Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Look Inward, Angel

Over the past few days, a friend and I have been discussing what to me, at least, are gratuitous, nasty and personal commentaries on other bloggers, magazine editors and to some extent, dead decorators, and it is this conversation that has focused my feelings on the matter.

Dead decorators are, if you read my blog, a particular interest of mine, especially those I name the Lost Generation - men who, generally speaking died young, often of AIDS, or at least long enough ago (1980s and 1990s) to be no longer known. Being an unknown cannot be said of Mark Hampton who was written about in a New York Times article, a book review really, and therein described as an "undertaker's son from Indiana" illustrative of the article's fashionably - and fashion is definitely playing a role here - arch and mildly begrudging tone.

On the other hand, an antidote for the deification of decorators, the uncritical acceptance of all they do and say as having significance, assessment rather than adulation, is absolutely necessary. Perhaps difficult to achieve given that genuflection is what fills many a magazine.

That a certain amount of revision of reputation, work and influence of celebrity decorators is inevitable, especially deceased celebrities, goes without saying - at least to me. Ambition and aspiration drive all of us so I wonder why "working a room" was singled out for mention in this article when it is something, however tenuous our connection to reality, we all have to do if we are not to be uncommonly bored with the continuous round of events. Work a room? Damned if I do, and, seemingly, if I don't. However, this post is not actually about Mr Petkanas' article for I have a broader point here - that of manners.

Oh Lord! Here we go - some old fart banging on about manners.

So, when did we cross the line where a blogger, effectively a guest of a showroom, could be photographed sitting, straining, knickers around the knees, on a toilet pot and then decide to publish it? When did we decide a four-letter word for a bodily function can be used to describe one's possessions? When did it become acceptable to address women using the word for a female canine? When did it become acceptable to use a blog as a forum for denigrating someone else's thighs? When did it become decent to disagree with someone by ridiculing his nose, at the same time as admitting jumping on a bandwagon? Many more examples come to mind but ....

There is a rich and long-established tradition of satire, lampoonery, travesty and even downright lying and perhaps in that light I am swimming against a tide if what I criticize belongs to that tradition. Surely, by this point in the 21st Century, the shock value of vulgarity is appreciated only by those still in high school and most of us recognize that ad hominem attacks are both fallacious and irrelevant. Neither approach does much to entertain or to enrich the discourse.

There are three things we all could do - look at our own glass houses, question whether we are just being groupies, and think hard before pushing the publish post button - as I am doing right now.

The photograph? Look Inward, Angel, and be kind.


  1. Thank you. This needed to be said and said well. I'm no Pollyanna, but I do believe that we should all treat one another with respect. And as my mother said, if you can't say something nice...

  2. Amen, brother. I think the nasty political climate where lies, rants, and rudeness is seen as being wise and savvy has tainted the waters. Yes we can disagree without being disagreeable. While I appreciate the work it takes to create a blog, if I think the content is silly and not worth my time, I move on. I appreciate a roaring discussion of different opinions. The latest on AAL's post on Gertrude Stein's art collection was rousing. I don't believe the conversation was reduced to name calling. I look forward to reading what your other readers have to say on this topic which you laid out with typical passion and grace.

  3. Well said. I do think the tone of posts, if the writer is good, elicit a particular response-Not every post of course-but often We are drawn out to voice our own opinions. When disagreeing about a dead designer's work-we all should weigh in honestly and bloggers should not personalize something that is not Personal.(that is really about taste) It is the off topic negativity-of personal appearance, etc that should be curtailed. If publishing one's own design work- or rooms-that becomes tricky. again bloggers are waiting for comments, of course of the positive nature, but they can't all be that and putting it out there is going to bring out all opins, inevitable. The blogger does have the option to edit everything.Publishing negative comments is a conscious decision,again a blogger hits the publish button to evoke comments of defend me please, agree with the comment,it opens up the can of worms that brings out more comments. We can edit out all the negativity if we want to-another question too is-why do bloggers have controls to edit and then publish very harsh negative comments? Blogging etiquette is like life's etiquette some have it,some don't. Fortunately we can edit comments, people, and negativity from our blog and lives (for the most part).pgt

  4. Certainly the anonymity of the internet fosters a break down in good manners, but I'm not sure it's really all that different from the bad behavior you see from drivers on the road. (Someone safely hidden away in two tons of metal will often do things they wouldn't dream of doing in a drawing room.)

