Bottoms Up.

It is pretty simple. Due to “mass amateurization,” practically all forms of traditional media are becoming obsolete. This is an amazing fact, but it erupts from the ever-updating of the internet and all its minion tools. The internet provides us with the essential elements for the obsolescence of traditional media: infinite reproduction, production, and distribution — for little to no cost. A photographer’s function is dispensable, and his skills are replaceable. A journalist is as “qualified” for the position as a blogger. A newspaper editor is as professional as an anonymous Wikipedia-contributor. 

The bottom line is this: “anyone in the developed world can publish anything anytime, and the instant it is published, it is globally available and readily findable” (Shirky 71). This turns a secretary at a business sending a mass-email dissing the company, into a published critic. All of these jobs have something in common — they tie a professional to a mechanical process. Since the mechanical processes are made more efficient, and more accessible; the professional is facing obsolescence. 

The potentials of this fact are boundless. First of all, we are straying from only publishing what the politically powerful, outrageously wealthy folk think is important, and instead are interested in what the entire middle class thinks is important, as they are the ones producing it. We don’t HAVE to read the newspapers anymore. We can just as easily get our news elsewhere, or better yet, produce it ourselves. In the future, perhaps all media will be produced from a bottoms-up perspective: television–Youtube; newspapers–news blogs; photography–Flikr; encyclopedia–Wikipedia; magazines–Webzine. Oh wait, that’s right…it’s already happened.  


The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Professional Plagiarism

I read these three articles in the following order: Chez (Lehrer), Haughney (Zakaria), and finally Bailey (Anderson). Chez, whose fence-sitting irritated me almost to the point of a cease-read, actually raised an entirely valid point regarding self-plagiarism. In an age of immediacy, where “our appetite for information…is voracious to the point of being insatiable,” aren’t we fostering the growth of this bacteria in the journalistic Petri dish? There are far too many cases arising where distinguished journalists are collapsing under the pressure of society’s demand for “everything to be delivered to us quickly and en masse, quality never suffering.” Plagiarism is an act of desperation. When professional writers “en masse” plagiarize, it is time to question the system which cultivates such behavior.

Just step into Fareed’s daily life: “Mr. Zakaria, 48, balances a demanding schedule, doing work for multiple media properties. He is a CNN host, an editor at large at Time, a Washington Post columnist and an author. ” To be fair, I would not be able to sustain this lifestyle without occasionally ripping off some of my earlier work.

The irony of the Chris Anderson story really astounds me. Our author, Jonathan Bailey literally self-plagiarizes practically verbatim throughout the entire tedious hunk of text. Perhaps it is not considered self-plagiarism because he didn’t rip himself off from earlier works, but rather multiple times throughout the same work? Regardless, how many times can he possibly repeat his three concerns over and OVER again by changing a few different words? Bailey wonders whether Anderson’s act was “malicious or lazy plagiarism,” or perhaps “sloppy research,” or is it “sloppy editing and research”? (all these phrases are taken verbatim from this short article). Finally, Bailey cannot convey to his reader ENOUGH how he is unable to make valid and level-headed claims against Anderson because he is not well-enough informed regarding the situation at hand. So, why did he even bother writing an article?

Shirky’s post-managerial organization


Wikipedia is a source based solely on user-contribution. In this “digital age” is the very first time we have ever seen anything like this. The walls of the hierarchical organizations of our parents’ generation are tumbling down. Online organizations have become flat. By that I mean everyone has the potential to contribute equally, and a contributor’s validity is determined by how often and how accurately he posts. 

Thanks to the advent of the internet, these ‘contributors’ are contributing for free, which makes for more liberal research topics. Back in the olden days (a decade and a half ago), a company like Encyclopedia Britannica would have to spend money to pay researchers to investigate very specific topics of high interest amongst readers. Now, because ANYONE can contribute, arbitrary topics can be researched; it is of no financial loss to the encyclopedia company, and there is a larger collaborative tub from which to soak up information. 

Interview with Lawrence B. Mohr of “Odetta and Larry”

This is the real thing. Enjoy, folks!

Interview with Larry Mohr — Conducted September, 2012

How did you and Odetta meet?

There was a bar on Kearney Street in the North Beach area of San Francisco – the area that the Beatniks were soon to inspire – called The Lamp. People used to spend evenings there with their guitars, banjos, etc. Odetta and I were both new to San Francisco at the time and we had both heard about The Lamp from folk-music friends. We met there in 1953. Odetta was in town in the chorus of Finian’s Rainbow, which was playing SF at the time. I had just finished college at the U of Chicago and came out with a friend of mine who was shipping overseas in the navy. We heard each other sing and play. One evening, one of us started singing a Leadbelly song and the other joined in with harmony. We grooved on each other. That was the beginning.

How did you land the gig at the Tin Angel? Why the Tin Angel?

