The almost two-years gone but not about to be forgotten Al Weisel, famous in song and story and on blog rolls as the ersatz conservative blogger Modest Jon Swift was, besides being a funny man, a generous one in that he used his popularity in the blogosphere to champion the work of other bloggers and give them regular traffic boosts. One of his best gifts to us, his fellow pixel-dappled wretches, was his year end round-up of the best posts of the previous solar circuit. The posts were chosen by the bloggers themselves but the tedious and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome-risking work of gathering, linking, and posting was all Al’s.
Lots of good reading there, folks, from names familiar and un-. I recommend you visit as many of the un’s as you can. You’re bound to discover somebody who’ll make you say, “I can’t believe I haven’t been reading this great blog all along! Where’s that Share on Facebook button?”
Steve Kuusisto, who was born legally blind and whose eyesight deteriorated over the course of his life to the point that he “saw” only memories of the little he had been able to see in the past, had an operation a couple of years ago that can’t be said to have restored his sight---because he had never been so sighted in his life. He can now see, a wonder he is still wondering at:
But seeing anew you are no longer wandering the planet by memory. When guide dog Vidal and I walked Mannerheim Street in Helsinki we followed the vines of memory. Here is the botanical garden; here’s the city museum with its old copper doors; a path through lilacs. Now, seeing things, I discover the sighted world is more insistent and fast than the reveries of blind dream-walking. Was the world always this fast? My skin quivers, a stray piece of paper blows across the sidewalk at my feet. I want to get down on my hands and knees and grab it. I want to hold it up to the light and read with my one eye the letters that probably signify nothing. The blind self would imagine a written plea from a far island. The sighted man sees it’s just the gibberish of our economy. Up the street he goes. A teenaged boy on a skateboard flips backwards, falls on his ass, his Ipod flies into the air, his arms and legs are busy as a hundred men. His skateboard lands in a fountain. Vision tells me there’s a world unaffected by the self. I can’t tell you how thrilling this discovery is. I feel like Ralph Waldo Emerson, though without his visionary immanence--I’m not crossing the park and seeing something cosmological, instead I’m seeing the frosted leaves in early autumn and a boy flying.
Lot of you in the Northeast were probably in the same situation we were in the last few days, without heat and electricity thanks to Saturday’s snowstorm. We lost power Saturday afternoon and it didn’t come back on until yesterday. We muddled through, suffering some inconvenience but no serious damage, and I hope you can all report the same. But no power = no internet, and that explains why no posts since Saturday. That doesn’t mean that no blogging occurred.
Our intrepid staff of ace reporters, hard-nosed editors, and crackerjack researchers remained at their posts, 24/7. Huddled under blankets in the dark, working by flashlights and candles, they scribbled away furiously in notebooks, the result being a big batch of posts waiting to be typed up and published. For example: we’ll have a couple of book reviews for you, one of Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean and, for all you Terry Pratchett fans, a review of Sir Terry’s latest Discworld novel, Snuff!
There’ll be something up every day through the weekend---some days, there’ll be two somethings, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, if you’re inclined, you can catch up with posts from October you might have missed.
Ok, time to get typing. A heads up, though. As I warned back in the spring, November’s Fundraising Month. I’ll try not to be too pushy about it, but the donation button will be at the top of the page most days, so, if you enjoy what goes on here and would like to help keep the blog going strong and you can swing it, please consider making a donation. It’d be much appreciated.
Thank you for your support and thank you for reading the blog.
Those of you who’ve been regular visitors to Mannionville over the years know how much I owe to James Wolcott.
Basically I don’t exist without Jim.
I’ll bet most of you found your way here thanks to Jim and his blog at Vanity Fair. Whenever I pick up new readers, it’s almost always the case it’s because they followed a link from Jim. In short, this blog is pretty much a chapter of the James Wolcott Fan Club and Mighty Marching Society. So, if you haven’t heard it already, you''ll be happy to hear now that Jim’s memoir, Lucking Out: My Life Getting Down and Semi-Dirty in Seventies New York is in the bookstores.
