COMMENTS. Robert Roth

Kaytan brother  Robert niwara:

It is part of three part series: Inscriptions, Blurbs, Comments.
Here’s the link to the first two. They appeared in HPN #5

COMMENTS

Que la abismal sucesion de coyunturas polarizantes ha  producido en los medios en linea comentarios que van desde uno que otro acierto hasta posiciones absurdas, agresivas y deshumanizantes, es tal vez materia de una sociolinguistica virtual. Pero vale la distancia y leer la contribucion del Brother Robert respecto a sus comentarios en el NY TIMES, que navega con bandera de liberal, pero es mas bien super conservador.  Siempre  aprendo del Brother, de su honestidad radical. Por mi parte, cuando me canso del apasionamiento y la ignorancia en torno a la politica peruana, me refugio leyendo los comentarios de futbol en The Guardian. Go figure.

Comments

By

Robert Roth

Comment section (NY Times on-line).

Semi-liberated territory or confined free speech zone?

 

The comment section is considerably more liberal than the rest of the paper. The commenters considerably less hidebound than the columnists. There are also a few radical commenters who bring incredible passion, insight, information, humor and a pointed colorful liveliness to their comments. They help bring clarity to issues and help frame the news in ways that allow me to get a better grasp on hidden social and political currents. There is just a smattering of conservative or even reactionary commenters. Commenters are a source of free labor that dramatically improves the quality of the Times.

 

Some of the commenters have developed strong followings. For a long while I would maybe read a headline and skim a column and go quickly to the comment section. I felt the vitality there that didn’t exist elsewhere in the paper.   If you just read the comment sections you would think that Bernie Sanders had a lock on the election. With maybe Jill Stein making a challenge from the left.

 

One commenter, Carl Hultberg, wrote:

At least here in the comments sections we interact like real people in an open meeting.

 

For me I have been writing comments with increasing frequency. Most get in. The experience in general though is an unpleasant one. I continually fall back to my own particular grab bag of truisms. I start to hate what I am writing. It is compulsive; I keep repeating myself. A quick fix. An unsatisfying fix towards no end. My own ignorance often revealed.

 

Writing comments pulls me away from the writing I want to be doing. It doesn’t take much. Watch TV, call someone, take a walk, read an email, take a bath. Even as I was writing these lines I went back to the online Times. Started writing a couple of comments. And deleted them rather than send them. Something I am starting to do more often. That way at least I don’t keep checking them. Then a bit later (this is almost in real time) I wrote a new one and sent it.

 

After I send in a comment, I keep checking my emails to see if it got in (The Times sends you a link if it gets in). If it does get in I keep checking again to see how many “recommends” I’ve gotten. I keep doing this during the day.   Also I check to see if anyone replied to what I wrote. And then I look to see if there are replies to the replies. I might even reply myself. Sometimes a comment gets in days after you sent it. Which means far fewer people will see it. This is all very demoralizing. I wish I could say I am being humorous or even light hearted about it. I’m not exactly solemn about it either. But in very subtle ways cumulatively it has done me no good. In fact my writing this piece is an attempt to disengage from compulsive comment writing.

 

My first comment was about the police assault on the Occupy Wall Street encampment. Thought I had written the final word on Michael Bloomberg, a comment so searing and on target (it was one of thousands) that he would never fully recover from it.

 

I have written a few that I like very much. Most are pretty okay. Adding my voice to some kind of collective humanistic, at times radical, consciousness that often appears in the various comment sections of the Times. My comments are basically repetitive. In addition to being repetitive, they rarely sparkle. They just sort of hang there. If I have a little contented smile on my face, I know the comment is almost worthless. Irony is also something to be avoided. It is very easy for people to misunderstand. And since so many crazy and destructive ideas are out there in the world, it can actually feel to some people that you are being serious. Once I made an ironic comment that turned out okay. One commenter politely corrected something I said. Another responded that I was being ironic and that I knew exactly what I was saying. Which underscored my point in a nice way. But on balance it is something I avoid doing.