Meanwhile, Odetta was becoming known around North Beach and stayed in town after the show left. I believe she was hired to sing at a club called The Purple Onion, which was very popular at the time. The very colorful owner of the Tin Angel was named Peggy Tolk-Watkins. She then signed Odetta up to sing most evenings at the club. But before that went very far, The Blue Angel in NY got hold of her for a stint of several months. When she got back, we continued to sing and play together and Peggy hired me, too. Most evenings, we would each do a solo set and then a set together, perhaps two or three series per evening. I cannot now remember when and why this ended, but in the summer of 1954 I went into the army and was soon shipped overseas.

What made you choose to sing the 14 songs you sang at the Tin Angel?

We each sang a great many more than those 14 songs in our sets but not very many more together than those on the record (it was originally a 10” LP and then expanded to a 12” LP, then expanded a bit more for the CD, the expansions being from stuff that we originally recorded for Fantasy when they first launched our project). In each case, we or Fantasy picked what we thought was best. Actually, some were dropped as well as added. We selected the ones we especially liked and that the audiences liked. Not all of the recordings were made at the Tin Angel. Some were in Fantasy’s makeshift studio. One song, Run, Come See Jerusalem, was on there because we learned it to sing for the movie Cinerama Holiday. That’s a story in itself.

How many people were in the audience?

There was usually a pretty good crowd at the Tin Angel – maybe 30 or 40 people.

Did you know at the time of your performance that it would be recorded and made into an album?

We knew that Max and Sol Weiss, the owners of Fantasy, were recording over several evenings because we had agreed to make the record and there they were with their equipment. As indicated, it wasn’t just the recording of one evening’s performance and we played at the Tin Angel for maybe 6 or 8 months.

Why did you two cease playing together?

By the time I got out of the army in 1956 the Tin Angel had folded. Odetta and I played several concerts together in Berkeley, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, usually with another friend, Rolf Kahn. For me, it was decision time. I felt that Odetta was superbly good and I was moderately good. I decided not to go on professionally. I went to work for the US Public Health Service in DC for several years, then went to grad school and became a professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the U of Michigan. Odetta, of course, went on to an illustrious career. We remained friends and saw each other from time to time – not often.

Do you still sing and play banjo?

I stopped practicing for many years when teaching, research, and raising children took up the bulk of my time. I’m retired now and will take it up again.

What branch of the service were you in?

I was in the army. Basic training at Ford Ord, CA, then to an army ordinance depot in southwestern France, near Bordeaux. I was a company clerk.
Did your students know that you played with Odetta?

Very few of them ever did, I think. However, one time, perhaps 1998 or so, I played and “sang” a talking blues (that I had written about my time in the Federal government) at the graduation of the Ford School of Public Policy, where I taught half time (the other half being in the Political Science Department).

Tell me more about “Run, Come See Jerusalem.”

One evening I was asked to join some people at their table after my set. They were the producer and director of Cinerama Holiday and some other people. That movie filmed an American couple from Kansas on a European vacation and a Swiss couple on an American vacation. The Swiss couple was Beatrice and Freddy. They were gorgeous — two of the most beautiful people I have ever had the pleasure of seeing — and  getting to know. The directors wanted to film us singing a California song for the movie. We didn’t know any, so we researched a bit and came up with Run Come See. The Tin Angel was (it’s not there anymore) on the Embarcadero, across from Pier 23. For the filming, they redecorated the place to look more like a waterfront dive and had a lot of sailor-looking people in the audience. Meanwhile, the directors and Beatrice and Freddy came down every night for most of a week and we talked and drank and laughed together. It was lovely. Somehow, the singing didn’t go all that well. We’re in the movie, but it goes by quite fast. Great experience, though.

Where have you retired?

I retired in 2001 but my wife is 12 years younger and was still active — mostly as a Dean of Schools of Education. In 2001, she was at Penn State and I was in Ann Arbor. A commuting marriage, but we traveled to be together quite often and I spent the summers with her. About the time I retired, she was offered a job in the private sector in Singapore, so we spent two years there. It was really wonderful. We’ve been back to visit friends and eat the food 4 times since we left. After Singapore, she was Deaning in Chicago for ten years. Then, she was offered the same sort of job in Guam, so we spent two years there. Then she retired, too, and we moved to Portland, OR because we liked the physical beauty of the city and found its values very congenial. Lastly, after a year in Portland, she was coaxed out of retirement to be interim Dean of Education for one year at Nevada State College in Henderson, outside of Las Vegas. I’m writing from there now. We still own a home in Portland and intend to return there next summer, when her year is up.

Did you ever have interactions with Pete Seeger in your years of folk-music-playing?

Yes, Pete Seeger and I spent time together on several occasions. We were not close friends — he knew Odetta much better — but I’m sure he would smile and remember me if anyone mentioned my name. I admire him tremendously.

