Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Keeping Them Honest: Poetry Listserve Division.

Cobalt Listers,

The Cobalt Poets lists exists primarily for the promotion of the
Cobalt Cafe Poetry Reading.

I've left it un-moderated to allow folks to feel free to promote
other projects, converse with each other and be mildly annoying, as
we all tend to be on e-mail lists, in our attempts to be humorous,
intelligent or clever. This has strayed, far too often, from far too
many people into the arena of pain causing personal attacks, slander,
insults, unpleasantly :'discussion', and generally an
atmosphere of embarrassment for me at being the host of such a thing
which has served more to damage community than foster it.

Any future posts here which, at my sole discretion, even hint at this
kind of unpleasantness again will cause the poster to me immediately
removed from this list, no second chances, thanks bye.

--August 27, 2006

Subscribe or unsubscribe to the Cobalt Poets e-mail list. Also sort through the message archive or join in the un-moderated fun by posting anything you want about anything at any time for any reason.

Thanks for bringing this to my attention Terry. That [subscribe or unsubscribe....] was written when the Cobalt Poets email list was created, when, as a naive poetry host I thought having an unmoderated list was possible and before, as you know, so many people, yourself included, used it as a bully pulpit. I'll be editing the description to remove the 'anything goes' implication of the text. More good work sir!

It's a tiny thing as poetry community matters/manners go, but the Cobalt listserve description seen after the reprint of the 8/27/06 message hasn't been changed to reflect the list proprietor's "evolved" viewpoints on acceptable speech/conduct/posting, as promised.  So it appears as if I was subjected to either an untruth or withering "you lesser being" sarcasm.

UPDATE: The proprietor, via Facebook, addressed this issue.  Here's a portion of his response:

 Regardless of the inaccurate leftover original descriptions on the website, there has been a consistent moderation on the list which has applied to everyone equally specifically designed to avoid the kind of harm that was caused previously and refocus the list on its intended purpose to support and provide information about the Cobalt reading.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Jim Carrey, gun control and Left/Right patronizing of each other.

For five minutes and fifty-six seconds, the FUNNY OR DIE site (full disclosure: I posted a video there awhile back) gives Jim Carrey a chance to mix outspoken beliefs with a few reminders of the "James Carrey of IN LIVING COLOR" period of two decades previous.

I don't argue with Carrey's pro-gun control stance (and the video's display of prominent gun violence victims as backup band members is one of its more subtle touches).  But I don't think the kind of smirking at Charlton Heston (more of the post-90s determined revisionism stating Heston's NRA presidency wiped away a generally distinguished acting career) and the long-departed "country-and-western LAUGH-IN" series HEE HAW can be said to accomplish anything substantive.  All it proves is that certain people considering themselves liberal/progressive like to mock gun-owning social conservatives for alleged stupidity and liking the "wrong" things; conversely, the folks on the Right get to feel persecuted and defensive (with their hurt/paranoia massaged and exploited by Fox News and prominent talk-radio hosts)--and condescended to in a major way, prompting them to look down on the Left with renewed vigor.

Even a "moderate" Democrat like Bill Clinton (still adored by liberals/progressives, sometimes mystifyingly so) has mentioned that liberals/progressives need to stop sneering at conservatives regarding gun control/gun ownership/ammunition issues if progress is to be achieved.

Here's the exact quote from Clinton: “Do not patronize the passionate supporters of your opponents by looking down your nose at them,” Clinton said.
Read more:

Monday, March 25, 2013

When 60 MINUTES' Lesley Stahl met Pussy Riot.

Judging from the 60 MINUTES coverage of Russian punk protest band Pussy Riot,  the women are merely brave-but-blasphemous, profanity-spewing vandals getting a heavier-than-deserved punishment for their behavior.

Here's a commenter from the JEZEBEL website:
The reporter was such a condescending asshole. Here you have these WOMEN (not girls) risking their lives and freedom to make a political statement and she treats them like angsty teens.

Lesley Stahl's aghast, where-are-my-smelling-salts utterance of the word "pussy" spoke contemptuous volumes.

