Fifty years ago I was a thirty year old Carnegie Post Doctoral Fellow in the Department of American Civilization at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. My first academic task was to create a new course on “The Mass Society” (Mass Comunication: Print, Graphics, Broadcasting, first semester; Mass Production: Industrial Design, Architecture, Urban Planning, second semester. With a lot of midnight oil studying the Frankfurter School(Paul Lazarsfeld, Leo Lowenthal, et alia), Hitler’s gift of Jewish thinkers to American Academe, I created the course the first year (1957) and taught it the next.
In the middle of the second year, Walter Annenberg, the billionaire publisher of TV Guide and The Philadelphia Inquirer, gave Penn two million dollars to found a graduate school of Communication. Faute de mieux, I became the “gofer” between Penn President Gaylord Harnwell and the U.S. academic and media communities.
The business people were enthusiastic but the J Schools were cynical and mocked me for taking dirty money. They sneered when they reminded me that journalism schools refused to stoop to William Randolph Hearst’s boodle, that pioneer of Yellow Journalism. Times had changed: young professors of communication had no moral qualms: they wanted to know what the salary levels would be!
Soon there was a test of Walter’s seriousness. I live in an experimental biracial community in Northeast Philly called Greenbelt Knoll, whose most famous inhabitant was the Reverend Leon Sullivan, most renowned for negotiating the so-called Sullivan Principles which helped Nelson Mandela free South Africa.
One Saturday morning at the community pool, he exploded: "Pat I don’t believe all that Annenberg crap about raising standards in mass communication. We Black Clergy have been conducting a Tastykake (most purchased sweet among blue collars) boycott and both the Inky and the Bulletin haven’t printed a word in all six months.”
Bright and early, Monday, I was being frisked for weapons—a first and only frisk!—before I could take the elevator to his thirteenth story eyrie, where I was dumbfounded to read a sign on his desk: I WILL SO LIVE MY LIFE AS TO HONOR THE MEMORY OF MY FATHER! (He had spent years in federal prison for income tax evasion. Before that he had been a thug in the 1920’s Chicago newspaper circulation wars: The Annenbergs had come East to cleanse the family name. With very little success, I might add.) Walter was stunned that an untenured assistant professor could call him crooked in his own Den! He never buckled!
Philip Morris is famous and feared for supporting Kultur—to cover its corporate cancer causing! I was surprised when Altkanzler Schroeder became a flack for Gazprom. And I flinched when Putin turned down the flow of gas to the Ukraine for its NATO aspirations! And the Czech Republic felt the Energy Lash when it even considered a U.S. defensive missile. What does Gazprom want from Weimar. And when? And Why? (Copyright. “Dumb Irish Luck: A Memoir of Serendipities”.)
I know a great deal about the RCC through its intellectual (not sexual) abuse of my life. My father, a Captain in the AEF in World War One, abandoned us in 1930 to flee with his secretary to a bigamous life in Las Vegas. My brother Mike was born in 1920, nine months after their marriage. I didn't come until 1927, a testament to their frustrated sex lives (My mother, a pious Irish Catholic, never got a divorce but lived a miserable life alone).
In 1999, the cynical buck-grabbing Detroit Chancery gave me an annulment of my 1950 marriage for $100. because she wanted to marry the man I beat out in 1950. Our marriage basically foundered on mutual sexual innocence. Three years in a minor seminary didn't enlighten me and she was abused by her jailbird father.
Most Catholics don't know that "(w)holy" chastity was a "wholy" fiscal maneuver of the medieval church to keep its land holdings and wealth intact. Except for secular saints like Dorothy Day and UD professor John Coogan, the clergy is a bunch of second raters who couldn't do doodley in the seculare.
Ratzinger put the kabosh on the Church adjusting to the twentieth century when he banned Liberation Theology, which had the temerity to follow Jesus' love for the poor.
On Self Reliance: The author's facile merger through his callow misreading of Emerson and an ignorant real estate tout disqualifies him as a responsible thinker.
His glib putdown of a non-existent Emerson reminds me of our moronic GOP presidential primaries. It's the inevitable result of Rash Lamebrain's "Wrexcellence in Broadcasting". A generation of telepathic infantilization has demeaned our entire culture.
