- POPULAR CULTURE
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- PRINT & MEDIA
THE FOURTH ESTATE: DEFINING SOME TERMS
What is known as the fourth estate now most commonly refers to the news media, especially print journalism, or "The Press". The Scottish satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher during the Victorian era, Thomas Carlyle(1795-1881) attributed the origin of the term to the Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher Edmund Burke(1729-1797). He used it in a parliamentary debate in 1787 on the opening up, the beginning, of press---that is---newspaper reporting of the House of Commons of Great Britain.
The proletariat is a term used to identify a lower social class, usually the working class; a member of such a class is proletarian. Originally it was identified as those people who had no wealth other than their children. The bourgeoisie is a term used in the fields of political economy, political philosophy, sociology, and history. It originally denoted the wealthy stratum of the middle class that originated during the latter part of the Middle Ages (AD 500–1500). The utilization and specific application of the word is from the realm of the social sciences. In sociology and in political science, the noun bourgeoisie and the adjective bourgeois are terms that describe a historical range of socio-economic classes. As such, in the Western world, since the late 18th century, the bourgeoisie describes a social class “characterized by their ownership of capital, and their related culture”; hence, the personal terms bourgeois (masculine) and bourgeoise (feminine) culturally identify the man or woman who is a member of the wealthiest social class of a given society, and their materialistic worldview, their weltanschauung.
The term, the fourth estate, is partly based on, or makes reference to, the Three Estates of the Realm. In Burke's 1787 coining he would have been making reference to the traditional three estates of Parliament: The Lords Spiritual, the Lords Temporal and the Commons. Readers wanting more detail about Carlyle, Burke and the 4th estate historically can easily google the information. Wikipedia is but one of several useful resources here. Go to this link for more on the origins of the 4th estate, the press: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Estate
Oscar Wilde's clever quip may find resonance with readers here. He wrote:
“In old days men had the rack. Now they have the Press. That is an improvement certainly. But still it is very bad, and wrong, and demoralizing. Somebody — was it Burke? — called journalism the fourth estate. That was true at the time no doubt. But at the present moment it is the only estate. It has eaten up the other three. The Lords Temporal say nothing, the Lords Spiritual have nothing to say, and the House of Commons has nothing to say and says it. We are dominated by Journalism."
This 4th estate, the journalism industry, is changing at a rapid pace, especially as the 21st century opened a little more than a decade ago. Newspapers are failing from collapsing advertising support as people are finding free news online. Since the last years of the 20th century, the world-wide-web has been transforming the old 4th estate. Media have also become something different than it used to be. There is both serious stuff by the bucket-full, and entertainment or infotainment by the truck-load. In the world of infotainment extensive time is given to coverage of things like celebrities and the movies, having fun and being entertained in a host of ways.
The daily news is still a source of information, but it is also a world of fun and melodrama. Martin Kaplan, a Professor of Communication at the University of Southern California, recently spent time recording and studying local news in Los Angeles to see how much time was devoted to each type of news story. The results were found to be sports, weather, crime, and countless trivial stories. For more details on this extensive subject go to this link:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Estate
MY ONLINE JOURNALISM
I have now written and published 100s of online pieces at 100s of internet sites. Didacticism, a general instructional or teaching tone and style, has been more acceptable in journalism's cultural pages because of the belief that arts and culture have formative and humanizing powers. But didacticism is all over cyberspace. Cyberspace is filled with all manner of stuff, of which journalistic didacticism is but one. An informative, a quasi-teaching tone, has been very prevalent among cultural reporters and critics for many a long year, indeed for centuries. It is certainly acceptable to me, and it has been part of my MO for at least a decade in cyberspace where I offer my journalistic wares by the 10s, the 100s, indeed, the 1000s, of pages.
A recent investigation into cultural reporters in several western countries showed that they believe the arts in general have teaching and healing powers, encourage ‘sensitivity’, and are a path for ‘understanding the world and the human condition’. Most of these critics & reporters see themselves as distanced from the cynicism of other realms of journalism. They ‘take on a crusading role’ and ‘construct themselves as moral saviours, guiding the public towards a better existence through the arts’. I, too, have no trouble identifying with those roles and purposes for my online journalistic writing. I leave it to readers to Google my many offerings.
The belief in the emancipatory powers of culture is the basis of a recurrent image in our emerging global culture of the intellectual as a teacher, and of the culture-journalist as educator. Some people define the intellectual as a ‘disseminator of knowledge and herald of the future’; others define the intellectual as ‘a spiritual leader to the people’. Still others say that the function of the intellectual at this time in history is to clarify and illustrate, explain and help people to attain moral values. While I, like many other Australians, have trouble accepting the role, the definition, of myself as an intellectual, learning and the cultural attainments of the mind have been part and parcel of my aspirations since my late teens and early twenties in the 1960s. This is more than half a century of my life. I have carried this attitude from the classroom where I spent that half a century, 1949 to 1999, into my online journalistic work.
The idea of a writer and author, as someone with a significant degree of learning and life-experience is far from new. The origins of this idea, this role for a writer, goes back long before the nineteenth century, when intellectuals, with greater or lesser passion, assigned themselves a civilizing, an educative, mission. The images of literature as formative, of culture as educative, and of people with some expertise and learning as journalistic teachers, were central to more than one literary publication back in the 1950s. This was true in many countries with highly varied, very different, levels of cultural development. I go back to the '50s because that was the start of the formative function of journalism, especially cultural, literary journalism, in my life. By the late '50s, I was in my mid-teens and beginning to enjoy newspaper, cultural, journalism in the Toronto Globe and Mail.
There are several different forms of journalism, all with different intended audiences. In modern society, "prestige" journalism is said to serve the role of a "fourth estate," acting as watchdogs on the workings of government. My online journalistic work is not of this type. I do not see my writing in any way as watching over and commenting on the working of partisan politics. This is done by the audio-visual bucket-full in the print and electornic media. There is no need for me to add to that immense industry, an industry that occupies the media 24/7 these days. I am involved in several other forms of journalism, which each feature different formats and cater to different intended audiences. My online journalistic work falls into categories 1,3, 5, 8, and 9 below, marked with an asterisk(*):
*1. Advocacy journalism – writing to advocate particular viewpoints or influence the opinions of the audience.
2. Broadcast journalism – writing or speaking which is intended to be distributed by radio or television broadcasting, rather than only in written form for readers.
*3. Drone journalism – use of drones to capture journalistic footage.
4. Gonzo journalism – first championed by journalist Hunter S. Thompson, gonzo journalism is a "highly personal style of reporting".
*5. Investigative journalism – writing which seeks to add extra information to explain, or better describe the people and events of a particular topic.
6. Tabloid journalism – writing which uses opinionated or wild claims.
7. Yellow journalism (or sensationalism) – writing which emphasizes exaggerated claims or rumors.
*8. Social media
*9. Citizen journalism
The recent rise of social media has resulted in arguments to reconsider journalism as a process rather than as a particular kind of news product. In this perspective, journalism is participatory, a process distributed among multiple authors and involving journalists as well as the socially mediating public. I am now registered at over 8000 internet sites, all part of the social media. I have contributed literally millions of words at these sites.
The concept of citizen journalism, also known as "public", "participatory", "democratic", "guerrilla," or "street" journalism, is based upon public citizens "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing, and disseminating news and information." Similarly, Courtney C. Radsch, a scholar and freelance journalist whose work focuses on the Arab media and politics, defines citizen journalism as: "an alternative and activist form of newsgathering and reporting that functions outside mainstream media institutions. Such online journalists see shortcomings in the professional journalistic field; they use similar journalistic practices to mainstream journalists, but they are driven by different objectives and ideals; they also rely on alternative sources of legitimacy than traditional or mainstream journalism."
Jay Rosen(1956-), a media critic, writer, and professor of journalism at New York University, proposes a simpler definition: "Citizen journalism exists when the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another." Using this definition I see myself as a citizen journalist, but only of a certain type. The following examples do not define my type of citizen journalism.
Citizen journalism should not be confused with community journalism or civic journalism, both of which are practiced by professional journalists, and by people like myself. Collaborative journalism is also a separate concept and is the practice of professional and non-professional journalists working together. Citizen journalism is a specific form of both citizen media and user-generated-content. By juxtaposing the term “citizen,” with its attendant qualities of civic mindedness and social responsibility, with that of “journalism,” which refers to a particular profession. Radsch argues that this term best describes this particular form of online and digital journalism conducted by amateurs, because it underscores the link between the practice of journalism and its relation to the political and public sphere.
New media technology, such as social networking and media-sharing websites, in addition to the increasing prevalence of new media technology like cell-phones, have made citizen journalism more accessible to people worldwide. Due to this availability of technology, citizens often can report breaking news more quickly than traditional media reporters. Notable examples of citizen journalism reporting from major world events are, the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movement. Without addressing the failures of professional journalism that often have led to the rise of citizen journalism, critics of the phenomenon, including professional journalists, claim that citizen journalism is unregulated, too subjective, amateurish, and haphazard in quality and coverage. While this type of journalism is seen more and more, it is not a type in which I am active.
Lev Manovich is the author of Soft Cinema: Navigating the Database (The MIT Press, 2005), and The Language of New Media (The MIT Press, 2001) which is hailed as "the most suggestive and broad ranging media history since Marshall McLuhan." He is a Professor of Visual Arts, University of California, San Diego and a Director of The Lab for Cultural Analysis at California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology. Go to this link for the writings of many authors: http://criticaldigitalstudies.net/ and click on the word 'Contributors' at top right). Go to this link for a series of Manovich's articles: http://www.manovich.net/articles.php
THE FIFTH ESTATE
The term "Fifth Estate" has no fixed meaning, but is used to describe any class or group in society other than the clergy (First Estate), the nobility (Second Estate), the commoners (Third Estate), and the press (Fourth Estate). It has been used to describe civil society (including trade unions) and the poor or the proletariat. It can also be used to describe media outlets (including the blogosphere) that see themselves in opposition to mainstream media (the official Press). The term is entirely different in origin and meaning from "Fifth Column", which is used to describe subversive or insurgent elements in a society.
Some media analysts now assert that political pundits constitute a Fifth Estate. Some media researchers argue that bloggers are the Fifth Estate. William H. Dutton, Professor of Internet Studies at University of Oxford, and Fellow of Balliol College, and an Emeritus Professor in the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California has argued that the Fifth Estate is not simply the blogging community, nor an extension of the media, but 'networked individuals' enabled by the Internet in ways that can hold the other estates accountable. For more on this 5th estate go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifth_Estate
On April 3, 2013 The New York Review of Books and the Cullman Center for Scholars & Writers at the New York Public Library presented a panel discussion celebrating the Review’s 50th anniversary. Five regular contributors discussed their careers, their experience writing for editors Robert Silvers and Barbara Epstein, and their predictions and hopes for the future of literary journalism. excerpts from this program are found at:http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/50-years/2013/may/10/literary-journalism-discussion/
The term "journalism genres" refers to various journalism styles, fields or separate genres, in writing accounts of events. Newspapers and periodicals often contain features written by journalists, many of whom specialize in this form of in-depth journalistic writing. Feature articles are usually longer forms of writing; more attention is paid to style than in straight news reports. They are often combined with photographs, drawings or other "art." They may also be highlighted by typographic effects or colors. While most of my journalistic work does not rely on these typographic effects and colours, much of my writing is found in these sub-categories of online journalism.
Writing features can be more demanding than writing straight news stories, because while a journalist must apply the same amount of effort to accurately gather and report the facts of the story, he or she must also find a creative and interesting way to write it. The lead, or first two paragraphs of the story, must grab the reader's attention and yet accurately embody the ideas of the article.
In the last half of the 20th century, in the years of my own writing, the line between straight news reporting and feature writing became blurred. Journalists and publications today experiment with different approaches to writing. Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, Hunter S. Thompson are some of these examples. Urban and alternative weekly newspapers go even further in blurring the distinction, and many magazines include more features than straight news.