Even Lara Logan or Anderson Cooper or Scott Pelley (plus producers/writers/researchers) would have tuned in a more insightful segment.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Glenn Greenwald on nonconformist political commentary.

Reprinting the opening paragraphs of Glenn Greenwald's article on how the mainstream media keeps Noam Chomsky away from the Cool Pundits table in the cafeteria of acceptable consensus ideas.  And the words/phrases "poets", "poetry community", "writers" and "literary community" could be plugged into these paragraphs (along with names of writers and artists with works and ideas not considered Mainstream)--and Greenwald's comments make sense in another context.
The entirety of Greenwald's column can be found at:

One very common tactic for enforcing political orthodoxies is to malign the character, "style" and even mental health of those who challenge them. The most extreme version of this was an old Soviet favorite: to declare political dissidents mentally ill and put them in hospitals. In the US, those who take even the tiniest steps outside of political convention are instantly decreed "crazy", as happened to the 2002 anti-war version of Howard Dean and the current iteration of Ron Paul (in most cases, what is actually "crazy" are the political orthodoxies this tactic seeks to shield from challenge).
This method is applied with particular aggression to those who engage in any meaningful dissent against the society's most powerful factions and their institutions. Nixon White House officials sought to steal the files from Daniel Ellsberg's psychoanalyst's office precisely because they knew they could best discredit his disclosures with irrelevant attacks on his psyche. Identically, the New York Times and partisan Obama supporters have led the way in depicting both Bradley Manning and Julian Assange as mentally unstable outcasts with serious personality deficiencies. The lesson is clear: only someone plagued by mental afflictions would take such extreme steps to subvert the power of the US government.
A subtler version of this technique is to attack the so-called "style" of the critic as a means of impugning, really avoiding, the substance of the critique. Although Paul Krugman is comfortably within mainstream political thought as a loyal Democrat and a New York Times columnist, his relentless attack against the austerity mindset is threatening to many. As a result, he is barraged with endless, substance-free complaints about his "tone": he is too abrasive, he does not treat opponents with respect, he demonizes those who disagree with him, etc. The complaints are usually devoid of specifics to prevent meaningful refutation; one typical example: "[Krugman] often cloaks his claims in professional authority, overstates them, omits arguments that undermine his case, and is a bit of a bully." All of that enables the substance of the critique to be avoided in lieu of alleged personality flaws.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Commenter on re Jay Leno.

It's another deja vu moment as Jay Leno is being persuaded to step away from THE TONIGHT SHOW to make room for a younger successor.  My prediction is that NBCUniversal will make another attempt to pacify Jay--maybe by offering him a late-night JAY LENO SHOW on the USA cable network.

Turning the floor over to commenter "ed" who said this on the site:
Leno knows his time is almost up, and he doesn’t care what he says about NBC at this point. And I’ve come to understand that the feeling is mutual from the new NBC brass. I once read a statement from Comcast CEO Brian Roberts that had he been running the show in January 2010, he would have paid Leno off and let Conan keep hosting the Tonight Show. Now they’ve got to deal with either putting Jimmy Fallon on at 11:30, which really, he’s still somewhat green to the whole thing. Or they’ll have to take a big risk and find someone completely fresh; new blood entirely. Conan at least was well tested for a good sixteen years as a late night host, and they could have avoided that entire mess (which in my opinion, completely tainted the legacy of the Tonight Show).
And say what you want on who you think sucks, or who’s really funny (it’s all a matter of opinion), but Leno has only himself to blame. Had he gone quietly into the night in 2009, like he was supposed to; now he’s going to be making a big stink about NBC firing him yet again. The guy can’t take a hint… The Tonight Show is NOT HIS SHOW. He had no problem forcing Johnny Carson into an early retirement or stealing it from Letterman, then pissing on Conan’s parade. He deserves to get his ass kicked to the curb. And when he does, he sure as hell better not have some big goodbye finale when the time comes. He already had that once. No one feels sorry for you Jay.
I encourage everyone to read Bill Carter’s books ‘The Late Shift’ and ‘The War for Late Night.’ Form your own opinions, but Leno is an absolute assbag of a human being. Why wouldn’t Johnny Carson ever do The Tonight Show after he took over? He certainly had no problem appearing on Letterman and writing the occasional jokes for him. Get the hint Jay, even Carson thought you were a douche-bag. Howard Stern is completely right about him, he’s egomaniacal and has absolutely no morals or consideration for his peers. At least the sharks and backstabbers in Hollywood are honest about what they do. Leno blames everyone else, and acts all Bart Simpson all the time… “I didn’t do it.”

