Category Archives: Censorship

The Typesetter in “The Post”: “The Hand of Labor”

December 23, 2017

Yesterday, Linda and I took Laurel Ann Bogen out to a movie and dinner as a Christmas present. She wanted to see “The Post,” which turned out to be a surprisingly good film for its category. The main driving point is the publication of “The Pentagon Papers” by the New York Times and the Washington Post. The latter paper is facing a financial bind, and the hopes of providing some relief on that pressure depend on a successful stock sale, which is up for grabs at the very time that its publisher (Kay Graham) and its editor (Ben Brantley) must decide whether to challenge a court injunction that blocked the New York Times from further publication of this material.

Rather than add to the commentary of the typical aspects of a review, I have decided to concentrate on two very, very minor moments in “The Post.” This idiosyncratic preference for minuscule meaning drove my English teachers crazy when I was a freshman in college. Obviously, this is one other feature of a blog that I truly love. I get to do what I want.

Laurel, Linda, and I all worked at newspapers at various times in our lives, and each of us at dinner expressed the pleasure we got from the film during its moments when it displayed the production process of the paper itself. Bringing a newspaper into a reader’s hands, each of us knew, was not some magical process, but involved considerable physical labor, effort, and concentration. Towards the end of the film, the publisher stands behind a typesetter. Not a word is spoken, but the body itself of the typesetter was remarkably full of history. A Korean War veteran, most likely, whose son had forestalled being drafted by going to college. This typesetter was not a combat veteran like the protagonist of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” In fact, he had learned to be a typesetter in the military. Did he vote for Humphrey or Nixon in 1968? Or did he vote at all? To a certain extent, he is a more representative character than anyone else in the film of the pressures that have faced the American electorate the past half-century. Yet he does not have a voice, only the nimble fingers that reflect “The Hand of Labor.”

The second moment in the film that I want to comment on involves a scene where the publisher, played surprisingly well by Meryl Streep, is sitting on the edge of a bed. The left third of the screen is taken up by a lamp on a small table. The camera does not move for quite some time. No doubt it was less than 90 seconds, but it seemed more like three minutes. I had an odd “Fluxus” moment: I wanted the whole screen to fill up with the image of the lamp and for the soundtrack of John Williams’s fine understated music to play without any human voice, and then for the people who worked at the factory that made the lamp to appear and for them to begin to speak, out of history to history. If a newspaper is the “first rough draft” of history, it is their words that need to be recorded in its opening paragraphs and in the intonement of its final pronouncements.

Note: It was hard to resist making the headline of my blog post today about a milestone in my blog: 1,000,000 total hits. At some point in the next few hours, my blog will surpass that symbolic figure. When I woke up and checked this morning, the official number was 999,751, so it won’t be long before my blog’s dispersal over the past year and a half reflects a wider audience than it was getting in its first two and a half years. I am not under any illusion that this mean my blog has some kind of wide readership. That is hardly the case. To a large extent, I write this as a version of an intermittent diary, albeit one that is available for others to read. To those of you who read it, and have on occasion written me, thank you for your attention and care.

Correct Crowd Count: 2,500,000 join U.S. Women’s Marches (“Super Callow Fragile Ego Trump You Are Atrocious”)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

OVER TWO MILLION MARCH IN CONTUMACIOUS CELEBRATION OF FEMINIST IDEALS

Yesterday’s marches of protest against the FBI-assisted ascendancy of Donald Trump were vigorously attended throughout the nation, in large part because enormous numbers of people were willing to give up their hard-earned personal time to affirm the feminist movement. The rallies in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Oakland attracted hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people. No one will have to stand at a press conference today and exaggerate the number of marchers in order to massage the egos of its organizers.

Once again, the ability of social media to mobilize a movement far exceeded expectations. When Teresa Shook first proposed a Women’s March on her Facebook page soon after Election Day. she certainly didn’t stretch out on a couch and immediately begin fantasizing about speaking on a stage in front of hundreds of thousands of protestors in Washington, D.C. And yet, yesterday, she found herself in a line-up of social activists and cultural workers who spoke to a crowd much larger than the one that witnessed Trump’s clamp-down taking of the presidential oath of office the day before.