I’ve got my copy but I’m looking for a whole day to put aside to read it in one sure to be happy and rewarding go. Meanwhile, Tom Watson, another blogger who owes much to Jim’s generosity---and there are many of us---has raced his way through his copy and posted a review.
Updated because the Merry Marchers keep marching along beating their drums and clanging their cymbals in praise of their guy:
What stops his writing from descending into mere Fine Writing — or, since Wolcott is too energetic a talent for silver-birch finery, the hyper-caffeinated rock-press equivalent, distracted by its own snarl in the bath-room mirror — are his sure, unfakable rhythms, frequently reserving the most delightful sealion flips for the point at which most writers would be taking a well-earned cigarette break, and the simpatico match-up between his prose and his subjects. In each case, he locks into some obstreperous vitality in his subjects — a gnarly, wriggling life force — and then proceeds to write like a man possessed.
I cherish this book. It isn't nostalgia, that tattered paper valentine that arrives sometime around St. Patrick's Day. It's a chance to visit another world with a critic supreme, who's as generous here as he's always been to struggling writers.
For a bunch of reasons, but mainly this week because it’s Banned Books Week and as he is every year Batocchio is on top of it.
In this post, he gives the overview, with useful links, deals with the banning of books by two authors in particular, Aldous Huxley and Sherman Alexie, and provides a round-up of posts by other bloggers on banned books, banning books, and Banned Books Week.
We give a condemned man a choice of last meal…because we’re better than the condemned. On the last day of his life, we’re extending the little niceties of civilization as a way of showing the man about to die what he rejected. We let him meet with a clerical representative of his choice to show we live by the values we kept and he rejected.
Not any more. Enjoy your macaroni and cheese.
I’m sorry to have to note that this change in policy was instigated by a Democrat.
Introducing a new feature or reviving an old one in a slightly new format, a month’s end round-up of posts from the past four weeks. Here are a few of the things that went on here in Mannionville in August.
I haven't had a credit card for years, because I actually live like a fiscal conservative.
We’re sure you do, Andrew. But you know what else you live like?
A man with a six-figure income and no children.
Getting a little tired of being told by the well-to-do strolling down Park Avenue that the hoi polloi need to share in some more sacrifice and tighten their belts another notch.
Sullivan also thinks we need to raise the age of retirement. Again not advice we want to hear from someone who can go on vacation for weeks at a time seemingly whenever he wants and who has a job he can do and do well until he’s 90, if his health allows.
One of the things that drives us nuts about Sullivan is that it’s all so personal with him. I don’t mean he thinks it’s all about him. I mean that sometimes---a lot of times---he doesn’t seem able to imagine that not everybody in the United States is a gay ex-pat Brit living in Washington, D.C. whose big disappointment in life recently was being turned down for a mortgage on a second home.
Yeah. Sullivan didn’t get to buy a summer house in Provincetown. The heart heart bleeds.
So why is he our favorite blog of the day? Not for statements like the above but because he routinely makes statements like it---wrong-headed, even dumb, sure, but personal. The Dish isn’t about politics, economics, foreign affairs, or even religion, which he writes about regularly and on which, as with all the other topics, he imagines he’s an expert. It’s about being Andrew Sullivan and what it’s like to think like Andrew Sullivan about a lot of things.
That’s what we like about the Dish. It’s about Sullivan thinking about a lot of things. Sullivan is interested in just about everything---although judging by his blog, he doesn’t go to movies or read many books; he does, however, read poetry.---and he blogs about it all. Politics are important to him but he sees them as part of life, not the be-all and end-all. The Mental Health Breaks and Faces of the Day and the views from readers’ windows are diversions but they aren’t his version of cat-blogging. They are diversions from what other A-list bloggers would consider diversions if they bothered to be diverting.
Sullivan knows that diversions are an important part of life, that they are what makes life worth the trouble.
