Quotulatiousness

July 27, 2016

Journalists and “civilians”

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Colby Cosh says that the media really is a world unto itself and it’s difficult for denizens of that world to pretend to be part of our mundane world:

Why are the news media so disliked? On Sunday, New York Magazine published some results from a “navel-gazing questionnaire” it sent to about a hundred reporters, editors, and broadcasters. (Is there a term for gazing at someone else’s navel-gazing?) About half the answers it printed acknowledged that journalism is practised by a particular class whose members all have similar life histories, and that this class is vulnerable to urban liberal groupthink. Half the respondents, by contrast, preferred the “corporate/Republican Satan running amok in the world” theory. At least one person apparently thought it was all the fault of the Broadway hit Hamilton. And, obviously, there is some truth to all three of these explanations.

But perhaps the best one, which nobody gave, might be that we in “the media” spend a lot of time encouraging ourselves to be hated.

[…]

The word “profession” is defined here as a job in which a practitioner might sometimes speak of outsiders, or “civilians,” as being of a different order of humanity. When you take up journalism as a career, you agree to accept ethical and behavioural responsibilities that do not pertain to the general public. Like a priest or therapist, some things are forbidden to you that are not forbidden to others. You are also unofficially licensed to do some unusual things — ask intrusive questions, barge into certain settings. Sometimes you may be asked to quiz the grieving, interrogate athletes or politicians in the aftermath of public humiliation, photograph the wounded and dead. The journalism trade also has a large bundle of legends, jargon, and traditions. All of this was equally true a hundred years ago, before there were “J-schools.”

This serves to create a real, unspoken bond between practising journalists. There are the folk who have deadlines, and there are the Others. And the Others will never totally understand. Any professional journalist who denies having this habit of mind is lying.

But you cannot think of yourself as set apart from the world without having it show through in your writing and speech, affecting your preferences and interests. Journalists are constantly making self-deprecating, incoherent apologies for being part of a priesthood, yet most of them clearly think the existence of some such thing necessary to a liberal democracy. Well, we would, wouldn’t we? But it is hard to like, or even bear, someone who thinks that way. And that goes double if the thought is factually true.

July 26, 2016

The “international sporting event” in “a major city in Brazil”

Filed under: Americas, Law, Media, Sports — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Every four years, the world’s media turn en masse to a new location for the summer Olympic Games. This time around the games event is in Rio de Janeiro a major city in Brazil. I’d give more details, but the IOC is determined to reserve as much of that information to themselves and their official sponsoring media partners:

As the Olympic Games approach, the tension between athletes and non-sponsors with the United States Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee has ratcheted up once again.

In recent weeks, the United States Olympic Committee sent letters to those who sponsor athletes but don’t have any sponsorship designation with the USOC or International Olympic Committee, warning them about stealing intellectual property.

“Commercial entities may not post about the Trials or Games on their corporate social media accounts,” reads the letter written by USOC chief marketing officer Lisa Baird. “This restriction includes the use of USOC’s trademarks in hashtags such as #Rio2016 or #TeamUSA.”

The USOC owns the trademarks to “Olympic,” “Olympian” and “Go For The Gold,” among many other words and phrases.

The letter further stipulates that a company whose primary mission is not media-related cannot reference any Olympic results, cannot share or repost anything from the official Olympic account and cannot use any pictures taken at the Olympics.

This isn’t really a new or surprising thing, as we had warnings about any discussion of the “‘international sporting event’ in ‘the capital of the United Kingdom'” back in 2012. More recently, Toronto’s Pan Am Games organizers did the same sort of trademarks-out-the-wazoo-and-lawyers-on-speed-dial stuff over their 2015 international sporting event in ‘a large city in Ontario’.

If nothing else, it gives me an excuse to not blog anything about those every-four-years international corruption championships…

July 24, 2016

QotD: Literally every Republican presidential candidate (so far)

Filed under: Media, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Every 4 years the GOP nominee is literally Hitler. A few years later — sometimes, as in Mitt Romney’s case, as few as 4 years after he was accused of giving a woman cancer — that formerly-Hitler nominee becomes the standard of once-great GOP nominees to which the current nominee fall short.

Glenn Reynolds, “LIZ CROKIN: Trump Does The Unthinkable”, Instapundit, 2016-07-11.

