Friday, November 28, 2008


Frank Cieciorka, the man who designed the fist emblem for the New Left, died on Monday. He was an early opponent of American involvement in Vietnam, opposed the Johnson intervenion in the Dominican Republic, went to Mississippi during Freedom Summer in '64, became a field secretary for SNCC.

When he returned north after Freedom Summer he made a first woodcut of the now-famous fist, modeling it (of course) on previous 20th-century leftist fists. Only later did he realize that the design was being adopted everywhere and by seemingly everyone. His version of the first for the 1967 Stop the Draft Week was the one that really became iconic.

From the New York Times obit: Mr. Cieciorka had seen the clenched-fist salute when he participated in a Socialist rally in San Francisco. When he returned from Mississippi, “the fist was a natural for the first woodcut in a series of cheap prints,” he noted in an interview with Lincoln Cushing, a political art archivist and historian. “It wasn’t until we made it into a button and tossed thousands of them into crowds at rallies and demonstrations that it really became popular,” he continued.

Later he did watercolors and painted rural California landscapes.

from Jersey City to Jesus

I first started to look at Erica Baum's art when she did her Card Catalogue series: close-up photographs of old library card catalogues that showed several of the card tabs imprinted or typewritten (and sometimes, for really old cards, handwritten) to indicate subject headings, categories, etc. Several of these photos show the catalogue drawer labels. My favorite of these is "Jersey City--Jesus." Anyway, that was 1997. Erica has done several interesting projects since then, all exploring the visual qualities of language as photographic subjects; words in the visual ambience, just there for the looking. Ubuweb has a pretty good collection of PDFs marking the progress of this art. Have a look.

“The card index marks the conquest of three-dimensional writing, and so presents an astonishing counterpoint to the three-dimensionality of script in its original form as rune or knot notation.” —Walter Benjamin, One-Way Street

I wrote about Erica Baum's work about a year ago.

Obama 2.0

Dick Polman in his daily American Debate blog writes about Barack Obama 2.0, the (alleged) remaking of presidential communication with the people through e-interactivity. I tend to feel the same skepticism Polman does: "[A]s for this idea of engaging in a two-way online conversation, with feedback from citizen participants . . . well, we shall see. Speaking from firsthand experience, I can stipulate that the online world is particularly unruly, a virtual Wild West where the perpetually aggrieved shoot first and think later, if at all."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

home away from home

On Monday evening of Thanksgiving week, each year, the Writers House community gathers at 3805 Locust in Philly, cook like crazies, get warmed by each other's company, and (each in iturn) speak very gratitudinously. "Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action." (So said W.J. Cameron.)

Photos by John Carroll

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

who speaks for whom

On Aldon Nielsen's blog, Aldon has something to say about Robert Penn Warren's Who Speaks for the Negro? and the tapes of the interviews Penn Warren conducted for this book, which are now available. See my earlier post, "know what is happening in your heart".

return to the tapeworm foundry

The other day Darren Wershler-Henry visited us from Toronto. His book of 2000, The Tapeworm Foundry, was being celebrated by an exhibit in the KWH gallery ("KWH Arts," we call that ongoing project); Kaegan Sparks commissioned Writers House-affiliated people each to make art from an instruction of the sort that fills Darren's book. I wrote about this not long ago.

One artist dipped her long hair into calligraphy ink and dragged it across long rolls of paper (this is actually a classic Fluxus piece). Another created an inky footprint and then ran it through an OCR (text-recognition) program and printed the "language" that resulted and puts the two up on the wall, side by side. Another pair of artists counted all the periods (at ends of sentences) in all the books in a Writers House bookshelf, then printed out the periods on 8.5x11" paper and wrapped the bookshelf in the paper.

I gathered Darren, Kaegan and Kenny Goldsmith in my office and the four of us talked about Darren's book, the exhibit and about conceptual poetics/concrete poetry generally. This is the newest in the series of "PennSound podcasts", and please have a listen.

Monday, November 24, 2008

disaster is my muse

The recording of my interview with Art Spiegelman last February has now been segmented into short, thematically organized clips. Go here to the Writers House Fellows' Spiegelman page, where you'll have the option of streaming or downloading that segments that interest you, or the whole interview, or indeed the whole presentation Art gave the previous night. There are also video recordings of all.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

infectious disease ditty

Leprosy....I'm not half the man I used to be..." A line from Dr. Helen Conrad Davies' song--a ditty she adapted for the purpose of teaching infectious diseases. Helen has long been famous for this course. Apparently every other class or so she sings a song about the disease at hand. I've known Helen for years -- have great respect for her as a reformist teacher and community-maker within the Med School world here at Penn. For one thing, she was the first woman to be hired in microbiology here and has been a pioneer in efforts to make life easy, or at least equitably hard, for women on the faculty. She has for years lived in one of the college houses here, spending whatever time it takes to help lost, confused, even homesick undergrads.

