Going Big

I’ve made a reference before about a music critic on the Sunday morning (Grandpa) show CBS News Sunday Morning. He talks about elitism, smallness and exclusivity, with the implication that being small and exclusive might not be the best way to get your music heard. He was talking about Coldplay. And I can hear the haters already:

“Coldplay sucks now.”

“Coldplay was never good.”

“You like Coldplay?”

Yes, I do. Whatever.

The part of the critic’s review of Coldplay’s album X&Y that really resonated with me was this:

“Since the 90s, a lot of rock has gotten exclusive and elitist and small.”

What struck me about this comment so forcefully last summer when I heard it, wasn’t just that it was so perfectly dead on. It was the universality of what it meant for who we’ve become. And why we choose things like bands and hobbies and movies and television shows and software and sites we visit and how we publish or perform or express ourselves publicly.

Something has to be little-known to be considered cool. Otherwise it’s mainstream. And mainstream sucks. Being big sucks. I used to believe this when I was younger. I used to embody this attitude. There was a kind of mean-spirited quality to it as well. For example, when I was in bands, we’d get pissy when another local band got to go to South by Southwest, or when another local band got a better time slot at a show, or recognized for some great work. Really stupid stuff that was very small. It didn’t make the other band smaller, it made me smaller. And it didn’t really make me feel better in the long run. It didn’t make me write better music or put better energy out there into the world.

I see this nearly every day in the online world. Comment threads and blog posts full of vitriol towards anybody remotely considered mainstream. I’ve been guilty of it as well. Whole sites dedicated to the belittling of the big. When it’s smartly done, and done without ire, I think there can be a valid and necessary conversation. Satire and sarcasm can be wonderful leveling devices. Humor is good. Anger can be good. For example, Enron or a governmental entity. Or Pamela Anderson’s boobs. But if it’s coming from a jealous place or a small place, it’s going to be small in six months or six years and who’s better off?

I’m married to a person with a fairly popular web site. She’s none of the things that the haters rant on about. So many of them fall into what David Pogue at the New York Times calls “online curmudgeons“. But beyond their opinions, however misguided, which they are certainly entitled to, there seems to be a general smallness. Which I think is why, in 2001, when I decided to pursue Heather and make some big life changes, I decided to consciously stop being exclusive, elitist and small. My experiment on this site with openness has often paid me back with huge personal satisfaction and an awareness of others. Others who often don’t agree with me. Watching the same thing happen with Heather and post-partum depression was a truly wonderful experience. Which made the tsunami of anti-advertising commments (and then a subsequent wave of supportive emails to Heather) all the more confusing. “You go girl” vs. “I liked you better when”, with the latter being tinged with precisely what I’m talking about.

To be sure, there is also an element in modern culture of the ever-changing zeitgeist and our constant need for new new new new. But I think that isn’t what I’m getting at today.

Going big isn’t about making money or not making money. For me it’s about not thinking small anymore.

This personal choice has made a huge difference in my life. I’ve been able to work through and get through some difficulties without going supremely crazy. I’ve been better able to wish others well. I’ve been less angry on a creative level. Success for others in my field(s) is only going to benefit the field as a whole, and what is my contribution? Anger? Negativity? Or good work? I’m hoping for the latter.

  • kate folsom

    I’ve often found that very same thing. I really liked Modest Mouse’s last CD and I was extremely pleased that they’re getting the recognition they deserve. But all around me were people saying they’d sold out because their music was now being heard. Any slight variation from their old style was taken as evidence of that “selling out.” It pissed me off.

    And at the same time, some bands I’ve truly hated have been revered by hipsters because– well, I’ve never really understood why. Because no one knows about them yet? Because the music sounds so terrible that no one in her right mind would actually WANT to listen to it?

    When when what CDs one owns becomes akin to membership in a club, I think things have gone a bit too far.

  • jon deal

    Two things:

    Coldplay’s “Fix You” off of X&Y gives me the chills and gets me all tear-y and I don’t care who knows that. (Especially the live version) I didn’t think music (pop, mainstream, whatever) could do that to me anymore.

    and two:

    You threw in Enron, the government and Pam Anderson’s boobs all in one paragraph and made it work. Nice job. :-]

  • Martha

    What a great post. I think as we get older we get a little more all-encompassing.

    In New Zealand the local music scene really struggled for many years. In part I think this was a lack of support from broadcasting, but also there was an elitism by supporters that would have them drop away as soon as a band went a bit more mainstream. I think now we’re getting over it. Many local groups are hitting number 1, and people aren’t embarrassed to admit they like them anymore.

    Or is just me since I hit my 30s?

  • apuraja

    Jon, I agree with you on that things that have become mainstream are apt to more criticism, but i look at another example musically – U2. They are the most mainstream band in the world and by that I mean record sales, cross over and selling potential. Does that mean they are selling out or suffering musically wise because of this – no? I tend to take another approach – with big ness and more attention comes a responsibility to do good. To do something with that fame.

    We live in an age with media that is infinite. Internet, newspapers, magazines, etc.. there are infinite voices and infinite opinions. Don’t let the haters bring you down. Take your success and Heather’s success as a validation of your labor.

  • LeafGirl77

    I agree with you that small often equals elite. My personal choice of small often relates to the fact that I prefer small/different.

    I am SO SICK AND TIRED of the “outback”, “montanas”, big box restaurants, and choose local, different cuisine when dining.

    While I don’t exclusively choose small/retro/underground bands, I do like to hear what they have to offer/say. I do, however, still love Madonna, Coldplay, Pink Floyd, R.E.M., etc.

    As for Heather’s move to add ads to her site, I figure why not. If enough people click on the ads, to pay your bills. Who cares??? No one is forcing them to do so. I think people are just pissed that they didn’t do it first.

    Personally I don’t click on them, but the ads don’t prevent me from going to her site either. Her stories are heart warming, funny, heart breaking and a part of my every day. I’ve told her as much.

  • Wendy Mac

    OK, this may sound really geeky, but check out the extras on the original Star Wars trilogy.

    George Lucas has some awesome commentary to this point.

    He discusses how he was anti-corporation, and now he is head of such a corporation, and how this is exactly what the Star Wars storyline is about.

    (Wow, I cannot believe I just admitted to being such a huge geek. My apologies.)

  • William Beem

    Most people grow and mature. We realize that some of the things we did in the past out of anger and frustration really didn’t help anyone. Instead, they just gave us an outlet.

    So now what are you going to do about your WHORES list?

  • Workman

    I guess we like “small” and “elite” because it makes us feel special. It’s easy to feel like we’re being led by the nose by “taste makers” and media companies and the like. Then when we stumble upon something like “Little Britan” on BBC America, we feel like we’re our own little elite class. (Never mind that I learned about that particular show by reading the LA times.)

    But I agree that much can be lost by ignoring the mainstream. I consider myself a travel snot. When I go somewhere, I want to get off the beaten path and avoid the tourist traps. Why go to Paris and spend all your time in line for something lame with other Americans, right? But an attitude like that would keep a person from visiting the Eiffel Tower. Yes, it’s the very mainstream tourist symbol of Paris. But it got that way because it’s an elegant structure, an engineering marvel, and fun. It would be a tragedy to deny yourself that experience because you were too cool.

    That’s where I come down on the whole Dooce question. Her site got popular not because she was posting nude photos of Asian hookers or some stunt like that. It blew up because of hard work, great writing, and brutal honesty.

    A lot of big, popular things suck. But many others are big and popular because they’re actually good.

