This collection of clips supports positions taken and points made in these recent entries on this blog: The rafts of the unwelcoming print journos; Stick to your Polish Joseph Conrad! –Whoa Cleopatra! ; and Ruth Padel and the presentation of intelligent pulchritude in everyday life .
Referring to January’s baffling announcement by a respected Old Media columnist, Simon Jenkins, that the digital revolution in publishing is being halted by ‘printed blogs’ , I mentioned print journalists’ seething hostility to the Blogosphere.
On Sunday I found this review of Digital Barbarism by Mark Helprin — an American journalist and novelist so angry about copyright violation on the net (a good cause) and the shift to e-media (a King Canute cause) that, by many accounts, not just Ross Douthat‘s, the book reads like the most intemperate raving by the maddest bloggers …:
The Internet multiplies arguments as swiftly as it multiplies pornographic images,[…] [I]t multiplies cautionary tales as well — feuds better left unfeuded, and rabbit holes that have swallowed writers whole.
Tellingly, it’s often older scriveners, unaccustomed to having their sallies met by waves of insta-disputation, who flail their way into embarrassment. […]
The novelist Mark Helprin is the latest distinguished writer to come undone this way. […]
[He has written] a furious treatise against the comment-happy horde. The resulting book, “Digital Barbarism: A Writer’s Manifesto,” is a vindication of the aphorism about the perils of wrestling with a pig. (You get dirty; the pig likes it.) [ Possibly not all pigs, though: the giant pink ‘un made by one arts group, WRAS, appears to be finicky — and if I read right, was distressed about getting … er, pig-like, on a recent trip to Spain. ]
I can’t think of anyone I’ve ever blogged alongside foaming at the mouth in quite the way Helprin does. Douthat, again:
[I]t’s hard to write a polemic premised on the assumption that your opponents are monkeys without sounding like a particularly high-vocabulary monkey yourself. Helprin variously describes his foes as “wacked-out muppets,” “crapulous professors,” “regular users of hallucinogenic drugs,” “a My Little Pony version of the Khmer Rouge,” “a million geeks in airless basements,” “mouth-breathing morons in backwards baseball caps and pants that fall down” and so forth. The overall effect is like listening to an erudite gentleman employing $20 words while he screams at a bunch of punk kids to get off his front lawn.
[ I actually had to google ‘$20 word.’ ]
THE RISE … and RISE … OF FREELANCE JOURNALISTS and INDY MEDIA
In the last blog entry, I also pointed out that independent operators like freelance journalists – temperamentally, close kin to bloggers — are increasingly getting the scoops these days.
About Laura Ling and Euna Lee — two young Korean-American reporters for the fledgling Current TV sentenced by the North Korean government to twelve years in a labour camp — The New York Times conceded in a story that it featured prominently,
Start-up news organizations like Current TV are increasingly sending journalists to the world’s hot spots, putting a spotlight on news stories in new ways. It is, experts say, another consequence of the fragmented media landscape and the declines in international news coverage by traditional outlets.
[…] “There’s an impetus with any upstart news organization that you have to be bolder and you have to be more aggressive than other news organizations to get attention for your stories,” said Kevin Sites, a freelance journalist who covered conflicts for Yahoo. “That has to be admired. That also has a real inherent risk in it.”
This brand of journalist stealing the colours of conventional print and TV rivals is all the more brave because,
One of the risks of this kind of improvised, headlong journalism is that reporters lack the backing of large established news organizations that might have the experience and leverage to deal with foreign governments. While Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee, full-time employees of Current, have the backing of Al Gore, who is a founder of the network, they lack the support system that their colleagues at CNN and the British Broadcasting Corporation enjoy.
Since, as I showed last week, respected print journalists – and the layers of editors and subeditors vetting their work – are as capable of appalling lapses in fact-checking as anyone else, it’s getting harder to see what we’ll lose in the move to online and indy reporting.
MINDS CAN BE GENUINELY GENDER-NEUTRAL
A recent thread sparked by what our comrade @Hazlitt called the on yer bike look of the writer who became Oxford Professor of Poetry for roughly a weekend encouraged sparkling exchanges about changing female images and self-images that ranged as far as the portrayal of women in western art – which continued on the next thread.
Of course the bolder and more challenging expressions in female portraiture are reflections of collapsing stereotypes about what interests women, and about the limits of what they can do.
THE take on Kathryn Bigelow is that she is a great female director of muscular action movies, the kind with big guns, scenes, themes and camera movements as well as an occasional fist in the face, a knee to the groin. Sometimes, more simply, she’s called a great female director. But here’s a radical thought: She is, simply, a great filmmaker.
Although she now plays down the film, it seems like a template for much of her later work, with its emphasis on men, masculinity, violence and power.
yes, she’s working in an sexist field where even female studio chiefs are loath to hire female directors, but also because of the stubborn persistence of her artistic vision and intellectualism. She’s still investigating signs and meaning, but now through genres she deconstructs and sometimes immolates.
It’s telling, then, that after she made “The Loveless” a postmodern motorcycle movie in which she stretched narrative to the limit, she started receiving scripts for high school comedies, which she quickly realized was considered a suitable subject for her gender. “It was an intersection of absolutely inappropriate sensibilities,” she said, though I would love to see what havoc she could wreak on that genre. She was living in New York in a condemned building without heat and electricity. A juvenile comedy might have paid the bills, but instead she accepted an offer from her friend, the artist John Baldessari, to teach at the California Institute of the Arts, just north of Los Angeles. Hollywood was the inevitable next step. Through the director Walter Hill, she landed a deal at a studio, but it led to nowhere.
It was at this point, she said, that she understood “if I had a prayer of shooting something that intrigued me, I was going to have to be the architect of my own fate.”
The number of male mentors and aesthetic influences seems instructive as does her seeming discomfort when I ask why she likes to make movies about men. It’s one of the few times when she searches for her words. She mentions Richard Serra, whom she’s known for years, and “Torqued Ellipses,” his curvilinear steel sculptures that weigh about 40 tons apiece and which she describes as “real statements of power.” Suddenly I’m reminded of the moment in “K-19” when the camera glides between two submarines sitting parallel on the surface of the water, a glorious image of heavy metal that is itself a statement of power. When she was painting, she says, she loved “big, gestural, visceral, raw, immediate pieces.” She starts to move her fingers, as if she were sewing.
“Nothing really struck me,” she says, of the art she first loved, “that was tight and precise and patient and careful and perhaps more introspective. Perhaps,” she laughs, “it’s just a sensibility defect.”
I doubt that one Kathryn Bigelow, no matter how many copy-cats she inspires, will mean goodbye to the Jane Austen sensibility — her ‘little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush …’. Women always have been as different, potentially, as these two. But what a gap – a wow for the ages.