Category Archives: Books

SPD Online Ordering: Still Up and Running

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

There are a number of Irish-themed bars in Long Beach, but none of them were open yesterday. All bars were closed, as well as restaurants for anything but take-out. While a bar doesn’t survive simply on the income boost from a single holiday, such as St. Patrick’s, the cancellation of any business yesterday on the local micro-scale of Irish scale should make us pause and ask ourselves what awaits our country. If the tsunami of a massive economic contraction generates widespread unemployment, I don’t think people are going to be as passive as they were last time. Economic relief can only be sustained if the bloated coffers of corporations are massively drained. Anything else will only lead to further economic calamity down the road in which public debt overwhelms public obligations.

In the meantime, let those of us who prefer a good book to a good drink (and the former is far more intoxicating) remember that Small Press Distribution is still open for business. Peruse their catalogue on-line while you shelter-in-place and find that book you’ve been meaning to get your hands on.

Since the retail location of SPD (Small Press Distribution) is in an area of Northern California that is a “restricted zone,” I am taking the liberty of posting a letter from Brent Cunningham that explains how they are going about their business. If you can afford to send a small donation to SPD, which is an essential organization for many small presses, please do so.

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Dear Friends of SPD,

We are emailing to let you know that our area in Berkeley and the Bay Area is now part of a “shelter-in-place” order that was issued 3/16 to attempt to contain the coronavirus. See here:

Who can leave their home? Read the ‘shelter in place’ order for 7 Bay Area counties

The public health and the health of our staff is most important to SPD. At the same time we feel strongly that we have a mission to support our publishers, authors, and you, our community and our customers. According to the shelter-in-place order, we are allowed to perform “Minimum Basic Operations” given that employees maintain 6ft of distance between each other. As such, we are able to run a reduced staff with only one to two people in the building at each time, maintaining a full slate of hygiene practices e.g. wiping down surfaces, wearing gloves, etc. We think we can continue to receive, take orders, and ship, albeit in a very limited capacity.

If you have any questions about a current order, please don’t hesitate to email We will do our best to help!

Many of our essential functions will be delayed but we are trying to adjust most crucially so that we can continue to pay our workers for as long as possible. Please be forewarned that If anything poses a risk to their health, we are fully prepared to shut down immediately! We will keep you updated.

Your patience is appreciated during this challenging time. In the meantime, the most helpful thing you can do for SPD is to send us a small donation. It would mean a great deal.

Brent Cunningham
Executive Director

“Lucky”: a film worth watching twice

Friday, March 13, 2020 (Friday the 13!)

“Lucky”: a film worth watching twice

Sam Shepard and Harry Dean Stanton died a few months apart from each other in 2017, and I thought of the former last night as Linda and I watched, at home, a Netflix DVD of “LUCKY,” the final film in which Stanton acted. It was first screened at a film festival in March, 2017, and it should have been nominated for far more awards and honors than it received. It’s a minor classic, with a screenplay that has dialogue worthy of a playwright in Shepard’s mould. It even features a monologue, delivered with astute poignancy by David Lynch, about the desert tortoise that would not at all have been out of place in one of Shepard’s plays.

Stanton plays a 90 year man in a small desert town who phlegmatically sneers at the dying of the light. He appears to have outlived all but a handful of people his age in his vicinity, and even those within striking distance of his longevity do not possess his nimbleness. He starts each day with a modest yaga regimen and never fails to take a long walk around the town. If he has surpassed his generation’s expectations for male life span, it is not because he has been vigilant in following the directives of the Centers for Disease Control. He smokes cigarettes at a fairly steady pace, and he is probably only saved from cancer by a combination of a genetic constitution worthy of Keith Richards and living out in the desert, where air pollution is at a minimum (unlike Long Beach, where the air is utterly rancid with the effluents of chemicals).

Lucky survived World War II, even though he was stationed on a U.S. Navy ship with the acronym of LST, which he recalls his fellow sailors rebranding as “Large Slow Target.” The theme of fortitude in the face of daunting odds has an indefatigable counterpoint in “LUCKY”: a desert tortoise slowly rambling amidst the scattered brush both opens and closes the film. Outside of the tortoise’s escape from captivity, there is little “story” in the film as such other than Lucky’s peripatetic routine of stoically sauntering from home to restaurant to bar and back again. Towards the end of “LUCKY,” he attends a birthday party for the son of the store clerk where he purchases his cigarettes, and he launches into an a cappella rendition of a song in Spanish, which three mariachi musicians join in on about halfway through the lyrics. It’s possible the woman who invited him knew that he was capable of such a performance, and that she invited him as one of the surprises for the friends and family who gathered for the celebration. It is astonishing how a film without a plot can nevertheless be so replete with interwoven motives.

