Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Molly Ivins

May her fight continue!

For those who don't know, Molly Ivins is another tough Texas chick, a whipsmart columnist who has been speaking truth for a long time, frequently appearing in the Texas Observer and on Alternet. She's struggling with cancer right now so I wanted to post this to make sure people saw it - and if you feel so inclined, you can support an excellent publication as she has asked, the Texas Observer. Donation page here.

The headline link starts:
Our beloved sister Molly Ivins is fighting or her life against cancer, and all we can do is try to send her even a fraction of the brillliance, joy and love she has given us for so many incomparable years.This genuis daughter of Texas turmoil has stood alone for so long as a voice of clarity, wit, common sense and plain-spoken conscience that it’s hard to know even where to start.

It's worth a read, for any smart progressive types who might now know what she's done. She's one of the good ones, folks.

PS From the LA Times today (via the Boston Globe):
Molly Ivins, the irrepressibly irreverent political humorist and syndicated columnist who skewered legislators, governors, and presidents, especially those from her beloved Texas, died yesterday at her home in Austin after a long battle with cancer. She was 62.

It goes on to say a lot more, and is worth reading.

Expected I suppose, but tragic all the same. I hope some strong Texas gals will follow the legacy of Ivins and Richards in some way, and put some rightwing nutjobs in their place. Texas of all places could use them.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Fear of the Reader

Just a quick post to link to this Salon piece, "The Readers Strike Back," by Gary Kamiya. I'll edit this post later to add my thoughts to it, but just from reading page one, I can see folks need to read it. Salon's editor-in-chief, Joan Walsh, is quoted as saying (quote pulled from within quote), "We wanted to incread our page views, reaader participation and loyalty." She's explaining why they added an open comments feature to their articles. You write something, and then you go back to look at it and see if it got attention. My initial reaction is that such an impulse shouldn't be encouraged by major media outlets - but more, again, later.

Friday, January 26, 2007

A few minor points

I was pleased to see this note in today's issue of Shelf Awareness:
Who'd have thought it? Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia, which has been running at Lincoln Center since late November, has created a run on Russian Thinkers, the 1978 collection of essays by Isaiah Berlin, today's New York Times reported. One of seven titles recommended in the show's playbill, until recently the book sold about 36 copies a month nationally. It's now unavailable at New York area stores and online. Penguin has done its first reprinting in 12 years and will have more copies available in days.The other six books, which are also in some demand, are:

The Romantic Exiles by E.H. Carr
Natasha's Dance: A Cultural
History of Russia by Orlando Figes
My Past and Thoughts by Alexander Herzen
Indiana by George Sand
A Sportsman's Sketches by Ivan Turgenev
Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev

I like seeing other people, like me, finding books in unusual ways. The unfortunate reality is that you cannot build marketing strategies off of this kind of reading. I'm sure publishers did not petition Stoppard or the theatre to get into this recommended reading list. And yet, the books are in demand! Hurray!

More Mailer on the NYTimes here. I saw Mailer at a William Styron tribute at the Boston Public Library last month (or so), and he's looking his age. Of course, he went on to say that the women who had spoken before him were not loud enough, and would never take over the world if they couldn't speak up, "like Hillary Clinton." He then complimented the men who spoke, whom he could here, saying that it's hard for men to speak up in this day and age. Long story short, he's still a blowhard.

And people are talking about this Finnish novel written entirely in text message speak. I'm linking to the enjoyable galleycat blog rather than the blogger's source: USA Today. No sir, I am not linking to that blandness in black and white. USA Today reminds me of bad road trips. Anyhow, this novel sounds intensely irritating, no? I love the author's name - Hannu Luntiala - and I secretly love how annoyed the publisher's managing editor must have been seeing all the grammatical errors. But I ain't reading idiot code. It's useful, but it doesn't mean it needs this kind of replication. (It doesn't help that I've heard grad students say that these abbreviations are creeping into student papers. Now that's just painful.)

I don't want my posts to become a series of links, like this blog, for example. It's fine for some, but for right now, I'd rather create more content. That blogger's obviously showing signs of a busy schedule - and I have a manuscript sitting here, to edit. That blogger's manner makes more sense... So we'll see.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A new year... finally

My first post of 2007. Sorry it's taken so long - a hit this new year running.

So I won't get into the horror that is Time Magazine's Person of the Year, which basically confirms all my suspicions, that have been voiced by many others in this case, that big corporate media is praising all of us in order to get our money. They made ME person of the year, then I should really get a subscription. Ridiculous. A better but still l-i-t-e (in a good way) criticism of this feeble marketing attempt was written about by Siva Vaidyanathan (of sivacracy) on msnbc, who sums it all up nicely:

Well, thank you, Time, for hyping me, overvaluing me, using me to sell my image back to me, profiling me, flattering me, and failing to pay me. As soon as I saw myself on my local newsstand, I had to buy a copy of Time... Almost every major marketing campaign these days is about empowering "you."

(and later) It’s part of a slippery slope between true democratic culture and crass commercial culture. Because we all matter equally in the polis we pretend we all might matter equally in the public square. Granting that illusory wish can be very profitable.

I like his point about this corporation illusion of participation and communication, versus the very real possibility of it that has yet to be realized. He doesn't really address my concerns, in this article at least, about legetimate authority and controlling one's content - though I like his line about "failing to pay me." The Weekly Dig made this point when the Boston Globe writers were on strike: these reporters are expected to keep blogs, which are then excerpted in the newspaper, and it's questionable whether or how they're being paid for that content.

And in the current issue of Mother Jones, Alissa Quart has a good article on "the amateur revolution." Quart introduced a term I didn't know, "pro-am," or "professional amateurs:"
The majority of the millions of amateurs out there are not far-out obsessives, but rather what is known as "professional-amateurs." These "pro-ams," as Wikipedia describes them (at least for now), exist "within any endeavor that could be called professional, such as writing, sports, computer programming, music, film, etc.," smudging the distinction between expert and novice. First identified in Charles Leadbeater and Paul Miller's 2004 essay "The Pro-Am Revolution: How enthusiasts are changing our economy and society," this new breed pursues "amateur activities to professional standards" and has redefined leisure as "not passive consumerism but active and participatory."
Ahhh. So they have a name. Much of the article involves giving interesting examples of these people - well worth a read (and I should say, unlike Time magazine, Mother Jones is well worth a subscription!). Quart doesn't come out strongly as pro or anti, but rather questions the state of things in a way I found helpful and agreeable. She points out the corporate intrusions on this amateur world - fake videos posted on YouTube by supposed amateurs who were later uncovered, Wizard-of-Oz like, and found to be PR firms and what-not.

Reading these pieces makes me feel part of a group of skeptics, not sure that there is a solid answer but not ready to run excitedly into this future where "pro-ams" are given full reign. The article quotes Ron Hogan, publishing blogger at GalleyCat (which I've quoted), who says that "capital-J journalists... possess an 'ironclad defensiveness about who gets entry into professional institutions.'" But I can't help but think he's referring to people who worked their way up, through j-school and through small publications, to get into positions of more power. Why shouldn't they expect the next crop to do the same, to prove their ability and their work ethic for that field?