I used to tell my Am Lit students that a society that doesn't metabolize its great writers loses its mind. I'm sad to have been so prescient. Patrick D.Hazard, Weimar, Germany.
On Austin Williams, urbanist: The Alice Rawthorne principle applies here as well: 90% of our industrial designers serve the wealthy fancies of 10% of our seven billion fellow earthlings. Until Cameron Sinclair's "Design Like You Give a Damn!" becomes our architects' Bible, we will allow the foul favela to remain the median.
Here in Weimar, they have just approved expenditure of 32,000,000 Euros to make a second, bigger museum to praise the mainly failed Bauhaus. (And Dessau and Berlin hunger for expansion of the same farce.) The Bauhaus promised to do what Detroit's Cranbrook actually accomplished under the great Finnish architect, Eliel Saarinen!
And two penniless German immigrants to Detroit and San Francisco, Albert Kahn and Timothy Pflueger, achieved even more than Saarinen's troupe.
Meanwhile, today's elite Germans remain mainly ignorant of the likes of Peter Behrens and Paul Bonartz, as tourism promoters have hagiographized 20th century German architectural history, abetted by a pathetic, century-long false esthetic of Phillip Johnson.
Bauhaus Uni here has two dreamers who would emulate Sinclair. But the brass still opts for the showoff, headline-hunting maneuver, the last blindness engendered by their understandable horror at their Nazi heritage.
We future-obsessed Americans have a hard time paying attention to our usable pasts. An encouraging exception to this mindlessness is Poetry Magazine’s year-long celebration of its founding in Chicago in 1912.
Courtesy of a $200 million grant from the drug heiress Ruth Lilly, this centennial is aspiring to a nationwide reach.
In my case, poetry’s usable past began when Ezra Pound’s mother couldn’t stand the cultural vacantness of Hailey, Idaho Territory. So she took her 18-month-old baby to Jenkintown, outside Philadelphia. Pound’s urge to become a poet bloomed early in the Quaker-run “dame schools” he attended. His first published poem was a limerick praising the populist politician William Jennings Bryan in 1896:
“There was a young man from the West/ He did what he could for what he thought was the best.” He was 11! With plenty of room to improve.
Pound entered Penn at 15, perfecting his idiosyncratic style bit by bit. He was described as “clever, independent minded, conceited, and unpopular.” Except to one other Penn oddball, Hilda Doolittle, daughter of an astronomy professor, who fell for Pound’s odd line and would eventually be dubbed “H.D. The Imagist,” after she followed Pound to London (where she refused his offer of marriage in deference to her skeptical father).
Ezra blew his Penn dissertation on the plays of Lope de Vega. The stiff old school English chair, Felix K. Schelling, didn’t dig Pound’s class antics and cancelled his fellowship.
Half doctor, half poet
Meanwhile, William Carlos Williams had entered Penn’s Medical School with a friendly split personality: half doctor, half poet. He and Ezra plotted the victory of Modernism together. Harriet Monroe would set up shop in Chicago as editor of Poetry, and Ezra would feed her home runs from the likes of T.S. Eliot and James Joyce, not to mention his own buzzing muse.
Once you dip your toes into poetry, it becomes a structural part of your consciousness. Since my own first encounters with Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, my life has never been the same.
The first was a lucky fluke. In 1973 I was driving my girl back from celebrating her birthday at Cape May on Walt’s birthday (May 31). I was teasing her for having a birthday so close to Walt’s when she asked me what his mausoleum in Harleigh Cemetery was like.
At that point I’d lived in Philadelphia for almost 20 years without seeing Walt’s tomb. Damn! I made a blind turn off the Walt Whitman Bridge (what else?) to head straight to Harleigh.
The site was a horror. Its 1891 construction was disintegrating. I wondered later if Walt’s extemporaneous performances (in his old age he was no longer a great creative poet) discombobulated the masons, whose work was now falling apart.
Luckily, the National Council of Teacher’ of English was holding its annual convention in Philadelphia over that Thanksgiving. (It’s what we Am Lit professors call a “remarkable providence.”) I wrote the Council’s executive committee and asked them if I could walk the aisles with billboards saying on one side “SAVE WALT’S VAULT” and on the other “A BUCK FOR THE BARD’S BONES.”