One of the most poignant moments in “LUCKY” occurs when he is approached by a woman outside a store that has animals available for rescue. Stepping inside, he finds that it is a bird store, with dozens of birds making an irritating racket. He walks over to a box that has quieter inhabitants: crickets. The owner informs Lucky that they will be sold as food. The next scene shows Lucky falling asleep at home to the sound of the crickets he has rescued from the store. In less grizzled hands, this might seem sentimental. In Stanton’s face one sees an oblivious indifference flickering within his mask of casual compassion.

No matter how old you are, this film is worth watching twice as soon as possible, and you should hope that you have the good fortune to watch a third and final screening at some point in the distant future. I can’t think of many final double-bills that I would rather watch than “Baghdad Cafe” and “Lucky.”

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According to an article in the NYT this morning, there are 30 times as many people in the world over the age of 85, in 2017, as there were a century ago, when the last major influenza epidemic on a global scale chalked up 20,000,000 deaths. This exponential increase in the human population of the old and very old means that the number of vulnerable people, at the current moment, is on a scale far beyond the resources of the world’s medical authorities. The Center for Disease Control is anticipating that the Corvid-19 pandemic could kill as many as 1.7 million people in the United States. That is a worst-case scenario, however, and the actual number might be ninety percent lower.

Much of the outcome depends up the leadership of President Trump, whose party is resisting the efforts of states to make broader use of Medicaid funds in order to tamp down the spread of the disease. Apparently, a declaration of a national emergency would be required to access Medicaid funds, but Trump does not want to make that formal declaration, even though everything from popular culture to high culture research is being shut down. Broadway theaters in New York have gone dark; all major professional sports have put their seasons on hald, and I just received a notice that the Getty Research Institute’s library has been closed until this flu recedes.

In addition, his party is also refusing to acknowledge the value of paid sick leave as a way to mitigate the economic impact of this pandemic on working people.

Trump and his minions and lackeys need to get a clue. This crisis our leaders to put saving lives above saving face. One doesn’t make up for acting slowly in response to a crisis in the making by acting even slower when the crisis hits head-on.

Trump’s Virulent Ineptitude

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Last night, President Trump was offered a chance to demonstrate basic skills at communicating essential information to the American public at a time when normal routines have been completely disrupted by the emergence of an opportunistic virus. I say “opportunistic” virus because it seems to have waited for the precise moment in contemporary history when power-hungry politicians in major nations have consolidated their grip on day-to-day operations in the bureaucracies in capital cities. The reluctance of these politicians, whether in China, Russia, or the United States, to be held accountable for their statements and actions has only facilitated the outbreak and spread of the caronavirus.

The best article that surveys the latest deplorable performance by Trump is at the following link:

As this article points out, there were three major “clarifications” issued by the White House after the speech. These clarifications are of a magnitude that raises questions about Trump’s basic competence. The first job of a president in this kind of situation is to get the facts correct. And he couldn’t even do that. Who the hell is running things at the White House? Trump requested that networks suspend their regular programming in order to provide him with a platform to convey crucial information about our government’s response to this crisis. He read his speech off a teleprompter. Nothing was improvised. It was meant to be a definitive alert on which we could build ideas for our adjustments to this health crisis. Instead, we were given information that was not at all accurate regarding both travel, economic activity, and health coverage by insurance companies.

I expect politicians to be liars, but inept liars who can’t even get the first version of their story to be consistently aligned with actual facts deserve to be put out of office as soon as possible. As I look back at all the people who have served as president since World War II ended, there is not a single one who could not have handled the current federal government’s response to this pandemic much better than Trump. Compared to Trump’s fumbling errors, President Gerald Ford’s “WIN” (Whip Inflation Now) program appears to be a well-thought proposal for economic stabilization.

It is ten long months before someone else will be permitted to be in charge of the federal government. We can only hope that local officials will rise to the occasion and enable those who are extremely vulnerable to the rampage of this virus to have a fighting chance to survive until then.

Friday, March 13, 2020

UPDATE: President Trump finally declares a national emergency and releases long-awaited funds that will help state and local governments deal with this systemic challenge.