  • choice

    I think that our need to be small and perfectly niched is quite damaging. It means that we create a self-perpetuating attraction toward those things that make us different, exclusive, (perhaps) standoffish, and elite. As marketers and media seek out the niches to create advertising and build stories, the niches are revealed to those outside and appear to become “mainstream.” This drives those in the niches to seek out a new hole.

    The problem is, that what is revealed to be mainstream usually isn’t (rainbow parties were talked about on Oprah, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who knows anyone who has ever been to one). Even if the trend (or great blog, or great band, or great indy movie, etc.) is picked up by the larger public, why should it make a difference? Those who think it does, like living in holes. That’s not a place I want to be.

  • BrianWarren

    Great post Jon.

    There’s always pressures in whatever situation you’re in, big or small. You can use it to your advantage or let it screw you up.

    You can go big and still be brilliant. The two have nothing to do with each other.

  • pagalina

    Do you know what these elitists and haters lack? Emotional maturity, but also self-esteem. I think that often times haters put down others because it makes them feel bigger. It seems to me that these people don’t like themselves very much. Having good self-esteem allows you to say things like “I LOVE Coldplay, so sue me” or “I don’t care if this jacket is 10 years old, i love it!” and only being a little embarrassed. One of the positive things of turning 40 is learning to love myself for all my quirks and weirdnesses and not being afraid of what people will think. My mama always taught me that we all have the same worth. And this keeps me from being snotty about someone else’s passions and also makes me less susceptible to others’ elitism. It’s easy to slip into old habits of criticizing others, but I’m working on it.

  • weaker vessel

    I wish that more mainstream cultural fare was complex and organic and interesting, and although my tastes are primarily geared toward experimental things that are necessarily going to draw smaller audiences, that doesn’t stop me from appreciating the newest Missy Elliott single or whatever. I think that a lot of what is presented to the mainstream is condescendingly bad and so artificially constructed as to be soulless, but I’m not categorically opposed to anything just because it’s mainstream. And insular, invariably insecure haters with fascist, unattainable purity standards totally gross me out.

  • Toyfoto

    Bravo. Personally I’m glad you’re big. I need to get hit by a Mac truck sometimes to see things that are good. (I’m the person who would miss the Grand Canyon and walk right off the edge). I’m so glad to have found Dooce and Blurbomat. What you both have to say is meaningful, and funny and wise. You ALWAYS make my day.

  • Tim in Flyover Country

    Your honesty and insight are why I read your blog. Plus you expose me to music I wouldn’t otherwise have found unless I read your blog. And…Chuck Rocks! Keep up the good work!

    Tim in Flyover Country

  • William

    “Going big isn’t about making money or not making money. For me it’s about not thinking small anymore.”

    A truly inspiring thought. Thank you.

  • KF

    A few years back, slam poet and hip-hop artist Saul Williams ( performed at the college where I teach, and in the Q&A that followed, a student asked him about whether he thought that political artists could effectively remain political after they’d “gone big.” “Like Rage Against the Machine,” he asked (who had just signed that big tour deal with whatever beer company it was, which totally dates my story). “Can they still be effective, or have they totally sold out?” Williams’s response was exactly in line with the kind of thing you’re suggesting here. He rejected the idea that success (whether financial or on other terms) automatically means selling out, saying that if going big gets their message out to more people, more power to them. I try to hang onto that thought as writers or performers I like achieve mainstream success: more power to them.

  • sween

    God! This post struck a chord for me.

    Here in Canada, it seems to be the national pastime to complain about any Canadian that makes it big (i.e. gets US popularity). It’s the rare Canadian celebrity that can make the jump to popularity in the States while still keeping their goodwill back home — usually it takes them mentioning frequently and loudly that they are Canadian to anyone that will listen (e.g. Mike Myers).

    And then their are the Canadians that are HUGE in Canada but somehow always fail to find an audience outside our fair country — the perennial example being the Tragically Hip, arguably the biggest band in Canada for years now, but no blip down south. And what does this do to their popularity here? It makes them even more popular here.

  • di

    Your words have touched on a familiar subject for me personally, and reading your entry has helped me realize that I’m not the only person who has struggled with thinking small and has worked through (and in some ways is still working through) that huge issue.

    This proves it. We’re all human.

  • Zoot

    My husband and I both have “transition” phases in our lives when we went from hating everything that was mainstream BECAUSE it was mainstream, to trying to develop opinions absent of popularity. When you spend years knocking Top 40 radio and popular fiction, it’s hard to read The DaVinci Code and buy a Justin Timberlake CD. But I’ve done both of those and am not (too) ashamed to admit it.

    But, there are still times when the old reflexes kick in and we have both been known to roll our eyes at something simply because it’s popular. Old habits die hard.

    Great piece, I really enjoyed it.

  • Zazzy

    Very well put and I wanted to applaud a little. I’ve always hated the judgment we seem to want to attach to matters of personal taste. Whether it’s music or books or television or food, it seems like we are willing to let someone else tell us when something is worth enjoying rather than deciding for ourselves.

    I don’t understand why it seems we have to despise one thing in order to like something else. I can, for example, appreciate Applebees and Olive Garden for what they are without taking away any of my enjoyment from more unique restaurants. I can appreciate quality music from popular bands without taking away any of my enjoyment from finding some hitherto unknown piece of music that really touches me. That is what seems to be the smallness to me, we may miss a tremendous amount by limiting ourselves to that which someone else has labeled cool.

  • Jennifer in Kansas City

    If you two hit “the big time” – and I have no doubt you will, in some way or another, it’s because you’ve been genuine. Everybody rants, everybody dismisses something someone else likes, it’s all part of being your own flavor, not homogenized artificial vanilla. But being genuine, and not succumbing to plastic, to vitriolic volleys, and sharing thoughts, ideas, writing, captured moments in a way that’s eloquent, makes you think, makes you cry – that’s art. And who gets to decide what’s cool, in the end? If it’s Hollywood, or Simon Cowell, or the religious right, most people want to be told, because it’s too scary to put your own set of standards out there. Whoa. Getting too deep for a Friday afternoon. Must play sudoku now. Is that still cool? 😉

  • bluemorpho

    I really needed to hear this today. I’ve been going through a lot of trouble with work.

    I’ve been trying to break into journalism the past three years, and was recently dealt a pretty big blow. Your entry reminded me to not let bitterness creep in.

    Thanks ever so. Love your site, and Heather’s. Look forward to the Amsterdam updates.


  • Stepha1202

    I think you’re completely right in saying that we have a choice as to what we put out there. Sometimes I have to wonder if the haters (and I mean that of anything- bands, Heather, whatever) just have nothing with any substance or originality to contribute. Then again, it could be a roundabout way of showing admiration. Who knows, but I’ll stop now before I become a hater hater.

  • erat

    I think sometimes things just get old after a while. What was new and fresh at one point can easily get tired and old after repeated exposure.

    For example, some folks who were completely enamored with the whole Dave Eggers thing have moved on, not because Eggers (and other McSweeney’s authors) sucks but because the individuals in question have shifted their interests elsewhere. Often, by the time something small and exclusive goes big, the folks who have been following it have gotten their fill. This isn’t a pissy-moany thing or a smallness thing, it’s just a reflection of how a dynamic society works.

    Now, folks who make decisions based on fads (decisions include following them or purposely avoiding them) need to work on their individuality a bit. People who reject Coldplay because they’re mainstream are no better than folks who like them because they’re mainstream. Folks in general need to form their own thoughts. That’s the real problem. Intentionally not being small isn’t any better than being small; you’re still forcing a viewpoint that is driven positively or negatively by society.