Once upon a time, when liberal bloggers’ hearts were young and light and beat as one with shared fury at George W. Bush, the editors here at the Mannionville Daily Gazette pointed out that the liberal blogosphere was sorting itself out between the “wonks” and the “writers” and we made the pitch that it would be a good idea for the wonks to link to the writers more often. (The writers were already linking regularly to the wonks.) We thought and still think our ability to entertain, to divert, to write about things other than politics was a strength, an advantage we have over the Right side of the bandwidth. Over there, besides the fact that most of their A-listers can’t write, their relentless propagandizing makes them boring. Come for the movie reviews, stay for the bar graphs, was our proposed slogan.
The wonks didn’t listen and since then they’ve grown even wonkier. They’ve also become more self-referential and more of a closed circle. But when they aren’t writing about politics---or economics, which they treat as politics by other means, or history, which is only interesting to them in how it applies to the politics of the moment---all they have is whatever’s their individual version of cat-blogging.
Jon Mooallem traces the emergence of the gesture to Glenn Burke, a gay Dodgers player in 1977. Burke was abruptly traded to the Oakland A's in 1978, most likely because of his sexuality. But he found another home in San Francisco's gay community…
Unless they link to Sullivan.
The editors acknowledge that this post is a not very thinly disguised advertisement for the author’s own blog.
The editors also admit they are just as annoyed as you are by the use of the too precious New Yorker-style editorial We and promise not to let the author get away with it in any of our future posts.
Tonight, Tuesday, July 5, at 9 EDT, right here on your intertubes. Our topic is set to be What I Learned About Politics From My Father.
Long-time readers of the blog know that Pop Mannion is one of the last great New Deal Democrats. He was the first Democrat ever elected to the town board in my hometown and he served two separate stints as supervisor, the first from 1970-1980 and the second from 1990-1998. In his time he did our town a world of good. The main lesson I learned from watching him was work was that I am totally unsuited to be President of the United States.
I learned a few other more useful things too. Which Susie and I will talk about, but we’ll probably get on to other subjects as well. Paul Simon, for one.
That’s Paul Simon the singer-songwriter not Paul Simon the late, great, bow-tied, big-eared, bespectacled Liberal Senator from Illinois. But who knows? We may get around to talking about him too.
So please tune in. And call in. The number’s (646) 200-3440. Operators will be standing by.
Actually, I think it’s just one operator and I’m pretty sure she/he has a chair.
Update: Thanks very much to Susie for having me on the show. It was fun and made more so because we were joined by Claire of Espirit de l’escalier who talked about her frustrations working in local government in Ohio where the bully-boy Republican governor is telling towns they can’t do anything to fix or improve their communities if it means spending money.
If you missed the show and are curious, here you go---
It’s long. An hour and a half. A lot of time was taking up by me stammering. Once again, I’m forced to face up to the fact that I apparently learned all I know about public speaking from Jimmy Stewart.
Then I had a fling with Gore Vidal in the early 60s. Jack Kennedy seemed to enjoy Gore’s company so much that I wanted to find out what I was missing. He was fun sometimes, but I fairly quickly tired of a sex life that seemed to consist entirely of me dressing up in an army uniform while Gore wept and called me Jimmy.
That’s from a post called Friday night book post. It’s actually a review of China Mieville’s new novel, Embassytown. The part about how Sarah had a fling with Hemingway when she was working undercover in Cuba as Castro’s mistress isn’t as tangential as you might think.
Anyhow, there were just 20 of us for dinner sitting at a big table in the middle of the Pool Room. Bitsy had seated me next to her, which was fine, but bloody Ayn Rand was on the other side of me, with the usual pinched expression she always had in the company of the genuinely rich or the genuinely talented…
I’m about a paragraph away from finishing a post about Paul Ryan and the Republican Plan to end Medicare. You’ll be surprised to learn I’m against the plan and I don’t like Paul Ryan and think he and all the Republicans in Congress are a gang of dastardly villains.
But as important as I think it is that you learn that, I don’t want to blog about it.
I want to blog about my trip around the world.
Unfortunately, I’m not taking a trip around the world at the moment.
