Monthly Archives: November 2004

Red and Blue TV

Paul Farhi of The Washington Post wonders, where has all the red state television gone?

It is, rather, about place. For the past three
decades, network television has gradually eliminated depictions of
regions we’ve come to think of as "red": southern, midwestern,
mountainous, rural, exurban. Over the same period, TV shows have become
"bluer" — populated by people and stories set in locations identical
to those that voted Democratic on Nov. 2.

TV dramas and sitcoms for years have extolled
blue-city living, and marginalized, condescended to or simply ignored
just about everywhere else. Even the fact that TV shows are made in Los
Angeles and the business of network TV is conducted in a few square
blocks of Manhattan does not explain the blue-centric nature of
entertainment television.

And is Jessica Simpson the right choice to be the new Daisy Duke?

Central Park and The Gates

Gates_ori_ref_052The 15,000 steel bases for 7,500
gates, part of an art project, will arrive in Central Park on
Wednesday, according to The Los Angeles Times. The bases are part of The Gates (Making of The Gates), a "massive outdoor" art project by Christo and Jeanne-Claude Benepe.

"Saffron-colored fabric panels being
prepared at a Queens warehouse will adorn the gates throughout the
843-acre park," says The Los Angeles Times. "The effect, the artists say, will be like ‘a golden
river appearing and disappearing through the bare branches of the
trees.’"

Top VOIP Bloggers

Jeff Pulver lists his picks for the Top VOIP (voice over IP) Bloggers of 2004.

Searchable Literary DNA

I have always though that reading writer and artist reviews was among the best ways of learning about art and craft. The Paris Review and Bomb magazine are two literary journals that regularly publish memorable interviews. I remember poring over The Paris Review’s Writers at Work series, the magazine’s hardback anthologies of its interviews, in the stacks of the Thomas Cooper Library. The fifth series, with its interviews of Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, is my favorite.

USA Today and GregBlog  gives a heads up that The Paris Review is now making some of its old interviews available online in a feature the magazine is calling The DNA of Literature. The searchable database will eventually make more than 50 years of interviews available online for free.

Founder and former Editor George Plimpton dreamed of a day when
anyone—a struggling writer in Texas, an English teacher in Amsterdam,
even a subscriber in Central Asia—could easily access this vast
literary resource; with the establishment of this online archive that
day has finally come.

Navigating Newspapers

The Washington Post is losing 4,000 subscribers a month, most of them young readers, according to the Washington City Paper.

The news from the focus groups formed by The Post to figure out the reason for the losses was eye opening, says GregBlog:

Some of the participants treated
the physical paper like a foreign object, asking, "Why is it so big?"
They expressed concerns about old papers piling up around the house.
They worried about recycling and the environment. Some said they
wouldn’t accept even a complimentary subscription to the newspaper. The Post was learning a recent truism the hard way: Young people look to the Internet for their news, and they expect it to be free. (WashingtonPost.com gets 14 million pageviews a month, second only to NYTimes.com.)

Young readers also said that the (phyiscal) newspaper needed more "navigation aids."

Leaving a Trace

If we are all leaving searchable trails on the Internet, wonders Steve Hall, how is that going to affect social behavior in the future? Are you going to be more careful knowing that anything you do might turn up easily on the Internet?

For example, let’s say someone (not me, of course) has a minor run-in with the law such as running a red light, etc. In the past, one would simply pay the fine and the event is then swept under the rug of bureaucratic history. Today, it is not unimaginable to think of all sorts of instances such as this that might be captured, distributed and archived providing a publicly searchable trail of data on people throughout their lives. (Now that I think about it, I suppose this very blog entry will be searchable and attributed to me even 50 years from now). With information exposure and preservation increasingly becoming the norm rather than the exception, will individuals actually begin to positively modify their behavior based on this unitended system of check and balance?

As evidence, he points not just to the search engines, but a firm called Elyion that aggregates corporate-related biographical information. It’s eerie how much information about us is out there; to this day, there are decade-old messages I have left on message boards that turn up on Internet searches. Doing a search on myself through Lexis/Nexis or CapitalIQ, which pulls much of its information from SEC documents, is also somewhat eerie.

We have already seen the impact of such traceability on journalism and politics. It is much easier to search for an article by a particular journalist–or word uttered in public by a politician. Every word they have ever written or said can potentially come back to haunt them. How is that for reputation forming? (Can you say "flip flop," anyone?)

I wonder how it is going to specifically affect literary careers Many of my writing friends submit their stories to both print and online venues. It is a legacy of the traditional publishing that many print journals remain the most prestigious, partly since appearing in paper form seems less ephemeral to the young writer quixotically seeking immortality. Print publications have the feel of the real about them: you can see, touch–if you want, taste, the story that had been printed on paper. You can show them to your friends to prove that you are a "real" writer. Online publications have the potential to reach more people, though, as Jason Sanford has argued in Story South.

Most literary magazines just can’t compete against the reach and long-term exposure of online magazines. Want to read a back issue of storySouth—no problem, just go to our back issues page. Want to read a back issue of the New England Review—best of luck finding a copy. In fact, I suspect this is why many mid-list literary magazines are in trouble. Some are switching to dual online and print publications. Those that can’t, or are unwilling, such as the respected journal Crazyhorse, simply cease publication.

It also means, however, that both your best–and worst fiction, stays in circulation much longer than it formerly did. If a typical writer or artist does not hit his peak until he is in his 30s, how do we judge the output that came before and after? Before, it used to be fairly easy to deepsix your early work. You let it languish in the remaindered bins, or if you were particularly paranoid and independently wealthy, you snapped up any remaining copies. Bad writing fell out of print. Embarassing journals could be burned. Instead, these days your journals are called blogs, and you share them as publicly as you can. They, and your short stories, might stay online forever.

On the other hand, the web might provide an interesting way for you to look at the career of a writer in totality. You can read through a succession of Honore Balzac’s novels of WIlliam Shakespeare’s plays through Project Gutenberg , or look at manuscript collections online (like the F. Scott Fitzgerald online exhibition at the University of South Carolina).

Which doesn’t deal with the central issue that Hall brings up: how to keep yourself from becoming infamous. Graham Greene’s family has taken exception with the latest volume of Norman Sherry’s biography of the great writer. They say that they portray him as an over-sexed man. Notably, Sherry was given permission to review private letters. What about the very public journals that some of us now write? You might choose to keep some of your musings more private and be more judicious in your actions. Or at least, don’t let your indiscretions get onto the Internet.

A Book of Poetry

The New York Times Book Review  asked a group of poets and critics one of those toughest of questions: "What book of poetry, published in the last 25 years, has meant the
most to you personally — the book you have found yourself returning to
again and again?"

Jim Harrison explained why he explores and goes back to explore certain poetry.

Now that I am older and am sliding into home base, I’ve become aware
that I’ve read some poetry nearly every day for the past 50 years for
basically nutritional reasons. It is a survival tactic, this soul food,
a need to assuage the sense of incomprehension that I have lived with
daily since I was a desperate and vulnerable boy. Just last week on a
French book tour when I felt like a stray dog struck by a car and
biting at its wounds in a ditch I stopped into a bookstore to fortify
myself with a few pages of Rimbaud and Rene Char.

The persons and their picks?