    Just my personal opinion…

    (BTW, I am using the figurative “you” here, not the literal “you.” I speak of nobody in particular.)

  • dustyt

    I am paraphrasing of course:

    Dee Snider commenting in retrospect on following up a platinum album after many years of struggle:

    After the mega success of “Stay Hungry” made them millionaires (Twisted Sister) it was increasingly hard to write with the same edge, attitude and hunger so prevalent in their signature sound when he was
    sitting by his pool in the shade of his mansion, staring at a garage full of vintage automobiles.

    NOTE: The “in retrospect” is important here…..Don’t think for a moment Dee would have made that admition when
    he was promoting “love is for suckers”…..It was a realization that came 20 years later.

    IMHO — Art usually absorbs ones current surroundings and situations. What comes out the other end
    is indirectly influenced a great deal by the struggles and hunger of the artist at the time of creation.

    Or if that example is to old for you young bucks — there was a time you may have been purchasing the latest Green Day CD in the punk section instead of the top 40 “pop” section of your local record store.

  • Sue Ellen

    I’m so glad so many people agree. Young and little experienced, there are many things I would like to try or learn about that are not in the mainstream. However, I often feel that because I don’t have the right gear, information, font, whatever, I’ll be shunned and mocked. Granted this is likely at least mild paranoia. Although this post seems slightly off topic, what I’m basically saying is that those who want to stay small and exclusive often deprive others. If you travel because you love it why would you wish to deprive others of the same enjoyment simply out of pure snobbery?

  • TigerLambGirl

    Potential cringe over. Done.

    I’m totally gonna get in my car tomorrow morning (when I take my son to school) and play whatever the hell I want as loud as I want. And if anyone stares at me or thinks I’m a dork – they can do what Heather says – and suck it.

    Remaining grounded takes a measure of self awareness that only comes with a bit of maturity. Tension and friction and problems are the opportunites for that to happen. Thanks for the post, Jon.

    Sounds like you and Heather are all growed up now!

  • Be Still

    I’m a believer in the idea of the collective unconscious, advanced by Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung. The thought that some music is trancendent and can resonate with vast numbers of people is fascinating and somehow comforting to me. It gives witness to the beautiful mortal coil that binds us all together.

  • the kim half of glamorouse

    Coming from the Land that perfected the Tall Poppy Syndrome, I hear you on so many levels.

    For me, the thing that I love about the Heather and Jon (or Jon and Heather, natch) show is the normalcy of it all. Isn’t it telling that you guys pull in a huge audience through sharing daily experiences and thoughts?

    That’s not selling out, that’s not reducing to a common denominator, that’s the phenomenon of this time. That we may not have a clue who our neighbour is, but we have people all over the world we share our lives with (and musical loves, art interests (that site on Heather’s blog today is amazing), favourite books, food of the moment, heartache, joy blah blah blah) and get a massive sense of fulfillment and connection from.

    I don’t care how big or how small that is. Its value is immeasurable.

  • Rob Weychert

    Disliking mainstream stuff merely for the fact that it is mainstream is silly, as is liking something merely for the fact that it is underground.

    However, from what I’ve seen, mainstream stuff tends to be crap. It doesn’t tend to be crap because it’s mainstream; it tends to be mainstream because it’s crap. The mainstream is determined by a majority opinion, and the majority of people are complete idiots.

    Not everyone that dislikes big is small-minded, insecure, or overcome with jealousy. Some people just have a tendency to genuinely disagree with popular opinion.

  • the kim half of glamorouse

    I realise now I sort of went off on a tangent not completely related to your post. But it’s early Saturday morning here and my sleeping through the night third The Good One child has just had three nights of waking and feeding three times during.the.night. so forgive any ramblings of an unrelated nature.

    I’ll try harder next time.


  • MelissaS

    Sometimes I find it hard to tell if I really like something or if I’m being spoonfed it and therefore like it.

    I don’t like to think of myself as the type of person who likes things just because everyone else does but sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

    I think someone above said something like that.

    Also: Logan is going to Coldplay on Wednesday night. I began to say how jealous I was and he had one word for me, with dangerously raised eyebrows.



  • Vegas Vixen

    It’s all part of growing and maturing. Welcome to adulthood!

    Now, go out and throw water ballowns at the World’s Avon Sales Leader, or more afectionately, your mum-in-law. :):) 😉


  • rockr girl

    i think we have all fallen prey to this way of thought sometime in our lives. its all about the rebellion – raging against the machine. but as we mature, we realize that for the most part, we are only hurting ourselves. will oil prices drop because i decide not to put gas in my vehicle? not hardly. will i decide that the “coolest band ever” now sucks because they “sold out to the man” and are actually able to feed themselves and pay their gas bill and not freeze in the middle of the night? i would hope i would want more for them than to be so selfish as to want to keep them obscure and poor.

    but eventually, like you said, we realize that sometimes bigger is better. oh, except with Pamela Anderson’s boobs. they are better now that they aren’t QUITE as ginormous. they scared me for a while.

  • What’s the Reason?

    I’ve only begun reading this blog after a friend pointed me in the direction of Dooce, but I was struck by these comments. I think when we strive to be different through elitism and smallness, we are hoping that by being exclusive we become more accepted. This is ironic, because if the point of elitism is to bolster others’ opinions, we are in essence tyring to be popular, i.e. part of the mainstream. (forgive me if I repeat someone else’s comments)

    I applaud you for recognizing that elitism does not further anyone’s causes, doing harm to our society. We all like to feel important, but those who are truly regarded as “important” are those who try very hard to treat others with respect instead of being bullies.

    Just my two cents. Take them or leave them!

  • Kristie

    Being from the geek tribe, I run into this kind of snobbery all the time. I think a member of Matchbox 20 (I confess I don’t remember which one…Paul, maybe) had a t-shirt that said “Cool bands don’t sell records.” I object in general to the idea that success in your chosen field somehow makes you less, makes you a sellout, and only in the arts. If your chosen field is business and you make it big, well, then, good on ya, but if you’re a musician, making it big means you’re no good? That makes no sense at all.

  • Greenmeagsnham

    Hi Jon,

    Phew, first time I’ve written on your site. I feel like I’m taking a big step into the great unknown. Deep breaths..

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading your thoughts. It makes me think of a saying I heard a few years ago that I try to make resonate in my life: Don’t sweat the small stuff. And it’s all small stuff. It takes a fairly (and in here you can insert any number of “large” descriptives hyphenated to “minded” – broad, global, etc) anyway, let’s go with broad-minded individual to make that decision to think “big”. Funny how we as a world tend to equate big with mainstream. Often, while mainstream is seen to be the easy way out of things, thinking “big” often leads to you being questioned, perhaps lambasted or at the very least, teased by your friends with so-called better taste.
    On a similar note, and i’m sorry if you’ve already addressed this in previous posts, was wondering what you thought of the banality of a certain breed of political correctness that we find ourselves living today whereby nothing can be said for fear of offending somebody….choosing, “This is safer to say,” versus, “This is how I feel.” I think people – particularly those who give up part of themselves to the public at large – have to make those decisions every day.
    Anyway, thanks a lot for the post!

  • Susie

    This post makes me think of a lot of the people I went to art school with — most of them turned their noses up at anyone or anything that was liked by the general public. Most of these students had six earrings, blue hair, etc. I didn’t. I found it ironic that everyone was so intent on being different that they all looked the same. I was the one who looked different. And oddly enough, that made me a little uncomfortable. I always felt a little like I was not going to be perceived as creative when I looked so mainstream. But guess what? I am, for the most part, mainstream. Granted, I mean mainstream in an urban area, but I’m just not that unusual. These kids (and I say kids because now I’m 37) were ostensibly trying to become famous artists, yet they were allegedly immune to people who were famous themselves. Of course, the few students who ended up successful were those who liked what they liked and were open to almost anything. In the end, humans want to connect and relate to each other.

