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July 26, 2010

An Announcement

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Friends --

You imagine it can't happen to you, and then it does.

Here's why 2Blowhards disappeared: Our webhost, who'd given us impeccable service for eight years, made a wee goof. He put the backup disk on the same machine as the disk this blog (and various other websites) were on. It was only to be for a few weeks, while he prepared to move the backup to a super-secure offsite location. What were the chances of anything untoward happening during those mere few weeks?

Then the motherboard fried, and it partially overwrote all of the disks on the machine, originals and backups alike. Poof went the blog, as well as its backup.

The damage was so severe that it looked like there'd be no recovering any of our work whatsoever. We had a few anxious days, believe me about that. A lot of heroic work from specialists, though, finally turned up most of our content, enabling us to put 2Blowhards back online, even if minus several months' worth of recent postings. Our webhost swears on a stack of O'Reilly computer books that he'll never do anything so foolish as to put a backup disk on the same machine as the original, ever again.

But our unexpected hiatus gave Donald, Friedrich and me a chance to evaluate where we stand vis a vis blogging. For a few weeks we wanted nothing more than for everything to return to normal. Then, as more time passed, our feelings started to change. We compared notes. We've been running 2Blowhards for a long time. How much did we really want to continue?

What we finally decided is that 2Blowhards has reached the end of its natural lifetime -- and that, because of this, we're retiring the blog. We'll be keeping 2Blowhards online for a while (maybe even several years) as an archive of our work, but we won't be putting up any more new postings. I'll leave comments open for a few weeks, but I'll be closing them down soon after to keep the blog from turning into a spam-magnet.

Friedrich and I first started posting here back in 2002; 2Blowhards was one of the very first of the cultureblogs. (Donald has been blogging with us since 2005; several other writers have contributed as well.) Our shared conviction was that the public conversation about culture was 'way too restricted, and was in dire need of being bashed around. The choke-hold that the official class -- the pros, the profs, the critics, the editors, the journalists, often the artists themselves -- had on how the arts were talked about and thought about drove us crazy.

The opinion-making class would have you believe that there's only one -- or at most only a few -- ways to be a respectable, informed, and legit culturefan. Baloney to that, we felt. As we knew from experience, there are innumerable ways to enjoy an interest in the arts, as well as uncountable worthwhile ways to take part in the general culture-conversation. As bloggers, we wanted to emphasize that point -- and we also wanted to give examples of what a more open and freewheeling approach to thinking and yakking about the arts might be like.

Urge-wise, those are the two impulses that that have driven this blog.

Point #1, it seems to us, has been sufficiently made. If in 2001 the official culture-class still had a choke-hold on how the arts were discussed and thought about, in 2010 many of the old purveyors of respectable opinion are on the defensive, if not actually crumbling. The freewheeling new era that we looked forward to, and that we did our modest best to champion and herald, is here.

As for point #2, well, in my more grandiose moments I like to think that we Blowhards did a bit of pioneering work so far as developing an amusing, helpful and web-appropriate way of discussing the arts goes. The trad approach to artsyak is to (metaphorically speaking) stand on a stage, face an audience, wag a finger, argue, debate, and rail. We set out to do something very different -- to create postings that wouldn't be traditional essays but that would be open-ended conversation-starters instead. We wanted to offer an alternative to the prof-lectures-his-students model of artsyak; we wanted to throw a party instead. (So far as the minor art of criticism goes, that's a pretty radical program, by the way.) It took us a year or so to find our footing, but once we did we were off and running -- and, to be honest, we were often having to work pretty damned hard to keep up with our brainy, informed, and enthusiastic visitors.

So that's our announcement: 2Blowhards is now officially frozen in amber.

Donald will continue doing his most-excellent posting at Art Contrarian, his own blog. Bookmark it please, and visit regularly and often. Friedrich is treating himself to a vacation from writing. As for me, I'm in a self-indulgent, whimsical and scattered mood. Check out my lazily-updated personal website; Friend me on Facebook, where I share scads of links; or ask me a question (and read my maunderings) at Formspring. Formspring's great, btw! Or at least it's what all the cool seventh-graders are doing.

Heartfelt thanks from all of us to everyone who has dropped by this blog, and especially to regular visitors and commenters. Many of you have come to feel like good friends. You've given us far more in the way of pleasure, instruction, and fun than you'll ever know.

All the best,

Ray Sawhill, aka "Michael Blowhard"

posted by Michael at July 26, 2010


There is no sadder, and no more joyful phrase than "All things change."

I will miss 2Blowhards. It was my portal into genres and milieus I had real contact with otherwise.