July 20, 2016

The media covered Obama as the protagonist of a movie, not as a typical politican

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At Instapundit, Ed Driscoll points out the difference in the way the media covered the rise of Barack Obama compared to other politicians:

The blogger Ace of Spades has written about “The MacGuffinization of American Politics.” As Ace wrote, “For Obama’s fanbois, this is not politics. This isn’t even America, not really, not anymore. This is a movie. And Barack Obama is the Hero. And the Republicans are the Villains. And policy questions — and Obama’s myriad failures as an executive — are simply incidental. They are MacGuffins only, of no importance whatsoever, except to the extent they provide opportunities for Drama as the Hero fights in favor of them.”

The media never covered Obama as though he was a normal politician submitting bills to Congress and meeting with foreign leaders. Instead, they covered him as though he was Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart in an epic film as directed by Alfred Hitchcock, hence Ace’s name – the MacGuffin was the otherwise meaningless object that all the characters in an adventure movie desperately want. The microfilm in North By Northwest. The Soviet decoding device in From Russia With Love. The Death Star plans in Star Wars. The Ark of the Covenant, etc.

But I think it’s safe to say that all young people, or the vast majority of them, want to feel their life is some form of an epic quest for adventure, hence the near-universal popularity of films like the original (1977) Star Wars, the Lord of the Rings movies, or Batman Begins, all of which start off with their protagonist depicted as a callow youth, who precedes to then overcomes two hours worth of adversity, to emerge by the time the credits role as The Hero. As Joseph Campbell wrote in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, this quest for adventure is hardwired into most people, all the way back to Homer. (The author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, not the nuclear plant worker who lives in Springfield.) Up until recently, most teenagers felt a similar sense of accomplishment and pride through such traditional avenues as academic advancement, athletic success, or learning a musical instrument.

July 19, 2016

QotD: The battle against superstition

Filed under: Media, Quotations, Religion, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Once more, alas, I find myself unable to follow the best Liberal thought. What the World’s contention amounts to, at bottom, is simply the doctrine that a man engaged in combat with superstition should be very polite to superstition. This, I fear, is nonsense. The way to deal with superstition is not to be polite to it, but to tackle it with all arms, and so rout it, cripple it, and make it forever infamous and ridiculous. Is it, perchance, cherished by persons who should know better? Then their folly should be brought out into the light of day, and exhibited there in all its hideousness until they flee from it, hiding their heads in shame.

True enough, even a superstitious man has certain inalienable rights. He has a right to harbor and indulge his imbecilities as long as he pleases, provided only he does not try to inflict them upon other men by force. He has a right to argue for them as eloquently as he can, in season and out of season. He has a right to teach them to his children. But certainly he has no right to be protected against the free criticism of those who do not hold them. … They are free to shoot back. But they can’t disarm their enemy.

The meaning of religious freedom, I fear, is sometimes greatly misapprehended. It is taken to be a sort of immunity, not merely from governmental control but also from public opinion. A dunderhead gets himself a long-tailed coat, rises behind the sacred desk, and emits such bilge as would gag a Hottentot. Is it to pass unchallenged? If so, then what we have is not religious freedom at all, but the most intolerable and outrageous variety of religious despotism. Any fool, once he is admitted to holy orders, becomes infallible. Any half-wit, by the simple device of ascribing his delusions to revelation, takes on an authority that is denied to all the rest of us. … What should be a civilized man’s attitude toward such superstitions? It seems to me that the only attitude possible to him is one of contempt. If he admits that they have any intellectual dignity whatever, he admits that he himself has none. If he pretends to a respect for those who believe in them, he pretends falsely, and sinks almost to their level. When he is challenged he must answer honestly, regardless of tender feelings.

H.L. Mencken, “Aftermath”, Baltimore Evening Sun, 1925-09-14.

July 16, 2016

Newspapers after the attack in Nice

Filed under: Europe, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:23

David Warren on the way much of the newspaper coverage is actually helping the terrorists and their supporters by showing just how effective any given attack has been and how emotionally soft the target nations have become:

What is the news here? … A lorry drives a mile through trapped crowds at a Bastille Day celebration, killing dozens of people along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. The driver was a Muslim terrorist, as usual. Police finally shot him dead. They are now looking into his background and connexions.

And? … That is the whole story.

Anything the media can add to these plain facts is prurient and macabre. Moreover, it is helpful to the other side. Grand public displays of “mourning” make it worse; for that is the effect the terrorists are seeking. Why should we play into their hands?