    I apologize if I went off on a tangent, especially since I rarely comment, but if there’s anything I’ve learned over the years it’s that sometimes the coolest thing is to be open and to be yourself.

  • doctor tongue

    Ah, yes, the old “U2 hasn’t put out a good album since Joshua Tree” syndrome. Elitism and jealousy are petty, small reactions to success and notoriety. In my life-long struggle to be cool, I have fallen victim to this mindset with a few things, but never with music. I like what I like, and if you don’t like it, listen to your own stuff and zipit.

    I’m always amused when I hear opinions along those lines. Twenty-some years ago, I was in a record store buying concert tickets for what was to become my favourite band, 54-40. Someone I knew – a guy who defined ‘music snob’ at the time – made the remark that they were now too popular and therefore no longer cool. Funny thing is, even after Hootie and the Blowfish covered I Go Blind (a 54-40 song, for those who don’t know) and made them gobs of royalty money, they still didn’t become huge, and have stuck to their socio-political guns for 25 years now. I know they’d love to go the way of U2, but will always suffer from the Canadian “Hip syndrome” sween mentioned above.

    Is this way of thinking the exclusive domain of the art community? Music, writing (i.e. blogs), fashion – success=sellout to most. Sure, the argument is made that those who are out for the almighty dollar aren’t really artists, but in a capitalist Western society, shouldn’t that be rewarded rather than derided?

    I think those who complained about the dooce/blurb advertising are really jealous that they and their partners can’t make a living blogging (you are, aren’t you?). The sit in their flourescent-lit cubicle-farms, shaking their fists at the sky while uttering their daily “damn you, dooce, damn youuuuuuuu”.

    Sad little monkeys. My apologies for rambling.

  • Laziza

    First, it didn’t come off as preachy at all.

    Second, this reminds me of a thought I’ve been trying to articulate for a while: If you hate something because it’s popular, how is that different from liking something because it’s popular? And yet “cool” people label those people sheep, followers, etc.? Why is that?

  • pagalina

    Susie, i went to art school too. i think it’s part of the curriculum. “Look, i’m not conforming just like all these other people and now we kinda look alike…” by not conforming, they conform. That and a box of black hair dye will getcha right!

  • brandy

    Jon you are preaching to the choir!(in a good way not in a preachy way.)
    My boyfriend is a dj at a popular “alternative” club which is disliked by the “indie” kids because it is popular yet it plays indie music BUT only mainstream indie hits because the crowd that goes to the club will stop dancing if they dont know what the song is.
    Good music is good music and isnt that what we should care about?
    Great post!

  • The Put-Man

    My Grandfather used to say that there was a trick to knowing the right decision in almost every situation. If you have a choice between option “A” and option “B” – the right choice was whichever one was more difficult.

    Being a small minded nit-picker is an easy choice. Developing one’s own opinion on something for original reasons, THAT takes the much tougher road.

    Reading your & Heather’s sites everyday makes me very happy to have “such nice on-line friends”! I can’t tell you how happy I am that Chuck’s walkabout turned out ok.

  • cooljazz

    You sound like you found what’s important in life. I found this excerpt from a great book I have: “Jesus, Life Coach : Learn from the Best.” It states:

    My friend Joe shared a poignant story with me recently. His best friendís wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a short time to live. Joe said he watched in awe as Dan and his wife, Christine, began to live each day with tremendous clarity and love. When it was nearly the end Joe finally got up the courage to ask Christine the question: ìWhat does it feel like to live each day knowing you are dying?î She raised herself up on one arm, and then asked him, ìJoe, what does it feel like to live each day pretending that you are not?î

    Not a day goes by now that I look at all that I do and see what a waste I have made of time and effort that was spent on areas of my life when there are so many better things to spend my time on. My son for instance, Just like Leta for you, he is my life. I just can’t believe some of the things I have put before him and my wife without realizing that I have been pretending all this time that I could somehow get that time back.

    Find out what is important to you, those things you can’t live without and spent your time there.

    Great article. I believe its not just about music, but life in general.

  • lemoose

    Great post, and I liked your comment at the end about your past smallness.

    Jealousy and envy are problems that we all face, some people buy into it without a fight, while others recognize it for what it is, and try to avoid it, try to shut it off. Nobody’s perfect, but I think the latter sort lead a happier existence.

    I think there are few people who can disconnect themselves completely. I mean, we’re only human. It’s only natural for us to feel this way, to want those things we don’t have, to want to deny that same thing to others that are lucky/skilled enough to have them.

    It’s a depressing state of affairs, but there is hope.

    Anyway, I think I’m going to go surf some porn now.

  • KK

    Gosh, I don’t think I’ve ever posted a comment here (or at dooce) before, though I’ve definitely sent e-mails of encouragement and admiration to Heather when she’s been swamped by negative trolls…

    Anyway, I just wanted to say how great I think you both are and how much I enjoy reading your blogs (started at dooce because I’m a Shit Ass Ho Motherfucker, but I’m reading the blurb more and more). And every time you guys have some kind of success related to your blogs, I’m out here cheering for you, guess I should do it more vocally… I think you deserve to be rewarded for what you do. I don’t thinking staying small is important, especially if “staying small” = “not being able to pay the bills” and so on.

    My husband was able to freelance from home for a period when our oldest rugrat was a toddler, and it was really great for all of us. When Jon quit his job and y’all moved into your current phase, I was really happy for you, having experienced something similar.

    Anyway, thanks for the deep thoughts, glad you had a good time in Amsterdam, glad Chuck was found (but sorry about the stress during his little adventure).

  • Papa Urchin

    I think this anti-mainstream born out the massive establishment push we suffered in the 80s. Everything was molded and mainstreamed in an Olive Garden/Clear Channel way. The indie push was originally towards genuine originality. The problem appeared when the mainstream got on the bandwagon. The same mainstream, who was never taught to think creatively for themselves and so lacking any real personal taste, drove the charge to small is then new mainstream. Our generation embraced the small is real mentality and actually developed our own personal taste, but we are still afraid to admit that we like Kelly Clarkson.

    The important thing is that we learn to have our own taste and that artists are able to make art for art sake not because it is what the kids like.

  • verymerryseamstress

    I didn’t know about either of you ‘back when.’ I found both sites, Dooce and Blurbomat, because you’re both really popular, and doggoneit, people like you.

    All I can say is you and Heather are my morning cup of coffee, and I’ll always keep coming back for more.

    Don’t just go big. Go huge. Make it. Just keep writing.

    Every day more and more of us are coming to you for daily goodness. And for every hater out there, there are ten more of us (who thoroughly enjoy your work) shoving them off the swingset and taking their place.

  • Minerva X

    Hi Jon! I don’t generally blog drunk but I did happen to have a few drinks tonight and so I hope this comment will be reasonably lucid. If not, please forgive me. Also, forgive me for not reading through the mess o’ comments above as no doubt someone has made this point before.

