main: July 2010 Archives

Sometime in the spring of 2009, a right-wing blogger revealed that I belonged to something called Journolist, which was either a sinister cabal disguised as an email discussion group or vice versa. It was very exciting to me to learn this. Until that point I had never even heard of Journolist. That's how secret it was. You could belong to it without even knowing you were a member. I admired the efficiency this necessarily requires.

Anyway, a couple of months later, the head cabal-ist actually did ask me to join the listserv, which consisted mainly of liberal journalists, academics, and policy wonks. Strictly speaking I am none of these things, but some of my best friends are, and they were on the list, so it was a good way to keep up with what they were talking about.

An awful lot of this was gossip about the internal politics of various publications. Also, sports. I kept thinking, "Aren't we supposed to be getting our marching orders from Pyonyang? And when do we sacrifice the unbaptized infants to Lord Cthulu?" but these things never actually came up. I was disappointed. But if I'd ever had a question about changes in the Alabama tax code between 1946 and 1973, or the nature of Marty Peretz's sex life, then Journolist would have been the place to ask.  

About a month ago, Journolist shut down. It still has a kind of posthumous influence, though. Obsessing over it is good for the careers of Republican political flacks (openly involved in running the "Tea Party" subsidiary or otherwise) who have made a profession of dishonesty; and it surely exercises a hold on the minds of their dupes, who are people with more fervid imagination than critical intelligence.

Now, I don't write for those folks, but really can't help it if they insist on inserting me into a conspiratorial narrative that is much more interesting than real life.

Looking over the comments section of a blog hosted by one of my former employers, I was surprised to come across the following:

Journolist member, Scott McLemee--Inside Higher Ed.

"For some time now, I have been collecting notes on the interaction between academics and journalists. In theory, at least, this relationship ought to be mutually beneficial -- almost symbiotic."
--Scott McLemee
Aha! That proves...something.

Well, sure, and I'd stick by the formulation. I mean, for that matter free-market capitalism is a good idea in theory. In the real world,. of course, it just doesn't work.  Repeating my argument from five years ago isn't of much interest now, and in any case would be a total waste of time. Just glancing at Twitter shows how utterly the discussion is dominated by emotion and fantasy of precisely the sort I recall hearing on AM radio call-in shows in Texas, three decades ago..

Even then, while still in my teens, I thought of it as childish. A friend suggests that yes, there is actually is conspiracy, and it is to keep a sizable part of the population in a state of arrested development. There may be something to this theory. Evidence is available.

Meanwhile, some vigilant right-winger has exposed my endorsement of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy. This is true. I am in favor of peace and democracy. There, I said it.
July 27, 2010 9:45 AM | | Comments (8)
The first profile I ever wrote -- this would have been 1992, give or take, and I didn't actually think of it as a "profile" so much as an essay where I'd done some interviewing -- was about Harvey Pekar, whose anthology of American Splendor cartoons I had discovered in Austin a few years earlier while shelving books at the Undergraduate Library. I interviewed him by phone and laboriously transcribed the tape recording, then worked it up into a piece of two or three thousand words.

The tape is long lost, and it woud take some digging to unearth the article, which appeared in a small magazine and was later reprinted by one in England. We stayed in touch for a short time after that. One of the things stressed on in the piece (if memory serves) was Harvey's penchant for immersing himself in a given author -- systematically reading everything he could find. He was similarly thoroughgoing, not to say obsessive, about jazz. At one point, I photocopied a scarce book by Lewis Lewisohn for him from the Library of Congress (where I was working at the time) and also persuaded him to give an article about John Zorn he had written to the little magazine that had published my profile. Someone should consider issuing a collection of his essays and critical writings.

At some point we fell out of touch -- though of course it was always possible to find out about his life by catching up with his work from time to time.

He was, in all his cantankerousness and independence of spirit, an inspiration to me. Perhaps more so now than 18 years ago, actually. His political radicalism was deep and stubborn and very, very American. You can't picture him joining a Marxist party, by any means, but he had the courage of his convictions, and an indifference to seeming any better than he was. He was not a friend, by any means, but I do think of him as a comrade.

Harvey Pekar, Presente!

UPDATE:  Piece by Jeet Heer    
July 13, 2010 3:52 PM | | Comments (3)

By coincidence, I came across this video on the same day as my column ran on Secret Language, a new book from Oxford University Press:

July 7, 2010 6:16 PM | | Comments (0)
Celebrating the weekend with William S. Burroughs over at Cliopatria.
July 5, 2010 9:28 AM | | Comments (0)

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