 

Once in a while, thankfully only very rarely, I have written a comment that I never should have sent. Usually it’s something I am iffy about to begin with, knowing that there is some real flaw in how I said it. I am too lazy to spend the time fixing it up and send it anyway hoping no one will notice. Feel lousy and embarrassed when those comments get in. Feel even worse when I actually don’t like what I had said, not just how I said it. Fortunately I have enough awareness for that to hardly ever happen.

 

The Times of course chooses which comments to include. Still there are thousands of comments that appear there daily. Many are quite good. A few are more than good. More troubling is the need to tame the democratic feel of the section by creating hierarchies within it. Some people are considered serious enough, or safe enough, to have a green check mark indicating that they have an almost complete green light to get published. Then there is the NYT PICKS, accompanied by a gold Times icon, that indicates that the screeners think a particular comment is among the most worthy. Then there are Readers’ Picks which indicate the number of “recommends” you have received. The one that feels the most pernicious is “Best Comment of the Week.”   At least “recommends” and “replies” give voice to the readership and indicate something more than institutional control over response.

 

On rare occasions I’ve gotten a very large number of recommends. Each time you check, the number has jumped another twenty or thirty or forty. You keep climbing on the leaderboard. Mostly though it might be 2 or 4 or 5 or 17 or 35. To get 4 or 5 for a way out comment that somehow slipped through the screeners is incredibly gratifying. “Four people agree with me on that. No shit.”

One thing I’ve noticed is that even though there is usually just a smattering of conservative or even reactionary commenters, there are times when the comment section is flooded with reactionary fury. The three things most likely incite this fury are:

  1. Any defense of rent control or rent stabilization
    2. Any defense of the rights and well being of undocumented immigrants
    3. Even the mildest criticism of the delicate white psyche

 

*

Swearing myself off from commenting, I still write them. Though less often, but still compulsively when I do. Not a great feeling because you find yourself inside the very confined givens of the pieces you are commenting on. Time bound, content bound. The foreground issues are fast moving. Constantly changing, yet basically remaining the same.

A few years ago I visited close friends in Copenhagen. I decided I should take a break from watching the news. For three or four days this was possible. Until one of my friends turned on CNN. The streets were filled with rage. Black people, some white people, marching and chanting. Masses of people finally out in the streets protesting the police killing of Eric Garner.   But no, it was Michael Brown’s death, not Eric Garner’s that the protest was about. It wasn’t Staten Island, it was Ferguson–a place I had never heard of before.

That was immediately followed by a story of refugees fleeing somewhere. The color of the people, the language they spoke was different than those I had seen on the news just a few days before. The look on their faces, their exhaustion, the way they walked was exactly the same. As was the self-assured voice of the anchor, who was talking with total authority about something he knew nothing about until twenty minutes before. I realized if I had turned on the TV 50 years ago the same two stories would very likely have been there. And if there had been a comment section in a newspaper the range of opinion and the actual opinions themselves, including my own, would not be all that different.

 

*

 

 

Short little outbursts. Short political essays. That is the limit of Maxwell’s work. A year of thought into thirty words, maybe three hundred, maybe twelve hundred. And the words definitely need an easily recognizable context to give them any sort of meaning. For by themselves they do not create a world. He can­not “invent” a world. In such a way is his imagination limited. So he cannot call himself a poet. He is a marginal polemicist, attached to the moment, engaged in obscure skirmishes. From In the Audience a short story of mine.

 

Forty years later I have become Maxwell. But Maxwell now has access to the internet. As a result I keep writing comments to the online New York Times. Comments are specific to an issue. Are specific to what you have just read. You don’t have to create a context. You don’t have to create a world. The context is already there. It envelops you.

Hatred of the “other” united them. Until they saw each other as the other.

That could mean almost anything. So without reading the article it makes next to no sense.

It was a comment about tensions between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Donald Trump. Two people who first bonded over their shared xenophobic hatreds.

Who is Jeff Sessions? Who is Donald Trump? No need to explain who they are or what they were fighting about. It was all there in the article. And in any case most people know who they are. Certainly true of Trump and significantly true, though to a far lesser degree, of Sessions.

Yet who in three years will know who Jeff Sessions is? Or in ten years who will remember Donald Trump? Just the other day it took me 30 seconds to conjure up Dick Cheney. In fact I was trying to remember his name to illustrate this very point. So my comment, as well as this essay, will have a very short shelf life. At least in terms of the specifics.

