The Rip Post                                Riposte Archive


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(Oct 11, 2006)

         I read a column by a smug little fellow in L.A. CityBeat a while back in which he referred to bloggers as “has-beens” hawking “vanity projects.”
          “That’s me!” I said to myself, although I’m not technically a blogger. The Rip Post is a full-service website with poetry, daily news updates, weekly column, animals, hot towels----all sanitized for your protection. Why, The Huffington Post stole our name!
          Then I read Al Martinez’s Oct. 9 column in the remains of the Los Angeles Times, in which he wrote:
          “. . .blogs are largely the habitat of unemployed writers, enraged misanthropes, retired teachers, aging journalists, and people who normally pass their time doodling or making obscene phone calls.”
          I suddenly realized---Al must read The Rip Post! I mean, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, and well, five outta six ain’t bad. I write more than I have ever written in my life, yet I am definitely unemployed. It’s quite an achievement, in a way. As for enraged misanthrope, my old man used to tell me that when he first saw me in the nursery of Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, “you did not look too pleased with what you saw.” Things have not improved.
          Al’s insights were almost spooky. Retired teacher? True, I was never certified to teach, but I did work for several years as an ESL tutor. Aging journalist? I should put it on my business card. And I have doodled a very wonderful Christmas tree that is soon to be offered as a card on this-here website, if I can find a good printer. (Another vanity project!)
          Al baby, how did you know?
          Martinez’s blogger-bashing was passing, though, a prelude to writing about his ex-Times colleague, Ken Reich, now a blogger. Seems Reich had written what he termed a “satire” about the the columnist’s positions on the so-called “war on terror.” Al didn’t think much of Ken’s skills at parody, and I must say they were every bit as impressive as Bush’s ability to extemporize in public.
          But while I agree with Al that Reich’s blogging was a ham-handed effort to excoriate Martinez for so-called “liberal” views---and while I am living proof of Al’s assertions about bloggers---I must insist that there is more to this blogger situation than he might suspect.
          For instance, there are a great many aging bloggers who are young and have nose rings, and who have never had a job in journalism, but would really like one. There are many more who have some minimal, peripheral, or oddball claims to a minor journalism career, and are legends in their own hinds.

 In fact, I thought of calling this very column, “Mr. Anthropia.” (Steal it, ya bastards, and I’ll sue.)

