Sunday, September 28, 2008

Excesses of (mostly in) the Sunday PG Fourm

Again I have been neglecting my own blog, although I have not been commenting as much on other people’s bogs. No one seems to have reacted to the debates. I think the partisans are upset that their candidates did not deliver a knock out blow to the other candidate. Jack Kelly, in his column this morning in the PG, did not mention the debates at all. I didn’t have my laptop on during the debate, but I would assume Kelly did some live blogging during the debate. I might go look for it later. But no column gloating about how McCain wiped the floor with Obama (even though I am sure the paper would have held his deadline for him), because it was not obvious that either man won. So Kelly satisfied himself with comparing ‘60’s radicals to Nazi war criminals. Well, you’re entitled to your opinion. And according to the PG, so are we.

The PG also carried Chad Hermann’s final shot at Pittsburgh, about how we aren’t smart enough for him. I would write a letter to the editor of the PG, but in part because of my exasperation at Hermann, I shot a letter off last month about bicycling (not in any way my best effort) at the same time Hermann was conducting his assault on bicyclists.

Hermann’s piece on today’s PG’s “Next Page” was absolutely vintage Hermann. He titled it “The Out Post”. I suspect he might have titled it the “Last Post”, but apparently part of the reason he stopped blogging is because he seemed genuinely stung when his flippant criticism of Randy Pausch was so negatively received (he said he received three death threats). The page is laid out in the style of his blog page, complete with the virtual bric a brac on the right (including an “official soundtrack”, an “official muse” and praise from readers).

I think this “Out Post” gives us the quintessential Hermann experience. How he started before everyone else, but not in political blogging. By the time he started, blogging was already a wasteland (he says “Voices rose. Standards fell”). He was begged to ride to our rescue, to open a window to higher culture and thought. He would post to the level of major-paper, op-ed quality. He would not be self-indulgent, but would write every day, “make every word, subject and syllable count”.

Now, anyone who reads my blog knows I have criticized Hermann in the past, but I will confess I enjoyed reading his stuff when he was telling non-political anecdotes. But I have been told a story about how Hermann antagonized a particular political figure during a political event, making whispered comments at this persons back and then feigning innocence when the person turned around. That may neatly capture, for me, the “Hermann” experience.

Hermann takes pains to criticize us all in his “Out Post”. Maybe he is just criticizing me, and the handful of other Pittsburgh bloggers, when he talks about how the philistines are everywhere and winning. He suggests looking at “a few local or national political blogs. If you have a strong stomach, dip into the comment threads. You’ll see why I never allowed them on TWM. And you’ll think you stumbled into an Edward Albee play. Without the wit or erudition.”

And there is the essence of the problem for me. Hermann complained about how people didn’t do him the service of writing “impassioned, respectful” emails, which he said he would respond to, and carry on exchanges. But Hermann says the emails became “bunkered assaults”, and he realized the “reach of my efforts exceeded the grasp of readers willing and able to engage them. As my reputation grew, the caliber of my audience precipitously declined”.

I don’t get a lot of readers, I know. Fewer when I don’t post as often, which is one reason I comment on other people’s blogs. Unfortunately, I drain some of my best ideas in comments, and I am uncomfortable recycling a comment into a post. But I do know I get more readers during the political seasons, like now (and I often post more during the political seasons, finding more inspiration). And I have complained about anonymous comments, and don’t have them on my blog, although commenters simply chose handles, which are more consistent but no less anonymous. But at least I allow comments. I want to do that in part because I want to encourage discussion, and in part because I don’t mind exposing the occasional ignorance of the most partisan of voices, on both sides.

Some times Chad Hermann would reprint parts of an email sent to him, usually to ridicule the ignorance of the sender. But we had no idea about whether we were seeing the whole email, or whether it was altered. Those who blog know you can not alter the comments on your blog, only delete them, and then the deleted comment leaves a visible hole you would feel obliged to explain, to retain the trust of your readers. But not Chad Hermann. He would have us believe he was carrying on (hidden) email exchanges with the intelligentsia of Pittsburgh, something us common folk could only dream about. When I emailed Hermann, I rarely got a response.

My blog, and the comments on my blog, stand or fall on their own. The Burgh Report, with its occasional breaking story and its established base, Two Political Junkies and The Pittsburgh Comet all have more readers than me, I am sure. Other blogs are up and coming. But I am satisfied with my place in the world, and think that I could get more readers if I wanted to. I don’t see any point in calling people stupid because they don’t praise me. I may rip apart national political figures because of their diction. But you will be able to insert you own comment about it.


peterb said...

My co-blogger psu always liked Hermann's blog and thought him witty and quotable. I always thought his writing was pretentious, overblown, and unbearably self-concious. It just goes to show, de gustibus non est dispitantum.

As for Hermann's final post, I think his soundtrack selections are a bit off. Clearly, the right song to listen to while reading it is Nick Cave's "Lay Me Low".

Tea Leaves

peterb said...

Also, please pretend my last comment had perfect spelling. Thanks!

jtogyer said...

You're a better man than I am for plowing through 2,100 words (count 'em!) of self-pity.

I skimmed it, but couldn't make much headway, which is also why I gave up on T.W.M. a while ago. Basically, what I took away was that the world doesn't appreciate his brilliance.

He may be a wonderful human being, beloved by all he meets, kind to animals and helpful to children, but it doesn't come through in his writing.

EdHeath said...

Well, thank you Peter and Jason for commenting. To tell you the truth, writing this I felt halfway between (at best) angry and petty.

Bram said something on the Burgh Report, about how Chad's criticism of Obama seemed at least partly inexplicable, and so he (and I) came away thinking his agenda was political.

I like reading good writing, at least some. "All the King's Men" and "Presumed Innocent". And sometimes I liked reading Chad's stuff, but not towards the end.

By the way, Jason, I really enjoy the Almanac.

Peter said...

Hermann is full of it... this is all an elaborate smokescreen and he is shutting down to save his career at CMU. I'd have loved to have been a fly on the wall when the powers-that-be at CMU called him on the carpet for his venomous blog and intense jealousy of Randy Pausch's accomplishments. Didn't exactly reflect positively on CMU, did it? Even the tenured can have the circumstances of their employment made a bit less peachy...