Some television news shows experimented with alternative formats, and many TV shows that claimed to be news shows were not considered as such by traditional critics, because their content and methods do not adhere to accepted journalistic standards. National Public Radio, on the other hand, is considered a good example of mixing straight news reporting, features, and combinations of the two, usually meeting standards of high quality. Other US public radio news organizations have achieved similar results. A majority of newspapers still maintain a clear distinction between news and features, as do most television and radio news organizations. The following 10 categories of genre journalism illustrate some of the areas within which my work is found. For a detailed description of each category go to this link:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalism_genres
1 Ambush journalism
2 Celebrity or people journalism
4 Convergence journalism
5 Gonzo journalism
6 Investigative journalism
7 New journalism
8 Science journalism
9 Sports journalism
Before Anthony Lewis(1927-2013) began covering the Supreme Court for The New York Times in 1955, there were, of course, journalists who reported on legal decisions. But Lewis, who attended Harvard Law School as a journalism fellow in 1956, and went on to teach both there and at the Columbia Journalism School, created something different: a new approach to legal journalism. He combined sophisticated legal analysis with an unparalleled ability to write in plain, lucid English, translating the Court’s decisions, explaining their implications, and assessing their significance for a broad readership. For more on this commentary on Lewis' work and life go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/may/09/anthony-lewis-1927-2013/
Some readers of what I like to call my online journalism, may prefer to see much of my writing as simply 'creative nonfiction.' This kind of writing is also known as literary or narrative nonfiction. It is a genre of writing that uses literary styles and techniques to create factually accurate narratives. Creative nonfiction can be contrasted with other nonfiction, such as technical writing or journalism, both of which are also rooted in accurate fact. As a genre, creative nonfiction is still relatively young, and is only beginning to be scrutinized with the same critical analysis given to fiction and poetry.
For a text to be considered creative nonfiction, it must be factually accurate, and written with attention to literary style and technique. “Ultimately, the primary goal of the creative nonfiction writer is to communicate information, just like a reporter, but to shape it in a way that reads like fiction.” Forms within this genre include biography, food writing, literary journalism, memoirs, personal essays, travel writing, and other hybridized essays. Critic Chris Anderson claims that the genre can be understood best by splitting it into two subcategories—the personal essay and the journalistic essay—but the genre is currently defined by its lack of established conventions.
Literary critic Barbara Lounsberry — in her book The Art of Fact — suggests four constitutive characteristics of this genre. The first characteristic is: “documentable subject matter chosen from the real world as opposed to ‘invented’ from the writer’s mind.” By this, she means that the topics and events discussed in the text verifiably exist in the natural world. The second characteristic is: “exhaustive research,” which she claims allows writers “novel perspectives on their subjects” and “also permits them to establish the credibility of their narratives through verifiable references in their texts.” The third characteristic that Lounsberry claims is crucial in defining the genre is: “the scene”. She stresses the importance of describing and revivifying the context of events in contrast to the typical journalistic style of objective reportage. The fourth and final feature she suggests is: “fine writing: a literary prose style”. “Verifiable subject matter and exhaustive research guarantee the nonfiction side of literary nonfiction; the narrative form and structure disclose the writer’s artistry; and finally, its polished language reveals that the goal all along has been literature.”
LITERATURE AND JOURNALISM
Many writers have been caught on the cusp of Literature and journalism, or what you might call literary reportage. The English-language, the mainstream western intellectual, tradition holds that selling readers fiction dressed up as fact is always wrong---not the way to go for a writer. But the old Central European tradition, where our contemporaries have and have had many predecessors, assumes that what readers want is entertainment and enchantment as much as information. To play around with the reality in order to convey more vividly ‘what it was like to be there’ was just fine for readers in Prague or Vienna.
All journalists are sometimes tempted to embroider, to hype the significant details a little, to sharpen up the quotes by dropping the boring bits. Ethical frontiers in journalism, in journalistic-literature are ill-lit and murky. There is no doubt that writing for publications and readers who have no way to check what they are told, overstep these frontiers in the sense of selling faction and bias as fact. Self-censorship and passionate engagement are both tricky zones to negotiate. I do not believe that there is such a thing as impartial journalism. I do not believe either in formal objectivity. A journalist cannot be an indifferent witness; bias is built into the very clay of man. A writer worth his salt should have the capacity for empathy and as much understanding and knowledge as he or she can muster on life's path. So-called objective journalism is impossible, especially in complex conflict situations. Attempts at objectivity in such situations lead to disinformation. For an examination of this problem in the life and writing of one man you might like to read Ryszard Kapuściński: A Life by Artur Domosławski. If you have little time, you may prefer a review of this same book at: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n15/neal-ascherson/how-it-felt-to-be-there
THE RISE OF MODERN JOURNALISM
In the 1920s, just as Baha'i administration was taking form under the guidance of Shoghi Effendi, and as modern journalism was just taking form, writer Walter Lippmann(1889-1974) and American philosopher John Dewey(1859-1952) debated over the role of journalism in a democracy. Their differing philosophies still characterize a debate about the role of journalism in society and the nation-state. For the most part, my online journalism is not concerned with the political issues that concerned either Lippmann or Dewey since what I write is not concerned with the actions and policies of political elites. I mention both these men for both their approaches to journalism are involved in my approach, my way of going about my online journalism.
Lippmann understood that journalism's role at the time was to act as a mediator or translator between the public and policy making elites. The journalist became the middleman. When elites spoke, journalists listened and recorded the information, distilled it, and passed it on to the public for their consumption. His reasoning behind this was that the public was not in a position to deconstruct the growing and complex flurry of information present in modern society, and so an intermediary was needed to filter news for the masses. Lippman put it this way: "The public is not smart enough to understand complicated, political issues. Furthermore, the public was too consumed with their daily lives to care about complex public policy. Therefore the public needed someone to interpret the decisions or concerns of the political elite to make the information plain and simple.
Lippmann believed that the public would affect the decision-making of the elite with their vote. In the meantime, the elite (i.e. politicians, policy makers, bureaucrats, scientists, etc.) would keep the business of power running. In Lippman's world, the journalist's role was to inform the public of what the elites were doing. It was also to act as a watchdog over the elites, as the public had the final say with their votes. Effectively that kept the public at the bottom of the power chain, catching the flow of information that is handed down from experts/elites.
Lippmann's elitism has had consequences that he came to deplore. An apostle of historicism and scientism, Lippmann did not merely hold that democratic government was a problematic exercise, but regarded all political communities, of whatever stripe, as needing guidance from a transcendent partisanship for accurate information and dispassionate judgment. In "Liberty and the News" (1919) and "Public Opinion" (1921) Lippmann expressed the hope that liberty could be redefined to take account of the scientific and historical perspective. He also hoped that public opinion could be managed by a system of intelligence in and out of government. Thus the liberty of the journalist was to be dedicated to gathering verifiable facts while commentators like himself would place the news in the broader perspective.
Lippmann deplored the influence of powerful newspaper publishers and preferred the judgments of the "patient and fearless men of science." While my online publishing will never make me a powerful newspaper publisher, nor would I want to be, I like the image of myself as a "patient and fearless man of science." I have much to learn about both patience and being fearless, but it is an image worth working toward in my online journalism.
Lippmann did not merely denigrate the opinion of the majority but also of those who had influence or power as well. In a democratic-republican form of government, the representatives are chosen by the people and share with them adherence to the fundamental principles and political institutions of the polity. Lippmann's quarrel was with those very principles and institutions, for they are the product of the pre-scientific and pre-historical viewpoint. They were also the product of what for him was a groundless natural rights political philosophy. The sheer proliferation of the objects, diversions, and possibilities for life in modern society has made modern society, as Lippmann pointed out after WW1 in his book The Phantom Public, “not visible to anybody, nor intelligible continuously and as a whole.”(1) Abundance has in some ways both blunted and accentuated the meaning of experience and the pleasure to be found in abundance itself. Society, the world, has become one great brontosaurissmus, some voracious shark, that people who are not used to the sea are trying to dissect and understand. There are elements within this whole that are unprecedented and therefore profoundly shocking and the effects, like those of the shark, are often paralysing and prostrating. Of course, there is much that is pleasurable: not all is shark-like.(1) Gerald Early, “Partisanship, Race, and the Public Intellectual,” AmeriQuests, Vol.3, No.2, 2006.
It is in some of these general views of Lippmann's that my writing, my online journalism, comes in. I write in the context of that "sheer proliferation of the objects, diversions and possibilities for life in modern soceity." My aim is to make society more intelligible, and to help the individual dissect and understand the great brontosaurissmus that is the vast global commentariat. It is an aim I only partly achieve, and it is an aim in which I am joined by literally 1000s of other online journalists, to say nothing of the professional journalists of the print and electronic media. This will keep me fully occupied, along with my other literary roles, in these years of my retirement. Those roles, and others, kept me fully occupied in my half century as a student and teacher: 1949 to 1999.
Dewey, on the other hand, believed the public was not only capable of understanding the issues created or responded to by the elite, it was in the public forum that decisions should be made after discussion and debate. When issues were thoroughly vetted, then the best ideas would bubble to the surface. Dewey believed journalists should do more than simply pass on information. He believed they should weigh the consequences of the policies being enacted. Over time, his idea has been implemented in various degrees, and is more commonly known as "community journalism".
This concept of community journalism is at the centre of new developments in journalism. In this new paradigm, journalists are able to engage citizens and the experts/elites in the proposition and generation of content. It's important to note that while there is an assumption of equality, Dewey still celebrates expertise. Dewey believes the shared knowledge of many is far superior to a single individual's knowledge. Experts and scholars are welcome in Dewey's framework, but there is not the hierarchical structure present in Lippman's understanding of journalism and society. According to Dewey, conversation, debate, and dialogue lie at the heart of a democracy.
While Lippman's journalistic philosophy might be more acceptable to government leaders, Dewey's approach is a better description of how many journalists see their role in society, and, in turn, how much of society expects journalists to function. Americans, for example, may criticize some of the excesses committed by journalists, but they tend to expect journalists to serve as watchdogs on government, businesses and actors, enabling people to make informed decisions on the issues of the time.
ONLINE JOURNALISM AND BLOGS
New communication technology, including accessible online publishing software and evolving mobile device technology, means that citizens like myself have the potential, at least on some occasions, to observe and report more immediately than traditional media outlets do. Given that there is a virtually infinite number of topics to report on, and given the limitations of my time and circumstances, I can and do report on relatively little. The print and electronic media take care of this reporting 24/7. My role is not to report the news. As an online journalist I have slowly articulated my role since the late 1990s when I first had my own website in 1997, and when I began to retire by degrees from all paid FT, PT, and casual-work. By 2006, the only volunteer work I did, work for which I was not paid, was for a range of online organizations which readers can find in the outline of my professional life at LinkedIn.
I used to send items of news and articles to newspapers and magazines; I did this for forty years(1965-2005) before I was able to work-out how the internet could provide me with access to a wide readership. The kinds of articles I once sent to magazines and newspapers, radio and television stations, journals and an assortment of print publications, I now send to any one or more of dozens of websites. Swarms of amateur online journalists like myself are putting this new technology, this world-wide-web, to use on what you might call, might refer to as, open publishing sites, weblogs and blogs, internet locations with a wide variety of names. This adds a massive grassroots dimension to the media landscape. Bloggers and other amateur journalists are often scooping mainstream news outlets as well as pointing out errors in mainstream articles, while people who’ve been made subjects of news articles are now responding online, posting supplementary information to provide context and counterpoints. Increasingly, the public is turning to online sources for news, reflecting a growing trust in alternative media. Of course, this subject is a very complex one with an immense range of permutations and combinations of both writers and readers.
I now read virtually everything online. Of course, this medium is not for everyone. Hard copy newspapers and magazines, journals and books are still the preferred medium for millions. We all have to work out our MO, to borrow a term from the who-dun-its. While some traditional news outlets are reacting with fear and uncertainty, many are adopting open publishing features with their own online versions. The Guardian, The Washington Post, and literally hundreds of newspapers and journals, magazines and specialist publications, as well as many other mainstream media outlets are now online. I often send items to these online newspapers and publications. Again, given my other activities and interests; given the fact that I can only devote 6 to 8 hours a day to my roles as: writer and author, poet and publisher, reader and researcher, editor and scholar, online blogger and journalist, I prioritize and choose activities each day that give me pleasure in writing, or meet my literary needs as they have evolved up to that day: today. I don't work for any newspaper, magazine or journal. I am an independent writer and scholar. I decide what and when, where and why, how and if, I want to write.
