Saturday, December 29, 2001

As you could maybe tell from that last, I'm in a crappy mood. It's mostly because I've been procrastinating for months, literally, on revising this goddam article I originally wrote for Harvard Business Review. They rejected it -- and after reading it again over the "holidays" (hah!), I can see why. What a piece of shit! The reason I keep promising myself to do this is that I've also promised a far shorter version (2000 words) to Perseus, who want to include it in a monster business encyclopedia they're bringing out next year with Bloomsbury (the UK publisher of the Harry Potter books).

So every day for the last couple weeks now I've waked up thinking TODAY I'm gonna fix it. Mother of God! What is wrong with my brain? Why can't I write a single fucking paragraph? Oh well...

I did get pretty excited a couple days ago, enough to put together these two tables, which show at a glance what I'm arguing for. I've renamed the thing "The Case for Business Criticism."

Table 1. Google Search Results

Query Hits

"literary criticism" 223,000
"art criticism" 29,500
"media criticism" 22,600
"social criticism" 19,600
"cultural criticism" 16,900
"music criticism" 5,040
"science criticism" 551
"business criticism" 170

Table 2. Search Results

Query Hits

"music critic" 45,900
"art critic" 43,800
"literary critic" 24,600
"social critic" 13,300
"media critic" 9,410
"cultural critic" 7,340
"science critic" 178
"business critic" 85

I included the "science crit" entries as an afterthought -- and it was a lucky one, as through those searches I discovered an article called Why Not Science Critics? by Don Ihde, who is a big gun in the philosophy of science (sorta like being the best basket weaver on Wall Street). Anyway, the parallels in our arguments were pretty arresting, and I got all turned on for a minute. But it wore off and now I'm cranky again because I really do have to finish this today. This self promotion shit is really hard work if you think about it. Maybe I should switch to self-effacing humility. Maybe that'd be easier. You think?
Just to clear up this business about self promotion: yes, self promotion is absolutely crucial. It's the most important aspect of gonzoism (there, I've nominalized it, so feel free to crank out the bumper stickers and start The Movement.)

You see, Mike, the Internet is really all about me. And I mean that in a very personal way. It's about me, Chris Locke. Me, RageBoy. The whole world wants to know what I'm thinking. Surely, you do, right? And I figure it's my responsibility to be selfish and irresponsible as much as I can, as often as I can. Also, to be humorless and moralistic and create rules around all that and question the motives of others who aren't Just Like Me so they can become More Like Me.

F-u-u-u-u-u-u-ck! What's it all about, Mr. Natural? Huh?

Sorry. But I'm not sorry. This passive-aggressive nagging gives me a headache. It gives me, as Rabelais once said, the Bloody Flux of Lombardy. So bite me.

For a better time, go read what Jeneane is doing over here.
Just to add a little something to Jeneane's answer - One of the things that hooked me about Gonzo was the vivid contrast with traditional marketing techniques, like broadcast advertisements (which, on the net, we call SPAM).

These are made by people who don't use the product, usually don't know that much about it, certainly won't tell you about any flaws it may have or give an honest appraisal of its relative worth (vis a vis any competition for example), and are simply paid to say nice things about it loudly.

Gonzo is all about the voice of experience. Check out the examples that Chris uses for his suggestions of patronage; you'll see that while he encourages Ford employees to talk about how a Ford truck might relate to their gardening hobby, there is no suggestion that they ought to toe any particular party line.

On the contrary, he clearly and repeatedly stresses that any such editorialising would render the exercise almost completely futile. The voice must be engaged, and therefore it must be genuine, it must be human, and it must be free of imposed agendas.

Only then can listening to it be of maximum value, only then can it be Gonzo.

Objectivity is not the objective (pun intended, sorry!). In fact it may be entirely irrelevant, except in the sense that in Gonzo it is not pretended to, as it may be in other marketing techniques.

I would say that it (objectivity) is surely possible, I suppose that many an art critic would consider themselves objective, even though fully engaged in the Gonzo sense.

"Art critics create nothing, and thereby feel themselves qualified to judge the works of creative people. There is logic in this: they hate all creative people equally." --Robert Heinlein

Friday, December 28, 2001

Mike--no offense taken. Did anyone ever tell you that you ask great questions? I think that it is indeed a gonzo objective to do away with the notion that writing--or better yet voice--must or should be unbiased. The stronger the voice, the stronger the notion of self wrapped inside of it. And this is not a bad thing. Especially on the Net, this is the way it has to be. Because the very medium--browser-based access through brightly-lit screens--sticks voice right in your face. How powerful! And, how much more meaningful and joyous than the vapid reporting of rat-tat-tat events we've been spoonfed and have come to accept as journalism. No?
To All
The small-post suggestion was not directed towards anyone and I apologize if anybody was offended or felt censored. I made the suggestions in an attempt to revitalize this blog.