    As for that article on Hampton, which I hadn't seen: Yes, it's annoyingly bitchy. Yes, it walks right up the line of defamation and then -- hmmm, what would a decorous person say? -- micturates over it. That kind of writing is easy to do, and people who don't have anything of their own to say will often employ it. The tone is at once a claim to some sort of status and a disguise for the absence of real content. ("The Valentino of decorating"? I'm glad I wasn't drinking my morning coffee when I came to that.)

  5. Blue, I did get to the story in the NYT, my paper has been sadly astray for the last 3 weeks,likely on some wayside between Bushy Fork and Boot Hill (yes they are really places in the county!)I'm not surprised at the article or the comments it brought on. The Times book reviews are often of this tone, I do think the comments on this particular review are more interesting than the post, Mary from Paris seems to get it fairly right. I liked Mark Hampton's work, whether he was pretentious is neither here nor there, as we've discussed before-the work and artist we admire is oft times not the same as the individual that creates it. I am sure Mrs Hampton has toughened up over the many years of competitive designers'remarks, backstabbing, innuendo. It is (or use to be) one of the side lines of any design community be it the big leagues or the bush leagues(by referring to bush leagues in no way take it as a snarky remark by me pointed at some talented designer from Bushy Fork. I am the only D. within 30 miles N,W,E,S!reign supreme, I have one client within this radius! Decorating has never been for the faint of heart, But for the stalwart, the healthy egos and the desire to fill empty pockets. pgt

  6. Don't you think that even if one thenth of that nasty energy was put towards making the world a kinder, better place, we would all be a lot richer? Thank you for speaking out.

  7. I had not read the NYT article that raised Hampton up from the dead only to bury him. I had read the story about Mrs. Hampton and I didn't understand the snaky snarky thing and only thought about blogs where blood sport seems to be the entertainment of choice. As Emily Dickinson said, "the soul selects its own society." I vote with JCB.

  8. Well Done, my friend.
    Thank you for this.
    My only fear now, is that it will cause more people to seek the MH "review" out! But as a friend of mine in Washington, who I had forwarded it to, said, "I feel almost dirty, and sorry that I even read it"!

  9. Blue,

    Thank you for this most eloquent and impassioned plea for a bit of nobility in human discourse. While I may wish for civility and grace, I am consistently saddened and distressed by the venom and snark that seemingly reside everywhere.

    It has become part of the human condition to condemn, pillory, denounce and dismiss as though we are spectators once again, sitting in those giant amphitheaters of yore, witnessing the carnage of man and beast with a kind of fiendish glee.

    I read some time ago about what was being termed as "humiliation" television, a satisfying experience where viewers could feel justifiably smug at the degradation being committed against those bravely naive and foolish enough to have volunteered for the abuse. Consider the news of today where outrage and opinion are the standard.

    Somewhere in that culture of implied "consent" a legitimacy was conferred, permitting any and all to judge from the sidelines, in front of a camera or from behind a screen. It seems to me it has become more about the motives and desires of the originator, blatant and spiteful though they may be.

    Soothing the insecurity of our own souls is far more rewarding, after all, than considering the feelings, well being or reputation of others - dead or alive. A gloomy state of affairs to be sure.

  10. Dear Peak of Chic, home before dark, little augury, The Ancient, Janet, WM Twigs, Errant Aesthete - thank you for your considered, civil and very thoughtful responses. I really appreciate you taking the time to write as you have done.

    I decided to write the post not just because I had discussed this with my friend but because I realized I was getting really irritated and was expressing my irritation in conversations at home, whilst driving (not always with my lover in the car) - in other words, I had a bee in my bonnet. It's not that I'm a man of courtly manners, I prefer to be straightforward, am considered blunt and probably am, but I despise the idea of anyone being humiliated and to read what only could be intentionally demeaning comment drove me to the point where I felt I had to express myself.

    None of these people, the bloggers I mentioned, the book reviewer, or their victims, are of my acquaintance and probably never shall be, but I felt it important enough to say something about it. If there's anything we could learn as we get older, it is that a kind word is an open-handed and two-sided gift.

    Again, y'all, thank you.

  11. Blue, eloquently expressed. Those with acid dipped pens should know that no comment at all speaks volumes.

  12. Agreed, smilla4blogs, agreed. Thank you.