My quirky injunctions raised more than $1,000, if you added Buckminster Fuller’s serendipitous last-minute $100 check. (I thanked him for a hundred bucks for the Bard’s Bones.) After the mausoleum was repaired, the leftover funds helped finance a “Wake Up To Whitman” 1974 calendar for faculty and students at Beaver College, where I was then teaching.
Duly noted on that calendar was the date for a Grave Yard Party at Harleigh (May 31), at which local poets read their odes to Walt and drank American wine (no fancy French stuff at this U.S. party). Alas, as a tribute to Walt’s poem, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed (inspired by Lincoln’s assassination), we planted a lilac bush and “blessed” it with a topping-off of the wine. The wine killed the foundling bush.
Emily’s birthday ball
I had better luck with Beaver’s music chairman Dr. Bill Fabrizio’s composition Far Luckier, an allusion to Whitman’s poem about Death being far luckier than Life because everyone spent an eternity as leaves of grass. This ceremony was broadcast live over National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.”
I had decided to quit classroom teaching and become a global alternative journalist, so I pondered on how to celebrate Emily Dickinson creatively. Back I went to my pal Fabrizio. We decided to hold a Birthday Ball in Beaver’s Castle on Emily’s 150th birthday— December 10, 1980. Bill even booked Jimmy Dorsey’s famous singer, Bob Eberle, to lend a touch of class to our hoopla. (We needed it, since I was to make my first and last appearance as a jazz singer.)
We created a contest for the best couple dressed as lines from a Dickinson poem: First prize was a free, all expenses weekend in Emily’s Amherst on Walt’s birthday. (Cool!) Second prize, a similar a weekend in Walt’s Camden on Emily’s birthday. (Not so cool! In fact, too cold.)
A lesbian couple won first prize as “buccaneers of buzz” (Emily’s image of bees stealing pollen to make their honey). And Bless the Beaver pairs who passed the night reading aloud, all 1,787 of Dickinson’s poems.
The verb “to celebrate” stems from the Latin verb “to frequent.” America needs more citizens who frequent our great writers and thinkers. Not our boxers or movie stars or millionaires. Our writers. Not because it’s better for them (though that’s a plus) but good for us. Not solemnly, but happily.
Our literary past is moistly buried. Dig it up. And dig it. Think of 11-year-old Ezra in Jenkintown. And London. And Harriet Monroe in Chicago, publishing the “H.D.” poems that Ezra Pound recommends from London..
Very wise. Now the common task should be to spread such modest wealth, first, throughout our own society, and then attend, courtesy of mass leisure, to the millions still locked in primeval poverty. Start with the likes of Haiti.
Patrick D. Hazard
January 25, 2012
Victoria Skelly’s clever explanation of the Hirst/Gagosian global excess as a 99% revolt against the “values” of our 1 per centers’ fatuousness is “spot” on. Such foolishness has only one effective remedy: mockery.
Patrick D. Hazard
February 2, 2012
I almost missed the centennial of my first academic mentor.(Thank the Toronto “Globe and Mail” and Google!) Herbert Marshall McLuhan was born in Edmonton, Alberta on July 21, 1911. His father’s business failed and they moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba. He graduated U of Manitoba with a Gold Star in 1933, and an MA, after a yearlong diversion as an engineer. (Reminds me of my flop in electrical engineering at the University of Detroit, after two years repairing Navy radar!)
He failed to get a Rhodes for Oxford, but settled in 1934 for Cambridge where his two tutors, I.A.Richards and F.R.Leavis were inventing the New Criticism—the immediate antecedent of his idiosyncratic take on the media revolution. Meanwhile, in 1935 he wrote his mother(who was unconsoleable) that G.K. Chesterton’s writing had moved him into the Roman Catholic Church. His dissertation on Thomas Nashe and the medieval trivium,indeed, reminded him of the sacred Trinity, and he even confessed that the Virgin Mary “provided intelligent guidance for him.” And (new to me) he accepted the evolutionary speculations of the rejected Catholic theologian Teilhard de Chardin, even though he never acknowledged this aberration publicly.
