Jul 29, 2009

Getting Clean

My editor recently sent a reply to my volunteering to review anything but another cruiser (after the Hyosung POS debacle, I don't think anyone wants more of my opinions of that sort of machine), "I may have to assign a cruiser, every other review, to all parties as that is 50% of what is sold and 50% of what we get to review. Want to to pay your m/c reviewer debt and be 'clean' for your next non-cruiser assignment?"

Help me out, folks. What does "getting clean" mean in this context? I suspect it means I have to write something nice about something I really dislike. This is the kind of "clean" that has put me off of practically every technical publication in every industry. The fear of irritating advertisers has made impotent every magazine from Cycle World to Mix Magazine to Physics Today. It seems like a lifetime ago, but I can barely remember editors like Rick Seiman with Dirt Bike and the old REP (Recording Engineering and Producer) Magazine from the 70s whose writers often trashed products when those designs didn't live up to expectations. There was a time when reading a product review actually provided some information about the product.

Not anymore. A "shoot out" among a wide range of products usually results in four winners and an also-ran.

A friend of mine writers for a live sound magazine, he's their technical editor. I once complained that I couldn't tell a quality difference between a Midas console and a Peavey console, based on his comments in reviews. His response was, "You have to read between the lines. The truth is in there, you just have to know how to look for it."

My response was, "Between the lines is white space. If that's the truth, why do I need to read your words?"

Success breeds contempt, I guess. Or success breeds fear of failure? When an industry is in the infant stage, competition is fierce, passions are high, and "the truth" is a valuable thing. Once an industry becomes mainstream, there is more to lose, less to gain, and the result is the definition of "conservative."

In my long, meandering life, I've managed to become something of a Jack of Many Trades. The downside to that is, I don't have anything resembling expertise in any area. The upside is I don't have all of my chips invested in any one game. So, I don't have much to gain from any of the many things I do for profit, entertainment, and employment and I don't have much to lose if one of those activities becomes impractical. My habits are modest. My interests are diverse. I get pissed off easily. I'm naturally solitary, so it doesn't bother me much if others are offended by my opinions. In fact, if 99.99...% of the population decided to move to another planet, that would be more reason for me to stay here. Top it all off, I'm old. I'm not "building a business," here. I have a business that I'd be happy to be rid of. I don't want another. The beauty of something as pointless as a blog is that I can say what I want to say without worrying about who I disappoint or offend.

All of that makes me cranky, opinionated, a little distant from the pack, and unlikely to collect a bunch of loyal advertisers on this blog. Weirdly, with all this attitude the blog site has attracted 1,400 visitors this month. I appreciate your interest, whoever you are. I'm going to keep adding product and motorcycle reviews to this site and I won't always be fond of the things I'm reviewing. That means I pay for what I review, or borrow it and return it in sad condition. The high price of being able to say what I think.

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