Interview with Blogger Hart WilliamsBy The Pakistani Spectator • Apr 10th, 2008 • Category: Interviews • No Responses
A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming and New Mexico, a survivor of Texas and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He blogs here.
Would you please tell us something about you and your site?
My name is Hart Williams. In 1976, I became a writer in Hollywood, California, and worked there for a decade and a half. Now I live in Oregon and blog. I have written for newspapers from the Washington Post to the Los Angeles Times, to the Kansas City Star and the Santa Fe Sun. I was an editor of HUSTLER magazine at the age of 23. I’ve got two novels in and out of print, a few more written, short stories, screenplays, interviews, and more writing credits than would be polite to list here.
My blog originally began as a “campaign” blog in 2004, when I felt that the only way to expose legal shenanigans in my own party was to run for state representative. The campaign was fun; I was crushed in a landslide (although I spent less per vote than the other two candidates, one of whom spent nearly $10 per vote). I quit party politics and returned to writing, and I have been blogging ever since.
There have been three incarnations: First as “Skiing Uphill.” (http://www.hartwilliams.com
Do you feel that you continue to grow in your writing the longer you write? Why is that important to you?
Writing is a ‘way’ as in the Japanese “do”: Kendo, The Way of the Sword. Kenjitsu: Sword technique. Judo: the way of whatever “Ju” means. Jujitsu, that technique. So, I practice my “do,” every day, “write-do” perhaps. And, as a wise writer, my mentor, told me: If you can’t do art, then do craft. So, I also work on my “write-jitsu.” (The latter often for money.)
As with everything, you learn something new every day. And, in perfecting your writing you are perfecting yourself. I did not set out to be a writer, but here I am, 32 years later, and I cannot quit, so I must improve what I do.
I’m wondering what some of your memorable experiences are with blogging?
Breaking the “Howie Rich” story and watching as “legitimate” outlets were quoted, quoting me, because, as a blogger or “citizen journalist” (I HATE that condescending term) I was not “credible,” but a foundation or a Public Television show, or even a small regional “newspaper” with a web presence was quoted quoting me. Because I was a “blogger” an Untouchable in the media feifdom. It seemed ironic, because, in 32 years in print and publishing, I’ve noticed that MOST media is a fancy letterhead and not much else. The lowly freelancers who write the magazine are the “real” magazine, but unless there’s a “Masthead” and a logo, what you say isn’t “credible.”
It’s merely incredible. But they all quoted my original research, eventually. And Howie’s minions lost 35 of 36 “stealth” ballot initiatives in a dozen states when people found out that they were being manipulated by a real estate speculator from Manhattan, buying his way onto state ballots. I will never have a story like THAT one again. One of the “newspaper” writers on the story won a Polk Award for Journalism for it, and the Center for Public Integrity won several awards for it. But some blogger? Forget it. See: Public Broadcasting System’s NOW program: http://www.pbs.org/now/shows
What do you do in order to keep up your communication with other bloggers?
What do you think is the most exciting or most innovative use of technology in politics right now?
The truth. Sadly, this exciting new concept still hasn’t been embraced by the vast majority of our politicians, nor, sadly, by either party.
Do you think that these new technologies are effective in making people more responsive?
Of course. The internet is barely 10 years old, as far as most of the world is concerned. We have yet to fully appreciate just how revolutionary it actually is. As revolutionary as the light bulb, the steam engine, the phonograph and the radio put together.
What do you think sets Your site apart from others?
Three things: First, I never write about any subject unless I have a unique take on it (and much of the time, I may be the only journalist covering it)
Second, I favor depth in an age of quick short reads. The average newspaper “column” runs 700 words. My posts average 2,000. I’ve been a professional writer for 32 years, and I’ve covered the ‘waterfront.’
Third, I do all the illustrations, and every article is illustrated. (Sometimes with ‘borrowings’ from popular culture.)
If you could choose one characteristic you have that brought you success in life, what would it be?
What was the happiest and gloomiest moment of your life?
Happiest moment: leaving the home of my extremely abusive parents at the age of seventeen, for good. I had earned my freedom and have never looked back..
Gloomiest moment: When my wife ran off with my new “friend” I had just introduced her to on Thanksgiving Day, 1983, while I entertained my brother, his wife, and my baby son.
Do you think [the use of Twitter and other social networking tools by politicians] is bandwagon jumping or what?
Well, obviously, politicians ALWAYS try to run in front of a parade and appear as if they’re leading it. If it works, they will use it. If not, they will throw it out. Statesmen, on the other hand, START parades, and there are too few of them out there to make any sort of judgment about, and they don’t jump on bandwagons anyway. They DRIVE bandwagons.
If you could pick a travel destination, anywhere in the world, with no worries about how it’s paid for - what would your top 3 choices be?
Uluru (Ayers Rock), Australia
The Acropolis, Greece
What is your favorite book and why?
(I exclude all religious texts from the question.)
