June 2009 Archives

Coverage of Michael Jackson's death leads me to wonder if somebody has hacked the Times website:

In Paris, fans planned a memorial moonwalk at the Eiffel Tower for Sunday, and a ceremony in his honor is to be held at the 13th-century Notre Dame cathedral Friday night.

Fans lit candles at a spontaneous gathering in Hong Kong, while in the Philippines, a dance tribute was planned for a prison in Cebu, where Byron Garcia, a security consultant, had 1,500 inmates join in a synchronized dance to the "Thriller" video.
I have long associated Michael Jackson and Jean Baudrillard, for reasons it seems too obvious to be worth the effort to catalog. There are some brief, not terribly interesting references to Jackson, comparing him to Andy Warhol, in The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomena (1990), just reissued by Verso. It seems like there ought be a more sustained discussion someplace, but I'm drawing a blank. Any tips?

June 26, 2009 2:50 PM | | Comments (1)
Recent news reminds me of a couple of items that are now topical again.

One is a piece on Michael Jackson from early 2006.

The other, from December, is a column on a book called The Art of the Public Grovel, which with the benefit of hindsight Gov. Sanford might wish he had read while on the beach in Argentina.
June 26, 2009 9:23 AM | | Comments (0)
People are sending me email to point out that the title of my column this week, "Fifty Years After Stonewall," must be the work of the numerically challenged, because four decades have passed, not five.

Sometimes it proves necessary to read more than the headline, you know.

June 24, 2009 10:56 AM | | Comments (1)
There are some bugs in the design, but check out the redesigned website for New Politics.

Wrote my first piece for the journal in 1989 and seem to be publishing there at a rate of once per decade, so far. Which is bad. I resolve to do better in the future. But for now, I have posted something to its blog section about Jeff Perry's work on Hubert Harrison.

Perry's talk on Harrison at Socialism 2009 in Chicago (with slides) was a big hit -- at least fifty people crowded into a small room, listening to a talk that ran for more than an hour, but kept the whole room's attention rapt.

It was recorded, as was my talk on C.L.R. James. If they appear online, I will try to post something here.  
June 23, 2009 5:41 PM | | Comments (0)
Christopher Phelps has given me permission to upload his paper "A Neglected Document on Socialism and Sex" from Journal of the History of Sexuality, in order to link to it in my own article, to be published elsewhere online. He is the copyright holder.

Here it is:


June 23, 2009 12:10 PM | | Comments (0)
I'm about to take Amtrak up to Philadelphia to speak (briefly) at a workshop for the Association of American University Presses, after which back to Amtrak and home again. With luck, some of them will have read my column today, which is about how university presses are using Twitter.

Now I just have to pull together something else to say out of the pages of stuff I've scribbled over the past few days. At this point it's a matter of lining up the tangents so that they point into something like the same direction. Two hours on the train ought to be more than sufficient, and on the ride back I might be able to fine-tune my C.L.R. James talk for this weekend.

With howsoever much reluctance, I am going to try to twitter some over the next few days. Here is my feed. No promises regarding consistency or regularity but I'll make the experiment.
June 17, 2009 7:38 AM | | Comments (0)
Aside from writing a couple of columns, I need over the next two weeks to

  • give an informal talk at a workshop for the Association of American University Presses meeting in Philadelphia
  • head to Chicago for Socialism 2009, where I will be speaking on C.L.R. James at a morning session on the final day, when most of the young revolutionaries will be hung over from the night before
  • file a freelance piece (for which I have not yet so much as taken any notes)
  • conduct a seminar on book reviewing for a group of reporters from the U.S. and Wales who have fellowships in a program on cultural journalism sponsored by the British Arts Council
  • finish reading at least three books for review-essays that I probably should be thinking about now (instead of, say, writing this blog post).
All of this makes it seem like a pretty good move to have recently picked up a netbook that weighs about three pounds, even with a strong battery. At a cost of barely $300, it paid for itself with the first two paragraphs I drafted on it.

Even with it at hand, though, most of the work done for my talks in Philadelphia and Chicago has involved scribbling on legal pads. In general it is probably a good idea to move away from this labor-intensive approach to composition. But it does seem as if preparing to give a talk is a very distinct process, with its own odd requirements.

Rita has persuaded me that standing up in front of a room full of people and reading from a typescript only just technically qualifies as "public speaking." She's good at it, and has given me some pointed but helpful "notes," as they say in theater. So for the past few months, I've stopped going about things in the old way.

Lately my method has been to sketch the talk out in some detail - and to do so repeatedly, until the articulation between one section and the next in the outline becomes very familiar. Then, when it comes time to speak, I prepare one or two pages listing the main points in sequence, to keep on hand in case of momentary brain seizure. The important thing, it seems like, is to be clear about what you are covering and how the parts are related.

At this point I'm in an uphill battle to organize my talk for AAUP. The session is on blogging and social networking. The audience will consist mainly of publicity folks. It is an odd situation in that I hardly ever blog these days (and even at its peak, blogging never amounted to ten percent of my writing) while my involvement in social networking has been pretty lackadaisical.

While publishers occasionally indicate that my column has influenced book sales, this always comes a surprise -- and for the most part I'd rather not know it. (Influencing the conversation, rather than the bottom line, is the motive force for taking up any given title.) Half of public speaking involves evoking or creating a shared ethos, but in this case it is going to be tough. It is a struggle to know what to say, or how to say it.

The situation in regard to the CLRJ session is rather different, of course. Although it has now been more than a dozen years since I've published more than the very occasional short piece on James, that is not for want of thoughts to frame.

Kenneth Burke once referred to finding himself in a condition of  "counter-gridlock." In gridlock, traffic is so dense that no single car can move. By analogy and inversion, "counter-gridlock" is what happens when each of your ideas is connected to so many of the others that once any single one of them starts rolling, so do all the rest.

The work on James got to that point by the mid-1990s and I ended up with a mass of notes and outlines, not to mention an enormous amount of documentation, in boxes in my study. With the Chicago talk, I have tried rereading the relevant primary materials as if I've never so much as thought about them before - then worked out an overview that might help put things in context.

It seems to be coming together. We'll see how it works out. The next step will be to prepare a much more carefully framed version as an article for International Socialist Review, the editors of which are being awfully patient.

(I'm pretty sure this note qualifies as procrastination. For about a year now, I've been turning over in my head the question "What is blogging for?" Well now, there you go.)
June 13, 2009 11:44 AM | | Comments (1)

This 1971 interview with John Lennon (conducted by Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn) appeared in Red Mole, the newspaper of the International Marxist Group, which at the time was the British section of the Fourth International.

If memory serves, it was Lennon's support for the IMG that got J. Edgar Hoover worked up....

UPDATE: Jon Wiener, who knows these things, points out that while MI5 kept track of his involvement with the Trotskyists, what upset Hoover was Lennon's opposition to the re-election of Richard Nixon.

Also, I'm guessing, the sideburns.

June 8, 2009 12:42 PM | | Comments (1)

June 5, 2009 12:50 PM | | Comments (0)

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