Long gone are my days where duty drove me on: to pay the bills, to carry out the several responsibilities of whatever job I had, to visit people I did not want to visit, to go to meetings I did not want to go to, to write stuff and read stuff I did not want to read. I am retired now and have been for at least 8 years. I began to receive an old-age pension at the age of 65 in 2000. utilize my leisure in the classical Greek tradition, updated to a 21st century perspective. For a re-reading of Sebastian de Grazia’s Of Time, Work, and Leisure (1964), which is an extended analysis of Aristotle’s conception of leisure, and which lies at the core of de Grazia’s argument, go to the following link. To understand fully de Grazia’s appeal to the Aristotelian conception of leisure, it is necessary to explore that conception itself. Although the Aristotelian conception of leisure, and de Grazia’s study of it, are generally taken-to-be within the common heritage of the leisure studies field, prevailing interpretations of both are unsatisfactory, at least form my point of view. These interpretations all omit significant aspects of both the Aristotelian tradition and its concept of leisure. Anyway, without worrying about these fine, these nuanced details, I see my use of time within the framework of this Greek tradition which is discussed in fine detail and delightfully at:http://lime.weeg.uiowa.edu/~lsahunni/173/Aristotle.pdf
“A man of leisure, according to Plato and Aristotle, was a man who believed that cultivating the mind, so important for the state, was the brightest of all activities, the single one in which he was revealed as related to the gods, and in the exercise of which he celebrated the gods.” This ideal rose in the 5th century B.C. from the intensity of the Greeks’ sense of belonging to their communities, from the moral and political obligations owed to these communities. It is this ideal of leisure, which combines reflection and action with deeply rooted attachment to one’s community, which I see as the ideal at the basis of my journalistic work in cyberpsace. The community I have been assoicated with for 60 years, the international Baha'i community, is the main community I serve and work within. What I write has no special authority, indeed, it has no authority at all. My words are simply my own reflections; they are the expression of what you might call individual initiative; they are the result of seven decades of living and working, being an active part of many Baha'i communities, reading and studying, writing and editing for decades.
Community here is not to be confused by modern readers with contemporary society or the state which was de Grazia’s main focus. The exploration of this view of community leads him, and us if we are not careful, to largely pessimistic conclusions about the quality of contemporary leisure, and hence the society in which it occurs. Readers need to continue with that same link I mentioned above if they want to further explore some of my own thoughts on the nature of community, leisure and my own writing at:http://lime.weeg.uiowa.edu/~lsahunni/173/Aristotle.pdf
"Many hard-copy communication mediums, while continuing their former selves, their former formats, so to speak, have added online versions and blogs to their former channels of communication. These newspapers and journals, inter alia, now engage in more tactics and devices to get readers than I could possibly summarize here. If I did try to summarize all their methods I would give readers here much more information than they need. The BBC’s website posts reader’s photos, and other sites solicit and use reader-contributed content. Mainstream news outlets are increasingly scanning blogs and other online sources for leads on news items. Some print-media are now hiring journalists from the blogging ranks. Journalists are blogging live from courtrooms, from Baghdad, and elsewhere, allowing them to post frequent updates in near real-time.
I'm getting my slice of the action, much more than I ever got in those 40 years that I referred to above, and when I was at the beck-and-call of the media outlets to which I sent my literary and news pieces. My role of online journalist is not one I take on to a great extent. I am much more involved with other forms of writing than online-journo-work. Indeed, as I head for 70 in less than 15 months, I can see my role of online journalist as being a minimal one in the last years(70 to 80) of my late adulthood(60 to 80), and old age(80+), if I live that long. I have too many other online literary and writing preferences. The online journo world is also one that is now full of writers and authors, journalists and broadcasters, columnists and commentators, contributors and correspondents, media and newspaper people, pencil pushers and publicists, reporters and television commentators. I only play into, participate, in that world when something of interest catches my attention and fancy.
As the public turns toward participatory forms of online journalism, and as mainstream news outlets adopt more of those interactive features in their online formats and versions, the media environment is shifting, sometimes slowly and sometimes quickly, incrementally, sensibly and insensibly, away from the broadcast model where the few communicate to the many, toward a more inclusive model in which publics and audiences also have voices. The result, of course, is an immense print and image-glut, vast complexity, fractured audiences and reader bases. I am but one voice, one literary voice, in this now noisey and burgeoning media world. Still, for millions, the evening news with one person telling millions about "the day's events" continues its petty, and not-so-petty pace from day to day.
MORE ON MY BLOGGING
A blog, for those who don’t know, is a journal or log, a set of posts, that appears on a website. It is written on-line, read on-line, and updated on-line. It’s there for anyone with an Internet connection to see, who wants to see and who knows the blog is there. In many cases, although not all, others can comment on these blogs. The entries, or posts, are organized in reverse chronological order, like a pile of unread mail, with the newest posts on top and the older stuff on the bottom. Sometimes the order is the other way around. Some blogs resemble on-line magazines, complete with graphics, sidebars, and captioned photos. Others just have the name of the blog at the top and the dated entries under it. You can find blogs by doing a regular Google search for the blog name, if you know it, or by doing a Google Blog search using keywords. Those who want to read my blogs can google, that is, search, using the words: Ron Price's Blogs. I've had blogs for about a decade now and, as I see it, they are all in embryo. I have made a start but have not, as yet, developed any of them to the extent they could be, if I had (i) the interest, (ii) the money, and (iii) the technical skills.
The word “blog” is a portmanteau term for Web log or Weblog. In 1997 Jorn Barger, the keeper of Robot Wisdom, a website full of writings about James Joyce, artificial intelligence, and Judaism-and-racism coined the word “Weblog.” In 1999 Peter Merholz, the author of a Weblog called Peterme, split it in two like this—”We blog”—creating a word that could serve as either noun or verb. “Blog” was born. 1997 was the first year of my own website, and in 1999 I retired from FT work, the world of being jobbed. I had been jobbing as far back as the 1950s while a student in primary school who wanted more money to buy more stuff than my parents could afford to give me. In the years 1997 to the first years of this 3rd millennium, I exchanged jobbing for blogging among other forms of writing. Blogs were just waiting for me when I pulled the plug from paid employment, endless meetings, and what seemed like endless talking and listening in school and out in the community. If you go to this link, you will find some of my online blogs:http://www.google.com.au=15=Ron+Price+blogs source=Ron+Price+blogs
My blogs, as I say above, are all in their early stage. In the last decade, as I have opened many a blog in cyberspace, I have taken what you might call a "wait and see" approach. I have set up many blogs on the world-wide-web at sites where I had registered. But I have written very little at these blogs in the first decade of their existence---at least in most cases. In many cases, at many blogs, I have written the same opening notes, opening posts. Blogging has really begun for the world, for people who use the internet, just the other day, as I say above just in the last decade or so. Today there are, by one count, more than 100 million blogs in the world, with about 15 million of them active. If I bothered to troll about among the more than 8000 internet sites at which I am registered, I might locate about 3 dozen of my blogs; that is a guesstimation. However many blogs I have, they are but a needle in the blog-haystack.
In Japan neglected or abandoned blogs are called ishikoro, in English, pebbles. On the world-wide-web there are now blogs on just about any subject you might think has some importance at: the local, regional, state, national or international level. There are political blogs, confessional blogs, gossip blogs, sex blogs, mommy blogs, science blogs, soldier blogs, gadget blogs, fiction blogs, video blogs, photo blogs, and cartoon blogs, to name just a few. Some people blog alone and some in groups. Every self-respecting newspaper and magazine has some reporters and critics blogging. Some famous print media blogs are found at: The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker.
The blog is arguably the first successful web-native electronic publishing platform, one with a number of structural elements that is difficult, or simply not desireable, to be replicated in print. It is a place in cyberspace that delivers, encodes, provides readers with different content than do print texts. Blogging developed quickly from a mildly peculiar and somewhat self-regarding web-publishing practice limited to a small sector of the techno-elite in, say, 2000, into a surprisingly widespread phenomenon, thanks in part to a number of free software packages and services that made blogging no more difficult than writing itself. Blogger, the first of those tools, one of the first packages, was released in October 2000 just after I retired from FT employment, and just before I also retired from PT employment.
I'd like to think that readers who come to my many internet blogs will find a sanity, a wonderfully unencumbered style, alive with the rhythms of the wild and wonderful, and the not-so-wild and not-so-wonderful conversation I am having with myself. So relaxed a precision, at least as one of the many ways I now see my writing, developed over decades. It did not come along easily into my life, this literary skill and interest. Of course, not all my readers will find my writing unencumbered and possessing a relaxed precision. I'd also like to think that, as that erudite Australian, Clive James, calls the writing and the British columnist Zoe Williams, I and my writing are also "equipped with an uncanny ability to reach out-of the page, and flick food crumbs off the lapels of my readers." But, alas and alack, I don't think I get anywhere near the lapels of my readers. After more than 60 years of writing and receiving criticism of my writing, I do not bring to the process some over-the-top impression of my talents.
Neither do I write pieces that readers can not ignore. Readers can ignore all my writing in this world of 400 million sites, 3 billion online readers, and enough stuff to fill the heads of readers to overflowing a 1000 times a 1000. As with any writer who would like to be in the must-read category in cyberspace or any other space, I only produce certain pieces that are catchier than the rest. This is because some of my pieces are written, not just in reaction to the passing day, but because they draw on one or more of my long-cherished subjects. I have readers who love what I write, readers who have a strong distaste for what and how I write----and I write in a world where most of the 7.4 billion people have neither heard of me nor will ever read what I write. But that is true of virtually everyone who writes. Each writer gets his or her own small slice or an immense pie.
By July 2008 after I had taken a sea-change for nearly a decade, Technorati.com was tracking the activity on 112.8 million blogs. Among those blogs, the type and level of discourse varied greatly: some blogs were exclusively personal journals, while others were focused on politics or other aspects of the public sphere, and many were in fact a blend of the two; some blogs were single-authored while others were the works of groups; some blogs exclusively published text while many others included other forms of media. And, of course, some blogs are ‘good,’ while others aren’t, no matter who does the evaluating. None of this variation should distract us from the key point: the rapid spread of blogs and the relative robustness of their platforms should suggest that their tools might be useful to a range of potential, specialized digital publishing modes.
Among these tools, that most commonly associated with blogs is the ability of readers to comment on entries, creating multi-vocal and wide-ranging conversations; another such tool is the link, whether standard HTML links created within blog entries in order to comment on other web-based texts or the links automatically generated and transmitted by blogging engines in order to leave an indication on a linked-to text that it has been commented upon elsewhere (known as ‘trackbacks’ or ‘pingbacks’). There’s an often-unremarked third feature provided by some blog engines, as well as by other web publishing platforms such as wikis, which might even more powerfully affect our thinking about the life of scholarly writing online: versioning. For more on this subject which has a degree of complexity which should not concern readers---go to: http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/view/433/466 For an excellent critique of and comment on the world of blogs and its processes go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2008/feb/14/blogs/
What made blogs so immediately popular, both with readers and with writers, was the very fact that they changed and developed over time, existing not as a static, complete text but rather as an ongoing series of updates, additions, and revisions. This is of course to be expected of a journal-like format. Blogs might easily be compared to any form of periodical or serial publication; the blog as a whole remains relatively constant, even as new ‘issues’ or posts are added to it. But the fact that a blog’s readers return again and again in order to find those new posts might encourage us to ask whether there is something in the structure of digital authorship that privileges and encourages development and change, even beyond the obviously diachronic aspect of the blog’s structure. When web pages are not regularly updated and attended to, after all, they’re subject to rapid degeneration: aging styles, outdated standards, and worst, perhaps, ‘link rot.’ Given the fact that my literary life has many facets that do not include blogging; given the fact that my health and personal circumstances only give me some 40 to 50 hours a week on the internet, of which perhaps 5 hours are devoted to blogging across a wide landscape of blogs, I am not a big player in the blog game. I am neither famous nor rich, nor will I ever be. I have nothing against either fame or wealth. As a writer I like to have readers and the more the better, but I'm not waiting in the wings for fame and wealth to arrive as I head into my 70s on 23/7/'14.
Such ephemerality makes it arguable that the unspoken contract between the author and the reader of a piece of digital text is radically different from that between the author of a book and its reader; rather than assuming that the text is fixed, complete, and stable, the reader of a digital text may well assume otherwise. Of course, this is not always the case. The executive director of The Coalition for Networked Information, an organization whose mission is to promote networked information technology as a way to further the advancement of intellectual collaboration and productivity, Clifford Lynth, suggests, we do not yet fully understand what ‘reader expectations about updating published work’ will be (Lynch, 2001). Will the assumption come to be, he says, that a text must be up-to-date, with all known errors corrected, reflecting new information as it comes to light, in order to maintain the ‘authority’ that print has held? Sites such as Wikipedia seem to indicate a growing assumption that digitally published texts not only will, but should, change over time. In my case, I have only begun my life with blogs in the last decade. What I write here is my window into this world or, at least, how I see and experience this world at the beginning of my second decade of blogging experience.