So to mitigate the possibility of that happening, I write this for those who might read this centuries in the future: Donald Trump was President, an office of great power in the United States, a nation – the concept of “nation” to be explained in another essay– of enormous military and economic might that was prone to much viciousness and destruction.

*

 

The Times over the years has disgraced itself. During the lead-up to the second War on Iraq it functioned almost as the propaganda arm of the state. More recently it disgraced itself again in its bizarre coverage of the presidential campaign.

The Times supported Clinton but published endless stories about Trump. And totally ignored Sanders. The cynicism of the editors, their craven clickbait pandering was shocking at first, until I realized that they were operating out of a very current sense of corporate morality. Their identification and fascination with wealth/power/celebrity—while certainly not different from before– was expressed without a trace of embarrassment. There was no attempt now to even hide it. The sections of the paper I hardly ever read were those that dealt with Style, Food, Travel, Real Estate, Business. If I were a good social critic those would be precisely the sections I would read and study. On those very rare occasions when I did read those sections, I might write a comment.

“Tons of olive oil,” Mr. Flay promised in a January interview in The New York Times as the space in NoHo was under plywood. “Tons of salty flavors like anchovies and olives and capers. Lots of citrus. Tons of things like tomatoes and peppers, both hot and sweet.” Certainly no homeless people. And that is where it all is. A homeless shelter converted into this restaurant without homelessness in any way being seriously addressed. Certainly not this guy’s fault. But just symbolic of what a heartless screwed up messed up city this has become.

 

I expanded this into a letter to the public editor.

 

Dear Margaret Sullivan

Just read a restaurant review “Gato from Bobby Flay” which accompanied a slide show. Clearly Bobby Flay was someone I was expected to know. It looked almost like a paid advertisement. The restaurant was in a space that was once a homeless shelter. I flashed on that series of homelessness which focused on a girl and her family. It was a powerful series. A constant thread running through the series were descriptions of trendy places such as this restaurant that were sprouting up in poor and working class neighborhoods where people were in the process of being displaced by those who could afford to eat in such places.

You mentioned a couple of times that you thought the series should have won a Pulitzer Prize. My reaction was twofold. I don’t value prizes such as the Pulitzer Prize, but still  I thought that it would be wonderful if they got one. The writer and photographer did a tremendous job. So why shouldn’t they be rewarded in a way that means something to them. More importantly winning a Pulitzer Prize would give some added weight (probably a little wishful thinking on my part) to the discussion of poverty and homelessness. And some added exposure to the series. My guess is that they didn’t win the prize for bad reasons. But I have no way of knowing that. The other feeling I have is I am glad they didn’t get it. The Times which is so linked into wealth and power uses these wrenching emotional pieces as a way to generate revenue and salve its conscience. In this way the editors and the publisher would have to live with the frustration that a series such as this for once couldn’t be absorbed and reduced to an “emotionally wrenching prize-winning series.” This restaurant review brought all that back to me in a big way.

 

*

 

 

 

How to write a comment?

What goes on into writing comments. Who are you writing them for. Are you hoping a columnist will read what you’ve written. A comment might take on a familiar tone, “Charles, what’s going on with you?” Most columnists though seem to pride themselves on not reading the comments. Are you writing then for the other commenters or for those in general who read the comment section. Are you writing just to scratch an itch or help yourself figure something out. Are you writing a comment to vent and don’t particularly care if it gets published or not. Are you writing for friends. Or are you writing comments to help build some type of political or cultural momentum. Or to pass information along. Or do you write them to generate interest in your work. Maybe to develop a following. Some commenters, some of the most profound, provide links to their blogs. There are commenters who seem to have an opinion on almost any subject.

Some commenters clearly spend a lot of time on their comments. They are beautifully written gem-like mini columns all written within the permitted 1,500 characters. Some comments pack a wallop. Some can be as short as one word. Others take up all 1500 characters. And some people write really cool poems.