Each victim had a family with a circle of friends, for whom the horror is real, and the mourning may be genuine. The rest — the millions — are putting on a show, advertising France, and the West generally, as squeamish and unmanly; as one big soft underbelly. It “sends a message” back to the Islamists, and that message is: “Keep it up!”

But I am myself looking through the front pages of newspapers from France and all over: covered with the colour photographs to full bleed, with big banner headlines. Nor is there a news website not painted the same way. Somehow (and I know how, from having worked with these ghouls) they manage to fill page after page with redundant or unnecessary details.

To condemn such attacks is pointless. The iniquity is too obvious for that. Every form of venting can be done privately. Those who applaud such carnage, will not be reached by words of disapproval.

QotD: American foreign correspondents of WW2

Filed under: Britain, History, Media, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… the whole group of prominent American World War II foreign correspondents — Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, Eric Sevareid, Theodore White — pretended to a more sophisticated geopolitical worldliness than they possessed as they introduced isolationist America to the world in a hazardously simplistic fashion. Cronkite was energetic, and was present at many events, especially Anwar Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem, but his opinions were never based on anything more than good, old-fashioned, Norman Rockwell American altruism. Ed Murrow’s sepulchral smoke-wearied voice did wonders for British war propaganda as he narrated the Blitz from London in 1940. (He was ardently courted by the British government and even had a torrid affair with the prime minister’s daughter-in-law, Pamela Digby. She eventually married the wartime Lend-Lease administrator, Averell Harriman, while the U.S. ambassador, John G. Winant, took up with the prime minister’s own daughter — Mr. Churchill was an indulgent father and a full-service ally.)

Conrad Black, “Tip of the Iceberg”, National Review, 2015-02-11.

July 9, 2016

QotD: Bear-ing a grudge

Filed under: Environment, Media, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

In 2003, Disney brought us its latest animated feature, Brother Bear, the usual New Age mumbo-jumbo with a generic Native American gloss. It told the tale of Kenai, a young fellow in a bucolic Pacific Northwest at the end of the Ice Age. To avenge his brother’s death, Kenai kills the brown bear responsible. But trouble’s a-bruin: his late brother is wise enough to know that killing is not the answer and so gets the Great Spirit to teach Kenai a lesson by transforming him into a bear. He thereby learns that bears are not violent beasts but sensitive beings living in harmony with nature who understand the world they live in far more than man does. I would certainly agree that bears are wiser and more sensitive than man, if only because I’ve yet to meet a bear who’s produced an animated feature as mawkishly deluded as this.

Among the technical advisers on the film, hired to ensure the accurate depiction of our furry friends, was Timothy Treadwell, the self-described eco-warrior from Malibu who became famous for his campaign “to promote getting close to bears to show they were not dangerous”. He did this by sidling up to them and singing “I love you” in a high-pitched voice. Brother Bear is certainly true to the Treadwell view of the brown bears, and he would surely have appreciated the picture had he ever gotten to see it. But, just as Kenai found himself trapped inside a bear, so did Mr Treadwell — although in his case he was just passing through. In September, a pilot arrived at the ursine expert’s camp near Kaflia Bay in Alaska to fly him out and instead found the bits of him and his girlfriend that hadn’t yet been eaten buried in a bear’s food cache.

Treadwell had always said he wanted to end up in “bear scat”, so his fellow activists were inclined to look on the bright side. “He would say it’s the culmination of his life’s work,” said his colleague Jewel Palovak. “He died doing what he lived for.”

I wonder if he was revising his view in the final moments. And if his girlfriend was quite so happy to find she had a bit part in “the culmination of his life’s work”.

You’d have to have a heart of stone not to weep with laughter at the fate of the eco-warrior, but it does make Brother Bear somewhat harder to swallow than its technical adviser manifestly was. There are People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, but sadly no Animals for the Ethical Treatment of People. And, just as bugs are becoming resistant to antibiotics, so the big beasts are changing, too. Wild animals are not merely the creatures of their appetites; they’re also astute calculators of risk. Not so long ago, your average bear knew that if he happened upon a two-legged type, the chap would pull a rifle on him and he’d be spending eternity as a fireside rug. But these days it’s just as likely that any human being he comes across is some pantywaist Bambi Boomer enviro-sentimentalist trying to get in touch with his inner self. And, if the guy wants to get in touch with his inner self so badly, why not just rip it out of his chest for him?

North American wildlife seems to have figured that out. Why be surprised if other predators do..?