    I think there is a sort of inchoate but moderately reliable purpose in distrusting the big, the successful, the bright, the shiny, the commercial, the flashy and appealing. I think when you were mistrusting the band who got the big gigs there was something you were on to, at least when it comes to art. First, art that is hard and challenging or a threat to our comfort and or the powers that be is often not popular. This doesn’t mean that the converse is true: That popular art is automatically soft, vapid and superficial. There’s often something meaningful or universal in things that become popular. It’s not like the Beatles sucked. At the same time, I think the stance of suspicion towards things that are easy and make you feel good might be a useful one, in many ways. There’s too much being given to us–our entertainment– to quell our anxieties, our questioning. That’s what you reject when you are young. I think you should. Then you get tired and it’s fast and it tastes good and fuck it.

    I’ve noticed after fame lots of greats start to coast. That’s another phenomenon but I won’t bore you about that.

    When you are talking about blogs, I don’t quite no what to say. You and Heather both have a gift for writing on the internet, and all that entails. Which is no small potatoes. I’d resist any assumption that popular=simple, superficial when it comes to you guys. But I’ll be happy to see you use your powers for good. I really think you will and I’ll enjoy watching your meteoric rise and reading what you guys produce. And I’ll also take a second look at the bizarre, freaky, complex and challenging things that sit around in the dark corners waiting to be discovered. And I hope you will also.

  • tksinclair

    I find more and more my CD’s have “Greatest Hits” somewhere in the title but I recently found a source for learning about new bands. The “Pockit Rockit Music Finder 2.0” is a book that’s a who’s who guide to music. It’s organized alphabetically by “core artists.” So, for instance, if you like Coldplay, look under that band name and you’ll find lesser-known groups that might appeal to you. You can pick it up at Tower records or at

    My brother was an A&R guy for Virgin and the cold reality is most of the songs played are played because the producers pay the radio stations to play them. Over and over. The more a song is played the more popular people “think” it is and the more familar it gets. Sadly that’s the reality of the music business. It’s primarily smoke and mirrors and “payola.”

  • 72feetabovesealevel


    I don’t really get what your talking about here. I’ll try reading it again in the morning.

  • spidell27

    Excellent post on so many levels. For years, I’ve struggled with letting myself feel okay about liking certain things that might be considered mainstream. As I get older, it becomes easier to tell the elitist snob in me to just shut up and enjoy what I enjoy.

    Regarding Heather, every so often I come across little stabs at her site and how “everyone likes Dooce” so they don’t read her anymore, etc. Their loss. She’s popular for a reason–she’s an awesome writer and that’s why I’ve been coming back for more than three years. I don’t care how popular/famous she is. She has pure talent and is a joy to read.

  • genghis

    Me, I heart those knocking people. I love the lack of irony.

    Most of all, I got to see 40000 Levellers fans at Glastonbury, all dressed more or less exactly the same kind of different, singing “There’s only one way of life, and that’s your own”. In unison.

    You can’t buy that kind of comedy.

  • Caitorade

    Dude, you’re human. Changing your mind or reflecting on your past opinions is A.OK.

  • southerngirl

    I think a lot of people resent others “making it big” because of jealousy and insecurity. But we need to remember that making it big has its downside. Just last week Dave Chappelle talked movingly about the price of fame in his interview on The Actors Studio.

    So instead of being jealous about what other people have, let’s just thank our lucky stars for what _we_ have. And wish everyone else the best of luck in life, because life is hard for everyone.

    As Jane Pauley said in her autobiography, “There are no perfect lives. There are only lives.”

  • Sally

    My take away is that big, small or whatever, it’s an ugly attitude, one that with whatever lens we happen to be wearing at that season, we judge and spew about someone/something else…… And as wise, witty, catalytic as we think our words and judgments are, they’re probably no more than negative energy released into the universe. In fact, because they are negative energy put out there, why oh why do we do it? It doesn’t benefit anyone – ever.

  • Karen Rani

    Thank the fucking LORD someone FINALLY said this Jon. I’m SO sick of the hate. People have given me hassle for linking to your lovely wife’s site. I’ve told them all personally to fek off. I read Dooce because I can relate to her, not because she’s popular or whatever people are perceiving her to be. Her writings of PPD, motherhood and general shit life flings at her is stuff I’ve lived, stuff I can relate to, and Jesus H. Christ she cracks me the hell up. We could not have grown up more differently, and it amazes me how many characteristics I share with Heather. Her writing got me through the toughest shit life has ever thrown at me, and I have so much gratitude toward her. Much love.

    Okay – at least one glaring difference: I poop. Every day. Sometimes twice.

    Hope you’re having an awesome Friday night together!

  • genevieve

    Hi Jon,
    Great post. I’ve often wondered what was so distinctive about my younger sister’s generation –
    I’m 45, she’s 34. I really appreciate people who
    think about why they like something, or don’t like
    it. The important thing is that you own the judgment,
    not that you make it because you feel pressured to.

    It has been tremendously exciting for me as someone who grew up battling mainstream tastes in music to see what an amazing range of music is available to all age groups now, and how open minded your generation is about music – I can’t get my kids to stop playing classic rock, either. It’s incredible.

    Perhaps you are giving your generation a bit of a raw
    deal? – creating more niches also creates opportunities for cultural richness of a kind I could only dream of as a teenager.And you guys have provided it freely for my kids to enjoy. They should be so lucky.
    Also if people are encouraged to exercise discrimination in artistic matters, there’s a greater chance they’ll try to be better informed on matters political. Not such a bad thing either!

  • Sanya

    I agree with about, oh, 100% of your post. And I love Coldplay.

  • Todd Prouty

    I arrived via your wife’s “fairly popular web site,” which my wife and I both enjoy regularly. Great post, great comments. I have nothing to add, but Cat and Girl (a uniqueóand still only marginally popular!óonline comic) do:

    The band coolness life cycle:

    Waiting for New Wave’s big comeback:

    “It was so much cooler here before the Pilgrims arrived”

  • Sarah

    Very well articulated post, Jon, and have really enjoyed reading the comments that followed.

    “It’s about not thinking small anymore.”

    The small part of me wanted to not like, the big part of me couldn’t stop reading, laughing, enjoying, and realizing that sometimes there is a reason things get popular: they speak to us.
    You and Heather both do that, and do it well.
    Good work? Yes, you do.

  • JacksonPolluck

    Hey, I hear you on this one.

    I think that the mainstream thing is critical to understand in our ability to really grow up. At risk of generalizing a whole bunch, I think alot of people waste their lives trying to be in “that” group of people, forsaking reality and everything that goes along with a good,real, and mainstream life.

    I think once you stop caring what others think in order to fit in, you really start living…more than that though you start discovering who you really are.

  • Mark7r0n

    I think one reason we can all be so resistant to going “mainstream” in anything whether it is music, writing, technology, snowboarding or whatever is that we all know going mainstream bring a lot of different people into something that used to be a niche. I really disgust myself when I realize I have acted like an elitist because there are so many nice people out there who gave me a chance and let me into their world and taught me what they know. It is truely a betrayal of the people who have helped us when we in turn don’t help others when it comes to our personal niches.

  • JodiG

    I call this “attitude”. When I was living in Davis California, everyone was so “Granola”, I felt I couldn’t get to the heart of who they were, even though we had similar ideologies. I like peoples idiosyncrasies, its more interesting, but most of all I like when people are genuine and kind. However, this comes with age, because I couldn’t say the same when I was a teenager.

  • ByJane

    I’m trying to sort through the cultural implications of this. To be successful is bad. To be unsuccessful is good. No, that’s not it. To be successful is bad because it de facto means you’ve been untrue to your self/talent to get there. To be unsuccessful is good because it means you haven’t been untrue to your self/talent to get there. But there’s a third part to the equation: if you’re unsuccessful because you’re untalented, that’s not good. So if you stay “small”, you never have to risk failure. Pretty safe position, isn’t it.