I'd been hearing about her songs for years, and then our Narrative Medicine group, "Word.Doc," invited her to the Writers House to lead a discussion in disease prevention. Of course she sang her songs. A new Kelly Writers House podcast features her intro to leprosy and then a sing-along, to the tune of the Beatles' "Yesterday."

Factlet: "Yesterday" is the most covered song in the history of music. There are some 3,000 versions recorded.


1. Writers House podcasts
2. the mp3 recording
3. the KWH calendar entry, which includes a brief bio profile of Helen Davies

Saturday, November 22, 2008

yo la tengo!

I've heard that the members of the band Yo La Tengo got the group's name from a wonderful anecdote often told by baseball's best language guy, Roger Angell. The story is about bad defense, about the bumbling '62 Mets (they lost an all-time record 120 games!), about the early days of Spanish-speaking players - and (after all) about language.

There's a web page honoring Elio Chacon, the Mets' Venezuelan shortstop that year, a mediocre player at best. On this page are some loving comments about Elio, including one that quickly retells the famous story, so let me defer to this fellow for the summary:

My favorite Met story of all-time involves Elio Chacon. Stop me if you've heard this one... It seems that in 1962, Chacon and CF Richie Ashburn were having a communications problem. On short fly balls they would inevitably collide even after Ashburn would scream "I got it!" After the third or fourth time this happened Ashburn takes Chacon aside and asks him, "Elio, how do you say 'I got it!' in Spanish?" Chacon replies, "yo la tengo!" So the next day a batter hits a short fly to center field. Chacon runs out and Ashburn runs in and Ashburn yells, "yo la tengo! yo la tengo!" So Chacon backs off. Ashburn gets set to make the catch -- and left fielder Gus Bell smashes into him!

In the great Ken Burns 9-part (9 innings, 9 parts) documentary Baseball, Angell re-tells the story. Here's the Angell excerpt (audio only).

As some readers of this blog already know, I had the huge pleasure of hosting Angell's visit to the Writers House a few years ago. There are video and audio recordings of his talk and my hour-long interview with him the next day. Go here. Earlier I wrote something about Angell's wonderful appreciation of the most intimidating pitcher of all time, Bob Gibson.

listen to every Beatles song in one hour

What would it sound like if you compressed all the Beatles UK LPs into a single one-hour mp3? The compression rate would have to be 800%.

Conceiving of this as sound art, Steve McLaughlin--yes the same fellow I mentioned here the other day--did just that. It's posted to the WFMU web site. So go here, settle in, and hear nearly everything the Beatles released in one hour.

There's a certain strange hepped-up beauty to it, I have to say. It's like a super-fast run of my youth, a aural brain chute.

Someone at WFMU then decided to un-compress several of the singles. So at the same site you can click on links to mp3s of "Julia," "I Will," and "Revolution" back at normal speed but eerily distorted from having been through the first compression.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pound's sound editor

The newest PennSound podcast show - 16 minutes long - is an excerpt from a longer interview I conducted with Richard Sieburth not long after he completed the major editing work on the complete sound recordings of Ezra Pound for PennSound.

Here is a direct link to the podcast. You can subscribe to PennSound podcast by going to your ITunes Music Store and searching for "PennSound" in the search box.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

they're at it again

Back in October, Stephen McLaughlin, Gregory Laynor, and Vladimir Zykov (with help from Jim Carpenter, I believe) published Issue #1, a 3,785-page document featuring almost as many poets. The poets were real; the poems were generated by a computer program. Many poets google themselves, or receive messages called "Google alerts" whenever their names appear anywhere on the web, and so, in short, they found themselves "published" in this "issue." When they read poems they had not themselves written, some were tickled (gotten by the gotcha) while others were angry. Now:

The ISSUE 2 document is a collection of the blog posts and comments that responded to the project and/or responded to responses about the project and/or responded to issues that were raised within the discussion (419 pages).