The first personal ad to appear in The New York Review of Books(NYRB) was published in the magazine’s July 11, 1968 issue. “WIFE WANTED,” it read. “Intelligent, beautiful, 18 to 25, broad-minded, sensitive, affectionate. For accomplished artist and exciting life. NYRB box 1432.” Ever since then, the Review’s personals have been a widely-followed, and much-parodied, part of the magazine. Associate Publisher of NYRB, Catherine Tice, defined a personal, or personal ad, as an item or notice traditionally in the newspaper, similar to a classified advertisement but personal in nature.
In British English such an ad or notice is commonly known as 'an advert in a lonely-hearts column'. With its rise in popularity, the World Wide Web has also become a common medium for personals, commonly referred to as online dating. You can Google: Top 10 Adult Dating Sites. Here is a list of online dating sites that have contacted me: Australian Sex Forum, -Just Hookup.com, xPress.com, Speed Dating, Meet Jewish Singles, Cougars Seeking Toy Boys, Internet Corkboard, Casual Dates: online dating, Fuck.com, Bang In Your City(Find a Local F. Buddy) -City Sex.com; Social.Sex.Biz; SexForums.com; xxx Black Book(Hook-up); Fuck Book(Meet singles online); XMeetiny.com; Speed-Date; xPersonals.com; Adult Friend Finder; Sexual Forums.com; Dating Love and Sex Answers; Hook-up Junction, Erotic Ads, Millionaire Data.com, Jewish singles, Arab singles, Christian singles, Baha’i singles, Hookup Junction, Erotica Ads, slutroulette.com, datingezbabes.com
People send me photos of themselves online, as I mentioned above, after seeing my photo at one of a multitude of the 8000+ sites at which I post my writing. They live in the hope that we might have a date or a dalliance, a sexual relationship or just a discrete friendship. They say things like: "no questions asked" or "I saw your photo and your profile at..." I get invitations to join menage a trois and group sex, as well as from individuals at online sex and dating-sites, same-sex sites and even the occasional nudist colony. They say things like: "you might like to try this", or "if you are free and easy..."; "I'm back from Bali", or "I just broke-up from my boyfriend"; "I'm in town and I thought we..."....inter alia.
I try to respond to as few of these requests as possible. When I do respond to some incoming email expressing some high degree of anxiety or special pleading, I reply with honesty and courtesy, tact and kindness. Honesty and courtesy are difficult qualities to combine, but I do my best to let people down, usually women but more recently even men, as easily as I can. Usually, I do not reply at all. I clearly state my marital status, that I have been married for 46 years, and that I am not interested in another relationship of romance or sex. I sometimes indicate my general life-style involving as it does writing and publishing, editing and research, and encourage these people to go to my website, if they want to know more about me. For the most part, all these people are looking for some kind of mating-or-dating relationship, and I can be of no help to them.
Often, as I say, especially in the case of those looking for: romance and a date, or sex and intimacies of all sorts, or a partner and soul-mate, I don't reply at all. Not wanting to get someone's hopes up high and give them unrealistic expectations of what service or help I can provide, it is often better that I do not respond at all to the request that comes in. Requests come in all sorts of colours and codes, dimensions and sizes. There is such a variety of invitations and overtures, proposals and propositions---to do so many different things that come my way. They come in the course of a day and a week, a month and a year. I could list here over three dozen dating and mating sites from which I have received emails.
Personals are generally meant to generate romance, friendship, casual and sometimes sexual encounters. They usually, or at least often, include a basic description of the person posting it, and their interests. Go to this link for more:http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/50-years/2013/feb/09/personals/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=February+12+2013&utm_content=February+12+2013+CID_05566dfc66eb83b808058f1bf5b9372b&utm_source=Email%20marketing%20software&utm_term=Where%20the%20Elite%20Meet%20to%20Mate
THE BIG PICTURE
Some readers here might come to think that, since I now have millions of readers, I am on my way to becoming famous or rich or both. Far from it. In the world of cyberspace there are, as of May 2013, some 10 to 15 billion pages of documents, depending on what source one goes to for this statistic, some 300-400 million websites and 2 to 3 billion internet participants. My site and my writing is but a needle, as I say above, in that proverbial cyberspace haystack.
SOME OF MY INTEREST IN BLOGGING
If bloggers are paid a salary, given a book contract, or have a press credential; if bloggers are set up with a blog in/for a magazine, a company, or a newspaper; if these bloggers write for pay, then they often worry about lawsuits, sentence structure, and word choice. They worry about their boss, their publisher, their mother, and their superego looking over their shoulder. And that’s one way to blog. Many, indeed millions, have come to see the purposes of blogs in personal terms having nothing to do with making money or keeping the boss happy. Now, in these opening years of the second decade of the existence of blogs, it's a wide, wide, wonderful world for bloggers---and it's a dog's breakfast of stuff.
Blogging, at its freest, is like going to a masked ball. You can remain anonymous. You can say all the spiteful, infantile things you wouldn’t dream of saying if you were in print or face to face with another human being. You can flirt with anyone, or try to. You can tell the President exactly what you think of him. You can have political opinions your friends would despise you for. You can even libel people you don’t like and hide behind an alias. It’s very hard to get back at anonymous bloggers who defame you. At least this is the case in the USA due to an act of Congress; anyway, website administrators aren’t liable for what’s written on their sites. Erasing anything on the Web is often almost impossible, although that is not entirely the case. You can assume a new identity and see how it flies—no strings attached. If you want to read more about this sort of blog-freedom and the complexities of blogging go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2008/feb/14/blogs/
MY BLOGGING ROLE
My role, my stance, the way I play blogging at this masked ball--to use this same metaphor--is quite different from the above description. I go to the masked ball as myself and play my life and my personality in each situation as I find it. It is really not much different from real life. You take me the way you find me as is often said in everyday life. As I head for the age of 70 in July of 2014, and on a new medication for my bipolar disorder, I am not able to handle interaction with others except for very brief periods of time in real space. And so it is that the internet and blogging allows me to play, to participate, in the theatre that is life in a new medium: not real space but cyberspace. There are many ways of describing blogs and, if there is an essence to blogging and to blogs, it eludes description as so many essences in life do. Bloggers assume that if you’re reading them, you’re one of their friends, or at least in on the gossip, the joke, or the names they drop. They often begin their posts mid-thought or mid-rant, so to speak. They don’t care if they leave you in the dust. They’re not responsible for your education. Bloggers, as Mark Liberman, one of the founders of the blog called Language Log, once noted, are like Plato. The unspoken message is: "Hey, I’m here talking with my buddies. Keep up with me or don’t. It’s up to you."
I began to study Plato in first year university, 1963-64. I then taught his ideas off-and-on in the 40 years after that philosophy class in 1964, from 1965 to 2005. From 2005 to 2013, I read more about Plato and did some online publshing on the subject. I encourage readers of this sub-section of my website, to read the beginning of Plato’s famous work The Republic. I play the blog world more gently than many writers and bloggers, than many apologists for many causes. Some bloggers are gentle and some harsh. If you want to get some idea of my blog style in the early stage of the operation of my many blogs go to this somewhat long link:
New Journalism was a style of 1960s and 1970s news writing. It was a journalism which used literary techniques deemed unconventional at the time. The term was codified with its current meaning by American author and journalist Tom Wolfe(1931- ) in a 1973 collection of journalism articles he published as The New Journalism. This collection included works by himself, Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson, Norman Mailer, Joan Didion, Robert Christgau, Gay Talese and others. Articles in The New Journalism style tended not to be found in newspapers, but rather in magazines such as The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, CoEvolution Quarterly, Esquire, New York, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and for a short while in the early 1970s, Scanlan's Monthly. For more on this subject go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Journalism
THE DECLINE OF THE NEWSPAPER
The press has the blues. Many authorities have assured the press that its days are numbered; many good newspapers are in ruins. The newspaper has lost much of its former public respect. Courts that once treated the newspaper like a sleeping tiger now taunt it with insolent subpoenas. These same courts put in jail reporters who refuse to play ball with prosecutors. The newspaper is now abused relentlessly on talk radio and at Internet blogs. It is easily bullied into acquiescing in the designs of a presidential propaganda machine determined to dominate the news. Its advertising and circulation are being drained away by the Internet, and its owners seem stricken by a failure of the entrepreneurial imagination. This imagiantion is needed if the newspaper is to prosper in this electronic age. Surveys showing that more and more young people get their news from television and computers are breeding a melancholy sense that the press is yesteryear’s thing, a horse-drawn buggy on an eight-lane interstate. For more on this increasingly complex topic go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2007/aug/16/goodbye-to-newspapers/
MY VOICE AS JOURNALIST
My voice is but one of millions now even with the millions of words I have on the internet and even with my many blogs. The following paragraphs, entitled GOOGLE-MICROSOFT, try to summarize the evolution of my involvement in cyberspace since the mid-1990s as the internet became increasingly the powerful force it has become in the last 17 years: 1997 to 2013, the years I have had a website. In the first year after I retired from FT work, July 1999 to July 2000, Google officially became the world's largest search engine. With its introduction of a billion-page index by June 2000 much of the internet's content became available in a searchable format at one search engine. In the next several years, 2000-2005, as I was retiring from PT work as well as casual and most volunteer activity that had occupied me for decades, Google entered into a series of partnerships and made a series of innovations that brought their vast internet enterprize billions of users in the international marketplace. I was one.
Not only did Google have billions of users, but internet users like myself throughout the world gained access to billions of web documents in Google’s growing index/library. The information revolution set off in the closing decade of the 20th century by the invention of the World Wide Web transformed irreversibly much of human activity. Internet communication, which has the ability to transmit in seconds the entire contents of libraries that took centuries of study to amass, vastly enriched the intellectual life of anyone able to use it, as well as providing sophisticated training in a broad range of professional fields. It was a finer and more useful library than any of those in the small towns where I would spend my retirement in the years ahead. It was also a library with a myriad locations in which I could interact with others and engage in learning and teaching in ways I had never dreamt of in the first five decades of my life as a student and teacher: 1949-1999.
This electronic system of communication that is the internet has built a sense of shared community among its users that is impatient of either geographic or cultural distances. This description of the sense of shared community has proved to be an increasingly prescient insight into the nature and evolution of internet use worldwide in this last decade. It is interesting to note that Friendster began in 2001, Linkedin and Myspace in 2003, and Facebook in 2004--all deeply infused with this concept of shared community.
The internet is a cornucopia of accurate, well-argued and knowledgeable information. But it is also a place for specious and spurious, inaccurate and beguiling arguments. People who know little about an issue are often easily taken-in on the internet. Many often believe a u-tube post they can see to one that requires study and reading on their part. The internet, like many forms of technology before it, is both boon and beast, asset and debit, to the lives of its participants. Indeed, a quite separate section of this statement on my cyberspace experience could be devoted to the negative and positive impacts of the internet.
GOOGLE AND MICROSOFT
In 1994, at the age of fifty and as I was beginning to eye my retirement from FT work as a teacher and lecturer, Microsoft launched its public internet web domain with a home page. Website traffic climbed steadily and episodically in the years 1995 to 1999. Daily site traffic of 35,000 in mid-1996 grew to 5.1 million visitors by 1999 when I had taken a sea-change and retired to Tasmania at the age of 55. Throughout 1997 and 1998 the site grew up and went from being the web equivalent of a start-up company to a world-class organization.
I retired from FT work, then, at just the right time in terms of the internet capacity to provide me with: (a) access to information by the truckload on virtually any topic; and (b) learning and teaching opportunities, both direct and indirect, far in excess of any I had had in my previous years as a student and teacher. My first website in 1997 was part of the initial flourish of web sites and search engines in the mid-1990s. The second edition of my site was in 2001. A world, a succession, of brand names have made electronic communication an everyday experience. Web browsers such as Netscape, Internet Explorer, and Safari, as well as search engines such as Yahoo and Google, the latter founded in 1998, all came on board just as I was retiring from 50 years in classrooms as a teacher and student.
This new technology had also developed sufficiently to a stage that gave me the opportunity, the capacity to post, write, indeed, “publish” is quite an appropriate term, on the internet at the same time. From 1999 to 2005, as I say, I released myself from FT, PT, casual and most volunteer work, and Google and Microsoft offered more and more technology for my writing activity for my work in a Cause that I had devoted my life to since my late teens and early twenties.