He returned to America and started teaching English at the Jesuit St. Louis University (1937-44) where he helped the Jesuit Walter J. Ong (1912-2003) develop his ideas about orality in medieval rhetoric. He married a Texan teacher and aspiring actress Corinne Lewis (1915-2008) with whom he had six children, an economic burden that would tempt him into the Big League business consultancies (GM and AT&T).
Ford gave him and Edward Carpenter $43,000 for two years to start their innovative magazine, “Explorations”. He got his Cambridge Ph.D. in 1943 and spent two years (1944-46) at Assumption College, Windsor, Ontario across the Detroit River from my home town. (If only I had known then!) Finally he ended his wandering at St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto, where except for a year at TC, Columbia in 1955-56 and Fordham as Albert Schweitzer Distinguished Professor,1967-8.
We met several times (usually in bars by Grand Central station!) while I was in New York on a Ford grant, mulling with TV network and media brass on how to deploy the schools in the midst of this communication revolution. I had read his first book “The Mechanical Bride: the Folklore of Industrial Man” (1951) and it motivated me to involve media in my 10th and 12th grade classes.
The greatest day I’ve ever spent in a classroom was the time I assigned my 10th graders Paddy Chayefsky’s “The Catered Affair” (about a Bronx taxi driver torn between giving his only daughter an expensive wedding or paying off his hack license). My students were the highly motivated children of GM execs or Michigan State professors with a few blue collars to do the dirty work. They had written reviews overnight like Steve Scheuer’s syndicated “TV Key” newspaper feature.
When Michigan State got a new UHF station we did a weekly “Everyman Is a Critic” stint on teenage leisure. I played CBC’s Lister Sinclair’s radio series”Ways of Mankind” , a popularization of anthropology, especially “A Word in Your Ear” about linguistics and “I Know What I like” about esthetics. I talked Moe Asch at Folkways into distributing them and they are still available through the Smithsonian at the Library of Congress.
I’ll never forget the flack I got from two Michigan State professors for playing a recording of the Stan Kenton’s orchestra “Salute to Democracy” (agree to a key and tempo and let the soloists innovate. The skeptical parent’s “research” was an agricultural dictionary. (Can’t win em all at a Cow College!)
Marshall and I got along fine until I panned “Understanding Media” (1964) for its obsessive creation of categories, the assimilation of which left no time for explain to students how a work of art works. It seemed to me then that Marshall was succumbing to the same European compulsion to create learned sounding systems to be as respected as the scientists had been for over a generation.
His popularity faded in the late 60’s though we all remember Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” in which McLuhan in the flesh chided a pompous professor expatiating in the ticket line, ”You know nothing of my work!” Woody actually led a successful fight against the U Toronto brass who threatened to shut down his Technology and Culture Center.
Lately there’s been a vigorous McLuhan revival, led by his son Eric. I checked out three of the most touted centennial books to see if I had written off my first hero too uncritically. Ach, the neologisms still flourish, and I’ll stick by Gilbert Seldes’s classic, “The Seven Lively Arts” (1924). Describe the evolution of the new genres, cite a few of the best in each, and encourage the students to choose better and better, as their muses mature. Polysyllabic Humanism is a contract with death.Its facile blurbery has corrupted Humanities scholarship for a lost (de)generation Marshall was a unique soul and quirky as the day is long.
But don’t contradict him, if you value his friendship.
The Eighth Art: Twenty-three Views of Television Today. Pp. xiv, 269. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1962. $5.00.
This volume publishes "twenty-three views of television today" commissioned by the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) for a planned quarterly of opinion. When the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences began TV Quarterly in 1961, the project appeared redundant. The titular editor, the superlative television critic and writer producer, Robert Lewis Shayon,seems to have experienced some difficulty in performing his role as introducer, as the articles constitute in his judgment neither an anthology nor a "symposium, aspiring to be an organized or comprehensive collection of opinion on the subject of television. They are an authoritative miscellany of information, inside revelation, technique analysis, reportage, evaluation, and opinion" a mixed bag, indeed. Nor should Mr. Shayon be blamed for the pretentious title: why not, with equal justification, "The Eighth Wonder of the World," or perhaps, "The Eighth Capital Sin"? Nor is the book-jacket blurb "like the medium it dissects, entertaining, eye-opening, and endlessly exciting" any more helpful in describing either the medium or the book.
