Thursday, June 21, 2007

Post 200: Meta

Four and a half months, two hundred posts – it’s funny to think that this blog has come so far in such a short time. My number of daily hits has doubled in that time, with pageviews up to over 3000 a month and no signs that the growth has stopped.

My intention when I started this blog was two-fold. On the one hand, I had several experiences of scanning the various weeklies on a weekend night to find out what was going on, only to discover that the listings were often incorrect, or incomplete, or that I had no idea what the night was really like. It seemed to me that there was a need for a more selective approach to event listings, including a trusted voice who could make recommendations about what might actually be good. On the other, it has always seemed to me that, especially in the gay scene, event reviews are largely about cheerleading, without any critical component. Coming from a background where criticism is considered inherent to any process of improvement, I thought that my critical voice might be able to play some small, tiny role in helping to nudge the San Francisco dance scene, and the gay dance scene, in some progressive direction. I can certainly say that the work involved in tracking down events to write about has opened my eyes to some really vibrant, exciting things happening in this City, while at the same time that it has convinced me that I was right in judging some things to be as dull as I thought they were.

In the same way that going out to find things to write about opened my eyes to things going on in the city, the actual writing of my reviews and occasional essays has also taught me some things about making my opinions publicly known. In the beginning I really didn’t think anyone would care what I had to say, or would even read me. Then I started to get the emails, and other things reached me by word of mouth. Some people, including a friend of mine, have been upset about things I have written here; in some cases I’ve taken things down, or re-written them, because I realized that a bitchy tone that makes for fun reading does not always necessarily make for a fair or accurate depiction of something. Though it sometimes causes me a lot of anxiety, I actually like it when people write me to challenge something I’ve written; it keeps me straight, makes me think about what I’m writing, and it also forces me to make a decision about what I think is a genuine critical opinion versus what is not. In a recent email exchange with the promoter of a popular gay event I was willing to concede that some things I had intimated in my writings were unfair, but that I still thought the DJs he brought in were boring and not that skilled. He, in turn, conceded that I probably had a better ear for electronic dance music than he did, and, besides, what he really was interested in creating was an event where all the guys had facial hair. That particular episode taught me that while my instincts about things are probably pretty good, the way in which I express them may need refinement, and that I need to focus on the specifics of what makes an event good or bad more than just my own reaction to it. So, friend or stranger, if I have written something that you feel is negative and unfair, feel free to call me on it; if I think you’re right, I’m more than happy to offer up a mea culpa and make appropriate corrections. But also be aware that there will be times when I stick to my guns, especially if my negative reaction has to do with the real material circumstances of the situation. Nothing you can argue will make an overcrowded party fun, or a bad sound system or DJ sound good.

In emails with other writers I’ve discussed the problem of writing the negative review, especially when you live in a city that’s as small as San Francisco, where people recognize who you are and social situations can quickly become uncomfortable. One of the reasons I write under an alias is that I initially thought of myself as being like a food critic, an anonymous “every person” who shows up, looks at event through the eyes of a typical attendee, and reports back. However, since San Francisco is a small city, it’s not taken very long for people involved with the club scene to at least become aware of me (I’ve gotten emails from the promoters of almost every regular event I’ve written about, some of them have even friended me on myspace, and promoters I've never heard of have contacted me list their events) even if they don’t know what I look like (yet). It would be a lot easier on my social standing, and, in some ways, my night’s sleep, to only write reviews of things I’ve enjoyed. However, this would go against some of my initial purposes in starting this blog, and, while it would certainly make things easier for me, it would not really serve you all, my readers. How can you come to trust my recommendations if I don’t also tell you about the things I don’t like, the bad clubs, the DJs who bore me, the scenes that are almost too precious to endure? The good, in other words, can only be seen as really good when counterpoised with the bad. If I want you all to trust me, in other words, I think I sometimes need to run the risk of alienating myself from certain people and scenes in order to deliver the goods. That is the other thing that writing this blog has taught me; if you want to be a good critic, you have to have the courage of your convictions and realize that you probably won’t win any popularity contests.

It’s hard to say how this blog will evolve over the coming months; I have lots of ideas, but not so much time to execute them. If this was my only job I would put much more effort into following stories, digging up interviews, and generally turning it into more of a journalistic undertaking. Unfortunately, I work a real job and have a lot of other things going on in my life as well, and, frankly, there are times when I really just don’t want to think about and deal with all these things. However, if you’ve been reading me, I hope you will continue to do so, and if I’ve helped you have a good night out after a tough week, I will consider all the effort to have been worth it.

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