The BPL document is a collection of the comments that were made on the Buffalo Poetics Listserv regarding Issue 1 in the month of October 2008 (111 pages).

Here's your link.

See "Andy Kaufman as Muse" for my earlier entry on this matter.

teaching Ashbery (video)

Recently my students and I finished up a "chapter" of English 88 on the New York School. The final class in this part of the course was devoted to some collaborative close readings of several poems by John Ashbery: "The Grapevine", "What Is Poetry", and "Hard Times". (Well, the discussion of "Hard Times," due to lack of time at that point, is really just me reading the poem and making a few comments.) A number of people watched the video live on their computers at home and work, and several of them telephoned in to ask questions or make comments. Here's your link to the video recording of the class.

man pays utility bill with spider drawing

A man named David Thorne attempts to be his overdue utility bill with his drawing of a spider, which he values at a dollar figure exactly equal to the money he owes. Jane Gilles of the utility company engages him in an email dialogue about this. Read the entire exchange.

“The means to gain happiness," wrote Tolstoy, "is to throw out from oneself like a spider in all directions an adhesive web of love, and to catch in it all that comes." As you get about halfway through the dialogue, you realize that the delinquent bill-payer is half-hoping this will work, but just half. He does seem somewhat to believe that he is throwing his spider in all directions, hoping that it--his modest little art--lands safely somewhere. (Maybe I'm a sap, but I think he wants her to like it.)

Thanks to Malka Fleischman for pointing this out.

your daily Al for today

1) Get your daily Al.
2) Check out the new Zukofsky page on PennSound.
3) Listen to the Creeley-Zukofsky conversation.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

blockbuster Zukofsky

Today PennSound proudly unveils the new Louis Zukofsky page, edited by Danny Snelson and done with the permission of Paul Zukofsky. Amazing. Simply amazing. Go there and download some favorites to your iPod. Do it now! Holy cow.

Kenyata listening to Mozart

Here's a poem a particularly admire: from the early 1960s by LeRoi Jones (later Amiri Baraka), "Kenyata Listening to Mozart." And here's a link to a better view of the text. And here's a link to a recording of Jones reading the poem in California in December 1964.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

believing in the world because it is impossible

My short piece on George Oppen's poem "Myth of the Blaze" is currently appearing in Jacket 36: here. Thanks to Tom Devaney and John Tranter.

The short essay was written to be read aloud/performed at this occasion.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

your PennSound daily

Mike Hennessey, PennSound's Managing Editor, daily composes your PennSound daily. That's Mike, looking at us on the right. Just go to the main PennSound page and you'll read Mike's thoughts on selected new recordings. You can subscribe using your favorite RSS reader.

In the latest daily, Mike turned his attention to the new episode of PoemTalk - the one on Pound's early poem, "Cantico del Sole." Here's what he says:

Listeners eagerly awaiting the latest installment of the PoemTalk podcast series need wait no longer — host Al Filreis is back with a new episode, the twelfth in the series. Joining Filreis this time, for a discussion of Ezra Pound's "Cantico del Sole," are his PennSound co-director, Charles Bernstein, Rachel Levitsky (this year's CPCW Fellow in Poetics and Poetic Practice) and Joshua Schuster (a longtime member of the UPenn community and an architect of the Kelly Writers House).

Bernstein begins by citing the differences in tone between the two recordings presented in the program — while the 1939 version is introspective, the 1958 rendition plays up the poem's satirical edge — a distinction Levitsky elides to depict the speaker's ambivalence. Filreis recalls that Pound studied the classics at UPenn, and that the poet translated Francis of Assisi's "Hymn of the Sun," which gives Pound's poem its name, as part of his masters thesis. This fact, taken together with a contemporary legal decision that the classics should be exempted from obscenity laws, since (as Pound reprints in the essay originally accompanying the poem) they "usually appeal to a comparatively limited number of readers," forms the context for the poem as both a lament for America's disinterest in classical (or any serious) literature, and also a glimpse towards a society in which the opposite were true.

Schuster is quick to point out that it's not a staid pedagogy rooted solely in the past that Pound is aiming for, but rather the "24-hour experimental poet world that the classics kinda suggest were in existence back then." Indeed, a society as receptive to the classics would be equally receptive to the contemporary avant-garde, and Schuster notes that, in Pound's time, certain notions of the avant-garde were precisely tied to revisiting the classics (H.D., for example).