  • Tommy from Michigan

    Good post. I am very different from you but feel welcome and enjoy watching your family develop. Its better than sea monkeys.

    I became aware of this with my highschool age kids. They do not want to wear any t-shirt to school if any one else already wears it – unique to the extreme. But my son, now a freshman in college, has shown the advantage of this exploring all kinds of music off the beaten track and discovered some real good stuff and turned me on to it. But snobbery should never survive the highschool years, not that it belongs even there. Being a sane adult person means to me living life to the full and damning the sterotypes on the way.

  • Jonniker

    I’m not going to agree with you 100% here, just a forewarning.

    I think that in the case of Heather, and in many blogs’ cases, the “going big” concept is that once a blogger goes superdupermainstream, there is a sense of personal loss, however inappropriate. It’s not as small-minded as you might think, and not always driven by jealousy or elitism. Sometimes its mourning a loss of accessibility. For example, when I read Heather several years ago, there was a sense of community among Dooce readers. Since there weren’t nearly as many of us,that we could tell at least, there was a sense of ownership and community that came with it. When it became clear exactly *how big* her readership was getting, it was a bit of a sad day – not that I was even the slightest bit turned off by reading her anymore, not that I was suddenly green with envy that she had this success, but that suddenly, because I was now among legions, it became less *mine,* and Dooce was now part of the collective ownership of thousands. I think the same is true for bands, books, whatevers that I’ve liked that have gone big – I still like them just as much as I always did, and I have no disdain for them, but it’s a little sad, since it loses its sense of personality and personal investment for the individual.

    And let’s consider the band example: If you were a U2 fan from way way back in the day and spent your time buying their albums and going to their concerts, and suddenly, due to their raging success, you find that you – YOU, longtime, long-suffering U2 fan – suddenly can’t get tickets because of the millions of other fans have suddenly discovered them, I imagine it would be frustrating in the sense that your personal secret – your wonderful little discovery – is now out there to the point where you can no longer benefit from it.

    I’m not a U2 fan, just throwing out the example. The same is true for blogs – suddenly, my comment or email to/on Dooce or Blurbomat or Amalah or WHOEVER is no longer being read because there are millions of other people out there who are there first, and it’s suddenly no longer what felt like a small, close-knit community. And many people just don’t know how to deal with that, so it comes out as anger/jealousy/etc. And maybe I’m just being too kind, and maybe people really are small-minded assholes, but I think what I just laid out isn’t as uncommon as it seems, at first blush.

    And then there is the whole thing with blogs that LOTS of bloggers write about/talk about is that at some points, blogging can feel like high school. There are the cool girls, the cliques, the inside, random jokes that we commonfolk can’t follow, etc. And that, I think, feeds into the jealousy/smallmindedness, however unintentional. And this is directed at no one in particular and may be, in fact, totally random.

  • Jonniker

    And I realize that I didn’t really directly answer the question, just rambled about people’s misdirected sense of loss or frustration. Instead, I’d like to point out where most jealousy comes from: There is a complete misconception that there is only so much success/beauty/brains/whatever to go around in this world. That the supply of Good Things is finite. It’s not true. Just because Heather or you or whoever is beautiful/smart/successful doesn’t mean that I can’t be too. You’re not taking away from the available Pool of Good Stuff. The world is inherently good. So we can all go out there and get some!

  • blurb


    Doesn’t your position say less about the thing and more about you? If one were a true fan of somebody else’s work (U2 circa 1981, for example) wouldn’t one want millions of people to enjoy their music? What I’m getting at is that we project ourselves onto our likes. And do so in an entirely harmful way. We set ourselves up for that moment when the fan base stops being an intimate few to the unwashed masses. This seems selfish and small.

    Isn’t that entirely fucked up? I was this way with the Smiths in 1986. I got back to America and they released The Queen is Dead and they had a video on MTV and everything. Suddenly, I wasn’t the hipster I thought I was. But it didn’t make the Smiths a lame band. It meant that I was confronted, for the first time, with the dysfunctional relationship I had with them. I had to re-assess my thinking. It wasn’t the last time I needed to go through this. It’s been fascinating to watch geekery and self-publishing take on this same dynamic.

  • Cinelady

    “Note: I’ve been writing this for quite some time and have wondered if it didn’t sound too preachy. My apologies if it comes across that way. That certainly wasn’t my intention. Also, I’m aware of pages on this site that fall into exactly what I’ve tried to avoid.”

    Ever walked past a painting in a gallery with an artist’s disclaimer mounted next to it? I didn’t so.

    Forget your audience and continue writing from your gut, trust that you have the chops to adequately convey your ideas, and never apologize for your shit, especially when it’s this good.

  • Keight

    I really appreciated your thoughts on going big.

    I always wonder why the hipnoscenti of the world don’t want everyone to know and appreciate the music, books, art and fashion they like.

    I mean, these are things that are cool, right? Wouldn’t it be great if you could share that with lots of people? Isn’t it good to support good work so there will be more of it in the world?

    Personally, I think anything positive that will help me connect and share a slice of the world with a lot of people is no bad thing.

    So, I’ll listen to an album someone else suggests if they’ll read Kevin MacNeil’s The Stornoway Way… let us make small things big!

  • Jonniker

    It’s totally selfish, yes, I am ashamed to admit, but I guess what I was trying to say, however ineffectively, was that I don’t think it’s always meant to be as malicious as it comes out sometimes, you know? I think what I’m talking about isn’t the full-blown hatred or disdain for things or bands that get big, but more of the small, hard-to-admit disappointment and admittedly selfish personal loss that comes out in kind of crappy ways sometimes. Kind of like when you have a friend who gets really famous – you’re SO SO happy for them, but selfishly, you miss when it was just you and them hanging out in the bars, you know? And when you had all of this TIME to yourself with them and again, while you’re totally happy and psyched for them, selfishly, this small part of you is trying to get over the fact that you miss them and the time you had together when it was just you guys. You miss the intimacy.

    Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just that I think that most people can’t identify that feeling – instead they get angry and belittle the person/thing/whatever for their success to take the pain and sense of loss off of themselves. It’s selfish, but I guess my poorly-articulated point was that sometimes it’s not an entirely malicious or intentionally elitist kind of thing – more or less a selfish sense of loss borne out of something that was meant to be nice to begin with, you know? And since we’re all not that great at talking about our feelings for what they are, it comes out small and mean-spirited, as I’m sure people were to you and Heather when this whole thing started.

    I might have gone completely off-base here and might not be making any sense – I was just thinking about it a bit after I read this yesterday, and was trying to think of what the actual feelings are that might drive this behavior. Am I making sense, or just sounding like a giant asshole? I can take it either way 😉

    Anyway, I think it does boil down to our own selfish behavior and the need to want everything to be MINE MINE MINE and no one else’s. And separately, I also firmly believe that a lot of the animosity that you and Heather have unfortunately been on the receiving end of is borne out of simple jealousy and the (wrong) idea that if you and she have found success this way, that it somehow takes away from the (limited) pool of self-publishing success that’s out there, which we all know is simply not true. It reminds me of the girls in high school who were mean to other pretty girls because they thought that somehow others’ prettiness meant that they couldn’t be pretty too. WE CAN ALL BE PRETTY, PEOPLE. And we can all be successful, too. What you and Heather do, and what other successful people do in their respective industries should be an inspiration of what is possible, not what has suddenly become impossible.

    Dude, I am so sorry for the rambling post(s).