The Internet has become emblematic in many respects of globalisation. Its planetary system of fibre optic cables and instantaneous transfer of information are considered, by many accounts, one of the essential keys to understanding the transformation of the world into some degree of order and the ability to imagine the world as a single, global space. The Internet has widely been viewed as an essential catalyst of contemporary globalisation and it has been central to debates about what globalisation means and where it will lead.
WHO READS WHAT I WRITE?
There are now several hundred thousand readers, as I say above--perhaps millions---engaged in parts of my internet tapestry, my jig-saw puzzle, my literary product, my creation, my immense pile of words across the internet--and hundreds of people with whom I correspond on occasion as a result. This amazing technical facility, the world wide web, has made this literary success possible. If my writing had been left in the hands of the traditional hard and soft cover publishers, where it had been without success when I was employed full time as a teacher, lecturer, adult educator and casual/volunteer teacher from 1981 to 2001, these results would never have been achieved.
When I write about popular culture, I would like to think that my pieces are the best things about popular culture that readers have ever seen. By the time readers reach the end of my pieces, I want them to feel, to not want the pieces to end, which is always an even better sign with journalism than it is with a book. Sadly, there are many bloggers and online journalists who write about popular culture far better than I do. I do not write classic pieces on popular culture. This is partly because, however much it was necessary for me to have what you might call a working knowledge of the popular-everyday stuff. my heart and my mind were only in that domain of culture for a small part of my time, my life-narrative.
I do not need the permission of other writers on popular culture to include their pieces here because there are few pieces here. I leave that subject to the 1000s of other writers who fill the spaces of cyberspace with stuff about: music and madness, gardens and galivanting, food and fashion, cars and cats, dogs and dolphins. I am happy to let others present popular culture in all its finest modes and manners. For the delight of older visitors to my site, visitors who might regret that that they did not know more about contemporary popular culture and its control, and for the instruction of younger visitors, from all over the world, who might nurse dreams of getting into the kind of journalism in their own countries, journalism concerned with popular culture, I encourage them one and all to go elsewhere to the literally millions of places on the net where they can engorge themselves.
If a writer understands the discipline of putting opinion and fact together so that one blends with the other without blurring its edges, such a writer is made for our modern world. This skill helps readers to learned a great deal fast and with so much to learn these days, that writer might just make a million. I have been asked how I have come to have so many readers at my website and on my internet tapestry of writing that I have created across the world-wide-web. It is not because I possess that writing style to which I have just referrred.
My literary product is just another form of published writing in addition to the traditional forms in the hands of publishers. I have literally hundreds of thousands of readers, perhaps even millions, since it has become impossible to keep even a rough account of the numbers of those who come across what I write. There are now more than 8000 locations, websites, on my tapestry of prose and poetry, a tapestry I have sewn in a loose-fitting warp and weft across the internet. All of this is at places where I have registered: forums, message boards, discussion sites, blogs, locations for debate and the exchange of views. They are sites to place essays, articles, books, ebooks, poems and other genres of writing. I have registered at this multitude of sites, placed the many forms of my literary output there and engaged in discussions with literally thousands of people, little by little and day by day over the last decade. I enjoy these results without ever having to deal with publishers as I did for two decades without any success.
As a final note I would like to add an element of my work which is important to me as a member of the Baha'i Faith. In the years 1997 to 2013, the years I am discussing in relation to the WWW, a new culture of learning and growth, a new paradigm, became part of the Baha'i international community's outreach and internal activity. My journalistic work on the net and this website I see as part of this new Baha'i culture, part of my own individual initiative in relation to my community responsibilities within this new culture, this new paradigm. There are many writers who are what you might call quasi-a-kind-of journalist. Some do their journalism in aphorisms, in novels, in poetry, in essays, inter alia. Some writers despise the essay; some despise outright journalism. If a beginner is sensitive enough to his own deficiencies, he soon discovers, head in hands, that composition is three quarters of the trick. You can have all the vocabulary there is, and any amount of linguistic inventiveness, but you have to learn to put it all in the right order.
Many of the essayists and journalists I read, are chosen for being able to put it all together in ways I enjoy reading. My hope is that some of the visitors who come to my site will enjoy what is here to be read; I hope they will be lured back by the pleasure they derive from their reading here. Somebody else's original gift can't be duplicated, but the study of it can always help to make us a more careful guardian of our own writing. Meanwhile, even if the reader has no plans to be a writer himself, there is always an extra fascination in watching a craftsman at work. Writing in any form is never just the style, but it isn't just the subject either. For more on this subject readers can go to the following link for a book I have written on this subject, a book of over 500 pages:http://bahai-library.com/price_culture_learning_paradigm
ADVOCACY JOURNALISM: Part I
I usually define myself as an activist journalist, by which I mean a journalist who is embedded in movements for social change. I identify with the movements I write about. I’m not a propagandist for those movements; I’m committed to the truth, I’m committed to fact-checking. But I’m proud to be associated with these movements and aligned with these movements. And of course I’m an author.--Naomi Klein, "Naomi Klein on Activist Journalism." Mediahacker. Excerpted from interview on YouTube. Retrieved on July 1, 2009.
Advocacy journalism can be defined as journalistic praxis, that is, reflective practice. There are many print media which, in focusing on evidence-based reporting coupled with a standpoint, engage in advocacy journalism. On the other hand, opinion journalism, exemplified by newspaper editorials and media punditry, is not always expected to involve the same degree of in-depth investigation. Nonetheless, the distance separating the two fields is murky, and the terms are sometimes employed interchangeably.
Various designations for advocacy journalism, or species of advocacy journalism, have been used throughout the years. These have included radical journalism, largely in the 19th and early 20th centuries, critical journalism, activist journalism, and social justice journalism. However, advocacy journalism appears to be most common term in contemporary discourse as we head through these first years of the second decade of this 21st century.
ADVOCACY JOURNALISM: Part II
The term advocacy journalism describes the use of journalism techniques to promote a specific political or social cause. The term is potentially meaningful only in opposition to a category of journalism that does not engage in advocacy, so-called objective journalism or, perhaps as some might describe it, objective reportage. This distinction tended to be a focus of attention in the United States, especially in the second half of the twentieth century. This is not necessarily so elsewhere in the world. Use of these terms does not necessarily translate to other kinds of political and social landscapes. The US, and more generally western, models are becoming dominant. In western Europe, some newspapers have long identified openly with a political position, even though journalists from these papers are considered professionals not typically engaged in advocacy. For much more on this subject go to this link:http://markfoster.org/aj.html
Jensen, Robert, "Advocacy Journalism." Donsbach, Wolfgang, editor, The International Encyclopedia of Communication, Hoboken, NJ. Blackwell Publishing, 2008. Retrieved on June 21, 2009.
ADVOCACY JOURNALISM: PART III
Critical journalism tends to be a more negative version of soft news. It is characterized by journalists who will stop at nothing to expose scandal, deceit, and mistakes in government. Former PBS anchor Robert MacNeil is referring to critical journalism when he says that the trends “are toward the sensational, the hype, the hyperactive, the tabloid values, and they drive-out the serious." Matthew Carleton Ehrlich describes today’s news as “the journalism of outrageousness.” Merriman, Erin, "Soft News, the Rise of Critical Journalism, and How to Preserve Democracy," EDGE, Spring Quarter. Spring 2003. Retrieved on June 24, 2009.
The purpose of radical journalism was to question authority in order to affect social, political, cultural and economic change.--Berry, David. Journalism, Ethics and Society, Surrey, UK, Ashgate. 2008, p. 30.
In some instances, advocacy journalism is the same as investigative journalism and muckraking, where these serve the public interest and the public's right to know. Investigative reports often focus on criminal or unethical activity, or aim to advance a generally accepted public interest, such as government accountability, alleviation of human suffering, etc. It might be argued that the journalist is assuming a point of view that public action is warranted to change the situation being described. The most famous example of this was Edward R. Murrow's 'See it Now' series of reports on Sen. Joseph McCarthy back in the 1950s when I began my own life of commitment to causes, causes that were often, if not usually, not only not popular, but considered strange and obscure in the public, the popular, domain. This was especially true of my commitment to the Baha'i Faith which, in the 1950s in Canada, had less than 1000 adherents across the whole country.
Criticism of Advocacy Journalism
Professional journalists, and members of the public critical of the term Advocacy Journalism, assert that with the sacrifice of a measure of journalist objectivity, the result was bad journalism. This is, they say, reporting that does not serve the public interest. This is essentially editorializing or sensationalizing on the news pages or during electronic news media presentations. The editorializing is not announced but only advocated by the intrinsic structure of the report.
The term might also indicate a serious breach of journalistic canons and standards, such as rumor mongering, yellow journalism, sensationalism or other ethically flawed reportage. A good example of this was the 2004 revelations created by a press leak in the Plame affair, where a leak was alleged to be used to help an office holder's political position. However, a critic of that politician, publicly admitted to being the source of that leak, not the politician in question. Since most readers here will know nothing of this Plame affair, I'm sure they will be able to site other examples which are now legion.
Some fear that the activity of advocacy journalists will be harmful to the reputation of the mainstream press as an objective, reliable source of information. Another concern is that undiscriminating readers will accept the facts and opinions advanced in advocacy pieces as if they were objective and representative, becoming unknowingly and perhaps dangerously misinformed as a result.
Advocacy journalists vary in their response to these criticisms. Some believe that mainstream and "alternative" outlets serve different purposes, and sometimes different audiences entirely, and that the difference is readily apparent to the public. Many believe that the mainstream press is not an objective and reliable source of information, and so doesn't deserve the reputation it seeks to maintain. The above article was entitled "Advocacy Journalism" in Wikipedia. Retrieved on June 24, 2009.
LITERARY CRITICISM: A SUB-SECTION OF JOURNALISM
When this 4th edition of my website is revamped into a 5th edition, probably some time in 2014-2015, I will place the following section on literary criticism in the literature section of my site. For now the most logical place for its home it seems to me is right here in this place in the journalism sub-section of my website. Literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often informed by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of its methods and goals. Though the two activities are closely related, literary critics are not always, and have not always been, theorists.
Whether or not literary criticism should be considered a separate field of inquiry from literary theory, or conversely from book reviewing, is a matter of some controversy. A good book review gives a fair account of the book, yet is a well-composed piece in its own right. My current models are Joseph epstein and V.S. Pritchett. Pritchett is certainly the master of the 1500-word review. As one commentator on the reviews of Pritchett put it: "there was no mistaking a manuscript by Pritchett. It was overlaid with small embellishments in longhand, many of them crossed out and recorrected to the point where the sheet of paper was in places blackened. From a distance of several yards off, you could see that a review by Pritchett was a serious and intricate piece of work."
The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary thinking and Criticism draws no distinction between literary theory and literary criticism, and almost always uses the terms together to describe the same concept. Some critics consider literary criticism a practical application of literary theory, because criticism always deals directly with particular literary works, while theory may be more general or abstract. Literary criticism is often published in essay or book form. Academic literary critics teach in literature departments and publish in academic journals, and more popular critics publish their criticism in broadly circulating periodicals such as the Times Literary Supplement, the New York Times Book Review, the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, The Nation, and The New Yorker.
To date, there is very little published literary criticism of nonfiction works, despite the fact that the genre is often published in respected publications such as The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Harper's, Shock Totem and Esquire. A handful of the most widely recognized writers in the genre such as Gay Talese, Tom Wolfe, John McPhee, Joan Didion and Norman Mailer, have seen some criticism on their more prominent works. “Critics to date, however, have tended to focus on only one or two of each writer’s works, to illustrate particular critical points.” These analyses of a few key pieces are hardly in-depth or as comprehensive as the criticism and analyses of their fictional contemporaries. As the popularity of the genre continues to expand, many nonfiction authors and a handful of literary critics are calling for more extensive literary analysis of the genre.
READY FOR JOURNALISM AND PUBLISHING by 1999
By the time I came to my own online journalism and publishing, writing and editing, full time, I had had 18 years as a student and another 32 as a teacher and tutor, lecturer and adult educator, among many other roles. I guesstimate a minimum of 20,000 hours and a maximum of 40,000 over the fifty years from 1949 to 1999 in these roles. Following the research of the psychologist Anders Ericsson and colleagues who wanted to know why some conservatory students went on to solo and orchestral careers while others ended up as workaday music teachers, Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Outliers: The Story of Success invoked “the 10,000 hour rule." Dr. K. Anders Ericsson is a Swedish psychologist and Conradi Eminent Scholar and Professor of Psychology at Florida State University. He is widely recognized as one of the world's leading theoretical and experimental researchers on expertise.