Mark Steyn, After America, 2011.

July 7, 2016

Tales from the “golden age” of Hollywood

Filed under: History, Media, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

In The Guardian, Nell Frizzell talks about the seamier side of Hollywood as it declined from its cultural peak in the mid-twentieth century:

The show, which sounds like a dreamy mix of film noir voiceover, 1940s gossip column and Pathe news broadcast, looks at the now lesser-known figures of Hollywood’s Golden Age; women like inventor of “the vamp” Theda Bara, whose agents claimed she was the daughter of an Arab sheik, born in the Sahara and growing up in the shadow of the Sphinx when in fact, she’d been born in Cincinnati, Ohio; or inventor of grunge Frances Farmer, an alcoholic communist committed to several mental health institutions who later became the subject of the Nirvana song “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle”.

[…]

Instead of merely making an episode about the legendary aviator, director and millionaire eccentric Howard Hughes, Longworth uses him to talk about many of the age’s leading ladies with whom he was involved, from Katharine Hepburn to Jean Harlow. “It’s a rubric to tell the story of a lot of fascinating women,” says Longworth. “He arrives in Hollywood in 1925 and starts to disappear in the 1950s, so you can use him to tell the story of Hollywood in that era.” Which is precisely what she’s doing in her upcoming book, which will chart the love affairs of the enigmatic film-maker and pilot who once used his understanding of aeronautical engineering to design Jane Russell a more supportive bra.

As well as the Manson episodes, You Must Remember This has run several other miniseries. There was “The Blacklist”, which looked at the way several of Hollywood’s most successful stars were ruined by accusations of communism by the House Un-American Activities Committee. These included the legendary wit Dorothy Parker, the actor Humphrey Bogart and Charlie Chaplin, who was banished from the US in 1952 for being “sympathetic to the communist cause” – accusations based on little more than Chaplin refusing to cross picket lines in the 1940s, speaking out about the suffering of the Russian people in the second world war and being “prematurely anti-fascist”.

Then there was “MGM Stories”, which told the stories of 15 people who worked in the studio as it went from silent movies to talkies, including Elizabeth Taylor (who once described her 18-year contract as being “MGM chattel”) and the legendary “sweater girl” Lana Turner who burned through seven husbands and countless affairs before becoming embroiled in one of Hollywood’s most shocking scandals after her 14-year-old daughter was accused of killing Turner’s boyfriend Johnny Stompanato. And “Star Wars” looked at the efforts Hollywood stars went to support the war effort – such as Bette Davis and John Garfield’s founding of The Hollywood Canteen, where servicemen could get served pie by, and even dance with, some of the era’s most famous actors, and where Lena Horne was drafted in as the only African-American pinup and therefore the only famous woman deemed appropriate to dance with black servicemen.

H/T to Kathy Shaidle for the link.

QotD: The bebop revolution in Jazz

Filed under: History, Media, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The problem [the decline in popular demand for Jazz music] goes back to the early 40s, when a revolution took place in jazz. At a Harlem club named Minton’s, while the swing era was still in full bloom, a group of musicians began experimenting with a new approach to the music. Bandleader Teddy Hill formed a house band with drummer Kenny Clarke, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, and pianist Thelonious Monk. During nightly jam sessions others would join them, most notably sax great Charlie Parker, who had gotten his start in the swing bands of Kansas City. Vats of ink have been spilled deciphering the meaning of bebop. If jazz writers are to be believed, it defies easy categorization and requires sets and subsets to understand, but a succinct four-part summary was offered by Neil Tesser in The Playboy Guide to Jazz a couple years ago. First, the beboppers used small, quick combos — most often of trumpet and sax backed by piano, bass, and drums — instead of orchestras. Second, they used more complex chords, exploring “lively, colorful combinations of notes that previous listeners considered too dissonant for jazz.” Third, they often abandoned the melody of a song in order to improvise, relying more heavily on the song’s harmony.

Fourth, beboppers had attitude: “Instead of smooth and hummable melodies designed for dancing, the beboppers created angular tunes with unexpected accents and irregular phrases — and they expected people to listen, rather than jitterbug, to these songs and the solos that followed. The boppers emerged as jazz’s first ‘angry young men.’ They saw themselves as artists first and entertainers second, and they demanded that others respect them and their music accordingly.”