  • JustLinda

    I have argued and debated this anti-mainstream thing many times, mostly in the circles of “parenting”. There are many people out there who thumb their noses at anything mainstream. Now, if you are thumbing you nose at U2, that’s one thing.

    However, when it comes to parenting philosophy, the mainstream is seen to be this anti-breastfeeding, spanking, circ’ing, let-your-baby-cry-it-out-ing force of people. However, I’ve been parenting for many years (my oldest is nearly 23 and my baby isn’t yet 2) and I’ve watched those things that the anti-mainstream people embrace slowly BECOME mainstream.

    So what now? Does their position that mainstream is composed of a bunch of SHEEPLE who cannot possibly think for themselves suddenly CHANGE? Do they think differently about whether or not mainstream is bad, unthinking, stupid? Or do they hold onto that SMALL position and move away from those parenting practices they embraced so heartily back when those practices were more elite and not mainstream?

    You’re spot-on in this assessment, Jon.

    I recently wrote something similar but it was framed in terms of Red Lobster (and places like that) and how some people hate them on principle but – screw ’em – they’re missing out on the cheddar bay biscuits. LOL (OK, so my blog post wasn’t nearly as deep and philosophical as yours and I won’t link here because I don’t know you well enough to know if that’s a no-no or not… I also wrote a meant-to-be-funny tribute to Heather and you get mentioned in there too, but again, I’ll not put up a link… come by and see it, if you have a minute).

  • C

    I read this twice and I’m not sure if I altogether “get it”. But here’s my two cents at any rate.

    I think most of what you’re talking about is human nature – I’m not saying that because it is, that it’s right – but with all good comes bad.

    We all like to have little things that set us apart from other people and make us feel special and I don’t necessarily think that’s an awful thing. Sometimes I think it makes you look like a prick (especially in the case of music), but whatever.

    I also agree with Jonnick that often it’s not even about jealousy or vitriol but just a general sense of disappointment about accessibility.

    In the case of Heather I think people are reacting so strongly because it’s a weird kind of timing in that right now blogs are being shoved down our throats ALL. THE. TIME. and backlash, no matter how great of a writer she may be, is inevitable.

    This is not to say that I think any hate mail or nasty things said about Heather are warranted – they’re just not surprising.

    But I, as an unabashed lover of Britney Spears and all other pop music ilk say if it makes you happy, fuck everything else and just keep playing Toxic over and over again – or you know, keep doing what makes you happy and forget about everything else.

  • sharbean

    I had to delurk myself to comment on this post because it’s something that I’ve thought a lot about over the years and also as something that I am guilty of (pause for a moment to silently confess my sins…).

    I think in terms of “bigness” people may be reacting against a phenomenon more than the actual person; like people acting out against a police officer while they are in uniform but not if that same officer in their street clothes.

    I think one reason why “the mainstreams” are perceived in a negative light is because they’ve lost their humanity. They’re lost behind a series of press people, agents and general silence. When Britany drives with her kid on her lap she has to go though a hierarchy of people to get a simple “I screwed up” out. I’ve often wondered that if huge movie / music stars got a blog it would humanize them and perhaps tone down some of the obsessiveness with the paparazzi. How much would a photo of Tom Cruise be worth if suddenly he’s putting lots of them on the Internet?

    It’s for this reason that I find the hugeness of Dooce very interesting because it has become this “bigness” even though Heather is sharing her life with anyone who wants to read. And, what is different between Dooce and Kottke? Why is Heather berated more than Jason? Is it what she is putting online? Is it because she’s female? Is it because of who reads her site? Is it because she doesn’t reply to people when they send an email?

    I’ve wondered about this “reply to email” question. It’s like Heather is behind this wall of nothingness — and if you were to meet her or get an email suddenly you are someone because you were special enough to get a response. For every “not Dooce” you see on the Internet I’m sure there is an equal “Kudos for getting noticed by Dooce” comment. This could also be why comments never worked with the photos.

    I’m not pointing any of this out as a “should do” or a “flaw” – I just find it all fascinating because ultimately it is a part of the human psyche. Why is this all happening? Why are they so adoring of people they can’t touch? I’ve been fascinated with this since Metallica became popular with Master of Puppets and then lost their loyal fan base – but then it became even trendier to say “I’ve been a loyal fan since before everyone left” as if you are proving your worth.

    Thanks for the post, insight and subsequent thought, Jon. Sorry for such a long comment.

    – Sharlene

  • Rex Brockington

    I really enjoyed this well thought out post, but I have to respectfully disagree – you sound like somebody who is trying to justify ‘going big’ without feeling like you are selling out.

    I don’t mean for that to sound harsh as it probably does – I think it’s very cool that you and your wife are able to do what you do and make money from your talents. It’s a dream come true and nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing you should have to feel like justifying for anybody.

    There are, however, tons of examples where bands (writers, too) were good (or at least true to themselves), then ‘got big’ and started to suck because instead of worrying about creating art, they were worried about selling CDs (or books, or web site posts, whatever.) I worked for a band and experienced this first hand – small, decent band gets signed to major label and is suddenly in the business of selling records, *not* making music. They were good at making music, but bad at selling CDs, so they didn’t make it.

    This happens all the time. Can it be avoided? Sure, but I think it’s rare. The cases you point to – Coldplay and U2 – how many more of those can you come up with? I think it’s very rare that an artist has the amount of pull that those two have, and once you are working with an entertainment machine (major label, publishing house, etc.) you are more than likely ceding control of what you’re doing for the sake of pleasing as many people as possible. But that’s entertainment, I guess. I think it’s more of a problem with how entertaiment is sold and distrbuted than with small mindedness or jealousy.

    I think if you are both talented and lucky, you can keep on doing what you love to do and be ‘big’ – if dooce’s style can appeal to x people on the web, than she can probably apeal to 10 times x in another market (a book, for example) without having to compromise herself. But most writers and artists are not in that position. They’ve got to do something to their art to make it more appealing, less them, and more ‘big’ – and for me, that’s a bummer, because I’d much rather listen to something ‘new’ and unique than another Coldplay or U2.

  • southerngirl

    Jonniker & Blurb-

    I think you are both talking about the same thing, just coming at it from different directions–which is the best thing to see in a comments section. This is how we learn about other people’s perspectives.

    I just discovered blogs last summer (I’m a late bloomer)and the first blog I found was a small, intimate one where everyone talked to each other and was smart and funny and nice. I loved it. It gave me a sense of connection with the world.

    Then the person who ran the blog got tired and quit and our little community fell apart. Well, that pissed me off. How could he just up and leave without consulting me? He took away _my_ connection to those other people.

    I finally realized that the reason he had his blog was not to provide something _for me_. It was there to provide something for him, and when that something no longer worked for him, he went on to something else.

    We have to let people we like and admire be who they are and not who we want them to be. And that is very hard.

    Jonniker, you are right in that we insecure humans beings are always looking for a sense of community in this big, bad, baffling world, and we feel safe and secure when we find a group of people we feel comfortable with.

    Blurb, you are right in that when people feel safe and secure, they start projecting themselves onto the person who makes them feel that way and start trying to remake that person into their own image, so they wil fell more secure. Another human frailty.

    So the best we can do is to try to support those people we like and admire for who they are, cheer them on even when they are not doing what we want them to do, and know that we are not alone in this world, even when we disagree.

  • blurb

    This blurb wasn’t meant as a justification of anything. And I don’t feel like I’m selling out if my site has ads.

    My point is much larger. We project ourselves onto others in harmful ways. Both to ourselves and others. I don’t think my post will stop it (it was only meant as a meditation of sorts).