The striking thing about Ericcson’s study of music students was that he and his colleagues couldn’t find any “naturals,” that is musicians who floated effortlessly to the top of the field while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did. And what’s more, the people at the very top didn't work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder. The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. Researchers, as I indicate above, have settled on what they believe is the magic minimum number for true expertise: ten thousand hours. To put this in a phrase: 99 per cent perspiration and 1 per cent inspiration. Writers like myself, who have logged many thousands more hours than the 10,000 required to claim any expertise, need to be conscious ot Marshall McLuhan's famous aphorism: "never trust the expert."
October 1959 was a personally eventful month. I loved baseball and had just finished by 5th season in the Burlington baseball league. That month I watched the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago White Sox in the World Series. I also came to love The Twilight Zone which debuted on CBS TV. I joined the Baha’i Faith that same October; it has been my lifelong belief system. The literary critic, and soon to be the most powerful reviewer in the USA, Alfred Kazin, published his The Alone Generation.(1) This was an incisive and brilliant essay about the failures of modern literature. Kazin would later describe himself as a ‘cultural conservative’ and, semi-seriously, a ‘literary reactionary.’ He uttered the following cri de coeur:
"I am tired of reading for compassion instead of pleasure. In novel after novel, I am presented with people who are so soft, so wheedling, so importunate, that the actions in which they are involved are too indecisive to be interesting or too indecisive to develop those implications which are the life-blood of narrative." The age of ‘psychological man,’ of the herd of aloners, has finally proved the truth of Tocqueville’s observation that in modern times the average man is absorbed in a very puny object, himself, to the point of satiety.(2)-Ron Price with thanks to (1) Harper’s Magazine, October 1959; and (2) Michael Weiss, Alfred Kazin: A Biography by Richard Cook, Yale University Press, 2008.
Did you ever read David Riesman’s
The Lonely Crowd which said that(1)
our problem now is other people, the
immense heterogeneity, & people who
want/need to be loved, to be related-to ,
not esteemed, who live in a glass-house?
The best lack all conviction, while the
worst are full of passionate intensity in a
world where the centre has not held and
anarchy has been loosed upon the world.(2)
What did you make of it all, Alfred, in your
55 years of writing in which everything you
wrote was very personal; you embedded
your opinions in a deep knowledge of history,
politics and all kinds of culture low & high,
elite & popular. Yes, you were self-absorbed.....
.....with a raging life-force, but you never talked
about your inner life, in spite of your endless
autobiographical work, & infectious intellectual
energy, & your dozen books. I’ve written much
about my inner-(3) life with what I hope is an
infectious intellectual energy; I have my dozen
books, self-absorption & most importantly to me,
Alfred, my deep and long-held spiritual beliefs.(4)
1 Yale UP, 1950; Riesman: sociologist, attorney and educator
2 W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming written in 1919 in the aftermath of the first World War.
3 Kazin thought the responsibility of politics was similar to that of criticism, to traffic in a ‘histoire morale.’ Such a traffic should aim to sum-up the spirit of the age in which we live and then ask us to transcend it. The aim of writing, politics and literary criticism, Kazim emphasized, should enable people to see things in a grand perspective not only in the light of man’s history but of his whole striving. Finally, all of this should help human beings create a future in keeping with their imagination.’(Michael Weiss, Alfred Kazin: A Biography by Richard Cook, Yale University Press, 2008, 464 pp.)
4 I became a Baha’i in October 1959, the same month and year that Kazin’s ‘The Alone Generation’ was published in Harper’s Magazine.
14 August 2011
MY STYLE OF JOURNALISM
My style of journalism does not use close argument nor precise analysis. It takes place entirely in cyberspace. I attempt an evocation of the feel and large-picture of the subject, together with a lyrical and almost mimicking response to the distinctive sensibility of the author, the topic as it is often popularly conceived, and some of what I hope is my distinctive voice. I seek to blend literary and political analysis, the sociological and the psychological. My internet essays try to tease out the delicate ties between art and politics, the personal and the social. Sometimes I strike off for a territory of reverence and rapture, of awestruck contemplation of the sheer mystery of being alive. Sometimes I seek to plumb the uniqueness of a writer or an event, an idea or a person.
As a writer I work with many; I am a collaborator; I am cooperative; I try not to sacrifice the excruciating precision of my vision. I am passionately “personal,” passionately excessive; I see myself as a virtuoso of the art of integration and of going too far. The latter is partly due to my bipolar disorder. The former is the result of trying to find the middle way. You can see it in the titles of my essays and poems. The volume of excerpts from my journals, for example, could be called “A Lifetime Burning in Every Moment." But, I play it cool; I play it laid-back. I keep my heat on a low temperature, as far as I am able. I now have the help of anti-psychotic, and anti-depressant medication. I also have the help of an immense fatigue with the social domain, and so I keep that domain, which for over half a century was highly gregarious, to a bare minimum.
There have been many revolutionaries, writers, scientists, painters, ‘new men,’ in the long religious history of the Baha'i Faith going back now over two centuries. There was a zeal with which they engaged themselves in the ‘historic’ task of the planetization of the globe, of the vast integration of the myriad traditions often came from their profound sense of history, a sensibility embedded in the Baha'i Faith itself. These ‘new men’ had a vision of history that, as their critics have often told them, was fanatically all of one piece, obstinately Baha'i and intellectual. It was a vision in which some subtle and not-so-subtle purposiveness to history always managed to reassert itself in the face of repeated horrors, horrors faced by the Baha'i community itself and horrors facing humankind. But what their critics could not recognize was that the obstinate quest for ‘meaning’ was less a matter of conscious thought than a personal necessity, a requirement for survival, the historic circumstance that reasserted itself in case after case among the Baha'is as they sought a unity in diversity in the face of the immense destruction, the great tempest that had faced humankind since at least 1914.
Many of these writers, these Baha'is, had good reason to believe that their lives were a triumph over every possible negation. Yet there was in these men and women a modesty. It was a modesty of those for whom life itself is understandably the greatest good. They found it an immense challenge to engage in the political and philosophic reasoning that assured them of the world's civic harmony, civic peace, and the life of the mind. They were keen, as well, to avoid the great middle-class world of daily self-satisfaction. It was not an easy task, and many failed at it.
I aim at being something more than a chronicler of life in my society, in the past or the present. I have no fame in the world and am only known in the infinity of cyberspace, in time measured in nanoseconds, across a territory as infinite as the universe, about as meaningful to most of humanity as the eye of a dead ant, to draw on one of the Bab's more colourful analogies.
WITHOUT MR VANCE PACKARD
By far the most significant writer who has written popular books about American society and found a niche outside the academy in the print media from the late 1950's to the late '80's was Vance Packard. He was famous for The Hidden Persuaders (1957), Status Seekers (1959), Pyramid Climbers (1962) and a succession of books until his last in 1989. Through the publication of these books, Packard probably had more influence on the lay public regarding the social dimensions of American society than any other writer or sociologist. Packard's books frequently appeared on best seller lists and young scholars were routinely shocked to find that Packard's works were considered beneath respectable discussion in many classrooms and tended to be disparaged by professional sociologists and public intellectuals, perhaps because they displayed none of the more abstract theorizing that social scientists look for in sociological writings. His books were a type of popular journalism.
Packard was not fully trained in sociology but majored in English and then earned a Master's degree in journalism at Columbia, and from there embarked upon a career in journalism at the start of the Baha’i teaching Plan in 1937. Through the resourceful use of his talents as a writer and his unique insights into American society, he contributed significantly to public understanding of a whole range of topics typically studied by academic sociologists: family and childrearing, sexual patterns, the media, consumerism and wastefulness, isolation and loneliness, and the super rich. In the years immediately before and after I became a Baha’i in Canada, Packard was a very popular writer. My contact with his writings was limited because I had a massive reading list in the late fifties and early sixties in the humanities and my concentration was on just getting though and out into the marketplace.-Ron Price with thanks to “Internet Sites on Vance Packard,” Poetry Booklet Number 58, Ron Price, July 10th 2006.
I remember seeing your books
back in those years when I’d
first started hearing about birds
flying over Akka and martyrs
by the score in lounge rooms
on cold Canadian evenings
when I waited for the talks
to be over and the hot coffee
and cakes to arrive—they seem
like distant cousins, those years,
as distant as Packard himself.
I plowed through more books than
my little brain could stomach, so
motivated I was to make it in the
marketplace, get a job, marry and
raise a family ‘cause that was what
everyone did/everyone whom I had
known, and Packard was never on
reading lists &, by-god, I had more
to read than I ever thought I could
get through, but get through it I did
even without Packard's insights...
10/07/'06 to 1/5/'13.
master essayist of our age
Gore Vidal(b.1925-), who has been called the best all-around American man of letters since Edmund Wilson(1895-1972), began his writing career at nineteen, the year I was born. In 1962, the year I began to travel for the Canadian Baha’i community and begin my own serious literary and academic study, Vidal published his first book of essays entitled: Rocking the Boat. Books of his essays and interviews, novels and memoirs kept appearing as I entered the teaching profession in the 1960s and finally retired in the 1990s. He’s still going, although not as strong at 85 and often in a wheel-chair.-Ron Price with thanks to Harry Kloman, “Gore Vidal’s Essays, Interviews and Memoirs: 1963-Present,” 2005.
He always impressed me with
his remarkable wit and talent:
5 decades of scintillating words
in books & live whenever I saw
him in Australia on TV…He saw
the moral-intellectual hollowness
of American politics at about the
same time as I did: in the early 60s.
It was with those Kennedys and so
he spent the rest of his life writing
books and essays & a lot of other
stuff---thinking on paper for a world(1)
slowly captured by those electronic
distractions. Still, we go on talking.
We talk about books and writing them
pretending not to notice that the church
is empty and people have gone over to
attend to other gods in silence or new
words. Surely it’s not that bad Gore?2
1 The Washington Post calls him “the master essayist of our age.” See David Barsamian, “Citizen Gore Vidal,” These Times, 3 November 2008
2 George Scialabba, “Civic Virtues: Gore Vidal’s Selected Essays,” The Nation, 8 October 2008.
3/8/'11 to 1/5/'13.
MORE ON GORE
If I were planning to embark for a far place and stay for several years I would not take the forty-six volumes of the writings of Gore Vidal. There are so many fine essayists I read. Perhaps at a future time I will post a list of the now dozens of essayists who have emerged in the last two decades as the world-wide-web has made them more accessible than in previous decades. Vidal's 46 volumes do not include his pseudonymous work, which I could write about in another essay. Voltaire’s 46 volumes could give Voltaire a run for his money. Voltaire and Vidal seem to me to have several things in common. Both were brilliant talkers; likewise brilliant satirists. Both initially needed money and worked very hard to get it. Both also needed courts to place their well-sharpened darts. Fortunately, they both had courts: Voltaire the Versailles of Louis XV, as well as the Berlin of Frederick the Great and courts of lesser brilliance. Vidal had the Kennedy Camelot in Washington, D.C. back in the 1960s. Since then he has had the courts of the several emperors of the silver screen: Sam Spiegel, for example, and there is probably no better example. Vidal has also had an audience of millions. For more on Vidal go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2006/nov/30/the-lives-of-gore/
Some of MY INTERNET POSTS on journalism and journalism-related topics:
(click on my photo, then on the word 'statistics', and then on the words 'Find all posts by RonPrice)(90 posts)
(if you are registered a this site: click on my photo, then on the word Statistics, then on the words "Find all posts by RonPrice)
THE EBOOK AND ONLINE WRITING
Words on an electronic device, as that fine essayist William Gass(1924- ), an American novelist, short story writer, critic, and former philosophy professor, puts it:: “have no materiality, they are only shadows, and when the light shifts they’ll be gone,” Mr. Gass writes. “Off the screen they do not exist as words. They do not wait to be reseen, reread; they only wait to be remade, relit.” Books, and the libraries that house them, are accessible to all types, incomes and ages, presenting an eternal and eternally changing opportunity for discovery that Mr. Gass contrasts unfavorably to the Internet (“the interbunk”). He talks about how books are passed down through generations, like his 1923 copy of Ben Jonson’s commonplace book, acquiring marginalia and emotional resonance. And he celebrates a book’s stimulus for reminiscence as “more important than a dance card, or the photo that freezes you mid-teeter at the edge of the Grand Canyon”:
“A book can be a significant event in the history of your reading, and your reading should be an essential segment of your character and your life,” he writes. “Unlike the love we’ve made or meals we’ve eaten, books congregate to form a record around us of what we’ve fed our stomachs or our brains. These are not a hunter’s trophies but the living animals themselves.” I like the way Gass expresses the value of a book. But he has changed his attitude to cyberspace in the last decade.