Fortunately, author, editor, and admitted grumpy old man Richard Pollack is. And he’s been blogging about it. His blog is called You’re Only Old Once and this is his how he describes it:
In Which a Homebody of Some Standing Leaves the Comforting Embrace of New York City After Almost Half a Century and Sets Forth on a Global Expedition, With No Fixed Itinerary, No Deadline to Return, a Certain Anxiety, and One Intrepid Wife.
Documentary storytelling was the Trojan horse in the age of hyper-self-consciousness, in which privacy is as antiquated as gaslight and people are the curators of their own lives on Facebook, Twitter and all those other forms of aggrandizing self-expression.
Ok, I don’t know about you, but I use Twitter and Facebook for shameless self-promotion. I’m trying to lure people into reading my blog, where I do my aggrandizing self-expressing.
It doesn’t work the way I want it to. In fact, it tends to work the other way. Most of my Facebook friends are longtime readers of the blog. Or were. Now a lot of them never leave Facebook to come read my posts. Oh well, never mind me, I’m just self-expressing aggrandizingly again. The real point is, what is going on in Stanley’s Facebook and Twitter feeds that caused that Puritanical harrumph?
Probably not much. Likely the paragraph’s nothing more than a former A-student’s reflex---Students, make sure everything you put in your essay supports your thesis. An American Family aired just shy of 40 years ago. Not exactly a fresh topic. But here’s this HBO movie starring Tim Robbins, Diane Lane, and James Gandolfini. There must be a reason to watch the movie besides the fact that it stars Tim Robbins, Diane Lane, and James Gandolfini. It must have currency! How about this? An American Family was the beginning of the end of all that was good and decent in the American character? Something like that anyway. Once upon a time we knew to keep our dull, boring, sordid, mean little lives to ourselves. Now we force Alessandra Stanley to look at pictures of our cats.
Warning to cat lovers. Cats are going to be a metaphor for the rest of this post.
Some people do tend to overshare. But that’s as true out in the analog world as it is here in Virtualland. The difference between a Facebook friend who thinks you can’t look at enough pictures of their cats and the person ahead of you in the line at the grocery store who thinks the cashier needs to hear their long story about the funny thing their cat did the other day is that you can skim over the Facebook friend’s status update without hurting their feelings. Anyway, I’d rather look at more pictures of your cat than have to watch yet another YouTube video of his favorite rock band from the 70s performing his favorite song from his freshman year when everybody else was listening to that other band but he and his friends knew what was really hip and happening.
My main gripe with Facebook and Twitter is they’re time-sinks. I enjoy looking at pictures of your cat. And your cat. And your cat, and your cat, and your cat, and yours, and yours, and yours, and…
You get the point. I’m sure you have the same problem. By the time you’re done looking at pictures of my cats, and his, and hers, and theirs, and etc., an hour’s gone by and there are still more cat pictures showing up in your feed.
Another pitfall of social networks is that they can become an alternative to actually socializing. All that time wasted staring at the computer screen could have been spent talking to live human beings.
My niece, Violet Mannion, who is finishing up her freshman year in college in Boston, was a Facebook virtuoso. She knew just what to post and when to make her feed a happy mix of news, games, fun, and information, managing to keep the aggrandizing at a minimum while making the self-expression charming, lively, and always entertaining. But she deactivated her account in January. It was bothering her that Facebook was becoming the venue for interaction with college life. Here she and her friends were, students in the greatest college town in America, and instead of meeting up nights to discuss their days and their classes over coffee or pizza in one of the thousand quirky dives and joints Boston offers, they were all retreating to their separate dorm rooms to type into the ether. She declared that she’d had all she could stand.
Gosh darnit, she said---Violet shares the Mannion family inability to curse persuasively---If we’re going to make each other look at pictures of our cats, then we’re going to do it by handing each other actual prints, or at least our cell phones, back and forth across real wooden tables damp with bar sweat and sticky with half-dried tomato sauce and the spilled foam from our lattes and we’re going to have to yell over the music from a real live band that we’re all listening to together while we do it instead of while each of us is half-distracted by whatever is shuffling through the headphones on our iPods!
