Tuesday, May 30, 2006

In Defense of Minutiae

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a certain dubious advertisement that was running on a certain right-wing blog. A couple of days later, in response to the wailing and gnashing of teeth my post inspired, I wrote another article about another ad, this time on a left-wing site. More displeasure abounded. Here are a few typical comments I got:
Stick to the serious issues, please.

Dude, it's an ad.... I find it interesting that the discussion is all about an ad on a popular liberal blog and not about the blog itself.

Instead of debating them on the numerous issues on which you disagree, you go after them for an ad that appears on their site.
All of this got me thinking about my responsibility as a blogger. My conclusion: I don't really have much. I would never write something I knew to be false (outside of the realm of satire, of course) and I try to be reasonable (when possible), but I don't feel compelled to live up to anything beyond that. It's not like I'm writing for CBS, wait, no, ABC...um, FOX? Well, let's pretend there's a reputable news organization out there. I don't have the same responsibility to the "big picture" as they do.

Let's not forget that the title of this blog is (parenthetical remarks), which implies that I won't be tackling the "big" issues all the time. Sometimes, it's important to get out the microscope and focus on the minutiae. As long as I'm not deliberately misrepresenting facts, I have no special obligation to write the definitive word on any subject. Sometimes it's worthwhile to break things down and look at all the moving parts.

In the mid-90s, I started reading a fanzine called Beer Frame, written by Brooklynite Paul Lukas. I'm not sure if it's still around in print form, but there is a website where you can read some of his work and order back issues. Lukas' particular (and peculiar) obsession is product-packaging design. His magazine was filled with product reviews ranging from strange food items to sturdy industrial garlic presses. He also reviewed CDs. More often than not, his music reviews would focus entirely on the CD packaging or some other ancillary aspect of the product. Sometimes he wouldn't even mention the music at all.

Now, would I rely entirely on a Beer Frame review to decide if I wanted to buy a record? Of course not, but that doesn't take away from the value of what he wrote. His magazine was a celebration of the inconsequential and minute, and it was tremendously fun to read. I hope the same can be said of this blog (on occasion, at least), whether I'm railing against the Bush administration or just picking a nit or two.

Richard Carlson made a career out of telling us not to sweat the small stuff. I always thought that guy was a jerk.
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