Saturday, 27 March 2010

Steve Heimoff makes me lose control

Normally, I would have posted a response to Steve Heimoff's awful blog on the non-relationship between film and wine criticism at the bottom of his literary meanderings but I've tried it before (from what I understand, the process involves posting a response and then waiting a few days for it to be approved - while the man himself concocts a dismissive counter-response to be posted alongside). So I'm doing it here.

His kind of blog drives me insane. The more so knowing that Steve Heimoff is clearly aware of what he is doing.

If I had written about wine bloggers the way Armond White wrote about film critics, there would be armed militias of bloggers marching on my house, carrying pitchforks, packing lead, and hoisting “Wanted!” posters showing my face in the crosshairs...

Then Heimoff goes on to say about online wine critics just what White said about film critics. Go read the blog.

To precis his blog it goes like this: 'If I did what White did, I'd anger a lot of people. This is what White did. Imagine applying it to wine. But I'm not applying it to wine. We just need to think about the essence of what White is saying. But what White is talking about is very different to wine. Wine won't be the same as White's subject. But our subject is still inspiriational.'

That's it.

If we read Heimoff's blog as it stands, without accepting that there might be a parti-pris on his part, the above is exactly what he is saying. In other words, he's not saying a lot - essentially, it's sheer provocation.

Another reading is to assume that Heimoff is simply saying that film criticism is a more important domain than that of wine criticism. An argument I'd have some sympathy with.

I presume that was Robert Joseph's reading of it when, on Twitter, he linked to Heimoff's piece saying, 'Thoughtful Steve Heimoff piece about relative importance of film and wine criticism'.

But if this is the simple focus of the piece (that wine will not attain the cultural importance of film), why is there any need to do this:

Now, if you wanted, you could substitute the word “wine” for the word “film” in White’s speech, and what you’d get would be an older wine writer’s blast at a younger generation of wine bloggers whom he deemed totally incompetent. Try it yourself.

This is the most cynical of provocation, especially when he has the gall to say: 'Bloggers! I am not saying these things! So put down your pitchforks and, please, don’t be stalking me'.

And all of a sudden we find ourselves in a head-spinning world wherein Heimoff is saying 'I wrote the message but don't shoot the messenger' while additionally complaining about message-writing nowadays. In fact, the premise of the whole piece makes my brain want to kick itself out of my skull.

I am so so tired of seeing people write blogs that say something controversial or interesting but then finish with the writer distancing him or herself completely from the subject in hand. It has become very fashionable, not least because it generates a big response (which means increased page impressions for your blog) without the blogger having an opinion of their own (thus not alienating a readership).

On the other hand, we might accept that Heimoff has a hatchet to hone. Therefore we assume that he is appropriating White's attack on 'film critics' and applying it to wine; that he believes, as White does, that the internet is nurturing a lot of poor or questionable criticism. If only we knew.

Sorry Steve, but I am going to pick up the pitchfork, I'm going to hound you and I'm going to drag you into the village square and make you tell us what you really think.

  • Film critics wishing to be more popular could do well to look at the model used by Mark Kermode on the BBC. Fully embracing social media his hugely entertaining podcasts alongside Simon Mayo are massively successful, not just in the UK.

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    At 28 March 2010 09:39 , Anonymous Charlie Olken said...

    I have to wonder if you have read the White article. It was about expertise. Regardless of anything else, Heimoff has consistently said that the thousands of wine blogs are of a mixed quality, most of which fail to meet the "expertise" test--which, as I read White is what he said about film critics.

    By the way, while I agree with you in disliking the "approve the comment" system that Heimoff uses, it is usually minutes to a few hours, not a couple of days, before one's comments appear. And Heimoff, although now responding more regularly, did so after hearing from his readers that he needed to be involved more regularly in the comments section, where he previously almost never commented.

    Better that you have discussed the issues raised than taking a pot shot at the process.

    At 28 March 2010 11:06 , Blogger Oliver Styles said...

    Hi Charlie,

    Thanks for your comments.

    I would just say that I was commenting on Heimoff's article, not White's. If I choose to draw parallels between wine and film criticism, I probably won't need to go to Steve's blog.

    As for the 'approve the comment' system, I can only speak from my experience, and thus must bow to yours.



    At 28 March 2010 14:56 , Anonymous Jo Diaz said...

    Hi, Olly,

    With your comment system, yours makes me jump through hoops before it gets to you. The Wordpress system that Steve is on (same as mine) delivers all sorts of spam that you're lucky enough to not have to clear.

    Either way, it takes time to leave comments, and if Steve, you, or me aren't living on our computers, it will take time to approve incoming. I'm in the same situation as Steve... Our blogs aren't paying our bills. Our day jobs are, which means we have to get out and work with others, then return to our computers and do the approval process, on our own time. Maybe that helps you to understand the delay. I know it's not neglect... It's timing.


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