As for me there are times when I might sit in a cafe or be taking a walk and a comment just hits me. In the cafe I can actually write it out. Fortunately this doesn’t happen too frequently. Usually I just write a comment at home and that’s the end of it.
A nasty “reply” to a comment of mine—if I feel the need– might in fact take a long time to figure out how to answer. Particularly if I want to engage what the person said without throwing back an insult.

As a commenter you might think you got it all doped out. That you have a handle on the biases of the paper, know its hidden agendas, grasp the stated and unstated assumptions of the columnists and that your own perceptions and political and psychological understandings won’t be overwhelmed by being immersed in its world. But cumulatively your own thinking becomes a captive to the agenda set out for you. Why Cambodia today. Venezuela tomorrow. Zimbabwe two days ago. Healthcare today. Something else tomorrow.

You are almost entirely reactive. You think about what they want you to think about, when they want you to think about it. You are talking about what they want you to talk about. You are writing about what they want you to write about. Clickbait hooks you. Writing a comment gives you a false sense of your own power. Because whatever you have to say is secondary to the fact that you are hooked into saying anything at all. For me there is also the added factor that I also don’t know who most of the politicians, celebrities and cultural figures almost everyone else casually refers to in articles, columns and comments are.

 

Living in your own head. Living in the past. Or living in a very limited present doesn’t make for a good commenter. In speaking to a new friend on a long walk I mentioned I was a pacifist and a kind of libertarian. A look of real discomfort and surprise crossed her face. She associated libertarian with the ugly reactionary movement it has become. Not “libertarian socialist” that existed solely in my imagination as a part of my clueless ancient lexicon. When I saw her face I was jolted into the present. I was aware enough to grasp what her look meant.   I tried to scramble my way out of it. My compulsive need to explain what I meant made matters worse. If I wasn’t a “libertarian” I was then a compulsive neurotic who couldn’t leave anything alone.   At least that’s how I felt. I still get embarrassed whenever I think about it.

Acronyms are another thing I have to contend with. For me they have always been near impossible to figure out. My mind needs to unpack an acronym. And in most cases I simply can’t do it. Most columnists, reporters and commenters use them matter of factly with no trouble at all. New acronym’s appear almost magically from thin air. They can come from anywhere: the tech industry, the political arena, the music industry, the streets, almost anywhere. How do people know for example that SCOTUS means Supreme Court of the United States? Was there ever a president before there was POTUS? From one day to another people talk as if that was always the case. How does that happen? And how does everyone know what everything means at the same moment in time? This puts me at a great disadvantage as a commenter. Clearly I understand some things but don’t share a language that others– no matter their differences– seem to share with each other.

*

As I start to pull myself away from comment writing, I find myself on a comment writing binge. It has become a swirl of pontification, insight, hot air, eloquence, humor, repetition. Don’t even remember what my comments are about. I get a notice and I think “huh, what did I write.”

To the extent I’m noticed at all, my guess is people just roll their eyes whenever they see my name. I’ve saved 95% of my thousand or so comments. Looking them over– uhh– collectively they sound like a dreary repetitive drone.

I don’t think that is entirely the truth. But I am almost oblivious to the fact that just because I’ve written so many that people will likely recognize my name. I recognize the names of most of the regular commenters. So there is no reason to assume that they don’t recognize my name as well. Until I started writing this that thought never really penetrated my brain. Obviously I knew that people read what I wrote. And I wrote individual comments knowing people would read them. But the idea that it could extend beyond that and that my name itself might elicit some type of reaction never occurred to me. It is not a thought that gives me much pleasure.

 

*

There are times where I take a comment and with a change of a word or two turn it into a piece unto itself. Here are two that I particularly like.

I think cops often frame people that they think are guilty. The law and order cynicism depicted on most TV crime shows functions as propaganda designed to coarsen people’s attitudes towards the violation of people’s rights. “Lawyered up” is always said with contempt. In these shows the threat of rape in prison has been used as way to coerce a suspect into co-operating. Sometimes when a rapist or suspected rapist is caught there is vindictive glee in what will happen to them in prison. In addition there is often tacit approval of a beating, as a suspect is being transported from one place to another. Brutality and rape are sanctioned on these shows. There is nothing to indicate that this doesn’t happen quite often in real life.

