I’ve had a leasehold on davidsimon.com for years now. People smarter than I am told me that even if I had no sense of its use at present, I should throw a few shekels down in case. But until recently, I saw no reason to do much of anything with the site.
My ambivalence rests on a couple basic ideas:
- I’m a writer, and while I’m overpaid to write television at present, the truth is that the prose world from which I crawled — newsprint and books — is beset by a new economic model in which the value of content is being reduced in direct proportion to the availability of free stuff on the web. In short, for newspapers and book publishers, it has lately been an e-race to the bottom, and I have no desire to contribute to that new economy by writing for free in any format. Not that what is posted here has much prolonged value -— or in the case of previously published prose, hasn’t soured some beyond its expiration — but the principle, in which I genuinely believe, holds: Writers everywhere do this to make a living, and some are doing fine work and barely getting by for their labor. Anything that says content should be free makes it hard for all writers, everywhere. If at any point in the future, this site offers more than a compendium of old prose work and the odd comment or two on recent events — if it grows in purpose or improves in execution— I might try to toss up a small monthly charge in support of one of the 501c3 charities listed in the Worthy Causes section. And yes, I know that doing so will lose a good many readers; but to me, anyway, the principle matters. A free internet is wonderful for democratized, unresearched commentary, and it works well as a library of sorts for content that no longer requires a defense of its copyright. But journalism, literature, film, music— these endeavors need people operating at the highest professional level and they need to make a living wage. Copyright matters. Content costs.
- This stuff takes time. And those who know me understand that while it is refreshing to meet people with no opinions, I am not that fellow. I like to argue. I don’t take the argument itself personally — and I am often amazed at so much outsized commentary that assumes otherwise — but rather I delight in pursuing a good, ranging argument. It’s why I value a writer’s room so much. It’s why I used to love a healthy newsroom, which I have described as a magical place where everyone disagrees with everything all of the time. Arguments make the work better; when people stop arguing, or at least arguing intelligently, absent the usual half-assed, rhetorical cheating, the work invariably suffers. So, for me, any dialectic is a temptation. And I may find that given so much work I owe already, even a brief sortie into an issue or two or a stray comment on current events will sound as a siren song. I may want to shut this venue down three weeks after anyone finds it, if they do. I may, forgive me, find that I need to disable the comments and simply use the blog to highlight stuff and then run like hell. Apologies in advance if it comes to that.
On the positive side of the ledger:
- Every now and then, over breakfast, or in the office, or late at night, I read something or hear something that impresses or infuriates or amuses, or that provokes an interesting back-and-forth between family members or colleagues. An argument or discussion gets good, a joke ripens nicely. It’s stuff that isn’t going into a script or into any shard of published prose, and its shelf-life is often short. Maybe that’s what a blog is for.
- It’s nice to have a small billboard with which one can highlight and link to the work of others we admire, to simply recommend the good stuff. And, similarly, it helps to highlight the non-profit affiliations supported by the projects that we’re working on in Baltimore and New Orleans. Maybe a bit more good comes from such.
- In these later years, I’ve come to discover that from time to time, media folk call me to ask a question or two. Being exactly who the hell I am, I actually haven’t done much until now to filter my answers. I speak bluntly, but speaking, alas, isn’t writing, and very recently, I had to waste half a weekend swimming through some foment of my own creation. For lack of clarity, I managed to say something that I not only don’t believe, but that is contradicted by every other interview that precedes it. The fault was largely my own, but a remedy, I realized, was problematic.
Calling back the reporter who had used what I thought was a specific critique in the most general and absurd way, I found that I was either obliged to continue working through him to correct the record — and trusting in a dynamic that had failed already, or alternatively, I had to offer myself up in another interview to a reporter who I knew for certain would endeavor to deliver my answers in context, but who was more interested in other topics than the one which concerned me.
And in the middle of this, my wife — who uses both words and the internet better than I do — reminded me of the long fallow field of davidsimon.com. If that thing was up and running, she pointed out, you could simply say, in your own words, precisely and carefully what you intended to say in the first place, without having to rely on a filter. This is the grand triumph of the internet, after all; there’s no arguing with the democratization inherent. You could, she told me, simply say what you meant and have that on the record. The simplicity of this had considerable appeal.
So here goes.
Don’t send screenplays, or manuscripts for quotes, or actor glossies. Please. There are professional venues for such and if stuff comes to me correct, I do the best I can. Promise. If it comes at me through this venue, I won’t — can’t — respond. Counterarguments and counterprovocations on any given issue — let’s say that again, issue — are entirely welcome, whether I have time to respond or not. Ad hominem rage, flattery and posted links for cheap timeshares, naked photographs of your ex-girlfriend at a small monthly fee and invitations to a larger penis in just weeks are politely discouraged.