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Film blogger quote can also apply to poetry/literature communities.

Some context first: Lynne Ramsay, best known for directing the disturbing-in-a-necessary-way school-shooting film WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, was hired to direct a Western starring Natalie Portman called JANE GOT A GUN.  Ms. Ramsay didn't show up for the start of JANE's filming and the bird-wings of film/media online gossip sites have fluttered. 

Here's an intelligent quote from online film writer Devin Faraci, recently posted to Twitter:
"Lynne Ramsay thing reinforces how often people jump to support authority figures, corporations, money people over individuals and creatives."

Monday, March 18, 2013

Random comments from the CNN website after the Steubenville rape trial verdicts.

Names of the commenters omitted here.  Comments presented intact.

What is remarkable, if only for its absence, is the discussion in the media about those who stood by and did nothing as this happened.
It's frightening to know that we live in a society where when people are in danger or being victimized the accepted social response is to break out the mobile phone and record it happening, rather than intervene. People will dial 911 to report a spanking at a mall, but not one of these teens thought to text or call someone to help this girl, or God forbid, speak up on her behalf?

The blame lies with and only with the sick little freaks who decided to rape this young woman, period, we as a society need to stop trying to blame the victims, and lay the blame at the feet of the sicko's in our midst. I am personally for castration of anyone who is convicted of rape, but perhaps that is just me.

Drunk or sober, no one should be violated. Just like people are trying to say that the boys were just stupid kids that did something stupid, so was she. What she didn't do however was violate another human being. She got drunk...a lot of people get drunk and don't get raped or violated just because they have indulged in too much alcohol. If I drank as much as witnesses say she did, I would not be sober enough to consent to sexual contact and I'm 41, so it's easy to see how someone her age and size could be completely incapacitated by the amount of alcohol in her system. Just because someone CAN NOT say no, doesn't mean yes. I have to wonder however about this series of parties that were going on where the alcohol was being consumed. If there were so many of them, where were all the adults in this town? Did they all go on vacation together and just leave all their teen aged children at home?

While I agree with you, she did break the law. She should also be punished. One could also argue that the boys fell prey to pressure and didn't realize that they were doing anything wrong. Some men aren't taught what consent actually means. I had to explain to a group of young boys what consent meant when this case occurred.

[Direct reply to the previous commenter]No, one really cannot "argue that the boys fell prey to pressure and didn't realize they were doing anything wrong." 16 and 17 are more than old enough to know that what they were doing was not just wrong, but a heinous crime. Rape is an act of violence. She was nothing more than a toy, a thing for them to abuse. They did not view her as a human being. They violated her willingly and in two different locations over a period of time There is no excuse for their behavior.. They are predators. They enjoyed what they were doing. They are criminals. One more thing, you think she should be punished for underage drinking? I find that incomprehensible that anyone would want to "punish" the victim of a rape for a misdemeanor.

So her rape, her body being posted all over the internet isn't punishment enough???