                                                            ——

A former Playboy model surreptitiously filmed an older (to me younger) woman in the gym and made some smarmy comment about her appearance. She posted it on Snapshot writing, “If I can’t unsee this then you can’t either.”

         She insisted that it was a spontaneous moment of malice she just had to share with a few friends. Not something she expected to go viral. But it did.

         Relentless fury, outrage and contempt came down on her– “Body shaming” “Fat shaming”– until she couldn’t leave her home. The words of criticisms were very accurate. But the relentlessness of it, the magnitude of it, the underlying rage and cruelty was the same. Only the target had shifted.

       Things will never change if vindictive glee is the only power people allow themselves to feel.

*

 

On rare occasions when I want to be particularly effective my attitude, my concentration, my language, my intent shifts. I keep within very sharp parameters. I remain specific to the issue. I try not to make some larger point. I try not to be too polemical or too aggressive or slip in other thoughts that matter to me, but can become a a distraction. And I try not to broaden the critique into a much larger critique of the society at large. But still stay within some serious humanistic consensus.

 

A number of years ago, I sent a letter to-the-editor in response to an article about emergency rooms. Even though the odds of getting a letter (as opposed to a comment) published are remote, I was still surprised that it didn’t appear. But as it turned out they were saving it. Ten days later it accompanied an editorial about the shame of emergency rooms. It appeared in both the online and print version of the paper and was placed in a very prominent spot in each. When I visited my mother in the hospital and told a doctor about the letter, he said, “You wrote that letter? The whole hospital is talking about it.”

 

 

To the Editor:

My mother, who is 89, recently had two extremely traumatic experiences in the emergency room. One time she waited over 36 hours, the other time over 20 hours, before they found a room for her. Both times she emotionally came apart, and her condition dramatically deteriorated.

Since reactions such as my mother’s are extremely common, I think there should be a special emergency room for older people that at least tries to mitigate, as much as possible, the nightmare of dislocation, as well as some of the horrible spinoff damaging effects of being there. Separate emergency rooms are already in place for children and people with asthma.

Sadly, there’s no way of escaping the fact that what happens on the bottom floor of a hospital has an impact on what later happens on the upper floors.

Robert Roth
New York, Jan. 20, 2008

A couple of years later the hospital set up a separate emergency room for older people. How it actually played out in the long haul I don’t know. Someone recently told me his wife had been treated miserably at the ER there.

 

Another time, I wrote a comment to the public editor Margaret Sullivan about the lack of coverage of the Sanders campaign. For reasons she never explained, she had ignored this glaring truth for months. As well as publicly ignoring all the complaints coming into the paper about it. I wanted to be the feather that tipped the scale. She had just returned from vacation.

 

Welcome back.
In reading the comments sections I read over and over again complaints about the lack of coverage of the Sanders campaign. That seems to be a very legitimate complaint. Since I haven’t read everything you have written, I don’t know whether or not you have addressed the issue. The complaints still are coming. I am curious how you see it. Thanks.

She responded: Many Times readers have been asking me, over months now, to examine the paper’s coverage of Bernie Sanders’ presidential run. It’s even reached the point where, in comments to my blog posts, on completely unrelated topics, readers are complaining about what they see as dismissive coverage and asking that the matter get my attention. (See the top reader-recommended comment by Robert Roth here.)

 

She made some inquiries and got smug dismissive bureaucratic answers. She herself sounded unusually tentative about it all. Coverage increased but not nearly as much as I had anticipated.

 

 

The elimination of the role of public editor

 

“The public editor,” according to the way the New York Times had described it, “works independently, outside of the reporting and editing structure of the newspaper.” This of course was mitigated by the fact that the Times was paying the salary of the public editor. The job ostensibly was to monitor the paper for ethics violations, examine biases, patterns of coverage, point out serious inconsistencies, etc, etc. The public editor was also there to function as a liaison between the readers and the paper.

The public editor I was most aware of was Margaret Sullivan, who wrote the most columns and seemed to be the most actively and publicly engaged. She was very alive to the job. Raised serious issues, was colorful and took readers’ concerns seriously.