I didn’t watch An American Family and I can’t say I’ve been aware of its influence on television or life in these United States. I can’t connect the dots between it and Facebook. I’m not sure Stanley can either. It’s not really her job to in her review. So, like I said, I’m not sure that paragraph isn’t just a throwaway, like her references to Modern Family and Parks and Recreation, neither of which needs for An American Family to have existed to be what they are, unless Ricky Gervais could only have created The Office because when he was twelve he accidentally caught one episode and had been mulling it over ever since.
But I can’t help suspecting that Stanley means it, at least she means the indictments of Facebook and Twitter as blots on the national character.
Stanley has a Facebook page, but she maintains it with less of the assiduity of a Sarah Palin. And she’s on Twitter, at least somebody named Alessandra Stanley claiming to work for the New York Times is on Twitter, but if it is her, she hasn’t posted a single Tweet. For all I know she’s using aliases and twittering and Facebooking like a madwoman, but unless that’s the case it looks like she hasn’t found much use for either. Maybe she’s resisting the temptation to self-express aggrandizingly. Maybe she’s just too busy expressing herself professionally in the New York Times.
The reason I think she hates Twitter and Facebook, though, is that a lot of people do.
Mainstream media types, especially, seem to have a grudge against social networking. It seems like a continuation of the grudge they had against blogs. Stanley could have written that same paragraph on the night Mark Zuckerberg was inventing Facebook, substituting blogs for Twitter and Facebook but putting the same sneering spin on the word, and her colleagues would have nodded aggressively in agreement. Lots of keyboards have been pounded without mercy as the sages and savants of the intertubes have tried to figure out the source of this animosity, with the consensus being that the olde media types are both afraid of the new media taking away their jobs and jealously protective of their own status and privileges---How dare you members of the great unwashed have opinions about the opinions we’ve decided you should hold!
But I’m not accusing Stanley of sharing either that fear or that arrogance. I’m just saying that I think for one reason or another Facebook and Twitter appall and disgust her or at least make her mildly annoyed and a lot of people who aren’t mainstream media types feel the same way.
I used the word Puritanical to describe her tone. You should know that I don’t think of the word as necessarily a pejorative.
Lots of liberals reflexively use the word Puritan to describe social and religious conservatives. But they are thinking of the humorless, hypocritical, intolerant authoritarians who inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne and not the self-improving, self-questioning, self-doubting intellectuals who inspired Ralph Waldo Emerson. There’s a strong Puritanical streak in contemporary liberalism. Forms of witch-hunting and handing out scarlet A’s are popular American traditions handed down to us by the Puritans, but so are public schools.
American liberals are relentless self-improvers. This has its good side as well as its bad, and that bad side is that it can make us judgmental and intolerant in our own way. My review of T.C. Boyle’s new novel, When the Killing’s Done, was long enough without my getting into it, but both its main characters are liberals with strong Puritanical bents. Alma Takesue and Dave LaJoy are driven self-improvers who can’t resist the temptation to improve others in the same ways they’ve improved themselves.
You can see how a contemporary Puritan---like me. I’m one, I confess.---would be wary of Twitter and Facebook. What’s the benefit here, we ask ourselves, meaning, In what way will this make me a better person? How is Twittering and Facebooking self-improving as opposed to self-indulging? It might be ok if I’m using social networking to be social, if I’m using it to connect with people, to share information (of the self-improving, non-self-indulging kind), to learn about what other people are thinking and doing and what’s going on in the world outside my own garden and get ideas on how I can help make it a better place. But what if all I’m doing is using it to show off? What if I’m just aggrandizing myself by showing off? (Puritans can make a big show of showing off their virtue, but they can also make a show of not showing off their virtues. They show off by not showing off.) What if I’m not using social networking to be social at all? What if what I’m doing is closing myself off from the world by spending all my time alone at my computer screen reading things that confirm my smug self-satisfied opinions typed by strangers I’ve decided to befriend or follow just because they happen to think like I do and believe the same things I do and like the same movies I do and vote for the same liberal politicians I do. Aren’t I limiting myself? Aren’t I being a hypocrite? Aren’t I wasting time I could and should be devoting to doing something productive? (Puritans are very bad at loafing.)