But moving on is good. I need to move on, to find more gateways and portals.

I will follow Don at his blog... And I hope to encounter the Blowhards and the rest of this remarkable community around the Web.

As they said in the Village, "Be seeing you!"

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on July 26, 2010 3:43 AM

Fare thee well, and thank you for it all.

Posted by: dearieme on July 26, 2010 4:26 AM

Ray, Donald and Friedrich,

Thanks for the memories.

I wish that all of you would continue. Sure, you may have met your goals, but 2Blowhards could still be a great place to yak.

It's too much work. That's for sure. I appreciate all the hard work you put into the blog.

Happy trails to you,
Until we meet again.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on July 26, 2010 7:12 AM

Michael, Friedrich, Donald & the prolific Blowhards commenters --

I've been a faithful reader since 2004. I was 24 years old, and had recently moved to Toronto from one of Canada's smaller cities to study graphic design. I didn't know it at the time, but I was about to be plunged headlong into the heart of a city obsessed with culture of all kinds, and 2Blowhards (& the 2Blowhards commenting community) gave me a sense of what it means to be a thoughtful, passionate, and plain-spoken cultural citizen.

I've never commented. But I couldn't let the opportunity pass to say thank you. I feel like I've grown up with this site, and will miss it immensely.

Posted by: Blair J. on July 26, 2010 9:30 AM

Well, this is depressing.

I've read 2 Blowhards for years. It was, in many ways, one of the things that shaped the way I think - if not due to the views expressed here, but the frequent links to other sites and blogs.

But I suppose you're right about the lifetime thing. Better to end gracefully and on a high note then decline into sad irrelevance.

Donald and Friedrich, good luck to you. Ray, I suppose I'll be seeing you around the Interwebs (thanks for reading and promoting my blog, by the way). Thanks for everything.

Posted by: Ferdinand Bardamu on July 26, 2010 11:28 AM

Thanks for your wonderful thoughts, insights and links! I think you did contribute to opening up the public conversation on culture. Sorry to see the site go.

Posted by: Rudy Weitz on July 26, 2010 2:22 PM

Many and profuse thanks for all you have done for us, Dear Internet Friends.

You are indeed most super fantastic and will be missed!

Posted by: Manolo the Shoeblogger on July 26, 2010 6:06 PM

Wasn't it fun, though?

Posted by: Robert Townshend on July 26, 2010 7:23 PM

2Blowhards was my first great blog-love. It is simply irreplaceable, as first loves tend to be.

Sigh. It's funny, but this blog has literally changed my life. Michael knows how and why, but not just that particular way. This blog taught me how to argue with some very bright people (though I wish in retrospect I had argued, well, more brightly myself).

Hail and farewell, 2Bs.

Posted by: PatrickH on July 26, 2010 8:06 PM

Thanks, sorry to lose you.

Posted by: dave.s. on July 26, 2010 8:59 PM

Thanks to the Blowhards for providing a most entertaining and stimulating forum, for discussion of all different manner of topics. My humble request, is that you leave the archives up not for merely some years, but in perpetuity; the quality of the many various thinkers here (both hosts and posters) is such that it would be a true shame to click on a link decades hence and find a 404 error message, rather than the great content here now. It's a shame how so many fine bloggers just completely delete their whole blogs when they decide to pull the plug; buck the trend, leave the archives up forever! Please, and thanks in advance.

Posted by: Will S. on July 27, 2010 12:45 AM

Comrades: Thank you for operating a thoughtful, often amusing, and high-quality blog. Wherever you go, happy blowharding.

Posted by: Axel Kassel on July 27, 2010 6:50 AM

Thanks for the nice comments.

Posted by: Ray Sawhill on July 27, 2010 10:18 AM

2Blowhards was one of the most exciting discoveries on the internet for me. I still remember the first year I found this wonderful place for brainy discussions on topics you never saw anywhere else. No matter where the topics led, the conversation followed. I'm glad you recovered the archives, because I'm sure some of those discussions are going to be classics. A heartfelt thanks to Donald, Friedrich and Michael for being the catalysts, and thanks to all the rest of you for the zest. It was real.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on July 27, 2010 6:07 PM

I've got to echo PatrickH's comments, 2Blowhards was also my first great blog-love. It was like a internet version of a pub, where you could hang out with people you liked, talking crap about anything. The great part about it was by and large the commentary was smart and informative: There was always a high signal to noise ratio. The fact that most of the interesting blogs on the net seemed to link to you I think says a lot about the quality of the place.

Best Wishes.