At first she was treated with respect by the editors, reporters and columnists. Her criticism, which were serious, humane and at times pointed, were answered, maybe argued with, and actually a few of her suggestions resulted in small but significant changes at the Times.

After a while the people she questioned started double-talking her. There seemed to be absolutely no embarrassment on their part. They clearly couldn’t care less how the readers would take in their nonsensical rationalizations. As time went on it was equally clear that they didn’t care too much how Margaret would take them in either. She would even point out their evasions. She more and more was being ignored. There wasn’t even any attempt to make sense in the way they responded. It was spin without finesse. Just a cynical assertion of power to do whatever they wanted to do. Seemingly not caring at all how they sounded. At this point she was treated with barely concealed disdain. Double talk became triple talk and her status dropped to almost that of a commenter. She started to sound beaten down. It seemed to me that a kind of Stockholm Syndrome kicked in where management nonsense started making some kind of sense to her. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But the energy, passion and liveliness of her column waned considerably as time went on. When her contract was up, she moved to a new job.

She was replaced by someone who was much more accommodating to management from the git go. Not a management flunky but someone seemingly more in sync with their basic way of thinking. It was a bit confusing. And a big come down.

For most of her tenure Sullivan had been sharp and forceful. She took readers complaints and concerns seriously. You would actually wait for her columns to appear. She was lively and engaged. She was in many ways an advocate for the readers. Soon after the new editor took the job, the role of public editor was eliminated. There was nowhere now that a complaint or critique by a Times reader could be articulated, let alone addressed. Even the illusion of participation was stripped away.

In simple human terms for the new public editor to have her job pulled right from under her was just plain lousy. In her final column she wrote a painful good-bye. Clearly she felt very hurt by the firing. In her mind she was an independent autonomous voice. I once wrote : “Timid expressions can feel like ferocious assertions to the person who makes them. The effort is often extreme and brave.” She didn’t see herself the way I saw her. Her hurt and I think feelings of humiliation were real.

I think Margaret Sullivan scared the Times. The role of public editor had some real bite to it. My guess is the hiring of the new person was a half hearted effort to preserve the role, while effectively reducing its disruptive power. But the new editor was still independent and dangerous enough for the Times to drop the role altogether. The power of management asserted in a high-handed extremely destructive way. Revealing in stark terms, the heartless corporate model no longer needing even some faint cover of decency. It was a bitter blow to many of us.

 

*

There has been an obsessive, relentless fury towards Trump among all the Times columnists and many of the commenters. There is something off about it. It reminds me of the way soap operas might deal with social conflict. Tensions and contradictions are heightened (sometimes brilliantly), but can only be “resolved” in conventional and unsatisfying (really ridiculous) ways.

 

Because Frank [Bruni] is unwilling or unable to make any deep structural criticism of the society, he pours all this added rage onto a particularly vile manifestation of it. And leaves the rest of it alone.

 

Across the political spectrum at the paper, the Times columnists seem to picture themselves as a part, or maybe even as the leaders, of the “Resistance”.

 

At the Times you have the reactionary wing of the Resistance: David Brooks, Ross Douthat, Bret Stephens. Three people genuinely repelled by Trump’s vileness but are equally upset that their own mean spirited agendas [not exactly the same ones] will be derailed as a result. They speak with soft reasonable (sometimes nasty) voices as they push pretty chilling policies.

 

Then you have the Clintonian wing of the Resistance: Kristoff, Krugman, Blow, Bruni, Collins, Egan. They genuinely want some measure of social justice as long as it remains well within bounds and doesn’t disrupt corporate power too much. It is also a place where war criminals like Gen. Mattis are considered “adults” who they hope will help reign in Trump. If Clinton had won there would probably be not one peep of criticism of whatever acts of military aggression she would very likely have committed.

 

Finally you have the resistance wing of The Resistance which is basically confined to the “free speech zone” called the comment section. It is where actual analysis and transcendent visions are allowed to appear. Unpaid and marginalized, it is one part semi-liberated space and one part cordoned off area. Structurally, there is an attempt to tame and control the passions of commenters that often flow in that section. But still that section often glows as more than a handful of people keep forging ahead with great passion and intensity.

