Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Took a bag of CDs to trade in today. I got Bang on a Can Music for Airports: Brian Eno (Point), The Supremes Sing Rodgers & Hart: The Complete Recordings (Motown), Ice-T Greatest Hits: The Evidence (Coroner/Atomic Pop), Mel Torme At the Crescendo (Bethlehem), Mississippi John Hurt Live (Vanguard) and The Firesign Theatre Waiting for the Electrician and Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliars (both Columbia Legacy). The record store owner said he had a customer a few days earlier who picked up the Bang on a Can album and said she hadn't heard it since they recorded it. Turned out to be BOAC's cellist Maya Beiser who's apparently living in Atlanta now. I listed to the Torme album on the way home and it's quite nice: Torme backed by a quintet lead by Marty Paich that's quite loose, almost too much so. It's kinda odd, though, to hear songs I'm mostly familiar with through Sinatra's versions, not sure exactly why.


Hope yesterday's bit about academics on pop culture didn't come off as if I think that's a bad thing. Far from it: Let there be a thousand academic flowers in pop culture's garden (or compost heap if you're in an Adorno-ean mood). The question isn't whether Gilligan's Island is worthy of such attention--neither really is stuff like Gilman's Herland--but whether it can support it. I can imagine decent papers on technology, concepts of culture or even pop culture itself in Gilligan's Island. Or maybe not: The idea is only the start, the rest is up to the writer. Academics aren't any worse on the whole than the legions of critics and journalists, it's just that the flaws (stodgy style, unnecessary sourcing, pointless name-dropping) are greater barriers not to mention that one group is trained towards brevity, the other not.


Yet another cheerleading article on the blogging "phenomenon" (the headline's "revolution" is premature at best, more likely something for future generations' sneers possibly in just a few minutes) at No surprise that the writer Andrew Sullivan resorts to distortions to make his case; if nothing else he's got plenty of company. For instance, "For as long as journalism has existed, writers of whatever kind have had one route to readers: They needed an editor and a publisher. Even in the most benign scenario, this process subtly distorts journalism." Certainly this isn't completely true since numerous writers from 18th century pamphleteers to I.F. Stone to hundreds of zinesters have done without editors and publishers. But the rest is wrong: this process doesn't distort journalism, it is journalism. It's the give-and-take, the conflict of opinions, the relentless fact-checking that creates something that can be considered journalism.

Or just see Sullivan claiming that writers and editors at The Washington Post are "no more inherently trustworthy than a lone blogger who has earned a reader's respect." I really wonder whether Sullivan could possibly believe that or if he's just filling space under a deadline. Elsewhere he uses the phrase "opinion journalism" which reveals where the confusion arises. Opinions are not journalism any more than remarks are literature. The Post's opinions may not necessarily be any more trustworthy than a friend's but that's the reason those opinions are on the editorial page (usually). The rest of the paper shows how little blogging has to do with journalism. How many bloggers can provide information that's not just recycled from other sources? Blogging is at the moment mostly just a fad; maybe it'll die down to the serious few or maybe it'll be fairly routine. It's possible to imagine a Pepys or Mary Chesnutt coming out of blogs (at least once that ugly name is changed) but making ludicrous claims like Sullivan's won't help anybody.