Some of the new jazz was undeniably brilliant, and many of the bebop and hard bop recordings that have been remastered and reissued only seem to acquire more appeal with age. Albums like Parker’s Now’s the Time, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Dexter Gordon’s Go, Sonny Rollins Vol. 2, and Coltrane’s Blue Train are timeless, bristling with energy, jaw-dropping improvisation, and deep spirituality. But when they cast their spell, they laid complete waste to the pop-jazz tradition. Bebop offered challenges musicians thought they could never get from traditional swing bands, as well as an improvisational ethic that provided an escape from the tough work of writing strong melodies. Some of the players saw this: In 1949 drummer Buddy Rich fired his band because his players “just want to play bop and nothing else. In fact,” Rich added, “I doubt they can play anything else.” Louis Armstrong, whose centennial is being celebrated this year, once referred to bebop as “crazy, mixed-up chords that don’t mean nothing at all.” Before long swing had become a joke. Producer Quincy Jones recalls in the documentary Listen Up that as a young musician he once hid backstage from bebop trumpeter Miles Davis so Miles wouldn’t know he was in the swinging band that had just left the stage.

Suddenly, jazz was Art. Gone were the days when 5,000 people would fill the Savoy Ballroom to lindy hop to the sunny sounds of Ella Fitzgerald or Count Basie. Bebop was impossible to dance to, which was fine with the alienated musicians in Eisenhower’s America. (You can bet this era will be well represented by beatnik Burns [in his then-forthcoming multi-part documentary on Jazz].) Even bebop’s own founders weren’t safe from the ideological putsch: when Bird himself made an album of pop standards with a band backed up by a string section, he was labeled a sellout. Then Elvis, to simplify matters greatly, reinvented swing for a new generation, and the Beatles arrived with sacks of great new melodies, and jazz was over as a popular music. Remarkably, beboppers and their fans still blame the drop-off on American racism. Miles once called pop music “white music,” and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in a documentary about the Blue Note label, offers that “whites couldn’t appreciate anything that came from black culture.” Yet whites were as responsible as blacks for making stars of Ella, Basie, and other black swing artists. Only two kinds of music were allowed on the radio following the news of FDR’s death: classical and Duke Ellington.

Mark Gauvreau Judge, “Out of Tunes”, Chicago Reader, 2000-08-31.

July 4, 2016

QotD: The problem with polling

Filed under: Britain, Media, Quotations — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

The reason pollsters get so much so wrong, is that they are just a subset of the chattering class.

They are university educated, inner urban, part of the ‘knowledge’ economy, and try to look like they are actually trendy. They hang out with the latte set, circulate mainly within the ‘goat-cheese circle’, and spend as much time as possible doing media commentary with like minded chattering class loonies.

The idea that their privileged, insular existence, leads them to fail to communicate with the great unwashed, pretty much fails to occur to them.

[…]

I occasionally succumb to curiosity about pollsters, and actually let a cold caller or an on-line survey through, just to see how unthinkingly biased the questions are. The sad fact is that I, like most people NOT of the chattering classes (despite the fact that I am a university educated inner urban professional with no kids) would usually hang up on such callers.

The other exceptions, who will actually answer questions, often being so bored and lonely, or starving for attention, that they will talk to anyone… often agreeing with whatever crap the interviewer clearly favours just to get approval.

When I do bother to answer, I am amazed at how clearly the preconceptions of the questioner come through.

Sometimes it is just the dreadful phrasing… Instead of saying ‘do you favour Brexit or Bremain?’, the question is actually more likely to be ‘are you willing to take the risk of flushing everything you have ever known down the toilet, or do you prefer stability?’. Amusingly, they usually don’t even realise this might be a problem.

[…]

The problem is, of course, that most modern pollsters don’t even realize that they are biasing the responses. They are simply convinced that ‘ALL RIGHT THINKING PEOPLE BELIEVE X’, so their questions are rarely phrased in a way that doesn’t assume that anyone who believes anything else must be a moron or a criminal deviant.

Even when the questions are actually better phrased, you can usually tell by the tone of voice how you are expected to respond.

I once tried saying the absolute opposite of whatever the pollster clearly wanted to one of these phone callers. You could hear the strain in his voice as he tried to sound as though he was just calmly going through questions while really thinking ‘this guy is a f******* idiot’.

Nigel Davies, “Brexit, and a ‘confusion’ of pollsters”, rethinking history, 2016-06-24.