Where we Puritans get into trouble, and start causing trouble, is when we decide it’s not enough for us to refrain from something, you need to refrain from it too.
When we’re not content to say, You know, I think I’d better cut back for my own good but have to add, and you should too because it’s contributing to the decline and fall of civilization.
And we can get worse. We start to believe that anybody who doesn’t agree is a deliberate agent of that decline and fall.
Oh, I don’t own a television set.
Oh, I don’t let my children eat at McDonald’s.
Oh, I don’t follow sports.
Oh, I don’t have a Facebook account.
Implicit in all those statements is the question, And what is wrong with you that you do?
I’m pretty cool with Facebook. Twitter is my downfall. Like I said, where I get into trouble with both Facebook and Twitter is when I lose track of time. But with Twitter I have another problem or, as a good Puritan I should say, I face another temptation. Anger. Twitter makes me mad. Well, not Twitter itself. It’s the fact that almost all the people I follow are liberals obsessed with politics and I wind up spending an hour I should be devoting to self-improvement growing angrier and angrier as I read tweet after tweet and follow link after link that tell me what I already know, the world is in terrible shape and it’s all their fault. They being politicians and conservatives and any liberals who don’t agree with me about how it’s their fault or what to do about it.
It wouldn’t help if I started following some conservatives because I would still be following people who are as obsessed with politics and also believe it’s all their fault.
And on Twitter I fall into the habit---give into the temptation---of tweeting in kind, of obsessing over politics and passing along links to my followers that will reassure them that they’re right, and I’m right, it’s all their fault.
Twitter is not, for me, a social network. On Twitter I am the opposite of social. I’m anti-social.
If that’s the case, Lance, you may ask, Why do you have that Follow Me on Twitter widget in your sidebar? Why do you routinely put links to your Twitter feed in your posts here on the blog?
Mainly because I can’t resist self-expressing aggrandizingly.
But also because I do try to make use of Twitter for good Puritanical reasons, to be informative and to take part in social networking, which is to say, to be sociable.
The fault isn’t with Twitter. It’s what I do with it. Posting my notes from my visit to the American Museum of Natural History last week is sociable, especially if it helped send some of my followers over to the Musuem’s twitter feed and even more especially if it led to anyone’s deciding to go visit the Museum themselves. Being the six hundredth person to retweet a tweet about how Paul Ryan’s a big jerk? Not so much.
I need to be a better person.
Your turn. What do you like/dislike/love/hate about Twitter/Facebook?
The world as it’s covered in Blogtopia (h/t Skippy) is a world defined by television news and the editorial pages of the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. It’s a gray, joyless world in which everything revolves around politics and politics is mixed up with a deracinated, sexless form of television celebrity, and everybody, pundits, politicians, and bloggers think, write, speak, and argue as if the next Presidential election is tomorrow, its results will decide everything, and its outcome hinges on proving that what the people you disagree with most are wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong again.
But in the world covered by my local paper Donald Trump isn’t running for President, Michelle Bachmann barely exists, the next Presidential election is still a year and a half away, and nobody’s going to see Sucker Punch or cares that anybody’s going to see Atlas Shrugged, Part I.
This isn’t to say that world covered by my local paper is a finer, braver, happier, smarter, or better world to live in. There’s plenty of sorrow, heartache, and pain, not to mention madness, stupidity, cupidity, cruelty, meanness, and plain evil. It just happens to be a world that people can and do live in. Consequently, the news from that world tends to be about how people are going about living in it as opposed to being about what a bunch of millionaire journalists and their lobbyist friends argued about at lunch yesterday.
There’s much to get angry about, but more to make you if not thankful to be living in it, then at least feeling involved. In the world according to my newspaper, individuals have some agency in their lives and don’t have to sit staring at their computer screens, wringing their hands and praying that some politician or journalist finally gets it or a fellow blogger nails it in the hopes that somebody will finally fix things in order to feel like they matter.
It doesn’t make the news stories more important or necessarily truer to life as it really is, just more varied. There are politicians in both worlds, but in Blogtopia (h/t Skippy) there aren’t many 17 year old rodeo champions:
Rachel's mother, Jae, rode horses until three weeks before giving birth to Rachel.
