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September 21, 2009

New Blowhards: How Do We Find Them?

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

When Michael got what I like to call his "anodized aluminum parachute" in the spring of 2008, he considered handing 2Blowhards over to me. Happily for all of us (me, especially), he continued blogging until last week's announcement that he would drop full-time posting. Michael's current intention is to remain the proprietor (i.e., pay the bills) for perhaps another year or two and maybe make further use of some of the articles he posted here.

As for me, I know full well that 2Blowhards is truly Michael's blog and that it will be impossible to maintain the exact atmosphere he created and maintained over the last seven-plus years. What I will attempt is to continue 2Blowhards' reputation as a site with interesting, generally well-written observations on the artistic and cultural scenes along with occasional detours into history, politics and world affairs.

You might have noticed that I tend to write essays instead of link-posts. I tend to write slowly and have other life-commitments besides blogging, which means that my production level is around three or four posts per week. I also travel, which interferes with blogging. When I'm out of the country, I don't pack a computer, so no blogging gets done at all. This is not a good bloggy thing, because content flow is king -- people will stop looking at a blog if new articles don't appear on an almost-daily pace. So more Blowhards must be recruited in order that posting levels are up to one or two per day on average.

Another personal "problem" is that my areas of interest and knowledge do not come near to filling the spectrum of the arts part of 2Blowhards. I tend to write about visual arts (painting and illustration mostly), industrial design and architecture (though Michael tended to take the lead there). Michael mostly dealt with his areas of competence: literature, film, music and popular culture. Those are areas that new Blowhards need to fill, though there are no subject constraints; I sometimes write about things in Michael's areas and he would write about painters on occasion.

There is no advertising on 2Blowhards, so potential Blowhards need to understand that blogging here is an unpaid hobby activity that could easily occupy an hour or more a day. At one point Michael brought in a professional writer "Vanessa Blowhard" who soon realized that she needed to (literally) make every word that she wrote pay for itself and couldn't adjust to writing for free. That experience makes me cautious about recruiting professionals unless they already have an employer providing a steady income.

On the other hand, it's okay if a new Blowhard has his own blog -- I don't, but Michael maintains one under his real name. But the deal is, a Blowhard must agree to provide at least three postings here per week, on average. So if that's compatible with hosting another blog, that's fine by me.

Speaking of that three (or maybe four) weekly-posting average, it implies a needed Blowhard complement of two or perhaps three bloggers in addition to me in order to maintain an overall posting pace of one or two items per day.

What sort of person might make a good Blowhard? There are no rules, but if the recent crew can serve as a guideline, here are some characteristics. It helps to have a well-furnished mind. This can be the result of some or all of: a good education, a lot of non-college reading and an ability to notice interesting details in arts and culture. I should mention that not all these items are necessary nor are they every possible source -- it's the "well-furnished" part that counts, whatever went into its making. This implies a certain degree of life experience or maturity, though I won't apply any age restriction.

It would be helpful if a potential new Blowhard had training and / or experience in some of the arts. Michael studied literature and film-making and worked for a well-known New York media company. I was an undergraduate art major who also took a year of basic architectural design.

2Blowhards seems to have a reputation for good, interesting writing which means that writing ability will be a consideration.

While I won't rule out exceptions, I favor recruiting from the past or present 2Blowhards reader pool. That's because they should have a sense of the tone and character of the blog. I'm further inclined to favor commenters because their past contributions provide me a sense of their interests and writing skills.

Folks who have been reading this blog for a while will have noticed a certain shared stance or viewpoint hereabouts, and I wish to retain that. With respect to the arts, we are skeptical of Modernism, but not entirely against it. We do not accept the notion that Modernism is the only way to go and therefore serve as a rallying point for others who desire better balanced artistic coverage. Michael and I hold that the greatest danger Modernism poses lies in architecture; a painting can be sent from a museum wall to a warehouse, but an inappropriate (for its setting) building can last for many decades.

Politically, 2Blowhards falls into the small-"L" libertarian and small-"C" conservative parts of the spectrum. However, this is not a political blog and politics tends to be injected in passing, for the most part.

An important feature here is civility in tone. Ranting in postings is not our thing; we try to be subtle and conversational when presenting our viewpoints. Comments tend to be more open to passions, but crudity and name-calling are not welcomed.

Now we come to the important question: How do I recruit a few new Blowhards (while minimizing the disappointment of those not selected)?

Michael recruited four Blowhards after Friedrich had to considerably cut his blogging pace. As best I can guess, three of those were friends or blogging acquaintances of Michael's. As it happened, none were able to contribute long-term. I was recruited from the commenter pool following a guest-blogger tryout period. Since that worked once, it might work again.

Here are some strategies for your consideration that might keep content flowing and provide a means of recruitment:

  • Readers having ideas for 2Blowhards guest-post articles that they would write could email me. This might result in a series of guest-postings.

  • Readers with blogs might sometimes have 2Blowhards-type articles that could be cross-posted here. In the past, content here has been original (as best I recall), but I'm willing to consider this alternative until full-time Blowhards can be recruited.

  • Readers with their own blogs who would be willing to become Blowhards (and write three or four original postings per week here) might let me know (by email) about their blogs so that their content could be evaluated in terms of compatibility with the established 2Blowhards style.

These are my thoughts at present. But I'm open to suggestions from readers because I'm sure that I could be overlooking important alternatives. After all, blogs are little communities of writers, readers and commenters and community input is important. Your comments are appreciated.

And if you think that you might be able to contribute content to 2Blowhards, please let me know via email.