Perhaps it is graceless to be severe on the remains of so nobly conceived an enterprise, for should we not encourage a commercial network when it "disinterestedly" provides a format for criticismof itself? We should, but only if we are fully aware that such generous gestures are seriously affected by their = conception as public-relations gestures. Like the Ben Shahn brochures sent to mailing lists of "opinion leaders" on the eve of important telecasts, the form of the announcements is usually better than the content of the programs. Similarly, I have found to my growing consternation that the hundreds of copies of Joseph Klapper's excellent The Effects of Mass Communication distributed gratis by CBS are either unread or used chiefly as an "intellectually respectable" way of countering serious criticism of the medium by invoking Klapper's meticulously responsible exegesis of multiple causation. Still, the CBS tradition of honest thought, started long ago by its social psychologist, Ph.D. president, is too important to dismiss because it can be abused. In fact, even the weaknesses of this book are so symptomatic of the parochial ideology of television's creators that a careful consideration of it should be a prolegomenon to any future metaphysics of the medium.
Cawston's "Television A World Picture" immediately destroys the provincial American notion that our system of broadcasting is the way God had it planned on His Drawing Board. It might also make us worry about the ultimate effects of our entertainment programing exports in under-developed areas that cannot afford to be as frivolous as we think we can. Rosten's reworking of his Daedalus piece on why not to expect too mucli from the audience clears the air in a useful way; one wishes he would now finally move on to use his lucid intelligence on the medium of television, in the way that he has, for example, brilliantly developed a new style of art criticism for Look.
Stravinsky's comments ought to be required reading for Leonard Bernstein: "Other than the possible development of a new musico-dramatic form, musical life on television does not interest me. A televised concert is a bore. One sees the timpani and the trombone and the oboe individually as these instruments are played. One watches the players breathe and moisten their embouchures. But seeing a musician play, in this way, distracts from listening to the whole ensemble." And CBS ought to ask itself why it stretched Stravinsky's half-hour composition, "Noah and the Flood," into an hour-long "saleable" musical disaster. And A. E. Hotchner's embarrassingly "inside Hemingway" piece on adaptations makes one, reluctantly, prefer originals even if from the film factories of Warner Brothers.
Walter Cronkite's anecdote about the live cameras covering Gromyko's "dramatic exit" from the Japanese Peace Treaty Meetings in 1951 into the men's room should end for a time the esthetically vacuous myths of live television as the truth and reality medium. Its vaunted coverage of history in the making coronations, Olympics, presidential debates, space shoots is not helping the people understand events. It is turning the world's changes into spectacles. What television needs, and what these articles signally fail to provide, is systematic analysis of the unfinished business of the country and an equally detailed examination of television's formal qualities to facilitate our meeting this agenda. Lawrence Laurent's analysis of what a television critic needs to know and do is a good example of the former; Gilbert Seldes' tantalizingly undeveloped sketch of how television first tried to create its own esthetic is a beginning of the latter. What we definitely do not need more of is the free-floating moral anxiety represented by Mannes, Hadas, Siepmann, and Montagu.
Let the head-wringers address themselves to a specific problem of content or a specific question of form. Big Thinking leads nowhere but to an unearned sense of moral superiority on the part of the critics. Revere's excellent piece on "Television in Courts and Legislatures" also reminds us that sensible policy talk on the medium need not come from paid box-watchers at all. The most ironic omission is an almost total lack of discussion of the commercial dilemmas of the medium. That is basically the misgiving with which this reviewer began.
Tom Purdom could be my ideal uncle, the convincing way he defends the truly “social medium” of the Christmas letter in hypermobile America. The newest so-called anti-media of Facebook and Twitter present sadly convincing evidence that over-entertain(t)ed America is slowly sliding ignominiously into a Narcissistic swamp.