It came as rather a surprise to learn that Mr. Gass has written a 15,000-word essay called “Abstractions Arrive: Having Been There All the Time,” a collaboration with the noted photographer Michael Eastman. It was a surprise because the essay can be read only on an iPad equipped with iBooks 2. Abstractions Arrive is published for $4.99 a copy by Stephen Schenkenberg, who runs the excellent Reading William Gass blog. Although every serious writer should have such an informative blog, few do. The book is not available in any other format. Needing special equipment to read something seemed to go against everything Mr. Gass was defending in his “Defense.” In an interview, he explained how his thinking about technology had shifted over the last decade.
As a writer I am freed from publishers. I am only writing to a select group, but there are dozens of select groups to whom I write. I was pleased to see the changed attitude of Gass.
RETIRED AND AGE 66
THE INIMITABLE JACK NICHOLSON
About Schmidt is a 2002 American drama film directed by Alexander Payne starring Jack Nicholson as Warren Schmidt and Hope Davis as his daughter Jeannie. In 2003 Payne received a Golden Globe for his screenplay About Schmidt which also won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. The film is loosely based on the 1996 novel with the same title by Louis Begley.
By 1996, as Begley was getting that novel published, I had my eye on an early retirement at age 55. By 2002 I had retired and taken a sea-change. When I saw this film on TV in 2010 I had been fully retired from FT and PT work as well as many of my casual-volunteer commitments in the Baha’i community for five years. I watch a little TV after a day of reading and writing, research and journalism, editing and independent scholarship. I do this watching after midnight while I have a late night snack. The soporific effects of TV, the alpha waves—so I am told—induced, help me turn off my brain and set up the conditions for a good night of sleep. Occasionally a tasty-movie comes on. About Schmidt was such a visual delight, but after an hour I had to go to bed. In the morning I read the rest of the story on the internet and decided to write this prose-poem.-Ron Price with thanks to Wikipedia, 5 October 2010.
Thank you, Alexander, for your dark humour
and satirical depiction of American society. I
must, say, though, I could not help but laugh.
There’s a lot of dark humour in Australia and
I’ve lived Downunder for nearly forty years!!
I’m 66, too, just like Warren Schmidt. He & I
shared many things in-common which I won’t
go into here. But after a few laughs and some
reflection on this movie and my life, a prose--
poem seemed like a good thing to put down.
The evening of one’s life presents a new ball-
game: 60 to 100 has another set of challenges
to the 20 to 60 package if, of course, one lives
that long….At 66 my second package has just
begun and I thank the inimitable-famous Jack
Nicholson for his entertainment and delight!!
5 October 2010
THE LONDON SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM
The following prose-poem came from reading some of the output of the London School of Journalism. The London School of Journalism(LSJ) provides journalism courses, freelance classes and creative writing courses by Distance Learning, and as evening classes, short day-time courses and postgraduate diploma courses. The LSJ's distance learning courses cover all aspects of journalism and creative writing. Their postgraduate courses cover news, features, freelance, media law, broadcast and internet journalism. They have a four week summer school every August, and a range of evening classes and daytime short courses which are held throughout the year. Postgraduate courses can be taken as online courses or as attendance courses in London. Our distance learning students come from all over the world, and many use our email course delivery so that all their work and assignments are delivered in this way.
Distance learning, utilising modern communications, allows student and teacher to work closely together, regardless of physical location. The LSJ has been teaching journalism and creative writing for nearly 90 years, and unlike most 'schools' who offer distance learning courses they are a real school, staffed by real journalists and writers who enjoy working with real students. This institution continues to lead the way in developing new and effective teaching methods. The result is demonstrated by the success of their students.
Some poets, writers and artists are famous or infamous for obtruding their authorial persona onto or into the business of their work. I am such an obtruder. I feel an expansiveness when I write; I am aware of both a simplicity as well as a complexity; I am aware of both a difficulty of personality and a simple ease. These dichotomies and others permeate everything I write; in the process I find, I obtain, some sense, some detail, of myself as a person in my work, sometimes more than others. This was also true of the writer Ben Jonson(1572-1637).(1) T. S. Eliot in his discussion of Johnson wrote that "Jonson behaved as the great creative mind that he was: he created his own world.” It was a world from which his readers and the dramatists of his time, who were trying to do something wholly different than Jonson, were excluded.(2) -Ron Price with thanks to (1)L.A. Beaurline, "Moralists, Scoundrels and Ninnies." Modern Language Quarterly, 46.3, 1985, pp. 316-325; and (2) T.S. Eliot, Essays on Elizabethan Drama, Harcourt, Brace & World Inc., NY, 1932, p.78.
I, too, created my own world,
not to exclude others, but to be
as inclusive as the air and sky.
Authors are ideas, historical
developments that become
attached gradually to their
writing, their ethos and lives.(1)
The masks, personae, facts,
situations, philosophies and
environments I have chosen
to live in and behind are not
so opaque and the increasing
number of scenes I describe
are mouthpieces, mise en scene.
Some of my story is of an isolated,
elevated, autonomous person.
The understanding and direction
of my authorial, literary career
is a slowly evolving one
and my attitude to my gifts
and toward the world from
which and on which I work
is partly related to my vitality
and the creativity where it grows.
I trust I am a poet finding himself,
not a perverted artist who can only
be made worse if he persists in a
failure to recognize his limitations.
I know only too well that if I trouble
my readers I will also trouble myself.
Control is no easy thing in writing
since, in many ways, a writer is a
historical development as well as
present reality. Any serious artist
must be prepared for the dirt which,
justly or unjustly, he has and he will
receive, perhaps, more than his fair
share along with his piece of praise.
(1) Kathleen A. Prendergast, “Ben Johnson Unmasked,” London School of Journalism Homepage, January 2006. In this essay Bruce Thomas Boehrer writes that "Jonson is famous for obtruding his authorial persona onto the business of his plays." L.A. Beaurline also notes that "Jonson's expansive, difficult personality so permeates everything he did that it is possible to find the man in his work at nearly every turn." Bruce Thomas Boehrer, "Epicoene, Charivari, Skimmington." English Studies 75.1, 1994, pp. 17-33.
January 3rd 2006 to 15 June 2011
I watched Bettina Arndt on Big Ideas last night.(1) Big Ideas broadcast a talk at the National Press Club on 2 September 2010 by Bettina Arndt. Arndt is an Australian sex therapist, journalist and clinical psychologist. She is also an entertaining and articulate speaker for whom the words roll off the tongue with a garrulousness that is engaging. She talked about why sex matters so much to men; and she also launched a campaign to end the discrimination against male cancer victims. Her latest book is another one of her diary projects looking at male sexuality. The book is entitled What Men Want—In Bed and was published 1 September 2010. Arndt's previous book The Sex Diaries was published in 2009 and was built on a foundation of diaries kept by 98 couples, plus a survey of the relevant research on the subject. -Ron Price with thanks to (1)ABC24 TV, 21 January 2011.
I’ll let you—dear reader—check-out
Sheehan’s article yourself----his very
excellent overview of Arndt’s views.(1)
This delightful, engaging writer has(2)
been on my agenda since the 1970s
when I, too, got into teaching about
relationships. She was born 5 years
after me and graduated 4 years after
I did…She was appointed editor of
an adult sex magazine in 1974 that(3)
was the same year I was appointed
as the senior tutor human relations.
I worked at the Tasmanian College
of Advanced Education & involved
myself in the embryonic phases of
community-building for the Baha’i
Faith. She remained there as editor
until July 1982 as I worked at a tin
mine and then all over Australia: an
expert in nothing teaching a variety
of subjects--and by 1999 I was ready
to go solo, retire to a world of writing,
editing, research, publishing, poetry, &
journalism as well as some scholarship.
Bettina, you have made a name for yourself
and it was a pleasure listening to you at the
National Press Club tonight. “Goodonyer,”
as they say Downunder. “Goodonyer!!!”
(1) Paul Sheehan, “The secret desires of men, and why they go unfulfilled,” Sydney Morning Herald Online, 2 September 2010.
(2) Bettina Arndt
(3) Forum was the name of the magazine
21 January 2011
CLIVE JAMES AND HIS JOURNALISM
I would like to say a few things about Clive James’ new book Cultural Amnesia. James’s book is prompted, to some extent, by the suspicion that a new age of barbarism is indeed descending. He has lots of company in this view. My recent memoir(5 volumes in 2500 pages) is also prompted by a similar intuition. But like the barbarism of the late Roman Empire in the West in the second and third century A.D., I take the view that a new religion is growing in our midst. Like Christianity which crept, half-hidden, along the foundations and against the background of an Augustan empire, the Baha’i Faith seems, thusfar, too insignificant to be noticed by history for it, too, is growing slowly, obscurely, insensibly in our modern and postmodern world.
In his book James also offers a steady stream of advice on how to go about the business of self-education. I offer advice, for the most part indirectly, or such is my hope, for I am all too conscious of the limitations of direct advice-giving; I do not advise any must-reads or how-to's. There are, as in James’s work, many anecdotes. Like James in his Cultural Amnesia I launch a symphony of voices; I hope it is not a cacophony.
My life, like James's, has been richly social, but not in the world of celebrities and media. I have read a great deal, but nothing like the quantity that James has consumed. James says that most of his listening was to the authors behind the books he read; in my case, until I retired in 1999, most of my listening was to people in the raw: individuals, groups, communities. For a host of reasons--the expansion of universities, of suburbs and of telecommunications, to name three--the kind of face-to-face intellectual-artistic life that was exemplified in coteries in the past, and that flourished in various twentieth-century cities, notably Paris, before WW1, simply no longer exist--or so James sees it. I agree, but not all the way. I feel as if I’ve done an awful lot of face-to-face stuff in my life: in cities, towns, classrooms, lounge rooms, my own home, rental halls, inter alia.
James's answer to what he sees as a diminution of venues for intellectual-artistic activity, this bereavement, is the book itself--as is my own memoir, partly. Here in James's book is the café, the former place of the intellectual-artist; he has created it in his mind; it is a convocation of voices that respond to one another across the barriers of language, outlook, expressive form and, most of all, time.
MY MORE JOURNALISTIC WRITING
Over the decades and beginning after I got my BA and B.Ed. degrees in 1966 & 1967, respectively, I was driven away from academic institutions of higher learning and toward a more journalistic approach, to a plain speech and a style of writing that was not as esoteric as an MA thesis or a PhD dissertation. Direct observation and the necessity to entertain was absolutely crucial for James and for me. I would never have survived in classrooms had these qualities not surfaced insensibly over the first half-a-dozen years of my teaching experience from 1967 to 1973. When I did get near institutions of higher learning it was on the periphery and for brief periods and so the esoteric did not have a chance to bloom.
Not in the mass media eye, as James was and with his immense success, I settled for a more modest achievement in the world of “the school” and “the college.” Like James, I wrote essays, reviews, sketches and squibs for students; I also wrote in longer and more conventionally prestigious forms, but always in styles that had been honed by the whetstone of conversation, but without the accruing prestige that James accumulated.
Writing for the student and for the popular press, even at a much less successful and prestigious level of everyday journalism than James, demands both simplicity and compression, and compression, if it is of good quality, makes language glow, even if the glow is only mild and slightly warming. I felt, as the years went on, that some light was finally being emitted from the marks on the page that I was putting down even if I was the only one who saw it and a few coteries of votaries in cyberspace, and, then, only for nanoseconds.
The stylistic models that James and I emulated were much different. However different, they each could "pour a whole view of life, a few cupfuls at a time, into the briefest of paragraphs." James highest hero, "the voice behind the book’s voices" and one of several exceptions to his rule of writing only about twentieth-century figures, was Tacitus. I was surprised at this in some ways, but not entirely so, for James is primarily a serious bloke with a patina of humour which he will never get rid of. It's part of his cultural schizophrenia.
It was Tacitus who wrote the sentence, says James, out of which his entire volume Cultural Amnesia grew: "They make a desert and they call it peace." James heard this line quoted as a young man and "saw straight away that a written sentence could sound like a spoken one, but have much more in it."