[Direct reply to the previous commenter] NO because these boy's lives were ruined by a classroom slut. they will never see a football career or any decent career because they will be branded as sex offenders. all because of what? a slut whose mom doesn't realize how loose her daughter is? try the same shit when she's in collage and they'll call it ''kids just having fun'' i hope the mother sees more of her whore daughter on the internet'

You see a stupid drunk girl laying down dirty drunk, and assume that because she is drunk she was raped. Where in any video or photo's that were shown does it show these two men raping her. One guy holding her by her hands, and the other holding her by her feet carrying her while she is fully clothed, does not constitute rape. Yes she was drunk, but who fault is it but hers

[Direct reply to the previous commenter]
Rape is an act of violence that objectifies another person, they used her as an object. Next you will say if a woman dresses slutty, or is out too late it is her fault if she is attacked. Why do we assume men have no self control and are unable to stop themselves from raping or assaulting if we tempt them too much? A kid who would do that, and send out pictures of it to laugh with his friends, has a long life of using and abusing women ahead of him. Women sometimes blame a victim because that makes them feel that they are not at risk because they would never do 'something so stupid.' Trust me, an entitled kid who feels he has the right to violate a woman and send pics out if not a safe person to be out and about, and he might not wait until a woman is drunk to do it. He is someone who believes that women are toys and are to be used for his entertainment. You need to try to babystep yourself into the present century.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What appears to be a SoCal poetry community in-joke.

Actual quote from a description of a link to a SoCal poetry listserve, written by the listserve's creator:

"Subscribe or unsubscribe to the Cobalt Poets e-mail list. Also sort through the message archive or join in the un-moderated fun by posting anything you want about anything at any time for any reason."

To the above quote, I can only say:
A lot of people are comfortable with/unquestioning of the "my site, my rules" policies of websites that allow comments after posts--or listserves where, in theory, a member can post on a topic of his/her choosing.
Perhaps this is an oblique way of stating this rather than writing something boring and technical
i.e. "if you post anything that isn't a reading announcement and you criticize the community (or someone in it), even if it doesn't descend into blatant insults/profanity, then I will moderate content and possibly ban you."

So now, as the late commentator Paul Harvey used to say, you know the rest of the story.

UPDATE: The proprietor of the Cobalt Poets list, via Facebook, posted an answer to this post.  And, in the interest of equal time, here it is:
Thanks for bringing this to my attention Terry. That was written when the Cobalt Poets email list was created, when, as a naive poetry host I thought having an unmoderated list was possible and before, as you know, so many people, yourself included, used it as a bully pulpit. I'll be editing the description to remove the 'anything goes' implication of the text. More good work sir!

My reply to the proprietor's statement: Always glad to advocate truth in advertising.

More than one definition of bullying, apparently.

Quoting Emily Bazelon (her byline can often be found on the SLATE website) in THE NEW YORK TIMES (in context of an op-ed article on how wide the definition of bullying should be):
"The definition of bullying adopted by psychologists is physical or verbal abuse, repeated over time, and involving a power imbalance. In other words, it’s about one person with more social status lording it over another person, over and over again, to make him miserable."

Over the past half-dozen years, I've been told that commenting about certain people on this blog (primarily residents of the poetry community) more than once in a critical fashion is bullying.

I wrote blog posts on people with greater social and professional status than I using their status in jerky/unprofessional/unkind-to-people-below-their-station ways.

But is this just as valid a definition of bullying as Ms. Bazelon's quote above?

Or is it merely a way to silence opinion voiced in public?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

It can't be said too often: I hate it when people in show biz scream at coworkers big and small.

So there's this smart, funny and successful female comedy star who now headlines her own network series (name withheld since I still subscribe to her Twitter account)--and she said this recently:
[Name Withheld] credited exec producer [male name withheld] with teaching her how to just be. “He showed me how to be a leader, that I don’t need to scream constantly and that people will listen to me when I’m the boss”.

It's sad to read stuff like this.  When I was doing my background actor (extra) and stand-in work in the late 80s to late 90s, I was screamed at by both men and women (fortunately, just a few times over a nine-year period).  And you're supposed to take it in and somehow work harder to do everything Just Right without displaying any kind of visible/verbal emotional reaction. 

Perhaps, in some instances, it's not that you've made the kind of mistake that requires a Defcon-4 magnitude response from an actor/assistant director/production assistant/cinematographer/grip/gaffer.  It's just that you're in their immediate vicinity, you're powerless and can be screamed at partially because the screamer doesn't choose to the contents of his/her psychic colostomy bag onto someone of equal or greater status (that could cause him/her to lose his/her job).