July 3, 2016

QotD: The decline of popular jazz

Filed under: History, Media, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

There is a moment at the end of Art of the Trio 4, a live album released last year by 28-year-old pianist Brad Mehldau, when the problem with contemporary jazz is crystallized. After a seemingly endless set displaying his pyrotechnic virtuosity, Mehldau slides into Radiohead’s “Exit Music (For a Film).” He plays the song straight, his suddenly spartan piano style capturing the rich, chilling vocal melody. There’s no endless jamming, no fearful retreat into what has become the classicism of legends like Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie — just a simple embrace of a brilliant pop song, like Sinatra doing Mercer or Ella singing Ellington.

It was a rare moment of clarity in jazz, and as such revealed a certain hollowness to the rest of the album. Jazz has become sadly irrelevant. A recent issue of Down Beat reported that jazz sales last year accounted for only 1.9 percent of record purchases, down from even a few years ago. That’s a striking figure, and points to a sad conclusion: the music, once the source of some of the most unassailable popular songs ever waxed, has become an esoteric specialty, like speaking Latin. Next year Ken Burns will unleash his ten-part magnum opus on jazz, which makes sense. Who better to eulogize something deader than the Confederacy?

But then I suppose I’m not fit to judge. I came to jazz only about five years ago, just before the erstwhile swing boom. I liked some of the new swing music, which makes me a pariah in the eyes of “real” jazz fans, many of whom hated it the way punks hate the Backstreet Boys. Legendary pianist Oscar Peterson told Down Beat that he was “quite fed up with guys putting on porkpie hats, tilting their saxes like Lester [Young, the great Kansas City player], and calling it swing even though they still sounded like rock groups. Obviously, they haven’t done their homework and wouldn’t know Lester’s sound if it rolled over them in a steam roller.” Well, sure, most of the stuff was crap — most of anything is crap — but a few genuinely great songs were recorded: “Love” by the Camaros, “Pink Elephant” by the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, and just about everything on All Aboard! and Red Light! by San Francisco’s Indigo Swing. If nothing else, these served as a reminder that jazz was once the catchiest music in America. In listening to the massive Duke Ellington box set The Centennial Edition, I am struck by not only the instrumental virtuosity of Duke’s bands but also the sheer stickiness of the songs: “Sophisticated Lady,” “Day Dream,” “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good),” “Perdido,” “In a Sentimental Mood,” “I’m Beginning to See the Light,” “Cotton Tail” — the list could go on for pages. Before jazz became fat with government grants and cozy in its mutual admiration society with academic audiences, it required hits to survive, and hits require great hooks. Unless jazz musicians learn how to write tunes again, it’s doubtful that in another hundred years we’ll be celebrating anything except the bicentennial of Ellington’s birth.

Mark Gauvreau Judge, “Out of Tunes”, Chicago Reader, 2000-08-31.

July 2, 2016

QotD: They always get their man

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Media, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

There’s this notion, more and more, that if you’re male, you must be guilty.

Guilty…of what?

Not to worry — they’ll find something.

If you’re a man, some seemingly innocuous thing you’ve done is surely criminal. Not because it is. Because they need something you’ve done to be criminal and because they’ll just call you guilty first and work it out later. Um, maybe.

Maybe this sounds like paranoid craziness, but, from the news stories I read — and not just those of the hurt feelz crowd on college campuses — it increasingly seems like what it’s like to be male, if you’re one of the unlucky ones.

Amy Alkon, “We’re Looking A Little Too Hard For Criminals, AKA Men”, Advice Goddess, 2016-06-20.

June 30, 2016

More tales from Garnet Rogers’ Night Drive

Filed under: Books, Cancon, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

While I’m eagerly awaiting the delivery of my copy of Garnet’s book, here is a report from the Local Xpress on Garnet’s upcoming appearance at the Canso Stan Rogers Folk Festival this Canada Day weekend:

The length of the journey to Canso, home of the Stan Rogers Folk Festival, is no deterrent to the hardy hundreds who’ve packed the event every July long weekend for the past two decades.

But that winding Guysborough road is just a fraction of the journey that the festival’s namesake made with his brother and bandmate Garnet Rogers prior to Stan’s death in 1983. Many of those miles are chronicled in Garnet’s new book Night Drive: Travels With My Brother, which he’s launched in time for Stanfest’s 20th anniversary. The book stretches from their parents’ roots in Canso and Pictou County to the brothers’ final conversation at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas. In between lies a rough and tumble tale of a furtive search for folk music glory, where it took more than talent to get ahead, and dreams seemed to get dashed on a daily basis.