Posted by: slumlord on July 27, 2010 6:43 PM

slumlord: my sentiments exactly. Long time observer and that's the feeling I got as well. Hang out with mates, chat and discuss and generally have a great time. Incidentally, came across this one via Chicagoboyz.

Posted by: Moen on July 27, 2010 9:07 PM

An overdue thank-you to Michael and the rest of the Blowhards. You, and particularly Michael, helped to make my own blog come alive with fascinating comments. (I've allowed it to remain silent for some time because I've had other things to think about, but I don't think the silence will be permanent.) Only a handful of people were reading my blog before Michael/Ray began to promote it here.

Of course, I also enjoyed reading comments here, and jumping in with my own observations. For several years, as my "real" world grew frustratingly narrow, Blowhards gave me a chance to connect with a large number of people, some sympathetic, others decidedly not, but all interesting, prickly, opinionated characters. It was great fun.

Best wishes to all the Blowhard Irregulars.

Posted by: Alias Clio on July 28, 2010 10:43 AM

You had an awesome run. Thanks for all the fun.

Posted by: yahmdallah on July 28, 2010 11:28 AM

This was the first blog I ever commented on. While I've stormed away in frustration a couple of times following heated political contretemps, I have continued to read 2Blowhards regularly since first discovering it. To date I have not found another blog that offers as wide a range of subjects (often handled with great depth and knowledge) nor one that generates such diversity of opinions in the comments. So many of those who gravitated to 2Blowhards seem to be thoughtful and engaged individuals, reflecting the thoughtful engaged postings of the hosting Blowhards.

Thank you for the entertainment and edification. 2Blowhards will be much missed.

Posted by: Chris White on July 28, 2010 2:53 PM

Thanks for the lively conversation, folks. My best to the once and future Blowhards!

Posted by: Chip Smith on July 28, 2010 3:48 PM

Best wishes! I have learned a lot from 2B, across a range of subjects. I have enjoyed reading all the 2B posts, as well as the comments.

Thanks for all of your hard work.


Posted by: Gerald on July 28, 2010 5:03 PM

Thank you for all the hard work and memories mate. Best wishes.

Posted by: dallas flooring on July 28, 2010 10:18 PM

Oh, man! What a bummer! Where do we go now? Thanks for the brain storms. It has been fun to let it all hang out. This was a no-holds-barred mental jamboree that will be missed.

Posted by: Bob Grier on July 29, 2010 9:33 AM

Farewell from a long-time lurker. I always found something thought-provoking here, so thanks for a job well done!

Posted by: RT on July 29, 2010 5:10 PM

Thanks for the years of insights, good humor, and great writing. I learned more from these pages than I did in college . . . And at a significant savings.

Best of luck. Don't fade away.

Posted by: Murphy on July 29, 2010 9:49 PM

My sincere thanks to all of the Blowhards for all the years of great blogging. I've always held 2Blowhards to be the best example of what a blog should be -- stimulating, provocative, friendly, fun, and interesting every day. Thanks, all.

Posted by: Nick on July 29, 2010 11:45 PM

I salute you, blowhards all, for your sustained excellence across the years and across a wide variety of interesting topics. You have a lot to be proud of.

I have always enjoyed stopping by for your strong, literate and witty opinions. I will especially miss your grumpy posts. Thanks for the fun. I will continue to follow those of you who will be carrying on.

Posted by: David Apatoff on July 30, 2010 8:28 PM

I just discovered this very interesting blog... per intuition I guess (I have a sense for things dying - in the tao sense )
Great work. Thank you.

Posted by: Jacobs on July 31, 2010 7:02 AM

I want to steal Slumlord's phrase for my epitaph: "Talking crap about anything."

Posted by: Ray Sawhill on July 31, 2010 5:28 PM

A crying shame. Yours has been one of the most entertaining of blogs, and you will be missed. All the best.

Posted by: Mark Brentano on August 1, 2010 3:30 PM

I loved the blog.

The past year, when I'm a bit bored, I loved to look back and read some of the longer posts (I'm sure I will continue to do so).

Great work by all. Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: thehova on August 2, 2010 5:47 AM

Micheal/Ray and all other founders, writers, commenters and lurkers:

I was honored to have been a smallish part of this enterprise. I can only add my voice to the many who have already said what I deeply feel: that this was one singular blog, one special place for thoughtful, civil conversation about some of the most interesting topics around. It is a tribute not only to M+F's original coffee house conception, but to all of those who helped maintain the joint, that it kept up that spirit as long as it did.


Posted by: Fenster Moop on August 2, 2010 2:25 PM

I kind of thought of this blog as a great party -- with just the right mix of people and with Ray (a/k/a Michael), in particular, circulating around and making just the right comments to keep the varous conversations going.