          There are others who are gainfully employed in journalism, and maintain blogs as a diversion, labor of love, an exercising of the ego, a cyber-calling card. A guy named Matt Welch, who I believe emigrated here from Antarctica, parlayed a blog into a job as an editorial page editor at Al’s very newspaper. Neat trick! Okay, he was an editor at Reason Magazine, but I can’t imagine that this prepares one for the L.A. Times editorial pages.
          And a lot of bloggers spend a lot of time blogging about a lot of other bloggers. Imagine writing about what other people are writing about you, then reading what other people write about what you wrote about them, then writing about what other people are writing about what you've written about them. I blog, therefore I am. As long as somebody else is blogging about me. The blog eats itself! Well, blog apetit.
          The more I think about it, though, the more I think that Al’s stereotype about bloggers bogs down. He’s guilty of blogal profiling. And I say this as an acquaintance of the man, and one who has appreciates his writing and thinking, if not his monogrammed shirts. But really, sir, enraged misanthropes? I mean, I give you two words: Mike Royko.
          Still, Al has a point about the “enraged” part---the black bile generated by the Internet could coat Texas, and I hope it does. (Note to Bush: can you use black bile for fuel?) It’s a disgrace to humanity, or at least Reseda. But I have no problem whatsoever with “misanthropes.” Anyone who takes pride in being a part of the human race is nuts. In fact, I thought of calling this very column, “Mr. Anthropia.” (Steal it, ya bastards, and I’ll sue.) Which brings me again to. . .
          Me. The favorite topic of any self-respecting blogger, if that is not an oxymoron.
          See, Al, let me explain how I came to be an “unemployed writer/doodler.” Maybe you will be less inclined to lump us web writers together, if not more disposed to kindliness toward our unemployed, aging ranks. It all started. . .
          Back when I was freelancing, something I did for various rags over fifteen years. As I am fond of saying, freelance writing is a lot like writing for free. A column---a newspaper column in my home town---had always been my overriding goal, right from the beginning of the ten years I spent actually employed(!) by L.A. newspapers.
          Enter the Times’s Life and Style section, the title of which argues heavily against demographics in journalism. Known more familiarly as Strife and Bile, this early ‘90’s section had the virtue (some would argue failing) of printing freelance columnal essays, of which I contributed about a hundred over a three-year-period, thanks largely to S&B assistant editor Alice Short.
          Darn my ego, but I began to suspect that this might lead to an official column in the Times, especially after Short invited me to write weekly---"I'm going to run your column on Thursdays" were her magic words---and when my last name began appearing on the jump-hed---just like a real columnist! Your column? Every Thursday? So at that point, I stopped all other freelance writing in order to generate a backlog of columns. Could a contract be far off?
          No farther than humility is from Oprah Winfrey. No farther than the Constitution is from Bush and Cheney.
          My column never appeared regularly on Thursdays, and I was left with a whole lot of essays and a whole lot of no checks. Short was promoted to L&S editor, and I could prompt no explanation of my situation for three months. At last I wrote a rather pointed letter, something about rolling pennies and eating spaghetti, and in response was told that her editor, Narda Zacchino---whom I had never even met---had overruled Short's effort to hire me as a Times columnist. Why? Here are the reasons I was given, Al.
          * “You’ve been known to disagree with editors.” (Yes! Especially when they edit inaccuracies and inanities into my copy. Please notify the Department of Wordland Security.)
          * “You might have to write about things you don’t want to write about.” (My response was: “What do you think I’ve been doing for my entire career?”)
          Finally, I was sworn to secrecy and told the actual, deciding reason:
          * “Narda says we have too many white male columnists.”
          (Whoops. Guess I spilled the beans.)
          So you see, Al, I was thwarted in a lifelong career goal of writing a regular column for my local newspaper because of my gender and race. I believe this is called race and sex discrimination, but because I was not on staff at the L.A. Times, attorney Gloria Allred advised me that I really had no basis for suing. Boy, was I all red.
          And that pretty much was that. Short hired a black woman to write a perfectly awful column, mostly about how unhappy she was, and it didn’t last long. Strife and Bile eventually became Calendar, the essays disappeared, and I did, too.
          So I turned to the Internet. Here, you see, I can fool people into thinking I’m a weekly columnist, and by Blog, a couple of dozen readers buy the act. Yeah, I know, I often spout off in ways I would never do in a newspaper, but then, that’s part of the fun of the ‘net, see? A black bile a day keeps the doctor away.
          But believe me, Al, I’d much prefer to be writing for more people, and to be able to afford monogrammed shirts, although I wouldn't be caught dead in one. The problem is, guys with names like oh, Martinez and Lopez just seem to have the inside track at your newspaper.
          Blogdamn it.


From: Martinez, Al []
Sent: Wednesday, October 11, 2006 5:32 PM
To: 'Rip Rense '
Subject: RE: FYI

up until the end, rip, you had me nodding and going uh-huh, and yup and right on and similar gestures and mutters of agreement, and then you got to the tearful part and the ethnic part and you lost me. if you truly think that steve and i have columns because we're, well, latinos, i feel terribly sorry for you, and i better understand why you have neither a job nor monogrammed shirts.


That's a distortion. I never said you and Lopez (whose columns I like) have your jobs because of ethnicity, now, did I, Al? I said that I was denied a column because of my race and gender. This is fact. Your paper did this to me. And I don’t see any marquee columnists named Smith there anymore, by the way. Hey, I didn’t make this up. Political correctness became a sort of tyranny at the Times, and in society. I recall writing to you years ago about a column in which you made an amazingly racist remark about Ojai, “a little town for white people.” Tch tch, Al. If I’d written about, oh, Pacoima being “a little town for brown people,” I’d have been fired. If the facts of my situation don’t set well with you, I can’t help you. As for your final comment, coming from a man of your wealth and success, it reveals an astonishing lack of empathy and compassion for a fellow writer. In fact, it is nothing short of snide and condescending. Just what I would expect from a Times columnist in a monogrammed shirt.

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