    “Somebody made the comment that parents should buy the book and give it to any of their kids who decide they want to become a musician or a folksinger […] It really is kind of a cautionary tale.”

[…]

Decades later, much of it has been romanticized, and writing Night Drive was an opportunity for Garnet to strip away the rose-coloured glasses, and also tell his side of the story.

    “I got invited to this thing recently where the City of Hamilton is honouring Stan with a lifetime achievement award, making him a citizen of the city or something like that, sponsored by the Hamilton Spectator […] On the face of it, God bless them, but I felt like a bystander. There was no mention of the fact that I was there, or as far as Stan was concerned, 50 per cent of the equation.

    “Stan handed over 49 per cent of his publishing to me, half ownership of the songs, that should mean something in terms of how he at least perceived my contribution, but the average person doesn’t know any of that. So part of writing this was simply to say I was there. I don’t want someone coming up to me and giving me some blather about how seeing Stan changed their life and they’ll never forget that concert, but they don’t remember that I was there, because I bloody was.

    “So a lot of it was setting the record straight, but more importantly I wanted it to be funny.”

And much of the book is laugh-out-loud hilarious, as Rogers describes how he and his brother were performing the musical equivalent of “scrawling your name on a cave wall” while playing for distracted pit miners at a disco in Labrador City. Or in a pressure cooker of a bar in Jasper, Alta., where the audience was split down the middle between railway and oil rig workers who hated each other, which eventually erupted in a melee that nearly saw Stan charged with assault with a deadly weapon, in this case a mike stand.

    “There was something in that ‘three young guys in a van together’ thing […] Whether the gig was good, bad or indifferent, you could always find something to laugh about. Like the opening chapter about the non-existent gig in Baltimore and that young woman sitting on the couch with no underwear, every damn detail of that story is absolutely true, not even remotely exaggerated.

    “It was just as squalid as it sounds, and you come out of something like that, the worst disaster ever, but you’re laughing and laughing, and a few hours later you realize you’re miles from home and completely broke. But in the meantime you’ve got three young guys who are just dying with laughter because of the insanity of the situation.”

June 29, 2016

QotD: The hacker tribe

Filed under: Media, Quotations, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Scratch the surface of “Silicon Valley culture” and you’ll find dozens of subcultures beneath. One means of production unites many tribes, but that’s about all that unites them. At a company the size of Google or even GitHub, you can expect to find as many varieties of cliques as you would in an equivalently sized high school, along with a “corporate culture” that’s as loudly promoted and roughly as genuine as the “school spirit” on display at every pep rally you were ever forced to sit through. One of those groups will invariably be the weirdoes.

Humans are social animals, and part of what makes a social species social is that its members place a high priority on signaling their commitment to other members of their species. Weirdoes’ priorities are different; our primary commitment is to an idea or a project or a field of inquiry. Species-membership commitment doesn’t just take a back seat, it’s in the trunk with a bag over its head.

Not only that, our primary commitments are so consuming that they leak over into everything we think, say, and do. This makes us stick out like the proverbial sore thumb: We’re unable to hide that our deepest loyalties aren’t necessarily to the people immediately around us, even if they’re around us every day. We have a name for people whose loyalties adhere to the field of technology — and to the society of our fellow weirdoes who we meet and befriend in technology-mediated spaces — rather than to the hairless apes nearby. I prefer this term to “weird nerds,” and so I’ll use it here: hackers.

You might not consider hackers to be a tribe apart, but I guarantee you that many — if not most — hackers themselves do. Eric S. Raymond’s “A Brief History of Hackerdom,” whose first draft dates to 1992, contains a litany of descriptions that speak to this:

    They wore white socks and polyester shirts and ties and thick glasses and coded in machine language and assembler and FORTRAN and half a dozen ancient languages now forgotten .…

    The mainstream of hackerdom, (dis)organized around the Internet and by now largely identified with the Unix technical culture, didn’t care about the commercial services. These hackers wanted better tools and more Internet ….

    [I]nstead of remaining in isolated small groups each developing their own ephemeral local cultures, they discovered (or re-invented) themselves as a networked tribe.

Meredith Patterson, “When Nerds Collide: My intersectionality will have weirdoes or it will be bullshit”, Medium.com, 2014-04-23.

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