Story: One evening quite late, he dropped into the Tin Angel alone. I remember that there were not many other people in the club. Odetta and I did a set together, ending with that song on the record that blends I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago with Woody Guthrie’s That’s About the Biggest Thing That Man Has Ever Done. As you know, we take turns with outlandish brags. At the end, when we sing together, each with his/her own song, Odetta and I used to turn to face each other and look fierce and snarl while singing. The audiences always reacted positively to that. Well, when we were into that part, Pete started laughing uproariously and pounding the table. The three of us then talked for several hours. He liked the way I had changed the tune to the Woody Guthrie song to fit with Ten Thousand Years. Fast forward, I don’t exactly remember, maybe about ten or eleven years, about 1966 or even later. I had gone into the army, spent several years in the Public Health Service, gone to grad school for my Phd, and was an Assistant Professor at Michigan. One day I received a post card addressed to Larry Mohr, Ann Arbor MI. It seemed a miracle that it got to me. It was from Pete, asking if I would write down the words and music to that song to be published in the Magazine “Sing Out”, which I did, sending it to him to arrange the details. I’m pretty sure that’s the last contact we had. He’s a great artist, a great humanist, and a rare man of intelligent principle.

Questions conducted by: Emily Duffield

Remember those walls I built? Well baby, they’re tumbling down.

Clay Shirky begins his book “Here Comes Everybody” with the story about the stolen Sidekick because this event provides a comprehensible example of what it means to organize without traditional organizations. Mostly due to the result of the advent of the internet, the walls of hierarchical organizations are crumbling. In online organizations, we now hold equal power as other shareholders in the organization. We collaborate rather than answer to superiors. WE are superiors. In the story of the Stolen Sidekick, Evan not only gains the sympathy of everyone who has ever lost something, but nurtures resources, encourages expertise, and cultivates networks to achieve a grandiose task. The model of his organization is flat rather than triangular.

Shirky asserts that “when we change the way we communicate, we change society.” However, I have to disagree with this. Rather, I believe that the internet is merely a tool for society to do what it has always done; but faster and on a grander scale. The internet is not outside our society, but rather it magnifies it. Therefore, Shirky sub-heads his book title with “the Power of Organizing Without Organizations” because he is showing the change in the MANNER in which we organize, but not the fact that as humans we organize.  After all, socialization and organization have been some of our most natural instincts alongside reproduction and survival since the beginning of human history.

Tales of the Ever-Lasting Peach-Eater

I always love a quaint story about awesome old people. This one brought a feel-good tear-membrane to my ever-dry eye. I don’t know whether or not this text would be classified as an article, but regardless it was an inspiring little anecdote. Jesslyn, our author and narrator, details a regular morning with her spunky 95-year-old grandmother Gigi. In this story, our author visits her grandmother’s house to do some weekly grocery shopping. Upon no answer at the front door, Jesslyn circles the house knowing that her grandmother has not yet inserted her hearing-aid for the day. The story continues as one of Gigi’s peers passes away, and Jess questions her on the secret to a long life.

Interestingly enough about this “news” website The Hairpin is that it nicely illustrates the major shift that is happening right now in the way we produce and access news. Because the venue has changed, so has the writing style. Due to the advent of the internet, news is accessible, and thus creatable, by everyone. Naturally this causes a stylistic change in the format of news. I love that this “article” is not really an article at all but rather a heart-warming recount of a girl’s life lessons from her grandmother. What makes the text so readable is the specificity with which the author describes her grandmother, from Gigi’s “gigantic panties” (and careful hair-fluffing), to her preferred method of eating peaches (skinless), to her essential old person equipment (“7X power magnifying glass with the built-in LED,” hearing aid, and bourbon). Just when things couldn’t get more poignant, Gigi reveals her secret to her long, healthy life: “I stay happy, Baby. And I eat lots of fruit.”

Glistenings of literary pithiness

Upon my delve into Lanham’s “Internet-Age Writing Syllabus and Course Overview,” I thought he was serious about print’s movement toward the land of the obsolete. This is probably due to the fact that I omit comprehension of any long-winded titles of articles that my professors assign for homework. However, sincerely academic or otherwise, Lanham actually succeeded in making me “LOL” at the very first sentence of this article.

While I’ll admit I had to reacquaint myself with the exact definition of “cuneiform,” I did not immediately discover in this “heavy clump of bound paper” the delicate (or rather, as I read on, not-so-delicate) satire. My LOL’s got more and more frequent as I read on about the act of “writing for nonreaders: limiting the superfluous use of nouns, verbs, adverbs. adjectives, and conjunctions.” Unadulterated hilarity, at its very best (“all without the restraints of writing in complete sentences!”).

The aforementioned humor, no doubt, can be found in Lanham’s careful piss-taking out of bullshitters — the hipsters of the web whose “Facebook status updates glitter with irony, absurdity, and dramatic glibness” — in the social networking universe. Here, I carefully choose “universe” rather than “world,” because said space is THAT much more titanic.

Even now as I write a response to this reading, I find that I embody a more shallowly witty, semi-pretentious narrative voice than I usually employ, purely because I am posting on a blog. And it is in this notion, although I only provided a shoddy response to the questions we were supposed to answer, that one can see the validity in Lanham’s underlying fear of the impending doom of the written word, and those who are competent enough to understand it.