“”To unleash the full power of the government I am officially declaring a national emergency — two very big words,” Trump said at a press conference.

At first, I felt incredibly insulted by Trump, which was hardly a novel experience, but it seemed like he was lowering the bar even further than I ever dreamed he could. Where does this man get off, that he believes he is entitled to talk to me as if I were a six year old? “two very big words.” Say what?

And then I realized that maybe the extended delay in declaring a national emergency was because No. 45 actually didn’t know the meaning of the words “national emergency” and he had to look them up. Perhaps it seemed to take forever and ever for him to find the words in the dictionary. It’s probably not a book he has spent much time using in his life, and its arrangement of words might well be very unfamiliar. At last, though, he decoded them and realized that the current situation matched the dictionary definition.

“two very big words…”

Cue Bob Dylan singing the line: “Is there a hole for me to get sick in?” Trump makes me want to vomit in disgust at the thought of having to endure someone so pathetically obnoxious as president of this country.

“Green Room” Thoughts about Teaching at CSULB Today

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

It is just past 7 a.m. as I start this blog entry, and I will soon make two hard-boiled eggs to take to campus with me for lunch along with some fruit and some leftovers from last night’s dinner.

Here are the news stories that provide the context for the day ahead at California State University, Long Beach:

Meanwhile, Joe Biden is apparently on his way to being nominated as the Democratic candidate for President. Congratulations, Joe, but don’t waste your time sending me any e-mails requesting money for your campaign. I will hold my nose, as the saying goes, and vote for you, but I will not give you any money whatsoever, nor will I pick up a phone or walk a precinct. Why would I give money to my oppressor — a man who voted to authorize the Iraq invasion, supported NAFTA, and is in the back pocket of credit card companies who pretend that a 24.9 percent interest rate is not usury. The virus of bourgeois stability replicates itself with astonishing efficiency.

As for the coronavirus crisis, I am ill prepared to start teaching on-line. I’ve been told that I should anticipate administering “a higher-stakes exam online with proctoring” and that I should provide my students with ways to feel comfortable with that process. There is not the slightest hint as how to proctor an online examination. While I have been reminded that students are not necessarily “digital native technology experts,” there is no complementary acknowledgement that most college professors born in 1947 are not “digital native technology experts,” either. I am not even sure what exactly would qualify one for that status, in fact.


“Literary Politics in America” and Corporate Publishing

In 1974, Richard Kostelanetz’s “The End of Intelligent Writing: Literary Politics in America” was published by Sheed and Ward, a company that has since vanished into the mists of corporate divestiture. When I first ran across Kostelanetz’s book, thanks to a recommendation by Jim Krusoe back in the mid-1970s, I remember wondering about the publisher: Why did it seem familiar? By that time, I had not been attending Sunday Mass for close to 10 years, “a lapsed Catholic” as they say; though not from indifference, but hostile antipathy towards the Catholic church’s repressive agenda. Oddly enough, Kostelanetz’s diatribe against an Establishment of Reviewers was published by a company founded to disseminate Catholic propaganda, and I had encountered a fair number of their publications in the form of pious booklets in the course of my altar boy youth.

Kostelanetz’s book must have had a modest amount of success from the publisher’s point of view; according to World Cat, over 500 libraries still have the book on their shelves, so I assume it sold enough copies to at least break even. And the book did get attention from the mainstream press. This morning I looked up the original review by Roger Sale in the New York Times (Dec. 29, 1974), in which Sale praised the second half of the book after rebuking the premises of the first half. The peculiar absence in the review was any mention of the economic aspects of publishing that Kostelanetz cites in the course of his argument; in particular, he specifically traced the mergers of various stand-alone publishing entities into larger corporations whose main market focus was not books but some other commodity. Within a ledger-book mentality in which maximizing profits reduced cultural work to a secondary side-effect of use only as marketing publicity, these mergers led to reductions in editorial finesse. It was not enough for a book to make a small profit, and the nurture of young writers who need two or three novels or collections of poems to build an audience for their mature work became more and more the province of small presses. Having foisted the hard work of mentoring aspiring writes off onto the unpaid labor of editors at independent presses, the corporate-owned publishers soon realized that there was little to gain from taking this work back on, especially in regards to poets whose work implied a comprehensive critique of American self-consciousness.