So my hope is that the television comedy star who has to contend with the understandably huge stress of creating, co-writing and starring (plus dealing with ratings-conscious network executives who think they're just as creative) in her own series will gradually learn not to scream at all, for her and her co-workers' sake.

And wishing the same to men in the Business too.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

NEW YORK magazine blog commenter on Rand Paul's anti-drone filibuster.

I can't believe I'm about to type this, but I'm with Rand Paul on this one. I don't understand why more people aren't skeeved out about the administration's inability to unequivocally state that drone strikes won't be used on U.S. soil against U.S. citizens? At the risk of sounding like a paranoid nutjob, I know that it's naive to think that any of us aren't under greater surveillance and scrutiny than we realize and that the system isn't stacked against all but the wealthiest and most powerful among us, but still... I find cold comfort in people like Eric Holder saying that he really, truly, almost definitely, probably, maybe won't plunk you into oblivion with an RC model plane with a missile attached. So yeah, if I have to align myself with the Junior Whackjob from the State of Kentucky once in a while, so be it.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

In defense of unruly online comments. Link to a NEW YORK TIMES opinion column which pulls out metaphorical smelling salts over "rude" reader opinions following news stories/columns.
A key passage from the column by Dominique Brossard and Dietram A. Scheufele:
In a study published online last month in The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, we and three colleagues report on an experiment designed to measure what one might call “the nasty effect.”
We asked 1,183 participants to carefully read a news post on a fictitious blog, explaining the potential risks and benefits of a new technology product called nanosilver. These infinitesimal silver particles, tinier than 100-billionths of a meter in any dimension, have several potential benefits (like antibacterial properties) and risks (like water contamination), the online article reported.
Then we had participants read comments on the post, supposedly from other readers, and respond to questions regarding the content of the article itself.
Half of our sample was exposed to civil reader comments and the other half to rude ones — though the actual content, length and intensity of the comments, which varied from being supportive of the new technology to being wary of the risks, were consistent across both groups. The only difference was that the rude ones contained epithets or curse words, as in: “If you don’t see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these kinds of products, you’re an idiot” and “You’re stupid if you’re not thinking of the risks for the fish and other plants and animals in water tainted with silver.”
The results were both surprising and disturbing. Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.
In the civil group, those who initially did or did not support the technology — whom we identified with preliminary survey questions — continued to feel the same way after reading the comments. Those exposed to rude comments, however, ended up with a much more polarized understanding of the risks connected with the technology.
Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they’d previously thought.
Offering a calm, noncensorious alternative to the article is commenter "Danny P":

It'd be a mistake to walk away from this piece thinking its best to avoid "nasty" comments. Throwing in ad hominems and rude attacks is not all that different from curse words; using them doesn't actually mean the user has nothing valuable to say.

Walt Whitman: "many of the slang words among fighting men, gamblers, thieves, prostitutes, are powerful words... Many of these bad words are fine." Neitzsche was not above hurling a few good insults... some... a lot of insults at the people he disagreed with.

Hidden in a paragraph beginning "You idiot," might be some very worthwhile contributions. Avoiding such comments means missing out. It's probably a better strategy as a reader to become someone that doesn't get reactionary and dismissive just because strangers are speaking with hostility or salty language. Dismiss them for the right reason; that their contribution lacked insight or meaningful addition to the subject.

Friday, March 1, 2013

HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE commenter "Kit" does post-mortem on LINCOLN's Oscar impoverishment.

Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner's LINCOLN has, if I'm recalling correctly at this late hour, brought in more money at the North American box office than either SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK or ARGO (which won Sunday's Best Picture Academy Award--and, ironically, had a touch of the more brash, less Prestigious 70s/early 80s Spielberg).  And it wasn't treated with consensus disdain like 2011's Spielberg prestige, preordained-Oscar film WAR HORSE (which I haven't seen).

But now the what-went-wrong-with-LINCOLN articles seem to be starting; the Hollywood Elsewhere site has a link to a piece in THE NEW YORK TIMES.

