Music Blogger Symposium

4. Is your blog a forum to converse with or critique other writers? If so, please recount one (or some) of your more memorable blog dialogs or critiques.

Simon Reynolds
Totally. That was one of the major attractions for me, the collective interblog communication thing. Connecting with likeminds. Or clashing with those who are unlikeminds in a certain sense, while in the larger scheme being kindred spirits in the sense of taking music far too seriously.

There's been too many great back-and-forths really. I've had a bunch of discussions with K-punk over the years, on all kinds of topics; we have a lot in common but also significant areas of disagreement, and these have sparked some really good debates. The debate about Arctic Monkeys was particularly fruitful, with Mark K-punk taking the stern Futurist line. Another fairly recent one was some exchanges sparked by Carl Wilson, aka Zoilus, and his force-myself-to-overcome-my-revulsion-to-Celine-Dion project. And then there's been this long-running series of Rockism versus Popism skirmishes, which probably started with a post on fanaticism versus dilettantism where I was taking issue with something Tom Ewing had written.

That Poptimism debate is something that has flared up repeatedly over the last four years. Now it is looking utterly dead-locked and spent. Occasionally people will spark it up again half-heartedly and then someone will say, "oh not that again, how boring". But the funny thing is that the only thing more boring than Rockism versus Popism is the absence of that debate. Or a debate of similar weight, with an equivalent sense of something actually being at stake. Which explains why people can't resist sparking it up again every so often. Nothing has taken its place, in terms of getting people worked up.

Rich Juzwiak
Nah, I've never had any sort of back-and-forth. I've called out a writer or two, and inevitably, have regretted it, when said writer turns out to be a) a great guy and b) a big person for looking past my soapbox and really getting down to talking aboutůmusic, writing, whatever. So based on my experiences, I do that less. The only time I'd do it in the future, I think, is if someone wrote something really condescending. This isn't music-related, but a pet peeve of mine is the critic who suggests that people into extreme cinema (torture porn, for example) are somehow mentally unwell or potentially dangerous. That's not just fucking wrong, it's suggesting that because certain images trigger a set emotional response in them, it must be that way for everyone. "I watch this film this way, and you will, too, and, for my final trick, I'll shrink you if you deviate from the norm that is my perception." I find it really intolerant and endlessly infuriating.

Carl Wilson
I spend a lot of time on the site commenting on other music journalism--at times the site has felt like a meta-criticism blog more than a music blog--and my favourite thing to do on the site is to converse with other writers/bloggers/commenters, though for reasons I'll address below this no longer happens as much. I really felt like the site changed dramatically when Sasha Frere-Jones initiated a conversation about my article about "lit-rock" which became more a discussion of whether "rock lyrics suck massive ass" (see here, followed by here, here, here, and here--all of which contain links to other comments). I was also pretty heavily involved in debate with Simon Reynolds and others about M.I.A. in early 2005. And I've had a lot of back-and-forths with Graham Preston, for instance, among others, on issues in the local music scenes. I was also in on the "Is Stephin Merritt a racist" controversy, which comes up in my book. To name a few.

As a critic in Toronto (and earlier in Montreal), I've often felt a bit isolated from the main hubbub in New York and London--my column would often weigh in on issues de jour but until blogs, it never seemed possible to truly engage. Blogging (as well as the EMP conference) has been a way to undo that, and it has really felt like a whole other career opened up for me since I was able to make those connections via blogging.

David Moore
Most of my "critiques" turn into bratty little rants, and I do better social criticism when I take all that easy anger and actually fashion it into something that can stand on its own legs, so to speak. Back in August to September 2006 when I was gettin' my contrarian on and supporting Paris Hilton's album, the worst of that stuff tended to be about other writers and the best stuff tended to happen either in the comments sections or as sort of "big idea" posts.

Many of my most memorable blog dialogues have involved a small core of regular posters, some of them blog-friends, some friend-friends, and some who happened to Google my site and have stuck around, always for the better.

I want more writers to find my blog (and I want you to post there more, Scott!) because I really can't emphasize enough how incomplete my blog is without a conversation happening through it. Frank Kogan was the first "rock writer" per se to start posting there about two years ago and others have followed, always to the benefit of the posts, which shouldn't even count if there's not a minimum twenty-post comment thread underneath.

But my site should be a pit stop on a huge conversational circuit, and instead it tends to feel very insular. It's not because I don't want to explain myself or encourage a broader conversation (plenty of posts are a little cryptic). One-off conversations with writers I respect tend not to go anywhere because I'm not totally on their radar or don't share their interests (Tom Breihan had a really nice couple of comment posts about the High School Musical phenom here). I lob ideas out into other comment threads to varying effect, and there are a few communities that have a bigger vision of where a conversation can go. The Poptimists LiveJournal community is probably the best conversation zone at the moment, but even that's relatively self-contained (probably good for its stability), largely due to the format of LiveJournal. Generally I'd consider my own effectiveness as a conversation catalyst pretty limited. I hope that 2.0 will serve this purpose itself; I found it way too late but always enjoy the interviews I read here.

Maura Johnston
(See #3)

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