This was the most difficult question: I have been a paid book critic for 32 years now, and there are whole categories of favorites, and favorites in those categories. But one book, finally, stands out:
The Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant (two vols.) (free etext is here: http://www.gutenberg.org/etext
First, it is rightly praised for its clarity and unsentimental (American) prose style: the greatest military memoir since Caesar from a General who may well have topped Caesar, with his Vicksburg campaign. But, just as important, it was written when Grant learned he had fatal throat cancer, and he raced death to write it and provide for his family. He won the race. I always reread it before starting any major project: Grant was the epitome of persistence and humility. An almost perfect book: a courageous book, exceptionally written, about a courageous, exceptional life.
What’s the first thing you notice about a person (whether you know them or not)?
Is there anyone from your past that once told you you couldn’t write?
Yes: The editors of Hustler Magazine, Lee Quarnstrom and Kelly Garret — Executive and Managing, respectively — when they called me into Lee’s office to fire me. Unfortunately for them, Theodore Sturgeon, my book critic (or, rather, I was his editor) had told me the exact opposite in unequivocal terms not half an hour earlier. And Ted had reviewed for the New York Times Book Review section for fifty years. So: who to believe?
But, I still wonder at the latent sadism in firing a writer AND trying to destroy their self-confidence at the same time. Not very nice.
How bloggers can benefit from blogs financially?
Advertising, at present. Later on down the line, as promotion for books/ebooks. And then the effluvium of media ubiquity, I suppose.
Is it true that who has a successful blog has an awful lot of time on their hands?
I wouldn’t know.
What are your thoughts on corporate blogs and what do you think the biggest advantages and disadvantages are?
Press releases in a new format. As valuable and as vile as all press releases are, but generally about as useful. Nothing new, except the medium.
What role can bloggers of the world play to make this world more friendlier and less hostile?
Words have always been the most powerful tool of humanity. All other accomplishments spring from our language. If we use language lovingly then we will have a more loving world. If hatefully, well, one pretty much like this one is already.
Who are your top five favourite bloggers?
In no particular order:
Libby Spencer (Newshoggers, The Impolitic) - One of our bravest and most honest bloggers we have.
Joe Gandelman,(The Moderate Voice). Trying to be a voice of moderation in extreme times is enough to tax the patience of a saint. Somehow, Joe has managed it, and my hat’s off to him for it.
Becky (Preemptive Karma), also an astonishingly brave person. A true person of conscience.
Steve Benen (The Carpetbagger Report, Salon, Crooks and Liars). Steve is indefatigable. He works hard at it and does consistently good work.
John Cole. (Balloon Juice) Good soul. Honest. Brave. Funny. A man of principle over partisanship.
Is there one observation or column or post that has gotten the most powerful reaction from people?
The greatest number of hits is my followup on what happened to the “War Porn” guy in Florida. It was a big story a couple years ago, and then it fell through the cracks. http://hisvorpal.wordpress.com
The biggest reaction was to my “Howie Rich” series in 2006, about a tight group of “libertarians” buying their way into ballot initiatives in dozens of states with mystery money. http://www.howierichexposed
Or, I suppose, when Fox News and Sean Hannity called me an “assassin” on Hannity & Colmes for my blog reaction to an over-the-top Wall Street Journal editorial by a has-been rock and roll guitarist.
What is your perception about Pakistan and its people?
I perceive Pakistan as having been in a great deal of strife ever since the split with India after the British finally tucked tail and left. I know something of the history of the region, but not enough to speak with any authority. I perceive that ‘Pakistan’ is not at all one people, and that it has struggled greatly with corruption and military coups over the past couple of decades. I think I never saw a more noble protest than when the attorneys took to the streets to protest the sacking of judges and the attempt to overthrow the law. Beyond that, people are people wherever you go, and think that people who aren’t like them aren’t really people at all.
Have you ever become stunned by the uniqueness of any blogger?
Well, in a sense: Michelle Malkin. How one human being can live with that kind of all-consuming hatred, and use it to fuel a media career is beyond my ken. It is as incomprehensible to me as understanding an alien from Mars would be.
What is the most striking difference between a developed country and a developing country?
The kind of garbage that gets thrown out, and the ways in which it is recycled.
What is the future of blogging?
I literally have no crystal ball. If I did, it would be clouded. I do not know.
You have also got a blogging life, how has it directly affected both your personal and professional life?
None. Nobody I ever meet seems to have any idea as to what a blog actually is. “Oh, that’s nice,” is about as much interest as the response “I have a blog” ever evoked.
What are your future plans?
Doing my level best to get as much work accomplished (music, art, writing) as I can before I die. I’ve had my memento mori, and as for wealth, fame, celebrity, etc. that’s in the hands of destiny. I can’t do much to affect it so I don’t worry about it. I lived in Hollywood too long to think that merit has anything to do with who gets famous and who doesn’t; who gets the big bestseller and who doesn’t, etc. I want to work as hard as I can for as long as I can. Then, when I die, no regrets.
Any Message you want to give to the readers of The Pakistani Spectator?
Yes. We Americans are astonishingly self-centered and don’t notice other countries on the globe. I know that, but I also want you to know that we sincerely are trying to do the best thing, and please be patient with us. We will become mature and behave responsibly, eventually. I wish you the best in achieving a truly just and honest representative democracy and a consensus. My country is having a heck of a time doing that right now, so I know that it’s tough.