And now, I'm turning the floor over to HE commenter "Kit" and his-or-her appraisal as to why Spielberg, Kushner and LINCOLN went home Oscarless:
Spielberg's problem is he still believes, as he always has, that winning the Oscar is the ultimate goal for any movie. He grew up with Oscar and worshipping the system. This year he absolutely tried too hard to win, and made it ridiculously obvious how much he wanted Oscar recognition again. There was no subtlety in the campaigning, and it Killed Lincoln (to borrow from Bill O'Reilly). 10 reasons why Lincoln lost:
1. The Premise = engineered for Oscar - romanticized historical time period and iconic American figure meet acclaimed director and Time Magazine's "World Greatest Actor"; Spielberg's proclaimed "passion project," chasing DDL for years
2. Endless TV spots (to country music, which mischaracterized the movie and boosted box office---box office doesn't mean everyone liked the movie), very intimate 60 minutes coverage with Spielberg's parents and how he doesn't want to do any more mindless action movies (riiiiiiiight), 1.5-hour Oprah-lovefest
3. Going to Washington to get government support and approval of the movie, when Zero Dark Thirty had none. While not making himself as accessible to voters: the Santa Barbara Film Festival example. Affleck schmoozed with everyone, while the next night DDL and co. kept themselves isolated on the second floor.
4. OVERPACKAGED Lincoln screener: bound script, beautiful photographs with historical context, John Williams' soundtrack = this film is important, VOTE FOR ME. This cannot be overemphasized. And, of course, the simple fact the film didn't play nearly as well on screener than in front of an audience.
5. TAKING the role of Goliath over David: NOT establishing the film as an underdog AT ALL, constantly promoting the across the board "Oscar-winning" cast and crew rather than positioning the film in a way that would inspire voters.
6. INTENTIONALLY putting Robopocalypse "on hold" just before the awards to not take away from his "prestige," important filmmaking.
7. Spielberg is snubbed for BAFTA, but his main frontrunner competition Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck magically disappeared in the Best Director category...hmmm...were some directors lobbied or paid off Harvey Weinstein-style?? I wouldn't be surprised to learn Spielberg's team played dirty this season, like Affleck's and Harvey's....but of course when Spielberg does it it turns off voters.
8. BRINGING Bill Clinton to the Golden Globes to present how IMPORTANT and TIMELY Lincoln is. One of the Killing Blows, and a clear example of Spielberg abusing his power to influence and manipulate voters
9. 60 Minutes: taking a second feature slot that was utterly unnecessary and contributed nothing new on the movie, 3 months after it came out
10. And finally, his misguided belief that the important movie about American history and one of our most significant figures DESERVED to win since it could teach all the people and the kiddies the history (and how self-important his film was). This does not a great film make.

It's really sad for me that this man has no conception that the great films, the ones considered masterpieces that hold up for many many years are NOT the films that win at the Academy Awards. Steven Spielberg: winning another directing Oscar will not make you the greatest director ever. Can someone get it in his head that some of the strongest filmmakers NEVER won Oscars?? Interviewers like Barbara Walters were telling him this before he finally won. You have played to the Hollywood system YOUR ENTIRE CAREER, and lost your own, singular voice as an artist in the process of engineering films for box office and manipulating audiences. You have been chasing Oscar FOR YEARS(!!!) after E.T. lost (which he has admitted utterly burned him), with Color Purple, Empire of the Sun, Schindler's List, Amistad, Saving Private Ryan, Munich, War Horse, and now Lincoln---and in every single instance your film came up short in one way or another, often ravaging the original source material. I know that it ABSOLUTELY burns Spielberg that Martin Scorsese is more revered and called America's greatest living filmmaker, and that NONE OF HIS FILMS were cited in Sight and Sound's top 100 greatest films. I would love to see him tackle a genre or subject that WOULD challenge him. Submit a film to a festival again, go after the Palm D'Or even if you come up short. Do something vastly different that will surprise film circles in a good way. Another thriller. AND NO MORE IMPORTANT HISTORY MOVIES.