Thank you for your help: I need it.



posted by Donald at September 21, 2009


This joint is crawling with smart and well-furnished minds. The quality of comments tells the tale. Keep your fingers crossed that more than a handful of current coffee house habitues will be willing to sign on to the quota.

Posted by: fenster moop on September 21, 2009 6:24 PM

One alternative you might consider if there isn't much response is what Ann Althouse does with considerable success, and Half Sigma does from time to time: link to interesting, controversial media stories, perhaps adding an amusing headline but not much other editorial material, and let the commentors take it from there with all sorts of give-and-take. You'd probably have to turn off comment moderation for this to work.

Posted by: Peter on September 21, 2009 7:19 PM

You forgot an important qualification - blogger must have an Ivy League undergraduate degree :-)

Posted by: Jim on September 21, 2009 7:57 PM

fenster -- Hey, you're 2Blowhards-ready (unless you zapped the software) so toss in a posting now 'n' then!

Peter -- Food for thought. To me, the nice thing about this blog (before I signed up) was how mentally stimulating it was.

Jim -- Well, I did think about mentioning that. But then I started to wonder about upgrading to the Rhodes / Fulbright stratum and now can't make up my mind.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on September 21, 2009 8:43 PM

If you're taking nominations, how about alias clio? She's got the arts knowledge, similar attitude to Modernism (though more sympathetic, perhaps), writes like an angel, is civil (far more than me!), and has got the intellectual chops to hang with the hardest clearest thinkers here, including you Donald, and Friedrich and Michael.

Some others whose comments indicate a wit, eloquence and insight that I would love to see here regularly: Moira Breen, Robert Townshend, the brooding and saturnine but unquestionably brilliant Vladimir. Some other possibilities: slumlord, and...this last one fills me with hilarious, even giddy anticipation of many fun hours...Chris White!

How about it?

P.S. Lots of others too, not just the ones I mentioned above. Spike--but only joint posts with Agnostic. Yamdallah. Lots of really smart people in the list I've offered...a stellar bunch. Other than you-know-who, but he would be a blast to poke fun at.

P.P.S. Roissy!

Posted by: PatrickH on September 21, 2009 9:18 PM

if nominated, my first post would be an interview of shouting thomas. that guy cracks me up.

Posted by: roissy on September 21, 2009 11:42 PM


Hah, I love the idea, but I think both me and Aggie are far to occupied with finding ways of making our writing come to extra scratch, him with his pay blog and me with my genre fiction and uh... I guess you could call it poetry by demand. In any case, the only thing I could fired up writing about three times a week is science fiction and comic books.

Vlad, slumlord or PA sound cool. Clio would be the best, but I think she's going to be preoccupied with things for a while. Also, I nominate you.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on September 22, 2009 2:26 AM

If nominated, I will refuse to run. If elected, I will refuse to serve. If offered some real money, I'll take it.

Roissy, I'm just a cranky old fart. Seems funny now, but you'll get there before you know it. And, the way you're living... well, as I said, you would do well to read Bukowski's "Barfly." The movie's pretty good, too.

I haven't done an interview in... shit... 20 years. Back when I thought that doing interviews would actually produce serious money, I'd sit for anybody. Once I understood that the interview was just another audition for a low paying job with lousy conditions and no benefits, I stopped doing them. Or, as I said to Myrna, when she asked me why I stopped taking that shit seriously: "I don't want to see my name and picture in the paper unless I'm getting rich or I'm under indictment."

Although I am an artist, it's been a long time since I've taken the arts seriously. At best the arts are child's play. At worst, artists consider themselves important figures who should be consulted about serious issues.

Michael Blowhard will be almost impossible to replace because he understood this. In spite of that, he has almost unlimited enthusiasm for the arts and all that attendant PR BS. I don't know how he maintains the enthusiasm, but he is to be admired for doing so.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on September 22, 2009 10:21 AM

I second clio.

Kevin Michael Grace ("The Ambler") would seem to have the chops and erudition, but he's not prolific.

Posted by: Chip Smith on September 22, 2009 4:46 PM

I second Spike for PatH.

Posted by: Bradamante on September 23, 2009 6:46 AM

Thanks guys, but I don't contribute enough constructive material to be a Blowhard. I mock, I rant, I storm, I sulk. It is true that every now and then I complete a sentence without insulting someone, but the sad truth is I am a destructive force, a servant of the dark side, using such powers of eloquence as I have in the service of meanness and right-wingness and not niceness and goodness and sustainability. So like ST, who has been seeming wiser and wiser to me in recent months, I will decline if nominated, recline if elected, and repine in any case.


Posted by: PatrickH on September 23, 2009 11:22 AM

You were the first candidate I thought of, PatrickH. Your sulky, mocking rants work for me. Maybe Donald Would consider one-a-weeks for some people. Would that work for you? Oh - and which Ivy did you graduate from?


Posted by: robert61 on September 24, 2009 12:59 PM

AliasClio. I am not sure I would want to see many commenters become full contributors though. Aside from cannibalizing the most interesting part of the blog (the comments) I don't know if anyone's got the breadth of interest and experience to be posting that regularly.

Also, I am not convinced on the 3 postings per contributor per week thing. I think 3 postings per week total from all contributors is fine. Assuming you picked up 2 more Blowhard contributors each going for 3 per week, that's something like 9 postings a week to read -- Too much for me to follow regularly, and why bother commenting if a post is going to have a shelf life of about a day?

Personally I think Michael should just recruit a harem of 20 something models to blog here. Now that'd be 2Blowhards!

Posted by: AliasAlias on September 27, 2009 3:23 AM

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