In an update, over six hours after the original posting of today’s entry, I wish to correct the crowd count. The total number of marchers was over two million people in the United States alone. I am struck by how the mass media refuse to acknowledge breaking this “glass ceiling” of numerical defiance. My own original impression from media reports was that the total attendance at all of the marches exceeded one million, but that is a vast underestimate. It’s one thing to top the one million figure for any given one-day public event. Two million is exponentially more massive. The scale of this “stand your ground” message to Trump, in fact, is on the ominous side of predictions. The attendance seems closer to the number of people who might turn out for an anti-war rally. Indeed, the fear that Trump is already drawing up invasion plans in hopes that a war will “unify” the country is more than amply justified. It should be noted that it was not just the largest cities, such as Los Angeles, that featured enormous crowds proportionate to their population. Smaller urban areas such as San Jose, San Diego, Pittsburgh and Atlanta also had significantly attended rallies.

I was not impressed with the coverage of the mainstream media. I happened to watch a bit of the march on the L.A. Times link to the ABC news, and noticed Maxwell’s rendition of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work” erased him from the screen. In fact, a kind of misogynistic voyeurism seemed to take over the control booth. Rather than show Maxwell singing, the camera panned across the dispersal of the crowd, as if to diminish the meaning of Bush’s lyrics. What was really disturbing was how the camera awkwardly swooped across the crowd to find signs with the word “pussy” on them. It was as if the control booth of the ABC network was being directed by young teenage boys who couldn’t get enough of seeing a “forbidden word” being bandied about. What must have attracted them even more was that one sign had a set of curves suggesting the inner and outer lips of a woman’s genitals. That the camera would linger on this sign together with a nearby one on a green board that also featured the word “pussy” in large letters seemed not to be a moment of transgressive affirmation, but rather an attempt to reduce feminist protest to an essentialist taunt.

At least Aja Monet’s performance of her poem, “My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter,” was spared this imposition of male scopic power. Monet, a performance poet who won a major slam contest at a very young age, attended Sarah Lawrence College for her B.A. and has a MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago. The poem she read is the title poem of her most recent collection of poetry. That a poet would be asked to be part of this protest and perform on the main stage is hardly a surprise, though. Writers Resist, an informal collective of protest readings by writers the week before the inauguration, was one of the major preliminary groundswells of protest against the outrageous plutocracy that Trump has assembled as his administrative bureaucracy of American government.

I believe it was in a column by Steve Lopez, the L.A. Times columnist, that I saw a protest sign with the best comment of the day: “Super Callow Fragile Ego Trump You Are Atrocious.” My compliments to the Palimpsest-in-Chief.

President Trump took note of the demonstrations, but seemed to overlook their impetus. “Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote?” he tweeted.

Excuse me, Mr. President, but they did vote. That is why you lost the popular vote by a margin equal to the entire number of voters in Arizona. Losing the popular vote has consequences. It means that you failed to win the respect of the electorate, and the daily disrespect has just begun.

Media coverage post-script: As Larry Goldstein noted in an e-mail today, at least CNN refused to act as if it were Fox News light and roll over in accepting Sean Spicer’s outrageous exaggerations about the size of the inaugural attendance. See the following article in the NY Times for a scientific report on the crowd size of these events.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/22/us/politics/womens-march-trump-crowd-estimates.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

The Restoration of Dennis Cooper’s Blog

Friday, August 26, 2016

I have just received word that Google has restored all of Dennis Cooper’s data to him so that he can re-install his blog. Almost 5,000 people signed the petition in support of Dennis’s cause, and it was gratifying to see how the story became more public than those engaged in arbitrary censorship ever expected.

Now that this matter is settled, Dennis has become free to speak of what caused this debacle to occur. You can read it for yourself at:

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1114019298684536&id=214073142012494&pnref=story

I did hear about 10 days that things were beginning to move in a propitious direction, but it was implied that the good faith of negotiating required that nothing be revealed about the peculiarities of this odd juncture in Dennis Cooper’s literary work. Now that I have learned of some of the more salient aspects of the case, I must say that it reminds me of my first foray on Facebook. One day several years ago, I logged on and found my account disabled. I asked for an explanation. There was a complaint about your use of the account, I was told. When I asked for details about the alleged misuse, I received no answer whatsoever.

I still have no idea of what I could have done that would have justified having my Facebook account blotted out without any recourse. After a year or two, when enough people asked what had happened (“Weren’t we friends on Facebook?” more than a few acquaintances inquired via e-mail), I opened up another Facebook page, and slowly started adding friends again.

I was sorry to hear that Dennis is going to have to put a considerable amount of time into reconstructing his blog, post by post, in a manner requiring a lot of manual energy. At least, though, the material will be preserved for both current readers and those who explore his archives.

Bravo to all of us who joined this effort, but a special round of applause to those cited in the above entry by Dennis, including former Beyond Baroque artistic director Tosh Berman.