On design competition in Sonoma: Be sure to announce your project to Cameron Sinclair, director, Architecture for Humanity. He heads the most imaginative global organization for ameliorating our man-made environment. And get his Bible, “Design Like You Give a Damn!” As a onetime resident of Santa Rosa (while Andreini Fellow in the Mass Media dept. of SRJC), I wish you well. Patrick D. Hazard, Weimar, Germany.
The self-destructive uselessness of the religious Right-eous belies their generous but ineffective good will. They share the Official Creed of the Reigning Elite: a Technological Theology in which Abundance Abounds automatically from their "benign" programs.
Three generations of distractive mass media have reduced most American voters to a moronic level: hence the absurdities of Palin as a Presidential Propect or Christine O'Donnell as a Senator. (She couldn't make Class President in my high school.) But we must not pretend that all the Christian Righties are diabolical. Mostly they're appalled by the Impending Chaos.
And ambitious Seculars like Damien Hirst are corrupting the humanistic potential of Art by sheepishly following the dead end of Neophilic Modernism (Anything NEW is ipso facto significant!).
It's not going to be easy, backing off from Armageddon. But we must take a crack at it. The wonders of creation are too glorious to be cynically written off as already a self-destroying flop.
Remember the Inky hassle a few years back, over how the heiress to Sam Walton’s billions was ripping off a Philly painting to help fill up her new Crystal Bridges Museum. (No matter that the painting was so obscurely displayed that only a few workers passed it by numbly every day since 1876, or that the painter Thomas Eakins was doubly insulted by a trivial payment when he painted it for the Philly Centennial expo and nervous Mainline brass had it stashed away from the crowds, because of his controversial rep at having the gall to allow both sexes look at an artist’s naked model so that he became a persona non grata?) Well, all “looks” well in Sam Walton’s hometown. Moshe Safdie’s architecture has been widely and deeply praised. “Cracker” crowds are coming. Critics are raving, contentedly.
There’s only one problem: the money that made this Culture Trip possible has been sweated off the backs of the global hordes that man the Walmarts of this world. Their anti-union tactics have kept wages at a peasant’s level. And the brass keeps as many “servants” at possible part-timers so they can use Medicaid and keep the firm’s profit levels rising. Have I mentioned that this megachain has already abolished hundreds of local stores throughout the world. (Its abuse doesn’t stop at our borders: In India their parliament is in a fiscal tizzy at present because thousands of India workers are about to lose their precarious enough jobs if megastores are allowed to enter their country.
This retail devastation wholesaled on an unwary world derived from Saint Ron of Santa Barbara’s canonizing a Greed is Good mentality on our country three decades ago. He began by breaking the flight controllers union and proceeded to sponsor executive seminars in places like Acapulco to teach businessmen how to offshore middle class jobs from America. Tough stuff, most America. Remember the OCW mathematics. US, 99%, they 1%.
And this placing Culture for the lucky (and getting luckier, if fewer) above the good of the commonweal is not limited to America by a long shot. Dubai is in the midst of becoming the Guggenheim Center of the World—with major museums from the Western capitals creating a hot tourist spot for Emirate Air. Who’s doing the heavy lifting for these resorts for the rich? Jobless peasants from all over Asia, Africa, and Latin America—stuffed into unhealthy barracks, with their passports “safely” in the vaults of their overlords—so they can’t riot or even complain as they send pittances home to their starving families. Progress, Eh?
Heh, all the more reason we should be thrilled that Bill Moyers gallops in at the last minute, to a televisual saving, beginning this Sunday. If you can’t make it Sunday, be sure to go to your local library or Amazon for his first guest, one Jacob Hacker who will summarize his latest book on this foully secretive rearranging of the class system of dirst America –and then the world, viz., ”Winner Take All” (Simon and Schuster,2011). You and your families of the future will be sorry if you don’t take steps now to arrest the enslavement of our onetime expanding middle class! The income you let shrink will be your own.
Spot on: Heh, Modernism has been losing your mind for you ever since Marcel the Chump got a learned giggle out of his swiped urinal.
The humane reaction is to maintain a civilized agenda by feeding the hungry and comforting the beleaguered, meanwhile going ecological and mocking the foolish whenever they threaten really civilized values. It is the greatest mistake of our limping civilization to assume that all activities called artistic are civilized, or civilizing.