However, although I'm sorry to see the blog go, I'm just as surprised that it lasted as long as it did. All along it seemed to me that an enormous amount of work was involved: researching and writing the original posts, reading and responding to comments (many of which, like mine, tended to be rather long) and all the while maintaining and updating the technical features of the blog.

That being said, it seems to me that all those involved produced a very high quality product -- one that they can be rightfully very proud of, and one that will be an inspiration to, and set a high standard for, future bloggers (like myself?).

Benjamin Hemric
Mon., August 2, 2010, 10:46 p.m.

Posted by: Benjamin Hemric on August 2, 2010 10:47 PM

it seems to me that all those involved produced a very high quality product -- one that they can be rightfully very proud of,

Posted by: Manhattan on August 3, 2010 4:28 AM

Will this be our age's equivalent of your favorite rock band retiring? Hope to see you guys on the reunion tour some day.

One final analysis. The activity here always felt totally natural, like this is the way our mental muscles are supposed to get their workout. A good amount of light but demanding activity, like walking around, reaching, sitting and standing; one or two times a day having to make a decent sprint, pull yourself into an almost out-of-reach tree, or heave some heavy object out of your way; and once every week or so going on a 5000-word test of strength and endurance to bring down a giraffe, carve it up, and mellow out for a long time after.

You guys had a real knack for getting this distribution of intensities just right. So did the commenters; this was the only place where I ever read long comments regularly.

Almost all other blogs feel like going-to-the-gym. The schedule is predictable, so are the things you'll do, and the stress level won't be varied enough -- either mostly too light or mostly too severe. And each set of motions you go through won't feel fluidly connected from beginning to end, just moving from this machine to that one. Plus no emotional depth.

I second the request to keep everything up for a longer time. Like many others, I started reading when I was 25 in 2005 or 2006, and there's so much stuff here that you're never exposed to in school *or in real life* anymore. It would be a shame for These Kids These Days to lose access to all of this rambunctious wisdom.

Posted by: agnostic on August 3, 2010 4:20 PM

Bummer. Best to you each morning! I sure learned a lot. So glad the archives is back. The cost of blowing up the backup discs is greater than your webhosts imagined!!

Posted by: annette on August 4, 2010 2:42 PM

Snorts, raspberries, guffaws and kisses! It was real and I loved it all!

On to the next thing.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on August 4, 2010 6:06 PM

"Talking crap about anything" made 2blowhards far and away the most catholic blog on the net. What a find! And what a loss. Hail and farewell.

Posted by: ricpic on August 4, 2010 6:28 PM

Dude: You saved my life - you know that, right?

Posted by: Searchie on August 5, 2010 10:10 PM

Ray, 2Blowhards has made me think about and actually shift positions I've held on quite a few issues. I can't think of another entity that has had that effect on me. I'm grateful to have come across this blog. Thanks for the writing, all involved.

Posted by: JV on August 6, 2010 10:06 PM

Glad you're back. Missed you.

Posted by: Kurt on August 9, 2010 2:33 AM

Your output and style were amazing, some topics painfully explored to the Nth degree. Your pieces on your recovery from cancer were numbing, chilling, frightening, and exhilirating. Your sidebar connections were introductions to some fabulous other bloggers (Searchie!! You're still around!)
You will be missed but thanks for the long run.

Posted by: DarkoV on August 9, 2010 2:56 PM


Thanks for all the great content over the years. Your was the most thorough exposure I initially had to the idea that modernist architecture isn't actually pleasing and how and why traditional design is so much more pleasing. When I first started reading here it was such an unusual idea that I hadn't been exposed to it.

Now when I walk around Gramercy Park I know why and how it makes me feel better than the brutalist architecture of midtown.

On top of that, you introduced blogs that revolutionized my view of political philosophy, diet and exercise.

Overall, I can't think of a blog I've read that has had more of an influence on me.

Thanks for everything.

Posted by: Steve Johnson on August 11, 2010 12:27 AM

I've always enjoyed both Michael's and Donald's posts. But come Michael's hiatus, going to the site was like reading Garfield Minus Garfield. I missed the complementarity.

You were like Burns and Allen, Burns and Schreiber, Penn and Teller, Siskel and Ebert, Sonny and Cher, Stan and Ollie, Bud and Lou, etc. When it was time to go, it was time for both of you to go.

Posted by: Reg C├Žsar on August 11, 2010 11:13 PM

Thank you all for everything.

Posted by: Anon on August 12, 2010 11:23 PM

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