Kostelanetz’s warnings about the reduction of cultural outlets to a handful of major corporations were not news to those of us working in the small press field. My brief discussion of the origins of COSMEP in Holdouts: The Los Angeles Poetry Renaissance will provide an introduction to the counterweight offered by an ensemble of writers, poets, and editors intent on overthrowing the cultural establishment. The outcome was fairly obvious to everyone except the participants of the small press movement between 1970 and 1980: those who balance-sheets had backlists of canonical texts were hardly going to lose out to an insurgency largely working out of their rented living quarters.

At the present moment, the roll-call of major publishers salutes to entities for whom book production constitutes an aspect of the post-Fordist economy that gives every sign of continuing to be profitable. Who knows? Perhaps even robots operating on AI software will develop a taste for non-fiction. In the meantime, if you are 20 years old and want a career in this field, here are your employment options:

Penguin Random House, which might well soon be wholly owned by Bertelsmann
HarperCollins, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation
Hachette Livre, owned by Lagardère Publishing
Macmillan, which is owned by Spring Nature
Simon and Schuster, which is being sold by CBS/Viacom, and might well end up in Murdoch’s domain

In 1974, however, consider that your options in seeking employment would have include Viking Press, which traced its operations back to the mid-1920s, and whose idea of a merger was joining forces soon after its founding with Huebsch, who had published a rather distinguished list of books in the first two decades of the 20th century. The year after Kostelanetz’s book appeared, however, Viking became part of Penguin, which meant that it was on its way toward imprint absorption. Earlier this decade, Pearson and Bertelsmann decided to make one enormous publishing company by uniting Penguin and Random House into a single outlet. Viking and its logo are nothing more than the dreamscape of print culture back when it required knowledge of literature as well as a sense of market demand in order to flourish as a publisher.

There are still alternatives, however, in the contemporary scene, summed up best by my friend Brooks Roddan, at his website:

small press publishing

“The designation ‘small press’ should delight us, presuming, as it does, the existence of intelligent writers and readers intent on seeking out the extraordinary, realizing how rare the extraordinary is. The smaller the press the better, so small that the book a small press publishes might have been made by one writer for one reader. But this is an ideal; it’s enough that a small press can publish, independently, the work of talented, skilled men and women whose work deserves to be published. And what fun publishing such a book is, from beginning to end! It’s quite alchemical—the transformation of original material into an object—the book—that could only have been that book, so that writer, editor, designer, and printer become one. Will the success the book deserves follow? Good reviews? Sales? Awards? The answers could be yes, yes, yes and yes. Whatever the case, a small press is a small press is a small press.”

Brooks Roddan, Publisher

For further background:

The Coronavirus of Gun Violence

Thursday, March 5, 2020

One popular website seems to have accelerated its rate of pop-up ads. On March 2, for instance, two brief squares flipped up with an unintended warning. “Adopt a child. You’ll never guess the rewards.” / “70 percent of children know where the guns in their house are hidden.”

This collage prompted several questions. I am wondering, for instance, if the survey investigated a role reversal that would generate an outlier asterisk, i.e., one tenth of one percent of parents don’t know where their children have hidden their guns. They don’t even know, in fact, that their children have guns. Instead, their heart-to-heart conversations include asking their offspring for suggestions about where to cache the parents’ ammunition.

As fears of the coronavirus pandemic have exponentially accelerated, one wonders why there is not a proportionate response to gun violence, which is far more likely to kill a person in her or his prime. Instead, we have courts and corporations declaring that the “original intent” of the “Founding Fathers” was the creation and maintenance of a Mortality Casino in which the house odds give you a better chance of survival at the flu table than at the Second Amendment table.

The “panic” about this pandemic is in part a distraction mechanism. The political reality is that the people in charge of corporate healthcare are primarily worried about an image virus. If hospitals were in the United States overwhelmed, and stories got out about people being billed and going bankrupt during the course of this outbreak, then it might in unexpected ways fuel the “Medicare for All” movement. The test Trump faces is one of delaying any subversion of the image of American health care as anything less than fully capable. Otherwise, don’t kid yourself. Your life remains an object on the sniper range of gun production profits, and this “crisis” in public health is merely a convenient smoke screen.

“Parasite”: A Film in Need of a Cultural “Host”

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Linda and I missed “Parasite” the first time around, though we heard that it was an impressive film. Early in the fall semester, one of my colleagues said that his spouse and he had seen it over the weekend, and they thought it might well be the best film of the year. Although the Academy Awards might have confirmed their estimate from their point of view, I can hardly agree, if only because I find the appropriation of cliche Native American imagery to be so culturally presumptuous as to warrant nothing but a hiss.