Two days after Rachel was born, she attended her first rodeo, in Massachusetts.
She got her first horse at age 3, competed in her first rodeo a year later. She played other sports, too, but gave them up.
Horses are better than boyfriends, she says — "they're more reliable, you can trust them more. They want to please you, they want to do their job."
There’s a behind the scenes tour planned, so maybe I’ll get to talk to this guy---
The event starts at 10:30. I’ll probably post notes as I go on Twitter. Full post to follow later in the week.
At the end of the month I’ll be going back to the City to review another play at Classic Stage Company, The School for Lies. As I’ve said, I’m hoping to do more of this in the future. But with train fares, gas, parking, tolls, it’s going to add up. If you can swing it and can kick in a small donation, I’d be much obliged and it would be a real help towards making this a better and stronger blog and more fun for the whole family.
Actually, Claire-Helene has been a longtime favorite of The Daily Gazettte’s editors, going way back to when she was a pup.
She’s still a pup, but this month she’s going to become a little less of a pup. She’s turning thirty.
And she’s going to do it on the 30th.
Well, on the 27th really, but it won’t be declared official until the 30th because…
…to celebrate, since she’s turning 30 in a month that hath 30 days, Claire’s going to count down to the big day with a post a day. That’s thirty posts in thirty days.
Yeah, I know, Andrew Sullivan can do thirty posts in thirty minutes, but he has a staff and no life.
The editors here at the Daily Gazette are looking forward to each and every one of Claire’s thirty, especially since many of them are bound to feature photographs by Claire, like this one from March Snow.
As far as I know, Andrew Sullivan doesn’t own a camera.
As I’ve said, I’m planning on making play reviews a regular feature on the blog. Means more trips to and from NYC, so if you can help make this happen by kicking in a small donation for gas and parking, I’d be much obliged.
I was thinking I might Twitter my own presentation yesterday afternoon, the way James Franco Twittered his hosting gig on the Academy Awards, but unlike Franco I actually got caught up in what I was doing and kept forgetting to reach for my iPhone which I don’t have one of anyway.
So my next plan was to write a blog post summing up, but I forgot.
I was talking about blogging, right? So who do you figure’s going to be in the audience?
I had the opportunity to attend an informal discussion/presentation by Lance Mannion with occasional comments from Stephen Kuusisto titled Literary Writing in the Second Digital Age. In it they discussed whether blogs deserve their still often-maligned status as the creation of narcissists screaming into the echo chamber or whether they were something more?
Larry Bissonette and Tracy Thresher, the two stars of Wretches & Jabberers are heading a panel discussion on the film this morning at ten o’clock central time. If you’re here in Iowa City it’s being held in the Illinois Room in the Student Union.
And this afternoon, this:
A dramatic reading of Finding Our Voices by writers with autism will be held at 2:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 8, in the Rembolt Room of the Center for Disabilities and Development. Finding Our Voices, compiled and edited by Grinnell [High School] senior DJ Savarese, is a 25-minute collage of prose and poems by autists who type to communicate. The script, solicited by drama teacher Liz Hansen for the Iowa Large Group Speech competition, is read and performed by eight of DJ’s peers.
The reading will include writings by Tracy and Larrry. DJ Saverese, the producer and director, has just been accepted into Oberlin College, the first non-speaking autist to be accepted at Oberlin, according to his father, writer Ralph Savarese.
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.---John Rogers, screenwriter, comic book writer, television producer, and blogger at Kung Fu Monkey.
Some links to blogs and posts I mentioned or wanted to mention in my talk this afternoon.
I’ll be talking with Steve Kuusisto about blogging as a literary form at One this afternoon, March 7, in the University of Iowa’s English-Philosophy Building. I’m reposting this old post from my very first month of blogging and the one below, A whole passel of swoopers, because they touch on some of the points I hope I’ll get to make today. So, by way of an introduction to this afternoon’s event…
Longfellow had a blog.