Bernstein makes another connection, to the Canticle of Simeon (a devout Jew who was promised he'd live to see the coming savior), which raises the issue of the poem's sacrilegious tone as well as Pound's later anti-Semitism, and how one navigates that facet of his history in light of his work overall. He also points out how incompletely the allusions to both Assisi and Simeon are integrated within the multi-vocal palimpsest, which adds to both the poem's tensions — including the contradictions between its anti-Phillistine and elitist voices.

Filreis brings the conversation to a close by introducing the writings of Peter Wilson, who discusses the differences between the avant-garde's relation to mainstream society in the contemporary era (in which poets can more easily find an audience) versus Pound's time (where the Modernist ideal trended towards isolation and exclusivity). Schuster expands this notion to consider implications of medium and availability, suggesting that in the present, the avant-garde is not rereading the classics, but rather fully embracing and exploiting technological means to develop and share new ideas, a rubric into which sites such as this one neatly fit (and be sure to listen through to the end, where Bernstein parodies Pound's parody, by sharing how "the thought of what America would be like if PennSound had a wide circulation" troubles his sleep).

PoemTalk's next episode will see the show go on the road, to New York City, where Filreis, along with Bernstein, Nada Gordon and Lawrence Joseph will discuss a late poem by Wallace Stevens. In the meantime, be sure to visit PoemTalk's homepage, where you can download the first dozen episodes and find more information about the poems and panelists, along with listener comments.

Friday, November 14, 2008

on the so craze

For a time, about two years ago, I so thought that my students were mainly the ones putting so somewhat randomly in front of verbs - between subject and verb - but now as an addicted listener to news and culture podcasts I realize that everyone is so doing it. It's an intensifer for the most part. Inserting "very much" in the same spot would have done it 50-75 years ago. I very much want you to come visit me. And sometimes "so very much." So I'm not against so, since it's succinct and even dramatic. The stronger the verb the better the effect. Weak verbs, and to-be verbs make me less a fan. I am so against that. And negatives, in the same grammar: I am so not with you on that point. Now find a two-word subject pronoun ("We all," which is a rarely used first-person plural form of "you all") and stick "so" between them and one of those weak verbs ("have") and you've got a sign Linh Dinh saw recently and snapped for his blog. All I can say is, they'd so better be friendly.

Jack on Long Island

Last year, the folks at went out to Northport, Long Island, where Jack Kerouac lived from 1958 through 1964. In a 5-minute video, one of the two poetryvlog producers, George Harris, takes us on a tour of the town, which was in the midst of a community celebration at the time. A general holiday it was, into which honor due Jack fits as a small part in the municipal unconscious. (Ah, Long Island.) Here's your link to the the video and here's the link to the blog entry.

tapeworm foundry on KWH-TV

an opening for TAPEWORM
a collaborative exhibition based on Darren Wershler-Henry's
The Tapeworm Foundry (and/or the dangerous prevalence of imagination)

Thursday, 11/20 at 7PM
Kelly Writers House | 3805 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104

This event will be webcast live: find out more by clicking here.

Tapeworm is a collaboration of art projects radiating from a writing piece by Canadian artist Darren Wershler-Henry, The Tapeworm Foundry (andor the dangerous prevalence of imagination). The text is available on UbuWeb. The Tapeworm Foundry is an intriguing instance of conceptual writing, faithfully formulaic but also unusually compelling in its fruition: a single rambling, unpunctuated sequence of possible projects, ranging from quirky to absurd to highly ambiguous and all largely allusive of the twentieth century avant-garde. The potential 'instructions' that comprise Tapeworm, linked by the pulsating conjunction 'andor', are themselves mini-premises for a thousand other projects, making the 50-page list the ultimate conceptual catalyst.

This exhibition challenges a group of young contemporary artists and writers at Penn to realize some of Wershler-Henry's hypothetical instructions. The Penn students and graduates participating in the exhibition include: Grace Ambrose, Joyce Lee, Ned Eisenberg, Vladimir Zykov, Kimberly Eisler, Artie Vierkant, John Carroll, Jamie-Lee Josselyn, Arielle Brousse, Manya Scheps, Brooke Palmieri, Nick Salvatore, Robin McDowell, Sofie Hodara, Cecilia Corrigan, and Thomson Guster, with assistance from James La Marre and Trisha Low. Curated by Kaegan Sparks. There will be a limited quantity of complimentary exhibition catalogues available at the opening. Please email for more information.

on your holiday list

A short but sweet review of my recent book appeared yesterday on Tom Devaney's blog, here. Upon which one reader commented: "On my holiday list!" (Yes, go ahead, shop this depressed season!)