First, though, I have to ask the question: is this film worth seeing twice? No. Our friend Laurel Ann Bogen accompanied us to the screening yesterday; in fact, as a birthday gift to Linda, she paid for all our tickets. Laurel had already seen it, and said that she didn’t care for it, but perhaps it was her mood that day. She was willing to give it a second chance. I’m not; and Laurel is a saint for being willing to sit through it again. The first third of “Parasite” is a full course serving of satiric acid reflux in which some lumpenproletariat bottom-feeders take over an upper-class household in a picaresque manner worthy of a story by Kafka. I laughed out loud several times. In fact, given the title, imagine a reversal of “Metamorphosis”: instead of waking up to find he is “vermin,” Gregor Samsa finds a job in a household that becomes a revolving door of new employees, all of them from his family. It’s funny enough for the first 40 minutes or so, but the story-line goes from foreboding to Grand Guignol in a manner that leaves a very bad taste. It’s as if a film being directed by Alfred Hitchcock was taken over by someone who falls short of being the next Brian De Palma. If you haven’t seen it, by the way, you might want to wait until the sequel comes out, which will no doubt pick up the story-line ten or twelve years later. I assume I’m not the only one who wants to know what becomes of the six-year-old son of Mr. Park, the murdered businessman whose home has had its tranquility fumigated by a feckless, self-indulgent demolition crew.

Additionally, I would ask if you believe “Parasite” would have been nominated — let along won an Academy Award — if some other ethnicity had been substituted for Native American imagery as a plot device in the film. If African-American or Jewish culture had been used instead of the most demeaning stereotypes of Native Americans, do you think this film would have had a snowball’s chance in the hemisphere of “political correctness”? The “prison” of debt and class servitude examined in this film deserved a far more imaginative elaboration on the nihilistic lesson learned too late by this family of grifters. “The only plan that doesn’t fail is to have no plan.” The film’s mistake was not to allow the passivity of fate to play out the comic hand of cards that was waiting to collect its jackpot when the fired housekeeper rang the doorbell. At that moment, the script made a choice, and it choose to depend on an appropriation of cinematic and cultural tropes rather than risking something utterly unseen before.

Call for Nominations for LA’s Next Poet Laureate

Saturday, February 21, 2019

The Department of Cultural Affairs has released the following announcement. Since it appears to be a public document, I am posting it in its entirety on this blog.


The Honorable Eric Garcetti, Mayor of the City of Los Angeles, is pleased to announce the continuation of the City of Los Angeles Poet Laureate Program, which is managed as a partnership between the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) and the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL).

The City seeks to name one Poet Laureate to serve as an official ambassador of LA’s vibrant creative scene, promoting the City’s rich literary community and celebrating the written word. Applications are due by Monday, March 9, 2020.

The Los Angeles Poet Laureate will be contracted by DCA and receive a $10,000.00 annual fee. After the services of the first year are completed, a review of the contract will be conducted by the DCA, LAPL, and the Mayor’s Office to determine if the Poet Laureate has successfully completed the terms and responsibilities of their contract. If so, a second year agreement for another $10,000.00 contract will be considered and offered.

Further information on eligibility requirements, duties of the Poet Laureate, instructions how to nominate yourself or another poet, and the two-step selection process can be found here:

Questions about the application process should be addressed to the DCA Grants Office at or by calling 213.202.5566.

Department of Cultural Affairs
Grants Administration Division
tel – (213) 202-5566

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I wish to commend the Mayor’s Office, the Los Angeles Public Library, and the Department of Cultural Affairs for adding the following task to the Poet Laureate’s duties.

“Write one or more commemorative poem(s) each year related to a theme or topic integral to Los Angeles. Use the premiere of this/these poem(s) as a way to announce an open-call to all regional poets (emerging and masters, living or working in LA City) to submit poems for placement on sidewalks, streetlights, or related design-sites. Poet Laureate shall rank no less than 15 poems each year for use by the City on plaques, banners, or typographic displays for purposes of creative-placemaking. These poems shall be ranked in descending order and available to be integrated into/onto public surfaces in the two years following their selection by the Poet Laureate and submission to DCA.”

The requirement will be a means by which the L.A. Poet Laureate can remind people — and especially themselves — of how many other very fine poets are working in this region. It is all too easy for a laureate to succumb to delusions of supreme talent, when their work is in fact no more than simply representative of a vast effort by numerous comrades.