Somewhat cut off from everyday German student life, Longfellow and [his pal Edward Deering] Prebble diverted themselves by producing their own four-page, quarto-sized, handwritten newspaper...Mildly ribald in tone and full of student jokes, it was intended not for their families but for a small circle of male Portland intimates. Longfellow did most of the writing and drew the many illustrations, and Preble added comments or filled in the blank spots...
...Much of the text---snippets from their reading in several languages, allusions to politics back home, odds and ends of student lore---has lost its bite, but illustrations reveal Longfellow's unsuspected gift for caricature.---From Longellow: A Rediscovered Life. Charles C. Calhoun.
Snippets from their reading. Allusions to politics. Odds and ends. Small circle of readers. Sounds like a blog to me.
Calhoun goes on to describe the tone of Longfellow and Preble's newpaper.
"The satire is coarse, the humor sophomoric, the anger real."
Yep. Definitely a blog.
The New York Times Magazine has a piece on the rise of The Blogs. I'm not going to link to it because everyone of the blogs I'm linking to below links to it. The focus of the piece is on liberal political blogs, which is what you'd expect from the Times. If the Times can find a way it will convert its Sports section to politics, the way it has its Books section. But the celebrification of left (sort of left, anyway) bloggers has right wing bloggers hopping mad, according to Jesse over at Pendagon.
These are people who think that Al Gore thinks he invented the Internet and that proves Gore is crazy who now think that they both invented the blogosphere and simultaneously destroyed the Death Star known as the old Liberal Media, blowing it up with Grand Moff Rather still aboard.
Darth Koppel escaped but they'll track him down and rescue him from the dark side in Episode VI.
(I suspect Berube of being an android constructed by a super-intelligent alien race who've sent him to earth to humiliate all Earthling academics, writers, and would-be satirists, as well as fathers who think they're doing a good job, and middle-aged weekend jocks, with his preternatural brilliance, energy, good humor, devotion, and hockey prowess. But my friend Steve Kuusisto has met the guy and says he appears to be human, just way smarter and more productive and energetic than the rest of us, which makes him even more insufferable.)
...one good thing about the piece [sez Matt] is that it starts to bring out the extent to which there isn't much to say about blogs per se. It's a kind of technology that's used in wildly variant ways, as demonstrated by the enormous differences between Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo, and Wonkette. These sites are united, more or less, only in virtue of being produced by blogging software and by being popular. But we understand that a bestselling cookbook, a National Book Award winning novel, and Lies and The Lying Liars Who Tell Them don't have a great deal to do with each other all in virtue of being books.
The implicit by-the-by here is that blogs aren't anything but a content delivery system. That is, they're a way for people with a lot on their minds, and the arrogance to think that lots of other people want to hear it, to get the words out.
There's been a lot of breathlessness about the revolutionary nature of the internet, of the web, of personal webpages, of blogs.
(Or to put it the way it might appear on Typepad or Yahoo:
Internet>World Wide Web>Personal Web Page>Blog>Lance Mannion)
But little of the panting commentary takes into account that what we're talking about here is a lot of flashy new technology built around a component that's a result of a very old technology. There's a human being at every keyboard, doing what human beings have been doing from the beginning, buttonholing their neighbor and shouting into his ear, "Hey, pay attention to me when I'm talking!"
Longfellow and his friend's newspaper used the technology of the day to deliver content to their friends back home. Printing presses and packet boats and human beings working for the post office. I think what Ben Franklin and his brother were doing with their printing press was producing a blog. Poor Richard's Webpage. If the technology had been available in the 18th Century Hamilton and company would have produced the Federalist Blog. And St Paul was blogging to the Ephesians and the Colossians and the other ians.
In the beginning was the word.
And the word became pixels and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.
The delivery system is a million times faster and the interface a lot prettier, of course. But I'm not sure that blogs are all that more efficient than broadsheets. In fact, there are times, when I'm staring glumly at my traffic stats, when I think that I'd be better off printing these entries on my Inkjet, going downtown to stand on a busy street corner, and handing them out to everyone passing by. At least some of them might read them before throwing them away.