionably subsidized quantity. Voting with your eyeballs and hours is as powerful as voting with your dollars, and both are just as important as voting in every election. The internet is every bit as much of a time-suck as TV; there's more variety, sure, and it's interactive up to a point, but it's very very far from spending the same amount of time mano à mano with actual food, deepening our understanding and skill and interacting with friends and family. When so much of the food web is a weirdly antiseptic mixture of public eating disorder and circle jerk, with an epidemic phobia of hurting people's fee-fees reducing most of the "conversation" to the point of gibberish, it risks becoming more of a problem than a solution. Turn off the tubes and make dinner.


cook eat FRET said...

all i can say is that i wish you'd tell us how you really feel, peter...

(great post)

:) lol
<3 <3 <3

jill said...

ceF stole my idea.

I'm suing.

Anonymous said...


Here's to negative energy, if this is what ensues!

You've made my bleeping day, even if you didn't make me hungry.

butterface said...

Jesus Peter, did you need to lie down with a cold compress and cucumbers over your eyes after that?

But I must be the asshole and say that this whole dramatic turn of events made for some mighty entertaining reading. I hate to take any joy from your headache, but there it is. I considered removing my comment right after I left it for fear of bringing the hate, but then I remembered that I'm not a pussy.

...and I think Om Depot would be a smashing success here in Seattle.


Eve Fox said...

I wish you'd quit sugar coating everything...

But seriously Om Depot is pretty brilliant!

Zoomie said...

I have heard there is no such thing as "bad ink" so you should glean some extra readers from this brouhaha, your silver lining.

peter said...

Claudia: So when do we have dinner?

Jill: Don't sue her, just have all your readers flame her.

El: I know, I know. I should channel my negativity into more useful things, like making a giant papier-mâché avocado to take to Burning Man.

Gueule de beurre: Nah, I've been reveling in the hilarity. Good times. I almost titled this post "It's funny 'cause she's mad."

Eve: It's my sweet tooth. When do you guys move out here?

Zoomie: Traffic has indeed been brisk, so that's nice.

Heather said...

/wanders in

Hai guys what'd I miss?

You know what's really funny? It's when we're brave/crass/callous/fed-up enough to say what we really think - especially in a seething tyrade - that we really see those sweet, sweet spikes in blog traffic. My "Letter to Anonymous" is still my most highly-commented post ever (80 comments).

Keep on keepin' it real, Old Man Grumpus. It's why we love you.

Heather said...

Also, what a bunch of fucking bitches.

Anonymous said...

Bloody hell - I was hoping to hear about your supper. I hear you, I think (I m a wimp and a bit of a cupcake at times)and I second everything you say. Hooray for cookblog. what did you have for supper by the way? and what delightful leaves are sprouting in your garden?

peter said...

Blanche: It's win/win.

Also, I know, right?

Rachel: Regularly scheduled programming has already returned. A lot happened in the garden while I was away and you'll hear all about it soon. Thanks for checking in.

We Are Never Full said...

just realized i didn't comment on this...

i think i'm going to get a tatoo that quotes you - "stop reading shitty food blogs".

'nuff said. we've already vented together about this, I just thought i'd reiterate in a comment.