At the North Carolina Press site you can buy your copy easily.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

wide circulation

Our 12th PoemTalk show is being released this week. Here it is. You've not heard PoemTalk yet? Well, it's 25 minutes of talk about a single poem. Tightly focused talk at moments, but mostly rather loose. Which is why I say "a close, but not too close, reading of a poem." Some poems are left largely unsaid by us by the end, but for some few poems we're really able, it seems, to cover the ground. I think we cover most of the ground this time, talking about Ezra Pound's broadly satiric - and wonderfully performative - early poem, "Cantico del Sole." Give a listen and let me know (afilreis [at] writing [dot] upenn [dot] edu) what you think. The thought of what America would be like if PoemTalk had a wide circulation. (I don't flatter myself.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Two nights ago Jessica Lowenthal and I taught a Dickinson "webinar." With 50 people watching and participating from near- and far-flung locations, we discussed two poems, #556 ("The Brain, within its Groove") and #1129 ("Tell all the Truth but tell it slant"). Some participants phoned us and made comments and asked questions that way. We had two phones working so there was some byplay and fun confusion. We also took comments and questions by email.

Of course we made a recording of the once-live video and here is your link to it. (You need QuickTime Video on your computer to play this recording.)

The Brain, within its Groove
Runs evenly--and true--
But let a Splinter swerve--
'Twere easier for You--

To put a Current back--
When Floods have slit the Hills--
And scooped a Turnpike for Themselves--
And trodden out the Mills--

This, we decided, was the true end of industrialism-era assumptions about the imagination.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

in search of endangered languages

Bob Holman, about as passionate about poetic orality as anyone, is visiting Senegal, Gambia, and Mali for the next seven weeks filming endangered languages and presumably, too, doing a series of wildly entertaining performances. He's set up a blog for the trip, the Griot Trail.

For some good recordings of Holman doing his thing, check out his PennSound author page.

Monday, November 10, 2008

permitting contradictions

In the summer of '99 a group of us gathered to talk at great length about a single poem by William Carlos Williams - "To Elsie" ("The pure products of America / go crazy"). At one point Bob Perelman, one of the participants, said something about the way the poem leaves elements open and contradictory, and then implied (and then at one moment said outright) that this became and still is a key idea operating in contemporary avant-garde poetics. I think Bob frames the point very nicely here, so have a listen to this very brief excerpt from the longer discussion of the poem.

Lebanese novelist here

Writers without Borders presents Lebanese novelist Hanan al-Shaykh on November 18 at the Writers House. The program is co-sponsored by the Middle East Center and Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture.

Hanan al-Shaykh was born in Lebanon and grew up in Beirut. Her most recent novel, Only in London, was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. She was educated in Cairo and wrote her first novel there when she was nineteen before returning to Beirut to work as a journalist for Al-Nahar newspaper Al Hasna magazine. In 1975 she left Beirut because of the civil war and moved to the Arabian Gulf, dividing her time between London and the Gulf States for the next nine years. Since 1984 she has lived in London with her family.

Friday, November 07, 2008

when computing was news

A few of us created the project (one of the first of its kind in the U.S.) through which undergraduates received "front-line" computing support in their residences. House calls, as it were. It was, at the time, a revolutionary approach: after all, think, circa 1994-96, of how "computing support" was conceived. You have a problem with your computer, you pick up and carry it to a centrally located "Help Desk." But by '95 and '96 the first issues were those of connectivity - not something well done away from the connection! And then of course, after a while, students need less strictly technical help - and more in the way of guidance about using software, connecting with academic materials on this newish thing called the web, and playing, sandbox-like, with the new tools. We needed people who wouldn't mind getting sand on their hands and knees. Thus: the ITA, Information Technology Advisor. At some point KYW Radio (all news all the time) got wind of this and did a super-quickie little radio story about it. Very slight and barely broke the surface. I recently found the cassette they sent me after airing the story and now have converted it digitally, so here it is.

create community post-MFA

Poets & Writers, quite pre-professional, nonetheless fairly often admits or implies that young writers who get MFAs might want or need to do things other than join the academy, where "Creative Writing" programs as such are often if not mostly deemed fringe zones of mere practice. Anyway, I was pleased to see that the magazine's latest stab at alternative options includes advice for young writers to "Help out a literary organization," and mentions the Kelly Writers House as one such site. Below is the relevant passage (click on the image for a larger view). And click here for the whole article.

poems for new prez

Partly because I create and produce a regular podcast series in collaboration with the Poetry Foundation of Chicago (PoemTalk), partly because I've become about as electorally wonky as anyone in the past year or so, and partly because I subscribe to about two dozen ongoing podcasts....there was no way I'd miss the new "Poetry Off the Shelf" episode, which (surprise!) features poems for and about Obama. Here's your link to the Poetry Foundation site's link to the audio. You can also get it (and subscribe to the series) in your ITunes music store. Just search for "Poetry Foundation Shelf".