I do have one question, though: are the poets whose work will be used for “creative placemaking” supposed to allow their work to be used without the slightest compensation whatsoever? Do they not receive at least a copy of the banner or plaque on which their poem appears? If so, who does the work of packaging and mailing this material? Or is this yet another “little task” that will be an additional increment of underpaid work by the laureate?

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Judee Sill’s Long Overdue Obituary in the NYT; and Holly Prado’s Poetry Video

February 21, 2020

Judee Sill’s Long Overdue Obituary in the NYT; and Holly Prado’s Poetry Video

On November 3, 2019, I wrote the following comment in my blog:

I wish, therefore, this morning to urge all of you to give a listen to Judee Sill’s “Jesus Was a Crossmaker.” Many, many years ago, when I was younger than my age hinted at, I saw her perform one evening, solo, on a piano, at the Church in the Ocean Park. It was one of the most inspiring performances by a singer-songwriter I have ever had the good fortune to be in the audience for: a small audience for an artist marked by Fate to stop singing far sooner than her admirers wanted her to.

*. *. *. *. *. *

Back at the beginning of this month (Feb. 3), I found the following article in the NYT:

This article on Sill was published on January 23, 2020, and “updated” on January 29th. While I am certainly not claiming that my blog entry contributed to the decision of the NYT staff to grant Sill a small measure of posthumous recognition, I am pleased to be able to say that no one can claim my post was generated because the cultural gatekeepers at the NYT formally recognized her.

As an update to my post in November, 2019, I want to report that I contacted Jim Conn, the minister at the Church in Ocean Park where I saw Sill perform. I asked him if he happened to remember how she ended up singing there, but he responded that there were so many events taking place back then that it is now a bit of a blur. There are still a handful of people alive who were around that church back then. Perhaps one of them remembers how she ended up performing on Hill Street, in Ocean Park.

The day after I read Sill’s obituary in the NYT, I jotted the following reminder to myself:

Every memory should come with a spoiler alert: your recollection of the event is slightly off, and you need to recalibrate not only what happened, but its underlying significance. — Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020 — 5:15 – 5:17 p.m.

As part of today’s nostalgic post, I also include a link to a video featuring the late poet Holly Prado, which was sent to me by poet-actor Harry Northup:

The Internet “Grocery Aisle” Shakedown

February 20, 2020

“THREE MILLION TOTAL HITS” — Congratulations, you are eligible for the Internet “Grocery Aisle” Shakedown!

This blog will mark the seventh anniversary of its regular publication in June. Averaging around four posts a fortnight in recent years, I have deliberately deviated from the usual advice given to bloggers about reaching an audience: choose one subject and focus exclusively on that. In contrast, I try to avoid any pattern in a choice of subjects.

One thing is obvious: I don’t keep this blog going for “bragging rights”: it is never going to have dozens – let alone hundreds or thousands — of visitors a day. On a statistical level, I calculate that this blog will hit the 3,000,000 mark in terms of “total hits” sometime this coming April. That probably translates to a couple thousand distinct visitors as actual total readership. It is what it is: if other blogs on cultural and political matters have had 300,000 visitors in the past seven years, I salute them.

It’s probably for the best that I work in a very small theater, for I become self-conscious all too easily. In fact, I’ve never been particularly good at anything that requires confidence. I’m much more familiar with having to prove myself with sheer persistence, so the script of this blog’s fate is indeed a comfortable fit.

About six months ago, however, I started getting phone calls and e-mails from social media manipulators, each of whom claimed to be experts about increasing my blog’s prominence. At firs they tried flattery: according to their calculations, my blog ranked at a slightly above average level in terms of attracting an audience (a statement that is obviously untrue). Then came their pitch: with a simple adjustment of certain algorithms, my blog would be the one that showed up when certain topics were entered in a browser. If I were willing to pay a consulting fee of $1500 to gain access to this corporate dexterity, I was assured that I would see a dramatic increase in my readership, and would thereby be able to sell advertising.

In other words, dear reader, this was a “shake-down” similar to what happens in supermarkets. Do you want your company’s boxes of cereal at eye-level when customers push their carts down the grocery aisles? Well, then, you better be prepared to give a better discount on what you charge for your product. “Pay to play” is still the name of the only game in town, and my blog is not exempt from being solicited.

No thanks.