    There isn’t a human being alive who could respond to the volume of email that Heather gets and still have any kind of a life.

  • Krisco

    What a great post, and I really agree with it in life as well. There are so many things that can make you (me) feel jealous or angry or annoyed, but it only makes you (okay, …me) feel the smallness to indulge in it. It doesn’t actually change those things. (And would you really want to anyway, if you could?) You just feel better when you can be expansive about things. (Not that this is always easy.)

    I do think, though, that it’s not completely unreasonable to be cynical about something that is Big. Often that means the band-book-whatever was put out there by a large corporation and it’s marketing dept and advertising millions. So it’s not “real.”

    The irony is, not everything that goes big was corporately-engineered, and not everything that starts small is “real.”

    Nor, for that matter, do indigenous and corporate always line up with quality – suck either.

    Just usually.

  • verymerryseamstress

    “Going Big” does not = “Instant Crap.”

    You’ve taken something you enjoy and you’ve put it to work for you. There’s certainly no crime in that. It’s the American Dream.

    “Going Big” doesn’t even come once in a lifetime for most people. Grab these opportunities while you can – they won’t come around a second time.

    To even consider staying “small” to please the people who are complaining . . . Well, what purpose would that serve? How many of those haters do you think would turn down such opportunities? Not many.

    There are a lot of us who would like to see you you go big. Go huge. Go Absolutely Effin’ Brobdingnagian.

  • sharbean

    You’re right, Jon. I don’t envy Heather and the amount of mail she gets (the two of you would never be able to go back to dial up because you’d never be able to download all the mail).

    This whole issue is very complex because people are complex. Dooce is the first true “superstar blog” with all the crap / wonderful things that go with it and none of us know where this is going. Will we see technology change because of it (like when Slashdot started to use overload servers to prevent slashdotting), will comments be structured differently (like with spam now – will there be known asshole lists), or will our dealings with Internet personalities change (Heather could eventually have a fan club or even a manager).

    I think it will be interesting to see how things are 5 or 10 years from now. Right now the blogging world polices itself and that can’t continue forever.

    Great discussion though my comment is now off topic.

  • mdstblz

    78 comments and all you will hear from me this time is that it is nice to know someone else watches the grandpa show (aka CBS News Sunday Morning).

  • chlott

    I so agree with you, and I’ve been thinking a lot about this and a (I think) related subject lately, that is why it’s so out of fashion to like something for real nowadays.

    I’m not sure that it is an global thing, but at least here in Sweden people ironically “likes” things that they are to afraid to admit that they _like_, they are afraid that it will be uncool of them. I find it really tiresome, even if I’m certainely guilty of this myself once in a while.

    This also makes the people that actually have the gut to say that they like something vulnerable for ridicule. If you try to tell someone that you don’t appreciate being made fun of, you get rediculed for taking things to seriously.

    What’s so dangerous about actually tinking that a band or an artist or whatever rally is good?

  • peafly

    Go Big or Go Home.
    A tatoo artist friend of mine had this framed in his studio, but it works for lots of things!

  • raff

    My husband and I were talking about U2 this weekend and I think his insight might be valuable for thinking about the larger picture that jon raised as well. He was saying U2’s first big effort to write a huge rock song was “pride” on the unforgettable fire album. which, when you listen to the album, clearly doesn’t fit in that sonic landscape, and it did bring them their first taste of commercial success – it was a precursor for joshua tree no doubt. some, especially in ireland, thought pride was a sellout. but pride was a song about MLK and bono clearly felt passionately about issues of social justice at the time. so was he going big – Yes. but was his mind open to thinking big and using the exposure for the good – yes. now, fast forward to the present and are U2 still doing the same? thinking Big because they are absolutely Huge? I don’t know. is “vertigo” a big thinking song? it doesn’t seem so to me. my point here i guess is that by going big, like u2 did with pride – can have wonderful results. the challenge will always be to not let being big alter the quality of the work itself. i think u2 has lost something with this last album musically. as a band, and as humanitarians (which they have always always been) being big just keeps making them better and more effective.

  • robert

    “All that is real…melts into air”: that is the paradox posed by the substitution of commercial exchange for other social forms, isn’t it? And with the rise of commercial/industrial culture has come a loss of heterogenaity in human affairs. We are now witnessing the passing of thousands of languages, as well as the knowledge of local environments, resources, and strategies for survival that they held. Homogenaity has advantages; true, delivering as it does efficient distribution of food (albeit at the expense of a large quantity of energy and other resources), and freeing people, in its way, for non-farm work. A therapeutic ethos helps to ease the transition to an anonymous and impersonal bureaucratc industrial social system, with its attendant culture of consumption.

  • Christy

    I think I used to be that way too. I didn’t realize how elitest and snobby I was actually. I used to cherish my privacy and not want to share anything about my personal life. Imagine how well that went over with small town midwestern coworkers. I’ve found now that if you share a little bit of yourself, unasked, people feel closer to you. It also makes me feel like we are all connected in some way.

  • kat@ohmtastic

    If you haven’t seen the Shirky article on the power law distribution and blogging, check it out:

    The #1 blog gets something like twice the attention of the #2 blog, and 100 times the attention of the #10 blog. Is #1 100 times better than #10? Probably not. But it gets an inordinate amount of attention for being at the top.

    It’s not to say that the top blogs, or Coldplay, or Starbucks aren’t amazing at what they do – but at some their popularity balloons out of proportion with reality. How else is Colin Farrell making $20 million a picture?

  • PhilipN

    Hi Jon, it’s taken so long to login it to the Type Key thing I can barely remember what I wanted to say. I have only recently discovered yours and Heather’s blogs and through you others. So I am one of the thousand/ millions that have ‘stolen’ you both from the elite group that ‘owned’ you in the past. But on the other had I have been a U2 fan since 1980 when I bought the WAR album. I now share them with millions. The first concert I saw was U2 in Dublin a couple of weeks before Live Aid which is often seen as their arrival on the world stage.
    Yes it can be difficult to get tickets and yes there may be days I will find it hard to get on your site, but that’s life. Big is sometimes good.
    I am not sure how to define my relationship to the bloggers I read, I am not sure if it is a relationship. I don’t comment on every posting, but I am disappointed if there is not a new post since my last visit which in your’s and Heather’s case is daily (sorry for the high expection level). But then I understand that bloggers are human and whatever their reasons for writing I have only one reason to visit and that is to read and most times enjoy.
    When others grow ‘Big’ and I continue to enjoy their output then I will not desert them because they are now ‘mainstream’ I just have to content myself that there are more people on this small planet that have similar likes to me. The more of us that recognise what we have in common the greater chance we have of spreading that opinion and maybe then we can all concentrate on the similarities and stop fighting over the differences. (Sorry for the preaching but I was on a roll and couldn’t stop.)

    Glad you enjoyed Amsterdam.

  • Claire

    This reminds me of the time when a person I respect ridiculed me for admitting that I like Sheryl Crow. I felt so small. Don’t I have a right to my own taste even if it is not “hip.” I also like the Beatles, Marvin Gaye, Etta James.

    I say add ads if you want. I personally never even notice. I do not think you “sell out” if you start to make money. I DO think you sell out if you lose quality in order to make money. I read both you and Heather everyday. I would only stop reading if it became less interesting. So as you say about your comments, “Don’t suck.”

  • Rori

    I am in tears. You have no idea how much I needed that today.

  • pauly

    Dave Eggers had a smiliar rant to this here:

  • Tasty

    Bravo! Bravo!