Choice reviewed my recent book back in August. Click here for the text.


Shout out to... the 40 or so schoolchildren on the public school bus that drove by our polling place on Tuesday.

West Philly, 47th and Pine. About 150 of us were standing there, the line going nowhere: all three voting machines were "broken." How could this be? Geez, don't these people at least check the night before to make sure the machines are working? This is an important election. Pennsylvania is a swing state. C'mon! I, deeming myself ever ready for such crises, dial The Committe of 70, the Election Commission, WNYC/NPR which is sending out reporters to all problem spots. We're monotonally told: "The voting-machine repairman has been called and is apparently on his way." The Obama volunteers got us coffee and donuts but a few impatient people began peeling away, needing to get to work, feed families breakfast, get little ones off to school. A few tempers flared. Then the bus. As it neared, we realized there was something a little different. The kids had seen us, had run to the windows on the sidewalk side, were reaching out ecstatically with arms and heads and were chanting loudly and in unison: O-BAM-A! O-BAM-A! Cheering on the adults, whose spirits had so easily flagged. Vote for us! Do it for us! And the bus, which had paused at the stop sign, soon rumbled onward. We smiled huge smiles at each other, shook our heads at the Meaning of the day, munched our donuts, and readied ourselves for the long wait for the repairman.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

poems in your phone

I've downloaded a few useful apps to my new iPhone. One is an RSS Reader that allows me to pick up top news and magazine items, features under various topics, as well as links to new web stuff in fields of my interest, without the strain/time of having to download these items. The thing gives a quickly loaded look at stories and links of the moment, and then I can go follow up by reading full web versions if I want. Not that the iPhone is slow to browse the web, but it's slower than this RSS feed gives me a top look.

My newest app is called "Files lite," a free program that acts as a documents folder. Yes, I can put documents (in Word, in PDF, in Excel, in HTML [e.g. saved web pages]) onto my phone! I'm working on an essay so I've put the latest draft there, which means (am I being obsessive about my time? maybe) I can re-read and ponder changes wherever I find myself stalled, waiting in line, stuck between meetings. I've also put there the text of a few poems I want to read often and really come to know. The photo here is a standard screen shot of this app in action; it's not my phone. I snapped a shot of my phone but find it's hard to take a good picture of the glassy surface of this otherwise utterly and fabulously accommodating device, the iPhone G3.

A happy shout-out to Mark Lindsay who urged me in this direction and made it all work.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

whence the snark?

One of my students today observed that she has felt, already, a lessening of the snarky tone she's heard and read all around her pretty much all her conscious life. I think she believes that tone will be at an end, that sincerity, rhetorical calm, un-irony will wash over the language. My guess - still plenty of the snark in me, I suppose - is that it will last a few months. Snark is here to stay.

I want to ponder this. Eight years of an awful presidency has generated the super-skepticism - the hypersatirical state of public political (and to some significant extent cultural) commentary - and that, in the most general way, makes sense. Harding and Coolidge certainly created, or at least contributed to, Roaring Twenties ironic hilarity, flapperistic farce.

But this era of snark happened to coincide with the emergence of the web, the proliferation of voices, the radical democratization of the commentariat, 1000 blogs blooming, social networking in which your "Friends" are your ready audience for daily expressions of your "status," podcasts made in the breakfast room recorded on a Radio Shack microphone plugged into a $600 computer. Bush + web 2.0 = snark.

Obama in part succeeded because of this interactive social revolution, and his movement would by no means want to put it all back in the bottle. But can the tone change? Can sincerity coexist with the ubiquity of these voices?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

mongo media links

Every recording - in whatever medium - that we've made in a dozen plus years since the founding of the Writers House has been indexed on a page we clumsily call "medialinks". This is kitchen-sink web databasing but we love it.