To David and All
Whenever I read or hear anything, I assume it is colored by the person's point of view. Even when it is supposedly objective journalism. Is it a gonzo objective to make that bias more explicit or to dispense with any attempts at being objective?
I agree with David (and am so glad to see him here!) Gonzo is not about the author/writer/speaker/thinker, but *from* that person. In other words, I can speak of someone else or even as someone else, but it's gonzo if it is engaged -- if the author is involved in the writing of the text. That is where voice emerges. This doesn't mean the writer must necessarily be physically involved or present, but it does mean that the author has a vested interest (and as David says, that he 'exposes' something). Self-promotion is a byproduct, not so much a forethought. And it is completely optional for the audience to support or underwrite that voice. The voice remains regardless. My two cents.

Thanks Mike for zinging some life back into RGE. David, please come back often, and bring some folks with you!

Hernani and others, don't censor yourselves. Not here. Write and engage. If we fail to be engaged (and to engage), then the blog will become quiet. But if our posts incite, no matter their length, then we'll continue to thrive here. That's fine with me. The ebb and flow is essential in life, both online and offline.

Thursday, December 27, 2001

Voice has to come from an engaged person to be worth listening to, but that doesn't mean that what the voice says has to be about the person. Every great writer without exception has had a voice, but most of them use that voice to show us how the world looks to them. Some few focus on themselves as their subject. And the great exemplar of gonzo writing - Hunter S. Thompson - used himself as a subject far more than traditional journalists did. Even Thompson, however, wrote about his own exploits as a way of exposing truths about the world, whether it was Hell's Angels or standard party politics. The point about engagement and gonzoism isn't that you have to talk about (and thus promote) yourself, but that whenever you do talk, you're honest about the fact that you're writing from a point of view. That's how I understand it, anyway. Example: Benetton writing about death row inmates; it's gonzo because it's engaged even though the author doesn't show up in it.

Having said that, however, if you're writing in a gonzo way, there is obviously a strong temptation to put yourself into the center of your story. I just don't think that's essential to gonzoism.
The posting size is not relevant. Not at all! I really don´t mind about a prolix speech. Sometimes it is the space and time we have to develop an idea. And if I link to my personnal blog just a few would understand (it´s written in portuguese). I do prefer to blog without self censorship. The most important in the Gonzo idea is the voice reverbaration. We cannot do that without speaking freely.
To Mike's point/question about how Gonzo Marketing relates to self-promotion. My first response to that is that there is a direct correlation. Both the Gonzo book and the Cluetrain Manifesto consistently come back to "voice" as the seminal ingredient. A voice is not a voice if it is not speaking. One doesn't have to be an egomaniac in the process... there seem to be many humble postings going on out there, but how would you market if you didn't say anything (or write something)? You might also say that you are marketing something other than yourself such as a product or service, but in the Gonzo person-to-person style I think that self promotion goes hand in glove with the process. You may speak for the purpose of marketing, but in the process you as an individual become associated with the communication you put out there.

To honor Mike's request I'll keep this short and await echoes from the group...
I think this blog is getting under-utilized because we are not focused on discussing Gonzo. In addition, long posts tend to dominate.

I would like to suggest that we keep the posts short and point to our personal blogs for longer or off-topic posts. We might want to include a link to our personal blog to guide people to other thoughts we have.

I was wondering how does Gonzo relate to self-promotion?

Monday, December 24, 2001

Jeanne what a sweetheart you are. I didn't imagine that when I read Chris's suggestion that someone might want to take issue with that vacuuous review, that you would end up pasting into our own forum. On reading your note about it appearing twice I went back to look at the Amazon site to check it out. I say never look a free double-review in the mouth! And I liked the little one-liner at the top - "3 out of 3 people found the following review helpful". Let's hope that means they've bought the book.

Hey, there's no Eggnog around here, though I wish there were, and laced with Jack Daniel's as well. And there are not too many folks either, never mind that on a normal day there are only about five percent of the cubes and offices on my floor occupied. Today, on Christmas Eve, there are maybe five people and I hear a lot of laughter over in their direction. Perhaps they have some eggnog!

So Merry Christmas to all, And to All a Much Better Year than the last one! Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hannuka, Ramadan, Kwanza or a Holiday based on no particular faith whatever, have a very Happy One. There are hundreds of belief systems I know nothing about, but I know that most of the cultures of our blue and green little planet celebrate the changing of the seasons, and all of those aforementioned religious events fall on or near the Winter Solstice. Funny thing about that. Our Druid (and other forms of "pagan") forbears celebrated all of the solstices and the in-betweens as well and most of our modern holidays line up somewhat with those old traditions. Have a great year!