My Tacitus, was Gibbon and Gibbon saw his history as a continuation of Tacitus’ work. I felt, therefore, James and I were on a similar track. I've been reading Gibbon for decades. I would like to think that my memoirs are what James’ book Cultural Amnesia was to the reviewer in The Nation; namely, “less a collection of great figures than of great sentences.” But, alas and alack, I write in the minor leagues; not that I mind, for I love the art, the act itself.
MORE ON CLIVE JAMES
That same reviewer, William Deresiewicz, went on to say, “reading Cultural Amnesia feels like having a conversation with the most interesting person in the world: You're not saying much, but you just want to keep listening anyway.” Well, I’m not sure if I have had such a conversation in years as a talker or a listener expect in books. On the other hand, I sometimes feel as if I have had al too many such conversations of the deep and the meaningful. But as fas as print is concerned, James is, for me, one of my many, one of my crucial, mentors.
The reason James is such a good talker is that he's such a good listener- or so that reviewer in The Nation said in his fine review, a review on James's website along with a number of other statements of encomium and only a little opprobrium. James means it literally when he says that the book took forty years to write, because its quotations are the harvest of the notebooks he has kept for all that time, and the notebooks are the harvest of his insatiable reading.
The fifty years, from 1949 to 1999, of talking and listening tired me out, although the rigours of bipolar disorder and the medications I take for my several mental health issues as well as several other medical issues have also played their part in depleating my energy levels and my social enthusiasms. Gore Vidal once said listening was one of the most demanding arts. I did not find it so for decades in my several roles in classrooms, in other work-places and in a great variety of wider-community contexts. But I do now. In recent years I’ve gone on shutdown; I've dropped-out of the world of seemingly endless talking and listening.
Sixty years of my note-taking, say, 1953 to 2013, has resulted in a small study filled with files that annoy my wife who has a penchant for the tidy and the clean, the orderly and the useful. It is a penchant I share with her. But I have a different modus operandi, modus vivendi. I like a tidy desk, but am not too concerned about the efflorescence of my files. Fifty years of reading and note-taking, 1955 to 2005, gave me an even greater appetite for print after I had retired from full-time, part-time and casual-work and all that talking and listening. In the last several years, 2006 to 2013, I have been able to satisfy my literary and my intellectual, my reading and research tastes to a much greater extent than I ever could during my: working and student, my employment and community, my family life and social life.
Ever since running into Tacitus, says James, he has been a connoisseur of aphorisms and aphorists--of writing that is both conversational and compressed and of the kinds of minds that produce it. It's no coincidence that he is also a connoisseur of music. "Echoes of a predecessor's rhythm, pace and melody are rarely accidental": That sentence contains four terms that sound like they refer to music, but it's about writing. Rhythm is central to James's understanding of style, and so are "echoes"--that is, memory. He is himself, at least for me, an incandescent and virtually habitual aphorist.
I, too, went down this road but not quite as passionately as James, for I was not in the media spotlight that he was, a spotlight where the aphorism is one of the kings of the sound-bite and the clever turns of phrase. I did collect quotations in my many notebooks, but clever turns of phrase and jokes always slightly eluded me when I went to translate them into verbal matter. As I approached my sixtieth year, I found there was just too much to copy into notebooks; there was too much that was useful. By then my computer directory began to come in handy.
The love of the beautifully turned phrase goes far deeper than mere appreciation. James knows this better than most. The identifiable tone of voice, a tone which is a synthesis of all the voices one has ever heard, is at the core of the term “voice.” A lot of things make up voice. The most individual style in the world is the product of a collective effort. In gathering the voices that inhabit our own, the echoes we hear in our head, are produced by the growth of our mind; it is the song of self, as Walt Whitman might have put it--and did. I have discussed this notion of the individual voice, its song, its life, in connection with Wordsworth’s poem The Prelude and my own poetry which is a sort of prelude two hundred years later. But that is in another essay.
To fully participate in community life in the sense that is at the heart of James's s work requires an exemplification of liberal values. We must engage, in James' s view--in the work, the community enterprize in our own individual way and with a broad liberalism, both are essential. We each can do some things that others do, that other community members do, but we must see our own work as a part of a larger enterprise. We must strive in the context of this larger, this non-utilitarian liberal enterprise and its myriad smaller components.
Being a part of the community, then, is not simply a matter of learning new skills, new attitudes and new values, but also of fielding new calls for identity construction. This understanding of identity suggests that people enact and negotiate identities in the world over time. For identity is dynamic and it is something that is presented and re-presented, constructed and reconstructed in interaction. And like the tension in violin strings which are the basis of musical harmony, life in community also possess a tension with which we must deal with in harmony. Of course, this can not always be done. James has been more successful than most. He produces little noise Often only noise. He has done a good deal of connecting. This is true when one writes, when one talks and when one lives and works in community, if one can bring humour to the table. Humour is a wonderful oil in this whole exercise. James knows this, again, for he has done it better than most writers.
The individual experience of power derives from belonging, but it also derives from exercising control over what we belong to, what we participate in, what we read, indeed, an entire panoply and pageantry of activity. Each individual is heterogeneously made up of various competing discourses, often conflicted and virtually always possessed of contradictory scripts. Our consciousness is anything but unified. In many ways wholeness or integration is not so much a goal as a battle, at least some kind of perpetual balancing act of dealing with unstable forces, forces which we must try to reconcile or they will tear at our psyches. These unstable forces may also cause us to withdraw and, like a planet slipping from orbit and following the dictates of its own centrifugal momentum, become ultimately so remote from the magnetic attraction of the sun that it flies irretrievably into remoteness. This can happen to both individuals and societies. Inner conflict is not so much a disorder as it is the first law of human psychic life and is part of that principle of polarity at the centre of life.
This Australian critic and raconteur, this retired journalist, Clive James made a pertinent point in this connection when he compered an ABC FM Radio program about Australian orchestras in concert. He said that large countries like Australia and the USA don't have identities. They are too diverse. I think the same is true about individuals. They are also diverse over a lifetime to have a single identity.
There is now a great wealth of literature available to the Baha’i community, both in-house literature and the burgeoning material now available in the marketplace. My book occupies a small place, possesses no particular authority and competes for a place, for space, with a print and electronic media industry of massive proportions. In order to survive and do well in most of the print and electronic media a writer must develop the ability to put things simply and effectively, in a manner that everyone can understand. Such a writer has maybe a minute and a half to two minutes if he is talking on the TV to explain a complex subject or a series of short verbal expositions if he is involved in an interview; even a book, if it is to find a large readership in the mass circulation market, must be as simple as possible.
Many academics and intellectuals are so steeped in academic jargon that they are unable to simplify their material. I hope my book is not an example of this academic problem, the problem of someone who could not pull off the simplification process. I’m afraid simplicity and brevity are not marks of my literary style. James's fat books, however liberal in philosophy, will not penetrate the minds of the new barbarians. James knows this. He has realistic expectations. His book will fail with that increasingly large crowd. But the crowd at this year's Melbourne Writers' Festival will devour his new book.
I knew of a senior academic who was asked to appear on a local TV station. She showed up with six or seven books and they had little pieces of paper stuck in the books for purposes of quotation. The whole interview was over in less than two minutes; she never read any of her quotations and she was frustrated that she just couldn’t make her points. She didn’t understand that if you’re going to play in the media ballpark, you have to play by their rules, not your own. I like to think that this book, this autobiography of mine, has allowed me to have my six books and their quotations and that the role of this book does not include a two minute TV summary or an interview of ten minutes on an arts program. On the other hand, I could probably write a ten second autobiographical-ad grab, summarize what I’m all about in one or two minutes and be interviewed for any appropriate length of time. It will probably never happen before I die. Perhaps there is hope in the posthumous literary world.
There are many different kinds of self-referential writing. I have incorporated some of them in what is for me a surprisingly large work invoking Whitman's "I am large, I contain multitudes,” as an appropriate presiding spirit for the genre. Whatever largeness I claim to possess, it is the same largeness we all possess in relation to ourselves. And some are larger than others. James is a big chap--in more ways than one. We all must live in our own skins for all our days and the sense of our largeness--or our smallness for that matter--is a result of our bodily manifestation, our physical proximity to self. In the multitude of methods and genres of studies of Baha’i history and experience, teachings and organization, autobiography is either tentatively acknowledged, invoked by negation or simply passed over in silence. It is one genre that is, for the most part, conspicuous by its absence from any bibliography. This has begun to change in the last decade or two. This piece of writing is part of that change.
I open this sub-section of my website on journalism with a quotation from Marcel Proust: “That abominable and sensual act called reading the newspaper, thanks to which all the misfortunes and cataclysms in the universe over the last twenty-four hours, the battles which cost the lives of fifty thousand men, the murders, the strikes, the bankruptcies, the fires, the poisonings, the suicides, the divorces, the cruel emotions of statesmen and actors, are transformed for us, who don’t even care, into a morning treat, blending in wonderfully, in a particularly exciting and tonic way, with the recommended ingestion of a few sips of cafe au lait.” — Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past
Marcel Proust(1871-1922) was a French novelist, critic, and essayist best known for his monumental À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time; earlier translated as Remembrance of Things Past). It was published in seven parts between 1913 and 1927. In that work "remembrance progresses from small to smallest details, from the smallest to the infinitesimal, while that which it encounters in these microcosms grows ever mightier." In my work, in this memoir, memory progresses from large to largest detail, from the largest to the infinite, while that which it encounters in this macrocosm grows even mightier. And there is some of Proust's style as well. There is also some of that intellectual liberty which Orwell says comprises "the right to report contemporary events truthfully, or as truthfully as is consistent with the ignorance, bias and self-deception from which every observer necessarily suffers."
Many books, of which Proust's is but one, have drawn on life-stories in order to describe what some sociologists call "the social construction of reality." This sociological term is used to argue that the personal/private zone is impacted upon and formed by social relations. To theorise from experience, as I have done in my memoir, it is difficult to insist on a separation between the public sphere and life in the more private realm where one thinks and acts, believes and feels. My own approach, my own way of integrating public and private spheres of life in my autobiography, has been to draw on interviews, letters, essays and poems, inter alia. In this way I have been able to investigate the daily relations of religion and belief and the dailiness of religious experience, mine and others in my community. I have placed these comments here under the sub-section of my website 'journalism' because this writing is a type of journalism in relation to self and society.
I have been interested in demonstrating, in particular, not only how my religious experience was lived, but also how it was seen and, more often, in my immediate social and political networks, how it was not seen. I have always liked Hannah Arendt's view of modern political thought; namely, that it was "the endless effort of human beings to make sense of what they experience, to get their minds round the things that confronted them, the activities they engaged in, and above all the events that happened among them." Arendt was an influential German American political theorist. She has often been described as a philosopher, although she refused that label on the grounds that philosophy is concerned with "man in the singular." She described herself instead as a political theorist because her work centers on the fact that "men, not Man, live on the earth and inhabit the world". Arendt's work deals with the nature of power, and the subjects of politics, authority, and totalitarianism. Her work is pre-eminently political thought, not in the sense of being the application of some partisan position to political material, but in the sense of representing the free play of an individual mind round politics, making sense of political events and placing them within an unfolding understanding of all that comes within the mind’s range.
Personalised embodied narratives, like my memoir, foreground the particularity of the everyday and the struggle, as Arendt describes it here, to make sense of experience and to engage in the particularities of life. More Baha’is have begun to write their storties, their personal histories, writing of their engagement with society, in recent decades, in the second century of the Formative Age of the Baha'i Faith(1921-2021). One of the main reasons was that there were more Baha'is. At the beginning of the first epoch in 1944, the first in the series of five that concern me in my memoir, there were some one hundred to one hundred and fifty thousand members of the international Baha'i community. As I write these words in 2011 there are between 5 and 8 million adherents. Given that writing one's life narrative is not that common an experience, there are still not many in the last 7 decades who did write their stories. But there have always been a few throughout Bahá’í history who did right back to the 1840s.
I have identified a lack of what might be called a literary, an autobiographical particularism, in Bahá’í literature, a lack, a deficiency, I saw my project as addressing to some extent. I am not the first to identify this lack, a lack that was also present in the heroic age(1844-1921) and then in the first epoch of the Formative Age(1921-1944). There has been a significant increase in memoir and autobiographical writing by Baha'is in the epochs beginning in 1944 when I was born; there has also been a greater articulation of the life and community processes by which Baha’is came to understand the social forces that made them who they were. There would be much more done in memoir writing in the epochs ahead. Another epoch looms, such is my view, on the horizon in 2021. I will be 77 then and my guess is that another epoch will follow in 2044. If I live that long this story will be called Pioneering Over Six Epochs.