 

*

   I’ve had to go cold turkey. My friend dropped his subscription to the Times. As a result I lost access to the on line edition.   I can only read 8 free articles this month. Though you can turn to the Times and see the headlines and a description of the article. If you are quick enough you can click on an article, cut and paste it before a notice pops up that you have exceeded the number of allowed free articles for the month. This only works on occasion. But still that doesn’t allow me to write a comment,

I was once hooked on soap operas. After 9/11 I couldn’t get the channel my favorites were on for an extended period. Felt good to get rid of them. Never went back. Never was even tempted to. This is proving more difficult. Too much is happening too fast. And almost everything looks tempting. And it turns out I have more affection for the writers than I realized.

I haven’t been able to check the comment sections. And in most cases it seems I don’t miss it. But there are times I wish I could write a comment. But so far that has only happened a handful of times. One was about Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin. Why? Somehow he got stuck in my brain. And I wanted him out. That feeling has passed. Well not exactly. In fact I started writing something and thought maybe I would include it here as an example of withdrawal symptoms. But thought the better of it.

I will conclude with my favorite exchange in the comment section. There was a magnificent Times Op- Doc [documentary] focusing on a heavy set black woman in her thirties who had taken up pole dancing. She was beyond graceful. She was strong, limber just shining with energy, focus, charm and determination. She spoke of the racist, sexist body shaming forces she had to overcome in pursuing her pole dancing career. In addition to performing she had started a pole dancing school.

Robert Roth

NYC December 7, 2016

 

I just turned 73. Was wondering what I should do to strengthen my body and increase my flexibility. Admittedly from this chair to a pole might be a long trek. But then again…

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Roz The Diva

Brooklyn December 8, 2016

Robert, I’d be HONORED to have you in my class. HONORED. I’m not kidding at all. Hit up my website to see my schedule: rozthediva.com/schedule

 

I was walking on air for two days.

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1 comentario

  1. In the days before the Internet, it was impossible to find an article some random person wrote thousands of miles away. We depended on institutional structures to facilitate the discovery of quality content, and human curation was a necessary part of this structure. The institutions like the New York Times and Pulitzer Prize played crucial roles in this process. But this is quickly changing.

    Today, I read many articles written by people I have never met or heard of, and in most cases, they are the only articles I will ever read of those writers. In a way, each writer’s name is the smallest institution we can have for content discovery. If I like a piece someone wrote, it’s likely that I would like other articles s/he wrote and will write in the future. But even this institution is getting disrupted by the Internet technologies. Andy Warhol was right. Everyone can be famous for 15 minutes.

    I often hear a piece of music I like and flag it as a “favorite” but I don’t remember or care what the name of the artist is. Likewise, I often come across an article I like and I don’t care what site it is on or who the publisher is. I watch TV shows without paying attention to the network they are playing on.

    Well-known writers today have increasingly fewer reasons to publish their articles on publications like the New York Times because they can get just as many people to read their articles by publishing them on their own websites. Search engines and social media are so efficient that such articles could never go unnoticed no matter where they are published. It really doesn’t matter where they appear, so why bother going to through the whole submission, acceptance, and editorial process? Just write it and hit “publish” on your own site. Many successful writers have started thinking this way.

    Ironically, whatever little value the institutions like the Times still offer are for the lesser-known or unknown writers because some people still use these institutions as the primary way to discover content. They still need the stamp of approval from their curators. But this isn’t going to last long. Today, anyone can write and publish something on his/her own website and find the audience and even go viral. In fact, the Internet is so efficient that, if your content is no good, getting published on well-known publications doesn’t help much. I’m pretty sure, the majority of the Times articles do not get many readers. The difference in the number of readers you can get between a well-known publication and your own website is getting smaller. It’s just a matter of time this difference disappears altogether.

    So, I find commenting on sites like nytimes.com wasteful. I’d rather comment on sites like here, or on social media, where the number of readers is small and specific. Talking on nytimes.com is like talking to a thousand people in a room. I would rather talk in a room with only a few people. When you are trying to engage in a conversation, the quality is inversely related to the number of people. If you want to publish an article, you might as well publish it on your own site. So, what good is nytimes.com?

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